For a few years, going viral had become a positive term, a winning strategy for fame and fortune. I certainly wish one of my Youtube videos would go viral.
It sometimes takes a world wide pandemic for some of us to realize we are not invincible. It certainly was a quick wake up call to me, remembering I have a compromised immune system and should be a bit more careful about staying healthy. As a motorcyclist and an adventurer, I tend to err on the side of thrills and excitement verses safe and overly cautious when it comes to taking risks. As my disease and symptoms continue to remain manageable, I’m lucky enough to forget once in a while I have an incurable progressive autoimmune disease. But I do.
When the pandemic started to get real, I was on my way down to Daytona Beach for Bike Week, along with 300,000 other riders. Before leaving New Hampshire, I expressed to my wife that I was worried this was going to be a big deal, a virus that could possible change our entire way of life for quite a while. She thought I was over reacting, but as I was persistent, she agreed to pick up a few extra groceries; some dry goods, canned vegetables and a few extra rolls of toilet paper the next time she went to the grocery.
I sure hate being right.
While hanging out in Daytona, sharing my story with hundreds of people, the virus and it’s world wide destruction indeed became more serious. It had landed in the states, and the news of the nursing home deaths in Washington began to scare the hell out of the 60 plus year old bikers at the beach. Yamaha had awarded me with a $5000 donation to my charity for being the first to reach 100,000 miles on the new Star Venture, but hardly anyone noticed. The stock market crashing and food hoarding took over all the dinner conversations and motorcycles were no longer the main focus of bike week. The Virus was infecting everything.
Jokes turned into serious warnings overnight, and even the famous Daytona Speedway motorcycle races were held without spectators. Daytona Beach became a ghost town. The hundreds of vendors who rented space to sell their wares were left to fend on their own, not knowing if they should pack up or stay for the skeleton crowds that remained. I was at the track for ten days with Yamaha and their demo fleet of bikes. The Yamaha executive on site held a meeting and let all of us know we could leave at any point if we wanted to be with our families. The novel Corona virus was no longer novel, it was upon us and effecting everyone in some personal way.
My wife works in a school system and had been dealing with an onslaught of worried students parents and administrators seeking advice on procedures and protocols. Learning as we knew it, was on the cusp of changing forever. We spoke every night and I could hear the fear and frustration she was dealing with and wished I could be there, if even just to give her a hug. We didn’t have the virus, but it had us all.
To make matters worse, we had a broken dog at home. A couple weeks before I left for Florida, we had adopted Kona, a French Bulldog mix from a family member who was struggling to care for three dogs. Kona was a playful dog, stronger at tug a war than I was, able to do back flips to catch a toy, and dragged us for numerous jogs around the block each day. My wife and I were getting better exercise than we had had in quite a while and we both fell in love with him.
Returning from work one afternoon, my wife found the dog had injured himself enough that he could not walk or even stand himself up. Something had happened to his hips or back and he was in a lot of pain. The vet didn’t have a positive answer, just medicate for pain and wait.
I appreciate Yamaha supporting me and providing my room and meals in Daytona, but this was an easy decision. I was needed elsewhere. I cut my trip short and rode the 1300 miles home as fast I could to give my wonderful wife a hug. I don’t know if it helped her, but it really helped me!
Over the next few weeks and months we all will be affected in many different ways because of this virus, but we all need to remember to take care of those around us and to reach out to family and friends any way we can to let them know they are loved.
Let’s make caring and sharing for others go viral.