“I’d like to repeat the advice I gave you before, in that I think you should really make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may have previously never thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all which may appear to give one piece of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” (Chris McCandless, as quoted by John Krakauer, “Into the Wild”) ~ The Happiness of Pursuit
So this quote makes me think of a few things that stick in my mind, but the primary thoughts here are of change; change to both lifestyle and the abandonment of sense of security. By nature I’m not an adventurous spirit, which likely sounds foolish for anyone that knows me, seeing as how I’ve traveled to multiple countries, lived abroad, have now twice embarked on crazy motorcycle trips and countless mini motorcycle adventures across this country. I say I’m not adventurous though because to me those are such heavily calculated risks, I like to play things safe. I like to have a net to catch me when I fall and often feel like I’ve missed out on things by not just grabbing life by the horns and going for it, being afraid to change or more accurately, afraid of change. I’ve come to realize though that change is an inevitability and it will come whether we like it or not and we can embrace or fight it, and one is so much harder than the other. I also realize that I have to change, my lifestyle that is. As this self titled blog implies, I’m a big man, a fat man, and I’ve always been okay with that. Its part of my identity and I like myself, heck, I love myself. I’ve over the past few years though noticed aches and pains, and places where I never had issues now giving me issues. So I am attempting a lifestyle change, this trip is I guess, somewhat of a goodbye to the old and an attempt to welcome in the new. The last hurrah of sorts. I’m not being excessive, but working out in the morning and then still having the energy to ride for hours, just don’t match up. Not that I plan on being a different man, just a better version of myself. Some of you may know that a few months back I went to Thailand and that was scary, it was my first time in a country with no knowledge of language or culture, and a crazy long series of flights to get me there. Though I had to do it, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by. I had to take the leap of faith that it would be successful. Then reality set in… I was out of shape. I decided it needed to change. At some point I was going to be in Thailand, and I was going to have to walk up some temple stairs and I didn’t want to be that fat guy dying at the top. So I asked my friend Jason, who trains people on the side to help me with a workout plan. For months I went to the gym, I lifted, I did cardio, and I broke a sweat… a lot of sweat. Mind you I also last year found out I have a torn meniscus which hampers movement drastically and causes pain in my left knee. So it’s also an attempt at beginning this rehab. Either way I did this every morning, at 5:30am, for months, and I walked those temple steps. I came home and I kept working out, and I began jogging on the treadmill everyday. Now, I’m not running anywhere unless being chased and that’s only if I’m not able to take them in a fight, animals included. So jogging is big. Jogging hurts. But nonetheless I jog. I jog for a few miles every morning. I’m slowly trying to add to this, eat healthier, and make better life choices. Granted on this trip, I’m not. I’m enjoying a gym free month and will hit it again when I’m home and start anew. I just need to be a healthier me, a better me, and that means changing my lifestyle. It’s scary, because this is the only me I’ve ever known. Don’t get me wrong I still embrace who and what I am, I don’t cringe from the word “fat” I laugh at it, I use it for motivation, but I also push through it everyday in that gym. I remember the man I was in 2010 when I went through this to lead my first study abroad, I worked out like a madman. Even while dragging my students through the streets of Europe for miles, everyday I woke up and walked, as well as sprinted 5 – 6 miles a day to begin each day. I had college students begging me to stop as I pushed on to the next location. I want to be better than that, not for a trip, not for anyone else, but for me, for life, to prioritize myself. With that change though comes realizing it doesn’t just happen on one front, I have to embrace newness all around me. That started with a job and location change, it’s become an attitude change, health change, and now an attempt to change how I see the world. Not as a place that I’m so very cynical towards, but one that I can find my place in somehow – leaving behind the grudges and anger that have held me back and lived with old attachments that hindered my future. Some of that is happening on this bike, with every mile I leave behind a past memory of failure and replace it with one of success. Not having forgotten, but having moved past, and each mile closer to completion does that. Maybe it’s this place, Detroit, that has made me think of change. I have so many memories here and so much love for this place that so many have discarded. It’s a beautiful place rich with black history and narratives that tell the stories of triumph and struggle. Behind every layer of paint, beneath each crumbled building there is knowledge that goes lost and information that shouldn’t be forgotten, but is hidden by the stigma that plagues this once great city. To me, it’s still beautiful, differently beautiful, and I don’t want that to be lost. I want it to be reborn, to find new life under the sun and stars. A new life to be better, not something else completely, just better. With that in mind, step by step, mile by mile, I’m trying… I really am trying.
Day Eleven What a day. I’m dark, like dark chocolate dark, with milk chocolate tan lines showing exactly where my goggles were today and where my sleeves stop. I’m definitely getting my raccoon on. Haha. So in other words I’ve spent some time on the road. Honestly it wasn’t a terribly eventful day because the goal was to get to Indianapolis by a certain time so I had to move straight through. Though I did get to start the day with some family time. My cousins that I stayed with last night had plans for breakfast with the rest of the local family and some friends to celebrate Chris’ recent birthday that I mentioned in the last post. So even though I first thought I’d leave before that point I figured I could stay and at least say hello to everyone, even if I couldn’t stay for breakfast itself.
The day started with taking more photos with the family on the way out to the restaurant. Which I guess is fair, we haven’t seen each other in a good while. This included of course everyone on the bike, taking my little cousin for a ride and eventually my cousin Holly too. It’s nice to share in everyone’s excitement and give them a new experience. My younger cousin was really digging it after being hesitant at first, I think we may have a bike fanatic on our hands one day.
Then it was time to head to Kuzzo’s a chicken and waffle place they wanted to go to. Following them to the spot gave me a chance to head into Detroit not far from where they used to live and I used to spend a lot of time both as a kid and when I was here for grad school. Between that time Detroit changed a lot, those memories color the place it is for me now. I see this ruin and loss, but I also see potential and possibility. I also see beauty in the decay to some extent, the layers of posters peeling atop one another, the color shifts in fading paint, the new places springing up amongst the old. This is one of the most interesting cities in the country and most important to some extent to its financial and socio-economic history, so it’s always a marvel to me to watching what it was versus what it is. As we arrived at the restaurant my cousin Ricky came out to greet me as I circled back to park.
Ricky was one of the coolest guys I knew growing up. It’s been great to see him age into a salt and pepper haired “adult”, and all of these cousins to some extent. While there’s a closeness there with all of them, it’s not until now that I realize just how much older than us they were, but that was the great thing about it. We always felt welcome and present when we were with them, age was never a factor or hinderance. This morning hasn’t been any different. From hugs all around to laughs at the table it was a great experience to see everyone. I met one cousin’s new husband, friends, and smashed about 6 glasses of water before hitting the road in the increasing warmth. The best moment though was sitting with Ricky and Judy who proceeded talk about the old neighborhood so longingly. In this conversation they told me about the race riots and the ensuing “white flight” that eventually started the downturn of this city. They told me about the national guard coming to “protect” neighborhoods as tanks rolled down their street and sat in the park across the lot from them.
They almost romanticized the moments of this tragedy, but I get it. It was beautiful. Not what happened, not the riots or the fall of the economy that resulted, but the moment that people decided to stand up for themselves, the moment they as children saw something new in their space. Even if Judy did miss seeing the Tigers play that evening, they were left here with a memory that would last forever. They saw the beginning of it all.
After lots of hugs and repeated goodbyes, I said goodbye to this city once again and my family. I’ll be back but for now I have to go. Indianapolis bound. Onto the highway and headed out, it’s a fairly straight shot to Indy, about 5 hours southeast. There was rain starting in Detroit and current downpours in Indy, I assumed the overcast day would hold, even if it was warm out. For this reason I hopped right on the bike and hit the road. The ride itself was the uneventful part, other than the lack of rain and clouds I prepared for, so that’s where my chocolate tonal conversion happened today, on this wonderful stretch of I-69. I at least found a nice Harley shop to make a stop at along the way where they had a little history of Harley Davidson museum set up inside. It was a nice break from the heat and fast riding.
Here’s the interesting thing about this stop. I intended to go to Indy either way to see my family. Though my father requested that I arrange a dinner for my sister, brother and I to meet with him while home. Why, you ask? To discuss his funeral and end-life wishes. It was just weird. Not that he’s sick or anything, he just wanted to randomly get this stuff taken care of and settled. This ended up after a last minute location and time change being a dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack. Not the place I’d assume one would have such an important conversation, but alas. It was. Now he and I had spoken before, I knew that he wanted to be cremated and no sad funeral, but a celebration of life. Which if you know my dad, he’s a character, so there will be plenty of stories to tell. The upside is that it was easy.
