Just Get on the Bikes and Go

Written by Teresa Dennard.

Melissa Turner loves the open road

Melissa Turner has had a love for motorcycles for as long she can remember. It wasn’t necessarily something a lot of girls did, but that made no difference to Melissa. She was familiar with a dirt bike because she grew up with the Younts who always had them when they were teenagers. She managed to keep her passion for motorcycles on the back burner till she was in her early 30’s. She wanted a Harley but had never been on one and surely didn’t know how to drive one.

She made a trip to the Harley shop, and found a used bike. It was a smaller one called a Dyna Glide 1200. A friend rode it home for her since she didn’t know how to drive it yet and left it in the garage. After a couple days she couldn’t stand it any longer. She had to get on it. “I didn’t know anything about a motorcycle,” recalls Melissa, “but I thought how hard could this really be? I cranked it up, pulled it out of the garage and put it in first gear. I didn’t realize how much power it had and I panicked. I couldn’t get it stopped and I ran into a fence. Thank goodness it was horse wire and not barbed wire. My face hit the windshield and I had a nice black eye.”

The next day, Melissa took a beginner’s class in Tyler that taught her the basics of how to handle a motorcycle. “The class is two days and you don’t even crank up the bike till the second day. You just walk the motorcycle, learn the basics and do some book work. They start you out on a 125 because it doesn’t have much power and they put you through all kinds of little courses. It’s a lot of fun.” With confidence from the class, Melissa was ready to try her bike again. Her husband, Brian, took the bike to the parking lot at the softball fields and she rode using the maneuvers she learned in class. “It’s amazing how much difference taking the class makes. I did so well I was ready to ride on the highway. I tell everybody to be sure and take the class. It’s definitely worth it.”   

Melissa and Brian shared her motorcycle because two would not fit the family budget. She’d finish her housework and head out on the road by herself, making sure she returned in time to pick up the kids from school. She’d travel back roads, go to Longview or Shreveport…just wherever she wanted to go, but she had to ride by herself because no one she knew had a motorcycle. “I loved it. I couldn’t stay off of it.” Once their kids, Hali and Cory, were grown, Brian and Melissa found they had time on their hands with nothing to do. “We went to Broken Bow with friends Brad and Tavie Tilbury and there were motorcycles up there everywhere. Tavie suggested we all get bikes and start riding together. I told Brian we both needed a bike because I wasn’t going to ride with him. I can hardly ride in a car with him because he scares me. He agreed and I immediately got on the Internet and started searching.” Melissa and Tavie found almost identical bikes, Suzuki Volusia 800’s. Brian got a Kawasaki 1500 and Brad already had a Harley. Only a couple months passed before Brian, Melissa and Tavie decided they also needed a Harley. NOW they were all happy. They could officially join HOG (Harley Owner’s Group) and start participating in their group outings.

Preparation is always an essential part of riding a motorcycle because the weather is so unpredictable. Riders carry sunglasses for the daytime, clear glasses for night rides, rain gear, leathers, something to cover the face and hopefully a windshield to avoid the bugs. Unfortunately the four bikers had not gotten their rain gear yet and got stuck in a storm. “Tornado warnings were out and the storm was between us and getting home. I was panicked about getting caught in the rain because it’s so hard for people in cars to see us. We made the decision to pull under the overpass and wait it out, but later decided we could make it to a truck stop a few miles ahead. It was only by the grace of God that we made it home in one piece. I was so happy to see my house that night.”

Oftentimes the Turners and friends will make dinner runs after work. A trip to a favorite eating place in Marshall, Nacogdoches or Shreveport with fellow bikers Rodney and Nanette Hall and James and Linda Hill provides a fun and relaxing evening for the couples. The Turners also plan to make a long trip by themselves this summer. “I want to leave on a Saturday morning and ride till the next Sunday and not even have a destination…just get on the bikes and go,” says Melissa. “The weather will probably determine which direction we go. I want it to be just Brian and me so we can do whatever we want…go to Gatlinburg, the Hill Country, ride on Route 66, visit Colorado…just wherever the road takes us! We’re even talking about going to Sturgis in 2015. Riding is a lot of fun. I tell everybody it’s the most fun you can have.”