Monday, March 24, 2014

Tai chi, surgery and Street Vibrations

Timeframe 2000
During this, my first year in the Bay Area, not only did I buy my Harley and do some road trips on it, but I had also started a tai chi class.  I found a wonderful class for Quang Ping tai chi, which is Yang style (more of a fighting style), taught by David Pounds in Willow Glen park.  It was really nice going to the park every Saturday for instruction outside in the fresh air.  My first week, he taught me the warm up stretches, and the first move of the "set".  The tai chi set consists of 64 moves and each week I would get one new move to practice during the week.  The set would take about a year to learn and another year or longer to fully refine it.  Once a student learns the set to the teacher's satisfaction, they are ready for Kung Fu training.  I loved watching other students there that were practicing Kung Fu, Tai Chi sword, Tai Chi staff, etc., because it gave me previews into what I would hopefully be learning some time in the future.  Every day I practiced so that the next Saturday David would see the improvement and show me the next move.  Sometimes he would show me things that looked impossible and I just KNEW I wouldn't be able to do it.  He would break it down for me and within a few minutes, I was doing it, and it was very exciting and fulfilling for me.  My tai chi practice always happened daily amongst everything else I did.

I had also found a dive shop to dive with, and they had a club... called Santa Clara Dive Club or something like that.  I joined the club and we would go diving in Monterey on the weekends.  It was a fun group of people, and since we had to get down to Monterey early, I would do my tai chi practice there on the beach once I got there.  It was such a wonderful place and way to do tai chi.

By this time, I had also modified the Sportster a bit.  I had put on mini ape hanger handlebars so it was more comfortable for me to ride instead of the more forward sport position.

Some time during the Summer of 2000, I noticed my right foot looked and felt like it had a splinter.  A number of times, I took a pin and tweezers, and did my best to get the splinter out, but after a few times with no success, I finally went to the doctor.  He took a look and told me it was a Plantar's wart.  He suggested I just get the Plantar's Wart pads from Compound W and see if they work.  He did warn me that often the don't work, since the skin on the foot is so tough, so I had an appointment to go back in a month to check progress.  It was not good... in that one month, I had sprouted 5 new Plantar's Warts, so the doctor suggested I have surgery to remove them.  We scheduled the surgery and a week or so later I was back in his office.

He had me lay on the examination table face down and nurse put her arms over my legs and put all her weight on me so that, as the doctor injected the nerves near the Plantar's Warts with anesthesia, I wouldn't kick him or make any sudden moves.  As the needle went in and hit the nerve each time I felt the pain, but I would not react.  I just kept breathing very deeply, relaxed, let my body go limp, and let my mind go blank.  After the 2nd or 3rd shot, the nurse removed her hands and the doctor panicked a little bit asking what she was doing.  She explained that she could tell I was meditating or something, because I wasn't moving... there was no reason for her to hold my legs down.  The doctor finished the last shots of anesthesia without the nurse holding me down and I didn't flinch.  He then went on to cut the warts out, making sure he got the roots, then he cauterized the skin so that I wouldn't bleed.  When he finished all 6, he wrapped it up in bandages, gave me a prescription for Vicadin, which I filled on the way home, and I went home to put my foot up and wait for the anesthesia to wear off and the pain to come.  After an hour or so, I didn't feel any pain, but I took a Vicadin anyway, just in case.  That just put me to sleep, so if there was any pain to be felt, I didn't know it.  My foot never did feel any pain in the days after the surgery, which I was quite happy about.

The main instructions for the next couple weeks were to keep my foot dry and soak it a couple times each day... I think in Epsom Salts.  So, when I was at the dive shop helping with classes, I used my dry suit instead of a wet suit.  And, when I had to ride the Sportster up to Corte Madera for scheduled service, I packed a "tub" and salts in my tail bag so I could soak my foot while waiting for my bike to be done.  While I was at the dealership, I soaked my foot at the tables they had out front.  Part way through my soak, a couple guys on Harleys pulled in and went in the dealership.  As they walked by me, the first one stopped and introduced himself as Mike.  We talked for a minute, then when the second one came up, Mike introduced him as his brother John.  John and I talked for a while, then he went in for minute, then came back out to talk to me.  He told me Sean Penn was inside and they were both looking at patches and stickers.  He had said to Sean, "Hey Sean, what do you think of this one?"  And Sean gave him his opinion and they continued comparing notes on patches and stickers.  After a few minutes a short guy with dirty blonde hair walked out and as he walked by us, he told John to take it easy.  Sure enough, it was Sean Penn!!  He got on his Sportster and took off... I never realized how short he was!!  LOL!

John was a good looking Italian guy, with that very direct and sincere way of communicating that most Italians seem to have.  He mentioned to me that he, his brother Mike, their cousins and friends, were all going to Street Vibrations in a couple weeks and I should go with them.  I told him thanks for the invite, I would think about it.  We exchanged numbers and met up a couple times in the next couple weeks, and he and the friends I met seemed to be okay, so I decided to go with them.  The only thing was that they had all planned this and they were taking Friday off from work and going as a group.  I didn't have enough time to plan it and give notice at work, so I couldn't take Friday off.  I just packed up the bike, rode to work and left immediately after work.  I don't even remember how I got there.  I think I just memorized what freeways to take so that I didn't have to stop and look at a map all the time.

On the way, it got dark pretty quick, and it also got very cold going over the mountain passes.  I ran into alot of rain, and ended up stopping at a gas station where there were alot of other bikers on their way to Street Vibrations.  I hung out there for about a half hour and when it didn't seem like it was going to stop any time soon, I decided to leave and just get to Reno sooner than later, wet or not.  I don't remember what hotel they were staying at, but I do remember pulling into the parking garage, looking for a parking spot and being amazed at how every spot had at least two motorcycles in it.  There were no cars in the whole garage.  I was really in awe at how many bikes were there.  Once I got parked and was off the bike, I called John's cell phone using my cell, and he told me where he and his group were and I went to find them.

