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.

vaughn new mexico
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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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Road Trip Paradigm Shift

motorcycle desert mountains
Checking the news online recently, I hadn't even realized that 19 people were shot in New Orleans at a Mother's Day parade.

Being on this 6-month road trip has lead me to lose sight of what's going on in the world. With each day a new adventure, you rarely read the news, and rarely watch television. At least, that's the case with me.

My perspective on life has paired itself down to just eating, riding, working, and sleeping. Working is really just writing blog posts, taking care of business duties, and editing photos. Sometimes the toughest part about work is figuring out which coffee shop to go to.

Nuclear warheads may have rained down on Washington DC and I wouldn't know about it until a few days later.

There's something refreshing and liberating about thinking only where you plan to hang out this afternoon and evening. I used to envy my dogs because all they seem to ever think about is just eating. I imagine life can be very boring that way too, but there are times when you really wish it was that simple.

But there's also something symbolic about it, something I've touched on before. It's like stripping away the layers that block your vision and prevent you from feeling your real self. Often we wear so many hats and take on so many responsibilities that we can't ever take time to hear what our heart is saying.

Sometimes you get so deep into the shit that you find yourself getting angry at others, yelling at the people who love you, and spending personal money on endeavors that you never really wanted to be in. You end up with more enemies than when you started, and then cut off an arm just to make all that shit go away.

And then you wonder why you even bothered with it all.

Standing out in the middle of the desert, with only the sounds of a gentle breeze and an occasional song bird, I take in a deep breath and feel like I have no more enemies and no more responsibilities. It's times like that I can understand why some people become hermits.

Living on a road trip for 6 months, motorcycling across the USA, and never staying in one place for more than a week, is like being a hermit.

You become more in touch with yourself, closer to the Universe, and it makes you want to write stuff like this.

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Crosses of New Mexico

las cruces new mexico motorcycles
Asking my father why he joined the Navy, he said, "I was sick of the trees and the snow. I wanted to see the world." Growing up by Puget Sound in western Washington, I could understand. The rain and the evergreens are monotonous.

But it was more than that.

At 18, he had to prove to himself that he had become a man. His mother and father, after all, never gave him that acknowledgement. He grew up with no sense of self-esteem.

So why after 20 years in the service he decided to go back to his hometown? After he had traveled all over the Pacific Rim, after 18 months in Vietnam, after he had a child growing up in Southern California, after he had finally earned a degree in business and proven himself a leader, what was there for him back home?

Seems like every young man leaves home and then finally returns after he achieved some kind of rite of passage.  Maybe my dad was still searching for that pat on the back from his mother and father.

When I returned to San Diego after building my career in Orange County and Riverside County, I found myself with no family to come home to. San Diego was just a place where the innocence ended. It was where one little boy found his parents torn apart, only to end up feeling unwanted, handed off to one babysitter after another.  It was where the nurturing stopped, where the loneliness began, and where the resentment grew.

Somehow, I came back to San Diego to find something which I'm still not sure what. But maybe it was to go back to where it all started and try to figure out all this mess, to address the wounds and begin the healing.  Somewhere along the streets of downtown, in Balboa Park, in Old Town, Little Italy, or North Park, lies that wounded little boy left behind in San Diego.

old town mesilla new mexico
Old Town Mesilla, NM
I find myself today in Las Cruces, NM, just a few weeks into our Road Pickle Motorcycle Trip. Other than the college culture of brew pubs and coffee shops, and the Spanish adobes of Old Town Mesilla, Las Cruces offers little else to help mold one's character and soul.

But one town after another, Sash and I continue to mold ourselves into new people. All that shit we've been burdened with our entire lives seems to slowly get yanked off and left behind. I'm not sure what demons we left behind in Yuma, Ajo, and Tucson, but it seems clear that we dumped another one here in Las Cruces.

We're not fighting each other. We're fighting all the crap that was laid upon us over the decades.

I only wonder what point along this trip will we finally be free and clear from all this guilt, shame, fear, and anger? What city will we finally rise anew from the ashes of our old wounded selves?

