Sunday, August 1, 2021

Shark Week & Shark Teeth

I hung out in my hotel room and could hear Harleys rumbling as the new arrivals rode by and parked near their hotel rooms.  While in isolation, I secretly worked up a plan in my head to roll out of Carson City early Monday morning and ride to Albuquerque where I could spend the night and then make it home the next day.  I like attention as much as the next guy, but I don't like sympathy and I didn't want to have to tell my story over and over despite knowing people would be genuinely concerned.  The way I saw it, I could slip out unnoticed and be home before anyone figured out I was gone.

I was about to call the hotel front desk to request an early check-out when I heard from my friends Joe and Susan.  Joe had recently had a hip replacement, so he and Susan drove to Shark Week.  They are two of the most intelligent and compassionate people I know - in or out of the motorcycle world.  The three of us really hit it off at Shark Week X in Gettysburg and we had kept in touch all year.  As such, I had been looking forward to seeing them this year.  Shortly after hearing from Joe and Susan, a few other Shark Week regulars called and messaged me and I started to feel like I was among my people again and I put off the call to the front desk.  By this time there were dozens of Road Glides rumbling around the hotel and it was killing me.  I decided to head back over to the main building where a crowd was gathering.

Monday is the official Shark Week arrival day, although old farts like me who have extra vacation with our jobs usually show up early and make it a point to greet the new arrivals.  We typically have already greeted and hugged-it-out with each other by then, so we can focus on the others.  By the afternoon, I was gad I decided to stay.

So why didn't I leave? Honestly, it was Joe & Susan.  Although I have many acquaintances, I have very few true friends.  This is probably attributed to my own standards, but the fewer friends one has, the more valuable those friends are.  I'll elaborate on Joe and Susan more in a bit.  I had decided to stay, but I resolved to leave Hester parked so I could continue to recuperate from my accident and be in the best possible shape to start the 1,700 mile trip home on Friday.  I would need to find a way to fill my free time while everyone else was out riding and figured I could work from my hotel room to recoup a few vacation days.  I also volunteered at the Shark Week registration desk so the others could go ride.  I actually enjoyed this as it gave me a chance to meet the newbies and hug-it-out with those I already knew.  One example is Paul & Ruthie. They live in Texas and he and I keep in touch online, yet it seems we only see each other at Shark Week.  Paul is an accomplished rider and popular video blogger  who recently successfully completed his first 1,000-mile Iron Butt Ride.  Check Paul out and subscribe to his YouTube channel.
I completed my shift at the registration desk and hobbled over to the beer tent to hang out with my people at the Shark Week opening ceremony.   The term "Ceremony" is used loosely here, but it was the official kickoff for the week where we acknowledge the repeat offenders, welcome the newbies, discuss event schedules, and just generally hang out.  Another important (and greatly anticipated) event during the opening ceremony is the presentation of shark teeth.
First-Ever Shark Tooth of Shame - SWII, 2012
The Shark Tooth of Shame is presented to riders who drop their bike on the way to or during Shark Week.  News of drop events usually arrives from someone ratting out someone else who thought their incident would go unnoticed.  Wrong.  As long as no one is seriously injured, we love tattling on each other.  It's a dubious honor that started at Shark Week II in 2012 and the honor is bestowed in a manner that allows recipients to tell their story in front of the entire assembly of Shark Week attendees.  No pressure.  Shark tooth recipients range from new riders on their first long distance outing to hard core riders who are legendary among our crowd for their stamina and riding prowess.  If you receive a shark took necklace, you're in good company and as such, it's a club everyone secretly wants to be a member of, but they don't want to pay the price of membership.  The first Shark Tooth of Shame was presented to your humble author.  Yep, Shrug was the very first Shark Tooth of Shame recipient in 2012 at SWII.

Shark Week XI had a bumper crop of Shark Tooth recipients...and it was only Monday.  The hosts and Board members called up each recipient to tell their story and have their necklaces fastened around their necks and there were so many that I thought I might actually slip under the fence.  After all, I already had one.  I was old news.  I was wrong.  Eventually, my number was up and I was called up to tell my story.  The buffalo incident was commonly known, but my crash in the Redwoods was not.  I had been sitting (uncharacteristically) quietly in the back and as such, had to limp past the crowd to explain myself.  I did my best to put a humorous spin on it and honestly, the buffalo stampede was ironic, if not humorous.  I decided at the last minute to describe the crash in the Redwoods and use it as an opportunity to briefly promote my ATGATT mindset.

I felt it was important to acknowledge the actions - MY actions - that led to the crash.  Not wanting to bring the jovial crowd down, I was brief and literally choked back tears as I followed up my account with an appeal to my fellow Shark Week attendees to please wear their gear - All The Gear All The Time (ATGATT)  when riding.  As a few in the crowd rolled their eyes, I ended by commenting that I was the luckiest guy at Shark Week and Hester was the luckiest bike.  Neither of us should have been road worthy after that spill.  I would learn in a few days that one of of us actually wasn't.