There’s been a lot of reflecting going on as I prepare to take on the task of writing a monthly column. It’s a big responsibility and I understand there’s an official swearing-in process where I will solemnly promise to stick a needle in my eye if I don’t provide laughter and tears, deliberation and consideration as you follow along with me on my journeys. I think there are some rules about adjectives and apostrophes, too, but I’m not sure. Staffers keep that kinda stuff secret from us scribblers.
There was a time when I envisioned this job as being the kind where I got to sit in a dark bar as my bike sat glistening in the afternoon sun, sipping on a cool one while I jotted notes on bar napkins. Instead I find myself stressing over deadlines and word count. Mostly I’ve been sifting through the pieces of my life and contemplating what brought me to this time and place as I dodge the e-mails of nervous editors awaiting my submission. Slowly pushing pen across paper, I continue trying to muster the words to capture your attention and realize the original road map of my life was charted for a very different course than what has been lived. It’s been a trip, that’s for sure.
If you ask my somewhat disappointed mother how she ended up with a kid like me the best you will get is a smile and a shrug. I mean, what parent can imagine their adult daughter as a nomad biker whose worldly possessions are strapped to the back of a motorcycle? I was, after all, supposed to be a scientist. Or maybe an artist.
My personal goals were much less lofty and included a desire to be a waitress since I craved the immediate gratification of having cash in my pocket daily and it was something I could do anywhere. I didn’t want to have to wait for some distant payday. I wanted my rewards immediately. Yep, I had it all figured out; it was the perfect vocation. At least, that was my reasoning at 10 years old.
My parents had different imaginings. They took great pride in thinking their constantly doodling little artistic prodigy was going to follow in the footsteps of an aunt who was a fine art painter. Commissioned annually by the Queen of England, she’d already agreed to take me under her wing and teach the necessary skills to become an artist as she toured Europe in the summer before I was to start college. It was about that same time that one Owen Morgan entered the scene and the whole plan went to hell in a hand basket.
Owen had a motorcycle, as did his father and his grandfather. In an act of defiance after being suspended, he would cruise the front of the high school while standing on the seat of his father’s chopped Panhead. Yep, he was the original Fonzie. I thought he hung the moon and I wanted him, plans be damned! The adults in my life cringed as I climbed onto the back of his bike and they simultaneously watched their dreams of a refined, highly educated child evaporate like the dust cloud that trailed behind us as we rode out of sight. At least that’s how they saw it. For me, my education had just begun.
Owen taught me to ride flat track on a 125 Yamaha. By 1975 I had a zippy little 450 Honda chopper. Since then, I’ve had nothing but Harley-Davidsons, including a Sportster, a Heritage Softail and a Street Glide. I spent a lot of time on my rear wheel attempting to prove I deserved my part of the lane back in the day. I carried wrenches in my jacket to keep my bike running as well as to defend myself and walked around with an attitude that made it hard for people to help, even when I needed it.
Eventually, I did go to college but not on the scholarship that Arizona State University offered. Never having been one to do things the easy way, I juggled school, kids and jobs as I studied. Though I have a textbook education, it’s my humble opinion that the road offers the best lessons. Practical application beats classroom lectures any day.
I did earn a living as a waitress for a time, have been paid when my drawings were published, and if you count teaching children how to make baking soda and vinegar lava eruptions as scientific experiments, then I’ve been a scientist, too.
Even though things haven’t gone as she’d envisioned, Mom has finally made peace with my life choices. She’s come to grips with having to explain to her church friends that her daughter rides all over the country on a motorcycle and shares her adventures with readers in a biker rag. I get to travel wherever my heart desires; there are no borders in my world. I’ve had a lifetime of great motorcycling experiences, met amazing people along the way and look forward to every day I get to spend on the road.
I live an absolutely “free range” experience which tends to make Mom nervous. She has stopped asking me when I’ll stop riding “that thing” and settle down. She realizes that riding is my oxygen and is resigned to the fact that I love my motorcycle with a passion she saved for her husband. Recently, however, she did ask what I thought my life might have been like if I’d never met Owen Morgan. I shudder to think. He gave me riding skills, two children, a love of motorcycles and my freedom. How could I be anything less than grateful?