Let Me Rewind A Bit

This morning, December 30th, was spent working in the garage. Little Wing needs some maintenance and I gave him a little checkup. My friends in San Leandro, Chuck and Marilyn, have a beautiful garage and it is like an oasis for a motorcycle who needs some pampering. Turns out the small oil leak, which was just a weep before, is more of spurt. A little poking around, with the help of Chuck and my new friend Jon, and the source was identified. A little research has shown that it is the plug cap seal on the head that needs a replacement. Either it is cracked and worn out or it just needs an adjustment. Either way I orderd a new seal and I will be standing by with some RTV if it is just the way the cap is sealed. It will be 3-5 days before my new plug cap seal, oil filter, and air filter come into the Suzuki dealer that ordered from. In the meantime Little Wing patiently awaits.

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It is always nice to get back into a garage again. It is even better when a group of smart people end up in the garage with me. Smart dudes with a mechanical brain. Full of advice and new things I didn’t know. This morning was a good one.

I just took the trip through Big Sur that I didn’t take after Thanksgiving in Monterey due to the potential rainstorms. Instead of taking the ride after Thanksgiving I made my way to Death Valley and then Oceanside without a look back at the coast. Well, that is until the last week when I saw the rains stopping and the coast calling my name; now I’m rewinding the clock. The coast, Montery, San Leandro, and Berkley soon enough. Except I’m doing it slower. I’m enjoying the things I didnt enjoy on the rain run. The weather puts up a good chase, but Little Wing is a worthy adversary (even with the oil issues) and we kept ahead. The cost of such a quick venture were all the beautiful things I didn’t get to see til the last week, and that is ok. Here I am, doing it now, rewinding the clock as the New Year approaches.

The last ninety-six hours have been beautiful and picturesque, but I hardly got a picture of them.

Yesterday, December 29th, I had lunch at Alice’s Restaurant. I ordered biscuits and gravy, it was delicious. A huge portion and one of the most affordable prices on the menu, totally worth it. Alice’s Restaurant has been a dream of mine since I was fifteen, but it was only a pipe dream, wound up in the words of Arlo Guthrie , until I got to Berkley — a little more than a month ago — and learned of the actual existence of such a place.

It was not the same as the 18 minute and 34 secound Alice’s Restaurant Massacree that I remember visiting every Thanksgiving for a decade, but it was close enough. It had the name, it had the food, but it also had bikers. Not many bikers as the temperature was approximately 50° in the mountains Southwest of the bay area. Trees surrounded the area making for chilly hands for any biker without grip warmers. Even so, there were bikers. I was happy to get to see it regardless of the number of fellow riders who were, or were not there. It was a neat experience all together, and a great place to warm my numb fingertips. I bellied up to the bar and ordered a tea.

The bar is the best place to belly when one is a loner at resteraunt that holds some interest. Say you are a lone rider on a motorcycle and you don’t mind chatting with other motorcyclists, well then just slide right on up and leave a stool empty.

My intention was not to chat with other bikers, but it was a nice side affect of empty stool in a full resteraunt. I met a school teacher named Scott by sitting where I did. A Harley rider with black leathers from head to toe. He was fifty something, I would guess, and a fountain of information. Discussion was started when he couldnt get a hold of the busy waiters, it continued after he did and I heard him order the biscuts and gravy, just like myself. I told him what I was up to and he told me how he thought I could make it easier. One of the biggest roadblocks that I have come to find is the revelation that Texas gets cold. The big state is prone to winds and possible snows, something that I thought could be avoided by sticking to the Southeren end, but apparently that isn’t how it works. Texas is a part of the Midwest, and, as we all know, the midwest is a chilly motherf**ker in winter time. Well, anyway, My new friend Scott, had some good news for me. He said that with one really long day of riding I could get through the chilliest bit. Scott was a big proponet of a stiff upper lip and a long, straight, ride through the places that were the most unpleasent. He also gave me some handy advice about what to do in a town where one didn’t want to leave gear strapped to a bike, for example, New Orleans on Mardi Gras. Old school advice from an old school guy was to lock it up at a Greyhound station. Duh. Good advice. Other words of wisdom included places to gas up on the way through some of the longer, more deserty areas. He talked about the best roads and the ones he thought I should avoid. He got out his smartphone and pointed out some of his most favored places of the U.S. and we chatted about his travels. Ain’t nothing better than an old biker to offer some great advice, and it all happened at Alice’s Restaurant.

Just an aside, the best thing about the resteraunt were all the images of handsome men on motorcycles — Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen. Iconic images of some of my favorites. And all I could think was, where are the classy photos of the woman riders? It was cool atmosphere, and I dug it bunches, but that was just a small thought.

The morning of this Alice’s Restaurant Massacree (December 29th) I tried to single handedly perform (actually, not really. I just wanted to eat) I sat and spoke with a fellow biker for about thirty minutes about safety, bike modifications, and rides through South America. Not only was this handsome biker an iconic looking motorcycle rider, he also was a chef, a chocolate maker, and a safety conscious rider. His name was Jay, and his brother was Oliver. Oliver was 24 and Jay was about ten years older. They were holed up in the same room I was in a hostel in Santa Cruz. Breakfast was a shared breakfast made by Jay the chef and his brother, Oliver. It was a beef bacon/steak (steacon as Oliver dubbed it), quinoa, and vegetable dish that tasted like it was prepared by a chef. Tobi — my new German friend — and I pretended to contribute to the creation of the meal, but we were unnecessary cooks in a kitchen filled with chefs. We all shared in the consumption of the mel though, and that was pretty awesome.

How did I end up at a hostel? Let me rewind even further.

I spent the night of the 28th at my first hostel because it was warmer and ten dollars cheaper than the other camping arrangements in Santa Cruz, CA. Anytime a shower is involved I’m happy enough to choose that option. The night before started a little befor 5:00. I walked onto the hostel grounds and was immediately welcomed bu a young man who was also staying at the hostel. His name was Tyler and he was accompanied by his helper dog, Fragel. He had a brain injury which was the cause of a seizure disorder, but that didn’t stop him from freight hopping and hitchhiking around the U.S. He told me the hostel didn’t open its doors til exactly five, and  I would have to wait to check in. That sounded good enough, so I sat at the picnic table with him and we chatted. When the doors opened I got in line where I found friendly discussion with another young traveler named Nate. A young Geman named Tobi was not long behind and Tyler, Nate, Tobi, and myself got to talking about where we were from and our own stories, while we waited for the line to catch up with us. It would turn out that Tobi would be staying in my same room, something I found out after unpacking Little Wing and tossing my gear onto the top bunk of one of the three beds. It would be Tobi, Jay, Oliver, a bicyclist named Will, and a quiet older lady who didn’t bother introducing herself despite smiles from me, in the same bunk room as me.

Tobi was a German who was studying ministry in Redding, CA.  He was a devout Christian that believed Jesus was the way. Despite the fact that he spoke about this belief he didn’t come off as a prostelytizer, which I respected. He brought it up in the company of new friends when talking about himself, but didn’t force the issue. There was one time where I made the mistake of saying “preach it” and being a German speaker originally, he took this literally. His voice echoed as he loudly spoke the gospel. I wound up laughing so hard that I had trouble shushing him. When he finally quieted I informed him that was just something we say. American catch phrases can be interpreted so easily by unsuspecting foriegners.

As I was hauling my things into the hostel, off the back of Little Wing, I caught the eye of a young man sitting outside of the hostel registration building. My arms were full with my waterproof duffel, my helmet and my sheepskin. This boy was the first guy to give me what looked like a mean glance since I arrived at this gathering place of wanderers. I wondered what it was that sparked this evil eye and then saw he was looking at the piece of fur dangling from my left hand, the sheepskin from my grandmother. Themold golden fleece that I used for a seat cushion was the subject of this reproachful look. I couldn’t help but toss a mean thought back inside my head, whatever, snobby boy doesn’t know a thing about traveling by motorcycle.

