Thursday, December 12, 2013

Are Dreams Another Form of Existence?

motorcycle tunnel vision
Often times I can't remember where I've traveled to. As the trip unfolds, it's amazing and fantastic, but yet in the end, I can't seem to remember the journey. It's as if there's a part of my life that remains mysterious.

If I'm jealous of Sash, it's that she can remember her dreams so vividly. She tells me about them in such great detail, that I'm left dumbfounded how I'm unable to recall anything. I know I dream, because I see very vague hints of what I dreamed, but still not clear enough to associate a few descriptive phrases.

"It's OK, you just had a bad dream", people will often say to each other when one wakes up in the middle of night yelling. It's way to calm someone down from thinking they are about to be physically harmed.

Certainly dreams are real. But are they reality?

To answer that question, one must define what reality is.

But reality is difficult to define because each person has their own belief of what is real. One man believes that God is real, simply because he believes it to be true. Another man may contend that physical evidence must be gathered before one can declare something to be real.

But "physical" is a conditional term. It's limited to what our five senses can detect. Are there other forms of information out there that we cannot detect?

We know sharks can detect the presence of other beings via electricity. Birds can navigate by magnetism. Bees can see objects via ultraviolet light. Mosquitoes can detect the presence of carbon dioxide. Certainly there is lot of information out there that humans are blinded to.

God and Heaven could be right there in front of us, but we don't believe them to exist because our five senses can't detect their presence. But what if our bodies possessed the mechanism to detect their existence? Wouldn't we then consider God and Heaven to be within the realm of science?

So are dreams just as much a part of the physical world? Do dreams not affect the physical body (stress, movement, vocal, sexual,)? Do we not learn and grow from our dreams just as much with everything else in our lives?

It makes we wonder if there are people who spend most of their existence within their dreams.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

There's No Such Thing as Forever

mattole road motorcycle
Mattole Road, Humboldt County, CA, March 2011
Since my teen years, from when I would ride my bicycle far away from home, running away from the loneliness and hurt of being an "unwanted stepchild", life has been a road. It's been a linear journey of going from one place to another and making turns down different paths.

I had grown up knowing that "forever" never really meant forever.

So when I was finally faced with the saving grace of being permanently anchored to something that I could grow from, I vowed to do something that my mother and father never made good on, honoring the sanctity of a promise.

And yet as with my mother and father, life brought me to another fork in the road, albeit 20 years later.

At least my mom and dad each recognized that you can't save a sinking ship.  And they've been around long enough to know that honoring something doesn't really get you anywhere.  I tried to be the hero that kept the ship afloat, and when people asked me how things were going I always told them all was well.  I wanted to know that I wasn't going to be like my mom and dad.

"It's about time!" each of them told me when they found out I had finally abandoned ship.

Some people have been able to remain committed to another person or to another institution or even to a specific brand of motorcycle, for the rest of their lives.  They even express that commitment by tattooing its name to their bodies.  But at what price does that commitment cost?

What other opportunities of growth and enrichment are we depriving ourselves of by remaining fixed to something?

Why do we make promises knowing that we can never predict the future?

And why I would believe that this time is different, and that this time really means forever?

If I can gradually eliminate "stuff" from my life, to the point where I become more transparent, more in touch with myself, and more reliant on my own faculties, then why do I need security?  Why do I need the promise of forever?

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Monday, November 18, 2013

The Rush to Judgement

sportbike riders
Some years ago, when I was a Harley rider, I'd hear from other Harley riders about the "idiots" on sportbikes. One of them was sure to tell me about the guy they saw riding 100+ MPH down the freeway weaving in and out of cars.

"They give motorcycle riders a bad name" they'd say.

Now that I ride a sport touring bike, I don't get many Harley riders coming to me with that sentiment.

I do, however, still hear people in general tell me about the idiots on motorcycles. And true, there are idiots out there.

But is 2 seconds really enough time to judge someone an "idiot"?

I've ridden my motorcycle over 100 MPH on a number of occasions. I even did that on my Harley. But I don't do it all the time. In fact, I rarely do it.

I'll bet however, in those instances when I rode that fast, someone saw me and told their friends about the "idiot" they saw on a motorcycle.

I was having a day when I felt rebellious, angry, or had a wild hair up my ass.  I think everyone has those days, even Harley riders.  It's not fair to label me an idiot for 2 seconds of whoosh that sped past your eyes.

In all fairness, it's not just Harley riders who point their fingers.  I've witnessed sportbike riders complain that Harley riders are inexperienced posers who can't handle a motorcycle.

Why do we rush to judge and categorize people as idiots?

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Monday, November 11, 2013

From Vanilla to Me in 60 Seconds

5th & Redwood, San Diego
Since returning to San Diego last month from our six month motorcycle trip, Sash and I haven't done any joy riding. Motorcycling has largely been a means of transportation.

On the one hand, after riding across the country, I suppose it feels good to just relax in our native Southern California and put more focus into our Internet marketing and publishing work. And even though we did a lot of work on the road over those six months, we still lost a lot of productivity with having to travel from state to state.

As I took my Honda ST up a hill this afternoon in the quiet and quaint Mission Hills community, I came to a stop sign and the sight of moms dropping off kids at a park for soccer practice. I then realized how connected to the hip I am of my motorcycle.  Perhaps when you get to a point where a motorcycle is the only way you ever get around, you start to lose focus of its recreational points.

Oh, I still enjoy riding it, and I wouldn't give it up now. But because the motorcycle has become so much a part of my life, I don't see it as recreation anymore.  Where one rider awaits the weekend to take his Harley through the back country, my ST is being ridden everyday just to help me take care of daily living.

If anything, driving my pickup truck is an escapism.

But I don't want that kind of escapism.

I actually like the idea that I'm so joined at the hip to my motorcycle.  I realize that other people see me as either pathetic for having so little, stupid for throwing everything away, or brave for not having a safety net.  But it really feels like escape when I have nothing real to stand on but my own two feet.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Only Dead Riders are Unsafe Riders

Hearing someone tell me to "ride safe" as they bid me goodbye hasn't ever found a final resting place in the synapses of my neurons. Yet, I continue to hear those words from people and they continue to fire around until at some point my conscience tunes them out of focus.

"Of course I'm going to ride safe!", I think to myself.

But what the Hell is safe riding anyway?

Is it correct to say that only dead riders are "unsafe riders"?

If I'm able to ride a motorcycle and still be alive and well, then aren't I a "safe rider"?

Does it really matter if I wear gear or not, ride fast or slow, drink alcohol or iced tea?  As long as I get to my destination in good condition, then I rode safely, right?

Think about helmets.

There are riders who wear helmets with the highest safety ratings, yet some of them still died in motorcycle accidents.  On the other hand, there were riders who wear novelty helmets (skid lids), that also got into motorcycle accidents, but suffered little to no head injury.

If being alive and well is the end goal of safe riding, then I suppose it doesn't matter what helmet you wear.  If you're still riding your motorcycle, then you've done just fine, whatever you did.

It's only when you die in a motorcycle accident, where it was your fault, that people can point to your helmet, point to your speed, point to your lack of training, point to your electronic gadget distraction, point to your handlebar mounted cup holder, and everything else under the sun, on why you were an "unsafe rider".


