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“When inner peace is lost, such a state is not permanent. If the sufferer remembers himself, he returns to himself and re-establishes his habitual inner order.”

— Theophan the Recluse
suffering-suzuki-dr650

I moved to Colorado to ride. Riding was how I discovered the place. Riding was what kept me there for six years . Riding was what nearly kept me there permanently more times than I could count. Riding was my indulgence, and my Zen. It was joy and suffering, both.

Colorado is a bit of a spoiled Eden. For all the Rocky Mountain naturalism, that state has been ripped to pieces over the last 150 years or so. There’s virtually no old-growth forest left. Entire mountains have been taken down and obliterated in the name of mining. Roads have been cut through places where no one thought they could go. Vast portions of the flatlands have been overrun with ticky-tacky houses. Mork and Mindy is itself responsible for making Boulder one of the most overpriced housing markets anywhere.

But for all that, it’s still a great place to ride motorcycles. The western half of the state alone constitutes a world-class playground for people who like vehicles that lean into corners. It’s almost unending: Those roads were like a giant harem to me. Whose curves would I be enjoying that weekend? It was almost too hard to choose, sometimes. So I tried to do them all.

I chose my house for its motorcycle-specific location. When I’d leave the garage for a ride — after a one-mile gravel prelude — I was on a curvy, paved 4-mile-long access road that rarely saw more than 2-3 cars per hour and passed by some idyllic farms. Sometimes I would take one of my sport bikes. At a meeting, the homeowner’s association once badgered and warned us that someone had been ticketed for going 80 MPH on the straightaway — a 30 MPH zone.

Fucking amateur, I thought to myself.

From where the access road met US285, I could take off in either direction and have an asphalt motorcycle adventure on a sportbike, or if I was on my Suzuki DR650 trailbike could go straight and after a few miles of graded road, park at the picturesque and rustic Bucksnort and have a beer to the sounds of Elk Creek, situated directly under the bar’s patio. It was an astounding, limitless, sensual playground for motorcyclists–that place where I lived.

But the day I have in mind, I wasn’t feeling it. I had worked hard at my work-at-home job and had started to realize it wasn’t getting me anywhere. My son’s mother had many problems–most of them self-inflicted. I wondered what I had done to get into this problem and bring someone else — someone innocent — with me. It was riding that had gotten me into the problem. Riding could get me out, so I thought. So I broke out my Suzuki with it knobby tires and suspension travel.

And this was what was going through my mind as I weaved that Suzuki dual-sport down a section of single-track dirt trail just as the sun was going down, and the other real trail bikes and ATV’s were all leaving, their riders waving at me while looking at me quizzically.

I made it through the mud. I made it through the big puddle. I made it through the brush. I rode under thick, leafy cover. I kept riding until I got to a section that I didn’t recognize, then I kept riding some more. I got to a section that was basically boulders. I knew I could muscle that 350-pound not-really-a-dirtbike up that gully strewn with boulders. And after killing the engine a few dozen times, I made it — basically intact. Only to find more boulders. Boulders, boulders as far as I could see. And almost no daylight left to illuminate them.

And I noticed I had badly sprained my left ankle and shin after trying to catch that big bike as it bounced off one of them. ABBA‘s Greatest Hits still rang in my ears through my iPod as I struggled to stay upright.

I had passed a campsite about a quarter of a mile before.  I had waved at a few guys sitting around the fire, and they had more-or-less waved back. They had their Jeeps and trucks with them. I parked the bike stumbled and limped back to them, slowly. I hoped that they weren’t trying to reenact Deliverance, nor trying to convert people to Mormonism.

I just wanted to see my son again. I couldn’t die yet.

They greeted me and gave me a beer. After I explained the situation, a skinny kid offered to ride my bike while I followed along with his friend in a lifted Jeep. And as I rolled along in the passenger seat of that Jeep–hearing the 19-year-old owner go on about the mystical advantages of its custom transfer case as he downed another Milwaukee’s Best — I realized I never would have made it out alive but for the help of those good ol’ boys.

By the time we got back to the forest road — the one that was safe for me to navigate with my lame leg — I had been humbled. I couldn’t do it all, after all. And my choices mattered.

Suffering had reconnected me to the real. Suffering, for at least that day, had shown me inner peace.

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BTW: The main character in my debut novel definitely gets to know redemptive suffering. Check it out at www.diamondtbook.com