Daytona Bike Week 1999 ... before I learned to ride
When I heard that Torre DeRoche of "Love With A Chance of Drowning" was running a writing competition about fear, I thought I'd participate. After all, facing my fears has changed my self-perception and my life.
I kept my desire to ride a motorcycle quiet for many years, and instead rode on the back whenever I could. I remember riding on the back with my friend's brother on dirt trails, having a blast. Of course, my mom wasn't happy when I told her about my fun afternoon after school while she was at work. I guess my dad was right.
When I met my husband, Ken, in high school he had just sold his motorcycle, but his dad had one ... a Harley Sportster! Ken loved his dad's motorcycle, and he hoped to have his own Harley someday. He talked his dad into letting him ride me on it a couple of times, but his dad didn't let it out of his sight too often. A few years after Ken and I were married, his dad sold us his Harley. It wasn't long before my unspoken desire to ride my own motorcycle started getting stronger.
While some of our friends rode a bike, none of the girls did. Even so, whenever we'd go to "Bike Night" or some other event and I'd see a woman riding a bike I'd secretly watch her. I'd compare her to myself ... was she bigger than me? Not always. Was she stronger than me? Maybe. Was she just a bad-ass who was braver than me? She looked like it when dressed in black leather behind her own bike. Perhaps that's why I wanted to ride so bad. I wanted to be a bad-ass girl that wasn't scared! There was something about seeing a woman riding her own motorcycle that made her look so empowered. Something that said, "I'm adventurous. I can take care of myself. I'm in control of this big machine". I wanted to experience that feeling, but I was also scared. Those bikes are heavy, and then there's those cars and traffic everywhere!
It took me a while to share my desire with my husband. If I didn't share my desire to ride, than I also wouldn't have to share my fear of learning. I think a lot of people keep their dreams secretly tucked away. We can't fail if we don't try.
Daytona 1999 on Ken's "California Custom"
Like cruising on a sailboat, I couldn't ignore my desire to learn to ride a motorcycle. If I did, then I'd have to admit to myself that I was too scared and not as brave as all those other women. Yes, I could avoid failure if I never tried, but I wouldn't be able to avoid the "what ifs". I had to conquer a motorcycle!
The day before Mother's Day (it wasn't planned that way) of 2001, I found myself at the Suzuki dealership with Ken. We were "just looking" when I fell in love with a little steel blue bike called a "Savage". It was a smaller bike (650cc) , it was low enough to the ground for my short legs, and it was so pretty! The price was right, and I wanted that bike! Before I knew it, we were filling out the paperwork. We were buying the bike!
Can't believe I don't have my own picture, but this was my bike!
Before the ink was dry on the papers, my fear had already started to kick in. As I realized that this was gonna happen, I started getting nauseated. Buying the bike assured one thing ... I was gonna have to learn how to ride it! There was no way this bike could sit in our garage untouched after agreeing to pay for it over a couple of years. I started to get dizzy, my legs got weak, and I had to sit down. I started thinking that maybe my nausea meant we shouldn't go through with this. What was I doing?!
A few minutes later the dealer was congratulating me on getting such a nice Mother's Day gift. Yeah, thanks ... I think. I drove our car home while following behind Ken, who was on my new bike. We had over a 60 minute drive home, and about 20 minutes into the drive we stopped at a mall with a big empty parking lot. Ken figured I may as well start learning, and an empty parking lot was the best place. Ken started explaining the clutch, how to work the gears, etc. I was getting nauseous again! I have to start today?! When I got on the bike Ken started giving me more instructions. "Wait, aren't you getting on the back with me?" I said while trying to keep my cool. Ken assured me it would be harder to ride with his weight on the back. I assured him that he had to be on the back to put down his feet or grab the steering wheel when I started to crash! He reluctantly got on the back of the bike and pretty much started riding the bike with me in the front. As we took off I could feel my eyes getting wide. We're going so fast ... Shit! Who knew 10 miles an hour was so scary! After a few slow rides around the parking lot we grabbed some lunch.
