“Beats a stroller,” I used to say when strangers stopped to chat and take a picture.
On hot summer days, my son and I have a unique way to travel: a Harley Davidson with a sidecar. Basically a fibreglass-enclosed office chair with a windshield, removable roof, and wheel, all clamped to the frame of my bike, the 1989 Velorex sidecar is the same in which my brother and I first rode when we were four and six years old. Dad and Mom on the bike to our left, nothing but the white line separating us from the landscapes on the right. We saw and felt more than we would have in any other vehicle.
Back then, my mom sewed our leather jackets, and most Harley Davidson dealerships didn’t have kid sections. We hardly fit the rebellious stereotype, yet restaurant staff and campground caretakers sometimes refused to serve our leather-clad crew. Though these things have mostly changed, travelling with a sidecar is still rare, inviting waves and thumbs-up on the highway and conversations at our frequent stops.
My son first started riding when he was one-year-old, with the two of us in the sidecar together. Baffled, long-shot pipes and a thickly-padded helmet quieted the rumble for his young ears. The fresh air most often lulled him to sleep. Through the years, the sidecar has been mounted on a Wide Glide, two Dyna Wide Glides and two Sportsters — my Sportsters, since my son turned four. He thought he was pretty cool in his bandana and sunglasses.
We have visited nearby lakes, ice cream shops, libraries, fairgrounds, arcades and other random locations. We have also taken longer trips, venturing into Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the northern States. Mundane chores and commutes become excuses to ride. And there are no phones, TVs or gaming devices. Biking makes us unplug. The added weight of the sidecar requires extra arm strength, like an old tractor without power steering. And I don’t have to put my feet down at red lights. Otherwise, the rumble drowns out the buzz of hectic day-to-day life just the same as when I am on two wheels.
Biking season in Alberta is short, usually from mid-May through September. This increases the anticipation and novelty. Last summer, however, the rain was relentless. Plans for our annual family trip were delayed and shortened; the route changed based on the weather radar. But at last — partial sun!
On the highway, with my parents and husband ahead, I stole glances to my right. My son played with his hand in the wind, relaxed and enjoying the ride. He was likely daydreaming about the awaiting hotel swimming pool and dinosaur museum. In double-digits, he often opted to ride passenger except for on these longer trips or when his little cousin came along. I couldn’t help but think with mixed emotions of how soon he would be riding solo. Where would his road take him? Would he make use of the sidecar someday?
For me, the old saying printed on t-shirts around the world applies: It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.
Jaclyn Dawn has always called the Edmonton area home. With a communications degree and creative writing Master’s, she works as a freelance writer and instructor. In her debut novel, The Inquirer, published fall 2019, Miah must expose the twisted truth behind a tabloid releasing an entire town’s gossip or watch her life fall apart again.
This article appears in the February 2020 issue of Avenue Edmonton.