This past weekend was Memorial Day, a holiday in the U.S. to recognize those who have died while serving in the military and to decorate their graves — thus the earlier holiday name of “Decoration Day.” It goes back to the U.S. Civil War.
It is also a weekend when hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists put on their leather vests depicting their affiliation, club, military, or veteran’s organization and descend on Washington, DC,…
… for an event called Rolling Thunder and other events and activities paying respects to those who have died in service to our country, as well as those who are missing in action (MIA) and held prisoner of war (POW). Before my father-in-law died, we used to stay home (in Maryland) over that holiday weekend, and I would participate in Rolling Thunder. These days, however, my mother-in-law is alone and now expects us to come visit her at her home in Pittsburgh and help with all sorts of work on her house and yard. I have not ridden in Rolling Thunder for some 11 years now.
However, as a biker, I cannot help but notice other bikers on the road, especially when there are thousands of them on the road at the same time. Add warm sunny weather, and even more motorcycles are out.
I am happy to report that 95% (give-or-take) of motorcyclists are geared appropriately: DOT-approved helmet, shirt, vest, long pants, and motorcycle boots.
Unfortunately, it takes only a few to get noticed by the non-bikers and cause scorn to be cast among all the rest of us responsible bikers. Cases in point:
1. Bad-Ass dude — beanie helmet, jeans, boots (okay), no shirt, vest, and a topless blonde babe on the passenger seat wearing jeans and sandals. Come on, man, where’s your decency? If I want to see babes and boobs, I’d go to a strip club. But I don’t want my 5-year-old great nephew asking me, “uncle BHD, why is that woman naked?”
2. Bad-Ass dudes (plural) — you know who you are. You can’t wait at a traffic light and accelerate normally when it changes. No. You’re the ones who have to tear off by trying to set a new “zero-to-100” record for opening the throttle when the light changes. You’re also the ones who have modified your exhaust pipes so your bike sounds louder than a jet engine. Most people can’t stand the noise and it’s bikers like you who cause them to try to pass more restrictive, anti-motorcycle, noise-abatement laws. Just remember: the world really is not all about you. Other responsible bikers like me suffer the consequences of your actions.
3. Stupid-Ass dude — as I was driving south from Pennsylvania where there is no mandatory helmet law into Maryland where there is such a law, I stopped at the border to read the Mason-Dixon line sign. (I had seen it so often, but never knew what the sign actually said.) While I was stopped, I saw a motorcycle stop on the other side of the road headed into Pennsylvania. The operator was wearing a leather jacket, long pants, boots, and a 3/4 helmet. He pulled off the helmet and jacket. Okay, I can understand — it is getting warmer — time to change the outer shell to something with more air flow. But this guy got even more stupid. He stored away his jacket and his helmet! Then he slipped off his pants and put them away. Thankfully he didn’t expose himself. He revealed shorts under the jeans. Then he put on a pair of sneakers, remounted his motorcycle, and took off. No helmet. No long pants. No boots. He checked his brains at the border and drove off brainless into PA.
4. Dumb-Ass dude — I can’t help but mention another dumb-ass who tore past me at a traffic light. As usual, I caught up to him at the next light. He was wearing jeans, but also Crocs! Crocs! On a motorcycle? Really? Those things should be returned to China where they came from, or just burned. Period.
5. Deliberate Law-Breaking brainless ass of all: watching TV news about Rolling Thunder — what does the news camera show? Not the thousands of respectful bikers paying tribute to the fallen, but one jerk who was texting on a mobile device while riding! Arrrggghhh! Just nuts!
Perhaps as a responsible motorcyclist, I am more sensitive to the behavior of other bikers than most, but these things gnaw at me. I have seen the tragic consequences of this behavior with death, injury, or imposition of restrictive laws and regulations that the rest of us should not have to endure due to the actions of a few irresponsible idiots.
Okay, rant over. Remounting my Harley, geared properly…
Life is short: be a responsible and thoughtful motorcyclist.