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Freewheeling gypsy judge cruises for children’s charities

Senior Editor Regular News

Freewheeling gypsy judge cruises for children’s charities

Senior Editor

Giving herself the “mildly tacky” moniker “Gypsy Judge,” retired First Circuit Judge Laura Melvin is revving up her Honda Goldwing 1800 and cruising more than 10,000 miles. Her ambitious itinerary is to cover the four geographic corners of the United States — all in the name of helping children.

Judge Laura Melvin/photo by Hara Gabrielle Cook at documentedphotography.com “Knowing the trip will put a big grin on my face, I began to wonder if there’s a way to do it and put a grin on a kid’s face, too,” said 64-year-old Melvin, who will always remember the faces of the abused and neglected children who appeared in her dependency courtroom over the years.

The first week of June, she will head out of her hometown of Milton and roar away to the first corner in San Ysidro, California, cruising on her motorcycle she said is like “riding on a Stratolounger” recliner chair because of its “wonderful suspensions,” cruise control, and CD speakers blasting music in her helmet.

From there, she will twine up the West Coast to Blaine, Washington, going over the Canadian border for a spell to soak up the majesty of the Canadian Rockies, then drop back down to cross below the Great Lakes before heading to Madawaska, Maine — and over to Nova Scotia if her energy holds up — before heading south to Key West.

Her plan is to blog along the way about her travel experiences, complete with roadside photos, at gypsyjudge.com. Links will connect interested givers to four charities: The Child Advocacy Center, Habitat for Humanity (providing homes for children); the Shriners Hospitals for Children; and the Ronald McDonald House (helping families of sick children.)

She hopes to set up contacts in each of the four corner states and do a little schmoozing to raise awareness for the charities.

Along the way she will tent camp when weather permits and enjoy a real bed and hot shower “as needed.” She hopes to return home in the Florida Panhandle by the first of August.

“The biggest challenge for me will be the 1,600-mile roundtrip to Key West in late July.The heat can be miserable,” Melvin said.

“I feel like the ‘Little Engine that Could’ — ‘I think I can, I think I can.’”

This trip, Melvin says with a laugh, is “a bit extreme, even for me.”

Her motorcycle passion came like a bolt out of the blue eight years ago.

“I had never ridden a motorcycle in my life. I had never put my feet on the pegs of a motorcycle before,” Melvin recalled.

“I literally woke up one morning — it was my birthday — and I looked at the ceiling and asked myself: ‘What is it you don’t want to regret and say I’ve always wanted to do?’”

The first thing that popped into her mind was that she wanted to hear Pema Chödrön, an author and Buddhist teacher at Gampo Abbey, a monastery at Pleasant Bay, Nova Scotia.

“I lay there looking at the ceiling some more and I said, ‘OK, you can go there. You can do that. That will be cool.’ And then I decided, ‘Yup, I want to ride a motorcycle.’”

While she hasn’t yet made it to Nova Scotia, she did take a motorcycle riding course with her first bike, a Suzuki 650, then moving up to a Yahama 1100 that was totaled when she hit a deer. Now she owns the big cruiser, as well as credentials as a Motorcycle Foundation Safety Instructor, teaching the basic riding course.

Recently, she has taken two advanced courses, and belongs to a motorcycle club that holds monthly skills events that help her practice all her swerving and braking moves.

What is it about motorcycle riding that Melvin loves?

“When you’re traveling along, sometimes I smell grass that’s just been cut. Then I’ll look and you can find the yard that’s just been cut. You can ride along and smell that someone has their barbecue grill on. You can smell when it has just rained or it’s going to rain. You’ll be riding along and the road gets down in a little hollow, and you feel the temperature change. One time I was out riding in a farm area, and I could smell the turned dirt. And I came up on a tractor pulling a disk.

“It’s so much more alive than being in the cage,” Melvin said, referring to an air-conditioned car with the windows up.

“The world is so big, and you’re in it.”

She can hear the faint groan of her deceased dad, Judge Woodrow Melvin, about calling herself the Gypsy Judge.

But, hey, she’s retired now, she has many miles to go before she sleeps, and she’s feeling free.

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