May 11, 2013

Mom and daughter spend Mother's Day in style

By Kaitlin Schroeder
Staff Writer

READFIELD -- Some people buy their mothers flowers for Mother's Day. Donna McGibney bought her mom a motorcycle.

click image to enlarge

Donna McGibney rides her Honda GoldWing with her mother Charlotte McGibney on Friday in Readfield.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

Donna McGibney and her mother Charlotte McGibney on Friday in Readfield.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Actually, she bought it for herself -- but it came with a sidecar so her mom could ride with her.

The mother and daughter are celebrating their fifth Mother's Day since the purchase of the motorcycle and sidecar and have been loving their new-found way to bond and travel from the home they share in Readfield.

Donna, 61, drives while her 88-year-old mother, Charlotte McGibney, rides in the sidecar, turning heads when they drive up and down Maine's countryside.

Donna bought the motorcycle and sidecar six years ago for the occasion as an upgrade from her smaller motorcycle, a Honda Rebel. She thought if she bought a bigger bike with a sidecar, then her mother could go with her.

"I suppose I could have bought her a potted plant, but no," Donna said.

Expecting the matter to be dismissed, Donna asked her mother if she would ride in a sidecar if she bought one. To Donna's surprise, Charlotte said yes.

Donna spotted an Uncle Henry's advertisement for a 1976 Honda Goldwing and sidecar, and when she went to go check out the bike, she said, she liked it right away. Donna said she remembers the man she bought it from being surprised when she told him the sidecar would be perfect for her mother, then 82 years old, who was waiting in the car and waved to him.

She said they drive any chance they get, sticking to country roads where the view is better. The two have traveled to Prince Edward Island in Canada and the White Mountains in New Hampshire, as well as across Maine, from the coast to Washington County. The two joked that they know every ice cream and hot dog vendor in the state.

It can get cold riding in the sidecar, Charlotte said, so she suits up in a warm purple coat and, occasionally, mittens. She's not a fan of wearing a helmet, but her daughter insists each of them wear one.

Charlotte, who is not quite 5 feet tall, needs a step stool and a helping hand to climb into the sidecar. Once settled in, she grins, excited for the trip. The sidecar's original design was too difficult for Charlotte to climb into, so her son and Donna's brother, Richard McGibney, modified the top of it. The sidecar now opens on a hinge, like a clamshell, so Charlotte can get in and out easily.

Charlotte said the view from the sidecar is better than riding as a passenger in a car, and she does not feel intimidated by riding low to the ground.

"Why should I be afraid? She's a good driver," she said.

Donna said even if she mentions going on a quick trip down the road, Charlotte will start getting ready, too.

"I'm ready! She's not going without me," Charlotte said.

Donna, a 5-feet-1-inch-tall assistant pastor of Wayside Chapel in West Gardiner and retired principal of Helen Thompson School in the same town, said her interest in motorcycles began after a few rides on one as a teenager.

About eight years ago, Donna enrolled with 11 men in a motorcycle riding class and got her license. Her daughter, Gerri Chesney, said she remembers when her mother announced she wanted to buy a motorcycle.

"I said 'You're crazy, Mom,' but she bought it and she loves it," Chesney said.

Years later, Chesney said, one of her friends excitedly announced he had spotted the elderly pair driving through town, not knowing they were Chesney's mother and grandmother.

(Continued on page 2)

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