Kathy Gehrhardt

My adventure with motorcycles began back in 1978 when I fell in love with a guy and a 1973 Norton Commando. We rode all over Long Island, but my fondest memory was the night he let me sit up front and steer (it was a red Moto Guzzi on that trip) while we rode along Ocean Parkway, the road that runs along Jones Beach. How we laughed when people stared at the little chick giving the big guy a ride!

The relationship didn’t work out, but I never forgot the feeling of the wind in my face, the smell of the fresh air, the sun on my shoulders and the great people we rode with. Fourteen years and 1,200 miles later, living Minneapolis, I’d see a Norton Commando every spring and summer, parked at the University of Minnesota. I’d think, “Oh, to be 24 again!” and I’d remember the guy and the bike, but those warm memories were quickly buried under the responsibilities of a career and motherhood.

Fast forward another 14 years, and I found myself divorced, the kids grown, a new job, and 1,200 miles from my midwestern home. And the guy was back in my life. We went for wonderful rides along the Delaware River and up into the mountains of Hunterton County. The same feelings of the speed, the wind, the sun and the fresh air made me feel like I was 24 again. I couldn’t wait for the next ride.

I finally realized I loved the bike as much as the guy, and I wanted to ride when I wanted to ride, not just with him and his friends, but to places I wanted to see and to meet my own friends. But I had been convinced that motorcycles were too dangerous, I was too old and distractible, and that motorcycles were for “the guys.” My mother would be real upset, and my kids would think I’d lost my mind. But I knew I needed to try it on my own, so I talked to the one gal I knew who rode, and started looking up motorcycle sites online. She steered me to the MSF class and encouraged me to give it a try. She was the first one I called when I passed.

My little beginner bike got me around, and I practiced the skills they taught in class, but I knew my time with it was limited. I traded up to a 750cc Kawasaki Vulcan, and now I have a vehicle that will allow me to go where I want to go. Now instead of envying others on their bikes, now I can ride too.

I haven’t been riding long, but I am having the best time learning. I can’t wait for weekends, and I plan outings around my bike. The best trip has been to my grad school class at Rutgers, where my classmates were amazed and surprised and had a zillion questions. I meet interesting people everywhere I stop.

My bike is my declaration of independence, and the feeling of freedom is indescribable. I can go out for a few hours and forget about the rest of the world. No matter how much stress my job or grad school can bring, I can go for a ride and it helps me clear my head and put everything into perspective. I’ve found beautiful places in my newly adopted home state, and I’ve met some great women through riding with the Polar Bears. And if my kids think I’m going through a mid-life crisis, so what? I hope this “crisis” never ends!

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