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End of The Road (a tribute)

by The Lorax

The four friends rode up to the old cabin in the Pennsylvania woods. In a different time this place could have passed for a trading post on an impoverished Indian reservation. Now it was just a watering hole for locals and two-wheeled explorers.

The bikes grumbled low and loud, announcing their arrival. The four arrived and positioned their bikes as if they had changed their minds and were readying to leave. They killed the engines and walked the motorcycles backward toward the porch. Positioning them next to an old Knucklehead, they created a row of expensive dominos. After the wind and roar of engines was gone, the silence was shocking. A whippoorwill sang itís mournful song nearby. They could hear the muffled sound of the jukebox inside the bar and the smacking of cueball against eightball. They gave one last glance to make sure the bikes were steady. The matching Aztec Orange Heritage and Hugger looked as comfortable together as the couple that rode them. The red Electra-Glide and black Heritage Softail expressed the individuality of their riders. The Knucklehead was just venerable and stoic.

As they stepped through the front door of the Minisink Inn, they immediately noticed the drop in temperature. The dark, grungy woodwork created a dismal but cozy feeling. A hand-painted, jumbled menu on the wall behind the cluttered bar had among it's offerings Minisink Burgers and Fish N' Chips.

On the large support beam in the middle of the place, they spotted flyers advertising motorcycle events and a local garlic festival. Most were outdated and sported torn edges. The jukebox against the wall, next to the pool table, was being fed quarters by fellows in denim and leather. On it leaned an aged, thin man with a long white beard and ponytail. His body had the sinewy, tanned look of an long-time biker who spent many hours in bars and on hardtails. Bikes that demanded maintenance and oil and deep knowledge of their idiosyncrasies. This had to be the Knucklehead's rider. The place was filled with people like that. They would arrive as the day progressed. It was still lunch time.

Folks like this, the location and the food is what made the Inn so attractive to the two couples. No pretense. Just good food and earthy people. A low rumble of conversation and heady laughter filled the small room that smelled faintly of sweat, road dirt, grease and booze. Scanning the floor for an empty table, they spotted one near the beer cooler, made their way through the gauntlet and sat down. It had been a good day. A perfectly sunny one, great for riding. Not too hot. They werenít sweaty and the bikes didnít overheat. Life was good, for now. The women were new riders. One was still wet behind the ears and the other had almost two years in the saddle. The men were seasoned veterans. These guys were more comfortable on a bike than with any other vehicle. One of the main goals of the trip was to help the fledgling gain some street smarts. This was to be accomplished by forcing her to leap onto the street, headlight first. It would have been a frightening proposition for her, had she been alone. But the three others became her guardians, making the fledgling confident and secure.

The arrival at the bar was the culmination of a day that brought its share of excitement. The adventure at the Flea Market, about 45 minutes earlier, could have been a disaster both physically and psychologically for the new rider. The never-ending Pocono Mountain weekend traffic made it impossible for a rider without confidence to pull out, cut off tourists, dare the beasts in their cages. She froze. But the gutsy Heritage rider made it easy. Without a delay, he pulled the big bike right into the road and stopped. Using his bike fearlessly, he became a Harley-Davidson road block. The others took front and back and the inexperienced, frightened student traveled in a "bubble" of safety as traffic had no choice but wait.. It's a basic survival technique. Stay to the middle of the pack.

Later the three waited patiently as the fledgling struggled to turn around after missing a last minute signal for a side-road excursion. Missing the turn landed her in a ditch alongside the intersection. The patience of her friends, the low seat of her bike and the strength of her thighs helped the newbie pull the bike out of the ditch, turn the wheel, let it roll back down into the hole, push it out again until she finally faced a direction in which she could pull forward and out. A bit grumpy from that ordeal, she found her mood wouldn't improve as she followed her husband up the little road. It proved to be narrow, twisty and steep. The pavement was cracked and riddled with potholes and sprinkled with loose gravel. The new rider endured and then the foursome headed for even more trouble.

That last trial of the dayís trilogy was an unexpected encounter with Interstate 80, a two-lane speedway where the 18-wheelers flew like demons out of Hell and the entrance ramp allowed no room to merge with the non-stop race. The scared rider bit her lip and twisted her wrist, cursing. In seconds the roaring Harley was blasting down the crowded highway, inches from a semi's bumper, and the Minisink was only minutes away. Now it was time to relive the days adventures and celebrate itís successes.

The waitress, who doubled as bartender, appeared at the table and took the orders. She had the seasoned look of a woman who'd been through many trials and heartaches. Still, the smile on her time-worn face was friendly and inviting. They all decided on burgers. The men ordered Yuengling. Cheap, cold and better than Bud. The women, sticking with caution, asked for iced-tea. While one beer didnít affect the menís ability to handle their bikes (so they said), the women, as a rule, never drank while riding.

She wasnít aware of it then, but soon the Hugger rider would have a better reason not to consume alcohol. Within the next few weeks she would be carrying the young coupleís first child. Her husband was advancing nicely in his profession. He was recently promoted to a vice president position in the accounting firm. They reminisced about when her husband spent night after night studying to get his accounting license. His new position landed him an office in the World Trade Center.

The conversation turned to that lofty office and its amazing view. That was the first time the fledgling and her mate heard about how all the offices had views because the center of the building was filled with many elevator shafts. Their friend told of his 100-floor daily hike, joking that he had to get exercise somehow. His long hours allowed no time at the gym.

There were questions whether he could see the airplanes go by and the conversation turned silly as they discussed the what-ifs of a possible collision with the building. They laughed as they compared that possibility with the traffic-tower collision in the movie Airplane. Then, the smiles faded a little, the laughter became a bit uneasy. It was agreed that a collision was really ridiculous because the Towers were way too visible. Besides, they werenít really that close to any flight paths. The Towers were even designed to withstand the impact of a plane, according to the experts.

During their frivolous discussion of an airplane crashing into the buildings, someone jokingly asked, "Oh man, what the hell would you do if you saw it coming?" The Hugger's husband replied, laughing, "Put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye."

They were prophets that day.

In loving memory of Michael "Buddy" Zinzi, D.O.D., 9/11/01

Thanks for the confidence. I will never forget.

Story copyright© Renee Aun, All Rights Reserved

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From The Lorax:
"I'm a 43-year-old mother of three who has been riding for four years. I'm a research scientist who commutes to work (a 50-minute-each-way) trip on a 1992 Heritage Softail Classic, weather permitting. I also ride a customized, 1993 Sportster and a 1998 Royal Enfield Bullet. Also in the basement is a 1972 Triumph Tiger 650 and a 1995 Electra-Glide."

WHAT YOU NEED to Know! Cyclechex Motorcycle History Report.
Motorcycle History Report - What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Used Motorcycle.
 


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