By September 17, 2007

Silent gathering

Hey buddy,

I just wanted to give you an update. Your buddy Steven Slidelightly came through: after over a month of advertising, we got together and convoyed down to Williamsburg in your honor. There were twenty-two bikes and probably five or six cars’ worth of people. It rained all night before, and in the morning of the ride. I wore my leather, but brought my rain gear just in case. I wasn’t going to be stopped yesterday, but the weather co-operated and by the time we rolled out at 10:15 it was blue skies and sunshine.

Your mother, sister, and older brother are all riding now! All cruisers, of course. Between them and your aunt and uncle, Steven Slidelightly is the only one holding the sportbike torch. I have to talk to your sis, she’s one-upping you in the squid department by wearing a three-quarters helmet. Her face is too pretty to skid on her jaw. I talked to your moms about it, and she agrees. Your mother is finally smiling again. Being out on the bike really helps her. Her bike’s license plate says “KJPMOM,” it was one of those things that’s so simple and beautiful it makes me sad inside. Your sister’s bike is purple, and her helmet matches. Your brother’s light silver Harley looks fucking bad ass, and I’d expect some meat-handed carpenter to be astride it, instead of a delicately-boned long distance runner nerd from William and Mary. He’s doing okay, although he has pneumonia. He probably shouldn’t have had all that cold air in his face yesterday, but like me he wasn’t going to miss this for the world.

I think a lot of us are going after “the moment” right now. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way nine years ago, but you gave me a good reminder. After your passing I think some people realize anything could happen at any time. Some of us are going for what we want out of life, and you’d be happy to see your people making changes.

Your younger brother Mohawk rode 2UP with TonkaTruck, who is still without a bike but made the ride on your old one. Mohawk did really well; of course it helps that he weighs like 100 pounds and TonkaTruck probably can’t even feel him thanks to your bike’s big engine. Mohawk spoke more to me than ever before. He walked up and said, “You look like a robot,” and then walked away. That has to be a record for the most consecutive words he’s ever said to me. 😉

So, the ride was awesome. I was in the back quarter of the pack, and there were so many bikes running that I couldn’t see the leader, even when we were doubled-up in offset positioning. It would take someone like you to bring such a wide collection of bikes and riders together. There were a few customs, the majority were cruisers, a handful of sportbikes, and then my lone sport standard. There were some hardcore Harley guys there, including a fellow that had his first Harley — a 1945 Knucklehead — when he was eleven years old. I got to meet a few new people, including a lady who just moved to Richmond from Portland, Oregon two months ago. I thought it was awesome that she never knew you, but was moved enough by the memorial ride to come along. She rode a pretty orange Honda Shadow.

You would have laughed, Steven Slidelightly and your uncle were the only ones who knew where the fuck we were going — and they lost about 2/3rds of the group five minutes away from our destination. The rest of us wound up stopping ON a two lane bridge while people tried to figure out where we were, and how to meet up with the rest of the group. We snaked around our destination like a blind snake, eventually meeting up with the group almost forty-five minutes later. It took us just over three hours to get from our Starbucks to the Jamestown Settlement. It would have taken you and me less than an hour, tops. But you know how it is, people were just chilling and enjoying the ride.

Someone on my motorcycle forum wrote that riding a motorcycle is a lot cheaper than therapy. Getting out and blasting down the road for an hour does a lot more to clear my head and put things in perspective than trying to deal with it in any other way. It’s a funny thing how bikers cope sometimes. All I could think about (besides not smashing into the n00b rider in front of me) was you, how and why you died, and what I should do going forward to not only honor your memory, but live my life in a way that you would find worthy. I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one cataloging their life. We rode together, we remembered together, we grieved together, and we healed together. We did so silently, for every time we dismounted we talked about anything but you. It was a forty person silent group therapy session, and it was beautiful.

I miss you, buddy. Motor on, Ghost Rider, motor on.

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2 Comments on "Silent gathering"

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  1. Starbuck says:

    For all those who could not go on the ride, thank you for writing to ghost rider.

  2. Bill Hardball says:

    My condolances on your Brother’s passing, it was cool that you were all able to honor him that way.
    I found your blog by while looking for PF-9 posts and got caught up reading, very enjoyable. And I’m not easily entertained. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.