this can only end well…
As time flies towards the start of the trip, only one small detail has given me a hint of trepidation – I haven’t actually ridden a motorcycle in about 6 years.
To address this slight wrinkle, I signed up for the PA Motorcycle Safety Course. If you are lucky enough to live in the commonwealth, I highly suggest you sign up for the course – even if you never plan on riding a motorcycle. Unlike most states, PA offers this program FREE of charge to all residents.
The course begins with two predictably dull classroom sessions, but the instructors try to make it as enjoyable as possible. If you are completely unfamiliar with riding there is some good information contained in the videos & workbook, but all-in-all it is a necessary evil to get to the fun part – two days of riding. The MSP provides a motorcycle and helmet, all you need is long pants, long-sleeve shirt, and gloves.
The class was comprised of a diverse group, from experienced riders with decades of experience, to high school kids getting their permit, and everything in between. The focus is on “life-saving” skills – cornering, braking, & swerving. The first day of riding was pretty rough for first timers and those (like myself) who hadn’t ridden in awhile as it was cold, wet, and rained constantly. It was a great experience, though, as we went over the basic skills (such as the fast stop) in the rain on slick pavement. Kind of like warming up with two bats. Day two was perfect weather – sunny, calm, and perfect temps when bundled up in motorcycle gear. The second day you get the speed up a little, and focus on swerving, cornering, and ride more as a group. It culminates in a “celebration of skills”, which is the motorcycle license test. I passed with flying colors, as did the rest of my comrades-in-training.
All the bikes are small 250cc, and the riding is done on a closed course at low speeds (generally less than 30 mph). This should provide ample experience for me to pilot a 1000+cc bike across the country fully loaded with two weeks of gear, right? Fear not, I only laid the bike down once!