Saturday night, it’s getting late : 00:51 says the laptop. I am slowly coming down, relaxing after the show. I was playing at Butlers Coffee in Palmdale. I had the luck, luxury and pleasure to have Forrest play with me. The house was technically full, all seats occupied. A very eclectic crowd from grand-mothers to cowboys, to aerospace scientists… On our way there we were chauffeured by Ozzy, saw the amazing Lancaster Sunset, the fields of urban Joshua trees pumpkins and a local fair… all beautiful.

Tonight, Leo also shared the stage with Forrest and I. He sure is a lucky dog.

I’m sitting here just marveling at the way my life is drawing itself, day after day, into this magnificent tapestry of good souls, indelible moments, heartbreaking beauty and powerful lessons in trust and patience. I think that I might be getting to be a better student. Learning to wait for the purposes to reveal themselves, learning to trust, learning to be humble enough to accept that I don’t know or understand it all sometimes.

I’m sitting here with Leo. I am in a quiet house. A clock ticks the seconds, the sound of the laptop running and another electrical sound from outside sitting on a Bb (B flat, a musical note) and filling the night air. Last Tuesday night I was rescued from the side of the road by Melanie and Ozzy.

After my Tuesday night AAA tow truck ride from Yucca Valley to Los Angeles they took me in their home. They came and got me and my gear. Me standing on the corner of Fletcher Street by the Freeway, in full leather but bikeless.

While I waited for them to arrive I was thinking about the precariousness of my situation. Cars zoomed by, their passengers intrigued by this woman standing there on the sidewalk, holding bags and a helmet past eleven PM.

The black Cadillac pulled on Fletcher and turned around. Melanie came out. Hugs. We put my stuff in the trunk. The inside of the car is beautiful and white. I am almost embarrassed to step in, it’s so clean and new… I am filthy from two days of road grime without a shower. I am embarrassed to become a burden. Embarrassed to have pulled these people out of their warm home to come pick me up on this street corner. I feel a tug in my heart for leaving my bike in this dark corner behind the dumpster. Embarrassed to not have been independent enough to deal with all this by myself.

Melanie appeared on this blog before. She is an artist, a brilliant one at that ( go see for yourself : http://www.themagpie.com/ ). And, she is a motorcycle rider. A real one. She took her Triumph Bonneville on a 12 000 miles trek around the continent. She had left on June 2nd I believe. I had left on June 6th. Lots of affinity and admiration here. She is cool, gentle, beautiful, generous and also a powerhouse.

Wednesday I was in a daze. Thursday I tried to catch up on the blog, emails, phone calls…

Friday I learned what is up with the bike, or should I say what is down with the bike. To use the words of my mechanic : “The electrical system is fried.” I had hoped for a bad battery at first. Then I was told the charging system would not do its job… I was still hoping for a defective regulator, something simple… Nope. Same issues that I had in Rochester : stator, regulator, rectifier, battery dead.

I learned that by way of text message while I went out with Melanie and Ozzy for a Friday end of week drink. I crumbled for a moment. You always hope it’s going to be minor, innocuous, no big deal, I’ll be back running in no time kind of thing even if in your heart of hearts you know it ain’t gonna be like that.

I sat there, looking at the text message and my surroundings vanished. I looked at the white letters on the blue background of my phone’s screen seeing dancing dollar signs, my dwindling bank account, the transmission & starter troubles, , the age of the bike with a voice saying : “a bike is old at 20 thousand miles” the guy at the motorcycle dealership had said to me…..

I was seeing myself standing up strikingly alone on a map of North America, like the little orange guy you get on the Google map street-view, on foot, broke, staring in all directions with nowhere to go…. vulnerable, insignificant.

My surroundings came back as I tapped the phone lightly and nervously on the table top. I shared the news with Melanie and Ozzy. Ozzy knows a lot about bikes, he is a rider too, with tons of miles and experience. He told me the bike is in the best hands available in the whole of the US. It will get fixed. I am OK.. They will help…

Help. This is a tough one for me. I have learned to be independent, I have been told since childhood that I had to be independent. I have lived that way to a fault. Not knowing when to let people help. Feeling like a failure if I had to ask for help. Right now I have no choice in the matter.

It’s incredibly unsettling to me not to have my bike. It is a part of me. It is like a limb, my metal heart. We have a relationship and now we’re separated, and my world is shaken.

Shifts.

I must be willing to change my viewpoint. To keep my stride fluid and strong.

I look at them both. Again I wonder, what have I done to deserve such gifts, such goodness.

So what the hell is up with the bike? Those bikes are known for this problem. It is their weakness. I learned that in the early 80’s there was a lot of experimentation with the electrical systems. This is one of the failures. They got it figured out in the 90’s.

I was also told that there is a “geek” fix to this : Use a regulator from a Honda motorcycle.. I don’t know what model but I heard that with this alien part there is no more “frying the stator and battery and miscellaneous wires to be had. That would be cool. Ozzy also reassured me that the “20 thousand miles is old for a motorcycle” is bull. A bike can go up to 75 thousand miles… and more with some love. That made me smile. That equals another 4 trips of this magnitude for us together. I like the thought. Baby needs some help right now. OK I can allow for that.

In the mean time I am posted in San Dimas, 30 minutes East of Altadena on the Freeway. It’s a beautiful area. Lots and lots of trees and a neat downtown with great food and coffee. And to boot, I am not walking….

Little Blue is here for me to use whenever I want. Little Blue is an 984cc XP9 R Buell motorcycle. Don’t be fooled by his name, there is nothing little about this machine… It growls like a Harley at rest, It has torque to make you really have to hang on to the handlebars when you accelerate and it surges ahead like a thoroughbred that has been in his stall for two days when you shift gears… I was still in 3rd gear at 80 MPH..

We are at the polite stage right now, like :

“Hi”

“Oh, hi”

“I’m Danielle…”

“They call me Little Blue”

“So… you’d like to go for a ride, maybe?”

“Hmmm, yeah… I would, I think”

“Which way would you like to go?”

“It doesn’t matter to me, whatever you’d like”

“All right, I’ll just get my helmet…”

“No problem, take your time…”

We might head out to San Diego this week. I found a guitar maker there who makes travel size guitars, they look funny but so far they are the ones that have garnered glowing reviews : great craftsmanship and sound. (http://www.go-guitars.com/ ) I emailed them and they said to come and visit anytime.

As I said, the adventure is still on. Definitely.

Breakdown #3

October 29, 2010

I rolled slowly out of Joshua Tree campground. Stopped, took photos, looked around… I don’t really want to leave.

It’s an incredibly beautiful day, the air is still cold but the sun just broils. A nice mix of extremes. I pulled over a few times to let cars go by. This scenery is incomprehensible. Boulders out of the ground, expelled from the earth for some reason, hills that look composed of thousands of perfectly placed rocks, embedded artfully one into another the construction of a compulsive, obsessive artist. I know, it’s erosion but who said erosion could not be an artist?

