This episode is brought to you by Winnebago Industries Foundation as part of their series highlighting folks breaking boundaries in outdoor recreation. Our hosts, Erik and Jeff, speak with Reggie Showers a two-time motorcycle drag racing world champion who is also a double leg amputee. Reggie speaks to the power of community and positive thinking in propelling him to not only follow his dreams of racing but to become a world champion. Now, Reggie continues to race and shares his life lessons with others around the world.
At 14, Reggie had a tragic electrical accident that left him a double amputee. But, his “never-say-die” attitude has propelled him to also become an accomplished pilot, inspirational speaker, certified snowboard instructor, and marathoner.
In 2017, he was part of ROMP, the Range Of Motion Project’s elite team of amputee & able-bodied climbers that climbed Cayambe, an 18000’ stratovolcano in Ecuador as part of a fundraising effort that benefitted amputees in third world countries.
Reggie continues to inspire folks around the world with his speaking career, athletic accomplishments, and mentorship programs.
Special thanks to the Winnebago Industries Foundation for their support of this podcast and their advocacy for accessibility in outdoor spaces.
Check out Reggie’s website: https://lifewithreggie.com/
Introducing Reggie Showers on
National Geographic’s Migrations
Reggie : I am nobody. I grew up in West Philly. My dad told me, "You are special, but everybody is special, and everybody has a gift and a talent that the good Lord has given them, and the universe is left incomplete if you don't give that gift and your talents back."
Erik : It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Eric Weihenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a no-barriers life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means. And part of the equation is diving into the learning process, and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way. In that unexplored terrain, between those dark places we find ourselves in and the summit, exists a map. That map, that way forward, is what we call No Barriers.
Jeff : Reggie Showers is a two-time motorcycle drag racing world champion. At 14, Reggie had a tragic electrical accident that left him a double amputee, but his never-say-die attitude has propelled him to also become an accomplished pilot, an inspirational speaker, a snowboard instructor and a marathoner. In 2017, he was part of ROMP, which is the Range Of Motion Project's elite team of amputee and able-bodied climbers that climbed Cayambe, which is an 18,000 stratovolcano in Ecuador, as part of a fund-raising effort that benefited amputees in third-world countries. Reggie continues to inspire folks around the world with his speaking career, athletic accomplishments and mentorship programs.
Jeff : Did you grow up in Philly? Are you straight out of Philly?
Erik : West Philadelphia born and raised.
Jeff : Well, your story, getting to know you, man, at least virtually, has been really cool, and understanding who you are and what you've done. I don't know how much you know about the No Barriers community, but you are the quintessential No Barriers badass, whether you know or not.
Erik : Yeah, we'll give you your trophy later.
Jeff : Yeah.
Reggie : I appreciate the kudos, man. Thank you very much.
Jeff : Also, I noticed your slight accent, not like a strong accent or anything, but then when I watched your videos, I was like, "That's the only guy without a deep Southern accent in any of those racers I've heard."
Erik : Yeah, how come you don't have an accent like Jeff?
Reggie : Well, again, it goes back to where I was raised in Northeast, and believe it or not, Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, these areas, they're stick and ball towns. There's not a whole lot of motors ports going on in the Northeast.
Erik : Right.
Reggie : But believe it or not, there's been some incredible champions that have come out of the Northeast corridor when it comes to motorsports in general, and more specifically, motorcycle motorsports. And there's quite a few world champions that I know that have come out of Philadelphia, myself included, and it's an interesting phenomenon. Well, no, it's not a phenomenon but-
Erik : Throw some names out. Who came from that area?
Reggie : Oh, there's one guy who I actually grew up with. He's younger than I am but his name is Ricky Gadson, and Ricky, he's probably the best motorcycle drag racer, what we call no wheelie bar racer. He rides these street bikes that are street legal, they're super powerful, they're very, very lightweight and they go just astronomical speeds in a quarter mile, and he's been very successful winning multiple world championships over the years, whereas I progressed into the more radical extreme motorcycles that are very, very low to the ground with big gigantic rear tires that burn nitrous oxide, turbo chargers, alcohol, and they have wheelie bars which keep you from flipping over backwards, which allows you to get the maximum amount of acceleration right from the starting line.
Erik : So visually what's that wheelie bar look like? Is it just like a giant bar so you cannot go over backwards?
Reggie : Exactly. It's two bars, one on either side of the rear axle, that are connected to the chassis of the motorcycle, that have skateboard wheels, believe it or not, on the end of them.
