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diary of a rider: Don't give up (part I)

Updated on March 27, 2012

April 26, 2008 | This must be what helmets are for . . .

Those who know me well – or at all, really – know I enjoy rollerblading. Similarly, anyone who has had more than one or two conversations with me may have gotten an inkling of an idea that I like motorcycles. A lot. It might accurately be called a sort of obsession of mine, this yen to ride motorcycle. So what, I ask you, could be better than inline skating or riding motorcycle? Heh heh heh. Put your hands together.

. . . No, I did not put on my skates and cling to the back of a motorcycle. I may be a little obsessed, but I’m not suicidal.

Actually, this group of motorcycle enthusiasts I’m associated with arranged a skate night. They regularly arrange bike nights, where we all meet at a restaurant to talk and hang out. Palaver and chit chat, that sort of thing. Tonight was different. Tonight, the guy who usually arranges these nights got together with a roller derby chick and they figured out a skating rink that would rent to a single group for a few hours. It was generally just an open skate night, but a portion of the evening was specifically set aside for some relay races. Oh, but wait – it gets better. We were to race on rollerblades in full motorcycle gear. That’s right. Leather jackets, helmets, gloves, and pants. The whole shebang.

I was really glad about that helmet by the end of the evening.

The relay race consisted of five laps, and on the corners you had to drag knuckle – or at least touch your fingers to the floor. Honestly, going fast or dragging knuckle wasn’t the problem for me. It was going the full five laps in full gear! That’s really, incredibly hot stuff! Inside, in a crowded skate rink, in full leather, doing physical exertion . . . yeah, see, that is not what that gear is designed for. I was dripping sweat, and I even had all my vents open and my visor up. It was crazy.

Anyway, I did my five laps, and at the end of the fifth lap, the girl from the opposing team (who’d been right behind me the whole time) suddenly starts pulling ahead of me. I’m thinking, “Oh, fuck, no --“ It was weird, I’m not normally competitive at all. And I knew she’d been pacing me – she’s in way better shape than me, and she’s a better skater. But I just put on a burst of speed and I don’t know if I managed to hit the marker before her or not, but I hit the marker and then . . . kept going.

See, I was going too fast.

Now, I didn’t do another lap, that apparently would’ve disqualified me. No, I went straight into a waist-high wall. Then straight over the waist high wall. According to eye-witness accounts (I didn’t see it, I just felt the whole damn thing), my legs flipped right up into the air, and my head bowed back and slid a little bit when it hit the ground. Yes, I hit the ground head-first. Let me tell you, that is one surreal feeling. My momentum then flipped me on over backwards, and I ended up in a sort of heap on my butt.

When my husband saw me hit the wall, he yelled, “Oh, shit!” By the time I was sitting up, he was kneeling in front of me, looking scared to death and asking, “Are you okay?”

I sort of shook my head the way you do to shake off a shock and asked, “Did I do five laps?”

“Are you okay?

“I’m fine! Did I do the five laps?”

The reason I was asking this was because I didn’t actually count the laps as I did them. I was just sort of guessing, and I wanted to make sure that I did the right amount and didn’t get disqualified for too few or too many. Apparently I didn’t. Unfortunately, our team still got second place. I think we should’ve gotten extra points. Nobody else crashed so spectacularly head-first, that I know of.

May 22, 2008 | First drop

So there I am, riding the road, living the life. I’m actually riding a motorcycle, all by myself. Not as a passenger, not following somebody’s path – blazing my own trail. It is awesome. I navigated traffic, successfully conquered loose gravel, and even made my way through some tight turns. Feeling pretty pleased with myself, though not overconfident, I pulled up to a stop sign.

A stop sign. Now this is a no-brainer. I’ve been navigating traffic, with its requisite merging and stop signs, for a week or so now. I do this every day on my way to and from school. Ha! This is no problem.

Okay, so now maybe I was overconfident.

Traffic was whizzing along, and I sat back, waiting patiently for my opening. I may be confident in my mad skillz (ha), but I’m not completely retarded. Or so I thought. I’m not going to just dart into traffic, I'm going to bide my time and wait for an opening. You know, those cars don’t see you.

A minute passed, then another. Traffic continued to whiz by. I saw an opening that I maybe might have taken if I’d been a car, but I doubted it. Even in a car, I’m conservative about merging. I’m the type of driver that, if my husband was stuck behind me, he would be screaming, “What do you need? A f**king invitation?!?”

Yes. Yes I do.

And I got one. A car slowed down as the light at the intersection near the end of the main road I was waiting to merge onto turned red. The driver waved at me and motioned for me to go ahead. Surprised at the opportunity, I gunned the throttle a little too hard and let off the clutch a little too early, jumping the bike forward and sending myself off balance. I promptly dumped the bike.

