Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ending the ride...gracefully.

There's a song out called "100 Years". It's by John Ondrasik who goes by the stage name of Five for Fighting. The song talks about the fleeting moments of time. When you've only got a hundred years to live, time seems to fly by. One of the lines talks about how halftime goes by. Judging by that, I'm solidly into the third quarter.

Sometimes I wonder about how long I'll be able to continue riding a motorcycle. 10 years? 20 years? I can't say. What I do know is that, compared to the number of riding years behind me, the years ahead of me are relatively short. I'm not morbid about it. I'm still pretty healthy and don't see the end of my riding coming anytime soon. The reminder to me is to savor every moment spent on the bike. The more time that passes, the more appreciative I am of still being able to ride. Like I say, I hope to have a lot of two wheeled miles still to enjoy.

Life doesn't always work out like we might hope, though. I've often turned to the Bible for wisdom in living my life and in dealing with others. There's a particularly applicable scripture in Ecclesiastes Chapter 9 and verse 11. Not to get all biblical on you, but these are certainly words that apply in life no matter what our theological views might be. They were written by King Solomon. Even today, Solomon is used as a metaphor for wisdom. This is from a modern English translation.

"I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor, because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all."

Life's circumstances can change suddenly. Sometimes we're forced to make decisions before we were really expecting to. In addition, we need to decide what kind of attitude we're going to have about it all.

Such is the case with Bryce Lee.

If you've been hanging around this blog for a while you may be familiar with Bryce. He's commented fairly frequently here. Speaking of which, I haven't heard from Bryce in a bit. I hope it's just because he's too busy to stop by. You see, Bryce is dealing with just such a situation I'm talking about. Bryce has Cancer and Lupus. These are enough by themselves. The chemotherapy treatment and side effects of the diseases have taken their toll on him. Bryce has another thing to deal with when it comes to riding. If I remember correctly, Bryce is somewhere around 7 feet 10 inches tall. This takes away some other options that might be open to shorter people like me!

Over time Bryce and I have corresponded on the side. We've grown to become friends. As things have progressed Bryce has shared updates with me. I try to keep him encouraged. In other ways Bryce has imparted wisdom to me in return. Recently Bryce shared with me that he has come to the decision to quit riding. He also shared some of the reasons with me. I asked for permission to publish his statements on the blog. Bryce graciously granted it. I use the word gracious with a special meaning.

When the time comes that it becomes clear I can no longer ride, I hope to be able to show the same grace and dignity that Bryce has. Truth be told, though, that time for me will probably be marked by the abundant throwing of tantrums and much pouting!

Anyway, here's Bryce's letter to me.

The reasons behind the decision:My own personal reality is riding a 28+ year old machine with accompanying parts (and eventually insurance) problems; combined with my own physical and mental failings due to Lupus and Cancer and continuing chemotherapy. A fellow female motorcycle journalist (Ms.Irwin) recently said I looked well, and I replied, "all the better for the eventual laying out in a box." :)

This simply means not having the Honda Goldwing or any other form of motorcycle. And then too the actual riding, controlling of a motorcycle means different parts of the body need to function. They don't and in all likelihood never will again.

It comes down to a matter of comfort.Am I comfortable with being on a motorcycle be it two or three wheels? Of late became tense, worried somebody in a moving vehicle, talking on their cellphone and /or drinking a coffee or smoking a cigarette will bump into me. At my age, any motorcycle accident would be traumatic.

And most likely fatal.

Before the medical diagnosis was already reducing my motorcycle riding. I have an A.T.G.A.T.T. (and a reflective vest) attitude, and as very warm weather has never been my friend, found full leathers were too hot and uncomfortable. And non-leather materials simply aren't made for elephantine sizings.Have looked for textile alternatives, they exist however the cost is far beyond my meager abilities.And these days having reviewed alternative machines including sidecar rigs, realize motorcycles are constructed for physically smaller, far more agile bodies. I don't qualify!:)

Motorcycling is a very personal thing! A pleasurable activity of the past with numerous friends riding and destinations elsewhere. Many of those friends now no longer ride or are part of this world. As we age, our friends slip away, mentally and physically.

The Goldwing is for sale, listed on the local Buy and Sell list. It will be listed elsewhere, am willing to dicker and accept a lesser price. I want it removed from my possession quickly and yet, it will be difficult to remove the black beast from my mostly pleasant memories.

1-UP (Bryce Lee),
Burlington, Ontario

To Bryce: No matter what your body is capable of ( or not ) we know where your heart is. Even if you can no longer physically ride, you will always be a motorcyclist. Thank you for sharing these very personal words. Of whatever use it is to you, please accept our collective thoughts and prayers for your recovery.

MIles and smiles ( hard though they may be to find at times )



Allen Madding said...

Words cannot express the level of sadness I feel reading this post. Bryce's decision is lilely to be one we will all face some day.

My thoughts and prayers are with Bryce.


Steve Williams said...

I've mused about the same issue on a variety of levels -- how much longer can I... I think your quote from Ecclesiastes is appropriate. Time and the unforeseen comes to each of us.

I'm sorry for the circumstances Bryce finds himself in now and pray he finds what he needs. And I hope I can address life as honestly and directly as his letter outlines--today and tomorrow.

Thank you for another thought provoking post and thanks to Bryce for sharing such a personal story.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

bobskoot said...

Bryce: I am also saddened by your words and it is a topic that I am also pondering. While I am still able to handle the rigours of riding I know that I will be coming to the same crossroads, whenever that may be. Hopefully later than sooner, so I am reliving my youth NOW while I am able. Age can be deceiving, and I feel that time is catching up with me too.

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Conchscooter said...

I watched my mother die a slow screaming death when I was 14 and realised back then life is short.I have ever since tried to live each day as though it were my last, fully aware that I am going to die, no possible illusions on that score. However I find myself in the midst of a culture that denies the very existence of death, which gives me a chuckle or two when people talk or act as though death is for others.
I'm glad Bryce is speaking up about his illness in such a straight forward way and hope I can face my own end as cheerfully and politely as he seems to be managing. I am afraid I shall not go quietly into that dark night as the poet put it, which might make reading my blog a bit of a trial!
Gopod luck Bryce and keep commenting as long as you are able. Expect no quarter, though, because I have finally found something in common with the awful Reader's Digest; laughter really is the best medecine!

SheRidesABeemer said...

A fine entry Dan. Sobering yet valuable perspective. I look around at BMW rallies many of the participants well into retirement years. I wonder how many are squeezing out their last miles? Personally I think my eyesight will eventually ground me, or at least put me back in the pillion street. I think I'll step away from the keyboard and grab some fresh air. Keep up the good work.

Lucky said...

I don't have anything of value to add to the discussion, but will send some good mojo Bryce's way.

dave said...

My Dad is 79 and still riding (an '06 Goldwing),although less and less. I do know that when he doesn't feel well enough to ride he gets grumpy and just knowing the 'wing is there ,in the garage waiting for him, puts a smile on his face. I hope that I am still riding at his age...

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dan:

I think your friend Bryce made a very difficult decision yielding to logic and sense. I deeply regret his circumstances, yet he strikes me as the kind of guy who still has a few stories to tell, and has what it takes to tell them with verve and panache.

Many of us are at the age where things start to wear out. Eyesight, joints, kidneys, and lungs are subject to the poor decisions of misspent youth. Yet for some, their minds occasionally drift, and there is nothing so sad as when they realize it in a lucid moment.

The measure of a person -- and a great rider -- however, is how their friends regard them, and write about them, and thank them for the moments and laughs they shared. I think Bryce is doing okay so far.

God bless and help all of us.
Fondst regards,
Twisted Roads

Anonymous said...

It is now approaching 14:00 hours Eastern Daylight time, April 17, 2009. In response to Dan's posting of my decisions, a follow up for those so inclined. Please note
there is nothing as difficult as finding that which you knew to be fun or enjoyable is no more, And too finding that the worst of the worst is time, it catches all of us; some sooner, some later.

If any wish to respond directly,
my email is

Six foot seven and seven-eighths is how my mechanic describes me. When younger (will be 63 end of May 2009) was probably closer to seven feet tall.

