Monday, December 31

Happy New Year!

To all my regular and occasional readers, to family, friends and the lurkers out there, I'm hoping you had a safe, sane and spectacular time ushering out 2007. I'm wishing you a full body jump into 2008!

Another year has come to a close. I can't help note that the older I get, the faster the year seems to complete its cycle. I have no resolutions to share here but I can't close out the year without remembering a few joyous highlights.

Many highlights come directly from my readers, many of whom have their own motorcycle blogs. Thank you! I've enjoyed reading you and getting to know you in cyberspace. You have kept me challenged and informed. Mucho thanks to D. Brent Miller for the podcast interview he did with me on the Lake Superior Circle tour and for indulging my incessant chatter at the BMW Rally in WI. Our paths shall cross again. I haven't met Crusty, yet, but I feel I know him a bit. Like me, he's a map lover. He's influenced me and I think I've influenced him a little (he's picked up a GPS!! Yay!). I'll never forget that Crusty found a frozen dairy treat named "Sharon" while out on a ride. He kindly bought and consumed some--that act melted my heart a tad! Crusty's business is motorcycles; he has little patience for those who woefully neglect their machines. Queenie has benefited from the sage advice he dispenses on his blog. Vinny, thanks for poking your head in now and again. When you settle in Ann Arbor, MI, run out to get William Murphy's book, Motorcycling Across Michigan, you won't be disappointed. I don't know most of the others I regularly read but stopping by their blogspaces has been interesting diversions as well. Among the many non-motorcycle blogs I enjoy, my favorite is Claire's--always fresh and eclectic and guaranteed to entertain and inform.

Other highlights from 2007 include my day rides and weekend motorcycle jaunts that always produced an afterglow that made other suspicious of what really transpires on my outings. "How can anyone have that much fun alone?" I've been asked that more than once. Few things gave me as much pleasure as rising early and cranking up Queenie. I need "my" time. Time to be alone, time to explore lands near and far, time to reconnect with myself and even time to renew my trust in others. Taking photographs of things I wanted to remember from my trips (but know in my heart I will never forget) awakened an old love of photography that I'm working hard to relearn.

The Lake Superior Circle tour was a hoot and a half! When I'm out there on my own, it puts an exclamation point to living free and being self reliant. Solo riding makes me feel that no matter how scary things may feel at the start of a long journey or how small I may feel in this great big world, I can persevere, I can get through...Each trip reinforces a "trust your intuition" approach. I expect the best (but prepare for the worst). I met lots of neat folks in Canada, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and of course, Illinois. All of them are now part of my life experiences, good or bad. Believe it or not, I'm pretty much a loner so getting out there, engaging others, trusting others, and stretching beyond what is comfortable to me, is a huge deal, personally.

The best "highlight" of all is having finished a year of safe riding. In a good way, I still feel like a newbie. I hope to maintain that novice disposition because it keeps me grounded. I do not take riding for granted. I try never to mount my bike without realizing that the ride could end in a way I don't want or it could be my last. That thought alone and the realization that no matter how well I ride, some things are beyond my control. This knowledge never deters me; it reminds me to stay alert, to manage the risk, to control all that is within my control. As Zen masters remind us, we should be forever mindful of every moment, to focus on the task at hand, to treat each minute as a new, never before experienced minute. Good lessons for both riding safely and living free.

While I'm neither glad nor sad the year is over, I am mindful of this: I now probably have fewer years ahead of me than I have behind me, which is all the more reason to live life to the fullest, to do no deliberate harm to others as I travel through space and time. I work with others so I am tested on this daily! I'm human. I will fall short sometimes, but I'm trying and when I spin out of control or push myself over the line, it is riding that helps reign me in and provides that shift in perspective we all need on occasion. Perhaps I make too much of this riding thing, but that's me. I'm telling you, it is because of riding that I've not acted on any of the many homicides I've mentally constructed and planned to the most minor detail. Just kidding. Well...sort of...

I have huge plans for the next riding season. I've come to realize that much of the fun is in the planning. It gets me through the fog and snow and cold of my Midwestern existence. If I embark on half of the trips I plan, I'll consider myself lucky. My big adventure next summer is the Canadian province, Nova Scotia. Don't yet know how I'm going to pull that off, but I'm going to give it my all. If I don't make it there, so be it. At least the planning and research will be fun--and anyone wanting info on such a trip can benefit from what I share here.

Lastly, wishing all who drop by here, the year of their dreams! May 2oo8 be gentle to you and yours! May all the roads you travel in life inspire you to do good and live well. May you and yours always return home safely to share your adventures.


Monday, December 17

A Snowstorm to remember...

Snow plow out early
Originally uploaded by shrosa814

This is what I woke up to yesterday. It was absolutely magnificant! While I realize snowstorms can cause havoc too, I am reminded of how children experience snow. They embrace it with unconditional joy! I watched several news programs interview a slew of children. All of them were thrilled about the snow and used it to the fullest. Most of the adults interviewed, on the other hand, were peeved and full of complaints. Some even acted surprised that the snow dared appear, or that it dumped so much, yada, yada, yada. I'm not a stranger or unsympathetic to those feelings nor the adult concerns that bloat us. But snow, it isn't something we can do much about. Depending on where one lives, the snow is inevitable. It will come. We cannot control when or how much of the fluffy white stuff we'll get when it makes its appearance. I want to be a little child-like and enjoy it.

When I heard we were bracing for a snowstorm starting on Saturday and continuing through Sunday, I went out and tried to document it. The two day results are linked below.

Mother Nature, reminding us who is in charge.

