I am in the process of planning a ride through Southeast Colorado which I am calling the American Travesty Tour. I try to research the historical significance of places that I plan on visiting on my motorcycle. I find that a bit of inquiry before the trip, makes the sites I see more vibrant and impactful. Planning this ride really made me reflect upon the concept of the duel Characteristic of Man. The notion that an individual can be both good and evil is not all that easy to swallow until one really dwells upon the deep unending depth of an individual’s soul. Were all capable of doing wondrous positive things as well as committing horrific acts of evil. What is an even more bazaar is that individuals often can do these things in conjunction with one another. Researching the historical significance of the Sand Creek Massacre and the Granada War Relocation Center in Southeast Colorado put into perspective the wrongs that my own country has committed. These are not the only sins that burden my own cultural identity but give me a sense of what we are all capable of doing if we do not live with an ethical and spiritual conscious. As a combat veteran, I can tell you that I am proud to be an American but one also must keep their hearts open to learning opportunities that we can learn from the past.
On November 29th 1864, America lost its moral compass when a force of Colorado US Volunteer Calvary under the command of US Army Colonel John Chivington attacked a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho Native Americans. The encampment was filled with mostly women and children, since the men were out hunting food for the upcoming winter. The band of Indians were requested to move to the Sand Creek area of Southeast Colorado and were guaranteed their safety by the American Government. In their village flew an American Flag along with a White Flag underneath the stars and stripes which was raised by the tribe to show their peaceful nature. Most adult Cheyenne and Arapaho men in the encampment were either sick or too old to attend the hunt. There is no real accurate causality list but it is safe to report that more than 100 Arapaho and Cheyenne Native Americans were killed, mostly women and children. This attack became known as the Sand Creek Massacre. This blood bath lead to further violence throughout the region when countless reprisals were made against white settlers in response to the Sand Creek Massacre by Native American Warriors. It’s a classic sad tale of hate begetting hate. Not all the military personal under Colonel Chivington participated in the massacre. Captain Soule who was in charge of Company D of the 1st Colorado Calvary ordered his men to stand down and did not attack when given the charge orders. Captain Soule latter testified against Colonel Chivington. On April 23, 1865 Silas Soule was murdered in Denver, CO while on duty as a Provost Marshal. Evidence suggests that his untimely death was payback for his eye witness testimony against Colonel Chivington.
Granada War Relocation Center, also known Camp Amache was a Japanese Relocation Camp located just outside Granada, CO in Southeast Colorado. In the spring of 1942, Japanese Americans were rounded up and forced from their homes and made to move to one of ten such Japanese Relocation Camps. Individuals were only allowed to bring one bag to the relocation centers and were forced to sell their valuables and property including pets and livestock before getting forced out of their homes. It’s hard to fathom such fear and hate which lead to such an abysmal act. While their family members were stuck in War Re-Location Camps, Japanese Americans were fighting the fascists in Europe. The US Army 442nd Regiment was made up of mostly men of Japanese ancestry and was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American Warfare. The 442nd Infantry Regiment earned 9486 Purple Hearts and was awarded eight Presidential Unit Citations. Their motto was “Go for Broke” and they lived up to that creed with twenty-one of their members being awarded the Medal of Honor.
I never have posted my pre-ride research before an upcoming ride but felt so affected by what I learned that I wanted to put in words and share. I plan on taking this journey in the next few months and will hopefully be able to share more information.
Have you ever noticed the fact that motorcyclist tend to be individuals that normally diverge from the status quo. When everyone else goes straight down the road of life, motorcyclist travel a different path. We tend to have eccentric demeanors. Our focus is not laser pointed unless were deeply entrenched into a journey on two wheels. What we lack in focus we gain in individual perspective. Motorcyclist may lack money and fancy houses but we have awesome stories of phenomenal substance.
Motorcyclist have a profound appreciation of life outside societal norms. We tend to believe in hard work and dedication to family but our minds drift through the surreal in search of harmony and bliss. The ride is not just about speed and adrenaline, it’s about searching our senses and our environment in a quest to find what is real in this life. Don’t get me wrong, I love the wondrous views and the remote sense of fear as I take that curve a little too quick but it’s more than that. It’s about finding our own path and dictating our own terms in a world where individual thought is discouraged. Our continual search takes us all too a different spectrum of our environment. Our quest will never lead us to the same answers, were just too darn individualistic to share that same route.
