(actually 2) over 16,000 miles, traveling with only the things I can carry, crossing the United States twice in 6 months, taught me a few things about riding, myself and life.
1. Only carry what you use. Not what you think you need, what you use. If I didn't use something a couple of times in a 2 week span, I left it behind, gave it away, donated it, or trashed it. That included jeans, vests, dresses, scarves, makeup, jewelry, food, etc. You use less than you think and being a consumer isn't all it's cracked up to be. Try living with less. You might just like it.
2. Rain gear only works if it's dry on the inside. Once the Coca-Cola truck tidalwaved me in Suffolk, VA in a nasty rainstorm, and the water ran from my neck into my boots, I was soaked to the bone. For the next two hours, I was whining like a little bitch, negotiating rush-hour traffic, getting lost on seaside streets. That hotel bed was the warmest, driest, happiest place I've ever been, as were many hotel beds to come. It took days to get my boots dry again. Things don't always go as planned, so rolling with the punches is all in a day's riding.
3. We really are stronger than we think. I had a couple of friends who didn't think I could last the whole 6 months. There were moments that I thought I couldn't last another hour. But I did. I learned I can do anything if I just take life by the moment and deal with what is right in front of me, mile by mile.
4. Life only exists right now. I know that sounds like existential bullshit, but it's true. When you ride so many miles, you see that only this moment is happening. Spend it wisely, because the next asshole to merge into your lane may end your day, or your life. This may be your last sunset, your last breathe, your last kiss. Make them count.
5. If you love someone, stop what you're doing and tell them. Often I would roll up next to Steve, my wonderful, patient, loving hubs, and blow him kisses. The first few times I did it he barely acknowledged me. I'm fine with that because I understand he's a manly man riding his motorcycle and didn't have time for my mushy shit. After it became a regular thing, he would wave his throttle fingers at me, never releasing the throttle. After a really bad, bad day in Colorado he blew a kiss to me. I almost crashed right there I was so overwhelmed with love and joy. You never know how you can heal old hurts with love. There were enough close calls on the road to keep it ever present in my mind that Lesson 4 is some real shit.
6. Food is really good when you're really hungry. Riding really gets me hungry. I now comprehend "working up an appetite" and how good food can taste when you've earned it. I've found little snacks that work while riding, like beef jerky in my pocket for protein and Sour Patch Kids at 3pm when I need a sugar boost. I found that duct taping the open bag to the inside of my windshield works well for easy access while riding.
7. Eat what the locals eat, go where the locals go, listen to the locals. When our friends in Memphis Ed and Juliet told us to drink plenty of water and plan our days around staying inside during the day and going out early evening, I wish I had listened on Day 1. Humidity is nothing lifelong Californian's comprehend. I thought I would die. Once I listened to them, I enjoyed Memphis much more. We also ate some amazing food along the way because we took advice from the locals, who know where to get the best of everything. The best part is, they all want to tell you!
8. You're probably a better rider than you think you. I must say, I learned the best way possible. I got on after just learning to ride and rode for 6 months straight. You can't beat that. When I almost ran into a merging car in Baltimore (asshole) and performed a STOPPIE on my fully-loaded Ninja, all I could think was, "Wow! I didn't know I could do that!!" Believe me, I didn't want to try it again anytime soon, but I found time and again that I could really ride so much better than I thought, with enough experience and muscle memory. Ride often and you will ride like it's second nature. I am now riding a V Star 650 which I maneuver so well sometimes that I blow my own mind.
9. Don't overestimate your abilities. This seems to contradict Lesson 8, but it doesn't if you think about it. I always surprised myself, but never attempted any ridiculous shit. I ride as safely as I can, all the time, but shit happens. Don't go out tempting fate, because fate is a m*&herf%cker and he'll kick your lame ass. Seriously, be safe and embrace your skills, using them only when the situation calls for it.
10. I'm addicted to those lines. I've heard this happens, but I had no idea how life changing riding so much could be. I just want to keep gobbling up more asphalt, keep swallowing those yellow lines, keep breathing air forced into me at 70 mph. A long day in the saddle wears me out, certainly, but the next day I'm usually up to ride again. Then after a day or two, I'm itching to get on to the next town. Traveling is addictive. Keep in mind I'm 48 years old, I battle Fibromyalgia and chronic pain daily, and I'm little fat. These issues make riding a bit difficult, but the joy of riding outweighs the pain and physical misery by far.
11. Pain is temporary. The same can be said for rain, hunger and exhaustion. You'll get over it. Whining only makes that shit worse. Sash Up for Godsake and embrace your abilities to overcome your challenges. Intention and attitude make up for 90% of your life. I believed I could ride across America and I did it, against some pretty tough odds. You can get through pain, push through rain, and enjoy the sunshine when it comes around again.
12. The only person in my helmet is me. Ride your own ride. Being responsible for your actions, your choices and the outcome of such is key to enjoying the journey. Listening to my own head can be dangerous, but after enough hours alone in my helmet, I realized the great power I have when I own my life. Giving your power away by blaming others only weakens your spirit. Each day I take my life by the hair, wrestle it to the ground, stare it in the eyes, and make it my bitch! Once I owned my life no one can take that away from me. That includes owning my mistakes. When I drop that bike, or my life, it's my own doing. And when I achieve greatness, it's my own doing as well. Others can slow you down with their negativity, if you let them. You can always roll the throttle and blow past them. It's your choosing.
Learn more about my life growing up as the daughter of a 1%'er and my travels across the U.S. My ebook, "Rude Biker Chick: Lessons From My Daddy" is available for purchase here. Thanks!