In which I find out quad biking is not for me
On the second last day of the honeymoon we decided to do something we’d never done before and take a quad bike safari. Now, as far as “things we’d never done before” go, this wasn’t really a great call. I, you see, have been on a quad bike before. Back in the days when I worked weekends in a call centre (or “phone farm” as I affectionately think of it) my team managed to be the “Team of the Week” and our prize was a quad bike safari. (“Safari” probably isn’t the right word for this given that it happened in Fife, but you know what I mean). As it turned out, only me and two other women were able to make it: we had ourselves a lovely, ladylike drive through a forest, and even then I managed to crash my bike twice and almost killed myself. The resulting chest strain (how did I strain my chest? Who knows!) was the catalyst for The Great Hypochondriac Scare of 2001 – man, those were some fun times to be sure.
Despite all of this, it somehow didn’t occur to Terry and I that me + quad bike might not be such a good idea. Well, it occurred to me, obviously. Terry was all, “Nah, it’ll be fine, anyone can ride a quad bike” so we duly turned up at the quad bike place, handed over our money and were presented with two safety helmets and… two bandanas. Yes, bandanas.
Now, I don’t really do bandanas. I mean, do I look like a bandana-wearin’ girl to you? But the man who was running the show was most insistent, so I reluctantly tied the bandanna (which looked like it hadn’t seen a wash since it graced its last sweaty brow) loosely around my head and donned the helmet. Now looking like a giant lollipop, I thought the worst of my trials were surely over.
They were not.
Next, the man presented me with a pair of safety goggles. I have no real problem with safety goggles per se, but here’s the thing: my eyes are really sensitive to sunlight. So sensitive, in fact, that I need to wear my sunglasses pretty much all the time. Yes, even in winter. (And sometimes in the house, but let’s not even go there). I think it’s probably something to do with the whole migraine thing, but who knows. The point was that we were in Lanzarote, the sun was blazing down, the safety goggles were clear plastic, and my dark sunglasses would not fit underneath them. “I’ll just wear my sunglasses, it’ll be fine,” I told the Man in Charge. He looked at me and laughed here, but hell, he was wearing a bandanna, so I paid him no mind and prepared to meet my quad bike.
Prior to the safari, everyone participating had to go through a short “test” to make sure they were able to drive the bike safely. This involved us all getting on a bike and, one by one, following the Man in Charge out of the car park and on a short drive around the building, during which we were made to do a couple of figure eights, and other “so simple a child could do it” things.
Needless to say, Terry passed the test. In fact, everyone in the group passed the test. Except me, obviously. I did not pass the test. Shortly after I drove out of the car park, you see, I realised that quad bikes? Are heavy. To turn them, you need to really yank on those handlebars. I, unfortunately, am a weakling. The test didn’t go so good. Basically, I had no control over the bike whatsoever. “You have no control whatsoever,” said the Man in Charge, when we returned to the group. “None.” Terry actually filmed the M.I.C. saying this to me, but we can’t figure out how to get the video off his phone, and the sound’s more or less drowned out by Terry’s laughter, anyway, so you don’t get to see that. Sorry.
Anyway, all was not lost, and by that I mean, “all was totally lost, but I didn’t know it at the time”. They wouldn’t let me drive a bike on my own (that whole “no control” thing kinda ruled that one out) but I could, said the M.I.C. ride on the back of Terry’s bike. Fine. We got onto the bikes, and it was at this point I realised that I was going to die. You see, Terry had hired a large bike. I? Am little. My feet did not touch the … those things that your feet rest on when you’re on a quad bike. The seat was so wide that I ended up perched there like an ant on a football, clinging onto Terry for dear life as I lurched from side to side, almost falling to my death with every turn of the wheel. And that was just on the way out of the car park.
It got worse, though.
Once we hit the “desert” (note: I don’t think it’s really a desert, but it’s rough, bumpy ground, anyway) it became even clear to me that I really was going to die. The bikes were now travelling fast, down dirt tracks and over hills. My butt was rarely on the seat. Sometimes my entire body was flying out behind Terry’s, like a flag. (OK, not totally true, but it felt like it). Terry, of course, found this hilarious. “YOU BETTER LET ME BUY THOSE GUCCI SUNGLASSES I SAW LAST NIGHT FOR THIS!” I shouted, over the sound of the blood pounding in my ears. Truthfully, those Gucci sunglasses were the only thing that got me through it. I’d noticed them in the “so expensive that Terry went pale every time we passed it,” shop in town the night before. I had even had them removed from their glass case so I could try them on. Then I had been told to put them right back where I found them, because they were too damn expensive. I might have cried, a little.
That, though, was before Terry made me get on a quad bike and almost killed me.
“Isn’t this brilliant!” he shouted as we hurtled down a particularly steep hill, my body hanging over the side of the bike and skimming the ground. “Gucci glasses!” I managed to shout back. “Guccigucciguccigucci”. If I lived, they would be mine for sure, and this is what gave me the power to cling on for the TWO AND A HALF HOURS we were on that damn bike. Two and a half hours, during which my life passed before my eyes several times, and I reflected on how maybe it would have been better if we’d died during that crash landing after all. After the first hour, though, it got better. I somehow found my balance (ha!) and worked out how to stay on the thing without ripping the shirt from Terry’s back (although Terry totally would have deserved that). By the time we paraded, in single file, down Puerto del Carmen’s main street, I was even starting to enjoy myself. I was feeling the quad bike love. I had even released my stranglehold on Terry’s neck, and was sitting up by myself. “Lookit me, looking cool on m’quad bike,” I thought smugly, as the people on the street all stopped to stare. Most of the people were pointing and laughing too, but I figured they were just jealous.
They were not jealous.
It was only when we got off the bike, me now walking like a cowboy, that I realised my humiliation was still not complete. Because Terry and I had been at the front of the line of bikes, everyone else had to file past us to get back to the car park. As they did so, every single last one of them pointed and laughed at me. Just like the people on the main street! We soon realised why. Having refused to wear the safety goggles provided, and having been hanging off the side of the bike for most of the ride, I was now coated in dust so thick you could have written your name in it. Actually, I’m sure Terry would have written his name in it, only he was too busy laughing. When I removed my sunglasses, there were two perfect white circles in my dusty brown face. I’m no stranger to looking bad, of course, but I think I surpassed myself here. Also: dust is absolute hell to get out of jeans, take it from me.
Everyone else, meanwhile? Was as fresh as a daisy. GAH.
I did get my new Gucci sunglasses, though. Well, I wasn’t going to pass up that opportunity now, was I?