December 15th snowstorm starts...

December 16th snowstorm in full bloom...

Wednesday, December 12

Atlanta, GA and welcomed whiplash!

Recently I returned from a work-related trip to Atlanta, GA. I have issues with the South--let me get that out there up-front. Before anyone tells me that's an irrational, prejudicial position to hold, let me say that my issues are highly rational--in my view--and deeply rooted in historical fact and unfortunately reinforced by some past ventures to the South. I admit to falling short here. So, as part of learning to "let go" and not sweating small stuff, I openly looked forward to the trip.

The change from the Midwestern snow and cold was much welcomed! I expected a sweltering Atlanta; instead, it was just pleasantly mild. Walking around the city was light jacket weather the entire time. Four days is not a lot of time but on the day I left, temps were inching up to the 70s.

Work, however, prevented me from any deep city explorations. I was so near the Margaret Mitchell house but because I've never seen the movie Gone with the Wind nor have I read the book (a boycott and ban on both that I launched in high school remains in effect) it didn't make sense to go there. I had hoped for the Martin Luther King National Historical Site, a CNN tour, the Zoo, and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. If I could, I thought I'd try to get to the Carter Center, and Stone Mountain, GA, which made me curious given its historical symbolism and reference in one of King's most famous speeches. Unfortunately, I managed only the Martin Luther King site and the neighborhood surrounding King's childhood home. Additionally, I did a lot of walking and admired the Downtown and Midtown architecture.

The Interstate system in the Chicago area trains us well. I-75/I-85, were easy to navigate and I imagined riding along these fast roads to quickly ride beyond Atlanta's business district and the shopping malls. I spotted many snaky arteries and backroads that both excited and frightened me. Backroads in the Midwest also pose a challenge but it's more familiar territory even if the same dangers lurk. Backroads in the South, however, are unfamiliar and tainted with a nightmarish history I can't shake easily. While driving, images of Bull Connor, "strange fruit" dangling from trees, and Emmett Till crossed my mind. Yes, I have issues with the South, and I guess a degree in American History fuels my regional psychosis.

Yet, every time I heard a motorcycle, my head would whip around and watch the rider zoom by and I'd think of living in a place like Atlanta where the riding season doesn't end. While out walking, I met up at the same corner at the same time with a guy riding a Kawasaki Ninja. He waited for me to cross the street and I waited for him to make his right hand turn. I wanted to watch him ride off. I wanted ogle until he was a dot in the distance. We both waited for the other. I stood there looking at his bike, which was navy-blue with silver "Ninja" written on the side. He finally tired of me hugging the curb and cautiously maneuvered his turn. He wore head to toe gear. He, his bike, and the modular helmet were color coordinated. I wanted to tell him that I rode too and talk motorcycles with him. I was close enough to reach out and touch him. Feeling I'd appear nutty, I kept quite and stood there staring at his bike, balancing on the curb, ignoring the "Walk" signal.

Riders in the South get to ride their steers throughout most of the year so not needing to store one's bike engenders considerable envy. What a bunch of lucky folks! City life at one's finger tips, boonies not far away, and the really great roads tucked within easy reach to provide unlimited opportunities for amazing day and weekend trips--what more can one ask? On many levels, the South has come a long way. Perhaps, I have too.

Atlanta is a place I'd
revisit and face my southern backroad fears to freely enjoy the roads. I'd try not to drag the entire suitcase of history along with me.

Light, after all, is the best way to travel.

More Atlanta pics here!

Monday, December 3

("Da-Nile") isn't just a river in Egypt...

Saturday, I had great intentions but where does that get one, right? Chicago was bracing for its first snow storm and I still hadn't taken the 'cycle in. Interestingly, it was around this same time in 2006 that I ended my riding season. Then, I was able to ride until December 2--the day before the big December 3rd snow storm. Thus, almost one year to the day, I found myself in a similar position. My plan this time? Rise early, take the long cut to Motoworks--as a symbolic final ride, a sort of closure--and store Queenie for the winter season.

I was bright-eyed by 3 a.m.-- as some of my kin would say--"too early to be doing anything outside that is legal!" With hours to spare before the shop opened, I reached over, retrieved a book and lost myself in reading. After a few hours, I did some 'net searching and then returned to my book. By then seven hours had elapsed and I was getting drowsy. Took an hour nap and prepared to leave. Then some odd compulsion forced me to actually want to clean the kitchen before I left.

According to the weather report, the storm was due in by 2pm. Plenty of time, I figured. Then a phone call. The conversation re-energized me though it lasted way too long. I glanced out of the window and watched new snow falling. It was an hour earlier than predicted--ok, I know weather forecasting isn't an exact science. But still...Seeing the snow fall, a sigh of relief enveloped me...I wouldn't take the bike in. Like that's going to prevent the winter from happening? Like that's going to somehow extend the riding season? Denial--just delaying the inevitable. If I had left at that moment, I still could have taken the bike in without much risk. Denial. Instead, I dressed warmly, loaded up the camera and took a long walk in the snow.

On my way out, I passed Queenie. Forgive the anthropomorphizing, but she had a sad, pathetic look of pleading that seemed directed at me. It seemed to shout, "TIME TO STORE ME!"

Now, I'm hoping for at least one decent riding day within the next week or so to take Queenie in, perhaps, spend the winter with her buddies. Last year, she sat near one red and one yellow (couple owned) Suzuki SV650s, in a vast room replete with newish and vintage BMWs.

Clearly, I'm the only one in denial here. The season is over.

Let the planning for the new season begin!