Wednesday, March 29, 2006

It is who I am

My name is Dan and I am a motorcyclist.

This was the opening sentence of my very first post on this blog. In some of the ensuing posts when I wrote about riding I used these words:

"It is who I am, it is what I do".

Have you ever noticed how easily verbage and slogans can roll off people's tongues? Sometimes people are just trying to fit in with a certain group or image. With some folks the oft repeated affirmations may even have good intentions behind them. It's just that I'm always left wondering how strong those stated convictions would be if really put to the test. Would they trade away their words for a price?

I have just emerged from my own time of testing. The last two weeks have been literally gut-wrenching. Last night I came out the other side. The battle was to see if I could separate myself from commuting by bike. The effort has left me wearied and bloody. In the end I found it was not possible. It is like a surgeon looking to remove an internal organ. One thing clearly defined. Imagine them being given the task of removing the circulation system. It would theoretically be possible but at what cost to the patient? Motorcycling is as intertwined in my being as are my miles of blood vessels. It cannot be removed for it cannot exist apart from me.

For me, riding is not a hobby. It truly is who I am, it is what I do. That statement has been tested in battle and proven to be true.

I'm not going to share all the details. It is like family vacation photos. Nobody can really relate except the family who've been there. I will share the skeleton of the story.

For the past three and a half years I have been faithfully flying this desk. It is not me. This is the first experience of my life in being an office rat. Chances to get out are fairly rare. It was time to seek a change. The opportunity was extended to me to become a manufacturer's rep. My current salary allows me to be comfortable. Money isn't rolling in hand over fist but we eat well. The starting salary offered to me is $10,000 per year higher yet. The job itself offers a lot more freedom to be out and about which suits me well. I would be required to move closer to the "Big City" which has a population of over half a million. Katie, bless her soul, was up for the move. I'm privileged to have a soulmate with a sense of adventure.

The problem came when I gave notice here. Now the deed was actually done. I would wake up in the middle of the night with my stomach in a knot. I had the feeling I imagine one would get facing a messy IRS audit. You just have a sense of impending doom. A sense of something very unpleasant being forced upon you. After sorting everything out, I realized the knot was coming from one thing. It wasn't the move or the new job. I love adventure and new challenges. I realized it was because I would no longer be able to commute by bike. It would also mean the end of this blog. How can one write a blog about commuting on a bike when that's no longer happening? The new job would all have to be done in a cage. It would not be a matter of going to an office. It would all be on the road calling on current and prospective customers.

The situation clearly shows the difference between being a motorcylist on the surface and being one with the heart of a motorcyclist. Thinking about not riding didn't have a huge impact on me. I reasoned it might be time to "grow up" and move on. I guess that's how a lot of people look at riding. It's a pleasant hobby and a chance to socialize. The activity could just as well be playing cards or anything else. At this point it was only my brain involved. I had no warning of the pain to come.

Only after putting in notice did my heart get involved. Suddenly this was no longer a cerebral exercise. It was to become my new reality. My heart woke up to the fact that it was actually going to happen. That's when the knot and dark cloud moved in. Every day I rode home was one day nearer to The End. I rejoiced in the ride and cried over the loss.

I agonized for days. It made more sense to go but I couldn't give up riding. Once- in- a -while rides on weekends just aren't the same. At the same time my Welsh employer was horrified to lose me. Even though we had talked about the situation for the last year, I don't think he really got it. My resignation hit him hard. It seems we have come to terms and changes are being made. I feel like doom has passed me by. It was a learning experience of what direction to take in the future should things not happen here as promised. In the long term the turmoil was a good thing.

Now that the heavy, stressful, part is past, it is time to move on. I am estatic to still be commuting on two wheels! Spring and Summer are upon us and it's time to have fun. Time to write about great and happy things as seen from a bike's seat.

I can honestly say: "I must ride. It IS who I am, it is what I do". Things of real value have been left untouched on the table. It was a good trade. The treasure of riding is worth far more.

Smiles and miles.



DaveT said...

I sat down today, my day off (I hate split days), and read your last two posts. Your last struck a nerve. I'm a fairly new lurker and reader of your blog. Thank Gary C. (Baron in Winter) for getting me here.

Your post today struck a nerve. I've owned motorcycles for 33 years. Got my first at age 7 and have owned a bike since then. They haven't always run, and I went almost 6 years without riding while one bike slow decayed from, "I really need to fix that" to, "Major restoration potential." My loving wife took pity and let me buy a new bike two years ago. I'd lost myself somewhere commuting 120 miles a day in the snow (North Idaho, Osburn to Coeur d'Alene) and committing all my money and time to try and start a business.

I found myself again, on two wheels. I don't ride for political reasons, I don't ride to save gas, or so I can park close to the door. I don't ride because it's the popular thing to do. I ride for the same reason I breath, and I feel like I have quit holding my breath and started breathing again.

Why do we commute and ride in the rain, snow, cold? Because we are riders, bikers, motorcyclists, or some would say, nuts. It doesn't matter to me what you call me, as long as I'm on two wheels.

Steve Williams said...

You have made a leap in awareness few people have the courage to consider.

Following your heart in spite of what your brain or society tells you is the correct, fashionable, grown-up thing to do is rare. Bravo!

I consider the way you pursue riding to be no different than an artist who pursues their calling. They do it no matter what. It comes first in their lives. And it is not common. You are an inspiration to those of us would-be riders sitting on the fence. Adventure and challenge are certainly a welcome benefit of riding, but I bet it goes deeper. It seems as if riding is a way in which you question, mediate, and understand your reality and life. Many never bother with these kinds of questions. Those that do find themselves on fire with life.

