Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A chance encounter on the PCH

I so much wanted today to be a good one.

But there was fog everywhere. Fog up the coastline where it rolls in with the waves and surfers; fog down the coastline where it beats upon the rocks disturbing gulls and people trying to do yoga on the beach. Fog in San Clemente, fog in Newport Beach.  Chance people driving the Pacific Coast Highway, peeping out their windows or over handlebars into a sky of fog, thought they were driving on no highway at all, but in clouds with no exit ramps.

(Thanks Mr. Dickens.)

Anyways, it was foggy.

I did get to see some awesome waves off in the mist, but that was about it.

"It can't be like this all the way to Portland," I said to myself at a red traffic light in Huntingdon Beach.

And that's where I met Leonora.

She pulled up right beside me on her motorcycle.

"Going on a trip?" she asked.

She was probably in her mid 20s. She had on a white helmet, white jacket, sunglasses, chaps, a ponytail. She had a slight Spanish or Italian accent. I didn't take much notice of her motorcycle, other than it had some really nice tan saddlebags.

"Yep, going to Portland."

"All the way on Highway 1?"

I told her it would probably take a month, but yes -- all the way on Highway 1.

"Where are you off to?" I asked.

She shrugged her shoulders and said, "To work."

I will admit it was a stupid question.

"Is it always foggy like this?"

Another stupid question, but it WAS foggy.

"Yes, this time of year it is, but it should clear up by 9."

And then I asked her name, but before I could comprehend what she was saying (her accent got a bit in the way), the light changed and she was off.

I followed her for two more lights then did a partial California lane-splitting move to pull up right beside her.

"What did you say your name was? Spell it."

L-E-O-N-O-R-A, she said -- and just in time.

The light changed, she waved, and then she was gone.

Leonora, I repeated to myself.

Five minutes later the fog cleared and the sun came out.

pch1

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.

Goodnight.

Some photos of my Trip so Farr

Untitled

Wolf Creek Pass

Untitled

California sand

Untitled

Feet in the Pacific

Untitled

San Clemente palm trees


A chance encounter at a gas station in Arizona

I met Lance in Kayenta, Arizona. I was standing under a shade tree eating snack crackers and drinking water (my lunch for the day).

Lance was probably a little older than me.

He was wearing a baseball hat.

I only saw one tooth.

We talked about the bike, my trip, the heat, how far aways was Flagstaff; and then, like I expected, he asked me for two dollars.

Old Me held up my water bottle and said I'd spent all the money I had on this one bottle.

Lance said he understood and began to walk away.

New Me, knowing that a lot of people gave to me so I could get to Arizona, probably just to meet Lance under a shade tree, said that I might have two dollars if he'd sign my bike.

Lance signed my bike, and I gave him the money.

We shook hands, and before he walked away he said, "It was nice doing business with you."

I agreed.

Untitled

The Trip so Farr -- Part III, The Colorado Loop-da-Loop

Untitled

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How a hotdog, split-pea soup and a woman named Marie saved my life

The idea was to take an easy, relaxed ride along the San Juan Skyway and Million-Dollar Highway, be home before too late so I could have plenty of time for lounging and more lounging.

(I like lounging.)

But I started off late. And it got cloudy. Then gloomy.

Then it got cold and started to drizzle, then rain, then it got really cold, and I was at the point where I just wanted it to be over and done with so I could be back in my warm, safe little cabin, drinking hot tea and reading Sherlock Holmes stories.

That's when I got gas at Mountain Top in Rico. A little store along the Skyway. A store that sold wine, souvenirs and hot dogs.

Hot dogs?

It sounded so good and I was so hungry.

But no, I couldn't, I had to get going.

I pumped my gas, waited for the receipt -- but the gas pump didn't give me a receipt. I HAD to go in.

Karma? I don't know. You decide.

Marylynn Tunner is the owner of Mountain Top. When I asked for the receipt -- and a hotdog -- she suggested I also have a hot bowl of homemade ham and split-pea soup.

Soup?

Oh baby!

Except for the hot tea, a breakfast bar and some raisins I had early in the morning, I hadn't eaten all day. So the soup and hot dog hit me in the spot that needed to be hit, and I felt so much better for it.

And I swear this next part is true:

When I went back out to my bike to finish this "easy ride," the clouds parted and it was sunny and wonderful and birds were singing and little lizard things were skittering across the highway and it was everything I hoped this day would be. She and the soup and the hotdog saved my spirits, my soul and my life -- figuratively speaking of course.

