Happy New Year!

Wishing you a creative, happy and exciting 2019! Ride safe!

Harley-Davidson woman myth legend

I have published two books this year. Thank you for your support, input and great reviews for both of them.

 

Bliadhna Mhath Ùr!

 

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extract from “Riding Towards Shadows”

I woke up and the weather was utterly miserable. Of course it was! A thousand miles ahead of me and all the sky could think of was bloody rain. I left at 7am; the downpour was heavy, we had 13° Celsius  as I was heading north, straight towards my past. I started the engine and carefully drove down the steep and slippery driveway, a rush of pride running through my body. I was actually doing this, not just planning, I was really doing this. I quickly let down the visor so it didn’t have raindrops on the inside. The journey had begun. I was riding on memory lane.

Half an hour later my euphoria was gone completely. My hands were soaking wet. After years and years of wearing traditional leather gloves, I had opted for fancy high-tech super fibre Gore-Tex ones last winter. A lot of rubbish they were and soaking wet already, so were my feet in my cowboy boots. Wet through and through. You have to fight it, I decided. And I did. I didn’t even care that I burnt a big hole in my rainproof right at the very first petrol station because I came too close to the exhaust. Idiotic beginner’s fault! I hadn’t been paying attention. I was just off the motorway and spotted a DIY market across the road, decided to go in and bought a pair of working gloves. At least I’d have something to change then. Although they were of course not waterproof either. Had a coffee in the McDonald’s and enjoyed the eyes of the craftsmen in for their breakfast. You could see the questions in the face of almost every single one of them: She’s not on her own, is she? But what is she doing? Where is she going? But they didn’t ask, maybe they were afraid of answers.

Back on the bike I was greeting every little stretch of dry road with real happiness. I was not prepared to let my spirits drop and sang away under the cover of the helmet. Why do we always sing really strange songs on the bike? I opted for old fashioned songs like Summertime and my living was easy, I was sort of preparing for the dry Scottish sense of humour in all the wet misery where the only changes nature had to offer were different shades of grey.

Riding a bike is a much more intensive way of travelling than driving a car. It is noisier, colder, your back starts to hurt fairly soon. But when the weather dries up and the sun comes through – it can be real happiness, a joy you never really experience in a car. Not with the windows down. Not even in a convertible.

I had opted for a route through Holland and Belgium. I remembered vaguely that there was a ferry from Oostende. It was not signposted very well, but I found it. Unfortunately, the next ferry was due in a few hours’ time and it took four hours more to cross from here compared to Calais. It would be much too late to find a place to stay in Dover, so I chose to drive another extra hour to Calais and take the ferry from there. The wind along the coast was murder so I consequently tried to hide behind Polish lorries. Not very successfully, though. But I made it in the end and waited in windy queue number 900 for an hour to catch the late ferry. I felt a certain sense of pride. I had made it so far, a little over 500 miles. I was as wet and as tired as I had been 21 years ago and not a tiny little bit more comfortable. I had travelled alone then, too. All I had then was one address that of a fellow student who had left for Glasgow earlier than me and had already found a room. That had been my reason to go to Glasgow twenty years ago, a grant for Glasgow University. That young student of old was now a successful TV journalist and had other reasons for the trip but I was a biker still.

Would Rob love me now, the woman I had become? Was I still the woman he had seen in me?

In the pub on the ferry I sat down with a lager shandy, an egg and cress sandwich and some crisps. A few Dutch bikers sat close, nearer the windows. They nodded but did not come over to talk. That had certainly been different on my first trip to Glasgow, but why? Because there were more bikers about and the tradition of being open and communicative had changed or because I had changed? Did I look more tough and forbidding? Well, I am certainly not a young girl anymore. And people seemed to have a problem with unaccompanied middle-aged women. It is a non-standard form of behaviour. People seem to find it difficult to come to terms with non-standard forms of behaviour. They do not find it interesting, they find it disturbing.

The announcement came, we were in the Port of Dover already and asked to proceed to our vehicles. I did. There were about 12 bikes on the ferry. All racers. The Dutch guys, a small English group who did not look left or right never mind greet, and a Manx group talking races. We were all crammed together in a line, bikes secured with straps provided. In my fear of seeing my bike on the floor rather than standing once in Dover because of her not so stable side stand, I had strapped her tight, real tight. So tight, I had to muster all my strength and I still couldn’t get that bloody thing off. The lock had jammed.

