Born To Ride Women’s World Open Road Girl-Myra McElhaney, Story By: Myra McElhaney
Riding My Own
By Myra McElhaney
When I first met my husband Phil, I was excited that he had a motorcycle. I loved riding with a neighborhood guy during high school and looked forward to being on back of a bike again. Phil had a Yamaha 650. He later upgraded to a Goldwing then eventually a Harley-Davidson Tour Glide.
We loved riding in the mountains of North Georgia on weekends and occasionally we’d take a longer trip. We rode and camped with another couple on the Natchez Trace. A few years later, with the same couple, we rode from Atlanta to Niagara Falls and back. Along the way we stayed in Bed & Breakfast and quaint hotels, stopping to see sights along the way. Touring around the country was exciting but Sunday afternoon rides in the mountains, with just the two of us, were my favorite.
In 2007 Phil was diagnosed with a glioblastoma brain tumor. After a year of radiation, chemo and surgery he was able to get back on the bike. We took a weekend motorcycle trip to Ashville, NC with two other couples. It was wonderful to be riding together again.
Sadly, the cancer returned soon after that trip. He died in 2009 at only fifty-one years of age.
My life changed dramatically. I moved from our home in the suburbs to a high-rise in the city. You know, after a spouse dies the couples don’t include you much anymore so you lose friends, too. Besides, you need single friends when you’re single.
After dealing with his death, selling a home, buying another and moving, I approached rebuilding my social life just as I’d always approached business networking. I made a list of other single, divorced and widowed women to call for going out. I needed to keep busy! Soon people were calling me asking if I’d talk with their sister, cousin or neighbor who’d lost a spouse and was struggling to move forward. I always said, “Yes.”
In 2006 I published a memoir, Building A Life You Love After Losing the Love of Your Life to share my story and insights as to what helped me. It’s gratifying to know that my story encourages and inspires others to move forward with living a life they love even after tragedy strikes.
As I adjusted to my new life I still missed my husband and I missed motorcycle riding–one of those things I could fix! A girlfriend rides her own so I figured that if she could, I could. Ha! Not so easy!
My first class was a total fail! It was in the middle of July, 90 degrees and I was terrified. Add to that an instructor that was loud and belligerent. He motioned me to the side of the range, grabbed the handlebars of my bike and stood inches from my face yelling about “popping the clutch!” I didn’t even know what that meant. I got off the bike and walked out of class.
I cried all the way home. I’m not a quitter. But I’d quit that class. I was disappointed in myself and embarrassed. I vowed to try again.
Someone said a dirt bike is easier to learn on so I took a dirt bike class. That was fun! Then I took another street bike class. I didn’t get my license because I couldn’t do the tight turns in the exam. Later another friend said she was going to take a class so I joined her. This time I passed the test and got that big M on my license!
Why would I tell you that embarrassing story? If you’re a woman who wants to ride don’t let fear or failure keep you from it. If I can do it, you can too!
I bought a red Harley-Davidson Softail Slim and named her ‘Rosie the Riveting’ in honor of resilient women in history.
As a new rider I continue working to improve my skills. It feels amazing to be riding my own after all these years. Sometimes it seems I can feel my husband riding with me. Now, I’m the one driving!
Myra McElhaney is a writer who encourages people to Enjoy Life and Do Good! You can learn more at www.MyraMcElhaney.com. Look for her column Women’s World here each month where she’ll feature women who ride and other topics of interest.
Yamaha 650, Harley-Davidson Softail Slim. Women’s World Born To Ride, Rosie the Riveting, Myra McElhaney, Harley-Davidson Tour Glide, Atlanta to Niagara Falls, Ashville, NC, Mountains of North Georgia