Mike, cousin Jeff, Jeff's wife, and a friend

Me with my bike and John's in front when I arrived.
John with bikes

  I don't really remember too much about any events that weekend, but I DO remember one of the days we did a poker run, which was a run to some of the brothels around town.  We stopped, talked to some of the girls, then headed out to the next one, until we were done.  It was really interesting talking to the girls.  They were so matter of fact about everything.  There was also some sort of parade in a small town that we visited... maybe this was old Carson City or something like that?

The other thing I remember about the weekend was on the way home.  We all left on Sunday bundled up under our leathers because it was early and chilly.  As we went over the pass, we were all VERY cold, and once we got over the pass and it started warming up, we stopped to warm up some out of the wind from riding... and we left our engines running so we could use the heat of the engines to warm up to. 
John warming his hands on my bike's engine.
Mike showing us how cold he is.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Road trips on the Sportster-- Part 2

Timeframe Summer 2000

I spent 4th of July with Rick and Nadine, and as is typical for Seattle, it was cloudy, but thankfully not too rainy.  It was nice to have a day off the bike, and have them drive me around in the warm car, after spending so much time being cold on the bike.  I had always wanted to go to the Jimi Hendrix museum there, so we went.  The building itself was pretty cool... it was purple and had no definition to it, it was just a blob of purple.  Whoever the architect was, did a great job, presenting museum goers with a psychedelic experience just walking up to the museum.  Once inside, I realized I could spend a week there.  There was so much memorabilia, so many videos, exhibits, pictures... I did my best to soak in as much in as I could.  I hope someday to get back to it and experience it again.

The next day, Thursday, July 5th, I rode back down I-5 to Portland, Oregon, where I met up with my old friend Mark... remember Mark, who helped me with my bike and pranked me with the sparks flying out of his hand, and I pranked him back with the magnetic nose piercing?  Mark and I met up when I rolled into town, and he showed me the new house he recently bought.  We went for a bite to eat, we spent some time relaxing at his house, then as planned, he allowed me to crash in his guest room.  The next morning, Friday, July 6th, we went out for breakfast and I was on my way again.  As I left town, I made a quick stop at Langlitz Leathers, where I had my first set of leathers custom made.  I still have the pants, but sold the jacket many years ago.  The owner, Tom, remembered me, and it was nice talking to him.  Whenever I'm in Portland, I love to visit Langlitz Leathers.  It's like taking a trip back in time... it's like a shop from the 40s or 50s, and the women working on the leather are right there in the shop, sewing away.  It's really a cool place.  When I left there, I went to the scuba shop I used to go to, and Travis was there.  He worked there when I lived in Vancouver before, and he and I got to be friends and did a couple dives together.  We caught up for a minute then I was on my way again.

I rode out to Bend, OR, where I had stayed in 1999, when I left to go back to NJ.  I think because I had said goodbye to Keith there, it will always be a special place for me.  I grabbed a bite to eat and stayed the night in Bend.  Saturday, July 7, I rode down the 97 and turned off to visit Crater Lake.  If you don't know about Crater Lake, it's beautiful.  It is a lake that was formed when a volcano imploded.  It just collects rain water, there are no tributaries that flow into it, feeding it... therefore the water doesn't move much and there is very little silt, so the reflection of the sky in the lake is very pure.  It was a little chilly there, compared to everywhere else, about 60 degrees, but I was still warm enough.  I walked around the lake admiring the beauty, stopped in the gift shop to walk around and stretch, then got back on the bike to start heading towards home.

This picture doesn't do it justice... the camera didn't do to well with the mirror like finish of the lake, but hopefully you get the general idea of how beautiful it is there.

I made it to Susanville, CA that night, then Sunday morning, I left for the last leg of my trip, back to San Jose.  I was feeling good about making the trip... the difficulties I experienced, and overcame, the friends I got to see along the way, and the strangers I met and befriended, even if only for a few minutes.  I wasn't sure if I was happy to be going home or not.  I was really enjoying the freedom of being on the road and going where I wanted to go.  I also somehow felt more confident... I figured if I could make that road trip and deal with the issues I had without freaking out, I could handle just about anything that comes my way.  I was somehow changed after that road trip.  Stronger, calmer, things just didn't bother me much after that trip.

When I got back to work on Monday and told everyone about my week, they all thought I was crazy, but to me it was just what I do, it wasn't crazy at all.  It wasn't until many years later, thinking back, on it, that I realized that yeah... it really was pretty crazy.  But I wanted to do it, and I didn't really know any better, so I just dealt with the hand I got along the way.  Also, many years later, I would look back at a little notebook I kept on this trip.  I kept starting and ending mileage each day, and made some sparse notes about things that happened.  When I looked at this notebook many years later, I realized I had traveled close to 2000 miles in that one week.  My starting mileage at the beginning of the trip was just a little over 3000 miles.  I hadn't ridden many miles on the Nighthawk when I had it, and I realized that in that one week, I had probably traveled more than half as many miles as I had under my belt on a motorcycle up to that point.  Yeah... crazy.  But, I'm pretty stubborn and when I want to do something, I do it and I make it work, one way or another!! 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Couple Road Trips on the Sportster-- Part 1

Timeframe: throughout 2000

Theo and I would ride together on occasional local rides, and he happily dated other women.  It seemed that he really didn't date, but went from relationship to relationship.  He often showed interest in me, but depending on the situation I told him I either wasn't interested in going out with a guy who already has a girlfriend, or I told him that he just broke up with a girl, he needs to spend a few months single before I'll go out with him.  None of the gals he dated rode motorcycles, and he really wanted to do a road trip to Yosemite, so he invited me.  I told him I would love to go, as I'd obviously never been there, having grown up in NJ and only been in CA for less than a year.  However, I reminded him that I wasn't interested in a relationship, so if we did the trip, we could share a room, but with separate beds.  He agreed, so we planned it.  He had been there many times, but I had not, so I packed some maps so I could keep track of how we got there and have an idea of where we were.  On the way there, we stopped along the side of the road to take a picture of a row of waterfalls in the distance.

