Sunday, February 28

"Asphalt Therapy" and my stolen bike of yore...

"Asphalt Therapy." I owe this blog title to a dear friend, who identified in an email message to me precisely what the doctor ordered. He should know; he needs some asphalt therapy too. Lucas is a highly skilled motorcyclist who rides a gorgeous--and tall--Kawasaki Versys, a bike I contend is a close relative of the Suzuki SV650! But I digress...

I needed a fix.

Each winter I reluctantly have stored my bikes, first Queenie (the wonderful Suzuki SV650) and now Jesse Owens (the sweet mile gobbler, BMW F800ST). This winter, the shop where I store my bike even offered, with a day or so notice, to allow me to reclaim my bike over the winter sans charge if and when the withdrawal became unbearable and a ride was the only panacea to save me, the patient.

Well, I've got the heebee-geebees something awful! I'm also exhausted and short of everything, including time. If my bike were in my garage, I could stumble my way out to sit on the bike, start it up and ride, if possible.

'Cause there's a monkey on my back . The incessant itch of withdrawal will surely leave visible scars...Something has to give soon.

I'm lucky that I have several outlets that can work in a pinch: reading, photography, bicycling, rollerblading, and mapping. But two wheel whizzing quells my soul like no other; perhaps, because it combines the best of my activities. On a weekend of bicycling I can go only so far--and only at a comparatively snail's pace. No matter how hard I peddle I can't get to Amherstburg, Ontario and back in a weekend and have energy left to call it fun. Inline skating, a activity that sports the most wheels, restricts me the most too. I am confined to a small geographic area unless I ride my bicycle or motorcycle to my skating destination. I can do long distance inline skating--many former runners, like myself, have turned this into a distance sport-- but I can skate all day and never get close to leaving Illinois. Reading and photography--I can do both for endless hours and each is good for my replenishing my spirit.

Still, something about getting on my motocycle that blends the "feel good" activities and offers the best therapy I can access without a prescription. Riding requires continuous reading of words and behavior (my own and everyone around me--in and out of vehicles!). Wanting to "shoot" something I've read about that is tucked inside a small town is reason enough to go for a ride.

Motorcycling is so much like my wanderings on my Schwinn bicycle with the "S" on the seat that I told everyone really stood for Sharon. I went everywhere, fast, on that entirely manual bike even though I was told, no warned, to remain within a tightly circumscribed, microscopic area near my home. My family told me about the evil that lurks and awaits those who stray too far from home. The Boogeyman was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. In addition to not straying far, always, always take someone with you.

Yet, ninety-nine percent of the places I ventured back then, I did so alone. My family also told me that "God takes care of children and fools" so I figured I was covered--and I always tried to remember to say a prayer before I went off into supposedly dangerous neighborhood. Sure, I'd ride around with my neighborhood friends whom I was always itching to ditch so I could explore the places that their fear kept them from sampling.

It was on one of those forbidden voyages that my beloved Schwinn with the "S" on the seat was stolen. Right from in front of the Walker Branch Public library no less, which is where I spent a huge chunk of my childhood. On that fateful day, I learned what it meant to "cry a river." I cried myself dry! The worst part was I had to do all that crying before I got home where I knew my childish behavior and stolen bike would be seen as justice for disobedience. I cried all that summer when alone whenever my mind wandered to another girl, somewhere, riding my bike with my initial on the seat.

In my family, you don't bite off more than you can chew, which can lead to hesitancy and tentativeness I found stifling to a traveler at heart. I received little sympathy about my bicycle. I asked for a new one often and heard variations of this whenever I did: "Yes, you can get another bike," [LONG pause, long enough to get my hopes up and my heart beating with joyous anticipation] "...just as soon as you buy one for yourself."} I thought, "How could I be related to these heartless people?! "

In reality, they were not heartless. They were folks who felt that when you don't listen, the best sense, is bought sense! Not only did I disobey, I foolishly left my bike unprotected--and that wasn't the first time. I went through serious two wheel withdrawal that summer and the entire next summer too. I did eventually get another bike, a five speed, oddly name bike from Montgomery Wards that my parents bought. It had no "S" on the seat. It lacked the smoothness and quality of my Schwinn. Regardless, I was thrilled to be on two wheels once again.

The next Schwinn I owned came many years later. And I did buy it myself--a ten speed that came with a killer racing seat that not big enough for an "S" or most butts! I rode it everywhere. It is now over 30 years old, still in my possession and somewhere in the recesses of a garden shed. Days of riding it from the southside of Chicago to downtown or to Harvey, IL to my college job at the YMCA, remain fresh in my memories.

Two-wheel riding for the adult soul

Motorcycling makes get aways easy and fun. I can experience great distances from home in car-time. Without sweating, I can travel joyously from home to Amherstburg, Ontario and back in a weekend and still show up for work on Monday refreshed and relaxed. I lunch in Indianapolis and am back home before dark. Motorcycling combines all that I enjoy: strategy, skills, athleticism, fitness, planning/goal-setting, travel, photography, solitude and plenty of Zen moments to reconnect with others. And most of all, just plain fun. It's an update to the Schwinn in all the best ways.

So, it makes perfect sense that since my last ride on a cold December day, the need for asphalt therapy is acute. "Doctor, we're losing the patient!... Wait, I think I'm getting a pulse."

"She has pulled through yet again..".

This weekend I agreed to get away with Dave who will be basically home bound for a few weeks following surgery on Tuesday. We didn't venture far and it was via four wheels. But the distance was enough to reap the benefits from the flow of endorphins that travel promises.

Despite unequivocal evidence everywhere one looks of dwelling in the depths of winter, we answered the screams of the beach and wound up at Illinois Beach State Park, spending good, cold time hiking. The pictures here are some of the cold wintry scenes I'll remember.

Not quite asphalt therapy.

But a nice second.

Sunday, February 21

Bloggers gone (one forever) but not forgotten...

I certainly know what it's like to lose track of what anchors you in place and how easy it is to find yourself so overwhelmed that you drop out of sight. I'm prone to going underground for long stretches of time myself, as winter takes a toll on my energy and desires and disposition. For me, it's mostly work that encourages my occasional disappearing acts.

So, I understand when posts from other bloggers become few and far between. While updating this blog, I decided to visit each of the "Haunts" I've followed and delete the dormant ones. I was surprised by the number that haven't been updated in an extremely long time--like more than a year.

I couldn't help wonder where life had taken these fine bloggers. I hope that they are enjoying a long hiatus; that they are simplifying their lives and shifting gears. Still, the long absence of these well-crafted blogs, replete with memorable prose and dramatic photography, raises nagging questions. As I made my rounds, I recalled some of the exchanges I've had with these fellow riders. I poked around each blogspace reading and recalling fond memories.

Then the saddest memory of all.

When I visited this blog, my recall was instant. I remembered the death announcement when it was first posted there. I had forgotten, I think, or perhaps just suppressed a memory I preferred to deny. Then as now, I want to know what happened to Chris. Perhaps the mystery isn't what's important. Still, I couldn't help wonder how and why this life ended so young, so early. I paused there to re-read posts, which brought him back to life even if momentarily. I exited the site but not before re-reading the beautiful poem dedicated to this short and obviously rich life. This blog was the only specific confirmation that answered what happened to one of the missing bloggers. I never knew Chris, really, but we communicated nonetheless. His is a site that will live on my blogroll.

Experiences like this always make me relive my brother's death. They say you need a year to grieve. I know well that death is a fact of life. None of us gets out of life alive. Still, it's a challenge. My revisits to blog sites has taught me a lesson I keep learning again and again in different ways: letting go is not so easy. Even if a site is “dormant,” pushing "delete" demands more than simply depressing the button.

People live on in us in ways even we might not be able to comprehend.

