Map

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.

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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.

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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.

All Roads Lead Somewhere

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

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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

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

Day Fourteen

Today something happened.

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

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

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

The Mighty Mississippi

The Mighty Mississippi

Chills.

Chills.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Map:

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

Big Bear Chase Me

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

back to back posts catching everyone up. Internet has been

extremely spotty as have other issues

 

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

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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

Day Thirteen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Map

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

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

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

East Bound and Down

“Mark Twains experience comes to mind, in which, after he had mastered the analytic knowledge needed to pilot the Mississippi River, he discovered the river had lost its beauty. Something is always killed. But what is less noticed in the arts – something is always created too. And instead of just dwelling on what is killed its important to also see what’s created and to see the process as a kind of death-birth continuity that is neither good nor bad, but just is.”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

So this quote said it better than I can phrase it. Life happens and with each turn of the crank things can be torn apart but in that tearing something beautiful may happen. I don’t know about speculating into some broad diatribe but I know how it affects this trip and my immediate experiences. I thought my trip was destroyed and lost, but its not. Its changed. Out of these ashes has risen something new and that is experience adn adventure. Maybe not the one I expected but its the one I’m getting so I’ll see it through and come to know it and love it. I never could have determined the course of events thats occured the last almost two weeks. I also wouldn’t be able to replace these life lessons that will serve me well for a lifetime.

Day Eleven

So technically I’m headed south, but either way I’m about to be loaded up and trucking. I thought I’d use today to fill in the game plan for the rest of the summer. It was a fairly uneventful relaxing day, really it was test riding the new motorcycle to make sure there were no issues since the shop was still open today.

We started the day late and headed back to the farm in Melrose. This time we all went up and while Ben checked the hunting cameras I shot my bow and fished for some trout. Nothing was really biting but it was a relaxing day with the Brewers and Mets game on the radio in the background. When we finished up we went back to his parents where they cooked us some steaks and tool Leo off our hands for the night since Ben had a ton of work to do and a suddent trip to OshKosh tomorrow. Overall it was really just a great day to relax and take in the landscape and a day withou fretting over what to do about the bike.

Just enjoying what nature has to offer

Just enjoying what nature has to offer

When all is said and done, it really is beautiful country

When all is said and done, it really is beautiful country

I may be all city, but a little country does the soul good.

I may be all city, but a little country does the soul good.

The plus here was I rode the bike up. He took the extra curvy scenic route so I could get a feel for the handling and such. While a batch of passing showers made for a slick road it still handled just fine. A good first day behind those Harley handlebars. It really does handle tremendously and responds well to my moves. I think this could end up working out afterall.

The Trip

So what’s left of the summer you may be wondering? Well, there are two must hit stops and then the neverending question marks. I have to be in Tulsa, OK by July 31 to meet my crew for the Roundup and begin the bulk of my shooting. August 8 – 10 I’ll be in Cleveland hopefully catching up with good friends long unseen and for the Mods vs Rockers rally which is just fun. Hopetully that trip will also begin the planning stages for another project and excusion with a photo friend there in town.

Between those two I’m working my way toward Indy with likely a stop in KS to see some friends and a night in St. Louis with Big Red and Pit Stop and hopefully some Pappy’s Smokehouse (the best unsauced BBQ I’ve ever had). But after Cleveland I don’t know whether to try and complete the Eastern loop or just head my ass home as quick as possible. A fairly straight shot takes me through Charleston and home via the southern route, versus going over to MD and the east coast. I’m honestly torn and somewhat indifferent. My plans have been questionable after all. Haha. I think while in Indy I’ll figure out my expenses and see where I sit financially. The funds as you may remember we readjusted for the new wheels.

But first Tulsa and the Roundup. I may take my sweet time getting there as I have four days until meeting up or go to Colorado to see my wonderful Leiker family and their new little man, YMB. He clearly needs some quality time with his bluncle (black uncle). Either way tonight I’ll be looking at the map and tomorrow headed south into Iowa. Thats an ideal stopping place for a night and gives a nice travel break as well as company to catch up with.  I guess you could say I’m back on track, in some fashion. Not as expected, but going with the flow. It feels right.

Updates to Existence

*So today will be the first with the double posts. I’ll be catching you up on days 7 and 8 somewhat simultaneously. They’re both longer ones. Thanks for bearing with me.

