Thursday, July 26

Circling Lake Superior--the countdown begins...

In eight days, I will leave for my second Great Lakes trip, 1500 miles around Lake Superior, not counting how long it will take me to get from Chicago to my official starting point, Marquette, MI. According to William Murphy, in Motorcycling Across Michigan, Lake Superior is the "crown jewel" of the Circle Tours. I trust Murphy's take on things as his depiction of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour was spot-on and indispensable to my magnificent journey last summer. Murphy transcends the basics by proffering little known aspects of the history and herstory of the area, by demystifying the local topography and by revealing the best motorcycle roads--all the information one expects from reading a great travel guide. I will not leave home without him.

While Murphy and other travel books usually cover the joys of travel, they rarely cover the angst and fears about travel, particularly solo travel. But some fear is healthy and we should talk about it. Within reason, I follow the "feel the fear and do it anyway" philosophy. I ride solo. I am female. I am black. Alone, anyone of those attributes can challenge the human spirit on any given day. Together, they always make for an interesting trip, especially in places where folks get their education about people who look like me from watching television, for example, "The Bill Cosby Show," "Law and Order" or late night comedy with Chris Rock. For the most part, folks are fine once they get over their initial shock and their "where did you come from" queries. I don't seek out the bad, but I must always prepare myself mentally for the dolts who will surely fling a few nasty epithets my way before I return home. As long as no one touches me, I ignore the ill-informed among us. And let it be known: I never travel entirely alone--if you know what I mean. I accept now that my anxieties are a way of getting me in shape, a way of preparing me for the road ahead and all the experiences it will engender.

To some some family members I should stay home, where it is safe. "Why," they ask, "put yourself in the line of fire?" "People are crazy," they remind me. Yet, staying at home is no panacea. To me, that's not living. In some ways, going out and about alone has saved me from an acute weariness about humankind that too often gets beneath my skin. Traveling near and far has reminded me that a lot of good remains. All I can do is promise to be careful and trust my intuition. I will expect the best but prepare for the worst. In the coming days, I presume that my bizarre, pre-trip night terrors will be ignited. This is one place where I don't listen to my gut. If I did, it would signal, no, it would scream: "Stay home!" In reality, I know this is only the subliminal work of my inner mind signaling me in its weird way to "Proceed with Caution," to "Be careful out there." At least this is what I tell myself.

So, I'll accept the inevitable night visions as par for the course. I'll treat the messages embedded there as cautionary tales reminding me to "ride smart, ride safe. And to boot, I'll toss a hammer in my luggage just in case I need to whack any ornery characters.
I have more than a few rituals I perform before a big trip, such as gearing up from head to toe, packing and unpacking and taking practice trips on the fully loaded bike. This prepares me for the ride in every way. Another ritual is the need for a new journal to capture my brain dumps. I buy journals of all kinds, probably as frequently as folks buy their favorite staple. Mine range from the cheap to the occasional expensive. Some I collect and never write in; others, I write in with no hesitation. Rare is the day, I don't journal. My current favorite is the little black classic Moleskine that writers and artists have loved for hundreds of years. Recently I found a cute spiral-bound journal for motorcycle riders. It arrived a day ago and although it lacks blank pages for writing long, stream of conscious thoughts, it's a keeper for anyone who wants to record the basics: mileage, motorcycle performance, restaurants, sites, accommodations and interesting people met along the way. I'll make room for it in my luggage. However, my ritual of penning a few morning pages before riding, will go into a journal I've had in my collection for years. For reasons I don't fully comprehend, I am only now ready to write on its wonderfully textured pages. I can almost hear the lake's call...