You are a rare man...

Best wishes on your journeys...


irondad said...

Welcome to my humble blog. It was actually Gary who got me started blogging. Ride to Work was looking for different perspectives from bike commuters. Gary was kind enough to put a link on his blog.

I am glad you found yourself. Your example of air and breathing is pretty appropriate. One can live a relative amount of time without it but not indefinitely. I broke a number of bones in my right hand a while back and had to be off the bike for about six weeks. Talk about PMS! ( parked motorcycle syndrome ). I survived the temporary time off but can't picture stopping altogether.

Thank you for taking the time to share your comment. I am usually the "strong silent type" but on the blog I've been trying to actually put my thoughts and feelings out there. It makes me feel a little more vulnerable but I feel the need to make this blog "real". When I hear about making a connection with someone like you it enriches my life.

By the way, what did you buy?

You are perceptive. I think a lot of richness in my life has come about by riding. The time to think, the connection with the world around me; all more effective because of the heightened awareness while on the bike.

I never really set out to be an "inspiration". It's not like I wake up in the morning and ask myself what I can do to inspire someone today. When I teach classes I do try to inspire people to discover the fun and to determine to take care of themselves by keeping skills sharp.

In my everyday life, I ride for myself. I like to think that what I gain makes me a better person which adds to the positive waves in the universe. The bottom line is that I ride because I need it and it helps me personally.

Your comment elevates me to some noble level and I'm duly honored. I have some insight into your personality through our blog connections. Your positive words mean a lot coming from a person of your caliber.

Thank you for letting me know that my writing inspires you. Like I said in my comment to Dave, I'm going down a new road with sharing my inner feelings on this blog. It's the total opposite of my cop days where you stand back, take it all in, and give out very little that's personal. Now I'm leading with my heart.

The hope is that this blog will be something of value to those taking time to read it. Comments like yours and Dave's lead me to believe that may be happening. It feels good to all inspire each other.

Noble and brave, or an addict who can't help himself?

Mad said...

Gotta go with the heart Irondad. There's a tone of relief in your writing that speaks volumes about your narrow escape from the infernal cage. I have a small insight into how it would have been for you to give up the bike commute. As you know I've started a new job. Now just about everything about this job is perfect. I'm so happy there... BUT and it's a suprisingly big BUT my job is much closer to my house. I put that on my plus list when I was choosing whether to take the job or not. The thing is though, I'm really missing my long ride to and from work. The short little blast to the office and back just isn't long enough to sate my need to ride. Well at least it has the upside that I finish in plenty of time to have a good ride out that isn't going home afterwards

irondad said...

I seem to remember you said it was about three miles to work. That would be hard for me in winter. It takes time to put on the proper gear but at least I have 44 miles. I can see me debating: Do I bother to ride? Do I try the short dash with more minimal gear?

At least you can ride more on the way home. You're right about the relief. A couple of days have gone by and I'm feeling good about it.

Take care

Mad said...

Good point about gearing up, I've discovered that even if it's raining quite hard that I can wear minimal gear and still reach work pretty dry.

DaveT said...

The best day at work is only made better when you start and end your day on your bike. The worst day at work is made much more bearable when the day starts and ends on the bike. Kind of like eating your overcooked peas to get to dessert. :)

My current ride is a Suzuki DL1000K5. That's the 2005 V-Strom to most folks. It's big, it's kinda ugly, but it's wheelie, wheelie fun. ;) I bought it because it runs like a sport bike, but has enough leg room for an old guy with bad knees.

MAD, try taking off for work an hour early, explore the roads, ride a loop on the way to work. I routinely make my 4 mile run to work (10 minutes normally) last over an hour. I head out of town and ride some fun roads, then loop back. Almost makes going to work worth it. Of course, it's really easy to think about calling in... "Hey boss, yeah, I'm stuck out in the middle of no where. Ran over a nail. The tow truck is on the way but I don't think I'm going to make it in. See you tomorrow." ;)

Keep ridin' safe.
Dave T.

irondad said...

I almost bought a DL650. Had a hankering for a dual-sport. Most of my riding is street, though. I'm either going back and forth to work or riding to teach. I would probably be like the guy advertising a KLR650 for sale. 13,000 miles and never been off road. So I passed.

Could have used it yesterday in the mud, though.

That's what I tell my crazy Welsh boss. The only reason I work for him is because it gives me somewhere to ride my bike to.


DaveT said...

The DL's are really "dirt" bikes. The best description I've seen to date is, "Real world bikes." You can ride them off road, but a KLR they are not. They handle dirt roads, fire roads, gravel, etc. pretty well, but they are around 500lbs. Not exactly something you could triple jump with.

On the plus side, they are fast, comfortable and manuverable; have great ground clearance and lean angles; enough suspension travel to keep you moving over pot holes and "real" roads. The main reason I bought mine was the leg room. First bike I sat on that felt comfortable. (Other than true dual purpose bikes such as the KTM 950 adventure and the KLR.)

In all the shoot outs I've seen, the magazines seem to pick the BMW GS as the "best" if money is no object. The Triumph tiger gets the nod for an engine with soul, and for coming with luggage. The KTM 950 adventure is "best in dirt." The Suzuki DL gets the award for best bang for the buck, and general overall competence. Jack of all trades, master of none. But I could buy a DL1000 and a DRZ 400 (True dirt bike) for what it would cost for the BMW. :)

I'm seeing more and more of the naked bikes, the big DL styles, and sport tourers. Funny, didn't we call these "standards" or "UJMs" in the 70's and 80's, before everything become a cruiser or repli-racer? It's a good time to be a biker. :) So many roads, so many bikes, so little time.

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