Monday, December 5, 2011

Heading Down a Different Road

motorcycle riderJust when you thought you've hunkered down for a long ride on a straight road, you happen upon a detour and all of a sudden your itinerary is laid to waste.

Not that it's all gone to Hell, quite the contrary.

The divorce papers were signed off a couple of months ago, and technically it won't become final for another five months, but I'm already feeling like I'm on a different set of wheels, heading down a different road, with no destination in sight.

Kinda like when you show up every Saturday morning to ride with the same set of guys, to go riding on the same roads, and wind up at the same bar at the end of the day. It's satisfying to a point, and for some guys that kind of predictability offers a sense of security, and from that security, a feeling of purpose.

But for me, I want to feel a sense of the unknown, like I only know what road I'm riding on today, and who knows where I'll be sleeping tonight.

I left her with nearly everything, the house, the furniture, the money, and most of my tools, except for those I need the most to work on my ST. Otherwise, everything I had owned seemed meaningless to me. The more shit I have to carry with me, the more I have to manage. And I don't want that. I only have so much room to carry on my motorcycle, and the less stuff I have, the more free I feel.

All I kept for myself is my motorcycle and my pickup truck, and I only kept the pickup because I knew she'd never use it, and besides, it's my pickup truck.

mattole road
So for now, the road takes me deeper into Southern California, into San Diego, where I grew up as a kid. Maybe I came here because I needed to come full circle, back to the city where my childhood came to an end. Maybe this is where the road begins for me.

I never believed in God.

Instead, I figured the Universe has a way of bringing things together. The Moon with the Earth. The planets with the Sun. The Sun with the Galaxy. The more we think our way through our problems, the more we interfere with that way. If we get in touch with our souls, with what's in our hearts, we allow the Universe to bring ourselves in tune with whatever was meant to be.

For me, right now, it's here in San Diego, with my Honda ST, and with what little possessions I opted to keep.

I spent the first 45 years of my life learning, and those years weren't necessarily mistakes, just learning.

The next 45 years, I'm going to focus on feeling.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Road to Hell

motorcycle freewayMotorcycles were never intended to sit idle for lengths at a time, nor to be ridden around town to run errands.

At least not a sport tourer like the Honda ST.

It waits patiently in the garage, thinking of the next long ride. I open the door and look at it, and it looks back. Its spirit awakens, like a resting dog lifting its head up off the floor, analyzing my every move.

Some people prefer to dig their roots down deep, build a home and settle into their community. Others are just transitory, looking and waiting for the right moment to start their lives. And then some of us just keep moving on.

We build a dam to hold back the water to create something that will sustain ourselves for a lifetime. It's a continuous job of checking for cracks, patching holes, upgrading equipment, and managing people. And even when you've done your best, the water level rises and you just can't hold it back any longer.

And then, I just want to ride away.

I don my jacket, pick up my helmet, and I can feel that motorcycle connecting with me already. The engine fires up with a sense of resolution that I'll solve these problems once more.

Ah! A freeway never felt so good.

Weaving in and out of traffic, as fast as I can, with no particular direction other than to get out, I can feel the pressure lifting.

Phoenix? Too hot.

Las Vegas? Too much trouble.

Santa Barbara? Too expensive.

Big cities are good for blending into the background. Small towns seem pretty, but everyone knows you. I'm not sure where, just listen to my heart and see what the road brings.

I never intended to cause trouble or pain for anyone. I only wanted to live, love, and laugh. But each of us have dirty laundry, sharing our lives with others always seems to end up hurting someone.

I've heard it said that, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions", yet I can always jump on my motorcycle and find another road.


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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Coming a Thousand Miles, Day 5

Just over one thousand miles separates Casper, WY from my home in Menifee, CA. And yet it doesn't seem like much at all.

I left Provo, UT on my shortened motorcycle ride to make the final 650 miles back home, and all of it on the slab.

For me, just riding the ST1300 is better than not riding at all, no matter if it's on the Interstate or a narrow piece of pavement up a mountain.

And even though my two to three week motorcycle trip was shortened to five days, it seems I still gained the focus and clarity I needed to refresh my conscience. I've been struggling with a conflict between my past and my future, between my mind and my heart, between obligation and freedom. I've become so imprisoned, of my own doing, with guilt and responsibility, that I couldn't feel free to be myself.

Only riding the ST for an extended trip into nowhere particular was all I had to break away, but even that's only temporary.

The ride south along I-15 through Utah, Nevada, and California was hot. It peaked at 115 degrees F through a 20 mile stretch from Baker, CA to Yermo, CA. At that hot, the wind heats up, it doesn't cool down. My leather jacket, with all of its vents open, kept me from dehydrating too quickly.

