Last Place:

Father had started competing in motorcycle races known as enduros. The goal of these competitions was to arrive at checkpoints as close to the prescribed time as feasible. As such, it was possible to be the first person across the finish line and yet still lose the race. Toward the end of the first race season that Father participated in, there was a beginners event, and I was excited to join in the adventure. Most of the first part of the course kept to the wide dirt roads nearer the camping areas of Corral Canyon. I felt as though we hadn’t been riding very long when the markers indicated that we were to follow a road which I knew from experience would lead back to the where the course had begun. Father stopped and put his feet down, so I rode up and stopped next to him. Yelling over the sound of our bikes’ engines, he said “I haven’t seen a marker in a while.” He pointed to a pink arrow affixed to a sage bush and continued “It looks like they want us to turn here, but I’m going to ride down this hill and see if I see any other markers. Wait here.” A moment later, he returned. Looking around he said “Well I guess this is it then. This area has some hard trails, so be careful.” Then we followed the arrow and rode down an embankment, across a dry gulch, and up a rocky hill. The trail quickly narrowed and rose at an increasingly steep rate. Father stopped and pulled his goggles up, looking around again. “There’s a turn off up here. If we don’t see any more markers there, we’re going to have to just ride back to camp.” But what he failed to mention was that the turn off was at the top of a three foot tall ledge. I got off and let Father ride my motorcycle up it for me. Soon we arrived at a split in the trail, littered with pink and orange arrows. Father pointed back down the path, and turned again to the direction we had just come. Riding down the trail was more terrifying than going up it had been. Father was in a hurry though, so I did my best to keep pace. Jumping off that ledge, I didn’t have time or energy to waste on being impressed with myself. Several minutes later, we made it back to the main road we had turned from earlier. Father said “I’m going to miss the start of my race, so I have to go. Just follow this road back to camp. You remember where that is, right?” I nodded enthusiastically, and Father sped away. I followed him at a more casual speed. At the bottom of the hill was a series of large signs reading “Beginners Course” and pointing to follow the way Father had just gone. I immediately wondered how he could have missed them. The last few miles of the race, I rode alone. My time at the final checkpoint was 47 minutes late, but I arrived at camp just moments after Father. I slumped into a lawn chair as he scurried around, preparing for his race. Later, he would tell me that the trail we had turned onto was for the professional racers, but it never occurred to me to be proud of having ridden up and down that challenging course, rather I was embarrassed that I had come in last place on my first and ultimately only enduro.

The Talk:

We were on another one of our long motorcycle rides down to the far side of Corral Canyon, Father and I. One of the wider trails terminated under a grove of large oak trees, creating a fine place to rest before following one of the more challenging trails which split off in several directions. Father stopped and shut his bike off. Much to my surprise, he removed his helmet, signaling to me that he meant to rest for longer than I would have expected. We walked over and sat under one of the great oaks. He then proceeded to explain to me some few details about the nature of the human reproductive system. More than anything, I was mystified at his clear discomfort with the subject, but I found the information every bit as interesting as any other new thing. Something though, about the whole explanation left me feeling distant and a little dirty inside, as if I had done something I knew was wrong. I couldn’t place my finger on it then, but hearing Father talk about the differences between male and female bodies felt alien to me. As we rode the long, winding trail home, my thoughts ranged even wider than the path. Something about what Father had told me seemed wrong, and at odds with my own experience. For the first time, on that ride back to the van, I experienced what I now know as disassociation, and in my mind there is a large period afterward where I have no memories.

Corral Canyon 01:

Father had taken me to the riding area up in the Laguna mountains before, but it had always been to ride up and down the dirt road skirting the north end of Lake Morena. This time, he took me all the way up to the campground at the end of the maintained road, from which all trails were designated “ORV” or, off road vehicle area. Everything that wasn’t the main road was more challenging than any of the riding I had done up to that point in the desert, and even that dirt road had its moments. Every path was cut through sagebrush and littered with blocks of granite. A vast network of trails or varying difficulty crisscrossed the mountainside. This became Father’s favored riding area as it was much closer to home than the desert areas, and offered more interesting and varied terrain. I always felt that I wasn’t good enough to be there, and the tales Father and his friends told of the dreaded Corte Madera hill filled me with fear that certain death was waiting around every corner.


I had outgrown the little trail bike that I had learned to ride the year before. Father took me with him to buy a used motorcycle he had seen advertised in a local publication. The bike was yellow and black, and the angry screaming sound of the engine completed the imagery of a swarm of wasps. Even though the motorcycle wasn’t much bigger than the one I had been riding, the motor was almost twice the displacement. It was also a two-stoke motor, which gave it the intimidating rage of sound. I was allowed to ride the little RM-80 around a small open lot for a few minutes before Father asked if I liked it. I did, and so he paid the man, and loaded my new motorcycle into the van. As we drove home, the smell of gasoline hung heavy in the air. I was excited to have a new toy, but the sound and fury of that two-cycle engine had me nervous that I had bitten off more than I could chew. Perhaps I had, as of all the motorcycles I called my own, that RM-80 is the only one still talked about by family. Perhaps Father knew it, as soon thereafter he purchased for me a full set of ride armor and a new full-faced helmet.

Childhood Moments 02:

During our family vacation to Utah, we stopped by an ancient lava bed. The road meandered through a dense conifer forest. The parking area was surrounded by pine trees which reached up to a blue sky. A short walk down a trail and suddenly the forest was replaced by miles of shattered volcanic igneous rock, the uniformity of the grey stone broken only by the green and red lichen growing thereon. A sign had some interesting facts, which I read as sister ran back and forth along the edge of the enormous pile of rock.

Almost every day, Father would take me to school on the back of his motorcycle. I wore the same helmet I used when riding off road. The ride was enjoyable to me, as Father was an excellent motorcyclist, and rode through the hills at an exhilarating speed. One day, just a block from school, I saw a woman walking up the concrete paved hill. She was wearing an impossibly short skirt and dark sunglasses. I thought she looked so cool.

In the pediatrician’s office, there were two arcade cabinets, which were free to us kids. Asteroids was my favorite. I looked forward to playing it every time I was in the waiting room. One day, the office was running behind and so no one came out to call my name and interrupt my game. An hour and a half later, I still had not lost even one life, and the score was a number so large I didn’t know whether it even had a name or not. I knew then, that if left unperturbed, I could earn any score I wished on that game. It was only a matter of opportunity, of time.