Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Motorcycle Mama

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

In planning for next Fall when I will be at Bastyr full-time, I decided that it would make a lot of sense to be able to commute by motorcycle.

When you are bound to the schedule of the Washington State ferries, you do anything and everything to make it easier to get on the boat and to make it cost less.  When the vehicle you are driving is a motorcycle, you pay less for your fare, and, more importantly, you get on the boat each and every time even if it is too full to hold any more cars.  That means, you get home at rush hour.

In November, 2009,  I took a motorcycle training course.  I had signed up to take the class with a whole group of friends and we picked a weekend in late November because it was the only time all of us could make it.  As it turned out, as the dates grew closer, everyone but me dropped out of the course (and I could have taken it in September when the sun was still shining!)

So, there I was, in November, temperatures close to freezing, rainy and windy, out on a practice range for 5 hour stretches – friendless.  This was the first time I had EVER driven a motorcycle or anything even remotely like a motorcycle.  Did I mention it was near freezing and I’d been abandoned?

We began our first practice session sitting on the bike and using our feet, Flintstone style, to push our bikes across the practice range – back and forth, back and forth, back and forth – bike toddlers.  Over the course of two, 5 1/2-hour sessions, we moved to starting the bike, actually driving the bike, turning the bike, stopping the bike, changing lanes, etc.

We spent a total of 11 hours driving a motorcycle and 8 hours in a classroom being lectured on safety and rules of the road.  We took a written test.  We took a driving range test.  If we passed, we were given a little card that said, in the eyes of Washington State, we were now safe to navigate the big wide world of roads and traffic.  We hadn’t once gotten above 20mph, nor driven on anything resembling a road.

Well, my confidence at that point was probably lower than when I began.  I had passed all of my tests, but, I also now knew, deep in my soul, that riding a motorcycle was crazy.  And, there was NO way I was ready for the actual roads and traffic!

I needed to practice – and a lot of it.  And to do that, I needed a bike of my own plus a entire wardrobe of really heavy duty protective gear for my vulnerable parts – AKA my entire body.

For the bike, craigslist was our friend.  We found an almost new bike that was a perfect fit for my needs – enough power, but not too much power (250cc’s – a starter girl bike), and light enough that I can manage it – for the perfect price.  Voila, I’m a bike owner.  And, lucky for us, black Friday, which was two days after we purchased the bike, worked in our favor.  I was able to get top of the line protective gear at about half of the going rate.  I was set.  Now all that was left was practice.

We started practicing by spending a couple of hours in a park and ride near our house.  Nils would drive the bike to the site with me following in the car.  Once there, I would ride in circles, turning right, turning left, weaving through cones, stopping, starting – getting used to this new addition to our vehicle family.  It had been several weeks since my training course (11 hours total remember).  Then Nils would drive the bike back home.  We did this for a couple of days in a row.  Finally, I was ready to brave the real rodes – I hoped.  Mind you, I had still never gotten above 20mph – which felt plenty fast to me.

Well, I did it.  I drove the bike home.  I went up to 50mph.  I stopped.  I started.  I signaled.  I turned.  I did it.  Cars in the opposite direction are a whole new experience when you don’t have a metal shell around your body, but other than that, it felt great.  Now my next mission, should I choose to accept it,  is to expand my travel horizons and get some seat time in my pocket, with the ultimate goal getting on the ferry and driving on the city streets of the greater Seattle area.

As I turned into my driveway at the end of that first ride, I slowed down carefully, then started to turn the bike to back it into its final resting place, thinking I was the shit,  and as I started that last turn, …the wheels slipped out from under me on the slippery mud and leaves and I laid the bike down on its side, jumping out of the way to not get caught underneath.  At least it wasn’t at a stoplight.