Friday, April 16, 2004
I guess last week shot my confidence pretty good. Or bad, I guess I should say. I must be flying pretty low these days because it doesn’t take much to shoot me down. Or maybe I just know that I have to be progressing already and I’m scared shitless, underneath it all anyway. I really had the jitters last night and this morning, almost to the point of hanging it up. The brain will always do its job: self preservation. Mine’s been doing a pretty good job of it this week. I’ve passed on three ridable days, although I was pretty busy. Today I got up kind of early to try to get out before Scott comes home from work at noon. I got my gear on and just kept putting it off. No desire. Yeah, I’m gonna go. Then no desire. Then yeah, I’m gonna go. Like I said, I’ve got it pretty bad today.
I usually go out and sit on the front porch steps before I get ready to ride. If I stayed inside the house, I would never go. Going outside helps me visualize. I can scope out the traffic, like how often cars go by. It puts me in the correct environment and I start to picture going out of the driveway. I would do this at night sometimes, standing in the driveway, visualizing being on the bike and ready to go out. It actually helps. Everyone deals with their jitters in different ways; these are some of mine. The sitting on the porch steps, right now, is still a necessary step in my getting ready for the ride. The next step entails getting up and getting my gear on. I usually don’t think about this step. Something just makes me get up and I do it. I realize I’m doing it before I have any idea I’ve made the decision. Kind of like getting up in the morning. Then I get my gear on and get the bike out. I’m fully dressed, except for gloves, before I mount and start the bike. When I am opening the gate, I’m thinking "they’re playing Irish music for us." It reminds me of my on-cycle test in the second safety class, the one at Polaris last July. This helps to associate with a good motorcycle experience.
Continuing my getting ready to ride process, I would get the bike out, right it, kick up the sidestand and start her up. Putting on gloves takes just about the same amount of time that the choke needs to be on. I check my brake lights, front and back, and my turn signals, front and back, right and left. For a while, when the jitters were pretty bad, I would also play with the friction point. Feeling the vibrations, feeling the power and when it engages, helps me get ready for the ride. This has proven to be very, very helpful in calming me down and helping me to remember why I’m out there to begin with. To enjoy this. Scott handled his jitters— yes, he had jitters too— in a different way, and he is well past that stage. He can just start up, hop on, and go. It’ll be a long time before I’m to that point. I wish I was there already, but I’m not, so I NEED my getting-ready process.
So, on this morning, I was sitting outside on the front porch steps, when apparently enough time had elapsed, and Scott came home. I said I’d been trying to get out all morning. I know he has no clue about the porch-step-sitting, and probably thinks I’m just goofing off. I’ve never said anything about it, so he doesn’t know that I’m already in part of my process. Good God, he already thinks I’m batty enough. He hadn’t been standing there too long before he said "Come on, let’s get ready and go." So I did. And I ended up making some progress. I wouldn’t have thunk it today.
I went out of the driveway okay; I looked to where I wanted to go and the bike just went there. Easier said than done sometimes, especially with the monster. We putted around the neighborhood a bit. I soon decided to start crossing main streets again. I was trying to remember to brake and clutch first, and then downshift as I was stopping. I’m trying to do better on starts from turns as well. I am also trying to shift into second, and THEN cancel my signal, instead of canceling it as I’m shifting up into second gear, which effectively slows me down when I should be gaining speed. This new sequence seems to work better while allowing me to get up to speed a little bit faster. I was turning into streets with cars stopped there at stop signs. I usually shy away from this, especially when I am by myself. Progress. But the best is yet to come.
We crossed Broadview Rd a few times and State Rd a couple of times. The last time we crossed Broadview back to our side, we were on Tuxedo this time, and Scott starts to speed up like he’s going to blast past me and I just took off down the street to the stop sign. He passed me anyway, but I wasn’t my usual passive self about it.
A little later, after the second time across state, Scott said "Let’s go down Brookpark Rd to Canal."
