Mother and Son Achieve Their Dreams Together

By Julie Parham
Mom, high school teacher, and recent Basic RiderCourse graduate

Really, who doesn’t want to ride a motorcycle when they’re a kid? Or at least think it’s cool? I remember as a child watching Evel Knievel perform his stunts on TV, and while I didn’t necessarily want to jump over obstacles like him, I definitely wanted to zip around on a motorbike and have the potential to do such amazing stunts. Not even the Bandit outrunning Smokey or the Dukes of Hazzard dusting Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane could outdo Evel Knievel on his motorcycle.

It wasn’t until I was 19 that I got to ride on a motorbike. I was studying abroad in Ecuador for a summer, and per my professor’s recommendation on how to learn Spanish the quickest, I’d met and spent all my time with my Ecuadorian boyfriend, Carlos. We rode his sport bike two-up all around Quito. Those days, I performed a stunt more dangerous than anything Evel Knievel had ever done: I rode without a helmet. Helmets were expensive, and most riders there didn’t own one, so every time I got on the bike with Carlos I would pray. Still, my fear wasn’t enough to keep me from riding with him all the time. I was smitten! Whether it was more with Carlos or the bike is still unclear. I just knew I loved the feel of the wind. It was a sensation of freedom, tranquility, and pure joy all at once.

Fast-forward many years: work, marriage (not to Carlos), kids, divorce. Besides a one-time scooter rental in Key West and a ride on the back of my friend’s Harley – both with a helmet – I didn’t have any further experiences on a motorbike. But oh, how I envied every person I saw on a motorcycle over those years. Every time I drove by the local community college and saw the advertisements for their Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic RiderCourse, I said to myself that I needed to sign up, but I never did. I hadn’t given up my dream per se, but I wasn’t really actively pursuing it either.

Around when he turned 18, my son Kaden expressed his own long-held interest in learning how to ride a motorcycle and pursuing a license. I excitedly told him that if he signed up, I would take the class with him.

Then, a few months later in May 2021, I took a bad fall off my bicycle while clipped in. I torqued my ankle and hip. My ankle eventually recovered, but after months and months of physical therapy for a limited range of motion, my hip ultimately required surgery in December 2022. During my rehabilitation, my sole focus was on walking again and building strength enough for a trip to Morocco that I had planned for my 50th birthday in July 2023, so the thought of riding a motorcycle didn’t really cross my mind for a good seven months.

During a riding break, Julie gets a photo in the Sahara. The ATV ride reignited her dream to learn how to ride motorcycles.

Summer came quickly, and six months to the day after my surgery, I landed in Morocco. One of the highlights was spending the night in the Sahara. Luckily for me, that happened to be the night before my birthday. I rang in my 50th birthday at midnight in the sands of the Sahara. It is something I’ll never forget. Early the next morning, our group decamped on camels to watch the sunrise and then rented ATVs to ride through the dunes. I instantly felt that tranquil joy sensation and my dream was reignited. I knew that I could no longer put it off. As soon as we got back to the hotel – even before showering all that grit and sand off of me – I looked up the Basic RiderCourse at the community college on my phone and I called Kaden to tell him to sign us up for the August class before it filled.

From the online description of the class, I’d assumed that learning to ride would be a piece of cake. The only prerequisite was that you had to know how to ride a bicycle. Despite my fall while clipped in, I’d been expertly riding a two-wheel bicycle since I was four years old, and I’d learned how to drive in a manual transmission car, so I figured motorcycle riding would be a cinch for me. I was more concerned about Kaden mastering the clutch.

Welp, I had it all wrong! While I did great on the written test and he just made it, Kaden blew me out of the water on the riding course. He mastered every skill on the bike almost immediately. Meanwhile, even with my mastery of the clutch, I struggled with my hand position and modulating the throttle.

Julie and her son Kaden, after passing their Riding Skills Test.

When it came time to test, I was nervous. I finished the first task successfully, but when I went to move on, I stalled. Then came the U-turn that I’d been struggling to achieve all day, but during the test, I did it within bounds and without putting a foot down. However, when I finished the U-turn, I over-throttled and didn’t stop where I was supposed to. As the testers explained the next task, I was near tears with nerves and beating up on myself for such preventable errors. Kaden came up and put his arm around me and said, “There’s always next weekend,” reminding me that I could retake the test. Fortunately, it turned out that my errors didn’t cost me too many points and I passed, while Kaden landed a perfect score!

Today, I am so proud of the two of us for achieving this dream, and overjoyed that we did it together. I like to think that I am now much wiser than that 19-year-old helmetless girl in love: I take the risks and responsibilities of riding a motorcycle much more seriously, which is something I believe all riders should do. And I am so relieved that my son understands that at age 19 in a way that I did not.

I cannot wait to get out on the road with Kaden. Right now, we’re stocking up on safety gear like armored jackets and pants while we search for bikes to purchase. He’s deciding between a sport bike and cruiser, while I want a three-wheeler for the stability that it will provide for my hip and also for commuting to work. I’ve just taken the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic RiderCourse 3-Wheel class as well, and will hopefully purchase my Can-Am Spyder in the coming weeks. We’re already talking about scenic rides through the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Tail of the Dragon, down the coast of California, and just around the corner to the grocery store. I love that even if we get our own groups of friends to ride with regularly, Kaden and I will always be each other’s first riding partner.

In the weeks since Julie first shared her story with us, she has become a proud new owner of a beautiful, red Can-Am Spyder.