My insatiable appetite for Burger King and internet access drove my decision to follow the signs and take the exit on I-81 to I believe it was Raphine, Virginia. I found the BK sharing space with a convenience store in the heart of a three block long downtown. Not only did they not have Coke Icees (the effeminate manager waved his arms in a sweeping motion behind the counter, smiled and said there was no room for the machine that made them), but they also did not have the internet. Still, I enjoyed my lunch listening to two local women weaving the local gossip for the day while fighting the nagging voice in my accelerator foot urging me back on the road. When I was done I walked next door, picked up a 20 oz. Mt. Dew and stepped outside.
That’s when I saw the motorcycles. I had been looking for riders since midnight when I left out of Florence, Alabama, expecting to see and hear platoons of them rolling on the interstate toward Washington DC. There was to be a rally in the nation’s capital – officially called The 2 Million Bikers to DC – the next day on 9/11, and I was going there in Hunter Thompson style (without the hallucinogenics, unfortunately) to do a bit of gonzo journalism about the event. Until now, though, I had not seen more than the occasional ‘lone wolf’ on the highway. I went back inside to find the bikers and found them sitting in a booth. Considering the store and restaurant was so small that the building could have easily fit in the backseat of my Ford Focus, it was not a great task picking the bikers out of the sparse local crowd, if you can call 4 people a crowd. The older man was around my age, in his mid 50s with a salt-and-pepper goatee, dark sunglasses and a white “Sturgis” t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off. The other fellow was easily in his early thirties with thick, black hair, a droopy mustache and soul patch, and a black t-shirt with the picture of a provocatively dressed woman about to tear into a huge burger over a psychedelic long sleeved shirt. I approached them, identified myself (“I’m a writer doing a story about the biker rally in DC,” loving how the word ‘writer’ rolled so easily out of my big mouth) and engaged them in conversation.
The older man’s name was Maril (“one ‘r’,” he said without smiling – now that I think about it I don’t recall that he ever did smile) and his sidekick was Jeremy. Maril made it clear from the start that the Harley was his and that Jeremy was riding the Yamaha, that this was Jeremy’s first long distance trip and that Jeremy’s ass was suffering from being on such an uncomfortable seat for so long. They were from Cartersville, Georgia and planned on being part of the rally. Maril’s arms were covered in old tattoos that had turned light blue and were almost faded into obscurity, and the pacifist in me immediately labeled him as someone who would punch you in the nose first and then maybe explain why later. I didn’t get the same vibe from Jeremy, perhaps because I knew he had a sore ass and was riding a crotch rocket. We three talked a bit about how the current administration sucked and how the Constitution was being ripped to pieces, and about our hope that we come across some pork-hating Muzzies so we could tell them what we thought of their Sharia laws and candy-ass complaints of persecution. The 2 Million Bikers to DC was originally organized in response to a “Million Muslims for Freedom” protest planned on the 12th anniversary of 9/11, and it was a collective outrage that drew the bikers together. The three of us agreed that there was no way a bunch of sand-niggers were going to hijack the sacred anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, especially because it was their kind that had committed the heinous act. We talked about throwing pork sandwiches at the Muslims, stomping on their Koran and all the terrible things we would do to them if they dared burn the Stars and Stripes. As we masticated over the state of affairs in that booth I could tell, even under their sunglasses, that these guys were fed up over their heads with the mountain of shit the politicians were shoveling at the citizens, and that they were ready to crack a few skulls against tyranny.
After a quarter hour of talk, oblivious to the comings and goings of the store’s customers (well, I was oblivious; Maril probably scoped everyone for weapons as they came through the door), some synchronized inner bell rang in our heads, and we got up to leave. Maril was the last to step outside, and before he crossed the threshold he looked back at the clerk and said “Thanks for the AC.” The late morning sun was already pushing the humid temperature into what felt the nineties. I fought the urge to jump into my car and thank it for the AC, and asked Jeremy and Maril if I could take photos of them behind their bikes. I fished an Acer Iconia tablet I had borrowed from my son’s bi-polar girlfriend out of its holder and shot a couple of pictures of them. Maril’s glossy black half helmet bore a couple of flag stickers on the back, and below them were the words “Fuck Terrorists.” I made sure to get a photo of that resting on Maril’s thick leather seat with him standing stoically behind his bike. Those two words told me Maril was a warrior of the first degree, ready to defend our country against all who would seek to destroy us through fear and intimidation. There were millions of stone-faced and sober Marils rolling toward Washington DC with those words on their lips, an army of young Jeremys descending upon the nation’s capital poised to do whatever it took to return our tattered freedoms to the people before it grew too late, and a corps of unincorporated journalists, writers, photographers, philosophers and poets riding on their coattails to chronicle this historic event. I shook hands with the two bikers – my first of many encounters with their kind – and hit the road again, refreshed and reenergized for the impending event.