Stories are everywhere. Every bike. Every ride. Every rider.
Our new series “Wild in Words” tells the stories of riders across the globe. Share your story with us. We see you. We hear you.
My name is Sue Souza, and I’m a 45 year old small business owner in Eugene, Oregon. I started riding on a small 50cc when I was 12. I can’t recall the make or model, but it was similar to a small street bike that I treated as a dirt bike; building a ramp in our large yard, jumping it, and riding straight into trees.
That was my first lesson in the usefulness of helmets.
A few days after I turned 16, I had my motorcycle endorsement in hand and was hooked for life. My father had bought a 250 Yahmaha Exciter that I would cruise around on any chance I had in the short riding season that Minnesota offered. I felt as if I had something most teenage girls didn’t — even if I never had my own Guess jeans. In my senior year, I took to riding my boyfriend’s 600 Kawasaki Ninja and found that sport bikes were just as great as cruisers. I loved riding wheelies, even if half the time they were by accident.
Several years went by that I didn’t ride, mainly due to raising young children. After years of the gut clenching envy and yearning that I felt when small groups of bikers would pass me by on the highway, I bought a little 600 Honda Shadow Spirit. I had played it safe long enough and though my youngest was only ten, I felt like a part of me was dying. I needed a chrome infusion. She is a cute little red and chrome number with altered pipes to give her some bark. I call her my “Honda Davidson.”
When I’m riding, my goal isn’t achieved when the destination is reached and I put the kickstand down. The journey, the work, the continuous active driving and awareness, the instinctive execution on each mountain curve, enjoying myself, and getting into the zone is my goal. Rather than all the work culminating in the result as the final check off on the list, the entire project is the goal in itself.
For me, the zone is when I stop consciously thinking of the execution of maneuvers, but feel like I have almost fused with the bike and that it becomes an extension of me. I stop thinking of the mechanics and physics theory of hardware in motion, and I just ride. Just ride. Just as yoga is restorative to the mind while working the body, so is riding in the zone. Freedom of movement uncontained. Shutting down the chatter of in the brain with the white noise hum of the engine and the vibration of the road.
While gaining experience on the bike, I learned a couple lessons that correlate to life:
- You cannot control everything and sometimes gripping too hard and trying to force the path is not as effective as letting the bike “have its head.” When the road gets rough, I loosen up my grip and trust the physics of a forward rolling wheel. Let it do what it is designed to do.
- To be spared of the unthinkable, sometimes you just need miss it by an inch. My years of riding have brought me into a spectacular amount of deer on the winding mountain roads here in Oregon. You only have to miss them by an inch. Not a foot, or two feet. An inch. A miss is a miss, and that’s all you got to do.
Why ride a motorcycle, despite the risks? Because you get to experience the “everything”. The road may be the same name, but it’s a whole different experience travelling it on a bike. On a bike you feel so much more than when you are secluded in your small upholstered, enclosed environment.
You drive through temperature changes that you would never notice in a car. You touch the air passing around you.
You smell the hot road, the fresh cut hay, the lavender fields. The marijuana crops drying, the strawberry fields ripening, and the vineyards dripping with unrealized wine. The salt air, the ocean breeze tinted with coastal scents, the wind of the Pacific giving you playful shoves to the limit of the lane.
You taste the dark wet rock wall as you pass the small falls surrounded by ferns, or the nutmeg that the small country house is emitting as they bake their apple crisp.
Your skin absorbs the hot, golden, dry grass as you cruise by in late summer in your tank top and favorite worn Levis.
You hear the cadence of the crickets over the sound of your pipes, and when you stop to stretch on the remote country road in eastern Oregon, the stars blind you and the chirping of the crickets amongst the rustling of the high golden wheat fields is deafening.
Your leathers absorb the scents and send reminders of the wild from the back of the kitchen chair, reminding you of the wild that you are.
Riding lets my wild be wild,