Family

The Ties that Bind

“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.

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Cousins… Jody is feeling the flow, doing the bull dance.

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.

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Jean, Lady Luck, and I, headed around the block.

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. 20170723_115531 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.

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Judy and Ricky schooling me on history

 

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.

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This is family, this is love. This is my Detroit.

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.

Detroit to Indianapolis

Day Eleven: Actual Mileage – 331 miles Best Song of the Day – “So Amazing” by Raheem DeVaughn Best Moment of the Day – Family Biggest Laugh of the Day – These milk chocolate tan lines

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.

 

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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.

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How is it that bathroom wisdom is often the best wisdom.

America Jr. and Growing Up

“How interesting it is that men seldom find the true value of life until they are faced with death… We all have but a short time on this earth. As slow as time can be it as also fast, swift, furious and mighty and then it’s over. Jack Kerouac is dead. Andy Warhol is dead. Garry Winogrand is dead. Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore and William Eggleston are not dead yet, but probably will be at some point. Charles Bukowski once said that endurance was more important than truth. Charles Bukowski’s now dead. When I’m not taking or processing the pictures I’m mostly thinking about the pictures.” ~ The Happiness of Pursuit

While this quote is a segment from two separate parts of the text I found them both telling the same story to some extent and reflective of the same message my day showed me. Even though he ends up talking about the arts and photography in particular it made me think of the idea of fragility. Its no surprise that sudden shock or fear can make someone suddenly see life in a new way, that happened to me years ago when I almost died in a car accident caused by falling asleep at the wheel. Over the years though not so dramatic moments have forced me to take a look at my life and realize what’s important. The biggest though was probably realizing not that I almost died in some way, which I have multiple times, but realizing my life as I thought it would be was dead. I always thought that I would have children, be a parent, an amazing parent, an amazing grandparent, etc. That I could essentially fix all my stuff by being a solid parent. I hinged everything on that. Then doctors told me it would never happen. I fell into a dark hole and proceeded to destroy the world around me. It took time to come out of the depression, more time to begin to heal, more time to stop being angry, more time to stop feeling sorry for myself, and finally time to be okay with the person I was and be happy with who I am. See, this was a loss of my dream life, the imagined, the hope. Losing hope is a powerful thing and it can rock your world. I lashed out in ways that weren’t me, until I figured out it was me. This was who I am, and I was complete the way I was. That embracing my flaws was as important as my strengths. It wasn’t death I was afraid of, but life. I was afraid of living an unfulfilled life, especially in the way I imagined it should play out. For me it was about knowing that life can be fulfilling in so many ways and seeking out what fulfilled me positively. That was my quest for the moment, my journey was one of setting new goals and challenges that would begin to shape my new path and finding contentment within that. Though it was also about learning that I couldn’t allow my happiness to be singularly defined by one incident or stage in life, that it was a play waiting to be acted out, not a single scene or act that meant success or failure. It took a long time to learn that, I think I’m honestly just learning that finally within the past year… and that’s okay. Acceptance isn’t always a settling, but often a challenge of its own. 

Day Nine Many years ago, when the Simpsons used to be a show worth watching on a regular basis they once had a joke where they referred to Canada as America Jr. I’m not sure why, but for some reason this stuck and I found it hilarious. That being said, I unfairly refer to Canada, still as America Jr at times and I think based on my new experiences in Montreal, I need to apologize to the Canadian people. You’re a highly diverse country and not like America at all, you actually seem to all get along without the overt racism and ugliness. Kudos to you Canada, especially Montreal with your plethora of ethnic peoples living harmoniously amongst one another. Clearly we have it wrong, maybe we should be eating way more poutine… is that the secret, gravy and cheese curds? Either way you were awesome. Now I’m onto Toronto.

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A necessary stop before leaving the city, and the country. Harley Davidson Montreal for souvenirs for my road family. 

Today was a fairly dull day. No grand adventures planned just headed up and out to Toronto, actually just outside the city into Brampton and doing the Airbnb thing for the night. I just want a night to relax and sleep, do some laundry since I’m down to my last pair of underpants (something to really think about when on the road) and get an early start for the states tomorrow. Especially since I’m going out of my way and backtracking a little to get to Niagara Falls before heading for Detroit.

That being said, I got on the road early morning and got up and out. Yesterday was a great day in the city, Montreal definitely feels like a weird mini-Paris and that was exciting, I miss France and it was a nice little taste of that world again.

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Airbnb treated me right last night!

I ended doing the Airbnb thing again, and up stayed at the home of a woman from Jamaica named Shelrica, and it was an awesome stay. She was very welcoming, immediately threw my laundry in the wash for me and was as pleasant as can be. 20170722_082511 I couldn’t have had a better stay, the place was super comfy and the other guy staying in the house who had been here for a while was also a huge help, David. This was a good stay.

The only downfall to this evening was I was hoping to catch up with my friend Matt from the area. He’s a carpenter who does high end furnishing, carpentry, and art pieces – really an all around awesome dude. He’s a former skater who loves his kids and has a web series called Bluebird on YouTube that’s worth checking out, it’s oddly quirky and weird, in other words right up my alley (check the trailer here, though it’s on episode 5 already: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNB8HFp4ND0). Nonetheless, Matt was the other one of the roomies from my semester abroad in France back in 97, Ed being the other roommate who I stayed with a few days again in Jersey City. So these last few days have kind of been a crazy reunion and French throwback for me to say the least. They were actually filming episode 5 today so they went late into the night and we missed each other. Which really stinks, he’s one of the most genuine guys I know, unabashedly himself which is a great person to have in your life. So next time.

Really that was about it for the day, other than a quick run for a bite. Mediterranean was just what I needed to hit the spot, shawarma and baklava did me right. In the end I was just thankful to have a simple day under my belt. It was a decent ride here for the day, a little longer than I thought at 4 hours before hitting rush hour traffic outside of Toronto, so it ended up being about 5 with a little change. I can’t really complain. Along the way I even met some good guys riding home to the area, they kindly informed me that my estimation of the kph to mph ration was highly wrong. I guessed that the speed I was holding around 85mph was close to the 100kph speed limit, damn metric system. I was wrong.

The riders, Dino and Kelvin, informed me I was doing closer to 160kph, and that the Canadian highway patrol is severe so I should slow down. Not too mention that pretty much anything over 50kph speeding will get your bike impounded for a week… no sir. So after marking the limit on my speedometer with a grease pencil I finished up the rest of the ride here under control and in good standing with the CHP. I also at a block of cheese while on the road and a few croissants, today was alright. Tomorrow I’m making room for some family time, so it’s time to call it and be ready to make moves in the morning.

Day Ten Today was an interesting day as I battled rain throughout most of the day but also was all over the place to see the sites and try to wisely maneuver the roads of Canada to avoid the toll road, because who bothers to carry cash nowadays, especially Canadian dollars. That’s crazy talk. First thing is first, the rain was already creeping toward me as soon as I got on the road as early as 8am, but I had plans I was going to keep no matter what. I was off for the falls and a place I hadn’t seen in probably 10 years, but this time from the Canadian side. At about the hour mark of the ride the rain started, not a downpour but enough that I had to throw on the full leathers. An hour later I pulled up into Niagara Falls and it was already crawling with tourists. I knew I wasn’t going to stay very long because I wanted to get to Detroit sooner rather than later. A little driving around showed me that parking was going to be a beast and I was going to have to get inventive if I was going to find something close to the falls themself. So a quick illegal parking job on the end of a row allowed for a quick street crossing and being right at the horseshoe of the falls.

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I have been to Toronto multiple times so I didn’t feel the need to do much in the city this time, in much the same way that even though it had been years since I was in Niagara I didn’t feel the need to do a boat tour or anything crazy. I just wanted to walk the street a bit and see the falls and this side of the water. I will say though that Niagara is pretty cool, the falls are massive, it doesn’t matter where you see it from. That in itself makes you respect the power and majesty of it all. Every now and then when I see something this physically impactful you just have to appreciate it differently when here, it’s not like a photo or digital image, it’s the real deal. Not too mention you get wet where we were, that spray was something else. 20170722_104659 This was a pretty good stop besides the construction on the road that was a little frustrating getting here. Now it’s time to head toward home.

After heading out of downtown Niagara and getting onto the highway again I had to backtrack the 95 miles back toward Toronto and then course correct myself toward Detroit. There’s two ways to do this, the most popular and direct being one that brings you in through the Windsor Tunnel and as I said earlier, through Canadian toll roads. I thought I’d avoid this and try something new, the ferry at Walpole Island that crosses directly over to Algonac, MI over the St. Clair river. I figured this would be a mini adventure and I was right.

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Looking out to the St. Claire river

The ride to the ferry was a four hour journey of rain, back roads and rural highways. Not exactly the ride I thought I’d be taking through Canada, and definitely a test of my “when you’re lost, just keep driving” theory. The back ways of Ontario are once again like much of the Midwest, cornfields, and sketchy looking small towns that had me a little concerned but I kept on until I hit Walpole Island, followed the signs and eventually to the ferry stop / border crossing.

