On the road

It is raining heavy this morning and expected to continue until this evening so the next ride will have to wait ’til tomorrow.

The day of my maiden voyage was the epitome of a northern fall afternoon. The sun was shining, the air was brisk and the leaves were in full splendour. It was the day after Thanksgiving, later in the afternoon, so the traffic on the municipal lake road should be quiet. After seasonal work around the cottage it was time to reward myself with that first ride.

Beautiful fall day

Full gear on, I straddled the machine, pulled the choke, flipped the power button and pressed the ignition. And she rumbled. The twitch of the throttle had her growl just a little louder, warming, before I pushed in the choke and let the engine purr. Time to get these wheels rolling.

A click into first gear, easing of the clutch and away we started, slowly, without a hitch. Heading down the driveway, I made an instant decision to forego the previous days practice and made that left onto the cottage road, up that first incline, down into the right hand curve, shifting into second gear. And there it was. The steep gravel hill loomed before me. Give ‘er some more gas, stay steady, steer into the right tire track. Made it. Now left, another blind curve, gently into the straight way emerging in the open for the municipal road. All the previous worries erased in the span of two successful minutes.

Look to the left. Look to the right. The road was clear, ease on the clutch, pull a little on the throttle, and we were on the road adroitly. More throttle as the engine revved, more speed, popped ‘er into second. We were moving. Keeping my head straight, increased the throttle again and I popped ‘er into third. Wow.

I glanced at the speedometer and she was cruising at 60 km.; I checked the mirror only to find it had not been adjusted properly. Oops. There was an upcoming curve; looked ahead to where I wanted to go, leaned a little to help, just like in the training. In fact, the words of that weekend were repeating in my mind, along with Kevin’s advice after his recent misadventure. I could feel the bike getting a little wide on another curve so I eased up on the throttle; slowed ‘er down. All good.

Handling the speed was easier than I anticipated. At one point, down a hill, I had accelerated to 70 km an hour getting me to think a ride on the highway would not be far off; but don’t get ahead of yourself Henry, you still need lots of practice. Certainly my confidence has increased.

The wind really does blow with the drive and on a typical fall day it is cool. It rushed into the unbuttoned sleeves of my leather jacket, through the two shirts, and ballooned my jean pants causing goose pimples on my legs. When I arrived at the marina, turning around, successfully, the little adjustments were made and away we went, back from whence we came. This was fun. Until I ventured back onto the cottage road, heading home.

The ride down the steepest portion was simple enough, riding the clutch and the break all the way to the bottom. That carefulness, however, defied me on the next hill. Not enough gas caused a stall half-way up. Oh no. Those of us who have driven a standard vehicle have this recurring fear of just such a situation. I was in the position of having to start on an incline. Think. Stay calm. Use the foot brake since I will need to turn the throttle with the other while slowly easing the clutch. Stalled. Damn it. Try again.

Stalled again. Rolled back a little. Thank goodness there was no one around. On the fifth attempt, the motor caught and away we went, finally rolling up to the cottage with a cheering Olga welcoming me home. All in all a very successful and gratifying first voyage.

I can do this.

The next day started in the same manner. Lovely fall weather and some typical chores to prepare for the winter. The afternoon beckoned another ride. On this occasion, I thought to practice tight turns by going up the driveway, looping around, back to the bottom for another loop in the same fashion as the training course. On the first loop, the bike stalled. I pushed it back into a forward position and headed down for the next loop whereby I had my first fall in the sand.

I was driving slowly and probably leaned too far. The ground was soft and I popped up quickly, leveraging my weight to prop back upright the 540 lb motorcycle. I brushed away the dirt, cursing some, hoping the neighbours weren’t watching. Back down the driveway to the bottom where I fell a second time.

Gravel now. A little harder, a little more tired, grunting to force the bike up into standing, using all my strength. Those circular bars, an added feature, seemingly decorative, really prevented a total collapse. I was frustrated but determined. Back up the driveway, wobbly turn, not very good but upright to venture once more to the end.

I fell over for the third time attempting to circle back. A little too much throttle, too tight of a turn and down I went. Increasingly exhausted, breathing heavier in my helmet, visor fogging, I killed the engine then leaned into the bike, gradually pushing back onto two wheels. I felt as if the previous training had betrayed me.

Enough. I needed to get back to that experience of the previous day, so I headed out to the municipal road to recall that feel of cruising down the highway, enjoying the wind and the speed and the environment.

End of the day; looking for forward to the next.

Upon my return, recovered, I sat back in the muskoka chair on the dock to bask in the glory of the sunset with a beer.

I can’t wait to get out on the road again.

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