Theo arranged for us to stay in a quaint little cabin at a place where he stayed before, and we had separate beds as discussed.  We got there Friday night, hiked Saturday and rode back on Sunday.  Our hike Saturday was really beautiful.  It was the first time I'd been able to get out and hike through a "real" forest with redwoods.  While we were on our hike, we heard water, but there was a chain link fence separating us from wherever the sound was coming from.... so we climbed the fence.  We hiked towards the sound of water and found a raging river.  We sat beside it, and had some snacks and water that we had packed in backpacks.
Me and Theo by the river... taken with his camera on a timer... :-)
On the hike back, we saw some sort of red growth sticking up out of the ground, so we put a pine cone next to it for size comparison and took a picture.

On the way back home Sunday, we stopped at a gas station for gas and to hydrate, and I was curious as to how we were going home.  Theo would not tell me.  He got very adamant about knowing the way, and there was no reason for me to know.  I laughed and told him I just wanted to compare it with my maps, which I had unfolded over the seat of the bike.  He got pretty angry, stormed off to his motorcycle, and took off.  I calmly walked out to the middle of the street and watched him go, so that if he expected me to run after him, he would know that I wasn't.  I then calmly walked back to my own bike, checked out the maps to figure out how to get back home, got on my bike, and make my way home.  I didn't hear from Theo for about 2 years, when I bumped into him in Hollister.  He was very apologetic and wanted to buy me lunch.  I asked him why he was sorry because quite honestly, I forgot about the incident and him.  When he reminded me, I just laughed.  It was no big deal to me, I got myself home and found out who he really was.  You see... in my mind, if bikers leave together, they go home together, no matter what happens.  He obviously didn't subscribe to that way of thinking.

A few months later I went on a similar road trip with a guy who was originally from Pennsylvania.  Only this time, we went to the historic train and film town of Jamestown.  He also got pissed off at me and left me at a gas station.  He at least turned around and came back to ride home with me.  I honestly think in both cases, even though I was very clear about it just being a friendship, that both men were pissed off that they didn't win me over that weekend.

That summer... Summer of 2000, when I only owned my Sportster for a couple of months, I decided to take a road trip to Seattle from my home in San Jose, to visit my friend Rick and his wife Nadine in Snohomish, WA.  I asked a couple of my friends to go with me, but it was too far for them... so I decided to go solo.  That year 4th of July fell on a Wednesday and the company I worked for gave us Monday and Tuesday off, along with Wednesday.  I took Thursday and Friday off to make a full week.  I took my time getting ready and packing Saturday morning, so I didn't leave until about 1:00pm.  I stopped every hour or two to get gas and rest, and I made it to Redding, CA by about 6:00pm.  I had a bite to eat then went into a hotel to get a room for the night.  They were sold out, so I tried a couple others.  I found out that all hotels in Redding were sold out so I asked if one of them could make a reservation for me somewhere further north.  They tried, but soon found out that all hotels were sold out all the way north past Meford, OR.  It seems that I wasn't the only one who decided to go on vacation over the long 4th of July week.

I thought about what to do... I could head back home and probably be home by about 11:00pm, or could keep going and hope to find a place to sleep for the night.  I figured hotels would be sold out no matter when I left, so decided to keep heading north.  As I rode, I went higher in altitude and the sun went down, so it got pretty cold.  I left San Jose with shorts and a tank top on under my leathers, and as the evening went on, I stopped and put on long johns that I had packed, as well as thermal shirts and as many layers as I could fit under my leathers... and I was still cold... and tired.  I stopped every half hour so that I could drink hot coffee, eat donuts, and be inside a warm building.  It was getting harder and harder to stay awake and be at a reasonable temperature.  Through it all, I remember being grateful I was on my own... I was really happy to not have to deal with someone else wining about wanting to go back home, or stop more frequently, or any other number of things they could wine about.  At one of my stops in Yreka, I ended up talking to a lady working at a mini-mart.  She told me in her younger days she had a great career at Hewlett-Packard.  She met her now husband and they married.  He was in the restaurant business, so she became a waitress to help with the business.  Even though they lived in Yreka, his restaurant was in Sacramento and he commuted back and forth.  He was killed in Sacramento and she stayed in Yreka working as a waitress, cashier and whatever she needed to do to make money to raise their children.  She said she and her children live in a trailer, and they leave the door open all day for the dog to go in and out... she has nothing worth stealing.

Throughout the night, I talked to various people and listened to their stories and told them some of mine.  Finally about 3:00am, I stopped at a little general store and gas station in Wolf Creek, OR. 

While I was trying to get warm inside, I talked to the cashier who was a man, and his name was Royal.  His son was there as well, and he told me his son was 15 today, July 2.  He was there helping to clean up the store.  I figured Royal must be an okay guy if he has a son... he probably wouldn't do anything that would get him in trouble and lose his son, so I relaxed more and talked with him.  He told me they own a Honda Rebel 250 and he and his son take turns riding it.  It has a charging problem so they sometimes have to jump start it from a car battery, which they did, at 3:00am when his son took off on it to go home.  I told Royal my situation, and that hotel desk clerks wouldn't even let me sleep on the floor of their lobby for just a half hour and I was dead tired.  He scratched his chin and slowly said, "Well, if you really don't mind sleeping on the floor, I can offer you the floor of a brand new storage building we just had built.  I'm the only one with a key, it's heated, and there's a big window on the front, so people can see in if anything were to happen.  You should be safe in there."  It's not something I normally would do, but he really seemed like a stand up guy... and I was really not in good condition to get on the bike and keep riding, after already riding for 13 hours, so I took him up on it.  I offered him some money or to buy him a cup of coffee but he refused.  He said, he isn't really going out of his way or doing anything that requires payment... just unlocking a door for me.  So, I took the tail bag off my Sportster and brought it into the building to use as a pillow for my head.  I kept my leathers on, because even though the building was heated, the floor was concrete so very cold.  I laid down on the concrete floor, put my head on the tail bag, and slept for a couple hours, in between the ring of the bell when car tires would go over the line to let the attendant know someone was outside and needing gas.  Oregon is the only other state besides New Jersey that pumps gas for drivers.

