Monday, July 11, 2005

I think they were racing motorcycles, or something

Saturday started way to goddam early. I was out all night with a work dinner/drinks thing, and then had to get up at 5am Saturday, to get an early start to go to Laguna Seca. The coffee house was closed. Grrrrrr…
We made pretty good time actually getting to Laguna Seca, but once we got to the gate turn-off, it was an hour to actually get inside. Why? Even at 8:30 am, Laguna Seca is totally ill-equipped to handle crowds. WTF? I can’t stand this shit. Open another fucking gate. This track brings more money to your local community than anything else. Open the fucking gates. Annoying, really really annoying. I am glad we only went one day, because I couldn’t stand to do that again Sunday. Finally parked the bikes in the dirt (grass) parking lot and made a bee line for a bar. This was actually quite wonderful. None of that usual fair-food $6 foamy Budweiser crap, no, we found a little local brewery bar setup with tables and chairs in the shade and a nice healthy breakfast stout. We were drinking by 9:30 and surly by 10. Yay!

Puttered around some of the booths, stopped to watch some practices and qualifiers, took pictures, and yelled at the Kawasaki people. Watched a little motocross, the Honda folks started up a little vintage racer (very cute), checked out the new Aprilia twin dirtbike and an old BMW sidecar. Good stuff. Go karts were sooooo cute, like little toys, you just wanted to pick them up and put them into your pocket. Ran into a bunch of people we knew, napped in the grass, drank more and ate funnel cake. Good day.
Stopped in Santa Cruz for dinner and crashed out in San Jose.

My mom’s dog pees whenever I come over. Without fail. She can’t help it.

Sunday, we rushed out to meet people for a ride leaving Blue Rock Shoot in Saratoga at 9:30. No one else showed, which I guess was a blessing since we could fuck off and take our time. It was a perfect day for a ride. Not very many bikes out (thankfully) and nice weather. I am a sucky rider these days, so it was slow.

I totally behaved myself on 9 and 35, and I hope I can just keep it that way, because the cops are everywhere on those two roads. I remember just about a year ago, coming through that stretch between Four Corners and Boulder Creek with a lot of 80 and 90 on my speedo. There have always been a few corners that slowed me down, but, now, it’s every corner. Some of that is me behaving, and some of that is because I’m on the SV instead of the much quicker DRZ, and a MOST of that is a much lower skill and confidence level. But there’s something else.

Just over a year ago, I was taking a lot more time riding, and I was riding a lot harder. My life had been pretty much riding, working, riding, going to the gym, riding, sometimes seeing my friends. Different attitudes about what I was focusing on, and a lot of less happy Rebecca, was pushing me though those corners. I was running and I knew it. I’m a happy person in general, but I know, and I even knew then, that I was trying to outrun my own shadow. Embarrassing guys on fancy sportbikes was at times a way to make up for my loneliness and annoyance at pathetic friendship and relationship possibilities. Fuck putting up with dating, I could just cut right to the good stuff at leaving them behind. Particularly if they told me I couldn’t keep up before we left. (note: the faster riders never say they are fast. They don’t talk, and they probably don’t have very “nice” bikes. That old guy on the clapped out mid-eighties dirtbike will wave at you while he takes you on the inside, on knobbies.) The cockier the guy, the faster I went. If pushed, I would push back. I wanted it.
The DRZ was getting pushed. With 3/8” unscrubbed on the edges of the front tire, it wasn’t like I was going anywhere but down, if I kept pushing it harder. I wouldn’t claim skill as much as bitterness, and mostly, though, just a lack of anything better to do or focus on. A better rider wouldn’t have shown that sort of wear.

I wasn’t ever the fastest rider. Never as quick as Charles, except maybe when he was doing chemo. I wouldn’t ever hope to keep an eye on Joanne’s tail light. But, yeah, I was moving. Was I moving well? I don’t know, but quickly, especially on empty days.

Well, now, what happened:
1.) I crashed hard, and didn’t ride hard for a few months. Then never started riding hard again. I lost my confidence, and never went to find it again. Never knowing why I crashed meant it was out of my control. Nothing to learn from that, except that for no goddam reason, you could end up flopping down the pavement leaving bits of finger. When you know what happened, you can make adjustments, and feel like it’s still ok to move forward-- problem is solved, won’t let it happen again. I dropped my bike last week and I know why, and will pay more attention to the shifting on the SV. But there wasn’t any reason why I ended up on the road last July. What could I do to restore my faith?

2.) I do not spend every weekend day riding around in the hills anymore. I just don’t have the time. There are a lot of things to do now. Paul and I have adventures every weekend that sometimes involve riding in the hills but more often do not. I need to ride constantly to improve, as I am a very slow learner, and my learning curve is very steep.

3.) I am incredibly happy. There’s no bitterness, the chip on my shoulder is mostly gone, and I don’t have people around me who would tell me that I have to ride with the girls based on nothing but seeing me and my bike, without riding with me first. I don’t have an empty spot or anything to prove. If it needed to be proved, I already did, and now that’s the past. There’s a bit of fear put back into me, because now I DO have something to lose, and there IS something to come home to. My life is GOOD. It’s not like I was ever the most fearless person, but, I can admit, I wasn’t at my personal best emotionally and that showed, to me, at least. When I was younger and bike-less, it would have manifest as heavy drinking and staying out and all that. Times are different, but I can see the same things underneath.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I am a lot slower now, and it’s been a source of frustration. Not just slower, just way, WAY less happy and comfortable on the bike. Used to be, I was more comfortable riding than walking, but I’d gotten to the point (particularly on the SV) where I was terrified to go around corners.

Well, point #3 isn’t something I’d change for the world, and point #2 can only be a matter of the compromises of time and choosing activities, but #1, that I could address. So I did.

The SV feels way better than it did two months ago. New tires made a big difference, and the suspension, it feels better now that it’s been to Aftershocks. I notice in particular the rear shock is much improved, and I assume the front is better too. (I’m no suspension expert, not by a long shot. I can’t even figure out what it’s supposed to be doing) It stays a little more stable when it goes over bumps. It’s no DRZ, but it will have to do. The bumps are still there, but I think the bike gets less shitty when it goes over them. You still feel it, but it doesn’t seem so crash prone. And the tires are WAY better. They actually stick to the ground instead of just kind of gliding over it. Imagine that!

I actually did a little jump when we came back into the city. There’s a really bad pavement seam at the 280/101 split that I usually stand up and slow down to go over, but this time I guess I sort of jumped off of it. Well, that’s what Paul said. I definitely felt it.

Was it worth the pile of money to get a little better suspension? (which is honestly probably wasted on me) Yes. If it makes me feel like I’ve made some change, fixed a problem that made me crash, and can move forward, yes. Even if it’s a placebo that puts my faith back into the bike, it is worth it. I wanted nothing more than to feel happy riding again.

Will I be doing track days to improve my speed? No. No. No. Who fucking cares? I’m willing to let you pass me now, cuz I’m really goddam happy. That may be the standard comparative indicator to a lot of people, about your worth or legitimacy as a motorcyclist, but, um, hello? I’ve ridden by myself to Seattle, I’ve done the Sheetiron, I’ve earned an Ironbutt Saddlesore doing a 24 hour endurance rally. I’ve taken a 400 thumper to Nevada a few times, across desert roads at speeds that made my bike toss, but did not crash. I've kick-, and push-started a clapped out 350 more times than I care to remember. I’ve seen the July snowmelt waterfalls at Mt. Rainier, and nine feet of snow in Sonora pass in June, ridden through mud puddles that would make your gixxer cry, and pulled up with thirty other bikers at 3am in Pismo Beach. I’ve saved my bike from rivers that desperately wanted to swallow it, ridden into LA with no dependable brakes, and gotten my poorly geared bike up same nasty dirt hills. Storms have not stopped me, no matter how bad, and I know where the quiet places are in the Santa Cruz, where I can stop, and hear nothing but birds, and remember that this is the world I want to see on my motorcycles.

Most importantly, I’ve found the one thing I ever really need, and there’s nothing in the world that would make me want to leave him in the dust. Paul is a better rider than I ever was, but even if it weren’t so, I’d still never let him out of my mirror


That was the sweetest love song I ever read.
Thank you.
Posted by Marisa on Monday, July 11, 2005 at 1:07 PM

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