Tuesday, June 30

Clipped wings…No Cuba, No Peru

My wings felt clipped this weekend. So, I am glad in some ways to see it pass. A ton of incomplete work is squeezing the breath from me. Glad this too shall pass because it’s painful, relatively speaking, to sit at a computer and stare at a screen where the words simply refuse to appear easily. Some famous writer once said writing is easy, all you have to do is open up a vein. On the other hand, I’m also not thrilled to see the weekend go as it signals that yet another 48 hours have elapsed and I’m still not where I need to be in my task. I need more time but I’ve had too much time already.Thus, my plans to visit Peru and Cuba remain unfulfilled. Internally, I’m whining and that feeling of being constrained is both distracting and blocking. I did an errand on the ‘cycle, which should have taken 30 minutes tops. Took me nearly 2 hours as I found all kinds of reasons for other errands that had to be done. Riding is more than a physical act. It is also spiritual and can be a muse of sorts. To ride safely, one needs to be completely focused on the task and perhaps doing that, helps loosen up other regions of the brain to let the creative juices flow. Sometimes taking a very long walk will have the same effect and something I‘ve been puzzling over all becomes clear. I should have taken a short 50 miles ride--it would have done wonders for me, I‘m sure about that. It is my fault that I am shackled (more or less) this weekend. I have only myself to blame. A too full plate will eventually topple.

When shall I learn? This is not unfamiliar territory. Still, it’s got to end this week. A long weekend is on the horizon and the sweet scent of freedom beckons me.

Feeling sorry for myself this weekend made me think of a poem by one of my favorite poets, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, appropriately titled “Sympathy.”

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals--
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting--
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,--
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings--
I know why the caged bird sings!
Paul Laurence Dunbar

When I am free, I shall visit Dayton, OH where Dunbar is from. There is a National Parks stamp I can collect on him. He was a classmate of one of the Wright brothers, so I can also retrieve an aviation stamp to honor their contributions to flight. I shall also visit Woodland Cemetery where Dunbar is buried and say a special thanks to him for poems I first read as a child.

Thursday, June 25


Early Wednesday morning, I went for a ride before going to work. I was out and on the road by 5:10am. I wanted to catch the sunrise, which the online sunrise/sunset chart said would occur at 5:17a.m.. I knew just where to go too. I didn't even think about sharing my capture on this site, although I did put it on flickr where I house much of my photography.

Then, today I was at Redleg's Rides blog and he writes about and shares his photographs taken during the "Golden Hour."  His mention of the Golden Hour instantly got me to thinking about my morning out and my success at catching the sunrise, another brief and important window of time when the light is sweet and pure and the color that shines down and out from it, is warm and glowing and beautiful. One is rewarded whenever the magic of a sunrise is witnessed. 

Photography is light and light-play is always an amazing thing to behold and try to freeze for later memories.

This has been a sad news day that has made me remember. 

I grew up with Farrah Fawcett and "Charlie's Angels." She had a light bulb smile and seemed to love Ryan O'Neal forever and a day, in ways that he seemed overwhelmed by and only later seemed to easily return. Her death was expected. Still, it was sad.  Then I heard about Michael Jackson's demise this afternoon. What a brilliant, gifted but also tragic figure. It's a sad story. 

I loved the Jackson 5. I remember them dancing up a storm on the Ed Sullivan Show. I bought their records and sang their songs.  Something changed for me, though, when the group disbanned and he took on a solo career. Still, I'd stop to watch his magical feet dance and hear his silky voice deliver his latest hit--songs he wrote.  "Thriller" is an album of genius.  Listen to "Billie Jean." Something tragic seems to happens to many uber-celebrities, particularly those who step into fame and fortune early.  Eventually, he just seemed to me to be stunted mentally/emotionally and never grew up.

To me, his physical metamorphosis and increasingly strange and controversial personal life began to overshadow his genius and I simply lost interest--that is, until I'd hear an old Jackson 5 tune on the radio and I'd remember the teenage memories and the prodigy from Gary, Indiana.
On my ride this past Sunday, a Jackson 5 tune came on the XM radio, it was, "I Want You Back," and I sang along to the top of my lungs inside my helmet. I remember thinking how I should download some of the J5 on my Ipod because those old tunes would make great motorcycle riding music.  I will do that...

Remembering memories...

Tuesday, June 23

First, Portugal...now Brazil and Paris!

