Now that Ron has introduced me to the pleasures of the open road, he canâ€™t get me off the back of the bike. When we heard there was a Bikes for Tykes ride, we both wanted to do it. Iâ€™m glad they held it now, as it was the first chilly morning weâ€™d had, a reminder that fall was on its way. Any closer to Christmas, and it would be too cold to ride, with most people having their bike put up for the winter.
On Sunday morning, we headed off to The Tide, a local pub with a huge parking lot. We registered for the ride, donated money instead of a toy, talked to a Salvation Army officer who lives on a street with our last name, and noted how there didnâ€™t seem to be many bikes. While waiting for the ride to start, Ron and I busied ourselves by swilling down the ubiquitous Tim Hortonâ€™s (large triple triple for him, medium hot chocolate for me) and taking pictures. I missed one of the logo of the Bikers for Christ. I saw someone who I swear was locally born author David Adams Richards, but I wasnâ€™t sure. There were traditional biker types, a whole lot of couples older than us, some with matching bikes, and a few families with children decked out in Harley gear.
As the time for starting came closer, more bikes would show up by twos, fours and the half-dozen. People milled around, slapping each other on the back, all smiles, showing off their bikes, admiring others. The noise and excitement level was increasing, and just as Ron and I were wondering if they were going to announce the start and direct people, we heard it.
One engine rumbled. Another joined in, then another. People headed for their bikes and soon a whole chorus of engines erupted. I couldnâ€™t hear when Ron turned ours on, I could only feel it when I climbed onto the back. The engines cycled and thumped like a heartbeat, matching the beat in my chest.
A special police car lead the way, the Viper they have for drug awareness, followed by a contingent of bikers with safety vests on. Lines of bikes fell in step wordlessly behind them in two lines, including us. We eased in among them, low riders and choppers, bikes with sidecars, Harleys and smaller bikes like ours. Whenever our eyes met a fellow rider, we exchanged wide grins.
Our section of the ride finally got out of the parking lot and onto Pleasant Street, the main street through this section of town. What light traffic there was had pulled over. Cars in the grocery store parking lot were full of people watching, smiles on their faces. Little kids stood open mouthed or waving.
I waved back.
We got to the first intersection, and a friendly officer was waving us through the red light, holding back traffic with a biker in a safety vest helping. At each intersection it was the same: one police officer with a smile and nod, one biker with a brief wave.
Reaching the highway that connected two areas of the city, we crossed the river, sped on through the next intersection, and increased our speed. It was pure bliss. The sky was a brilliant clear blue, the air clear, sunlight glinting off the water, and at one point a crane lifted up from the marshes and flew briefly alongside us.
Whenever we turned a corner of the back highway, the sheer mass of bikers could be seen ahead, chrome sparkling, wheels turning, leather fringes flapping in the wind. We got to the Centennial bridge, not to cross completely, but to loop around the exits and go back across, bikers filling the cloverleaf. We met the start of the ride just over halfway. Had we been in single file, Iâ€™m sure we would have filled both lanes of the bridge, coming and going.
We kept driving through town, all the way down Wellington Street, with me waving at kids on their lawns. Eventually we headed out to the countryside and a local campground. Biker after biker swung in and around the corner to one section of lawn, lining up and parking neatly in row after gleaming row.
After we finally got parked, I eased my aching thighs off the bike and tried to keep my knees from wobbling. We headed off to find food and bathrooms, but not before we talked to Mark and another friend of mine. â€œYou could hear it off in the distance,â€ she told me. â€œThis low rumble, and then it got louder and louder until you couldnâ€™t hear anything!â€ We also tracked down the event organizer, showed him some pictures off our camera, and gave him our web address so he could see them all later.
And then we went home, tired but happy to have been part of something bigger, something important.