Here’s a picture of me in my motorcycle gear on a happier day.
Today was not a particularly happy day–though it happened to be the day I first got to drive/ride a motorcycle all by myself. (Except for the time Clark Combs sent me careening down the street on his bike. I think I got about 100 ft before I laid it down. But that was in 1979.)
It started off reasonably well. We all got there early and suited up and stood in a line for review as though we were going off to battle. The bikes were all ready, waiting in neat rows. We walked them to where we learned to turn them on and off, rock them back and forth, power walk them across the lot, and, finally, to pick our feet up and go.
I admit it was quite thrilling when I realized I wasn’t going to stall out on my first trip across the lot with my feet up. I rode up and back, up and back, trying hard to keep from wandering out of my lane or running over our group’s coach. He had to keep reminding me to cover the throttle, not the brake, with my right hand. And I tend to pick my feet up before I quite get my balance (how’s that for a metaphor?). Thank God I know how to drive a car with a standard transmission–I would’ve been truly lost because that whole clutch thing is very complicated.
Then they started with the driving exercises. Follow the leader and all that. Stop at the cone. Shift into second. Downshift. Oh My God we had to learn to TURN the bikes while they were moving/running. And we only got about a five foot start before we had to make the turn.
I was hot. Dripping hot. And thirsty. But the program is demanding. You don’t stop for anything or you’ll miss out and then you have to go home.
I thought I was getting the hang of it all–I was nervous, yes, but I was doing okay. Then around 10:00, I saw THIS rising quickly up to meet me:
Now, technically, I didn’t see a whole lot of asphalt, except around the edges of the bike as it shuddered its way out from under me. All I can remember is CHAOS in my head. It strongly resembled those cartoon word images that float above Elmer Fudd just after he’s been whacked with a shovel.
The only thing I didn’t think of was KILL SWITCH. So the pretty blue bike sputtered and fell, gently, of course, because my right leg was there to keep it from scraping against the asphalt. I was certain it was going to keep running and spin around like some 350 lb, demented, angry top, but it just coughed embarrassingly. A nice athletic young man–a coach–trotted over saying calming things like, “It’s okay. Shut it off. Shut it off.”
My mind was a blank. I had no idea what to do. He quickly found the kill switch, bless him.
“That was quite the wipeout,” he said. “I would be very proud.” Oh, and he asked me if I was okay. I was standing. Mostly. My body suddenly felt stiff from the adrenaline that had spiked when I was certain that I was going to die in a whirring, spinning soup of oil, metal, and denim. But I remembered to breathe. And I was okay. Really okay. My right inner thigh feels a little bruised–that’s about it.
I forgot to look around to see if anyone was watching. Seriously, I did not care at all. It was part of the learning process for me. It doesn’t matter that I was the ONLY person out of 37 who laid down a bike today. Nobody mentioned it later. I wonder if they were embarrassed for me–or just incredibly relieved it hadn’t happened to them.
Did I mention that the past two days have given me a very healthy respect for motorcycles?
I got back on the thing and continued the exercise. I’m nothing if not stubborn. Plus it’s pretty fun, despite the brief moments of terror. Or maybe because of the brief moments of terror.
Yesterday I was convinced I could pass the driving test as well as the written test on Friday. Today I’m not so sure. All I know is that I’ll go back tomorrow and try again.