I saw many cars broken down on the side of the road, all of them abandoned as roadside service vehicles were out in full force.

I knew that one flat tire on my ST, or anything else that went wrong, would leave me stranded on the side of the road as well, but without air conditioning or shade. When temperatures are that hot, you don't realize how precarious the situation is until you're fully immersed in it.

When I finally got home, I made my resolve and addressed the issues I had come back to address. Even in this day, when cell phones make it possible to text, e-mail, or call from anywhere, I needed to do this in person to express myself fully, and move forward with a greater sense of freedom.

And now I've come a thousand miles in conscience alone.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

When You Can Finally See the Horizon, Day 4

Highway 220, Wyoming
Realizing the situation was urgent, I packed up my things and began heading home. This trip I was on was supposed to go two to three weeks, and yet I was already making my way back home after three days.

In another perspective, I had seen much of Wyoming, which consisted of mostly hills and grass. But in a way it was quite stunning to see how vast countryside can be when you don't have all the buildings in the way.

Though Wyoming didn't offer much in the way of twisties, it provided lots of solitude. Highways are sparse with traffic. I'd pull the bike over to get a panorama shot of the landscape and never see another vehicle for miles in either direction.

And solitude was why I did this ride. I needed time to get back in touch with myself, clear my head and feel my soul once more.

What it is that we seek in our lives often gets clouded over by the smaller things that pull on us from every direction. You find yourself managing your life instead of living it.

Somehow a place so vast and so open as Wyoming lets you see past those details and puts the horizon into focus.

Highway 220, Wyoming

But I needed to get home fast.

Once I rolled into Rawlins, WY, I jumped on the I-80 West and did 90mph into Utah, and then Highway 189 into Provo. And somehow there were no cops to be seen.

I was fortunate to have sunshine all the way, except for when I got into Provo. That's when it dumped rain all over me. It poured in buckets. I looked further south and saw only more storm clouds.

So I chose to get a room for the night in Provo.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Storm Clouds That You Didn't See Coming, Day 3

50 miles south of Lander, WY on SH28.
One nice thing about Wyoming is that you can spot a rain storm a hundred miles away. The lightning strikes and the black clouds in the distance give you time to react and adjust.

I was still about 50 miles south of Lander, WY on State Highway 28 in the middle of grassy hills and nothing else, when I realized that storm system was moving fast. I was going a leisurely 70mph and it seemed doubtful I could make town before it hit.

So I reacted by cranking up the throttle to 90mph to make it to Lander and find shelter. It's a good thing Wyoming State Troopers don't patrol these highways; at least I hadn't seen a cop yet.

But I'm too late on the throttle. Winds start blowing, the temperature drops from 85 degrees F to 55 in a matter of minutes. The rain hits. Gusts of wind blows my bike across the road. It's getting too difficult to control. I slow the bike down to 65mph and prepare myself to get soaked.

But luck comes my way, and I see a sign announcing a rest stop ahead. And I'm even more lucky, it has covered picnic tables with coverings large enough to keep me dry. I stop here and wait out the storm.

And the storm gets worse. The winds blow more fierce, hail comes down. I can see the rain falling almost horizontally. How lucky was I that I found this shelter?

Rest stop along SH28, about 30 miles south of Lander, WY

Once the rain subsided, I managed to ride on to Lander, and then found plenty of sunshine to last me into Casper, WY.

I suppose in our relationships you don't always have the luxury of seeing a storm coming your way. You think you're basking in sunshine. You think everything is good.

And then the storm hits you by surprise, like a ton of bricks.

And then you wonder what the heck happened, why you didn't see it coming.

And then you think about your priorities, what means most to you, what's too precious to give up, and what you can save for later.

And then you assess what to do next.

Shelter from the storm
Why I love to take these adventures on the road has to do with a desire to be in touch with myself. To feel the real me apart from all outside influences. On the one hand, it's like running away, and on the other it's like learning something new about myself. And as it turned out, I learned something new again.

So from here, I've made the choice to cut this trip short and head back home. I need to take care of something important. Doing a two-three week ride is something I'll always be able to do another time. But what I stand to lose back home is something I just don't want to lose.

More than likely I'll be overnighting somewhere in Utah tonight, and then back home tomorrow.

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Guided by Our Internal GPS, Day 2

Entrance to Zion National Park
Where you want to go is different than where you need to go. With where you need to go, you must plan and stick to those plans. With where you want to go, you need only follow your heart.

On the morning of Day 2, I looked at Google Maps on my phone and figured I could ride across the State of Utah and wind up at Flaming Gorge.

