by Hannah Beck
Like a mindless drone I had been sucked into the mundane cycle of work, sleep and repeat. Without even realizing it, I fell into a really dark depression - the kind where you lose the will to live. Now normally I am a very happy, creative person, but I no longer had energy for anything. So after a year of constant headaches, suicidal thoughts and no help from my doctor besides pills with too many side effects, I made the most logical decision my heart and mind could agree on…I quit the family business and fell into the suffocating embrace of self loathing. I needed a change; to stop and think. What am I doing with my life? Is there a goal? A mission I needed to fulfill? A what?
After three weeks of wondering, “What is the point of my life?” I bought a $500 broken motorcycle that didn't run and had been through seven owners and six states with the hope that if I could learn to fix it, I could fix myself and out ride the wave of self doubt that kept pummeling me down. It may not have started with the bike, but the idea behind it. Once the scrambling to get the bike and roll it into the garage was done, I couldn't help but stare at it thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” There was no regret, just pondering my next move. I did my research, started removing parts, began cleaning and sanding off layers upon layers of paint. Sanding the fuel tank was therapeutic for me. I'd keep finding a new layer and color behind the other. A token of its past and all the hands that had cared for it. Did any of the previous owners experience what I was currently going through? Maybe this old, run down motorcycle and its steel heart helped heal the people who each gave their time to it, making it more special and unique from each state it traveled to.
I had to learn. Knowing nothing about mechanics, I searched for biking groups that I could talk to and learn about the passion for motorcycles. I'd seen small parades of bikers cruising through the backroads on beautiful sunny days and longed to be part of their adventures. To be part of something a little bigger than just a young woman freshly married and rooted in a “small” town. What I found had nothing to do with bikes, but four tires, drive lines, gears, sweat, mud, dust, and sometimes white knuckles. I came across 4x4 clubs and groups local to my county. Reading descriptions and bios, one stuck out with this inspiring and bold quote: “Life is not a journey to the grave, with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming, ‘WOW What a Wild Ride!’” - motto of Pistons Wild Motorsports Club.
I already had a 4x4 capable vehicle; my 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee that I had bought after high school as my first car. So with that captivating quote by Pistons Wild, I worked up the courage to attend one of their monthly meetings. Over the course of two and a half years, I had joined the club, dedicating myself to the four wheel community by volunteering almost all of my spare time to assist building, maintaining and cleaning the trails in southern Washington and northern Oregon. I had found a cause to rally behind; a purpose to live for and fend off the deadly depression that haunted me. With the help and support of my husband, I found a new job where I was able to flourish and gain more confidence in myself.
After finding Pistons Wild, I met more people and experienced more things than I had in the previous five years of my life. Discovering that my little Jeep was an incredibly capable vehicle combined with the knowledge that I was learning through the four wheel community. I am forever thankful for Pistons Wild for giving me the memories I have, but after close to three years I needed to step back in life again and re-evaluate the direction I was steering my life towards. Once again, I could feel my depression starting to claw its way back through my heart and mind. I was determined to fight it back this time, leading me to resign from the club that helped me cope with my first dark voyage. I felt I had learned what I needed to from the club to continue on life's adventure by myself. Taking on my resurfacing depression was something I had to purge on my own this time. I focused on my marriage and personal life, spending more time with my husband and family. I needed to forge stronger bonds with the ones I loved and with myself. Small road trips and little adventures were taken to quell my soul.
My dark depression was slowly receding - still there, but not the wave crashing down on me that it first was years ago. Needing one more large adventure to feed my confidence, I remembered when one of the founders of Pistons Wild, Crystal Crowder, once mentioned to me an event that was being brought to fruition for the sole purpose of empowering ladies in and out of the offroad community. The Ladies Offroad Convention of 2017, the first event of its kind. One of the many brain childs of Charlene Bower, whom I had previously had the opportunity of meeting on a trip in Moab, Utah for Easter Jeep Safari 2017. Hesitant at first, I waited a few months to truly be drawn to Charlene's plans. I knew I needed to attend something farther away and out of my comfort zone. To push and dedicate myself again. But I needed it for me; not someone else, not the offroad community, not for a single person except myself. I couldn't ease off this cliff of hesitation. I had to jump. So I bought a none refundable ticket and didn't look back. I was going to this convention, even if that meant hitchhiking to get there. Planning wasn't easy, but I stayed positive that I'd find a way.
By the end of July, me and my loving husband scrounged up enough money to start a road trip toward Colorado Springs, one that we'd never forget. Spending most nights asleep in a cramped truck cab at lonely truck stops. Closing our eyes during thundering lightning storms and pouring rain only to wake during the most beautiful mountainous sunrises. We'd made it. My husband gave me a good luck kiss and dropped me off at the convention's doors. Walking into the large ballroom that our first day was being held at, I planned to be there for only a learning experience and not fun. Little did I know how much joy I was about to experience.
Some might reminisce of a time they once went to Burning Man as their “religious experience”, but not me. LONCON was mine. I was delightedly surprised with every activity and day that Charlene put together for us. I made more new friendships and memories. Every night, my husband would pick me up and I would joyously explain my day to him like a child who just got back from their first field trip. I cried when the last day rolled around and we all said our goodbyes, making Charlene worry if I was alright - and really I was. LONCON gave me something my whole being will never forget. I didn't want to leave what was arguably the best four days of my young life. And with a heart overflowing, I packed my bag and joined my husband loading our truck up for its long drive home. Stopping to see amazing sights as we went. Even rolling the windows down as we sped across a moonlit and lonely freeway to feel the cold Utah desert air wash across our faces.
Over the next six months my life continued to improve. I moved up in my job as a heavy equipment operator and got to roll with the boys. The pay was better, the hours were better and I was able to improve my equipment skills. My pride in myself was rising more and more. Charlene announced the convention was an absolute success and that the 2nd event was being planned. I promised myself that I would continue to always find a way to attend the convention as long as they existed; committing once again and buying my ticket to Ladies Offroad Convention 2018.
My little Grand Cherokee accompanied me on many small adventures and outings with friends and family. Our house and property received our careful love and affection as we made them our home. I kept learning about the mechanics behind my vehicles and their capabilities along with my own. And in February 2018, I discovered I was pregnant with our first child. Taken aback by this, I was unsure of where my life was going again. I had become so entranced by the current course it was taking that I didn't think I was ready for motherhood. Doubt resurrected itself within me. I took comfort in long drives in my Jeep to calm my mind. I knew I had support from everyone that was close to me in life. Still slightly unsure, I strapped myself into this new and unexpected path my life was taking me on. With Charlene's encouragement, I even drove four hours in the dark to Seattle, Washington while seven months pregnant. Bringing me to another offroad adventure that was part of 2018 Ladies Offroad Challenge. While I wasn't participating in the challenge, I was with a few of the ladies who were. Their tales of offroad adventure gave me a boost in confidence that my heart needed. Less than a month later, I managed to rope my own mother into attending the second convention with me. I caught up with ladies from the previous year and was enraptured by new ones. My mother was introduced to the world of offroading and I had a blast watching her soak it all in.
Following a perfect pregnancy, I gave birth to my daughter Nora on October 31st. I now have the opportunity to raise my own daughter in and around this amazing offroad community that quite literally saved my life. Passing on the knowledge and confidence I've collected and continue to amass, to her. Learning many things in the last five years and many lessons, I know that this is where I am meant to be. Who would have thought that a broken motorcycle would lead me on a road of self discovery and healing.
Posted by: Dulcy Rojas