|The day I finally earned my UK license.|
Exactly one year ago today, I earned my UK motorcycle license. Traffic to this blog has increased considerably since then (thank you for reading), so some of you might not know the whole story leading up to that moment. In short, I had earned my U.S. motorcycle endorsement in a YMCA parking lot when I was 18, but thereafter done nothing with it. Years later, I became obsessed with the idea of getting a motorcycle to combat the interminable dreariness of British life.
|Training often involved lunch at a greasy-spoon cafe.|
I mean, sweet baby Jesus on a surfboard, do they go crazy for motorcycle testing over here. If a British 16 year old wants to ride a motorcycle, he or she will be subjected to no less than seven tests before attaining the type of license I now have (b). Because I’m over the age of 24, I was able to “fast track” my way there with only five tests (c). This is known as the Direct Access route.
Jenn, however, points out that this imagined scenario is woefully flawed. And she is right. Firstly, I don’t have any motorcycling friends in this country; I don’t know anyone from whom I could borrow a 600-cc bike for the sake of taking the practical tests. More importantly, the part where I maxed out my credit card by failing lots and taking loads of extra training days was not part of the plan. To say that I should have instead spent that money buying a throwaway motorcycle assumes a Doctor Whovian future awareness.
And I suppose that’s one of the main things motorcycling teaches you: to live in the present. To focus on what is, not what could be or should be. Focus on what’s there –– that car, that curve, that pothole –– and let go of the things that aren’t there.
Another lesson I’ve gained from motorcycling, or, rather, from my particular motorcycle journey since starting this blog, is that things are attainable. It is actually possible to identify a goal and work toward it. Slowly, occasionally with setbacks, often with compromise, and even more often in ways you don’t anticipate, you can get from the Point A of being a guy with no license, no money and no bike, to the Point B of planning a 1,000+-mile adventure to the Scottish Highlands.
|Riding to Hay-on-Wye last summer|
Both of these lessons I try to incorporate into other aspects of my life. For example, the not-dwelling-too-much-on-a-past-I-cannot-change thing has helped me to shake off some of the deep bitterness I feel toward the Welsh-language community. The persistent-forward-movement-toward-a-set-goal thing means Jenn and I have saved enough money to visit my home state of Texas this summer — my first trip back to the United States in 3 years.
Three years. That much homesickness leads to madness — actual thinking-crazy-thoughts madness. But there motorcycling helps again. My stalwart Honda CBF600 SA brings me a tiny sense of freedom on this island of rain, a feeling of being in control of my own self, and an ability to seek out the kinds of places and things that originally made me want to move here.
Over the past year I’ve become a slightly better rider. I’ve become, too, a slightly better person. There is plenty of room for improvement in both aspects, but I’m looking forward to seeing what’s on the road ahead.