Sunday, August 29

A Healing visit and a ride to boot!

On a recent Saturday, Chris of Everyday Ride and his lovely wife, whom I'll call "V" gifted me with a visit. Chicago was in line of their return trip of following the Great River Road. Chris had heard a lot about how bummed I felt about not being able to ride. I was thrilled that he selected me out of three options for an overnighter in Chicago. Reading some one's words can give you a feel for the person. About a whole two minutes after Chris and V arrived, I felt we'd been pals forever. We have many common interests only one of which is motorcycling. We even have similar eating habits, although Chris is way out there being vegan, while V and I are sensible vegetarians--just kidding Chris.

For folks who had been on the road for 17 days, of sometimes challenging weather, they arrived looking fresh, relaxed and cucumber cool. I was totally impressed with both, especially V, who looked like she had just come off a cruise--totally relaxed. I know that being a pillion can be hard work. Chris said they had worked out the two-up riding issues, or something like that so that during their trip, they came learn each other's riding ways and found what works for them and that's, in part, what makes for an excellent journey. Many many years ago, I was pillion for a very brief time. I figured if it this much fun on the back, I would have a blast if I could get this guy out of my line of vision (just kidding, Dave). Let's just say it's best for everyone that I ride my own.

Chris and V entered my shoebox size apartment, unloaded their gear and we chatted. I admit I talked their ears off. If they had plans to rest before dinner, I squelched that! Conversation was easy and fun; I hope I didn't behave too much like a woman who had been held captive for a year. My husband and daughter were in Portugal at the time. I'd been pretty much alone for days.

Eventually, I let them get to dinner. I declined their generous invitation to join them because I wanted nothing to stand in the way of me tagging along with them the next as they made their way north to Wisconsin. That's right. I was planning to ride with them! I had been resting up for this for a couple of days and I wanted to go the distance. Kenosha bound! Perspective is relative, isn't it? What in the past would have been an early morning warm up ride was now a huge thing for me. I still struggle with fatigue and muscle/tissue craziness. But I was going with Chris and V if I had to ride as a second pillion on that SV650!

When they returned from dinner, we talked some more and I was very glad to hear that they enjoyed their meal at Chicago Diner. V had done her research well and picked a favorite here. Chicagoans are very serious about cuisine. If you come here, you can't leave without having a scrumptious meal or two. It's a city ordinance that every resident has vowed to enforce.

Chris and V preferred a leisurely start the next day, thus forcing me to contain my enthusiasm a bit. I woke up feeling ready but it would be my first longish outing since July when I ventured to Milwaukee BMW for service. It took me a few days to recuperate from that. Since then, my riding has been restricted to short, occasional rides to the doctor's office, my suburban home and to the apartment in the city. Not much fun but better than nothing.

I don't recall the time we left the apartment but I know the sky was a gorgeous blue with puffs of clouds here and there to create excellent photos. The temps were in the low 80s, if my memory is correct. I remember not caring about the details. I wanted only to get on the road and follow the lake and steal glances whenever the traffic allowed. The traffic was heavier than normal but not for this time of day. Our first stop was a short distance from downtown to get a good picture of Chicago's skyline we headed south a short distance on LSD.

The spot I thought would be good turned out to be already crowded with cars. We headed back north near the Museum Campus and parked at the Adler Planetarium. It's a spot I like to take people because it's just gorgeous--even when the weather is crapola, the pictures are always cool.

Chris took some great pics from the Adler location, which you can see on his blog, Everyday Riding or on his Flickr photostream. I don't recall him taking that many pictures but he was clearly busy shutter tripping and riding! I've never seen myself riding on LSD (aka Lake Shore Drive) until viewing his images. I loved them, mostly because the lake was always in view. Riding along LSD is one of my favorite outings. Early Sunday morning, as the sunrises, there are few places I love more. I know other places may be more beautiful but it's the familiarity and the fact that I grew up here and have had little or no desire to ever seriously live anywhere else.

We made it to Kenosha in no time, at least for me. I was ecstatic to be on two wheels! I discovered that there is one good thing about riding with someone else, especially if you haven't been riding for a time. You can follow the rider--assuming the person is a fine rider. Chris is definitely a fine, natural rider--I'm not just saying that. Out of five people I've ridden with before, Chris becomes the third with whom I will gladly ride again. Although he's been riding only a few years, you can tell right away that Chris is finely tuned to riding motorcycles, especially sporty types. I have a theory--or perhaps it's just my opinion--such riders have a certain look (it has nothing to do with age, either); they look a lot like long distance bicyclists, motorcycle racers and soccer players. They are fit, lean, and compact. When these types of two wheelers get on their steed, they melt into it, like it's a second skin; they don't ride on the bike, they ride with or in the bike. They just look like they're made for the bike--and there a group of them I know race the SV650. (Note: I'm not dismissing the value or talents of any other riders, I'm just pointing out an observation of a group of riders I've watched in the real and on TV. And I know that not all of them are fine riders).

