The trip to Harley-town was bittersweet. On one hand (not Michigan's hand, my hand) I was glad I'd be sleeping in my own bed back in Chicago soon. I was glad to not have a six-plus-hour ride ahead of me each day. Yet, on the other hand, I was bummed about the exact same things. When would I get back out here again? And how would Chad's accident affect me the next time I set out on a marathon ride? I had to admit I was a bit worried I'd let fear rob me of this passion once out of the saddle for a few days. I could still smell all the blood.
This whole adventure had started as a fun trip to test out next year's full dressers. The trip hadn't been easy to begin with. It was a ride through Hell for some parts. We had started at night from L.A. to avoid traffic and the scorching desert temps. Some of us had experienced heat exhaustion the very first day. But Chad crashed near Telluride, Colorado, and lost his arm and nearly his life. It took the Medi-Vac nearly three hours to arrive. I am not sure how we made the hard decision to keep on going. The ride continued to beat us down. After Colorado, we rode through Nebraska and faced 60-plus-mph winds and the threat of bone-breaking hail. Finally, the HR squadron made it to Sturgis where I tried to get into the Hell's Angel's clubhouse and took part in destroying a car, if only as a passenger.
The trip was life changing, but at the same time, it wasn't. I continued on. At first, while riding through the Dakotas I thought of Chad every time I got on or even saw a bike, which was a lot. I remembered what the exposed bone looked like and turned it over and over again in my head, sometimes faster than the wheels spinning below me. I remembered the dark skies looming while I tried to hold my bike upright in the wind. I also remembered the impossible Doctor Seuss-like formations we saw in Utah. But for some reason, I began to block it out. I had to.
Was it a way to protect myself? I think I was too scared to think about any of the trip while out there alone in fear that Chad's accident would flash before my eyes and keep me off bikes forever. Chad expected to go down someday, but he rode anyway. Riding has always been his way of seeking freedom. Riding is a smile to life. While on a motorcycle, I am forced to focus on the present. I am forced to use all of my senses. While in a car or walking around the street, my senses feel numb and I am numbed to everyone else around me. Numb to the homeless guy on the corner, numb to life. On a motorcycle, with all of my senses on high alert, I tap into not only myself but other people, too.
After witnessing Chad's accident, I should stop riding. I should be aware of the dangers and realize that losing a limb or death is not worth it. But I will continue. Every day I will lift a leg over the saddle. Until I find a different way, motorcycle riding is the only way I can truly feel aware. Alive.