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.

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Caledonia Calling

The following blogpost is a chapter of my book Riding Towards Shadows that will be published this month ….. 

 

“Twenty years this summer.” I thought.

It was twenty years that Rob was dead and I was still crying for him, the pain always there, it would not soften, was as sharp and constant as it had been for so long. It was high time I faced my demons. They’ve had power over me for far too long.

Riding Towards Shadows Nellie Merthe ErkenbachI had to go back to say good-bye properly. Something I never did, and I thought he needed a proper send-off. I needed a proper send-off because in a way I never buried him. It had proved to be impossible to let go without, but I needed to let go and therefore I needed to go north.

No. I needed to ride north, up to Scotland again.

I was standing on a platform waiting for my next train connection. The wind was cold and strong and the smell of rain and chips that was wafting over from some food stall must have reminded me of Glasgow. Why else would I think of Scotland and Rob while I was standing in Cologne train station waiting for my connection that was half an hour late. I was in a bad mood because I didn’t like travelling on a train, especially not on a Saturday evening, when the trains were full of football fans drunk and in any other way as annoying as they possibly could be.

“No, I don’t like your singing. Can I be left in peace? Leave me in peace to think for fuck’s sake!”

“Olé, olé, olé, olé!”

He died on his motorcycle, I lived on for twenty years, riding but never really getting away from him. Maybe I could let him go by going back. I had never really had put my boots down here. I lived here but I had left my heart in Scotland.

Riding Towards Shadows Nellie Merthe Erkenbach

A football supporter two rows in front of me started throwing up, retching, smelling, cheered on by his friends. The odour of sour beer and sick made me sick, too. I got up. This was my lucky day. We were approaching my destination; I could get off this train. I felt sick of it all. Something had to change, I had to sort out my life.

Glasgow it was. I would take twenty days off work to ride back twenty years. It seemed very appropriate.

The Tennent’s advert of those days still stuck in my head: Caledonia. This guy has this epiphanic moment and leaves his successful life in London to come back to his pals in Scotland for a pint and happiness.

Nellie Merthe Erekenbach Riding Towards ShadowsWell, I knew ads worked with dreams, I worked for television. This ad worked with my dream and it worked well even after twenty years.

 

The decision was made, and I had half a year to organise everything.

I made a list: I wanted to do this big send-off trip, I wanted to meet as many of the old crew as possible, I wanted a tattoo and I wanted to live my dream.

Caledonia was calling me, and I was going home.

 

Fate is no matter of choice

Did your life turn out the way you thought it would? Have you made the right choices at the right time in your life?

Lucky you, if you can say yes to both vital questions.

Today I walked right into the envy and regret of another middle-aged woman. She met me and asked herself the same two questions.

I do not know what answers she found, I do not have answers myself. But maybe that is impossible.

Right, here’s a little story about parting, making choices and maybe regretting them.

I had to part from my little bike today. My old Suzuki LS 650 Savage I have had for nearly 14 years. The engine was gone and I gave her away for scrapping.

all year round

It felt painfully final. The trips we’ve made together, the places we’ve seen, people we’ve met.

Scotland

So I went to get her de-registered. I pulled a number (105) and waited for my turn, filling in a few forms in the meantime. The woman, to whose desk I was being summoned by a modest bell, had long greyish hair, glasses and a pale complexion; nondescript, really.

She was typing away but she kept looking at my passport.

I had lost the number plate recently, abroad. She dealt with that, too. And she showed compassion because she could tell I was sad to see her go.

“Well” I said, “I have still got the Harley.”

Her eyebrows went up.

Yeah, I went on “A woman of today should have two bikes, shouldn’t she?” and gave her a big grin.

She just looked at my passport again, than at me.

“I don’t. And I am only a year older than you.” she said with a sad voice as if she wanted to say: And look at me!

Then she grabbed my arm and said: “But I have four children.”

“This is something you don’t have, do you?” she went on and then apologised for it straight away.

There will always be times when you regret the choices you’ve made. And there are times when they feel very right. Successful choices are matter of degree. 

Applecross

But your life is not only shaped by the choices you make. Fate makes most choices and leaves you to deal with it.

Yes, I have always wanted a Harley-Davidson. For as long as I can remember.

Is it poetic justice not to have children, then? 

One day

The moment left only vague traces in my memory.

That point in time when it dawned on me that one day is maybe already in the past. That my today had passed it somehow. That warp of the human time line is what is generally called a midlife crisis.

The things you wanna do one day ….. and have never done. That shock of seeing that it might be too late. Maybe you will never do them…. Ever!

But you had believed you would all your life.

People react very differently to that realization.  Well, no. They don’t. It is a gender thing really.

See, men in their forties start looking for fresh flesh, young flesh. One that preferably does not speak but perform. In bed. They share their beds with younger women and it makes them feel better.

For women, that is naturally a different matter, a piece of flesh that doesn’t talk much is what most women already have in their marital beds. That piece of flesh often is the reason for having a crisis, not the solution to it.

I am not married so that fortunately does not apply to me. But I do feel just the same the unfortunate threat of getting old.

I my twenties I used to make sarky remarks about dentists in their 50s with a designer leather jacket and a Harley-Davidson in the well sized garage standing next to the Audi or Mercedes. Riding a Harley was the monogamous way of dealing with age in my view.

I am not a dentist now. But I own a big car. I have a career. I even own an Kookai leather jacket. I am 45.

I am one of the despised!!!