Monday, October 24, 2016

Facing fear on the back of a motorcycle

The Honda Valkyrie
Morning comes too early. The alarm sounds this truth. Rousing from the warmth of my bed, I slide cold feet into velvet soft slippers and glide into the bathroom. Groggy eyed, I reach behind the curtain to turn on water. Shivering, I disrobe and enter. The warm against my back feels delightful. I long to stand and soak for days. Instead, I hurry knowing my friend will soon arrive. An adventure has been planned.

After donning clothes and eating breakfast, I hear the sound in my driveway, a low, soft rumble. Swiftly, she rides up parking the Honda Valkyrie with swift skill. She comes in for a few minutes and looks over my clothing. "It's cold outside," she says with emphasis on the word cold. I rethink my wardrobe. Underneath jeans and long sleeve shirt are silk long johns, but my friend has no clue. They're thin but efficient. The jacket. She looks at my jacket and points. "That needs help," she smiles. She's brutally honest at times, but I love that she speaks her mind. I open the closet and rifle through several garments. My hand rests on a down jacket. "Yes," she grins, "that will be best." I yank it from the hanger and slip it on. Instantly feeling like I've gained 20 pounds, I stand looking in her direction. She reassures me and we head out the door.

Me in the bandanna
I walk up to the mass of metal and marvel. This huge motorcycle will be transportation today. She hands me a candy apple red helmet and a pair of  black Harley Davidson leather gloves. The rebel inside me rises. I feel empowered as I slip on the helmet and fasten the chin strap. She climbs on the bike and maneuvers it to face down the long driveway then motions for me to hop on. It's been many years since I've been on a bike. As I throw my right leg up and over the back of the passenger seat, I realize I'm not as limber as I used to be. My hip joint complains. Once seated, she nods and cranks the engine. The motor isn't as loud as I thought it'd be. We coast to the bottom of the drive and I put my hands around her waist. She punches the gas and slips into gear. We're off! Wind whistles and the helmet shifts. The loaner helmet is too big. It will have to do. We speed up and shift into third. The cold surrounds and pushes the bike. I begin to doubt the abilities of my friend. She's 66. Can she hold up this large bike with a passenger in strong wind? What have I gotten myself into???

It started as a joke. We were texting and teasing. We'd only known each other a few months. We met at church. Instantly, I liked her. Conversation was easy between us. We had a lot in common except she was older and a recent widow. As we talked, I found out she was part of Faith Rider's Ministry, a motorcycle group representing Christ. On Friday, she'd shared about an upcoming ride. She texted, "I'll pick you up at 10." I responded with a jovial, "OK." I wasn't expecting a serious reply, but that's how the adventure began when she said, "I'm not kidding."

Outside a swap meet at the bike shop
Discussing our plans for the day
We rode about fifteen miles before I relaxed my grip and stopped being afraid I was going to die. When I was finally able to lean into the ride, I began to enjoy it. The feeling of freedom was amazing! Flying down the road, wind whipping and scenery flashing, I began to realize I'd been struggling with trust issues in my life. Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I'd felt my life was on a very short time line. I'd felt the need to soak up life in record time because I had no idea how much of it I'd have left. Without realizing it, I'd been living my life filtered through a lens of fear. As we continued on, my thoughts turned from visualizing a horrific crash, me flying over handlebars, skidding along pavement, suffering a severe case of road rash, or Heaven forbid broken bones to wonder. The more I thought about it, the picture of two middle aged women speeding through countryside on a humongous bike was comical. Underneath my friend's helmet was a shock of snow white hair...under her shield, a face full of wrinkles. We both had love handles. We were by no means spring chickens...we were more like roasted hens! But here we were, off on a grand adventure throwing caution to the wind and it felt amazing!
The girls and I

An hour or so later, we arrived at our destination. We'd already traveled 50 miles at speeds well over 70 mph. Removing our helmets, we disembarked and stood for a minute letting our wobbly legs gain stability. As the other members of our party arrived, we entered a small cafe, the 27th Grill. It was just a hole in the wall, a typical biker joint. We took a table near the back of the restaurant and a young boy came to take our drink orders. He was such a nice, polite young man. Speaking through a mouth full of braces, he explained the daily specials. We opted for burgers and fries. While our food was cooking, we tried to smooth and rearrange our helmet hair. Nothing much could be done, so we opted for bandannas to cover our plastered locks. Once again, I had to laugh at myself. Here I stood in a dingy, dirty biker bar dressed in jeans, black leather boots, a black leather vest, and a bright purple bandanna. I felt like I'd stepped into an old movie and all that was missing was a beer brawl, cigarette smoke, thugs in the corner, and a pack of bearded, tattooed men lined up outside.
Our little waiter at the greasy spoon

We sat down to eat, my three friends and I, and bowed our heads to pray. Our server, stopped out of reverence, and stood patiently as we completed our blessing. Timidly, he placed our plates in front of us and asked if we needed anything else. We waved him away with a smile and devoured our food. The food wasn't good but we were hungry. We took our time chatting and went over plans for the rest of the trip. After taking bathroom breaks, we hopped back on the bikes and took off.

By now I was feeling very comfortable on the back of the Valkyrie. It almost felt too good and I began to wonder if I should become a permanent part of this Christian ministry. Wouldn't it be wonderful to ride every weekend sharing my faith with complete strangers? I was seriously considering speaking with the leader when our ride was over.

The road began to twist and turn as we climbed Pine Mountain. Quickly, I matched my friend's rhythm leaning right then left then right again. As the bike leaned low to the ground, I was amazed at how she was able to control the weight of the motorcycle with ease. What a seasoned pro! The Fall color was breathtaking as we pulled into an overlook to enjoy the view. Beautiful hues of yellow, orange, and gold dotted the sides of the mountain. The heavenly blue sky made a scenic backdrop. I wanted to sit and absorb the view forever.
The Faith Riders logo

We'd been riding for several hours and I was starting to get tired. The constant sunshine had not only kept me warm but had also caused me to get sleepy. I felt my muscles loosening and almost dropped the grip from my partner's waist a few times on the way back as I began to drift off. Halfway home, our friends split off as they waved goodbye. Now we were lone lady riders, exhausted but content.

When we ended our journey, I thanked my friend for a wonderful experience then watched her drive away. This was the first time I'd ever traveled over 100 miles in a day on the back of a motorcycle. Walking to my front door, my legs felt like jello. I was shaky and ready to fall into my recliner and rest a while.

As I removed my down jacket, long johns, and boots, I looked into the mirror. Before me stood a stranger...a biker chick in a purple bandanna. "Who are you and how did you get here?" I asked myself.  I had absolutely no idea. I didn't have a clue why I'd accepted the invitation to go riding and I didn't realize, until much later in the day, that God had used that motorcycle ride to teach me a few things about trust. I learned sometimes He brings situations into our lives to mold us and shape us. He can use unlikely events or circumstances as teaching tools. Trusting is difficult, especially when we like to have control, but when we learn to relax and let go, we can enjoy the ride.

Do I think I'll ever go on a long motorcycle ride again? Probably not. Was I happy I went? In the long run, yes! It was something I'll never forget - a once in a lifetime trip. Did I conquer my fear? I think I did. I realized God already has a specific day and time picked out for me to die and I'm not going to die one second before then. It wouldn't matter whether I died on the back of a motorcycle or in my kitchen baking cookies, it would be okay because I knew where I would spend eternity.

I've always been a rebel at heart although I haven't always acted the part. If I had a chance for a do-over, I might have learned to ride a motorcycle when I was younger. Riding 100+ miles on the back of a Honda Valkyrie isn't something I ever thought I'd do at the age of 58, but I'm glad I did. The feeling of riding, wind in your face, is very freeing. Who knows what next year will bring but I'm sure I'll be ready for another adventure.

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