COUNTER WHAT?

Jeff on his Shovelhead Spring 1994

Jeff on his Shovelheadย  Spring 1994

In late spring of 1994 three Harley’s were parked in front of our small rental on Forest Avenue. My 1971 Harley Ironhead Sportster, Jeff’s 1973 FX kick only Shovel Head, and Richard’s 1980 FXB Super Glide Sturgis Special.

We sat in lawn chairs on the wooden deck under a moonless sky, drinking soda and talking. Well mostly the boys talked and I listened. My nerves were itching because soon we would be heading out for a ride. Me and these two rugged Harley men, both of them handsome, smart and funny.

Jeff and Richard

That’s Richard’s wife Nancy standing next to him. Christmas 1993.

Jeff went inside to grab his helmet while Richard lectured me on the technical side of riding. He explained the phenomenon of counter steering.

“It goes against what you might think makes sense, but push the left handle bar out to turn left and pull the right handle bar in.” He looked down at me with his dark eyes to see if I was listening.

I nodded as if I understood. I wasn’t really taking his spiel in. Three tough, mean machines and two gorgeous men had my entire head spinning. Jeff returned and we took off for our nighttime ride.

Jeff's Shovelhead 1993

Jeff’s Shovelhead 1993

We left the neighborhood with loud motors roaring. We rode out of Fort Sanders and traveled down the beginning stretch of poorly lit Kingston Pike. All the while, I was thinking about Richard’s lecture on counter steering.

Then came a sweeping left hand curve. First Richard leaned down and around, then Jeff down and around as smooth as can be. And then there was me.

I kept thinking I needed to push the right handle bar out or was it the left? Do I lean first or push the bar and what bar do I push? By this time both Jeff and Richard were far out of my sight.

And just like that, while thinking so hard, the curve moved left and I stayed straight, right up onto the sidewalk barely missing a tree, braking, braking smooth and slow. Breathe in, breathe out, brake hard but not too hard and within seconds I had ground to a stop on the sidewalk next to a hundred year old brick wall encasing a stately Kingston Pike mansion.

I looked around to see if anyone had noticed a screaming lady flying by on a thundering machine. I slammed the right side shift down into first, slowly twisted the throttle moving the bike forward and jumping the curb. A mile down the road I spied the boys parked in the lot of a closed car repair center waiting for me, engines off, under bright florescent lights. I slid my bike in beside them.

As cool as can be, Richard said, “What happened to you?”

I relayed my adventure of missing the turn and they both stared at me with unblinking eyes then burst into waves of raucous laughter. I laughed too until tears were rolling down my cheeks.

Then Jeff said, “Let’s ride!”

Later that night, after Richard had left, I asked Jeff about counter steering.

He flicked his hand in an outward wave. “Don’t think about that stuff. Just do what comes naturally.”

My and Jeff's bikes in front of our Forest Avenue rental in spring, 1994.

My and Jeff’s bikes in front of our Forest Avenue rental in spring, 1994.

Last fall, I read a beautifully written memoir The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle by Diana Bletter. In the beginning chapters she briefly discussed counter steering. So the next time Jeff and I rode, I consciously observed how I ride technically.

As we were navigating the swoopy narrow curves of the Appalachian mountainside, I realized that for nearly two decades, I had indeed been counter steering naturally.


About Pam Huggins

I love to hang out with my family, ride motorcycles, and draw comics.
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64 Responses to COUNTER WHAT?

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    Oh boy, if I did what came naturally while riding a motorcycle, I’d end up in the ER. I think it’s best I stay off of those. But my grandpa used to own a bike shop. My brother and I liked to hang out there when we visited and look at the shiny bikes (they were used, and in retrospect, I realize he didn’t have many in the store, but it was still cool to us). We also liked the penny gumball machine he had in there and ate far too many gumballs. Guess I’m aging myself a bit…

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    • Pam Huggins says:

      Wow Carrie! I love that your grandpa owned a bike shop. What a great experience for two wide eyed grand kids. Jeff wants to get a gumball machine for our store. Perhaps we are being nostalgic but still, it brings back great memories.
      Thanks for your fun comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. I love this sweet glimpse into your life, and your relationship with Jeff. I wish I had the guts to ride a motorcycle, but I’m a total wuss. I was so scared to drive a CAR that I didn’t get my license until I was 27. Hahahaha!