After unloading my stuff Tobi and I got to chatting again. He informed me that he needed to eat and that he had spoken with a couple of German gals earlier who had seemed interested in taking a walk downtown in search of food. He invited me along, and since I am always up for an adventure and I didn’t have anything better to do I chose to accompany him. We made our way back to the registration building where Tobi said the gals had talked about meeting. As we entered I saw the snobby boy talking to the gal behind the desk. He spoke with an accent and from what I overheard he didn’t have any money.  We wandered to the kitchen space where I met Will, the bicyclist, making his dinner. He was taking a cross country trip on a non motorized bike, so we didn’t have much to talk about. Well actually, I was interested in his tale but he seemed disdainful of mine so instead the discussion turned to what he was having for dinner and the weather and such. Tobi decided to go looking for the girls and I wandered back to the front desk to sit on a lounging chair. The snobby foriegn boy sat on the steps that led to the upstairs portion of the building. He had an iPad in one hand and a smartphone in the other. The screens were both lit up and his eyes were shifting from one to the other. His fancy pack was sitting a few steps below and it rested against his legs. I looked away from him,  thinking mean judgemental thoughts. Then, without warning, my thoughts shifted. The negative thoughts stopped, a positive thought sprouted, and a whole new group of thoughts branched across my brain. This boy had mentioned not having any money. He was clearly a foriegner. He had on a Columbia fleece and a shiny new hiking pack. He had fancy new gadgets and his brow was creased. I didn’t have any money either, but what I meant when I made that statement was I had practically nothing in savings. Only just enough to get me down the road. Then a thought occurred, what if this young man had NO money? What would I do if I had NO money and I was in a country that wasn’t my home? I don’t know what I’d do.

I turned to the snobby young man just as Tobi made his way back into the room. “You don’t have any money?” I asked.

The boy looked up from his screens, his brow was still crinkled but his face also said “what?” He didn’t respond so I continued.

“I don’t have any money either, but I do have some. Are you looking to stay here tonight, but you can’t pay for it?”

The snobby boy got a look that was a little less snobby. His face took on the look of a defeated, helpless feeling young human, the same face I’ve felt myself make many before times in my short life.  “Yes” he said.

“Ok,” I said, reaching into my pocket and pulling out my money. “I have some cash, it is about all I have. It costs twenty-six  to stay here, I have twenty-four. If you have two more you will have enough to pay for tonight. I can give it to you if you promise to pay me back, but judging by the things you have,” I gestured at his fancy pack and iPad, “I think you are good for it. Would that work?” I asked holding the cash in my hand.

“I would be good for it. I get money to tomorrow,  I just dont have it today,” he said. Then his face became questioning, “are you sure? I don’t want to take your last money. Do you really mean to give it to me. Um, I mean loan it to me?”

I reached my hand towards him and opened my hand, holding the money in my palm “take it, and pay me back.”

“Oh no! Thanyouttankyouthankyou. Gracias!”

I felt a big smile creep across my face “but in return, if you aren’t doing anything tonight, you need to join me and Tobi in a walk downtown. He needs to eat and I just want to walk.”

The young boy, who it turns out was not snobby, agreed adamantly. We finally exchanged names and because I couldn’t pronounce his I called him Rainy. He was from Chile and spoke Spanish as his first language. I would come to find that going on a walk with forigners from seperate continents would be more amusing than one could imagine. Our communication, or miscommunication, was like a walking comedy act and served us well when it came to bonding.

It turned out Rainy did know about riding motorcycles. He also knew about surfing and traveling. He was from a middle class family in Chile and he always had it easy. He told Tobi and I that he was looking to see what it was like to make it on his own so he had decided to travel to America for a few months. Because he liked to surf he decided to try Cali. He was so very nice, and my previous judgements turned out to be complete bull. I concluded that he was glaring at me because his evening was so uncertain, not because he was judging me. In fact, he probably hadn’t even noticed what I was carrying or cared, he simply happened to look up when I looked at him and I internalized it. Oops.

We spent the night wandering the around Santa Cruz. We got Tobi something to eat and sat around chatting about life. Tobi was twenty and Rainy was twenty-two, so we were all travelers of similar ages. We were fast friends and got quite close as the evening went on. I failed to tote my camera along with me on this adventure so I didn’t capture much for pictures, obviously. I was ok with that the majority of the time but there was one moment in particular that I regretted that choice.

We walked to the pier two hours before midnight. We were walking along, looking up to the stars. It was about 50° out, before one accounted for the sea salt damp air. We heard a bellowing, calling, whale like, sound. We made our way from the center of the pier to the rail to check it out. We looked over the rail, we didn’t over see anything, but then we all looked down to the water. There was a barge or a landing dock, or something . Whatever it was it was a wooden platform, missing planks here and there, obviously in need of repair. On top of this platform lay many snorting, snoring, snoozing creatures. When my mind finally accepted this image I realized we were looking down at 20-30 seals piled ontop of and under eachother on the structure below. They were squirming just slightly, and every so often they would make a noise, but the majority of the seals were sleeping. It was such a shocking site. I had never known what seals did at night, but apparently that’s what they do. Pile up and sleep. Sort of like a hostel except only with one bed, and all the animals huddle together, and ontop of one another.

I wasn’t the only one shocked. Both Rainy and Tobi hadn’t known this was how seals spent their nights either. When I talked to my sister on the phone the next day, she did know. So apparently it was only a fact that was new to some of us. Regardless, it was a neat to be seeing seals doing their thing. We unwittingly walked into discovering a new bit of nature.

The day before, December 27th, had been spent riding towards and through Big Sur. I stopped here and there to catch pretty sites and at one point I swear I saw a whale. I pulled off the road and after dismounting the bike saw what I thought looked like a whales tale off in the distance. I can’t be sure, but I have hope. I’m saying it was a whale because I like the idea quite a bit. I’m going with it.

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That rock at the end is pretty large. I climbed to the top of it. Just gorgeous.

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Rock graffiti. Somebodies thought it would be cool to spell out words with rocks right here... it was

I did get pictures of the ride to through Big Sur.

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Bixby Bridge. Very pretty. It was built in 1935 I think.

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Check out these dogs. Damn, if only we could all be as cool as that. I imagine their owners were surfing.

At the end of the road I had a kind friend waiting in Monterey for me. A friend who had promised a difficult jigsaw puzzel and who I knew wouldn’t dissapoint. Star was the same kind individual who invited me, a stranger at the time, to share in Thanksgiving with her and her family. She had responded to my query of sleeping over again with a generous yes, and so my three day stretch of non showering would be broke. That thought can be quite a driving force. It was an unnecessary force though, Little Wing and I didnt require any more than the promise of a great ride and scenery to get us going. Big Sur had promised just that. When I arrived in Montery Star had hot soup waiting on the table awaiting my arrival, now that is kindness.

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We ended up finishing the difficult jigsaw puzzle before I went off to Santa Cruz. The puzzle that Star and I had worked on together over Thanksgiving was left undone by me in my rush to Death Valley. This time I didn’t have to rush and I got the pleasure of completing a hard puzzle, theee best.

To rewind even further, the morning of the 27th, before the ride through Big Sur and the arrival in Monterey, was spent typing a blog about elephant seals and interesting people while eating a bagel at a cute coffee shop.

A month ago, right around the 27th, Thanksgiving, I was doing the same thing but Faster. November 26th I rode from San Leandro to Monterey. Now, on December 27th, I rode towards Monterey and on the 29th I arrived in San Leandro. This month I wasn’t rushing. This month I got to complete the jigsaw puzzle. I got to to see the coast and hit up Alice’s Restaurant.

You know, I’m not sure why I’m so excited by the fact that I feel like I’m rewinding the clock so much, but I am. I guess it must mean something. I think the main thing I’m realizing is how much I have grown over the last month. This time around I feel more satisfied with the moment. I am even more likely to turn to the stranger next to me and make friends. This time around I have finally come to believe that if I just calmly stop trying to control the moment it will work out better than I could imagine. Slow down, relax, breath and enjoy.

Repeat.

Or rewind. Or something like that.

On The Way To See The Infamous Elephant Seals

Looking up at the stars off the coast of the Pacific Ocean is an experience that should be enjoyed by all. Though one should remember to pack an extra jacket regardless of how tough and cold climatized they might think they are. I was fortunate to find a friend who loaned me a jacket for a short time. Michael was his name. I spent the evening of the 25th having a ‘Christmas party’ with Michael and Michael. For a short time there was a Liz too, but she vanished, off to her home. Liz was Michael’s mom. Michael, the-one-who-loaned-me-the-jacket Michael. For the sake of brevity (my latest favorite term) we will call Michael, the-one-who-loaned-me-the-jacket, Mikey V. and the other Michael will just remain Michael.

Anyway, not only did I get to check out the stars while barefoot and hypothermic in the surf, I also got to sit on the rocks off the Pacific the next morning and watch surfers cut, rip, and peel, up the waves. Right off the bluff, on the rocks where the tide lays its chilly head when it comes in at night. The salty water crashed and sprayed me and the two Mikes as they gave me Surf 101 lessons. Speaking the lingo, describing the surfers moves, it was damn special. When we said farewell the next morning it felt like I had known them forever, when In truth I had just introduced myself to Mikey V. the night before.

