Out of My Comfort Zone

13 02 2013

Over the weekend, I crossed something off of my bucket list- something I didn’t even know was on it!

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I rode a motorcycle!

A few months ago, Bill decided to purchase a motorcycle. He got a really great deal on a custom bike, and it’s currently being designed to his specifications by Fig’s Cheap Choppers and Pinstriping over in Ormond Beach.

I’m not a huge motorcycle fan- the statistics about motorcycle fatalities scare me. So I wasn’t super thrilled when Bill told me he was getting a motorcycle, but I know that he loves biking and it would make him happy to feel the freedom of the road.

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Prior to getting a motorcycle license though, the DMV requires that you take a motorcycle safety course. So, after Bill had put the down payment on his bike, he asked if I’d be willing to step out of my comfort zone and take the course with him. Ummmm…I was not excited about it, but I agreed, knowing that I would learn a lot and we would spend the weekend experiencing something new together. I guess I’m 2 for 2 on my resolution to experience something new every month! I was however, pretty nervous about the whole thing because I had never been on a motocycle, let alone a motorized bicycle.

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The course we signed up for was the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s RiderCourse™. It was a two day course, scheduled from 7:30am-4:00pm on Saturday and Sunday (so much for a relaxing weekend!). We spent about 5 hours or so doing classroom work, and the rest of the time was on the “range” aka a large, empty parking lot.

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On Saturday, we met our instructors and started going through the RiderCourse™ book and watching the associated videos. One of the things I really appreciated about the course and the instructors was that it was all very laid back and comfortable. I was worried that I’d be surrounded by lots of experienced riders who would make me feel stupid about my lack of experience, but that was not the case at all. The class had a variety of levels of experience, and there were a few other newbies like me.

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After lunch, it was time to ride!

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We got all geared up- long pants, long sleeves, boots covering your ankles, gloves and a helmet were all required.

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Day 1 for me was not all puppies and rainbows. I had never driven a vehicle with a clutch, and I just couldn’t seem to figure it out! I found myself chanting in my head, “Clutch, shift, gas” to help me remember what I needed to do. I stalled out so. many. times!

I didn’t realize how finicky the clutch was, so when we were doing exercises in first gear and I came to a stop, my left hand would frequently loosen up, which would engage the clutch and stall the bike. Frustrating! I also realized that some of my habits from bicycling were carrying over to the motorcycle- for example, I always unclip my right shoe first when I’m coming to a stop on the bike. The problem with this is that on the motorcycle, the right foot pedal is a brake- so if I move my foot off before pushing down on it, I’m in big trouble! Thankfully, 70% of the braking power comes from the right hand brake, but still, it was something I had to be very aware of.

By the end of the day, I was finally starting to get the hang of it, and when it finally started to click, the course got to be more fun.

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Day 2 started out with bike time, followed by our road test, and then we finished up the classroom work and took the written test. I was happy to get on the bike again, to redeem myself from yesterday’s embarrassing number of stall outs. And y’know what? Day two was so much better! I weaned myself off of my chant, and was comfortable switching to and riding in 2nd and 3rd gears! Hooray! Right before lunch, we took the road test, which was comprised of many of the exercises we had practiced previously. I am happy to announce that I passed!

We returned to the classroom for the final part of the book work and to take the written test. We flew through the material and then we took the 50 multiple choice item test. The instructor handed back my test and I learned I had passed! Yahoo!

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My final thoughts about the course: I currently work in assessment and I’ve delivered my share of professional development. So, throughout the course I was constantly distracted by my own thoughts of – “oh, this would have worked much better if it was presented in xyz way” or “this is not what I call student-centered learning…” and “I can not believe this is a question on the test! It is terribly written!!” I could have spent a good amount of time fixing that test…But those are my own issues 😉

The curriculum was scripted, so the instructors did a lot of reading the instructions verbatim, which was kind of annoying, but I guess it helps keep it standardized. I feel like it covered the basics, but unfortunately, I do not feel like I am adequately prepared to go out and ride on the street with other cars. I’m sure the class met its objectives to give us the fundamentals, but it is a little worrisome that I could technically go out and be a licensed motorcycle driver. I guess they expect you to go out and practice on your own?

It was fun to do something new and experience it with Bill. I don’t think this is something I would have sought out on my own, but I am glad that I can check it off the list of things I’ve done in my lifetime.

Regardless, I don’t plan on going out and getting a motorcycle anytime soon, nor do I plan to drive Bill’s. I’ll stick to my little Snowball, powered by my own little legs and pumping heart. 🙂

Question of the day: Have you ever ridden a motorcycle? What’s the last thing you did that was outside of your comfort zone? 





Tampa Friends

10 09 2012

Howdy! Is it really Monday already? I’ve had a whirlwind of a weekend, but I got to spend it with my wonderful Tampa friends!

