October 31, 2010
Country Club Warriors
The Halloween School Dance
October 25, 2010
Of Cajuns and Sconnies: All Tangled Up
Of Cajuns and Sconnies - All Tangled Up
You just can't know what my life is like. Even I don't really know who I am, I'm afraid.
Last night, I lay here in this king-sized bed, twisting and writhing in pain. That tiny little Embraer 190 really did a number on my back. I hate flying in those little Tylenol capsules. So small and I'm just all folded up in there like a human accordion.
And at night, I set the thermostat down as low as it will go and I burrow under the comforters and just roll around in pain, praying for a sudden death. Death doesn't come, but eventually the morning inevitably rolls around and I go downstairs to meet friend for breakfast. I don't eat breakfast, of course. And it's nasty outside, so I'll ride with friend today and leave the bike here at the hotel.
We climb into the rental car, jabbering like jays in the sunshine. Blabbering about our kids and Halloween and all points in between.
"I saw your photos from the trip. It looked like a good trip. I should have gone with you. But you know...you get all tangled up..."
I like how he says this. "You get all tangled up [in the normal daily activities]" And he's right. We all do. I'm no exception to this, of course. I look back at what I did this summer and I'm afraid it's precious little. Why did I not plan more trips on my motorcycles? I dunno. I think that part of my brain isn't working very well. The planning part, that is. Maybe it's never worked well. It's hard to say.
Friend is solid. He's one of the guys on the short list of people you'd want on a project with you. As cool as the other side of the pillow.
And we ride into work together, giddy as kids spilled onto a playground.
At work, I start right in trying to get my expense reports sorted out. When you're on the road for a week or two, it's not a big deal, but when you live on the road, your life gets changed into something most people wouldn't recognize.
You have to create little rituals or you won't survive on the road. Have to put your parking ticket and your vehicle locator slip in the same place every time. You spend your days trying to get the change out of your pockets. Out of your backpack. You try not to fly change across the planet. It's heavy and very nearly worthless. You save every receipt and throw away every boarding pass and rental agreement.
Mostly, you spend your days renting cars or buying plane tickets. Filling out expense reports or paying down credit cards. Trying to make sure that everything's charged up and operating properly - cameras and cell phones and laptops.
And I go into work today but the system's not working like it should. I'm trying to do my expense reports for the month of October and the application isn't working like it should and finally, I just set aside my expense reports and I dive into the software to try to breathe life into this stillborn application.
Nothing is working right today and we can't figure it out. We're just all scratching our heads and there's a meeting coming up and it won't work. It just won't. I feel like we're skydiving. It's so stressful you just can't know. Deadlines and changes and all of this is going on and I just want to pull my hair out because it won't work. Nothing can make this thing come to life.
If you look at who the most superstitious people are, you'll generally find they're people that routinely operate in scenarios with a low probability of success. Like, for instance, professional baseball players. If a baseball player fails to get on base 7 times out of 10, then he's among the best in the world. The major league average is between .260 and .275. So, this means that even the best players in the world fail to get on base more than 7 times out of 10.
As a result of this, baseball players are among the most superstitious people in the world. If scratching your foot in the dirt and spitting and rubbing your cap helps, then you do it. And this is how it is with the application I work with.
The smartest people in the world can't get this system to work properly. Oh, don't get me wrong. Everyone tries. Everyone wants to take a swing at it. But when it fails to work properly, as it did today, we're all doing the things that we've tried in the past to make it sing and hum. Everyone has things that they've done before that seemed to help. We all have little rituals that we follow that we swear will help.
I could list everything we tried today to make the application work, but when it starts working, no one really knows what fixed it. Was it the security changes? Bumping the servers? Deleting the cache? Waiting 24 hours? No one knows. No one can say for sure any more than anyone knows for sure if touching the brim of your hat really helps to hit a homerun. Some things are just beyond knowing.
But I digress.
So we're just in this pressure cooker all day. Fighting this crazy application at all turns and just no one on earth is smart enough to figure it out and when the system comes to a grinding halt and the boss walks in, I just want to walk outside in the parking lot and peel off my skin like a grape.
Finally, everyone that has a life goes home and friend and I slip outside into the remnants of the Wisconsin fall.
Normally, we just go out to dinner but tonight, we're meeting some ladies for supper. I dunno why, really. Just that we met them out one night in Madison, and somehow they ordered my book and decided we needed to come over, so we did.
They're Sconnies, but not by birth. One's from Illinois and one's from Louisiana and they're just as nice as can be. Very cool to have a place to go when you live on the road. You get tired of eating out in fancy restaurants every nite. A home-cooked meal is so much better, of course. To have a home to relax in with flowers and custom cabinets and photos of humans on the walls.
Something other than a hotel room and a restaurant and work. Something outside of this. Something very close to life, possibly.
"I dunno why am I going," he complains. "Maybe only you should go alone. I have a wife. I have kids. I don't need to be doing this thing with you..." he whines.
"Look...you got a wife. I got nothing. That girl I told you about in Colorado? She wouldn't spit on me if I was on fire, OK? She's dead to me. I got nothing."
"These are your friends. I don't know them," he continues.
"You know them at least as well as I do. You were with me when we met them down on State Street in Madison. Remember? And besides - all we're doing is going to someone's home for a home-cooked meal. They feel sorry for us 'cuz we live on the road, you see. This is normal. This is what people do in Amerika. Don't make more out of this than it is. We deserve this."
October 24, 2010
As Innocent As Butterflies
My mailman is selling a trampoline and a dirt bike so I haul Jennifer and Allie over there to check it out. They're bouncing all over it like Mexican jumping beans in a hot skillet. Happy as pigs in slop.
"He has a motorcycle for sale that's just your size," I offer.
"I don't want a motorcycle, daddy." She replies. And that is that. I just thought I'd offer. I'm not going to push it on her. She doesn't want one. That's the end of it. My mom wouldn't let me get a motorcycle while I lived in her house because she worked in the Emergency Room all day trying to reassemble people after their motorcycle accidents. So it was a no-brainer for her.
For me, it's less obvious. I don't believe I know anyone that died in a motorcycle crash. I think that riding a motorcycle around the yard is probably not all that much more dangerous than jumping on a trampoline.
When I got my first bike it was my first form of transportation and it really opened up to the world to me. My mind is etched with these amazing rides since I was 18 and, sure, I've wrecked a few times, but I'm still standing.
But if she doesn't want one, then it ends here. So I hand him some cash for the trampoline and he says he'll bring it tomorrow.
On Sunday, I wake up but I'm not sure when I'm flying out. I always have sort of a vague idea about my travel plans. I'm thinking I fly out at 3:00 p.m., but not certain. Just sort of a gut feeling. So I hope he comes with the trampoline before I have to go.