I spent Christmas night at Pismo Beach. I had made it a goal to get there by the end of December 25th and I did. I had been told a few weeks ago, by a gentleman I met in Bakersfield, CA, that it was a place for bikers, as well as a place to camp on the beach. Well, that sounded fairly interesting. I didn’t see much for bikers when I was there, but apparently there is a rally there in September. Even so, there were many places to camp that were just a stand of trees away from the beach,  it was lovely. The night before, Christmas Eve, had been a pricey night spent at Malibu Beach. Camping on the coast is quite pricey, but regardless, I’m enjoing it.

Camping near the beach means many pictures of sunsets and sunrises, brace yourselves.

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Christmas eve was lovely. I started reading Maya Angelou’s book Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas and had my first roasted artichoke and an oyster for dinner. The book was a gift from my friend in Oceanside and my sense of humor being what It is, I thought it was ironic and utterly perfect to start Christmas Eve. The ride had been a busy one being the day before Christmas and all, and I very much enjoyed relaxing after a long day of not going far. The next morning meant heading towards Pismo Beach. A windy coastal breeze challenged me and my tent to a duel. We fought bravely, took a few good blows where my tent became a makeshift parachute, but I forced it to tackle the wind. With the aid of heavy objects (helmet, shoes and Little Wing) I was able fo keep all the componets from flying long enough to wrestle it all into the tent sack and onto the back of Little Wing. A windy, chilly, start to a morning, but beautiful none the less.

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More pictures, muaha ha ha.

It was time to boogie. However we only boogied for about twenty minutes before I decided it was time for a hot tea. A stop at a coffee shop and a blog later, and off we were. Back into the slog of traffic, which was terrifically lighter than the day before. Apparently Christmas does that to the roads. I was paused at the grocery store where I picked up my 94 cent breakfast — a bannana and breakfast roll — by a man who noticed the Minnesota license plate. It was a glorious pause, filled with well wishes for the holiday and also for the lone woman who was traveling across the country by motorcycle. The type of pause that reminds one that strangers are kind. A pause that left me with a smile and a story for the gentleman. I have no clue why he invested some interest and time into speaking to me, but the story must have meant something to him. Another person who I probably won’t see again, but who shared a good interaction with me regardless.

Pismo Beach. The next destination. The ride there was gorgeous. Highway 1 was my route but it did a good job of switching between 1 and 101 without my help. The roads would mesh together allowing me to hit 70 mph in between the bouts of 55 that are typical of 1. The route was much less populated then the other parts of California I have been subject to. It was a great relief to get a second to breathe and think without stoplights and nonstop traffic passing me.

The part of California I was riding through was like the hilly Wyoming/Nebraska area I had rode through earlier this year, except more green. It was absolutly spectacular.

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By the time I arrived at Pismo Beach I wasn’t sure there was anything else I could see that would blow my mind. That thought always creeps in and is constantly discounted. The world is gorgeous all the way through, and California is no different. Pismo beach is a village compared to most places in the state. In fact many of the towns I had rode past Christmas day had been small. I rode past the village of Harmony which only had a population of eighteen people.

There are only eighteen people living in Harmony.

I had quite a chuckle at that one. I repeated that joke over and over, into my helmet, for at least half an hour.

Pismo Beach wasn’t quite as small as Harmony but it was small. The trek was very reminiscent of the midwest because of the population as well as the views. One look at the ocean though and those thoughts vanished. Pismo Beach is right on the Pacific, like I said, so it is super obvious that it’s a Cali town. I pulled into the campsite and met a man who had 650 BMW parked in his garage. He was an old traveler who had come from Fresno. His family had taken the RV down, but he knew all about traveling by motorcycle. Over his long life he had rode througn many countries on many motorcycles. His first bike trip was taken in 1958 on his 1958 Triumph, his first bike. Dave was his name, and invited me to join him and his family for a bit. I said thank you, but couldn’t bring myself to stay any longer than fifteen minutes with them. A beautiful family, Dave his wife, their two sons, and plethora of grand kids. I had left a beautiful family to find Christmas by myself so I bid them ado and wandered off to the beach.

In between the campsite and the beach was only 300 yards of eucalyptus trees.

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The beachside had sunset in full bloom. The sun was setting, taking a dip into the ocean. The beach was  practically empty, with only about thirty people and fifteen dogs. The birds, were ducking here and there, having their dinner by the setting sun. After the sun finished setting I was fully intending to walk to town and pick up my dinner (another 94 cent meal if I could find it. Camping was too pricey for anything other), but I happened upon other plans.

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On my way back to my campsite I passed  a lone dude with a red flannel and a dark beard. Those Midwest thoughts crept back into my brain. A transplant from Bemidji, MN? I mean he had the whole Paul Bunyan thing going on. I recalled that Northern California was home to logging, as well as Oregon and Washington. I continued back to my tent to layer up, and then found my way to the bathroom. In doing so I passed the lone flannel guy again. This time I noticed he was playing some old school Reggae. On the way out of the restroom I felt the urge to talk to this kindred spirit, reggae and flannel? Plus he had a campfire going and I was cold.

“Hey there. I like your music.”

“Well hey there, thanks!” He sounded suprised,  which was  understandable cause he had been turned towards the picnic table when I had spoke. When he was turned around, facing me, I held out my hand.

“Diamond.”

“Diamond? Michael.”

And that started the beginning of an evening of new friendship. It was different than any other invite I had for Christmas because I had intiated it, in a way. I mean Mikey V. offered me the grilled chicken burritos that we all enjoyed that evening, but I started the conversation that lead to it , and I didn’t leave. Mikey V. was originally from the coastal area, but had been living up in logging country in NorCal. The rainy season and presence of lumber jacks was the cause for the beard, and flannels were just something he liked. For me his look was something different. It was like talking to a bit of home. A 39 year old man that reminded of most of my buds back home. A reggae listening hirsuit who thought Christmas was best spent on the beach with chicken burritos and a motley crew of pals. His mom was from Switzerland and spoke with a French accent. She showed up with curried rice and chocolate bars, she was immediately my favorite.  The second Michael was an artist living out of his old Dodge van. The type of van that was so old it didn’t have to pass California smog inspections. The type of van that took five turnovers to start, and put Little Wing’s pipe to shame with it’s Harley like idle.

Actually, both Mikes were artists but Michael was a mural artist who worked out of the van, when he wasn’t painting houses for money. Mikey V. was an artist who worked, but also drummed. He was hoping to get back into playing music since he had a little bit of money saved up, but for the time being was just checking out the world on vacation. They were a  blast to chat with. And when Mikey V.’s mom, Liz, left we spent the evening chatting about art, life, and adventure. We built our fire up with Eucalyptus bark and dead fall which we took turns hunting out of the woods with my flashlights. We ended up moving my tent to their campsite and combining our funds to pay for the one spot. This brought me closer the fire, which was closer to the ocean. We went for an evening walk on the beack where they showed me what they knew. They are both California boys so they knew much more than I about the magical body of water. We found many broken sand dollars, and one perfect one, which I held onto. They showed me sand crabs, which bury themselves into the sand just a few inches. I had only seen dead ones before, but they dug up the live ones and showed me how they scuttled. They promised to show me the bluffs the next day, and there was talk of exploring the caves if the tide was low (it wasn’t).

Michael had to go to bed early because he worked in the morning but Mikey V. and I stayed up til Christmas was over and went to bed sometime after the final log broke into bits on the fire. Enlightening conversation is the exact thing I had been searching for on Christmas. Not that I wouldn’t have found it had I stayed with any of the other people who had invited me to hang around for Christmas, but it wouldn’t have happened in the same way. There is something about artists, barefoot walks at midnight, and campfires. It was so much like home, it was right.

The next morning I woke to Michael shouting at a seagull who had flown off with his lone avocado which had been left on the picnic table when we all hit the sack hours before. I rolled out of my tent, and warmed myself in the sun. When Mikey V. woke we left the camp as was and went to  coffee shop. I got some tea and we headed down to the bluff. We made our way down to the rocks below, and watched the surfers for an hour. The sun warmed my back as the salty spray got us from time to time  whenever a particularly large wave broke.

Michael went off to work after that and Mikey V. and I went back to the camp where I tore down my tent. I packed up Little Wing. After a sad farewll to a new a friend Little Wing and I took of towards the elephant seals and Big Sur.