On Friday night, Courtney invited the Team XPers over for a Mexican dinner party! Despite showing up a lil’ late to the party, I  didn’t miss out on any of the spectacular food that Courtney had prepared!

(I was too hungry to snap photos, so I grabbed these from Meghann 🙂 )

She went all out, preparing chicken enchiladas, beef fajitas with all the fixins, homemade salsa, a yummy salad, fried plantains, and rice and beans. Court covered all the mains, Jess brought some sangria, I brought some margarita mix + tequila, and Meghann brought some churro cupcakes. YUM. It was quite the feast, and I left feeling very full!

Love this group so much!

I was a little worried on Friday night that someone was going to spill the beans about a little surprise that Mary had been planning for Meghann, but thankfully no one did! What’s the surprise you ask? Well, Mary had planned a super secret surprise bridal shower for Meghann!

I’d say we got her good!

Mary orchestrated the whole shabang (with Meghann’s fiancee Derek’s help of course), and opened up her home for the party. Check out Meghann’s post for the full recap. Man, was that fun!

I brought pumpkin cupcakes to the party, and while I was baking I was SO TEMPTED to tweet pictures. I mean, how cute is this?

I knew I couldn’t just in case Meghann saw one of my tweets. (I ended up tweeting it after the party:-) )

To make the cupcakes, I followed the Brown Eyed Baker’s recipe, and they were AWESOME. Man, I’m glad it is pumpkin season (even though it doesn’t really feel like it down here).

The cupcakes were topped with some cream cheese icing, homemade snowflakes and/or clear sugar crystals. Meghann’s wedding has a snowflake theme, hence my cupcake toppers:-)

Those snowflakes were TOUGH to make. I melted some candy melts in the double boiler a small saucepan on top of a lager saucepan, and filled a pastry bag with a small decorating tip. The melted chocolate kept solidifying in the tip, and I was constantly trying to unclog it with a paper clip. I tried dipping the metal tip in  some hot water to see if that would help, but it was a no go. So, I just had to take it one line at a time.

When it was all said and done, I was quite pleased with the final product.

Immediately following the shower, I headed home for a quick change before meeting up with my friend Jennica and heading over to St. Pete. Jennica had texted me on Friday asking if I wanted to go with she and her hubby to see the Marshall Tucker Band concert. I didn’t really know the band, but I was happy to hang out with them:-) So, on Saturday night, we headed over the bridge to a biker bar called Screwie Louie’s Porpoise Pub.

Yes, that’s a wicker Harley hanging from the ceiling.

And biker bar this was! I’m talking leather vests, guys with long pony tails and even longer beards, tight jeans, and lots of tattoos. This bar was definitely not my usual crowd, but y’know what, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. It was definitely not the pretentious crowd that you get in South Tampa. It was a “come as you are” kinda place, which I appreciated.

They also had an assortment of crane games, including this one, where you could try to nab a live lobster. $2 a try! I didn’t see anyone playing 😉

Y’know what else I enjoyed? The people watching! Hoo boy! I think the funniest thing I spotted all night was a woman wearing jeans, and one of the back pockets was COMPLETELY ripped off. I’m talking like a 6 inch by 3 inch hole on her butt. We got a clear view of her lacy white underwear! The woman was either completely oblivious or had intentionally chosen these jeans to wear out to the bar. (I think it was the latter.)

Sunday was the first day of NFL football, so I had to find a place to watch my beloved Eagles. I did a quick Google search before the game and found out that there’s a large group of Philly fans in Tampa. The Tampadelphia group meets at the DoubleTree hotel on Westshore at their sports bar, the Player’s Club. The place was packed out, and I happily sang the Eagle’s fight song along with my fellow fans, as we cheered them on to victory! I will definitely be back.

And, one more friend related thing. Last weekend, I met up with a few other bloggers and Tampa area triathletes for an open water swim. The same group that organized that training meet up has also been emailing about the Miles For Hope event, happening in Clearwater on September 22nd. Miles for Hope is putting on a ‘Moving Towards a Cure’ Brain Tumor Awareness Event. The event includes walking, running, and cycling events. Pete, our fearless leader, sent out the link a few weeks ago, asking if anyone was interested. His mother has survived and fought the side effects of a brain tumor for over 22 years, and he is organizing a team in her honor. Recently, I have learned that a family member of one of my nearest and dearest childhood friends was diagnosed with brain cancer. Lisa is a mother of two, and the cousin of my best friend Gina. I’ve been wanting to do something, because I know how special Lisa is to Gina and her mom. So, I decided to join the fight and ride 100K (~60 miles) on September 22nd.

Although the event doesn’t require fundraising to participate, it is encouraged since the money goes towards research and finding a cure. Will you help me as I ride for Lisa? If you feel so inclined, please stop by my fundraising page and donate. I thank you, and so do the thousands of individuals suffering with brain tumors.

Have a great Monday everyone!