Some Ramblings From A Rambling Mind

Oh Thanksgiving, I think you deserve a blog. I have thanks to give and you are here, so here I am.

First off, I have had the pleasure of joining some folks in their celebration today. It is a lovely atmosphere in a beautiful home. So far I have been introduced to two sisters and their partners. Star and Ronna, older versions of my sister and I really. Just oh so sweet with voices as sweet as honey. They are older, but I have found that when I’m not looking at them I am certain thay are in their twenties. Sweet beautiful voices that say sisterly things. Voices that talk of their parents with shared love and inside knowledge that just speaks to how close they are. The men are musicians. One is named Lawrence and he sings and plays the guitar.  It reminds me of Lawrence Welk despite the fact that he doesn’t sound like him.  Free association by name and talent only. Last night was spent looking through various versions of the song Little Wing on YouTube and sipping wine. Wooden jigsaw puzzels were also pondered over. California is too dry for a fire, and the lack of chill didn’t necessitate it anyway. Regardless, the air was filled with a crackly, permeable warmth just like the kind given by a fire. My family in South Dakota and Minnesota are all enjoying the same type of warmth right now, I am certain.  Even though I am not enjoying it with them I know they are comfortable in the softness of each others company. Even though I would like to be joining them I am happy to be here, where I am, with a family that I now feel I can take some claim to.

I am grateful for that. I thank the expansive universe for the family I have been, and continue to accumulate here on my adventure. Adopted family all around that take Little Wing and I under their large embrace. A giant hug from the universal star dust.. or something like that.

On my way from San Leandro to Monterey yesterday I stopped at the Mazda runway in Laguna Seca. I was told about it by my kind host, Chuck. It is a world class track where people with fast vehicles go when they want to go fast. I like fast. Fast vehicles are the best vehicles (with the exception of my 1992 Ford Ranger, Smokey.  It is the best truck I’ve ever known, and it doesn’t go fast.) so I figured I had to stop. Yesterday was Porsche day there I found out. I rode into the park where the track is located, smack dab in the middle. When I got near the track I could here nice cars zooming. Loud and obvious,  but not the same kind of loud and obvious as a vehicle with a pumped up exhaust,  or a vehicle that’s lacking an exhaust system all together. No, this was the kind of loud one gets from a beautifully built car with a  great engine. A car that is  meant to GO, and boy did they. I was welcomed in by a sweet middle age lady who was holding a release form vistors had to sign before entering the inner track area. I suspect it is in case one of the vehicles goes really fast in the wrong direction,  or something like that. She told me it was Porsche day, which meant many Porsche clubs from the area were there to practice going fast. I was glad she told me, but she didn’t really have to. Porsche day was easily identifiable once Little Wing and I were through the gate by the Porches everywhere. Lined up in rows, parked in the garages. Filling up at the pumps. One particularly nice one was parked away from the rest with a flat tire on the rear driver side. The ones not parked were zoooom zooooom zoooming around the track. What an amazing thing to see. Besides motorcycles Porsches are my favorite wheeled beast. It was almost like it was arranged just for me, but it wasn’t. I know this because when I asked one of the drivers if he could take a passenger his smiling face immediately became stoic and he responded “No.” Clearly not my event, unfortunately. Ah well, it was amazing anyway. So there it is, I’m grateful for German engineering and motors that get my mind reeling.

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I’m grateful for intelligence. Gargantuan words and science fiction movies. Science, logic, Spock, and the Buddha of nerds, Yoda. Great books written by authors who know how to tell a story seamlessly.  Art that grabs your heart and shakes it. Art and music that gives chills. Passion lived out intelligently. I am grateful for such things.

I feel gratitude for the people that I knew before the adventure. The parent I love with such force, the one who raised me. I am grateful for the life that was given to me by two of them. The best friend that was given to me before I was even born, my sister. My extended family,  my family of friends,  the many people who have made me who I am. I think of them fondly today.

You guys, it is the day dedicated to giving thanks! This is like the only holiday I truly get into.

There is a lot happening in our world right now. The conflict occuring in our country, the conflict that has been occurring in others for years. Our world is full of sad events that can’t just be overlooked, and some of them are anyway. I want to observe the negativity, and I want to see it gone,  but that’s not what this post is about, I will save that for another time. This post is about gratitude.  While I am not involved the negativity I am grateful I have the option and freedom to be free of it. I thank the stars that I am where I am and not somewhere else. I am grateful that there are people out there who are willing to take on the negativity for me, allowing me to remain optimistic.  But what I’m most grateful for are those that believe,  like me, that humans are better than all this. I am grateful for good hearted humans that follow love instead of hate and act on it every day. Teachers and nurses. Those who share smiles with strangers, and people who don’t hold grudges.  I am thankful for all those who love themselves for who they are. Humans that realize people are what they are and that we should accept all regardless of differences. I am grateful that I am meeting those people on my journey,  and I am grateful beyond words that the world is not what I thought it was before my adventure. It is great to know the world is filled with good and the media is/was misleading.  Sure, there is bad stuff, but even more so there is good. If you look for it you will see it. I am grateful for perspective.

I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium yesterday. It wasn’t even busy, I was shocked and so very pleased to find more sea creatures than humans.  There were tiny little creatures immersed in all that liquid. They were thriving in lovely tanks filled with amazing artistic displays of corral and sea rocks. I got to see octopi and jelly fishes.  Sharks, sea otters, and sea birds. The positivity of our world was there, living despite any human negativity that might be happening in this world. I got to spend two full hours gawking and I loved it! I was thankful for that opportunity which I got to share with a new friend, Star.

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I’m grateful for good smelling turkey, and fresh lemons given to me by kind folk for me to pass onto the people I’m sharing this day with. I’m grateful for wool sweaters and a new helmet given to me by those who care about my safety. California,  Minnesota and all the states in between.  All the things that are still left to be discovered on Little Wing.

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I am thankful for the poetry of gratitude,  and how pretty this blog sounds if read out loud to the sound of classical music.

Love to you all. Enjoy this day, and all the rest of ’em too.

Taking Care Of The Oily Bits

Little Wing got a good cleaning today. This post is for all you motorcycle fanatics who understand the power of a good bike cleansing. Cleanliness is next to godliness. And everyone knows we don’t honor false idles.. or something like that.

Anyway, enough of that, I took some before and after shots. Don’t gawk too much, he’s a pretty piece of equipment, but if he gets any bigger of a head I have to find another teardrop gas tank, and I think this one suits him after it’s shined up a bit.

Before:

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Lots of bug crud, leaf duff, and dirt build up, as well as three months of oil from leaky seals. No worries, we got that off there now.

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Mmmm, greasy.

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Yep, that oil gets everywhere.

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No pressure, but someone should really clean that bike up. Yeah, yeah, I hear ya.

Guess what folks? I took care of all that. Me myself, some good engine degreaser, and various scrubby instruments and rags.

After:

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Some things just don't want to get clean, but check out that clear-as-a-mirror belt cover. Beautiful.

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Look! The discoloration of the carb is visible again! What a job.

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Shiny!

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Now someone should go clean thegrease of them fingers. Peace man, job well done. Owner and bike satisfied, check.

So there you have it. That’s how I spent my sunny day in Nor-Cal. Getting greasy and checking all my motorcycle’s nuts and bolts. Not too bad.

Tomorrow I’m off to Monterey.

SMILE

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I went to Haight & Asbury today and seen all the street kids, and Jimi’s (Hendrix ofcourse) house. Jimi’s house has been turned into a smoke shop, but the Haight is still as full of street kids as it ever was.

I gave a dollar to a boy who claimed he needed it for the bus. I gave all the change in the bottom of my hand crocheted bag to a couple of rough looking individuals — a guy and gal– with their dogs. When I handed the change to her she passed it over to him, and that took care of that. After that I was plumb out of spare change. I walked past many signs and many young people like myself who looked like they could use a spare dime. One sign in particular made me chuckle,  it said “I bet you $1 you will read this sign.” I laughed and I pointed at the kid holding the sign, I said “you’re right” and continued on. I turned around realizing the sign had been asking for money and I said “but I don’t have a dollar.”

I walked on. I walked around the block. I checked out the shops. Haight & Ashbury is an interesting place. The buildings are gorgeous, the street art fantastic.  The most run down looking house is 1524 Haight, a smoke shop.. Jimi’s old house. I walked into a few stores. I bought some postcards and a Jimi Hendrix patch. I finished walking, I was ready to rejoin Little Wing, so I turned back the way I came. The corner where the boy sat with the sign that challenged me was on the way back, so I saw it again. I smiled and pointed, and said “I still don’t have one.”

He raised his hand for a high five as he gave me a smile. He was sitting so his hand was at waist level, and I reached down and we made contact. As I crossed the street I heard him say something, I’m not quite sure what it was. I turned around and he was holding a different sign. He had turned his body so he was facing me as I walked away and he held a sign that said SMILE,  and I did. I gave him the biggest smile and I coupled it with a laugh. The joy that boy gave me with that simple sign, it is still filling my gut. The butterflies tickle and the smile wrinkles on my face crease when I think of it.

I walked back to Little Wing. I started  the disassembly of my town walking outfit — taking off my shoes and bag —  and started the reassembly of my riding outfit. As I unwrapped my bag from my shoulder and checked the contents my hand came out with the half ate chocolate bar I had bought earlier. Dark chocolate and orange peel, one of my favorites. Hard to go wrong with citrus and chocolate. As I held it I realized I had no good place to store it without it melting and I concluded that it was no longer in its best interest to stay in my posession. I shod my feet in my boots. I dawned my jacket, helmet, and gloves, and Little Wing and I made our way to the corner where the word SMILE had so boldly been displayed minutes earlier. I approached the boy with the sign, “Do you like dark chocolate?”

“Yes.”

“Here then, this is for you.”

The boy held out his hand as I dropped the half eaten chocolate bar into it, and a smile as big as the one he had caused me spread across his face, “Thank you!” he said thrilled, as he broke off chunks of chocolate. It was clear he was trying to savor it, but he was hungry so it disappeared fast.

“Thank you for the smile” I responded.

There is nothing better than giving back the joy someone gave you. It merely doubles the cheer.

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SMILE.

I bet you one dollar you read this

Another Notch

If West is best then I have just experienced the best part of my adventure today.

I’m in Oakland, CA,  not far from Berkley, making my way around the United States one turn around and twist after another. I left Berkley this morning to head South since my hosts took off from Berkley to head North for their Thanksgiving. They went Northeast to Minnesota in a plane,  so I went Southwest on Little Wing.

My trip, thus far, has constituted of riding West. Eventually I got to the coast and then the goal was to head South. I’m basically circling our country, so soon I will head  East and then back North again, but for the time being I still had to hit the most western part of our great country, and I did that. Today.

I rode out of Berkley after a two and half week stop. A nice long reprieve from the hard road and the rainy weather. Hard road my foot, but it sure sounds good so I am going with it. Two and a half weeks, the majority of which Little Wing was stationary,  immobile, not moving. Well, Little Wing did get a little excercise, but mostly in the form of stopping and starting at stop lights and with top out speed of 40 mph. Today we went for a long ride where for short spurts we went 55 and then 65 when we hit the freeway. It was good excercise for the bike, and it was good excercise for me. My greatest workout is on that bike. I love the feel of being bone tired after a long ride, which is how I’m feeling now. It is a comfortable feeling, it is like a blanket from home to me now. When I stop for a long time with little to no bike movement I begin to miss being bone tired at the end of the day. It is the same exhaustion that comes from a long night of dancing,  which is one of the reasons I crave dancing when I’m not riding. I did dance once when staying with my hosts in Berkley. I went to a fun bar called Starry Plough and I caught their house band playing. It was a great mix of jazz/funk and hip hop that was easy to dance to and great to hear. I had the great fortune of getting a free beverage from a kind lady who was marketing Sierra Nevada beer so I didn’t have to purchase one (I didn’t ride my bike to the bar so I didn’t mind having a drink). The beer made me tired though,  so I also ordered a black tea. When I tried to pay for the tea later the bartender told me it was on him. He seemed to think two dollars was hardly something to deal with the til over, and I didn’t feel the need to argue about it. It was so super kind. It made me look to the stars and thank the universe for all the kindness it has to offer.

This evening on my way back to Oakland, though,  I met the my first mean person I’ve met since I have been on the road. I was riding, it was dark. I was following the directions from my GPS to find my way to the home I am currently sitting in, and I missed my turn. Twice. The first time I pulled into a Taco Bell parking lot. I pulled in, my GPS readjusted, and it told me I could get to the road I wanted if I kept going straight and took the next right. I missed the next right, realized what I had done, and pulled off again. I did a u-turn in a parking lot and got myself pointed back towards the entrance. I had to wait for the light to turn inorder to make my turn without traffic, which was now on my left. As I idled and waited I heard some one yell “hey, wait! ” I heard the words, but I didn’t think they were directed at me. The light had turned green and I was about pullout of the parking lot when I heard it again, “hey, wait!”

I turned around to look and there was a young guy in a flannel coat and ball cap approaching me. He had with him an anxious chocolate lab on leash. The dog was pulling back towards where they had came from (behind me) and the owner was dragging the leash and dog towards me making for an uncomfortable game of tug-o-war. The owner managed to pull the dog across the sidewalk to my bike where he stood a little behind me on my right side, lined up with my panniers, but not bothering to stand at my side, so I was forced to crane my neck to look at his face. “How old are you?” he asked. The way he said it sounded gruff, but I didn’t put much emphasis on that observation because people often sound gruff and they are often quite kind.

