Connection with Nature, Moms, and Motorcycles

by Liz Jansen

connection with natureAnyone who rides a motorcycle knows the powerful connection with nature you feel while riding through the countryside. It expresses itself as freedom, exhilaration, and joy.

It nourishes our soul and connects us with our Higher Being. And even if you don’t believe in that, you can’t discount the connection with Nature we’re a part of here on this earth walk.

I love living in a climate that experiences all four season. While each has it’s energetic specialties, there’s something particularly enlivening about the energy of spring. New life bursts forth as we emerge from our winter hiatus when nature rested.

When trees were barren and snow covered the frozen ground.

It looked like nothing was going on.

Trudy, my motorcycle was parked in the garage, covered and hooked up to a trickle charger, her life support.

Recently, as I walked through the parkette at the end of my street, it gave me great joy to watch a young mom with her preschool daughter, walking hand in hand. I glimpsed them just after I’d crossed the footbridge over the stream.

Hand in hand, mom and the little blonde, curly-haired girl stopped to check out the blossoms. Mom let her take her time, demonstrating how to touch the delicate blossoms gently. You could feel the little girl’s delight as she felt, smelled, and sensed, awed by what she was experiencing. Her curiosity satiated for the moment, they moved on to the pond to check out the frogs.

When I returned, mom and daughter had meandered back across the bridge. Still hand in hand, they were discovering the mysteries waiting along the edge of the woods. Mesmerized, the three-year-old bent over to take in the fragrance of a blossoming lilac.

What a joy for all three of us to share, even though the little girl was lost in her own world.

Last weekend, after forgoing the express route and riding through the blossom-scented countryside, I visited my mom in the long-term care facility where she now resides. It’s not often she gets outside but I know she thrives on it.

My parents farmed for 55 years. While dad tended the orchards, mom’s pride was her sumptuous gardens. A bank of lilacs along the driveway, interspersed with forsythia and spirea bushes laden with blossoms in lavender, yellow, and white were highlights of spring. Between the lily-of-the-valley, peonies, irises, roses, chrysanthemums handed down from her mother, and a mix of annuals, something was in bloom until the snow returned.

Walking any distance has become difficult so a wheelchair’s become mom’s alternate transport. Once outside in the courtyard, she wanted to get up close to the flowering foliage. As I contemplated how to best get the wheelchair across the lawn, she solved the dilemma. She’d walk.

I held her arm as we moved tentatively from one vignette to the next, mom stopping to admire, touch the blooms, and stoop to take in their fragrance. The lilacs gave her particular joy.

It took me back to the scene earlier in the week where the mother was showing her daughter the marvels of spring. Now with roles reversed, the daughter was leading mom around so she could experience that timeless energy. Even though my mom may not always recognize me, her heart connection with the life around her was unmistakable.

Three times that week I’d been given poignant reminders in vivid technicolor. No matter what our age, state of mind, or method of transport, experiencing that connection to nature, even for a few minutes, connects us with who we are and feeds our soul.

What’s your favorite way of dialing in to nature? Your favorite ride?  Tell us in the comments.


Posted in Personal Growth Tagged with: , , ,

Wisdom from the Child in the Woods

by Liz Jansen

wisdomMotorcycles aren’t the only means of transport for inner journeys.

Now that spring is here, I follow a loosely defined path when I walk to nearby plazas for errands. My place backs onto a greenbelt of mostly cedars I love walking through. Usually it’s a tranquil respite, but occasionally wisdom arises out of innocuous encounters.

Walking home last Friday, I caught the attention of three young girls, ages six and seven, out exploring under the supervision of a caregiver. I was on the side of the stream they were trying to reach by clambering across a logjam.

“How did you get over there?” they screeched in their little girl voices.

“There’s a path,” I responded, “but it’s a little hard to find. I’ll show you where it is.”
Like a shot, they were off the logs, running towards the parkette we’d all come from. They ran across the bridge and I met them at the not-so-obvious entrance on my side of the stream. Running, jumping, and chattering non-stop, they followed me into the woods. The caregiver followed slowly and silently at a distance, a shadowy apparition.

