8 days until the start of The Ride.
I’m back on the porch in my perpetually rocking chair, but this time I’m wearing more layers. I’m in my own socks and undies but I’m wearing a pair of Skylar’s grey wash jeans. My burgundy sweatshirt provides a thermal layer under the dark brown leather of the jacket she gave me earlier. It’s a chilly night considering the heat of the day made me break out in a sweat during the short walk for fresh socks from my saddlebag. I pull up my hood over my buzzcut and grab both sweatshirt strings, pulling down simultaneously to cinch the material around my face. I'm grateful that the hood will not only help fend off the cold, but also the dozens of moths fluttering around the light above the door behind me. I just can’t seem to get used to the sudden sensation of them colliding off the side of my head or landing on the front of my shirt. I glance over at Sky. There is a moth fluttering around the illuminated screen on her tablet. She doesn’t even notice it. The quick wave of my hand is involuntary as another winged insect passes in front of my face. I turn down the brightness of my screen and pull my hoodie strings a little bit tighter.
Skylar picked me up from the airport on Monday. It’s Friday now. It feels like it’s been longer than 5 days, in part because of how much our plans changed over the course of the week. Our original plans were to leave on Tuesday, riding down to spend a week in the Florida Keyes preparing for The Ride physically, mentally, and emotionally. But as you know, we’re still on Skylar’s porch.
That morning, after all the stress of packing down the bikes, a last round of tearful goodbyes with Sky’s loved ones, and an impressively graceless takeoff on my part, we were ready to start the ride to Florida.
We didn’t even make it 30 miles from the base of the mountain. I had been zoned into riding the highway, enjoying the breathtaking scenery we were zipping past, when Skylar’s voice filled my helmet:
“You okay? Try to keep up, kid!”
I looked forward and saw the purple running lights illuminating the underside of her bike were much farther away than they had been just a minute ago. It’s important to stay close when riding together for multiple reasons. A prominent factor in many motorcycle crashes is the motorcyclist not being seen by other drivers. That’s why “Watch For Motorcycles” and “Look Twice, Save A Life” are popular bumper sticker slogans.
By riding close we’re also able to mitigate impatient drivers who tailgate, which can be terrifying when riding a motorcycle. Skylar rides in front, but she’s always paying attention. Sometimes she notices someone tailgating me before I do. When it happens, I pass her in the lane so she can slow down to drop back and force a bigger following distance. She stays there until the driver backs off or the problematic car turns off our route, then she passes to get in front of me again. Being a very new rider in comparison, I am always so appreciative of her 30 years of experience.
“Oops, sorry! I’ll catch up!”
My left hand started to pull in the clutch as my right hand gripped the throttle tighter in preparation for the shift In gears. I tapped the gearshift lever up with the toe of my left boot, twisted the throttle towards me, and eased out my clutch to move into fifth gear. But instead of speeding up from 50 mph, my motorcycle started bogging down. I tried again, repeating the cycle, thinking maybe I made a mistake shifting. But no, I couldn’t shift any higher. I spoke into the mic of my own comm unit:
“Uh, Skylar? I think something’s wrong with my bike. It won’t go faster than 50.”
“Are you in fifth gear? Do you have the throttle cranked all the way?”
“Yes and yes. It’s so weird.”
“Try dropping down, can you accelerate in fourth?”
“No. It goes down to 45 and won’t pick up. It’s also starting to backfire a little bit.”
“Pull over. Let’s switch.”
We swapped bikes and she took off on mine, gunning up the road almost faster than I could keep up. But it didn’t last.
“Yea, I see what you mean. I got it up to 65 but then it bogged down to 50. Let’s turn around.”
Before we knew it, we were back on the mountain, stripping off our riding gear as we explained to her roommate what had happened. He seemed genuinely perplexed. He had meticulously checked both of our bikes in preparation for the cross-country trip and even taken mine out for a joyride a few days before. It seemed strange that something like this would happen so soon. From our description he guessed it was some kind of problem with the fuel pump, which could only be accessed by removing the gas tank.
Instead of seeking relief from the heat I decided to stay and learn how to disassemble that part of my bike. It was an incredibly frustrating process. At one point we were using three screwdrivers simultaneously to disconnect a stubborn wire lead at the same time we were trying to siphon the gas spitting out of the line onto our hands and clothes. But the frustration only served to heighten our success when the tank finally came free. We were just giving each other an enthusiastic high-five when I heard Skylar calling from the porch:
“Joy! Can you come up here for a sec?”
I grabbed my backpack, trekked up the wooden ramp, and slumped into the same chair that I’m writing from now. As I reached to retrieve my water bottle from a side pocket, I raised an inquisitive eyebrow at Skylar. She was still on the phone but raised a finger to indicate that she was almost done the conversation. I happily sipped ice cold water while I waited, hoping my bike could be repaired relatively quickly.
(Spoiler alert, it was a broken fuel pump filter. Replacement piece is on the way!)
What a filter is supposed to look like
What my filter looked like
After hanging up, Skylar told me the caller was one of the friends we had visited earlier. This friend had prayed over us that morning. During the call she told Skylar that before hearing news of our delay, she had prayed that if the timing for us to leave was wrong, we would be stopped in our tracks. Skylar agreed her prayer had been answered and we were clearly meant to wait longer before leaving.
Sky considers herself to be spiritual, not religious, whereas I don’t consider myself to be either. However, I’m beginning to understand and better appreciate the importance of belief the more time I spend with her. Even though I’m not a Christian, I still felt deep appreciation for her friend’s words of care and concern. I felt the earnest affection when her friend pulled me close for a hug before we left. I felt genuine connection.
It’s that feeling that I dwell on now, long after Sky has gone to bed. I stretch my arms over my head and arch my back as I yawn, thinking about how strongly affectionate I am of the group of women planning The Ride. All of them started as virtual strangers to me, like Skylar’s friend. At first, the feeling of authentic love from a stranger left me conflicted and a little confused. In a small way, I felt the trauma response of being cautious of any affection from a new person. But in a much bigger way, I felt in awe over our capacity to love each other, especially people we do not know and especially people who do not share our own beliefs or values. Unconditional love prompted Skylar to create The Ride. Unconditional love inspired me to support her endeavors however possible. Unconditional love fuels the support we receive from friends and strangers around the world. That’s both the entire point of our message and the inextinguishable fire that makes it possible. A ride of love. In the face of our own erasure and state-sanctioned child abuse, it’s time we actively work to put aside inconsequential disagreements and judgements between women. Fill the rifts with unconditional love. The kids of the future need us. We need each other. We’re the last bastion of safeguarding and the only hope of turning the tides back towards sands of sanity. We have important work to do. To save women and children.
In strength and solidarity, sisters...
We Rise. We Ride. We Rebel.
Love, Joy xx