ovelists convince us every man has his dream woman. I am not so convinced the same is true for women although, as gender differentiations regrettably become increasingly obscure in this age, it seems perhaps to be likely.
For most men “She” has a certain look and hair color and figure. For some it may simply be a combination of traits such as great eyes, shared values or similar interests. Sometimes personality traits like a sense of humor or happy attitude can be a factor in the construction of our iconic fantasy.
Regardless of how closely a woman appears to flesh-out the ingredients in your own personal recipe, when you’re a 58 year old man with many failed relationships behind you, no small amount of optimism is required to say aloud those overused words: “I have found the woman of my dreams”. Nonetheless, and though I didn’t know it yet in April of 2006, I had. I, a man of passable intelligence and distinct, however difficultly acquired, discernment, was beginning to consider the improbable possibility after only three dates. The fourth date clinched it. And in the telling of that adventure lies the explanation.
For our fourth date, I had invited Audrey to join me for an all but yawning weekend at the Rotary International, Annual Conference for District 5150. To tell the truth, I am quite devoted to Rotary but I was not being quite so nerdy as this arguably inconsiderate invitation might suggest. Understand, I hardly expected to dazzle my new heartthrob by having her listen to an endless parade of old men giving long speeches and allowing her entre to our secret handshake but as President of Novato Sunrise Rotary Club, my attendance was mandatory for the full weekend. I, quite simply, didn’t want to go three days without seeing her. Besides, I confess there was probably a gremlin in me that wanted to test her mettle. I’m a cut-to-the-chase guy who probably in some part of my heart wanted to see how she’d hold up with a group of strangers who, however unexciting they might be as a group, were individuals unequivocally dedicated to a very noble cause.
The big event was being held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Rohnert Park forty miles to the north of my home. For us, the date was to begin on Friday night as soon as Audrey could get to my place in San Rafael, from her office which was way down south in San Jose. That was an hour and a half drive under the best of circumstances. But, given the expected Friday night traffic congestion, well let’s just say that optimism had to be ruling in order for us to dream that we were going to pull this off in time for the dinner.
Audrey didn’t manage to get away from her office early as we had hoped and traffic for her on the way to San Rafael was at rage level. The traffic on Highway 101 to the north, our only route to the dinner, was going to be just as bad or worse.
When she finally arrived at my house, I told Audrey what I had come to realize over the last hour. The only way we could possibly make it on time would be to ride a motorcycle so we could split traffic lanes. In hindsight, that was a brazen idea to even consider, let alone actually suggest it aloud to this pretty woman in a pin-striped business skirt-suit who had just arrived after a harrying battle with traffic for more than two hours.
Audrey had never, in her entire life, even so much as straddled a motorcycle before and I was asking her to put her life in my hands and ride to a dinner to meet some of my friends for the first time. Sitting here now, I am so embarrassed by my brash expectation that I can hardly even write the words. In my defense, all I can only say again that, as I was president of my Rotary Club that year, my attendance was non-negotiable.
Bold though the ride-a-motorcycle suggestion may have been, this walking personification of joy simply looked at me with the most delicious eyes God ever put in a woman’s face and, with absolute trust, said, “Okay”. I almost proposed marriage on the spot.
Audrey quickly stepped into the spare room and slipped out of her business attire and into a pair of jeans and hiking boots. I threw an over-sized, spare leather jacket around her and found an extra helmet that fit her as well as might be expected from the jumble of headgear I had collected over the years. We found a pair of gloves for her and were off to the freeway.
I managed to advise her, on the roll, to sit still and trust me; as if she had a choice at this 60 mile per hour moment. I further instructed that she should keep her feet and arms and knees tucked close to the bike and off we went between cars. They were traveling at speeds varying from 20 to 35 miles per hour or so. My old rule has been to not pass cars while splitting lanes at more than about 20 miles per hour faster than they were traveling.
Traffic was extremely heavy as it usually is on Friday nights. There is a section between Novato and Petaluma where three lanes of traffic narrows to two in each direction. It’s a dreaded area to traverse during peak traffic and is locally known as the infamous “Novato Narrows”. For mile after mile I split lanes through the Narrows but when I got north of it, the easing in traffic congestion I had expected did not happen.
While attending the California Highway Patrol Motorcycle Academy, I had been trained by the best how to split traffic with relative safety – and safety is, of course, a relative term on a motorcycle. Splitting traffic (perfectly legal in California) for long distances is an intense, white-knuckle experience and, when it goes on for miles and miles, it can be very draining. When you finally break out the other side to stop or ride in open traffic again, the relief is distinct and comes with thanks to God for sheer survival. Breathing recommences.
When we got to the DoubleTree Hotel, we parked and smiled and hugged with a combination of relief and exhilaration.
After I opened the saddlebags and got out our better clothes, Audrey stood in the parking lot and slipped into a blazer and some hopelessly sexy, snake-skin shoes as if she had done this a dozen times. I tossed off my leathers and danced into a blue cashmere blazer and dress cowboy boots. We carelessly crammed our riding jackets and boots into the saddlebags.
Audrey shook out her hair, flicked a brush through it and, like innocent royalty, walked in to the party on my arm as if she were walking in on a red runner from a stretch limo. Unwittingly, she turned heads and sucked just a bit of air out of the ballroom.
As we were picking up our name-tags and going through the registration process, I introduced Audrey to various couples and she became engaged in conversation with somebody.
A couple of buddies took me aside to compliment me on my date. When I bragged to them that she had just stepped off my motorcycle and that we’d had to split traffic to get there on time, their jaws slacked and they involuntarily turned to get another look at Audrey. They gawked at Audrey’s not-to-be-denied, full mane and disarming smile. When they turned back to me, it was with a look that in no uncertain terms said, “This is not a fair world and you’ve just received a gift way above your deserve-level. Don’t mess this one up!”.
I was in awe. I was giddy. I didn’t know it but I was in love. Six weeks later I proposed marriage. She said yes. Bikers have all the luck!
Did I mention that she would rather watch a good western than any chick flick out there?
Copyright Rik Goodell 2008