Monday, April 17, 2017

When Am I Going to Get a Real Motorcycle?

Daimler Reitwagen (1885)
generally accepted as the "real motorcycle"
You know, I've been thinking about that myself too, because many people have asked me the same question over the years. I mean, if it had been only one person asking me, I would have brushed it aside and not given it much thought. But, five, ten, fifteen, twenty people? I don't know, I've lost count since I first started riding in 1985.

The last I checked, my Honda ST1300, for lack of calling it a motorcycle, has two wheels, an engine, a seat that I straddle, handle bars that I steer, and a twist grip that I throttle. I had thought that counts as a "motorcycle".

In fact, the last I checked it seemed to be "real" too. That is, I could touch it and know that my brain responded to stimulus.

Do I have a real motorcycle or not?

The fact is that I hear a lot of people talking about "real this" and "real that", "authentic this" and "authentic that", and am left wondering what actual value is there in being "real"?

I suppose you can see this discussion leading into a tired, well-beaten, mule.

But to digress from lifeless philosophical discourse, I often see the words "Real Mayonnaise" printed on several different brands of white condiment-filled containers, and have been able compare them with other brands that don't use the word "Real". They both seem to taste similar, have similar properties, and have comparable ingredients. In that case, what is the value of Real?

I could imagine someone telling me "Oh, don't use that shit, get some real mayonnaise."

"Real mayonnaise is made from eggs". Actually, the original recipe didn't use eggs.

Though technically, the US Food & Drug Administration actually does have a regulation on what can be legally marketed as "mayonnaise" (Title 21, Chapter I, Subchapter B, Part §169.140), "Real", of course, is a subjective matter.

I remember in 1990 when Toyota advertised itself as the "official car of Southern California". Brilliant, because Southern California is not an administrative division, and there is no governing body to counter such claims. And even though "Southern California" is often described in American culture, Californians themselves can't even agree on where to draw border.

In addition, I often tell Sash what a joke "proper English" is because there is no such thing as proper English, or "standard English" for that matter. There is no law in the US Code defining how one should communicate, pontificate, or confabulate using the world's most spoken language, and there is no body of government-appointed custodians determining how it's letters and punctuation marks should be properly strung together.

Instead, all we have is a group of middle-managers at Merriam-Webster going around the table raising their hands on accepting a particular word into their Dictionary, and how it should be defined, classified, modified, and pronounced. Somewhere, somehow, this company was granted authority on what is a "real" English word.

A few years ago, Rachel Dolezal, a woman born to white parents, and who has zero African ancestry, claimed to be black. It caused black people to become angry, arguing that Dolezal is not a "real" African-American, and doesn't know what it's like to be discriminated against. Is being discriminated against a prerequisite for being African-American?

Then, there are kids who say that "Monopoly money is not real money". But what if you had an antique Monopoly game board with all the original pieces, cards, and money, except that it was missing its original $500 bills? Would you be willing purchase some antique $500 Monopoly money just to make your set complete? Could that be construed as having "real" value?

So then, what makes Harley-Davidson a "real motorcycle"?

Well technically, Indian was building motorcycles before Harley, as was Royal Enfield. Are Indians and Royal Enfields more real than Harley?

My Honda ST1300, Glacier National Park, MT
If chronology is a causal element of "real", then you'd have to go back to 1867 when Ernest Michaux, of Paris, France, fitted a steam engine to a bicycle that his father built, creating the first ever motorized bicycle. But if you want to get technical about the word "motorcycle", you'd have to go Phoenix, Arizona in 1881 when Lucius Copeland built a steam-powered three-wheeler that he named, "Phaeton Moto Cycle".

But the motorcycling world tends to rest only as far back as 1885 with the "Daimler Reitwagen", a two-wheeled, gasoline-powered vehicle that you sat on top of, steered with handlebars, and throttled with a twist-grip. It was invented by Gottlieb Daimler, whose company Daimler Motoren Gesellchaft eventually became Mercedes Benz.

So is a "real motorcycle" that patterned after the 1885 prototype developed by today's Mercedes Benz?

Where exactly, does that leave my Honda ST1300?

Well, people often tell me that it doesn't really matter if Santa Claus is real or not. What matters is that the one thing you really hoped for actually did find its way to you on Christmas morning, regardless of the who, what, where, when, and how. And if that's all that's needed to make Santa Claus real, then perhaps that says a lot about a brand of motorcycle.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Adjusting to Smaller Living

Our San Diego apartment, April 7, 2017, the day we moved out.
Nearly a week-and-a-half burned here at a cheapo hotel in Tucson, AZ, and I'm already itching to hit the road. Just 10 more days and Sash, myself, and our beagle will be moving into an RV.

The RV is being built at a factory in Nappanee, Indiana. Interestingly, RV manufacturing is a huge industry there in the "Crossroads of America". Quite a few brand names are built in tiny farm towns of Hoosierland, and it's no surprise that much of their labor comes from the Amish. But while all of these RV brands can claim to be "Amish built", these factories all use power tools and robotics.

For me, it's like Harley-Davidson saying "Assembled in the USA" instead of "Made in the USA".

But putting all else aside, this is a big change in our lives.

Just yesterday, Sash was binge-watching, "Tiny House Hunters" on HGTV, and it just started to hit me that we're moving into a tiny house too, albeit a toy hauler that feels more like a man-cave than a Winnebago. A few years ago, as we kicked off our Road Pickle tour, she mentioned that we would one day buy a tiny house. I guess it's coming true.

Yesterday, I ordered a 3/4 inch 300 ft lb torque wrench on Amazon because the company that makes the weight distribution hitch for my pickup wants a couple of bolts torqued to 260 pounds. So, I had originally looked all over Tucson for a hardware store that sells such a tool, but the biggest one anyone stocks goes up to 150 pounds. Moreover, it's difficult to find a hardware store that sells sockets with a 3/4 inch drive.

