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Grandma gets her Motorcycle endorsement

While demonstrating zero interest in riding her own bike and only a little in pillion, my wife’s brother (major HOG guy) delivered a 1978 Honda XL75 to her. On June 30th he and I strapped it onto the motorcycle lift with the rear tire not touching and ran her through the operation thereof.

She immediately began researching all things about riding, and signed up for the first available beginner class and DMV written test appointment.

Manual choke, hand clutch, foot shift, separate front and rear brakes with hand and foot … imagine all the foreign things there are to learn. Next was a month of my driving what eventually got named “Piglet” to the unused school parking lot where she would ride around for about an hour before I rode it home.

Tire Wheel Plant Land vehicle VehicleA full month later she took her beginner class at 71 years old, the most senior in the class on the only not new bike, the only carbureted bike, the only kick-start bike… and passed the Montana riding requirement.

The next phase was me trailing Piglet on Dr Zee, stopping her occasionally for teaching moments, but that became rare to zero during the next month.

Last Tuesday (9/12) her DMV appointment finally arrived. 

She passed the state’s written test, and with the riding portion already completed,

She earned the big M.

Hair Head Smile Shoulder ShelfThat very same afternoon a used riding jacket and many pairs of gloves I found on a motorcycle forum ad arrived.

The timing was BEAUTIFUL. She received a serious upgrade to her gear as a reward for earning the endorsement.

Pictured here is her ‘new’ BMW-branded, armored, summer motorcycle jacket.

Yesterday we rode a 10 mile loop of mostly gravel, some pavement, including a stop in Darby for ice cream with several people quite interested in her bike and her story.

She has arrived in the motorcycle community.

We never do this in a car

We are trying to build expertise and confidence on our motorcycles, particularly Missy on Piglet. To this end every-other-day outings are the pattern we are shooting for.

She is officially in rider training mode which requires direct supervision on all her street rides … until she smokes the written test she has scheduled for mid September.

Initially I was tagging along on our snowplow, the Polaris Sportsman without the plow until next snow season. She was running under 25mph on those trips and the Sportsman was happy at 20, 15, or whatever she felt like at the moment. As her skills and confidence grew, so did her speed. The Sportsman can easily top out quite a bit faster than Piglet, but that is not what it is best at.

So I tried out Dr. Zee, my Suzuki DRZ400S/SM. No contest. Dr Zee is more light and agile, seeming a whole bunch better suited as a companion to Piglet… not to mention more fun to ride, and happy in a very broad 20-70 mph range.

As you may have seen in my post a couple days ago (Biggest adventure thus for for Piglet and Dr Zee), we stretched our legs and went to the Lake Como boat ramp for a break and some photos. That was a nice ride in all ways.

Today we did some tight-turn slalom practicing in the Darby High School parking lot, dropped videos in the library returns slot, visited the Darby Museum (me for the first time), then motored over to the Darby bridge over the Bitterroot River.

There we un-helmeted, un-gloved and enjoyed a break in the midst of some lovely scenery.

Missy pointed out, “We never do this in a car”.

There it was. No “Why not?” No question that her statement was 100% correct. No reason we don’t. We simply do not tourist, take breaks, stop and smell the roses, or whatever else you might call those special, unscheduled moments we took on our motorcycles today.

Truth is, we sometimes do, but those are very, very rare. On the bikes, however, those breaks seem to be integral parts of the rides. I suspect it has something to do with how much closer a biker is to the elements, the surroundings, and also how easily almost effortlessly motorcycles stop, go and turn.

Another part may be that motorcycling is a much more physical activity and the extra risk demands a significantly higher alertness to your surroundings. Both of those warrant additional breaks.

There might be more to it, but regardless of all that, this is shaping up to be a grand summer vacation for us both.

Biggest adventure thus far for Piglet and Dr Zee

Today we took our longest ride to date.

Our destination was Lake Como. Taking Old Darby Road to Lake Como road accumulated 18 miles on Piglet’s odometer.

Missy handled the combination of pavement and gravel road like a veteran. Neither of us have any love for the uneasy footing gravel provides.

Her thrift store biker outfit now includes a BRIGHT, reflective backpack. She is taking all the new rider instructions quite seriously and making darn sure she does her part to be seen… by semi-attentive auto drivers.Mostly I follow at whatever pace she finds comfortable, but upon reaching Lake Como Road she asked me to take the lead rather than chancing a wrong turn through the multiple choices that come along.

Her on Piglet and me on Dr. Zee make a nice pair. We are comfortable and compatible. I prefer accompanying her on my bike rather than my relatively chubby-feeling Polaris Sportsman ATV.

Once at the lake for our break and photo ops she informed me I could go faster.

On the way back I did that. She’s got Piglet screaming along at 40mph now.

I am heartened to see her riding with competence and confidence.

Best of all: She’s enjoying the rides.

Note to us: Probably ought to refill Piglet’s peanut-sized fuel tank. That 100+mpg thirst is swilling the fuel with all this riding time.


It is now official. The diminutive 1978 Honda XL75 Melissa’s Harley-loving brother (owns several HOGs) gave her is now known as Piglet.

The three of us find the moniker amusing and appropriate.

She has even affixed a Piglet sticker to her motorcycle helmet.

The photo to the right jumped in front of me this morning.

I think it captures the essence of Piglet, though it would be quite a bit better if the big brothers on either side were HOGS rather than a BMW and a Suzuki.

Perhaps that photo will show up here someday…

but it won’t be in my garage as I am not likely to go for anything heavier than my BMW.

motorcycle licensing exam

The month of practice paid off. The oldest person in the class rode a motorcycle older than most of the students in last weekend’s training and examination sessions.

She successfully passed the driving portion of the Montana state licensing exam to qualify for an “M” endorsement on her driver’s licensing.

Both days of class were SCORCHERS. They were also very long for a retiree … heck, they were long for everybody … long, mentally stressful and physically tiring.

I arrived in time to witness and record all but one of the tests. You can see bits of them in the video clip to the left. I also managed to roast in my multi-layer riding pants, boots, and ran through my water supply far too early. Yet they were doing all the work. I just watched.

That the skills test covered the second half of their Sunday session added being tired to the challenges they faced to meet Montana’s qualifications.

She, and the rest of the students now have permits to ride under supervision.

Said another way, we can now go for motorcycle rides each on our own bikes.

I hope I can keep up with Blazing Piglet’s 75 ccs while struggling along with the Dr Zee’s 400 ccs. 😉

biker chick ready to fly

This month has been most remarkable for the introduction by Missy’s ‘little’ brother of a “new” 1979 Honda XL75 into our household … and a new motorcyclist along with it.

While visiting him as he and I took Idaho Star’s ENHANCED STREET SKILLS course, he set his ‘big sister’ on this 174-pound motorbike hiding in the corner of his garage full of Harleys. He and I agreed it was an excellent fit, subsequently hatching a plan to move it to our garage and turn her into a motorcycle jockey.

We began her orientation ride July 1st in the Darby High School parking lot with Bruce and I coaching. Since that weekend, I have been coaching solo.

She completed her 13th session today. Her current goal is to pass the Montana Motorcycle Rider Safety BASIC RIDER COURSE she is scheduled for July 29th and 30th.

As you can see in this video clip, she is smooth, confident and competent … particularly noticeable in The Slalom – one of the tougher exercises required to be considered capable of handling a motorcycle on the road.

I pronounce this fledgling “Ready To Fly”.

Our pattern has consistently been that I, the licensed motorcyclist, drive her Honda to the high school parking lot. She follows in her van. There she drives around for a while practicing various necessary skills. I then ride it home.

Throughout this experience, we have made quite a few references to her brother and his Harleys. The other day as I headed over to mount her diminutive Honda I made some reference to taking her HOG home. Smiling to myself as I rode away its new name popped into my head: PIGLET.

All three of us love the name. She happily planted the sticker I bought on her motorcycle helmet.

I picked up my motorcycle jockey endorsement around the mid 1970s. In my early 20s, I hopped onto my first motorcycle, a 1972 BSA 650 Thunderbolt, with approximately zero experience. I rode it around for a few minutes, paid cash, and soon thereafter passed a simple written exam inspiring California regulators to add the motorcycle pilot permission that I kept ever since.


Almost world-wide, The State requires much more training and demands proof of competence before allowing you to ride. In Montana, she applied for an appointment to take the written test over a month ago. Taking the first opportunity offered equals early September just to take a brief multiple-choice test.

Passing that allows her to legally ride under very limited conditions until she feels competent to pass Montana’s riding test. The riding test can be replaced by taking, and passing the Montana Motorcycle Rider Safety BASIC RIDER COURSE.

Thankfully, she signed up for the second one offered in Missoula this year almost as soon as the class was announced. Those are now sold out until the second-to-last 2023 session this coming September 9th. I expect that window to close soon.

I am confident she will not only pass, but impress students and instructors alike that this petite first-time-rider grandmother can comfortably handle the little vintage bike with kick-starter, 4-speed foot-shifted transmission, left-hand clutch, right-hand front brake and right-foot rear brake.

Modern scooters are A WHOLE BUNCH SIMPLER.

Go dazzle them, hunny

Ted as biker chick coach

1979 Honda XL75 and new rider … more than 20 years its senior

My brother-in-law has over 35 years riding, and tinkering on them, now with a stable of Harleys. There was this little Honda training bike taking up valuable garage space until his vertically modest sister sat on it during a recent visit we made to his house.

He did a thorough mechanical restoration, added rare bits to make it street legal, then delivered it to his sister. He, she and I have been working on rider training for about a week now, starting with a bike strapped down, rear wheel in the air. 

As you might understand, kick starting, left foot shifting, left hand clutching, separate front (right hand) and rear brake (right foot) … there are a lot of crusty female synapses that have to be reprogrammed. But she was an avid bicyclist in her childhood, so some stuff seemed natural. 

We now have a daily pattern of my riding the little thang to the high school faculty parking lot while she drives her van. There I watch and answer questions, make suggestions, film and cheer her on.

She’s getting it. Loving it. Studying online. Signed up for the earliest appointments available to take Montana written test for permit to learn (September!!!) and for the earliest available MMRS basic rider course (July 29-30).  By the time The State is ready to permit her onroad training, she’ll have passed the riding portion and get The Big M on her license. 

Over here is a video of her giving a walkaround of the XL75

Here is a sample of her doing parking lot rider training

Patrol Bike (BMW R1200RT-P)

Dr Zee (Suzuki DRZ400SM) with Bitterroot River background

I try to giver her new information in bite-sized portions. As the crucial bits become automatic, we add smoothness and such to the package.

We still aren’t ready for the street, but she is getting very, very close.  Besides, we live in Darby. There isn’t much to it, and her expected route is small, low-speed and simple. 

The XR75, her mini-thumper, gets buzzy by 25mph and absolutely maxes out around 42.

She won’t be riding much with me while I’m on Dr Zee,
and fershur not accompanying my Patrol Bike. 


Fun with granddaughter Mochi. She loves to bake (cherry tarts and ginger creams) and she did my nails, too. Maybe you can tell she’s a character.

We share a love of thrifting and art. Granddaughter Mochi brought me pottery she made so I knew she would enjoy the Farmer’s Market. She’s worked outside with grandpa weeding the potato patch but soon was playing with worms and finding frogs. And they followed a load of ginormous logs up the hill to see which neighbor was installing an arch. She loves animals, has a python, gecko and two dogs at home, so she’s spoiling our two with affection and attention as well.


Esther Bishop

Mother passed tonight. I was notified this morning that she was in the hospital. I am so grateful that my brother, Joseph, and daughter, Sara, could be with her. If I had wings I could not have made it in time.

Esther Sarah (Hill) Bishop, age 98

November 15, 1924 – April 3, 2023

Esther was the ninth child of eleven children (seven girls and four boys) of Allen Emmer Hill and Esther Cecelia Juhl, born in Grand Island, Nebraska. Her earliest memories are of their home above the tailor shop where both her parents earned a living. She particularly remembers an airplane parked at the bottom of the stairs that she says may have been her father’s sister’s, a female pilot!

Her fondest memories are of the barn dances where she often had two dance partners tossing her back and forth between them.

Esther was an indomitable independent ambitious spirit with good business sense. She ran a Greyhound franchise in Sunnyside, Washington that moved freight and people. Next, she purchased the Greyhound franchise in Richland, Wa. This was before UPS & FedEx and she combined that with a taxi service. 

She also purchased an “A house” which was a two story, 3 bed, 1 bath, full basement duplex across the street from the bus station. Esther turned one side into an apartment downstairs and rented out the upstairs bedrooms to single men, making the house pay for itself. She could literally walk to work and check on her children when necessary.

Esther was active in the chamber of commerce and claims that John F Kennedy personally asked her to be a liaison between Hanford Atomic Works and the City of Richland. We did attend the dedication of the newest reactor at Hanford where JFK spoke in 1963. 

As a divorced mother still raising two boys, Esther, relocated her family from Richland, Washington to Kent, Washington (greater Seattle area). There she purchased a piece of property and moved a mobile home onto it. At that time mobile homes were not allowed anywhere but in mobile home parks. Mother won that battle clearing the way for others.

The affects of spinal surgeries, for a car accident combined with years of lifting heavy packages, left her disabled and she found she could not support her family on her Social Security and SSI checks alone. Men and women were not paid social security at the same rate in those days, even though they had worked as much, and Esther took on the fight to correct that inequity. 

Esther was also very active in the Women’s League of Voters and the Democratic Party. She was instrumental in campaigns for Senators Adam Smith and Patty Murray and has photos with Adam Smith and Governor Christine Gregoire. 

Retirement might slow down most people, but when Esther moved into senior housing she found the conditions to be well below acceptable standards. She organized the seniors, and, with her ambition, contacts, and successes, they got much needed parking, and long overdue improvements, done to the properties she lived in, and worked with, in King County.

Esther leaves behind four children: Larry Leighton (Hawaii), Melissa Dunlap (Montana), Joseph Bishop (Washington) and Bruce Bishop (Idaho). She has seven grandchildren and eighteen great grandchildren. She has one remaining younger sister, Betty O’Nele (Nebraska).

Our thanks to Esther’s guardian, Sarah Mills, and Judson Park, Des Moines, Washington caregivers who have lovingly cared for our mother for a number of years.

Enjoyed twice weekly Zoom calls right up to the end.

1973 mother in MY DRESS. She was 49. Her favorite photo blown up and pride of place on her wall.

Last August, Sara and I with mother at Judson Park.

Mother and Senator Adam Smith

Mother and WA governor Gregoire

Protected: Bruce Bishop

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