The Silver Lining

The Silver Lining

I remember the conversation vividly. I was walking through the sunshine with my daughter. She was telling me that she would graduate in the year 2020. She was young, perhaps in second or third grade, making her eight, maybe nine years old. Our conversation would have occurred in 2010 or 2011. As we walked along we talked with excitement about what a cool sounding year it was… 2020. That conversation is the first time I can recall having any thoughts about 2020; how dramatically different the reality of 2020 turned out to be compared to what we both envisioned that sunny afternoon. Like so many others have done, I could list all the negative things that 2020 delivered, but I don’t want to give it any more energy than it has already taken. Instead, I want to focus on the positive things that 2020 delivered.

Family time – Sierra came home in March for what we thought would be a week’s spring break. She ended up staying until August when she departed for her Freshman year of college. That six month window of time gave us back some of the family time that we lost when she moved away in 2017 to pursue her hockey dreams. I’ll be forever grateful for it.

High School Graduation – While the ceremony itself was anti-climatic after being postponed more than once, the fact that she walked across a stage with with Salutatorian cords made Motoman and I so proud. Maintaining high grades during a pandemic wasn’t easy.

Construction – With nothing better to do during the lockdown in March and April, we turned to home improvement projects. We now have an additional bedroom in our house, which freed up space for a dedicated office in our small house. We’re still arm-wrestling to see who gets the office most days.

Cooking – No one will ever call me a great cook; but no one in my family went hungry. I got to try lots of new recipes. In fact, I found a very similar recipe for one of my favorite dishes available at an over-priced restaurant in Applewood.

Saddle Time – While I didn’t reach my cycling distance goal for the year, I did get some fun riding in at places like Crested Butte. I also was able to spend more time exploring the hiking trails within steps of my front door. I spent more time on the motorcycle riding tracks and trails with my family. As a result of all this riding and skills development, I’m now confident enough to try riding an even bigger, more powerful dirt bike.

Job Transition – I’m so excited to have accepted a position last fall with a company in an industry I’m passionate about. Working has never felt less like work!

For me, one of the most humbling lessons of 2020 was that I don’t have as much control as I thought I did. I can’t replace the people and experiences my family lost this year, but I can control my perspective on the losses. Usually this is the time of year when I reflect on the bike races I competed in the prior year and set goals for the future.  This year, I don’t have any races to reflect on, which feels different, but ok.  For 2021 I want to focus more on activities that a future version of myself will be grateful for. This includes things like more yoga, better eating, catching air on the motorcycle, and being open to new activities. Sometimes just a slight shift in perspective is all it takes to find the silver lining.

The Ride When I learned a Skill After I Needed it

Riding from our house in Arvada, Colorado to the Rampart Range located in the Pike-San Isabel Forest just southwest of Castle Rock was one of longest distances I’ve ridden on my little Yamaha XT-250, AKA Dory.   The round trip (including the trails we rode) was approximately 120 miles.  After some discussion, Motoman and I decided to ride there because of the diversity of trails in the system and unlikelihood for mud.  It had snowed a couple of days before and we were hopeful that it would not be muddy.   It turns out that the OHV trails at Rampart Range are very similar to the mountain bike trails at Buffalo Creek in that they are covered with granite pebbles and sand, which tends to keep the mud to a minimum.

When we arrived at the Rampart Range Staging parking lot, I was surprised at how many vehicles were in the lot.  I became nervous about how many other riders I would encounter along a trail and how I would maneuver my motorcycle to share the trail.  Mountain bikes are so much lighter!  When Motoman asked me which trail I wanted to ride first, I picked a beginner trail, of course!  It was a twisty path through the forest with the occasional water puddle.  The trail was fairly smooth and the most common obstacle was tree roots, which are slippery when wet. It was an uneventful ride until we came to a 40 foot section of rocks on a downhill where I completely lost control of the motorcycle.  I had stood up for the descent and when I reached for the rear brake with my right toes, all I got was air.  I bounced down the trail, afraid to touch the front break for fear I’d go over the bars.  I had a death grip on the clutch and bars.  By the time I thought to release the clutch to slow down, I was at the bottom of the hill and came to an easy stop.  I don’t know how I didn’t crash.  We encountered only two other riders on this trail, despite that full parking lot.

The trail ended and we found ourselves on the Rampart Range dirt road, which travels through the heart of the trail system.  It was here that Motoman taught me the rear brake  skid technique.  It works like this: get your speed up to about 15 MPH, pull in the clutch, let off the throttle, and step on the rear brake hard enough to skid.  We practiced this over and over, eventually seeing who could leave the longest skid mark on the dirt road. I wish we’d had this session before that first trail!! [Sidebar: now I understand why Motoman is constantly buying new tires.]

The next trail we did was still relatively smooth, but much muddier and hence slipperier.  The climbs and the descents were also steeper.  We found a beautiful rock formation and stopped for a snack and pictures.  On this trail, we encountered only two other riders.

It seems every time I ride the motorcycle, I learn something new.  This ride offered three valuable lessons. First, the skidding lesson has already proven to be a valuable addition to the toolbox.  I used it non-stop for the second trail we rode that day.  Second, I don’t like riding in mud.  Third, speed is helpful.  If I’d applied the brakes during the rocky section in the first trail, I suspect I would have gone so much slower that I would have crashed.  The fact that I took that section at speed kept me from getting a wheel hung up on a rock.  I’ve replayed that section in my mind a number of times since the ride itself, and words from my fearless daughter keep coming to mind:

“Sometimes you just gotta give it gas and hang on.”

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