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  3. Larks says:

    Now I have a vivid mental image of you riding your motorcycle on a sidewalk all wide eyed and freaked out. Hahahaha! That’s awesome! Though, it must have been terrifying for you at the time. Overthinking it can be lethal, I bet! Nice post!

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  4. theinnerzone says:

    I always wanted to ride a bike but never did. This is such a nice,adventurous post – took me back to the desire.

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  5. G.G. Faircloth says:

    Hi Pam! I enjoyed your motorcycle riding story. I also like your drawing of your cat for the logo for your business and cat logo on your log site.:) I have been typing on my book idea since last year around February when I started it.. It may have been earlier than that. Well, it is very hard and i almost gave up last month. I complained to Billy Small that i was sad and how hard it was. He collaborates with ideas for me to draw. He and a nice guy who published a book about Forrest J. Ackerman’s home museum “House of Ackerman” named Jim Greene encouraged me to write it.

    I used Facebook and some other sites to post comments from fans about Charlie Baxter/M.T. Graves. Then I added my memories and other info.

    So i am still typing on it but i am getting closer to finishing it. after I complained or whined to billy small.

    I made sure that i emailed him back a happier email to tell him i was okay now and getting along better in my typing of it and copying and pasting, etc. he never wrote back to me…but i guess later on he will. he has some health problems with his heart so I try not to bug him. He is very positive with me.

    Writing the book has drained my energy and desire to draw my comics. that makes me sad. But i have always rose up in my life everytime i felt knocked down. So this week I am feeling better and able to rise up like superwoman and get going again on my comics. I am getting closer to finishing the typing. then i will add some artwork i need to draw for it. then when i see it all before my eyes on white typing paper and etc. then i can take the next step about to see if it is possible for me to publish it. Someone suggested Kickstarter. Anyway thank you for writing about your experiences about your desire to write and your expriennces about drawing cartoons, too. i have to focus on one track at the time. whew! ha ha So, for now i am riding on the track for writing. Sincerely, G.g.

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    • Pam Huggins says:

      Nice to hear from you G.G. I’m so glad to hear you are writing and working diligently on your art. I look forward to hearing about your progression. Be well. Sending hugs!

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  6. There is always time to ride!!

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  7. Patty Phipps says:

    Another nice story, Pamo — I love your stories. I have always been far too scared to actually try to learn to ride a motorcycle myself, despite the number of times Dewaine has suggested it, and I’ll even go so far as to admit that I still get scared just riding behind him. The very first time I ever rode, I was about 19 or 20 years old, on break from college, visiting the guy I was madly in love with at the time. He had a bike and wanted to take me for a ride. He went outside to get the bike ready, and I remember clearly his mom telling me, “Now, Patty, here’s some advice. Don’t grab onto Mark too tight when you’re riding behind him. He hates that.” I took the advice, and Mark and I set out on a ride through the beautiful upstate New York countryside near Utica. The first thing Mark said to me when we came to our first stop was, “I like the way you ride — you don’t hold on too tight!” HA HA HA. Little did he know how much I wanted to squeeze him to death because it was so scary for me (thrilling, but scary)! Dewaine is a very good rider, but I still get nervous on the back of his bike just because I don’t ride very often.

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    • Pam Huggins says:

      I love that story Patty! His mom knew exactly what to tell you.
      I understand that fear, truly I do. I am far more comfortable riding my own rather than riding behind someone.
      I always tell people to respect their own fear. We all have our own things and riding just isn’t for everyone. One day you might just jump up and yell, “I wanna ride!” But until then, that’s totally okay.
      You are a mom and sometimes that fact has psychological bearing. You want to be there for your kids and it’s hard to take chances with your body.
      Thank you as always for reading and commenting! I always love hearing your thoughts.

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  8. Hi Pam! You are a good story teller. I enjoyed reading about your adventure even though I’m clueless when it comes to riding motor cycles. The only time I rode anything close to a motorcycle was when I rode my cousin’s motorbike in junior high. I ran it into my Aunt’s house. That ended my motorbike era.

    Even so, I can relate to doing things naturally. Its like reading and being told how to draw or paint step by step. Eventually, I have to turn off the instruction and just go for the natural, personal solution.

    I found it interesting that you do it the correct way naturally. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

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    • Pam Huggins says:

      Now Peggy- that sounds like a great story about running the motorbike into your Aunt’s house!
      You nailed it exactly. Sometimes turning off the instructive voice running through our minds allows us to do what we can do naturally.
      Thank you.
      I simply love your latest post about using your family as your muse. It was a wonderful look into your artistic process.

