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.