“21. Why?”

“No you’re not,” he responded. He was a young man, not much older than 21 himself I would guess. A very symmetrical, good looking kid, with hair that matched the fur of the chocolate lab who was, by now, squirming in a circle, doing some odd yoga type position that looked like he was chasing his tail. In actuality he was just trying to get away from the leash. Because he was a good looking kid, and because I have gotten accustomed to giving humans the benefit of the doubt,  I thought he might be trying some weird pick up line, despite the fact that his voice sounded still very gruff.

“Why do you ask?” I responded. Now keep in mind that this was happening in a very short time, but the light had turned red during the time this kid was distracting me.

“Because you’re not 21. Are you a runaway or something? You are clearly like eight, you can’t even ride this bike. I saw you riding and you don’t know how to ride it.”

At this point I figured out the boy was in fact just a kid with a gruff voice because he was mean. I couldn’t figure out his point. My brow furrowed, and for two seconds I waited, astride Little Wing, for him to tell me he was just kidding. Just having a laugh, being funny, finding humor in starting odd discussions with strangers. He didn’t. And two seconds went by, and I, instead of saying something angry back at him (even though I wanted to so bad), heard some other voice come from my lips. It said “oh, thank you,” as I turned back to the lights, away from the kid and his unhappy dog. Being that I was in a parking lot, and no traffic was passing the way I wanted to go, I hitched my feet up fast on Little Wing, opened up the throttle, and took my left turn, leaving a little extra exhaust behind for the brown haired boy.

He yelled one more thing at me as I took off. I would have rather missed it, but I heard it just as I had heard him the first time he had shouted at me. “Have a nice life,” he said. And just like that, the brown haired demon was behind me.

Honestly,  I’m not sure what that meant, or if it meant anything. I am still quite shocked that people as cruel as that exist out here on my adventure. I knew some cold hearted cruel humans back in Minnesota.  I know that they are there,  waiting to suck the positivity out of a room. Emotional vampires preying on the happy people. However I thought they only existed in Minnesota.  I mean since I’ve left I haven’t encountered any. The bad demons have been replaced by kind people giving me places to sleep and free beer and tea. The bad demons were all left behind in my real life, except not. There is one in the Bay area, he escaped and has found his way into my adventure, and he apparently thinks I’m a bad rider. Ah well, every story has to have a bad guy. Even cowgirls riding back from the sunset have to encounter them. I reached the furthest West point of the country and on the way back from it ran into my demons again. I could only ride away for so long I suppose.

That was not my day though.  There was so much more to it, and the majority of it was super positive. Little Wing and I made our way down Highway 1. We twisted, turned, curved and cavorted along the winding coastal rode. We wove our way in and out of the sweet towns. After two hours we had made it less than sixty miles, but damn did we enjoy it. We passed many motorcycles along the way. I found my fingers jutting out at waste height making the peace sign to many riders headed in the direction I had come from. I alternated between passing people on their rides and pulling off to the side to let other riders pass me. Eventually I felt the need for a tea and pee break so I stopped in little town called Point Reyes Station. The town was full of bikes, something I failed to  notice at first when I made a point to park at the first cafe in town because of the three bikes parked in front of it. As I parked two older gentleman gathered at the edge of the sidewalk.  I merely observed them as I situated Little Wing correctly, back tire butting the curb at 120° angle. As I took off my helmet I heard one if ’em say “Long way from home ain’t ya?”

“I am a long way from home,” I responded, hanging my helmet on the handle bar and dismounting.

“Minnnie-sootaa, eh,” said the shorter of the two men.

“Yeah, yeah, but that’s not how we say it” I said, “That is a Fargo misconception. I dont know anyone with an accent like that there.”

The shorter gentleman smiled big “I’m from Minneapolis,  and I have a lot of friends up in Canada.  My girlfriends from Vancouver, I come by this accent honestly.”

“Ah, ha,” I said, “the border is full of accents like that.” And before you could say lutefisk and hotdish we were in a full blown Minnesota discussion. Two cowboys and a cowgirl standing outside a saloon talking home and shop. Both of the men were from the great Northern state and both of them rode, so there was much to chat about.

Don, the shorter of the two, and Chuck, were friendly as could be. A brief metion of my low rear tire lead to a rearrangement of the bikes parked in front of the cafe, and Chuck’s BMW was reoriented and pulled up besides Little Wing. A portable air pump acted as a tethering device as the pilots got down on the pavement to fill the guilty tire. As Chuck filled my tire we discussed his homemade air pump. Two small boys in blue shirts meandered over and watched our work. They must of been eight or so, and they were both quite small. I made eye contact with them and smiled and they came closer. “I like that BMW,” the more talkative of the two said.

“Thanks!” Chuck replied enthusiastically.

The talkative blue shirted boy went on “I know that is a BMW, but what is this kind of bike?” He said gesturing towards Little Wing.

“A Suzuki Savage,” I say.

“Oh, cool.” There is a pause, “is that yours?” He points at the BMW and looks at Chuck.  Chuck nods and the blue shirted boy looks at me “and this is yours?”

“Sure is,” I say.

The boys lean against a telephone pole and watch us more. Chuck and I continue to fill the tire. A remark of some sort or the other is exchanged between us and the shyer of the two boys speaks up to ask what we are doing with that funny machine.  We tell him and the other boy picks up on it and explains how the whole air filling process is working. Both boys are fascinated, and the more gregarious blue shirted boy tells Chuck and I that he wants to get a Harley when he grows up. Chuck and I chuckle (you know I was going to make that joke) and we discuss this choice with the boy. He says he like Harley’s, but then says “I like this Suzuki too.”

“It’s light and short,” I say. “If you turn out to be short when you grow up, if your parents are short, then this is the bike to consider.” Chuck gets a belly laugh out of that sentence and I do too. The blue shirted boys just look at us as though that sentence has just gone over there heads, which it most likely has, and I remember they are about eight and don’t yet know that adults are humans with jokes about things like height too.

The shyer of the two blue shirted boys breaks the long confused pause, “Harley’s are more of a gangster bike.” And that gets the belly laugh going again for Chuck and I.

“Don’t get a bike for that reason. When you get a bike choose it for comfort, alright?” I tell them.

“Yeah,” they say, and they watch us a little longer. They run off after a short time, and Chuck and I finish the job alone.

The curiosity of children.  The innocence of youth. What a beautiful thing. I met both Chuck and Don’s significant others. They are all about 60 to 70 and the beauty of age contrasts well with the youth we just spoke with. The keen interest of bikes shared from eight to seventy and an age in between, what a beautiful thing.

Chuck tells me about the Point Reyes Lighthouse,  the furthest West point in the United States pretty much, and that is where I decide to go after some tea. He also invites me to come stay with him and his wife, Marilyn, once he finds out my plan is to camp.

