You’re Never Too Old
How Grandma Became a Biker
by Vicki L Marsh
I retired a couple of years after my husband, Taylor. By the time I retired, he had taken over my kitchen, rearranged my ‘silverware’ and told me to keep it just as he had arranged it, all lined up like little soldiers. Next he cleaned out my junk drawer. When he started to rearrange the remaining cabinets, I screamed. If this man doesn’t find an outside interest, I’m going to lose it. Give me back my kitchen.
How I Got My House Back
God must have heard my cry, because a phone call a few days later saved my sanity. Calling from Florida was a childhood friend of Taylor’s. “Guess what I bought. A motorcycle.”
“A Harley?” asked Taylor. “Nope, can’t afford no Harley,” came the reply.
When Taylor got off the phone, I could see by the look on his face that an idea had been planted. “Cogswell bought a motorcycle,” he said. “We haven’t ridden since we were in our 20s.”
I could see the wheels rotating. Could my salvation be at hand?
Soon I noticed him reading ads, motorcycle ads. Next he talked with his brothers, who already had bikes.
Buying a bike wasn’t my idea of getting him out of the house; I really wanted him to get a part-time job if not locally, maybe in Alaska. “Are you really thinking of buying a bike? Bikes are dangerous. You’d better get some good life insurance,” I said half in jest.
“Yes. Cogswell started me to thinking. If he can still ride, I know I can.”
Searching for the right bike kept Taylor busy and out of the house for weeks. His brother in Virginia, also a biker, called a month later with the news: He had found Taylor the perfect bike.
Soon a red-and-white Honda VLX 650 with shiny chrome found its way into our lives. This was just the beginning though I didn’t know it at the time.
Before long, he had it all: a bike, jacket, helmet and glasses. I was happy for him and for me. Now that he was gone riding every day, I had my life back. Or did I?
The Honda VLX 650 lasted four months. That’s when Taylor decided he was moving up to an all black Kawasaki 800.
Beep, beep, honk, honk: Every day for months, the UPS truck was delivering bike stuff to our house. His bike became an obsession. It was like he had gotten himself a Barbie doll.
The new acquisition needed more chrome, a new seat and a bigger windshield. Most of all, it needed louder pipes though it already was screaming pain into my ears. Every time he rode his rumbling behemoth into the garage, the whole house vibrated.
He had the bike bug bad. He rode seven days a week to Virginia and back. On the weekends, he was off to ride with his brothers. I stayed home and rode my jet ski, the one I bought myself when I retired. I couldn’t get Taylor on it. So he rode his bike, and I rode my ski.
Come Ride with Me
With the Kawasaki, my life changed. “Sit on it. How does it feel? Is the seat okay?” he asked me. “It feels fine; even the back rest feels okay.”
“Now,” says he, “we have to get you a helmet and glasses.”
“Do I have to wear one of those bowling balls?”
Next thing I knew, I was riding a motorcycle behind my husband.
Helmeted up with eyes protected, I was a little nervous my first day on the rear of his bike. Heaving my leg up and over a wide vibrating seat, I felt like I was sitting on a horse with gastritis.
“Don’t let your legs get near the pipes,” he warned, “or you’ll get burned.”
I was really going to watch out for those hot pipes.
At first, short rides were all I could handle. Once he and I were both used to me on the back, it didn’t take long to relax and enjoy the ride. Sitting back and watching the scenery pass by, enjoying the sunshine, breeze, farmlands and Bay shores as we rode to and from our home in Deale was relaxing. However, an hour was all my behind could handle. Then I’d say, “take me home. My butt is numb.”
Taylor, on the other hand, enjoyed the open highways where he could go faster.
With his bike fully outfitted, it was time to show off. Friends in South Carolina, Gene and Kathy, also bikers, gave him his chance with an invitation to join them at a Honda Hoot in Smoky Mountains, Tennessee. A Honda Hoot is a motorcycle rally for people who own Hondas, but other bikers, like us, can attend.
My first big experience with mountain biking was a scary ride up steep roads to elevations above 5,000 feet. As we rounded a sharp turn, a small black bear cub ran across our path. “Put the pedal to the metal,” I told Taylor, for I was waiting for Mama to come bounding behind.
Leaning and bending behind my husband became second nature. I felt as though we were one body as we took curves so sharp the pegs my feet rested on would rake and spark on the asphalt.
I made Taylor stop halfway up the steep road to our mountain nosebleed cabin so I could walk the rest of the way. If I rode, I knew we’d fall off the face of the earth.
