I fuss about time, growing my business, and trying to live a good life by having adventures. The truth is that I often get down because of my situation. I often feel like I have to prove to myself that I am still capable. I often feel scared that motorcycling isn’t meant for me anymore. All that said, I take my adventures when I can get them. I take time for myself and my mental healing. I don’t know that I will ever go around a curve without holding my breath, but I do know that I am not going to give up on myself. And so I placed a challenge before myself, one I had contemplated but not felt strong enough for in past months. I reached out to Ryan Hutchinson, one of the arm amputees I interviewed for the “Amp’d Rider Series” on YouTube. He lives in central Tennessee about 6 hours from me. I packed up the motorcycle and did my first two-wheel only trip since the crash. The dogs and the gear were loaded and we took off. My Heritage is very well suited to my leg issue and frankly my body is quite comfortable on it; way more than in my truck or in a car. The way I sit and the way my leg extends is just more comfortable. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few issues; the largest of which is fear of other vehicles. I have always been a pretty good and pretty safe motorcycle driver, aware of my surroundings and always scanning for hazards, but you can’t see it all.
The dogs and I stopped about every 125 miles to walk and potty. At one of our stops, we sat in the grass at the gas station to relax and hydrate. When I returned to my bike at the pump a gentleman in a car pulled alongside and called me by name. I am getting used to that and the man’s face was familiar but I couldn’t place him. Gregory reminded me of meeting him and his wife at the June Bug Boogie some 5 years prior. I really liked that couple back then and I was shocked to know they follow my blog and have been praying for me all this time. We exchanged contact information and promised to meet again since we now live so close to each other. I continued on my way to meet Ryan and at the rate I was going my six hour trip was getting longer and longer with evening fast approaching. Mountains and country roads at night are inherently more hazardous and I really didn’t want to pay for a hotel so I pressed forward.
The entire day had been triumphant and pleasant until I was 13 miles from my destination. Traveling along a two lane highway at 45 mph, I was passing a small town when a large pickup truck pulled out in front of me from the right. I was approximately 20 – 25 feet from the truck when I began to brake and swerve left to avoid the truck. The only thing I could think was, “Not my right leg too.” The truck immediately applied the brakes and jerked into reverse. Call me a witch if you want but I sure hope that person’s transmission is toast. I yelled out a profanity and kept rolling. I wanted to stop and give the driver a serious piece of my mind, but the throttle just kept going. I wanted to run away from that hazard. Perhaps it would have been better to stop, perhaps not. A few miles down the road I was talking to my dogs and apologizing for scaring them. Then I started to ask God why these things keep happening to me; am I a target or what? No sooner did the thoughts begin than I saw a text message on my phone which sat on the bars in my Rider’s Claw. The text was from Gregory, the man I had just reconnected with a couple hours earlier. I couldn’t read the message as I was driving but my thoughts immediately changed course. I met that fine couple because I am a biker. They liked me from day one and prayed for me when I didn’t even know they were out there in my corner. I AM A BIKER BY GOD and if He didn’t want me on a motorcycle He should have left me dead in 2013. (Although I wish he wouldn’t test my strength so much.) And so I felt a little calmer about the occurrence and in jest I told myself, “You already died once, at least you know what to expect the next time.”
I arrived at Ryan’s and finally met the man whom I interviewed and whom has been a great supporter online. We took his truck to a local venue for a quick bite to eat and then he returned me to his shop where I had a comfortable room. Ryan left to go home and I rested quite well that night, which is often hard for me. I think the sunshine, fresh air, and endurance ride did my sleep good. I got to meet some of Ryan’s family and see the building they are rehabbing. I even got a long overdue haircut in his town. Ryan was seriously busy with all the goings-on of the businesses he is building and didn’t have much time to visit and none to ride. He did hook me up with some dudes that installed my speaker/amp system from Rider’s Claw and I was so excited to finally have my tunes and GPS back on my bike. We all had a very nice dinner the night before I left. I had reached out to Gregory to see what he and Sheryl had planned for the weekend. They would be home and generously invited me to come stay. I left in a slight rain but was headed away from the weather. At my first gas stop I ran across a couple on a beautiful Gold Wing. As is often the case, the woman was tickled to see my babies riding with me and we stood there conversing for a while. Come to find out they were on a two week ride for adventure and visiting family. They are from Carol Stream, IL – I couldn’t believe it. I invited them to stay with me when they got to the Tail of the Dragon. They never did call me but I guess it’s sort of odd to have a stranger invite you into their home.
