…there was breakfast at Big Boy. Somehow, there is always breakfast at Big Boy when we go for a ride. This was a rarity: the second ride in as many days without being away on vacation. It was the 4th of July of this summer, which is the only reason we had these two days in a row together. A Monday off of work butting up against a Sunday that I wasn’t on the schedule at the library meant that I’d piled all of my gear into my car and headed up to F’s house in Mason, looking forward to getting out on the road.
We’d gone for a meandering ride the day before, heading south, wandering road to road that we’d never been on before, not consulting maps. We’d decided to eventually aim toward Eaton Rapids, and after a brief stop for directions at the kind of country convenience store that clings to a house like some sort of tired barnacle — one rusty gas pump outside, sun-faded signs for cigarettes in the windows, kerosene apparently a big seller — we found ourselves at our destination. And wondering why it was our destination in the first place. It was the kind of ghost town Main Street that is all too common in Michigan these days, any viable business long since swallowed by the strip malls and box stores that had sprouted up closer to the nearest freeway. The storefronts now bore signs for the kinds of second-hand shops and electronics stores and nail salons that you knew would fold and give way to the next round before their first year was up. And not a restaurant to be found — so after a stop for gas, we headed for Charlotte, because we knew there was at least a Big Boy there.
At least, we hoped there was a Big Boy there. If you’re from Michigan, you know just how ubiquitous Big Boy used to be — and how many of them have closed up shop in the last few years. We held our breath as we scanned the signs along Lansing Street, cheering when we saw evidence that yes, the restaurant was indeed still open. We were hungry. This seems to happen to us a lot, aiming for one place with breakfast on the brain, and not actually getting to sit down to eat until a couple of towns down the road.
So this morning we’d decided to go for another quick ride, this time headed north. And we ended up at the Big Boy in St. Johns, laughing about the fact that apparently all we do is ride from Big Boy to Big Boy. “We could document this,” we said. “Write a bikers’ guide to the Big Boys of Michigan,” we said. “Roadtrip all around the state in search of the last remaining Boys, those giant, burger-hoisting Kewpie dolls in their red-and-white gingham overalls,” we said, “and document our findings in a blog.”
It was so ridiculous that clearly it needed to happen.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I wrote beyond the initial schtick, maybe we were on to something. I’m a writer who hasn’t been writing much in the past couple of years, and on more than one occasion other writers have recommended blogging to me as a way back into the writing saddle. “But what on earth do I have to blog about?” I would inevitably ask.
And of course, the answer is that trusty chestnut, “Write what you know.” And what I’ve come to know during the past few years while I haven’t been writing much is the joy of riding two up on a motorcycle. I’d ridden two up before meeting F, but not to the extent that we do. It’s a major part of our lives together, and through him I’ve come to love motorbikes and the open road in new ways. We vacation on the bike, getting away for a few days and a few hundred miles a couple times a year. I’ve discovered the thrill of watching motorcycle racing, and the joy of being a darn good passenger to the kind of rider for whom motorcycle is a second language.
So that’s what I plan to explore here: all the ways that two up has affected and influenced me and my life and my writing. This is the view from the back of the bike. Sometimes it’s open blue sky and twisty roads. Sometimes it’s freezing rain and another 70 miles to the destination.
But there’s almost always a Big Boy.