Erik : Wow.
Reggie : They're about five feet in length and we can adjust them strategically up or down independently to make the motorcycle accelerate more efficiently, so it allows us to really just dump the clutch right at the starting line. Therein lies the challenge, is trying to accelerate as hard as you can without flipping over backwards on the starting line.
Jeff : So, Eric, just real quick, Eric-
Erik : Definitely not that smart, but flipping over at the starting line seems like a really bad thing.
Jeff : No, but Eric, even back when you were a little kid, you can probably remember exactly what a motorcycle looks like. This is nothing like any bike you've ever seen. I mean this is a frigging rocket.
Erik : Dude, please, you're talking. I rode independently with five percent of my right eye. I could barely see. I used to fly around on this YZ50, man.
Jeff : Roger that, but that was like 55 years ago.
Erik : That was 30 years ago. All right, all right, that was like 45 years ago.
Jeff : This thing looks more like the Challenger rocket than it does your YZ, bud. This is like a ridiculously aerodynamic machine and Reggie-
Erik : Whatever. I got that YZ up to like 25 miles an hour.
Reggie : Yeah.
Jeff : This thing does not look like it has a comfortable seat.
Reggie : Yeah, it's not very comfortable, but we're not on it but for less than seven seconds on a pass.
Jeff : Yeah.
Reggie : But I can tell you that the seat area is very, very uncomfortable.
Erik : Is it still part of the modular plastic or is there any cushion in it at all?
Reggie : There's no cushion whatsoever. We actually put skateboard tape in the seat area because it's abrasive and it helps to keep me-
Erik : Yeah, because you'd slide off the back unless there's something to hold you in.
Reggie : Exactly. It helps to keep me planted in the seat. Also, there was times where I used to actually spray spray glue in the seat area, and when the seat was covered it was covered with vinyl and we'd spray spray glue on it and that would keep me stuck into the seat, or it would help at least. But it's really imperative to try to lunge forward or go with the motorcycle as it's accelerating at the start. You can maximize your acceleration efficiency if you can leave with the motorcycle. We leave wide-open throttle. Well, we have a rev limiter and we can set the rev limiter strategically at 10,000 rpm or 9,000 or 7,000, whatever our crew chief thinks is optimal to get the best traction without spinning the tire, and when we let the clutch go, the motorcycle is going to go. It's just going to take off. It can cover 60 feet in one second. I'm sorry, it goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in one second, so you can imagine, and it's basically a land missile, and it's going to go with you or without you.
Jeff : Are you changing gears and therefore are you engaging the clutch or is it a Rekluse clutch?
Reggie : Once I let the clutch go at the starting line, I never squeeze the clutch again until I'm ready to shut the motorcycle down. I do have to shift gears. There's a six-speed transmission. It's a conventional centrifugal clutch. It has a lockup mechanism on it to keep it from slipping. I do shift gears. I have to shift gears five times.
Erik : Do you have to have really strong ab muscles? Do you know what I mean?
Reggie : Your core.
Erik : Yeah, your core, to really hold you on there.
Reggie : Yeah. Your core plays a huge part. I do a lot of coaching and stuff now and what I try to do is to get these riders to be as still as possible. I've seen people flip off the back of motorcycles, just flip right over. That's how violent-
Jeff : Even with the wheelie bar, they still-
Reggie : Even with the wheelie bars. The bike just goes-
Erik : Oh, my gosh.
Reggie : ... and the person is not ready for the acceleration. And when it hits you, it hits you. I mean it's basically like time stops.
Jeff : I got to say that I have a Tesla and I like to race dudes.
Reggie : Those damn things are fast.
Jeff : It's so fast. I tried to race a McLaren a week ago and we got separated. We were looking at each other as we were driving and then one guy got in front of him so we couldn't do it, but I've definitely pulled off the line against a Corvette. I live up in the hills a little bit so a bit more rural. And boy, I love that, and I can really appreciate how right off that line the adrenalin just must be flowing through.
Reggie : Yeah.
Jeff : So your challenge must be, like so many other things in life, to be able to harness the adrenaline and make it do what you like as fuel, as opposed to being counterproductive where you might be herky-jerky. Right?
