Episode 3: Riding While Speechless - Falling for Horses and James Taylor's "Gaia" in The Park.

May I ask you a personal question?  How is your relationship with your Mother?  Oh sorry, let me rephrase that.  How is your relationship with Mother Nature?

“Mother Nature”.  Do you feel surrounded by her right now, or far from her?

Some of us spend a lot of time in front of a computer.  Like I am, right now.  But before starting this recording, I went for a ride.  Going for a ride on my motorcycle, whether it’s a short ride in town, or a full day ride out in the country, that time away with Mother Nature is priceless.

I won’t be telling you anything that you don’t already know, but bear with me a moment.  There is a large difference between traveling by car and riding on a motorcycle.  On the bike, our feet are inches from the ground.  On the bike, we know very well when it’s cold, or hot, or somewhere in between, just right.  On the bike we accept the risk that there is very little to protect us.  We are exposed.  But here's the point.  On my motorcycle, I feel closer to Mother Nature.

Depending on where you are, riding your motorcycle in space free of crowds may be challenging. It may be something you have to plan, a route away from the busyness of the world. I need those escapes from a busy world sometimes.  Maybe you do too.  

I was riding my motorcycle far in the country on old dirt roads and I saw a herd of mustang horses in a beautiful green pasture with snow capped mountains behind them. I’m pretty sure that they were not domesticated because, I don’t know, they just had a wild free-spirited look about them.  As you can probably tell by now, I don’t know a lot about horses, but one thing for sure, they were absolutely beautiful. Nature at its best.  

It was surprising that they allowed me to ride up fairly close. They stood near the fence.  I turned off the engine, put down the kickstand on my left, and just turned in the saddle to my right to face them.  I stayed still and so did they.  How cool is that!  I reached into my jacket pocket to get my phone so that I could take some video. They just looked at me.  The perfect picture.  I found myself completely captivated by Mother Nature.  

My mind was fully engaged with this scene.  I was so captivated that I didn't realize I was falling. haha. Yep, the sidestand was down on my left, and I was leaning to my right, then….   You guessed it, I managed to tumble my bike into a ditch. My 0 mph crash.   Well that got the horse's attention! They ran away but I certainly wasn’t going anywhere.

 Do you know what it's like to fall into a ditch with a 500 pound motorcycle? Well my friends, that’s not good.  Luckily I fell off my bike so I was fine.  I tried to get it upright.  I tried everything I could think of, I removed the saddle bags, etc.. but I did not have the strength to get my bike out of the ditch on my own. Did I mention this was a very remote road and it was getting toward evening? Yep, very few cars go down that road. I hadn’t seen one for miles.  

I know what you’re thinking, “Of course that's the beauty of it right, it's that solitude we are seeking sometimes, so what have I got to complain about”!  OK you’re right, solitude with Mother Nature, I get that, but I wasn’t prepared to spend the night there either.  

It wasn't like I was lost. I had been down this old dirt road many times before, so I certainly knew where I was and I knew that the paved road was about 2 or 3 miles away. So, I started to walk and I got lucky.  After only about 15 minutes a Jeep came along. Inside the jeep was a very very large man. Like the size of a linebacker.  I told him what my problem was, although it was probably obvious by what I was wearing and carrying my helmet.  He let me get in with him to ride back to my motorcycle in the ditch. Almost single-handedly he pulled it from the ditch. Ha ha.  I hardly helped at all.  That was one lucky and unforgettable day.  I certainly didn’t expect to fall in a ditch, but really more importantly, I didn’t expect to see the beauty of Mother Nature through those wild horses.

Speaking of Mother Nature and beautiful places, Rocky Mountain National Park is about 25 miles west of where I’m speaking right now.  Rocky has some of the most beautiful spaces I’ve ever seen.  For many years, I’ve enjoyed hiking and motorcycling through the park.  I love it so much, I even became a tour guide in the Park a few years ago.  Talk about joyful work!  Oh man… I’ll describe that to you later.

RMNP is home of course to lots of wildlife such as moose, elk and deer, but it’s also home to an amazing motorcycle journey.  Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous road in the United States.  This road rises to over 12,000 feet above sea level.  Trees can’t grow that high.  Where the trees stop growing, we call that Treeline.  That’s at about 11,500 feet at this latitude.  Keep the term “Treeline” in mind for a few minutes.  

Up there, well it’s an entirely different world.  In the summer, the air is cool, but the sun is warm.  You can see for miles in all directions.  On some occasions, I’ve ridden my motorcycle up there at night.  You talk about seeing the stars!  Oh my, with such clear cool air, the sky is bright with stars.

On summer weekends, I sometimes work as a tour guide in this national park.  I work for a small business in the village of Estes Park called Green Jeep Tours.  We take groups of tourists in these modified Jeeps where the roof is removed and my guests can see in all directions.  While we drive, we use an intercom to describe to our guests everything that they see along these 3 hour tours.  I often tell them about my passion, motorcycling, and someone will often say “wow, I’ll bet it’s great to ride a motorcycle out here.  I say “yes it is”. 

On the  tour, when we reach one particular point, there is a breathtaking view of a snow capped mountain range.  We stop here, and I invite my guests to step out onto a rock formation.  I describe to them how the valley floor is 1500 feet below, and those snow capped peaks, well those are up to 12 and 13,000 feet above sea level.  You can see clearly that at a certain elevation, the trees stop growing.  Remember “Treeline '' that I mentioned earlier.  

Well, it’s here, I share with my guests a song.  I share it as a poem while they look at those peaks.  One of my favorite singers is James Taylor. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  A number of years ago James recorded a song called Gaia. It means Mother Earth. I always thought that the third verse of that song was very fitting to the view right in front of us.  So I ask my group to turn and just gaze upon the valley and then up to those peaks.  To just stop.  Just to be quiet.  And to just take it in.  

In Gaia, this is what James Taylor said: “I thought we ought to walk a while. So we left that town in a single file going up and up and up, mile after mile after mile. We reached the tree line, and I dropped my pack. I sat down on my haunches and I looked back down over that Mountainside just helpless, and speechless, and breathless”. Oftentimes, I’ll look at my guests and some will be overcome by emotion just thinking about how beautiful our Mother Nature really is. Even though I’ve led this experience hundreds of times, it continues to touch my heart too.

I loved those words to Gaia, so much I contacted James Taylor’s office to say thank you.  To my shock, I was contacted back from his personal assistant who asked for a video of me reciting those words to my guests in Rocky Mountain National Park.  That video landed on his Instagram account, which was awesome to see, but they also offered free tickets to his show that was coming to Denver.  The show began with a video of people doing tributes to James’ music. Believe it or not, the video of me was included.  Wow!

Back to motorcycling, there are days when I come back to Rocky Mountain National Park on my bike and I stop at the same spot where I take my tour guests. Here, I think of the same words to Gaia, and find myself helpless and speechless and breathless once again. I’ve ridden there sometimes at night, just to look at the stars and listen to the sound of the wind blowing through the trees down in the canyon.  

It’s in those moments, that I’m speechless.  My friends, that’s our Mother Nature.  Mother Nature does speak to us if we quiet ourselves and just watch and listen.  You may find yourself fully absorbed in those moments.  

Just don’t fall off of your bike.

Thank you for listening.  I wish you peace, I wish you love.