This week I started down the path in fulfilling a longtime dream: getting my M-1 license.
For my birthday, I signed up for a motorcycle safety class. The class consists of an in-class Wednesday night session and two road sessions on a Saturday/Sunday morning/afternoon. This was the first week I was available for all three days.
I knew this class would be valuable for me just in making the decision to even get a bike. As much as this is a dream fulfilled, I knew that the class might help me realize that it’s not for me after all. For that reason, I didn't tell many people about taking this class. Also, I know so many people are vehemently against motorcycles because of the increased danger factor, and I really wasn't in the mood for those debates when this is just the "I'm thinking about it" phase. I think part of that is due to being so war-weary over the battles with my boss about the safety of me donating blood. She's deathly afraid of needles and is convinced this is an unsafe endeavor for me. I can't imagine what she'd do if she found out about this.
The in-class portion was informative but overwhelming. It was a combination of video shorts and working through a textbook to answer questions. I was wondering if I’d really be able to do this on an actual motorcycle. As someone who actually forgot how to ride a bicycle and had to be taught a second time, I was a little wary.
I was very glad to know how to drive a stick shift. There would have been no hope if not for that.
The other people in the class spread the gamut of all skill levels, from never having driven but having been a passenger (like me), to experienced riders who were now legalizing their riding. There were about 24 people in the class, and we would be split into two groups that weekend morning vs. afternoon. Probably 1/4 to 2/3 of the class was female.
I learned that motorcycle riders are a unique sub-culture. There’s no standard profile of someone who rides a motorcycle, but there’s a shared bond over the love of riding. The closest comparison I can think of is the deaf community. For the short time I was in an ASL class, and from watching Switched at Birth, there’s a strong identity in just being deaf. It’s not a militant “us against the world,” but there’s kind of a “we don’t quite fit the mold, and we don’t really want to anyway” mentality.
We were instructed to leave no skin showing below the neck for Saturday. Boots covering the ankle, jeans/pants with no holes, long sleeve shirt and/or jacket, fill fingered gloves covering the wrist. They would supply bikes and helmets.
I signed up for the afternoon session 1) so I wouldn’t have to be in Selma at 7 a.m. and 2) so I wouldn’t have to miss a third week of church in a row (Mothers’ Day and the half marathon keeping me away the prior two weeks).
Amy helped me wrap ace bandages around my knees from last week’s trampoline debacle. I had suffered through wearing long pants M, W, R & F at work, taking Tuesday off for some reprieve from the agony of fabric rubbing over the burn areas. But today I needed to be able to focus, so it was worth the effort to wrap them up, and the hair-pulling pain of taking the bandages off afterward.
I showed up at the range, which was a parking lot shared with a recycling center, and the instructors Randy & Jim went over range rules. Jim had led our classroom session on Wednesday. I wasn’t thrilled with either of them. They were experienced riders, but I felt like it took a lot of pushing to get them to give the specific answers I needed to feel comfortable on my bike. But thankfully I’ve learned to be very assertive when necessary, so I got the coaching I needed.
I really struggled at the beginning, but I finally started to get the hang of it. The day was exhausting. They provided water, but I was glad they told us to bring food and water. It was hot out, but being on the bikes meant we stayed pretty cool from moving around. One thing I’d discover later is that I’d skipped sunscreen. I had been expecting to get a full face helmet, but they only had 3/4 helmets in my size, so my face and neck were exposed. I'm pretty red. When I got home, I just stood in a cold shower for several minutes trying to pull out some of the burn. I think it helped.
By the end of it today, I was exhausted, but so encouraged. I was legitimately thinking about getting a motorcycle. We’ll see how tomorrow goes!