I will return a new man

June 2021; I embarked on a solo off-road motorcycle adventure for three weeks to find myself. I only recently made the transition from the comfy, luxurious easy rest chair of long-distance Harley Davidson’s to the more nimble, bumpy, less comfortable dual-purpose motorcycle. Having decided on a 2017 BMW F800GS Adventure, I installed soft saddlebags filled with camping supplies and a Garmin GPS. This was it; I will return a new man, not the frightened shell of a man I had become from my PTSD, but a confident and proud man.

My daily routine of setting off early each morning to ride to my next destination, unknown each day, I only knew when I arrived where I stopped, usually, mid-afternoon when the temperature was at its peak, a freshwater source for drinking and swimming and most important of all – not another human in the vicinity, just myself and whatever creatures lurked beyond the trees. The only certainty was imminent wipeouts, digging my bike out of ruts, getting lost on roads that just ended and living in the moment of each moment as it happened.

Every breath brings a different blend of woody fragrances

One morning in late June, I was riding my motorcycle along an old forestry service road southwest of Merritt, BC weaving between the ruts as the sun rises in front of me. The air was cold but refreshing, maybe only 7º Celsius in the shade at 1,500 metres altitude, and the day before was 37º Celsius at lower altitudes, which is why I ascended higher for my night’s camp, avoiding the hot, sweaty, sticky and uncomfortable sleep in a tent.

Loose gravel ricochets off the metal skid plate with high pitch pinging and dinging sounds. At the same time, large debris of old branches and giant pine cones create dull loud thumps, the knobby tires tearing through the ground, spraying the top layer of soil into the mudguards, the humming motor between my legs and the soft putter of the exhaust is like a symphony beneath me.

A fresh, cool, heady, sweet, tangy, and slightly minty aroma blows against my face through my helmet visor. Every breath brings a different blend of woody fragrances mixed with soil, moss, grass, dirt and gravel that fills my lungs with nature and reminds me how alive I am right now, at this moment.

The early morning sunbeams like small lasers piercing through the majestic canopy of coniferous trees shelter the old forest service road and highlight the vibrant greens of ferns, shrubs, old man’s beard (Usnea longissimi), tiny seedlings just sprouting and small white bell-shaped clusters of flowers litter the ditch.

The grizzly stares at me

Rounding a corner, I spot a giant grizzly bear in the middle of the road, the road I am on, and I stop as soon as I can. I look for an escape route, to my left, a steep embankment with trees and the right, a vertical wall with trees, so in other words, there is no escape route. I sit on my bike, engine idling, staring at the bear as it stares back at me, separated by 50’ of clear open roadway should it come at me. Then, two small cubs, one chocolate brown and the other golden brown come gandering across the road, passing their mother, over the edge and down the steep embankment. The grizzly stares at me for a few more seconds before she turns her back on me and strolls in the same direction as her cubs.

I wait for a few more seconds and listen intently to the sounds of the bears going down the hill before releasing the clutch while gassing the throttle, spinning my rear tire and ripping straight ahead as the adrenaline pumps through my body. A couple of kilometres away,  I stop and mark the rough coordinates on GPS and cannot help but think how fantastic that was. I was 50’ away from a grizzly and two cubs. My first time seeing grizzly up and close like that is something else which words I can’t figure out, but I truly felt alive at that moment. I had no gun, no bear repellent, nobody knew where I was, my cell had no reception, my GPS didn’t send info, I was alone, but then, I was content, alive and accepted my fate.

I flew all right

I didn’t find myself on the journey per se; I did learn a lot about myself on the trip. If I had to decide on one takeaway, it was living in the present moment, the now, not the past or the future. I was at where I was when I was there, at that moment, and I was in control. Yes, fight or flight – I flew all right, but I needed that flight to feel my now, start accepting and embracing my troubled past.

Where to next?

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