Sitting in an isolated corner of a sparsely-populated bistro, I buried myself in my camera, editing the day’s catch of biker shenanigans while trying to be invisible to other patrons. All I wanted was to be left alone with my simple dinner and the magic of air conditioning. The hostess seated a senior couple just down from me and the gentleman immediately struck up a conversation about the cameras scattered across the table. His wife was elegant and smartly adorned with a large turquoise squash-blossom necklace and several gemstone bracelets on both wrists. He was slight, dressed in designer jeans, a starched denim shirt with an expensive wristwatch, and not the kind of guy who usually strikes up a conversation with the likes of me with my windblown hair, trusty bandana and dusty cowboy boots. Turns out he’s a shutterbug and comments on how refreshing it is to see someone who uses real cameras rather than cell phones on selfie sticks. We chatter back and forth before the pair politely invites themselves to join me.
He’s been retired for several years, his wife is a counselor who works in the mental health field, and they’re from SoCal. They have a daughter who is a photographer. I share that I’m a moto journalist and we discuss bikes a bit before he announces that they’d like to ask a question, but don’t want to offend me. I urge him to fire away.
“Don’t you think it’s socially irresponsible of motorcyclists to not wear a helmet?” I almost choked. Metering my response with a deep breath and sip of water, I launched into a diatribe on the insurance commission, my opinion on the farce called the consumer protection agency, the fiduciary responsibility of a rider and dwindling bikers’ rights. I painted the picture of early years of helmet protests on Capitol steps with my children growing up watching as we fought for our right to decide for ourselves what we wear on our bodies, only to lose that right. I asked how they’d feel if they were governed into having to wear a helmet while driving in their sexy convertible and suggest it’s certainly their choice if they wanted to wear such an appendage, but wondered if they felt they should be legislated into the attire, like we are.
From there I describe the subculture and explained how bikers are treated, as a rule. I mention that it’s easy to target bikers for these and other oppressive laws since, generally speaking, people don’t much care about bikers. I opine that if a government wants to create anarchy, they start with a minority. Like bikers. More specifically, bikers in motorcycle clubs. I point to Waco as an example of how easily people ignored the situation where hundreds of bikers lost their rights, were incarcerated without due process and even lost their lives yet the general population barely knew, let alone cared, about the entire 2015 massacre. At the risk of sounding paranoid and touching off yet another conspiracy theory, I mention Hitler’s reign and the psychology behind the murder of over 11 million people.
The genteel pair knew nothing of Waco, as I’d expected, and they admitted they’d never considered the points I made regarding helmet laws. “Very interesting,” he nods. It dawned on me that my passion might be a bit too intense as I mused at what an unlikely gathering, this impromptu roundtable of bikers’ rights and solving the world’s problems in the dusk of a summer’s eve. Having made my points, I decided it best to not flog the topic further and changed the subject.
His wife reached over to pat my arm, explaining that what they really wanted to know about were my experiences as a woman rider. As a couple that had never ridden a motorcycle, they were curious about the lifestyle, particularly the part about packing up and setting out alone some eight years ago, which sent them both into a silent nod as they considered what all that might entail. She asked, as everyone does, if I were ever afraid.
We chatted for some time about motorcycle travel, which they declared fascinating. We exchanged philosophies and ideals before elaborating on personal lives. They’d never had trouble in their lengthy marriage. He’s always counted his blessings for having such a beautiful, wise woman at his side, while she talked about the joy of life with a soulmate. Eventually conversation ebbed, we exchanged cards, and they warned that they would find me again somewhere in the future. As the wife reached out to hug me goodbye, she offered one final question: “Have you figured out what you’re running from, yet?” I was completely disarmed. I offered no reply, realizing she didn’t really expect one. Rather, she was leaving me food for thought, but I don’t believe I’m running from anything at all. I’m not real complicated or even complex, and there’s not a lot of time wasted trying to figure out what went into making me a wanderer. I realized that for an individual with a structured life, my life is both of those things and represents its own kind of anarchy. I’m just cruising into whatever life offers. There’s contentment in chance meetings with intelligent folks, discussing the world beyond handlebars, and watching sunsets and sunrises from different vistas. It’s a very rewarding existence. Isn’t that enough?