Foodie

Northernmost Points

“Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.” ~ Romans 13:14

Change of pace today as I felt like my devotional was more reflective of the recent experience of the trip. It went on to talk about how the idea of how we as Christians should aim to appear as Christ, basically living and representing ourselves appropriately, hopefully in the goal of demonstrating the role of our faith in life and maybe giving the opportunity to speak about Christ in some way. Now most who know me in my faith know that this is a challenge. My faith is deeply personal and I generally choose not to share it unless a specific opportunity arises. I’m not one to feel the desire to try and convert others, but I will talk about my faith in depth if I’m given an open door and mind to do so. What this did make me think of though was crossing the border. That I and many of my friends, and others have been profiled, because we looked like bikers. It seems that no matter where I go I can’t escape being judged because of who I am, whether it be as a black man, or a biker in this case. It’s painful to realize that we are rarely ever seen for who we are, but instead who people are afraid that we will turn out to be without ever giving us a chance to prove ourselves. I’ve been a victim of being too judgemental myself, but I’m trying. I really am. I try to be open minded, and when I sense I’m unfairly thinking negatively I try to change that. The way we dress or the color of my skin are not a reason to fear us or treat us differently. Just like neither is a handicap, language difference, or anything else that separates us somehow. It pains me but I don’t think the world will ever get to a place where we stop judging people from the outside, that saddens me. I’ve tried to do my part, to change the way people look at us, taken jobs where I know I’ll be the only black person, I’ve hoped that my role will make it easier for the next person. Be a positive model for my students to potentially change how they view race, but in the end I don’t know how much good I can do. Or if there’s anything any of us can do. 

Day Seven Today I hit the road from Massachusetts heading for Montreal, Canada. This may be my shortest post yet because I want to get right to the nitty-gritty of the day and the most anticipated and dreaded moment of this trip. We’ll get to that though.

This day took me through what was some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever rode through. The hills and mountains of Northern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont are stunning. 20170719_092358 Traveling through the north during the morning fog and breaking afternoon sun makes for moments of incredible beauty and that feeling where it seems that you’re closer to nature than ever, and as close to a religious experience that being on the open road can give. The only trick is you’re in the middle of nowhere for a lot of that time, and when in the middle of nowhere it’s easy to think you’re lost or off course. I think I’ve finally figured out the way around that. Ride until you think you’re lost, ride about 45 more minutes and you’ll usually hit your next destination. So far it’s been working out!

Either way during the drive I met some friendly faces and saw what was as much as I can call it the most impressive babbling brook, maybe only babbling brook, that I’ve ever come across just outside of Vermont. Now mind you the last time I was in Vermont for any time, I was with my friend Jamie in undergrad. While we were out photographing I slipped almost went through the ice into a frozen river. He reached out and grabbed me just in time to save me from nothing more than wet pants. Cold and wet was a fair exchange for the save, in place of under the ice and pulled by the current, banging on the ice from below TV movie style. Needless to say this trip was a little more dry and warm along the mountain passes and well worth the trip. So after a few more gas stops and more mountainous roads that twisted and turned their way north I found myself finally hitting the Canadian border. At this rate I’d be in Montreal by 2pm with almost a full day of exploring ahead.

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The infamous babbling brook

I decided to cross at a smaller crossing because frankly I wanted something more rural as an experience. I had heard from multiple people that bikers were treated harshly at the border if they appeared to be a part of a club, and in full dress, colors, etc. Even to the point of having guys I know get turned away. So I packed up the vest and leathers, and went across as bare as I could. As I got to the crossing I realized there was a crazy long line and I’d be sitting in the sun for a little bit, but at least it was dry. So I decided to take off the helmet and just try to pace myself, take a few photos of bikers in line, the flags, random stuff for the blog…. Let’s get to the point though, the adventure of it all.

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The last remaining photo of anything other than random shots of my bike

Apparently the photos were the first mistake. As I got up to the border, after about an hour plus in line the agent begins with all the normal questions. Why I’m there, where I’m coming from, how long I’ll be there. Etc. Then they get interesting, why were you just in Thailand (seen in the Visa on my passport), why were you taking photographs in line? That was my mistake, apparently it’s illegal to take photos at a border crossing, but what else would a photography teacher do sitting outside for over an hour! Well, I was cool about it, I offered to delete the images and I understand the policy. I thought it was over, nope. I was asked off to the side and told that an officer would be with me. So I park, and two officers come over and they were pleasant. They said they had to see the images on the phone and I had to delete them (and again be told the rule on photos), I also had to have the bike searched. Every bag, nook and cranny was searched, as was I, questioned about every obvious tattoo, meaning behind my rings, anything that remotely looked like a biker. Then I was asked to come inside. Sitting for another 30 minutes, I was called up asked a few questions and then told to take a seat, 30 minutes later more questions and another seat. Finally I’m called up again, now almost 2 1/2 hours in and questioned again. They’ve at this point run a FBI background record on me, question me one more time, and proceed tell me that normally photographing alone is enough reason to turn me away but in this case they’re letting me cross only because I’m a high school photography teacher so it makes sense. Eventually all my items are returned to me and I’m back on the road. With two hours left, this will pretty much end my day.

Oddly the rural areas of Quebec look a lot like the Midwest. Corn, soybean, and cattle sprinkle the landscape, and the roads are just as bad.

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I guess that’s a difference, snowmobile crossings.

At least I felt like I was home. Two hours later and heavy traffic, I roll into Montreal, find my Airbnb and go check in. Despite an initial hiccup in checking in we got it worked out. I then went to find parking for the bike at a local garage a few doors down and walked to grab a bite to end the night. It looks like the exploring has been reduced to a single day to begin in the morning. Though I did get to sneak in a pretty solid burger before calling it a night, complete with some delicious onions rings and beers.

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DeVille, Bar and Grill in downtown Montreal

Day Eight I thought I should at least try to catch up on the blog a little bit today. So after sleeping in a bit I wrote and posted for the day. Did a little reading and my devotionals to get the day started and then headed up and out. What do you do when you’re in a city like Montreal for a day and want to figure out the lay of the land a bit and see what it has to offer. After having a few friends here this summer, I realized the city has good museums, food, sights, all the things you could want. Though after a few days of eating a haphazard or subpar meal at the end of the day I decided clearly the best way to experience the place was to eat my way through the day, so a plan was made. First coffee was needed. A rare treat for myself, so a trip to the corner coffee shop, and an order placed in French as I felt the need to practice my well worn grasp of the language. My day was planned as such; coffee and a pastry, poutine and beer at La Banquise, cheese at La Fromagerie at Atwater Market, walk around to the Jean Talon Market and buy more pastries for the morning, snack and beers at 3 Brasseurs, dinner at Joe Beef.

Meal One: I was off for the day of eats, via Uber. I couldn’t figure the best way to park the bike over and over and I just felt like I needed to take it easy. La Banquise put a hurting on me. I went for the bacon, swiss, scallions, and peppers poutine… which is topped on top of the already cheese curds and gravy. Along with a porter it was a great but heavy meal, even the smaller size. I couldn’t finish it because I knew I had to pace myself.

Today was a marathon, not a sprint. It really was an experience though, I can’t recommend it enough, the best poutine I’ve ever had, and their options are vast and the local beer selections are limited but perfect for the meal. A quick walk around the neighborhood after eating closed this chapter of the day. Time to continue my gluttonous journey.

Cheese: So if you know me well, or just slightly, you may know of my passionate affinity for cheese. So the idea of French cheeses at a French-Canadian market are right up my alley. La  Fromagerie Atwater came recommended so I won’t pass it up. A quick uber over to the market and I was in cheese heaven.

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I want all the cheeses… ALL THE CHEESES.

Not too mention the glorious selection of meats and a variety of other delicacies. Now this is also a good time to mention that I hate Foie Gras. Many friends love it, I am not one of them. As much as I’m encouraged to eat it, and I will eat most anything I couldn’t do it again. Once was enough. The texture was enough to turn me off. Either way, hard to get items like this were in high quantity at the shop and of course I thought of my friends back home who’d kill to be here.

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Get in my belly!

Either way I was here for cheese, and after what had to of been a frustrating experience for the cheesemonger letting me taste everything I inquired about, I saw my holy grail of French cheese, Beaufort d’Alpage. It’s a hard cheese with hints of sweet, nuttiness, slightly grassy and a smooth finish. It’s the perfect cheese in my opinion and it would be mine. So a hunk of cheese later I was on my way out knowing I’d devour this whole block on the way to Toronto tomorrow.

Exploring through Snacking: Jean Talon Market is your classic outdoor, open air market with a number of vendors and fruit and vegetable stands. It also has a number of shops, pastry, cafes, butchers, ice cream, and a broad variety of options inside, and surrounded by shops on all sides make it a great location. I couldn’t resist snacking on pastries and trying cheeses and meats along the way through the market as well as tasting some of the fruit that was cut up. I also popped into a great bakery and grabbed croissants and pain chocolat for the next morning and the ride. Combined with my next stop this was essentially another meal for the day.

Beer O’Clock: I had heard from a good friend that 3 Brasseurs had great food, but I also knew they were a brewery so it seemed like an idea stop for the afternoon. Well here’s the plus. The beer was awesome. They had a special stout on tap that was out of this world. I also had a taste for a classic, french onion soup and along with soft pretzels, that was a perfect round out to meal two for the day.

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Minus the french onion soup because I ate it, this was a perfect finish to a hodge-podge meal

Plus there’s nothing like real french onion soup, there’s something about the way they handle its preparation that just seems right. Now it was time for a walk back to my Airbnb, put my purchased food away and wait to head out to dinner after resting off my meal a bit and some light reading. It was also good to walk and explore a bit. I was staying downtown so it was a real hustle and bustle kind of place that reminds me a lot of Chicago as a city, even with the suburbs just outside the city, even though the brownstones remind me more of a Brooklyn style housing with deco flair. It’s a great city so far.

I’ll also sidebar and say on the way to 3 Brasseurs, I had the greatest uber driver ever. He was Haitian and grew up in Montreal. We joked around and he told me about the areas we passed through, looked at grafitti as we passed by them and talked about living in the states versus there. When he found out I was from the U.S. the first thing he said was, “where they kill black people without reason.” Good to know this is our reputation. We also talked about the diversity of the city which is one of the things that I found really pleasant, everyone seems to get along. I know it’s a city and everyone has their issues, but it’s nice to not feel like that tension is palpable. The topper to the ride was him asking if I wanted to play music off my phone, which leads us down a path of old school hip hop conversation and when “I Got 5 On It” comes on we’re both singing at the top of our lungs. Solid trip.

Final Meal: The stunner for the day and my triumph was a two part effort. Joe Beef is one of the hottest spots in the city. It took 4 phone calls to get a reservation and I think they took pity on me and just squeezed in one seat for me. But after four calls, one reservation request placed in French, one in bad French, two in English, I finally got a yes for 8:30pm. 20170720_203107 Upon arrival my table wasn’t ready, but they took me out to the garden to wait along with a beer, their own Joe Beef ale. An outdoor kitchen caught my eye as much as the garden where they grow their own salad items and vegetables. They also work with locally sourced foods to create weekly changing seasonal menus. 20170720_202353 Once I was called in to seat they offered me the bar or continue waiting for a table. I took the bar and got the rundown on the days meal options from the bartender. I went for the fresh salad to start and for my entree, filet de cheval… filet of horse. While waiting two kind women from NY sat down next to me and we struck up conversation, which undoubtedly led to me about to eat a horse. Literally. The portions are all huge, which is a great start and the salad was delicious, the meal came out and was as beautiful as I could have imagined. The filet was served with peas and diced ham in a parmesan cream sauce, it was so very tasty. The filet itself was topped with escargot and a fried egg, all served with a red wine bearnaise sauce. Here’s the thing. It was maybe the greatest meal I’ve ever had. EVER. It knocked me off my feet.

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Joe Beef… I can’t even. Hands down a stellar meal and thoroughly the best food experience I’ve ever had. A filet of horse… so good, I’d literally fight a grown man for this meal. Literally.

I talked the hesitant women next to me into trying it and they regretted nothing other than their choice of meals that didn’t compare to a HORSE STEAK! The ladies had steak and lobster spaghetti, Joe Beef classics and they kindly offered a taste, they were good, but nothing in comparison to mine. Needless to say by the end of the meal I was in food euphoria. I couldn’t help but go for dessert. A sundae of twisted brioche and berry sorbets mixed with meringue and topped in raspberry compote. I was through, it’s a wrap, take my chips I’m all in. Montreal wins.

After some late night conversation the day was done. Again, I can’t even begin to say enough how well this city treated me today. Maybe next time I’ll look at some art, bring some company, really enjoy it for a few days. This was just a taste of things to come. Terrible pun intended.

 

Worcester to Montreal

Day Seven: Exact mileage – 357 miles, Best Site of the day – babbling brook, Best Song of the Day – “Baby” by Ghostface Killah, Best Random Person Met – Mark: delivery man for a dairy farm, met in Fitzwilliam, NH

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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.

Broken But Not Beaten

“The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it’s right. If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I started some time ago talking about whether or not I was really doing this alone. Or at least the idea that I’ve realized that I can do very little alone. This has rang through so many times during this whole experience. Today has sat with me largely because of two people. Neither of whom I know very well, but both have lifted my spirits and fed me a little wisdom to move me forward. In this world of virtual connectivity that we all so often exist within its easy to become distant and detached, allowing only keystrokes to maintain those relationships that once required conversations and in-person connection.  My day was brightened ever so slightly and put into context by two of those connections today. Both met in person in the recent past, but neither overly deep. One at a time when this trip was beginning to tear at me, his daily lightheartedness and friendly persona was a relief to my spirit and a renewal of an ideal that I thought lost. The second being someone I met years ago and saw again overseas.  Though both had kind truthful words to share today that meant something real to me.

I love my family and friends, they are my rock upon which I build my life. I don’t express that enough. It is truly through them all that I find reasons to continue moving forward. I have been through hardship and heartache but in the end they’re still there. My friend, nay, my brother who is with me today has been a consistent source of support and strength during my darkest hours. This has been no exception. I say all of this to say that hardships come and go. We are not defined by the number of times we are knocked down but by how often we get back up. We are left scarred and bruised but those do not equate the sum of our parts. I always tell my friends, especially those I know share the faith, that God never gives us more than we can handle. “If He brings us to it, He’ll bring us through it.” If I believe that then why am I so frustrated. If I am going to talk the talk than I also need to walk the walk. This is a challenge, in every way. I will take from it and learn from it what I can, but I will not let it beat me. I’m better than this… today I chose to get back up.

Day Seventeen

Today is a day that I’ve committed myself to getting some work done. Yesterday I happily slacked off and didn’t shoot a single photo of the event. Today I’m geared up with both cameras and ready to work. I strategically set up my day to provide some particular photo opps. The one thing I didn’t get in my previous years of shooting was good road shots while riding. Photographing the act of biking to some extent. So the GoPro plays heavily into this years work. I tried last year but just didn’t really get the images I wanted. I felt it wasn’t telling the story that was meant to be told. So that is my goal this year. While the portraits and one-on-one engagement is still the meat and potatoes of the biker project it feels incomplete without the other imagery. So my hope to round it out with these images taken today and next week at another rally in Cleveland. So today I’m sticking with my people and riding as a group to do what I need to in order to capture the shots.

Today’s agenda included going to run errands first with Big Red, Pit Stop and the State Burners. Namely getting something to drink for later and meeting with DemDamDawgs out at a BBQ spot. I was supposed to roll with the Rough Riders first but their time kept getting pushed back. So its off to get some food. No pictures of this one, but we ended up at Billy Simms BBQ. I got a sandwich called the Heisman. Chopped brisket over hot links on a toasted bun… and I said I didn’t really want anything heavy. Yeah, this sandwich was slammin’. The brisket was perfectly cooked and the sauces really pulled it all together. I’m the guy who likes things hot enough to burn your face off so the hot links weren’t spicy enough, but they never are. So the addition of some peppers and pickles were a nice touch to add to the heat level. Pit Stop and Big Red had the rib platter. It was outstanding, it was also the last order of ribs, the group after us left because there were none left. When a BBQ place runs out of something by 3pm, you know its good.

From there it was errand time. Too hot to go the field still so we wanted to relax a bit. So off to buy some beer for later and cigars for the fellas. I’ve been toting around a fancy leather wrapped french pipe  so I’m good. Though the peaches and creme tobacco smells amazing. Back at the hotel we all relaxed and caught up. Smoked the pipe and had a drink.  We all rallied for dinner a few hours later for a stop Big Red wanted to make. Spudders.

So we may have been duped on this one. Spudders is a steakhouse in Tulsa, it was featured on Man Vs Food and gets pretty solid word of mouth. We rolled in with the Rough Riders after Big Red took us on an impromptu “tour” around that area of town. In other words we got lost. Haha. And if you’ve never been lost with a group of older riders when they want to eat, it gets touchy. Just saying. So we roll in and finally get seated. 14 of us and it was a tricky scenario with a party of that size coming in suddenly and believe me, people were hungry. Nonetheless, we all sit and order drinks, which takes exceptionally long just for water for most of us.

Around the table most of us ordered steaks, or some sort of variation. The prices were a bit high but not astronomical. The food finally came out. When I say finally, it was a good while. I think everyone hit the frustrating point. I honestly wasn’t that hungry after the BBQ  sandwich I had at lunch. My belly was pretty content so I wanted something small. Since they were out of steak tips the next thing that caught my eye was chicken livers. It’s not something you see on a menu very often so I thought I’d try it out, I used to love them as a kid along with gizzards.  I have to admit, they were well cooked, not overly tough and breaded well. Like all liver though they were dry and needed gravy… no gravy. That was a little of a let down. Actually as a whole unless people got a steak then they were a bit let down. To be a steakhouse with as much positive feedback as it had I was disappointed as were many. I don’t think I can recommend this one. Pit Stop had some crab cakes that were horrendous. Pass it up.

After that we went back to the field for a few hours. I photographed along the entire way and it was just the opportunity I was looking for. I was able to capture some video as well and I have to figure out what to do with that. All in all though I think I got the stuff I missed from last year. There are a few other shots that I think would be a good addition and I’ll keep working to pull those into the mix. But if these come out I think I can call this project a wrap to some extent and begin looking forward to the amassing of images for exhibition. First a website though. Priorities. I won’t post any of those pics. Those are saved for the real deal, but here are two random ones from the Roundup this year.

Yeah that dude has an LED display on his swingarm. What of it!?!

Yeah that dude has an LED display on his swingarm. What of it!?!

Bet his tricycle can beat up your tricycle.

Bet his tricycle can beat up your tricycle.

Other than hanging out with the Rough Riders and a few others we knew the Roundup ended smoothly for us. There are events tomorrow but we won’t go. We hit the road early for St Louis. The one moment of ridiculous was coming back to the field tonight though. Apparently the speedway was at capacity so the police weren’t letting anyone in. The reasonable answer was of course to sneak us in the back. So we ride around the back and they send up through a literal fi

eld of like 18″ grass and bumps, holes, and everything else to the back of the drag strip for like two miles. It was madness. It was also hysterical though. These are the moments I cherish from this type of trip, only with my motorcycle family. All the madness almost feels worth it. Another successful Roundup complete.

All tucked in for the night

All tucked in for the night

All Roads Lead Somewhere

“We are at the classic-romantic barrier now, where on one side we see a cycle as it appears immediately – and this is an important way of seeing it – and on the other side where we can begin to see it as a mechanic does in terms of underlying form – and this is an important way of seeing things too.”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

So that barrier. I’m not thinking about it in the same terms as Pirsig addresses it here. Although maybe I am. I see this vision of the ideal vs the actual. I am a proponent of the actual. The ideal is a fantasy that continuously leads one astray. It’s the pessimist point of view, but it keeps me grounded and forces me to evaluate each decision. I don’t mind that. But it also makes me thing about the importance of being aware to both sides of the coin. That within each moment there are two sides, with each decision, every option is valid. Not to say each is ideal but each is valid. That is something I often forget.

I tend to get blinded by my own rationale and motives. Hopefully not to the detriment of others but definitely to the completion of the task at hand. Even in relationships its easy to forget that the pendulum swings both ways and that all things must be taken into consideration. I think I’m going through that in life. I find myself at a personal / professional impasse and wonder how to rectify what my heart wants to move forward vs what my head tells me to do. Maybe we all walk that path. My head usually wins these battles. Practicality and reason to me are key decison factors but there are times the heart wants what it wants. Right now both are fighting to be louder than the other.

Day Fourteen

Today something happened.

I realized I’m not finishing this book. The loss of days has taken its toll and I realized that its hard to read every night when you’re sleepy! Or when catching up with old friends or your wonderful hosts, the last thing you want is to be rude and disappear to read when you could be laughing over beers. Its like 500 pages and I’m not far enough in. But I will continue and I may continue to blog until the end of it, even from home. So there’s that revelation.

In the meantime, I departed for Tulsa, OK today but not before deciding to spend the night in Kansas City. I put out a call to friends to see who might put me up, or put up with me and thankfully multiple replied. Even those closer to Manhattan, and I thank them dearly but it’s just too far out-of-the-way. So oddly in the end it was two former students who offered me a place to lay my head. It’s wonderful that my profession has allowed me to form friendships from what were mentor relationships. Not that every student and I are close, but those that are like little brothers and sisters to me and that is a positive. I enjoy seeing them succeed and move forward in life. Still to this day I’d bend over backwards for them.

So after a multitude of early morning phone calls, I got on the road about two hours later than planned. For some reason everyone and their mother decided to call me this morning. So my day lagged behind the start I had hoped for meaning I was going to be running in the heat, which is exactly what I was hoping to avoid.

The Mighty Mississippi

The Mighty Mississippi

Chills.

Chills.

So the long road south began. Within an hour or a little more though I realized the excellence of this journey. The National Motorcycle Museum sat in my path and of course this is a necessary stop, no questions asked. I was like a kid in candy store, needless to say I was overly geeked. So here’s a few pictures from what absorbed the next almost two hours of the trip.

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After that I made a hop back an exit to JP Cycles to make a buy for my man who had a busted part on his bike. Unfortunately they didn’t have the part but they did have my mirror adapters. So after grabbing what I needed I got back on the road. Though not before realizing my shoe was in the midst of a blowout, so more duct tape

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The drive to KC then began. Overall it wasn’t bad. I realized that without the extra weight of 20 something days worth of stuff my new bike gets a bout 45 miles to the gallon but once loaded down I lose about 5 miles per gallon. That made me a little sad, but that’s also to be expected.

I felt the need for at least one picture in Iowa. This seemed appropriate as the first person I met from Iowa was from Grinnell. Since I was here for gas I decided this was a good photo opportunity. Plus Iowa is all hay bales and barns… but it was a great midwest drive. It reminded me of home in a way.

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The arrival into KC was about an hour later than hoped because of the long stop earlier but I arrived and met my two former students Matt, who was putting me up for the night and Ally at a new BBQ restaurant there in town. Before I go into that, I will just point out that these two are great. Matt maybe is the central figure in what is my favorite study abroad story of all time and Ally was always one the funniest and most genuine people I’ve ever had in class, who also designed a sweet Dept Pub Crawl T-Shirt back in the day. Back to the point at hand though, food.

We went to Q39, a new spot in town. It’s really trendy and cool, they claim to have won a number of awards. Thesse are all things that concern me from the jump. BBQ joints to me should be a hole in the walls for them to be really good. The trendy new “cool” place scares me away sometimes, but we’re here now. Two things immediately calmed my nerves though, the first being an impressive craft been list – I went with a New Belgium 1554 Black Ale.The second was the amazing aroma of BBQ in the air, it smelled amazing. I went with a 3 Meat Sampler plate – homemade chorizo sausage, brisket and ribs with baked beans and a white bean cassoulet.

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The BBQ was delicious, it was really dialed in by the sauce which had a great whiskey hint to it in every bite. The ribs were by far the best part of the meats, and were tender and perfectly cooked. I really can’t say enough about the quality of the food. It was a perfect meal to end my driving for the day. They seemed to really find the balance between the smoke, heat and traditional taste of the chorizo. The brisket was the ideal texture which is often my issue with it, many places overcook it. Q39 nailed it, I can see why they win stuff. The flavors really all came together, but the smoke taste was throughout and really that’s the best part to a good BBQ. Sweet with a hint of spice, the sauce also livened up the entire meal. The meets were all tender and well cooked.

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As you can see, I devoured the whole thing. I couldnt’ have been more surprised and more impressed by something I thought I wouldn’t enjoy. it’s a good addition to the long list of Kansas City BBQ spots. I’d absolutely recommend it. I’ll also add my saying that I have never really been a fan of beans of any kind but both sides were delicious as well. Sure it may have been the meat in them that helped but that works for me.

After dinner I went to Matt’s’ and he showed me around and set up my bed. The best part about this though was as we’re setting up Sharknado 2 comes on. I can only imagine how amazing the first was and now I need to go watch it. Immediately. I’m going to go dream of sharks, bombs, tornadoes, and b-list actors now.

Today’s Map:

Apprx Miles: 435 / Top Speed: 85 / Best Song: Who cares, I went to the National Motorcycle Museum… that’s the best moment.

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.

He Rode In On a Kawasaki and Away On a Harley

 “He traveled alone. Always. Even in the presence of others he was completely alone.People sometimes felt this and felt rejected by it, and so did not like him, but their dislike was not important to him.”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

There’s something about being lost that helps you find yourself. Or maybe more importantly, find your center. Its funny a few things have happened since the Great Moto Debacle. I realized sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy what comes at you, but also realize that sometimes you can find great joy in simplicity. That simplicity is what has stuck with me today. My plan was complicated, eventful, forced. Today I’m taking the day as it comes. I had one simple task and completed it to success, getting to Galena, IL. I have no idea what the next two days will bring prior to Tulsa. Simplicity. We make things complex, I think because we think that makes them more valid or important. Though if we look at nature some of the most amazing things are the most simple. I guess that’s why I wanted to see the Grand Canyon on this go around. Its just a giant crack in the ground. A simple accident of nature, but its supposedly amazing. I’ve always scoffed at it. Largely because I crave complexity. I utilize it in speech, in action, in my very nature. The truth is though I enjoy the simple moments much better. I feel like I have to put on airs though so people see more in me. Its lame. I do my best not to posture, but given the opportunity I’ll eat up the spotlight with the best of them. Maybe therein lies the problem. Learning to be content with the small things, the simple things.

Day Twelve

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Today feels like a day of rest in comparison. While my mind is still racing from the events of the past few days. I still can’t believe I bought a new bike. I also can’t believe I’m in the tiny little town of Galena, IL. On the plus side I do feel like I rode out of Wisconsin like a boss.

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Why, you might ask? Well, its a simple answer. I need a police report. I was backed into on the bike and the insurance company wants to file that as the reason for the issues. So while there’s no visible damage I need an accident report from Rockford, IL. But I know someone outside of Galena and they said it was beautiful here, so here I am. We could all use a little more beauty in life, right!

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Its is a quaintly cool little town. Very rustic, sitting on a river and with that charming small town character. But this river does nothing compared to the big one. The other reason I like being here. The mighty Mississippi. Last night I rode across it, just because, and to hang out with my friend. Let me tell you, I had chills and a turning in my stomach. Not of fear or nervousness but of awe. Something about going across on the motorcycle meant something. It touched me in my gut, not in a creepy weird way. Lol. I suddenly felt like no matter what else happens along this trip I’ve accomplished something important. Maybe not for anyone else other than me, but important nonetheless.

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Other than that I just wandered the little downtown of Galena. Apparently its the home of Ulysses S. Grant, and where some stuff from Field of Dreams was filmed. I was honestly in more of a desperate need for a beer and a bite. So I popped into the local brewery and sat down to read and slow down my day over a meal.

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While nothing overly fancy, I can’t pass up Galena Brewery, a local brewery and tasting the local beers. I go for the flight as a broad sampling. My usual tastes prevail and I find myself disenchanted with the IPA and Cream Ale, the Heifewiezen was surprisingly disappointing as well. The last three did it for me. As always the Oatmeal Stout to finish it up was a chocolately coffee delight, but the surprise winner here was the Brown Ale. While I enjoy them, this one really was something special. The nutty taste was complimented with a coffee taste that settled nicely and really packed a full flavor. I was really caught off guard by this one. I’d come back for i if around longer.

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As you can see the wings were delicious. They had a special that I couldn’t pass up. Plus having not eaten anything but a little watermelon earlier I figured I should eat well before drinking a full flight. But mission accomplished. The real treat here though was the beer. The wings were meaty and baked which is awesome, but I wasn’t blown away with either flavor (siracha and med/buffalo).

The night ended after my jaunt around Dubuque, the town just across the Mississippi. I rode the highways and played with all the new bells and whistles at my disposal on the bike. Spotlights, who knew!? My friend took a ride with me and showed me the sites, well it was at night so not really. We rode aimlessly into what turned out to be creepy nature recreation area when the sun was down. She did show me around downtown a bit though and we walked the riverwalk along the Mississippi, again that’s a mighty river. It was pretty awesome. I’ll have to get a shot or two the next time I cross.

So now its down for the night and preparing to head to Rockford tomorrow morning. The only thing to be determined is what to do after that. Stay the night again or head elsewhere, CO maybe. I have a little Bennett awaiting my arrival.

Today’s Map:

Apprx Miles: 150 / Top Speed: 80 mph / Best Song: “Gin and Juice” cover by The Gourds

Ps.

I thought Ben deserved a shout out today for everything he and Heather did to help. He was also the biggest secret salesperson for the Harley ever. Also, I completely had a Doogie Howser moment when I started typing this post. I expect Vinny to pop his head in the window at any moment.

Today is “THE” Day

“”The ghost wins….

“But that’s another land and another time,” I say. “Here life is the end and ghosts have no meaning. I believe that. I believe in all this too.” I say, looking out at the darkened prairie. “although I’m not sure what it all means yet… I’m not sure of much anything these days. Maybe that’s why I talk so much.””

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Reflections are dimmer today. I’m realizing I can’t keep the nightly pace so often I will have to post the next day as catch up or double up posts. This in itself is taxing. Though that is beside the point. What I want to mention today is something much more simple. It talks of purpose. My devotional had me reflecting upon each of our purposes. That we have a calling that reaches to us and asks us to serve. The question is do you choose to listen. My friend yesterday said she believed nothing happened without reason, I agree. The past few days have been a struggle to move forward and questioning the purpose for setbacks. I do believe that all things happen for a reason. But what is that reason. Am I chasing a ghost of a dream, a fantasy to do something that is growing further and further out of reach and I’m too stubborn to see the ghost for what it is, a shadow of myself? If I continue to put it into words I just keep hoping it will all come true through perseverance. How do we deal when perseverance isn’t enough?

This is the bane of my existence.

This is the bane of my existence.

This is it. My culprit. Somewhere beyond this slave cylinder is my leak. I think its the guide plate seal which has failed. It’s a normal maintenance thing exasperated by being on the road. Its also Monday and as many riders know a lot of shops are closed today. So I wait until tomorrow to discover my verdict. Today though is the final day of rest. Tomorrow I hustle. If tomorrow fails me. My trip fails me.

 

Day Five

Lot’s of phone calls to motorcycle shops around town which proved futile. But left things perfect for an early dinner with mom.

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Kings Ribs, small rib tip dinner. The best. Tips are a delicacy in the BBQ kingdom in my opinion. They’re near bite size and easily handled. They’re a sauce covered mess but I won’t complain about that. As far as tips go in Indy I don’t think there’s any better. Delicious smoke flavor and great crust that gives you a little of the smoke ring in every bite. Its a must hit whenever I’m here so some will discount this as personal preference. That’s fine. It wins with me. I go with mixed sauce, hot and mild combo. It adds a sweetness to the flavor and a second level of taste interaction. They’re tender without being soft and quick. This isn’t your nice sit down, it’s a former triple bay car wash turned BBQ joint that looks like its burning to the ground when the smokers are going. This is backyard BBQ turns up. Done and done.

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My little sister has turned into quite the little cook at 34 years of age. Her leftovers seemed like a perfect companion to the meal.

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Before the end of the night I clearly needed to drown some of my sorrows so a night out was needed. My older brother’s friend had been helping me hunt down some ideas for the bike and herself needed a drink so we met up at The Living Room Lounge, one of our favorite spots. After some pineapple and rum’s and Fireball we ended up having a great time . I really appreciate the offer to hang out, I definitely needed a good laugh. Here are a few highlights from my night out with Satch the Pastry Chef.

Satch: “So I have pictures of Satchel Paige in the house because, that’s who I’m named after. I told this to my son and he said, “wait, thats not Jay-Z?” Here’s the conversation that ensued between her and her 8 year old son…

Satch: “No that’s Satchel Paige, the baseball player”

Son: “Wait, so Jay-Z doesn’t play baseball?”

Satch: “No, he’s a rapper”

Son: “I thought he played baseball too.”

Satch : “No”

Son: “You should call Jay-Z and tell him to play some baseball”

Satch: “I don’t know Jay-Z baby. I know that I know a lot of people, but not Jay-Z”

Son: after a long pause… “so where the fuck does Jay-Z get his cake!?!”

Tears of laughter ensued. Also being a pastry chef she does lots of weddings and such and has met a number of photographers. So upon discussion of what I do, we talked photo a bit. She proceeded to tell me about a terrible photographer she’s facebook friends with and showed me some pics. I laughed hard, very hard. I texted people mocking his photos, I laughed some more. They’re so bad I want to share them with the world and young photographers as a sign to never do this. So friends, enjoy…

  

  

There’s so so much wrong. So very much wrong… its laughable.

This was a needed outing for sure. I send her my deepest thanks and hope to ride with her one day. Maybe even on her own scoot again, with her son in tow.

White Castle

Its no crave case but it'll do

Its no crave case but it’ll do

No Indy trip is complete for me without a White Castle stop. We don’t have them anywhere nearby me in south Carolina. Bacon double, fish sandwich and siracha chicken slider. After a movie at a friends its a late night stop of perfection. The only thing that could have made it better are onion chips and Faygo Redpop.

Triple Threat in a sack

Triple Threat in a sack

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Friends and Acquaintances

*You will note this posted late, when I began writing this last night I didn’t realize the delay that would follow. Detailed in the next posting about Monday

 

 

“A few words of consolation might have helped there. He was trying to be friendly. But the words aren’t forthcoming for some reason. Consoling words are more for strangers, for hospitals, not kin. “

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Today I spent a good amount of the day with family. Not my immediate family mind you but my appropriated family. We’re made of people who ride and who’ve been like a sibling and parents to me since high school. The term “kin” isn’t something you hear a lot anymore. But yet to me it implies some amount of seriousness and familiarity. There is a heaviness to the word. That’s how I feel about these people. Heavy.

