Saturday, June 28, 2014

It Could Have Been Me

Shawna's roadside memorial placed here recently.
"She was riding her motorcycle about 50 mph when she hit the car. You people ride through here like it's a race track all the time. It was bound to happen eventually."

The neighbor who watched the crash wanted to share his thoughts with me this morning at the accident scene. Although distressed, he encouraged me to ride more carefully in the future, as if I had been involved.

Yesterday when I arrived at our hotel in the late afternoon, the desk clerk was so thrilled to see me.

"I'm so glad you're OK! I saw on the news a woman had been killed on a motorcycle right down the street and I was worried it was you."

Upon reaching my room, I read the article and realized the accident occurred about a mile away.

33-year-old Shawna Elaine Throneberry was riding her motorcycle when a car turned right in front of her, causing a collision. California Highway Patrol Sgt. James Nabors said the driver of the car did not see the motorcycle when she was making a left-hand turn.

I felt compelled to go to the accident scene this morning, just to say a little prayer. The small cross mounted on the street sign was surrounded with debris and sand from the accident. As I knelt down for a moment, seeing the broken bits of motorcycle at my feet sent shivers of reality up my spine.

This could me be. This could be any of us.

Even if Shawna had been riding 15 miles over the speed limit, according to authorities, the car rolled through the stop sign turning right without stopping. Shawna was turning left at the same, tight residential intersection and the two collided in the middle of the street. The driver of the car never stopped at the intersection and never saw the motorcycle until Shawna's helmet came through the cager's windshield.

"It tore her stomach out of her body when she hit the car," her friend told me.

There beside the school yard, Trina approached the makeshift cross with her hands tucked deep in her pockets, obviously wracked with despair. Friends with Shawna and her partner, the two of whom had relocated to Bakersfield from Tennessee recently, Trina wanted to pay her respects.

"I don't know how you do it. I don't know how you ride those things," Trina said as she motioned towards my parked motorcycle.

We both stood in silence for a long while, staring at the broken motorcycle waste that lay at our feet.

I thought of my grandson who will be born any day now. I thought of my family, my friends, my husband. . . I hoped they would never stand where I was standing now.

"We all ride fast, now and then. It's hard not to pull back on that throttle sometimes, because it feels so good," I explained.

Trina spoke sweetly of Shawna, proud that she was an Army veteran. Shawna's partner is working on funeral arrangements today with Trina's help, but she doesn't have anywhere to go now. With no other friends locally, Shawna was her whole world.

"The Army didn't kill her, but the bike did."

According to authorities, no arrests have been made and the driver was not found to be at fault for the accident, since the motorcycle was allegedly speeding. It is completely unfair that even though the driver never stopped at the stop sign and never saw the motorcycle, the possibility that the motorcyclist was speeding 10-15 miles per hour puts her totally at fault, overriding any fault of the driver.

For me, the death of this rider served as a reminder that cagers don't see us, riding is dangerous and life isn't fair.


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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Motorcycle Parked in Bakersfield

For now, my motorcycle is parked in Bakersfield, CA. Well, semi-parked. I'm still scootin' around town. On our Road Pickle 2.0, our first stop is visiting my daughter Olivia and her husband David, awaiting their first baby, Jackson. Due any day now, it seems we got here just in time.

"Olivia's having contractions and went to the hospital this morning. They sent her home because they said she's in early labor, but her contractions are continuing. I think we better get going."

My son-in-law doesn't get frazzled easily, and this day was no exception. Standing in the driveway of my niece's home in Menifee saying our goodbyes, David made this statement dryly, as if to tell us his toast has burned. We had just packed the vehicles to leave for Bakersfield.

With Side Road Steve on Blackbird, his Honda ST 1300, David in the GMC Sierra, and me on Tatonka, my Yamaha V Star 650, we hopped on Interstate 215 north and Bako-bound.

The ensuing 6 days have been filled with laughter, stories, preparations, meals and contractions. With a trip to the hospital Sunday night for an evaluation of Olivia's labor, we learned she's making progress.

"When your contractions are 5 minutes apart, or if your water breaks, come back here. Until then, just let nature take it's course," Nurse Laura explained kindly.

The next night we were back at the hospital, her contractions 5 minutes apart, only to be sent home again after they stopped.

"Really Sweetie, it won't take long. He wants to come out, but for now, just be patient," Nurse Laura assured her.

Patient isn't part of Olivia's vocabulary. Although she's rather frightened by the thought of delivering this baby, she's ready to hold him in her arms, just as I am.

But I've been feeling a flood of other emotions throughout the visit, so many, it's hard to understand it all.

"Will you make sure Jackson knows I love him, even though I won't be around much? Will you explain to him my need to ride my motorcycle, to travel, to see the country? Do you understand why I need to do this for myself?"

pregnant-momI found myself weeping, staring at my daughter's enormous belly, fearing I was being selfish. Many of my friends are grandparents now, and they tell me they want to be with the grandchildren all of the time. I hear stories of how much they love having the grandkids over every afternoon. But I don't feel that desire, and I wonder what is wrong with me.

I love my daughter, son-in-law and Baby Jackson, but this is their life, and I need to live mine. I want to give my daughter the space to be a mother and do it in her own way, to grow into her role freely without my supervision and instruction. She doesn't need me looking over her shoulder. Olivia is amazingly strong, fierce in her beliefs, firm in her choices. I've raised an amazing woman and I couldn't be more proud. She doesn't need me here. And neither does her fantastic husband. They have this well in hand.

