I AM The ScooterMom!!

I am an artist, a mom, a scooterist, an all-around renaissance woman. Ha!

Come on and join me as I chronicle my adventures with my motorcycle license and beautiful tangerine-colored Genuine Buddy scooter, The Pumpkin Queen!

**And if you're even more curious, check out A Hot Piece of Glass, where I write about my glass beadmaking and jewelry design business!**

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Happy One-Year Scooterversary to the Pumpkin Queen!!

One year ago today, I brought home my new Genuine Buddy 125cc scooter in the glorious color, Tangerine.

My dad, who was probably not the MOST thrilled about his eldest child's decision to buy a scooter, helped me bring it home in his truck.

Over the course of the last year, my scooter and I grew to be a team.

First, I had to drop it, and get that out of the way. Then I got my motorcycle license during one of the coldest weekends of the year. I commuted to work. I rode to the farmer's market. I rode across my favorite bridge in Richmond. We had a close call. I started to accumulate 'real' (and expensive!) gear. My little scooter held a ton of stuff and still rode like a dream.

I learned about what it's like to ride in the summer, and when it's cold, and when it's windy.

Granted, I haven't been riding much lately. Life intervenes sometimes, and the need to take the kids place, and of course the weather. I don't like to ride when it rains, because I don't have raingear yet.

But, today is the anniversary of the day I brought home my scooter, so to mark the occasion, I took a picture of the mileage:
Not quite a thousand miles in the first year, but still, a respectable number.

Of course, the Pumpkin Queen is standing idle today, although I *wanted* to take her for a ride.

It snowed twice this week. No anniversary ride for me. :(

Although I did start the bike today, just to make sure it still ran. It does. My little guy helped.

My Buddy and my buddy.

Hopefully, the roads will clear soon, and I can get back out there to start on Year Two!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

*blows off the dust and cobwebs*

My poor, neglected scooter.

I don't think Genuine makes snow tires for my Buddy.

I think maybe I should ask Santa for a new scooter cover, don't you?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Come On, FALL!

And by that I mean AUTUMN, not "fall off your scooter". :)

I went out for a ride last evening, into the magnificent, low-humidity, low 80's temperatures we somehow magically had last night. It was glorious in a way I can barely describe. In fact, I even considered a jacket before I left the house, and once I was out, I thought that I probably would have been comfortable in my denim jacket at least.

The wind was cool and nothing like the wet-washcloth slap-in-the-face of a few days ago. The sun was crisply throwing off it's last rays before sinking below the horizon, and I was on a good-deed mission to paper the local area with flyers advertising our church's preschool.

Conveniently, I could fit a stack of my flyers inside my topcase without having to roll or fold or bunch them up. I LOVE my topcase. Love it.

I rode all over town, taking flyers to places I knew had community bulletin boards, and chatting with people who wanted to know about my scooter. A mom said her little boys thought it was the coolest thing ever and dubbed me "the COOLEST MOM on the block!". Fun!

As the sun was sinking, I rode home, realizing that I felt much more relaxed and happy than when I left my house. It's amazing that riding around on my Pumpkin Queen, wind on my skin, miles slipping by me, could make me feel so good.

Yay for scooters!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Been Awhile

Woo, haven't had much to say about scooters and riding lately.Mostly because I haven't ridden much lately. Great balls of fire, but it's insanely hot here this summer, and that is making it m i s e r a b l e to do ANY riding at all. Seriously. I know some people who live where it regularly reaches 100 degreesF in the summer own and ride scooters, but I am a wilting flower in this heat. Not even the wind created by moving 45mph + down the road is enough to bring relief.


So, due to our frequent (read: daily) temperatures at or above 100degF, with heat indices reaching 110 and 115, and MASSIVE violent thunderstorms being an order of business, I have decreed that riding my scoot will be a rare occurrance. At least until the temps drop down to something that is not akin to sitting in front of a blast furnace.

I am so done with the summer of 2010. Bring me fall in Virginia -- sixty degrees and sunny in the day, forty degrees and crisp at night.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I haven't been riding much lately. It's been literally a hundred degrees here in the beautiful South, and frankly, I just haven't had the desire to put on a full-face helmet and real shoes to go somewhere on the scoot. Just thinking about sitting at a stoplight, baking in my helmet, is enough to steer me toward the comfort of my air-conditioned car.

