Revved Up Love

These motorcycle couples have diverse backgrounds, originally come from many different places and have careers that range from bookkeeper to construction contractor to dentist. Some have been married for decades, while others are practically newlyweds, even though they’re in their 70s.

But there is one thing all these couples have in common—a love for the freedom of the road that can only come from the back of a motorcycle.

Dragon Slayers

Glen & Shirley Hamilton

AVietnam veteran, Glen Hamilton has always had an affinity for “big boy” toys. While serving in the Air Force for 20 years and 23 days to be specific, Glen got his fix as an aircraft weapons systems instructor. Once out of the military, his toys have included half a dozen motorcycles, which have afforded him the freedom of the open road. When he and Shirley started dating eight years ago, she knew she had to go along for the ride or it would be a short relationship. Smart woman. Now married four years, Glen and Shirley have traveled thousands of miles and had many adventures together riding motorcycles.

“The first bike I ever owned was an Indian,” says Glen, 77, a burly man dressed in blue jeans with a well-worn soft black leather vest, replete with memorabilia pins from motorcycles rides, over a black 2011 Daytona Bike Week T-shirt. “That was in 1948 when I was stationed at Kendall Air Force Base. But I had to sell it when I was shipped out to Japan.”

But once Glen retired from the military, motorcycles were quickly back in his life. Over the past four decades, he’s had Yamahas, Suzukis, Hondas and Kawaskis. The latest bike that he and Shirley can be seen riding around on is a white Cam-Am Spyder. A three-wheeled motorcycle, the Spyder is manufactured by Canadian-based Bombardier Recreational Products and debuted in the United States in 2007. It features an Austrian-built, liquid-cooled 900cc V-Twin engine.

“I’ve pushed it to 95 just to see what it would feel like,” says Glen with a mischievous grin. To which Shirley, a petite 72-year-old woman with short-cropped silver hair, quickly adds with a smile, “I wasn’t with him.”

Glen and Shirley are out on the Spyder most days, sightseeing the country roads of Marion County. They meet friends, many from the Over The Hill Trike Riders club, for breakfast and lunch at out-of-the-way restaurants. Shirley, who has had a motorcycle license in the past and may soon get another, is for now content with the back passenger’s view. Within two months of buying the Spyder from Ocala-based Ride Now Power Sports, nearly 4,000 miles had been put on the odometer.

“People ask me why my bike is dirty,” says Glen. “And I tell them it’s dirty because we ride our bike. I can be having a bad day, then I’ll go out for a ride and, just like that, it’s a good day.”

Of course, taking another look at all those ride pins on Glen’s vest, it’s easy too see that’s always been the case. One ride pin in particular merits attention: Deals Gap/318 Curves In 11 Miles.

On U.S. Route 129 across Tennessee into North Carolina, is an 11-mile stretch of two-lane road ominously known as The Dragon or The Tail of the Dragon, thanks to its 318 curves. Deals Gap is the little town that straddles the border of the two states. The Dragon draws motorcyclists and sports car drivers from around the world to navigate the thrill-a-minute route, bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “You never know what’s coming around the next curve,” says Glen of the ride he and Shirley have done a dozen times over the years. “We’ve just missed deer many times. And once an adult black bear walked right out, stood up on its hind legs for a second, and then ran across the road. Fortunately, I saw it in time to slow down.”

Anxious to get back on the road, Glen and Shirley climb onto their bike and strap on their white helmets. His has a “Lethal Threat’” stencil on one side and an American eagle on the back; hers is accented with baby pink flames.

Soon the Spyder may meet The Dragon. Glen and Shirley hear those 318 curves calling.

Harley Huggers

Toby & Christy Lapierre

How Toby Lapierre feels about motorcycles is printed in bold silver capital letters across the front of his black T-shirt: IT’S A PASSION/NOT A FASHION. Ditto the sentiment for wife Christy, who’s wearing a red T-shirt emblazoned with the well-known Harley-Davidson logo. They’ve just parked their bikes, an eye-catching pair of Harleys, on Ocala’s downtown square. Toby has a 2005 Heritage Softail and Christy’s is a 2006 Fat Boy, both rich black cherry accented by black leather and lots of shiny chrome. True free spirits, they are sans helmets on this Florida postcard Saturday afternoon. And when Toby and Christy talk about motorcycles, they smile a lot.

