Lessons from Trudy: Trust and Let Go

lessons from Trudy
lessons from Trudy
Left handle-grip worn through to the metal.

Trudy, my trusted Triumph Tiger motorcycle, teacher, and muse, has come through with more lessons from the road. Last week’s post, Lessons from the Road: Trust the Mystery, described challenges of the Long Road Home moto-book tour. I affirmed my intent to trust the Mystery, the process, accept the gifts, and follow my heart, even when I can’t see where life is taking me.

As if to reinforce that message, Trudy’s shown me that I’ve been hanging on too tightly, trying to exert control when my best action is to let up and let her do her job. According to the technician, it’s unusual to wear out a handle grip. I’ve never done it in almost fifty years of riding and he’s not seen it either. If you look at the photo closely, you’ll see that it contains an Rx—a prescription to get better.

In a broader sense, my worn out grip is a reminder that I’m a co-creator, not the Creator! I don’t have to do it all. Trusting the process means doing my part but also accepting help from others in the seen and unseen world.

Trudy also offered a reminder to trust my intuition. She hasn’t been her usual perky self for some time. In Portland and Seattle, her engine was cutting out at slow speeds in heavy traffic, adding stress to a ride already full of sensory bombardment. I attributed it to heat, bad gasoline, or not shifting properly, a ridiculous thought since this is a new occurrence.

So while the technician fitted her with new grips, I asked him to check out her other symptoms. Sure enough, there was a logical explanation, which makes perfect sense. I may humanize her but she’s still a mechanical marvel. The folks at Island Motorcycle Company were fantastic and fit her into their schedule to do what needed doing.

How often do I discount messages from my body telling me to slow down, rest, or whatever else it’s trying to advise? Intuition is always right. Why is it so hard to listen?

Trudy and I have many miles to cover both on this trip and beyond and we both need to be in top shape. If I neglect to do that, I’m sure she’ll remind me. I just need to listen and take action.

What life lessons have you needed a visual reminder for lately? Share in the comments!

Lessons from the Road: Trust the Mystery

Trust the mystery

Five years ago I set out on a quest, seeking to answer who I was before I was told by my culture who I was. I was absolutely sure this calling was one I must answer by setting out on a road trip to explore the lands of my ancestors, understand their stories, and listen to the stories of the spaces in which they’d lived in Canada.

Barely three weeks later, a crash rocked my world and threatened to derail my resolve. Yet, even before the Alberta dust had settled, I knew that event was somehow part of my journey. It wasn’t at all how I’d planned it or imagined it unfolding. As it turned out, my route wouldn’t have gotten me to my destination, but I didn’t know it then.

The challenges and trials over the next months and years caused me to delve into the stories that had shaped me and draw on the strength of my ancestors in a way that couldn’t have happened had I been riding across the Salar de Uyuni salt flats of Bolivia.

Now, on the Long Road Home Moto-Book tour, I find myself revisiting the lessons of this post-crash time. It’s fitting given I’m promoting Crash Landing, which came out of that time.

I set out with certainty that this too is a calling I’ve answered. I’ve planned as best I could, knowing that even my most vivid imagination is limiting relative to what the Universe can deliver.

I’ve had incredible, rich experiences with friends seldom seen because of distance, and ridden through majestic, breathtaking landscapes. Hospitable hosts have extended warm receptions and promoted my events. Heart-felt conversations with those in attendance have touched me to the core.

The internal gremlins chatter away though, telling me I’m not doing enough—reaching enough people, selling enough books. The stories we carry can also bind us.

That’s when I go back to those lessons imbued by my ancestors, including my parents. They didn’t know how or where life was leading them. Many times they were brought to their knees when all seemed hopeless.

While my situation doesn’t even rank on their scale of adversity, it’s still a personal challenge. I think back to the lessons I’ve learned from them and the strengths I carry.

I don’t know where life is leading me or what it’s preparing me for. But I know with certainty this is where I’m meant to be at this time. My role is to prepare and take action to the best of my ability and then let go of expectations or attachment to outcome. It doesn’t mean things go innately easily or smoothly, or hard.

They go. I trust the Mystery, the process, accept the gifts, follow my heart, even when I can’t see where life is taking me. That’s when magic happens.

Photo on VisualHunt.com

Reality of the Road: The Landscape of Travel

reality of the road
reality of the road

Even I get caught up in the romantic notion of riding a motorcycle across the open landscape under sunny blue skies with the wind in my face. The reality of the road brings me back to earth. Every time.

