My First Time—A Drive on the Wild Side

How one woman let her fantasies ride off into the sunset
By Susan Partridge

All my life, I’d always played it safe. So when I turned 50, I vowed to challenge myself physically and be more daring. Over the ensuing seven years, I took up yoga, qigong, cross-country skiing, kayaking, and bicycling. But none of these activities satisfied my yearning to be “wild.” I couldn’t stop fantasizing about riding a motorcycle.

So this past summer my husband and I acted on my dream and rented motorcycles in Downeast Maine. But as we rode toward Acadia National Park, my flawless fantasy quickly splintered into reality. I desperately wanted to survey the scenery, but I couldn’t. Whenever I turned my head sideways, my 50-pound helmet made my neck ache and corrupted my steering. Sensing the challenge, my husband yelled, “Don’t look around!” and “Pothole!” I needed to stay alert constantly. Hurricane-like wind challenged my balance, and the fresh insect splatter on my glasses impaired my vision. My capri pants and thin jacket did nothing to protect me against the rain—I was chilled to the bone.

Fortunately, we happened upon a restaurant with a clothing store where I purchased warmer clothing. A cup of hot tea, lunch, and a few new layers of clothing later, I finally felt the warmth restored to my stiff body. We hopped back on our motorcycles, and I actually enjoyed the return ride into town. The notion that I was finally doing something “wild” sunk in. I felt triumphant.
But as we pulled up to the rental shop, the agent hurried toward us, blurting, “Thank God you’re all right!” Town police had informed him that a serious accident sent two unnamed renters to the hospital. One motorcyclist had hit a pothole and was sent sprawling onto the pavement, and the other, following too closely behind, slammed into her fallen partner. Visibly anxious, the agent confessed, “I thought it was you guys!”

My triumph turned into a life lesson. For years, I denigrated myself for not-so-wild living. My motorcycling fantasy was fabulous, but the reality turned out altogether different. Experiencing this “wild” ride taught me that safe living is perfectly fine—I hadn’t been missing out on anything. I also learned that I don’t need to be a wild kid. In fact, I never really did.