And he shows up at around 10:00 a.m. and we unload the trampoline and start assembling it. I can tell at a glance how to put it together, but he starts putting it together wrong and I don't say anything. I don't speak because I'm starting to suspect that friendships are the most valuable things we have, and we'll get the trampoline together whether I make an ass of myself or not. So I'm just quiet until he figures it out and, in two shakes of a sheep's tail, the thing is assembled and ready to go.
I offer to take the mailman around my place as he's indicated he cuts wood on the side. So I take him out back and we're hiking across the property and he just can't believe how much land I'm on. He keeps pointing to the fences and trying to convince himself that my land ends somewhere near where we are. But I keep telling him we're not at the end yet and we keep walking. I'm on 4 acres, which is a decent piece of land. Nothing to brag about mind you, but I can do whatever I want on the redwood deck without arousing any unwarranted attention.
That's the biggest benefit of the land, in my opinion. Not the land itself, per se. But more the absence of neighbors. The lack of any human activity.
We scare up a few deer and he's all excited but they're my pets. They live here. The land is theirs as much as it is mine. And I could shoot them. Certainly I could. And I'm not above it. I just don't feel the need to. I don't need that much meat.
"I might come cut some of this stuff. You wouldn't mind?"
"No. But just let me know before you come over and I'll let me neighbors know. If I'm out of town, my neighbors will shoot you."
"I'm just saying...let me know before you come over or my neighbors will kill you."
"Why would they kill me?"
"Because they're watching my place."
"Who would shoot me?" he asked.
"Any of them might. Bud would for sure. He used to kill people for a living."
"How's that now?"
"Dude...Bud was in Vietnam. He used to kill people with a machine gun from a tower while he was drinking chocolate milk. There's books about him. I'm not joking. You can have all the wood you want, but just make sure you let me know before you come over. That's all."
"Do you want to try to get your bike started?" He asks. He's wants my XR400 in a big way and I'm thinking of selling it as I've got way too many vehicles.
"I can't right now. I've got to go to Wisconsin." I reply.
"What?" he asks.
"I've got to go to Wisconsin," I reply.
"When?" He asks, surprised.
"Now. I've got to go to the airport," I continue.
"What do you do for a living?" he asks incredulously.
"I'm a computer consultant."
And he looks at me funny as he leaves.
Jennifer sits on her new trampoline, talking with Allie about all of the things that young girls must talk about. As excited as bees. As innocent as butterflies.
"Can you believe it hasn't snowed yet, Daddy?"
I just sort of look at her and shrug my shoulders. I try not to think about the winter. I don't want it to come. Last winter was a bad one. It seemed like a long, cold winter that might not end. And it wasn't just me. Others said the same thing. Those idiots peddling "Global Warming" are so clueless it's not even funny. Couldn't pour water out of a boot if the directions were printed on the heel. But I'm not ready for another winter. I know that.
I just shrug my shoulders and look away. I don't want her to see the fear in my eyes. To see the slump in my posture. A father is supposed to be something more than this. Something more than a mule, worked to an early grave.
I remember when the phone used to ring at home and wake dad out of a sound sleep. He'd come alive like he was flashing back to his days in the war. He'd grab up the phone, clutching it like a lunatic, shouting "Hello! Hello? Hello!" into the phone, like he was taking fire from an army of gooks in the jungle and calling in mortar rounds on his position. But he never fought in any war.
Anyone could see that he wasn't going to be of any assistance, whatever the problem was. I felt sorry for the people on each end of the phone. Sorry for the unseen caller because, obviously my father wouldn't be able to help no matter what the issue. Sorry for my dad that someone at the mill thought it was a good idea to wake him from a weekend nap.
"Daddy," she calls. "Daddy come jump on the trampoline with us."
"I can't baby. I've got to fly to Wisconsin." This is the part that I hate, of course. This is the worst part of earning a living. Punching a hole in the sky and landing in another time zone a thousand miles away. Sleeping in hotels. Racing around in rented cars. Putting distance between you and the ones you love. This is possibly the worst part of being alive.
A father is supposed to be something more than this. Something more than a flickering image on Skype grading homework from another state.
I hope tonight that my motorcycle is still parked at the airport. I parked it illegally and it doesn't have a license plate or anything. I hope that I have a reservation at the Hampton Inn. I hope that Ramesh gets in on time tonight and we can go to dinner.
These are the things you hope for. A little normalcy in an abnormal commute.
My Friends Call Me Mary
"Is this your last flight for tonight?" I ask the flying waitress as I board the flight.
I've got a beer in a go cup I'm sipping through a straw and I'm waving it around like I own the place.
"Yeah. How bout you?"
"Colorado's my home," I reply. "You?"
"I live in Parker."
It doesn't matter that she colors her hair. Or that she's over 40. That's OK. She's thin and beautiful and every man on the plane is smitten with her.
She loves talking on the intercom and she's got us in stitches with her spiel. Some people have a knack for that. Probably, she could have been a comedian. But she's got us rolling.
I'm in the last row of the plane. Seat 12D. A window seat on a CRJ 200 that doesn't recline a millimeter.
I ran out of clean clothes some time ago. I reek and my socks smell so bad they'd strip creosote from a telephone pole.
I'm peeling off layers of pants and jackets. Trying to get down to something close to normal. You've pretty much got to be a contortionist to take off two jackets when there's a guy in the seat next to you and as I'm peeling off the layers, Blondie shows up and directs the guy sitting beside me to another seat so I'll have more room and she winks at me.
I fire up my laptop as she's walking down the aisle, peddling drinks to the unwashed heathens on United's non-stop flight 6251 to Denver..
She's rolling the trolley down the aisle and every man on the plane snaps to attention, trying to reel her in as she passes with their lines. Trying to put something together.
Maybe she's the right age where she's going through menopause and has hot flashes and her skin feels of sweat in the dead of winter. But no one cares. They see something deeper in her.
She wears rings on her fingers but it's hard to know. What could they mean? They don't look like wedding rings necessarily. Maybe just a decoy to ward off unwanted advances.
And she turns to me.
"Diet Coke? Whatdya got for me?" I ask.
She starts to pour a drink.
"I drove my motorcycle a thousand miles this weekend," I state flatly.
"Where'd ya' go?" She asks.
"Around Lake Michigan."
"I've never been. You want to show me the pictures?" She asks.
"Three minutes. The slideshow lasts three minutes."
"OK. We'll have plenty of time on this flight," she announces.
And I'm fiddling with my laptop when she comes by collecting trash and I just ignore her cuz something deep inside tells me this is the right thing to do.
A few minutes later, she comes by with another trash bag, but this time, she's got it half-squirreled away and it's nearly empty and I sorta half-look at her and she says "I'm ready...are you ready?"
And she sits down beside me and reaches over and takes the laptop and the headphones and she watches the three minute slideshow sitting in the seat beside me.
