When you're new to motorcycling you quickly learn the art of not crashing said motorcycle. Also, clutch shifting, hand/foot braking, off-the-leash-dog avoidance, bugs, balance, and iced-nipple realization that your pathetic, freshly pulled-from-the-closet attire repels weather like a high quality fishnet stocking.
Unless you're riding like a drunk lumberjack, fellow riders can't tell you're noob sauce on two wheels. So they wave at you, because they believe you're one of them, and because you're a picture of calm.
Road etiquette figures in somewhere down the road, but for the beginner "don't wreck" is foremost on the brain.
I wasn't ready when the other rider waved. His left hand slid off the handlebar fluidly, relaxed. And I left him hanging, like a douchebag. He was coming down Southway as I was headed up. I nodded in reflex, upwardly, but only slightly. Shit, maybe it was enough.
My helmet has a pretty healthy beak, so I'm hoping it caught wind and shot up like a hand. Meh. I blew it. Just let it go, I say. He was me once. Perhaps we'll lay eyes on each other again, on some secluded stretch of road, our sweet rides glistening in the sunshine, and we'll get it right. At least I will, dammit.
Shortly after the failure on Southway I humped up on a hog by Albertson's on 11th Avenue. Shit, Chris, just breathe. He can't hear my spirited, cutesy Jap bike, a Honda NC700x, over his thundering American muscle. Hell, I could barely hear myself think inside the helmet. He sees me, eyeballing me through one of his side mirrors. I nod again, like an idiot. He figures I'm headed to Starbucks. His doo-rag covered head shakes dismissively. Laughing at me, I figure. He guns the throttle a few quick blasts.
WOP-WOP-WOP-WOP... VROOOMM!! WOP-WOP-WOP-WOP... VROOOMM!! VROOOMM!! WOP-WOP-WOP-WOP.
The red light lingered. I felt small, alone. My fragile motorcycle psyche was on the ropes — beat down, listless — courtesy of Harley-Davidson, the King of the Ring. And it's not just the hog. This guy looked like a bad ass, too. Faded plaid shirt under some faded leather vest, with a million miles on each. The back of the biker's vest displayed a hideous moniker of social belonging, "Satan's Farts," or some other damned thing. Sons of Anarchy came to mind, though I've never seen it.
Finally green. I happily rolled into the busiest intersection in town. Like it was nothing. The devil and I parted ways, him a choosing a day long kicking of ass on the road, and me puttering off to Starbucks.
Charmed by three
Free wi-fi and a few Americano's bolstered my confidence to get back out there. I had to get home at any rate. I took the long way 'round back to my house (link to Ewan McGregor's and Charley Boorman's round the world motorcycle documentary), out towards Lindsey Creek Road.
The other rider approached on a BMW street bike, newish and sleek.
Oh, it's on, dude. His hand came off as mine did, two peace signs pointed down, the proper 45º angle to the road. Exhilarating!
"Damn right," I recalled, just after. It felt great.
Smiling the whole time, I curved up Lindsey Creek Road to the eastern edge of the Orchards, and dropped down to Tammany Road in front of the Roundup Grounds. Now heading down Tammany Creek, I enjoyed some more curves behind the Lewiston Orchards and off towards Hells Gate State Park and the Snake River. Almost home.