Day 6: Picture of something you love.
Well, I could post the obvious: pictures of my family. Those are the most important things in my life, of course. But what about something that is unique to me? I didn't have to think about this very long.
That's Nooner, loaded for a 2,000 mile epic journey with a group of women who I love. I'd never met them before that day, but I loved them just the same. They are my sisters in spirit. They "get" me. We are members of the F.R.O.G.S. There is only one way to get into the F.R.O.G.S., and the initiation requirements are secret, but when you've met the requirement, you can be sure you'll be welcomed with open arms.
I'm going to repost something I wrote a few years ago that was published in Biker Alley magazine (which is no longer in print.)
Almost a year ago I reached one of my "Before I turn 40" goals. I took a motorcycle safety class and earned my "M" on my driver's license. I think I unconsciously set this goal way back when I was a teenager and I rode behind my mom, but later as an adult and mother of 5 young kids myself it seemed an impossible goal. Then, at age 35, I found myself divorced and with every-other weekend to myself. I started dating again, and one of the "prerequisites" of anyone I dated was that, not only did he need to have a bike himself, but he needed to ride regularly as well. It never occurred to me to get my own!
One of the men I dated had a sport bike (aka crotch rocket) and I found I loved the speed and rush of adrenaline that came with the ride. I even contemplated owning one myself, but our relationship was short-lived and suddenly that particular type of bike didn't seem to fit me anymore. As any adrenaline junkie will tell you though, it's highly addictive. The goal was now firmly etched into my soul.
Then I met Dean. Not only did he ride a Harley, but his entire extended family did as well! Dean and I fit together like a hand and glove. We rode together on his bike like we'd been doing it all our lives. What Dean didn't know was that riding behind him was a woman who was starting to have issues. Control issues, that is.
Like most people, when I'm riding behind, I loose myself to my thoughts. (Ok, I have a tendency to sing because Dean can't hear me!) I can look at the scenery and just enjoy it. Once in awhile we can have a conversation, but usually in broken sentences, or bits and pieces at a stoplight. Mostly though, I'm just by myself on the back of the bike. If I really want to feel "connected" to him, I can put my arms around him, or give him a squeeze with my thighs. Sometimes he might reach back and put his hand on my lower leg (the only part of me he can reach.). Those actions, however simple they may seem, are very meaningful forms of communication when on a bike.
Unfortunately there came a time when I developed awareness for other things around us. I've always had a watchful eye for hazards when on the back of the bike, but it's not been 100% up to me, so I could slack off now and then. But one day, out of the blue, I became very nervous. It was like somewhere deep within me a switch was flipped, causing me to be hyper aware of everything. Does he see that car? That pothole? That gravel on the inside of the corner? How good is he at quick stops? My ears became aware of his shifting, both up and down, which meant I also noticed differences if there was a problem.
I thought it was just me being paranoid. That is until I started talking to women riders who told me, "That's how I knew it was time to get my own bike!" So I took their advice, and got my license just before my 40th birthday.
The first few times out, (once I got over the fear of our daunting driveway!) I went alone, sticking to side streets where 50 mph felt very
fast! It didn't take me long to venture further, and on roads that had a 55 mph speed limit. My time is limited to ½ hr here and there squeezed in after household chores and while my daughter is still in school, but even so within a couple of weeks I was able to put a couple hundred miles on my bike.
One day, shortly after my daughter left for a weekend with her dad, Dean came home early so we could go for a ride. It was to be our "maiden voyage"; our first trip together on separate bikes. He decided we would ride to the home of his parents just 15 minutes away. "But we're taking the long way Honey. We're going on the freeway."
"The freeway? I've haven't done that yet and it's getting to be rush hour!"
His replied, every so calmly, "That's exactly why we're doing it. I don't want you alone the first time. It's only a mile or so of freeway. You'll be fine. So let's go!"
Suddenly I didn't want to go on this particular ride, but I wasn't about to let him see my fear either. After all, I do have control issues, and I'm highly competitive!
I quickly realized I needed a new goal, and it was to be to keep up with Dean. I knew he wouldn't go too fast for me, and I knew his ultimate goal was my safety. But I also knew if I did anything stupid, or showed fear, word would travel through the entire family before my feet even touched the pavement again. So keep up I did. For the entire mile and a half I stuck to him like glue at 70 mph, and even changed lanes once to get around a slower moving vehicle! I felt like I'd "arrived" and was now a legitimate rider.
The next day we ventured out more. This time it was on a three lane interstate with all kinds of cars (and semis!) merging and exiting. We
switched lanes more than I've ever dreamed we needed to, and I'm pretty sure he did this on purpose. I really didn't pay attention to WHERE we were going, because I was too busy keeping up to Dean, and staying away from the tires of big trucks. But I did it! All 60 plus miles of it. And along the way, I discovered something I never knew about the gift of riding my own bike.
You see, my daughter has a disability, and my life with her is often very complicated by doctor appointments, school meetings, and worry about whatever her current medical crisis is. I rarely get a break from her care other than a couple of hours each week. Even when I was riding behind on Dean's bike, getting "lost in my thoughts" often meant getting lost in my thoughts about the latest school report, or doctor's diagnosis, or how to help her achieve the next much-needed independent living skill.
What I discovered on my own bike is there isn't one single opportunity to think about my worries of the day or week. Every fiber of my being is involved in the ride. My nose smells everything there is to smell; from the diesel fuel of the truck next to me, to the lilac bushes in full bloom on the side of a country road.
My ears hear the subtle changes in my engine, they hear when I need to shift gears up or down. They revel at the powerful sound that comes from a fast acceleration.
My hands grip the handlebars, doing a subtle dance between brake and clutch. With just a very slight change I can accelerate quickly, or let the engine speed slow me down. My feet join in the dance, braking and shifting as the need arises.
My body feels the changes in the engine, the rumble of the exhaust. It feels the changes in the wind, instinctively adjusting to keep the bike upright, becoming one with the bike through curves in just the right way so as to make it one smooth and beautiful move.
My heart and mind are in the ride, taking a break from all the world has offered to me on any given particular day. Leaving it all behind, trading it in for the feeling of freedom, power, independence and pride that come from riding alone.
At the end of the ride, when the kickstand goes down and I take the key out of the ignition, I'm ready to take on the world again, and all that it has to offer. I'm ready to be a mom again, refreshed and energized to live each day to the fullest.