On the Road Again

From Hope Wed Oct 10 07:56:01 2001
Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2001 09:46:24 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: On the road again...

Yesterday was beautiful - 65 degrees and mostly sunny, and in Michigan in mid-October that's positively balmy. I rushed home from work, geared up, and headed off to the bike. Stopped by an *incredibly* slow McD's on the way there to grab something small since I wouldn't be eating til later, and cursed to myself while waiting the 15 minutes or so to get my food, then zipped over to Corsa to see the bike.

I'd struggled briefly with the saddlebags the day before (the seat didn't want to fit on top of them), but had given up since riding was more important to me than having a place to stash stuff. Today I gave it a little more of a try, and found that if I pressed down hard enough on the seat (basically resting my chest on it) I could get the bolts screwed in. Briefly popped in to say hi to Erik & Dave, and get recommendations for calmer places to drive, it being rush hour and all. I wasn't sure I wanted to leave the subdivision, but just in case...

I did several tours around the subdivision, and some riding around in the parking lot. At one point someone was following me, and I wound up basically not thinking and found myself out on one of the larger streets, Liberty. But no matter; I managed to get back into the subdivision in short order, without significant trauma. ;) After some more laps around the subdivision, working on the sharper turns, esp. right-hand ones, and braking, I decided to hit the high road.

The subdivision opens up onto Liberty, which heads west out of Ann Arbor, and it loses some of the pent-up rush hour traffic pretty fast. It was a good, familiar road - one of the things I was very insistent on at this stage was that I stay on roads with which I am *very* familiar - I didn't want any surprises.

Liberty's pretty, with some nice, mild, sweeping curves - nothing too exciting, but enough for me to enjoy and start to get the feel back for leaning. After a mile or so, the speed limit changes, and I glance down at the speedometer - 20 mph? I *know* I'm not going 20, even though a sedan had just started tailing me. I open her up - ahh, what a wonderful feeling - and decide that I'll pull over into a side lot once I get to Zeeb.

I have to mention that she's been riding extremely smoothly - I guess I'd assumed that after all she'd been through that I'd notice things weren't quite right, that the performance wouldn't be as good, or something.... but no, she feels excellent, and my comfort level is increasing. Not by leaps and bounds - I'm *much* more cautious, and not trying to press my limits - but gradually I'm feeling more confident.

I head north on Zeeb - glad to have the sun no longer in my eyes - and find a not-too-gravelly side lot to pull into so I can check out the speedo cable. I discover that having the toolbox on the left side of the bike was perhaps not the brightest idea, as the tools start to slide out once the toolcase cover is removed. I fiddle with the pot-metal wrench on the cable, and it isn't going anywhere. I make the decision that perhaps this is even a good thing, as I tend to want to spend too much time looking at the controls, anyway. I make a mental note to be extra careful when encountering those marked speedlimit corners, though; I've been erring on the side of caution, though, and this feels OK. I set back out on the road, and exchange waves with a guy on a sport bike, and another guy on a dual sport (somehow I feel like a different species...).

Zeeb shoots over I-94, and then rapidly becomes more of a country road. I head east on Dexter (I'm basically doing a large square around the west end of Ann Arbor), and see the deer-leaping sign. Oh shit, I think, and it's prime time for deer, just a little before dusk. I go into mental high-alert mode.

Something I should also mention is that what I think is the hardest, and also the most important - getting back/developing the mental skills for riding, the constant-awareness thing. That's one of the things that I really envy Katherine for, since it comes easier to her (after years and years of practice) - but something that I'll keep working at. When I'm in a cage, I can almost feel my brain slipping into autopilot; I turn on the music to distract myself, sing along, plan my day, muse over events in the past - I'm not really *there*. Riding, I couldn't *imagine* listening to music, and although there's pieces of thought flying here and there, it's on a much lower level, and my attention is more focused. It's almost meditative, in a way - seeking total awareness, being-in-the-moment.

Luckily, I don't encounter any deer, just a nice, country road without much traffic - perfect. I discover that it's still going to take me a while to figure out how to gauge traffic lights - I always assume a green will be yellow before I get there, and even though a friend taught me how to gauge according to the walk signals, it doesn't always work. Dexter hits Jackson, and then Seventh, and as I head back towards Liberty, I decide to pay a visit to some riding friends who live on Seventh. Pulling into the driveway which is covered with leaves, I have a moment of panic, but just go slow and find that I don't slip. Unfortunately, nobody's home.

I'm feeling a little tired, so I head west again on Liberty, and dip into the subdivision, coasting into Corsa's driveway. I'm finding that I'm not even too worried about the hills getting into and out of the alley/parking lot that they're located behind, and that makes me happy. I park next to my car, and decide I'll go inside and hang out for a while, until a little later, when folks will gather at a local pseudo-Mexican restaurant.

Good thing I decided to quit when I did; within about 45 minutes, I get that exhausted, 'been kicked in the chest repeatedly by an angry horse' feeling, and what had been just a tightness in the back of my throat morphs into the beginnings of a sore throat. I'm tempted to get on the bike to ride the mile or so to the restaurant, but I think better of it; I now have a very good reminder of the follies of riding while too tired. When I go to put the bike up on the center stand for the evening, this is reinforced; I'm almost too weak to put it on the center stand.

A good night's ride, though. Just beautiful. And even if I'm getting sick, well, the weather's supposed to be crappy and rainy for the next 4 or so days, so I don't mind. ;)

Oh - the bit about the handlebars? I think I've got it figured out. The handlebars I have now came from my friend Ken's bike - the one we *thought* was an '84 VT500C. Well, it wasn't until later on, when we were dealing with other parts of it, that we discovered that it was an '84 VF500C (Magna). I checked powersportspro.com's parts fish, and indeed, those handlebars are a different part number, so probably are slightly different. I'm finding that I can deal with them by sitting a little farther back in the seat, though, and that's fine.

And with that, I think I'm going to go collapse. ;)

- a very happy, though sick, Hope


'83 Honda Shadow VT500C

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