Mythical Unicorns & Mermaids
Back at the beginning of October, I received an email from a WOW friend inviting me to join her and a few others on a ride down in Arkansas. It wasn’t far from my home, just 150 miles, and she thought I might enjoy riding with the group. I wasn’t certain I could attend because it was my son’s 30th birthday so I held my breath and waited for the son to tell me the plan…which turned out he really didn’t have one and since he is the father of a 1 year old, he and the wife decided that they wanted to go out on their own which opened the door wide for me to go. The ride was to start on a Saturday and go to the following Friday, which I couldn’t do because of work, but I decided that even riding with them for 1 day would be GREAT!
You see, this group is rather mythical to me. They have been riding together for years and you don’t just show up, you have to be invited. They are a tight group and very skilled riders and I was rather shocked to be invited…which also means intimidated. What if I couldn’t hang? What if I couldn’t keep up? Would I end up embarrassing my friend(s)? If I did embarrass them, would they ever invite me back? Honestly, I almost backed out at the last minute. I started freaking myself out thinking about all the things that could wrong (example…how many times I have dropped my bike) but, to quote another friend, I put on my big girl panties, sucked it up and confirmed my arrival.
Now most people think I am outgoing. The truth is I am not. So when I arrived, thankfully, I was with someone I knew that could introduce me around. I still stayed in the background as much as I could, not wanting to say too much and for sure not wanting to say anything that I and my friends would regret. I tend to try to tell jokes when I am nervous or talk too much…but this day, I was good. After dinner, the plan was set for the next day’s ride and I joined my other friends in our “suite” where I slept on a fold out and passed out pretty quickly.
I was nervous as heck the next day. The parking lot was filled with all kinds of bikes and most of the people riding were men. They were standing around doing their thing, talking about their bikes and polishing them up. I was thinking about how I was going to get my big wing turned around without dropping it and praying to the good Lord that I could make it in line without making some serious blunder. I think I had a pretty good sweat going on even though the weather was cool. I managed to get in line behind my friend without any serious mistake and we sat, getting ready to ride. That sitting just made me more and more nervous.
Don’t get me wrong, I ride in Arkansas a lot and many people think I ride the curves pretty darned well but good gravy, I had heard stories about these people…remember, Unicorns and Mermaids, and I had heard that they rode fast and took no prisoners. I didn’t want to be left in the dust and I didn’t want to hold up the line and there I sat, pretty much in the middle. My dumb luck. A mere mortal in the presence of the mythical Unicorns and Mermaids.
If you don’t know Arkansas Roads, when the sign says 10 miles an hour, it is preparing you for a serious switchback and it means 10 miles per hour. In Missouri, 10 miles per hour usually means 20 and 35 means 50 will be just fine…not Arkansas and I know it and only hoped that my Unicorn ride leader knew it too…but I didn’t want to say anything and just prayed to the good motorcycle gods that I could keep up.
We left and headed up the Pig Trail (yes, it is called the Pig “Trail” and not the Pig “Tail” like most people think) and I could feel the sweat dripping down my face. We started off at a pretty good clip and I thought “here we go and hang on, sister!” The pace wasn’t killer but it was definitely faster than I would have ridden with a group. I used my gears to down shift instead of grabbing my brake lever so that the others wouldn’t see the panicked glow of brake lights every time we hit a curve. Just about the time that we reached some of those tight hairpins I saw a big logging truck full up with logs and I thought to myself “thank you good Lord” because our speed plummeted and we were able to ride for several miles at a slow pace, which allowed me to get my nerves under control. Then, I saw the logging truck pull over to let us pass which on most days I would be in praise of but today, not so much…here we go again.
I kept saying to myself…Get over it! You have ridden this road a gazillion times and you will do just fine! Stop FREAKING YOURSELF OUT! But dang those Mermaids and Unicorns just kept flying and I did my best to stay with them. My wing being lowered makes cornering pretty sweet but because it is lowered, it also means that I drag ALOT and sisters, I was dragging like crazy. I popped one corner so fast that I could have sworn I was going to take off the belly pan on my bike and every time that happens, I feel my stomach lurch. I know it is going to happen but as much as I try to prepare myself, it still scares me. I was certain that those behind me must hear it and wonder what the heck is going on. I ride on, feeling my grip on my grips growing tighter.
We make it to a gas stop and I pry my hands off my grips. I need some serious water and a bathroom break, which I took and then headed back out to join the group. We have a ways to go to our lunch stop but I know the worse is behind me. I chat with a few of the Unicorns and Mermaids and think to myself, YOU MADE IT! and I DIDN’T REALLY MESS UP ONCE! I know that the others have no idea what was going on in my head. (Good thing that there are none of those cartoon bubbles above me showing every thought in my head.)
The ride to the lunch stop was fast but we didn’t have tight corners to negotiate so I was fine and I really started enjoying myself. Then, we made it to the stop and low and behold I am faced with my all-time nemesis, gravel. Yep, it was a gravel parking lot. Everyone pulls in and does the “backing the bike into the parking slot” thing that they can do because they can handle their bikes in gravel and there I am pulling in headfirst because I know that if I try to do a tight turn on that wing, I am going to go over. Oh well, I’ll figure out how I am going to get out of here after I eat lunch. I’m hungry!
Lunch went by way too fast for me and I found myself once again staring at my bike, headfirst, in a graveled slot. What now? What are these Unicorns going to think if I try to get my beast out of there and fall over in the process? I feel doomed. I stand there for a bit getting myself all in a bind inside and then I finally say…what would I normally do if Unicorns and Mermaids were not present? Answer: Ask someone to help me. So I walk over to one of the Unicorns and come clean. “Look,” I say, “I ride a big bike and as long as it is rolling and NOT in gravel, I’m good but backing that sucker up in this parking lot is not going to happen without me going down. Would you be so kind?”…and he was and he even mentioned that it was a lot harder than he thought it would be even WITH reverse. He got the wing pointing the right direction and I couldn’t thank him enough.
As I had to work the next day, I couldn’t ride any further with the group so I said my goodbyes and headed once again to my bike. Then, out of nowhere, one of the Unicorns walked over to me and told me how impressed he had been with my riding skills…such a small woman on such a big bike. I was relieved to say the least. So maybe they didn’t see me sweat. So maybe they didn’t see me riding slower than others. So maybe I was making a LOT bigger deal about being a mere mortal in the presence of my mythical group. Maybe. I thanked him, told him I hoped to ride with them again, straddled my bike and rode home with a smile on my face.
I had made it through without serious incident and without embarrassing those that had invited me. I hope to ride with these Unicorns and Mermaids again. I hope that the next time I will be calmer and not work myself into such a tizzy. I can hope, right? This mortal feels very blessed.