The beauty of life, it is such a wonderful thing. Sometimes the people who approach one on a bike are demons, other times they are humans with the kindest hearts, whether they be Minnesotans or sweet eight year olds. I wonder if this is how the cowboy’s felt. Or the natives and pioneers. The country over here is so pretty it would make sense why they would live here. In order to get here they had to travel. I suppose that in order for them to make it this far without stopping they must have experienced more beauty than demons.

Riding to  the furthest West point I was surrounded by ranches. They had signs by them saying the year in the 1800’s that they were founded, and informing us passerbys that they were historical landmarks. It was like riding through a luscious green Wyoming.  The pastures were hilly and rolling and blanketed with sage brush. The cows were white and black spotted and chewing away at the pad of green at their feet. The road was skinny and winding and full of potholes from the cattle crossing. I found myself bounced of Little Wings seat more than once. The green sage brush looked like a more saturated picture of a more Midwestern state. It was unreal to see such scrawny bushes so close to the ocean. Because there it was.  The Pacific Ocean was visible over almost every cows back. The horizon beyond the rolling hills was filled with the Pacific.  The air smelt of a mix of cattle ranch and salty air. I thought more than once about pulling Little Wing over and asking for a job roping and riding and surfing. If only I could ride horse or swim.

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The lighthouse was at the end of this road surrounded by livestock. When we got there Little Wing was left behind and my tank bag and I walked a half mile to the furthest West point of the United States. I should say, this cowgirl dismounted her steed and left him at the watering hole as she took off on a walk that she had to do alone. Up hill, and then downhill, and then down 308 steps to the lighthouse itself. Along the way one could spot many deer and flying birds of prey. Osprey floating in  the wind, and then contorting in on themselves to spiral out of their bed of wind, diving after some small rodent that was invisible to the human eye.

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It felt so secluded, just a cowgirl in her riding boots hiking along a well kept trail, with nature running and flying all around, enjoying the salty sea air as much as I was. If it weren’t for the crowds of people who had all left their more loaded down horses and buggies at the watering hole (cars) and had joined me on the busy trail I could of convinced myself I was the heroine in a lonesome Western. After the trek up a hill, down a hill, and down 308 stairs I put my finger to the air, checked off an imaginary notch on  my list of things to do, and then reversed course.

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East, up the 308 steps with my heavy tank bag and my riding boots. They say those steps are the equivalent of walking a 30 story building. I fet like a true cowgirl after that climb. A wheezing, tired, sweaty, cowgirl. I came to the conclusion that I’m not as fit as I thought I was.

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After 308 steps up, a steep incline, and a downhill slope, Little Wing and I were reunited. I had about an hour and a half of light left til the sunset. Looking West I was greatful not to be riding towards that blinding sun as it set. Instead, this evening,  I was riding away from it. As I stood by Little Wing, replenishing my liquids before taking off, a man approached. “Nice day to ride, huh?”

“Oh yes! Gorgeous day for a ride!” I tell him.

“I wish I was. I left the Harley at home today. Had to drive the wheeled cage today.”

I took me a second to realize he’s referring to the box that is his car, and I smile knowingly. The freedom of a bike is nothing close to what is experienced in  the confines of a car. This man speaks my language. And it turns out he speaks Minnesotan too. When he askes me where I’m from he is shocked. He is a Minneapolis boy himself.  The people one meets on the trail. He wishes me a safe ride, I tell him likewise, and with a laugh Little Wing and I are off.

A good ride consists of a lot of laugh out loud moments.  Moments of pure joy where all one can do is have a true laugh that is generated from the gut. My ride to the furthest West point of our country was filled with those moments. My ride back from the point was also a petri dish for those parasites of joy that wormed themselves through me (what a terrible metaphor). The bright sun was winking to me as it warmed my back. It would catch in my rear view mirror and it would flash it’s warm rays, blinding me for a second or two. It was both beautiful and dangerous. My response to such petty sun games was one of pure joy. Despite the fact my eyes were squinting, laughter purveyed, and the steady steed and cowgirl rode on.

We rode towards Oakland,  and the new friends I had made.

The brown haired demon showed up in the story at that point,  but after reflecting, my day had been so great, my Western written with so much happiness,  I was due for a villain. Almost three months,  and one villain?  Not too bad really. 

The adventure continues.  A warm bed and hot shower this evening. A great dinner and cup of tea, and a place for a sore hiking cowgirl to take off her boots, what a perfect end to a West-is-best day.

Regardless of the villains, regardless of the blinding sun, regardless of which direction one heads, life is beautiful. Life is beautiful,  and I’m bone tired. Sweet dreams world.

Dancing Through The Clouds

Sitting in the sunshine with a runny nose. The sunshine makes my stuffy head feel a little warmer. The wool socks on my feet, and wool hat on my head, feel better when heated by sunshine.

The pretty flowers growing out of the warm Californian soil look lovely, one might say glowing, in this 75° heat. My stuffy nose prevents me from smelling them though. I’m glad that eyesight is not affected  by the stuffiness.

The fact is I’m under the weather. I’m sick. I’m indisposed. I’m peaked, unwell, infected, frail, green, not so hot, in a bad way.

Feeling poorly. Lousy. Qualmish.

Defective.

Ill.

Ikcy. Uucky.

Green at the gills.

In short, I have a cold. I have a method to make myself feel better, though; tea and new shoes.

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See, nice shiny shoes. This is the only time they will be that pure and monochromatic so I felt I had to mark the occasion.

I’m working here in Berkley California so I could afford these bad boys. Because I’m a small individual I have the extreme inconvenience of not being able to wear women’s shoes. Well, I can, but stores hardly ever stock my size, which means I also have the great advantage of being able to purchase kids shoes shoes for much cheaper. I have a selection of glittery pink girl ones, red and neon green boy ones, or the nice black and white flat soled Converse which are generally sold in the boy’s section. It might seem like a hard decision, but it is actually quite simple.

I now have a nice pair of new shoes, I’m sipping on some tea, and life is absolutely grand. Being under the weather in California is much better than being under the weather in my home state of Minnesota. Despite my intial impulse to whine about the inconvenience of my cold I have been counting the blessings, something I hardly ever do when I’m sick.

Blessing no. 1: I am in California. I know I said that already, but it never hurts to rub it in more than once … wait, wait, no I mean reiterate it (sorry Midwesterners, I love you! Drive safely).

Blessing no. 2: This is the first cold I have hosted in over a year. I am fortunate to be getting my immunity built up now, because seriously, what doesn’t kill a person generally makes them stronger.

Blessing no. 3: I am in a house. I am being hosted by lovely individuals who have heat and a hot shower. They have tea and honey to offer me , not to mention the fresh Vitamin C that surrounds us. This means I’m not having to tent it somewhere and rest up. It also means I’m off my bike, and a chilly ride on a bike while infected with a cold is a great way to get pneumonia. I am grateful to have the time to get well instead of wasting time getting more sick.

