I’m on a 6,000-mile solo motorcycle trip across the USA. Most of the time, I find that I’m dirty, tired and dodging extreme weather. People often ask me why I’m doing it. There are many reasons, such as to experience our beautiful country and to visit friends and family. But my greatest joy so far has simply been the way I feel so very present while I’m on this ride.
Many Americans spend so much of their day dwelling on the past, day dreaming about the future, or despising their present situation, that they often forget that the present is a gift to be treasured. Sometimes it’s not easy for us to quiet our mind and really consciously enjoy the present moment. It can take practice.
The easiest way to focus on the present is to engage your senses and quiet the mind. Many people do this during meditation, but I’ve learned that you can do it anywhere. Just stop your mind from drifting and focus on your five senses. What do you see, smell, hear, taste and feel? Riding through the beautiful state of Tennessee yesterday I really took it all in, and this is how I engaged my five senses.
Tennessee reminds me a lot of where I live in Washington State. There are so many different colors of green, and scattered among the trees and grass are beautiful wild flowers, silver and red rock, massive trees and the beautiful blue-green waters of the many lakes and streams. The grey fog yesterday morning hung just overhead and made it look as if the air was slowly melting to the earth. Above it, were small glimpses of brilliant blue sky and puffy clouds, ranging from dark and ominous to bright white. It was a spectacular array of colors. Today we are visiting the majestic Smokey Mountains. I can just make them out in the distance and I can’t wait to feast my eyes upon them up close and personal.
Early in the day yesterday the smell of rain was heavy in the air. Again, it reminded me of home. The rain never fell, but I enjoyed the chance of it. The aroma of flowers was pleasantly strong almost the entire day. Tennessee has these beautiful yellow flowers everywhere, and above them are flowering trees. It smells fresh, like a late Spring Garden.
When I am riding my motorcycle and zig zagging in and out of traffic, it is impossible to enjoy the sounds of nature, so I listen to my music instead. I brought with me on this trip a special treat, my old phone. It has my old music library on it that I haven’t listened to in years. It’s been such a blast indulging in my eccentric music list containing everything from John Denver to Seether, from Tori Amos to Led Zeppelin. It’s funny how just the right song often plays at just the right moment. Yesterday, Dust in the Wind started playing as I was riding by a farm where the farm machinery was kicking up quite a little dust storm. Later in the day, It’s My Life, by Bon Jovi brought a smile to my face. I find that the sound of music enhances the whole experience somehow.
Taste and vocals
In order to stay in the present moment, I find that it helps to focus on taste, and if I can’t taste anything, I sing. The sound of my voice, singing along with the songs playing over my earphones, somehow makes me feel very alive and present. It’s motorcycle karaoke. People all over this great nation are undoubtedly amused, or maybe annoyed, at the crazy woman on the Harley Davidson riding down the road belting out Abba songs at the top of her lungs. But I don’t care. It makes me happy!
I feel so many things while on this road trip. Some are physical, but mostly it’s a large array of emotions. Sure, I feel the wind in my face and the sun on my skin. But I also feel happy, sad, anxious, frustrated, playful, exhilarated, and so on. This trip has been an emotional one for me. I’ve reconnected with old friends while leaving some others behind. I’ve been tried and tested to my physical limits. I find that the strangest things bring me instant joy, like the” biker wave” (that single index finger pointing at you) from another motorcyclist across the highway. It’s a sign of respect and brotherhood that forms an odd connection that is hard for non-bikers to really grasp.
A couple of days ago I was eating breakfast and a small group of bikers came in and asked me if that was my 883 Sporty outside. I thought to myself, uh oh, I hope something didn’t happen to my bike. I nodded at them, afraid of what they might say next. Turns out they just wanted to shake my hand and show respect. They couldn’t believe I was riding a Sportster from Washington State all on my own. As much as I’m trying to leave my ego behind, it brought me comfort somehow. These are the things that leave a lasting impression and the reason I took this trip.