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Love to Hate: There and Back Again

“I write because I’m too afraid to steal, too ugly to act, too weak to fight, and too stupid in math to be a Cosmologist.” ~ Paul Beatty

 I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to change our nature, to do something drastic to better oneself. What comes with that and how it effects things around us. In turn I’ve also been thinking about one of my favorite poets and what his writing meant to me the first time I read it. So I’ve been delving into some of those readings and some new things here and there. To some extent the past few months to a year have been interesting. Life has changed a lot. Change used to frighten me, I downright hated it. More the unknowing nature of it and what it meant to give up a space where you are comfortable and know the world around you, how it operates, and how to bend it to your will to some extent. What I realized though is that fear was based way more on thinking I had a vision for my life, for who I was, or maybe should be. When it came down to it I am what the Lord made me to be, no more, no less, and that’s okay. What I came to see is that sometimes you have to give up comfort to learn who you’re meant to be. Comfort can make us complacent and complacency can often be an anchor weighing us down. Now I’m trying to see what it means to carry that weight around (no pun intended) daily, and make it part of me, allowing it to strengthen me each step along the way.

“But in that coming day no weapon formed against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you.” – Isaiah 54:17

 

I have a ride planned in a few days. I can’t say I’m terribly excited about going, which is strange for me. Its not that I think it won’t be enjoyable, but its real hot outside, and its real far, and I’ve done nothing but travel the past two months. Family stuff and helping out some people I love has kept me moving, but that’s okay. It’s been worth it because its for people important to me. It all started a few weeks ago with a trip planned over a year ago.

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I’ve luckily connected with some riders online and over the years we’ve followed one another, talked, and checked-in. This of course is a strange extension of the nature of riding with others, many times you form bonds that seem to go beyond location and familiarity. Last year they planned “Top to Bottom” ride, leaving at the end of June 2019 for 4 days, beginning in Ft. Kent, Maine and ending in Key West, Florida. Essentially this ride would run the entire course of US-1 from its 0 mile to 0 mile markers. This would be an undertaking to explore the twists and curves of the northeast coast and cutting inland before back out again. K-Solo and Reef, managed to bring a number of riders, though only 5 of us actually set out on the eventual journey due to to weather, mechanical issues, and other concerns.

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Lets back up for a second. The two of them ride like no one I’ve ever known, particularly Solo. This dude will be on one coast one day and the other two days later. I don’t get it. He just rode to Deadhorse, Alaska… seriously look that up on a map, I still can’t wrap my brain around it. I’m honestly not sure these two have a life outside of riding. Lol. Anyway, that information will come into play later.

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For me this meant this trip didn’t start in Ft. Kent, it started with wrapping up teaching a workshop, and MFA courses in Nashville and literally leaving from class to start my trip north. My stops along the way were Cleveland OH, Littleton MA, and onto Ft. Kent. Along the way I ordered a new rain suit and had it sent ahead to Massachusetts. Luckily I had some real friends who came through and let me stay along the way, special thanks to Alicia and her husband in Mass who I haven’t seen in years but opened their home, garage (basically auto shop) and fridge to me as long as needed. Having other friends with bikes is awesome, and even better when it comes as an unexpected surprise.

The day came to head up to Maine, which was big for me as its the only state in the Northeast I haven’t rode through. Unfortunately waiting for the rain suit held me up a bit and I got underway late. Maine was a beast that day, rain, cold, heavy fog and highways that didn’t offer much of anything in visibility. I pushed as hard as I could but realizing I was another 3 hours out, I realized my safety was a reality. This was the moment I came to a realization in life, at least in my motorcycle life. I love what I do, but I don’t have anything to prove to anyone… not even myself. The hardest decision to make is sometimes knowing that you’ve done enough, even when you naturally feel the need to do more. Bangor, Maine was the furthest north I could safely make so that would have to be it, and I was okay with that.

After getting in touch with Reef and preparing to meet up the next morning, I had the opportunity to run some quick errands. Getting some new hex wrenches for the bike, tightening a few bolts, getting glove liners, and topping off tire pressure. I was lucky to meet George McNeese, a gentleman in his late 80’s headed to Jacksonville to visit his daughter. He’s been riding for almost 70 years and has covered most of the United States, we chatted and laughed, photographed one another, and as he wandered across the street to grab a bite with some of the Harley Davidson employees I thought how rare it is to have these moments to meet someone like him. Someone so different than me, connected by this passion and that supersedes everything else.

I’d learn this even further as I would head to meet up with the crew for the rest of the ride. Heading out a few short hours northeast I pulled into Ruth and Wimpy’s parking lot ready to begin the official Top to Bottom.

