I’m ready to leave LA. As my good friend Giles says frequently: “My work is done here.” It wasn’t really ‘work’; it was a complete pleasure seeing my daughter graduate from university and seeing one of my sons again. I’m so proud of them. And the one who lives in London.
Mentally, emotionally, for the last year what had preoccupied my thinking about this trip was the idea of seeing my ex-wife again. Although I initiated the divorce 5 years ago, I hadn’t wanted to. It broke my heart. Things had changed after 23 years of marriage. She had been a great wife during those years and continues to be a terrific mother to the children. We hadn’t spoken in years and I was slightly anxious. But the meeting went well. And something inside me finally felt completed, finished. It was very subtle but I sensed that a road was now repaired, new paths were being open to me. The crossing of a final bridge. Okay, the metaphors are bad but that’s what I felt.
I remember something Heidegger wrote about that in a change (Umschlag) something that was hidden and absent becomes manifested. That’s how I feel.
So now that everything is complete I am ready to leave again and I have no clue where I’m going. I want to leave it up to fate, chance, God, the Universe, the Tao -whatever. My son Colin asks where I’m going and I say ‘north’. He laughs and replies: “Well, I know that, but where north?”
“I don’t know.”
Not that I imagine myself as a knight errant of old, but I have been reading Don Quixote and came upon this quote:
He now came to a road branching in four directions, and immediately he was reminded of those cross-roads where knights-errant used to stop to consider which road they should take. In imitation of them he halted for a while, and after having deeply considered it, he gave Rocinante his head, submitting his own will to that of his hack (horse)…
My heart feels free. I have at least a month left to travel and I can go anywhere Big Red, my hack, wants to.
I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for reading.
Day 13: New Hazelton, BC. 280 miles today. Only 161 miles to Hyder, Alaska! Bears sighted.
I’m sitting outside my motel room at the Robber’s Roost, drinking a beer called Pilsner, smoking a Dunhill cigar and staring across the street at some snowcapped mountains. It’s 70 degrees, 21 Celsius. Can’t believe I’m this close to Alaska.
Had to say goodbye to my good buddy Kevin today. He needed to head back to Calgary and eventually back to work. It was great having him to pal around with! A great friend who is now hunkering down in Canmore probably talking to the woman from Slovakia that we met.
This morning when I left Prince George it was not much above freezing. The ride to the town of Houston was cold, cloudy, slightly interesting but when I got to Houston everything lit up: the sky, my mood, the weather. The mountains reappeared, with a river running alongside the town and it was beautiful. The town was had some nice parks, shops, restaurants, pubs, places filled with opportunities for outdoor activities. The same for cute little towns like Telkwa and Smitters that we passed through. If I had to live up here, I’d choose one of these towns. Morice mountain and the Telkwa Range you could see as you drove along. Snow caked the top like frosting a child hadn’t scrapped off yet. Though the signs warned of moose, caribou and black bear in the area I only saw the bears a few times by the side of the road. And we’re not talking Yogi and Boo Boo either.
So far Big Red and I have traveled 3423 miles, just over 5500 kilometers. Only 161 miles ( 259 Kilometers) to go. Then what?
Then we head down the west coast of Canada toward LA where my son, daughter and son-in law live. Can’t wait to see them. But that will be another 2100 miles (3400 Kilometers). Piece of cake. We got this one.
Map update: https://secure.travellerspoint.com/member_map.cfm?user=kierk1&tripid=894952
It’s been hot in Georgia (USA) the past month with temperatures up into the high 90’s (35C). It was so hot at times that chickens were laying boiled eggs. So hot that when I went outside to smoke my pipe the tobacco lit itself. So hot that men have been spotted marrying tall women just for the shade. That kind of hot. So it was a relief for most of us these last few days when the temperatures dropped overnight into the 40’s (7C). I almost went out last night to throw a blanket onto Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King. By the way, I added her mileage up and we’ve ridden over 38,000 miles in the last three years. She deserves some tender loving care. I was thinking about this while I was watching a woman I know from a nearby community who was handing out blankets to some of the homeless that sleep rough in the woods in tents. One man said to her: “you’re my angel.” and she responded, “wait till you get to know me better!” I imagine that’s the typical angel response that they teach you in your Introductory Angels class.
Now, in my reckoning, saints are easier to pick out of a line up. Mother Theresa, for most people, was clearly a saint. Dorothy Day was a saint. Some are campaigning that the great baseball legend Roberto Clemente, who died while trying to help others, was a saint. (Babe Ruth was clearly no saint.) Angels, as we know, are harder to identify. They may be doing angelic things, which makes it a darn sight easier, but they can also come like Elijah the prophet, in disguise, what Emerson called, “disguised and discredited angels”. Elijah, in the old stories, was often found using various disguises such as a beggar, a prostitute, a court official, and an Arab. And though he was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot (I’m guessing a Harley Road King with the Screamin Eagle upgrades) people still claim to see him today. He’s still wandering around in disguises testing our commitment to showing compassion and hospitality to strangers.
So you might not be an angel, or a saint for that matter but don’t worry, you can still be in the running for being one of the Lamed Vav. “Who are they?” you ask.
In an old Hasidic story it claims that throughout history at any one time there are 36 people upon whom the survival of civilization depends. If not for all of them, the world would come to an end. The 36 are described as humble, modest, righteous, anonymous people who appear when an emergency comes, somehow avert the disaster and then return to anonymity. They don’t have any superpowers, they’re just unassuming people in various disguises who use their innate talents and abilities to help others. They could be a beggar, a teacher, a pastor, a monk, a candlestick maker for all we know. They themselves don’t know that they’re one of the 36. In fact, thinking you’re a Lamed Vav is considered proof that you aren’t. The real Lamed Vav are too humble to believe that they’re one of the 36. They appear when they are needed, do their thing which is really about being who they are and then they disappear. So how do you recognize them? They don’t wear masks like the Lone Ranger. The simple answer is that you don’t. But the fate of the whole world rests on their shoulders so we had better treat them well.
In a reading I found on the Internet, a Rabbi Raymond Zerwin questions how we might act if we went around suspecting that the people we meet might be one of the Lamed Vav? That somehow hidden inside this person are the talents or resources that will be needed someday to save the world. Would it affect how we treat others? Who might these Lamed Vavs be disguised as? What if we might be one of the 36 ourselves? If you don’t think you are then that means you’re still in the running. Just in case we are one of the 36 we should go easy on ourselves, not be so critical of ourselves, and not so critical of others.
So who knows? The people you meet could be disguised and discredited angels, saints, the prophet Elijah or maybe the Lamed Vav. I don’t know about you but the possibility of it makes me want to look at people a little more carefully.
There’s a philosophical reason why payday always seems so incredibly far away. To disrespectfully borrow from the Greek philosopher Zeno it would go something like this. Today is Monday and payday is Friday. For me to get to Friday I have to get half way there, say Wednesday. And for me to get to Wednesday I have to get half way there, say Tuesday. Maybe you see where this is going. For me to get to Tuesday, I have to get half way there, which is about 4 pm today. Then there’s half way to that, and half way to that. In other words, there’s an infinite number of half “times” I have to reach before payday. May not be scientifically true but it certainly explains psychologically why payday always feels as if it will never come!
It’s Monday morning and as usual it looks like payday will never come. I’ve got to go to work. I stare mournfully at the back tire on the Road King (AKA Big Red). I have almost 9000 miles on that tire and there’s an angel hair’s width of tread still on her. I’ve needed a new one since El Paso, Texas, almost 2 months ago. Harley whitewalls aren’t cheap. About $300 installed. There’s 4 days until pay day when I can get it replaced. I like to pay cash. And it’s the same 4 days on which I have to make the 100 mile round trip to Dalton, where I work.
R60/5 with the toaster gas tank
I was out in the garage staring at Big Red’s back tire, shaking my head when the Old Knight, the 1973 BMW R60/5, whispered to me to let her out of the cage. She could do the run up to Dalton she promised. I tilted my head and stared at her. I had been riding her around town for the last year and she’s done alright. She’s had a few problems but nothing you couldn’t work through or around when you ride her. The thing is that she’s 41 years old. She has four speeds, a 599cc engine (Big Red has five and most new bikes six) and doesn’t have a windscreen. She has Mikuni carbs on her which work far better than the custom Bing ones. (“Why do they call Bing carburetors Bing? Because that’s the sound they make hitting the trash can.”). Why not give the Old Knight a try?
There’s nowhere to stash the coffee thermos and no saddlebags so I just “bungeed” my laptop bag to the seat and took off. She handled beautifully as she always does. Engine’s quiet and she just thumps along. The acceleration’s not fast but it is consistent. After a while I relaxed and just enjoyed crossing the rivers and watching the mist rising in the hills and mountains.
But then I hit Interstate 75 for my last 20 miles. Cars and trucks whizzed by as the bike slowly gained speed. She was straining, but happy and still had more throttle left when I got her to 80 mph.That’s when the problem with the tachometer needle started. These old BMW’s are notorious for having bad speedometer/tachometer units. For the last month my rpm gauge has acted like a metronome with its needle flipping right and left. Now it started going wild. For a while it ran all the way to the right and stuck in the red zone like I was redlining it. It remained stuck there all day Monday.
On Tuesday the rpm gauge tip finally broke off and the base of the needle began spinning around like a fan or like the newspapers hot off the press in those old movies. Slightly mesmerizing if you stared at it, so I just didn’t. Besides, who needs an rpm gauge? My Harley didn’t have one.
On Wednesday a loud whirling sound, related to the engine speed, started coming out of the headlight unit, where, of course, the speedometer/tachometer is located. On the way home the speedometer needle started bouncing around like it had the hiccups. One moment it showed I was going 40mph and the next moment 80. It finally settled down and stopped, showing me riding at a cool 120 mph.
Thursday morning, one more day to go,and the Old Knight put her brave face on again. Who can resist the pleading grin from that shiny chrome toaster tank? I strapped on my laptop bag, cranked her up and rode her down the driveway and out to the main road. That’s when the clutch started slipping. I managed to turn her around and ride back up to the house but the clutch kept slipping and she couldn’t make it up the driveway. I parked her on the street, grabbed my backpack and sped out on Big Red, fearing I was going to be late for class. I was there 2 minutes early.
When I got home, after parking Big Red, I went down to tinker with the BMW. I got her started, took her for a spin and then managed to ride her back up the driveway to the garage. There she sits, proud but with a slightly burnished ego.
Friday, I drove Big Red down to the Harley dealer and had a new tire put on the rear.
The next repair work will be on the Old Knight, next pay day, of course that’s if it ever comes.