Tuesday, September 16

On being housebound, floods, memory and travel quotes to live by...

The rain started Friday afternoon and continued a slow, soft and steady beat for the rest of the day. It rained heavier and all day on Saturday. Sunday morning opened with fog and still heavier rain. My "Plan A" trip to Ohio was off. "Plan B" didn’t work out either, again because of weather. Housebound, I had to face the ugliness of incomplete work. So I settled in for the weekend, read some newspapers, listened to CNN, switched to BookTV when CNN began repeating its stories. And, in-between all that, I managed to get some real work done.Sunday night, the rain slowed and eventually stopped altogether. Even with the ground wet and some areas reporting as much as 10 inches of water, I couldn’t stand it any longer--I had to get out. I geared up and went for a short ride. I passed by the Chicago River, it looked swollen and angry as it whirled toward the east, angry perhaps that its natural flow was being influenced by the city opening the floodgates to push some of the river’s overflow into Lake Michigan. It reminded me of something novelist Toni Morrison wrote about floods and memory.“You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. ‘Floods’ is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”Now, millions are without electrical power. One man (there are many others) had recently finished remodeling his basement, which now holds about four feet of water. I am grateful this isn’t Haiti or Galveston, TX.As I turned from Wacker Drive onto Michigan Avenue, I could feel a slight slide of the rear tire, which I had anticipated by the wet street. I slowly straightened up the bike as I eased on a little more throttle. The ride was short but just what I needed to air out my head. I opened my visor to smell the wet air and the fish as I road across the bridge over the river. Michigan Avenue is beautiful any time of the day. But its quiet beauty at night, when all the Magnificent Mile strollers have thinned out, is unmatched. It is too late in the season to be summer but too early to accept that fall is really here. Yet, its scent is hard to ignore.

While riding, thoughts of riding far, far away filled my head and I smiled at the thought that in a few weeks I’ll be heading south for the first time alone on two wheels. The South is a place I go when I have a reason to and I’ve only had reason about five times in my life. Friends are the reason that beckon me now. I am heading to Knoxville, TN then onto Durham, NC. In addition, I will attend the first annual Eastern BMW F800 riders rally in Buchanan, VA. As I prepare for the mental part of the ride, I thought I’d share some of my favorite travel quotes.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller

“It is not down in any map; true places never are. Herman Melville”

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller

“The journey, not the arrival matters.” T.S. Eliot

“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” Moslih Eddin Saadi

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” St. Augustine

“When you are traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” William Least Heat Moon

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” G.K. Chesterton

“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless…it goes an equal distance into the world within.” Lillian Smith

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

May the roads be kind to you...

Monday, September 8

A quiet weekend of small journeys

Rarely do I allow a weekend to pass without a day trip or an overnighter. This was a weekend for doing some of those "must-do" things that pile up when the call of the outdoors is defeating. We suffer here in most winters. So I respond eagerly to those calls! Thus, my avoidance has caught up with me. So rather than a long ride or a weekend getaway, I rode up north, along the lake shore and enjoyed the mid-seventies temps and the captivating scenes from the lake. There's been some road patching done on Lake Shore Drive but it's still an obstacle course in spots. I don't mind that too much because I know this road. I love living in a place where I know the nooks and crannies of the streets, intersections and neighborhood. I value the familiarity of being able to visualize what's around the bend before getting there. On Lake Shore Drive, I know which lane has a huge crater in the road, I know where the most popular exit ramp is and when to move to the best lane to avoid the inevitable backups there.

"How do you ride in downtown Chicago?" I've been hearing that a lot lately. "It's dangerous," people tell me. But Chicago is my backyard. If you're smart, you learn your environment. Survival depends on it! Knowing how to get through the often crazy streets is no different, to me, than knowing how to deal with any of the challenges that any environment throws at you. When I was in Vermont recently, I recall thinking how those early morning fogs would made me reconsider my preference for early morning starts and how streets not on the Chicago grid pattern would really force me to hone my map skills or render me totally dependent on the GPS. And, night riding, forget it. There is no blackness more absolute than those country back roads--and I do enjoy an occasional night ride. I suspect, however, I'd learn to adapt to my environment if I lived in Vermont; I'd learn that shedding the outsider's perspective and just getting out there and living like a native Vermonter would accelerate the adaptation process. It's all a matter of perspective. My house in the suburbs puts me within 10 minutes of country roads and when there, I feel the new sensory challenge that it demands and the excitement of not knowing what's around the corner fills me with wonder.This morning, I was out for a walk around 5:15am and the traffic on Lake Shore Drive already was brisk, ample and robust. The sky was dark and in the horizon I could see evidence of the sun preparing its glorious rise. I took my gym rope on the walk and a little camera too. I took the rope because I want to reconnect with jumping rope, something I used to be very good at, including hand crossing the rope, fancy foot work and double-jumps in one turn of the rope--those were the days. My supposed bone condition probably prohibits this shake up to my skeleton, but I wanted to feel a little flight--get my feet off the ground for a change. It went well but I tired long before I could do any damage, I'm sure. I took the camera because I always have one on me, just in case I want to capture a memory. The long walk did me well. Tomorrow, if my body must pay a price, I'll be ready.It's the beginning of a new week and my mind is already thinking of where I'll ride to the coming weekend. The days are getting shorter and the mornings are darker and cooler. Fall hovers. No doubt about it, every day brings me closer to the inevitable: winter storage. This year, I will ride as long as the ground is clear and i can bundle against the cold. I will ride without regard to a calendar date. With still-to-be-purchased winter gear, I don't plan to go to that inaccessible motorcycle winter camp quickly or quietly.

Hope your week changes you in some interesting way. Get your feet off the ground some, if you can.

Ride smart.