The summer my father bought me a motorcycle was one of the most adventurous and memorable summers of my life. I arrived for a visit with him in Tennessee from Michigan for a much needed vacation from the chaos that was my life senior summer of high school. The motorcycle was sitting outside his home-tel and at first I was confused thinking he had gotten himself a new motorcycle, then realized it was a Buell Blast- the very bike I wanted for myself. Ecstatic I waited impatiently for my dad to be done with his day so that we could ride.
It had been a year since I had received my CY endorsement and needed to reacquaint myself with the handlebars engine tires and pavement. After a couple spills in a parking lot caused by hesitation instigated from uncertainty I was once again one with the bike- and nobody could stop me. My father planned this long trek across the eastern and middle southern states for us to ride over the course of a couple weeks. My anticipation as palpable; there is no better sensation than riding a motorcycle wherever there is road and not really caring where you ended up that night.
We camped at night and rode all day. We stopped to eat and gas up but for little else. We passed fields cities cars other motorcyclists and wrapped around mountains. I saw more of the United States in those two weeks than I may ever see again before my own son is old enough to take a similar trip with me- and for this I am grateful. My father and I bonded over this time talking about philosophy psychology and mythology. We stared at the stars with cigars and enjoyed tall glasses of water with meals. There was never a dull moment even in everyday happenings because it was not every day.
Though the entirety of our getaway was something to be remembered I will never forget one woman who renewed my faith in humanity after I had been cynical for too long. If I could somehow share with her the profound impact she had on me that afternoon I would- she is one of those people who are long gone from my life but forever with me through memory. Perhaps one day she will stumble upon this post and be aware of whom she is and what she means to me. My plan is to teach my son of this woman and her act of kindness to make him ware that it takes so little to be remembered by one person in a positive way- being remembered is, after all, what is left in the end.
Quite a few days into our journey we were riding on the express way trying to make up for lost time from a day and a half of rest spent watching some races showering in a hotel and gorging on nutrition. The skies that weren’t clear to begin with began darkening and winds kicked up suddenly. Previously we were both riding one handed enjoying the freedom a motorcycle can so graciously give. We exchanged a glance braced both hands on our handlebars and pressed on. Our thinking was that it would just be some rain and nothing to be concerned about- ride on. I’m certain what came next was the last thing expected by both.
Instead of a small drizzle of rain or even a downpour that would have been manageable in a short burst- tiny shards of hail began pummeling us incessantly. If you’ve ever been hailed on while standing outside I’m sure you know that if those sharp little buggers hit you on just the right nerve it can hurt. Imagine traveling at 80 miles per hour completely exposed aside from your head and having to keep in mind others bewilderment traveling at the same speed in vehicles far larger than yourself. With it being summer and in the southern regions I was surprised to be interrupted so abruptly with hail. We rode on for about ten minutes before giving each other the “okay I’ve had enough this shit hurts” signal. We rode until we came upon a bridge we could park under until the bizarre summer storm had passed. It had to have been at least five more minutes before we stopped.
By the time we safely stood our motorcycles up under the bridge and sat motionless aside from buzzing nerves both my father and I were drenched welted and exhausted. When your only form of transportation subjects you to the conditions sunlight rain insects- or hail apparently- and home is far away it can be the most draining activity there is. Sighing my dad pulled out a cigar and we both began puffing in silence. Neither of us ever capable for sitting still for terribly long we began to pace from one end of the bridge to the other, laying our sodden coats out to dry and willing the storm to pass quickly.
The storm lasted at least an hour if not longer. We watched idly- commenting on the ferocity Mother Nature had out on humankind this afternoon, conversing over the different types of cars that also decided to park under our bridge, and the people unhappily making phone calls waving arms about. Eventually cars were lined up outside the bridge unable to continue onto their destination through the onslaught; some of these people even got out of their car to join us and others standing or sitting under the bridge. The whole spectacle was fascinating for us- observing the human in foreign chaotic habitat. Then a van found a spot to park under the bridge.
This van was white with light blue cheap detail and wasn’t an impressive vehicle by any means. What is impressive about the van is the woman operating it. My dad and I back to sitting beside our coats that were not getting any drier watched this woman remove herself from the driver’s side and surprisingly walk right up to us. She asked us if the two bikes were ours and we told her about our journey. Impressed she was very lively and excited for us and our adventure. She felt much like a tornado in the midst of a possible tornado but we both thoroughly enjoyed her pleasantries. She noticed our saturated clothes threw her hands in the air and exclaimed that she had something for us. As she walked back to her van my dad and I looked at each other and shrugged waiting for her return.
We watched as she hauled another young woman who looked much like her out of the passenger side, opened the back doors to her van and pulled out three towels. She approached us with the spare towels and instructed us to dry off so that we wouldn’t catch a chill; we did so then draped the towels over our shoulders- saving one for wiping off the bikes. Now, I was a slight girl and cold weasels itself down into my bones very easily so at this point with the storm not letting up and denied the heat of sunlight I was trembling uncontrollably. The next thing this woman did astounded everybody present.
She unzipped the purple fleece she was wearing and handed it right over to me. Shocked I quickly turned down the item and swore that once the storm passed I would be well- but she insisted. My father thanked her and motioned for me to take the jacket, so I did. Putting the thing on I was finally enveloped in warmth and couldn’t have been happier. I thanked her profusely and snuggled down into the purple fleece. After this she smiled wished us safe and well then returned to her van- shortly after driving away. My father and I watched a few moments more as people began continuing on their way with the storm letting up. Eventually we decided to resume our travels as well with only a slight drizzle lingering and sunshine peeking through clouds.
I had heard about people with such a big heart that they would give anyone in need the shirt off their back but in eighteen years I had never once met this kind of person. For a while I just reflected on her action and what events took place in her life that made her such a generous and selfless individual. My dad and I talked a little about her and she continued to be a staple in our conversations for the rest of that trip. When we both returned to our homes, his in Tennessee and mine in Michigan, she was the first person mentioned by either of us before anything else. Sure the mosquitoes were hungry, people strange, days long, and nights beautiful, but she made an impact.
To this day, fourteen years later, I have that purple fleece hanging in my closet. I wear it when I think of that woman whose name I wish to one day recall; but I’ve always been terrible with names. That fleece is a symbol of faith if there ever was one- confirmation of the virtuous and impervious to cruelties. That purple fleece was my armor for a long time until mine own was repaired.