A reporter driving home from work in a thunderstorm passes four motorcyclists huddled under a highway overpass. She wonders what they're doing out in this weather, so she pulls over. The short answer? They're debating — risk, freedom and the best place for dinner. The usual.
"We were all f------ hauling a--, and if we wouldn't have stopped, we would've made it," said Steve Harris, 53.
He glared at Adam Jezick, 32, who had wanted to pull over so he could put his phone in a different bag.
Adam brushed the rain droplets from his forehead and pulled out his cell while Steve surveyed the damp spots on his khaki cargo shorts. They gathered around the phone screen, looking at the radar with the other two bikers, Patti Babington, 60, and Robert Harris, 46. The four had been riding together since they met over the past few months at the place in Hernando Beach where Patti works as a bartender.
The yellow and orange radar splotches began to break. The friends talked about hitting the road while it was calm.
Robert shook his head and took long drags from his 305 cigarette. He'd been struck by lightning before — eight years ago, while he helped his brother pull a boat from the water.
"It felt like …"
"Like if you swallowed a stick of dynamite and let it blow up in your belly."
But even with the threat of lightning, he never considered not riding. None of them had.
Adam didn't even own a car until he was 27. Robert rode minibikes during his toddler years. Patti has liked to ride along since she traded in her coupe for a hatchback — "a family car," she called it, adjusting her American flag bandana. For Steve, motorcycles gave him freedom.
"I got away from the cocaine and got addicted to Harley-Davidsons," he said. "And that changed my whole life."
He pointed to the Harley logo tattooed on his arm, near Jesus and Lucifer.
The rain picked up again as cars sped by, spraying water on the motorcycles parked on the shoulder. The downpour soaked their plans to go to bike night at Quaker Steak & Lube in Clearwater.
Adam called the bar to see what the weather was like there while Robert and Patti suggested they try U.S. 19 when it cleared up a little more. But Steve just wanted to go.
"Let's get something to eat, man? Let's call it a f------ night?" Steve said.
Eventually, he won the debate. The group decided on a pool hall in Pasco right off the next exit.
Adam slid down his glasses. Patti hopped on the back of Robert's bike. Steve blared a Ronnie James Dio song.
Gotta get away, the song said, get away.
Contact Kathryn Varn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6114. Follow @kathrynvarn.