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Walpole Island, Canada… time to make the crossing.

This was actually a nice opportunity to put some of my gear away and take a break to cool down and the ferry was across the river still and I could afford some water as well as time to post a video to the Facebook page. When the ferry got back across, they unloaded all the cars coming over and then loaded us up. I was ready to be home.

This is where it got a little weird. Before loading the ferry I looked for signs about a fee or for more info, there was nothing around there and really nothing in the area. The crossing was in the middle of nowhere, so you it was a bit of a surprise when the operator asked for $5, U.S. or Canadian, it was all the same. Which makes no sense! I mean the exchange rate should count for something! Alas, I’m complaining about nothing since I had no cash at all, just a pocket full of just under $2 in change. He told me the captain may decide to take me back over and I’d have to get money and come back, I asked if I could hop off and run across the street and get cash and come back as I saw there were stores just across the river, he didn’t think that would work either. I was in a bit of a pinch.

Ultimately this guy was pretty cool and he agreed to cover my fee for me with the promise that I did something to help someone else out. Which I like to think I look for the opportunity when it arises, so I’m continuing to do the same as I always do, but trying to be more aware. It’s good to see there’s still good people out there who like to help and encourage others to do the same. At that point it was a quick unloading and a fast check back in at the border and with directions to Detroit under my belt I hit the road.

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Back on U.S. soil and in the hand shaped state of Michigan!

My family in Detroit is awesome, they’re definitely some of my favorite people and always have been. We’ve lost some of them over the past 10 years or so and that always hurts my heart. I love these people. So it was on the road through Detroit and to Southfield where I was staying with the family. Originally there were a number of the cousins coming to get together at the house, I’m not sure what happened but it ended up just being me and the family that I was staying with. That was okay though, I haven’t seen my cousin Holly in a while, especially outside of a funeral or sorrowful occasion that left much time to talk. So it was good to spend it with her family, her daughters and husband were welcoming, full of questions about the bike, and this all reminded me why I love my family. I felt at home from the first second. Her oldest daughter Chris just turned 27 and Jean her youngest is 12, that’s crazy… I barely remember them as babies and little kids. I think this was also the most I had ever spoken to her husband and that was great to get to know him better. It’s a reminder for me that I need to stay better in touch with family, and friends for that matter. You never know where the time will go.

 

Quick background, Hope and Holly are twins, Ricky is their older brother. Growing up we used to take the train to Detroit to visit and we thought it was amazing. That train station was something special. Now it like much of the city is in bad shape and needs saving, in this case after a water main broke beneath it and the station and they never repaired it due to cost and left it essentially underwater for years. Either way, they were always my favorite cousins, I loved spending the night there and hanging with them, while only 10 years older they felt much closer and to me they were always the coolest to me. Their mother Jean helped me make the area my own during grad school and I miss her still. It was good to come back and be reminded of all the good memories of going around town with them and taking in the sights before the city fully hit the place it’s in now.  Now of course everyone is married, moving, has kids, etc., it’s good to see them all and remember what’s important.

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The family, minus one 27 year old, but including an intense card playing little girl!

First it was catching up, getting settled in for the night, and moved my stuff off the bike, and then after a meal off the grill we laughed and joked. We talked about the trip more, the family back home, my cousin’s random need to collect things and had lots of laughs on top of great food. Lastly to end the day we broke out the cards, definitely a family thing no matter where I am. Usually spades would be the game of choice but it was high time I learned to play, badly, but learned to play bid whist. I’ve never seen a 12 year old get so worked up over cards, Jean is definitely one of us and this was definitely a great end to the day. A solid ride today, at least 3 distinct bouts of heavy rain, a border crossing, some serious heat from the sun, but it was all worth it for moments like this.

Brampton to Detroit

Day Ten: Actual Mileage – 389 miles Best Moment of the Day – when my boots dried out Best Song of the Day – Nelly “Air Force Ones” Best Meal – home cooking by family!

I’m going to try to bring this full circle and reconnect to my reflection here a bit. In the end, today was a reminder about what’s important in life. Valuing those we have while we have them and focusing on the things that can be fleeting. Recently someone important has come into, back into, made their presence / role more distinctly important in my life, so this had me thinking about her. In the past I’d have fought something that caught me off guard or by surprise, I’d guard my heart. I feel like I can’t do that anymore. If I’m going to embrace risk and chance, change, then I have to do that completely. Especially when it’s someone who has been in your life for so long and just arm’s length away, sometimes you have to grab on, and hang on tightly, cherish it while you can. I’ve lost a number of people who meant so much to me in the past few years, but more so throughout my adult life. Those all hurt, still. I can’t imagine anymore not taking the chance to tell someone how important they are no matter the outcome. In 10 years friends become confidantes, confidantes become special, and special becomes loved. Never take those people for granted, truly special people in our lives (whatever their role) are a rarity. Life is too fragile. I’m not holding back anymore. I’m all in. 

Tomorrow I head to see my family back home and I can’t wait. Indy bound, Midwest boy coming home.

Strange Yet Familiar

Discontent is a powerful spark. When you’re filled with a sense of dissatisfaction that isn’t easily resolved, you may start wondering about making some changes. On its own however, discontent is not sufficient to start a fire – or inspire a quest….” ~ The Happiness of Pursuit

So this statement sat with me a bit. Discontentment. I think there is some of that involved here. I’m not sure completely in what fashion or if I’m dissatisfied with life, but I will say that I’m not happy in all components of life. Which is maybe impossible. I get that that everything isn’t going to be perfect, I’m okay with that. But I don’t like the lingering sense of incompleteness. That’s what I feel like is the issue right now, I feel like there’s something in my life that’s not where it needs to be as of yet. I thought it was my career for a long time. That teaching wasn’t where I was supposed to be, just where I ended up. I’ve come to find that’s not really the case. I like what I do, I’m good at it. I serve a purpose for a reason, that serves beyond myself. I think the problem is I’m searching for that thing that I find in myself is lacking and I’m not sure what that is. So it’s possible discontentment is in the not knowing, that I look into myself and I know there’s more to be found, more to dig into, more to put out into the world – but I’m unsure how to do that or what to do about it. I think maybe it has to do something with the world right now. I feel like I’ve taken some of the issues in society really personally recently (as many of us have) and that I feel lost and disenchanted, discontent, almost alienated at times. That’s painful, at the same time when I feel that because of where I am, I feel alone and I fall into my own pain and dig deeper into the hurt instead of being able to vent and find the other side of it until it works it out on it’s own. Maybe that’s part of this quest of mine, the trip becomes a searching for self not who I am, but who I’m not in some way. Or maybe who I am as part of a larger whole. I don’t really know. I feel like I’m being challenged to look at my faults and be real with them, own them, or confront and change them.

Day Five Today begins the haul north. I’m heading out from Frederick, MD and had all intentions on seeing the ride through to Worcester, MA. Though a repeated look at the weather and an overwhelming tiredness took a little of my steam and I also wanted to make a special stop I have heard about which was a little out of the way. So I decided instead of heading as far up as expected, I’d try to catch up with a friend who lives in the Baltimore / Annapolis area for a bite and head further north to an undetermined location for the night. After a start for the day and a little bit of riding I found that after some texts we realized with her work schedule for the day we weren’t going to catch up, at least for lunch and I didn’t want to end my riding for the day that shortly into the trip. So we decided to try and meet up some other time and make a special weekend of hanging out, I think it would make a good weekend trip to D.C. anyway as I’ve been wanting to go to the African American History Museum, I think I could even talk someone into making a road trip with me and have a solid weekend of fun. That being said we figured it was just a better stop for another time and northward I would head.

I had been hearing of a place outside of Lancaster, PA called Shady Maple, a crazy huge Pennsylvania Dutch buffet. A student told me about it years ago and I still haven’t been so this seemed like the perfect occasion. Even though it was a little out of the way I figured this was a great stopping point for a bite and to figure out my next move. So besides the threat of rain, I headed on out and up. The ride to Lancaster got a little wet along the way. There were sporadic showers, and then a downpour. I rode through it all and kept trudging along toward the meal I had heard about years before and somewhat for the novelty of it all and somewhat for the need to put food in my face hole. Onward I went, and eventually after the rural roads of Pennsylvania I ended up at Shady Maple, and having dried out from the first rounds of rain for the day I was ready to sit down to a meal.

