Everyone is religions about something; a ritual, a practice, or a belief which is intricately woven into the foundation of who they are. A commitment. An observance. An entity bigger than ourselves.
And me? I believe in Lorraine. She was my green light. She was the first door opening, presenting me with the opportunity to take a step towards the life I wanted after an era of hitting nothing but yellows and reds. Her arrival catapulted me into the beautiful existence I currently relish in.
The truth is, Lorraine granted me the permission to be myself when I couldn’t find the nerve on my own.
We all have choices of what to believe in, what to invest in, and what we make the foundation of who we are. Mine is Lorraine, because she isn’t just a motorcycle. She is autonomy. She is the open road. And she is the chance to dare greatly at making every day an adventure.
So yeah. Lorraine is my religion. And I will remain devout until the day I stop breathing.
Welcome to the final piece of my journey throughout the west. Welcome to the full circle moment, of returning to where it all began, and realizing how far this road has taken me.
Welcome to the renaissance. Welcome, to the graceful renegade.
Once Alex and I crossed over the Canadian border and back into the US, we had a brief stint in the small town of Mount Vernon where I hilariously lost a bet after a few beers, which entailed that we couldn’t fit our motorcycles into our motel room since every parking spot in the lot was taken.
Surprise! We could.
Then, it was a straight shot southwest. After a day and a half on the highway and passing through the stunning Cannon Beach, we arrived along with a brutally cold squall into Newport, Oregon on the coast, where we would do a little exploring of forest roads and capture the magic of the beaches along the Pacific Ocean. Our first day was foiled by rain and fog, though to be honest, Alex and I both needed a day to rest and organize footage, so it was definitely not a day lost to the temperamental coastal fronts.
The next morning, we eagerly set out for Yachats to tackle a fun off-road loop in the Siuslaw National Forest, a route which gave us some spectacular gravel twists and turns through a dense wilderness of spruce and hemlock trees, as well as the more notable Douglas-Firs. The vegetation was dense. Everywhere I looked, my gaze would find hues of green, whether it was the ferns growing from the forest floor, the moss on the trees, or the vast assortment of sedges, shrubs, flowers. A certain fragrance hit, a combination of bark, rain, and rich earth, and in spite of the gentle breeze, the air was heavy with moisture and cool to the skin. It was…quiet, and though there were two of us, both Alex and I enjoyed the odd sense of solitude, immersed in the old growth of the wild not frequented by many.
We arrived back in Newport later that evening and quickly hustled down to the Yaquina Bay lighthouse, wanting to capture the sunset from an unexpectedly vacant beach. The constant gusts of wind were so intense that, unless Alex and I were side by side, we struggled to hear what the other was saying, and the sting of sand being carried by the streams of air felt like a thousand tiny needles striking every surface of your body. It was not exactly what I would call ideal conditions for filming (I swear a few times the wind almost knocked me over) and the temperature was dropping fast, yet the colors overruled every impulse that said we should leave; they painted what I can only describe as the most idyllic sunset you can imagine, perfectly situated in a crystal-clear sky, the dark water of the ocean reflecting the rays like a looking glass.
A profound, and glorious illustration, of how magnificent the natural world is, humbling you to appreciate the earth for the inherent beauty she is.
Once Newport was in the rearview mirror, Alex and I decided to take highway 242 through McKenzie Pass and visit the Dee Wright Observatory, an observation structure which is situated directly at the summit. This clever structure was built with basaltic andesite lav, which provides a variety of viewing windows cut at just the right angle to see the numerous peaks of the surrounding Cascade Mountains, which are a stark contrast to the large lava flow extending as far as the eye can see. It was incredible to take it in, the tall mountains in the distance, the deep valleys below, and appreciate from every vantage point how diverse and vast the Oregon wilderness truly is.
Once we wrapped filming, it was an incredibly fun descent along the windy road through the endless stacks of volcanic rock, carrying us down from the relatively barren McKenzie Pass into the small and lushly forrested town of Sisters. It’s a route I’ve taken many times before, but in this moment, upon revisiting an area which had once been so familiar and now felt extraneous, I felt an odd chill run down my spine. I was returning to my old stomping grounds as an evolved and seasoned version of myself, a version which made me feel more at ease in my own skin than I ever had before, and I was damn proud of it.
