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.