2006: Observations after 18 months of riding

I recently suffered a head-on collision with a bumblebee during a sunny ride on the lovely, bucolic Pee Dee Highway.

I was riding my new bike, Bruce - a black VTX 1300 with custom pipes - when the beast attacked me.

When a human is stationary and stung by a bee, it makes you want to cry. When a human is hurtling through space in the wide-open countryside at 50 to 60 mph and stung by a bee, it makes you scream obscenities at innocent cows and rue the day you were born.

The bee fared worse than I (all that was left was part of a wing and its stinger, which was implanted in my right earlobe - the bee's parting shot before it exploded off the side of my head), but, dang, it hurt. Really bad.

And it was a shock because during the winter weeks I'd stopped riding (yup, turns out I'm a big wimp and not a fan of chaps), and I'd managed to forget about the hazards of the motorcyclist's road: sunburned hands; people who should not be driving bumper cars, let alone real ones; and bugs in the face.

I had two gnats trapped mercilessly in my pink lip gloss before I'd even ridden to the end of my street. Not cute.

Then, an hour later, The (Last) Flight of the Bumblebee.

I suppose I should have rejoiced in that sign of spring, one that reminds me that May and a bazillion of my riding brethren are on their way to Myrtle Beach.

But listen up fellow bikers, because you need to get your act together before (a) you locals take your Harleys out of your garage this weekend and ride up to H.B.'s for beer and big screens and (b) you visitors load up your trailers in Jersey and drive down here for two weeks of (mostly fantasized) debauchery.

I am talking about The Wave.

Why have you stopped?

You remember it, don't you? The smooth, tattooed-arm extended, left-palm-parallel-to-the-passing-asphalt gesture that we shared in a quick but meaningful moment of recognition, respect and camaraderie?

I like it. I want it. I NEED IT. The Wave goes with riding as much as loud pipes, tight T-shirts, pinstriped flames and the straight-ahead flat stare that means "I'm grinning from ear to ear on the inside because I know everyone is looking at me because I'm so cool."

The end of The Wave is the end of civilized biker society, people.

I wave at everybody on the road gripping their knees around a gas tank - regardless of make or model (human or bike), age or inappropriate belly fat exposure - because I want you to know I appreciate your risky, rowdy pursuit of freedom and happiness and grit in your teeth.

So why don't you wave back? You know you should. You know you want to. Maybe you're so surprised that I waved, you don't have time to recover from the shock to wave back.

Well, I'm going to keep waving.

And I hope come May, you'll have had enough time to practice waving back.

Keep the painted side up ...