New chick walks into a local joint. How do they know she's new? Because she is wearing knee-high leather boots, her cleavage is a mile long, she smells like road grime and has purple/pink hair. Certainly she would be remembered if she had been in this place before.
The further east we go on this Road Pickle trip, the more I seem to stand out.
Highway blends seamlessly into almost every environment. Only when we stopped in the swamp town in east Arkansas did he stand out. But anyone who wasn't grimy, wearing overalls or baggy shorts and a wife beater stood out there. After 200 miles of humid, bug-infested, hot road, Highway in his dirty riding gear was far cleaner than the dregs who were lingering at the convenience store in that town. I kept my bandanna on my head to hide the hair, since I was already such an oddity already, being a female on a motorcycle. The fact that I was wearing shorts and my half chaps didn't help either. The parking lot dregs were running their fingers along my bike seat as I came out of the store, as if they were touching my motorcycle to see if it were real. I feared they would start touching me next.
Before we left I hadn't done too much traveling. I had been to a few major cities in the U.S., but didn't realize how sedate rural living could be in America. I admire the beautiful settings, the scenery, the tenderness and generosity of the locals, and the innocence of the small town ways. I love that when making eye contact people feel compelled to say, "How you doing?" even if they don't expect an answer. It's a greeting, not really a question. In San Diego, Seattle or Manhattan, if I make eye contact with a stranger they either ask me for money or scowl for breaking the "No Eye Contact Rule" set forth in most major cities. In these small towns people are kinder, even if they are not necessarily genuine. Their manners kick in and they feel compelled to be more polite, even if they don't mean it.
But the pink hair only deters the hospitality. Many women are mesmerized by it and early on in the trip I was complimented a few times in a day. But the further we travel into the Southeast, the less of that I get. I am asked almost daily if I am a hairstylist, where did I learn to do that or how I got it this color. But occasionally a brave soul will ask, "Why did you do that to your head?" I tell them I like it this color, that I like the way it makes my skin look, and then watch their eyes glaze over as they walk away, muttering.
"Uh huh. . ." they mumble.
When we arrived in Knoxville after 7pm I was in pain and very tired. I showered and then threw some clothes on without considering where I was going. I jumped on my bike and ran to the local market to grab a local beer for Highway and for something to eat. Unconsciously carrying my helmet in the store, I started shopping for the few items I needed. Then I looked down at myself. Skulls on my helmet, hot pink jeans, black motorcycle boots, and a black T-shirt that reads, "It Ain't Gonna Lick Itself". Typically I save this shirt for biker bars, but I just grabbed a damn shirt! My pink hair was standing on end, springing up to life after being washed, dried and then mashed by the helmet. Finding the items I needed I got in the checkout line behind a lady about my age and her teen daughter. The mother took one look at me, took her daughter's hand and moved to another checkout.
The truth is I've always been a little different and I'm OK with that. I love the travel so much because I love seeing new things, meeting new people and growing as a person. I'm not going to change myself to suit others because I wouldn't like myself anymore if I did. I don't mind being a stranger in town, but I don't think I'll ever get used to the notion that I'm considered strange.