The Strength and Fortitude of One Woman Motorcycle Rider

An inside look at the mental toughness that fuels a female biker dealing with debilitating health issues, as told by her husband

By Steve Johnson
Editors Note: I was inspired when I first read this intimate account of a devoted husband observe his physically challenged wife as she steps up each and every day to ride her 600-pound-plus motorcycle so that he and she can continue the journey theyve started. I know Sash personally, and she is a model of a woman rider who never gives up. I hope you are inspired by her story.
– Genevieve Schmitt

Sash had her back propped up against a set of pillows on our hotel bed, with the covers pulled up to her waist. In front of her was her laptop. By her side was her smartphone. On the nightstand was a tray of prescription meds, and on her shoulder was a bag of ice.
Her body, nearing 50 years of age, was being pushed to its limits just from the day-to-day toll of riding motorcycles across the country. I felt sorry for her, but I knew she didnt want anyone to sympathize.
“I can do this,” shed tell me, throwing a leg over her Yamaha V Star 650. “Im not going to let this stop me!”
What has tried to stop her was physical pain. Pinched nerves in her shoulders and low backaches have been the most obvious. But the ulcer in her stomach, her atrial fibrillation, and the fibromyalgia have been unpredictable thorns in her sides.
Myself, along with any other husband, could take a step back and see how damaging a two-and-a-half-year motorcycle road trip had become for her. Yet, telling her to settle down has become nearly akin to committing suicide. Her mind is trying to make up for 25 years of time lost on baking casseroles, driving SUVs, and wearing Mom jeans. It’s as if independence and empowerment didn’t come until well into her 40s, after her health had declined, and now she simply refuses to let go of the opportunity to fly like a bird.
strength and fortitude of one woman motorcycle rider sash walker
Sash and her Yamaha V Star 650 always looking strong despite her physical challenges.

Our stay this weekend at Zion National Park in southern Utah is Sash’s last on the road for this year. The heart episode she had in Boise, Idaho, last May was the worst she had faced, and she has many of these each month. She needs to go back to San Diego to see her regular physician to figure out a way to manage it.

But I know in my mind shes already proven herself an “iron butt.” Going through 35-plus states in 32 months, racking up tens of thousands of miles in the coldest, hottest, wettest, and driest of weather, with more than 100 pounds of gear on the bike, which she has packed and unpacked a hundred times already, shes seen more country and done more miles than many of her male—and female—counterparts.
And throughout it all, shes managed to run a marketing business, write a book, build a network of friends, and of course, put up with all of my BS. She regularly parents over the phone her adult daughter suffering from borderline personality disorder. But there are other moments that have tested her as well, like getting hit by a car in Tucson, crashing her bike in the snow on Wolf Creek Pass, or getting poisoned from a crop duster in Nebraska.
strength and fortitude of one woman motorcycle rider sash walker snow storm
This infamous shot of newly minted rider Sash riding through a spring snowstorm atop Colorados Wolf Creek Pass has become a testimony of sorts of her fortitude and will power to soldier on in the face of diversity. Click here to go the story she wrote to find out why she did this.

Perhaps it all came to a head a few days ago, while she and I were riding through the Navajo Indian Reservation in northern Arizona, under 104 degree F (40 C) temperature. We had actually left our hotel room early to beat the mid-afternoon heat, but somehow the sun was equally prepared to put Sash’s resolve to test. She sped up past me to motion us over to the side. Then she hopped off her bike, stepped into the bushes along the side of the road and puked.

The heat had already taken its toll on her despite having consumed a bottle of Gatorade and a couple bottles of water, along with wearing a wet vest. There were times I saw her pinching her nose while riding, because the dry, desert air had caused her sinuses to bleed.
When youre out in the middle of untouched desert for 50 miles all around you, theres little else a husband to do but to give her time to rest and encourage her to press on. I feel helpless in those moments, yet the best I can do is cut off my emotions and address the matter purely from my intellect.
In a few hours from now, well be packing up and leaving Zion National Park, headed to Southern California. Well leave around midnight just to avoid daytime temperatures that would otherwise reach 110 degrees F (43.3 C) and above. Itll be the longest ride Sash has ever done in one shot.
Over the next several months, I plan to alternate between spending time with Sash in Southern California, and heading out on the road solo for a week or two at a time.
For Sash, the goal is that shell be ready for Road Pickle 2016 around February or March.

About the Author
Steve writes a blog,Motorcycle Philosophy.You can follow him onGoogle+and learn more about him on theWRN Contributors page.

Now tell us in the comments below your stories of soldiering on despite physical challenges. We want to hear from you.

5 thoughts on The Strength and Fortitude of One Woman Motorcycle Rider

  1. I hope some day our paths will cross. I commented on another article you wrote about riding with your husband.I suffer horrible nerve, back pain and CRPS and a permanent injury to my left ankle. How do you do it? I’m no longer medicated, as I was somewhat addicted to Lyrica and when I stopped taking them, I was sick for seven continuous days in withdrawal. The anti inflammatories do squat, but I did lose my gall bladder from them!Is it our inner strength that keeps us in the saddle? Or is it the love of the ride? Maybe, we’re just too damn stubborn to give up! But I wouldn’t have it any other way. The ride is my life.Thanks for this article. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  2. Sash is a Facebook friend and although I’m sure I’m one of perhaps thousands, she actually takes the time now and then to either comment or “like” some of my posts. Amazing. That may seem unimportant but to me it shows how “real” this woman is. I’ve watched her travels, read her stories, and sympathized with personal issues she’s spoken on. Although I’ve never met her, I feel I’ve grown to know what an outstanding woman she is. Truly, truly an inspiration of strength to all women and indeed human beings.Carry on Sash!

  3. Sash, I love you, girl, and your determination to do something you love. When a crash left me unable to ride a two-wheeler, I found a trike which gave me great joy. Much more relaxing and stress-free riding, both mentally and physically. Sending you thoughts of many years of safe riding ahead of you. Peace and love.

  4. Sash, you are an inspiration! Every now and then I really let worries do a number on my back and shoulder muscles, which leads to fear of that stealing my riding and running, which can lead to more stiffness and pain. Thanks for showing us how to persevere.

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