Organization From Chaos

One of my greatest frustrations is spending time (wasting time!) looking for something because I didn’t put it in the usual place and can’t find it next time.  I’m typically a pretty organized person; some people would say too organized.  Hah – those people don’t stick around long! 🙂

I’ve had my eye on a clothing rack for all my riding gear.  I was getting tired of having the helmet in the house, the coat and pants in the garage.  The gloves were wherever I happened to decide their spot was most recently.  I finally ordered it earlier this week and it arrived today.  I promised myself I was going to wait until this weekend to assemble it and move all my gear.  That promise lasted about 20 minutes before I could stand it no more and started opening the packing box.

Putting it together wasn’t difficult, but I have had a very long day of meetings and recognize that I am just tired tonight.  Well, that didn’t deter me and after a couple of missteps, I had the darn thing assembled.  Once it was assembled, I couldn’t just let it sit there, empty.

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I’ve already reorganized this and found hangers for all of my riding pants.  I found space for my neck buffs and have more layers to move to this area so that truly all my gear can live in one space.  I think once I get used to it and have it organized the way I prefer, it’s going to be amazing!

As I was tidying up the basement, I moved my bag that I haul all my gear in when I travel by airplane.  I bought it so I can check one bag and have my boots, my riding gear and my clothes all in one bag to fly.  I didn’t realize that I hadn’t opened it since I arrived home from Alaska.  Inside was a mess of packing cubes and chaos.  It was as if I had simply ripped out the laundry and gear, discarding the luggage to deal with it later.  Thinking back, I have no recollection of arriving home.  I have some vague memory of the Lyft driver who brought me from the airport.  He saw me limping and insisted on lifting my bags into the trunk.  When he dropped me at home, he politely insisted on placing my luggage inside my garage so I didn’t have to carry anything very far.  After that, there’s just nothing; it feels rather surreal.

This will be one of my winter projects, to make efficient use of my new storage rack and gather all my riding gear into one location.  It will be nice to reclaim some of my garage and closet space.  I like this start to the new year, it feels like above in a positive direction!

 

 

 

 

A Year of Contrasts

I had been thinking about my year end post and what I wanted to write when I took a break and headed to Pinterest for a little mindless looking around.  I was surprised to find a “pin” that perfectly summed up my thoughts.  It says: “2019 – a weird year because I was somehow living my best life and my worst life at the same time”.  I don’t know who wrote this but I wish it was me, because it is the perfect way to describe my 2019.

Sometimes the contrasts seemed to collide head on.  I had a 3rd and final job interview scheduled and had to delay because I caught the flu!  When I later landed that job, I took a few days off in between and we had a “bomb cyclone” snow storm that stranded me at home for a few days.  Probably the biggest one of all – I managed to book my dream motorcycling trip to Alaska and then had an accident that could have take my life . . . two days before my birthday.

I confess to waking up in pain some mornings and wondering why this is necessary.  Why am I still here if all I am going to experience is pain, day in and day out?  Because there are also days like this, when the pain is gone, the sun is shining and the skies are an unbelievable shade of blue.  Days when I feel like I can accomplish anything! Because there are more lessons to learn, to teach and to share.  More adventures to have and to learn from.  My life has value.  And meaning.  It took me several weeks (months?) after the accident to realize that but the moment I did, and said it out loud, my perspective changed.  I still can’t say it without tearing up, but that simply reminds me that I have important work to do.

As in years past, I have kept my gratitude jar going.  Yes, some weeks it is difficult to find something to put in there.  But I do it anyway, even if the only thing I can come up with is I’m grateful to still be here.  Because as long as I’m here, there is always, always room for improvement.  Life can turn on a dime as the saying goes, but that also means it can improve in a blink too.  I am looking forward to the very end of December when I’ll pull all the papers out of my gratitude jar and spend some time reflecting on 2019.  I hope that  I can come to appreciate the contrasts and the depth they bring to my life.  

 

You Go Where You Look

Remember this from your MSF class or other basic motorcycling class that you may have taken?  I have heard the instructor in my head many times reminding me that the bike will go where I look.  I’ve also tested that lesson and proved it’s true – oh no, I don’t want to hit that pothole and WHAM!  Yes, I was focused on it and I went right into it.

Lately I have been wondering if this concept also applies to life.  If I am too focused on what happened in the past, where am I going?  Likely no where that I want to be.  As the calendar year comes to a close, I dare to think about next year’s riding season and dream of where I might go.  I think about what it might feel like to plan for and take off on a multi day trip again.  I wonder about how I would handle that and if I’m going to be up for it.

