Thursday, May 21, 2015

When My Heart Stopped

Two nights ago I had the second serious chest pain issue within a month, which seriously kicked my ass, sending me to the local E.R.

When my heart stopped and I died for 2:32 minutes on Christmas Eve, 2008, it was a monumental turning point in my life. Although it took quite a bit of time for me to make visible changes to the way I was living, it was nevertheless the point at which I decided to leave my then-husband and start living a fulfilling life.

I spent nearly a year doing everything I was told to do by my doctors, one of which was an impatient and frustrated cardiologist. He had done every test on me that he could possibly bill to my insurance, including an echocardiogram, stress tests and an angiogram. I was diagnosed with a heart murmur and atrial fibrillation.

Over the years I've not seen another cardiologist because of my miserable experience with him. This doctor admitted me to the hospital on Christmas Eve to have me wait until December 26 for my angiogram, which is how I happened to be revived so quickly when my heart stopped. Since then I've had to visit an emergency room from time to time with chest pain, but I've avoided seeing a cardiologist again.

I didn't want to stop traveling, so I convinced myself to believe nothing was wrong with me.

Over the past few years, I had been discounting these episodes as "nothing serious" because I've not had a heart attack. Each time I visit the hospital the doctors explain it isn't a heart attack and send me home. I've completely dismissed their instructions to follow up with a cardiologist, until last night.

Dr. Corson looks stunningly like Bradley Cooper, but with huge, green eyes that matched his olive scrubs. He's an intense man, and as he stood over me as I lay in the hospital bed, he kindly explained with precision the dynamics of emergency room treatment. Over the 8 hour visit other nurses and staff bustled about, meeting my needs and asking pointed questions about how I was feeling. At the end of my ordeal Dr. Bradley Cooper returned to tell me I had not had a heart attack, but there were other symptoms they recorded that needed to be addressed by a cardiologist.

Dr. Bradley Cooper, with his green-eyed severity, seemed to wake me up in a very real way.

After a few phone calls and some records shared, I managed to schedule a cardiologist appointment in San Diego on June 29th.

My summer on the road will take a pause until I get released to freely ride again. I hope to get back on the road by the end of July and head to Sturgis, but I don't know yet. I'm not making any plans other than to stay in San Diego under my doctor's care until I know it's safe to go. My only plan is to leave Boise tomorrow for Pocatello, ID for a night or two, then onto Jackson, WY for a couple of nights. After that we are heading to Dever, CO via I 80, then dropping down through Fort Collins.

I don't know what date we are leaving Denver, or a route from Denver to San Diego yet. We still have plenty of time to think about it. That's all I know about any plans.

I also know that I am heartbroken in more ways than one.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Building A Strong Women Riders Community

I've found joining the women's motorcycling community to be quite difficult at times. Even though I hope to make a positive impact on everyone I meet, I know I can't please everyone. I am finding that I, and many other women, are being ridiculed and insulted, find exclusivity, and outright "Mean Girl Syndrome" when we want to be included.

Over the years I've found women to be far more sensitive to my gregarious and aggressive nature. Perhaps this is because I'm opinionated, stubborn and usually quite vocal about my beliefs and that really pisses some women off. I've stopped apologizing for being bold and started accepting the consequences of my behavior.

My honesty and forthrightness have brought some of the most wonderful women into my life, especially over the last 5 years. I feel more comfortable in my skin than I ever have. But I am learning there is always a balance. With praise also comes criticism and like most people, it can be sometimes the criticism on which I focus.

Within the women's motorcycling community there seems to be a deep sense of territory. Perhaps some of the women who have carved their niche aren't willing to share the spotlight, simply because they've worked so hard to get there. Perhaps they didn't want to carve a path for others to follow, but to simply create their own private, exclusive niche.

Certainly this doesn't apply to all of the women of motorcycling notoriety I've met. Genevieve Schmitt, Alicia Elfving, Lisa Brouwer, Brittany Morrow and Laura Klock have gone out of their way to help me on my journey as a motorcycling publisher.

I've been told I need to pay my dues, earn my place, and to wait, step back, and learn more about the industry before I try to be included. That advice has been noted, but rejected. I've been in publishing for over 10 years, had hundreds of articles published in print and online, and even though I don't know all the players in this industry, I know about publishing. How can I learn if I am not attending events, meeting people and asking questions?

In my opinion, it seems the only requirements for inclusion into this community is to:

1. Ride a motorcycle, either on front or back
2. Have a desire to meet other women riders

I'm on a mission to take personal responsibility for my behavior. If I am knowingly harming anyone, I pledge to make changes. That is not something new with me, as I've been living my life this way since I got off of drugs in 1993. I believe that my experiences in life begin with me; my attitudes, my behaviors, my choices. I am not a victim, even though at times I've felt like one. I'm doing my best to move out of self pity and into action.

So, I reached out to a few women riders whom I greatly respect to get their views on this topic. It is my hope to get to the sources that cause this friction among the women riders and find solutions for change.

Madhavi Priya Davila
Age 39
Makeup Artist, Key Holder at MAC Cosmetics
2003 Honda Shadow 750

Priscilla Griffith
Age 60
Owner of ProGuards Crash Bar Protectors
2008 Harley Davidson Peace Officers Ultra

Annette Presley, LCSW
Age 59
2007 Yamaha V Star 1100

Genevieve Schmitt
Age 51
Founder/Editor of; Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame Inductee 2001
2008 Harley-Davidson Street Glide

1. What do you see as the problem with building a strong and cohesive women riding community, if any?

Madhavi: I notice that women can sometimes be competitive with other women. This in turn leads to insecurities, jealousy etc. I've seen women purposely exclude other women they felt "threatened" by from group rides, moto events etc. A lot of times it seems certain women (the insecure ones) like to be the center of attention at meet ups, rides etc...especially if there are men on the rides. They don't want competition so to speak. It's stupid and I've never been able to grasp that way of thinking. On the other hand I've met a lot of cool biker chicks who are encouraging and love to ride with other women etc. I hang out with those ones!

Priscilla: I think we (women as a rule) are our own worst enemies. We tend to cut each other down more than give support. In the riding community there is mostly type A personalities.

Genevieve: The number of women riding motorcycles has skyrocketed over the last decade. There are millions of women riding their own motorcycles. The evolution of this is similar to the growth in women climbing corporate ladders and breaking through glass ceilings. Insofar as women identify a need to create a community around a shared passion to network, and exchange ideas, those groups will arise.

Annette: Women have generally been socialized to control, sublimate their natural competitive spirit. As a result women do not learn to express competition in a healthy way. We are raised to see other women as competition. Who is really a blonde, has bigger boobs, nicer butt, dates the football star, has the nicer house, the best behaved kids? Seeing other women as competition and threats is socialized in to us in very innocuous ways.

Media promotes comparisons to each other. Jealousy and envy are also natural emotions that occur when we want something or want to be like someone. This competition affects every female relationship we have. Our strength will come in our confidence in ourselves. Our power will come in our support and encouragement for each other in spite of our differences. I have seen Facebook attacks on someone who says they ride slower, faster, someone who doesn't wear a helmet, someone who has more followers on their Facebook page, someone who doesn't ride many miles, rides the wrong motorcycle. We are our worst enemies.

The female archetype of the "wild woman" is what I imagine when I see a woman rider. She is someone not bound by the rules that keep women subjugated. She is a threat to subjugated women, and the men who want to keep us controlled. How sad it is that we play a role in attacking each other in that same way.

2. How have you been impacted by the negativity of other women berating you, not just in the riding community, but in your lifetime?

Genevieve: Anytime you put yourself out there as a journalist, you subject yourself to the opinions of others. I try not to let those opinions affect me. There will always be caddy, insecure people who will do their best to knock others down. With Facebook and email it's easy for angry insecure people to fire off a note without checking their emotions first. I've found in my personal and professional life, if you are always kind and deal with people with the utmost of integrity, then it's easy to identify the insecurities in others and let what they say roll off your back. I choose to come from love and end up praying for these kind of people that they can find their way out of the darkness.

Madhavi: I've experienced being pushed away by some women because of their issues etc. I try to avoid negative people like that altogether but some women are always gonna be haters.

Annette: I was raised by a single parent. She was always waiting for that man to come riding in on his white horse to rescue us. Needless to say, it never happened. There were many boyfriends that came and went as I was growing up, but no one who ever stayed. Both of my parents were alcoholic and I had no safe place. I knew I was different than most kids. I knew their families were different than mine. I tried very hard to present a "normal" appearance, but the "mean girls" we're quick to let me know when I failed. I tried diligently to win their approval, but I never did.

Women could not be trusted. I had to purpose in my own therapy to develop female relationships.

Recently, I have found some women in the Motorcycle Community to critical to different opinions. I have supported a couple of women who were attacked by others, and got very harsh messages about this. There were judgments and name calling. I left many women's motorcycle pages as a result. I only belong to pages where I see support in our differences as well as our likenesses, and encouragement for transparency.

Priscilla: I’ll have to say, I haven't had many issues with negativity. If I have I didn't realize it. I began riding with guys. They were wonderful. Once I began to go to women forums (Women Who Ride, Rumble Sisters) I began to see some of negativity.