I had planned another Iron Butt Saddle Sore 1000 for Sunday. My route would be a simple one. I would leave by 3:30am and return home 10pm. But the anticipation must have gotten to me for I didn’t sleep well the night before, which isn’t the way to start—and finish—a LD ride. So, I scrapped my SS and decided on something more fun. I guess you can say I did a half SS as the mileage totaled a bit over 500 for the day.

Following on the heels of Portugal, I decided to take a visit to Brazil and then on to Paris. Okay, so it’s Brazil, Indiana and Paris, IL but still… I was on the road by 6am because I was determined to have breakfast at Shaprio’s in Indianapolis and get back home before nightfall. I succeeded on both accounts.

I took the interstate getting to Indianapolis but after that, I knew getting to Brazil and Paris would allow me some nice country roads and old two lane highways. Given that it was Father’s Day, I felt a nice connection with my deceased father who fought in the Korean “War” as I rode along stretches of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway.

My Sunday ride was a welcomed relief from stamps hunting. For a change, I took my time and enjoyed this ride. I even turned on the new XM satellite radio! A cloudy sky with dark threatening clouds in some places kept reminding me that it might rain today. Even at 6am the temps were in the 70s and humid. I wore a comfortable summer jacket with lots of open flaps and my mesh pants with knee and hip armor. I love these pants even though they make me look like I’ve packed stolen goods in each hip.

After an easy three hours, I pulled into my favorite eatery--Shapiro’s Deli. It is nearly 10:30 EST I have driven basically straight through. I usually lunch here so breakfast here will be a treat. I order pancakes. When they arrive, I gasp. They are mammoth—and scrumptious! I barely ate half. I wanted so badly to buy lunch too but given the hot weather, I thought better of it. I didn’t want to fuel the wrath of salmonella.

Before leaving Indianapolis, I learned in some former research that near Shapiro’s is a spot that was a terminus on the Underground Railroad. This was a totally unexpected discovery. The place is now the Slippery Noodle, a rather famous blues joint. It is also the oldest bar in the state.

Crown Hill Cemetery was my next Indianapolis stop.
It’s a vast place (3rd largest in the country) and several people are buried there whom I wanted to locate.

Top on my list were Benjamin Harrison, 23rd President, and his two wives. I stopped in the office and they pointed out his plot on the map. After the death of his first wife, Harrison remarried. His second marriage was to his wife’s niece, who happened to be 25 years younger. According to a couple of sources, his two adult children (41 and 38 years old) were ticked at old Dad! They did not attend the wedding to show their disapproval of his marriage to their first cousin, which made the child from this second wife, their sister as well as second cousin. I asked also about the infamous John Dillinger, who is also interred there. I found none of the graves I was looking for, but I still enjoyed myself. It’s a massive layout. I thought of the “loud pipe saves lives” bikes rumbling through this cemetery—and chuckled at the thought of “waking the dead.“ I was happy my bike is smooth and quiet—no complaints from the residents.

Brazil, Indiana

Riding to Brazil was a joy. US 40 parallels I-70W so I took US40. Brazil is supposed to have an interesting county courthouse and a Carnegie funded public library.

Carngegie funded libraries everywhere—or so it seems.

I read something that said Brazil streets were in bad shape, that the brick roadbed is exposed in many places and that one can see that the brick is actually in better condition than the top street. The roads were bumpy but didn’t seem any worse than other roads I’ve encountered. Nice small rural town that appears to have seen better times--haven’t we all, though? I saw two oldish teens on scooters who eyeballed me and the bike. They must have been doing some serious dirt riding with those scooters as they were filthy boys, with completely dirty shirts. I pulled in behind them at a stop light and kept my eyes on them. I noticed that both young men had cigarettes hanging from their mouth. RWS (riding while smoking).

Know the name Erwin “Cannonball” Baker? He was an award winning motorcycle racer back in the day. Born in 1882, he set a slew of records. In 1908, he bought an Indian motorcycle and the rest, as they say, is history. Sounds like he was the Michael Jordan of this time--only on two wheels. Take a look at this dapper gent.

Before leaving Brazil, don't forget to stop at Eddie's Sandwich Shoppe.

It was closed but looks like a neat little place. It's been around since 1931 and they're known for their "little" hamburgers.

Paris, Illinois

I rode to Paris to get more pics. They too have a noteworthy county courthouse.

It’s an easy trip from Brazil. I took US 40, which by the way, is one of the US National Roads. This led me to US 150 for miles and then Route 1, right into town. Paris is in Edgar County and they have their own little historical buildings complex.

They really do have an absolutely gorgeous county court building.