Mostly, she's expressionless, so I know she's probably as dumb as a bag of hammers. Probably every bit as dense as the last one I went out with, if not more so. But she laughs when she sees where the guy wrecked his car in the woods and I think maybe.
Then, as the slideshow ends, the people across the aisle complain that it's too hot.
"There's some seats in the front. Why don't you go up there?," she offers.
"Who sings that?" she asks as she turns to me.
"I'm not sure. It's the soundtrack for some show on TV," I offer.
"I think it's the 'Sons of Anarchy', she states.
And I'm thinking...'Sons of Anarchy'? WTF? Like...are you serious? It sounds pretty much like Tracy Chapman. Not at all like some band called 'Sons of Anarchy' or 'Death to All Betrayers'.
As the temperature in the cabin approaches the melting point of lead, Blondie leaves to turn down the temperature in the plane, which I suddenly notice is sweltering like Mississippi in August.
I look it up and it turns out the song is Nostalgia by Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo.
I imagine that I'm on top of her and she's having a hot flash. I can feel it all over her body and I'm blowing on her naked body, trying to cool her off, but it's no use. The heat comes from the inside, so I stand up and turn on the fan and we lay back in bed and plan our upcoming trip to the Napali coast of Kauai.
Presently, she returns and I ask her if she liked the photos.
"I did...they're gorgeous," she swoons.
"Have you ever been to Victoria?" she asks.
"No," I admit. "I've been to Jasper, Banff, Calgary, and Windor. But not Victoria."
"Oh you have to go. You have to go." She whines. "There are so many whales there. It's so beautiful. I was in Maui, but we didn't see any whales."
"Maui is the worst," I complain."Have you been to the other islands?"
"No. Only Maui."
"Maui sucks. All of the development is on the leeward side of the island. Did you take the Road to Hana?"
"Yeah. That was nice."
"Yeah. It was nice because you went to the windward side of the island. That's where the islands are green. On the North and East side of the islands. Because that's where the Trade Winds blow from. On Maui, they put all of the development on the wrong side of the island. You need to go to Hilo or Lanikai or the Na Pali Coast."
"Does it rain a lot there?"
"Of course it does. But you fly for free. What do you care?"
Suddenly, I realized that the temperature in the cabin was approaching thermonuclear meltdown again.
The people across from us complained and again, she left. I'm thinking..."Would you people please shut the fuck up? Like, how often is it that you get a good looking flight attendant to sit down next to you on a flight and these schmucks have made her leave twice."
I want to lean across the aisle and tell him, "Look, buddy....if that flight attendant sits back down by me, how about you tell your woman to shut her trap, huh? Like, I don't care if it gets hotter than the sun on this flight. You tell your little lady to put a sock in it. She's cramping my style here. You got it?"
This is what I want to say, but of course, I don't say anything and he goes back to reading some little pamphlet in his lap and she goes to the front of the plane and pushes some buttons and the temperature begins to drop so that it doesn't feel like we're standing on the surface of Mercury.
Presently, she returns with a pen and a notepad.
"Once you turn 40, your memory just goes," she announces.
"That's what I hear," I reply.
And she asks me all of the best places to go in Hawaii, and I tell her all the places I liked because I used to work there and I've been to all of the islands, at least, all of the ones that are developed, anyway.
"You have to be careful on your motorcycle," she warns me. "I have a friend that was killed on one."
"See....why do people do that?"
"Do what?" she asked.
"Why do people feel compelled to tell you about every nightmarish crash they're aware of when they see you toting a helmet around? Why is that? I mean, if I told you I'd driven a rental car around Lake Michigan, you wouldn't have said 'I know a family of six in a Toyota Camry that was crushed beneath a tanker truck on the interstate and burned alive while they screamed for help.' "
"No. I guess you're right about that. I'd never thought of it that way, I suppose."
"Fifty thousand people die every year in car crashes and it doesn't even make the news. But if you see someone on a motorcycle, everyone feels compelled to regurgitate their most horrific, gruesome stories. Why is that?"
"I dunno. I suppose you're right. Still, all the same...be careful out there, OK?"
"OK. I will. By the way, I didn't get your name."
"My friends call me Mary."
October 23, 2010
Now that I'm home, safe and sound in Colorado - only now can I begin to put the trip around Lake Michigan in perspective.
Always, when I go off on some epic journey, I convince myself that it will be some process of discovery. That I'll finally figure out what I want to be when I grow up. That I'll be a better person because I'll finally discover who I am.
But never, this happens. I never discover any deeper truths about myself, at least, not in the sense that I had hoped. I never come back with any wisdom that I didn't leave with. Only I'm more tired and confused than ever before. Probably that's the best way to describe my little adventures, if they could even be called that.
On the first day, we got up and as we were gassing up, Chak noticed that my rear tire was low, something that I'd not noticed. I didn't have a tire gauge, but got it inflated into the right ball-park of pressure before we left.
Another time, Chak noticed that my backpack had become unzipped by the 100 mph winds passing over it. This was a huge save, as my laptop was in there. This is something I would have missed.
At one point, I stopped and picked up a can of chain lube and sprayed my chain and Chak's, which were both in bad need of oiling.
Raj, of course, planned the entire trip, and led for much of the way. For some reason, as the leader, he had the balls to drive 95 mph for hours straight. Not clear why he decided to do this, but I'm very glad he did. It helped us catch up on the day's journey and made the trip a lot more fun, of course.
By the time we got to Macinac, I decided to break down and buy a map. Chak had is little hand-held phone, I'm not clear what it is, and between the two, we were able to plot our journey across Michigan a little better.
Raj was the one who picked where we would eat on the last day, and he hit a homerun. We ate at a little place in Manistee, I believe. When I wanted to eat at Wendy's, he stepped up and led us to this little local café that served the best Walleye on the planet.
When I think of riding with Chak and Raj, I think about "the wisdom of crowds," and, in our case at least, I think it worked as advertised. Namely that the group as a whole performed better than three individuals.
It made the trip so much more enjoyable, that as I'm planning next year's journey, I'm thinking I may not want to go alone.
The Candy Hierarchy
Just in time for Halloween, someone finally creates a "Candy Hierarchy Chart".
October 21, 2010
October 18, 2010
Postcards from Nowhere: Not All Who Wander Are Lost
Here's a slideshow of some shots from our thousand mile motorcycle trip across the North Woods of Wisconsin and Michigan.
The images were all captured on one of the following:
- Canon EOS 50D with a Canon L-series image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM) with ET-83C hood.
- Canon EOS 40D with an image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF-S 17-85mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM).
The images are compiled into a 9 Meg (3:56 Adobe Flash slideshow(michigan.swf) that you should be able to open and view with any browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). To view the slideshow, just click on the photo above. If you want to view the slideshow as a Windows executable, you can play this version (michigan.exe), and it allows you to play, pause, skip forward, backwards, etc.
