Sunday…today is the day it has to happen. No rain, no motorbikes in my way, just the hot sun beating down on the pavement and the open road beckoning me for adventure. Well, actually I’d like to believe that it was beckoning me…but it was hard to hear over the noise of my inner fear. However my pride won out and I knew that today had to be the day I got on that damn bike and joined the motorbike masses.
I waited until lunch time, the traffic wasn’t too busy, and before I could really think about it, I just went. It’s like jumping into a cold lake. You can’t just dip your toe in or you’ll brain will take over and screw everything up. You need beckon your pride and use your heart and just go for the adrenaline rush and do it…jump!
I put on my sunscreen, and my best helmet. I put my insurance card in the front of my wallet, and I put the medical center biz card right behind it that says all of the directions in Vietnamese; and I jumped in. Off I went. I drove around the block about 3 times trying to get used to the turns on the bike, the acceleration, and simply having to pay attention to road signs and traffic lights again; something I never have to do on a Xe-om. I tested out the horn and learned how to turn off the turn signal. I was doing ok – yet I had only made right turns to that point! I ventured down a few other roads with more traffic and tried to get used to not worrying about what was behind me or on my side; it seems as if the only space you are responsible for here is the space directly in front of you (12 o’clock) and the space from 10 to 12 and 12 to 2…everything else doesn’t matter. You don’t do a check over your shoulder when you move over, you just move over and everyone moves out of your way as if you all travel in a giant wave and are all somehow connected.
This is really rather counterintuitive to me. I like side mirrors, I like over the shoulder checks, I like to know who’s in my space around me so I found this hard to let go. But you need too else when you look over your shoulder to move over, you will run into the person in front of you.
I decided it was time to take some left turns so I pointed the bike towards District 2 where I had friends and there was some empty road out there where I could practice more turns and get better balance. This meant that I had to drive about 15 minutes on the big road that led out of town along with big trucks and buses…and plenty of motorbikes. It also meant that I had to cross bridges with little narrow bike lanes. I had done this a million times on the back of a xe-om, but never by myself.
I was a granny driver…I stayed on the far right of the road and puttered along slowly as other bikes sped past me. Heck, even the guys carrying big palettes of flowers on the back of their bikes passed me…I was a slow poke. I had a strange feeling of being 16 again; the feeling of being behind the wheel for the first time alone. It was a feeling of independence yet I was ultra sensitive to every movement and action around me trying to figure out how I fit into the moving puzzle. God – that was 23 years ago…shit…déjà vu but with wrinkles now.
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