by Carmela Parker
I have been riding for 35 years now. I started in 1973 and didn’t go too far afield at first because I didn’t know any women who rode or any men for that matter. Having taught myself to ride I mostly just went out alone when I could get away and rode locally. In the early 80’s I started working at AT&T and I joined the Long Distance Riders there, and met Marilyn in that club. We became friends and together we got “out there” and spent the next 10 years touring America and venturing into surrounding countries. We had many adventures over those years...Wingin’ it together on our Gold Wings.
Then on one trip – a 7000 mile tour of the south and southwest, I met Jim, a Texan. For two years I rode from New Jersey to Texas and back, by myself and then when I moved there, I rode from Texas to New Jersey and back which amoubnted to a total about seven or eight trips by myself and also a few more with Jim when he could get off work. Then he and I toured for a few years before we became fulltime caregivers for his mom during the last three years I lived in Texas. I’ve been in most every state, obviously many more than once and never trailered the bike because I always rode. When I started I was a young mother of three. Now I’m a granny of six. I’ve put a total of 225,000+ miles on all my bikes. So, I’ve collected more than a few stories from my travels. I thought I’d write a few articles to share some of these stories.
The Natchez Trace Parkway was an ancient trail that connected southern portions of the Mississippi River, through Alabama, to salt licks in today's central Tennessee. Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory when he mysteriously died on the Natchez Trace in 1809 at Grinder's Stand in Tennessee. A monument was erected in his honor in 1848 and can be seen along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Most of the way on the Trace you have to exit to buy gas or find lodging, which is why I was riding thru some little town in Mississippi looking for gas and a place to stay the night. I found the most beautiful old hotel, a real ‘hotel’ not motel, with lace curtains and rocking chairs in the parlor, the only phone was in the hallway and there was no TV’s at all. I sat on the veranda in the evening drinking delicious home made lemonade and talked with the owners. I learned lots of local history and heard great stories. I really love seeing America like this, up close and personal.
I needed gas and I was directed to a gas station… one pump outside a small shack-like store and went in to pay before pumping. There were little children sitting on the steps eating fried chicken, and playing in the yard. There was also a very old black gentleman sitting in a chair drinking something moon-shiney from a jar. His skin was like a roadmap of wrinkles, his eyes were clouded over, and he had a toothless smile. I was pumping gas into my Wing, which at that time was a blue one, with my name airbrushed on the trunk with butterflies on the sides. This old gentleman approached and ran his hand over the back of the bike and said “ooooh it’s so pretty”. He smiled, and kept stroking the bike and asking me how it feels to ride on such a thing. When I’d gassed up, I asked if he’d like a ride. He was so excited, I got him up in the back seat. Then I put my spare helmet on him (a little ½ helmet with purple flowers airbrushed on it but he didn’t care), and I rode that old gentleman around the lot, the store and pump, a few times. He didn’t even hang on, he was holding his arms up in the air and his legs out to the sides saying “YAHOOOOOOO”, and those little kids were chasing us the whole way.
When I stopped and helped him off, his smile was huge. He hugged me and thanked me. As I rode away I thought… tonight that dear old fellow is going to go home and tell his family that some white woman rode him on her motorcycle, and they’ll think he’s hallucinating and take his ‘shine away from him forever. Hope I didn’t do that to him. But… it was one more “road story” for the books.
I’ll try to write more as time permits… road stories from a lifetime of riding.
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