I woke up this morning a few miles south of Big Sur, which is where I’m riding today. I saw the elephant seals doing their annual species continuation ritual on the shore of the Pacific Ocean yesterday. I will probably check them out again today on my way through. It is a neat thing to see a foriegn species doing their little thing in life. Doing exactly what we do, surviving, but in their own way.. something completely foriegn to us. I survive through enlightening conversation and travel. I survive by learning new things and having a interactions with humans that could have easily passed by.

Elephant seals survive by basking in the sun, and galumpfing along the beach, something they manage to do only once a year.

We all have our things.

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That dude front in center is a male making his way towards a female. It took him about fifteen minutes to get from the ocean to a female, who rejected him once he got there. Life is a marvelous mystery.

This morning a fellow camper from the campsite right outside of Cambria approached Little Wing. He checked out the license plate.  “Long way from home, huh?”

“Sure am,” I responded as I packed up my sleeping bag.

“I bet your loving it here.”

“Ha, you bet.” We conversed about his long adventure in 1985. A 15,000 mile trek from SoCal up through Canada and down to Florida. A long round trip that he took on a 650 BMW.

The people one meets.

Redlight-Greenlight

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Wood smoke and quiet roads, it’s Christmas morning.

I’m riding today. I left a beautiful family to their holiday, so I could finally experience one alone. I have too many loving people in my life, and I haven’t got to do a Christmas alone in my lifetime yet. I am grateful for this today, I couldn’t of asked for anything better.

I have have something to give to all you today. A story that is short and sweet, and perfect for today, or at least I think so.

People are very kind. Yesterday, riding through the very Western edge of Los Angeles, I was stopped at a red light. I had filtered to the front of the line and was ideling in between a small white car on the left, and a tall, blue, F450, with a missing rear window,on the right.

“Merry Christmas!” A deep voice shouted from over head. I looked up to see a young, twenty-something young man looking down at me from the driver seat of the Ford.

“Merry Christmas to you,” I responded. A girl was sitting next to him, in the passenger seat, and she wished me a merry Christmas as well. We three proceeded to have a short redlight-greenlight conversation about why they were missing the rear window and where we were all from. A beautiful moment of relief shared by strangers in the busy, stressful,  L.A. traffic. The day before Christmas, where it seemed everyone was in a hurry, and everyone had a honk to share. It was nice for three people to relate positively, and, for me, it changed the ride. I felt more at ease after that. The tension relaxed and I rode with the knowledge that strangers in vehicles are kind too. I am grateful for that moment.

Happy day today, whatever it is you celebrate. Look out of your window and share a redlight-greenlight moment with someone.. anytime of year. A smile goes a long way. I’m taking those two smiles across the country with me.

The Many Different Stories Of A Day

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Today was one of those pretty days. The kind one thinks of when one envisions an 80° California day.

Today I swam under water, above water, on my back, and I even floated. I did all of that with not much thought.. at the deep end of the pool. What a beautiful accomplishment. Meanwhile all the three year old regulars splashed beside me as their parents looked on. Swim instructors holding on and saying things like “kick, kick, kick! Keep kicking!”

And I thought “I am.”

Christmas break must have started because the pool was full of more short people than the regulars, their tall people tagging along. I couldn’t wear my glasses into the pool so I honestly couldnt make out faces, leaving me to identify people only by height.

Not being able to see in a pool full of toddlers is a great thing, especially if the reason that you’re there is the same as theirs; just learning. I don’t have to worry about others seeing me as I splash about because I can’t see them. Problem solved. Though it did lead to one awkward moment where I sat down by a young father watching his kid. I didn’t know it was a father I had sat by, and I’m sure he didn’t know how to react to my sudden presence by his side as I looked out at the pool, waiting for a clearing of the toddlers so I could jump in. He got up and went somewhere else to watch his kid. 

After my swim (MY SWIM, what lyrical words!) I put on my street clothes and glasses, gathered my suit, and newly acquired, space-saver, towel and went to join Little Wing. I made a point to not look at the pool filled witn youngsters, and seats filled with adults, on my way out the door, no need to see them now that I was on my way out.

Well, apparently, my logical solution to not being seen while not seeing at the pool was not entirely effective. As I got to sitting on the bike and setting up my GPS with the new destination — Oceanside Museum of Art — two talls and a small walked out the door. A handsome Asian family started loading their cute kid into the car. I snapped my helmet buckle as the daddy snapped the seat belt. I put on my gloves as the mommy got into the front passenger seat. I reached to close my visor as the daddy turned to me, “I thought you were a student,” he said.

My face turned red as giggle escaped, “nope, not a student.”

“Yeah, I saw you and thought why’s that student riding a motorcycle.”

I felt my face flush even more, but at this point I was uncertain as to whether it was the helmet roasting me or the observations of youth. “No, I’m mot a student. Just a motorcyclist learning to swim.”

“Oh, it wasn’t even that,” he said, “it was just general appearance,” and with that he made a sweeping gesture with both hands. Up and down his body as though giving a Vana White like display of his attire.

Oh man, I laughed at that. He spoke with an Asian accent of some sort or the other,  and I wasn’t sure that it was his culture or just his personality that had him thinking that was a thing to say to a young woman. If I were the sensitive type I might have been offended of this assertion that I looked like a student in my swiming attire. However, I was more grateful that he wasn’t referencing my untrained swimming methods.

The small human in the car looked out from his car seat. He pointed at my bike with an air of certainty. A steady chunky finger made an invisible line to Little Wing’s tank, and a steady voice announced, quite assertively, “I like that.”

I laughed louder.

“You like her motorcycle son?”

“Yes,” the small child replied. There was no hesitation in that confident voice.

I asked how old the boy was. His dad told me he was four. “Well spoken young man,” I said.

“He is bilingual” his father told me.

I am not certain where that air of confidence comes from, language or genetics, but both of those guys had it. They spoke the truth without a care as to what the world had to say about it, and they gave me a good laugh. I bid them ado, and I was off to check out some art.

Twenty minutes later Little Wing and I arrived outside of the art museum. As I got to taking off the coat and helmet that I had just put on in the presence of the guys back at the pool, I was approached by two more guys. Two middle aged African American males came towards me from the other side of the street. The were big men, dressed in long shirts, ball caps and sagging pants. I made eye contact, smiled, and continued strapping my coat to Little Wing.

“Was that you I saw doing wheelies out on the freeway?” the older of the two asked as he got nearer.

“Oh, yes, for sure. I love to do wheelies over there.”

“Yeahaha, I thought so,” he said and he and the other guy looked at each other and laughed.

The other guy said “you ride this, huh?”

“Yep, it’s mine.”

He laid his hand on the tent strapped to the back,  “you traveling, huh?”

“I am.”

“Where you from?”

“Minnesota.”

“No way!” They had slowly been making their way down the side walk, inching backwards while looking back at Little Wing and I. After I told them where I was from they came back. They took a look at my license place, let out some exclamations, and then each reached their hands out for an enthusiastic high five. These guys were awesome. They were fascinated with the adventure. They were curious about how riding in California was. They asked questions abour my next destinations and the offered advice on things to do in the area. After a fifteen minute discussion the younger of the two made some remark about being hungry and the older of the two agreed. The two of them, brothers as I came to find out, excused themselves, wished me a safe journey, a merry Christmas, and they were off.

I bid them ado and went to check out the art.

Little Wing opens up so many conversations with such interesting people. I love the ride. It is a feeling like no other to be in control riding the bike here and there, but I have come to love the stop, the pause, the break from the ride, just as much. People have so much to offer and when they get the chance to do so it is like a treasure box of rich goodies that they are just handing out. The bike is a great key to that box. I can’t help thinking how that might not be the case if I were driving across country in my truck. I see them when I stop the bike, and they see me. It is nothing at all like a blind park by a shy daddy at a pool. The confident people are inspired to speak up, or the shy people are inspired to be confident, either way, I reap the rewards. It is just as addicting as the ride

Today was pretty. Now it is time to catch some shut eye. I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow has to offer.

Much love ♡

Merry Solstice Fascinating Friends

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My plan was to get up and dance at midnight on the solstice. I was going to dance barefoot under the moon and stars in winter and finally get that out of my system. I usually dance on the summer solstice, but the winter solstice has always meant snow on the ground, which, of course, makes dancing barefoot extremely painful, and slightly unintelligent. Well I should have known. I don’t plan, thats not my thing. My brain is not plan friendly. This being the case, I fell asleep exhausted last night. Conked out cold, without a thought as to the solstice. I woke up this morning feeling well rested, and realized another year has passed without dancing barefoot under the solstice moon. Ah well, at least I got some sleep in.

