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August 31, 2011

The California Bike: Day 3 - Tioga Pass - Mariposa, CA to Tonopah, NV

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly in the Great Basin Desert in the ghost town of Tonopah, Nevada.

Vital statistics for Day 3: August 31, 2011
Miles driven today: 276.3
Miles this trip: 600.7
Photos taken today: 982
Photos taken this trip: 3,216
Weather today: Clear, sunny, warm

Gps Stats:
Trip Odometer: 283
Max Speed: 91.2 mph


Day 3

In the morning, I put my new "Circle 7 Outpost and Provisions" stickers on the bike. The guys at Circle 7 felt so bad for me when I was about to freeze to death on the road that they sent me some special gear that's far better than cotton. Breathes better. Doesn't get soaking wet. Will probably keep me alive much longer. Many thanks for their support. I may survive the trip yet.

I like the Circle 7 logos because, even if the bike is upside down, you can still read the logo.

I clear out of the little town of Mariposa, CA, heading North on 49, per Jay's instructions. Right away, I come up behind a cop, but he turns off. Then, I go by a Tuolome (pronounced 'TWALLA me') Sheriff's deputy and he pulls in right behind me of course. I pull over because I'm like..."Hell no you're not going to ruin my ride today. Either pull me over or drive on by. But you're not following me for 30 miles through some beautiful canyon. That's not going to happen.

He goes by and I drop in behind him. I learned to play this game in Mexico. I learned from the best. The trick now is to follow him and stay on him like a tick. Otherwise, if he gets out of your sight, he races up ahead and hides in a blind spot and waits for you to come by, and then the game starts all over again. Not nearly as exciting in Tuolome County was it was in Baja California Del Sur, but the game is essentially the same.

The cop turns off and I take off hell bent for leather. But before too long, more rode construction. Long line of cars. I always drive to the front of the line just because. Now, I'm behind the FOLLOW ME truck again. Seems like I've spent all summer following these trucks. This is Obama's dream - people getting paid to do nothing. Classic Keynesian economics played out in real time on an entire continent. A nation of bank tellers doing the work of the ATM's. Soup lines. Obamavilles popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain. Brilliant.

Finally, the truck pulls over and I'm racing through the country side. Dry and straight at first, but it slowly changes into a twisting mountain road moving through arid foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Brand new pavement. Zero cars. Probably, I pass one car every 10-15 minutes. Paving the road to nowhere. This is the government we're entrusting to lead us out of an economic downturn - by paving the desert mountain roads. Brilliant. That's gotta work, right?

I'm winding down these roads and there's one vehicle that's keeping up with me somehow. He was behind me in the FOLLOW ME line dance and I dunno how, but he's hanging with me. All of the curves require a lot of focus now, because there are no signs indicating how sharp the turns are, and no guardrails at all.

And you could fall a long way, of course. Probably you could fall a hundred feet and not hit anything and there's no guardrails and no signs and, of course, part of me remembers my little slippage yesterday. That's sort of in the back of my mind.

And, a lot of these turns, I get into them, and then it turns sharper than you'd expected and you've got to get out of it. A few times, I have to stand on the brakes, and how is that guy staying with me anyway?

Continue reading "The California Bike: Day 3 - Tioga Pass - Mariposa, CA to Tonopah, NV"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 31, 2011 at 10:20 PM : Comments (4) | Permalink

August 30, 2011

The California Bike: Day 2 - Yosemite Valley - Groveland to Mariposa

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly on the banks of the Merced river, in the small town of Mariposa, California.

Vital statistics for Day 2: August 30, 2011
Miles driven today: 168.5
Miles this trip: 324.4
Photos taken today: 1,515
Photos taken this trip: 2,234
Weather today: Clear, sunny, warm

Day 2

The only thing worse than being on the road is not being on the road.

In the morning my buzzing phone pulls me back from the grave. I just want to die. Go away. Leave me alone. I should submerge that phone in a bucket of water. Why do I even have one. Seriously.

I have a zillion missed phone calls from the East coast.

They should sell phones that you can use to call out on, but aren't capable of receiving calls. That's phone I want. Somehow, I doubt that "There's an App for That" though.

I turn the phone off and when I wake back up, it's 9:30, and something inside of me says I have to get up and get moving. I like to just lay around in bed, partly due to inertia and the Newton's first law of motion - "An object in bed tends to remain in bed."

But also, more than that, lying in a motel room is about the closest thing you have to normalcy. Like, I have all my little things here strewn about the place. And I can watch television and drink Diet Cokes from a machine, but I'm just postponing the inevitable. That I'll have to rise from this bed and drive away, never to return, with all my little things packed away on a dirt bike. So, I like to stretch this time out just a little. It's my one luxury on these grueling little adventures.

When I was in Alaska, I decided that sleeping in late was costing me money somehow. The logic goes like this...If I'm not driving down the road, then it means I'll have to spend more nights in hotels, because I don't cover as much ground in a day. I'm not really sure it makes any sense. But it does help me to get out of bed because I'm so cheap.

I want to hang myself I'm so tired, only I don't have the strength. I don't have it in me. Not today. Hopefully soon though.

The internet connection doesn't work because the password is the wrong length and I want to drag the woman that runs the hotel outside of her little booth and strangle her in the parking lot.

"The password is "motel". One word. Lower case."

"But that doesn't work. The password can't be only 6 digits. It's the wrong length. It can't work," I plead.

But she doesn't have all her teeth and she seems mildly retarded, if not full-on retarded, and so I decide I'll have to let this one go. I make up my mind that I won't mention it to her because she clearly doesn't understand WPA, wireless networks, computers, or much at all, really.

I wasted a lot of time trying to get my stupid photos uploaded to my home server through my cell phone, but the signal is so week that it keeps dropping, and when I finally I give up trying it's something crazy like 10:30 a.m.

I perform my little didactic ritual in the parking lot, driving the bike around in large circles while spraying chain lube on the chain. I used to walk beside the bike and do this, but it's easier to do it while you're driving. The trick is to drive around without running into anything while you're looking down at your chain and spraying a steady stream of PJ-1 onto it. It isn't easy, but it's faster and requires less effort.

Continue reading "The California Bike: Day 2 - Yosemite Valley - Groveland to Mariposa"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 30, 2011 at 9:37 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

August 29, 2011

The California Bike: Day 1 - San Francisco to Groveland

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, in the quiet mountain town of Groveland, California.

Vital statistics for Day 1: August 29, 2011
Miles driven today: 155.9 miles (gps=159 miles)
Miles this trip: 155.9 miles
Max Speed(gps): 86.8 mph
Photos taken today: 719
Photos taken this trip: 719
Weather: Clear, sunny, warm

-----------------------------
I dunno what this little adventure will be like. I want to see Yosemite and drive the bike back to Colorado. Not enough days, of course. But the plan is to fly into SFO, hop on the bike, and drive to Golden Gate Cycles to see my buddies there. Probably I'll change the oil and pick up some PJ-1 for the road. Then, off to the general vicinity of Yosemite. I don't plan to enter the park today, but only to get to the general area. Then I'll drive into the park tomorrow morning and see how it compares to Yellowstone, Banff, and Jasper.

-----------------------
I'm just so tired. There are no words.
Only I drove about 150 miles today. Nothing to write home about.

I went to sleep at about 3:00 a.m. and the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. So, not a whole lot of sleep last night.

I'm reasonably sure I'm the only unemployed person on earth commuting between Calfironia and Coloraodo.

I somehow got to the airport on time. Flight delayed due to fog, and some woman at the gate had to make a scene and I was like "Seriously? Where the fvck have you been? I've taken this flight every week since February and it's always delayed due to fog. So sit down and put a clamp on it, woman. I don't feel like dealing with you today."

Southwest's boarding pass system sucks royally and it hosed me again. The guy at the ticket counter tried to tell me it was my fault somehow, and I was like, "Listen, Igor. Your system doesn't work. It sucks. It's not my fault. I'm a computer consultant. OK? I do computers for a living. Your system won't print my boarding passes. It never works. So, quit trying to tell me it's my fault. Your application fvcked me. It wouldn't print me a boarding pass or a security document. You system fvcked me and hung me out to dry. Now, who do I talk to about getting it fixed."

Continue reading "The California Bike: Day 1 - San Francisco to Groveland"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 29, 2011 at 9:03 AM : Comments (4) | Permalink

August 28, 2011

The Lesson of the Three-Legged Coon

Above: A shot of me heading up top for a better view of the planet with a few cameras while sailing through the Inland Passage of British Columbia. Note that I'm holding onto my cameras, not the rails. Save the cameras at all costs. It's all about priorities, people. Photo courtesy of The Man with the Big Yellow Bike.

I sit around here watching the Long Way Round with a coon trap in the kitchen so big you can't imagine. I mean, it's three feet long and we all walk around it and pretend like it's not there. But it's there. I can smell the coons when they walk into the house. They stink like h3ll and Timmy's afraid to go near his own food. He hides in the study with me, scared for his life.

A reasonable question might be, "Why, exactly, do you have wild raccoons in your house?" The answer is that they come in through the cat doors.

A reasonable follow-up question might be, "Why not get the high-tech cat doors that only open with a special collar worn by the family cat?"

Yeah. About that. So, we have those kind of cat doors. Tricky, super expensive, battery powered cat doors that only open for a special collar that has a magnet on it. Only the problem is that the coons have opposable thumbs, and they've figured out how to open the cat doors without magnets. And they apparently love the cheapest brand of cat food that Wal-mart carries. (Who doesn't, right?)

It's never fun when the coons come in because, there's very little you can do. You can't shoot them inside the house, obviously. And if you can't shoot them, you don't have a lot of options. If they choose to flee, then great. If they don't, well then you're basically in a Mexican Standoff. This is a bad spot to be in. They have teeth and claws and rabies and stink to high heaven and trust me you don't want to start a fight with one. That would be a Chernobyl-grade bad idea.

One of them came in the other night, climbed up on the counter, ate a bunch of stale donuts, and then pushed one of my china plates off the counter onto the tile floor. Loud enough that I came downstairs and I'm like, "Seriously? That's the fine china. Why couldn't you push off some of the disposable plates? They're virtually indestructible. They link up like Legos into plastic islands in the Pacific and float for generations."

But the raccoon just stares at me like, "You wann'a make something of it?" And all the sudden I'm back in high school staring down Scottie Madison.

I just went back to bed and closed the bedroom door.

So we have this Wild Kingdom Mutual of Omaha sized live animal trap inside the kitchen because I'm trying to trap them. And, anyone that's ever trapped coons knows that you can't catch a coon in a leg trap. They figure nothing's worth sticking around to see what happens next. They'll chew off a limb and walk away in two shakes of a sheep's tail. Freedom at any cost.

And I think that's where I am. I can't stand the thought of coming off of the road. It's too hard. The truth is that I really found myself out there, roaming up and down the left coast. Sure, I was lost, but I wasn't alone. Everyone I talked to was lost, drifting up and down the coast like bullhorn kelp on the tide.

The people I discovered are disciples of 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' and 'On The Road'. They're all searching for that mythical road to the Lost Coast. They're all lost and wandering, but they're seeking something. Something they can't extrude from their subdivisions or their home towns.