“She’s scared of the woods,” said the alpha-girl, pointing at her friend, although it looked like it could have applied equally to their adult. “Her name’s Faith.”

“Faith,” I addressed the shy little girl kindly, wondering what stories she’d been told. “There’s nothing to fear out here with us. And with a name like yours, you shouldn’t be afraid anyway.”

It was the alpha-girl’s response that blew me away.

“Her parents gave her that name so she’d learn how not to be afraid,” she said, while turning towards her friend. “She needs to take her name and hold it here,” she concluded, patting her right hand over her heart.

We continued on for a bit, them chatting and me listening until their adult, having decided they’d gone far enough, reined them in. I continued on, smiling, pondering the message from the wisdom of a child.



Posted in Liz's Stories

Mother’s Day Motorcycle Traditions Go On Forever

by Liz Jansen

Mom and I went on our first motorcycle ride together on May 9, 2004. It was Mother’s Day and my 50th birthday. She was about to turn 78. So began an annual tradition that lasted for six years until she was no longer physically or mentally able to ride.

The dates don’t often line up like that, like they did on the day I came into the world. When the nurses brought me in for the first time, they’d tied a pink bow to a few strands of fiery red hair. That I’d be taking her for a motorcycle ride 50 years later would have seemed incredulous. With her can-do attitude, however, she wouldn’t have ruled it out—either that her daughter would be riding a motorcycle or she’d be on it.

In 2004, I was a year into my new life, post marriage and post corporate career. New life emerges in springtime, and like the season, I was full of energy, hope, and optimism. My parents were still on their Niagara fruit farm and the blossoms were in full bloom.

Our ride took us through countryside bursting with a profusion of pink and white petals and budding greenery as the orchards awoke from their winter hibernation. Mom’s bony knees dug into my hips and her hands clasped my jacket. I joked with her, reminding her that 50 years ago she was trying to push me out and now she was using her knees to hang on to me.

Mother's Day

A few weeks before the next Mother’s Day, she asked if we’d be going for a ride again. And so an annual tradition was born. She loved to tell her friends about it. One year when we went a little further afield into Niagara-on-the-Lake, dad rode sweep in the car, just in case mom got tired. Of course, he drove alone the whole time.



When my sister Mary got her license, she and her son Evan joined in for a couple of years. Mom loved it! She loved to wave at people she knew or anyone who caught her eye, wearing the smile of the motorcyclist proudly.

The Yamaha FZ1 I had at the time, got harder for her to get on, so I began carrying a step stool. It was like the old days when the stagecoach pulled up to the step so the passengers could disembark.

Then climbing aboard got too difficult and the dementia was robbing her mind. It was no longer safe to take her along. In 2012 we closed the tradition. Although she could no longer ride, she could pretend. With the Harley-Davidson Street Glide I had on loan, it was easy for her to get on and off. It didn’t matter that we didn’t actually go for a ride.

From the time I began riding at age 16, my parents were always accepting of my riding. That their daughter was riding a motorcycle just wasn’t an issue. There were important things to worry about, like running the farm. Now, no matter what time of year I go to visit, even if there’s a foot of snow on the ground, mom assumes I’ve ridden there. She knows nothing is impossible.

A year ago, her dementia progressed to the point we had to move her into long-term care. Her mind is failing, yet whenever I’m there, she asks about my motorcycle. When she introduces me to other residents, the motorcycle is always attached to the introduction.

Sunday I’ll ride down to see her. She’ll likely recognize me, although it may take a few minutes to remember if I’m her daughter, sister, or cousin. But when it registers who I am, she won’t forget to ask me about my motorcycle. Some traditions go on forever.




Posted in Liz's Stories Tagged with:

12 Tips for Riders During Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

by Liz Jansen

motorcycle safety awarenessMay is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Many campaigns have been designed to alert automobile drivers to our presence on the road. That all helps, but safety has to start with me. The rider.

I can’t abdicate that responsibility, nor do I want to. Nor will I count on another driver being aware of my presence, even after we’ve made eye contact.

These tips remind us how to practice awareness when we’re out riding.

