I don't like surprises. Especially when it comes to me holding up my end of a promise to other people, I like to have a plan, a backup plan, and then a contingency or two. After Jim and I announced our New York City ride to the chapter, my first order of business was to seek professional help. Who better, I figured, than the NYC chapter of HOG? Calls were placed and e-mails were sent.
Bless their souls, the NYC gang was willing to not only provide advice, but meet us and escort us through the city. From the word go, Vinny (their director) treated me like we grew up together. "You tell us what you want to do, and we'll make sure you're taken care of." This was great, of course, but I never really did get an exact itinerary or a whole lot of details. "We'll take good care a you. Fuggedaboudit."
The day came, and Vinny was good as gold. I never thought a ride through the city could be so stress-free. His crew was zipping around us, behind us, between us, seemingly everywhere at once. Once our guys got the hang of ignoring traffic control devices and kicking cab fenders, it was a piece of cake. From muscling into parking spaces directly in front of Ground Zero, to merging onto the BQE from the Brooklyn Bridge, to riding right down Broadway into Times Square, they had everything under better control than I thought was even possible.
They even provided security. Whenever we got off the bikes, Bill would dismount, extend his telescoping cane, and stand menacingly in front of the 30 bikes. Bill is a solid, bulky Oriental man, and he looks like he came straight out of a James Bond movie. If you walked back to your bike for something, he'd say, "Your bike is OK. Go. Enjoy. Take pictures. I am watching your things." Priceless. If you look closely, you can see him on duty in the photo of the bikes lined up at Ground Zero.
I had to take the lead of a sub-group after Vinny and some of his boys had to take off, but I don't think there was more than a minute or two where I couldn't see the last bike of the group ahead. These guys are good! During the time we were planning our visit, one of their members got notice that he was being redeployed to Iraq. They set up a big send-off for him, but Vinny remembered his commitment to us and made sure we were in good hands. All for some guy from PA who called out of the blue and asked him for a favor.
The neat thing was, as fast as our passengers were snapping pictures, the other tourists were taking pictures of us. You don't see a lot of bikes in the city, so we were part of the sights that day, I guess. All told, it a great day all the way around. Even the weather was cooperating; the sun was obscured most of the day, and it was 10 degrees cooler than the forecast. Eventually, we made our way uptown to West Harlem, where our tables were waiting for us at the Dinosaur BBQ. You could see the GW Bridge from the front door, and soon we were on the highway home, with everyone present and accounted for.
So, Kevin came through, although it was due entirely to the help of our brothers from the five boroughs. We all had a great day, and I suppose we'll have to do it again in a few years.