I’m not going to go very far into details of the trip itself. Let’s just say it was more than I expected. If you can imagine, up in the northeast US-1 is curvaceous, its winding roads, and small town stops and starts. You can ride 6 hours and only have gotten 150 miles under your belt. That’s a struggle both physically and mentally after doing that for 18 hours. The trick was we had just over 3 days to complete the trip, so every mile and every hour counted. Day one ended with 12 hours of riding and 3 tired bikers in Warwick, RI… and two crazy men ready to push on.

There were 5 of us; Solo, Reef, Paul, Matt and myself. Coming together from various parts of the country meant some riding had already been done to get here, and most of them made it to Maine some time ago and explored Southeastern Canada and got to know one another if they hadn’t already. Paul and Matt knew each other, Solo and Reef, Solo and I online, but I felt somewhat like odd man out. I usually do in situations like this, the whole getting to know new people falls into that change category I mentioned earlier. Usually I’m in control of a classroom or situation somewhat, here I was thrown into the mix. Midway through day two we were still weaving hard and fast down the coast, and as the day came to a close the frustration was mounting. 18 hours ended us just outside of Baltimore, MD, it was 2am and we wanted to sleep. No hotel rooms available, exhaustion full on set in, Matt, Paul, and I needed to sleep. Some phone calls ended us at some pretty questionable motels in Perryville. Needless to say I didn’t question for one moment this motel is where I’d end up in a shoot out or a serial killer would come for me in my sleep through a hatch in the floor… the Relax Inn was far from that.

The morning came quick and we were down one man. Matt was done. Bike issues with a tire and exhaustion had taken its toll, at 6am we pressed on. Virginia was the first sign of relief. As we questioned how we would ever pull off the timing to Key West, the roads began to straighten and open up. Day three was much more mileage friendly. Stopping briefly in South Hill, VA for lunch at a great Mexican restaurant, El Saucito was a much needed break from the heat that was now beating down. IMG_20190625_142853_371

It was picturesque as well, so it was nice to get a moment to myself for some shots, but it was also the first time I began to connect with everyone else. Nothing like a meal to make this happen. Not to mention Paul vocalizing his need to have a bed to lay in that evening for more than 3 hours. I had found a kindred spirit and co-conspirator! The day would “end” in Jacksonville, FL, 19 hours after it had begun.

Now this is where the previously mentioned information on Reef and Solo is essential. Day three, hour 17, Paul and I had formed an alliance. We were traveling at our own pace and looking forward to a good night of sleep somewhere. We’d catch up and stand our ground, we were going to sleep. Reef and Solo were ready to roll through the night, apparently sleep is completely optional for them or they’re literally the undead and require no rest whatsoever. Lol. After agreeing to disagree at midnight, they rode on while Paul and I found rooms a short few hours ahead, and energizing for a final push for the evening. 2 hours later we were in Jacksonville and checking into a motel for what was the full night of sleep we needed. To make a long story short, the next morning we picked up another rider (Snoop, Reef’s cousin) and the three of us ended the day at mile marker 0 in Key West just before midnight after another 15 hour riding day.

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Due to the distance over the timeframe we pushed hard everyday. All in all this was the hardest ride I’ve ever done, in the sense of being physically, mentally, and emotionally drained by the end. Key West was a relief, and a day to take it all in was just what I needed. While everyone else got back on the road, I enjoyed a day on my own taking in the city and recuperating. While its not the longest trip I’ve done in time or distance it as the most time sensitive and that was exhausting. At times I was uncomfortable, frustrated, angry, and baffled by components of the trip. Other times I was blissfully at ease, or laughing with strangers quickly becoming friends. It was a strangely and positively bi-polar experience that forced me out of my comfort zone and into the control of someone else. This may have been the most valuable part of the experience as a whole. While I was walking away a mixed bag of feelings, I found myself joking with someone that drove me crazy a few days before, discovered someone else who carries their own toilet paper, and overall gained 4 brothers on the road.

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Being forced out of my control and comfort meant I had to adapt. I couldn’t let a situation break me, I have to learn to bend. Bending allows you to flex without failing. For this lesson I’m thankful. What was by far one of the hardest trip, maybe turned out to be one of the most important in many ways.

Now back to this week, tomorrow morning actually. I’ll be taking off for the National Biker Roundup, this year in Gulfport, Mississippi. I’m riding with a friend from Woodbridge State Burners and in classic fashion we can’t do anything easy. Instead of heading straight there, we’re going first to Denver, CO then to Las Vegas, NV then after tiptoeing into California, turning and burning across the Southwest and South to Mississippi. Yeah, we may be crazy people. But we’re crazy people on a mission apparently. There will be some more long days ahead, but this time in a little more of our control as we’re hoping to just enjoy the ride and head to some places we’ve never been. Catching up with old friends along the way, and undoubtedly making some new ones. If you see us be sure to say hey.

