Sunday, June 7, 2009

How can you pick one - when you love so many?

I mean, there are so many of them - they pull at your heart, causing you to experience the full range of emotions. Not all of them are the same - each one has their own personality. One will make you work harder than you ever have, another might just be for the thrill. Still another will make you question yourself - am I really good enough?

Some of them will break your bank, while others cost nearly nothing. For every one that is VERY high maintenance, there is another that is not. Sometimes, it seems there are too many, but each one wants more of you. Over time they become more and more demanding as your relationship grows and you become more comfortable with each other. You come to a point where every thought, every move is almost instinctual - the two of you moving in complete synchronicity. Creating a rhythm that leads you to an unbelievable - yet very natural high.

Yes, I myself have many mistresses. When I was in High School I met one of the lower maintenance ones. When my friends and I decided to join the army, I became a bit obsessed with running. My friends and I would get out as often as we could to test ourselves on two laps of Green Acres Lake back in my hometown (or closest thing I have to a hometown) of Clovis, NM. That distance was very close to an even 2 miles - the distance of the Army Physical Readiness Test. Those who know me today might not believe I could once run 6 minute miles for those two miles. While in the Army, this love affair continued - I could do those 6 minute miles for 3, maybe even 5 miles. Amazing when I think back on it now.

Another mistress of mine started before High School. She was one of the higher maintenance mistresses. My Dad taught me to ride a motorcycle when I was about 10. At the ripe age of 13, I had my first driver's license - I was legal to operate a motorcycle (100cc or less) on public roadways. When I entered the Army, I went through three mistresses - A dirt bike and a cruiser led me to purchase what became not only a mistress, but a way of life. That bike was a 1986 GSXR750. The first year for it to be sold in the US. I really became obsessed with that bike. I lived to ride that thing. I raced it a number of times at Seattle International Raceway. My last race at that venue put over 26 inches of scar tissue on my body. It also resulted in skin grafts in two locations. Talk about high maintenance!!

The love affair didn't end there. Of course, I got the repairs done, and she stayed with me for another 3+ years. Even after the crash, I swore I would be roadracing on a professional circuit after I ended my term of service. My life became all about motorcycles - they had really stolen my heart.

After seeing a little of the US (that's a subject for another blog), I ended up in Phoenix, Az where I attended Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. This mistress was looking to tie me down for the long run. I was pretty convinced she was the one. After finishing up at MMI, I moved to take a job in Los Angeles. While living there my friends and I would take a motorcycle ride almost every weekend. We'd sometimes put as much as 1500 miles on the bikes. It was a really fun time. However, I wasn't always true to her - I also started rock climbing and mountain biking.

I was a little torn between these two new interlopers and my 'true' love. I loved both riding and working on my motorcycle(s). Even after my GSXR 750 was stolen from me, I built (from 2 different bikes that had been totaled) a Yamaha FJ1200. This was a great bike as well, and I saw a lot of country on that machine. Unfortunately, the daily work of repairing other's motorcycles began to wear on my love. When the weekend came, I just wanted to get out and ride, soon, I was loading my bicycle, my climbing gear and my camping gear on my motorcycle and taking weekends for mountain biking and climbing, and not so much (motorcycle) riding.

In 1991, I fell for another mistress - this one I'm still involved with today - Engineering! I started back to school with the goal of a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Now it seemed I had too many! In 1993, I took a little trip (again, another blog...) to Alaska on my FJ1200. When I returned, I jumped into school more like full time, and I changed jobs to another motorcycle repair shop where I could work part time. I ended up (for various reasons) riding my bicycle between work, home and school more than my motorcycle. It seemed my passion for my motorcycle was waning.

To better convey what my motorcycle meant to me, when I moved to New York to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in January of 1995, I had not owned a car since 1986 when I sold my last car - a 1979 Fiat Spyder convertable. My first semester at RPI had me riding my mountain bike 3 miles to campus - sometimes in over a foot of snow! Needless to say, my FJ1200 (which I had put something on the order of 45,000 miles on) was parked at my Grandparents place, under a cover and rusting away (yikes!). It seemed my love affair with motorcycles had come to an end.

