Final Day of This Trip: Be it Ever So Humble

Final Day of This Trip: Be it Ever So Humble

Hopefully there will be more adventures in motorcycling and mindfulness in the coming months. After all, Jeff paid for a whole year’s subscription for this domain name! And summer is coming. Besides, my Jeep which was in the shop a month before I left is still somehow, not quite ready; “Should be good to go by the middle of next week.” I’ve been reliably informed. So I’m still on the bike for now. I appreciate those of you who followed our blog these last few weeks. At last check our blog had 1712 hits! Hope you enjoyed the pictures and the meandering thoughts as we wandered. We traveled over 5700 miles. I wonder? 1712 hits over 5700 miles? That’s one hit for every 3.3294 miles. Maybe those were the wind whacks I felt!

I have some concluding thoughts that I hope to record in the next few days but I wanted to give a report on my last day.

As usual, leaving Memphis, I got lost. That’s the problem with not having a map or a GPS and with what you’ve memorized taking you only so far. One skill I definitely have developed on this bike trip is that of knowing when I’m lost sooner. This time I only took the wrong road for two miles before I turned around. Then I settled down comfortably until I got lost a few hours later. That’s the other thing about being lost I never realized. Metaphorically, your only lost when you think you should be somewhere else. Maybe this is where you’re supposed to be and didn’t know it. Go with the flow. I’m much more comfortable now being lost. What’s the old joke?

“Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Yes, practice, practice, practice.”

Over the last few weeks, and years, I’ve had a lot of practice being lost. And we all get lost; sometimes it’s through life events that bewilder us or life paths that turn out to be wrong, dead ends. But there’s always another chance to find the right path again, and again. We need to consult our inner compass, our inner map.

I-40, as Jeff wrote about, was a nightmare. The interstate would suddenly be reduced to one lane and then traffic would stop entirely for minutes. Then it would open up again to two lanes and soon we were back to one again. And there’s always madness because drivers are in such a hurry to try and micro pass each other. It’s like people jockeying for position at the motel’s continental breakfast every morning. But there the worst is that you’ll have coffee spilled on you.

The heat from the sky and the asphalt was horrendous especially with all the biker gear on. Sweat was pouring down me. Maybe that woman I met at the elevator in the motel in Memphis wasn’t so strange after all when she asked: “Doesn’t your motorcycle have air conditioning?”

But things picked up eventually. I took a break at a convenience store which gave me more hints I was returning to the South. Krispy Kreme doughnuts right up next to the camouflage paint and dead down wind antiperspirant.  I couldn’t decide between the real tree or mossy oak camouflage clothing so I just bought some doughnuts.

Birmingham traffic wasn’t too bad for the middle of the day and I did well once I got back on the right road. Then I drove up to Gadsden Alabama for a quick break at a multipurpose gas station/convenience store. More signs of the south. A woman in a glass windowed room was sorting through the live bait. I guess it was glassed so that you could hold your youngsters up to watch her work. Much as we did with our kids at the glassed Krispy Kreme Doughnut window in Savannah. I would always prefer watching doughnuts being made then live minnows being scooped. I think it’s just part of being raised as a Roman Catholic in the south. We love our doughnuts. Years ago when I told the kids we were going to church that day they would always ask: “Which one? Quaker meeting or the doughnut church”?

I was getting close to home now. Probably only 60 miles away. I had to find Centre Alabama and I was pretty sure I was on the right road. (It wasn’t well marked!) Then I saw a sign pointing to the left. It read: Centre, Rome Georgia, Mental Health Center. I needed all three so I was elated. I took a left and headed through Centre and along beautiful Weiss Lake. It’s known as the Crappie Capitol of the World and home of Loud Mouth Bass. Sorry, that should read Large Mouth Bass. More harbingers of home!

The final sign that I was back in Georgia was when I began seeing blooming magnolia trees. My heart stirred. I love magnolias in bloom, almost as much as azealas and confederate jasmine, other sure signs of the South.

I rolled up to Old Havana Cigar Bar and waddled in wearing all my motorcycle gear. A couple I knew were there. They hadn’t even known I was gone. I sat at the bar with them, had a Scrimshaw beer, a nice cigar and we chatted. Good, kind, friendly folks. A few minutes later, another friend who I had texted, Kevin Myrick came by. He gave me a manly hug. It was good to be home.

Day 20: Henryetta OK to Memphis, via I-40, McDonalds and the Resurrection.

Day 20: Henryetta OK to Memphis, via I-40, McDonalds and the Resurrection.

Last night (I hope) on the Road. The wind has been kind today and the bike has just hummed along, the engine sounds reassuring like a familiar hymn. Feeling gratitude and worshipping on a motorcycle speeding down the interstate. It’s been great. I’m definitely leaving the desert. The fields more verdant, forests of tall and waving green trees chaperoning the highway, wildflowers along the road. Hard to tell what they are as I zoom by. Some I recognize: queen anne’s lace, black-eyed susans, pink poppies but there’s also violet colored flowers trailing through the grass. Can’t make out the types of trees until we come to a flooded area and I recognize the unmistakable bald cypress trees. The air is fresher, there’s a scent of jasmine and of the sea (!). I was starting get back into the South and I remembered how much I loved it. Still no Spanish moss yet but that will be coming soon. After a couple hundred miles I was fatigued and stopped at McDonalds. I order some iced tea and for the umpteenth time on this trip, as I stand there with my motorcycle helmet, I’m asked: “Do you want that to go?” I just smile and say: “No thanks, I’ll have it here.” I sat down in my bulky motorcycle clothes, relaxed and listened to the conversations floating around the place. I heard a couple discussing the logistics of the resurrection. How it worked, would work for them. Yep, I was back in the Christ haunted south where folks talk about Jesus in bars, restaurants, and truck stops more than they do in church, as it should be.

Despite a few complete stops on I-40 for “road work” I made it safely to Memphis and the Econo Lodge downtown. It was a great location, within walking distance to the Mississippi River and Beale Street. I had a great evening starting with dinner at Charles Vargos Rendezvous restaurant. The best ribs and brisket I’ve ever eaten. Then I walked down to Beale Street only to find out that it had been closed off to traffic for motorcycle night! I’d guess there were over 300 motorcycles there, coming and going. Everything from old Indians, to BMW’s from the 60’s, to Ducati’s, Harley’s, Guzzi’s, custom made bikes and even scooters. Almost walked back to the hotel so I could ride Big Red over here. Blues music was belting out of the bars. I spent about an hour just walking up and down the street admiring the bikes and looking at the eclectic group of riders and passersby.

On the way home I passed the baseball stadium and I thought: I’ve got to do this! I bought my ticket went in and watched about 5 innings as Memphis thrashed Albuquerque.The south beating the west. You’ve got to love it! By this time it was 10 pm and I headed back to the hotel. So far

I’ve covered over 5000 miles. Tomorrow I have the last 350 miles to go

Leaving Ft. Smith, AR this morning and entering a one lane construction zone tires screeching behind me followed by burnt rubber smoke flowing forward past me. Immediately to my right driver a small car passing in the dirt shoulder. Uh oh, near miss again. Thank you Father for not taking me; you can take me whenever you see fit, yet thank you for reminding me how precious
life is.

Day 19: Amarillo, Shamrock and Jeff, the Scarlet Pimpernell

Day 19: Amarillo, Shamrock and Jeff, the Scarlet Pimpernell

Jeff was in a hurry to get out of Amarillo this morning. No there were no criminal charges pending, he just likes an early start and he might be beginning to feel that magnetic pull toward home that often comes at the end of a trip. He’s been away a long time from his lovely wife Dianne. He wanted to see how far he could go today so we decided to go our own way and maybe we’d meet up somewhere. But he’s a hard man to find. For some reason I thought about the novel The Scarlet Pimpernel. Maybe you’ve read it?

Two quotes will suffice.

“The Scarlet Pimpernel, Mademoiselle,” he said at last “is the name of a humble English wayside flower; but it is also the name chosen to hide the identity of the best and bravest man in all the world, so that he may better succeed in accomplishing the noble task he has set himself to do.”

That’s our Jeff!

Today was not a great ride. The winds were horrible and though I’m getting used to them, you never really can, because they’re so unpredictable. These were mainly out of the south, 20-30 mph but gusting up to at least 40. The bike was tilted about 20 degrees into the wind most of the trip. My helmet was being slapped to the left. All the way from Amarillo to Oklahoma City. In general, riding a bike makes you confront your own mortality. Today, even more so. By the time I took a break in Shamrock Oklahoma I was punch drunk, slap happy.I had some Mexican food, talked to a man who had just come back from the Red River Rally(a Texas motorcycle rally) and chatted to the waitress. I wasn’t ready to get back on the bike and into the winds again.