Brookpark is a main road but it has some longer stretches between lights, with some mild hills and curves. It leads down into the river valley that separates the East and West sides. It can also have some lulls in traffic. While still on Tuxedo, I said that I was about to go home because I was getting rubbery, but then I agreed to go. I’m warmed up, and I don’t want to stew about it before the next ride, so this was perfect timing. I’m out and I’m game. What better way? "On the spur of the moment" allows no time for jitters.
Scott said that if I could handle what we were just doing, referring to the side street speed games, I could handle doing that, meaning that little Brookpark to Canal run. I was a little worried, but decided to go. As secure as I’m getting, going around the neighborhood, I am getting sick of it. Bored with it! I wanna’ go. I want to ride.
And I’m also getting sick of riding alone most of the time. Really sick of it.
We went all the way up Tuxedo to Brookpark. Tuxedo runs parallel to Brookpark and then curves over to cross it. Our plan was that I would lead until we turned onto Brookpark, then Scott would lead. He cautioned me to keep up with him. I said that I would try and he replied that he would do the speed limit. In other words, no five mile cushion. So, that we did.
When we first turned onto Brookpark, I lagged a little in getting up to speed, but I caught up with him. I stayed staggered with him at about a two second following distance. It was nice. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. He turned off before Canal road, onto a (mainly) industrial parkway that runs on the other side of the Ohio Canal. The Ohio Canal and the Cuyahoga River run side by side in this part of the Cuyahoga Valley. Anyway, we went down this quieter road and soon turned off into a roadside rest area under the I-480 Valley View bridge. This little bitty parking lot had a tiny turn around lane, and as we went through it, I almost put my feet down, but didn’t. I was in first gear and I slowly went around this little turn, looking up and to where I wanted to go and then pulled in and parked next to Scott. The foot-down thing is a crutch, and I’m trying not to rely on it, but at least I know I can if I need to, much more so than I could with the Shadow. We rested a bit and then went on our way, further down the parkway. We crossed over the canal and stopped at a light. We turned left onto Canal Road to go back home. There was a bit of daytime traffic on Canal and it felt awkward to be in it on my motorcycle, but I did okay. I assessed and "handled" a few situations, like a truck turning out of the cloverleaf ramp. I adjusted my position to the left part of the lane so I would be more visible and to give myself more room. I really did okay. And I wasn’t terrified like I thought I would be. I stayed close to Scott but made sure to do my own "looking and assessing" as a singular rider. In other words, I knew that just because he has time to make a left turn doesn’t mean that I would. I’m well aware that even though we’re riding in formation, and he is leading, I have to do my own looking.
We turned left at Tuxedo, as I was promised we would, and came back home. Safely. I was absolutely elated. On cloud nine, and so proud of myself. I couldn’t believe it. I was more incredulous that I wasn’t terrified, than the fact that I finally rode on main roads in traffic. While most people do have some jitters, and some worse than others, I realize that all of this sounds obsessive. But keep in mind that I went through a lot in the beginning, bit off more than I could chew, and tried to stay with it no matter what that meant. It wasn’t easy for me. Most people would have quit by this time if they were having this much trouble and so many misgivings. Whatever it is that I am lacking, I am hopefully making up for in perseverance.
We’ll probably go out again tomorrow morning, weather permitting. It was in the seventies today and promises to get close to eighty for tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday.
Saturday, April 17, 2004
In the morning, we decided to go up to Denny’s for breakfast. Scott wanted me to ride there. I balked at the thought of those hills and Saturday morning traffic. We’d be riding between two major grocery stores, and all the banks and the like. He was starting to say he was getting impatient and that my hesitance was not a "good sign." Here we fucking go again. I thought, oh don’t ruin it now. He came back and told me we could go up on his bike and then come back and go down to Cinemark, down on Canal, in the valley, just a little bit further than the day before, and back. Like I was really considering riding my bike to Denny’s. I knew better. I suggested taking Canal Road all the way to its end and going to a BP station where we frequently stopped for breaks. He asked if I thought I could handle the 50mph curved hill going up Canal, a bit further out. I choked out a maybe or something. It sure was preferable to the Denny’s thing!!! Actually, I thought Canal ended there, but I was mistaken. It didn’t matter because it ended up being a good gentle ride anyway.
