Little Morning Updates: Winging It

I managed to do most all the repairs yesterday. I have been buggering over foot peg for a bit though. I’m slightly unsure what the fix will be but I am confident I will get it.

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These are the fellows I get to work with; my garage buds. Stiches, Brookey and Foxey, all lined up this morning, waiting.

The main issues are fixed. The part of the bike that keeps me moving, the drive belt hub, is straightened out. Hammered into submission yesterday morning, making the bent side straight. If all is straight, and the belt doesn’t end up rubbing on the edge, then that is complete.

The pipe has been pryed into it’s regular position. This means that I didn’t have major frame damage that would effect the pipe permanently. There is some pretty extreme scarring on the pipe, but it only makes Little Wing look like a badass, and lets face it, one of us has to.

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The issue of bad braking seems to be attributed to a bent pedal adjuster bolt. This is an easy replacement. Less than a dollar for a new one at a hardware store. I will replace this and fix the brakes tomorrow after fixing the footpeg. If I don’t incur any additional costs I am looking at a little less than a dollar for one bolt and the imagined cost of my time. My time is actually very valuable, seeing as I’m on adventure and haven’t held a regular job in months. Not.

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So really, all in all, there is a lot to be grateful for. It looks like most everything will be an easy fix, except maybe my boots. But really, who am kidding. I’m riding a motorcycle, not hiking. The adventure will continue. As Jimi would say “Fly on Little Wing.”

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Migrations, Mishaps, and Motorcycles (MMM)

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That’s the motorcycle grave yard, one must never go there.

Well… unless… things are looking pretty bad for your motorcycle. Which they might be for me.

Two falls, two major crashes within five minutes of eachother. You might be wondering how.
I was lane splitting to the front of the line of cars. The light was red, it just turned green. A red boxy car signaled to switch lanes. The woman claims she looked behind her, but who knows. She decided to move into the spot right next her, problem with that is the line of cars wasn’t moving forward. There was also a motorcyclist behind her. The crowd was inching, it wasn’t going anywhere. I saw her put her right turn signal on and I hit the clutch and then the brakes. I saw her start to shift position, she moved forward maybe ten inches as she slowly eased into the right spot, stopping both lanes of traffic. Meanwhile, I broke, I swerved, my back tire swished and swayed, and I managed to move into the right space she was attempting to inhabit.  Had I veered for the shoulder instead of continuing to hit the brakes I could have stayed up. As it was I ended up skidding out on the right side. I heard someone honk and then I was on the ground. I was now the cause for the stopped traffic in the right lane. I got up, I picked up Little Wing and pushed off to the shoulder. Traffic started to flow again, and at that point I heard two voices ask if I was alright. I turned around and someone had their head out the passenger  window as they slowly passed in the left lane. I nodded, the driver slowly accelerated. The other voice came from a woman who had parked her truck on the shoulder. She approached me and repeated the question, I said yes. Another voice came from behind me. I was facing into traffic off the shoulder. When I turned around I saw the woman in the red boxy car that had switched lanes. She appeared to be smirking. I didn’t answer her. I turned back to Little Wing. I looked down and saw the footpeg laying on the ground. I saw the brake was warped. The woman from the truck asked again if everything was ok. I told her I thought I was, but I pointed at the bike folornly. She gave me a sympathetic smile in response, and the woman from the red box decided to ask if I was ok again. I turned to look at her as I took off my helmet, and then silently turned to make another survey of the bike. Her face had taken on even more of a smirk. I don’t know if the smirk was due to nervousness, or gratitude that I was standing and talking, or if it was sheer cruelty, but I took it as the last hypothetical. I chose to answer, and I told her I had already answered that question, and her face didn’t sober up. I got mad, I felt my cheeks flush. “You are supposed to look!”

“I did.” She said as her face got the slightest bit more contrite.

“You are supposed to look, and the traffic was stopped!”

“The light was green!” At this point she raised her voice.

“It had just turned green! The traffic wasn’t moving!” I responded, voice raised and turning squeaky.

At this point the woman from the truck stepped in and said we needed to exchange info, and she said we were both at fault and neither of us should be raising our voice. I looked at her blankly. I told her the footpeg was a pricey fix, as were the brakes, but I doubted her insurance would cover it. The woman in the truck said we should still exchange. At this point the woman who drove the red box started to back away and said “well as long as you are ok. I’m not going to stand here arguing.” She turned and started walking to her vehicle.

The woman from the truck didn’t like the red box woman saying that. She got out her smart phone and said “that’s not right. Here, I am going to get a picture for you.” The woman in the red box turned back around and the two started to debate what was right. I examined Little Wing and the woman in the red box brought me back into the conversation. She said she wouldn’t exchange info unless I wanted to. She said it three times more before she finally paused to hear my answer, which was yes, I wanted her info.

This was the first crash I have had where I have had to exchange info. I have never been hurt because of another person and I haven’t caused damage. Well, as I always say, go big or go home.. actually, I don’t think I’ve ever said that. Being small I actually find that rather insulting. Whatever. Anyway, I crashed once last night and exchanged info. I then got back on Little Wing, broken footpeg, warped brakes and all, and I rode to my next crash scene.

The sky was darkening by the time we finished exchanging info. I decided to ride the last ten miutes to Andrea’s. I was trying to take it easy and take my time, but I was high on adrenaline and in a rush to get to my friends house. My brain wasn’t functioning well enough to be back on the bike. I took the far right lane wanting to be in the slow lane. The traffic had expanded to three lanes about two traffic lights after the first accident. I made my way to the farthest right lane, and a stop light later it started to merge. I noticed this too late. I was expecting the traffic to keep moving, but the traffic in front of me had stopped. Had my back brakes been fully operational I would have been just fine, but they weren’t, something I only found out in that heart stopping moment. I remember thinking “fuck, not again” and then I was down on the pavement. I aimed away from the car that I knew I was going to hit, and at the same time I aimed away from the concrete wall on the right side of the shoulder. This ended up in another skid and washout on the right side. I felt my front tire hit the car in front of me. My tire bounced off their’s, and I skidded further than I had in the first accident. It was a faster crash than the previous one too, due to the lack of braking. I felt it more. I felt the bike feel it more. I heard all my commitments come loose of the bike and skitter down the pavement. I stood up, cussing. Adrenaline kicked in again and I picked up Little Wing for the second time. I realesed a litany of cuss of word. I looked around to check out where my stuff had gone and when I turned around (I, once again, was pointed into traffic, the same as the first accident) I saw a man approaching. I took off my helmet and asked him if it was his car I hit. He nodded.

“I am sooo sorry” I sort of wailed. He asked if I was alright and I said no, but I was fine physically. I asked how his car had faired. He said it was damaged. I cussed some more and asked if he wanted to exchange insurance info and he said yes. I got mine out and he said we should walk to his car to do so. As I took a step I felt that there was something off about my left boot. I looked down at my leather boots, which I thought invincible, and I saw the left one was torn. I nearly broke down with this observation. Things worked out. We filled out the info and then Joe, fore thats what his name was, asked if I wanted him to wait with me while I waited for Andrea to come with the truck. I told him that would be wonderful if he didn’t mind. He helped me move my scattered gear out of the middle of the shoulder, and I parked Little Wing by the concrete barrier I was fortunate to avoid. It turns out I scratched the right side of his bumper up pretty good. Further inspection this morning would lead to him finding that I had scraped up the right panel pretty good and did some damage to the mud flap.

It would turn out that my frame under my pipe had damage. My rear brakes have some amount of damage, and my drive belt hub was damaged. One might ask what the solution to all that is, I would respond, good question. We shall see.

I have a small amount of damage myself. I have bruising on both knees and a pretty good bruise on my left elbow. I have some side bruises too, but nothing major. My pride, however, that’s a different story. As always I am ashamed of going down. I’m saddened by the apparent inadequacy of my riding and I am irritated that I have more work on the bike to do.

However, all those negative emotions are outweighed by the gratitude I feel to be fine; not in the hospital. I learned a lot with those two falls, firstly, don’t take off after a hard fall. Secondly, how to fill out insurance info. And thirdly, the road is unpredictable, something I already knew, but I learn best from observation, so there it is. I have observed it now.

So now what? Well I’m at Andrea’s in Oceanside. I  am going to go take a crack at cleaning her garage and then I am going to set to tearing Little Wing down.. again. And I am probably going to make a trip or two to the motorcycle grave yard.

Now, how has the rest of life been, you might be asking. Well,  let me tell you. I just spent some wonderful time In Morro Bay, that is actually where I was coming from yesterday. A five hour ride, through L.A., to get me to Oceanside. I have a friend in Morro Bay, she is from Minnesota. Karen is a pal I made through the community radio station we both volunteer at. We had a great time hanging aound. We went for a walk to the Estuary on Monday. I got to see many birds, all breeds and colors. We saw interesting lichens. They were orange and soft. They felt like bits of fluff, not like anything I’d seen before.

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I stopped to take a picture of a fire hydrant and a sailor paused his conversation to chat. He said “that’s a fancy hydrant, not everyone obeserves it. Most people don’t stop to get a picture.” He and his friend were leaning against a souped up truck. An old red truck with tall tires. The sailor who spoke was wearing sweats and a knit wool sweater. He had on a knit cap as well, and had a short, white, beard. He looked like an old fisherman, and he sounded like one too. His friend was quiet but he looked just as shaggy. It turned out the old truck was his. The sailor informed us he used to be a fireman and he had a friend who owned one of the fabled fire hydrant collections I have heard of. He gave us a brief tutorial on the difference between hydrants by region and then made an off hand comment about how collecting them was a man thing, because men are strong and can lift ’em and women couldn’t manage it. I made an off hand comment about how the size of the fire hydrant collection went right along with the size of the truck and what it meant for the collector. He didn’t like that,  but the vulgarity was very sailor-like and we departed ways laughing.

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Karen likes to stop and talk to everyone. She is a lot like me like that but even more so. We stopped to talk to an old birder too. He looked similar to the old sailor but he was more reserved and sweeter. He told us about the birds that we were looking at, floating along in the marina. There were many ducks and he told us there had been a loon on the water right before we had stopped to chat.

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A fat little bird Karen spotted for us.

We made our way further along, and Karen and I discussed photography. I wouldn’t claim to be a photographer,  but I like my camera. Karen is a photographer, and she was full of lots of advice. She showed me that I hadn’t even tapped into the zoom potential of my camera, and when I finally did, I got a great picture of a curlew. It was way far off in the distance, but my camera saw it for what it was, even when my eyes didn’t.

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That was just the morning. We also had great discussions about life. Karen is wise. We observed that it felt like we had known eachother for ever even though I had only been with her for two days. Karen and I knew eachother from home. I lived in her hometown for a year, and we volunteered at the same radio station. She had come to a few of my art openings, but we hadn’t spent an extended time together. She and her husband, Richard, winter in Morro Bay. Just like all the birds we saw at the Estuary. It was nice to see a face from home after such a long time away. It was odd though. I felt taken a back a bit. I heard the lilting sound of a Minnesotans voice and we talked of home. I remembered back to all my other friends that Karen and I share and I thought of our last interaction. For a second I felt like who I was just a few months ago, and with that memory I realized how different I have become. Traveling has really done a number.

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The day before we went to the Estuary we walked down to the morro that Morro Bay gets its name from. A good long walk, something I always enjoy. It was hot, even early in the morning, so I wore shorts. I haven’t wore shorts in public since I left Minnesota.  It has been too cool, or it has been hot but I’ve been riding. It was nice to just walk about leisurely like and be comfortable. We stopped at some of the art galleries and we paused to take many pictures. On the Embarcadaro we spotted sea otters lounging about, that was awesome. I haven’t seen otters in the wild yet, and we saw a whole herd of them. With babies. Too damn cute.

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Not a great shot, but you get the idea. Cute. Sea Otters.

We made our way to the morro and the beach. There were surfers and many out of towners (like ourselves) soaking in the rays. We walked along the beach where I found two perfect sand dollars.

I almost had enough to buy something to drink at the sand bar.

Haha. Haha. It took Karen a minute to get the joke. It did for me too the first time I heard it. I heard it from the two Michaels on Pismo Beach when we searched for sand dollars Christmas night. Terrible, terrible joke, but that’s California humor for ya. Anyway, Karen spotted a dollar bill on the ground and when she picked it up she found it was two folded together. I had two sand dollars, she had two sandy dollars. She traded me currency and I was two dollars richer for a real drink at the real bar.

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A garbage flower. I found it like that, washed up on shore just waiting for me to photograph it.

Our exploration seemed to be coming to an end, it was too hot to keep walking. Richard came to get us in the truck and he took us to another beach.  This other beach had pebbles instead of sand. There were small, rounded rocks, instead of the miniscule sand granules that had made up the other beach. There were big rocks mixed in and many rocks for climbing. I climbed them, and marveled over the magic of the waves that had eroded them.

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It is fairly interesting the way that the force of the ocean plus time can change rocks they take away the sharp corners and make them soft and round. They put holes in some rocks, just the way a drill might do. Humans worked long and hard to build tools to do what the ocean can. I will be using tools built by people who were inspired by the ocean to fix Little Wing. Or maybe not. Maybe that is a romantic notion, or maybe I’m the one inspired by the ocean.  Who knows.

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Anyway, Richard collected me a whole bunch of stones that had holes eroded all the way through. I forsee making necklaces out of them.  It was quite the charming find.

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My time in Morro Bay was peaceful, but before that I was in Santa Cruz. I stopped in to the same hostile I had stayed at before to visit my Chilean friend Rainy (I wrote a blog starring him earlier). Before going to the hostile I stopped to see the butterflies at the Monarch Gardens. They are the most fascinating creatures. They generally have short life spans, all of them except the ones that migrate. The continuation of the species is dependent upon the butterflies that are born to migrate knowing innately that they must go find milkweed. I didn’t see many in the garden, it was late in the day for them, but I did see some. They like the sunshine so they were hanging out high in the trees absorbing it. I stared up at their delicate little bodies as they flitted amongst the trees. Orange flecks of satin against a blue sky, only daring to catch flight where the sunlight shone. Timid when footsteps approached but actively dancing for the onlookers when silence reigned.

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They were beautiful. I was disappointed not to get a good, close up, look, but I was to see many of them in the coming days. They love the California coast as much as the rest of us, and on the sunny, 80° days — Saturday and Sunday — they were out in hoardes. On Saturday I actually was shown a monarch caterpillar on my second ride through Big Sur. A woman spotted me chasing a monarch with my camera as it basked in the sun outside Nepenthe, a restaurant built by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright  (it looks out over the ocean. It was gorgeous and busy). She informed me she had a monarch farm and told me about it as she reached into the milkweed patch I had been stalking the butterfly around and pulled up a leaf. There, sprawled out on another leaf, was a monarch caterpillar enjoying the cover from predators. I didn’t get a good shot of the butterfly, but I was happy to photograph the caterpiller.

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The night at the hostile was just as cool as the first I spent there. I was pleased to meet even more fascinating people. I met a Canadian named Vincent, named after the Vincent Black Shadow, his grandpas first motorcycle. He had moved to California for a few months to work as an intern for Zero Motorcycles, an electric motorcycle developer. I also met two Spainards from Catalonia. They spoke Spanish with Rainy while I sat back and pretended to get it. Eventually they realized they would have to switch to English because I didn’t actually understand. There was a French cabinet builder there named Ben. He had took a year off,  just like me. His year was so he could travel around the world and surf. Ben liked to take photographs with old film. He was untrained, he was very good. I also met two Brazilians who were there for school, and an accordian player from Kosova. One of the only other gals there was a woman from Aitkin, MN, the capital of my home county. It was so weird to be faced with a bit of home in Santa Cruz, CA. Of course conversation turned to our other homie, Cherly Strayed. The one chick from our area who had made it big.

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A Santa Cruz Fire Hydrant.

Rainy and I talked about life, and I was so happy to that life had gotten better for him since the last time we met. He had been hard up the first time and I had helped him out. He called me an angel and said I saved his life, but then he went on to get a job and figure out how to save money. He used a small portion of the savings to buy a long board which he he showed me how to use. He is a great guy with a big smile, and I think his energy and positivity saved his life. I told him so. I know he will go far.

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The next day was a ride through Big Sur again. I made my way from Santa Cruz to Morro Bay in 80° heat. The small snuffle I had going on from my last cold was greatly diminshed by the weather. Riding winding roads is always great for the spirit and it was a fantastic ride. Morro Bay welcomed me after that safe ride.

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Now I am looking into the motorcycle grave yard. Will I have to go there? I hope not. Today, while typing this, I was also cleaning out Andrea’s garage, making room to park and disassemble Little Wing. I dealt with insurance agents all day and talked to Joe over the phone (the man whose car I hit). Andrea and I invited him over for a visit on Friday, and I am glad to know that I might have made a new friend through my shitty evening. I analyzed the causes of the accident and I am coming up with future solutions. I have been counting my reasons for gratitude, and they are many. I have learned a lot from the chaotic evening, and it can only help. I’m alive, which means I’m learning.

I talked to my bike fixing buddy, Dan. My go to, genius, mechanic pal. He advised me on the next steps and now I’m moving forward. I got Little Wing in the garage, and with the help of Andrea’s kind farm manager and his son I got Little Wing up on blocks and the rear tire off…again. Time for some mechanic-ing; my favorite  (I am being only slightly snarky).  As Dan said, I am having an adventure.

No. Shit.

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Delving Into The Woods

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Time to get on with it, time to move on. This is the best part. The going forward, I love it. I love it so much that I actually, already, wrote a blog about it. Well, here goes another.

I always disliked ‘goodbyes.’ It is sort of the same dislike I have for the word ‘never.’ Goodbye sounds too harsh. Really, when one thinks about it, it actually sounds fairly positive. Goodbye. Sort of happy and lyrical. Maybe it is the bye I don’t like. That might be it. Ah well, it rubs me wrong. I prefer ‘see you later.’ I try to say ‘see you later’ to everyone and everything when I leave. It isn’t as harsh and it keeps my choices and plans open ended. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

I am leaving Berkley. I’m leaving the Bay Area. I think this is the last time I shall be here for the rest of the adventure.

Saying that almost seems too harsh, but it is fact. It means I have to plan another trip to this magical place a little later down the road.

Magical, that is what it is. This place holds a small piece of my heart. Even though I dislike the traffic and I find it very, very, busy, I do love it. I found some place in my heart that decided it wanted to be attached, and now it is. Damn heart.

I don’t feel it is a coincidence that I have gotten sick here twice (I wrote a whole other blog about this topic before too). Last time I was here I got sick, and this visit I got sick too, but it wasn’t til I was in Berkeley. I was in San Leandro for two weeks or so and didn’t get a head cold, and now in Berkley it just snuck up on me and took hold. A month ago I may have drawn a negative correlation between the sickness and the place. A month ago I was a different person though.

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I have a new friend named Xak in Berkeley. He rents from Roger and Jana so I got the pleasure of meeting him. There have been many wise people on my adventure. They speak, and wisdom flows out. I have found myself floating on a river of intelligence pretty much the whole journey. The intelligence offered varies greatly though. Some of it is in the form of life advice , some is engine maintenance, and some is wisdom for being on the road. The rarest form of wisdom, the one that feels almost taboo, is spiritual advice. I met Yogi Kai in Bellingham and he gave me some spiritual advice. He was the first to do so, I do believe, and now Xak has been the second. It is hard for a logical mind like mine to make a pact with the spiritual side of the world while being so analytical of all the science. I have to find a medium somewhere in between scientific sense and the things that seem mystical. Anyway, that being said, I think the colds are emblematic of a spiritual dis-ease that is being rewrote by the magic of the Bay.

How’s that for logic and science? Ha.

It is true that stress causes a lower immunity. Like Dad always told me, “Dis-ease causes disease.” Could it be true? Sure. Does the fact that I believe it regardless of science make it true? Maybe. Definitely in the world inside my head.

Anyway, being in Berkeley has brought up a lot of the past that I have made a point of trying to get around. Our lives are all the things that occur to us, wrapped up in a ball of memory and tossed into our brain. That’s our world. Our world is what we percieve it to be. I have been trying to side step that ball, going around it like a person side steps a large ball of shit that just came plummeting from the sky. I give my ball of shit a wide berth and I try to ignore the stench. Well, I did anyway. Then I went on this ‘walkabout,’ and now it seems that ball has got to be figured out. There is a small pebble inside of it. A small shiny Diamond waiting to be unearthed, but, inorder to do so, I have to put on the rubber gloves and dig.

Ewww.

I think my sickness is directly related to the stink of my past, and now I’m being faced with it. Like everyone I have demons from childhood that affect my psyche. Like everyone I have parent issues, and like everyone I have to face ’em. As Xak as told me, I have to go through them, not around. Don’t give the issues a wide berth,  make them face the light of day, and let them wilt away, so they stop living inside my head. I’m working on it.

I took a walk through some botanical gardens the other day. I was feeling especially tired and sick and I really wanted to do something. I was berating myself for lazing around while on adventure; lazing while in BERKELEY. I didn’t see any point to wasting the time, but my headache tried to convince me otherwise. I said screw it, and I got up. I took a ride up to the top of the hill that Roger and Jana live on,  and with me I took the free pass to the gardens that Jana gave me. It was a bout 1:30 when I finally got down there, and it was about 5:00 when I left.

The Berkeley Botanical Garden is incredible. I haven’t ever been to a botanical garden, so it was new for me. I’m not sure how much of this is repeat for anyone who has ever visited a botanical garden, but I will speak about it for all the newbies, like myself, out there. The garden had samples of plants from places all around the world. There was a California section, and one from Colorado. Then there also was a hot house for plants of the tropics, and a Chinese garden. One of my favorites was the Korean garden, but I also liked the Brazil garden. And then, of course, there was a section of Mexico and Central America,  which was much like the foilage in SoCal that I’d seen. Beside every different plant was a plant marker sticking out of the ground. They had the Latin names and the laymen ones. They also said the place the plant was collected from. I found that if I read all the labels there was a small chance of my mind exploding, so instead I just enjoyed the beauty, without the knowledge aspect.

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The gardens brought back the child in me. I try not to be far from that child at most any time, but it was definitely sparked by the garden. The paths were maze like, and they would vary between stones and gravel. I’d be walking along and come across steps, all of different sizes and makes. Some would have moss and be slippery, others would be dry, seemingly lacking water. These paths and stairs went on and on, and then they would stop. I would then need to  back track to find another path. All the while there were large plants all around. Trees with hanging, willow-like, foliage that I would have to walk through. There were benches hidden amongst the plants, and sometimes I would happen upon them and they would be empty, and other times I would happen upon them and see a person sitting, taking it all in. It was like walking through the woods as a kid, finding the different deer trails. Any sign of human life became a tale about the elves or the fairies of the forest land. There was direct correlation between the maziness of the path and the amount of magic it contained. The more brush that hugged the traveler, the more mysterious. The stories only got better the longer the walk was. That’s what the gardens brought back. But the magical thoughts in my brain weren’t of elves and faries they were of spirits and buried thoughts.

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My mom was on my mind. My sister and my dad were there too. I almost imagined my sister playing beside me, telling me smart things and big words about the things I just wanted to look at. I became sentimental as began to sweat. I felt my headache fade and my stuffy nose start to loosen up under the sun and branches of foriegn trees. The further I walked the better I could smell the mixed perfumes all around, and the more I felt at peace with my ball of shit.

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I think that I have missed my walks in the woods being on the road. I don’t know the good places to walk in these new areas full of strange critters. Most of the time I don’t even know where the woods are, being so surrounded by road and civilization most of the time, especially in Cali. A walk in the woods, even controlled woods like the Botanical Gardens, brings out the spiritual part of me. The questioning, considering child who doesn’t yet know the difference between Harry Potter and Helen Keller.

Who was more real? Which one of them knew more magic? They both did great, fantastical, things and whose to say which one I should believe more?

Childhood, it is so magical. It is where I first learned my love of plants and woods. It is where I learned how to write and read. To draw and to see things just the way they are; if that tree is cylindrical it means it needs to be shaded, and like everything it needs a shadow. I learned that I could do anything, unless it was magic. I could do anything except bring my mother into my life. I could do anything except make my three person family a four person one, like everybody else’s.

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Life was full, it was open, and never ending. Life felt like it went by slow, and I couldn’t wait to grow out of the slowness and become an adult. I did grow, as everyone does, and with it brought the spiritual angst that I didn’t even know I had. Even if I knew I didn’t know how to explain it.
As an adult a few key things happened in my first few months of being away from home that shaped my perceptions of the world. I perceived things I didn’t like and thought of them as reality. How was I to know? How does one figure out that there is more, if they can’t see it. Well, one way is to go on a motorcycle journey across the country and meet intelligent guides along the way.

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Get sick, go for walks, and confront the ball of shit. Peel the misguided judgements all the way down to the core and figure out where they stem from. Does everybody want to abandon me or is that just a fear I have from a mother that wasn’t around? Am I always the least knowledgeable person in the room, and does it matter, or is that just a fear I got from being the youngest person in a family of three smarties? Do my opinions and feelings mean anything in the scheme of thing, or is that just a fear I found in a small town of people who thought differently than I? Really, where do my insecurities stem from, and why do I still have to carry them?

Because I haven’t gone through the muck yet to find the bright shiny Diamond. The fresh and young gal that was born and has been gathering shit for too long. Someones got to clean it up. And what better time than now to do that?

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This plant reminded me of chocolate. The peeling bark just looked like it was asking to be sampled. I left it alone though.

Speaking of fresh and young, the last year before the journey I made two small friends by the name of James and Frank. They belonged to my roommate, and so therefore they were my housemates and pals. A two year old and a four year old of whom I got the pleasure of watching turn three and five. They were like the younger brothers I hadn’t met. They were like these little magical dudes that taught me I had to look outside of myself, because if I didn’t they might tumble down the stairs or break my coffee mug. They were my sister and I, just a little further apart in age. I saw them grow the way I remember us doing and it was eye opening, life changing.

When taking my walk through the gardens they crossed my mind more than once. My sentimental state left me wondering how much they had grown and what they were learning. They were on my mind when I stopped at the Garden’s gift shop.

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A rabbit and a rooster.

And so when I saw these two little finger puppets I couldn’t help but buy them. It was an amazing awakening of self to think about the trivial doodads I could give to someone else, because it is something I haven’t considered as much on the road, being with little money and all. I imagined all the joy they might get from the small gifts, cause what kid doesn’t like gifts? And how the fact that I thought of them would affect them as they grew older. Because what kid doesn’t think back and remember the adults who gave a shit as the grow into their own adulthood?

I went back to Telegraph Avenue yesterday. I loved the bookstore there, and the sense of giving was on my mind. I made another little friend in Oceanside. Mya, an eleven year old girl, decided that my host Andrea should adopt me. She was Andrea’s granddaughter and just as sweet. She liked me right off, something that is hard to discern in adults, but so obvious in kids (it is one of the things I love about children the most, the honesty and love they give to everyone; why can’t adults do that?). I gave her a crocheted hat that I made while I was there. She was eager to learn to crochet and she did. She showed me, and I helped her, and as I did I remembered back to a book I read as a kid. The main character learned to crochet from her grandmother. They both had long beautiful hair and her grandma taught her that when a strand of hair falls on the piece they should just crochet it in. When one does that it leaves a small piece of that person in the item they give to their loved ones. I adopted that as a kid. I had long beautiful hair that would never quit shedding, so it meant that all my knit and crochet pieces were peppered with my hair. Mya has beautiful, long, dark hair like the young girl in  the book, so I thought it would be perfect for her. The book is called Esperanza Rising and it was award winning. Anyway, I figured I would find it on Telegraph and then I could bring it back to Mya when I visted Andrea again. I did find it, and I picked it up.