What I was unprepared for was the sheer massive scale of the Shady Maple enterprise. It’s not just a buffet, but an enormous banquet hall and a “campus” of areas for shopping, farmers market, crafting, and a number of other things helpful things for the residents in the area, I’m assuming in particular the Pennsylvania Dutch / Amish community in the area, and in that sense I guess I understand the magnitude of the place.  20170717_153659I still must say I found it surprising though. Either way the meal was subpar at best and while the selection was huge, it felt like a lot of mediocrity versus items of quality. There were some things that were better than your usual neighborhood buffet or local spot and the desserts were on point for real. I kept it to a minimum though since I had to keep riding for the day, at least a few more hours. During the meal I sent a message to my friend from undergrad, Ed, and asked if they could put me up for the night. Kindly he said yes, and the plan to Jersey City was underway.

When I left the restaurant I could see the rain was coming and by the time I got the bike ready to head out again it was on me. So bundling up for the wet weather I got ready to hit the road. Headed to Jersey City I couldn’t help but think of the situation I was heading into. Which don’t get me wrong, is a great one. Ed was my friend from undergrad in Cleveland, OH and we (by happenstance) went to France together for the first time for a semester while in school. We ended up roommates while there, eventually along with two other guys and it was a life changing experience for me that’s led to multiple times abroad and an understanding of life that I never would have had otherwise that’s made me a better person. Nevertheless for Ed it was life changing in a different way because while there he met his would-be-wife Bilyana and the rest has been history. A life together they’ve built has brought a wonderful little girl, successful careers in the NY area in photography, design, activism to some extent and the laying down of roots of a beautiful family.

Looking at the situation from the outside. It’s odd that it’s something that I always wanted, and I see it in my friends, that family. For so long I wanted that, for so long I built and hinged everything on that until I fell apart when I felt that I couldn’t have it. So over the years it’s taken a lot to move beyond that to realize that what I want is what I have. That I’ve been given plenty and I’m happy and blessed to have it, even if it’s not what I imagined, but that in itself gives me the ability to have a much deeper appreciation for those in my life who do have it. Instead of being jealous and or hurt, I finally find myself at a point in life where I feel like I can enjoy their happiness genuinely and deeply, not too mention experience that happiness through and for them.

So the remainder of the ride I was looking forward to this time with old friends who I hadn’t seen since about 2009. Unfortunately New Jersey was not going to make it easy on me, particularly the turnpike. While there was some confusion in getting to the right road, there was also some confusion on the turnpike. While most highways have mile markers and exits that align, for some reason the turnpike has about 19 miles between exits! Essentially making what I thought was going to be a 20 mile road into a nearly 80 mile one. Thanks Jersey. So between that and then navigating the city traffic once I got into the area at evening rush hour I was a little frustrated with the road. Between Philly and Jersey traffic was a beast and the bike was getting hot sitting in that sun as anyone who’s ridden long and sat long knows. Needless to say I was glad to pull up at their apartment.

I have to say that it ended up a perfect stop though. They have a beautiful place and even though there wasn’t a bed, there was a crazy comfortable big couch and delicious salad which I hadn’t had in way too long. There was also of course plenty of laughs and good times catching up. Not too mention a beautiful bubbly little girl who I had never met and a overexcited dog who made the stay feel welcoming and warm.  Emma and PupAfter a night of stories and reminiscing about the time at Lacoste, dreams of going back, and filling in the gaps of the years since its been a great end to the day. It reminds me that the bike life isn’t just about the bike, but about all the stuff that it opens up the doors to, like reconnecting with old friends and parts of yourself that you lost somewhere along the way. Hopefully this time we can manage to keep them intact.

20170718_105458Day Six puts me back on track is a rather uneventful day other than getting my butt up to Massachusetts. It’s a catch up day as yesterday the original plan was to end up here, but the stop in Jersey changed that. It’s okay though, an early afternoon departure got me onto the NY Turnpike and headed north. Along the way I have to admit that once you get out of the city it’s a pretty drive, and headed up that way you can’t help but notice the fading of the city and the increase of nature coming back into its own. I really can’t complain, it’s a pretty sight. On the road I met a great guy enjoying a cigar, taking a break on his drive home. Bill, a retiree from Old Saybrook, CT. We talked about photography, his wife and their sons move to North Carolina, his friend in Clemson, SC, and a little about the idea of taking time to enjoy life before it’s too late. It was a good midpoint of the day on the way to Mass. The ride was good, but hot, the sun was no joke today and I got the color to show it. My normal milk chocolate has quickly worked its way to a rich bitter dark chocolate with the farmers tan in full effect to go with it. I still have yet to figure out this whole, “how often to put on sunscreen thing.” Black people problems. Lol

I did the Air BnB thing again making it a few uses already on this trip. I can’t say enough about that service, for a quick overnight stay it really is a perfect situation. I’m staying in a family’s home and that’s always weird, but a private bathroom usually wins me over. The reason I’m going up that way though is it’s a good stopping point before heading to Canada and it also isn’t far from Woonsocket, Rhode Island where a company is that I do some technical work for from time to time. My boss lives just outside of the city so we’re meeting for dinner. She’s one of the best people I know, as far as having a heart that would give the skin off her back if she could and you needed it. Unfortunately she gets taken advantage of from time to time, as anyone in her position would. When you run a company people want to cling on, and you always have a few of those until you shake them off. She’s a great woman though and an inspiration in her own way. Honda 4 She’s also a stockpile of photographic knowledge which is always fun for a photo geek like me. She also has an old bike in the garage, a ’72 Honda Four with a copper tank that I’m trying to get my hands on. A man can always dream!

Either way I got to town after racing the rain for awhile. I also got a great shot of a young couple about an hour outside of town who more than happy to pose for me. So after quickly getting settled in having waited out a little rain in Connecticut I was pushing for time a bit. I changed and headed to meet for dinner. She had just moved back into her house after doing some remodeling and wanted to show me around. While I have seen it before it was nice seeing it all complete and cleared out of things she was getting rid of and all the amazing art on the walls. Its interesting seeing all of the different types of neighborhoods and homes on a trip like this. From Midwestern suburbs to New England classic home styles, it’s such a huge variety and a nice representation of time seen in the styles. The inspiration of English classics being represented in the U.S., to the functional family farm homes of the Maryland countryside, down to the affordably manufactured pre-fabs of new neighborhood developments in the Midwest. That could be a photo project all in itself. Once I arrived though, dinner was the first thing on the agenda and after a quick tour and dodge of the many cats, we headed out.

We sat down at Bella’s, one of her local favorite Italian places that had been there for decades. Since we were on a short schedule, we ordered quick, plus she knows the menu like the back of her hand. Spicy calamari, and zucchini flowers for appetizers… who knew you could eat zucchini flowers!? I mean what isn’t edible though when wrapped around proscuitto, fresh mozzarella, and then flash fried. Followed up by a meal of salad, vegetables, roasted potatoes, and a boneless ribeye topped with a garlic chili butter sauce. 20170718_172711 Can’t complain at all… not even after she forced me to take home some Tiramisu. Twist my arm, fine! After getting back to her place the rain clouds were starting again as were the sprinkles so I got myself back up north for the night. All in all not a bad day, time for a shower, decent night sleep, catching up on conversations, and prepping for a ride into another country in the morning.

On a side note, I have to say the best part about this trip so far is the worst part of this blog. Not saying that I don’t enjoy writing it because I do. But it’s not quite as full of the turmoil and misery of last time and that makes for a very different writing experience, the struggle isn’t in the day to day chance of moving forward, but in the long haul of exhaustion. I can tell you, I don’t sleep great. I’m on teacher hours and like it or not I wake by 6:30 every morning if I’m lucky. So a late night means I sleep less and I’m exhausted in the morning. I’m barely hanging in there on some days but either way I ride. So this is turning out to be a trip about perseverance. Some days, especially in someone else’s home, I don’t sleep well at times, so 4 hours of sleep doesn’t do a lot. Some would say I’m adverse to sleep as it is, which isn’t true. I just don’t generally require as much as some people to function, repeatedly it takes its toll though and I’m beginning to feel it. Even before this though I was getting up at 5am, and heading to the gym almost daily to jog a few miles (slowly but still doing it) and get a solid workout in. I’m trying to change myself for the better, that can’t just happen on one level. I’m realizing as I get older I need to be serious, not that I want to be a different person, I just want to be a healthier person. So starting small and building up. For months I’ve been at this and somedays I feel great and other days like I’m what the cat dragged in and threw up on the living room carpet. I guess change is never easy, of any kind. I’ve always been the big guy, I don’t mind that. Though I do want to be the big guy who doesn’t want to die at the top of a hill. Haha. I honestly started working out to prepare for Thailand this past February. I knew I’d be walking and would probably climb some ridiculous high temple steps. I did both of those things, and on a torn meniscus it’s not easy. Neither is feeling like the world is passing you by though. Life was starting to tell me I needed to change, my body, my mind, my heart, all of it needed a transformation. I’m hoping that this is just one step in that process.

I guess there’s a little bit of something to learning when to listen to outside forces though and the toll they take on you, they lead you. If you let them. Last time it was the bike and I fought it to a failing end, this time it’s my body and I won’t fail, even if it means going to bed early on occasion and continuing to wake up early to take my ass to the gym. On as side note, who’d have thought at 41 years old I’d still be fighting sleep. Shenanigans.