So I spent the next two years passionately involved with academia - engineering to be specific. She was a very demanding mistress. I worked hard for the 2.5 years it took me to get through the required courses and earn my degree (Magna Cum Laude thank you very much). I renewed my interest in SCUBA diving with the school's SCUBA club, and rode my mt. bike almost everywhere. And yes, I finally bought a car with my earnings from my summer job. I seemed to go through a period where my only real mistress was Engineering. Although, those summers on Cape Cod did introduce me to another mistress. Who knew the hold she would have on my heart.

College Graduation was a fulfilling experience. The hard work had paid off and I was on my way to a career in my chosen field. I moved to South Carolina and immediately this new mistress put her hooks in me. The Southeast is a paddler's paradise. I went through 3 whitewater kayaks before I found one I really liked. I spent almost every weekend on one of the local rivers. The mountain bike was used infrequently. Once again, I was having trouble deciding on which mistress to choose as 'the one'.

In 1999, I had an opportunity to make a move to Utah (staying with the same company) to be a Field Engineer. Utah is a beautiful place - so much open country. Having lived so many years in the SW (NM, Az, Ca), I really love the desert southwest. But Utah also had the awesome alpine geography of the Wasatch and Uintah ranges. What's a man to do with so much opportunity?

What I ended up doing, was falling for a long forgotten mistress - 4 wheelin. Since I was a kid, I had a subscription to the different 4wd magazines. I wanted a Jeep badly, but always saw it as a luxury as it really isn't a practical vehicle. After much research (and knowing I had a company vehicle for my daily driver), I bought a used 1997 wrangler - and proceeded to dump more than it's purchase cost in modifications into it. I dubbed her BlackSheep - a tribute to the platoon I served with in the Military.

It was bad. I even sold my FJ1200 (which was pretty much ready to ride after I had cleaned her up from the time spent under the cover at the Cape) to pay for Jeep parts. I took her to Moab probably a dozen times the first year I had her. She really put her hooks in me. For several years, it was me and my Jeep. Yes, the mountain bike would get out here and there, and I was still running, but the Jeep had my heart. I even started climbing again shortly before I moved back to South Carolina in 2005, but the Jeep really is what was doing it for me.

Knowing I was moving back to SC, I even got my whitewater boats out again - first time in almost 5 years...who would have thought they would sit in my basement for almost the entire time I was in Utah? After having a string of 14 consecutive weekends on the rivers of the SE before moving to Utah??

I would have thought being back in the SE would re-kindle my love of the river, but it didn't materialize. Yes, I've been back out on the water several times, but nothing like before. I bought a new mountain bike shortly after moving back - the technology had changed drastically since my last mt bike purchase (which of course I do still have that vintage 1991 Nishiki Alien).

The mountain bike started playing a bigger role in my life. I was out on the trails several times per week. In 2007, I entered for the first time an off-road triathlon. That got me more serious about running, and especially trail running. It also required the use of a flatwater kayak - so now I have one of those.

Last year (june, 2008), due to a foot injury, I purchased a road bike. This was meant to supplement my mountain biking so I wouldn't get bored with riding the same places (like that could happen right?). In 2008, I put 1500 miles on my mountain bike and 1100 miles on my road bike. You'd think the trend would continue. Strangely enough, as of today (June 2009), I have something just over 1000 miles on my road bike (since Jan 1 of this year), and less than 200 on my mountain bike. Which mistress am I serving now??

In the end, I guess you have to follow your heart. What I've learned is that no matter what, I'll never be a one sport person. I may have my periods of single - sportedness (is that a word?), but given time it will change. I'm ok with that. Many people I know go through life with a single love and stick with it. I admire these people. They are the ones at the front of the pack for their chosen activity. I guess I'll just have to accept that I will never be an expert in any one sport - I'll just have to keep serving all of my many mistresses.

In fact, today I went for a great hike.....

1 comment:

  1. i change mistresses fairly often as well, JD. it's just how we are built i guess. i've been in bed with triathlon for 2 years now, and it seems like you are ready to give tri a try.

    seriously, go to and sign up for the greenville sprint triathlon in august. it's only a 400 meter swim, 15 miles on the bike and a 5k run. you'll get hooked.


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