In June I rode a Christian Motorcyclists Association poker run. I was treated like family there, like a special guest, you could say. There was zero proselytizing. No one even suggested I join a CMA chapter or asked what church I attend. I was amazed by the hospitality.
Ten days later, I arrived at the start of the Tuesday ride I often write about here. Moments later, a woman rode up on a black Sportster. She wore a glossy black half helmet and a black leather vest with CMA colors on the back.
Sewn onto the vest were various Christian-themed patches, some naming late, lamented riders and noting their years of birth and death. There were Christian-themed decals on her bike, maybe “Riding with the Son.” She was 60-ish and perhaps the youngest person on our ride.
I figured one of the regulars had invited her. As I watched, she chatted with a few of the guys in the half-hour before we rolled out. Smiled, laughed a lot, seemed nice.
I fell into line directly behind her. I should tell you that we do not pass one another on our rides. The order we’re in when we depart is the order in which we’ll roll into the casino parking garage in Black Hawk, Colorado, maybe 90 minutes and hundreds of bends later.
The pace is brisk, not sportbike fast, but brisk for old guys on supersized motorcycles. Well, supersized except for a few: my Kawasaki, an expertly ridden F650 BMW and the woman’s Sportster.
I saw that she rode well and smoothly. She placed herself properly, diagonally behind the rider in front of her. I felt that she must be confident, a lone female riding with a bunch of guys who are out here every week on these mountain roads.
I could find no fault with her riding except that it was so… slow. She rode at three- quarters of our normal pace. Maybe two-thirds. And as I said, we don’t pass. So those behind, me included, traveled at her speed. Slow.
I thought: This is a test. Just ten days ago I was welcomed like a long-lost friend by a bunch of strangers on that Christian Motorcyclists Association ride. Now, I’m offered a chance to return that kindness, to lavish courtesy on this
good woman as it had been lavished on me.
I tried. I’d love to tell you that I sat back there happily, not bothered by the poky pace. I’d be lying to you. I felt off- balance, always in the wrong gear, clumsy on my bike. On a lovely sunny day in the Colorado mountains on my motorcycle, I was not having a good time.
You know, when I travel there are days that are not much fun, days when I just have to cover the distance. I accept that, and I think I sometimes enjoy those days. Gotta do ‘em in any case.
But I do not like to do day rides, recreational rides, and not enjoy them. I have to ride out of Denver on six-lane highways carrying impatient drivers who are simply not paying attention or are emotionally addled. Drivers who would knock you off your bike at 70 MPH and worry only about being late to work.
If I could, I wouldn’t ride those highways. I have to ride them to reach the good roads. I have to ride them to join with the guys on Tuesdays.
So there I am behind the nice Christian lady. I think: This is supposed to be fun and it is not. Why am I here? Why make myself vulnerable to the crazed motorized masses if the result is not fun?
It isn’t her fault that it isn’t fun for me. She may not realize that the pace today is any different from the pace on other Tuesdays. Probably she thinks that this is how groups ride on these mountain roads.
She doesn’t know me, I thought. If I leave the ride, she may not even notice that I’m gone. I wondered what a truly good person would do, a Christian or a non-Christian practicing New Testament values. Would he (or she) continue on the ride just as if he enjoyed it?
My friend Dale had told us he intended to leave the ride early, before we reached our casino-town destination. I decided that rather than crawl there frowning in my helmet, I’d head for home when Dale did.
I felt I’d be more gracious in my absence than faking a fellowship with the nice lady, a fellowship I did not genuinely feel. I hoped, I’m confessing here, that she wouldn’t become a ride regular, wouldn’t change the nature of an established ride merely by her presence.
I certainly didn’t want her coming on our rides and riding outside her comfort zone. And no way would I tell her she’d been an anchor we’d had to drag.
I will say in my defense that while I rode with the CMA I did not change the character of their ride. I rode at the back of the group… at the group’s speed. No one had to ride faster or slower than he or she felt comfortable to stay with me.
If that Tuesday ride was a test, did I fail? Would you have been a better person? Would you have stuck it out? What was the right thing to do? What, indeed, Would Jesus Do?