Reggie : Yeah, exactly. When you first do it, just like anything, it's going to blow your mind, but after you become acclimated to the speed, after you become acclimated to the acceleration, it becomes a job, and especially when you're in the professional ranks. Literally time stops. When you're at the starting line and you let go of the clutch, we pull 3Gs right off the starting line, so time literally stops. If it's 12 o'clock exactly at the starting line when you take off and let the clutch go, you've accelerated down the track. It's still 12 o'clock at the starting line, but now you're 100 feet down track and it's, let me see, I guess it's 11:59. It's like you go backwards.
Jeff : You're time traveling, man. [crosstalk 00:11:01]
Reggie : It's like time stops. It's like you're time traveling. You develop tunnel vision because you can't see. I mean you have to look forward in order to drive straight. You have to look further forward down the track because that's going to be your immediate reality in a split second because you're going so fast forward, so you have to focus-
Erik : So you can't like turn your head and look back or anything like that?
Reggie : Well, there're times where I have looked over, but usually that's when I'm in high gear, when I see the finish line coming and I know that I'm going super straight, and I've got a ton of experience. And there're times where you have looked over at your competition and it wasn't very smart. But now, and these bikes are so fast that that's just really detrimental to your performance. It's detrimental to your safety. And in all honesty, your peripheral vision when you're looking over at your competitor, especially in the early stages of the race, in the first eighth of a mile, that can be very distracting, just like horse racing. You see horses have blinders on, so they're not distracted out of their peripheral.
Erik : Right.
Reggie : Well, I do the same thing with my helmet, with my visor. I have blinders. I have tape on both sides of my helmet, on the right side and the left side, so where I can only see a very narrow field of view looking straight down a track because I don't want to look at my competitor because they may distract me and make me mess up.
Erik : So there are times when you've won and you didn't even know it right away?
Reggie : There are times that I have won and I didn't know it. They usually have a winner's light past the finish line because once you get to the finish line you're traveling so fast that if the light was at the actual 1,320-foot mark, you would go by it. You'd never see it.
Erik : Right.
Reggie : So they have it about 70 feet or whatever past the finish line because that's going to be your reality in that split second once you're going 200 miles per hour right at the finish line. But I have won races and I didn't know, and both of us are looking at each other, "Yo, did you win? Did you win?" We don't know. And then we pull off the race track and the timer... They have top-end guys. They say, "Yo, left lane, you won." And I'm like, "Yes."
Erik : That's awesome. Let's talk about this little monkey wrench, you being an amputee.
Jeff : Yeah, right now everybody's like, "Wow, this dude's a badass racer." They don't know one of the more unique things [crosstalk 00:13:33]
Erik : Tell us the one little factor. It's not that big a deal. Now, are you a below the knee or above the knee?
Reggie : I am a bilateral below knee amputee. Both of my legs are amputated below the knees. One leg is six inches, the other one's eight inches below.
Erik : Oh, okay. Got it. That's interesting too. Are there dynamics with that? Again, I know nothing so forgive me, but if you have legs you've got all this power. You can wrap it around the bike. It helps your core. It helps you probably stay distributed and body awareness. So without legs, and I'm assuming that you use prosthetics while you're racing.
Reggie : I do.
Erik : Yeah. You are lighter though a little bit, so maybe that's an advantage, right. Talk us through that.
Reggie : Initially racing a professional motorcycle with prosthetic legs was one of the hardest things that I've ever had to do. It was very, very challenging. Trying to get your feet up on the foot pegs, it was very hard. I'm six foot. I'm five foot 11 and three quarters so I'm six foot, and these motorcycles have a 21-inch seat height, so they're very, very low to the ground, so I was more of a taller rider, and trying to crunch and get into a compact shape right at the starting line, to get your feet on the pegs, which is very, very important if you want to maintain control of the motorcycle, to maintain its upright balance and get the maximum acceleration that you can, which transfers to the best elapsed time that you can get, it was very, very hard.
Reggie : What I did, I had a prosthetist who we start thinking about how we could come up with a new design for prosthetic legs that would help me race more efficiently. And believe it or not, instead of being five foot 11 and three quarters, we just started to shorten the legs up. We took a pipe wrench out and then we started to cut the pylons, which is a carbon fiber tube that connects the actual socket which goes around my residual limb and it connects to the prosthetic foot. Well, that pipe can be shortened or lengthened and we just started shortening it up. And we got it all the way down to where I was five foot five on race day, so people were looking at me a little differently. They were like, "Wait a minute, something's different about Reggie, but who can go from six foot to five foot five?"