12 Tips for Riders During Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

  1. Ride within your skill level. Putting yourself in a situation you’re not prepared for, or ceding to peer pressure to ride faster than you’re comfortable put you at risk of losing control of the situation. Fixating on keeping up or staying in control diverts awareness from where you’re going.
  2. Keep the noise down. My helmet has a high noise reduction rating but I reduce that further with earplugs. If you’re going to listen to music while riding, keep the volume down. My choice is no music. There are enough inputs for me to keep track of without adding any more.
  3. Use intercoms only when needed. Chatting on the phone or to your riding partner is distracting, especially if you get into an animated conversation.
  4. Wear properly fitting gear. Anything that makes you uncomfortable takes your focus away from the road—like jackets, pants, gloves, or helmets that bind or are too loose. They also contribute to fatigue.
  5. Scan your environment. Many riders think to scan the road ahead but forget to do mirror checks every 8 to 10 seconds. Constant scanning helps you notice the driver that’s about to pull out of a plaza without seeing you or children playing at the side of the road.
  6. Anticipate. Assume the other driver doesn’t see you and anticipate what they’re going to do next. Be prepared to take action if necessary.
  7. Check your blind spots. Mirrors don’t show you everything. Every turn or lane change, right or left, should include a blind spot check before you initiate the turn.
  8. Ride defensively. This is the companion to anticipating what unpredictable and distracted drivers might do. It does not mean riding passively. Rather it may mean asserting your position, especially if evasive action is necessary.
  9. Wear gear appropriate for the conditions. That means good ventilation in hot weather, enough layers to keep you warm in cold riding—without being too bulky, and rain gear that keeps you dry.
  10. Choose your riding partners selectively. If you’re not confident in the skills of someone you’re riding with and have to watch them all the time, you’re going to miss other hazards on the road. If they must ride with you, ride behind them.
  11. Keep your bike well maintained. Developing rattles, engine noises, or even low fuel levels while riding moves your focus from the road to the bike. Regular maintenance and pre-ride checks will minimize the chances of that happening.
  12. Keep your cool. Getting angry and into a confrontation with another driver does nothing to diffuse the situation. In addition, while you’re focused on him, someone else may be getting ready to cut you off.

Incorporating these tips into your riding habits will make you much more aware and reduce your chances of getting into a risky situation, or even a crash.

Practicing motorcycle safety awareness doesn’t mean riding in a high state of tension. Tension is what happens when you’re not aware.

What other tips do you have for staying aware?  Leave a comment.

Related article: 10 Tips for Sharing the Road with Motorcyclists

Posted in Motorcycle Tips Tagged with: ,

7 Tips to Restore Balance in Life

by Liz Jansen

Last week I posted 10 More Reasons Motorcycle Tips Over. It seemed appropriate to balance that with an article from the archives with Tips to Maintain Balance in Life. 

Restore balanceLearning to achieve balance in your life is every bit as important as learning to balance a motorcycle. When you’re out of balance on your motorcycle the feedback is immediate and the consequences potentially devastating. That’s what makes them such good teachers.

Balancing all aspects of life can be tricky. The effects of being off kilter can be harder to recognize and take longer to surface, but the long-term effects can be equally as debilitating. If you don’t respond to messages from your body and your intuition, you increase the potential for developing an illness or having an accident. It’s the equivalent of falling off your motorcycle.

7 Tips to Restore Balance in Life

Know where you’re going

It sounds fundamental and it is. But it’s often forgotten and you end up trying to be everything to everyone. That doesn’t work. Having a clear direction in mind, setting your course and sticking with your priorities does. Only then can you take the steps to get to your destination.

Hone your skills

Physical, mental and emotional acuity are essential for maintaining balance on a motorcycle. Understanding how to use physical controls means knowing what they are, how they work and how to use them.

It’s the same when it comes to being successful in life. Choosing growth opportunities that challenge your comfort zone involve a learning curve. During these times, it’s particularly important to offset the load in once area by allocating time for rest, meditation and exercise.