July 2019 Route

Ps. Special shout out to Sid’s Cycles here in Nashville who got me in real quick today and replaced my rear tire and pads. Definitely makes peace of mind a little more solid for the 9 days ahead!

At A Loss For Words….

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” ~ Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

 

“The road has always been the place to find the answers,
or ignore the questions.” ~ Anonymous Quote

 

For some reason these quotes have stood out to me recently as I’ve done some traveling and some reading. The second undoubtedly because I ran across it on the road (not literally), the first because it’s always been a poem that makes me think about riding, the decisions we make, the inevitability of it to some extent as a giant metaphor of life. Do we take risks, play it safe… either way there’s a choice to be made and any choice has consequence and moves us down a new path of events accordingly. 

It’s been awhile since I last posted. A long while. Like a year and a half while. The reasons are plenty but essentially sorting out this whole blog and ride thing has been harder than anticipated. Trying to find the time to write as you ride each day is fairly exhausting. I found that I had much more success using my facebook blog, Fat Man Go Fast, due to ease of use and posting imagery (btw, you should be following me there as well). There was a specific reason I stopped writing when I did though.

In summer 2017 I was midway through a ride, Midwest, East Coast, Northeast, Canada, Midwest again and further West, eventually as far as Colorado. It was a good summer, good relationship, good friends, great ride, better than I could have expected. Though on the way back east there was an accident that changed some things. I’ll let that post from FB speak for itself…

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“On the way to the National Biker Roundup there was a rider who collapsed while on the road. Our girl, Poland, blacked out while riding on the back of a bike on I-70 and slumped off onto the highway at about 75mph. Thank God she’s going to be okay, a few bruises, lots of road rash, broken finger, concussion, and sore as hell. We’re all praising Him for protecting her through all this, speedy medical assistance, helpful bystanders, and thankfully she doesn’t remember it for the most part due to blacking out.

The reason I share this is to tack onto those who’ve shared info about heat exhaustion lately. I always protect and limit myself in the heat to what I know I can handle. If it starts getting bad, I tap out and rest up when possible, especially when riding alone. I’ve done this whole trip solo, so paying attention to every detail has been important. Never underestimate your safety! Prioritize your life over the sometimes prideful arrogance of the ride. Just know your limits. You can always ride later.

So to all those I wanted to catch up with at the Roundup, I’m sorry I missed you. My field time was eaten up with making sure family was good. Hope we can catch up on the next go round. To all those who went down headed to or from the Roundup, prayers going out to you, heal up and get well. We hope to ride with you all. In the meantime, this once again showed me what the biker brotherhood is all about. Thanks to all those who came by to lift our girls spirits, today she’s headed home to heal in comfort.”

There were other things that happened that summer of 2017. I went to a country wedding in my HD button down, I caught up with friends old and new that I hadn’t seen in years, I had shirts made with my logo on it and began representing myself. I met a kind road construction woman who made me take one of their coats because she was worried about my safety. I shopped bikes, I rode bikes, I got a lot more miles in and rode with some of my favorite people. I even had a passenger for the first time.

In the end though none of that seemed to matter when our sister got injured. It went out the door and no amount of writing seemed to give voice to my feelings at the moment. I had come to an impasse, a fork in the road to some extent. I had a choice to make. So I stopped writing and concentrated on photographing and since then my Instagram has been the main focus of this online experience. After all first and foremost I was a photographer and that was how I told my story.

Over time I’ve been trying to think how to manage this thing and restart this effort. So I’m thinking abandoning the day to day is the best way to go. To come back after riding and sit and write once processing has occurred in my mind. Things change and the way we remember and analyze an experience comes into play, making a difference in the way we think about it. After a time away from it I’ve come to realize that this is almost just as important a part of the experience of the ride itself, because it doesn’t stop once you get off the road. Fellowships that are made on the road continue beyond it, in the same way Poland became my sister, and her pain touched me deeply, so have the words and moments with other brothers and sisters I’ve gained from these travels. Since then time has taken its toll – relationships ended, home changed locations, joints are more sore, and I’ve hopefully become wiser as well as older.

I’ve also attended lots of events on the bike since then. I’ve rode to Sturgis and done that whole thing with family, both longstanding and some gained on the road. I’ve been back to the Roundup, and I’ve even rode through part of Thailand since I last posted. Though I’m going to save that story for a post of it’s own as my writing has spurred other ventures since 2016. I rode to the christening of my godson along with set and surpassed a 10,000 mile goal for the year. I’ve had a custom seat made, installed new apehanger handlebars and exhaust. All this being said as the road winds along, all we can do is hold on and ride the pavement as best we can, taking it all in along the way. With that in mind, I’ll end this with a few photos from those travels and bring this to a close. I’ll be writing more though, I think I can manage it this time. I made the mistake of letting the pressure of doing take over, this time I’ll let the experience lead the way.