I think it's easy for people to post a message online that the would never say in person. I have seen so many "shit storms" started that way. When I see this happening I just distance myself from those posts. Often, I will write a comment, but erase it without posting. After re-reading it, I realize it could be misconstrued. I would rather my thought go unsaid than to be misunderstood and cause harm.

3. Give me one way we could all incorporate into our lives that would build a stronger relationship with other women.

Priscilla: I think we can build better relationships by being a friend we would want to be. Less judgmental and more caring. But sometimes there are some people that you can't please or change their mind. And that’s OK.

Annette: We must get to know each other. We have to move beyond "how many miles have you ridden?", "how long have you been on the road?". These are good places to start, but then we need to go deeper. Most of us started riding because we weren't like everyone else, we have stories. We need to listen to each other's stories of failure and success and relish in the strengths embodied in women. If we don't understand, then we need to ask to understand, not to get ammunition to judge or change them. We must purpose to know each other, really know each other.

Genevieve: People we react from one of two places, love or fear. Not both. There is a lot of gray area in between, but basically, we're acting and reacting from one of those places. Fear is all about negativity, darkness. Love is positive and full of light. If we all come from love and humility, putting others' needs before ourselves, there'd be no ill will towards others in this world.

Madhavi: I work in a predominantly female environment. The beauty industry. So I lose patience sometimes when women take out their frustrations and insecurities on myself or my co-workers. I try to make a conscious effort of being more patient and helping them see their inner and outer beauty in themselves and to always remember I may not know what difficulties in life they are going through that day.

4. What are your final thoughts on this issue?

Genevieve: I'm excited about the record number of women riding motorcycles today. There are hundreds of women motorcycling groups thriving all over the US—and the world!—proving that when a woman humbles herself to another, putting another's needs before her own, good things can happen.

Madhavi: Motoladies need to unite and stick together! We gotta have each other's backs, always!

Annette: There are inexpiable things I get from my relationships with women that I will never get in a relationship with a male. My women friends "get me". They "get me" because they also have a story. They can support me because they know where I come from in a way that only a female can know. I will not ever give up seeking out female relationships. Women bikers are a unique minority. We have so much to give.

Let's meet on common ground and quit judging the differences.

Priscilla: I think first and foremost we are riders. It doesn't matter if your male, female, black, white, purple, ride cruiser, sportbike or three wheeler. We all ride for different reasons. Some ride to be with a spouse that rides, others ride to get away from our everyday life and all of us ride because it's fun.

We ride. That's the common denominator. Let's not over think it. Just enjoy it!

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

The High Price of the Road

"While you're out riding your motorcycle around the country, you're not getting to know your own grandson. He's afraid of you! I'm not saying you're a bad grandmother, but. . . "

With those words, my daughter broke my heart. As she sat in my hotel room with my young grandson in her arms, she spewed her pain of being a new mother, blaming me for not giving her enough support.

My daughter Olivia and my grandson Jackson

"You're never here. You're all over the country, thinking only of yourself, having a great time, forgetting about me and Jackson. What about us? You're not the kind of grandmother who takes the baby for the day, or gets to know him, or bakes cookies. . ."

I knew she was referring to her husband David's mother, Jackson's other grandmother who had recently come to visit. Olivia has compared me to Anne in the past and it always hurts.

I cried for an hour. I just couldn't help it. Olivia always has a way of hitting me where I live when we fight.
With Olivia, David and Anne, David's Mom, a couple of years ago. She's astoundingly patient and sweet, unlike me.

Olivia and I are like oil and water, yet remarkably attracted to one another. We miss one another, love each other so deeply, and fight more than half of the time we are together. I can't shut my mouth when I'm near her, constantly giving her advice and often, to my own chagrin, criticizing her. My own behavior infuriates me because the truth is, I think she's amazing. And as much as I try to tell her that, I still find myself being a critical nag all too often.

Olivia responds with anger, frustration and spewing guilt. She holds my mistakes as a parent in her heart and slams me from with them time to time. I've always encouraged Olivia to embrace her emotions and share them freely, even when it breaks my own heart.

This day, my heart was broken.

Steve stepped in and mediated our argument, showing each of us where we could improve, helping us understand what the other was truly saying. He's amazing at that and has helped the relationship between my daughter and I immensely.

The visit had it's high points too. We went out with Olivia's friend to dinner, shopping and drinks and had a great time.

Olivia is frightened because she feels she needs my help raising her new son. She is angry that I've chosen to ride my motorcycle on this journey of self discovery rather than settle down and be a grandmother in the traditional sense of the word.

I feel guilty for not being a better mother and grandmother. I am doing my best to balance my responsibilities with my desire to live a fulfilling life. As much as I love Olivia, David and Jackson, I don't want to spend my life in one place, fighting her every other day. It would simply be miserable for me and I would make a pretty miserable grandmother.

