Captain, Ride Captain

When I took the motorcycle safety course, a friend from work noticed the workbook on my desk that Friday. I was reviewing it and thinking about how its contents compared to the online eCourse. Anyway, he was very interested that I was taking this course with my daughter. He asked if we would like to go riding once we passed the course and got the big “M” on the license. Only one answer: YES! Incidentally, the first day of actual riding portion concluded with the start of Bike Week in Savannah (March 1, 2020) and Jim and Terri just could not pass up the chance to see what a bear of a man looks like riding a 500cc motorcycle. Let’s just say, if that bike could have talked, it would not have been very nice… (pictures on FaceBook at “Riding Academy 236” held at Harley Davidson of Savannah). Trust me, you’ll understand when you see it…

Fast forward to the planned day of our ride, today! We met at Love’s gas station on Hwy 144 and I-95 at 9am. After a rousing Micky D’s breakfast, Jim, as today’s Ride Captain of a group of two, gave a quick safety brief which included asking about tire pressures and oil checks. These are the thing that are probably overlooked by the majority of the “too anxious to ride” group and which can cause huge headaches later in the way of unexpected maintenance costs. He also explained about group riding, positioning, hand signals, and stopping at lights and stop signs. Just because another driver waves you on at a four-way stop does not mean you get credit for “stopping” at that sign. So, with those thought in mind, we ride.

We took off and at the first stop light as I pull up next to him, he asks me about gloves. In my haste to “get going”, I failed to put them on. I know, ATGATT! I owe you one Bruce. We pulled over and I corrected the problem. Again, we ride! Traffic was very light for a Saturday morning as we begin and the lights were kind as we were able to roll right on through several. Everything was going well as we left the confines of suburbia and transitioned into the rural of coastal Georgia.

If you’ve been around the low-lying swampy areas when the time is out, your nostrils experience a rather unpleasant olfactory assault. However, with freshness of the morning, I breathed in some of the cleanest air that trees have ever produced! Now that is wind therapy at its finest! I’ve driven bits and pieces of this road for years, but have NEVER gone as long and as serenely as I rode this morning. It was just simple amazing!  For those who don’t know, Hwy 17 along the coast of Georgia twists back and forth with I-95. As I passed one of those many cross-overs, all I could think was, “Suckers!! You don’t know what you’re missing!” Sadly, I have to think back on that and realize that that was me, before the bike, so I will humbly reflect and offer up my thanks. Maybe some of those zipping by on the Interstate will eventually shed the extra wheels and sheet metal to find the bliss I had just experienced.

Remember what I said about stopping as a group? Yep. We now come to that lonely little four-way stop, in the middle of nowhere. I did just as I had been told, pulled up next to the Ride Captain, and came to a complete stop with both feet on the ground. There are two rules I would like to revisit here: 1) Keep your head and eyes up and always looking where you are going (the bike will follow), and 2) Stay out of your own mind! As I was pulling up to the right side of the ride captain, I was thinking, “Don’t stall, don’t fall.” Our turn to go and what do I do? I stall. Crap! At least I didn’t fall.

 Our halfway point for today’s trip was the Harley Davidson of Brunswick (Golden Isles). Not as big as the Savannah store, but just as friendly and interesting. I saw several other riders and some even towing trailers. Needless to say, motorcycles are an extension of the rider, just like tattoos. I suppose I am no exception. Like I said in the last posting, I chose a used 2013 Yamaha V Star 1300 because it had everything I wanted: throttle, brakes, clutch, turn signals, and bags. Three items I did not mention were the rocker shifter, boards instead of pegs, and highway bars. The rocker shifter allows you to up-shift by pressing down with your heal, just like pressing down with your toes to down-shift. Once I started using the heal shift (actually from day one), I would occasionally shift with the toe just to make sure I was making the right decision. Yeah. I am. As for the highway bars, I was informed by my ride captain that they are there to protect the engine in case of a fall, not to prop your feet on (although there are pegs on the bars for that purpose).

Remember what I said about traffic being light for a Saturday? Well, we found out why! As we made our westerly turn towards Jesup, it turns out that Hwy 25 is nothing more than one yard sale after another, and on both sides of the road! Guess we found the traffic. If watching out for cars wasn’t enough, people walking across a state highway like it was the parking lot at Wal-Mart was just insane! Thank God they didn’t have any buggies (ok, shopping carts for you in the north). I guess the local dollar stores took a hit in their profit margins today. They wouldn’t have had what these people were looking for anyway. I wouldn’t even try to venture a guess on the one. But, being in the south, the one phrase that covers it all: Bless their hearts.

Riding through, or more accurately, around Jesup heading back home is a leg I ridden before. And here again, it, along with the rest of today’s trip, was just as enjoyable and relaxing as anything I’ve ever done before, such as riding to and from work this week, even with the traffic and heart-blessing. The biggest difference is that riding to and from work is nickel and dime mileage; you gotta work for it. But, getting out and riding 100 plus miles on a Saturday, group or no group, is, well…. Who am I kidding, it’s ALL therapy!

Update: Just after I wrote this (and before posting) I checked the mail. Well y’all, it’s official! I just the actual license with the “CM” on it. Needless to say, that wind-grin just got a whole lot bigger!

Ride Happy!

Jeff Allmond

March 14, 2020

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