I did go out the other evening, though. I really REALLY needed a break, and I wanted some ice cream.

I admit that I rode in shorts and a short-sleeve t-shirt.

At least I put on sneakers and wore my helmet and gloves. It was only 93 degrees at eight o'clock at night as the sun was setting.

There's something liberating about cruising down the curvy side road on the way to the grocery store, cutting through the thick summer humidity and feeling the breeze cool you.

And then there's the stop at a red light. Bake, bake, bake....green light!


Don't think about how awful the road rash would be if the unthinkable happened and you succumbed to a low-side fall.

Don't think about falling at all.

Just go.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Market Rides in the Summer

To market, to market....to get a weekly bunch of vegetables.....

One of the fun things about this area is the huge number of farm markets that have sprung up all over the place! Come summer, everybody's heading out to a market on Saturday -- or on Tuesday evening, or Thursday!

I love to ride my scooter over to the market in the morning. With my topcase on, I'm set for carrying home an assortment of yummy veggies from our local CSA farm, Victory Farms.

The market I attend most often is the South of the James Market in Forest Hill Park.
This is a great city park in a really eclectic neighborhood in Richmond. lots of trees, a good playground, paved trails for walking...and VERY busy farmer's market on Saturdays.
This morning when I arrived (and found a place to park!), look what I saw across the lot!
Someone else has good taste!
The best thing about my scooter, aside from the fun of actually riding it, is the sheer boatload of stuff I can carry around. All my weekly vegetables fit into the topcase perfectly, no squashing the squash or mangling the lettuce!

I don't get to ride to the market every week (sometimes I have to bring my kids and my husband) but when I do get to go by myself, I love to take my Buddy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


It's been five months to the day I brought home my beloved Buddy (Pumpkin Queen) scooter. Since then, I've gotten my M class endorsement on my license (OMG, I can ride a motorcycle! ME!), taken the excellent motorcycle class, and put on this many miles:

I've gotten over my fear of being blown backwards off the bike, obtained REAL riding gear so I am good and safe, and learned to navigate some of the Richmond traffic, especially in the suburbs.

I was reflecting the other day just how much less scary this riding thing is....it used to really terrify me to commute to my office, because of a couple of divided highways that ended up being faster than the posted speed limit. Over the past five months, though, I have learned to handle more speed, and now I feel pretty confident about my bike at 55 and 60mph. Of course, I don't ride that fast all the time, nor do I want to, at this point. But, I know I can handle it, and I feel good about keeping up with traffic.

I am not over-confident, however.

A couple of near-misses have definitely encouraged my healthy respect for traffic and other vehicles, and have definitely solidified my view that pretty much everyone else might be trying to kill me. It's amazing how distracted people can be when they are all hunkered down in their great big SUV's, chatting away on the phone.

So, yay for me. :)

And in further proof that this house is full of scooter fanatics, I give you this evidence:


Little scooters

Have a terrific day! And if it's nice out, go for a scooter ride!

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Joy truly is riding across the Huguenot Bridge on a gloriously sunny day and feeling like I'm riding my own personal rollercoaster....

Birthday scooter ride (4)

....and being able to smell the roses and the honeysuckle and the freshly-cut grass as I roll on by...

...and feeling the wind through my riding jacket vents......

....and finding a parking space under a tree RIGHT in front of the shop you want to go into....

....and realizing your armored riding jacket folds up well enough to fit in your topcase...

...and realizing you are not as afraid as you anticipated you would be...

....and knowing that this kind of FUN -- the scootering FUN -- is so much more than you thought it would be.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

On Target

Yeah, okay, so it's been a while since last I posted. I haven't been riding NEARLY as much as I should have been, unfortunately. Part of that was due to unfortunate allergy side-effects (vertigo! It's not just for pilots anymore!), some of it is due to my desire for wearing a skirt or shorts far outweighing the desire to suit up to scoot, and some of it is due to the inevitable need to schlep the kids around. Hard to strap a carseat on the scooter.

But, the Pumpkin Queen is still going strong!

She even has a friend, now that my husband is riding a new GZ250 in addition to working on his old '82 Honda Hawk.
(Incidentally, I took those two pictures one right after another in the evening....amazing what a difference ambient light and no flash makes!)

Today, though, I got to ride for a good chunk of the afternoon. I had to run some errands, and wanted to scoot by (literally) the hospital to visit a friend who's just had her first baby, and there was a local art show I wanted to check out. Two of those things are not kid-friendly, so after lunch, off I went.

It was sooo nice out today -- low 70's with plenty of sunshine -- but SOOOOO windy! Yikes. Still, I had a great time taking all the back roads to my destinations, to purposely avoid the four-lane divided highway major artery road.

It was my Target run, after the hospital visit and art show, that proved the most interesting. I had a number of items to obtain on my list, and I figured I'd grab a new plastic milk crate while I was in the store to bungee to my front rack to hold the purchases. Apparently, milk crates are passe now, since I could not find a single one! Bummer. No matter, I had bungees in my pet carrier.

Shopping completed, I took four bags out to the scoot to load up and drive home. I knew it, but I didn't fully grasp, just HOW MUCH STUFF you really can put on a scooter! Here's the lowdown:

In the pet carrier.....
-my really small purse
-a bottle of bubble bath
-two kid toothbrushes
-four ceramic bowls in their packaging

In the topcase...
-a magazine
-a small pack of diapers
-four salad plates in their cardboard packaging

In a bag hanging from the front hook...
-four small metal pails
-two kid sippy cups
-a tube of diaper cream
-assorted other stuff

And strapped to the front rack.....an eight-pound bag of cat food! (hey, the cat's gotta eat!)

Getting it home was a piece of cake. no problems with the load, and only a few funny looks from people coming toward me (it was the cat food, I know it).

Oh, and I had to scare the living hell out of some dumbass lady driving a Jeep Cherokee. She was turning across my roadspace in the parking lot, looking in all directions except the one she was driving in, and nearly ran right over me.

139dB of Stebel air horn took care of her. And I kept right on riding. :)

Have I mentioned I love my Buddy? Huh? Have I?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring has finally sprung!

Hooray for good riding weather, in which I can remove ALL the liners from my awesome jacket and go with all the zippers open!

I haven't been riding all week, because I either had to ferry the kids places, or my desire to wear a skirt was greater than the desire to maneuver the scoot out of the garage (thru the people door!). Also, it's time for it's first service (300 miles, baby!), and I was already past the 300-mile mark and didn't want to get too much further along before having the oil changed.

Yesterday afternoon and evening were trying. Allergies, a headache, total exhaustion for some reason, and non-napping preschoolers were conspiring to make ScooterMom a grumpy girl. I won't go into all the fun that two spunky and extremely smart little ones can cook up, but suffice it to say one was asking me if the Easter Bunny had come yet (ALL DAY!), and the other was turning our deck into a beach. Then came the full-contact egg dyeing, which consisted of one of them eating a dye tablet, and then spilling a cup of dye on the table, and the other clamoring to take eggs in and out of the dye. Ack!

After the munchkins went to bed, my husband suggested I go for a ride. I am very glad that I did. I wasn't really aware of the head- and soul-clearing ability of a good evening bike ride until I went out last night. Whew!

First, I conquered one hesitancy: gassing up at a gas station. I'd been warned about being careful with the pressure in the hoses, watching out for spray when filling the teeny tank, and up to now, I'd been filling the scoot from a 5gal gas can we have in the garage. Not anymore! I successfully (and carefully) put a bit less than a gallon in the tank with no spillage or spray! I don't think I've ever spent this little at a gas pump, not even in 1998, when gas was $0.87/ gallon! (ah, the good old days!)

After that little victory, I rode off to my favorite local de-stressing place -- Barnes and Noble Books. A chai Frappucino, a bunch of jewelry-making magazines and a couple of Easter basket gifts, and I was better. A bonus was that I FINALLY figured out how to open the !@#$% topcase on my bike! I've only had it for about a month, and even though Chelsea showed me how to open and close and lock it, I could NOT do it. And hey, there's all KINDS of room in that thing! Woo!

Riding home in the dark, the wind blowing through my jacket and my helmet, I thought I could really ride MUCH longer. Probably in the dark is not the time to try out a new route, but I sure thought about it. Maybe after the oil change and service, and after I get the new super-bright awesome headlamp installed, I can venture further afield.

It sure is nice to get out and ride, though.

