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Mom's Ride

By Greg Smith

We have all heard that lame excuse, "I'm too old for that!" Perhaps it is true for some things. But, it is not necessarily true about experiencing the thrill of a motorcycle ride. I came to this realization when I had the opportunity to give my mother-in-law a ride on the back of my Kawasaki Concours.

I admit that I am exceptionally fortunate in that I truly enjoy my extended family. They are, in many ways, the perfect relatives. Every twelve to eighteen months, they swoop in for a short stay of four or five days. They stay in a hotel, take my wife and me out to very nice dinners and treat us like long lost children. While Mom is out shopping (and often buying) with my wife, Dad attempts to take the money back from me on the golf course. Usually he gets a few dollars in the bargain. After a short stay, they vanish again. They are near-perfect visitors.

Mom is a bit on the adventurous side, and I know that is where my wife gets her nature. But being the responsible parent and adult role model, Mom always keeps that side of herself just slightly bottled. Even still, you can tell she enjoys hearing about the latest ride or trip on the motorcycle. Since I also teach MSF classes on weekends, there is also an interest in that, and a bit more acceptance of the fact that we ride.

I recently picked up my new Concours and naturally wanted to show it off. After a round of golf, I took the folks out to the garage, and received the expected praise about the bike. There was interest, so the next day, I had my wife ask Mom if she would like a ride after we got home from golf. She responded that she would love a ride.

Off to the garage we went! Vicky provided the passenger briefing about where to hold on to me and keeping your feet on the pegs. I added a bit about looking over the correct shoulder in a turn (if you've never had a passenger counter balance a turn, you don't know about pucker factor). Vicky then produced her full face helmet, armored jacket and gloves. She helped Mom get suited up while I did the same and warmed up the motor. You could see that the excitement was starting to mount. Mom had a certain slightly nervous anticipation that you get before doing what you think is a dangerous activity (like jumping off a cliff) for the first time.

I backed the bike out of the garage and got settled, slipping the passenger pegs down. Vicky helped Mom climb aboard and get situated. Vicky snapped a few photos of Mom on a motorcycle and off we went. It was going to be a short ride back to their hotel, but I took a back way to go through a couple of nice sweeping turns and an S-turn nearby. I wanted to give Mom the thrill of a ride but wasn't sure how she would handle it and didn't want to scare her off. I thought ten or twelve miles would be plenty for a first ride.

Mom firmly held my waist, and slid as close as she could get. It felt like she was holding on for her life. Rolling down the first hill, we accelerated up to third gear. I tried to keep it as smooth as I possibly could, but even then Mom's head bounced forward with almost every shift. We rolled to the bottom of the hill, and another right, then rolled back on. Shift, shift, and bounce bounce. We stopped again, then rolled onto a quick left, and shifted on up to fourth. Mom's head was bouncing on my back the whole way! Into the left half of the S-curve, rolling on smoothly, then straightening up, and downshifting back to third for the right side. Lean over, then some more and roll on all the way through. It is a fun turn, even with a novice on back, but I did keep it a bit slower than normal, focusing on proper technique. I could almost feel the grin on Mom's face through my helmet at the end of the turns.

We left the residential areas and rolled on to the surface streets. Accelerating up to sixth, Mom's hands had slid down, and she was starting to relax. I guess she realized I wasn't trying to kill her or scare her to death. I concentrated on being nice and smooth and using good technique to change lanes or pass slower vehicles.

It wasn't long before we were to the turn for their hotel. Mom had relaxed, and was enjoying the ride. Then she realized where we were, and exclaimed "we're here already?" She was having fun and lost track of the time. I am often guilty of that on a bike too. On a motorcycle, time seems to go by faster.

We rolled into the parking lot where Vicky and Dad were waiting for us. Leaning well into the ninety-degree right turn from the street, I rolled on through. Then we had just the U-turn around the median into the lot and we were done.

In the parking lot, Mom was so excited she couldn't remember how to get on and off the bike. Truly, I think she wanted to keep going! After a bit of help, Mom finally came off the back, and began to remove the gear. She was so excited, she was bouncing! Nervous energy and adrenaline had her so high, she could hardly see straight! She kept thanking me and finally gave me a big hug. Even Dad could see that she was giddy as a schoolgirl! He even commented that she was now going to want a leather jacket and a helmet! Next time they come down, I will have to make time to take a longer ride with Mom.

I know I earned a few points with both Mom and my wife that day. Some day, when a new piece of riding gear or some other trinket appears in my garage or follows me home, I will need those points. In the meantime, I have earned a few extra credit points by framing the photo of us on the bike, and printing extra copies from the computer, so Mom will have something to show when she brags about this to her friends back home. I know on the next visit, I will have to make time for a longer ride with her, and I look forward to it.

GS/Spring 2001


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