On the way up Russell, going out to breakfast on Scott’s bike, we saw the mailman. He looked and me and said I should be riding my bike. I wasn’t even awake and coordinated yet! Ever since he saw me riding around the neighborhood once, when it’s nice weather, he says I should be out riding that bike. Well, this morning Scott hollered something in agreement and I wanted to crawl in a hole. This must not happen again. Hell, I’ll ride later today, so what’s the big deal?
When we went out later, I was nervous. Of course. I mentioned I should probably get gas beforehand if we were to venture away from home, even though that wasn’t very far. So we went to a Sunoco station around the corner here, going in from a side street. This was my first time putting gas in the bike. It was hard to see into the tank, but Scott helped me "watch". Then, instead of going out on the side street, we go out on State Rd. He said we’ll go back up our street, which is the first right turn. We did and I overshot my lane slightly but with no oncoming traffic. There’s a big hole there. Actually, there were two holes with some pavement in between, and I was just trying to avoid the bigger one of the two. And he’s shaking his head. We went out so fast, I didn’t even have my face shield down. I’ve noticed since, that he hightails it out of parking lots before I can catch up with him over to the driveway. Not good.
We went up Tuxedo again and headed down Brookpark. We went all the way down to Canal and eventually turned left into the Cinemark complex parking lot. I thought we would be stopping, but he kept on going through, as the access road became an industrial park. We turned right on Sweet Valley, and headed back towards Canal. He asked if I wanted to go up Canal to the Visitors Center. I said okay and asked about the Canal and Rockside intersection that’s torn apart. He said it had to be traversable so off we went.
I certainly did NOT want to go home!
We took a break at the Visitors Center. He basically told me how the route would be to head to our gas station and that he would warn me when to start getting up speed to get up that big curving hill. It’s 50mph going up the hill and around a large curve at the top. As we stood there looking around, I looked over at the foot bridge and the train station. I thought about that train ride over a year before and how much I’d been through since then. Then I looked at my bike parked there alongside Scott’s bike. Usually it’s just his bike with both of us, but now my little Yamaha is there too. I couldn’t get over how far I went— on MY bike!
We took Canal, which becomes Valley View Road as it passes Dunham Road, goes past the old Cyrus Eaton place, and ends somewhat past Old Route 8. We hung a right on Old Route 8, and soon came to a stop at the light at Rt 82. A guy was next to us in traffic and asked Scott if I was his wife. He proudly said yes. It made me feel good too. We crossed Rt 82 (!) and headed up to Rt 303. The road ends at 303 with a little bit of an incline. A quick left and the gas station is just on the right, at the intersection of 303 and a continuing stretch of old Route 8 (the powers that be made a second stretch of Route 8 "old"). But I stalled the bike starting into the left turn. I started it, made my turn, and went on up to the station. Scott was already parked when I got there. We bought something to drink, but the lavatory was out of order. Scott wanted a restroom more than I (that’s a switch) and suggested either going out to State8 Motorcycles or down to the train station at Peninsula. There’s a nice view of the river there, too. I opted for the train station. There’s a stretch on 303 that’s 55mph!!! I managed though. We turned into the station and made our way to the first parking lot, slow riding all the way around. Very slow. I never put my foot down until we came all the way around and parked back at the front end. We took a bathroom break and then headed back home.
We headed home on 303, back through that 55mph area, and on back to Old Route 8. I could have slowed down a little more before my turn. I was in fifth gear and jerked a little bit when I throttled out. I am also starting to downshift when getting close to lights in case it turns green and we can go, and many times we can, so I don’t have to downshift all the way and put my feet down. Yup, I’m learning.
We continued on our way. By the time we got back to Canal there was an SUV going very slowly ahead of us and another behind him hitting his brakes constantly. Scott was following pretty close, I thought, so I stayed back just a bit more. I wanted more following distance. Create time and space.
Later, on Brookpark, I thought we would turn at Tuxedo, to get off the main road, but no. Then I thought we would turn at W. 33rd, to get off the main road, but no. He went all the way up to State Rd. That State and Brookpark intersection is the busiest intersection in the entire Greater Cleveland area!!! We turned left onto State and left again onto our street, then right into the driveway. Home safe again, I put almost 50 miles on the bike.
