After several weeks of email exchanges on a dating app, she agreed to meet me for coffee. The traffic in New Jersey was non-compliant as usual and I was an hour late for our first date. I called her to apologize, thinking she would cancel, but she said she would wait a little longer.
First impressions are important and I felt I had already messed it up. I wanted to arrive early—not just to be prompt but also because I was on my Triumph Tiger 800 XC. She knew I liked to ride but I didn’t want to come off as trying to act “cool.” We met at the cafe of Bex Kitchen on Main St in Califon, NJ. I pulled up behind the cafe, took off my gear, and made myself presentable. I entered and saw her waiting at a table. Flustered, I awkwardly apologized for my delay. She smiled reassuringly and said she understood. We ordered some coffee and enjoyed a pleasant conversation. I was quickly smitten by her warmth, kindness, and patience.
I had reluctantly created a profile on the online dating app a few months earlier at the behest of my sister. She was recently separated after a long-term relationship and I encouraged her to date. She childishly agreed, saying: “I’ll do it if you’ll do it.” I was a few years divorced myself, but I was content being single and able to venture off on weekend motorcycle rides without particular constraints or obligations. Being somewhat introverted, I enjoy the peaceful solitude motorcycle rides offer. I rarely ride with anyone. I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend or a riding buddy.
First Time in the Saddle
After our coffee and conversation, she said she wanted to see the bike. She smiled and sincerely appeared to appreciate the feeling one has as they eye their bike. That scored her some extra points. A few months of dating passed and I wanted her to ride with me to experience how the senses become heightened and the world more vivid in the saddle. It’s hard to describe how one feels the sense of freedom, how the colors appear more vibrant, and flowers become more aromatic while riding.
Our first ride was a short one, just around the block. She reluctantly put on my extra gear since it wasn’t “feminine” enough, but took to the ride without any fears. She loved it immediately—tack on a few more points. Time passed and after many short trips to local areas in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, we planned our first long-distance ride. We were heading to Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon, and Antelope Canyon. We poured through my collection of RoadRUNNER magazines for suggestions on routes and hotels. I was tentative, despite her experience with the short trips. I feared she would break after several days and demand a rental car.
However, throughout our ride, I smiled as I heard her gasp at the vistas. The sound of her voice in my helmet still resonates today. She would hug me and say, “I love you,” as we passed through the vast canyons. She never wanted a car despite some cold snaps and rain. Forget the points, I knew she was the one. We were happily married on September 6, 2020.
One Last Ride
We had an amazing love affair and riding was our refuge. Unfortunately, cancer was invading her body. The courses of chemotherapy and medication were worse than the disease, as it is said. Despite this, she always wanted to ride. Our rides were private and intimate, insulated from the troubles of reality.
We were consumed with frequent visits to the doctor’s, hospital stays, lab tests, and more. They halted our riding. Almost a year passed before she had a reasonable break from the demands of treatment. She jumped at this opportunity, desperate to plan another long ride. In the spring of 2021, Alabama was hit with a series of hurricanes and my sister’s house was destroyed. Fortunately, she and her husband survived the ordeal.
My wife, always the caring one, wanted to visit and offer emotional support. So, we combined our visit with a ride to Chattanooga, TN; Asheville, NC; Charleston, SC; and Savannah and Atlanta, GA. Despite not feeling healthy and being in pain, she wanted to do this ride. I was worried about her and suggested we do it by car. It was non-negotiable. Thinking back now, I know she realized it might be her last ride.
Around the World on a Sofa
Sadly my wife, Christine, passed away on April 13, 2022. I thought I was giving her a special connection to riding, but instead she gave it to me a thousandfold over. Some of our most cherished conversations occurred on the bike. We opened up to each other and expressed our fears and concerns. We even resolved major decisions while riding together. We enjoyed laughs and quiet times. The intimacy we shared while riding is beyond words. She was my perfect riding buddy.
We were able to squeeze in one more trip before her passing, but we completed it by car. Again, we relied on the maps and routes from RoadRUNNER and made a fall drive through New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. We marveled at the stunning fall colors and visited family along the way. She was the perfect riding buddy even in the car, and she never stopped dreaming about travel and motorcycle rides. We enjoyed flipping through my RoadRUNNER collection and fantasizing about trips all over the world. These were our “sofa rides”.
I will never forget these moments. I will continue to rely on my faith, the support of her family, my family, friends, and even RoadRUNNER to help me through my grieving process. I’m taking a brief break from riding, but I know it will not be for long. Soon enough, I will hear her voice say: “We have to plan another ride!”