Finding Kindred Spirits in Unlikely Places
“I used to ride for many years when I was younger,” she said to me with a wistful look in her eye. When she was “younger”, I thought – how old could she possibly be with her waist-length, gorgeous blonde curls, and her trim athletic build?
Outside the post office, I was getting back on my bike (a 2011 Suzuki TU250 that my husband artfully chopped into a killer café racer!) when this vision of a woman approached me, imparting the camaraderie that passes between riders. I couldn’t have known by her manner of dress (blue jeans, sneakers, flowing button down blouse), or by her breezy way of sauntering up to me, that she was going to start a conversation about motorcycling. Most women don’t approach me when I’m on the bike (men, however, can’t contain themselves – biker or not… ), so I just assume most women aren’t riders and I don’t take an interest in the ladies I cross paths with unless they too are on a bike or dressed in motorcycling gear.
“Why don’t you ride now?” I asked her. With great pride, she told me that she’s 64 years old (NO WAY!), still surfs and participates in other physically challenging activities, but faltered when she couldn’t put her finger on why she hung up riding. I could see her contemplating and questioning it in her mind. So I let it go, letting her think that her “I’m 64 years old” answer was sufficient, and we chit-chatted a bit more about riding, outdoorsy things, and enjoying life to its fullest. Naturally I also had to fawn over her age/appearance disconnect. I REALLY wish I had taken her picture – she was that stunning!
As she walked away, I called after her, “You know how it feels; get yourself back on a bike before you regret it.” She turned her head over her shoulder (the wind catching her luscious, long locks like a scene out of a Bo Derek movie), smiled wide and called back, “I could you know….I still surf…”
She walked away and I sighed. She gave me hope for my future. While putting on my gloves, still grinning to myself about the exchange with that beautiful woman, another woman – this one quite professionally dressed – came out of the post office. Imagine my surprise when she too approached me and started talking about my gear, specifically asking about my gloves.
“Are those Icons?” she asked as she nodded her head towards my hands, which at that moment more resembled twigs having a wrestling match with leather and nylon straps than graceful fingers skillfully putting on gloves. I looked up at her in disbelief (which was hopefully well-hidden behind my sunglasses and full face helmet) and said, “No they’re not but Icon makes great ones; my husband owns a pair.” Instantly disarmed for the second time in a matter of minutes, I excitedly conversed with her about cold weather gear and the pros and cons of different materials, some of the great deals she’s gotten over the years, and her extensive helmet collection. Prior to this conversation, I would never have guessed by her attire or demeanor that she was also a moto rider (or even a passenger) but indeed she was. She told me she loves to ride her bike all year but that her husband doesn’t like the cold. She laughed and said, something to the effect of, “you can’t keep me off the bike.” And I whole-heartedly agreed with her! We chuckled about our mutual hard-headedness, passion for the ride and said our goodbyes.
Basking in the glow of these brief, back-to-back encounters, I rode off with a smile on my face and a warmth in my heart. These ladies made my day. It was endearing and encouraging to have two women stop to talk to me about their experiences. As I reflected upon the scene later, I realized a few other things:
Firstly, neither one mentioned my bike. At all. Nothing!
And that is the first and usually only thing men ever talk to me about when they see me riding. It was refreshing to have meaningful conversations about the riding experience and not the particular machine under me for a change. Not that I mind talking about and showing off my TU – she’s my little mountain goat and I LOVE her – but it was unique that they not only didn’t broach the subject (even though the bike was sitting there big as life), but that I didn’t even notice the lack of it until after I got home.
Secondly, neither one of them felt the need to tell me to “be safe” or convey some other cautionary parting remark. That too was powerful. As if they both knew there was no need to state the obvious.
Thirdly, I am guilty of making assumptions based upon circumstance and appearance. Had they not said anything to me first, I wouldn’t have given those women a second thought. They would have disappeared into obscurity as far as I was concerned and I certainly wouldn’t be blogging about them now. We should all take a risk and just randomly begin conversations with strangers more often. We could learn a lot about the people we pass every day and by listening to their stories and watching their eyes sparkle as they talk about something special, we come away blessed, if not richer, people in return.
Fourthly, neither one of them apologized for anything. In any way! There wasn’t even a hint of verbal or visual communication that smacked of excuse, concession, or justification. I often find myself making self-deprecating remarks following a compliment bestowed upon me. Take my bike for instance. Instead of simply saying “thank you” when someone shows interest and proceeding to talk about its merits, I always feel the need to apologize for it’s diminutive size.
I am grateful for these two empathetic and kindred spirits who, by sharing something more than a passing nod today, taught me several life lessons and gave me something I hadn’t felt before on the bike.