REPLACING RUBY – THE BACK STORY
I bought Ruby, my beloved Harley Davidson Softail on April 14th in 2000. Initially after months of research and dreaming, I had ordered a black Softail Standard from Plattsburgh Harley Davidson. This was back in the days when you had to order and wait for a Harley. I had moved back to Vermont from NYC in November of 1999 and didn’t want to wait until May 2000 so I visited Green Mountain Harley Davidson and miraculously they had a Red Softail Standard on the floor of the dealership. It was very unusual at that time to have a bike on the showroom floor that was unspoken for so I quickly scooped her up and canceled my order, which I am sure made some other Harley lover very happy!
I asked Dennis, a former boyfriend who is someone I consider family to this day and remains a dear dear friend, to come up to Burlington from Albany to ride Ruby off the lot for me and teach me how to ride her. He was the original biker boyfriend and he knows my heart and completely understands my love for riding.
Looking back on my story now, I realize what an amazingly bold move that was. After having broken up with the last biker boyfriend, I had decided that I would never need a man to ride again. From now on I would ride my own bike and have the choice to be passenger when I wanted to be. I would buy my own and never make someone else’s bike payment again. I decided I would never miss both the man AND the bike ever again!
I remember the day I put my deposit down on Ruby very well. I dragged my worried Dad with me to the dealership so that he could wrap his head around the fact that I was now a solo biker chick. I recall him walking around the dealership looking at all the amazing bikes on the floor while getting used to the idea that his daughter was about to be in harms way on the highway. It should be noted that my love for two wheels originated from my Dad due to the fact that my parents owned bicycle shops and I grew up loving to ride bicycles with my Dad and brother. Two wheels rock!
I also recall the day I first rode on the back of Ruby around the edges of the parking lot near the little house in Winooski, Vermont I was renting at the time. It was the first ride where I REALLY paid attention to how the bike was being operated. Every previous ride I was detached from the mechanics of how things happened and just enjoyed the ride in bliss.
Once we got to our destination, Dennis gave me the verbal direction I needed to learn how to shift. I can still feel him leaning up against me as he lovingly explained. I rode her around the parking lot, like the novice I was, twice before I unknowingly hit the front break on some stones and she went down beneath me. My Harley that was less then an hour old now had a scratch on her tank (which really should have been a HUGE dent) for the length of time I had her. I left the scratch there to identify her as mine and to remind myself how easily she went down under me. She was up and then we were down. I never forgot that feeling and it continues to keep me humble. Bikers will say, “There are two kinds of bikers. Those that have been down and those that are about to go down.” Gratefully, I have only dropped Ruby twice!
Dennis and I picked her up both super annoyed that I had scratched her so early. I took a few more loops around the parking lot with my humbled heart racing and then I just knew it was time. I pulled out of the parking lot and road her into traffic for the very fist time with Dennis screaming behind me with agitated concern until I could no longer hear him above the roar of Ruby’s engine. I never stopped riding after that and to this day Dennis remains and always will be family.
As I rode her down the road, Ruby and I instantly bonded. For those of you who ride you know what I mean… with her engine roaring underneath me my love for that bike was as real as any love I have ever had for any person or animal! It was a day I will never ever forget.
Six weeks later on the evening of May 31, I got in my car to go out for the night because it was raining. Four hours later after countless cocktails, in a full-blown black out I got behind the wheel of that vehicle intoxicated after having what will be with the grace of God my last drink.
In the morning, I woke with a horrible hangover and a bad foggy memory of thankfully getting pulled over by a young cop hours before. I knew the rain and that police offer saved my life that night. If I had ridden Ruby I know I would have died on her. In that very moment, I made the decision to get sober. From that day to this by the grace of God I have not had a drink or a drug. For the first nine years of my sobriety I wrote a letter to that young policeman who had the good sense to arrest and handcuff me. The letters thanked him for his service to our community and for saving my life and potentially the lives of the others I came across on the road that night. When we get behind the wheel of a vehicle intoxicated we are a 2,000-pound bullet with the potential to kill people in that state. Good people make this mistake every day.
I am so grateful and continue to feel blessed that my story does not include hurting another human being on the road that night. God or whatever you believe has a plan for us and it is not to live that way! I don’t preach a religion or adhere to judgmental dogma but I do believe the we all have a higher power as we understand him, her or it and that benevolent higher power loves us and clearly has our best interest at heart.
Ruby was there for me in the early days of my sobriety as I screamed at the moon and one tear, one breath, one day at a time – God and I changed my life. I rode her across country three times and to many rallies including Laconia, Americade, Rolling Thunder in DC, Sturgis and the Harley Rendezvous to name a few. She has been there for me through thick and thin. She has been my most trusted and consistent love quite frankly. Through every break up and bad break she and my soul family held my hand and helped me to hold my head up.
PUTTING MY BIG GIRL CHAPS ON
In June of this year I made peace with the fact that I had to sell my beloved Ruby of seventeen years in order to purchase a vehicle. I needed a car and taking on another payment, was not a smart financial decision and I knew it.
My choice to sell Ruby was no small thing. She was my family and we were in love. I counted on her and quite frankly we had an agreement. She took care of me and I took care of her and I promised that I would NEVER sell her no matter what. I knew one day I would buy another bike but I always planned on keeping her because quite frankly she saved my life. I had to break my promise to myself and to her when I sold her. Those of you who know me know that I take promises seriously. It was also heart breaking for me because emotionally Ruby was tied to my cherished sobriety.