Last week I arrived in Portland, OR afterd riding 4,000km/2,600miles in six days. It sounds so doable from my home: average 650km/400 miles/day. Until you factor in temperatures in the mid 90s (exceeding 100 one day), high humidity, traffic, and managing a migraine headache.

After a great first day, travel turned exhausting. I questioned my stamina to make it all the way in the time I’d allotted. Twice I ended up in a motel overnight because campgrounds were completely booked or unsuitable. I prefer the outdoors and my budget is for campgrounds.

Always, it was the treasures embedded in the challenges that energized me and reminded me why I do what I do.

Like the Amish woman who parked beside me at a grocery store and struck up a conversation. A mother of five, she’d just dropped her son off at his flying lessons. She enjoys the drive with him for the bonding time. The waiting time gives her reflective, spiritual time. She also recounted how she and her husband have moved away from their culture. She struggles with a spiritual challenge to stay connected to a community she found oppressive. Her story could have been taken from the pages of Crash Landing.

Or Alex, the fifteen-year-old behind the desk of my second hotel who worked it like a pro. Life hadn’t been easy for them and he and his siblings all had to work from an early age. His grandfather had built an exquisite custom motorcycle for which he’d refused an offer of $250,000. Grandpa also built a custom bike for his wife, Alex’s grandmother, who no longer rides. As soon as Alex is of age, he’ll learn to ride on his grandma’s bike and go riding with his grandpa.

Or camping on Mr. Haddy’s yard in the RV park after Trudy balked at riding in deep pea gravel to get to the tent sites. (Too much with a full load at the end of a long day.) The kind, frail 93-year-old WWII vet, nourishes himself through a feeding tube. He spends summers in Montana, moving to Arizona for the winter. I accepted the jar of jelly he gifted me with deep gratitude.

Depleted at the end of most days, my energy was recharged every morning, even after the night in the campground between an Interstate and two or three trains an hour running on the other side.

Finally nearing Portland, the last full day of riding was the hottest—more than 100deg F— and included powerful gusts of the Columbia River Gorge. Camping under the towering pines at the edge of the river restored me yet again on the eve of the first stop on the Long Road Home Tour.

Time and time again, stories of the strength, stamina, and resilience of my ancestors came to mind. Understanding how to draw from their lives while letting go of the stories that bound me is what Crash Landing—and this moto-book tour—is all about.

No matter what my expectations, the reality of the road always wins. Invariably, in a way far greater than I could have imagined.

The Long Road Home Tour and Another Crossing

long road home

It’s a familiar feeling – leaving the port of Tobermory for Manitoulin Island on the Chi Cheemaun (Big Canoe), headed for parts unknown. It wasn’t my maiden voyage but it imight have been. Yesterday, the sailing marked the beginning of the Long Road Home moto-book tour.

The Big Canoe carried me across the start in August 2014 when I began the quest that ultimately connected me with my cultural roots. That leg of the trip ended barely three weeks later with a devastating crash in southern Alberta. Clearly, I needed stillness not movement at that point.

Two years later She carried me and Trudy over to Manitoulin to travel on the Ancestor Trail. Then I imagined how it must have felt for my grandparents as they crossed the Atlantic in the 1920s. That’s when the SS Minnedosa and the SS Montpelier brought them across the Atlantic to a new home in a land of peace and freedom.

The interval between my two trips had already put me in closer touch with my ancestral roots and it was no surprise that I felt the distinct presence of my four grandparents accompanying me. The Ancestor Trail would visit the lands they’d lived on during their early years in Canada. They were excited to retrace those times and share their experiences with me.

The profound unfolding of that trip reconnected me to a culture I’d abandoned. But the greatest liberation came from reconnecting with myself; understanding who I was before I was told who I was. That external and internal journey is told in Crash Landing.

Yesterday, on another early August morning, the Chi Cheemaun carried me across the water under a new moon and cloudless sky. So began the Long Road Home moto-book tour, to share these stories with others with the intent of helping them unlock cultural wisdom and transform their stories so they can make the most of their gifts.

The day before, as I was finishing final preparations on my patio, a cardinal whistled incessantly. There was no question it was a message from Gerhard, my maternal grandfather, always up for a road trip and impatient to get going. He always showed up early and always announced his entry with a whistle. He loved to tell a good story to anyone who would listen.

Gerhard, Susa, Johann, and Liese (my grandparents) accompany me this time with joy in sharing stories of healing — and another moto-adventure to go with it.

Like each time before, I’m heading into unknown waters, urged on by the lead of my heart. Again, I don’t know what awaits. I’ve planned the best I could and now I look forward to watching it unfold as it will.