The soundtrack is Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo's Nostalgia from the album "Despite The Snow". This Song is also the theme song for the TV Series "Wallander"
Lyrics in the extended entry.
Click here to view the other slideshows.
These Aren't the Droids We're Looking For
This morning, I get ready at the hotel. I'm glad that I won't be checking out when I wake up. How's that for something to be thankful for? To get to stay in the same hotel for more than one night.
So I go outside and climb onto the cold steel motorcycle. It roars to life beneath me and now I'm heading into work at 70 mph. I'm cold, but not painfully so. It's only for a few miles after all. I have no gas, but I have enough to make it to work, don't I? I hope so.
I exit off of 151 onto County Road C, heading north. I decide to gas up after work and pass the gas station. I have enough, right?
I make it into work and I park the loud beast in the parking lot. I dismount and pull my helmet and start walking toward the building.
Surging with adrenaline and pride from my weekend journey, I feel like a Roman gladiator. Like I'm returning from conquering a foreign land. Something out of the Illiad and the Odyssey. Like I'm the baddest guy that ever walked the planet.
I walk inside the building and at lunch, I see all these people, slaving away in the squalid cubes of corporate amerika. In the cafeteria at lunch, they're sitting around like mice nibbling on crumbs they've brought in to save a few dollars I want to say something, but I'm not sure what.
I want to say, "I'm not sure what life is about...but I'm sure that this isn't it. We weren't designed to work for computers. To be shackled to keyboards day and night, eating from vending machines and running on treadmills. Communicating via texts and tweets and emails. This isn't life. Not even close.
But it isn't like I have any answers, really. I'm not clear what we should be doing, really. It's not like I have mantra or a philosophy that would make it clear what we should be doing, exactly. I only know that this isn't it.
On Saturday, I was running 98 mph through the North Woods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. At triple digits, I bend over the handlebars really low and I have to re-arrange the cameras on my gas tank because I lost a lens cap on the first day. So, I'm sort of not paying attention, rearranging the cameras on my gas tank running just under 100 mph, when Chak overtakes me in the passing lane going 147 mph.
Now, imagine standing on the very edge of a highway, facing away from traffic, when a car comes by at 50 mph, about 6 feet from you. Think about that.
Now, imagine that you were going 100 mph and someone came by you that fast...150 mph...50 mph faster than you. I nearly wet my pants.
And maybe that's not the best way to spend your time. But growing roots in a cube farm's not the right answer either.
October 17, 2010
Postcards from Nowhere: Lake Michigan - Day 3 - The Muskegon Ferry
Day 3 - The Muskegon Ferry
I get up this morning before 8:00 a.m. and start packing up my things. Getting ready to leave the hotel room. Following my little ritual to make sure nothing gets left behind. When you travel, if you're not diligent, then things tend to disappear. Over time, they just go away. And where they went, no one knows and no one can say. They're just gone is all.
I walk next door to Raj and Chak's room and they're just starting to move.
"You already got your shower and everything?" Chak asks in amazement.
"I took a shower last night. Let's go Cinderella. Up and at 'em."
I've realized by now that, although Raj gets huge points for planning this trip to being with, no one is pushing the group to make deadlines. We're not accurately predicting our daily mileage. We're not arriving on time. Possibly it should have been a hint that they both left late from Madison to meet me in Green Bay.
"We haven't had breakfast yet," they whine.
They're spraying hairspray and packing away their slippers and I'm like "You brought hair spray and slippers? OK. I'm going to get gas. To hit US Highway 31 south, you go to the bottom of the hill and turn left. I'll be at the gas station."
And I drive to the gas station. When they come by, I'm waving at them but they don't see me. So, I hurriedly try to close up my gas tank but it's got this silly locking gas cap and I've never had trouble with it before but apparently it can sense that I'm in a hurry this time. This time, I can't figure out which way to turn it. Can't get the key to come out. Finally, I get the key out of the gas cap and jam it in the ignition but now I can't get the ignition to work. Can't get the key to turn and I feel like I'm living in a bad dream. The light is about to turn green and they'll be heading South at 90 mph and I'll never catch them. Finally, I get the key to turn and I fire up the bike and run the red light to catch up to them.
Predictably, no one is sure how many miles we'll drive today. The estimates range from 200 to 300 miles, a significant (50%) variation. Raj wants to take a scenic detour out of Traverse City that will take us some 50 miles out of our way.
But we all decide that we'll sort it out once we get to Traverse City, and not before then. So we take US Highway 31 south out of Petoskey. There is water on both sides of the road, and with so many lakes, rivers, bays, and inlets, it's hard to keep straight which direction the water is supposed to be. We're frequently surrounded by water on all sides, seemingly. At this point, we're heading down a narrow isthmus and I see a sign and motion for Chak to pull over.
It's a sign indicating the 45th Parallel - halfway between the North Pole and the Equator. Raj had mentioned this a few times during our travel. This was necessarily the place he had in mind, but it was, in fact, the 45th Parallel, as indicated by a sign on the side of the road. So we stopped and posed for some cheesey photos.
When we rolled into Traverse City, we discuss our options and we're not sure that we have enough time and Raj reluctantly agrees to scrap the scenic loop up the peninsula at Traverse City on Highway 22.
Instead, we hit US Highway 31 south out of town and as soon as we do, I'm regretting it. 31 south out of Traverse City is a 4 lane nightmare of urban sprawl - no different in Arizona or Texas or Michigan. Just bland, generic, urban clutter. And Raj doesn't say anything. He doesn't have to. This sucks and we all know it.
We head South for a few miles down this disenfranchised river. Straight south. Death. Not what we came here for.
Suddenly, ahead the road sign indicates we turn right to follow 31 South. Here we're actually heading due west, back to the coast. The road narrows down to 2 lanes and headed toward the coast, I never felt better.
I'm in the lead and running about 75 mph and eventually, we come to the little town of Honor, Michigan. Here, I pull over and get out the map.
"Look. We're here. We can cut over to Highway 22 here and follow the coast. That's what we wanted, right?"
Raj is on partially ameliorated, but I'm happy to be getting back to his scheduled course, even if we had lopped 50 miles off the trip.
A sign said "Hidden Bear Dunes", which I assumed took us to the coast. But Raj has his iPod out and he's saying that this is County Road 508 and we actually want County Road 506. So I wait for the next turn which is, in fact, County Road 506 and we take it and before long, we're on Highway 22 headed South along the coast.
Although the color in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan was not ideal, now that we're in Michigan, the color is getting better as we head south along the coast.
At first, I was a little disappointed that I didn't get good shots of the Tunnel of Trees. But here, on Highway 22 heading South along the coast, the colors are actually better than in the Tunnel of Trees, and the road is very nearly the same.
