Blind Curves: A Woman, a Motorcycle, and a Journey to Reinvent Herself

Blind Curves: A Woman, a Motorcycle, and a Journey to Reinvent Herself

by Linda Crill

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Overview

After months of following one-size-fits-all advice, Linda Crill, a fifty-seven-year-old widow, is still miserable. Then she makes a rebellious spur-of-the-moment decision to trade in her corporate suits for motorcycle leathers and commit herself to a 2,500-mile road trip down America’s Pacific Northwest coast on a Harley. The problem--she doesn’t know how to ride and has only thirty days to learn.

Four short weeks later, Linda joins two men and a woman for a white-knuckled, exhilarating road trip along the west coast from Vancouver, Canada, to the wine country of Mendocino, California. Along the way she encounters washed-out mountain roads, small-town hospitality, humming redwoods, and acceptance from gentle souls who happen to have tattoos and piercings. By heading into the unknown--the blind curve--she faces her fears, tests old beliefs, and discovers not only a broader horizon of possibilities to use in building the next phase of her life, but also the fuel to make it happen.

Funny, irreverent, and extraordinarily honest, it’s the perfect read for people looking for ways to reinvent themselves, and anyone asking: "What now?"

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781510730311
Publisher: Skyhorse
Publication date: 06/05/2018
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Linda Crill is a sought-after executive, consultant, and speaker who has worked with Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Marriott International Inc., as well as many other Fortune 100 companies, universities, nonprofits, and government departments and agencies. Crill lectures and writes on how to manage change and reinvent yourself, your life, and your business. She is the mother of three grown women and lives in the Washington, DC, area, and travels regularly to Philadelphia, New York, Toronto, and San Diego.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Halston to Harley

After two difficult years I was tired of sympathetic voices, puppy-dog looks, and an environment filled with reminders to walk gently and pamper myself. Instead, I craved thundering noise, the thrill of speed. I wanted icy air whipping against my face, making me know I was alive. I wanted crescendo, vibrato, to drown my screams and tears behind the roar of a large powerful engine.

Opening the heavy glass door and stepping into the Harley dealership, I entered an unexplored world — hundreds of shiny motorcycles laden with chrome and leather, covered with colorful graphics and logos. I felt my courage falter. My light-hearted fantasy evaporated as the realities of my impulsive decision started to settle in.

Until a month ago I had never dreamed of riding a motorcycle. I didn't have a husband, family, or even friends who rode. At fifty-seven I was at the age when many of my friends were scaling down their physical activities as they edged toward retirement. There are many acceptable activities for a widow, but learning to ride a motorcycle wasn't on anyone's list — even at the very bottom, if such a list exists.

Motorcycles are designed to appear fast, flashy, and intimidating — and it was working. My normally rapid gait slowed and then faltered as I surveyed row after row of gleaming bodies clustered around the showroom floor. Viewed from inside my Dodge Caravan, motorcycles had always seemed more like overgrown bicycles or toys. Now, up close, they looked huge, expensive, and complicated. The one elevated in the center of the floor — painted neon yellow with orange flames flaring from front to back — was loaded with a multitude of switches, indicators, dials, gears, buttons, lights, pedals, knobs, and levers.

My stomach muscles tightened as a panicked voice inside cried: How am I supposed to learn to ride this in just three days?

Wanting to divert my attention away from this emotional outburst, I glanced at my watch reminding myself class starts in three minutes, and I don't want to be late.

I had barely convinced myself to continue walking forward when I passed the clothing section stacked with helmets, boots, shirts, gloves, and racks of black leather. Nothing here looked like the Fonz's simple leather jacket from the 1960s TV show. Nothing here remotely resembled anything I had hanging in my closets.

I stared at a black T-shirt with a metallic skull laughing down at me. Another displayed the profile of a busty woman that would have made a Barbie doll blush.

What was I thinking? I could never wear a shirt mocking death and certainly I wasn't ready to be a sex object. And what about all of my 1960s feminist protesting? Am I supposed to violate all of my values for this?

My attempts to slow down my racing heart were futile as I processed the sounds of engines revving, tools clanking, and hollering coming from the service shop in the back. All mixed with frenetic hard-rock music blaring from the speakers overhead. My heart pounded even louder wanting to be heard.

In two minutes, my rebellious plan — a delicious fantasy that I could use to shock others — shattered. Now I was the person being shocked.

* * *

This motorcycle journey had been birthed a month ago during a routine Sunday evening phone call with my sister and brother-in-law. These weekly calls with Anita and Bruce were our way of staying in touch and their making sure I was moving forward with life. When we were ready to say goodbye, Bruce started into the ritual routine advice I had heard thousands of times. I called it "The Survivor's Trilogy" because, although there were different versions, the same three directives ended our conversations — eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep. Up to this point I had always listened politely, but tonight I was too frustrated to remain silent any longer. I cut Bruce off.

"I've tried all of that. I'm eating, exercising, and sleeping better than anyone I know. I've over-achieved at following these recommendations. I keep waiting to feel better. It's not working ... I'm ... I'm miserable!"

I was surprised to hear myself say these words out loud because, up to this point, I had not even admitted them to myself. This standard, often- repeated advice for surviving a major loss wasn't working.

Now that I had started to express myself, months of pent-up frustration emboldened me as I defiantly searched for the most contrary behaviors to these directives that I could think of.

"My new plan is to go out and buy a jumbo-sized bag of lard-fried potato chips and eat them all in one sitting, and um ..." I paused, struggling for something even more absurd and rebellious. Finally, I blurted out, "... and learn to ride a motorcycle!"

* * *

Down a corridor off the showroom I found the classroom and surveyed its cramped interior. Sitting on folding chairs around two collapsible banquet tables were my fellow classmates, eleven in all. I had secured the last slot two days ago when I registered for their Rider's Edge program — a three-day motorcycling learn-to-ride course.

Two men stood at the front of the room. The one who was more than six feet tall with a ponytail, tattoos, and bulging muscles leaned against a chair as he talked to several seated classmates. "I'm retired from active duty now, but I've served in three wars. I used to train tank units for combat."

I flinched. This guy is used to ordering soldiers around. What will he be like when I make mistakes?

He looked up and spotted me still standing in the hallway. I had no choice. I took a deep breath, headed into the room, and slipped into the last empty seat.

Most of my classmates were dressed in well-worn blue jeans, scuffed boots, and over-sized, faded T-shirts with Harley logos splashed across them. I thought I had dressed down for the class but I must have looked big-city chic in my designer jeans, fitted T-shirt, and brand new running shoes. I made a note to revisit the clothing shop at lunch to buy at least one Harley T-shirt and heavy boots so I would fit in better tomorrow.

The towering man commanded our attention just by stepping to the center of the room.

"I'm Rocky and this here is Tom," he said, gesturing toward the man to his left. "We're your instructors for the next three days."

Tom was a short, thin man with a large handlebar mustache that took up almost half of his face. He reminded me of one of those scrappy kids on the playground from elementary school days whom everyone would leave alone, knowing that what he lacked in size he easily made up for in determination and feistiness.

"We're going to go around the room and introduce ourselves. Say a little about yourself, why you're here, and what's your experience with motorcycles."

Cathy, one of the two other women in the class, introduced herself. "I'm here just because my gung-ho husband wants me to learn to ride my own motorcycle instead of always sitting behind him. I'm not sure I can learn this stuff. Even if I pass, I don't know if I want to ride my own bike."

When Patti introduced herself, she parroted Cathy's statement. "I'm here to get my husband off my back. He's even bought me my own brand new motorcycle!"

Most of the men had ridden a motorcycle at some point in their lives, and some were simply there to pass the course's test to speed up getting their license. Two had even ridden their motorcycles to class without licenses. One was stationed at a military base nearby that required this training to ride a motorcycle on base. It was obvious he didn't need this beginners' class.

By the time it was my turn, I realized I was the only person new to both motorcycling and Harleys.

Following Rocky's instructions, I stood up, but before I could stop myself a torrent of unplanned words tumbled out.

"I don't know much about motorcycles, but life has been pretty rough lately. A year and a half ago I lost my husband to cancer, and I'm ready to do something new. There's a 2,500-mile motorcycle road trip down the Pacific Northwest Coast I can take in four weeks if I pass this course. I'm here to see if I can learn to ride a motorcycle well enough to go on that trip."

Surprised and embarrassed by what I had blurted out, I quickly sat down, wishing I could take it back. I wanted desperately to have an identity other than being a widow, but I had announced just that to this new group of strangers.

* * *

Just as driving a motorcycle wasn't something I'd ever thought I would do, likewise I'd never dreamed of taking a ten-day road trip on one. But often when I play with one possibility, like a magnet it attracts a series of reinforcing fragments, and this idea escalates into the only logical path to pursue.

And that is what happened with my original rebellious outburst about learning to ride a motorcycle.

The day after talking with Anita and Bruce, and before signing up for this class, I had lunch plans with my old college friend, Ron. We had dated for a while when we were both in our twenties, until our lives took us in different directions. For the past thirty years we had remained friends, getting together every so often to catch up, sharing stories about our marriages, watching our kids grow up, and tracking our careers and businesses.

When he heard about what had happened to my husband Bill, Ron told me he had lost a number of friends and never knew what to do or say to their families. He asked me if I'd share my journey and explain how one moves on with life after such a significant loss.

Walking into the restaurant out of the bright sunshine I could barely see in the dim light, but it was hard to miss Ron standing across the room waving. Over lunch, he asked me how I was doing. I told him about my phone call with Anita and Bruce.

"It's embarrassing. Now I'm taking out my frustrations on people who love me and have been incredibly good to me over the last two-and-a-half years. And where did I get that crazy idea about riding a motorcycle?"

"That's not crazy. I ride. A group of us take annual motorcycle road trips. We've been doing it for over twenty years."

"I didn't know you were a Hell's Angel."

"I'm not and neither are the others. My brother's a lawyer. Eva's an emergency room nurse, and her husband, Terry's a business owner. Jayk's a doctor. John and his wife run a touring business in Canada."

"Really?"

"Our trips usually take a week or two. We've been to Canada, Spain, Morocco, Germany, Mexico, and all over the US. In fact, we're planning another trip two months from now. We'll be starting in Vancouver, Canada, and riding down along the Pacific Coast through the redwoods to Mendocino, California, and then returning by an inland route through Crater Lake and the Washington Wenatchee apple country."

"I love the Pacific Northwest ... especially the redwoods," I said.

"Why don't you come with us?"

"You've got to be kidding. I've never really wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle. I was just letting off steam and mocking traditional advice that doesn't work. Besides, I don't know how to ride, and there's not enough time to learn."

"Sure there is. You could do it. You're a great bicyclist and athlete. I've never known you to walk away from adventure — especially one laced with challenge. Remember what you did last winter with that MS ride?"

After Bill's death, when I needed a goal to get me out of bed in the mornings, I had signed up for the Multiple Sclerosis 150-mile fund-raising bicycle ride in Leesburg, Virginia. As a member of the local women's "Babes on Bikes" team, I biked the route in honor of Susanne Mershon, a former client.

"But I don't know anyone else going on the trip."

"It's a great bunch of people. We keep the group small — about four to eight riders. Everyone is someone we know and trust. You'd like them."

He continued explaining how when they were younger, they planned ambitious trips that had tested their endurance and character. But now they rode only 250 to 300 miles a day, so they could enjoy the countryside and the people they met along the way.

"On this upcoming trip, there were originally four of us, but now Eva's husband doesn't think he can leave his new business for ten days, so she can't go unless there's another woman to split the cost of hotel rooms with her. Without Eva, there's just my brother and me. It's always more fun with more people, so we're trying to find another woman rider fast. There's room. We need you. What do you say?"

I sat there, wondering what I had started with my ridiculous outburst.

After lunch Ron walked me to my car and urged me to at least think about it. I promised I would. And that is how the seed of taking this trip was planted.

Following our lunch, I vacillated for a month not doing anything — my indecision almost made the choice for me, proving what I have always told my corporate clients about change: Indecision favors the status quo. Without quick action, there wouldn't be enough time to learn.

Tired of waffling, I sat down at my computer and researched courses for learning to ride motorcycles. When I saw the local ones were filled, I was relieved and even entertained the idea that fate was protecting me — telling me this was too crazy. That thought was squelched when I stumbled across a Harley dealership near Richmond, Virginia, which had one remaining space in a class offered on the upcoming weekend.

