Last year I decided to learn to ride a motorcycle. It was something I had been thinking and talking about for years, but it took the urging of my friend Saba—You've been talking about it forever, but if you don't do it, it will never happen—to make it happen. Not one to back down from a challenge, I made the goal to buy a bike by my 30th birthday. The process was fun, terrifying, frustrating, and thrilling and it wouldn't have been possible without A LOT of help from my friends Chris and Andrew, my coworker Mark, and a very informative albeit unsuccessful internet blind date.
I took the safety course, got my license, and bought a 1987 Honda Shadow 700cc all within a week of turning 30—there's nothing like a deadline.
I rode that motorcycle all around Brooklyn, through Manhattan and up to Harlem, out to New Jersey. I named him Oskar, I dropped him, I picked him up, I apologized to him. I loved that bike—at first intimidating he became a friend who helped me escape the concrete jungle of NYC.
A year later Oskar was stolen from my street in Brooklyn, disc brake and all. After discovering that my bike was no longer where I'd parked it I panicked, called 9-1-1, and filed a police report with some very friendly police officers. I got to ride in the back of their cruiser and, upon hearing that an older/junkier bike parked next to mine hadn't been stolen, they gave me some excellent motorcycle advice—Well, there's your lesson kid. Park your bike next to a more expensive one.
Having Oskar disappear weeks before a planned cross country motorcycle trip made me wonder if The Universe was trying to tell me something, give me an out. I had been experiencing a growing anxiousness about the trip and whether I was ready for it. So I tried to imagine my summer differently —what if I flew out to Oregon and spent the summer with friends and family, visiting old haunts? I slept on it, talked with friends about it and came to the realization that this trip was an opportunity I wasn't willing to let go of.
So I decided to use the insurance money and some savings to buy a new bike and make the journey happen. A year ago I knew so little about motorcycles that I didn't even know what questions to ask, but this time I knew what to look for. I found the craigslist posting for a garage-kept Honda Shadow ACE 750cc with 3700 miles, got myself to Westchester, test drove the bike, bought it, registered it, and picked it up all on my own. I was scared every step of the way, especially that I would drop the bike during the test drive, but I didn't and everything went smoothly. The couple I bought the bike from were so sweet and even invited me back for a BBQ.
On July 4, Independence Day, I rode my new motorcycle home and yelled "Wahoo!" more than once along the way. I got to know her and named her Big Mama because of her wide seat and big engine. This is the bike that will take me from New York to California. This is the bike that I am so proud to call my own, not just because she's beautiful (which she is), but because I'm proud that I did the work of getting her on my own, using what my guys had taught me the year before.
Big Mama and I have already had some great adventures together—she's taken me through farm lands in upstate NY, past lakes in CT, and camping in PA. We even got caught in a nasty storm together in NJ and had to pull off the interstate and stay at a Holiday Inn. And there's still a whole summer out there—oh, the places we'll go!