So here I was- single mom, self employed, with more weeks on the road than home, a load of four footed beasties about that acted like cranky toddlers in fur coats more often than not, and after spending a couple of years post divorce learning how to allow myself to be happy, I began dating again. And looking to broaden my horizons on life in general.
Getting back into the crazy, upside down world of The Dating Scene (bahm duhm dahhhhh!) is a story bigger than these pages. The condensed version reads that I had a lot of first and even second or third dates stretching out my wings a little, remembering what it was like to be free. I was looking for new experiences as much as new faces and gave more attention to those who were offering exciting new things to try. Film noir. Vintage cars. Wine collecting and rare Scotch tastings. Skiing. Art exhibitions. This was a fine opportunity to meet interesting new people and try things I didn’t know much about before.
I briefly dated someone really into them. Riding, racing, and track days. While that association didn’t last very long, my enthusiasm for the sport did. I began making new relationships in the sport bike community, joining forums, going to meets, reading everything I could get my hands on so that once I was ready to throw a leg over, I would truly be prepared. It also eventually led me to the Guy Worth Waiting For. You’ll read about him in another post (lots of them).
Buying my first bike was one part elation, one part trepidation, and a whole lot of OHMYGAWDWHATAMIDOING? Most “newbs” start on the training wheels of all sport bikes, the Ninja “two fiddy”. The problem I had with this was my height; these aren’t ideal bikes for a six foot tall beginner. I don’t dance for a reason- I’m not the most graceful creature out there. The extreme forward position of most modern sport bikes wasn’t something I was ready for right off the bat. I eventually settled on a solid, mechanically sound if a little rough around the fairings Suzuki Katana 600. The more upright position helped me transition from 4 to 2 wheels much faster.
A few parking lot practice sessions and increasingly longer short rides about town later, I found myself answering posts for “anyone up for a Berryessa run?” and “group ride to Preston Castle, who’s in?”. Invariably these rides included stops to see scenic vistas, historic places, and more coffee shops than you can imagine. They also included laughter, hugs, tips and tricks and incredible bonds forged over miles of pavement.
I finally took the plunge and signed up for my first track day. Track days are events where the host company rents an entire race track for the day or weekend. breaks riders into groups based on their proficiency, and provides classroom and on track instruction on how to be a better rider. “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast” is a phrase often heard at track days. It isn’t about opening the throttle as wide as you for as long as you can, its about perfecting your techniques and having a blast doing it.
That short lived dating scenario mentioned before? Something he said stuck with me; he was speaking of track days and called it “the most fun you can have with your clothes on”. He never spoke truer words to me.
From my first session, I couldn’t wait for more. Everyone is their own worst critic and I was no exception, constantly worried that I wasn’t doing enough right out there. My instructors were there for me every step of the way, assuring me that everyone starts somewhere, swooping in and tapping their tail to tell me to follow them to find the right line, giving me encouragement to go ahead and move a little faster, to get my ass off the seat more and let physics work for me not against me. One of the best compliments I received was when one instructor was riding on her own at a much faster pace and made a very close pass in a very tight turn. After the session, she came to our set up in the paddock, gave me a hug and apologized for “stuffing” me into a corner. “I came up on you realized what I was doing and said OH S&%$, and then I realized, oh, its Danni, it’s ok!”. She went to explain that by her observations of my riding that I didn’t choke under pressure or seize up in a situation, I just stuck to my line and stayed focused. I was thrilled at this praise! A month later at another day on a different track, my instructor worked with me on several laps and as the session was nearing a close, pulled into the pits, jumped off her bike and gave me a huge hug telling me “That was AWESOME! You’ve come so far!”
I couldn’t have been happier if I’d won the lottery.
You not only wear all your clothes to have this incredible of a time, you wear extra. Specific safety gear is required- one piece leathers or two piece that zip together, a full helmet with a set safety rating, gloves, proper boots, spine protector…. Of course, you end up getting more and better gear the more you ride; my street boots and my track boots were two completely different things!
You get some odd looks when people say “What do you do for fun?” and you answer “Well first, I put on a full leather suit….” But it’s worth it.