Attitude of Gratitude
This past August, Glenda and I took the opportunity to have a no-plans and no-commitment five days on our Harley in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. We always love and cherish these special times together to enjoy the beauties of our world from the 360° view the bike gives us.
I had, by chance, a special life changing experience while on this ride. I was somewhat down in my attitude due to what I, at the time, considered challenges in my life and I guess just feeling sorry for myself. This was the first week of August, which some of you may know is always Sturgis week. We had decided to not go to Sturgis this year, but I love just being out on the road with all the riders that are coming from or going to that “mecca” of Harley Riders.
We pulled into a “view area” parking lot to take a “bum rest” and had been enjoying this brief break with both feet on the ground when a large group of “real” bikers pulled in alongside us to hang out for a bite. I love the opportunities to hang out and hob nob with these kinds of folks from all walks of life.
It was not until we were all loading back that I noticed that one of these guys was missing his right arm. I sat on my bike in disbelief as he swung his leg over the seat, grabbed the left grip of his ape hangers and gave the “V-Twin” the starter. He had adapted the throttle and starter from the right grip over to the left. He now had the throttle and the clutch under control of his only arm and hand. He put the bike in gear and made an amazing tight U-turn, the ones I always struggle with, and fell in formation with his group to head down the road. Glenda and I fell in behind their group for several miles as I observed him throttle and clutch with his left hand, shift with his left foot and do all of his breaking with his right foot and ride like the wind.
I left that experience with a new commitment in my life to be able to take what I am given with an attitude of gratitude and be the best I can be at whatever is in my path with no debate.
My regret from this experience is that I did not have the opportunity to look this “Harley Dude” straight in the eyes and tell him how he had been such an influence for good in my life. It is my hope that we might each go forward each day knowing that how we handle challenges in our lives, with strength or with weakness, not only affects our travels, but also the lives and travels of those who look up to us and see us as their mentors.
Keep your rubber side down—
I guess we all have a bucket list either in our mind and dreams or actually written down in hard copy. I seem to always be adding to mine faster than I can check things off the list.
One of my items has finally risen to the top like the cream from the milk. For many years I have wanted to write a book about some of the experiences and thoughts and revelations that come to my mind as I ride and feel the wind in my face. I just shared one of these recent life-changing experiences that stimulated my attitude to be more grateful for all that I am blessed with.
The book is coming to a reality. I have completed my journey and my co-author, Doug Andrew, is adding his thoughts and then it goes to the editor and then to press. I’m not sure you will see it on the “Best Seller” list, but my hope is that it will become a meaningful positive influence in some small way in the lives of some people somewhere. The title of the book:
Life Lessons Learned Riding My Harley
Publication should be complete before year’s end and my hope is that there will be some proceeds to further strengthen our family’s efforts at service through Smiles for Life and Smiles for Hope Foundations. Thank you for your continual trust and support.
For me in my life, the real joy comes in sharing the beauties and experiences that come our way with another person I love. That truism holds true with the joys of riding a motorcycle. Riding with a passenger on the back carries a great responsibility that cannot be taken lightly. My hope with this writing is to inspire you to take stock of how you can minimize risk for both your passenger and yourself as you ride two-up.
- Before you even consider taking on a passenger, evaluate your own proficiency. Would you feel safe as a passenger riding with you? Look in the mirror with honest introspection.
So now you have evaluated and sharpened your skills and you are ready to take on a passenger.
- Take the time to educate your passenger. You’re the expert here. The passenger is a co-rider and they need to understand their role. Show them the danger zones. Show them areas of the bike that are hot and can burn. Show them the areas where things can get caught.
- Loading and unloading of a passenger needs some care and thought. I always want both of my feet planted on the ground and have the bars straight and my body bracing the bike before any loading or unloading of a passenger. This will save on a dropped bike that can damage you and the passenger and the bike.
- Passengers should keep their feet on the floor boards or pegs at all times. It is natural for a new passenger to want to put their feet down to help support the bike when it comes to a stop. This will certainly upset the balance of the bike and cause difficulty for you as the rider.
- Glenda and I have our secret forms of non-verbal communication we love to use in public and on the bike. Many of you have high tech forms of voice communication. The important thing is to communicate. If you, as the rider, see a serious bump or danger zone approaching get the message to your passenger. If you are aware and your senses are touched by some of the beauties of the surroundings, have a way to share your feelings with your passenger.
- Telling your passenger to sit still may seem like a parent-to-child conversation, but it is so important in helping you to maintain balance at stops and when maneuvering at slower speeds.
- The passenger needs to lean with you. You may be completely comfortable leaning your motorcycle, but a new passenger may freak out as they feel the lean and try to lean the opposite direction. This will upset the balance and require you to lean even further to respond to the counter-leaning passenger.
If you’re new to having a passenger on board, spend some time in the parking lot and do some practice runs before heading out. You for sure want to have a feel of the effects a passenger has on the handling of the bike. The effect will be different on different bikes.
You may think you now have all the answers, but please think twice about riding fast through the corners with a passenger. Two-up is not the way to show off your sport riding skills. The extra weight can cause you and your bike to be stressed beyond your limits.
Be safe and enjoy—