The storage building I slept in, with my Sportster next to it.
About 6:00am, the gas station was getting busier and the sun was coming up, so I got up, started the bike and took off, heading north again.  I really didn't sleep all that well, so after riding for a few hours, I pulled off the road about 10:00am.  The sky had been cloudy all morning and it was still cold, but I hit a sunny area, so I pulled into a parking lot, parked the bike and laid down on it to rest and warm up.  I had my head on the tank and my feet up on the tail bag.  I actually got a nice little nap and warmed up nicely.  I took off again, and quickly got cold again as the sun disappeared behind clouds.  I pushed on, hoping to make it to Seattle, but as I got closer to Portland, it started raining.  I had rain gear with me, but decided to just stop in Portland.  I checked in at a Holiday Inn, making sure they had a hot tub.  I then, went to my room, unpacked, put my bathing suit on, and soaked in the hot tub for literally an hour.  Once I was nice an warm, I went back up to the room, ordered room service, ate, went to sleep and didn't wake up until the next morning.  I was grateful that it rained and I had to stop to sleep for the day.  The next day, July 3, 2000, I went to Andy and Bax in downtown Portland to get some Polar Max and put it on for my ride to Seattle, in the rain pretty much the whole way.  I made it Rick and Nadine's late in the day and they had Gumbo for dinner... it was so good and warmed me up perfectly.

Well, still so much to write about this road trip... I will have to make it a 2-parter... stay tuned for part 2, my birds are calling me!!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Buying a Harley and Getting Stranded

Timeframe 2000

I started work at my new job as Assistant Controller in Santa Clara, CA in the beginning of January, 2000.    It was the first desk job I had in a long time and I was quite bored doing work in the office, and having to work 8:00am to 5:00pm every day.  I had gotten used to the life of a software consultant, having a varied schedule, sometimes having no clients to go to, and other times working til midnight or later to get projects done.  But, I decided it was time for me to have a more settled work life so that I could enjoy doing fun activities on my weekends.  I decided I would fulfill my dream of owning a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and visited the Harley Davidson dealerships in the area.  I went to dealerships in San Jose, Redwood City and San Francisco.  I also rented motorcycles from a local motorcycle rental shop that was less expensive than the dealerships.  First, I rented a Sportster 883, and after about an hour on it, I realized I would need something with more power.  The next weekend, I rented a Sportster 1200, and I liked the power of it, as well as the way it felt.

I then took time to research the details of the Sportster models.... there was a Standard Sportster, then there was the Custom and the Sport.  I found out that Dudley Perkins Harley Davidson in San Francisco had a Sportser 1200 Sport available to test ride, so I went up and took it out.  The hills in San Francisco are a bit challenging for any rider, but were especially so for me, since I didn't have much riding experience at all, and certainly not recently.  I ended up losing my balance in a turn on a hill and dropped the bike.  A car behind me noticed, stopped and helped me pick up the bike, thankfully.  I then spent some time using my spit to rub off the marks where it had skid on the pavement.  It didn't get hurt too badly, so I thought if I got ride of the marks, the dealership wouldn't know.  I rode the bike around a little bit longer then made my way back to Dudley Perkins.  I told them I enjoyed the ride and thanked them.  When I returned home, my phone rang and it was the sales guy from Dudley Perkins asking me if I was okay.  I said yes, and asked him why he was asking.  He said they noticed there were some scratches on it after I brought it back and they wanted to make sure I was okay.  I told them I was, and I apologized for crashing the bike and not telling them.  I told them I didn't think there was noticeable damage, so I didn't say anything.  They were very cool and said it was all okay, as long as I was okay, it was all fine.

The next weekend I went into the San Jose Harley dealer to check out what was available on the floor.  My brother had always like purple on his motorcycles.  When he restored his 1979 Sportster, he had it painted purple, and he later bought a 1973 Electraglide that was also purple.  So, I decided I wanted a purple 2000 Sportster Sport, but the San Jose dealership didn't have one.  I called around to other dealerships but no one had one in purple.  Since San Jose was the closest dealership, I went ahead and ordered one from them.  The only problem was, it wasn't supposed to get there until April.  I wasn't sure I wanted to wait that long, but I was excited so went ahead and ordered it.  I also kept visiting the shops to see if anyone got any new Sportser Sports in stock.

I would talk about my "Harley on the way" to anyone who would listen, as if I was an expectant mother, and at one point at a party I was telling a guy named Theo about it.  He said he used to ride when he lived in Switzerland, then brought his motorcycle to Cupertino where he now lived.  He had a bad crash, and still had the crashed motorcycle, but he didn't ride anymore.  He said talking to me, and hearing my enthusiasm for riding was making him think he needed to start riding again.  I told him about renting motorcycles and he said he would check into it.  He did look into it, rented a couple Harleys and took me for rides on the back.  He was a really nice guy and very fit... I think he was in the gym every day of the week.  I wasn't really interested in him as anymore than friends though, as he really went a bit overboard with energy, he was 15 years older than me, and really after the heartache I experienced with Keith less than a year ago, I was not ready to even think about a relationship.  I told him I thought of him as just a friend, and wasn't interested in more, and he said he understood and it was okay, but he still tried so hard and I think he hoped he could change my mind. 

A few weeks after meeting Theo, I found out about a "special" that Golden Gate Harley Davidson in Corte Madera was having on their Sportsters.  I don't remember specifics, but it was quite a bit less than what San Jose Harley was charging, plus they were throwing in a credit to cover new pipes and the necessary carb re-jetting.  It sounded like a good deal so I called to make sure I had the details right, let them run my credit to make sure I'd be approved for financing, and called San Jose Harley to cancel my order.  Golden Gate did not have any Sportster Sports in purple but that was okay, because I was re-thinking it anyway, and I thought I'd really prefer black.  Golden Gate had a black Sportster Sport in black on the floor, so I asked Theo if he would be able to drive me up to pick up my new bike.  He said he could, so on a Saturday, Theo drove me up to Golden Gate Harley.  It was about an hour and half away from San Jose, but I felt it was worth it, to get the better price and get a bike now instead of waiting a couple more months.