I took way too many pics of it but couldn’t help myself. Paris, IL is on the map also for having 4 buildings on the National Registry of Historic Places—that’s pretty dang impressive for a town so small.

The Edgar County Courthouse is one of the National Historic sites. Hey, I wonder if I could have picked up some stamps here. Hmmm? Oh, well…

Paris is also famous for Carl Dean Switzer. Know that name? It’s great Jeopardy game show knowledge. Both Carl and his brother were childhood actors whom almost everyone has seen on the silver screen. Does, Our Gang ring a bell? Remember Alfalfa? Remember that bad falsetto voice that cracked whenever he tried to sing? Well Alfalfa, aka Carl Dean Switzer, was born in Paris, IL! Yes! Alfalfa comes from Paris, IL! Both he and his brother (who played in the gang) were discovered when they were on a trip to CA. At the time, they were already fairly big in Paris, IL.

I left Paris, IL with every intention of heading to Champaign, IL to have a late lunch at another of my favorite restaurants, Nitaya Thai for crabmeat fried rice. But when I arrived at the Champaign turn off, I was feeling good and just didn’t want to stop. Big mistake. I should have stopped and eaten for a couple of reasons. I felt hungry the last two hours of the trip. I also rode through three separate, brief, bursts of rain—one rather heavy. Nothing to write home about but I probably would have avoided them had I stopped. In the end, this was a trip of pure fun.
Arrived home long before dark. Energized, hungry and history geekism, completely satisfied.

Miles completed: 531
Fun factor 10/10
XM radio -- priceless! (I listened to NPR, CNN and '70s tunes!)

Monday, June 15

Happy Ride to Work Day!

I am back from Portugal. Time flies when the shackles are off. 

This is the second consecutive RTWD that I've missed.  Before leaving for Portugal,  I dropped off Jesse Owens at Motoworks Chicago to get the Fuzeblock installed.  The shop isn't open on Monday so I'm bikeless. 

 If I walk slowly, I can make it to work in ten minutes so riding to work doesn't make much sense.  But if I had my bike, later, when rush hour had thinned, and the cabbies were on simmer and the streets were less angry, I'd hop on Jesse and make a ceremonial pass of the building and give it a little nod.  

Hope you were able to ride to work today or just ride to a favorite destination! 

Ride safe!

Wednesday, June 10

Motorcycle Views from Lisboa, Portugal

This week, I have no two wheel adventures  of my own to post. Instead, I am in Lisboa, Portugal, missing my bike and acutely tuned to the many motorcycles I see buzzing about the downtown streets of Lisboa.  Everywhere, two wheels (occasionally three), 

are out and about. DSC_0991

In the downtown area where I am staying, many of the streets are old brick, which is not particularly fun to ride on . There is a jostling and bumping that can be jarring.   Electric cable cars share many  streets. The cable car tracks weave throughout the narrow streets.  They obviously require considerable skill by motorcyclists to skirt safely  around. When wet, these bricks are slippery--I know because one of my favorite routes in Chicago has bricks like these and when wet, they are slicker than castor oil. It rained a bit yesterday here and there are  small, shiny variously shaped bricks that cover the pedestrian walkways, which required my full attention to stay upright.


Thought I'd share some of my motorcycle observations while here in Lisboa.  First, there are motorcycles and scooters everywhere! While I've seen lots of small cc scooters, there are lots of huge displacement (650cc) scooters whizzing by.  Boy do they move! Next, every rider on two wheels wears a helmet! I now have tons of pictures of motorcyclists, not one have I seen yet without a helmet.

Funny thing though, while the modular helmets seems to be most popular,  the trend seems to be to wear it in the upright (flipped up) position! I don't know if this is a statement against having to wear a helmet or just a local motorcycle fashion.   It's an interesting sight to behold.

Motorcycle parking is ample! On many occasions I've had a motorcycle riding by me on the sidewalk! They are heading to spaces (some unmarked) near corners of the sidewalk. At times, these areas are marked with a large blue and white sign with an image of a motorcycle posted underneath it. Motorcycles also park on the street next to cars.  They are also parked outside buildings--again on the sidewalk. I would imagine that these considerable parking allowances relates  to  the sheer number of bikes in Lisboa needing space.


Lisboa reminds me of San Francisco. In fact, the tour guides have said the same thing. It's the streets of Lisboa! And, like many European cities, the streets, particularly in the old sections of town are narrow--really narrow.  I've seen cable cars, motorcycles, and cars partake in a seemingly precarious dance of close calls and near misses. But they all seem to manage well. Lots of stopping in curves so one must remember to straighten up and out those motorcycle wheels before applying the brakes.