We stayed with Gregory and Sheryl for three days. They have dogs and my girls were very welcome. We caught up on life and got to know each other in greater detail. Sheryl gave me a small crash course in organics and healing consumption. She is a personal health coach and I have since tried to implement some of the things I learned. The highlight of my visit with them was when Sheryl asked if I would help her practice on her motorcycle. She has a Dyna and she has some apprehension. Gregory and I went around the neighborhood many times with her. I feel as if she is a good motorist but she needs to have faith in herself and not let worry distract her from the road and the passion. I was proud that she would ask me to help. I have often said that a spouse is not always the best teacher when it comes to motorcycling. I know a tiny few couples where they disproved my belief, but overall I still believe my theory. There are many reasons I have this general idea and I won’t go into that here. I was just proud that Sheryl would ask for my help and I was proud to help another woman rider gain more confidence on two wheels. Later in the day we all took a motorcycle ride to one of their favorite lakeside biker stops.
The ride home was a serious challenge. Extreme heat was giving my leg fits, most especially the skin graft. I wrapped my Cool Rider Gear bandana around the leg at the skin graft and that helped in part. I was also riding in exceptional winds which really pushed the limits of my shoulder. Sometimes the ride is challenging and may not seem like much fun, but in the end the adventure, freedom, and connection with nature makes it worthwhile. All in all I think I was intended to test myself on that trip and connect with people that prove my spirit as a biker will prevail. I pulled into my homestead at exactly 882 miles and no sooner did I lift my leg over the tank than it began to rain. The girls ran to the porch while I got the basics off the bike; the rest could wait for later. I was tired, sore, happy, and proud.
There is no rest for the wild at heart. I knew that my dear friends Lynn and Nick from IL would be visiting soon. I didn’t know exactly when in their journey they would reach me, but with Nick’s retirement they were bound for adventure. We spent a fantastic week and I was so tickled to have them in my corner of the world. Oh goodness, I could write a dozen paragraphs about the silliness, the fun, the hugs, and the fun; but I’m already pushing five months of catch up into this blog post. It is easy to describe outings and adventures, but it’s not always so easy to describe the feeling that comes from spending relaxing and fun times with friends. You cannot fully capture the conversations or repeat the shenanigans so that your audience will feel what you felt. I can tell you this: since meeting this couple about 5 years ago, I cannot imagine the rest of my life without them. I know that these people will ALWAYS be a part of my life. These people are very much like me in many ways and perfectly different from me in others. During this visit I gained a great deal more knowledge about their lives together since they were young adults. I gained knowledge that increased my respect for my big brother and sister. Things they came through together that most folks would crumble under. I honestly cannot think of another couple that I know who have been together so long and accomplished so much. My heart is always with them.
During Lynn and Nick’s visit I began having more pain in my leg than usual. I was attributing it to heat and a lot of activity. I am not about to give up living so I was trying to figure out a way to beat the heat when I have so many layers on my leg. The day after they left I was to ride the bike to Maggie Valley for a small rally. As it turns out, the bike battery had died since parking it after my TN trip, so I drove my truck. I got the chance to meet two folks from the Facebook group ‘We Ride NC’. I also had a random lady approach me and tell me that I was stunning. That was most sweet and a word that isn’t often used today. The lady told me she had noticed me from afar and as she approached she saw my leg. She said I wear it well and she also asked me where I got my bikini top – haha – had to plug my sweethearts at Nailmaille ® for making me stunning. I don’t share this to toot my horn, I share it because it made me feel worthy and pretty, which is sometimes hard because I’m not sure who would want a girl like me with crazy ideals and permanent life-long health issues. I suppose I make myself unattainable to avoid rejection, but the lady’s compliment helped me feel a little better. No matter the inner warmth and kindness shown to me, I was in great pain and left early. I wanted to meet Laura at Wheels Through Time museum, but I was simply in too much pain. I iced my leg and went to bed early.