It feels good to give things that matter to people that matter. I think that has something to do with getting through ones pile of shit.

I have much left to do on my walkabout. When I left I remember saying to Dad that I thought I was pretty grounded and not in need of much psychoanalysis. Well, we can’t always be right.

Berkeley, my hosts and guides along the way, and the world are showing me that I have stuff to get through, and that’s ok. A spiritual cleanse isn’t that painful. Time to get on with it, time to move on.

See you later.

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Bright Eyed And Bushy Tailed

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Tashi, one of the bushy eyed and bright tailed dogs in my life right now.

I spent quite awhile writing a blog. I went to publish it and it got deleted by some odd quirk of the internet. It was very long, it took quite some time to write, and it had some great big words which I cannot recall now; it sounded pretty good. Anyway, all of you who are following ended up getting a email saying I published a new blog, which would have been true had the same website that sent out the email not deleted the post. So, here I am, rewriting the blog as best I can.

Sunday I went for a ride at Grizzly Peak. I wrote about this earlier in a previous blog. Last time I went for a ride that direction I found myself lost along the way. This time I went the right way and got to the curvy winding top. On the way back I saw a stopped dirt bike on one of the turnoffs. The rider was off of the bike and kneeling beside it. I knew what that meant, and I tried to stop to help whoever it was. However, the road was busy, being a sunny Sunday everybody was out enjoying the curvy road. I wasn’t able to do a u-turn so I kept going until the next turn off where I turned around and headed back towards the rider who looked as though they might need help. It was less than three minutes later and I was parked beside the kneeling rider. He stood up when he saw me and I asked him “it ok?” As I pointed towards the bike, another Suzuki.

“It won’t start,” the young man said. He was an attractive African American who was maybe a little older than myself. I got off Little Wing and walked towards him. I saw in his hands a pair of pliers. I asked him if he had checked the battery. He told me he hadn’t, but he had checked the fuse. In order to get the battery out he had to get the seat off. I turned around to put my gloves in the helmet hanging off my handlebars. When I turned back around the young man was kneeling beside his bike again and I saw him using the pliers to loosen the seat bolt. I cringed watching him use the wrong tool, and as I did so he said, “but I don’t have the right tools.”

My face lit up as I thought of my sack of metric tools meant for my Japanese bike. I told him I had what he needed and I turned back towards Little Wing to dig my tools out of my tool bag. I handed them to him. I was very pleased to see him grab the number 12 box wrench out of the set and start to use it on the Suzuki’s seat bolt. We started chatting as he loosened it up. I told him that I had had the same problem with my bike not starting just a few days before. He told me that he was a new rider and had owned two bikes already, but the first one was stolen, so he bought this motorcycle from a friend. He hadn’t bothered to test ride it before he bought it, and as he drove it back to his place it broke down on him. He wasn’t five minutes away when it just stopped working but he managed to get it home anyhow. When he tore it apart he saw the air filter had disintegrated. I had never heard of this, but I filed it as another creepy horror story about engines to add to my backlog. Anyway, this involved a complete tear down of the fuel system and a cleaning of the carburetor. He got it up and running and this was his first test ride since it had been fixed. He stopped to check out the view off the beautiful peak, and when he got back on his motorcycle he found that it wouldn’t start. The lights wouldn’t come on, and the engine made no noise. I told him the story of how this happened to me just the other night and we exchanged names. I found out his name was Shawn. By this time we had removed the seat, checked all the fuses, and I had taken the battery completely out so we could check it for a date. We couldn’t find one so I put it back in, tightened it up real good, and I told him he should go get it checked. We put the seat back on and Shawn and I hoped for the best. Shawn put the key into the ignition and we waited with bated breath as he switched it on. The green neutral light came on. We whooped in excitement and then Shawn expressed his gratitude. We exchanged smiles, and I told him I would wait to leave until we saw the engine start. He hopped on his Suzuki and I hopped on mine. I watched him start the engine, I listened to that healthy idle. He turned around to give me one last smile and a thumbs up, then he roared off.

I patted Little Wings tear drop gas tank and said “Let’s go.” We roared off as well.

The story I had repeated to Shawn I will now tell you. I was planning on going to the Starry Plough to enjoy some great live jazz and dancing. I had gone there the last time I was in Berkeley and liked it a lot. On Thursday evening the house band plays, and they are damn good. After a day of working and hanging out at my host’s shop I split ways with them. When six o’clock rolled around Jana went to her pottery class, and Roger stayed at the shop. I headed back to their place on Little Wing. The show didn’t start till eight, and I wanted to eat something and change my pants. I try to make a point of wearing my motorcycle pants whenever I go riding, but I had made that mistake the last time I had gone dancing. The pants are lined for warmth so I ended up overheating. They are also reinforced where the knee joints and hip joints are. Reinforced at the exact joints where one wants freedom of movement when dancing. This made for very sore legs the next day. So my plan was to change out of the motorcycle pants and put on my flashy red pants. I figured they would work just as well for riding and much better for dancing. I did have a slight fear, or thought, about falling and ripping the pants. I didn’t really believe I would fall, but the word rip was in my head. The time came to head off to the bar. I hooked up my GPS put on my helmet, and turned the engine on. I took off to the Starry Plough, and I arrived a little after eight. I took off my helmet, on hooked the GPS, and dismounted Little Wing. I grabbed my converse out of the pelican case on the back of the bike and sat down on the curb to take off my boots. I threw my left foot up on to my right knee and yanked off the riding boot, shoved on the converse, and tied it up. As I straightened my left leg I heard it.

Riiipppp.

The sound of a high schoolers nightmare. The sound a walking comedy act knows too well. The sound of dreams of dance crashing, accompanied by the second sound: “Fuck.”

I didn’t know where my pants had ripped. I did know I was sitting outside a bar with reluctance to stand up. I cased the place real quick, saw that there was no one there, and started putting my boot back on. When I was sure no one was there I stood up and made haste dropping my converse back in the pelican case and covering my ass by taking a seat on Little Wing. I hooked up the GPS, put on the helmet, and turned the key to on while I shoved my hands into my gloves. Just as I was finishing this the lights on the motorcycle went out. What? Uh oh. I turned the key off and then on again, the lights remained off, nothing happened. Fuck.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what the first step to figuring out the problem was. I guess you could say I panicked. There I am, sitting outside a bar on a motorcycle that won’t start, with a pair of pants that are ripped from here to gawd knows where. What does one do in that situation? Well, I picked up my cell phone with the thought of calling my host, Roger, for help. As I did this I thought of a better idea. I set my phone down, I looked around to make sure the coast was clear. It was, so I stood up, and as I did so I unzipped my motorcycle jacket. As quick as The Flash I tied the jacket around my waist, covering my ass for when I squatted down to check out the battery. After panic had subsided and common sense had taken hold I realized that if the lights had turned off and the starter switch wasn’t working that it was a power issue. And what better to blame for a power issue than the battery? I checked the positive connection to see if it was loose, it wasn’t. I made my way to the other side of the bike to check the negative connection. It was loose. I couldn’t really get to it because the side cover and the seat both interfere and get in the way. I tightened it up as best I could and determined I would tighten it better when I got some pants on, that is to say pants that didn’t make me feel like my whole ass was hanging out. I turned the key, the lights lit up, so I got back on Little Wing. I looked closer and realized all of the lights had come on except for the left light, which is both the flasher and a light that supposed to be constantly lit. I tried the flasher, it worked. I determined it was a burnt out filament on the portion of the light that was supposed to be on all the time. I started Little Wing up and raced back to Roger and Jana’s house to find a pair of pants.

Back at the house I made cursory glance for watchful eyes, and then made a beeline for the door. Once safely in the house I found that the tear had only been an inch long tear in the thigh of the pants. All of that worrying and my underwear weren’t even visible. I changed into my motorcycle pants and went back to Little Wing where I did some more thorough tightening of the battery terminal. Yay, I could finally go listen to some great live music. I reached in my pocket for my phone to check what time it was. Except.

My phone wasn’t in my pocket. My phone is always in my pocket. What was it I was telling Jana just that morning? Oh yeah, she had left her phone at home and I wondered how. In jest I told her that it was due to age. Her generation hadn’t been born with the biological tethering to their device that mine had. I never left my phone anywhere because it was always on my person. Uh huh.

I stood up, the panic feeling growing again as I checked my pockets; a frantic groping that went from all the pockets in my jacket down to the four pockets on my all-there, no-tear, jeans. Nothing, no phone. I rushed around to check the pelican case and the toolbag. Nope. I went back into the house to check. No luck. Fuck.

I must have left it on the curb at the Starry Plough. I would rush over to get it. I turned Little Wing’s key to on and everything appeared to work, except for the left bulb with the burnt out filament. I looked down at my indicator lights and saw that my brights appeared to be off. Not a great idea on a bike with as dim of lights as Little Wing has, especially with a bulb out. I reached up to turn my brights on, only to find the switch was already in the on position. What? I turned them off and then on again, they were working, but the indicator light was not. Uh oh. Maybe this electrical problem was bigger than I thought.

I know very little about electrical systems, and I am almost comfortable with that. I am attempting to learn more, but the fear of getting electrocuted or blown up (or electrocuted and blown up simultaneously) stands in my way.

Since I had no clue what the issue was I decided it was best not to ride the bike. I decided it was finally time to go ask Roger for help. He was in the kitchen. I gave him a short briefing of what was going on and he agreed to drive me over to the bar to find my phone. In the car I told him the story more indepth. Roger is a smart man, with a degree in physics. He taught at Stanford for many years and works with many electrical systems, and smart stuff like that, but he wasnt sure how to diagnose the problem with the lights on Little Wing. When I told him about my ripped pants he said he didn’t know what the problem was. I could have more easily fit in with the young crowd in the bar if I had embraced the rip. As for the phone he was worried, we both were. The loss of all my contacts was on our mind, but we tried to think on the bright side. We arrived at the Starry Plough, I hopped out of the car to go check out my parking spot as Roger turned the car around. I didnt find it. I looked up at him and he gave me a questioning look, to which I responded by shaking my head no. He told me to look under the car that I had parked next to, an orange Honda Element. Nope. I looked back at him and shook my head again. He told me to ask at the bar so I went inside. It was the same nice bartender who had waited on me the last time I was there. He was the kind guy that covered my cuppa tea. I asked and he told me they hadn’t had a phone dropped off in hours. I went back to Roger, got in the car, and shook my head no when he asked me how it had went. Worry permeated the car further. He asked if I wanted to stop and visit Jana at the pottery studio as long as we were out. I dreaded the thought of admitting I had lost my phone after giving her crap. I also didn’t like the thought of telling another living soul about my pants tearing. Karma though. So I agreed.

Jana was working on beautiful vases at the studio. We admired them, and told Jana what we were doing out and about together instead of dancing or resting at the house. She reminded me of my joke that morning and laughed a bit, but she was also very sorry to hear about the loss of my contacts. She showed off her work, and then Roger and I decided to head back. For some odd reason I left the pottery studio feeling a bit more confident about the phone. The worry had dissapated a small amount. I told Roger as much as we got back in the car. We drove back to the house and after we had parked I made my way back to Little Wing. Roger headed for the door and asked if I was coming. I told him yes, as I reached my hand back into the tool bag. I peeled away the tools and rolls of various tapes as I wiggled my fingers to the very edge. I felt someting smooth, it didn’t feel like the same rough plastic that lines the rest of the bag. I closed my fingers around it and pulled my hand out. I held my arm up in triumph and announced to Roger I had found it! And there it was my shiny, electronic, contact book.

After the crazy chaotic drama that was my evening, I put on my PJs and sat down with Maya Angelou. Instead of dancing myself I read about her stories of dancing.

The next morning I took a closer look at Little Wing. It turned out the left bulb was burnt out. The brights indicator not lighting was an indication of the wires under the tank. I pulled off the seat, emptied the tank of fuel and pulled it off as well. I uncovered a bundle of wires that was missing the black protective housing around them. Further examination revealed two spots where all the wires in the bundle had their rubber coating wore of and bare wires showing through. They had been stripped by the vibration of the tank and the frame. A heavy amount of electrical tape was applied to each one individualy and then a re-wrapping of the bundle occurred. The problem may have been a broken wire that needs replacing or a short, but as it is I am willing to take the loss of the indicator as long as I solved the problem. No need to risk electrocution or being blown up just to replace one wire.

So Thursday night might be what one considered a bust. I repeated that story to Shawn, but I left all the revealing bits out. There is no reason why a cute young stranger has to hear the whole story. I told him the important bits.

I made up for Thursday night by taking a ride up Grizzly Peak and also hopping on a sail boat for the first time on Saturday. Roger had a friend staying over during the past week. He is an associate of Roger’s and they are working on some smart thing for Google. His name is Peter and he is very smart too. Roger and him both like to sail and Roger has a friend with a sail boat who invited them along. I was a last minute invite, invited by Roger the night before to go with. I was slightly frightened of the whole thing, being that I just learned how to swim in December, so I said yes. No reason not to face one’s fears down (unless it is being electrocuted or blownup). Also, Peter and Roger informed me that the goal of going sailing isn’t generally to end up swimming, so that sounded pretty cool.

I was woke Saturday morning by a small dog named Auto (or maybe Otto, but I like my spelling better). He belonged to a friend of Roger and Jana, who had asked them to watch him the previous evening. He is sweetheart. He and Tashi are the two dogs in my life right now, and I love them both, but I figured that I could borrow Auto for a slumber party since both he and I were guests. Roger and Jana seemed happy to agree, they have Tashi after all, so little Auto snuggled with me. Auto is a little lap dog. He probably wieghs about eight pounds, and most of it is fluffy white fur. He is a poodle of sorts with two caramel colored spots on his back. He has this way of running at a person and ramming his tiny head into their leg and then wiggling it back and forth like he is cuddling in; it is a doggy hug if I’ve ever seen one. Anyway, I had the supreme pleasure of snuggling with this cute thing all night. He would get up and shift position everytime I rolled over or everytime the clock struck the hour. I woke up to the sound of thump and then skitter skitterskat. It was an unfamiliar sound and when I looked up I saw Auto carrying a ball in his mouth that was approximately the same size as his head. He would jump up on the end of the air matress that I was sleeping on, sit his little rump down, and then drop the ball off the end. Then he would jump and charge the ball in the small three foot space he had between the bed and the door. His little claws would skritch the hardwood floor and he would slide about. I guess this bright eyed, bushy tailed, little body was tired of me lazing about. I got up and attempted to muster as much energy as little Auto had.

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Sailing was fun. And it felt much the same as my morning had. Wonderful beings racing around, doing what I couldn’t, all with a smile on their face and a bunch of knowledge in their head. These bright eyed sailors were on the same level as Roger and Peter when it came to doing smart things for a living. There were ten people on board the small vessel, a catamaran, and out of those ten it was only me and one other gal who didn’t know how to sail. I felt out of my element. I was the youngest on the boat, the rest were thirty and above, and I was the only one who seemed like I couldn’t keep up with conversation. I was just astonished by the brains around me and sat back to observe.

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Peter and Roger.

But it wasn’t only the brillance that was astounding, it was also the whole thing of sailing. The rocking of the boat, and the way the sailors manned the thingamajig and the watchamacallit. It was the way the day started sunny and then gave into fog as dusk settled in. It was the other sailors on the water and the views of the places I hade ridden on, and through, from this lower, salt water, vantage point. It was the French music and piano chords of Phillip Glass that we listened to over the speakers that set the mood of the afternoon on the water. It was the one seal that poked it’s head up and the Golden Gate as it came into view.

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Alcatraz, from a different angle.

We considered sailing under the Golden Gate bridge as we approached it.

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And then we did.

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Seven miles to the bridge, a quick turn around after going under it, and seven miles back to the marina.

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It was four hours of beauty. Also nerves and slight nausea, but that is that part of the story that I won’t go around telling strangers.

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I look like a real sailor in the giant sailing jacket that Roger borrowed me.

I loved my first ride on a sail boat. Surounded by smart and competent people, what’s not to love? I was slightly intimidated, but that happens.

To be honest though, I prefer a good motorcycle ride. And that’s what I did on Sunday. A ride up to Grizzly Peak. A lovely ride. Curving and twisting roads that took me to a stunning view of the same thing I had seen the day before on the sail boat. I stopped at small turnoff, that was really just a gravel patch enlarging the ditch off the side of the road. There was a black Mustang parked there so I figured it was safe.

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Grizzly Peak must have been a popular place for graffiti artists because there was graffiti on every turn off. On the logs and rocks that worked as barriers and on the rails as well. I loved this one for the color.

I wanted to stop and get a picture of the view, which appeared to be a mystical scene from a fantasy novel. There were two men around my age enjoying the view as well. They must of belonged to the Mustang. As I got off the bike the older of the two men said hi to me. He was a short stocky man, as was the other guy. I pegged them as brothers. The younger of the two men was wearing a white t-shirt, some camo cargo pants, and some AR670’s. He had a chunky wood cross on a chain hanging around his neck. Me being a story teller I decided to assume he was army. I said hello back to the guys, and started up conversation. I asked them to tell me what we were looking at and they pointed out where the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate bridge were in the magical landscape that we were looking over. They figured out I wasn’t from around there and I told them they were right. They asked where I was from and I told them Minnesota. The boy with the cross and army boots was named Christian and, the other guy (the brother I assumed) was Alan. Alan told me he could sort of tell from my voice that I was from the northern state because he heard it in the way I said Minnesoota. I haven’t really been told that before, but maybe he has better hearing than most.

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That's the Bay Bridge on the left and way off and to the right, buried in the fog, is the Golden Gate Bridge. Can't you just imagine a dragon flying out of there?

It was a pleasent, informative conversation with two locals. I took some pictures and then moved along up the peak. Enjoying the curvy roads, despite the busy traffic. It was after I got to the end of the road and decided to go back the way I came that I stopped to help Shawn, a fellow rider.

It was great to be able to stop and share my knowledge with a guy who needed some. It felt as though the majority of the week had been spent learning and observing others knowledge, because I didn’t have enough of my own yet. Thursday night may have been a bust but I learned some things which I could pass on to Shawn. He really did learn something too. He thanked me for teaching him a valuable lesson about carrying tools with at all times (a lesson I learned from another rider). He also thanked me for the small lesson I gave him on the power system. As he told me, “you literally saved my life.”

I don’t think I did that much, but I’ll take the credit if he’s handing it out.

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The houses on the hill right off Grizzly Peak. This is how I used to imagine the Bay Area looking.

After a week of feeling a little less bright and a little less bushy tailed then the rest it was great to get an opportunity to spread the knowledge and pay it forward. It was good to see that we all get our chance to do that. And while I am sailing through life on a boat full of older, wiser, people, if I just observe what it is they are saying and what it is we are doing, instead of berating myself, I can gain valuable things to share with people a little later on down the road. Or, atleast, I think that’s what I’m finding out.

After all that, I am glad I had to retype this again. I actually enjoy this retelling of the story much better than yesterdays. I guess we learn a little more each day, and giving myself a few more hours to think on the past week didn’t seem to hurt at all.

I am off to start this new day.

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Give Me A Brake And Other Terrible Puns

One should not ride fast on a new tire. A tire needs to be rode carefully for the first one hundred miles, especially a motorcycle tire. When one only has two wheels on the pavement it is important to keep them both grounded. A new tire is slick. It is new from the factory and not yet sticky or grippy enough for the road. When one rides the brand new tire one must be certain to break (brake?) It in properly, just like a new pair of tennis shoes. This means the first corner that a person rounds should not be done at high speeds, in case the tire decides to give out on the rider and do a swishy fishtail thing. When that happens it is possible that a person could end up dropping the bike.

Point of fact.

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Quick interruption: check out this red scooter in front of a purple house I saw in San Francisco.

Little Wing got a new tire. In my excitement to see the valve cover not leak oil and to watch the bike do what bikes do best I took off in a flash. A normal day, with an old, wore down, sketchy tire, I would have rounded the corner perfectly. Leaning low and probably touching Little Wings foot pegs to the pavement. Instead, what happened is, the back tire slipped out on me (as described above) and I washed out. Being somewhat intelligent, and a safe rider, I had tossed on my riding jacket, even for the short ride around the block. The truth is, a helmet made no difference in this situation because my head never touched the ground. I made a point to keep it up, as should usually be the goal. What did hit the pavement was my left side, my arm, and my leg. Without a jacket, boots, and heavy jeans the simple mistake would have been a gory accident. My hip, my thigh and my calve would have been a host to some friendly road rash. Not to mention a crushed foot. It got caught just right under the bike that had I not had my tough leather boots my toes might have been crushed. My arm also would have been shaved pretty close, which is a near reality I have realized everytime I’ve taken a spill because I always aim to fall on my upper arm.

Now now, some of you might be saying (especially my grandfather, if he is hearing this story) “that is dangerous. I don’t like that you fell,” or “why risk it?” Others of you are fellow riders, and know about taking a spill. Some riders started out on dirtbikes, and falling in that sort of riding is a constant. Some started out on the streets and have managed to take three spills in less than a year as they learn more and more of the ropes. I am going to tell you why I told this story. Because all riders fall (or so they tell me).

We hear about riders on the news all the time. “Two riders killed when schoolbus t-boned motorcycle.” Or “Rider dies without helmet after running into semi.” What we don’t hear is all the near misses where riders survive. I fell, and I got up laughing, but had I not been dressed fully that may have been a different story. Other riders fall with no gear and are fine. Some riders end up being fatalities and making the statistics, but others fall and don’t.

I recieved a gift from my friend Marilyn. These are the parts of the week you didn’t hear about when I was waiting for parts for Little Wing. It wasn’t all stressful waiting, and street art walks. I also went to a Chinese market and I went to my first Chinese general store. The general store had beautiful, cheap, dishes that one would be happy to find on a Goodwill shelf for double the price. There were interesting doodads that were meant for making foods that were customarily Asian. The packaging on some of the products was filled with Chinese characters. There was a whole section dedicated to the holidays of the culture, mainly Chinese New Year which is coming up on February 19th. I saw a toilet brush with a daisy on  top. A sweet decal that made a generally plain item pretty. There were casserol dishes with small sculpted handles that looked like bat bears from some childs story. The trashes were pretty too, and there were curtain tie backs that were made from wirey ribbon with glittery pompoms tied in a bow. Things were cute to the point of ostentatious, and I loved it.

I got a gift from Marilyn. We were at the counter checking out and — like every good convenience store — there were small items set up very aesthetically on the counter. There were chords with glass charms on the end shaped like different animals and dragons. I thought these charms were the animals of the zodiac, but there were some missing and there were additional characters. There were necklaces too, and a little bin of small sewn pouches,  about an inch by an inch. Everything was shiny and had appeal. I touched everything, examining and checking it out. I picked up one of the pouches, it was pink. I felt something inside. I opened it and pulled out the object, a small jade figure of a goat.  It was made of plastic but made to look like jade. I picked up a blue one next and opened it to reveal another jade goat. I picked up the prettiest of the pouches a shiny celeste fabric with yellow chord around the edge. I opened it to find the same goat and I held it out to Marilyn as the man behind the counter worked on the transaction. “See, it will be the year of the goat this year.”

“The year of the ram,” the man behind the counter corrected.

“Oh,” said Marilyn, “ok,” as she took  the figurine from me and examined it. I held out the pouch to her too, and she looked at me quizzically.

“The figurine goes in the pouch as a token of the new year,” I told her.

The man behind the counter interjected with his thick accent, “yes, for one dolla you can get the pouch, and as a special we toss in the ram too.” When I looked up at him I saw his face lit up, clearly excited about the sales pitch. I laughed because it seemed to me that the pouch was just .50 cents and so was the goat. However this man knew how to sell and he wouldn’t sell that pouch for any less than one doller, the goat was just a bonus.

Marilyn
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Marilyn looked at me, “you want it? We’ll take it.” She said this without waiting for an answer from me. She is a mom, nurse, counsler and teacher. She is very used to making decisions. “I’m sure you can find somewhere to put this on your motorcycle,” she told me.

It was a wonderful token, and all of us left happy. I was pleased with the small charm, Marilyn was pleased that I was pleased, and the man behind the counter was very pleased his sale tactic had worked. Success.

After our stop at the general store it was time for a bit of grocery shopping. The Chinese Market was on the same small strip mall that the general store was on. What I found the most fascinating was the large selection of fish with the heads still on. The men at the counter would chop ’em up and prepare them fresh before the customers eyes. There were also cheap Asian dishes at the deli. Great food.. and inexpensive, not something I have ever found myself saying about Chinese food in the Midwest.

That was few days after ordering Little Wing’s parts, and a few days before I set to work on installing the parts.

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We had another adventure, Mariyln and I. Chuck came along on this one though. We made it an outing. I had been told many times that I should go to the Deyoung and Legion museums in San Francisco. I had thought it was a wonderful idea, but as always, it came down to money. The first Tuesday of the month is Free Day around these parts. Well now, that meant a museum crawl was in order. Deyoung and Legion it was. The Legion was a fun exhibit of realistic paintings from Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House. It was beautiful art and things that were in the home of English aristocracy during the 18th century up until the 20th. Beautiful stuff. But me being me I found the Deyoung Museum much more fascinating.

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Museums, ya gotta love 'em.

The Deyoung had the work of Keith Haring on display. A social activist in the eighties who died of AIDs,  and did work that was meant mainly to be interpreted by the viewer. Art that had to do with sexuality, politics, and social issues,  and often used as a tool for bringing attention to an issue. It was great stuff. One of the reasons I enjoyed it so was because I saw people of my age wandering around. Fellow youngsters eyeing up the works, contemplating and discussing it. That was magic to see. I feel I often miss out on that part of my age group. The contemplative and interested minds of my contemporaries. I wanted to talk to everyone and ask them why they found it fascinating, but instead I decided to just consider the work silently and by myself. The truth is, I think young adults were filling the place because it was Free Tuesday and they were poor. This was as good a time as any they probably thought, the same thought process I had. I don’t see enough young people out enjoying the same art. I wish that would change.

The journey through the museums didn’t leave me empty handed. Marilyn being who she is, picked me up some pins. She is one for small novelties and I was happy to accept.

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The pins and a sweet succulent plant that graced our table in the cafeteria.

The days in between taking apart, diagnosing and ordering for Little Wing and the days of actually fixing Little Wing were not filled with frustration.  They were filled with interesting things and wonderful time filled with hosts. I feel like that is an important thing to remeber.

After I dropped Little Wing on the corner and made it around the block with out spewing oil everywhere — to my extreme satisfaction — I pulled back in to Chuck’s garage. After doing a thorough inspection of Little Wing I made my way back to the house to give a report to my hosts. As I entered the house I was met by the voice of Fei, the lovely neighbor who I had helped in putting up the kitchen blinds. Her and Chuck stood at the front door chatting and when she saw me come in she waved and I joined them in conversation. She informed me that she had made pot stickers for me as an expression of gratitude. She was pleased with the blinds and sorry I couldn’t stay for dinner after finishing them. She was sweet beyond belief, and when I told her I would be heading out the next day she gave me a huge hug and told me I was always welcome to her house.

For lunch Marilyn heated up the pot stickers, which may have been the best I have ever had. It was wonderful to be able to eat an expression of gratitude for a frustrating job. Though unnecessary it made the whole experience more worth it, especially when the pot stickers were unasked for. She valued the small help I could offer enough to give her time to making my next meal brighter. And of course we all enjoyed those pot stickers. It was better that I could share the gratitude with my new hosts, and in the doing we exchanged kind words and positive vibes about the giver of the gift.

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My sleeping arrangements have me in the office with this fellow. Dead men tell no tales even though this guy has a bone to pick.

Last night was my second night away from San Leandro and in Berkley. I am back with my hosts here, the ones that had me fix lamps and do art for pay last time I was around. I am planning my way out of Cali, when the weather gets better. Little Wing has had a full checkup, I am grateful to have a running vehicle again. The next step is to test the limits with the bike and see what it is we can do. However, first I have to break in the new rubber on the back. It will take some time and riding, all of which I’m willing to put in.

Actually, I only have forty more miles before the Little Wing and I can zip around corners like we used to. The tire is nearly wore in. I toke a ride on it yesterday. I was attempting a nice ride to the top of the hill my hosts live on. The hills of Berkley are popular for motorcyclists because they are so twisty, at least that’s what I’ve been told. It makes sense. Also the roads are soooo friggin narrow from the time of horses and buggies that it is almost like riding a one lane road. It is impossible for two cars to pass at once, one has to pull over. A motorcycle can just skinny around though, which is awesome. Anyway, on my way to the top off the hill — my aim being a road and place called Grizzly Peak — I got lost and made a wrong turn. That was ok, it was too twisty for a tire that wasn’t sticky yet anyway. I look forward to another ride later, but as it was I just made my way down to the campus and wandered around a bit. I have two pieces of mail to send off so that was a great reason to ride around. The post offices were busy, but I did put some new miles on my back tire. I went back to my hosts house and read and napped a bit before the culmination of the day, which was to be a show in tribute to Utah Phillips. In my life that man has played a cool role. A fellow DJ introduced me to him a couple of years ago and I dug him for his activism and honesty in lyrics. As some of you who have been following the story may remember, I met one of his sons in Portland. I was staying with Gray, the kind man who was renting to Utah’s kid. I had trouble not fan girling then. Brendan, the son, passed on a cd from his band, Fast Rattler, I recommend checking them out. I loved it. Brendan also introduced me to a place called Sisters of the Road. It was gathering place for those less fortunate. A place to eat and find camaraderie for those disinfranchised. For an extremely low rate it offered good, organic, meals to sixty-eight people a day. People lined up for lunch and were given a number. The first seventeen sat down to eat from 10:00 to 11:00, and then 11:00 to 12:00 the next group sat down. That happened until 2:00,when the kitchens closed, volunteers would help to clean up in preparation for the next day. Those who volunteered got free meal coupons. It was a non for profit that helped those who might not have other options. It gave them an opportunity to help out, and it rewarded them for doing so. The feelings of self worth and love seemed to be generated by this place. I could feel it. I volunteered to help clean up. I had fun interacting with the people involved and the sense of community.

Sisters of the Road was started with the help of Utah Phillips. Brendan was a huge proponent of it, and I’m glad he pointed me in the direction, because now I am too. The concert I went to last night was filled with the same kind of folk. The people who believed in something and were willing to speak up about it. I got to meet Brendan’s older brother, Duncan Phillips, and once again I had to hide my blush. It is hard to be in such admiration of a fellow and then get the chance to meet the people who knew him and continue the tradition. It was cool though (even if I wasn’t). The concert was great. The tribute to Utah was beautifully done, and I was so happy I got the opportunity to see it.

Like a new tire that needs to be broke in, young people go through a slippery part in life. They cannot afford to invest in art or check out museums except on free day. They slip and slide all over this thing called life, and some of them get wrecked in the process. They fish tail out and don’t get up, others do. Others fall many times and manage to make it past the slippery point, where they can finally claim to be worn in. With experience they can take corners faster, and smoother. Every fall on Little Wing has taught me a bit more about myself and life. Through it all I got to see new cultures and art, stuff I have been taking in since I left home. It is crazy the things the world has to offer when one takes off to actually be a part of it. And it seems to all culminate with those who have a voice and decide to use it for good, and love. Utah, traveled, experinced being young and poor, and decided to continue that life as a musician and to say things that mattered. He is, and was, revered. Young people gather to check out Keith Haring’s work. He was a young man who spoke up, and was an activist for the things he believed. He didn’t silence himself, he used his voice, through his art, and his voice is still heard today, even after death. I feel that is what we all strive for. Especially those who ramble and wander. I want my voice to say something. I want it be important.  I want people to think my art means something.

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1) I just love the architecture. 2) Even though it isn't the best photo it is perfect for all this talk of Utah Phillips (somewhere in San Fran).

In my life I have always felt that in exchange of goods was necessary. If someone was nice enough to cover dinner then I would get them back with the next meal. If someone gave me a souvenir I would be sure to get them something. Marilyn gave me many small gifts, and her and Chuck gave me the use of their garage. They gave me a place to sleep. The gave me kindness kindness kindness. In reality, that is the treatment I have been a party to since the adventure started. I have extreme mixed feelings about this way of living. I know people consider the fact that they were once young poor and adventuring when they offer me help. Someone stepped in and helped them and now they are paying it forward, and I know I will too, one day. Right now it is hard to think that people give me so much and I can’t give back. Marilyn gave me a gift, she gave me words. She told me that there are many gifts that people can give. Some of the most important are those that can’t be touched. Kindness, love, listening, being present, those were all gifts too. And she is right. It isn’t the goat and the pouch that meant something, it was the thought and kindness. The Keith Haring pins weren’t the important bit, it was the time spent looking at artwork, the love in thoughtfulness in choosing the pins. Fei giving the pot stickers wasnt the valuable bit, it was the time and kindness she put into making them. It was the appreciation of my time that was the part that touched my heart. It was the extra experince she added to the meal my hosts shared with me. Marilyn told me that gifts that are given aren’t always something that can be palpable. Gifts are more easily discerned by those recieving rather than the person giving. The person giving sometimes is unaware they are giving.

I don’t think I gave much by helping with the blinds. It was difficult, it was annoying, but overall, anyone could have done it, but Fei felt it was a chore  worthy of gratitude.

Utah Phillips wandered. He traveled, and experienced, poor and broke. He probably did his fair share of metaphorically falling of the motorcycle. Simple mistakes probably occurred, he probably learned from them, and then he sang about that stuff. He payed forward the kindness he experinced as a disinfranchised wanderer to all those who may be in that same spot now days. Utah knew what gifts helped him when he was in a position of needing help, and he used that knowledge to help others in the same situation later on. His legacy of learned kindness lives on. That’s beautiful.

There comes a time when The road is more of a friend vs. a foe and at that point, the young adults can afford to do what Utah did. They can spread the love they got during their phase of breaking the tire in. They can pay forward the gifts.

Or at least I think that’s how that works. Well, I don’t know, but I have a tire to go brake in. Much love world. Keep on keepin on, and take the time to smile at a strangers. In my ramblings I have come to learn that means a lot more than you can imagine.

Working With My Hands

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Looking at my hands. Seeing my  breath. Listening to great music and torquing away.

I was reminded of Dad this evening.  I remember evenings spent hearing music being played over loud speakers. Car speakers, hooked up in wooden crates, pumping good tunes. The music was usually that of a great artist out of the awesome CD collection Dad possessed, or it was the music being piped over the airwaves by our favorite community radio station — the one I now volunteer at. I remember coming in on Dad working. If he was working on the house, if he was laying the concrete foundation to the space that would soon be a livable addition, I would see him mixing concrete. If it was the shop I would see him working on furniture or specialized pieces of something-or-other to be used on another something-or-other around the home he was building for us. I can remember there always being good music. I can also remember there being bright, florescent, light so that Dad could see what it was he was doing. I would look at Dad, his strong capable self, the big hands that did so much, built so much of our lives, and I would think, “that will be me.”

I have been working on Little Wing for four days now. I took Little Wing all apart. Off came the seat — a necessary item to get the tank off. The tank was taken off next — a necessary item inorder to take a look at the head. The head was examined next, and the next step was to take off the valve cover. The tank came off with difficulty. The last time the tank was taken off something was marred just a bit. A wire got caught on the fuel valve. The wire was up to something entirely different than the fuel valve apparatus, but it got itself intermingled anyway. This was easily solved by draining the fuel tank and removing the fuel valve, something easier said then done. Actually it was no biggie, but what happened was I ended up with cramped legs as I held the red gas can on my lap for  ten minutes as the 2.2 gallons that were in the gas tank trickled out of the small hose into the gas can. There was also a point in the dismounting of the fuel valve that I managed to get sprayed in the face by gasoline as I unhoked a hose. Pop goes the weasel and I got a faceful of petrol. That was Wednesday night. The next morning I was ready to remove the valve cover. With the removal of about fifteen bolts I was reday to take it off. A clever chap on the internet came up with the genius idea of pushing the bolts through a diagram taped to a cardboard box and so that is exactly what I did.

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In the process of doing this I was swept off my seat in the garage by a dapper young man, who just so happens to be Chuck and Marilyn’s son. I wrote of him earlier. David is his name, as you might recall. A musician, an artist, and a fellow connoisseur of the fine things in life (like music and art). He walked into the garage and said “I know you are just getting into this,” (gesturing to Little Wing) “but I was am planning on going to work in Berkley for about an hour. I’m not sure how much of the city you have seen, but I could drop you somewhere and you could wander around a bit til I’m done.”

Well, how does and adventurous gal respond? Hesitation, of course! I told him I wouldn’t know where to go, I wouldn’t know what to look at. He told me Telegraph Avenue, and as I waffled about, Marilyn came along and told me to go, so I did.

David is a wonderful individual. As his mom has said before, he is easy to talk to. Which, honestly, is unnecessary as a general piece of his personality because we easily spoke on the same plain, about the same things. Bring up art, music, literature, or social issues, and then speak intelligently about it, you have won me. Find them as interesting as I do? You are my new best friend. Anyway, David dropped me off at Telegraph and pointed out the good places to go. There are two record stores, Rasputin and Amoba, which were both great. He also told me about the four story book store with used books, and then pointed out some places for food. I was immediately excited by the two murals on either side of the street that we were temporarily parked on. I pointed to them and we discussed them for a short time, but David had to go to work and I was happy to let him, I had music and art to explore.

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Telegraph Avenue is the place in Berkley — or so I’ve been told. It is sort of like Haight Ashbury in the sense that it is the ‘cool’ place to go, especially for young people, especially for street kids. This was definitely the case, I was soon to observe. I marveled at the kids, as I always do, trying to figure out their story, but I would soon tire of this. I found that my place was in the record stores. First Rasputin and then Amoba. In between I did a bit of wandering, but mainly I found the collection of music all encompassing. I kept feeling the need to fill my arms with albums, and as I thought sad thoughts about being broke my mind would swim back into reality and I would see visions of dismantled Little Wing and recall the cross country road trip I was on. Relief would fill my economically stressed bones, and the moments of flipping through dust covers and examining wax would be filled with peace again,  knowing I didn’t have to invest. I was just looking.

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Approximately an hour later I got a text from David, informing me he was at Moe’s, the four story bookstore. I became conscious of the amount of time I had spent looking at records and abandoned the search. Time to go look at books. I joined David in the book store. Bookstores are completely different than record stores. So many great things to see in both places, but in a bookstore I have no idea where to start. I know very little about authors, but I love a good book. The problem is finding a good book amongst all the options. I did find one though. After a  struggle I settled upon another book by Maya Angelou,  because I like her so much, and I picked up I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. David and I convened after our purchases at Moe’s and it was determined that we both felt like eating. On our way to his favorite Thai place we looked at more murals. David realized how interested I was in them and so he started to point them out. We made it to the Thai place. We had a great meal and we decided that there was more to see.

While Little Wing sat up on blocks in Chuck’s garage, waiting for a repair, I sat with David discussing further fun activities to partake in. There was more art to see in the city, and a well toured resident to show me, or there was a bike to tear down back at the garage. How does and adventurous gal respond? Without hesitation. Let’s explore.

David considered whether we would be better off checking out architecture (something he is interested in because he works as a handyman when he isn’t doing his art) or art. I informed him I wasn’t any good at decisions and pressured him into deciding. Art won out because of traffic, and on the way back to his truck we made a few more detours to check out more art. One of the detours led us down an ally where there was graffiti all about. I loved it and we chatted about it. After the graffiti filled mural I think David was more confident in his choice of art over architecture.  The area that we went to was downtown Oakland, where the architecture is stunning anyway. There were murals everywhere and graffiti as well. I felt as though we got to see it all.

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Architecture, street art, and great discussion, it doesn’t get better does it?

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Architecture, I tell you.

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Yesterday I was asked to do a good deed, be a good samritan for Chuck and Marilyn’s neighbor. I asked what the job was. I was at a stand still as far as Little Wing was concerned (more on that later) and felt that would be just fine. Their lovely neighbor, a beautiful Asian woman named Fei, with a bouncing Buddha baby named Ryan, was putting up new blinds on the kitchen window. To do this she needed a tool, and as far as Chuck could tell she really just needed someone to do it. Sure! How hard could it be? My frustrations with the mechanics of the day had left me feeling rather like a failure, and easy success was nothing to pass up.

I made my way to the home, right-next-door, and I tapped on the screen door. I was met with a “come in” and a big smile, from Fei and her father in law, and a stoic look from Ryan, the Buddha baby. Chuck had already brought over an electric drill with a phillips head and some various screwdrivers. I clambered up on the sink, and we laughed and joked about how easy this job would be — ten minutes at the most. I commenced  to taking off the earlier brackets, and then got to putting on the brackets for the new Home Depot blinds. The drill wasn’t the exact tool I needed. I needed a drill bit for the phillips head drill. I headed back to the garage. I fetched a drill bit, made my way back to the house right-next-door, and found the drill didn’t actually take bits. Damn. I walked back to  Chuck’s and had a look at the other drills. I found one that accapeted drill bits and hooked it up, only to find the battery  was dead. After about eight minutes of fussing on this problem I fnally settled on a pointy wooden chisel and a rubber mallet to complete the task. Old school, and perfectly acceptable for a job like this. The brackets got put up. I asked Fei to hand me the blinds and I hung them. We found in doing this that more work had to be done inorder for the blinds to unfurl. The directions weren’t terribly in depth, nor easy to read (I was looking mainly at the pictures after a certain point),  but I had seen people do this, it wasn’t hard. After getting them unfurled we found that we had to remove the extra slats. Easy enough, everything looked good, it was a hanging set of blinds. Then Fei informed me we couldn’t actully raise the blinds. What? There was another chord that needed to be inserted and threaded. This meant taking down the blinds, inserting the chord through the top  and the  down through all the slats. Four extra strings we had to thread, the Home Depot blinds didn’t come with that already done.

After one full hour I was out of that kitchen. The blinds were fixed. The ten minute job painfully increased to an unimaginable sixty minutes, and I felt more frustrated than when I had entered the home right-next-door. Fei was sweet. She offered to feed me dinner for my efforts. When I said no thank you she asked me if I wanted payment. I turned that down as well and she payed me off with extreme gratitude, and as I exited I turned to see a smile from Ryan, the adorable stoic Buddha baby. Payment enough.

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This trash can was seen on my tour of downtown Oakland. I am not sure who lacked enough of a conscious to litter as the Lorax looked on, but I did pick up the majority of it and toss it in the garbage myself. Good ironic photo though. In the bay area they even paint their trash cans.

You might be wondering what the complication was with Little Wing. Well I have to rewind. After the art filled day spent with fellow artist and friend, David, I didn’t feel like wrenching. That was Thursday, and we got back to Chuck and Marilyn’s about five. It was late, I was tired from an over stimulated, art filled brain, so I decided to leave Little Wing for Friday. I had two voicemails on my phone. One telling me that my tire was done and my brake pads were in. The other telling me I had seals, an air filter, and an oil filter waiting at the Suzuki dealer. I decided to deal with it the next day. Friday morning was met with a great breakfast  fixed by Marilyn, and supportive words from my two wonderful hosts. I pulled on my grub jeans meant for oil and grime, laced up my converse, and off I was to remove the valve cover. After some squeezing and jiggling I slipped it out through the small gap in between the head and the bike frame. I cleaned it up with carb cleaner and a scotchbrite sponge. I reported to Chuck, and we took off to pick up the parts. He let me drive the Mini, a zippy little car which I adore, and we made it to both shops and back in no time. We were met with another great meal from Marilyn when we got back to the house. That afternoon was spent cleaning up the head a bit more and then getting the valve cover back in place. The head plug cap seal had been replaced and I set to reassembling. The valve cover was much harder to get back on the head than it was to take off and I struggled for a while. Chuck came to lend a hand, but it didnt help all that much. Four hands in that small space is more difficult than two. After a lot of wiggling, and removing, and then wiggling some more, I found that the valve cover went on better from the other side. I got it on, started bolting it down, and realized I had forgotten to tighten the head bolts. Off came the valve cover again. I cleaned it up, again. By that time it was five, and I was done for the night.

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I was met by this chalk graffiti every morning as I went out to the garage. It really brightened my day. The dog that isn't pausing to pose in this photo is Gerogia, David's dog.

Saturday was met by another great breakfast. I laced up my converse and made my way out to the garage. The head bolts were tightened and torqued. The sealer was reapplied, it was time to finally finish putting the valve cover on. I wiggled the it back on. I put the bolts in place, and I started to tightening them.

Snap, pop.

Just like that I had over torqued and broken two valve cover bolts. A litany of cuss words exited my mouth. An out pouring of profanity could be heard bouncing about that garage. Chuck was out in the yard and heard me. He came in and asked me what had happened. I told him, and he said that he had thought he had heard a snap. It was that loud.. either that or he had heard the sound of my brain exploding and heartbreaking, because that had happened too. After a lot of wheedeling and complaining on my part Chuck told me he would call his friend Russ. His friend Russ was a machinist, and a manager of machinists for many years. He had worked on jet engines for a lot of his career, and Chuck said he might know what he was doing.

I wasn’t impressed.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believed this Russ guy new what he was doing, but in my intense frustration I sunk into deep pit of self pity and was making myself at home in that dark crevasse.

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This cute dude is the king of self pity. Found somewhere on the streets of Oakland.

Russ arrived an hour later. He arrived on his BMW GS 1200 while we were eating lunch. We shook hands, exchanged names, and he and my hosts found a comfortable conversation that spoke to their close friendship. When lunch was done we went out to the disassembled Little Wing and Russ had a look. Intial fears seemed to be realized as Russ made a first assement. He thought the valve cover bolt was a head bolt and scared the beejeesus out of me telling me that it couldn’t be fixed easily. After confusion was dessimated by further explanation Russ took it back.

Final assesment: one bolt was unnecessary. Enough locktite and sealer gasket and we could ignore it. The second bolt, a three inch bolt that was only threaded at the bottom half inch. A rusty old bolt that I should have questioned before attempting to put it back in my engine,  was necessary. Could we drill it out? No. Could we Epoxy it in? Maybe. Could we use duct tape and bailing wire, a little elbow grease and a lot of spit? Yes, if worse came to worse that would  be how I finished my trip around the country.

No, Russ had it handled. This was Saturday evening. After pausing the work on Little Wing, and allowing Russ to take the bolt to sleep on, Chuck asked me if I wanted to be a good samaritan. That lead to the crazy, hour long, blind saga. A day spent frustrated at mechanical things.

I thought about all the handymen who get paid to do these things for a living. David is a handyman, Russ was a machinist, or prime example, my Dad. He could do anything. He could build up a house right under our feet and make dinner at the same time. He could keep wheels on the road while making sure my sister and I didn’t maime eachother. He built furniture and created log cabins by reading a book, and still had time to show us what a good parent is like. And here I was. Staring at a broken bolt on a job that was supposed to take four hours. Here I was, holding crappy home depot blinds that were a ten minute job, watching five o’clock turned to six o’clock. It is hard not to think negative thoughts at a time like that.

Russ came back this morning. Sunday was met by yet another great breakfast by Marilyn, fruit scones and scrambled eggs. Nine o’clock saw Russ walk through the door, and I lead a procession out to the garage where Little Wing sat dismantled for the fourth morning in a row.  We examined the hole again and Russ showed us the solution he had decided upon; a heavy duty expander bolt meant for concrete shoved in the head with epoxy. We would keep the valve cover on with a nut on the bolt. However, his choice of bolt was too short, so by ten o’clock we were on the road in the little Mini, on our way to the hardware store. This idea turned out to be a bust. 

The problem was that the hole in the head was much larger than the hole in the valve cover. It tapered down to where the original bolt had broke off. This meant that a typical bolt and re-threading of the head wouldn’t work because we needed something wider at the bottom and skinnier at the top.

There was no bolt of the description we needed at the hardware store. After a good long talk with a store employee and a walk around the hardware department we settled on another idea. How about a threaded steel rod, drilled out, and inserted in the head? Then put a new bolt through the valve cover and bolt it in the hallowed steel rod? Ok.

This insertion of a steel rod was perfect for making the hole in the head smaller while  simultaneously giving us another surface to bolt into.

The drilling and tapping (making the wrinkles for the threads of a bolt to screw into) of the rod  had to be done at Russ’ place on his drill press. I went back to his garage with him, and watched the machinist set to work.  After the task was complete we took the small rod back to Chuck’s where Little Wing waited patiently. I then watched, with great trepidation, as Russ tapped the head of the bike. That is no little thing. The engine of my bike was being changed, in just the slightest way, but it was still being changed. I worried, and I feared, and I thought ‘what if’ and I thought ‘should of’. I thought all the usless thoughts and during that time Russ finished adding wrinkles to the inside of the head hole. Well, there was nothing to do after that but insert the steel rod. I had already  changed the head this much, why not add a foriegn object to the mix? I had to keep reminding myself that there was already a foriegn bolt end in the bottom of the hole which I broke off. I really had no place to complain about the machinist fixing the situation.

And just like that, it was done.

The hole was tapped, the steel rod inserted. There was no chance of getting that bugger out. The problem was fixed.

Russ told me he would sit back and watch now as I did my work. So, for the third time, I applied the sealant to the head. And for the umpteenth time I wiggled and jiggled that valve cover over the head and past the frame. And then Russ helped me out as we set to locktite-ing all the bolts and tightening them up without busting them. And then we were done. I had to put The tank, seat, and tire on, but Russ was ready to go home, and the rest I could manage with help from Chuck. We shook hands. I thanked him profusely. He told me that that’s what bikers do for one another. As he was leaving my hosts came out to tell him farewell and so we all stood in the garage. As he put on his riding jacket he told all of us that he was impressed at my ability to listen and learn,  and the fact that I ever took the challenge on in the first place. He told me he started out the same way I did. Riding broke and not able to afford a mechanic . He learned to fix the things he could and kept learning as he went. He said I could do it, and I was doing it. I stood there, listening to the jet engine machinist tell me I was capable, and my frustrations and doubts did a bit of melting.

After Russ left I filled Chucks garage with music. I sat under the florescent lights as the dark started to fill the night sky outside. I left the garage door open and it got chilly enough to see my breath. I looked down at my small hands. My dirty hands, that were reaching their scrawny fingers into tight spaces and contorting as they secured hoses and nuts, and I thought of Dad’s hands. His big strong hands, working under florescent lights, surrounded by loud and wonderful music. His big hands, unclean as they worked at whatever it was he was working on. I thought of how little I actually thought about how much he was doing. How little I considered the actual work behind the home we lived in. Dad’s  hands did so much. And how did it all start? A story similar to Russ’. He wanted a vehicle, and so bought one. It didn’t have a working engine and he wanted one. So he set about to learning how to make that happen. He was told by a wise old man, that was tired of answering his questions, to go read about it at the library. So Dad did. He read and fixed up that old engine, he learned how. But the most important thing he learned was how to learn. When he had to build a house around our ears the library was our friend. He read about construction, and raising kids, and when he finished that he checked out books on furniture and log cabins. He learned, and then he did.

I was filled with angst and frustration the last few days about my lack of ability. It seemed everything went wrong. It seemed my choice to do the work by myself was wrong. It seemed my choice to go hang with David and look at art was wrong. It seemed my good  samaritan deed, hanging blinds, was wrong. It seemed everything I did was wrong. Looking down at my hands though, I was reminded of Dad. They were the same, despite all the superficial differences,  they were still hands working. Hands doing, and in the process they were hands learning. That is what Dad taught me. He taught me a person learns by doing.

I took a day off to look at art. I learned so much. David was a wealth of intelligent thought, not to mention the art we looked at. I worked on blinds, and I learned how  to fix them, something I had never considered before. I worked on Little Wing, and through trial and error I learned many things that did not work, and many things that did. I wasn’t wrong, I was doing. I was learning.

Through the frustration of the last four days I have continued to do and learn with my hands. My dirty, greasy, unkept hands, are proof of that. So why do I get so down on myself? Good question. Maybe I have learned something about myself while learning about the bike. That ain’t too bad.

Well, time to get some rest.
Tomorrow we’ll see if Little Wing starts.

Fixing What’s Broke

Nothing stresses me more than a broke down vehicle. And practically nothing pleases me as much as fixing a broke down vehicle.

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Right now I’m staring at a tore down Little Wing. I’m listening to jazz in my dream garage and wondering what comes next. I need a rear tire replacement so that’s off. I will be doing an oil change, a new air filter, new front brake pads, new seals and a total clean up. It all starts with a putting a single wrench to that first bolt.

Right now, I’m just sitting. Listening to some classy jazz from a great station somewhere in the Bay Area.

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The first time I experienced the extreme stress of a loss of wheels was when my truck was stolen out of my apartments parking lot in 2012. It was Labor Day weekend. I was cat sitting for a friend while she was gone. I woke up and tossed on some shlumpy clothes and ran downstairs to get the responsibility out of the way early. When I reached the parking lot I looked to the light pole where I always parked and saw my spot was empty. My heart sank. My breath caught. I felt like screaming, but my lungs seemed to be shrunk and shriveled and unable to complete the task. Instead I picked up my lead feet and slowly made my way around the building, picking up momentum as I went.

“Maybe. MAYBE I just parked somewhere else last night” I thought in vain.

I hadn’t and I knew it. I was practically hyperventilating when I ran around to my parking spot again. Shaking hands grabbed the cellphone out of my pocket, and dialed 911.

I filed my first police report that day. I ended up taking my bicycle to feed the cats and found myself sobbing behind a bush at my friends house as I told my sister the story over the phone. She was living in Alaska and thought the text I had sent earlier was a joke, but she was comforting and appropriately angry for me as I told her the truck really had been stole.

My sister sold me her broken down car that was left behind in Minnesota. I paid to get it fixed. But in the week it took to get a new clutch put in I had to rely on friends to get to and from work. I felt helpless and made some dumb promises to myself about how it would never happen again. And that right there, them promises, is why I’m sitting here stressed staring at my tore down bike.

I decided to learn how to fix my own vehicles after that, but I also planned to never be without a running engine again.

I got my truck back on 10/11/2012. The officers found it behind a ball field only 30 miles away from my apartment. The tranny fluid was dry, so I’m assuming the thief knew nothing about mechanics and just decided to drop it when they couldn’t get it moving. Whoever the perp was they didn’t bother to look behind the seat to see the two quarts of transmission fluid for just such occasions. Or if they did they didn’t put two and two together. The thief did bother to snag my boom box I had in the truck. A lack of speakers meant a portable boom box, and apparently it was appealing to the thief. I drove the truck back to the apartment with the police officer following me to make sure it didn’t blow.

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Since that day I haven’t had less than two vehicles.

The car broke down again, the truck, Ol Smokey (named for Smokey and the Bandit and also the smoke that leaks out of the shoddy pipe), became my main transport. I bought a 1985 Honda Rebel, putting my vehicle count at three, and my wheel count at ten. My truck broke down a week before I got the Rebel, and after I got the Rebel it became my main means of transportation. I rode it from April to July, up until I snagged Little Wing. After getting Little Wing home I couldn’t ride him for two weeks til all tuneups could be completed. I had four vehicles and 12 wheels… except really only 11 because Little Wing had a rear tire that needed replacing. I still only had one that was road worthy. I got Little Wing fixed up and then I was ready to ride — either of the two bikes I had. In August I finally had time to fix the truck and since then I have had three working vehicles and one that is out of commission.

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A broken down truck, a working Rebel, and a torn apart Little Wing.

Now, here I am, an owner of three running vehicles eight wheels (except only seven because Little Wing has a rear tire that needs replacing), and I can not go anywhere with any of my engines. I’m in California and my other two vehicles are in Minnesota. The one bike I have sits in front of me dismantled, and the next step is to fix it.

Promises of not being without a vehicle are useless and false when wants to live a life young, free, and without a fancy, dependable, vehicle. My mind doesn’t want to accept this fact, it hasn’t wrapped itself around it since the day my truck wasn’t in it’s parking spot. Well, I can either be stressed or I don’t have to. Time to make a choice. I have got to fix my attitude and my bike.

But first I just have to pick up one wrench.

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A naked Little Wing says goodnight. More wrenching tomorrow.

Sunday Morning Ride

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I have found a certain type of spirituality in practically everything I take enjoyment in, that is one of the determining factors for enjoyment, really. Last Sunday I accompanied a friend to her church service. As a matter of opening ones mind I have taken it upon myself to attend a few of these services of faith which play a large role in the lives of many people I am getting to know.

Dad always used to say “Why go to church? My god is here.” He would look up at the trees and hold up his arms, giving an all encompassing swath of the beautiful piece of nature we called ours.

Why indeed. I am not entirely certain where my Dad falls religiously, but I know what he taught me. I grew up thinking that the world around me held the secrets to the universe. Take a step out the front door, get down on bended knee and examine a bit of moss or lichen. Check out the sprouting grass after a hardwinter, or the complexity of a dandelion’s structure. Look up to sky, check out the pink hue of a rising sun, or the scattered clouds that change formation as they get licked by the breeze. A simple act of nature holds as much, or more,  wonder than a sermon for me. If I am puzzled by something I see in nature I can go find a book that explains the phenomena with facts and science. This makes my church problem-free because one can not debate or argue with science.

Last Sunday was a new experience. I was glad for it but found that it wadnt exactly what I would want to do for coming Sundays. This Sunday I had the pleasure of being invited to another friends ritual. A monthly shop ride scheduled for the first Sunday morning the month. Would I like to go along? Why, YES!

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My favorite kind of parking.

Little Wing needs work but not enough to keep him and I off the road. Saturday I spent a day wandering around to different motorcycle shops in the Bay Area. I got around to six of them but only four were open. It was neat. I got to check out motorcycles and gear. Slobber over things I couldn’t afford and then move on to the next shop. It also was great way to get in a tour of the city. I had purpose to where I was going but it was really an excuse to ride around. I saw graffiti (my favorite!) and murals (my bigger favorite!). I saw other interesting shops that I may go back to. I saw architecture in San Francisco and people. The many different classes and shades of the people in a big city that is slowly gentrifying, fascinating stuff Maynard.

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This pole was across from a motorcycle shop called Scuderia. It appeared to be a garden. If you look you can see people kneeling and -- possibly -- working.

Friday night I had found myself in Oakland, looking for First Friday. It was nowhere to be found. The internet had told me it was happening, but the bouncer I approached at a bar along the First Friday Walk told me it had been canceled for three weeks and he wasn’t sure why the city hadn’t updated the page.

Well, yeah!

Anyway, I got to walk downtown Oakland at night. There were young men wearing black shirts that said ‘I can’t breath’ and ‘hands up don’t shoot.’ There were cops patroling the neighborhood in police cars.  Oakland was the center of protesting here in California just a few weeks ago. It was fascinating to see bits of still hanging on. I made a point to smile at every person I walked past, because that is just what I try to do, and in such a negative atmosphere it seemed like the only control I had left. There was an older black lady who was on the recieving end of my smaile. She had on ragged clothes and carried a reusable shopping bag overflowing with items that weren’t bought at the store. She appeared homeless due to her gaunt features and the way I had seen her wandering from here to there  while I did the same in my search for First Friday. Since I was also wandering it would be wrong of me to just assume she was homeless, but the clues seemed to point in that direction. I don’t care what she was, I smiled at her anyway. The third time I smiled at her in passingbshe actually looked at me. She looked straight in my eyeys from about ten feet away and quit walking. After an eight second pause she muttered just loud enough for me to hear “don’t smile at me little white bitch. What gives you the right to smile at  me!?” There was such malice in her voice. The last word bit hard. ‘Me’ was said like a rattle snake and it felt like I had been peirced with some poisonus fangs when she said it.

I thought about that. Good question, what gave me the right to smile?

Anyway, First Friday was a bust, but I still was able to see new things so I didn’t mind. Saturday made up for my lack of visual stimuli the night before. Wall art and the art of the mechanics of motorcycles, it was very stimulating. I started the shop visits with a nice ralaxing tea at a place called Motojava. Another one of these motorcycle fixing coffee shops in the big city. I think that might be my new goal for when I get back to Minnesota.  What do you think Bemidji? I think we should do it. The coffee shop wasnt quite as fancy or appealing as SeeSee Motorcycles in Portland. That was for certainly the nicest one I have experienced, but Motojava was still neat. I had a tea and took out my Sharpies. I have been customizing the new helmet I recieved around Thanksgiving time with some good ‘ol helmet art. It is a fancy Nolan helmet, but it was all black, it was in need of an artists touch. While sitting in the coffeeshop, door open, good ventilation, I thought what better time to draw? So I did. The barista, a nice young man with a beard walked past and said “ah cool! Your doing that. I saw the back of it when you walked in and thought where’d she get that helmet. That makes sense.”

I smiled back “yeah, costumized.”

“I like it,” he said. And that was all I needed. My head expanded and I drew away, thinking of all the great compliments I might get off my newly decorated helmet, but even more so, I considered how pleased I would be to have something different then everyone else’s.

After a good long stint of drawing and the final sip of tea was gone I hopped back on Little Wing and wandered off to the next destination on the motorcycle shop tour.

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This mural ran the length of building across from a shop called Werkitt, which wasn't open. I was glad I stopped anyway. There was metered parking for motorcycles here though, so I didn't hang around.

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Check out that Camel and that tree full of cherry blossoms.

Sunday was even better than Saturday though. Little Wing and I got out for a ride in the Bay Area except it was in the less trafficed portion. Less traffic is hard to find in California and is a great treat. We had many motorcycles out but we didn’t see much for cars.

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Do you see me? Do see me? (Photo Credit: Chuck Brown)

Along with the road being sirene I also had the opportunity to ride with other riders. I haven’t done much for group riding in my short stint of riding, but I have done some. It is different than riding by oneself. Riding by oneself is freeing and religious. It is a high that feels like nothing else and it puts a person at one with the universe. It’s as though anything that one could experience walking is increased as speed increases. The power of the machine pushes one further into the enviroment than a car or a bicycle, and therefore it feels more real… or something. Riding with a group is like that, but combined with a new camaraderie. The person in front of you is experiencing the same thing, as is the person behind you, and as you ride along you can watch the person in their own freedom do exactly what you are about to do. The bike that that rider is on leans into that curve. That bikes forks compress as the suspension is shocked by that upcoming bump. The motorcycle dodges that gravel patch and wavers a bit on that one right there. The riders in the group mirror each other’s motion. It is one of the coolest things to do if one has fellow riders around.

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That's the twisties.

We rode through curve after curve. Some refer to the road we took as the twisties. The leader of the pack compared it to the The Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina. I found myself near the front of the pack and keeping up; something that both suprised and pleased me. After putting 10,000 miles on in my adventure I probably shouldn’t be as shocked as I am, but… we all have our things. California is gorgeous and green right now because it is the winter season and that means rain. The result is perfectly gorgeous scenic ride, one that can only be enjoyed through fleeting glances because all attention needs to be going towards staying on the road, and conquering that curve ahead. The ride landed us at an elevation of about 4500 feet where we stopped at an observatory meant for star gazing. When we started out the ride it felt about 50°. The morning was foggy and the sun took a while to burn it off. Going up the hill to the observatory the air started to warm and the sun started to burn of the moisture. It was about 65° or more at the top of the hill and the fog was less,  but there was still some to see. I found some fog over some of the mountains. The sun hadn’t hit as hot on those spots yet and I was glad to finally get a standing second to stare down. Fog is quite lovely.

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After some pictures, a gathering of the group, and a few group shots, we mounted up.

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(Photo Credit: Chuck Brown)

We had a good ride further up the mountain to a place called The Junction where we dismounted for lunch. Chuck treated me to an amazing chicken sandwich and fries. As typical of a chilly morning ride I was hungry, and fortunately the food was awesome. We arrived before noon had even struck, but we left well after. The Junction is a biker bar which means that when bikers stop it is filled with good food, smells, and conversation.

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The Junction and some new pals. (Photo Credit: Chuck Brown)

When we decided to take off Chuck knew he had to go home so while the other riders doubled back we continued on the loop back to San Leandro, which was a shorter distance. I rode while Chuck followed in his Mini Cooper. He wasn’t feeling up to a ride that morning so he drove along as a sweep. This meant he took many photos.

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Me and a random rider who kept passing. He passed twice because he stopped once, as you can see in the picture. This is the one lane road. (Photo Credit: Chuck Brown)

It also meant the ride back I was being followed by a zippy car as I tried to ride safely on the twisty gravely road. The road on the way to The Junction had some dirt on it but not much in comparison to the road after The Junction. The road was paved, but there was gravel on pretty much every curve, which means I had to round corners a lot slower than I had that morning. Besides having to watch for sediment, the road became a one lane road at a certain point. This single lane road lasted for nine miles. I have to admit that my confidence from the morning was put into question. I felt quite amatuer everytime I hit a gritty patch and felt Little Wing wobble. I had very little space in which to dodge, and one shouldn’t slow much when rounding corners. In these situations it is best to just slow down and watch. Plan the place the tire is going to be when going around that curve. If the bike hits a gravel patch then don’t touch the brake. If anything, use the throttle.

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Because I love a good shot of me cornering. I imagine my lean is usually further than this, but like I said, there was gravel everywhere. I still like it. I don't see me from this angle often. (Photo Credit: Chuck Brown)

To my extreme pleasure Chuck came out of the ride telling me I had done very well. He told me he could tell I had natural ability. Chuck is a life long rider and teacher, so he knows what he is talking about. My confidence from the morning came back, and I was happy to let it grow just the tinniest bit.

At one point I remember telling one ofthe guys, “What a great way to spend a Sunday morning.” That statement was followed by nods and affirmations from my fellow riders. There is something extremely spiritual about a ride. Being one with nature and letting ones mind do what it will do. Let it ponder the things that need pondering. I learn so much more about the universe on a ride and I love it.

I thought about the woman who had asked me what gave me the right to smile. The answer is simple. A ride is so joyous, so filled with love happiness, I get my fill for days. I think that is what people get at church. I think that is the thing that people search for. I find the same thing when I go on a hike throught the woods. I feel no reason not to share that happiness in the form of a smile. I feel for that woman who would question that kindness. I can only guess that she has been without peace for a bit longer than I. In a neighborhood filled with racial strife how should one respond to the smiling white chick?

Well, I would say smile back. That might be easier said than done. I am living a blessed life filled with my own peace, I wish I could pass that on. The truth is, however one finds that peace they should do it. Sitting in a pew, sitting on a bike, not sitting at all, do what it is you got to do. I hope that woman can find it. But, ain’t no skin off my nose. I’m riding.

And I’m smiling.

And I’m looking up to the sky and checking out the the clouds. I’m checking out the fog and learning new shtuff. It was a great weekend.

Well Good Morning 2015

Starting with a blank page. I have been remiss in my writing duties for a few days now. Well, actually,  as always, I have been writing it just isn’t publishable.
I find my writing is too unintelligent for the interwebs.

Time for some New Years musings.

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Pretty lights remind me of New Years so here is a pretty one. A lamp from Fez, Morroco. I visited a beautigul house in Oceanside that was Moroccan themed and I saw this there.

The ringing in of 2015 was done while listening to great music with a few great new friends and a dog named Georgia. A dainty little bar caught my eye when looking for places to dance. It was put into my field of vision by my hosts and their son. I am in the midst of a great family and am having a blast getting to know them. Chuck is the motorcyclist who has done it all. He has been a part of the Dakur. He was a photographer on the filmset of Bullitt. He has an amazing garage and he also has made it on to a poster for Aerostich Gear. He has lived a motorcyclists dream life. His wonderful wife, Marilyn, was a nurse and an artist. She has an amazing little painting space where she has let me hole up on the guest bed. She is a fabulous cook and has been taking care of her family and the neighbors for years, even though she would never say it. She is matronly beyond belief, and perfectly supportive. Their daughter,  Liz, is a nurse of sorts as well and has the same traits as her mother. She is kind and has three children. The two I met, the 6 and 8 year old boys, were rambunctious, healthy, young boys. Good kids in a good family. Chuck and Marilyn’s son, David, is a musician and an artist. His thing is to do up art on loose pieces of wood which he hangs up in the allies around his place. It’s a form of graffiti which doesn’t involve destruction and the art always has something like ‘gratitude’ or ‘love’ on it. People come by and take it, but that’s what it is there for. Giving everyone the opportunity to get a little love. David was also a musician at the dainty little bar that I attended on New Years. His sister and her spouse were planning on going that way too so I joined their little car and we made our way down to the happening place after dinner.

Dinner on New Years was a feast prepared by Marilyn. Chicken, gravy, squash, stuffing, and noodles and ratatouille. The table was filled with folks. Chuck, Mariyln, their daughter, her two sons and spouse, and then a couple of neighbors who happened by to say hello before heading out on the town. We all sat, spoke, ate, and laughed.