I have been working so much lately in an effort to do what is right for my family. I have no issue with my job but sometimes I feel that maybe it takes me away from what is real about life. In Denver, we have a huge homeless problem. Some of these folks are surely caught up in despair and bad luck. The gruesome cycle of poverty is no joke and I feel fortunate that I am still able to work and support my family. With that said, every once in a while as I pass a person I think is homeless and they look at me and I swear THEY THINK, “you look at me like I am homeless but you’re the one I pity. I may have no wealth or monetary substance but you are living a life of real poverty.” I never want to be homeless. I write this while camping in the mountains of Colorado in January. Its bloody cold out, my fingertips feel like little rocks as I type away at the keys. My hands and digits are stone cold and I shiver as my toes ask warmth but there is none to be found. I camp in the cold typing on my laptop knowing that I have a warm home awaiting me after my winter camping festivities which provides me eternal security beyond recognition. Homeless people do not have this option and this simple tragedy keeps me awake at night. Wow, I never want to be homeless and cold with nowhere to go. Most homeless surely do not want to be in their predicament and are looking for solutions to meet their immediate needs. I grieve for these individuals and hope they can find warmth and security. As bad as being homeless may be, is it possible that a few people choose to be homeless? We live such complicated lives and through simplification of our environment our minds become less cluttered with problems and worries. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” I believe that there are a few individuals that choose this life style. These few persons, give up everything in their search for an answer. It’s an ALL IN Approach in their path to find knowledge. This is a journey I never want to follow but I respect their conviction and courage.
One of the best books of insight I ever read was a novel called Siddhartha. It’s a spiritual word fest of enlightenment. When I was younger, this book answered many of my questions about what makes an individual truly rich. I still very much respect this book for its wisdom but I have found in my declining years that answers of this magnitude can never be answered by a book but must be answered by the individual seeking guidance in the matter. The answers are all relative and change with every individual. I believe that books will never truly answer our questions but are needed to help us find wisdom so we can answer those questions ourselves.
Wow that was a tangent, I think I finally have succumbed to hypothermia. My toes are now numb and silenced. My hope is that I may be able to thaw them in my car. My fingers are now in a frozen state and lack the manual dexterity to hit the correct keys. It’s their way to punish me for writing in the snowy cold mountains in the middle of the night without any heat. One last thought, I do believe that there is something about riding that helps us open our minds to answers and wisdom. Maybe it’s a Zen Like state comparable to meditation that our minds transcend to while riding? All I know is that mind works differently when riding in a positive way and for that I am thankful.
I have no photos to prove I rode the Loneliest Road in America. Forgetting to take photos for a two-week ride on my motorcycle has not been my finest moment as an amateur blogger. Over the same two-week trip, I also forgot to put on pants at a family re-union dinner. Oh yes, this is a true story. I walked into the room with a short sleeve shirt, shoes, hat and boxer underwear. I totally forgot my pants but luckily was wearing white boxer briefs which could almost count as shorts but are definitely classified as underwear. The whole family noticed my fashion blunder and I will go down in the family history as the dude that forgot his pants at the Family Reunion. Luckily shortly after that incident, I got back on my cycle to ride one of the most majestic roads in North America. The Loneliest Highway through Nevada is not just a clever name to increase tourism, it is legitimately desolate beyond compare. Think of the Desert Planet Tatooine in Star Wars and you will have an accurate representation of the isolated motorway. The Loneliest Highway is part of U.S. Route 50 which starts in Ocean City, Maryland and runs all the way to West Sacramento, California. Highway 50 has been named the Backbone of America which defines its rural spirit. The Loneliest Highway is a subsection of this interstate which is located in Nevada. This stretch of payment is a philosophical bikers dream. It’s not filled with wondrous curves or insane pathway cliffs but its barren landscape breeds independent free thought. In the desert, the lines of communication between our consciousness and soul become more linked and primed. Back in 2003, I lived in the desert in South East Asia for a year. During this time, I wrote without abandon with more conviction and feeling then I have ever felt. This could be explained by many reasons but I always thought that the desert environment served as a muse which affected my soul directly leading to my literary expressions. It could be the open skies, the vivid sunsets, mesmerizing dawns, murderous sun or extreme deadly heat but for some reason, the desert enhances ones own own self perspective.
