Back to the adventure planning

Been some changes as of late, hence the philosophical tone of the last post.  I try to stay away from dry rhetoric or reflective ramblings too much since that’s all personal and does not mean much to many other people.  However, for just a few closely-intertwined people that I know that frequent this site, hopefully it makes them think a little outside of their narrow field of vision and allows them to just sit back and ponder what was written.

Let’s get back on track with the important project of the year…the Alaska motorcycle adventure!

The immortal Steve Miller Band got it right…time keeps slipping into the future.  The days are actually passing quickly and the countdown clock shows:

In a conversation recently, I was asked just how I would like the trip to go if I could wave a magic wand and put things into place the way I’d like to experience.  My one word answer is SLOW.  Sure, I’d like it to be a pleasant, safe, and soul-discovering trip.  I want the departure date to arrive quickly, but I want the adventure itself to crawl like molasses.  Each second that passes, I want to feel like an eternity…even those many hours on the interstates where I’m dancing with the speed limits and playing chicken with those hidden state patrol officers looking for speeders.

The goal is to rocket to Canada and then slam the breaks and start watching the scenery.  In the future, I’d like to be able to remember the entire journey and count in my head the number of trees that were passed, the number of bears that I watch scamper into the wood at the approaching sound of my motorcycle, and be able to recall those that I met along the way.  I’m taking a break from life to complete some bucket list items and to live up to a previously made promise.  Savoring the experience is what I hope happens on this trip.

Recently picked up some very neat, high-quality (and unfortunately expensive) collapsible gear.  Anything made for backpacking is ultra-light, as small as possible, and will cost lots of greenbacks for the privilege of owning such equipment.  I’ll share a few of my recent pickups for anybody that may be interested in upgrading their own travel kits.

Sea to Summit X-Pot

One of the biggest things to carry along is cookware.  It’s hard to make items that are made to be used for cooking in a small form factor.  Stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium are a lot lighter than traditional steel…but they have bulkiness.  How does one make a pot smaller?  Sea to Summit figured it out…through the use of silicone of all things.  Introducing the X-Pot.

Winner of Backpacker magazine’s esteemed 2015 Editor’s Choice Award, the X-Pot is a collapsible pot that easily goes from a collapsed height of 1.5″ tall to 4.5″ tall.  The entire kit weighs under eleven ounces.  They are slowly coming out to retailers right now.  REI has them in stock for just a shade under $50, and with my REI dividends check from last year, my cost was very minimal.  If you do decide to buy this or anything at REI, make sure you are using Ebates to get your free cash back.

Available in 1.4L, 2.8L, and 4.0L sizes, it offers plenty of food cooking capacity in a easy to carry size signature.  Each comes with a lid with built in strainer, and the other X-products like the cup, mug, bowl, and plate are all designed to easily nest inside it.  Tried it out at home…very easy to use, clean, and easily fits into a narrow space in a backpack or a motorcycle pannier.  I’ll be carrying my 2.8L X-Pot, big enough to hold a very large can of stew, in a gallon size freezer bag to prevent the bears from smelling any missed morsels.

And in July 2015, they will be coming out with the X-Pan which you can read about here.  Yes, it is on my radar!

Helinox Cot One

One thing thing that has taken away the joy of camping for me is the fact that the older I get, the more I appreciate my bed at home.  Or even one inside a motel room.  Sleeping on the ground, no matter how much padding is placed or how expensive of a sleeping pad is used, just is not pleasant to me any longer.  Since the trip to Alaska will either require some camping or the requirement that I scurry around trying to find a motel room which barely mah exist along the chosen route and at the locations I plan to stop for the night, I have been on the search to find something that will make sleeping a tent comfortable.Over the winter, I have tried four different sleeping cots.  I hated every one of them.  Either too big to easily carry on a motorcycle or just lacking in comfort, each were immediately returned or sold for a little loss after just one night (and in one case, three minutes) of trying each out in the warmth of the house over the winter.  Why can’t somebody make a portable cot, that can hold lots of weight, that assembles and disassembles quickly, is somewhat comfortable, and that will fit on a motorcycle?

Somebody has.  Say hello to the Helinox Cot One.

I’ll be honest.  It’s not my bed at home in comfort.  But it sure blows away sleeping on the ground even with a very nice sleeping pad and bag.  I throw those two items on top of this cot and I can actually get some sleep.  Some people sleep on anything really well.  Not me; a tosser and turner I have become, waking up every hour or two.  This cot offers me no difference in my sleep…but it does not creak like the Luxury Lite cot nor does it stay behind at home like some of the other oversized cots.

