I can say that I don’t think I have every truly been alone. I have always been in a place or a situation where, luckily, I have been able to reach out to those around me for support. In most ways, this is amazing. In others, it is severely crippling. I have learned to undermine much of my knowing and ability and look to others for help. There is a humbling nature in all of that, but what happens, when I truly am by myself, and I only have myself to look to for help? Well, good thing I have this solo scooter adventure to teach me all about it.
The Fear Part 1: My First Ride
The man who I was buying my scooter from had agreed to meet me somewhere closer to Fairfax, so I wouldn’t have such a long first ride. As he was coming up from Sunnyvale, “the middle” ended up being pretty close to San Francisco. I needed to pick up a few last-minute items, so we picked SF Moto as a good meeting place.
Just finished with my shopping, I got the text, “Here”. As I walked out from SF Moto to see my new-to-me majestic piece of plastic and metal sitting daintily in her ‘Motorcycle Only’ parking space, I was filled with nothing other than joy. It had happened! I had this two-wheeled beast all to myself and she was truly mine. Now all I had to do was get her back to Fairfax from San Francisco to start figuring out how I was going to pack all of my gear. This seemed 100% doable, as well, I had a year of riding on my Honda Metropolitan in Hawaii, and how different really can these riding conditions be? Haha… Ha… Hah… I would quickly find out.
Traffic hell was immediately upon me as rush hour had the city in its perpetual purgatory death grip. This seemed fine at first. I would get to creep along, getting used to my brakes and quick turns. I had about 45% left of battery life on my phone, which was guiding me back to Fairfax on a route ‘avoiding highways’. Well, see the thing is, you can’t really avoid highways when they are connected to bridges that are exactly where you need to go.
Oh, did I mention it was Memorial Day weekend? Every tourist within a 100 mile radius was plaguing the right lane of the Golden Gate Bridge to a standstill so that they could get off on the overlook and hope to catch a glimpse of the city. This caused everyone else trying to escape the city into a crowded mob trying to funnel into the remaining lanes. Despite the determination of eager tourists, a dense chilling fog had heavily laid itself across the bridge, bringing with it an icy assault of wind.
I channeled my Aloha from the islands, letting people merge in front of me hoping to pad my Karma bank. As the mass of wheels funneled toward the bridge, my brain began updating it’s ticker: “This is fine, this is totally fine, I am alive, I am so going to live, oh shit that was close, breathe, yep breathing is good, fuck this, oh wait, I think it’s ok, I think I’m making it, oh right, don’t forget to breathe…”
Reminding myself to breathe eventually became too complicated as every faculty of my body was beyond high alert trying to predict the movements of the hundreds of cars swarming around me. Then a song rattled loose through my brain and started seeping out through my lips.
“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jo-LENE” *And breathe*
Dolly Parton’s words gave structure to my brain so that my instincts could flow more freely and let my body “function”. It became my “Bridge Mantra”. The one thing keeping my body from melting down through the grates below my wheels into the water hidden behind the fog.
My wheels kept turning, I was making it! Not only had I not passed out, I was half way there!!!!
Then, the pace started to pick up. People had finally sorted out their lane changes and were able to move freely. The wind started to become more pronounced, it’s grizzled howl laced with a ferocious chill. Each barren battering coming from a new direction. What the fuck was this?! How does wind even do that? It was above, it was below, it was coming at me from all sides at once rattling my bones free from my chest. Not only was I so under-dressed for this, but I obviously had no idea what I was doing. Great.
I huddled down behind the handlebars, with “Jolene” keeping my breath alive, now with a few added “oh fuck’s” for good measure. The bridge finally came to an end and I was able to find sweet refuge in the Rainbow Tunnel, a few blissful moments of isolation. But before I knew it, one crippling fear was replaced with another.
I saw it before it hit me. As I was opening up the throttle, trying to keep up with the raging four-wheeled demons, I looked up. An icy cloud of brute force wind was charging down the hillside heading straight for me. I was determined to not let my life flash before my eyes, but damn if I wasn’t sure that THAT was the being that would facilitate my demise.
I focused all of my might into the meditative hum of ‘Jolene’, forced my eyes to stay open, and committed. I decided that I was NOT going to let this Lord of the Rings-esque monster bring me down to the pavement. I would stare it right in the face, give it a name (‘The White Snake’) and drive straight through it. We danced the devil’s dance and by golly, the shiny side stayed upright. I thought about victory until I realized that ‘The White Snake’ had called in all of his friends and they were coming for me. I needed to get off the highway, STAT.
With the steely sneaking trails of fog biting at my heals, I saw the first exit and I went for it. As my body thawed of fear, I began to shiver. I battled to keep full on body shakes from taking over my scooter, as I traveled down the steep windy hill into Sausalito. At a stop light, I looked down at my command center. My phone had died and I was out of gas. Awesome.
I pulled into the nearest gas station and parked the scoot. After trusting the scooter on the kickstand, I began to leap and bounce around shaking my arms wildly trying to get the heebie-jeebies out of my system. I was going to hit the reset button, and the rest of this journey was going to be magic, dammit! The nearby Californian’s offered sideways glances my direction, unsure if I was the usual vernacular of crazy, or some new threat. They kept walking, and I kept dancing, until I started to laugh. ‘Ahah!’, that’s what I was looking for. Not taking myself too seriously, I got back on my bike, and hoped that I remembered the back road way to get ‘home’.
Not two minutes on my way, I received my first motorcycle wave. Now if you have never heard of such a thing, it is a two-fingered salute reserved for REAL motorcycles only. Well heck, I had just battled ‘The White Snake’ and won. I’d say that I’m earning my chops, and I guess this biker thought so too.
As I recalled the upcoming turns from the recesses of my brain, the sun burrowed out from the clouds, the air warmed around my body, and the smile came back into my eyes. The road I found myself on was perfectly graded, winding and empty. I sang ‘Jolene’ at the top of my lungs and laughed into the hills as I found my way ‘home’ with the realization hitting me:
‘I was going to do this, and I was going to live!’