Shortly after we hit Highway 22, I see a sign that says "Lighthouse" and so I do a quick right and pretty soon, we're on the coast of Lake Michigan beneath this ancient lighthouse and we all park our bikes and begin shooting away like crazy. Raj has a boner for light houses and I'm hoping this will make him happy.
Words can't do justice to the Michigan countryside, but I'll try.
The land appears to be largely undeveloped. Mostly, the land is used to grow hay or corn. Or orchards. Scads of apple and cherry orchards. Countless roadside produce stands "The Starving Farmer - Fresh Produce".
Tractors and all sorts of farm implements are busy toiling away in the fields. Every farmer seems to be harvesting or discing or working the land in some other curious manner.
Every little town we roll through has some sort of fall celebration going on...parades, pumpkin festivals, fall color celebrations. Everyone seems to be celebrating the fall, and for good reason, of course.
Those that aren't celebrating are busily raking the fallen leaves into great burning piles. They toss in a few apples to sweeten the smell so that the smoke from these fires smells like a county-wide cookout.
There are no police in northern Michigan or Wisconsin. Or, possibly to be slightly more specific, there are no state highway patrol officers. And as for the city police and county deputies, they apparently aren't interested in ruining someone's day just because they're driving without a valid license plate, speeding, or riding through town on one wheel.
The roads are littered with roadkill. Animals of all sizes - from chipmunks to possums to deer. And of course, we're dodging them as best we can. We missed hitting deer by a few seconds or so. Some creature scurried across the road that I managed to avoid. Not clear what it was. I hit a dead skunk at one point.
Many of the fields are a deepest green - possibly planted with Winter Wheat to restore nitrogen to the soil.
The skies are filled with flocks of birds. More than you would imagine lived in all of North America. Never-ending flocks of Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes stretch.
And when the winds blow, they strip the leaves from the trees so that, as we're driving down the road, it's hard to tell at a glance whether the skies are filled with leaves, or birds or both.
And framing all of this are the trees in their richest colors. Reds, Oranges, Yellows, Greens. Just breathtaking beauty. Stunning.
I feel as though I'm driving through a wet oil painting. The pain and misery of last night has all faded from my memory as we circumnavigate Lake Michigan on these flying carpets.
Every so often, we stop and snap photos. Some scenes we pass by, but many times, we'll crest a hill and just all pull over simultaneously. We signal and break and pull onto the shoulder and kill the bikes and we all just start snapping away at the landscape.
Much of the time, Raj is in the lead, I'm in the middle, with Chak bringing up the rear. Many times, I can tell when Raj is going to pull over before he knows himself. I can read him like a book.
We stop and take photos and then move on, not always as a group. We get scattered frequently, and just keep track of who's ahead and who's behind. If you're ahead of the group and you stop, it's your responsibility to make sure that they see you when you pass.
So we're migrating south in this manner. Shooting the fall foliage and the rural landscapes at our leisure. Shooting and dispersing and reassembling as we go.
Highway 22 ends at Manistee, and we stop for lunch. I'm wanting to get something fast. They want a sit-down dinner and say we have plenty of time. Raj picks a restaurant it's it's just the coolest little local place you could find. Normally, I'd get a burger and fries to be safe, but instead I get the Walleye and American Fries and it's just spectacular. Sensational.
In Manistee, I find a service station that has chain lubricant for sale and I oil my chain and Chak's. Both of our chains were very dry and rusty looking. Not in good shape at all. After a good oiling, the look much better.
South of Ludington, MI, 31 becomes a 4 lane all the way to Muskegon and I'm driving like a mad man. I open it up and actually get the bike into triple digits for the first time. They claimed I was running at 100 mph - 105 mph for some time. The speed limit in Michigan along this stretch is 70 mph, but it's not like it matters. I just opened the throttle and held on.
When you're going triple digits on dirt bike, you become one with the motorcycle. The two sort of fuse into one. I lower my helmet until it touches the speedometer and just hang on. The winds blow the bike from side to side. Everything is whipping in the wind. Even with my helmet on, my eyes start to tear up. The jacket seems as though it might fail at any moment. The chin strap vibrates madly in the wind. If I don't hold my shoes just right, they feel like the wings of an airplane pulling me down. It's a grueling ride on a dirt bike, as the winds just beat you to death.
And then, of course, we have the morons driving in the passing lane, so I just resort to passing them on the shoulder at 105.
Eventually, we roll into Muskegon, but we have no idea where the ferry departs from, of course. Reminds me very much of when we rolled into La Paz, Mexico, Baja California Del Sur last year, only to find out that the ferry actually leaves from Pechilingue. But I digress.
We have reservations and all, and the tickets aren't cheap. The motorcycles ride for free, but it costs each of us $85 to cross. So, we want to make sure we're on the ferry. And we're running out of time, of course.
So, we're racing around through Muskegon like lunatics, without really getting any closer to the ferry. At one point, I'm riding a wheelie through a subdivision when I see a cop. I drop the front tire just as he turns onto the street I'm on and passes me going the other way. For some reason, he didn't come after me. It's possible he didn't see me riding a wheelie, but the bike doesn't even have a plate for Christ's sake. What's a guy got to do to get arrested around here?
Eventually, we find the ferry and we pull in and they're all deadly serious official-like...a bunch of TSA wannabees.
"You need to have your photo ID out and blah blah blah," and I show my driver's license to two different people at the ferry and he tells us to go to the front of the line where there's three other bikes already parked, all much nicer than mine, of course.
We ask them where they've been and basically, they did exactly the same ride we did, as best as I could tell.
Eventually, they start loading us up and they tell us when to drive onto the ferry and this is really exciting for me. I've never had a motorcycle on a ferry before. And I haven't been on a ferry since we were in Ireland so I'm pretty excited about this.
They show us where to park our bikes and where the tie downs are to secure them. Somehow, Chak and Raj have never seen or used tie-downs before, which is hard to imagine, but I have to show them how to use them and after a while, we get all three bikes strapped really good like because I have no idea what the lake will be like. I'm not sure how rough it is, but that folk song about 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald' is about a real ship that sank in Lake Superior in a massive storm, so I know it can get pretty rough out on the Great Lakes.
Then, we go upstairs on the ferry and all of the good seats are taken, of course, so I spy a separate lounge that says "Premium Passengers Only" and motion for Raj and Chak to follow me.
Pretty soon, someone shows up and informs us that the lounge is, in fact, only for "Premium Passengers" and that, unless we pay the additional charge, we'll have to leave.
"How much extra is it?"
"15 dollars each"
I'm thinking this is the best money I've ever spent. So we sit back for the pleasant ride across the lake in what are essentially airplane chairs that recline. And we get free soft-drinks and chips and the ride is so relaxing that I nearly fell asleep.
Eventually, about dark thirty, we arrived in Milwaukee. We all unloaded. Raj headed south toward Chicago, and Chak and I headed west back to Sun Prairie.
