A Brother’s Love: Sharing More than a Motorcycle Ride

By Kathy Pierson, Hendersonville, North Carolina

Age Doesn’t Define a Woman

Joyce always loved an adventure. An avid camper and physically active person, she walked three miles a day, five days a week, weather permitting. Even at 78 years old, she walked and jogged a half marathon in a little over three hours! Being a passenger on several long motorcycle tours was no surprise to anyone who knew her.

Motorcycle Touring on Hold

After Joyce’s husband died in 2010, she and her brother, David, trailered his Ultra Classic Harley-Davidson from his home in Michigan to Montana to visit her children. From there they toured several points of interest on David’s motorcycle.

David and Joyce
David and Joyce just outside Homer, Alaska. They had originally planned to trek to Montana and head for the Alaskan wilderness in 2018.

In February 2018, Joyce suffered a major stroke triggered by a severe brain bleed. David stayed with her and slept in a hotel near the hospital at night. He conversed with doctors concerning her welfare during the week-long stay. The prognosis looked grim. After a month in rehab, David brought Joyce to his home to live the remainder of her days.

At first, Joyce could do nothing for herself, not even sit up. Although gaining movement back on her left side was slim, David found therapists and doctors to give Joyce the best chance she could. They soon realized the trip to Alaska would be impossible, but the dream did not die. More determined than ever, they set a goal to embark the following summer.

Months of arduous therapy ensued, first in David’s home and later at an out-patient facility. Even though Joyce was now 80 years old and had little use of her left side, she and David weren’t deterred.

joyce in therapy
The therapists went beyond the call of duty rigging up devices to simulate a motorcycle seat.

Back in the Saddle Again

The long-awaited day of their June 2019 departure finally arrived. It took seven days to travel to the home of Joyce’s relatives in Montana. After visiting a week, David packed his new Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide and they headed for Alaska.

Joyce and David
People often watched as David helped Joyce place her crippled body astride the trike’s bulky frame. Many approached to ask questions and share their admiration of her while David secured Joyce with a seatbelt he devised for her safety.

The four-week journey through Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, Homer, Yukon and British Columbia involved many challenges for Joyce. But they also had the privilege of seeing whales breach in the ocean, and moose, bear, and buffalo along the roadsides. On cold or rainy days, Joyce wore a heated suit plugged into the battery of the motorcycle. They also visited the giant redwoods in California on their way back to Montana.

The Journeys Continue

They continued their excursions every year thereafter, with the exception of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2022, David and Joyce headed straight to Crater Lake in Oregon, detoured to Washington to see friends, then headed to Montana.

Instead of hauling the trike in the trailer, Joyce and David rode cross-country pulling a small trailer with Joyce’s wheelchair strapped on top.

Plans went forward for another trip in 2023 until one morning in January when Joyce collapsed at the breakfast table. David sat vigil by her hospital bed for a week until Joyce’s 84 years of adventure on earth came to a peaceful end.

Joyce had resolved to never give up making the effort to do the impossible, and David never gave up faith in her ability to tackle tough tasks. Although David continues the road trips, it’s not the same without Joyce along for the ride.

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