Mortality – the state of being subject to death.
This will be a more personal post as it pertains to thoughts/feelings regarding an activity of mine which brings me to another life-changing decision.
At this juncture I have decided to discontinue riding my motorcycle thereby once again changing my path.
This will be a surprise to everyone who knows me as I have largely kept this plan to myself.
If someone attempted to tell me only six short years ago that I would quit drinking beer I would have said that was absurd and yet this September I will celebrate five years of sobriety. When I reflect on my thirty plus years of alcohol consumption, mostly beer, there were sadly way too many instances that I can recall wherein I am lucky to still be on this planet, alive and well.
There are certainly similarities when I reflect on the past decade of motorcycling.
You may have read my About Me page so you already know some of this. In 2007 I had a tragic motorcycle accident. I woke up in the hospital with a sprained wrist, dislocated shoulder, all of my ribs on my left side having sustained multiple breaks and my lung punctured.
The recovery was arduous and painful to say the least. A month after the accident a surgery was required to repair my lung and the resultant recovery from that operation was even worse. Nine years later and my ribs still ache particularly when the barometric pressure changes. Every time that happens I place my hand over my aching ribs and ponder why I still ride.
Within months of the accident I had purchased another bike even though I couldn’t even extend my left arm fully or lay down flat at night to sleep… I believe I felt the need to get back on the horse as they say and prove something to myself and I suppose to others. I could have easily walked away from riding then and nobody would have questioned my decision – but I didn’t.
Since then I have had many close calls. As a biker this is just the reality we all face. We know our decision to ride comes with a certain acceptable level of risk including death. Much of this risk comes from people behind the wheel of their vehicle distracted by whatever is on their mind or in their hand and they simply pull out in front of you. In a confrontation with thousands of pounds of metal while on a bike, you will lose.
Along with distracted drivers there are also: drunk drivers; other careless bikers; personally making a poor decision as a biker; not negotiating a corner correctly; going into a corner too fast; an unforeseen obstacle on the other side of a corner or in the road; wet or slick roads; a deer or other animal crossing your path…and the list goes on. Most rides I experience at least one item on that list.
These past five years I’ve dedicated myself to eating healthy and exercising as well as to learning all I can about health and fitness. Death is inevitable but I want to live as long as possible preferably in good health so I can enjoy my remaining years on this earth.
Why then do I continue to take my life in my hands every time I travel on two wheels?
Practically daily I hear either on the news or from an acquaintance about a biker who crashed and died. If it is a non-biker telling the story they will shake their head and mutter things like, “senseless” or “idiot” as they cannot understand the passion of bikers.
If it is a biker telling the story they will typically say something like, “What a way to go while doing something you love.”
While I have been increasingly haunted by thoughts of mortality every time I go for a ride, I ask, what if you have a serious bike accident and you don’t die? Sure, what a way to go while doing something you are passionate about but what if you instead wake up in a hospital with a traumatic head injury or debilitating injuries that require multiple surgeries or having lost the use of your legs or your vision…?
Dying in a motorcycle accident is one thing but living the rest of your life in misery is yet another. After waking up in a hospital broken from a bike accident I would not want to experience that ever again.
So I planned and completed what was my final bike trip. Nobody but me knew it would be my final trip. As a precaution, I updated my will before leaving.
Day one I rode to Charlottesville, Va to meet my brother and fellow biker. Day two We began our ride together at the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We traveled for ten hours to arrive in Asheville, NC. Day three we rode the parkway to the end in Cherokee, NC and back again to Asheville. Day four we parted ways and each rode home.
On that ride alone I watched vehicles drift into my lane, witnessed too many drivers texting and not paying attention, saw deer on the side of the road and one deer crossed my path while I braked hard, rode in both oppressive heat and pouring rain. And yet the Blue Ridge Parkway is a beautiful experience on a motorcycle. It was as good as any final ride could have been!
There are those who feel that living begins at the edge of the risks you are willing to take. Everything in life has some level of risk if you think about it. Whatever your activity or hobby or passion, so long as you are willing to accept the level of risk involved for the enjoyment you receive from it then you should continue to do it as long as you are able.
This applies to choosing healthy living over finding excuses not to exercise while making poor nutrition choices. Lack of physical exercise while eating junk has its own risks. Although not as immediate a risk, it is slowly killing you nonetheless leading to a poor quality of life as you age.
Life is too short as the saying goes and only you can decide how you want to live yours.
In the nine years since my accident I have logged approximately 65,000 miles on motorcycles and that is enough. I’ve done that! As part of my healthy life choices it is time to eliminate one more risk.