Monday, March 15, 2010


There was an article in my local paper today about scooter thefts in the region. In the article, the reporter talks about how "[scooter] Drivers don't need a license, just a form of identification listing name address and date of birth." I read the paper every morning, but rarely feel the need to write to the reporter about an issue. This time i did, because of the misconceptions regarding scooters in Virginia. Granted the laws are sometimes unclear, but in this case, making a blanket statement that a scooter rider doesn't have to have a license is incorrect. In VA, if your engine is greater than 50cc and the bike goes faster than 35mph, you need a license and tags, registration, all that good stuff. It's a motorcycle at that point, and you must have more than just some identification on you if you ride. I know the reporter got his info from this link at the DMV site, likely, but still. The code can be unclear in general, but in this case, I think it's pretty straightforward.

Anyway, as a scooter rider and lover, it does bug me somewhat to see the common misconception that my bike is a moped perpetuated. It'll be interesting to see if the reporter responds.

In other news, my husband is on Day 1 of his MSF course today. Soon he'll be riding his bike all legally and safe!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Had my first near miss today on the way to work. Ack.

I was going up the divided highway, riding in the right lane, doing the speed limit (45mph), and here comes some guy from the other side of the highway. He was crossing through the median, turning left across the road to go in the direction I was going, and instead of turning and staying in the left lane and then moving over to the right, he turned directly into the right lane. Guess where I was? Yep. Right lane. I was trying like hell to stay out of his blind spot, but apparently either I was already there, or he just plain didn’t see me. Either way, next thing I know I am in the sand and crud on the shoulder, trying to steer, stay upright and honk the horn at him. He was close enough to me that I could have reached out and kicked his rear quarter panel at one point, before he finally saw me and moved over. Then, of course, he took off.

I was strangely (for me) not even shaken up, or upset, except that I was PISSED. It was all I could do not to chase him down and ask him exactly what the hell he was doing. There’s a four-way stop a little farther up the road, and I was hoping I could catch up to him. I didn’t. He was pretty good at staying well ahead of me, which was fine. I certainly didn’t need to be getting into anything with any drivers, but I sure thought about it.

The good news is that now I know my bike does 60, and I can ride it when it does.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Joy! And a kick-ass jacket

I finally, FINALLY got to take the Buddy out today. It was a bit of an effort, pushing it out of the garage by the people-door (the big door does not open) and through the four or so inches of ice/slush/snow/crap that remains in the shady part of my driveway. Ugh. I never thought the bike was heavy until I shoved it through the snow. But today was *almost* 50degF and it was sunny and gorgeous, and, well, okay...REALLY windy....but I just had to go for a ride. Why?

'Cause I got my new jacket!!

No more wearing my husband's way too big parka and having it balloon out around me while I am zipping down the road. No more wearing a zillion layers underneath it to stave off the cold wind whistling down my neck and through the zippers.

This is my jacket, the Rev'It 'Siren', in black. I love love love this jacket! It is probably one of the most expensive articles of clothing I have ever bought....actually, it IS the most expensive article of clothing I have ever bought, but OMG, so totally worth it. I am still getting used to the very close fit, especially in the shoulders, but it's comfortable and so VERY WARM. It's so warm and so comfortable to wear that I think I am going to have to look for some pants, too, for the winter, because from the thighs down, I was frozen. Ah, well, such is winter.

I also have to work on figuring out all the pockets and zippers and attachments and such. There are a ton of zips on this thing, and it took me a few minutes to actually get myself all fastened into it. Once I was riding, though, it was fantastic.

The ride today was fun. I rode to the Starbuck's near my house for a latte, and to test out my riding skills, since it's been at least two weeks since I got on the bike. Later on, I rode to work and back, which was a total blast. I am very much looking forward to spring. It will be so nice to be able to take one of the liners out of the jacket, and to arrive at my destination without my thighs being cold. It's almost March, so spring is definitely on the way. As much as I love snow and winter weather, I've had enough.

(and yes, I know I should be wearing boots in the above picture....I usually do, this time I admit I forgot.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Not much to report...

Up until about Thursday of last week, I had been riding the scoot all over town....going to work, to the store, trying out new roads and different routes as my confidence level builds. I even rode down to the scooter shop where I bought the bike, just because I wanted to do it. It's been so much fantastic fun!

I'm a member of Modern Buddy, the best forum for Buddy riders and owners, and in the Gallery section of the forum, there is a thread for playing Worldwide Scooter Tag. This is a game in which members take photos of their scooter in front of particular sites or objects, sort of like a scavenger hunt. I've been wanting to play ever since I discovered the game last summer, and now I can!

