Friday, August 31, 2012

Riding With My Father

While lacing up my boot this morning, I thought of my father. When I was only 4 years old, he was in a horrendous motorcycle accident which left him in a body cast for nearly a year. With a shattered ankle, broken spine, and numerous other injuries, he spent the final months of his recovery in a hospital bed in our living room. The rest of his life I remember how his ankle would swell and ache, and gently removing his boots at night from his feet. I felt so honored to remove his boots, to rub his stinky feet, and be his little girl. Sometime's I would wonder why he would still ride his motorcycle, which he did for the rest of his short life, after being hurt so badly. I accepted this as his choice.

Today we will arrive in Renton, a suburb of Seattle, to visit with Highway's father. He has terminal cancer which is in it's final stages. He's very thin, frail and weak, albeit determined. While I laced my boots and thought of my Dad, Highway was on the phone, discussing work with a colleague. Just as I lifted my head, placing my booted feet to the floor, he spoke on the phone of his Dad, and this being probably the last time he would see him.

My Dad died just over 22 years ago. The anniversary of his death was actually just 3 days before this trip. I never stop missing him; my mind only fills with other things and I forget he's gone. How I long to hear his voice, hold him, and kiss him one more time.

Highway will soon feel this pain that has rested in my soul for 22 years. With the loss of his father, an emptiness will fill him that nothing will ever replace. How I wish I had the power to heal him, but I don't. He is already feeling the loss.

Today we ride to see him, perhaps for the last time. Today is Highway's day. And I will spend the day thinking of my Dad, his sweet smile, his deep voice, his enormous presence as he rides with me today. Because every time I ride, he rides with me.

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San Diego to Seattle - Day 3

The last 9 miles into Crescent City were the hardest of the day. The ride along the Northern California coast was brutal, with temps around 52 degrees throughout the day. That may not seem bad to anyone simply walking in it, but multiply that times the 70mph wind chill factor, then by 6 hours, and then get back to me.

I had been trembling from the cold for the last hour, at least, so hard that my knees were knocking into Highway. He dropped his left arm down out of compassion to hold my leg to keep is as warm as he could as he strained the throttle up the road. I knew this would pass. I just had to focus on the beauty of the ride, because I knew that would pass too.

A year ago Highway and his friend Brian had ridden this area on a Brewery Tour. When he had told me about the ride he mentioned Ferndale, the historic town of Victorian homes, and I exclaimed that one day I'd like to go there. Ferndale was the last thing on my mind when Highway pulled off the 101 and headed there. He leaned over asking, "Do you want to go through Ferndale?"

"Oh my God! Yes! I would love to!" I shouted. I was so impressed he remembered.

We rolled past cows and ponds and horses and pastures, arriving in the peaceful town under darkened skies. The homes were as incredible as I had imagined, the town so tiny and truly filled with the essence of a long, lost era. Highway asked if I wanted to stay awhile, but knowing Medford was our destination, I declined. We still had so many miles to go.

Once we reentered the 101 headed towards Eureka, I started watching the signs for Crescent City, counting the miles. I had promised in Garberville that I wouldn't ask to stop again until we reached Crescent City, which was still 100 miles from Medford. After Eureka the trembling began, and even my awe with the spectacular redwoods couldn't keep my mind occupied. It's not that I've never been this cold, but not for so long, so relentlessly cold. No complaints came from the passenger seat and I stuck to my commitment to hold out until Crescent City.

9 miles out from certain reprieve of a warm restaurant with food and a restroom, we were stopped by road work. Highway opened his visor and leaned back, "We'll stop in Crescent City. Do you want to find a Starbucks?"

"I need food," I muttered, shivering.

"OK, sure. I know a place," he reassured, patting my leg.

The Apple Peddler was at the far end of town, and like everything else, dinner was over too quickly. I had gobbled my clam chowder, sucked down hot tea, and even nibbled on some red velvet cheesecake before gearing up to leave again. Knowing we still had 100 miles to go, I pulled myself together and climbed back on with a smile.

When the flat, open fields of Oregon appeared, I was disappointed that the majestic redwoods were behind us. I knew they would pass, like the cold, like the day, but it still left me feeling sad. As relieved as I was to be warm, it broke my heart to know the Sequoias were gone. It all goes by us on a motorcycle; the good, the bad, the scenery, the weather, the joy, the pain, the beauty, the life. Enjoy it while it lasts, because even in the darkest moments, a little light shines.

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

San Diego to Seattle - Day 2


I realized instantly that a bee had somehow blown up my pant leg and was stuck inside, his stinger burrowed in my leg, at 80mph. Highway knew I was upset, possibly hurt, because usually he can't hear my voice from the passenger position, but he heard every filthy word of my rant.

I motioned for him to keep riding, don't pull over, as I realized he was easing towards the shoulder. Pushing the pant leg down, the bee was released, and after some intense rubbing, (and plenty of filthy words) the intense pain started to subside.
I grabbed my icy cold water bottle and pressed it against my leg for awhile to ease the pain. Unwelcome tears flowed from my eyes and spotted the inside of my visor. In pain, embarrassed and angry, I rode silent for the next 30 minutes.

Everything I experience on the bike seems more intense. Perhaps it's the danger; lane splitting between semis or taking twisties at outrageous speeds. Perhaps it's just magnified without my Mercedes cage around me; the weather, the scents, the temperatures. Whatever it is, everything just seems more extreme.

On this leg of the trip we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. Until a few months ago I suffered from a debilitating fear of bridges. The Golden Gate was seemingly the worst. But riding with Highway, there would be no way to tell him to avoid bridges on every trip, nor did I want to. My goal is to overcome, grow, learn, expand, breathe, live.

