This is a love story.
Clack, clack, clackety clack, clack, pew, pop, POP, pop, pew PEW! Sounds that concerned almost everyone I rode with and cued laughter from the rest. Royal Enfield, making pop-corn since 1901. Apparently a totally normal orchestra of music for a well broken in Enfield to make — a unique sound from a unique bike. Betty the Bullet 500 was my first real bike love. A hand me down from my husband who had decidedly out-grown her in pursuit of more speed… of course.
It was the spring of 2015 and I had just finished a motorcycle safety course to solidify my confidence and skill level and to fast-track my way into free riding after a year of seasonal and small city rips on an old Kawasaki 250. I had been promised the Enfield by my husband, Mitch, who had been working on it all winter as his first bike re-build and to also lower it to a reasonable Amanda size. I was skeptical. I was terrified. And anyway, I already had a perfectly good running bike that I had just bought the previous year. He was relentlessly persuasive of this fit- Let’s be real, it was all so he could get himself a brand new bike. When riding season started up that year for me, we were getting ready to ride out to Horseshoe Bay with a group of friends when I discovered that the front brake lever on my little Kawi had seized up. This being earlier in my riding career, having not really ridden for almost 6 months over the winter and right before I had taken the riding course, I wasn’t comfortable making my first ride of the year on a bike with only one brake. For a moment my heart sunk until Mitch piped up, “You ride the Enfield! I can ride the Kawi,” and then suddenly it was in my throat. For some reason all I could hear was the word “gnarly” repeating over and over in my head which was a word I had heard all too many times used by people to describe that bratty little 500cc bike. After a few moments of humming and hawing I found myself saying “Alright. Sure. I guess.” It was now or never, right? We had plans to grab a quick bite first so I took it slowly down the street and around my neighbourhood to our first pit-stop for food. The bike was vibrating a deep and low growl, a noise I had not been used to, having ridden a motorcycle that made noises more to the liking of a purring sewing machine. My legs were shaking and I’m sure in that moment ghostly white knuckles could have been discovered beneath the leather of my gloves. The bike revved on, rolling and thumping, popping loud and sudden every once in a while. For a time I was convinced that at any moment, like a wild animal with a mind of its own, it would kick me off. But she never did.
Summer brought on constant euphoria, what seamed like an endless sea of asphalt and laughter, bike trips and burnouts, new and solidified friendships, camp vibes and fingernails forever happily full of dirt; Cherishable memories carried on two wheels, given to us like beautiful gifts from the universe wrapped up in rays of sun. A perfect precursor to what was bound to be an epic end to summer at the all ladies motorcycle campout event called The Dream Roll. But, as the Dream Roll approached, things started to unravel: Information of the approaching storm came in as well as final word that not only were the friends who I had planned on riding down with not going, but most of the other local ladies who I had hopes of getting to know better wouldn’t be attending anymore for various reasons including the predicted heavy rain. It all started sinking in… The farthest I had ever ridden was to Squamish and over on the Sunshine Coast, I had only been riding independently for a few months and in complete sunshine mind you, and the last remaining friend attending the Dream Roll would be continuing South to California afterward. Was I really prepared to ride over 1200km in mostly pissing rain just to camp in mostly pissing rain with almost no one I knew, to likely have to do the very wet ride back solo? That last fact alone frightened me to the core. Not to mention that on every big trip Mitch had ever taken Betty on, something always broke down and I surely did not have enough mechanical knowledge to rely on. I was overwhelmed with uncertainty leading up to take off, the night before, but after much contemplation I decided to take the plunge as I was reassured by the addition of some mystery girl named Mandy. Mandy would be joining our duo on the ride down and then back home with me. The night before I lay in bed wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew but realized that it was a question that could only be answered starting tomorrow so I closed my eyes and let everything go black.
The plan was to ride down to Portland the day before the group ride would be taking off from there to the Dream Roll site. The ride down to Portland was a circus act of set backs including things like recovering a lost passport, an over-heated bike in slow, almost non-moving Seattle traffic, losing each other on the I-5 at night, construction on the I-5 at night, airborne screws and side panels detaching from my bike (thank god for duck tape). Good ol’ Betty was giving it everything she got to keep up, vibrating at such a high frequency I could feel it echoing through my skeleton long after. Eleven hours later we finally arrived in Portland feeling defeated and doubtful if we could do this all over again for the way back but in sheets of rain. I sat in the hotel room trying to sooth the rattle of my bones and I could see that Mandy felt overwhelmed with exhaustion and doubt as well but in the end we kept our eyes on the prize, the Dream Roll. We had come this far.
We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather the next day. After a solid breakfast at the Douglas Fir we headed over to the meeting spot for the group ride. The scenic ride to the Dream Roll site led by my friend and Dream Roll organizer Becky Goebel, was extremely therapeutic after the chaos of the day before. Once we arrived we set up camp in a huge tree lined meadow that was once an old air-landing site. Ladies of various walks of life rolled in on every type of bike you could imagine but we were all sharing one common feature at that moment: a big smile from ear to ear. The facilities and vendors at the Dream Roll were beyond what I had imagined. We discovered that night would be a full moon which explained the intensity leading up to the event. The full moon represents a time where we must face ourselves and let go of the things that hold us back in order to move forward, renewed, and we did just that. That evening we lost ourselves in the wild, rawness of our sisterhood, dancing and celebrating like champions under the moon’s mysterious glow. We had made it. On the last full day of the event a strong wind picked up almost blowing away camp but we all came together to hold down the fort and not long after that came the rain. Like warriors we continued on, forging new friendships, lending a helping hand, riding throughout the country side no matter how wet and that last night chatting and reminiscing in our tent as the last little bit of energy we had slowly dimmed, I turned to Mandy and said, “Well… If there was ever a part of me that was a little bitch before, she’s gone now,” and we laughed our way into sleep. The next day we quietly packed up in the rain, knowing that we had all shared something special. Tori headed down to sunny California to continue her adventure. Mandy and I continued to chase the rain with the help of two kind-hearted ladies named Danelle and Kate whom I had only met that weekend and they were kind enough to offer to keep our gear dry in their truck as well as follow us for support incase anything were to go wrong. Betty continued to slowly fall apart around me that whole weekend but not once did she leave me stranded. That bike really began to feel like an extension of me during that experience, as if it were as much a part of me as any one of my limbs. We rode on through the downpour but there were a few hours of blue skies and warm sun with the most stunning views to feed the soul (Oh yeah- and I’m pretty sure I saw Sasquatch). Our boys met us just outside of Seattle for dinner and knowing the casualty of trees and blacked-out powerless streets that lay ahead they relieved us from the storm that continued on. It wasn’t until the moment she had made sure I was safe and sound and Mitch crossed her back over the Canadian border that Betty the Bullet 500 rode her last mile. With an explosion she was gone, like all great love stories of our time: terrifying at first, fast and exhilarating, never wanting it to end and then as quick as it came, out with a BANG.
Residing in Vancouver, Canada, Amanda Vieira is a philosophical, motorcycle-riding explorer, forever seeking the truths and thrills of life. You can read more about her adventures on her blog: www.kaleidoscoperoad.blogspot.