And the trees…

I stop. Get off the bike, walk off the road onto the land. Cross that line of concrete separating man made and nature made.

The stillness… I walk carefully not wanting to disturb, crush or frighten anything on my path. Two of these constructed rock sculptures stand side by side. I climb on one and just sit there. So quiet. Listening to silence. Letting the noise embedded in my mind and ears slide along my skin to be absorbed in the rock.

So quiet.

A couple of really small lizards casually hang out. They check me out, wander around. Everyone is calm. No need to get excited in the desert I guess. Waste of energy and water, that would be.

So quiet.

I sit on that rock for quite a while. Thoughts drifting as the wind glides by. The only sounds are the planes that once in a while cross the skies overhead and the lone tourist cars, stopping, humans coming out, stretching their arms out with a camera, holding them out for a second then climbing back into their vehicles, disappearing in the next turn.

Imagine if you didn’t know what a camera was and you’d see the humans coming out of the cars, stretching their hands… A prayer? An exercise? A devotion? What are they doing? And why don’t they stay?

After a while I get off my rock and gently walk around. Flowers. The bushes look terminally dried up. Dead. But there, a fragile face peers out, delicate, almost invisible. Life.

I walk and find them, the purple ones, pink, yellow… one by one, they came out because of the rain last week. Life bursting while it can.

The Joshua Trees are the giants in this theater. They reach to the sky, then they fall on their knees, whiten and die. Like us.

I see a black beetle minding its own business, no hurry, no concerns, it does not care about me one bit. I guess I should go… LA waits for me with all of the plans and projects and people… things to do. I take a few more photos and reluctantly, slowly gear up, ear plugs, jacket, helmet, gloves and re-start the bike.

My starter has been slowly deteriorating. It makes a nasty squeaky sound at the end of the start cycle… The bike has been feeling disconnected here and there…. I had the thought in Nevada “ feels like a weak battery” and wished it away.

I know there is a Starbucks in the next town, Yucca Valley. An espresso would be really good… I get to the entrance of the park, roll down the hill, still in a pensive state absorbing the view, pulling over to allow for people in a hurry to pass me, they all are…

Down to the highway. I head West.

A few miles down on my left I notice a motorcycle dealership : Harley, Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki… a sign of the times… with the economy being what it is, consolidation is the thing to do… I imagine the clientele, men and women from different tribes having to mingle while looking for their next machine…. I roll on, check the GPS and right there on my right : the green sign and crowned siren announcing the proximity of my caffeine fix : Starbucks. I’m looking for a parking spot… Not this one… this one…

then….

Click! Fffrrrrrrr…….

“Shit”. I said that quietly and calmly.

Baby’s dead.

I knew this was not good. I pushed the bike about 12 feet into the parking spot. I inspect the bike to see if there is anything abnormal, oil or anything out of place. Nothing. Turn the key. No power.

Hmmm…. OK baby. I pat the tank. I’ll take care of you. I grab my laptop and walk into Starbucks. You know your steed loves you when it breaks down at Starbucks instead of the middle of the desert. This thought does not escape me.

This place is strange. It’s crowded with people with laptops and I Pods and geeky gizmos but they don’t look the part. But all of them young and old have gadgets and they talk loudly about them. I look like a certified outer space alien that just landed. A young guy with earbuds, I Pod, laptop and phone says :

“Nice jacket!”

“Thanks” I reply. But my mind is on the business at hand. OK, #1. get the espresso…

“What would you like?” the genteel Starbucks associate asks.

“Double espresso in a ceramic cup, for here”

“Will that be all”

“Yes, thank you”

“That will be $1.95”

“Here we go.” I hand him a couple of dollar bills. I get a nickel back. I don’t have enough money right now to leave a tip… what I call my coffee Karma. But I know I have accumulated a lot of coffee Karma interest over the last few years….

I set up the laptop, the magic jack, get my phone out, my wallet with the AAA card. I get my double espresso, take a sip and start. The dealership up the road… I find them online, Google map to the rescue… I call them.

“Hi, I have an 83 Suzuki, just broke down, I am in the Starbucks parking lot”

“The diagnostic is $180, then we charge $90 an hour. What’s wrong?”

“No power, electrical I guess. I’ve had trouble like this before… Can you come and pick the bike up? You guys are really close I believe.”

“We can come and get you, that will be $20.”

“Well, I got triple A, I got to watch my money… I’ll just call them. See you soon.”

“See you soon”.

He was very nice, nice can sound expensive… I call AAA and it’s a mess. They say I have not paid my renewal… I know I did… I go check on my laptop and find the email confirming the payment. The guy’s tone change, he’s getting stern as he thinks I am trying to rip him off.

Sigh.

I say thanks and call BCAA, in Vancouver. As I wait on hold I am looking at the receipt… I realize that the membership number is different… Oh, I see… someone comes on the phone.

“BCAA, how can I help you?”

I tell her,

“Can you give me your 16 digit membership number?” I recite it once more. “Your membership is expired… The I explain to her the other membership number found on the invoice.
“Oh, you got duplicate membership…. Let me see… Yes… but we can’t proceed : you owe us $17.99”

At this point the $20 tow fee from the dealer seems like a golden deal… but I persevere : “this invoice here indicates that it’s paid in full, that was back on August 28… blah, blah, blah…”

“Oh, yes….” clickety, clickety, clickety, (keyboard sound) “I see, Yes… You are covered…

I hang up, they will be here in 45 minutes.

Right on.

I go sit outside. I’m a bit tired, I think about the bike, repairs, hoping it’s not going to be too bad or too onerous…

The truck pulls in. A young guy. I explain what happened.

“I can give you a boost” A boost? I’m thinking that is not going to work. Then wonder if it would. All right lets try. I unload the luggage from the top of the seat, undo the saddle bags, take the seat off. He puts the red clamp on the red terminal and the black one on the black terminal. It starts. Hmm.. maybe I can drive the bike to the repair shop, I think for a moment but I did not have time to put the seat back on and it went dead.

“it’s not holding the charge”

I knew that…

OK lets put the bike on the tow truck. I push it around as he lowers the bed to a 45 degree angle.

“All right, bring it on to the edge of the bed, hold the brake on and I’ll bring you up” I stand there, front brake on and the bed goes up, then forward. He puts on the ties and I see that he knows what he’s doing (not trying to put the ties on the forks or something of that nature… ( I’ve seen it) We roll down about two miles down the road. Repeat the reverse operation, get the bike down and he leaves.

Here I am at Hutchins Motor Sports. Nice people, clean place. I cross my fingers. They get the bike inside and I wait for the verdict. I walk around and meet the owner, Chris Hutchins. He knows Oliver from Harley Davidson of Glendale, we chat, look at some bikes.

Imagine having all the funds in the world and just buy a new bike and head out… No way…. There is just no way I could do that…

Finally I hear the diagnostic : bad news, the charging system is down.
“You could not go down the hill the way it is now”.

Big sigh.

The words, stator, regulator, rectifier, run around in my head. Internet search, days to wait for parts to arrive, hotel fees… That whole crisis happened back then at about 7000 mile mark, now it’s 7000 miles later. It happens again… could it be that… And I think of finding these parts… the money… Oh boy…

I can’t stay here. I’d be prohibitive and they would not go and find the parts, they don’t really know this bike, it’s quirks, there are no computers to hook it on to. This is a job for someone who knows old bikes…

I call AAA again. After some discussions, it appears that they can take me to LA. All right. Lets do it. At this point it’s around 4 PM. The lady on the line says : “they won’t be able to be there until at least 7 PM.”

“OK. I’ll wait”.

From the blissful, eerie quietness of Joshua Tree to waiting in a garage’s waiting room for a tow truck to take me to LA.

I sat there for about 2 hours when Mr Hutchins offers me a company pick up truck to go eat. Wow… So I get into a white Ford 150 full of logos. He said : “the only rule with these trucks is no swearing or fingers or anything… our reputation” he jokes. I laugh and go out to eat a bite.

I waited until around 7 PM. The truck arrived. We repeat the same routine, bike on the edge of the bed, then up, then forward. Tie down the bike.

“We are going to pick up another car in Joshua Tree”

“OK”

“Your AAA won’t quite cover this trip. It’s a 120 miles and your membership covers 100. It’s $6 a mile after that”

“Oh.. AAA did not tell me that”… “that is going to be another $200 dollars, I can’t afford that. Maybe you can drop me off at the 100 miles mark. If I had known that, I had a friend that could have come and get me… I’ve been waiting here for hours… and you are getting a two for one with the bike.”

“Well, we’ll handle it when we get there”

“Uh, no… I can’t just handle it when we get there. I have to know what I am getting into here.”

“It’ll be all right” he said. And somehow, I got it. It was going to be OK. And I let it go at that.

We went down the road and picked up this other car and its driver.

“Oh, but what do we got here!?! Who’s riding this bike?!!”

The car’s driver climbed in the back of the cab. He wore a bright orange shirt, he was loud and unapologetic. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the patronizing woman on a bike talk or what… He asked me where I came from, I told him about the trip and all that jazz… Ok he’s not going to be patronizing. Thank God.

He started to tell the story of his breakdown. Walking into a restaurant with only 2 seats, where the cook made food from scratch and carried conversation. “Then a “right out of the sixties” looking woman walked in, waving an amulet around and singing like a didgeridoo… Omgngngngng.. Omgngngngng… Omggngngngingng….”

He said he wondered if she was nuts. He said he was amazed at how fast he had judged her… She had heard his conversation with the cook about having to wait 3 hours for a tow truck… She waved the amulet, sang some more and declared : “The truck will be here in 30 minutes”

The truck was there 25 minutes later. He was ecstatic.

“Well I don’t know if it is just a thing of luck, you know, 50/50 she gets it right and she’s a genius or gets it wrong and she’s a kook but it worked for me!

We drove down the rest of the way talking about bikes, people, and how we interact. Suddenly he said, You know, YOU are a real biker. These guys that go out and buy the whole kit…. they’re not for real. The way you do it, with that old bike… you have guts, you are a true biker, you ride this machine, you love it… and you’ll figure out your problems and you’ll be riding a long ways still.

Then I learned that he’s been riding since he’s 14… has been homeless in Hawaii.. lost a wife to a best friend and has a daughter with a new wife and loves her daughter to death. “It’s a lot of work… but I love her and she loves me so much”

Another tiny window in someone’s life. How we course this planet trying our best with the abilities we got. We arrived in Apple Valley, unloaded his car, said goodbyes and we were on our way to Los Angeles.

I chatted with the driver. He’s from the Midwest. Raised on a farm, has been driving equipment since he was a child, drove semis, now this tow truck… He’s very efficient, precise with an economy in gestures and words.

We get to the bike shop. Take the bike down. I go see him and wonder about the extra miles… He said it’s all good. I sign the form and he’s off.

I stand in this dark parking lot. I put the bike behind a dumpster so it’s not so conspicuous. I undo the saddle bags, Oh my. To leave you here. My heart flutters a bit. It will be fine. I know. I just have this separation anxiety every time I leave my baby behind…

I throw the keys under the door as I was instructed. I grab both saddle bags, luggage, helmet, laptop, back pack…. got everything. it’s heavy. Oh my. Here we go. Alone.

Deep breath. Ozzy and Melanie are coming to get me. New page, new ways, new place, new people. And the adventure continues.

I rode out of Las Vegas then headed south via the 95.

the road ahead

the road behind

It’s another beautiful day, the storm clouds that threatened in the morning were pushed away. I cross a gigantic brown valley shouldered by mountains on each side. I am not going fast, actually every single car appearing in the rear view mirror soon zooms by and passes me, but it’s a double lane Highway so it’s OK, I am not hindering anyone. I gulp in the space, the view, through my eyes, through my whole being. It is drenching.

I need drenching.

“I am a lone knight on a lone quest. A quest for understanding, purpose. The grail is an elusive sense of completeness within myself in this world I live in.

I’m trying to find the intersection where we can all be,
where to be all, all at once.

I have not found it yet.

My right hand on the throttle, feet on the back pegs, face shield down, the left hand on the tank. I experience once again this strange relationship with the bike. The hum, the energy, the force it shares with me.

Me, the flesh. It, the force. Me depending on it. It depending on me. We, existing together, coursing the world. On a road that has not dictated and ending yet.

I call on the Gods, I ask for serenity. In Vegas I was hoping to see a friend. It did not take place. In this age of communications the potential for mis-communications is amazing. His cell phone was at the office for the week-end, my email did not get through, the words not clear enough via the email… plus my eternal fear to annoy and be an unwanted weight or create disturbances. So instead of seeing a known face I walked through the heart of Sin City.

I roll down the road sorry to have missed him.

I pass through some micro towns, that you’d notice pretty much only because of the speed limit changes 55 MPH, 45 MPH, 35 MPH…. …45 MPH, 55 MPH 65 MPH in the blink of two eyes. Highway 95. More desert. I get to the bottom of it and have to roll on Interstate 40 for a while. Then off to Needles where the 95 resumes.

no matter what, follow the arrows

In Needles I filled up, ate bad food and continued down 95 South. Still desert but colors are shifting, it does indeed look like California now, gold everywhere, the golden state. The scenery is beautiful. More types of vegetation I have never seen before. Something that looks like like a rose bush with giant thorns, long green skinny arms reaching up from the ground up is one of them.

desert

The few traces of humanity speak of abandoned goals and dreams. In the desert abandoned things look like they’ve been hurriedly left behind in a “lets get the hell out of here quick” way.

There is a burned down gas station that I just had to stop and look at. It had this iconic look, a la Tarantino. It stood there, by the railroad tracks, it was a destination at some point. The abandonment the train, the vastness and despair, reminded me also of the Grapes of Wrath. Other times, another economic depression and broken dreams as the desert goes on.

The sunset was unbelievable. Every second of it heart breakingly beautiful . I stop again, try to take photos but my little camera cannot capture the scope of it.

Oh the luck of me. To witness. To be right in the middle of this wonder, alone here to see it…

another photo that just does not pay justice to the scene being played

As the sun falls behind the mountains I hit Highway 62. It starts with a long, long, long ribbon of road that climbs a hill. Everything is purplish pink. Whoa.. more wonder.

I see a guy with a flat tire… I wonder… should I stop… but I heard stories of ill intentioned set-ups like this, so I pass him, he looks at me. I feel incredibly guilty. Two cars head down the other direction. I hope one of them stops…

At the top of the hill I turned to look on my left… I whimpered… Hmmmfff…! So, so, so magnificient. The colors… I’m speechless. but that’s OK. The bike does not mind my silence.

I stoppped. Had to. I looked. And looked. And looked more. How can this be so beautiful. The sands, rocks are reflecting all the colors, all the shades and variations… it’s just piles of rock and sand but right now it’s heaven in its splendor. Oh the luck of me…

I continue on. Darkness falls. My goal : Joshua tree National park. I got one gripe : California has to create signs for their parks that can be seen in the dark… I missed the first entrance. With all my oos and ahs I forgot to look at the gas gauge… I’m almost out of gas, damn… Yikes. I may have twenty, twenty five miles in there… I turn on the GPS. The battery is almost dead on that too… 14 miles to the next gas station. I should make it.

The cold is descending fast now that the sun is gone. It’s dark. But those desert roads are gentle. Some dips, some light curves, no big game to jump in front of you. So I bear down. I get to Joshua Tree… a bit of a dismal town. I get gas, motor oil. Some tea and wi-fi. It’s 7:30 or so.

I finally made it to Joshua Tree National park road. Almost missed it, the signs were almost invisible in the night. The moon is out. It looks stretched. It’s 3 days out of it’s fullness. It’s gorgeous. Brilliant. Defiant. At the gate of the park a big sign says : CAMPGROUND FULL. Nooooooooo! I stand there, engine idling in the darkness and increasing cold of the night. Nooooo! What do I do? Find a motel? Nope. Camp somewhere else? But where and really… I want to be here… Maybe they just put up this sign so to avoid dealing with people?… I decided to keep going. Take my chances. See what will happen. What is the worst thing that could happen? I’d be likely turned around… back to this exact place. Lets go. Lets go see….

As I ride on the road, the moon rises from behind the hills. The curtain just rose, the show is about to start… the scenery turns into a moon lit magical land of a multitude of Joshua trees, a whole population of them, arms extended, dancing under the moon and the jagged edge of hills cutting the horizon in two. It’s breathtaking. And I’m cold. Got the goggles on and the visor up. My hands are getting seriously frozen. But I would not want to be anywhere else. I lean down put my left hand on the engine to warm it up. I’ve come to realize that my throttle hand never gets as cold as the left hand… is it because I can warm up the left, function determines behavior or behavior determines function? Regardless… I roll through absolute wonder. I’m in another universe. Once more. I feel utterly blessed, once more, to be here and experience this.

I come to a sign for the campground. Take a chance.

The campground is set in the midst of gigantic boulders expelled from the heart of the earth then eroded to perfection. Each site possesses character and is organized artfully between the rocks. I can see that even in the night by the glow of my headlight. I roll through the first loop… full. I think that maybe I could ask someone if I can set up for the night, just a sleeping bag… but I get shy. I continue, second loop : full. Damn… Third loop I see a site with no car… could it be… I stop the engine and inspect a little further. There is a ticket on the post at the site entry, October 24th… that is today… does it end today or start today? I peer through the dark trying to see if there is anything there… a few more steps… Oh no… dang! cooking stove and stuff on the pic nic table. Someone’s here.

The sites are large… I walk to the edge, and there is a tree and some boulders that would hide me from the main site. I’m cold. I’m tired. The park rangers should not show up tonight… if I sleep now and pack up early I might be able to go under the radar…

I’m feeling incredibly daring and guilty. I never do stuff like this… But I could head out to the next campground…. and find it full too…. later, colder and then what?

So in the dark there by the side of the path I pulled out my mat and my sleeping bag. Quickly aired the mat, set the sleeping bag on there and slid into it. I use my armored jacket as my pillow, kept my leather pants on to stay warm as it’s getting pretty cold. The sleeping bag gets cozy hot in a hurry. The magic of down feathers at work.

As I relax, I think about a conversation I had months ago, some fellow travellers telling me how they used to dodge rangers and camp without paying by way of getting up super early and decamping in a hurry. I thought about how these thoughts come to be acceptable by way of necessity… I doze off…

Sound of a car…. hmm… Hopefully they’ll just drive by… the truck slows down… No… no, no… stops right in front of me… Damn.

I pull the edge of the sleeping bag slightly down, to look… a white pick up truck. The guy inside is looking for something. I’m hoping to make myself invisible. Maybe he’ll just go on… He gets out of the truck. I am immobile, trying not to breathe and at the same time starting to see the futility of playing dead. The guy puts on a head lamp. But stays by the truck… All right, all right I thought. Might as well face up, confront, get up and see if I’m going to get so busted, charged a gigantic fine, yelled at and thrown out…

“I’m here… I’m here” I said.

No answer.

I get up out of the warm sleeping bag… walk up to the man. His head lamp is on so I can’t see his face, I’m pretty sheepish.

“Hi, uh, I’m, well I pulled over… was tired… cold… yeah really tired.” I am fumbling miserably trying to soften the blow of whatever is coming my way.

“Hi, my name is Luke”. He extends his hand…

“Uh.. Hi, I’m Danielle.”

I zig zag some more lame explanations…

“I’m going to make a fire, you’re welcome to share it”

Uh? I thought… Oh… He’s not a ranger. He is the camper at this campsite…. and he’s not giving me hell or a ticket or throwing me out…

“Oh, uh, for sure, I’ll go get my jacket, it’s pretty cold.”

I am the worst liar or criminal, I could not fib to save my life… I usually stick to the rules, and this “Jay-camping” is just so out of character…

he gets the fire going after a few attempts. We talk. He’s an interesting being. Comes to the desert to get space, calm. He works for the food bank. I can imagine the demands on the food bank in these hard economic times. I can see the need to get away.

“You should bring your bike next to the truck” The bike was parked on the side of the path… Now it is going to be “legitimately” parked on the site.

I share some of my story. I laugh at what just took place. He says he was quite surprised at finding a woman… “not to be sexist but…” I heard that phrase many times on my trip. A woman, by herself, on a motorcycle, traveling the country, sleeping on the ground under the moon.

We get into a deep conversation about our roles and place in this world, about the necessity to open up to the world. To receive the world, to sacrifice, to commune with others on a real level.

Then he said things that I needed to hear. I have been out of sorts for a while. I have been needing to talk to a kindred spirit… and here it came to me. Through this convoluted ride up to Joshua Tree and this “illegal camping” and this unexpected meeting, my heart lifted. Some weight came off of my soul and answers were given. I thanked him for the hospitality and the talk. He thanked me back.

“if you get up early, I make good oatmeal…” he offered.

I walked back to my bag which was frigid at this point. Took my boots off , took the jacket off and folded it so to become my pillow again. I pulled out an extra shirt out of my bag and disappearing inside the blue, feathery sleeping bag, thankful, grateful for the answers that came to me.

the edge of the blue sleeping bag... what I saw when I woke up

Life is a wonder….

the Strip

October 25, 2010

I left the Starbucks as the sun was going down. It was breath taking. Over the mountains, the show went on for a while, a slow descent of the golden orb, the light changing every second and dancing with the clouds who blushed red and purple to finally darken into night.

I rode down I-15 to the Strip. I had scoped a couple of hostels there so I could stay in town for cheap. I pulled into the Tod Motel parking lot. It’s an old, old motel, it probably was glorious at some time. Not anymore. A german lady at the counter took at least 45 minutes to get her bookings figured out. As i was sitting there waiting two asian girls were also waiting. I found out one lives in Vancouver. Small world. She will return to Japan soon as her visa is running out. She was sad about that. The other one was Korean and was going to move to Toronto after the trip here.

I finally got my room. A bunk in a shared hostel room for $25. I got my stuff in the room, changed from the leathers to a pair of jeans and headed out.

It was pretty quiet at this end of the strip. The guy at the hotel said there was drugs and stuff around but “don’t mind them, or talk to them, they stick to their own people”.

It was a sudden change. The sidewalks of shiny granite replaced the worn cement, a fancy mall, walkways that funneled me into the Pirates of the Carribean casino. I am now in the middle of throngs of people… just wall to wall people… where did they all come from? there is a million things going on at once.

One thing that really hit me was the presence at each large intersection of mexicans handing out cards and flyers. They were rubbing the cards together creating a clicking sound, they were whistling, and by way of quick gesture handing the cards to everyone passing by. They all wore T-shirts saying something like ” girls who want you right now with a phone number… they were promoting prostitution. The cards had photos of busty, topless blondes. Phew.

the clicking sound, the whistles… the mindlessness, the pot bellied guys taking the cards, I don’t even want to think of the girls at the other hand of this deal. Guys on bicycles would patrol these crews of card handlers. Are these people paid to do this?

I walked from one end of the strip to the other. Got blisters on my feet. I could not stop. I was trying to explain this to myself. Most seem to enjoy this. There was brides and grooms, Elvises with gold painted faces. Up in the hotels is probably where the action is really on. I did not even enter a casino. I looked in and saw the same hypnotized look I saw earlier on the trip, the smell of beer, sweat, warmed up cheap food.

Up on the digital billboards Garth and other artists we know by their first name. You’ve made it baby. Blue man group, Cirque du soleil, highly choreographed shows. Professionals. Lights. I am just a stranger walking through all this. I guess this would be a whole lot more fun with friends and with cause to celebrate. By myself it was like an anthropology class.

I’m on my way out. It looks stormy out there pretty windy. Me and my little machine and Leo. We head back on the road. Got to make my way back to Los Angeles, there is a couple of shows to prepare, the bike to tend to and the many other questions I have no answers for.

what would I give right now for….

Oh well. It’s pointless what I would give, what I wish for right now. it’s not to be. So get over it and head out while there is light.

Death Valley

October 25, 2010

Sunday, 1:23 PM October the 24th, Starbucks, Cheyenne and Buffalo Avenues, Las Vegas. I just got here.

I left Los Angeles on Friday night around 6 PM. I went to the Coffee Gallery and suddenly I could not stand the thought of just hanging around.

But I gotta backtrack some. Friday, 3:00 PM, October 22nd, Harley Davidson of Glendale. I had a meeting there with Oliver, the owner. The reason : the Love Ride. The Love Ride is a charity benefit that has been going on for years. Last year it did not happen because of the hard economic times, this year it’s on and they are limiting the number of bikes to 1000. In the past there has been rides with 18 000 bikes… Holy rolling thunder.

Harley Davidson of Glendale

What do I have to do with the Love Ride? Well, with the love ride there always is music… so make the connections : bikes + music = me these days. A friend connected the dots and Oliver liked my music and everything serendipitously fell into place. Jay Leno leads the ride that goes from Glendale to a ranch in Malibu. It might even be riding a Harley for the occasion. I’ll let you know.

I left Harley Davidson of Glendale and a few traffic lights later I just kind of realized what had just taken place : On November 7th I get to play a gig hosted by Jay Leno, in Malibu, on the strength of a recommendation and some of my MP3’s on line, in front of many, many people, with Forrest… My heart burst. I was whooping under my helmet. Saying OH MY GOD! over and over. The meeting had been kind special in the sense that the vibe was so good and everyone was open and supportive. Magic.

My ride after the meeting took me to the Coffee Gallery. I had soup. Checked my email. Talked to a few folks. Then the inside of the CG seemed too small, so I went outside. I sat on the sidewalk next to the bike. I took a look at the maps. Then the outside seemed too still and I decided to ride out. Lets go East. I’ve been wanting to see the desert since I came back from Nashville. So lets go. Lets just go.

I walked back inside to put some extra clothes on, got caught in more conversations while the minutes of day light whittled away. I finally made it out the door and onto the bike.

6 PM, got about an hour or so of light. Get on the 210 East. Get over the HOV lane. Alternatively split lanes and ride along traffic. I get a thumb up from a rider. Likely the BC plate and the luggage. Yeah, I packed the bike up this morning.. I guess leaving was in the air already.

There’s some drizzle near San Bernardino. I don’t care. Lets go.

Veer into 215 North. Then hook on 15 North. The traffic is thick. It gets colder as we climb through the mountains. Really cold. Fog cold. Brake lights. Slow down. I keep a steady pace, poster child for defensive driving. The fog subsides around the Apple Valley sign. The traffic thins out. I relax a bit.

After Barstow things change. It’s not a commuters traffic anymore. You can see the road miles and miles ahead. A long string of white lights to the left and red tail lights to the right, an endless ribbon in the blackness of the night.

These people feel to me like they are “going somewhere”. There is determination. It’s Friday night. Maybe it’s the call of Sin City? What else could it be? There is nothing else out here. Cars come bunched up in groups, I managed to position myself in an empty space between these groupings. That happened after I stopped to get gas. A busy multiple pump station where even cowboys come to fill up.

Cowboys at the gas station

Somehow I found myself alone on the road. I’ve noticed that over and over again. You follow traffic and you are trapped in this annoying pace and situation where you can sense the aggression, impatience, people passing one another just to be “in front”. But if you stop, get off the treadmill, you can find yourself a nice roomy piece of highway… so there I am, lost in my thoughts. The people passing me drive sports, muscle, fancy cars racing one another. Corvette , Mustangs, Mercedes, Barracudas and those Chrysler’s square, macho looking cars. A couple of Harley’s pass me. Some gang guys, can’t quite read their jackets. One has his hands on handlebars above shoulder level as if crucified to his bike. Could never quite imagine doing that to my shoulders.

Cities are masses of lights, like lakes in the darkness, lighting the skies of a yellowish glow. Cars, speed, cold, engine sound. I got my feet on the back pegs, I have not taken a deep breath yet.

Baker. Exit ramp. Downshift in the dark. I was in Baker back in late August or was it early September? It was over 100 degrees F, a furnace on broil. Tonight it’s nothing like that. The air is balmy almost cold. I pull into the Mad Greek restaurant. As I get off the bike the two bikers pull in. They probably got gas before getting here.

I order food. Burger. It’s OK, not great. I pull out the maps, time to make some decisions. Where do I go? it’s either Death Valley. 127 North or keep going on the 15 and see Vegas on a Friday night. That would be quite the light show.

I chose to go North. The best light show to me is still the full moon over the desert and tonight is a full moon night. Get some gas and proceed.

It does not take 2 miles that I am out of humanity. No homes. Cars. nothing but the moon, a gigantic sky and the desert lit up by the moon. I see a coyote cross the road. Finally. Alone.

The bike runs steady. My bike. I put my hand on the tank in a gentle caress. You’ve taken me all over this country… You still run, you are hurt, but you still run. I’m so comfortable on this machine. This machine that has become my home. I keep looking at the moon and the clouds, the mountains and the flats that are visible almost like on a photo negative. The mountains in the distance are veiled by a thin fog, they beckon. Me riding on this strip of blacktop, surrounded, right and left by these timeless mountains. They call. Fogged, attractive, mysterious, like the sirens, they would probably kill me if I answered that call.

Oh that I could veer into them and be absorbed by it all. Disappear. I cry.

It’s been kind of wild lately. I can’t get into it… but it wears me down. What am I to learn from this all? That the world is crazy? I knew that.

I’m sad to no end.

It does not matter how far you go. It does not matter how strong you are. It does not matter where you are…. You are always brought back to this fundamental misunderstanding. Us, them, me, you. You will always find someone ready to lose it all and destroy everything in order to be right.

I cry and yell at the Gods :

I DON’T UNDERSTAND.

….

WHAT AM I SUPPPOSED TO LEARN FROM THIS?

…..

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM ME?

…..

WHERE DO I GO NOW?

…..

The road glides by. The night desert velvet meshing with the sound of my 750 who runs and runs for me. My face is soaked. I feel like throwing up, a deep pit in my stomach and I cry and cry.

WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO???

And right then and there this big shooting star streaks the sky. And I cry even more, it’s so beautiful. Who am I to ask questions? And yes, thank you for all the blessings, the gifts, the courage to keep on. I don’t want to be greedy or vindicative…. I still don’t understand. Maybe I never will. So much beauty. So much sadness. The gifts, the punches. Yin yang, good, bad… As I said in a song… I got a chronic human condition…. ride, ride, but you can’t hide.

I get to the campsite at Death’s Valley National Park after trying to look at my maps on the road side by the bike’s headlight. I got about 20 miles of gas left. I’m really tired. I look at the time and it’s’ 12:42. It’s really quiet, everyone sleeps. I can see three campsites with motorcyclists. One of the riders does like me : he sleeps on the picnic table. I pull out my sleeping bag and every move I make is like a loud cracks and bangs in the night. Maybe it’s the desert emptiness that does that but it’s embarrassingly loud. Sorry guys…

I slip into the bag with my leathers on. I close my eyes, my head rests on my jacket and Leo is tucked inside the sleeping bag. The wind wakes me up a few times. The whistling…. could drive someone mad. I pull the sleeping bag over my head, it’s quieter. The moon is still there. magicking the scenery into an unforgettable picture I could never take with any camera. Sear it in my brain before I forget, immortalize it in my memory while I can, before life finds a way to stop me. So beautiful. So beautiful… I fall asleep.

I wake up grumpy, lack of water maybe? I went to bed without water… I actually left town without water, and as I was getting ready to sleep I was just wanting to drink water, thirsty to no end. But I had none so I went without promising myself to find some in the morning. I paid for the camping, headed out. I never had dreams of water before, last night it kept coming back calling, teasing. The desert.

Furnace Creek Chevron and Furnace Creek resort were 1/4 miles down the road. Gas for the Suzuki, Water for me. The “resort” has been around since the 30’s : accomodations, golf (imagine the water needed…) store, restaurant, pub, museum, carriage rides and more… there are people from all around the globe touristing around. I get breakfast and about 6 glasses of water and head out.

desert

Death Valley is quite amazing. Different shades of desert, mountains, sand, rocks, foreboding, attractive, all at once… I feel we are really cheating. Visiting a place like this in the summer is like teasing a cageless lion with a fresh bloody piece of meat.

I end up on the wrong road, well who said which road was to be the right one? But I am way East when I had planned North. There is a gas station there, I can’t even locate it now on Google maps, that is how small it is. There I studied the maps and tried to figure out where to go. Could continue East and go to Sequoia National park. On the other hand, I wanted to go towards Vegas… I decided to head North, then I’ll redirect East again.

The scenery around here looks like the heart of an angry man. The rocks are burnt, dark, black, barely anything grows, the mountains are bare, the color of dried blood stains. Everything has a sharp, cutting edge, threatening to cut. I meet another biker at a vista point where I stopped to put more clothes on as I was freezing.

angry scenery

“You comin’ from the North or South? ”

He’s an overweight guy riding some sort of gigantic Honda cruiser bike.

“South’”

“Is it nicer down there? ’cause up there it was just ugly”

“It is warmer down there” I said.

“Where ya headin’?”

“Dunno, just going” I replied. ”

“Yeah, me too, just goin’… … well be safe.”

“You too, take care” I said.

He went his way, I went mine. It’s cold, windy and inhospitable. I just zig and zag down the road. I need some espresso… punch in the GPS : Starbucks. Some 60 miles North. OK. That is where I am going.

I land in Bishop CA. Get coffee. Check email. I end up sitting on the valve of my camel back. There is water all over the bench, the floor and my butt…. sigh.

mountains near Bishop CA

I leave realizing I have to backtrack to Big Pine then up the mountains across the passes on the 168. I am not a fan of backtracking but here we go. there is no choice, the mountains dictate where you cross and where you don’t. It’s maybe 4:30 or 5 PM. Got some light left but I’m going to have to hurry. In retrospect, I can’t imagine what could have happened if I had ridden this mountain at night.

This place has been severely flooded recently. There is hair pin turns, gravel all over the road, sand that has been carried by instant rivers of water down the mountain sides. It looks like it was violent. Unforgiving. The road is narrow and snarly with dips and 180 blind turns with red gravel scattered all over the lane. This is the first time I really miss the third gear. Too high or too low on 2 and 4. I’m actually kind of scared. The bike feels unsteady, it is actually shitty on sand… my front tire wobbly. I slow right down. Some passages are like hallways of mustard rock, some turns offer you deep cliffs on the right and rock walls on the right, the road narrows to a single lane, I pray for no incoming idiot. No sight seeing around here, keep your eye on the road.

I get out of that to find an immense stretch of highway that leads into another set of mountains. I floor it. The sun gets down slowly but surely. There is a ranch in the distance. I get to the other set of mountains with it’s tight turning two lane narrow road.

on the stretch between two mountain passes

Timing being everything I was grateful that I arrived a few seconds early enough to see the semi truck come out of the next blind turn… Loaded with hay and taking the whole width of the two lanes to execute his curve. I stop, he goes by, I start again, a second truck emerges from that blind turn… he stops, let me by. A few seconds and this could be a different story. Or no story at all.

When I finally get out of the mountains I am on a long stretch that hosts Joshua trees. To my right the sky is pink with the last remnants of the sun’s presence. The place is like a long lost dream. I pick up speed. It’s downright cold now. I got wool sweater, coat liner, rain jacket, long tights under the leather pants and I’m cold. I’m fucking cold. I don’t dare putting on the electric vest. Can’t have a dead battery out here.

I made it to Beatty around 7 PM. Frozen, almost out of gas again but in one piece.

I filled up at a hotel, casino, candy store, gas station place. Gigantic… I’m a bit shell shocked, I look around, there are lights everywhere, the buzz of neon lights, shiny cars, flashing bulbs inviting us all in. I decide to go find a hotel and a hot bath. Can’t really spend the money but I’m too fried not to. I get to the Atomic Inn… a bit strange but the room is nice the blankets warm and there is a bath. Of course the wi-fi does not work… but whatever. I get to bed, surf mindlessly from channel to channel seeing parts of Jurassic park, Law & Order bomb squad, and some other meaningless tv junk.

a neighbor came to say hi

the Phoenix Atomic motel in Beatty NV

Sunday. I made it to Las Vegas. I’m still feeling lost. The Gods are not replying to me. I met a few people on the road. Pat in Beatty, she was selling pommegrates from her tree on the side of the road… she used to live in Vancouver, has a daughter in Whistler and a son who is a drug addict in the downtown Eastside… She asked me what’s next and I honestly don’t know.

Pat and the pommegranates

I acutely feel the fact that I have no home. That I am at the mercy of strangers. My future is a blank page. I hang up in the stratosphere with those questions floating around me. I don’t have the luxury to wait and ponder because I am on the road with a thin margin of error between cliffs and rock walls. … I have to trust. As I have trusted, blindly, blissfully, offering my soul to the Gods as a canvas for them to paint.

I have two shows coming up one of them the Love Ride… I am looking forward to that. Very much so.

I have a bike that needs attention. Very much so.

I want to keep making the music, write the book, prepare the album. Very much so.

These are the things I know for sure. Everything else is hidden in the fog right now. I thought a ride in the desert would help. I keep hoping it will because right now I feel I am bouncing on a tight rope wobbling ungracefully.

My challenge. My strength. My life. My art. All this, to juggle on a planet where gravity rules, where the body of flesh misleads, and where winter swaggers in, bragging, unapologetic.

faceless

Day at the races

October 21, 2010

Last week end I went to Willow Springs racetrack to cheer on Steve who was racing in a few classes that day.

I tried to get some photos of the racers on the track but my zoom is too weak for the distances so you won’t see much “on the track” action. It was exciting, fun, really cool to see these perfect racing machines on and off the track.

Eye candy for sure.

this is a testament to the slowness of my shutter speed… there was a bike there when I clicked, I swear!

This cone called me. So much character in one so small…

Sean Higbee, racing a liquid cooled Buell. He rode one of the most exciting race of the day. Sunny is helping out.

side cars… crazy stuff with one person at the controls and another hanging out the back…

Steve’s bike

end of day

totally California

we were there, left inspired speeding down Avenue 60 without a care and with a smile.

100th post

October 19, 2010

One hundredth

This is the one hundredth post since I started this blog back in late May.

Today it thunders and rains in the high desert, the birds are singing a symphony right now and in between each thunder shower, there is a chorus of joy, relief, in the air. Water to quench the dried earth and plants. Survival made possible. It started with a gigantic light show last night. It was a slow process, all day yesterday and Sunday the clouds gathered, an army of grays, first on the horizon by the mountains then getting braver and approaching town. The first strike was in the dark of night.

Righ now we’re under occupation. They have taken the whole sky and rain comes in powerful bursts, heavy, large drops pounding as hard as they can then bursting into smaller drops, then gathering in puddles outside. Puddles in the desert. Victory. Every single green thing out there seem to exult.

I sit and write. The bike rests safely in a nice dry garage. I have secured wi-fi and no check-out time. I have peace, space, singing birds and rain drops, dancing trees outside my window and a show of greening greens as the plants drink up. Party.

What do you say on the hundredth episode of one’s blog? You reminisce? Lately I’ve have no outstanding adventures or mishaps to relate… So I guess it’s time for facts and stats.

I’ve been gone for 146 days and covered 14 733 miles, wrote 100 posts on the blog up to now.

The mission statement at departure time was : No plans. Go south. Follow your nose. Go South morphed to Go West after about 7000 miles… follow your nose still works best for me, but the plans are forming. An evolution of sorts.

The bike : 1983 Suzuki GS 750 ES. A 27 year old motorcycle I owned for a year and knew not much about when I left. Now I know quite a bit more, we’re so tight we’re family, another evolving thing.

Mileage at start: well, I’m not sure, somewhere around 30 thousand miles if you trust the odometer reading, but I don’t since my speedometer cable already broke 3 times since I became owner of the bike… did it ever work on a continual basis?

the never changing mileage read out (in KM)

Before I left I got this work done :
New front brake pads, new chain, front and back sprockets, engine valve tune up, spark plugs, oil, lube all over, speedometer cable.

On the road :
Circa 1 500 miles San Luis Obispo : Front tire replacement.

Circa 3 400 miles Phoenix Arizona : Oil change, chain adjustment, lube, brake check and bleed. Speedometer cable broke a few hundred miles later in Flagstaff.

Circa 5 400 miles Huston Texas : Full tune up.

the crew in Huston

Circa 6 700 miles Nashville Tennessee : Rear tire replacement.

brand new rear tire in Tennessee

Circa 8 000 miles: Hagerstown : Major breakdown. . Zero power. Battery post was loose and completely melted down causing electrical overload burning wires, fuses and plastic. Needed a new battery and new fuses and wire repairs.

broken down in Hagerstown

Circa 8 600 miles Montreal : Oil change, brake adjustment.

Circa 9 600 miles Rochester NY : Major breakdown. Complete electrical failure. Stator, rectifier, regulator, wires, fuses, light bulbs, brake clean and adjustment, speedometer cable, oil change, new windshield and all sorts of adjustments and clean ups. Jim wanted to keep me going trouble free!

view from inside the tow truck to Jim's garage

Somewhere in rural Michigan the speedometer cable broke yet once again. I did not replace it.

Circa 12 159 miles, rear brake seizure. I managed to help myself and remove the caliper and brake pads. I rode without rear brakes for almost 1000 miles. You can get used to anything.

gettin' dirty gettin' er done in Salt Lake City

Circa 13 000 miles Los Angeles : new chain, sprockets, new set of tires, oil change, spark plugs, brake seizure problem solved after two more seizures, the cause : bad brake pedal adjustment from Montreal that eventually stopped the flow of oil. The mechanic also found a seriously loose bolt in the drive train, the angels were definitely with me…

Getting some deserved TLC at Cycle Depot in Eagle Rock

Circa 14 000 miles Lancaster CA : 1 set of clutch plates.

clutch innards

And now the biggest issue so far. At 14 733 miles…. my third gear is gone That means serious open heart (engine) surgery, with new transmission and gaskets… we’ve lined up the best doctor and the organ donors… waiting for a surgery room. The bike is still useable if I skip third. What did I say about getting used to anything? Oh and my starter is on its way out, it has been telling me for a while… Better address that soon.

I learned a lot about my bike and I am still learning. I learned a lot about patience and myself, still learning about that too. I learned I can face pretty much anything and deal with it without having to cry on someone’s shoulder. There has been moments where I was less than graceful but I tried to do that alone in a room somewhere so as not to be a sore sight to anyone.

Another rain shower comes down. It’s peaceful. My oatmeal and coffee are now cold. It’s all right, it’s still good.

A few nights ago Sunny brought me this fuzzy, soft as can be, thick sage green blanket. Since then my sleep has changed. Like a safety blanket, I can just let go. Just be warm, cuddled and abandon all resistance. Thank you, thank you. It’s one of those little things that just mean so much. Women are so good at that…

Sunny and Steve… they have been amazing. I mean really, totally, incredibly. I don’t want to gush but they’ve been just amazing…. giving me a home, a key to it, a place to just be, rest and figure out what comes next and they have been so supportive.

Sunny's, Steve's and my bike hanging out on a first meeting

The rain pounds in the desert.

100th post.

What is next? Well I just finished recording my 5th album in Nashville with Perry. That in itself is close to a miracle if you know the trials and tribulations it took to get there.

I got my guitar. That was the thing I missed most during my journey. I play it every night, unplugged in my quiet room. I’ve been restless about it because it’s both a joy and a responsibility. Don’t want to lose it, break it, don’t want to be without it, but I don’t know how to have it and the bike at once. So it’s hard to leave and leave it behind and it’s hard not to leave and stay in one spot…

I went on forums and searched to see if anyone had a solution to carry a guitar on a motorcycle, and not on a cruiser with loads of racks and boxes and hardware and stuff to hang stuff on… On a sport bike… with the added bonus of travel luggage… I do need the sleeping bag, cold-hot gear, tools, tent, air mat, etc. to be independent on the road.

I talked to the mechanic about building some sort of rack and there are structural issues to consider, vibrations could seriously damage the frame’s integrity. Not good. And a guitar standing up behind me could break my neck if something happened… not good either.

I went to the guitar shop looking for “small”. Small anything : guitar, amp… then travel cases, hard cases, soft cases… checked out the internet… no solution in sight and lots of talk of the guitar acting as a sail or hitting the helmet : can you turn your head with that thing on your back? (!) I looked into travel guitars, but as convenient as they are, no one said anything about how they sound… they say things along the lines of “great to practice on a flight” or “ I can do my scales by the campfire” nothing like “sounded so good I was blown away”. One of them seem to sound better : the Voyage air, an acoustic guitar with a foldaway neck that might be an option. But when it’s all said and done, I’ve always played an electric… I want to feel comfortable when I am performing so I can give my all and do my best…

I did not quite realize to what extent this whole thing was eating up at me. I never liked to hear people say “ it’s impossible” that always irks me to no end. And that is what I was hearing from most parties. It was when I was in Montreal that I started to have the vision : traveling on the bike, playing music, seeing the world. But to that end I have to figure out how to carry my instrument without destroying it or the bike or myself in the process.

That was where I was at in my thinking when Steve said : we could build a case… custom case to fit on the passenger seat… Wow. Yeah we could… so we went into the garage with the guitar and started looking at the bike and the guitar together, trying to visualize this concept…. It could lay down, so no air resistance or vibration issues, in such a way as to be able to pack luggage over it, with hooks and brackets to attach it to the frame tightly and securely… use some high tech foams to protect the instrument, carbon fiber shell for in-destructability… the idea was launched.

With this prospect in the air, my spirits rose dramatically. OK, there is a way. I won’t find it at Guitar World, we will have to create it. Cool, really cool. My spirits rose because in my mind, the next step to this journey is to hit the road with the guitar, play everywhere, camp, travel, meet all these people… On my bike. And of course with Leo. The little family all together.

A troubadour.

So when I look at everything it actually is perfect. I was balking and wondering and wavering at the inertia but there is work I need to do as a sedentary entity. I need to prepare to deliver the CD, the book, revamp the web site, the social networking stuff, press kit and more. I can see now, as the rain falls and the earth sighs a sweet relief. As much as I yearn to ride out, there are tasks to accomplish so that my vision comes to life, full bloom. Chisel and hammer to get to the horse out of the stone.

I need to get my computer down here… or find a computer with the software that will allow me to do these things… or figure out a new way to do these things…

Hmmm, hmm… this is all about flexibility. The ability, or willingness to look at things differently in order to find a solution so to exist on one’s own terms. The patience to allow the new ideas to come to life. Like watching the rain fall and knowing the poppies will cover the hills because of it in the spring. Can’t wait to see that…

Happy 100th. There will be more to come, more miles more wild adventures, more oil changes and thunderstorm dodging.

Trust me.

Leo says hi