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My Forrest Gump Day as a Motor Marshal

Me and the "whiteboard gal"
David, the “whiteboard gal”

Here’s my Forrest Gump story. In 2010, three months after passing my motorcycle licensing class, I made it from my home in North Carolina to Bend, Oregon where the Cascade Cycling Classic happened to be taking place.

This is a professional bicycle race, and Floyd Landis was trying to make a comeback. The former Tour de France winner had confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs two months earlier, and reporters gave him the limelight instead of those who stood a chance at winning the race. I think about that day as Lance Armstrong continues making news with his confession. Enough about that.

I’d seen the Tour de France on TV and noticed that they use motorcyclists to control traffic, to weave photographers and TV camera operators through the racers, and other miscellaneous duties. You probably know where this is headed.

Tamela Rich, motor marshal

I decided to try and get a berth as a motor marshal as “a little something for the scrapbook.” I found a race official and asked for light duty in traffic control, but instead he asked me to carry a passenger .

Uh oh, I’d never carried a passenger before. Remember, I’d just learned to ride a bike! I took a mental gulp and said I would if they could find a skinny one. They said I could carry the “whiteboard gal,” assuring me she weighed no more than 120 pounds.

What’s a whiteboard gal’s job? Well, the job is technically timekeeping. She times the splits between the leaders and the everyone else (the peloton) then writes this crucial information on a whiteboard. The motorcyclist maneuvers through the race so the whiteboard gal (let’s just call her the timekeeper, ok?) can show the splits to the racers and officials.

The gal was a guy

In a couple of role reversals, it turns out the gal was a guy named David who weighed at least 160 pounds; for his part, he expected to be riding behind a guy!

All fun aside, I was in a quandary. Should I tell him I’d never carried a passenger?

I had confidence in my ability to carry David since a bicycle race is a pretty slow affair for a motorcycle. I decided that instead of making him nervous I’d bear the nerves and let him focus on time keeping.

Seventy-five miles later, after traversing the McKenzie Pass with David as my pillion, we landed at the finish with grins on our faces. The officials thanked us for a job well done and I ‘fessed up.

David received my confession with grace, saying I gave him no indication of being a rookie.

The takeaway?  Can you share your fear without spreading fear itself? If not, maybe it shouldn’t be shared.

Love, on the other hand, is always something to share.

About Tamela Rich

Author Tamela has extensively traveled the U.S. and Canada, delivering her message to Pack Light | Travel Slow | Connect Deep. Her keynotes and workshops include life lessons she has learned through chance encounters on the road.

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