PUG Hooters Style

A PUG or Pick-Up Group is a term used in MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) to describe the practice of live players hanging out in key towns to recruit other players or find a group of players to go on a mission or quest with in order to advance in the game. PUGs are usually disorganized, due to lack of communication and/or coordination between players to accomplish the common goal and have a lower success rate than playing through the scenario with your regular in-game cohorts.
We were on a quest for retaining ring pliers so I could get that cursed e-ring off my footrest, so I could replace the broken bit and make my baby whole again. We were cruising up Washington Road and hubby pulls into the Advanced Auto parking lot. We notice a silver Connie 14 sitting in the lot. We go in, ask the lady if they had any of the aforementioned pliers and she walks us to the tool isle, points at a particular space on the peg wall and shakes her head: “No, doesn’t look like it. But I bet Harbor Freight has them.” Joe then asks the burning question, well burning to him anyway, since I wouldn’t have made a big deal out if it, unless it had been a ‘Busa sitting out there… and then only maybe… So he asks: “Who’s Concours is that out there?” The clerk turns to face him and replies that it is the Boss’s. Oh. “Cool. I have one just like it in red.” – “You do? OMG! Let me go get him, he’s around here somewhere.” And with that she hurries off in the direction of the front counter. She runs up and down the parts isles behind the counter in search for the store manager. Joe yells after her that it’s OK, it’s no big deal. But she is adamant. “No. You wait here. He won’t shut up about the darned thing.” She finally comes back with her manager in tow. We are introduced. Apparently his biker handle is Goose, we shall leave it at that. I’m introduced as Foxy, who rides a Hayabusa and then they talk Concours. It’s an ’08 he got for $1500 from a buddy. Yeah, it helps to be well networked. What a deal. And on they go. Joe has found the local Connie riders club. I feel a little left out… no, it’s better to feel elitist. I am Hayabusa! I have yet to actually meet another ’Busa rider (male or female)… well I see them from time to time, but they are… well, unapproachable. =D Seriously, I’m just too shy to make ‘first contact’. Joe says he’s uncomfortable meeting new people, but I don’t buy it. He seems so at ease and confident when he ‘mingles’. I meet people through him and with him. I don’t usually make lasting connections on my own. I suppose I’m a hi-and-bye in-the- moment kind of girl. But I digress… the two decide that they’re going to meet up at Hooters later, so Manx can meet Goose’s posse. It is, after all, Tuesday and it is bike night at the local Hooters. Where class meets deep fried pickles.
Of course, we don’t score a set of retaining ring pliers that day. Hell, I still don’t have the right kind. I bought a $25 job at Sears, along with an inch-pound torque wrench they had on sale, and they don’t do e-rings, but do the little retaining rings found other places on The Fat Lady, so I opted to keep them anyway. Again, I’m getting off on a tangent here. We arrive at Hooters. I love pulling into that joint. Not! When I come around the corner, weaving through the cones (so cagers stay out of our side of the lot), dragging my rear brake and riding the friction zone, I feel all eyes are on me. It’s a love-hate thing. On one hand I’m scared shitless that I’m going to do something totally stupid and worse case scenario lay my bike down, on the other hand, I’m thinking to myself: “Yeah. That’s right. Chick on a ‘Busa. And she rides her own!” The pride usually comes when I got The Fat Lady maneuvered into position, got the kickstand down, dismount, and looked like a pro doing it. Then the anxiety is all but forgotten (until I have to leave, that is). Taking the helmet off and shaking out my curly hair then whipping it back with one smooth motion really brings it all together. Joe told me once that men find that sexy, so I take my time and do it right. ;P I have to get my fried pickle fix and then it’s off to walk around looking at all the bikes. I walk across the parking lot to where our scoots are parked and let myself plop into the grass. Joe mentions something along the lines that last time he checked that didn’t qualify as ‘walking around’. Meh. Change of plans. I want to people-watch instead. Not three minutes later, Goose comes walking across the lot in our direction with his girlfriend in tow, and introduces us to his little ‘band of friends’. After hanging out for a little while, it is decided that they’re going to go do their ‘usual loop’ and then go to ‘The Loft’ in downtown Augusta. Hubby asks if I want to go, since he knows how I feel about group riding. I feel adventurous so I tell him we should go for it. So we do. I haven’t done that much squidding in a LONG time. Probably never. The squidly act-to-mile ratio was way up! And what a colorful bunch we were: two Connie 14s, two custom choppers, a Harley bagger, a Hayabusa, and a Hog (with RPM-sensing vibrating back seat for the ladies.) There were three women in the group. I was the only one riding her own. Somebody had mentioned needing gas before we left, so the first order of business was to pop into a gas station and take care of the go-juice shortage. We pull out of Hooters, I try getting in line behind everybody, but I manage to have two peeps to my rear: My hubby and Mr. Vibrator who had at least one beer that I witnessed. I don’t know what I’m in for, I’m kind of excited, but also a little nervous. We pull onto Washington Road, making a left. Oh joy. This is where all this ‘superfluous power’ of the Hayabusa comes in really handy. I get myself merged into the suicide lane and then swiftly cut across two lanes, squeezing between cars, to avoid losing the group. This is how it starts, isn’t it? We end up at a nearby BP and mill around for about 5 minutes, but there seems to be some sort of problem, so it is decided that they’re going on to another gas station. This time I manage to be last. I end up having to stop on a steep incline, while still somewhat in a turn, a maneuver I loathe on a 573-lb bike. I manage to keep her upright though, with one foot on the ground and one on the rear brake. Hubby is next to me. Dude in front of me is sitting in the middle of the lane, making cars wait until he can merge onto his side of the road. Geez. Hubby goes and the car’s driver is willing to let me go, too. But I shake my head in an exaggerated No! gesture. I’m not putting myself into the mess that is currently going on in my direction of travel. It’s too crowded over there as it is. When the road finally clears, I go (without even rolling back, w00t!) and in no time catch up with the group. Which also requires a little bit of creative lane changing in addition to speeding. I think to myself, that I’ll never do this again, but yet I’m enjoying being part of something that I’ve never experienced before now, so I try to soak up every moment. A little further down the road we pull into another gas station, and I park myself off to the side, to the right of my hubby’s Connie, to keep out of the way and wait for the peeps who need gas to finish fuelling.  Hubby eventually leaves and parks next to Goose who is sitting at one of the pumps. I notice that his girlfriend is wearing high heels and is preoccupied with her Nano. I stay where I am. Partially, because I’m a geek and feel socially inept, and partially because the angle isn’t right and I don’t need an audience when I sleazeball some tight-ass turn in a parking lot. I know I can do it, but I have performance anxiety. I don’t like to do stuff in front of people. I have this unreasonable fear of embarrassing myself in front of others. I rather blend in, and stay unnoticed. Which is completely impossible with the bike I’m riding. Geez. The ‘Busa sticks out wherever you go. Blending in and remaining unnoticed really isn’t an option. It draws attention, and it draws crowds, especially when there’s a woman behind the bars. It’s a dude magnet. It’s good medicine, though. I’m becoming more confident in public, am less shy, and the fear is less acute than it once was. It’s down to an annoying, manageable level. But I’m not about to have fear run my life, I work through it. What can I say, the Fat Lady is confidence inspiring. I dare say, I’m getting a little cocky in my old age… but who cares I have lost time to make up for. And damn, if this bike doesn’t make a girl feel sexy as hell. Did I mention that Hayabusa Therapy is very effective?
We finally get going again and I take up my position at the rear of the pack. Once we’re out of town I’m starting to enjoy myself more. Positions are not static with this group, so eventually I end up in the middle somewhere, surrounded by different people. Everybody seems to be riding their own ride. I have a tendency to pay too much attention to my rear and have to keep reminding myself that the peeps to the rear aren’t my responsibility, the peeps in front of me, however, are. I guess that’s what they mean by RYOR. It doesn’t mean you can neglect checking your mirrors every once in a while and making sure the coast is clear when a directional change is in order. But it does mean not to get preoccupied with your six, because while you’re fixated on your mirrors you might just get the opportunity to run up somebody’s Yoshimuri. It’s all good though, albeit a tad bit unruly. I’m flexible and am not really bothered by the dynamics. I’m starting to dig this. It feels good to be part of something. I’ve read about group riding techniques and etiquette. The reality was different from what I expected, but it wasn’t as dramatic either. After all, this wasn’t an organized event, this was a PUG, and we didn’t get wiped. Quest complete and mission accomplished.

I’ve been avoiding group riding for the longest time, even though I was curious and wanted to experience it. The biggest group I’ve ever ridden with consisted of two other people: My hubby and his best friend. In retrospect, I’m glad I’ve waited this long. If I had attempted riding in a group at an earlier time, I probably would not have had the skills to cope with it properly (and safely) and it may have led to an accident (at its worst possible outcome) or left me with a bad experience and no further desire to share the ride. One has to be focused on the task at hand in a group, and one has to be comfortable with their machine and confident in their basic riding skills to be able to enjoy it. Group riding is different than duking it out with a pack of cagers on the way to work. It seems that circumstances surrounding a bunch of motorcycles travelling in the same direction in a coherent group can change much more rapidly and call for an elevated awareness and quicker reflexes. I’m sure this all depends on the group dynamics and the attitudes of the individuals comprising the group, how well they know each other and their personal skill levels. I’m also sure that some group rides would be easier to participate in than others. Highly organized club rides that implement and enforce strict group riding rules with people who mostly know each other and have ridden with each other on numerous occasions would be easier on a new rider than an impromptu gig by a bunch of opportunistic peeps, who just met at the local bike night, looking for a good time. There is a reason why it is recommended to have the most inexperienced riders directly behind the leader in the front. There is a reason why there are common-knowledge group riding rules in place. There is a reason why PUG group riding shouldn’t be on the top of a new rider’s list. One cannot control others’ actions or be sure of a stranger’s skill level or how many beers they had before they ran into you and had the idea to go for a ride. So, you better have the skills to get yourself out of harm’s way should the group turn into a caravan of road-faring seafood. Well, there’s always the option of ‘getting lost’ if the affair should get out of hand. Another reason to hang out in the back… I shall study this group riding thing in more detail. I’m free the Tuesday after next. J

One Comment on “PUG Hooters Style”

  1. […] Would you like to read about my first group riding experience? Check out PUG Hooters Style […]

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