In the end, it was the Harley that brought them back together. She agreed to hop on behind him and hang on and together they rode away. At first the rushing wind and passing miles were no match for their deep-rooted grief, but eventually it began chip it away, leaving behind only the sweetest memories and love they’d really always shared.

Julian and Betsy Harwood, of Manchester, will get on the bike again on Saturday and ride in memory of their son, Talon, who died after suffering an asthma attack seven years ago. The Harwoods hope more than 100 other riders will join them on the third annual Talon Harwood Memorial Ride, which is raising money for LifeFlight of Maine. This year, the ride will take on even more meaning.

“Because we’re getting married this year there may be quite a showing,” Julian Harwood said.

The couple divorced in 2009, three years after Talon’s death and just a few months shy of their 20th anniversary. The strain of dealing with their son’s death was a big part of the reason the couple decided to split up, Julian said.

Their marriage ended on paper, but the couple’s relationship never really did. The Harwoods, a former Hallowell police officer and a nurse, continued to spend time together, much of which was spent on Julian’s motorcycle.

“We rode the first 5,000 miles without saying a word to each other,” he said. “It was kind of our church. That’s how we got back together.”

He bought the bike, which a fellow police officer rode in the procession at Talon’s funeral, a couple years after his son’s death.

“I’d never ridden a motorcycle before,” Harwood said.

On Saturday, the two will say their vows at Pemaquid Point. They will promise each other they will keep riding together, no matter how scary or tragic the trip gets.

“It’s definitely going to be a new beginning for us,” Harwood said. “It’s coming home for a lot of people.”

The two began to reconnect on their rides and they were introduced to communities, like the Defenders Motorcycle Club, who helped lift them out of the grief they continued to carry with them.

“The whole community helped us get back together,” Harwood said. “The pain will never go away. You just find a better way to deal with it.”

The Harwood family, which includes 23-year-old Travis and 21-year-old Lauren, hit upon the idea of a memorial ride three years ago as a way to honor Talon.

This year, bikers — and also those who want to drive cars — will meet for registration for the ride beginning at 9 a.m. at Mike’s Water Street Grill in Gardiner. The ride to the coast and wedding ceremony begins at 10 a.m. and ends sometime around 1 p.m. at the Pittston Fairgrounds for a barbecue being offered by the Texas Roadhouse. There will be entertainment and raffles for prizes that include an enclosed bike trailer, a lawnmower and weed trimmer, and an 18-item meat package from Fuller’s Market in Gardiner.

Guests are invited to spend the night at the fairground. Registration is $15. Harwood hopes those who play instruments will stick around to play music around the campfire.

“That’s been a big hit,” he said.

The event is a fundraiser for LifeFlight of Maine, which carried Talon to Maine Medical Center in Portland. A portion of the proceeds will go toward new seating at the First Baptist Church of Hallowell.

The church’s pastor, Michael Longfellow, is chaplain for the central Maine chapter of the Defenders, which comprises current and former military members and law enforcement officers, including Julian.

The memorial ride has raised nearly $16,000 for LifeFlight and the Ronald McDonald House of Portland over the first two years.

“We’d like to raise $20,000 this year,” Betsy Harwood said.

Following Talon’s death, the Harwoods made changes in their lives.

Betsy Harwood, a nurse with 23 years experience, left the hospital to work at an area school. Julian Harwood left a job with the state and followed his dream of selling real estate. Travis Harwood is self employed in a heating and cooling business, and Lauren runs the family’s hair salon, The Jungle. All four live together in Manchester. Lauren will be maid of honor and Travis will be best man. For his dad’s bachelor party, Travis rented the Shipyard bus to take a group of family and friends to a Red Sox game.

“It’s pretty cool when your son can rent a bus and take you to a baseball game,” Julian Harwood said. “Everything’s coming together.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642
[email protected]

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