Recently, my childhood best friend moved down to the sunshine state. Amid quarantine restlessness, missing my bestie, and the desire to grow as a motorcyclist, I took it upon myself to ride my Kawasaki z650 through 4 states. I would like to lead with saying:
1) Yes, I realize there is a pandemic, but I went to visit my friend, not to frolic recklessly and spread plague germs.
2) Yes, people told me not to ride that distance on a sport bike. I clearly didn’t listen, and I earned the butt rubs to prove it.
Friday night, I decided that I was going to do it. Saturday, I packed and bought snacks. Sunday morning, I was setting out. Mind you, I wasn’t just nervous, but I was scared to make the journey on my motorcycle. I was worried about running into worst case scenarios hundreds of miles away from familiar faces and helping hands. I was worried about bad weather, rider fatigue, technological difficulties, and the loss of my nerve. I was worried I would ride beyond my limits fueled by my stubbornness. Quite frankly, all of those things happened. But I digress.
The night before, my boyfriend helped secure his saddlebags onto the back of my bike. The bags stuck out bulkily against the slim, sleek, naked frame. I packed up the bags and a backpack as lightly as possible, but the bags were full. I worried about the weight difference; usually I ride with a fanny pack, max. I tossed and turned all night. I was questioning whether I should ride, whether I should just drive, or whether I should even go at all. But what I kept coming back to was that I can’t keep not doing things cause they’re hard or scary. Those things had never stopped me before, so why were they clouding my conscious now? I got mad because I’m tempted to blame all the people who dissuade me, discourage me, or belittle me in regards to my motorcycle abilities. People like to tell me that my bike is too big for me to handle, they can’t believe I’ve put as many miles on it as I have, or they like to completely ignore me all together. Lately, I’d been feeling lots of frustration at motorcycle stores, other female riders, or stereotypical male riders. I was tired of feeling like the odds were against me and that people were surprised when I accomplished feats on the bike. But ultimately, I was mad that I let their measly opinions bend my steely determination. My pigheaded, dog-eared determination had gotten me in and out of plenty of trouble over the years, so I was fairly confident that I would reach my destination one way or another. So, perhaps I felt like I had something to prove to all these people who probably don’t care about my riding as much as I think they do, or I was projecting my self-consciousness and self-doubts onto them. Either way, all the reasons I came up with not to ride to Florida really just weren’t good enough. I conceded to myself that it had to be done.
Early Sunday, I’m still questioning my actions. My boyfriend, bless him, encouraged and reassured me. My man sent me off with a full belly and fully-charged batteries. I started off out of the apartment complex, and the bike handled easily with the extra weight. I mentally erased the worry from my list. Within minutes, the nervous knot eased from my chest, and I settled into the reality of the day.
The first hundred miles passed by fairly quickly; I break for a snack, and carry on my way. I thought I was making good time, but without my noticing, my breaks became longer and my journey legs became shorter. But at this point, I didn’t realize how much that would affect me in 5 hours. Somewhere between Georgia and Alabama, I pulled into a Starbucks. The weather was angry, the clouds were thick and black, and the wind loosened my braids. But then I hear “I like your bike!” and I got to talk to another female biker, a Grom rider. It was an uplifting reminder that I’m not the only one. Her parting words were “Be careful, it’s supposed to rain!” I prayed that it wouldn’t.
But alas, the sky let loose. I took shelter under a bridge but only after getting soaking wet, the raindrops like needles into the crevices between my gear pieces. I was worried for my laptop getting wet, and I was also bummed that my untreated leather jacket had touched water. This bridge trolling went on twice more, and my phone took on water in the micro USB preventing me from charging its dying battery. At the next rest stop, I physically wrote down the directions, just in case.
Now, on the trip down, I made several mistakes:
- I waited hours before I had my morning coffee.
- I didn’t stop and eat a proper meal. I just snacked.
- I didn’t hold myself to a pace.
- I didn’t track the length of my breaks.
All that accumulated to me puttering into an unfamiliar Florida town at 9:15 PM in the dark, running on caloric fumes, and questioning my life choices. My helmet Bluetooth had died 30 minutes prior, and I was going 10 MPH under the speed limit. The last 45 minutes of my journey were the hardest of the entire trip, and I knew I was not operating at a safe level of coherency. I was exhausted. I took a wrong turn in my friend’s neighborhood, my ETA increased by 4 minutes, and I almost cried. When I finally got to her driveway and saw the steep incline and narrow gate, I nearly cried again. But I made it up, pulled up to the garage, and turned off my bike. I was shaking and my limbs felt hollow. I felt like I had been through the ringer, but I felt so accomplished. The trip might have taken over 11 hours, but I was damn proud of myself. I ate multiple meals, and then proceeded to sleep for 12 hours.
After a week with my bestie, the time came for me to take the journey home. I was anxious to set out early to avoid arriving home in the dark, but it was hard leaving someone I didn’t know when I’d see again. But this half of the trip, I was more prepared and more planned:
- I drank some coffee before I left.
- I ate a bigger breakfast.
- I had a plan for miles to break ratio.
- I stuck to the mile/break ratio plan.
The return trip was significantly smoother. My overall pace was much faster and consistent. I was committed to my 120-mile legs, and I conserved my phone battery life. I had purchased a rain jacket at the local Cycle Gear (who had a pitiful women’s selection, but what else is new.) just in case. I felt much more confident. I was also taking a shorter route home which took some edge off, but the route took me right through Atlanta where 8 lanes of traffic marched through the city interchanges. I kept telling myself I would feel better after Atlanta, and it was true. Going through there was tense, but I made it out the other side. My Bluetooth died about 45 minutes from home, but it lasted hours past the advertised battery life, so I wasn’t too upset. Once my exhaustion started creeping in, I allotted myself more breaks. I did not want to coast in worried about staying upright. Once I got into town, I was thankful for the red lights because I got to stand up and stretch my legs. I got home safely, and my man was a sight for sore eyes. Despite my revised efforts, I was still wore out. My body was floating and my head ached. I was the point of tired where sleep was difficult to find, but I eventually passed out for another 12 hours.
In conclusion, this trip was one of the most trying, taxing, and tiring things I’ve put myself through in a while. There were moments when I really wished I hadn’t taken my bike where I doubted my capabilities. I felt defeated, deflated, and dumb for the mistakes I made. But I also felt elation, confidence, and pride for the achievements I earned. I alone got me from point A to point B and back again. I definitely understand why cruisers are better designed for that kind of haul, but the trip made me realize how many of my fears are unfounded, how much of my preventative energy is wasted on the sheer inability to prepare for every possible situation, and how sometimes the only thing that is stopping me is me. Now, I know that I can take shorter trips successfully since I’ve already done 1,200 miles. I know the number of miles I can ride comfortably in one day. The doubt I felt before departing shook me. I realized how necessary it is to feed myself encouragement and to push myself through challenging things to remind myself that I can do them regardless if others agree. My butt hurt for three days, but I am bursting with pride for myself. I came back a stronger rider, and I hope to keep growing my skills through future trips. But next time, I’ll take more pictures of my bike.
Where do you want to ride?