 

St. Louis State Burners – 2017 Annual

The Christening – 2018

Sturgis, Mt. Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, Custer St Park & Crazy Horse, Badlands – 2018

Evansville State Burners Annual – 2018

The Ties that Bind

“I’d like to repeat the advice I gave you before, in that I think you should really make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may have previously never thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all which may appear to give one piece of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” (Chris McCandless, as quoted by John Krakauer, “Into the Wild”) ~ The Happiness of Pursuit

So this quote makes me think of a few things that stick in my mind, but the primary thoughts here are of change; change to both lifestyle and the abandonment of sense of security. By nature I’m not an adventurous spirit, which likely sounds foolish for anyone that knows me, seeing as how I’ve traveled to multiple countries, lived abroad, have now twice embarked on crazy motorcycle trips and countless mini motorcycle adventures across this country. I say I’m not adventurous though because to me those are such heavily calculated risks, I like to play things safe. I like to have a net to catch me when I fall and often feel like I’ve missed out on things by not just grabbing life by the horns and going for it, being afraid to change or more accurately, afraid of change. I’ve come to realize though that change is an inevitability and it will come whether we like it or not and we can embrace or fight it, and one is so much harder than the other. I also realize that I have to change, my lifestyle that is. As this self titled blog implies, I’m a big man, a fat man, and I’ve always been okay with that. Its part of my identity and I like myself, heck, I love myself. I’ve over the past few years though noticed aches and pains, and places where I never had issues now giving me issues. So I am attempting a lifestyle change, this trip is I guess, somewhat of a goodbye to the old and an attempt to welcome in the new. The last hurrah of sorts. I’m not being excessive, but working out in the morning and then still having the energy to ride for hours, just don’t match up. Not that I plan on being a different man, just a better version of myself. Some of you may know that a few months back I went to Thailand and that was scary, it was my first time in a country with no knowledge of language or culture, and a crazy long series of flights to get me there. Though I had to do it, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by. I had to take the leap of faith that it would be successful. Then reality set in… I was out of shape. I decided it needed to change. At some point I was going to be in Thailand, and I was going to have to walk up some temple stairs and I didn’t want to be that fat guy dying at the top. So I asked my friend Jason, who trains people on the side to help me with a workout plan. For months I went to the gym, I lifted, I did cardio, and I broke a sweat… a lot of sweat. Mind you I also last year found out I have a torn meniscus which hampers movement drastically and causes pain in my left knee. So it’s also an attempt at beginning this rehab. Either way I did this every morning, at 5:30am, for months, and I walked those temple steps. I came home and I kept working out, and I began jogging on the treadmill everyday. Now, I’m not running anywhere unless being chased and that’s only if I’m not able to take them in a fight, animals included. So jogging is big. Jogging hurts. But nonetheless I jog. I jog for a few miles every morning. I’m slowly trying to add to this, eat healthier, and make better life choices. Granted on this trip, I’m not. I’m enjoying a gym free month and will hit it again when I’m home and start anew. I just need to be a healthier me, a better me, and that means changing my lifestyle. It’s scary, because this is the only me I’ve ever known. Don’t get me wrong I still embrace who and what I am, I don’t cringe from the word “fat” I laugh at it, I use it for motivation, but I also push through it everyday in that gym. I remember the man I was in 2010 when I went through this to lead my first study abroad, I worked out like a madman. Even while dragging my students through the streets of Europe for miles, everyday I woke up and walked, as well as sprinted 5 – 6 miles a day to begin each day. I had college students begging me to stop as I pushed on to the next location. I want to be better than that, not for a trip, not for anyone else, but for me, for life, to prioritize myself. With that change though comes realizing it doesn’t just happen on one front, I have to embrace newness all around me. That started with a job and location change, it’s become an attitude change, health change, and now an attempt to change how I see the world. Not as a place that I’m so very cynical towards, but one that I can find my place in somehow – leaving behind the grudges and anger that have held me back and lived with old attachments that hindered my future. Some of that is happening on this bike, with every mile I leave behind a past memory of failure and replace it with one of success. Not having forgotten, but having moved past, and each mile closer to completion does that. Maybe it’s this place, Detroit, that has made me think of change. I have so many memories here and so much love for this place that so many have discarded. It’s a beautiful place rich with black history and narratives that tell the stories of triumph and struggle. Behind every layer of paint, beneath each crumbled building there is knowledge that goes lost and information that shouldn’t be forgotten, but is hidden by the stigma that plagues this once great city. To me, it’s still beautiful, differently beautiful, and I don’t want that to be lost. I want it to be reborn, to find new life under the sun and stars. A new life to be better, not something else completely, just better. With that in mind, step by step, mile by mile, I’m trying… I really am trying. 