The next location to find on the list was "your scooter with the word 'museum'". Hot dog! We have tons of museums in Richmond! Because of the winter weather in most places, this items was on the list for a long time, and I wanted to grab it. So, I located a museum that was within riding distance (and within my riding skills), and made plans to go last week and snag the picture.

Then my kids got sick and took turns staying home from school and going to the doctor. Ack! My short windows of free time when the little ones are at preschool all but disappeared. Then, when I got a chance to go out in the late afternoon, it was either bitterly cold, or rainy, or I was just plain worn out. Sigh.

The weekend! That's when I would go out and get the museum picture! I was all set....and then...
it snowed:

A lot.

That's just over a foot of snow, which I realize for some of you is what would be called 'Tuesday', but here in Richmond, Virginia, this constitutes a major snowstorm. So major, in fact, that our kids have been out of school for two days, and likely will be out at least one more day. The governor declared a state of emergency the day BEFORE the storm. Laugh on, you northern-dwellers (I used to be one of ya), but in an area where they are plowing the streets with road graders and contracting with people with pickup trucks and snow blades, this is a big deal. The storm we got the week before Christmas dropped a foot and a half on us, and now this. That represents more snowfall than we typically get over five years on average. I, personally, am loving the snow, unplowed roads, stir-crazy kids, and all. You can take the girl out of upstate NY, but you can't take the upstate NY out of the girl.

But I digress.

The bottom picture is a path my husband made with our neighbor's snowblower, and it's our driveway. No scootering for me. The only thing that sucks about the snow.

Ah, well. Someone else snagged the museum picture, and posted the next item: scooter and 'nature center'. There's one near my house, if only I could get to it in all this snow...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Getting There IS Half the Fun!

I have successfully put a little more than 125 miles on my scooter now.

This past Thursday, I rode it twice! Early in the morning, when it was still really cold, I rode over to the middle school to drop off a notebook my daughter had forgotten. It was cool to zoom up to the school and park (right next to the Resource Officer's police car!), and bop into the school, helmet in hand, to drop off the notebook. I briefly thought that my daughter would be royally embarrassed by her mom scootering to school, but as it turns out, she wasn't on that side of the building, AND she later told me it would have been totally COOL to see me ride up.

I wasn't able to get a ride in during the warmest part of the day, but towards late afternoon, I had to go into work for a bit, and also run to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy. Since I previously had ridden the home-to-work route, I felt a bit more comfortable at the kind of speeds I needed to be at to negotiate the road. It was an excellent run to work, and then to the store, and by the time I was leaving the store, it was dark out. Yikes! Okay, now we learn to ride in the dark. Surprisingly, I wasn't as freaked out about it as I thought I would be. I have the flaming orange reflective Vest of Doom, which helps me stay more visible, and the streetlights and my headlight helped. I found that being near or in front of a car with its headlights on really helped.

The whole experience was a major confidence-booster, and I am already staring to feel SO much better about riding.

Today, though...today was just FANTASTIC! It was fairly warm (50's) and not too windy, and once the little kids were napping, I was itching to take off. It's supposed to be cold and rainy and crappy tomorrow, so I knew this would be my only chance to ride for a couple of days.

So.....I took my scooter to Barnes and Noble at the mall...

And I rode on the six-lane divided highway near my house that is the main artery to everywhere....

And then I went to Kroger for some veggies and sour cream for dinner....

And then I dropped some stuff off at a friend's house!

By the time I rode back to my house (the long way!), it was getting dark. I figured my husband wanted to go for a spin (he did) so I got back to the house and let him ride for a little while.

I've noticed a few interesting things about the progression of my riding skills and confidence:

1. I definitely grip the handlebars and clench my jaw when I ride, and I found myself doing a little less of both when riding these last few days.

2. I am much more comfortable getting up to road speed than I was initially.

3. I can now pay good attention to the road and the traffic and my riding skills without the constant running thought of "OMG I am going to die, OMG I am going to die".

And I have noticed that riding offers a few things that driving a car definitely does not. Of course, there is the fun of riding -- going fast, feeling the wind, being closer to everything while traveling. But there's also the things you notice -- the road surface, the smell of the trees, the sound of the cars and other vehicles -- that makes riding interesting. It was warm the other day, and one of the roads I was on had a series of hills and valleys and turns. As I rode, I realized I could feel the 'cold spots', areas where the temperature was changing, like near creeks and culverts. Almost never feel that while in the car. Very cool.