Finding Strength and Serenity on Gravel Roads

My mission for the day was to get through it without backing down or crashing. It was a tall order but resolve under the guidance of an expert instructor won out. I didn’t expect the strength and serenity that came with it.

strength and serenity

Determined to bring fear under control so I could manage the gravel, I’d signed up for a half-day of one-to-one training with Clinton Smout, the expertise behind SMART Adventures.

Clinton taught me how to be a motorcycle instructor sixteen years ago. From the start, I’ve loved his ability to weave humor, technical skills, and candor into a successful teaching strategy. His knack for to see through students’ demeanor and understand how to engage them and how they’ll best learn creates superior training delivery.

It’s not the first time I’ve taken classes at SMART Adventures’ rider training center and I’ve lived on gravel roads for much of my life. But lingering fear following a slide following a mountain driveway in 2013 and a spectacular crash in 2014 occluded what I knew I could do.

The fear has a rational basis but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to let it stop me. Next week I’ll begin a three-month moto book cross-country tour with a fully loaded motorcycle. While I’m hoping all roads are paved, there are bound to be detours and construction. I wanted to reduce the anxiety that accompanies even a “Construction Ahead” sign.

Clinton understands overcoming fear is harder than overcoming gravel. He advised me to adopt my instructor role and coach myself as I would a student. His goal was to reinforce my muscle memory for control basics, not prepare me for the Dakar.

We started small on 125cc Yamaha TTR on a sand-gravel surface, riding a straight line in first gear and coming to a controlled stop, introducing little rear-wheel skids. U-turns were next followed by laps around the oval in both directions.

Then it was time to move up to the 250cc enduro bike and the gravel roads cutting through forests surrounding the training center. Riding through a tunnel of green charged with hardwood energy—strong, vibrant, grounding—reassured and invigorated me.

I coached myself, repeating my mantra. “Eyes ahead. Relax shoulders and elbows. Breathe. Keep your momentum up. Breathe.” We stopped before the hills or tricky sections for coaching. He gave me the choice to repeat sections or keep going on new ground. Always I told him to keep going.

It never got comfortable although there were a few surprising moments when I found myself enjoying the ride. What I noticed most was an increasing sense of calm and self-assurance. Gravel roads can take you to enjoyable and unexpected destinations.

My fear of gravel isn’t likely to go away. But refining the mental and physical muscle memory to keep it at bay is a skill I’ll take with me on any road and any life circumstance.

Photo credit: Clinton Smout

Next week I’ll begin my Long Road Home Moto-Book tour. Check out the dates, come along and join me wherever you can.

Related article: What a Motorcycle Mishap Can Teach Us

Preparing for Travel: Choose What to Bring Along

Preparing for travel

All going as planned, two weeks from today I’ll be riding through northern Michigan on Day Two of the Long Road Home moto-book tour. The next six days of riding and camping will take me across the northern states and help ground me for what promises to be an exceptional journey.

There’s only Trudy (my Triumph Tiger motorcycle) and I to carry the essentials for three months of travel, presentations and workshops, and clothing and gear appropriate for weather extremes. Everything that comes on board undergoes close scrutiny and prioritization.

Trudy will carry clothing, camping equipment, two pop-up banners, food basics, and workshop necessities, including a small drum. Since estimating books to ship to each location is at best guesswork, she may well carry a few books from time to time. And of course, she’ll carry me.

My personal support team, the special guides and beings who came along on the Ancestor Trail journey, are eager for another moto adventure. They’ll take up their customary positions on Trudy, but of course they don’t take any physical space at all. (If you haven’t met them yet, they’re waiting to introduce themselves in Crash Landing. Or, Download the Preview to get a glimpse of these characters.)

I’ll carry the stories that live within me, inform my perspectives, and shape my values and beliefs. While it seems that they’d create no incremental weight, these can be the heaviest burden of all.

Dysfunctional stories, toxic emotions, and convoluted logic rear up at the most inopportune times. Attitudes and actions arising from anything less than the highest integrity weigh me down. Adopting the same scrutiny as the baggage Trudy carries and a daily spiritual practice helps with early detection and release.

It was no surprise that I found myself decluttering over the past week. Old clothes and shoes, survivors of previous purges, went to the thrift shop. My shredder transformed obsolete records into compost and a form where they’re useful again. I released any objects with a negative emotional charge to someone else who may appreciate them.

Even as I prepare for the road, a personal situation charged with emotion and drama threatens to derail me. Any potential outcome will not be “fair” from either perspective but I have no desire to drag it along. Extending forgiveness, including to myself, is not easy but it’s what I’m offering to release this energy. That frees space for much more important things.

