What I Learned on the Road to Georgia and Back Again
Or
A Virgin No More

by Michele Reutty
June 2007

It’s almost a year since we started on that fateful trip to Georgia.

Twenty-two souls left and twenty-two souls came back…some changed forever. I feel we were all tested in one way or another—physically, mentally, emotionally...
So what did I learn? How was I tested? And what in me was changed forever?

What I learned:

1. That I can drive a motorcycle in the rain in relative safety.

It’s a little amazing, really. Almost like finding out you can walk on water if you really believe! My first experience riding in the rain was during the last 5 minutes of a commute home from work. I had no gloves on that day, and I felt something sharp, like gravel, bouncing off my hands.

“Damn,” I thought, “Some truck up ahead should have a tarp on over its load.” It was then I realized it was raining and I also realized-

2. Rain Hurts!

That first experience was nothing compared to the deluge I drove through to get to the American Legion to meet Alex, our president, who had offered to put up the three of us “newbies.” As the other ladies lived closer to the start of the trip, I was the only taker.

I put on my rain gear when I left my house. My son had secured my bags and waved good-bye. Before long I was riding in the storm. I met up with Alex and we drove in and out of rain. However, just as the end of our trip was in sight, so was a grayish-greenish cloud, directly over our destination. Like the proverbial bats out of hell, we raced the wind--passing a witch on a bicycle who was laughing maniacally. (Just kidding, Auntie Em.)

Just as we pulled our rides into Alex’s garage, the skies let loose. “Damn!” said Alex. “I was worried we weren’t going to make it!” (Editor: The picture at the right was taken during the 700 mile ride through a "Nor'Easter" that flooded New Jersey and most of the eastern seaboard for two days while the club members were on their way to Athens, Georgia. Some members even had to sit out a tornado in Roanoke, VA before they could contine on to Georgia)

Which brings me to the following lesson:

3. Even seasoned riders get butterflies now and then. And it’s a healthy thing to have respect for your trepidations and gut reactions. An experienced rider asked one of the Newbies, “Are you afraid to ride in the rain?” Yes, was the answer.

The reply by the experienced rider: “Good! I wouldn’t want to ride with someone who said she had no fears.”
You get to an age where you have learned to listen to your heart, your soul, your mind and your body. You trust your instincts and you think for yourself. You will listen to the opinions of others, but ultimately, the decision to ride or not to ride, to speed or stay the limit, to stop at that amber light, or to cruise on though, is yours.

Which brings me to

Lesson #4
Ultimately, you gotta ride your own ride—or not. It took a lot of guts to know when to pack it in. I salute my roommates who made the tough call. They had the courage of their convictions.

Lesson # 5
Carpe’ diem. It also takes guts to know when to seize the day.
I talked to the man at the counter of the Wheels Through Time Museum and expressed my concern over riding The Dragon’s Tail because I was one of the Newbies. “Have you ridden these back roads? The Blue Ridge Parkway?”
I told him we had ridden Route 221, He said, “If you’ve done that, you can do the Dragon’s tail.”

The night before we attempted the Dragon’ Tail, I called a motorcycle buddy in NJ who has been riding since he was a teen. “I’m undecided whether I’m going to ride Deal’s Gap.” My friend began listing all the reasons why I shouldn’t.—lack of experience being #1. I thanked him for his opinion and did it anyway.

When am I going to be back here? I thought. Am I ever going to get this chance again? Not bloody likely. When you have more yesterdays than tomorrows and there’s so much of this beautiful country yet to see--well, sometimes you just have to say, “What the f....”

 

Lesson # 6
You can dance with the mountains! More on this in a future writing, but as I’m leaning into and out of the turns, rises and dips that make up Rt. 221, I’m having this inner monologue:

“Is this the Dragon’s Tail? It MUST be the Dragon’s Tail, with all these twists and turns. Maybe the leaders thought we’d chicken out if they told us how bad this road would be-especially in the rain and the fog. So here I am on the Dragon’s Tail! This IS the Dragon’s Tail, isn’t it??? It’s gotta be the Dragon’s Tail.”

It wasn’t. With the rain and fog it was much more challenging than the “Tail” turned out to be. But it was almost like poetry--riding Rt. 221. Like dancing with the mountains.

 

 

 

Lesson #7, 8, and 9
Never eat at a place called Brush Mountain, never play cribbage against a gal named Cath, and never ever think that you can have a brief conversation with a man who calls himself “The King.”

And Finally:

Lesson # 10-
The value of sisterhood. It was a sister Spokie who, when I expressed doubt that I had the riding skills to make the Georgia trip, said you have everything you need. The older I get the more I appreciate the company of good and strong women. Laughing together, eating together, seeing breath-taking vistas together- Riding in that staggered formation made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself. Something, as the saying goes—the sum of which is bigger than its individual parts.

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