Kelly’s Korner: Riding and Life – The Annoying Parallels

March 3, 2017
Kelly Group Dirt Bike Ride

(Saguaro Lake on a weather-perfect day. The washes? Not so perfect.)

Riding and Life: The Annoying Parallels

When I started riding almost 10 years ago, it really was an act of desperation, starting a new hobby in search of escape.

I should have chosen watercolor painting. I could mindlessly go all Jackson Pollack on that nonsense.

But no, I had to choose motorcycling, an endeavor that requires my presence and attention and that, of course, likes to teach me life lessons.

Screw you, riding. Just when I want to get away from myself, you bring me right lessons water color

I jest (a little). It shouldn’t surprise me that riding continues to reveal epiphanies right when I need them. Motorcycling in general serves as a great parallel for living (you go where you look, for example) but dirt biking in particular seems to hammer this home. I think this is because, for me, riding on the dirt is more physically – and therefore, mentally – taxing than a typical street excursion. And when I am exhausted and out in the middle of nowhere and am the only person who can get me where I need to go, I either can give up or keep going. In life and riding, I choose to keep going.

Recall the rather epic dirt crash I wrote about in the last column. A friend asked me to talk this month about the post-crash feelings and mind games in light of that experience, and once again, riding and living collide. Life lessons.

As of this writing, I have returned to the dirt twice. I wanted to get in more riding in the intervening weeks except I couldn’t wear my goggles and helmet. I actually didn’t expend a lot of energy during the down time thinking too hard about getting back on the bike. When I do that kind of mental investment, I tend to conjure scenarios and obstacles that don’t exist or that I won’t come across. I turn manageable reality into something crazy. I know this from my Ninja crash up at the Grand Canyon back in 2008. I had to get back on immediately to be able to return to Flagstaff but the weeks after were tough, more than anything because of my head. I finally figured out that I have to ignore the doomsday voices in my head and just return to the road. Both crashes have reinforced one truth: I can’t hide from life, so why try to hide from an activity I love?

None of that means I wasn’t timid these past two dirt rides out of fear. The first outing with my friend C.J. saw me slow and cautious. The second with the dudes, same, although with a bit more verve. This ride at Four Peaks proved especially enlightening and helped address the lingering mind games. Somehow when I’m knee-deep in an inner issue (or, let’s face it, issues), the universe uses riding-life parallels to get my attention. I just have to be receptive to the messages. On this occasion, I most definitely was.

(The view?  I earned that!)

Lessons Learned

Riding in Sand Requires Letting Go of Control. Just as I’m struggling with my impulses to control the people and situations around me, and the fallout from that, C.J. tells me, Hey, if you quit fighting the sand so hard and loosen your grip, the bike will take you where you need to go. Hello, McFly. Let go. And not just of the bike. I still find sand washes to be the worst, by the way. Like swear-yelling-in-my-helmet worst. But the obnoxious truth, as in life, is that when I relinquish control of the bike (or the person, or the situation – a hold I didn’t really have anyway), I get where I need to go more easily and even faster. So annoying.

Sometimes It’s OK to Ask Someone to Take My Bike Up the Horrendous Hill. Have you ever been so tired (on the bike or off) that you know if you attempt one more obstacle that terrifies you it probably won’t end well? That was me with two very steep inclines on the Four Peaks ride. Add to that a recurring nightmare about climbing this kind of hill and always tipping over backwards, and it was overwhelming. My pride wants me to do everything for myself by myself. But this ride made clear that sometimes, when I know I’m not doing it to weasel out of a challenge, it’s all right to ask for help from someone stronger, more experienced, or simply at that moment more capable. And there is no shame in that. Hiking up the hills gave me an invigorating workout and enabled me to finish the ride in one, unbroken piece. There’s much to be said for living to fight another day. And to battle the nightmare.

If Someone Chooses to Ride Where I Slow Them Down, Let Them. This ties right into letting go of control and pride. It sort of sums up both issues, frankly. I tend to get a little irritated when my husband decides that he will ride sweep and I will ride in front of him. He does this because he cares. If I fall or crash, he wants to be there. And I get concerned about keeping him from going as fast as he wants, etc., ad nausea. He in turn gets frustrated that I am trampling on his choice. It’s a fun cycle. Until I realized this outing, who am I to judge the caring choices of an adult of sound mind? If he wants to make the journey with me at my Riding with Miss Daisy pace, it’s not up to me to question that. The same applies to my life journey.

There you have them, my ramblings for the month. Am I the only one who gets these kinds of epiphanies from riding? I can’t be. No, really, I can’t be.  Email me.

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Kelly Teal Signature


  1. Jerry Kendrick 7 months Reply


    Of course you’re not the only one who gets epiphanies from riding. Come to think of it, I suspect that’s one of the reasons that people stay in riding once they start. Riding is about as real as it gets, so any magical thinking we might be suffering from tends to get wiped away pretty quickly!

    The boogeyman that bothers me is a crash I had years where I was exiting off of an interstate and circling down to a feeder when a damned ol’ gutter gremlin snatched my rear tire and put me down. Seriously. I should have dusted for gremlin prints. I wasn’t hot doggin’, speeding, had good pavement and was paying attention when the rear wheel just slid out. No idea to this day why the bike went down, which didn’t do anything for my confidence. Like you, I knew I had to get back on the horse that threw me, but it was a while before I felt comfortable again.

    As in life, you don’t control all the variables. You just do everything you can to stack the odds in your favor – good equipment, good training, all the gear all the time, and be able to recognize when you’re up against something that exceeds your capabilities.

    And then there was that time that I achieved enlightenment when…but that’s a tale for another day!

    Rubber side up, Kelly!

    • Bill Seltzer 7 months Reply

      Well said Jerry! We’ll pass your comments on to Kelly and get her response. Cheers!

  2. Pete 7 months Reply

    Dang Kelly, no wonder you crash, you’re thinking about all these crazy parallels, life relationships and stuff. Quit over analyzing this stuff girl. Maybe your crashes ARE your epiphanies! Have you ever read the book The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig? If you haven’t; please don’t; it may push you over the edge. I don’t want to hurt your feelings when I say this, so don’t take it the wrong way but…shut up and ride!



    • Bill Seltzer 7 months Reply

      Oh Pete, you know just what to say to a gal. 😛 Regardless, Kelly will keep sharing her epiphanies as they arise. Lucky us!