Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sandy's Adventures With Wheels

Rollerblading through Walsingham Park is a pleasurable and peaceful endeavor to me, but weekend mornings can be a bit challenging with the increased traffic on the winding path of the 6 mile pedestrian trail - groups of walkers engrossed in their conversation spread across the entire width of the trail, the under 6 set who haven't yet mastered the art of continuing to pedal straight ahead while staring at the oncoming skater, cyclers cresting a blind curve at the exact moment I'm passing some walkers, and lots and lots of dogs of all sizes with all leash lengths.

This morning, a woman's remonstrance to me "Try not to fall!" got me thinking about some of my other adventures with wheels....

A basic understanding of the "...equal and opposite reaction" principle might have stood me in good stead on the day I willingly collaborated with my friend, Patrice, to stand on a skateboard - yes, I, who did not own or know how to ride a skateboad - and hold onto a rope attached to the back of her bicycle. The theory was that she would tow me along. Well, after the first 2 feet she towed an empty skateboard because I was lying, unconscious, on the pavement. I came to consciousness to the sound of her sobbing, "please don't die, Sandra, please don't die..."

I haven't stepped on a skateboard since.

When David got his pilot's license (no, this is not our plane pictured above), he was so enthusiastic about the joys of being PIC (pilot in command - don't laugh - it is a true acronym used in all the general aviation literature) that he simply couldn't imagine that I wouldn't love flying a plane just as much as he did. Faced with my reluctance, he tried to trick me into falling in love with it by suggesting - no URGING - me to take a "pinch-hitters course" - the theory being that I would learn how to land the plane if he became unable to do so.

After more than 20 hours of instruction and numerous bouncing landings , the only thing I knew for sure about piloting was that I should NOT try to be the PIC. I persisted through three different instructors, a near mid-air collision, and clipping the tail of another plane parked on "the college ramp" when I taxied in, physically and mentally spent at the end of a lesson. I believe that incident cost us several thousand dollars in repair work.

Then, in the season of empty-nest, I decided I would enjoy our motorcycle rides even more if I was driving my own bike instead of squeezing in behind David on his Harley. I thought about how much I loved bicycling and how I needed to be taking on new challenges - since the flying gig hadn't panned out - and learning new things. I imagined myself motoring around our city and across the nation - the freedom, the exhilaration! During one of our visits to the local Harley store for parts, I got the inside scoop on a private instruction class put on by the dealership. The female salesperson told of her experience with such enthusiasm and hope -"Small classes...nobody fails...the instructors just keep helping you until you get it..."

I talked with David, plunked down the cash, and found myself in the Shriner's parking lot on the coldest weekend of the year. I had passed the written part of the course with flying colors, had made it through the first day of riding instruction on our 250cc (I think) student motorcycles.

Hindsight tells me I shouldn't have been wearing brand new, totally inflexible, dense soled boots that weekend, that I should have INSISTED the teacher let me do the Saturday afternoon shifting drill over again so he could see that I really wasn't getting the feel of it, that I shouldn't have doubled up dosage of my cold meds and given myself a practically sleepless Saturday night....

Long story made tolerable? I saved myself from being kicked out of class (yep - the instructor had already pulled a 400 pound rider from the squadron) by up-shifting up when I should have down-shifted, and applying the brakes just before I hit a wet patch on the curve...I came to consciousness 15-20 feet from where I last remembered being, with my classmates gathered around me. Apparently I'd been out long enough for them to all slow down, park and dismount. I had to get stitched up just above my eye, and I pretty much lived on ibuprofen for a few days while my twisted ankle and banged up knee recovered. The bruises were about the most colorful I've ever had.

In the interest of keeping his wife a few more years, David got me a much smaller motorcycle for Valentines Day that year. I was thrilled, and for a few weeks, practiced on the mostly quiet airport road to our hangar. But I had changed from a rider who rode "with" the bike, leaning into the turns with confidence, to a "stiff as a board" rider that the hangar pilots laughed at. I signed up for a repeat class a few months later, but woosed out and cancelled. We still have the bike and I'm not ready to give up on it yet, though I haven't ridden it for several years...

These days my dream scenarios of riding in the open air of Florida feature convertible automobiles, bicycles, and kayaks.


Kyle Cullum said...

so how long did this one take you? dang

Sandy said...

Not much longer than it took me to crash the motorcycle that Sunday morning. Couple hours. Writing is healthier therapy than baking cookies.

Heather said...

I think you need to try a scooter (manual or motor) and a unicycle. I think these should be also neglected to mention a rickshaw. :)

Sandy said...

I HAD a manual scooter, when we lived in NY, Heather :-0! Red, I think. I remember I loved it. I was fast.

And I have on at least one occasion tried a unicycle - nix that. Now, Kyle or Michelle may have ridden in a rickshaw when they lived in India.