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Life Lessons About Control on the Back of a Harley

“You can’t control the wind, but you can control the sail.”


There is a fine line between planning and control. That fine line can become blurry quickly if you aren’t careful. Planing is one of my superpowers. For as long as I can remember, I have used this superpower to make sure my life runs on a schedule. However, if I am honest, I often mistake planning for a sense of control.

Several years go, The Universe enrolled me (without my knowledge) in graduate-level “life lesson” courses. Doing the emotional and spiritual work to be a better human is kicking my ass. During this intensive course work, I have learned many valuable lessons about life, love, parenting, friendships, and how little control I have over anything.

The frustration about this graduate program is that a syllabus doesn’t exist. There are no grades, and it isn’t until the course is over that the lessons learned reveal themselves. And, if I miss the teachable moment from experience, I have to repeat the course.

The Universe Recently Enrolled Me in a Class that Centers on Control.

I met a guy during a time when everything in my life was spinning out of control. This guy swept me off my feet; a musician, tattoos, confidence, a leader, and a proud Harley owner. We knew each other from afar from our years of working at neighboring fire departments. I told him I wasn’t interested several times. But, he was persistent, and we started dating. In the beginning, he showered me with attention, love, kindness, which made me feel like a queen.

We started dating during a difficult season for both of us. At first, we were the silver linings to a long list of life-changing stressors we both were experiencing. He lost a close friend to cancer, his dog died, and he recently moved. My dad was on his death bed. We made the best of these shitty times, and often joked we attended more funerals together than dates.

On one of our first dates that didn’t involve a funeral, he mentioned how this would be a perfect place to ride the Harley. I rolled my eyes and reminded him that I don’t do motorcycles. But, his stories about his travels across the country on his bike intrigued me.

I kept telling myself motorcycles are dangerous, I am a single mom, I have responsibilities.

I don’t know what changed my mind about riding on his Harley; The pandemic, grief, canceling all our trips in March, April, and May. Maybe the shelter in place order, or possibly every time I pulled into the garage, there was a beautiful bike. One day I sent him a text telling him we should take a ride.

A few weeks later, he gave me a couple of pointers, a helmet, a jacket, and we were off on my first three-hour motorcycle ride. I had no idea how exhilarating, beautiful, and relaxing riding on two wheels going 70 MPH could be!

My mind was free to wander. I had zero control over what was happening, relaxed into the moment, and felt pure joy. Present in the moment, I was free to enjoy the beautiful country, smells, and fresh air. I underestimated the powerful lesson about control riding up on the back of a Harley could teach me in a short amount of time.

We took a six-day, 1500 mile trip on the Harley after a few practice rides to make sure my mind and butt were committed. Riding on the Harley was comfortable, and I was ready for the adventure. The theme of control consistently appeared throughout the trip, and the lessons are invaluable.

Here are Four Things you can’t Control on a Motorcycle:

Weather: Packing enough for six days to fit in a bike’s saddlebag is NO easy task. However, June’s end makes it a little easier because you don’t need cold weather clothes. WRONG! We encountered rain, sleet, fog (felt more like a whiteout to me), and a little snow (while navigating hairpin turns on top of a mountain pass).

The wind is technically part of the weather; however, I feel wind gets its category because the wind on a bike is NO JOKE. I have a love/hate relationship with the wind going back to my Patagonia travels. On one of our pre-trip rides, we went over a pass, I closed my eyes, and sang “Jesus Take the Wheel” By Carrie Underwood. I thought my head would fly off. But that wind was nothing compared to the wind in Wyoming. On our way home at a gas stop, I hugged my guy with tears in my eyes because I was grateful he kept us upright on the bike.

Animals: When my butt was getting sore between stops, I would count antelope along the road. I knew we have no control over meeting an animal on the road. In Yellowstone, a buffalo walking down the side of the road cruised past us about five feet away. Traffic in front of us and behind us meant that we were exposed if this giant creature got curious with us.

And Finally, You Can’t Control People

The wind on I-80 is relentless, and passing tractor-trailers add a whole new element to the experience. Drafting and passing a semi-truck is intense. If the semi-truck blew a tire or swerved a little to the left, we were screwed. We passed so many big trucks and cars and had ZERO control over what they would do. FYI, I have a new appreciation for NOT driving distracted.

But We Had a Plan

Weather: Apps for the smartphone that has radar are invaluable. Rain gear is a lifesaver! Accepting that you will get wet on a bike is mentally helpful. Not to mention a little rain feels good when it’s 90 plus degrees.

Wind: Let’s you know you are alive. Making sure my helmet was secure was priority number one. Maintaining my balance on the bike was priority number two. Think of the song “Hold on Loosely” by 38 Special.

Animals: We only rode during the day when we could see the best and didn’t antagonize the wildlife in the park.

People: The way to plan for the semi-truck blowing a tire or the person who looks past you on the bike and pulls out in front of you is to have great instincts as the rider and know how to crash if the rider has to lay the bike down 😳.

And the Biggest Control Lesson from Riding on the Back of a Harley.

Our romantic relationship ended shortly after we returned from our adventure. That’s the risk of getting involved with another human. Zero control over the person. I didn’t have a plan to prepare me for such an abrupt ending. In past relationships, I could feel the energy shift and I would start to create an exit plan. Not this time, it was just over.

The only control I have in my life is how I handle adversity when it happens to me. I turned inward and have been digging deeper into my shit, my energy, and how I can do better for myself. But, those lessons are for another time. The ending is a little raw; thankfully, I lean on my people and the skills acquired from previous life lessons.

People come into your life to be a blessing or a lesson. He is both. I am grateful for the love, adventure, friendship, memories, and support he gave me when I lost my dad. I have zero regrets in keeping my heart open and taking a chance even if I couldn’t control the outcome. Isn’t that what life is all about?

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”

Wayne Gretzky

Relationships are hard work

I would be lying if I didn’t have moments of “FU@% THIS” I am just going to be single for the rest of my life. But then I remember that as humans, we are wired for connection. I refuse to build walls around my heart and deny the possibility of genuine connection. Did this experience add a few more scars to my heart? Absolutely. However, the scars are the strong parts, and there is beauty in that kind of strength.

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