The last few days have been filled witn some pretty great things. Last night at the solstice party that Andrea took me along to we were given some free passes to one of the museums in Oceanside. The passes are set to expire at the end of this year so our host was looking to pass them onto people who could use them. I am ever so grateful. I very much dig a good museum.

Speaking of museums, I have seen some cool art since I started off on Little Wing. I have oooed and ahhhed over the work off Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera at the Oakland Museum of California. I have also seen a Jackson Pollock original. I’ve stood in the same room as half a dozen Alexander Calder pieces, and made eyes at a Joan Miró piece, while nearly choking on an o’dourve. The Portland museum got two days of mine, both of which had me breathless. The Bay Area earned its stripes as one of the art capitals of the U.S.,  in my opinion. Despite all this, I have to say, Saturday was host to one of my favorite exhibits of the trip. Andrea and I went to San Diego to see the works of Dr. Seuss — another thing we had to see before the end of the year when it gets taken down. It was the real deal. The collection had both childrens art and his Midnight Masterpieces, with their wonderful sense of humor. The art that proves that geniuses have issues and emotions too. Genius. Art for the kids who grew up on Dr. Seuss and dont want the magic to stop there. The show didn’t dissapoint, it was full of magic, and it hard to imagine that I could possibly appreciate another artist more.

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I wonder why I feel such an attachment to this man, and I think it is because I know he has many sides and facets, I mean I read about them as a kid. Now with adult eyes he is still on of my favorites, but I am coming to find out one of his facets was that of an adult too. And a damn good adult judging by his Midnight Masterpieces. I would totally go to see it again.

Saturday found us at another party, before our visit to the museum. Another of Andrea’s friends was holding the party. There were fascinating people in attendance, and I hapoened onto a great conversation with a young couple holding their six month old baby. They had just come from Death Valley and told me they didn’t witness any mudslides, but they had seen the aftermath of them. They drove right through the mess that the rains left behind. If you remember right, if you have been following, I left Death Valley on  the Monday after Thanksgiving to avoid the threatened storm. I am now looking up at the stars (figuratively,  it is the morning after the night when I was supposed to be looking up at the stars) and thanking the lucky ones that I got Little Wing and myself the hell out of there. Anyway, the couple and their baby, the traveling trifecta, were taking a year long sabatcle to give that baby the joy of travel in her first year of life. The best part was that they were taking a Volkswagen bus on their trip. It was quite the cool tale. I had a fun time exchanging traveling stories.

Last night wasn’t much different. When Andrea introduced me she added that I was going across country on Little Wing. Interest was be peaked and then I would be peppered with questions. If people paused long enough to let me ask a question I would get to find out a bit about them as well. Honestly, I find my travels fascinating,  because I’m on them, but I am starting to find the story of them slightly boring. I’ve repeated it so much now that it is like a well oiled machine; on that keeps getting a workout in any social situation. The machine is so well oiled that I now feel like tossing in some gritty sand and mucking the whole thing up a bit to make it more interesting for me. Having a well oiled machine is one of those problems that most people don’t complain about. At least my story is interesting enough to get people asking questions, that wasn’t the case two years ago. However the main issue is I am much more interested in other people’s stories, and because they are interested in mine I feel like I miss out on valuable time in which I could have been learning more about them. One gentleman I met last night had back packed across the world with his spouse. They went to the cheapest areas and made it a goal not to spend more than $35 a day between the two of them. I found that utterly fascinating. Another of the people I spoke to was a blacksmith who did custom work in fancy houses around California. He was from Britain, as was his wife. I found them fascinating. By the time I would start to get their story flowing other people would’ve entered the party, and the story would be cut short by an introduction. Then the whole cycle would start agian.

I have got to toss some sand.

Regardless of party etiquette and the minor frustrations I feel I face, I still enjoy the whole idea of them. Last nights party was an even mix of sixteen year olds and their parents, with one exception. A lone 21 year old. One gal who wasn’t someone’s responsibility anymore and also didn’t have a responsibility to anyone else. Being the odd gal out is always an interesting role at a party.  We had a poetry reading. Everyone in the group read a poem of choice. I read a short haiku, terribly, but everyone else did a slendid job. Well read poems are the best. And then there was a yule log. Not the typical log, I’m told, but I have honestly never known what a yule log was, so I didn’t know the difference. We were all told to write down one wish for the coming year and then fold it up and glue it the log with candlewax. After all the party goers had done so the hosts attached different flora from the surrounding gardens to the log, and then it was tossed into the flames. Not before we all snapped pictures of it with our different picture taking devices. It was a neat thing to be a part of. I enjoyed being a new part of a tradition. That’s always the best to ride into. 

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That's our yule log before it was lit on fire.

I’m looking out the window this morning and the birds are chirping. The sun is out. The temperature is up, and all I can think is that the solstice really has changed the world. Despite the fact that today is exactly the same length as yesterday when one looks at the sunrise/sunset time. You will be happy to know that tomorrow the sunset will be two minutes later than today, now that’s what I like to hear.

The sunset yesterday was absolutly spectacular. The way the colors changed as time passed,  it was unbelievable. It was like something right out of a Californian clothing commercial.

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That bush looks like a Dr. Seuss shrub if I've ever seen one.

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Sunsets are like snowflakes, all uniquingly beautiful. One will only see that exact palette, that exact way, once.

With how neat last night was I don’t feel too bad about missing my midnight barefoot escapade. I caught up on some well needed sleep instead, which is great because I need that extra rest to fuel my adventure today. I am not sure what I’m doing, but I’m going for a ride. First stop is the Bonsall post office to send out some solstice cards. Late solstice cards, just another example of my brains resistance to planning.

The birds are chirping, the sun is shining. I feel like I am in my own childrens book. A Dr. Seuss classic. I’m meeting interesting people and doing new things. Burning yule logs and going to circuses at midnight. Meeting balloon artist bikers, and Getting to know ex-train-hopping hobos,  and nominated producers. The people that other people see every day and have just gotten used to are enthralling me with tales of wonders so grand that I can hardly believe they exist. And those same people that are filling me with tales of wonder want to hear my story. They are fascinated by my story as much as I am theirs.. it is just crazy! And to think that I saw it on Mulberry street! Whaaaa. Anyway, it is crazy. I’m just a young punk being exposed to all this for the first time. Sooo many firsts.

You know, it is awe-inspiring and tiring at the same time. I have concluded that it is okay that I didn’t get up to dance last night. It would hve been the first time, barefoot, outside, on the winter solstice, but I have my whole life ahead of me. And if I fit in all the good bits now what will be left? There’s always the Seuss exhibit.

If I stick to plans I am not making any room for the rest of it to happen.

Alright, it’s time. Im off on my well oiled machine to send out solstice cards to many of you fabulous people. Thank you for being fascinating beyond belief and sharing your stories with me. The days are getting longer, the year is coming to a close, life is fabulous.

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Looking At Reflections

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I am getting excited about this whole solstice thing, that’s happening December 21st. The solstice always gets me worked up, the equinox too.

I remember the first time I learned about the equinox. I was seven and it was a few weeks away from Easter. My sister and I were well known card makers in our family, or atleast we would have been if our small family ever remembered to send them out to the extended bunch (for any of the fam reading this, we were making them.. it’s the thought that counts, anyway). We made cards for every occasion,  appropriate or not. Cards for Christmas, Halloween, Fourth of July, Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays. We once made a card for our new baby cousin whose name we had misinterpreted. A lovely picture of a baby with a full head of black hair greased back was drawn with color crayon and the name ‘Elvis’ written in neat handwriting across the top. It was handed to Dad who hung it on the fridge, where it stayed for months. Ruby and I assumed it was just awaiting an envelope, but when we finally asked why It was still hanging he was confused. Upon further explanation from his card making daughters Dad finally gave us the correct pronunciation and spelling of our newest relation, Aldous. That is an example of one of the inappropriate cards we produced.

To get on with the equinox story, though, Dad wasn’t known for a huge amount of holiday spirit. He supported our interest in celebrating all of the holidays our school friends liked regardless, but he was more than willing to share his knowledge of all the other holidays he knew to be celebrated throughout the world. A suggestion was made when I presented him with the question of what should be written on the Easter card I was working on. Dad thought for a minute and looked down at this younger, shorter, version of me, and went on to tell about the equinox. That’s the first I’d heard of it. He said that I would impress the grandparents if I were to write ‘Happy Equinox’ on the card, and I was all about impressing, so that’s what I did. I made happy equinox cards. One in particular that I remember had a picture of an elephant drawn upon it, because both ‘equinox’ and ‘elephant’ were both big words that began with ‘E.’