The next day was Sunday and the pain was not better when I awoke. I am used to the daily pain and I keep going regardless because I’m not going to miss out on life. But, this pain was the worst since reaching a point of ‘normalcy’. For several days I was icing and taking my prescriptions which I usually try to avoid. It was extremely painful to wear my prosthetic and thus I only did so when I had to go to town for necessary groceries and prescription refills. I no longer had a wheelchair so I did as much as I could on crutches but basically I was down for the count. By Thursday I was riddled with pain and unable to sleep. My leg had fever in it and was swollen despite ice. I knew that something was wrong.
I went to Georgia for medical care and as always I stayed with my friend Tim on his farm. Without wearing my leg I was limited in activity and somewhat ticked off and somewhat stir crazy. I did my best to make the most of the situation and I played in the pool a lot to beat the heat and even started working with Sportster to swim with me. I got exclusive use of the golf cart and went on many rides around the farm. I was privy to watch and learn when a calf that wasn’t nursing had to be educated. It was fascinating to see how the guys had to put the mother in a pin and lock her down. They milked the cow and fed the calf, then put the calf on the teats and taught it to nurse. After three days the process was successful and both mother and calf were returned to the herd. As previously mentioned, I have gained some really cool friends from the CRA motorcycle club. Michelle and Phillip visited me and brought beautiful flowers and Thin Mints to cheer me. Dave and Eileen brought me a wheelchair which significantly helped me get around. My Dad and his wife even visited me and brought me the wheelchair my step family let me use during original recovery. I got to meet their new puppy when I took my truck to Dad’s for a little maintenance. And Dad took me to the supposed surgery date which was postponed.
I will not get into all the details of what I went through with insurance and doctors but if you follow me on Facebook you already know this. The short version is that I had another infection in my knee only this one was progressively worse than ever before. Based on past medical advice and current medical indications I was scared; still am actually. My body is rejecting the hardware in my knee and with my level of activity the hardware inflames the tissues creating infection. Though the insurance non-sense is still on-going as of this post, the bottom line is that the hardware needs to come out of my leg. For the most part it has served its purpose and is not needed. My surgeon feels extremely confident that the man made femur is strong enough to support me and the knee he says is most likely in good shape also. However, he is unable to commit totally to whether the knee will hold up without the hardware – very confident but no promises. My fear is that if the knee cannot stand alone without hardware and they try an artificial knee, the body might reject that also. As you can imagine, no knee could mean further amputation. So far, I am trying hard not to dwell on that and just deal with the insurance to get the hardware removal approved. One step at a time right??? As of this post, I am hoping to have approval in another week or so and then I will be down without a prosthetic for nearly two months. I was without the prosthetic for three weeks while dealing with the infection. Now that it’s under control and we are waiting for insurance approval I am back on my prosthetic but it’s crazy weird how just three weeks can make you weak and have to regain momentum to walk again. I use my cane a lot and wheelchair towards evening when I am wearing out. Lynn and Nick came back through for a few days to help with manual chores and generally check on me. We went to church for Father’s Day and then we took Nick for a fine steak dinner in Murphy. We had a little fun but mostly just hung out. They were on a mission to handle some stuff for ‘their girl’ as they call me, and then they were off on more retirement adventures.
For a couple of days after Lynn and Nick left I mostly took it easy as I was getting back into the groove of walking again. My girls and I took the truck down my road out of boredom and went blackberry picking. I could only reach so much of the fruit but was very pleased to bring home a half gallon of berries which I washed and froze to use in my homemade ice cream, pancakes, and smoothies. There are plenty more out there calling my name, so through the summer I will go pick more. I might even try to make a cobbler since a Facebook friend gave me an easy peasy recipe; more to follow on that delight should it develop.
I received a double cool blessing when Dave from Facebook was passing through my area and wanted to say hello; which was right inline with Miki Hope coming to stay for a week. Dave only stayed one night and the three of us had a good meal and went to town for Karaoke.