The cost of this cot is ridiculous.  I mean EXPENSIVE.  You can buy a very beat up old car leaks fluids and blows smokes but that still runs for the price of one of these.  If you really want one, REI and other retailers have them for $299.  Or, you can join Promotive and save a LOT of money on this and all your other gear.

The way I see it, the cost of one of these equates to one night in a decent motel or lodge on the trip to the last frontier.  One night on this and not sleeping on a pillow-top mattress with bedbugs at some mom and pop pays it off and I can use this indefinitely.  This was very easy to put together quickly once you read the instructions.  And it fits in many motorcycle panniers as it is only 21″ long when folded down and in the carrying bag.

That’s it for now.

Life Reset 2.0 Manifesto

At my age, I find myself in an odd position in life right now. Every major decision in my life is now open for evaluation and readjustment; personal relationships, professional relationships, family relationships, where my home should be, what type of work I shall pursue, and overall direction for the future. Most decades in one’s life, one or two of these types of decisions need to be made. But everything at once? I call this the opportunity for a reset. Life Reset 2.0.

This post definitely requires some excellent music on the stereo right now…how about a little of Joe Bonamassa’s “Different Shades of Blue” to start with. Yeah…that’s perfect.

I believe that life is all about relationships. Relationships with the people around us; relationships with our environment; relationships with our possessions and desires; relationships with the ethics, morals, and standards that make up who each of us are. It’s those relationships that decide the happiness we shall experience as we make our way through the limited amount of time we have to exist.

There comes a point that the toxic relationships around us becomes so extreme that the bipolar actions of others, the constant unneeded tension, and the excessive drama becomes a stopper to having enjoyment in life. When deceitfulness, false pretenses of friendship, and a lack of support become the dominant behavior and the expected paradigm, then trustworthiness disappears. After years of exposure to the intolerable behavior of others, I find that being honest is enough to warrant my eviction from a number of relationships that in retrospect held little value. Relationships built on extremely weak foundations such as ineptitude, immorality, or unreliability have no chance of surviving for the long term. There comes a time when things that have been unsaid for ages finally just need to be made known, regardless of the cost of opening up.

Being honest with others is a costly adventure. There comes times in our lives where we put aside the burdens that we carry and must come forth with an announcement that we refuse to any longer be a pawn wallowing in the deepening pit of the despair that flourishes around us. We refuse to look somebody in the eye and continue the charade that they started; so when we are approached to tell the truth, we are honest…and as usual when such circumstances occur, others immediately discount the value of such and attempt to find fault instead of trying to understand the reasoning behind the now exposed proclamation.

Something is wrong when the norm in society is to avoid responsibilities, or to overlook what actually needs to transpire, or to placate others with false promises. Most people ask for the truth but do not actually want to hear it; so everything in life becomes sugarcoated and we are all expected to be accepting of things that aren’t tolerable. It’s easier to accept the falsehoods we wish to create in our minds versus handling the realities that are in actuality, our lives. The truth will set you free…but it will also create the termination of many relationships. It ends some that you placed much more value upon than what others did.

There are days I swear that I’m stuck in the second grade of life; witnessing many others that just never grew up past the despicable mentality of being accusatory or trying to create confrontation and unnecessary conflict with others each day. Some people seem to exist only to try to vocalize perceived faults or negatives in every person that they encounter in life; bullied as children, they become the offenders as adults in the relationships they have with others. I just do not understand how going around angry at the world and being callous with the people you must interact with is a way to live one’s life. And this mentality of behavioral cancer eventually spreads to everybody else, poisoning the relationships of those around them. The domino effect at its worse; negativity breeds negativity. It becomes a near irreversible pyramid scheme in life.

I have always awoken every morning and made it my goal to do my absolute best within the limitations that are encountered. At times I put aside what I want, or the proper decisions that should be made, just so I could be there to support others. Sometimes it becomes impossible to show somebody just how much you were there for them when you have already protected and defended them without their knowing. And sometimes you stay nearby, accepting negativity or wrongful behavior of others, on the dim chance that another may awaken and see what is actually being offered to them. Eventually there comes a time though in which you must move on from relationships that have no positive direction and seek new paths to follow. Time will go on as usual for others until one day they awaken to realize too late what was offered to them. Karma has a way of providing balance and in the end making things equal out eventually.