Aimlessly wandering across the planet on a dirt bike is the closest thing I've ever found to being alive. There's nothing in this life to compare it to. Maybe skydiving or smoking crack. But there's nothing else like it in my world.

When my kid takes off, I mean, sure...I can sit around snorting tequila for a little while, but it never lasts. Eventually, I start watching the Long Way Round and then the logic of the coon settles on me like a summer's fog on the Golden Gate and I think...."I can beat this trap...I've got three bikes in three different time zones. If all it costs is everything, then I think we're good."

The road is calling me like the mermaid's siren song and something deep inside of me snaps and I say, "That's it. I'm in. I'm all in."

I'm going back on the road tomorrow. I'll get up at 5:00 a.m. and fly back to California to reclaim my bike from the hourly covered parking section of SFO. I'll drive up a flight of steps to escape that little trap and then I'm off to Yosemite and I'm sure I'll be kicking myself tomorrow night for climbing back in the saddle, but I can't live like this. Getting off the road by going home to watch TV is like trying to quit meth by eating celery. It's not going to work.

I think if I catch a raccoon, I'll just relocate him. You have to respect something that wants to be free so bad he chews his own leg off. I think a certain part of you has to admire the coon for that.

Above: A shot of me inspecting Jennifer's Suzy on the ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert. Photo courtesy of The Man with the Big Yellow Bike.

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 28, 2011 at 9:42 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Postcards from Nowhere: San Francisco to Alaska and Back

"I've gotta tie up my loose ends 'fore my skin turns to mange...I've gotta look at the sky and imagine I've found my place" - Deer Tick - Mange

This is a slideshow of some of the 10,000 shots I took on a two week journey from San Francisco to Alaska and back on a dirt bike.

The images were all captured on a Canon EOS 50D frame and a Canon image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens - either the EF-S 17-85mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM or the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM. I ultimately chose not to take my big lens, as it weighs too much and would have required a trailer to pull it, I think.

This slideshow features a song that I heard one night sitting at the bar in Gearhart, Oregon. I was at the little resort there...Gearhart-by-the-sea, drinking and taking notes on the day's arduous journey and I heard this song in the background that made me want to hang myself. I asked her to turn it up and what the song was. She turned it up and said the song was "Mange" by "Deer Tick". Jennifer doesn't like the song, but I think it's awesome.

The images are compiled into a 17 Meg (5:36 Adobe Flash slideshow (alaska.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 (alaska.exe), and it allows you to play, pause, skip forward, backwards, etc.

Image post-processing was done in Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended. The slideshow was created using Imagematics Stillmotion Pro.

Lyrics and route in the extended entry.

Click here to view the other slideshows.

Continue reading "Postcards from Nowhere: San Francisco to Alaska and Back"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 28, 2011 at 3:01 PM : Comments (2) | Permalink

Douglas Learns to Write

Above: A photo I took of Doug in the Inland Passage on the ferry ride from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert. In this photo, he was on watch for mermaids and Canadian aircraft carriers.

My friend Doug, that I rode with In British Columbia, wrote a sci-fi book called Kissing Cousins Second Cousins, which I'll have to check out. He kinda looks like a cross between Harrison Ford and Jeff Bridges. When he's not touring the world on a BMW, he keeps a flock of parrots and peacocks in the desert southwest. And writes, apparently. Who knew?

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 28, 2011 at 11:17 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

August 27, 2011

Tony Makes it Home

Tony, one of the guys on Harleys that I was riding with, has made it home safely as well:

Hey Rob, how's it goin? Did you finish your trip to Alaska? This is Tony (Cool) i just wondered how your adventure went assuming your home now. On day 9 after leaving Redding my bike started making funny noises so we limped it over to the Harley dealer in Yuba City. The quick diagnosis was a bad cam bearing >8o(. I rented a u-haul box van put my bike inside and took it straight to the dealer here in S.D., followed Doug and Roger the whole rest if the way P.I.G. HOGS stick together! We got to town on Mon.the 15th., Doug and Roger left on Wed. the 17th. It sure was an amazing adventure and you gave us a good laugh the way you kept popping up! Anywho we shall speak at ya later hope all went well with you, how did you get home? Tony...

I rode with these guys, on and off, for three days, from south of Eureka, CA to Port Angeles, Washington. It's good to hear from all of the people checking in from their road trips. Seems like most of the people I rode with have checked in at this point.

It's really hard to describe what it's like being on the road on a motorcycle, but it's nothing like being on the road in a car, I can assure you. People in cars don't wave at strangers. People on bikes always do.

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 27, 2011 at 11:42 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Douglas Makes it Home

One of the guys I rode with on this trip was a dude named Doug on a brand new bright yellow BMW GSA 1200.

"Do those come in mens' colors, or just chartreuse and fuchsia? " I asked.

I was jealous, of course. I think his saddle bags cost more than my bike, but he was a way cool guy and a lot of fun to ride with for a couple of days.

Doug snapped this photo of me on the road, one of the few that exist, fortunately. Note the Filson tank bag, Irish Setter cycle boots, HJC helmet with flames, R-strap on Canon EOS 50D, 17-85mm lens, Clarke 4.7 gallon desert tank, Victoria flag. There's just so much to like about this photo. I should get sponsorship for these trips. Maybe I could get Pez to sponsor me...they could make a pez dispenser with my HJC helmet on it.

This shot was taken on the banks of the Skeena River in British Columbia, Canada. It was really a spectacular drive. Bald eagles fishing along the river banks. Low clouds of mist hanging beneath the mountain tops. This photo was taken only a few kilometers from the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary.

Unlike me, Doug actually planned his trip out in advance. As a result, when I was rolling into Prince George, he was rolling through Jasper, Banff, and Glacier. Doh! Why didn't I think of that?

I'm mentioned in his blog here and here.

In any event, Doug has made it home safely, apparently, which is good to hear, as there are a lot of things that can go wrong on a bike trip that was probably around 5,000 miles. I only went 4,000 miles and I can't tell you how many times I was almost taken out by deer, bears, and other vehicles. I'm sure his wife, peacocks, and parrots are glad to see him home safely.

I, on the other hand, having been off the road for 6 days, am starting to get some feeling back into my hands. I'm able to move my left leg and have regained partial control of my left (clutch) hand. I'm now able to stand upright, with difficulty, and can walk several steps in a row without crying out in pain.

And, of course, I am chomping at the bit for my next little bit of lunacy. I leave on Monday for a grand tour of Yosemite on the XR, then drop over to Mono Lake, Nevada. From there, we have a few options....Burning Man, St Anthony's, Glacier, Yellowstone....it's so hard to stop once you get going.

I dunno for sure what I'll do, honestly. And I don't want to paint myself into a corner like I did for the Alaska venture. My goal is to see Yosemite, and then I have to do something with the bike...drive it home..ship it...sell it...I dunno. I do sort of have this half-crazy plan in my head to try to get all of my motorcycles into one time zone. I know. It sounds crazy. But part of me thinks I should try to do it.

Sitting around the house watching "Long Way Round" doesn't help things. I can tell you that.

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 27, 2011 at 10:31 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Over Boulder

Either there's an air show in town, or somebody is out to get me, because a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber made several passes over my house, and then loitered over my neighborhood for a while.

2011-08-27_14-16-50.jpg

This is not the first time my house has been overflown by bombers.

See also my photos of the World War II era B-17 bomber Aluminum Overcast flying over my house back in 2008.
2008-11-16_11-33-36.1024x0682.jpg


22 more photos in the extended entry below. Except for being cropped, the photos are unaltered. They were taken with Canon XTi with a 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens, which is a good all-purpose lens. However, I really need to sent my 75-300mm lens back to Canon for repairs. My friends gave it to me for my birthday back in 2008 so I could do aviation photography.

The quality of some of the photos isn't the greatest, because obviously my camera's auto-focus mechanism could not lock onto the stealth material of the bomber.

UPDATE: The B-2 was participating in an air show at Rocky Mountain Metro Airport -- Jeffco Airport for those of us who've lived in the area before Broomfield became its own county.

Continue reading "B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Over Boulder"

Posted by Robert Racansky on August 27, 2011 at 2:54 PM : Comments (3) | Permalink

August 22, 2011

From San Francisco to Alaska and Back on a Dirt Bike


View Larger Map

Above: The Trip Up - San Francisco to Hyder, Alaska, with points indicating where I started and where I spent each night on the way up.

Click here to see all of the trip photos as a single post. Just click on the link and scroll down and you should see about 400 photos.

Day 1: The Left Coast Rally - San Francisco to Mendocino

Day 2: The Lost Coast - Mendocino, CA to Gold Beach, OR

Day 3: The Emerald Coast - Gold Beach to Astoria, OR

Day 4: The Olympic Peninsula - Astoria, OR to Victoria, B.C.

Day 5: 'No Route Planned'

Day 6: The North Island - Victoria, B.C. to Port Hardy, B.C.

Day 7: The Inland Passage - Port Hardy, B.C. to Prince Rupert, B.C.

Day 8: Alaska At Last! - Prince Rupert, B.C. to Hyder, Alaska

Day 9: The Long Road Back - Hyder, Alaska to Prince George, B.C.

Day 10: The 'Sea to Sky' Highway - Prince George, B.C. to Vancouver, B.C.

Day 11: Return to the USA - Vancouver, B.C. to Astoria, Oregon

Day 12: Emerald Coast Redux - Astoria to Waldport, Oregon

Day 13: Shuttered Dreams - Waldport, OR to Eureka, CA

Day 14: Paint Inside the Lines - Eureka to Fog City



View Larger Map

Above - The Trip Back - Hyder, Alaska to San Francisco, with points indicating where I spent each night on the way back.

Click here to see all of the trip photos as a single post. Just click on the link and scroll down and you should see about 400 photos.

Continue reading "From San Francisco to Alaska and Back on a Dirt Bike"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 22, 2011 at 3:02 PM : Comments (3) | Permalink

Walk This Way

Last night, after Jeff's off-the-hook birthday party, I came back to the flat and started to unwind. Decided I needed a little late night snack, so I ride the XR down to the local Walgreen's on Broadway and Polk. Walk into the store, pick up a couple of Butterfingers and a Diet Coke, cuz I'm watching my girlish figure. And I'm walking out of the store and this chick comes buy on a guy's arm and she looks at me and I never break eye contact. LIke, that's right. You get a good long look. You won't find any fear in my eyes. Look all you want, sunshine. And the guy that's walking her down the sidewalk, he looks at me and he looks at her and he's not happy, but just he keeps walking.

And now, the bike. I get on the machine. The bike and I are one, now. It's been a daily driver since February, but after 4,000 miles on the road, the bike and I have become one. We are part of the same animal. Two halves of one machine.

And I start up the bike and let it breathe, so that she will know. So that she will know how close she came to being alive. And I stand the bike up and, for the first time, walk it all the way down the block so that the front wheel doesn't touch the ground for an entire city block. Only when I get to the corner do I set it down because I have to turn and all, and i think you probably could ride a wheelie through a turn, like a unicycle, but I've not figured that part out yet.

Last night, at the party, I met a guy named Josh that is printing out some of his images. He's shooting a digital rebel, blowing his images up, and selling them, and they look awesome. So, I think I need to talk to him some more. We're supposed to meet and go shoot Chinatown one day this week.

