Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Scottsdale, AZ: Living High on the Honda

sash and steve
Sash and I riding two up through Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale, AZ is a friendly-enough place to stay, shop and eat, but it'll cost you a pretty penny, or two.

Sash and I had never really visited the town before. We had stayed in Phoenix a number of times. But being a craft-beer snob, I wanted to stay where there was a lot of good microbreweries and craft beer bars. Scottsdale seemed like the place.

Moreover, since we planned on staying for a few weeks, we wanted to stay at a hotel that offered full kitchens in their rooms so that Sash could enjoy herself cooking up some favorite recipes. We found a Residence Inn with a Trader Joe's a block away and a craft beer/burger bar right across the street.

But what made our time in Scottsdale enjoyable was the company of friends, new and old. No more than an hour after checking into our room September 9, we were at the Monkey Butt Radio studio with the three hosts, Grumpy, Biggus, and Big Mike. We found stacks of pizza there, but very little beer. I had to change that with a beer run.

We would end up joining Monkey Butt Radio for two more tapings in the coming weeks, and Grumpy and Biggus each invited us to their homes for dinner.

Sash spent a couple of visits with an old high school friend, Kelly. Kelly met us with her daughter in Scottsdale, the first time at a Yard House, and the second at Taphouse Kitchen across the street.

I also got to meet a fellow motorcycle rider, Wallace Roberts. He messaged me on Google Plus about getting together.  So, he rode up from Casa Grande to meet me at a BJ's Restaurant in Chandler. We threw down some brews and talked bikes.

We also got to meet our old friend Paul Malone, the blogger of AZ Harley Dude. We first hooked up with him at Swizzle Stick, a dive bar in Glendale, for a taping of Monkey Butt Radio. The next time, we met over breakfast at "The Place", a very popular family restaurant, also in Glendale.

The three weeks here, we managed to win a new business contract doing social media work for ProGuards, a motorcycle parts manufacturer.

I also got myself back into the gym. I'm working out about 5 days a week the past three weeks. It's mostly cardio work on the treadmill. I like to do a lot of power walking between 8 to 12.5% incline, at 3.0 to 3.4 MPH, and usually end up burning 700-800 calories in an hour.

While we were in Scottsdale, Sash's laptop died.  We went to a Best Buy and bought her a Microsoft Surface Pro 3.  I thought they were cool, so I bought one too, and got rid of my laptop.  They're small, thin, and light, and makes our computer bag a lot lighter.

Scottsdale, AZ reminds me a lot of Palm Springs, CA.  It's a place where wealthy snow birds like to come to.  We're told that when it's cold in the rest of the United States, they come to Scottsdale.  I guess we left just as they were starting to land their private jets up the road.

So now we're on our way to Las Vegas for a week, or possibly more.  As I write this, we're spending the night in Kingman, AZ.

Some photos from our three weeks in Scottsdale...

Our first day in Scottsdale, we
were on Monkey Butt Radio
We bought a pair of Surface
Pro 3's to replace our laptops
Sash made this shrimp pasta
salad and cucumber soup
Sash and I ate out at Yard
House in Scottsdale
We met Brian Jenkins from
Hatred Customs
Me wearing my motorcycle
blogger's t-shirt
Sash taught Rhiannon how to
make a Sashtastic
Grumpy Mike explains how
oil leaks from a Harley
Grumpy Mike and I hanging
out in the garage.
My beer and potato chips at
Taphouse Kitchen, Scottsdale
I got bit by chiggers one night
out wearing shorts.
Sash at Paul & Jerry's Saloon,
Jerome, AZ
Sash and I posing for a photo
in Jerome, AZ
Sash riding back to Scottsdale
from Jerome.
Me with Wallace Roberts, a
fellow rider and Google +er
Biggus made this dominatrix
paddle for Sash.
Biggus and Kim invited us to
their house for dinner
Biggus and Kim grilled mean
steaks and asparagus
Grumpy Mike and Biggus
of Monkey Butt Radio
Sash and I were featured on
Monkey Butt Radio
Having a light breakfast at our
hotel in Scottsdale
Total Wine in Scottsdale has
the best beer selection around
Got some routine service at
Western Honda in Scottsdale
El Super Burrito in Scottsdale
makes a killer carnitas burrito
Chicken fried steak and eggs
at The Place in Glendale, AZ
Met Paul Malone, the blogger
of AZ Harley Dude.
Stopped at Cycle Gear in
Phoenix to find a new visor
We had drinks at Hopdoddy
in Scottsdale
Sash was a frequent visitor at
Kalologie Spa for massages
Sash met with her high school
friend Kelly (and her daughter)

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Achieving Shibui Through Motorcycling

black leather computer bag
Shibui is probably the most difficult thing to achieve, mainly because you're never satisfied. It's the ability to get more out of less. In art, it's expressing something more profound in a simpler way. The Japanese are great admirers of Shibui.

It's something I've grown to appreciate as Sash and I continue on with Road Pickle.

Take our computer bag, for example.

Sash and I store all of our computer gear in this black leather bag, which is actually a backpack.  It stores our two laptops, our tablet, our external drives, all of our power cables, USB cables, HDMI cables, camera chargers, mini speakers, and bunches of SD cards.

In a way, I appreciate how we're able to store all of that into one bag that fits nicely into the trunk of my Honda ST.

However, I'm dissatisfied because the bag becomes overstuffed and bloated.  It's like we haven't really simplified, we've only concealed the excess.

So, last week we got rid of our two laptops and replaced them with two Surface Pro 3's.  These are actually 12" tablets that come with very thin, light keyboards.  The two take up the same room as one of our laptops.  Sash detaches the keyboard and lays on the couch or bed of our hotel room and continues working.  She's able to get more things done without having to remain seated at a table.

And that accomplishes the "Shibui" I'm looking for.  We've reduced the weight and volume of our computer bag, while actually increasing productivity.

So now, I'm looking at buying a Chromecast.  That's the little device that plugs into the HDMI port of a television.  It allows you to stream video from a laptop, tablet, or phone to your TV via Wi-Fi.  The Chromecast is much smaller than the 6 foot HDMI cable we currently use to stream video to a TV, but because it's wireless, we don't have to walk to the laptop or tablet to play a different video.

We've actually looked at everything we own and come up with ways to achieve Shibui.  We found exercise clothes that look appropriate enough as bathing suits.  We can use the same set of duds to work out in and relax in the hot tub afterwards, thereby lightening the load on our suitcase.

We moved all of our medications and vitamins into Ziploc bags because you can squeeze the air out of them and really shrink their size, whereas plastic pill bottles take up way more room.  Ziploc bags make great travel containers because they fold up so small, allowing you to keep several extras on hand.

But Shibui is not something that has translated over to motorcycling much.  I mean, my Honda ST1300 does a good job of offering storage, with good power, handling, and great range.  But motorcycles have become bigger and heavier than compared to 50 years ago.  I want to see a motorcycle that offers more storage, more power, and more amenities in a simpler, lighter, and more efficient design.

The end result of pursuing Shibui, I believe, has caused me to examine things on the standpoint of increasing value while decreasing load.  It makes me question what I need, don't need, and what can be multipurposed.  The full time riders I've met in person, like Kevin Bean're and Vespa Steph, all have their ways of achieving Shibui.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

The Intersection of Riding and Blogging

bob skoot
Bob's photo - I hope he doesn't mind
Perhaps more often than not, Death comes for you at the worst time. But if we're to learn anything from it, it's to live life like there's no tomorrow.

I never met Bob "Skoot" Leong, but I respected the guy.

Reading his motorcycle blog, he seemed eccentric, strange, serious, very serious, and shy. Kinda like myself. I suppose that's why I felt attracted to his writings. Often times, his writings were really just a collection of photos and captions. But sensing he and I shared something similar deep within the tangled mess of our neural pathways, I assumed there was even a method to the madness of his postings.

Sometimes, you just have to ease off the throttle, and let it coast.

He'd often comment on this blog of mine about how he grew up feeling isolated, lonely, and wanting to feel included. He wrote those words because I would often describe similar feelings of my own. I spent many lunch hours during high school hiding in the library, reading Kurt Vonnegut novels, because I didn't want other kids to notice me being alone. For me, loneliness progressed into anger.

The anger only alienated me from other people, and I became even more alone.

I learned to bottle up my feelings and stay in my intellect. I was always calm and cool there. I didn't act like an idiot or a baby, and people respected me for my thoughts. But being disconnected from my emotions made it difficult for me to be in relationships.

But the longer I kept them bottled up, the more I wanted to let them out.

By the time the Internet and Blogger came around, it was possible to journal those feelings and have a small audience read them and comment back. Except, I often find myself easing off the throttle, worried that I'm going to alienate people.  Instead, I use a lot of symbolism and double-entredres so that only the people who know me better will understand.

About 40% of the articles I've written on this blog, I never published. Just writing down the thoughts helped me enough.

In the end, the writing is like therapy.

I tend to think that Bob and I rode motorcycles for very similar reasons. I think we blogged for the same reasons too.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Sash Takes a Second Crack at Wolf Creek Pass

Me and Jared watching football and drinking beer at his place
Last April, Sash and I tried to ride up and over Wolf Creek Pass along US-160 through southern Colorado. It didn't work out. The snow fell too fast, too strong, and Sash lost control of her motorcycle and spun out.

A guy named Jared happened to come by and saw us stuck up there, some 10,000 feet with snow continuing to fall on us. He offered to ride Sash's bike back down the mountain to Pagosa Springs, while Sash drove in his truck. I followed Jared back down on my Honda ST1300.

Over the next several months, Sash and Jared struck up a friendship, followed each other Facebook, and made plans to hook up again.

Fast forward to a week ago.

We arrived at Jared's house in Pagosa Springs, CO, September 5, and stayed there until September 8.

But before getting there, Sash had a date with Wolf Creek Pass, yet again.

Leaving our motel in Salida, we continued south along US-285, and picked up US-160 in Del Norte. After a rather nice lunch at the historic Windsor Hotel, we set off west towards Wolf Creek Pass. Sash still hadn't conquered it on motorcycle, and was determined to do so.

Except it wouldn't happen without Mother Nature. She started throwing some heavy winds and rain at us. We stopped at a rest stop to put on some rain gear. Sash took in a deep breath, and was determined to ride her V-Star 650 fully loaded with gear up and over the pass.

"It's only water", I told her, my way of putting a wet and windy ride into perspective. Asphalt in and of itself is not dangerous. It's always the rider that makes it perilous.

In the end, Sash made it to the top just fine. It was just like any other road. It's kinda funny how a beautiful mountain road can become a frightening nemesis.

In Pagosa Springs, our reunion with Jared was like a homecoming party. Several of his local buddies dropped by for grilled steaks. Jared let me test ride his Honda VFR800. If you don't know the VFR series, they're like a sport touring motorcycle more weighted towards the sports part. I took it up Wolf Creek Pass. Heading back down, I found myself leaning into the curves at 85 MPH. The bike is so much lighter than my ST1300 and handles so much better.

At the bottom of Wolf Creek Pass, along the western side, there's a long straight away running about a mile and a half. I cranked the VFR up to 120 MPH. Once I got it slowed down to 70 MPH, I happened to pass by a State Trooper. But he didn't bother going after me. "Whew!" I thought. But I couldn't stop thinking about Jared saying he had gotten the VFR up to 160 MPH down the same stretch, and that he also got his CBR 929RR up to 201 MPH. After going 120, I couldn't imagine 201.

Jared was figuring since the VFR800 has optional sidebags and top box, he offered a atraight up trade between his VFR and my ST. As tempted I was, the ST is still so much more comfortable for our long distance riding.

Sash was rather blue about leaving Pagosa Springs.

Me riding along US-285
south of Villa Grove, CO
Sash along US-285, along
the same stretch.
Sash resting along US-285
near Saguache, CO
Me resting along with the
on the same stretch
Me standing in the middle of
Sash and I along the same
rest stop.
Lunch at Windsor Hotel
restaurant, Del Norte, CO
Rain coming down at a rest
stop near Wolf Creek Pass
Sash making her ascent up
Wolf Creek Pass
Rain falling on Sash as she
heads up Wolf Creek Pass
Sash makes it to the top of
Wolf Creek Pass
On the other side, Sash checks
on some riders pulled over
Snacking on pork cracklins at
Jared's house.
Jared let me ride his Honda
VFR800 up the pass
Sash caught this rainbow at
Jared's house
We grilled steaks at Jared's
Sash and Jared were like two
peas in a pod.
Chicken tacos at The Buck
Stops Here Deli.

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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...)