Who is Shal to think she can do this?

There are few things that I can’t do once I put my mind to it, especially once I set aside societies expectations and demands. I started riding motorcycles when I was 13 and according to my mother, I would ride rain or shine 15 miles one way to work on my Honda 125. I rode that bike until I was old enough to get my driver’s license and buy my first car. After I left home and was on my own, I no longer had a motorcycle but rode snow machines instead. I always longed to have a motorcycle, but it just didn’t make much since in Alaska with the short riding season and horrible roads. Then I moved to Washington in 2005 and purchased a Yamaha FZ6. I loved that bike!  A few years later I bought a Honda VTX 1800 cruiser and loved that bike!

Hiking in the Badlands, SD

In early 2011 I was commuting home from work when after only being on the bike for a couple of minutes I was hit head on and medevac’d to Harborview Trauma Center with life threatening injuries. One frightening question I had was, “Will I ever have the use of my left arm and hand again?” It sure didn’t seem like I would at the time. I had dislocated my left shoulder and caused extensive damage to the nerves and that affected the use of my fingers. It was very scary to think that I might never gain use again. I just kept doing what I could and with lots of time and hard work I was able to regain the use of my hand and a good percentage of the range of motion in my shoulder. After 7 orthopedic surgeries and 2 years of extensive physical therapy, it was time to see if I could get back on a bike and ride. First up was to ride as a passenger, since I wasn’t quite able to ride a bike on my own. I was still wearing a couple of braces and it seemed a bit silly for me to be on a bike, but I was anxious to see if I could do it. All went well.

Six months later I went motorcycle shopping and bought myself a Suzuki Vstrom 650 with the intent to ride more in the backcountry and to get away from cars as much as possible. I love the backcountry and motorcycling, so it seemed like a perfect fit. Shortly after getting the Vstrom, I took my first solo trip on the North Cascades Loop road – a spectacular ride with winding roads and dramatic mountain peaks. After a couple days touring around I found myself wanting to get even more off the beaten path and explore Hart’s Pass outside Mazama. As I started climbing the rocky, dirt road with steep drop offs I realized that no one knew where I was and I wasn’t coming across many people – and I actually wasn’t fully recovered from my injuries. As careful as I was I thought   “Geesh, I better turn around.” So I did. I figured if I wasn’t able to physically walk out, that I better not continue up the Pass. The third day into this solo trip I was riding back over the Cascade Mountains paved road and a deer ran out in front of me. “Oh, boy!” I locked up the brakes, burned rubber down the highway for about 50 feet, thinking I was going to pull out of this skid when all of the sudden I found myself sliding down the highway as though I was sliding into home plate with my bike right next to me. (My mom is not going to like reading about this part, yikes!) Once I came to a stop, I got up a bit shaken but totally OK! “Wow, did that really just happen?” This was my first real ride since my big accident and my new bike was totaled.

Several months and many rides later I was still questioning whether or not I was going to be able to continue to ride motorcycles.   “What else am I going to do?” I really wanted to be able to get over my fears and continue to ride and experience the freedom of the open roads – Damn it! Cautiously, I would ride behind friends and take back roads when I could and over time I have been able to Ride MY Ride. I have since taken off-road motorcycle classes and attended adventure camps and decided to re-focus on what I wanted to get out of life. I met the love of my life and she too was on a path of adventure riding and pursuing a cross-country journey. After the whole accident experience, I knew first hand just how quick life could be gone and I decided to quit my job and load up my bike and tour the continent.

REDLINE your life by living it to its fullest.



  1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with your wrecks. I had a wreck on Schafer Switchbacks in Utah last year. It was so far out of my skills range, but I was feeling really chuffed at how well I’d been riding all day, and thought I could do it. I’ve been riding my motorcycle since then (I was banged up, the bike was not), but I am having a lot of trouble getting over the psychological blocks – I’ve become terrified on roads with any kind of drop off. Still working on it… some days are better than others.

    1. Jayne, I have been reading back through our blog and came across your comment here. I was wondering how you’re doing and if you have since been able to continue riding? Getting over the psychological aspect of riding isn’t always easy and many choose to not continuing riding, so it would be completely understandable. Anyways, I hope this finds you well and that you’ve been able to “Ride YOUR Ride,” whether that is back on a bike OR not. Either way, you’re “Riding YOUR Ride!” Cheers – Shal

  2. Sorry to hear about your wreck Jayne. Ugh! I definitely understand being terrified on those kind of roads. What helped me to get comfortable again was having someone in the lead while I followed. Also, I stuck to roads with less traffic for a while. With time my fears lessened but they do creep up every now and then. Take it easy and ride YOUR ride. 🙂 All the best, Shal

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