Since that first time I learned of the equinox it has fascinated me. And now, being a grown woman who doesn’t much enjoy holidays myself, I find that I appreciate the yearly markers more and more. They are scientific celebrations to appreciate while the rest of my friends of family are enjoying this time of year for other reasons; it provides me with a way to relate. Anyway, I’m excited for the 21st, expect some love from Little Wing and I on that day –we both celebrate. I’m thinking a midnight dance under the moon here in tropical Cali, we shall see.

I recieved a bit of ‘holiday cheer’ yesterday, or at least that’s what Andrea dubbed it. While running errands with Andrea I had to stop at the post office. I had three postcards to send off so Andrea decide to wait and read in the truck while I ran in. I had hoped to make it snappy, but the office was flush with costumers, as Andrea had predicted. Nothing I could do about it, so I decided to adopt a smile and wait at the end of the line, which was hanging out the door a bit. It was about three minutes of waiting befor a woman, who had been writing at the counter, approached me. She was in her thirties and a customer, not an employee. “You need a stamp?” She asked.

I held up my postcards, “I need three.”

“Here you go,” she said as she shoved her sheet of stamps into my hand. It had seven stamps still intact.

“Are you sure?!”

“Yeah, take them.” She could almost have been mistaken for being rough and rude if she hadn’t been being so kind. Her tone was gruff and she didn’t even have a hint of a smile.

“Thank you!” I called after her as shs dissappeared out the door. I assume she was a woman who waited in line for too long and was frustrated, andooking to get rid of these pesky extra stamps. She was considerate and probably wanted to save someone else the same frustration. Whatever the story, no matter the motive, it was nice. And it saved me about fifteen minutes. Plus, I now have four shiny stamps in my wallet. Merry Solstice!

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Yesterday morning in rainy SoCal.

This is one of the reasons I like this time of year, everyone is filled with their own holiday cheer, which they spread like strawberry jam. This was actually the same reason I disliked this time of year in the past. I was (and still am) of the opinion that people are nice ALL the time if given the chance, it isn’t just the holiday season.. unless we expect it to be. However I think we notice it more around the solstice, because we have to for sanity’s sake.

The solstice is great for keeping sanity (and requiring we do so). It can be used in one of the greatest, trickiest, tricks to avoiding SAD when the winter months come along. Seasonal Affective Disorder is something that most everyone gets as the days get shorter, and the weather colder. It made an appearance on the show Northern Exposure, and that’s how many people (including myself) first learned how to identify it. The characters in Northern Exposure were seen toting atound sun lamps throughout the episode, and that isn’t to far from the mark. In Minnesota I knew a fair amount of sun lamp users, but the I found another method, this solstice trick thing. Sometimes  being poor and host to little space is the mother of invention. Necessity provides many comforts that might not be comfortable otherwise. What I’m trying to say is tge solstice can be used like a bandaid to cure the woos of  SAD; I’ll tell you how. The solstice marks the end to short days and the start to longer days, it is all a process that takes time, but if one starts at the fall equinox and starts counting the days until the night they get to dance under the moon it makes it seem a lot cheerier. When the solstice hits one can start counting days til the spring equinox, and before anyone even knows it the sun is staying for longer, the cold is melting away, and the solstice-counter has forgot about the winter solstice for another few months.

You know, it might not be as effective against the Affective Disorder as I think it is. Maybe I shouldn’t start marketing just yet, but you know, it works for me.

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A winter night in SoCal.

I am looking forward to this opportunity to do my first barefoot winter solstice dance. I’m also looking forward the the new year, another important part of the solstice season. 2014 is going to give way to 2015, no complaints here. Im looking for a place to dance on that evening too (this season is a great excuse to excersise the toes.. and feet, and soul). 2015 is the year I turn 22. A birthday on the road. Last year at solstice time I was helping my wonderful roommate and her amazing family set up a Christmas tree. This year I’m in SoCal helping my wonderful host and her family decorate the B&B for Christmas. How amazing. I wouldn’t have ever thought.

I think this time is the time for self reflection. I think the holiday and solstice spirit is really just a time to look back and see our family and friends. The time when we all think about how long the winter months are and consider what it is the most important people in our life could benefit from in this cold season; what could aid them in their hibernation process. Regardless of what it is people choose to celebrate this time of year, I think we all know the effects of less sun, and we wish to show our affection for those who have Seasonal Affective Disorder (which, we shouldn’t kid ourselves, is almost everybody. Even here in SoCal it is apparent). I dislike consumerism and gift exchanges, but even I am known to send out postcards to those I love. I somehow just happen to crochet a hat, which I don’t need, and then manage to pass it on to ten year old who I have found a new friendship with. Giving is still one of the things that happens regardless of the disdain for consumerism.

Getting is also unavoidable. Here I am, surrounded by fantastic people. Lots of intelligence, and kindness, and love, and I have to say,  I am more than willing to pocket some of it. Then I look outwards. I am hearing all these wonderful things from all of the people surrounding me. People who are hundreds of miles away, and are still sending me the love they have. It is a wonderful thing to be a party too.

I have to admit, this years SAD has hit me, despite my tricky tricks. It started with the shorter days. It is hard ride comfortably when one knows that they are battling time. The thought process takes hold and reminds me it will be a chilly ride if I start any earlier than 10:00 am and I need to have tent set up by 5:00 pm. Under those conditions, so far away from home, it feels as though the world is no longer in one’s favor. It was easy enough to shake off. I found that if I just adopted a positive attitude it was fine, but the thought was still there, like a gopher in a pasture. It was unwanted and knew it, so it tunneled deeper to hide under ground. Making holes in my thought process, that I had to avoid stepping into for fear of breaking a leg. The only thing that could get the gopher was a bunch of firecrackers down its tunnel (this long metaphor is going somewhere, I promise). I found that the kind words of friends were like those firecrackers. Being openly welcomed into this home and expected to spend the holidays was a big firecracker.

I left Minnesota to avoid the winter. Last year was hard. I spent the winter months driving to and from my weekend job at a coffee shop, and my weekdays to and from my art teaching gig, that was right across the street from the free city studio space I had the honor of helping pilot. I worked with coffee and art, that’s what I did. It was like a dream. Still, somehow, the SAD managed to creep in. I kept it at bay. I had a 22 that I aimed at that gopher and I got a few good shots in, but it was still there. I didn’t know why. I managed to get over it though. Solstice time, dancing, New Years, dancing, my birthday, dancing, and a new motorcycle in the spring (right around the equinox). It was all good. My goal was to avoid it entirely this year. Well, that didn’t happen, but I do think I’ve managed to make some peace with it.

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This picture isn't exactly relevant, it is just lovely. I wanted to share it with you. It s a lamp from a place called Fez in Morocco. Pretty ain't it?

Many things are both delightful and horrendous at the same time. The solstice is a time of joy for me, but the unavoidable SAD is not. I tried riding away from it and I found that it still found me. That’s not the end of the story though. I rode away from all the comforts of home to take on my first big adventure, and I did. I rode away from all the people I loved to find more, and I did. I have found so many. I rode away from my art supplies and found that I love to write. I rode away from old truck and found that I really like having a vehicle that starts all year long, with no dependance on season. I rode a little farther into my life and found there was much more that I hadn’t known yet. I’m so happy to learn.

The yang has yin, or that yin has a yang, or something. It is all about adding more, not subtracting from. More life is a good thing. And solstice is a great time to come to that conclusion, that’s what I’m saying. I’m saying that the solution to SAD is to surround yourself with love, both giving and getting. Thinking of others when it feels like the world is cold is great way to feel warmer. Remembering that others in the same boat is a great way to make them feel warmer.

I very much dislike consumerism and STUFF, but that’s not at all the same as the giving and getting I’m talking about. To quote my idol “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!” Well whatever, insert the words ‘holiday season’ in for the word ‘Christmas’ and you have my point completely. Self reflection may be as effective for you as it is for me in burying the gopher.

Self reflection and dancing. Whatever. Ones the burying of the burrowing gopher, the other is the firecracker.

On a different note, I am currently working on a solstice card for friends family, and you faithful readers. It won’t have elephants, because that just doesn’t make sense. Elephants are inappropriate for the celebration.

Three more days til the Solstice!

Mud And Snake Bites

I had a dream I was bit by by a snake last night, what does that mean? It was buried in the ground, head first, and then a friend came along and unearthed it. I was leaning against a tree as it crawled up my body. I stood motionless except for my left hand which I put in front of my face. It slithered up as I stood passively and then it bit the hand I held in front of my face. I don’t know what that means, but it sure was frightening since I’m in the land of snakes.

