My very first article for Charlatan Magazine was about why we form groups. It was a topic given to me by my editor, and quite honestly, one I'd never thought about before. I mean, did you? Part of you probably doesn't give a flip about the explanation, right? And then, just sitting here reading this entry, and thinking back to how you felt when actually READ the article, it might just do to give it some more thought.
I'm super lucky because the groups I deal with are really more like little families. In fact, one of my groups IS a family - and not the one I was born into. At the end of April, I'll be heading off to Garden City, SC, just below Myrtle Beach for the second annual Chocolate Thunder Summer Ride. Chocolate Thunder is the name of our motorcycle group, and we're a menacing five-strong. Watch out. LOL! Chocolate Thunder is made up of four Reid boys - and me. We've all got cruisers (long-distance motorcycles people generally think about as a Harley) and love to ride every chance we get. Kenny Reid is my neighbor and best friend; one of his older brothers and a cousin live in Charlotte, the other older brother lives in Raleigh. We get together and ride to destinations unknown, sometimes even getting lost on purpose along the way, just to see where roads will take us. Other than my wife's wedding ring, my motorcycle is the best thing I've ever bought.
I met Kenny more than 11 years ago when we first moved into our cul-de-sac. Kenny and his wife are our couple that we do most things with. Our children, 3 months apart, haven't known life without the other. We go to their family functions and I hold the esteemed position of ham carver at the annual Reid Christmas party. We have done so much with their family, that we are considered to be PART of their family. And it's a wonderful feeling. Chocolate Thunder is like riding with my brothers and I love it. It's a group we formed after we all bought motorcycles one after the other. We have t-shirts, club nicknames (Ed comes up with them all - I'm Shakespeare), and while we ride to have fun, we try our best to keep each other safe on the road. Do something stupid and we'll make fun of you. Do something dangerous and we're the first to jump on your case - and make sure you know what to do the next time you come up against a truck in the bend of the road, or hit gravel at a stop sign.
Riding my motorcycle is its own kind of therapy. Riding with Chocolate Thunder is therapy on an entirely different level. We only talk to each other, of course, at stop lights, so the majority of the time we only have our thoughts to keep us company. You might think the stress level of riding a motorcycle through city traffic or down the highway with cars and tractor trailers on all sides wouldn't necessarily lend itself to relaxation. Sometimes it's intense, yes, and you've got to make the right choice to avoid an accident. But the rest of the time, it's one of the most peaceful and enjoyable things I've ever done. And it's something I get to share with them when we're together. All of the Reids are big boys. I'm six feet, almost 200 lbs. And when I'm with them, I'm the smallest one. Well, I'm the least scrappy - let's put it that way. Anthony's a little shorter than I am, but I bet he could beat the living shit out of anybody who crossed him. Fo real.
The power and confidence I fake when riding with Chocolate Thunder is amazing. It's almost a drug, and I love the way it feels. I can do whatever in the hell I want when I'm with them. Or I think I can. I don't think twice about giving some jerk the stink eye when I know the Reids have got my back. And although there probably isn't a whole lot I could do to help them (not like they'd need it), I'd be there is a second to help one of them kick somebody's ass. It might become more of a managerial role, of course, making sure the Reid in question knew what was going on around him, as opposed to me trying to scissor kick somebody in the throat. I know my limits.
My family and I aren't Reids. We'll never be blood relatives. And there are certain things we don't think are appropriate to include ourselves in when it comes to their true family, and family gatherings. We don't invite ourselves to graduations or their mother's birthday celebrations. We won't be at the births of their second and third cousins. We won't attend graduations and it wouldn't be right for us to participate in their family reunions. But we are thought of as Reids, and every one of them has been kind and loving enough to acknowledge that and make us feel like we are truly part of their family. It is an honor, and it is a group to which I couldn't imagine not belonging. My wife, son and I witness Reid family business of the level which is appropriate, always knowing our place - as weird as that may sound. We have families of our own, of course, and to them we owe respect and deference to our respective family units. Some people forget where they come from and try their best to distance themselves from those to which they were born. We're lucky enough to have multiple families, and we try and take advantage of the love and fellowship each one provides (in a different way than the other) every chance we get.
Life without the Reids wouldn't be the same. Just as it would be different I didn't have my sister and two brothers, and my wife didn't have her four sisters and three brothers. After a year of planning and talking and buying accessories and debating about who's going and who's going to chicken out, Chocolate Thunder will ride again. Group therapy at its best.