The Honda Transalp motorcycle is ubiquitous! Lots of Honda CBs and Honda 599. Dualsports of all types can be spotted among the crowd. I've counted many BMWs but no F800ST--yet. I know that at least one resides here because the owner participates in the F800riders.org forum that I frequent. I'm hoping to see him before I leave this incredibly interesting country. I have seen no HDs! None. Zip. Nada!

The "Policia" are fitted with motorcycles--pretty cool ones too. They ride dualsports and standards. The  most popular is a white bike with the checked paint design and matching paint job for the helmet.  I've taken many pics of motorcycles. I heard that there are motorcycle tours available. I'm still checking that out. They do have self guided tours in the SmartCar. DSC_1014 It is equipped with a GPS that narrates the trip and tells you where to go. They also have a similar tour in a three wheeler, which is really a little car (like a three-wheel Piaggio) in a colorful, roofless  body. The driver and passenger don helmets and it navigates through traffic just like the big cars--it sounds extremely motorcyclish! 


I still don't get the driving here. Enough head scratching round-abouts to cause permanent brain damage.  Yet, Lisboa would be a thrilling place to ride two wheels--once one gets accustomed to the curving streets, the steep climbs and sharp descents and the many many blind side streets that people seem to enter and exit with some mysterious order that keeps the traffic flowing but escapes logic.


The food is something to write home about! I've had some of the best grilled salmon ever!  The gelado, local ice cream, is simply "to die for!" I speak not a word of Portuguese but my daughter is here with us and she is fluent. It is amazing to me to see her navigate her way around, take the public transportation system with ease, do all our food ordering and hotel negotiations.

For a price, I'm willing to share her. If you need a tour guide to any place where Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, or Catalan,  is spoken, she is available during the summers. All negotiations must go through her mother--and I get to come along.

This week away from my bike warrants a big trip when I return. I'm seriously thinking that another Saddle Sore is in order. Hmmm?

Monday, June 1

"So, what... you ride a Ducati?!" and feeling the fear of southern Indiana

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I wake up tired but still wanting to take advantage of the day. The weather is cool and cloudy with rain seemingly only moments away. Yet those cheery meteorologists on the Weather Channel claim the day will brighten and warm up. But some parts of Indiana are bracing for a storm. I decided to forego heading to Vincennes, IN today. Just not feeling it. I'm think Dunes! Depending on my start point and the point at which I want to enter, the Indiana National Dunes Lakeshore is about 50 miles away. A nice 100 miles plus round trip sounds fun, stress-free and an opportunity to hike the sand dunes. Besides, I haven't visited the dunes in years, although I pass by them often.

I take my time departing. Before hitting the road, I pack hiking clothes and shoes, my Nikon D80, and stop at a local deli to create a take out lunch.  There are some great roads leading to the dunes. One can go via back roads, lightly traveled highways, or superslab it. I took the latter, given that I leave so late. Last time I ventured this way, I took the wonderfully shaded, wooded and scenic route that sticks close to Lake Michigan's lakeshore. 

The destination ride is uneventful but I can feel the excitement mount in thinking about the hike. Last summer, I visited many state parks for the expressed purpose of hiking and taking pictures. I miss that.  When I get to the National Lakeshore,  I pull into the Visitors Center (VC)  and stamp my Passport book, my first stamp from Indiana. I watch a video about the dunes formation, land acquisition, and lakeshore conversation.  The weather is beach beautiful! I dress for hiking. I find a place for lunch, read a tad, prep my camera and ready for the hike. 

Sand dune hiking is a challenge as the footing is uneven but I enjoy every step. Since it was already after 5pm, I take a one mile hike near West Beach. Doing so, makes me realize how,  in pursuing stamps, I'm getting away from what I enjoy most, that is, using my bike as a favorite mode of transportation to visit parks and other places to enjoy nature, history and some alone time. It is a lovely day! I watch the gulls play with each other and dance on the water.  Riding 300 or so miles to reach a national site before the VC closes makes enjoying the terrain a secondary matter at best.  On too many occasions, I arrive and don't have time to even watch the video!  Saturday had everything and it all turned out so well. Beautiful lake scenes, clean beach area, friendly sun worshippers and nice photo opportunities. I hike the quite sandy forest and dunes feeling renewed with each step. 

When I leave the beach, I feel lighter, unloaded with the previous week's stress. I head to my house in the suburbs. I hang out, have dinner with husband and daughter, both of whom are leaving for Portugal Sunday for two weeks. I will join them the second week.  Later that night, I head downtown Chicago. I park Jesse Owens (my bike's name, in case you don't know that) and enter the building's elevator. 

