When I started dating Highway in 2011 I found myself afraid as a motorcycle passenger. I had ridden with others many times over my life but after so many years away from it, I was surprised that it frightened me so much. On the short jaunts about town I clutched him tightly, terrified something bad would happen.
Our first full-day ride we headed to the Ortega Highway, California Highway 74. It's a clamoring string of twisties, always riddled with cars and motorcycles, famed for the many lives it's turns have claimed over the years. I had only been on the highway a few times, by car of course, and I dreaded it. As we headed towards "The Ortegas" that sunny day, I made a decision.
Either I would push myself to find the joy in motorcycling or tell Highway that I was too afraid, and not ride with him again. I knew this would probably put a real dent in our budding relationship, but I had to make a choice for my own sanity.
As soon as we hit the first turn, I told myself that wasn't fear I was feeling, it was a thrill. I embraced the thought, and it only took a little convincing for me to believe this was fun, this was really living, and that I had only mislabeled these feelings as fear all of this time. Once I crossed that threshold, motorcycling was in my blood and I couldn't get enough! The euphoria I felt on every ride became addictive and to this day, I'm always looking for my next "fix".
Fast forward to this afternoon and I was facing that same fear again. Since we had returned to California I had been thinking about riding The Ortegas on my own motorcycle (not as a passenger), for the first time, but not until today did the chance present itself. After miles and miles of lane splitting northbound on Interstate 5 from Oceanside to San Juan Capistrano, and pulling off at an exit to decompress from stress of lane splitting for so long, we finally reached the mouth of the infamous road.
Motorcyclists crave the opportunity to ride this stretch; Gary France rode this same asphalt with Highway back in November 2010 after coming to America and riding 5-months across the country. He even wrote about it in his book France In America! Unfortunately I had thought about this road so much that it had gained mythical status in my fantasies, now filling me with the same terror I had once felt as a passenger.
"Maybe I'm not skilled enough to ride this yet. Maybe I'm not ready. . ." I wondered.
I know I have ridden across the country twice, but still wondered if I had the skills necessary to tackle this monster. I logically knew it was only a monster in my mind and I only need respect the road for what it was and take it one turn at a time to get to the other side. But at the mouth of the beast, I let that terror take hold of me.
"Time to Sash Up or Shut Up!" I decided.
I roared past Highway, taking the lead, and made that road my bitch.
The truth is I rode pretty slow, but I did get to the other side without incident. Each turn I focused, repeated my training in my mind over and over, and reminded myself to breathe. I can't say I really enjoyed the ride, but I am enjoying the accomplishment now. With this first challenge overcome, next time I can push a little harder and perhaps, ride a little faster. Had this been any other road in any other place, I wouldn't have stressed. But because of my own mental poison, I had built this up as the unslayable dragon, the demon that would take my soul.
It was a great technical ride, requiring all of my attention and skills.
But truth be told, it's no dragon. . .