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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Motorcycle Road Trips Becoming More High Tech

motorcycle camping laptops
My friend Mike and our bikes on a road trip a few years ago.
After reading jmadog's post entitled, "Anticipation", where he opines about motorcycle riders becoming addicted to their cellphones, I couldn't help thinking about this in a more grand scale.

Today, when we go out on a motorcycle ride, we still take our world with us.

It used to be as recently as the 1970s, when we left home, we left our world behind.  We couldn't take our telephone with us.  There was no GPS.  We didn't have mobile computers.  We couldn't search for the best hotel rates in advance.  We didn't have ATM cards.  Even if we had credit cards, a lot of places still didn't accept them.

But today, I still have my world with me.  With smartphones, laptops, GPS, SPOT Tracker, GoPro, MP3 players, Wi-Fi and 4G connectivity, it seems being left to our own devices now has a new meaning.  And with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, even our friends on the cloud.  All that shit I wanted to leave behind?  It follows me through e-mails, text messages, and voice.  I'm never on a vacation.

When we leave home for a long road trip, we're not really leaving home at all.  We're just changing the scenery.

On the other hand, it feels good to remain constantly connected to my world, wherever I am.  Even in a strange city full of strangers, I still feel at ease and in security.

But if I strive to remain constantly connected like this, will I ever find the courage to throw it all away and rely on the strength inside?

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Devil in the Details

St. Elmo Bar, Bisbee, AZ
It seems like a lot of motorcycle bloggers have an article entitled, "Why I ride a motorcycle".  This entire website is devoted to that subject, shooting off into different directions and exploring each detail.

Popeye used to say, "I am what I am, and that's all what I am."  Yet, there are hundreds of self-help psychology books focused on that very same sentence.

Losing weight is as simple as eating healthy and exercising more.  Yet, there are thousands of strange diet plans that offer the same concept in a more detailed and confusing way.

Sometime it's best to keep a thought simple and allow others to explore the minutiae of what it means for them.

Each individual has his/her own personal filter, built on their life's experiences, that makes it impossible for one writer to take a single thought, extend it to hundreds of pages of detail, and get millions of people to arrive at the same conclusion.

Maybe an article entitled, "Why I ride a motorcycle" could just be a photo of a glass of beer and a motorcycle helmet. Maybe a self-help psychology book would be better off with just a single page with a single sentence.  Maybe the next new diet fad could be sold as a bag containing a banana and a pair of running shoes.

By writing out so much detail, we stifle peoples' own creative juices to explore what it means to them.

It's said that "a picture is worth a 1,000 words".

Perhaps all I need to do is show you a photo, and let each of you write your own words, using your own life's filter.


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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Best City to Visit in America

beale street memphis bike night
Sash at Beale Street Bike Night, Memphis, TN
When I tell someone that Sash and I rode motorcycles across the United States for six months before coming back to San Diego, the one question they always ask us is...

"So, what place did you really enjoy the most?"

And, that's really hard to answer.

I usually tell them, "Memphis, TN". That's because without having to spend too much time thinking about it, we did actually have a lot of good times there. I loved the food, I loved Beale Street, I loved the placed we stayed at, I loved meeting the folks at Monogram Foods, and it just seemed like each day we were there we had a lot of fun.

But the fact is that we had a lot of fun at lot of other places.

And also, some places we stayed for a week while others we stayed for a day. It's hard to judge.

Actually, Knoxville, TN seemed more like my kind of town, full of craft beer bars, live bluegrass bands gathering on the street, and very much the Southern Hospitality we hear about back West. Nashville, on the other hand, seemed like a real party town, but I found it too commercialized, kinda like Gas Lamp District in San Diego. But then again, I often have a good time in Gas Lamp, so I imagine if I spent more days in Nashville, I'd like it too.

Tulsa, OK
Albuquerque, NM
Tucson, AZ
Denver, CO
Philadelphia, PA
Virginia Beach, VA
Asheville, NC
Columbus, OH
Indianapolis, IN
Des Moines, IA
Minneapolis, MN
Salt Lake City, UT
Las Vegas, NV

These are all towns we stayed at that we had some good times in, or more, and could have a really big blast in if we spent more time. There are more towns I didn't list because we just didn't have the time to see everything. And there are many more towns we didn't visit that we've heard good things about.

The most interesting thing to note in these towns is differences in attitudes.

I never thought Des Moines, IA had a vibrant culture, very comparable to East Village in San Diego. Kinda upscale, more techie with a touch of bohemia, very much into craft brewing, eclectic food, and bicycling. I figured the People of the Corn was still into biscuits and gravy and Old Milwaukee, but I guess times have changed.

Downtown Asheville, NC
And I always thought North Carolina was full of hicks and sticks. But Asheville was far more bohemian, almost Portlandia. It's full of neo-hippies, Belgian ales, Universalism, free love, and whatever else gets you high.

Then there's Minneapolis, the Great White North, well almost. I figured it was full of Scandinavian descendants with vodka and pickled herring. But instead it's very well diverse, with a wide array of ethnic subcultures. There's a Little Russia, and apparently a Little Somalia. I never figured that Minnesota was the place to for real, down home style, African pirate cuisine.

And oddly enough, some of the best Chinese delivery I had was in Steamboat Springs, CO. The Mapo Tofu had some great ginger going on, nothing like I had ever tasted anywhere else.

What's more, some of the best Mexican eats I had was way out in South Boston, VA, a little joint in a shopping center. If only the folks of South Boston knew just how good they have it.

And whoever thought that Burlington, IA was home to the tightest twisted road in the world?

I could go on and on.

But all this makes me itching to go see more.

Sure, I still love SoCal, and will always think of it as my home. But I'm really eager to get out and see more of the USA. For all I know, the best fried chicken might be going on in Fargo, ND, or that spider monkeys run rampant in Joplin, MO, or that Bangor, ME produces 80% of the world's dildos.

I guess we just have to point our handlebars and find out.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Road Pickle Part 2 Begins Now

After being on the road for nearly six months, riding across the country and back, getting rained on, hailed on, cropdusted, sunburned, and nearly killed by ignorant cagers, we're now entering the 2nd phase of Road Pickle.

Even though we're back in San Diego, where it all started, we're still homeless. For the next 30 days, we're staying in a house we've rented out. Even though it's where we're sleeping, eating, and screwing, it doesn't feel like home. That is, it's filled with the furniture, clothes, pots and pans of the guy who lives here the rest of the year. It even still has his 15 foot Burmese Python which hisses at us when we walk by.

But Sash and I agreed that when we came back to San Diego, we'd take a more slow pace, staying in cities for up to a month instead of up to a week.  That's Part 2.

The shorter, week-long stays we did during Part 1 were long enough to get a good feel for the town, see some stuff, and then get going.  And we needed that because we ended up developing an itinerary, even though we initially said we didn't want one.  That is, we arranged to meet friends and family, visiting fellow bloggers, see particular sites and ride particular roads.  We also had to fit them all into a 6 month window, with 3 months out east, and 3 months back west.

Except, we still had work to do. That is, Road Pickle wasn't meant to be a vacation. It was meant to be a new way of living. We still have our respective Internet businesses to run. I still needed to time to sit down in a hotel room to write all my articles and administer all of my websites. She had articles to write also, but clients to build relations with.  It's difficult to keep up with all that, while still meeting people, seeing places, and riding roads.

And then there's my diet regimen.