Hearing the Call
Back home, I missed the beauty of Tennessee and even mountain riding. I was hooked and spent time with Taylor cruising bike shops. I later learned that he was hoping I’d see a bike I liked.
That happened six months later. In the meantime, I amassed detailed knowledge of soft tails, no tails, V-rods and engine sizes 250s to 1500s.
“Sit on this one,” Taylor said as I stood beside an orange thing that seemed to grow as I got nearer.
“No way, Taylor. Forget it.” How could I be comfortable, I asked myself, on something that looks so scary.
“But it’s such a good price,” he pleaded. “You can learn. You could do it if you wanted to.”
“I don’t want to ride,” I insisted. “These things scare me. Sorry Taylor. I’ll stick to my jet ski.”
I should never have uttered those words.
The next spring, our South Carolina friends invited us to the bike rally at Myrtle Beach. On our trip to Tennessee, I had listened to stories about these wild bike rallies. My girlfriend told me it was fun to see all the wild bikes and wildly dressed people. It was also the best place to buy biker clothes cheap.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m game. I’ll go.”
Parading and Preening
The number of cyclists and volume of exhaust noise overwhelmed me. Clack, Clack, Bang, Bang, Rum Rum: Who could imagine all the different sounds? Fearful and deafened, I gaped as we unloaded our bikes at a nice hotel. I was amazed that bikers were allowed to stay in town with all the noise and smells from their engines.
Strutting your stuff, showing off your bike and woman, parading and preening: “You’ll see it all,” Taylor told me.
In a mob of 120,000 other bikers, from the back of his bike, I enjoyed the sights. You see lots of skin action at rallies, along with dogs, cats, parrots and snakes riding along. Women, too, were a sight to behold, as some wore more tattoos than clothing,
Police were everywhere, making sure that bikers could traverse roads, parks and party areas. They stopped traffic so we could cross highways and maneuver through congested areas. Other bikers were so close that I was afraid my legs would be crushed as they came within inches. I needn’t have worried about danger or aggression. Everywhere we went, southern hospitality was in full bloom.
“Bikers bring in millions of dollars to the stores and hotels,” Taylor said. “That’s why Myrtle Beach and Daytona Beach open their arms to us terrible bikers.”
Not everyone looked like Grizzly Adams with tattoos or Daisy Mae on steroids. These guys were courteous and friendly. I soon lost my fear of running into one of them in a dark alley.
I especially watched the women who’d ridden their own bikes. They wore leather, for protection and for sex appeal.
A Biker Babe is Born
Plenty of vendors do business near these watering holes. Downing a few cold ones, Taylor said, “It’s time for my baby to get some biker clothes. Let’s go over here and see what bargains we can find.”
Then, arm across my shoulder, he led me to the vendors.
Before long, I found just the jacket I wanted, custom-made with beige insets and trim, which, I was assured would arrive at my home within a month.
Next I found a nice pair of leather pants, took them back to the shop where I purchased my coat, and had beige trim sewn into the leg sides.
“Yep my baby’s a biker babe now,” Taylor said.
I got a big grin and hug. Finally my husband and I had something in common, besides my kitchen. We were riding together.
That fall, we went to a bigger rally in Daytona Beach, Florida. Now I was avidly taking note of all the women with their own bikes. Many were small like me, and not youngsters either. I had gotten the itch.
Something was growing in my mind. I asked my girlfriend what she thought of my idea. She was thinking the same thing, she said. Knowing smiles crossed both our faces. We agreed we were tired of riding behind someone.
I had my leathers and helmet; now I wanted my own bike.
Back home, I called the Motor Vehicle Administration to find out when the next Motorcycle Safety Course began.
Training in the state Motorcycle Safety Course gave me courage and control. I can do this, I thought. After this, I know I can hang out with the big guys.
Then it was time to shop for a bike I could handle. Start out small and move up, that’s what I wanted to do. The brand new Suzuki 250 we found was red, my favorite color.
I didn’t have any fear as I sat on that bike. It fit perfectly. My feet rested firmly on the ground, it wasn’t too heavy and I felt good holding it up.
Taylor had to ride it home for me. He followed me as I drove the car. I arrived home a little ahead of him and watched him ride my new bike down the road to our house. That little red bike shone like a red delicious apple.
I rode that little red bike for over a year, then moved up to a yellow Suzuki 650. Myrtle Beach and Daytona Beach, here I come.