The Rest Stop Romeo
by Carmela Parker
returning member of Spokes Women MC

September 2007

I am 60 years old, and have been riding for 35 years now, the last 18 on Gold Wings. I’m currently on my third GL1200. This model has been out of production since 1987 so when I got the first one it was relatively new. This latest one is a 21 year old bike that was a gift from my kids when I returned to NJ after living in Texas for many years. I like to think we’ve aged gracefully(?) together, my Wings and I.

On these bikes I’ve toured all but 5 states in the middle of the country, but have been in every other state and Canada… I really like to ride. I've only had two real mishaps in all those years… one was a flat tire doing 70 MPH on I-20 in Louisiana while riding alone from NJ to TX... which thanks to having taken several MSF/ERC courses over the years, I handled well and was not hurt. The other was a month ago exiting Judy and Tam’s driveway in first gear, when I shot across their lane and rode up on some rocks and fell over… either the clutch did not disengage or malfunctioned as Tam diagnosed while helping get this 700+ lb. bike upright and moved, or it was pilot error due to senility setting in… I’m leaning towards the clutch theory myself.

Back in the early 90’s I had been divorced for about 10 years and was raising 3 children by myself, two were in college and one had graduated already. I had left AT&T after many years there and opened my own business, a child care center for 180 children on Davidson Ave. in Somerset NJ. The business was a great success, giving me freedom to ride more often. I joined a club called AWRRA - American Women’s Road Riders Alliance. At the first meetings I attended the women were discussing seceding from this national group and forming their own club. There were some funny suggestions for a club name… Jersey Tomatoes, Vicious Cycles, but Spokes Women won the vote. The club began using my daycare center for meetings, and I was President for a little bit in there somewhere.

So why did I leave and return??? Here’s the story…

I took off on a tour with a friend in 1994. On this trip we didn’t plan our route more than a day or two ahead...just took a few weeks off, packed the saddle bags and trunk, bungeed the tent and bedrolls on the back seat, and each morning pulled out the map and decided where that day would take us. The trip ended up being about 7000 miles. We left New Jersey, rode back and forth in a south-westerly direction, over the Rockies, to the Grand Canyon, then debated going on to California. We decided to head south instead to see the Alamo. It turned out to be a life changing decision. As we left Texas and entered Louisiana on I-10 (we were about 5000 miles into our trip) we hollered at each other on the CBs… “this rest stop or the next one”, and decided we couldn’t make it to the next one. As we pulled in, there were three other Gold Wings there, so of course we stopped to chat. There were two couples and one single man, James Parker, all from La Grange Texas on their way to a Gold Wing Road Riders Association. (GWRRA) annual state rally in Baton Rouge. We decided to travel with them to the rally.

Now I had escaped from an abusive alcoholic husband when I was divorced, I was free and happy and I was absolutely not out there looking for another man, or love, or anything remotely like it. But this Jim Parker was just a quiet gentle man, not what I’d been used to, and I enjoyed his company. We got to know each other a little that weekend, but soon they were heading back to Texas and we were heading home to NJ. But I stayed in touch with one of the women and a year later she invited me to visit. So, at age 47 or so, I hopped on my Wing and winged it from NJ to TX on my first long solo flight to visit her and her husband… 3500 miles round trip (discovered the freedom and peace of solo touring), and of course I met James again, got to know him better and we all went to the same rally in Baton Rouge again that year. It was meaningful to us that out of 7000 miles on that first trip when we’d met, I just happened to be at the same rest stop in Louisiana at the same time as Jim… that if I’d gone on to California as we almost it wouldn’t have happened, heck if I’d stayed 5 minutes longer anywhere on the trip, slept in 5 minutes later one morning, or turned right instead of left somewhere… we never would have met.

Over the next year or so I made that trip from NJ to TX and back by myself several more times, then finally sold the daycare center and moved down to Texas. We married on the town square, all Jim’s (and by then my) friends lined their bikes up to form an aisle leading up to the gazebo, with satin ribbons strung from handle-bar to handle-bar. We walked up that aisle in jeans and boots and western hats (mine with a big old bow made of netting hanging down my back like a veil – whatta hoot!) and were married by a rider friend who was also a minister, then had a Texas reception– a barbeque buffet… what else? We packed our bikes and rode to NJ where my kids gave us a reception at the Colorado Café, and on to a Bed & Breakfast in Vermont for our honeymoon. And although I can’t say I liked living in rural Texas, and I desperately missed my family and friends (I moved back to care for my grandbabies - # 6 coming in Dec. - so they wouldn’t have to go to a daycare… isn’t that ironic) and am never ever ever leaving NJ again (except for motorcycle tours), Jim is a good and decent man (who is moving to NJ when he retires), and I was blessed to find a kind and loving husband waiting for me in that rest stop… and so to his everlasting embarrassment he is affectionately known among those rider friends in Texas as… “the rest stop romeo”.

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