For me the Loneliest Highway started near Carson City, Nevada along U.S. Route 50 and ended in Delta, Utah. If you’re going to ride this isolated route, then be prepared for nothingness. For the first time in my life, I did my homework. My research found a limited amount of Gas Stations along the way. I packed an external gas reservoir, to supplement my small gas tank. This was absolutely needed and was used on multiple occasions. Sun block is needed and a lot of it. With every stop, I applied sun block. I found that the scent of the lotion much better than my natural odor (showers were limited on my trek). There are plenty of places to camp for free in National Forest and Bureau of Land Management Property. Watch out for small desert creatures that can ruin your evening if you choose to sleep under the stars. I traveled with a foam bed roll, sleeping bag and fully enclosed bivi shelter. I am a huge wimp; the thought of waking up with a rattlesnake in my sleeping bag or scorpion on my forehead makes the bivi shelter and absolute essential for desert camping. Don’t be fooled, it may be scorching hot during the day but at night the temperature drops and a sleeping bag is mission critical. Sitting under the night sky while camping on the Loneliest Highway is one of the most peaceful environments I have ever witnessed. The sounds of the desert, vast star infested atmosphere and the loneliness of the place, transfixed my emotions and brought me into a dream while still conscious. It’s a great place to be with one’s self and ponder life’s many conundrums.
Why do you love to ride? This question has been answered by millions of writers, enthusiast and bloggers throughout the last one hundred years. Songs have been inspired by the subject as well as movies made; all based upon our shared love of motorcycles. For me, the thought of the question never loses its luster. There is no wrong answer to why you love our two wheeled sport. As long as your personal reason is heartfelt, then no one can ever judge your response. The best part of this question is the desire amongst some of us to express it with such conviction and enthusiasm. The percentage of us who actually ride motorcycles is relatively few but our passion manifest its self throughout society. Yes it’s cool to be a motorcyclist but those of us who are really connected to riding care little of such trifle things. I am just another over weight middle aged balding dude who happens to ride a motorcycle but once I get on that cycle, life changes. When that engine starts my brain transcends reality. I no longer think about work deadlines, spreadsheets, mean people or silly little worries that hinder the soul. The sound of the engine drowns out all that negativity and life begins a new as the RPMs sky rocket down the road.
As we live our lives, we often get stuck in the quagmire of foolish discontent. For example, today I found a leak in my garage. There is a water leak around my chimney and I need to get it fixed. This was a real downer for me. The worry of the cost to stop the leak and to fix the interior damage stresses me and takes me down a notch. This worry is a legitimate concern and I have a responsibility to fix this issue for the welfare of my family. The problem becomes more of an issue because I will hyperfocus on this leak in my garage and if not careful will let this burden lead down a path of discontent. The cure is a ride on my cycle. Being on two wheels has the inherent ability to level set my consciousness and bounces me to a better place. When I am riding, I am no longer worried about bills and problems at home/work. All my attention is focused on listening to the sounds of the road. This is a two way conversation between your soul and environment around you. Our minds are so much attuned to the outside world because we are astutely aware of how much were exposed to the dangers of the world while on a cycle. It’s this feeling of exposure which is the reason for my love of motorcycling. There is something about putting oneself out there that make you feel the passion of life. Have you noticed that your sense of smell and hearing and sight are much more vibrant while riding? Once I get in that saddle, my awareness level peaks. It’s not exactly the same but I had a similar feeling while being deployed in combat scenarios in the Army. Ones senses just goes into overdrive and you feel that rush. That feeling is what drives me crazy about motorcycling but its more than that. When I am riding, I feel some sort of connection to the pathway set before me. So the road is not just a predestined route, it becomes integral part of the journey and is an extension of you and your motorcycle. Chasing adrenaline is part of my motorcycling experience but only a small part. Its more about that spiritual Zen like state that becomes you while riding.
Why do you love to Ride?
