I’m calling this entry “Vrroom,” implying that zooming around on a motorcycle was the most important, and indeed the most memorable, part of this day. It was not.
This was my first group ride on a motorcycle, organized by the nice people over at Santa Fe Motor Sports as a fundraising activity for the Employee Benefits Committee of the City of Santa Fe. There was a small registration fee, and for that you got a guided tour through a 50 mile loop with about 15 other motorcyclists. The fee also included a light breakfast of muffins and good strong coffee---strong and black----just what you’d expect from motorcycle culture. The ride ended with a cookout, featuring the usual hot dogs and hamburgers and all the fixin's to go with it. All delicious. Not gourmet, but tasty nevertheless. And it did hit the spot after the ride. The smell of flame-grilled food is just plain old irresistible anyway.
I usually take off on my own to go exploring with the anti-Hog----my small Honda Rebel that is. But I thought it would be interesting and nice to try riding in a pack. We had studied and practiced it in the motorcycle safety class I’d taken, so I felt comfortable with the idea and the protocols. It also seems safer in a large group, since we were a PRESENCE on the road. Motorists behave differently, and better, when encountering that much motorcycle muscle. From the individual motorcyclist’s point of view, i.e. mine, it’s thrilling, a real kick, to ride in a large group. Now I know why the Hell’s Angels do it. That’s a potent mix of intimidation and thrill.
The ride consisted of several stops. And the first one was in the village of Cerrillos, which I had never visited before. We parked our bikes, and most of the riders milled around outside and enjoyed the bottled water which the sponsors had provided. I, however, became intrigued with a very old building called “Mary’s Bar.” I wanted to know more about it, so I went in. Logical, right?
It took my eyes a few seconds to adjust to the darkness. The disorder in the place was staggering, even by my standards (not very high). However, as soon I had closed the door behind me, as I was loudly instructed to do, I noticed an elderly lady sitting alone at a table. I said hello to the formerly invisible people, went over to this lady, introduced myself, and asked if I could sit down. She told me that she loves to chat with everyone who comes in and is willing to give her a few minutes of their time. I learned that her name is Mary, and that she was born in Cerrillos in 1916----that’s two years after my father was born in a town very far from there. Her family had built the place we were in back in 1918, a grocery store in those days,. Her grandparents, who originated in Italy, had also lived in the town and were part of the family business. She had spent all of her life in Cerrillos and clearly planned to die there.
Mary likes to come and sit at that table every day, in this place where she was raised. We were a perfect match today because I am always interested in knowing what life was like “back then”----which is why I often find myself gravitating to much older people. I used to drive my parents and grandmother quite crazy with these incessant “what was it like then” questions. But I sensed that they held images and experiences of a time that was unavailable to me---and I didn’t want it to be. These elders, and Mary, are all part of the American Experience (as it’s called on PBS) and as a kid I always wanted to hear their stories. I was then, and still am, hungry to know what America, and everyday life, was like in their time. Mary needed but little encouragement from me. She began a critique of modern culture and our current-day sense of disaffection, dislocation, and emotional isolation, that could have come out of a PhD dissertation! She was absolutely clear and articulate. It was really less of a critique and more of a lament (absent of whining of any kind) which contrasted with the sense of community and simple pleasures that she once knew---as did the whole country---“back then”. Every word she said had the ring of truth to it. Sadly.
I became so engrossed in our conversation, that I failed to notice that the group had left without me! I had to make a hasty exit, unfortunately---but I did catch up with them many miles later. I felt so badly about my rather brusque departure, that I rode back later in the afternoon to try and find Mary again----to apologize----and hopefully continue the conversation. But she had retired for the day. This is an experience that needs revisiting, and the sooner the better. Gold mines of stories, and insight like hers are disappearing by the minute, forever. It makes me sad.
Here are some photos of the day, and, as always,
Happy Trails to you from lovely Santa Fe, New Mexico