I drove 131 miles on my new MP3 250 today bringing her home from Grand Rapids. Trial by fire has always been my most comfortable way to learn. But it certainly had its edgy moments today as I tried to get a feel for the acceleration in the turns and found myself too wide and in someone's way one time and at another time in the sand with my back tire wobbling around as I went careening toward someone's mailbox. I also dropped it from a practical standstill as I was trying to figure out if I was going to go or not go. A kind gentleman raced his car over to the side of the road and picked up the 500-pound monster for me. I made it just past these disasters and carried on. Michael was leading the way in our Tahoe until we could get me on a road that I could use to find my own way home. His closeness certainly felt like a big security blanket, but he wasn't driving the bike and he wasn't keeping it from hitting the ground.
When I first took it for a spin around the parking lot of the dealership I realized for the first time that I hadn't ridden since my wipe-out last year. Just as I took off I felt butterflies in my stomach and I asked myself, "What is that about?" and then thought, "Oh, no!" I had some internal freak-outs at various points throughout the trip, but I made up a song (a very bad song) about how the bike is stable and I'm on the bike and it's a moving tripod and I'm one with the environment and I'm safe and on and on. It actually helped me relax and focus despite the fact that the song itself wasn't very cheerful. It droned on like one of the Lutheran marching hymns I sang as a child.
I also observed that while I'm trying to be as safe as I can be the drivers around me are being less than safe as they do a double take when they see the bike with the two wheels in the front, "Did I see? No I... yes I... well, I'll be..." I saw two almost-accidents because of the curiosity of onlookers, and there may have been more I didn't see. Then there are the looks when Michael and I stopped for lunch and when I stopped for gas. Some of the looks were directed toward me. Because I don't have abdominal muscles, I can only lift my legs a few inches off the ground and the rest I have to do by using my hand to lift my leg up and over the middle of the bike. I definitely saw some, "Oh my God, can she drive that thing?" looks, or maybe they were "I want to make sure I am out in front of her" looks or some such. So, needless to say, this first outing was dramatic for all of us!
When the tach hit 45 I made Michael pull over and give me a kiss. For those of you new to this blog, I've wanted to be 45 since I was 14. I read a bunch of biographies then and noted that many artists and scientists did some of their coolest work when they were in their mid forties, so I have been looking forward to the occasion. I'm happy to say, that I was blessed with the opportunity to do an artistic work last year that I am very proud of (wevow.net) and this coming year I'm celebrating having overcome some health and life challenges to make all that happen, basically I'm celebrating being alive in a joyous way by scootering across France. I'm approaching the big turning point in April. --- So, as I was saying -- The kiss:
The research process has already begun. I definitely want a compass mounted on the dash somewhere. Also, the switches for the video cam or audio taping device must be on the handlebars. Trying to take even my left hand off the handlebars when driving at 60 mph to put the mouthpiece of the camel-back in my mouth is not always a good idea. I couldn't believe how much the winds were kicking me around in general. Oh and 12c is too cold for a pair of jeans, a thin sweater, a fleece and my motorcycle jacket - note to self, "Get something for my neck!" Days that are pretty in the morning and afternoon get cold when the sun drops.
Plan for Day 2 on the MP3: Continue to work on cornering slower.
Photos: Michael Ashburne
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