Introduction to Guest Post: Margaret, my husband’s first cousin, recently took a step that definitely falls into the category of pursuing a personal goal as a part of midlife fun. It is such a delightful story that I divided it into two parts. The following post is hers and Part II will be tomorrow.
Many of my friends think I have gone crazy. Some think I have done a very cool thing. But all will agree I am living my life the way I want to. Why do they say this? At the age of 58 I decided to buy a Harley Davidson Sportster motorcycle and ride with my husband on his HD Road King Classic.
I started riding on the back of bikes when I was 16 years old. My high school boyfriend had a Triumph motorcycle. I jumped on the back and never looked back. I will never understand why my parents let me do this. From then on, I rode bikes off and on through my college years and after but always as the passenger. In the early 80’s my father bought a Harley Davidson Sturgis. Although I didn’t live at home, I went home as often as possible to ride with him.
When I meet my husband, Bob, he was riding a Suzuki. We enjoyed riding together both in MA and when we moved to VA, but when we had children, quite frankly my attitude changed, as you might imagine. Bob promised to stop riding until the children were on their own. Last year, with the children finally grown, he started riding again and once again I jumped on the back. I very much enjoyed riding with him and it never occurred to me that I could also learn to drive a motorcycle.
Bob encouraged me to take the Motorcycle Safety Class and I began thinking it would make me a safer passenger. I thought it would be good for me to be able to get the bike home if I had to, too. The more I thought about the class the more I began to think I just might want to ride my own bike.
The class was a three-day session that started in June on a Monday. The Harley Davidson dealer in Portsmouth, VA sponsored the class. I live in Virginia Beach, VA and anyone familiar with the location knows that you can’t get from Virginia Beach to Portsmouth with crossing water. Since the class began at 6:30 PM, I had to cross the bridge and tunnel at the height of rush hour traffic. The rules of the class require that you arrive 15 minutes early or forfeit your place so I found myself on the road at 4 PM.
The first day of class was just classroom work. We learned basic information about motorcycles and the rules of the road. I was surprised to find there were 5 men and 5 women in the class. (4 women and one young girl about 19 years old) The level of experience was varied. Four of the men had been riding all their lives. One was a new rider. All of them took the class in order to be able to ride their bikes on the military bases here in Tidewater. The military has a strict rule requiring completion of a certified motorcycle safety course in order to operate on base.
None of the women had every driven a bike but, like me, had always been passengers. The young girl it turns out didn’t even know how to ride a bicycle and had never driven a car with a manual transmission!
I was very confident that I would do well in the class. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t get my license at the end of the class. The second day of class, we had to be there at 6:30 am. Again traffic was an issue and I again made sure I arrived early. I was very eager to being the riding portion of the class. I had my required helmet, gloves, glasses and long sleeved jacket. It didn’t matter how hot it would get, the class required that you wear long sleeves for protection.
We were assigned a bike at the beginning of class. Bikes are provided for the class. Which is good, considering most of us had never driven a bike. My bike was a silver Honda with only one mirror and a large dent in the tank. I wondered what had befallen this bike prior to my taking the class. Whatever had happen to it, I was determined that I wouldn’t be the one to add any more dings or dents!
Still very confident, we walked the bikes to the area where the riding would begin. There were a few raindrops but there was no forecast for rain until late afternoon, so no one worried. Bob had made me take his rain gear and a change of clothes. He knew, as I had been told, that the class would go on, rain or shine. We started our bikes and begin learning how to control the clutch and throttle. I found this easy but the young girl in class has already dropped the bike and it wasn’t looking good for her.
We had been riding in circles for about 30 minutes when it started raining. Everyone thought it would pass quickly. WRONG! It rained in earnest from 7am to 12pm. The entire time we were riding. Class is not canceled because of rain. Around 10pm the instructor let us go and put on our rain gear, if we had it. I was soaked but it seemed like a good idea. I found out later that it did not rain anywhere in the area except in Portsmouth!
I was very proud of my riding skills that day.The instructors thought I had ridden before. I was so excited to be riding. I knew at this point I wanted to see if I really could develop the skills to ride on my own. I mean, if I can do well in the poring rain, how hard can the rest of the course be?
Come Back Tomorrow for Part II of more of Margaret’s motorcycle adventure….