• scootering,  travel

    Annabelle Lee

     

    I forgot through the long winter how good it is to be driving a scooter on a warm day.  You become painfully aware of how much there is in the world to be smelled, tasted, listened to, looked at, touched, and comprehended before you die–a lifetime in every blink of the eye–and you find yourself twisting the throttle until she surges under you like a river, wanting to get to it all, all at once.  You begin to fear death on the prettiest days.

    — Peter S. Beagle, I See By My Outfit

    I have been separated this week from my new scooter, a gorgeous blue Vespa GTS 300 named Annabelle Lee.  I found last night that I am not bearing this separation as well as I might; my dreams were about fitting my new helmet on and going for rides on long winding country highway roads.  This is probably because this week I am finding myself surrounded by winding country highway roads, as I’m away in the countryside of Maine.

    It is a beautiful place and a vacation that has been long overdue for me.  My last vacation was our wedding, which was an amazing time, but not precisely restful and nearly a year ago.  And the last few weeks have been extremely busy, between getting my motorcycle license and making my acquaintance with Annabelle Lee, my business trip to L.A. and my brother’s graduation from high school on Friday.  I have not had much time to breathe, except for the moments I’ve stolen to work on becoming a better scooter rider.  It’s no small wonder then that my moments on my scooter have been joyous and filled with an enormous sense of freedom.  There is something about driving a scooter that turns the entire world into a giant adventure.  I’m discovering things about roads that I’ve traveled hundreds of times before, because I’m learning how to navigate them in an entirely new way.  I’m becoming much more intimate with the details because they matter so much more than do they in a car.  There’s a bump here, a curve there, a turn that I have to press the handlebars this way for.  And the air, the amount of air that flows in your face and over your body, creates a sense of exhilaration that I have never experienced in a car.

    To get through my week of separation, I am using my relaxation time to read I See By My Outfit, by Peter S. Beagle.  It’s a beautifully written account of two identically bearded friends who traveled from New York to San Francisco on scooters in the sixties, stopping in cities and towns along the way to play a little guitar and talk to people.  He’s probably more well-known for his book The Last Unicorn and I find that I am really enjoying the added dimension of scooter-rider to my idea of fantasy novelist.  The writing is beautiful and every once in a while, you come across a passage that describes that indescribable thing; that feeling that makes you want to grab every stranger you see and get them on a scooter so that they can be as in love with the world as you are.

     

  • scootering

    Item Number 32, Check.

    I spent the weekend sweaty and dirty and exhausted, which is not a bad way to spend your time. On Friday, I drove out to the middle of nowhere Long Island in order to go to a three day basic skills class taught by the Big Apple Motorcycle School. It’s something that I’ve been talking about for years, but now that my car is being monopolized by a teenager, the issue has been coming to a head. There have been times when I’ve wanted to go somewhere and been stuck in the house because all of the cars are gone, which is something that I am too old for.

    But at the same time, I take a train to work, which means that I drive less than a thousand miles a year. Taking on the expense of a car doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially given the huge expense of insurance in this area. Insuring a scooter is about $50 a year and it would get me where I need to go when the cars aren’t available, which is mostly in the summer anyway. I think it’s the perfect solution.

    The original problem, of course, was that I’d never driven one and didn’t have a license to do so. One of the big perks of the basic skills class is that New York State will recognize the test they give you at the end as an official road test. The entire class is geared towards building the skills that you’re going to need for the test, so if you’re paying attention and picking up the skills fairly well as they’re being taught, you’re pretty likely to pass the test and get the paperwork you need to get your license, even if you have absolutely no prior experience, like myself. That’s actually sort of a scary thought, but the premise is that you already have your driver’s license and quite a lot of experience in a car, so you’re just translating your skills. That mostly works. Stopping a motorcycle can be “fun”, because it actually requires two hands and two feet to do it fully for the DMV’s purposes. (Guess where I lost points on the test.) But the instructors were really great and very helpful. And I met some women that really love their bikes, which inspires me.

    I passed. By the skin of my teeth, but I passed. (I am now just a little bit more like my mother.)

    I am returning to work this morning exhausted and sore, but awfully proud of myself. The next step is to figure out what I’d like in a bike or a scooter and then bring that home. The next few weeks are packed full, so there’s little chance of actually managing to purchase something, which gives me plenty of time to research and window shop. I admit that I feel a certain pressure to hurry up and get back on a bike before I forget everything that I learned, so now I need to make that happen.

    Even my wrists and fingers hurt, but it was totally worth it. One more thing has been crossed off the list of things that I need to do before I die. On to the next one.

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