The riding range, affectionately referred to as the range, is a large parking lot that could fit three football fields east to west and two more north to south. All students arrive 15 minutes early for fear of not being able to ride at all if late. We are split into two groups, six riders on opposite diagonal sides of the range. The morning is bright, the sky is a deep cobalt blue, and the hot sun is beating on our fully clothed arms and legs. Six shiny motorcycles sit lined up tire to tire across the parking lot, blue, red, black, silver, red, and black. They look so pretty, so enticing. Ride me, they say. The chrome shimmers in the sun playfully winking at us.
Our instructor’s name is Walter Champion. What a fabulous name. He’s an African American gentleman in his sixties with freckles, kind eyes and a welcoming smile. He wears a long-sleeved khaki-colored shirt with vents on the sides made for hiking or safaris. His hat is wide-brimmed, a slightly lighter khaki, also used on safaris, and I start to wonder if we’re going to see Lions on this tour. He’s wearing green riding pants and black motorcycle boots. Outside of the goofy hat, he’s the coolest cat on the range.
He checks us in, ensures that each of us have a helmet, gloves, long pants, ankle-high boots, and long sleeves. After gear approval, he requests we start intros that includes our name, where we’re from, where we live, and what kind of bike we have or want. There’s Maggie and Sean from San Francisco. They want to get their license so they can legally rent scooters when they travel to Italy in a few weeks. Adrian, a nineteen year old Chines kid, who looks 27 and wants to learn how to ride the dirt bike that was given to him as a gift. Flavio is in his mid-twenties and works for Twitter as an engineer. He lives in San Francisco and wants to buy a Kawasaki Ninja sport bike. Erica is in her early thirties, full-figured and she’s here because her boyfriend rides and he asked her to get her license so he can drink and she can ride them home. There’s a free dinner to a fancy restaurant in it for her if she passes the test.
Satisfied with our intros, Walter explains he has three rules, but the first one is the most important. “Obey me at all times,” he says without a smile making eye contact with each of us to show he is not joking. In fact, Walter Champion doesn’t joke much at all.
This ought to be an interesting couple of days.