“Here, have a seat on it!” the Harley Davidson salesman said, “watch this.” And he flipped a switch, leaned over me and squeezed the clutch and push another button: the motorcycle came alive. The rumble that came from the mass of iron and chrome below me was unlike anything I’d ever felt before. It was primal, it was rude, it was… well, masculine. There was nothing sensitive, self aware, or polite about the noise my bike was making; the most politically incorrect and rude thing I’d done in decades. I felt liberated, my heart began to pound and the rumble stayed with me long after I went back to the office.
I needed to do this.
Okay, maybe I didn’t NEED to, but it sure sounds like an adventure…
Sparked by the concept of Middle Aged Crazy, I’ve spent the last 5 years in mostly new and mostly intellectual pursuits: I’ve learned a second language, taken ballroom dance lessons, learned Improv, begun to play guitar, heck I even finished college. I’ve done a lot of things that were perfectly acceptable in mixed company. The next phase of my life will make up for that politically correct and unfortunate Prius purchase decision of last year: I’m getting on two wheels. (And will still get 40 miles to the gallon!)
Not that it would be easy. For one thing, until that day at the dealership, 3 weeks ago, I’d never even sat on a motorcycle, much less driven one. Heck, I’d never even touched one. However: I am a master bike rider; having perfected the Sidewalk Slalom and high degree of difficulty Baseball Bat and Catcher’s Mitt Carry when I was a mere 8 years old. I rented a motor scooter in Bermuda once, but you can’t count that. One should not admit to riding a scooter, it’s poor form. In fact, a few months ago I stopped going to a new barber I was trying out because he told me he rode a scooter to work. A Vespa might be cool flying through the streets and sidewalks of Rome, dodging traffic and pinching women on the fly but it shows a lack of judgement in Florida; the kind of decision making process that does not inspire confidence in a man who is waving scissors around my eyes. No, a scooter will not do.
I want the rumble.
But then there’s this: Well, I’m a little scared. Not full out wet my pants scared, but a little scared past a healthy respect for this new endeavor. I’ve seen my assimilation ability, it takes me days to learn a new guitar chord, never mind shift gears and roll a throttle. And… I don’t like speed as much as some people. I like control. (Although I once got a Mercedes I owned up to 130 MPH and that… was… awesome!) Learning to ride 800 pounds of rocket engine in Orlando traffic sounds like a less than perfectly sound plan and I wasn’t sure that I was ready for this step out of my comfort zone. I needed to learn a little more. No; I needed to learn a LOT more.
So, I spent the weekend in the New Riders’ Class. Yup, classroom work, and learning to ride in a full out all-day Florida rainstorm followed by a hot and humid Florida Sunday in a motorcycle dealer’s parking lot. And, I caught on pretty quickly: of course I aced the written test. The riding skills test? Not so much. After two days of riding in circles I just wasn’t there yet and the instructors mercifully failed me, I was close, but needed more work. I’ll tell you more about this experience later. (They tell me Blog posts should be short, and I have some good motorcycle school stories to tell you.)
I failed at something. That’s different. And humbling, male ego severely bruised here, I was pissed for two days but silently a little grateful for the integrity of the teachers, who may have lost a motorcycle sale but saved a rider. I simply need a little more time on the machine. (My Grandfather used to call his car a “machine,” I like that. And, in Italian a car is called la macchina, I like that too, so if I eventually own a bike I will call it my Machine.) My plan is to take a couple of private lessons and re-take the exam; then I’ll rent a motorcycle to see if riding on a street is as much fun as I think it might be. It seems pretty cool and not quite as harebrained as one’s mother might lead one to believe.
When I announced to the world, via Facebook, that I had this plan, people who love me wrote on my Facebook feed; “Please don’t do this.” A nurse, said, “You are crazy, you should see what I see.” Of course that sparked the opposite reaction, I may be in my late 50′s but that doesn’t mean I’m totally mature, my ego said, “I laugh at your emergency room stories.”
The weekend I spent at the Harley school was a good exposure not just to riding skills, but to the type of people who ride. I can remember when it was reasonable to fear bikers, formerly a fairly primitive group; but the people I met were mostly gentle and older citizens who love to ride and hang out with other riders. A group of about 50 of them met at the dealership on Sunday morning and took off together, looking a whole lot more alive than the busloads of seniors who go to the casino and stop at the Golden Corral on the way home. We all make our own choices and I am inclined to embrace new experiences instead of wondering what they would have been like. I’m not a fan of getting maimed or killed, on the other hand, and while I won’t exactly be weaving through I4 traffic anytime soon I think I understand the thrill of the wind whipping into your face mask as you head out on the highway… I’ll tell you some more stories soon.
In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected,and steppin’ out over the line
h-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
`Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run
Okay, suicide machines kind of takes the fun out of it and I don’t know if I was exactly born to run, more like walk a little fast… not too fast, but a good steady walk…