Miki and her dog Two-Lane stayed several more days. Miki previously traveled the country with another nomad but set off on her own solo journey in February 2015. I find this woman quite fascinating. She is easy to talk to, has plenty of stories to share from grand adventures to triumphs over life trials. All of us (Miki, Me, Two-Land, B.B. Girl, and Sportster) went on a motorcycle ride to find some great produce. I wanted to take Miki to Helen, GA but after we fiddled around and after I fudged our directions, we ended up in Hiawassee, GA which was actually a perfect mistake. We found a terrific farm stand and even treated the dogs to chicken nuggets. Over the years Miki has explored veganism and vegetarianism, as well as wild foraging. She taught me quite a lot and we picked red clover for tea and dehydrated veggies and herbs. I even got to share knife sharpening skills with Mikie, which my Father taught me in my early years. I really do enjoy my fresh sprouts and had purchased 4 EasySprout containers from eBay. After meeting Miki, I really wanted to give her something that I knew she would thoroughly enjoy using, so I shared one of the sprouters with her. However, she was uncertain just how to make it work / fit on the motorcycle. We brainstormed with no solution until we found ourselves at an Army surplus store. They had a canvas bag with two way straps and cover flap that would extend to suit the container’s width. It was going to be perfect, but was more than Miki wanted to spend. Now I have been where Miki is now, and I totally understand how every dollar must be spent with the utmost care. While on the road, under recovery, and even still today, there are known and unknown people in this world that have dipped into their pockets to help me. I wanted to do that for Miki. She now has a nomad sprouting garden on her Boulevard and I have to admit when she posted the first photo of her fresh sprouts on Facebook, my eyes barely started to leak. I do so look forward to her return visit and I know that Sportster will be excited to see Two-Lane again (since they made great play friends). I wish nothing but grand adventures for them both and I encourage you to check out Michelle (Miki) Hope and Trampin’ with Two-Lane on Facebook. Oh goodness, and how remiss of me to almost forget to tell you of the wonderful massage I received, which is after all how Miki earns part of her living on the road, along with helping vendors at rallies.
Finally, Finally, I received a visit from my long time dear friend Meg from Illinois. She was only here four days and unfortunately it rained all but one day. Nonetheless, we made a rainy tour of Bryson City and followed that with fireworks in Fontana. We caught little breaks in the rain from time to time and enjoyed some wonderful scenery. Thankfully the rain held off long enough to enjoy the fireworks. Our only real clear day we spend in Asheville being tourists, shopping, eating, and chatting with Miki at a local co-op grocery. As we cut through Maggie Valley on one of our excursions we found an adorable little wedding chapel and thought we’d have some shenanigans on Facebook. For a few years it was a running joke in my riding group in IL that Meg was my wife as we were inseparable for a while and because we teased about not finding quality men. Well, we took a couple photos and I changed my Facebook status to show that I married her. Boy oh Boy did folks have fun with that. It was hilarious but then I received an e-mail from my Father (who in no way gives two hoots about social media). Dad said he heard from Roxie across the street that I got married and I think he may have had an undertone of disappointment for not knowing. Meg and I laughed our butts off and I had to explain to Dad. He has met Meg before and he totally got it. I had to divorce Meg the same night I married her because she started talking about taking over my Harley and I just won’t have that. Dad teased that it was the shortest honeymoon ever and did we return the gifts? Bahahaha!
I think I cherish my adventures and my visitors so much more these days because I understand just how precious each day is. I find that I sit here and worry a lot. The night I returned from GA after having surgery postponed I was on my porch with my prosthetic on but in my wheelchair. As I looked down at myself, both dogs in my lap and crippled, I wondered how long I would get to walk before the wheelchair becomes a permanent part of my life. Despite technology, my surgeon says I have arthritis in my knee like an 80 year old. I know that when I do things like the blackberry picking I upset friends because I simply won’t relax. But what I want my friends and family to understand is that pain is and always will be a part of my life and I have to overlook that if I want to live. I do want to live and live happily. I will always push myself until the day that I simply cannot push anymore. I learned the hardest way possible that tomorrow is not promised; heck the next 30 seconds isn’t promised. I want to experience life and be my own person until my number is truly called. I don’t know any other way to be. I cannot be a couch potato and watch the world pass me by for the next 25, 35, 45 years; it’s not in my nature. I watched myself die once and I was ready back then. I was thankful for what I had accomplished and almost totally proud of who I was. I want my next death to be the same, so I will not sit idly by waiting for the day – I will pack every moment possible with adventure, smiles, and love. If I go to bed each night in pain and feel as if I’ve accomplished something, then it’s worth it and I start all over the next morning if it is given to me. That’s how I get through all which has been dealt to me.