Day Eleven What a day. I’m dark, like dark chocolate dark, with milk chocolate tan lines showing exactly where my goggles were today and where my sleeves stop. I’m definitely getting my raccoon on. Haha. So in other words I’ve spent some time on the road. Honestly it wasn’t a terribly eventful day because the goal was to get to Indianapolis by a certain time so I had to move straight through. Though I did get to start the day with some family time. My cousins that I stayed with last night had plans for breakfast with the rest of the local family and some friends to celebrate Chris’ recent birthday that I mentioned in the last post. So even though I first thought I’d leave before that point I figured I could stay and at least say hello to everyone, even if I couldn’t stay for breakfast itself.

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Cousins… Jody is feeling the flow, doing the bull dance.

The day started with taking more photos with the family on the way out to the restaurant. Which I guess is fair, we haven’t seen each other in a good while. This included of course everyone on the bike, taking my little cousin for a ride and eventually my cousin Holly too. It’s nice to share in everyone’s excitement and give them a new experience. My younger cousin was really digging it after being hesitant at first, I think we may have a bike fanatic on our hands one day.

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Jean, Lady Luck, and I, headed around the block.

Then it was time to head to Kuzzo’s a chicken and waffle place they wanted to go to. Following them to the spot gave me a chance to head into Detroit not far from where they used to live and I used to spend a lot of time both as a kid and when I was here for grad school. Between that time Detroit changed a lot, those memories color the place it is for me now. I see this ruin and loss, but I also see potential and possibility. I also see beauty in the decay to some extent, the layers of posters peeling atop one another, the color shifts in fading paint, the new places springing up amongst the old. 20170723_115531 This is one of the most interesting cities in the country and most important to some extent to its financial and socio-economic history, so it’s always a marvel to me to watching what it was versus what it is. As we arrived at the restaurant my cousin Ricky came out to greet me as I circled back to park.

Ricky was one of the coolest guys I knew growing up. It’s been great to see him age into a salt and pepper haired “adult”, and all of these cousins to some extent. While there’s a closeness there with all of them, it’s not until now that I realize just how much older than us they were, but that was the great thing about it. We always felt welcome and present when we were with them, age was never a factor or hinderance. This morning hasn’t been any different. From hugs all around to laughs at the table it was a great experience to see everyone. I met one cousin’s new husband, friends, and smashed about 6 glasses of water before hitting the road in the increasing warmth. The best moment though was sitting with Ricky and Judy who proceeded talk about the old neighborhood so longingly. In this conversation they told me about the race riots and the ensuing “white flight” that eventually started the downturn of this city. They told me about the national guard coming to “protect” neighborhoods as tanks rolled down their street and sat in the park across the lot from them.

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Judy and Ricky schooling me on history

 

They almost romanticized the moments of this tragedy, but I get it. It was beautiful. Not what happened, not the riots or the fall of the economy that resulted, but the moment that people decided to stand up for themselves, the moment they as children saw something new in their space. Even if Judy did miss seeing the Tigers play that evening, they were left here with a memory that would last forever. They saw the beginning of it all.

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This is family, this is love. This is my Detroit.

After lots of hugs and repeated goodbyes, I said goodbye to this city once again and my family. I’ll be back but for now I have to go. Indianapolis bound. Onto the highway and headed out, it’s a fairly straight shot to Indy, about 5 hours southeast. There was rain starting in Detroit and current downpours in Indy, I assumed the overcast day would hold, even if it was warm out. For this reason I hopped right on the bike and hit the road. The ride itself was the uneventful part, other than the lack of rain and clouds I prepared for, so that’s where my chocolate tonal conversion happened today, on this wonderful stretch of I-69. I at least found a nice Harley shop to make a stop at along the way where they had a little history of Harley Davidson museum set up inside. It was a nice break from the heat and fast riding.

Here’s the interesting thing about this stop. I intended to go to Indy either way to see my family. Though my father requested that I arrange a dinner for my sister, brother and I to meet with him while home. Why, you ask? To discuss his funeral and end-life wishes. It was just weird. Not that he’s sick or anything, he just wanted to randomly get this stuff taken care of and settled. This ended up after a last minute location and time change being a dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack. Not the place I’d assume one would have such an important conversation, but alas. It was. Now he and I had spoken before, I knew that he wanted to be cremated and no sad funeral, but a celebration of life. Which if you know my dad, he’s a character, so there will be plenty of stories to tell. The upside is that it was easy.