I am looking forward to expanding my riding horizons as the weather gets warmer...trips to the farmer's market and downtown, across town and across the river, and also some group riding with the local club and maybe with friends. I can't wait til my husband gets his license and a working motorcycle so we can ride together!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Scooter Commute!

I usually go into my office on Wednesday mornings for a couple of hours, and since I have a brand-spanking-new scooter and a brand-spanking-new M class endorsement, I figured that today would be a GREAT day to ride into work on my Buddy! It was cold, sure, but it's winter! It's always cold! Plus, it was actually much warmer and less windy than it has been...all the better to ride in, right?

After I dropped the little kids off at preschool, I drove back to my house, got into my riding boots and parka, gathered up my purse (and camera!) and got the scoot out of the garage. Here we go....

The route to Workplace is along roads that max out at 45mph speed limits. One of the roads is a multiple lane, divided highway (with a 45mph speed limit). The whole trip is about 7.5 miles, and usually takes me about 10 minutes in my car. I was really excited about doing this, even though it was really cold. Once I got my Buddy out of the garage and started it up, I started getting nervous.

Getting out of my neighborhood was no problem. I felt fairly confident taking off into very light traffic on the main roads, and I kept up with traffic. Once I got to the multiple-lane road, though, I was starting to worry about whether I was going fast enough. My speedometer registered 50mph and I stayed in the right lane the whole way, but man! It was a bit unnerving going that fast, in traffic, with only the handlebars to hold on to! Plus, the wind made it really difficult, and every time I went over an imperfection in the pavement, I got nervous about crashing. In fact, all I could think about, besides riding the scooter, was crashing. How bad would it be to hit the ground at 45mph? I'm wearing my helmet...how bad could it be?

My mind was going a zillion miles a minute, too.

Man, this trip is taking a lot longer than it does in my car....I had no idea seven and a half miles was so SO far...it is really windy out...and cold...I better remember to call Travis when I get to work so he doesn't worry...

But I made it to work in one piece, not frozen solid, and without mishap or other negative incident. Hooray!

There was even a parking space right in front of the building, just waiting for my cute scooter!

I showed it off to a friend who has her desk right next to this window, and then I showed my boss and a couple of other people I work with. They all thought it was terribly cute, and totally me, and also I was a bit nuts for riding in this cold. :)

I worked for a little while, then rode home. The trip home was a bit warmer, and I felt pretty decent about the riding, although I think I am getting really tense because my wrists and hands were killing me by the time I got home.

Having gotten this out of my system, I don't think I will ride the scooter to work again until it gets a little bit warmer. For now, I think I will practice ride around the neighborhood and take short trips to the store and for coffee and stuff.

The bottom line, though, is I DID IT! And it was awesome!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Still thawing out -- MSF Day 2

Okay, so when we last left our Intrepid Heroine (that's me), I was practically frozen to the core. The second day of the class, Sunday, was at least as cold as Saturday. The temp was 24F when I left my house, with 10-15mph winds.

My cold-combatting strategy was multi-fold: I prepared a LARGE travel mug of coffee to take with me, attired myself in multiple layers of clothing (more on that in a minute), and pulled out some of my medieval stockings to wear under my boots. I also located a pair of vinyl exam gloves, a hat, and extra socks. HaHA! Take THAT, Winter! I was going to be warm!


At any rate, on Saturday night I ended up getting up during the night with my two year old son, who needed a complete change of clothing and bedding. I was tired when I went to bed, and tired when I got up, so coffee was a necessity.

Because we had to finish day 1 a little early due to the setting sun, it was decided that class would start as soon as all nine students arrived in the morning. I swear, I tried to get out of the house so I could get there a half an hour early, but I just couldn't manage it. I hate to be late, and hate for people to have to wait on me, so I was slightly mortified to find that I was the last to arrive. As per my instructor's usual demeanor, it was no big deal. At least that was a positive.

We went through the material for the morning, then took the written test. Fifty multiple choice questions ended up not being as difficult as I had thought it might be. Thankfully, I am a good student and test-taker. I wasn't reeeeally worried about the written test, but I did want to take that test in a hurry and get it over with. I was the first one done, and I scored a 100%! Rock!

At lunch, I finished putting on all the clothes and gear I was going to wear on the range. In case you are curious, this is what I wore, from the skin out:

my usual underwear
a pair of cotton-lycra bike shorts
a thermal longsleeve shirt
a cotton tshirt
heavy jeans
a pair of midweight socks
a longsleeve turtleneck
a wool sweater
a fleece neck gaiter
vinyl gloves
winter motorcycling gloves
my husband's goose down parka (size: very large)
my mother's black leather combat boots (no lie, they really were my mom's)
and my full-face motorcycle helmet

THIS time, I was warm. The vinyl gloves made a HUGE difference; my fingers still got cold, but not as much as the first day.

Ok, so out on the driving range....we had the same bikes as the previous day, which was good in that we were familiar with them. The exercises consisted of a lot of turning and stopping: riding down a straight path, then stopping as fast as possible without locking up the brakes, riding in S-curves, riding over small obstacles, etc.

There was also the bane of my existence: U-turning in a confined area. Argh. I totally sucked at this. I could not control my speed, and my brain could NOT get into the groove of using my clutch to control speed and NOT the throttle. I hated it, and I knew it was on the skills test. The worst was knowing I could TOTALLY do it if I were on my scooter.

We also practiced swerving to avoid obstacles, which was a total blast! I liked the one exercise where the instructor would wait til the last minute to tell you which way to swerve. I nailed those.

After a while, it was time for the skills test. Yikes!

There are four skills or items on the test: a quick stop, swerving to avoid an obstacle, riding a curve with consistent speed, and the dreaded U-turn in a confined space.

First up was a combination skill -- ride into the U-turn box, make a figure eight and ride out, speed up into second gear and swerve to avoid the 'bus'. Then stop. Piece of cake, right? Holy cow. I sucked at the U-turning. I sucked so hard at it that I almost stalled, I put my foot down at least twice, and I went outside the box lines at least twice. Eight points off for that mess.

The worst about that was I made the mistake of watching one of the people before me, a woman who was having a hard time in the class anyway. She started her figure eight and dropped the bike and fell under it. She was done, and now I was nervous.

Next was the quick stop. I totally nailed that, stopping really well using BOTH brakes AND getting all the way down to first gear before stopping. They did say I should have stopped a little sooner, though, so I lost a point there.

Three-quarters of the way through now....last skill was riding a curve. I used all my competitive horseback riding skills for this one and it paid off -- a beautiful curve and only one point off for slowing a bit during the height of the curve.

The bottom line, though, after all the bikes were parked and most of the gear was off, was this:


They gave me my Virginia class M designation and a MSF competion card. Now I get to take it to the DMV and get my license updated!

I am so thrilled! I can ride a motorcycle!

Now, as much as I love winter, I really would like it to be just a little warmer, pleeeeease, so I can ride my scooter without a ton of clothing!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Oh. My. GOD. It was ccccccold.

So, this being one of the very few free weekends I had available, I opted to take my MSF course and get my M class endorsement this weekend. It's January, and while I do not live waaay north, my area is subject to some pretty cold temps now and again. Like now. And again.

Saturday morning, Day 1 of the class, dawned frigid and WINDY. I think the actual temp was about 31F, but 20mph+ sustained winds put the windchill around 19F or less. Holy icicles, Batman! I was wearing what I thought were enough clothes, but my late afternoon on the driving range, my toes and fingers were numb and I was approaching miserable. Couple that with my inexperience with manual transmission vehicles, and the quirkiness of a motorcycle's controls (both brakes on one side, the shift lever having to be moved up to change gears, etc.), and I was having a rough go of it. I was discouraged, and although my instructors were awesome and encouraging (and I was definitely not the worst in the group), I was still feeling like I'd never get this. By the end of the day, though, we had moved on to an exercise involving riding around the range in a big oval, shifting gears according to the number of cones placed around the oval, and I was having a good time and feeling FINE about it all.

Except for the frozen extremities.

By the time the class was over for the day, my feet hurt terribly. I managed to get home and into the hottest shower I could stand. I think it took me like three hours, the shower, a creme brulee latte and an episode of Doctor Who before I felt like I was warm. I was exhausted, intended to study my course book, but collapsed into bed instead. Day 2 was on the horizon, with temps at least as low as Day 1.

This time, though, I had a strategy.

More later....