Last month, I was invited by Yamaha to attend the Touratech Rally in Plain Washington. Touratech is a company that makes and sells accessories for the on road/off road Adventure style of motorcycle. The rally was a great place to meet up with and increase supporters of my million mile journey for MS. It didn’t take me long to to realize if I took an extra day riding from New Hampshire to Washington, I could retrace a portion of the greatest road trip I ever took. North from New Hampshire to Montreal and then west across all the Canadian Provinces would lead me to the incredible majestic awe of the Canadian Rockies.
Although I spent less than a day riding in the Rockies, I was flooded with the memories and emotions of that first trip. I snapped a few good photos before heading south to Washington, and vowed I would return to the magical mountains soon.
It is hard to believe it has been seven years since I last had a chance to ride across all of Canada. It was a business trip, I was heading to speak at seven west coast Multiple Sclerosis educational events where I would share my inspirational story to newly diagnosed patients. I started that ride in upstate New York and five days later I arrived at the first of 7 events – in Anchorage Alaska! I left early the next morning and made it all the way to the Arctic Circle before turning around and heading for my next stop a few days later, in Las Vegas!
Just following the GPS for the quickest route south, I accidentally found myself riding through the Canadian Rockies and in particular, on the Ice Fields Parkway. This stretch of road connects the famous Jasper and Banff National Parks. The mountains, the roads, the parks and the glaciers were all incredible sights for tourists who venture there on purpose, but imagine what it felt like finding them merely by accident!
I have travelled 400,000 miles on motorcycles since that June 2015 trip, but it still is the greatest place that I have ever discovered on two wheels. I had little time to stop and really enjoy the sights, but I still managed to get over 400 photos from that trip, mostly without even slowing down!
That trip was a turning point for me and my journey in many ways. It was the first time the pharmaceutical company had strung a series of talks together in a tour for me and did not argue with me riding my motorcycle to all of them. (That issue would rear it’s ugly head three years later). Second, after a program in Los Angeles, I was introduced to the top executives at Yamaha Motor USA, which as we all know, led to my largest corporate supporter and current brand ambassador position.
A lot of planning went into that tour. Dozens of people were involved in the scheduling of events, locating venues, speakers, catering and event promotion. I had planned my routes and talks for weeks, prepared my bike and hoped I could make my side trip dream of riding to the Arctic Circle possible.
The most incredible road trip I ever took never would have happened had I listened to reasonable and sound advice from both family and friends who expressed concern about my safety. Not about my ability to ride 15,000 miles in three weeks alone across vast isolated areas of the continent without cell service and certainly not worried about the bears and bison that did not work for Barnum and Bailey. Their concern was based on facts.
Ten days before leaving on my trip, I began to experience some health issues. I was out of breath and had pain shooting up my neck and over to my arm. Although I did not have a heart attack, doctors discovered I had an artery that was 99% blocked! Without a chance to go home for clean underwear, I was hurried into surgery where they put a couple of stents in my heart. I was released from the hospital 6 days before I was supposed to leave for Alaska on my motorcycle.
It might have been safer or smarter to listen to all the reasonable advice to cancel my tour, but instead, I listened to my heart. Life can create many opportunities that seem tough or out of reach, but giving in and giving up have never been part of my journey. I knew without a doubt the trip would bring me incredible value and riding has always been a part of my therapy for healing and dealing with many challenges I have faced.
I don’t know if brushing up on a seven year-old Rosetta Stone “Learn British Columbian” CD helped at me all, but last month’s ride through the Canadian Rockies proved to be just as important to my journey as that first time.
As I retraced some of that original ride, it was my finishing my million mile journey that weighed heavily on my mind, and this ride along the Ice Fields Parkway was just the dose of Motomedicine that I needed. It reminded me to buckle up and keep riding hard and I will eventually reach my journey’s destination.
After all, If life were easy, everyone would get one.