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      • Hi Pam, I just noticed that you had replied! I’m a little slow at Google plus…kewl. Thanks for the compliment and I look forward to your next story, speaking of story tellers ๐Ÿ™‚

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  9. Mari says:

    This sure brings back memories! When I lived back in Sweden I dated a guy that worked at the same place as me and he had a sweet BMW cherry red bike. I went on that thing a few times and I think it had helped that I had done some horse back riding before that…. Any how, we went together on a small Euro trip on his bike and I absolutely loved it, riding along the autoban and the alp hills I felt so free and what I like the best is how well you see everything around you.
    Only thing I wish had been different from that trip, is that the Spanish car driver who passed us on one of those alp hills have had better counter steering skills, he passed us and pushed us in to the mountain wall… Thankfully my BF skills were way better or we would have ended as permanent wall fixtures. Oh to be 20 again : )

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    • Pam Huggins says:

      A lovely story Mari! Somehow in our twenties, life stretched out ahead of us, the adventures come our way and we grab hold. I can see you on that Beamer riding through the Alps, smiling and being free. Glad you didn’t end up on that mountain side permanently!

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  10. Sue Pownall says:

    Love this story Pamo. Glad you missed the wall.

    I remember being told about countersteering and looking at the person with total disbelief, but it works.

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  11. AZ Gringa says:

    I admire how you handled what sounds like a terrifying situation. Way to keep your wits about you!

    Isn’t it amazing how, when we learn to trust ourselves, everything seems to work out all right? Me, I have to keep re-learning that, it seems.

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  12. hmm so crashing into sidewalk is the advice?

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  13. Christina in Cleveland says:

    Pamo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have to subscribe to you under my gmail address… I have been missing you!
    You tell a GREAT story with wonderful photos. Not just the thrill of riding bikes but with two hunky guys… purrrrrr. ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad you missed the wall too. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I’m not a bike person but a crazy horse person. I know, makes NO sense. Nevertheless, the feeling of freedom is so similar. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Love and hugs to you!!! ~ Christina

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    • Pam Huggins says:

      Yay Christina! I’ve missed you too. Thank you for subscribing (again) :-)!
      Yeah- it was good to miss the wall. Haha. The two hunky guys are just as vivid in my memory from that night.
      A lot of bikers cross over from and to horses. I’ve often heard that the feeling of freedom is similar. You are such an animal lover- it completely makes sense to me that you love horses!
      Love and hugs back to you! Great to hear from you!

      Like

  14. wcdameron says:

    You know, I think I would have over thought it too. I’m a little embarrassed to admit the closest I have come to riding a motorcycle is riding on the back seat of a Vespa knock-off while Paul drives. The Harleys just seem so big, I feel like I would topple over. Great story and loved the tension of the ride along with the handsome guys.

    Like

  15. Martha B says:

    Oh you rebel ๐Ÿ™‚ What a fun little anecdote! I’m glad you found your groove, riding is one of the best experiences in the world!

    Like

  16. Vanessa D. says:

    I admire that you just hopped on that bike and went for a cruise. I know there always has to be a first time for anything, but I’m the type who rarely has the nerve to make that first attempt.

    I cringed at your description of the curve.

    Like

  17. Natalie DeYoung says:

    I LOVE the last line. It finishes this off perfectly.
    And I would have dropped the bike. You know how I know this? Because I have dropped the bike nearly every time I’ve ridden one. I just get panicky.

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    • Pam Huggins says:

      Thank you Natalie. I understand about the panic thing and good for you knowing it about bikes.
      I get panicky riding horses and they throw me EVERY TIME! Needless to say, I don’t ride horses.

      Like

  18. Daniel Nest says:

    See? Thinking is good, but overthinking will have you end up with your face in a tree….hmmm…that has a certain authoritative wisdom ring to it, doesn’t it? Maybe one day someone will quote me on Twitter:

    “Thinking is good, but overthinking will have you end up with your face in a tree” – Daniel Nest, 2014.

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  19. I am way too scared to drive a motorcycle, though I admit in my youth I loved riding on the back of one. Counter steering sounds like most things: if you think too hard about how to do it, you end up just making it worse. Glad you didn’t hit that wall, I was getting a little nervous for you.

