Life and motorcycles

NJ & Me

On July 28, 2019, my husband and I went to our favorite motorcycle dealer and purchased my dream bike – a 2019 Triumph Street Scrambler.  

We have been visiting her for about 6 months now… she has an old school look about her, and her 900 cc engine hums with a power that is strong, yet humble.  Her tires are fat and comfortable – ready to take on a dirt road with abandon or cruise every highway in America just because.

I test rode a beautiful red Triumph Scrambler several months ago.  After my challenging relationship with my first bike, the KTM 390 Duke – aka – Poppy, who was feisty and seemed to demand more than I was at ease to give.  I wanted to make this purchase carefully.  

I was torn between the Triumph and the Honda NC700 DCT.  I forget what DCT stands for but it means it was an automatic.  No shifting seemed like a really good idea after Poppy’s sensitive clutch and demand for heavy throttle left me lurching to a stall on a semi-regular basis.  

The Honda was an easy bike with a reputation for reliability.  Just get on and ride; how simple.  But the Triumph was cool in a way that sparked something in me.  Being cool hasn’t mattered to me in a long time – maybe it was time to change that.  Her clutch was easy thanks to hydraulics and her gears are long. What I mean by that is that first gear can get me through an intersection,  second gear can take me easily to the flow of traffic, but it also slows me down to a near stop… I think the word I’m looking for is range.   Each gear covers a broad range that makes the ride more about the relationship with the road than the relationship with the bike.

After that test ride, I even had a name picked out.  I would name it Forrest, after my golden retriever who passed in 2017. 

Forrest (the dog) was incredible.  He was gentle, but could spring to life in his youth and outrun every dog on the beach.  He was my best friend, always happy to be near me, always thrilled to go for a walk.  

He was named for the character Forrest Gump due to his humble way of loving and the opening/closing scene in the movie of a feather that floated down with ease, swirling and meandering as the wind carried it.  As a puppy he was so docile, but when he saw one of the downy feathers that float in the offshore breeze he would go into attack mode.  I don’t know why, but that’s what first made me think of the name Forrest…. And that’s the quality I saw in the bike, faithful, powerful, gentle – something that would be my best friend and teach me to see life in a brand new way. 

But I make decisions slowly.  My husband and I had a dream vacation coming up to Israel.  I made a deal with myself, vacation first, then choose.

The day after we returned from Israel, my mother died.  I found myself in a whirlwind of grief, jetlag, decisions and memories.  Buying a motorcycle fell to the wayside. 

After Mom’s memorial I went to visit my best friend in North Dakota.  It is quiet in North Dakota and no one would ask me how I was feeling.  I could be anonymous there. 

She took me to Roosevelt National Park.  We saw endless skies, space and beauty that helped my soul process things.  She let me talk through my feelings, some more complicated than others, with love and gentleness.  I saw many riders there too, and dreamed of being there on a bike myself one day.

We kayaked down the Missouri River… much like the Triumph motorcycle it is powerful yet humble.  Our kayak was more of a float than a workout as the river carried us downstream with me bouncing from one subject to the next most of the time.  Riding can feel like that.

I wished I had brought some of my mothers ashes with me.  I wanted her to come along to see the beauty and become a part of it.  I wanted to share my world with her…  as if to give her the life she didn’t get to live.

When I returned home, we stopped by the motorcycle shop after church. The beautiful red bike sat next to a subtle green one.  The red was a model year behind.  The dealer said the 2019 was virtually the same but with a slight increase in power.  He encouraged me to ride both.  

I went with red first.  Forrest.  Then the green one.  Red, green, one wouldn’t think it would matter, yet the green one felt somehow smoother and it had a warmth about it… a literal warmth from the engine that I liked.  After a bit of pondering, I chose the green one.

Now, when I say green, I mean forest green.  Somehow, the name Forrest seemed ordinary and unimaginative on a forest green bike.  Forrest the dog was red.  The motorcycle dealer said motorcycles need girl names too, which I knew, but was willing to ignore for the red bike.

I rode it home and fell deeper in love with the experiences we would have.  Riding this motorcycle was like skiing down a slope or kayaking down the Missouri.  There is a power about it and control.  There is a challenge and a conquering elation as the scenery emerges and blurs past.  I can feel the wind beneath my wings.

My mother had a beautiful voice.  As I thought that thought the song, “Wind Beneath My Wings” came to mind.  In my heart, I could still hear her singing it along with Bette Milder on the car stereo. 

As I rode and felt the assurance of the Triumph with the duet playing in my head, me in control, my mother, the wind beneath my wings… memories past began to merge with memories to come.  This bike would be called Nancy Jean.  I would explore and discover beauty on her, and she would give me the wings to do it….. so much like my mother.