And this, is my greatest failing.

It always has been.

As much as I tried to fit into the role of a happy soccer mom, I've always struggled with it. I loved hosting the weekly summer sleepovers, assisting with Girl Scouts, the morning talks we had in the car on the way to school, cooking dinner every night and baking cookies at Christmas time. I miss those times greatly on the road, but I must admit, the rest of the duties of motherhood took an enormous toll on me.
At Olivia's Middle School Graduation, so proud of her achievements. These years as her Mom were beautiful and fulfilling in their own way, but those days are long past for me. 

The road comes at a high price.

With it comes the guilt of riding away from those who love me and want my attention. I have friends who feel as abandoned as my daughter and can only think of what my leaving does to them. Some of these friends have walked away completely, breaking a piece of my heart, one by one.

For some, absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. But for others it hardens the heart with resentment and longing, causing a painful backlash.
Riding into Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado, for my second try at crossing the Continental Divide in Colorado on two wheels. My first attempt was nothing short of dramatic.

My burdens in life have not disappeared, but only changed. As I no longer struggle with the burdens of motherhood and a miserable marriage, I struggle with guilt and loneliness on the road. I miss my kids, my niece's family, and my friends from time to time, ever so deeply.

So I suppose it is true, that to all things, there is a balance.


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Friday, April 24, 2015

Meeting Online Motorcycle Friends

Most people have "online friends" who they never have the opportunity to meet, but as motorcycle vagabonds, we've had the great fortune of meeting many of these people. Moto-Bloggers and riders we've met on social media with whom we've shared tales, advice and information have weaved their way into our travel plans.

In fact, this year when we planned our route for the warmer months, we made a list of people we wanted to visit and then worked the plan around those people as best we could. We aren't always able to meet everyone on our list, which gives us a reason to continue traveling, but we do our best.

I don't think I've met anyone over my lifetime with more interesting stories than motorcycle riders. But there is something quite special about meeting the riders we've already come to know virtually.

Below are just a few of those who've made the time to share with us some food, drinks and great tales from the road.

Rob Thijssen, who we met from a Google+ Motorcycle Riders community, happened to be in Portland while we were here too. This was a happy coincidence to meet a friend with whom we've interacted with online so much. Last night we shared dinner, drinks and road stories, compared cultures and laughed a great deal. Recently Rob has been riding throughout Europe and keeping us on the edge of our seat with some of his stories from Greece and Croatia.

While in Denver in August 2014 we took a ride with Jason ON, Amy and Brian Green. We met all three in the same Google+ Motorcycle Riders community. 
Todd, Rania Madanat and George Ferreira met up with us in Pennsylvania for a wet ride in the Lancaster area. We met Rania and George on Google+ and were determined to meet when we hit the East Coast in June 2013. George is also a moto-blogger, author of Riding the USA.

Madhavi Priya introduced herself on Instagram one morning, telling me she also lives in San Diego and rides. We met that same day and rode together, having a wonderful time. We've ridden together, even including our fellas, several times and are now great friends.

Alicia Elfving is the owner of The Motolady, in which she profiles beautiful, strong and amazing women who ride. As a long time fan of hers I contacted her in hopes we could meet. It took a few tries, but we finally got together in San Diego, then again in Long Beach, where this photo was taken in February 2015, where she was throwing a 3rd Anniversary party of her blog. 

We met Lucky, author of The Great Motorcycle Pizza Tour, when we visited St. Paul in the summer of 2013 and enjoyed some delectable pizza.

Paul Malone is the author of Arizona Harley Dude and one of the first bloggers we met along the way. Since our first meeting in April 2013 we've stopped in to see Paul several times in Surprise, AZ, a suburb of Phoenix. Paul loves to ride often and has taken us to some of Arizona's best roads.

Brad and Brandy are the authors of Troubadour's Treks and Trobairitz Tablet respectively, and longtime moto-bloggers interacting online with loads of other bloggers. They've attended some organized moto-blogger meetups in the past and love meeting other riders who also write about their experiences on two wheels. We stopped in Corvallis, OR just last week and met them along our way up the West Coast. 

After building a great relationship on Facebook, Chris Black and I were excited to meet when we made it to Tucson. She and her husband Mike invited us to their home for dinner, as well as inviting us to join the Royal Enfield Club of Tucson for a ride.


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About Sash

People call me "Sash" because I'm a former beauty queen in my old home town. My father used to ride in an MC which got me interested in the culture. After my last divorce I said "goodbye" to Susie Homemaker and became the rude biker chick I always felt inside. (Read more...)