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  20. I bet I looked ridiculous all tensed up in my chair reading as you described going straight instead of turning. It didn’t help you.

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  21. Pingback: yeah write #157 weekly writing challenge winners: crowd favorite + top row three + spirit awards | yeah writeyeah write

  22. Wonderful writing, PAMO.

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  23. Robin says:

    yes, great writing that led to clear visuals (because I am all about the visuals).

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  24. Haha! And this is why I’m a happy motorcycle passenger but not a driver. I would have never gotten off that sidewalk. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  25. dianabletter says:

    Hello, Pam, Here I am, the Mom who took off on her motorcycle! I was delighted to see that you read my memoir and that you were naturally doing what seemed counter-intuitive to me! But riding a motorcycle taught me to open my mind to new ways of seeing things and trusting. I enjoyed reading your blog and wish all your readers who wrote you to keep writing and creating. Remember, we get knocked down and it’s not defeat. But if we stay down…that’s defeat. That’s all I got for now. Diana Bletter, The Mom Who Took off On Her Motorcycle (and came back to write the book!)

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  26. Pam Huggins says:

    Hi Diana! What a pleasure to see you here. Your book, The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle, was well written, heartfelt, honest and simply beautiful. When I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. I read through in just a couple of days and I’m positive I will read your book again. It’s a book that will interest not only motorcycle riders, but women and men in all walks of life.
    As your husband says, “It’s boring to give up. Anyone can give up.” Words to live by.
    Thank you for sharing yourself and giving your readers inspiration and courage to face life’s challenges.

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  27. dianabletter says:

    Hi Pam, thanks for your reply! I am glad that you liked my husband, Jonny’s, quote about not giving up. I’m repeating the same thing to you about your trying to write opinion pieces. I have published a few essays and it’s important to be our own cheerleaders and keep writing. I love your cartoons, by the way, and I’ll sign up for your blog. You know that story about the woman who wanted to learn to play piano at 65 and quipped to her piano teacher, “You know how old I’ll be when i learn to play?” and he said, “the same age you’ll be if you don’t.” So I hope you continue. It’s practice and patience and you already got keeping positive! I hope you can leave a good review for me on amazon — every review helps! Glad to make your acquaintance via the internet. Best, diana

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    • Pam Huggins says:

      Thank you Diana. I truly am honored that you’ve taken the time to write words of encouragement. It means a lot to me and helps immensely.
      I just left you a five star review on Amazon. Thank you for reminding me to do so. It’s important to sing the praises of those who work hard to make art. (In your case, written art.)
      I’ve also reposted this story with the link to your book on my business blog where it will get even more views.
      I’m following your blog as well and have read through your pages. I enjoy your writing style and find you have what often is missing… and that is good common sense. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Thanks again. Happy writing. I’m glad to have met you here and through your work.

      Like

  28. Mary Paquet says:

    Pam, you have the touch. So well written. We teach counter steering in bicycle classes. Jeff gave great advice! Seems like we naturally do the right moves. I like those two good looking men.

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  29. captelaine says:

    I’ve been thinking about the ‘counter steering’ post for a while nowโ€ฆ well since I first read itโ€ฆ could have sworn I commented previously, but maybe not. I finally know what someone (maybe my Dad, maybe an instructor at a bicycle safety course I took) told me about steeringโ€ฆ they said ‘Don’t turn the wheelโ€ฆ keep your front wheel straight and lean into the turn’โ€ฆ well in order to keep the front wheel straight while leaning into a turn, you very subtly do that counter steering action. For me thinking about keeping the wheel straight is enough for me to do it correctly. I don’t know if you teach new riders or not these daysโ€ฆ but if you do the ‘keep straight’ may work better as advice than the counter steering advice which didn’t work for you at all.

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    • Pam Huggins says:

      Thanks Elaine! I always appreciate your comments, here on my blog and those that meander awhile inside your head. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Next time I ride, this week of course, I’ll think about what you’ve said here. Have a fabulous week dear one!

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  30. Tony Single says:

    Do what comes naturally. That is such good advice, and so self evident that most people miss it. Your man Jeff really does have a wise head on those shoulders. Seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pam Huggins says:

      I agree Tony. Those things staring us right in the face are often the things we overlook.
      Jeff is really wise. It’s very annoying at times, but mostly works out. Haha!

      Liked by 1 person

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