I turned 50 in June. To celebrate, to console myself, I bought a motorcycle, a low-slung cruiser that looks enough like a Harley that, at 100 yards, it's hard to tell the difference. I bought it before I was licensed to ride it, so straightaway I got a learners permit, recruited a supervisor, and began preparing for the Motorcycle Skills Test.

The MST involves a series of tight maneuvers through an obstacle course. You have to turn on a dime. You have to weave between cones barely wider than your bike is long. You have to come to sudden stops without skidding, and creepy crawl a lengthy straight stretch without veering. My supervisor was supposed to get me ready for all that.

Only, I liked riding the open road so much, we paid little mind to fiddlesome details. Occasionally, we'd pull into an empty parking lot, I'd do a few U-turns and figure 8s, declare myself a master, and off we'd go again, blazing down the highway.

Born to be wild, I guess.

The day of the MST came. I was dangerously unprepared. Orange cones bristled up like warheads, terrifying me. The radius of the turns I had to execute would, I'm sure, have tripped up Houdini. I bombed. I hit those cones as though that was the goal. The adjudicator failed me inside of a minute.

I was humiliated. Dejected. Angry. Ready to quit.

And then, fiercely determined. I had to wait two weeks to retry, and in those two weeks I became Evel Knievel. I turned that bike in circles tight as a pirouette. I Latin danced between cones. I think I could have ridden that bike across a tightrope. When I retook the test, I nailed it.


Maybe, a tad obsessed.

I wouldn't want to live without ambition. Actually, I wouldn't be able to live without it. Ambition is what keeps us at it. It rouses us from ...

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Fall 2010: Ambitions  | Posted
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