Sometimes it takes a stranger to put things into perspective
Story and photos by Darrell LaFosse
For some unknown reason, many months have passed since I’ve attempted to
describe riding in words. Regardless of miles ridden, there seems for me to have been an absence of inspiration. There are many ways to become inspired. Often it’s a simple effect on one of the senses: a familiar aroma that you can’t quite place while riding; a change in temperature as you round a shaded corner into the sunlight; or merely the sheer joy of being able to ride where and when you like. However, some of the most powerful inspirations come from a feeling or sentiment that simply aligns with the circumstances you find yourself in at that particular moment.
For years now, I’ve been riding with my wife, Sharon, and many times while parked with other bikes, I have found myself gravitating to the style of single-seat motorcycles. The compactness and clean look of the back fenders always seemed to declare the fact that the owner was a true independent, able to set the parameters of his or her ride without the added discussion of “Where to now?” The options available to take the step from touring motorcycle to true custom seems to lean toward that single seat, sometimes lowered to ridiculous levels. The removal of passenger footrests seems to be a rite of passage from the “two up” to single independence.
The question continues to be asked of Sharon: “So, do you ride?” Of course meaning, does she have her own motorcycle? I have seen her shuffle her feet, look down and simply answer, “Nope.” The question always had me soul-searching to determine whether our entire approach to riding needed to be revisited.
Once, while riding two-up, we stopped for a break at the scenic overlook at Gates Pass looking down on Tucson, Arizona. During our winter adventures, this is one of our favourite short rides.
The area and view has a special meaning, as it gives us the opportunity to reflect on our good fortunes and also interact with the many other riders and visitors to the area. One always watches for licence plates from home, and many friendships have been spawned from that first short encounter. Frankly, that’s one of the main reasons to ride, after all.
On this particular day, as we took in the warm desert breezes and scenery, I happened to notice two ladies exit a truck and walk our way. As they passed my bike, one lingered and looked around. When she spied us dressed in the appropriate riding gear, she walked directly our way. When she stopped, she said, “Sorry, but I am going to be a little rude now.” When I said to go ahead, with my Canadian smile firmly in place, she said pointedly, “I’m not talking to you.” Here’s what she said to Sharon: “I lost my ‘front seat’ about two years ago. I still remember leaving on early mornings and feeling that special tap on my thigh as he reached around to say, ‘It’s going to be a great day.’ I miss him terribly and especially that reassuring tap . . . Enjoy every single mile you spend together.” Tears were streaming down her face by now, and as I looked at Sharon, she was following suit. To say that this short encounter affected us would be an understatement. I was inspired. On the ride back home, I began reflecting…