My soon to graduate youngest daughter says our family story would make a great counterpart to Modern Family. We have these episodic cycles full of pathos, giddy humour, black humour, ancillary characters and sudden segues that have created a culture in our household that truly reflects never a dull moment.
One of these moments was Monday, May 7th, when I finally succumbed to a second seven-year-itch for a motorcycle (my fourth since I bought my first thug of a bike when I was 17). It was not an impulsive or rash decision, though I’m sure it has appeared so to outsiders. I have saved for a year and had a pretty conservative budget that also incorporated affordable insurance and met my previous experience between my last two bikes almost halfway.
My second bike was a nimble but hydroplaning Yamaha Virago 535 way back in the 80s. After my kids came along I stopped riding for about 8 years, and as they became independent and spent more time with their dad I moved up to the Yamaha Virago 1100, a smooth piece of gorgeousness that gave me a couple of good years before all the mom-of-teens responsibilities took over.
Isn’t she a beauty? 500cc Silver Wing, the perfect mix of practicality, collectibility, power and cruisiness.
This time I chose affordable, extremely reliable, from a known source, and mid-range for power and weight: a 1982 collectible-qualifying Honda GL500 in near mint condition, at the top of my budget but worth every penny due to all the extras, the incredible condition of the bike, and the character and expertise of its previous owner. We hit it off, and both being 30 year locals with shared friends, felt like it was a great fit and a natural step in the journey for each of us – him, I, and the bike.
I dug up my leather chaps and riding gloves, riding shoes/boots, located a beautiful chin-liftable full face helmet in extra small size from a local gal (she quipped: tiny head, big mouth; I’m sure my friends are all nodding by now). I spent the day with the previous owner, doing the paperwork, learning all the special little things about the bike, packing away into my car a spare helmet, beautiful cover with lockable grommets, original touch-up paint, safety items, tools and 60 years of sage riding advice.
In between all that I slipped away for a couple of hours of errands and meetings.
So, when it came time to ride, it was about 6:30pm. The previous owner and I were both tired – a bad decision on my part but I was excited and wanted to get back at it – and so after 15-20 minutes of practice on the quiet side road we were on we headed to a parking lot for more practice. Craig followed in my car as I chose to head up Ebbtide to the stop sign at Trail.
On top of Old Lumpy – what was I thinking?
Friends used to call this intersection ‘Pooh Corner’ because of the old and very olfactorally effusive sewage treatment plant. It’s also just a shitty bit of road, especially for a rusty motorcyclist like me.
So there I was, furiously processing right-foot-lightly-on-back-brake. Feathering of the clutch. Rolling on the gas. Watching the S-turn to the right for cars that have a sudden way of appearing when you least expect them. Lumpy, ugly asphalt. Manhole cover. Taking turn from wrong place in lane for slow speed; am inside to the left when should be in the middle or to the right to add more distance into turn.
The car I’ve been waiting for approaching from the north goes by. I’m looking at the road, the bike, my hands, my mirrors, everywhere except with my head and eyes to the left where I want to go.
Release the clutch… almost, oops, not enough gas…
And I’m over on my side at the stop sign: ankle, knee, hip, elbow into ribs, shoulder, head. Crack!
Craig hops out of my car from behind me, still teaching: “Hit the kill switch, engine still going.” I hop up and shut it off.
I’m not embarrassed, humiliated, scared or feeling like giving the bike back. It’s more like I’m standing there with a great big question mark over my head: what just happened??
Typical for a small town, a friend was in the second vehicle back and is a very strong guy. He picked up the bike, walked it off to the shoulder, asked me if I was okay, gave me a hug and left. Thank you. Those are the very best of hugs, when you’re on that knife edge of immediacy.
We decided then and there that Craig would ride the bike home and I would take my car. He went off to dress for riding and get his helmet, while I pondered my predicament and did a slo-mo review in my head. After about 10 minutes a wave of lightheadedness and nausea rolled over for about 5 minutes and then left as quick as it came. Just like the other times in my riding life, during an emergency, my monkey mind went and took a nap while my brain and body dealt with the problem at hand, matter of factly and without ego. I remain very grateful that is my natural reaction.
However, my left ankle was suspiciously inflexible, and I was having trouble breathing – any attempt at anything beyond the smallest of breaths was a clear signal of NOPE.
Another close friend, a woman motorcyclist with empathy and steadiness as big as the ocean, came and sat with me at the hospital while I tried to keep from laughing. I always did want to be the one saying: Please. Don’t make me laugh. Another wish crossed off the list.
By the end of the evening, here’s what I learned:
It’s never too late to start your own band.
As my sister Chris says, “It’s a donor cycle and it starts with the left foot.”
I love my pharmacist. Just keep breathing with rib injuries, to fend off pneumonia.
Baby needs a smudge, a new name, and a party.
Some folks around the house are going to feel left out for about six weeks
I really am one of those people who adds items to lists just to check them off
Oh, and if you ever break a rib and get seated in one of the reclining chairs in the ER treatment rooms, for the love of God, don’t pull the footrest lever or let a friend unless you want to feel like this:
And finally, I leave you with this song, sent to me by my partner Susan on Tuesday morning:
If you’re looking for a good online resource for motorcycling basics or a refresher, here’s what I should have watched before: