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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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...)