I was looking at a motorcycle today at work. It was a Kawasaki Vulcan.
Four and a half years ago, I took another Kawasaki Vulcan out for a ride, and that ride ended with the Vulcan scattered all over the roadway and my foot missing, courtesy of a car driven a woman who never should have been given a license to drive so much as a little red wagon.
As I looked at this Vulcan, someone asked me if I'd ever ridden one before. They didn't know my story. I replied, that yes, I had ridden one before...one much like this one, in fact.
Actually I'd ridden numerous motorcycles over the years, including one that I rode clear across the country and back. I'd just had one ride on a Kawasaki Vulcan, however...my last ride on August 3rd, 2006.
"Want to take it for a hop?" Suddenly the keys were in my hand and I was offered a helmet.
"Yeah," I replied. "Maybe just a little one."
I've been wanting to get back on a bike since I woke up in the hospital. I've always liked riding and I've sworn repeatedly that that day in August of '06 was NOT going to be my last ride. I hadn't managed to get my hands on a bike since then though, until suddenly I was offered this one.
But why did it have to be another Kawasaki Vulcan, of all bikes? Sure, this one was a bit newer than that last one, but still...
I got on and hit the starter. The engine caught and I started revving it up, getting a feel for it again. I'd worried about my prosthetic leg not being able to shift the gears up, but I managed to get the toe of my plastic foot under the selector and knocked it up into second. Hell, I can do this. I kicked it back down into first, took a breath, and let out the clutch as I throttled up. Across the parking lot and down the drive I went. I tried to shift up for real, and it WORKED! I hit the small road that we were off of and shifted up to third. I was a bit unsteady at first, but it came back quick...and it felt GREAT! I turned around at the end of the road and headed back, then I proceeded to weave in and around the various parked cars in the lot to try to get the feel of it again. I did this for a few minutes, and then...aw, hell--I'm outta here. Back onto the road I went and away. I just had to RIDE again.
I rode down the road and ran the bike up through the gears, hitting 80 or so, then backed it back down to the 25mph speed limit again. I saw another car ahead of me driven by someone I worked with and raced to catch up. I caught up at a light, pulled up beside him, blew the horn and smiled. For a second, there was no recognition, and then it hit him that it was ME on the bike...and he knew my story.
"What are you DOING?"
"I'm riding again, man! Wyatt and Billy, look out!" (<--Easy Rider reference, for you Generation X kids.) Then the light changed, and I was off.
I rode all around town. I merged into highway traffic and back out. I stopped at traffic lights surrounded by cars, I rode across a vacant lot and down a few steps...I was just having FUN!
My cell phone finally rang about half an hour later.
"Hey, are you ok? Are you bringing the bike back?"
"No, man. I'm not. I just gotta ride for a bit if you don't mind." By this time, the guy who'd offered me the keys had been filled in by others around him. ("You gave him the keys to WHAT?! Are you crazy? Do you not know what happened to him on one of those?")
"No rush. Just take your time with it," he said.
I rode for another half hour, finally heading back to the office when the rain started to fall. I was grinning like a fool when I gave the keys back. I'm still grinning.
I am SO getting me another bike. It won't be a Vulcan, but I'm getting something. And I feel the need for another cross-country trip in the near future.