“When I was a kid growing up, I had Harley-Davidson posters up on my bedroom walls,”says Toby, 40, who still retains that distinctive Northeastern accent of his native central Maine. “I had mini bikes and dirt bikes. In fact, my first Harley was a dirt bike when I was a teenager.”

Founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1903, the Harley-Davidson brand is considered the quintessential American motorcycle. The heavyweight road cruisers are known for their classic design featuring plenty of chrome and chopper-style vertical handlebars.

Christy and Toby met while both were working at the New Balance shoe company plant in their hometown of Skowhagen, Maine. They dated for two years before getting married in 1999. Shortly thereafter, they packed up everything they owned in their car, including Sheena, their now 15-year-old Australian Blue Heeler, and moved to San Diego. During their four years there, Toby had a Honda Interceptor.

“The motorcycles were Toby’s thing,” says Christy, 41, a bookkeeper and who, unlike her husband, speaks with no trace of a Maine accent. “I thought they were cool, and I liked riding with Toby. But I never thought about getting one for myself.”

In 2004, Toby and Christy came to visit family in Ocala. They liked the town and the area so much that they decided to make another move. Packing up everything and Sheena again, they moved back across the country. To make the trip easier, Toby sold the Honda Interceptor before they left San Diego. It would be four years before he’d get another motorcycle.

That day came on July 1, 2008, while window shopping at Harley-Davidson of Ocala. Toby spotted a 2006 Dyna Super Glide and knew he had to have it. He did buy it but then, ironically, couldn’t even drive it home.

“The law had just changed that day requiring you had to take and pass a motorcycle driving course to get a Florida license,” says Toby, laughing about it now. “The salesman had to ride my motorcycle home for me! And it took a month before I could get into a class and then get my license.”

As soon as Toby had his license, he and Christy were out riding on the weekends. And then one day, Toby persuaded his wife to drive the bike herself around their neighborhood. That was all it took or as Toby says, “Christy got the passion.”

Christy’s first bike was a used 1986 Honda Rebel, dubbed “The Purple People Eater” for it’s color. In 2009, she got a 2007 Harley-Davidson Sportster. Toby then bought his Heritage in 2010, and a few months later, Christy got her Fat Boy. Toby rides his Heritage for the nearly 70-mile round-trip commute to work every day. Christy gets her motorcycle fix on the weekends when they take to the scenic roads, often with no agenda but to ride.

“I kept saying that we couldn’t spend every weekend riding our bikes because we had other things to do,” says Christy, smiling. “But then riding our bikes became more important than those other weekend things. Yes, I guess you can say that we definitely have a passion for riding our motorcycles.”

The Ducati Duo

Matt & Sandy Walker

For most women, diamond jewelry from their husband would make for a nice surprise gift. But when Sandy Walker’s husband Matt gave her a surprise gift, the special bling came with a motor. And, no, not a luxury car with a bow on it like those TV commercials, but rather a candy-apple red 2012 Ducati Monster 696 motorcycle, although, yes, complete with a bow. The kicker is that it was such a well-orchestrated secret that Sandy didn’t realize the Ducati was hers even as she sat on it!

“Everyone at the motorcycle dealership was in on the surprise,” recalls Sandy, 29, a vibrant, tiny woman with a great big infectious smile. “They told me that the motorcycle was a gift for someone else, but they said it was OK if I wanted to just sit on it and see if I liked it. Then if I did, they’d try to find one like it for me.”

And Sandy did like it the minute she sat on the soft black leather seat. “Then I looked up and there’s Matt,” says Sandy. “He’s grinning, and they’re taking my picture. And then I realized, it was my motorcycle!”

Now married for five years, Matt owned a Yamaha when the couple first began dating seven years ago. Back then, Sandy had been rather ambivalent about motorcycles. She’d hop on the back for a ride, but that was about it. But when Matt bought a black Ducati Diavel in July 2011 at Ocala-based Melillimoto, he noted a change of heart in Sandy.

