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My Motorcycle Momma

Sanden Totten

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Vicken Totten's new ride
(Courtesy Sanden Totten)
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Tomorrow is Mother's Day, and we wanted to share some stories about that special lady in our lives. Producer Sanden Totten shares this tale about growing pains -- specifically, his mom's growing pains as she neared the big milestone of turning 50.

Her kids were grown. Sanden was the only one living at home at the time. She'd been getting restless at her job. She changed her hairstyle every other week. The signs were all there. But Sanden says he had no idea what was coming next:


It happened one day after school. I came home, and I opened the garage, and there I saw this motorcycle. And not some dinky moped either -- a big, angry-looking thing, just parked right there sneering at our white minivan.

I ran upstairs, shocked. And in the kitchen, both my parents were laughing at me.

"Yes, we did think it was pretty funny the way you said 'Holy s**t, there's a bike in the garage!' Poor Sanden looked so astonished!"

OK. That's my mom. And I was astonished. Because it was her bike.

All my life, she was the one lecturing me about thinking through my actions. And here she was with the keys to some crotch rocket -- all because of a midlife crisis.

Whatever. The point was, motorcycles are dangerous. Every day, an average of 12 Americans wipe out riding one of these deathtraps. And buying one is the kind of impulsive, irresponsible thing I'd expect from someone young and stupid -- like me. Not my mom.

"It certainly was an impulse," my mom says. "But I don't think it was that irresponsible. And I was very careful about how I did things. I wore way more protection than most people would."

Mom makes a good point -- she did get everything from a full face helmet to fireproof socks. But any way you look at it, this was a big decision. What gave her the right to just do this on her own, without even consulting her family?

"I had earned the right to do that. I also felt I denied myself for a long time for the sake of my children and my family," she says. "And things were reasonably settled, and I deserved it. I actually bought something that was fun for me."

All right, I can't argue with that. And truthfully, she was going to ride this thing no matter what I said. My only hope was that it was just a passing phase.

It wasn't a passing phase.

My mom bought a full leather outfit. She started cutting the sleeves off her T-shirts. She even joined a biker gang.

Okay, it was a biker gang for doctors and lawyers, so less six-packs and brass knuckles and more briefcases and bifocals. But still, it was kind of cool. My mom was like Peter Fonda in "Easy Rider" -- except short, middle-aged and wearing lipstick.

And she was having fun -- it was happiest I'd seen her in years. So when she announced to our family that she was going to take a cross-country trip on her bike, I decided to show her some support. I asked to ride along on the back.

Of course she said yes -- she's my mom. So we packed up our stuff in two saddlebags and hit the open road.

We started on the West Coast. It was summer. Mom remembers the heat:

"Really hot! Like 105, 110 at least!"

But when we reached the Rockies, things cooled down. Her bike was pretty powerful, so we had no trouble climbing those hills. We passed some amazing scenery as we were swooping and swooshing down the roadway. Things got more exciting as we started heading down, down, down towards Denver. We hit the city and cruised through to the other side and then... nothing. It was flat and boring for miles.

We rode on late into the night without stopping, and before we knew it we ran out of gas. This didn't phase my mom, though. She just parked the bike and we went out in the middle of a deserted field -- and just looked up at the stars.

My mom told about how when she was my age, she use to dream of crossing the country like in the book "On the Road." This trip kind of fulfilled that dream for her.

"I was very proud. I was very happy to be doing that," she says. "It felt so good that you and I were sharing similar interests and a little adventure together."

Then, the accident.

It was a couple months later. My mom was heading to work one day and the bike slid out from under her in the middle of a turn. She survived it OK, but her knee was busted pretty badly and the bike was totaled.

Now here's the point where I should have freaked out. I should have put my foot down and said: "Mom, no more motorcycles! It's time to give it up!"

But the truth was, I didn't want to see her give it up. I had gotten used to this new mom. Biking gave her a purpose, it gave her confidence and it gave her a life outside of just her job and her family.

Two month later, she bought a new bike. This one was even bigger and shinier than the first. Before I knew it, she was back on the road. And you know what? I've realized I'm okay with that... as long as she wears her helmet.

  • Music Bridge:
    Longhair
    Artist: Monster Magnet
    CD: Tab (Caroline)

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