“”How did you do that?” he asks.

“You just have to figure it out.”

“I wouldn’t know where to start.” he says.

I think to myself, that’s the problem, all right, where to start. To reach him you have to back up and back up, and the further back you go, the further back you see you have to go, until what looked like a small problem of communication turns into a major philosophic inquiry. That, I suppose, is why the Chautauqua.”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

So today. Today this seems fitting. As it seems fitting for the first of these combined posts which I’ll separate the days with a new quote, this next one used later coming from my devotional reading on the next post.

You see, I put a lot on the success of this trip. As stated before it meant a lot to me outside of a long ride. It had a certain completeness to it. A feeling as if I could do this then I could do anything. This of course is untrue. I think what I failed to mention in the previous post was that this does not define me, though it seemingly helps me define my current space of mind. I think this is the key here. Space of mind, peace of mind. The idea that once a goal is set it must be accomplished or there is failure. If a machine begins running it must complete its task before realizing it is done and can rest. That’s how this trip feels. In my life I try (try, being the key word) to live somewhat carefree. That’s most successful in small ways, particularly where I can see the potential for varied outcomes. Though when it comes to any large task, goal or work I plan, I control, I obsess. If I don’t I feel things unravel and spiral. My life somewhat centers on that. Things can’t proceed until certain other things happen first no matter how positive those other things can be.

I admit I am truly and fully a creature of habit and behave as such. If I’m not moving according to plan I stress, if there is no plan I worry. If things aren’t moving as I think they should I want to be in control, when in control I want to plan and control everything. If one piece is out-of-order the system breaks. Relinquishing control isn’t easy for me. Knowing a plan or system has fallen apart breaks me inside. As I mentioned earlier today to a friend, I feel defeated. Not just the idea or the goal but me personally. Emotionally, spiritually, exhausted and defeated. I sink into myself and withdraw. Then I retreat further to fix it. Alone, trying to salvage what part of me is left there and swim back to the light at the surface.

I guess I’m beginning to realize this isn’t enough.  At 38, I can’t be enough. Though when I’m not, I have no idea what to do.

DAY SEVEN

So here we are in the grand state of travel. A week into the trip and I’ve seen some ups and downs, some crossroads one might say. But alas, allow me to fill you in on the days events. Though as some of you who are friends on facebook already know the outcome, bear with me for explanations.

Loaded and ready for the road!

Loaded and ready for the road!

The day began with travel from just outside of Indy, which allowed to cut some time from the route for the day. Unfortunately it was raining and that meant waiting out the early morning storms. Once stopped I got on the road. Indiana to Illinois, to Wisconsin to Minnesota. The plan had me ending in Minneapolis for the night with one of my oldest friends. Along the way I saw some sites.

Illinois

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Not a lot to see along my route but land. And more and more land. Though it did provide a good photo opp of the landscape and selfie opportunity amongst the field of wind turbines.

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I flew though this state. But no without incident as the wind was madness. I don’t know if I’ve even been thrown around on the bike as much just from air. Though it did stop raining here and proved sunny the rest of the way.

Wisconsin

Yep. It’s the land of cheese and sausages as far as I can tell. Oh and beer. They love all three here. Really though no trip through would be complete without a taste of the first two. We’ll save the third for later!

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For some reason this gas station had a giant pink elephant. There was a story involved about a way to drum up business.  I decided I’d rather leave it to the imagination.

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Wisconsin did on the other hand deal me a bad hand. With about 160 miles to go until Minneapolis I lost power on the bike. Got it restarted as the exit was less than a mile away and then the knocking started. Seeing as it was fresh out the shop this perturbed and upset me. But hey, anything is fixable. At this point I checked fluids, and tried to troubleshoot loose things to no luck. Its time to call it a night and move on in the morning. Luckily an Air Force soldier doing explosive device disposal was kind enough to go get his trailer, come back and tow me to Tomah, WI. There’s a service shop there. So a night in a Super 8 and we’ll figure it in the morning. But needless to say, I know this is bad. Very bad.

Today’s Map:

Apprx Mileage: 424 miles / Top Speed: 96 mph / Best Song: “I’m bad” by LL. COol J / Most Disappointing Moment: I should be in Minneapolis

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