This past week, I made a hard, terrible, but necessary mistake. I sold my Harley Davidson motorcycle. For the first time in thirty three years, I am now without a bike.
After three decades of owning and riding a motorcycle, I decided it was time to quit riding my own. The decision wasn’t an easy one; however, at the time, I felt it was my only alternative.
I began riding a motorcycle in 1985. My husband, Bob, arranged with our local Harley dealer to deliver the bike to our garage while I was out of town on business. I vividly remember that day.
I arrived home earlier than expected and noticed that Bob was not at home. I parked my car in the driveway, pulled my keys out of the ignition and got out. We had a side door to the garage which I unlocked and walked through. My eyes were immediately drawn to bright light at the back of the garage. The light, hanging from one of the garage door ceiling rails illuminated a shiny royal blue motorcycle. The next thing I noticed was the logo on the side of the tank. In scroll, it read Harley Davidson. I gasped as my heart skipped several beats.
Bob and I had talked many times about me riding my own motorcycle. The idea of doing that was inspired by a small framed dark-haired woman on her rootbeer brown motorcycle several bikes in front of us as we participated in a dealership Sunday ride.
While sitting on the back of Bob’s bike, I noticed her. She looked like poetry in motion with her hair tied in a ponytail and wrapped with a long, white silk scarf, both of which were dancing in the wind. As I watched, I leaned forward and pointed her out to Bob. He acknowledged her as I whispered, “I want to do that.”
When we stopped for lunch, we talked to her, and she encouraged me to buy a motorcycle. Bob and I began discussing that option immediately upon arriving at home. On Sundays, when we weren’t riding with a group, I’d ride on the back of Bob’s bike down to the Opryland parking lot in Nashville where we lived. There, I would practice riding Bob’s bike. Once I began to feel comfortable on his bike, Bob and I talked in earnest about what I would purchase. We decided that I should buy a less expensive Japanese motorcycle so I could determine that I did indeed want to ride on the front. If I did, I could then move up to a Harley Davidson.
When I walked through that garage door and saw the name, Harley Davidson, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I stood in that doorway for several minutes when I realized that, if I stayed, I would ruin the surprise for Bob. So, I immediately turned around, locked the door and got back in my car. I drove around for about an hour before pulling back into the driveway. I kept my secret for several years.
That first motorcycle was a Sportster 883 which I kept for one year. At the time, Harley had a trade-in deal on 883’s, and that deal was specifically targeting women riders. If an owner of an 883 traded in her bike after one year, she could recoup her original price paid as long as she traded it for a larger bike. After that first year, I was ready for a larger motorcycle, so I took advantage of that deal and purchased a Super Glide.
That year was the same year Harley introduced the beautiful Heritage model. The original Heritage paint scheme was royal blue with a cream white insert on both sides of the tank where the brand name appeared. The Heritage was considerably more expensive, so, instead, I immediately had my Super Glide repainted to match the Heritage. Since my second bike, I have owned eight motorcycles, including two choppers, one which was a hard-tail, i.e., no suspension. I rode that chopper all the way from Nashville, TN along the winding road of the Blue Ridge Parkway to Myrtle Beach, SC for Spring Bike Week. When we returned home after riding through the mountains of Georgia, our friend Rick told me that I made him a bunch of money. He had wagered a bet with several other male riders. Rick believed I would ride the entire way and never complain. The other males bet I would complain about the rough ride, especially over bumps in the road. I never did complain. I also never asked to stop before everyone else was ready to stop.
As you read this, you’re probably asking yourself; it sounds like Maribeth loves to ride. So, why on earth did she sell her motorcycle? It’s called allowing my brain to play with my head.
About ten years ago, while in Myrtle Beach, I had a bad accident on my first chopper. Bob, Rick and his fiancé, Cindy, and I were returning to Myrtle Beach after a day trip to Charleston, SC. That morning, we stopped for breakfast as it began to rain. Once we were ready to climb back on our bikes, Bob came over to me and asked, “Can we skip this ride today and do it another day this week?” He had a bad feeling in the pit of his belly about the ride. I didn’t want to wait, so Bob ignored the premonition, and we rode the two hours to Charleston. On the way back to Myrtle Beach that late afternoon, Bob’s intuition played itself out.
On all our rides, Bob was the Road Captain (leader). I would always ride just behind him but in the traditional and safer staggered position. Rick with Cindy on the back of his bike rode behind me also in a staggered position. I was riding along the side of the highway and close to the shoulder when we reached the crest of a small rise in the road and began to descend to the back side of that crest. I saw a dog off to the side and ready to run out into the highway, right in front of me. I checked both of my mirrors, used my signal and began to drift over into the left lane to avoid the dog. I over-reacted as I found myself riding on the small traction of the median shoulder. I definitely wanted to avoid riding in the grassy area of the median which I knew would provide no traction. Again, I assessed my situation and began to slow down. I looked ahead and knew where I would get back on the road. However, I suddenly realized I was about to ride through a deep semi-truck tire track trench in the median. That Spring had been an unusually wet Spring in the Southeast. The truck, I imagined, had left the tire depression after leaving the road, coming to a halt at the bottom of the dip in the median.
As I spotted the depression, in my head I spoke a few expletives and held my breath. Once I was on the other side, I thought, I’ll be fine now. So I returned to concentrating on the road ahead when, suddenly, my handlebars began to vibrate violently. What the hell is happening, I asked. Then, This shouldn’t be happening, my mind screamed.
Next, I felt my bike veering to the left deeper into the median. I knew I was about to crash. The next thing I recall was staring down at the pavement and realizing I was lying, face down on the road, the same road upon which trucks loaded down with pine trees and headed to the paper mill in Georgetown traveled.
