A week came and passed. Early this morning remnants of a dream shimmer through my consciousness. I’m stopping a bike: release throttle, gentle front brake, gentle back brake, clutch in, tap down the gears….
It wasn’t a fail, that’s good, maybe today will go well?
I turn over and peer at the clock through bleary eyes, it’s 4:50 am. The silence is broken by the sound of my groan and I settle back to catch more sleep. The morning chorus begins, deterring efforts to slip into oblivion. I listen for a while, picking out some of the songs I’ve begun to know – the robin, blackbird, blackcap, and the annoying repetition of a tuneless bird. Sleep washes over me, and I’m awoken by Bono’s assertion that it’s a beautiful day.
It is in fact quite cold.
A right riveting read
“I did get myself a copy of the highway code, but it’s not exactly a right-riveting read,” I assert when I’ve learned that I have the potential to get myself killed on roundabouts.
But I do recognise a few signs, particularly those with a dominant colour of red. The morning is quite routine. I’m more relaxed as we cover what I’ve already learned. I’m feeling happy and even up to the task of facing the road.
But then we get to junctions.
I get it all. I understand the observation needed, the manoeuvres and positioning on the road, the importance of getting into the right gear, but then you tell me to put my indicators on and off. While I’m figuring those out, my gear and brake control is suddenly out the window. Those lines in the playground look strangely like a real road, and then I realise we’re not playing anymore. In an hour I’m going to be on the road. I wobble, I panic. I call it a day and we arrange for me to come back tomorrow.
I say goodbye to George, a previous off-roader. I’d enjoyed his company. He’s bright, cheerful, inquisitive and most of all having fun. There was no doubt that he was going to get the certificate by the end of the day and soon be working towards his full licence. I wish him luck.
As I’m changing back into normal clothing, I learn of a rider who broke through a red light the day before. He’d been driving for 30 years, and was mortified. But 6 hours on a bike is a lot of concentration and its tiring – as I’m about to learn.
Yesterday’s adrenaline rush was spent on a 2 mile run, aiming for a bit more pace than normal. I awake with muscle soreness in my thighs. Left wrist is also complaining.
“Clutch control?” I think.
But I’d had a deep sleep and feel mentally prepared for the coming day. Ice pack and ibuprofen work wonders, so I determine not to let any bodily complaints get in the way of completing today.
I work hard on junctions. Two of the instructors independently reassure me that I’m able to ride a bike. We take a break and I talk to Joe from South Africa. He asks me to take a photo of him with the bike to send to his very large family. He dreams of doing the Garden Route on a Triumph tourer. He’s been struggling, so I hope he gets through the day and is one step further towards his dream.
I’m not quite sure how it came about. I’m being handed a certificate and I’m discussing further training and its subsequent cost.
A lot of the journey was a blur. I know I cursed and swore when I made a mistake, and there were a few. I was thankful for the protection of the instructor. But many of the challenges went smoothly. I turned right on a roundabout with ease, emergency stopped without stalling, rights after lefts after rights, humps and bumps and hill starts. We rode a couple of winding roads and I even thought:
“This is fun!”
Verd’s key turns in the door. He walks in quietly and somewhat curiously. I’m not where he usually finds me.
“Hello!” I smile up from the floor where I’m lying. Ice pack tied around my wrist. It was the demands of clutch control.
He laughs at the state of me. I’ve not been this tired since facing a classroom full of teenagers and a huge pile of assignments to mark.