I started by riding through Zion National Park, one of my favorite national parks, with its twisty roads and majestic rock formations. And while waiting in line to enter the tunnel, I met a fellow sport-touring rider from Quebec. He was on a BMW RT1100, but he didn't say much.

I noticed storm clouds up ahead, and started to rethink my path. If I was to take Highway 12, which is one of the most beautiful roads to ride in my humble opinion, it would take me right into the middle of the downpour, while navigating moderate twisties at high elevations.

Or I could stick to Highway 89, which is more straight, with some easy twisties here and there, but appears to miss most of the rain.

I listened to my heart, and it said to stick to Highway 89.

Downpour on Highway 89, near Panguitch, UT

As such I remained mostly dry, though I did hit patch of hard rain, but only for a few minutes. Yet, I found it relieving. The 100+ degree temperatures that afternoon cooled down to 80+ temperatures in the rain fall, and found myself wishing for more rain.

In Panguitch, I looked for a bar. My mouth was dry and I was hot and sweaty from the heat. But I found no bar, no saloon, no nothing that appeared to serve beer. Then I realized, "I'm in frickin Utah!"

And here I still have another 300-400 miles to get to Flaming Gorge.

I really looked forward to walking into a dimly lit, dive bar and ordering up the best beer they have, which is often Samuel Adams or a Newcastle, and talking to folks about whatever. And now I wondered if I could endure more of this heat without my favorite beverage.

But I knew for certain that there are bars in Salt Lake City, because I've been to them before.

So I did another gut check, and my gut said to go to Salt Lake City.

And that's how I got here.

80 MPH speed limits on the I-15, one of the things I like about Utah

Red Rock Brewery has its own bar and restaurant, and I was able to enjoy a few beer with a chopped salad. Seated next to me was an architect from New York City who was here doing some work. We talked about stuff for awhile. And I also got to visit another favorite bar of mine, Squatters Pub just a block away.

My grandmother, who was a Buddhist, often told me about the Universe and its spiritual force. This force is in everything, including ourselves. When you think, you interfere with that force. But when you let go of your thoughts, let this force guide you, good things happen.

Finishing the day with an
Amber Ale from Red Rock Brewery
It's like when you spend a few minutes looking at the cue ball on a pool table, measuring the angles, and then carefully hitting it just right, only to find that you missed the shot. And then the next time, you simply shoot without thinking and you sink it easily.

That's what I'm talking about.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Road Into Desolation and Beauty, Day 1

Lonely roads that meander through deserts always seem to stir my interest. So dry and so arid, it almost seems lifeless. Few ever want to come here.

I know that something so much as a flat tire could bring about my demise, not because I might lose control of the motorcycle, but because being stranded in such desolation, under 100+ degree temperatures, can be fatal.

Maybe there's a fascination with being so close to death. Maybe it's tempting Fate that draws me in? Somehow the character of this place seems so comforting to me.

The reddish hues of earth found in the hills and canyons around Lake Mead, NV and the nearby Valley of Fire State Park, paints the desert in a different light. Dabs of gray-green sage and chaparral, and a broad brushes of blue skies create a bold contrast to what is otherwise a hot, dry, rocky landscape.

State Highway 169 plots a relaxing but entertaining course through canyons and over hills offering easy twisties along smooth pavement. A sign post up ahead with the number "30" warns me of a more sharp curve coming up. I take notice and slow the ST1300 down to 60mph, but realize I could've done 70.

Highway 169 through Lake Mead National Recreation Area, NV

But I'm not disappointed.

Thinking about my life may seem monotonous at other times, but this time something about the desert and this relaxing ride helps me sort stuff out in a productive way. A place such as this is not so much lonely as it is solitary, and Highway 169 being an easy ride, doesn't demand much of my focus.

But I didn't set out on this ride to think. Rather, I wanted to feel. Feel what's inside me. To feel good about being me, and not having to feel guilty, or responsible anymore.

Eventually, the highway lead me into a town called Overton. At 109 degrees F that afternoon, Overton appeared lifeless too.

I found a dive called "Sportsman's Bar". I decided to stop there for a couple of cold ones. A few people at the bar took notice of me walking in, and then immediately resumed their attention.

"What will you have?" the bartender asked.

"Give me something cold and wet." I answered.

"I'll bring you my ex-wife" he replied.

We had a good conversation after that.

Sportsman's Bar in Overton, NV

Originally, I thought about heading to Zion National Park afterwards and camping out for the night. But I found the weather forecast in Zion to be 100+ degrees F as well, with mid-80s being the coldest overnight. I just didn't want to sleep in a tent under those conditions.

