If it is a plan, it’s vague and indefinite

Yesterday’s ride was the best of my vacation so far. I started in Lillooet after spending the night in the super tiny hotel room above the stairs and took the south route towards Hope. Highway 12… if you can call it a highway… stretches from Lillooet to Highway One. It winds and twists along the valley wall with climbs and drops that had me shifting up and down almost continuously. Definitely a lesson in motorcycle touring. The scenery was gorgeous and the turns… some of them… very stressful. Hairpins dusted with gravel, rough single lane roads with blind turns bracketted with cludged cement guardrails over a massive drop on one side and torn chain curtains barely holding back the crumbling cliff face on the other side… it was a very exciting ride.

I met a pair of motorcycle riders during one of my stops on the Number One. They were thrilling at the turns and curves of the Trans Canada. I humbly suggested they try highway 12 their next turn out.

Picture of motorbike parked on a gravel side road with a winding mountain road leading away from it.

Take a moment and appreciate what you`re about to do.

They were riding out to Vancouver for the long weekend. They were rather impressed when I told them I was riding for two weeks. Of course I didn’t tell them I wasn’t riding every single day. They didn’t need to know that part.

I stopped in Hope for some coffee at the Blue Moose cafe (Blue Moose in Hope, Chartreuse Moose in 100 House? Is this some weird franchise idea?) before zooming back out onto the Number One. I have to say, traffic on the Trans Canada between Hope and Vancouver moves pretty damned fast. Keeping up with the general speed of everyone else I nearly had to shift into fourth. Turning off towards the border was a very sudden drop that had me feeling like I was crawling.

The border guard was remarkably bored and disinterested in me. I was so sure the two bright blue bags lashed to my bike with bright red and green bungee cords would spark some kind of curiosity but it took him less than five seconds to peg me for a very simple tourist. Less than five minutes in line and I was in super commercial product land. The quantity of advertising increased tenfold, as did the preponderance of shops for everything and anything.

I didn’t have any solid plans for the route I’d be taking but there were plenty of signs telling me where to go and in about an hour I found myself flocking with the herd down the I-5 at roughly legal speeds. My motorcycle doesn’t have the Miles Per Hour marked in with the Kilometers Per Hour so I’ve had a lot of practice working out 1.6 times 35, 40, 50 and 60 mph in my head. (shorthand: 1.6 times equals [1 times] plus [half] plus [a tenth]: 40 mph = 40 + 20 + 4, or 64 kph)

After sundown, though, the rules seem to change and people on the I-5 tend to go about as fast as they’re physically able. Again, shifting up into fourth became a distinct possibility.

Needing to eat I decided to turn to Foursquare again to find someplace along the way. I was tempted by the Skagit River Brewery as they had plenty of good reviews and were pretty close. I found the place just fine although it took me a few passes around the block to find parking. They have a large patio with picnic tables and a fairly sizeable dining lounge with a small stage in front of the windows to the brewery.

Since I knew I needed to ride away right after dinner I decided against trying their micro brews. I went for an italian soda instead as I’m also trying to avoid too much soda pop these days. I was startled to discover their italian sodas arrive topped with whipped cream. My surprise was apparently evident as the waitress offered to take it back and make a new one without the topping. I was grateful for that. When I finally got to drink it I found it was pretty much the same as the club soda drinks I’ve been making with fruit juice: tasty without being overwhelmingly sweet.

Their food was quite good and the portions, as always in America, huge. I ordered the chicken penne and was rewarded with a serving table sized bowl of pasta with some chicken and a single whole wheat bun. The stuff was so good I nearly finished what, in my estimation, probably would have fed two people.

The pub also hosts blues musicians in the evening, which was… okay. The band was fairly skilled, but the volume was way above restaurant level. Given that I wasn’t trying to have a conversation with anyone I would have been fine with it but everyone else was trying to have a conversation over the music and that made a big mess of it.

I probably could have handled it for a while if it hadn’t been for the children. I don’t know if it was kid’s night at the Blues Bar and Microbrewery Pub but I had four children bracketed around my table, all under the age of five, and all making some kind of extreme noise. One girl, around two or three, kept putting her hands over her ears and SCREAMING. Just a wordless, high pitched shriek that felt like rail spikes driven through my ears. Evidently she wasn’t thrilled with the volume of the place either. Another toddler, barely over a year, was wailing away at the table with an entire set of cutlery. Not only was his mother NOT attempting to stop him she was, in fact, joining in by tapping a spoon along with him. Cute and endearing in a home setting, nerve rattling in an adult restaurant setting already too filled with noise.

And, honestly, children at that age are still developing, aren’t they? Is taking them into a loud bar environment really the best thing for them? Shouldn’t the parents be concerned about the effect on their developing ears?

I enjoyed the food and drink but I will never, ever go back there again. If I do, I’ll bring my earplugs and communicate with my servers in gestures and  writing.

I then spent a couple of tense hours trying to find someplace to bed down for the night. I had decided to enter a popular vacation area on a long weekend, the last of the summer, without any kind of reservations. What was I thinking? One hotel clerk assured me that everything was sold out between them and Tukwila. I had no idea where Tukwila was, but it sounded far. Turns out it’s actually still north of Seattle.

One clerk suggested a Comfort Inn might have a couple of rooms left and directed me to exit 182. “Just turn right off the exit” she assured me. I found the exit, took it, and the exit split. Taking her advice to heart I took the right fork… and just before I disappeared around a corner saw the sign for the Comfort Inn pointing down the left fork.

The mistaken exit wound in some serpentine fashion that had me lost and confused and riding on some westbound highway I hadn’t planned on. Getting desperate I took an exit that promised a Motel 6. I never found it. I rode up and down the road that proclaimed to host a Motel 6 on it somewhere and only found a Sunset Motel stuck in behind a Denny’s, the orange sunset neon sign only half illuminated. The sun in the sign looked more like it was sinking into mud rather than setting over the horizon. The place was all class. Along with your key you were issued a generic TV remote. Apparently people steal them on a regular basis.

Parking my bike around the back of the motel, just below the steps to my room, I was greeted by a young woman walking back to her room with a fresh bucket of ice.

“Nice bike!” she called to me.

I looked up from unhitching the bungie cords and thanked her.

“My dad used to ride one just like it.” she said before dissappearing around the corner.

The sentiment, although meant to be friendly, definitely had me attributing as much age as ride hours to my aching joints and muscles.

The room was decidedly short on power outlets and I wound up unplugging the TV and minifridge to charge up my electronics. The outlets were all incredibly loose as well. I had to bend the forks of my CPAP maching a little to keep the plug from falling out of the wall. Even then the plug sat in the socket at a 45 degree angle. I’m amazed it stayed in at all.

But enough for now. I have to get up early tomorrow to ride to Portland and back. The room in this hotel is so incredibly much better than yesterday’s motel that I’ve decided to keep it for two days. I’ll race down to Portland, check it out for a few hours and stop back here on my way towards Vancouver.

Tomorrow, if I have the energy, I’ll write about my brief visit to Seattle.

“This isn’t a plan…”

There was this guy I kept seeing on the second day of my road trip. I can’t get him out of my head, although I kind of wish I could. He was about five ten, looked to be in his late forties, early fifties (like I can tell? I still can’t believe I’m in my late forties…), wild head of black hair with grey streaks, and a wild beard of grey. He was always wearing a blue and red windbreaker, and was always carrying a cardboard sign which I never got to read.

Why do I remember him? Because he appeared at every single rest stop I made along the number one highway, all four of them. And why is this remarkable? Because he was hitchhiking. So, every single time I stopped to stretch my legs, maybe grab something to drink, he appeared apparently out of nowhere, holding his sign and hitchhiking.

In addition to constantly appearing out of nowhere, every time I passed him on the road he would stare at me, looking me straight in the eye, with what I imagined was growing malevolence. By the fourth time I saw him I was convinced he hated me on sight.

I have no idea why.

I’m just glad he was evidently sticking with the number one because as soon as I turned north I stopped seeing him.

At least I hope that’s why I stopped seeing him.

I made a mental note of it, figuring I’d work it into a journal entry at some point, but didn’t think anything significant about it.

Except he keeps surfacing in my mind, his eyes staring at me. I fully expect to stop at some dimly lit motel out in the middle of nowhere and find he’s working as the night clerk.

Hasn’t happened yet, though.

My trip to Quesnel has been a good visit. It’s been too long since I’ve seen the boys and they’re growing like the proverbial weeds. Shane and Dianne’s house was exceptionally busy this visit as they had two exchange students living with them. Simon, from Venuzuela, and Pauline from Germany. Pauline is supposed to be staying with a different family but some scheduling misshaps wound up with her spending her first week with the Puts. Add to that Dianne’s birthday party and you have an exhausting week.

And I was only there for three days of it.

Joel's face in the foreground with his bike in the background

On the road again… and again…

Dramatic change has always been a struggle for me. I’m much more comfortable in my routines. Even something as simple as always keeping my keys in the same place provides me with comfort and reassurance. I worry less about forgetting things when I have a routine that keeps them all in place.

Travel, of course, completely shatters my routine, and no matter how much I love to travel I always struggle with the dramatic change it brings about. For example, even though it was the fourth day of my vacation I was still twitchy about not being at work. I also had to consciously work at not worrying that my condo might be flooding while I’m away. (This is not unreasonable as my condo did flood just prior to my vacation… so I’m not paranoid. Nyah.)

