After raising my “4+2+1” brood—four kids, two step-kids and one unofficially adopted Ethiopian daughter—I faced an empty nest. What would I do now? And more importantly, who was I now?
Feeling like I had nothing left to call my own, I was at a loss for what to do. Then I happened to meet a woman riding her motorcycle from New York to Alaska. I always loved Amelia Earhart and other women adventurers, and my college roommate lived in Alaska….
I took it as a sign: a motorcycle journey was something I was meant to do. Only there was one slight problem: I’d never ridden a motorcycle before.
As soon as I casually mentioned my idea to my husband, Jonny, a seasoned motorcyclist, he was already buying supplies—and two motorcycles. And although I was trying to be Zen about motorcycle maintenance, I barely knew what kind of motorcycle I was riding (a BMW something-or-other) let alone what the throttle was. All I could tell you about my bike was the color: it matched my lipstick, cherry red.
Yet I had to take off. I had to try something new and different. I wanted to begin the next chapter of my life not with a whimper—but with a bang. So after six motorcycle lessons, I took off in June 2009, riding my new motorcycle (with my husband Jonny on his new motorcycle) from the eastern tip of Long Island up to Alaska. We traveled across Canada, and then up the Alaska Highway, a road that was built in a hurry by soldiers during World War II. The road is sometimes dangerous, often unpredictable, and always saddled with the solitude of a forgotten frontier trail.
It was strange for me to be alone with Jonny for this chunk of time after so many years surrounded by so many kids. For more than 10,000 miles, I had to confront fierce winds, drenching rains, grizzly bears—and helmet hair. I learned that I was still madly in love with my husband and at the same time, I learned how different I was from him. I remembered that I could count on him; yet more importantly, it dawned on me that I could count on myself.
Since this 51-day journey, whenever I am confronted with a challenge, I now have proof that I’ve got the inner strength to master whatever life throws at me. I took a risk and tried something new, stepping way out of my comfort zone. I’ve come to understand that each of us tells a story with our lives. And each of us has to be the hero of our own life’s story. We owe it to ourselves. This is our journey. This is our story. This is the only time we’ve got.