I remember when my dad had taken us to the Abbotsford Airshow (about 1977 or 1978) to see the SR-71 Blackbird. The organizers of the show put the pilots' voices on the loudspeaker so we all could hear them talking to the tower. The jet started out from Nevada and the pilots said, "Put the coffee pot on and we'll be there in 20 minutes!" And it was, and what an awesome sight, like something out of Star Wars.
Now we've never had anything like that fly out of the airport here but I have seen these flying over many times.
The pilots who go on to fly the C-130 Hercules and CF-18s and Auroras for Canada's Air Force all start at Moose Jaw down the road from us. Plenty of times they use my city as a visual reference to practice their precision formats for air shows across North America. They are known as the Canadian Snowbirds.
Okay, back to the range...day three started as day two with the sore muscle thing, and the same -3 C temp. I also had a few new bruises to show for my efforts. It warmed up to 5 C as the day went on, so that by the end of the day, I had actually unzipped my jacket a little and stopped shivering!
This day the instructors set up a pseudo traffic scenario using painted lines as lanes and intersections. Here was a chance to stop, use your turn signals and rear brake to let someone know you were going to slow down before they piled into the back of you. Because I'm sure you all know by now that motorcycles have three brakes: Your front brake, your rear brake and the engine brake. Here's where I was reminded to tap my rear brake a few times every time I intended to stop.
By the way, I have been practicing this for the last seven winters with my little car too, it's just so icy in places that if people aren't given enough notice to start slowing, they can't stop in time. A practice I picked up when I downsized from my Ford Crown Victoria. People can't miss that car, they were huge!
There were some tense moments watching people get the hang of making their way around the lanes. It was terrific practice before we headed out to do the real thing.
Then we had to do the U-TURN! Tighter than the "S" curve, I tried and tried and tried, but chickened out each time halfway through, always riding straight off the range into the grassed bumpy rutted area. It was a good chance to see that my balance riding off-road has not gone away, but that was not the point of the exercise. I had a few different instructors try to help me - they were so nice - but each one ended the same way. Off to the toolies I'd go.
Maybe it was because I'd gotten brave and chosen the Suzuki 400 that morning which was bigger and more powerful than the trusty little Yamaha 200, but whatever it was, it just wasn't going to happen. In fact, on one of the re-entries back onto the paved range from the toolies -there was a bit of in incline - I didn't give the Suzuki quite enough power to get out of the dirt and stalled the engine, and then guess what? First guesses don't count! Yes, I dropped another bike!
No damage whatsoever except to my pride. The policeman who was taking the course too rode over on one of those Honda CBR 125 and offered to trade as he had seen what happened. I thanked him but told him I wasn't comfortable on those and he rode off. Well, he was literally back within two minutes with another trusty little Yamaha 200 and offered me that. I took up his offer and we traded. Before he zoomed off, he made sure I was alright. What a nice man, and I'm sure that's the quality his superiors saw in him to grant him his badge: resourceful and caring.
About 3:00 pm that day, the instructors had half of us sit it out in the middle of the range to make more room. Most of us had gotten pretty good (some downright cocky)and there were some near misses with a small area to ride in. So there was a rotation of sorts to go through the obstacle course again - but with less riders you could go faster as your confidence soared.
The lady with the new baby had been watching my son ride and turned to me to say, "Your son has no experience with riding? It must be so gratifying to see him achieve this!" I believe she felt that one day she would like to be standing there watching her son do the same. It was nice to hear as it was a leap of faith letting him try this.
The last part of the day was doing the "road test". As they walked us all around to show us what they were testing for, I was pleasantly surprised to not see a u-turn test. If that had been part of it, I would not have passed. I had decided earlier that day that that was something I would work at on my own bike in a parking lot after the course. Since then, I have done some figure eight work trying to get tighter and tighter but it is still a struggle.
The first test consisted of starting out from a little box, sharp turn right on a curve, gathering a certain speed and then stopping with your front tire in a little painted box.
The second test was what I call the "be ready" test to swerve left, right or stop again, only you had to go faster. At this point, the instructor asked us not to run over him because he had had an accident the previous summer, and could not get out the way fast enough with a bungled leg! Those guys had nerves of steel to stand there in front of rookie riders!
The third test was to ride as fast as you can and then an emergency stop on a curve so that your tire was over a certain line and they could see the front forks go down.
At the end of the day, the head instructor handed me my little certificate and pin and told me to spend some more time in parking lots before heading out onto the big roads. I assured him I had already planned that and thanked him for his lessons.
Going through this experience restored my sense of fun and adventure. I will go forth with caution and practice. Already in two riding seasons since, I've noticed a change.
Until I get back on my Suzuki in May, there's always some fun to be had drifting around corners in all the snow we have with my car. Now, there's a u-turn I can do!
Have a good one...