3 years ago
Monday, December 14, 2009
At first I felt like I would fly off the back of the monstrous black-and-yellow beast at any moment. My boots kept lifting off the footboards, my rear bounced on the seat with every bump, my faceplate kept tapping the back of his helmet. I clutched his jacket with a death grip, sure that with the next burst of speed my hands would be ripped away and I would be flung backwards to break my neck or legs or spine. All I could do was hold on for dear life and try to see enough of the trail ahead that I could anticipate the bumps and turns, just a little bit.
And it was fantastic.
I was determined to figure this out. Surely there was a better way to keep hold. I remembered he had warned me that this sport could be hard on the knees. If it was hard on the knees, then my legs must need to get more involved. So I experimented with my foot placement. It turned out that if I pressed my ankles and shins against the side of the machine, I was able to brace myself better. That was a start.
At the first stop we made, I cleared the snow away from the footboards and realized there were metal teeth built into the boards at regular intervals. Aha! A way to get my boots to stay on better! When we climbed back on, I jammed my boots into the teeth. At last: they could stay on the boards without having to brace them against the tiny ridge on the side. Now I could get my upper legs more involved. I soon realized that if I gripped the machine and his hips with my knees and thighs, I was suddenly secure.
I no longer had to grip his jacket until my fingers ached. Instead, I held on just enough to brace myself in the absence of handlebars and concentrated instead on learning to lean into the turns so that he wouldn't have to fight both the machine's weight and mine. Gradually I learned to spot where we'd need to lean, anticipate the need to raise my rear end off the seat and grip with my knees so that I was no longer jounced by the bumps. We began moving in concert, almost one being on the machine. My face ached with the width of my grin, stretching muscles chilled by the wind screaming through the small space beneath my faceplate.
That's when I learned that he had been going easy on me. He could sense my new confidence, my ability to hold on with my lower body rather than my hands. I had thought we were going fast before; now he showed me more of what this machine was capable. We roared down straightaways at speeds that tugged at my body, skimmed over rugged stretches, spun around curves with bodies at acute angles to the ground, soared over hilltops so that I yelled with delight on this rollercoaster of snow.
I was alive: not only alive, but Living.
We climbed a massive hill that rose above the trees, turned, and stopped. We dismounted, raised our faceplates, and gazed out over a variagated grey and blue landscape of hills and naked trees edging mistily into the distance, dark against a crimson winter sunset. We stood in silence a while, listening to the gentle sighing of the wind, soon drowned out by the distant rumble of racing machines on the trail below.
So is this something you find enjoyable? Would you want to do this more if you had a machine to drive? he asked at last, glancing at me.
I grinned again and sighed, the crisp slice of air tingling in my lungs.
Oh yes. Oh yes indeed.