I texted Jeff: “Where are you?”

“Checota for gas.”

Back on the bike. By the time I reached Henryetta OK. I had put in about 350 miles. I was glad to get off. I had been leaning so much on the bike that I walked around listing to starboard for a while.

I texted Jeff: “Where are you?”

“Just into Ft Smith.

We seek him here, we seek him there, Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven? — Is he in hell? That damned, elusive Pimpernel”

Maybe I’ll find him tomorrow.

Day 18: Leaning in to the Curve, Santa Fe, Wrong Turns, Los Alamos, Santa Fe Again, Amarillo

 Day 18: Leaning in to the Curve, Santa Fe, Wrong Turns, Los Alamos, Santa Fe Again, Amarillo

 A couple of firsts today.

Most miles ridden at one stretch: 176

Best gas mileage: 50 mpg.

A kind woman at the motel this morning gave me directions to my road out of town. Unfortunately, the directions were wrong. But it enabled me to visit Los Alamos and to drive a circle around scenic Santa Fe.

Who cares?

Back on the right road this time I was happy. I stopped, had a coffee and a sausage biscuit and felt refreshed. This is when I did the 176 miles, stopping in Tucumcari and a few more moments down historic Route 66.

It was a smooth ride for the most part. I hit a few really hard bumps and wondered how the hell my tires had survived. They are stock Dunlop Harley tires and they are filled with nitrogen, which works better than air in the tires. They are amazing.

The other thing I thought about was “leaning”. On a bike you have to lean into curves to survive the turn. (Counter-steering is a way of leaning but that’s for another post). Also, when hit by a crosswind it works best to lean into it; tacking, if you will. When I’m passing a truck I know I’m going to suddenly get the wind that’s been blocked. I lean the bike to the right. I might lean it up to 20% to the right to compensate and keep me going straight.

I’ve found that this also works with suffering. It has for mine. In the long run it doesn’t work to deny it, or ignore it. You have to lean in to it, accept it, but not beat yourself up about it. Learn from it.  

Pema Chadron says: “Instead of blaming our discomfort on outer circumstances or on our own weakness, we can choose to stay present and awake to our experience, not rejecting it, not grasping it, not buying the stories that we relentlessly tell ourselves.”  

It’s about leaning into our pain and suffering, accepting it and ourselves, and having compassion for ourselves. You can’t have compassion for others without having it for yourself.

Day 18: Baby Jesus, Hula Girl, St Christopher and Buddha

Day 18: Baby Jesus, Hula Girl, St Christopher and Buddha

I didn’t mean to give all of the credit to Hula Girl for helping me survive that whirling dust devil yesterday. I actually have two items with me on my bike. I have a statue of baby Jesus I’ve been carrying in my windscreen pouch as well. (You can see Him in yesterday’s photo post too!) Comes from a nativity set I had in Ireland. When I left there, He and I hit the road together. I would say there’s been no looking back, but there’s been too much looking back. One of the things I have hoped to accomplish on this trip was to let go of the past and stay in the present. Hula girl, the statue and Buddhism help me do that. The statue helps me to remember to be reverent, respectful and prayerful wherever I go. The dancing hula girl reminds me to have fun and be silly. There’s a Buddhist quote that helps pull it all together for me: “Act always as if the future of the universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference.”

It’s a nice blend of concern, reverence, humility and silliness.

Off to Amarillo!

Day 17: Hula Girl to the Rescue; Holbrook to Santa Fe, New Mexico

035Day 17:  Hula Girl to the Rescue; Holbrook to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Hula girl and a Statue of Baby Jesus.

 It’s 9 pm our time and I’m exhausted. So just a few notes. 300 miles today, which were relatively easy due to the lack of winds and an early start.  Leaving before 8am the sky was amazing. It was as if it was an “etch a sketch” toy but this time with a brilliant blue background and white lines. Contrails from jets traced lines across the sky. I saw three parallel lines. There’s a triangle and a trapezoid. Beautiful. 

I have to admit I was a bit dopey heading towards Santa Fe. I was daydreaming a lot, which is not a safe way to ride. But I made it. Beautiful town. I went to Cowgirls Bar and had Spanish food, which was excellent. I had an Estrella Damn beer which reminded me of baseball days with my son Colin Powers in Barcelona.

Jeff and I ate an excellent Spanish restaurant.

I had been annoyed that I no longer had a clock on my motorcycle since it had fallen off. I kept looking at the empty space longingly. Another clock? Not so easy to arrange. Then I remembered my old car in Ireland where I had a hula girl on the dashboard.  When I came to America I bought a hula girl for my jeep. So now, I decided to try and get one for the bike. I found one at Walmart, of course. I got one and it fit perfectly.

Ten miles outside of Santa Fe I noticed a spinning dust devil way off to the left. It was huge and I watched it from across the lanes. It wasn’t a threat. When I rode forward, the dust devil suddenly crossed into my lane. It stood there spinning. I braked and watched as its vortex spun into my lane. It was like a miniature tornado. Winds were spiraling in a circle, trash and rubbish was thrown against me. I slowed down initially and then floored it. I could feel the winds spinning around me, trash being thrown in a circle. I held on and rode away.

Now tomorrow we head toward Amarillo.  

Day 16: Henderson to Holbrook; Random and Unruly Thoughts I have while Riding

Day 16: Henderson to Holbrook; Random and Unruly Thoughts I have while Riding

Today I decided that I’d take out my laptop when I took a break and write down the thoughts I’d been having during the ride. After all, the subtitle of the blog is: Motorcycles and Mindfulness; Two Wheels Move the Soul. While riding, I find that I can balance focusing on the present-what my senses are telling me while I ride, e.g. sounds, smells, feel of the bike, reacting to the wind, reading the road ahead- with being mindful-thinking about issues, as long as they are in the present, and not the past or future. If I get into memories or thinking about what I’m going to do I get distracted and lose awareness.  That’s never good.

You will probably conclude that I’m pretty weird (if you haven’t already!) but welcome to my world! Here’s what I recorded at my breaks. I did edit it when I got to the hotel!

Break 1: After 100 miles. Kingman.

Whoo wee! That was a windy ride. I left Henderson, skirted around Lake Mead and Hoover Dam and was met with signs saying: gusty winds next 2 miles”. I tensed up; even though that’s the worst thing you can do on a bike. Winds are definitely a flow you’ve got to go with and you have to trust your experience and the bike. Though I did wish the highway people would start out with more gentle warning signs such as: “Not sure, but it could be a little windier than usual up ahead”, next sign: “We’re pretty sure now it’s going to be fairly windy”, “Okay, we were wrong it’s going to be gusty up ahead. Sorry.” I could then ease into it. Otherwise, I start to get anxious and tense. I look around.  Okay, where are those pesky winds hiding?

I spent two hours in the traffic and the gusts, did 100 miles and made it to Kingman, where I am now having some iced tea and relaxing. The winds were bad, but I’ve been through worse. Hurricane Point above Big Sur will now be my standard measurement. But now, the tea is cold, sweet and great. I’m happy as Larry, as they say in Ireland, though I never had a clue who this Larry was.

I was thinking about how I love how most bikers (90+ %) will give a little salute to other bikers as they pass. Normally, it’s the left hand down, extended outward but sometimes it’s a wave. It’s like we’re saying: He there buddy! Ride safe! I remember how when I was younger, out in different parts of Georgia car drivers would give a little wave. More recently, I remember driving in the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland where passing motorists will still wave to each other. It was quaint and I liked it.

Break 2: Williams Arizona for Lunch

Magnificent clouds met me when I left McDonalds. Huge feather clouds taking up half the sky, scudded by fleecy clouds underneath. Wow.  

Awareness and going with the flow to me means being patient, not in a hurry, enjoying the ride, recognizing that on the bike or off, our life is a ride. What applies on the road applies in life.

What gets in the way of our enjoying life are our expectations of things. We think things should be a certain way and they’re not and we get frustrated and angry. In restaurants we don’t like waiting. We get angry at the waiter. There’s some guy driving slow in front of us; another guy hogging the passing lane and we get angry, ride on their tails. It reminded me of a poem I wrote last year about geese. When I get to the hotel I’ll find it and stick it in here.

 (Here’s the poem!)

An Alternative Theory on Flying Geese and War

There’s a charming and inspiring story

About geese flying in a V formation,

Taking turns to lead

And honking to make contact

To support and encourage each other.

You’ve probably heard it.

Or you can Google it.

Personally, I don’t believe it.

Apply Ockam’s Razor,

The simplest explanation is often the best,

And you’ll see that they honk,

Like we do

When others get in our way.

Sky rage, road rage,

Sidewalk rage, rage between countries

What’s the difference?

For heaven’s sake the honking

Is not a “contact call”.

It’s not saying:

“I’m right here behind you!”

Geese aren’t stupid.

We know, they know

When some other goose

Is flying close behind our tail.

I don’t know about you but

No one ever encouraged me

With a honk.

We’re like the geese

Always in motion,

Heading in some direction which

To us feels sacred and inviolate

Wanting others

To hurry up

And get out of our way.

Think about it:

Hasn’t all our heartache,

Violence and war come from

Our desires to

Be some where

(Where is this where?)

Or be some one

(Special, acclaimed?)

Or have some thing?

(A person, fame, wealth, property?)

And damn it if other geese,

People, countries

Just won’t get the hell out of our way. 

They honk.

We honk.

 

Ha ha! That was fun.

 We’re in such a hurry. To where? In a car I’m thinking how this place is boring and how fast can I get across this bareness? I listen to the radio, keep changing stations, listen to a cd etc. On a motorcycle I’m immersed in this barrenness. The Buddhist might say that I am at one with the barrenness, and that maybe the barrenness isn’t really barren at all.

I see a bike ahead and can tell from the outline it’s an Electra Glide like Jeff’s. I can’t make up the color but no way I’ve caught up with him. I get closer and see it’s white, the guy has no helmet on, bless Arizona. I pass him and wave and he smiles and waves back, He has a bandana on and a long smoky grey beard that flops, doubling, as he waves. He’s cruising at 65 and enjoying every minute of it.

It is at this point that a wind zaps me into awareness again. Damn wind! I start thinking about it and wonder if any biker has compiled a typology of winds. Well, I’ll do my own.

  1. Zephyr. A gentle breeze.
  2. Directional wind. Wind coming from one direction.
  3. Cross winds. Winds sometimes from the left alternating with winds from the right.
  4. Buffeting winds. Winds created by large trucks when you are following them.
  5. Truck passing winds. Winds created when you’ve decided you’ve had enough and you’re damn well going to pass that truck. With these situations you have to factor in the Bernoulli Effect –which I won’t describe now but involves differences in air pressure which actually suck you towards the truck as you pass. (A whole independent treatise could be written on the crazy dynamics of these kinds of winds! Maybe I will.)
  6. Reappearing winds. They hide when you are passing the truck but when you reemerge they’re back with a vengeance.
  7. Wacky winds. Impatient, unhappy winds. They think the wind is greener on the other side. They dart through you, decide they don’t like it on the other side and quickly dart back. And they keep doing this like a kid changing channels on his TV.  
  8. Whacking winds. These appear out of nowhere and just whack you. The universal response is almost always something like: Where the hell did that come from! They remind me of what some Zen monks do to students who are meditating. If the student looks like they are drifting off into daydreaming then the monk will whack them on the shoulder with a stick. It’s for the student’s own good. Yeah right. Whacking winds can be helpful if you’ve lost awareness and focus, but I still hate them.  

 Then I’m back to thinking about the Geese poem again. Don’t all religions preach love, kindness and compassion? So my goal is to love the person in front of me, as Kierkegaard would say, not as I want them to be, wish they could be, but as they are, without any judgement, expectation, or demand that they be different. But our beliefs and ideas of right and wrong get in the way. (Where did they come from? What we think about our country, our rights, our religious beliefs? Are we sure about them?)  

We have so many beliefs about what we think is right and wrong and we never question them. We listen to other people and news sources which only serve to confirm our beliefs. We make fun of other groups. I’ll confess that I used to have a rough time with rich people and assumed all sorts of things about them. I didn’t like them. I also used to think bad things about overly demonstrative religious people. (And I would use parts of the Bible to justify these e.g. pray in quiet. But haven’t people always used the Bible this way? Look how many southerners used the Bible to justify slavery.)

I started thinking about the 16 years I lived in Northern Ireland. Now the people there were wonderful. And I’m not going to then say: “But bless their hearts!” and lay into them. They ones I met were and are wonderful. And I met some “chancers” as they would say over there!

But I remember once going on a cross cultural peace retreat at a peace center called Corrymeela. They had some great speakers and facilitators that tried to get you to look at things differently, to understand better where you and others were coming from.  I remember a leader saying: To Jesus right or wrong wasn’t the most important thing. It didn’t matter if the person was a prostitute, leper, tax collector, a beggar, or a rich man, it was the relationship that he had with that person that was of utmost importance. He put aside His judgements. He saw the person and he loved them. That stuck in my head. Ideas can get in our way and we don’t even know it. Catholic or Protestant? Years ago, before they had the long time now peace process the old joke used to go: A car gets stopped at a paramilitary road block in Belfast and a man with a gun asks the driver. “Are you a Catholic or a Protestant?  In those days, depending on where you were in Belfast the answer to that question can make a huge difference as to whether you continue to drive in your car. Anyway, the man says: “I’m a Buddhist.” The paramilitary man thinks for a moment and then replies: “Yeah, but are you a Catholic Buddhist or a Protestant Buddhist?”

I figure my job is to let go of labels and judgements. If I’m busy criticizing or making fun of others, be it Republicans, liberals, Democrats, rednecks, immigrants, gay people, people from other countries, whoever, then I’m digging a hole for myself. Besides, I love what Anne Lamotte said: The surest sign that you’ve created God in your own image is when it turns out He hates the same people you do. My goal is to love others. Judging gets in the way of that.  I need to watch out for this. I can slip into judgements and expectations of others in the blink of an eye.

I’m writing this down (most of it-edited later) while sitting out in the sun having lunch, a beer and listening to a well-travelled, folk and blues player.  This man has paid his dues. He seems to be happy in the moment. He jokes, shares stories, plays requests and pets his dog during the break.  

I look over at a gabled wall and read: Williams- Last Route 66 town bypassed by 1-40 on October 13th 1984. 

It feels great to be off the bike, to sit in the sun, to watch the families, the children goofing around and to listen to the music.

The food comes. The cole slaw is better than good, even has some walnuts in it. The fries are very good. The amber ale is excellent but I don’t like the barbecue sandwich. I am disappointed but not upset. I could get mad but what will getting mad do for me? For anyone else? I’m happy. Maybe it’s a different style of barbecue? Arizona style, where apparently they don’t know how to make real barbecue! I don’t eat it. I let it go and enjoy everything else.

I’m rewarded brilliantly when the musician plays two tunes I love and hardly ever hear. “Looking for the Heart of Saturday night.” By Tom Waits and a real obscure song called:   

“1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” By Richard Thompson. Wow.

 I figure I’ve got about 130 miles to go. It’s 3:15 pm. An easy two hours with more stuff to think about.

 Break 3: in Holbrook, Arizona.

Jeff’s already here and we chat. It’s good to see him again. He tells of his adventures and I tell mine. I hope he’ll blog them because the man can tell a story and he’s funny as all get out.

I collapsed on the bed. I was exhausted. My head hurt and I fell asleep.

Later, when I woke up we talked some more. I asked him if he’d seen the man on the yellow Victory. He hadn’t. So I told him the story.

When I was leaving Williams and topping up the gas tank I ran into another biker doing the same thing. He was on a yellow Victory motorcycle. He came hobbling over to talk.

“You hurt yourself?” I asked.

“Yep, I’ve dropped the bike 5 times. Last time was up at the Grand Canyon. Slipped on some gravel. bike fell on my foot. I’m not used to the roads.”

“Dang!” I replied. I walked over to his bike. It looked nice but dirty and a bit dented.

“You been on the road long?” I asked.

“Just 10 days. Had a fog light here.” He said pointing to where there were only two wires sticking out. “Knocked it off when I dropped her. Other one still works.”

“You been riding motorcycles for long?” I had to ask.

“Yep. This bike has 35,000 miles on it. But these roads are different than the ones back in Tennessee.”

We talked for a while longer. I was going East and he West.  I wished him well as we said goodbye.  “And no more dropping your bike!” I said.

When I left I gave thanks for not having had his experiences. And I said a prayer for him.  

 

Jeff and I chatted off and on. He wrote, I wrote, he called his wife. We discussed things. He’s a witty and clever and fun traveling companion. I’m lucky. He, not so much.

Before he headed off to bed he said: “Lookie here, ain’t that nice they put a special pad under my sheet. I guess it’s in case I pee during the night.” He laughed.

I said: “Well Jeff I gave them those special instructions  because I’m not going to pay those motel surcharges for you any more.”

He laughed: “Yep, I bet you’ve already forked out $200 in paying for new mattresses!”

“Yep, and I ain’t gonna do it any more.”

Yosemite and Tioga Pass: Day 13

I wanted to visit Yosemite Valley for one reason; Half Dome. Half Dome, pictured above, is a granite slice of pie cut to serve by glacier. Yosemite Valley contains world class waterfalls, massive towering structures of rock such as El Capitan, redwoods, meadows, wildlife, and a roaring river competing with boulders the size of apartment buildings. People visit Yosemite from around the world to live for a bit in nature’s majesty. I visited Yosemite because I have a crush on Half Dome. My eyes and heart feasted on HD’s supple yet elegant shape, pictures were taken and it was time to head out and up and around Yosemite Valley via Rt. 120, towards and along Tioga Pass; upwards to @ 10,000 ft and out the other side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the western side of Mono Lake.

**Please stay tuned

Day 15: Death Valley, the Leak Again, Henderson, Nevada, Harley Dealer, Casino

Day 15: Death Valley, the Leak Again, Henderson, Nevada.

 “O Public Road
You express me better than I can express myself.
You shall be more to me than my poem.” ~Walt Whitman

We made it safely to Henderson and to the Harley Dealer. I’m sitting outside on a bench there waiting to hear the news on the bike. Normally, what I hear is: “Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news.”

So far the guy thinks that the cover plate on the inspection chamber for the transmission might be warped and that’s why it’s leaking. He doesn’t have another cover but he could replace the gasket and put sealant on it to seal it up. That would at least get me home. We’ve now come 3500 miles and we have about 2000 more to go. I’m not worried. What was it the guy said to us the other day? ‘Go with the flow and be at peace.’ Very Zen and very Taoist. To me, this trip is about finding “the flow”, going with it and being at peace.

I can’t see my bike but I just heard them crank her up. After a while you know what your engine and exhaust sounds like.

I asked if they could change the oil as well and they said they would. The bike is supposed to have the oil changed roughly every 3000 miles. I had it changed before we left.

Looking at the mileage a short while ago I realized that I had just passed over 10,000 miles since I got the bike from Jeff last July.  

This morning Jeff and I got up before 6am so that we could get an early start on crossing Death Valley. It was supposed to be in the high 90’s there today but the temperature can reach the 120’s. Death Valley got its name from pioneers who tried to cross it in 1849. One died and the others barely made it. As the story goes after crossing it one traveler looked back and said: “Goodbye Death Valley” probably referring to the 23rd Psalm.

We gassed up, loaded up the bikes with snacks and water. I remembered the advice of Anne Lamott who said: “The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.” Magazines might be tough, but I packed plenty of water.
We had enjoyed our stay in Independence. The night we arrived we had a nice walk and a meal at the Still Life Café which included, French food, French waiters, Billie Holliday music, eclectic photographs, painting and posters and Mojave Gold Lager, which was excellent.

Jeff hit the sack early and I stayed up to write. I sat outside on a bench and enjoyed the cool evening, stars shining in a cobalt sky and the faint, ghostly outline of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Today we encountered another mind boggling day of scenery. It took us over 170 miles to cross the desert. We went from an elevation on 4000 feet to 200 feet below sea level. Gas stations were about 50 miles apart. No phone coverage. Not a place you want to break down. Not a place to have a leaky bike.

True adventures have to have an element of peril in them but I have to admit I’d rather it be Jeff’s peril than mine! Ha ha!

As I was riding it was hard not to think about the leak, the Harley dealer in Henderson and getting the hell out of the desert. But then I realized that I was thinking about the future and not “being here now”, which is really the only game in town worth playing. I slowed down and got back into enjoying the countryside.Treating each moment as sacred, as a miracle. “The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth.” Thich Nhat Hanh

The bike is finished. No bad news! They fixed the leak, added a clip for my exhaust, changed the oil and washed her up. She looks prettier than a speckled pup under a shiny red wagon.  Jeff is jealous.

We made it to the hotel and ran a few errands, ate at a casino, which I found depressing and now I’m exhausted.