Tuesday, August 12

A "Welcome Back" Ride Report

On Saturday, I went for a motorcycle ride with Dave. He is the proud owner of Queenie, my former '01 Suzuki SV650. Other than the recent motorcycle safety classes and subsequent parking lot practicing, he hasn’t ridden a motorcycle in more than 25 years. In the late seventies, he purchased a red and black Honda CB360, which he learned to ride when the dealer gave him a lesson after he purchased the bike. This was long before MSF classes. That Honda was a cool little number and soon after acquiring it, Dave taught me to ride. I rode many miles pillion on that 360cc bike but nothing compared to the times I rode it alone. After riding that bike for a year of so Dave bought a greenish-blue Suzuki GS750. I remember the bike looking mammoth, heavy and aggressive compared to the gentle little Honda. I think I may have attempted to ride that bike once and decided it wasn’t for me.Seasonal changes didn’t seem to phase Dave. He rode that Suzuki all the time. I remember brutally cold nights of him coming home from Illinois State University, wet, cold and exhausted from the nearly 300 miles round trip he made each week. Dave and a friend took their motorcycles on a trip to Colorado, where they camped, rode up Pike’s Peak and returned safely with a lot of tall tales.

Dave was ATGATT before we called it that. I remember the heavy leather jacket, the pants and the Frye boots. I remember that his Bell helmet closely matched the color of the GS.Then one day when I was home sick with the flu, I got a call from a hospital, telling me that he had been in an accident. I felt loony from the bug and had a hard time understanding what the voice on the line said. I think someone from the police department called too and said the same thing. Evidently, some teenagers in a car were goofing off and hit him—the driver had no insurance—I remember that part well. In that accident, one of Dave’s tall, snug fitting Frye boots flew off—never could figure that out. He broke his collar bone and the opposite leg, very badly. When the local policeman, who was a motorcycle officer, showed me Dave's helmet, it looked like an explosion had occurred underneath the shell. The glass pieces were completely shattered and splattered like billions of tiny pieces, still encased within the helmet shell. Without a helmet, that would have been his skull atop his definitely dead brain.
Surgery cleaned up the leg break and more than 25 years later he sports a slight limp as a reminder. Having a broken collar bone on the opposite side of the leg break, prevented him from being fitted with crutches. So he sat in a wheel chair until the collar bone healed. The cast on his leg extended from his toes to his upper thigh. If he had "average" healing bones, they predicted he'd be casted for six months. He was out in about four months, which his doctor attributed to fast healing bones. I credit the extra calcium and bone meal I gave him and the exercises a physical education professor suggested he do inside the cast. That was more than 25 years ago BC (before child). Even then, he must have harbored the thought that he’d go back to riding at some point for he never allowed his "M" license to lapse.

Last month, he took the MSF class and is officially riding again. He is cautious, studied, and eager to learn. I know he’ll do all he can to ride safe and smart. On Saturday, he didn’t initially feel up to the 60 miles round trip to Kankakee River State Park that I suggested. Instead, we road quiet, scenic back roads, passing farms of cornfield, soybeans, horses and cows. Most of the roads were smooth and some recently blacktopped. One road was downright ugly, replete with gravel, rocks and holes that we slowly navigated safely over. The ride allowed us to cover speeds from 15 mph to 55 mph so Dave was able to get through all the gears. There were turns, curves, and straight-aways galore. I watched him closely, noticing how easy it was to keep that red helmet in view. For the most part, he did all the right things. I reminded him to stay a little left of center at strategic times, particularly when oncoming cars are present (be aware of that left hand turner I reminded him). Be careful of tucking in behind a truck or a bus--that driver coming in your direction will not see you. You want to increase your chances of being visible. One good thing about my old bike is the headlight modulator I had installed. It's noticeable. In fact, a fireman who was out collecting for Muscular Dystrophy told Dave that his headlight was flickering. Dave also noticed that at least one car seemed to take extra notice. Dave probably didn't need my reminders but it doesn't hurt. When you're just getting back out there, there's a lot to remember.

After four hours of riding, with many stops to discuss the ride and a much needed lunch break at Peotone Bier Stube, a German restaurant, we returned to our starting point. We covered approximately 84 miles—far more than a trip to Kankakee would have entailed. This was proof that he had a good time. The only thing I saw that he will need to work on is doing a complete head turn/check before changing lanes. Even if you check your mirrors, which he always did, before changing lanes a head check is mandatory to assure lane change safety. If one doesn’t have time to do a quick head turn after checking the mirrors, then one shouldn’t make that change IMHO.I made a couple of mistakes that I should confess. We switched leads often. Once when it was my turn, I rode too far ahead of him—actually, I think I did it more than once. I should have waited and had him tuck in closer behind and to the right of me. I kept thinking he’d catch up. But when he fell behind he just rode on his own. At those time, I should have slowed down. I kept my eyes glued to him when he led. Second mistake: while he was leading I watched him do correct lane checks before proceeding onto a high speed roadway. When it was my turn, I looked both ways. Then I looked right again, the direction in which Dave was traveling. I should have looked left again. I did not. I then pulled out and as soon as I entered the lane, a car came barreling down on me from around a bend. The car had to brake and back off to remain at a safe distance. Unless that driver is a saint, I know s/he uttered some choice expletives at me. This is one reason I ride solo. I can keep distractions to an absolute minimum by worrying about me, myself and I.
All in all a fun ride. Dave is on the road to re-discovering his rider within. Soon he will be the safety conscious, magazine hoarding, uber-motorcyclist of old. I sent our daughter some photos of the ride. She was unimpressed. In fact, she said we look like a couple of renegade Power Rangers. Fourteen hours of labor, a year of breast-feeding and this is what I get. *sigh*

Welcome back, Dave.