When we came out of the restaurant, it was like a different day. The sky was black and the skies opened up. I followed Ken to a nearby gas station where we watched the local weather on the television. The storm wasn't leaving anytime soon. Before we knew it we were in a dump of a motel, sitting on the bed, staring at my new bike that we snuck into the room. We just bought the damn thing and we weren't gonna have it stolen or sitting in a storm! While I looked at my new bike the entire night in excitement, I couldn't push away my fear. Was this storm a sign that this was a bad idea? I stared down that bike as it stared back at me. I'm not gonna let it win!
Fast forward about two weeks and I was actually riding my motorcycle ... all by myself! That first day we got home I practiced in our big front yard, with Ken on the back. I finally got the nerve to let him off the back and he was right ... it was easier. I took Ken's advice and rode my bike every evening after work so I could get comfortable and I wouldn't have time for fear to rear it's ugly head. Ken would follow me around our subdivision on his own bike. I was starting to feel like those women I had admired ... I was becoming one of them. I felt empowered ... until that evening that Ken and I were headed home on our bikes and turning onto our street. Our recently paved street used to be gravel and I hit some of it when turning ... the next thing I knew I was on the ground. How could this be happening?! My bike was lying on its side, and it was still running. I screamed to Ken, "Pick it up! Pick it up"! All I was worried about was my pretty new bike! Ken picked it up, turned it off, and put the kick stand down so he could make sure I was okay. I wasn't worried about me, I was worried about my bike!
Luckily my bike was okay, but my arm wasn't. I didn't feel anything, but when Ken looked at my arm and tears welled up in his eyes while saying, "I should have never let you get a bike"! ... I knew something must be wrong. I looked at my arm, and really couldn't see anything except a lot of blood dripping onto the pavement. All of a sudden I started getting dizzy and had to sit down. Luckily our house was just down the road so Ken drove my bike home, jumped in the car, and picked me up on the side of the street. We headed to the E.R. and I was surprised by everyone's reaction. As I walked around the waiting room, I'd watch little kid's eyes get real wide and their shocked expressions on their faces. I guess that was because I had hit my arm so bad that it busted open ... all the way to the bone.
After getting stitches and pain meds, we were back home. Ken was sure we'd be selling the bike soon, but now more than ever I wasn't going to give up. I had just started to feel that sense of empowerment and freedom and quitting now would be worse than never trying! As soon as my arm was healed enough, I was back on that bike. I also took a two-day, intense motorcycle course. I was made to do things I never would have pushed myself to do, and I passed (not everybody did)! I started riding my bike all over town and by myself. I started riding it to work and on long weekend trips with Ken. I became one of those women that drove her own motorcycle. I conquered the bike, and my fear! I don't know what was more enjoyable ... the wind in my hair, the scents of the road, and the feeling of freedom or the feeling of overcoming a challenge. Both were pretty sweet!
Years later I still have a motorcycle. I got a bigger one when Hurricane Katrina flooded our bikes. I now have a tricked out Honda Shadow that I love. I must admit that we haven't been riding in way too long. Our passion for bikes has been replaced with a passion for sailboats. We just don't have enough time for both. I think both are similar though. They both provide a sense of freedom and adventure!
Learning to ride that motorcycle really helped my self-confidence in every aspect of life. I realized that I can do whatever I set my mind to do. I overcame my shyness. I quit my job sitting in the safety of an office cubicle and got my real estate license. I am now ready to risk selling our house and everything we own to learn how to sail and travel the Caribbean. That one decision to challenge myself years ago has opened my eyes ... and my world!
If you've got a fear that you'd really like to conquer ... go for it! No matter the outcome, just trying is where the success (and satisfaction) lies.
Hasta luego ... until then. Mid-Life Cruising!
This post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.
"Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow." Australian Associated Press
"… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams." Nomadicmatt.com
"In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction." Courier Mail
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