"Where are you staying tonight?" Chak asked.
"You don't have a room yet in Sun Prairie."
"Nope. I'll sort it out when I get there."
And we shook hands and said goodnight and, so far as I know, everyone survived and lived to take a warm shower tonight and crawl into a clean bed and dream of the North Woods, the Tunnel of Trees, and the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Lake Michigan Journey Update 2
All involved in the trip arrived safely this evening at Milwaukee after catching the high-speed ferry across Lake Michigan from Muskegon. Chak and I drove back from Milwaukee to Sun Prairie in the dark, but made it back safely. Haven't hear from Raj, but I assume he made it safely back to Chicago.
October 16, 2010
Postcards from Nowhere: Lake Michigan - Day 2 - The North Woods
Day 2 - The North Woods
In the morning, we're fresh as baby bunnies, ready to hit the road on our journey. We shoot some photos in the parking lot. Eat a casual breakfast. Refill the bikes across the street.
Refueling and then mounting the motorcycle is a didactic ritual. It has to be done just so every single time. There is an order to it. Nothing can be missed. Nothing can be skipped.
First, make sure the fuel tank is not set to reserve. If it is, set it back. Refill the tank.
Put earplugs in. Without them, I'll go deaf. My bike is too loud.
Put helmet on.
Fasten helmet strap.
Make sure all zippers are closed on backpack.
Make sure all pockets on the jacket and pants are snapped shut.
Take a photo of the gas pump so you'll have a record of the gas consumption.
Take a photo of the odometer so you'll know what gas mileage you're getting.
Put the gloves on.
Start the engine.
Any variation from this ritual is a failure. Put the gloves on too soon and you can't fasten the helmet strap. Put the helmet on without earplugs and you'll go deaf in a matter of minutes.
This is a ritual I practiced down in Mexico last year. It's just come back to me now.
So we gas up the bikes and we take off.
We didn't get away as soon as any of us would have liked.
Yesterday, I was on mostly interstate. But today, my understanding is that we won't be on interstate. I asked someone for directions to Macinac. They indicated that we'd go north on 41 out of the city and, when the road forked, the scenic route would be to keep right.
So, I was hoping that we'd take the scenic route and keep right at the fork. But I wasn't the leader. Just following along. And when we come to the fork, we go right and we stay on US 41 and I'm very pleased with this. Most of the way, it's a two lane road, which suits me much better than an interstate. We come to lots of little towns and I gas up frequently. I've calculated that I'm getting somewhere between 25 mpg and 35 mpg. Whenever I go 60 miles, I hit the reserve which is a little unnerving.
When you're running wide open and the engine shuts down unexpectedly, it can cause some consternation, of course. It can put you in a precarious situation in a hurry. So, always I reach down and switch the engine over to reserve just before my impending death.
The skies are broad and blue and clear and when we pass something someone wants to shoot, they'll stop and maybe I'll keep going. Or I stop and just wave them on. I take a few photos and catch up.
At one town, Raj decides to detour off of US 41 and the next thing I knew, we're at some marina. From the marina, he spies a light house and decides we need to go check it out. Chak and I both go down and determine that there's no public access to the light house. Then, we go back to the marina but we can't find Raj. Next thing I know, Raj and Chak are talking in Telgu on their helmet radios and somehow, Raj has figured out the road to get to the light house.
So, we drive down there and they park, preparing to walk out on the jetty that leads to the lighthouse. Of course, I just drive right past them and drive across the jetty out to the lighthouse. I mean, if you don't have a license plate, there's no real reason to follow the law, is there?
But I like this about Raj. He has a nose for adventure. He's the one that planned this trip. And I'd have driven right by the town, the marina, and the light house, and probably never realized they were there. But he took us off the beaten path down to check it all out. A very cool move.
As a group, we're not really tracking our progress well. We stop and shoot a lot and by 2:00 p.m., we've only about 90 miles when our goal is to drive 300 miles for the day.
So, at this point, we decide that we've going to have to make better progress, and basically we quit screwing around with our cameras and we open the bikes up and let them breathe.
Wide open, my bike will run about 90 to 95 mph. So, this is what we do. We open the throttles up and pretty much run wide open for two hours straight, stopping only for gas.
Now, for clarification, their bikes are faster than mine. Much faster. Why they're not going faster than 95 is anyone's guess. I mean, the speed limit up here is 55 mph. So, I'm not clear what their game is. I mean, if you're going 95 mph, why not go 130? What difference does it make at that point?
I dunno if it makes any sense or not, but this is what we did. We ran just under triple digits for hours through the North Woods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. And it was just spectacular.
When I'm running wide open like that, I lean down over the handle bars so my cameras are resting on the gas tank. Occasionally, I adjust them some because I lost one of my lens caps yesterday, so I try to keep the lens off of the metal gas tank, essentially.
So, I'm driving down the road at about 95 mph, looking down and rearranging my cameras when Chak decides to pass me. Now, I don't have any idea how fast he was going when he passed me, but if felt like I was standing still, or possibly going backwards. I'd guess he was going about 150 mph.
As we get closer to Macinac, they stop to take photos and I pass them. Like a genius, I drive down onto the beach in a "Protected Area". I get some nice shots, but I see them drive by and they don't see me down on the beach, of course. I'm out of their field of view and I can only see the tops of their helmets as they pass.
So I take off after them, hell bent for leather, but of course I can't catch them. And I can't call them on the cell phone because you can't hear it ringing at triple digits. So, I just follow behind them, hoping they'll stop.
Eventually, they do stop to shoot photos of the Macinac bridge, and I catch up to them finally, laughing like a jackal.
We cross the Macinac bridge, and a gust of wind nearly blows me off the bridge. Once we get off of the Upper Peninsula, we promptly get lost. We drive around the general vicinity loosely following County Road 81. We hit a few dead ends and get turned around fairly good.
We have a GPS, and iPhone, and a map, but somehow we're fairly well lost and we're racing through the woods which finally have some decent color somehow. And we're lost as hell and we keep running down the dead ends and finally I decide to follow County Road 81 more religiously. It's possibly not the only route, but it's a guaranteed route. It's a known thing.
So, we're burning daylight...the sun is setting fast...and we're racing through the most spectacular countryside you could ever imagine and I can't help but think....'what a beautiful place to get lost."
Finally, I see a sign for Cross Village and we head there like a bat out of hell. I'm running balls out through the fading sunset. I dunno how, but one minute we were on the shore and the next we were 10 miles inland. So I'm heading due west as fast as I can go. Low on gas.
Finally roll up to a gas station in Cross Village and I walk inside and ask the woman behind the counter:
Can you tell us how to get to Puh-TOW-skee?
You mean Puh-TAU-skee?
Well, you can go to the stop sign, turn left. Left again. Left again.
"Is that the scenic route?" I caution her.
"You want to take the Tunnel of Trees?"
