First Ride, Spring of 1995
by Brendan McLaughlin
It was the first weekend in April, the weather had been great for days, and spring had finally arrived. This winter had been a harsh one (some of the old timers on the”nordside” claimed to have witnessed frost on several occasions) but with this recent thaw, it was high time to change the oil, throw in a new set of plugs and head out for a ride on the bike.
Thursday afternoon someone had made mention of taking Sunday off and going for a ride. I had been hearing rumors about these adventures from a few of the local riders but had never been able to secure an exact date and a definite plan of action as to when all 99% of the one percenter’s of St. Thomas HOG owners were going to load up their motors and trek on over to St. John.
The word finally came through on Saturday – a full itinerary had been set. I’d been needing to change my Sunday routine, so Sapphire could wait and besides, the “Starlights” weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
There was one problem though… I was stranded without a bike! That’s where Atty. Greg Hodges came through. He’d recently purchased an 1100 Sportster that I had had my eye on for a while. Since he had a prior engagement that day he was willing to loan out his Harley(?!). Greg dropped off the keys and stated, “You scratch, you patch!” Quite a nice gesture to loan such a bike to a Yamaha FZR riding “squid” like myself.
Rising and shining bright and early (very early) on Sunday morning, at 7:00 AM I rode over to Art Halpern’s “Tropical Harleys and Caribbean Battery” for some last minute fine tuning. There we got a call that the whole group was meeting for the 9 o’clock ferry. Adjustments complete, I rode home, met up with my dad, packed our gear, and we headed out to Red Hook.
Upon arrival, we all agreed to head out to Coral Bay and get some breakfast at Seasides and load up on caffeine. There were still a few group members who weren’t able to crack a smile yet without their morning fix of java. We proceeded to load up on cholesterol and carbs before heading out.
The gang packed up their saddle bags and rode east. It was pretty quiet, not much happens around this end of the island. The tranquillity made for a great place to take a breather under a Tamarind tree, quench our thirst, and smoke a stogie. The lot of us relaxed for a while, got in our nicotine fix, and were ready to move on.
Our provisions were low, so we cruised back into Coral Bay to load up with sandwiches and drinks. We found a great little deli on the main road heading back to town. Everyone was friendly and they seemed to stock just about everything from newspapers to exotic beers. Bev, the woman running the establishment, was so glad to have some excitement in this typically slow- paced culture. She had the riders line up their bikes in front of the store and took our picture, beers in hand. I liked this place. I liked Bev. She’s the only proprietor I know that stocks Samuel Smith’s Nutbrown Ale. A real treat in a society where “greenies” are the staple beer of choice.
The next leg of our ride took us along the Northside of St. John. We eventually stopped for a dip at Little Maho Bay and relaxed at the club house on the beach. Fortunately for us we were able to escape the wrath of machete yielding “obeah” women that I’ve had the misfortune of encountering in there the past. We ate our lunches hassle free, cooled off and managed to smoke another cigar in the midst of motorcycle stories.
We packed up for another ride around the island. A few hours later and we were ready for an afternoon snack at “Skinny Legs.” There we downed a few Virgin daiquiris and non-alcoholic beers. Drinking and driving definitely don’t mix while maneuvering a motorcycle in the hot sun on those twisty roads.
A short nap on a picnic bench told me that the day was drawing to an end. We had been riding hard all day and we had to make the 5 o’clock ferry. Besides; we were fresh out of old ladies to terrorize. State law mandates a limited amount of “Blue Hairs” in National Parks, and the ones that were present are now destined for an early grave.
Fortunately the only problem I encountered was losing the seat bolt on my bike. “Hey, you’re riding a Harley,” Art said, “you’re supposed to tow a magnet behind you to collect all the loose parts.” I hadn’t brought my magnet along, so once I got back to the Rock, Dave, a.k.a. “Animal,” was good enough to invite me over to his place where he had the missing piece I needed. What a guy. I owe him a cold one the next time I see him. After the repair it was time to head home and hose down the Sportster and return it to its rightful (and oh-so-generous) owner.
What a day! I love it here….