The decisions actually ended up being pretty simple. Green cremation, no funeral but a memorial service, no tears, each of the kids gets a vial of ashes, done and done. It’s a strange thing to discuss the death of a parent beforehand, probably the death of anyone, not just a parent. Even with the tumultuous past we’ve had I don’t revel in the idea of it by any means. Though there is something to be said for getting everyone on the same page, I’ve seen too many families (including my extended family) torn apart over a death and the fallout from dividing of things or what someone would want. I refuse to see that happen between my siblings and I. In the end I guess this was a positive. Conversations like this are hard to have but important to sit down and hash out.

Other than this it was good to catch up with my brother and sister. We actually had a long conversation after dinner, just the three of us. We talked about job changes, kids, life stuff. I feel like this was honestly probably the first of these we’ve ever had with just us. It was good, really good. Enough so my sister suggested we do it a few times a year… a few is adventurous but I’m in. Living where I do now it’s the first time I’m close enough to do real weekend visits, so I need to take advantage of that. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve gotten closer and I really cherish that.  Beyond this the rest of the night has been exhausting just from being tired. I pounded that ride out so fast and in the heat, it was short but exhausting. The night ended with some talk time with my mother in the kitchen, hilariously showing her how use Netflix, and a phone call that pretty much had both of us about dozing on the other end of the phone no matter how hard we tried to keep going. Smiling and fighting I accidentally dozed off like some little kid. Sleep won, sitting in the oversized armchair in my mother’s family room, everything just seems right with the world… at least at this moment.

Detroit to Indianapolis

Day Eleven: Actual Mileage – 331 miles Best Song of the Day – “So Amazing” by Raheem DeVaughn Best Moment of the Day – Family Biggest Laugh of the Day – These milk chocolate tan lines

Day Twelve Today was just a busy work kind of day; running errands, tightening some nuts and bolts on the bike, looking for a shirt to represent my hometown Harley dealer, working on the blog, paying the bills, etc. Busy work. In other words it’s been a boring but important day. These are the kind of days I need sometimes just to play catch up on life during a trip like this. The upside was that my sister brought her kids over in the morning to spend the day at my mother’s house so I had two of my favorite little people in the world around all day. Through the work there was lots of playing and goofing off with them, at ages 5 and 8 they’re at those great periods where they love playing with one another and just running all over the place laughing their heads off. We had a notion to go to a movie but they couldn’t decide, and by the end we just had a good time at home.

Eventually I got things wrapped up and ran to the Harley dealership, I found a number of things but only snatched up two. I was supposed to head to my cousins house and have a patch sewed on the vest as my patches were mailed here to Indy. We kept missing each other though, so the secondary thoughts was to have dinner with my mother. Knowing I was out in the morning, I knew I wanted to have some good conversation time and with her before all was said and done. So we headed out to a Mexican place that my sister recommended Red Habanero. The meal was subpar, the service was even less, and I about cursed this man out when he didn’t listen to my mother when placing her order. I don’t take kindly to anyone disrespecting the people I care about. He almost caught it that evening. Either way it was good to catch up and fill in gaps about things going on in my life and things here in town. I miss these moments with family, they’re important and necessary for sanity.

 

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As the night drew to a close I kind of wanted to take it fairly easy but ended up running to my boys house. Big Red had picked up a shirt for me on clearance sometime back and gave it to his mom to hold onto for me until I came to Indy. Growing up together we watch out for each other like that and admittedly will pick up odds and ends for each other and have a strangely close but awesome brotherhood. I’m best man in this dudes wedding in a few weeks and I couldn’t be looking forward to it anymore than I am. Back to the point at hand though, a quick stop turned into an hour or so of time spent with basically my second parents. It’s all good though. Dirty Red is the prez of the oldest black club here in town, he and the wife are too cool. They always watched out for me when I’ve needed and are always a stop worth making. It’s also a good chance to catch up and talk shop, catch up with my Indy people and ride, it’s always a plus. A true sign that family isn’t necessarily by blood.

Once I got back to the house I had to do a quick load of laundry as I wanted everything clean before heading out. I actually was leaving a day early because of an unplanned stop that I decided to make a few days ago. Now I’m just trying to pull everything together. So getting everything in the dryer before bed is the plan, a late night snack, and shutting it down for the evening. Tomorrow I hope to catch the kids again as well as my aunt on the way out of town before I leave. So it’ll be a busy start but I just have to make sure I stay on target tomorrow. Time to make it happen.

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How is it that bathroom wisdom is often the best wisdom.

America Jr. and Growing Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Airbnb treated me right last night!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Looking out to the St. Claire river

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

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Walpole Island, Canada… time to make the crossing.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Brampton to Detroit

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

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

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

Northernmost Points

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

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

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

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

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

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The infamous babbling brook

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

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

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

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

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I guess that’s a difference, snowmobile crossings.

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

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DeVille, Bar and Grill in downtown Montreal

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

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

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

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

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I want all the cheeses… ALL THE CHEESES.

