She rides again!

Like small, dark clouds dotting the horizon, I should have recognised those random twinges as indicators of a bigger issue to come. While riding my motorcycle last year I noticed odd little surges of pains now and then in my hips. Our last few rides in the autumn began to feel quite awkward, as if the bike had become too big for me, especially with stops and starts.

“It’s just because we haven’t ridden as much as usual this year,” said Jack. Maybe. COVID had squashed any long distance trips. Even local rides were limited. How far can you go when you can’t get a cup of coffee or use a public washroom? Was I simply out of practice?

Winter winds blew away all thoughts of riding for several months. No trip to Florida either. In the spring I tugged the dust cover off my bike and swung my leg over the seat. The sudden pain took my breath away. I winced as I dismounted. What was that?!

I hadn’t experienced any problems with walking or working. I’ve never been good at sitting anyway. But now it hurt even to ride as Jack’s passenger. I called the doctor.

X-rays revealed moderate arthritis had set in. Pushing down the self-pity, I prayed, signed up for physiotherapy and did the exercises three times a day. Often I sat on the bike, lowering and lifting my feet. It helped. A couple of times I rode around the yard, but going out on the road wasn’t safe. You can’t anticipate every stop sign in fear of pain.

My beautiful bike collected dust. Jack rode occasionally by himself. It was a sweet sadness, filled with so many wonderful memories of riding over the last fifteen years. Together we had travelled through mountain ranges, along rivers and lakes, out to the Maritimes and down to the Florida Keys. We both longed to continue those adventures.

On the highway

“What about a Can-Am?” he said one day at supper.

“A Spyder?” I said, “Let me think about it.”

A few days later we wandered into the showroom. Like Goldilocks visiting the Three Bears, I sat on one bike after another. Too big. Too fancy. Too expensive. “Do you have any smaller models?” I asked. The salesman took us upstairs to the used inventory.

My eyes locked on a flashy tri-colour machine – black, orange and white, with straight pipes. Bold letters adorned the rear fender: WARRIOR. I hopped on. “Now, this is comfortable!” I said.

Jack shook his head and laughed. Something about the loud exhaust, a few dents and the in-your-face decal told him the unit hadn’t been gently used.

“Try that one,” he said, pointing to a shiny black beauty a few feet away.

“Oh, that’s pretty,” I said. Before long I was signing a sales contract.

For a week I practised riding around the yard. A Spyder handles differently than a motorbike. But it’s So. Much. Fun. And it has a reverse gear! Out on the highway for the first time I worked up through the gears and practically shattered Jack’s helmet radio with my loud, “Yahoo!”

Do I miss my Triumph? Yes. (My son bought it, so it’s still in the family.) I’m not happy that my two-wheeled days are over. However, God often uses disappointments in life to put things into perspective and to teach valuable lessons. When we don’t get what we want, it reminds us that we don’t call the shots. Problems can inspire perseverance and flexibility. And there’s always something to be thankful for – like fond memories, new ideas and anti-inflammatory meds.

  • Heidi VanderSlikke lives on a farm in Mapleton Township with her husband Jack. They share their home with a gigantic Golden Retriever named Norton, who thinks he's a lap dog. Heidi and Jack have three happily married children and seven delightful grandkids.

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