Sunday, April 26, 2015

The High Price of the Road

"While you're out riding your motorcycle around the country, you're not getting to know your own grandson. He's afraid of you! I'm not saying you're a bad grandmother, but. . . "

With those words, my daughter broke my heart. As she sat in my hotel room with my young grandson in her arms, she spewed her pain of being a new mother, blaming me for not giving her enough support.

My daughter Olivia and my grandson Jackson

"You're never here. You're all over the country, thinking only of yourself, having a great time, forgetting about me and Jackson. What about us? You're not the kind of grandmother who takes the baby for the day, or gets to know him, or bakes cookies. . ."

I knew she was referring to her husband David's mother, Jackson's other grandmother who had recently come to visit. Olivia has compared me to Anne in the past and it always hurts.

I cried for an hour. I just couldn't help it. Olivia always has a way of hitting me where I live when we fight.
With Olivia, David and Anne, David's Mom, a couple of years ago. She's astoundingly patient and sweet, unlike me.

Olivia and I are like oil and water, yet remarkably attracted to one another. We miss one another, love each other so deeply, and fight more than half of the time we are together. I can't shut my mouth when I'm near her, constantly giving her advice and often, to my own chagrin, criticizing her. My own behavior infuriates me because the truth is, I think she's amazing. And as much as I try to tell her that, I still find myself being a critical nag all too often.

Olivia responds with anger, frustration and spewing guilt. She holds my mistakes as a parent in her heart and slams me from with them time to time. I've always encouraged Olivia to embrace her emotions and share them freely, even when it breaks my own heart.

This day, my heart was broken.

Steve stepped in and mediated our argument, showing each of us where we could improve, helping us understand what the other was truly saying. He's amazing at that and has helped the relationship between my daughter and I immensely.

The visit had it's high points too. We went out with Olivia's friend to dinner, shopping and drinks and had a great time.

Olivia is frightened because she feels she needs my help raising her new son. She is angry that I've chosen to ride my motorcycle on this journey of self discovery rather than settle down and be a grandmother in the traditional sense of the word.

I feel guilty for not being a better mother and grandmother. I am doing my best to balance my responsibilities with my desire to live a fulfilling life. As much as I love Olivia, David and Jackson, I don't want to spend my life in one place, fighting her every other day. It would simply be miserable for me and I would make a pretty miserable grandmother.

And this, is my greatest failing.

It always has been.

As much as I tried to fit into the role of a happy soccer mom, I've always struggled with it. I loved hosting the weekly summer sleepovers, assisting with Girl Scouts, the morning talks we had in the car on the way to school, cooking dinner every night and baking cookies at Christmas time. I miss those times greatly on the road, but I must admit, the rest of the duties of motherhood took an enormous toll on me.
At Olivia's Middle School Graduation, so proud of her achievements. These years as her Mom were beautiful and fulfilling in their own way, but those days are long past for me. 

The road comes at a high price.

With it comes the guilt of riding away from those who love me and want my attention. I have friends who feel as abandoned as my daughter and can only think of what my leaving does to them. Some of these friends have walked away completely, breaking a piece of my heart, one by one.

For some, absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. But for others it hardens the heart with resentment and longing, causing a painful backlash.
Riding into Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado, for my second try at crossing the Continental Divide in Colorado on two wheels. My first attempt was nothing short of dramatic.

My burdens in life have not disappeared, but only changed. As I no longer struggle with the burdens of motherhood and a miserable marriage, I struggle with guilt and loneliness on the road. I miss my kids, my niece's family, and my friends from time to time, ever so deeply.

So I suppose it is true, that to all things, there is a balance.


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Friday, April 24, 2015

Meeting Online Motorcycle Friends

Most people have "online friends" who they never have the opportunity to meet, but as motorcycle vagabonds, we've had the great fortune of meeting many of these people. Moto-Bloggers and riders we've met on social media with whom we've shared tales, advice and information have weaved their way into our travel plans.

In fact, this year when we planned our route for the warmer months, we made a list of people we wanted to visit and then worked the plan around those people as best we could. We aren't always able to meet everyone on our list, which gives us a reason to continue traveling, but we do our best.

I don't think I've met anyone over my lifetime with more interesting stories than motorcycle riders. But there is something quite special about meeting the riders we've already come to know virtually.

Below are just a few of those who've made the time to share with us some food, drinks and great tales from the road.

Rob Thijssen, who we met from a Google+ Motorcycle Riders community, happened to be in Portland while we were here too. This was a happy coincidence to meet a friend with whom we've interacted with online so much. Last night we shared dinner, drinks and road stories, compared cultures and laughed a great deal. Recently Rob has been riding throughout Europe and keeping us on the edge of our seat with some of his stories from Greece and Croatia.