Later, Scott said he thought I wouldn’t follow him to State Rd, and instead turn down W. 33rd. Fooled him, didn’t I? I must be crazy. He would have had a cow if I had done that. Turn off, I mean.
Sunday, April 18, 2004 (one week after Easter Sunday)
We had a quick breakfast and got ready to go. While I cleaned my face shield and glasses, etc., Scott shined up my bike. Thanks Scott! We had already discussed our route. We would go the same route and stop at the Peninsula station for a break and then head south to the outskirts of Akron to a McDonald’s and get something to drink. We did okay. Turning right out of Old Route 8 onto 303 was okay but I was awfully close to the center line with oncoming traffic. This stretch was harder than the day before with a 20-30mph head wind. I had to fight the wind AND stay up to speed. It was not easy.
We took a break at the train station and as we came into the parking lot we had to ride VERY slowly. I saw Scott shifting his handle bars back and forth to maintain balance, as did I. I did okay and did not put my foot down until I had to. Then he had to put his foot down, so I must have done okay. We walked up on the bridge and saw a couple getting ready to put a canoe into the fast-moving river. We thought they would hit the wall, but they didn’t. They had no life jackets on. The girl looked scared but the guy seemed to know what he was doing, except for the fact that neither of them wore a life vest, and in this swift spring current yet. I hope they made it okay. Once they were out of sight we headed back to use the restroom and then we headed out.
The road going down to Akron was a little curvier than what I had ridden so far. It was harder to keep up. It seems that I had to keep going faster than I wanted to in order to catch up and then here’s another curve and I had to slow it down. We get to McD’s and he’s ragging on me about it. He said he’ll get off my back, ride like normal and I can just try to keep up. He’s such a nice guy, that one. I couldn’t even talk to him after that. As I recall, he had the same problem in the beginning, when he was riding with other bikes, and he was far more aggressive than I. We finished and got ready to go and he heads to the edge of the driveway and out he goes before I’m even in first gear. I went ahead, against my better judgement, looked both ways and on out the driveway. I wasn’t sure if he was going to go turn back on Bath Rd or go up Riverview. Next time I’ll just let him go. I am not doing anything hasty anymore just to keep up with him. I took several turns too fast today just to try to keep up. I’m barely stopped and haven’t looked yet, and he’s gone. And I mean GONE! So much for the buddy system. And when I zoomed out of the parking lot, I know I jerked a little before I banged through the gears to catch up. And there was another biker and a gal with him there watching. I felt like an idiot. But, I realize now, that they were probably wondering why Scott ran off and left me like that, when I was so obviously new at this.
We managed okay from there. We stopped at the little park under the I-480 bridge again and headed on home from there. When we stopped, we were lying on the grass relaxing. I was in my white button shirt enjoying the sun shining down on me. It was pretty warm. What a beautiful spring day! On the way home, I had to make a hard stop on Brookpark, at the 480 Brookpark exit ramp, as a light turned yellow, around sort of a blind curve. But I did just fine.
Once again, we went all the way down to State Rd and headed down to our street, and then made a rolling right into the driveway. I put 64 miles on my bike! I can’t get over that I did all this this weekend. We took a break at home and went back out on Scott’s bike. My legs and hands were killing me and I was TIRED! I was starting to get sloppy and just wanted to make it home. He wanted to go back out again so I just rode pillion. We went to Brandywine Falls and took the roundabout way home. We stopped at the grocery store to pick up something quick to fix for dinner. After dinner we took a walk; we’ve been walking every night! What a weekend!
During the week I managed to mention to him about leaving me behind at McDonald’s. He didn’t realize he did that. I told him that I know he is used to blasting through parking lots, but I’m still cautious. He said he would wait for me, make sure I’m ready to GO.
Saturday, April 24, 2004
It was a bit cooler this weekend. Scott had to work yesterday (Friday) so we decided on getting out the next day. I had to meet my sister over the weekend to go through some of Mom’s belongings. Sunday will do for that because it is supposed to be warm, but rain most of the day. So, we were only able to ride today (Saturday). As I said, it would be cooler than last weekend, with highs in the mid to upper 50s and possibly 60 or higher down towards Akron.