Days Behind, Days Ahead

Addendum: So I decided to try and post every 2 – 3 days instead of daily. So when I drop a post it’ll cover a few things. I just can’t keep up with the travel, visiting with people, exploring and writing all in the same day, everyday. I’m not the young spry man that I used to be after all! Haha! 

Day Three and Four

“Quest brings meaning and fulfillment to our lives…. A quest has a few key features, including a clear goal, a real challenge, and a set of milestones along the way.” ~ The Happiness of Pursuit

I guess that’s what this is all about in the end, the long and short of it. I feel like I’m finishing something I started but never completed, even though its wholly different. That regret. I don’t want to live with that. My mother recently began reading my posts and in reference to one from the last time told me “I get it, I get you.” She meant the living with regrets, that life isn’t to be looked back on wondering what if, and she understood my need to fulfill this goal. For me that goal is completing the ride. The place is rather secondary to the effort. The challenge is all the stuff that comes with it, the prep, maintenance, funding, endurance. The milestones are all the things that I try and accomplish along the way including this blog, reconnecting with friends and family, etc. What I find odd though is that is maybe the first time I feel like my mother has ever really “gotten me”. Not in a negative way, but we just have very different paths in life that we took, though I think my path in the arts was one that she once shared and therefore encouraged mine. But she mentioned how at the end of her life my grandmother had regretted not trying to open a restaurant and sharing her cooking with the public. She lived and passed with that regret and my mother felt it when they talked about it. See, I think regret isn’t just something we live with, but something we pass to others by not encouraging the ability to take risks and try new things. My grandmother was a woman of her era and I can’t and won’t question why she wouldn’t have tried to step out into the world. My mother took her own risks with going back to school, divorcing and raising us kids though some were already out of the house, getting her theology degree, becoming a minister. Her risk and her success inspired me, but more than her success it was the goal, the effort, the challenge that she set and didn’t back down. I don’t know if I’ve ever really told her how proud she’s made me to see her achieve these things. Maybe the best way I can show it is to continue to strive to live up to the challenges I set for myself, but most importantly keep setting them. Maybe that’s the key to being fulfilled, always being challenged beyond complacency. 

Day Three Well today was something else. We started a little slow as we slept in, me and Big Red shared a room and cut up a little last night with some of his people. Ended up at a local dive bar, but the wings were 50 cents and bangin! So the night ended well, a day with my ace since I was 16 and kicking it on two’s together. Really it doesn’t get better than that. Having dudes like this in my life are what it’s all about. He’s my brother as much as anyone blood could ever be. Thank God I have a few of those to keep my in line and share life’s walk with. Back to today though. After pulling ourselves together for the day we waited for the rest of the crew, RealWun out of Rochester with his cats MJ and Cee, and O’Buddha out of Woodbridge with his dude T-Loc. Once they hit the room it was on. First the jokes, then the drinks, then the stories, then the hunger, after clowning around for about two hours it was time to start riding with the crew. Cee, MJ, and T-Loc I had never met, but some I had heard about before. From the moment they touched down it was like family though. One of the many reasons why I love this bike life.

 

We rallied up and made a run to Iron Pony, this crazy motorcycle superstore. I’ve made a stop here in Westerville years ago just for this place and it never fails to have me find something I want, whether I need it or not.

So after some of us spent way more than planned… RealWun, we caught up some more and headed to grab a bite at what turned out to be a closed down Champs. So Steak n Shake met its match instead. T-Loc at more chili than one man ever should in a fortnight (however long that is). Between the chili, joking with the staff, each other, we’re lucky we weren’t asked to leave. It was all good though, afterward we rolled out to meet up with one of the crew from the night before who happens to be O’Buddha’s sister. Scooping her up from work we all then went back to the spot from the night before and got into it. The rounds were flowing, the laughs were going and it was on. Our boy is from the area, so his family is there, and he remembered the area so it was good having some tour guides per se.

Now mind you it’s now almost 4:30pm and we came for a club event, that we have yet to attend. It was quickly becoming clear that this is what we actually came for, togetherness. So we kept at it. Bon Aire, was a trip. Robbie was cleaning off the pool sticks with wet wipes, since the dude we saw yesterday eating wings, licking his fingers, then shooting stick was burned into our minds it seemed the right thing to do! We had more chicken wings for the tables than we could count and we had more family as the day rolled on. Aunts, cousins, daughters, everyone came down to catch us and kick it. Once the lady came over selling Nike’s that may have “fallen off the back of a truck” then it was officially a wrap on that event and this was going to be our day.

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I said, “if this woman starts selling shoes in here I’m done.” 20 minutes later I was done!

We kept at it for a while longer, shots were had, jokes at each others expense, but it was all love. After we ate more and worked our way back to riding shape down from a chicken wing and cheap beer filled euphoria it was time to head back to the hotel. Not too mention somehow during this I got talked into a weight loss challenge by Buddha and RealWun. They gonna learn that Big Red and I ain’t got money to lose so we gonna put it in. Not too mention both these dudes gained last time they tried! Shenanigans!

Now after a family discussion on the the aunts invites us back to their place to end the night. Once that happens you have no choice but to go. So family always wins. Though it was a perfect end.

We definitely got it in and had a good time. Half the neighborhood ended up coming over to kick it with us and it was well worth it. It was a veritable round 3 on the day, more drinks (though we took it easy since we had to ride out in the morning), lots of laughs, good music, and did I mention spades!? For those of y’all who don’t know, for us playing spades is like a religion, you may end praying a lot and someone is taking that good book. Aunt Linda and I held court on that table! Anytime you and your first time partner run a 10 book hand without question, set them multiple times, and make them throw in a whole hand halfway through then you know you did work. Don’t come up here if you ain’t ready, this isn’t a game!

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Round Three: We weren’t even in rare form yet. Those cards had yet to make their way out but the neighborhood is rolling in.

From there the night was a wrap, getting tired after a few more hours of time we needed to shut it down. We mounted up and headed back to the hotel where pizza helped end all our nights on the right note. A quick phone call topped it off in perfection and signaled the end of what was a most successful and needed weekend. I don’t know if there’s a better way to kick off my travels alone than a solid two days of time with the guys who brought me into this life, welcomed me, showed me the ropes, taught me, teased me, but in the end ushered me into this lifestyle I love so much. I can’t say enough about Big Red and RealWun, these are my dudes through and through. Tomorrow morning we all roll out, headed our separate ways back home and my real adventure begins far from mine.

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These dudes right here. The real deal.

1 Life, 1 Set, 1 Luv.

Day Four This was a riding day through and through. Columbus treated us very well, but now it’s time for me to start moving north. The easy answer to this is to just head north through Rochester but no, I need to be difficult. There are states I still need to ride in, so east we go. A lot of this area I’ve hit on the bike, but not this route. It’s the northeast that’s new to me as a rider. So filling in these states on my map is a plus. I headed out toward Maryland after getting a few portraits shot. A few of the fellas asked if I wanted to ride with them, but knowing I was stopping to shoot I passed so I wouldn’t hold them up. It was interesting, some people stepped right up and let me shoot them, no questions asked. Others resisted, but were still talkative and liked what I was doing. That being said I think it’s began to alter what I’m shooting. They’re still portraits but they’re already telling a different story than what I thought. So as part of my “go with the flow” I’m not going to force them into a box. I’ll let them be what they are and I’ll work with them rather than against them. Just like riding a bike.

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So I’ve been shooting images and these portraits have taught me a few things. I can’t take up too much of people’s time, it’s valuable, in that time I have to make a connection, and that connection is what makes a good portrait. It’s the experience of the image, almost more so than the image itself sometimes. I’ve also learned that people are often open to engaging if you just make an effort and an introduction. I’m an oddly introverted individual. I really don’t like talking to strangers, I’d be more content to just be alone, with people I’m already comfortable with or an introduction from someone else, I’m much better. I can turn it on when I need to, but it’s exhausting. Therefore shooting portraits like this is a big challenge, it’s all about engagement. So for me this is also a personal challenge to break out of my comfort zone. We can’t all be content to keep things as they are, without some kind of change then we’re stuck in the muck. Anyway, I’m rambling. I’ll keep shooting and see where this thing goes. Though so far, I think I have high hopes.

The ride though, Frederick Maryland is the destination today. A former student turned friend, mentee, little sister, whatever you want to call it offered to put me up at her grandparent’s place. Actually they offered, its their home after all. I met them once at graduation and it was very kind of them to extend this offer. So on the way to MD I go. Ohio is a huge state no matter where you start in it. I’m not talking Texas big, but that’s to be expected, Ohio is sneaky big. West Virginia has a weird shape, you should never be in and out a single state so many times without changing highways. 20170716_121523 West Virginia is also the state where I almost slid out the last time I did a massive trip and ended up fracturing my foot and breaking a few toes. So it’s good to make it through unscathed and feel the first sense of retribution from the failed effort of 2014. I took an extended break here as I needed to escape the heat for a bit. While rain wasn’t a huge concern the heat was definitely kicking my butt. So a few bottles of water, bag of chips, and a few portraits were just what I needed to re-energize. While here I also photographed a nice Indian family in Cassville, WV. They were headed home to Ohio and I caught father and sons together for a shot. It was a good moment. I was also informed that my name in Hindi means hope / prayer / dream, a colloquial term of sorts. I’m not sure of the spelling but that made me feel pretty good about things right now. A later stop at the Green Ridge Mountains was equally as fulfilling in its own kind of majestic way.

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Green Ridge Mountain overlook

One of the great things about a trip like this is seeing random places I’ve heard of. My friend Emily is from Morgantown, WV and often talks about what life was like before moving to a bigger city, etc. It was cool to ride through town and see where she came from if even for a minute. I also have lots of time to think. I missed family bible study yesterday so I had time to think about that and how much it’s come to mean to me, having family who wants to come together in faith, and a mother who has helped to facilitate that being able to happen.

Needless to say during an 7 – 8 hour ride lots of random things come up in your head. It’s good to have this time alone to think through things, what I want from life, where I hope to go, how can I get there. There’s been a lot of that happening. I don’t think I’m where I will end up, metaphorically speaking, so I’m trying to plan and actively think about what I want and how to go about it. Much of that is about just happiness in life, I’m seeking it daily. I think I’m where God needs me to be right now and that’s perfect, but His plan is always moving forward so I need to be ready to move with it however that may come about. There was a time I’d have fought this diligently. There was a time that I’d have been heartbroken over my friends Jamie and Gloria surprisingly having another child when I couldn’t, but I’ve come to learn that life is as it’s supposed to be. We all have a role to play and I’m finally starting to figure out mine. It doesn’t mean you passively sit back and let it happen, but you become part of it, you engage it fully and tackle the good and the bad head on. Sometimes you’re surprised at what come up from it.

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Billie’s Gas and Grub, Flinstone MD

Back to the point, Maryland. I roll into Frederick about 7pm or a little earlier and say hello to the family and about 17 cats on the porch. This is an old farmhouse and has outdoor cats that outnumber the people nearly 5 to 1. Its madness and my allergies are glad to be going inside. Being a city kid, farm life is strange to me but I understand its charm. Its pretty land, hard work but it pays off, you see a real result of your efforts. I also learned that you grow straw, it’s not just an accident which I believed it and hay to be for the longest. It was good to see everyone though and catch up. It’s odd how some people just become part of your life without trying to put them there. The house though, this was apparently a tavern in the early 1800’s then converted in a house and first owned by my friends great great grandfather. They believe that George Washington may have spent time there before it was converted over. That being said, I guarantee it wasn’t that hot when he was there. It was toasty! This was your quintessential grandparent house and it was awesome. She offered me ice cream, there were figurines and statues all over, hand sewn pillows with religious quotes, and a fridge stocked with sweet tea that would knock your socks off with sugary goodness. It was an awesome stay and I can’t thank them enough for their kindness. In the morning it’s off to Rhode Island and then onto the truly northern stretch of this trip.

Columbus OH to Frederick MD

And Away We Go

“Be your brothers keeper

So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent forgive them.” ~ Luke 17:3

 

Part of this trip is about second chances, mostly of the last time I tried this. With that as part of the picture though there’s also an aspect of forgiveness in my life right now. Trying to figure out how to let go of being hurt, angry, and feeling betrayed. Realizing that my actions today, positively interacting with the world will result in some degree of improvement. Somehow it all rolls together for me and becomes one. So its and effort in self improvement, and part of that means facing failures in one way or another. Some of you already know that this isn’t the first time that I’ve tried this long haul of a trip, even though it’s much shorter than the last time. Though I will say this started off as a much longer effort taking me all the way to the great state of Alaska and eventually back home again. Seems like a great idea, right? Well that’s what I thought until I did the budget and realized I was a crazy person. Not too mention the two guys riding part of the way with me have jobs that they actually work during the summer and don’t have the time off that teachers like myself have. So eventually this trip fell apart.

Ardmore Springs Circle to Whittier, AK - Google Maps

The Original Ride Idea (early on this ride included a ferry from AK to OR and lots of madness) 

From the ashes of that failed concept though came this more practical version that allowed for me to take time during this final full month of my break after some summer teaching. So let me fill you in on why this trip is happening the way it is. I have this idea for a two- year photography project exploring the idea of community development and the way it’s evolved in North America over generations. Next year we’ll push toward completing the rest of this trip as in the map above, but it’s going to take some effort. I’ve got a bit of a story to tell:

“North American Portraits: Locals & Locales of the Quintessential Road Trip

The traditional idea of community structure was founded on the idea of individuals forming living groups, derived from families, built through apprenticeships, seeking education, and either a return to, or remaining in or around the area where one was raised (generally within a 20 mile radius). This ideological founding of “home” isn’t isolated to the United States, but was once the dominant method of community building across the globe. In contemporary modernized societies this idea has become a way of the past as individuals no longer feel the need to remain within a distanced range of their place of birth, generally unless for reasons of financial or familial obligation (such as agriculture, caring for an elder, etc). This work is meant to explore the aspect of why individuals now reside and / or travel from place to place, as seen through the lens of individual experience and connection. This series of photographs will address issues of identity, place as navigated through location and context, but also how these aspects may vary and alter over geographic / demographic differences throughout North America. Secondly the method of production utilizing the traditional idea of the “roadtrip” as an “all-American” experience that is somewhat universal to the audience. This serves as a way to connect the individuals interviewed and photographed, while also allowing the viewer an understandable way in which to “navigate” geography, and content, while also speaking to ideas of diversity and addressing transient populations within our current socio-political climate.”

So there’s a number of reasons that this trip makes sense for my own photographic efforts. That’s not it though, this trip is also about a sense of self. Engaging that part of myself that I rarely get to during the year of being a professional. It’s also about finding opportunities for engagement with a brotherhood defined and built on the road. Its also about seeing some sights I haven’t in a long time, like Niagra Falls and Detroit, and seeing family and friends along the way who will hopefully become part of this photographic effort as well. I’ll be hitting the National Biker Roundup, back in Kansas City for its 40th anniversary and visiting with old friends, hopefully in Colorado and Kansas that I haven’t seen in way too long, including some new little people I’ve never met. That being said, this is what I’ve ended up with including a sudden change just a few hours ago bringing me up through Tennessee and finally getting to ride the Tail of the Dragon.

Revamped 2017 Map

The finalized map, (showing stops) the day before departure, this is doable… right?

Tail of the Dragon

Tail of the Dragon: 11 Miles – 318 Curves (now that’s a helluva ride)

So what else is happening on this crazy ride. Well last time I decided to tackle reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” it was great to reflect upon and also be following somewhat of the same route in the book. This year I’ve found a reading I’ve been sitting on for a while called “The Happiness of Pursuit” by Chris Guillebeau, an autobiography about the author’s traveling attempt to visit every country by age 35, and of course there are plenty of stories to tell along the way. I won’t ruin anything as I’ll be talking about it as I go, but I’ve been looking forward to it and I feel like in a way it too is reflective of my experience of these trips and the many travels I’ve been fortunate enough to take. Basically it’s a book about long term happiness in life, which is something I’ve been seeking.

This years reading

The Happiness of Pursuit

 

Essentially one of the big things I’ve discovered since the last attempt at this ride that failed miserably, and ended with me having to suddenly buy a new bike along the way is this…. I can’t control everything, so this time I’m willing to go with the flow and let things happen, all while being proactive but also able to react appropriately. Not just in this trip, but in life. I’ve had some ups and downs since then and I’m still here, doing okay and striving to be better in every way. So I’m ready to accept this challenge and all the stormy moments and sunburns along the way, which I’m sure there will be plenty.

 

Tomorrow I head for Knoxville through the dragon, and then onto Columbus, OH for a rally and time with some of my brothers. I can’t think of a way to better begin this trip. So now I’m in the final stages of preparation, making sure everything is charged that should be, all my checkpoints are met, and seeing who is willing to put me up along the way. So if you happen to be one of those people in one of those cities on that map, feel free to reach out if there’s a couch to spare for a night or two. Either way I’ll be moving fast and hard, while photographing at each stop and hopefully connecting with people as I go. All that being said, there’s also been a little change in the bike, so I’m even getting used to how she handles. Not too mention fancy FMGF patches on the way, helmets and some other stuff to bring all this into one effort. I guess I figured, if I’m going, I’m going all out.

Reborn:

“So much has changed since I last rode this road.”

King of the Road

The packmule loaded up a few months back

I have decided to begin anew, this time with reinvented purpose. Originally that had read “re-found purpose” attempting to illustrate the sense of invigoration I now feel moving into this road trip, but that’s not it. That would be a falsehood, because its not about invigoration, it’s really about starting over. Starting over fresh… anew.

Since this blog ended so… unceremoniously during its last outing, it seemed only fitting to try again. To give it new life as I begin a new journey. First let me begin with the inception of this highway and bi-way filled extravaganza. Cross country with passage through Canada, venturing as far Northeast as Anchorage, Alaska. It was an adventurous idea, it filled me with excitement, it also came crashing down around me. As life does what life does and continued to fill my daily plate with work, activities, and other necessities it became a more and more distant idea that seemed to become increasingly further from reach. Until eventually, it was gone. That idea dissipated, as did the aspiration and excitement that it had brought, the aspect of the ride, brotherhood and the fellowship of this most illustrious venture. Luckily it did not die, it merely transformed into something else. From the ashes of that thought rose a simple idea for photographic exploration, one that would allow me to ride, to photograph, and to live. It was the idea that wouldn’t die.

Now allow me space to backtrack, since the fateful final post almost three years ago life has changed. A job change (from college professor to high school instructor), the loss of a relationship along with the trials, failures, aspirations of another, a move to a new city, friends that have come and gone, these all have taken their own tolls and left their own unique scars. Though for the most part they have healed, they have taught me acceptance, perseverance, and invaluable life lessons I walk with each day. They have made me a better version of who I once was. So the unfinished trip, and blog, were in a sense the manifestation of my own sense of being incomplete. I left that experience with answers, but also way more questions about what it was that brought me to that place of self-exploration. Which brings me a little closer to this date and why this won’t die.

On November 10th of last year, we lost my uncle Donald to illness. He was one of the best men I ever knew. As a child I remember laughing as he played with us, toys that mirrored those vehicles of his local landscaping and paving company, riding in the back of his El Camino with my brother, driving an actual semi at a much too young age, the conversations as I got older when I would return home, his dream of a Honda Goldwing, my first real job paving driveways at age 15, the way he would light up when I’d ride home and we’d talk briefly about my latest trip – these are all fond to me because he was the first adult man in my life to show me that loving another was okay and what it meant to be a “man” . He was my Godfather and my hero, for a time that loss broke me. It felt like a piece of me was torn out at the worst time ever and I couldn’t quite figure out how to get it back.  That’s when I got this spark, a small but igniting flame that reminded me why I ride. Why I crave the road and the unknown… because it is just that, unknown. Its the only place where I can abandon some sense of control and do my best to “go with the flow”. Though its also where I find the opportunity to live for those who I’ve lost, my uncle Donald, my friend Paul. I’ll always carry their losses with me, but I also know that I live for them, for the adventures and dreams that went unfulfilled. So with that in mind I plan to ride.

My uncle, my friend, a role model. None of us are perfect, but he was exactly who I needed in life.

This time the ride will take me to more unknown locations and across country borders. This time I will complete my goal, even if its diminished in some form from its original conception. I feel like I’ve gotten a little lengthy already seeing as this was supposed to be an announcement of this effort, so I will end this diatribe with another to follow up soon detailing the madness of this current venture. Though I will end with this, as with last time I’ll be reading and reflecting along the way so it seems appropriate to close here. Today’s devotional reminded me of a conversation with a very special friend this week as we talked about our responsibility to being true to ourselves. I may not be one who feels like my role is to play evangelist or preacher, but I do feel through thick and thin I am called to teach, not just about my craft but about life. This trip is an opportunity to experience it more and with that have more to offer, “… you created each being in this world and gave us the power over them. As I walk my course in this world, do not let me perish before realizing the purpose for my existence. Guide me O Lord so that I may live a purposeful life and complete my earthly mission of holiness and faithfulness to your word.”

Talk to you all soon, hope to have you on this journey with me again.

 

FGMF vector FINAL-02

Here we go again

The Long Road Home

“She somehow thought that cardboard box was our motorcycle rolling over and over again on the highway.”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

There’s an aspect of fear that plays into all of this. The fear of the unknown, the fear of being alone, the fear or what can or may happen. I say this all in the sense of fear of the future. I bring this up because my mother and my aunt both have. They worry. Don’t get me wrong, they should. I should likely be more worried but I’m not. I don’t see myself as invincible, I see myself as blessed. They’re concerned that something would happen to me on this trip, on this motorcycle. I learned long ago I can’t live in fear. Not when I ride. Most of you who know my story know that I almost killed myself once in a bad car accident. For some reason I was blessed to survive, He didn’t take me then and I firmly believe that God protects me, as he has other things he’s building me for. Which means there are plenty of other things to fear in life other than a vehicle.

Fear taught me long ago that it makes you timid. So it’s not just when I ride its how I live. I try to let practicality guide me and shape my actions and decisions. If logic dictates it then I’ll generally follow it. But fear can lead to not taking risks where a risk is the correct choice and it can lead to regret. The one thing I want from life is to not die with regrets. I already have a few stored up that are now too late to rectify and I’ve learned much from them. I don’t want to keep adding to them. So this trip is one of those things, but so is going all out at work, putting my art into the world and so many other choices I make. I don’t want another “what if.” I will say that the one place I’m trying to learn to move forward is in matters of the heart. Fear has touched me there and that one is harder to shake. That one may take some time. But like everything else that makes me who I am, I’m working on it.

Day Nineteen

To say this is the long road home may be a bit of a misnomer, or a miswording at least.  The road from St. Louis to Indy isn’t very long and I’ve done it 100 times. It was the route I’d take from Kansas, the route I often took when I traveled for work, The roads I’ve taken when going to visit friends. I know US-70 East all too well. Today feels different though. Today I’m going home after the past 18 days of frustration and the trials of the trip. I need this more than anything, more now than ever.

So today I ventured out in the mid-afternoon expecting to end up in Indy about 5pm. The trip went as expected, it was a great day for riding, sunny and warm. It meant the sunscreen was out almost all day, except the times I forgot. It was uneventful to say the least but it was comforting all at the same time. It was like seeing a long lost toy as a child or finding those keys you misplaced and thought you lost even though you had a spare set. There’s just no replacing that original thing. There’s no place like home.

Unfortunately home was a bit odd this time. I arrived in town around the time I thought. The only downfall was as soon as I hit the loop around town the rain started. I tried to ride it out but had to stop and gear up. Conveniently it put me on the west side of town where my uncle is in the rehabilitation hospital for recovery from a surgery. I’ve been wanting to see him so this was a perfect opportunity to stop. It turned out to be a great moment as when I walked in, sitting there were my cousins, his daughters, one from Texas the other there in town. My aunt is like my second mother so it was good to see her there as well. Of course she grilled me about my trip, like my actual mother the worrying is intense. Nonetheless mother aunt, my uncle’s wife came out and we all talked for a while. Then after my aunts left my cousins and I went back to see my uncle,

It was strange seeing him like that. He was still in that recovery stage, good enough to go home in a few days but not enough to be fully self sufficient yet. You see, he was always a strong man, he ran a landscaping company and gave me my first job paving driveways one summer when I was 15. He’s always been a symbol of something for me. This was a strange moment because all of a sudden I felt like everything I used to know, that made this place for me, had changed. There was no looking back anymore, the memories are just that… memories. But maybe with this comes the opportunity for a rebuilding.

Anyway, I went to my mother’s house afterwards to settle in for the night. I got home and unloaded the bike. I went in to see my mother, who at the time looked and sounded like a bad case of the flu. My mother was apparently victim 1 of some illness creeping though the house. I had been somewhat surprised to see my brother in laws car there, but apparently it was because he now had the sickness. He came home early and immediately called it a night. He and my sisters oldest also had it though being a strapping young boy of three he fought it off quickly. Either way the illness was thick in the house. The plague as I referred to it as. So I checked in with my brother and sister-in-law and packed back up to head out to Brownsburg.

An hour later I was at my brothers, I stopped and saw a friend quickly on the way over but the kicker was that the construction in my brothers area cur off all the direct access to their subdivision. After driving in circles for over an hour and confusing the heck out of my GPS I finally stopped a police officer and he helped point me in the right direction. I finally arrived, tired and ready to call it a night around 10pm.

In classic fashion I walked into the house and they were hanging out as a family. My niece with the baby on the back porch along with her boyfriend, my brother and sister-in-law, all playing dominoes and laughing together. It was perfect. My two younger nieces were doing homework with the help of a family friend and I spent the rest of the evening enjoying their company. We eventually played spades after my brother went to bed and I won a few hands along with my partner. My great-niece woke up at one point and my niece went to go take care of her. Somehow in that 20 minute window the day or the week must have caught up to me, because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I literally dozed off mid-game, cards in hand. Luckily we won the hand but that was it for me. My niece in al her laughter at her uncle passing out at the table was a perfect end to the night.

It’s good to be home.

Todays Map:

Apprx Miles: 250 /  Top Speed: 85 mph / Best Album of the Day: “Friday” soundtrack produced by Dr. Dre

Addendum Map:

Apprx Miles: 43 (after the circles) / Gotta avoid the Black Lung

Just Breathe….

“The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I’m not really sure what to take from all of this. My mind today is stuck really on one little minute moment that I brought up in my last post. Brotherhood. I’ve spent the last month or so preaching the love of biker brotherhood. The unspoken rules and regulations that we buy into as part of this lifestyle. Except yesterday I stood on a hot street in almost literally the middle of nowhere and watched three clubs, heading to the same place as me, ride right past without a word or a nod to see if I was okay. You don’t do that. Not as a biker. But what about as a black biker. There something about it that feels so racially biased. Like me, most of them were black, all even if I remember correctly. The reason this quote sticks at me is because of the conversation about the “system”. So many black people I know talk about the “man” and the “system” keeping them from achieving or limiting access and while I can’t say I disagree in full, to some extent we have to look at ourselves. I’m not saying this doesn’t effect others beyond my race, but I can only really speak for myself and my knowledge. I’ve consistently had white bikers stop over the years, including yesterday, when I’ve been on the side of the road. 99% of the time I was fine, grabbing some water or switching helmets or something, but nonetheless they checked. I see this, an occasion where I’m heading to a predominantly, historically black event, to celebrate the culture of black bikers and biker lifestyle in general and not a single black face stopped to help. To me that’s a sign of something so much larger. That’s a sign of a lack of self respect, and respect for your neighbor and in our black communities often the same lack of respect that leads to black on black violence and crime. It may seem like a leap, but I don’t think so. Its a micro-cosmos of the whole. It saddens me deeply, it scares me and makes me lose a little more hope in ever seeing a day where we move beyond our current condition. Sure there may be a systematic method for limiting our access to better lives but what does it matter when so many of us are so concerned with ourselves we can’t see beyond our little world to do the little decent things that make function as a society, as a whole, instead of a gathering of desperate individuals. I’m sorry I’m rambling. My head isn’t fully in this today. I’m still a little jarred from yesterday and how I’m feeling today.

Day Sixteen

Its not that today was uneventful, but it was slow moving. Partly because I feel like I’m still pulling it together from yesterday. I can’t say I feel much better. I still feel like I’ve been chewed up and spit out raw by this whole thing. My energy is drained, I’m angry and frustrated at myself, the trip, everything about it actually. Today I am not in a good place.

A few things did happen today though to move the day along at least. In the morning we went to Waffle House for breakfast. Lisa Lisa, Big Red,Pit Stop and myself all went and took the morning to get a bit to prepare for the day. Afterwards we had to run to the Harley shop and take care of some little things, I needed a new piece of hose for my shocks and to get into my battery compartment and I didn’t have the right screwdriver. We also just tend to end up at the Harley shop as most of my riding family are Harley Davidson die-hards and its like going to church for them. So that was our next stop. Beforehand though Big Red and I rode out to the Tulsa Speedway to pick up my credentials for the rally since it tends to get busy at the gate at night. Then back to the hotel to pick up some stragglers and off to HD. Once there we actually bumped into Chief from the Toros, Lisa Lisa’s bother and hung out for a bit. I took care of my needs and got my charger working.  After that it was back to the hotel once again.

At this point Big Red and Pit Stop decided to go to visit the historic Greenwood Cultural Center and Black Wall Street areas. This was once a central point for black businesses and hub of financial exchange which is now commemorated by various things. I would swing by later but first wanted to take care of some little things. I finally got my hotel room, I unpacked and cleaned the bike and I showered. All things that desperately needed to be done.

A clean set of two's always makes you feel a little better.

A clean set of two’s always makes you feel a little better.

After this I took it easy. I made some calls and got dressed to go meet everyone out at the field at the Speedway. First I went stopped to get a new sd card for the GoPro, and a visit to the Black Wall Street area. As we said, “you have to know your history.” Then out to the field. I usually take pictures like a madman while there. Honestly this year I was too exhausted. I found the Rough Riders tent which is Dirty Red’s club.  We chatted for a bit and I dropped off beers in a cooler and then went over to the drag-strip where everyone was.  We caught up and watched races for the next two hours or so. Some poor man named Pete was embarrassed so bad he may never leave home again. He got beat so bad that in the announcers words’ “Pete was so slow he couldn’t catch himself.” We had a good time though. It was honestly nice to just not have anything to do.

Know your history.

Know your history.

Pete took a beating on the pavement today.

Pete took a beating on the pavement today.

My boy Big Red used to live in Denver so he knows lots of dudes from the set out there. Actually most of the guys I know are vicariously through that set as well, other than the old heads from Nap. Which is great because it keeps me diverse in my riding crew. A number of the Denver dudes were in though. DemDamDawgs was running deep and as always came up all the way on two’s. Kaveman and his crew did it as always. We respect those that ride all the way unless you have a valid reason not to. You gotta earn your place on the set. I’ve only towed to one for safety reasons. I’ll never do that again, its just not the life for me. Some of the State Burners from St Louis also came up, Game and Eezy. They ran with us the rest of the night and part of the next day. Those are good dudes, really all my people are. That’s what still bothers me so much about the day before. We’re young on the set, but we know the rules of the game. I credit Big Red, Realwun and Dirty Red for helping me learn it quick. But I also see it in these young cats. We respect it, we live it, we treat it with the honesty it deserves. How it is that whole clubs and others treat the code and the life like a throwaway item yet claim to live it? It hurts.

Reunion Time. Demdamdawgs and the fellas representing.

Reunion Time. Demdamdawgs and the fellas representing.

Then it was back to the tent and a few beers. There was a jazz concert that night out on the main stage and while my friends went over to watch I relaxed at the tent with drinks. You could hear the music wafting through the air and it was perfect. We called it a night around 12:30 and hopped back on our scoots to head back to the hotel. Of course no night was complete without another Waffle House visit. I really don’t think you need to see pictures of my cheddar jalapeno biscuit and hot tea. Needless to say it hit the spot. Today turned out to be not so bad after all.

Everywhich Way But Loose

“Precision instruments are designed to achieve an idea, dimensional precision, whose perfection is impossible.”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

So this phrase had me thinking about this idea of perfection. Which as I’ve discussed before is an issue of mine when it comes to planning and control. Is perfection really impossible? If it is then it that what drives my desire to succeed, the attempt to capture or manifest something that can never really happen? I’m beginning to think this is true. I once had a painting teacher say that he never sought to paint what sits in front of him, but yet his interpretation of that thing. Because if he wanted an image of that thing he’d just take a picture. This was an interesting idea to me because still to this day it rings true. I think it is the journey that I seek, the tale that surrounds it, the drama even at times. Because if it gets perfected or completed flawlessly then whats the point of seeking something that ends so finite and leaves no potential for improvement. Or maybe more importantly it’s that the idea of the thing is already perfect. While the final my never be as intended the pure intention is the important component.

 

 

Day Fifteen

 So today is the day I look forward to every summer. The first day of the Biker Roundup. It’s the day I get together with one of my best friends, wherever we may be that year and spend the next three days with he and his father, their respective motorcycle clubs to ride the streets and fraternize with my biker family. That’s who this is to me, not just a collection of people, but a collection that is family after so many years.

Today started out like any of those other days. I left from KC about 8:30 am and went to the bank and to drop off a birthday card for a friend. After talking for a while I headed out toward Tulsa. The ride was good headed through the back roads of southern Kansas. I ended up taking the less traveled route to avoid the tolls which are a plenty as you go through to Oklahoma.

One of the things I enjoy about this Road King is that when all loaded down it wants to control my speed for me. It does a pretty good job of capping me out at around 80 mph. I  feel like this is good for me. I have a tendency to want to pick up some speed and kick up some dust. So the back roads were treating me well. Though unfortunately the small town police didn’t appreciate my new-found desire to travel at lower speeds. I missed a speed limit drop and next thing I knew was looking at sirens. 10 miles over apparently deserves a ticket. Ugh.

Things Get Real

Back on the road this is when things got tricky. After a few hours, into what should only have been a four-hour ride I was looking forward to rolling into Tulsa by 3pm. Well I noticed the bike pulling strangely so I looked everything over and primarily checked tires and all looked good. Back on the road it got drastically worse about 15 minutes later as the back-end began sliding out from under me completely. That’s a flat back tire.

After a look, I was right, completely flat. Oddly a guy with an air compressor truck immediately stopped to help and we tried to fill it. Tried, being the key word it was losing as fast as we were filling. I hadn’t hit anything so we couldn’t figure what was happening other than maybe it came off the wheel just slightly. So time for emergency roadside assistance. The insurance was called and we pushed to get a lift to a shop.

Unfortunately when you’re in the middle of nowhere things take a while and I was in the middle of nowhere. Mile marker 32 down US-169 South, just past Thayer. My directions were specific and exact. Though it took sometime to clarify everything. After finishing up the call, I went to charge the battery on my phone and to no luck, my charger had a busted fuse. So strategic phone powering for a bit. But first a text to my friend so if I end up on the news missing someone knows where I was.

Stranded windshield notes...

Stranded windshield notes…

The tow truck finally got there and we push the bike onto the lift and head back in the opposite direction toward Chanute, KS and a shop that can change the tire. The shop was closing in an hour so we had to rush it. They got the tire done at some expense, and were nice enough guys. Though the almost two hours stranded on the side of the road now turned into three and a half and I missed my check in deadline for the hotel in Tulsa. So we cancelled the room and just waited to see if I’d make it in before the morning.

Back on the road about 6:45pm I pushed on. At this point delirious from the multitude of issues this trip has wrought upon me. A flat tire just happens, I get it. But that tire was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Financially and emotionally. All I could now do was laugh and panic at how much I’ve tapped into every resource. But I had to get to Tulsa. I rode until I needed gas and while filling up met a group of Zodiacs from Higginsville, MO (I believe, Higgins….). They asked me if I wanted to ride with them the rest of the way and they were some much needed company. A little older, they were road tested and took their time for a quick Walmart stop but the company and conversation was worth the extra time added.

Finally rolling into the hotel at 8pm, I hunted down my crew at the track and waited for them to come get me into a room. Dirty Red was gonna let me crash on his couch for the night. My second dad always comes through for me. It took just over an hour to meet up, in that time I grabbed my first meal of the day and snoozed on the sidewalk outside the check in area while my phone charged in an outdoor outlet. I was exhausted.

Once my people arrived, my boy Big Red immediately knew that I was done. The first thing he did was give me a hug, told me he was glad I made it safe and put the rest of a bottle of Jack Daniels in my hand and said, “it’s all yours.” I love my brother, he knew not even to push the night on me. He helped me unload the bike into his pops room, and said we’ll see you in the morning but I’ll text you tonight if you feel like coming out. And that’s how the night ended. Eventually curled up on a couch without extra blankets in the hotel so a sweatshirt for a blanket and a towel around my feet.

Parking lot full of my road family

Parking lot full of my road family

No way this dude has been here only one day!?

No way this dude has been here only one day!?

All in all, I can say one thing at this point. This trip has beaten me. Crushed me and broken me. I don’t want to continue, I just want to go home. In every sense of the word I’m exhausted. I don’t think I have anything left in the tank. Today has given me a flat that set me 20 minutes and 30 miles back with three big guys piled into a truck cab, not pleasant. Paying almost $400 for an emergency tire, even less pleasant. Watching three clubs ride past while broken down on the side of the road, the least pleasant. That’s what you do as a biker, you check on your own. When someone is standing out on the side of the road you check on them. Enough said. Either way I’m in debt, I’m tired, I’m worried and I’m done.

Today’s Map:

Apprx Miles: 205 miles / Actual: 263 miles / Top Speed: 80 mph / I’m too exhausted to take note of anything else

* Addendum: This post is finally going up

three days late. Two more posts will follow

by the end of the day.

Big Bear Chase Me

*Just a note. This will be the first of a number of

back to back posts catching everyone up. Internet has been

extremely spotty as have other issues

 

“A photograph can show an image in which time is static, a mirror can show an image in which time is dynamic.”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Its odd how you begin to process information so differently. I feel like this trip, which I think its fair to call it a journey. This journey, has made me step back to view it almost in 3rd person. Like I’m watching a television show and almost simultaneously intrigued and disgusted. Today I find myself thoroughly intrigued. I’ve been trying to think about having faith. My devotional backed this today as it talked about Isiah and faith through his words, also the past few days as seen through the actions of the apostle Paul. Faith is hard, its challenging and it doesn’t come easy. I think thats the thing most people don’t see. They think its easy and a cop out. That you’re some rube for believing in something you can’t see or putting something in the hands of the divine because you can’t do it yourself. Its neither of those. Its a matter of knowing there’s something beyond you and tapping into the interconnectivity of the universe. Its about having the ability to grasp what happens in your life and keep pushing forward knowing its not going to beat you. Its not about giving up at all, its about seizing it fully and completely.

Day Thirteen

So still in Galena, IL today I had to ride out to Rockford, IL to file the police report. I have to head back west in order to head toward Tulsa so it makes sense if I stay here again. And at least I know someone to hang out with. That being said, this morning I hit the road to go fill out the police report.

What a ride. I don’t think until today I really realized how good the bike rode. The US Highway to Rockford went through a number of small towns and over hills and in beautiful country. The Road King handled them like a champ. Actually that’s where the title of this one comes in. Does anyone remember the scene in Armageddon where they’re looking for Micheal Clark Duncan, “Bear”. Bruce Willis says soemthing like, “he’ll be the only big black man in Virginia riding a Big Dog” and they cut to the scene of him hitting the dirt roads with the police chasing him on the bike, dirt cloud billowing behind him over the hills and the road. That’s how I felt today, like nothing could get in my way.

Anyway, it was somewhat uneventful as to the stop in Rockford itself. I went into the police station, filled out the report with the very nice officer and then turned right around and came back. I relaxed and took care of insurance stuff today mostly. Called to make sure the paperwork was all in order and there was nothing else needed from me. Uploaded the report and checked my status with the Harley shop back in LaCrosse as they’re putting together a repair / total estimate for the insurance adjuster. Basically did all those things you do after filing a claim.

I did go walk around Galena more. I went to the river and the other small historic area in town. It does have a draw to it. Most of the shops closed at 5pm which was a bit of a downer since I had saw a shop that sold a plethora of hot sauces. I wanted to try something new to burn my insides. Nonetheless though it provided time for a beer or two in the middle of the day and a chance to snap some photos.

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I decided to ask my friend if she wanted to grab dinner, so we ended up at a steakhouse that has good reviews and the menu caught my eye earlier when I was going through downtown. Plus I love steak. I’m a carnivore at heart playing the role of an omnivore on stage. Actually I’ve drastically cut down on my red meat consumption, part of the whole new and better me plan. Either way we went to Log Cabin steakhouse. It was delicious. There’s no photos from this because it was kind of dark inside and it didn’t seem like the right atmosphere for it. Plus they’d have come out badly.

The meal itself though was on point. I debated the pork chop because I wasn’t terribly hungry, I had an appetizer with a beer a few hours earlier. Or considered the Bit O Each, which was a sampler of a porkchop and their local best steak cut. I was talked into the second one and could’t be happier. The portions weren’t as big as I feared. The pork chop was tender and juicy, grilled to perfection and seasoned just right, with a hint of pepper and thyme that came through and a slight citrus that infused with the juices. The steak was a perfectly cooked medium and equally as delicious. Tender, with a hint of char from a grill and a perfectly flavored. The aroma of the steak really took over the plate and was a perfect compliment to the pork chop. My only complaint was the salad. I haven’t had one in probably a week and it was drenched in dressing. This made me sad. But my inner meat eating belly dinosaur was content that he had been satiated.

The rest of the night was nice. We chit chatted a bit and then I got caught in some rain so we sat outside to talk while waiting for it to let up. Even though it wasn’t far back to my hotel I didn’t want to get soaked. It was really nice of her to hang out with me. It was funny people watching in a small town like that. Trying to figure out what those few people still out and about on a Tuesday night are doing at what wasn’t very late, but late by small town time. The streets in most places I’ve lived and been would still be bustling with energy and bodies. Soon after the rain lessened and I decided I could ride in that. After a goodbye to another friend from the road I headed to the hotel to finish packing and prepare for the ride out in the morning. Again, my friends are awesome.

I have decided I would not make the trip to Colorado. This hurts the most. I really wanted to see little Bennett and the family. I can’t tell you how much I miss my best friend from the Kansas days. Monica will always be my pale skinned sister who tans like a champ and is the most urban country spirit ever. I love those Leikers. So this means a special trip has to be planned sooner rather than later. I’m sure while there they may even try and talk me into opening my bar.

Today’s Map

Apprx Miles: 160 / Top Speed: 90 / Best Moment: Learning to use the cruise control. I must have rode three miles with no hands / Best Song: “Ain’t to Proud to Beg” by the Temptations

Pleasant round trip to visit the police… never thought I’d say that.

If nothing else this trip has shown me just how gorgeous our country can be. It saddens me in a way because there’s so much ugliness attached to it. Politics, war, racism, poverty, you name it and its there. Its muddies the water of what this place is and makes people like me convicted to committing to this place. My heart so often isn’t in it. I want to leave and run far away, to get away from all the stuff that makes me afraid to start a family sometimes, stop in small towns or walk streets at night or believing in those who are supposed to help the masses. Out here though, on this open road, right now… its beautiful.