While in Denver in August 2014 we took a ride with Jason ON, Amy and Brian Green. We met all three in the same Google+ Motorcycle Riders community. 
Todd, Rania Madanat and George Ferreira met up with us in Pennsylvania for a wet ride in the Lancaster area. We met Rania and George on Google+ and were determined to meet when we hit the East Coast in June 2013. George is also a moto-blogger, author of Riding the USA.

Madhavi Priya introduced herself on Instagram one morning, telling me she also lives in San Diego and rides. We met that same day and rode together, having a wonderful time. We've ridden together, even including our fellas, several times and are now great friends.

Alicia Elfving is the owner of The Motolady, in which she profiles beautiful, strong and amazing women who ride. As a long time fan of hers I contacted her in hopes we could meet. It took a few tries, but we finally got together in San Diego, then again in Long Beach, where this photo was taken in February 2015, where she was throwing a 3rd Anniversary party of her blog. 

We met Lucky, author of The Great Motorcycle Pizza Tour, when we visited St. Paul in the summer of 2013 and enjoyed some delectable pizza.

Paul Malone is the author of Arizona Harley Dude and one of the first bloggers we met along the way. Since our first meeting in April 2013 we've stopped in to see Paul several times in Surprise, AZ, a suburb of Phoenix. Paul loves to ride often and has taken us to some of Arizona's best roads.

Brad and Brandy are the authors of Troubadour's Treks and Trobairitz Tablet respectively, and longtime moto-bloggers interacting online with loads of other bloggers. They've attended some organized moto-blogger meetups in the past and love meeting other riders who also write about their experiences on two wheels. We stopped in Corvallis, OR just last week and met them along our way up the West Coast. 

After building a great relationship on Facebook, Chris Black and I were excited to meet when we made it to Tucson. She and her husband Mike invited us to their home for dinner, as well as inviting us to join the Royal Enfield Club of Tucson for a ride.


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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Motorcycling The Best Therapy

Tucson was a place I had heard about most of my life. My mother spent most of her childhood in Tucson and longed to return there one day. Many years ago I tried to make arrangements to take her there as a gift, but it never worked out. So spending more than 3 weeks there was a real treat for me, as I wandered the older parts of the city imagining what life was like there in the 1940's.

I remembered that I have a photo of the house my mother grew up in and decided I wanted to try to find it. The photo is in my storage at my niece Shelli's home. So I asked Shelli's son Zachary to find the photo and scan it to me, along with any other photos of the neighborhood. After some searching and a Google Hangout to go through photos together, Zack sent me all there was. Amazingly the house address, 243, showed clearly in one of the photos.

My mother and I don't speak, nor have we for years. There has been so much pain within our relationship that I think we both prefer it this way. So I called my daughter Olivia, who has a good relationship with my mom, and asked her to call my mom and see if she remembered the street name she grew up on.

"Nana says she grew up on 23rd Street. She said it was near the major freeway. Does that sound right?"

23rd Street in Tucson is very near the main part of Downtown where many older homes are still standing. Looking at the map I saw an East 23rd and a West 23rd. By looking at Google Maps I couldn't see the home from the photo, but I did see one quite similar on East 23rd. I hopped on the Indian Scout and rode over to the 23rd Street.

When I came upon the home at 242 East 23rd Street I realized immediately that this was not the house. The house I was seeking would have been across the street from this one anyway. This house had the same architecture as the house I was seeking and was probably built at the same time. The owner of the house was sanding and painting doors on his front porch and was kind enough to talk to me about my quest.

"I'm sure that's East 23rd. Look at the way it's situated on the corner," he said as he looked at my photo. "You probably won't find the house still standing, but that is definitely the east side."

So I mounted up again, filled with excitement and anticipation, and headed to East 23rd.

One look at the corner where the house should be and I realized it was long gone. But I also knew that I was in the right place. I stood on the corner where my mother had once played as a child and this brought me a great sense of completion. In many ways, in that moment, I had come full circle.

Thinking of my mother as a little girl helped me find forgiveness for the brutality I suffered at her hands. My mother will always be the only mother I ever have and I'll always love her, even though she hurt me. When I think of my mother as an adult, she has always been such a child in her mannerisms. So to find the home of that little girl who never grew up helped me connect with the part of my mother that I love.

Riding away from Tucson a week later I was filled with peace. I feel I've sorted out another painful part of my past, found forgiveness, and I've been able to leave that pain there on that street corner in Tucson, free to ride away from the resentment.

Motorcycling is often called "the best therapy." For me Motorcycle Therapy has been remarkably effective. So many miles have given me the time to really meditate on the issues of my past, helping me to recover, find forgiveness, and finally let go and be free.

Just as time has changed that corner in Tucson, time has changed my perspective on my life with Mom.

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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...)