Oklahoma

Hiatus

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~ Galatians 3:28

So this one clearly comes from my devotional and it’s because this is Sunday. i miss going to church. Three weeks off and its like my internal clock and radar is all out of whack. There was a time that I was never really one for religion. Faith to me was something dismissable. Now that’s changed though, I can access my faith and my belief without the church, but there’s something about dedicating that time each week to fellowship and worship that feels important. Like a reboot for the new week ahead. It feels good to know that after all these years, I’m still growing. I returned to my faith a long time ago but recently I’ve felt the need and calling to reinvest. I’m trying daily to do just that. It makes me think I’m not done improving on myself yet. Like there’s a better version of me waiting to take on the world and meet it face to face. I just hope I can live up to all the challenges ahead.

Day Eighteen

So “hiatus”. I’m calling this post that because that’s exactly what it is. I’ve got three posts started and not completed because I honestly felt like giving up on this. I was disheartened by all the stuff thats been happening. I’m getting better but it’s still hard. I know the rough financial situation I’m in for the next few months and I’m sulking, dreading even what that means and how I can begin to try digging myself out. It shouldn’t stress me the way it does, but I can’t help it, I’m practical like that and it hurts. So I stopped writing these. I just put two up and there’s there other three still here. Not including this one. But I feel like its unfair to you all and my commitment to starting this whole thing. I may not have completed the trip but I’m going to complete this. So today I’m going to try to finish the four posts in total and get us all on the same page within the next day or so.  The upside for me is there’s not many photos. The downfall for you, there’s a lot of reading.

The Return

So at 6:00 am I headed to the front desk to get my receipt for my room and get on the road with Big Red and Pit Stop. Today we ride for St. Louis and their place. I’m resting there for the night and then heading to Indy the next day on my own. The attendant massacres the bill for the guys ahead of me, spends the next 40 minutes trying to fix it and has to reboot the computer and call the manager. I got my bill because they felt bad for my ride and let me hop in, they were still stuck there trying to figure it out. Madness. Either way this puts us on the road about 7am.

Truthfully, the ride was pretty uneventful. We hit it hard through Oklahoma and into Missouri. We stopped about halfway for some lunch and went to Dickey’s BBQ. I think I’ve pointed out that I don’t eat on the ride days because of the fat man lethargic tendencies. Lol. So I had a small sandwich and lots of water. Though I will admit Dickey’s does and amazing smoked chicken. If you have one near you, just go get a pound and make sandwiches or something, its well worth it. Pit Stop took a nap in the booth while Big Red and I stretched and made some calls. It’s a dull ride through this part of the country. The only interesting moment has been the occasional large group of bikes that will ride with us for a bit. Everyone’s headed home. After about an hour stop we woke up Pit Stop and filled up our tanks to get back on the road.

Again we rode hard through to St. Louis. By the time we hit about 50 miles outside the city we hit traffic and the sun hit us. I had sunscreened up at lunch and was going T-shirt at that point. I couldn’t take it anymore. It was hot though, and we were tired, and thirsty. We made it maybe 14 more miles before stopping for water. One bottle I drank the other I just poured all over my head. From there we pushed it to the house and that was it. Bikes were locked up for the night. No questions asked. This day of riding is done. Considering we rolled in about 3pm and that made 8 hours of riding I really can’t complain.

The only caveat I’ll add here is that the tolls in Oklahoma are like highway robbery. Literally. I shouldn’t have to pay $4 for a motorcycle. That’s some shenanigans right there. On the upside that was a gorgeous sunrise through the fog over the hills.

St. Louis

I love this city. Something about the blue collar working vibe. Its got a great art scene that’s growing in the contemporary direction and a food scene that’s spreading its wings, but here BBQ is still king. Pappy’s Smokehouse still has the best unsauced BBQ I’ve ever had. Period. If you don’t try it, you’re dumb. That’s right you heard me.

Anyway, it was still so hot Pit Stop called it a day pretty much and went hardcore napping. Me and Big Red changed into our civies and went to Walmart to get stuff for dinner. Came back made pasta and watched hours of Naked and Afraid while trying to stay awake. I also picked up a box of all natural black cherry popsicles that we proceeded to wreck throughout the day. No added sweeteners here. The pasta was amazing. My boy got down on this one. An amazing meat sauce, ceasar salad and italian bread. This hit the spot after the day we had riding. Of course it was so good and filling it also made us tired. At one point the two of them made a run to pick up her bags from Eezy and Game who towed their bikes so they carried her bags in the truck. Other than that today was a wash. That’s not uncommon though for a long day of riding in the heat like we had today. It did us in.

At one point tonight I tried to do a post. I fell asleep at the table on top of the keyboard. So I thought a popsicle and some TV would wake me up. I fell asleep on the couch next… then again at the table. Yeah, game over man. Game over.

Today’s Map:

Apprx Miles: 405 / Average Speed: 80 mph / Best Entire Album Listened To: “21” by Adele… I was in a soulful kind of mood

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Broken But Not Beaten

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

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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

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

Day Seventeen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bet his tricycle can beat up your tricycle.

Bet his tricycle can beat up your tricycle.

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

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

All tucked in for the night

All tucked in for the night

Just Breathe….

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

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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

Day Sixteen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know your history.

Know your history.

Pete took a beating on the pavement today.

Pete took a beating on the pavement today.

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

Reunion Time. Demdamdawgs and the fellas representing.

Reunion Time. Demdamdawgs and the fellas representing.

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

Everywhich Way But Loose

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

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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

 

 

Day Fifteen

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

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

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

Things Get Real

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

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

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

Stranded windshield notes...

Stranded windshield notes…

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

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

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

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

Parking lot full of my road family

Parking lot full of my road family

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

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

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

Today’s Map:

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

* Addendum: This post is finally going up

three days late. Two more posts will follow

by the end of the day.