From 1976 onwards had a BMW slash five, modified for me with solid metal sidecar of some description hanging on one side for some years prior to the Goldwing. I had an altercation in late 1979 with a Toronto streetcar on a slippery cobblestone street. I lost three months of work, my cameras (was on the way home from a moonlighting job), as well as the rig were destroyed. In those days the motorcycle was my only form of transport.
I did not ride for two years! Had money from the insurance settlement, the new Goldwing was an opposed piston design, had shaft drive and was a better value than a new BMW. When life was simpler, the Wing followed me to Europe and the UK twice on vacation. It has pulled a trailer and has had a sidecar hung on its side. It also has 250,000 kilometres on the clock. The seat was modified so I could place my large bum over the rear wheel and the handlebars were spread wider so they wouldn't strike my knees when turning the handlebars. If you ever see an older unmodified 1980-1984 Goldwing in your travels beside a newer Goldwing, you'll see the physical size difference in the machines. Then you’ll know why old fits better than new.

One further note. A good friend wanted a Harley Davidson. He traded his Wing for a full-dress Harley-Davidson. The entire Harley-Davidson line produces physically small motorcycles. I sat on his full dress Ultra-Glide machine, and dwarfed it. My friend has since returned to a Goldwing as he found the cost of maintaining a Harley-Davidson to spec far exceeded the cost of doing so likewise on a Goldwing.

I have worn leather year round on and off the bike, moreso in my younger days. Had seen far too many other motorcyclists fall off their machine and seen shredded legs and arms in the emergency afterwards. Not a pretty sight, and when you’re older healing takes so much longer in time, and with much pain. Hot muggy riding days were never enjoyable except in the breeze. Taking off the jacket meant placing it in a breeze, inside out to remove the moisture. Have often taken off my helmet and literally poured moisture out of it.

Had tried to locate anything that would fit me in a textile or light version and there was nothing in giant sizing. Andy Goldfine’s product was not even viable nor were any other suppliers. And was so wary of buying something having had it custom made and then finding it wouldn’t fit as I thought it might.

Then too, fewer and fewer friends were riding. Had belonged to one or two Goldwing groups and found that they toured, mostly to the USA and were married couples. I had no desire to tour the USA, and have never been married And too the touring groups also had their own agenda, a new Goldwing every two or three years, parties and dances, seeing things, buying things (toys) and enjoying themselves. Maybe for most but not for me! Socially different, different attitude, soon found I couldn’t maintain their lifestyle on my budget!

Then too there is vehicle insurance. Probably because motorcycling is a limited time recreational exercise, vehicle insurance is quite high. Third party on the 1981 Goldwing is presently C$800.00 a year, no collision, no theft, no fire.
A new Goldwing starts at C$27,000 then there is 13 percent sales tax plus other taxes; and insurance full comprehensive can easily top C$2500.00 a year, far more than an automobile. One has to be of some wealth to maintain any vehicle these days.

And then for me is the ongoing health problem. The effects of Lupus initially for me is pain in the joints in the form of arthritis; the cancer in the form of continuing weakness and muscle atrophy. So in a nutshell, some things in my existence have to go by the wayside. Have been licensed to operate something since age 16, be it two, three or four wheels. Now one of those options shall be placed at the wayside.

When I started motor biking, roads were available, one could go to the USA and elsewhere easily to travel and the machines themselves were easy to maintain. All that has passed, never to return in our life time.

May your decision to do as I have decided be as easy. Sweet Dreams!

aidanspa said...

Dan - I have been a admirer of both your thoughtful prose and your caring nature, made obvious by your prior entries regarding your students. This beautiful tribute to your friend is a new benchmark. It is difficult to watch a friend or loved one experience the loss of something dear to them, a passion which has carried them for many years and many miles. All we can do is remember that ultimately, we are in charge of nothing, and that the best we can strive for is to live well. God bless your continued efforts and God bless your friend Bryce.

Mike Simmons said...

I’m new to blogging and fairly new to riding. Over the last few months I’ve been reading many of your blogs and the comments that follow. It’s evident that each of you really cares for one another.

Bryce – I’ll be praying for you. Thank you for your unselfish decision to give up something you love rather than putting yourself or others at risk. This is a reminder that each day is a gift.

Dan – thank you for quoting the Bible. Very appropriate.

God bless.

WooleyBugger said...

That is one big fellow. He dwarfs that bike.
Reading this made me feel somewhat sad and frankly, a little glassy eyed. Having to give up on something that brings such joy just doesn't seem fair for Bryce.
I wish him well