I think back to November 26th, 2002. I remember it because it was 2 days before Thanksgiving that year. It was unseasonably cold in Atlanta with temps in the 20’s and 30’s. Good riding weather had retired for the year along with the warm summer sun. I called my brother in law Keith across town in anticipation of the long holiday weekend. We talked of Wives and Sisters and Moms all planning who is cooking what for the family Thanksgiving dinner. Keith and my sis Coleen host Thanksgiving. We do Christmas. Kerry does Easter. Thanksgiving mornings are generally drudging affairs helping ladies stuff turkeys and peel potatoes while consuming rivers of coffee. The men in my family anxiously wait for noon and switch to beer according to some unwritten family rule that errantly exempts us from the label of “alcoholics”! The conversation with Keith turns to riding and even though it is freezing I itch to stretch the bike’s legs for a late fall run. A plan is hatched to meet up early am on Thanksgiving morning when we would otherwise be tossed from warm beds and bossed about a kitchen emasculated by aprons and potato peelers. The oddball plan is hatched and Thanksgiving morning arrives. Just before 8:00 am we pilot our Harleys into the parking lot of the old “American Pie” bar on Roswell Road just north of I-285. The lot is abandoned except the 2 bikes already parked. We pull in smiling like mischievous school children and pop open our thermoses. The other two riders, Mike and Jeff, already have frosty mustaches from their malt brewed beverages. Ric pulls in. We share. We imbibe. We share some more. All smiles broaden. Temperatures rise slightly. We stand about the empty parking lot regaling in bike rides of the past year. We discuss all that we have to be thankful for in true puritan fashion. We promise to ride more in the coming year. My recollection is that we hopped on the bikes and roared off to breakfast. Then off to families for football games, turkeys, apple pies and of course, more imbibing. It was a simply gathering, hastily organized and enjoyed by 5 old friends. Over a decade ago.
A year goes by and I make a few calls. I invite a few more friends and so does Ric. On Thanksgiving morning November 27, 2003, the 2nd gathering of revelers takes place. There are a dozen cold souls who stand about in the freezing morning air clinking cans and stomping cold leather boots on the pavement. Someone brings bagels and decides Irish coffee is in order. Smiles abound all clearly pleased with our unorthodox “man meeting.” We don’t exclude the ladies, we just don’t invite them. The ‘no lasses’ phenomenon is more a product of spouses culinary obligation than discrimination. In the 2nd year we stand about, we laugh, we tell lies, and we slap backs for an hour or two then roar off for eggs, covered smothered and whatevered, rosy cheeked. Ultimately we all head home cold but happy we got a ride in. Happier yet we didn’t have to peel potatoes. Year after year, Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving, the biker tradition grows. The T-shirt develops and now Ric makes commemorative shirts for all in attendance recording the occasion for posterity. The ride numbers increase each year despite rain or freezing temps and old friends appear with big smiles bundled as Eskimos in winter biker regalia. Red Beards come from Dawsonville, HOG members come from Macon, Willie Prather brings friends from Jasper, all the Full Throttle staff roll in with Randy, and Jeff brings the Atlanta Harley crew as bikes roll in singularly and 30 at a clip from all parts of north Georgia. We get and give half handshake half shoulder bump hugs to each other. Masculine hugs mind you. Year 3, year 4, year 5, the tradition grows. One year we all get haircuts and some donate graying pony tails to “Locks of Love”. One year we ride all the way out to Athens to find the town abandoned. Over the years we end up in bars or restaurants for buffet breakfasts but we’re all always home by noon. That’s the rule. No one prints flyers or sends emails. No blogs report this social phenomenon and before the writing of this story the recording of the event has most likely never been reduced to paper. Word of mouth, like settlers to Indians (without the gonorrhea of course), the news of the Thanksgiving morning biker get together is informally disseminated. As ten years pass and the event grows, we always await the person who will bring the wife. Principally, so we can break his stones in good fun. Year after year it does not happen. Until last year. In a last minute invite by myself made the night before an unnamed friend is told of the event. I inadvertently don’t mention it’s a “guy thing” to unnamed friend in the haste of the call. The unnamed friend shows up with his girl amidst hundreds of guys. I will not print his name here but will state that his name starts with a “K” and ends in an “EVRO”. (and he works at Atlanta Harley and brought PAM and his last name is Wilkins!!!). I arrive last year to the biggest crowd yet. Hundreds of eyes roll and whispers abound as if someone’s wore a tu tu. The indignant accusation is reported to me under hushed breath: “Some dude brought a chick”, as if a nazi wandered into Temple Beth Isreal. I feign a ghastly shock and raise my eyebrows in pretend indignation. I retrieve the bull horn from my tour pack, someone hands me a Coors light and the ball busting begins. Good times.
If it is one thing I have learned in my 35 years of riding road bikes it is that the “Bike” is the great equalizer of the “Person”. As we are all equal in God’s eyes we as riders should all be equal in each other’s eyes. Respect to the rider be they male, female, old salt, new rider, Asian, handicapped, 1%’er or 99%’er, one eyed (That’s for you Dave), green, two-headed or in the end, posses an “X” chromosome, a “Y” chromosome or both! We all enjoy a common passion. “Live to Ride, Ride to Live” as they say. As for Thanksgiving, it is a cultural event. It does not discriminate on religion. It is not Yom Kippur or Christmas or Ramadan. Part of its beauty is that it is not complicated by religion and that it is exclusively OURS. It is exclusively AMERICAN and it is as much for ALL AMERICANS as our ride is now for ALL BIKERS. In looking at the picture you see with these words I cannot say I know all the names of those brave souls who attended last year. I hugged them all nonetheless. If you are reading this, then you should come too. Bring your wife, your girlfriend or bring them both. Find me and give me the big Thanksgiving hug. I’ll be the one with the bullhorn. My friends call me Irish. In the words of Ernest Hemmingway “beware the Irishman with a bullhorn”. God bless you all and be ‘thankful’ for all we have!!
Well, signing off for now. Remember, ride hard, ride safe, and in the end make sure you ride home. Written by Steve Murrin, the ‘Original Biker Lawyer’