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Motorcycle Riding, Beginning to Ride at 40...
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By John McNamara

If you like to drive and being on the open road in a car, then you will love to challenge yourself to ride a motorcycle. At 39 years old, I wanted challenge myself with something new. Why not try to learn to ride a motorcycle and make a special trip on my 40th birthday. So, January 1999 came and the goal was to learn to ride and take a trip from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Key West Florida on a Harley Davidson Motorcycle by my 40th Birthday in November.

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January, slipped by and I totally procrastinated this Journey, but finally I looked into a school. I called the local Honda dealership and they told me of a school to learn to ride. The class cost $199 for 3 days, which included the motorcycle, Hamlet, class time and ride time. I wrote the check and I was schedule for my first class the 2nd weekend in February. The class started on a Thursday night, 3 hours of intense riding rules and instructions. Saturday and Sunday were from 8am to 5PM. Both of those days were broken into half day of class time and half ride time. The class time was film, photo slides and lecture on the rules of the road. Everyone was excited the first time on the motorcycle. There were some students there because they wanted a refresher coarse but many were first timers. The class of 20 students were equally divided between men and women. They handed everyone helmets and then let you pick the motorcycle you wanted to ride. I picked a black 250CC Honda, after some refresher instruction, the instructor let us mount the bike and start it. Wow, what a feeling, the roar of my first motorcycle. I couldn't wait to ride it. The first ride was a short 50 yards down this parking lot and stop. I made it and I didn't fall. The rest of the riding was a progression of stopping, turning, swerving, defensive driving, and practicing over and over again, by the end of the day you are riding pretty well. By the time Sunday comes, you are ready for the road test. Out of 20 students, only one person failed and they were given the opportunity to take the class and test again at no charge. The first part was completed, I had my motorcycle license.

The next challenge was to buy a motorcycle to practice with. There are so many different types of bikes out there and trying to decide what is good or bad is very difficult. I talked to a lot of people and asked there opinions. Since I only wanted to spend between $1,000 and $2,000 for a motorcycle, I wasn't left with too many options but to buy a Japanese bike. I looked all kinds but I wasn't too sure what was good or not, I was only looking at price and then looking at the bike. There are some scary looking bikes in this price range, bikes from the disco era and back. I finally bought a 1983 Honda Shadow for $1400. The bike was clean and ran well. It took me until the end of April to buy the bike. Unless you can buy a new bike, this part of the process took a long time. Now finally, I had a bike to practice with. Every Saturday morning I practice. There is a road by my house which doesn't have much traffic. I recommend this highly, because the first couple of times riding in traffic is pretty scary stuff, all those negative thoughts come into your head, falling, getting hit by another car, so on and so on. But after time these thoughts disappear and the confidence builds. Finally a chance to ride on the open road and get the real motorcycle reeling of the wind blowing and the power of the bike. 

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Now the day has come, November 13, 1999. This is the day I have rented a Harley Davidson Fat Boy. I mean this bike is big boy, cherry apple read, with all the chrome to go with it, a little intimidating. The price to rent a bike ranges from $110 - $149 per day. The guy at the rental shop, makes me fill out all the paper work and hands me the keys. He says, I need to know if you can ride this bike, so start it ride around the parking lot. In there defense, they went over all the points of riding the bike and how to start it. But once I got on the bike, I forgot everything, it took a few seconds of the roar of the engine to get my senses back. I put-put around the parking lot very slowly. The rental guy, said, OK you know what your doing, take off, and off we did. The ride to Key West was with a friend of mine, an experienced rider. I would recommend that to everyone. His knowledge helped me tremendously. The ride to Key West Florida was awesome, blue skies, fresh air, and feeling of having a Harley Davidson Motorcycle underneath me, the words can't describe. I had four hours of smiles and pride of accomplishment. If you never rode a motorcycle and have the desire to do it, you should. Remember, life is short and you should do all you want to do, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.

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