Josh Jewell: Balancing Life on Two Wheels
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”—Henry David Thoreau
“I have a goal,” says my barber, Josh Jewell. Between snips he pauses for effect. “I want to try out for BMW’s International GS Trophy.”
Josh’s name has never been on a marquee, but like Thoreau, he lives deliberately—practicing his riding skills, building his business, managing his family, and maintaining his fitness, a carryover from his days as a mountain bike racer. It’s no stretch to believe he’ll achieve his GS Trophy objective.
Josh’s traditional values are evident in both his haircuts and his respect for his wife and daughter. “I try not to let April fuss with the daily chores too much. She works harder than I do, trying to finish her degree and at the Health Department. Besides, I love spending time with Riley (the couple’s eight-year old daughter).” This wholesome work ethic permeates both his life and his riding.
Josh began riding at age 11. A month-long grounding for doing wheelies in the street on his Kawasaki KX80 did little to quell his enthusiasm, but life and mountain bike racing distracted him for a few years. He re-entered the moto scene as a young adult on a Triumph Speed Triple, soon followed by a KLR650. Josh’s “go for it” riding style broke too many parts off the big Kawasaki, forcing him to turn to something more trail-worthy, a street-legal Yamaha WR450. Soon after, he added a BMW R1200GS Adventure to his fleet. The Beemer quickly became his go-to machine and will hopefully propel him to a position on BMW’s Team USA.
Josh subscribes to the philosophy, “the best way to learn is to teach.”He has stepped up to help me coach in Oklahoma’s only adventure rider training school and he is the quintessential self-starter. When I’m busy with a full class of students, it’s challenging to divide my attention between the task at hand and setting up the next exercise. Typically, before I know it, Josh has engaged fellow coach Tobin Vigil or one of our scouts to lay out the next course. With his attentiveness, we move seamlessly between drills,one of us explaining the exercise while the other perches on his BMW R1200GS, ready to demonstrate. Josh’s forethought makes my job easy.
Outside of class, practicing riding skills is an ongoing part of Josh’s schedule. “My dad sometimes questions my sanity,” he says. At his father’s acreage, Josh spends time riding slowly in tight circles over rough terrain to perfect his balance, while his dad looks on, shaking his head. And he tackles sand with a vengeance. His giant BMW is anything but agile, yet Josh dips and turns through the stuff like a skier through deep powder.
The wheels in his head are always turning. Early last year, Josh concocted the notion to retrieve a bottle of his favorite whiskey from the Woods High Mountain Distillery in Salida, Colorado. He and his pal Paul Schoelen had discovered the spirits on a Jeeping expedition and decided to make a Smokey and the Bandit-type run out west on their dirt bikes. With only a little time off from work, Josh and Paul picked up the Trans-America Trail in Clayton, New Mexico, blazed out to Colorado, dashed into the liquor store to purchase a bottle, then without sleep, rode back again, covering more than 600 off-road miles in less than three days. When Josh sets his mind to something, it usually comes to pass.
There in the barber chair, I receive a taste of Josh’s quiet wit.“Your wife will love you more after this haircut... you’re welcome,” Josh says with a sly smile as I admire the trim. The cool, fresh sting of barber tonic adds that vintage, manly touch. His shop is old school, with an ear for those who need one and the equivalent of a classified security status for keeping secrets, all typical attributes of the forgotten artists behind the peppermint barber pole.
Yet even as he attends to his local obligations, Josh’s eye projects a far-off glimmer. In addition to competing for the coveted GS Trophy, he dreams of traveling the world by motorcycle with his wife and daughter. South America is high on their list of destinations. He has a plan, and if his life to date is any indication, he will achieve his goal. His wife April’s training as a nurse practitioner will complement the family’s desire to help others in need across the planet. Together, there’s little doubt they will continue working toward their dream of travel and service.
Look for Josh in the 2018 qualifiers!