Ride and shine 

Peachtree Street on summer cruise control

As he steers the 20-inch rims of his silver 2006 Chevy Impala from Linden Avenue onto downtown Peachtree Street on a recent warm Saturday night, 25-year-old Kris Truitt suddenly finds himself cruising down memory lane.

"It used to be an art to riding this shit, man. You know what I'm talkin' 'bout?" says Truitt, pointing out his preferred starting point on the strip near Ralph McGill Boulevard where Peachtree has three lanes traveling north. "Back then, the best lane to be in was the middle lane, 'cause you got females on your left and your right – you the man in the middle."

Truitt could be the odd man out on a late spring night that already hints of the summer weather to come. While it's approaching midnight – the witching hour for cruisers – traffic is still skeletal. There was a time when summers in Atlanta seemed alternately defined and defiled by the booming bass thumping from chromed-out Ford Explorers and box Chevys sitting on 24-inch rims as riders snaked their way from Five Points to Midtown and farther north up to Buckhead. But the rite of passage no longer enjoys the right-of-way it once did on Peachtree Street.

That doesn't prevent die-hard cruisers from threading Atlanta's best-known thoroughfare every weekend. For the last half-century or so, summer nights have started and ended behind the wheel of a car. Each generation rediscovers the route toward postadolescent exploration.

Of course, Truitt isn't nearly as concerned with the existential profundities of riding out as he is with the line of females standing outside Club 112 near 12th Street. It's mating season and the short skirts, long legs and, ahem, lovely lady humps have stolen his focus for now.

Time for a little show-and-tell.

"Females like to see shiny things for some reason," says the husky, baby-faced Truitt, who barely looks old enough to buy a girl a drink. Nevertheless, several of them turn to check him out as he creeps by in his shiny ride. "Lotta times when I ride out, I be hollerin' [at the females]. A lotta times I just be into my music man, just ridin'."

That seems to be the overwhelming vibe that compels so many solo cruisers such as Truitt to hit Peachtree in the summertime. And the hotter it gets, the bigger the crowds will get. "If it's something going on downtown or something going on in Atlanta, that's usually when Peachtree is jumping," he says. And with the onslaught of events lined up over the next three months, Peachtree could soon be bouncing again the way it was before the Buckhead club scene fizzled out because of the early bar closings instituted three years ago.

But the riders out here tonight aren't trying to re-create the past as much as they are trying to make the most of the present. A black Yukon Denali inches up near the club, bumping Mike Jones' ubiquitous hit from two years ago, "Back Then." The lyrics of the hook – "Back then, didn't want me; now I'm hot, all on me" – could easily double as Truitt's theme song tonight, considering he was pushing what he calls an "old-school" '86 Pontiac Firebird until about six months ago. Since then, the East Point native, who works as an assembler at a local auto-manufacturing plant, has upgraded.

After a couple of laps on Peachtree – from Verve Lounge near Pine Street to Club 112 near 13th Street – he's done with the foreplay and ready to head to his final destination, which tends to be closer to home. Clubs outside the city limits aren't hampered by early closing times.

"It's better for us to stay in our own neighborhoods anyway," says Truitt, who frequents clubs such as the Ritz on Old National Highway or Central Station in East Point, where cruising has given way to another four-wheel pastime: parking-lot pimpin'.

"It's just postin' up in the parking lot, basically," he explains. "That way a female already knows what you got outside."

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