I turned round and said: “Hey guys, can one of you give me a hand?”

They were there with the speed of light, started pulling and poking and cursing but they would rather have lost a few fingers than admit failure. It took them some time, but they managed to get my Harley free. I thanked them and looked into two big grins. My need for help had made them happy.

I had not liked to ask. A matter of pride I guess. But staying behind, strapped tight to the ferry, wouldn’t have looked much cooler, would it?

But still I felt more “girlie” than I was happy with.

I still felt fit enough to drive although it was already 10 pm on my inner clock and the shandy had made me sleepy. I cruised along the deserted waterfront looking for a room; I hadn’t pre-booked as I hadn’t done then. I ended up a few miles away in Folkstone in a cheap and formerly glorious Grand Hotel run by some Spaniards from the Canary Islands who made me think of Manuel in Fawlty Towers. The hotel didn’t feel English and was certainly not clean in the lobby. The room was all right though, I was too tired to care. All I wanted was a shower and a bed. I took a shower and enjoyed the feeling of hot water running down my back immensely. I went to bed straight away, with my hair still wet. That is the good thing about travelling on a bike – you do not have to worry about the state of your hair. It will always be a mess, whatever you do.

Before I fell asleep my thought drifted back to my first trip. I remember meeting some English biker on the ferry and following his bike when we came to Dover. He knew where rooms could be had; it had been late then, too. Can’t remember a name or face, just the kindness he had shown to a stranger.

 

Riding Towards Shadows by Nellie Merthe Erkenbach

Paperback out now!

Riding Towards Shadows is my very own road movie turned book, a true journey to my heart, my way of dealing with the demons of my past; love, death, and redemption.
Arriving in my forties, I started asking myself who I really was, what my life was about and where I wanted to go from here. I had a successful career as a journalist, but something was missing and there was still a twenty-year-old unsolved issue. The man I loved had died in a motorcycle accident in the early 1990s in Glasgow, Scotland. I never told him I loved him. He never knew, or did he? The pain had never left me.
It was time to give him the send-off he never had. And it was time to face the shadows from my past.
That was the beginning of this journey.
All lovers of road movies know one thing; the means of transport plays a major role in this. I have been a biker all my life, now was the time to go for the real thing. I bought a Harley-Davidson and rode north, a thousand miles towards my past; not knowing, what or who I would find. Could it be peace and awareness?
I hope my search for inner and outer freedom, my way of dealing with my sorrow, and my determination to do things my way, especially as a woman facing so much sexism and stereotypes, will appeal to some and maybe inspire others. Never cease to dream.
Of course, this is also a story for all those lovers of road movies, motorcycles and the easy rider myth.
This is my journey; it taught me a lot. Let it inspire you, everything is true as I remember it.

Riding Towards Shadows Nellie Merthe Erkenbach

get Riding Towards Shadows on Amazon

 

Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Independently published (28 Nov. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1729495281
  • ISBN-13: 978-1729495285
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 0.9 x 20.3 cm

 

Ready to Rumble

I had my Harley, I had my tattoo, and I was flying high now, like Rocky dancing on the top of the stairs in Philadelphia. I was ready, my time had come.

This was a quest of sorts. I had questions and I wanted them answered. I wanted to know where to go from here. This was not a journey to Glasgow and back. I set off towards the past and my own shadows, not knowing if this road would take me anywhere. It was like travelling in a time machine, only not naked, but nearly. My Sportster had a very small saddleback on one side and space for my waterproof roll bag behind my single seat on the rear wheel cover. No rucksack of course, I wasn’t going to look like a student on her way to lecture. That was me, luggage wise.

Riding Towards Shadows Nellie Merthe Erkenbach

Normally my luggage was massive and heavy, all these things I felt I needed to take when travelling, clothes, extra clothes, shoes, more shoes, hand and foot cream, make-up, disinfectant, painkillers, lipstick, charger, notebook, cables….

I simply had to define luggage and therefore myself in a new way, or rather the old way where I had been twenty years ago. For the time being I had leather gear for the bike, one pair of denims for the evenings, a few cotton shirts, socks, underwear, all black, some things to wash, no make-up, the rainproof, leather-vest. That was more or less it. I did not even take a book. And I was notorious for taking books when travelling. I had rented a holiday home in Tuscany once and taken over twenty books along for two weeks. Well, those were the days before Kindle and I had taken the car, then.