As the days grow shorter and cooler, I always look forward to spring.  I tolerate winter and sometimes even that’s a stretch.  I don’t enjoy the snow, I simply deal with it.  One way of coping when the snow starts to fly is planning for summer fun.  I’m not ready to commit to a specific plan for next summer yet, but I am at least allowing myself the space to think about what it may look like.  My hope is that will help me in making it a reality next year.  Will I indeed go where I look?  I sure hope so!

Still Healing

Yes, my blog posts have dropped off pretty drastically since August.  I’ll be as honest as I can; there are two reasons for that.  1) The accident recovery and all it entails has been complicated.  There are details I can’t share at this point.  2) The riding season is coming to a close for Colorado as we move into cooler and more unstable weather.  We’ve already had more snow in October than I remember in my 30+ years of living here.  It’s shaping up to be a wild ride and it’s still autumn!

This healing process post accident has been frustrating, fascinating and a never ending learning experience for me.  Right after the accident well meaning friends started to call to see how I was doing.  “Are you healed?”  “You’re riding again, right?”  “All is well now?”  “What do you mean, no?  But you didn’t break any bones, so you must be ok now!”  I’m sure I have been guilty of saying something equally as unhelpful to someone at some point in my life.  But I will try to think at least twice before I say something similar to a person who is dealing with an injury and recovery.  I’m sure people mean well, but they don’t realize that those comments sting.

I’ve learned a great deal about how our bodies heal from trauma.  Bones and muscles heal differently than ligaments do. I don’t follow sports much but as one person reminded me, we see an athlete go out with an ACL tear for example, and we know it’s months of recovery.  They have access to the best doctors and spend their days on recovery; that becomes their primary job.  How, then, do we ‘normal’ people expect to heal any faster?  That perspective really helped me – it’s nothing I’m doing wrong, it’s just the timetable that it takes.

I’ve also done research into brain injury and concussion and the impact these can have on adults and how the symptoms may appear differently in different people.  Would you be surprised to know that screen time may be a trigger for set backs or can cause healing to slow?  I was shocked to learn that.  Talking to parents of high school kids, this all started to make more sense.  Apparently concussion protocol for a high schooler is no screen time and reduced class time.  That’s not feasible for adults, at least it’s not for me. I can’t just tell my job hey, I’ll see you in a few months.  Keep sending those paychecks, though, ok?

My point in all this is to give yourself a break and try to be patient with the healing journey.  It takes time, sometimes months to heal from an accident.  Check in on your friends who are dealing with it and simply ask how they are.  Give them space to tell you and truly listen to the answer.  Please, don’t make assumptions about their recovery.  I know you mean well, but what is most appreciated is someone who asks rather than tells me how I should be feeling.  Trust me, I put enough “shoulds” on myself.

Some days my patience are pretty high and I feel pretty good.  Other days, the slightest pain sends me over the edge into despair and frustration.  It has been almost three months and I never thought I’d still be recovering at this point.  That’s my reality and I try to hang onto the gratitude that I am still here to heal and enjoy better days ahead.  I look forward to resuming my normal posts at some point with more positive news.  For now, its one step at a time, hopefully forward more often than backward.

Alaska – The Finale

I have decided to sum up the rest of my days in Alaska in this one post.  Since I was now traveling by rental car, the experience was not the same.  However, this was the best part of the trip from a scenic perspective and I don’t want to lose that.

The plan for the day after the crash was for me to meet the group at the hotel in Valdez.  On my travels from Palmer via Highway 1, I saw the Matanusk Glacier which the group would visit again the next day.  I  was stunned by the peaks that were visible as I neared my turn off on Highway 4.  I thought I had taken photos with my phone of them but they seem to be missing.  So, you’ll just have to trust me that the views are fantastic!

This drive was about four hours and I mostly remember it as stopping as I needed to for stretching and water.  My cell phone battery was dying as I navigated and the charging port in the car didn’t work, so it was lucky for me to encounter one of the ladies I had ridden with at a construction stop.  I had a chance to say hello to her before the pilot car lead us through the area and then we caught up on the other side.  It was such a relief to be able to follow her since she had the group’s directions and stops for the day!