Keep your eyes up & look where you want to go

And that’s where you’ll go. It’s your choice. There are always going to be distractions and fear is always going to rear its head. Target fixation – i.e. focusing on them, is a real danger because it will draw you into trouble. While you definitely need to acknowledge its role, scan your road ahead for hazards, you’ll stay balanced only by staying focused on where you want to go.

Practice attentive relaxation

When you’re relaxed, you’re much more alert, aware and better able to handle what life delivers. Release negative thinking, avoid over analyzing and enjoy the scenery.

Distribute weight evenly

Stay centered. Not only does this refer to what you take on but how much burden you carry and where you carry it. Nurturing body, mind, and spirit equally are essential for your total wellbeing. Take only what is yours and let others do the same.

Keep Going

It’s easy to stay balanced when everything is moving along, just as you planned. However, life doesn’t stick to your plan and challenges appear in spite of the best-laid plans. Stopping puts you at higher risk of getting mired down and stuck in the very challenge you’re trying to avoid.

Ask for help

Experts are standing by to help! Spirit always provides the resources you need when you need them. Often all it takes is a request for help. You’ll be surprised at what materializes.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’ve ever watched a toddler learning to walk, you’ll know it takes resilience to get up time after time, but it’s the only way to learn. Lying on the ground metaphorically or literally, and feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t move you ahead or teach you the lesson. Learn from your mistakes, get back on and do it right. Or at least better.

When things go amok, what’s your favorite way to restore balance? Tell us in the Comments.

photo credit: Theo Crazzolara Balanced Rock – Lassen National Park via photopin (license)

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10 More Reasons Motorcycles Tip Over

by Liz Jansen

reasons motorcycles tip overOne of the most frequently read blog posts on my website is 10 Things to Do With a Dropped Motorcycle. I published it in 2012 and it’s still getting comments. Published a week later and still highly read is 10 Causes for a Motorcycle Tip Over.

If there’s any consolation to what can be a devastating, demoralizing, and embarrassing event, it’s that you’re not alone. I know very few riders who can say they haven’t had their bike go over. At least not if they’re being honest.

The good news is, is that tip overs happen at slow speeds so although you can injure yourself, it’s usually minor. The greater damage is usually to pride and your motorcycle.

Better still, there are things you can do to minimize the chances of it happening. In addition to the 10 causes listed above, I’ve collected others from reader stories.

10 More Reasons Motorcycles Tip Over

  1. Eyes looking at the ground instead of straight ahead. This is a fundamental lesson, and helps with balance, especially during stops or U-turns.
  2. Putting both feet down at a stop. Keeping your right foot on the brake and putting only your left foot down creates the most stable position.
  3. Fatigue. This was mentioned in the previous list, but the causes weren’t. Prime contributors are a lack of sleep, dehydration, not enough rest breaks, hypothermia, and hyperthermia.
  4. Lack of confidence. New or returning riders can drop their bikes often while they’re learning.
  5. Motorcycle size. Riding a motorcycle that’s too large for your skills affects your confidence and makes you more apt to drop it.
  6. Over Confidence. Thinking you’re proficient because you can ride in a straight line does not transfer to slow speed skills. The bike can ride itself in a straight line. Slow speed skills differentiate proficient riders from the rest.
  7. New motorcycle. Switching to a new bike takes some getting used to, especially if it’s a different style or size than the one you’re used to. Practice in a parking lot to get comfortable with it before you take it out on the road.
  8. Letting it shatter your confidence. If you’re not injured, and you really want to ride, pick it up and make sure the motorcycle’s not damaged. Then when you’ve composed yourself, learn from what you did wrong and get back on.
  9. Losing focus at a stop. All it takes is a momentary lapse and a shift in your weight to lose your balance. It doesn’t have to lean over far to go beyond the point of no return. This is even more of a factor if your bike has a high seat height or center of gravity.
  10. Improper weight distribution. A load that’s unevenly weighted, or carried too high can make the bike harder to manage, especially at slow speeds. Carry items as close to the centerline and as low as possible.

Tip overs happen to all of us, even very experienced riders. Regular practice and maintaining focus can minimize the chance of it happening. And when it does, figure out why it happened and learn from it. It’s all part of the adventure!

