I grew up with a father who was disabled from a horrific motorcycle accident. He had a miraculous healing that granted him his life back, and most of his faculties except for his ability to speak well. Growing up, “motorcycle” was always a bad word in our family. The thought of motorcycling was never in any of our minds, save for when we thought about our Dad and everything he had suffered through.
One of my early childhood memories is that of my father riding his ten speed bicycle from Logan, Utah (my home town), to Bear Lake (a gorgeous lake on the other side of a the treacherous canyon where my Dad’s accident happened). He did it with his friends on several occasions. All of the wives and kids would pile into cars and follow along as support vehicles.
My mother never understood why he did it. She simply thought he had terrible judgement and was crazy.
After my Dad passed away, she was reading his journals and learned why he did those bicycle rides: He wanted to move himself to, and past, the place of his accident, on his own power. It was a sacrament of victory for him.
When I broke the news to my sweet Mormon mother that I had taken up motorcycling, I felt the full force of her worrying come crashing down on me. It would have been easier to tell my mom that I had joined a Satanic homosexual baby-eating cult and started voting Democrat, than to tell her I got a motorcycle.
For the next two years, I learned a little bit about what my Dad dealt with: constant pleading to come to my senses, constant skepticism, and a blind assertion that I am simply crazy.
When my Dad passed away, I was going through his old photos to make a slide show for the funeral. I found a picture of him that moved me to my core:
This is a photo of him standing in the very place where his accident happened – where someone found him laying in a ditch, nearly dead. After a few years of beating every set of odds repeatedly, after superhuman determination to learn how to do walk, write, eat, even think, all over again – he stands in this place.
This is what victory looks like.
He stands tall in gratitude, quiet power, and knowing.
Once I saw that photo, I knew that some day I would ride my motorcycle to that same spot, stand it in, and take a photo. After much research and consulting his siblings, we made some educated guesses as to the exact crash site.
I found it.
As I rode toward the site, I just knew. Everything was lining up – including how dangerous that stretch of road was. Against all good judgement, I pulled off to the side of the road (there really isn’t a shoulder, but I did it anyway). Cars, trucks, boats, and RV’s whizzed past me as they navigated the fateful turn half way down the Bear Lake Summit. As I positioned my tripod and set the camera timer, I hoped nobody would hit me or my bike. I quickly understood how things went very wrong for my Dad in this spot. I didn’t feel safe enough to spend any time there fussing over the perfect shot, or contemplating the significance of the spot. I had to get the *$%@ out of there, and fast, which I did.
While the capturing of the image was extremely gratifying, something better came along:
I sent the two images to my Mom. A few days later, we were talking, and her demeanor had changed. No longer was she speaking in the frantic tones of panic that I was accustomed to. She was calm, collected, and newly wise:
“Who would have thought that when they found him up there, that 50 years later, he would have a son, and that son would ride to that very place on his motorcycle?! This is a little victory, isn’t it?”
She got it. She finally got it. She truly saw me, AND my Dad. This is one of the best gifts I have ever received.
Since then, my Mother’s tone has changed. We recently had a severe wind storm that kicked up hurricane force winds. I decided to ride my motorcycle to work that day, just out of curiosity. A few days later we were talking about the weather. I told her I had ridden my bike to work during the storm. Rather than quiver with fear and begging me to just drive my car, she made a joke comparing me to the scene in “Wizard of Oz” where the wicket neighbor lady / wicked witch of the west / was blowing around in the tornado on her bicycle:
I was shocked and overjoyed at her humor in a space that would normally be filled with fear. People can evolve. It’s a beautiful thing.
Neil Peart, the late drummer / lyricist for the band RUSH, experienced a loss unlike most will ever endure. He lost his wife to cancer and his only child to a car accident within 9 months of each other. He spent the next few years meandering around the continent on his motorcycle, riding aimlessly, wondering if he even wanted to go on living, much less, be a working musician again.
He found his way out of the darkness eventually. RUSH reconvened, and wrote an album called “Vapor Trails”. The opening track, “One Little Victory”, comes to mind:
Celebrate the moment
As it turns into one more
Another chance at victory
Another chance to score
The measure of the moment
Is a difference of degrees
Just one little victory
A spirit breaking free
A certain measure of righteousness
A certain amount of force
A certain degree of determination
Daring on a different course
A certain amount of resistance
To the forces of the light and love
A certain measure of tolerance
A willingness to rise above
One little victory
– Neil Peart / RUSH, “One Little Victory”