I say that in the greatest sense of the word because they are representative of what I seek in life. To surround myself with people that elevate me and vice versa. I like to think that I break the stereotype of the “young black man”. I think I’ve brought people around me who do the same in that whatever box you could fit them in they’re a square peg trying to be fit into a round hole. Whether its a guy from Mississippi who turns out to be one the most open minded and down to earth friends I could ever have or the guy from Connecticut who is far from the rich Greenwich type but can show you around town like the back of his hand and welcome you to his new home in the Southeast and over the years become a brother to you.

What I mean by all of this is that there’s always weight put on us, that heaviness again. Weight to play by the rules, to fall in line, to make others proud, to be what we “should” be – you name it and it’s placed on us. At what point do we stop worrying about the weight and start thinking about freeing ourselves from convention. That’s what want from life. To enable those who seek the opportunity, to do something more than the sum of my experience and be the catalyst for positive growth. I don’t know exactly what is in the air but I know big things are on the horizon.

 

Day Four

Today is simple. No fluff no muss. I slept in, I woke up and hung out with the sister and her family. Their little boys, like the rest of my nieces and nephews have my heart. Its the greatest thing about coming home. That’s what really makes me miss this place, those little people and them growing up without me. Granted being the motorcycle riding, tattooed, traveling uncle is awesome. But its not the same as being here to watch them play sports and go to events and be part of the everyday. That stings a little to miss out on. The upside is I’ll always have visits and moments like this.

Eventually I went out riding today. Nothing special. The family was in from St. Louis, my main ace Big Red and his girl Pit Stop. Along with Lisa Lisa we got on the scoots and rode. Upon return I stripped down the bike and gave it a once over to find the culprit to the leak once an for all. I think we now have  a good sign and will hopefully find this part tomorrow to get up and going in full. Big Red gave me a new T-Bag for the back so I can now travel in comfort on these long trips instead of like a hobo using bungees like loose change in an arcade. We laughed, we joked, it was ideal. Then a short ride to catch up with an old friend and to test the leakage. Looking forward to hopefully a final night at home. If all goes as planned Minneapolis tomorrow.

Now we’ll get right to it. No pics of the road or even the bike, just a meal. Since there’s nothing else today it’ll have its own section…

Mug n Bun

So we decided to all ride out to Mug n Bun and give me a chance to test the bike before coming back to work on it more. Plus it was way past lunch and we were all ready to eat. Mug n Bun seemed perfect. Plus its an ideal time to introduce Pit Stop to what might as well be the state sandwich, the pork tenderloin.

Breaded Tenderloin and Onion Rings... Indy classic

Breaded Tenderloin and Onion Rings… Indy classic

So Lisa Lisa and I decide to split a family order of onion rings because they’re huge and you’re saving a dollar that way. The pork tenderloin is also why I’m here though. Lightly breaded and fried to perfection. Its delicious. Really the entire experience is. Mug and Bun has been here for over 50 years, normally I’d have a collection of their 32 oz cups at home but mom seems to have cleaned the cabinets. Nonetheless those cups are generally filled with their homemade root beer which is amazing. Its got a heavy sassafras flavor that reminds you of a hint of black cherry or licorice but is undeniably root beer. The tenderloin is hefty. Big Red and I go Indy style, mayo, lettuce, tomato. It highlights the flavor without overpowering and gives just enough moisture to the bun. Its as big as a pair of hands so you need both to handle it and tastes perfect. We love our pork here in Indy and the tenderloin sandwich is a reflection of that. We have a Pork Day for goodness sake.

So good I had to take two

So good I had to take two

In the end we had some serious debate about the validity of ketchup and mustard on a tenderloin. Big Red and I feel its blasphemous. We discussed the quality of the varied types of ketchup. They were clearly refilling with a different brand than they were handing out with the onion rings. Which I will point out were my favorite ever until Grind House a few days ago. They’ve been usurped. They also used to have a giant food challenge which they don’t anymore but you can talk them into it if you’re daring.

Overall today was a pretty good day. Beside the stupid leak we’re still holding it together.

Big Chickens and Late Night Excursions

Travel Day

As expected I got on the road today. As not expected it was much later than usual and in the midst or torrential downpours of and on throughout the trip. After some stops it was well into midday when I departed Atlanta and set out for Indianapolis. I had a long day ahead.

Taken two hours into the ride the mysterious leak persists. We’ll discuss shortly.

“This is the hardest stuff in the world to photograph… You see it, and then you look down in the ground glass and its just nothing. As soon as you put a border on it, it’s gone.”

Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

There you have it. The very nature of being a photographer. We attempt to capture the world as we see it and it always fails. I think the best photographers learn the trick is capturing it as you envision it, not as it is. After all didn’t God make the world already perfect, why repeat what’s already done. (Don’t get me on my Big Bang, String Theory, Divine Creation belief. Its a weird hybrid. If you ever want to discuss I’m more than happy to.)

What this means is that as artists we seek to share our interpretation of the world. Even the greatest artists in the world can only hope to do that, a painting of a flower is still just paint on a surface not a flower itself. We can’t duplicate so what is it that we attempt to do. Why make the effort at all. I think its because we all seek some way to open ourselves up. To expose our chest apple to the universe and see if it gets bruised or shined to a shimmering glow. I won’t extrapolate too much today because my brain is still in a fog from sleep deprivation. Though it did make me think about the decision to be an artist. I always said, its because I could draw and sucked at math. Both true. But mostly because I processed information in a way that makes sense when represented visually, science did that as well. I was always a geek for science and for those of you that know me well, know that was part of my original college path. To see something is to know it, to be sure of it. At least it was for me. I think that’s why I make art, photographs. If I can share something or part of myself with the world that people can see as “real” then they can come to know it, hopefully as I do. I can share my pains and joys, my sadness and my heart with the world while still protecting myself through the glass of the frame.

Day Three

After a trip back to the shop in the morning they thought they had the issue diagnosed. As you can see once again, we were terribly wrong. Haha. Oh, the humanity of it all! This must be dealt with in haste. The hour repair was believed to be an issue in the clutch which in turn desperately needed new fluid so the mix up is highly possible and due to torrential rains the leak didn’t act up when they needed to see it. Isn’t that always the case. So while this isn’t a trip ender, I’d like to put a pin in it and get it taken care of as soon as possible, I have ideas, this bastard ain’t gonna beat me. On a side note, I hate my new pipes. Well, I love that they work, I don’t mind them being used, they just need some TLC. I hate that they’re so quiet, you could hear me coming. I miss as Big Red says, “sounding like a damn dump truck.”

It sure ain’t Texas Tea

To start, the guys at ATL Motorcycle Repair are awesome. They’ve been really accommodating through all my issues the past few days and represent in full. Besides being just knowledgeable they’re reasonable. Best of both worlds. Can’t recommend them enough. So after leaving the shop I quickly ran to Cycle Gear to look for some new waterproof boots or leg covers. The storms were upon me and I wanted to do my best to stay dry. Needless to say it didn’t last long. I had already gotten puddle soaked driving to the shop. The dreaded lower leg wetness, but I can can make due with my leathers otherwise. It may be time to invest in a better fix for rain though because I came up empty handed.

Then the trip home began. The trip usually takes 8 1/2 hours by car so I guessed at 10 by bike with gas and a snack stop.

Two things happened before I got on the road. Paul at ATL Motorcycle asked if I was following the route from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I didn’t know this exact route exists. He pulled it up online, taken from clues from the book and turns out I am by accident. It feels like kizmit. This makes me question my thoughts on a route change. Second he asked if I was going to see the big chicken. When someone asks if you’ve seen the big chicken and your answer is no… you go see the big chicken. Just go.

Map from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance… coincidence!?

Georgia

Hence the reason for waterproof shoes. I need to hunt down a new purchase… this is questionable at best.

If you can’t fix it with duct tape, then you shouldn’t have bought it.

Big Chicken… a really big chicken. 58 feet of KFC glory. By the way KFC changed their name to that because Kentucky instituted a fee for any company using the state name in theirs. Random factoid. Nonetheless, that’s a big chicken. The beak moves.

They sure do chicken right

Tennessee

It was wet. I avoided the rain up until that point. Things went smoothly up until just out past Chattanooga. I stopped at a rest stop, ate some of my smashed strawberries and drank some water. I had the brilliant idea to pour the strawberry juice into my remaining water to add to my refreshment. We’ll address this experiment over dinner. A guy at the rest stop joked about staying dry, an hour later the sky opened up and the drenching began. I completely blame him. After a stop at under an overpass and plastic bagging the pack to keep dry I waited out the most heavy part and got back on the road. Luckily the weather was a nice cool down and a provided a scenic trip through the mountains.

Smoke rises

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Watch out

Talk about picturesque

Talk about picturesque

Hot Chicken

Its in bold because its amazing. I can’t speak highly enough about its glory and majesty. I had to stop in Nashville and pay my friend for getting me the posters from the Hot Chicken Festival on the 4th. It was also a good reason to get some dinner, though I hate riding on a full stomach for a good distance. I get lethargic (an ongoing discussion). Nonetheless, nothing can stop hot chicken from happening… nothing!

Hattie B’s

This was my first choice as its delicious and on the way into town. As you can see on a Saturday afternoon they must add extra goodness because the like was out the door. This moved me to Plan B, a trip to my #2 Hot Chicken spot. Full list to follow.

Pepperfire

As one of the newer three hot chicken joints in town this has quickly climbed my list. They’re the second hottest based on heat intensity but the most heat options for the bold to the cautious eater. Today I went with the Tenders Royale. An order of 3 chicken tenders (hot) overtop a fried pepper cheese sandwich served with pickles and ranch. I pass on the ranch and go extra pickles. The chicken is moist and tender, but incredbly spicy even at the hot level. I can’t get enough. The heat is a slow build but lets you know its there and lingers not excessively, but perfectly so. The peppercheese is ideal. Their own hot pepper cheese battered and fried, the fried take on the grilled cheese sandwich. Pickles are needed touch to pop both the heat and the texture differences and its a perfect combo.

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My experiments into fruit flavored water turned out to be less than ideal. It was bland and just tasted like watered down strawberries. It was also full of berry bits. You can’t win em all. Though with this meal, you’re really just looking to keep the heat in check.

In every bite – the hot chicken, pickle, grilled peppercheese layering is essential for maximum flavor.

 

Today’s Journey

The long ride home

The long trek through wind, rain and cold.

Kentucky

Kentucky is not exciting. I push through as best as possible. Louisville is the high point because it marks crossing the border into Indiana. Though the Brown Hotel downtown makes a delicious Hot Brown sandwich. Basically an open faced turkey and bacon covered in white gravy. Its impressive, they claim to have started the sandwich there. Its worth a stop sometime.  Luckily the rain had stopped minus the occasional drizzle but it was getting chilly and I really wanted to get home.

Indiana

Its about 120 miles to my mother’s from the Kentucky border. Its an easy push when its not 11pm and you’re tired of riding and being set back all day due to weather. I thought this would be an easy stretch, it turned out to be one of the worse. Construction had it one lane, that lane being the shoulder almost all the way to Indy. It was slow going and cold out. I was getting frustrated. At one point I midjudged the distance to a traffic barrel and clipped it with my footpeg. My tiredness was beginning to set in and I couldn’t have gotten home any sooner. 2am I rolled into my mom’s driveway and quickly made my way to bed. Just sheet on top a unmade mattress and I couldn’t have been happier. Home, sweet home.

Today’s Info

Today’s ride: Approximate mileage – 588 miles / Top Speed – 110 mph (this one caught me off guard, I was blinded by the cold at 1am ) / Best Song – “Children’s Story” (by Slick Rick)

Hot Chicken in Nashville as ranked by me:

1. Princes

2. Pepperfire

3. Hattie B’s

4. 400 Degrees

5. Boltons

6. Hot Stuff

I hear there’s some new ones that have come into play so the list may continue. But its hard to beat the original, Princes is a thing of legend and the extra hot is a whole new terrifying experience unlike any other. Rocky’s Chicken Shack in Asheville, NC is pretty solid too.

Highs and Lows – Unexpected Setbacks

Here We Go Again…

Another day, more problems. So the exhaust that was reported as destroyed in yesterdays post made for an exciting start to the day. First I called every motorcycle salvage yard in Atlanta. Just so you know, they’re all closed down for good. Then I randomly called shops and searched online for something that would help. Eventually my efforts resulted in this piece of work you see here. Though with my adventures there’s always more story to be told…

Lukcy Exhaust

Matte black, but banged and dinked. It’ll work, it’ll work.

“You see things vacationing on a motorcycle that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle that frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scent, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”

Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

This is why i like to ride. Breathing in the life of the road. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good road trip in a car, but what I love about it is different. I love blaring my radio and singling Temptations songs at the top of my lungs. I love being able to pull off and lean the seat back to nap if need be. I love the compactness of the world that is created within the space of my vehicle. On the motorcycle its different, its expansive. I love the wind against my face and the sun on my arms. I love the interrupted silence of solitude that seems somehow both ever-present and unattainable. I love that it’s not easy or leisurely but an active experience that seems to grow with every mile not get shorter as I reach ever closer to the destination. I love the culture of brotherhood and sisterhood formed amongst others on the road. It is the separation between the two worlds that makes riding a motorcycle part of who I am and will always be.

Today’s devotional, reading and experiences made me think of relationships. We have many kinds throughout our life, some casual others deep and intimate. What is similar between them all is that we seek to form some connection with the other person and look to exchange some form of communication that can effect us somehow, on some level. What differs is the degree of that effect, some glaze over like the coating of a donut while other cut deeply like a sword cutting butter. (Excessive, maybe.) Though all of them take the laying of roots and overtime strengthening them to form something unique and special to us. Some will only last a short time and others seemingly forever, but ultimately we choose which. Today I questioned those relationships, why do we maintain some and let others slide. Why do I feel guilty for things beyond my control. Is that a sign of my own weakness and desire to please or is it a sign of the importance I place on those bond and a desire to respect them. I don’t really have an answer for any of this. I did randomly go through in my head and think about the life long bonds that I have with people, some who I never expected and others that it was clear from the start. I’m thankful for everyone of them. They’ve all made me a better man. They have helped in building a bridge between us that allows for not just exchange but increase of self and potential. Even ones that haven’t gone as planned I’m thankful for. The experiences that have made me a more thoughtful or learned man, a better understanding of my own needs, wants and what I can offer. I guess what I’ve learned is simply that there are no unimportant relationships, no matter what level they may reach. Each grants you something singular and unique, waiting for the moment when you’ve gained or given what you were meant. I say this because I hope I can honor them as they deserve, my friends, family, partner, whomever it may be I hope that I can always live up to my end of the deal.

Day Two

So the bike is still down and I’m still in Atlanta. After hunting down an exhaust in Lennoxville, GA… the middle of nowhere. We picked it up and prepared to venture into the world of impromptu repairs. I quickly decided that I did not have the necessary items and would rather pay someone to install the new exhaust versus buying tools and leaving them behind. So after departing the small town and from M&M Motorcycles we aimed for Atlanta and the shop of Atlanta Motorcycles and Repairs, scooters and motorcycles as far as the eye could see in this urban body shop. Everyone was great, I can’t talk up their service enough. I would highly suggest them if anyone needs to repair or purchase in ATL. Nonetheless after a few short hours of cool down and install things we nearly complete. I had wandered to Verizon while waiting and charged my phone, got some new tech and also took a stroll for a smoothie and Home Depot. At about the two hour mark I headed back to the shop and things were looking up. They completed the repair, adjusted my finicky mirrors and had he on my way for an hour of labor. But alas the hour was upon us for failure.

Saviors of the day

After heading back to grab my bags and pack up the mule again there were oil spots beneath the bike, new oil spots. This very quickly alerted me that a new leak had sprung up. After some examination it didn’t appear to be overflow and was most prevalent when the bike was on the kickstand. My though and hope being that when the exhaust was installed something was simply knocked loose. So with only a few minutes to spare the race back to the shop began, hoping to arrive prior to their 7pm closing time. Take note… at 6:45pm in Atlanta I don’t think you could get next door in 15 minutes. After fighting the post work commute traffic we arrived a few minutes after close, running on fumes and feeling immensely  disappointed. The decision was upon me; make the run toward Indy and hope this is nothing serious or play it safe. I’ve decided the latter. They reopen at 10am, I’ll be waiting and hopefully be on the road quickly.

This has thrown a bit of a monkey wrench in the first days itinerary as I’m supposed to ride to Minneapolis on Sunday morning. Today should have been the day I met up with my ace and rode into some trouble with his lady friend, all on our two wheels. Tomorrow one of his sons was to be my passenger for the Indianapolis Black Expo Park and Ride Event. With a number of other riders from around the area we would have rode throughout town and all ended up downtown and fraternizing for the rest of the afternoon experiencing the pure camaraderie of motorcycling. I would have gone to dinner or breakfast with my family and had some needed home time. I could have caught up with a friend and laughed the night away. Instead here i am, preparing for at best a late arrival in Indy tomorrow and an early jump the next day for Minnesota. Here i am pondering a route change for the entire first stretch of the trip to accommodate lost money and time. Here I am sitting while oil continues to pool on a parking garage floor.

So this my friends has definitely been the day of mixed emotions. While most of this and the rain storm that now engulfs the entire city I’d count as my lows for the day. Though here are some glimmers of highs that caught my eye and earned a snapshot.

Highs

Most of all this is pure eye candy that I found at the bike shop. Enjoy the batch of photos.

Old skool in white

Yamaha got the blues

Cafe Racer in effect

Cafe Racer in effect

You gotta dress for success

You gotta dress for success

Orangina Bobber
Eye Catching 308

Eye Catching 308

Classic Style

Classic Style

Whitewalls for days!

Whitewalls for days!

Deliciousness

Dinner on the other hand was something special. Which on this trip really is for me. I don’t eat lunch usually when on the road or have a significant breakfast because I get lethargic. So most of the time I will try and hit a great local dinner spot. This was no different.

We ended up at Grind House Killer Burgers. Skeptically speaking many burger places are all the same. This one stood out. An exciting but simple menu and a variety of drinks, this was a much needed end to the day. As I rolled in I already liked this place’s character.

Burger Time!

Grindhouse Killer Burgers… this is an ATL stop worth making

Homemade sweet potato chips with a blue cheese dipping sauce. I don’t like blue cheese, I don’t like blue cheese dressing unless its going with buffalo sauce… I loved this dip. Enough said.

Sweet and Delicious

Amazing appetizer at dinner tonight. Good call all around.

My meal was the double burger done “Hillbilly Style’, which meant pimento cheese, chili, jalapenos, onions and chilies. I added a side of onion rings, because they’re onion rings and I have to try them all. The burger patties are slightly bigger than a slider so I assumed a double would be fine, I was wrong. After the huge appetizer of sweet potato chips this double was force. It was hefty and flavorful yet easy to handle. The ingredients were fresh and really popped, the chiles and jalapenos were a brilliant kick and compliment to the pimento cheese. The onion rings were thick cut and lightly crispy battered this concerned me until my first bite. The flavor wasn’t “oniony”, I didn’t know this was possible. It was explained to me that  Viadalia onion is a sweet onion with little to no traditional onion taste. The thick cut onion was a great texture and the crispy coating was a flaky, golden buttermilk inspired batter that pulled the side dish together. Mot onion rings ask for or are significantly complimented by a dipping sauce of some kind. These defied and almost dared you to dip as you’d be missing out on the taste bud dance of joy. By far this was one of the best burger meals I’ve ever eaten.

Dinner in ATL again!

Dinner time! Burger and Onion Rings. Who knew vidalia onions were amazing

 Again, by this point in the day I was ready for a drink. This definitely hit the spot and quenched the thirst. This would be dangerous if I lived here.

Whiskey Lemonade... mmmmmm.

I think the sign says it all. I’m drinking this.

Drinks with dinner

After today I needed a beverage filled with whiskey.

A a whole this meal was awesome. I can’t recommend Grind House enough if you’re ever in the Piedmont / Lindbergh area.

Grindhouse Burger killed it

The Grindhouse double with “hillbilly” style. Chile, pimento Cheese, Jalapenos, Chilies and onion.

Every restroom should have a Star Wars gem hidden somewhere. On the side of the paper towel dispenser was where I found this item that basically equates to a secret wormhole tube in Super Mario Brothers. Especially this image is perfect. Is Luke dropping a deuce, taking a Cleveland Steamer on Degoba, pondering his very existence dn that of his Dark Lord father or is he just carrying around a little green alien Jedi Master and doing flips n stuff. Like those initials I have no idea, but I like it. Overall this night ended well.

Restroom finds are the best

Restroom finds are the best