My heart raced as the we approached and I could feel the smile beaming from my face. Hundreds of people lined the bridge, and it's magnificence filled my heart. "How could there be anything this amazing and beautiful, and why would I be afraid of it?" I wondered.

Leaving San Fran left me with a sense of calm, as if the storm had passed. The zeal that had consumed me dwindled away and I felt relaxed and peaceful. Even the bliss seemed sweeter, as if I had never been quite so serene as I was on The Redwood Highway this day.

At 46 I realize how short life is; my father died at 50 years old. I can't imagine dying so young. I have so much to do, so much to see. I'm ready to live every moment.

Let's ride.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

San Diego to Seattle - Day 1

When we dipped into the San Fernando Valley, the phrase "It's as hot as balls!" kept spewing from my lips. At 99 degrees, it doesn't matter how fast you ride, it's just hot. The air choked my throat and pressed against my chest, only to be made more stifling by the inordinate amount of exhaust I was inhaling from the traffic. I held on, knowing something better lay ahead.

I'm not a tough guy. Oh, I feel pretty tough now and then, but riding has taught me just how spoiled and pampered I've been these last 20 years. Over the time I've been riding with Highway, I've learned a few things about myself, one of them being that I'm "High Maintenance". Believe me, I don't like admitting that I'm an ass pain. I always thought I was cute and funny, because I'm so extroverted, and that made me a pain. I had this delusion that I was flexible, tough and durable.

How wrong I've been.
The temperatures on today's trip varied by 30 degrees throughout the day; 72 to 102. That may not sound like much, but realize I'm geared up in boots, jeans, summer riding jacket with body armor, gloves, bandanna, and helmet. If 72 feels good, what do you suppose 102 feels like?

It feels like fucking Hell, that's what.

But we don't pull over because of a temperature change, or because my tummy's grumbling, or because I got a bee in my helmet. Stops are for real issues only, such as gas, potty break, or injury. Once we are stopped, I try to get everything taken care of before remounting the bike, and done quickly. It seems Highway's always waiting on me.

I've learned to tell myself, "Go a little longer. Just for 30 more minutes/40 more miles/5 more towns. . ." I've learned that I can go much longer than I thought I could and that some inconveniences, like I dropped my MP3 player or a taking a rock in the jaw, really don't require stopping, unless I can't stop the bleeding. In any case, necessity has taught me to put up, shut up and toughen up.

I'm proud of my progress. When I met Highway and he told me of his 30-day trip to Alaska, I was enthralled. I couldn't envision myself on such a ride. This ride is my first step into long-rider status. But then again, it is only Day 1.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Flap Factor


A searing sting lashed across my calf, causing me to cringe in the passenger seat. Looking down, I realized that my pantleg had blown up just a little to expose about 2 inches of skin. Knowing I couldn't reach it as we flew along the freeway at 75 mph, I ignored it. The day was lovely, so a little sun. . .


"What the hell," I thought. Looking down to my right leg again, I saw the culprit. What I had initially thought was a pebble from the road, or a big bug, was my bootlace. The dread filled my mind as I realized my boot had come untied and my bootlace could just barely reach my bare skin. I knew I was screwed.

The snapping of the irritating lace began to become more frequent, often lashing the same spot over and over. What had been simply irritating grew uncomfortable, then grew into real pain.

Wack! Wack! Wack!

Now my mind was filled with ways to get this to stop. I could no longer enjoy the ride, consumed with making the decision to ask my husband to pull over to fix my boot, or to man-up and finish the rest of the ride. Fortunately, we arrived to our destination within 30 minutes and the first thing I did was TIE THAT BOOT! The double knot left me with a sense of reassurance, so I double knotted my other boot as well. The red skin eased, and luckily, no skin was broken.

I consider this the Flap Factor. When mounting the motorcycle, any motorcyclist with any miles behind them will make a quick assessment of their attire to eliminate anything that will flap in the wind. Most motorcyclists have long since considered this and purchased their clothing and gear with this in mind. Collars, ties, laces, etc can all be so painful to ruin a good time quick!

In the time I've been riding I've learned the hard way to eliminate the Flap Factor every ride. But every now and then, I'll buy a new item, only to realize I didn't do my homework first.

Damn, it's hard to be cute and fierce on that bike! But I will not abandon my efforts to be as awesome looking as I am riding.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2,800 Miles to Go

Tuesday, August 28, will be my break-in ride. I'll be donning my gear and mounting the backseat to adventure 10-days, 2,800 miles with my husband, Highway, from San Diego to Seattle. Up until now, my longest ride was 2-days and approximately 800 miles. This will put those weekend jaunts into another category in my motorcycling past. I'll be able to turn my nose up to those rides and spiff, "Oh, that was nothing!" with a chuckle.

Highway, has traveled thousands of miles, riding from Menifee, California to Fairbanks, Alaska on one such trip. Over one month, he saw bears, glaciers, slept on the side of the road in a tiny tent, ate elk burgers, drank beer in filthy pubs located in STD ridden, forgotten towns, and loved every minute of it. The photos and the stories he's shared from that trip have intrigued me, bringing the adventurer out in me. I'm determined to learn to ride (better) and buy my own bike (soon). Once I've done both of these things, we will head out on a ride of our own, of epic proportions.

But first, I have 2,800 miles, 10-days, 6 cities, and countless hours of thinking, riding, learning and breathing to go. I'm ready to go right now!

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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...)