Bella Fontana

A weekly column about life in Bellefonte, PA, reprinted from the Centre Daily Times

Friday, July 22, 2005

Bikers ride past those silly labels

Spring Street, in front of Wetzler's Funeral Home, was so packed one evening lately that I could hardly work my way through the crowd.

People moved slowly in a line that stretched up the street and around the corner before moving inside the funeral home. Then I saw the motorcycles lined up along the street and filling the parking lot of the Presbyterian Church -- and more were still arriving.

Later, scanning the obituaries, I found one with the line, "He was an avid motorcycle rider."

The crowd that evening had come to pay their respects to one of their own. There would be 75 bikers leading the procession to the burial ground in Benner Township, a testament to the man and to the popularity of the hobby in this area.

Most of the bikers I have known are teachers. None of them fits the scary stereotype of a tattooed menace.

First there was Hal, a soft-spoken guy who was one of the most popular substitutes at the high school when I was working there. He rode a Harley, the love of his life, next to his wife, Natalie.

One day, he asked me to take a look at how he had customized his bike. The tank was a work of airbrushed art, in magenta, purples and gold.

The June issue of Long Rider magazine devotes an entire feature to Hal and his favorite means of transportation.

Anne, a fellow English teacher with the beatific smile of a madonna, loved taking long trips, riding behind her husband to places such as the Great Smokies. Now they travel on a bright-red Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide Fireman's Special. They have been to Sedona, Ariz.; Austin, Texas; Pagosa Springs, Colo.; and Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico.

Anne, as far as I know, does not have any tattoos.

Nor does Cheryl, who teaches kindergarten at Marion-Walker. Her powder-blue-and-cream Yamaha V-Star complements her delicate coloring. She has ridden her bike to church.

Her husband, Paul, rides a Harley-Davidson Road King "chromed to the hilt" with a Lone Ranger custom paint job on the back.

When Cheryl asks, "Do you ride?" I regretfully say no, though once, by mistake, I checked off "motorcycle" on my driver's license application. Paul says he will take me for a ride, but that's another story.

Today's cyclists are involved in more and more community events, most recently the rally at the high school to benefit the bookmobile. Though they may be moving into the mainstream, motorcycles will never lose their aura of risk and romance.