It was Independence Day and I had just the day before, moved into my new place. I was not sure how to get around too well and suffice to say that things didn’t go as planned: I ended up walking back to my new place. I wasn’t too sure I was going the right way but after 2.5 hours of walking down a dark street with fireworks bursting in air, I found my way.
It was after three days of this, plus getting stopped by several Mercedes, asking if I needed a lift, as well as a random guy who wanted to come crash at my place, that I realized I needed transportation. Very badly.
And when I was considering learning how to finally drive, getting my license and then the subsequent purchase of a cheap car, I remembered that there was something else I wanted to learn.
How to ride a motorcycle. The last time I tried learning, I flew off the bike and the owner ran to his bike first before checking how I was doing. An ex told me that he respected me too much to teach me how to kill myself. Things were not looking good.
After investigating and searching for a time slot that fit with my work schedule, I found the Orange County Motorcycle Training course. It was about two months in advance that I reserved my class because they fill up so quickly but that gave me plenty of time to gear up. I used Revzilla, which I had been frequenting for quite a while and now had sufficient reason to actually purchase something.
The first class was on a Thursday and on Tuesday, as I got up from the table after lunch, my back protested to the four winds. Pain like I hadn’t had in a long minute chopped me right in half. I was worried I had to cancel my class. With only two days away, I was cutting it really close. But it turned out that it was that one day and then, with the help of a good attitude and a gel cap of pain killing substance, I was able to go without having to really struggle with walking.
The course I chose was being held in Fullerton and it was going to be all of three days of class. Day 1 was going to be in-class and the other two would be on the range. I went out to the designated spot and so began
DAY 1: A lovely instructor by the name of Vincent went over the material we were all sent and answered questions that we had. It was a bit hard to grasp because I needed real life practice. Soon enough. Even though the recommendation was to wear bright clothing to be seen in, it is a reality that most motorcycle clothing and gear is black. I soon discovered that the morning and afternoon sessions were both grouped into that classroom, which explained why the group was so big.
DAY 2: On the range. We sign in at 6 AM and are randomly assigned a range. It was supposed to hit the mid-90s by the afternoon. Good thing we got the morning class. The afternoon class was surely going to roast. My instructor was Bob, a tall, mullet-donning man with one arm in a cast. Perhaps not wholly reassuring but it turned out he was a very knowledgeable motorcyclist. He had the voice that most people put on when they want to communicate things calmly in a stressful situation (“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are out of beer. Thank you for your cooperation.”) and it was very helpful. Perhaps the one time in the history of the world that a man asked “Is there anything you want to talk about?” (he asked after every single exercise and there were more than 20 of during the course of the two days) and a woman (me) had nothing to say.
I am 5’3 and in my group of five, I was the shortest and perceptive of this, Bob suggested I get the small cruiser that another student had claimed as his. Good choice, as I felt more comfortable with my feet closer to the ground.
Not familiar with the gear-changing that goes on in cars because, hell, I don’t drive, it took me a while to learn about clutching in and I end up stalling a lot. Bob came over and reassured me in a curious way: he asked if I had a favorite song. In that moment, I couldn’t think of one for some reason so the most obvious choice just popped into my head: “Steve McQueen” by Sheryl Crow.”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Just relax and let that song play in your head.”
So every time I cornered, my hand automatically throttled on and as I sped through the curve, looked to the other corner and felt like I was cornering as they do in the Moto GP, knee not really anywhere near the ground, I heard Sheryl singing:
Like Steve McQueen, All I need’s a fast machine, I’m gonna make it alright
At the end of the day was when I remembered I was supposed to have back pain.
DAY 3: I was worried about falling off the bike and scrubbing. I guess if you think it, you invite it in. I was coming round to park in a line, shifted down to 1st and let go of the clutch. The engine died and I was left supporting the extra weight of my cruiser. I let the bike fall and I sort of rolled off to the side. I lay there, whooping because, yeah, I finally fell! I laughed through my helmet and should have done an asphalt angel on the ground. Bob seemed a bit worried but he doesn’t know me. Nor the hits and falls I’ve taken in life. He even came up a while later, during the next exercise, and asked a bit anxiously if I really was okay.
Some of the people from one of the other ranges were complaining about their instructor, who seemed a little more on the impatient side. Made me very glad I had Bob.
We did a four-way stop exercise and went around the perimeter, circling and turning in. At one point, I stopped for another student, who took a second longer than I could stand to decide that I was good to go first. I couldn’t get my bike to start up again and since I stopped mid-corner, with my wheel turned in, I couldn’t throttle on correctly. Stall. And as I was falling towards the ground, again, I thought “Fuck…again?”
I wondered why Bob wasn’t tired of my stalling ass.
Then came the range test. We were going to be tested on all the previous exercises. I just tried to have fun with it and do it the best I knew how. Aside from a very difficult cornering maneuver, I did alright.
After the range test, Bob called us over to read us our scores. He started highest to lowest. A 0 was a perfect score, while 20 or more was a fail. And just as I thought I wasn’t going to, I hear my name called: I passed. And as he explained where I did wrong, all I could think of asking was one thing:
“Can I hug you?”
He obliged me. He did not know that this was an accomplishment that required years of patience, dumb comments, a complete uprooting from one country to another, hours of walking, multiple men trying to pick me up or talk to me or make ridiculous comments at me as I walked down the long street to my house, as well as a bit of monetary investment.
Out of respect for the other students who weren’t called up yet, I didn’t celebrate as I would have. My score was nearer the fail end and it seemed that there sadly may be some who weren’t going to pass.
And so it was.
After that, there was a last in-class review before we had to take another test. If we passed that, we would be the proud owners of the certificate that we could take to the DMV for a paper test and our licenses.