A young 20-something guy, dressed in chic hip hop fashion (that is, expensive hip hop) looks at me with what looks like s smirk, sort of, on his face. It is part smirk, part "Look at me, I'm the definition of Kool." I am facing the elevator door; he is facing my left shoulder. He is looking me up and down with a half smile, full smirk. "So, what...you ride a Ducati?"   I want to respond to him in my horrible Robert DeNiro (Taxi Driver)  impression and say, "You talkin' to me?" But I resist. Instead, I look as incredulous as I can and say, "What?" He repeats himself. I calmly say, "No." I leave it at that. "So what do you ride?" He continues his head to toe body scan.  "Eight hundred BMW." His response, "Awww."  His look is one I can't decipher but  I later wonder what that exchange was all about. 

The storms in parts of Indiana are over. The weather in southern Indiana will be ride-perfect. Mid-seventies and mild wind. I head out around 6am for Vincennes, IN.  Before I leave, Dave puts air in my tires, makes homemade oj for me and debates with me about my instrument panel, which is basically the same as his F650GS.  I decided to do a little superslabbing but mostly I stay on secondary highways, which will take longer but will be far more scenic. For much of the way, I take US 41 south. This will take me through Terre Haute, a place I've avoided most of my life.  Although Indiana is Midwest, like Illinois, it has towns that extend far south, some more southern in culture, values, and dispositions than many southern cities--even the accents let you know you're in the south. 
Terre Haute used to be a hot bed of KKK activity. As a history major, I can still recall some of legacy. So, I decide to not only ride through, I will stop in Terre Haute.  I get gas and strangest of all, stop and talk to a Terre Haute policeman. Because the gas pump didn't give me my receipt, I am forced to go inside, where a policeman stands. As I enter, he walks to the outer side of the counter. I decide to make a pot stop there. But it is occupied. I wait and the policeman says, "Where you heading?" My mind flashes to the movie, "In the Heat of the Night." I can't help it...this is how my mind can sometimes wander.

Sunday, May 31, 2009
"Vincennes," I say. He then asks me a series of questions. He seems like a nice enough gent. It's me trying to get over my history issues. I soften when he admires my bike and tells me about a friend who "will only ride BMWs now..." He asks my opinion on BMW bikes. I give my overtly biased perspective. As I leave, he tells me to enjoy myself and to be careful.  I relax. As I walk to my bike another encounter with a stranger.

"Been dangerous out there lately, uh?" I answer him the way he ended his question. He then proceeds to tell me about the people who have been killed on motorcycles recently, many of whom, according to him, have died as a result of being rear ended. He tells me those are accidents "no" rider can control.  I can't help wonder why he feels the need to share this with me at this time. I thank him and give him a "what will be, will be" hunch. He tells me how he used to ride a motorcycle and how he loved it at the time. But now things are different. He's found it too dangerous and so he stopped riding. There it is. Finally, he reveals himself; he shows his true colors. It goes something like this, "I used to ride a motorcycle. Now, I don't. So you should stop too and do as I do as I am the enlightened one."  

George Rogers Clark National Historic Park. The monument is being renovated so I could only look at it from behind a fence. In the VC, I watch the video, which was really quite good. Clark is the brother to the famous explorer William Clark of Lewis & Clark. George Rogers Clark came from a wealthy family where many of the male children accomplished great things. George successfully led an incredibly small, rag tag group of soldiers who defeated the British for land in what is now part of IL, IN, KY and MI. I enjoyed my time in Vincennes and I motored around the small, old town to check out some of the sites and observe the people. Vincennes also happens to be home of Vincennes University, the oldest public university in the state. 
My ride home would be via Indianapolis, a bit out of the way, but whenever I'm within 100 miles of Shapiro's Deli, I will make that detour. I love Shapiro's! Were it not for hating to ride with a heavy meal in my belly, I'd eat myself into another dimension at Shapiro's. The entrees look scrumptious and hearty, the kind Grandmothers make to fatten you up. I always settle for a tuna sandwich, which is a two meal affair for sure.
I always add a slice of cake, a treat I rarely get to indulge--and the homemade selections are vast.  I always get to bring half the meal home for later enjoyment. I will go to Shapiro's any day for lunch. And dinner. And stay over the night for breakfast!

Belly full, I ride home oblivious to the time it takes. I pull into the garage at 10:08 pm. 

Weekend total miles: 757.00

Degree of fun = immeasurable!