Saturday, January 4, 2014

Better Late than Never

It is often difficult to find humor in all circumstances, but at least trying takes some of the sting out of it.  I find myself on the shady side of 60 with no map to follow.  I have lived in the cold and lived in the heat and what I have learned from this is that you can add enough clothes to keep warm but you can never take off enough clothing to get cool. 

I have always drooled at beautiful motorcycles and all of my life wanted to ride.  I could never risk the downside of motorcycling because "who would pay my bills"?  At 56 an opportunity arose and someone was brave enough to teach me.  He had a small multipurpose Honda and it didn't look too intimidating.

Don't try to take a permit test without first reading the booklet.  On the second try, I passed the test and off I go. 

We approached the garage that morning and I was feeling a mixture of unbridled excitement and shear terror.  The bike was there waiting for me, gleaming white and a tank full of gas and after an hour of instruction, cautions, and just plain Do Not Do's we were ready to start our engines.

Trying to be cool, I threw my leg over the seat and thought that I had dislocated my hip.  I tried to suck it up best I could while realizing that I was having to stand on my tip toes to reach the garage floor.  Now lets see, turn the key on and look for the green light which tells you that the transmission is in neutral.  Neutral is somewhere here between first and second and then with your left hand pull in the clutch lever and with the right hand push the start button.   Now with my left foot push down on the shift lever which puts the transmission in first gear.  This whole process reminds me of doing the hokey pokey.

I soon remembered that he had said to gradually let out the clutch as I leapt forward, legs flying in the air as if I were bull riding and the bike came to a sudden stop.  Focus, and repeat, now while slowly letting up on the clutch, slowly turn the throttle to move forward.  I was so excited that I was moving forward that I totally let go of the clutch and again lurched to a sloppy stop.   By this time my instructor was finished checking out his bike and asked if I was ready to go and we emerged from the safety of the garage. 

We had 1 1/2 miles to go on gravel and dirt roads before we got to the highway.  I managed the 1/2 mile gravel driveway with some minor fishtailing and a few toe touches but remained upright.  The next obstacle was a long hill, downward, and I was sure I would get going faster and faster until I ended in a heap at the bottom.  I found that if one rides the brakes all the way down it works out ok white knuckles and all.  The dirt road was fairly well packed and not as difficult as I had imagined nor were the cattle guards that threatened to suck me under.  I was soaked with perspiration and a nervous wreck by the time we reached to highway.  Master instructor turned to me, asked if I was ok and said, "let's roll."

We headed North West about 16 miles and onto yet another dirt road headed deep into a canyon that would end up 40 miles northwest of home.  The terrain was tricky but the scenery was beautiful.  One of the most memorable spots, and thank heaven HE was way ahead and out of sight, was a down hill ride with a cliff wall dead ahead and a hairpin turn at the bottom immediately running up a steep hill.  It was clear to me that I had to STOP at the bottom, before the cliff wall, duck walk the bike through the hairpin and then start up the hill.  All the way down I'm mentally going through the many hand and foot maneuvers that I had to go through to achieve this and as it turned out it didn't go that way at all.  As I approached the bottom I pulled the clutch in, downshifted all the way from 5th to 1st,
applied the brake and ended up on my side in the dirt.  I knew that HE hadn't seen this so I wiggled my trapped foot from under the bike, limped around a bit and fought to get the bike upright.  Regaining my dignity I started off up the mountain.

Ten years and several bikes later I am still enjoying and still learning.  I had the honor of riding with the Patriot Guard this past summer Honoring those we lost on 9/11.  It was quite a ride and one that will forever be with me.