Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

Taking over the family business

Today is going to be a weird day for me.

I knew it was coming, just like I knew my alarm clock would blast me out of bed this morning and send me careening toward the inevitable, but that doesn't mean I was looking forward to it.

It takes a special person to wear The Suit, and I'm not sure I'm cut out to be that "special person."

I can get grumpy at times.

Being cheery doesn't seem to be my Number One attribute.

Somedays, because of the depravity men inflict upon there fellow men, my heart is heavy, my soul empty, and I see no reason to make merry or to even smile.

Sure, I can fake it, and there are times when I actually am in great spirits, but doesn't The Big Guy have to be cheery all the time?

Isn't Jolly-ness a prerequisite?

These are some of the questions I've asked myself, never coming up with a clear answer.

Nonetheless, today I will try to set aside all doubt, worry and sadness, and let The Spirit of Christmas be my sword and shield, as my father did before me, and his father before him.

Today I leave home to take over the family business.

Today I am Santa Claus.
  Off to work.

Monday, December 14, 2015

I saw a dude in Walmart...

...packing big iron on his hip cuz you know in Texas it's dangerous shopping for root beer and chips.

He seemed a little timid as he walked among the fruit and veggies, like some dangerous illegal avocado might accost him in a foreign tongue and give him a foreign wedgie.

The bread and English muffin aisle looked pretty tame to me, but this dude spied every loaf and tortilla with a wary eye as if it had been radicalized by a just-out-of-prison Rye Bread ready to spread its own brand of misery.

Beans, never trust a bean, you could see it written all over his face, as he scurried past legume and peas looking over his shoulder to see if he was being followed by a chameleon-like not-from-this-world alien race.

He seemed a bit more relaxed as he gathered up his white milk and white eggs, without even bothering to acknowledge the chocolate and brown, those inferior products, the dregs of the dregs.

Finally, at the register, on high alert, he looked ready to slap leather at anyone who even thought about stealing his ready-made Key Lime Pie, giving them their ready-made just desserts.

And then he was out the door, pushing his cart to his trusted loyal truck, me watching this whole ridiculous scene and thinking, "Oh my god," and "What the ....?"

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A poem about Christmas and other stuff

Tennis shoes,
Christmas blues,
Hark the Herald
who lives down some other street
probably singing old songs
and gets along
just fine with everyone he meets.

What Child is This?
All smiles and bliss
cuz she's found a boy
what makes her laugh and grin
like we used to
and at times still do
and hopefully will again.

Leaves on the ground,
Rockin' Around
the Christmas Tree
leaning slightly left but all decked out
with balls and lights,
a cat's delight,
the trick is to remain calm and not shout.

Warm day
the weathermen say
a White Christmas
for us this year there's little chance,
but that's just a guess,
our climate's a mess,
one day we're wearing shorts, the next day ski pants.

Nutcracker Suite,
this poem's complete
with five stanzas
that more or less describe where I'm sitting,
this Saturday noon
gone away way too soon,
and now it's some eggnog I'm getting.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Monday, November 30, 2015

Weather or not Haiku

It's been a long time
coming, that north wind blowing
a cool jazz standard.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

50 steps to a good day

It's hard watching your father struggle to get out of his bed without help knowing that 70-odd years ago he was always the first one up, making coffee and reading the paper while you slept the morning away.

It's hard hearing your father labor to find the right words to describe his day knowing full well he had no trouble finding them when you were 8 years old and broke the back window trying to throw a rock over the roof.

It's hard seeing your father relegated to wheelchairs and walkers knowing that this same man used to play catcher on the church's softball team, once breaking his collarbone while defending home plate.

It's hard knowing your father will never again climb a mountain, fix scrambled eggs, ride a bicycle around the block, drive his car to the gas station, chop wood to put in the fireplace, or play Santa Claus for needy children.

But he's in therapy, trying to learn how to walk again.

Yesterday he took 50 steps.

It was a good day.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

I heard the owl before I saw it.

I was walking down the road, trying to get in a few minutes of exercise before starting the turkey, and there it was. Loud and clear. Just a few yards up ahead.

Ducks. Fox. Squirrels. Deer. And owls. They make living in the country much better, in my opinion, than living in the city. But then again, I've been told bears are sometimes seen roaming New Jersey neighborhoods. New Jersey, can you believe it?

We've got feral hogs here in this part of Texas, but no bear.

Roasting the turkey was the final step in a day-long cook-a-thon in preparation for Thanksgiving. Cook everything the night before, bundle it all up safe and sound, and take it to the in-law's house in Ft. Worth. The only thing that could go wrong was the turkey would taste like cardboard and the whole family would be stuck eating green bean salad and cranberry sauce.

Nothing wrong with green bean salad and cranberry sauce, but it ain't turkey and dressing. Well, that's what I was thinking when I heard the owl.

