Taking flight on Dragonmouse
Never try to race an old geezer, he may have one more gear than you.
Last week, I bought a 2012 Can-Am Spyder RS-S SE5. It’s a gorgeous metallic green, brand new, 54 miles, three year limited warranty, 998cc of roaring power, semi-automatic transmission, ABS and VSS (stabilizing technology). Why this little beauty had not sold in three years, I do not know. In fact, around here, you can’t get a used Can-Am for the $11K I paid for her (original price was $20K) (in the interest of absolute honesty, the prices were quoted as $19,999 and $10,999 respectively but geez, retailers, disingenuous much? I hope we aren’t actually that stupid). I named her Dragonmouse, but she’s given herself the nickname of Snort, because she snorts, sharply, twice, as she downshifts.
I had originally wanted a Piaggio MP3 500cc scooter (http://www.piaggio.com/piaggio/INT/en/MP3.html#main ), but while it was half the price, and is nominally a three-wheeler, those front two wheels were only stable when the scooter was stopped. It’s a gorgeous, ingenious machine, but it’s for better riders than I will be. It’s functionally a two-wheeler when in motion and it tried quite diligently to kill me. Besides, I’m a foot too short for it. I could barely get into it and my feet wouldn’t touch the ground when I was sitting on it.
I had to drive over 100 miles to buy the Spyder and I was so not ready to ride her back, so the lovely place that sold her to me (Lifestyles Honda (http://www.lifestyleshonda.com/) in Mt. Vernon, Washington) delivered her for a very reasonable $200, straight to my door just last Tuesday. I got up and rode her the very same day. It’s been a gradual process to get acquainted over this last week, but we’re getting there and I have a two-day trike class also about 100 miles away) that will see me with my trike endorsement by the time I’m done.
Today, on our one-week anniversary, I took Dragonmouse (now also nicknamed Snort for the noises she makes when she downshifts automatically)) for a pretty decent spin. It’s the last clear weather before two days of rain — if I hadn’t been a weather watcher before, I sure am now! Only real experts or the desperate should ride in the rain. I am as much of a newb as humanly possible without actually being unable to drive a car as well, so no. No rain riding for me.
I bought her an all-weather cover when I thought I might be able to put her into the chicken barn and I wanted to avoid swallow poo, but a housemate is using that space to prevent his convertible drowning in the pouring nine month rainstorm that is Washington State from September to June. So she’s outside by our 5th wheel, carefully tucked into that cover. Just off work, I drive up, park the Versa, change into the boots I keep in the car and walk over to the well-graveled parking space by the 5th wheel. I take off the cover, stick the key in the ignition and turn it to the left to open the front trunk, which is a surprisingly generous little cargo space — enough for a small load of groceries if you don’t exceed about 35 lbs of it — not a problem. I have jacket, gloves and helmet in there — fits perfectly.
I probably do look pretty freaking cool as I put them on. I’m an expert after 7 whole days of ownership, right? I’m a Nana, I’m an old fart (60 in October), and I ride one of the coolest (and most stable) trikes ever. Dang, I rock!
Then I climb on. I step up on the left footpeg — it’s not going to fall over. For one thing, I don’t weight that much any more and for another thing, it’s just that stable. Sometimes I can swing over — sometimes I rest a knee on the seat until I get shifted over and then I’m seated. It takes a moment for my hips to adjust to the new position. It’s a wide seat, but after I relax, my body and the seat kind of negotiate until I’m comfortable. Turn the key to the right and VROOM!!!
It takes a combination of buttons to get her into reverse, but she backs up just fine. And then, into first and down the driveway we go. A turn signal, a gentle stop, and then to the right down our 40 mph back road. I shift from first to second at 21 mph, from second to third at 25 mph. Back to first to make the sharp curve and then, for me at least, I’m flying. First gear, second gear at 28 mph, then third at 31 mph, and then, today, for the first time ever — fourth gear and I’m doing 36, 37, 39 and for a few brief, exhilerating, terrifying but wonderful moments, I’m going 40 mph. Trust me, you feel as if you are going twice that fast. The wind that blasts up into the helmet’s face shield — my window to the world — clears the light steam the accumulates when I’m stopped and blows my wisps of hair maddeningly all over the place. I think I need a thin hood to tame it that won’t be too heavy under the helmet. I soar down the road, feeling the bike pulled this way and that by the unevenness of the pavement, feeling inertia pulling at me, but we’re faster and stronger than that, Dragonmouse and I.
We roar down the road until we come to the crossroad where I turn around — I’m not ready for the 50 mph that traffic on the main thoroughfare ahead would expect, but this time, I’m not ready to stop entirely. When I get back to our driveway, I turn and do it all again and when I get back to the driveway again, I’m still not ready, so I gird myself, take a deep breath and up the road I go, turning onto Littlerock Road where the speed limit is only 35 and will reduce to a stately 25. It’s real traffic in comparison to our road, but I have faith in Dragonmouse and I have faith in me, too.
We turn the corner into the real world. It’s a quiet corner of the it, but it’s the real world, nonetheless. I ride down that road like a boss, shifting up and down, taking the corner, passing the Littlerock Grocery, then down to narrow, winding LaFrance, taking a right, negotiating the sharp turns, passing a truck and on until I get to the stop sign and still I am not ready. I go left instead of right and do it all one more time — but when I turn, I realize I’m really tired. This has been a big deal. I’ve gone faster than I ever have. I’ve ridden longer than I ever have. I’ve dared to travel a real thoroughfare. I’m not a wooden puppet anymore. I’m very nearly real.
We turn into the driveway and trundle down to her nesting spot, passing my housemate who gives us a huge grin and a thumbs up. I sit for a moment, sore because it takes real muscle to do this, tired, but happy. In fact, I cannot even tell you how happy I am. It may be a tiny, even ordinary adventure, but it’s my adventure — I who have no adventures — and it’s just the beginning.