Track Day, Bro

It was a short, rainy drive to the track. Fortunately, garage space is included in the price of the event, and several of us who arrived the night before the event helped each other unload our bikes. My KLR got to sit in a nice dry garage for once, while the van sat out in the rain. A few of us may or may not have spent the night right there at the track. It was not a social occasion, as Henri made one more pass back across the area, dumping even more torrential rain as it passed. I took advantage of the free WiFi to watch videos and snuggle Lister. I tried to get to sleep early because it would be an early start the next day, but I was too excited.

I’ll leave the details of the track day itself for another article over on Piston Slap, my new website for all things with wheels and a few things without. To summarize, it was a difficult morning, between a friend crashing and taking an ambulance ride (an experience I had myself from a minor street crash last October), and being stuck behind poorly cornering Harley-Davidsons in the slow run group. Nothing against Harleys — I understand the appeal and may even own one someday. But they can’t lean over very far, and when it comes to cornering at speed, lean angle is everything. My Kawasaki KLR650 may only have 36 horsepower (which is why they put me in the slow run group), but the only time that’s a factor is on the straightaways. In the corners, I was much faster than most others in the slow run group.

I asked and got approved to move to the medium run group, which is faster paced with quicker bikes. After that, everything changed, and the rest of the day was amazing. I did well over 100 miles riding much faster and harder than I ever would on the street, practicing skills I knew and learning a few new ones. It was a rush, and a complete freaking blast. It also required such concentration that my mind couldn’t wander toward the other things in my life I’ve been spending way too much time thinking about lately.

I got through the day without incident, loaded up, and drove to Bob and Cheryl’s place in Amesbury, Massachusetts. I met them through the New England Riders Facebook group (where I will remain an active member no matter where I end up), and they offered me a place to park close to Break’er Bikes, where my new tires were waiting for me. A place to pre-stage and avoid a long drive in the morning is already great, but Bob and I also put my bike up in his garage and removed my wheels to let me get their $20 tire swap deal for uninstalled wheels. Bonus!

I just have to say, these guys are awesome, even if Keely broke even my open minded expectations of gender roles. She was the one who swapped my tires, right next to her Suzuki Hayabusa that runs 9-second quarter miles. I’m a vocal supporter of women doing any dang thing in motorsports they want to do (I just wrote an article for FIXD about that), but even I wasn’t immune to false assumptions based on traditional gender roles. Mad respect to Keely. And she did a great job on my tires, too!

Anyway, it’s time to get a bit more work done, and then figure out where I’m going from here. I have no plan, which is somewhat liberating, but at the same time I need to figure at least some things out so I can start moving in a general direction. My next commitment isn’t until IMS Outdoors in just over two weeks, so it’s time to plan a slow roll toward New York and Pennsylvania. Yes, I just came from that way, but oh well. I have to pass back through there to get to places I haven’t been yet — and the places that I want to go.

That’s another point that hit me like a 10-ton heavy thing yesterday. This non-sportbike track day is the first major activity that I’ve chosen for myself. The New England Forest Rally, Climb to the Clouds, those Trisha and I had always planned to do together, even since before the fire. The simple fact that she wasn’t there meant that no matter how well they went, it wasn’t going to be what I’d planned on or expected.

But that’s over now. We never discussed attending an event involving me riding my adventure tractor motorcycle on a race track. I just decided to do it, then did it. It’s that simple. This may be the first time that’s happened, but it won’t be the last. In fact, it’ll be standard operating procedure from now on. I’m still committed to IMS Outdoors, but once again, that was my plan, my choice, not ours. Finally, I feel like I’m beginning to move on, both literally and figuratively. That’s probably good for me.

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