Later at the bar we found that the cheery laughter followed us. I didn’t order a drink at all, preferring to be sober as we said farewell to a pretty superb year. This year is the third New Year I spent in a bar dancing and celebrating with friends. However, this is the first year that I have been of an age to order a drink,  or not. I turned 21 in 2014 which is a pretty big deal. Before twenty-one I found myself in bars anyway. I wouldn’t drink, I wouldn’t shout my age out, but the bartenders knew. I got in based on my love of music and by being good. The bar owners would let me in and I would promise not to drink. I would listen to live music from fantastic Minnesotan artists and I would mingle with the musicians. Later I would play them on the radio (if I liked them enough, which I generally did) that I DJed at. It was a fabulous opportunity to get to listen and it meant I got to spend the phasing out of 2012 and 2013 dancing to great tunes as well. I was happy to continue the tradition, and I was even happier to not have to convince the bar owners they should let me. This being the case I felt no need to order a drink. The bands were great. David’s band played last, and actully welcomed in 2015, but we came in on the act before his. We entered in on an awesome guitarist  and lead singer with a fantastic voice. The drummer also knew what he was doing. The dainty bar was small and it left a little bit to be desired in the way of class, but it felt comfortable. It didn’t feel like the type of bar where you had to watch your back or carefully select the people you wanted to talk to. The bar was in rough shape, and so were most of the patrons, but it was easy to tell it was just a working class place with working class people. It was comfortable. Since the bar was full I took a seat at a table with an older couple . They weren’t seated when I sat, but I knew it was theirs because I had seen them there when I walked in. When they came back to their seats I asked them if they minded and they were more than happy to let me have the third chair which they weren’t using. They were a prime example of the working class people in attendance. They had both seen better days, but they were kind and truley smitten. Two 50-somethings looking into each others eyes and saying kind words. Lovebird looks, and small pecks were floating between the two and I made sure not to get to close. Seeing from a nice distance and not offering interruption. The tables had paper placed over them in lieu of table cloths. There was a shot glass full of crayons as the centerpiece. Liz came over to the table, put a hand on my shoulder and directed her voice nearest my ear so I could here her over the loud guitar solo. “I want to see a mural on this table before the end of the night. I want to take it home.”

I laughed in response and was grateful for an excuse to pour out the crayons and get to doodling. Before the pair of cooing doves got up to leave, and left me alone at the table that they had the majority of claim to, the woman leaned in close and complimented the dog face I had drawn. It was a doodle inspired by the dog I had mentioned earlier, Georgia. She was a ten year old yellow lab who still acted like a puppy. She was loving and constantly searching for a new hand to pet her. She was David’s dog and when she wasn’t right by his side she was making her way around to every new face and giving them her puppy dog eyes. “Thanks!” I said. “You draw a dog.” I handed her a crayon.

She tilted her head and gave me a look. She was interested but unsure. “How about a horse?” she asked me over another loud guitar solo. I agreed with enthusiasm and then she went on to draw a well practiced horse head. It was smiling and happy and very reminiscent of her expression. I told her I loved the toothy grin that the horse was giving me and she smiled big.

When the act ended I realized I had to use the bathroom. There was one bathroom in the whole establishment and there was a line to get in. I told Liz I would try my luck down the street, assuming there had to be another bar with a pot somewhere. I ventured on down the street and saw lights and people outside smoking about a block down on the opposite side. I stepped lively, crossing the street, and as I got closer I saw all the smokers where wearing black in the form of dapper suits and slinky dresses. There was a big Black guy — also dressed in black standing — in front of the door. If I looked past him, through the large glass windows, I saw muted light giving a red orange glow over more fancy people dressed in black. I could here some heavy bass beats being dropped over a great speaker system that was allowing some of the sound to seep through. It was an electronic sound, but with the same classiness that all the guests were exuding. There I stood, in my Norwegian knit sweater, my red pants, and converse sneakers, looking up at the swanky Black guy. “Does this place have a bathroom.”

The bouncer gave me a look. All 6 foot and 300 pounds of him looked down at me. “Do I need an I.D to get in?” I quickly added. The bouncer raised an eyebrow and I hurried into the next sentence, “because I left my I.D at the other bar, there was long line to the bathroom and I really had to go.”

“I guess we should really ask —” as he told me a name, which I didn’t catch, he turned toward the door which was being opened by an Latino man who could have been the fraternal twin of the big bouncer I was looking up to. Another 300 pound man gaurding the door. The Black bouncer addresed this new giant, “She,” he pointed at me, “has to use the bathroom.”

The Latino  giant looked down at me “it’s not a public restroom.”

“And we do technically need an I.D” the black bouncer added.

“But,” the Latino giant continued, “how can I say no to you?”

Inside I just cracked. I felt like laughing while simultaneously telling them they shouldn’t give in so easily to small chick standing in front of them because,  for all they knew, I was a mass murderer. However, I really had to pee, and in reality, if I started murdering the masses either of these dudes could snuff me out with one large exhale. Besides, I felt as though I had more power by continuing to be sweet to these giants then I would ever have if I were to be mean. So what I said instead was “you really shouldn’t say no because I might pee on the sidewalk. Thank you!” Both men raised their eyebrows at me as the Black bouncer opened the door and I scurried in.

The bar was filled with fancy looking people, the same as I had seen from the outside. Being inside gave me a different feel. I felt as though I had just walked into a movie or TV show representing the mob. There were people of all color in the space but they mingled in a sort of segregated way except for one group of the most nicely dressed men who were having some sort of important discussion. There was very little laughter and this looked like the type of place where nobody would ever think to say “pee on the sidewalk.” I followed a group of gorgeous women with high heels into a fancy rest room. They walked slow, without thinking to look behind them to notice a  small girl who felt as though she might “pee on the sidewalk.” Which only made sense because they fit into the small sterotype of gals who don’t wind up in the bathroom to use the toilet, but instead to look pretty in the mirror and chat about girly stuff. This meant that I had no line to get into a stall to pee but I had a long line to get to the sink. After washing my hands I made my way back to the door. I noticed I was the only person wearing any color in the place, but despite this bright advantage I had over all others in the bar when it came to being observed, I was actually ignored. No one bothered looking twice at the small girl with the knit sweater and street shoes. I made my way back out the door and gave a large smile to the bouncers, “thank you!” I said again. The eyebrows raised (again), but I swear I saw a small upturn of a lip, which could have been mistaken for a grin if the Black bouncer had ever bothered setting that precedent.

I made my way back to the comfortable bar where David and his band were setting up there gear with the help of Georgia. I looked around at all the jeans and beards, the home dyed hair and dollarstore mascara. The tables topped with beer glasses vs. fancy colored drinks and champagne glasses. I laughed. The dichotomy of the classes. And everyone at this rundown bar had a smile.  No raised eyebrows when I told Liz I had gone ‘pee’.  People whowho put emphasis on appearance vs. those who don’t.

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Georgia chilling on the stage as the band, 'True Love,' played

We rung in the New Year and I got the chance to dance but we all started to feel tired. Liz asked if I was ready to go crash, and I was. We complimented the band and headed back to Chuck and Marilyn’s.

It was a great way to say farewell to 2014. I am not sad to see it go because that is just the way of things, but I was more than pleased with it. Last New Year I was twenty. l danced until ten minutes before midnight at which time the public television crew came into the bar to film the band bringing in the New Year. I didn’t want to be kicked out for the evening, or the bar to get in trouble, so I scurried off to the bathroom. I rung in the new year sitting on a bathroom sink and reflecting on my reflection in the mirror. I waited in that bathroom a good twenty minutes til I figured the film crew was done. The music was done too. My friends were packing up. The bathroom had been a nice place to sit because I chatted with quite a few gals. Sitting on the sink is a great ice breaker. However it was a bummer not to be dancing. This year marks the first of many legal New Years spent dancing in bars. No more Cheshire Cat moments on bathroom sinks. My big grin can be saved for the dance floor or sneaking past bouncers instead of for suprising ladies as they enter the loo.

Last New Years found me at an after party where I got to know a friend better. A boy I had admired but hadn’t got the chance to chat with all that often. I remember leaning against the kitchen counter watching everyone else mingle and celebrate while we chatted. I informed him of my plans for 2014. I told him that I was going to be taking off on a long roadtrip across the country on a motorcycle. He asked if I rode. No.

Did I know how to ride? No.

Did I have a motorcycle? No.

Did I know where to get one? No.

Did I have a plan mapped? No.

Was I serious? Yes.

“That’s cool,” he told me with an honest look.

It hadn’t even been 2014 for four hours and I had already had it all planned. January marked the start of a new year

February was the start of a schoolwide mural with the highschoolers I was teaching.

In March I turned 21.

In April I bought my Honda Rebel, and my truck broke down. I got my motorcycle endorsement two weeks later.

I started a large, four wall, mosiac in my communities favored coffeeshop in May.

In June I finished the mosaic.

In July I started a 14 by 98 foot mural at a threshing show off Highway 2. I applied house paint to corrugated steel for my largest piece of work yet. I bought a 2001 Suzuki Savage in July as well.

In August I finished the pole barn. I bought copious amounts of gear for a long trip. I fixed my truck and moved out of my best friends house. I towed my Honda Rebel, my truck, and my record collection to my Dad’s.

In September I took off on my year long adventure. I went to North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.

I made it to Nebraska, Colorado Idaho, Washington and Oregon in October.

Novemeber found me in Californian.

December happened upon me in SoCal. And ended with me back in the bay area where I said farewell to 2014.

It was a great year.

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Hey hey, more pictures of lights.

Two year ago on New Years I came up with a great resolution which I liked so much I have decided to keep recycling for the coming years. As I said good bye to 2012 I resolved to try new things. It was the best resolution ever. So easily accomplished while also being vague enough to allow a great amount of leeway. Anyway, that was last year’s resolution as well, and Im carrying it over to 2015. When I look at all the new things I tried and did in the last year I am more than pleased. I am supremely ecstatic about 2014. It makes me feel young but more mature to see all I have done. The best thing is that on paper it looks like a lot (which gives a large esteem boost to my competitive spirit), but I can also feel the changes in my personality. This year I feel like I don’t have to prove myself the way I did last year. I feel that with all I have done a few of my insecurities have been banished as well as a huge amount of of my little-big-man-syndrome. I handle myself better in front of people underestimating me, something that I have found to be challenging in the past, because I know that they are wrong. I am capable, and I have been told so by many of the capable people I admire. Beyond that, I have proved that I am capable. Being extremely logical it is the proof that speaks the loudest. Because many of you reading may not know the me that came before this blog I will explain a bit.

Being short and female born into a family that would consist of a dad and a sister all I knew is what strong meant. I knew that strong was doing the things you set out to do and doing them better than you imagined. My dad is full of accomplishments that he was uncertain about before attempting them. Maybe the best example of this is raising two succesful, happy, daughters by himself, regardless of the stigma or words placed around him. My sister was, and is, the smartest person I know. She is  one of the strongest woman I know, and before I had seen a bit more of the world she was THE strongest. She still holds that strength, but in our childhood she was my rock and I was hers. She was the mother I didn’t have and I was hers. We were both raised to believe the same thing, which is that perseverance and a can-do attitude is all a person need to accomplish something. We weren’t raised to see things based on size and gender. Dad told us of the perils of the world quite candidly and then told us we were in charge of staying away from them. If we were in a situation where a girl might be at a disadvantage then either get away from it or dominate. If we felt like we wanted to be in that situation then we had the option to either keep the disadvantage or work past it. Get stronger, get smarter, learn self defense,  or do whatever it was to persevere. When I hit the real world I didn’t see short or female, I saw me, a strong human who could do anything. It turns out that isn’t exactly how the world sees things. I went through a couple of years of having my face rubbed in my reflection as others saw it, and because of it I was passed up for raises and jobs. I was disrespected and I was around many people who thought they knew me based on my appearance. I found I could quickly weed out friends by listening to the way they spoke to me. Were they saying things that were harassing or disrespectful? Did they patronize me or make incorrect assumptions? I slowly learned that my appearance gave me an inside look at others psyches, but I hated it. Now, in the last year, I have learned to appreciate it. I can-do just about anything, but I most likely won’t be anything other than a 5 foot white female in my lifetime. Society can change, but it probably won’t change at a fast enough rate to change the way I’m perceived. However I can change the way I see it and I can also do as Dad taught me and persevere and work past it. Be me, and be stronger than the judgements. What I have learned in the last year is that I can easily do that by ignoring the words I don’t like. I can move past the words that make me feel like I have to puff up my chest and put my macho on full alert.  I can be me, confident,  capable me, and refuse to be the reflection I feel everyone else observes. In doing so I can embody the person I want people to see and move past all the other stuff. So far it is working.

I took off on a motorcycle trip with a very small bit of ego at work. Not much, but some. Mainly I wanted to see and learn, and one of the things I wanted to learn was how to be rid of the ego. The ego sat below the surface and said things like “prove them naysayers wrong. Show ’em that you weren’t kidding. Prove that gender has nothing to do with it.” I can safely say I think I might have left that shitty ego in 2014. Guess what? I’m trying something new. I’m letting my reflection go. I can’t change how people perceieve me. If bouncers think my bright blues and short apperance make me unquestionable than I get a place to pee. If the fancy people think I’m unworthy of their attention then it means I can get back to comfort quicker. If people think that being a small female has anything to do with it they will find it doesn’t. Why? Because it doesn’t.

It is such a relief to decide upon that fact.

2014 gave me a lot of chances to go after, and do, new things. Because of this I have learned the most valuable thing, how to be comfortable in my own skin. Taking my first adventure has taught me that the world is full of people who are more than the sum of their superficial bits, and despite that many people are struggling with the perception of their reflection as well. This has lead to the revelation that it is an over saturated market, and I should get out of it. Remove the ego from the stream of egos and allow the mind to be at peace regardless of the body. Esteem shouldn’t be centered around the reflection, the apperance. Esteem should be centered around the accomplishments. The abilty to go forward and live life the way one wants to, with confidence and a can-do attitude.

In 2015 im trying new things. In 2015 I’m getting rid of the ego. 2015 starts with a blank page.

There it is, the tall and short of it (hahaha =D ). My year in review. My year end review. New Years eve didn’t dissapoint, and neither has 2015 thus far. Enjoy it guys; why not?