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.

 

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wherever the road may take me

What is joy?

When the sun sends sparkling calls in the morning, when you have time to spend on what looks like a warm lazy summer’s day, and the road outside just seems to wait for you.

Joy is, when you have time to take the bike for a run and the weather is kind.

 

You get your gear together, that in itself is joy because you are anticipating what is to come, the smell of leather seems like the memory of past miles driven.

I can’t stop smiling. I take the bike for a run, I say.

Where are you going?

Now that is as philosophical as it can get.

Where am I going?

The most amazing fact about the solution to this quibble is – there is no need to know.

Utmost freedom is the answer. And that is pure joy.

I do not need to know where I am going. I don’t need a plan, a map a schedule. There aren’t many roads to take here and I know them all. I can’t get lost. So I can give the answer that includes all the freedom you can have on a bike.

I go wherever the road may take me.

Simple as that.

 

900 miles (part2)

Why had I chosen the night ferry?

So I could get enough sleep for the second part of my long trip.

on the way northI was tired and fell asleep the minute I lay down, even though my whole body was aching and tense. I woke up half an hour later. An alarm had went off on some car on the deck right underneath my cabin. Somehow I managed to go back to sleep, only to be woken up again around 4 am. More alarm!

I cursed cars, engineers and ferry companies alike and went back to sleep. The Intruder has no alarm system, no need to be alarmed.

There were about 12 bikes on the ferry. All racers. 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 the straps provided. Considering the wobbly sidestand and my fear of my bike falling over I had strapped her tight, real tight. So tight, I had to muster all my strength and I still couldn’t get that bl**y thing off. The lock had jammed.

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

They were at it 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 some time but they managed to get my Intruder 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.

ScotlandThe rest of the long journey was smooth and uneventful. I took several breaks for petrol, coffee and toilets and arrived early and with a sore bum at my final destination.

night on the roadSoaking in the bath I pondered why I had found it so difficult to ask for help.

Does independence mean, you have to manage everything yourself?

Does emancipation mean you have to manage without men completely?

I doubt both.

Real independence and emancipation leaves freedom to ask for support.

I would never hesitate to help somebody who asked me for help. Maybe it is because male bikers never do ask female riders for assistance, that it felt so strange and uncomfortable when I had to. Which it shouldn’t, actually.

Men and women on bikes do the same things but they are not the same.

Or to say it with George Orwell…

All bikers are equal but some bikers are more equal than others.

 

900 miles (part 1)

early startThere was no time to worry about it. After two days of travelling back from South America to Europe (a bus, two flights and a rental) I arrived home late at night, had a beer, repacked and went to bed. The jet lag would disappear somewhere along the 900 miles I had to go I hoped.

Next morning I woke up at 3, got up at 6 and started the engine at 7am sharp. The sound made my heart jump. I was on my way North; 900 miles just me and my new Suzuki Intruder. We had to go on this run north because I need a bike where my partner lives, which is unfortunately rather far from where I live.

The Harley stays at home.

I know my VS1400 is not a touring bike, far from it but all the more reason to feel great about doing it and about doing it alone. I like to have the freedom of riding alone. Yes, sometimes I miss the thrill you get out of riding in a posse. But my trip was different and personal.

I had got a lot of amazed incredulity when telling people what I was going to do – ride a chopper in two days from the South of Germany to the Scottish Highlands. Alone. Most women looked seriously shocked at the mere thought. Men mostly looked uncomfortable.

every 100 milesI wonder why? I have a credit card I can use; the bike is insured and has road coverage. My route takes me along busy European motorways, no deserts to cross anywhere, hardly an adventure, really.

So what is the problem? The only one I encountered on the first part of the trip to Rotterdam was my bum. Yeah, the seat looks great but it doesn’t feel it after two hours.

I must admit I was a bit nervous about going up the ferry with that long fork but it turned out no problem whatsoever.

There was a group of racers from the Isle of Man on the ferry with me. We gave each other a nod, no more. They must have thought it weird as well, that woman all by herself. So they rather didn’t talk.

nothwards boundHad I been a man, I am dead sure they would have been over in two seconds.

If a male biker is on a trip alone he is either cool or independent.

A woman on a bike, alone and unattached is strange and awkward to handle, it seems.

As if there was a difference.

No matter how far I travel, women still have a long way to go.