Wind Therapy: The Healing Power of a Motorcycle

Riding a motorcycle is more than a phase, an attraction factor or a trend to me. It’s what is giving me a purpose: A purpose to live. - Angel Lilac

I go by Angel Lilac, I’m 23 years old and from Oceanside, CA. I currently ride a 2017 Harley Davidson Softail Slim S and I’ve been riding for 15 months now. From June 28 - July 10th 2018, I embarked on my 2nd annual Moto Trip. I rode with a saddlemen sissybar luggage, thrashin supply essential saddlebags, a Le Pera seat and no windshield. I rode about 3,500 miles in those 13 days from Oceanside, CA to Tulsa, OK and back. I took 5 days to get there. I traveled on the I-40 East, hitting Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Amarillo and ultimately Tulsa, OK. I stayed in Tulsa for 5 days to spend the 4th of July holiday week with a friend of mine who was a marine I worked with. A highlight of my stay was riding on the historic Route 66 in Tulsa on the 4th of July which I thought was really cool to do on America’s holiday! I also visited the official Route 66 Harley Davidson dealership which was pretty gnarly. On the way back, I took 4 days and a more Southern route passing through Lubbock, TX, Roswell, NM, Tucson, AZ and finally back home to Oceanside, CA.

Having gone in the middle of summer, I endured the hot desert temperatures riding 5-7 hours through the CA deserts and Arizona reaching up to 105 degrees. I rode an average of 400 miles / 7 hours a day. On the way back, it also was the start of monsoon season so I endured a day of rain which I wasn’t prepared for gear wise. Luckily, rain would come and go every few minutes so I eventually would dry up from the breeze as I kept riding west. Weather was my main concern on this trip. Especially that I never experienced riding through the desert before. I definitely learned to listen to my body and stay hydrated. Even in 100 degree weather, I kept my skin and face covered with the proper riding gear. I was super stoked about my face not once getting sunburned thanks to my Kali full face apex helmet with the smokescreen visor! At every gas stop, I drank water and used the restroom even if I didn’t feel like I needed to. There were times where my back was hurting that I didn’t care who was watching me, so I’d lay on a bench, picnic table or even down on a shaded area of the sidewalk just to rest my back for 10 minutes before heading back on the road. I loved the mixed attention I received during my travels. Mostly it was people who were surprised to see a young woman on a motorcycle with no other bikers beside her. I’ve had people stop at the same gas station as me approach me to say that they have been following me for a long distance now and can’t believe what I’m doing. Some kind people would offer me a cold drink from coolers in their cars or snacks. I thought that was so sweet. I had men react in funny ways. From excessively cheering me on about “Girl Power!”, admitting to not being able to do what I’m doing, and to being skeptical about me making it safely. Not that they wanted to see me not make it, but they were just worried that I, as a woman, traveling across the country alone may seem as an easy target. Whatever that means. But they all agreed I had a really cool and beautiful bike.
So I mentioned 2nd annual. It’s a tradition I created for myself. A celebration ride for my survival and strength through one of the lowest points of my young life. Not only a celebration but also a test. A test for my own mental need to see how much I’ve progress in my recovery since the traumatic events.
I enlisted in the U.S Navy at 18 years old. I served as a Quartermaster and was stationed in Virginia Beach, VA and ultimately, San Diego, CA on amphibious ships. In 2016, I endured a WESTPAC (Western Pacific) deployment. 4 out of the 7 months that I was deployed, I was sent all over the Middle East. In Yemen, I ended up getting injured, physically, mentally and emotionally. I was 22 years old, on the last year of my contract and my whole world flipped upside down. The Navy placed me on limited duty my last year of service to start rehabilitation for my injuries. As bad as the physical pain was, I never felt before in my life being in need of someone’s presence and love. My personality, I’m very independent and strong minded. I’ve always known I was a stubborn girl and never accepted stereotypes to put me in my place as a woman but at this moment in my life, I never needed the love of my life, my husband, more than ever. My injuries made me feel defeated, hopeless for my future and they made me feel ugly. I felt I failed my ship, my shipmates and myself as a sailor. I worried about my career whether I’d recover quick enough to re-enlist. And I even worried if I’d ever look beautiful again for my husband to stay in love with me.
Recovery is not easy. Every other day I wanted to give up. Whether it was because the pain was unbearable or even the guilt was as well. But I kept fighting forward, day by day. There wasn’t anybody else I cared for and latched onto more than my husband during this time.
July 2017, 5 months into treatment, the man I adored and couldn’t wait to start a family with admitted that he had fallen out of love with me, wanted no part in my recovery any longer and wanted to plan on getting a divorce. At this point of my rehab, my typical Monday thru Friday “work” was attending all my medical appointments from physical, mental and recreational therapy and I’ve also been notified by the Navy that i would be medically retired within the next few months. July 2017, my health was fragile, my husband left me and I was in the process of losing my career.
I would be lying if I told you I never attempted suicide. I took these unfortunate events as proof that I don’t deserve to live a happy life, so why live at all? I gave my life to serve in the Navy and my heart and soul to serve my husband. And I lost them both. Yet, more and more was pain flooding my body and mind. Difficult to distract myself from it. Until the moment I rode on a motorcycle. I was one of those people who thought motorcycles were only dangerous and a waste of money. My first experience on a motorcycle was as a passenger and even as one, I felt the instant connection to the world again which I lost from depression. The breeze against my face reminding me that I’m alive. The sharp turns getting my adrenaline pumping. And I can’t forget the love within the community. It wasn’t long until I became a rider myself and earned my M1 license.
That same month of July 2017, I had only been riding with 3 months of experience, 5 months into treatment and I went on my first long distance motorcycle trip to Kalispell, MT from San Diego, CA on a 2016 Harley Davidson Lowrider. A trip where I nasty cried and was terrified for my life but faced my fear of solitude to gain back control of my life. That’s where my most recent trip stems from.
July 2018, I just had to celebrate my full year of survival after being left on my own to recover. I’m still alive to this day and as I type this, I’m an emotional wreck. I still struggle with the insecurities and depression, but I am alive and thriving right now. All because of getting on a motorcycle and owning my freedom, confidence and trust back.
“Riding a motorcycle is more than a phase, an attraction factor or a trend to me. It's what's giving me a purpose. A purpose to live. It gives the confidence that I lost in Yemen back. It puts the smile on my face that was taken from my ex back. And it relights the fire that was extinguished by depression and suicidal thoughts.” -Angel Lilac