Reggie : We just shorten the legs up and I wear a size nine and a half, size 10 shoe. Well, with prosthetic legs I mean I can do whatever I want. We got really, really short size five geriatric feet. They were really, really small. And we just made them as super light as possible. That way it gave me the option, and these motorcycles, we have a weight limit, a weight break, a minimum of 600 pounds, bike and rider, that the package has to be. If you're 599 you get disqualified. But if you can make the rider lose weight, and I looked emaciated when I raced most of the time because I was always weight conscious, but that extra weight, that ballast, that I'm not carrying in my upper body, we can now distribute on a motorcycle strategically to make it go quicker.
Erik : Every video I saw, you're celebrated. You're amazing. I was thinking one of the founders of No Barriers, the podcast is the same name, he's a double-leg amputee and he lost his legs in a climbing accident and he built these prosthetic legs and same thing. He made them super light, tiny, little feet, basically like doorstops that he can wedge into seams, and he climbed at an insanely high level, like top 10 climbers in the country.
Reggie : What's his-
Erik : His name's Hugh Herr.
Reggie : I have a pair of his feet looking at me right now. The BiOM.
Erik : Oh, yeah.
Reggie : Some BiOMs.
Erik : But he got criticized. You know what I mean? So I'm just wondering, did you ever hear negative stuff like, "Hey, that guy's cheating"?
Reggie : You know, behind closed doors that may have been a topic of discussion, but never in person. No one has ever said anything to me that he has an unfair advantage. Jokingly, some people made comments that, "Man, you've got your race legs on today. That's no fair." And that made me think, "Oh, well, what were they saying about me behind my back about being so short?" And I told them, "Hey, all you got to do is go see your doctor, get your legs amputated, just like me, and you can be five foot five too."
Jeff : I love that.
Erik : That's my sense of humor.
Jeff : I like the idea, Reg, for somebody who doesn't know you, you show up, race legs, and they're like, "Oh, Reggie's five foot five," and then you go to the celebration dinner afterwards, you got your regular legs on, and they're like, "Whoa, Reggie's six foot." Instead of drop it down like Reggie's [inaudible 00:18:49]. Oh okay, now I see the different version of Reggie. Can we back up just a little bit though-
Reggie : Sure.
Jeff : ... because this incident where you lost your legs you were young. You were 14 years old. Am I right?
Reggie : That's correct.
Erik : Are you comfortable talking about that because it says an electrical accident. It's a little vague.
Reggie : Yeah, I'm totally transparent. As a matter of fact, the anniversary of my injury is coming up here in a couple of days. It's Memorial Day. 1978 is when it happened. I was out riding my dirt bike with some of my friends and we were riding next to a train yard and the train yard had a bunch of box cars that were parked out on the tracks. The trains weren't moving. They were must stationary box cars. And we're talking back in the late '70s. We didn't have Xbox. There was no internet and Facebook. We had outside and all that outside had to offer. And sometimes outside, our playgrounds were very dangerous places, like a train yard, but they were adventurous playgrounds for us kids.
Reggie : And I climbed to the top of one of these box cars and when I got up, when I stood up, I got really close to an overhead electrical power wire that some of these trains use for power, and there was 13,000 volts of electricity going through that wire. And I didn't touch the wire. I just got too close to it. The electricity arced and reached out and touched me. It knocked me right out. I didn't feel an ounce of pain going through the actual electrocution, but I felt a shit load of pain after, going through the rehabilitation and the healing.
Jeff : So were your buddies with you that day?
Reggie : They were with me but fortunately none of them were standing on the box car that I was on, or they weren't standing on connecting cars, because they would have been electrocuted as well from the conductivity. They saw what happened. They ran and got police, which called Fire and Rescue. They shut the power off on the wire. They got me down off of the train box car. They airlifted me to a major trauma center where they diagnosed my injuries. I had third-degree burns over 35% of my body. But the most traumatic injury was to both of my lower legs as the electricity exited my body at the feet, which were the ground point, so it just killed all the muscles and tendons and flesh, and so they had to amputate both below the knees.
