On “Joy”

Saber and I recently took a vacation to Colorado, riding a massive Harley around the mountains for a week. It was nothing short of spectacular, and many lessons were learned (by me anyway, but that’s what I fundamentally always look for!)

The first day was nothing short of a disaster. We left Ellijay at 4:15 am in the worst storm I may have ever experienced – and I’ve been in hurricanes. The drive was more like a crawl, and even when we cleared the worst of it, GDOT had so wisely decided to close 5 lanes of interstate 75. At 6 am on a Saturday… We missed our flight but arrived in reasonably short order in Denver and headed immediately to Eagle Riders near downtown Denver. I said the bike was massive. That’s an understatement. It was just SO HEAVY. I dropped it…

Arriving at the hotel I was done. DUN done. I whined then did a chain analysis of what was happening: I was tired, stressed from the travel, dehydrated, hungry and encountered a beast that was perhaps beyond me. So that means don’t do anything else today!

The next day was (thankfully) the opposite. All the vulnerability factors were gone except for the beast. I felt incredibly good. I still chose to forego the planned route through Boulder Canyon, Estes Park and Trailridge Road, instead thinking maybe it’s best to just head over to Dillon and see what’s what then. I did think to take us up through Clear Creek Canyon just to see, and it was great. Beautiful curves, climbers everywhere (although I couldn’t watch them); in general just perfect. As we headed up the interstate I was still feeling really good and confident. I told Saber we were doing Loveland Pass – I was a little edgy but still felt confident so off we went. Oh my god. There are no words to describe that ride, other than it was one of the best rides I’ve ever had. We got to the top, and at 11,990 ft I ran up the stairs to the lookout. In that moment (yes it might have been hypoxia) I experienced something I had not felt in recent memory. Joy. If I were a poet I might be able to express it but alas I am not. But that’s what it was. I paused and literally downloaded the moment. I haven’t felt that good in many years.

We went down through Dillon and decided to keep going, riding over Vail Pass to Vail (eek! Vail was a zoo) and then on down valley to Avon where we had lunch. Back “up and over” to Dillon. The perfect day.

The next day was Independence Pass, where I leaned back and stated “this is heaven” and I meant it. Glenwood Springs brought a nasty surprise in the form of a very hard stall fall (I was tired) but the hot springs seemed to cure that right quick.

Up next was a long ride to Durango down the “million dollar highway” through Red Mountain Pass. Again, there are no words to describe it other than breathtaking. Traffic was pretty heavy and we got stormed on a bit, then a landslide shut down the road into Durango so we became refugees at the Tamarron Resort. Nice joint…

Wednesday brought the longest day of the trip, up and over Wolf Creek Pass, a side jaunt over North Pass, then up and over Monarch Pass down into Salida. Seems we just missed super awful weather, for which I am very thankful!

Now comes the heart of the story and the biggest lesson. Our final day was supposed to be pretty casual, with the only real stop to be a side trip up Elevenmile Canyon (I want my ashes to be scattered there…) but I missed the turnoff. No big deal in a car, but the beast is not something you just sling around and whip a U turn on. I was very upset and after a few miles of nowhere to turn around I just motored on. As we came down into Woodland Park I noticed that the weather on Pikes Peak looked pretty clear so I suggested (decided, but…) that we go up. So we did…

19 miles of some of the most (okay THE most) intense riding I have ever done. Narrow road, tons of traffic both ways, no shoulders or guardrails. The tightest turns I have ever negotiated. Disaster literally everywhere. Then came the first of many hairpin turns. Uphill, to the right. The stress and anxiety I felt were as extreme as anything from my climbing days, 40 feet out from my last piece on lead, looking at a potential groundfall. Disaster! I stall we fall. Cross the centerline we kiss someone’s car or bus. Disaster.

Disaster screamed for my attention! But what did I WANT to happen? What did I have to pay attention to? Making the turn. That’s all. I looked up and to the right (even though I couldn’t really see much of where I wanted to go; I listened to the throttle, keeping the revs up (you stall you fall!) and then steered with the clutch. Too much and over we go! Too little and into the opposite lane! 3 senses – sight, sound and touch. That’s all I paid (intense!) attention to. And what happened? Successful navigation of the turn.

There were many other similar turns to come; the environment of “disaster” did not change but through attention and skill the disaster faded into near-nonexistence and the turns got easier.

The same holds true in everyday life. I’ve said it before – what we pay attention to we experience! Life can demand your attention, bellowing Disaster!, but through control of our attention we can successfully navigate and experience success. This does not mean that disaster won’t happen, but the probabilities drop significantly.

Control your attention and you open up vast opportunities for success. This is freedom! This is where joy can be found, experienced and retained.

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