There you are, cruising west at 60 mph down Old Route 66 in your air-conditioned cocoon. It’s early morning and there are still stars to be seen in the sky.
Suddenly, as if by instinct you look at your rearview mirror. There, behind you, is a long uneven chain of lights resembling a glowing centipede.
What is it? Why is it coming so fast? Then, before you know it this thing is upon you, then surrounding you and then quickly going by you. No it’s not some low flying UFO, but roaring past you are men, women and some unknown, speeding by on a chain of powerful machines a quarter mile long.
As quickly as they came they are gone. You are safe you think but at the same time your adrenaline is pumping and you feel acutely alive. You wonder, who were they and where are they going? Were they some infamous biker gang like the Hells Angels? Did you just narrowly miss losing your life?
At that moment you hearken back to a time when you were just a tot, maybe a little older, a time when you got your first tricycle or bicycle. You vaguely remember the feeling you had when you were riding it. You think with fondness about how you felt with the wind in your hair and the exhilarating feeling of personal freedom. Damn that felt good.
But look at you now, packed into a modern day moving hearse and you’re not quite dead, yet.
And then for no reason you can put your finger on, you make the decision, I am going after them. You step on the accelerator and slowly but surely you start to catch up. The centipede is now glowing red and you’ve almost caught them. You slow down a little; you don’t want to get that close.
Then they’re gone, but as you travel a bit further you realize it was only a curve blocking your view. Now they are slowing down and stopping. What’s up? In the early dawn hours it looks like a small town ahead that has slowed the group’s progress. You feel safe because of the town so you move slower but quickly realize you are amongst them. Now what?
There’s a sign ahead, it says Oatman, Arizona.
You look down the street and on both sides for as far as you can see are hundreds of motorcycles and people milling about. There’s no obvious sign of mayhem or destruction so you decide to park and see what’s happening.
Wow, you realize it’s a party. Thousands of bikers in every shape, size and form are taking a much needed rest stop on their way to the Laughlin River Run, the West Coast’s largest biker gathering. The bikers you meet are friendly and even offer to have you follow them into Laughlin, Nevada to the bike rally. You accept.
No longer in fear for your life and feeling that this may be the beginning of something big you start to get that long buried feeling you used to have when you first felt the freedom of wheels under your control.
45 minutes later you are in Laughlin, Nevada. It’s hot, but you don’t care, something important is happening. There are more motorcycles than you have ever seen in your life, thousands of them. The noise at times is deafening.
Not one motorcycle is the same. There are brands that you have never heard of and colors and styles you did not think possible. At once you feel you are at home and at the same time there is sadness because you are not truly a part of it all. You don’t own a motorcycle and the only leather you own is on your feet.
But something has changed and you know you will never be the same. The people at the rally tell you it is the 31st Annual Laughlin River Run, they have been coming for years and will be back for the 32nd next April.
Later, after checking out the bikes, the vendors and the crowd, you are back in your same cookie cutter SUV heading home. But tomorrow will be different. You’ve rediscovered the seed to freedom and nothing will ever be the same.
Then, from out of nowhere a haunting melody pops into your head, Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf. You try to sing the words that you can remember, but ultimately settle for humming them. That’s okay; you have a year to get it right before you make it back to the 32nd Laughlin River Run.
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Photo of baby on a bike, courtesy of loslachen.ch