Preparing for travel, whether it’s on a motorcycle, car, or walking our personal path presents an opportune time for reflection and choosing what we continue to carry. Let the excess baggage go and create space for the wonderful opportunities waiting to appear.

Travel Lightly Workshop

If you’re in the Portland, OR area and interested in excavating and transforming the stories you carry, join Jalene Case and me for our Travel Lightly workshop on August 13.

Photo on Visualhunt.com

Succumb or Surmount? Overcoming Fear

Overcoming fear

It’s no secret that fear grips me at the thought of riding down a gravel road. Even when the surface is relatively hard-packed, my mind races ahead to send me images of how conditions could become looser or deeper further on. I’m left with a feeling of impending doom. I detest the feeling of sliding around or losing traction. Yet proven practices help maintain control even when it feels hopeless.

While some fear is healthy and necessary for survival, the more common variety is that which prevents us from pushing beyond our comfort zone. Our heart calls but we fear changing our surroundings, initiating new interests, or exploring alternative perspectives.

Each of us has something that acts as a teacher of life. For me, it is my motorcycle.

The Long Road Home book tour, which begins August 1st, will take me more than 12,000km/7,500 miles over almost three months. While I won’t seek out gravel, I’m certain to encounter it at some point. I’m left with two choices: succumb to fear or surmount it.

I grew up on a gravel road and lived on one for fourteen years as an adult. Fear wasn’t an issue but somewhere along the way it became one. Fear-based faltering has led to “special moments” I don’t want to repeat.

Comments on my recent Facebook post acknowledging the cold sweat evoked just by booking a course gave me interesting insights, bolstered my confidence, and adjusted my perspective.

This is not a new story but it’s not going away. Here are my next steps for overcoming fear:

  1. Take the training. Bolstering confidence without the skills to back it up is a recipe for disaster so my first step is a refresher with an extraordinary and patient professional. I’ve booked a private session on July 23rd with world-class trainer Clinton Smout of S.M.A.R.T. Adventures http://www.smartadventures.ca/. Stay tuned to hear how that goes.
  2. Keep the story in perspective. I’ve ridden hundreds of thousands of miles and experienced two dramatic gravel “get-offs.” Both could have been prevented by managing the irrational voices who hijacked situations I knew how to handle. I know I can do it as long as I don’t let fear intrude.
  3. Use humour. Louise Mitchell, who’s competed in the BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy Female Team Qualifier, says she shuts her eyes when she’s scared. While I doubt that’s true, it demonstrates that even someone with world-class expertise encounters fear, but has learned how to manage it.
  4. Visualize yourself as a student. Clinton came up with this one which can apply to any situation. Observe myself as an instructor would and coach myself through the situation. It’s like giving advice to your younger self.
  5. Acknowledge the role of fear in holding you back. Clinton commented that learning to overcome fear is harder than learning to ride gravel. That’s reassuring. Knowing I’ve got the technical skills to handle a situation gives me greater strength to put mind chatter in its place.
  6. Take a holistic approach. Physical skills don’t thrive in isolation. Overcoming challenges require us to address our whole being—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
  7. Call on your helpers. No need trying to go this alone. Help is available for the asking, both from the unseen world and friends and colleagues in the seen world.

Change provokes fear. It’s up to us to decide how to address it—succumb or surmount. Your choice.

Related post: Gravel Roads, Grit, and Graceful Endings

Photo credit: xenonb. on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Dancing the Delicate Balance Between Will and Surrender

delicate balance
delicate balance

Photo on Visualhunt

We’re taught that not knowing the answer is not a good thing. From first grade on, we’re marked on what we know. To surrender to the unknown, to accept there is more that we can’t explain than what we can, runs counter to our cultural conditioning.

The dance of delicate balance between will and surrender does not come choreographed.

I’m very good at planning, organizing, and making things happen. Yet, one of the teachings during my post-crash era was to acknowledge that the things I can orchestrate may not be in my soul’s best interests. The surest way to be of greatest service is to get out of my own way.

A successful (however that’s defined) book tour doesn’t just happen on its own, though, my mind tells me.

As much as I hate to admit it, the outcomes I can influence are limited. The last few years have taught me that whenever a door closes (or doesn’t even open) it’s because better opportunities await. I need to leave space to recognize gifts that come my way and for the inevitable serendipity I’ve come to expect, especially when I’m out on the road.

Already while planning the Long Road Home tour, so many wonderful, magical events have unfolded without my input, other than being available and asking questions. Even while composing this post, an amazing invitation landed in my inbox.

I catch myself when my planner mind goes into overdrive, a state it knows well. Make plans but hold them lightly. It’s the only way to maintain that delicate balance that opens the door to infinite possibilities.

