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.

SW Colorado – Day 4

Pagosa Springs to Salida – 147 miles

I’m not sure what to say about this day, other than I’m glad it was a short one.  We woke up to occasional rain sprinkles and overcast skies.  It was actually pretty cold too and I knew it was only going to be cooler once we were riding.

The weather seemed to wait until just about the time we were ready to head out of Pagosa Springs before it really cut loose with the rain.  Gee, thanks!  As we headed up and up toward the summit of Wolf Creek Pass, I had to turn my heated hand grips on to warm up.  Brrr!

One of the coolest moments of the trip was being flagged down to stop by someone in the middle of the road.  All kinds of thoughts went through my mind, like someone had broken down or there was a person in need of assistance.  As we approached, I saw a man standing in the middle of the road with a stop sign on a very long pole.  Turns out it was a local rancher who was slowing traffic because he was moving cattle on an adjacent road!  I clearly remember a little calf standing next to its mother at peering at me with big brown eyes in bewilderment.  Now that is a sight you just don’t see in Denver!

Since it was raining and chilly for most of the day, we didn’t stop for any photos.  I felt the dread I always do when a trip is winding down and this day was no different.  I was, however, surprised to find that I was glad the ride to Salida was so short.  I guess I was still tired from the previous day because by the time we arrived, I was ready to be done for the day.  After we checked into our rooms in Salida, we went in search of some lunch and guess what?  It rained again!  I know my riding partner dreads the rain even more than I do so I was hoping it would only be a brief shower.  I did hear thunder while we were at lunch, but thankfully it was short lived and we made it back to the hotel before the storm got intense.

That evening we went out to a really cool brewery that had many different beer, cider and wines you could choose from.  They also had some great live music going on and the icing on the cake for me was a super cute dog that came with someone.  The little dog ran around saying hello to everyone as if we were all old friends and was a ball of energy and fun.  My dog fix was complete for the day!

The evening was one of those experiences that seems ordinary on the surface, but I was feeling grateful for all the positives in my life.  For the choices that brought me back to motorcycling and the one that sent my riding buddy into my life. Also for the chance to find Sassy last summer, because that bike has made riding so enjoyable for me!  All the travel I have experienced this summer reminds me to be grateful for a wonderful job and a fabulous boss who believes in work life balance.  I had left some unsettling news behind me when we headed out on this trip and it was a relief to focus on the fun we were having.  I needed a break to give myself time to process so that I could make reasonable decisions when I returned.  When it feels like life has kicked me in the teeth, I go toward gratitude to find my balance again.

 

 

Assumptions

This is an observation that I made on my five day trip to southwest Colorado last week and I admit, it surprised and annoyed me.  My riding partner is a guy.  We are friends and I mean that literally, we are friends and riding buddies.  I don’t give it a second thought, nor do I refer to him as my male riding partner. I don’t see a reason to do so.  Honestly, the nature of our relationship is no one’s business.  Maybe that’s what bothers me, that people seem to think they deserve more information and I don’t agree.  Something to ponder.

It was interesting to me (ok, it was annoying!) that almost without exception, every hotel we checked into and restaurant we visited seemed to assume we are a couple.  As in a dating or married couple.  At almost every hotel front desk one of us would say ‘Hi, we’d like to check in and the reservations are under (his last name) and (my last name)’.  At three of the four hotels, one of us were checked in, given room keys and then the front desk person looked at us like why are you still standing here?  When the other one would say ‘um, can I also check in’, they were stunned into silence.  One person even grilled me – “oh, you aren’t staying in the same room as him?”  “Is it the same last name?”  Sigh.

This also happened at restaurants but they seemed less confused by seeing two credit cards to pay the bill.  Usually they would return to the table and ask if we wanted the check split 50/50 or some other arrangement.  I didn’t mind that so much; it didn’t feel like such an intrusion of privacy.  Maybe I am being overly sensitive on this topic, but I find it annoying.  I couldn’t help but wonder if we were two women or two guys traveling together, would the same assumptions have been made?  Maybe, but typically when I travel or visit a resturant with a female friend, the assumption is made that we are paying or rooming separately.  Just an interesting observation.

This experience has had me thinking about the assumptions I make every day.  Do I also do this to people?  Do I look at a “couple” and assume they must be married or dating?  I’m pretty sure I have in the past, so now I try to hit the pause button and say wait.  If they introduce the other person as their spouse, great.  If they don’t, then it doesn’t matter.

I have also been comparing this to my recent travel experience in Canada.  Although we were five women traveling together, splitting the check at restaurants couldn’t have been easier.  Each hotel check in was also pretty seamless.  Rather than oh, you aren’t all in one room the question was always does everyone have their own room or are some sharing?  Maybe we have some things to learn here in the U.S., what do you think?