Following good riding can rub off. Whenever I've ridden with an instructor, I would end the session riding differently, more confidently--no matter how finely tuned I thought I was when we started. This is why I like to start the season with an advanced course and end the season with a track day or some other advance experience. I still think back to this and this. This season will go down with zero classes. I remembered being tired at the end of a great class. But to start one already fatigued, no thank you.

On Chris and V's visit, I admit to feeling a tad rusty and a bit uptight about riding. This time last season I had already amassed thousands of miles on Jesse Owens. I am far from that. But hey, life happens.

As I watched Chris, I could feel myself loosening up and settling in. Riding is a lot like learning a new language. Practice makes improvement. It's also like riding a bicycle; you never completely forget how to ride but you can feel rust setting in after a long absence.

We took Sheridan Road (US Rt 41 North) much of the way. I enjoyed getting off the beaten path a few times. One place I always like stopping by is the Bahai Temple in Wilmette, IL.

If you look real close, you'll see Chris and V peering inside the temple windows (something to do with the witness protection program?--we had that in common too ;-)). Before we reached the Wisconsin Motorcycle Museum, we stopped in a parking lot and Chris took me up on my offer for him to ride Jesse Owens.

I never get to see my bike zipping by. I wanted his opinion of Jesse Owens and I really wanted to see my bike in motion. Chris spent a few minutes getting acquainted with Jesse, rode around in circles a few times, and off he went!

V and I prepared our cameras and waited for him to re-appear. He didn't disappoint. He zoomed by several times. He looked maaavalous!

My bike looked great--if I say so myself! Chris was dressed perfectly for it. His black and grey gear made him look like a slick BMW ad for the F800ST. It was pure excitement to see him flying by. I shared some pics with him, but many I have selfishly kept to myself. This was one of the highlights for me. We soon left the lot and headed to the museum only to find it CLOSED! Bummer!

We peeked in the windows and stood around talking. We were not the only people bummed by the closure as others drove up and sighed their disappointment.

We said our good-byes--me very reluctantly. (Chris, I hadn't forgotten my water bottle after all. I found it buried in my backpack). But I did want them to get to the HD Museum and on to Madison. I learned that they exercised a more leisurely option and hung around the lake before heading to Madison, WI.

I'd reached a milestone. Upon arriving in Kenosha I felt really strong. I had planned to stop at the Botanic Garden in IL on my way back but after having lunch I figured it best to head home. I did take a brief side trip to the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. They had already closed for the day. I still felt pretty good but resisted the temptation to take any additional side trips. That's the challenge when I'm feeling good, I then try to resume my former life only to learn the next day that I've over done it. Life sure is a teacher! I headed home but took the long way 'round.

The test would come the following day. I woke up anticipating familiar pain. I felt none. Well, I felt a little bit but it was more annoying than anything. I waited until late morning. No increase. By late afternoon I had left on two wheels. I clocked in only about 70 miles but didn't feel much worse--and felt (mood wise) a whole lot better! My Minnesota visitors helped to jump start my riding, which coincided with me embarking on a path of feeling better more often. I had a blast riding with Chris and V, sort of like a mini refresher following him. It was a wonderful weekend meeting new/old friends, talking, riding, doing some healing too.

Chris and Vicki, thanks for stopping by!

Upcoming post: How I averted the jaws of death with a little help from some very cool firemen

Tuesday, August 24

I'm back...fingers crossed!

I'm inspired to write this blog entry because I've been feeling so much better lately. Additionally, I've heard from some of you and I'm particularly touched by your concerns. Some people lament that we, as a society, have lost our “sense of community,” that people are too plugged in to technology and not tuned in enough to “traditional” ways of caring about each other. I reject this outright; nothing is ever so black and white. Thanks to everyone who has reached out or just thought about me these last few months. I am left with a strong feeling of community with my fellow moto-bloggers.

I'm sorry that I've been invisible. I wouldn't wish my health challenges on anyone! For too long, I've had neither the energy nor desire to read moto blogs much less post on my own. Every time I step outside a motorcycle appears out of nowhere and zips by me as if mocking my pedestrian mode of transportation. And occasionally, it's all made be whiny, pouty and really uninterested in forcing my foggy brain—thanks to some crazy prescribed drugs—to focus on anything requiring attention. Trying to live vicariously through others' adventures was not helping. So, I apologize for neglecting the pleasure I usually experience from reading your blogs—and the fun I get from sharing my journeys (which have been few and far between). So I've laid low and tried to focus on reclaiming my former self.

What's up with me, you've asked? I have a nasty auto immune disease of the connective tissues that has brought with it a rather persistent, chronic fatigue and more than its share of itchy, hideous hives. My immune system treats my muscles and tissue cells as enemy invaders and wants to destroy both. At one point, the least bit of physical exertion was followed by what I can only describe as an acute case of lactic acid burn in every fiber of my being. For reasons unclear to me, I continue to experience incredible muscle/tissue fires inside. After a lively 5 mile walk, which used to be a skip in the park, I now (more often than not) feel a burning sensation under my skin. I will spare you the details but after more than a year of trying to get a doctor to listen to me and not dismiss this as “all in my head,” I finally have received a diagnosis that makes sense. Not good news in the end, but what a relief to know what I'm dealing with.

I've had to consume some awful drugs that have compromised me cognitively and erased my energy and only slightly eased the pain, which always leaves me asking, “What is the point?”

Through trial and error, I've learned what drug to cut out—most of the prescribed stuff—and I've started to feel considerable better—at least I have my mind back, which I know might be debatable. Still...

Currently, I'm feeling as if I'm in a healing phase (a remission of sorts). I've had a few weeks of feeling well enough to get through an entire day without several naps. Knocking on wood. Photo therapy has done wonders. I felt so well that on a Friday in July I took a ride to Milwaukee's BMW for a big, overdue service on the ST.

Other than occasionally running errands, this would be my first trip since May, when I ventured to Michigan to do some underground railroad hunting. I left for WI at 7am and already the air was hot and humid underneath an overcast sky. Milwaukee is an easy trip of about 100 miles; I arrived a few minutes before the shop opened at 10am. In the past, Dave had volunteered to ride my bike up there for me; while I appreciated his offer I could think of only a one word response: NEVER! I rested two whole days to make the trip. By the time I pulled into the large lot, I felt like a privileged six year old on Christmas morning. Three guys were waiting outside for the head guy to open the place; they watched me as I did a U-turn. Thankfully, my time off the bike, did not show. Within ten minutes my bike was checked in. I headed off to a coffee shop to get some reading and writing done. I felt tired but in a good way. Fortunately, I would have seven and a half hours to rest up before the return trip.

Throughout the day, the sky threatened rain and eventually the rain came in buckets. Didn't matter to me as the rain gear was packed. By the time I took to the rode, the rain had dwindled to a trickle—not even worth pulling out the rain gear. The return journey took 1.5 hours longer than it took to get to Milwaukee. The return dished up everything that makes riding fun and challenging. My clutch hand ached from constant use in stop and go traffic. Friday evening traffic from Milwaukee into Chicago is always an endurance test. Rarely, during the last fifty miles did the bike move beyond third gear, which actually was good as the big service on the bike made the brakes so precise that I cherished the time needed to get accustomed to the new feel. I pulled into the garage just before 9:00pm, just before the night turned the sky black. The true test would come the next day. And, it came with a vengeance that was both excruciating and instructive. I couldn't walk straight. My thighs and the muscles in my legs were aching (I would rather give birth than to feel as I did). t took two days for my muscles/tissues to cease the fire within. Still, my progress could be overlooked if I just focused on the pain that had me frantically searching my cabinets for the very drugs I had sworn off.

But here's the big lesson: It took two days to recuperate from the Milwaukee 200+ miles trip compared to the two weeks it took me to get over the 300+ miles Michigan trip I took the Saturday over the Memorial Day holiday. I'd say this is tangible evidence of progress. Why my immune system throws off histamines and sends my body into hyper drive is beyond me. Fortunately, I now have some astute docs and together we are working on solving the mystery.

This down time has been good in many ways. First, I quit my research job that would try the patience of Biblical Job. I miss ONLY the money. The number of people I miss I can count on one hand with several fingers left over. It's been a good decision that has eliminated a boat load of stress. Trying to work in that environment was like trying to fit a big triangle into a small round space. This down time is also great for unlimited reading, that is, when the drug-induced brain fog has lifted. When clear of mind, I've done some serious thinking about all the things I've yet to do in this lifetime. One major decision I've made is an unequivocal recommitment to finishing an on and off again book I've been doodling on the life and times of Bessie B. Stringfield. I've accomplished more in the last month than I have in the last seven! I'm presenting a paper on Stringfield in November to the Social Science History Association; planning a trip (via plane, unfortunately) to Florida, where she lived; and, submitting a book proposal soon. The unanticipated time off has had some nice breakthroughs.

While I don't want to announce a full return to anything just yet, (since I still can't predict with any level of accuracy when and why these annoying “flare-ups” occur), I feel, at the moment that I'm on a healing path. I plan to show up here more often. Even some recent news that I would undergo a minor surgery procedure hasn't dampened my optimism. I had that procedure and learned that I do not need the more invasive surgery. Whew!

On a recent short ride to the grocery store, I had a distinct feeling of Que sera, sera (Whatever will be, will be).

So here's to a heartfelt thanks to everyone for your patience and concern. I am looking forward to catching up with you all soon.

I had a huge boost in energy this past weekend when I met up with the Chris and his lovely wife, whom I'll refer to as "Vee" —more about that fun soon.

Saturday, May 22

GoPro test 1

Took a short ride on some main city streets downtown Chicago. I was heading to LSD (Lake Shore Drive) to reach Montrose Harbor--it was an excuse to try out the new video cam. I mounted the GoPro Motorsports Hero HD video Cam on the hump of the F800ST. It proved sturdy and remained rock solid on some pretty bumpy city streets. I was quite pleased with the variety of mounts included in the box--unlike the pitiful mount and lack of options with the Scientific Oregon ATC video cam.

Still haven't figured out how to use the different attachments on the GoPro suction thingy to make it work but I don't feel an urgency for it at the moment. However, the height of the suction attachment makes for a nice tall mount for the camera, which makes sense when you need a view above the handle bar clutter on my ST.

