Cool Bike Rides
I can’t remember the first time on a motorcycle but I do remember how awesome it was when my dad would put me on the back of his Honda and take me for a ride. It was a special time that allowed for Daddy, daughter bonding. I always wanted more, more time on the bike, more rides, more often.
Dad had that same Honda for many years and used it mostly for commuting, but would take the occasional joy ride. Though the joy rides with him became less frequent as I grew into my early teens, I always enjoyed riding with him. Unfortunately, the poor old Honda met its demise one summer night as someone saw fit to torch the bike in our own backyard. We never did determine who had vandalized the bike, though my father figured it was a disgruntled ex-boyfriend of mine. After that travesty, I don’t recall him having a running bike for many years. He had a big white Moto Guzzi for a while, but as he and my mother went through a divorce I became very distant from the whole ugly family issues and didn’t think twice about motorcycles for a while.
As a result of the divorce I developed some self destructive behavior and desperately wanted a motorcycle, the rebel without a cause persona wanting to be set free. However, finances, school and work schedules did not allow for such frivolous expenditures. During the time that my folks were going through the divorce I got the difficult phone call that my beloved and idolized Uncle Tim, a Harley shop owner and master mechanic had been in an accident. His injuries required that he be in a cast from the waist down for about a year’s time and he lost an inch or two in length of one leg as a result. This incident justified in my mind putting off the thoughts of getting my motorcycle license for several more years.
One Sunday morning after I married the love of my life, I woke up with the overwhelming need to put a plan into action to get my permit the following day and sign up for the motorcycle safety course. Fate, yet again, stepped in to change my mind on that very same Sunday afternoon. I received a phone call that my Uncle Tim was once again in an accident while test driving a customer’s bike. Amongst other medical issues, it appeared that he may lose his right foot as that is what took the impact from the car that ran a stop sign and side swiped him on the bike. I took this as a sign that I was not to ride a motorcycle. After all, Tim had been riding bikes since his childhood and if he, an experienced rider, could get into two accidents in a decade what could happen to a newbie??
Fast forward 14 years to 2005. My husband and I were invited to a friend’s 25th wedding anniversary party in Lake George, New York. This celebration was held just off the main strip in the village during the week of Americade. The sound called to me like the call of the wild. Once the anniversary festivities were over, we went down to the strip, got ourselves a beer and sat road side just watching the bikes, hundreds of them, rolling up and down the road. Some were overstated, some loud, some whinny, but they all sounded delicious. It was wonderful entertainment for the evening and in great company.
The following year we decided to make the trip again. This time our only intention was to experience the sights and sounds of Americade 2006. It is ironic how attending the same event twice can have profoundly different effects on a person. Once returning from Americade 2005, my only desire was to attend the following year as a wanna-be. When we came home from the 2006 bike week, I had an insatiable desire, a fire burning inside to ride. This yearning would not stop, no matter how impractical it seemed. We have two kids; both work full time, were not wealthy, and had very little spare time to enjoy such a hobby. Yet there was not enough reasoning to put my desire to bed, so during the fall of 2006 I talked my husband, Ian, into signing up for the motorcycle safety course the following April.
We bought a 2004 Yamaha V-Star Classic in March in anticipation of the course. Now, I have at this point, never driven a bike before. But I, being invincible, decided that I was going to take a few two minute lessons from my husband and I was off. Ride number two on the bike was almost my last. There was still snow on the ground and the left over sand from the winter had not yet been swept up. I have all of ½ hour of riding time under my belt and decided to take a ride one sunny afternoon. I take and ride down a beautiful country road local to my home that crosses over into Connecticut, just a few miles out. I opted to bear left onto a side road; I only wish I had the experience to keep the bike upright when turning. I was not going very fast, but I laid the bike down taking the turn, my front tire slid into a snow bank. I was properly geared up, and I thank God for that. I slowly got myself up off the pavement and realized that I was bleeding from my left knee and had sprained my left ankle. The worst of the situation was that my bike lay on the side of the road. Initially, I walked back and forth to insure that I was ok then I attempted to call my husband to come and rescue me. I was mortified to realize when I spoke to him that I had gone over the state line, which is not permitted on a Massachusetts learners permit.
