Chuck Norris counted to infinity, twice. Chuck Norris can pick oranges from an apple tree, and make the best lemonade. Chuck Norris built the hospital he was born in.
Well, Chuck Norris – you may have met your match! At least, that’s how it felt. And, I am going to do my best to capture in words, how amazing two days of riding was. I won’t do it justice, but I will do my absolute best to illustrate this for you.
First off, I must be vulnerable with you. I have lists. I have lists on post-it notes, in my head, in my planner, on my fridge – about anywhere you can imagine. While some of these lists are your typical paraphernalia of groceries, house projects, and workout ideas – there is one list that may seem silly to some. It’s my riding list. Not of what I need to load in my bags to make sure I have what I need when I ride, but what I want to accomplish, as a rider.
So, after crossing off practicing and gaining confidence in turns – it was time to think of the next few things I wanted to accomplish. I say “accomplish” because these might be small, barely-noteworthy items for some – but they are giant milestones for me. These are steps I know I need to take to continue to build confidence in riding anywhere in any condition. And, they begin with a desired end result.
My next desired destination? Bondurant. Why? Well, it should go without mentioning that they have an amazing patio at Founders and Strongbow flows on tap. Elisha, if that’s what you want, just get on your bike and get there! Wrong. I wasn’t ready yet. When you turn off 163, Westbound, there are two sharp-to-me turns before getting to Mitchellville. And, I let them shake me. I haven’t taken these two turns as a rider, only a passenger. But, I began to envision them as the sharpest turns on a highway, with meet-your-death ditches on both sides. And, they began to shake me.
My list was:
- Ride more on the highway, starting with straight roads and few turns to each destination. So, I mapped out rides to Newton, Knoxville and Colfax.
- Ride more turns, on the highway. I envisioned taking G28 from 14 South, by Lake Red Rock.
- Ride in windy conditions, to make sure I am ready for gusts at any moment.
- Then, when I trust in my abilities, get to Bondurant and conquer those two turns.
- Highway 163. This is a 65 miles per hour zone with four lanes.
- Riding at night.
I imagined I would conquer that someday, and do a few more rides on straighter paths to Colfax, Newton, and Knoxville. I believed that all of that would give me the gull to ride to Bondurant, through Mitchellville. This resulted in a mental goal of riding to Bondurant by the end of June.
There are times I don’t give myself enough credit for my abilities – especially when it comes to riding. But, it isn’t about being insecure and feeling incapable. It is about due respect. I respect the power of the beast I am on. I don’t fear its power; I respect its power. I understand how dangerous riding can be. I understand that I can be a seasoned rider, but one distracted driver could bring me to instantaneous death. I want to give the bike its due respect by making sure I am alert, focused, and prepared to handle her in even unthinkable situations.
Thursday evening – I wanted to ride. I hadn’t rode since Sunday and that was years for someone who hopelessly allowed herself to be bit by the riding bug. At first, I thought of an easy and straight path to Colfax, from Monroe. But, that wasn’t what I truly wanted to do. I wanted to go by Lake Red Rock. I wanted to have timber on my left and right, a beautiful lake to the right of me, and the scents you take in as you ride that can only be described as freeing. I wanted to be reminiscent of the first day I took my FatBoy beyond my driveway. I wanted to feel that liberating feeling, where I think to myself, “I’m doing this! I am riding on my own! I am not limited by having to rely on anyone! I am happy and free!”
The ride from Pella to Monroe was a success. I handled the turns, smoothly. I countered the crosswind across Roberts Creek. I rode into the town center where my eyes had to be everywhere – are any of these hundreds of angle-parked cars going to rush out in reverse and not see me? Are there any pedestrians running across the street without looking both ways? Is the vehicle in front of me going to come to an immediate halt? So, yeah – I did all of that too.
And… I. Felt. Awesome!
Many times, I arrived in Pella on the back of a bike, taking that same path. And, on the way home, I was often ready to get home, and opted for us to take the quick path of Highway 163. While, I was ready to get home, I wasn’t ready for a four-lane highway at 65 miles per hour. So, I returned the same way I arrived. But, it had its new challenges to conquer – the sun had set and the wind picked up. Riding at night with wind?! I had to mentally prepare to do this, for the first time.
When I turned into my driveway, pulled in the clutch, and coasted into my garage – I contained myself until I knew the bike was in neutral, off, and steady on the kickstand. Then, I could contain the excitement no longer. I started shouting in excitement, “I rode in the dark! I handled the wind! I watched for everything, and still had time to enjoy the entire experience! I can’t believe it – I am so much closer to Bondurant!”