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 22, 2011 at 11:30 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

August 21, 2011

Day 14: Paint Inside the Lines - Eureka to Fog City

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly in the flat on Russian Hill, in the city and county of San Francisco, surrounded on three sides by the San Francisco Bay.

Vital Signs:

Miles driven today: 332.30
Miles driven this trip: 3,983.7
Photos captured today: 264
Photos captures this trip: 9,991

Return to Sender

I wake up this morning in some flea bag motel in Eureka, California. I get my stuff together and shuffle out of the door by about 10:ish.

I get out the long lens and shoot some flowers around the hotel.

I decide to make a loop around the Arcata Bay, as I've blown through Eureka enough times now that I figure i need to cross the bridge to see what's out there. So, I make a big loop around the bay, and come back down on the east side of the bay again.

At this point, they've got one of those stupid "Logic-free Safety Zones" with 50 mph lights flashing and "no passing" signs. Just stupid garbage really. The only other one I can recall was in New Mexico, just east of Raton Pass, I thinkl. Just absurd, really.

In any event, I spy a bird and it bothers. I'm driving down the road thinking "was that a raptor? Nah....had to be a heron..." but it bothered me enough, that eventually I loop back. Then, I'm day-dreaming when I pass it, so I have to loop back again. This time, I see the bird and sure enough, it's a hawk. I'm hoping for an Accipiter, of course. But it's a Buteo. When it flies, I see it's a Red-tailed Hawk. Sucks. Now, I've been driving for about an hour and covered about 45 miles, but I still haven't driven an inch in the right direction, which is clearly south.

Continue reading "Day 14: Paint Inside the Lines - Eureka to Fog City"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 21, 2011 at 11:58 PM : Comments (2) | Permalink

August 20, 2011

Day 13: Shuttered Dreams - Waldport, OR to Eureka, CA

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly by the Bay of Arcata, in Eureka in Humboldt County, California.

Vital Signs:

Miles driven today: 320.7
Miles driven this trip: 3,651.4
Photos captured today: 851
Photos captures this trip: 9,727

Shuttered Dreams

In the morning, I wake up on the couch and I don't want to get up. Check the phone. 7:45 a.m. Good. I get to sleep a little longer. I couch surf until 9:30 a.m. and then I say "OK. That's it. I have to get up. Have to get on the road. I'm missing the Oregon coast."

So, I get up and get my stuff together. Get out of here. Get moving.

Today, I'll go 300 miles to Eureka, California. This is the plan.

I do my little morning rituals. Clean my GPS. Clean my helmet visor. Clean the headlight. Oil the chain in the parking lot. Check the oil. Check the tire pressure.

All is good. Ready to roll. Drop off the key and I'm heading south.

Because I got away at a decent hour, and because I only have to go 300 miles today, it will be a good day. I can get some shots in today. I'll try to get some close up shots with the long lens. Since I have some time to play with.

Rolling south now, along the coast.

What kills me is how everyone puts stacks of firewood by the road and sells it for $5.00 a bundle. Or $4.00 sometimes. But it's all on the honor system obviously. And fresh cut flowers the same way. A vase of cut Dahlias on the side of the road for $5.00. Amazing. Brilliant.

Continue reading "Day 13: Shuttered Dreams - Waldport, OR to Eureka, CA"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 20, 2011 at 11:35 PM : Comments (1) | Permalink

August 19, 2011

Day 12: Emerald Coast Redux - Astoria to Waldport, Oregon

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly on the shores of the Alsea Bay, in Waldport, Oregon, about 80 miles north of Coos Bay, Oregon.

Vital Signs:

Miles driven today: 177.9
Miles driven this trip: 3,330.7
Photos captured today: 633
Photos captures this trip: 8.876

Astoria to Waldport, Oregon

I didn't really make it very far today. Not far at all really. The reason is that I slept in, until the maids were beating the door down to get in. Then went back north to Fort Clatsop. I'd never actually been to the fort before, and I felt like I should check it out, of course.

I spent some time there, trying to convince them that a French fur trader won Sacagawea in a poker game, and she was 16 and pregnant at the time. They said that no one really knew how old she was, as they didn't issue birth certificates to Indians in the late 1700's, when she would have been born. Also, hard to say if she was pregnant when he took possession of her, as they didn't have pregnancy tests back then. Finally, he said that it wasn't exactly clear how he had acquired her.

"Well, the history I'm quoting isn't very well know....It's Stephen Ambrose...probably you've never heard of him or read the book Undaunted Courage."

But, I dunno. Probably the people at the fort were right. I dunno. Probably I just like to argue, and I think my story sounds better anyway, whether it's true or not.

Continue reading "Day 12: Emerald Coast Redux - Astoria to Waldport, Oregon"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 19, 2011 at 11:14 PM : Comments (1) | Permalink

August 18, 2011

Day 11: Return to the USA - Vancouver, B.C. to Astoria, Oregon

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly at the seaside community of Gearhart, Oregon, about 10 miles south of Astoria, Oregon.

Vital Signs:

Miles driven today: 340.1
Miles driven this trip: 3,152.8
Photos captured today: 241
Photos captures this trip: 8.243

In the morning, I awake and sort of lay in bed, pondering my dilemma. So far from home. How did I get here? What was I thinking? Why on earth would a sane person try to cross the continent on a dirt bike? Bad upbringing? An inferiority complex? Poor impulse control?

I wake up and think how bad off I am.

I've driven for two days solid, like a bat out of hell, and I'm still not even back in the United States. I'm still stuck in Canada, somehow. How is that? Seriously? I had no idea how large Canada was. Major miscalculation.

Plus, my laptop's broken. So, I'm royally hosed now. Royally. I can't post. Can't check email. Can't copy the photos from my camera to my laptop to my website. That's it, man. Game over. Technology meltdown.

I lay in bed, bemoaning my fate. I can't send emails. Can't update my website. I'm so lost. So screwed. Always, in the morning, I lay in bed and wish I could click my heels together and be in a coffin six feet underground. But, never it works.

Continue reading "Day 11: Return to the USA - Vancouver, B.C. to Astoria, Oregon"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 18, 2011 at 10:55 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Day 10: The 'Sea to Sky' Highway - Prince George, B.C. to Vancouver, B.C.

Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in Vancouver, B.C., on the shores of the Salish Sea.

Vital statistics:
Trip Odometer: 517 miles (gps)
Miles this trip: 2,841
Max Speed: 104 mph
photos taken today: 701
photos taken this trip: 8,002

The Sea to Sky Highway


I wake up in Prince George and peek outside the window to find a cold wet death. There is no sun in this land. I swear to God.

I get dressed slowly, putting on layer after layer of cotton because it's all that I have. Everything goes on. Then a leather jacket, and finally, one thin coat of something over it all that was waterproof when I started the trip. But now, thousands of miles down the road at 90 mph, it's all beat to hell with holes in it with white stuff poking out. Looks like feathers, but it isn't. Just some white threads peaking through in random places where the wind whiplashes it back and forth all day until finally the material fails and separates.

Gas up. Check the oil. It's dark already. Amazing how quickly that happens.

I don't want to ride 500 miles in the rain. I really don't. I circle the gas stations, looking for a truck with an 8' bed heading South. Most people are driving SUV's though. And not many trucks have the full size bed. And if they do, they have tool boxes in them or they're full of crap. I stop and ask a couple of people. But they're heading the wrong way.

I set the GPS for Vancouver and I just drive. I don't even look at a map.

Reluctantly, I take off in the rain, heading south and I just open the throttle.

Continue reading "Day 10: The 'Sea to Sky' Highway - Prince George, B.C. to Vancouver, B.C."

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 18, 2011 at 12:46 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Peenie Wallie Lives!!!

Thanks to Bud, Peenie Wallie is back online, baby!!!!

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 18, 2011 at 12:29 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

August 16, 2011

Day 9: The Long Road Back - Hyder, Alaska to Prince George, B.C.

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly at the confluence of the Nechako and the Fraser Rivers in the town of Prince George, British Columbia's "Northern Capital".

Vital Signs:

Miles driven today: 464.0
Miles driven this trip: 2,324.9
Photos captured today: 648
Photos captures this trip: 7.301

Leaving Alaska

In the morning, I awake alone to the sounds of a dull rain on the hotel roof, just across the border from Hyder, Alaska. The rain seems to own this town. It's cold outside, unseasonally so I'm told. They say they never really had a summer this year. It's been cold and rainy all summer. They've only seen the sun 3 times this year, they claim.

Aaron told me he'd give me $100 if it wasn't raining when I got to Alaska. So, I guess he gets to keep his C-note.

Yesterday, I was riding with Doug. It's nice to have someone to ride with, for a variety of reasons. Safety. Companionship. Someone to help shoot photos. But Doug is gone down, drifting off on his own through Jasper, Banff, Glacier. Why he planned this route, I have no idea. Who would want to see that?

But he's gone now, and this is easily the worst part of the adventure. Waking up in this sad lonely hotel room thousands of miles from nowhere. The glory and the adventure is over. I said I'd go to Alaska...that was the adventure. Been there. Done that. Now, I just have to turn around and go home.

The problem is that I'm a few thousand miles from nowhere. I don't have a clue what to do. Sell the bike and fly back? Leave it here, fly to San Francisco, then fly back here and continue riding? Should I go through Jasper and Banff and Glacier?

The paradox of choice is a debilitating issue to deal with.

Continue reading "Day 9: The Long Road Back - Hyder, Alaska to Prince George, B.C."

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 16, 2011 at 9:50 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Day 8: Alaska At Last! - Prince Rupert, B.C. to Hyder, Alaska

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly in the rain forests of Western British Columbia, Canada. Just now, I am in the town Stewart, B.C., Canada, directly across the border from Hyder, Alaska.

Vital Signs:

Miles driven today: 293.9
Miles driven this trip: 1,860.9
Photos captured today: 748
Photos captures this trip: 6,653

Hyder, Alaska

At 8:30 a.m., the alarm goes off and I wake up on Prince Rupert Island. I normally don't get up this early, as I only have to go 300 miles today. Doug has to go 400 though, so we meet downstairs and, in a light rain, we roll out of town at nine in the morning.

Heaing east, we slowly follow the Skeena River upstream, rising through spectacular mountain ranges, surrounded by low hanging clouds.

The isolation of this area is extreme, in stark contrast to the city where I normally work back in the U.S.

Occasionally, we see small boats motoring up and down the river, or people camping and fishing along the banks. We pass herons, Canada geese, and bald eagles.

We stop occasionally to take photos, and eventually, the rain lets up.

The mountains are essentially, a rain forest. The construction workers say that it always rains here, and they've only seen the sun three times this year.

So, it's always either raining, about to rain or just stopped raining a few minutes ago.

At Kitwanga, we stopped an I topped off my tank again. I asked the woman in the gas station what "Kitwanga" meant and she says it means "the land of rabbits."

Continue reading "Day 8: Alaska At Last! - Prince Rupert, B.C. to Hyder, Alaska"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 16, 2011 at 8:45 AM : Comments (5) | Permalink

August 15, 2011

Day 7: The Inland Passage - Port Hardy, B.C. to Prince Rupert, B.C.

Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully on Prince Rupert Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Vital Signs:

Miles driven today: 10.1
Miles driven this trip: 1,567
Miles by ferry today: 312
Photos captured today: 664
Photos captures this trip: 5,905

If you think that I have a screw loose, you are not alone. You're in good company.

My laptop has been making a horrible racket lately. Worse than before. It's been making funny noises since I hopped a freight train with it back in Tennessee.

But lately, it's been making a new noise. An alarming one. Imagine dropping a Loonie into a kitchen disposal and turning it on. Like that.

Finally, today, when I set the laptop down on the bed in my cabin on the ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, and a tiny screw popped out of the laptop onto the bed. I assume that was making the noise Not sure, but hopefully that was it.

This morning, I closed my eyes to sleep at 4:00 a.m. and the alarm went off an hour later. That's not a lot of sleep for someone that's been on the road for 7 days and covered 1,500 miles on a dirt bike.

But I got up, reluctantly, and threw my things together and cleared out of the room.

I drove through the pre-dawn darkness toward the ferry where I sat in line. I had to keep starting and restarting the bike, moving forward into the blades, one vehicle at a time.

Eventually, one of the ferry Nazis came to me and told me to go up to the front of Lane 1, so I wouldn't have to start and stop all of the time. This actually makes sense. So, it seems like the people running the ferry might not be as stupid as you would think.

So, I roll up to the front of the Lane 1, but I see there's another bike already here and I'm like "Oh hell yes! Game on!" Another road warrior. Another kindred spirit. Another lost soul, wandering the planet. Leaving behind friends, family, work...putting everything on hold to say "I don't know what life is supposed to be about, but this isn't it. Check please."

He's riding a BMW GSA1200 (I think). And, the beauty of this trip is that the people you meet on the road are a breed apart form the office drones you normally talk to. The conversation isn't going to be about the copier or the network or the World Series.

These people could care less about that crap. These are the seekers. Dreamers. Wanderers. And often, I run into people on road trips that make mine seem like a Sunday afternoon jaunt.

One guy I met in Victoria had gone around the world on a BMW GS1200R for a year. I watched him hug his daughter for the first time in a year. I wanted to cry. It was beautiful.

So, you have to be careful when meeting other travelers. You can't just belt out that old "I'm driving from San Francisco to Alaska on a dirt bike saga, because someone will put you in your place."

"Hey, how's it going? Where you been? Where you heading?"

"Well, I started in New Mexico. I'm doing a big loop, I suppose and heading back eventually. How about you?"

"Oh, I'm just out for a little run. Came up from San Francisco. Running up to Alaska. Probably turn around and head back."

"How many miles have you been so far?"

"Ah...nothing really...just about 1,500. Just a little ride, really. How bout you?"

"Oh, let's see. I'll be over 6,000 by the time I get home."

"Good for you. That's a good ride. Sounds sweet."

His name is Doug.

Continue reading "Day 7: The Inland Passage - Port Hardy, B.C. to Prince Rupert, B.C."

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 15, 2011 at 12:35 AM : Comments (3) | Permalink

August 14, 2011

Day 6: The North Island - Victoria, B.C. to Port Hardy, B.C.

Vital Signs:

I am alive and well and resting quietly on the shores of Hardy Bay, British Columbia, Canada, in the "North Island" section of Vancouver Island.

Miles driven today: 333.0
Miles driven this trip: 1,556.9
Photos captured today: 738
Photos captures this trip: 5,241

Now that I've got my hand-held GPS working, I'm getting some new data from it:
Trip Odometer: 339 Miles
Max Speed: 95.4 mph
Max Elevation: 1,491 feet


The North Island

In the morning, I get up and piddle around. I dig around my suitcase and find an old broken Canon camera strap. Don't need that. Trash.

The voyage I'm on is a truly Spartan adventure. Every precaution is taken to spare weight and space. Every day, I re-evalaute what I'm carrying with me. If I haven't used it yet, the odds are I don't need it. Except for my emergency items, like tools and such.

I bought 3 quarts of oil last night to change my oil. I'd like to put it off a day, but slowly it dawns on me that I can't. I can't put it off a day, because I can't carry around 3 quarts of oil.

So I lug out the tools and change the oil the in the parking lot. Lots of disapproving stares. I do the best I can, but the parking lot looks like the Prince William Sound by the time I'm finished. I estimated it would take me 30 minutes. It took me an hour.

The slum I'm staying at is called the "Robin Hood Hotel". Only in the lobby can I get decent internet access. I'm sitting in the lobby, chatting up Emily the desk clerk.

She's nothing special, and has the personality of brush-on paste.

"Sunshine...why is this hotel called the Robin Hood?"

"Back in the 70's, Disney was supposed to come here to Victoria and build a theme park that was sort of medieval based. So, we changed our name to the "Robin Hood Inn", and the place across the street changed their name also.'

"And then they backed out?"

"They never built the theme park. Probably for the best," she offers, resolvedly.

Continue reading "Day 6: The North Island - Victoria, B.C. to Port Hardy, B.C."

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 14, 2011 at 2:08 AM : Comments (1) | Permalink

August 12, 2011

Day 5: 'No Route Planned'

Vital Signs:
I am alive and well and resting quietly in Victoria, in the Canadian province of British Columbia, on the shores of the Juan de Fuca Straits.

Miles driven today: 96.2
Miles driven this trip: 1,243.7
Photos captured today: 327
Photos captures this trip: 4,503


'No Route Planned'

I wake up this morning and I can't get an RDP tunnel established through the internet. Can't take over my computers at the compound in Colorado. So, this sucks, of course.

I'm having a major technological meltdown. This always seems to happen when I travel. You throw a few thousand dollars worth of electronics in a backpack and haul it halfway across the continent and the next thing you know, everything's broken. Go figure.

I go to the information center downtown near the harbor in Victoria, and walk into the information office there and one of the girls asks me where I'm heading.

"Alaska," I reply. Finally, I'll be amongst people who understand me. Who can help me fill in some of the gaps in my plans. Knowledgeable people, trained in the way of travel. Experts that will rattle off all sorts of juicy tips on how to get around the great white north.

"Alaska? Are you insane? That's like thousands of miles from here."

Not really the answer I was looking for. This really sucks. No one at the counter has ever heard of anyone stupid enough to try to drive to Alaska, apparently.

Continue reading "Day 5: 'No Route Planned'"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 12, 2011 at 11:33 PM : Comments (1) | Permalink

Day 4: The Olympic Peninsula - Astoria, OR to Victoria, B.C.

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly in Victoria, in the Canadian province of British Columbia, on the shores of the Juan de Fuca Straits.

Note: I can't upload photos to the home server from Canada. I think that my internet access won't allow me to open an RDP tunnel. Not clear at this point.

Note 2: Photos have been uploaded successfully from a Starbucks coffee shop in Victoria, B.C., Canada. I know. I hate Harbucks. Don't get me started. Photos follow at the bottom of the screed. My insanity served up daily.

Miles driven today: 313.9
Miles driven this trip: 1,457.5 1,147.5 (oops. typo. i'm not even sure what country i'm in any more. must sleep...)
Photos captured today: 1,089
Photos captures this trip: 4,176

The Olympic Peninsula - Astoria, OR to Victoria, B.C.

I wake up in Astoria, beneath the crazy bridge across the mouth of the Columbia river. It's cool and foggy this morning and always the game is to figure out how much to put on so that you're comfortable when you're riding. It definitely feels cooler at 70 mph.

Some other bikers stayed in the room next to me and I coax them into taking some shots of me riding wheelies beneath the bridge.

I wish that I knew Astoria. I wish that I could remember why I came here last time. And where I stayed then. One of the great pleasures of travel for me is to return to a place, and sort of stitch it all back together in my mind. But this is getting harder as the years slip by.

Continue reading "Day 4: The Olympic Peninsula - Astoria, OR to Victoria, B.C."

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 12, 2011 at 12:46 AM : Comments (3) | Permalink

August 10, 2011

Day 3: The Emerald Coast - Gold Beach to Astoria, OR

Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully at the mouth of the Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon.

Miles driven today: 343.1
Miles driven this trip: 833.6
Photos captured today: 808
Photos captures this trip: 3,087


Day 3: The Emerald Coast - Gold Beach to Astoria

In the morning, I go to the gas station and top off the gas. At some point, I realized that my backpack zipper had failed on Tuesday while I was running somewhere north of 90 mph. Miraculously, I don't believe I lost anything. I think my laptop kept it all in the backpack somehow. So, I decided to try to rearrange my load.

First, I opened the new Givi case to see what was in there. Now, the case is nearly impossible to open or close. It was designed by Italians, and last time I checked, they're weren't known for quality. I get the case open and root through all of my tools. I throw all of my non-metric tools in the trash. The bike is metric, and space and weight are extremely important on this trip.

Then, I take my backpack and divide the contents between my Filson tank bag and the Givi case. Somehow, it all fits, and now I can ride without a backpack. Woohoo!

I'm driving north up the Oregon coast on US 101 and a sign says fresh blueberries and I pull in. They have a private blueberry bog set up. I ask her if I can just buy some to eat, but no. She sends me into the bog and tells me I can eat as many as I want for free. So I'm walking around, from bush to bush (there are 14 different varieties in the bog) picking them and eating them. Avoiding the bitter ones, finally honing in on the sweetest bushes.

It turns out that this was the first day of the year (2011) they were open for business. Mighty tasty.

Continue reading "Day 3: The Emerald Coast - Gold Beach to Astoria, OR"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 10, 2011 at 11:41 PM : Comments (2) | Permalink

August 9, 2011

Day 2: The Lost Coast - Mendocino, CA to Gold Beach, OR

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly by the Atlantic Ocean in the seaside village of Gold Beach, Oregon.

Miles driven today: 294.60
Miles driven this trip: 490.10
Photos captured today: 1,144
Photos captures this trip: 2,279

Well, I'm always slow to get out of bed when I'm on the road. I'm not a early riser, and I didn't get to sleep until something crazy like 2:00 a.m. cuz I was up culling through my photos, and all.

Every night when I get checked into the hotel, I have a fairly rigorous ritual that I go through. Every camera gets the filters cleaned and removed from the lenses. The batteries and CF cards removed from the cameras. The batteries are charged. The images on the CF cards are moved onto the laptop and renamed. From there, the imaged are backed up onto a 1 terabyte external hard drive. Mileage is calculated for each fill up for the day.

Every morning, the motorcycle is checked out for the daily ride. Gas is topped off. Oil level checked. Tire pressure checked. Chain is oiled with PJ-1 chain lube. Headlight is cleaned. Helmet visor is cleaned.

Motorcycles need little rituals to keep them running right. Change is not a good thing on a bike. Change = uncertainty and unexpected events at highway speeds are never good. So, these little didactic rituals are what I do each day. Like my own private religion.

Continue reading "Day 2: The Lost Coast - Mendocino, CA to Gold Beach, OR"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 9, 2011 at 11:21 PM : Comments (3) | Permalink

Shared Images from the Road to Nowhere

I ran into this guy Ron yesterday. He was stopped and taking some shots of an old Orthodox Russian Church, and we stopped and swapped tips on how to get the cameras to do what you want them to. We were both shooting the Canon EOS 7D. I showed him some tricks. He showed me some tricks. And we both walked away a little better off for the encounter. He must have shot these as I was driving away and shared them this morning. Beautiful shots and much appreciated, of course. Now...I've got to get up out of this bed and on the road again. My back is sore. Didn't get much sleep last night. I'm sure I'll be the last one out of the motel. I always am. It's already 10:00 a.m. out here on the left koast. Will try to make it to Oregon today.

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 9, 2011 at 11:02 AM : Comments (1) | Permalink

August 8, 2011

Day 1: The Left Coast Rally - San Francisco to Mendocino

News Flash: I am alive and well and resting quietly in the peaceful fishing village turned artists colony of Mendocino, California. OK. I'm lying. I was too cheap to stay in Mendocino, so I'm in the Surf Motel in Fort Bragg, CA. Ugh. I shot 1,134 photos today. Gawd. What was I thinking?

Vital signs:

Miles driven today: 194.9
Miles driven this trip: 194.9
Photos captured today: 1,134
Photos captures this trip: 1,134

Eighty Dollar Helmet for an Eighty Dollar Head

I landed in SFO this morning, delayed due to fog, of course. I think that we got in at 11:45 a.m. Then, I ran all over the city doing little errands. Got lunch. Shot some more of Dan Plasma's defaced murals. Went by the flat on Russian Hill and sat on the sofa out front on the sidewalk to ponder my upcoming journey.

A more intelligent person would back out and go to Yosemite instead. But no. Not me.

I did all of my final packing and organizing for the big trip to Alaska on the dirt bike. I really am ruthless on cutting down the weight of the bike. But having said that, I'm carrying way more gear than I took through Mexico or around Lake Michigan.

FinalIy, my list was down to replacing buttons on my pants and repairing my boots and I just said "Enough" and tried to drive across the Golden Gate bridge. But the Gods were against me. It was freezing cold today in the city, with crazy winds gusting up to 40 mph. The fog rolled in thick and the Golden Gate Bridge almost disappeared completely. I tried to cross, but before I got to the bridge, I turned around because i was too cold.

Continue reading "Day 1: The Left Coast Rally - San Francisco to Mendocino"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 8, 2011 at 11:31 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Seriously? Seriously???

The Dumbest Woman on Earth

So, I make it out to SFO and there's women balancing screaming infants on their knees, bending them over backwards like licorice.

I go to plug in my laptop, but this woman has hogged both outlets. I have a 3-to-1 adapter, however, so I always just say "You mind if I get in here?" and I unplug one of the offending power cords, plug it into my 3 to 1 adapter, and reinsert it into the outlet. They lose power for about 11 seconds, which isn't a big deal for a laptop. Several times, I've had men compliment me for being so well prepared.

But not this time. I say the standard "you mind if I get in here?" and then pulled out one of her plugs when she took too long to reply. Then she starts to panic.

"I'm going to put in this adapter. We can share the outlet," I explain. I don't want mine plugged into that booster," she chokes.

"It's not a booster. It just lets us share the outlet...." but she's already panicking and she grabs all of the cords from my hand and plugs one of them back in.

"Some people have no manners," she huffs. "You didn't even ask!"

"I certainly did. I said 'do you mind if I get in here.' "

She was all freaked out and rude and even commented on my accent, the South in general, my manners in particular...just kept on freaking out. The only thing was, she was so stupid she didn't realize she plugged in my power cord instead of hers. And, being as my manners have already been called into question, I feel it would be rude to interrupt her further and point out that her laptop is draining while she waits for her plane to take off. Hahahahahahah.


The Fog in San Francisco

Now, I should take a moment to comment on the fog in San Francisco. You just can't know how thick, how predictable, and how debilitating the San Francisco fog truly is. You can not know. But it spreads like Miracle Whip across the peninsula. It coats the bay like Cool Whip. In it, all is lost. Ships mourn their loss of vision in the bay, leaning on fog horns to warn the bridges to stay out of their way.

Every Monday morning, I sit here in this airport. At some point in the morning, I get a text message explaining that my flight is delayed due to the fog in San Francisco. The flights to Oakland always take off on time. But SFO is smothered in marshmallow thick fog.

When the fog rolls in, the Air Traffic Controllers won't allow SFO to use both runways at the same time. They're too close together to allow pilots to land on instruments. So they tell everyone that hasn't taken off to sit tight, and every Monday morning we have a ground hold due to fog.

Normally, it's sort of a miserable fate. I sit and surf the internet and wish I was home in bed. But this morning, I'm happy to sit here and peck away at my keyboard, knowing that the evil bitch beside me is slowly draining her laptop, too stupid to realize her mistake.


The Motorcyclist's Prayer

I have to admit that, when I'm sitting at the red lights in San Francisco, I frequently recite the Motorcyclist's Prayer:

"Lord, please let someone try to take me off the line. Please let them be a good driver in an imported sports car. Or better yet, another motorcycle. Please, Lord, allow this to happen. Amen."

See, when you're sitting at the light, taching up the engine, you want to race someone. You want to. It's in your bones. The motorcycle burns gas, but it runs on testosterone adrenaline. All you want to do is stand it up on one wheel and walk it through the intersection so that all within earshot might know that someone truly evil is weaving the city streets into a racetrack.

I have, however, learned a few things by riding in the city for a few months.

It's easy to pass people on the right and on the left, but it's hard to know where they're going. Those sudden unexpected turns can kill.

It's fun to be the first one through the intersection, but equally dangerous. You might end up in the grill of someone sliding through a redlight.

Taxis are completely unpredictable. They'll pull U-turns in the middle of the street. Pull over to the curb and stop unexpectedly. Open doors into traffic. You name it.

Firetrucks, police, and ambulances don't follow any laws at all. They drive as fast as they want, wherever they want, running redlights, all the while, wailing a siren that will cause you to make mistakes at a time when you really can't afford to make any mistakes at all.

Cable cars stick to a few routes, but they carry more tourists than a melon has seeds. They all hang off the sides to take pictures. Avoid at all costs.

Buses - If you're in a bus lane, you need to get out of the way. Tonnage is the law of the road and bus drivers hate everyone else on the road. The electric powered buses follow set routes as defined by their overhead power lines. Diesel buses go wherever they want. Avoid at all costs.

Trolleys - Some trolleys use overhead powerlines and roll on steel tracks like a cable car or a light rail. Some trolleys are really just gas-powered vehicles dolled up to look like trolleys. These can go wherever they want. Avoid at all costs.

Bicycles don't stop at stop signs.

Bicyclists don't ride in the bike lanes.

Skateboarders are as crazy as they come. Anyone riding a skateboarder in a city built on hills is a suicidal adrenaline junkie. Avoid at all costs.

Pedestrians - Homeless people, drug addicts, and illegal immigrants crawl all over the city like ants. Drunk, stoned, and high on meth, they J-walk, cross against the lights, or park their stolen shopping carts full of trash in the middle of the street. Avoid at all costs.

Pigeons frequently fly through the lanes of traffic. Try to avoid if possible, but don't crash trying to dodge them.

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 8, 2011 at 8:23 AM : Comments (2) | Permalink

August 7, 2011

Quit Your Job and Skate

I saw a wheatpaste by "Alleged" in the mission with Greenspan saying "Quit Your Job and Skate" and I thought...that's about right. Sort of the mantra of the counter-culture. Instead of the "He who dies with the most toys wins!", it's more of a "Life is short, Play hard" type of approach. One that seems more and more alluring as one spends day after day shuffling through the airports and offices, always wondering what's up ahead? Is it salvation, or spinning blades?

The truth is that no one knows. And the more adamant someone is about their belief that they know the answer, the less certain they are also. This is a little gem handed down by Robert M. Pirsig.

"You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt." - Robert M. Pirsig

This weekend, I flew in and picked up Jen at her summer camp. Normally, I give her these big long breathless rundowns of all that happened in San Francisco, and she replies "I got some new shirts". But this time, she has lots of stories as well, and we both just babbled breathlessly like school kids on the playground. Always fun to catch up, of course.

We get home and I tell her that I can't find my license. I tell her I'll pay her if she can find it. So she digs through all the mail. Eventually, she comes up with it somehow and I hand her $20. She's saving up to buy a chinchilla, which I've not agreed to by any stretch of the imagination. I have a hard enough time keeping critters out of the house, without letting them in on my own.

Jen and I went camping in the Rocky Mountains. We got all packed up Friday evening and got up there, but I'd forgotten the tent. We just laughed about it because, what else can you do? We had all these camping lists that go one for pages and pages and I'd gone and gotten the tent, but then left it in the driveway behind the other Tahoe. (Yes, I have two.)

So, we just called it our "dry run" and we came home and crashed and made a point of picking up a few things we had forgotten. Then we went again Saturday afternoon, this time with the tent, of course.

And we get up there and some other people were in our campsite. We don't pay to camp. We camp in the national forest and we sort of rough it. We camp out in a tent and build a camp fire. Fairly primitive. The only luxury is that we have an inflatable air mattress and I use an electric pump to air it up. But we don't have radios or tv's or anything like that. We trade the cell phones for pistols and the computers for campfires, hoboes, and smores.

I try to set up the camera to get a shot of the creek where we camp. I prop it up on my old-skool pink RAZR phone, and the phone promptly slips into the creek. The screen starts going nuts, but I just pop the battery out and tell her it will be fine. It's not like it's an iphone, after all.

We talk a lot around the campfire. I always try to use these opportunities to bring up a chautauqua or two. I won't go into the nature of most of these, but one of them was about my upcoming trip to Alaska.

I tried to explain to her that she was going to Florida, and I was going to Alaska, and somehow that made sense to me. She needs to go see her cousin, and I need to go see if I can cross half of north america on a dirt bike. It's all the same, but just different, see?

Over hoboes and smores, we invent the "International Smore Competition", and pretend to be judges, judging entrants from all over the earth. We're especially hard on the Russians, of course. At some point, we fall asleep and in the middle of the night, I awake to check out the stars. So bright up here in the shadow of the continental divide. You can see the Milky Way and it's so clear and bright and it makes you really wonder what it's all about.

We get home and unpack the truck. Jennifer says to me, at some point, in an off-handed sort of way that there's something on her bedroom ceiling and she's not sure what it is. I'm thinking...spider...moth...cobwebs....it's a bat. And, I'm looking at it like...seriously? How could you not know that that was a bat. It's clearly a bat.

I catch it in an empty trailmix jar and release it outside into the daylight, and it flies away, in a fairly circuitous route.

"Seriously? You didn't know that was a bat? Can you see, child?"

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 7, 2011 at 10:03 PM : Comments (2) | Permalink

August 5, 2011

The Dan Plasma Tagging Mystery

Above: Dan Plasma mural at Page and Fillmore - 7/27/11.

Above: Dan Plasma mural at Page and Fillmore - 8/3/11.

Above: Caledonia Alley - 8/4/11.

Above: Cedar Alley - 8/4/11.

Above: Cedar Alley - 8/4/11.

15th and Valencia: The Tiger Mural Saga


[Above photo courtesty of MapJack]. Original Tiger Mural at 15th and Valencia (Pre Dan Plasma).

Tiger Dream
[Above photo by westbymidwest] Dan Plasma's tiger mural. Similar to old tiger, but with an eye in the tiger's back, some faces, and a few changes. Some say the old one had been tagged and defaced. I dunno.