We decided to follow the same route but only to the gas station. We would gas up first; this would be my third time. My tank holds 2.5 gal with .7 in reserve. When I filled up last Sunday, it took less than a gallon after putting on 50 miles. Sunday, I put on 64 miles, so maybe I burned up a gallon?!? I’ll feel more comfortable if I just top it off. The nozzle trigger is tight, and I thought I found a good position because I have to lift up my glasses to see into the tank. The last squirt almost overfilled. I’ll have to really watch that. Scott was inside and I ran in there to see if he was paying for my gas (again), too. We know the guys (my son’s friend and his Dad) behind the counter and their eyes kind of bugged out when they heard me ask about "mine". I was so proud. The Dad has seen me putting around the neighborhood; at least I think he knew it was me— maybe not.
Scott pulled away from the pumps and waited for me to pull away (hell, he does as much for his buddies, he can do the same for me), before he headed for the driveway. We headed out onto State Road (yikes) and turned down the next street, our street, having to turn onto the street between the two chuck holes I mentioned earlier! At the next stop sign I remembered to reset my trip odometer. Hey, at least I remembered this time. There are no gas gauges on these bikes so we have to calculate miles to determine the need for refueling. His old Shadow had a gas gauge but I guess they just don’t put them on bikes anymore. I have yet to see another one.
From Russell, we cut over to Tuxedo and took it all the way up to Brookpark Road. I told Scott that this little trek on the side streets helps ME warm up! As an added plus, by that time I know my bike is warmed up if the throttle is operating smoothly, with no coughs. Brookpark will take us down into the valley to Canal Road. While heading down our street, I realized that I probably should have worn my new gauntlet gloves because I was getting cool air up my sleeves. I almost said that I needed to go back for my other gloves. The reason I didn’t grab them in the first place is that they’re tighter and it takes me a while to get them on. I was already worried about being left behind. I mentioned it and he said we’d stop at the visitors center before continuing on. We didn’t.
We headed south on Canal, taking the same route to the BP station at 303 and 8. I was a little cool but I definitely enjoyed the ride. This is so much fun! We decided to go on to the bike dealer to pick up oil and plugs for my bike. It coughed at speed once today and once last weekend; will have to check into that. We pulled into the dealer parking lot (State 8 Motorcycles in Cuyahoga Falls, a suburb just north of Akron) and was it crowded! Being a Saturday afternoon, people were in for service, buying bikes and parts, shopping around— a real mad house. I was so proud to ride my bike back to the place where I bought it. Scott put it another way, "Well, you finally rode your bike back to the place where you bought it."
Hey. I had mishaps and got spooked. And the dealer is in another city— Akron, well almost. Cuyahoga Falls is Akron like Parma is Cleveland, so yes, it’s in another city. We parked; I kept my feet on the pegs almost until I stopped in the parking space. There was already a bike in that space, then Scott’s, then mine. I was determined to keep my feet on the pegs and not look like such a newbie. Yeah, like the trainer bike doesn’t give it away. Oh well, I try.
The intersection where Old Route 8 ends at 303 is a bit tricky for me. It ends in an incline, where traffic on 303 does not stop. This incline is similar to the one where I last dropped the VLX. Turning right is tricky and the last time I did, I stayed in my lane but I was awfully close to the center line with fast oncoming traffic. I have to remember to keep my head and my gaze UP and look far into the turn. And starting from an incline, into a turn, is still difficult for my control level. Turning left is easier, which is why I voted for the gas station first!