The decisions actually ended up being pretty simple. Green cremation, no funeral but a memorial service, no tears, each of the kids gets a vial of ashes, done and done. It’s a strange thing to discuss the death of a parent beforehand, probably the death of anyone, not just a parent. Even with the tumultuous past we’ve had I don’t revel in the idea of it by any means. Though there is something to be said for getting everyone on the same page, I’ve seen too many families (including my extended family) torn apart over a death and the fallout from dividing of things or what someone would want. I refuse to see that happen between my siblings and I. In the end I guess this was a positive. Conversations like this are hard to have but important to sit down and hash out.
Other than this it was good to catch up with my brother and sister. We actually had a long conversation after dinner, just the three of us. We talked about job changes, kids, life stuff. I feel like this was honestly probably the first of these we’ve ever had with just us. It was good, really good. Enough so my sister suggested we do it a few times a year… a few is adventurous but I’m in. Living where I do now it’s the first time I’m close enough to do real weekend visits, so I need to take advantage of that. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve gotten closer and I really cherish that. Beyond this the rest of the night has been exhausting just from being tired. I pounded that ride out so fast and in the heat, it was short but exhausting. The night ended with some talk time with my mother in the kitchen, hilariously showing her how use Netflix, and a phone call that pretty much had both of us about dozing on the other end of the phone no matter how hard we tried to keep going. Smiling and fighting I accidentally dozed off like some little kid. Sleep won, sitting in the oversized armchair in my mother’s family room, everything just seems right with the world… at least at this moment.
Day Twelve Today was just a busy work kind of day; running errands, tightening some nuts and bolts on the bike, looking for a shirt to represent my hometown Harley dealer, working on the blog, paying the bills, etc. Busy work. In other words it’s been a boring but important day. These are the kind of days I need sometimes just to play catch up on life during a trip like this. The upside was that my sister brought her kids over in the morning to spend the day at my mother’s house so I had two of my favorite little people in the world around all day. Through the work there was lots of playing and goofing off with them, at ages 5 and 8 they’re at those great periods where they love playing with one another and just running all over the place laughing their heads off. We had a notion to go to a movie but they couldn’t decide, and by the end we just had a good time at home.
Eventually I got things wrapped up and ran to the Harley dealership, I found a number of things but only snatched up two. I was supposed to head to my cousins house and have a patch sewed on the vest as my patches were mailed here to Indy. We kept missing each other though, so the secondary thoughts was to have dinner with my mother. Knowing I was out in the morning, I knew I wanted to have some good conversation time and with her before all was said and done. So we headed out to a Mexican place that my sister recommended Red Habanero. The meal was subpar, the service was even less, and I about cursed this man out when he didn’t listen to my mother when placing her order. I don’t take kindly to anyone disrespecting the people I care about. He almost caught it that evening. Either way it was good to catch up and fill in gaps about things going on in my life and things here in town. I miss these moments with family, they’re important and necessary for sanity.
As the night drew to a close I kind of wanted to take it fairly easy but ended up running to my boys house. Big Red had picked up a shirt for me on clearance sometime back and gave it to his mom to hold onto for me until I came to Indy. Growing up together we watch out for each other like that and admittedly will pick up odds and ends for each other and have a strangely close but awesome brotherhood. I’m best man in this dudes wedding in a few weeks and I couldn’t be looking forward to it anymore than I am. Back to the point at hand though, a quick stop turned into an hour or so of time spent with basically my second parents. It’s all good though. Dirty Red is the prez of the oldest black club here in town, he and the wife are too cool. They always watched out for me when I’ve needed and are always a stop worth making. It’s also a good chance to catch up and talk shop, catch up with my Indy people and ride, it’s always a plus. A true sign that family isn’t necessarily by blood.
Once I got back to the house I had to do a quick load of laundry as I wanted everything clean before heading out. I actually was leaving a day early because of an unplanned stop that I decided to make a few days ago. Now I’m just trying to pull everything together. So getting everything in the dryer before bed is the plan, a late night snack, and shutting it down for the evening. Tomorrow I hope to catch the kids again as well as my aunt on the way out of town before I leave. So it’ll be a busy start but I just have to make sure I stay on target tomorrow. Time to make it happen.