So yesterday I was a teenage girl, today I’m a teenage boy because I’m publicly declaring my love for motorcycles. I would shout it from the rooftops but I wore the wrong shoes today for climbing onto the roof.
This motorcycle, above, is the one I usually ride. It’s Luke’s old Buell that he lets me ride but which I cannot call my bike because it’s not mine. It’s his. But I ride it, so it’s mine. (Shh, don’t tell Luke I said that.)
I’ve been riding now for about seven years and each time I get ready to go for a ride, I feel a mixture of excitement and nausea. I love riding – it’s a feeling like no other – but I live down a long dirt driveway and the motorcycles are in the garage on the back of the house. In order to go for a ride, I have to ride the bike up and around a winding, sandy hill, then through an obstacle course of firewood to get to the gravel parking area in front of our house, then I have to drive down a potholed dirt drive to the sandy end near the road just to get to the asphalt. The hardest part of every ride is getting to the street. Once I’m on the street, all feelings of apprehension are gone and I get a rush of adrenaline, because twisting that throttle and feeling the bike respond as I take the first turns – there are no words to describe that feeling.
Learning to ride has not been an easy path for me. I’m married to a man who seems to have been born atop a motorcycle. He can ride a motorcycle blindfolded with one arm over an icy road. While holding a beer. He has complete control of every motorcycle he rides and he has this sixth sense that allows him to understand what to do in every situation he comes across. This skill was not transferred in the marriage process.
Many years ago, I decided that I wanted to get my license so I took the motorcycle course because I wanted to stay married. Trying to learn a skill from someone who “just knows” how to do something and can’t really explain how he does it is not fun, I found this out while learning to drive a stick. I took the course, got my license and started riding. Looking back, it’s frightening to me that with a total of eight hours of seat time, we motorcycle course grads were just let loose onto public roads. I had no clue.
One of my first times out, I was riding Luke’s old Nighthawk (we miss that bike so much) and in my head I was following the steps of a turn – push the bars in the direction you want to go, turn your head in the direction you want to go, smoothly twist the throttle as you enter the turn – but I had neglected to also notice that the corner was filled with loose gravel. I went down, banged up my leg, and put a hole in the side of the motorcycle engine case. This was classic book learning with no practical skill.
Years later, after screwing up some more, logging many miles on many long rides, riding in any weather condition, and riding any bike I can get my hands on, I’m now in a much better place. A place of confidence. A place where I absolutely love to ride and will ride anything, anywhere, anytime. Well almost anytime. I still don’t like to be cold, so riding in the snow is out of the question, and there are just some times when I’d rather arrive at a place without biker hag helmet hair.
This weekend was our first ride of the season. It’s was embarrassingly late, but a bike needing repair and a busy husband conspired to put off our ride until mid-May. We went for a short ride Friday night and then a day-long ride on Saturday through some of the prettiest parts of Eastern Connecticut. We found curves, dirt roads, farms, beautiful orchards… it was just perfect. I couldn’t stop smiling all day. I forgot how much I love to ride. Now we’re going to have to make up for lost time this weekend. Sorry, if you need me, I’ll be out riding.