Nellie Merthe Erkenbach Riding Towards Shadows

On the night before my trip towards the past I hardly slept. So many things went through my head. I knew this adventure of sorts would not be a real adventure. This is Europe, not the wilderness. I was willing and able to use my credit card, and my mobile phone. I was travelling on public roads and therefore not really in danger of anything but cars misjudging motorcycles.

All I had was one address and phone number, one guy from the past I managed to track down. He had given me a few leads and the offer to come and see him. He had moved to the Highlands. But I was aiming for Glasgow.

Still I had a certain respect for the whole adventure, an underlying fear of what I might find. I was acutely aware of the pain I might face and was concerned about all those little everyday things, which can make life uncomfortable, cheap hotel rooms for example. I had probably seen too many of them.

I feared cold, exhaustion, and loneliness more than anything, on an emotional and a physical level. What if I didn’t find anything or anybody I could still connect to? What if everything had changed, if there was no going back at all? What, if the weather was bad? If couldn’t find, what I was looking for. What was I looking for? Understanding and redemption?

 

Riding Towards Shadows

Nellie Merthe Erkenbach: Riding Towards Shadows

 

This is an excerpt from Riding Towards Shadows, ebook available on Amazon.

 

Born to be Wild

I hated that song!

Actually, I liked that song, but I hated what it had become: Hymn for all stereotypes, the song nine out of ten TV journalists would use, when featuring a motorbike on film, the first thought you have when you hear it, is bike. I hate it when they do that. You should always use the second thought. The first has been thought by too many others. And seriously, sometimes I thought I could hear the guitar playing that riff when I sat on my bike, like it was floating in mid-air coming with the bike like an invisible sound halo.

exhaust Harle-DavidsonBut what I hate even more is when colleagues use it when the film is about the TT Races on the Isle of Man or a cross-country trip on a trial bike through India.

“All the same guys! Two wheels and an engine, all bikes, aren’t they?”

Idiots!

For them, all bikers are just the same; one image, no matter if they ride Harley, a fast racer or vintage English.

“But aren’t you all born to be wild? Rockers and racers alike?”

Eh, no!

The spectrum is wide, from Johnny Barger (founder of the Hells Angels) to Valentino Rossi (the most successful motorcycle racer of all time) and don’t forget Steve McQueen and his Triumph TR6 Trophy in The Great Escape, all bikers but all very different.

Our choice of bike very much conveys an image and a certain life style. For a woman in the late 80s, it was rather difficult to find herself represented there. Women adorned bikes by sprawling over the tank or the rear half naked and dumb faced. No wonder they weren’t taken seriously.

There was more than one reason why I loved to be a biker and I wasn’t sure I even understood them all. It started as a rebellion and for all those Born to be wild reasons. Being a biker was in me. I couldn’t help it.

I loved riding a motorcycle for the freedom you find on two wheels, sometimes so intense, you wanted to burst with joy. Others did not see that point at all. Was it a generation thing or a general attitude? The concept of freedom seemed to scare people more than it seemed to make them happy. Most people didn’t want it, even shirked it. Why did freedom scare them so much?

The bike was my idea of freedom, happiness in perfection, no matter where I was, no matter which bike I took, no matter where I went. My bike made me happy.

half lide motorcycle helmetOne summer I walked into one of the big motorcycle shops, one of the many chains on the market that provided everything but mainly stuff for mainstream interests, so I wasn’t expecting too much. I had half an hour to waste since I was meeting somebody for an interview just around the corner and was too early for the appointed time. There I was with time to kill and money to spend. I decided to have a look at helmets, open face of course, I fancied a new one, the strap on my old had come loose lately.

While I perused the brain caps on display I couldn’t help but overhear an older biker (BMW type) giving advice to his son who obviously bought his first bike, needed a lid, and took his dad along to the shop, or maybe his dad took him.

“See son,“ the guy said, “this meets the necessary EU security standard, has a safety approved badge and it has been tested.“

He went on and on and on discussing the security aspects of just that one bloody helmet.

“Better safe than sorry, son!“ He said.

“Better grow up son!“ I thought.

I spotted my favourite helmet, a US police remake, Electra Glide in Blue style that would go nicely with my blue sunglasses. I tried it on and since I had come in the car I had my handbag with me and could, therefore, check what it looked like in my make-up mirror. It looked great from the back as well, so I proceeded to the till to buy it and then get on with work. I felt the father’s shocked eyes following me as I walked away. He was completely flabbergasted, I hadn’t even checked the security features.

