Sunday, November 25


Another hodgepodge post with a bit of this and that...

Here I am again apologizing for being invisible! I hate when work gets in the way of living. Lately, my job has required traveling midweek and it amazes me just how much a mid week three day trip disrupts the entire week! I'm not just being dramatic. That's what's been happening and zapping my energy to do more than exist. Enough.

My last ride was approximately two weeks ago. The weather here has been moody, with some warm days (58F). But those days have been foggy and damp with pavement even tricky to walk on let alone ride a motorcycle. On such days, I've seriously been tempted to ride but my left brain prevailed. I did, however, venture out late one night. With temps in the mid 50s, at 8pm, I couldn't help myself. It was a short but oh, so sweet ride.
The streets were devoid of any significant traffic. As I passed by the most brilliant Michigan Avenue lights, I felt as if I were being given a massive B12 injection. Although a tad tired when I headed out, my spirits lifted as I pushed through the gentle head wind. I could feel new energy course through me and fill up my drained and depleted self. You've seen those commercials where the wilted sunflower is all bent and dropped and when given water and placed in direct sunlight, it literally unfolds and is rekindled. That's how I felt by the time I returned home.

Now, I accept that the riding season has come to an end, at least for me. I thought of prolonging it by investing in winter gear. Until March of 2008, my work demands are not going to improve much and riding one day a week--if I'm lucky--is not going to be enough to keep Queenie running well throughout the winter. I'd rather put her away, end the denial and find a satisfying winter activity.


Checked my files and discovered several unposted trip reports and miscellaneous entries that may never see the light of day. Oh well, I vow to do better. I've been thinking of what to do with this space over the winter and I think I've figured it out. So, stay tuned to some new Sojourner Tales...

In wrapping up the season, I did not reach the 10,000 miles I had hoped for. Had I completed the SaddleSore, (SS) there is little doubt that I would have closed the season with over 10,000. Thus far, it looks like I logged closer to 9,000. The SS would have been around 1,050 or so miles...Oh well... I realize that it's not the goal that's the real fun part, it's planning the rides that in the end becomes the real important part.

I'm ending the season also re-evaluating my motorcycle needs for next season. Still drooling over the BMW F800ST but right now, the urgency I felt earlier in the season has settled. If I get the bike next season GREAT; if I don't, I've got a great bike now that needs a heap of riding still.


I must share this news (a more detailed review is forthcoming). I've been looking for a great travel digital camera, something small, one that would eliminate the need to take multiple lenses, which my Nikon N80 and Olympus OM-1 both require. I wanted a camera that would transcend my compact digital Casio Exilim Z750, 7.2 megapixel--a great camera that I love-- but getting to its manual features requires digging deep inside multiple screens. I started eyeing the bigger DSLR, like the Olympus Evolt-510 and the Nikon D80. Yet, I didn't want the heft and bulk or dealing with multiple lenses on the road. I want easily accessibly full manual control features in a small package. Well, after long and considered research, I've found this little baby: The Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ18K. I adore this little thing. It sports a 18X optical zoom aspherical 28 to 504mm lens (35mm equivalent). This "ultra zoom" has a Leica lens that is sharp as a tack! All the pictures posted here are with the new camera--I'm still learning its features so the mediocre work is my fault alone. Again, review forthcoming.

January 1, 2008 I will official start the Bessie Stringfield project. I have a file folder of materials on her that need fleshing out. In case you don't know...she's the African American woman who served in WWII as a military dispatch rider for the army. Not much is written about Bessie and I hope to change that. I have a trip planned to Miami in the winter to interview some folks who may have known Stringfield.

Finally, I'm dusting off some reviews I've either never finished or simply never got around to posting on gear, books, and websites. Doing so should keep me busy over the winter.


Planning for next season's big trips has commenced! Novi Scotia still #1 on the list with a trip around one of the Great Lakes and return detour jaunt to southern Vermont.

Tuesday, November 6

Visiting the Dead: Oak Woods Cemetery Ride

Weather wise, the past weekend was spectacular! Temps in the mid 50s, insignificant winds, a beautiful azure sky with puffy white clouds --what more could a motorcyclist hope for? Feeling more than a little overwhelmed by work and other obligations, I decided to do something other than wallow in the abyss. For me a sure pick me up is a cemetery visit. Might sound a bit morbid to some, but to me, such visits evoke many reasons for living fully in the moment. Sometimes life makes you feel as if your grip is slipping.

When company arrives, I become an ambassador for my wonderful city. I tend not to take sufficient time to tour the city solo. With the motorcycle, I've been doing more local exploring and it's been mind expanding.

One would have to be dead, not to appreciate the beautiful fall weekend weather. As I peered from the window, I could feel a strong magnetic force urging me outside. By 10:00a.m., it was an undeniably urgent pull. Yet, I was feeling a counter need to go underground, to hunker down and tune out the world. Lounge around reading and just disappear for the weekend--no phone, no company... just inside with a bunch of reading materials.

By noon, the sun made abstract lines through the blinds I had closed to keep the sun out. Eventually, I felt forced to pay attention to my gut, which was telling me that winter would be here soon and I would regret wasting a day like Saturday. Feeling put upon by the great weather, I reluctantly geared up and headed out for a cemetery ride.
Not terribly far from me is Oak Woods Cemetery. Once a Jewish cemetery, Oak Woods is now a final resting place for many of Chicago's finest. Replete with local history, I decided to go there, learn a few things and hang out. I had called the cemetery office a week or so prior and learned that it would be okay to ride Queenie through the grounds. I had asked about parking, which I preferred to do rather than ride through. Something about feeling like I'd be disturbing the dead?--I is senseless. Still, I prefer walking through cemeteries, exploring the history written on the headstones, speculating what's behind a headstone that covers a life and death that lasted only 6 years, or why a family all has the same death date.

I arrived fifteen minutes after the office closed so I didn't have the map to find all the plots I wanted to locate. I did not find Harold Washington (1922-1987), Chicago's first African American mayor; Ida B. Wells Barnett (1862-1931), African American journalist; Jesse Binga (1865-1950), founded and owned a African American bank in 1908 when banks discriminated against some American citizens. In addition, Oak Woods is the final resting place of many of Chicago's politicians, musicians, artists, athletes, along side regular folks. I did find Jesse Owens (1913-1980), famed Olympic Runner from the '40s.

Although my visit did not unearth, forgive the pun, the departed I wanted to find that's never was the ultimate goal, particularly once I arrived at the cemetery. Once there, I become quickly lost in process of location and exploration. Without a map, I parked the bike and wandered aimlessly taking photographs with the Yashica Mat and perusing the headstone stories.

By the time I finished, my gloom had lifted. As I packed my camera, a man in navy jacket and pants approached me. I could tell he was a security guard and I wondered if he were waiting for me to leave. He was an elderly black gent with a sweet smile who appeared to be around 75 years old. Instantly, I thought of my maternal grandfather--never has a sweeter and kinder man walked this earth! Motioning with a nod of his head to Queenie, he said, "That your bike?" I told him it was and he smiled. "I bet you sure love that bike." I don't know how he could tell, but I told him he was right. He went on to tell me how he wished he'd had a motorcycle but that when he was "back in Mississippi--back in them days...only ones had 'cycles then was the white fellas--you know...we didn't have 'em." I listened to him and for the first time at the cemetery, I was genuinely dispirited and sad; I couldn't help think how ironic it was that it wasn't really the dead that made me saddest, it was hearing a story from the living.

The security guard went on to tell me that when he was a young man in Mississippi he had a job in a story and used a motorized vehicle to make deliveries. I didn't want to interrupt his tale to ask about the vehicle but it sounded like it was a scooter of some sort. I just wanted to listen to his narrative. His job as a security guard couldn't possibly involve anything confrontational. This man didn't have an unkind bone in his body! And, I couldn't imagine him raising his voice to stop riff raff or moving faster than slow motion!

Before I left, he asked me if I'd enjoyed my visit. I told him I would return soon because I didn't see most of what I'd come for. When I explained I arrived fifteen minutes after the office closed and therefore didn't get a map, he reached inside his pocket and pulled out a chain of keys. He said he'd get some info for me. I watched him amble to the office and unlock the door. He returned with a map of the cemetery and a list of suggested places of interest. We said our goodbyes and I promised to visit again.

The ride home was joyous. The travel along Chicago's lakefront was cool, fast and picturesque. I felt reinvigorated and appreciative of being able to draw another breath. I don't know how many miles I did Saturday--doesn't matter one iota. I got out there and just had a nice, quiet time hanging out among the dearly departed. And all is well.