Really damn proud.
Life is a verb.
And life on the road truly defines who you are in your bones…beneath the surface, the superficial, and the sometimes perfunctory reality pressed upon us.
I am an inspired optimist, a dreamer. Though some days can be harder than others, I do abide by the notion that our mistakes and failures are an essential piece of who we are, and thus, help us to evolve into better versions of ourselves.
And no matter the circumstance, I do always try and do what’s right; that doesn’t mean I don’t mess up, and it certainly doesn’t change outcomes, but it does abet my learning curve while I continue to walk this earth.
From there, the rest is happenstance, and she can bring some of the greatest things into our lives, if only we are looking for them.
Tomorrow always brings another journey, another pursuit, another mountain to climb and conquer; in the end, the only place I measure my success, is through gratitude. Gratitude for the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, and the times I fall on my face over and over just to make myself get back up again.
We all hit red lights from time to time. Still, those red lights led me to be right here, riding down the highway with my best friend and pursuing a career I love, and I’m not sure I can put to words the gratitude I carry in my heart as a result.
It fills my world with color.
After a night in Bend drinking some tequila for my 34th birthday and tackling a bit of work the following morning, Alex and I hopped back on highway 20 east toward Burns to spend the night at Crane hot springs to soak and camp for the night. While the drive out to Burns is…to be honest…boring on a good day, once you are there, the opportunities to ride become endless. To the north is John Day and the Painted Hills, to the east is Idaho and the Sawtooth Mountains, and south, the direction we were to go, holds Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert, two of my favorite landmark spots of the entire state.
For a lot of years, touring the Steens Moutain Loop Road had been high on my to do list, mainly because it boasted some spectacular and dramatic views in the area, and the road itself being all gravel and winding through the mountain range, sounded like a great afternoon for adv riders like us. Not to mention it is the highest roadway in the state of Oregon – sign me up!
And let me tell you – the route was better than either of us expected. The gravel under our tires was, for the most part, well-groomed, and once we were a few miles outside the starting point of the Frenchglen Hotel, it became obvious that we had struck gold. In spite of the newly forming smoke clouds of fire season, Alex and I were graced with a bluebird day. The temperature stayed a moderate 80 degrees, with just enough wind to keep you cool yet not enough to make riding through the range too much of a challenge. As the road climbed higher, the scenery became more and more jaw-dropping: there were mile-high cliffs and canyons dropping down into the desert below, demonstrating a variety of elevation zones and topographical diversity, with the mountainsides boasting some serious amounts of sagebrush, juniper woodlands, and aspen trees. The striking ascent up is additionally paired with a powerful ride down, one in which I had to repeatedly keep reminding myself to keep an eye on the road ahead versus the panorama on the horizon.
You feel like you are on top of the world.
The only downside to our marvelous day hit hard and fast – suddenly, just as we reached the highway 205 to ride the hour back to Crane hot springs, the smoke clouds from the fires in the surrounding areas seemed to billow in from every direction. It burned the eyes, made the road ahead hazy, and the smell of bonfire was so pungent you could taste it in your mouth. Thankfully it mildly dissipated as the course of the night ran on, but either way, I was relieved we got our day in the Steens completed just in the knick of time, because from that evening forward, the smoke didn’t let up.
And the next day? Well, it was a big one for me. It was the Alvord. My favorite place in Oregon. The playa. A beautiful corner of the world where I don’t wear shoes and feel truly free. However, the road to get there was also the scene of the crime from June in which I wrecked so badly I was lucky to be alive.
Alex and I set in the late morning, giving ourselves plenty of time to tackle the gnarly rock and gravel strewn roadway, and let me tell you, it was NOT pleasant. After ten minutes, the allure of the challenge faded, and the rest of the time, Alex and I did our best to avoid dusting the hell out of each other, navigate the very squirly pockets of sand and soft ground, and of course, laughed our faces off when the UPS truck driver blew past us holding a pace that I can only assume was close to 55 mph, rage rocking to the band Kansas.
