Road Memories

| 4/10/2014 2:22:00 PM

When I first met my wife, Maggie, she wouldn’t come near my Norton. The death of a cousin, hit while riding his Sportster, had soured any interest she might have had in motorcycles. I didn't push it, hoping she’d come around some day.Richard and Maggie Backus

Then I discovered the circumstances of her cousin’s accident; he ran a red light, at night, speeding, after drinking. With all due respect to her cousin, that’s kind of like slapping a “kick me” note on your own back. The odds were stacked hugely against him. I told Maggie what I thought, and let her know that if I ever did have an accident, it wouldn’t be because I was riding drunk and dumb.

Maggie didn't try to talk me out of riding, and when our courtship rapidly accelerated to a proposal of marriage, I was more than a little surprised when she readily agreed to visit my parents in Connecticut — with my Norton in tow. By this time she’d gone for a few rides with me and was getting comfortable on two wheels. She decided to trust my riding skills, and I promised her I’d do everything I could to keep her out of danger.

My mother’s response to the Norton was another matter. Greeting us upon our arrival at her home, she let out a shocked “What’s that?!” as soon as she saw the Norton in the back of my brother’s old Datsun pickup. “Why on earth do you have a motorcycle with you?” “Because,” I explained, “we don’t have enough money for a honeymoon, so we’re going to ride the Norton up to the Adirondacks instead.”

Mom was certain this was a bad idea, but Maggie had decided this was going to be the trip of a lifetime, a chance to discover the back roads of New England without interruption, just the two of us rolling across the landscape.

We had two rules for the ride: two-lane roads only, and take every ferry boat we could find. New England was once home to hundreds of small ferries, working their way across rivers major and minor to keep small towns connected. Only a few survive, and I think we took most of them on our trip.