February 22, 2013

Zero to Sturgis in 60 Days

Last summer, my friend Joanne did something most of us only dream of doing. She got her motorcycle license, a bike and headed to the Black Hills. 

I had always wanted to get my motorcycle license. Two friends from work had gotten theirs in previous years and were talking about going to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota that summer. One day they bombarded me simultaneously with IMs egging me on. So at 56 years old I decided I’d better do it before I was no longer able. In February 2012, I signed up for a course at the Maryland MVA to be held the first weekend in June. Then I forgot about it.

As June go closer I started getting nervous. What was I thinking! But I kept telling myself no harm in trying.

We had 2 nights of classroom instruction. Then 2 days on the weekend actually riding. Within the first hour the woman I sat next to both days in the classroom had fallen twice and left the program. I was hoping that wasn’t a sign of things to come. About 45 minutes after we arrived we were riding back and forth across the parking lot. Woohoo! I was riding a motorcycle and not training wheels.

After lunch we started doing some more challenging exercises such as the figure 8. The program was getting tougher. The second day we reviewed the previous day and then started working on control at consistent speeds. All of a sudden they said “Line Up!” Was this the road test? What’s going on!

Well... it was the test and I passed. The class was about 40%-60% women to men. Most of the women passed while some of the younger, cockier men did not. It felt good to be one of the those who passed. 

It had been two very tense, hot, long days on the range and was glad to be in my air conditioned car and heading home. As I was driving home I was thinking of all the weekend chores I had to cram in to the remaining hours of Sunday afternoon. My mind was racing. Then all of a sudden it hit me. Hey. I just got a motorcycle license. How cool is that? I JUST GOT A MOTORCYCLE LICENSE! It felt like a life changing event. If I can get a motorcycle license what can’t I do?

I started thinking about Sturgis, which was in 2 months. I’d been to the northwestern part of South Dakota before and loved it. The idea of going back and taking part in Sturgis with good friends sounded great.

Two weekends before we were due to leave my friend and her husband took me out bike shopping. We found the bike the first day, bought it the next day and I started riding. On August 2nd we loaded the bikes and ourselves into a toy hauler and set out to meet another group from Arizona in Sturgis. The weather was great, the scenery beautiful, the company excellent and Sturgis was everything it was said to be. It truly was a trip of a lifetime. 

Looking back, getting the license and the bike on short notice and then heading for Sturgis within 60 days might see a little crazy and to some even reckless. Everything happened fairly spur of the moment without a lot of thought to danger or consequences. The practical portion of the course was really hard. And being a new rider is Sturgis with 600,000 experienced riders was bit daunting the first day out.  Looking back, fear could have prevented me from doing any of this. Or the thought that I was too old for this. Or what might people think? In the end none of that mattered. 2012 was a great summer filled with great experiences. I wonder what the next adventure will be.