Every July as thousands of motorcyclists roll into the city near where I live, I am reminded of the first time I encountered the Roar to the Shore

Some of the Roar to the Shore crowd that descends on Erie, PA every July.

phenomena. Facing ongoing vision loss caused by a progressive hereditary eye disease  called Retinitis Pigmentosa, I was learning how to use a long red-and-white cane. I wore sleepshades (blindfolds) to simulate the environment in which I would most need my cane. That day I was completing my first major mobility training in Erie, Pennsylvania with Bob,  my trainer–himself, one-hundred percent blind. Serious bikers, men and women alike,  descended upon the streets.  I don’t know how I managed to make it through the crowd but it certainly left a lasting impression.


I felt a sudden burst of air and a sweaty body brushed up against my arm as wheels whizzed by my now-vertical cane. What was that? A skateboard?

A female voice caught my attention. “Stop staring at them. That isn’t nice.” Someone laughed. Someone else mumbled. I strained to hear. Did the woman mean Bob and me? Of course, everyone can see us. Just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they can’t see us. How quickly I forget.

“Make way. Let ‘em pass on by. Move yo’ feet, boy.”

“Yo’ mama.”

There would never be a good time to ask my location but Bob was right, I needed to find out. “Uh…Excuse me? Could you tell me where we are?”

“Now you at Perry Square.”

“Thank you.”

“We have to cross one more street,” Bob explained as if he’d known our location before I asked. “Lead the way, Sherlock.”

I had almost finished crossing a side street when I heard a tough lady’s voice “Hey, watch it. That’s a six thousand dollar paint job on my bike!” I tilted my head toward the voice. She seemed to be shouting at … who? Me! “Yeah, that’s right, chick-o, you!”

I heard a tough lady’s voice “Hey, watch it. That’s a six thousand dollar paint job on my bike!” I tilted my head toward the voice. She seemed to be shouting at … who? Me! “Yeah, that’s right, chick-o, you!

Me? I froze, terrified to take another step for fear my cane might do more damage. I was probably swinging it like a golf club without paying attention to where it landed. What if I had chipped her paint? This woman sounded seriously aggravated, as if she wanted to beat up this particular chick-o. What was I thinking? There must be a right and wrong way to arc my cane forward in a crowd, one that I hadn’t yet learned. Bob, what about that lesson?

There must be a right and wrong way to arc my cane forward in a crowd, one that I hadn’t yet learned. Bob, what about that lesson?

“Did I tell you that this is also the weekend for ‘Roar to the Shore’?” Bob asked me dryly. “Eight thousand motorcyclists are gathered right here in the heart of downtown for the event.”

I felt faint. “Well, I don’t think I befriended that motorcycle mama.”

“Come on, let’s keep moving and find our target restaurant.” Bob’s voice took on a jovial tone meant to spur me forward.

My trainer had learned to sweep away negative criticism as easily as he took the next sweep of his cane to move forward. The more I thought about it, the more I liked his approach. Bob always taught me more than good mobility techniques. He also modeled an attitude that would bring me success.

You are reading  “Watch Out! Blind Lady Walking.” Copyright July 2014 from Mobility Matters Stepping Out in Faith due out next month. If you enjoyed this excerpt from my book, LIKE it,  leave a comment, and DO share it with a friend.

Watch Out! Blind Lady Walking
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14 thoughts on “Watch Out! Blind Lady Walking

  • July 17, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Love your trainers approach, and what a delight to meet you and your blog. You are such an inspiration

  • July 17, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Nice excerpt! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that’s motorcycle-related.

  • July 17, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    My trainer was one hundred percent blind! He really was amazing, and one of the few totally blind trainers in the US I was told!
    Thank you! Come back and check out my blog again!

  • July 17, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Hi Scott,
    Thank you! My book is about coping with vision loss and the Roar to the Shore event was a one-time incident. I encountered them during a mobility training exercise. Memorable!
    If you liked that excerpt, you might also like to read which happened on the same training day!

  • July 17, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    I think I froze at the point in your story where you did. Talk about learning under fire.

    As a person who has mostly clear vision, I can say that my senses go on alert when I’m in that sort of crowd. I find that my mind takes note of every contact while physiologically I begin to compress, taking up as little space as I can as a way of coping.

    Did you find yourself automatically compressing due to the circumstances of using a cane amid thousand-dollar paint jobs?

    I wonder, because the physical compression may be a subconscious result of what I see around me.

  • July 17, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    Amy you scare me! I know you have to do this training but could we do it without all the motorcyles in town? Probably not… but I’m glad you have a good trainer.. be safe.

  • July 18, 2014 at 3:28 am

    I like how you shared what happens to you in crowds, David. Yes, what you said about your senses “going on alert” happened to me, too. Especially since that occurred right after I ALSO had dealt with a crowd due to a block party. You might want to read this earlier interlude. None of that ruffled my trainer, who I neglected to mention was one hundred percent blind!

  • July 18, 2014 at 3:50 am

    Thanks for your concern! It WAS a little frightening during but afterward, I felt SO successful! And I think I forgot to mention that my trainer was 100% blind! Pretty impressive on his part, huh?

  • July 20, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Amy – I follow you in another FB group, and I remember when you were just putting together the cover for your book. I think it will make an interesting read. Your attitude is positive and your story is motivational. Congratulations on your writing journey and good luck on your book’s debut.

  • July 21, 2014 at 2:15 am

    Thank you so much, Crystal!
    I’m very excited about it. God has given me many blessings!
    I recognize your website from the UBC where I post. I love your tips and other ideas for organizing!
    You’re already a friend on my author page but have you signed up to receive my blog in your email?
    I plan on having some special gift raffles for the book’s debut that I hope will be really fun.
    Thanks again for stopping by and reading my post!

  • July 24, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Hi Amy, thank you for sharing your story. Very few of us understand what it’s like to navigate with total loss of vision. When I was going through my training in downtown Pittsburgh I felt so conspicuous and talk about being on “high alert” I almost felt for the first time that my hearing was my super power. I admire that you were able to get through the hair-raising Roar to Shore (I think I would have burst into tears and run home with my tail between my legs at the biker chicks comments).

    I find it interesting how some people can have so little compassion and I worry about how someday they might find themselves in a situation where they have little to no control. Things are great as long as everthing is copacetic but one day we can wake up with heaven knows what, and that’s when we are really put to the test. I’m so fortunate to have role models such as you to look up to and emulate so that I can in turn can do the same for others. Thank you

  • July 24, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Steph…downtown Pittsburgh! Whew! Even bigger than Erie! I am sure your hearing became your super power! So you were blindfolded too? My trainer taught me to just keep moving forward and leave other people’s lack of understanding behind, at least sometimes. I think the more vision-impaired people share, the more each one learns from the other. I learned how to fold a shirt into a nice small neat square from you. =) I look forward to learning a lot about style from you!!

  • September 14, 2014 at 7:50 am

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  • September 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Hi Chelsea,
    Can you send the link to your site again? I was unable to connect with it.
    You are welcome. Come back anytime and let me know what you think of my other stories.

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