Monday, August 01, 2005

How it Began

I never had the desire nor ambition to ride a motorcycle. Didn't spend a lot of time looking longingly at bikes and there wasn't much interest even when I'd sit at a table full of Harley owners recounting the tales of their travels and rides.

Nope, I got into this brave new world as a favor to a friend. A really good friend certainly, but with hestiation and a considerable amount of dis-interest none the less.

Although my buddy had ridden bikes his whole life it'd been a while since owning one, until nearly two years when he bought his pride and joy, an anniversary edition Harley Davidson Softail Heritage. We did practically everything together that two straight guys can do except for those early hours on the weekend mornings when he cranked up his hog and head out on the South Florida roads. For about eighteen months he nagged me to get a motorcycle endorsement so I could at least rent a bike to ride with him.

Being the typical good friend, and males tend to do, I promised for months to enroll in one of the local schools and take the motorcycle safety course to get my endorsement, only to ignore or forget as soon as the spat of insistency was over. But it was now the first week of March and nothing had been done and I knew I couldn't put it off any longer without my buddy getting majorly ticked off. A quick flurry of calls on a Monday morning had me in the class starting that Thursday with two evenings during the week and early starts for the weekend sessions.

For the first two nights it was like any other course I'd taken with getting know the other people in the class, watching videos and reading from the training manual. We were all lucky with the pair of instructors teaching the class. Nick was the seasoned rider that looked like he'd been born on a bike. Long grey hair, braided ponytail and a beard, but what most striking was his dry sense of humor and the glint in his eye when he zinged you, in a nice instructional way of course. Steven was younger but had as much enthusiasm for riding as his older counterpart.

The class had a younger guy from Sweden, someone who had successfully battled cancer and getting a motorcycle was part of his new passion for living life, older gentleman who had last ridden on dirt bikes some thirty years ago and of course the new riders like myself who's whole riding experience consisted of rental scooters while on vacation.

The questions at the 'getting to know you' part of the session set the standard for the next few days.

Are you going to show us how not to drop our motorcycles?
There are two types or riders. Those who have dropped their bike and those who are going to drop their bike.

He went onto to promise the course helps stack things in your favor. Funny.

As much as I enjoyed everything, there was still no passion. Sure enthusiasm, but nowhere near what I say in the eyes and heard in the voice of all the Harley riders as they told their stories over beer and barbeques at my buddy's house.

Then Saturday morning came when I sat on the Buells we were using for the first time. Each motorcycle was named by the personalized license plate and as silly as I thought this was, it paid off when confusion set in trying to find your bike everytime the lessons would restart. It was about the time we weaved in and out of cones that the motorcycle bug bit.

It wasn't instant or overwhelming but as my confidence and skills grew on the bikes the passion slowly and surely started to grow as well. By the time we were doing complete laps, changin gears and manuevering between the staggered cones, I was hooked.

Casualties of the course. Just wounded pride. Everyone passed and we only had three spills during the two days of hands on practice, fortunately none of them serious. The older guy who hadn't ridden in thirty years confused his clutch with the throttle and nearly went through a fence. Another gentleman tried to downshift as he stopped but left it so late he just tipped over. Looked more like a cartoon than really happening. We all liked him far too much to laugh aloud, but wasn't from the lack of effort. The final one said he got his bulky gloves caught and accelerated towards a fence. His answer to avoiding the accident was to jump off the motorcycle at about twenty miles per hour. Later it was explained he chould just let go of everything and the bike would've rolled to a stop well before hitting the fence. Oops.

I was so excited about having my motorcycle endorsement I stood in a hot DMV line for three hours the next day to have it added to my license. You see, I wanted to buy my own motorcycle sooner than later and needed that magical endorsement to seal the deal.

The day after my DMV purgatory, I'd signed the paperwork to take possession of a beautiful 2005 Softail Deuce.

I think I'm going to enjoy this new world I've entered.

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