Posted in Motorcycle Tips Tagged with: , ,

Hybrid Easter Celebrations

by Liz Jansen

Growing up in a Mennonite tradition, Easter was one of the holiest celebrations of the year. We’d be at church on Good Friday to honor the crucifixion, and back on Easter Sunday, often for a sunrise service to celebrate the resurrection. I’d have a new dress and a few times, a matching hat or headband with silk flowers. I thought it was quite pretty.

Hunting for eggs was never part of our family tradition but there was always a basket of multicoloured foil-wrapped chocolate eggs in a basket on the table. We had great fun decorating eggs a few days before the weekend. The house would fill with the pungent aroma of mom’s vinegar and hot water mix. She’d place a few pots on the table and we’d drop in food coloring to come up with an array of colors. Most were lovely but sometimes one could take your appetite away. On Easter morning, all six of us children would have a milk chocolate bunny on our breakfast plate which we’d stow away for later, usually after biting an ear off.

Both grandmothers baked paska, (Easter bread), a tradition they brought with them from Russia. Made from milk, butter, eggs, and sugar, it looked good but was rather tasteless. Until you drizzled a thin layer of icing sugar over it, added colorful sprinkles, and buttered it.

Hot cross buns became an accidental tradition. We were registered with a local bakery who would discount their leftovers at the end of the day by 50 percent. They’d go through their list of clients and when it was our turn, they’d call and see if we wanted the order. Around Easter, it invariably included hot cross buns.

As children, we knew Easter solely as a Christian tradition based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. We didn’t know that the practice of decorating eggshells as a spring ritual is ancient. Engraved ostrich eggs have been found in Africa which are 60,000 years old.

We hadn’t heard that Easter came from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring who legend has it, consorted with a rabbit. Rabbits have long been associated with fertility and spring and both rabbits and eggs are ancient symbols of new life.

Nor did we know that the phases of the moon determine when Easter is held—it always falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25 within about seven days after the full moon.

Many cultures celebrate spring festivals as a time of rebirth, whether it’s the equinox, Easter, or Passover. Sadly, we’re no longer as connected to nature and the reason for the season’s celebrations as our ancestors were. American candy makers produce about 90,000 chocolate bunnies and 16 billion jelly beans for Easter each year, selling more candy than any other holiday except Halloween. More than 88 percent of American parents prepare Easter baskets for their children.

Our family Easter celebrations were a hybrid of Christian teachings, nature-based spirituality, Mennonite cultural traditions, and other ancient rituals. As we got older, we’d incorporate a hike in a nearby forest. Symbolically, all our activities were a celebration of life and renewal.

Spring comes every year and with it new life and the energy of growth. As motorcycle riders, we know that feeling well! In any case, no matter what your beliefs or practices, the cycles of nature are unstoppable. This year, even if it’s in a city park, may you find time to connect with the energy and vitality of the season.

I’ve already celebrated the advent of spring with friends during the equinox. I traded my Easter bonnet for a motorcycle helmet long ago and will be wearing it this weekend—teaching experienced riders Saturday and Sunday and then traveling to family dinners. Those are rites of spring that are sure to energize me.

I’d love to hear how you celebrate the arrival of the season. Add your comment below.

photo credit: KLMircea Oua Incondeiate via photopin (license)

Posted in Liz's Stories

First Motorcycle Ride—Some Things Never Get Old

by Liz Jansen

first motorcycle ride

Al Dzieciol ready to ride. Photo Credit: George Reichert

In a month, I’ll be celebrating another birthday. The calendar doesn’t stop and every year that age number increases by one. In fact those ‘ones’ seem to come around faster than before. But there’s one thing that never gets old—the first motorcycle ride of the season. Even if it is on a 125cc Honda CBR.

Last weekend was the first teaching weekend of the year at Humber College and I was lucky enough to be working. The temperature was barely above freezing but that didn’t matter. The sun was shining, I was dressed for it, and working with a great team of instructors.

