Gail Patricia Caldwell
October 04, 1953 - June 10, 2017

Bought a bike. Gail set it up!

Bought a bike. Gail set it up!

Early this year, Gail and I spoke of purchasing a new motorcycle for me, for us, so that we could get back to riding, something we both thoroughly enjoyed while I had my last bike in Toronto, in the early '80's.

I was also intent on Gail getting her license and eventually her own bike. She handled my '71 Honda CB500-4 fairly easily. Medium sized bike, but powerful. She knew exactly what to do, the same as she did with photography.

Gail was a ringer!

Of course, at the beginning of 2017 Gail's prognosis looked promising. There was a lot of enthusisam back then.

By the time she was home from her brief stay at Mt. St. Joseph's Hospital, in the last week of May, we both knew our world had collapsed around us. She told me that I should probably continue to look for a bike.

I found a used one at a dealership web site. She asked to see it, and I showed her the picture on my tablet. Immediately I regretted doing that. She looked at the photos, and knew that she would never sit on it, would never even see it. I saw her look of disappointment. I saw her hurt. I saw her defeat. It was crushing. I have that memory now and it's horrible.

By June 10th, and thereafter, riding was the last thing on my mind. I gave it little or no thought.

But apparently it was not about to be put to rest.

This summer, friends of ours suggested that it might be a good idea, since it would get me out of the house to possibly join groups of like-minded bikers my own age, and generally help me to feel better, if only a little. This was in early August. As I was leaving, we had this brief discussion at their door.

And that is where things get very, very interesting.

I left their home, near the Granville Island area of Vancouver, around 9:30 in the evening. The distance to my house was around 16 - 17 kms. As I began the drive home, I noticed that the first few traffic lights that I encountered were all green. This is a pleasant experience. Two or three green lights in a row is very cool. By the time the number was up to 6 consecutive lights I began to take serious notice.

At 12 + I gave up counting. My only comment at every new green light was Holy S__t!  This continued, repeating itself at every intersection both major and minor, as I travelled through the city to South Van. My route was not in direct straight lines. Main streets and side streets were my usual mode.

My first full and complete stop was at a stop sign two blocks from my house. I was blown away. There were at least 22 traffic lights (I went back and counted) between the friend's apartment and my place. So, after the discussion about the benefits of buying a bike, every single traffic light was green, for me. There were no full stops, or red lights even for a few seconds.

By the time I pulled into my driveway, the message was obvious. Gail would know that I would notice this, and get it, get the meaning behind it. Neither of us believed in coincidence ever.

The next morning, very early, I woke up still feeling like I had stepped into the Twilght Zone. So I did an I Ching reading on the potential purchase. The reading was very, very positive about taking action.

It was only 6:15 AM so I got ready very quickly, and headed to the Tswassen ferry terminal, about 45 minutes away. The dealership was on Vancouver island. I was prepared for a one or two sailing wait when I got in line, but I got waved onto the departing ship. I was the last one on. Still no "stop signs".

The purchase from the dealership was seamless.

But that's not all.

A week later, I asked a friend to accompany me to pick the bike up. He agreed to drive it back to the mainland for me. I followed in the car. It had been 35 years since I had driven on 2 wheels and I was quite nervous about the highway.

But once the bike and I were at home I could not stop crying. The only thing I could think of was Gail's disappointment. That look on her face haunted me then, and does still.  For several days I could barely look at the machine parked in my backyard.

I took it out a couple of times but my nervousness about driving  didn't diminsh at all. I knew a refesher course on riding would help.

I signed up for a training program with Pacific Riding School in Surrey.

On day 2, after the class, our instructor asked how I was doing. I was the oldest student, and the only one with a motorcycle endorsement.

I fell apart. Crying, I told him my story. He shared his own with me. His wife of 16 years, his high school sweetheart, had passed away from cancer in 2012, and left him with three young children to raise. He was well-acquainted with grief and loss. I felt a lot less alone.

Day 6 was a 100km+ highway/city ride into Vancouver from South Surrey. I wondered what I would do if my anxiety got the best of me during that day. I had not driven my bike for more than hour at a time, and only around South Van and Burnaby.

The off-road training was on small 250cc machines. The all-day road trip was to be quite different.

The machines we used were all in the 650cc class. Several were  relatively new Kawasaki Vulcan cruisers. I had one of them.

At 9:15 AM, we set off. Our group leader took us around urban areas close by to make sure we maintianed formation and had good radio contact. Then it was out to the highway through Richmond and into Vancouver. A couple of hours later we stopped for lunch in Kitsilano.

By lunch I knew that Vulcan cruiser was the right bike for me. I was astonished. The other students, my riding classmates, thought that my dilemna was as funny as hell.

Within two days of completing the riding school I had made a deal to trade in my new "used" bike for a Kawasaki Vulcan S cruiser.

On the road it is an altogether different experience riding it than the Honda 750.

This begs the question, why buy a bike if there was the potential that I might not like it?

First, I had road tested the Honda three years earlier and liked it. This time there were no demos available to take out, so I relied on my memory of the first ride.

Second. If I had not gone to that dealership on Vancouver Island to make the purchase right at that time, I would have easily talked myself out of it. Even as I signed the papers, and returned a week later to pick it up, I was consumed with pain, feeling so uncomfortable, so distraught, that it was as if I was buying a pizza for dinner. Really no big deal. I asked my friend, "Why am I not excited?"

Third. Once I got the bike home I was even more upset.  I cried uncontrollably for a long time. I began thinking about selling it quickly.

However, I knew that if I didn't give the activity a chance I would most likely regret it later. So I signed up for the course.

And that changed everything. Although I paid a penalty in the trade-in, I now have motorcycle that is very enjoyable to ride.

I will have a passenger seat and seatback installed (it is a single seater; I would not have given it a second look) so that Gail can ride with me. I know she will. I have already experienced "passengers" of Gail's stature on other bikes. I know what that is like.

Gail set this all up. The 22 green lights, the I Ching readings,

(there were 2 readings actually. The first one, several weeks earlier, indicated that I was in a very dark place, stagnant energy, and that any action was better than where I was standing right then),

the passage on the ferry, the teacher whose wife had died similarly, all of it. Gail's signature is all over this.

She keeps her promises.

I can't wait to take her out.





Started by Robert Flowers on September 06, 2017
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