Motorcycle Monday: Wrecks.

This past weekend, we, being Kenny, me, and a couple of friends of his from his previous deployment, all went down to Deal's Gap to ride the Dragon's Tail. Kenny and I had done it before, staying in Fontana and riding to it the next morning, but this time we stayed in Maryville (which is actually further away?) because the resort we stayed at before was booked up.

Because I've ridden a motorcycle a grand total of 6 days, I declined taking mine. The Dragon's Tail is a brutal 318 curves in 11 miles, PLUS the curves on the road coming in. I already knew what to expect and I knew it was certain I wouldn't be able to do it.

But Kenny and I had a goal: He can lean the bike far enough over that there's a really good chance I can touch the ground. That was going to happen this weekend. On the first run up through, he went through there a lot harder than he had the first times we'd gone through there on our first visit. He pushed our chicken line down even further than the first time, which is saying a lot because there were only millimeters before the edge of the tire on our last trip.

We stopped, took a break, stretched our legs, then turned around because it was starting to get dark and it's easier to navigate during daylight. We let his friends lead the way back since we'd pushed so hard on the way up, and we stopped at the lookout once we completed the majority of it.

It was that last big left hand horseshoe that bit us. We haven't figured out if it was me, or if Kenny didn't set up for the curve right or what, but the bike wouldn't get through that last turn, and so we went down. Kenny and the bike ate dirt, I went flying and it was only because I had that split second that my injuries aren't anywhere close to severe. I jammed my thumbs bracing for impact, and I've got a bit of road rash where I tried to prop myself up before I stopped moving, but I rolled and managed to slide on my back, and the second I stopped moving, I had my helmet off and I was running to check on Kenny... who was in the midst of blacking out.

The good news here is that we're both fine. Well, as fine as you can be after wrecking a motorcycle.

Kenny, being the rider, got the brunt of the injuries - collarbone and rib bruising, some light scrapes. I'm left with residual pain in my left hip, some bruising, and a nasty scrape on my left arm. But THAT IS WHY YOU WEAR GEAR. I knew it. I knew why. Now, with torn up jackets, I see the full reason.

His bike lost a mirror and some of the side fairings and part of the clutch handle, but mechanically it's still sound as ever, so last night we ordered his new things. They'll get here anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, so it'll be a fun project both for him and me. He doesn't care to ride his bike around duct taped together (once the clutch is fixed, that is) so that's how we'll be getting to the Moto GP in a couple weeks time.

His mirror, thanks to the friends who went out riding the next day, has been added to the Tree of Shame.

Learning, right?


Motorcycle Monday: Day 5... 55!

Okay, okay, so technically I missed the 'Monday' part of this post but it's better to be Tuesday than not at all, right? I was exhausted when I finally sat down after work yesterday... I am posting though!

Day 5 of my lessons was this past Friday, and I was taken out to a back road behind some factories - curvy, but clean and empty. Imagine my surprise when I thought I was going to be working on throttle control some more (Day 4 was just that - taking off smoothly. I did... well enough. Better than I had my previous two days).

"I want you to practice going around curves, and going faster."

Up until this point, mind you, I hadn't even gone 30. So off I went. I tried turning around in the road which resulted in me going way too slowly and having to actually set my bike down... to the point where I broke a passenger foot peg off. I'm more than a little unhappy with myself, but the good news is if my bike is on the ground, I can actually pick it up. The other good news is the broken foot peg is the only thing that happened. No scratches or anything!

Needless to say, I found a better place to turn around (parking lot entrance).

After a few more rounds of zipping up and down that road, I was asked if I felt comfortable with those speeds. Admittedly, I was practicing like I had been the previous four days, with no helmet or jacket and just a pair of sunglasses. I figured 'yeah, I'm comfortable. I can deal with that.'

"Okay then. Lets go home, grab helmets and jackets and head out to Irvine."

Wait, what?

Getting home was interesting with only one foot peg - my leg certainly got a workout. But we got home, I put on my jacket and helmet and I was leading - we took a slightly easier way around since I was still a little shaky with taking off, but there I was, on the road, and we reached a turnaround point where it was like 'eh, let's keep going. Traffic is light, I need the experience, and lets face it, I'm having a lot of fun.'

Hitting curves at 55 was a new experience for me - especially considering up until this particular day, I had only ever done figure 8s in a parking lot going about 15 mph. I took them carefully and forced myself to remember I had been on a bike, going faster, with two people, with Kenny leaning the bike a lot harder than me just countersteering into it. We had to stop and get gas for Kenny's bike, where I had to actually stop in traffic since a truck turned in between us, and I got into the gas station, rounded the corner to the pump where Kenny was, went to put my kickstand down and...

Almost dropped my bike again. Kenny caught it, with one arm.

I fell on my butt and started cackling.

Lesson learned about the kickstand being ALL THE WAY down? Check.

Nothing hurt other than my pride, but lets face it. I'd been riding motorcycles for all of, oh, maybe 6 hours total, and I was in public. I have no ego when it comes to that. Kenny led the way home and, with my newest lesson learned, I made sure the kick stand was all the way down when we got home before I got off my bike.

Where we made dinner and I talked about 90mph for an hour straight. It was extremely exhilarating!

So we did it again on Sunday, for a much longer trip out past Mt Vernon (having to stop on a hill was a lesson and a half...) and with Kenny's friend Drew. They're both on CBR 1000 RRs, and I'm on my little R6, but they took it way easier for me, and we did it so I could get used to riding in a group by staggering. I'm really bad at estimating how close I actually need to be, but I kept up, at least.