Blessing no. 4: Little Wing. When I finish with this cold I get to hop on that bike and ride. That is one of the things I look forward to most.

I am so super grateful for the amazing hospitality of my new friends. I am grateful for the time I have had in the bay area, and I am grateful for a Thanksgiving invite, from a new friend, which I will be riding towards come this weekend. Little Wing though, that bike takes a large piece of that cake, or pumpkin pie, or whatever.

If it weren’t for Little Wing I wouldn’t be meeting these wonderful humans and I wouldn’t currently be in California. The weather has been doing a wonderful job of chasing us here , and Little Wing has proven himself gracefully, so being under the weather now is not something to whine about too much. Plus, I have new shoes.

New shoes means dancing in Berkley without getting a blister in my motorcycle boots. Dancing! That actually leads to

Blessing no. 5: Dancing! I am going to go dancing when this stuffiness is gone. I have been dancing even with stuffiness, cause thats just the type of gal I am. However, this dancing has occurred in the privacy pf a kitchen while waiting for the tea kettle to whistle, and not i the wilds of the Berkley, CA live music scene. There are a few song that are perfect for when one is sick, only a few of those songs are also perfect for dancing. So here, I leave you tonight/ this morning (whatever time of day you happen to be reading this), with a song to dance to. If you are sick think healthy thoughts and do a healthy dance. If you aren’t sick just dance for the pure joy of dancing. And, if you don’t dance (I know some of you don’t) no worries, there are no dancing requirements that come with this blog.

Have fun, count your blessings, and love.

Making Lemonade On The West Coast

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I have taken hiatus from my journey to work a little. My journey has been paused, but the adventure has not. Little Wing has been parked in the San Francisco Bay area, and I have been put to work by two lovely individuals who saw fit to help me in my journey.

As I said, the adventure continues. One reason I say that is because I am working, that in itself is an adventure when one is on a long trip. Another reason is my location. I am in San Francisco and surrounded by good people, this is adventure at its finest.

My work is actually quite fascinating. I am currently building lamps. Well, rebuilding. I’m taking old lamps apart and rewiring them to be higher efficiency. It is fascinating work, and feeds my love of technical projects. Little Wing doesn’t need rewiring, so these lamps do just fine.

I also have been hired to work in a garden. A garden with lemon trees.

Lemon trees.

My friend Julia in Seattle told me — when discussing the difference between the West Coast and the Midwest — that the thing she found the most fascinating about the Coast were the lemon trees. Because, lemons grow on trees, what a concept.

It is a concept. A fascinatingly delicious concept. The garden I work in has a lemon tree, and so does the yard down the street. The sweet lady that lives at the yard down the street told me to pick as many of the ripe ones as I wanted because otherwise they just go to waste. My hosts told me that their lemons are sweet lemons, and that their tree is currently producing too many lemons. They regard all the lemons on the ground as a bit of a nuisance, what a concept.

One of my Dads favorite sayings was about lemons. “When the world gives you lemons, make lemonade,” he would say. I would dream of lemonade every time he said that. I have never really been a soda drinker. It wasn’t my favorite, and then at a certain point the carbonation and sugar made me feel sick. My drink of choice when I went places was lemonade. Movie theaters have always meant buttery popcorn and lemonade to me. My dad would tell me to make lemonade and I just hoped the world would toss lemons my way so I could.

Today is vetrans day. Actually, in the Midwest it is pretty much over, but here on the West Coast we still have a few more hours left in the day. My hosts took me to a pizza place called Lanesplitter (a term for motorcycles around these parts because in California it is legal on a motorcycle to ride down the dotted line in between rows of traffic) this evening for dinner. After a lovely day of rewiring and hanging lights pizza was quite welcome. The food was fabulous, as was the service, and on the TV there was an old black and white war movie playing. We couldn’t hear it because it was on mute with closed captions, but we could see it. It reminded me of childhood and watching war movies with Dad.

“That’s how it was over there,” he would say. “These movies are based off facts, and this is tamer than the things most people actually dealt with when they were fighting.”

I would watch the war movies with wide eyes, wondering how real soldiers could have possibly seen worse than the fake blood I saw being spilt, and the fake limbs being lost. The actors who held their comrades in their arms as we watched them act out dying, how could that be real? How was it true that my friend Rich or my Grandpa could have lived that? How did my Grandma nurse those people? How did those men and women survive these war movies in real life?

9/11 happened when I was in third grade. I remember watching the ball of fire, that was the trade towers, on TV after the principle came in and whispered in our teacher’s ear. She interrupted the reading of a book (a book I knew I could have finished in an hour, that she had managed to stretch into a week and a half of boring discussion) to turn on the live footage. Ruby and I went home to our Dad that day, arguing about who would get the chance to tell Dad the big news. Dad was standing on a ladder, working on building more of our house, and got down when we disembarked the bus. I can’t remember who told Dad, but as we got closer to him I could see the tears in his eyes. “I know,” he said.

Not long after that the Global War on Terrorism was intiated. If I remember right it was October, 2001, a month later, that our troops were sent overseas to invade Afghanistan. I don’t remember if there were tears in Dad’s eyes at that time, but I do remember the frustration it caused our household. My upbringing, from third grade up until graduation occured with the knowledge of the occupation of the Middle East. I remember listening for the death tolls of both American troops and Civilians every day. Towards high school I paid greater attention, and I remember tears welling up in my eyes. Black Hawk Down and the TV show West Wing were two of the items I liked to watch the most because they brought on tears, from sixth grade on up. Platoon and Jarhead provided the same service senior year. Crying about the deaths of ‘war’ (the War on Terrorism wasn’t officially declared if I want to get technical) wasn’t something I did for the sake of crying. I cried because I knew I should care for all those people who died. I cried because I wasn’t sure anyone else did. I cried because on September 11th, 2001, I saw tears in my Dad’s eyes. The toughest man I knew, the man who built a house around my ears and carried full trees he had chopped down on his shoulder, had tears in his eyes and I couldn’t understand why.

Some people go through a hell of a lot of pain, and some of us don’t. Some of the pain looks so painless from the outside, but to the people feeling it, internally, it feels as strong as anything they have ever felt. Other people deal with pain that is easy to see. Some are like a paraplegic, with scars openly on the outside. A scars a scar. War leaves scars. It is important to feel pain from others scars, regardless if it is a scar that we carry or not. Sharing the burden of the pain and scars is important in my opinion. I’m angry at the politics that dominated my childhood, causing tears, human sacrifice, and a crappy economy that has left my generations future bleak in my eyes. The politics that left scars. I have friends who fought overseas while I was tearing up at death counts and war movies in high school. Friends who were attaining scars while I listened to the scars of Vietnam vets fleshed out as they told of thier service years before. The friends who fought were just statistics to me back in the day. Numbers I heard in political battles and 9/11 specials. Graduation taught me that these men and women exist in the world, just at Vietnam vets do, and tears were warranted. Tears still sting today.

