Finding the strength to get up, and move forward

 

In the movies, when you think the chief protagonist has taken his last beating and can’t go on, he somehow summons the strength to defeat the bad guy, save the world, and get the girl. I’m assuming he stays in the next night to eat pizza; how do you follow up on a day like that? It doesn’t seem to work like that in real life though, and after the biggest beating of my life, it just seemed like no matter how often I got up, something kept knocking me down. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it got worse, and then got worse again: It got so bad at one point that if I had a dog, it probably would have run away.

It was the summer of 2013, and “Neale Bayly Rides Peru” had just aired on the Speed Channel in over 60 million homes. It was my idea to combine adventure motorcycle training with my love of traveling in the developing world and supporting my passion for philanthropy. In Peru, for instance, we supported a hardscrabble orphanage, with another similar project in South Africa and one in Kenya. For the three months leading up to the show, I had a personal chef living in my house, and I was training regularly in the gym and out on the dirt bike trails. Weighing in at 193 pounds of lean muscle and kicking out regular 50-100 mile bicycle rides, I scored in the top 5% of my age group on a VO2 Max test. I had my house paid for, a large chunk of cash and investments sitting around, and a solid retainer income that completely covered all my bills and enabled me to work on the show for four and a half years without drawing a paycheck. I had gone to Peru to map the country in 2009, filmed a TV pilot in 2010 and then worked on the show until it aired in 2013 without taking a dime. My kids were healthy, my passport filled with assignments to ride the world’s latest and greatest motorcycles in Australia, Japan, Africa, and Spain. I also happened to be in a torrid love affair with one of the most beautiful, intelligent ladies I’d ever met, who also happened to be a lawyer who races and wins 100-mile ultra marathons.

As that halcyon summer began to draw to a close and my show aired on national television, I set my sights on an African scouting trip and pitching season two of the show. Then my relationship ended and my personal chef left to travel the world, so it was back to home alone, beans on toast and cups of tea. My gut was gnawing though for a different reason, as something didn’t feel quite right. I just couldn’t put my finger on it and, in the way we so often smell or sense rain on a ride,

I somehow knew a storm was coming.

In early September of that year, the hand grenade that would threaten to tear every fabric of sanity from my life exploded. My business partner had been helping herself to money from the account, using it to promote one of our cast members, and another in our circle (whom I thought a friend) backstabbed me as we entered a vicious lawsuit. After close to five years of working on the algorithm that would see me riding motorcycles, supporting my family, and raising money for the world’s underserved, I found myself betrayed, backstabbed, and nearly destroyed.  I was faced with the fact it was all for nothing. Less than nothing, actually, as it cost me nearly everything I’d ever worked for. And then I lost all my retainer income as the motorcycle media world began to implode.

During that time period, I was a horrible boyfriend to a couple of nice ladies and struggled greatly to keep my physical and mental health together. I lost the will to write as the market for motorcycle journalism contracted rapidly. Finally, completely broke and in debt, I proved my partner embezzled money and got the rights and property of “Neale Bayly Rides” back—a few dozen t-shirts, a broken web site, and some hard drives with all the footage. Two years of no progress on the show had crippled its impact, and it, like me, was practically worthless. I scratched together a skinny deal to film “Neale Bayly Rides Peru 2”, and came home to the States to start rebuilding.

Then I snapped my femur in half. Four bolts, three months of non-weight bearing on crutches, and the possibility that my leg would never let me do the things I wanted on motorcycles were the cherries on the top of the pie I had been served. I managed to get off the walking stick fast, start rehabilitating, and got a couple of assignments: riding into Mexico for a story, and shooting pictures for a local billionaire in Ethiopia and Uganda as he handed out plastic chairs and Bibles in a refugee camp.

I kept the lights on.

Back home alone, broke, and with two legs working somewhat, I got sick. My brain just short-circuited. My vision got blurry, I had constant headaches and had serious problems with depth perception. I went and rode at a couple of press intros, hoping not to crash, and months later after thousands of dollars I didn’t have for tests, pills, potions, and such, I felt like throwing in the towel.

I got off all the meds, started doing trail work for a friend and riding dirt bikes, not that advisable when you can’t see properly, and added cycling and strength training at the gym. Then I met a lady called Sibley Poland at a BMW press introduction in Asheville for the new K1600 Winnebago (or whatever it was), starting a fast friendship that led to her bringing half a dozen BMW Rider Assn. members on one of my Peru adventure BMW rides. And as I fought just to stop going backwards, I attended a lunch with the On The Level Magazine designer Chris Parker and then-editor John Flores. John was pushing me to join the OTL team, and as I told the story you have just read, I guess something went off in Chris Parker’s head. He immediately made the most kind and positive post on social media about meeting me, and I started to produce columns for the magazine. These generated such great feedback that I wanted to carry on. Then Chris started working on a number of projects for me to help me get back on my feet, refusing to take payment and was always there, encouraging me and giving positive feedback about my columns and projects. I’m not sure if he knows how much he has helped, but that simple act of telling my story to him has sparked so much change for me and built such a wonderful friendship and connection to the magazine.

I don’t have the words to thank him.

Today, I’m doing great. I don’t have my income, my money, my show, or a lot of the accoutrements of my old lifestyle, but I’m a beast on a bicycle. I’m riding dirt bikes better than before, and have taken my broken leg up Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya, and a 19,100-foot volcano in Peru. I raced my first mountain bike event, a 100-mile race at altitude in Arizona, and recently bicycled 200 plus miles in one day on my road bike on two occasions. Our industry has changed, but working with Rob and the team here at Road Dirt has been yet another positive part of my life as I continually move forward. That relationship started when I first went to Ukraine and was able to report on my travels here on these pages. So in conclusion, I again want to thank my dear friend Chris Parker and all of you for your encouraging personal messages and emails about my writing, and I leave a quick reminder- you never know who you are helping as they are “getting up.”

Neale

For more on Neale’s Foundation:

Wellspring Outreach

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8 Comments

  1. Ted M Edwards

    It’s an honor to have you on staff Neale.

    Reply
    • Neale bayly

      Thank you for the kind words.

      Reply
  2. Graham Bush

    Great words my friend. You encouraged me at a very dark time in my life with some great words. You have that gift. I’m glad the world is treating you better. We can’t control the things that happen to us, only our reactions to them. Your reactions are an example to the rest of us. Always be true and genuine is my mantra. Love you Neale.

    Reply
    • Neale Bayly

      Thank you Jamie.
      At your darkest hour you used your talents and resources to come to South Africa and help provide care to homeless children. Your contributions to Wellspring are much appreciated. Glad to see your photography being recognized.

      Reply
  3. Rob Brooks

    It’s an honor to not only count you among our writers and photographers here at Road Dirt, but even more, to call you my friend. Very thankful for you, Neale.

    Reply
    • Neale bayly

      That’s a two way street Rob. Thank you for the friendship and support.

      Reply
    • Neale bayly

      Never never never.
      Glad you found Road Dirt.
      Hope all is well?

      Reply

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