Saturday, January 23

Riding with Purpose and other news...

I continue to struggle to get it together! I am contemplating some tough decisions regarding work, decisions that will either free me up significantly and leave me with the time I need to get some projectS underway; or, decisions that will restrict my ability to do some of the things I love doing. Either way, I’ve got to make some changes...

I have embarked on a couple of documentary photography projects, which I’m planning to use as a entry to teaching visual sociology. The first project involves documentary style photographs of grandparents rearing grandchildren. I will spend some time with them, conduct interviews and put the narratives and images together. The second project is motorcycle related! It focuses on photographing and interviewing women solo riders. I would travel around to meet the women and spend time engaged in ethnographic, “interviews as conversations.” The women must be solo riders and hopefully they are LD (long distance) riders too. I am quite excited about both of these projects.

I also have a third project in mind and would like the readers feedback on it. I have been thinking about riding with purpose. I am finishing up a book by Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, called Half the Sky. I recommend it to anyone. But prepare to be transformed. It is not an easy read but it is a necessary one in my opinion. Half the Sky is about many things; mostly, it is about human being’s inhumanity to each other. In some ways, it is a depressing read, but the book is replete with hope. It deals with violence against women, infanticide, human trafficiking, children bought and sold into sexual slavery, acid burnings of women by scorned men. The book doesn’t just document horror stories; it balances out the horror by including amazing stories of human triumph and survival over adversity. It’s a book of action too. It lists aide organizations, charities, foundations, and programs whose great humanitarian works too often operate on slim budgets stretched to the max. The question, “What can I do?” is fully answered in this book.

The book has so moved me that I have decided to do some purposeful riding this season. This is nothing novel. Motorcycle groups do charity rides all the time. Walks, runs, bikes and hikes for breast cancer are not uncommon. Many diseases have given birth to clever organized physical exertion. I recall one of the stories of a woman living in a rural area of India or Africa who because she was far from a hospital, had to ride on a motorcycle to get to a hospital. Under normal situations, I can’t imagine a motorcycle ride that isn’t fun. But I’ve given birth. The thought of riding a motorcycle in the middle of labor makes my brain hurt as I write this. But for these woman the bike was a welcome sight. (Motorcycle transport in healthcare)


Here are three of my ideas: 1) Ride to purchase a small cc motorcycle. In some countries the easiest and least expensive way for healthcare workers to get to rural areas is via two wheels. Many women never receive prenatal care because they are unable to get to a clinic/hospital. A motorcycle will allow healthcare to come to them. (Motorcycle transport)

Ride to purchase a motorcycle ambulance. I didn’t even know such vehicles existed. I can’t imagine these being very comfortable either if you’re in active labor but it is clearly better than nothing--and it’s all relative. 3) The work of hospitals that repair obstetric fistulas needs help. Fistulas often turn women into pariahs when left unrepaired. Shunned by their communities and families, women with fistulas can die unnecessarily. Most fistulas are the result of obstructed childbirth, which is highly related to 1) and 2). (More motorcycle transport)

I have some ideas about how I can make these work, but I’m open to reader suggestions as I can probably only pull off funding one of these ideas. I’m also receptive to partnerships that include other’s doing a charity ride, so to speak, to support/donate to the charity I select. More to come... (Still more motorcycle transport)

Tuesday, January 5

I'm back among the living!

Wishing you and yours a great, safe 2010!

Whew! Where did the time go?! I'm glad the old is over and the new is underway. I know it's a cliche, but the new year always brings new hope and inspiration. Like many others, I had a challenging year, but I am still breathing. The key to a stressless holiday, IMHO, is to avoid all stores. If I couldn't make the gift or purchase it online--it just didn't get gotten! (excuse poor grammar).

(The anguish on the face of these figures in Lorado Taft's "Fountain of Time" is exactly how I felt a few days before Christmas, click for closer look)

I think I've taken my last ride of the season (sigh). This decision has nothing to do with the cold weather that has gripped Chicago. In fact, on my last ride, which started off around 20 degrees F with a high that day of 24, was quite comfortable. My Tourmaster electrics are great. I dressed so well that I felt a bit too warm when I reached my destination. By the time I returned home and disrobed, I was sweating. Even the black ice that my back tires greeted didn't factor into my decision to end my ride season. No, I realize that the numerous must-do tasks that I procrastinate with during the summer, need to winter to resolve. Trying to also fit in riding is contrary to my "seek balance" and "let go" philosophy I've been trying to implement. I live in an environment that makes winter riding a challenge that I choose not to fit in this winter. (Big sigh)

Right now things are out of whack and I need to shift gears, so to speak. Besides, it's long winter evenings slurping down Japanese Sencha or various Oolong teas, while pouring over maps and tossing around trip ideas I fantasy for the new ride season that gets me through the winter doldrums. It is also the time that I re-read motorcycle classics and catch up on magazine articles on riding technique and safety. The last great book I read is Riding in the Zone: Advanced techniques for skillful motorcycling, by Ken Condon, a protege of David Hough. I've read it once and will re-read it before the start of spring. It's a must-read book for all two wheel travelers.

(Looks like a nice spring, summer or fall day, doesn't it? It was below freezing-fun!)

(LOOK where you want to go!)

When I saw this family out for an afternoon of ice skating, I thought of the motorcycle safety class axiom: look where you want to go. This family went down often that night. I wanted to yell to them to look ahead, look up, look anywhere but down, but I didn't. I just smiled at their family fun and tripped the shutter to capture images of one or more of them prostrate on the ice. I could relate. On my last ride, I found myself having to look at the ground more than I know is good. Mostly, one can scan the ground now and again to look for changes in the color or surface but one doesn't want to lock the eyes there. I must confess, I did some eye-locking on the last ride because those deceivingly small patches of ice that blended so well with the road surface caught me by surprise a few times. The longer I rode the better I was at winter scanning of seemingly clear roads, which is a bit different than summer scanning...imho.

(Seen on a power walk morning).

Physical issues that I plan to correct before the spring. I've read that despite my painful back, I should still do the weight lifting. I slowed down and stopped completely when my back became chronically inflammed. I've missed weight lifting but the back was giving me so much trouble that I thought I should lay off. But I'm convinced that when I was lifting--seriously lifting--my back seemed to breakdown less. Yes, "the old gray mare ain't what she used to be" but I'm not dead yet! I won't go down without a fight! Riding a motorcycle well--at least the way I want to continue to ride--requires excellent fitness. I believe that the older I get the more I need to rely on smart strategies and techniques to do what I used to do without thought.

Now, it's training most wisely. It is now better for me to do 25-30 miles a week of jogging than 60 miles a week of running/training, which I used to do a couple of decades ago. My knees and back now prefer long power walks, robust hiking, and inline skating over a ten miles early morning run. But even my "preferred" outlets were taking a toll on my back. My F800ST is a perfect bike for me because the slight forward position (which I actually uprighted a bit) keep the pressure off my tail bone. My Suzuki SV650 was perfect in every way except that after a 600 miles day, I felt it. This is not the case on the ST. I plan to keep up the long distance riding and there is a direct positive correlation with fitness and miles (IMHO). At least, that's true for me. My last Saddle Sore was a breeze compared to the first one. A fit body can handle more stress. Period. So this winter, I'm back to becoming one with free weights.

(I will miss Jesse Owens, my motorcycle--but heck, it's only for a few fly-by months)

So, this blog will, for the next three months morph into riding news, book and gear reviews an occasional rants about something motorcycle related (like that essay I've been working on about solo riding). This will also be the place I toy with some trip ideas and might even solicit some ideas from you. I have a motorcycle related project in the early stages that will help those living in a poor country. When the details are worked out, I will share it with you 'cause I'm hoping you might want to offer your two cents.

(The picture is of the City Auto Pound, situated on the lowest level of Chicago (the City's underbelly). It's where unluck illegally parked cars wind up. The area also provides a short cut through much of the downtown area. I motorcycle often in and out of this space).

Until next time...happy riding if you're still riding the asphalt. And if you're tucked away your ride partner for the winter, remember: "This too shall pass."