It was a beautiful Sunday morning in August and I’ve barely had my
Virginia Motorcycle license less than 24 hours. (Note: I completed the
Motorcycle Safety Course in June.) I don’t own a bike of my own but my
father has four (2 Suzukis and 2 Honda Goldwings). He has agreed to let
me ride his smallest motorcycle – a Suzuki Savage. The planned ride
would be my boyfriend, Mark, on his Harley Road King, my father on his
other Suzuki (Marauder) and me. Both Mark and my father are experienced
riders and have been riding for over 20 years.
It’s 10:30am and I’m getting ready to shower when I start to have a
panic attack. Mark was picking up his daughter when the attack started
so he was no help in calming me down. I was mostly afraid that I would
not be able to stop the bike at 55-60mph in order to avoid a changing
traffic light or a car pulling in front of me. Or getting the bike in a
skid and not knowing how to recover it. I decided to pull out the
motorcycle manual we used in our MSF training class and re-read the
section on “Street Strategies” over several times. This helped me calm
down a bit. When Mark did arrive home and saw me reading the manual, he
told me that everything I did in the school parking lot a week ago
(before I received my license) was just fine and that I would be fine on
the ride. His reassurance helped a little also.
My father arrived and we were getting ready to set out on our ride, then
panic started to crept up again. Mark and I drove through his
neighborhood a few times to get me comfortable on the bike, get my speed
above 30mph (i.e., above 3rd gear) and practice stopping. This
“practice” still wasn’t the same as being out on Route 7 with 2 lanes of
traffic traveling at 55-60 mph. We started out around 1:30pm. Mark led
the pack with my youngest son, Michael, as a rider. I was behind Mark
(rider less). My father was behind me with my oldest son, Vincent, as a
We stopped at a gas station in Leesburg where my first obstacle was
identified – leaving the gas station parking lot and having to make a
quick, sharp left turn across several lanes of traffic to get in the
proper lane. Since I only had 3 miles riding time under my belt, I
wasn’t ready for this challenge. Instead, I told Mark I was turning
right, going down the street one block and turning into a shopping
center parking lot to make a U turn and then making a right out of the
parking lot to get in the proper lane for continuing our trip. The
entire group followed my U turn plan. We looked so silly a U turn in a
parking lot but it was a more comfortable transition for me.
We headed in the direction of Winchester, VA to stop at the mall where
there is a leather store. Once getting up to speed (55-60mph) on Route
7, I was greeted with an unknown variable – the force of the wind
against me. (Being a passenger on the back of a motorcycle, you never
experience this because the rider and a windshield helps to block this
force of wind). It was a surprise at first but after a few minutes I was
accustomed to the different feel of the motorcycle at this speed. But
the force of the wind pushed my helmet loose and caused me to get a neck
ache. So once we reached the exit for Route 340, we pulled over so I
could adjust my helmet. (Note to self: Make sure helmet is very tight.)
The entire trip to the mall I was terrified and tense. Once I safely
parked the bike in the mall parking lot, I was relieved. We were at the
mall all of about 30 minutes then we got back on the bikes and continued
riding to Front Royal. This part of the trip I was less tense. We took
Route 50 back to Route 340 and linked up with Route 211 (I think) into
the outskirts Front Royal. Up until the last few miles, I was just fine.
As we approached Route 211, my father took over the lead because he
wanted to stop at this “hole in the wall” restaurant for something to
eat. We had to make a left turn at a traffic light that had 2-left turn
lanes. We were in the inner left turn lane and because the light was
green as we approached, we were entering the turn at about 25-30mph. I’m
not comfortable with left turns at speeds of less than 20 mph with a
single turn lane, so I was freaking out about this turn. I accidentally
took my “line of sight” off the path that I wanted the motorcycle to
take and started to head in the outer left lane. Fortunately, there
wasn’t a car in the lane so I continued to take the outer left lane and
worked my way back over behind my dad (Mark was directly behind me and
saw where I had turned my head to see the traffic on my right which
caused the bike to follow in the direction I was looking).
My next (slight) mistake occurred within 500 yards of the left turn
problem. I was approaching a right curve with a posted speed of 20 mph.
I looked at my speedometer and saw that is was between 35-40 mph. I
needed to slow down but started to brake just seconds before starting to
execute the curve. This caused me to wobble slightly but I somehow
corrected the problem and made it through the curve without incident.
One-half mile down the road was the restaurant where I was able to but
my feet on solid ground and relax after the last 5 minutes of mistakes.
Leaving the restaurant, I had to back the motorcycle up to get it in the
path I wanted to exit. In doing so, I turned the handlebars to sharply
and dropped the bike. Mark came running over to help me pick it up.
Fortunately, the bike only sustained a few scratches on the tail pipe
which Mark was able to buff out when we got home. Starting the trip home
by dropping the bike before I started the engine had my “psychic powers”
turned on. I was foreseeing a rough ride home loaded with many mistakes
that I would possibly make.
In actuality, the ride home was more enjoyable. Coming out of Front
Royal, we traveled back into Berryville and then headed to Leesburg
(home). I was getting really tired towards the end of the ride. It was
noticeable at an intersection where I needed to make a right turn. We
had to stop and wait for traffic to clear. My stop wasn’t very smooth.
It took a few seconds for my feet to finally get a grip on the road. I
was afraid I was going to get in the path of the traffic before I got
the bike under control.
Once we were home, I got off the bike and my body ached from my neck
down. The entire trip was 4 ˝ hours long. We traveled a total of almost
The next day after work the weather was nice. I got home from work and
went riding again for 1 ˝ hours.
Now, I’m just waiting for nice weather to go again!
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