Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Close Call on the Motorcycle . . .Yikes!

Well, I had my first "close call" on the motorcycle. What a way to start the new year! It scared the heck out of me, but I think it's a good thing it happened because it's given me some confidence in my skills. It's one thing to react properly on the test course, when you know what "emergency" you're being tested for; it's another thing altogether to react on the real road, when the emergency comes when you least expect it.

Ever since I started riding, I've had this underlying fear of "What if I don't do what I need to do and was taught to do in an emergency situation?" One of my biggest fears, in fact, was that in a situation where I needed to stop quickly, I would use too much front brake and not enough rear brake and I'd end up flying over the handlebar. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I worried that in the heat of the moment I'd just react, and my reaction would be the wrong one. Well, this past weekend, my education was put to the test and I'm happy to report, I did what I needed to do. I avoided what could have been a bad accident and lived to tell about it . . .

Rick and I decided to ride the bike to breakfast. Usually, whenever the two of us ride together, he drives and I ride on the back, mainly because the ride feels so different with him on the back. Everything feels balanced so differently. I've ridden with both of my daughters on the back (not at the same time, of course), and that didn't affect the ride too much. But they're light. But having Rick as a passenger is a different story. We'd done a test ride around the neighborhood, and it just felt weird. But on Saturday, he encouraged me to be the driver. He told me he thought I'd done a good job on our neighborhood ride, and he had no qualms about letting me take the lead. And after all, it's my bike. Didn't I want to be the one driving?

So off we went. As soon as we turned right out of our neighborhood onto a two lane road, my emergency skills were put to the test. We'd been on the road for about a half a mile when, from another neighborhood exit on the opposite side of the road, a car pulled out into our lane without stopping to check for traffic. It wasn't even as if this car pulled out in front of us. No, it pulled out right at us. Stopping in time wasn't even an option. Somehow my brain recognized this and I knew that the only way we were going to come out of this in one piece was to avoid the car. But the only way to avoid the car was to leave the road. I remember thinking "well, I can ride across grass on my bicycle so I should be able to do it on the motorcycle" and so I just did it. I drove right into the grass and up onto the sidewalk. I brought the bike to a relatively smooth stop then, and unbelievably, not only did the car take off, it did so very quickly -- as if the driver knew what she had done (yes, I saw the driver, she looked to be about 25 years old, and no, she wasn't even on a cell phone) and didn't want to own up to it. Cars behind us stopped to check on us, and people on a walking/jogging trail on the opposite side of the road called over to us, too, to make sure we were okay. All shook their heads in disbelief at what they'd just seen. But the driver of the offending car just drove off . . . a top-notch human being, huh?

I'd always been afraid that if I ever had a close call like this, it would spook me and I'd have trouble getting "back on the horse," as they say. But surprisingly, I had no difficulty pulling back onto the road and continuing on our way. The incident was good for me, because it taught me that I could react as needed in an emergency. And it's made me even more careful about keeping an eye out for everything around me. I do this anyway -- they told us in our lessons that riding a motorcycle would make us better drivers all around, and that's definitely true -- but having something like this happen in real life is so much better than the hypothetical situations you learn about in class. Well, maybe better isn't the right word . . . how about "a more valuable teaching opportunity?"

By the way, Rick was wonderful. He told me I did a great job, and to my surprise, when we prepared to take off again, he didn't even ask to drive!