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Written on: Tuesday July 5th, 2011

It only makes sense to pick up where I left off, where I left the bike, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I left the bike there 2 years ago, lacking the funds to fix her up to take back to Washington, my then home. It was not until this year's luckily large tax return that I was able to give her to a highly recommended mechanic in Santa Fe. That coupled with a subtle but persistent longing for the particular experience that I find only on the motorcycle and only on long trips.

For months before I got to Santa Fe to pick up the bike, some nights I'd lay awake, unsettled, anxiously wondering "Do I still know how to ride?" 2 years off the bike is more than twice as long as I had been riding. Though I've likely put in more miles in the short year of riding than many folks do inside of several years, 2 years is a long time to be away from such a demanding and difficult practice. More daunting still was that I would have to learn to ride again by myself. Last time I had my dad to coach and encourage and mentor me (and once or twice, help me pick the bike up). 

I drove with my partner Zack from Phoenix to Santa Fe on July 5th. I embraced my LS, hauled out and sorted my gear, took a deep breath, threw a leg over and let the engine rumble. I had imagined I might do some warm-up riding on some tranquilo neighborhood streets, maybe practice my sharp slow turns in a big empty parking lot, reacquaint myself with the clutch/throttle control... turns out that is not my style. I took another deep breath. And took off into 3 lane freeway traffic. I found my way with a core of calm confidence – but atop that core were layers of squealing doubt, fear, spikes of panic. It was not fun. It was hard. Familiar, but hard. The ride that day was only 20 miles long. But it ended with a gravel-y bumpy dirt road and a sharp, sandy, sloped, blind right hand up hill turn and immediate left into a driveway. In those impossibly rapid yet strangely elongated moments before potential disaster, I saw the hill. I saw the sharp turn. And I saw the ditch I was going into if I didn't make the turn. I really saw the ditch. The ditch was getting close.  My turn was too shallow. The ditch was really close. And then I remembered "Don't look at the ditch." At the very last possible moment before that fast approaching potential disaster, I turned my eyes into the curve, pressed the right handle bar toward the sandy sloped earth while twisting the throttle hard. I did not go in the ditch.

As I got off the bike I was all a'tremble. Damn. Maybe I should have ridden some circles in a parking lot after all.  

 

*Written July 25, 2011