Nah, we’d had way better rides, but in the end, we got to Fields Station, had a beer, and waited for the sun to dip just enough so that lighting for our shoot would be more ideal. And strangely enough, with the setting sun and the smoke haze over the mountains, the lighting for filming the Alvord was…remarkable. We set to work. I dressed as Alex for some drone footage as his body double; next did a few sequences to grasp different angles of the sun, the dried up lake bed, and the motorcycle; until last, with filming finished and taking advantage of the very last daylight, we hopped on our bikes and road around like maniacs before settling into a camp spot for the night. The Alvord is, without question, one of the most unique places in Oregon: the wind is either howling in your ears so loud it numbs your brain or is almost uncomfortably nonexistent, a quiet tranquility you second-guess is real or a dream. The lakebed reminds me of old skin, wrinkled, cracked, and dry, but dense, tough, and indestructible. Calloused, if you will. You are mesmerized by the mountains towering above you, and the vast, never-ending playa your feet or wheels stand upon. It can be excruciatingly hot, insufferably cold…harsh, unrelenting, and unbearable, but if you get it just right, the Alvord is pure magic.
Alex and I got it, when it was pure magic.
The moon rose from the east a short time later, tinged a bloody red from the smoke still looming overhead, and once our tents were set up, there was nothing left to do but sit back, vainly count the stars as the sparkled into the night sky, and reminisce on the incredible trip that we both reluctantly knew was coming to a close. I didn’t want to go home, and I was well aware Alex didn’t either, but like all good things, the end of this journey had been reached at last, and we’d given it one hell of a great run.
I woke up the next morning and went for a barefoot walk through the playa, cup of coffee in hand, because for me, this was my personal moment to say goodbye to Oregon. A place I loved, a person I had been, and a home that no longer existed. The girl I’d once been at the start at this season – the same girl who left Bend with nothing other than her motorcycle, dogs, and the hope of a new beginning, was long gone. Nostalgia at its finest, to have my path take me full-circle, almost as if the universe wanted to show me just how much can change for the better, if you only learn to let go, to get outside of your comfort zone, and give the reins to an organic evolution of self. It teaches you to trust that no matter what happens next, it’s getting you just where you need to be.
With that, Alex and I took off from the desert and spent one last evening in the Crooked River canyon, capturing the strange eeriness of the smoke-filled sky, dark red sun, and beautiful twists and turns of the Prineville Reservoir highway. While the day proved to be a piece-of-cake in the grand scheme of our eight-week tour, I felt myself begin to truly struggle with the notion that this epoch was coming to a close. After two months, I was saying goodbye to my partner in crime, to my motorcycle for nearly three weeks, and to the open road, my home, and the weight of it felt suffocating for a few hours. At camp, I made the excuse of going to look for water, and once I was far enough away from our landing pad, I completely broke down into sobs, every inch of my body hurting like I’d been hit by a bus.
This, was a yellow light, about to turn red, and yet I was able to recognize that just because this light was changing to a stop, meant that another was about to turn green and offer a new way forward. One end leads to a new beginning. A death to birth or rebirth. My remedial journey had given me every tool I needed to push forward and succeed, yet that was going to be an expedition all on its own.
Time to go my own way, and for baby bird to fly. I wiped my tears away, and smiled wide. Let the renaissance begin.
I hope you find a path that brightens your world.
I hope you wake up, even on the worst of days, and know in your heart you are never alone.
I hope you dance like crazy, laugh too loud, and take up space, grinning from ear to ear, with nothing other than joy in the brevity of existence.
I hope you let the tears fall. I hope you don’t regret. I hope you love with all your might. I hope you fail. I hope you succeed. I hope you endeavor to approach everything with gratitude and humility. I hope every low is balanced by an equally fulfilling and enlightening high.
And I sincerely hope you relentlessly believe in yourself.
There is so much more to come, and I am so grateful to have each and every one of you on this ride with me.
Until next time. Live wild. Ride free.