Yesterday was my first chance to get to ride with the Freedom Riders Group. Finally. Every time I’ve planned to go, something has either already been on the calendar unbeknownst to me, or something has come up. Well, the first time there was a bunch of rain in the forecast. Let’s not talk about how bad, stupid and angry I felt when it turned out to be a sprinkle that lasted maybe ten minutes. I saw A LOT of rain in the forecast for the morning, where I live as well as where the ride was taking us. There was no way I was going to make a rainy day my first ride with a new group. I’m not that experienced on the road yet, and I don’t have any rain gear. And I have zero experience riding with a group. I’m sure the Group would appreciate my bowing out based on those three criteria.
Anyway, the planets aligned an I was able to go. We met at seven o’clock for breakfast at a little place in Plano, and from there went on a journey around the country and farm-to-market roads here in North Texas that lasted a few hours and put over a hundred and thirty miles on our odometers.
I asked Joker, the leader, where he wanted me for the ride, since I was new to the group. He offered me the third slot, which, in a staggered, double-file, is right behind him, third bike back. The odd numbers line up on the left of the lane, the evens on the right. Duh. Staggered. Double-file. It’s not rocket science. But for some reason, the gentleman in the fourth position wasn’t riding like that. He kept barreling past me in turns, roaring past me to his stop at stop lights and getting really close on my right tail during the ride. I told him I needed more space during the twistys, because I was still getting comfortable with counter-steering and I hadn’t been on turns like this before.
Well I finally asked him if he wanted to take 3. Dude, you’re riding like you want to be ahead of me, just take the third slot. He took it, but continued to maintain the position right behind the wing man, number 2. That breaks the pattern. It’s not safe and it doesn’t make any sense. So this guy keeps getting close to the wing man, riding right up on him, crowding his turns, all the things he had been doing to me. Joker finally got off his bike at one stop and told the guy where he should be riding, and after that, he rode in the proper slot. Finally.
Then he took a turn a little wide and dumped his bike in the ditch. Sigh. I was first there since I was right behind him, and helped him up. He was fine, thank God, but his bike had a few new bends to it. Some of the superficial stuff that happens when one slides in the grass. Glad it was grass and not concrete. His pride was hurt but he was just fine. There was a wide driveway directly across the street from that curve where some guy owned a shop of some sort. It might have been his home as well, I didn’t pay attention. But he opened his wide chain-link gate and invited the whole group – about 20 of us – to come park on his property to get off the road. Then he helped the guy wheel his bike into the metal shop (I’m guessing it was a metal shop) and bend some stuff back into place. Extremely cool of him.
The rest of the ride was smooth sailing – the guy who dumped it was now somewhere in the back, and I was in the middle somewhere. No other incidents. We had a great ride that took us through a bunch of little towns and a lot of twisty roads. At our final stop, we had an induction ceremony, and Joker handed out rockers to people who had been waiting a while for them. Then he surprised the shit out of me by saying, “And last but not least, you can always spot a good one from a mile away. Welcome aboard, Brian.” And he handed me a rocker. I’m now a member. I’m extremely excited and humbled by this. I had met the leadership of the group before, but had not gotten to ride yet. And I guess they knew I would fit in.
Leaving the last stop, I rode north on 78 following another legacy member, who also rides an Indian – a Roadmaster. He goes by Mr. Big One, and his lovely wife rode his pillion. They live close enough that I was able to have a partner for the long journey back up to my neck of the woods, turning off about ten miles from where I call home. That was extremely cool too.
Please note that my intention of mentioning the crash here is for journaling purposes. You know how I do. I don’t want to disparage or otherwise speak poorly of anyone in the group. He’s a nice guy and we talked several times throughout the morning, before and after the incident. I asked how he was and shook his hand. I like the guy. And I don’t want to name him here for obvious reasons. I just think he needs to roll-off just a little bit. Rethink safety over speed a tad.
Here is the route map. As you can see, it’s a nice big loop around some pretty North Texas country. The only bit of highway riding we did was north up DNT to get to where we could start the fun stuff. The rest was all country roads, back roads and lonely two-lane highways. We made several stops to rest and stretch and have a sip of water or throw a piss. This group doesn’t bar-hop or hot-dog out on the roads. They’re about riding, having fun and being safe. That’s exactly the kind of group I belong in.