How could I be so free?

Just because, man! I wanted wind in my face! I was a rebel. Rebels don’t do EU security standards.

summer bike motorcycle Harley-Davidson sportsterHere’s another story to prove my point. It happened during those long and hot summers on the Continent. The heat was stifling, way over 30° Celsius. If you wore black leather in this heat, you were more likely to faint at the next set of lights than to arrive safely at your destination of choice. I set off on a trip (200 km, minor roads) with denims, trainers and a T-shirt. I felt the wind cooling my skin and the sun shining on my face, no heavy gear restricted my movements, nothing made me sweat more than was necessary. Still, the ride felt more like a trip through the desert but that was ok. It felt right, it felt Californian.

When I arrived at work my colleagues looked at me with reproachful expressions. I didn’t wear any protective clothing. They (none of them bikers) felt the need to point out the dangers you faced when riding a bike without a jacket and protective gear. They felt the need to tell me. Why did these people assume they knew more about the dangers of riding a bike than me, the biker? I had been riding bikes for nearly 25 years and seen dangerous moments aplenty. I knew what could happen when feeling invincible while being vulnerable.

“But what if you have an accident?”

What if?

“Forget your fucking what if!”

This was what freedom is about. Freedom knows no restrictions. Freedom is the absence of worries, it starts in the head and it makes your heart burst with joy. Freedom is happiness, the choice you make despite the danger that comes with it. All things come at a price. Of course they do. Why do you car drivers think we do not know that?

We do know, and we chose to do what we thought was right for us because we wanted this freedom. We knew the cost; some were prepared to pay more than others.

I paid heavy for mine.

 

Read more in Riding Towards Shadows by Nellie Merthe Erkenbach

The ebook is available on Amazon.

 

out now – Riding Towards Shadows by Nellie Merthe Erkenbach

Riding Towards Shadows is my very own road movie turned book, a true journey to my heart, my way of dealing with the demons of my past; love, death, and redemption.
Arriving in my forties, I started asking myself who I really was, what my life was about and where I wanted to go from here. I had a successful career as a journalist, but something was missing and there was still a twenty-year-old unsolved issue. The man I loved had died in a motorcycle accident in the early 1990s in Glasgow, Scotland. I never told him I loved him. He never knew, or did he? The pain had never left me.
It was time to give him the send-off he never had. And it was time to face the shadows from my past.
That was the beginning of this journey.
All lovers of road movies know one thing; the means of transport plays a major role in this. I have been a biker all my life, now was the time to go for the real thing. I bought a Harley-Davidson and rode north, a thousand miles towards my past; not knowing, what or who I would find. Could it be peace and awareness?
I hope my search for inner and outer freedom, my way of dealing with my sorrow, and my determination to do things my way, especially as a woman facing so much sexism and stereotypes, will appeal to some and maybe inspire others. Never cease to dream.
Of course, this is also a story for all those lovers of road movies, motorcycles and the easy rider myth.
This is my journey; it taught me a lot. Let it inspire you, everything is true as I remember it.

  • Kindle Edition
  • 2118 KB
  • Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  •  English
  • ASIN: B07KCJ6TDL

Out soon on Amazon!

Riding Towards Shadows

 

Out soon on Amazon!

 

This is a short story to a long ride. As short as it may be, it has influenced my life for so many years now that it almost seems I have never been without it.

When fate strikes, you struggle to cope and move on. But your unable to leave the pain behind, it follows you. You cannot ride fast enough to escape your past. You can only ride on and hope it will get easier one day.

The man I loved died not knowing that I loved him. He died on the day I wanted to tell him that I did, that I saw the future he saw for us, too. That I believed in us and him and against all odds was finally willing to try.

It was too late.

Rob MacGregor crashed into a concrete bus shelter, veering his Harris Kawasaki to avoid an old man slowly crossing the road and died. He was 36 years old.

I never told him what I felt, and I would never get the chance now.

What did he think of in his last moment, lying on the warm Glasgow tarmac drawing the stale summer air into his lungs for the very last time?

His life, his friends, his pain?

Me?

 

Nellie Merthe Erkenbach: Riding Towards Shadows

ebook and paperback

ISBN: 9781729495285