Above: Dan Plasma's dragon and Mike Giant's logo at the same location on 2/22/11.


[Above photo from MissionMission] Then, this group piece went up over Dan's tiger.

RePlasmad
[Above photo by eviloars]. Dan, in the process of reclaiming the wall.

i'm starting to think dan plasma has some haters....
[Above photo by petalum]. Pretty much the "let's be clear - this means war" type of tagging that makes people afraid to go home at night. Some say he's fled the city. I dunno.


Above: This is a photo I shot of the piece on 6/28/11. Apparently, Dan repainted the wall with a new tiger at this point in the saga.

Above: This is a photo I shot of the piece on 6/28/11. Apparently, Dan repainted the wall with a new tiger at this point in the saga.

Above: This is a photo I shot of the piece on 6/28/11. Apparently, Dan repainted the wall with a new tiger at this point in the saga.


Above: Then, this is what the wall looked like on 8/4/11. Ouch.

I had followed, for a while, the dispute over the murals at 15th and Valencia. Someone in that article indicated that "His Chinatown caper bought him a shitload of enemies[...]", but I was never clear what the Chinatown incident was.

I saw the defaced Dan Plasma Tiger mural on Valencia and 15th, but I'd missed this somehow.

More recently, I saw this message "Stop drawing lines in the sand" in Caledonia alley.

Then, in the last week, pretty much all of the Dan Plasma murals were tagged with "Fvck Plasma" all over the city...Tenderloin...Mission...Western Addition.

But I wasn't getting it. I couldn't put the pieces together.

This morning, in San Francisco, I asked some people in Cedar Alley why his murals were being tagged and they said "well, probably he tagged someone else's murals" and I was thinking..."I seriously doubt that happened", but I didn't say anything.

I asked everyone I knew to ask, including Dan Plasma.

Finally, Mike Giant explains why. Well, at least I'm starting to figure out what's going on.

Update: More here: http://www.rebel8.com/blog/plazma.

Why the Mission says "Fvck Dan Plasma"

Update 2: My understanding now is that there had been a tiger at 15th and Valencia for a long time...something crazy like 20 years. Then Dan Plasma came in and painted over it with his own tiger, and that's just not done. So, I think he got a lot of enemies when he claimed that wall by painting over the old tiger mural.


Posted by Rob Kiser on August 5, 2011 at 2:32 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

August 4, 2011

The Weekly Murals from San Francisco

Above: Cargo truck in the Mission. Update: I saw this truck yesterday going down Broadway and I chased him down. I was like...'who did that mural on the back?' and the driver was some oriental dude. Didn't speak a lot of Engrish. Said it was the company truck and they had no clue who painted it. I was cracking up because, I mean, seriously...can you imagine putting a work of art like that on the back of someone else's truck? Without their knowledge or permission? Hilarious.

Above: Precita Eyes mural "Carnaval" (1994) at 18th and Harrison.

Above: Mural at 650 Florida Street in the Mission.

Above: Mural at 650 Florida Street in the Mission.

Above: Mural at 650 Florida Street in the Mission.

Above: Mural at 650 Florida Street in the Mission.

Above: Mural at 650 Florida Street in the Mission.

Above: Mural at 650 Florida Street in the Mission.

Above: Mural at 650 Florida Street in the Mission.

Above: Mural at 650 Florida Street in the Mission.

Above: Darbar Pakistani-Indian restaurant at 1412 Polk Street.

Above: Divisadero and McAllister in the Western Addition.

Above: Divisadero and McAllister in the Western Addition.

Above: Divisadero and McAllister in the Western Addition.

Above: Divisadero and McAllister in the Western Addition.

Above: Divisadero and McAllister in the Western Addition.

Above: Divisadero and McAllister in the Western Addition.

Above: Divisadero and McAllister in the Western Addition.

Above: Jet Martinez mural in the Western Addition at Divisadero and Grove.

Above: Jet Martinez mural in the Western Addition at Divisadero and Grove.

Above: Jet Martinez mural in the Western Addition at Divisadero and Grove.

Above: Mural in the Western Addition at Hayes and Divisadero.

Above: Mural at Harrison and Alameda in the Mission.

Above: Mural at Alabama and 17th in the Mission.

Above: Mural at Alabama and 17th in the Mission.

Above: Mural at Alabama and 17th in the Mission.

Above: Mural at Alabama and 17th in the Mission.

Above: Mural at Alabama and 17th in the Mission.

Above: Mural on 17th St between Alabama St and Florida St in the Mission.

Above: Mural on 17th St between Alabama St and Florida St in the Mission.

Above: "Dialing for Dollars" by Robert Burg on 17th St between Alabama St and Florida St in the Mission.

Above: Mural on 17th St between Alabama St and Florida St in the Mission.

Above: Mural on 17th St between Alabama St and Florida St in the Mission.

Above: Mural on 17th St between Alabama St and Florida St in the Mission.

Above: Mural on 17th St between Alabama St and Florida St in the Mission.

Above: Mural at 450 Florida Street in the Mission.

Above: Sirron Norris mural at 20th and Bryant in the Mission.

Above: Sirron Norris mural at 20th and Bryant in the Mission.

Above: Mural at 24th and York in the Mission.

Above: Mural at 25th and Alabama in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural by Mark Bode in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural in the Mission.

Above: Horace Alley mural in the Mission.

Above: Mural in Horace Alley in the Mission.

Above: Precita Eyes mural "The Primal Sea" in Garfield Square at 26th and Folsom in the Mission.

Above: Precita Eyes mural "The Primal Sea" in Garfield Square at 26th and Folsom in the Mission.

Above: Precita Eyes mural "The Primal Sea" in Garfield Square at 26th and Folsom in the Mission.

Above: Precita Eyes mural "The Primal Sea" in Garfield Square at 26th and Folsom in the Mission.

Above: Precita Eyes mural "The Primal Sea" in Garfield Square at 26th and Folsom in the Mission.

Above: Cargo truck in the Mission.

Above: Mural by Aviso, "City Art Crews", and "Topa Dae Rock" at 25th and Potrero in the Mission.

Above: Mural by Aviso, "City Art Crews", and "Topa Dae Rock" at 25th and Potrero in the Mission.

Above: Mural by Rigo 23 at Bryant and 16th.

Above: Mural by Rigo 23 at Bryant and 16th.

Above: Mural at 161 Erie Street (off Mission between Duboce and 14th). Apparently, this mural was started by Banksy, but not completed, for whatever reason. Then, it was "finished" by some local artists, and then censored to remove teh shrooms.

Above: Mural at Bernice and 13th.

Above: Mural at Bernice and 13th.

Above: Mural at Bernice and 13th.

Above: Mural at Bernice and 13th.

Above: Mural at Bernice and 13th.

Above: Mural at Bernice and 13th.

Above: Mural at Bernice and 13th.

Above: Mural at Bernice and 13th.

Above: Mural by Rigo 23 at 10th and Bryant in SOMA.

Above: Mural at Haight and Buchanan.

Above: Mural at Haight and Buchanan.

Above: Mural at Haight and Buchanan.

Above: Mural at Haight and Buchanan.


Posted by Rob Kiser on August 4, 2011 at 4:00 AM : Comments (1) | Permalink

August 3, 2011

Buen viaje

Wow...The last 24 hours have been just insane. Truly insane. I'll try to capture what I can recall of it as best as practicable, at this point. To wit:

Monday

On Monday, I went to sleep at midnight, got up at 4:00 a.m., and flew from Denver to Las Vegas to San Francisco.

After work, exhausted, driving home on the dirt bike on Larkin Street, I was nearly killed by another motorcyclist. I went to change lanes to my right, and as I glanced back over my shoulder, this guy on a motorcycle came blowing past me in my lane on my right. I nearly cleaned him out. Lane splitting is technically legal in California, but it's suicidal, in my opinion. It's as crazy as it gets.

So, this put the fear in me. Any time my life flashes before my eyes, it makes me wonder why I'm doing what I'm doing. John Muir lost his vision working in a factory and, when he regained his vision, instead of going back to the grind the factory, he moved out west and settled in Yosemite valley and that's the only reason you know his name today.

So, it makes me think. It's time to go. Time to get out of this mad city. I'm not John Muir, but I've not completely surrendered to going down in bleak obscurity just yet, either.

On Monday night, I go out with this chick, and it didn't go well. She starts in with this story about her pet rabbit named Abagail, and how it used to hop sideways.

"Were you surprised by that," I queried.

"Well, he hopped sideways," she continued.

"Lots of rabbits hop sideways. I'm not sure what the point is here. Waiter, can we get the check, please?"

And, the more I looked at her, the more I could see how the ugly was creeping into the corners of her eyes. The lights began to dim. The people next to us started laughing. And in the hazy back of the restaurant, the ugly started to creep into her eyes. It started at the corners and kept growing until it drew her whole face down into a little peach pit.

"What would you have done?" she continued.

"With the rabbit? I dunno. Probably skinned it and grilled it, I guess. No point in letting good meat go to waste, right?"

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

See, that's the thing with these tree huggers. You never know what the right answer is. I thought it was some sort of test to see if I was ecologically sensitive. To see if I'd waste meat in a world of starving people. I was wrong.

"You think that I should have grilled Abagail? And eaten her?" She was horrified and her lips curled up into a third degree snarl and the table started to shake. Something was going on, but I couldn't be clear what. I was reasonably sure I'd gotten the answer wrong but I was still thinking that I could salvage the evening.

"Or, maybe donated her to the homeless?" I offered.

"Oh my God. Here's the bill."

"Why do I have to pay. Isn't that being presumptive to think that the male should automatically pay? Isn't that racist or mysogynistic or something? Why is it that the white male is the last race and gender to be granted politically correct asylum?"

"You asked me out so you're paying."

"I'm willing to split it. What did you do with the rabbit?"

"We buried the fvcking thing and you're paying the bill," and with that, she threw her fork at me. Probably, she was bitter because she was driving a brand new SUV that cost more than my house. I don't know. It's hard to know what to do in these situations.

"Did you leave enough of a tip," she wanted to know. "Are we going to have to run out of here?"

I offered her the bill in that peculiar little folded vinyl pad they always bring the bill in, so that she might inspect for herself. She wanted to, but couldn't quite bring herself to actually to look, and then be expected to do math. It was more than she wanted to undertake, apparently..

"I'm guessing a blowjob in the parking lot is out of the question?"

So that was the last time I saw her, and probably the last time I will see her, no doubt.

I found out later that she was a psychology major and the rabbit story was just a test. It's a freshman little mindfuck that the trot in Abnormal Psych. It's supposed to reveal whether a person is logical, emotional, or a lunatic psycho killer on the prowl. You can imagine how I rated.

So that was Monday night. Not good. Sort of sucks because, you try not to get your hopes up, but you sort of have to get your hopes up because, otherwise, you have about zero chance of success. I have to think that the professional baseball player envisions himself knocking the ball out of the park every time he gets up to bat. You have to want it. To believe that you can do it. Or you have zero chance of success.

So, I think that you have to sort of set yourself up for failure in these cases. I dunno.

I pretty much decided that I'd had enough of the city at that point. I've been out here for a long time. I feel like it's time to move on. I'm tired of living in the airports. Tired of being tired.