And I'm like...do you have to ask? I mean seriously? Of course I want to take the "Tunnel of Trees" you moron.
"There's lots of deer out there this time of night.
And I'm like...look...we're all going to die one day. At least I'm not going to die working behind the counter of a gas station in Cross Village.
So we take the Tunnel of Trees of course and it's just spectacular. The light is fading, so I don't have good photos of it, but the trees grow over the road and it's all hardwoods in peak foliage. Lots of yellow and gold and orange and red and it's a one lane black top road with no center line and speed limit of something crazy like 45 mph.
So, we're going through the Tunnel of Trees as the sun sets over Lake Michigan and it's spectacular. Just spectacular.
And we're heading south, following the coast. Eventually, the road changes some and it now has a double yellow line and there's a vehicle in front of me. It might be a cop. It's hard to say. But I go ahead and blow by him. I pass him in a blind curve on a double yellow line, speeding, with no license plate. And it was a cop. And he didn't even pull me over. I have two witnesses that will swear that they saw this happen.
Why did he not pull me over? I dunno. I personally don't think it's possible to get pulled over in Michigan or Wisconsin.
By the time we roll into Petoskey, it's dark thirty and I'm cold and exhausted. We've driven 350 miles and the first hotel we stop at tells us that not only do they not have any rooms, but they don't know any hotels that have rooms. The whole town is booked up due to the fall foliage pilgrims, apparently.
And this sucks. It's dark. Cold. We're exhausted. And we can't find a room.
On a motorcycle journey, you always wake up fresh and excited and ready to hit the open road. But at the end of the day, you always feel like you've been run over by a steam roller and wonder if you can go on.
Somehow, Chak finds two rooms at the Days Inn for $100 a night and I'm like "Oh dear God yes. Get them both." And we race down there and check in and get a warm shower and order pizza and plan our trip for tomorrow.
Lake Michigan Journey Update
We are alive and well and resting quietly on the shores of Lake Michigan in the town of Petoskey, Michigan.
October 15, 2010
Postcards from Nowhere: Lake Michigan - Day 1
I currently on an extended journey around Lake Michigan. Tonight, we're in Green Bay, WI. Tomorrow, we hope to make it to Macinac Island, or perhaps as far as Petoskey, MI. One of the guys knew about this trip because of a website he frequents called OpenRoadJourney.com. Ramesh pointed out to me that it was in USA Today yesterday as one of the "10 great motorcycle trips".
So, it looks like we may be set for a decent ride.
License Applied For
Earlier this week, I found out that some guys from work were going on a trip around Lake Michigan on motorcycles and I was like..."count me in."
"But you don't have a bike," they complained.
"I will. Don't worry about me. I'm in. That's all you need to know. Plan on 'one more'."
I called Expedia and told them I needed to change my flight. I wouldn't be flying back Thursday night after all, it seemed. The general plan was to find a motorcycle, buy it, drive it around Lake Michigan, and then fly back some time next week instead.
"Your trip has been suspended," Expedia informs me.
"Huh? Suspsended. WTF does that mean," I choked.
Like...suspended? I've never even heard of this nonsense.
Sir, you'll have to call the airline directly. So, I call Frontier. "Oh no. That's United's 'ticket stock.' We can't touch it. You'll have to call them.'
OK. So, I call United. They proceed to tell me that I "no showed" the flight to Madison. I'm like...'No. I didn't NoShow the flight. I was on the flight. I took the outbound leg on Sunday from Denver to Madison. I was on the plane. I'm in Madison for God's sake. How do you think I got here?"
Just maddening, but this is where we are. Finally, she gives in. I can fly back on Wednesday next week. Fine.
I hang up the phone.
After scouting Craigslist for a bike, I found one in Milwaukee and went and checked it out on Thursday over lunch.
It's a 1994 Honda XL640R. I swore to my brother earlier this year that I was through buying motorcycles, but once you get started, it's a hard habit to break. I bought 1 ATV and 3 motorcycles over the last year and a half.
Current tally is that I have 3 motorcycles and 3 four wheelers, which might seem like a lot for one person. At least my brother seems to think so. But I digress.
So, I called my brother and told him I was breaking my promise
The bike looked good, but the genius didn't have the title, so I had to walk away from it.
On Friday, Manju started asking me some questions about my plans. I was just pretty much silent. She was like "If you don't want to talk about it, you don't have to."
"It's not that I don't want to talk about it, but you're asking questions that I don't have an answer to. There is no Plan B. I have to find a bike, buy it, go get on it, and drive it around Lake Michigan. That's all there is. If I can't find a bike, then I don't know what happens. There's no reason for me to go to Colorado. My daughter's not there. She's at Mt. Rushmore. There is no Plan B."
When he got into the office, Chak had a bunch of gear for me. A jacket. Helmet. Gloves. I knew I'd freeze if I didn't pick up some gear. It's October, and the "Yew Pea" (Upper Peninsula) can get pretty cold this time of year.
The guy with the bike in Milwaukee called and he'd straightened out the title situation, so I left work at noon and drove over there with my rental car.
Bike is in good shape. I hand the guy some cash. He hands me the title and the bill of sales and proceeds to remove the license plate from the bike and I'm like "whoa whoa whoa there sparky. The plate goes with the bike."
"Not in Wisconsin it doesn't."
"What am I supposed to do? The pigs will pull me over."
He proceeds to slap a black license-plate sized piece of plastic where the license plate should be and that says "LAF" in large letters.
"What's that for? LAF? What's that mean?"
"License Applied For," he replied. "You have the title. You have the Bill of Sale. You've got like 30 days to get a license plate," he replied.
We dropped off the car I'd rented in Madison at an Enterprise location in Milwaukee. He took me back to the bike. I got on and waved goodbye.
Stopped at a Good Will and picked up some camouflage pants and a vest for about $8.00 total, just to make sure I wouldn't freeze on the trip.
"How long will it take me to get to Green Bay?" I ask the girl at the Good Will register.
"I don't know. I've never been," she replies. It's hard to imagine how we live on the same planet as these people. We are in two different worlds, she and I.
The original plan was that we'd all meet up in Milwaukee and head north together to Green Bay for the night. But one guy was late leaving Chicago, so then they decided that we'd all just meet up in Green Bay, which meant I'd be on my own from Milwaukee to Green Bay. Not knowing how to get there, I just got onto I-43 and followed the signs on the interstate.
I have a GPS, but the battery runs down because I don't have it wired into the bike. So I just roll north on the interstate following the GPS and signs for Green Bay.
Along the way, I stopped to snap a few photos, but with daylight fading and the temperature dropping, I didn't want to risk driving in the dark. I didn't want to end up freezing to death along the way.
