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Bike Night at the Chatterbox

Posted By John Phillips, Friday, May 13, 2016

Now that the 2016 riding season is in full swing, motorcyclists are flocking to their weekly "go-to" places to kick tires for a few hours and share their common passion over breakfast or maybe burgers and hotdogs. We're hard wired for the social interaction they provide, regardless of the motorcycling we enjoy.

In north suburban Chicago where I started riding in the '80s, the go-to place was the Highland House diner off old highway 41 in Highland Park, a hangout going back to the early '70s when members of the Chicago BMW club first began showing up there for Sunday breakfast. When I transferred to NJ it was the Marcus Dairy in Danbury, CT at the junction of Rte. 7 and I-84. For over 30 years the faithful gathered there Sunday mornings, with periodic Super Sundays drawing thousands of bikes from across the tri-state area in epic, over-commercialized and at times out-of-control spectacles. After decades of service to their respective communities, both destinations fell to the wrecking ball in the name of progress. Their loss was noted in the The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Photo posts of the bereaved standing in front of rubble piles crying "Where will we go?" hit the forums. Not to worry. Within weeks of the Highland House closing, the Full Moon diner up the road in Lake Bluff hung out a welcome sign. Riders heading north on CT Rte. 7 pass the Marcus Dairy silo kept as an historic landmark at the Danbury Mall on their way to the Toymakers Cafe in Falls Village, CT.

Here in the Skylands of Sussex County, NJ, enthusiasts started rolling into the Chatterbox Drive-In in late afternoon this week for "Bike Night" Thursday, now that warm weather has finally arrived. As word of Bike Night spread over the past few years, what started as small groups of locals now attracts riders from neighboring NY and PA, filling the parking lot that encircles the octagonal shaped restaurant with a couple of hundred bikes on peak Summer nights. Most importantly, the full array of riding interests is represented, from custom cruisers to Italian and Japanese sport bikes, to trikes and an assortment of vintage rides.

I hope the Chatterbox has a long run, but accept that change can come at any time. When it does, the community will observe a moment of silence and then pack up the moveable feast with all its magical music and move on, confident that the closing of one chapter simply marks the opening of the next. As one rider put it, "Park two bikes in front of a diner and watch nature take its course." It is the circle of life.

Airhead Chris Sutton and his '76 R 90/6 periodically make the hour run to Bike Night at the Chatterbox from his home in Martins Creek, PA. He and a buddy, also on an airhead, grabbed a burger and started outlining a planned trip to Nova Scotia, Labrador and Newfoundland next year.

The first really warm Thursday of Spring this week brought over a hundred bikes of all descriptions and riders of ll ages to Bike Night at the Chatterbox. There seem to be more and more women riding in every season.

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