When the world hands you lemons, they say. Well, the world hands a lot of lemons. Some lemons are more acidic than others it seems, and some are sweet. Some lemons go to waste and others are shared among new friends.

I have lemons. I have frustrations with the way violence is used as the answer to many problems in our country. I have frustrations with the many amount of scars our country seems to feel free to hand out to just any young individual who signs a dotted line. I have frustrations with the services those scarred people come back to. I am frustrated that I can’t honestly say I remember a time when the words peace and time were used together to describe the political climate duriing my childhood. These frustrations are all lemons. I have a lemon tree full of sour lemons, but I also have a blog. I don’t know what good it does, but I am going to use this here blog to make my own form of lemonade. I am going to thank all those who have been scarred in serving our country. Those people who have served, and given me the opportunity to freely type on this blog, or travel around our United States via Little Wing. Thank you.

I also have many sweet lemons. I have a tree full of sweet lemons. I have a network of beautiful people, from all backgrounds, religious affiliations, and political beliefs, who have given Little Wing and I a hand throughout my adventure. I have freedom that is only dreamed of in some places. I have work fixing things, and lemons in the gardens. My cup runneth over with lemonade on this Vetrans Day.

I have teared up a few times at the generosity of humans who barely know me. Generosity is something that should not be taken for granted. Both sweet and sour lemons that are given to us are something to be cherished. Tears and smiles, emotions that both should be valued. Use those emotions, thank a human today. Take those lemons and make some lemonade. And when you have too much, share it with the new friends you make along the way so it doesn’t go to waste.

Remember, Remember On The Fifth Of November; The Story of November Fourth

This morning was filled with steam. Lovely buckets of moisture evaporating into the sweet Californian sunrise. I imagined I was a rockstar as I rode through the chilly precipitation. The fog can be like ones own fog machine. Sing a loud song and break through the curtain like a regular superstar for all the onlookers to admire, until a deer steals the scene. The occurance of a  young buck, looking to capture the crowd and take the limelight, lead me to hit my brakes and honk. Ain’t nobody got time for deer lurking in the fog.

That was actually the first deer I have seen run into the road since Minnesota. A real reality check.

Anyway, the fog is still beautiful. Actually, this morning and last night have all been beautiful. A seemingly unreal sequence of events that feel a bit like a dream, or magic. Let me start at the beginning, like any good storyteller.

Yesterday evening I stopped at a lovely coffee joint in Fort Bragg, CA for a cup of tea to warm up after my toe wiggle in the ocean. I drank tea and typed up a blog about smells as the clock ticked and tocked, the way it tends to do. Soon I looked up to see heavy shadows being cast, and to my dismay remembered that dark hits about six thirty here. I finished my tea and skidaddled back to Little Wing and the tent that would be sheltering me that night.

I would soon find more reason for dismay, as my search for a place to pitch a tent revealed that beach front in Mendocino cano county was not free. In fact it was $25-$35 away from the label of free for a camper. Damn.

My options were limited by gentrified campsites, so then the real search began. It was getting dark and I was scouting land that appeared a little more public while also being able to hide the trespassing motorcycle and rider. I found a cemetery that appeared to fit the bill. It was a back entrance. Gated, but not labeled with NO TRESPASSING signs. I made my way up, and — after some weaseling — got Little Wing covertly parked. My determination was that tent camping was out of the question, and my sleeping bag would not do well on the leafy wet earth I had found in a hallow tree grove. Instead, I layered on my rain gear and settled in like a mummy on a softer spot.

I was good for a whole half hour in this secret spot, until my gut did a flip flop in response to breaking twigs, and rusteling underbrush. There were some old fast food bags crumpled and tossed amongst the bramble that guarded my small sleeping spot. A clear sign of life, left as refuse, it floated through my brain as I heard the loud cracking that could only be footsteps to my foggy, gut instinct blinded, brain. I roused from my leaves and made for Little Wing, and quick as my fumbling hands could, we were out. Off to another campsite, a fruitless endeavor it turned out.So instead I made it to the nearest town.

It was dark when I arrived in the small town of Mendocino, but even in the dark I had no trouble identifying the large number of dread heads and sandal sporting humans. So California. I pulled over by a liquor store which I thought doubled as a bar. I heard told once that the best person to ask for a good camping spot was a bartender, so that was my attempted mission in parking where I did. It was not a bar though, just a liquor store. On my way towards the door the store was inundated by a few waves of young men. I waited as five boys made there way in, and then I made my exit. I continued on down the street in search of a bar. It was another fruitless effort. I had crossed the street when a BMW roared past me going back towards the liquor store. He made a U-turn near my bike and made a short brake to look. The rider then rode over, to the side of the street I was standing on, and parked at the grocery store.

I have come to learn from experience that bikers are as good as anyone to ask when looking for a place to stay. I have not yet put into practice the bartender theory, but I have tested the biker one and to great results. This being the case I made my way to the BMW rider. Before my short,nonchalent strides could reach him though he disappeared into.the grocery store. At this point I was standing across the street, and almost directly in front of, the liquor store. I cast my gaze that way as I wondered my next step. It was then I noticed that four of the five boys who had entered the store as I was leaving were there, standing infront of the business, tossing back a bottle of some sort. I made my next step. I stepped off the curb and crossed the street to the boys.

I don’t generally make stereotypes, but I do make observations. Not all bikers are good for a hint on a place to pitch a tent, but some of them sure are. I know this because I’ve observed them give me good advice. In my observations I have noticed that young men with dreads or long hair seem to have a penchant for things street related, this isn’t true for all long hairs ofcourse. Nor is it true that all humans standing in front of a liquor store are meant to be approached, but when life places three long haired young men with a young dreaded man in front of a liqour store it is probably safe to assume they are approachable. My gut said yes, my observations said yes, and so did my feet.

Asking these young men about camping lead to a church and a chat with four fascinating humans. Justin and Frank were friends from Pennsylvania, living in Puerto Rico, visiting Northern California for the warmer months. They were on their way to San Jose in a car to pick up a friend from the airport. The other two men, Gabriel and Mirko, were Italians, straight from Italy. Two brothers traveling America. They started in Southern America, I believe, and had made their way up. There story was a little difficult to gather because their accents were thick, and they didn’t always know how to say what the wanted to say in English. They were hitch hiking their way around, something they had been doing across many countries for about two years.

Justin told me that Frank and him had just met these guys and would be giving them a ride, but they were on the search for cheap camping too. Frank’s girlfriend had the car, but if we walked to the church and met up with her I was more than welcome to follow them to a campsite they’d heard of.

