Readers and their Rides

Judy Miller and Her Buell Blast - A Shared Passion

Written by  September 30, 2003

I recently met a unique lady, Judy Miller, who is proud to be 60 years old but doesn’t look a day over 40. Judy and I met on a Sunday afternoon at a downtown BBQ and
Blues club. Despite her busy schedule, she was able to spend some time with me and talk about how she got into motorcycling at this time in her life.

CC: “How did you get started riding a motorcycle?”

Judy: “I met someone from my church who was into bikes and he took me for a ride. I fell in love with it and wanted to learn and understand his passion for riding the past 18 years, plus everyone said, 'It’s not that hard to learn!’”

CC: “How did you prepare physically and mentally?”

Judy: “I took a trip to Vietnam last year for an organization my brother is heavily involved with called the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), which reclaims land mines. There were 28 people from five countries who gathered and we raised $300,000 for the organization.”

Judy talked about how they bicycled on beat down bumpy roads from Hanoi to the coast. There were no stop lights or stop signs, everyone just yields. She said it took a lot of strength to maneuver the bicycle, not to mention mental focus and attention. Judy also jogs and has been physically active throughout her entire life.

CC: “What was your brother’s reaction when you told him you wanted to ride a motorcycle?”

Judy: “It wasn’t really his reaction, it was my 92 year old mother’s reaction. I told her I was going to get a tattoo and a motorcycle and she said, 'A motorcycle you can get rid of!’ I had to laugh because my brother was a Green Beret and our mother would never let him have a motorcycle and here I am 60 years old deciding to take up the sport. I lost my mother last December so that has also been an inspiration for me to accomplish this.”

CC: “Where did you get your training?”

Judy: “There are two parts to this. I first enrolled in the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) classes at Maple Woods Community College. I’m not making excuses for not passing the course, but the majority of the people in the class had all ridden previously. It was not a pleasant experience and the instructor told me, 'Every human being is not made to ride a motorcycle.’”

CC: “It’s clear that comment did not stop you, so what was your next move?”

Judy: “My friend and riding mentor, Bob McEachen, knew he wanted me to have a Harley-Davidson product, so he had already picked out a couple of different bikes for me. In July, off to the Topeka Harley-Davidson dealership I went. The Dyna Low Rider was the first choice, but because of the size I decided to go with a simple bike to start on. Therefore, I purchased a yellow 2003, 492cc Buell Blast.”

CC: “Why did you choose that one?”

Judy: “Since Bob had already picked it out, it was more for comfort and control.”

CC: “Did you have to modify the bike to fit you?”

Judy: “No, I could touch flat footed, it was light weight (300 pounds!) and it fit me fine. I am 5’5 and have a small frame, so it was important that I felt comfortable with the size.”

CC: “Did you ever have thoughts of quitting?”

Judy: “No, never. I looked at it as a challenge, something I was going to accomplish and crossing another milestone in my life. I have always been a workaholic, and I was now at a stage in my life that I didn’t care what others thought and I was going to do this for me.
Another friend and co-worker, Dave Baxter, agreed to help me once a week. We took my bike to a Community Center close by with a large parking lot and that’s where I practiced my turns, stops and starts, circles and starting on a hill until September.”

CC: “That must have given you added confidence in your ability to ride?”

Judy: “Yes it did, both Dave and Bob are my riding mentors and have been so encouraging, not to mention helping me pick the bike up after going down more than once, helping me replace missing parts and using Bob’s neighborhood as a practice course!”

CC: “But what about further training? Were you done with classes?”

Judy: “Oh, not at all. I signed up for the MSF Rider’s Edge course in Kansas offered through the Topeka Harley-Davidson. It was a beginner, all female class with five others. Our instructor was great, very supportive and patient. The class was actually five days, Thursday thru Sunday and the written test and class party was the next Tuesday.”

CC: “Why did you choose the Topeka class?”

Judy: “Because Bob has bought two bikes from them, is involved in their rides and continues to do business with them.”

CC: “What was the cost for the class?”

Judy: “The course was $300, but they give you a $75 gift certificate to use at the store upon completion. It won’t be difficult to spend that!”

CC: “Did you stay in Topeka the entire time?”

Judy: “No, I traveled back and forth from Kansas City. It was long and tiring, but I made it and passed the course!”

CC: “What did you like most about the class?”

Judy: “They encouraged us to keep a journal of our feelings and emotions. I was dubbed the “Queen of Stopping” and our instructor called us the “Suverettes” from all the curves inside/out maneuvers we did. I can’t say enough good things about the care and concern of Mike Patterson and his staff at Topeka Harley-Davidson.”

CC: “What did you like least about the class?”

Judy: “Dropping my bike twice and taking my skills training test in the rain. It was good practice, but very hard.”

CC: “Where do you want to ride on your first trip?”

Judy: “Right now, I am riding the back roads to Topeka, but I would like to go back to my home town, Pittsburg, Kansas for my first ride.”

CC: “Do you ride every evening, weather permitting?”

Judy: “I don’t get a chance to ride in the evenings because of meetings, but I get up early in the mornings and practice when there is not a lot of traffic and it’s quiet.”

CC: “Have you joined any motorcycle organizations yet?”

Judy: “No, but I have gone with Bob when the Topeka HOG Chapter visited the MDA Camp for kids. We participated in the MDA charity ride and attended the HOG Christmas party. I also volunteered for the Bikers for Babies charity ride last year. That was a lot of fun.”

CC: “What is your occupation?”

Judy: “I am a Business Analyst for Aquila, a utility company. Now that I am learning to ride, I found out there are a lot of people I work with that also ride.”

CC: “When not riding, what occupies your time?”

Judy: “I am very active in my church and neighborhood association. I belong to a book club, have two dogs that need daily walking and they love to be spoiled.”

CC: “What advice would you like to give to other women considering riding or starting to ride?”

Judy: “Biking is a 'sport’ and like all sports, it requires skill, a desire to learn, a great teacher, patience, and lots of practice. Equally important is encouragement from experienced bikers that you respect and admire, like Bob.”

Isn’t it funny how motorcycling is so unique in the way it brings people together from different backgrounds, all with a common interest. By the end of our interview, it was obvious to me that Judy now shares a passion with Bob for the love of riding. Her spirit and enthusiasm will shine like chrome as she rides the streets and back roads to future rallies and events. Judy is an inspiration to all women riders and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of her book club lady friends take up riding soon! If she roars past you on her Buell Blast, give her a thumbs up. You Go Girl…..Judy has the motorcycle; next a tattoo……life is full of surprises!

Story and Photos By Goldie Arnold