It was a day to fall in love. It had been raining at Thunderhill and it was cold, but there was a break in the grey clouds. They were out there, regardless of cold and wet. They had come to this place in the hills of California to learn from the best. These men had paid for the privilege to learn at one of the top racing schools in America, Jason Pridmore’s Star Motorcycle School. The wet was beginning to dry.
I was anxious to leave my warm dry place and meet the man whom I had watched race years ago. I reminisced those days when I was new to Motorcycle Racing. I had the honor of meeting some of the celebrity riders who made a living out of racing, not just racing but racing well! Those men who pushed their limits, speed and power, to the ultimate level, I loved it!
My chance had come again, but in a different setting. I was not elbowing through the gathering crowds at Race Weekend to get an autograph or picture, but I still felt the same anticipation to meet again the Rider whom I admired and respected. And there he was, Steve Rapp, in his ripped jeans looking as impressive as ever I saw him, with a cool smile on his face. I was delighted! Steve Rapp, one of the fastest Racers in America, offered to take me on a two-up ride around the Race Track. I couldn’t wait!
It had been 8 years, the last time I rode. During those years I had wanted a two-up ride with a ‘fast guy’ however never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d go with Steve Rapp! All suited up, I was briefed on what to do in turns. Lean with the bike, look into each turn, elbows loose and relaxed. Steve informed me that we would go about 40% the first lap around and I assumed it would be a joyride around the track. I was completely wrong!
Like muscle memory, the slow ride down to the entrance felt familiar. There were men gathered in a semblance of a line, waiting their turn to ride with Jason Pridmore. All were moving with anticipation and I felt it too. I had some trepidation; thoughts of flying off the end in a tight turn had me a little worried. Excitement won out and I blocked any fear I had. This was going to be AWESOME!
Riding the twisties with my husband didn’t prepare me for this! I knew to look over his shoulder at each turn, and to look ahead through the apex of the turn and anticipate the next. That all came back to me in a flash as Steve Rapp pulled away from the start with a wheelie and SPEED! We were in the first turn before I could even breathe! I could not believe it! We were going SO FAST! I had NO IDEA what 40% meant! All thought left me and I just EXPERIENCED! The constant blast of the wind as we pushed through, the feel, vibration and scream of the impressive machine beneath, felt exhilarating! Power and Speed all in one beautiful machine! It amazed me!
As each turn came, I felt Steve shift his body in front of me, to hang off the seat. I began to imitate him, one cheek on one off, elbows loose and open. Hang on for dear life!! He accelerated out of each turn with incredible force that I had difficulty getting back up on the seat. I felt him shift preparing for the turn, brake, and we were leaning and accelerating out. There was no room in my mind for fear! All I could think of was “Get ready! Next turn!” Steve was so smooth that it became familiar.
All too suddenly we slowed and came to a stop. One lap around the track went by with lightning speed! I was somewhat relieved that we stopped, my butt had developed a cramp from tensing so much and I needed a short break. I wanted to preserve this mind-blowing ride and cramping held no place there. Steve reminded me to breathe and relax. We talked about how the ride went and I was shocked that that was his 40%. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine going THAT fast! What was he capable of? Curiosity won and I was ready to find out how fast we really could go. I wanted more. More speed, more power, just more.
He complied. We wheelied out of acceleration and sped down the front straight-away. This time I was ready for the first turn. Breathe and Relax, I told myself. I held on and leaned with him as we took the turn at an incredible pace. Time slowed a moment as I watched him into the next turn and I looked down at the tarmac. It was so close but too far still. I had wanted to touch, scrape my knee in the turn, but unfortunately I was sitting too high. We were leaned over so far that all I could see was black tarmac and sky. The hills and grasses were blurred into oblivion. I loved this!
Desire for this Sport filled my heart and I found a beauty and perfection in seeing the rhythm being played out before and beneath me. Man and Machine. Like seeing an athlete in perfect muscular performance, THIS was a graceful dance with honed timing and speed. The way Steve muscled the bike to do what he wanted, in such a perfectly smooth yet passionate tango, was Beauty like I’ve never seen before. It affected me in a profound way.
I wanted to scream, cry, laugh. I smiled. From deep within my soul, explicit love and life! What my body and eyes beheld seemed beyond reality. Seeing firsthand, what this man was capable of, what this machine was capable of exploded my mind! I was simply and utterly amazed!
On the last and final lap, I reveled in the joy and thrill of the bike in motion, wishing the ride wouldn’t end. Track in its unchanged pattern, turns, and elevation, straight-away. Machine with its power and potential wanting to be felt. Rider with his incredibly effortless skill, pushing his desire and will to go where he wanted. It was then that I realized I was forever changed.
I could never go back there, content to just riding the roads! My mind had opened up to the potential and I wanted the Track! The passion and love I had always held for Road Racing was borne anew in me but this time it was with such force it rocked me. Desire and Emotion were my constant companions for the rest of the day and would continue to be until I got back out there.
The experience I had, was one of a lifetime. Gifted to me by a brilliant man was even more spectacular! I happily give Steve Rapp, all my acclaim, for allowing me to have a very small glimpse into his world of Beauty and Performance.