Then it hit me…..the undeniable and excruciating embarrassment of standing on the side of the road next to my fallen steed. I couldn’t let her lay there, wounded, though not nearly as much as my pride. I was determined that I was going to get this 650 pound bike upright and try to help diminish the anxiety I had every time a car approached. Not knowing there was a proper technique to do this I walked over to the bike, facing it and grabbed whatever I could and lifted. This was particularly difficult since the front tire was still in the snow bank where it had rested. As I lifted with all my might, the pain in my ankle was all I could bear, but with stubborn determination and a fair amount of luck, I was able to get the bike upright. This helped only slightly to cure the embarrassment, but did alleviate some of the anxiety when the cars went passing by.
Though I was only a few miles from home, it seemed an eternity for my husband to come to my rescue. He determined that the bike was less damaged than I was, so he rode the bike home and I was perfectly content driving home the mom-mobile. Once arriving home I set myself up with the appropriate bandages and ice packs and swore the whole family to secrecy. The fact that I had spilled the bike as a brand new rider had me immobilized, figuratively speaking; therefore this topic became a confidential matter on par with national security issues.
As time passed and my wounds and pride started to heal, I was learning from frequent conversation that situations like the one I had just been through happen with some frequency, even amongst life-long avid riders. Needless to say, security clearance has been given to all that want to discuss my “accident” now and I share it openly with those that will listen in hopes that I can help, particularly other lady riders be more comfortable with the fact that “shit happens”.
The only damage done to my bike was a scratch on the front fender, which still needs to be repaired and another on one of the mirrors. However, the scratches I had taken on that last ride though relatively minor were nearly enough to end my dream of riding “my own”. It was a sad day when I realized that maybe I really was not meant to ride, not meant to experience the awesomeness I used to experience riding with my dad. I was scared of the bike and deflated by my imperfection even though that had only been my second ride from the drivers seat. Ian talked me into taking it slow and getting some parking lot time on the bike, where you don’t have to worry about other drivers or even onlookers. We only had three weeks left before our Rider Safety Course and I figured I had better take him up on his offer so I did not appear an idiot at the course. He would drive the bike to the school and I the mom-mobile. Upon arrival we would switch riding gear and I would mount THE STEED. I was not comfortable the first time and I think my steel horse could sense this; as she refused to turn left (the way I was turning when I had my mishap). Ian would have me take a lap or two around the parking lot and stop me to give me pointers. I would be surprised if I reached the amazing threshold of 20 miles an hour that first day. I still was not convinced that this was for me, but Ian was persistent and got me down to the parking lot a couple more times before our course.
Ironically enough, though Ian was persistent in getting my confidence level up, he seemed to be dragging his feet about the course. He told me he was going to see the course through but that “this is not a priority for me”. Fortunately we had already paid for the course, which was not easily refundable so he was stuck…..as was I.
The first day of the course was about as beautiful as an early spring day can be. We started with several hours of classroom time, which I did very will with. The second half of the day we went and got to ride. I did not have any embarrassing moments, didn’t spill the bike, and walked away with my pride intact. Day two was a different story. We had a Nor’easter come up the East coast which dumped snow, sleet and freezing rain on our riding course while we were doing our classroom instruction. I was literally sweating. No way was I prepared to ride and test for my license in these conditions. I realized there is indeed a God when John, the owner of the school came in and said they were canceling driving time for the first time in their eight-year history. I could have kissed him.
The following Tuesday, we went and made up our riding time and took our test. The little 250’s were the perfect size bike for a beginner and they were all very manageable. They were manageable enough that I was able to pass the requirements, with some room to spare, to get my motorcycle license. A dream come true, an item to mark off my “bucket list” and the best part was I had done it with my husband. Ian walked out of the class completely dismayed. Dismayed that he hadn’t done this years earlier. I have never seen someone have such a quick change of heart as he had. I nearly had to drag him to the course and afterwards, he was a biker forever. Though I love my children and dread the day that they will leave me, we now look forward to a day when we can hop on the bikes and ride wherever and whenever we would like.
Experience Christine's drive to get her license and ride her own...