Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ortega Highway: Overcoming The Fear

Motorcycle Miles. 198 miles to be exact. Along the ocean, over the mountains, lane splitting traffic, through familiar roads and a few unfamiliar ones. . . we rode. For me though, today was an incredible milestone.

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. . .

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Motorcycle Medicine

Riding my motorcycle is the answer to most of my problems today. Because riding helps me clear my head and find solutions to the problems that plague me.

I won't bore you with the silly details of my problems, other than to say they really aren't a big deal. But somehow that hole sure seemed deep when I awoke this morning.

"Honey, wake up. I must go ride today. We have to. I think it's a new law. . ."

The longstanding joke in our relationship is "it's a new law you haven't heard of yet", which I use every time I'm trying to convince him of something. It began when we were first dating 3 years ago and while stopped to put air in the tires of Blackbird, I asked for a kiss.

"There's no kissing in motorcycles!" Highway scoffed.

Two weeks later, exactly three years ago today, I alerted him of big news.

"Is it March 7th? Oh, the new law goes into affect! There's now kissing in motorcycles!"

Since that garnered a kiss for me, (perhaps more than a kiss. . .) I've been using this tactic ever since, and fortunately, it rarely fails. Today I needed a ride, badly. I've been using my motorcycle exclusively for all of my transportation for 9 days now, but it's just been short jaunts around town. What I needed was Asphalt Therapy! That chance to clear the mind, feel the road, smell nature, and gobble up some wind.

We headed north on Interstate 15 and after a stop at the Yamaha dealership to pick up a part I had on order, we rode Highway 78 through Ramona into Wildcat Canyon, then into Lakeside. It didn't take long to realize there weren't any places we wanted to patronize there, so we headed back onto San Diego.

The biggest lesson I took away from the day was that of focus. When riding I know not to focus on the obstacles and potholes along the way. I'll always direct my attention from the bad and focus only on the good road. But somehow in my daily life I forget to apply this, and I focus on the things I don't want instead of the things I do want. Right now my life is near-perfect and I'm guessing that frightens me. It's like waiting for that shoe to drop. . .

During my previous, miserable, imprisoning relationship any time I felt good it wouldn't last. I would be getting yelled at soon enough. In fact, I started asking my then-warden-husband, "Are you angry again? Why are you angry again? What did I do NOW???" I noticed that he yelled at me 3 or 4 times a day in the last year we were together. I wonder now how I could tolerate it, because it didn't begin that way. We went on dates, he bought me flowers, we took little trips, and he was always so excited about the future. But the last 5 years with him were spent listening to him chew me out on a daily basis. I realize now I could never please him or make him happy, and that's because I wasn't the right person for him. He would never be happy with someone who is like me. But after 15 years of that torment, I'm still fearful and I find myself worrying about things that will never happen with a man like Highway, because he's nothing like that monster I was married to.

By the time I rolled into home, I was so serene I felt like a new woman. Focus is the word of the week, and I'm going to remind myself daily to "see the good road", because it's all around me now.

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The delicious scent of oranges is overwhelming on this little section, right through the groves

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My hubs on Blackbird along Highway 78 just outside of Ramona, CA
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Climbing the twisties along Highway 78
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One turn after another along Highway 78
Riding out of Ramona's residential area

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Stopped for a short break in the armpit of San Diego, Lakeside

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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...)