I called Rick and Julie Hatch of Top Spoke / Eagle Rider Pre-Owned Sales and made the appointment to sell my best friend. It was a painful call. A humiliating call… one I know many of you have also had to make. As I threw my leg over her for the last time I made another deal with myself to have dignity about putting my big girl chaps on and not to cry.
As I got in the Uber to get home… I did not cry. I just held my head up a little higher and said out load “OK….. I did my part God… you take care of the rest.” God always takes care of me when I get myself out of the way. A few days later my next-door neighbor was selling his car for just what I got for Ruby. Just like that! My vehicle problem was solved.
THE ART OF FEARLESSLY LIVING – REPLACING RUBY
The idea for the Art of Fearlessly Living came to me on my ride home to the home I had just gratefully purchased. I would document my experience and turn my misfortune into a way to celebrate the art of achieving work life balance as I continued to work my ass off to move forward and be the example I want to see in the world.
I joined Phoenix Eagle Rider in October. After took a bit of time I made the made my blog posting schedule, THIS is my fist adventure post of 13 adventures I will document over the next year. It is my plan to know what bike I will buy by December of 2018 as a Christmas gift to myself. That is if I can hold out that long. I have not been bike less for almost two decades. It is super hard to not have a bike in the garage but riding rentals regularly helps but it is not the same as being able to take off whenever I dang well feel like it or need to!
On December 15th, I rented another 2017 Street Glide from Phoenix Eagle Rider like the one I rented for my birthday in October. I will rent that bike several more times and educate you about the details of that bike. It is my goal to become an expert on each bike I ride before I make a decision on what to buy!
Every year my Puttin Sober soul family and I support Betty and Ray Boucher’s Santa Toy Run from their business “The Shop” [10717 N 19th Ave, Phoenix, Arizona (602) 633-1235].
Its a pretty amazing thing. We raise money and do a toy drive for the kids of Sunny Slope. We don’t ever know how many families are going to show or how many kids but we estimate it’s about 500 families each year. Let’s put it this way…. it’s a lot of kids. Santa and Mrs Clause are pretty exhausted after gifting hundereds of kids with presents and taking pictures.
Which is what I planned on doing with this blog but as fate would have it my experience on the ride home delayed that plan.
I thought I knew (to certain degree) what I would be writing and painting about on this first blog. I thought this would be a light funny blog since I showed up to pick the bike up tonight still dressed from the Women of Scottsdale luncheon. I can guarantee you that no one has actually shown up to rent a Harley Davidson dressed in a cocktail dress and heels. The guys behind the counter were a little taken back. It was amusing
For this series, I will be writing the story and making the sketch for the paintings in real time. I will not be making the final paintings until the end of the year from October though the opening that will be announced at some time in December before the Santa Toy Run. A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the original paintings and supporting products will be donated to the 2018 Santa Toy Run to buy as many presents as we can for the children of Sunny Slope.
This ride sketch represents the two most important things to me about the Santa Toy Run ride.
First my fellow riders, many of which, like me, made a decision against all odds to get sober and keep riding or start riding a motorcycle. As we rode I looked at my fellow riders. One after another I watched them riding with big smiles on their faces knowing they are miracles like me. That just like myself they have cheated death some of them many times. As my fellow brothers and sisters helped to rally us together in one pack safe, I thought how blessed we are to love one another the way we do! How blessed we are to step up together and be of service! What a humble testimony to God’s grace we all are!
The other most important thing is the reason for the ride – the kids and their parents (most of which are single mothers) who are struggling to raise their children with very limited funds. You see I wanted to be a mom more than anything and after many years of not finding the right dad for my children I made the choice not to have children because I was not brave enough to do what the young woman in this painting is doing right now as I write this blog.
She is raising six children with very little support. She was thirty-nine and her eldest was twenty-three. I will let you do the math. I did not ask if there was a dad in the picture but what I know is that the stuffed puppy that I gave her eight-month-old boy in the parking lot, as we took a group shot and staged the bikes to ride in together to the shop with Santa in the lead, was sincerely appreciated. As she gave me a huge hug to thank me; I could feel her heart beating and I know we are one in the same.
Later that day I listened to part of her story as I bounced her boy on my knee while he waited to take his very first picture with Santa. As I listened, Mom took more pictures of her boy and I together. As we all know, the first Christmas images have lasting power. I knew that pictures of us would stand the test of time and it humbled me.
Earlier I picked up two little one’s and danced with them to the band as Mom looked on with a huge smile on her face. Between their little happy heads, I looked around at my brothers and sisters as they loved one another as well as the kids in the parking lot of the Shop [10717 N 19th Ave, Phoenix, Arizona (602) 633-1235]. We are blessed beyond measure indeed.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS – LIFE IS THE GIFT
Whatever you do this holiday season may you be surrounded by love and if there is not love around you go out there and be of service and love other people. The holidays are not an easy time for many people. There are a lot of broken hearts around you – just look and you will see and feel the anguish in some of your neighbor’s eyes. I encourage you to reach your heart out and give more than you receive. I guarantee it will be worth your effort!
Love truly does make the world go around!
As an artist, a business woman and a visual journalist Michelle Micalizzi paints with a purpose. The Fearless Art Projects are collaborative social practice art engagements that connect art + business + community.
THE ART OF FEARLESSLY LIVING (AoFL) is an adventurous and fun loving project celebrating the wonder of a life well lived. The goal of the project is to inspire readers to cultivate the art of living fearlessly every day and to achieve a healthy work life balance.