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Seeking Thrills on the Open Road

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When Jorge Petit retired from Westinghouse in the early 2000s, he bought a motorcycle. It was a small motorcycle, or a starter bike—a 1-cylinder 250-cc Suzuki®—but it was enough to help him learn how to ride and successfully achieve his motorcycle license. Jorge took to it quickly, and within a year felt like it was time for an upgrade.

“I traded it in for a Harley-Davidson. It’s 1,200 cc’s and 560 pounds—it’s a serious bike,” says Jorge. “And thankfully, my wife was very supportive, so I really was able to embrace this new hobby in retirement.”

The 2009 Sportster® Custom twin engine was made to order by Harley-Davidson®. While Jorge acknowledges that the Suzuki was a great learning bike, he wanted a more substantial bike with more horsepower and weight, which would give him more comfort and endurance for longer trips. An additional part of the appeal? The maintenance. Jorge bought the bike stripped down and added all of the bells and whistles to it himself. From the windshield to the engine guard to the pegs, all of it was installed with love by its devoted owner.

Jorge had always wanted a motorcycle, but as a young man with three daughters he hadn’t felt that it was a practical endeavor to pursue. As an older man, however, he felt that the timing was finally right, and the thrill of exploring the open road on a motorcycle became more intoxicating. And motorcycles weren’t the only thrill-seeking hobby he decided to pursue. Jorge also had a desire to learn how to fly planes, and he took flying lessons in retirement as well.

“I don’t know, some people like to cook, but that’s not for me,” says Jorge. “I like a little more adventure.”

Although he’s never done very long-distance rides, his family has indulged many of his extended bike rides over the years, because as Jorge puts it, when you have a Harley, you can’t just take it out for a spin around the neighborhood. Having worked and raised his family in Westford, Massachusetts, for two decades, Jorge was able to ride the bike to Boston, New Hampshire, and Maine. But when he requested to ride his bike from Westford down to their new home at The Terraces at The Hill at Whitemarsh, his wife finally put her foot down.

“I was overruled,” laughs Jorge. “It’s a shame, but there were a lot of factors working against me for that ride. I really haven’t been able to ride that much over this past year, due in part to the move and the pandemic.”

Like so many others, Jorge and his wife haven’t been able to travel at all this past year. Their three daughters are scattered across the country, one in California, one in Florida, and one in Philadelphia, not far from their new home. While there are no plans for a cross-country motorcycle trip once the pandemic ends, he does dream about brushing up on his flight skills enough to be able to fly him and his wife out to see his children and grandchildren.

“Many people get skittish when I tell them about these hobbies,” says Jorge. “But it’s pretty safe, even though when you’re on a motorcycle you’re a little more exposed. That sense of openness scares people, but that’s what I love most about it. You’re in control the whole time.”

For those who don’t ride motorcycles, it might be surprising to hear that the appeal of riding for Jorge is control. You have to move in tandem with a hulking piece of metal, which, according to Jorge, really puts you in charge. Although there is very little protection when you ride a motorcycle aside from the helmet, Jorge has been riding safely for 20 years without incident.

THAW_4_6_2021-829_RT2“With motorcycles you can’t really think, you just have to react. It takes a lot of time, patience, and practice to get to that point. But once you get there, you’re totally in control of a powerful machine. There’s really nothing like it.”

“The fact that you aren’t enclosed, the freedom of being one with the open air, the wind—it’s just so exhilarating” says Jorge.

Whether out on the road or up in the air, Jorge is looking forward to exploring his new surroundings at The Hill. His new home in Lafayette Hill will provide him with the opportunity to ride out to the Harley-Davidson factory in York, Pennsylvania, where some of the Harley motorcycles are built. The ride would take about one and a half hours, and he plans to take a tour of the factory when he gets there. He’s also planning a longer trip to Pittsburgh, where he lived 30 years ago with his young family before they moved to Massachusetts.

“With motorcycles you can’t really think, you just have to react,” says Jorge. “It takes a lot of time, patience, and practice to get to that point. But once you get there, you’re totally in control of a powerful machine. There’s really nothing like it.”