See you on the road
Prior to a week and a half ago, I had never ridden a motorcycle in my life. Well, that’s not totally true. When I was 15, I took off on a friend’s bike and made it about 30 feet before I crashed. I bear the scar on my right shin to this day.
When my parents, who were adamantly opposed to motorcycles, saw the cut on my leg and inquired as to what happened, I told them that my wall locker at school was stuck and, when I jerked it open, the door hit my leg with such force that it gashed it. They bought it — I think.
So it was that on a Wednesday morning I sat in a class at the Rider’s Edge Motorcycle Academy held at the Great South Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership in Newnan in preparation to mount a motorcycle for the first time.
It was the best money I have ever spent. I was one of 12 students, nine men and three women, who were dedicating the next three days to completing the course. Nine of the students had ridden before and were either holders of a learner’s permit or were seeking to lower their insurance premiums.
Three of us had never ridden at all.
The two instructors took us through our paces, keeping a tight control on the activities, always emphasizing safety, as we learned to make the 500cc Buell motorcycle go where we wanted it to go. A couple of students “dropped” their bikes during the course but we all finished successfully and with no injuries.
I didn’t know how nervous I was until graduation when I received the “Analysis Paralysis Award.” Apparently, I over-thought everything and found it hard to relax. But then every student received some kind of tongue in cheek “award.” It all added to the enjoyment of the course.
We also learned from each other. Sometimes a student could see where we were missing the mark and those comments helped but, mostly, the students encouraged each other. None of us wanted to embarrass ourselves but, as the days wore on, we bonded and forgot about the possibility of humiliation. We were there to learn.
At the end of the third day I, along with a couple of other students, went to the Department of Driver Services and obtained the coveted motorcycle endorsement on our licenses. After arriving home, I sat on my 1999 Harley-Davidson Road King (about 1500cc), and realized that, compared to the Buell, it was a monster.
After 10 minutes of finding the “friction zone” in the clutch and rocking it back and forth, testing the throttle, I almost put it back in the garage. I felt like I had spent three days on a pony only to find myself on a racehorse. But I didn’t.
With a dry throat and a pounding heart I eased the steel horse out on to the road, slipped it into first gear, prayed no one was watching, and gently rolled the throttle. The monster roared to life and, with that distinctive Harley rumble, I was off. I have since put about 200 miles on it. I’ve made rookie mistakes and I’ve dropped the bike a few times — fortunately when I wasn’t moving. Still, getting over 800 pounds of steel back up on two wheels is a major feat!
Someone asked me what I learned in the course. I replied, “I have learned to fear everything out there.” In a car, one doesn’t quite understand how terrible the other drivers are. On a motorcycle, when a fender bender could cost you your life, you realize how many dangerous people there are on the road. I already have had three people look right at me and then pull out in front of me. The veteran riders have urged me to relax but maintain that fear.
So, if you see me out there, don’t wave at me, honk at me, or pull up next to me and start a conversation. When I ignore you, I’m not being rude. I’m a rookie and I’m just trying to stay alive.
But I’ll tell you this — it’s better than I expected. The road is now not just a journey, it’s an experience, even if I do have only 200 miles under my belt.
The sounds, the smells, the sensations, the sights — all are part of the trip in a way I never imagined.
Still, the scar on my leg reminds me to be careful, to know my limitations, and to stay focused. My wife reminds me to keep up the premium payments on my life insurance. See you on the road.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec,org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]