It wasn’t long before we found the rest of the group and had a chance to see some glaciers and waterfalls on our way into Valdez.  I was so relieved when we arrived at the hotel since I’d had barely any sleep in the past 2 days.  I grabbed some food at a nearby grocery store and was in bed by 8 PM! It’s too bad I was so tired and in pain because what I saw of Valdez, I absolutely loved!

The next morning was my birthday and I woke up feeling as though I’d been hit by a truck!  I was expecting this, having worked in the insurance industry for 10 years in my younger days.  I knew that 2 days after the accident is when you finally feel all the damage.  One of the other ladies on the tour was at a breakfast place near the harbor and I managed to drive there to meet her.  After some coffee, breakfast and ibuprofen I felt like I would function and we walked around Valdez for a few minutes.  I saw enough to know that I certainly want to return one day and finish the trip I started!

Our destination for that day was a hotel in Sutton.  It was strange for me, driving a car behind the bikes and at the first construction zone we were separated as they went up front with the pilot car.  I had the GPS directions so I was able to follow along to each stop along the way.  This day was mainly retracing my drive from the day before, but it was still nice to see the sights.

The hotel in Sutton may be my favorite of the entire trip.  It has beautiful fields of flowers surrounding it and a sense of calm and peace that I was so in need of during those last couple days.  I was sad to leave it the next day knowing that we were on our way back to Anchorage.

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Beautiful view in Sutton

 

One of the coolest experiences of the trip happened at our last stop before everyone turned their bikes in.  We stopped at a lake that we’d visited at the beginning and had some lunch and a chance to relax.  As I was sitting at the picnic table pondering what was next for me, I looked down and saw a penny!  During the entire trip I had been asking my dad to send me a penny and none had shown up.  After the crash I was feeling very disappointed and like this trip had just been a bad idea – then the bright penny showed up to remind me that he is always with me.  Always.

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My penny!

I started to feel very disconnected from the group when I joined them in Valdez and that feeling continued for the rest of my time in Alaska.  Even before the accident I had decided this would be my last tour on a motorcycle unless it’s a small group I personally know.  I enjoy the camaraderie of  riding and supporting each other, helping each other when needed and celebrating the great miles together.  I simply didn’t experience that with this group, despite being open to and hoping that would occur.

I would like to return to Alaska at some point, but it will be a trip that I design and plan.  Maybe I’ll go solo or with one or two trusted friends.  Even before the accident I felt like this trip was not at all what I had expected.  There are no regrets, because I learned a great deal about myself and know where my training needs to focus next.  I also saw parts of a beautiful state that I’d never experienced before and will carry those memories for a long time.  But now I know for certain that groups like this are not for me!

I have spent the last three weeks healing mind, body and soul.  The good news is that I see progress every day and am encouraged that I’ll be back on a bike yet this season.  Hopefully there is little to no hidden anxiety waiting for me, but I can’t really know yet.  So far, I haven’t been able to physically endure helmet shopping due to neck injuries, so riding at this point is still out of the question.

As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by and read.  I’m looking forward to sharing more of my journey with you all soon!

 

Alaska – Day 6

Chena Hot Springs to Paxson – approx. 240 miles

As we left Chena Hot Springs, the blue skies quickly gave way to rain clouds, again.  After riding all day to Fairbanks in rain, I felt like I was pretty prepared.  Little did I know that this day would bring rain like I have never experienced before!

Our first stop of the day was at North Pole and a group visit with a Santa Claus that darn near made me believe again.  He was quite jovial and had an answer for each of our endless questions about his flying altitude, where are the reindeer and does he wear a helmet and protective gear!  At first I felt a little silly going to see Santa at my age, but I have to admit, it was a fun stop.

We also encountered our first real road construction this day and were waved to the front since there was a pilot car.  I don’t recall ever experiencing this before, but apparently the road construction folks in Alaska want motorcycles at the front so that the pilot car can see if a bike goes down and assist them.  We rode a long stretch of dirt behind the pilot car with most of us standing on the pegs for stability and control.  It wasn’t difficult riding, it was just different and for me, it was good to be on the dirt again, using those skills I don’t use often.

After we left North Pole, the skies opened up and we experienced rain such as I have rarely even driven in, let alone ridden in.  I was very grateful for my goretex gear and have to say that it help up admirably!  We had a planned lunch stop at a picnic area near a lake which is probably amazing on a sunny day.  On this day with the torrential rain coming down, we all took cover under the eaves of the building that contained the outhouses!