“I’ve always liked motorcycles,” says Matt, 28, a dentist with the Florida State Department of Health. “I love the history of the Ducatis. Nothing sounds like a Ducati, and nothing looks like a Ducati.”

Created by a trio of Italian brothers in the 1950s, the Ducati motorcycle is known for its high-performance speed and sleek styling. Ducatis feature a unique desmodromic valve design engine, which allows for quicker acceleration and sustained speed.

“Sandy definitely seemed more interested in my Ducati than she’d been in the Yamaha,” says Matt. “She took more rides with me. Then one day she asked if she could try it out. She just rode it very slowly up and down our driveway. After that, she said she thought she’d like to have one, too.”

Testing her seriousness, Matt encouraged Sandy to take a motorcycle safety course and get her license.

“At first, I was a little intimidated when I took the course,” says Sandy, a pharmacy tech with the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital. “But it was something I had to do if I really wanted a motorcycle.”

As soon as she passed the course and received her motorcycle license, Sandy called the Melillimoto dealership. She wanted them to know that she was in the market for a Ducati. Little did she know that Matt’s surprise was already in motion.

Both Matt and Sandy ride their Ducatis to their respective workplaces as well as on weekend road trips. And, of course, there is the temptation of that vaunted Ducati speed. Matt calls it “a great feeling going from zero to fast in seconds” and even admits he pushed his bike to 145mph once on a country road. But after that exhilarating experience, he also concedes that “racing speed belongs on a track rather than the regular road.” That being said, it should come as no surprise that Matt plans to be spending more time on his Ducati at a nearby racetrack.

“Sandy and I didn’t get Ducatis to have garage trophies,” says Matt, grinning. “We bought them to enjoy riding them.”

With an occasional surprise thrown in for good measure.

Weekend Warriors

Randy & Barbara Strong

The first time Barbara Strong saw her eventual husband, he was riding a motorcycle. Randy Strong was on his way to a friend’s house when he noticed a pretty girl walking alongside the road. As fate would have it, Barbara and Randy ended up at the same house of a mutual friend. It was also an instant mutual attraction, leading to marriage.

Flash forward three decades. Having raised their three children and now grandparents, the Strongs decided it was time to enjoy their somewhat empty nest. Getting motorcycles seemed to be a way to do that.

“That first day I saw Barbara, I was 18 and riding my Honda 750,” says Randy, 57, a State Farm estimator. “But once we got married, having a motorcycle just didn’t seem to fit in when starting our lives together and raising a family. I always thought that one day I’d get another motorcycle, but it was actually Barbara who brought it up.”

After being a stay-at-home mom while their children were growing up, Barbara was ready for a change of pace.

“I knew Randy had always loved having a motorcycle,” says Barbara, 51, a certified licensed building contractor. “But I decided I didn’t want to just ride with him. I like being in control, and I wanted a motorcycle of my own.”

In 2005, the Strongs went to Ocala-based Martin’s Yamaha. They left with two motorcycles: a V Star 1100 Custom for Randy and a V Star 650 Classic for Barbara. A Japanese-based company, the first Yamaha motorcycle was introduced in that country in 1955. Yamaha debuted the Star line of its motorcycles in the United States in 1994.

“I loved riding right from the start,” says Barbara, who has an angel tattoo on her shoulder and had one airbrushed on the tank of her cobalt blue first motorcycle. “It’s a great way to get out on the road, go places and see things. But it’s also a great way for us to spend time together. Randy’s parents have been married more than 60 years, and the best advice they ever gave us is it’s important to spend time together.”

Randy agrees with his wife, saying, “Getting our motorcycles was one of the best things we ever decided to do.”

The Strongs, who have been married 36 years, are actually now on their second set of Yamaha motorcycles. After only a few months of having the 1100 Custom, Randy decided he needed a larger bike and bought a 2005 Road Star 1700. Barbara rode her 650 Classic for a few years before buying a 2009 V Star 950. This time around, Randy had his Road Star 1700 custom-painted beige and tangerine while Barbara’s V Star 950 is an eye-catching metallic red.

