Don’t Take The Exit

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Article And Photos By: Charlie Weisel

Originally Published In The October 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

That sign, that pesky green one with the arrow on it always pointing to the right as if everything to the right is better, it pops up so frequently one has to make a conscious if not forceful, effort to resist it. Telling us repeatedly to get off the ride is what it’s really trying to say, take the easy route. Every few miles one of these signs shows up, hounding us with its hollow promise of something better. As if it knows all the answers and what is best for us, relentless in its pursuit to make us quit. And like a broken record, without fail, it tells us to exit, once again. I refuse. I refuse to exit. This is the ride I have chosen, a battle I have chosen, like so many of you. It is a battle against the mind and the elements. It is a battle between yourself and machine But most importantly it is a battle between your mind and yourself. Who will break fi rst. It feels more like a carnival sometimes but that is what we love about it, one day bliss, the next day, well, more bliss. I don’t believe in bad days when heading into battle. I only believe that what most consider a bad day on the road is in fact when we learn the most about ourselves. The teaching moments. The learning moments. The moments and experiences that separate us from the pack. And like a warrior charging into battle, I ignore the sign to exit. Once more.

To do what we do takes courage, it takes an inner strength that so many lack. Taking to the open road, crossing a country, on a machine that could ruin us on a multitude of levels. Some call it stupidity, but not us. We see it as strength. Strength both from the inside to face unknown challenges. Strength from the inside to charge headlong into a raging a storm, both the one over our heads and the one churning inside our heads. The great expanses we meet on the road, the solitude of man and machine, challenge us, or should I say force us, to look into the depths of our minds we try desperately to ignore, and by ignoring them, we are taking the exit. The easy route to Blisstown where nothing goes wrong, and everything goes right. Don’t take the exit. Press on. Stay left. Blisstown does not exist. It is a ruse, a trick, an act of sorcery. This town will not take you in; it will not wrap you in a warm blanket and nurture you. It will fail you because it is not the town you built. The walls were not made with your sweat and sore hands, the road is not paved with your tears. Press on. Don’t take the exit. Stay left. This though, and don’t be mistaken, is not a tale of man against machine. This, to be clear, is about mind against man. As much as people like to pretend they are one in the same, I can promise you; they are not. A man does survive adverse conditions because of the skeleton and muscle beneath his skin, but almost entirely because of the power of his mind. Which then begs the question of how we strengthen our minds. How do we prepare ourselves for the inevitable slaps life will hit us in the face with. For some, it may be a path towards religion or therapy; others choose to medicate, some choose all three. Not us though, we choose the spiritual path. Not in the sense of searching for an external higher power but in the sense of looking for the higher power that already lies within us. The only glaring difference between how we do it versus how others do it is that we choose to do it at 80mph while most take a more benign route, such as hiking the Appalachian Trail or meditating in a quiet room. We are not benign; it is what landed us where we are in the first place.

Hanging on by the seat of your pants while your motorcycle careens down the silky slab of tarmac is barely half the battle. Proving to others that you can powerslide through the ribbony corners of the Rocky Mountains is not the point. Proving to yourself that you can overcome your inner demons, that when your body screams to stop you refuse, when your bike breaks down for the tenth time that you fi x it and press on, that when the sun beats down so intensely it threatens to melt your brain you splash water on your face and laugh at the rising mercury, that when icicles hang from your handlebars you break one off and eat it like a popsicle. That’s the challenge. That’s the battlefi eld. These are the moments that defi ne us. These are the moments that build character and the inner strength to face everyday challenges. This is why we do what we do. Don’t take the exit. Stay left. This is the spiritual path we choose, and at every little bump in the road, an exit sign will pop up, falsely advertising an easier route. Stay the course. Don’t give up. I encourage you, no, I challenge you, to take a ride. Go solo, take only the bare essentials, and just go. No destination, no route planning, no checking the weather. Sleep under the stars. I challenge you to find only yourself on this journey and to come home with only a renewed sense of who you are and what you are capable of. I challenge you to face your fears and to look deep into your mind at all the uncomfortable things you have repressed. I challenge you to charge straight ahead into that storm raging inside your head and to fi nd the strength to calm it. I challenge you to stay the course and don’t take the exit. Stay left. Don’t take the exit.

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