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Lisa Gorham – Why I Ride

I have always had a fascination with motorcycles. My earliest recollection goes all the way back to when I was in third grade. My family lived in Kendall Park, NJ in the kind of neighborhood where kids walked to school and played in each others’ yards. One such yard was at the home of Eddie and Laurie M where, under a tarp, was their mysterious motorcycle. It was hands off, of course, so the thrill of peeking under the tarp was always there. Come to think of it, I don’t ever re-member seeing Mr. M ride.

Flash forward to fifth grade and a family picnic at Valley Forge Park (we had moved to Pa). On a beautiful after-noon I heard the rumble of thunder in the distance. And then I saw them: there must have been over a hundred shiny, colorful, pulse pounding, rolling things of wonder. To a young girl there was a mystery in where were they were going and where they had come from. The thought of how fun that must be was born at that moment. I still re-member the bike in the middle: a long stretched out chopper with a high sissy bar and a flag flying off the back. That same year my aunt came to visit with a friend. They showed up on a BMW motorcycle. I was lucky enough to go for a ride and was hooked. To a kid it was a riding-a-bicycle-down-a steep hill-wind in your face-no-hands kind of feeling.

If this was a TV show, we would hear harp strings and the picture would get wavy as we flashed forward MANY years to the time I worked part time at The Reporter. This is where I met George. He bought his 1975 Shovel Head shortly after I met him and I have been lucky enough to be riding with him for many years on many bikes. There is nothing like it. The expression: “If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand” is so true.

We ride all year long. There is nothing that compares to being out in the elements on a bike. The first spring ride along River Road where you smell the river and spring flowers; the summer scents of fresh cut grass and BBQ; and, of course, the crispness of burning leaves in the fall. Those who ride in winter will know what I mean when I talk about how you can “smell the snow”. And they will know the feeling of the sun warming you as you burst out of the chill in a tree covered valley and the rush of the wind in your face as you roll down the road. The whole sensory experience that being on the back of a bike provides can’t be compared to any-thing else.

Then there are the adventures. There have been so many, each of them great in their own way. We took a riding vacation through parts of New England. There we climbed Mt Washington – straight up into the sky, or so it seemed, until we arrived at the top to a spectacular view that went on forever. From the back of the bike the view is amazing. I was able to look out as we climbed higher and higher and actually see the drop offs and land below as it began to look smaller and so far away.

Most riders have heard of “The Tail of the Dragon”, a series of 318 curves in 11 miles that wind along Route 129 through Tennessee. For the driver this ride has the thrill of maneuvering the bike along the many steep turns and drops. From the back of the bike though, it offers spectacular views of rock walls on one side and deep valleys on the other. The great thing about the Dragon is we tied it in with a ride through the Smokey Mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. The mountains go on forever and we traveled without reservations. We stayed along the way at a mountain lodge where, in the morning, a deer was grazing a short way from our window while chipmunks rested on the window ledge. Further along we stayed at a motel where we found out the owners are for-mer residents of Norristown Pa that fell in love with the mountains and made them their home.

A truly special ride was one we took in 2012 to the Florida Keys. We headed out the Thursday before Memo-rial Day on a route that took us through Georgia to the west coast of Florida. We stopped for the night in Gainesville at this beautiful hotel whose name I’m sorry to say I’ve for-gotten. While there I also spent a few minutes talking to the woman that managed the Gainesville Harley Davidson dealership which, coincidentally, was behind the hotel. The conversation started because I was wearing my vest and she saw the HOG patch from Souderton. The next morning we stopped at the dealership and bought an American flag for the saddle bag before heading on our way.

From there we rode to Gibsonton, FL., near Tampa, where the carnival people live in the off-season. We had read that the town is like a street fair with the performers practicing their new tricks and shows. What a good time that would have been; unfortunately it was practically a ghost town. Sadly we had arrived too late and they had already headed out for the season.

So, we continued on our way to the next destination: OLD alligator alley. Not Interstate 75 but old Rt. 41 (I looked up the route numbers). Old 41 was very cool, flat of course (this is Florida), but marshy and wet. Along the way there was an information center where we stopped to stretch and get general information. We left there with a friendly warning to watch the speed limit because they strictly enforced it. So we took a slow ride and stopped a few times along the way to see gators that were in some of the pools of water along the way. Our next stop: the Keys.

They are beautiful: calm, blue waters and warm, white sand. We did the tourist thing and went all the way down to the southern-most point. It was very crowded and there were too many people on rental scooters for our liking so after walking around for a bit we headed back to Marathon Key and our beach bungalow. We spent two nights there in a place right on the water’s edge. An ocean breeze, palm trees, private dock and a hammock all add up to a great place to visit again someday. I would be leaving something out if I didn’t add that there is a little restaurant on the water that has the best key lime cheesecake with raspberry sauce that you can imagine. They have actually won awards for it. Road trip anyone?

After leaving Marathon Key we headed north towards Jacksonville Beach to visit family. If you have ever been to the Keys you will know what I mean when I say check the gas gauge before leaving for the main land. That bridge is long and seems even longer when you see the reserve light come on. George knows his bike well and knew we were fine; I watched mile markers and gator crossing signs.
We visited family for a few days and continued the journey home up I95. Near Virginia the shift linkage started giving us trouble so be babied the bike to a hotel for the night. It was late and unfortunately the next day was Sunday so we could not get any assistance from the local (many miles away) dealership until Monday. My thought was that we were stuck; I was wrong. George was able to fix the problem and we headed on our way. How-ever, around Washington DC the problem started again.

Let me just say that Rt. 395 is not a short cut and takes you into some scary areas. We got through it and I give George credit for being able to get the bike to shift by reaching down and grabbing the lever by hand. Once in the right gear we were rolling along but after a while it started acting up. We pulled into the rest stop where George took the linkage apart and rebuilt it in the parking lot. I kept helpfully asking: “With all the problems, why don’t you just call Rich to get a trailer and come get us?” I didn’t get a real answer; only: “We just need to get home”.

Right before we got to Lansdale we hit a rain storm. I was asked if I wanted to stop and put on rain gear but I said no we’re almost home. I should have listened. As we pulled into the driveway George hit the garage door opener and the door went up.

What a surprise as a “Happy 50th Birthday” sign dropped down as several friends and family members yelled “Surprise!” There was a surprise party waiting for me and I looked like a wet rat. So that was truly a great end to a fabulous ride.

Finally, I must mention the military welcome home rides we do with the Warriors Watch. There is nothing that compares to the feeling you get when welcoming home a soldier from his or her tour of duty. The support that is shown from people in the community who line the streets with flags and the local fire and police departments who escort the rides, with horns and sirens blaring, really does bring a tear to your eye. The Ride for the Forgotten at Valley Forge Park honoring all those MIA from WWII to present day is an-other event worth supporting. Veterans, their families and supporters, stand as the names of those missing in action are read; people respond by saying in unison: “Still Missing”. When the names are read the Lee Greenwood song “Proud to be an American” is also played. There is never a dry eye to be found.

So that is why I ride and why I enjoy my view from the back. The adventures, the patriotism, the fun and friendship from the IV HOG family are things I would not have been able to be experience without the presence of riding in my life.

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