Motorcycles have been the vehicle that has brought my father and I closer than I had ever thought to have been. Growing up I didn't get to see him much, my brother went to live with him, and I with my mother. I had such angst when I would see my father and it was always an inevitable event when we would lock horns. Both of our stubborn attitudes would collide leaving nothing but little pieces of our dysfunctional family scattered all over the United States. He was a military man, and my mother would try her best to keep us close enough to keep a relationship thriving. It was a pivotal moment when my father paid for my motorcycle safety course and offered me a motorcycle when I was 17 to join him on a trek from the panhandle of Florida all the way up to South Dakota and it's neighboring states. I took the course, and the next weekend we began on our trip. Since then, our relationship has not only thrived but has blossomed into what I could have only wished for as a little wrecked girl.
It's taken many times falling over on the bike, him rushing over to pick it up off of me, many times calling for expert advice on how to fix my newly acquired bikes, and even times spent in the hospital, where he would tend to my every need so very selflessly.
But now I have this crazy, and some may say I'm stupid for, passion for motorcycles and what they mean to me. They've brought an idol and father into my life, and some of the most amazing and what seem to be unreal experiences as well.
I wanted to share a few of the many life lessons I have learned from my father and our times spent together that have changed my life. While they all originate from him teaching me how to ride, they all apply to the bigger picture of him passing down lessons to his little girl. Lessons that I'm sure he wished he could have taught me earlier, but regardless, I am so thankful for them everyday now.
Lesson One: Always ride your own ride
My father would always remind me to "ride my own ride". I remember returning to conquer the Tail of the Dragon after crashing on the way there just the summer before. After a quick debriefing in front of the giant metal dragon at the beginning of the highway, I kept repeating that very phrase. Ride my own ride. Ride my own ride. My boyfriend had taken off in front of me. He had just gotten his license a few months before, and this had been his first real challenge in riding and he was ready as ever. I took a deep breath, and let my throttle pull me through. I rode it at my own pace, and yeah, that was quite slow. I was pissing off quite a few sportsbikes and old men wishing to regain adrenaline in the process.
I didn't care, though. The most beautiful secrets and experiences from the world whisper to you when you follow your own path. I was conquering a fear that won me over for a year, no matter how slow I was doing it. Learning this, I've been able to adapt to the phrase, sinking it into every part of my life and letting it carry me through, just as those two wheels have, in conquering my battles. I know adventure lies ahead on my path though, and I'm rolling the throttle right through and pressing forward to ride my own ride.
This is such an important lesson in life that we just seem to forget. Amidst societies standards of what women we should be, of what careers we need to pursue, and what ideas we need to form, we are all just left to travel down the highway - all facing the same pissed off people, honking horns, overheating cars - congestion. Sometimes it is just best to veer off for a while, and explore the lonely road. Most of the time that is where unforgettable moments of self-discovery occurs.
Lesson Two: When the going gets hard, go back to the basics
I bought a 1974 Honda CB750 a while back and had been working on a few problems to get it back kicking on the streets. Naturally, I would call and Facetime my dad frequently to get his wizardly advice. Seriously, he can fix anything.. Not even while being there. A wizard, I tell you. My headlight wasn't turning on when I'd start the bike up, so I figured there had been a wiring problem. After all, it is an old bike. Tracing back the wires again and again, learning wiring diagrams in depth, taking apart the bike until it looked like a little skeleton - my dad calls me back. "Kristen, go check the handlebars for a switch", my chest puffed when I found a headlight ON/OFF switch. Oh, the things you learn when you work with these antiques. Industry standard or state laws have made motorcycle manufacturers wire the headlights to remain on at all times nowadays, which meant no longer needing a switch to turn them off. Obviously this happened after 1974.. While I had to solder on some wires in the meantime for the ignition switch, I still had done WAY too much work for something so.. so simple.
If you're anything like me, the details seem to bog you down, scenarios play in your head of a million different what ifs that seem to branch out.. take a breath. We are simple animals that have created such a complex programming for ourselves to call us human and forget that there is such a thing as basic instinct. Sometimes it takes just cutting the crap out and assessing the bare bones of problems where you will find your answer staring right at you.
Lesson Three: Stay hydrated
If you're ever around my dad, you'll know that he will tell you to drink water to cure any ailment ever. You've got a headache? Drink water. Cough coming on? Drink water. Broken bone? Drink water. It's a wonder that I've seem to have created a perversion toward drinking water. Seriously, give me a full glass of something and I'll probably be sitting on it for hours.
Going on across the country trips via motorcycle and camping calls for some serious physical aptitude. Including drinking your water. Every stop we made to fuel up on gas my dad would buy me a bottle of water and keep nagging at me to drink it all. While for the first ten minutes you feel like you're going to puke out your whole stomach, when you take off against the wind and heat on your bike - it's a blessing.
I made what could have been a fatal mistake when we took a trip to the Tail of the Dragon, though. I didn't even make it past Deal's Gap before I passed out and went straight on a curve, causing the passing motorcycle and I to collide. It took a number of broken bones and a totaled bike to understand the true importance of evaluating my mental and physical state before getting on the road. It also has made me become a shadow of my father in telling everyone to DRINK WATER.
Now, while literally drinking water is a big life lesson in itself there's more that comes along with this one. I've learned the what can potentially-lead-to-a-fatal-breakdown sort of life lesson in the department of keeping yourself fueled. Keeping the mind, body, and soul quenched is essential in leading a life that you love, one that keeps you motivated, disciplined, and reaching for something more.
When we find ourselves beaten down from working, studying, trying to maintain relationships, sometimes it becomes something so overwhelming that we just find ourselves crashing. The soul crying out is something that needs to be tended to, not ignored. I've ignored myself many a time, and have paid the price for it when I've literally and metaphorically crashed. It's funny when you can cause yourself to become your own worst enemy. But really, when you think about it, you are all you've got. So you might as well keep yourself quenched, thriving, and striving. Drink your water.
Lesson Four: Understand the friction zone
While I thought I was all badass swinging my leg over the seat to mount my pretty little Sportster, learning to ride made me revert to looking like a complete fool. FRICTION ZONE, my dad would yell out right before I would let the clutch out, jolt forward, and topple over, trying to scramble out from under the bike before the exhaust burnt a hole through my leg. It's a weird concept to try to grasp when you've got a machine that is just roaring for the throttle to be rolled in sync with the let go of a clutch. I was 17, only having history of riding BMX bikes and four-wheelers. Regardless, I had plenty of states to roll through until I was sure to have the friction zone down pat.
But that's what it takes. It takes practice to understand these things that are unfamiliar. Understanding the synchronicity of gaining traction and pushing forward is monumental in life. There are plenty of lost opportunities that I could have accepted and moved forward leaps and bounds had I pushed myself when they was presented.
Again, it takes practice. It takes getting back up after having fallen down, being so scared to just let the throttle guide you and keep your balance. But once your on it, putting all you've got into the ride.. you're set. You're speeding down interstates into worlds you've never imagined existed. All it takes is a little trust in the concept of your friction zone. Practice.
I could go on for a while talking about all the knowledge my father has passed down in the short time we have had to flourish a relationship. But I'll end here, in hopes that you will seek out the people that you love and really listen to what they've got to say. Sometimes it takes a lot of pain to peel back the layers and find the gold underneath a person, but in the end it's so very worth it.
Thank you Dad, for all you've taught me, and I know there is so much more. You are appreciated - Kristen