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.

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

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

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

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

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

FInd the Holy Grail

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending weekend meetings with Adyashanti (Adya), whose spiritual teachings draw from cross-cultural wisdom.

One of the stories Adya referenced was that of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. While legend refers to it as the cup that Jesus drank from, in today’s world, the Holy Grail refers to, “A thing being earnestly pursued or sought after (Dictionary.com).”

Adya told us we’re not going to find the Holy Grail in the familiar. When we pursue our heart’s calling, we plunge into the unknown. We’re called to the deepest darkest parts of the forests where there are no paths. Sometimes we find a scary monster; sometimes we find the Holy Grail. Eventually we make our way out.

But how can we be certain we’re headed in the right direction?

When called to do something (a.k.a. find the Holy Grail), whether it’s relatively minor or daunting, like a cross-country moto-book tour, these are the questions I ask myself to confirm my intentions.

  1. Am I following my heart? I question whether the undertaking is meaningful and whether it’s consistent with my values.
  2. What’s the worst that can happen, and what’s the likelihood it will? When I worked in Health and Safety, I was constantly evaluating work practices based on risk and potential severity of an injury. I learned to apply that same logic to other life decisions. When pushing your comfort zone, your mind is going to come up with all kinds of reasons why it’s better to stay “safe.” Keep questioning and be objective. The answers will surprise you.
  3. How does it feel if I don’t do it? In other words, do a gut check. Imagine what it feels like to go. Then imagine what it feels like if you stay put. The more you exercise and trust your intuition, the easier it is to follow what it’s telling you.
  4. Do I expect that I already know it all? I ask myself this when threatened with overwhelm. Anything new will seem daunting at first. We need challenge (within reason) to thrive. Take it one step at a time.
  5. What is the opportunity cost of doing/not doing what’s being asked of me? This is actually a trick question because you can’t know the answers. You don’t know what doors will open or close with either choice. You may have expectations on either side or perceptions of how things will go or not go, but you’ll never know for sure. The biggest opportunity cost is failing to live up to your potential because you were afraid to follow your heart.

Recovering from failure and learning is inherent in living. We fall many times while learning to walk. We learn how to balance by losing our balance. Why do we think things should be different with “adult” challenges? As with riding a motorcycle, we’re less likely to lose our balance and fall if we keep our eyes trained on where we want to go, and keep moving!

Photo credit: ErgSap on Visualhunt.com / CC BY

call of the unknown

We’ve all been there. We hear the call of the unknown but there are too many reasons why we can’t do it. How do we get started? We tell ourselves life isn’t so bad and we should be content with the way things are. We’ll make changes as soon as we have time, or as soon as we have enough money, once we’re retired, or fill in your own excuse. That voice keeps whispering and years go by.

Here are twelve things to guide you when you’re called to the unknown.

  1. Follow your heart.
    That voice is leading you true. Entertain input from your mind, but recognize it will deliver all kinds of mental chatter to keep you safe. And stuck. Do what’s aligned with your nature and what you’re here to do.
  2. Don’t wait for the guidebook.
    When we venture into the unknown, we don’t know where life will take us. This is uncharted territory – you know the time is right to make a change. Even though you’re unsure of where you’re going, it’s the departure that’s most important.
  3. Value your wisdom above any other.
    People will comment and try to dissuade you from doing something they see as ridiculous. Remember, they see life through their lens, not yours. The fears and uncertainties they try and project on you are theirs. Thank them for their opinion and move on.
  4. Allocate your resources.
    Life demands our attention from so many directions—career, family, volunteer work, and social activities. They’re all great but we wear ourselves out trying to satisfy everyone. Newsflash! We CANNOT do it all, nor are we meant to.
  5. Prioritize.
    How do you best use the gifts you have to make the most of your life? I love teaching others to ride motorcycles but it’s time to give it up. Instead, I’ll turn more attention to my presentations, workshops, and client work.
  6. Enlist the help of trusted advisors.
    In planning for my upcoming moto-book tour, a call to the unknown, I’ve consulted with others like adventure travel author Sam Manicom who’s gone before. Nancy Frater, owner of local independent bookstore BookLore, has been invaluable in advising me how to approach other retailers to increase the likelihood of success.
  7. Complete unfinished business.
    Following our heart doesn’t mean throwing caution to the wind. We still need to plan, organize, and pay attention to details. We don’t, however, need to carry excess baggage. Clear out what’s no longer needed to make room for the new.
  8. Let go of expectations and attachment to outcome.
    Although we envision a goal and a way to get there, that may not be what’s best for us. There are many paths to get to the same destination, and there are other destinations that we can’t imagine. Trust that you will be guided, even when things don’t go as planned.
  9. Maintain your personal integrity.
    Life isn’t black and white and decisions challenge us, especially when we feel alone in the crowd. Call on your courage.
  10. Trust.
    Trust in your Higher Power, in whatever form that takes. We are never alone on our journey and guidance is available for the asking. The answers may not be what we want, or come in the forms we expect, but they’re there. Listen for them with all your senses.
  11. Give yourself space.
    This is not so much the need to be alone as it is for emotional, physical, and spiritual space. Take time to nourish body, mind, and spirit. Meditate to stay in touch with that wise person within.
  12. Go.
    Then keep moving, even when you stumble and fall. Help is there. That’s how we learn and how we get to where we’re going.

Your turn…
What would you add to the list? What’s something you should when you hear the call of the unknown? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Party like it's 1999

I’m not a party animal but Prince’s Party Like It’s 1999 keeps playing through my mind. Why now?

Written in 1982 it impelled listeners to let go and revel because why not? The world was ending in 2000. There were two choices: let terror take over or party.

Almost three decades later, the vernacular refers to celebrating the end of an era. It’s apt given my recent sixty-fifth birthday.

A major era ended sixteen years ago. I’d left a twenty-five-year marriage and was winding down a corporate career. I had no idea what the future looked like, only that it stretched out in front of me like a blank slate.

Those moves liberated and empowered me, although they astounded family, friends, and co-workers who thought I had a perfect life. They called me brave, courageous, and asked if I was scared. It’s one thing to leave a long-term marriage, but to give up an established career at my age, when I now had to support myself added a new dimension to people’s perception of risk. Many colleagues had decades of seniority and planned to stay until retirement. They couldn’t understand why I’d walk away from what they called a good thing, or how remaining in the wrong roles drained my life energy.

There have been other eras since, but turning sixty-five stands out above them. I feel as I did then—as if a whole new era of opportunity stretches out in front of me. New places within and without I’ve never visited.

While it’s exciting, there’s also a trepidation that would like to hold me back. Orchestrating a more than two-plus motorcycle road trip/book tour can be daunting. (Oddly enough I went for a two-month motorcycle ride that time, too, although the circumstances were different.) Making new connections in unfamiliar places, looking for venues, and finding receptive hosts and audiences pushes me outside my comfort zone. The alternative, staying home, is out of the question. Maybe it’s “safer” but I’d feel stifled.

My heart wants to go and so I shall. Time, and life on earth, passes quickly. We each have a calling; mine is to the Road.

The Shamanic tradition I studied, talks about death as an ally. It means living mindfully with the awareness that our time on earth is limited—treating the earth and all living beings with respect; making the most of each day.

As long as I can, I’m going to celebrate each day with gratitude and embrace this adventure we call life. Party like it’s 1999!

Photo on VisualHunt