"Great, kid! Don't get cocky." This advice that Han Solo gave to a young Luke Skywalker is what I wish someone had told me yesterday. As a result of not heeding it, I didn't get back on two wheels yesterday, and won't be for some time. No, I didn't crash. I didn't even get as far as the road before a bad decision took its toll on me.
I decided that it was finally time to pull my Kawasaki KLR 650 out of its winter slumber, reinstall the battery that has been trickle charging for months, and bring the bike home. Chances are low for any significant snowfall in late March, even in New England. Even though we got a foot of it last week, it's already melted. With daytime temperatures back up to the 50s, it was time to start riding again. While the dirty places are still going to be soft and muddy for a while, I could still putt around on rather empty paved roads, at least for a quick spin around the "block" at lunchtime.
Installation was the opposite of removal. Sure, it took a little more cranking than usual to fire up the engine, but that's to be expected, and soon the bike came to life. While it warmed up, I replaced the old license plate with the new one I had picked up to perfect its World War II vintage paint scheme: GIJOE. I topped off the tire pressures with my portable pump, took a couple of laps around the parking lot to make sure it felt right (there may or may not have been a celebratory wheelie involved), and then set out for home, quite possibly the long way.
At least, that was the plan. The first hurdle I encountered was a big one, literally. The storage facility has an automatic gate. When you come in, you punch a code into a keypad to open it. When you leave, sensors in the pavement detect that you're there and open it automatically—in theory. As with many traffic light sensors, this one didn't detect the small metallic mass of my motorcycle. While you at least have the option of running a defective red light once traffic is clear, that's not an option with a chain-link fence.
Rather than wait potentially for hours for someone to let themselves in, I decided to climb the gate, then punch in my code from the outside to let myself out. As Bugs Bunny says, "Watch out for that last step—it's a doozy!" Was Bugs ever so right? I had about a three-foot leap to the ground. I didn't stick the landing. Something was quite wrong with my foot afterward. To make a long story just a little bit less long, after an X-ray at the local hospital, we discovered that I had broken my foot upon my failed landing. It didn't take much, but I'm not as young as I used to be, as much as I hate admitting it.
As a result, I won't be riding my bike after all. I won't even be driving my Subaru WRX, which has a manual transmission that requires both feet. Ironically, my latest project, a moto-glamper conversion van that I'm fixing up for bike adventures, is now the only vehicle I own that I can actually drive, thanks to its automatic transmission. Just as my riding season began, it got put on hold, just like everything else in the world these days.
While this story is only tangentially related to motorcycles, I believe it's still relevant and worth sharing. The reason I'm in this mess is that I made a bad decision. I'm not 24 anymore and I can't jump over a fence like I used to. I was so excited to get my bike back on the road that my desire blinded me to the risks and consequences if things went wrong, which is exactly what happened. I should've been more patient and thought of another option. This is the same type of mistake that can get you in trouble on the road.
Those of us who have not ridden all winter are anxious and eager to get back on the road, especially with so little traffic these days. Han Solo was right. Don't get cocky. Don't get so focused on the goal that you skip steps or take chances on the way. In a way, I'm fortunate that the so-called "red mist" didn't get me in trouble on the road. The bike is fine, as well as my riding gear. My foot, on the other hand, has other opinions. As a result, I'll be watching the rest of you ride by, enjoying those first rides of the year, during my recovery. I'll also be reconsidering my riding choices, and whether I should consider trying something without as much risk to my not-as-young-as-they-used-to-be bones.