Tuesday, January 26, 2016

WYL #21 On the Lighter Side: On Iron Wings

 On Iron Wings

Spring was in the air that fine April day in 1982. It had niggled its way into my blood and was flooding my brain with fanciful thoughts. We were out for a walk in the Glebe and as we walked past one store I could see my reflection among the motorcycles. I grabbed my boyfriend Steve's sleeve and dragged him inside. Rubber, oil and steel fragrances the air. I was overcome with a dizziness of common sense and started walking among the bikes. Most were giant monstrosities that  would overcome my slight (at the time) frame.

My eye caught sight of a beautiful burgundy bike, the light danced on the chrome muffler - I was drawn to it as a moth is to a flame. My hands caressed the handlebars and slid down onto the seat. I couldn't help myself… I slung my leg over and settled my weight onto it. The handlebars reached back to my hands, meeting at the perfect, most comfortable, location. My feet were firmly on the ground. I swooned. It was meant to be. This motorcycle fit me like a hand-made glove, one that had been made for me and me alone.

I looked at Steve and he saw passion, or was it madness, in my eyes. He likely understood as he had a dirt bike that he liked to ride around his parent's farm. I remember riding it up a 20’ towering mound of dirt and flying off the other side. My heart was in my mouth during the air time and the rush of adrenaline surged through my veins as I successfully hit the dirt on the other side.

The price tag fluttered on the side of the bike bringing me back to earth - I knew it was beyond my paltry salary. My smile turned into a frown. The look of disappointment was written in bold. Steve, also caught up in the magical moment, offered to lend me the money. I lept off my iron steed (I was already saying my) and hugged him, then dragged him over to the sales desk. The deal was made and arrangements were finalized for pickup.

I floated out of the store.

The next day I called my dad to tell him the exciting news. He swore. The day before he had been at a home for the disabled and wondered about all the young men in wheelchairs… motorcycle accidents. I asked him to tell mom. She swore (my mom does not swear - ever).

There was only one small, or perhaps it was major, problem. I didn't have a motorcycle license. That didn't slow me down for long; I practiced on Steve's dirt bike then we picked up my beauty with Steve's dad's truck. As soon as we unloaded it in the dusky, dewy evening I jumped on. And immediately wiped out on the slick grass. Not a good start, but a good lesson.

I practiced and practiced then drove to Smiths Falls for my licence. I got it in the first try and my wings were unfettered. I galloped on my Pegasus (at the speed limit of course) around the  countryside. My iron pony felt like it was a part of me. It was a feeling of freedom unlike any I had ever known.

To appease my parents I took a motorcycle safety course. It was time and money well spent as they taught the finer details of control and staying safe. I loved driving the back roads to practice maneuvers. I loved pulling up to a gas station or corner store and pulling off my helmet so my longish blonde hair could spill onto the shoulders of my leather jacket - that always got a reaction. There weren't very many girls riding their own bike back in 1982.

Mom and dad lived in Toronto, but kept their sailboat near Kingston so that is where I visited them most often. On my first trip to show off my bike, Steve drove with me behind him and my dog Chetta in a milk carton on the back. It was a heavy load for a 400cc bike but it stepped up to the job. Everyone at the yacht club crowded around to see my chromed ride and my dad even took it for a spin.

The second year I had it, my parents let me bring Olaf, my 7 year old brother, from Kingston to Ottawa for a visit. Olaf was a trooper on the back, riding like a pro. Looking back on it I wonder about my parents sanity!

My longest trip was from Ottawa to Niagara Falls with Steve to visit his relatives. It was a long trip, especially the part on the 401 with driving rain and transport trucks pushing us around. That was the sort of freedom that I could do without!

I had my bike for a few years, then circumstances and money made me sell it.

On a side note, my father got a Harley several years later, and my mom got her motorcycle license when she turned 57, along with a little bike of her own.

Finally, in the words of Arlo Guthrie "I don't want a pickle, I just want to ride my motor-cicle"

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