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My failure. My success. My journey to becoming a licensed motorcycle rider.
Sometimes failure is the right option. As much as it pains me to admit it.
Let me tell you a story. Back in September, I decided on a whim to buy a 2022 Harley Davidon Sportster 48. I had no motorcycle license. I had no permit. Hell, I didn’t even know how to turn the thing on. But there it was- standing proudly in my garage waiting for me to gas it.
A week later, I was attending a 3-day mandatory course, where I learned the basics. How to start it. How to put it into gear. How to make it go straight. I graduated (barely) knowing how to stop, weave, do a figure 8, and corner.
What they didn’t teach me was how to get out of second gear. I left that for my husband to suffer through.
Fast forward to a week ago. I now have upgraded to 2023 Harley Davidon Heritage and had ridden about 500 miles of Washington state back roads. The world was my oyster. I was confident, self-assured, and look sexy driving down the road. And I haven’t crashed or hit an unexpected bird.
I was ready to get my license. I signed up for the endorsement test and anxiously waited for my time to shine. I got this! It is only a 25-question test and 2 skills. A quick stop and cornering. Something I am proficient at.
What could go wrong?
Well, let me tell you…. everything!
First let’s start with I didn’t know I needed to be at the testing site at 11:00am for the written test. It wasn’t in the email or on the website. Unfortunately, you can ONLY do the written test at the testing site on a Friday and the DMV doesn’t do motorcycle testing (so I was told). So, I would have to wait another week to knock that out. No worries. I decided to do my skills test and then return.
I lined up with 6 other riders on what was a cold and rainy evening and received my beautiful European model motorcycle to test on. Now something should have triggered my spidey senses when I heard some of the other students say that our testing official was known for failing people. But I didn’t put much stock in that. I had ridden 500 miles of backroads….I was damn near ready to race professionally on the circuit.
As long as the other riders didn’t go above 70 mph and there were no curves.
I had this in the bag.
The only skill I was iffy about was the quick stop. I am a cautious driver and really don’t like waiting until the last minute to brake before ramming into something. But it is an essential skill to know how to do it correctly. But it was raining, and the wind blew like Zeus himself was mad about something, so I was a little more cautious then usual.
We all lined up, me in the back, and headed to the start line.
First guy centers on the start line, on his own bike that he had drove to the test on, looking confident and assured of success. He flies down the testing lane landing a perfect quick stop.
He lines up again, flies faster down the testing lane and stops again in the magnificent glory of rider awareness and skill.
What is going on here?
Now I am nervous. I bite my gloved nails and wait for my turn, sweating through my shirt, sweatshirt, and leather jacket in 42-degree rainy weather. I really didn’t want to do the walk of shame on the first run. My husband wouldn’t let me live it down.
I lined up, put the motorcycle in gear and flew down the center lane in a blaze of fiery and frozen glory.
Ahhhh, shit. This is in the bag.
That was my first mistake. I forgot that I am not an effective test taker. Never had been. One of two things will happen. I will overthink it and stress myself out. Or I will be overconfident and miss a key task. Let’s just say both happened on the second test.
I line up at the start line and visualize running the course in pristine form. I saw myself crossing the finish line and the testing official high-fiving me. I would skip to the truck and head to go get ice-cream in celebration.
What happened was I got lost on the three turns that are clearly marked. I veered the wrong way, forgot to shift, and thought the testing official was yelling at me- so I slowed down.
Did I mention that this was a timed event?
Fail. No second chances.
Come back again when you don’t suck.
No biggie. I wouldn’t be able to get my license anyway because I didn’t take the written test. So, I made an appointment to get my permit renewed and I would try again in a week.
That’s where everything went really wrong.
At the DMV I found out that I was hours past my permit expiring. Now I had to do the permit skills test and written test AGAIN along with taking my endorsement skills test and written test. Which by the way, is not cheap in the great state of Washington.
So, I signed up for a two-hour private lesson to review the skills I apparently sucked at and then took all SEVEN skills tests again. That was yesterday. 8:00 in the morning! And guess what- it’s raining again in Washington. GREAT!
At the end of my two hours, I had passed all seven tests with only 1 point being docked from me. I was even asked if I would consider getting some riding hours in and maybe returning next year to learn how to be an instructor. Apparently, I have good form and understand the skills well. I am honored. I am on cloud nine. Of course, I will be there!
But it wasn’t my riding skills that got me through all of that. It was the amazing coach who noticed my improper riding habits and corrected me. In a way that I understood and could fix. He explained the reason why riders do things a certain way, and what would happen if I continued doing what I had been doing. And even though I was soaked to the bone and couldn’t feel my fingers, I would take the lesson all over again.
Failure made me a better rider and more confident on my bike.
Sometimes in life, it is difficult when we fail at something desperately wanted. Negativity can sometimes make us give up. I almost gave up after the DMV. I would ride dirty. I wasn’t going back. But that night I failed and got home, my child was waiting for me. He was excited about my achievement. And I decided to tell him the truth.
Mom didn’t pass her test.
And then I told him I would do it again. Because it was the right thing to do. Not just because of the laws. But because I wanted my son to know that even adults fail and have to try again until they succeed.
Now I have my endorsement. And I did it the right way. I asked for help and came into the lesson with an open mind, clear heart, and ready to be in recieve mode.
Failure in this case was the jumping off point for my success.
So next time you fail, don’t give up. We got a new generation of humans watching us and waiting to see how we react. Lets teach them what our parents taught us- we don’t give up. We don’t listen when people tell us that we are not good enough. We work harder and prove them wrong.
And then head out for a motorcycle ride!