Someone recently asked me "how long are you gonna keep this Biker Momma thing going?". My response, "I don't know." The truth is that I'm passionate about motorcycles and fascinated by other women who ride. So I guess the adult me would answer that I'll keep going as long as I have willing interviewees and as long as the topic still fascinates me. The 2-year old me would simply say "It's my blog so I can do whatever I want". Right?
This week I'm super excited to introduce you to Bernadette Murphy, best-selling author of Harley and Me: Embracing Risk on the Road to a More Authentic Life . I read this book about a year ago and so much of it resonated with me and "felt" similar to my own journey on many levels. If you haven't already checked it out, do it. Now. This interview is perfect timing because the paperback edition of Harley and Me is already shipping. Thank you Bernadette for agreeing to this interview. Meet Bernadette Murphy...
If you don't mind my asking, what is your age?
How long have you been riding, and what is your current bike?
I have been riding since 2011, age 48. I ride a 2011 Harley Sportster Iron named Izzy Bella.
Did you start riding before you had kids or after?
How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
What were other people’s reactions to you becoming a new rider?
Some people thought I was having a midlife crisis, including my sister and (now ex-) husband. Others thought it was about time I showed my true colors. For all the naysayers, most people encouraged and supported me.
Did you start riding to fulfill a lifelong dream or just an idea that popped up one day?
I took a class at the local Harley dealer as research for a character I was writing. I’m an author and I wanted my main character to be a woman who rode a motorcycle. I had no idea I would fall in love with riding – but the minute I got the bike to glide across the blacktop, I was thrilled! I felt graceful and elegant, powerful and brawny, all at once. I was hooked! Plus, the fact that I had lived 48 years of my life, unaware that I could love a motorcycle taught me that there were plenty of other things I could love as well, but that I just hadn’t yet explored. That started me on a journey to try all kinds of crazy experiences to see what I love, including rock- and ice-climbing, skiing, open water paddling, scuba diving, living in Tahiti for three months. My life completely expanded once I learned to ride.
How do your kids feel about you riding?
All three are super supportive. Both boys ride, but my daughter doesn’t – still, she bungee jumps and skydives, so she gets it.
Do you now, or anytime in the past let your kids ride pillion?
No, they’ve never been interested. They have their own things.
Has your riding influenced your kids to start riding?
My middle son learned to ride before I did and he helped lure me in. But once I learned, my older son decided to learn as well. We’ve now gone riding together a number of times. My oldest son and I have twice ridden from Southern California to Northern California for a camping/white-water rafting weekend. Not many young adult men can say they’ve done that with their moms. Now I also rock and ice climb with all three kids.
How do you feel about your sons riding?
I support their riding, but I still worry.
Do you all ride together?
What else can you tell us about being a mom who rides?
My book, “Harley and Me” is filled with stories of being a mom who rides. My best friend is also a riding mom and together we do a cross-country trek. Check it out.
What is your profession and what other hobbies do you have?
I am an author and an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the Antioch University Los Angeles MFA in Creative Writing Program.
Bernadette's Bio in a Nutshell:
I am a best-selling author and a long-time book critic for the Los Angeles Times. I learned to ride a motorcycle at the age of 48 and that experience became the catalyst that transformed me from a settled wife and professor with teenage children into a woman on my own. I tell that story in Harley and Me: Embracing Risk on the Road to a More Authentic Life (Counterpoint Press, hardcover 2016, paperback 2017). In the narrative, learning to ride a motorcycle was a way of opening a door for me, enabling me to go through a tough divorce and start my life over again. Along the way, I learned to rock- and ice climb, SCUBA diver, moved to Tahiti for three months and paddled across a span of open ocean (along with taking a cross-country motorcycling, of course) while looking at neuroscience and the biology of risk. My website is bernadette-murphy.com.
“Let’s just say it up front. Bernadette Murphy is a powerful woman, even if she’s petite and ‘bird boned.’ She survived a childhood with a mentally ill mother. She raised three children. She’s a professor, a journalist, a marathoner, an ice climber, a Sierra hiker, and, as she tells us in her gripping memoir, Harley and Me, a brave motorcyclist. This woman has a lot to brag about, and yet, thankfully, she is not casting for bad-ass cred in this memoir. Instead, we see a woman at midlife who’s questioning everything she’s been taught about gender roles and risk . . .What’s truly refreshing is that she shows how the path to transformation is a rocky road. No easy 10 Steps to Survive Your Midlife Crisis provided here. Her story inspires without being tritely inspirational, and that is a real gift.” —The Rumpus
“Murphy takes the cliché of the middle-aged man and a sports car and turns it around in this memoir about how she, as a forty-eight-year-old college professor, wife, and mother of three learned to ride a motorcycle. Murphy writes discerningly not only of the motorcycling, but of the underlying neuroscience and psychology. She argues persuasively for the idea of using risk to transform life.“ —National Book Review
“Murphy’s book is a hybrid: part memoir, part travelogue, part science-psychology. It’s a powerful call to reconsider our impulse to ‘settle in’ during the second half of our lives. For Murphy, risks and new experiences are not exclusive to 25-year-olds. We’d all do well to look ‘into the Eyes of the Beast’ more often, to lean into our fears, turn on the gas, and roll.” —Chicago Review of Books
What happens when women in midlife step out of what's predictable? For Bernadette Murphy, best-selling author and long-time book critic for the Los Angeles Times, learning to ride a motorcycle at the age of forty-eight becomes the catalyst that transforms her from a settled wife and professor with teenage children into a woman on her own. In the narrative, learning to ride a motorcycle is really just a way of opening a door for Murphy, enabling her to go through a tough divorce and start her life over again. Along the way, she goes rock climbing, ice climbing, SCUBA diving and open ocean paddling (along with cross-country motorcycling of course) while looking at neuroscience and the biology of risk. Harley and Me: Embracing Risk on the Road to a More Authentic Life (On Sale: May 30th, 2017) is the story of this adventure.