November 29, 2020

“Advil Gang” Tend Bikes, Livestock

They call themselves “The Advil Gang,” a reference to the performance allowing drug that masks the aches and pains of all aging motorcyclists. The riding trio is easy to spot on the road, too, as they wear matching pink helmets when out on their

2009 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classics.

(From left, twin sisters Jean Nietupski and Jane Truelove and Nawal El Hachem.)

The gang’s hangout is Hickory Hurst Farm on Route 109 in East Morris. When they’re not riding their Harleys, they’re apt to be working together tending livestock. Extracting their background stories and some road tales was a bit problematic, though, because of an intrusive rooster named George who crowed whenever the storytelling got rolling.

The setting for the interview was the back patio of the white farmhouse back in mid-July and 61-year-old twins Jane Truelove of Bethlehem and Jean Nietupski of Torrington and 52-year-old Nawal El Hachem, who owns the 110-acre farm, spent as much time laughing as they did talking when recounting adventures distant and recent. One story involved how Nietupski got her motorcycle endorsement at age 17.

“A Honda 305 was my first bike. The guy who sold it to me taught me how to ride it,” she said, recalling that it was raining the day she rode from her home to the old Department of Motor Vehicles office on Albert Street in Torrington to take her proficiency test. The examiner was so shocked to see her standing there in her soaking sneakers that he waived the test.  “The inspector said, ‘Did you ride your motorcycle here from Bethlehem?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘You’ve got your license.’ I couldn’t believe it. I was standing there dripping.”

Nietupski is a former middle school teacher in Middlebury, who retired four years ago after 36 years. Truelove taught for 35 years in Terryville and retired five years ago. She, too, had ridden when she was teenager but never got her endorsement – until she retired and bought a Harley Sportster on a whim. A cousin gave her a quick riding lesson.

“That was it for me. I was hooked.  Every day, I practiced all by myself,” said Truelove, reporting that she eventually took the state’s Basic Rider Course at Tunxis Community College. “I rode all that summer by myself.” By summer’s end, she convinced her twin to get back on a bike.

Returning rider Nietupski said it was a “rude awakening” to actually get back in the saddle on a Sportster of her own. What surprised her was “the size of the bike. It didn’t look big but it had substance to it.”

El Hachem got reeled in by Truelove as well by riding along as a passenger initially. She then began sitting on the bike solo to get a feel for what it would be like to ride one herself – under the guidance of Nietupski. El Hachem would walk the bike, start it, put it in first gear and begin moving, while keeping her feet on the ground. “I said I would never, ever put my feet on the pegs,” she said.

At the urging of her late father, Abdallah El Hachem, she quickly bought a Sportster as well and conquered her fears. “We brought it home and I was scared. I lost weight. That was the first time in my life I lost weight – I was so scared,” El Hachem said.

That was five years ago. They’re now all experienced and active riders, and they’ve upgraded their Harleys. “We call ourselves the triplets,” El Hachem said. They even have audio-equipped helmets for bike-to-bike communication while riding. The itinerary for this month alone includes separate road trips to upstate New York, Vermont and Maine.  Next month, they plan to ride to a wedding in Toronto. Last year, they rode to Montreal.

The Advil Gang’s bikes are red (Jean), white (Nawal) and blue (Jane), which are suggestive of the U.S. flag, but they also reflect the tricolore of France. While El Hachem was born in Iraq, she was raised in Nigeria and educated in Paris. She talks with a French accent and addresses the farm animals in French. Her father, who was an international sales rep for McDonnell-Douglas, bought the farm in East Morris in 1976.

Acquiring livestock was the idea of Truelove’s son, Tom, who graduates today with a master’s degree in fine arts from Middlebury College. Their plan was to ride to Vermont yesterday morning. When not riding, the women oversee an ever-changing free-range menagerie of 130 chickens, three sheep, a donkey, five goats, three beef cattle and 15 pigs, including a 350-pound sow named Scarlett Johamsson. George the rooster “is the king of the farm,” said El Hachem.

However, a visitor gets the sense that their three Hogs get just as much attention as the animals in the pastures. “We ride mostly on weekdays because weekends are too hectic,” said Truelove, who has put in roughly 7,000 miles in seat time in the past year or so.

Their Harleys suit their needs perfectly. “It steers so easily. It’s comfortable. It’s so balanced and such a dream to drive,” said Nietupski of her bike. “I just love it. The freedom of the open road is amazing.”

The Advil Gang is hard to miss out on the road. In addition their pink helmets, they have pink jackets and other visible gear, “anything that’s colorful, bright,” said Truelove.  That’s fitting as they’re colorful personalities themselves.

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