Note: The story that follows, while it does tell the actual story of how I got my own Harley, also contains some fiction in the details of the ride. I share it here because this story also has a story. I had submitted it to a couple of motorcycle magazines, and it was actually accepted by one! I think the magazine was called Harley Angels, and it was devoted to women riders. I had some encouraging correspondence with the editor, and it was slated to be included in their next issue. Here’s the funny part: The magazine went out of business and that issue was never published! So here’s my almost previously published story.
ME AND MY HARLEY
“It will be your Christmas gift this year,” Doug said on that cool September Monday when I got home from work. “But we’ll get it now so you can get in some riding time before the weather cools.” I was dumbfounded as we piled into the car and headed for Manchester. “You can pick out anything in the store,” he said. I still didn’t know whether to believe him or not, but we entered the Harley Davidson dealership and began the search.
I knew I wanted an XL883, the smallest bike made by Harley. We did a quick walk-through first to see how many 883’s we would have to choose from. “Here’s a dark green one, and over there is a brand new black one,” Doug pointed out. A little more browsing revealed two more, a blue one and an older black one. Now all I had to do was choose.
“Which one do you want?” I glanced from bike to bike, and they all seemed wonderful. This wasn’t going to be easy.
On my third trip past the long row of the large, full-sized machines, a distinctive customized motorcycle caught my eye. It was low, and sexy, the black gas tank emblazoned with purple flames, with matching flames sewn into the black leather saddle. It was beautiful, and on a closer look I saw that it was an 883. Somehow we had missed it when we were first looking, but I knew instantly that this was the one I wanted. It was shiny and sleek, slender and well balanced, and it was definitely a lady’s bike.
My hands shook as the salesman allowed me to fasten the SOLD tag onto the handlebars. The phrase, “My Harley” kept ringing through my head.
Two days later, I sat tall on the seat, admiring the “Live to Ride, Ride to Live” trademark intricately embossed on the silver gas cap. This is my Harley; I was beginning to believe it. And the weather would still be warm for a few more weeks.
September in New Hampshire is an amazing time of year, as leaves change from green to yellow one day, and then to blazing and glorious the next. The whole world is bright and the air is cold and crisp, like that first crunchy fall apple. Back roads twist up hills and through blazing forest that once was farm pasture, winding around old stone walls and grizzled cemeteries. My Harley and I would get to know one another as we explored these places, leaning together through curves, wanting to drive along these roads forever. We’re alone as we travel through time; what contrast we are, purple flames and fringed black leather riding through age-old towns that were settled two hundred years ago. It’s so easy to forget where I am as I cruise along, lost in my own thoughts.
I wind my way into a village I’ve never seen before. How much time has gone by? How many miles have I traveled? I’ve lost track. I look around, and nothing looks familiar. I park the bike on the side of the road, and walk across the street to explore the picturesque little town, complete with white church and spire. A graveyard lies silently among a large stand of tall pines, names and weeping willows carved on neat rows of ancient, thin headstones. White colonial houses, some with fences, most with porches, circle protectively around the village green as though to keep strangers away. My feet rustle through the fallen leaves as I walk across the grass, kicking waves of yellow, red and orange ahead of me. There are still a lot of leaves left on the trees, I notice, but they’ll probably fall with the next gusts of wind or rain, leaving only skeletons to frame the sky with stiff, brittle limbs. There are no people around to talk to, and suddenly I notice there are no dogs or cats, either. I walk slowly around the empty village, stretching my legs and wondering about this place.
What was it like here two hundred years ago? No motorcycles, of course, just horses and carriages. Long skirts and button shoes, and fancy hats for both men and women. How different it must have been. I lean against an old iron fence and think about the past. Was it better then, or just different? I fantasize about my Harley, how it would be if it were a time machine, hurling me back to these slower, easier times, or forward to . . . forward to what? I sigh, wondering what I’d like to travel forward to. I shake my head to get rid of cobwebs, and resume my walk, this time retracing my steps back to the shiny motorcycle waiting for me across the street.
No time machine, this Harley, but in a way it has propelled me into a future I never could have imagined just a few short years ago. Change can be such an amazing thing, scary and exciting at the same time, making one feel brave and afraid, knowing everything and knowing nothing. Change arrives welcomed and unwanted amid chaos and discomfort — all these things, all at the same time. When you’re in change, you might not even know it, but then you come through to the other side, and there it is behind you, big and solid and behind you, and you might even wonder what the seed was that made it grow. My Harley wasn’t a seed of change, but it certainly is a fruit, a reward for some years of darkness and conflict. I have broken through my own cocoon of change, ready for the freedom and the power and the celebration that is my Harley Davidson motorcycle.
There it is, my trusty steed, and I mount it, pulling it up straight, and going through the startup routine. FINE. F — fuel on, I — ignition on, N — gears in neutral, E — engine switch on. Everything’s set, and I push the starter, listening for that trademark Harley roar. I twist the right handgrip twice to let the machine announce its presence one more time. Then I push the kickstand with my left heel, ease out on the clutch with my left hand, and feel the forward movement, at first slightly, then more as I accelerate and I’m on my way home through the September autumn. It’s getting dark and the temperature has dropped quickly, too quickly.
Soon it will be too cold to ride. The roadways will be icy, and snow will cover the bankings. Motorcycles will be covered and stored away for the winter, hibernating until early spring sunshine warms the blood and wakes sleeping souls.
But not yet, not yet. There’s still warmth during the daylight, and the early morning frost is thin and melts quickly. I can still ride. I won’t surrender yet to winter’s chilling conquest. I will bundle up in the morning to drive to work, as the wind slaps my face in the biting early cold. This is my time, and I will savor the feeling of freedom and power and celebration. I’ve earned it.