HERE’S A GRANDMOTHER WITH A DIFFERENCE – SHE’S A BIKER, SHE’S INSPIRATIONAL AND SHE LOVES COUNTRY DRIVING
She’s another long standing friend of mine – and she comes from my own original home town of Adelaide. Please welcome biker KAREN DART, mum to five boys and grandmother to her gorgeous granddaughter, Hannah.
One of five siblings, Karen was born and raised in Adelaide to a father who had his own business as a tool drafts man – he used to sell art supplies to schools and local artists. He also used to tell Karen to travel and find her own way in life – and that’s exactly what she has done. Her first trip was to Qld – and it seems that’s where she was actually bitten by the travel bug. Then foreign shores beckoned and at the ripe old age of twenty one she headed to the other side of the world, to the UK. Like many of us (in those days, anyway) there were times when money was a tad scarce – but we all lived to tell the tale and Karen was still able to live and work in the UK for awhile, as well as visiting parts of Europe and Scandinavia. She also made many new friends before returning to good old Adelaide in South Australia. And once back at home she met and married her husband and ten years later – they were the very proud parents of five boys. Sadly the marriage did not work out and after thirteen years they divorced.
Karen found that, becoming a single mum and having to work to support her family – time was precious. Her various jobs ranged from selling clothes, running the school canteen and childcare. But it was also at this stage that she realised her education needed a boost to help improve her employment prospects, so it was back to school for her. Karen subsequently passed at TAFE in aged care, disability, leisure and health, earning herself a Certificate 3. Over the ensuing years she was then able to work in other fields including community care for the aged, palliative, dementia and disabled care. The reason that Karen had set her sights on becoming a carer was simply because it meant she could work when the boys were at school – and as it turned out, she did night shifts at a venue convenient to her home – across the road – literally, from her house. So she could actually check on the boys in her breaks. How good is that?
2006 saw her move up to Broken Hill, just over the border from her home state of SA, into NSW. While it was a big move, she did have many friends there already – and she had decided that it was time for Karen. And good on her. This is also the time when motor bikes entered her life – her first one being a Honda 250. But Karen was not completely new to motor bike riding – she had done so a few times through her life prior to this and she has always encouraged her sons to ride as well – the eldest and second youngest still do. The first time she rode one was, as a child, on her auntie’s farm south of Adelaide – and that’s where and when she first felt ‘freedom’. But now, many years later, in her late 40’s, she was determined to get her licence (which she did – but not until after a lot of clutch crunching and rather slow riding) and she finally also got her pride and joy – a Honda 750 Shadow – it was her turn again and she was determined to make a go of it. Hence, her love for motor bikes was re-borne and thrived. It was also the move to Broken Hill that saw her starting to support disabled clients – which she also now does back in Adelaide as she has since returned to SA to live.
She does belong to some motor cycle clubs too. Ulysses being one and she now travels around the nation with her friends from this club. She rides with them up to Townsville for their AGM – leaves her feeling a tad stiff, with a sore bottom – but well worth it. Another group is G.H.O.S.T. Riders (Grey Haired Old Sports and Tourer Riders). Also Shadow Riders. Apart from sharing a love of motor bike riding, these are all also very social clubs. Karen does love riding with her friends – it seems a lot of tall stories and laughter are swapped when they stop for coffee or lunch. But sometimes – all she wants to do is ride. She does add: ‘When you ride you might have fellow riders nearby but you are alone in your thoughts – not like a car where you listen on the radio or chatting to someone’.
The rides also vary in length – when she had had her learner’s for only a couple of days and still had her first bike, she rode from Broken Hill to Burra in what should have taken four or five hours, but with the headwind and other factors, it ended up taking her seven to eight hours. She was also sure that when she eventually got off the bike she was leaning over to one side. Other trips have included Townsville (as mentioned), Tasmania and in varying weather – at one stage, they were riding in temperatures of 49*C. Ouch! Karen does also drive a car which she has owned for a long time. She also loves going out on 4WD trips with her husband. One of their ambitions is to take his Nissan Patrol and explore the outback – that’s great to hear – go for it! She also says she can ride at any time in the country/outback – because of the freedom of the open space and seeing how beautiful our country is. As she adds, in the city you have to look out for everyone and be two steps ahead all the time as people are racing too fast to look out for you. Many are the times she has had to change lanes to avoid being hurt because of negligent drivers. Well said.
Prior to marriage, her work was mainly in admin – she has worked at different banks, the education department and she ran a computer while living in England. Most of her employment included data entry or working on telex machines. Believe it or not, as Karen says: ‘I laugh now to think I always wanted to be a hairdresser when I was young – and to think when I was in the UK I did not get my hair cut for over three years’. She adds that these days she has to be told to have her hair cut by her husband.
Inspirations? Karen does not feel she had anyone in particular to inspire her. She has always just moved on and tried things. ‘I don’t believe in settling down and my aim in life is to see and experience things’, adding that she likes to understand what makes people tick – so, as she says, sometimes she might appear to be quiet (who….Karen???) but this doesn’t last for long though – it just means she is working things out. ‘What makes me happy is people smiling and laughing. By travelling, I have learned you don’t have to be rich to be happy.’ Never a truer word was said!
And spare time? What spare time? As she says: ‘Spare time is what I always look for’, and so say all of us! As can be gathered she loves riding and when there is a ride on, she loves going with her husband (Steve) to join their friends riding in the hills or along the coast, mainly south of Adelaide. But she does have other interests including reading – and just plain relaxing. Naturally she loves having time with Hannah, cooking and watching videos (the latter she says is a good excuse to watch kid’s shows).
Karen has some advice for other riders, particularly young ones. She gets very upset when she sees youngsters riding bikes or scooters, wearing only shorts, or just tops and thongs. She feels that they think if they have an accident, they’ll just hit the road, bounce and be fine – or it won’t happen. Karen has personally had a few experiences where she can completely support these feelings and advice.
And in parting: ‘You’re never too old to learn. I was in my late 40s when I decided to learn to ride – and here I am, still riding and having fun. Riders come in ages young and old and you always look out for each other’. She does add that over the years she has lost a lot of good friends, fellow riders, mainly through cancer. ‘But I know they are riding up there with the wind in their faces and having a great time…’
What a way to go! And remember, as Karen says – you really are never too old to learn. Go Karen!