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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

FINALLY!

Myself and Curtis, who also passed.
I passed. Finally, I passed that damned Mod 2 exam and I am now fully licensed to ride a motorcycle in her majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as anywhere else in the European Union (1). I cannot tell you how relieved I am.

To some extent it doesn't quite seem real. I had started to feel that I was just forever going to be trapped in a loop of taking and failing the Mod 2 exam –– a kind of crappy, two-wheeled Groundhog Day that doesn't end with my getting to shag Andie MacDowell. When the examiner told me I'd passed I found myself just sort of looking at him, half thinking: "Well, that doesn't sound right."

But that said, I had a feeling this morning that things would go well. Right before bed last night I was watching "Fast N' Loud" and when I woke up in the morning I decided I would try to channel the cool of Aaron Kaufman.

"That's who I'll be on the bike today," I told myself. "I'll dig down to my Texas roots. I will be cocky/cool about this and I will pass."

And with each step it seemed luck was just a little bit on my side. The T-shirt I randomly pulled from my chest of drawers was the same I happened to be wearing the day I met Colt Cabana (2); it was also the same T-shirt I'd been wearing when I passed my Mod 1 back in March. When I got to the training school, where we meet before riding out to the DSA test centre, I was allocated a different bike. It was still a Honda CBF600 but one that was in far better shape than that which I had always ridden before. Surprise, surprise: a clutch that isn't poop helps to improve your riding.

The day itself was perfect from the start: warm, and sunny enough that I had to wear sunglasses. Within an hour, I was taking off some of the layers I had on and this left me feeling a little more agile on the bike, if that makes sense.

This was a feeling enhanced by the fact that the sunglasses I was wearing were the ones I use when bicycling. Not because they look cool but because they fit right in my helmet. The unexpected side-effect was that now I was seeing everything around me in the same tint as when I cycle to or from work. My commute takes me through busy city streets and I have taught myself to just tackle them with arrogance. Having on the same sunglasses helped put me in that mindset.

The examiner seemed to be in a good mood because of the weather and I managed to get him talking about his personal motorcycle as I put on my gear. Charm works, y'all. Every Texan knows this. I have no doubt it is what resulted in him completely ignoring a slightly risky manoeuvre I pulled straight out of the test centre.

Or perhaps he was happy to see me moving with such confidence. The Mod 2 exam is basically just a 40-minute ride around a city –– Newport in this case –– with a bloke telling you what to do over a radio. My taking a small gap in traffic resulted in he and I getting separated, so I was just sort of driving around on my own for a bit. I suppose that shows the confidence they want to see: that I know what I'm doing and that I do it even when there's not an examiner on my ass. 

We moved along here and there and everywhere. At one point we came to the same spot where I had previously failed the test: a strange sort of junction that requires one to stop on a downhill slope. In that previous attempt I had made a bad call in attempting to stop for a light that had just gone yellow. Doing so, however, had resulted in my accidentally crossing the white line. This time I had the advantage of being stuck behind a bus and, as such, approaching the junction extremely slowly. Again the light turned yellow on me but this time there was plenty of time to stop.

The test seemed to drag on and I thought to myself: "Assuming you hold it together, I'm pretty sure you've passed. He wouldn't keep you out this long if you'd already failed."

At the thought of that, something in me just relaxed, and I found myself riding along singing "Have Love Will Travel," by the Black Keys, at the top of my lungs. I was in the middle of an exam, y'all, and I was singing. I got into it so much that I was actually bobbing my head whilst sitting at a traffic light.

"Whoa, that's a little too much," I thought, restraining the rock-out moment.

But already luck had stepped in to distract the examiner's attention away from me. Another motorcyclist had pulled up alongside him and was chatting with him. The two were lost in conversation.

Eventually we returned to the test centre. We stepped in the examiner's office and as I sat down he said: "Well, I'm very pleased to say you passed, mate."

"Oh man," I said. "I could hug you."

"Well, I'd prefer that you don't," he said.

–––––

(1) And, of course, I was already licensed in the United States. I am licensed to the wazoo, yo.

(2) I had damaged my finger the day before and when he shook my hand it hurt like hell, but I just grinned a fanboy grin and suffered through.

Comments

  1. Chris:

    Congratulations ! We knew you could do it

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great job! What now that you're fully licensed? An around the world tour?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Awesome Chris, now go kill some bugs.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Result. What bike are you getting then, Chris?

    Congrats again!

    Cheers,
    MK

    ReplyDelete
  5. CongratsuSASHilations Chris!!! :) So happy for you! I'm grinning here in Las Cruces at my laptop just thinking about that silly moment in my life. I couldn't believe it.

    Sweet Rides Chris,

    Sash
    www.SashMouth.com

    ReplyDelete

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