My Aunt Lauretta is 82 years old. While that in itself may not seem remarkable, the fact that she looks and acts about ten years older than me at most is impressive considering that I am not even close to 72. With my mom being gone for over fifteen years now she is probably the closest thing I have to a mother figure in my life although my wife does her best by trying to ground me once in awhile. While having no motorcycle background at all she has become a huge fan of my blogs and always seems to dish out enough praise to make this aspiring writer blush.
My aunt was married to my Uncle Bud for 60 years and much like my wife and I they were not only husband and wife but best friends as well until my uncle’s unfortunate passing a couple of years ago. Despite never owning a motorcycle I think my uncle was a motorcyclist at heart as he was always game for a road trip and loved to hit the open road whenever possible. It wasn’t unusual for my aunt and uncle to head out for groceries and end up two hours away or head out for a Sunday drive and end up somewhere like Maine. Yes, I think if my uncle had ever tried two wheels, he would have been perfectly at home cruising the highways on an old Harley or a Goldwing.
A few months ago, Lauretta was finally cleaning out Bud’s closet after avoiding the task for a couple of years. During the process she had come across a nearly new leather vest and was wondering if I would like it. I of course said yes and as our conversation continued, she mentioned that she had never taken a ride on a motorcycle. Now please remember that deserved or not my nickname is Tumblin Todd. It is really the equivalent of finding out your surgeon’s nickname is Shaky or that your pilot is known for being blind as a bat. Despite the daunting nickname it didn’t take much convincing to get her to say yes to going for a ride and before I knew it a story was born.
A date and time were set and true to form my aunt showed up right on time although I was a bit confused when she hopped out of the car. I was expecting my little church going aunt, clutching her purse and perhaps offering me a butterscotch candy. Instead, I got a knockoff of Gemma Teller Morrow as she headed up the driveway wearing knee high leather boots, a leather jacket and I feel ashamed for outing her here, but I swear I caught just a glimpse of a new tattoo on the back of her neck. I set her up with one of Braden’s old helmets and then I put on my uncle’s vest so we could pose for a picture. Despite no doubt feeling a bit nervous she was anxious to get going so after a bit of coaching on how to sit like a sack of potatoes on the back and not to fight me in the corners, we were off.
I had originally planned a ride of about 45 minutes, but she talked me into 30 minutes instead so although our route was going to change slightly, I was positive that I could take her on a nice cruise with some beautiful scenery. At the very start of the ride, I could sense her nervousness, so I did my best to ride slow and smooth. The first stop sign we came to was on a bit of a downhill slope and as I geared down and slowed the bike, I could feel her sliding a bit closer. Rolling away from the stop sign she slid back a bit to her original position on the seat and it seemed like she relaxed just a little. When we hit our first red light, I flipped up my visor to talk and this seemed to calm her down a bit more. By the time we hit our third red light on the way out of the city she was chatting like a school girl every time we stopped and I almost felt guilty as when the light turned green and I pulled away she would still be talking to me but I could no longer hear her.
As we got onto the winding country roads, she was fighting me a bit in the corners but to be honest that was fully expected. If I leaned into a right hander, she would tighten her grip with her left hand and try to pull herself slightly the other way. Of course, if I leaned into a left hander, she would do the same thing with her right hand but all in all it was quite manageable. About fifteen minutes into our journey, she really seemed to relax and start enjoying herself. It was like a trip down memory lane as almost everywhere we went she had a comment that tied into the past. She pointed out where my uncle had once lived, where he had worked at a marina and where my dad had once raced stock cars at a racetrack that has been gone for many decades. Many places we passed on our ride she had not seen in years and it no doubt brought memories flooding back of driving these same roads with my uncle. As our ride neared its completion, I could tell by her body language that she was now quite comfortable back there and really enjoying herself. I even managed to get her to start waving to oncoming motorcyclists and I chuckled at that for a few minutes.
Overall, I think the ride was a great success. I don’t think she loved the onramp to the highway quite as much as I did but she did say that she really enjoyed the ride. She said she understands why people like to ride so much and imagined how great the breeze must feel on a warm summer day. I apologize to my cousins Michele and Wendy for not asking your permission to do this with your mom. Please don’t hate me. I took it very easy on the ride and we never even went over 100. Well not much over anyway.
One more flashback to that vest I mentioned earlier. Don’t think my aunt noticed but when I put my jacket on for the ride, I kept the vest on underneath. I would like to think that somehow my uncle was along for the ride with us as well.
- From Todd Vallee