Tuesday

Then at work yesterday (Tuesday), we asked the asked the IT group to do something and they came back and said it was completely impossible. Then, after they discussed it some more, they said that it would take at least two weeks. Which meant that we were dead in the water for 2 weeks. So, then I was like...aha...actually...this may be ok. I've been wanting to drive my bike up the coast. Why don't I disappear for a while?

So, we sort of tentatively and hastily agreed at work that it would be OK for me to disappear for an indefinite period of time and I took off like the wind.

Basically, this means that the trip to AK is on and I'm burning daylight.

I'm driving the dirt bike down the road and the mind is racing. Trying to think of all the things that have to happen before I leave the country, bound for Alaska.

Robert M. Pirsig was very clear in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance that the motorcycle is a machine that requires near constant maintenance. Furthermore, he pointed out that your life is, essentially the same. Everything that we own and every part of our existence requires maintenance and you can't very well shun something as basic as motorcycle maintenance. It's a part and parcel of ourselves, our most basic philosophy and relates directly to how we deal with everything we own and everyone we communicate with this. He was very clear on this point.

Which sort of sucks, because my toys are, well, neglected. I own more vehicles than any sane person would even believe. I have HondaXR650L's in three different time zones. And I don't do any maintenance on any of them unless forced to at gunpoint. So, I'm not sure what that says about me, but there it is. I've laid my cards on the table. Judge me as you see fit.

So, in theory, it's time for me to take off for Alaska, and I go home to my little trailer on Russian Hill and dump all of my belongings onto the floor to take a quick inventory of what I have, what I need, and what I need to accomplish before leaving for the Great White North.

I have a motorcycle with a chain stretched by countless wheelies through the city's streets. Sprockets with teeth as sharp as razor blades. The oil has not been changed since February, and I've driven it 3,000 miles since then. The headlight shines up at the top of the Transamerica Tower when I drive down Columbus in North Beach. "Coon hunting" headlights, we used to call them. The back brakes are basically gone. The engine won't idle, and backfires every time I shift.

My helmet is about a size too big and wobbles on my head whenever I get up to highway speeds. I can't find my camo pants, and strongly suspect I've left them back in Colorado.

The bike has no license plate. I have no insurance on it. And my driver's license is expired. I have a temporary license, but I never saw my new drivers license come through the mail, so it's lost somewhere in the bathtub of unopened mail in Colorado.

Not good.

So, I decide to make a list of all the things I need to accomplish before I leave the country.

replace chain and both sprockets
change oil and filter
replace air filter
change spark plug
replace front and rear tires
adjust tire pressure (front and rear)
adjust pressure in front forks
install saddle bags
adjust/repair rear brakes
fill up the gas tank
a can of fix-a-flat
buy chain lube (since the TSA stole mine last week)
buy lens caps for the wide angle lens since they keep rolling down the street while I'm riding the bike
buy a new memory card reader since I can't find mine. Probably I left it in CO.
buy a new pair of riding pants, since I can't find my camo pants. Probably left in CO.

I decide to fill up with gas and at the gas station, and buy some oil to change my oil, when all hell breaks loose. I'm trying to just do something fairly simple. Put gas in my gas tank. But I also need some oil, so I go to try to buy some oil but the store is under lockdown after 9:00 p.m. and the guys and swimming around behind a sheet of plexiglass you couldn't get through with an RPG. So, I'm shouting to the emibcile through the bank-teller-type-steel-drawer trying to negotiate the purchase of a few quarts of 20W50 when these cops come up. Now, in San Francisco, the cops travel in packs. Two to a car. 5 cars to a swarm. And they move through the city this way, deathly afraid. Drowning in fear and adrenaline. They won't get donuts unless there are 10 of them because it's that dangerous. I shit you not.

So, this armada of black-and-white cruisers pulls up in a stunning show of force - to buy donuts. This is true. So help me God.

I'm like. Seriously? For donuts? Y'all are that scared?

Now, at this point, I notice a homeless man in the middle of the street...I think this was at Folsom and 9th..and he's in the middle of the street...with a green light...pushing a shopping cart in circle in the middle of the road, as cars scream by him, honking. He's very close to death, but doesn't know he's on this planet.

He's trying to talk, but no words come out. Way past that point. He's just sort of slurring and grunting, spinning and stumbling. Head shaking. Hands waving erratically. Drugged beyond belief. Lost in his own mind. Not aware he's circling in traffic at night in a busy intersection with a green light. No clue. No clue.

Now, comes the sirens and lights. Always this rush to some place. Often with multiple firetrucks and ambluances all heading in different directions. Like, you'd assume that they're heading to the same place. You'd be wrong. Sadly mistaken. They're never going to the same place. Always, they race in different directions.

So these firetrucks are coming now, the light is green, and this homeless man is out there in the middle of the intersection at night in a knit cap pushing a shopping cart full of trash in circle. He's about to die and has no clue. No clue.

I go into the street, take the cart, push it up onto the sidewalk, where' he'll be safe. Then I get back on my bike and get ready to leave. The cops see all of this, of course. They're wagering on which vehicle will kill him, and when I lead him out of the street, they're laughing and slapping each other on the back and coughing and choking on donuts and coffee. A pile of bills is raked off the table and I get on my bike to leave. I have no license plate, but I quit looking over my shoulder long ago. I'm not sure what the police are doing here, but enforcing the law and protection people don't seem to be high on the list.

As I leave, the homeless man returns to the center of the intersection to push the shopping cart in circles once again, and the police start betting again, and I think "Out. I have to get out. This isn't real. This isn't healthy. People shouldn't have to see this. To know that it goes on. It's too depressing to believe."

San Francisco is a large city, and large cities have a lot of problems in common. One of them is massive homeless populations. But when you live around these homeless people all the time, you get used to seeing them sleeping on the sidewalks in sleeping bags and, what can I say? It's depressing beyond words. But this is where we are.

All these sad, broken people are dying all around us. And I'm just rolling through on my motorcycle, shooting like mad at the city, my outdoor canvas. This is this. It is what it is.

So, now I've got a full tank of gas and 3 quarts of 20W50. I decide I'll go home and replace my chain and sprockets. I'd already ordered them from the Honda shop. Now, I just have to put them on. I'm not really clear how to take the old chain off, of course. I can't find a master link and I don't have any bolt cutters out here. But I want to get my hands dirty. Something about working indoors beneath pallid flourescent lights makes you want to skin your knuckles and get grease under your nails just to remember what it feels like to be a man.

My hands are softer than most womens, I'm afraid. Nothing to be proud of, of course. But I don't do a lot of manual labor. That's not my role in life, for whatever reason.

I manage to replace both sprockets, but the chain is more than I can tackle. Even if I managed to get the old one off, I'd still have to figure out how to put the new one on, and the master link looks a little tricky. Nothing that I feel comfortable tackling. So I leave the old chain on and begin to change the oil.

Basically, I open the crankcase drain over a steel grate that says "Drains to Bay" and has a picture of a fish looking up at you with these big eyes and I'm like "sucks to be you, fishy"

By the time I've replaced the filter and the oil, the cul-de-sac where I live looks like Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez ran aground.

At this point, a man shows up that I've seen before, and starts going through the trash cans on the sidewalk. I've watched him enough that I know what he's doing. Basically, he goes through all of the recycle bins that are set out on Tuesday nights in my neighborhood and steals all of the aluminum cans.

I don't try to talk to him, as he looks Asian, and you can never know what language those people speak, especially if they're digging through trash cans at the time. It's hard to guess if they're drugged or coherent or mute or just plain-ole-run-of-the-mill Orientals.

To clean up the mess as best as practicable, I dig through the nearest open pile of garbage, retrieve a sheet and a spray bottle of household cleaner and clean up the crime scene as best I can.

I resign myself to take the bike into the Honda shop in the morning and beg them to install my chain. I send an email to everyone I know in San Francisco telling them that I'm thoroughly sick of the city and am fleeing, probably forever.

Wednesday

So, today I wake up and race down to the Honda shop. I tell them to install my chain, and pick out a new set of tires while I'm in the store. "Yeah...better go ahead and throw these on while you're at it. Now, the new tires I pick out are street tires, not dirt tires. And I've never driven on street tires in my life. But I've always sort of wanted to try them and see how they do.

They tell me that the bike won't be ready until the afternoon and I'm like..."You don't understand. I have to drive to Alaska. Right away. I'm burning daylight here, people."

But they say they'll do the best they can, and leave, to walk back to my flat on Russian Hill, a few blocks away.

Along the way, I see the neighborhood for the first time, as most people see it. By walking. The city increases in size exponentially once you get off your @ss and start walking.

I notice, for the first time, several interesting places. One that repairs luggage. A store that serves breakfast all day long. A sporting goods store. All of these places are normally just a blur, as I dodge other motorcycles, pigeons, pigeon shadows, pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, buses, taxis, trolleys, police cars, fire trucks with the guy steering from the back like the Apple Dumpling Gang, etc.

Back at the flat, I decided to take stock of my paperwork situation. I have no license plate. No insurance. No driver's license. Like, you think I'm making this up, but not. I'm so not.

I'm thinking I'd like to get the bike titled in my name, so I dig up the title and the bill of sale. The paperwork says I bought it on March 1, 2011. So, I've driven the bike for over 5 months without plates, insurance, or a license.

I call up the insurance company and tell them I need insurance. I lie and tell them I've never had a ticket in my life, but they find one somehow. I tell them I want the maximum amount of liability and personal injury you can get, but no collision insurance. Like, if the bike is totaled so be it. No great loss.

We come to agreement on an amount and she tells me how to print my insurance card and I promptly head off to the DMV to try to get a license plate. Now, I don't have a valid driver's license, but at least I have insurance. Maybe they'll give me a license plate? I sort of doubt it, but figure I've got nothing to lose in trying, because they're working on my bike anyway, so it's not like I could take off at this point even if I wanted to.

So I hail a taxi and tell him to take me to the DMV, and he heads that way. As we go down Divisadero, I see this huge Jet Martinez mural (I'm starting to recognize some of the artists), and I'm just so shocked every time I find a batch of new murals in the city. How stupid I was to think that I'd found them all. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. I make note of the location of my newly discovered murals and eventually, the taxi driver drops me off at some government building with a line so long that it stretches out into the parking lot.

I take my place at the end of the line.

I get out my copy of On The Road, and pick up where I left off. Basically, I'm where Sal Paradise realizes that Dean has lost his way, and needs help. Sal offers to take Dean to Italy, and Dean realizes that Sal know's Dean is in trouble, and is offering to help him out. I hate that I'm nearing the end of the book. This I dread, because I love this book too much for words, and last time I checked, Kerouac isn't writing any more these days.

So, I'm in this odd situation. Trying to get out of town. Trying to get the bike legal so I can take it into Canada. Trying to enjoy the book, but knowing the entire time, that each word I read gets me closer to the end.

This is why people have jobs. This is why people go into work every day and do the same thing over and over for someone they hate. It's because the alternative is staggering it's beyond belief.

It's because, if you walk off of a project, what you do next is so confusing that most people aren't able to handle it well. This is something I feel quite strongly about. The problem of what to do when you're truly on your own is very complex, and is shaped by many counterintuitive forces including, but not limited to, the "Paradox of Choice".