I can't help seeing that I left my hometown to make some kind of rite of passage where I'll feel as if I've accomplished something and come back redefined and rebuilt.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Road Trip to a Rite of Passage

las cruces city limits
Now that we're 13 days into our 180 day road trip, it's starting to feel like we're on a vacation, yet at the same time, I find myself getting into a groove.

We left San Diego on April 25th, and since then spent 3 nights in Yuma, 1 night in Ajo, 7 nights in Tucson, and 1 night in Lordsburg. Tonight is our first of seven nights in Las Cruces.

It feels like a vacation in that we're experiencing new places, new people, new roads, and continuously dealing new sets of variables as we roll into a different town and take up quarters in a new room. And I like that lifestyle, where my world is in a constant state of change and adventure and I have to figure everything out. It's like being handed a newly scrambled Rubik's Cube and having to put it all back together.

But there's also a small set of things that remain constant.

Our motorcycles are always the same. The clothes we brought, our laptops, and each other, are always with us. The little book that a friend gave me and Sash's pink Hello Kitty blanket, are reminders of home.

"It's starting to feel like we live here", I said to Sash as we waited at a stop light in Tucson, the day before we were set to leave. "I can't wait to get back on the road".

"Funny", she said.  "I was just about the say the same thing."

Once we've figured out how all the roads in any given city connect, along with going to the same bar and coffee shop two or three times, and when all the mystery seems to have vanished, that's when we know it's time to leave.

The Maverick Room Lordsburg
The Maverick Room, Lordsburg, NM
And that's how I envisioned it. We'd stay in a town long enough to feel it and live it, and just as we start getting used to the place, "Adios!"

But there's a certain psychology that goes into it also.

I don't think Sash and I have ever dug our roots into any place. I mean, my family moved all over Southern California when I was a kid. Just when I started to feel like I belonged somewhere, we'd move. Sash was the same, except she moved more frequently than I.

And there's that sense of not belonging to any family or group of people. Getting passed along from one set of step-parents to the other, not getting the pat-on-the-back from our fathers, or the attention and nurturing from our mothers, leaves an emptiness in you that can't seem to fill. You want so much to be loved and liked, but at the same time, you're angry from the abandonment and abuse of your youth, it makes it difficult to keep friends.

That anger also rises between Sash and I, often from the littlest of things.  We take up our respective defensive positions and let the words fly.  Afterwards we realize that we're not angry at each other, it's just those old demons haunting us.  Even though we're the only ones who understand each other, it's still hard to escape from the traumatic experiences of our pasts.

Often, I feel like a ghost that wanders the highways. I don't stay for too long in any one place for fear that I'll only cause trouble and make people regret that I ever walked into their lives. If anything, they'll only catch me in the corner of their eye, and when they turn their head to get a better look, I'm gone.

kitt peak arizona motorcycle
Kitt Peak, Arizona
The old dive bars lurking in the darker, lonely parts of town seem to recognize our vibe and offer a welcoming gesture.  From the Formica chipping off the bar top, the cracks in the Naugahyde padding, and the voice of Merle singing "Mama Tried", reeks an empathetic old spirit who provides a soothing relief for those men and women who's number had never been called and are now ready to address it.

Perhaps that's part of what has kept Sash and I together thus far. Perhaps that's what has put us on motorcycles. Maybe this whole trip is some kind of calling we have to answer before we can take the next step in our lives.

The road trip is more than just a vacation.

It's like we're stripping away the facade, getting naked in the proverbial sense, and forcing our inner children to grow up and make critical decisions.  We're literally deep into nowhere, in the middle of nothing, with no one but ourselves to rely on.  I can't wait to discover the man inside me.

highway 80 motorcycle
Highway 80, Arizona

highway 80 arizona motorcycle
Highway 80, Arizona

So now we're in Las Cruces. I can't wait to check out downtown and the Old Mesilla area. I've already looked up the local brewery and taprooms. We've already asked people for recommendations on the nightlife. It should be a fun week.

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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...)