We decided to press on to our next gas stop in Delta Junction and see if the rain would let up so we weren’t also eating lunch in the rain.  As luck would have it, there was a laundromat right next to our gas stop!  I have never seen so many biker ladies pile into a laundromat so enthusiastically before.  We all dried our riding jackets and other layers to get some relief from the cold.  We even became the topic of a couple photos with all the bikes parked outside, surely people wondering what could we be doing?  We had lunch right there in the laundromat while everything dried – no fancy lunch stops for this bunch and I know that I was just thrilled to have warm clothing again!

The afternoon was wearing on me and then we came to a pull out to gather the group together again.  As I turned left into the parking area, I noticed the view and my jaw literally dropped!  I could barely park my bike I was so excited to capture this view.  At the same time, my tour leader saw the joy and amazement on my face and captured an incredible shot of me!  At last, I felt like I was seeing Alaska!

We stopped one last time at a scenic overlook and our tour leader reminded us that this was likely our last spot for cell phone service for about 24 hours.  We were that remote and I was excited about it!

Once we arrived at our lodgings and unloaded our bags from the chase truck, most of us headed out for a little dirt riding on the Denali Highway.  It was about 15 miles out to a scenic overlook and we wanted to check that out and be back in time for dinner.

In that moment, I had no idea what lie ahead for me.  It’s going to take me a while to write the post about it, so I am going to say simply that I am ok.  I’ll save the rest for the next post.  Please, bear with me as I work through the emotions that seem to leap to the surface as I describe what happened on that gravel road . . .

Thanks for reading!

Overwhelming Gratitude

Recently I was hit by a tidal wave of emotions.  A blast of gratitude so strong that it overwhelmed my ability to process it for a few minutes.  That in itself is an amazing gift, but when I started to look at everything behind it, I was actually in tears – happy ones of course!

Motorcycle travel.  I’ve written a great deal already about my summer riding and the amazing trips I’ve been blessed to experience this year.  There is still another to come and I can’t even describe how excited I am for Alaska.  That has been a dream of mine for over five years.  The bonus for me in all of it is that after I found my beautiful Sassy last year, I feel like I have the best bike possible to travel on.  Sassy doesn’t travel to every destination, but renting the same or a similar bike has made all the difference in how I enjoy motorcycle travel.  Also having put a good bit of miles on in the last year has helped build my confidence and my skills.  When I look back to the beginning of last summer I can’t believe how terrified and unprepared I felt.  Or maybe I should say that I am grateful for all I’ve learned and how the miles and people who have been patiently teaching me made such an impact.

Dear, dear friends.  To me, there is no substitute for a trusted group of friends who you know will have your back and you have theirs.  Some live farther away, but each of them is a treasure in my life.  I’ve always been a person who values a small group of close, trusted friends over a large group that I know less well.  In the last couple years I have been fortunate to add some new friends to my world.  I am grateful for the joy that each of them brings to my life.

Best riding partner, ever!  Yes, he is also a dear friend, but I feel like he deserves his own category.  We literally met on the side of the road and rode together the very next day.  Our riding styles are compatible, we learn together and from each other and have grown to trust and lean on each other.  It is a joy to ride with someone that you know so well you can anticipate how they are going to handle most situations.  When we get it wrong, we talk it out and make adjustments for next time.  I can and do ride by myself, but the miles I’ve put on with my riding buddy are some of my favorite and I always look forward to our next adventure!

Cool job.  It isn’t just my job, it’s the company I work for, my boss and my colleagues.  I prefer to focus on the positive so I’m going to say that this job is what I have dreamed of for many years.  I feel valued and heard.  We treat each other like adults and everyone values their work life balance; that isn’t just a phrase on the website to apease HR.  My boss appreciates what I bring to the team and actively encourages me to grow in my field.  He asks which direction I want my career to go and how he can help me reach those goals.  When I request time off he always approves it right away and then makes a point to ask how my trip was when I return.

Decent finances.  Yes, these trips cost and I realize I am fortunate to have the means to afford them.  I had plenty of years of working two jobs just to pay the rent and support myself. Thankfully those days are gone and hopefully never return.  I also worked a ton last year and took only one week off because I had no paid time off or holidays.  This year I am reaping the rewards of that and I appreciate every paid day off that I have!

After this incredible summer, I’m not sure what I will set my sights on next.  At this point I am trying to be open to whatever adventures may come my way for next year.  I know that this will be one to remember for a long, long time.