I’m shaking that off this morning. I have come to the neat conclusion that I’m going to be sticking around Oceanside for the holiday (no complaint here). I adore my host and I’m on the neatest bit of land (organic farm and B&B, who could dream of better). I have officially been adopted by my host and her family. I had to tell her that I’ve been adopted by many people, so I suppose another one doesn’t hurt. It is interesting how quickly one can grow close to other humans, it doesn’t take all that long. I came up with a pretty cool way of describing this new found closeness that I am finding many places; I’m being adopted by the world.

This morning I’m going to do some yoga and then I’m off to a pool for a swimming lesson. It is raining today so farm work is minimal here, this means Andrea has the time to give me swimming lessons. She was a swim teacher. She used to teach kids in Alaska how to swim in warm pools because they were finding that Alaskans didn’t know how cause the water was too cold.

That’s now my excuse when someone asks how gal from the land of 10,000 lakes doesn’t know how to swim , “the water was too cold.”

Anyway, I get to swim today, AND it is raining here in SoCal! It is raining! They need it so bad. It is wonderful to experience the excitement that a few inches of rain brings to the residents. How neat to be a part of that instead of the alternative — more drought. If one believed in such things as ‘Christmas miracles’ they might apply the term, I don’t. It is simply the time of year when the days get shorter, the weather gets cooler, and the West coast gets an all encompassing storm that supplies water to the parched areas. It is all science.

Though that dream about a snake biting me…is there a scientific explanation for such foolishness? I don’t know. I woke up to windows filled with grey and a spot on my hand that I had to double check for holes; it was all clear. The sky has been dark on and off since I got here to Oceanside. It makes for a lot of mud. Apparently the hills around here are not glacial, meaning thy were made differently than most of the mountains on the continent of North America (or atleast most of the mountains that Little Wing and I have rode through). The hills here along the rocky shores of Oceanside are cones. They are old cones that made themselves known when all the tectonic plates shifted, and now instead of being cones under the ocean they are large hills with various layers of rock samples all throughout. Andrea told me that from one acre to the next on her farm there isn’t really one soil sample that comes out the same as the next.

She’s a biologist.

I know nothing of what this means. All I know is it is fascinating, and something about all this science appears to be the reason for the exorbitant amount of sloppy, sinking, sticky mud everywhere.

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Muddy boots.

Andrea has a dog, Brooky, who takes all the guests on tours of the property. She has decided it is her job and she has a certain path that she always takes, though she was never trained to do such. At a B&B on a farm this is invaluable skill to pickup. Brooky has so many willing followers and they just love to take the tour. Of course she loves being the leader, the alpha female, and she also loves the attention. She is one of the most popular dogs in the neighborhood because of this hobby. Sometimes the neighbors call Andrea and ask if they can send one of their guests over to have a Brooky Tour, it is fabulous. Well anyway, since I have been here it has been raining, which means it’s been muddy. On the days it wasnt raining I was riding around with Little Wing or off on some adventure with Andrea. It took me until this weekend to finally get my Brooky Tour. Oh, was she ever pleased. It was her, her sister, Foxy, Stiches — the dog from down the street, Andrea, her grandchildren, and myself. Off we started, trekking after that nimble old lab. She lead us up the hill and straight into mud. It was dryer than it has been, but still sticky. It was shocking, hard to believe, like nothing I’ve ever seen. That mud was a new creature all together. It was like Oobleck, something straight from Dr. Seuss’ imagination (he was actually from San Diego, it makes one wonder…?). I felt as though Bartholomew Cubbins was walking ahead with the eight and ten year olds, who were slowly getting covered in the muck up ahead of us. Bartholomew wasn’t actually with us though, that was just my imagination, those kids were doing a number without any help. As a kid I remember loving to play in the mud, but ours was nothing like that. Anyway, Brooky trotted along, lightly, not sinking an inch on those canine pads. We made our way down to the pond. It was low, Andrea pointed out, but a up a few inches from the month before. We saw ducks swimming and two of the three dogs splashed in to chase them. Squeaking ensued — a lighter sound then a squawk, but a noise nonetheless — and the ducks disappeared into the reeds. The children attempted to join the dogs in their aquatic escapades, but were stymied by the inevitable quick riposte of a concerned grandma (too cold for pond swimming here in SoCal). Instead the kids found some interesting things to do walking around the pond; playing, talking being the heros in their own adventure, what ever that happened to be. The squabbling and wacking hands — generally the expected norm of siblings — was paused for a moment while they forgot about all other living beings, except for the dogs and the birds, and went about observing nature. The wonder of a child, there is nothing better.

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Of course, during this adventure, I kept looking down to watch the next step. My shoes were slowly getting cased in mud and the extra weight seemed to be deflating any buoyancy I had. I was slowly sinking deeper into the slime. Ah well, this just meant had to pick up my pace and keep moving. So while watching the children I took to doing a dance that resembled something like the cha-cha in its step. From one side to the next, back and forth. It was all about keeping afloat.

When the pond no longer had our attention in its grasp we made our way back up an even muddier incline, Brooky leading the way back to the house. We were more than pleased to reach the top, I was happy to just rest my feet on solid, grassy, sandy soil.

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This is a hibiscus flower. Andrea picks the leaves and drys them. They make a delicious tea which I get to drink in the morning. Mmm, I love it.

Despite the gooieness of the tour it was pretty damn lovely. It is nice to be staying at such an interesting place and have so many experiences that aren’t typical of my home state. We don’t have hills, but if we did they would be glacial. Actually, Minnesota has the oldest North American mountain range running right through it. It is hard to know that in such a flat swampy area, and they are just tiny hills now. Smalll bumps on the surface because of the many years of erosion. I can’t even estimate how many years they’ve bean wearing down. Biology time differs greatly from my time. I just can’t imagine.

The hills in SoCal are cones. Water here is too cold when it is exposed to 60 degree days (that just a difference in thinking really). There is an ocean a few miles away and a serious drought that is slowly being washed away. It is all so fascinating, all so different. The trip has been peppered with so many of these new places with new things, I adore it. I feel like a an eight or ten year old again, the wonder flashing in my eyes, as I star as the hero of my own adventure. The world is slowly adopting me. Can it get better?

I’m sure it can, cause soon I will be able to swim.

I think the snake dream is a reflection of my nerves. Well, I don’t like that. I don’t like being bit by such a pesky emotion, I am ignoring it. Yoga and blogging are great ways to kill the snake, I have more interesting things to do.

Enjoy your day, do lots of interesting things. Wap the snake on the head, kay?

One For The Road

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Some people are so very sweet. Have you noticed?  No matter what they say, no matter who they are talking about, no matter how negative a situation they are discussing, they always have something good to say. They don’t seem to stray from the definition of sweet. I have met people like that on this journey, my host, Andrea, is one of them.

In my life I complain a lot about what I consider close-minded people. I think the worst flaw in the world is to shut off one’s mind to the ideas and thoughts of others. When I identify someone as being close-minded I am prone to judgement. I often time seize upon the word ‘dumb’ and use it lavishly. I find that word and drop it into sentences like an oak tree discarding its leaves in fall. It is an uneducated cop-out. It does nothing to solve the problem and it is unkind. It isn’t sweet at all.
It is something I need to work on; a lot.

I have been the passenger in many vehicles as of late, and in doing so made a new observation. At first I seem to find it enjoyable and charming to be a passenger. It is calming to let my mind relax from the turmoil that occurs to the brain when riding. The constantly shifting eyes, the tense fingers, the feet that are just waiting to hit the brake and gear shifter, it is brain excercises at their finest; the loser is the guy who falls down, the consequences are death and maiming. Being a passenger in a four wheeled cage is a break from that… at first. After a short time the passenger charm wears off and the headache sets in. It doesn’t matter which vehicle, it doesn’t matter who’s driving, my brain starts tensing up, and it isn’t the good tension like from riding, it is the bad one that happens when your sick. I don’t know what it is. The headaches last though. Today I rode with some new friends to the farmers market, and my head has been pounding ever since. Ten minutes into the ride I wished I’d rode Little Wing. My reaction was “this is dumb.”

Riding in California can be scary. Actually, the whole coast is like that. It is busy and it seems that everyone is in an extreme hurry, and because it is so populated it is subject to many traffic jams. The benefit of riding in California versus the rest of the coast is the ability to lane split. It makes a rider feel safer and it also gets us places faster, well, speaking for myself anyway. Now for those of you who don’t know what lane splitting is I will tell you. I actually learned about it in Neligh, NE at the Neil and Willie concert, and then only remembered it when I got here to California.

