Facebook pixel
Kathleen stands with new friend in front of motorcycles and Oregon forest

Kathleen Rekindles Her Love for the Road

Do you have a passion in your life—something that makes you smile when you think about it?

For Kathleen, age 66, that passion is the open road. Some of her happiest moments were spent on the back of a motorcycle with her husband, Danny.

Kathleen is the kind of person who always puts others first. Since she was young, she has wanted to help people and make a difference. Following that path, Kathleen joined the army in the 1970s, even though few women were doing so at the time. She served as a cook for three years. Since then, Kathleen has continued to find ways to volunteer and give back. Most recently, Kathleen donated her time to Tax-Aide, the AARP Foundation’s program that helps older adults file taxes and get proper returns.

Kathleen and Danny met in 1998 when they both worked at a trucking company based in New Jersey. The rest is history: Kathleen moved to Washington to be closer to Danny’s home base, and they moved in together. Soon after, they married in an intimate backyard ceremony at their home.

Danny introduced Kathleen to one of his favorite hobbies: riding motorcycles. She instantly fell in love, and riding their purple Honda Gold Wing trike quickly became a shared passion. With Danny in the driver’s seat and Kathleen right behind him, they mapped their rides across the West and visited Oregon, Nevada, and California. Kathleen even joined the local Gold Wing motorcycle club and built friendships with other riders.

Kathleen recalls a time they drove up Mount Rainer. They rode so close to the edge that they could not stop laughing with nervous excitement until they finally reached their vista.

Shortly after completing a trip across Oregon in June of 2012, the couple faced devastating news: Danny was diagnosed with cancer. Things progressed quickly, and Kathleen became Danny’s primary caregiver. She cared for him until he succumbed to the disease, only eight months after his diagnosis. They never had a chance to ride together before Danny passed.

After losing her partner of 15 years, Kathleen was struck with grief. With growing financial burdens, she had to sell their home. She felt distanced from others through her sorrow and retreated from her social circles. She could not bear the thought of riding without Danny, and as the years passed, dust accumulated on the purple Gold Wing in the garage.

Kathleen eventually made the difficult decision to sell the Gold Wing. In the process of saying goodbye to the bike, she was flooded with memories she had pushed away for years. Reminded of how much joy riding had brought her, Kathleen started to feel the urge to get on a bike again.

When Wish of a Lifetime heard Kathleen’s story, we were thrilled to help her rekindle her passion for riding while honoring her husband’s memory. When Foremost Insurance stepped in to help, we were ready to get Kathleen back on a trike—with a supportive community at her side.

Nine years after Danny’s passing, Kathleen embarked on a day-long road trip from Vancouver, WA, to Biggs Junction, OR, to honor her husband’s memory and take a brave step forward with her life.

To make her ride more special and encourage new connections, Kathleen was accompanied by the Litas Portland! The Litas are a global motorcycle collective with the mission to connect, inspire, and empower women with a shared love of motorcycles. Kathleen rode a Can-Am trike with Vicki, an experienced rider.

“It was a therapeutic moment—it was like I never got off the bike,” she said. “Vicki was an excellent driver. She had the personality for it and made me feel comfortable.”

During her ride, Kathleen was surrounded by people of all ages, riding levels, and types of motorcycles. Even though it had been some time since Kathleen had an active social life, she quickly warmed up to the friendly riders around her. She shared that it felt amazing to ride with a group again.

“I loved the girls,” she said. “The Litas are great—they are a lot of fun!” Kathleen bonded with several members of the group and has plans to ride with the Litas again soon.

By the end of the day, Kathleen felt something shift within her. By getting back on a trike and doing something she loved, she felt she had rediscovered a piece of herself that had been lost.

This ride was the start of a new chapter for Kathleen. Despite her heartbreak, it was a reminder that there is much of her own story left to write.

“It makes me feel I’m not alone anymore,” she said. “That ride solidified a lot of things—it opened my eyes—to enjoy life, all of the mayhem! I have to keep moving forward.”

Want to see more stories like Kathleen’s?

Sign up for our email list and continue to be inspired by the stories of older adults fulfilling their dreams.

Our thanks go to Foremost Insurance for their support in granting Kathleen’s wish. To learn more about sponsorship, please contact Dana Rinderknecht.

Wish of a Lifetime from AARP is changing how we age, one inspirational wish at a time.

Submit a life-changing wish in your community, and share your favorite wish story on Facebook and Instagram to inspire your network!