There are a higher percentage of deaths from suicide among Combat Veterans as compared to the general population in America. According to research, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be a fundamental cause of this increased suicide rate. My experience with PTSD stems from a tour in Iraq more than a decade ago. PTSD is real and has tangible and damaging side effects. It manifests its self among us in different ways and levels of severity. PTSD may be an outcome of any traumatic event from a car accident, to witnessing a crime, to being attacked by a dog, to being a victim of sexual abuse. Anyone can suffer from PTSD; the ailment has no social, economic, religious, gender or racial biases. Anyone is open to its dark shadows.
My thoughts below have no scientific merit nor are based upon research or psychoanalysis. They are just my ramblings that I felt necessary to put into words. When reflecting upon the escalated suicide rates of those whom have served in combat roles, I can’t help but dwell upon the environment that our troops lived in for such long periods of time. In my Unit the average Combat Tour was a year, for other troops it was less and some more. For many troops multiple combat tours were the norm. Could the amount of time which people are submerged in a traumatic environment have a direct relationship on how severe their PTSD symptoms could be? This could help explain the increased suicide rate among combat veterans.
In 2003, I can tell you that Iraq was nothing like the world that I live in today. The best description of the place was a maelstrom of violent deliberate organized chaos. For me it was a place where nightmares vacationed. For a year, the smells, sights and sounds of the place became an integral part of my conscious; the place became a part of me. We did all we could to keep the environment out but there was no stopping it, the place became you. When you are besieged into that chaos, there is an opportunity for one to become an uglier version of oneself and potentially be more vulnerable to making decisions which would be looked down upon back home. It’s these life choices as well the incredible amount of violence witnessed which tend to linger in our souls long after we leave the war. It’s these experiences and memories which often bind us to guilt and loss. For soldiers, the guilt and sorrow for those we lost and possibly harmed, aggravates the symptoms of PTSD and makes it harder to recover from it. For me, once I found peace to my inner demons within, I was able to better navigate the pitfalls’ associated with my PTSD. Peace comes from many different approaches. Religion, meditation, nature, support groups, therapy, animals, education, karate and family are all great constructive tools for individuals to use on their journey to come to terms with their experiences. The important thing to understand is there is no road map or set of directions; it just takes time, patience and a loving support network to lean upon while taking that journey to find oneself. Unfortunately it takes a while for soldiers to get in touch with their feelings and often turn to self-medication in an effort to chase away their mental affliction which often only worsens their anguish and increases their burdens. It’s not just heavy drug use, abuse of alcohol but violence and other such type of behavior which chases away those we love and support us. A lack of such a support network only makes the symptoms of PTSD harder to endure.
After a few years of making things right in my own mind regarding the war, I was able to begin seeing improvements surrounding my PTSD. It took me more than 9 years to be able to see a fireworks show with my family but now I can go without negative side effects. My nightmares are very rare almost negligible and my temperament is back to prewar conditions. I am able to socialize in public and find myself to be more socially active. These were all issues that I have been dealing with since my return. I’m still working with my issues of crowds and noises such as horns and crying children but all is manageable. Believe it or not, my biggest issue is visiting others in their home. For some reason I feel very uncomfortable going to someone’s house for a visit. It’s a work in progress.
Trust me, my story was filled with ugliness throughout the healing process including trouble with the law, violent behavior, abuse of alcohol, marriage problems and a ton of other nasty items but I kept one constant. When I woke up despite my many setbacks, I kept on moving forward one step at a time. There were terrible moments and steady moments and even joyful moments but every day I kept trying to look ahead to a brighter day.
There are so many more folks out there that have witnessed more ugliness then I will ever dream of and others who may not have witnesses as much but at the end of the day, that does not matter. What matters is we never judge and that we only strive to support. I know in my heart of hearts that I will never understand how others suffer with their memories, afflictions and symptoms of PTSD. This issue affects all of us differently so it’s crucial that we walk our own journey to find a way to heal and not compare our situations with others suffering from PTSD.
What I can do is be a friend, lend a helping hand, and feel empathy for their turbulent struggles. I think this is something we all can do and not just for those who suffer from PTSD but for any person who is struggling with any type of issue. It’s about being a good human being and neighbor to those we interact with.
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” ~Edward Everett Hale