So, what about happiness? At what part of life do we go from chasing happiness and rainbows to actually not wanting them anymore? When we were all children we laughed, we played, we watched out for each other, we shared, and we found life to be entertaining…and when we didn’t see that anymore, we got up and walked away and found something else to do that brought about that sense of euphoria we wanted back into our lives. Where in life does the light switch get turned off in which we become accepting of daily miseries that must be faced? At what point did we decide to just put up with others that become the toxic relationships in our every day living…or decide to toil endlessly in jobs we hate and complain about to others…or decide the best way through life is to give people answers they wish to hear because it’s just easier than to put up with the consequences of being honest and actually protecting those we are responsible for?

As part of the Year of the Purge that seems to be occurring in my own life, I have found myself slowly ridding myself of not only pernicious relationships but also of material waste and excesses. This year started with three motorcycles in the same garage that now only holds one. Items not used for some time are slowly finding their way out of the home through several different methods. I read ingredients and when the substances are the same, I reach for the generic. For some reason, the materialism light switch for me has turned off; I no longer feel the need to try to have the best vehicle on the street or to try to compete with any other person regarding material statements.

Happiness is not about what you own or the amount of money you have; it’s about the warmth in your heart that you feel as you journey through life. I’m a late bloomer when it comes to some realizations…but for this guy, as I relieve myself of inter-personal and material relationships that truly have no value, I am actually discovering just a little more warmth with each change than what previously existed.

People on their death bed have been asked what their biggest regret in life was. Nobody says they wished they would have maintained bad relationships longer or had worked more hours at their job. Most never say that they regretted trying new things. The common denominator is most people regret not doing the things that they dreamed of, pursuing those chances that occupy our thoughts and dreams. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness when we are wrong than it is for permission to try something new; yet most of us will not even attempt to find the happiness that all so truly deserve. Every day the world goes by taking twenty-four hours out of everybody’s hourglass of life and people just find an excuse to face another day of misery and to not chase their rainbows any longer.

This morning, a cup of coffee is sending wafts of Columbian aroma around me as I write these reflections about recent days and months in my own little world and I sit here with a smile. I feel like I can think again. Life is really what you make it; it’s about purging out the unwanted and embracing or finding whatever makes each of us happy. Some people are happy to be miserable; I found that I do not meet that criteria even though for a long time I thought I could handle this attribute that many others live by. I’m slowly remembering that the vocalized beliefs of others are not who I am regardless how insistent that they may be; that their perceptions of myself and others are often flawed or even intentionally wrong.

The most valuable things a person actually possesses are their word and their promises; I’ve lived up to mine even when others have not lived up to theirs. Some day on my death bed somebody may ask what I am most proud of. At this point, I’d have to say that no matter what, I continually tried, even when facing adversity. I gave the best that I could to help others, I followed through with my promises, and even when others may have cast me aside, I still did my best to protect them and be their friend. In the end we all turn to dust and there will be a day that comes that each of us will no longer even be a memory to the living. We will all cease to exist eventually, even in the thoughts of those that survive each of us. That’s the ultimate equalizer right there. For now though, it is time to focus on making the most out of each day and to continue that hunt for true happiness.

The days to come bring about opportunities to live life, experience new relationships, and to cast aside years of dust webs that I found growing inside of me by both the hands of others as well as myself. There are decisions to make that affect myself and others around me from the past and in the future. Toxicity prevents inhaling the beauty around us; however I can feel the cleansing that is occurring. Just recently, I realize I actually stopped and smelled the fresh spring air for the first time in a very long time. I hear the birds this morning and I see just how dark green the grass is outside my window. The future looks marvelous to me once more.

Go live your life. Life is too short to be miserable. Evaluate those relationships that bind you and do not be afraid to be honest with yourself and others. Restful sleep and real appreciation for what is important in life can and will return once you make the leap to make the most out of your time on this big spinning rock.

I think I am going to take my own advice and go venture over to the horizon and see what opportunities lay just beyond. And if you know of a good place to live, a great job opening that exists, somebody who values friendships and wouldn’t mind adding one more person to their contact list, or a way for a person to ride a motorcycle around the world with unlimited financial backing, let me know. I may just be interested. Some journeys are made to be taken alone; some are much better with the guidance or support of another. I find myself willing to undertake that journey that is yet to come. You should too.

Enjoy your day.

Goodbye Mistress.

