Monday, February 12

“Thanks,” Cycle World!

I attended Cycle World’s International Motorcycle Show on Saturday. And, it was all that—and a slice of sweet potato pie! I don’t know if suffering from cabin fever rendered me more receptive to the swarm, a rather large slowly walking throng, all drooling over motorcycles, waiting patiently (mostly) to swing a leg over, or if I was just in rare form. I was determined that nothing would detract from my joyful mission--even after remembering that I forgot my gloves that I wanted to don to ward off other people’s germs, I remained sanguine. I never hesitated to grasp the throttle and clutch levers on a gazillion bikes. Yes, I was in rare form.

I wanted also to take pictures that I hoped would make nice additions to future blog entries. I managed to trip the shutter 130 times and have posted most of the results on flickr. It is difficult to believe that I, true believer in asceticism and a practicing hermit, walked around the mammoth floorplan for 6.5 hours! I left the show with every intention of returning on Sunday. A reappearance never transpired. When my eyes opened in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I noticed something familiar. Whenever I travel by air or find myself in tight quarters with strangers for long periods, I get sick. The insides of my throat felt like it had been seized by gravel. Even thinking about swallowing felt like my throat was being scoured with a Brillo pad. I imagined little germy soldiers lining up to launch a full attack any minute. This would be the price paid for daring to venture out without protection. I can say this now: it was worth it. Frigid weather can make one desperate. Besides, as the adage goes, “no pain, no gain.”

I’m certain I’ll write more about the show in the coming days, but I did want to post the pics and mention a few highlights.

I think it was Friday that I went to Carla King’s website and learned that her book, American Borders: A solo-circumnavigation of the United States on a Russian sidecar motorcycle, was out--finally. While poking around her site, I also discovered that King would be coming to the Rosemont to promote her book and support the Urals. I couldn’t believe my luck! I would have been happy just to discover the book’s release date. I have read about Carla’s "misadventures" for some time—long before I bought my gal-pal. I wanted to beat the crowds I figured would be lining up for the book. So, I decided that my first goal would be to find Carla. (I have a very bizarre David Sedaris story about me waiting in line for hours to buy his book and have him sign it—but I digress). I located Carla King right near the Urals, sitting at a small table covered with a plain white cloth, nicely accented by two layers: a colorful, blue-purple-ish tie-dye material that peeked beneath a top black layer. A small stack of books sat at the table’s front edge. Carla, dressed in black sat at the table but I could tell right away, she isn’t the sit-down for long type. In fact, she soon stood up to fiddle with stuff, purse, books, look for a pen? I only remember her moving about before settling in her seat.
I always think it’s silly when people meet celebs and say, “Wow, you look just like you do on TV.” I avoided being that lame--I hope. Carla, however, does look like her writings, which are accessible, humorous and lively. She is clearly dynamic, inquisitive, open and has a very strikingly friendly face, the kind you want to talk to (I hope I’m not sounding too much like a groupie). I’m being as truthful as one can been when first meeting someone you’ve sort of met previously through their words. She has a persona that conveys a comfort folks often possess who have traveled a lot. Perhaps she’s always been that way; perhaps I’m just over-analyzing matters. IMHO, such people don’t know what it means to meet a stranger. They are engaging, gregarious and always seeking to go beyond the surface. I know part of that is being a journalist, but I’ve met journalists who lack this quality (I have a few stories about that too!).

Carla would make an excellent ethnographer—more about that when I finish the book. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Carla; she is how I imagined her from reading her “misadventures.” Some time later at the show, I ran into Carla again—actually, she ran into me. At the time, I was half-daydreaming and her sudden reappearance bolted me back to reality. I was happy to see her again! We had a brief chat and a photo op. BTW, while I’m reading the book and don’t want to say much about it until I finish, the first chapter had me putting it down a few times to take some notes. Some of her stories sparked some memories that I’ve written about before and now want to revisit. Mind you, these memories have nothing to do with motorcycles. That to me is always a good sign that I will love a book. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve met the author. If a book doesn’t measure up, I will say so.

Another show highlight? Custom-made ear plugs! If there were a tiny ear canal contest, I would win. Not only are my ear holes microscopic, they are angry. Stick something in and they will spit out the intruder, close shop and throb for days on end. Name an over the counter ear plug and I have it. Extra small, are not small enough. “Guaranteed to fit,” they don’t know my ear canals! I learned from the audiologist’s assistant that “racial” groups have different size canals and that the angel of the canal also differs across groups. I wish I had known that before investing in every ear earphone on the market before abandoning that struggle and wearing headphones. You’ll see the purple, pliable, putty-like ear stoppers in one of the pictures. I tested them Saturday night by wearing them under my helmet. After about ten minutes, I removed the helmet. The plugs had stayed in place; they had not fallen inside the helmet’s ear well and greatest thing of all, no lingering, pulsating pain after I extracted the plugs. I am happy knowing that I can now save what little hearing I have left.

Although tempted, I did not buy the Nolan N-102 helmet. Perhaps the deals were saved for Sunday. On Saturday, the prices were above some of the online deals so I resisted the urge to have it now. I did pick up more maps and the American Motorcycle Association’s, Ride Guide to America: Favorite Motorcycle Tours in the USA.

Of late, the weather here has been challenging. Relatively speaking, it is now warm outside at 28 F with a wind chill of 18F. Currently, a heavy, wet snow is blanketing the downtown area and we’re bracing for a winter storm over the next 24 hours. Compared to the 11 feet of snow in Oswego, NY—and more on the way, I shall not complain. I will even avoid whining about my sore throat. I remain optimistic that Punxsutawney Phil is right and an early spring is on the way. In the meantime, Saturday turned out to be the spark I needed to jump-start my mood.
I'm thrilled anytime I can combine multiple joys: new friends, new books, new maps and seat time on new motorcycles. I’m looking forward to the coming spring.

More pictures: