It was four years ago this weekend that I bought my first Harley for open road riding. I had lost my spouse of 41 years to cancer 8 months earlier and I believed I needed something that would help me look forward, instead of always looking back and thinking about what I don’t have.
This model is called a Fatboy. It’s stripped down and much lighter than the big open road models. I could hold it up.
When I asked if I could take it for a test ride, they said yes. (I think they were idiots). Yes, I had my motorcycle endorsement, but I really had no business on that bike at that time.
I bought it from Dillon’s in Omaha, so I had to ride it 50 miles home. I remember the terror in me when I encountered a curve in the highway at 60 mph. It took a long time to overcome that feeling and learn to ride properly.
A week later, I had to return the bike to Dillon’s for some add ons. It looked like rain and I was going to cancel, but thought I might was well learn to ride in the rain if I was going to be serious.
It was just starting to sprinkle when I got there and I asked if they sold rain outfits. I got all suited up.
I got on the bike when it was ready and took off. About 20 miles into the ride, the sky unzipped and the wind blew with fury. I had a half helmet and the blowing rain stung my face like darts. I thought the wind would blow me off the road and the windshield got wet and so did my glasses.
I could barely see, but there was no place to pull over. I was surprised at how well the bike tires gripped the road. I rode on at about 45 mph and the cars behind me were very patient. The rain and wind continued until I was almost back to Lincoln. The last few miles it had stopped completely and when I made the last turn, the street was dry.
Somebody upstairs saw to it that I had a good start to being able to handle things on that bike.
September of 2016 marked a major change in my life. I was newly alone on my own and had just taken delivery on a 2004 Harley Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle. I had no business riding that bike, as I had no training on a big open road motorcycle.
I needed something to help me look forward and make friends. I bought the bike and joined the Frontier Harley Owner’s Group (HOG).
Within days, they had a big ride for the 9/11 anniversary. We would leave Frontier Harley Davidson and ride around Branched Oak Lake, then down to the State Capitol building. We got our photo taken in front of the statue of Abe Lincoln on the west side. That part of the ride was close to 50 miles.
I had no idea how to ride the bike, much less ride in a group of over 50 Harleys. I watched what others did and tried my best to not cause an accident. I was amazed at the skill of the riders and they made me feel welcome and part of the group.
I parked among the others and after the photo, we rode through downtown and met for burgers at a nice bar. It was a lot of fun that day and I looked forward to being an active member.
On this day, I started a new chapter. I was having fun (most of the time, when I wasn’t terrified) riding a Harley and beginning to make new friends. Life was good.
I would like to offer special thanks to those members of the Hog Club who welcomed me and accepted me as a part of the biker community.
I lost my soul mate of 41 years when I was 69 years old. After months of grief, I was determined to find something in my life that would help me look forward. I needed something that excited me and helped me make friends.
So, what else could I do but buy a Harley Davidson? LOL I had experience on bicycles and small motorcycles, but never a big open road bike. I found a 2004 Harley Fat Boy that was pearl white.
The day that I rolled her out of the dealership in September, I declared that I would ride a motorcycle to the Sturgis Bike Rally, only 540 miles from my home.
I rode every day and began to bond with this bike. I had a lot to learn and had no idea how much that was. Still, I was determined and having fun. I had already been caught in a frog-strangler rain storm, so I knew I could handle that. I had ridden in the dark a few times, so that’s new.
I rode out 25 miles to Branched Oak lake, a beautiful recreation area. I stopped at the Marina for a nice break and started home in the dark. As I left the park, I heard a growl noise from the back. Old Harleys make all sorts of noises and I was still new to this one. As I headed down the highway, the bike made more and more noise and then felt like it didn’t want to roll so much. I pulled off on to the side of the road and another biker behind me stopped with me.
“You’re shooting sparks out the back of your bike!”, he exclaimed. I looked at the back hub and sure as could be, the large bolts that hold the rear drive belt pulley had come loose and backed out until they were hitting the frame. The bike was broke and going nowhere. I thanked the rider and he went on, as there was nothing that could be done.
I was now helpless, defenseless and stuck. It was just me, a broken bike and my favorite coyotes on a dark country road. I used my phone to call a tow truck. They have no way to bring in a bike. I didn’t even know where to tow the bike. They gave me a reference to a guy who does tow bikes. I called him and he said he could do the job, give him a half hour to get ready. I was already a half hour out of town. Great.
A woman in her late 60’s, alone on a dark country road is a nightmare situation. Even worse is being on a motorcycle. A farm dog or angry raccoon might be a serious threat, as I couldn’t even roll up the windows and lock the doors, as I had neither. Well, I do love living in Nebraska, as quite a few people did stop to see if they could help. They were all nice. It was frightening when they stopped and reassuring when we talked.
So, where to tow the bike? I had purchased the bike from the Harley Dealer in Omaha, but that was too far. The Harley Dealer in Lincoln was closed, so I elected to have it towed to my auto repair shop, where I could lock it safely inside for the night.
The tow guy was very nice. He professionally got the bike loaded up and I rode with him. I was now safe and so was the bike.
My love affair with the bike was now seriously in danger. This clearly was not a machine on which I could depend to carry me carefree 540 miles to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. I’d only had it a few weeks. Cue the coyotes and a nice moon.
The dealer from whom I bought the used bike was very nice. They sent a trailer to pick up the errant motorcycle and took it back to their service dept. I visited them a few days later. They informed me that it would take time to get the parts and more time to get the bike worked in to the rotation to get the repairs completed. “Two weeks” was their best guess.
I’ve spent my career in auto service and I believe firmly in the bond between owner and machine. When a vehicle owner hates their car, the car hates them back. I’ve seen this too many times and been the victim myself. This Harley has ripped my heart right out of my body. The love affair is over. Just like when your man has cheated on you, it will happen again and again. He can no longer be trusted.
Furthermore, I will not wait two weeks to resume riding. I went directly to my salesman and asked, “So what else have you got?”. He seemed stunned at first, but recovered quickly when he realized I was serious. The bike I had purchased had been modified and probably had too many things changed and taken apart. It was a 2004 with over 30,000 miles on it. I intentionally bought a cheap bike because I wasn’t certain if I would really be a rider. Perhaps I would ride a few times and park it, where it would gather dust.
My house may gather dust, but apparently this was not a risk for any bike I would own. I wanted to ride and do it right now. I was into this, big time. I wanted a passion and in grand fashion, I had discovered it.
I no longer feared getting on a Harley. Several weeks of riding had helped me overcome the basic fear of riding. I still feared many situations on the bike, but getting on it and pressing the start button was not one of them. I wanted to ride every used bike they had to try to find the one that fit me.
I did just that, even the ones with ugly colors. Some of them vibrated and shook like a bucket of bolts when given throttle at certain engine speeds. I was very concerned, but was told that was normal for those models. Fine.
I ultimately selected a beautiful black 2010 Fat Boy with only 10,000 miles on it. She was just traded in by her female owner, who rode a new one home. Oh, yes, she was lovely and had a very loud “Thunder Header” exhaust on her. Holy demons of the dark, she talked and would be the ire of neighbors everywhere. This was a bike that I could ride to the Sturgis Bike Rally, only 10 months away. I traded the broken bike and took possession of my shiny new to me friend.
I rode her 60 miles home, still fearing those highway curves. On this trip, there was no rain, it was sunshine and roses with the loud exhaust as the background music. I rode most days of the week, when the warm October sun kissed my cheeks. The nights were getting colder and the leaves soon began to fall. I had to accept that winter was on its way to Nebraska. I was not ready for that and I refused to accept its approach.