Help! Stranded.

July 31, 2010

Breakdown. Not a dance move.

Well, minutes after posting the last post things turned sideways.

I got my stuff, put the ear plugs in, helmet, gloves, got on the bike, contact, ignition… wrawww, wraww, wraaaaawwwrr… Uh oh…

try a few more times, it gets worse. The parking lot is on a hill so I put it in second, clutch in and start to run. BRRRrrr…. missed. Ran again push the bike, dump the clutch… BRRRrrrrrr missed again. As I was catching my breath (that thing is heavy) a man in a nice white shirt and dress pants in an SUV stops and says, “let me help you”. I get on the bike he starts pushing and running and we started a little wobbly but I dump the clutch and it went ROARRRRR! We’re on. Thank You!!! I yell.

I get to the road and I can tell this is not a fix, the power is low and the bike is wonky. Gotta find a motorcycle repair shop. I saw quite a few yesterday… I should find one around this is a big city. So I set out on the 104 and as I get to Rochester and the traffic lights multiply I cross my fingers. Third light I’m dead. Luckily there is no one behind me to honk and get nasty. I push the bike to the side of the road. “well this time I am in town as opposed to in the middle of nowhere.

I know the drill : call AAA, wait. As I wait this guy comes by.

Something wrong?
Yeah, electrical
I saw you a few minutes ago, ‘was running fine…
Yeah I know, it just went dead.
I know a shop just off dwyer… Turn right, up to the white building then turn left and he’s in the back there…

aaaahhh these directions. Gotta love them.

Thanks I said.

I push the bike a bit further, call AAA on my cell (1.50 a minute) and they put me on hold before I even make a choice of service by pressing a number. I hang up. There is a car business right next door. I walk in there ask to borrow their phone, they say yes and I call AAA again.

Triple A..

yes, my motorcycle is broken down I am at 1140 on the 104 heading West in Rochester, and as I look on the desk I see the business card for the office I was in so I gave them the “real’ name of the street

-Your phone number

-your address

-your name

-your membership number

-the make of the bike
-the color of the bike

-the model of the bike

-the year of the bike

-what seems to be the problem

I answer all of the above with conviction.

So you are at 1140 on xyz road, your name is…. he repeats everything I just answered.

Someone will be there by 3:15.

45 minutes… I can deal with that. I thank the guys at the office for using their phone and go outside to wait. Not five minutes later a guy comes down. He’s got a cardboard box in his left hand.

What’s wrong?

I tell him. Then I also tell him I got AAA coming.

“My friend has a shop, he has a bike, he knows a bit…

I’m thinking that this resembles what happened in Virginia. It is take 2, the broken down bike scene with the AAA on the way. What cards should I play this time? Last time it was the hillbillies, the crazed wife and the good ending. I figured this time I’d try the AAA so I was polite trying to say AAA was on their way.

He was very eager to help. He pushed the bike two doors over where there was another shop that belonged to the first car sales shop where I had phoned from. Another guy came out. We took all the luggage off the bike and checked the battery etc. He had a charger and a tester. So we were able to determine that the battery indeed dead the bike at that point would still start with the charger.

The towing truck arrived on this.

The man who tried to help me was Jim. Jim said “well here’s my number, if you are stuck there is my wife and and my daughter, we could help you. And here is my friend’s number and address…” I got this but I am a bit frazzled. Got the piece of paper.

We got the bike on the tow truck. The driver said :
“this is an weird bike to tow” That did not make me feel good. He’s got these broken ties… he does not seem to be totally comfortable with tying up the bike. I was up there helping him.

on the tow truck

So where do you want to take this bike? He asks.

How the hell do I know? I thought. What I said was : well I was told there is a place over by Dewey road… don’t know the address… At this point Jim comes back with a paper. He’s got PCR performance as an option, also over on Dewey road and a Honda place and his friend’s shop which is “ over thatta way”, then you turn right and it’s a white brick building… (I thought this sort of directions existed only in the country, where the hillbillies live, not in the big city…) The driver got in the cab. I got in the cab with all my luggage, helmet, saddlebags… He says Ok, so where do we go?

-Didn’t AAA give you a referrals for recommended shops? I’m not from here, I don’t know anything or anyone or where a motorcycle shop is…

He started to drive. I look back, the bike is not tied down solid, it’s moving up and down right and left. Urh… I said. He looked back, stopped, got out of the cab, tightened the nylon straps and got back in… I’m wondering if the uncle of the friend who knows something about bikes might have been better than where this seemed to be headed.

-You must be a strong person he says, with a tattoo like this…So you’re just traveling, by yourself?
I gave him the story
-Wow that must be expensive…
-Not anymore expensive than a lot of stuff I said.
-Actually I envy you.
-Yeah I’ve heard that a lot on this trip.
-I wish I could do that.
I said some people think it’s crazy.
He said : “ what I’m doing is crazy”

the beeper on his communications system keeps beeping, then his cell rings, he looks strained. We drove down the road, turned around, he does not know where he’s going… the phone rings again, directions had finally arrived. They took us to the Honda place. The owner asked me what was wrong. I told him.

-Ah, well, I can’t really help you, I’m leaving for my vacations in an hour from now.

-my heart sank.

He picked up the phone and called the Suzuki dealership and handed me the phone. I told them the story.

-Ah, well, if it is what I think it is I won’t have the parts and blah, blah, blah….
I know the routine. They don’t want to get into this one. Old bike, parts hard to find… I tried to plead my case as I am starting to feel lightheaded with worry, things don’t feel so good and I am starting to feel trapped, in trouble.
-I’m from out of town, it’s Friday, I’m stuck here and I don’t know a soul around…

During that phone conversation, the drama continued outside.

The tow truck driver wants to dump me somewhere. There is a two car accident on the freeway and his boss is yelling at him to get over there. He starts giving me a hard time.

My pressure is rising.
I said : This is not how this works, this is an AAA call, you are supposed to take me somewhere where I can be helped.

-My boss is yelling at me, I could lose my job, I got two kids to feed. He pleads

My tone rises. -Well, put your boss on the phone and I’ll talk to him. If he gets the AAA business then he has to do things properly, not just leave me stranded somewhere else and cash in.

This went on for a few more back and forth tirades. He’s freaking out in fear of losing his job and I can see the panic in his face.

I got mad.

-Fine, just dump me here, take the fucking bike off the fucking truck and I’ll call AAA and see if you boss still has that fucking contract when I’m done! Take the fucking bike down and go goddam it!

I climbed inside the cab and started to remove my stuff from his truck. I was purple. I mean, you take a job, you do it right or don’t bother. At that point I would rather figure things out by myself than have to listen to a bunch of whiners scared of losing their jobs or too busy with their holiday plans. I’m in trouble I need help so you’re either going to help or get out of the way.

The tow truck driver said : Ok, ok, put your stuff back in the cab, I’ll take you somewhere…

We got back on the road, he got on the phone, called someone. he’s driving aimlessly while the person on the phone is trying to find a place to bring the bike. Finally he got an address. Jim’s garage on Norton, about 3 miles away.

I apologized for swearing at him, I said that I realize that his boss is putting the pressure on but they also have contractual responsibility with AAA. He said that they don’t often do bikes, so they don’t really know what to do. He says it’s complicated, that his boss actually tracks their every move via GPS and he gets chewed up daily, that he’s looking for another job, He’s over-tired, stressed out, he’s been working since 5 PM the previous day (it’s 4 PM by the time he tells me that, 11 hours on the job…)

As we make it to Jim”s garage. He says, “this is a ghetto”… and it does look like a hard place. We get to the garage. I took my stuff out of the cab as the driver went inside the shop. I walked in and the lady at the counter was really nice. Seemed to know what she was doing. I relaxed a bit.

They got the bike off the truck, the driver was hanging around, I thought that for someone who had to go so badly he took his sweet time… he was talking to the owner, asking about a job, I got it. Necessity.

I gave Jim the mechanic the story, the first breakdown what was done, what happened today He took the bike inside, he knows what he’s doing. I can tell. He checked the battery, the ground, the wires, the fuses, had the charger on, off, and it looks like it is the regulator that is gone. He calls for parts and as I wait I go outside and take some photos around the place to kill time.

But there is no luck. No one has it. The quickest time to get it : one week.

One week, I felt sick. I don’t want to be here. Of all places, I just want to be out of here. The shitty motel, the big city, the stressed out people, the ghetto….

He says he will try to figure it out, he’s not going to let me down. I feel I am in good hands but at the same time I have a bad feeling about the time factor & the part factor.

Jim and his wife took me to this fancy hotel. I figured that will be expensive… $80 bucks. I get to the counter and the price is $140 for one night. I almost fainted. I guess it was obvious as the lady tried to get me a better price. I can live a week on $140 this is one night… She gave me a deal. It’s between us she said.

Oh my God.

I’m hungry. I had a light breakfast today and it’s now past 7 PM. I’m starting to feel all of it. Riding all night and day the previous day, the late night and shitty motel, the breakdown, the stress with the towing, the stress with the parts with the threat of being stuck here for a week with no transportation, now this room is way over my budget… I feel tears, but I won’t.

I get in the room, it’s very nice. Very, very nice. I immediately went out for food, take care of basics. The restaurant right next to the hotel is Ihop.

I walk in : Grease City. The smell of deep frying is embedded in the walls. The kind of places I have avoided all along this trip. The kind of places that give people hear attacks. I ate quickly. Even the salad is inedible. The lettuce tastes like fridge smells and is almost soggy. The broccoli is over done the potatoes are deep fried and the chicken breasts are not too bad. Protein…

I then walked over to the Target to get a “by the minute” phone. I need to have something I can use. Got a good deal for 10 dollars.

I get back to the hotel, I figure I will look for parts, get the phone activated, email people, get some sort of plan going. All this hinges on the wi-fi.

There is free wi-fi so this should be easy.

It’s not.

No connection. I spend 40 minutes rebooting, trying networks, again and again. Nothing. I go to the font desk, they give me a gizmo to get connected… does not work. I go to the business suite where they have a computer. Does not connect to the internet. It’s their problem, but that does not help me. They send me across the way to Tim Hortons. Free wi-fi there. I go there. I get connected. Yeah, I thought. But things are not so good when for some cryptic reason I cannot access my server. No can do. Don’t ask me why… I am stuck. Can’t contact anyone. Can’t send emails. I feel despair.

I walk back to the hotel, get in my room. It’s very nice. But I so don’t want to be here. Really don’t want to be here. I have no bike. It could take a week to get parts, this room alone would cost me 1000 dollars if I have to stay here for 7 days. I can’t afford that. I feel trapped. I tried to call the mechanic, he said to call about the parts and his phone said : this phone is not set up for voice mail. Tried to call a friend. No answer. Tried to call the cell phone to get the cell registered. Can’t do an 800 from the room without paying. I can’t win today.

I don’t know how I’ll get over there tomorrow, it’s far from here, you can’t walk there. It’s Friday… everyone will be closing for the week end. I am so stressed out. Now I really am crying and I can’t stop it.. I’m tired. I can’t see my way out of this. I have to rely on these people I don’t know to pull off a miracle, and not too many people believe in miracles anymore, they believe things are hard and make it so. I’m trapped….

If only I could email friends, someone might have a brilliant idea, a part, a place for parts, a good word, a scent of an idea.. some sort of help… but I can’t. I’m alone out here surrounded with all this technology: phones, internet, email, wi fi, sattellite and none of it works.

I could so use a hug right now.

I got to go on believing that this Jim mechanic guy will actually make it work. Pull off a miracle and get me on my way sooner than later.

All night long…

July 30, 2010

Some days… Yesterday, Thursday (I write this for myself as I get confused at times) started quite well. I figured I did really good by dodging the previous night downpour and finding a nice, cheap motel for the night.

I woke up and checked for a coffee-breakfast place to go. Found a couple on google map and headed out. Now, this should have been the first clue but sometimes I’m clueless. I headed out and there were no such places on Main street. Feeling flexible, I opted for the “Bagel Cafe” to get some sort of food in me, there I met a couple of really fun ladies, and headed back out in the same direction.

Beautiful road, mountains, views, country setting, big horned cows, a donkey, winding road by a peaceful river… All the way to Woodstock NY.

signs not read

That is when I saw the road sign : 4 East. EAST!!??!! WHAT!?!

Green wheels

Yup, I had gone some 30 miles in the wrong direction.

“How in hell can you get so far without noticing!!!” I berated myself. I headed back in the opposite direction just feeling miffed.

One thing I don’t like is to thread backwards, go over road I’ve gone, do the same thing over and over, especially for no purpose. I’m thinking “waste of gas, waste of time” I had really wanted to cover a lot of ground that day and this was not the way to do it.

I finally got back to Rutland and back on track. I got to Glens Falls or somewhere in that vicinity and found a AAA office by accident which was great as their maps are the best, I got a few maps and directions to the closest Starbucks. I had been AAA Mapless since New Mexico. I have an atlas but it’s not very detailed. The AAA maps have the camping, the scenic routes and are just awesome. I then found the Starbucks : wi-fi and triple espresso. What can go wrong?

From there I hit the 87 North. I wanted to go up a little ways then go for the 8 through the Adirondacks. I saw exit 23, thought that was a nice number but elected to continue. I took the next exit… and there was nothing… no road numbers, a dead end on one side and the road I was on was East bound which was not the desired direction. Call on the GPS.

I found that one of the small roads was actually the 30 which was a road I had scoped and wanted to take. 30, trees, winding, nobody around, great… but it ended really quickly near a lake and roads that were really not much more than trails with a bit of blacktop on them. I went up this beautiful trail…

NY lake side road


This road took me to Route 3. 3?!?! Oh no!!! 3 was the road I had taken when I came up from Pennsylvania.. Did I say I don’t like to back track?

So I backtracked for hours. And I started to get a bit grumpy. Which means I am impatient. I just want to get past the deja ridden into new territory. So I rode aggressively, passed aggressively, gassed up aggressively, all aggressively the way to Lake Placid.

Got there around 6PM, hungry. Food.

I pulled over this place that I had noticed on the way down. BBQ, torches, outdoor tables, live music and a very festive look. Looks can be deceiving. I got off the bike felt slightly giddy. The smell of freshly BBQed food, the music… the place was laid out in long lines of pic-nic tables, people sitting close, chatting. I realized I was a bit lonely and I could really use some fun, conversation and laughs. The waitress gave me a table… All by myself… away from everyone, in the back. Bummer.

Then I ordered my food and hot tea. I got a tea bag dropped in lukewarm water. Yuk. This is the way to hate tea : dump a bag in tap water warm water, all you taste is the actual bag, not the tea leaves. The food was so-so. The live music : two guys playing to a beat box. White dudes singing Kansas City here I come. It was sad. Then I felt lonely and left.

In the Adirondacks it’s always cold. That is my experience. So I bundled up : hoddie, gore-tex shell, goggles. I decided I was going to ride as long as I could. Be careful what you wish for as you might just get it.

I rode for hours. I passed Cranberry lake and all the towns all the way past Carthage and finally into territory I had not seen before. There is still light but it’s getting close to night time.

I ride on. Get to Watertown. It’s dusk. Everyone is driving super fast. Gotta say, the worst driving, most threatening on a bike so far has been in the East. Everyone is in a hurry, extremely impatient and ready to take big chances passing on the right, not stopping at intersections and slaloming into traffic to get wherever they are going faster. At this point I’ve been on the bike since 10 AM minus breaks for lunch and dinner. I am not aggressive. I am just looking for highway signs and not to get lost.

It’s dark.

I ride.

Coming out of Watertown I rode through the most disgusting cloud of bugs ever…. Holy crap! I’ve never seem so many bugs, and there they were splattering all over everything. There are so many it looks like a snow storm except those are live bugs… triple YuK!.

I try to find a position on the bike where I am protected somewhat from the onslaught. Without a big windshield they land in my face. I crouch down, not much difference. I gotta focus on something else because I’m really getting grossed out. Frptptptptptp is the sound I hear. Thankfully they are small and fairly “dry” if you see what I mean…

A guy on a Ducati passes me at stupefying speed. He’s wearing only shorts and a t-shirt that is pretty much off his back with the wind and he zooms in the night followed closely by a souped up pick up truck barreling down as if it was a police chase.

It’s cold out. I got all this stuff on and I am cold. There are some air currents, some warm but most just freezing and damp as there are lakes and water all around the area. I think of this guy on the Ducati, he’s got to be cold or so full of hormones he doesn’t feel anything.

As I said before my instruments are dark. The lights died somewhere down the road. All I can see is a blue square light that tells me if the high beams are on and an orange number, currently 5 that tells me what gear I’m in. The gas gauge and the tach are unavailable for perusal.

I pulled in a gas station around 10 PM. Just to be sure I’m not going to run out of gas. I clean the googles… yuk.

Across the street is a motel. Should I pull in? Hmm… I’m still good to go a little longer… I looked at the motel again… looks expensive… Next town? I see pictures in my mind of nice cosy little rooms.. Lets go to the next town.

Next town. Check the GPS for motels. I think that was in Mexico NY. First one : the place had been bulldozed. Second one : the place is abandoned.

Stupid GPS. I turn it off. Frustrating. Geez, I am tired. I lay my head on the right handlebar, close my eyes. I feel my heart beat a bit too fast. I am tired. Breathe. Rest for a second. Or two. Cars zoom by. Open my eyes. I chance it on the GPS again for a third location… Motel located.

Kickstand up, engine switch on, start motor, look up, right, left, first gear and back track up to the 3rd motel.

I get to the third motel : there is nothing there. Sigh. OK…. lets get to the next town then and so much for GPSsing for lodging.

I went through 5 or 6 towns. Nothing. No motels.

I see a road sign : 104 West. Shit. I was on 3. Where is 3? where did that happen? Did I mess up again… Well West is the general direction so it’s not all bad… But where the hell am I?

At that point I am sitting at an intersection. I turned the engine off. the lights are on. It’s night. I hear a fan running in the barn across the road. Bugs and critters crittering in the night. I am a bit frazzled and I almost want to feel despair. I check the GPS yet again and everything shows to be East, North or 30 miles ahead. I want to stop now right here.

Start the engine, straighten up, go.

I pulled in a lonely gas station. Walked in there was 3 teenagers there. The smell of grease is overwhelming. I ask: :
“is there a motel around here”

the girl approaches the counter, another one is washing dishes, a guy is making food. She said : “a motel?” Turns to the other two : “where is the closest motel?” They confer. She turns to me :
“Well there is this place in Ontario” Ontario! Where the hell am I? I think.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere here” she adds.
|”hmm hmm, I noticed “ I said.
“go back up this way” she points west. “there is the xyz motel up that way”
“thanks” I said.

I walked out. There is a semi revving in the back of the parking lot. There are two gas pumps that are strangely close to the building. In the windows colorful neon ads for beer glow happily in the darkness, the kind of colors that attract you in the night. Bugs are flying around the parking lot lights. I walk to the bike and take the map out. Ontario… Oh, Ontario, NY. Get it. Like Paris, Berlin, Lebanon and all the others.

I get on the bike and leave, turn the corner go about 500 ft… Shit!!! the goggles. I stop. Fumble in the dark, are they still there, I had put them on the luggage on the back. It’s pitch black. I can’t see them. Damn! I turn around, looking at the road, trying to locate them in the glow of the headlight. Get back to the joint. I can’t see them anywhere on the ground. Maybe I left them inside… I walk back in.

Did you see some goggles? I ask the same girl. “You left with them” she said. Gngngng… I walk back out, look around drive the same way I did. Gone. They are gone.

Thank God, there are no more bugs because now I have to ride without the goggles. I guess they went to bed. I rode for what seemed like an eternity looking for a motel. I see one. Fair Haven Motel, I had seen a sign way up the road. I ride in the parking lot. Gravel, watch for big rocks and holes. There are no “Office” sign lit or no sign of life. A few parked cars. But it’s dead… I walk to a separate building and I saw this sign : “if you need help with the motel please call this number” Goody. I don’t have a phone.

I sat on the ground. My body feels like it’s going back and forth, vibrating from the road, the engine and the wind. I have the option to cry. I decided against it. Well. Fuck it. I can ride. I will find something and too bad for you dear motel owner, you lost a sale. I got back on the bike, started it and down the road we went decisively.

From time to time I turn on the GPS to see if there is anything around. Nothing. Rochester, here we come.

I found another motel, drove in the parking lot. Here too : no office. No lights. Just the rooms and some parked cars. Back on the road.

About 3 miles from there I see this place. Motel. Vacancy. In bright red colors. I pull over. Hard to tell if it’s good or bad but I really need to stop. The thought of riding until daylight and getting a noon motel and sleep the rest of the day crossed my mind… but I am virtually whirring. Turning into a machine myself. My arms are sore and I’m starting to lose coordination.

I walk in the office. A calendar with a bold lettered “Namaste” is hanging on the left wall. Last time I had a spiritual motel owner it was quite decent. I ring the bell which looks like an intercom system we had at home circa 1978, beige and brown and grimy. An east Indian guy in dirty basketball shorts and undershirt opens the door. I obviously woke him up.

“How much for a room, one person, one night, non-smoker?”

“$40”

“Deal”

“ fill out the form” he asks. There was no pen. The guy turned around opened the door and walk back inside the room behind the door, it looked to be in utter disarray. Dirty. He fumbled around and brought a black bic pen. It barely writes. I pay and get the key for room 107.

“Thank you and sorry for waking you up” I said He grumbled something and we headed each our separate ways back into bed.

I walked in the room and what greeted by what seemed to me as the most godawful smell I had ever smelled in a habitable building. Kind of like the smell of an abandoned barn, old sheets, humidity, and other unmentionables and unrecognizable malodorous stuff. As tired as I was I almost turned back. Holy shit.

Motel room


I looked at the beds, there were two. Which one? I pulled the sheets on the one I was going to take and as I did that I saw a silver fish like bug run away from the light. HOLY SHIT! Can you say RE-PUL-SION. I did not want to touch anything… I’m so tired… I pulled the sheets off the second bed and looked for runaway bugs of any sort… nothing. I smelled the pillows. Hmrgngn… GeeZus.

OK, there is a bath. Lets start with a bath. I pull the curtain and spiders are running around fleeing the invader (me). I washed the tub and ran the water. Got into the hot water. Oooooohhhh. This IS good. Water, the ultimate healer.

I was so dirty. Black grime is coming off of my neck and back. I guess 14 hours or so on the road will leave it’s mark. I stay there until the hum in my body goes away. I get into bed. I fall asleep.

Voices wake me up. It’s about 8:30 AM. A little more I think. Got up at 9:30. jumped in the shower. Packed up my stuff. I was lubing the chain and checking air pressure and oil level when I met Peter, a permanent resident there I believe. Was in the army, now retired, nice guy.

We chatted a little. The usual questions ; where you headin’, where you comin’ from, how long on the road? Then all the repulsion and the yukness washed off of me. The motel owner walked by, he said “Oh you look refreshed! Last night you were.. He makes a face, we laugh.

I’m always amazed at the power of the judgments we make, how they change our ability to perceive and receive and absorb what life brings to us. Yes, the room stank and was gross no doubt about that. I would never recommend this motel to anyone.

But what we deem acceptable is only decided by force of habit and of conditioning and by what we know to be what we can have. I mean if I was born in the slums in India, or in the forests, acceptable would be quite different.

On that morning it’s the genuine interest and good vibe of Peter that set me straight.

Last 3 days in images

July 29, 2010

Quebec garden


Quebec country dog in the city



Spelling change to fit-in in the French province


Leo is impatient to get going to Vermont on Monday...


Freshly cut hay in Vermont


a home in Vermont


A church in New Hampshire


lives lived and ended in New Hampshire


...all of this under the gaze of the tree in the cemetery who likely has seen many go by...


...but our road is not ended so ride we must.


so ride we did all the way to the Atlantic Ocean to see my sister


...and Leo got to hang out with the Christmas dog and the Seal.


...while Maxime's army watched over.


then we took off across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont


now we hang at the Roadway Inn in Rutland VT. It rains like mad.


Thunderstorms & all but we're safe, dry, and tomorrow is supposed to be sunny

W for Westward bound

July 28, 2010

the third coast. put my hands and feet in it… Now I turned around. Westward I go.

Pacific, Gulf, Atlantic.

The bike roars on the roads of the world. I smile. It’s hot but I cannot express grief that would be treason. So I gloriously sweat.

I am heading towards Vermont on the 202. Hopefully it’s a “character” road. Just had a double espresso and a lousy wrap.

It will storm tomorrow, it’s in the air, I’ll be the rain dodger again. I got a new raincoat (the third one… 3 is the charmed one right?)

Maybe I’ll miss it if I go far enough today.

gotta run, I mean, roll. With the punches, with the hills, with speed, with grace, with a smile on my face.

Love ya.

picture I just got from photographers on the Tail of the Dragon, see the rain...

Moto thoughts

July 25, 2010

It’s Saturday night. Fireworks roar in the distance as well as the Metal Fest going on. Today was gray. Rain threatening. I took it easy all morning then took the bike for its 3000 miles or so oil change. Remi the mechanic did the deed. Remi’s nickname is “Dieu” (God) because he is just brilliant at mechanics. Cars, bikes, electrical, mechanical, bodywork, paint, he can do it all. His dad and his grand father were mechanics, he was bred into the trade and he IS it.

I pulled into his driveway and he just had a small tool kit and went to work. All of it done easily and confidently. Oil, brakes, and a zillion questions from me. He was generous enough to indulge me with all the answers. I love the bike thing.

He has his own baby, a Suzuki GSXR 750, can’t remember what year. He brought it out to do an oil change on that bike as well since he was doing mine.

He offered me to try it. I was a bit awed, no, actually I was very much awed because this is the bike I was secretly dreaming of getting next but my riding friends would all tell me to get a 600, you know because I’m a girl, get something small…

This bike seemed so big… the whole front end looks like it’s twice as big as my bike. With a bigger, higher tank, spoilers, wind shield and the handlebars are lower too.

I sat on it. Wow…
I thought it would be too high with my maximum height of 5’4inches and 3/4… but I was surprised to see that it was actually about the same height as my Suzuki.

He said : “Start it” I did. Wow…
It’s a quieter sound but somehow much bigger. A growl, slightly ominous, dangerous. Wow…
I took off really gently. It’s got all this “wanna go” in there. It’s tight, powerful, precise. Wow…

Remi's Suzuki GSXR 750 that I tried...

I did not go very far or very fast. In my world, these things need to be respected and get to be known on a gradient. But I can see that I would like this. We could get close. Wow…

Back to reality, the bad news is that I need yet another front tire, I ‘ve had a shimmer in the front end that I didn’t like and that I’ve been noticing since going down a mountain in Virginia . Sometimes it gives a quick, short, mean little sort of twist that I don’t like either. I guess I did put 5000 miles on that tire. Hard to even conceive of that distance…

I wish I could solve my head like I can solve the bike stuff : throw money at it!

Being here in Montreal has been intense for my head. After rambling all over the continent without any sort of “reality” for almost 2 months I get here and folks have halters, bridles or plain rope that they’d like to put over my head. Bring me into the barn for the night, you know, for my safety. I buck and I want to bolt.

Is it so important? Maybe no. Maybe so.

Maybe it is the same everywhere. I just did not stay long enough anywhere on the road to feel the ties . Threads. Leashes. They turn into weave and fabric. Costumes, uniforms. Duty, roles and whole lives.

I ask myself what is real, what is the way, what is my way. Which way would I get the most out of this life? What is left of it. Which way would I be able to create the most and the best, music, sculpture. Which way would I contribute the most to the world? Which way is the joy to be found?

If I took all the mis-emotions out of this equation, what would be left true and standing? What would have the most substance?

For me hitting the Eastern part of the continent was like leaving the West or crossing the Continental Divide : destabilizing.

I guess it’s like when you are balancing to two wheels. You can balance beautifully for a few short seconds at a standstill. Then you must decide : it’s either you stop and put a foot down or you rev up and move forward otherwise the whole thing comes crashing down.

Tomorrow I’ll be revving up and moving forward again. Heading yet again East but it’s for a really good reason. I’ll get to spend a bit of time with my sister. We don’t see each other much. When we do it’s really special.

Oh my beautiful motorcycle. Take me, I’ll take you. We’ll take each other all over this land. Sometimes I think of the life of a motorcycle. This one in particular… Was left in a dark garage… tinkered with here and there but ultimately left immobile among the rusted bicyles, the garden tools, the unwanted junk and the spiders and their webs.

If a motorcycle has a motorcycle heart it will want to be out on the roads of this world for which it was designed. To be fast, furious, proud, roaring, to give it all. So I figure this bike is so grateful to have been given that chance… A second chance, just like me. Out of the dank garage. Out on the world. So it is giving me everything it’s steel heart has. So we keep going… The Gods are with us.

I love my bike…

Eva & Diane's home in Calixa Lavallee




green peppers... lots of them


echinacea


me and Eva


Lilly the cat


me and Diane

It’s midnight.

The owl sang. My mom has a bird clock. Every hour a different bird sings to mark the passage of time. At midnight it’s the owl. Just had a bath. It is almost strange to be in an known place, with known faces, have home made breakfast, lunch and dinner and be able to talk about shared stories and history. It was also strange not to put hundreds of miles behind me, to just stick around.

Montreal. I arrived Monday, mid afternoon. Montreal is for me a place of ambivalence. I left 21 years ago with a strong desire to be gone. Never felt at home here, never fit in, never found a place where I belonged or could put roots in without wilting. It is also a place of great vibrancy, creativity, artistry and energy. It is a place I came back to from time to time to be wowed and also to be crushed like a meaningless bug.

I am at my mom’s home. Mom is doing better. Last time I saw her she had just been through the harrowing experience of getting a full knee replacement and it had hurt to see her so fragile, reduced and almost transparent. She is doing much better now, stronger, more like herself, she stands tall. I love her. We’ve had our differences, our fights. But the more I go the more I see a lot of what is in me in her. What I thought would be frowned upon and deemed crazy, she gets it. My wish for her is that she would not have so many regrets as she is and has been formidable in her life. The strength she showed, the three jobs to raise us decently, the sacrifices, the hopes she had for a certain kind of life that were reduced to rubble by the happening of life.

Choices, roads and paths. We pick a direction, east, north, west, south and cross our fingers hoping the scenery will be rewarding, the adventures aplenty and the wishes for love realized. Then life unfolds, the cards are distributed and we tense up or try not to grin too wide

Tomorrow I’ll see one of my favorite people in this universe. Eva, she’s it. She is bright, brave, bold, generous to no end, hard working, a good cook, an amazing gardener, She is gentle as a breeze, strong as an oak, always there. Steady. Loving. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to tell her some tales, show her the bike, look in her eyes and be granted one more chance to see them up close. She too is formidable.

I am here, was from here, now I am from somewhere else, I speak another tongue. I have an accent. I search my words and am moved by the music of the french conversations in the cafes and on the street. I am repulsed by the some phrases, memories and attitudes.

Ambivalence, duality.

I am going gingerly, small steps. I contacted a few people today, via Facebook which gives me another small delay, time to get ready.

Be true. Just be true.

Cranberry rain

July 19, 2010

Cranberry Lake.

That is where I stopped last night. I looked at the skies and thought “it’s not going to rain tonight” My half moon was up in the sky, what could go wrong?

I picked a camping spot close to the bathroom, I had a thought about it being at the bottom of a hill, but I took the spot also because there was real “forest floor” to sleep on as opposed to sleeping on the “tent pads” they have on state campgrounds. It looks clean, it is easy to keep clean, but man, sleeping on most of those is like sleeping on a hard cement floor which means garanteed sore back and neck in the AM. The spot I picked also looked like a place where water would pool but the thick carpet of leaves and the soft ground meant a nice sleep, and it won’t rain anyways.

I set up the tent almost in the dark, got the air mattress, sleeping bag, jacket, helmet and a couple more things in the tent. The mosquitoes were ravenous. They were buzzing all around me, I laughed as I imagined their disappointment working so hard to poke through the leather pants and never getting any blood, but they sure were getting to my head… I’m still scratching this morning.

When I laid down the softness of the ground was so nice. Probably the best camping ground of the whole trip. I gave the moon a last look and went to sleep.

Plink, plunk, plicidiplic…. …hmmm… gnmmhmm… Ploc, plic, plink, plunk.. .. .. hm? …rain!…. I woke up. Damn. Ok well it’s only a few drops, a morning mini shower, it will go away… zzzz….

KABLAMMMM! I awoke. Thunder. Plicidiplicidiplic… Heavy rain. That would be… Thundershower. Crap. I looked around the tent. Everything looked dry, I closed my eyes again. Well it’s a downpour, I’d probably get more stuff soaked trying to pack now… zzzzzz….

I woke up a little while later. I was dry. I looked around. Lifted my waterproof bag… Oh Shit! There is a gigantic puddle inside the tent. Damn! I started to survey what was wet and what wasn’t. Thankfully my sleeping bag only had a couple of damp spots on it. But my book was half soaked. I gotta say that book is called “the Disappearance of the Universe” and ever since I left it is the single thing that got soaked more times than anything else! It is definitely trying to disappear…

The rain is still falling. I got to figure out a strategy to get the least amount of stuff wet. Fill up the water proof back, pack everything inside the tent then load up the bike and use the bike cover to cover what needed to be protected before it was safely stowed in the saddle bags.

But in my bad luck I was lucky as the puddle was contained by a depression in the ground which stopped the water from seeping all over my jacket, sleeping bag and the rest of it. I laughed.

On the road again. Stopped for breakfast. I realized that it is finally easy to get toast and eggs without all sorts of grease soaked unmentionable side dishes and that the bread was edible again. North. I definitely have arrived in the North.

It has started to look like Quebec. The size of the trees, the type of trees. The coolness in the air. Last night I actually had to wear my hoodie under my leather jacket, then later put on the rain coat over the jacket and change into my leather pants which was done artfully on the side of the highway. Yep, pants down, in my underwear on a NY roadside. No one got to see anything as no cars went by. That is like the famous : if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there does it make a sound? Now we can say : if a woman pulls off her pants off on the side of a highway and no one is there is it still indecent?

The things you do on a road trip. The necessity level always supersede the propriety level.

I arrive in Lake Placid, I walked in a cafe. Lake Placid is kind of like Whistler. It is a fancy shmancy “sporting” place for the well to do.

I just came out of the woods and when I walked into the cafe all heads came up with expressions between curiosity and disapproval. Granted I was wearing the rain gear, which is nothing to show in a Vogue Magazine fashion spread (ugly dark green, pants go up under my chest, it’s all a bit too big, my hair is a mess…. ) I probably look like a mad woman… but a smiley one so I got espresso and wi-fi which is what I was looking for.

In a few hours I will be in Montreal. Wild, this is kind of the half way point. I checked my mileage and I was at 8100 miles yesterday. ! I never knew I would go so far. It’s becoming a way of life.

So Montreal. Here I come. See what being there feelsl like.

photo taken by Randy Dorman in Nashville, feel the heat!

Since Friday…

July 18, 2010

New York state

Friday I left Hagerstown around 10 AM. I set out on route 11 with the intention of covering a lot of miles. North East. I went all day, going steady, feeling really good. I was amazed to feel so good as I only had 4 hours of sleep. I knew it was going to catch up at some point but for the moment all was good.

It was blistering hot and humid. I kept my jacket on as my arms and back were pretty deeply burned from waiting for hours in the sun the previous day. Found breakfast and gas in a very small town near the PA Turnpike. There I met this other rider, don’t know his name, I had asked the waitress about roads and she then asked a customer at the counter and he then proceeded to get his atlas and write down all the roads for me to take…

It was an interesting exchange. We did not really talk but he got this whole route figured out and when I was ready to leave, he offered to guide me to the road in question as he was going in that direction. I said sure and he got on his Harley and I followed him for a good hour through incredibly scenic back roads in Pennsylvania. At one crossroads we said goodbye, ride safe and went our separate ways.

Hours later I finally stopped for coffee. I was so hot by then, thunderstorms were threatening and the humidity was way high. I sat down to write in another Starbucks I think this was in Bloomsville, but honestly I am not sure. There has been so many names… some of the places just do not stick in my mind…

As I was sitting there the thunderstorm exploded and I was sure glad to be indoors… dry and able to watch all that water come down without being in it.

A little girl came by, maybe 7 or 8 and she said with a big smile : “ I love your tattoo!”. Then I met the most amazing couple.. Patty and Jim Slagle. I was looking at maps on the laptop so they started tell me about roads and places to see. It was as if I had known them forever. I told them about my trip, the breakdown episode in Hagerstown and a bunch more. They told me of their trips, the fact that Jim’s nickname is “a friend a minute” as he meets people everywhere and Patty’s fight and victory over cancer. They’ve been married 40 years…. They were like family.

With the Slagles

They left after a while and when I walked to the bike they had tucked a bottle of flavored water on the bike, a nice, sweet last goodbye.

I headed back on the road.

At one point I pulled into a Sheetz store to fill up. There I met Tom. He had a 1974 green Honda motorcycle, a 500 CC (don’t know which model) I had noticed the bikeit when I pulled in.

He was standing not far from my bike and said : Nice rig. We chatted some. He was taciturn. Quiet, almost smoldering in a quiet way. “People around here..” his voice trails off. He looks in the distance as he speaks. I guess he is in his mid-twenties but he seemed disillusioned like a man in his fifties. He works at a plastics factory. Supervisor.

I noticed this thing in the South or in the country, many speak in a slow sort of way. As if they don’t really want to speak or give too much away. They don’t want to be rushed. So you wait. You be patient and then they will reward you with the showing of their hearts, colors, then give you the information you were looking for and more. But it takes time. You must make time. Stop it, then allow it to bloom.

We talked bikes for a while then I headed back out. A few miles down the road I saw him on my tail. His bike was his rebellion. It was old, not running too good he had told me. The back wheel wobbled, out of balance. He had no helmet, a pair of black goggles and the wind was almost taking his T-shirt off his back. At one point he sped past me, flooring it, defiantly. I caught up, easily. He had mentioned something to the effect that his bike could probably not compete with mine. He had to prove it.

We rode together for about 10 miles. Then he waved, turned off and I gave him a peace sign and continued on.

I got into the town of Wisconsin. I was starved, I had no idea what time it was, I saw a joint with a motorbike in the front and some of the usual neon beer signs. I pulled over.

I took a seat at the bar. There was a pretty blonde behind the counter and a woman who looked like Calamity Jane in the TV series Deadwood. She had the same voice, same drunk intonation. It was uncanny. The same questions, where are you from where are you going, how long have you been gone. The women were tickled pink. The owner showed up, we talked roads and he brought out a map, we’re all laughing, having a great time. I am amazed to see that I have actually almost crossed the whole state today on my 4 hr sleep.

Peggy, (Calamity Jane) paid for my dinner “Put it on my tab!” she said to the barmaid. incredible… they sent me on my way with emails and phone numbers “ and call us if you get lost or if you need anything!” as they had sent me on the road to Tunkhannock where I should be able to find an affordable hotel.

It’s almost night. I made my way to Tunkhannock, there are fireflies out. I never sped up past a firefly before and that is like passing shooting stars, their speed and my speed combined. I love it.

The Prince Hotel, oldest Hotel still standing on the East Coast

I am in the middle of mountains, blue and pink skies and a river meanders to my right. It’s so beautiful. I think of my blessings. I pass homes and they all have these candle like lights in the windows. I wonder what that means?

When I make it to Tunkhannock as the last light just disappears from the sky. I park in the back of the Prince Hotel. The old town looks magical somehow. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, but I feel like I’ve landed in some sort of ethereal place.

I walk in, ask how much for the room, it’s affordable, I say yes. The lady there tells me this is the oldest hotel on the East Coast, lots of history. Even stories of a home that was built for Marie Antoinette nearby. Of course she never made it as she lost her head first but I can almost feel ghost walking about the place.

Doing laundry. How old is this sign?

The next day besides doing my laundry I spent my day sleeping. The fatigue had caught up. I went to the Di Caprio movie “Inception” a film about dreams and reality, parallel lives into dream worlds all of our own. Strangely appropriate as these days nothing is as solid and “real” as it should be.

Reality, what we create, agree to, what we play, what we are. Meaning. Trajectory. Intentions and fate. I still question what it is that I will do when this is all over.

I am asked why this trip. I say: I wanted to ride. Just ride. Be and ride. Shed the ties, my lies, and leave the endless circle that my life had become. I wanted to go South, I was called south. So I went. It made me see the connection with my childhood dream of walking to the Far West of riding a motorcycle.

Now I’ve come all the way east. When I get back to the West that will make a full circle. Yes, ironically, another circle.

Gotta go.

Tunkhannock street

Drama Southern style continued from last post…

it’s almost 4 AM. I am realizing how my stress won’t show up overtly instead it will be something like not being able to sleep until the wee hours that is the telltale sign.

Today I’ve been in my boots for 17 hours. I take them off. My back and arms are seriously sunburned. I did put sunscreen but you sweat so much in these temperatures it just gets all washed off and you burn. I keep going to the window to look at the bike out there.

the bike on the trailer from room 203

I did not panic, freak or cry despite the incredibly intense nature of the day. The thought of losing control over the bike, this crazed woman, these hillbilly dudes.

You meet people, you don’t know them, but then who do you really ever know? I caught a few guilty glances from Dave yesterday that were not totally reassuring, but Dany always seemed rock solid, true blue kind of guy so I humored Dave but paid attention to Dany.

If Canada and the USA are similar, geographically and somewhat culturally, there is a fundamental deep divide between the two countries, especially out here in the South.

There is a “sinful” slant to everything. I guess since the dogma says we’re born sinners we gotta find sin in everything… Plus, this huge divide between men and women. Dany kept saying “ I don’t mean to insult you, be sexist or misogynistic…..as “women usually dont”… He was genuinely awed by the fact of my being there and having what I have done. But the wife saw my presence as something completely unacceptable.

So, yes, you wanna know what happened…

I finally went to sleep around 4 AM. I woke up around 8 AM. I tried to sleep some more, then the phone rang around 8:30.

– Hello?

It’s Dany.

– I’m down there with the bike. I will need the parts and tools. There is no rush, take your time.

-Ok I’ll bring them right away.

-Take your time…

I hang up. Jump in my pants, all my shirts are “used” I was due for laundy two days ago and I’ve worn all of them multiple days in the heat. I just pick one and slip it on. I grab the tools, the parts, the room key and head outside. When I open the door I am greeted by a blast of hot humid air.

-Good morning.
-Ha! you scared me to death!

-Sorry. Here are the tools.

-I’m going over everything, it was getting late and dark (and a few beers had been consumed) last night… Might have missed something.

-I should go catch breakfast, (there was free “continental” breakfast in the lobby) I’ll be right back.

-No worries, take your time.
He looks rested, poised and calm. He’s on a mission.

I go inside and get cereal, english muffin and orange juice. Nothing memorable but it’s there and it’s free.

I eat, then go back outside to see how things were going. Dany has the fuse box opened, a bunch of wires out and he’s testing every one of them. Yesterday he found two wires completely loose. He was testing those, had the clutch lever engaged with a zip tie and suddenly the starter turned over…

Life. Back to life. I never thought so but that starter sound was so sweet to my ears.

It wasn’t the starter switch, it was a burnt ground wire, a metled down battery post and a disconnected starter wire. All of this at once. And all of this fixed all at once.

Dany smiles. He’s the quiet, persistent type and he probably had dreams about this all night long. He was determined and he did it.

I got giddy like a school girl. He said :
-I’m going to clean all these wires and the tape and shrink wrap them so it stays as dry as possible.

-Thank you so much!

-Oh don’t thank me, I wanted to have you on your way like this last night, I apologize.

-You apologize too much. I am incredibly grateful for your help. You did not have to do all this. And really, if I would have had to pay shop time for this sort of thing…

-Well, what goes around comes around… and I hope that the next time I am stranded someone will stop like this and help me. It’s a karma thing…

I went up to pack up all my bags, I was waiting to see if I was going to need another night at this Motel 8, it was around 10 AM. I was going to be on my way. Dave arrived with the ramp to get the bike off the trailer. I was so relieved to see those nylon straps removed from the bike and see the bike rolled off this thing. I said hi to Dave and he grunted back. He looked beat. I guess I would too if I was in his shoes.

Oh my. I’m all set. The bike runs really nicely. Full power. Now I know to check the battery terminals from time to time to look for any loose connections. The price of an education. But when I think about it, these two guys stopped to help me when no one else would. They brought a trailer to take the bike, loaded the bike on it, bought me dinner, offered me a place to stay, bought a brand new battery and did not ask me for anything, Dany paid for my hotel room, He persisted and fixed my bike putting all is heart and will into it and did not ask for a penny. They saved me hundreds of dollars… Both missed a part of their work day to see me on my way… Dany had a victorious smile on his face, as victorious as Dany would allow it to show.

Unbelievable.

The crazed wife? Well, that was to make a story to tell I guess. Holy cow, that got really unreal and too serious there. Men and women, religion, pent up anger, booze, wow..

So right now I am somewhere in Pennsylvania. It’s been in the 90’s today. A fellow biker showed me the way up to route 15, that will take me along the river towards the North. I am sitting in yet another Starbucks (for the wi-fi) cooling off with A/C as a massive thunderstorm just hit.

the thunderstorm from the Starbucks window, I'm dry.

Dodged that one too.

The bike is running great. I can feel the difference. Gotta always be paying attention to these signs. Vehicles that love you always give you signs, then you gotta love them back.

Me? well, I am tired, not much sleep last night, but I’m good. Sometimes I feel I am in the hands of the Gods. It makes me wonder… as if I was out there to sow some sort of seeds, to appear in people’s lives and bring them something, a message of sorts or be a catalyst…

As if in this whimsical roaming of roads across this continent I fulfill some sort of job in a larger web of happenings, lives and paths.

I am in love with life right now. I feel I have no right to ever complain again. I am blessed beyond belief.