Monday, October 26, 2009

I'm a real biker now

Yes, it's time for more motorcycle stories. Sorry mom ;)

So after what felt like weeks of rain and bad timing, I got to go out on the motorcycle again today. I was feeling ambitious, and had a goal - getting to dad's house this evening, for his Monday night biker-friend gathering. I intended to go first to my friend Gord's house, then to dad's afterwards.

Well, the day didn't go entirely as planned of course, but I'm happy to say I did get as far as Gord's house, and back home. I was worried about the temperature, so i got my longjohns on (nothing says sexy like longjohns), put on two shirts under my jacket, and put my rain gear in a back pack. If it was still too cold, I'd put on the rain gear to cut the wind a bit.

All geared up, I faced my first challenge - the rotary. I'm happy to say it went without a hitch. Until I realized I'd forgotten to bring change to get across the bridge. I promptly turned around, faced the rotary again (successfully again), went home and got bridge money.

Thinking I was being very clever, I grabbed 6 quarters, 3 for each way across the bridge. I put 3 in one pocket of my jeans, and 3 in the other, again for each trip. I got back on the bike and restarted my trip to Gord's house.

Things went smoothly until I got to the bridge. The first thing that happened is that as I was stopped at the traffic lights at Gottigen and North, right before the bridge, an SUV pulled up beside me and rolled down the window. The guy driving flashed a police badge at me (he was clearly off duty), and asked me if that was my bike. I said yes and nodded in case he couldn't hear me over the bike. He asked if I knew I had no plates. I said yes, I had a temporary permit in my backpack (I did, you can't stick them to a bike the way you do a car window). He said ok, he had just wanted to make sure I knew and that someone hadn't stolen my plates. The light changed and we went on our merry ways.

As I was driving over the bridge, quite thrilled at the novelty of the sensation of being in the open air over it, it occurred to me that I hadn't fully thought through my bridge change plan. The change was in my jeans pockets...and I was wearing big driving gloves. I couldn't dig for change in my pockets with those gloves on. Uh oh.

So I get to the toll booth, and the first problem happens: I can't get the bike into neutral. This means that if I let go of the clutch, the bike will stall. If I don't let go of the clutch, I can't get my gloves off. I decide to shut off the engine, planning to restart quickly once the toll is paid. So I shut off the bike, and start yanking off my gloves. This is already taking long enough that I realize I've badly miscalculated this step of my trip.

Gloves off, I try to find the quarters in my pockets. I also had a twenty dollar bill in the pocket, which of course got in the way. I manage to dig the quarters out, throw them in the basket, and try to shove the twenty back in my jeans. Of course, since I'm starting to panic at how long this is taking me (and I have cars waiting behind me), I can't get it in the pocket. I slam it into my jacket pocket instead, acknowledging in my head that I have probably just lost the twenty.

Now I try to get my gloves back on. In the process I drop one on the ground. To get it, I had to put the kickstand down and lean the bike over, grabbing the glove. Someone honked at this point. You can't imagine how much I was cursing and how red my face was.

I retrieve the glove, manage to get them both on, and then try to restart the bike. It doesn't start. I try it again. It doesn't start again. I realize I forgot to turn the engine back on. I do so, and the bike starts right away. I start to drive away, finally. I think a total of about two minutes felt like 20. A normal drive through the toll booth takes like 10 seconds. As I drive away, I realize that the kickstand is still down. Somehow, I managed to get the kickstand back up as I drove off.

I was pretty shaken after this fiasco, but I made it to Gord's just fine after that. The twenty was still in my pocket when I got there too! I had a nice visit with Steve and Gord, and came to the decision that I would not go to dad's. I was too nervous about driving on the highway at night on my way home, as I haven't done any night driving yet and that seemed like too much to start with. I was also worried about the cold. Though I had been ok getting to Gord's, my hands were pretty cold by the time I got there, and I knew the temperature would drop quick at night. I decided to play it safe and left Gord's about 5:30, which was late enough that I missed most of the rush hour traffic, and early enough that the sun was just disappearing as I got home. I was definitely right about how cold it would get, because even with the sun low on the horizon it was noticably colder driving home.

The bridge was much less of an event going home. Since I knew the twenty had made the trip in my jacket pocket, I put the quarters in it this time. The jacket pocket is loose enough that I can dig in it with my gloves on. It was still a bit awkward, and I missed a quarter the first time, but it went much better. I also managed to get the bike into neutral this time, which helped. I think it was about a 30 second ordeal, instead of 2 minutes, so big improvement. The next time, I will just take the MacPass from the car and keep it in my pocket instead =P

So important lessons learned today - bring the MacPass, and it gets super cold as the sun goes down. I do not have the level of gear needed for night riding in late October. It was a great experience though, I'm really pleased that I was able to drive in real traffic in a mostly normal manner. I figured out the small shifting problems I had been having too, was just a matter of taking a long enough drive to find the pattern in what was happening. I am very happy, and feel like I'm a real biker now, since I have proven I can take it places :)


Dad said...

Way to go Girl. Glad to here that all worked out. It takes time to learn all of the tricks like how to deal with quarters. The MacPass makes it super easy to deal with. And if you decide to keep the bike, heated handle grips are worth their weight in gold as is a heated vest. Someday soon or even next spring we will have to go for a ride.

Love Dad

Bev G said...

Loved your story! Good going, you did great!