Two-Wheeled Tango

Happiness is….

For Dusty, it’s adventure riding.

Adventure riding is not just a hobby for Dusty. It’s his passion.

As anticipated, just as every year right about now, he’s going crazy being cooped up in Colorado’s seasonal, less-severe-than-usual, mild winter that the rest of us are probably celebrating. Itching to get to warmer climates, he’s just about ready to leave for the first of two upcoming Mexican Baja West38Moto tours to get his fix of beaches, fish tacos, Baja local generosity, and the forging of new friendships.

In the meantime, the colder weather has kept us inside more than either of us would like, left to catch up on business and Netflix. TV drives me crazy most of the time, so having avoided most of the Winter Olympics, I think I noticed they are just finishing up, right? I only know this because we mostly just turn on the TV to entertain the dogs when they have to stay home alone. (Bad dog parents. Sometimes they watch MMA all day so we’ll have no excuses when they’re aggressive toward others. Guess we need to consider PBS.) When we came home to release the dogs of of their solitude a few days ago, I couldn’t help but sit down and watch Olympic figure skating for a few minutes. Initially, I just glanced over to see the peppy “Hunger Games” commentators. They sucked me in — at least long enough to watch a few routines in the couples figure skating. Curiously, the figure skaters made me think of my bearded, tattooed, scruffy, callus-handed husband. I imagined him wearing a tight figure skater’s costume and flashing jazz hands after landing a triple axle contortionist twisty jump. Alright, so my imagination wasn’t as much a true reflection of Dusty being a figure skater, but the choreography, planning, elegance, fluid movement, and athleticism absolutely reminded me of him.

If anyone has ever watched Dusty ride, the elegance of his riding ability on a motorcycle is comparable to dance or skate partners who have practiced with each other for years — the comfort, anticipation of upcoming moves, familiarity of the other. Of course motorcycles don’t have a personality, but, just like a partner, they do respond to whatever the rider is doing. But it seems for Dusty that riding is a real partnership. He knows how the bike will respond to him, and he’s already thinking about his next five moves depending on all the possible outcomes for any unlikely circumstances, and then how he will respond to those.

In 2004, positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly (M.C. for short) gave a TED talk on happiness. (For me, this TED talk provides excellent content but is pretty dry and difficult to hang through.) M.C. is the architect of the concept of “flow,” or what many of us call “the zone.” When Dusty is on his motorcycle, he is happy because he is in the zone; he is in flow. Anyone who knows him knows he always has music streaming from the Sena unit on his helmet. What develops from Dusty being in the zone in combination with his music is a harmonious, graceful dance on the bike. Anyone who doesn’t know Dusty might be scared for his safety when they misinterpret his graceful zigzags for reckless deflections; timed jumps with aggressive music for unnecessary showing off; arms flying like wings with easy music for boastfulness.

Don’t get me wrong. None of this is to say Dusty hasn’t eaten shit before. He makes mistakes and has paid the price. In order to learn new skills, he must test some limits and practice things out of his comfort zone. While his comfort zone is quite large, he’s still very human and wants to practice new things. Not only does he want to test his own personal limits, but he strongly believes that if he’s going to instruct riders, he needs to know what he’s talking about and to have experienced firsthand everything he says. If he’s instructing beginner riders, he believes he should know and have experienced at least intermediate skills. If he’s instructing intermediate riders, he should know and have experienced advanced skills. Actions matching words means that Dusty needs to push limits sometimes, so even when he’s practicing skills for himself, some people may interpret his practicing with goofing off or being reckless. For witnesses of the consequences of these displays of humanness, please make sure to snap a photo of the Captain Morgan pose with rider standing on top of the fallen bike to share with the world. We must maintain humility.

I’m not gonna lie — there were times after I first met Dusty when I would be riding behind him, watching him stand on the pegs and no hands on the handlebars gracefully riding through the canyon twisties controlling the bike with nothing other than his intentions and control of his body weight. Or sometimes he would sit on his bike with both legs and both arms extended moving his limbs in time with whatever song was playing in his helmet at the time. From behind I teased him that his shadowed figure looked like a Gumby humanoid on a motorcycle. Despite the rhythm of any song, his body would keep time with music while he simultaneously maintained a different rhythm with the road. Art in motion.

At first, I thought he was showing off for his new sweetheart and I contemplated whether I should encourage him not to endanger his life for me. After all, I was already impressed enough to follow him around on a rattly dirt bike with a 2×4 for a seat. I opted not to even bring it up because I actually enjoyed watching his antics. My choice to weigh his mortality with my own self-indulgence produced the realization that his riding style had (and has) nothing to do with me at all. And it has nothing to do with anyone else. When he rides, he is in flow. He’s in his happy place, his quantum life where space-time is warped. The rest of the universe is put on pause while he is living exactly where he wants to exist. These antics are not antics at all; they are the motion of living beyond existence.

Dusty has been fortunate to be able to make this passion of his a livelihood that is now supporting his dreams and feeding into mine. Over time he has come to realize how some people may misinterpret his riding style so not everyone gets to see this part of him when he’s guiding professionally. If you watch closely, though, you’ll catch glimpses of this new character that emerges when Dusty is in flow, even if he’s trying to temper that character. I’ve come to appreciate the simplified view of life Dusty has when he’s riding, the freedom it allows him to experience, and the pleasure it gives him that eventually trickles down to everyone else around him.

Have you found your happiness, your flow, your zone? If so, do you do it often to feed your soul? Dusty has found his passion and knows others may share the same passion but need help cultivating it. Much of what he’s always wanted is to be part of a motorcycle community that helps others foster their passions inside this community. He’s doing this by sharing his drive, expertise, and energy. I think that’s a pretty elegant dance to share with others.