I live in Chicago, and I’m seventy-five years old, and it’s February. So why am I thinking about motorcycles and motorcycling? Perhaps it’s because my brother, who lives in southwestern Utah, is eagerly looking forward to riding, and he recently bought a new motorcycle. Here’s a quote from one of his recent emails:
"The even better news is that the riding season is just around the corner. For the past couple of weeks I have been adding stuff to my new bike. As it always happens in the world of motorcycles, a new bike is a blank canvas unto which one paints one’s own personality in VERY expensive chrome goodies. Bottom line, my bargain-priced bike is turning into less that a great bargain."
Note that enthusiasm. My brother is only two years younger than I am, but motorcycles are a big part of his life. That’s not true of me any more, but strangely enough, it once was. Here is a quote from a self-interview in my eGenerations journal and my other blog, "Write your Life!"
"I guess many may not know that this stodgy old professor has toured the U.S. and Europe on the back of her husband's BMW motorcycles. We traveled through the Alps four times, and our final foreign trip by motorcycle was our fascinating trip to Russia in 1990."
While I’m quoting myself, here’s a sentence from my first book, Reinventing Myself. This is from the chapter "Mountain Memories, 1976," about our first European motorcycle trip, the one during which I fell off and broke a leg. That happened in Austria.
"There’s nothing like motorcycling to make anyone feel almost a part of the mountains." Yes, indeed. That’s how I explained being eager to get back on and take almost the same alpine tour in 1981, and twice more in the 1980's, and then the trip to Russia, with many U.S. and Canadian trips between.
And this is from my late mother’s autobiography, "My First Eighty-Six Years: A Midwestern Life":
"My cousin Roy . . . bought a motorcycle with a sidecar. About once a week, usually on Saturday, he came to Aunt Mary’s for dinner and then took me for a ride. I really enjoyed those rides, which were often two to three hours long . . . Grandma and Aunt Mary didn’t really approve of my motorcycle rides, but accepted them, with instructions to Roy to drive carefully. How ironic that my attitude was about the same as theirs much later, when motorcycling became a part of life for both of my grown children."
So what’s the fascination of motorcycling? I’ve heard parents say, "I’d never let my son (or daughter) ride one of those dangerous things!" Of course parents don’t really have a say after the kids grow up. My husband and I began our trips in our forties. Was I afraid? Yes. I’d read all those stories about motorcycle accidents, but then I’d read plenty about automobile carnage on the roads as well. Besides, I was and am more or less a fatalist. If I had little sense of daring earlier, my late husband helped me to develop one.
My husband’s riding skills improved after that accident in Austria, and I learned how to fall correctly. We always wore helmets. If you analyze motorcycle accident statistics, I think you’ll find that most victims are young and foolhardy. We were neither, although our trips amazed some of our friends. We belonged to a club that included doctors, lawyers, and business people of all types, hardly Hell’s Angel or Outlaw types. We never had another accident, and my husband’s death had nothing to do with motorcycling, although he continued riding until his final illness.
Today, I realize that motorcycling (as a passenger, not a driver; I don’t even drive a car very well) was good for me. It "loosened me up" both physically and mentally, making me more tolerant and flexible and informal, and best of all, more daring and adventurous. The thrill has obviously continued for my brother, and a retired male teaching colleague nearly my age is still an avid motorcyclist. Sometimes I wish I could put on a helmet and a leather jacket and get back on one of those BMW’s; I had to quit riding in 1990 due to arthritis.
Still, I credit the motorcycle experience for making me willing to take a few chances in life. Motorcycling seems to run in my family, and I have some fond motorcycling memories. Old age can be rather dull without at least a little bit of daring; I hope I haven’t lost that hard-to-explain feeling.
Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne