Harley Davidson

America Jr. and Growing Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Airbnb treated me right last night!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Looking out to the St. Claire river

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

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Walpole Island, Canada… time to make the crossing.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Brampton to Detroit

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

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

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

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

Strange Yet Familiar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Days Behind, Days Ahead

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

Day Three and Four

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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These dudes right here. The real deal.

1 Life, 1 Set, 1 Luv.

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

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

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

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Green Ridge Mountain overlook

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

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

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Billie’s Gas and Grub, Flinstone MD

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

Columbus OH to Frederick MD

Beginning and Abound

Day One and Two

“People have always been captivated by quests. History’s earliest stories tell of epic journeys and grand adventures. Whether the history is African, Asian, or European, the plotline is the same: A hero sets off in search of something elusive that has the power to change both their life and the world. 

In the Judeo-Christian story of creation, Adam and Eve are banished from the garden and sent to toil the earth. In the Buddhist story, the question of practice and struggle is emphasized over creation – sacred texts skip straight to the quest toward enlightenment. 

The world’s best-known literature reflects our desire to hear about struggle and sacrifice in pursuit of a goal. From Aesop’s Fables to Arabian Nights, many classic stories are about adventure and quests.”    ~ The Happiness of Pursuit

Maybe this is why I took this effort on again, the idea of the grand adventure to seek out something elusive. That elusive thing being a sense of self, who I am and who I seek to be. I think the strange thing about sense of self is that it’s always changing. In a way though it’s also about perseverance, the fact that the trip came to such an anti-climactic last time left me feeling incomplete. So in the same way that the Buddhist ideology ties into practice and struggle, this is my version. Just like the Christian ideology refers to the idea of repentance and positive outcome is only achievable through struggle. Clearly both of these tie to this idea of struggle, just as the hero of any story has a moment of trial to overcome in order to reach their goal. By no means am I saying I’m a hero, or my story is comparable to faith journeys or the many classic pieces of literature written by much more adept wordsmiths than myself. Though I am trying to reach my own “enlightenment” of sorts, that being a sense of happiness and completeness in self. I’m close, I think. Though there’s always a ways to go as I feel like there’s always more to learn, more to give, more to become. This time, maybe it’s more about seeking to go beyond myself. I’m starting to figure there’s an importance to give back. To try and make the world as I know it a better place somehow, in my own small way. So maybe I’m trying to figure where I fit into all of this. Either way I appreciate y’all hanging with me.

Day One I headed out to Knoxville, TN today with plans to ride the Tail of the Dragon, sort of a mini quest of sorts. I got started a few 4 hours late thanks to my own stupidness. I was clearing my computer and deleted my startup disk, leading to me having to spend the next few hour re-imaging my computer and updating everything. Now I can’t complain I got it taken care of and hit the road just after midday. I can’t say how pretty this ride was, headed up through Asheville then cutting over I-74 headed toward that dragon. The hills and pathways between I-40 and 129 is gorgeous, if you’ve ever riding the area and you want to see beautiful skies then I can’t recommend it enough.

Needless to say I enjoyed the ride and then hit the dragon. I got to meet a few people along the way but all in all it was clear riding. Not much traffic and not much weather once you got onto the mountain, the overhang kept the roads shady and cool, and besides a saddlebag that wouldn’t lock down it was all good (even a little fix took care of that). The Tail of the Dragon, 11 miles with 300 plus curves. The first few took some getting used to but after that I was rolling strong, playing that clutch and throttle like a bluegrass fiddle. By the end it was completely worth it, I didn’t know what to fully expect but I’m glad I did it.

20170713_181223

Tail of the Dragon at Deal’s Gap

It wasn’t as precarious as I thought, I pictured steeper turns and heavier strain, but it was a smooth ride once you figured the sharp curves and the random car coming or going. I even met a former soldier working on a film project, crossing the country over a few years trying to discuss ways that we’re all more similar than we are distant. Seemed like an odd coincidence, but an appropriate start to this journey.

