I have a friend in The Netherlands who once told me that in his country when you have a birthday, you invite all of your friends, put out food, and celebrate your day. I think planning one's own birthday party is a splendid idea! In that spirit, here is my birthday celebration. The friends I choose to invite this year are my friends from the gl1800riders.com chat room, a place where I probably spend far too much time.
These people are an amazing and diverse group, representing many different walks of life. In my six or seven years of chatting with this bunch, I've met a road builder, a wireless communications whiz, a chemist, grocer, tool-and-die maker, public servants, computer gurus (and many who were computer-challenged), a shoe salesman, truck drivers, postal workers, car salesmen, maintenance workers, photographers both amateur and professional, an electrical engineer, nurses, musicians, farmers, and more.
I have chatted with folks from nearly forty states and at least seven countries outside the USA. I have met many of them at various gatherings in various places, several have visited me at my home, and I have visited a few at theirs. I've met up with them in Arkansas, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Alabama, and Tennessee. I've logged many, many miles riding with them, and countless hours in the chat room with them.
Most of them use screen names: YellowWolf, Snoopy, Fuzzy, Transformer, MCMom, Galute, Brobubba, and so many more. Others use some variation of their real names: TBeck, Jon, Robeth, and of course, RickMays. Poor Rick used to get so upset that we all had 'fake' names that everyone changed their screen name one night while he was away, and left him to figure out who was who when he came back. :D
We talk about everything in chat, and nothing. The only real rule is that we try very hard to leave politics and conflict outside. We have had nights where we quoted Seinfeld and Monty Python episodes, nights when we played trivia games, and nights when no one said much of anything at all. Some nights the boys want to talk about boobs, always boobs and then they get sent to the corner until they can behave. = )
We have had acronyms and catch-phrases. GANBY? was asked frequently a few years back when a chatter had wrecked his bike and was waiting to replace it (Get A New Bike Yet?). "Warmhogs" became a regular salutation one evening when self-admitted poor speller Fuzzy was leaving and meant to leave me with warm hugs...we used to give spelling scores for things like that; -1 for a minor infraction.
One chatter calls us his 'secret friends' because that's what his wife calls us. Two others enter and greet one another, "Hey Goat roper!" "Hey, Hillbilly!" Another greets everyone by the initials of their user name, "B!" "G!" "Uncle T! "
With the joining of FrigNbored, the prefix FrigN became used for many things...the FrigNditch he rode into on one ride down Push Mountain in Arkansas, the line of protective gear he was going to develop and market: "I'm wearing my FrigNhelmet on my ride today. Has anyone seen my FrigNgloves?", and still is used frequently to describe my FrigNdialup connection.
One chatter used to greet me with "BITE ME", to which my reply was "As always, Rick, no thank you!" One ill-fated evening I learned from the Southern boys the meaning of "shakey puddin'" and that phrase continues to reverberate in chat on a fairly frequent basis.
We have discussed the merits of fresh Road-Apple pies and whether to farkle one's bike or not with useless and unnecessary chrome items.
We have celebrated marriages, births, and anniversaries, retirements, new homes, new jobs and new bikes, and mourned the deaths of siblings, parents, spouses, pets and even children. On one tragic evening, we sat late into the night with a chatter from Minnesota, as he watched the lights from emergency vehicles a mile or so from his home while rescue workers pulled the bodies of kids from a school bus that had been smashed and overturned by a careless driver who did not yield at a stop sign. We grieved with him as he prepared the meats and cheeses that were delivered from his little grocery store to the funerals of children he knew by their first names.
On another evening, two men sat at their computers in two different states, tracking tornadoes in a third state and communicating the safest routes by phone with a chatter who was trying to dodge the storms and get home to his wife. He made it safe and sound that night, by the way. Another night that same man rode home on his motorcycle through a tornado and when he entered the chat room, he told us how he was passed by a tree AND a chicken coop along the way!
Through the journaling skill of that tornado-defying rider, Rickey (Galute), we traveled vicariously with five friends on four motorcycles from Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, and Oklahoma on an odyssey to Alaska and back. We held our collective breath when one of the group became gravely ill along the way and had to be flown home. We were sure we'd lost him, and he spent months in the hospital, but now he is riding once more.
We followed in amazement as another of our group, Sheila Winney, also known as MCMom, rode more than 125,000 miles in twelve months on her purple Wing, suffering two crashes along the way. The poor Wing completed the ride, its fairing patched together with heavy plastic and duct tape, and Sheila survived her wrecks with minor injuries. The chat room waited every evening for updates from Rickey and Sheila, worrying when they didn't show up in chat for a day or two, and always asking the same question when they did make an appearance: "Where are you tonight?"
There is a surprising number of men in chat who also like to cook. One evening, several of them were comparing favorite recipes. Finally, in frustration because I am married to a man who does NOT cook, I asked, "Where were you all when I was looking for a husband?" to which Frig replied, "Well...I was thirteen..." Ouch.
We have had Mardi gras incidents, bike tip-overs, wrecks and close calls, bikes lost and bikes gained, HUGE laughs and a few tears. We've had such good times together, and I truly consider these people to be the very best friends of my life, bar none. They have listened and commiserated and celebrated with me during these very difficult last few years, through family problems and family illnesses, the building of a new house and new life, the birth of my grandson, the loss of my sister to cancer.
The group has changed over the years, some have left, others have joined. Lives have changed and taken some to other interests. Black Pirate, oh Jerry, our Jerry, was killed on his trike awhile back, and I believe the sun dimmed on that day. Newbies are welcomed, and usually greeted with, "Where are you and what do you ride?" We teach them the basics of chat, then sit back and get to know them. I miss the ones who don't come in any more, though, and wish you would drop in every now and again. Our lives are poorer in your absence, you know...
And so, tomorrow is my birthday and I invite you all to come. I will put out food, and we will celebrate. Next year, don't wait for November 24th, just come any day, and we will have a party. Until we meet again, in the words of NJREF:
'Be well, my secret friends!'