Zen Motorcyclist: No Mud, No Lotus
I almost didn’t submit a column for this issue, not wanting to revisit the events of last summer, but many years ago on the advice of a dear friend I promised myself I’d write what’s true for me and hope it finds a sympathetic ear. As you’re reading this, riding season is well underway, but as I write, it’s still two months away in many parts of the country. After the tragic loss of my riding partner last summer and a few months off the bike to reflect, I find myself looking forward to the coming riding season like I haven’t in a long time. Several events have come together to make for what looks to be a memorable riding year.
I’m a big fan of MotoGP. The speed, the skill, and the nerve it takes to ride elbow to elbow at 200 miles per hour amaze me, and, as I mentioned in a previous column, I usually watch the MotoGP races in my garage while I tend to the motorcycles after a Sunday ride.
Last April I watched the COTA (Circuit of the Americas) race from Austin, Texas—the only North American stop—and decided that this year I would make the trip to finally see an event live before Valentino Rossi retires. He is my favorite rider after Nicky Hayden, the 2006 world champion who, sadly, passed away in 2017 at just 35 while out training on a bicycle. Nicky was the guy in the paddock everyone liked. I was stunned when he passed. His 2006 championship won in the last race of the year is still one of the most thrilling sporting events I’ve watched. Nicky made me love MotoGP. So six of my friends and I will make the trip to Austin for a weekend of motorcycle racing and friendship. Even though I have to wait until November as the planned April date was rescheduled, it doesn’t diminish my excitement.
In June, the weekend before Father’s Day, I’ll head south to meet my good friend Ken Meyers; we’ll catch up and spend a Saturday chasing each other all over the mountains of whatever area we pick to call our own for a day. As I’ve mentioned before, Ken lost a son and I a father, and last summer we both lost a dear friend. You don’t get over losses like that. Sometimes though, time spent with someone who’s suffered similarly eases the burden of the weight you carry. We’ve discussed visiting the site of our friend Bob Walden’s crash to pay our respects and to move a little bit further down the healing road that Rush drummer Neil Peart wrote so eloquently about.
I’ve spoken to most of those who were with me on the day of the crash. We’ve kept in touch the way only strangers touched by tragedy can understand. We’ve discussed getting together to ride over a long weekend. The kindness and support they’ve shown Bob’s family and me have been beautiful, and bonds have been formed that only form when very kind people suffer tremendous and sudden, inexplicable loss. I love them all and look forward to riding with them again this year and hopefully every year moving forward.
Though there will be no Touring Weekend event this year, I will ride with many of my friends from the extended RoadRUNNER family in August as usual. Yuval Naveh and I are eagerly discussing riding together and making use of the drone I recently purchased (ostensibly for work but also to satisfy the tech geek in me). The last time I saw everyone, we had heavy hearts and swollen eyes. I can’t wait to see them again to see the smiling eyes I’m accustomed to and to shine back at them through the ones they are familiar with.
We all have our mud. We all suffer unimaginable loss, pains both physical and emotional, but that mud feeds and nurtures the lotus of kindness, joy, appreciation for friendship, and life in general. Since last August I’ve been keenly aware of the people motorcycling has brought into my life. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “We have to learn how to embrace and cradle our own suffering and the suffering of the world, with a lot of tenderness.” I am very grateful for those I’ve met through riding who are living examples of that sentiment, and this year I am very eager to ride with them all again.
“Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh