Day #13: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Riding in the Dirt!)

Day #13 of my 30-day challenge has taken me out of my comfort zone. After seeing my cousin Steve at a recent family wedding, he pitched the idea of me learning to ride a dirt bike as part of my challenge. Since I have never had the chance to ride a dirt bike, it quickly was added to my list of experiences I wanted to try!

My Dad, my niece Elyse and I took off for Valley Center, where Steve and his family live. Their front yard (2.5 acres) was the perfect course for a beginning dirt bike rider. Elyse was an early favorite because she has a mini-motorcycle that she likes to zip through her neighborhood. I was more cautious as I hoped I would come back in one piece.

Steve could not have been nicer or more patient with the new kid. He walked me around my assigned dirt bike and familiarized me with all the necessary parts. I was most interested in how I would be able to stop! When the lesson was over, he told me me to suit up with my helmet. It was quickly obvious that I would have to lose the earrings since they wouldn’t fit under my helmet! Riding without accessories was going to be a tall order.

My first challenge was to start the engine. I saddled up on my ride and attempted to kick start the bike. I failed. I tried again. I failed. I tried a third time. My foot slipped, and I still failed. Steve had to rescue me by starting the bike, otherwise it was going to be a short lesson!  Once we were fired up, he reminded me to let out the clutch, while giving it some throttle. All I could think about was Elyse’s warning in the car when she told me not to rev the engine too high because I would be thrown off the back. With trepidation, I found the right combination of gear and gas, and the bike moved forward. I was on my way.

My first attempt lasted about 10 yards, when I was forced to make a turn. In the chaos of trying to get the bike to go east instead of south, I let go of something and the bike stalled. Thank goodness I had Steve as my pit crew! Luckily, it was a short walk for him to fire me up again. Once I got started, I was able to take on the track. Elyse, of course at this point, is already zipping past me like whoever is the Danika Patrick of motor bike riding. Who invited the 14-year old, no-fear kid?

For about 15 minutes, I made my way up and down the hills and valleys of Steve’s front acreage, proudly sporting my bobble head helmet. I learned quickly over confidence can lead to a demise. On the next lap, I found myself heading down the dirt hill, with Elyse Patrick quickly approaching. I do remember hearing her tell me that I needed to give it more gas or I would hit the soft dirt. She should have spoken up louder. Just as I was turning the corner, the back wheel met the front wheel and the bike bucked me off with abandon. Thankfully, I was able to hop off the bike as it was falling, which yielded only mild injuries. Once I realized I wasn’t broken, my focus turned to the bike, where I prayed that I had not just broke this angry machine in half. Looking up, I saw Steve and my Dad running towards the heap.

Thankfully, speedy was fine and I was able to get back on the bike. Steve was adamant that I had to ride again so I could shake my spook. After another few laps, I felt my confidence coming back and I decided this time to make a wider lap. My confidence bucked me once again and I found myself picking up a sideways bike. This sport is hard – unless you are Elyse.

Learning to ride a dirt bike was an unique experience, made doubly special because my cousin Steve and his family offered the education. I don’t think I will be spending my weekends at the track, but should I ever find myself in a horror movie and the only thing standing between me and the boogie man is a dirt bike, I might be able to hop on and get away. That is of course as long as I have Steve in my pocket to help me to jump start the bike!

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