The first order of instructor business is to shuttle the fleet of motorcycles from their storage container to the parking lot where we teach. It’s essential to ride them a bit to make sure they’re fit for students. Someone has to do it!

Back at home, Trudy, my Triumph Tiger is still sitting under cover in the garage. She’s been there since the end of November, attached to the trickle charger and patiently waiting for the right day to emerge. I’ve checked her over, lubed the chain, and even taken her off the center stand. All she needs is air in the tires and we’re ready to go. Our first trip will also be to a parking lot where I’ll practice slow speed control, turns, and emergency maneuvers.

Mark Faulkner putting the CBR through its paces. Photo Credit: George Reichert

Winter is a time for hibernation and although we know what an incredible experience it is to ride, like our batteries, that memory dulls just a little when we’re not charging it.

This is my 48th year of riding. I’ve ridden hundreds of thousands of miles. Every year there’s a first ride of the season and without exception, the feeling catches me off guard. The ride on the CBR brought it all back to life again and awakened those feelings. That energy. I’m so grateful motorcycling has been part of my life for so many years and we’re still going strong.

As soon as the snow forecast for tomorrow has passed, it will be time bring Trudy out of the garage and go for another first motorcycle ride of the season. There’s nothing like it.

Although I didn’t think to take a photo of that CBR ride, my wonderful colleagues came to the rescue. Thanks to George Reichert for opening his photo vault and Mark Faulkner and Al Dzieciol for modeling. 


Posted in Adventure Tagged with: , ,

9 Motorcycle Rites of Spring

by Liz Jansen

rites of springWhile Trudy, my motorcycle, is still in hibernation, the calendar has transitioned to spring. While many of you are already riding, it’s still a little early in some areas.

I’m in no rush. Rather, I’m savoring this time of anticipation, preparing, planning, and dreaming of where the road may lead this year. I’d be selling myself short to pin too much on the future rather than immersing myself in the present.

Nonetheless, the immovable and unstoppable cycles of nature are in motion. These rites of spring either alert us to prepare for riding or guide us into a safe and enjoyable season.

9 Motorcycle Rites of Spring

  1. Instructor Recertification. One of the first sure signs of spring is preparing for this season’s students. Every March we get put through the paces to make sure our teaching, coaching, and riding skills are sharp.
  2. First Teaching Weekend. Close on the heels of recertification is being out on the range on this Saturday and Sunday with the first eager group at Humber College. I’ll also get my first ride of the season, albeit on the course bikes!
  3. Motorcycle Inspection. Even if you were meticulous in winterizing it, corrosion, condensation, and critters may have caused damage during storage. A thorough and methodical check can alert you to areas that need attention and reassure you that it’s safe to ride. 10 Steps for a Spring Motorcycle Checkup
  4. Gear Inspection. If you’re like me, I squeeze as much season as possible out of autumn. By the time I’m stopped, daylight is short and the temperatures quite chilly. I’m pretty good at winterizing my motorcycle; less so at cleaning my gear before it’s put away. When spring arrives, we want to get out there riding. It’s important to give our gear a good examination before we do. We only intend to look good in it, never to test it, but you want it to protect you if the need arises. 8 Steps to Get your Motorcycle Gear Ready for Spring
  5. Personal Assessment. More than half the riders killed on Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) patrolled roads in 2015 died through no fault of their own. It’s a staggering number and one we can change. We can’t control the actions of others with whom we share the road. However, we can do everything in our power to make sure we’re alert, skilled, visible, and in control of our motorcycles. 7 Checks to Make Sure You’re Ready to Ride
  6. Skills Refresher. The longer the hiatus from riding, the greater the rust buildup on our skills. An annual refresher course is the ideal way to sharpen them, whether it’s a professional off-road course (ideal for road riders to learn how to deal with the unexpected), like SMART AdventuresRawhyde Adventure Motorcycle Training or a road based course like Total Control Advanced Rider Training,  Streetmasters,  or Riding in the Zone, which offers both. This list is by no means exhaustive or exclusive, but a good starting point and a great benchmark to calibrate other courses against. If you can’t get to a course, at a minimum, visit an empty parking lot with a buddy and practice skills like slow speed maneuvers and quick stops, increasingly challenging yourself.
  7. Ride Dreaming. Since my priority is completing my next book, long distance riding is taking a back seat this season. I’d expected more progress but these things always take longer than you think, even when there’s a buffer added in. Books have a life of their own and the words and message come in their time. Having said that, I’m still dreaming of attending the Horizons Unlimited event in California in September.
  8. Local Event Planning. Even if you can’t ride far, there are many local gatherings which make a great destination. A few new innovative events around me include Motorcycle Film Fest in the County,  Toronto Motorcycle Film FestivalLobo Loco Rallies – a series of four long-distance scavenger hunts, and Poker Run for Ovarian Cancer, in support of my cousin Bonnie Caruso, Event Coordinator.
  9. Offering Gratitude. My pre-ride preparation includes a quick prayer to ask for protection, mental clarity, and to offer gratitude for a safe and fun ride. That first spring ride though gets its own special offering of gratitude, like laying down tobacco or even placing a special talisman on your bike. It’s a real gift to have the physical, mental, and financial wherewithal to ride a motorcycle, be part of an incredible community, and ride in lands of peace and freedom.

