The Far Island Fox Hunt: On riding on through the rain, hail and slime.
It’s 1994 and I’m heading south out of Townsville, Aeolus’ wrath is graphically illustrated in pelting rains forming shrieking lines and wild arcs. Random squalls belittle the rudimentary screen on my DR650RS. I need only make it to Charters, but the headwind whips flank to flank, eroding my determination, finally pushing me onto gravel.
It was, in the end, my own traction that Aeolus blew out of me. I turned about and dragged my usurped ‘all weather biker’ persona home and into the shelter of a shed. In the past I had ridden through worse, but that memory had been blown aside; forgotten. The storm outside eventually passed, but the storm inside me won the day.
Out there on the road I had begun to question my motivation: What the heck* was I doing? What could be worth the effort?
Then the real storm kicked in and the questions turned to statements: If I were a better rider I’d not question myself. I’m just not up for this; no other rider would have this problem. I look like a freaking* idiot out here. Nobody will care if I don’t show up. They don’t really value my help anyway.
For years after I told myself I should never have attempted that ride. Today I know I was wrong. I should have finished it.
Sometimes you get back from a ride with the kind of buzz that, were it not naturally derived, should probably land you in jail, or at least at a discothèque in Cagayan de Oro (another story). After my best rides I often reflect on what it was that made it so good. What I’m finding more and more is that it’s not what occurred on that ride, it’s what didn’t.
We riders often talk about (to the chagrin of lovers) being at one with our machine. Others call it ‘flow’, that moment when you are in the zone, where concentration slips into a state of mediation. I’m sure were Buddha still with us we would see him, on occasion, soaring through Mt Glorious on a supermoto, perfect lines; Nirvana.
I can recall my first visits to a psych and lamenting the loss of mine: “Look, I’m doing things I know should bring me happiness, but I just can’t get there. Mates are doing the same rides as me, yet they step off with the complete contents of an insectarium wedged between their smirking incisors. What the hell is going wrong here?”
What was wrong back then in Townsville was not the work of Aeolus, it was the work of Anxiety. What I didn’t realise was that in turning for home I was actually, in more ways than I appreciated, riding further away from my goal. Because the reality was, even though I knew this wasn’t the time, the time was still important. I needed to make it. No, it I wasn’t the Dakar, it was only a 140km ribbon of bitumen, but I needed that win.
Last week at work I made the effort to do something I have avoided anytime I didn’t feel ‘up to it’, and to be honest the experience was uncomfortable and even a little embarrassing. But I realised that not doing it at all was more undermining than not doing it as well as I knew I could.
Anyway, apparently, after the dust had settled, I missed out on a great BBQ dinner at Charters. I also missed out on that small but important boost that comes with riding out a storm. Sure, I still turn around sometimes, but I’m not feeding that storm inside so much as I have done.
(*Unlikely to be actual expletive used.)