Joy Magazine

Harley dreams

Renee Phelps no longer has to wonder what it feels like to ride
Pat Kidder, 87, checked a Harley ride off her bucket list after Dennis Small took her for a spin on his Harley-Davidson in Medford.Photo by Jamie Lusch

Decades after a broken-down motorhome gave Medford resident Pat Kidder a peek at many thousands of motorcycles rumbling through the infamous rally at Sturgis, S.D., she finally got to don a Harley-Davidson tank top and dark shades and climb aboard a "hog."

Kidder, 87, took a 50-plus-mile spin around the Rogue Valley on the back of a 2003 Harley-Davidson soft tail Night Train on a sunny afternoon in June, thanks to the kindness of a Harley-riding hairdresser named Dennis Small.

A "bucket list" desire of sorts, Kidder had wanted to ride a motorcycle for years.

Born in Washington and raised in Oregon, Kidder was married to a career Navy man for 64 years, which found the couple moving every two years, landing in places such as Virginia, Texas and Hawaii.

After his years in the Navy, they spent a half-dozen years running a resort on the Siletz River and later spent a stint in commercial fishing. When they retired, they took to the road in an RV. During a trip through South Dakota, the couple's RV broke down.

"I can't even remember what happened to the motorhome, but we had to stay over, and (motorcycles) were coming from every direction and on every road," Kidder recalls.

"I thought it would be so much fun to ride one instead of always watching them go by. I even wanted to stay and just watch, but my husband didn't feel the same way."

Years later, her daughter, Patty Glaser of Eagle Point, learned about her mother's fascination with loud motorcycles.

"My mother and I were out one day, and a bunch of bikers passed us, and she said, 'I've always wanted to ride on one of those.' And I said, 'Well, why didn't you say something?' "

(This story has been corrected. The original version contained the wrong name for Pat Kidder.)

Glaser brought her mother's request to Small, her hairdresser at Static Salon.

Small jokes he bought his Harley during a midlife crisis, but he now prefers it as his mode of transportation.

Small didn't hesitate when Glaser mentioned her mom's pent-up desire to take a spin on a hog.

And so, on a sunny afternoon in June, wearing a hot-pink top, sunglasses and sneakers, Kidder grabbed onto Small's leather belt and rode off under a promising blue sky for a wind-blown adventure.

"She was a real kick in the butt. I've done this before, but never with an 87-year-old lady, and never someone like her," says Small, 58.

"Of all the people I've ever given a ride to, she was the best first-time rider. I told her, 'When I stop, don't take your feet off the pegs, and when I turn, don't sit up straight and lean with the bike.'"

After meandering from Medford through Phoenix, Talent, Ashland and Jacksonville, Small says Kidder rode like a pro.

"I told her knock on my helmet if she wanted to stop, and she never knocked on my helmet," Small adds.

"She said the only thing she didn't like about the ride was we went by the Jacksonville Inn, and I didn't stop to get her a beer."

"It was awesome," Kidder says. "I really enjoyed it, so I think it would be fun to get out on the open highway. I'd probably jump on and ride across country if I had the chance. It felt really good to finally be on one and not just watching them go by, wishing I could ride."

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