I never panicked though. I actually almost accidentally aimed (nice alliteration there, huh?) myself at a guard rail but self corrected. We stopped for some ice cream and started the hour and a half (!!!) trek back. I discovered that being on a bike for a long stretch of time leaves my fingers really tingly. Kenny noticed me playing with them and he grinned and told me I'd get used to that.

With all of that said, and all of the fun, and the horsing around once we got back to town (Drew thought he'd be cute and try to swing his leg over his bike like he would a bicycle - after it's already moving - and instead dumped the clutch which left me laughing my ass off, but I was able to take off and take off hard, no creeping along or anything) I felt 100 times more confident in my ability to the point where I feel like I could take my bike to say, a restaurant or something just because we feel like going out for dinner.

With that, on the other hand, we're going to Deal's Gap this weekend and I chickened out of taking my bike on the side roads. Obviously I wouldn't be stupid enough to try to ride the Dragon's Tail by myself when I'd only just reached my second hand for how many times I've been on my own on a bike, but there are some fun side roads.

Instead, I got a huge feeling of dread because what happens *if* I go down out there where there's so little cell phone reception (yes, even with Verizon). At least here, Kenny's old man lives a few miles away and could come pick me and my bike up, worst case scenario.

So I'm going to go ride after work if I get off early enough. Just for a little while. Then I'm going to make Kenny take me down by the river on his bike because that's a pretty ride and it's been several weeks since I've been on his and that's what I'm doing when we go down to the Gap this weekend - going on the back of his. We've done it before, but that's not something I can just hop on his bike and do.

Anyhow, apologies for the delay in posting, but it got there... Before the following Monday!

I'm sure I'll have plenty to talk about then.


Motorcycle Monday: The Learning Process

Being that I've never ridden a motorcycle except for within the last year, I've learned quite a bit - especially so now that I've been able to start at the beginning of a riding season as a passenger. Riding as a passenger is, admittedly, extremely different than actually riding a motorcycle and being in control of it yourself. However, I will touch on that another time, but just know that I feel it's given me a leg up when it comes to my own learning process.

I bought my 2003 Yamaha R6 a few weeks ago - however, like I'd already anticipated, I would need lowering links. I had an easier time toeing the ground on Kenny's Honda CBR 1000RR than on my own R6. With the lowering links in, Kenny took to showing me where the links were and he left me to my own devices, letting me get my hands dirty learning simple things like how to lower a bike.

With that all said and done, the next day we took her and got her cleaned up (oh, yes, my bike is a girl... Not because she's a 600, because that's a fairly high level for a first time sport bike rider, apparently, but because she's curvy and feminine. I looked at her and Kenny helped me name her) and with her all shiny and waxed up, I got my first lesson - how to shift from neutral into first, where the sweet spot was on the clutch, and how to brake and hold the bike upright.

Flying colors, apparently, because the next day we went out, two days later, he took me out to a big open parking lot where I learned how to actually get the bike moving with the throttle.

I still need a lot of work on throttle control, but thankfully being a passenger on Kenny's bike, the quick takeoff doesn't scare me enough to stall out or dump the clutch, I just laugh and slow down a little.

First and second and going around in figure eights to practice left and right turns. Slowing down to a stop. Things like that. I set a short term goal of being able to hit the downhill curve into the uphill turn. I didn't make it that day, but today, day three, I did.

Today was a little more fun - I still suck at throttle control, but my shifting comes easier, and I don't panic at speeds higher than 15mph - I think I got up to 27 in 3rd gear, and practiced downshifting to slow down, and stopping and not dropping my bike again.

I need to order sliders just in case, since it does have all new plastic on it.

But it was my last go-round, because my hand was tired of practicing shifting so much, and I took the turn a little wider, but I did it and I didn't freak out. The good news was, even when I failed at it yesterday, that my initial reaction isn't to panic, but to stop. Apparently that's a good sign, because I hear a lot of horror stories of people running up onto curbs because they don't think to stop. So I've got that in my favor at least!

So with day three complete, my hand and forearm are a little sore, my legs are a little sore from gripping the tank, but I'm in high spirits just because hey. I can actually travel at a speed that's around a speed limit by the apartment.

I need to take a day and just practice starting the bike from a stop. Throttle control. First gear is, and will continue to be, my downfall.


Starting Over With Stability

Reading through this old blog depressed me. So, with a cleaned slate and some new shiny colors, I start again. Because I'm in a completely different place than I was at this time last year. And the year before that.

This year, I'm happy. I'm healthy. I'm in a healthy relationship. I have a healthy relationship with my mom and my dad both. I'm not holding grudges. I'm at a job I'm not crazy about but it pays the bills (isn't everyone though?). I've relocated. And I've got some new hobbies that I think are very well suited to me.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still very much into writing and I still see things I can take really amazing pictures of if I just had the right equipment, and I'm still playing guitar and video games. It's not like I've changed all that much. But I've come out of a dark place, a dark relationship, and a deployment turned all of that around.

It's amazing what being halfway around the world can do for your mindset. It helps you reevaluate everything in your life because, short of going to the moon, there really is no greater distance from your life's problems that allows you to take a fresh look at everything you think is wrong with your life... and take another look at things you didn't think were wrong but discovered were with help from friends.

So with a much lighter heart, I reopen my blog. Motorcycle Mondays (hello most recent new hobby! And thank you Kyle for that inspiration...), Weekly Rant Wednesdays, and random other posts just because, since there's no telling what crosses my mind on any given day.