Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: On why I chose to ride a motorcycle.

11.12.2012

On why I chose to ride a motorcycle.

A few nights ago, I had a strange conversation with my brother (who doesn't ride a motorcycle) about transportation and getting around in Ohio. When I had mentioned that I only had one car and two motorcycles between me and Matt and that we were in the process of acquiring a second car for winter driving purposes, he responded with this:

"I don't even know why you have a motorcycle out in the Midwest anyway. You don't have to deal with the kind of traffic [like we have in California]."

I was slightly taken aback by the comment, and I had to step back a little and consider that his point of view is valid to some degree. Yes, I don't have to deal with the same level of vehicular congestion in Ohio that I faced in the Los Angeles/Orange County region of California. However, horrible traffic is not, and has never been, the primary reason of why I ride a motorcycle. In fact it had everything with to do with not being allowed to drive a car...


Let me explain. By personal choice (and to avoid the restrictions of a provisional license in CA), I chose to wait until I was 18 years old, much to the disappointment of my brother who was 15 at the time and hoping for a personal chauffeur, to obtain my driver's license. I received it in December 2002, about a month after my birthday. By that time, I had already had hours of supervised driving under my belt as I had a couple learning permits starting from age 16 and had gone to driver's education courses during that time. I traveled all over town immediately in a 2000 Ford Taurus SE after getting that full license and had plans to start driving myself to school at the beginning of my last semester at Santa Monica College, several weeks away.

That plan was not to be. About a week before the semester started, my father pulled me over and informed me that I was not allowed to drive myself from Carson to Santa Monica because of the concern that I "didn't know how to drive in traffic" and that "I was going to fall asleep at the wheel in the morning and die." (Seriously, that's verbatim and I am not making this up.) I couldn't get any help from my mother about the topic; she had no driver's license, didn't know how to operate a car, and relied on my father to drive her EVERYWHERE. So, as a result of these unfounded fears, my father made the "ultimate sacrifice for me" and woke up in the morning to take me to school where we would sit in traffic traveling at life-threatening speeds of 25 MPH for most of the way. Talk about helicopter parents...they weren't just hovering over me, I was in the damn helicopter with them!

This ridiculous routine continued on for six months. I would leave with my father to get on the freeway at a nice pace just to start crawling on the 405 North somewhere past LAX. As we entered the gridlock, and somewhere between me dozing off to ignore the drone of conservative talk radio blasting from the speakers, I would watch the motorcycles and scooters whiz by as they filtered between the stopped vehicles and out of sight. In those six months, I did my research, taught myself about the intricacies of those machines, and rekindled a love for the two wheels that I kept a secret in my youth because I knew that my adventurous ways were frowned upon. When I finally transferred to the University of Southern California and insisted in living on campus (that was another fight that I eventually won), I made it a personal goal to obtain my motorcycle license and bring myself one step closer to absolute freedom.

I will have to say, what added insult to injury to those treks to school was that when I finished classes early or had cancellations, the only way I could leave Santa Monica was to take two buses and a train home. Public transportation may be a breeze on the East Coast, but for me it was a 2.5 hour expedition and three vehicle changes to travel just under 25 miles. And the last time I checked the chances of being mugged are much lower when you're driving your own vehicle rather than taking public transportation, but I could be wrong. To my parents, it was safer than operating a car, because I was a "female and unreliable." In fact, there was a time that they caught wind that I was driving myself to hockey games and made it a point on several occasions to escort my vehicle home to make sure I wouldn't hit a pole or something. I made sure during those times that I would deliberately drive ten miles below the speed limit, stop at a fast food place for dinner, and then continue in circles just to make them wait even longer and pay the price for not trusting my abilities, which I myself fully believed in.

At USC, thanks to a DMV station located less than five minutes from my dorm (by bicycle) and that the State of California was still subsidizing Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) courses for those under the age of 21, I secured my motorcycle endorsement in October of 2004, less than ten months after getting my driver's license. I acquired my first motorcycle, a Suzuki GZ250, the following July. It took almost a year and a half and two more motorcycles later for my parents to find out that I had a bike, and they weren't, to the say the least, not happy about it. To this day they still aren't, but it was an important milestone in my life that I wouldn't have given up for the world.

I consider my motorcycle endorsement is one of my most prized possessions. I am proud to have that "M" stamped on my driver's license. It's a reminder that with willpower and determination, I had defeated the greatest obstacle to my success, my parents. That endorsement has helped me find my personal independence, my freedom to make my own choices, my current career, and most importantly, the love of my life. And for as much as they disapprove of my current life choices, I can only wish that one day, they'll actually realize that I'm not a failure, despite the fact that I have failed them as a daughter.

So why did I choose ride a motorcycle? Because it's a life-changer. Because it's a part of my life. Because it is my life. And it gets me past a few cars a little bit faster.