Because I had no better leads, and because these young men fascinated me, I followed them. We walked about seven blocks to the sound of dubstep which Mirko had tuned in on his portable boom box.

Imagine a 5’5″ twenty-four year old man. Scruffy five or six-o’clock shadow. White tank top under an unzipped hoodie. A beanie covering the top of a shaggy mane, and a 12″ by 6″ boom box in hand. It was a painting, right there, a piece of art.

Complaints were made by Mirko’s dreaded brother, and so Mirko switched over to a station playing the Bee Gees about the time we made it to the church. A quick dance party ensued as my four walking companions soaked in the new sound. I was taken over by laughter. What a lovely group of galavanting men.

We made our way to benches under stained glass windows and sat beneath the church. The moon and stars were visibile. The sound of the Pacific Ocean crashing into the United States was audible as Mirko shut of the radio, and we listened, instead, to a young man playing an acoustic guitar. The two Italians, myself, and two men who had been sitting with the musician at the benches before us, soaked it all in.

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The musician’s name was Moonshine, or at least that’s what he told us. When he introduced himself I asked him to repeat just to be sure, and then introduced myself as Diamond. It was humourous because I am certain that the name on his birth certificate isn’t Moonshine, and I’m certain that’s what he thought of me — just another street name, except mine isn’t. I felt welcome at once.

Mirko and Gabriel started up a game of football (soccer) with a tennis ball. They insisted I join, and then Justin came back and joined in as well. Four humans who had just met, sitting below the light of stained glass windows and a near full moon, being serenaded by crashing waves and Moonshine.

Justin had been finding out about the ride/camping situation, and that’s why he and Frank were missing around the benches. Here’s the deal, Gabriel and Mirko wanted to hitch a ride from Mendocino to Fort Bragg. Frank, Justin, and Brittany (Frank’s girlfriend who hasn’t been introduced yet) wanted to camp near Willits, which is only about 25 miles out of Fort Bragg. I wanted to SLEEEEEP so I was going to follow my five new found friends back the way I came to discover a free tent site. Anything is better than being a wrapped up mummy in a cemetery… or something like that.

Frank came back with news that Brittany was ready to go so the Italians agreed to walk me back to Little Wing and the car would meet us there. We left the three gentlemen at the benches, Moonshine, Steve, and Whatshisname were left to guard the moonlit night and stained glass windows from the still of the night.

We formed a caravan. Little Wing behind the car. Myself following my five, newfound, traveling companions, and we were off to Fort Bragg. When we arrived the car pulled into a parking lot, so Little Wing followed. When my companions got out of the vehicle they told me that we were stopping for a few beers, and asked if I was game. I’m not drinking right now (motorcycle journey and all that jazz), but I agreed to go along. The bar scene was fruitless, but it gave us a chance to chat some more. The crowd started to get hungry after a few bar hops. Brittany (who I had finally been introduced to) had chicken soup and round loaves of bread to make bread bowls out of, but she didn’t have enough for all six of us. A new destination was set, we went back to our vehicles, and we were off to Safeway for dinner.

Frank was sent inside to get the bread to be used for bowls. Some odd delineation was made and Frank was followed by Justin and the Italians, leaving Brittany and I to start on dinner, which is apparently going to be made in the parking lot.

Frank and Brittany had two dogs. She started by letting them out of the car and then she took out a sad little camp stove which she was going to heat the soup on. I volunteered to cut into the bread and make them into bowls, and as I did that she layed out a blanket on the woodchip filled curb we were parked near. She proceeded to set up the stove and a candle was lit. As I hacked away at bread loaves with my pocket knife she fed the dogs and we talked about all things camping and such.

The boys made their way back with two more hunks of bread, which I then took the knife to. The conversations turned to Italian cusine as we waited for our creamy chicken soup to heat. As conversation of pasta and roasted eggplant filled the parking lot with a kind of class that only an Italian can bring, we continued stir the pot. An interruption was made, and Frank informed Brittany that this stove was, infact, just a food warmer. Something to be set on a counter at a fancy place to keep things from getting cool. In response he was met with crinkled brows filled with puzzlement, and then laughter. I offered up my popcan stove, but Mirko and Gabriel had a better options. As I looked up to the near-full moon, and stars that were starting to become muted by sea salt fog, they told the us that their option was only two minutes away by car. We all loaded up, and the caravan rode out.

Two minutes later we were making our way into a bumpy grassy area that gave me a few wake up jolts. Our line of vison was filled with stars, airstream trailers, and lights. Circus lights to be exact. When we stopped and my five companions piled out of the car I asked “What is this? Are you kidding?”

I was answered by a hushed Justin who said “I don’t know.”

Justin was a handsome man, about 6’3″ and shoulder length hair. About 25, He was quiet, and reserved, but I saw his face crack just the tiniest bit as 22 year old Gabriel stepped up beside us to say “It is the Circus,” and then Mirko and him were gone, taking the pot of soup with them.

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Brittany and Frank joined Justin and I as I dismounted Little Wing. I was laughing and looking at the twinkeling lights under the stars, who’s twinkling was slowly being lost to the fog.

“It just makes me so happy,” Frank said as he looked toward the big top. The four of stood there and stared, all nodding our agreement, me giggling.

I grabbed my camera and took some pictures and made way to the tent. The circus was quiet despite the presence of all the people, so I tried to be silent as I walked towards the tent. Justin joined me, but had no answer when I asked if he thought we could go in. Gabriel appeared at my shoulder and said “Yes, come look.”
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We went inside and marveled at this crazy dream come to life. I snapped some pictures, and Gabriel told us that he and Mirko had set up the big tent. That was their job. It had only taken them two days. He then told us Mirko had finished heating the food, so we made our way back to Little Wing and the car. Brittany had laid out the blanket and the candle again. The warming ‘stove’ was set up with a steaming pot of soup set on it, freshly heated from a gas burner in one of the old Airstream trailers that circled the circus tent. Bread bowls were handed out, and my silver teaspoon was used to divvy out the soup before everyone consumed it with the provided plastic spoons.

Without warning the lights on the tent were shut off, and a group of giggling girls were heard running, speaking fast Spanish. Gabriel explained, in his thick Italian accent, that the girls were probably in the tent and were suprised when the generator was shut down. “The lights aren’t usually on. They have to use a generator here so they keep them off, I’m not sure why they had them on.”

As we sat eating beneath the hazy light of the moon and the lone candle, I don’t think I was alone in thinking that the answer was magic for a few travelers passing through. Beautiful, beautiful, stunning, dreamlike, magic, which in fact was just science and reality. We sat around the slowly emptying pot of soup laughing and conversing. Someone made the decision to use their bread bowl to clean the pot up. All six of us, seated cross legged on the blanket, followed suit. Dipping our bread into the pan and eating it with our fingers. Another beautiful thing among strangers, fading moonlight, and the magic of a circus.