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

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Get in my belly!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Worcester to Montreal

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

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.

Reborn:

“So much has changed since I last rode this road.”

King of the Road

The packmule loaded up a few months back

I have decided to begin anew, this time with reinvented purpose. Originally that had read “re-found purpose” attempting to illustrate the sense of invigoration I now feel moving into this road trip, but that’s not it. That would be a falsehood, because its not about invigoration, it’s really about starting over. Starting over fresh… anew.

Since this blog ended so… unceremoniously during its last outing, it seemed only fitting to try again. To give it new life as I begin a new journey. First let me begin with the inception of this highway and bi-way filled extravaganza. Cross country with passage through Canada, venturing as far Northeast as Anchorage, Alaska. It was an adventurous idea, it filled me with excitement, it also came crashing down around me. As life does what life does and continued to fill my daily plate with work, activities, and other necessities it became a more and more distant idea that seemed to become increasingly further from reach. Until eventually, it was gone. That idea dissipated, as did the aspiration and excitement that it had brought, the aspect of the ride, brotherhood and the fellowship of this most illustrious venture. Luckily it did not die, it merely transformed into something else. From the ashes of that thought rose a simple idea for photographic exploration, one that would allow me to ride, to photograph, and to live. It was the idea that wouldn’t die.

Now allow me space to backtrack, since the fateful final post almost three years ago life has changed. A job change (from college professor to high school instructor), the loss of a relationship along with the trials, failures, aspirations of another, a move to a new city, friends that have come and gone, these all have taken their own tolls and left their own unique scars. Though for the most part they have healed, they have taught me acceptance, perseverance, and invaluable life lessons I walk with each day. They have made me a better version of who I once was. So the unfinished trip, and blog, were in a sense the manifestation of my own sense of being incomplete. I left that experience with answers, but also way more questions about what it was that brought me to that place of self-exploration. Which brings me a little closer to this date and why this won’t die.

On November 10th of last year, we lost my uncle Donald to illness. He was one of the best men I ever knew. As a child I remember laughing as he played with us, toys that mirrored those vehicles of his local landscaping and paving company, riding in the back of his El Camino with my brother, driving an actual semi at a much too young age, the conversations as I got older when I would return home, his dream of a Honda Goldwing, my first real job paving driveways at age 15, the way he would light up when I’d ride home and we’d talk briefly about my latest trip – these are all fond to me because he was the first adult man in my life to show me that loving another was okay and what it meant to be a “man” . He was my Godfather and my hero, for a time that loss broke me. It felt like a piece of me was torn out at the worst time ever and I couldn’t quite figure out how to get it back.  That’s when I got this spark, a small but igniting flame that reminded me why I ride. Why I crave the road and the unknown… because it is just that, unknown. Its the only place where I can abandon some sense of control and do my best to “go with the flow”. Though its also where I find the opportunity to live for those who I’ve lost, my uncle Donald, my friend Paul. I’ll always carry their losses with me, but I also know that I live for them, for the adventures and dreams that went unfulfilled. So with that in mind I plan to ride.

My uncle, my friend, a role model. None of us are perfect, but he was exactly who I needed in life.

This time the ride will take me to more unknown locations and across country borders. This time I will complete my goal, even if its diminished in some form from its original conception. I feel like I’ve gotten a little lengthy already seeing as this was supposed to be an announcement of this effort, so I will end this diatribe with another to follow up soon detailing the madness of this current venture. Though I will end with this, as with last time I’ll be reading and reflecting along the way so it seems appropriate to close here. Today’s devotional reminded me of a conversation with a very special friend this week as we talked about our responsibility to being true to ourselves. I may not be one who feels like my role is to play evangelist or preacher, but I do feel through thick and thin I am called to teach, not just about my craft but about life. This trip is an opportunity to experience it more and with that have more to offer, “… you created each being in this world and gave us the power over them. As I walk my course in this world, do not let me perish before realizing the purpose for my existence. Guide me O Lord so that I may live a purposeful life and complete my earthly mission of holiness and faithfulness to your word.”

Talk to you all soon, hope to have you on this journey with me again.

 

FGMF vector FINAL-02

Here we go again

The Long Road Home

“She somehow thought that cardboard box was our motorcycle rolling over and over again on the highway.”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

There’s an aspect of fear that plays into all of this. The fear of the unknown, the fear of being alone, the fear or what can or may happen. I say this all in the sense of fear of the future. I bring this up because my mother and my aunt both have. They worry. Don’t get me wrong, they should. I should likely be more worried but I’m not. I don’t see myself as invincible, I see myself as blessed. They’re concerned that something would happen to me on this trip, on this motorcycle. I learned long ago I can’t live in fear. Not when I ride. Most of you who know my story know that I almost killed myself once in a bad car accident. For some reason I was blessed to survive, He didn’t take me then and I firmly believe that God protects me, as he has other things he’s building me for. Which means there are plenty of other things to fear in life other than a vehicle.

