An Off-Road Entrance Exam

I was apprehensive. In nearly two years of riding - six-months of which I spent bike-free in Los Angeles - I (shamefully?) never slid through gravel or trek up a steep, narrow, dusty dirt trail. So I hope there’s an understanding why, upon hearing the game plan for the weekend, my sphincter wound up tighter than a nun in church. Unbeknownst to my comrades of course... You can’t show fear or you don’t get invited to the fun!

The first day, as recorded in my last entry, was slippery and hot and left me bruised and exhilarated. Grass covered fields pose their own difficulties, but none that shake me all that much. Little did I know, day two turned out to be a long, sun-beaten drive with endless corkscrews and pop-up straightaways that brought me from 20 to 65 miles-per-hour. The latter occurring more when I’d try to catch up. It was beautiful, it was challenging (enough), it was quick, but still, it was paved.

The third day. This was the day I’d been waiting for. All the other days leading up were just preliminary. This was the day my boyfriend would either confirm his endless confidence in me, or develop in him a silent anxiety about the 120 pound weight he’d be carrying if I “crashed and burned,” so-to-speak. But riding gravel and eventually riding soft packed dirt wasn’t what I expected!

Blinded by dust almost a solid two-thirds of my excursion up a rocky forest service road, my confidence grew every time I successfully maneuvered around a blind, rutted, loose (always loose!) corner - albeit under 30 mph. It swelled further as I trudged on past the speeding pick-up trucks hauling precariously loaded items (riding lawn mower?) without skipping a beat. I sped up and slowed down. Almost lost the back end a few times. The further we went, the more empowered and the bigger my smile. It felt out of control but I always felt in control. Odd feeling, I’ll say. But good. Really fucking good.

Skipping forward to our last all-terrain lap through my friend's (and volunteer instructor) property, we hit windy pavement to loose gravel to two-track dirt ‘n’ grass all the way to, what seemed to me, like a one-track, dusty, washy, bonafide dirt-bike trail. The rear of my bike bucked and slid and pretty much did whatever the shit it wanted. Yet I still felt collected... ALERT, but collected. I leaned forward. I pulled back. I stood - occasionally - and bounced... and fucking rocked it! Or at the very least I didn’t spill my bike over a cliff. I consider that a win in-and-of-itself.

My heart felt huge and I was nervous but not like the sweaty-palms, agitated, uncoordinated kind of nervous. More like the eerily calm, super sharp and calculated kind of nervous. As if knowing the impending danger gave me two options: becoming frigid, losing my nerve and ignoring my gut, or shrugging my shoulders, taking a deep breath and “gunning it” till I reach the gravel road. I chose not to be a “pussy.” It worked in my favor.

It felt good to know, no matter how many vehicles cruised past or rocks were kicked into my helmet, no matter how steep or slippery or cluttered with branches, I held my composure. That’s the real test. I’m told that it’s inevitable you’ll drop your bike or clip something or crash or even slide down a steep hill. Riding motorcycles means making mistakes, taking risks, encountering an endless number of problems and lifting the (goddamn) bike up a hundred times - if you’re lucky!

But if you can maintain your composure then you can get up, dust yourself off, get back on your bike and just try and wipe that smirk of your face. You, the Victor, who rides on the edge of the earth winking at death then laughing with your head tilted back. You’ve won - yet again! You got back up and gave no fucks. And you’ll keep getting up till you just can’t get up anymore. ‘Cuz that’s what you do when you love something... or you’re stupid. We could all just be really stupid. Fuck it.

This post comes courtesy of Kyra Sacdalan.

Photos come courtesy of coolisacolor.

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