Monday, October 04, 2004

Yellow Belt/Changing Gears

It's been a busy, busy weekend. I woke Saturday nervous ... my very first belt test in karate! I started at USSD back in June, when the Encino dojo first opened. This means I've spent a rather long time as a white belt, the very beginning level. I don't mind. It means I've had lots and lots of time to practice basics while enough students have enrolled and learned enough to test. It's a group of five of us who test for yellow belt. The test lasts about an hour, hour and a half ... I don't know. I just know it kicked my butt, it was physically very hard work, and constant. There were times were all I wanted to do was drop to the ground with exhaustion and then sensei would bark out some new orders and, well, what choice do I have but throw myself into doing whatever he just asked? Football was like that, too, especially two-a-days. You just have to keep going. We all passed. It'll be nice to have some color in the dojo. It'll feel strange and proud and a little shy to put that stiff new belt around my waist at my next class. It's a tiny little step, I know, but it's my first one.

After the test, I have to run home, shower and change, because it's time to run down to Long Beach and broadcast an Aftershock game! Needless to say, I wasn't in top form. Tim's friend who usually does the stats wasn't there, which means I tried to keep them, scribbling numbers on a sheet of paper in between trying to say something halfway interesting on the air. I sounded flat because I was so tired, low-energy, and I kept messing up everyone's names, but got through it. The Aftershock trounced the Scorpions pretty convincingly. I went right home afterward for some badly-needed rest.

Sunday, I meet up with the Changing Gears riders. (Check their website at What an awesome ride. It was a tremendous pleasure to meet Jean and the rest. These women inspire me. I was originally going to join Minnie and Sparky in Malibu for breakfast, but they ate without me because I skipped it and slept in a little bit. Sorry, ladies! Apparently I missed a good bit o' chow. We took off down PCH and headed south to Harbor City, a little town near Long Beach, to the reception at California Harley-Davidson. My doofus moment for the day -- I had printed out directions but of course left them at home, but I was fairly sure I knew how to get there. Famous last words. As the fearless leader I managed to get us a wee bit lost, but we got back on track and made it to the dealership on time. A few minutes later, the Changing Gears riders & accompanying folks pulled in. Lots of huge smiles & happy motorcyclists!

Jean, Boo, LH, Minnie, SparkyWe found Ladyhawke & Jean in the crowd, and proceeded to meet and greet with everyone. There were plenty of videocameras out, interviews with the various riders. Twenty women, twenty amazing stories, incredibly vibrant and high spirits abounding. The Amazons were actually interviewed as a group for a local cable channel. Who knows, we may end up in a documentary somewhere! (Ladyhawke, you did such a lovely job, but I managed to cram about half a dozen "umm"s into every sentence. I think I get camera-shy when I'm tired! LOL) Jean spoke wonderfully about the ride, the group's cause, the opportunity these women have embraced, and the importance of mammograms and early detection. I think we were the last interview of the day because we had to dash back outside & saddle up, everyone else was ready to ride.

Waved bye-bye to LH who had to head back south, and the rest of the group took off for Ventura County. The Changing Gears riders were in the front, followed by a large contingent from a local H.O.G. chapter, and Amazons held down the rear. Changing Gears rides through Malibu, CaliforniaIt is fun to have a police escort stop traffic and let a hundred riders pour through intersections while the cagers have to stop and watch you. Some look on with curiosity, some twitch impatiently. ;) Seeing the long line of riders from the back of the pack was pretty amazing.

Great riding weather. The group ended up back on PCH and we cruised up to Neptune's Net (local biker hangout) for the major stop of the afternoon. Lots more happy chatting and hanging out. Everybody, sing along!!One of the Changing Gears riders hauled out a guitar being carried in the support van and we had an impromptu concert on the front steps ... she sang a song that went something like "I hope there are Harleys in heaven/or what would the angels ride?" which everyone LOVED. Minnie and Sparky decided to take off from there (it was getting a little on the late side by this time) but I chose to ride with the group all the way to the day's destination in Oxnard. One of the Changing Gears ladies, who was caging it in the support van, asked if I could ride her two-up the rest of the way, and I said, sure, why not? So I actually had a passenger for the last leg of the trip and let me tell you, I did FINE with it. I am not nearly as terrified of having a passenger as I used to be!

The group ended up in Oxnard without anything eventful happening, always a good thing, and after a little more socializing, I said my goodbyes and headed on home. It was a long day and I was awfully tired by the end of it, but what a GREAT time it was! Such a pleasure to meet you, Jean, and I hope the rest of your adventure is splendid beyond words. (BTW, Jean thought our Southern California scenery is pretty awesome. Yep, they've been riding some great roads. But I kept telling her, if you think this is great, just wait 'til you get up in Northern Cali! That has got to be some of the prettiest riding ANYWHERE.)

Rock on and ride safe, ladies ...