Ever find yourself a player in one of your own insane dramas when you react to an emergency life or death situation as if you were cooly swatting a fly away from your face? Well, this is just what I experienced on the first of my eight day solo ride up the coast from LA to Seattle, Washington, when my ass caught on fire.
There I was in the fast lane, zipping along the boringly straight Interstate 5 Freeway, a mere 100 miles from my brother’s boat home in San Francisco’s harbor. The high-pitched hum of “Jack,” my DRZ, had lulled me into a meditative state where only something out of the ordinary could shake me. And there it was — one of the worst possible moto “Richter Scale” scenarios. My butt felt extremely hot through the motorcycle pants, and as I glanced down behind to the right there were flames shooting from the saddlebag and exhaust! Luckily, there was a gap between the 18-wheelers in the slow lane, so I zipped over to the shoulder for an emergency stop without the flames climbing my leg.
The next 15 minutes felt as if I were an observer of someone else’s nightmare, as I surreally reacted to the insanity. Thousands of thoughts raced through my head as I tried to smother the fire by beating on it with my glove. To make matters worse, I was quickly using up the oxygen within my helmet with no time to think of opening the visor. Not one person pulled over for me after I waved like a crazy person with flames and smoke shooting from my bike. What was fabulous about this is that I was left to my own devices to save Jack and myself from a fiery fate. It was a good thing I grabbed a piece of tire from the road to try and swat out the fire, because the weight of it ended up knocking the burning bag off the bike.
It was then that I remembered that I was still wearing my CamelBak, which was still 3/4 full and ready to save my ass before the flames hit the tank. So, I poured the contents out and doused the fire before all went up in flames. Finally, a woman pulled over and gave me two extra bottles of water and called 911 for me.
By the time the fire engine arrived, I had already proven that I could meet this big challenge head on and take care of myself. I met them with a huge smile and laugh about how my adventure had started off with a bang. They gave the bag a final dousing, and surgically cut the melted plastic away from the pipe. A peek inside the damaged area revealed that only the electrical tape around the wires had begun to melt, but the wiring seemed intact. They asked if I needed a tow, but I answered, “If this baby starts up, I’m outta here!” And wouldn’t you know it, my amazingly reliable Suzuki DRZ400 kicked over immediately. So, I grabbed an extra set of ROK Straps from my tank bag, lashed the surviving Ortlieb saddle bag to the top of my load, and was off.
My brother, Jonathan, had left work early to greet me at his boat. As he waited for my late arrival, he got on Facebook to pass the time, and discovered the post of my smiling face next to smoking Jack. As I finally pulled up, he ran out to give his only sibling an extra huge hug. There was just one answer to where we’d go to dinner that night, “Let’s get your butt in the water and kayak across the estuary to restaurant row for a well-deserved toast to life!”
And a short while later, there we sat on the outdoor waterfront patio of a fabulous Jack London Square restaurant raising our glasses to “not letting anything get in the way of chasing our dreams and living life to the fullest.”
“I do some of my best thinking in my DRZ saddle. Actually, the bigger thoughts get chewed over and over in my mind in between concentration on the trail. That’s the beauty about dual sporting…the freedom on the bike and the connection with nature gets you out of the mundane thought. So, toss out those cells, cubicle demands and grocery lists and hop on that bike, or at least join me in some dual sport thought chew.”
-Nicole Espinosa is the founder and blogger of Rugged Rider.
The last time I rode my DRZ, Jack, was on my soul-filling Oregon adventure ride in October. He’d been in the shop since then just waiting for me to get him out of hawk. Two months away from my bike was synonymous to slow water drip torture. In the meantime, life got in the way. Whisking kids off to school, soccer and playdates forced the excuse to use the cage/car. But for those beautiful, peaceful moments while the kids were at school these past couple of months still had me enclosed in a cage. Little by little, my patience got shorter and daily responsibilities began to weigh on me.
At the time, I didn’t link the lack of my bike to the sole cause of my slipping zen mindset. At least, not until this weekend when I picked Jack up from the shop and brought him home where he belonged. No downpour could keep
me from riding my bike down to the L.A. Motorcycle Show this last Saturday.
And, it wasn’t until I was layered for the weather, mounting the bike and
zipping out of the garage did I realize how very, very much I had missed this
experience that I so need in my life.
I was laughing out loud in my helmet, talking to myself, and
smiling so hard that my cheeks popped out over the tight helmet pads…
“Oh my gosh, this is living!!!”
“Man, have I missed this!”
“I LOVE LIFE!”
Now this holiday season as I fill myself with giving to
others, I make sure I take the time to give myself the ultimate gift of
life…time on my bike.
I can make any place with four walls and a roof my sanctuary to nurture my family and work life. But, it’s my bike that I need for my sanity. That’s my connection to the glorious world of nature and adventure where I become one with my core and the earth. All it takes for me to recharge my batteries is the sight of my bike, Jack B. Nimble, packed for an adventure ride and then…
I know I’m home.
Who cares what this economy has heaped on me. It can’t take away what I hold most dear…my freedom and the ability to instill in my kids a lust for life. It’s that passion for life that really surfaces in me when I’m on my solo rides and pondering some of the deeper questions of existence. Specifically, have I learned some of the biggest lessons of my life? I actually think that my most recent lesson of letting go is my biggest one. Graduation from the schooling of that one seems to be knocking on my door. Not soon enough, or so it seems. But, then again I realize that it’s all playing out the way it is meant to for me to climb to the next level.
When contemplating the “climb” the other day, I had a revelation about how I am going to be successful in both work and daily life. It is going to be through my personal connections with people. It’s funny how I crave that, especially on my solo rides where the interpersonal stories or strangers living their own journeys is what’s most intriguing to me. Here we are thrown together on this Earth in various cultures and communities, and through international adventure rides or everyday interactions we can find that we are all one.
There are commonalities that just can’t tear us apart, no matter what wars are being projected on the news. Have you ever been a rider on one of those adventure rides out in the middle of nowhere and your bike breaks down? Ever needed any help beyond what your tools or mechanical expertise can reach? Isn’t it amazing how a stranger in a foreign land or a fellow ADV rider appears out of nowhere to lend a helping hand? How about the exchange of love and laughter between a rider and children in a third world country? It’s those priceless moments on the road that demonstrate that home is really where the bike goes in the journey of life. So the next time the bank says, “foreclosure”, I’ll answer, “You can take my home, but you just can’t take my bike!”