Hot and/or Spicy

Northernmost Points

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

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

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

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

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

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The infamous babbling brook

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

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

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

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

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I guess that’s a difference, snowmobile crossings.

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

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DeVille, Bar and Grill in downtown Montreal

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

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

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

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

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I want all the cheeses… ALL THE CHEESES.

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

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Get in my belly!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Worcester to Montreal

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

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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.

He Rode In On a Kawasaki and Away On a Harley

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

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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

Day Twelve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Map:

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

Ps.

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

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained.

“He was after something.That is important. He was after something and he used the knife because that was the only tool he had. But he took on so much and went so far in the end his real victim was himself.”

Zen and the Art of Mototcycle Maintenance

 

So I’m still searching for meaning. I guess thats what we’re all inherently doing somehow though, right? I have to admit though that I feel like there’s something important for me here about letting go. My friend told me that almost a week ago. Maybe these issues are lessons in learning to let go and stopping trying to control. Letting His plan guide me. It seems that the more I push on this venture the more disastrous it has become. In ways though I find that I have let go. The anger and frustration at least never reared their head to the extent it once would have. Maybe I’ve taken bigger sttrides in recent years then I even know. There’s a certain peacefulness in the acceptance of it all. Maybe thats what it means to go with the flow… not so much to let life happen, but when it does responding in kind and not slamming against it. Allowing change to manifest change, instead of change manifesting chaos.

Day Nine

Note the lack of capitalization. Its because I don’t feel like screaming the day anymore. Namely, in that I don’t feel the pressure of the day anymore. Its passed and this is life. Its thrown me some curve balls recently so I’m stepping back up to the plate ready to bunt instead of swing for the fences. First allow me to clarify something fromt the last post.

Option #4… I spoke about trading the bike in, getting on some new wheels and keeping it moving. By this I in no way mean that the trip is still on. What I mean is that my life has to move on and some traveling still needs to happen. Some will think its impractical to buy a new motorcycle on what may seem like a whim. They could be right, I won’t deny that. But let me make my defense. I have to get home. Thats a simple one, and yes there are cheaper ways to do it but those don’t solve the issue of what to do with the old bike. So trading it in makes some sense as it disposes of it and gains a replacement. Second, I love to ride. Lol. Third and oddly important to me is my work. Many of you know I’ve spent the last few years working on a project documenting African American bikers and the culture that somewhat surrounds it. I spend most of the summer shooting for this work with the bulk of it coming in the next week at the National Biker Roundup. I had quietly committed to myself that this would be my last year photographing for it. It would make 4 years and this years intent was to capture things I feel like I missed in the past few years and complete the body of work. I’m not just documenting others but part of myself as illustrated through them. This effort is lost without a motorcycle and I couldn’t accept that for personal and professional reasons.

My heart on wheels. You were better to me than I was to you.

My heart on wheels. You were better to me than I was to you.

So this brings us back to the world of motorcycle shopping. I don’t want to do it, I can’t really afford to do it. But nonetheless, I’ll do it and I’ll make due. I was hestiant to post this info because I feel like I’m divulging too much of my own business and almost flaunting the idea of buying a bike. What I just said is true though, I really don’t want to buy a new bike. I love my Mean Streak. It was my first big boy bike, I learned to do maintenance on it, take care of it. Learned to ride for real on it. Learned how to be part of the biker community I love. Part of me identifies through it and I want to see her live again. But practicality rears its ugly head. I don’t ride like its designed to, I ride much harder, I ride distances… a lot. I push gears and add things to my bike to make it into something she’s not. That’s not fair to her. But she’s still part of who I am. She always will be. I love her, I always will. But alas all good things come to an end and it pains me that this one too must pass. So I don’t want a new bike, I want that little piece of my heart back… but fate has intervened.

 That being said day nine was spent running errands with my friend Ben and bike shopping, test driving, etc. I had saw some bikes that interested me the day before and planned to test drive three more by days end, hoping that one may become my bike. The sole goal, find a good touring bike thats suited for my style of riding, my size, my taste and that I can see myself on hopefully for some time. So, here we go…

TEST RIDES!

You saw the one from last night in the last post. It was a good ride and a powerful bike. it has all the bells and whistles I liked at the right price, but as it turns out its a gas guzzler. Test Ride #1 is a bust, no Honda VTX.

This next gem was a good option. Had a lot of the touring features I’m looking for, though it turned out not to be all that I had hoped. The bars came back too far and hit my knees, this is a short mans bike. Plus the pick up just wasn’t there. Something felt wrong about a Yamaha anyway.

