Training so far has only consisted of Heather’s Motorcycle Safety Course, taken in Chicago. She then rented a garage for her new ride from a most excellent gent who is also an accomplished rider, and he has helped her with some practice days, drills and such.
BMW Off-Road Motorcycle Course: We went back and forth on whether or not to take this course, but are both very pleased that we finally landed on the “yes” side of the coin. The issues that gave us pause were the cost and the timing. Turns out there is a nice (15%) discount for members of the BMWMOA, and that tipped the cost question.
But in the end, we decided that doing the course is by far the safest thing to do. But besides being a smart move, it was an absolute blast! For details, see the post “Carolina on my mind”, where Heather recounted the amazing job these folks did for us. No doubt, this was the very best “prep” thing we did in getting ready to go.
Heather, learning to ride:
Having never been on a motorcycle before, I was nervous about the notion that a school could teach me what I needed to know in 2 ½ days. I was pretty impressed with my experience at Ride Chicago. The lesson is essentially broken down into three half days – the first is a classroom session, the next two are on bikes. They provide the bikes, helmets, and gloves- you need only bring your sense of adventure.
I imagine it was a pretty hilarious sight, this early morning motley crew in helmets, a row of spacemen approaching their bikes at dawn. We should’ve been walking to a rocket ship, bravely setting out to save the earth from some meteor threat or alien occupation. Aerosmith wails for us in the background. Minutes later as the bikes are fired up and we begin our inline lap around the lot, the music changes to circus pipes: we more closely resemble children on a Gorky Park amusement ride. Wide grins of exhilaration, puttering along at a wild clip of seven miles an hour, our instructors prodding us to believe that we can really, no seriously, handle second gear. In short, it was awesome.
Admittedly, I signed up for an extra day of practice before I took my driving test. There were moments when I would get so frustrated while learning that I had to replay in my mind my dad’s advice: “Remember when you get upset- the whole reason you’re doing this is to have fun”. It’s that little flip of a switch that hopefully I can carry all the way to Buenos Aires.
Along the way there have been a few people that have really augmented the classes that I took and helped to make me a much better, if not more experienced, rider. The first is an awesome lady who goes by the name of Lori Van Deman-Iseri. Not only did she volunteer to ride my motorcycle all the way back from Minneapolis in one day (ask her about the ass breaking original seat), but she also pushed my bike up the street to the Harley dealer when I accidentally left my lights on during lunch and I killed the battery. But most importantly, she rode with me and challenged me to try everything that scares me with enthusiasm. And then she moved far far away.
Fortunately for me, I had my good friend John Arents to encourage me to get out and just ride whenever I can, and Mark Miller who really took the time to try an help me overcome my specific fears (leaning into turns is incredibly counter intuitive). John has absolutely no fear. Really. While I don’t naturally live in that world, its good to see what it looks like now and again. Mark used to race bikes and is knowledgeable and stubborn. Like “keep doing that u-turn until you get it right” stubborn. Its pretty great because between the two of them, you either jump in or stay home. Time to learn is dwindling here in November in Chicago. Thank god I’ll have three months to practice in Latin America…
Chicago, late October…Shot(s) in the line of duty!
Yellow fever, tetanus, some sort of dyptheria-pertusis-typhoid cocktail, a new shot record…and we’re another step closer to launch. Also, a visit later that day with an amazing spine doc at Northwestern (Dr. Richard Fessler) who made the elder member pain free and ready to ride by installing a little titanium hardware and four big titanium drywall screws (WAY more expensive than motorcycle parts!). If anybody needs to find a good back cracker, lemme know; this guy is remarkable.
A little context for the photo above: I (Heather) pass out like its a contest when it comes to needles. I win every time. This lovely woman at Passport Health didn’t have a table to outsmart my reflex, so she pushed two chairs together and threw an ice pack on my head. I have never had anyone use an ice pack to treat my particular disfunction, but by god it works. No passing out at all; one neck cramp and four band-aids later, we’re a big step closer!