Related post: Porcupine Wisdom and Speeding Through Life

The Blue Blue Sky — Where Dreams Live

Other than the occasional deluge of water from the overhead deck when the dog dumps over his bowl, the greatest hazard in my outdoor office is the distraction from the blue, blue sky. Today’s clouds are cotton balls but whatever they are, I love watching them shapeshift across the sky.

blue blue sky

It reminds me of the flight I took to Beaverlodge, Alberta with Dad two years ago, shortly before he passed. We were heading to visit the land where he’d spent his first two years; where the father he yearned to remember was buried.

The sky had cotton ball clouds that day too, except we were viewing them from above. He was ninety-one, but he was a boy. “Do you think we could land on those clouds?” he said, gazing out the window and musing as we flew over them at 30,000’.

I wondered where he was.

Last Sunday on my way home from the BMW MOA rally, I stopped in to see Mom at the long-term care facility where she resides. The woman who once walked miles per day is now in a wheelchair and doesn’t know where she is. As farmers, both my parents lived much of their life outdoors. When they weren’t working or tending the yard and gardens, they were sitting on the porch drinking iced tea.

I’d ridden 565km/350miles under blue skies, sunshine, and high-70s temperatures. Perfect riding weather and perfect to take Mom outside for fresh air. Even if you’re unaware of where you are, you know it when you’re outside. There’s a lovely courtyard and she enjoys looking at the flowers and people watching. The brilliant red leaves of the Japanese maple always catch her attention and from there it’s only a slight eye movement that takes her to the sky.

“Look at the blue, blue sky,” she says, gazing upward. It happens every time.

I wondered where she was.

And as I sit here trying to work, I can’t help but look up at the vast blue, blue sky and let my mind wander.

I wonder where I am.

How to Find the Right Motorcycle Gear: Talk to an Expert

I’ve been on the hunt for the right motorcycle gear. My Gore-Tex suit, riding boots, and gloves have served me extremely well, but they’re worn out. The jacket and pants are no longer waterproof even when treated, boots take on water, and gloves are faded and the lining separates from the main glove. The armor has degraded from removing and replacing it after washing and the edges are breaking off.

There’s no question I needed re-outfitting before my Long Road Home book tour this summer when I’ll be riding up to 12,000 miles in all kinds of weather extremes (except snow, I hope).

Right motorcycle gear

Finding the right motorcycle gear is a challenge, not because there’s a lack of choice, but rather there’s little that meets what I”m looking for. Accepting that it’s next to impossible to find one product that incorporates everything I want, and befuddled by the selection, I turned to Joanne Donn, a.k.a. Gear Chic.

Joanne is voracious in researching and assessing Moto-gear and helping riders find the best products for them. In her work at Revzilla, she has access to the latest trends and styles. She’s shares tons of knowledge through her articles on www.gearchic.com and dispenses free advice.

I met her more than a decade ago when we were both at the International Motorcycle Shows working in the women riders’ area. She was sharing her knowledge of gear then and helping outfit women riders. Her expertise has only expanded since.

Gear Criteria:

Over and above the basic requirements of fit and function, I wanted the minimum number of pieces, maximum function and durability, and discreet branding. We worked from this list:

  • One suit for all my needs.
  • Maximum ventilation
  • High quality armor in knees, hips, elbows, shoulders, and back
  • Waterproof and breathable
  • Discreet branding
  • Tailored fit
  • Ankle and calf protection in boots
  • 3-season gloves

Joanne was thorough in her assessment, considered my riding style, body shape, and questioned my criteria. For example, when I said I wanted Gore-Tex gear, she queried me. Did I mean Gore-Tex or waterproof, because the latter opens up other choices.

She then presented me with several options for each piece.

What I purchased:

  • Alpinestars Stella Andes V2 Drystar pants
  • Alpinestars Stella Andes V2 Pro Drystar Jacket for Tech Air Street
  • Alpinestars Nucleon KR-2i Back protector insert
  • TCX Tourer Gore-Tex women’s boots
  • Rukka Virve Gore-Tex X-Trafit women’s gloves

There’s no question it’s a significant investment, which is why the right choice is so important.

Unfortunately, it shipped a day late so will arrive too late to let you know how it fits. Hopefully perfect so I can wear it for the trek from Georgia to Ontario this weekend! I’ll update this post when it does.

Note: I’m paying full price and not getting any kickback for endorsing gear.

Update: Gear arrived. Gloves and boots are amazing!! Perfect fit and j suit what I wanted. Love the suit but need a larger size (problem with ordering from the road and not having measurements).

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA