“If you are reading this story, the world didn’t end on December 21, 2012.” The pronouncement was seen on an FAQ page of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration website, and, of course, refers to the alleged Mayan prediction that the world would end on 12/21/12. NASA was so sure it wouldn’t that they also posted a YouTube video to be viewed on the 22nd, detailing why the world didn’t end the day before.
Not to be nitpicky, but if the world did end on the 21st, would anyone still be around to prove NASA wrong? That said; the quiet voices of reason from NASA experts and other well-respected scientists from around the globe were virtually drowned out by the media frenzy that fed into the doomsday predictions preceding the big non-event.
It’s well known that the Mayans were an advanced civilization, building large cities, ornate temples and towering pyramids. They developed a sophisticated written language and mastered astronomy, creating the Mayan Long Count Calendar to keep track of events over the course of billions of years. The Long Count Calendar works on the same basis as an odometer—it rolls over and repeats itself. According to Mayan theology, the world was created 5,125 years ago, which on the Mayan calendar looks like 126.96.36.199.0. On December 21, 2012, at the end of the first 5,125-year cycle, the calendar rolled over to 188.8.131.52.0, hence the hubbub over the end of the world.
Descendents of the Mayan people, who live in what is now Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador, see this date as cause for celebration; the beginning of a new cycle. They say there is nothing in the calendar indicating the end of the world, nor is there any written history stating so. But that didn’t stop doomsday believers from buying tons of survival gear and making preparations for the devastation that was sure to come. A Chinese inventor produced “survival pods,” an Italian contractor built underground bunkers for his wealthy clients, and one-way airline tickets were sold to Apocalypse-safe havens—whatever that means. People flocked to ancient pyramids such as the Temple of Kukulkan in Merida, Mexico, where vendors did a booming business in Apocalypse-themed souvenirs.
On the other side of the spectrum, we bikers did what bikers do best—ride and party. My friend Rania Madanat from the Philly area discovered an event called the End of the World Ride and the Last Party on Earth. This shindig was scheduled to take place in Portland, Oregon, on December 21. The plan was for folks to meet at See See Motor Coffee Company, ride over to MotoFactory PDX on the other side of town, and party. (Later I spoke with Nean Tiffany Kiskela, co-owner of MotoFactory PDX, who told me that somewhere between 30 and 50 people went on the End of the World Ride, and their shop was packed for the after-ride celebration.)
Rania decided to host an East Coast version, but no one could make it on the 21st. It was a Friday and none of us had been given the day off work to prepare for Armageddon. So Rania rescheduled the event for the next day and renamed it We Survived the Apocalypse Motorcycle Ride. We planned to meet in Mount Holly, New Jersey, about 25 miles east of Philly, and then ride to Lambertville, just across the river from New Hope, Pennsylvania.
When I woke up Saturday morning, it was in the mid-20s, and by the time I left, the mercury had climbed just about the freezing point. No matter; I’d just acquired some heated gear and this would be the perfect day to try it out. It took me an hour and a half to ride the 90 miles to the Mugshot Diner in Mount Holly where we planned to meet for a pre-ride brunch. The high winds made it seem even colder than it was, and I was looking forward to a hot meal.
By the time I got to the pretty little town of Mount Holly, the other riders had already arrived. It seems that Rania, being the social media maven that she is, had already met about half the residents of the town, and some insisted on posing for photos with us crazy bikers. There weren’t any other motorcycles to be seen on that cold and cloudy day. We ate a hearty meal and then, amid comments of, “It’s way too cold out there,” and “You’re nuts,” we bundled up, started our bikes and began our end-of-the-world tour.
Because of the weather, only five of us turned out—Rania and me, plus George Ferreira, Wayne Fields and Jack “Captain Ninja” Odell. Rania, founder of WiEscapeRoutes.com, had mapped out a nice 50-mile ride along some rural back roads, but it was still extremely cold and windy so we decided to take a more direct route, with Wayne leading the way up scenic State Route 29 along the Delaware River. Some 35 miles later, we arrived in the quaint town of Lambertville, parked the bikes and headed for the Lambertville Trading Company to warm up with hot coffee and cocoa. We compared the efficacy of our various heated components, congratulated ourselves on surviving the Apocalypse—and the icy winds—and geared up again to go our separate ways.
Many think of the natural disasters leading up to the 21st as omens; the unusual number and ferocity of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and windstorms could, I suppose, be construed as some divine message warning us that the end is near. I would rather think of the finish of this Mayan calendar cycle as the end of fear, the end of greed and the end of tyranny, with hope for the future more along the lines of the Mayan-influenced New Age beliefs—a more enlightened human existence; one of sharing, peace and harmony. But that day, I was just happy to celebrate the winter solstice on two wheels.