It’s Never too Late to Dream: Part 4

Nov 12, 2012 View Comments by

Torri had progressed to the point where she could ride to our practice lot on her own, while I rode my bike behind her. She affixed a “Student Rider” sign to her topcase to serve notice to all to steer clear for the time being. After a few weeks of practice, we were kicked out of the first parking lot by a security guard who obviously didn’t understand how well-suited it was for motorcycling. So, we transitioned to the parking lot of the local middle school. I dutifully set up the practice cones once again, but this time in a square configuration in order to practice U-turns. After demonstrating how to complete a U-turn, the key element being “look where you want to go,” it was Torri’s turn.

Starting very tentatively, she made it halfway around before dropping the bike. We righted it, I told her what she had done wrong, and she began again. And dropped it again. I repeated my advice. This time, she didn’t drop it, but she’d have needed a street as wide as the New Jersey Turnpike to complete her U-turn. She tried again, and once more ended up in some faraway land. So I called her back to the starting point and explained how she could do better. All of a sudden, her bottom lip began to quiver. I was aghast. “Are you crying?” I asked in a rather accusatory tone. And with apologies to Tom Hanks, I then exclaimed, “You can’t cry. There’s no crying in motorcycling!”

We both took ten minutes to recompose, and then resumed practice. Eventually, her U-turns began to look something like what she’d need to do to pass her test. Her cone swerves were looking much better too. We ended the day’s practice on a positive note. Expecting to ride back to her house after practice, Torri was speechless when I said; let’s go for a ride. So, with me leading the way, she ventured out into the great beyond. Staying on mostly local streets and secondary roads, we meandered for about 20 miles. About halfway through the ride, I pulled into an empty lot, she followed me in, we both cut off our engines, and there it was! The famous Torri smile—a mile wide! She was really riding a motorcycle now! Whodathunkit? And Torri’s smile made me smile, just like it always does.

After that day, things progressed quickly. Her cone weaves continued to improve. Her balance got better. And even the U-turns slowly started to come, the number of successful turns catching up to the number of dings her bike incurred during her pursuit of the perfect U-turn. And we were riding more. After practice we would ride. Sometimes we’d head out into the country for an hour or two, sometimes just around the neighborhood—but we would ride. More and more, her confidence grew. Even her daughter wasn’t fretting quite as much when Mom headed out on her Reflex.

With a very mild winter last year, Torri got plenty of practice in the months of January through March, in preparation for her riding test in April that would secure her license. The morning of her test, I rode over to her house and escorted her to the local MVA. She was nervous. I was nervous for her. We sat together for about 20 minutes until they called her name. The tester verified that I had a valid license, and then off they went to the course. I waited in anxious anticipation. Less than 10 minutes later, they returned, and she didn’t look happy. “What happened?” I asked. She was too upset to even speak. The tester told me she had put both feet down during the U-turn, which meant automatic failure. That dastardly U-turn had done her in again!

I rode back with her to her home, then headed to work. I waited for her call, figuring correctly that when she was ready, she’d talk. It took several hours. When she finally called me, she expressed heartbreaking disappointment, but also a renewed determination and boundless optimism that she’d pass the next test. I believed in her. When she puts her mind to something, it happens.

So more practice sessions ensued. There were many more configurations of cones. And many more rides, venturing farther and farther out. She began riding with one of my riding groups, and took numerous rides of 200 miles or more in a day. She encountered rain, wind, and summertime heat—all the things we motorcyclists deal with regularly. She persevered, and she kept improving.

As the memory of the failed test faded, her enjoyment grew. She may have faltered once, but it wasn’t going to happen again. And as she logged more miles, she logged twice as many smiles.

Be sure to check back on Monday November 19 for the final installment of how Torri learns to ride!

Text and Photography: Cliff Brownstein

Missed the beginning? Catch up here:
It’s Never too Late to Dream: Part 1
It’s Never too Late to Dream: Part 2
It’s Never too Late to Dream: Part 3

Cliff Brownstein has been an avid motorcyclist since 1999 and currently rides a Suzuki Boulevard c50t cruiser, which he’s nicknamed SkyByk. When he’s not out on the open road, he serves as Executive Director for a national not-for-profit trade association in the therapeutic field.

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