Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Reflections on The Poker Run

Peterson's Harley of Miami got the 44th annual Poker Run in the bag last week and I watched the motorcycles leave town on Sunday morning. Like every other event or happening in Key West, the motorcycle ride is a way to raise money for charity. Oddly enough these wild hogs paired up with the Rotary Club. This is how you raise money for diabetes research:
Once upon a time city leaders helped dream up summer events to fill the void of low income season. These days low season seems to last two months and even then the run up to Fantasy Fest gets loud motorcycles while youngsters spent last week hunting for the traditional middle and school coffin, an event that marks the burial of youth and the emergence to manhood. That it involves roaming gangs tossing eggs is not supposed to be a measure of maturity.
I like to ride my motorcycle, or my scooter and I have done for almost half a century, but I'm not fond of Poker Run. Partly my disdain is owed to my iconoclastic nature, but partly too the riders themselves are hardly here to make friends. They are loud, they are happy and their joy comes from playing scary revel for a weekend before they go back to being accountants and tradesmen and air conditioning techs. Useful skills all but this weekend their greatest skill is pissing off bystanders. And it's a shame.
It's a shame because I don't like being lumped in with them. I'm not a "biker." I ride a motorcycle but that doesn't define me. I have come to realize that decades of riding have defined how I like to travel. When I travel I am a motorcyclist whatever the means of transport. To me riding a motorcycle isn't like driving a two wheeled SUV. Part of my joy riding is making progress as I see fit. My goal is to not get in anyone's way, which seems simple enough.
I don't wear high visibility clothing, I don't expect others to look out for me. I have no expectations when I'm on the road. I assume texting is more important than driving so I ride with that expectation in mind. The idea that people texting will notice a yellow vest seems unrealistic to me. It seems apparent that at least, is one belief shared by the poker riders and myself!
I read  about people who want motorcycles to lose their manual gearboxes which I find to be an odd thing.  To me the fun of riding lies also in the skill of riding. My car is an automatic because I don't have much interest in making the thing go. My Ford Fusion is reliable, comfortable, well equipped and simply needs to be pointed in the right direction. There is no skill in changing gears on long straight highways and there isn't much cut and thrust in traffic with a four door sedan equipped with ABS, sunroof, leather and satellite radio... and two cup holders I think. I don't use them much. Yet some people look for ways to attach cup holders to motorcycles which I find very odd. And lots of people like scooters without gears. I have a Vespa with no gears and I find it okay but not involving. Like my car. I prefer my geared old Vespa when it isn't seizing. Or my indomitable  2007 Bonneville, five speed gearbox, 93,000 miles and running fine, thank you.
So I stand on the sidelines and I feel like a survivor from an era that doesn't much exist anymore, a place where riding a motorcycle wasn't thought of as a lifestyle but "fun." We got a buzz from learning to ride well, from the cut and thrust of traffic and taking corners at speed from being rebels in how we rode not how we dressed or how we staggered. I watched the Poker Run go home in sedate groups roaring along obediently between cars, about as rebellious as you would imagine weekend warriors to be. I guess I am another old fart  looking over my shoulder and glad I lived and learned to ride when I did. Damn the cupholders and automatic gearboxes! Though modern riding clothing is quite comfortable and effective, even in black.