It’s funny, now. To reflect on my last three weekends in Oregon, because each one was so incredibly different from the last, and my perspective on those weekends in hindsight, has shifted dramatically. Because all three, ironically, reinforced my three mantras of adv riding.
To expect the unexpected. To stay humble. And to learn to figure it the fuck out.
It also was one of the most emotionally tumultuous periods of time I’ve had since my divorce, because there were many pieces of myself and my past I had yet to come to terms with, and before I left, I was determined to face it and put that shit in my rearview mirror…to leave it in the dust, and let it go. And somehow, even though it hurt like hell…I did it.
Amazing isn’t it. How sometimes we surprise ourselves when we open old, unhealed wounds – they are deeper than we remember, and once the stitches break, you are starting from scratch to mend the hurt of whatever cut so profoundly in the first place.
But wait, wait. I am getting ahead of myself.
Let’s start with weekend one, and mantra one: to expect the unexpected. This is the weekend of the Giant Loop Ride in central Oregon, the weekend of rain and thunderstorms, of free beer and deep belly laughs, and of getting to spend time with some of my favorite people in the adv community. A high, truly, after deciding to take the plunge and live on the road for the foreseeable future. Being a sponsored rider of Giant Loop officially at the end of May, I was a last-minute addition to the rally weekend, and I was unbelievably stoked about it; not only do I love to meet new people, but I also wanted to connect with other riders who were used to life on the road, since my adventure was fast approaching to commence in July.
On my way there Thursday, it rained. It hailed. Lightening. Thunder. Wind. The whole thing. But it didn’t matter once I arrived at Crystal Crane Hot Springs – the party had already started. The Giant Loop group had a blast on night one, with pizza, bourbon, and late-night talks about motorcycles, though there was a certain lingering dread in the air with the forecast not exactly slated in our favor.
Still, on Friday we managed to get an incredible group ride out to the Alvord desert while there was a break in the storms, followed by pigging out on milkshakes and burgers in Fields, and then riding a beautiful route home on the opposite side of the Steens mountains. By the time we made it back, there was free beer waiting for us, but unfortunately, the rain returned, and didn’t leave until after lunch the following afternoon. Once it was clear, I did not waste a second – when the rain let up, I got my ass out on the bike, and took a solo ride out to the Warm Springs Resovoir north of Crystal Crane, and it was undoubtedly one of the best dirt roads I have ever ventured down. A moment for the books, one which made my heart swell for the love I have of adv riding, exploring, and traveling into the unknown.
I returned to camp for a night of contests, prizes, and SO MUCH FUN regardless of the rain hitting in droves. There were, of course, brilliant moments in between riding and networking: soaking in the Crystal Crane hot spring, getting to spend time with Ryan, one of my best friends, before I left town, hanging out with Ben, Travis, and Chris (aka Dork in the Road, Explore Adventure Moto, and Critter Moto respectively), and the hour I spent sitting by Lorraine by the Warm Spring Reservoir, alone for miles, appreciating what stepping-stones it took me to get there.
And now, we are on weekend two, and my second mantra: STAY HUMBLE. Holy shit did I get put in check with this one the painful way. Literally.
On my way out to an Alvord camping weekend with friends, of which I had probably 4 or 5 content rides planned for our 3 day and 2-night stay, I wrecked on gravel going 65 mph a few miles from our turn onto the lakebed. In most cases, especially with my people and on social media, I have very much downplayed the wreck, because at the time I had to convince myself it wasn’t that bad in order to survive and pick myself back up again; however, in the aftermath, I will be honest and tell you, this is the worst wreck I have ever been in. I never want to do it again, and I am lucky I walked away alive. If I hadn’t been in full gear, I am not sure I would be typing this blog post, let alone still riding.
The best thing I did was get back on Lorraine after checking she was functional, and additionally, once I could get oxygen into my lungs. I had suffered a mild concussion, strained ribs, a sprained shoulder, extremely bruised scapula with a possible hairline fracture, road rash all over my torso (yep it got under the jacket, that’s how hard I went down), and it took me almost 45 minutes to breathe at full capacity after having the wind knocked clean out of my chest. But I got back on and rode to the desert due to sheer force of will. I spent two days enjoying life with my friends in spite of being in an exorbitant amount of pain, and then again, rain showed up at 4am Sunday morning to greet us. In a flurry of madness, we managed to haul out of the Alvord just in time to not be stranded for 4-5 more days. Our celebration? We got to Burns, pigged out at the local diner, and went home to sleep.
This wasn’t the end for me, though, it was only the beginning; when I got home, I had about a week to pack my whole apartment up into a trailer, sell what was valuable, and dump the rest, on my own. It was miserable due to my physical state post wreck, and being the stubborn asshole I am, I didn’t ask for help when I should have. My injury lingered when it probably would have healed in a smaller time frame. I should have been humbled since it was my own ego which landed me there in the first place, and in retrospect, while I am proud of how tough of a bitch I am when it comes to grinning and bearing it, I am not proud that I couldn’t admit to myself I needed support.
In the weeks since, every time I look in the mirror or at Lorraine, I am reminded of the wreck, because we both got battered, and we both will carry the scars from the accident until our riding days are gone. It’s what I love most about scars – they are memories, they are the remnants of our past experiences, and they are a reminder of what happens when we push ourselves just a little too far.
My final weekend in Oregon was a bit of a different story – because unlike the previous motorcycle weekends, this version of simply figuring it the fuck out had to do with my heart.
And saying goodbye to a person who, by and large, was responsible for me being where I am, and concurrently, the person who has hurt me the most as a consequence.
To keep everyone’s privacy respected, I will not dive into any details, other than simply say, that I had to figure the fuck out how to leave him behind. I had tried many times and failed, but this round I had to walk away and not look back. As I pulled away from Bend, coasting down Highway 20, with all my belongings crammed into a Uhaul trailer with Lorraine, my dogs and cat sleeping in the back seat, and Mark Knopfler on the stereo, I cried until I got to Burns, because I was battling an influx of complex human emotions. Those of loving someone who had harmed me repeatedly, of knowing I would miss him whether I wanted to or not, and of feeling relieved, that I was extricating myself from what had become a toxic grip on my life.
I was free.
Sometimes we have to run away. And so, I fucking ran, because my new path was on the horizon, and everything that had been no longer was. My dream job had evaporated. My stability was gone. My heart was broken. The rock of my existence in Bend was my people, and every one of them was cheering me on to take the leap – this WAS the path for me, away from Oregon, away from the past and the heartache, and onto the next chapter. Onto the beginning.
Onto, at last, chasing my own dreams, and leaving the bullshit behind.
So what did I take away from my surprisingly intense last weekends in Bend?
The same mantras I carry with me every day. To expect the unexpected. To stay humble. To figure it the fuck out. There were highs, there were lows, and there were new scars added to my collection. But there’s a reason the rearview mirror is smaller than the windshield.
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” – C.S. Lewis
Live wild. Ride free.