As I threw my leg over the rumbling motorcycle I was truly terrified. It had started as a simple thought, “I bet I would like an off-road motorcycle”. After decades of riding mountain bikes, I had recently moved to a new town with an unthinkable issue…they had no mountain bike trails. Mountain biking was not just my passion, it was part of my identity, it was how I recovered from traumatic life events, it was how I connected with God. I would ride for hours and pray as I untangled my stress and frustration. All my friends rode and we would spend hours exploring new trails and sharing life together.
I had harbored the idea of buying a motorcycle for a few weeks secretly looking up pictures of them on the internet before I brought it up with my wife one night. Most of my friends at the time had wives that were not only against the idea of a motorcycle but had vocally made sure others around them knew their distaste for them as well. While my wife had been quite about her stance on motorcycles, I decided one afternoon it was time to test the waters. Clearing my throat, I opted to start the conversation by making her think it was her idea (a time-tested strategy for children and childish people around the world).
“Um, you know how you told me I should get a new hobby since I cannot ride my mountain bike.”
“Yeah” was her reply as she carelessly folded laundry.
“So, I was thinking about buying a motorcycle.” I said while I half cringed waiting to see her response. I didn’t have to wait long. Her response was quick and finial.
“I think that is a great idea! You’re driving me crazy with no real hobby and you need something to do.” Less than 24 hours later I had a dual sport motorcycle.
It was big, loud, looked like it could ride around the world and was amazingly manly. Now setting on the bike looking down the street the thought occurred to me that I didn’t actually know how to ride a motorcycle. While it would seem that I may have factored that into my purchase, it honestly had never occurred to me until I was set atop the fire breathing beast waiting to drive off.
As I slipped the clutch lever in and put the bike in gear the thunk of the gearbox alerted me to the fact that I was in fact about to be moving. I still remember the next thought that entered my mind. The mix of fear, excitement, joy, and foretold disappointment all joined together to a single, clear, concept that would stay with me as long as I live. “everything is about to change for the worse, or everything is about to change for the better, but everything is about to change.”
I slipped out the clutch while slowly accelerating and drove down the street. As the wind blew through my helmet and the bikes horsepower pulled me away from the handlebars, it all made sense. Fear may hold us back sometimes, but overcoming our fear gives us far more than we could ever imagine.
Before long, rides around the block became rides around town. Rides around town became rides around my county, which led to rides around the state, and eventually rides around the southwest. Soon after I combined my love of backpacking with motorcycles and started driving all over the southwest camping, exploring and traveling by motorcycle. My world got bigger as I explored everywhere from Colorado to New Mexico and far west Texas. Mountain passes, valley roads and dirt paths leading to nowhere became my viewfinder. Before long everything changed for the better. I would spend hours getting “helmet time” with God. Long drawn out conversations about life, love, and my past. As I drove through rain storms, sunrises and more west Texas sunsets than I can count, I found a passion I didn’t know existed. I also reconnected with my love for adventure which would eventually led me down greater trails. I began to discover that the process of learning, growing and becoming a competent biker was a journey. More than that, the journey made me who I am today. Learning to seek seldom visited paths down long forgotten roads while spending countless hours driving in silence with only my thoughts and emotions to keep me company taught me much about my life, my faith and my future.
Two days ago, I received an invitation to speak at a worldwide motorcycle event dedicated to teaching people how to use vehicles like dual sport motorcycles as a platform for adventure travel. It would seem that this once scared newbie now has enough knowledge about backcountry travel by motorcycle to teach others how to get started. The new kid will now be the teacher.
It all started with one moment. One decision point. Setting on top of that rumbling terror machine that quite fall day I had no idea where it would lead me. I only knew something was going to happen. Something was going to change.
I think about that moment often when I have a big faith decision. I remember that fear and desire mix as it ran though my veins. It is a feeling I have felt often again. Desire to move but fear about what might happen. I think my faith would be weaker had I not slipped the clutch out that day and ridden off. Had my fear won and I reached out and turned the bike off, given it back to the dealership before I put any miles on it, my faith would be weaker. Not to mention all of those conversation God and I had while I rode all over the West. Would we have had those conversations had I not jumped out that day and learned to ride?
In January I quite my great job at a great company in the oil industry and came to work full time for Wilderness Trek. What makes that statement unique is that at the time Wilderness Trek had little money in the bank, no office, and was relatively unknown in Midland Texas. Obviously, my wife and I did not take the decision lightly. It took us several weeks to come to the decision to quit a perfectly good job for one with an unknown future. During that time, I thought a lot about the day when I first rode the motorcycle and my mind went back to that same clear thought and feeling, “everything is about to change for the worse, or everything is about to change for the better, but everything is about to change.”
Leaps of faith are funny that way. Nothing is guaranteed, there may be great reward or great failure waiting down trail, but the process, the decision point, the journey, matters. From that moment you overcome fear to leap out, to the realization that it has led you down paths of great discovery transformation happens.
Nothing is guaranteed, everything is risked, but the reward is greater than you could ever imagine. So, if you are setting on top of your metaphorical “motorcycle at the end of the drive way” terrified about the future, I urge you…. Jump out in faith and trust God. Your success may never be guaranteed, but at the very least, your perspective will change in the process because the journey is the experience.