Does everyone have a bucket list? I'm talking about a realistic one, of course.
Mine has included such things as seeing the sun go down on Galway Bay, except that when I went there with two of my daughters some years ago, it was pouring with rain and there wasn't a hint of sunshine. The same thing happened when all the family converged on Orlando in Florida in 2003 when the children were on the point of dispersing to the four corners of the world and we all thought a holiday together with quality time would be a great memory. And it was. We did lots of things, One special memory was to drive down to Key West with my son (the others wanted to go to the theme parks - again) where (you've guessed it) I wanted to see the sunset on one side of the road in the evening and sunrise on the other side of the road the following morning. The sunset worked a treat but, once again, it was raining hard the next morning, so no sunrise! Mind you, the drive down through the Keys with water so close on either side of the road (not to mention the crocodiles in the Everglades) is something I'll never forget!
Over the past few years, health issues have somewhat overtaken the items on the bucket list. Replacement joints and rehabilitation, for example, put a bit of a dent in travel plans so I've contented myself with enjoying the moment, counting my blessings and revelling in the company of the friends I'm close to within the various voluntary organisations I'm part of.
In one of these organisations are the amazingly talented and knowledgeable people I meet within the New Zealand Institute of Advanced Motorists, a voluntary organisation. And what happened last Saturday was a total surprise and a complete joy for me. I'd spent the morning with one of our Wellington Associates who's working towards achieving full membership of the Institute, while at the same time observing our National President observing the Associate (two birds with one stone, so to speak!) on his way to achieving the qualification of NZ IAM Car Observer to add to his Motorcycle Observer qualification.
I knew that the some of the members of the Wellington motorcycle group were going to spend the afternoon at the Police College with Sergeant Graeme Bergh, National Road Policing Trainer and arguably one of the best motorcycle riders in New Zealand. That's him on the left of the photo, standing beside Constable Mike Turner, NZ IAM Director of Tests, who has spent the last three months at the Police College, training the recruits in car handling skills. Mike has also been kind enough to give his time to the Wellington car group every other weekend and nearly all the drivers have been able to take advantage of his outstanding skills. He was formerly a Class 1 Advanced Police driver and motorcyclist in Scotland where the standard achieved is extremely high.
The purpose of the afternoon was to learn and/or practise slow speed motorbike handling skills, things like Staggered Gates, Figure of Eight, Straight line Weave, Right-hand Stationery turns, Messy Mind Frock, Emergency Braking and one they didn't do, Dizzy J! If you're a motorcyclist and want to learn more about things like this, you'd better go to the IAM web site and think about joining in with the fun.
The course was set out when I arrived and lots of practice had already been going on. There was time to watch all the guys (and they were all guys that day although there are some very capable women in the Wellington group) riding from the southern end of the parade ground at speeds from 30kph to 60kph to the point where Graeme was waiting for them to do a planned emergency stop. It was hugely impressive.
Next, there was a celebration of the presentation of certificates to some of the team who had achieved Motorcycle Observer Status (some a few years earlier who'd been waiting for the right photo opportunity!). This photo shows Carey receiving his Certificate and there were others presented to Davey Uprichard and Andy Crawford.
It's possible that you're wondering what all this could possibly have to do with my bucket list. Well, it was at this point that Graeme asked if anyone would like to ride pillion while he demonstrated some of the skills. Neil, Wellington Examiner for cars and bikes (he's the one in the back row with dark glasses and a wicked smile on his face) quickly called out, 'Wendy does'! Let's be clear here. I've never ridden a motorbike or been a pillion rider and I didn't actually know it was on my bucket list until I thought - why not? After all, it's your thoughts that count, isn't it?
I looked at his bike with some trepidation. It's very big and very wide and I know my physical limitations, even if none of the guys did. How on earth, I wondered, would I get on or off? But help was at hand. Paul lent me his jacket and gloves, Barry lent me his helmet and I was soon looking the part, even though I was still standing beside the bike and no closer to mounting it.
Suffice to say, it was an exhilerating experience. Graeme told me to lean when he leant and then proceeded to do figures of eight on a sixpence at about 5kph, before he raced off to the southern end of the parade ground, turned around, raced back towards the cones and did an emergency stop. I was hanging on to the two sidebars (just in case) but I felt completely safe the whole time and really loved the experience.
Dismounting was another matter. Getting on had been hard enough but getting off again? Well! But I might have known that the guys would come to my rescue and with Graeme valiantly learning forward stoically and providing an anchor (I think I pulled off both his epaulets on the dismount), Paul ready to catch me as I slid off ignominiously and Carey giving my right leg a bit of a helping hand, I managed to reach terra firma safely.
Sometimes you need someone to prod you out of your comfort zone. Thanks, Neil! I'm absolutely sure that the thought of suggesting it would never have crossed my mind but, there was no way I was going to resist the challenge if the guys thought I could do it - and with their help, it was mission accomplished.
Thank goodness I know how to tell my brain what it can do, rather than letting my brain tell me what I can't!