On the way up, I explained to Theo that due to the recommended break-in, I wouldn't be riding any faster than 55/60MPH, and would probably even be varying the speed so might even be riding slower than that sometimes.  Because of this, I asked him to keep an eye on me and make sure he could see me at all times.  He would be leading in his truck, since I was new to the area and didn't know how to get home... and because I would be on a motorcycle, I would have no way to keep looking at a map.

We made it to the dealership, checked out the black one, I completed and signed paperwork, got the keys and walked out with my new Harley Davidson Sportster Sport 1200XLS.  It was about 6:30pm and we had a long drive ahead of us, so we decided to get something to eat before heading home.  After we ate, I gave all of my things to Theo to carry in his truck... the paperwork for the bike, my wallet and my cell phone.  I knew he would always be right there if I needed anything so I didn't worry about it.  I donned my leathers that I had custom made at Langlitz Leathers of Portland, OR, while I lived in Vancouver, WA and we were on our way.
Emblem from the Sportster that I removed when I sold it.
I remember going down the 880, watching Theo's truck ahead of me, passing people and getting quite a few cars ahead of me.  I was getting a bit annoyed because I couldn't tell where he was in all of the taillights and I was pretty sure he didn't know where I was.  I did my best to just let it go, because at least from this point, I knew my way home, and I figured we would just end up meeting by my apartment.  Unfortunately, around Hayward, the "Check Engine" light came on.  I rode for a little bit, hoping to see Theo, catch him and let him know I needed to pull over, but after a few minutes I was afraid to keep riding in case it was something serious.  I knew it would be covered under warranty, but I also figured if I kept riding and caused more serious damage, it most likely wouldn't be covered. I decided to pull off to the side of the road, and I hoped that Theo would realize I wasn't behind him and would turn around to find me.  This was about 8:00pm and it was already very dark outside, so pulling off to the side, with the bike off and no lights, in black leathers, I was pretty much invisible.  There was nothing around for me to walk to, and even if there was, I had no money on me to make a phone call or do anything to reach anyone.

So, I just stayed by the bike... and waited.  After about an hour, I noticed a cop down the road that had a car pulled over.  I walked over and let him know my situation.  He called it in and told me a flat bed would be coming for me.  I walked back to the bike and waited about another hour.  A couple in a pickup truck stopped, thankfully, and they said they have Harleys, and have a ramp in their truck, so could get me and my bike back to their house where I could call Theo.  I thanked them profusely, and was very grateful for their help.  Just as we got the bike loaded up, the flatbed pulled up, but I told him I was okay and he could go.  When we got back to their house, I called Theo's cell. Thankfully he had an easy and memorable phone number.  Otherwise, I wouldn't have even been able to call him.  When I got him on the phone, he said that at one point he realized I wasn't behind him, didn't know when he lost me, so just went to my apartment, thinking I would show up eventually.  I wasn't angry, I didn't yell, I just figured this was another person in the world who was on some other plane of existence, wasn't reliable, and I just decided it wasn't worth my energy getting mad at him.  I live and learn about people as I go...

While we waited for Theo, the guy did some diagnostics on the bike, found out the battery was pretty dead, so said he would charge it up for me overnight, so I could pick it up in the morning.  I thanked them, and the next day, Theo came to take me up on the back of a Harley he rented.  He had it planned and we were supposed to go riding together, he on the rental and me on my bike.  Instead, he rode me up to the house on the back of his bike, then we rode back home.

Monday morning I called Golden Gate Harley to let them know what happened, and I was very impressed at the way they handled it.  They sent a trailer all the way down to San Jose, to pickup my bike and take it back to Corte Madera.  When it was fixed, they put it on a trailer and delivered it back to my apartment.  It doesn't get much better than that.  It turns out that, because the frame was powdercoated black, the ground wire wasn't making a good connection, so the battery wasn't charging.  They scraped off the powdercoating so the wire had a good connection, and I didn't have another problem for quite some time.
My Sportster pretty new and basically stock except for pipes.

My first ride to Santa Cruz on the bike.  Still basically stock

Sunday, October 27, 2013

You can't go home...

Timeframe 1999

I was back in NJ, doing software consulting for my old boss, and visiting many of my old clients, who welcomed me back and were very happy to see me.  I found a place to rent in Lodi, NJ which is only about 20 minutes outside of New York City, but regardless of whether I drove, took the bus or train, it still took me at least an hour and a half to get to my clients, due to rush hour traffic.  I was back in the daily grind of the "commute-work-commute-sleep" routine that I hated so much.  It left very little time for relaxation or any true enjoyment or balance in life.  I at least had it better than most.  I usually waited for the tail end of rush hour and would get to my clients around 9 or 10am, and then I would leave whenever I was done.  Sometimes I was lucky and would get to leave by 3pm and get home at a decent hour.  Often, if I finished my work with a client at 5pm, I would go eat at a restaurant and do some shopping in the city before heading home.  That at least would give me some time to relax and enjoy the time, then my commute back would be shorter with less traffic.

Ultimately, what was happening is that I was remembering why I left New Jersey in the first place.  If I could have found a good job in Ocean County that would pay enough so I could afford a house there and have the "rural" lifestyle I grew up with, I think I would enjoy New Jersey.  However, any jobs that paid real money were all up in Northern NJ or NYC and that required either horrendously long commutes from my hometown area, or living in Northern NJ, which is not something I really enjoyed.  I was also getting overwhelmed with clients again.  There are not enough people in this country that do the software consulting I do, and we are always in demand.  I reached a point, where I would only schedule people on Mon, Wed, Fri, so that I would have a couple days during the week open for emergencies.  I was booked out 6 weeks in advance and my Tues and Thurs ALWAYS got taken.  It was a hectic schedule in a busy city, and after living in the west, it wasn't something I enjoyed anymore.  I had this fantasy of riding to the Grand Canyon on a Harley Davidson motorcycle and that certainly wasn't going to come true if I continued this life in NJ.

