These are the first words I hear as I approach some guys sitting on a bench at a Harley dealership in Medford.
I'm going back to pick up on a trip I took the weekend after last. Four of us travelled South to Medford. As I've mentioned, it's about three and a half hours away for me. Of course, that depends a lot on which way we go! We found a longer way for the return trip. More on that later.
This was taken at one of those stops that are inevitable on a long ride. Looking at the bike made me want to take a photo. A beautiful bike in scenic surroundings. How could I resist?
The reason for the trip was to teach an Advanced Rider Training course. This is the one we teach on some sort of track. It's about practicing higher speed accident avoidance skills and linking turns. Not only linking curves, but being as smooth as possible in the process. This class was being sponsored by a local Harley dealership. As you might have guessed, most of the students were Harley mounted. There were a couple of BMW's, a Ducati Supermotard, a Suzuki DR650, and another sport type bike. I'm sad to say that the make escapes my memory. Ouch! There was a total of 17 students with 12 of them riding bikes of the Harley persuasion.
I'm going to put in a disclaimer here. These students of ours were serious about improving their riding skills. However, many of them knew each other. These guys weren't holding back from trying to impress each other with a slightly put on "tough guy" persona. If that comes through in this post, it's not my bias speaking. It's here because the students wanted it to be there. I'm only the scribe!
As you might expect, the classroom Friday night was held at the dealership. I'd headed out a little ahead of the rest of the guys. Ron and Dan ( yes, another one ) were coming from Portland. Ron's on an ST1100 a year newer than Sophie. Dan's on a Suzuki GSXR 1100. That dude rode the sport bike all the way down and back. I always knew some of my sport bike riding friends were nuts!
Leaving early put me into town early. Not having been to this particular dealership before, I decided to go check it out.
Picture this. It's a really warm afternoon. I'm pulling into the parking lot of a Harley dealership. On a Honda sport-tourer. Wearing a full face helmet with my Hi-Viz 'Stich Roadcrafter, no less. I pull up into the group of American iron bikes and dismount. Looking for all the world like it's the most natural thing in the world. I can feel several sets of eyes boring into me.
You know, simple things like, "What's he doing here?"
It would be easy to quickly clear the air and put these people out of their misery. Still, though, I take my time. The Warrior in me wants to keep everyone hanging a while longer.
When the curiosity currents are at their highest level, I wander over to a couple of guys sitting on a bench in the shade. You have to understand that I have this perverse streak in me. I tend to like to mess with people's minds. Making someone's day a little more surreal warms me to the bottom of my riding boots. I saunter over to the guys sittting on the bench. Their appearance is the perfect illustration of the stereotype. They're waiting for me to speak. So I do.
"And thus was born the saying that will forevermore ring out among mankind, 'As out of place as a Honda in a Harley shop!'"
To which one of the guys replies, "Welcome to the Dark Side".
If you look past the bikes you can see a guy wearing an orange shirt. There's another guy sitting next to him. A couple of onlookers are standing nearby. Obviously, they expect the conversational ball to be in my court. Not wanting to disappoint, I send a volley back their way.
"I'm Luke Skywalker, who are you?"
Mr. Orange Shirt tells me his name is Gator. With a big smirk he looks over at his buddy. The buddy takes a minute to catch up then offers a grin with a couple of teeth missing. He tells me his name is Snake. So far we really don't know each other's real names and actually don't much care at this point. Now the guy who calls himself Gator can't resist taking a jab for real.
"I'm surprised you don't have heat stroke from all that crap you were wearing. Aren't you hot?"
"My wife thinks I am", I reply. "You're right in that it might be too much gear. Everyone knows that the pavement gets softer when it gets warmer".
I leave them with that and wander around to the back to find the classroom. It happens to be a door around the back and at the top of a stairway. You'll see a picture in a bit. Finishing with my journey of exploration, I walk back to Sophie. As casually as I took the gear off, I put it back on. Time to go check into the hotel and enjoy some air conditioning. All too soon, it's time to hook up with Ray and ride back to actually teach the class. Ray's on his ST1300. I'm actually teaching but all the instructors are going to show up for introductions.
Ok, here's the door to the classroom. It figures into the next bit of bantering.
Remember, this is around on the backside of the dealership. As Ray and I park in the shade near the door, a couple of the Harley mounted students walk around from the front of the building. They've parked in front and walked in the hot sun to the back. I see a glint in one of the guys' eyes that's more than the sunshine. There's some sort of verbal jab coming our way. I wait for it. It's not a long wait.
"What's the matter with you Honda boys? You ashamed to park out front with the real bikes? Why else would you slink around to the back?"
It's delivered in a good natured way. Sort of that thing that guys just can't help doing. Being a guy myself, I'm familiar with the game. He served and I get to return.
"No, Honda guys just smarter than Harley guys. See door? Honda guys park close to door and in shady spot. Harley guys not figure that out, yet?"
So was set the tone for the rest of the evening. They were a tough bunch but there's a reason my boys call me Irondad. When you get a bunch of American cruiser riders together, there's bound to be a rise in the testerone level. Underneath it all, though, they'd paid to be there and were open to learning. It was a fun evening.
Saturday morning would see the four of us on the track bright and early getting ready for our students. I'll tell you about that part in the next post. Stay tuned.
Miles and smiles,