“Most of our riding is on the weekends, so I guess you could call us weekend warriors,” says Randy. “Sometimes, we hop on the bikes and take off just to ride on the country roads. Other times, we’ll ride with friends to places like Crystal River. We also do charity rides and poker runs.”

Barbara will occasionally ride her bike to work at different construction sites, but she too enjoys the fellowship of other motorcycle riders.

“Motorcycle riders are good people,” says Barbara. “Riding with a group and then hanging out with those people is a lot of fun. But the best part is Randy and I riding and spending time together. That’s what I enjoy the most.”

Art Lovers

Patrick & Lisa Quercioli

When it comes to motorcycles, Patrick Quercioli likes a little art with a nod to nostalgia mixed in for good measure. Hence the turquoise Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Drifter that he and wife Lisa can be seen riding around the Ocala/Marion County area. With its retro-styled valanced fender skirts and chrome-spoked wheels, the Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter, which debuted in 1999, was created as a tribute to the 1940s Indian Chief. Considered the original American motorcycle, the Indian was manufactured from 1901 to 1953. The Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter has carved out its own spot in history, being on permanent display at the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design.

“I’ve always loved motorcycles,” says Patrick, 47, a corrections officer at the Lowell Corrections Facility. “When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my older brother and I built our own motorcycle by putting a snow mobile motor on a mini bike. It worked, but you got a small shock every time you hit the kill switch.”

While she didn’t build her own motorcycle, Lisa’s father had a Honda, and she remembers as a child “sitting on that big orange tank.” And while in the Army and stationed in Germany in the late 1980s, Lisa enjoyed a unique experience via motorcycles.

“We’d go out for motorcycle rides on the Autobahn on these very fast Japanese street bikes,” says Lisa, 45, a fitness practitioner/mental health therapist. “That was really an amazing experience.”

In addition to his day job, Patrick is also an art photographer who still prefers to shoot with film, particularly black and white and infrared. It was his artistic side that led him to the Drifter.

“The original Indian motorcycle was truly a work of art,” says Patrick. “I always wished that I could own a motorcycle like that. Then one day, I took my Triumph motorcycle in for a new muffler.The shop’s owner had this amazing black motorcycle around back. It was a Kawasaki Drifter, and I fell in love with it. But it was his wife’s bike, and she didn’t want to sell it.”

Now a man on a motorcycle mission, Patrick let anyone who would listen know that he was on the lookout for a Drifter. His persistence paid off.

“One day I got a call from an older gentleman who said he had a Drifter he was willing to sell. I was so excited that I didn’t even care what he wanted for it. We set up a meeting, I handed him the money, and I finally had a Drifter.”

More specifically, Patrick had a 2000 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Drifter, the only year the motorcycle was offered in turquoise—exactly his favorite color. Kawasaki ceased production of the 1500 Drifter in 2005 and then its smaller 800 Drifter in 2006. The latter is currently on Lisa’s wish list.

“I definitely want to get my motorcycle license,” says Lisa. “And, of course, I have to have a Drifter, too.”

Now married 17 years with a son, Zach (17), and a daughter, Ariane (9), Patrick and Lisa enjoy hopping on the Drifter for an impromptu date night to downtown Ocala. They are regulars at Daytona Bike Week, do bike runs for worthy causes and take weekend trips with other motorcycle friends. Of course, the Drifter garners attention no matter where they go.

“We can be surrounded by dozens of other bikers on all kinds of motorcycles,” says Patrick. “But everyone always comes up to us and asks what kind of bike we’re on.”

Also no doubt attracting attention are the helmets and goggles that Patrick and Lisa wear. Their helmets are patterned after German war helmets. The goggles are those worn by 1960s-era Russian bomber pilots.

“I tell Patrick that those goggles make me look like I should be welding instead of riding a bike,” says Lisa with a laugh. “But I love riding the Drifter. It’s great stress relief, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Posted in Ocala Style Features

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