Such a road trip puts extra inches of belly and ass on one's person, considering all the great eateries people advise us to visit. And watching the Travel Channel in our hotel room doesn't help when I see the lips of Guy Fieri and Adam Richman accommodate such sauce-dripping wonders of American-style road decadence.

It seemed like if we had more time to stay put in a particular town, I'd feel more at ease to spend a few nights each week gnawing on carrots and celery stalks. Then I'd feel better about sucking ribs and burgers, and slamming down pints of thick, heavy ale.

I'd also have to time to get work done, and Sash would have to time let her aches and pains heal. We'd also have time to do more local riding.

Staying a month at a time also gets us better rates on hotel rooms and vacation rentals.

So for Part 2 of Road Pickle, we haven't stopped Road Pickle at all.  We're still relying on our motorcycles full time, we're still living with what we can pack on them.  We're just in "living" mode instead of "road trip" mode.

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Friday, August 2, 2013

Placing Expectations on Bikers

Much is made about the sexuality of motorcycles and leather, where two-wheeled v-twin rebellion clad in black-dyed cowhide sweeps up a young nubile nymph and carries her away at 100mph to a hill far away where her naked body is laid down on a blanket under the stars and held down under a welcomed restraint as he brands her with his iron and claims her as his own.

But you never hear about the sexuality of motorcycles and textile jackets.

It's as if somehow the romanticism is all ruined if he's wearing a polyester, mesh paneled, riding jacket with a giant white Alpine Stars logo on the back.

And should a young nubile nymph agree to ride on the back of such a rider's motorcycle, what would her fantasy be? Is it still the same unbridled passion represented ad nauseum on the covers on trashy romance novels? Or is it more like, "Slow this god damned thing down before you get us both killed!"

I like to think that whatever jacket I'm wearing on my sport touring bike still looks awfully handsome and sexy to Sash.  At least I hope so.  I mean, I don't want to be purely a riding geek.  I still want to know that I'm bad ass in her book (and maybe the books of a few other girls too).

It didn't help me that Visor Down published a recent article describing my beloved Honda ST1300 as a bike primarily ridden by middle-aged guys.

But then again wait a minute... I'm 47 years old!

Originally, I thought I trading in my 2005 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Couch for a sport touring bike was making a move towards getting younger. I always thought Harleys were the bikes of old fat guys whose cerebellums had slowed down and therefore couldn't react as quickly as they used to.

I mean, generally, the life cycle of a motorcyclist usually starts with getting a dirt bike when you were a kid, then getting some kind Universal Japanese Motorcycle, moving on to a speed demon sport bike.  And after so many crashes and broken ribs, they retired themselves to a Milwaukee-assembled V-Twin.

But there are those few riders who started out like most others, except decided that cruisers just aren't their thing.

Is it because we like quieter engines?

It is because a textile jacket with a large white Alpine Stars logo looks stupid on a Harley?

Is it because we don't see ourselves as the male-end of a trashy romance novel?

But on the other side of the coin, I don't want the general public to think that they meet the nicest people on a Honda.  I didn't buy my Honda because I'm a nice guy, and I didn't even buy it because it's a Honda.  I bought it because it offered me the performance, handling, and amenities I wanted at a reasonable price.  If Harley could offer the same thing, I would have considered it.

I'm still the same 19 year old who kick started that Kawasaki KZ400 many years ago.  I'm still the same college guy who used that old bike as a strategy towards putting girls on their backs.  Just because it's now a sport touring bike favored by many middle-aged guys, doesn't somehow change the trashy romance novel to a self-help book on low-carb dieting.

And just because I'm married doesn't mean I won't ride your wife out to the hills.  :-)

Of course, I'm no outlaw either.  I'm only looking to be the guy I am on the inside which is a complicated balance of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Tickle Me Elmo.  How that is reflected in the motorcycle I ride and the gear I wear is all there, Honda and all.

But eyes are deceiving.

Eyes are too easily tricked by icons and brands.  We see what's on the surface and fill in the blanks for what lies underneath, and there's far too many fish in the sea to spend any amount of time filleting each one by hand.

But it always fun to fantasize.

It's just always a disappointment when we place expectations on others.

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Laying My Grandmother to Rest

This morning, I learned that my grandmother passed away.

She died June 10, 2011.

I last saw her in the late 1990s, I don't remember exactly when.

The only thing that Fujiko did well was survive.  She didn't know how to love.  She didn't know to comfort.  She only knew how to lie, cheat, and play you along for a fool.  Everyone thought she was just a sweet old Japanese lady who was lost in a complicated Western society, but she was much more smart than that. She survived growing up with the Japanese incarnation of Satan.  She survived the Allied Bombing of Tokyo.  She survived sex slavery and domestic slavery for 50 years.  And dying at age 93 is a testament to her skills.

"Stee-vuh" she would cry into my telephone answering machine.  "E-muh-gen-cee!!  E-muh-gen-cee!  I need-a help!!"

Her Japanese accent was still so thick even in her 80s.

I never answered the phone in those days, electing to let the answering machine answer it.  My grandmother knew that of me, and did her best get me to pick up the phone.

And it's always same thing.  

"I got a letter from Cleveland."

Cleveland, Ohio was where the Defense Department administered its retirees.  It was so important for her to know what was going on with Cleveland because her husband's Air Force retirement was largely all that supported her.  

Donald Lee Plato wasn't my grandfather, but her second husband.  It was in the late 1940s in post-war Japan that Fujiko met Donald.  Donald was in the Air Force, stationed in Tokyo.  In the early 1940s, Fujiko had run a beauty salon in Tokyo.  It was actually her father's beauty salon, he bought it so that she could have a job to do.  He collected the money and gave her a stipend to support herself and her two daughters.

The father of her two daughters, my real grandfather, was fighting in the Japanese Army, somewhere out in Manchuria.

But in 1945, the Allies rendered her beauty salon into rubble.

So without a job, Fujiko turned back to her father, who was actually very wealthy from a successful career as an architect.  So, he turned her into a prostitute and pimped her out to American soldiers in Tokyo.  He collected the money, and gave her a stipend to support herself and her two daughters.

When his brother found out about this, he intervened.  He was a high ranking official in the Tokyo Police Department.  He gave her a job as an informant, spying on illegal drug activity.  He told her where to go, who to watch, and what to report.  

Around 1949, about four years after the end of WWII, her husband came back from Manchuria.  But he was badly injured, suffering some kind of sickness, and afflicted with PTSD.  He slept all day, and was unable to do anything for himself.  But by then, Fujiko had already divorced him.  Because he never sent a word back all the years he was away, she assumed he was killed in action, and convinced the Court to annul the marriage.  But she took him back in and supported him with the money she earned as an informant.

Eventually, a gang of thugs caught on to her spying activities, and beat the hell out of her.  They wrapped her body in a bamboo rug, and tossed her into the Arakawa River to die.

When she freed herself from the rug, and reported back to her Uncle (the one who gave her the job), he told her that she could no longer stay in Japan, or else risk being caught by the gang and being killed for certain.

So, she looked up Donald, whom she had sold herself for sex numerous times in her prostitution days.  He agreed to marry her and take her back to the States.  The caveat was that she had to serve him as a domestic slave, which she agreed to.

Fujiko took her two daughters to her father, and left them with him, and then left Japan with Donald.

My mother grew up with her grandfather, who was perhaps the Japanese incarnation of Satan.  The man had already beaten Fujiko her entire life, then pimped her out.  And now he had his hands on my mother and her younger sister.  Despite his wealth, he never provided my mother and her sister with food and clothing.  They tended his little farm, grew their own food, and sewed their own clothes.  My mother never forgave her mother her leaving her with him.

My grandmother's first marriage. Her father standing above-right with the bow-tie. He arranged this marriage to ensure his surname would carry on.  Fujiko was his first-born, and he didn't have any sons.  Fujiko's husband (seated to her right) was required to take her surname.
At 16, my mother ran away from home and survived on the streets of Yokohama. It wasn't until she was 24 that she married my father, a sailor in the US Navy.

In 1972, my mother took citizenship classes in San Diego.  I was six years old then.  By some strange twist of fate, her mother was attending the same citizenship class.  The instructor called out role, and she heard him say, "Fujiko".  She turned to look, and saw an older Japanese woman, who looked something like the photo of her mother.

I remember when Fujiko, Donald, and their four-year old daughter Susan, came to visit us for the first time.

Susan and I were playing in my bedroom, and I don't know why, but as a six year old, I felt a sudden urge to kiss her, and planted one.  She jumped up from the bed, ran into the living room to tell everyone that I had kissed her.  I was so embarrassed.

When I was seven, my mom and her mom had the biggest fight ever.  It was my birthday party.  Fujiko was drunk as could be, cussing and swearing in front of the other kids.  My mom bitched her out and then kicked her out.  It was just the opportunity my mom needed to really get all the anger out.  Another couple of years went by before we saw my grandmother again.

In the 1990s, Donald suffered a stroke that left him a quadriplegic.  He lay in a rolling bed in their living room.  He was now at Fujiko's mercy.  And Fujiko showed no mercy.  Yelling at him, hitting him, ignoring him, humiliating him, she gave back everything she owed him after decades of domestic slavery.

One day, at my mother's request, I visited them.  She only wanted me to help her get her finances in order.  Fujiko brought out a cardboard box filled Donald's sex paraphernalia.  There were photos of him and his girlfriends.  There were sex toys.  She picked up a sex toy and held it in the air so that Donald could see it, and he shook his head in anger, but was incapable of moving or saying anything.

"He like sucka" she said.  "He want me to do sucka.  But I no do sucka.  That's soooo bad.  So, he have girlfriend who do sucka."

She shook her head, and pointed the sex toy at him with an angry look.

I felt sorry for her.  This was a woman who never had anyone love her.  Even her daughters hated her for abandoning them in Japan.  Her husband treated her like trash.  The daughter they had together, Susan, hated her too.  As a result, she didn't know how to love.  

The only thing that could make her cry was the memory of her own mother.  Four-year old Fujiko had innocently remarked to her father that "I have two daddy's!"  It turns out her mother was having sex with another man.  Immediately, her father divorced her mother, and took her and her younger sister away, never to see her mother again.  She didn't even have a photo of her mother.  Fujiko spent the rest of her life blaming herself for that divorce.

I remember her crying on my shoulder when she told me about her mom.  And I, with my loneliness and emptiness of growing up, didn't have ability to comfort her.

Fujiko ended up using me too.  She wanted me to review paperwork from Cleveland, and advise how to proceed.  I gave her advice, but she wouldn't take it.  She'd only compare it to advice given to her by several other people, and then take a consensus.  It made me feel insignificant.

And I never felt close to her anyway.  My mother largely kept me away from her because of her inability to forgive her.  I wish I could find something positive to say about my grandmother, but all that I can come up with is that she was a product of her environment.

On the highways I travel through the United States and see old decaying buildings covered with vines, and find her memory.  Rusted signs of obsolete soft drinks remind me of times when I was a kid that she'd offer me a can of Bubble-Up or a Nesbitt Grape Soda.  I pass by and wonder if my grandmother is hiding inside the musty, dusty chambers of abandoned gas stations.  She never seemed like the type to spread her wings and soar into the clouds.  She'd only hide behind a facade and make you feel sorry for her.

I stopped visiting my grandmother somewhere in the late 1990s and subsequently lost contact with her.

It was a couple years ago that my mom and I were talking about her.

"She's probably dead by now", I told her.

It turns out I was right.


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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I Miss the West

Highway 108, California, June 2011, over the Sierra Nevadas
Seeing photographs that Mike posted of his ride through Idaho and Oregon sent a strange emotion in me that I had never felt before. The pines, the oaks, the 14,000 foot mountain ranges, and with nary a civilization in sight, suddenly felt like home to me.

Despite my best efforts to convince myself that I no longer have a place to call home, I still feel the West drawing me back to its wide open spaces, it's drier climate, and the smell of fresh air.

It's like that old saying, "You don't know what you have until you lose it."

On the eastern side of the Mississippi River, everything seems to change. People are different. Culture is different.

Even the roadways seem different.

People often referred to me as "the human GPS", because I've been able to memorize routes, turns, and where things are. But in the East, I've failed to do that. I think it's because nothing makes sense out here.

For example, in New Jersey, along Highway 18, you can't make left turns. In order to take a left off the highway, you have to turn right, find the loop that takes you back to Highway 18, and then go across it. You figure the Highway is designed that way to increase traffic flow, yet Highway 18 is still nightmarish traffic jam during the day.

Road signs are poorly marked within the Eastern States. Often, I miss the road I'm supposed to turn down because the street sign is so small, I can't read it until I've passed it by. Road names change far more often in the East than they do in the West. What shows on Google Maps with one name, was already renamed to something else.

And I can't believe how expensive and how numerous toll roads are. Each state has toll booths strategically placed so that you can't avoid them, and it's too much out of the way to go around them. In Baltimore, every bridge and tunnel is tolled, and then they toll the Interstates again when you leave the city.

I thought I had the State of Maryland beat when I avoided the I-95 toll north of the Susquehanna River, by taking the US-40 instead, through Havre De Grace. But nope, they have that tolled up too.

What really irked me about the tolls, is that they charged each motorcycle separately. So for example, the the $8.00 a vehicle toll on the I-95 at the Susquehanna River, was actually $16.00 for the two of us. I mean, both bikes are still four wheels and two people, why can't that be just one toll?

The last time Maryland will ever collect a toll from me.
We paid $64.00 in tolls for four days in Maryland.

When Sash and I rode from Baltimore to New Brunswick, NJ, I tried to avoid the tolls. I looked at the map and plotted a route that avoided toll booths and turnpikes. Unfortunately, it meant going through a lot of stop lights, and rush-hour traffic through Philadelphia. It was a very long ride, and all it did was make Sash's body ache even more, which made me feel ashamed for trying to stick it to the Man.

And I suppose folks in the East are used to it, and that they consider it something to be thankful for.

Yeah, I know that there are toll roads in the west, but they're still mostly privatized highways, not government owned. I don't seem to mind paying a toll as long as my taxes are not already paying for it. And I like the way California handled the Coronado Bay Bridge and the Vincent Thomas Bridge, removing the tolls after they earned enough money to offset their construction.

I guess the East has found a way to capitalize on its traffic congestion.

It's like how lawmakers keep wanting increase surcharges on cigarettes. Once you're hooked on that nicotine, politicians can milk you dry, and it's not easy for you to stop smoking.

Now I understand why so many Easterners have moved West.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Who Your Real Friends Are

One thing I've discovered after three months of riding my motorcycle across the country, is that friends are not necessarily who I thought they were.

I mean, we all have friends.

But there are friends who will call you or keep in touch with you somehow no matter where you are.  Even if they can't be with you physically, they still want to stay touch with you in some form or another. 

So before I left San Diego, I had friends that I rode with.  We called each other, often to arrange a group ride, or just to get folks together to hang out somewhere.  But now that I'm out of town, indefinitely, I don't get calls from them.  At best, I get comments or Likes on my Facebook posts, and even then it's not often.

To be fair, I don't really call them on the phone either.  Perhaps you get what you give.

But moving away from a permanent residence is a great way to find out who really cares about you.  And maybe by moving away I've discovered that I'm a poor friend.

On the other hand, I've been like this my entire life.  Solitude has been my comfort, as I don't socialize very well.  I find it difficult to engage in conversation, and do better at expressing myself in writing.  Being on the road and never putting down roots seems to feel at home to me for that very reason.

Friendships exist in varying degrees like anything else.  The more you put into a friend, the more he or she pays you back.  I'd be happy to put more into the friends I had, except I always had this thought in my head that I was bothering them.  I didn't want to be the guy that people didn't want to have around.  So, I left them alone.

I had thought that my friends would post comments on Road Pickle, or even this blog, Motorcycle Philosophy, but they don't, and I wonder why that is.  Are they also concerned about bothering me? Or did I just not invest much of myself into those friendships?  Or do I have a habit of friending people who don't comment on blogs?

I guess that's an insecurity of mine.

Somehow, it has influenced my decision to make motorcycling a major part of my life.  

Part of the equation is that a couple of years ago I divorced my first wife, shed some of the facades I hid behind, and made myself a little more transparent.  I remarried to a woman who did the same thing.  The friends we used to have were people who liked our old selves.  Now that we're more focused on the being the real people we are inside, much of those people don't like what they see.

But despite the cold, silent demeanor I often put forth, I'm really quite the opposite inside.  I yearn for companionship, for friends that I can open up and share the more intimate sides of me.  I have much to tell to someone interested in making an investment in one another.  But again, my social skills are poor.

I often wonder how many other motorcycle riders are like me.  Is this a characteristic of people who leave everything behind and spend their lives riding across the country?  Am I subconsciously running away from my insecurities, or am I testing my friends to find out who really cares?


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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Desensitized From the Distance

Now that Sash and I have hit the 3-month mark on our motorcycle road trip across the USA, I find my perception of community greatly altered.

That is, we just left Sash's uncle house in Lincoln University, PA, where we stayed for five nights.  Her uncle lamented our departure, and repeated his assurances that we were invited to stay with him again at any time.

"Yeah, we'll definitely be back on our next swing to the East", I said, referring to our plans to make our motorcycle road trip an indefinite, if not permanent, way of living.

But isn't riding your motorcycle across the United States, from one coast to the other, supposed to be a huge endeavor?  Isn't that something riders only do once (maybe twice) in their lifetime?  Yet here I was, telling Sash's uncle that we'll be back soon, right after we ride back to California for a breather.

It's like my sense of geographic neighborhood has changed.  Somehow, my "backyard" just got huge, really huge, in a short span of time.

In fact, just this evening, Sash and I talked about our next nine months of destinations, spitting out names like Montana, Texas, Florida, South Dakota, as if they're just weekend getaways, like the distances between these states are insignificant.  I mean, it used to be that going to Texas was a vacation.  It meant saving up money, asking for time off, and paying the neighbor's kid to pick up newspapers off the driveway.

Now, Texas is just another fix in our road trip addiction.

"What do you feel like mainlining?  Some Indiana?  Some Wyoming?  I hear Oregon will get you really fucked.  Yeah, let's shoot some Oregon!"

I mean, the sense of how far and how long it takes to ride a motorcycle to one of these states is now lost on me.  They're just names now.  They all have motels, they all have bars, and they all have Wi-Fi.  Otherwise, what's really difference between Oklahoma and Pennsylvania?

If anything, riding our motorcycles to another country like Mexico or Canada would generate some excitement, because now we're talking Pesos and Loonies, Spanish and French, Modelo and Molson.

And we'll do those countries in time.

But then what?  Will I be telling a sad-faced Alejandra that we'll be back to see her on our next swing to Chihuahua?  Will Sash and I start tossing up names like Yukon, Nunavut, and Prince Edward Island as if they're in the same backyard as Palm Springs and Bakersfield?

I guess as I get to a point where I become more desensitized of how far away these places are, the unique topography of the land, the accent in the voices, and the nuances in the culture, all becomes static white noise when I walk outside of my motel room.  It's still just sunshine and asphalt, birds and butterflies, barking dogs and honking horns.

Some mornings I wake up, and I try to recall what State I'm in.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On Becoming a Brand

road pickle
After reading Sash's recent post about extending our six-month motorcycle road trip into an indefinite period of time, you've probably figured by now that we're just going to ride forever. And you might be right.

I think about going back home, often. But where is home anyway?

We moved out of our apartment, gave up on the lease. There is no home to go to.

Two-and-a-half months into this road trip, I still feel as if I never left home. All I have with me, the familiar things, my motorcycle, my laptop, and Sash herself, are my home.

Honestly, I think about where we are, geographically, and what comes to mind is how backlogged I am with my work, how long we have left staying in this motel/hotel, and how much Sash makes me feel comfortable. Right now, for example, we're in Norfolk, VA, and it doesn't really matter to me. I could be in Bangor, ME or in Corpus Christie, TX, and I'd still feel the same.

So if I went back to San Diego, what would I do there?

I'd do all the same stuff: my work, ride my motorcycle, hang out at the bar, have sex at night.

Staying in San Diego for years at a time, doesn't change the way I feel inside, or make me more at ease. If anything, it just gives me the same scenery and offers me the same bar to hang out at. I like having a new city to sleep in every week or so, even if I don't go out and see much of it, I like the idea that the few things I have with me seem to be the only things I need.

A few days ago, Sash and I attended a picnic held by a local motorcycle group called Tidewater Bikers. They invited us after the owners of Precision Motorcycles told them that the Road Pickle crew had just left one of their bikes with them for maintenance. When we went to the picnic, one of the women there said, "Oh my God, you're the Road Pickle lady!"

The Road Pickle Lady.

Doesn't that say it all right there?

We could go back to San Diego and just let it all end right there. But thus far, Road Pickle has given Sash and I an identity we've never had. Now, we stand for something within the greater motorcycle community, and during the time other people have reached out to us to say that we've inspired them in some way or another. So why let all that momentum end?

So now, when people ask me where I'm from, do I still say that I'm from San Diego?

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Traveling the Country is an Act of Patriotism

motorcycle road trip
Sash said something to me the other day that really made me think.  It was about taking road trips, such as the six-month trip we're doing now.

"Traveling across the country is an expression of patriotism.  Spending the time and energy to see, hear, and learn about your country is something every person owes to their fellow man."

For example, can any of us take a stand on an issue if we haven't bothered to understand it fully?  Can any of us speak intelligently about our country if we haven't even bothered to visit it and understand it?

There was a time when people only understood their country so far as they were able to ride their horse.  Otherwise, they had to rely on reading a newspaper.  Today, we rely on watching television, checking Facebook, and sending text messages to get the country's pulse.

Yesterday, Sash and I were talking about racism.