Reggie : And this is back in the '70s. This is 1978. There was no Americans with Disabilities Act. There was very few Mom and Pop amputee support groups going on back then. But I was very, very fortunate that I had my mother and my father, my school, my coaches. I grew up across the street from a church. I had all these people, my village, my neighbors. They were my village and they all believed in me and they all offered me words of encouragement, especially my dad. And I'm going to tell you, my father never let me see him cry. He cried and cried and cried about my injury, as any parent would if their child would go through such a horrific injury, but he never let me see him cry, which that gave me strength. And he told me, "Reggie, you can do whatever you want to do. This is not going to stop you from being successful in life." And those words, they resonated with me.
Erik : How about you though? Did you cry?
Reggie : I cried. I cried. I was scared. I didn't have anybody to talk to, and I didn't have anybody to tell me what it was like, what it was going to be like, going through this amputation, which fast forward 43 years has made me become the advocate for the amputee/disabled community in general that I am now. I refuse to allow somebody to walk their journey by themselves if it's something that I've already been through and I can hold their hand and help them.
Reggie : Just this morning I left a racing school, the Urban Youth Racing School, which I teach a class on the weekends to kids. And there was a gentleman going into the building on crutches and he had no prosthesis. He had one leg. And I asked him. I said, "Hey, man, how'd you lose your leg?" He says, "Oh, it's diabetes." And I said, "How long?" He said, "It just happened last month." I said, "Here. I'm going to give you my number." I said, "I'm an amputee too." He said, "Are you really?", because I had long pants on. And I showed him and his face just lit up. He's like, "Oh, my gosh, I can't believe it." We exchanged numbers. I said, "Dude, I got you. I'm an advocate for our community. I know everybody. I got a ton of resources at my disposal as far as people and foundations and I have information that's going to help you during this journey."
Reggie : In all honestly, the burns, the amputation, the injuries, they gave me purpose in life, and this is what I do now. I go out. I am nobody. I grew up in West Philly. I'm just a young, little boy from West Philly. My dad told me, "You're special, but everybody's special, and everybody has a gift and a talent that the good Lord has given them and the universe is left incomplete if you don't give that gift and your talents back." So all that the good Lord's given me, I'm trying to give it back to make the world a better place for everybody.
Jeff : I have this movie going on in my head where you show up at somebody's bed in their hospital. They're a new amputee and they're like, "Who are you? What do you have to tell me?" And you pull those pants up and there's your prosthetics, right. "I've got a lot to tell you."
Reggie : I do it all the time. I have photos, actually a photo that I shared on social media of a gentleman that I had met, and he was in, I think it was a hospital, University of Pennsylvania, and he had just lost his leg. He was in his early 60s maybe and he was just crying and he said to me, "How am I going to take care of my family?" He felt like he had lost some of his masculinity. The future was just so uncertain for him. I just spent about an hour or so with him talking about what life has been like for me, some of the challenges you're going to face, but here's some resources. Here's some support. And I actually saw him a year later in Washington D.C. at an event we had down there, at a march that we did for disabled people's rights, and I took a picture with him and he was standing, wearing his prosthesis and wearing a big smile on his face. So success.
Jeff : Reggie, did you believe your daddy when he said that to you?
Reggie : I did.
Jeff : Or did it take time? Or was it because it was your daddy, you said, "I'm 14. What my dad said is gospel so I'm buying into it." Or did it just take time?
Reggie : I'm 14, what my dad says is gospel, and I'm buying into it.
Jeff : Interesting.
Reggie : My dad was my hero. My dad I think had a sixth grade education, but he had a master's degree when it came to common sense and business sense. He was a product of the '20s. He grew up in 1920 where the kids had to. And his father died when he was very young, and him and his brothers had to drop out of school to go to work to help support the family. And then when he got old enough he enlisted in the army. And he ran a small business in Philadelphia, a grocery store, and he was very successful at it and everybody loved him. He was my role model. He was my hero. If my dad said that I was going to be okay, I was going to be okay.
Jeff : I love it.
Reggie : So that really helped me and I knew the power of words, the power of positivity, the power of positive thinking, and how beneficial it can be to a person during their therapeutic recovery when it comes to a physical injury or an emotional injury or psychological, whatever. The power of positivity, I totally believe in it because I've lived it firsthand. If I can do that, help somebody else and share my story, then that's exactly what I do.
Jeff : And you mentioned the fact that you had a village around you. You had such a support system. The community that was around you that elevated you in this time was also such a critical variable. And I'm sure you're familiar with the No Barriers community, but it is about community. We've seen so many people that didn't have a community and didn't have that structured system around them to lift them up out of those dark times, and I just would love to hear you speak on that, just about how critical that network, that actual net to catch you when you fall, and what that was like for you.
