ORIGIN: Starting the Conversation

You Hit What You Look At

09.24.13 by Charley Wall

My best friend told me, “Just remember: you hit what you look at”…as he put me on a schizophrenic dirt bike that tried to kill me (but that’s another story).  I had so much fun on that ride that I had to buy a bike.

I want to get out on big, open, cross-country trails.  I want to go fast.  I want to be gone for days, camping at night.  To do this, I need to be proficient with the bike – on dirt, mud, gravel, sand – and be able to get through, around and over obstacles like ruts, roots, rocks, cactus, cows.

I dream big.

For me, learning to trail ride is like every other venture I’ve attempted.  I got the best gear I could.  I had a couple of introductory “this is how you do it” discussions with a great coach.  I got on the bike and hit the trail – literally, many times and counting.

When I run into obstacles that I have difficulty conquering, I meet with my coach and ride through the challenging area so he can see what my problem is.  Usually he will be able to tell me how to adjust my body position or throttle/clutch control or some other tweak to allow me to understand how to ride through the obstacle.  Other times, he will get on a bike and show me.

As my body and subconscious mind have learned new skills, my confidence has increased along with my speed.  I have also noticed that the trail has “opened up”.  While I am still aware of the obstacles peripherally, my focus has shifted to the trail – where I am going, where I want to be.


Once I master a trail, I move on to more difficult trails and different surfaces to obtain a broader skill base.  Turns out, good old dirt is the easiest off-road surface to ride on.  Mud is like ice-skating.  Gravel can be like riding on marbles.  Sand can grab your front tire and pull you down.  I am and will be continuously learning.  More fun to come.

Trail riding requires your full concentration.  If you look at the tree, you hit the tree.  If you look at the rock, you hit the rock.  If your technique is off, you find yourself wondering why you’re laying on the ground.  However, if you focus on the trail instead of the obstacles and trust your learned skills, the obstacles fly right by and you get to have fun.  No bruises.  No blood.  No burns.  Just fun.

Soon I’ll be in Arkansas on a portion of the Trans-America Trail for a long weekend ride.  The entire trail is 5,000 miles long, mostly on remote dirt tracks stretching from eastern Tennessee through Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, into California and finally to the Pacific coast in Oregon.  I want to ride the whole trail eventually.  I can’t wait!

Life is a trail ride.  You need to know where you want to go.  You have to continuously learn how to be successful.  You need a good coach to help you when it gets rough.  You need to focus on the ride, not the obstacles.  You have to keep picking yourself up.

Most of all, you must enjoy the ride to the fullest.  You only get one.

2 Responses

  1. Lola says:

    Beautiful analogy to all of life’s challenges. What better strength training than finding something you absolutely love and becoming stronger in body,mind and spirit.

  2. Gilbert says:

    Well said Charley, and I know you will master that 2-wheeled beast.

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Charles Wall, PE


Charley received his Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies and Master of Architectural Engineering degrees from Oklahoma State University. He is a licensed Professional Engineer…

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