However, I knew that Keith's time in Tucson with his dad was limited and I would visit him on long weekends.  I at least got my "hits" of the west and Keith now and then, and I hoped that Keith's next assignment would be as he was told... the Pentagon in DC.  Traveling to see Keith, and having hope that he would one day be about 3 hours away, gave me the energy to push on in NJ.  When I visited Keith, we would go hiking in the desert, along with visiting his dad in the hospital (I really liked his dad), or visiting other family members in other parts of Arizona.  On one of our expeditions, we hiked up Picacho Peak, which is a very big rock sticking out of the flat desert.  There is a point where the climb is so steep there is no way to climb up, so someone, the Parks Service?, installed steel beams with cable joining them.  In some cases, the cable is horizontal, and you must jam your foot between the beam and the rock while holding on the cable, then jam your foot between then next beam and rock and take steps that way.  The last stretch of the hike has the beams horizontal with the cable, vertical, on each side of you parallel to the rock.  You must hold onto the cable on either side of you while walking up the rock, almost straight up.  It was a bit of work, but we both managed.  The reward was making it to the flat top and getting to admire the view all around us.  Below are some pictures from our hikes in the Tucson Desert.

Below are some pics from our hike up Picacho Peak

We will end up at the far left peak of the "saddle" shape.  Notice the smaller rock outcrop further down the hill...

Our view from the top looking out over that rock outcrop.

Keith at the top of Picacho Peak

Keith's dad went through the transplant and was doing well for a few months, but at one point, even though he had anti-rejection medications, his body started rejecting his new heart.  The doctors did all they could and he fought a good fight, but he eventually lost the fight... I think around August/September.  I traveled to Tucson one last time for the funeral and to try to keep Keith occupied for a few days afterwards.  He told me some time later how much that meant to him.  When I went home after that last visit, I knew Keith wouldn't be in Tucson much longer, as the Air Force really created a place for him there.  They would soon transfer him out of Tucson since his dad no longer needed him, and we both were hopeful yet worried about where they would send him next.  It wasn't too long before Keith found out and called me to tell me... they were sending him to Japan.  My heart sank, but I did my best to stay calm and strong.  I told him it would be no problem, I could move to Japan.  He then explained the reality to me, that there really was nothing I could do for a living there since I didn't speak Japanese, and since we weren't married I couldn't live on base with him.  We really weren't at a point where either of us would feel comfortable making a spur of the moment marriage commitment, so when the reality hit me, my knees collapsed under me and I fell to the floor crying, with the phone still in my hand, Keith still on the other end.  He was very patient and understanding and talked with me while I got myself together and calmed down.  I really don't remember what we discussed after that or how long we were on the phone, but I don't think it was long.  We hung up, and I had some decisions to make.

Since I really wasn't loving being back in NJ, and I couldn't figure out a way to work and live closer to where I grew up so that I "could" love my life there, I decided to put feelers out and see if I could move back west somewhere.  I contacted some national headhunters, and waited to see what they would come up with.  After a couple weeks, I received word that they had two companies interested in me in the San Francisco Bay area.  One was an old client in Santa Clara that was looking for an Assistant Controller, and the other was a newly formed company in San Francisco that was made up of a couple people that had been at an old client, but decided to start their own company.  I made arrangements to fly out for interviews and look for a place to live in case one of these opportunities worked out.  I was very fortunate that a friend of mine from one of my former clients allowed me to stay in his guest room in his apartment in San Francisco.  I interviewed with both companies and received offers from both.  I opted for the older, more established company, a well-known homebuilder, and accepted their offer.  I also signed a lease on an apartment that was within walking distance to the office so I could walk to work each day.

Keith and I kept in touch as long as we were both still in the US, and I told him I had accepted a job in Santa Clara, CA and would be moving there after Christmas starting work in the beginning of January.  He was happy for me, but of course we were both still sad about him leaving for Japan.  I spent the next few weeks doing my best to wrap up things with clients and passing on assignments to other consultants.  I also got estimates from various moving companies and got them scheduled to come in to move me when I was ready to go.  I knew the first thing I had to do when I got to CA was buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle and make plans to ride out to the Grand Canyon, and I told my new boss that this was my plan!!  Hahahaha!!

A few weeks before my leave date to go to CA, Keith called me to let me know that some of the high up Generals felt that sending him to Japan was a waste of talent, so they pulled strings and got him moved to the Pentagon in DC.  He didn't really sound happy, and didn't ask me to stay in NJ or give me any indication that he wanted to try to salvage anything of our relationship, and I didn't offer.  I felt that I had already bared my heart and my feelings enough over our time together, and especially with my reactions when he told me he was moving to Japan.  Deep down, I knew that something changed the day I told him I didn't want to have children, no matter how flippant my comment was.  Too many things had happened and I felt if he wanted to continue a relationship with me after everything he would let me know and that would open the door to conversations about our views on children, etc.  Since he didn't, I wasn't going to stop my plans and stay if his heart wasn't in it.  Maybe I should have and maybe he was just in shock after everything and therefore incapable of truly dealing with anything... but I had expressed so much and he had expressed little.  I didn't want to be the one always initiating conversations and expressing myself if it wasn't reciprocated.

So, I went on with my plans to move to CA and decided to take the southern route this time.  As luck would have it, I was traveling west at the same time Keith was traveling east, so we met for one last time in Memphis, TN.  It was a very bittersweet reunion and parting, but it at least allowed for some small amount of closure for both of us.  Once I left TN, the trip out west pretty flat and boring.  The only point of interest on this trip was once I got close to the Bay Area on I-5, I was trying to figure out a fun way to get from I-5 to 101.  I noticed on the map that there was a road called J1 that looked like it cut through the middle of nowhere, so I decided to take that.  I got off I-5 at 180, headed towards Panoche and picked up J1.  It really was a road through the middle of nowhere.  There was nothing for miles and I was really enjoying the drive.  I passed a sign that said some kind of hot springs... I think Mercy Hot Springs.  I vowed that once I got my next motorcycle I would come back to this road and enjoy it on two wheels...

Oregon to New Jersey in a week-- Part 2

Timeframe 1999

This is a continuation of journal entries from my trip cross country.  It picks up from South Dakota....

May 24, 1999
Driving through the rest of South Dakota was pretty uneventful.  Just lots of fields and cows.  I have noticed however, that the bug guts on my windshield are more of a red or orange.  As I drive along, there are lots of bulletin boards.  Some for car and motorcycle museums, some for the "Corn Palace" (not sure I want to know what that is) and some for "Whoa 'n Go's"... their brand of gas station.

I hit Minnesota in the early afternoon and found that the bug guts on my windshield are now a bright green.  You might find it strange that I notice the color of the bug guts, but there's not much else to look at and it's amazing how quickly my windshield gets covered and how thick it is.  I mean after 10 minutes, I've got a carpet on my windshield.  Also, at this point, I'm tired of country stations and commercials for pesticides, herbicides, seeds and seeding machinery.  What I wouldn't give for a Tom Shane commercial right now!!  Hahahaha!!

I stopped in the town of Albert Lee, MN and the first song I heard while I was eating dinner was "Darlin' Pretty" by Mark Knopfler.  I didn't think it was played on the radio, especially in the middle of Minnesota.  I felt a little sad as it reminded me of Keith and I wasn't sure what our future held.

May 25, 1999
Today, I drove through the rest of Minnesota, made it through Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana and stopped just over the border in Ohio.  The news in western Wisconsin consisted of a couple incidents of deer being hit.  In each case, they gave the driver's name, location of the accident and the damage to the car.  Pretty amazing...

I did stop in Milwaukee for a Harley t-shirt and to get info about the factory.  I found out they give tours on Mon, Wed and Thurs.  Today is Tuesday, so I guess no tour for me.  The lady at the dealership was really nice-- she gave me some key chains and stickers for free.

May 26, 1999
I made it home today.  The rest of the drive through Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey was pretty boring.  However, when I got to I-195 in NJ, it felt good to see all of the vegetation.  I drove across the state to the beach and boardwalk in Pt. Pleasant before going home.  It was good to get back to the boardwalk.  I went to Martell's and had my first slice of Jersey pizza and a fresh squeezed lemonade with the sugar that crunches in your teeth... boy have I missed that!!  Also, there are houses right on the boardwalk, looking out over the ocean, most of them are very nice.  I always loved walking the boardwalk and admiring the houses, wondering what it was like to live there.  There is this one house that has an outdoor speaker system.  It's owned by an elderly couple and they ALWAYS play Frank Sinatra out those speakers.  It's one of those things you can count on.  I had forgotten about that house, but when I got close to it, I couldn't help but smile a huge smile when I heard Frank Sinatra playing.

Since it is still before Memorial Day, most of the people on the boardwalk were locals and they all say "hi" as they walk by.  I noticed them all smiling a bigger smile after seeing my big smile.  I couldn't keep from smiling so big-- this boardwalk was always "my place" and it was good to be back.  I walked to the end of the boardwalk, like I always did... where the inlet and jetty are.  On my way, I hopped up on the unoccupied benches, walked across them, the jumped off, like I always used to.  When I reached the jetty, and older man on a bicycle passed me and said "hi" so I said "hi" back.  The only way to get on the jetty from the boardwalk is to climb through the railing, which I did.  The old man said, "Boy you did that with such ease."  I said, "I've done it a few times."  I went and ran on the rocks on the jetty like I used to and stopped midway to gaze across the inlet, then out to the ocean on my right, then down the inlet to the river on my left.  I wanted to stay longer, but knew my parents were waiting to see me.  So, I ran back on the boulders and climbed back through the railing.  The old man was still there and he said, "Oh you're climbing through again."  I said, "Yup, but in reverse." and I smiled.  He said, "You seem like such a beautiful, happy person."  I said, "I try to be happy.  I'm happy to be back."  I explained that I just got in from driving back from WA state and I came here first.  I told him how important the boardwalk is to me.  I then asked him if he lived nearby and he said he lived just a few blocks away.  So, I said, "Then you know what a special place this is.  "He said, "Oh yes."  He then invited me to sit and chat with him for a bit, but I said I had to go because my parents were waiting for me.  I explained I would be there often and perhaps we would catch up at a later time.
End of the Pt. Pleasant boardwalk overlooking the Manasquan Inlet
 Then I drove home and it was good to see my parents and brother.  We talked for a while and the first thing I did was unpack my stereo and put on my Jonatha Brooke CD.  Finally, some decent music.  They play mostly rock and top 40 out here.  Then, the next thing I did was finish writing this... It's good to be home, have the windows open, and hear nothing but crickets and an occasional dog barking...
 The house I grew up in... and returned to...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Oregon to New Jersey in a week-- Part 1

Timeframe 1999

The following are entries from my journal as I drove from Oregon to NJ in May of 1999.

Today was my first full day in Bend/Sun River, OR.  I will be here through  Friday the 21st, when I will be heading back to NJ.  Yesterday, I had the movers load my things in Vancouver, and I drove here.  Keith was on his way back from AZ and stopped and spent the night plus a couple hours with me at my client.

I've been reflecting on my life in awe over the last couple days.  Now that I'm going back to NJ I'm happy.  It's a been a difficult couple of months, but I'm content with my decision and actually happy to be going home.  I can't believe the opportunities and experiences I've had.  I feel very fortunate to have lived the life I have so far.  It almost feels like I'm accelerating towards something.  I feel like going to NJ is something I'm "supposed" to do.  I know it will help me bring closure to some isuses so I can move on.  I also feel like NJ is not my last stop.  I can't help feeling like I will be back in the West after a few years, but for now I "have to" be in NJ.

This past weekend I was in the Quinault Rain Forest with my friend Rick and saw a wild black bear.  Today, I'm in the Oregon high desert and saw a wild coyote and two does, and for me these are awesome experiences.  I can't wait for the adventure of driving cross country and the sights I'll see on my stops.
Me on a Sequoia Tree in Quinalt Rain Forest

Small example of Quinalt Rain Forest
I left Bend, OR yesterday about 4:30pm and arrived in Mt. Home, ID about 10:00pm (11:00pm Mountain time).  I drove through Eastern Oregon's high desert.  The further east I got, the more brown and barren everything got.  It was just like the movies where there is nothing for miles, then, in the middle of all, there is a post office, a general store and a gas station.  In 2 seconds, you're through the  "town".  As I got closer to Idaho there were more hills and a river, and there were some ducks and other birds.  There were these really cool looking black birds with white tipped wings and long tails.  I think they are some kind of scavenger birds because I saw at least one of them eating road kill.  This morning I left Mt. Home and am now at a diner in St. Anthony, having a cheeseburger and fries.  I stopped at the Harley Davidson dealership in Blackfoot, ID earlier today to pick up a t-shirt.  The terrain here is unbelievably flat.  The high desert in OR was pretty flat, but there were some trees and lots of little bushes.  Here, there is not much of anything to create texture.  I guess that's how they grow potatoes.  :-)  There was a sign for the Potato Expo.

The rest of the ride through Idaho was pretty uneventful.  I rode north to Yellowstone.  It costs $20.00 for a 7 day pass and I only used about 4 hours worth.  I was going to try to drive the whole park in a figure eight, but the road between Tower and Canyon was closed.  Instead, I drove north to the Petrified Tree, then headed back south to see Old Faithful.  Almost immediately upon entering the park, I saw Elk and Buffalo.  They were all over the park.  I did not see any bears the whole time.  I was surprised at how thin the forest was.  The ground was ashy and the trees were like scrub pines.  I guess that the result of alot of volcanic activity.  There were lots of fields and water too.
Elk in Yellowstone
Buffalo in Yellowstone
Petrified Tree in Yellowstone

The last part of the trip through Yellowstone was Old Faithful.  I had no idea when it was supposed to go, but figured if I was supposed to see it, I would.  I pulled into the parking lot about 6:35pm and got the the viewing area about 6:40pm.  I asked some people there when it was supposed to go and they said around 6:45.  Sure enough, about 6:47 it went off, I took a couple pictures and was on my way again.  Talk about not wasting time!!  I couldn't have planned it better if I tried!

I left the park and drove to Cody, Wyoming where I stayed for the night.  I got there about 10:00pm.  The ride through WY was similar to eastern OR... desert and hills, but WY hills had no vegetation.  They were more like stark reddish brown rock with really sharp shapes.  There was a long stretch of road where they were doing construction and it was gravelly.  Boy, was I glad I was in the car and not on a bike.

Cody, WY seems to be a typical western town.  One street about 15 blocks long is called "downtown".  It seems to be pretty lively though, especially for 10:00pm.  Oh, also not far outside Yellowstone, I drove next to a large lake.  It was still frozen and had snow on it, and along most of the road there was still about 5 feet of snow.  There were quite a few spots along the road in WY where there were herds of wild deer in the fields right near the road.

A strange thing happened as I left Cody this morning.  Late yesterday, I kept thinking of the song by Phil Collins and a female singer that has the lyrics "You have no right, to ask me how I feel..." but that's about all I could remember of the song.  This morning, that was the first full song I heard on the radio.  "Separate Lives"  I had tears in my eyes as the realization hit me that Keith and I would, at least for now, be living "Separate Lives"... and how appropriate that song was at that time.

Another not-so-strange thing (for me) happened too.  About 10 miles outside Cody I realized that I didn't get gas.  I decided to just wait til I hit the next town, Grey Bull.  Well, I got there, filled up, and realized I locked my keys in the car.  It was a typical western town, complete with the officer inside the mini-mart, drinking coffee and eating donuts, and there were three Mexican men who were so close to each other they looked like they were glued together.  Of course everyone stared at the "out-of-towner" (me) as she walked up to the cop and explained she locked herself out of her car.  He radioed in, but the one guy in town who could unlock my car was on vacation.  He requested that a guy who works for him bring the tools over and he would unlock it for me.  He was very nice and I was on my way again in a short amount of time.

I stopped in Sheridan, WY to try to get a t-shirt at the Harley dealership there.  No such luck-- it was closed.  There was a dealership in Gilette, WY but since it's Sunday it was closed for the day.  So, I drove on to see Devil's Tower.  I had to drive on a dirt road for about 5 miles and thought that was what the whole route was, but thank goodness it turned to pavement again.  While I was there, I picked up a vase supposedly made by the Sioux Indians.
Devil's Tower... perhaps you recognize it from "Close Encounters..."?
 I left Devil's Tower and headed for Sturgis, SD.  I got there about 4:30pm and of course the Harley dealer was closed too since it was Sunday.  So, I kept driving and went to Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse monument.

By this point, the bugs on my windshield are so thick, I have to find the clear spots to peak through.  I still am doing 85 in a 75 zone though.  Any gas stations I've stopped at so far have not had the washer fluid and my wipers and washer fluid aren't doing the trick.  I headed back to Sturgis, where I filled up in preparation for the next day, and was finally able to clean my windshield.  I settled in for the night and let myself sleep a little late the next day.  I still wanted a t-shirt from Sturgis and the Harley dealership didn't open til 9am.

I had talked to my brother John, tonight and told him that in some of my conversations with our dad, I learned that our mom was having some sort of stomach issues.  It didn't seem like he knew about it, so he was going to check in.  He called me back later to let me know that dad told him she just went into the hospital and it turned out to be gall bladder issues.  They wanted to keep her in the hospital for a few days to do tests.  I would keep tabs on the situation, but I may not have any more time for sightseeing and might have to just drive straight through.  I'm not really sure there is anything else worth stopping for at this point anyway... we'll see.