Reggie : I think we as a society have come a very long way when it comes to the importance of support in the rehabilitation process. We realize how important it is. We may not have back in the day, during my time, like I said, but now it's just super important, and a lot of us who are in the community, the disabled community, if it's TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury community, or PTSD, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder community, we know the power of support.
Reggie : And what I like to do, I work for a prosthetic foot company, and part of my job description is to reach out to the community via social media. There's a lot of people who live by themselves who are disabled, or they live in a community where they're the only disabled person in their neighborhood, in their church, in their school, at their job, and that was me back in 1978. There were no other amputees in my neighborhood. There were no other amputees at my school, at my church. I mean I was the only one. I'm going to tell you it was a lonely, lonely experience not being able to talk to another amputee, "Hey, will I ever be able to drive a car? Will girls like me? Will I learn how to dance? Can I play sports again?" These were all these questions that I had that nobody could answer for me.
Reggie : And back then, prosthetic leg technology was archaic compared to what it is now. Like you just mentioned, one of the co-founders is Hugh Herr and he made his own bionic prosthetic feet, and he's climbing mountains. I mean all that kind of stuff was unheard of back in the '70s. But now we see people with disabilities just accomplishing amazing feats and we look at the athletes, the amazing disabled athletes in the Paralympics. And I snowboard. I teach adaptive snowboarding, and you see some of my snowboard athletes that are just ripping up the mountain. You would never know that they're amputees. It's just amazing. And it all comes from support.
Reggie : And that's one of the reasons, I know I never fully answered your question about my prosthetic legs and racing, and it's one of the things I did do initially in my racing career, as well as when I got my pilot's license. I'm also a licensed pilot. I never told the FAA, or I never told the sanctioning bodies in the racing organizations that I was an amputee because I was scared they weren't going to let me race.
Jeff : Right.
Reggie : I was scared they might not let me fly airplanes.
Jeff : And isn't there just sort of a feeling of irrelevance? Hey, you know, it doesn't have anything to do with my skill level of any of these pursuits. Right? Did you feel that way as well?
Reggie : I felt as though as long as I got the opportunity to prove myself, then there was nothing that they could do to stop me. But would they give me the opportunity? Would they trust or take the chance to let me go out there and prove myself, because these are very extreme disciplines. Racing a motorcycle. There's able-bodied people who can't do it right and here you want to put some amputee on a motorcycle. Flying an airplane. There's able-bodied people who can't get it right. So I said, "Let me just go out there and do it."
Reggie : And then after, when I won my first championship, I was like, "Oh, by the way, I'm an amputee." And everybody's jaws just dropped. There was a handful of people in my inner circle that knew, but generally speaking, nobody knew. But then I started to see the importance of getting out and just telling my story and offering support, and that support, that story, started to reverberate throughout the community and I started to see how I could do my part to help other people overcome their adversities.
Erik : People, sometimes they ask me, "Okay, why are you motivated to climb?", let's say, and, "Are you trying to prove that you can do this and that?" And sometimes I have a visceral reaction against that because it feels so negative like, "Yeah, I'm just climbing because I want to prove that I'm worth it or something." You know what I mean?
Reggie : Yeah.
Erik : It feels very shallow to me.
Reggie : Yeah.
Erik : But honestly, as I get older, I'm 52 now, I'm starting to realize, yeah, it was a factor. We're all, when we're young, trying to prove that, you know what I mean, we can crush the world, I guess.
Reggie : Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely.
Erik : And so going blind, it probably was like an extra bit of fire to say like, "F-you, I can do this." Do you know what I mean? Do you think that's good or was that you at all? Is that good? Is it bad? Is it a double-edged sword?
Reggie : I struggle to this day. My amputation, my accident, happened in 1978, and I struggle to this day. It was 43 years ago. I struggle to this day with accepting help from other people. I have a psychological issue. It's okay to accept help. My father told me, he's passed away now, he had a long, healthy life, but he used to tell me, "Son, work smarter, not harder. It's okay to accept help from other people. It's okay to let somebody carry the bag for you. It's okay to let somebody open the door for you."
Reggie : And I think that subconsciously I had this chip on my shoulder. I never really showed it, but deep down inside I was really wanting to prove to myself, "Oh, I can climb that stairs. No, I don't need any help. You don't have to open a door for me. I got it." To this day I have to really check myself when it comes to accepting people's help, and I think that it's a result of me and my accident, not wanting to look like this invalid.
Erik : So you have obviously self-awareness around this. As you get older, have you tried to soften up a bit and [crosstalk 00:34:20]
Reggie : I have. I consciously have changed. It's okay to have somebody hold the door for me. It's okay to have somebody carry my bag or whatever, because when I'm flying, when I'm walking in shorts, people obviously see my prosthetic legs, and I got a backpack on. It's like 20 pounds. And I got a carry-on behind that, and then I've got some other stuff or whatever and, "Oh, can we see your boarding pass." I'm like, "Okay, hold on a second." I'm trying to juggle this and that, get my phone out, and it's okay to let somebody hold my bag. I don't have to hold it. But there was a time where it was, "No, I got it. I got it. I got everything." And I see that in a lot of disabled people who may be new to the game. They're out on their own now. They're new in the rehabilitation process. They're self-sufficient to a point. And I see that where people will offer them help and they'll turn them down.
Jeff : Eric, I used to see you do that all the time.
Erik : Well, yeah, no, I mean I full-on own that.
Jeff : Yeah.
Erik : I used to like really need help and some people like, "Can I help you?", and I'd be like, "I don't need help." And then in my mind I'm like, "I totally need help right now."
Reggie : You need help right now.
Jeff : You'd get downright mean, homie. You would squawk at people like, "Don't touch my chair. I got this." And that's an interesting thing that you asked Reggie, because I think with time we all softened up a bit and you realized it's not an offense. Somebody's really just trying to help you. But when you're sort of freshly injured or freshly lose your sight, you're claiming to the world, "I'm squared away. Y'all, I don't need your help. I'm good to go, right. And as a matter of fact, it's offensive that you even asked me because I'm still squared." It's an interesting [inaudible 00:36:13]. I mean I've watched Eric. It sounds like you have too, Reggie.
Reggie : Yeah, and it also puts those who are around you in a very sensitive, maybe sometimes uncomfortable position because they want to help you, but also they know that you're okay without their help. So do they offer you the help, like they would offer any person, or do they not offer you the help because they know that you're disabled or that you're blind? It's sensitive. You know like, "Man, I really want to help him but I don't want him to feel like I'm feeling I have pity for him, like he can't do something." So it's very sensitive.
Erik : I want to talk about fear, Reggie, because I found that video you talked about fear was really fascinating. And another thing that I really related to myself, when I learned to kayak blind, I never really honestly mastered the whole fear thing. You talked about chronic and acute fear. I think I had them both, right, the sort of just anxiety like, "Oh, God, I've got to get back in the boat," and also that acute fear when you are in the rapid. I don't think I ever really figured out a great way of handling that fear, except what you mentioned, which was basically eliminating the unknowns, which is freaking insane, insane practice, preparation, over and over and over.
Reggie : Absolutely.
Erik : Yeah.
Reggie : I think that's what we're all scared of is what we don't know. We don't know what's going to happen. And it's really funny. I think you know more about what I said about fear than I do at this particular moment. I was like, "Really? I said something about fear." What was it? Please refresh my memory.
Erik : That was on YouTube so-
Reggie : I've said a lot of stuff. Oh, it is? Okay, okay.
Erik : Yeah.
Reggie : You know, it's like I said, if you can familiarize yourself with the unknown, or the unknowns, and start to get used to them, then what is there to fear? I remember when I first started out racing these professional motorcycles and these motorcycles are, like I said before, they're land missiles. They go from zero to 60 in one second, zero to 100 in two seconds. They are super, super fast. They will kill you if you don't know what you're doing. And when I first started out, I mean, I could put you on one of these motorcycles tomorrow and you can let the clutch go and it will totally blow your mind. You'd say, "I never ever want to get on this thing ever again," because you didn't know what to expect. You didn't know what was going to happen. But if you slowly familiarize yourself with what's going to happen, eliminate the unknowns.
Reggie : I'll tell you something else that really helped me approach my initial fears because the only way that you're going to get over your fears is by facing them. But what gives you the courage in the first place to face them? For me it was my faith. I'm a very spiritual person. I'm not very religious. I'm very spiritual. I am religious to an extent, but I'm not a fanatic, but I am very spiritual. I do have a relationship with God and he walks with me every single day. I ask him. He counsels me every single day. But my faith helped me to overcome all of my fears. Well, not all of them. I still have some stuff I'm working on, like I think we all do.
Erik : Right.
Reggie : But my faith helped me to trust, and knowing that this is what I'm supposed to be doing in my life right now helped me a great deal, and hopefully I answered your question a little bit because I totally forgot about what I said about fear.
Erik : Well, so that faith is because you say, "Look, there's something good at the end of the road here. This journey is good. It's not leading to a dead-end."
Reggie : It's something bigger than me, you know?
Erik : Yeah.
Reggie : And that's how I live my life. I meet people. I get a specific promotion at work, or I get a specific setback, and those are put in my life for a reason. There's something bigger than me. There's a reason why I'm going through this depression. There's a reason why I'm going through this uncertainty, because after I go through it, I'm not going to stay there, I'm going through it. After I go through it, I'm going to learn from it, and then I'm going to take that learning experience and teach somebody else who is also going through the same situation or has the same fear of whatever it is that this situation is. And I can then hold their hand and guide them and help them get through it. So I know there's a reason why I go through this stuff, because it's something bigger than me.
Erik : Reggie, look, we could talk to you the whole day. I could just talk to you for another hour and a half, but I feel like we've covered so much ground. Maybe we'll save it for a part two at some point if that's okay.
Reggie : Awesome. Absolutely.
Erik : Yeah, it's really wonderful to get to know you. Your stories are great, your message is great, and you're super authentic, and you've just kicked ass too on top of it all.
Jeff : Reggie, so you know Eric and I, we've done a few things, and whenever we do anything else it's always what's next? Even after Everest it was what's next? What's next? What's next? And I've grown, like you guys were talking about, I used to be a little spiteful towards things. I used to be like, "It doesn't matter what's next. I just did that. Chill out, man. Just pump your brakes, bro. I just did that. I just got down off frigging Everest, man." So then I start to soften up like, "Well, here it is." So I'm going to ask you the question that I hate, which is what's next? There's got to be something. How do people find out about what's next for Reggie Showers?
Reggie : Well, what's next? I've been an advocate for the disabled community for quite some time. I've developed a lot of relationships and connections with some foundations, some corporations, which has given me the resources to be able to connect dots, help people who need help, and put those people together with people who have funds and stuff to make effective change. I really enjoy that work and I'd really like to do that in other countries, so I'm starting to branch off and help different foundations from Palestine, from Haiti, and the Philippines, so not confined to the United States. I mean there's a need everywhere. There's a need here in the States as well, but there's a huge need elsewhere as well. I'm really looking to spread my wings and get out to other countries, Africa, a lot more and help just make a change, bring change and happiness and the gift of mobility to those who need it in other countries, as well as helping our youngsters here in the States.
Erik : Yeah, well, that's cool. I look forward to hearing all about your adventures.
Reggie : Oh, people can follow me @reggieshowers. All those social media platforms. It's just simple. Reggie Showers. Lifewithreggie.com I think is my website. Lifewithreggie.com, yeah.
Jeff : Well, you were born with a cool name too. You didn't get stuck-
Erik : Weihenmayer.
Jeff : ... with Weihenmayer.
Reggie : That's cool.
Jeff : You got Reggie Showers.
Erik : I guess so.
Jeff : No, Showers, that's cool. That's a racer's name. Maybe when you're born named Reggie Showers you've got to become a motorcyclist.
Erik : You didn't have a choice, Reggie. You didn't have a choice. You were either going to be a quarterback in the NFL or [shortstop 00:44:11] or an NHRA dragster racer or something. Right?
Jeff : Yeah.
Reggie : That's funny.
Erik : How many Shmeddley Shmiddelsteins are there in bike racing?
Reggie : There's always a first.
Erik : All right, thank you, Reggie. No Barriers to everyone. Thank you, Jeff.
Reggie : Thank you, Eric. Thank you, Jeff. Thank you for having me.
Yeah, keep fighting the good fight, Reggie.
We would like to thank our generous sponsors that make our No Barriers Podcast possible. Wells Fargo, Prudential, CoBANK, Arrow Electronics and Winnebago. Thank you so much for your support. It means everything to us. The production team behind this podcast include senior producer, Pauline Shaffer, sound design, editing and mixing by Tyler Cottman, and marketing support by Heather Zoccali, Stevie Dinardo, Erica Howey, and Alex Schaffer. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan Band for our intro song, Guidance. And thanks to all of you for listening. If you enjoy this podcast we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com.