2009 Was a Bitter Sweet Ride

Jay Visiting Karen

Only two more days left in 2009. This year will be etched in my mind forever. It was marked by numerous accomplishments and one horrific loss.

I began the year by taking on a leadership role that was a daunting but welcome challenge. The Director of my HOG Chapter resigned to start a new MC. It was agreat opportunity for her, unfortunately for me she took several of our key officers with her. I had been the Assistant Director for only a few months when I was asked to step up to Director. Not only was I a fairly new member taking the healm of a twenty year old HOG Chapter, but I had to put together a leadership team to pick up the pieces and keep moving forward. Luckily an enthusiastic Ed and Karen Fortner came to my side and joined forces in the task. Ed became the Assistant Director and Karen was already the Activities Officer. Together with my wife Diana we spent many January and February weekend nights discussing how to increase particaption in our chapter and planning a spring trip to Outer Banks North Carolina.

The four of us went to North Carolina on Valentines Day weekend to nail down the details of the trip. We got along in a way that I can’t explain very well. I guess it is hard  enough to find a guy friend you see eye to eye with, but to find a couple that have the same likes and dislikes as you and your spouse… well that’s probably twice as hard to find and twice as valuable. We had a blast that weekend and over the next couple months we got to be closer and closer as friends.

Springtime came and we hit the ground running. The new leadership team created a fun atmasphere that made eveyone feel welcome at our HOG chapter events. We focused on the HOG mantra to Ride and Have Fun. Particpation shot up immediately in March and we ran straight into April. We had record turnouts for our first dinner rides and poker runs taking home the most particpation awards at the first two regional poker runs we attended. Then the four of us went to HOG Primary Officer Training with our Secretary and Head Road Captain. The six of us had a great time and got a glimpse of how impressive the HOG organization is. We got home from POT just in time to host our one big fundraiser of the year: our annual First State HOG Spring Poker Run. It was a huge success thanks to all the officers and volunteers… and the weather was pretty good to us.

Delmarva And First State

We gathered on April 24th for the spring trip that Karen and Ed had planned so well. It was a beautiful day! Ed took the lead Road Captain Position with his proud wife and Activites Officer riding wing. Their son Justin and two of his friends followed directly behind them. Diana and I were at the rear, me in the Sweep position wearing a flouresecent safety vest.

Outer Banks Spring Trip 2009

We were riding about twenty bikes strong with smiles pasted on our faces as we headed to North Carolina. Four hours into the trip we found ourselves in Cheriton, VA approaching the Chespaeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. In a flash lives changed forever! A deranged women in a Ford Taurus sped out from a driveway and plowed through our pack of motorcycles killing our dear beloved friend Karen! It was a horrible thing and there hasn’t been a day since then that I haven’t thought about it.

Karen on her big girl bike

The motorcycle community gathered around the Fortner family and offered their support as best they could. Our HOG Chapter became closer. We didn’t want to let Karen down, so we valiently continued on through the year succeeding at everything we set out to do. We won 10 awards and doubled chapter participation over the previous year!

Becoming Director and succeeding has been one of the best experiences of my life. It is a huge accomplishment and an honor to have people follow me voluntarily. It’s nothing like my job where my staff do what I ask them to because I’m their Supervisor. Being Director of First State will probably be the closest thing to fatherhood that I will experience. When our chapter succeeds at putting on an event or wins an award I feel like a proud parent. Our chapter has flourished this year and for that I am proud. My blog and online store have also done extremely well. My mail order business is a success, we have exceeded 6,000 hits per month and I am seeing some advertising income. I even started getting paid to write for other online publications. Diana and I have been recognized by Harley-Davidson and received a special invitation to come test ride their motorcycles in NYC and write about it on RC USA. The accomplishments have been many!

The numerous victories of the year however are overshadowed by the loss of a dear friend. The vivid memories of the carnage on Route 13 will be with me forever. April 24th, 2009 was the worst day of my life. If Karen were still here to relish in what we accomplished… then perhaps it would have been one of the greatest years of my life. But she is not here, the accident really did happen and it is difficult to savor the victories without her.

2009 was a bitter sweet year.

11 Responses to “2009 Was a Bitter Sweet Ride”

  1. I miss you girl, its just not the same without you….

  2. My brain never comes up with exactly the “right” thing to say in these situations. So I offer the human connection. I celebrate your successes with you and share your loss. While I didn’t personally know Karen, the loss of a fellow human and rider is a sad thing.

    Take care.

  3. Dude…it is what it is. What you wrote here is exactly what life is all about. Congrats on your achievements and the heart goes out to those who have moved on.

    Every day I wake up and no matter what is going on, I am thankful for everyday I have. Keep on going after it.

  4. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Karen , and how devastating her loss has been to everyone she touched (and that list is endless…)
    The way I look at it, she’s an angel among angels, and she;ll always be here with all of us, in our hearts….

  5. It amazing all the different twists and turns life’s journey will take you on. You have surely had your fair share. So sorry Karen’s ride had to end too soon.

  6. As one of the few lucky ones to have you as our Fearless Leader, Friend, Confidant, and all around Funny Guy…..I for one am glad you took this year to do all the things you did do, succeded to do, and hold in your heart as we all do for a wonderful friend, Karen. I know that you are a caring, giving, orgainized, well respected….well I did have to swallow a bit on that last one…but with deep appreciation and friendship….
    ya done good baldy…keep it up…we are all ready for 2010 to be that elusive GREAT year.
    Let Those Who Ride Decide!!!

    Skip
    AKA Diesel

  7. Thank you everyone, I hope 2010 is the elusive GREAT year! That goes for everyone.

  8. Jay! It certainly has been a year of ups and downs!!!

    Finally getting to meet you, Diana and the rest of the First State Crew at POT was just the start of a great riding year.

    Sturgis…Man that was one helluva trip. To round it out an overnight ride to DC and a round-trip to Americade was the long distance riding I did this year.

    I believe I had been slated to take over as the next Director of our HOG Chapter, but as I think you may have heard our chapter has been disbanded, due to the closing of our sponsoring dealership.

    Our thoughts a prayers are still with Big Ed and his family. In the short time I spent with her, Karen made us feel like part of the family.

    Let us all hope for a better 2010 with many miles and many smiles to go with it.

    –Rob

  9. Thanks Rob. I did hear about your chapter being disbanded. That’s too bad, you would have made an excellent Director. I look forward to your continued participation here at RC USA and hope you and the Ghost Chapter members find a new club to ride with.

  10. Oh I think most of us will be riding with the Bridgeport CT Chapter. The officers of both chapters will be meeting in the next month or so to discuss an unofficial merger. It’s all good. And don’t worry I’ll be here.

    Happy New Year!!!

  11. Sorry I’m a little late but the holidays had me stretched pretty thin. When I try to think about how I’d feel if some of those who were close to me in Blackstone were ripped away from me the way Karen was from you, the pain is immediate and very unwelcome. It’s one thing to have such a thing happen, but to witness it and to be helpless to do anything to change it…well, I just don’t know how you cope. I guess you have to do just what you did, and move on with determination. I know that’s what my friends would want me to do. I’m sure that’s what Karen would want.
    I’m happy for how well things went for you otherwise, and I hope they continue to get better in the new year. Hopefully, we’ll finally hook up in 2010. Until then, just keep on keeping on brother. After all the fancy words, that’s really all you can do. It’s all any of us can do. Take care.

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