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!**

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....