I jumped up off the road and quickly walked over to my beautiful bike lying in two pieces in the middle of the median. My handlebars were lying inches away from the bike. I realized that vibrating was my handlebars separating from the bike frame. My god! I was riding my bike while my handlebars were no longer attached to the bike. I was holding them in mid-air!
Soon I was surrounded by Bob, Rick, and Cindy. I said to Bob, “My handlebars came apart.” From that moment, everything began happening quickly.
A wildlife warden traveling on the other side of the highway stopped to help as did a truck with two males and one woman which stopped on our side of the highway. I was pretty banged up.
After several minutes, the warden offered to drive me to the Georgetown hospital about twenty minutes north. Bob agreed and asked Cindy to go with me. I wasn’t given a choice. However, because I didn’t know the man who was going to drive Cindy and me to the hospital, as he opened the passenger door of his truck, I looked him in the eyes and said, “You better not touch either of us. If you do, you will be sorry you did.” He responded, “No ma’am, I would never do that. I just want to get you to the hospital in case you have a bad injury.” It turned out that he was a very nice man who did exactly what he said he intended to do.
As we began to drive off, we heard a gunshot. Later we found out that the dog was a stray. It did in fact cross over the road to the median. The two men and one woman were going to take it home with them. They explained to Bob and Rick that area was an area where people frequently dropped off their unwanted dogs. As the three tried to corral the dog, he ran back out onto the highway only to be hit by a car. The gunshot was a mercy shot. The dog was so badly mangled but still alive when one of the truck males, took out his rifle and put down the dog. When I heard the story later, I felt horrible. I felt my over-reaction had caused this poor dog his life.
Fast forward to this year, 2018.
When Bob and I decided to cash in two 401-K plans to buy a house we could retire to, we finally settled on returning to Myrtle Beach. We had spent 29 previous springs riding to Myrtle Beach for Spring Bike Week and a few additional rides in the fall to attend the Fall Bike Week. It seemed like a natural place for us to retire. We both love the beach which gave us the feeling that we were on a never-ending vacation. Plus, Myrtle Beach isn’t that far from the mountains which we also love. So, Myrtle Beach is where we purchased our last house and now live.
So, what does moving to Myrtle Beach have to do with my selling my motorcycle, especially given that this is where two bike rallies take place each year? Being bike owners, Myrtle Beach seemed the perfect place to retire.
Two years ago, however, I made several trips down to Charleston. It was the year my dog, Pooker, was dying of diabetes. Bob was still employed but working from an office in our home. A specialist practiced in Charleston. She was trying to keep Pooker alive while giving him a comfortable existence. Pooker and I rode down to Charleston at least once each week for three months. The first time we made the trip, I tried to recognize the spot on the highway where I had crashed. I don’t know if it were the sadness of Pooker’s condition, coupled with reliving the crash each time I would drive by that spot where that poor dog died that began playing with my mind. However, I began to think that it might be time to stop riding solo. Too, when there are no rallies in progress, the tourists who travel to Myrtle Beach are dangerous drivers. Add to that mixture that Myrtle Beach is a prime retirement destination. I may be seventy years old, but, I’m a young seventy-year-old woman. I don’t look or act like I am seventy. Neither does Bob look or act like he is seventy-four. However, the bulk of the other retired people in the area look and, worse, act like old people. Worse still, they drive like old people. I began thinking; I don’t want to die on my bike.
Add to that entire stew that I’m in the middle of putting together an anthology of short stories as my next publication. For that anthology, I wrote a ghost story about a young female rider who dies while riding her motorcycle. She is hit by an older woman who turned left, hitting the young woman who she failed to see.
Over the years, I have had premonitions and, if I ignored them, they would happen. Thus, all these ghosts began stirring in my mind causing me to experience an exaggerated fear of riding my motorcycle.
So, last week, I called the local Harley Dealer and talked to the general manager about buying my bike. He asked me what I would take for it. I gave him a figure $1,000 more than I thought I would get. I knew the bike; a Harley Davidson Cross Bones was a sought after bike because, for one, it had an old school look to it, and two, it was only made for two years. I not only broke even, but I made an additional $500.
The morning I took it for my last ride, my mind kept telling me, This is a big mistake. For the first time since my mind began playing tricks on me, I thoroughly enjoyed riding my bike. The morning was a pleasant one. When I arrived at the dealer, the Manager came out to greet me. I told him about my second thoughts. He said, “You can change your mind.” He then began to tell me that the next year’s model will be out in a few weeks making my bike a year older than it was at present. He also began to show me the newer, 2018 models and all the dramatic improvements made over the ten years I owned the Cross Bones
The moral of this story is that I have come to recognize that although a premonition, it was not a fateful forewarning. I am not ready to quit riding. I’ve been sad since I sold my bike, but, I’m now also hopeful. Too, my wonderful husband, Bob told me, “Look, I’ve watched you work wonders with the budget. You should make a plan to save up half the cost of the bike, buy it and then pay it off as quickly as possible.” That’s exactly what I am going to do.
By next Spring, I will be on a 2018 Black Fat Boy Harley Davidson. I will take a short respite from riding on the front. I will have to learn to ride on the back where I will not be in control. Yikes! But, I also tell myself, You can do this. Besides, it’s only a few short months, and several of them will be winter months. Go for it, Maribeth.
You were born to ride!
Note: As I wrote this, I found a photo of my first non-Harley motorcycle. I owned three American Iron Horse bikes. The first, this beauty, was called the Outlaw. My second and third AI were the two choppers. Of all my motorcycles, this one is by far the most beautiful. It was also the most radical!