Bikers are to Canada as Huns were to Medieval Europe. Right away when I say bikers I bet you think of the Hells Angels or the bloody internecine club warfare and slaughters in Southwestern Ontario or parts of Quebec, leave alone Alberta and the East Coast. Now not all bikers are under the umbrage of being the next door neighbour to the hell spawn. For example, dirt bikers conjure up teenagers to mid-twenties with not a few broken bones coming from flying through the air with a touch too much of the greatest of ease. Track racing bikers have the haunted look of Nicholas Cage’s Ghost Rider as they are absorbed with engine tuning, daunting speed and the sheer bravado of holding track at the razors edge of wipe out for 100 to 400 klicks and still alive. While Vespa bikers have the haughty look of fashion and the ability to wend their way in and out of bumper to bumper traffic with the ease of a slalom skier.
So yes, the Biker world is for a brave heart and a free spirit with a don’t-fence-me-in mentality. But riders of the big bikes, the Harley Davidson’s of Milwaukee Wisconsin, present a slight problem. Among those bikers, and there are many, I cannot tell friend or foe. And that is part of the problem. When I see a group of Harley Hawgs coming down the highway, how do I know whether they are free spirits and not ones whose freeness of thinking has taken them outside the law to my possible regret. In short, bikers, and Harley Hawg bikers in particular, have an image problem.
Now among bikers, I am sure the distinction among the various Harley Hawgs types is a quick and easy to discern difference. Its just that I have not yet learned the tells between upright and outlaw if so moved. So Bikers have come up with a partial solution here in Eastern Ontario.
No I am not thinking of the AA, rather a broader phenomenon that seems to be spawned by human’s inherent sociability – the meet-up. There is even a website for the phenomena, www.meetup.com. Now I don’t know if that is what helped spawn the meet-up I happened to run into in Campbellford Ontario on Thursday night while shopping at the Canadian Tire, but Motorcycle Meet-ups are happening.
And while I was getting to chat around and meet the biking guys and gals of Campbellford and area, if I could have whisked myself off to Port Perry and “a spot near Barrie” that same night there were similar meet-ups going on. And if Cambellford is any indication, with 50-70 bikes on a gloriously pleasant June evening, I probably would have been treated to the same array of bikes and bikers.
As you can see from the picture above, not all the bikes were Harleys. There were Hondas, Suzuki, and even a stylish Ducati 750 (more about that bike and biker later). So maybe slightly over half were from the Milwaukee bike works. But most were big highway cruising machines with lots of the creature comforts for bikers that might make a quick trip to Ottawa and back (about 900 klicks) “very convenient and comfortable”.
The next thing I noticed was colors and clean. I really expected to see the Ford Model T color choice (as Henry Ford would say – “any color you want so long as it is Black”)to predominate the line up of bikes. But as you can see from the two photos above black is an also ran. However clean is not.
A common trait for all these bruiser cruisers was spic and span and gleaming too. As one biker put it – “why let all that chrome steel go to waste, let her shine my way down the highway”. And the bikes of Campbellford certainly lit up the lot. And so do the ohhs and ahhs of interlopers like me – literally I was blinded by the reflections.
Okay so I pointed my camera right at the chrome and maneveured myself into position to get a full sting of the Sunrays. But there is no doubt riding down the highway on chrome and two wheels has a certain je’ne sais quoi that it is very hard to reproduce until perhaps you are flipping and diving through the air in a biplane.
The bikers were friendly enough too. Some were a little camera shy, but that is par for the lensman course – candid people photography is a high art that only the keenest of eye and benignest of looks can really master. But the age of the bikers was pretty broad, angling towards silver hair but an ample dose of pepper among the silver salt. And no de rigeur black on black leather – shades of back in the days when my University of Michigan colleague Doug Wilson whose blond hair, chiseled body build, 4.0 grade point in Honors Chemistry and 350 Norton Commander were always cloaked in Darth Vader black. But like the bikes, the biker clothing hues were fairly broad.
And there were broads too. And not just biker backseat chicks. Remember the Ducati. This one was built from scratch – and muck and grime and scavenged parts by a belle dame whose fine lines and firm determination were everywhere to be seen in her 750 Ducati. Her bike and she had gathered a small crowd of admirers. And judging by the gleam in the chrome, deserving ones.
But I was on a mission, determined to get the supplies for a garden starting to go awry. So after a 15 minute sojourn, I had to get some garden hope. So I spent the next half hour in Canadian Tire looking for liquid fertlizer, a few cucumber and squash plants rather than seeds, and some septic tank cleaner tablets. Also I needed a new trowel, the plastic handle on mine had become splintered and was now a delicate handle. But I resisted any insecticides despite the fact that my Cauliflower’s leaves were being consumed by tiny aphids. Finally I got a few BBQ briquettes and starter fluid such that I and my bank account were glad to get out of the Tire still alive. And in fact I was looking forward to going back to the bikes and bikers.
But in half an hour, the meet-up had broken-up. It was getting towards the darkside of dusk and so many of the bikers had taken off. I managed to catch a picture or two of the remaining bikes. But the bikers were still photo shy. So I hope to return on a Thursday evening to a Campbellford or maybe even a Port Perry Biker Meet-up. Just to see what I can tell.