Fear taught me long ago that it makes you timid. So it’s not just when I ride its how I live. I try to let practicality guide me and shape my actions and decisions. If logic dictates it then I’ll generally follow it. But fear can lead to not taking risks where a risk is the correct choice and it can lead to regret. The one thing I want from life is to not die with regrets. I already have a few stored up that are now too late to rectify and I’ve learned much from them. I don’t want to keep adding to them. So this trip is one of those things, but so is going all out at work, putting my art into the world and so many other choices I make. I don’t want another “what if.” I will say that the one place I’m trying to learn to move forward is in matters of the heart. Fear has touched me there and that one is harder to shake. That one may take some time. But like everything else that makes me who I am, I’m working on it.

Day Nineteen

To say this is the long road home may be a bit of a misnomer, or a miswording at least.  The road from St. Louis to Indy isn’t very long and I’ve done it 100 times. It was the route I’d take from Kansas, the route I often took when I traveled for work, The roads I’ve taken when going to visit friends. I know US-70 East all too well. Today feels different though. Today I’m going home after the past 18 days of frustration and the trials of the trip. I need this more than anything, more now than ever.

So today I ventured out in the mid-afternoon expecting to end up in Indy about 5pm. The trip went as expected, it was a great day for riding, sunny and warm. It meant the sunscreen was out almost all day, except the times I forgot. It was uneventful to say the least but it was comforting all at the same time. It was like seeing a long lost toy as a child or finding those keys you misplaced and thought you lost even though you had a spare set. There’s just no replacing that original thing. There’s no place like home.

Unfortunately home was a bit odd this time. I arrived in town around the time I thought. The only downfall was as soon as I hit the loop around town the rain started. I tried to ride it out but had to stop and gear up. Conveniently it put me on the west side of town where my uncle is in the rehabilitation hospital for recovery from a surgery. I’ve been wanting to see him so this was a perfect opportunity to stop. It turned out to be a great moment as when I walked in, sitting there were my cousins, his daughters, one from Texas the other there in town. My aunt is like my second mother so it was good to see her there as well. Of course she grilled me about my trip, like my actual mother the worrying is intense. Nonetheless mother aunt, my uncle’s wife came out and we all talked for a while. Then after my aunts left my cousins and I went back to see my uncle,

It was strange seeing him like that. He was still in that recovery stage, good enough to go home in a few days but not enough to be fully self sufficient yet. You see, he was always a strong man, he ran a landscaping company and gave me my first job paving driveways one summer when I was 15. He’s always been a symbol of something for me. This was a strange moment because all of a sudden I felt like everything I used to know, that made this place for me, had changed. There was no looking back anymore, the memories are just that… memories. But maybe with this comes the opportunity for a rebuilding.

Anyway, I went to my mother’s house afterwards to settle in for the night. I got home and unloaded the bike. I went in to see my mother, who at the time looked and sounded like a bad case of the flu. My mother was apparently victim 1 of some illness creeping though the house. I had been somewhat surprised to see my brother in laws car there, but apparently it was because he now had the sickness. He came home early and immediately called it a night. He and my sisters oldest also had it though being a strapping young boy of three he fought it off quickly. Either way the illness was thick in the house. The plague as I referred to it as. So I checked in with my brother and sister-in-law and packed back up to head out to Brownsburg.

An hour later I was at my brothers, I stopped and saw a friend quickly on the way over but the kicker was that the construction in my brothers area cur off all the direct access to their subdivision. After driving in circles for over an hour and confusing the heck out of my GPS I finally stopped a police officer and he helped point me in the right direction. I finally arrived, tired and ready to call it a night around 10pm.

In classic fashion I walked into the house and they were hanging out as a family. My niece with the baby on the back porch along with her boyfriend, my brother and sister-in-law, all playing dominoes and laughing together. It was perfect. My two younger nieces were doing homework with the help of a family friend and I spent the rest of the evening enjoying their company. We eventually played spades after my brother went to bed and I won a few hands along with my partner. My great-niece woke up at one point and my niece went to go take care of her. Somehow in that 20 minute window the day or the week must have caught up to me, because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I literally dozed off mid-game, cards in hand. Luckily we won the hand but that was it for me. My niece in al her laughter at her uncle passing out at the table was a perfect end to the night.

It’s good to be home.

Todays Map:

Apprx Miles: 250 /  Top Speed: 85 mph / Best Album of the Day: “Friday” soundtrack produced by Dr. Dre

Addendum Map:

Apprx Miles: 43 (after the circles) / Gotta avoid the Black Lung