We each learn to let go at our own time, in our own way...


Just before posting this, I decided to do a general Google search on Chris. I found this (scroll to read).


Blog under construction

Yes, things are a bit too dark as it stands now. I'm testing out new banners and colors so bear with me while I clean house and spruce up the place...

Here are pics I'm considering. Actually, I've far too many that I am considering to post. So, I'm throwing out three that were quick finds.

Monday, February 15

Woman Seeking Women

It has been a long time between posts and I've missed you. I've been embracing the winter fully by doing my daily long, cold walks with a camera in hand.

As I continue to seek balance in my so-called life, I appreciate your patience. Neglecting this blog, unfortunately, is but one of my many outlets spiraling through gaping dark holes and disappearing forever. A backlog of incomplete or unedited posts await my attention. Some days pass by pleasantly—even enjoyably. Other days--too many days in fact--drag by with the energy that would make a sloth look like a speed demon.

While my hectic life has left little time to indulge the things I want most to do, day dreaming has proved a viable distraction. I've ridden off into the sunset during more than one business meeting. The ride calendar is filling up with tons of legal fun! Aligned with my previous blog about riding with purpose, I've come up with several projects that I'll need several life times to complete. I know that I'm probably far more project- and goal-oriented than many would care to be, but hey, different strokes for different folks, right? Very few things compare to two wheel riding. I do it for the sheer joy of moving through space; whizzing pass buildings and trees; and, inhaling smells both good and malodorous. It is fun and solitude on my terms.

Last season, my travels took me to many Underground Railroad Stations, National Historic Sites and Monuments; I enjoyed every outing. This season, I will continue picking these sites but I'm my pleasure sensors with some new projects.

One that I am announcing here now was sparked by reading motorcycle magazines. You may have noticed that some of them are aimed at the male reader. To many of these rags, the fact that women have increasingly joined the ranks of riders hasn't seemed to catch on. Yes, an increasing number of mags publish stories about and by women riders. Glad to see better inclusion. Still, the ads in some of these same magazines haven't evolved much. Typically, the women in the ads are sprawled, skimpily-clad, on or across the motorcycle.

The clothes they wear—or should I say, the clothes they are not wearing—scream volumes about who these ads are meant to attract.

I read these magazines too. Forgive me while I rant a bit. Sorry men, but I'm annoyed with poofy-haired, leather bustier wearing, Barbies with spike heeled, thigh high boots and pouty mouths, and grossly inflated adipose tissues staring out at me! Rather than continue getting mad, I'm taking action.

I'd like to proffer a counterpoint. So, I'm eagerly seeking women.

I'd like to interview a different kind of woman on a bike. For the upcoming ride season, I'm looking for women who ride solo. I prefer that they reside in the Midwest. They must also be ATGATT (all the gear, all the time). If you a woman who rides solo and lives in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, send them my way.

I will ride to meet up with her, interview her and take some photos of her and her ride partner, that is, her motorcycle. By “ride solo,” I mean, she rides alone 99% of the time. Before anyone debates me about my requirements, let me explain. I don't believe it is a challenge to find women to interview who ride. Such woman have become rather commonplace.

Women who prefer to go it alone will be a challenge I look forward to interviewing. Think about it, given women's socialization to stay near home, to never travel alone, to find protection with a male, that any woman rides alone is noteworthy. I know why ride alone. I'd like to know about those who other women who swim against the current.

Why do they ride alone? Where to do go? What bike do they ride and why? Do they camp alone or stay in hotels when they travel? Is riding alone choice or circumstance? Are they committed solo riders or just biding their time until the right riding partner comes along?

My hope is to eventually turn these interviews and images into a multimedia story accessible via the WWW. Eventually, I'd like to stretch beyond the Midwest. Details remain foggy at this stage but the planning is underway.

I will recruit on a few motorcycle boards and female motorcycle forums. Still, if you know someone, don't hesitate to let me know. Thanks!