A rookie no more
In the police world and in the professional sports world, a rookie stays a rookie for about a year. I’m not sure when the rookie status comes to a close in the motorcycling world, but, if a year is the standard, then I am no longer a rookie.
It has been just over a year since I took a motorcycle riders class and earned my motorcycle endorsement on my driver’s license. Since that time I have put some 12,000 miles on my 1999 Harley-Davidson Road King and have made three extended road trips to other states.
My longest trip was to Orlando, Fla., which logged somewhere around 900 miles round trip. My longest time in the saddle was about 10 hours at one time.
I have ridden in the heat, the cold, the wind, and the rain. I got caught unawares on the interstate one trip and spent three hours slogging through a storm that turned out to spawn several tornadoes and scores of lightning blasts. I have never ridden in the snow and ice and, if given the choice, have no intention of doing so.
Hydroplaning on a wet exit ramp was excitement enough.
I have ridden on concrete, asphalt, gravel (not intentionally, but road work was occurring), dry roads, wet roads, smooth roads, and rough roads. I have journeyed down two-lane country roads seeing nary a car for miles and over the interstate highways. I have passed through small towns where people waved and through major metropolitan cities where drivers are two kinds of crazy.
I have found that I have become quite comfortable with my bike, something I never thought would happen in the several weeks after I completed the course.
In some ways, learning to ride a motorcycle is like learning to drive all over again. It’s a totally different machine than a car and, while the rules of the road are basically the same, a motorcycle handles much differently that a car.
One biker friend said to me that “A bike is like a horse ... you don’t drive a horse, you ride it. You allow it to do, under your control, what horses are meant to do — they are created to run.” Perhaps that’s why bikers speak of going for “a ride” and not “a drive.” Motorcycles are created to run.
I find that, given a choice, I’d rather ride than drive. This has resulted in some changes. For 35 years, I never even owned a pair of jeans. The first time I took the bike to church, wearing a suit, the trousers, which contained some synthetic material, melted.
I then tried casual trousers like Dockers but found that, for me, they don’t provide enough protection from the hot pipes of the bike. That is the reason that I now wear jeans nearly everywhere: black jeans for work and church, blue jeans for the more casual days.
And, of course, boots have replaced the wing-tips. There are occasions when I dress up, as in former days, but the preference is now for the alternative.
After a year on the road, I now believe that bikers are among the safest people on the road (there are exceptions) and I believe that most automobile drivers should return to Drivers Ed.
I am almost daily amazed at how dangerous many drivers really are. I suppose that the “cage” surrounding them lulls them into a false sense of security. Not for me.
A fender bender in a car, resulting in an annoyed driver, is a trip to the hospital or the cemetery for a biker.
Still, with all the risks, the rewards are great. Someone asked me if I had any regrets about getting a motorcycle. I do.
I regret that I didn’t get one 40 years ago. Drive safely out there and watch out for motorcycles.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]