Test Ride #2 - 2007 Yamaha Road Star

Test Ride #2 – 2007 Yamaha Road Star

This next ride kind of had my eye from first considerations of a new bike. The paint job and styling is my taste through and through, not too mention its an aggressive engine and torque heavy ride. It has the power like my old bike, you can feel it as soon as you hit the throttle. The gears run low so you’re in third up to 50 and you never touch fifth I really did enjoy this bike. Its issues were minor but could get frustrating. The vibration in the bike is really noticeable as you shift gears up and throttle to speed. And some of the touches I like would conflict against the matte black possibly. Though its definitely made to tour, the hard saddlebags are a nice touch as well.

Test Ride #3 - 2013 Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. (Suzuki Blacked Out Special)

Test Ride #3 – 2013 Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. (Blacked Out Suzuki Special)

Apparently the dealer was getting nervous because I was on the test ride for awhile. But sometimes selfies and sightseeing just happens.

Sometimes you gotta selfie as evidence. I fear this is happening too often.

Sometimes you gotta selfie as evidence. I fear this is happening too often.

There be cows back yonder

There be cows back yonder

Sister Guadalupe Shrine if I remember correct. How is this in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin!?

Sister Guadalupe Shrine if I remember correct. How is this in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin!?

This last stop of the day was at the Harley Davidson dealer. Ben kept joking about “this guy rides into town on a Kawasaki and rides out on a Harley, its a perfect Wisconsin tale!” I’ll admit, I didn’t want to like it. The day before when he showed us the bike I wasn’t crazy about it. I’m not inherently a Harley guy, I just like to ride. I also don’t get into paying extra for a name like its some requirement or status symbol. It doesn’t connect with me. But we were here, I figured I’d test ride it. I was pleasantly surprised. It had real torque and power, but great handling. That surprised me the most. I was most surprised by this bike all day. I’m not a fan of the old school paint job and styling to some extent, but it tours like a beast. Its another one that you ride third gear until almost 50 and never touch sixth until the highway and about 75. Another good ride.

Test Ride #4 - 2010 Harley Davidson Road King

Test Ride #4 – 2010 Harley Davidson Road King

Which means test rides 3 & 4 are options. I’m gong to run numbers and follow up with my insurance to check on the old bike and see where we are on that one in the process. Other considerations for bikes were limited. I was shown a few other Harleys, and a looked at Goldwings, real hardcore touring bikes. I’m 38, not 58. I’m not ready for a radio, heated seat and cupholder yet.  I still want a bike I can ride to the grocery without it being an ordeal or looking like I’m going to ride across the Sahara. All joking aside this is stressful, I like the last two, but never wanted to be buying a new bike right now. I’m torn and a little concerened but in a way feel committed to this task, not just the trip but my life and my work. As they say, the show must go on. Eventually I’m getting another bike soon… why not now.

Tomorrow decisions must be made. To be continued….

Oh, on a side note I had bear sausage jerky tonight. It was spicy and amazing. I love hunters. I also discovered the hideout of the infamous Potato King. It’s right over there.

I hear he's a chip off the old block!

I hear he’s a chip off the old block!

Big Chickens and Late Night Excursions

Travel Day

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

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

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

Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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

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

Day Three

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

It sure ain’t Texas Tea

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

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

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

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

Georgia

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

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

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

They sure do chicken right

Tennessee

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

Smoke rises

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Watch out

Talk about picturesque

Talk about picturesque

Hot Chicken

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

Hattie B’s

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

Pepperfire

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

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

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

 

Today’s Journey

The long ride home

The long trek through wind, rain and cold.

Kentucky

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

Indiana

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

Today’s Info

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

Hot Chicken in Nashville as ranked by me:

1. Princes

2. Pepperfire

3. Hattie B’s

4. 400 Degrees

5. Boltons

6. Hot Stuff

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

Highs and Lows – Unexpected Setbacks

Here We Go Again…

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

Lukcy Exhaust

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

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

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

Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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

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

Day Two

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

Saviors of the day

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

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

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

Highs

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

Old skool in white

Yamaha got the blues

Cafe Racer in effect

Cafe Racer in effect

You gotta dress for success

You gotta dress for success

Orangina Bobber
Eye Catching 308

Eye Catching 308

Classic Style

Classic Style

Whitewalls for days!

Whitewalls for days!

Deliciousness

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

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

Burger Time!

Grindhouse Killer Burgers… this is an ATL stop worth making

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

Sweet and Delicious

Amazing appetizer at dinner tonight. Good call all around.

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

Dinner in ATL again!

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

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

Whiskey Lemonade... mmmmmm.

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

Drinks with dinner

After today I needed a beverage filled with whiskey.

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

Grindhouse Burger killed it

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

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

Restroom finds are the best

Restroom finds are the best