diary of a rider: Don't give up (part II)
May 26, 2008 | I rides a motorbikes, vroom, vroom!
John and I planned to go on a ride yesterday, but woke to a grey, wet world. Not uncommon in Washington, but I still don’t feel quite . . . steady enough, I guess, to be riding on slick, wet pavement (mostly when it comes to cornering), so we went for a family drive instead.
It was frustrating, though, and I really wanted to ride. I watched the weather for today anxiously, but the forecast was rain. I could taste ashes and defeat in my mouth as I thought of another dull day, trapped inside. I studied the radar maps and watched the rain patterns, calling John over to consult with me. The final consensus? We would ride.
I called our babysitter and she was available, even on such short notice and on a holiday. Within a half hour, we’d dropped off our son and suited up – ready to ride. The first thing I noticed was that my new leather pants feel very different when I’m riding and not passenger. The way they sit, the way they slide on the seat, even the shift on my thighs – my seated position is different, and so the leather pulls differently. It took me a few minutes to get used to it, but the extra protection and warmth was a welcome difference from the jeans I tend to wear riding to and from the college.
The ride itself was fairly uneventful. On the way out, I forced myself not to throttle way down when entering a corner and take it substantially below the speed limit. My goal was to take each corner at or slightly above the recommended posted speed, and for the most part, I succeeded. I’m sure that both my husband and the cars thought I was granny-cornering it, but I didn’t want to ride beyond what I was sure I could handle.
We took Old Highway ’99 out to Tumwater, then followed Yelm Highway down to Ruddell. Our goal was the cemetery my mom is buried in. There was some road work going on around the cemetery, with lots of loose gravel and whatnot, but we navigated it fine. I stalled my bike and felt like a retard going up into the cemetery, but we made it okay. I wanted to go see mom because, when I was a teenager, she used to tease me and say I could only ride a motorcycle over her dead body. Obviously, she was being hyperbolic -- she knew perfectly well that I often rode passenger on my friend's motorcycles. Since she died in 2003, I figured riding up to her grave on my motorcycle would be a good way of honoring her sense of humor and memory.
After the cemetery, we headed back. The ride back was a bit more interesting than the ride up. First off, I’ve not ridden on the freeway yet. So when John started heading through town towards southbound I-5, my first thought was, “Oh, balls!” My second was, “You have to try at some point.” So while we made our way through town, I told myself, “Just keep your cool. Stay at the speed limit; don’t slow way down if you get nervous. You’ll be fine. You can do this.”
We got on southbound, and I accelerated off the exit ramp at speed, merging into traffic just fine. The problem came when John pulled ahead of me. Normally, I can at least pretend to try to keep up with him – when he starts getting up there in speed, his bike growling and thrumming, I buzz along in his wake on my little yellow Ninja, throttle pushed to the limit. This time, though, he kicked his bike up to 70 mph, and I throttled on, leaning forward to catch him up – and my bike would not go! It stayed at 60 mph indicated, no matter how I twisted the throttle.
John saw I was having trouble and signaled for an exit. Just before we got onto the exit ramp, my poor bike started losing power. Throttle completely on, but there I was at 55 mph, then 45 . . . I quickly guided myself off the shoulder and came to a stop, at which point my bike was no longer running. I flicked the tank to reserve and pushed the start.
By the time the fuel caught, J had made his way back from where he’d pulled over, farther up on the shoulder. We rode 2-up to his bike, and then went to the gas station. That was notable incident number one -- my first time running out of gas while on the road.
Notable incident number two happened a little later, as we were going around a corner on Littlerock road. I leaned into the turn, scouting the road and moving into the best position to complete the turn. After I hit the apex, as I came out of the turn, the realization hit me like a burst of sunlight – I was not afraid.
Entering the turn, I had felt no gut-clenching fear that I had to force down and ignore. I had not been battling my inclination to throttle significantly off. I had done naturally and easily what I had been practicing on the ride out.
Notable incident number three was when I got a bee in my helmet, which freaked the heck out of me. And why does no one mention that if a bug gets in your helmet, you just open your visor while riding to let it out? I pulled over, my heart thumping and eyes half-crossed, terrified the thing was going to sting me. It was a bee. In my helmet.
Other than that, it was just the usual, same old, same old. Some white sedan-type car almost pulled out in front of us on Highway 12. John rolled on the throttle, so the driver eased back while he passed, then started to pull out again – right in front of me!
My first instinct is not to use the horn – I never use it, even in the car, so I never even think of it until much too late. Instead I rolled on the throttle a little to make some noise (ha!), then rolled off in preparation to stop and moved a little to the left. John says it was the movement that caught the driver's eye and made him stop (albeit halfway into the turn!).
All in all, a pretty fun ride.