Patricia Craig Johnson --- Searching for My Ancestors --- Sharing My Life Stories

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

I Did It--- I Did It --- My First Solo Harley Ride 1984

Yesterday I drove to Loveland to have lunch with a friend. Because she lives east of Loveland I took one of my favorite back roads to get there and my thoughts ran back to when this was a sparsely populated area in the 1980's.  As I neared the corner where I turn to go further east, off Boyd Lake Road, my thoughts jumped back in time, to this very spot in 1984.

It was early in the evening one day in May 1984.  I had bought my beautiful 1979 Harley Super Glide, I had passed my Motorcycle Rider's Course (on a small Suzuki, a far cry from an 80 cci Harley), I had many lessons when John and I rode out, in the evenings after work, to the Cloverleaf Dog Track parking lot to practice.  When John came home from work that afternoon, he announced that this was the day I would do my first solo ride on my Harley.  I was a little apprehensive, but nodded in agreement that it was time to fledge my wings and go solo.  John drove my bike and I rode behind to the corner of Boyd Lake Road and E Co 24 E.  At that time the Cloverleaf Dog Track was the only sign of civilization in that area.  There was the Loveland-Fort Collins airport to the South but nothing else in sight.  It is MUCH different today.  The Dog Track is gone and buildings and businesses have sprung up in the whole area.

But on that evening we were the only people around, and there was next to NO traffic.  Perfect for a novice Harley rider.  John came to a stop, put the kick stand down. He said, "I want you to get on, go to the end of this road, turn right to the dog track, turn in the parking lot, make a u-turn come back out and come back to this spot, put the kick stand down and get off your bike."  He was very precise in his instructions, maybe because I looked more than a little frightened.  Practicing with him near was not so scary, but to go 2 miles by myself, and no moral support, was very emotional.  The power of a Harley is very intimidating and a person needs their mental wits to be sharp to command that power.  Like a good student I did exactly like I was told.

I put the bike in gear and started this momentous trip.  It was easy sailing, because as I said there was almost no traffic that evening.  As I went further my confidence began to grow and I relaxed.  By the time I turned into the dog track parking lot, I was feeling very sure of myself.  But I remembered another lesson I had heard from John, "Never get too sure of yourself on a Harley. Always respect that power."  So I sort of calmed that feeling of pride down a notch or two.

Finally, I was exiting the dog track parking lot and was heading into the home stretch.  I was starting to feel pretty good by then, and then I could see John standing at the corner where I had let him off.  He walked to the middle of the road, a scowl on his face, very serious, and pointed to the ground as if to say, "Stop here and put the kick stand down like I told you to."  I did exactly that and climbed off my bike.  Then he broke out in a big smile, gave me a big hug, and congratulated me.  He said he didn't want a perfect landing ruined by an excited stop and forgetting to put the kick stand down.  It was a good lesson in the discipline that is needed to command a powerful bike like a Harley.  Attention to details and good concentration are necessary to survive being a Harley Rider.

Nothing compares to the feeling that evening of, "I did it -- I did it!"  This was the beginning of a long adventure for both of us.  We shared this passion for ten years and what escapades we did have.

Later he told me that standing on that corner that evening seemed to last for hours.  He didn't know if I had gone down and couldn't get the bike back up, (my bike weighed 750 pounds) or ran into something, or something ran into me, or what was going on because he was so far away.  He said when he saw me, in my bright red sweatshirt, come putzing along the road on that Harley he breathed a big sigh of relief.  And here I thought I was the only nervous one.

I guess when you love someone, it can be nerve wracking.  But I am grateful he was willing to pay that price for me to accomplish what I wanted to do.  Also, that when someone is worried they may sound gruff, but that may be in part, the face of love.  Can you tell?  I miss my best friend, gruffness and all.

The picture above was the start of our first real Harley tour, in September 1984, after I had become used to my bike.   Patj


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