Wednesday, July 22, 2015


After much time toddling around the neighborhood, it was finally time for me to start taking supervised rides. I spent the better part of an entire season riding in front of my husband so he could keep an eye on me. During that time, he had me traversing traffic areas, back roads, twisties (for what they are in Iowa - they're hard to find, but they exist), and even gravel roads. He was a tough, but thoughtful teacher. Each ride had something for me to learn. Sometimes it was obvious, like making me deal with miles of gravel and mud. Others it was less so, but looking back, each one was a building block for a solid foundation. I'm lucky to have had the experience.

After about 1500 or so miles of being followed, I finally graduated to being able to ride behind him. Hooray for becoming a walker! So much less stress when you know someone isn't watching and critiquing your every move! It doesn't seem like a huge deal, but to me it was monumental - I finally felt trusted to lag behind a little and just enjoy myself rather than needing to focus on every little skill. 

Because of those miles and miles of tutelage, I'm sometimes the trusted 'sweeper' for group rides. During that time it's my job to keep an eye on the less experienced or skilled riders and make sure we all get to return home safely. Sometimes that means I spend more time on my Sena headset talking to the lead rider, my husband, than I do listening to music and that's okay because while those aren't my most relaxing rides, I get a great deal of enjoyment helping other riders learn the ropes in a safe environment.

It took dedication, practice, and perseverance, but I finally consider myself a runner. To this day I still practice parking lot skills - something I don't ever plan on giving up; but at the same time, I know all those lectures, stern talkings to, and hours of sometimes frustrating practice have made me a good rider. There's literally no place I feel uncomfortable on a motorcycle. In fact, I've embraced two wheel life so much, that I sold my car last month because I used it just enough to circulate the fluids on a monthly basis. If I need to run an errand, I hop on the bike; if I need to carry something larger that won't fit in my tank bag, I grab my trusty Alpinestars  backpack and take off. I am unstoppable.

Friday, July 10, 2015

You Must Crawl Before You Can Walk

Woo hoo! You passed your MSF course, passed the written test at the local DMV, and the helpful person behind the counter just handed you a shiny new license with a motorcycle endorsement. Now what do you do? Well, if you're the love child of Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez, you hop on a supersport and take right off. If you're me, you spend a fair amount of time crawling before you start to walk and eventually run.

What does that even mean? Well, once the mister brought my shiny new bike home, I spent a lot of hours in a nearby parking lot working on the drills I had learned in class. One reason was, having never ridden my own bike prior to the class, I needed all the seat time I could get. The second reason was to get to know Ninja a lot better. If you can comfortably control a bike at slow speeds, you'll have a much easier time controlling it at faster ones. My practice lot was a scant quarter mile from home and I still wasn't comfortable riding over there. Oh my, 35 mph felt like the speed of light at the time.

After many hours in the lots near home, my husband rode my bike over to a nearby state park so I could ride around the camping area. It was mid-week and not the height of the season yet, so it was mostly vacant. Once again I followed my sexy bike in the car. Once again I was extremely frustrated to not be the one behind the bars. The park had a lot of speed bumps, less than perfect pavement, a lot of turns from stops, and a little oncoming traffic all while keeping the speed limit at 25 mph. It was a perfect place to practice real world riding in a safer environment. After a few times in the park, I was just itching to get out on the street and put my new skills to the test.

Finally it was time for my first real street ride! I was a complete bundle of nerves and excitement. My husband took me on about a 20 mile ride and I think it only gave me about the same number of new white hairs. I went into a tight, gravel covered traffic circle way too fast and accidentally turned down a gravel road instead of into a paved parking lot. I never dropped the bike, though he was convinced I was going down when I hit that traffic circle. When we talked about it all, I did a lot of things right and a lot of things incredibly wrong. It was a learning process and I still had a lot of walking to do before I could run.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

We All Start Somewhere

I don't remember a time that I wasn't fascinated by motorcycles. I have memories of being a small child and being on a bike with my much older brothers. I would sit on the tank - hey, it was the early 70's and kids were still riding in cars with no seatbelts and playing with lawn darts.

Fast forward many, many years and I met a guy (it happens to the best of us.). He rode a Ducati - a 2000 Monster 900ie to be exact. Her name was Sophia, his Italian Redheaded Mistress. He'd ride over to my house, always arriving apologetically late, smiling. That was the summer of 2009. I never rode with him on the Monster; I had to get my 2 wheeled fix on the back of friends' bikes. It was great fun at the time and I was brought up in a household where 'good girls did not ride motorcycles.' Well, I determined a long, long time ago that I must not be a good girl because I wanted little more than to ride anytime I had the opportunity. But I never got my license or my own bike. 2010 I had planned on doing just that for my 40th birthday present to myself. My body said otherwise - with health issues to deal with, that dream was on hold... again.

August of 2011 Sophia's master sends me an instant message "I think I should get a new Multistrada and you should get a husband." Ha! I got a great laugh over that as we'd never even discussed the possibility of marriage. That was on a Monday; Tuesday I got the same message. By Wednesday it had changed to "Well, did you pick out a ring yet?" I was floored and all I could respond with was "You were serious?!"

We were married on a cold, snowy, Friday the 13th in January 2012. We waited (un)patiently for Angelica to make her way from Italy and across the states to Iowa. She finally arrived on March 21st.

I spent the entire summer on the back of that bike, but I was still wanting more. The spring of 2013 rolled around and again, I was eager to get out on 2 wheels. In fact, I frequently wanted to ride more than my husband. After one too many "not today" responses to my plea of "Are we going riding?" I had enough. I found the schedule for the local MSF course, paid my fee and announced I was getting my license. We spent an entire weekend looking at bikes in my size range for Rogue is a bit vertically challenged. Everyone had the same suggestion: get a used Honda Rebel, get a small Harley... erm... I'm going to have go with 'no.' Those just aren't my preferences. I'm a sportbike girl. I sat on a Ducati Monster 696 (it was okay, but didn't excite me), I checked out the Honda CBR250RR (no one should ever make that face sitting on a brand new motorcycle), and finally the new Ninja 300. As soon as my hiney hit that seat and I leaned over the tank, I knew I had found my bike. But, I wasn't going to set myself up for heartbreak - I had a course to pass and a license to obtain.

I passed my class the next weekend, went to the local DMV with my pass certificate, took the written test, and just like that I was a fully licensed rider. I was qualified to ride any bike I wanted around a vacant lot! (This will make more sense in a subsequent post.) Off I went back to the Kawasaki dealer where this gorgeous thing just followed me home!

And on May 25, 2013 the Adventures of Rogue began! Well, sorta... they got off to a slow start because there was no way that I, with my parking lot qualifications, was riding a shiny new bike 20 miles home through major traffic during rush hour.