When it had got sufficiently late the Italians made moves towards the camper which they were staying in (their place of residence for the last month since the Circus had picked them up) and we made our way back to our own caravan. Little Wing and the car fiund themselves back on the road after many exchanged hugs and smiles. We were off to find a campsite to pitch our own tents.

This morning I woke early, despite going to bed at midnight. The sounds of early morning traffic woke me from my slumber. I took down my tent as my other three companions continued to rest. The sun welcomed me back to the blacktop as I left the turnout we had made camp at, 10 miles out of Willits.

Sun warmed the fog from the night before, reminding me off the precipitation that had snuffed out the lights at the dinner party. The sun turned the salty damp into a fog, where I felt free to imagine I was a rockstar.

Last night though. The magic of strangers, the beauty of travel. It’s like stained glass and circus lights. Boomboxes and crashing surf. Giggling adults and Moonshine’s guitar. Breadbowls and football. Foreign travelers sprinkled in amongst us more travelers. Life is full of fun suprises mixed amongst the evaporating steam. Shocking reminders that bring us back to the beautiful reality.

Good storytellers generally have a moral to the stories they tell, so here’s mine. Stuttered and unconnected as it might be.

The deer of life, so to speak, can run out of the fog. If one fails to notice it they migt miss a crucial bit of life. Following the gut, gets one out of the cemetary and into the joyous circus. Look up, observe, be a rockstar and break bread with the surrounding humans. They all have something to offer. Don’t let the deer steal the limelight for good. Let the negative things run pass, move onto a better option, and just let life take the lead.

The end.

I’m off to live some more stories.

The Smelling Of Both Questionable And Unquestionable Smells

Northern California has an aroma reminiscent of the home that attracts the flocks of college kids who are subjected to dormitory living and looking to take it easy. The cannabis related paraphernalia, aswell as all the medicinal marijuana clinics, offer an explanation for this phenomena, but it is still a curious new experience; smelling smells that might be taboo anywhere else. Curious, like much of California. There are curious trees here like the giant Redwoods or the touch-peel-and-stand Madrones. There are lush, foliage filled, forests encasing and canopying twisty moss laden roads. The country is full of curious smells. On a motorcycle it is much harder to escape these scents because one is actually out in it. Like riding through an early morning fog, the smells seep in and get into a riders pores. They can chill, or thrill, but they definitely fill.

The smell of the stereotypical young punk wearing a Bob Marley tee is not the only smell that has met me in Cali. The smell of blossoms, blooming flora, is also here. The sweet sweet smell of a flower that has never known a freeze. Plants that know nothing of the winter that strikes much of their kin in less coastal parts of our homeland. Minnesota, the state that I call home, is not much higher in elevation than many of the towns I’m riding through, and like these towns, Minnesota is also home to wet forests and plantlife. The difference is that California is currently receiving a mix of rain and sun while my Minnesotan homies are already welcoming snow that they will continue to host for six to nine months. The vegetation will all freeze or hibernate, the lone exception being the conifers. California plants know nothing of this though. Unless they are in the mountains snow is probably as foreign to them as a nun to a college kids odoriferous abode. As foreign to them as I feel to the splashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.

The other smell which permeates and lays claim to the air that fills the coast is the smell of salt water. The smell of sea life, the smell I smelt when sniffing my first raw oyster before slurping it down with immense satisfaction. The smell of soft sea salt, warmed lightly, and then knocked against sandy beaches and erroded ocean bluffs. This is not the first time I’ve been to the Pacific Ocean, not the first time I’ve inhaled the salty air or stepped foot in its cool waters, but it feels like it. The first time was on a school trip when I was seventeen, but that hardly counts. It feels, and smells, differently on Little Wing. I’m not sure if it is because I’m out in it, being embraced fully by the environment I am eager to be emersed in, or if it is the increase of awareness I have this time around.

At seventeen I hardly understood the importance of travel and new experience. I mean I was excited about the opportunity. I was ecstatic to be standing in front of the ocean waves and wiggling my toes in sand that was much finer than any Minnesotan sand I had ever wiggled in, I don’t mean to imply otherwise. What I mean to say is that at seventeen I thought traveling was in my future. I thought it was easy and would come with adulthood. At seventeen I thought being an adult would make everything easier. That answers would come with graduation, and independence meant automatic world intelligence. What eighteen tought me is that the world is not my first raw oyster. Adulthood only meant responsibility and answers were to be taught by hard knocks, versus just given like the pop quizzes and homework that had been handed willy-nilly just a few weeks before. At seventeen I thought traveling was as easy as saying it, at eighteen I learned differently, and at twenty-one life showed me that I was smarter at seventeen than I was as a newborn adult.

The sea salt air and funny trees welcome me to this new world I’m traveling through with an openness that the rest of the world should show to all graduating kids, but should is not a useful word.

If, at eighteen, I had thought that traveling and experiencing adventure was as easy as saying it, I would have done it with out enjoying it as much as I do now. My seventeen/eighteen year old self would not appreciate the wonder of the trees as much as twenty-one year old me does. Seventeen year old me would not breath in the air of salt and flora with the same exuberance that twenty-one year old me inhales it, and seventeen year old me would not understand the humour in the familiar smell, reminiscent of my peers, that permeates the higher elevations of Cali the way twenty-one year old me does.

My toes felt as though they enjoyed their first wiggle in the soft sand that borders the Pacific Ocean more than any previous wiggle. It is possible.

I’m finding that the world of hard knocks should be met on a motorcycle, and accompanied by a smile that spans fifty states and beyond; something I wouldn’t have guessed at seventeen, and something I would have denied at eighteen.

Life is hard to discern. At eighteen it seemed like it should be easy. I thought that if I followed the rules that were so obviously written out before me in my skewed minds eye I would have a handful of answers handed to me, no problem. I have now learned that there are no rules to life. We live and we die, and what we do in the middle has no owners manual or educational video to go along with it. Discerning is an unnecessary fools errand. My twenty-one year old self is living by this new discovery.

Speaking of discerning, it isn’t uncommon to smell a smell and think that it came from oneself. Discerning smells is necessary. On a motorcycle this is a reality which is often stressing and pock marked with inaccuracy. When a diesel truck passes at close proximity the sudden fear of a piece of motorcycle engine burning is a ridiculous and present conclusion. A truck with a bed full of gas cans gets me nervous about an imaginary fuel leak. The smells of states like Washington and Wyoming were nerve racking for this reason. California smells so sweet, my hypochondria is taking a rest, sitting on the backseat with my baggage and commitments.

California has me by the nostrils. The salty sea water has a habit of sticking to my helmet visor and fogging it so my smell is clearer than my vision most of the time. The coast is beautiful. I was given a week of sunny days to make this coast trip down to San Francisco, and Little Wing and I are enjoying it every bit of the way.

Smelling well with our olfactory senses, even if our own odors cannot say the same.