All you folks who’ve been hanging out to read more about the Foxy Lady, my apologies for the delay! It’s been over a month since the last Born to be Mild article. In all fairness, not much has happened in the meantime – until last weekend, when a whole heap of stuff happened at once!
And it’s all thanks to two people: Celia and Karl.
Celia Berrell lives in the next town north, about five minutes up the highway; I met her at the Tropical Writers group in Cairns. Celia’s husband works at the mines, so his shifts take him away for weeks at a time – giving Celia plenty of opportunity to dally with me. She saw my last few postings about getting my licence and gave me a ring; we’d queued up a time in minutes.
Celia is a poet and keen motorcyclist. She’s also a great teacher in the basics of two-wheel road skill. She On our rides, she made sure that I was aware of the road around me and taking my time learning the basics. I might have years of road experience, but on each ride Celia has given me a couple of exercises to do to improve my general awareness and balance on the Foxy Lady.
Our first session was left hand turns only, but it wasn’t long before we were taking the stretch of the Bruce Highway between the Caltex and the BP. I remember thinking that the wind-buffeting from passing trucks wasn’t as big a deal as folks made it out to be!
So, then, to Sunday last, when Celia stopped around in the morning to give me some more riding practice. We stretched the run out to the Pyramid Estate; Celia wanted to get me used to taking roundabouts and there are quite a few on the run from Riverstone Road to Draper Road. Good thing, too – on the third run around I managed to scrape the main stand on the road; the resulting wobble was a handy lesson in the limits of scooter stability!
After a couple of trips around, Celia suggested a run down the Gillies Highway, hopefully to meet the bottom end of Dempsey Street – and wound up missing it! It was on this trip, though, that I discovered that the Foxy Lady and 100 kph aren’t great friends – she takes a while to get up to it, even when I have the throttle full open.
We tried finding the way back onto Dempsey Street on the way back up the Gillies, but couldn’t find it (we didn’t realise that Vico Street, the exit we found, connects to Dempsey via Alphen Street). So we just headed back up the highway to home.
Things got even more interesting when we got home – we’d only just pulled in when my stepson Karl arrived in his ute. We told him what he’d been up to, and he then offered to buddy me for a road trip up north later that day! He arrived on his bike a little after six – and we took the Bruce Highway to Cairns, and then the Captain Cook Highway all the way out to Trinity Beach!
It was a fantastic trip. I had a couple of firsts on it; my first taste of night time riding and my first sustained highway run (my previous stretches on the Bruce and Gillies Highways with Celia were only a few kilometres).
But overall, it really made me realise just how much fun taking to the road on two wheels is. There’s a sense of immediacy without those four metal and glass walls around me. I still remember when Karl and I were heading north from home and a big four wheel drive passed me on the outside lane on that 100 kph stretch before the cane train bridge; it wasn’t a shock or a fearful experience, but I was aware of that big lump passing me in a way that I’m just not in the car.
Then there’s steering. It really fells more like a bodyweight thing than just a turn-the-handlebars thing (I sometimes wonder if I’m even moving the handlebars at all half the time.) Maybe it was just he novelty, but the whole experience is just more… active than driving the car.
I also noticed that after some sustained riding, the Lady had less trouble getting to 100 kph than she had before…
An unsurpassed feeling of power and freedom? I dunno, but whatever feeling it is, it feels great!
Karl was willing to keep on going as far as I wanted, but though I found the idea of the road to Port Douglas very tempting – it’s a brilliant stretch with lots of turns and the beaches and sea off to your right (when you’re heading to Port Douglas, of course), I know my riding skill wasn’t up to taking it at night.
Unfortunately, though I had my smartphone with me (and even had it out to call Vickie once we got to Trinity Beach) I completely forgot to take any pictures while we were there. Next time, though, I’ll try and take as many as I can (without pissing my riding buddy off)!
The great bit? After all the riding exercise, I was down to about a quarter of a tank of fuel when Karl and I left home. We found a Shell on Sheridan Street (around one quarter of the whole trip if you’re not familiar with the Cairns region) and I topped off the tank for just over six dollars – and by the time we got home the needle had barely left the full mark.
After that run I can’t wait to start commuting on the Lady – not to mention taking another trip like that one sometime soon…
Project BORN TO BE MILD: Progress Report
So how close am I to becoming a scooter commuter? Let’s have a look at the four sub-projects I spelled out in the original post:
#1: Registering the Foxy Lady – This one I need to get done sometime soon, but it’s still pending the Foxy Lady’s roadworthy, which itself is pending me sorting out one minor issue with her (a result of her first owner dropping her on her side).
#2: Getting licensed to ride – I now have my learner’s licence and have held it for just over a month. Karl told me after our trip to Trinity he’d give me my full in a heartbeat, but the only way to get that any sooner than five months from now is to do a Q-Ride course – and after getting the car serviced and Christmas, I don’t think I have the cash for one.
Besides, we’re in the monsoon season now, and although it’s been (too bloody) dry these last few months, we know the big rains are on their way – which means I’ll be needing the car for the commute.
#3: Insurance – This is the one project I’ve done little about so far. I need to put a call into my car insurer and ask them for a quote to cover the Lady as well.
If that’s one thing the Smartphone has made easier, it’s remembering all the phone calls I need to make. I just need to get my policy details and set an action in Evernote for the call…
#4: Protective gear – Saturday week ago, Vickie and I spotted a photo on a friend’s Facebook profile. Jackie was having a garage sale in preparation for a move south, and one of the items was a DriRider AirMesh 2 riding jacket. For $40 I got a great jacket that fits me fine and, as I discovered the next day, lets enough air through to keep me cool while riding on hot days! It also has plenty of padding in the critical spots.
After buying that, I’m pretty much sorted for protective gear. The only other item of gear I’d be looking at is a pair of riding pants, or at least another pair of jeans.
So, overall, good progress. With any luck, I should be able to get the Lady’s issues sorted, her roadworthy done and her rego transferred soon!
Huge thanks again to Celia and Karl for their time. I can’t wait to head out again!
Are you curious?
Who’s helped you learn a new skill?
Are you keen?
What’s your most recent “I can’t wait to do that again!” experience?