Monday, November 23

Roots and Wings

Rode with my passenger pegs down in honor of my brother and all the ancestors who have gone before.

The birthday ride was a peaceful panacea.

Strolling through wonderous gardens really does reconnect us with our roots.

Watching the endless flight of birds left me feeling as if I too had wings.

Saturday, November 21

Karmic Justice for "Smiley"

It is difficult to comprehend that it was one year ago today that my brother, Michael, aka "Smiley" died after being struck and dragged by a hit and run driver, barrelling through an alley at the wheel of a rental car for which he had neither license nor insurance. Michael lingered for four days and died one day before my birthday.

I will not rehash the story, but strange things can happen in a year. For the past many months, I have been in court to represent my brother along side the state's attorney. I see his killer enter the courtroom armed with his thuggish friends. They watch me. They slouch in their seats. They are often late. The laws seemed written to protect him and his rights. He has never shown one iota of remorse. In fact, the last time I was in court, October 17, it looked like this guy would get off because the witnesses are afraid to come forward and without eye witnesses there is no one to publicly state what so many called the police to report that November night. As I've said before, I understand not coming forward. We've all heard of cases where witnesses were not protected and lost their lives trying to do the right thing. This guy has known gang affiliation and is a rumored drug dealer. On many occasions, I will admit to leaving the courtroom with murderous thoughts about him. His cavalier disposition enrages me. I know I should have better self-control, but I don't and apologies will not be forth coming.

About several weeks ago, this same guy was involved in a serious traffic accident, with him at the wheel. The four occupants were transported to two hospitals with three in seriously condition. He suffered the gravest injuries. He was not expected to live out the first week and had been kept in a medically-induced coma. Although he remains in serious condition and in and out of consciousness, he has survived several surgeries. A few days ago, one of his legs was amputated. He cannot speak and has had to have some internal organs repaired. "IF" he lives, the word is that he will never be able to use his limbs and his cognitive functioning is uncertain.

Despite the times I've wanted to personally kill this guy, the news of his accident did not make me happy. It made me sad. It didn't need to be this way. His mother today is in the same place my mother has been in, that is, praying that her son will survive. No matter how despicable this guy is, he was and is some one's child. Had he just admitted what he had done, I think, in my heart I would have been more forgiving. My mother, siblings and the extended family have long ago, put this whole matter "in the hands of the Lord." To that I say, "God known my limitations." I went to court! I wanted him to know that someone speaks for Michael. I wanted him pay for what he had done.

Yet, from the moment I heard the horrible news about his accident, I've been sad.

Sad that he lived his life in a way that made the adage, "What goes around, comes around," rap hard on his door. Sad that his family will know the same grief we have lived. Sad that exactly one year ago today, Michael died. Sad that whether this guy lives or dies, he is right now experiencing a hellish pain on a level to which we are not privy. Even sad that a strange otherworldly source of justice may have intervened. All those times I thought I'd be happy if he didn't exist. I am not.

Somewhere, at some point, this guy lost his way and didn't care whom he hurt along his path to nowhere. Very sad indeed.

I plan a birthday ride tomorrow. I shall ride with my passenger pegs down in remembrance of Smiley.

R.I.P. Michael

Thursday, November 19

Did you get "The Memo"?

9:00am, Wednesday Morning

When I left the house it was raining. It was also cold and foggy. I could have used the car sharing program that I joined after I sold my hardly ever driven Honda CRV, but four wheel travel just didn't sound interesting. So, I geared up for the weather and set out on Jesse Owens.

The cold was made worse by the wind. I had the heated jacket plugged in but didn't wear my heated pants. Some folks complain that the F800ST throws off unwanted heat. I cherish that warmth--and it's a nonissue if you wear motorcycle overpants, which I always do. So, my bottom half kept toasty through my jeans and overpants. The heated grips were on full power.

The wet roads were made worse by the wind too. I had all the luggage on the bike, still I slide around a bit and said a silent prayer to the ancestors to ride along with me. Doing the speed limit or a bit slower, is the key to keeping safe. In the city of Chicago, however, doing the legal speed limit on an Interstate is considered extreme sport.

My trip out was about 35 miles in the direction of the rain. Within 10 minutes the rain turned angry and heavy. I listened to my helmet being pelted. I turned my jacket up a notch and road the rest of the way in comfort. I know what the riding instructors say about a day like Wednesday. But all motorcycle riding is about risk-taking and the level of it that one is willing to take on any given day. I adjusted my riding to the conditions and took to the Interstate.

What I noticed immediately is that those tucked inside their cars--and trucks--either didn't notice or care that the pavement was drenched and the conditions challenging. Too many drivers zipped in and out of lanes with no regard for conditions. For the longest, a car tailgated me. When he finally passed, he was talking on his phone.

When I arrived at my destination more than an hour later, the people assembled for the meeting seemed curious, if not, shocked that I arrived on a motorcycle. They had questions galore: "Isn't it dangerous to be on a bike in the rain?," "Aren't you cold?," "How do you wipe off your helmet," "How do you see?" I answered the questions and downplayed their kind concerns.

What they don't understand is that two wheels isn't just a fun, summer hobby. It a form of transportation. Yes, the risks are higher on a bike. And, on a cold, rainy day the risk is even greater but if one takes her time, understands the challenges and rides with heightened awareness, it remains a safe method of travel. My biggest concerns weren't weather related. The biggest threat to my safety were those on four wheels! I realize that I can be a highly skilled 'cyclist but still there remains things about which I have limited control. I am confident that my skills will allow me to handle the weather. But a driver who decides to tailgate and then change lanes directly in front of me even though there is clear and empty space to change lanes safely without coming near me, is a knucklehead that has a deathwish and wants to take someone with him/her. I try to anticipate crazy drivers and get as far away as I can.

Did you get the memo?

Somewhere some of these drivers must have received a memo stating that the use of turn signals is optional. This memo told them that they should ride as close as possible to a motorcycle. And, that driving with a phone cocked in one's neck is mandatory. They clearly were told that in heavy downpours it is always best to crank up the mph so that your usual 20 mph over the speed limit is either matched or exceeded. The memo goes on to say that if desired, share the lane with a motorcycle--after all, it saves space and is more efficient. This memo closes by ordering all those in possession of the memo to IGNORE the weather. It is an artifact. Recipients of the memo possess a license to drive like the road is your personal Indy 500!

Four hours later, when the meeting ended I reassured those concerned about my safety that I would be okay and was prepared for the conditions. What I failed to do and now regret, was to say to the dozen or so at the meeting that they, as drivers in cars, should give up the view that two wheels is a summer hobby and to LOOK for two wheels at all the times. I should have encouraged them to take their concerns for me and apply it to anyone on two wheels and ride with care for those on two wheels.

My return trip greeted me with a head wind and I watch my fuel drop dramatically.

Still, I enjoyed my day off from paid labor and found great pleasure in two wheel riding, despite the rain, the cold and the fog, it was a great day to be out.

Upcoming: Essay on solo riding

Note to my fellow bloggers: (You are fun and sweet anchors in my daily online life. My peeks in on your life have been undermined by life's clutter and work. I know we're all busy and I don't give up easily, so bear with me as I fight my way back to visiting you. I miss you all. Thanks for your patience).

Monday, November 9

Busting stress with riding time...

By Wednesday of last week, I had already worked nearly 40 hours. In an economic context where many people are experiencing hard times, it's difficult to complain about work. Some people are impatient and simply don't want to hear it; they are likely to tell you things like, "Just be glad you have a job." Or, "At least you're not unemployed." And,, "You're blessed to have a paycheck coming in." I understand these sentiments--though times are not lost on me. Still, responses like this are annoying. In fact, they are lame and thoughtless. Yes, relative to many situations, I'm doing well. Personally, life isn't a relative matter IMHO! I never feel better knowing that someone else feels worse. One's pain isn't lessened knowing that someone else's is greater. To offer, "Well, it could be worst, you could be unemployed," or, just be happy that you have a roof overhead," is to buy into a form of self-denial that devalues one's reality. It's sort of like saying, something I heard on television. A woman was saying that she knew her husband was a cheater but at least he didn't beat or abused her like some husbands did. What??? That is just insane! I think we all feel a little better when we feel heard.

I am acknowledging that the events in my life, at the moment, are making me nutz! So excuse me while I rant a bit about time and how little I feel I have to experience joy. I'm exhausted from work. Riding the 'cycle is a stress buster for which I've always made time. But on days when I've arrived home at 11:30pm after having arrived at the office at 7:00am that morning (or before), I have little energy to do anything. I have forced more late night rides than I care to count, but I know when I'm really pushing that envelope to the danger point. That was an awful work week. I fired up the bike only for grocery shopping.

Given that winter is knocking on fall's door, I want to take advantage of every ride-worthy day that comes my way. I've loved my 33 degree F morning rides! But I won't mount the bike if I'm exhausted. I'm spending too much of my time doing things that rob me of spending time doing the things I love. I used to own my own business and each year since reminds me of how much I miss that freedom. I definitely worked harder then but I loved every minute of being able to exercise control over my time.

The weather in Chicagoland this past weekend reached the low to mid 70sF! Motorcyclists were out and about. Prior to the weekend, the roads had been lonely on those cold morning rides. Finally having others to wave to made me think of spring rather than Thanksgiving. Didn't do nearly as much riding as I wanted this past weekend but I did enough to give me that rider-rush I seek. Saturday, I had no destination in mind. My main ride consisted of riding Dave's GS home for him. Sunday, I took a trip to an arboretum to be alone and reconnect with nature. Hundreds of other people had the same idea but the vast grounds hummed with people on foot, bikes, and in cars. Sunday was heavenly.

I was able to get my fix in. One of the best things about motorcycle riding is the need to be singularly focused on the ride. When I am, I strive to that place where I can feel myself zooming in on the ride and zooming out distracting clutter like the mental noise that a stressful job can produce. Work becomes a non-issue. Those who don't ride might not understand this, but riding a motorcycle is a most relaxing activity--even when I'm stuck in traffic. To ride well and safely, I need to block out all those things that tax the cells and clog the immune system. I enjoy that motorcycling demands sharp attention. I feel both alive and extra worldly when the riding seems automatic, the gear changing is smooth, my lower body moves my hips effortlessly to maneuver the bike, I'm relax--there's just nothing like it. Old, lightly traveled county roads, with tall cornstalks lining each roadside, have become genial, hiding places for weekend solo retreats. These rides are time well spent; they save me from appearing in the headline news--if you get my drift!

Time. It is elusive. We all have the same amount yet we use it differently. I had a woman tell me that she was bored and had nothing to do. I tried hard to understand her. I have been bored before; but never, to my knowledge, have I ever had nothing to do. I will continue to try to reign in my time robbers--even though the biggest one is the one I have the least amount of control over. Oh well...

For November, my time now includes Nanowrimo. By the end of the day, I will have over 18,000 words toward the 50,000 needed to crank out the first draft of a novel. If this amazing and strangely warm weather continues, I smell a weekend trip in the air.

I will not take time for it.

I will MAKE time for it.

Safe riding