The day eventually ended in Knoxville meeting up with my friend Tyger, from my Myrtle Beach days. She’s living in Knoxville now and it was good to catch up after about two years. A night sitting on the patio and having drinks, laughs, and catching up was perfect. It was also good to have a comfortable bed to lay my head on for the night thanks to Air BnB and a kind family in Clinton, TN who had their hosting game on point! So all in all today was a good day.

 

Day Two I woke up early today after talking on the phone until the early morning, which I don’t regret one second. Good people are hard to come by and ones that make a powerful and positive difference in your life are worth every second. After some good laughs and a shower the night came to a close and then this morning I woke to the sounds of the family I stayed with getting their day started. I tried to get some more sleep but it was a wasted effort. A call from my boy, Big Red, signaled a start to the day as we had to meet up in Columbus, OH later on in the day. So it was eventually game on.

Let’s start with this though. So last night I left the bike outside as I did the Air BnB thing to get a place outside of Knoxville. They had offered me the garage but I passed so I could just get inside and sleep. I took my bags in and began shutting it down, but when I came out this morning this happened… 20170714_093716

They covered my bike overnight! What, who does that?! It goes without saying that this was a 5-star Air BnB experience. It’s always iffy staying in someone’s home where you just have a room and little to no privacy or dedicated bathroom, etc. Tina and her family came through completely though. I can’t complain one bit. 20170714_012815 They were good people, and had their setup on point; granola bars and water in the room, a brochure on the area and their home, private bathroom, and a comfy bed. This was a great call. But enough of that, it was time to get on the road. So after making a quick fill up and shooting a few photos, I hit I-75 N and headed toward Ohio.

An hour or so in I hit rain, all for about 30 minutes. So after gearing up for showers and getting back on the road it stopped 15 minutes later. Yeah, I could have waited it out. So after another hour of riding in the building heat and dealing with splashback it was time to gear down and back into cooler wear for the rest of the ride. It went smoothly pretty much from there on out. A stop for tea outside of Richmond, KY and another fill up in Lexington made the stops a great opportunity to refresh from the heat and coat my slowly sunburning nose with sunscreen. I wasn’t until just before switching to I-71 that I hit a construction zone that ground us to a halt. It was sweltering and I thought I was gonna die. It was ridiculous, so much heat, so very much heat. It ended with finally getting out of it all and back on the road and to one final fill up to end the day. I drank 2 bottles of water and poured a third over my head just to cool down. I think I drove through hell, straight through and the devil himself was sitting on the shoulder sipping lemonade with a shade umbrella complaining about the heat.

Once I made it through that point it was just a matter of checking into the hotel and catching up with my boy Big Red. From there it was a shower, dinner with friends here in town, a few drinks, and not long after a much deserved long night sleep. I’ll end with this  simple thought. It’s nice to be reminded that the world is bigger than me. “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar…” Psalm 139:2

And Away We Go

“Be your brothers keeper

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

 

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

Ardmore Springs Circle to Whittier, AK - Google Maps

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

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

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

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

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

Revamped 2017 Map

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

Tail of the Dragon

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

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

This years reading

The Happiness of Pursuit

 

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

 

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

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

Just Breathe….

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

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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

Day Sixteen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know your history.

Know your history.

Pete took a beating on the pavement today.

Pete took a beating on the pavement today.

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

Reunion Time. Demdamdawgs and the fellas representing.

Reunion Time. Demdamdawgs and the fellas representing.

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

Everywhich Way But Loose

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

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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

 

 

Day Fifteen

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

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

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

Things Get Real

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

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

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

Stranded windshield notes...

Stranded windshield notes…

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

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

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

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

Parking lot full of my road family

Parking lot full of my road family

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

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

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

Today’s Map:

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

* Addendum: This post is finally going up

three days late. Two more posts will follow

by the end of the day.

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.