When people ask “How did you and Dan meet?” I want to simply say “online”. But that’s not really true. So here’s the story behind the story.
To say that Dan and I met “online” is to cheapen the event. Yes, technically we did meet online, but it wasn’t through one of the typical dating sites. It wasn’t a dating site at all; it was my own motorcycling website, which is about as far as you can get from a dating website.
It all started when Dan was doing his post-doc in Colorado. He had no motorcycle experience whatsoever, but yet when he saw a Kawasaki KLR650 sitting in the parking lot of his workplace, he thought “That is an awesome bike! If I were to get a bike, that’s what I’d want.” Being a research scientist, he immediately set about researching what the KLR650 is all about. What does it do? What doesn’t it do? Who does what with it? And then while searching for “KLR motorcycle adventure” he stumbled upon my trip to Mexico in ’05. He skimmed through the photos and decided that was what he wanted to do. He told his roommate that he was going to write to me and ask me for my opinion on the KLR650 as a first motorcycle. His roommate laughed and told him that I’d never reply to some strange guy from the internet. But Dan wrote anyway. I didn’t reply.
Being the stellar researcher that he is, Dan had also found my MSN Messenger screen name. One day when I popped up on his MSN screen as being “online”, he said “Hi, did you get my email?” I said no, I hadn’t, and asked to what address he had sent it. Ah, hotmail. “Yeah, I never check that account. Let me go have a look.” I read his questions and gave him my answers right then and there. He thanked me and we disconnected.
A couple of weeks later Dan showed up on my MSN window. I said hi and asked him if he had made any progress towards getting a motorcycle. He replied that no, he was going to wait until he moved to San Francisco, which was coming up in a few weeks.
A month later I saw him online again and asked him how the move went and if he’d gotten a bike yet (I can be annoyingly persistent sometimes). Dan replied that no, he hadn’t bought a bike but he had signed up for the MSF course and was shopping for gear. I was impressed! I know many riders and very few new motorcyclists will bother to take the safety course and buy their gear before they have their bike. This guy had his head on straight and I took notice.
Then he bought his bike. He decided not to buy someone else’s headache and bought new. I can’t say I fully blame him: he was new to motorcycles and wouldn’t know what to look for and what to ask (rather like my first motorcycle purchase). And he was also new to the area and didn’t know anyone to go with him for support. There’s a certain amount of confidence that new a motorcycle can bring, even though I did tell him it was silly to spend so much money on a bike he was sure to drop and abuse.
Lassen National Volcano, Oregon
Now that Dan had his motorcycle we had more to talk about online. He told me how he’d go to Google’s parking lot to practice his turns and it was exciting for me to hear him talk about each new level of learning. He sent me a picture of him with his bike, the only picture I’d seen of him so far. It was a distant shot showing him, the bike and his car in the background.
Dan bought the KLR in September and a month later we were talking almost daily. Or I should specify “we were messaging almost daily”. We hadn’t moved on to Skype or phone calls yet. We were both content to converse with text for the time being. And then I invited him over for Thanksgiving.
I never expected him to accept. He was in San Francisco, I was in Seattle. We had never met and never even spoken. But had I joked that since he didn’t know anyone on the West Coast and my friend always holds a Thanksgiving “Orphan’s Feast”, that he should come up for it. He said “Ok!” Goodness; what did I just get myself into? But I felt good about him and we made arrangements for me to pick him up at the airport. I even gave him the choice of being picked up by car or motorcycle; he chose motorcycle. Part of the weekend’s plan was to borrow a friend’s XT225 and we’d go for a short ride around the area, so he would already have his motorcycling gear with him. The first time I heard his voice is when he called me from the airport, letting me know his plane had landed.
The weekend wasn’t exactly what I expected. I was distracted by helping my friend plan and make the Thanksgiving meal so even though Dan and I talked while I worked, I wasn’t able to give him my full attention. The next day was our planned ride. Much to my embarrassment, I completely forgot that Dan had maybe 2 weeks’ worth of riding experience. Much to his credit, he did a fantastic job of following me as I took him on nicely rolling and curving two lane roads. He even took the plunge to follow me through some nasty muddy trails that I had found. He did great until the sun went down. I had misjudged the time of the early Pacific Northwest sunset and it was getting dark quickly. It was also getting cold. I shouldn’t have been surprised when I rounded a sharp 90-degree bend in the road next to the river only to find that it had become a sheet of ice. I flashed my brake lights to warn Dan and somehow made it through the corner. Dan wasn’t so lucky.
He was going slowly but the bike slipped out from under him. Knowing that a truck was behind him, he quickly crawled to the side of the road. I ran back and after checking that Dan was ok, I moved the bike (no easy task on the slick ice) and pushed it to the side. I went back to Dan – he said that his shoulder was dislocated and he couldn’t ride the bike, but he could ride on the back of mine. A little more discussion and the pain increased. He retracted his previous statement and said that we should find him a ride in a car. We eventually flagged someone down who, through a misunderstanding, sent back not only an ambulance, but two police cars, a fire truck and the fire marshal. Dan was quite embarrassed.
Snowshoeing in Lake Placid, NY
I followed the ambulance to the hospital where they relocated his shoulder. I asked the doctor if I should ride home and get the car but he said no, Dan would be able to ride on the back of my bike. We put his gear on over his slinged arm, put him on the back of the KLR and rode 30 minutes back to Seattle to meet some friends for dinner. I decided that Dan was a trooper
After retrieving the fallen bike the next day with a friend’s van, Dan left for San Francisco. Only after I said good bye to him at the airport did I realize that I still didn’t know who he was. We’d spent all of that time together, but never really go to know each other. Over the next four months we kept in constant contact, this time using Skype. I went to visit him a couple of times and then I made the decision: I liked Dan and the long-distance thing just wasn’t working. I offered to move down there to be with him.
That August I rented out my house and we drove my stuff down to California. We got married a year later and have many happy miles together under our wheels, with many more planned.