I scanned the trees in front of me, dusk turning everything into silhouette, and thought, "Green bean salad? Did I volunteer for that, too? Please tell me I didn't."

I don't believe most guys would volunteer to cook any part of a Thanksgiving dinner, but volunteer I did. Pecan pie. Pumpkin pie. Dressing. And the turkey.

Gravy? Damn, I forgot the gravy, too.

"And what about rolls?" my wife asked later. "Ya can't have Thanksgiving without rolls."

The owl took flight, crossed the road, and landed in a tree a further down the way. I stopped walking for a moment until I heard him asking me questions.

"Who's gonna bring the whip cream? Who's fixing the fruit salad? Who's gonna know you used the cheap pie crusts?"

I only took a few more steps before it was off again, this time heading home into the deep woods.

It was nice getting out of the house. I'd been cooking pert near all day, but, crazily, didn't mind it.

Add. Stir. Melt. Pour. Place in oven. Read another chapter of my book until the timer goes off. Poke. Is it ready? Cool. Set aside. Play a bit of ukulele. Start all over again.

I looked into the woods, trying to see where the owl had landed, but it was no use. Owls are masters at blending into their environment.

I turned and walked back to mine.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

One time around Haiku

Money just ain't worth
missed sunrises, morning walks,
breakfast with my girl.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sad song

I never write "bloggy" posts where I delve into inner feelings, as if someone really cares.

It feels too much like a "reality TV show" where the audience is dying to watch someone crash and burn, and then talk about it for the next week until the next episode.

"Can you believe that...."

"I had no idea that...."

"Well, I think she should...."

"What a bunch of....."

So I don't write seriously about myself.


Much better to write a funny story, post a photo, present a poem, or not write at all.

Except for today.

I've got a problem.

I crave new challenges.

Sometimes they're creative endeavors.

Sometimes they're job ideas that could put me on a path to a better me.

I hyper-focus on them, researching the "who, what, when and where" of them.

I get excited about them, hardly talk about anything else, get friends and family onboard.

Make plans.

Sometimes I even spend money trying to make these new things happen.

But then, something else comes along to beguile me.

I usually end up disappointing everybody, (but not myself, because I'm into this new and exciting thing), and the crazy cycle starts all over again.

I have a good job.

I don't have a fear of work.

What I do fear is wasting the little time I have left on going crazy about something that I'll never end up doing -- wasting my energy on something I KNOW will only entice me for a couple of weeks before something else comes along and seduces me.

And as I get older, these cycles are repeating at a much faster rate.

It's driving me nuts.

And I'm not sure there is a simple solution.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I went to bed early last night, had a space dream where a little kid gets left behind to die on a space station while I hurtle down to some weird planet, trying to evade some nasty Nazi aliens, and I once again wake up late, but have time to take out the trash and make it to school where we're having a half day so teachers can have time to do their grades, but nobody's told me today's schedule, and now I'm thinking being a handsome anime superhero surrounded by a bevy of animated buxom babes would be much more enjoyable than doing this -- but the wife says:

"Hope you can drag some awesome out of your day.

ME: Drag it out and beat the shit out of it.

HER: Yup. Seize the day and throttle it.

And now I feel better.

Thank you.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I went to write a poem

but a song slipped out instead
and skipped
across the meadow
looking for dandelions
and butterflies.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015

This is the day Haiku

Sunday morning sits
at peace in my front porch chair
then leaves come lunchtime.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The best waylaid plans...

This past weekend I headed out the door with the full intention of riding my motorcycle 2,004 miles to Canada, but when I got to the front steps and noticed there was a nice breeze blowing across the porch and that I only had a buck-fifty in my pocket, I sat down on my blue porch chair and decided a cup of coffee would be just as nice.

The chair isn’t all that comfortable, but it’s easier to drink a mug of dark roast with a dollop of cream while you’re rocking on a porch than when you're doing 75 mph through Kansas.

So, I sat and drank awhile, poured myself another cup, then thought how nice it is to have a bathroom that always has toilet paper, a bar of soap, clean towels and no waiting line. Out on the road, there’s no telling what kind of bathrooms you’ll encounter. Some are really nice, and some remind you of Dante’s Eighth Circle of Hell. And if you’re at a gas station and not a paying patron, the store people stare you down until your guilty conscience forces you to buy a bottle of water or a stick of gum, and I just can’t pee under that kind of pressure.

Also, I like being able to read a book in my own bathroom until my legs fall asleep without having to worry about someone pounding on the door trying to encourage me to take my “business” elsewhere.

I think I would have enjoyed seeing the trees in Canada, the Rocky Mountain Douglas firs and the Western Hemlock, but I’ve got trees of my own, trees that I’ve watched grow since they were wee saplings, and I always miss them when I'm away. I wouldn’t know the history of those Canadian trees -- wouldn't know when they were happy or sad; wouldn’t know if they needed a good talking to or a stiff drink of water.

Of course watching a Canadian show or a musical would have been fun, but I got squirrels running all over my trees that can perform as well as The Flying Cortez Family, and if that isn’t good enough, I don’t know what is.

Why, just the other day I saw a squirrel climb out to the end of a very thin limb, hang upside down clearly defying the laws of gravity, and nibble on the more succulent leaves as if he performed the show every weeknight and twice on Sunday. I tried to take a photograph of the little guy, but he ran off into the woods, screaming that the paparazzi should stop acting like vultures and get real jobs.

Sheesh! Artists.

Driving cross country is a wonderful endeavor not to be missed, but don’t get me started about why anyone would pay $5 for a two-bit hotdog at a sleazy tourist attraction when a whole package of wieners cost less than $2! I could at this very minute walk into my kitchen and fix myself a three-course meal with all the trimmings, including a drink, desert, some after-dinner mints, a cup of coffee and a toothpick to play with, for probably less than a $5 hotdog, but don’t quote me on that – I could be wrong.

So, needless to say, I didn't make it to Canada. But I had a wonderful time sitting on the porch, drinking coffee, and making plans for my next week's adventure: to waterski across the Atlantic and do some Christmas shopping in Ireland.

Or maybe I'll just stay home and read a book.

© 2015 Farr, All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Haiku fences

They put up a fence
and say, "You stay on your side,"
but the wind still blows.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

On the wild side

I captured this image of a squirrel. A squirrel is wildlife.

So technically, I'm a wildlife photographer.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Can you ever have too many coffee mugs?

I'm not exactly sure how many coffee mugs the average family of five (minus the two older ones who grew up and moved out) should have sitting around in their kitchen cabinets waiting to be used, but I think 67 is a tad bit excessive, don't you? 

Fortunately, my family doesn't rest on being average, and that's why we have a whopping 108 coffee mugs, not counting the Christmas mugs packed away with the Christmas decorations, or the possible two or three unwashed ones lying under each bed -- long-lost mugs that will remain long and thoroughly lost because we have no other place to put them if someone other than me actually found them.

Mugs Yes, 108 of the little java darlings for five people (now three), and I wouldn't have believed it myself, but I counted each and every one that I could see and imagine, and now I'm embarrassed to admit our over-indulgence, but since I've already started the confession, I guess I can't stop now.

How did we come to have so many ceramic albatrosses hanging around our kitchen's neck? Well, I can tell you it wasn't MY fault. I only started drinking coffee a few years ago, and by the time my addiction was fully inflamed, we already had enough mugs to fill at least three kitchens; plain mugs, funny mugs, tall ones, short ones, fat and happy ones, some that had significant meaning, some from garage sales, and some that just showed up at the door begging to be let in, and how could we refuse?

You get mugs for birthday presents, Christmas presents, souvenirs, gag gifts; you borrow them from the office and forget to return them; they sneak into your car when you go visit relatives; you buy them on the spur of the moment when you're waiting to check out at the grocery store; and sometimes you order really nice ones online for a low, low price of $9.95 a month for the rest of your life.

They accumulate in front of your very eyes, even if you have no idea what the word "accumulate" means.

And if you think in this day and age that there is some sort of rule or regulation that helps us maintain an optimal people-to-mug ratio for healthy living, you'd be sadly mistaken. We can own as many mugs as we want, and if the house collapses under their weight and gets sucked into a churning black hole of dark roast with a bit of cream and no sugar please, then "oh well."

So, based upon a few sound mathematical principles that I just made up, I propose the following rule or regulation that should be used as a standard rule of thumb forthwith: A family that owns a 1,500-square-foot home should only be allowed to keep 10 standard-sized coffee mugs. For a family of five, that comes to two mugs per person; one mug to drink from, the other one to sit in the sink waiting to be washed. As the older children grow and move out, the remaining family members can scuffle over who gets which part of the leftover coffee mugs, possibly resulting in black eyes and bloody noses, but that would not be under the purview of the aforesaid rule or regulation or rule of thumb.

Families who owned over the optimal amount of mugs (say 108) would be required to give away, throw away, or bury in the backyard all surplus mugs, or face a hefty fine, the amount of which would be determined by those elected to The Office of Hefty Fines.

Of course the other option would be to purchase a home according to the number of coffee mugs owned. In my case, that would mean moving into a 16,200 square-foot mansion with a live-in maid paid solely to wash all the dishes and a gardener to mow the yard.

I'd be okay with that.

© 2015 Farr, All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015

The night is breathless...

... except for an old barn owl who keeps asking me questions I'll never be able to answer.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Year of Camping, August 2015

The plan is to camp every month for a year. Maybe just overnight; maybe for a couple of days.

This was our first night out.

Lake Bob Sandlin State Park.

A peaceful place.

Well, except for the party down the way that kept yelling out, "More Margaritas!"

Our campsite.




