As we sit here enjoying some down time warming our toes by the fire in my parents home near Reading, Pennsylvania, my thoughts have drifted back to one of our favorite pastimes: riding and socializing with our motorcycling friends.
The latter is an ever-expanding collection of some very special people who share our passion for motorcycling and life in general. We can truly say that our lives have been touched in a very positive way by the people we’ve met and friends we’ve made through our motorcycling interests, in much the same way as it has been with our other passion, tandem bicycling.
Of particular note were a group of very close friends we met this past fall while we down in Panama City Beach for the fall edition of Thunder Beach. We decided to take a short trip down to Mexico Beach for a late lunch at Toucans and while there encountered this other group of motorcyclists having a grand time.
While waiting for our server to come and take our order one of the gals from the group — Carrie Ann — joined us at our table to see if we’d be willing to participate in a fund-raising raffle to raise funds for an upcoming organ transplant she would be undergoing with a niece. After “doing business” we continued to visit with their fun-loving group and imagine our surprise when we discovered they were all from Marietta, Georgia! Talk about a small world and chance encounters.
The “gang” from Marietta invited us along for their Saturday “outing” and we’ve become fast friends with both the original group and their extended “family of friends”. In addition to meeting up with the group for an evening at a local pub shortly after Panama City and then taking a day trip with them up to Helen, Georgia, they also invited us to join them for several of their Christmas events. These events added an entirely new dimension to our Christmas season that continues to bring a smile to my face. You see, our new friends are bonded together by faith, friendship and the spirit of giving… giving of their time for Patriot Guard escorts of fallen servicemen and veterans, providing for the less fortunate and other good deeds.
With that in mind, one of the Christmas events we were invited to participate in was their annual Santa’s visit to Wellstar Healthcare’s Atherton Place Senior Living Center on a Tuesday evening at 6:30pm. Debbie wasn’t able to make it due to her work schedule and other commitments, but I made a point of joining the group. We met in a parking lot near the center and then — with Santa & Mrs Claus following along in their “sleigh”— our seven tiny reindeer (aka, our motorcycles) were escorted by Rudolph the police car with his bright red & blue lights down the street and into Atherton Place for a dramatic arrival by the big man.
We spent an hour visiting with the residents, caroling and making sure all of the folks at the senior center had a chance to sit on Santa or Mrs. Clauses laps and share their Christmas wishes. It was a very heart-warming event and a great experience that I look forward to repeating!
The following night we were invited to join the group for their annual Christmas Lights Ride. Debbie and I both left work early and were able to join the group for another cold, early winter’s night ride through a few communities in northern Cobb & Southern Cherokee Counties to look at some spectacular Christmas lights displays, followed by a late evening dinner at Sixes Tavern. It was a balmy 50 degrees when we started, but had dropped to the upper 30’s by the time we finished our dinner and blasted down the highway towards home around 11:00pm. It was very unusual for us to be out on a weeknight for a social of any type, but once again just a grand time that we’ll look forward to repeating.
I should note that while we were enjoying the company of our friends over dinner after the Christmas Lights ride we were invited to attend a Christmas Party on the coming Saturday evening being held by one of the couples we’d met in Panama City Beach. We’d already had a number of commitments planned for the coming weekend, but clearly didn’t want to miss out on another opportunity to visit with our new friends and meet a few other couples who were part of the larger group of friends.
As Friday arrived we began a bit of a whirlwind couple of weekends that would take us across town and back and give us plenty of time visiting with old and new friends. While Friday the 13th was a somewhat “normal” evening visiting with our best of friends, and motorcycling adventure / partners in crime David & Deb at the On the Border, Saturday afternoon was a bit more of a challenge. It began with an Open House over at our long-time tandem cycling friends Eric & Linda’s home in Tucker, Georgia in the afternoon, followed by weekly Saturday dinner out with David & Deb at Loco Willy’s, and then ended with our visit to Chuck & Julie’s Open House along Lake Allatoona. It was great seeing many of our tandem cycling friends at Eric & Linda’s, and dinner at Loco Willy’s is always a good time.
However, we really had a great time at Chuck & Julie’s, getting to visit with our new friends from Panama City Beach and meeting several other couples who were part of their extended motorcycling family. However, after a pretty busy day I think I may have attempted to overachieve and was pretty tired early on, which may have made me something of a wall flower at the last event of the evening. However, just sitting back and observing was quite entertaining, to say the least. What a great bunch of folks and a grand start to the Christmas holiday season we had!
Christmas for us began in earnest with our own little gathering at the house on Monday, 23 December with our kids — Charlie & girlfriend Kristen, Wesley & wife Julie — and grandkids — Caroline & Charlotte — gathered about for dinner and a gift exchange. On the bright side, I was able to work in one last pre-Christmas ride on the Road King for a few last minute errands before we headed out to Pennsylvania on 24 December to celebrate Christmas with my parents, aunt & uncle.
Photos below, our humble tree surrounded by gifts, then the Lovely Miss Debbie poses with our daughter-in-law, the Lovely Miss Julie.
The pre-gift exchange opening piano recitals by Caroline & Charlotte, with Charlotte at the keys along side Julie, Wesley watching from the family room and Debbie proudly looking on, with Charlie in the piano room looking on from the other direction.
Let the assembly of the toys begin! It was a very fruitful exchange for all, with many wonderful and thoughtful gifts. Debbie found a little shiny object for her right hand at Jared’s that became her “special gift” from me. I had already found a couple pair of western boots that I bought as Debbie’s gift to me, then surprised her with a scarf, plaid shirt and stylish winter top.
The biggest surprise of the evening was a lovely artistic rendering of our Road King that Wesley & Julie had made by one of Julie’s friends; can’t wait to get it hung in the family room or our bedroom: haven’t decided which just yet.
The trip up to my parents home was fairly uneventful; 11 hours & 771 miles. Just one motorist who needed a dope slap stands out from the trip. Sadly, one unexpected gift was a winter cold that began to hit me hard on the drive. Debbie took the helm for a few hours while I took a much-needed rest.
We had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner with my mother & pop, Bill. My Uncle Rae & Aunt Flossie, my sister Anne, her son Levi and Allen and were joined after dinner by dear friends Dave & Lisa for a lovely evening by the fire.
Today was a day of rest and recovery as we look ahead to the rest of our holiday break and New Years.