Was this fate now telling me to go?

I filled out their online enrollment form and added my credit card information. But before clicking the enter button, my hand froze as my mind raced: Is this really what I want to do?

The more I thought, the more conflicted I became as my inner voices argued different preferences. Fed up, I silenced their chatter, shut my eyes, and journeyed deeper inward seeking clarity.

After sitting for a few minutes, relaxed and at peace, my right hand slowly reached up, took hold of the mouse, and clicked it. I sat there a few moments longer, surprised by my hand's independent action, but relieved to have taken any position. I lifted my head and stared at the screen message: Registration Accepted.

* * *

A booming voice startled me. "Follow me! We're going on a tour." Rocky and Tom headed out of the classroom, and we trailed behind onto the showroom floor. As they explained the different styles of motorcycles and types of engines, my classmates chatted excitedly with each other, pointing out those they recognized and liked.

Everyone seemed comfortable using terms and numbers to describe these vehicles. I tried to feign interest in the type of motor, suspension, or exhaust system each had, but this information was too much, too fast.

By the time we reached the final stop in the tour, my eyes had glazed over and I had quit trying to understand all of the tour explanations.

We walked into the service and machine shop, the overpowering smell of exhaust and hot metal assaulting me, making me want to hold my breath until I could find less polluted air. To my surprise, a number of the men breathed in this pungent odor with deep inhalations, followed by slowly exhaled sighs, "Ahhh!" One even commented, "There's nothing quite like the smell of a machine shop." Several men around him grunted and nodded.

I was dumbfounded. They were reacting the way I would if I walked into a bakery with the aroma of cinnamon rolls wafting from ovens in the back. Never had I imagined that this machine-shop smell could be pleasurable.

I laughed silently as I thought about how many women fill their homes with lilac, rosemary, and apple blossom potpourri. They add scented sachets to their lingerie drawer and wear designer perfume from Paris and New York. There is definitely an untapped market for "eau de machine shop" to capture the attention of these men.

In the parking lot, Rocky's instructions were drowned out by ear- piercing sounds from a motorcycle in the last bay by the door. As the mechanic twisted the bike's throttle back and forth, explosive bursts roared out of its muffler. Everyone but me laughed, admiring its deafening roar; I just couldn't help but wonder how many people that motorcycle would disturb and frighten once it was on the road.

I was straddling two worlds. As a bicycle rider who pedals over a hundred miles a week, I was a proud member of a group called "tree huggers," or "greenies," by the rest of the world. It's easy to commune with nature and appreciate its beauty while quietly spinning on solitary bicycle trails. Daily I would notice new wildflowers, colorful birds, rodents, and sometimes even deer along the rail-to-trail Washington & Old Dominion bicycle path that runs for sixty miles from Washington, D.C., to Purcellville, Virginia.

However, while pedaling our bicycles in traffic, breathing hard, sweating, and eating gas fumes to get to the trail, it was hard not to look at passing cars and motorcycles with a bit of annoyance. Motorcycles with their loud roar, exhaust spewing out behind them, and leather-clad riders covered with tattoos were a sharp contrast to our spandex-covered bodies pedaling quietly on road bikes.

And now I was learning how to become one of those motorcyclists. Soon I'd be buying leathers so that I could join them roaring down the streets on one of these noisy machines.

How would I ever integrate these two opposing personas? Were they ever meant to belong to the same individual?

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Blind Curves"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Linda Crill.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1 Halston to Harley 1

2 Learning Conundrum 11

3 The Dreaded Road Test 19

4 Unplanned Detour 29

5 Getting Directions 41

6 Buying Leathers 51

7 Ready, Set, Roll 55

8 Vancouver: Life on the Edge 63

9 White-Knuckled Imposter 75

10 Ménage à Trois in Oregon 89

11 Set On Cruise Control 103

12 Guard Rails 113

13 Sacred Silent Giants 123

14 The Gravel Taboo 129

15 Mendocino Intermission 141

16 Life's Blind Curves 151

17 The Longest Day 159

18 Vroom! 171

19 Road Runner 181

20 Gray Heaven 189

21 A Fistful of Pennies 197

22 Nostalgic Reunion 205

23 Shadow Trip 219

Epilogue: What Now? 231

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