Posts Tagged ‘squeeze’

Practice Makes Perfect

April 7, 2014

Well, maybe not perfect.

But a whole lot better.

I took my Vespa out for her first solo ride.

Sans friends.

Just me and a scooter.

ME

Me

Scooter

And A Scooter

I am just a little excited in this photo, if you can’t tell.

Nervous too.

I was.

Unmindful?

A little bit.

I got so excited about my virgin voyage on my own that I forgot to lock up the house.

Oops.

I did all the checks that my friend told me to do, I made sure that the handle bars weren’t locked.

I put it in neutral and double checked that it was in neutral before I kickstarted it.

She was a little cold and did not want to start-up right away, so I pulled out the choke and then vroom!

It was on.

I walked around the scooter, stepped through, and rolled her down of the kickstand.

Then I just sat for a moment with my foot on the brake and let the breath come to me.

I wasn’t going to go far.

I figured I would just go up 46th from my house to Sloat and back.

Which is exactly what I did.

As I eased off the clutch I gave it a little too much throttle and it did a quick jump out.

But then I steadied myself, laughed a little, and tried again.

This time much better.

I rolled up to the stop sign at Judah.

I let everybody go, I mean everybody, just waved folks through, waited for the pedestrians, swiveled my head around to make sure no one was behind me, prayed, smiled, grinned, and breathed, eased off the clutch, rolled the throttle and I was off.

I got it to second gear.

I felt what my friend meant when he said that it would give a “ka-thunk” when it was in gear and I would know it.  Also that when I was putting it into gear to roll of the throttle and not give it gas and smoothly release the clutch.

Within four blocks I had it in third and was cruising right along.

I know enough about the neighborhood to know that despite it being quiet and residential, folks still do all sorts of wonky maneuvering to find parking and I kept my eyes out to watch for this and also intersections where cars are rolling through the stop not paying too much attention.

I gave myself plenty of space.

I grinned a lot.

I thought, I got this.

Then I killed it at a stop sign.

I tried to start it while straddling it and could not quite get the gumption to give it the strong kick it needed.

So, I settled into neutral, stepped out and pulled her up onto the kickstand.

“Need help?” A taxi driver leaned out the window of a Yellow Cab.

“Nope,” I said, “thanks!  Just practicing.”

I smiled.

He smiled.

The world smiled.

Or that’s what it felt like.

The cab moved off, I came around, kicked it started right off the bat and stepped back through, pulled it up off the stand and proceeded forward.

I got to Rivera and decided to not tackle going all the way to Sloat.

The street was right there, but so too is the MUNI turn around for the Taraval train and I did not want to navigate over and around the MUNI tracks.

I turned right and slipped down to 47th then headed back toward the house.

At Noriega I turned right and then left back onto 46th ave and headed to my house.

I felt really good and decided I would keep riding for a little bit.

I turned on Irving and headed up toward 43rd, then around the block, back to Judah, and back home.

The neighbors across the way hollered out to me as I got off the Vespa, “lookin’ good!”

I might have blushed.

There’s a bunch of guys and gals in their twenties across the way with surf boards galore and motorcycles and stuff and it felt kind of nice to be cheered on.

I secured the Vespa, locked the handlebars, locked my helmet on the seat, tucked my gloves into the little fender box built into the rear hub and went inside to celebrate.

Which looked like pulling up the e-mail from the insurance agent that a fellow scooter rider suggested and filling out the rest of the paperwork to get my insurance all in a row.

Then I wrote a check for this month’s scooter payment, a week early, but hey, that’s how I like to roll, and walked it to the mail box and dropped it in.

The day was gorgeous and I was drawn to the back yard.

But not before I made a coffee date with an old friend I haven’t seen in over a decade.

He is going to come out next Friday on his cycle and we’re going to meet at Trouble and have coffee and catch up and then go for a ride.

I told him I have only been out for three rides and he told me he could still kick my ass.

We used to study Shaolin together.

I am not sure how relevant it was to the conversation, but it made me laugh and I am looking forward to more practice on the Vespa and catching up with a friend from back home, Madison, Wisconsin.

He gave me props for still having my 608 area code too.

After our conversation I retired to the back yard, sat in the sun and read for a while, made some lunch, sat outside some more, took a nap, yes, I did, then yes, sat outside a little more, finished my book and had an early dinner.

Then off to Church and Market for an early evening commitment.

I rode my bicycle.

I am not ready to scoot that far.

Yet.

But I will be.

Soon.

Just a little more practice.

And it’s on.

 

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I Killed It

April 6, 2014

No.

I mean.

I literally killed it.

Like, um, four times.

Heh.

Learning how to use the clutch on the scooter.

But learning I am and I now feel comfortable enough to go out on my own tomorrow.

Not very far.

No.

Just up and down the block, get the feel of it, get used to rolling off the throttle, using the clutch, moving from 1st to neutral, neutral to 2nd, not killing it.

But killing it.

Now, figuratively.

Because.

Soon.

Soon, I will be zipping around this seven by seven tract of city like no body’s business and it’s going to be on.  Of course, there’s a learning curve, and I did not want to get on that curve today, nope, not at all, in fact, I had more than one fleeting thought about how this was all a mistake and what was I thinking and who needs a scooter and I am crazy.

I ate my dinner anyway before my friends showed up.

My friend came over with his girlfriend to help me practice.

And I thought as I hugged her, this was a mistake, the eating of dinner, I am going to throw up.

The feeling stayed with me as I promptly killed the engine on the scooter taking it from neutral to first and letting out the clutch to fast and leaping forward a little and whomp, there she goes dying.

I got to slow down then.

Stop.

Back it up against the curb.

Practice finding and using the kill switch.

Practice rolling on and off the throttle.

Practice squeezing out the clutch slowly.

My friend noticed my biggest error right away, I was using the clutch like it was a brake.

Aha!

Makes total sense, at least to me, I am used to squeezing a lever on the handlebars on my bicycle, it means I am engaging the brake on the wheel.

Eight years of habit is a hard habit to break.

And I have to learn how to brake by using the foot brake on the Vespa, the right side has a foot brake on the floor board of the scooter.

The clutch is on the left, the throttle on the right and the right front brake and then the rear brake is on the floor on the right side.

Ugh.

Dyslexia girl strikes again.

What my friend did was genius though.

He just paced right along side me on his scooter.

He went slow, watched for traffic, had me start out in neutral, ease off the clutch, go to first, give it some gas, and practice stopping and starting every ten to fifteen feet for a while.

Then when I was getting the hang of it, I took it into second and went a little bit faster.

Not that much faster, though.

I got passed by cars.

Bicycles.

And, mortifying.

One guy on a skateboard.

But what ever.

I got it.

I stilled killed it at a four-way stop sign when I got overwhelmed with the sunlight and the cars and the turn and just fritzed out my brain.

And that’s ok too.

I am learning.

And I got the thumbs up to do some practising on my own.

l feel like I can do that tomorrow, take her out, just zip, slowly, up and down the blocks.

My neighborhood is actually perfect for that kind of practise.  It is so residential and there are stop signs just about every block.  I couldn’t bring the scooter over 25 mph if I wanted to before I would be braking.

I can just do exactly what I did today.

Get on, start the engine, I literally have to kickstart it.

There is not engine on switch.

I put the key in the scooter, turn it, to make sure the handle bars have gotten unlocked, and kick down the lever to start the engine.

It is pretty awesome when I think about it and I really do see myself becoming a pro at it.  I just have to practice and allow myself to be a novice at something.

I learned how to drive a stick shift when I was fifteen.

I did the same thing then as I did today.

I stalled out  the engine.

I didn’t understand the feel of the clutch and the sound of the engine and when I needed to shift.  Mostly I was also mortified to make any mistakes.  Especially with my mom in the passenger seat telling me how to do it.

She made me drive up and down the drive way at the house in Windsor.

What I did not realize when I was first learning was that too often I was putting the car into third gear, first and third being close together on the gear shift, I didn’t know the difference, until, one day, it just clicked.

But by that time I was in a panic to not drive anymore.

I had stalled out at the four-way stop sign in Windsor and had traffic behind me and mom yelling at me in the car and I just wanted to give it up forever and who needs to drive anyway?

I somehow managed to make that left turn, just like today.

And after that it got easier.

And my uncle Jeff took me out in his truck shortly thereafter and was so laid back and easy-going and just explained it to me and I got it.

Same thing happened today.

I got the throttle and easing up and off while using the clutch and I got used to using the foot brake.

My friend was wonderful and patient and encouraging and so was his girlfriend, who had learned from him as well.

There was even a few moments when I was not terrified that I was going to kill it, never worried about killing myself, just the scooter, and I really enjoyed riding, the park is beautiful and I was riding along John F. Kennedy and hey!

I live in San Francisco and I own a vintage 1965 Vespa and I am riding it through Golden Gate Park wearing a sparkle helmet.

Whoa.

Life is amazing.

Even when I killed it.

I was killing it.

 


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