Sunday, June 21, 2015

In Sickness and In Health...

Sash along US-285, just east of Saguache, CO
Sash had her back propped up against a set of pillows on our hotel bed, with the covers pulled up to her waist. In front of her was her laptop. By her side was her smartphone. On the nightstand was a tray of prescription meds, and on her shoulder was a bag of ice.

Her body, nearing 50 years of age, was being pushed to its limits just from the day to day toll of riding motorcycles across the country. I felt sorry for her, but I knew she didn't want anyone to sympathize.

"I can do this", she'd tell me, throwing a leg over her Yamaha V-Star 650. "I'm not going to let this stop me!"

What has tried to stop her was physical pain. Pinched nerves in her shoulders and low back aches have been the most obvious. But the ulcer in her stomach, her atrial fibriliation, and the fibromyalgia have been unpredictable thorns in her sides.

Myself, along with any other husband, could take a step back and see how damaging a two-and-a-half year motorcycle road trip had become for her. Yet, telling her to settle down has become nearly akin to committing suicide. Her mind is trying to make up for 25 years of time lost on baking casseroles, driving SUVs, and wearing mom jeans. It’s as if independence and empowerment didn’t come until well into her 40s, after her health had declined, and now she simply refuses to let go of the opportunity to fly like a bird.

Our stay this weekend at Zion National Park in southern Utah is Sash’s last on the road for this year. The heart episode she had in Boise, ID last May was the worst she had faced, and she has many of these each month. She needs to go back to San Diego to see her regular physician to figure out a way to manage it.

But I know in my mind she's already proven herself an Iron Butt. Going through 35+ states in 32 months, racking up tens of thousands of miles, in the coldest, hottest, wettest, and driest of weather, with over 100 pounds of pack on the bike, which she has packed and unpacked a hundred times already, she's seen more country and done more miles than many of her male counterparts.

And throughout it all, she's managed to run a marketing business, write a book, build a network of friends, and of course, put up with all of my bullshit. She regularly parents over the phone her adult daughter suffering from borderline personality disorder. But there are other moments that have tested her as well, like getting hit by a car in Tucson, crashing her bike in the snow on Wolf Creek Pass, or getting poisoned from a crop duster in Nebraska.

Perhaps it all came to a head a few days ago, while she and I were riding through the Navajo Indian Reservation in northern Arizona, under 104 degree F (40 C) temperature. We had actually left our hotel room early to beat the mid-afternoon heat, but somehow the sun was equally prepared to put Sash’s resolve to test. She sped up past me to motion us over to the side. Then she hopped off her bike, stepped into the bushes along the side of the road, and puked.

The heat had already taken its toll on her, despite having consumed a bottle of Gatorade and a couple bottles of water, along with wearing a wet vest. There were times I saw her pinching her nose
while riding, because the dry, desert air had caused her sinuses to bleed.

When you're out in the middle of untouched desert for 50 miles all around you, there's little else a husband to do but to give her time to rest and encourage her to press on. I feel helpless in those moments, yet the best I can do is cut off my emotions and address the matter purely from my intellect.

In a few hours from now, we'll be packing up and leaving Zion National Park, headed to Southern California. We'll leave around midnight just to avoid daytime temperatures that would otherwise reach 110 degrees F (43.3 C) and above. It'll be the longest ride Sash has ever done in one shot.

Over the next several months, I plan to alternate between spending time with Sash in Southern California, and heading out on the road solo for a week or two at a time.

For Sash, the goal is that she'll be ready for Road Pickle 2016 around February or March.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

US-191, south of Boulder, WY
Empty landscapes filled with green bushy flora and white bushy tails seem to suck out the clusterfuck of worry and obligation that collects in my neural pathways. I've seen these hills before even though I've never been on this road. But it doesn't matter, it still does the trick.

I don't care how cold it is out here, or even how wet.

I just want to get some distance.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That is, asphalt is asphalt, whether it's laid down on Wyoming or Virginia, it still looks and feels the same. Even though I know each highway offers different scenery, different twisties, different road side eats, it only cements the fact that highway living is highway living, no matter where it is.