Sad day today for me, yet jubilant day for another.  After nearly seven years, almost forty thousand miles, many dozens of charity rides, and literally tens of thousands of curves, the Mistress has left the garage for the last time.  Backing her down the driveway and putting the ol’ girl on the sidewalk to bask in the sun one more time was a little tough.

Fueled up and ready to go...

It’s a machine made of cold steel, plastics, wires, fiberglass, and leather.  Building attachments to such an inanimate object sounds stupid…but the memories the Mistress provided for all these years will never be forgotten.  I vividly remember the anticipation as I stood at the dealership to pick her up…the virgin machine waiting for the owner to mount it and ride her into the wind.  The dark blue pearl beauty only got prettier as many thousands of dollars of chrome and aftermarket accessories found their way to adorn her majestic being…and bringing about many, many compliments and words of envy from many strangers during those fuel-ups or rest stops we occasionally found ourselves at together.

The look of concern on my mother’s face was unforgettable when she first saw it due to the size of the beast…but she never said a word about it and simply always wished me a “be careful” whenever I went out on it.  My mom lived here for the last several years of her life as she fought one illness after another, and we had lots of good conversations when I’d reminiscence about the latest journey the Mistress and I had taken together.

The many miles for charitable causes.  Helping raise funds for the local animal shelter, domestic violence victims, the various cancer and multiple sclerosis causes, and helping children and families in need.  Can never forget escorting the 9/11 World Trade Center beams to their new home or running presents to the so many deserving children at the local children’s hospital.

The Blue Ridge Parkway was tackled multiple times, as were world famous roads like The Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway.  She’s towed camping gear down south and taught me the world of going into the woods to find a campsite.  We did the 25th anniversary of Rolling Thunder in Washington DC together with some of our riding acquaintances and with two million other people who took some time out of their lives to pay homage to those that served…and those that never came home.  Her old POW/MIA plate now hangs on my Vstorm, lest we forget that freedom comes with a heavy price.

We were together in 100 plus degree heat…and in the freezing cold.  There were days that the thunderstorms were so bad I could barely see past the front tire…for hours….many miles from home.  Some of the world’s largest potholes were surmounted by the Harley yet she never allowed me to lose my grip of her.  Even in those times that bad gas went through her veins, she still always managed to get me through that next desired mile.

In all those years, she never left me stranded.  Sure, we had some rough times…but she always limped me to the nearest dealer when she had to get me somewhere safe.  The Mistress always safely got me back home…even when other bikes might not have.  In my eagerness to push riding limits, the bike always found a way to make that next curve at impossible angles and speed and bounce back up to be leaned into the next one immediately afterwards.

So yes…a sad day today for me.  But a very happy day for a young gentleman named Colin, who worked all day long watching the clock on the wall barely moving, to reach the time in which he could could come over to the end of my driveway and walk over to touch his new machine.  My sorrow was quickly replaced with happiness knowing that the Mistress would once again bring immeasurable amounts of joy to somebody that would appreciate her.

Ride safe, Colin.  If you find only half the joy that I did with the Mistress, you’ll drop a tear when she leaves your driveway for the last time as well.

Been on many camping adventures...


...and sat next to many a sign for a picture.

Macbook Pro or iPad?

Sixty-two days until departure!  Seems like just yesterday that I did the last blog entry and that was two weeks ago.  Days are flying by even though the excitement is growing which usually makes time go slower with anticipation.  I think it is going so quick because I am still finding things to do in order to be the best prepared for the trip.

Need to go out and do an overnight camping trip fully loaded to test everything out.  Will try to do that in the next few weeks just to ensure the bike can handle the eight million pounds of stuff I have accumulated.  I have trimmed a few times…but then find other interesting things to bring.  Camp axe to cut wood…good idea…but takes a lot of room.  A third flashlight to back up the second one in case the first light stops working.  I found an unbelievable deal on a Macbook Pro…purchased for about half  of  value since the guy that had it had no need for it anymore.  So now I am debating whether to take the iPad, the Macbook Pro, or both in order to check emails and to keep us with this blog from time to time!

The last couple of rides on the Vstrom have shown it is running extremely well.  I am almost a little nervous to keep riding it and putting miles on it in case something goes wrong.  Almost feels like it may lose a little good karma every time it leaves the garage for spins to work or around the neighborhood.  These ‘Stroms are great bikes; so nothing to worry about.

Sixty-two days.  Actually nine weeks exactly from today.  Stoked!