August 31, 2010

Still in Altadena,

I have to stick around to take care of some music business… need to listen to mixes of songs of my band Leoffenders until the week-end. that means that I have to be close to an actual studio with good audio monitors, the notebook does not cut it that way…

It is a bit weird to have to stay put… “I wanna go!” say the Suzuki, Leo and my heart of hearts. But there is a duty, a responsibility for that project we started back in April in Montreal. (you can check Leoffenders at and on MySpace)

At the same time being here is really good. The people here are absolutely amazing. Supportive. Dynamic. This place has been so welcoming to me, my music, my crazy ideas… As if all this wanderlust is normal, acceptable. hmm hmm…

So, today I am about to go to the beach. Malibu. Later tonight I’ll listen to the first mixes. Tomorrow, install those new turn signals… they are sexy! glistening orange and black…

To signal brightly in the depth of the night, while the rain falls, in the fog or the blinding light of the southern sun. This is good.

Duane who organized the show last Saturday asked me to post the advert for the concert so here it is, followed by comments from the rapt audience…

What a pleasure it was to enjoy your show last night. …I thought you were fabulous and your songs were very meaningful and powerful. CC

What a great concert!  I have never seen anyone so happy to perform and so appreciative of acknowledgement.  DP

Your music was amazing last night. You became an Other, a blessed soul whose infinite maelstrom touched every one of us there. You have a powerful and rare gift: the ability to align and ready our focus, to channel the chaos, and to attach words to the passions and fears and hopes deep within us all. I awoke this morning in awe of the inspiration you shared with us, and I’m so very grateful your life has brought you here, to our little home in the mountains. And wherever your path leads, know that I am just one, amongst many others, wishing you love and a blessed journey. MM

I had no idea that I would be touched by your music so much. All of your songs were beautiful and some were very amazing and I instantly loved your songs. AG

Danielle, you made our Coffee Gallery come alive with your beautiful singing and playing. Thank you, GL

We’re still breathless after your show at the Coffee Gallery.

Thank you for sharing your emotions, laughter, love, and your journey. We are ALL discovering a bit more of ourselves in your music and as you move on, we can see more in the stories than just “the Road.” SS

Loved seeing you the other night… You shine; you thrive; you soak it all in; you give everything. It was beautiful. DD

Wow. Thank you. I have been moved to tears by some of the letters I got from the people who were there. As much as they tell me I gave them, they gave back to me.

In this ungrateful music industry one can be disheartened totally and discouraged to even try… That night was such a validation… Thank you to all of you.

OK, now I’m going. Maaaaalibu!


Blissfully tired

August 29, 2010

I stayed up late.

I was so stirred up, excited, exhilarated, fulfilled, happy.

Memories of strings bouncing, buzzing, ringing, singing between my fingers, the grooves, the sounds, Let my voice escape the bounds of normal speech and allow it to fly up into notes, spaces and rhythms. Travel on the trace, not a path or a road but the trace of the lyrics, the words, the pictures they convey and just go. Full throttle.

I felt everyone connecting. The individualities melding into a wheel of energy. We’re all there dreaming, flying, escaping the bounds that ties us to this life and its rules.

I feel so damned lucky. As I wallow in this ultimate indulgence of playing my own songs, exclaim out loud with my words my passions and loves and fears and fights… I thank everyone for being there. For allowing me to exist in this incarnation for those sacred, precious minutes.

The show ends and no one leaves. We talk. We keep this all alive a little longer. It’s Saturday night the 28th of August, the night is cool and the hearts are warm. The glow of the lighting sows a sort of magic spell that wraps itself around every being in that room.

One of the two guitars I was playing is the “house guitar” Duane told us that they “change one string a year on it”. The front of it is covered in autographs. If a guitar could speak… the stories, the jams and shows this instrument has been through. The rough hands, the gentle delicate ones. The shy ones and the brash ones. So we connected and communed and music we made.

So, here I am. Beautifully tired this morning. Slow start, Sunday kind of start. It’s practically cold out there at 71 degrees after the 100 + we had last week. Fall is lurking, there is not denying it. The days have noticeably shortened and the cool whisper of the wind talks of red, yellow and brown falling leaves. A cycle. Inexorable motion.

I sit quietly. In this calm moment. Being here, slow heart beat. The voices fill the air, Sunday kind of voices. Gentle, smiling. No rush. It’s the week end.

I cleaned the bike a bit more this morning. My brave machine. I had a look at the saddle bags. In there I found maps of Wyoming, Utah, Bryce Canyon, South Dakota, the Kodakchrome basin state park. Memories of moons, eroded mesas, double rainbows, angry Gods and their thunderstorms, endless horizon of heartbreaking tender greens and gold, the pounding sun. I could almost cry.

That I had the privilege of being a coursing electron in the midst of this. To have had the joy of being beaten by the winds. To have been humbled by the fire of the desert. To have been able to wake up in the middle of the night, open my eyes and see an infinity of stars filling the skies.

To find myself in the center. Between humans and nature. Slalom between the world of men and the world of nature. One so transient and demanding the other infinitely patient yet indifferent, brutal.

So yes, I sit here. Deep breath.

“What next” does not matter right now. I sense I have to process, reflect. Open up the portal in my mind where the knowingness will flow from. I’ll have a look at the map, just a look. No decisions. There is an almost inaudible whisper in my ear, it’s the road, I know. But there will be a few more days here in Altadena.

the artist with her van

Altadena, California. Even your spell checker does not recognize the name. The Coffee Gallery is in the heart of that community. 2029 Lake Avenue.

I landed there the first time as a visitor from out of town with my bro Phil. I liked it right away and the place and it’s people loved me back right away. They were ready to adopt me right then and there but I had a trip to make… That was back in June.

The artist is Donna. Donna is a painter, botanist, a music lover, a computer geek, a multi-media multi-tasker. She sparkles. I just want to hug her. She radiates love. She tunes in with intensity. Speaks with passion, her eyes hooking into yours.


Leo is not really watching the show but enjoying himself with conversation

This is the sort of place that embodies the idea of the “cool” California, not the silicon valley or Hollywood or the hard core toughness and roughness of some hoods. It’s an amalgam souls bound on creating.

There is music, poetry, comedy, spoken word, a small and a big stage, lots of AC outlets for all the laptoppers. Julie owns the joint. Loves the joint. Oozes the joint. Her big blue eyes, you want to drink them in.

Duane manages the acts and the action. He created a hub with his passion for music and for community. When he speaks he’ll close his eyes as if to see you and his ideas better. Duane is the one who invited back here to play a show.


Forrest. Forrest Robinson hangs at the Gallery. He usually has headphones or earbuds in. He is a drummer. Tall, Strong, Dreadlocks. Yesterday he played me some of his music. He is VERY talented. Brilliant. He says he started playing drums at 4. At 2 he was getting it going with pots and pans. Forrest will play with me tonight. I am so honored.


Eagle Rock, Cycle Depot.

Is where I spent most of my time this week. This is where the motorcycle shop is. I would recommend this place to anyone who need help fixin’ their rides…

Elden, he is the service manager.

Daniel worked on my bike for three days.

Jill works a the shop, she is in high school, she is funny…

Brian and Jeff who is the one to figure out the rear brakes seizures

Arturo, who did not want me to take pictures... I think Arturo is very LA, he says he is not...

August 28th… I woke up refreshed. 10 AM or so. It is cool out. Almost Vancouver like. Last few days I was waking up around 6 AM with the heat wave. Cooked up. Not today. I have to go back to the bike repair shop as they realized they over-charged me. So I get on the bike and get going. Zipped up. Almost cold. There is fog lingering on the hills. It feels like being between worlds. The magic from the hills and the human madness of LA side by side as I speed down the freeway.

You can’t not speed. You’ll endanger yourself. The pulse is a high 145 BPM around here. Not slouching. Saturday August 28th. Gee. August 28, 2010.

Last night I had an unexpected conversation. This man came to me and asked me ” What is your spirituality?” I wondered for a second if I should engage on that path. I did. This morning he emailed me this:


It was fascinating talking with you. It was surreal listening to you talk. I am so glad I asked about your spirituality.”

Souls… Questions… light or dark. Answers… …..

Well gotta run. Got a show to prepare. Yay.

Heat, seizures. Electrons.

August 27, 2010

A heat wave.

The day after I got my bike back from the tune up I headed out to check out this salvage yard parts place in Burbank. Since Monday we are in the middle of a heat wave. Everyone tells me how nice it was (before I got here.. Ha!)

On my way to Burbank the brakes seized up again. Just coming off the freeway, Bwwwwaahhhh… Stuck. I managed to get the bike up on the sidewalk and out of the way.

even the camera took a picture that looks melted by the heat... the suzuki on the sidewalk.

It’s over a 100 degrees. I actually don’t really care to know how much over 100. I just know that I am not feeling too good. My heart is pounding, my fingers tingling, I’m dizzy. I don’t really want to leave the bike alone while I wait for help from the Cycle Depot guys. People always tell you how terrible LA is with theft and all… “don’t leave anything” so I crouched down under the only shade there was under a short palm tree and some flowers. about 50 feet from the bike.

I got up to go get something on the bike and I fell right back down three steps away. I almost passed out. I feel panicked. Not good.

Brian from Cycle Depot showed up with some tools, he did what I had done in Salt Lake: he took out the brake pads from the caliper. I have to get to the motorcycle parts place but I am just fried. I do feel literally fried. I ‘m thinking it’s the beginning of heat stroke. Brian says : you don’t look so good. I said “ I’m shot, feels like I am going to pass out. So he went and got me water and Gatorade. A block away there is a McDonald and he took my bike there, as I was in no shape to ride, and I walked there slowly drinking the Gatorade.

Wow, this happened fast. I guess, sleeping in the tent under the hot sun started the dehydration process, then riding with helmet, jacket and long pants, finished it.

The Gatorade worked wonders. I felt my body reviving. Brian was my savior today.

We sat and chatted there for a good 20 minutes. A guy sitting next to us could not help himself and intervene in our motorcycle conversation.

“Motorcycles, yeah, I used to ride them all the time, they are dangerous, it’s full of idiots out there… they don’t see you. I decided not to ride them anymore.” Brian and I were just talking about how much we love to ride. The guy did this a few times, re-iterating the cons of motorcycle riding. I finally said : “ Well it’s a choice and we still have the freedom to make that choice or not.”

Choices. What you do. How you react. What you think. How you decide to handle things.

To try to prevent duress at any cost means that you’ll be only thinking of avoiding life.

That was Wednesday.

By Wednesday night I had spent $400 on the bike.

And by this point in time I’m tired. My body is reverberating heat, fatigue. I am anxious. Stressed. All this money. It highlights the fact that I don’t want to stop.

Tujunga sunset

I don’t want money to make me fear and back off but it’s hard cold reality stares at me, unavoidable and it forces me to stare back . I can’t reel. Can’t falter. Must move forward.

“Calme, droit et en avant”
Calmness, rectitude and forward motion : the basic tenets of riding horses. This is what I must strive to be, do, have.

By Thursday night the bike’s bill is up to a thousand dollars : new tires, chain, sprockets, and … yeah… brakes again. We also realized that the tail light and brake light do not work. So now I have to buy turn signals because if they remove the ones that are on there now to access the tail piece, they will crumble, they are that old and cracked. Another expense.

It’s got to be done. No doubt about it. It’s my life at stake. I know it.

I spend the day at the bike shop. These guys are pretty cool. There is a whole world going on there. Their world. they work hard.

6 PM. I was supposed to go rehearse with Forrest at 3 PM, Forrest Robinson is a very, very gifted percussionist who wants to share the music with me. What a gift. I called him around 4… still working on the bike…

By the time I get there, it’s almost 7. But somehow it just works. He is great. He catches on my quirky music stuff without lifting an eyebrow. The grooves are great and I feel ever so lucky. We got a good set of 10 songs ready for the show. Awesome. My spirits are lifted. It all makes sense.

Last night was short, antsy and very hot, I am tired. Gotta get some rest. I got on the freeway but somehow missed the exit and found myself heading south towards the lights of LA on the 2. They appeared in the distance. Mesmerized by the light show, the speed, the cooled air. With those new tires, chain, sprockets, tune up… the bike is flying. I am smiling. Oh yeah. the beauty. the whimsy of a missed exit. Life. I turn around, zip back up speeding along a Porsche back to my missed exit, God that feels good.

I am a bike junkie. I need my shot of adrenaline and gasoline induced high and endless miles as often as I can. I let out a “Whoo hoo!” it feels so good. Don’t worry about the money. It’s only money. This is worth everything. The music was worth everything. The feeling of just being here. So alive is worth everything.

The night was cooler and so was the morning. Last night we sprayed ant stuff (read poison…) around the tent last night and I slept ant free. Yeah.

Friday AM.

Already. Show tomorrow. Travel insurance expires today. Got that handled. Got a radio interview with Winnipeg for Leoffenders’ video release. We started and there was too much noise for them so I had to let them go without me. Oh well… The bike is at the shop hopefully for the last visit for a while. Brake work and that tail light repair. I just caught up with emails and messages. Gotta write and do laundry. Then maybe another rehearsal later today if everything and everyone lines up.

A junction is coming.

A friend in Vancouver emailed to say that someone would buy my 94 Skylark up there…. George’s car…

That is a big one… Selling the car means a whole lot more than just selling the car. It means another letting go, a shedding, a moving on… a big one. A really big one. Will think on it a little more, but in all honesty, it’s already all thought out.

Last night I was discussing with Duane about the possibilities. About the vision. About the nature of all this life and choices and open roads. About being human and choosing to be either a creator of your own reality or a consumer of otherness.

The junction. The junction is about that choice. How deep, how true, how brave can I be?

I find that oddly, this crazy decision I made to follow the call : “Go South” to do it without plans has brought me closer to my own truth than anything else I’ve ever endeavored to achieve. And oddly, I find that I have never been so much “in the right place at the right time” than I ever have been. Intensely purposeful in a completely unplanned way. A bit of a paradox.

Yesterday friend David wrote something to me that brought me to tears :

“Getting to where you are at on your magnificent journey at this time of year as summer comes to a close and ‘that weather’ begins to return might push you to consider endings.  Consider rather cycles that come around and around.  Seasons set the rhythm of our souls.  When I used to walk to work I was in touch with the seasons.  It is harder now.  You have been living them.  Maybe my dear Savage is actually like and electron, if you stop its motion, it ceases to be one!  It ceases to be.  I think you are beginning to articulate what is the bliss for your heart in your reflections.  Always finid time to reflect.”

An electron.

Maybe that is the “speck” I was talking about when I was flying through the long stretches of New Mexico.

Lets electronize some more then.

Bikeness, knowingness.

August 25, 2010


I camped under the moon among crickets. I am crashing a friend’s yard, where I set up my tent for the next few days.

My only gripe : ants.

I suddenly remembered, there are lots and lots and lots of ants in Southern California. And. I have a thing about ants… I think I was eaten by red ants in a past life…. So it is a bit of a test for me to just look at the ground. I got on the bike yesterday morning and they were running ALL over the bike… Arghh… They go everywhere… They are innumerable…. Argh…. Now I am sitting here and it feels like they are crawling all over me… I look and there’s none, but can’t help it.

Other than that it’s good. I had oatmeal for breakfast for the last two days instead of some “Factor X” breakfast in a roadside eatery. Factor X like the unknown factor of an algebra equation.
(a + b) =a 483756 – X% + regional factor = a + b > X < he goodness of the food for breakfast.

(my apologies for all the mathematicians reading this equation as they probably feel pain reading it, like I feel pain when hear bad musical notes)

The bike. Well, 12 thousand miles plus at this point. i gotta compiles my mileage for exact numbers. Yesterday we went for a bike “physical” and my baby really needed love. First the tune up. New oil, new plugs, a battery check that revealed that half of the cells were half empty, which corroborated my feelings lately about sensing that the electrical was not quite up to par. (I'm really starting to KNOW this bike)

Then my rear brakes situation. Why did they seize? A few things were funky : the rear hydraulic brake line was pinched so that could have caused the problem, the pedal was not playing freely which could have caused the problem. The piston in the caliper was not in a proper angle, which could have caused the problem. So what caused the brakes to seize? We'll never know for sure, but I got to keep an eye on this just in case it's something else.

The tune up inspection also revealed that I need a new chain and new sprockets. As much as I don't make a big deal of riding all these miles around the great land of America, they have piled up and the metal has worn out.

That reminded me of how I felt invincible when I left Vancouver because I had brand new sprockets and chain and clean oil…. I thought that would carry me to the end of the world… and I guess it did. But when you compile: two sets of tires, 1 new battery, 4 oil changes, 2 sets of plugs, 4 quarts of motor oil, 2 brake bleedings, 1 set of new rear brake pads, a stator, a regulator rectifier, a few fuses, miscellaneous wire repair, dashboard bulbs, speedometer cable… it sort of tells a story of the miles that have been coursed.

But that engine runs. My heart beats. And on we will go.

So tomorrow I'll get the tires, chain and sprockets put in. I now have to go hunting at a motorcycle salvage yard for rear turn signals and a tail piece for the tail light has decided to quit working. So onto a new adventure in hunting under the California sun.

What else? Well I will be playing a show on Saturday night. I am looking forward to it. You have no idea… I might have a drummer with me. The amazing thing is how eager and interested everyone seems about coming to hear the music. It is such a gift. God knows I have had my share of disinterested crowds while I played my heart out and that tends to leave you feeling sorely inept.

I think I have found the guitar I will play for the show. A Django Rheinhart sort of guitar, a cross between a classical guitar and a large bodied jazz guitar. I am working on the set list, my voice and my fingers whom I have to coax into doing something more than hold the throttle, pull in and let go of brake and clutch levers and steer.

Staying in one place, being among people is an interesting challenge. I am the wild horse, I feel the cowboys approaching with the lassos, and I balk. As soon as I stop I miss the road… On the road I miss the guitar. Here is a fine balance to be understood and attained.

I have been asked numerous times why I left on this journey. Well, I wanted to ride. I really, really love to ride… (I guess you know that by now…)

I needed the space. I needed the time. I wanted to feel. Be alive. I had been so dead… To feel it all : the pain, the joys, the smells, the cold and hot, the rain, the pounding sun…

Some suggested that I put a big windshield to not feel the wind, some suggested that I put a “cruise control” on my throttle so not to get the pain in the arm, some suggested… But I wanted to experience, feel everything about it. Ground zero. Be alive. In every possible way. Be out of this “comfortably numb” life that I led.

I wanted to let go of all the invisible chains holding me in a static pattern, a never ending loop, making the same mistakes, saying the same things, judging everything and not giving anything a chance to happen and surprise me. Blow me away.

Here and now, I sit at yet another Starbucks this time in Southern California. There are the pressing issues of keeping my ride rideable. There is the always looming issue of money and means to put gas in the tank and food in my stomach and having a place to sleep. There is the issue of winter months coming ahead with the ice and snow that will ground me or limit me as to where I can be. But bigger than all of this is the issue of getting at an intersection and having to decide which way to go.

I think I will dare. Actually I know I will. I still have to imagine it a little more. But I think I will dare this idea of keeping this road rolling under my wheels and adding the guitar in the mix. I want to add it because that is the main thing I missed. My guitar. The sounds. The music.

I mean what are the other choices? Get back into the fold I was in? Comfortable but dead-ended. Settle somewhere and get a job? Yeah, that would be reasonable, but that is an act of submission an act of faithlessness. It is not what I know is true here and now.

I do know that the answers are in the wind. That the only thing I can actually do without being a traitor is to trust. Trust. Forge ahead and trust. Trust my heart, trust my knowingness and trust that it is all possible because it’s always only a matter of point of view.

Well, better go out and find the parts for the bike. Give my baby the love it deserves after serving me so faithfully, taking me half way around the world and back, roaring in the wind, rain, sun or moonlight, hot or cold… Heart of steel, heart of gold.

Landing in So-Cal

August 24, 2010

Southern California.

Today was another magical day. Here I am standing here, grinning from ear to ear.

I found my way on the #2 up the Angeles mountains. The real deal in terms of motorcycle road. Mountain side twisties, up and down, cliffs, impregnable views for miles. I was glad to leave the 15 the heat and the harried motorists.

It is at the end of one of those twists that I was surprised with a parking lot full of sport bikes, a stage, a restaurant… I slowed down and asked a man and a woman standing there : “what is going on here?” It was the Cafe Desmo Ride the Crest 2010 event where they raised money for tree planting on the mountains devastated by forest fires. The two people were Sonny and Steve they invited me to join them, meet their friends, they moved their bikes to make room for mine and made me feel totally welcome.

Sunny and her Interceptor

Steve and his Buell

This was the beginning of a fantastic day in the sun. I got to meet a number of Steve and Sunny’s friends, whose names I can’t all remember. I watched the band and the inventor of Buell’s motorcycle play the guitar and sing his songs.

miles of bikes

There were all these motorcycle policemen around and out of the blue, I am not sure why, I asked one of them if I could take a picture with him. The iconic CHP motorcycle cop. I started to talk to the man, and he was asking me about my trip,, and when I mentioned Sturgis he said : “well I was envious but now I am jealous!” We chatted for a while longer and then he said “ before you leave come and see me” “OK” I said.

the unique feature on CHP Gonzales’ motorbike

I also met Melanie who did take a trip similar to mine this summer around the US. Pretty cool.

There were all these amazing bikes there. It was really cool to see this different type of riders. The Harley guys call themselves bikers, the sport bike guys call themselves motorcyclists. Interesting. Always this need to separate, categorize. But I have to say, these machines really induced serious drooling. They are beautiful, sexy and as a plus there was actual women riders, not just passengers, and they looked strong beautiful and capable. Yeah.

I was about to leave, had my helmet on when I saw the policeman ride into the parking lot from the road. I remembered he had asked me to come and see him so I did.

I approached and said : you wanted to see me before I left…
He then presented me with this badge… He said this badge is only given to motorcycle cops. It is a badge of challenge. He said to me : “ your story touched me. I wanted to give you this” He hands me the badge. It is beautiful. Gold, and blue. I felt a well of emotion rising. He hands me the thing. It’ is heavy and it shines really well made and it says Ethics, Integrity, Pride, Professionalism, Honor.

What an amazing gift. I feels like a talisman. I put it in my breast pocket. Close to my heart. Another beautiful gesture I cannot explain but that moves me to no end.

I finally left the event, rode down the rest of the mountain and “arrived” in Altadena. I went directly to the Coffee Gallery. The sun is high, the vibe is so Californian. It feels good. I feel good.

The night went on with music, laughs and good times. And open stage started around 8 PM I played one song which was well received. I will be playing a show on Saturday night the 28th of August.

It’s all good. I couch surfed for that night. Let see what the week brings. I have to get my bike looked at serviced, brakes repaired and tires changed for more miles to come.

From Canyons into the fire

August 22, 2010

In this small cabin lived a family of 10… here they are ..

Utah… I left Utah yesterday. Touched 3 states… Arizona, Nevada, California. I landed in the desert. went through Las Vegas, it’s over 100 degrees. Castles of gold and glass rise up in the sky. All the promises of riches. Come play, come shopping… come, come… I fly through. I am not stopping this time around.

I feel the heat like tongues of fire slipping under my helmet and taking my breath away. A kiss of death. The heat is so strong it feels solid. Like water. “Drink me, drink me” it says seductively. My heart pounds, my fingers tingles, one could think it’s love.

I stop to escape the heat, my body shocked by it. I walk into a mad dream. Lights, music, screens, staff, “Cocktail? Cocktail?” she wears a mini skirt and offers the salvation of drink. Fake blondes, fake brunettes, fake youth. False hope. Cheap meals and hotel rooms. Come play, come try your luck. I am in a casino.

Old ladies clutching their purses are staring at the one armed bandit, the bad boy, bad boy… Momma told you not to trust the bad boys… But here you are sitting, hypnotized and you play one more. Men watch the horses run, there must be 50 screens. Beautiful beast of speed and power glide down the race track.

Poker tables, poker faces. A grim light above the scene.

Bars all around.

There are rows upon rows of temptation. Dizzying. The beeps and whirs and bells and happy little songs fill the air. Come play… I look and feel that I am from outer space. I landed in a mirage.

I head back out.

The fire. The heat. I am approaching Death Valley and I feel it’s breath whispering in my ear. The wheels turn, the cars fly by. I navigate between the heat gauge and my own body heat. We are fragile entities. Only a few degrees away from total failure of all systems.

The wind toys with me… Pulls me to and fro, back and forth. My arms ache from holding against the wind. I lean flat out on the tank. I tune into the engine. Patience will take me through this heat and those miles.

I stop at Baker. Cheap motel, cheap looking, cheaply furnished but not so cheap on the wallet. There is a pool, I must stop, eat, drink, cool off. My body is reverberating heat, my heart rate is up.

Night comes. The wind blows from Death Valley just over those hills yonder. Sand blows violently in town. For all the lights and attitude, this too is fragile.

I will get up early, before the sun rises, to cover those miles in the desert.


August 21, 2010

The breakfast was simply horrible.

Do not order poached eggs in the back country. The whole thing sat on my stomach ungracefully.

I went back to the motel, packed up the bike, one last dummy check, brought the key to the desk, then rode across the street where behind the restaurant there a campground, and a laundromat that is open to the public. I needed to wash clothes…

Half of the machines in there sported a sign saying : “out of order”. There are dead bugs around the floor, an old dilapidated couch on which I will not sit. A bright orange plastic table to fold your laundry and the wash is $1.25. A bit steep for this sort of joint but clean clothes are priceless. I proceeded with the washing.

I walked out to get something off the bike and I hear bickering. It’s coming from a camper truck. An old mean looking skinny man is yelling from outside the camper. A woman’s voice replies from the inside.

Holy matrimony.. so sacred. For better or worse. To be out here in the middle of nowhere and have a bilious outbreak of rage for everyone to hear with your only partner. Yikes…. Thank God for not having to deal with that. Really… thank you, thank you, thank you. Well.. no, thank me!

The four wheeler came in barreling down the gravel path.

The man looks at my bike : “Wanna trade?”

“Naaah” I said. “I could’t get to where I’m going on that.”

“But you could go all over here” he said extending his arms to show the immensity of the place. Hills, Canyons, mountains, range… It’s the good life, the simple life” He said with deeply felt conviction.

He’s forty something, He’s missing a bunch of teeth, has a beard, reddish-blondish hair, the blue eyes of a rogue.

A woman was sitting behind him. “my wife, Laurie. Laurie walked off towards the RV parked down on the campground.

He tells me about this country here, the wild, wide open spaces, “they only give out 15 permits a year, there are bucks out there with antlers like this” he extends his arms way wide. “up there you’ll find the last wild buffalo herd in the country. (he did not say antlers, he used another word. A hunter’s word to say antlers that I can’t remember)

“So where you goin’?

“Zeeon” I pronounce wrong.

“ZAHYon” he laughs a rough laugh “Ha! Ha! ZEEon! Ha! Ha! Ha!

“Well I’m not from ’round here you know… But It sure is beautiful” I say.

Yeah, it’s the good life… I moved here three years ago… From Salt Lake City, it’s crazy up there… I got a double hip replacement, degenerative lower back disease…

“You in pain?” I ask.

“All the time” he says plunging in my eyes with a look that said pride, defiance and courage all at once.

“I get just enough social security to pay for stuff. A two bedroom house here is 350 dollars s month, no bills, it’s all paid for. I take care of the trailer park and I clean the washrooms here at the campground… It is the good life…

“What do people do around here?” I ask.

“We ride these”… He points at the four wheeler and grins a wicked grin.

His son comes up, twenty something, tattoos, a baseball cap over very short hair a soft pot belly already.. His eyes float in his head.

“Did you party all night?” the dad asked the son.

He laughs back. They both hug in a manly sort of way punching each other in the shoulders, chest and back.

The son asks me : “Would you give me a ride?” I’ll pay money, would you give me a ride?”

“Well, there is no room for a passenger with all my gear on there”

“I’ll give you lots of money”

“it’s not always about the money” I said.

He is disappointed. Another man arrives on the scene. Grizzled, long hair and grey pony tail. His face is eroded like the mountains around here. He too has a bit of a pirate glint in his eye.

“Hi I’m Hank”

“Hi Hank, nice to meet you”

“Nice to meet you. Where you goin’ with that bike?

Down to Bryce Canyon, Zion, then LA.

“I used to have a Yamaha …

Laurie comes up.

Talks to the young man : Are you drunk?

Kid: Yeah…

Did you party all night?

He laughs a grunty laugh.

Can I see your tat? Laurie says to me.


Wow, that’s really nice work. Who did that?

I tell her, “Marc at Slave to the Needle in Seattle. He is amazing.

“Yeah, that’s really good… I used to do tattoos, a long time ago. I’m going to set up shop here in town. A lot of people need to have their tattoos worked on… My friend, she’s gonna get me the tools…

“Well I should go check on my laundry” I said. As I walk off another young guy takes off with a jeep Cherokee. I hear a thump and swearing…

“You fuckin’ drove over my foot!” Hank yelled.

The man bends his left knee, tries to put his foot down. The kid in the jeep barely slows down then barrels away.

“HA! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! People laugh.

Laurie said : “He lost his mom” pointing at the young guy.

Ah, that’s hard I say.

“That’s why he’s so sad”

“Can you give me a ride on your bike? I love bikes, I have a thing for bikes, a huge thing…” the kid pleads.

Laurie says : “he asked me if I thought that you would give him a ride and I said no.”

We talk some more, Laurie tells me she works at the restaurant, I should come down here too, I could work there she tells me. I try to imagine what it would be like to serve beer to toothless men in a bar-restaurant along the 24 in Southern Utah. I can’t.

“Well, I should get on my way” I said packing the last of my stuff and gearing up. They got all serious on me all in a sudden.

“Ride safe” Said Laurie.

Then Hank came over with a “I really mean it” look in his eyes… Yeah, be careful, ride safe.

God bless you. Laurie added.

I will, I will. Thanks you. God bless you too.

“Bye sexy lady”… the kid says

It always grabs me. Perfect strangers who don’t know me from Adam who absolutely mean what they say : Be safe. Stay alive. Beware of the idiots that don’t see bikes. I know they mean these wishes with all their hearts, fully and totally. I feel it. From the religious people on the Tail of the Dragon, to the folks at a restaurant, to the strangers I meet on the street.

They follow me on the road, those wishes. They protect me. Clear the way for me. Wishes like prayers, as if a little part of all these people’s souls committed themselves to make sure nothing bad was going to happen to me.

I started the bike and left Hanksville.


August 20, 2010

On the way to Moab it was desert. So hot. And there was a lot of clouds which tamed the heat of the sun… but it still was stifling. My nose was so dry, I felt this desire to just stop. But if I stopped I would just dry right up and die it seemed. So I continued on.

Approaching Moab

This is the Colorado River where I camped

At the Arches National Park in Moab Utah

I took over 200 photos there… I can’t put them all up but it was just mind blowing, and what came later that day, blew my mind even more. I had no idea Utah was that amazing. I really had zero idea!

Smoke on the caliper

August 18, 2010

And speaking of metal and forging.

Not long after I wrote the last post I headed down the 89. My goal: head towards Moab. Go as far as possible, set up camp comfortably before the night comes and sleep under the moon.

As much as we froze in the morning, now it’s now hot as hell. When I hit the valley north of Salt Lake City the sun turned the mountains into a dry oven and I now sweat. It’s all good. Give me the heat. Give it to me hard. I can take it now. I am not anymore the northern girl with the frozen bones who squints because the sun comes out.

I stopped shopping to get some things like ear plugs, batteries, a hook for my net, engine oil then headed back on to route 89 South.

I am flying down the highway. Flying into the urban zoo of an American Freeway. Each and everyone rushing from A to B. Looking for the most efficient trajectory or plowing a course that will bring them there the fastest. I am part of the high speed dance or wrestling match depending on who is near you. Negotiating cracks in the pavement, holes, analyzing the maze of cars ahead and predict who will change lane where and when. Of course I don’t know how fast I’m going. With the earplugs what I hear is the high frequencies of the whine as I accelerate. Rock on, rock on.

Suddenly the bike slows down. What the… ! What is this now? I mean, I am losing speed like mad. The engine sound has morphed into a low frequency, unhappy grunt. The engine temp climbs over the mid line. That is NOT good.

Exit. Exit now. Exit the Highway. Luckily there is one right there and no one on my tail to give me grief or worse. I get on the overpass, cut over three lanes with the help of an observant driver who saw me shoulder check. I pull into the parking lot and the whole thing comes to a dead stop 6 feet from a parking spot.

I tried to push the bike in neutral to the parking spot. Can’t move it. Shit… What is this? I feel nauseus as I wonder if my engine seized and died.

I get back on, try to start it and get in gear. It dies again.

I get off, look at the chain, then on the other side to the brake.


There is smoke coming off the brake and the rotor is a funny coppery color, smoke is even coming out of the bleeding nipple. The whole back of the bike on that side is broiling hot. Even the swing arm… Wow.

What to do? I look at the time, five o seven. The closest person I know around here is in Nevada, he is a rider, he has a bike like this one. He rides a lot and knows bikes. So I call him. I take a chance, calling at work even if it’s after five PM to see if I can get him on the line.

The receptionist answers. A good first step, there is still someone in the office.

“And who may I say is calling?”


“….. What company do you represent?”

“I’m just a friend.”


“my last name is Hebert : H-E-B-E-R-T” I figure a last name will give me more credibility.

“Just a moment please, I’ll see if he can take your call”

I wait.

“Is this the Danielle?!”

Ah, a friendly voice, so good to hear.

I explain the troubles.

“Sounds like the pads have seized up, try with a screwdriver to see if you can free them up. Can you see if there is still some pad left of if it’s on the metal?

I look, “still some pad”

“look to see if there is brake fluid”

“OK and I have brake fluid if I need it”

“Listen, I am in a meeting right now. I’ll call you back when I’m done.”

I give him my new US cell number and hang up.

All right. Hope. Lets do this. Take all the stuff, luggage and saddle bags off the bike. Take the seat off, take the plastic spoiler off. Check the oil, it’s full. Good. Get the tools out. Do I have a screwdriver? Yeah but it’s a miniature gizmo with removable heads that measure about one point five cm long, no way to get that near the pads.

I look at the whole thing. I have seen Geoff take the caliper off. I have seen Jim take the caliper off. I can take the freaking thing off. I know it. If I get that off, I can take the pads out. With the pads off I can ride the bike albeit with no back brakes. But I can ride it somewhere. Heck, I can ride the thing to the end of the world if I want to. I am going to do this.

The two bolts off the caliper, the one off the arm that holds the caliper above the swing arm… I got two wrenches, they are the right size… Thanks Geoff for writing the little list of what tools to take with me on the trip.. I get the caliper off, I get the little rods out, like I saw Jim do when he worked on my brakes. One little piece of metal holding the pad and the little metal liner breaks right off. Cooked off. The pads come out.

The phone rings.

“Yeah, got them off. We chat for a while. I’m laughing. I just saved my own butt with the help of a friend. No need for AAA. No crying about my fate on the side of the road or making a big fuss about it. I know my bike enough to get myself out of this one.


My hands are black, covered in grease, my arms too. Not very feminine I guess. Who cares. I’m sweating, disheveled, I’m hot as hell sitting in the parking lot of a shopping mall. My bags are on the ground all around the bike, the seat’s off, it looks dire, but it’s a huge victory, I conquered.

Now lets test the thing. Start the bike. It runs fine. I move it. It moves freely.

Fuck yeah.

Excuse my language but it really expresses the grease, the sweat and the victorious operation.

I repack everything and head for dinner then go to another Starbucks across from the restaurant, go online to look for a place to camp, for motorcycle repair places and for the itinerary I have to take for Moab.

Then I gear up. The sun is coming down quite fast. The mountains are bathed in orange light, the sky is blue. I get rolling, slide onto the 15 south. Yeah mama. I blasting down the road.

I get filled with this incredible feeling. I scream and yell gliding down around 80 MPH on the Freeway. I approach Salt lake, the lights, the cityscape against the mountains, the sky, the engine… We eat up the road like it was our first real meal in years. Hungry, wanting, aggressive, nothing dainty, just raw power. I holler again at the world, at everything, at myself. I thank the Gods for the friends they brought me along the way and for giving me the courage to take on this trip.

Tonight I will finally sleep under the stars. In the sky above is my half moon and a zillion stars. Right now I am sitting at a pic nic table that will serve as my bed tonight because the ground is too hard to plant a tent. I am up in the mountains south of Salt Lake City there is a creek rushing by.

I am the forged metal, I am running free. I am so alive.

Rock on.