My handlebars are not as generous as the bar on my old Suzuki SV650; thus, space on the Beemer bar is tight. I ride with mounts for a GPS, the Spot, and a XM satellite radio--the latter of which I can easily remove as I rarely ride with music unless I'm doing something big like a Saddle Sore or a day trip of over 600 miles. For mounting on the ST's hump, I had to clear handlebar space. I loosen the mounts and moved them aside to give the camera a clearer view of the road ahead. Yes, the GoPro mount needed to be higher. Hmm...note to self: figure out that suction thingy...

Uploading with iMovie. Things started off smoothly. Then, at the point of uploading, I received an error message in iMovie 8. I learned that this error message was a common occurrence with iMovie 8. In fact, Apple generated a fix (iMovie 6) soon after releasing iMovie 8 but the fix (released a long time ago) is no longer available. Every time I downloaded Apple software related to this fix, I was blocked because I needed the original iMovie 6 fix--UGH!!!

I switched to my PC and used Windows Movie Maker. It was okay and I'm glad to know that I now have it on the netbook, which I take when traveling. Still, iMovie seemed more intuitive so I upgraded to iMovie 9 and all issues with uploading that I encountered with iMovie 8 vanished. So here is my newbie attempt. No edits, just elimination of some of the non dynamic clips. I think I'm going to enjoy developing new skills and learning how to use this cam.

Received the GoPro "Chesty" harness Friday. It fits and rests comfortably on my chest. Looking forward to comparing it to the hump mount. Chris at Everyday Riding, uses the chest mount. He said something like, the body becomes the cushion upon which the camera rests and absorbs shocks from the ride--or something like that (sorry, Chris if I've misquoted you). Looking forward to trying out the harness mount this weekend (fingers crossed).

I'm loving this little camera and send mucho thanks to Chris, who endured many wacky and wild emails from me. He showed both good humor and the patience of Job. My excuse, many of those emails were written while on some heavy brain fogging meds. Even I knew I sounded scary!

Watch the GoPro test on YouTube

p.s. So, what's the secret for posting the YouTube here without it being so huge it's full screen is not viewable. Chris, bobskoot?

UPDATE: Thanks Claye AKA Fleeter!

Monday, May 17

I lied! (Sort of..). & fellow bloggers help out!

In a previous post I tried to talk mindfully about gratitude at being able to ride, regardless of the miles amassed. I'm trying to appreciate and value tiny moments. Training myself to adopt this disposition is a work in progress. At the moment, it isn't okay in the deep regions of my being. But what can do? I could make my sulking overt and make myself miserable and a drag to be around. Thus, I continue to seek meaningfulness in the rides that I do manage to accomplish.

Saturday I was on the road by before 7am to head home for a graduation celebration to honor a dear family member. Construction made the going long and arduous. While I didn't ride my bike to the actual graduation, motoring home was a great way to start the day. Being among the graduate's family and friends was far more powerful than any medicine the docs can prescribe.

Sunday was a two wheeler's dream but I felt like CRAP. Still, I could hear my bike rocking its wheels in the garage. I imagined the tiny led lights framing the licence plate randomly flashing to signal its readiness for flight. Yet, the thought of getting up from my set and putting on gear seemed to take monumental energy that would require before actually mounting the bike--assuming I manage to get the gear on.

My friend, Claire, called and volunteered to retrieve me. We'd plan to get together on Sunday. She is a second daughter from whom I always love hearing. She's a delightful breath of fresh air. Her heart is one gigantic jelly-bean--all sweet! Our walk around Chinatown and lunch at Hoang Vietnamese Restaurant reminded me that this is auto immune disease is easy to yield to. It difficult to get out, I had to push myself.

Once out there, however, I feel light and unloaded of the dead weight that seems to anchor down my shoulders and cement my feet in place.

At the end, Claire dropped me off at the apartment and once inside it, I could feel the exhaustion revisit. I rested an hour and it seemed to recharge my battery a bit. It would be sinful not to get out and enjoy the weather. I pushed myself out of bed and geared up for a short moto ride. My trip was short despite having all the best long ride conditions:. the sky, a most brilliant blue and temps in the low 70s. I swear, the bike looked downright forlorn, parked in an near empty garage. I flicked the button to release it security system and it flashed a series of seemingly happy red and yellow lights that tickled my spirit.

The streets were filled with people. The pack-oriented urban sport riders dominated Lake Shore Drive as they weaved in deep leans all along north and south Rt. 41. My short ride took me to the Osaka Gardens in Jackson Park, a beautifully harmonious example of East meets (urban) West. It's a small place that is most often isolated and tuck far enough off LSD to make the escape feel like a
On this day, I saw more people than I've ever seen gathered here. I took a bunch of lenses and walked around the garden and snapped whatever filled my eyes--without regard to anything else--just taking pictures to remember comforting scenes and to forget the deep, creeping ache in my innermost bones that still catches me off guard.

Not any interesting pictures of my beloved bike as one has to park far from the garden. The short ride was a good one.
The return, even better as Chicago's breath taking skyline is an unabashed welcome to the big city with the small town disposition (IMHO). I thought of the videocam again. Had it been strapped on the bike, I could have shown just how gorgeous a day it was. And, I am sick--literally--and figuratively about not being able to pile on the miles.

To me amassing miles signals movement, transformation--even voluntary displacement; it means stepping outside my ordinary and embracing new experiences.

It's about small and large acts of courage and risking-taking on mysterious machines and strange people and unexplored places. So, I did lie. In a way. With me it is about the miles and the more of them I cover, the more journeys I've taken and the more I learn about myself on my own.

My challenge then is to find transformative moments in the small roads and paths--even in the congested urban street as well as along remote back roads. I'm trying to be attentive to this regardless of what I manage to venture. 'Cause the big trips may be on hold; in fact, the season appears threatened. (Fingers crossed, prayers sent).

I will write more on my meeting with a fellow blogger this week. Here's a hint on his identity: twisted refers to both his mind and the roads he likes to ride! Meeting him made a drab day dynamic! And, thanks to consulting at length with another blogger pal, this site will soon have nice video!

Tuesday, May 11

Mother's Day: Joy in a simple ride

My rides have consisted of riding to work a few days a week and daily errands—if I'm lucky. No long trips yet and I'm being gentle with myself and mindful to let it go. Comparison to where and how much I had done at this time last year are silly, meaningless ruminations. That I can ride is the point.

My babysitting for the F650GS is over *sigh*. Dave's shoulder has healed enough that he's been cleared to ride his bike!

I will do what I can to steal some rides on the GS, especially since I've registered it as a second bike for the 2010 BMW mileage contest. He is thrilled to be back on two wheels and I'm hoping his new membership in the Chicago BMW club (I'm not a member) will expand his options for riding with others. He recently donned his gear and headed out. It was not a good day for me and I reluctantly declined his invitation and encouraged him to go out alone.

I lounged around all Saturday storing up energy for a Sunday, Mother's Day ride. I was asked what I wanted to do. The day promised to be cool and clear. In other words, ride-perfect. I wanted to ride but with me, myself and I. Our child, who used to, with Dad's help, bring me breakfast in bed on MD, is in graduate school in California. She called in her daughterly Mother's Day wishes; and, I called in mine. I felt free.

Sometimes, before a big ride, I won't sleep well (I should say, I sleep less than usual). I call it “trip anticipation syndrome” or TAS for short. Ordinarily, I prefer early starts, to be on the road by 6:30ish. Instead, I woke up at 2am and four hours later, I looked and felt like a zombie! Didn't leave the house until after 1pm. This letting go of things is a real challenge.

My plans were to head to the Great Blue Heron Rookery & Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary, part of the Almond Marsh Lake County Forest Preserve in Grayslake, IL. The sanctuary has been in the news lately for its innovative method of building man-made tree structures to attract the herons back to this once favorite heron habitat. I took the long way there and enjoyed the azure sky, the 50+ degree temps. The sweet and acrid mix of earthly smells of city, suburban and rural living made me quite happy and I cracked my lid to inhale deeply.

I did encounter some crazy traffic for the first hour but eventually exited the Interstate and took lesser roads the rest of the way. The video camera would have been great on this trip—oh well... Something strange happened when I got to Almond Marsh. I couldn't find the entrance. I rode around a huge area and ended up back where I thought an entrance would be. A man and his young daughter were there looking through their binoculars at the spot I recognized from a news report. I squinted at the spot but didn't see any herons. A metal gate blocked the entrance and the fine print stated on the gate stated that the marsh was closed. How and why would a forest preserve be closed on Mother's Day?! The father said it was indeed closed for the day. Wow! I almost felt like, “What a waste.” I caught myself for the ride out was joyous.

Plan B was that if time allowed, after my Rookery visit I would spend some time in Fort Sheridan, IL. The fort was a US Army military post after the Civil War, named after Philip Sheridan, a Civil War Calvary General. When the Department of Defense closed the fort in 1993, they sold the land to developers for commercial land use. Developers refurbished the land and resold it.

The now residential land use has a unique appearance of homes and condominiums. Part of town edges the lakeshore of Lake Michigan, much of the woodsy space is preserved. The town has an air of affluence with a military twist for the military ambience is obvious. I mean, it looks like a fort—just a fort for rich soldiers. The winding streets, the functional looking buildings and the spacious greens made this stop a great visit. (Please take a moment to read a bit about Fort Sheridan).

I also made a stop at The Fort Sheridan Cemetery, which sits right outside the town.

I arrived there with only about five minutes to spare before the cemetery closed. I noticed that among the ancient, uniformed Civil War headstones were some with more recent dates of births and deaths, suggesting that after the transformation of Fort Sheridan to a residential area, the cemetery has become the final resting place for nonmilitary personnel. I watched a woman sitting in front of a headstone for all the time I was there. I wanted to take a picture of her as she looked so serene and focused. Her back was to me and it would have made a nice photo op but it didn't seem the respectful thing to do. So I took a few obligatory photos of the area and left. Funny thing is, I pass the town whenever I ride along the northern part of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, a favorite leg I often ride when I take the long way to Wisconsin.

By my own standards, this was a short ride just over 100 miles, one I'd generally brush off (last year) as paltry. I can't, however, articulate the meaningfulness this ride held for me. It felt great moving along, leaning into wide sweeping curves, passing through wooded areas—even navigating through the congested traffic felt healing--even if temporarily. I welcomed, even embraced the challenge to be sharply attentive, alert and vigilant of vehicles around me. In the faster lanes, I remember sneaking peeks at the ground as it move swiftly underneath me and peppered throughout the ride were moments when everything seemed well with the world and me in it. Two wheel travel always demands focus, which in turn requires prioritizing the mind's worries.

This day was the official start of my ride season and although the weather has since has turned cold and rainy again, it really doesn't matter. On this Mother's Day, I needed this simply joy. I needed to feel flight and unburdened. Riding two wheels, at least for me, are always potential opportunities to connect with myself. I am on my own. Making my way in both familiar and unfamiliar places. No negotiating (other than the traffic). It is all about me.

And, sometimes the best form of self care is saying “No” others and “Yes” to self.

This was indeed a wonderful Mother's Day.

Sunday, May 9

Finding lost things, accepting new selves...and unearthing a 2yr old video camera

Recently, I read Premeditated Scootin', about blogger Jim losing one of his favorite gloves and it was as if he were talking directly to me. That tale touched me deeply as lately I've been losing important things. This is out of character for me.
When I lose things, I am doing so because I am stressed about something and my mind is wandering, I'm worrying about something, and walking about in a brain fog.
On a recent Tuesday I rode Jesse Owens to campus, where I teach two days a week. When I finished and returned to the bike, I searched for my keys in vain. I returned to the building where I work and searched everywhere but I couldn't find my keys. Finally, I asked the Director of the center, which I hated doing because she has knowledge of several previous loses. She sympathized with me and suggested I look in the ladies room where lost items are sometimes placed. Nada. Just before leaving the building to go weep somewhere, I asked the security guard if anyone had turned in keys. He reached toward a wall near him and handed me the keys. Whew!

Two days later, I made a conscious effort after I parked to put my keys in my knapsack. A voice reminded me of the little plastic ring built inside the front pocket of my knapsack. I did not listen to the voice. However, I placed them deep inside my sack. When class was over, I gathered my belongs and left the building. When I reached the bike and reached for the keys, they were not there. I unloaded the bag completely, they were missing. When I emptied my backpack of the lecture notes and books, the must have fallen out? I reluctantly returned to the Center. When I entered, the guard turned to look at me with what I interpreted as a deja vu moment for him. Before asking him anything, I searched like I had done two days prior. While searching unsuccessfully, I had a mini meltdown, my skin got all hot and my breathing labored. I decided to search my classroom thoroughly--again--this time looking where I didn't expect the keys to be.

A few weeks prior, it is that very place in which I left behind my mobile phone and another time, two thumb drives that hold huge parts of my life in photographs. After searching the room several times, I focused my eyes on the dark colored floor. I then pulled out the chair next to the one I occupied. I recall tossing my knapsack there. When the chair slid out I saw the bright red keys to my Givi luggage first. What a relief not to have to confess my absent-mindedness to the security a second time. I waved to him as I left the building.

These loses pale in comparison to the next day, Friday. I woke up to what promised to be a beautiful day--only it was not day yet. It was 3am--my normal wake up time. I wanted to start the work day and get it over with but start time was still six hours away. Ugh! Really, I didn't feel like work at all. I decided to head to the office early; but I was at my desk less than an hour and that voice roared in my ear. It said, "Go home! Get free while you can! You are sleep deprived and exhausted." So, I took a personal day and left.

Before going home, I went to Whole Foods and bought fruit and twelve cartons of Fage Peach Yoghurt to which I am seriously addicted. I loaded up my trusty knapsack and left the store. When I got home it was 9am. I gave into a nap.

At noon, I decided to take a motorcycle ride. I packed a few things and checked for my wallet. It wasn't in my knapsack. I searched everywhere. Then I remembered, "It's in the topcase of my bike." Whew!

Geared up and headed to the garage. No wallet in the topcase! My skin began to warm and my breathing became rapid. I returned to the house to search again. No wallet. It had to be at Whole Food as I needed it to pay for the groceries. I called Whole Foods and a woman put me on hold for a long time while she checked. She returned with bad news. No wallet. I gave her my contact info and hung up. What has become a daily ritual of late, "The Meltdown." I thought briefly of riding without my wallet but as one old Blues song goes, "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all."

As I prepared to put the bike back in the garage, that voice announced itself again. "Go to Whole Foods. Go there!" I said a silent prayer and rode to Whole Foods. So I did. On the way there, I had another mini meltdown inside my helmet. My growing stress was palpable. Before going inside WF, I searched the parking garage even though I knew that had I dropped it there, it would be long gone by now.

Inside, I saw two men at the customer service desk, not the women who had told me over the phone that the wallet wasn't there. "Excuse me...I called earlier and someone told me that my wallet, which I lost here this morning, wasn't here. But I was in the neighborhood so I thought I'd come to check. Did anyone find a wallet early this morning?"

The young man was tall, thin (probably vegan) and soft-spoken. "What color?" I told him. "What shape?" I told him. He smiled. Reached inside a drawer and said, "What's your name?" I told him. His smile widened and held the wallet out towards me. I didn't take right away. "It's been here all morning,"he said. "The bagger noticed it right after you left and it's not moved from this drawer--so everything is there."

The energy in his smiled washed over me and helped lightened the load I've been lugging for weeks. The other guy behind the desk, looked at me and smiled too and agreed that it had been there all morning. I stood silently for a few seconds and tried to articulate my gratitude and my relief to be reunited with my wallet.

It had been a tough week of doctors' tests, a sleep study, horrific hives and a debilitating fatigue that makes my daily walks feel like I'm pulling along a Volkswagen Beetle! I used to run as much as 60 miles a week. Now, my four mile walks require a nap afterwards, a nap where my battery never seems to fully recharge and never holds the charge for long.

If nothing else, life is about adjustments, isn't it? We have little choice but to deal with whatever comes our way, in the best way we can. I deal with just about anything if I can get rid of this chronic fatigue. I am on a mission to do just that.

So, I'm turning my goal-oriented head on figuring out how to overcome fatigue that I am told will be my cross to bear. I have been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease of the connective tissues--I still can't call it by its medical name just yet. One of its major symptoms is a sometimes debilitating fatigue that can be resistant to change regardless of the amount of sleep one gets.

My motorcycle travel this summer has no room for fatigue. While I will not ride fatigued; I will not rest until I find a solution. I've got places to go and people to meet. I can hear you say, "Can't the doctor just give you something for the fatigue?" He did. And for two days, I felt like my old self. I couldn't believe the difference. I felt as if the little pill he prescribed had performed a miracle. For me that's huge. I'm not a good pill taker at all.

Then on the morning of day three, the itching started. The side effects warned that in "rare" cases a "severe" allergic reaction might occur. I am the rare case. Hives were everywhere and my whacked out immune system sent out histamines to attack the foreign invaders. It waged a war a whole week even thought I had stopped taking the drug and had been given a huge dose of daily antihistamines to counter act the hives. The doc said was a "significant" allergic reaction. Yeah, tell me about it!

I am hereby, right now, embarking on a mission to fight fatigue. By hook or crook, this will be a great, safe ride season. I have to just figure out how to ride despite my new life challenge.

VIDEO NOTE: I unearthed my video camera, which I've used maybe twice. I abandoned it when I couldn't find a screw to make it fit securely around the handlebars and none of the accessories that came with it worked either. Yes, I've contacted the manufacturer but well after the warranty and well after searching hardware stores too numerous to count. So, it's been sitting in a bin untouched.
The camera is mounted to my handle bars with DUCT TAPE. I know, the windscreen if filthy; I know, the image is not great (totally unedited); and the road is ragged. This is a ONLY a test to see if I even want to keep the camera. So, I'm just winging it--I have dug out the manual but haven't reacquainted myself with it so the resolution is whatever it was last set too. Since I haven't used the dang thing in two years (and even then I used it once or twice) I fumbled my way through and it probably shows. Still, it was worth it to give it a try, learn to use it before rushing off to buy something else I may also toss in a draw.

A full review of the camera is in the process--after a fair testing...

Test #1 Oregon Scientific Helmet Camera

Test #2 will occur under more ideal conditions: a clear, bright, sunny day--a clean windscreen. On this test day #1, the sky was dark, ominous and foreboding--and getting blacker by the minute. With all those strikes against it, I think the camera did a fair job and would probably perform better if I had done some editing, aimed the camera through a clean windscreen, and had checked the camera settings for the best resolution. I did none of those things, which is why I'll give it another test drive.

Last but definitely not least, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! If you can read this, there's a mother somewhere to thank.

Saturday, April 24

Two (rides) a day--keeps the doctors away!

Recently, I received some sobering news about which I will blog about in the near future. I wrote it up and then just didn't feel like making it real just yet. Now that the weather had “broken” I am on the bike as often as physically possible. Like Chris, in Everyday Riding, I'm aiming to ride each day; it's a great goal but when it doesn't happen, I'm learning to let it go. So far, I'm able to ride to work two days a week. The only reason I can't on the other three days is that my place of work on those days is only four blocks away. I've decided that on those mornings, I will get up hours before needing to prepare for work and take a ride somewhere to watch the sun rise, which is always a grand way to begin any day.

Now, when I say the weather has “broken,” let me be clear. The snow has vacated! The cold remains much of the time. *Sigh.* Thus, my mornings begin in the cold but depending on when I return, the day usually has warmed to the mid 50s—perfect riding weather in my opinion. Last Thursday was a perfect riding day—at least it ended that way. It started off cold enough to use my heated hand grips on “high” and by the time I reached the campus, where I teach a couple of days a week, my hands were definitely a bit cold. But four hours later the weather couldn't have been more perfect with an azure sky that dotted heavens with small puffs of clouds.

