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Oh God!

01/27/2019

2017 was a year for amazing highs and the lowest of lows. During the summer of that year I joined two good friends on what many would consider the motorcycle trip of a lifetime, traveling from Boston MA, to our 49th State of Alaska. At the end of this amazing trip, my wife road her bike to meet me just after I exited the interstate near our home. The trip was amazing, but by the time I crossed the Mississippi while heading home I was missing Cathy very much. We do not have children and thus our relationship has remained one primarily defined by our deep respect and admiration for each other. In short, we have remained great friends, and on this last day of my big adventure, my best friend would lead me home.

Cathy had earned her motorcycle license the prior year and was greatly enjoying the experience, filling her with a sense of accomplishment and pride. Riding a motorcycle was something she had never considered until 2016, just prior to her 60th birthday. This was all her idea, with no prompting from me. Sure, we had discussed it a few times over the years, but the choice was all hers.

After I returned from Alaska, we had a couple of weekend trips planned and during one of these trips, Cathy rode her bike up to New Hampshire and then home again; about 180 miles each way. She did great, especially as we rode home in torrential rains. I was impressed with her determination. After that trip I mentioned that if she wanted to continue doing these longer trips, we might think about getting her a better bike. She had been learning on a 250 Hyosung and while it was great for a beginner bike, I wanted to see Cathy ride a better-quality bike, something with ABS brakes. When I said this, I did not mean that we should do it right away, I was thinking more in the spring or early simmer of the next year, but it seemed that unknowingly, I had planted a bug in her ear, so the next time we were at our local dealer she said, why don’t we go look at a new bike for me?

Being one that loves to browse the used bikes, I had no problem with this and I was not expecting to find anything. The bike I was thinking of for her, was the Kawasaki Vulcan S, a 650cc cruiser style motorcycle. The reason I thought this bike might be a good choice for her is that it is not that big a jump from the 250 to the 650. It is not that much heavier, and it is still very low to the ground, allowing her to get both feet on the tarmac, maintain control. On top of all that, it is reasonably priced and comes with the ABS option. MOM’s (Motorcycles of Manchester) in Foxboro, MA, is our local dealer and they have a large used bike selection, but they are not a Kawasaki dealer, so I was not expecting to find the specific bike I was thinking of, however, it turned out that they had taken in an ABS version of the Vulcan S, just the day before.

Needless to say, my wife was very excited that we found the very bike we were thinking of and wanted to immediately put down a deposit. I tried to say, let’s slow down, the bike will be here later if we want to come back and take it for a ride. But, as I said, Cathy was very excited and pressed me to put down something to hold it, so we did and planned to come back on the weekend for a test ride.

Long story made short, we ended up taking the bike out for two test rides. It was on the second ride that fate stepped in. While making a left-hand turn onto a four-lane secondary road that led back to the dealer, Cathy would find herself positioned next to an 18-wheeler which pulled up beside us in the right-hand lane of a two-lane turn. As we were in communication, Cathy said, “Oh boy,” as the truck pulled alongside. I tired to reassure her that the trunk would stay in its lane and that she should just look where she wanted to go and stay in her lane. Unfortunately, my words did not still her fears and as we navigated the corner, I heard her yell out “OH GOD!”

--Craig Ripley

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