New Englanders know the thrill of taking that first ride of the season—and the melancholy that settles in after putting your bike away for the season. If you live in the Snow Belt, you know about PMS.
So you non-Northerners understand, up here PMS stands for Parked Motorcycle Syndrome. It’s winter. You’re not out riding. It’s something riders confront up here, some better than others. Year after year I am offered advice about moving south, but I happen to love New England so spare me. Besides, last winter I never did put my bikes away as there was hardly any snow. All it takes for me to go riding is for the roads to be reliably free of ice.
Ice does have its place—in a hockey rink, which is where I first met two of the Lonesome Weirdoes. Somehow I played hockey with Bugsy and Monte for a few seasons before I realized they rode motorcycles. Then one day in the locker room, Dougie the goalie handed out stainless steel sidestand pucks—leftovers from his saw blade test lab—to anyone with a motorcycle. “Bones, you ride?” Bugsy asked me.
I must credit (or perhaps blame) Bugsy and Monte for getting me into long-distance riding. I had recently picked up a new bike and they suggested a great place to ride it. They’d gone there last summer: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I had barely ridden far enough from home before to spend a night on the road, so riding 1,000 miles—each way—seemed, well, long.
Stories of their trip soon convinced me to add Cape Breton to my to-do list. A few weeks later, after absorbing lots of sage advice about how to prepare for multi-day rides, I rode all the way to Meat Cove. The riding was incredible: hot and bone-chilling, exhilarating and monotonous, sunny and soggy. Long-distance riders understand.
That summer I started riding with Bugsy and Monte and man, could they ride! With Bugsy on the point and me on Monte’s six, I learned how to carve a smooth line through twisties. Massachusetts Routes 116, 112, 8 and 2 became favorite roads, roller coasters that I controlled. On Friday afternoon rides through the Berkshires or Hudson Valley or southern Vermont, I discovered all manner of things useful when riding farther than your own neck of the woods. One thing I quickly learned was to respect Bugsy’s role as chief restaurant selector. If he didn’t happen to be on the point, he’d move up when we entered a town. His knack for choosing good local cuisine in venues where motorcyclists are welcomed is uncanny. I’ve never dined in a national chain restaurant with Bugsy, and I’m better for it.
Weekend rides often started or ended at Monte’s place, out back in his garage (“Monte’s Motors and More”). This is where I began to tackle mechanical and electrical projects that I had always left to a service department. Change out tires? Install a wire harness? Modify a windscreen? Monte showed me how. The first time I drilled through virgin motorcycle plastic, Monte supervised. “Every part tells a story,” he taught me. More than once, that bit of knowledge has guided me to a correct reassembly. Since motorcycles were expressly forbidden by my parents when I was a kid, I missed out on acquiring garage skills by osmosis. Monte helped correct that, and still does.
After a few weekend rides and one three-day camping trip, Bugsy and Monte must have concluded that I was for real on a bike, so they invited me to ride with the Weirdoes. “Um… who?” The Lonesome Weirdoes Motorcycle Club, I would learn, was comprised largely of people who grew up in the town over the mountain from me. These were people who had bikes when I wasn’t allowed, people who never stopped riding just because they got jobs and families, people who had two or three or more motorcycles, people who rode motorcycles for the most fundamental of reasons: because it’s fun.
Rick appeared to be the leader, a first among equals. Rick typically had the point on Weirdo rides. On occasion, he’d consult a map, the laminated fold-up variety, but en route it was all in his head. He knew more back roads than I’d imagined could exist, plus places to pull over where the bikes were safe and the view was nice. His constructive advice helped me further develop my riding technique and boost my confidence.
Kevin was perhaps last among equals because he always rode sweep. He embraced his role bringing up the rear. It only took one weekend trip for me to learn that “Kevin” is Weirdo-speak for “campfire fueled, gut busting, beer-shooting-out-your-nose, fall over laughing storyteller.” If there’s a more talented chronicler of jollity than Kevin, I haven’t met him.
Bugsy picked us another winner of a lunch spot and there, talking with Jon, I discovered I’m not the only clean-cut middle class white guy with a family that people just don’t figure would ride a motorcycle. Guy was there for lunch, too, while his dog Divot stayed in the sidecar (except when he was marking car tires as his territory). Divot rode more miles in that sidecar during a dog’s life than many people ride over a human lifetime.
The next summer, around a campfire near Moreau Lake, New York, I learned that I, too, was a Lonesome Weirdo. There was no initiation or hazing ritual, just general agreement of those assembled that I belonged. A toast made it official. Rick gave me one of his Lonesome Weirdo cards with the motto Riding to Forget. “Riding to forget what?” I asked him. He shook his head. “I forget.”
Over many years and miles, I met more Weirdoes: Victor, lover of Italian bikes, saltwater fishing and fiddle playing; Mike, a walking encyclopedia of motorcycle mechanics; Fred, a mailman with a never-ending stream of wry insights on life. Wayne, Bert, Kathy, Joe, Rod, George, Jimmy, John, Alex, Greg, Brad, Mark, Tracy—and there’s an annual event where I have met more. In the dead of winter, the Lonesome Weirdoes assemble at Monte’s Motors and More to confront PMS head on.
Weirdoes arrive bearing food and drink. A few bring musical instruments. Some hike up Peaked Mountain, others zip around on snowmobiles or walk down to the frozen pond. Several bring tents. (Yes, overnight camping in February in New England is part of the tradition.) Dogs and horses add to the personalities in attendance. Back in the garage, the woodstove cranks out BTUs as folks dine on locally smoked ham and pulled pork.
Did you hear Kat picked up a vintage Darmah 900?
Monte’s 650 Daytona sure is gorgeous…has he gotten that old /5 running?
Get Mike to tell you about the time he rode his father’s Lambretta 150 into a briar bush.
PMS is taking hits from every direction. Zipper the dog is so pleased to see everyone (so pleased about things in general) that PMS is loosening its icy grip. Kevin’s “old man” voice makes PMS laugh so hard it can’t hold on. Weirdo musicians beat PMS into submission. Resident pugilist Bugsy blasts PMS with a jab, an uppercut and a knock-out blow to the jaw.
This annual gathering of Lonesome Weirdoes reminds us all that the first ride of the season is near—and that the bond between friends who ride is stronger than Old Man Winter.
Take that, PMS.