But even though I've seen so many landscapes and ridden along so many roads, I still want to experience more.

In our travels, Sash and I meet lots of people, and they're all the same in the sense that they love company, love to share stories, and want to get to know us better. But each time we meet people, there are different personalities, different attitudes, and different life experiences, that makes each moment unique. Yet in end, it's seeing these differences in people that allow us to arrive at what makes us all the same.

Each thing manages to maintain its own mystique that will keep us thinking and wondering until we finally experience it, and then we realize that there's only so much variation feasible. But it's not until after we experience the breadth of variation possible that we finally are able to arrive at a definition.

One cannot sit on a Harley-Davidson and describe motorcycling without having ridden BMWs, Hondas, or sportbikes and dirt bikes.

You have to ride different brands, different roads, different weather, and different styles. You have to put away at least tens of thousands of miles over dirt and pavement, city and country, twisty canyons and long straight Interstate just to know what it's like to be a "motorcyclist". It's not until after you've run the full course of variation that you can finally see how it translates to the same common demonimator.

And that's when we're able to say, "Yeah, I know all about it."

Road Pickle Update: Lately, I've become more busy with website work. The past few weeks have been spent converting a rather large website from an old page design to a responsive, mobile-friendly design. I've spent more time in front of this laptop, and less time going out.

Since my last post dated April 29, Sash and I have ridden from Seattle, WA, to Boise, ID, to Jackson, WY, to here in Denver, CO.

If you follow Sash closely, you've heard that she's having health issues and needs to return to San Diego for doctor appointments. We have one more week in Denver, and then we'll head back to SoCal over the next week or so. However, I'll only stay there for a couple of weeks, and then get back on the road until the warm weather runs out.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Building Strengths From Our Weaknesses

I-90, Minnesota
Continuing on with the subject of "Behind Every Strength is a Great Weakness", I wanted to touch some more on how that's lead me into motorcycling and becoming the person I am today.

The point I tried to make before is that weaknesses we perceive in ourselves causes us to build strengths to make up for them, or to divert attention from them.

Someone with many trophies and certificates of achievements on their wall may be covering up a fear of insignificance. Someone looking rather young for their age may be covering up a fear of being called, "old". And this exists in the animal world too: Desert tortoises hide under a tough outer shell to address their inability to run from predators, while foxes have developed keen hunting skills to make up for their inability to live as herbivores.

After riding across the country with Sash the past couple of years, I've built up a better understanding of human beings and the human mind.

Every person has weaknesses and faults, and each of us have our ways to make up for them, or at best, divert attention from them. And some of us are much better at identifying these characteristics in others. For the record, I'm not one of them.

And so, when I detect I'm in the presence of someone who can read me like a book, I feel quite vulnerable. That's my weakness, feeling exposed. I'm willing to bet that most men feel vulnerable in this way, but I'm certain I feel particularly vulnerable. In fact, so much so that I've gone on to build strengths to make up for it, and divert attention from it.

Perhaps I'm a better writer for my lack of verbal talents. Perhaps I remain elusive for my lack of person-to-person skills. Perhaps I've developed a comfort with remaining solitary.

Just the other night, after Sash and I got into our hotel room here in the Seattle area, we watched this movie on Lifetime called "The Perfect Assistant", where Rachel lost her parents at a young age and was raised by her aunt, uncle, and cousin. She developed this uncontrollable anger that led her to wreak havoc with employees at her job, and ruin many lives.

"I can identify with that anger", I told Sash. "Albeit this is a movie, and her anger is heavily dramatized, nonetheless I know exactly how that feels".

I've become intellectual so that I can keep that anger at arm's length.

Human beings are inherently social creatures, and children desperately need their mothers and fathers to love them. I would hate to see a little boy or girl develop the same anger and become its hostage. That kind of weakness can summon up destructive strengths.

I love meeting other motorcycle riders wherever I go. I love interacting with them on social media. I even love riding with them and hanging out over food and drink. But some days are a struggle to hold on to my sanity. It's not easy to fake enthusiasm when you're frightened inside. I think it's just one reason why I find riding my motorcycle far, far away so relieving.

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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)