But when I got back to Durango, everything changed.

More rain, and this time HAIL.

Not only that, but it was getting darker and I had only my shaded visor. You know, the one you're supposed to use during DAYLIGHT, not DARKLIGHT.

So there I was, heading over Wolf Creek Pass in the dark, in the rain, my visor up so I could see, rain and bugs splattering my face, when out on the lawn their 'rose such a clatter....

Oops, sorry.

... when up ahead I saw the taillights of a car, and I was catching up to it.

A car that I could follow, lower my visor, see with their headlights, get home without making my wife upset that I went out ONCE AGAIN and did a darn-fool thing because "that man is a darn fool, and now look at him -- dead because he had on the wrong visor."

(I don't think she'd actually say that, but you never know.)

I followed that car up and over and back down the other side of that mountain, and when it finally pulled over at a gas station, I followed it, honked my horn, parked beside it, and Marie, the driver, was trying to apologize, but I told her she'd just saved my life.

Literally.

And that's how a hotdog, split-pea soup and a woman named Marie saved my life.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Me and Tropical Storm Bill

I have an Uncle Bill. He's a nice man. He's married to my Aunt Juanice. He wouldn't hurt a fly.

Tropical Storm Bill bared no resemblance to my uncle. Not only would he hurt a fly, but he would waterboard it, rip off it's wings, and stick out his tongue at the poor thing as he crushed it under his bare feet.

And why I decided to play around with the beast is beyond me.

The mission?

Dive through the middle of Bill's guts, enjoy the calm between the waves, and put 400 more miles on my odometer before supper in my own home.

I guess that's exactly what I did.

And got really wet.

The joy of crossing the Texas state line knowing I'd soon be home, and I quote my Facebook quote at the time: "One more hour and I'll be taking a shower," made up for the 340 miles of misery I had just endured.

But a lot can happen in 60 miles during a tropical storm.

I got to Texarkana, filled up my tank, looked south and saw a lot more nastiness, but I didn't care because I was heading west where the sun was shining and the day was more gorgeous than I could ever imagine.

Fifty-nine miles later I was completely dried out and in great spirits as I approached the Titus County line, my home county.

But just on the other side of the line was a massive raincloud that brought me to a complete stop, blinded me so that I couldn't see five feet in front of me, leaving me to sit on the shoulder of I-30 cringing as massive semis passed by me with only inches to spare, spraying water on me to add insult to misery.

I thought to myself, "Holy cow, just an hour ago I was in the dry. And now here I sit. Taking my shower."

Me and my big mouth.

I did eventually make it home. I had some soup and coffee. A HOT shower. Got everything high and dry. Had my motorcycle in the shop for an oil change. And now here I sit, putting down these thoughts, knowing that tomorrow I'm off to Colorado and all points west.

The journey continues.

Cheers!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A random encounter

I just met two men riding Harley's.

We were under a bridge trying to stay out of the wind and rain.

They had matching rain suits, saddle bags and boots.

I had an umbrella and a ukulele.

We didn't have much to talk about.

After a while, they put on their helmets and drove off into the rain.

A few minutes later, so did I.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

On the road with: The Sumo Wrestler

It's just a little song I wrote awhile back.

 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mosquitoes and weather and tent, oh my.

Seeing that I'm stuck in Sault Ste. Marie due to weather, I might as well tell ya a story.

The second leg of my journey, the "Tag, Lake Michigan. You're It" portion, has been dictated by weather, and I don't mean the good kind.

I started out in Texas, barreled through Oklahoma, and made it to Hutchinson, Kansas only to find that the state park where I was hoping to stay was designed just for RVs, and tent campers that showed up could use the field along side it, next to the restrooms and really nice showers.

With me being the only tent camper, I had the field all to myself.

And then the weather said, "hello."

The plan was to head northeast through Iowa, then up to SS Marie, but because Mother Nature cooked up 100 percent of nastiness and dumped the whole plateful along my path, I diverted instead to Fargo.

It wasn't so bad.

Untitled

The next day, after a late start because I couldn't find a Walmart to buy some breakfast bars (like the ones I accidentally left home without), I headed to Superior National Forest in western Minnesota to spend the night.

And how many times did I get lost going from Fargo to my night's stopover?

Don't ask.

After a peaceful night in a nice spot, I headed south to Duluth, into Wisconsin and made my way to  Porcupine Mountains State Park in the Ottawa National Forest.

Untitled

And how many times did I get lost getting there?

Why do you keep asking?

If  I added up all the miles I rode trying to get to the places I was trying to get to but couldn't because I took Highway 94 instead of Interstate 94, which were only a few blocks apart and went in completely different directions, I could have gotten myself home by now, mowed the yard, and downed a big glass of iced tea while sitting on the porch swatting at a few mosquitoes.

MOSQUITOES!!

Do not -- and I repeat, DO NOT try to go tent camping in Michigan's Upper Peninsula during the early summer, or probably at ANY time, because the mosquitoes will suck the blood out of you, your tent, your shoes, and the motorcycle you rode in on.

OFF?

They use it to land on.

DEET?

They think it's a food item.

LISTERINE splashed all over your face and neck and hair and hands?

You've got to be kidding.

I tried it all, over and over again, and over again, and eventually the only solution was to dive into my tent at 5 p.m. and swat at the unlucky ones that got trapped inside, all looking for a way out, but couldn't before I slapped them to death, the little buggers.

And then it rained.

And the rain ran under my tent because I put the tarp down wrong; it seeped through the tent's floor, and I woke up at 1 a.m. to find myself on Thermarest Island surrounded by Lake Superior.

I saw my backpack float by and thought, "Well, this is a pickle."

(I would tell you "The Blind Camper Lost in the Forest" story, but it's too horrifying for me to dredge up at the moment. Maybe another time.)

Long story short -- I'm in a hotel, all dried, clothes washed, I just ate some Michigan biscuits and gravy, a cheese omelette and three sausages, two glasses of orange juice, and after I edit this all and add a couple of photos, I'm gonna fix me some coffee, watch some Netflix, and maybe mail a few postcards.

I head off Tuesday morning to end this sorry portion of my journey, through rain, high water, and whatever comes -- and hopefully will be home Friday (to start the NEXT leg of this adventure).

Hopefully.

(If you want to see some more of my photos of this trip, head here to Flickr. Thank ya very much.)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Walmart, in theory

When we cross the Event Horizon of our friendly neighborhood Walmart, we are simultaneously in all Walmarts throughout the universe. We are not aware of this fact because our perceptions are attuned to only our primary universe, although we can see hints of this phenomena:

  • The beans that used to be on aisle 7 next to the taco shells are now in the automotive section.
  • Rodney, your favorite produce manager, has been replaced by Angela, a skinny reptilian who hisses at little kids.
  • You've gotten all your groceries and haven't met a single person you know.
In theory, we could walk out with our baskets of dog food and chips onto some unknown planet billions of lightyears away from our own, but that's against Walmart policies.

Just imagine all those beings searching for their parked cars.





Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

That's just how it is Haiku

Out in West Texas
we got crosswinds a'plenty
but nada 3G.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Week One -- The Texas Shakedown

Sit down, pardner, and let me tell you a tale.

Last Monday, 1 June 2015, I waved goodbye to family and friends and headed down the long trail to Corpus Christie, Texas, to begin a motorcycle adventure that would see me "Chasing America."

(All adventures have to have names. It's a rule.)

Well, 424 miles later, after a hard day's ride and long hours of dreaming about cool breezes and sandy beaches, I stepped onto Mustang Island and began sucking down every variety of mosquito known to man, and woman.

Every. Stickin'. Variety.

"You did take bug spray with you, didn't you?" I hear you ask, but not really, cuz that would be creepy.

"Yes, of course," I say.

The eco-organic spray that boasts of not having one drop of DEET.

The spray that those darn pesky buggers sucked down like beer.

And then brought over their friends who wanted to enjoy the party.

Thus was the beginning of my trip.

Mustang Island

I call it The Texas Shakedown because I spent six days figuring out what worked and what needed a bit of refinement.

Tennis shoes are too big to fit in the waterproof bag. Maybe sandals or slippers.

Way too many power cords.

Bring a cigarette lighter instead of matches.

Buy some DEET-infused bug spray.

Now I've gone and done it.

After leaving Corpus, I headed north to the Hill Country and rode "The Three Sisters", three county roads with more twists and turns than mystery novel. It's my first iconic ride of this trip.

The Twisted Sisters

Next, Laredo's Lake Casa Blanca International State park; then Davis Mountains State Park; a hotel in San Saba; Copper Breaks State Park near Wichita Falls; Paris to see the cowboy hat-adorned Eiffel Tower, and then finally home to shake everything down, fix everything up, mow the yard, take out the trash, have the cars worked on, and fix a few meals before heading out to:

"Tag, Lake Michigan, You're It."

I leave Tuesday, 9 June 2015.

I have an album of all the photographs I've taken so far over on Flickr.

Week One -- The Trip so Farr

Week One -- The trip so Farr

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Cowboy trail poem

I love the smell of leather.
I love the taste of beans.
I love to wear my cowboy boots outside my cowboy jeans.
I love the sound of late-at-night coyotes all a play,
but most of all I love you, dear, though I am far away.
But most of all I love you, dear, forever and a day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What's in a name?

After more than 37 minutes of extensive research last Thursday, I've come to realize that I hate Thursdays, extensive research and if given a choice, would much rather jump on my dear old JD and ride him around the backyard in the middle of the night during a spring lightning storm.

JD is my riding lawnmower.

I named it JD because it’s a John Deere. I could have named it Alice, but jumping on an Alice and whipping it around the backyard in the middle of the night just didn’t seem appropriate.

But now that I think about it, jumping on JD doesn't sound all that good, either.

Oh well. We humans are a strange lot; spending all our money on diets and exercise machines, eating fast food when slow food is so much better, and giving human names to inanimate objects because we’d much rather have “Cindy” helping us trim the hedges than some smelly old weedeater.

Well, let me tell you what I think of the whole mess:

It’s bollocks.

(Bollocks is a Middle English word meaning “testicles,” often used figuratively by the British as a noun to mean “nonsense.” Sentence: “Naming a lawnmower JD is a bunch of bollocks.” Which it is, and I didn’t. I lied.)

I can go along with naming a dog "Rover" or “Skip” because they’re living creatures that can be trained to fetch or play dead. But giving a Black and Decker Citrus Juicer with an Easy-Pour Spout the name of "Bob" or “Luanne” is just asking for trouble.

Sure, Willie Nelson had his "Trigger"; B.B. King played his "Lucille." There’s "Herbie" the Love Bug; Stephen King's "Christine"; The Green Hornet’s "Black Beauty"; and of course The Batmobile.

But let me be perfectly clear about something: I will NOT give my “things” a name.

And that includes naming my motorcycle.

I know I'm bucking the trend of modern-day motorcycle adventurers, but two wheels, an engine and an exhaust system doesn't deserve (in my humble opinion) an affectionate name like “Madeline” or “Southern Belle” – a name that it will learn to hate as it grows older, wishing that it was named "Apollo" or "Sidewinder."

You spend days and days trying to find just the perfect name for your bike, looking through all the “A Million and One Great Baby Motorcycle Names” help books you can find, and what do you get in return? A self-absorbed chrome-covered machine that never misses a chance to criticize your decision with, "Why couldn't Mad Dog Barganski be me owner. He gave his bike a COOL name" or "Someday I'm going to change my name to something that YOU should have named me in the first place."

You, in turn, respond with, "When you get a bit older and you’re living by yourself in some dusty spare-parts corner of some two-bit motorcycle and ATV shop, you can name yourself anything you want."

How can something you’ve spent time and energy and money and polishing rags on be so cruel, you ask yourself? Where did I go wrong? I tried to be a loving, supportive motorcycle owner, putting in the premium fuel while all the other owners pump the low-grade junk fuel into their machines.

He should be grateful that I gave him a name at all. Has even thought about all the poor motorcycles in China who never even get a name? How they live on the streets, uncovered, watching their resell value plummet without even knowing they HAD a resell value?

“One day, when you’re older, you’ll thank me for your name and the time I put into giving it to you,” you say.

"I will not! I hate you,” your ungrateful little cruiser screams. “I wish you never bought me."

Oh, the foul language that bubbles up to your lips, just wanting to be set free, but you refrain because you’re a good motorcycle owner, you’ve read all the expert books about having a bike, you know that what is said in the heat of the moment will come back to bite you in the buttocks threefold – so you just grin and bear it, because that’s all you can do.

Notice, I said YOU.

Not ME.

The raw emotions of naming a motorcycle are just too much for me to handle. 

3.29.15 Sunday afternoon