The Raptors Had To Wait
I don’t think that I ever knew the true feeling of exhaustion until the evening of Saturday, June 8. My neck, left arm and hand were achy and stiff, my left ear still felt the pressure of an in ear speaker pressed against it as a result of having a full face over it for several hours, and I could still hear Bob’s voice….
“Look up ahead - see the yard sales - cars are going in and out of driveways”
“You’re too close to the car infront of you"
“Intersection check - mirrors, intersection check, mirror”
“Move into the left lane and back when it is safe to do so”
“Shoulder check, signal, shoulder check”
I am thankful that for the rest of my riding life, I will always hear Bob’s voice - reminding me of the importance of taking safety so seriously. So who is Bob and why was he telling me these things you ask?
My husband and I first met Bob Friday, June 7 at the Legion in Hamilton, Ontario after wolfing down burgers and fries served up by the nearby Harvey’s Restaurant. We had to rush our dinner at this fine eating establishment because it took us over 2 hours to arrive at the meeting place for our in-class instruction from our home. This session was part 1 of our M2 exit course - the final stage of the graduated motorcycle licensing program in Ontario Canada. Successful completion of this course and evaluation would result in our receiving our M license.
Allow me to take a few steps back to earlier on that Friday. After getting home from work at approximately 3pm, my husband and I quickly changed from our work clothes to riding gear, hopped on our bikes, and took the back roads to Hamilton which was fantastic. Eventually, our route took us through downtown Hamilton and by the time we arrived, it was peak rush hour traffic. Despite wearing mesh riding jackets, I felt like I was about to melt in what felt like a massive heat wave. Of course we managed to hit every red light that Hamilton’s downtown core had to offer and it took us over half an hour to travel less than 10 kilometres.
To say that it was worth it is an understatement.
I consider myself blessed to have met Bob who is an Instructor with Learning Curves Motorcycle Rider Training. From 6:30pm - 9:30pm, Bob talked to us about safety. My husband and I sat in a small room with 8 other riders who were hoping, like us, to successfully complete the M licensing test.
Bob went over intersections and how to properly scan for possible hazards, the importance of shoulder checks prior to changing lanes and making left and right turns, the importance of keeping a safe distance from cars in addition to keeping your brake light on while at a traffic stop, tire tracks and where we should position ourselves and why, how to make a safe road side stop, how to enter and exit a highway safely in addition to how to safely ride in residential, industrial and high traffic areas.
My husband and I left the Legion shortly after 9:30pm, and rode to a nearby hotel which was less than 15 minutes down the road. We chose to stay in Hamilton overnight rather than return home since we were scheduled to meet Bob and fellow riders the next day at 8am in Hamilton at a nearby Tim Horton’s Coffee Shop and we both wanted to be ready for what would be a long day.
It was dark, I was tired, and to my horror, I noticed that the road leading to the hotel entrance was all chopped up as a result of construction which meant that I would have no choice but to ride on gravel, not exactly my favourite thing to do.
My husband and I wear UClear communication devices and throughout the “ride” on the gravel portion of the road, my husband patiently listened to me spewing every known expletive to the human race.
We arrived at the Hotel Reception Desk ready for bed despite seeing several TVs showing the Toronto Raptors game. I tried not to look since we were recording the game to view the following evening.
Despite being exhausted, we both found it difficult to sleep as we kept hearing Bob’s voice in our head. I was very nervous about what was to come the following day which made the night drag on and on. Of course, I finally fell asleep shortly before the alarm went off.
After hours of lying awake, it was now 6:00 Saturday morning and we quickly got ourselves out the door to ensure that we arrived at the pre-arranged meeting spot by 8am.
There were 4 of us who participated in the riding portion of the training. Before we started any riding, we were each given a two way radio and an in ear speaker. This was something that my ear quickly let me know it did not appreciate by inflicting pain as soon as I put on my full face helmet.
Before we rolled out onto the roads, we went to a nearby parking lot where Bob set up a variety of courses for us to try. Accelerate, then stop without crossing a line; tight right and left turns (I did not do so well here - this is one area where I need to improve - it was a good exercise to get me nauseous from going in circles so many times) and riding through a slalom course. All of this allowed Bob to assess where we were in our riding journey.
After doing these exercises for what seemed like an eternity (it was enough for my left arm and neck to feel a bit of strain), we went for a group ride.
For several hours, we rode in a staggered formation practicing everything which Bob would later evaluate us on. There were no surprises; we practiced entering and exiting highways, riding in heavy traffic, residential and industrial areas, road side stops, left and right turns requiring shoulder checks and many intersections to perfect our intersection checks. Each of us took turns riding directly infant of Bob while he watched and commented on what we could improve on. As we all had in ear speakers, we all benefited from his words of wisdom.
After a quick bio break , we went out again for more practice.
For me, riding is what takes me to another place where I can relax, forget about reality and feel nothing but freedom. I can say that these staggered rides definitely did not take me to my happy place however this was not the intent.
We broke for approximately an hour to grab some lunch after which we pulled straws to determine the order in which we would be evaluated. Bob would be in a vehicle driven by another member of Learning Curves. The plan was that they would drive behind us and evaluate us on all the points which we had discussed the night before and practiced earlier that day.
I went second thanks to my awesome husband and very kind fellow rider who agreed to go last.
I was told that the evaluation would commence the minute I rolled onto the road from the parking lot where we had gathered. To say that I was nervous and stressed the entire time is an understatement. I over thought as I did not want to blow my chance to pass. While Bob kindly reminded all of us that if we failed to pass, we would have an opportunity to be re-assessed at some point in the future, I was determined to get this behind me.
Bob calmly gave me instructions like where to turn left, right, enter and exit the highway, when to change lanes and when to make a road side stop. Just about everything that Bob said was prefaced by “when it is safe to do so”. I know that I forgot to do some shoulder checks, and was occasionally in the wrong tire track. I would try to not focus on these mistakes so that I could concentrate on the rest of the ride.
It seemed like an eternity before we returned to where we started and I parked my motorcycle anxiously awaiting the result of my evaluation.
Bob came out of the car and asked how I felt I did. After I shared a few of my concerns which he elaborated on, I was told that I passed. I started to cry - the emotion of successfully getting my M was so overwhelming.
My husband was also successful with completing his M and we celebrated quietly that evening watching the Raptors win from the night before after which we had great sleeps!
To think that this all started because of a breast cancer diagnosis in 2014 which pushed me to explore the possibility of riding rather than continuing to wait for the right time. Funny to think that I am now riding a 2014 Honda!!!!!
Prior to meeting Don Redekop, Owner of Learning Curves, other riding schools saw me as a liability not worth their interest. When one after another refused to even discuss training and evaluating me, I began to feel like my dreams were being crushed. I am so thankful and grateful to everyone who played a role with making my dream to ride my own motorcycle a reality.
Don and his Instructors approach fully demonstrate what the outcome can be when you encourage and not discourage someone. They built my confidence in myself by challenging and believing in me. Their belief in me built my belief in myself. Knowing that they do this for every student is commendable to say the least.
For me, having my M is so much more than a motorcycle license. It’s the freedom that it brings - to know that this is now something that cannot be taken away from me ever!
See you out there!
Photo courtesy of Timothy B Photography