Saturday, August 29, 2015

A long walk for a beer

I want to walk into the local pub at 5:27 p.m. every day after work, order a pint, sit in the same booth that I have for years, wave to the same people I've known for decades, talk about the things we've always talked about -- the weather, family, the war -- complain about the rowdy crowd, remember old lovers, predict the perfect time to plant the tomatoes or harvest them; politics would be on our lips, football would be in our eyes, someone would start a game of darts and we'd all be color commentators talking about flights and angles and trajectories; and then after my second pint I'd shuffle back home to read the evening newspaper in my leather chair and fall asleep to the ticking of the grandfather clock in the hallway.

There aren't any pubs around here.

But I can dream.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Time-lapsed cooking

I cooked an egg inside a hollowed-out bun the other day.

Dribbled butter in the bun, filled the bottom with cheese and mushrooms and onions and spinach, cracked the eggs over the top then covered the outside with foil and cooked it.

It looked so easy and eatable in the time-lapsed video recipe that only lasted for a minute or two, but when I went to cook it, the minute or two dragged on and on and on, and by the time it was done, I was too tired to eat it, but did anyways, and it was good.

Eggs are supposed to be a quick meal.

Plop them in the skillet, flip them over, or don't, then devour with grits and toast or waffles drowned in butter and maple syrup, then wash the whole thing down with a steaming cup of java.

Five minutes from the cooking to the eating to the washing up.

But this egg in a bun thing took forever to cook.

Life's too short for a 3-epoch egg.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Morning Haiku

Always the morning
suns itself to perfection
then heads home for lunch.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Haiku Hoedown

Saturday night porch
swing your partner round and round
'till the cows come home.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Don't worry, be happy

He looks like he's having a great time, standing by the street, holding a mailbox and waving at passerby's -- and probably doing it all for free.

And what do we do? Complain that somebody in the workroom forgot to refill the coffeemaker, you call this a raise? Boy, it's Monday and I'm counting the days until the weekend.

Burlington mailman

Folks, if you're not having a good time, it's your own fault.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A round of 'Give and Take'

"I have a crazy idea and I can't get it out of my mind," he said.

Oh no, not another one, she thought.

"I can't go to sleep at night because I keep trying to work out all the logistics."

Logistics? This doesn't sound good.

"You see, I've been thinking about going on an adventure and I keep trying to figure out things like which direction, when to leave, how far, how long, weather forecasts, food, shelter."


"And you probably won't believe me, but I've even been doing a lot of training, trying to get myself into shape, trying to shed a few pounds."

Trying to lose weight so he'll look good lying dead on the side of the road, no doubt.

"And I know if I can just get this 'going on an adventure' thing out of my system, everything will be just fine."

Doesn't he realize that one adventure begets another?

"So what do you think? Can you do without me for a short time so I can go on this adventure of a lifetime?"

Well, at least I won't have to listen to him snore, she thought to herself as she hugged his neck.

"Sure honey. You go have your adventure. And don't you worry about a thing. I'll be just fine."

She's just saying that and doesn't really mean it, he thought.

"This will give me a chance to do some much-needed spring cleaning around here."

And I'll feel like a heel because I'm not here to help.

"You know, Mark Johnson went on an adventure a couple of years ago, and Maryanne, his wife, said it really invigorated their love life."

Is she saying something's wrong with our love life?

"And after a few months of you losing weight on an adventure diet plan, I probably won't be able to keep my hands off you."

I think she just said I'm fat.

"Besides, you have the time off from work, I don't, and I think it'll be good for you."

 Me thinks she's agreeing too easily.

He reached out to hold her hands, looked deeply into her eyes and said, "You are the greatest. But now that I've given it a bit more thought, I think it's better if l just put this crazy idea on the shelf for awhile. Maybe come back to it another day. If that's okay with you."

She nodded her head and gave him a long hug.

"Well, if you think that's for the best. Ok."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A friend along The Erie Canal

I saw the man approaching and thought to myself, "Now I'm in for it. I'm probably not supposed to be parked here."

I had been looking for Lock No. 11 on the Erie Canal, but somehow missed it and found myself at Lock No. 12 instead. I rode down to the water's edge, parked my bike on a concrete slab, and started taking photos of the fog, the lock itself, and some ducks.

And here he came. The man in charge who would soon be asking me what the heck I was doing there, "and don't you know this is private property, and you can't bring a motorcycle down here, now off with you, mate."

Because those are the kind of first thoughts we usually think when we're not really sure of the rules.

Oops, I'm caught.

There's the enemy coming to spoil my day.

Why can't people just let me be?

But then he said, "Nice day for a ride."

His name was Dave. He was about my height, a bit younger, was wearing a wind breaker and an earring.

"Every day's a nice day for a ride," I said, giving him my pat response. And before you know it we were talking about the canal, how he had traded his job on Long Island for this one, where I was headed, and I secretly berated myself for thinking that this was going to be anything BUT a nice day.

I'll be honest, I don't remember our conversation word for word, but I remember that I had met someone who, if I'd lived a bit closer, I could call my friend. We'd go drink together at the local pub, I'd come down to the lock on my days off just to help out and see the people who passed by, and we'd probably go riding together, whether it was a nice day or not.

Erie Canal, Lock 12

Monday, August 17, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

When You've Been to the Moon and Back

When you've been to the moon and back,
it's hard to get back in the swing of things,
like taking the trash out
or feeding the cats
or filling the tank up.
All normal-day things.

The yard's been neglected, it has to be mowed,
the flowers look deader than usual.
There's mail to respond to
and bills to be paid,
and checkbooks to balance.
Not all that unusual.

But the remembrance of you being weightless
haunts your dreams or when you're wide awake.
The floating around
with the greatest of ease
with no net or trapeze.
It's almost more than you possibly can take...

...but you do and tell no one at all,
they'd just argue and not understand.
So you vacuum the floor,
change the oil in the car,
wash the windows and more.
Carry their weight just the best that you can.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bo's Head

Just go down to the end of my driveway, take a right, a right, and then another right at the train crossing (hopefully you won't get caught cuz those trains are LONG!), and you'll come upon Bo's Head.

It's a site to see, for sure.

Bo's head

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Saturday, August 1, 2015

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I called my little trip Chasing America because I guess that's what I was doing -- chasing down all the goodness this country has to offer, grabbing it by the collar, and dragging it home with me so I could share it with my friends and neighbors.

I hope I was successful.

(Here's a link to the photos I took. Chasing America)

The Stats:

I was on the bike for 56 days.

I traveled 19,190 miles.

I averaged 342 miles a day.

My longest ride was 770 miles on 22 June. I rode from Mount Pleasant to El Paso.

My shortest ride was 104 miles on 21 July. I rode from New Jersey, through New York City, to Port Jefferson on Long Island.

I traveled through 43 states.

I saw all five of the Great Lakes.

I put my feet in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

I ate salmon in Oregon, aligator in Florida, and lobster in Maine.

I didn't get sick at all.

I dropped my bike once in Two Harbors, Minnesota. I was on a parking lot. My engine was off. My kickstand was up. I felt stupid.

I never had a flat tire or ran out of fuel.

I lost numerous amounts of water bottles, a rain jacket, my wife's "Mark Said It Would" umbrella, and 10 pounds.

I got hit in the head by a bird. I was wearing a helmet. The bird died. (Moral: birds should always wear helmets when they fly.)

I never saw a moose in New Hampshire.

I never saw a bear in Pennsylvania.

Nobody tried to kill me in Amsterdam, New York.

I met wonderful people all over America.

I only recall one person being rude. I was talking to "the newlyweds," he was in a big pickup truck, he had an external PA system, he told us to move along. That was it. One slightly brusque encounter.

Here's the map of my entire route:

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Would I do this all again?

Well, maybe not tomorrow.

But, yes.


Friday, July 31, 2015

The end of the trail

We always knew this time would come.

The last day.

The final miles.

Thanks to all of you who've supported me and helped me make this adventure possible. Thanks to all of you who I've met a long the way and who have enriched this experience beyond measure.

Tonight I'll be in my own home, sleeping in my own bed, but a part of me will always be out on the road.

A part of me will always be Chasing America.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Nobody knows who tomorrow will bring

I can just hear the questions now:

"You went to New York City and you didn't go to the top of the Empire State Building?"


"You didn't take a photo of The Statue of Liberty or the new World Trade Center?"

No again.

"You didn't even go to Times Square or Central Park or Coney Island or Radio City Music Hall or..."

Nah, non, nein and how many times do I have to tell you? Uh-uh!

"Then what DID you do?"

I met people and made new friends along the way like...

Jamie and John Miles, Madison, GA

...Jamie and John who gave me a place to sleep in Madison, GA.

Jamie walked me around the town showing off the wonderful antebellum homes. We had only met through the internet and through our column writing, but we talked about our children, our pets, future writing projects and gardening. How can a photograph of Central Park be better than that?

They put me in a great position to reconnect with former classmates like...

Beth and Tony Stoddard..

...Beth and her husband Tony who live in Powhatan, VA.

She was in choir, I was in band. We knew each other, but on a very superficial, high school level. Lucky for us, the internet and Facebook let us reconnect in a more meaningful way, enough so that they gave me a place to stay for the night. We chatted about music and guitars and motorcycles and kids, and it was great for both of us to discover what had become of the other. How can going to Coney Island compare with that?

They made it easy for me to make my way to Livingston, NJ to see...


... Darla and Gregg.

Darla and I were in high school band together. We've kept up through Facebook, but we hadn't seen each other "for real" for 30 years. They gave me a place to sleep, let me tell my stories and take photos of their cat, and then on the morning I left, they gave me some snack bars for my journey as well as...

Darla's cheat sheet that got me through NYC.

... a cheat sheet to make it through downtown New York City.

And I know what you're thinking: "You've never been to New York and you rode a motorcycle right through downtown? Are you crazy? Do you have a death wish?"

Ah, it was super easy with Darla's cheat sheet. Although I did have to look down a couple of times to read it when I should have been looking straight ahead, but it's all good. I made it. And this was my route...

My route through NYC

And to be honest, I did see the Statue of Liberty. I was in traffic. I looked over my right shoulder to see if I could catch of glimpse of her, and I did. But knowing that I'd come a long way and probably would never have this chance again, I glanced over my shoulder one more time to make sure she was really there, and thought it sufficient.

After braving New York City, I headed across Long Island for Port Jefferson and to meet...

New friend Rachael, aka FuzzyGalore, in Port Jefferson, NY

... Rachael, or as I know her better, @Fuzzygalore.

You know all those scary stories about people meeting up through the Internet and the axe murderer is the only one who lives to tell about it?

Well, we're both alive, we had a great time meeting each other, and we ate pizza, told stories, shared philosophies about traveling alone, talked about kids and politics and doing what you love, and it was just a wonderful afternoon.

I don't care how many great photos you come back with of the new World Trade Center -- they will never compare with meeting someone new and discovering that being friends was just meant to be.

Rachael and I also talked about taking the slower ride (non turnpike or major highway) through the New England states, and that was all I could think about before I boarded the ferry to Connecticut, when I met...

Ferry Dan

... Dan from Long Island.

Dan was taking a three-day ride over to New England. He showed me where to pay for my ticket. He helped me find the right road out of Bridgeport. And we rode together for awhile until it was almost time to go our separate ways.

But then, as we were filling our tanks, he offered to buy me a coffee from the Dunkin' Donuts restaurant he liked to stop at when he was out for a ride.

So we had coffee, and a bagel, and we talked about the NY road system, our families and jobs, our bikes, and once again I had found a new friend.

No. I didn't take photos of all those iconic places that maybe I should have, I didn't visit those wonderful places that people on vacation spend tons of money to go see, but I found something that means much more to me than that.

New friends.

And I can't wait to see who I meet tomorrow.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Words of Caution

If you find yourself in the south of Florida and think I-75 north has got to be better than taking 95, it isn't and it costs $15, but they have these great Florida Citrus Centers where you can buy postcards and alligator heads, so I guess it evens out.

If you find yourself in Lake City, Florida, and you're beating yourself up because you didn't stop in Key West to have a slice of Key Lime pie, and you haven't eaten much for a few weeks except for Ramen noodles and dehydrated backpacker meals, don't go to Cedar River Seafood and order fried alligator tail, hushpuppies, oyster soup AND a slice of Key Lime pie and expect your stomach to cooperate.

If you find yourself looking at a Cedar River Seafood hand-written food bill before you get your Key Lime pie, and it's not totaled up (there seems to be a crossed-out zero at the bottom), and you're pondering the meaning when Meggan, the waitress brings you the Key Lime pie and says "it's on me," she's talking about the PIE and not the ENTIRE MEAL.

And if you walk right out of Cedar River Seafood without paying, thinking that mankind is beautiful and you'll never forget the kindness of Meggan the waitress, but a bouncer-sized manager follows you out and says you haven't paid and you try to explain that Meggan paid for it all, DON'T. Just go back inside and pay because he's twice the size of you and could break your legs twice without working up a sweat.

P.S. If you wake up the next morning and your stomach is on strike and you know you have to ride 300 miles to Georgia through the heat and thunderstorms -- just wait awhile. Brush your teeth. Maybe write a story.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sunrise over I-10

I've seen some spectacular sunrises on this trip across America.

Sunrise over the Davis Mountains.

Sunrise over Lake Superior.

A hint of sunrise behind the fog over the Pacific Ocean.

But today I witnessed a sunrise over I-10 in Florida's panhandle that was the highlight of my day.


THE highlight.

Well, that and the brief chat I had with a Florida state trooper.

You see, I knew today was going to be a bust photo-wise because 10 and 95 are excruciatingly long and boring highways (I rode 451 miles over eight hours and took only two naps) that get you from one part of the state to the other without you even realizing that there's more to see than just highway, trees, thunderclouds, gas stations and Subway sandwiches.

I mean, if you were to ask me to describe Florida after what I saw today I'd say it was a trip odometer that barely moved forward, and sometimes, out of spite, ran backwards.

But none the less, I decided this morning to TRY and take a sunrise photo.

So I stopped on the shoulder, took several photos while ignoring the 18-wheelers buzzing past, and got back on my bike to continue on.

And that's when one of Florida's Best pulled up beside me.

"Everything cool?" he asked through his opened window.

He was a youngish trooper, round face, blond hair (I didn't get his name or badge number -- my inner reporter was slipping).

"Sure. I just stopped to take a picture," I said.

He looked down the highway and I knew exactly what he was thinking:

Take a picture of I-10? The Spanish Inquisition of all highways? The highway that makes perfectly-happy couples contemplate divorce twice for every hour they spend on the road because, "This is your fault we came this way too long to the next rest stop this car now or I'll pee all over my mother told me not to marry you better get us out of this God-forsaken state of mind to leave you now, buster, and I really mean it this time"?

Anyways, he just stopped to see if I was okay. I told him about the trip, he seemed quite impressed, and then...


He gave me a police escort back onto the highway with lights a-flashin' like I was some bloody Rock Star!

Ok, the "escort" only lasted about 52 yards...

...but that was a fantastic 52 yards.

Sunrise over I-10, Florida

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A little help from my friends

This is going to sound like an advertisement, but it's actually a testimonial:

I've been a bit down these last two weeks. I'd hoped to break a Guinness record this summer, but I've been riding too slow for the amount of time I'd given myself -- and I felt that if I wasn't going to break a record, then this whole trip was turning into a frivolous misadventure that I could ill afford to take. But I kept going.

And then things got worse: I noticed I had a bit of an oil leak; my helmet visors were starting to scar and crack; the intense pounding of the road broke my video camera mounts; and the extreme range of weather conditions and ceaseless wind caused my saddle bags to rip apart (I was just lucky they didn't fall off completely). But far worse was the fact that every motorcycle shop I talked to said they wouldn't be able to service my bike on the spot, that they had weeks-long waiting lists.

So when I finally made it back home and called my local bike shop for help, I really didn't know what to expect. Would they be able to get me back on the road with minimal loss of time, or was my trip over and out, dead and buried?

Not only did Spruill Honda fix my bike in less than 24 hours; not only did they give me a tab for parts and labor that I could pay off later; but when I told them to just chunk those weather-torn saddlebags, they found some old ones lying around in their shop and put them on my bike -- free of charge.

You may believe that this country is full of mean-spirited people who are only looking out for themselves, but I'm here to tell you this country is full of marvelous, interesting people who will not think twice about helping you out in whatever way that they can.

And some of the most caring people can be found right in your own hometown.

Thanks Spruill Honda.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

It's time to go home

I met a woman today named Spring. She was standing outside a gas station in Gillette, Wyoming, playing a penny whistle for food money. I heard her playing Down By The Sally Garden, so I gave her some money. Looking back, I should've given her more.

Spring is hiking from New York to California. She sleeps in a tent every night. She asked me if I also slept in a tent, and I told her sometimes I sleep in a hotel. She said I was rich.

I guess I am rich. Rich in family, rich in friends, rich in not having to worry about having enough food to eat. Rich in being able to travel for a little bit, chase down America, grab it by its collar and shake some goodness out of it.

But now it's time to go home. Maybe a bit early, with miles and miles left undone, but it's okay -- I've found what I'm looking for.

Found it in the places I've stayed, in the new friends I've met, in the people who waved or waved back, who laughed, who helped, who told me their story or listened to mine.

Found it in the woman who worked at McDonald's and was flirting with the elderly gentleman; the kilt-wearing bearded man at the rest stop who had a beautiful dog that everyone was petting; the hotel clerk who told me I'd better go get my Subway sandwich before her son got there because it was his first day on the job; the "real" bikers who paid me no mind; the young man who wished he could ride; the newlyweds; the strawberry pickers; the gas station attendants; the thousands of drivers who never tried to run me off the road.

I asked Spring to sign my bike so I'd remember her. She took my picture so she'd remember me. We wished each other a safe journey and hugged. I could hear her playing her music as I was riding away.

Riding away for home.


Sunday, July 5, 2015

It happened one afternoon near Coeur d'Alene

I was told before I left on my trip that I really should pack a gun.

You know, cuz the U.S. is a dangerous place.

With dangerous people.

But wishing I had a gun was the last thing on my mind this afternoon when I saw a motorcyclist walking down the highway toward me.

I had stopped on the shoulder.

He had parked his bike about 150 yards down the way.

He was still wearing his riding jacket and helmet.

I thought to myself, "Poor guy must be in trouble. Hope it's not mechanical. I know where to put the gas and I know if you turn this handle the bike goes vroom vroom, but other than that, I'm useless."

The traffic was screaming by and he was getting closer.

"I know," I thought, "he's probably out of fuel. Good thing I have two one-liter bottles full of extra. It won't get him far, but it'd get him further."

He was still getting closer, but instead of just standing there waiting for him, I started to walk toward him.

"Hey, what's up?" I asked when we finally met.

And do you know what he said?

He said, "I saw you parked on the shoulder and thought you were in trouble. I just stopped to see if you needed any help."

My mouth dropped.

I told him everything was fine, I was just taking a photo of the Idaho state sign.

We both laughed.

His name was Sam, and he was from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. He'd been in the military stationed in San Diego but moved back to Idaho to get away from the big city and to be near his father.

He was trying to be a good Sam-aritan.

(I just made that up!)

Anyways, there are millions of people in this country like Sam who just want to be helpful.

There are millions of people like Taylor and Dan, newlyweds I met yesterday at an Oregon gas station, who just wanted to say hello, and to tell me to have a safe ride.

There are millions of people like Robert and Jack and Kelli and Marie and Xhristain and Martha -- wonderful people you only meet once, maybe for just a few minutes, some for a few hours -- people who renew your faith in mankind, and that this crazy mixed-up world is still full of people who are kind, caring, basically good, and they just want to help and get along with others.

Yes, there are some bad eggs out there, too, but they are far outnumbered by the Sam's of this world.

After we'd said our goodbyes, I watched Sam walk back to his bike.

I waited on mine to make sure he got there safely.

It was the least I could do.

Thanks, Sam.

You da man!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Now kids, don't try this at home

"How do you feel about lane splitting?" asked Robert.

Lane splitting is one of those controversial motorcycle techniques you never tell your wife about.

Or your mother.

The technique involves riding between the lanes of slower-moving vehicles, hoping they'll stay in their lane while you go through theirs. It's sort of like making your own little HOV lane but with cars and eminent danger on both sides.

And it's controversial because in most states -- like Texas -- it's illegal.

"I always feel iffy about it too, but in California it's legal," said Robert. "And if we don't, we're going to be in this traffic all day."

Up ahead of us were two very long lanes of cars at a dead stop. Road construction? Accident? We didn't know. All we knew was that we had many miles to go, and just sitting there wasn't helping.

"Okay," I said. "I'll follow you."

I met Robert Magill from the United Kingdom earlier in the day at a scenic vista overlooking the ocean. I was taking photographs and he pulled up just behind me.

"Nice bike," I said.

(For motorcyclists, that's equivalent to "how's the weather?")

Robert was retired, he was a bit taller than me, had more hair than me, was more ruggedly handsome than me, so I left my helmet on.

Turns out Robert was in the U.S. on an eight-week holiday to ride around the States and Canada, and had bought the Kawasaki Versys he was riding because it was cheaper than shipping his own bike over.

We talked about what we were doing, where we were going, he asked me to take his photograph with the ocean as a backdrop, I asked him to sign my bike.

And then he was off.

About an hour later we met again at a gas station, and since we were both heading in the same direction -- toward San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge -- we decided to ride together.

And eventually split a few lanes together.

But please don't tell my wife.

Or my mother.


Monday, June 29, 2015

My day in San Clemente, California

"Please tell me I'm not the only one who's swing lock has ever locked by itself," I asked the hotel's maintenance guy as I stood outside my locked door.

"Nah," he said. "When the Brazilian surfers were here last week, their doors constantly locked because they were in such a big hurry to get to the waves."

"OK. I feel better now. I guess I'll slow down a bit."

I thanked him. He walked off. I had my hotel room back.

It all started when I went to the local UPS store to mail some things home, things that were just causing me consternation (tripod, bivy sack, ukulele).

That's where I met UPS gurus Ty and Glenn.

Glenn was probably my age. He had great hair and a flat nose.

Glenn got out his measuring tape, measured everything, agonized over what box to put it in, measured it again, thought about it, then walked away.

He just walked away.

Ty was a younger guy. He asked if I'd been helped. I said Glenn was, but now he's gone.

(I don't think I was stinky, but you never know.)

Ty finished everything up, Glenn came back up front to help someone else, and I just hope my package doesn't end up in Peru or maybe Oslo.

After that, I went looking for the nearest Walmart for GoPro replacement parts and fresh fruit.

(My eating habits are not quite stellar and I thought the fruit would do me good.)

Found Walmart, found the electronics section (no GoPro] and was horrified at the store's pitiful example of a produce section.

Don't these San Clementonians eat clementines?

"Well, this isn't one of those Walmart superstores," an associate told me. "Try Target."

Well, that's just super.

I did buy a banana and two avocados before leaving. At least they had that.

So I headed over to Target.

THEY had a full produce section. I bought a packaged Cranberry Almond Chicken Salad sandwich and a Naked Green Machine smoothie.

They had a GoPro display, but not what I was looking for.

And I found a hat -- to replace the one I lost.

How did I lose it?

Don't ask me.

It must've just flown out of my pocket while my head was turned, thinking it'd had enough of this galavanting about and would just take the next bus to Texas, with or without me.

Anyways, I got back to the hotel to do my laundry, and the swing lock was bolted.

But it's open now, my laundry is done, I've taken a shower and eaten my expensive sandwich and drink, I might have a banana for desert -- or maybe the avocados -- and everything's hunky dory.


Some photos of my Trip so Farr


Wolf Creek Pass


California sand


Feet in the Pacific


San Clemente palm trees