As I've mentioned before, I'm charged with babysitting Dave's '09 BMW F650GS. He's only has about 4900 miles on it and a chunk of those miles I claim. Last summer, when his knee surgery prevented him from riding I stepped in to help ;-). This year, it's his shoulder that will keep him off the bike until June; I'm encouraging him to take as long as he needs to heal—his bike is in good hands! Yesterday, I rode my bike to work and back downtown, unloaded bike and rode off to the suburbs. I superslabbed it most of the way but it was great just to be moving along on two wheels. I was able to get in a good 50 miles even before I decided to take the F650 on a spin.

The F650GS is definitely an easy bike to love. The one thing I usually need to adjust to is the the distance from the ground to the pegs. Compared to my ST, it is a short, lift of the feet that requires only a minuscule tuck of the legs. I am always missing that and tucking up my legs way too high before lowering them to the pegs. I left our winding suburbs and headed toward the back roads. While riding, I thought of how much easier it might be to do a SaddleSore on the F650 because the legs and seating position are quite relaxed. I will probably never get to take it on a SaddleSore given Dave's belief that such long distances are “dangerous.” Of course, as one who has done two SaddleSore rides, I totally disagree. But it is his bike and therefore, his call. I think his attitude may be changing. I've been a BMW owner longer than he has and I have yet to get the urge to job the club. He has and he's hearing a lot of LD riding adventures and that notion of such rides being “dangerous” may be shifting.

I only did about 65 miles on the bike but each mile was fun and it made me think about how a bike's set up can help or hurt one's skill development. Those little Honda Rebels in the training classes are confidence building little bikes. I love them. One doesn't have to worry about weight of the bike too much and when you sit on one, it just feels friendly. That's how I felt while on the GS. It makes for easy maneuverability. For reasons I don't understand, doing a u-turn on the GS is easy. Think about it. And it happens! Part of this may be that it is a relatively light bike? U-turns on my bike are easy only because I practice them and I'm very used to the bike. But each execution on my bike takes a bit more thought IMHO. The friction zone is also different on the GS. It seems to have a wider tolerance for silly mistakes. Like pulling off in second gear—it does so without hesitation.

The one yucky thing about the bike is no longer an issues because Dave has installed a Sergeant seat that is not only more comfortable (anything would be) it is taller, which means I no longer can get my heels on the ground. When the new seat is broken in, I don't anticipate this being an issue. It's also, I think, the lightness of this bike compared to mine that I makes the GS a breeze to push around as in back peddling it out of the driveway.

I took the back roads to Kankakee River State Park. It made me think about how I need to get the helmet camera mounted as it has collected dust since I bought it two ride seasons ago. I'm even thinking of selling it and getting something newer. The problem has been not being able to find a screw long enough to mount the thing and the one that came with it doesn't fit around the thingy that goes circles the handlebar. I should have returned it but who would have thought that finding a screw would be difficult. Yes, I've been to hardware stores that specialize in European screws and a little elderly man from Poland, I think, who owns a great little neighborhood hardware store, searched old bins and couldn't find anything that would fit either.

The roads leading to the park are lined with farms and tall prairie grasses and the occasional subdivision tucked in. The smell of manure is overwhelming in places. Mostly, however, there is old, small town life. My route took me through Manteno, IL., a place I thought, as a child, was where insane people were sent to live out their days. I remember overhearing adults say things like, “If he keeps acting out, he's going to get himself sent to Manteno.” It was always described as a snake pit of sorts. Yet, I glance at the few people on the Manteno streets. They look like you and me. Still, I wonder about their mental state. It's a perfectly good looking, quaint town, in spite of the labels that adhere to it.

Time on the GS flew by. The bike sang with a pleasing engine hum marred only by a slight, but unmistakable. rattling of the newly installed V-Stream windshield.

Kankakee River State Park was virtually empty, which is in stark contrast to lazy summer days when the place is packed with visitors.

By the time I arrived it was early evening, the Kankakee river that runs through the park moved swiftly and the bright setting sun shone brilliantly on the darkening water. I parked the bike several times and looked around and stared at the foliage. Finally, I stood along the river's edge and daydreamed into the water.

I wished I had come earlier; I wished I had brought a book and a blanket and one of those Kashi Honey Almond Flax bars that I've developed a slight addiction to. I wished it was warmer to spread a blanket and rest on the grasses and read and lose myself even if just for an hour so I could shelve all the world's problems and all the personal little dramas that make up a life, my life.

I left the park reluctantly. But not before dismounting at the gate one last time and looking back at the ground I had traveled. A mirror image captures a bit of the tree-lined winding road. Only when I left the park did I realize just how cold it was turning.

The warmth of the setting sun strained against swiftly moving clouds that made it dark one minute and light the next. The ride home was uneventful. For miles nary a car was behind me. I passed through Manteno again and thought perhaps I ought to visit that State Hospital on the next outing that brings me this way.

F800ST = 55 miles

F650GS = 65 miles

Ride total: 122 miles o' smiles!