The subject came up because we had spent a week in Memphis, where blacks comprise 64% of the population.  We were served food by blacks, we were entertained by blacks, we visited a slave history museum where the tour guides were black, we even went to a barber shop and got our hair cut by blacks.  Everywhere we went, we were surrounded by blacks.

Otherwise, if you just look at YouTube videos of Memphis, you might not understand this.  Oh, you might understand there are lot of blacks in Memphis, but you won't feel the isolation, and you won't feel the eyeballs staring at you, until you are there.

It's not to say, however, Memphis is a bad situation.  It's not.  I found that the blacks there are far more friendly and mannered than in Southern California.  And I think it's that way because in Memphis, blacks feel more at ease.  In Southern California, they feel just like me, isolated and stared at.

You won't understand that until you travel.

And when you consider Memphians are our fellow Americans, then it's patriotic to go there and understand them.

Racism today is not about hatred or disrespect, not like it was a couple hundred years ago.  Today, it's about fear.

It was interesting to note how black Memphis and how white Nashville are, yet the two cities are only 200 miles apart.  It's not to say that these people should do better job of mixing together.  No, they should live where they want to.  But Americans at large should visit both cities and make the attempt to understand the two.  Otherwise, you'll never be able to render an opinion or cast a vote with any lick of sense.

The "melting pot" we were taught in school during the 1970s (I presume kids are still being taught about it today), is never going to be the melting pot we like to think of it as, until we get out of comfort zones and put ourselves in other places of the country.

That's a patriotic duty.


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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Two Months into a Six Month Road Trip

motorcycle memphis
Nearly three years ago I opined on this blog if I could only get by with just a motorcycle as my transportation. Back then, I owned a 3,000 sq ft house with a sizeable backyard that required gardening tools. It turned out I needed my pickup truck to help me buy the things I needed to maintain a house.

Fast forward to today, Sash and I are 60 days into this six-month motorcycle road trip, and here we are getting by with just our motorcycles. Who knew that three years ago my life would turn upside down and I'd be in the position that I had dreamed about?

But when I was in college, a motorcycle was my only transportation for some three years. So, it's not like this is anything new for me. On the other hand, in my college days I was just starting my life as an adult. Today, in my 40s, I'm starting my life over again. Whereas before, the road looked long and endless, today I've ridden half the distance and just barely discovering who I really am inside.

That's a big difference in the way I saw life then, versus how I see it now.

Here in Memphis, TN, it's hot and humid. It makes your skin sticky all over. When stopped at an intersection, the flies and gnats come towards you. They somehow love the way I smell. Everyone else seems to be happy in their air conditioned cars, and they don't suffer the problem of smelling like sweat in the close confines of a crowded bar.

But then again, that's what it's like when a motorcycle is your only means of transportation.

The hot sticky weather, the chilly cold, the rain and hail... These conditions only make me want to get out and ride in hopes of discovering something about myself or at least building the character I hope to build. This trip isn't just about seeing the country on a motorcycle, it's about tearing down the old facades that I hide behind and rebuilding myself into the man that I would like to be.

In the 2+ years I've been with Sash, I've discovered how "co-dependent" I am. I feel a sense of value when I find that she's happy. In moments when she's not happy, I end up feeling value-less, and I wonder why she ever wanted to be with me. The solution to that is to find value within myself, rather than in someone else's approval. And perhaps that's where this road trip comes into play.

I loved watching "Survivor Man", where Les Stroud would drop himself into some remote, dangerous part of the world, armed with just a few things in his pack, and set up all his own video equipment. The guy found a way to live and did it under whatever conditions Mother Nature threw at him.

Certainly, I'm no Les Stroud, but I admire what the guy demonstrated.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

On the Road Trip Forever

Here we are 47 days into this 6-month motorcycle road trip, currently in the heart of Tulsa, OK, and Sash and I are having doubts we can settle back into our home town of San Diego and stay there, locked into a rental agreement or a mortgage.

Any motorcycle riding maniac would love to just to keep on going and leave all those commitments behind. If they didn't have family, if they didn't have a house, if they didn't have a job, if they didn't have promises they had to keep, perhaps they'd stay riding until they died.

But if you embark on a journey with the intention to return, then you never really cut the umbilical cord. It's like walking outside naked to be bold and daring, but holding a bundle of clothes under your arm just in case someone sees you.

Somehow, I want to cut the umbilical cord.

Just the other night, Sash and I watched "Field of Dreams" on her laptop in our motel room. Beyond the obvious, the movie is about people who never went the distance with their ambitions, and opted to settle for what tiny opportunity they had, only to go on wondering how life could have been.

"If you build it, he will come." the voice said to Ray Kinsella.

Sash and I have done a lot to get to this point in our lives. We sacrificed long standing marriages, which uprooted and upset many others, and we still feel the reverberations of those actions in lost friends, lost income, and damaged credit ratings. We built this new relationship, new career, and new life.  Others still see us as throwing away idyllic lives and marriages for new lovers.

But it's because we didn't really have much to begin with, aside from all the material things.

Choosing to do what you think is best, versus what you feel is best, is something we've all been faced with. And most of us, perhaps even all of us, choose the former and end up wondering how things might have turned out.

"You're thinking about your father right now, aren't you?" I asked her, as the movie ended.

She proceeded to tell me about her father, who died some 23 years ago.

"He's with me right now", she said. "He's riding along with me."

"Is there anything you wish you could brought with you for this trip?" I asked.

"No", she said, shaking her head.

The less stuff we have, the more we rely on ourselves, the more naked we become, the more we see ourselves. It's like riding in the Great Plains, you can't hide and everyone else can see you.

At the end of this six-month motorcycle road trip, we'll return to San Diego, but I'm not sure we'll put down roots. We may just stay there for a couple of months, and then get back on the road again. The Road Pickle. And just keep on doing it.

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Alone In My Helmet

honda st1300
Having to wear a helmet during this road trip seems to have become one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" kind of things since this road trip. Thus far, in the states we visited, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, helmet have been optional.

So when I jump on my bike, it's always a question of "Should I wear it, or should I not?"

Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking, I should always wear a helmet. But there's something about the wide open country here in the Rocky Mountain states, the mountain air, maybe the altitude, or even the eternal lyrics of John Denver ringing in my head, that takes motorcycling into some higher form of consciousness when not confined into a brain bucket.

When coming from a state like California, where riders are required to wear helmets, riding a motorcycle in a helmet-optional state presents that question. That's when I struggle between safety versus freedom.

Wearing a full face helmet, however, gives me that sense of hiding myself. I often feel indoors, even though my body is completely outdoors in the elements. People can't see my face, see my expression, know that I'm happy or sad, or if I'm talking to myself. They can't even see me mouthing the lyrics to "Rocky Mountain High". Yet, by contrast I'm actually outdoors in public. It's kind of like walking outside naked with a paper bag over your head.

And what goes on in my head when I'm wearing my helmet riding down the highway?

About the half the time, it's the same shit that goes on in my head when I'm driving a car. The other half, though, is a hodge-podge of anything I see that triggers a thought in my mind. Riding a motorcycle is perhaps where I get most of my creativity. What sucks is that I can't remember the really creative stuff, you know, the stuff I could really make money with, or impress my friends and readers.

