Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why I Ride

I grew up in Cheyenne, WY (population 50,000, give or take). I had ridden a small motorcycle as a teenager on our country roads and through the fields near my home. My friends and I had spent endless days exploring the prairie, speeding down cow paths barely wide enough for our tires and loving every minute. We knew no fear. It makes me sad to see kids today who won’t leave their rooms or game consoles to spend time outdoors. I also owe my parents a big thanks for letting me do things like riding a motorcycle.

My parents sold those bikes before I was even old enough to ride them legally. Other than a very short time when I rode a boyfriend's bike in college, I hadn't really ridden since. I didn’t give up my sense of adventure though. I was the first in my family to graduate college. I was then commissioned an officer in the Marine Corps. After serving in the Marines, I took a job in Germany and another in Japan. I met my husband in Okinawa (he was stationed there with the Navy). We moved back to the states and his son came to live with us. We settle into typical family life. We bounced around the country after he retired and never seriously considered buying bikes although we both had very fond memories of our youthful adventures. We just muttered a random “I’d sure like to have a motorcycle” now and then and that was it. Years passed quickly.

Once you’ve been a Marine and world-traveler, the ordinary routine of family life can be a pretty staid existence. I was constantly bored and couldn’t put my finger on what I could do for fun that didn’t require sacrificing too much, personally or financially. I had always had riding again in the back of my mind. As my husband was preparing to return from his third year in Iraq, I signed us up for a motorcycle safety course. He hated the course. I loved it. (I highly recommend EVERYONE take one.) We bought our first bikes a few weeks later. We swore we’d never be Harley people. Overpriced, buying a name, too kitschy, yada yada yada. We had all these reasons Harleys weren’t for us. I loved riding but my first bike, a Honda Shadow 600 but it was too underpowered. I never felt 100% comfortable on the Yamaha Virago 750 I’d purchased next. It just didn’t hold the road well. It was fine for riding to work and back and I did a lot of that.

This spring the hubby joined an Motorcycle Club (MC). He then surprised the crud out of me when he bought a Harley, a 2000 Softail Heritage Classic. He was planning a road trip with his "gang" (my teasing term for his MC) and knew his 1979 Yamaha wouldn’t cut it.

During this same time frame, we moved to a new home on miles of bad asphalt and dirt roads. My Yamaha really wasn’t up to handling the trip. I actually worried I would have to give up riding because I was so scared on those roads. The hubby was preparing for his second club road trip and loving his bike so I went to see the local Harley dealer. I drove several bikes and liked them all but none were “the one”. As I was about to give up in frustration, the salesman remembered a 2003 Super Glide they had taken in trade that was in the back room still. I liked the sleeker lines and smaller appearance but great power of the Glide. I test rode it and bought it that day. Within a month, I had 1,000 miles on it.

Despite all this new found love of riding, I was less than enthusiastic when the hubby wanted to go to Sturgis. He had a friend from Iraq who was going with his wife and they’d invited us to join them. I was so sure I’d hate everything about Sturgis (like I said it had been years since I’d been adventurous!) that I made arrangements to use friend’s cabin nearby. My plan was to stay at the cabin while they did whatever people do at Sturgis, like get drunk and become idiots. Right? I never made it to the cabin. It turns out you can make Sturgis fit what you want to do. You can have a blast without getting drunk or naked! Every day was another ride to another beautiful location and time spent doing something I loved with great people. We even met up with the hubby’s half-brother he’d never met. His brother and his friends were fabulous and we loved spending time with them! We’re really hoping to be able to make it again in 2012!
The only negative of the whole week? The hubby’s bike was leaking gas and oil like crazy from a crash he’d had weeks before on a road trip. Thankfully he and his friend were basically unharmed when a driver with a large trailer did a spontaneous U-turn in front of them. They both hit the trailer and the bikes went down. They were even to drive the 1,000 plus miles home on their bikes. Time was taking its toll though and the small cracks in both the oil and gas tanks were expanding. By the time we hit Sturgis they were leaking like sieves. We took his bike to the shop and I spent the week riding the back seat of my own bike. Dang macho men! So another reason I’m looking forward to Sturgis next year is to have the chance to actually drive the Black Hills!

Even someone who’d led an adventurous life, like I had, can have fears of riding. I’ve put down (aka crashed) the bike I road in the training class and my Yamaha twice (all at very slow speeds luckily) and it hurt. My pride was hurt even more than the aches and pains in my body. The last time was in the parking lot of the local restaurant a lot of bikers frequent. I turned too tight on the dirt and lost control. I was mortified to be seen by all those other bikers. I cried from humiliation more than pain. The restaurant was miles from town so I either had to get back on and drive home or call for a ride. Deeming that a) calling for the ride would be embarrassing of itself and b) it was about damn time to reclaim my tough girl attitudes of my youth, I climbed back on. Even after the ride home, I started to really wonder if I just sucked at riding and would never get good at it. I am so glad I got back on and didn’t let my wounded pride and embarrassment deter me from riding. (As an aside, I have to say, it’s really important to find the right bike. The hard part is getting the required experience to know what’s “right”. I’ve never even scared myself with my Harley. I’ve never come close to dumping it. It handles so much better than anything I’ve ever driven. And to think I was initially afraid of the weight and power of a bigger bike and now find both those things very reassuring.)

As a REALTOR®, I was worried to ride my bike to home showings. What would people think? Would they be put off? I don’t think anyone has been. If anything, they probably remember me more because of the bike.

Nothing feels as good as riding and I would never voluntarily give my bike up. In the four months of good weather I had after buying my bike, I put more than 4,000 miles on it. We rode yesterday, December 26th in 40+ mile per hour winds and 40 degree temperatures. I’m so glad I quit worrying about whether I could do it and do it well or what people would think about a fifty year old, overweight woman riding, and just did it! I really hope that every woman will follow her heart and quiet those nagging voices. Find your joy, find the right bike and just enjoy yourself!

Monday, December 19, 2011

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