So, I opted to spend the night tonight at Virgin River Hotel & Casino in Mesquite, NV. $25.00 rooms with air conditioning sounded too good to pass up.

Ah! The joys of not planning ahead.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Long Distance Journey to Nowhere

utah desertWhat it boils down to is that I don't really know where I'm headed, nor for how long. And that's the way I planned it.

Tomorrow I'm headed out for a two to three week ride across the western USA. I haven't looked at a map, I haven't made any room reservations. I figure I can spot a campground or a motel along the way and see what's available. I'm not sure if I'll be camping most of the time, or moteling most of the time or what. I just figure I should take my camping gear just in case.

Aside from a few change of clothes, some toiletries, my laptop and cellphone, that's all I'm taking. Anything else I need I can get at a gas station or grocery store along the way.

Isn't that just freedom? When you simply plan to leave but don't plan anything else? It's a mystery what the road will lead you to.

Actually, a couple of destinations do come to mind. I'd like to stop into Sturgis, just to see the place. I don't plan to go there during the actual rally, but maybe a week before. And then, I'd like to visit my mom in Denver.

Also, a friend of mine, Larry, said he'll be doing a coast-to-coast and back again ride around the same time. So maybe if things work out just right, we can hook up somewhere.

One bit of news about Motorcycle Philosophy, I've set up a Twitter and Facebook if you'd like to follow there. I'll try to post some additional photos and thoughts there as I ride across the country...

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Friday, July 22, 2011

A Baptism by Asphalt

Senses become heightened, and anticipation grows great in the waning hours before leaving. I try not to plan or strategize, only to stay in tune with what my spirit calls for.

Finally free, the clutch engages, the rubber bites down, and I'm catapulted into escape!

Temperatures drop the higher the road ascends up mountain passes. Road signs and trees are but a blur across my peripheral vision, leaving me focused at the lines on the road.

The crisp mountain air, the scent of pines, cleanses my mind and washes away the sins influencing my thought processes. I can breathe now, I can listen to my heart, I can feel myself once again.

mountain pass rider
I spot another rider headed the opposite direction. Is he looking to cleanse his mind as well? Is he seeking the same salvation? I hold my hand out, and he holds out his, and we pass each other by in a mere second.

And for just that second, we made a connection. That we're here at this same place and time, on the same quest, with the same understanding. Hands need not be shaken, and business cards need not be traded, only an acknowledgment is necessary to have made a friend.

Yet each of us remains alone to reconnect with ourselves and to reset our minds to that simple essence inside of us.

"It's all a matter of perspective" the old saying goes. But who's perspective? Who influences me? Am I really in control of myself?

I don't really know where I'm headed. The destination isn't the point. The journey itself need be the only quest.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Roads I Didn't Take

tenaja roadJust pick a road and follow it, is what people often say.

A road doesn't offer any promises, doesn't claim to take you where you plan on going, doesn't guarantee any smooth sailing. It is only what it is, just a road.

It's a road less traveled, one that few ever want to ride, but seemingly combines glorious views of pristine Southern California wilderness, the trickle of running water, the songs of birds, and the aroma of wildflowers, yet it does so along a narrow, bumpy, sandy path filled with tight turns that kept me riding slowly between first and second gear.

I could have spent time admiring my surroundings, but the technical nature of this road demanded more attention, and left me wondering why such a road that offers such serene beauty, demands one to look at only pavement.

tenaja road creek
And it seems like that's how everything is, in opposite extremes that compete against each other. Whether it's beauty and ugly, rain and sunshine, love and hate, right and wrong, it's always a struggle to find our comfortable balance between the two. Did I choose this road to get someplace, or was it because I wanted to indulge my senses?

Another road up ahead comes into view and I wonder if it's worth following. I turn my head and look down as I pass it by to see if it might go somewhere or just dead end.

I'm already half-way along this route but decide to turn back and see where that other road goes. Will I find more beautiful scenery? Will it take me someplace memorable? Or will it disappoint and cause me trouble? Am I better off sticking to the road I was on?

I guess I'll never know if I don't check it out.

Perhaps if all I had to worry about was myself, it wouldn't matter. If I didn't have other commitments, or didn't make other promises, I'd have all the time in the world to take a chance on a different road, and uncover the mystery of what lies behind the next curve.

But I'm really only adding pressure to myself with these thoughts, ending up only confused, and constantly at odds with deciding what to do and where to go. Perhaps in life we pass by many roads that we chose not to take; the balance between keeping focus on the road, looking at all the wonder around us, and even the constant reevaluation of our decisions, leave us to second-guess or to justify our choices.

As riders always say, "It's not the destination, but the journey".

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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...)