When the open road whispers your name

Andrea Joseph

You might not know it just by looking at me, but I ride. My custom Harley is loud, a little flashy and sometimes turns heads. Most would probably say it is the opposite of my personality, which tends to be quiet and “behind-the-scenes.”
You might not know it just by looking at me, but I ride. My custom Harley is loud, a little flashy and sometimes turns heads. Most would probably say it is the opposite of my personality, which tends to be quiet and “behind-the-scenes.”

When I was growing up, my parents rode and would sit my brother and me on the smooth, leather seats of motorcycles. We would grasp the handlebars with little hands and make “vroom, vroom” sounds, pretending we were speeding bikers. I remember once riding up and down the street with my dad, thinking nothing in the world could ever be better than that very moment: I felt free and independent, though my small arms were tightly wrapped around my strong and sturdy father.

But time passes and priorities change. My brother became a police sergeant and is expecting his first child, a girl, in June. I went to college and became a journalist, one who let the fond memories of motorcycles slide into a distant past.

Then several years ago, my dad – who had long ago given up riding – purchased another bike. It stirred up long-forgotten memories; happy thoughts pushed aside during college and the various events that followed as I tried to find my way in life.

As I began to reminisce, feelings flooded back and I remembered what I’d always wanted to do.

There was a several-months-long waiting list when, in my early 30s, I signed up for the motorcycle safety course at Gavilan College. Though I’d ridden many times in the past, I’d never ridden on my own, and my balance was shaky when I first strapped on the helmet and tested the throttle on the dual sport bike reserved for me.

Three days later – one evening in the classroom and two full days spent “hands on” – I graduated. The following day, I went to the DMV and passed the written test – officially becoming a class M1 driver. Holding my new paper license, I let my mind wander to various styles, colors and designs of my future bike. Would I decide on a sporty ride? A cruiser? Did I want stock colors or would I invest in unique colors and a design created just for me?

The big purchase – a used Harley – and custom paint job came a couple of months later, after further practice and a few “safety lectures” from the same man who shared a motorcycle seat with his children when they were young.

The freedom and independence I feel now when I ride is similar to that I felt as a passenger back then. But now I don’t hold onto someone else for safety. I rely on myself. Since receiving my motorcycle license, there’s no doubt that I am more aware of my surroundings, more aware of other drivers. And that’s not just when I’m riding. I’d like to think that I’m a better driver when in my car too, simply because I know what it’s like on both sides.

And though it is more dangerous than driving an automobile, feeling the wind and understanding the camaraderie among riders is simply something that can’t be duplicated. Subtle waves or slight nods between passing motorcyclists is customary. We share a common bond because we’ve each heard the open road whisper our name.

Aside from hearing it, I feel the pavement when I ride. Every turn, every bump, every groove. The hum of the tires on pavement is calming; it allows me to breathe in deeply and appreciate those small moments that bring a smile to my face.

Will the open road always call out to me? Absolutely. Will I always ride? Probably not. Unfortunately, ongoing wrist problems and surgery have caused a small hiccup in my riding frequency. And, as time passes and as I grow older, perhaps my priorities will shift and I’ll hang up my helmet. Although I don’t see myself riding into old age as some do, I can say with absolute certainty that I’ll always have a soft spot for motorcycles, bikers and all the memories – both of times past and those I’m currently creating.

But for now, I ride.

I ride to feel the resistance of the wind against me and to know the camaraderie of my fellow bikers. I ride to gain a different perspective on my surroundings and to take in all that life has to offer.

And, although I’m no longer tightly clutching the shirt of my father, I ride to remember those special moments of my childhood.


May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. In an effort to raise awareness of sharing the road, the California Highway Patrol will host a Motorcycle Open House to educate the public in regards to motorcycle safety. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, June 4, at the San Jose CHP Area Office, 2020 Junction Ave.