Friday, July 20, 2012

The people we meet along the road

Sometimes the ride is all about the road:  twisting through the White Mountains in New Hampshire; following winding, narrow roads along the rivers in Vermont; zooming up and down the hairpin turns in the Alps.

Other times the ride is about the scenery:  gazing from the top of the Green Mountains over the forested valleys; crossing wide rivers like the Ohio and Mississippi with their ferry and barge traffic; looking out over the brown fields that stretch unbroken to the horizon in the plains in Missouri.

Often Mike and I ride alone, but today we had fun riding with David Waldrip, a BMW rider from Georgia who is also heading to the BMW rally in Sedalia, MO. We met David last night at the hotel, shared dinner and lively conversation, and decided to ride together today.

Sharing a love of motorcycle riding seems to bring people together. We immediately have a common point to start conversation, and that flowed into talking about life, discussing books and authors, recommendations for equipment and gear, and even about our life philosophy. It seems like much of our conversation with strangers is superficial, but put everyone on a motorcycle, and conversation quickly becomes personal and interesting.

We may not talk while we're riding, but there's communication occuring. I look back to see David riding behind us, he notices when I point out a red-headed bird sitting on a fence post and later tells me it's a common buzzard. When we come to a stop sign, David pulls up next to us and we either exchange a few words about the ride or the turn coming up, or we simply exchange a thumbs-up to share enthusiasm for the twisty, curvy road. We stopped for gas in St. James where I picked up a brochure for the Vacuum Cleaner Museum - who knew someone collected 588 different vacuum cleaners beginning with the first non-electric models from the 19th century? That led to a discussion about Route 66, the historic highway that stretched from Chicago to LA and passed right through St. James. Add a third person to our conversation makes the travel and the day much more rich.

We met another wonderful person when we stopped for lunch in small and dusty St. Elizabeth, population 336. Ms. Kitty's Place looked to be the only place in town open except for the post office.

When we walked inside, we were greeted by several people seated at the round tables or at the bar. We made for a strange and interesting sight:  three hot and sweaty people wearing motorcycle pants and boots, carrying high-visibility yellow motorcycle jackets and helmets. Ms. Kitty herself waited on us, recommending either the cheeseburger or special prime rib platter as the house specialties, and proudly telling us that everything was homemade.

Ms. Kitty and her three daughters - Debbie, Becky, and Shelley - plus a grandson run the restaurant. She confirmed that she made the chunky applesauce herself, and I believed her because it tasted just like my Grandma Michael's applesauce. The sliced tomatoes in the salad and on the cheeseburger came from her garden. She not only cooked the food and waited on customers, she talked with us about riding motorcycles and her life in Missouri. The sign on the wall:  "Through these doors walk the best people in the world - our customers" and her infectious smile made us truly feel welcome.

When we reached the BMW rally at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, we found ourselves in the middle of motorcycle and BMW fever.

We chatted with the vendors, talked with people we met walking along the busy street filled with motorcycles, and stopped by the Vermont MOA camping area to share stories of our trips to Missouri, riding in Vermont, and the pros and cons of camping.

Riding a motorcycle makes us part of a community of riders.

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