At the service desk, I waited for my turn. When the clerk asked what kind of bike I said "03 Virago" and he said "500? 250?" I said 250, feeling a little sheepish. At least he assumed bigger first. They don’t talk down to women there. Some places talk down to women, or, they’ll just talk to hubby. Andrews Cycles was like that. State 8 treated me with respect and got my return business (bought the VLX there earlier). As I was waiting for the clerk to come back with my items I was watching the showroom floor and all the people sitting on bikes to try them out. I noticed a man sitting on a Suzuki Savage 650 (single cylinder). His wife (or gal pal) climbed on behind him. He wasn’t a big guy, but bigger than me, and she was a little heftier. I thought, the two of them on that little bike? For example, Scott and I on the VLX would be at about the weight limit for that bike. There was a couple we rode with last summer in Alabama that rode together on an older VLX and they were both not skinny. He was actually a little portly. It looked like too much for the bike; I wondered if they checked into the weight limit. Actually, that’s what gave me the idea that maybe I should put something smaller under ME for a while! Anyway, this guy in the showroom looked very interested in that bike, so I would have to guess he was inexperienced. He looked like he felt all cool, he had his "’tude" on, picturing riding down the road. That bike is considered a trainer, and to go 2up— I just don’t know. My little Virago has a pillion seat, a padded sissy bar and rear pegs. I can’t see two people on that Virago unless they’re two skinny teenagers or the passenger is a child.
I got my parts and headed out. I felt a little rushed and almost forgot to fasten my helmet! I wish he wouldn’t be in such a rush. I putted out, headed down the access road and stopped to turn onto Route 8 to go home. I turned and picked up speed. I didn’t do anything I could be embarrassed about this time, unless you count the helmet thing, which I don’t because it’s not likely anyone noticed that. So many people potentially watching though. I told Scott later that I bet people are chuckling at my little Virago. He said no. He said that when we pass a couple on a bike, she’s probably thinking "I should get MY own bike" and he’s probably thinking "I wish she’d get HER own bike already." He said he’s proud to have me ride with him, and that’s it great to have a riding buddy, and even better that it is his wife. That made me feel good. Of course, this year, for bike runs or really long trips, I’ll be riding pillion with him for a while. I’ll get there, on my own time.
Whenever I see a couple, I think "that used to be me". Yeah, and sometimes still is, but I’ve made progress. If you told me a month ago that I’d have been down to Akron and back, or State 8 and back by this time, I’d have said "NO WAY!"
After State 8, Scott wanted to go down to the railroad station again and down to McDonald’s but I wanted to get back. Our son was coming back from a school trip and might need a ride home from the school, and besides, it was just too cold for me to do that much riding (solo OR pillion). He said he’d go home, but probably head back out. Fine by me, but he never did. It cooled off a bit. We managed a walk that evening but at home I felt chilled. By midnight I thought I was getting a cold. I shot up with the Zicam and got some rest. Sunday I felt like I was coming down with something. I kept my date with my sister, came home and made supper, and then konked out! Scott woke me up to watch Sopranos and I felt better. THIS is what happens when I ride for too long in the cold. I’ve gotten sicker before! Monday, it was in the upper 50s but I had to work that evening and I figured I’d better take it easy and keep warm. I don’t want to get sick now.
When we were coming back on Brookpark, traffic was backing up from State, so Scott turned into a side street to go home. I was turning left into the driveway with a parked car (mine, actually) to my right, affording me less room to swing out before my turn. My turn was slow, maybe too slow because I almost didn’t get up the apron, as often happens, and I jerked a little too much on the throttle. I immediately backed off on the throttle and pulled in the clutch (some) as my feet went down, by reflex, and then I recovered and continued on. Maybe no one saw. It shook me up a little, but then I realized that, though I had a problem, I was in control and handled it.
I put 50 miles on my bike today. Scott keeps telling me I should go out by myself. And I will, but not out in traffic by myself yet. I’ll cross main roads and that’s about it. I tend to go slower by myself, but with him I have to go faster to keep up. He’s my speed barometer. I need more of this speedy practice before I’m out on those roads by myself. At least that’s how I see it. He also suggested I go up to John Muir to practice slow turns (like the figure 8), etc. This is what I said before and he scoffed. Now he sees. I told him that John Muir parking lot is a mess. Gravel and junk all over. And I mean junk. I would like to have the nerve to go up to Parma Senior once the kids are out of school. Hopefully by that time, maybe I can handle getting out in a little bit of traffic to get up there by myself. Here’s hoping.
Category: Motorcycle Journal