Step It Up
It’s a cool day in late September as I ride up Interstate 35 in Oklahoma for the third time in 24 hours. But now the bike has fresh fluids and the stripped screws on the derby cover have been replaced with new ones. Thanks goes out to the club for the help, I’d still be stuck without their help. It’s only 5 hours after I thought I’d be on the road, but with the late start, the cobwebs are beginning to subside, another thanks goes out to the club.
As I get to the little town of Tonkawa near the border of Kansas, I decide it’s time for a very late breakfast. I pull into one of the zombie fast food places that I normally would have avoided if it wasn’t for the delay. I whip the bike into the vacant spot in front of the entrance and drop in line behind the rest of the sheep. As I’m waiting in the stiles, I see the small form of a lady looking out of the glass into the parking lot. The kid behind the counter calls out an order breaking her gaze. As she turns, I see that she has a big smile. Her face has a look of years, but you can tell the years have been great, as I look into her face, all I see are smile lines.
As she walks by me I get an even closer look, she’s around 5’4 at best. Her salt and pepper hair is pushed back as if she had been riding with it in a ponytail, then I notice her clear hazel eyes. She has spirit in her step as she walks, from looking at her, you can see the beauty she has in her. As she’s approaching the counter, her eyes turn, looking into mine, without losing a step she gives me a nod as she passes by.
As I’m getting my fixings for my sandwich, I see her grabbing some napkins and a straw. The next thing I realize is that she has walked up to me, she asks if the bike is mine as she is looking out of the window again. I say “yes ma’am.” She says with a fondness “Before my husband passed, we rode all the time.” Before I could say my condolences for the loss of her husband, she turns and heads back to her table. After I finish prepping my food, I walk towards the tables, I notice her happily eating her lunch. So I approach her table asking if she would mind company for lunch, she says “That would be lovely.”
As I sit, she asks where I’m traveling to. I tell her that someone I met in Oklahoma City had said before I leave the state that I should see Alabaster Caverns. She agrees that since I’m this close, I should definitely make a point to stop. She asks where I started my ride from. I tell her about getting laid off while working in Montana and deciding it would be nicer in Daytona Beach, Florida. Bike week versus stranded in the snow for the rest of the Winter. She agrees with my decision saying they used to make all of the big rallies. She names off some of her favorites, Sturgis, BBQ, Daytona, Texas, Laconia, and Myrtle Beach. Then she asks where my next destination was after Alabaster? I say “No real destination, I’m riding around the country learning as much of it as possible. But since I’ve ridden through Oklahoma I had to ride Nebraska completing the lower 48 states.” She asks how many miles have I ridden so far. I inform her that so far on this trip I’ve ridden over 30,000 miles. She leans back, sizing me up and says that I need to step it up. She tells me that for years, she rode her own bike, but after a time, she realized how much she hated not being on the back of the bike holding on to the love of her life. Then she gets a shit-eating grin saying that, since she got back on her husband’s bike alone, she’s ridden over 700,000 miles.
She starts telling about some of the amazing things she’s seen from the back of a bike. I sit there in awe of her life and the love she had for him and the ride. Everything her and her husband did was so they could ride, each working 60 plus hours a week so the weekend would be clear for the ride. With every word, she has a glow coming from her, I could sit listening for days. She looks down at her watch and jumps up saying “If I keep running on, I’m going to miss my doctor’s appointment.”
As we reach the parking, lot she gives my bike a walk around shaking her head in approval. I offer her a ride if she wants, she gives her biggest smile lowering her head. As she raised her head, she says that if she were 20 years younger and single, she would miss her doctor’s appointment for a ride with me.
As we say our goodbyes she steps in giving me a giant hug, thanking me for the conversation, and walks to her car. As I sit on my bike watching her drive away, I realize how lucky I was to have had problems with the oil change. Spending these brief moments with her is one of the most amazing things in my life.