I live in a very small town with two main thoroughfares—one is on the state route on the edge of town where the Walgreens, UPS store, car dealerships and other such businesses can be found. The other is the two-lane road that curves through the center of town; a mixed residential and commercial landscape. Still standing are a number of 19th century structures such as the old Rockaway Hotel, now Tavern on the Rocks. When I was younger, I couldn’t have cared less what was going on in my community… unless it was something involving the local beer joint. But as time goes on, I’ve gotten more involved with the cities I’ve lived in. Nowadays, anything that happens in my little town is of great interest to me.
Since I moved here nearly 10 years ago, I’d hoped to see the development of a hip and funky downtown area where I could spend the afternoon with my hip and funky friends. And my town seems to be slowly getting there with its interesting blend of traditional architecture and modern, what with Ray and Judy’s Book Stop, which is one of the few remaining family-owned books and collectibles stores around, the arrival of Ava’s Cupcakes and, more recently, the opening of a new ice cream shop and adjoining consignment store.
I recently found myself very excited when I saw a big sign go up in the window of a long-vacant building that read, “Surgical Supply Store—Coming Soon!” The reason for my enthusiasm was that the closest surgical supply store the next town over is owned by a crotchety crew, and their customer service, as well as their stock, is pretty shabby. Sad to say, I’ve had to patronize that store at least a half-dozen times in as many years. There were visits for splints and slings for my hand surgery a few years ago, heating and cooling pads for various injuries and back braces for an old spinal injury that still causes me grief. Apparently I’d fractured my spine along with my pelvis when I rolled my car back in the ’70s… The 1970s, I mean. Not my 70s.
Later that day when I excitedly told Steve about the new business that would open downtown, he just looked at me strangely and blurted out, “Are you insane?” He’s usually a bit more tactful than that, and I had to stop and think about the reason for my irrational exuberance. What initially came to mind is that I’m coming up on a milestone birthday (let’s just say I’ve long passed the time when AARP first started courting me for membership). Is this fascination with medical stuff a sign of my descent into old age? Regardless of my youthful demeanor (as in, “Marjorie, when are you gonna start acting your age?”), my body has seen its share of bumps and dents over the years. And it don’t get any easier as you get older.
The perceived invincibility of my youth dictated my risk-taking behaviors and lack of self-care. Even when injured, I wouldn’t go to the doctor, and the only drugs I took were self-prescribed (and mostly illegal). Now I’m hyperaware of everything that happens with my body. At first glance it might just seem like something old people focus on, but I finally realized it’s much more than that. Simply, I do not want anything to interfere with my ability to ride motorcycles.
Riding is not only my primary means of relaxation and enjoyment, it’s also my livelihood. And I spend endless amounts of time and energy (and money) trying to make sure I stay in good enough shape to ride the way I want to, when I want to. I’ve had acupuncture and physical therapy for my arthritic hands and other physical maladies. I visit my chiropractor regularly to prevent—or relieve—sciatic attacks. I’m careful not to set off vertigo episodes, meaning that I try to eat properly (except for an occasional cupcake or ice cream cone), stay hydrated, get enough sleep, not get too stressed and avoid making the types of sudden movements that tend to bring on bouts of dizziness—or worse. I also try to make sure I get enough strength training and cardio workouts. Not only does an exercise routine help me handle long hours in the saddle, but it also keeps my riding gear fitting properly. That stuff is too damned expensive to buy just because my clothing size has gone up.
High maintenance? Maybe so, but if it weren’t for my desire to keep riding, I’d be lying on the couch watching TV every night, munching on chips and chugging Coca-Cola by the gallon. And I can assure you I’d never set foot in a gym or go on my thrice-weekly power walks if I wasn’t motivated to stay in the saddle as long as I can.
The way I see it, riding not only keeps me young in mind and spirit, it keeps me healthy in body. I look at fellow New Jerseyan Gloria Tramontin Struck who, in her mid-80s, still rides her Softail Heritage all over the country, and even beyond. Women like Gloria inspire me, and I’ll do whatever I must to keep riding into the next decades.