Last weekend when Harley and I went out for a ride, we were hoping to see some of our riding friends we haven’t seen since last fall. As you all know, winter seemed to last forever and it was followed by a cold and wet spring, so we haven’t ridden much since last fall and were anxious to get out and see familiar faces and share some new stories.
One of my favorite things about riding is the people we meet along the way and the connections we have made with others we normally would have never known. Bikers and riders come from all walks of life but we all have one thing in common … the motorcycle. If you’ve got one it’s because you love it. And you love riding it. And you love talking about it with others who have one too.
It’s such a great feeling to come in from a hot, sweaty ride into a cool, dark bar and belly up to get an ice cold drink. And then the conversations begin. Sometimes it’s just us and the bartender and other times it’s a mixed bag of bikers, weekend riders and locals. We have met some super cool people because of the bike and I am proud to call them my friends.
We met Tophat a few years ago. He roared into a local bike night with loud pipes and a crazy getup. As he blasted by where Harley and I were sitting, we both did a double-take. Me: Was that guy wearing a top hat? Harley: Was that a skeleton tied to the back?
That would be a yes on both counts. Not only was he wearing a leather top hat, but the skeleton sitting on the back of his bike had on a long black wig and was wearing stilettos. To complete the look, on the back of his vest was a huge patch of a skeleton wearing a top hat. GOALS.
We decided then and there that we could never … ever … be as cool as this guy.
Not long after that night, we mentioned to someone that we had seen a dude riding a Harley and wearing a top hat and they said that we had seen Tophat. Everyone knew Tophat. And everyone who knew him liked him. He was funny as $hit. How do I know, you ask? Because we met him.
He was standing next to me in line one night and I thought, “O. Magawd. I’m standing next to Tophat!” So I looked kind of sideways at him and said (in a very Napoleon Dynamite way), “I like your hat.” And he turned to me with a huge grin and said, “Thanks!” I motioned for Harley to come over and we started a conversation that has lasted off and on for a few years.
You always knew when Tophat was pulling up because of his unmistakable silhouette. Not to mention the skeleton. And you always knew when Tophat was around, because his larger than life personality had everyone around him laughing and joking around. He basically caused a ruckus.
So when we were out for our maiden voyage of the year Sunday Funday ride last weekend we were really hoping to see Tophat. We don’t always see everyone every time we are out riding, but we looked for him at each stop nonetheless. Next week, we told ourselves… we will see him next week.
Next week will never come. We found out a few days ago that our friend passed away on Tuesday morning. Tophat’s real name was Justin. He had a life, friends and family who knew him so much better that we ever could. I don’t mean to diminish their loss by writing about my own sadness. I hope that they know how much we enjoyed his company and always looked forward to seeing him when we were out and about.
I’ve got to provide a disclaimer here for the picture. I did not take it and I do not know the person who did, but I found it on Facebook and it basically summed up Tophat as I knew him and I wanted to share it.
Next weekend we will all gather to honor Tophat’s life. Harley and I will forever remember how happy he made us that first night we met him because the coolest biker we’d ever seen welcomed us and made us feel like we were part of the local biking community. Tophat, you will be missed more than you know. Ride in peace, brother.