Roar on the Shore 2017: The Parade

Roar on the Shore 2017: The Parade

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m not a motorcycle guy. Where wind rushing through what’s left of my hair is concerned, my Hyundai Elantra’s sunroof is more than enough.

What I can’t get enough of, though, is witnessing bliss, so for the second year in a row, wife Kathy, grandson Cole and I stood on Glenwood Park Avenue to wave at the motorcyclists in parade as part of Erie’s Roar on the Shore celebration. My sister Cathy and her wife Betsy Ann joined us on the berm for half an hour of rumbling, infectious joy.

Last year Cole watched in stunned silence, but yesterday he about lost his little ginger head. “Oh my goodness,” he said, wiggling in Kathy arms and adding his rosy-cheeked glory to the evening’s pageantry. Hearing that three year old chirp over and over “Grandma Kathy, look!” and “Pop, hey Pop, did you see that?” was reason enough to take in the parade.

Grandma Kathy and Cole

But to tell the truth, hanging out beside a road in soul smothering humidity as thousands of riders slowly process by, revving the ever-loving crap out of their engines is not this pop’s scene. Picture artist-fartist. Think staring at a Jackson Pollock and wondering what he was getting at or savoring the hush of appreciation after Mary Oliver reads a poem. If anything is going to make a lot of noise, let it be crowd-pleasing end of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto.

And then there’s adventure. My idea of risk-taking is sailing on the Victory Chimes, which slips along calmly off the coast of New England, protected from serious waves by the islands, and serves smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers on deck at 4:00 p.m. In two weeks, when Kathy and I board this schooner that graces the back of the Maine quarter, the only splash I expect is that of a decent Chardonnay making a whitecap in my long-stemmed glass.

Part of me would love to love downhill skiing or bungee jumping or straddling a Harley, but the one thing worse than being sedate by nature is pretending to be wild and crazy. Besides, the spectacle of bikers can’t be a hit without non-bikers lining the route. We need each other.

We really do—at least I do. This fact wasn’t clear to me until the roaring began in earnest and giddy faces passed by and suckers and Tootsie Rolls landed at the children’s feet.

The hundreds of riders getting a rush from their vroom vrooming probably had no clue that they were blessing me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people raising peace signs toward the sky in thirty minutes’ time. As that universal symbol of two fingers forming an amiable V greeted me again and again, I found myself praying, “Oh, my Lord, let it be so. Let there be peace—in my heart, between people.”

I also found myself looking my fellow human beings rumbling by in the eye. Their transportation may as well have disappeared. The close air and racket, too. Honest to goodness, it was just me and them. My wave said to them, “I see your bliss. Get all you can. Never let it end. I’m glad for you.”

Oh, those faces. Some of them got my message. I could tell. When I laid one of my big sloppy smiles on them, they often sent one back, and it was as if we two strangers recognized each other. The whole deal got me choked up, probably because right then and there the word stranger exited the English language.

The traffic never stopped this year for a good photograph, so these smiling faces are from last year. I still remember them all, like old friends.

Taking its place, I now understand, was a sweet word: hope. Am I waxing poetic? Don’t you believe it. We human inhabitants of planet Earth are increasingly cranky, thinking and acting from our reptile brains, and our venom is crazy lethal.

Where is our hope? I saw it at the Roar on the Shore’s motorcycle parade. I saw it most of all on one man’s face. He was nothing remarkable, just a gray-haired dude with a wide smile rolling north on Glenwood Park Avenue.

I caught his eye and waved, and he nodded to me and mouthed, “Thank you.” Moving on, he nodded to others, as if the reason thousands of Erie-ites showed up was to see him and him alone pass by. “Thank you. Thank you very much.”

Of course, this guy wasn’t having delusions of grandeur. I think his nod and thanks were, in prosaic fact, the hope of the world: “Thank you for noticing me. Thank you for smiling back.”

And thanks to Roar on the Shore. If we keep nodding to each other, then the adventurous, sedate and all those in between can be sure that our parade doesn’t have to end as long we refuse to be strangers.

No strangers

10 thoughts on “Roar on the Shore 2017: The Parade

    • Hi, Deb. Sorry for such a deplorably late reply. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of you and yours in recent months. I know Ben had another scrape and your husband had a serious health crisis. Please forgive me for not passing along prayers over the blog-o-sphere. I’m in the process of getting my blogging mojo back, but have no worries about me. Only know that my prayers have been with you and everybody you love. Peace, John

      • Thank you so much, John. I’ve thought of you and yours often, too. Ben is doing fine now. He has a sweet spirit; he’s one of the kindest 7-year-old boys I’ve ever known. Yes, my husband had a major stroke. I had to quit working in order to stay at home and take care of him. He has difficulty walking, lost half of his sight, has difficulty expressing what he wants to say, can no longer process the written word and thus can no longer read, and often tries to do things when I’m not looking that are dangerous for him. Doctors found other medical problems when he had the stroke, and in December he had surgery on his throat. Treatment for pre-cancer in the esophagus is coming up in February, and a heart procedure will follow. Our lives have been upended for sure. But I am doing okay. I hope you and your family are well. I truly appreciate your prayers. Cheers, Deb

  1. i read your post last year and as we rolled through the area I wondered if you were there. I looked. Wondering. I will ask you if next year you would like to experience the ride from a different persspective? You have a couple of options to choose from with us, the Tuttles, but I would ask you to consider being our guest and the story you would weave would surely go into the achieves of Erie’s history. Please consider the offer.

    • Hi, Karen. Sorry for this deplorably late reply. I have great respect for you and your opinion. You and Dan are in my thoughts and prayers more than you can probably imagine. Peace and blessings, John

    • Hi, David. Please forgive my silence in recent months. I’m well but trying to get my blogging mojo back. I hope all is well with you and yours and expect to be in the saddle–as it were–soon. Peace and blessings, John

      • hello John & thank you for your kind note.
        knowing you are there makes me happy.
        my blogging mojo goes more
        often than it comes, these days.
        wishing you a happy moment 🙂

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