What other rites of passage do you recognize in spring?

photo credit: R. Drozda Mt. Rainier via photopin (license)

Posted in Adventure Tagged with: , ,

How to Maneuver Around the What If Obstacles

by Liz Jansen 

What ifRecently I wrote an article about ‘meeting’ my paternal grandfather for the first time during last year’s motorcycle trip to northern Alberta. “Isn’t that the trip you crashed on,” asked my editor? “You didn’t mention it.”

He was remembering back to when I’d initially set out to explore the lives of my ancestors and how their experiences lived in me. That crash had changed my plans and injected a two-year hiatus into my journey. His question, however, raised the question. What if that hadn’t happened? Would I have met my grandfather?

Whether things happen for a reason is not up for debate. They happen. I crashed. I can never know for certain whether I would have met my grandfather had that event not happened. I only know how life has gone since then and not the infinite number of outcomes that could have materialized if I’d made other choices, either before or after.

To this day, I don’t know what I was thinking when I started out in 2014. I’d planned to visit the area in southern Alberta where my dad lived between ages 4 and 11, but only for a day, and then I was moving on. I figured I’d fill in the stories by speaking to relatives and going through old photos.

I had no intentions of making the trek up to Beaverlodge in Peace River country where dad’s parents, my grandparents Johann and Liese Klassen, first tried to settle and where dad spent his first two years. He has no memory of his father who died there in 1928 just before his 29th birthday, leaving a widow with an infant.

For a few months, Liese took in laundry from the railway workers to make ends meet, hauling water from a well and heating it in a cauldron over a wood fire. Then she and dad moved south, where she met and married Peter Jansen, whose name I carry. Stories from that time are much more prevalent. It was here that I crashed.

Bypassing Beaverlodge, I would have missed a very formative time for my ancestors, and me. I would have missed walking the land they lived on, getting to know their early life in Canada, and visiting the overgrown, derelict rural cemetery where the man whose blood runs through me is buried. On land he tried to tame. The man who, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, got his family to a land of freedom.

I would have missed gaining a glimpse into the strength, courage, resilience, and gratitude that propelled my grandparents’ start in a new life. My visit gave me an opportunity to honor Johann and express my gratitude for the sacrifices he made so I could live the life I have today.

Had things gone differently on August 27, 2014, I may have eventually realized my omission and circled back, maybe after my trip to South America. I’ll never know.

What I do know is that my life is forever and deeply enriched for choosing to make that trip last year.

Every day we make many decisions. Even the small ones can have far reaching consequences beyond our imagination and knowledge. For better or worse, once they’re made, there’s no point in second guessing them. It doesn’t mean that in the light of new information, we can’t change our mind.

Rather than brooding on potential missed opportunities, it’s more important to maneuver around the “what-if” obstacles. They’re traps that can prevent us from moving forward.

Instead, recognize they may have served a purpose at one time and let them go with gratitude. Then make the best decision on how to move forward from where you are.

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