I’m so retarded.

Why am I retarded? Because I know why that was a bad idea. I know that you’re supposed to ride your own ride, and ride within your comfort zone. Don’t let other people tell you what to do, and that includes drivers in cars. The thought that went through my head when she waved me through was, “Oh, shit, I better take that! She’s waving me through!”

I didn’t think about whether or not I was comfortable with the size of the opening she left (I wasn’t). I didn’t think about whether or not I felt pressured to take it because she stopped and waved me through. (I did). I just reacted on instinct instead of pulling back and assessing the situation.

The good news: The bike is fine, as am I. A guy pulled over and helped me pick it up -- although, for the record, I can pick up my bike on my own. I once accidentally dumped it in my gravel driveway by putting it on the center stand. I managed to pick it up twice that day, actually. Gravel sucks.

I checked it over; no major damage. A broken turn signal and a clipped hand brake. Easily replaceable. As for myself, I had a nice big bruise on my knee (my fault for wearing jeans instead of my leathers), and the palm of my hand was sore. Also, my pride was sorely injured. I got back on the Ninja and rode it to my neighbors ATV/motorcycle shop to double check my damage assessment. He glanced it over and pronounced it fine.

At this point, I just wanted to go home. I was feeling a little tired and a little upset. My leg hurt, and I didn’t really feel like riding anymore. But I remembered something my husband said to me once, about how hard it was to get back on the motorcycle after an accident. I thought of all the proverbial, “Get back on the horse” wisdoms. So I pulled out of the shop, and instead of going straight home, I rode a little longer. Not much longer, but long enough that by the time I did park the motorcycle in the garage, it was with a sense of regret at the end of ride, and anticipation for the next ride/learning experience.

So there you have it. I dumped the bike for the first time. Hey, does this make me legit?

May 16, 2008 | I rock the hardcore

I am loving this weather. Monday, Thursday, and Friday morning I got to go for a motorcycle ride, and it was so nice.

On Monday, I rode up and down our road for about an hour, practicing starting and stopping at the stop signs and turning and weaving in the parking lots at either end. By 8:30 or so, I was getting bored of that routine, and our son was at school. So John and I ventured out into the great wide world of traffic. Now that was a little nerve-wracking.

It’s not as bad as whizzing through rush-hour Honolulu traffic, squid-style on a moped, I’ll allow. But still. A little nerve-wracking. I think part of the issue is how everyone, but everyone stresses that cars do not see motorcyclists at all. It makes you terrified to be around those beasts! Still. Over the course of this week, only a few “incidents” have happened.

One car started to change lanes without any regard for us, right there. John revved his engine, and they stopped right quick. Two different cars turned in front of me when it was my right of way. I was watching, though, and had slowed in preparation to avoid, because both drivers looked down the road to the right, then turned left in front of me. Oh, and there’s that car that cut me off on the way home from the college.

Anyway, so Monday’s ride. We rode through town, on down to this pretty straight road with minimal traffic. It was gorgeous out. John was holding himself back in recognition of my newbieness (I think I just made up a word). It is the most glorious feeling in the world to spin down the highway, the wind whispering up and under your visor, slipping down your neck and shivering down your back.

We went to a restaurant for breakfast, but when we came out, John’s TL-1000r wouldn’t start. There were some guys at the restaurant (I forget what kind of bikes they had exactly; touring bikes, I know. BMW’s, I think.), from Canada, and they tried to push-start his bike. Poor guys almost gave themselves a heart attack trying to get that beast up to a running start. Anyway, it didn’t work. So we loaded two-up on my bike for my first ever experience as John’s passenger. It was awesome.

John’s a good rider, and riding the Ninja for a few weeks means he's familiar with my bike. I would have waited at the diner for him to return if I didn’t trusted his riding. I don’t get on the back of a bike anymore unless I know and trust the rider. After getting home, we grabbed the car and some jumper cables, went out and jumped his bike, then sped home. I was late for class and kind of freaking out, but it was an insanely gorgeous day, and my car has no air conditioning. So I hopped back on my bike and (gasp!) tooled through town again to the college.

Thursday and Friday, we went on some twisties instead, and I learned that I, apparently, fear curves. I tend to lay off the throttle and target fixate on the lines. So, obviously, I need to continue going on the twisties to work on that. By the end of the ride on Friday, I was doing pretty good, even in the curves. I feel pretty pleased with my progress.

He normally wears gear; we took this picture because it's such an odd site. The squid ride was less than 5 minutes, to the store and back.
He normally wears gear; we took this picture because it's such an odd site. The squid ride was less than 5 minutes, to the store and back.



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