Sash thinks that motorcycling is a time when I think of nothing. More like where I decompress from reality and reduce my stress levels. Yeah, riding a motorcycle is indeed a stress-reducing activity for me, but it's really the time when I'm completely alone, when no one can reach me, and when I don't have to think about what to say or what to do. It's when I can really be within myself. That usually happens when I'm wearing a full face helmet. When I don't have my helmet on, I feel like everyone is looking at me.

Interestingly, Sash just got herself a new helmet from Motorcycle House. It's a Nolan N90, and you can read her review on Biker News Online.

For her, a helmet is more about compliance with the law than anything else. As a woman, she has additional concerns about helmets, such as messing up her hair and ripping off her earrings. But, her full face helmet is also about cutting down the wind noise and mounting speakers inside so that she can plug into her MP3 player. And in those moments, she's also alone in her helmet.

But even the smaller helmets, whether you call them "skid lids", "biker helmets", or "brain buckets", is a reflection of your collective characteristics, when you want some protection, but you still want that exposure to the outdoors.

In any case, after having ridden throughout Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado without a helmet, I miss the privacy and solitude of hiding inside my helmet. There are times when I want to wear my helmet just for those reasons.

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Friday, May 31, 2013

One Month Into a Motorcycle Road Trip

Those of you who have been following the six-month motorcycle road trip that Sash and I are doing, we've hit the one month mark about a week ago. We were in Trinidad, CO at the time, a town that we had intended to just overnight while en route to Denver, but ended up staying two nights instead.

Thus far, we've overnighted:

3 nights in Yuma, AZ
1 night in Ajo, AZ
7 nights in Tucson, AZ
1 night in Lordsburg, NM
7 nights in Las Cruces, NM
2 nights in Roswell, NM
7 nights in Albuquerque, NM
1 night in Taos, NM
2 nights in Trinidad, CO

(we're now 6 nights into our stay in Denver, CO)

You can also take a look at our route map.

But just during this one month, both Sash and I seem to have made some progress towards spiritual healing, enlightenment, and all that other psychological and metaphysical shit.

For one, I think we don't argue as much.  I mean our last argument occurred maybe two weeks ago in Albuquerque, and that's a big improvement.  I think a big part of it is Sash finally getting to understand my behavior, why I do what I do, and how my brain works.  To get along with someone means having to step outside of yourself and look at the bigger picture of what's going on.  We're both doing that.

But I also think we've gained a greater appreciation of each other.  Every day she tells me how much she's thankful for being on this road trip, thankful for her new life with me, thankful for letting the real Sash come out of the old Susie Homemaker.

I probably don't reciprocate as often enough, but I really do appreciate being married to a woman who is her own woman.  First, she rides her own bike.  Two, she takes care of her own finances; we don't co-mingle funds.  Three, we check out other hot women and talk about doing them in a three-some.

However, I think the biggest change I've encountered is sharing more of myself with others.  If you've followed this blog long enough, you might have noticed that I describe more of my personal self.  That's just learning how to trust, something I haven't done much of before.  That's something that has built over the past few years I've known Sash, but I think has accelerated during this trip.

I think the biggest change for her, aside from letting the "rude biker chick" out of hiding, is that she's gained a closer connection to her father.  Having been deceased for 23 years now, it's almost like he's talking to her through this road trip.  She remembers words of wisdom he told her when she was young, and now it's making a lot of sense, from one old biker to another.

So, we've been in Denver since last Saturday, staying with Sash's girlfriend from high school.  My mother and brother live in Denver, and I've been able to spend time with them.  Sash's motorcycle is in the shop, at a place called "Thunderbird Motorcycles" in Wheat Ridge, getting new tires and new levers put on.

What's in store over the second month of the trip?  Well, Sash has a niece in Tulsa, OK who's about to give birth in another week or two, and she wants to be there for that.  We also want to see Memphis, TN.  It's sounding like we're going to make a right turn and head south-east.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Winning Half the Game of Motorcycle Safety

ninja 500r rain
Sash began to cry as marble-sized hail began to bounce off her hands and thighs as we rode down Highway 64 through New Mexico. But we were already well out of town and couldn't turn back. We kept our speed to about 40mph as chunks of ice fell from the sky and pinged off our helmets and leather jackets.

And for awhile, I wondered if I had the made the right decision to keep moving. I mean, I could see blue sky in the horizon, I knew if we kept moving we'd be out of the storm.

In fact, I had never wanted to stop in Cimarron the first place. Yet, Sash felt it necessary to put on rain gear. It wasn't really raining all that much at the time, and I knew if we kept moving we'd be out of it. But as she took the time put on her Frog Togg pants, the storm caught up to us.

"Look, it's hailing." I said.

She assumed we'd just stay put and wait it out.

But I was still of the mindset that if we kept moving, we'd be out of the storm. For some reason, I just didn't want to wait this out. Perhaps that little boy inside me wanted to prove a point, that we could have been in the clear if we didn't stop. Had my intellect stayed in control, we would have waited it out.

So off we rode, and Sash elected to ride too.

It was like a swarm of bees crashing into our helmets and jackets at 80mph, pinging and panging like a bucket of golf balls being poured on to a concrete floor.

Ice was hitting my hands as they held on to the handlebar grips, and they hurt, even just riding at 40mph. I was taking hits to the thighs as well. Those that hit my helmet or jacket didn't hurt, but still made as much noise, and I could still feel their impact.

About 5 minutes riding through the hail storm, I spotted three guys riding Harleys coming the other way. They didn't have helmets, and they didn't have gloves, and they were getting pelted as much as us.

And here, my intellect was kicking in, telling me what a dumb decision it was to ride in the hail, when I spot other riders toughing it out even more than Sash and I. Somehow, it justified my decision, and put the whole storm into perspective.

I mean, we have full face helmets, waterproof gloves, heavy leather jackets, rain pants, and steel toed waterproof boots. And yet, we're going to stand under an awning and wait it out? Then why the Hell did we buy all this gear if we're just going to be fair-weather riders? What kind of a six-month motorcycle trip is this? Where's the character-building?

"And I used to be afraid of riding in the rain", Sash told me later. "But after the hail stopped, I was relieved to just have rain."

Nothing like riding in hail to make you appreciate riding in the rain.

The same was true for me about riding on gravel. After my Honda ST was sloshing left and right over a muddy road in Alaska, I was ever so relieved when the road turned to gravel and I regained traction. And to think, there was time when I was afraid to ride my Harley on gravel.

Sash, after she conquered the hail storm.

And that's really what perspectives are about. Facts are meaningless without the human experience.

You can ride an 800 pound Harley-Davidson on a very tight-twisting road and feel overwhelmed by it, but later switch to a 375 pound Ninja 250 and find that it's piece a cake.

Life's experiences makes a huge difference too. You could have grown up taking great measures to avoid accidents, injuries, and illnesses, and then find yourself quite fearful of dropping a motorcycle. But you could have also grown up crashing your skateboard, crashing your bicycle, crashing your dirt bike, and not think anything of it to drop your Harley.

And so perspectives is why some of us wear a chartreuse yellow riding suit versus a black leather jacket. It's why we decide to ride in the hail versus waiting it out under a bridge. There is no right or wrong on what we do. Our perspective is what makes us feel safe about our decisions, and if we have that confidence in ourselves, then we've already won half the game of motorcycle safety.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How Many Sticks of Lip Balm Does a Biker Need?

motorcycle packing for a trip
Sometimes you have to spend a month on the road to know what you don't need to live with.

When Sash and I left on this 6-month motorcycle road trip, we had already trimmed down our personal and work belongings. But yet, we continue to identify more stuff we don't need.

For example, Sash brought five compact mirrors with her. As if the mirrors in the motel room aren't already enough, as well as the rear view mirrors on the bike, a woman needs more mirrors to keep on her person to make sure she's presentable every minute of the day. And OK, I can understand that women have different priorities that are important to them. But how many compact mirrors does a woman need?

The same issue with lip balm.

Turns out, we have 12 sticks of lip balm with us. That only happened because when we need a stick of lip balm, we can never find it. Hence, we buy another stick.

I also discovered we have 4 fingernail clippers.

Having 12 sticks of lip balm doesn't really bother me at this point if we can agree that its excessive.  That's part of the reason of doing Road Pickle, identifying how big of a pair of pigs we still are.  We'll shop at Whole Foods Market and pat ourselves on the back for buying local, fairly traded foods, yet amass excesses of stuff that make us look like an episode of Hoarders.

Well, OK.  It's not that bad.

Whatever it is, it's good that we're taking an inventory and exploring what excesses we're still carrying on our bikes.  That teaches something about ourselves, and that's part of what Road Pickle is about.

And I'm just as guilty. I still have two laptops I'm carrying, along with a tablet. I just now relented and said that I would FedEx the other laptop and tablet back home.  I'm also carrying three pairs of riding gloves, and will send one of the pairs back home too.  I guess we needed this first month on the road to discover what we really needed.

If you really boil it down, what do you need to survive?

Certainly you need food, but if you have money, then you can just buy food wherever you are. Why carry it with you?

Since money doesn't grow on trees, I need enough stuff with me to keep my website and blog publishing business going.  That and some sets of clothes and my boots.  What else do I need?

I'm happy to see that we're lightening our load, and I hope Sash is happy about it too. I'm proud of her for making the transition away from a mom-jeans-wearing suburban soccer mom who needed her stuff to make her feel secure.  The less stuff she has, the more she relies on herself for security, the more she flips her finger at the world.

Who else is ready to do a "road pickle" of their own and do a gut check on what items they really need to live with?

12 sticks of lip balm

How many tools does one need to manicure their nails?

Five compact mirrors, too many, not enough, or just right?

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Finding Security Within Yourself

Perusing the Indian jewelry in Old Town Albuquerque, Sash asked me, "Do you know what I wanted my Indian name to be?"

"No, what?" I answered.

"Leaf on a River", she said.

Last night as we sat at the table in our studio motel, looking into our laptops, we talked about what it meant to be homeless, referring particularly to those friends of ours who couldn't understand us wandering aimlessly across the country without an itinerary, giving up much of our possessions and living like gypsies.

"It used to be that humans were all hunter-gatherers, living in clans and moving to wherever they found food, water, and shelter.", I said. "But when they developed farming, they created civilizations, and with it laws, money, and power."

"What do you think makes people want to live in one place?" Sash asked.

"Because we grew up that way?" I figured. "Because our parents did, and their parents did?"

"I think it's because of a lack of trust." she said. "Having all of their things in one place, where they can protect it and control it, makes them feel safe. People want to surround themselves with material things, along with wealth and power, so that they can hide their insecurities."

Security is perhaps what it really boils down to.

Even as hunter-gatherers, there was a need to protect ourselves from predators, rival clans, and the elements. But within an advanced civilization, insecurity takes on new forms, and how people deal with that may include building wealth, owning property, securing position within an organization, and even getting married. Collectively, those solutions force people to dig their roots into a specific geography.

Early on when Sash and I were dating, she brought up the phrase, "pushing the river", referring to how people expend a great deal of effort to affect something. In college, I studied music, and would often force myself to write compositions only to end up writing something awful. Yet, there were other days when music would just flow out of me effortlessly.

"We're not homeless", I said. "Our home is the river."

But the asphalt doesn't carry our motorcycles. We still pick a direction and then follow that road. It's when we force ourselves to find a place to go to, or expend energy deciding where our next destination should be, that we're pushing against the river. What's wrong with staying in our motel room the entire afternoon buried in our laptops, if that's where the river takes us? Sometimes the river hits a wide spot and slows down.

Almost a month into our six-month motorcycle road trip, and the motel we stay at is just a place with a bed, television, microwave, and coffee maker. It doesn't matter I stay at a Motel 6 or a Hampton Inn, all I care is that the room has what we need and it fits our budget.

Sash is starting to see something similar. She'll be at a Starbucks, and only see that it's a Starbucks, forgetting which town she's in. Perhaps somewhere down the road, it won't matter that it's a Starbucks, as long as it has chai tea lattes and free Wi-Fi.

It's like we're getting to a paradigm where we see only the intrinsic value of things, and care less about their extrinsic value.

For me, it means stripping away another layer of security, where I can find comfort internally than externally, where I don't surround myself with designer brands and expensive stuff.

But it's not to say that I'm there yet. I still find myself seeking praise from others. I still find myself trying to measure up to others. And there I am, still trying to push the river, rather than be happy drifting along the current.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Vaughn, NM: Every Dog Has Its Day, Again

vaughn new mexico
Somehow there's even something strangely beautiful in death. A lonely highway that runs through the vast emptiness of the New Mexico plains seems to compliment the slow demise of a once promising town.

Vaughn, NM was built on the junction of two competing railroad lines, the Southern Pacific and the Atchison Topeka Santa Fe. It once boasted a two-story train depot, a Harvey House Hotel, and in its heyday supported a population of nearly a 1,000.

Today, the population stands at 438 per the last official count.

Penny's Diner, the only remaining eatery in town, seems to function as the city's gathering place. As Sash and I sat at the counter, we watched each customer walk in greeted by their first name from the waitresses. Aside from a gas station, a general store, and a hotel, there doesn't appear to be anything else in operation, despite a string of buildings and signs along the highway.

Death would have come sooner if not for the fact that people in Roswell, about 96 miles to the south, have no international airport of their own. They have to instead travel to Albuquerque to take a flight out of state, and the only direct route runs through Vaughn.

But where at once the railroad business gave Vaughn its chance at life, it's now the junction of three highways, the 285, the 60, and the 54, that keeps the lights on in the tiny city.

Recently, Vaughn has become the benefactor of the drug trade. The Department of Homeland Security considers the region to be a primary distribution route for illegal substances.

I can't help but wonder if I've already had my day, or if it's still yet to come. Maybe, it's a process of redefining myself over and over in the same way a business has to adjust to changing markets.

Maybe it's not a slow death, but just a period of time when the road gets bumpy. Perhaps somewhere up ahead the asphalt gets more smooth. Maybe it's just a cycle of highs and lows.

The way these old buildings stand alone and forgotten, living only on the memories of its old glory and put on display for those few who chose to seek the road less traveled, strikes a connection to me that I can't seem to put in words. It's a pain that we share and a comfort in sharing something in common.

But where they hide their pain in the enclosure of their walls, I hide mine by staying mobile.

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Vaughn, NM
vaughn new mexico
Vaughn, NM
vaughn new mexico
Vaughn, NM
vaughn new mexico
Vaughn, NM
vaughn new mexico
Vaughn, NM
pennys diner vaughn new mexico
Penny's Diner serves up a mean cherry pie a la mode

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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...)