But isn't that how people accumulate tools? Because the industry designs each thing to be unique?

I've had people say, "Hmmm", when I mention that we're having a toy hauler built. That is, most folks seem to drive their pickup truck to an RV dealer and buy whatever is in stock. I kinda expected to do that too. But this particular brand we wanted, "Aluminum Trailer Company", limits the amount of toy haulers they make. They mostly do trailers for utilitarian purposes (cars, horses, trade shows, et al). So, when you visit one of their dealerships, there are not a lot of stock available. Hence, Sash and I picked out all the options and specifications we wanted and had a dealer fire it off to Amish country.

Originally, the dealer was going to charge me $3,500.00 to have the toy hauler delivered to San Diego, where Sash and I had been living. But it seemed like paying that much for delivery was insane, and all they were going to do was have a driver tow it to us. So, it seemed like I could drive out there and tow it back myself for less.

So that's why we're here in Tucson right now; it's our first stop along the way to Indiana.

Another thing we're adjusting to is "smaller everything".

That is, the refrigerator in the toy hauler is about 3/4 of the size we're used to. The television we plan to put in will be about half the size we're used to. The kitchen oven and stove top is much smaller. The sink is much smaller. The shower is much smaller. Even the washing machine that Sash plans to get can only handle about 3-4 pieces of clothing at a time.

I had actually suggested instead we get a 5-gallon bucket, fill it with water, soap, and clothes, and mash it with a toilet plunger. It'd probably handle a larger load, with less water.

For me anyway, the lure of living smaller is not so much about getting smaller-everything, but doing things differently. I mean, it isn't about having a smaller refrigerator as it is about switching over to foods that don't require refrigeration.

Years ago when I went motorcycle-camping with my friend Brian, he always brought along foods that could travel for days in his top-box. A can of soup, a fresh apple, a package of peanuts. I like the idea of sustaining myself on foods that I plan to eat sooner than later.

Somewhere over the decades I got this crazy idea that a loaf of bread had to be kept refrigerated. My first wife always did that. But I distinctly remember when I was a kid, my mom kept bread in a breadbox. I guess in those days, we could finish off a loaf of bread before it grew mold. For whatever the reasons are now, people require more days and weeks to get through the standard 22 slices.

I wonder how much food eventually goes spoiled because we tend to leave them in the refrigerator and forget about them?

So our last day in Tucson is Monday morning (April 17, 2017). From there, we keep going east. We pick up the toy hauler on April 25. At that point, tow it back to San Diego to pick up our motorcycles and our stuff.

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Less I Know, the Happier I Am

State Highway 46, westbound, Utah
To marvel at the sight of a newborn child is perhaps to appreciate perfection. Just as with holding a brand new laptop fresh out of its box, or running your hand across the fuel tank of a new motorcycle, we take pleasure in something unadulterated, yet lament that it will never be as pristine as it is now.

"He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors." 
- Thomas Jefferson
In an attempt to downsize even further, I recently got rid of more childhood things. The old Mickey Mouse clock my mom bought me when I was a kid, the samurai swords that were in our living room when I grew up, pieces of dishware my grandmother handed to me, I felt ready to let them go. Even the Japanese geisha doll that my mom bought in the 1960s, and subsequently passed on to me with implicit instructions to take great care of, I don't want anymore.

It's amazing the amount of memories the brain can hold, and even more amazing of what emotions it associates them with. I suppose I could remember a lot more if I had only been more happier back then.

Maybe the reason why parents only take photographs of their children during happy moments is to save us from the pain of knowing all the shit we went through. I wonder how fucked up I would be if my mom videotaped herself beating the shit out of me, and saved them on Facebook for me to look at when I got older.

But instead of our minds developing into a well-crafted, evenly-balanced network of synapses, it's becomes more of a jerry-rigged patchwork of bridges, dead-ends, and detours designed to avoid the painful thoughts that mire our decision-making, and focus on what works to keep us alive.

Yet ironically, as I strip away more layers of material barrier, I feel myself getting closer to the truth of what I am.

And what exactly is that?

While it's generally accepted that knowledge comes with experience, I wonder if our path through life is more like a bell curve. We have to experience both the world and humanity just to end up back at where we started. We had to go through all that shit to discover that the less we know, the happier we are, that we're better off just being ourselves.

Those bridges, dead-ends, and detours are becoming more visible to me now that I don't need them anymore.

At the root of what I am is 50% of my father's neural network and 50% of my mother's. Everything else about me came from going up and over that bell curve. But if I were to strip away all of those experiences, I still could not be as pristine as I was when I was born. We can't unhear what we heard, and we can't unsee what we saw. It's a scab we can never pick off.

Truth is acceptance.

We tend to think that truth is reality. In fact, truth is not even fact. Truth is what is real to each person individually, just as "Harvey" was true to Elwood P. Dowd, and Santa Claus is to millions of hopeful kids. There are skyscrapers without 13th floors, and people who live on the 30th floor actually believe they are 30 stories up.

The root of what we are, is what we see in ourselves. Accepting that as true means we don't have to build bridges, dead ends, and detours to deal with the world we live in. Acceptance is to absorb everything we take in, add it to our neural pathways and not have to be traumatized by it.

"I am what I am, and that's all what I am." 
- Popeye
Another thing that's true is that I haven't been riding my motorcycle as often as I used to. I have been putting a lot of time into my website design work, playing Clash of Clans, and drinking beer. I don't know if that's going to change soon, but I know that life will change once Sash and I move out of this apartment and into our new RV.

By then, I hope to share more wisdom from the road with you.

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About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)