Lane splitting is the act of a two wheeled vehicle going in between two lanes of traffic headed in the same direction  (i.e. freeway) and filtering to the front. It is done if white dotted lines are present and gets the motorcycle out of the congested, stop and go, traffic which is so often the place of injury for riders. It is an activity that is isn’t truly understood by those who haven’t tried it. I know this because, not only was I not understanding of it before I tried it, I also have been a part of many conversations that show a lack of understanding towards it since. It is something that gets brought up around the table when the conversation turns to motorcycles  (which it inevitably does). Everyone wants to say they know something, and sometimes the only thing they know is that a pesky motorcycle came close to clipping their mirror earlier that day. Other people have an Uncle Frank who had a bike, others have a neighborhood kid with a dirtbike, and some people have a penchant out for motorcyclists without helmets, but regardless,  everyone has something to say when motorcycles become the topic. In California helmets are required, and in California it is neither legal or illegal to lane split, so motorcyclists have the option to do it safely if the opportunity presents.

Now imagine, you are in a car, stopped in a mile long row of ideling cars. You are all making your way forward steadily, but as you move an inch forward you see the brakelights of the car ahead of you light up red. Well, of course, you hit your brakes and continue to wait. The radio starts to play a song, oh crap, you hate this one. Time to plug in the Ipod. Oh,  you are fussing around, hooking up the auxiliary cord, you look up. That car ahead of you has moved ahead another foot. You take your foot off the brake and move forward too, it is a steady movement now. You have moved forward eight feet and then the fellow ahead brakes hard, so you do too, Ipod still in hand, one hand on the wheel. You stop about four inches away from the car ahead of you. You are just about to release a sigh of relief, I mean holy shit, you almost gave them a love tap — don’t want to do that on this freeway full of frustrated commuters– but the sigh is interrupted. It’s thwarted, it never comes, because instead you hear a loud thunk against your bumper. It sounds like someone just dented your car. What the hell? You check all the rearview mirrors, you don’t see it. You open your door a bit and hang your head out. When you look back you see a person with a helmet laying on the ground. You were just hit by a motorcyclist. Why? You hit your brakes too hard. You didn’t even know it was a motorcycle behind you. You drop your Ipod.

Well that sucks. Now imagine something different. Fast forward through the boring inching bit. You are doing that stopping and going thing, the song comes on, you pick up the Ipod, then you hear a loud pipe. You look up to see a motorcyclist slipping between your car and the truck next to you.  “Damn it,” you think, as you fiddle with your Ipod, “those motorcycles shouldn’t be allowed to do that. That’s so dangerous to be riding through traffic like that, don’t they know any better?” Your after work angst grows stronger as you turn your attenion back to the hand held device, one hand resting on the steering wheel, one foot tapping the brake.

That’s ‘dumb.’

So the discussion about close-minded comes back to me, as does the one about being a passenger in a vehicle. This discussion of lane splitting or not lane splitting was brought to my attention today in the car, on the way to the farmers market. “You don’t do that, do you?”I was asked.

“Of course I do.”

A look was exchanged by the two older adults in the front seats. I sat in the backseat and I felt my headache infused ire get up. “I cant support that,” I was told by my new friend in the passenger seat. She is a smart woman whom I respect a lot. Her partner nodded his head in agreement.

My brain was not ready for a debate about motorcycles at that point in time. I had head full of ache, and all I had been thinking about before they addressed me is how much I wished that I had taken Little Wing instead of cooping myself in the cage that I was currently a passenger in. My argument came out dull and sounding uninformed.. or maybe not. Regardless, these people, whom I really respect told me I was wrong. I had statistcs. I had experience. They had opinions. No facts, no first hand knowledge, and from that they derived an opinion. An opinion that made me, and every other motorcyclist who subscribed to lane splitting, an article for there abject and disdain.

So now I have statistics in the form of a PDF for your viewing pleasure. I am of the opinion that people should have facts before they make opinions. It all comes with an open-mind.

To paraphrase the facts, less people are killed while lane splitting (yay!). I enjoy lane splitting because when I pass the driver swerving all over the road I can look in their window and see them texting. I enjoy lane splitting because I feel safer.

I think it easy for people to judge from the comfort and luxury of their seat behind a wheel.

I have to admit, I judge too. I judge all the people with a phone in their hand. I judge all those people who cut me off without looking. I judge people who don’t use turn signals or tap their brakes before deciding to make a sudden turn. You know what I say? ‘Dumb.’

That’s not the correct thing to say.

However, I have driven a caged vehicle before. Four wheels, a roof, a radio, and a heater, I know what that’s like. I know that people can drive a lot safer than they do. I think these new found headaches might come from this new knowledge attained by riding a motorcycle. Some people drive ‘dumb.’ Whether it be the person driving the vehicle I’m in or the other people around, I have no control as a passenger. On Little Wing I am just 400 lbs of machine and flesh at the mercy of tons and tons of larger vehicles, and they have the ability to eat me alive, but the difference is I am in control. I am free, small, and I can skirt around all the drivers who drive ‘dumb.’ Close-minded? Open-minded? Who knows. All I know is I feel safer on Little Wing.

The constantly shifting eyes, the tense fingers, the feet that are just waiting to hit the brake and gear shifter. Brain excercises at there finest, that’s what all driving should feel like. If a driver thinks that they have the time and ability to pick up a phone/Ipod/makeup while their engine is on they are doing it wrong, in my opinion. If some one doesn’t feel like driving is something that takes serious concentration then I don’t want to be on the road with them.

But I really don’t get a choice. If I’m on the road then I have to just understand that people are inconsiderate much of the time.

That’s ‘dumb.’

Nope. ‘Dumb’ is not a solution. A solution is lane splitting. While the drivers sit there, not paying full attention, switching lanes/stopping/fiddeling without care, riders have the ability to observe it and avoid it.

One of the arguments put to me today was “people on motorcycles come up on me and I don’t see them. They are in my blind spot, and then they pass me. What if I had switched lanes?”

My response as a rider? I saw you move before I got there. I watched you long and hard before I  made the decision to pass in the middle. I saw that there was a safe chance, I took it, and now when you do switch lanes I am no where near you. I looked because you didn’t. And maybe you did, and if you did then, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Motorcyclists don’t want to die. Drivers don’t want to be responsible if we do. Simple logical solution: look for bikers. We see you, why don’t you see us?

Put the metaphorical Ipod down.

I have tossed the word ‘dumb’ aside on this subject. I have given my well thought out response, ‘dumb’ is no longer needed.

I would like to make a small plea to anyone reading this, and some sort of underlying message to the universe to all those who are not, don’t tell me you want me to wear bright colors, a helmet, or stop lane splitting for the sake of other drivers. Do not come at me as a non-rider and tell me how you would like me to change so you feel safer. Drivers of four wheeled vehicles have the upper hand. If you want me not to die then you need to stop driving your car in a ‘dumb’ manner. Excuse me, I have better way to say that, stop driving distracted. Stop driving under the influence  (of any and all substances that alter the thought process). Start looking for motorcyclists. I know you won’t see me most of the time, but trust me, I see you. I am looking, seeing, observing, reacting, thinking, and living my own life. Don’t tell me how to ride my motorcycle if you don’t know how. Just open your mind. Let the riders decide. Drive safely and we shouldn’t have as much of a problem.

That’s the sweetest I can muster, I’m still working on it. I have been trying to figure out how to say this without sounding negative. I have been trying to find something good to say on this subject, but the best I can muster thus far is the elimination of the word ‘dumb.’ Like I said, I’m still working on it. It’ll come.

Hey, I’ve got your back. I will try not to kill or maime myself around your vehicle, if you… oh wait. It doesn’t matter what you do, I will still try to survive.

As Yoda said, “there is no try, there is only do.” Lets do it. Lets all open our minds, be sweet and considerate, and drive safer.

Thanks in advance.

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I'm not sure why, but this cracked and bleeding pomegranate just seemed apropos. Maybe because it was so sweet. Who knows?

Sources:
Ewald and Wasserman. Motorcycle Lane-Share Study Among California Motorcyclists and Drivers 2014 and Comparison to 2012 qnd 2013 Data: Methodological and Analysis Report. The California Office of Traffic Safety, May 2014. Web. 13 Dec. 2014

Other suggested reading for those who are interested:
The Wikipedia Article
American Motorcyclist Association
And this fun opinion piece