Stoic Lesson’s From a Motorcycle Trip

The sage brush gently swayed in the wind, offering a whisp of its delicate, earthy and herbaceous scent. Below, the deep blue of the Thompson River continued carving out the dry, dusty Dakota sandstone of the Cascade Mountains on its way to the mighty Fraser River — some 100 kilometres west. The land baked in the August sun, approaching “feels like” temperatures of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. I lay hidden in a sliver of shade cast by my motorbike on the burning asphalt.

Some 4 hours earlier, I had pulled my motorbike over to take in the view of the canyon with its rolling pastures, terraced between the river valley and the arid hills that stretched upward to towering rocky peaks. It was a canvas of grandeur only nature knows how to paint.

I was so excited to see the view, write in my journal and smoke a cigar, that I left the key in the ignition. Subsequently, my bike’s battery died, leaving me stranded on the side of the trans-Canada highway. Upon assessing my situation, I found I had one bar of cellular reception, a quarter battery life in my phone, half a CLIF bar and only a few-hundred milliliters of water.

Trans Canada Highway between Cache Creek and Spence’s Bridge

I had been heading home, some 300 miles of travelled road behind me, salivating for a home-cooked dinner and time with the family. Nevertheless, as my friend says, “Men make plans, the universe laughs.”

“Men make plans, the universe laughs.”

Control is more of an illusion than we like to accept. We don’t control the weather or the traffic or how others act. The good news is, as Marcus Aurelius says, “You have power over you mind. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

So, while my anger and frustration could have boiled over in the desert-like heat and my thoughts could have run wild in agitation, that would not have helped me get out of my predicament. It would have ruined the lovely trip I was enjoying, and dimmed the stunning views around me.

Joel Primus
Seeking Shade

I was again reminded of advice from a friend: “Reframing allows us to embrace life as it happens to us and to paint the circumstance that come to us from a palette of our own choosing.”

Again, I could have gotten upset, but in a conscious effort to try to practice what I preach, I reminded myself to that things could have been so much worse. Stoics call it negative visualization. Instead of safely sitting on the ground, I could have been tangled up on the side of the road, having been run off it by a demonic-looking 18-wheeler. There could be no cell service, no drops of water…heck, it could have even only been a mediocre view.

“Reframing allows us to embrace life as it happens to us and to paint the circumstance that come to us from a palette of our own choosing.”

All I had to do was sit down, breathe slowly, trust things would work out, and patiently wait. The last time I just sat silently for 5 hours must have been in the womb, and if idle time is a kind of wealth beyond price, as I once heard it put, then I was currently a very rich man.

With some finagling to find just the right location for cell service, I managed to send a text with my geolocation to my wife, who arranged for a tow truck to come and give me a jump. I also managed to reach some friends who had recently moved to a small town about an hour away. They offered to come get me if the truck didn’t arrive.

Views from the Trans Canada Highway

By the time support finally arrived and boosted The Mighty Rick (the name of my motorbike) back to its “vrooming” glory, I was rather parched, and the sun had taken its toll on my skin, but I was otherwise feeling completely at peace.

As dusk was fast approaching, I’d arranged to stay with my friends instead of risking further bike issues arising in the middle of the night en route home. My work meetings and family would have to wait an extra day for me, but the world would not (and did not) end. The situation had offered a beautiful opportunity to “be what it would be” and for me to not lose my mind in the process.

It’s worth noting that I later learned, from three separate sources no less, that motorbike batteries can be jump started while rolling down a hill and releasing the clutch in second gear. I guess I’ll be ready next time!