I've just learned two things about myself:
- I am a scaredy cat
- I am not supple
When we got married I gave Frank a gift voucher for a day's motorbike hire. So this evening we went to collect the bike in readiness for a day of serious riding.
It sounds so romantic doesn't it? Cruising along the open road with the wind whipping my hair, snuggling close to my beloved as I gaze out upon gentle hills alight with the glow of the golden evening sun, sheep munching lazily in green pastures. And it was romantic and beautiful.
Only I have never ridden a motor bike in my whole entire life, leave alone travelled pillion while someone else did the driving. Forget romance and beauty, this was plain terrifying.
So there we were, with the motorbike owner going through all the safety checks while images of patients injured in motorbike accidents flashed through my mind. I took deep calming breaths, and feigned nonchalance as Frank took a test run around the block. He arrived back in one piece and soon it was time to don my helmet and mount the bike.
Easier said than done! Roger explained the best way to get myself on the bike was to imagine it was a horse - well I've never been much good at mounting horses either! Either my jeans were too tight, my boots were too heavy, the bike was too big or I'm just plain crochety and stiff - it took a couple of kicks in Frank's back and a herculion effort to get my leg straddled over the seat as it should be.
Then we were off - and right in front of my eyes my gentle, sedate, careful husband was transformed into a hoon! His mission became testing the capacity of the bike, and it was all I could do to cling on for dear life while G-forces did their best to rearrange my face or at least blow me off the bike. I was suprised by the strength of the wind that had come up out of nowhere... before I realised it was just the wind we were producing as we sped along our way.
In my fright my vision was consumed by my reflection grinning senselessly back at me from the safety sticker on the back of Frank's helmet, as if by grinning enough I could convince myself that this whole thing was sane and safe. Who in their right mind would race along asphalt roads with no more protection than a few layers of clothes and a helmet? No metal casing surrounding fragile bodies, just frail human flesh whizzing along at the speed of light.
As all this raced through my mind (along with the thought that this was SO blogworthy!), my body was taut with fear. I kept trying to remember what a pillion is supposed to do: turn and look into the corners, keep the body aligned with the driver's body, tilt with the bike when it tilts, keep your feet off the ground when you come to a stop, place one hand on your knee and hold on to the bar behind with the other.
I did my best, but one hand grabbed Frank's jacket while the other hand went numb from gripping the bar behind so tightly. And it's impossible to relax into the corners when your stiff as a board. And somebody has to hold the bike up when it tilts over too far around the curves! And what about roundabouts - just when you're leaning into the curve one direction you have to whip your head around the other way and shift your whole balance to the other buttock. There's an art to pillion riding!
Frank was in his element - or he would have been if I hadn't kept patting his back with our pre-arranged 'slow down' signal! Poor boy just wanted to hoon along and I kept freaking out and begging him to put the brakes on - bless his heart, he listened to me every time! He still seemed to have a good time, adding in a lengthy detour through the lovely countryside, and 'accidently' missing a turn that added a further 5km to our homeward journey.
By the time we turned into our driveway I felt almost relaxed. I was noticing the scenery, leaning into the corners like a pro, turning and facing the direction of the curves, gripping Frank and the bar a little less tightly and grinning with delight as I realised tomorrow just might be a fun day. I'm even looking forward to it. (And I promise some photos!)