My desire to ride my motorcycle is overwhelming; it's a driving force in every aspect of my life now.

I need to do this for me. It's my passion.

For now, it's just fine to have that motorcycle parked in Bakersfield. There's nowhere I'd rather be, and wait for my grandson. We even visited our favorite restaurant in Bakersfield, Donna Kaye's Cafe. But this feeling won't last long. By July 14, I'll be ready to hit the road again and pour myself into the miles, once again. And because I know that I've raised my daughter to be a woman, I'm free to ride.



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Monday, June 9, 2014

Women Make Better Riders

Women make better motorcycle riders because women are able to admit what they don't know.

An important part of being a good rider is humility. Respecting what you do know and don't know are crucial aspects in growing as a rider. The number of women riders on the rise across the U.S., with approximately 27% of all riders being women. But new statistics indicate the amount of motorcycle fatalities are down significantly. Can this be that women are conditioned to accept the humility of being a student more aptly than men?

If that is the case, then we have to ask ourselves why men are so conditioned to have all the answers. I believe this is from centuries of the male dominated hierarchical society in which women were stripped of their rights and treated as the second class. Over thousands of years, women have come into their own, with the help of a few feminists along the way. But men have been trained all this time to be bread winners, providers, and fixers. From boyhood, they are raised to take care of a wife and family, and always have the answers.

In my experience with men I've found that many of them find it difficult to be out-done by a woman, in almost any arena. Few men possess the humility to stand aside and let a woman take charge. Often when this happens, they do so begrudgingly, while still complaining to the other men behind her back. Women leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, Corazon Aquino, Marie Curie and Condoleezza Rice have endured the slings and arrows of not only the men with whom they work, but the media as well. A friend of mine, California Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, was recently called "slut" by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez on the House floor, who muttered this slur under his breath. She simply ignored the insult, as is customary in these situations.

We've come to expect that men will be insulted by women who challenge them and as women, we find ways to cope with this behavior.

One way is to be humble. This humility has grown to serve women well over the years, and now serves them in an entirely new way. Women respect the power and danger of motorcycles. They also are humble enough to be good students, thus becoming conscientious riders.

Also, women typically don't typically show off in the ways men do. That's not to say we don't have the shortcoming of being competitive with one another, but pulling daredevil stunts isn't usually the way we exhibit our prowess.

Not only are women who ride happier than those who do not, they ride safer than their male counterparts.

All of this boils down to create a new breed of riders. Or does it? Is this only a swing of the pendulum? Will we see women become more careless or dangerous as the years go by?

What do you think? I'm curious, so give me your thoughts.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Motorcycling and the Discomfort of Change

Motorcycling is often uncomfortable. It pushes me beyond anything I've ever tried, into territories of my abilities I've never explored, and teaches me humility, appreciation of the present, and respect for danger. Motorcycling has been the first thing in my life that I was terrible at when I first learned, and struggled so hard just to be skillful enough to be an average rider. I'm not even certain I'm average! I'm simply capable of getting where I want to go, most of the time.

Hitting the road to motorcycle across the country sounds like so much fun, and I'm sure the journey will have a it's high points. We leave for our next Road Pickle shortly, but the labor involved to get things sold, packed, sorted, stacked and stored is exhausting. The bad news is, I've barely started and I'm mentally exhausted already.

I think it's the process of picking up every item and evaluating it.

"Do I want this? Do I need this? When will I use this again? When was the last time I used this? Why have I kept this so long? Why did I buy this? Will the person who gave it to me know if I got rid of it?"

The questions are repeated for every item considered.

I was surprised to find how many keepsakes I have. Photos, toys, stuffed animals, and even a few T-shirts that belonged to my friend Thomas, who died in 1997; all of this stuffed in a few boxes, stacked in a nice, neat formation at the end of my one-car garage. A box with marketing materials, a box with extra motorcycle gear, a few boxes of my fine china, real silver, china tea cups and saucers, depression glass. . . all stuffed and stacked accordingly.

Will I ever use these things? Will I ever want all of this stuff out and surrounding me, as I once had?

I've always dreamed of a little cottage, with a chaise lounge, decorated with all of my shabby chic items, pillows, ruffles, lace and china all around. A little place where I could open up two French doors and let the air in, breathe in the sunshine and write to my heart's content. A stable life with all the comforts of home.

For now, that seems stifling. One place, full of stuff, to be tended, dusted, maintained. I can't stand that thought. I can't imagine that in my life right now, but one day, I might be interested in that.

For now, I'm aching for the open road. Long rides, breathtaking vistas, foreign laughter, new places, new faces, foods I've yet to try, stories I've never heard, endless horizons to be explored. Every place I go is new within that day. Not new for me, but a new day for each person who is there. A new day with endless possibilities! Anything can happen. That's what I yearn for. Uncertainty. Change. Growth. Spontaneity. Discomfort.

Motorcycling fills me with thrills, excitement, change and discomfort. Exactly what I'm looking for.

We leave San Diego June 14, 2014. Just 10 days from now. Once everything is sold, packed and stored, I'll be free to embrace the discomfort of change.


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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...)