Erica Krenz on What it Means to “Be Like Ike”

The last three months of my life have been filled with the most incredible experiences, and I never would have anticipated that a simple google search for a motocross instructor would lead me to the highest honor. I still pinch myself from time to time because I struggle with believing that such an ordinary girl such as myself, could be so blessed to be taught by such an extraordinary gentleman.

Before I met Mr. De Jager, I was in an extremely dark place – no happiness, no laughter, no joy in being around anyone, myself, or anything. I was holding so tightly to what little pieces of myself still existed by forcing a smile when there was nothing to smile about, taking care of my family despite the black hole I wanted to crawl in, go to sleep, and never awaken. After losing my father abruptly only a few years ago, my days were plagued with grief and no reason to keep fighting. I was humbled to be home to care for him, but there are no words of comfort, no act of kindness, no gesture of sympathy that can prepare you for the moment you lose someone you consider to be your entire universe. I lost my whole world and my best friend at that moment and I was livid. I was furious with God for taking someone I loved more than life itself, and I had so much more in life to learn from him – so…Why? The pain was unbearable; manifesting itself as all my love for him, but with no place left to go.

The days dragged on into months and years as I continuously became consumed with regret when thinking about the events surrounding the passing of my father. I had allowed my dad to die thinking I was a complete disgrace by dropping out of college and coming home in my junior year. Already the black sheep of the family, it was just one more reason to be let down by their daughter. I was a complete failure, but the truth of why I dropped out and came home was far worse in my eyes than swallowing the pangs of their disappointment. How can a daughter tell her father she was brutally attacked and sexually assaulted, and now spends every waking moment living in paranoia, distrust, shame, and excruciating self-hatred? It would have surely broken his heart, so I bore the burden of disappointment and disgrace I assumed he felt towards me instead. It was an intolerable prison with no possibility of retribution after he was gone. Instead the pain and longing to just make him proud of me again exponentially grew day after day – to make him see and understand the place from where all my pain and self-hatred came. The broken ribs, the physical pain and bruising would heal, but I couldn’t above all live with the possibility of disappointing my father whom I loved so dearly. He could never know.

At the beginning of the year 2021, my counselor challenged me to retry or re-introduce a positive hobby that I once enjoyed back into my life. Oddly enough, motorcycles came to the forefront of my mind. Now all I had to do was convince my husband I wouldn’t get hurt, so I promised to take the responsible route and take motocross lessons or find an instructor (which I didn’t know yet if those two things even existed), but I would worry about that later! My husband and I both knew without having to say it to one another, that I needed something of my own and maybe, just maybe, this would be it. Maybe this would fix this broken person I had become with little to no time left for second chances. Throwing all caution to the wind, not knowing what on earth I was getting myself into, I called Mr. De Jager to schedule a lesson.

The moment finally arrived for my first lesson on my dirt bike with Ike De Jager, and I was so excited that I was bursting at the seams. I had no idea what to expect and honestly, I didn’t expect anything…I was simply eager to learn. I spent six hours sweating, being pushed to my limits, being filled with knowledge about the mental, physical, and mechanical aspects of riding a motorcycle. Then, suddenly something strange happened. This remarkable man wasn’t just teaching me about the sport and techniques of motocross – he was inspiring me to live again. I found myself smiling again, being able to laugh at my mistakes instead of judging myself for what I lack, finding joy in the accomplishments big and small. I was grabbing self-confidence by leaps and bounds. A feeling I haven’t felt in a decade or more. The
self-hatred, the pain, the anger, all the dark clouds hanging over me were melting away through his kindness, patience, acceptance, and encouragement while sharing in our passions of motocross. After our lesson was concluded, Ike informed me that he was going to ride the tracks for a while. Trying not to draw attention to myself, I hurried over to my husband and was excitedly trying to get him inside our vehicle so we could move to the tallest point of the area and watch him ride his own dirt bike.

I get emotional even now when I think back to what I saw in that moment I spied on my trainer. Everything Ike had just taught me a few moments before was exemplified in such dignity, grace, and absolute beauty as he commanded the bike around the tracks and trails. I was mesmerized by the sound, the techniques, the way everything worked together in harmony to mimic a dance. It was art and I was completely overcome with passion and desire to be like him. I quickly brushed the tears off my cheeks, trying to disguise my emotions from my husband, Justin, when he asked if I was okay. I nodded and made him swear that at that moment he would let me do this. He would let me always take lessons for as long as I could. Justin listened as I explained to him that I had a new burning inside of me – hope. How I hoped to always learn and grow from Ike because there was an infinite amount of wisdom to be learned from him in this sport as well as in life. I suddenly realized how it would be an absolute honor and complete success for anyone to become even half the beautiful soul and incredible rider Ike De Jager represents on and off the track. A truly impeccable person.

The mysterious thing about healing is that no one can “fix you”. You can’t even fix yourself. Instead, you can be inspired through someone else to want to choose life every day. Ike does just that. He showed me how beautiful life can be. I get emotional to think that I may have missed out on knowing him. Missed out on the incredible joy and excitement and determination that floods my insides when I stand on those pegs. He gave me that, and I am incredibly grateful.

Many lessons and time spent with this wonderful man, and I have realized my life does have purpose. I have a reason to look forward to tomorrow. I still have so much to love and learn from someone so great as Ike. He has shared with me his passion for motocross that has spread in me like wildfire. Most often when we hear of someone being referred to as a “legend”, we imagine someone unreal or make-believe, but I am here to tell you not only is Ike De Jager very real, but this man will always be the best thing that has ever happened to me…

Ike, You mean the world to me and more. I smile because of you, I laugh with my family more because of you. Thank you for coming into my life, because without you I would have no hopes or dreams. Thank you for fueling my love and desire for motocross. Words simply do not exist to express my gratitude for all you have done for me and continue to do for me. I could never repay you in a million lifetimes, but I will never let a day go by without letting you know how much you mean to me and how I adore you so. It takes a great man to dedicate their life to teaching others. On behalf of all of us, we thank you.

With all my heart,
Erica Krenz

“To be like Ike is to leave someone else’s life better than how you found it.”
-Erica Krenz about Ike DeJager

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