I'm sitting out in the sun for so long that I'm thinking I should have worn sunscreen. Still not any closer to getting inside the actual DMV building. I seriously doubt that they're going to give me a title to the bike. I imagine how the conversation will go.

"You bought the bike in March, but you never had the title put into your name?"

"That's right."

"What's your driver's license number?"

"My what?"

"Your driver's license number. You do have a California driver's license?"

"Well, not really. I have a Colorado driver's license."

"But you live in California?"

"I sort of go back and forth. I commute."

"You commute between Colorado and California?"

"Yeah."

"What's your address in California."

"I'm not sure."

"You're not sure where you live in California?"

"Well, I have been staying on Russian Hill. I'm not sure what the address is. It's near the Broadway tunnel though. You should hear those motorcycles at night when they wind it up to go through that tunnel. Lord God it makes me break out in a cold sweat. I swear people are going a hundred miles an hour through that tunnel."

"You don't have a California driver's license. You don't have a California address. But you want to title the bike in California?"

"Uh. Yeah. That's...uh....that's what I need to do."

"Do you have insurance?"

"I have this policy here." hands her the policy.

"You bought the bike in March and got insurance for it today? You've been driving it for 5 months without insurance?"

"Probably I haven't been riding it, I think."

"You're not sure if you've been driving the bike for the last 5 months. OK. Let me see your Colorado license."

Hands her the license.

"This is expired."

"Right, but I got it renewed and they were supposed to mail me a new one, but I haven't seen it. I should probably go through all of my unopened mail at some point."

"You don't open your mail?"

"Well, like I told you, I commute from California to Colorado.

"Yeah, you mentioned that."

So, I'm reasonably sure that this isn't going to work. It's not going to fly. But they're working on my bike, so I just sit in the sun, reading my book, and sort of pretending like what I'm doing makes sense. It doesn't, but lets not focus on that right now. Let's just assume that somehow things are going to work out. I'll get a new title, license plate, registration.

While I'm being broiled beneath the San Franciscan sun in the DMV parking lot, my boss texts me and asks where I am. I thought we were clear that I was leaving the country, but apparently there was a miscommunication because he was expecting me, apparently.

Then the Honda shop calls, and tells me the bike is ready. But I decide to press on with the process, hoping to get inside the DMV at some point before dark.

Eventually, I get inside the DMV building, and they don't ask for anything. No driver's license. No insurance. No bill of sale. Nothing. Only I give them the title, and they give me the registration paperwork, and stickers for the license plate. Because I was 5 months late in transferring the title, they charge me an extra $10. They'll mail my title to Colorado. For an extra $20, they give me a new license plate also, since the old one is so beat up. Thanks. Have a nice day. In and out in less than 90 minutes.

I catch a cab back to Golden Gate Cycles. The bike has new tires. New chain and sprockets. I decide to buy a Givi case for the bike, to put my tools and some riding gear in. They want another $70 to install it, and I'm like, "I think I'll pass on the installation." I drive the bike back to the flat and install the case in about 11 minutes. I stick the license plate on the bike. Now, I'll have to be more careful on the bike, I think. No more running red lights or running through the bridge lanes without paying.

Boss calls me and we talk for a minute. Basically, he thought I was coming, into work, and I'm thinking that I'd rather drive a dirt bike off the face of the earth instead. So, I explain to him that I need to kill myself on a motorcycle (I actually say that I need to "run up the coast on my bike", which doesn't really sound suicidal.

If someone says they're going to do a "swan dive" off the Golden Gate Bridge, that's cause for alarm. But if they say they're going to "drive to Alaska on a dirt bike", for whatever reason, that doesn't set off the same bells. Maybe it should. I dunno.

"And you'll be back when?" he clarifies.

"Monday."

"Like, 5 days from now?"

"The following Monday," I reply.

"Let's call it Monday week," he answers.

"Fair enough."

So, that much is settled. I got a little breathing room. Not much, but some. I set about adjusting my rear brakes and my clutch. At this point, I'm basically riding a different motorcycle. Clutch feels different. Brakes feel different. Tires and chain are noticable different. With the Kivi case full of tools, it handles very differently than before. It doesn't feel or handle at all like the bike I've been driving for the last 5 months. Not ideal, but this is where we are.

As they say, "you don't go to war with the army you wish you had. You go to war with the army you have." So, this is where we are.

I decide to change the spark plug also, so back to the Honda shop. I buy a can of fix-a-flat and chain lube at some point. Now I also buy a spark plug and talk them into installing it for free because I've already dropped a ton of cash in that place today. A lot of jack. Seriously.

The guys at Golden Gate Cycles as cool as the other side of the pillow and I tell them I'm driving to Alaska and they're all just foaming at the mouth they're so excited by the idea. They make me promise to send them photos, and I will of course. I certainly will.

By now, it's late in the afternoon though, and it's not looking good. Temperature is dropping. Fog rolling in thick. Not sure how far I'll be able to get tonight.

I'm missing some things that are sort of in the "not here" category. When you travel all the time, things are sort of "here" or "not here", and it's hard to know what it means when they're "not here". "Not here" could mean they're in Colorado, or left on the plane, or under the bed. Lost forever. Or just out of sight. It's so hard to know.

In the "not here" category:
Camo pants
memory card reader
lens caps for the landscape lens

At this point, my ex calls and she's upset that I'm going to AK, as she was expecting me to take care of Jennifer this weekend. I try to weasel out of it, but eventually, I give up and say "Fine", I'll put off my trip to Alaska unto Monday.

So, this sucks, of course. But in a way, it's good. I'll have a little mfore time to plan/research for the trip. I might find my camo pants and my memory card reader in CO. I might find the GPS charger and get that working.

Now, however, I'm not working, so now I have to kill 2 days in SF, so I drive around the city shooting like mad. Just really digging in now because, now that I feel like I may really be leaving the city for good, there's no time to shoot but now. So, I start grid searching the city more intensely than ever before. Grid searching the Western Addition, the Mission, and SOMA. I find scads of murals I'd never seen before. Just brilliant work, and I'm shooting like a lunatic.

In the mission, I come across another guy on a Honda XR. I stop to see if he needs help. Turns out he's run out of gas. I pull up in my new cadillac and he's just awed at how cool my bike is. I get out my tools from the Giva, drain some gas from the tank into a cup off the sidewalk, and get him back on the road again.

I normally stop when I see someone on a bike that looks like they may need help. Once, recently, I saw a guy picking his bike up off the ground on Larkin Street and I stopped and offered to help. He said he got off of it and forgot to put the kickstand down. And I was like "seriously?" LIke "how could anyone be that stupid? That's a whole new class of stupid. Like off the crack, dude."

I head to Calumet Cameras and pick up a couple of 67mm lens caps. I like these much better than Canon's lens caps, because they have a string on them so they won't going rolling down the street if they get detached.

Then back to Divisadero to a BBQ place I found in the Western Addition called "Da Pitt". Pretty good food, but just the coolest people running it you've ever seen. A bunch of blacks in there talking and I couldn't get a word of it. Nothing. I was the only white guy in the place, so I knew I was onto something. Michael, the proprietor just cool beyond words. We start swapping stories and finally I had to leave but you just can't know how cool these people are. Words can't do it justice.

Then to the Marina district for a foggy nightcap of beer to review the countless pictures I shot today (1,217 since I left Las Vegas monday morning). I park the bike in front of The Grove and hop off the bike, dismounting on the right side, due to the new Giva case, let go of the bike, and for the first time since I bought the bike 5 months ago, it goes down and I realize I forgot to put the kickstand down. Doh!

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 3, 2011 at 10:49 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Driving to Alaska

I nearly got killed by a guy on a motorcycle yesterday. Really close...he came racing up behind me, lane splitting in my blind spot...just as I went to change lanes to the right. I looked back and saw him just as I started to change lanes. I missed him by a few inches at best. Really shook me up though. I was like...what the h3ll am I doing here anyway? And I really didn't have a good answer to that question, so I decided to sort of drop out and run up the coast to Alaska.

So, I plan on leaving later today (Wednesday 8/3/11) and driving the "moped" as Amy calls it....driving it up to Alaska. The distance is roughly 1,500 miles, so I ought to be able to make it in 5 days, God willing and the river don't rise.

I'm really burnt out on the city. Tonight, I watched a homeless guy at 9th and Folsom (I think)...he was just standing out there in the center of the street with his shopping cart full of trash....just standing in the center of the road...the light was green...and he had no clue what was going on...muttering to himself...turning in circles....couldn't talk or make complete words, much less sentences....cars driving around him...then a fire truck came screaming up...I got him out of the middle of the street, but he was so clueless he just went right back out there. Insanity.

I changed my sprockets tonight, and changed the oil. Adjusted my clutch. Still have a few more tricks to do at Golden Gate Cycles tomorrow morning. Hopefully they'll be able ot help get me on the road pretty quick.

I gotta get out of here.

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 3, 2011 at 1:56 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

August 1, 2011

How To Fold a Winning Hand

Wow. Tonight sucked in a big way. I'm leaving for AK tomorrow. I'll get up. Put on my chain and sprockets. Then take off. I'm actually thinking I may just leave anyway and take my chain and sprockets on the road. I may change them when I get to Mendocino tomorrow. Hahahah. Classic. Some things never change.

A man needs a woman like a fish needs a basketball.

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 1, 2011 at 11:44 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Left Turn at Moab

If we're going to LA or Las Vegas, we always leave Denver and follow I-70 west to Moab. At Moab, we take a noticeable left turn over these stunning blue ponds, and I've wondered for some time what they were. They remind me of the Cargill Salt Flats at the southern end of San Francisco Bay.

Today, I finally decided t run them down. Turns out that they're the Texas Gulf Potash evaporation ponds near Dead Horse Point, Utah. They add the surreal blue dye to speed up the evaporation process.


Posted by Rob Kiser on August 1, 2011 at 10:40 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

McCarren Wifi

I'm sitting at the airport in Las Vegas (aka the city of Lost Wages). I've been reading "On The Road" by Jack Kerouac. Trying to get the story wrapped up before my big trip to Alaska. The trip is coming up. I have it in me. I can feel it. I have half a mind to leave tomorrow.

Everywhere I go I see the motorcycles with saddlebags and they're rolling across the country every place I turn and I think..."yes...right...flee...run like the wind while there's still a chance...while we still can...caution is nothing but cowardice and lost opportunity welded together."

I have no fear of the road. To me, the road is salvation. Nothing is more calming to me than unwinding the coast beneath the bike. Away from the madness of civilization.

My greatest fear is of growing accustomed to life in the city. I'm sure there must be some escape from these San Francisco doldrums of sirens and screeching tires. Drug addicts and prostitutes. Crippled homeless begging in the streets for change. Homeless people living in dead-end allies. Meth addicts staggering lost down the sidewalks. Lost old women, staggering down Filmore, crying out to strangers in the darkness for help. Peeing in bus stop shelters. Snatching leftovers from strangers from the city's dinner tables.

The must stop. This must all go away. All of these people are destined to die a slow and painful death in this city but I have to punch out somehow. Got to find an exit door. There must have been one when I came in.

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 1, 2011 at 8:52 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

The "he-coon"

"The old he-coon walks just before the light of day." - Lawton Chiles

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 1, 2011 at 4:19 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink