Reader Story: Making Your Bike Your Own

This bike is ready to launch

By Cathy Outland, Waianae, Hawaii

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In 2000 I was transferred from California to Florida to work at the Kennedy Space Center on the space shuttle program. I was an avionics technician and crawled inside and out of the space shuttles. I was very dedicated to my work as well as dedicated to riding my motorcycle. I decided I wanted to ride my own motorcycle so I took the safety class. I recommend it to everybody; you will be surprised what you can learn from that class.

Cathy on her one of a kind Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter.

I looked at Harley-Davidsons first but they were too much money for my budget. I ended up with two bikes, a Yamaha 1100 Silverado that I bought from a friend, and a Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter that I bought from someone at work.

When I was in California on the space program sometimes the astronauts would come and visit the orbiter to see the progress. I had a big poster and had the astronauts sign it. It was a great thrill. Well one day the astronauts came unannounced to see the orbiter in Florida and I didnt have my poster. I rode the motorcycle to work that day so I asked if they would sign my motorcycle. They were thrilled to do it and that is how I got started with astronauts signatures.

Cathy has more than 50 astronaut signatures on her bike.

It was hard getting to them for just a few seconds with their busy schedules. I used to come in early or stay late just to get a signature. I have more than 50 astronauts who have flown in space that have signed their names on my bike! There are also signatures of seven of the famous World War II Tuskegee Airmen, two Swiss Papal Guards from Rome, World War II Wasp pilot Florence Watson, Thomas Griffin from the Doolittle raid in April 1942, actor John Travolta, and several other VIPs.

Cathys gas tank has an airbrush of NASAs Orion capsule in orbit.

My Drifter is also adorned with beautiful airbrush artwork depicting space flight one, the first flight Apollo Mercury, and the first test flight 2014 of the new Orion program. My motorcycle is stock except for shotgun pipes and engine guards, but she is the only one in the world!

The other side of Cathys gas tank has the international space station.

I love to ride her. It is like therapy for me. The people you meet are a special breed, happy and warm with a smile and a lot of hugs.

I retired early, cashed in all my chips and moved to Hawaii. You can wear shorts and flip flops all day long, and there are no bugs on the windshields. I ride all the time along the island in Oahu. Now, I do a lot of volunteer work for Pearl Harbor on the Might Mo and ride a lot of fund raisers like Toys for Tots.

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30 thoughts on Reader Story: Making Your Bike Your Own

  1. Cathy, that is a wonderful story. You're livin' the dream. I had a '99 Drifter loved it. I sold it for a Lehman Custom Trike 2004 Suzuki Intruder which I love. I named it Wild Thunder. I will catch you on Facebook. Great artwork on your bike and memories.

  2. This is such an inspirational story and Cathy, that is one beautiful bike! If ever I see you riding while I'm visiting I will surely go crazy and flag you down!

  3. That is an awesome story. You are so right about the riding course. That is the best way to start. Keep riding that bike. I hope it does end up in a museum for all to see. Ride safe.

  4. What a great story! I too ride a Kawasaki but mine is a 1600 Vulcan Classic. I have been looking for ideas to dress up my bike. This is a great inspiration. Shows what you can do with a bit of imagination What a beautiful bike!

  5. Thank you everybody. I am very overwhelmed. Be safe riding.

  6. What a terrific story! You are so right about starting out with a beginner's riding course. They are wonderful and even better when you can arrange for an all-women class. I taught several of them in the early 90s at the MVA in Frederick. Never had so many avid, attentive students as those ladies in the many years I taught the safety program.

  7. Thank you ladies. I am overwhelmed. Funny you say she should be in a museum. I offered her to NASA when I was finished and they said she is not a Harley so they weren't interested. So I will say no more on that. I will ride her until they peel me off her or I will make a trike out of her.

    I am a big kid. I will never grow up. That is what keeps you young at heart. The guy who did my art work is not a well known artist, but he has so much style. I just love his work. His name is Ed Porter out of Cocoa Beach, Florida.

    Yes, it was nice being around the astronauts. I worked very hard to get what signatures I did get. NASA is a different breed of people, I will say no more. If you ladies want to see more pictures of my motorcycle I have a photo album at It would be under Cathy Outland. There is a picture of the Hubble on my front side fender also. Thanks for enjoying her. You ladies have made my day.

  8. Now that's what I call cool! So she's got astronauts flying with her on the roads in Hawaii! Fabulous!

  9. Nice story Cathy. What a great way to show off the NASA space program.

  10. Beautiful artwork and what a great concept for personalizing your ride. Best to you. You picked a lovely state to “retire” in. Enjoy!

  11. Wow! Incredible the effort you give and the reward you have. The bike belongs in a museum when you are finished with it. I've been wanting a Drifter — sell'er to me? Are you a member of Women On Wheels?

  12. What a great idea! I love your bike. It's beautiful. It belongs in a museum…when you're done with it of course.

  13. Love it, love it! I was wondering who did your paint? I am an avid space fan and am looking for someone who can do it well. Your bike is beautiful! And isn't it exciting to be around astronauts who have flown at 17,500 miles an hour?

    1. We'll ask Cathy to post a response regarding who did her paint job.

  14. What an awesome story and even more awesome ride! Thanks for sharing your story. Your bike really is something out of this world.

  15. Congrats Cathy. The bike is beautiful. Enjoy every day to the max! Kudos on the volunteerism, too.

  16. That is a truly unique motorcycle! What a wonderful idea. Sounds like you are living your dream too. I've always been interested in the space program so this really interested me.

  17. Blast on, Cathy!

  18. What a way to make it your own! That has gotta be one-of-a-kind for sure. You are riding a bike and living a life most of us can only dream about. Good for you!

  19. Way to go!

  20. Cathy's bike and her story is an inspiration not only to women but to men as well. She not only has a unique and beautiful ride, she owns a huge piece of aviation and space history that will hopefully be in a museum some day! Her passion for riding and her job makes her one very lucky and happy woman. Congratulations on your creativity and good luck with future missions!

  21. Boy, you are living the life now, Cathy! I'm so jealous. Bike riding in paradise!

  22. Way cool Cathy! Love your bike and love the fact that you have put so much of who you are into it.

  23. Love the artwork Cathy. Enjoy seeing more articles on ladies riding.

  24. Cathy,
    Great bike! I ride the same bike minus the cool paint job and all the great signatures.

  25. Awsome ride Cathy. You're right, it sure is a one of a kind all right. I'll bet you get stopped and questioned every time you take her out for a ride. What a great conversation starter and a way to meet new people. Whoever did your art work did a fantastic job.

    My daughter, who lives in Green Bay Wisconsin, just bought a one-of-a-kind green, black and gold 2006 Heritage Softail Classic. The tank was autographed by Green Bay Packer's QB Bart Starr and Brett Favre. The fellow who sold it to her, kept it in storage and never put a single mile on it, hoping it would increase in value. My daughter is a huge Green Bay Packers fan, and now her ride says so.

  26. Oh wow! I might have to copy your idea for Hubble. I've been working on that project for 10 years. We are coming up on our next and, most likely, final servicing mission. A Hubble bike would look kinda cool!

  27. Really cool bike Cathy!

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