I took the day off from work, Friday, in hopes of riding. However, meteorologists played that maddening game on the forecast. You know – where they give you 45% chance of rain for every hour-interval of the day? Knowing I hadn’t rode in rainy conditions – I decided riding on Friday may be replaced with chores and yardwork. Around 12p, we decided the clouds may not break way for the sun, but I needed to ride and hoped the rain wouldn’t come.
It was only 64-degrees, so we bundled up and made our way to Runnells on F70. We turned North toward 163, and I asked for a break when we crossed the four lanes. This was it. I was approaching the two turns I feared. So, we took a break, I shook it off, and accepted a much needed motivational speech. My adrenalin was in full-force, I assumed, because I was sweating in 64-degree weather. So, I removed my gloves. Then, it was time to ride on.
As I approached the turn, I chanted in my head, “You’ve got this. You know how to handle turns, and you know how to stop in a pinch. You’ve got this, Elisha!” Yes, I talk to myself. Just like that. Again – I am not going to sell you on the bad@$$ biker image – I’m going to shoot you straight!
Then, it happened. Turn one: yeah, I handled it like a champ! I had about 15 seconds to take a deep breath, smile as Steve gave me a huge thumbs-up ahead of me, and get ready for the left turn. Right turns feel a bit more natural to me, but left turns feel like they require a bit more work to keep them smooth and tight. Well, you couldn’t tell – I handled that one too! For a second, I wanted to let go of the handlebars, jump up and down, and scream with excitement! Of course, I didn’t.
After cruising through Mitchellville, it wasn’t long until we were on one of the best roads I’ve been on, taking you straight to Bondurant. I was counting down to parking, so I could let out the excitement that I had to contain in order to focus on safe riding. After pulling into Founders, I parked the bike, and made sure I calmly put the kickstand down to ensure the bike was steady before I did a celebration dance. I believe my cheek muscles really got a workout that day from my ear-to-ear grin!
Next up: rain. Wait. That isn’t on my list. I don’t want to ride in the rain or on wet terrain. I was a passenger in rain, I was a passenger in an awful storm where I froze to my bones, couldn’t see but a foot in front of me, at 35 miles per hour for 48 miles, and my chaps were soggy for days. I don’t want to do that again – especially as a beginner. But, I wasn’t going to call Mama to come pick me up – I will save that punch card for another day. So, we had to wait it out – which worked out because I love Reclaimed Rails…and they had cards to play while you wait.
The rain finally gave way, and the roads looked pretty dry. I was ready to head home and relax. So, I said it, “I want to take 163 home.” “Are you sure?” I quickly insisted. “Okay – take your time, you’re going to do great!” So, we were off. Back through those two turns, to handle like a champ again! Then, it was time to get on 163 – and I needed to be sure to accelerate smoothly and quickly. With other traffic moving so quickly, it can be dangerous to accelerate slowly.
I pull out in first gear and am into second in a couple seconds. Then, I listen for the RPMs and know it’s time to quickly shift to third. I listen again – fourth. I continue – fifth. I am at 65 miles per hour. Another first off the list! The entire time from the Mitchellville/Runnels turnoff to Monroe – I was singing in my head. It was much like the opera woman with the metal hat with bull horns. I was belting out excitement in my head. And, as I approached a truck moving slower than the pace of traffic, this would be my first time passing a vehicle. I check my blind spot, signal, check again, and slide to the left lane. When I was safely past the truck and back to the right lane, I did something I am a little embarrassed to admit. But, no holds barred here. I sang like that same opera woman I just described – but out loud, “I’m do-ing this! I’m f%ck-ing do-ing this!”
I debated taking a break on the shoulder to get off, run around in circles, scream, and dance. But, I was only a few minutes from home, so I contained myself – BARELY. I parked in the driveway, made sure the bike was steady, and didn’t even get my helmet off before I was jumping up and down and shouting with tears of excitement. I experienced so many firsts in 48 hours, that I hadn’t imagined doing so soon –and so smoothly. It happened! Oh. My. Gosh. IT HAPPENED!
I felt like nothing was impossible. I was ready to invite any MMA fighter to take a swing at me. I was ready to climb Everest, twice. I was ready to roundhouse kick the first person to mean mug me, for whatever reason. So, Chuck Norris…eat your heart out.
If you’re reading this and happen to be an MMA fighter…please note that the adrenalin wore off and I am not looking to challenge anyone to a fight. I also am in no rush to climb Mount Everest. That is, until my next riding list gets more items checked off…
May your ride be smooth, and your drinks stiff! Cheers!