Last week marked my 43rd birthday. And I left you hanging as to what I’ll be taking on as my travels shift towards solo. Granted, it’s not exactly a well-kept secret but I guess I should just make it official here on the blog anyway.
But before I do, I think it’s pertinent to lay out how I came around to this decision. The questions I’ve been asking myself as I’ve pondered this transition have centered around keeping my travels fresh, traveling more minimally, being more a part of the landscape, and being able to interact more with people I meet on the road.
Which is why for the better part of this year, I’ve been working behind the scenes here at Val in Real Life to become a motorcyclist. It takes a good bit of time to get equipped, trained, and skilled enough to take on motorcycle travel in the way I want to do it. That’s why I’m starting now, while I’m still largely in homeschool mom mode, so I have the time to slowly build these skills before I find myself with an empty nest and lots of time on my hands.
This actually all started rather simply, with me just wanting to have the ability to ride while traveling if I wanted to. It seemed like a good skill to have in my Val toolbox along with things like my Wilderness First Aid, Southern Appalachian Naturalist, and Leave No Trace certifications. But once I learned more and started to figure out this whole motorcycling thing, it quickly snow-balled into a full-blown case of moto passion. This is really groovy stuff.
By pure fortune and chance, I happen to live a few miles from a Motorcycle Safety Foundation campus. Courses are offered at various other facilities all over the country but there are only a few actual campuses so I just got really lucky to have this resource in my backyard, not only to take the initial course but also to continue with advanced training with excellent instructors to build my skills.
Getting started I took the Basic RiderCourse which covers the fundamentals like control, stopping, shifting, and cornering. The 2-day course allows you to take the licensing test at the end, eliminating the horror of having to do it at the DMV. That’s all kinds of awesome in my book.
One of the important details about getting proper training is that yes, this is a difficult and potentially dangerous activity, but being knowledgable and savvy reduces the risk greatly. And with these classes, students get focused, closed-course practice to build skills before getting on the road. That’s key, especially for gaining experience in low-speed skills and maneuvers that are crucial and not likely to be practiced off-course. And with coaches watching you, they can help you identify problem areas and point out things you don’t even realize you’re doing.
I can only sing high praises for the instructors I’ve had so far at my local MSF Campus through the Basic RiderCourse as well as subsequent Basic Bike Bonding classes. They’ve been highly-qualified, approachable, and fun. They’re great folks who really love motorcycling and want to promote smart riding and help riders improve… because that helps everyone on the road, drivers and riders alike. And that’s why I’ll continue to hone my skills there.
In fact, taking the Basic RiderCourse has made me a better automobile driver. As a former bicyclist, I’ve always been sensitive to non-auto vehicles on the road as far as being aware of their presence and respecting their right to be there, as well as their vulnerability. But even in spite of that pre-existing inclination to take driving seriously, this course improved my ability to assess of potential road hazards, drive more defensively, and drive smarter.
In addition to the benefits of proper motorcycle training, graduates of the Basic RiderCourse get discounts on gear and insurance. And in my case, even my motorcycle dealer offers incentives for the training. Which brings me to introducing you to this beauty…
Adding to the adventure-mobile fleet…
Blubaru still has lots of adventures left in her as I travel with the boys but for solo travel, it’s time to introduce you to my new adventure-mobile. Keep in mind, I’m very smitten and you’ll now likely be inundated with Instagrams of my new love. She’s a 2013 Triumph Bonneville T-100 and she’s a rock star.
So imagine my frustration with being so excited about this new adventure… and then having to put it on the back-burner. Because you can’t hold the throttle while in a hand cast. Yes, I actually bought my bike knowing I wouldn’t be able to ride it for awhile. But she was the right bike at the right price and I knew my setback was temporary.
While throttle-deprived, I did continue to learn what I could and refine my needs for getting started so I’d be ready to hit it once I was cleared to ride again. And that time has come.
So now that I’m back on two wheels… and barring any more major setbacks, hopefully you will see me grow as a motorcycle adventurer over the next couple of years. Riding is amazing. It is not an overstatement to say that it has proven to be the single-most challenging, exhilarating, intimidating, and rewarding experience in my life aside from becoming a parent.
And in the spirit of embracing new paths, I’ll leave you with this little quote that’s been floating around Facebook lately.
Don’t live the same year 75 times and call that a life.
Adventure on, my friends. Cheers!