After I'd gone 62 miles, the motorcycle engine shuts down hard and I know I'm out of gas. But this time, I won't make the mistakes I made in Mexico. I pull over, fill it up, and calculate my gas mileage. I determine I'm getting 21 mpg, and the tank is hitting reserve after about 1.8 gallons. That means I can only go about 50 to 60 miles between fillups. The math doesn't seem right on this, obviously. But this was my calculations, anyway. I'll check them again tomorrow.
About the time it's getting dark, I roll into Green Bay and check into the hotel. I'm eating a fried perch dinner and reviewing my photos when Chak and his buddy walk in at about 8:00 p.m. and I'm glad to see them.
Chak's friend states the obvious...that we've clearly missed the peak fall color, as most of the trees have lost all of their leaves.
This had not escaped my attention, of course.
"This is a fair point," I offered. "But what we have is what we have. We either turn back, or we go on a motorcycle adventure. I'm all for the adventure. And if we've missed the fall foliage, then so be it. This is where we are."
And we all laugh and agree we start plotting our adventure for tomorrow.
October 10, 2010
Children of the Corn
Jennifer and I bought her a viking costume on Saturday, and then on Sunday, we hauled the kids down to the Corn Maze. It's sort of an annual tradition at this point.
Canon S9000 'The used ink tank is almost full.'
So, recently I'd been getting this message that "The used ink tank is almost full." which is just maddening, of course. Like....tell me that you don't have an ink tank in the printer where you suck my expensive ink down a sinkhole to hide it. You'd better not be doing that. When ink is used, it should be sprayed onto the paper, not hidden away in a secret slush fund inside the printer. This web site explained that there really is no "used ink tank". They also explain how to reset the printer so it won't give you the stupid message any more.
1. Turn off power.
2. Hold down Resume button and press Power button.
3. Keep holding down Power button and let the Resume button go.
4. Press Resume button 2 times then let both buttons go. (Note: Here, I technically released the Resume button first, as I'm not a robot capable of release 2 buttons simultaneously.)
5. Green light will flash then stop blinking. (Note: Here, I'd like to point out that my printer entered into a cycle where the green light was steady for a few seconds, followed by the orange light blinking 8 times. Rinse, cycle, repeat.)
6. When Green light is solid, press Resume button 4 times. (So, I sort of timed it so that when the green light was solid, I hit the Resume button 4 times.)
7. Press the power button and the printer should turn off. If not, press the Power button 1 more time. (I think I only had to press it once.)
I know it worked because now I can print without getting that stupid message about 'The used ink tank is almost full.' You know, it's not that I can't afford a new printer, it's just maddening to think that Canon is ripping us off by programming in this little message. I'm sure housewives all over the planet are tossing these printers in the garbage and buying new ones. Sucks.
October 9, 2010
October 8, 2010
Today was a bad day. The maids opened Jennifer's room. Slinky went in and somehow got at Badger, Jennifer's pet quail. Slinky killed the quail.
I picked up Jennifer from school and had to break the news to her. I lied an said that Slinky had tried to get Badger but that he'd escaped and flown away. She knew better. Then I had to come clean and admit that Slinky had actually killed Badger.
This was pretty bad, and Jennifer broke down and cried for some time.
When we got to the house, she found Timmy asleep in her bed. She noticed something that I'd missed, namely that he was lethargic, had a fever of 104, and was bleeding in her bed. OK. So, I'm not a good father. Guilty as charged.
So, I called down the hill and the vet said they'd see us if we could get there by 5:30 which meant we could make it, but only by folding space and time. I passed a cop on the way there. I was going 90. No clue how fast he was going, but he was going the other way and on the other side of a Jersey barrier. I just waved.
Timmy, it turns out, had been bitten on the forearm by another cat (presumably not a mountain lion). He was oozing puss and bleeding and had a fever of 104, but $118 later and he's resting peacefully, expected to make a full recovery.
October 5, 2010
The Nightmare of Turkey Creek Canyon - US 285
I'm trying to get some shots of the nightmare that is US Highway 285 through Turkey Creek Canyon. This is the place were Jennifer and I were very nearly crushed by a 60 ton boulder back in April.
This is a very dangerous canyon and it's only made worse by the morons in charge of the highways. I'm not clear who's doing the work in the canyon right now, but I can only assume it is being performed by CDOT.
In this dangerous stretch, US 285 drops from an elevation of 8,200 ft down to 5,280 ft at a 5% grade. At the bottom on the grade, the highway enters a series sharp turns. To keep cars from hitting each other head-on, someone wisely installed a Jersey barrier down the center, dividing the opposing lanes of traffic.
This barrier is so destroyed that words cannot do it justice. I shot some photos tonight (I finally felt well enough to go outside today.) The photos I shot today are of poor quality, as I was shooting from my motorcycle in low light. This road is very dangerous, as there is no shoulder to stand on. Turkey Creek forms the southern border, and the mountain is the northern border.
The City of Morrison operates a quasi-legal speed-trap in this canyon, which is nowhere near the town of Morrison, but somehow they annexed a section of this road so they could write speeding tickets for people going uphill. Hard to believe, but that's what they do.
In addition to the normal wear-and-tear of the Jersey barrier caused by 18 wheelers losing their brakes going down the 5% grade before they enter a series of tight switchbacks, the pigs decided that they needed to create a couple of turn-around points so that they could write more traffic tickets. That's right. They cut holes in the Jersey barrier so they could increase revenue. What's the worse that could happen?
I'm glad you asked. What could happen is some poor bastard could go head-on into their little illegal turn-around-point where they neglected to install a crash attenuator and get cut out of his car with the jaws of life.
Tonight, I took a ruler and measured the distance from the outside of the yellow line to the Jersey barrier. In 3 places, the distance is insanely small. In the location I measured, it was 4". And no reflectors, of course.
October 4, 2010
The Hobo's Curse
The curse of living as a hobo is this uneasy feeling that everything you see looks vaguely familiar. I'm sick as a dog, lying in bed watching a movie today on IFC called Paranoid Park. Basically, it's a skateboarding/coming-of-age story about a group of teenagers. They spend their free time skating in this park and I'm looking at this park thinking...that looks exactly like the skateboard park I used to frequent in Portland - the Burnside Skatepark.
And this is a rough place. When I went there, I had people tell me to leave and threaten me with physical violence. It's a rough crowd and a tough place to hang out. As soon as I saw it, I had this adrenaline rush of fight-or-flight all over again.
The movie isn't all that good, IMHO. It seemed long and tedious and of dubious merit. But the skateboard park was spot-on - a rough place to hang out where few good things happen.
The other redeeming attribute of this movie is the songs by Elliott Smith, who lived in Portland for some time, apparently. The song "Angeles" also was used in the soundtrack for the movie The Girl Next Door.
October 2, 2010
The Washington Park Weenies
There's a big Weiner Dog roundup in Washington Park tomorrow (Sunday October 3rd). Of course, we'll be there with Slinky.