Gay Yellen: Motorcycle Diaries

Back when we worked nearly 24/7 to make a living, my husband and I managed to make a few getaways on his motorcycle, a sparkling red Honda Goldwing. For a two-wheeler, it was a stout and sturdy machine, weighing in, fully packed, at around nine hundred pounds. Once, at a gas station, when we pulled up beside an old Honda Civic, the man at the other pump noticed the 1500CC logo on the side of our bike. He shook his head and laughed. “That thing’s more powerful than my car!”

Indeed it was, and comfy, most of the time. We had no worries on a trip from Texas to Yellowstone National Park, until we ran into an unexpected hail storm.

As we all know, hail is made of ice. Depending on the density and size—from a small, sleety pea to a rock-hard grapefruit—it can be a pain to ride through, especially on a bike.

Our bright, sunny day suddenly turned dark and cold and wet. The nearest town was a tiny hamlet, thirty miles away. With no shelter in sight, and no better option, we sped to it.

By the time we found a fast food place, I was so chilled that I’d lost control of important muscles. I wobbled inside (with help) and ordered hot coffee, but I was spazzing too violently to hold the cup and drink it. I hunched over it for warmth until the spasms eased.

On another ride, we were heading home from Colorado on a perfect, blue bird day. Cruising over backroads through the Rockies, we came to a lovely valley with acres and acres of golden flowers that blanketed the fields around us. The air smelled like warm honey. A gorgeous afternoon, until I heard my husband scream, and the bike swerved sharply underneath us, pitching us toward the ditch. Somehow, before disaster struck, he managed to slow us down and guide the bike to the shoulder. We jumped off just before it landed on its side, halfway into the ditch.

Meanwhile, my husband kept shrieking and running in circles in the middle of the road like a barnyard chicken. He ripped off his helmet and began swatting at his head.

Turned out that the luscious honey aroma wafting from the golden fields had attracted thousands upon thousands of bees that were dipping and diving as they hovered over the flowers. One wayward bee had flown into his helmet and crawled inside his ear. Thank goodness the little buzzer soon recognized the error of its ways, turned itself around and flew away.

We were lucky that our near disaster ended happily. After many more road adventures (like the deer that came out of nowhere and leaped over us, barely avoiding a deadly collision), we sold that Goldwing. I hope the new owners had as much fun with it as we did.

Have you had a near-disaster that became a happy memory?

Gay Yellen is the award-winning author of the Samantha Newman Mystery Series , including The Body Business, The Body Next Door, and the upcoming Body in the News.

12 replies
  1. Lois Winston
    Lois Winston says:

    My husband also had a motorcycle before and during the early days of our marriage. The day a car in front of us slammed on its brakes and my husband couldn’t stop in time was the last time I road on it. Getting thrown off a motorcycle on a busy street is not a fun experience. Miraculously, neither of us was seriously injured. There may have been a few happy memories prior to that day, but at this point, all I remember is that accident.

    • Gay Yellen
      Gay Yellen says:

      I feel you, Lois. We loved traveling the back roads on the bike, but city streets and freeways were sometimes unavoidable. As traffic and impolite drivers increased over the years, even getting out of town felt less safe. It was the major reason why we sold the bike.

  2. Ken Oder
    Ken Oder says:

    Great series of interesting motorcycle vignettes, Gail, and so well written as always. I gave up motorcycles when I was 28. No wrecks. Just chickened out after a friend’s spill took most of the flesh off his left arm and leg. I admire your husband’s ability to avoid killing you both with a bee in his helmet. I can relate. Riding my horse, Marge, about a month ago, a bee flew down the back of my shirt. In a frenzied panic, I took off my hat and slapped it against my back. Marge thought I was giving her the giddyup cue and took off like a racehorse. By the time I reined her in, dismounted, and pulled my shirt over my head, I was amazed to find the bee only stung me once. If given a choice between a bee in my helmet on a motorcycle or down my shirt on a fast horse, I’ll take the horse.

  3. Barb Eikmeier
    Barb Eikmeier says:

    Great adventures! I dated a guy for awhile with one of those big bikes. When he was still trying to get me to go out with him one evening he met up with me in our long driveway and walked alongside me pushing his bike. My brothers rode dirt bikes and I’d pushed one before and thought nothing of him pushing his bike. Until your post I didn’t realize how much that bike must have weighed!

    • Gay Yellen
      Gay Yellen says:

      Thanks, Barb, for making me giggle. That boy must have really liked you! My husband is a sizable guy, and I can’t imagine someone smaller being able to wrangle the thing. It was a big one.

  4. Kathryn Lane
    Kathryn Lane says:

    Gay, I was writing a note yesterday to tell you how much I enjoyed your Motorcycle Diaries blog! Then I hit a mysterious key on my new computer, and it turned the &#@? thing off. I’m trying this again, hopefully with better results this time.
    I’ve only been on a motorcycle once and it was in Miami at the peak of traffic hour, and it was an experience I never repeated! But I’ve always thought it’d be a fun thing if I were on backroads. Loved hearing about your adventures!

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