I had a less-than typical childhood and skipping around between different scenarios is a lot of what went into making me pretty adaptable as an adult. Or at least that’s been my rationale as I’ve bounced around from place to place for the last decade or so. I was a tomboy girl in pigtails riding horses, and eventually dirt bikes, as I figured out which thrill-seeking activities got my heart pounding the most and it was in my early teens that I gravitated towards street bikes. By the time I saw my first Easyriders, I knew immediately what I wanted to do when I grew up. Reading stories from those guys about being out on the road on some badass bike set my mind to dreaming of what chasing distant highways must feel like, but I eventually chose the life of a wife and mother and settled into homemaking, which wasn’t really conducive to a scooter tramp’s way so I took my short trips and lived within the confines of what was practical while pushing boundaries a little at a time. Eventually, working for scooter rags helped legitimize the increasingly longer trips as I covered riding events and ventured further from home. By the time I realized my childhood dream and was published in Easyriders for the first time, I was already a grandmother. Now I’m a great-grandmother.
Bikes were a constant part of my life, however. My girls were raised up in a two-wheeled world and eventually my oldest daughter got her own bike and taught her boys how to passenger. Now, even as young adults, they think nothing of climbing on behind their mom for a ride now and then. Still, I was surprised when my grandson ended up hanging with me a while back and we both set to figuring out how to cohabitate and co-navigate, since neither of us had shared space with anyone on a constant basis for years and I had never had anyone passenger behind me for any distance. Ever. I found myself getting twitchy as people stared at the guy wearing a helmet with 3” chrome horns being packed around by the grey-haired lady on a Street Glide. I have to admit, it took some adjusting. Initially I worried about the human factor as I recognized that just because I’m used to riding around with 100 pounds of inanimate gear lashed behind me that doesn’t mean I’m prepared to pilot around 145 pounds of breathing appurtenance.
I realized right away that I needed to readjust my riding style after I responded to an unexpected traffic situation by hitting the binders. Hard. The ABS did its job well and stopped the Beast immediately, but my grandson was launched off his seat and almost went flying over my handlebars. It was a good thing he’d grabbed the sissy bar or else he’d have landed on the street in front of me, and it scared the crap out of both of us. I found myself marveling at how guys deal with the constant companionship of passengering their women and began to view the experience from a different perspective.
One of the things that I always enjoy is kicking back and taking in the scenery when I’m lucky enough to be asked to ride two-up. It’s one of the perks of being a woman, getting to tuck in behind a man you trust with your life, but this was a role reversal I was ill prepared for. I mean, my luggage never wiggles or chatters and the whole thing was beyond my riding experience so the adjustment was a big one. I got the giggles early on while explaining to him that motorcycle seats aren’t really built for passenger comfort so his butt aches were a common side effect after a few hundred miles and he learned right away about wind chill and that when I suggested layering, it was from the voice of experience.
It was fun to teach him about life on the road as well as sharing museums, arboretums, and bike events. Chasing the sun into the horizon takes on a new meaning when you have someone else to appreciate the glory of Mother Nature’s magic and I gave him one of my old cameras so it was especially cool when we both jumped off the Beast and ran off to shoot our own memories. After a few months of chauffeuring him around, we eventually got it dialed in. Which was also about the time he returned to his own life and I got back to chasing sunsets solo.
I noticed right away that I quickly reverted to the habit of taking those risky chances that I’d become hesitant of when considering the life behind me and I went back to running commentary in the back of my mind rather than yelling over my shoulder to share observations. While it was awkward in the beginning, packing the kid around became routine and I have to admit I got comfortable with having somebody to share new vistas with. I’m not sure of his take on the whole thing, but when he’s old and tells stories about his life experiences, I hope he smiles about the time he got to spend riding around on the back of his crazy G-ma’s motorcycle, racing rednecks and figuring out what “stop on a dime” means.