Dianne, in her ever understanding fashion, teased me mercilessly about being “oober late for work” and about the possibility of my condo flooding or, perhaps, burning down.

The world does turn, however, and sometimes what goes around comes around. On Thursday, a day Dianne had planned on getting caught up on her work (since she was busy with her birthday all day Wednesday) the washing machine decided to start flooding… just before their wood pellet stove in their entertainment room started belching out smoke. Running around and dealing with these emergencies, as well as the demands of a five child household, meant Dianne wasn’t able to get nearly as much work done as she’d intended.

I quietly pointed out that, after all her teasing, it was she who had her home flood, almost burn down, and it was she who was late for work.

Be careful what you wish on others.

That being said I didn’t come out of the visit without some drama of my own. Boomer had started making a rather alarming clicking noise from just under the fuel tank sometime early in the second day. As the trip continued the noise became more pronounced. Dianne recommended a reliable mechanic in Quesnel (for the record, Curry Repairs) and I took Boomer in to have her checked out.

The mechanics were grim in their estimation of the noise. They figured it could be one of two things: either the valves were extremely dirty, or I needed to have them replaced. From what they could see of the bike it looked like replacing the valves would involve dropping the entire engine just to reach them.

Upon further inspection they discovered, much to my embarrassment, that Boomer was rather low on oil, and what was in there was charred. I won’t say how low Boomer was, but I will say my shame was as hot and burnt as what little oil remained in my bike.

They topped up the oil and added in a cleaner they kept referring to as “sea foam”. I didn’t get the exact details of the product but the mechanics were singing it’s praises highly and I couldn’t help but hope it was as good as they felt it was.

They instructed me to run the bike for a while. “Take it around the lake once” were their exact words but, not being familiar with the area, I just took it out on the highway for a while. I figured riding out to Ten Mile Lake north of the town and back would be enough.

Boomer was sounding better before we even left the town limits. By the time I got back the noise was gone completely.

After giving me the “you don’t know how lucky you are” glare they took Boomer in for a complete oil change. The one mechanic also inflated my tires a little, advising me that he always did that for highway riding as it mostly involved a lot of straight running at high speed and less tire contact meant less tire wear.

Given that the man who rescued my bike from my own ineptitude was himself working from the confines of a wheelchair I felt doubly shamed for nearly squandering the privilege I have of riding such a blessed piece of engineering.

I will not forget.

Joel's bike parked at the side of the highway.

Not where you want your next breakdown. Not that you ever WANT a breakdown…

My first day of riding toward Quesnel was incredibly long and arduous. I did make it more relaxing by stopping often, but even after the first day I was wiped out, exhausted beyond my reserves. On the plus side I slept like the dead. On the negative side I was even worse the second day. The last hour in to Quesnel was torture to my ass and thighs.

Having spent three days in Quesnel I set back out onto the road with more than a little trepidation. I was worried that my endurance would not hold up, that I would rapidly succumb to fatigue and strain. I was just simply worried I couldn’t hack it.

Today has been, quite honestly, the best long distance ride I’ve ever had. And that after spending the first half of it in some damned chilly rain. The temperature didn’t crawl above ten degrees until south of 100 Mile House and the rain kept hitting just as I was drying out from the previous downpour. But it was a great ride.

a picture of a road leading to several hills haloed with sunlight

And a choir of angelic voices suddenly chorus in the back of your head…

Kilometers disappeared under my wheels without notice and I kept hitting the next town with mild surprise, always arriving before I expected to. I won’t pretend I’m not tired, and my glutes are definitely sore, but I’m in a much better mood than I’d expected.

I’ve also been using Foursquare for the real purpose it was intended: finding interesting places in new locations. I found a nice coffee shop in 100 Mile House called the Chartreuse Moose. It was actually a little too nice as I spent over an hour relaxing and reading when I should have been riding. Foursquare also lead me to my wonderful hotel here in Lillooet, BC, called the Reynolds Hotel. They had some good reviews and are located right at the end of the road that leads into town. You literally can’t miss it. In fact, if you don’t make the turn at the end of the road, you’ll wind up parked in the front lobby.

Picture of a bed set so high it needs a set of stairs.

Climbing into bed was never so literal for me.

They had a couple of rooms left and I opted for the one that had only one bed. All I would need. I was informed that it was arranged a little … differently from other rooms. The room isn’t located at the head of the stairs, it’s located above the stairs. Consequently, the bed is raised up off the floor by about three feet. You have to cimb a couple of steps in order to reach it.

The bathroom is equally quaint with an old porcelain tub set up for the shower and a tiny porcelaine sink substantiated by a small end table for your toiletries.

And the adventure continues.

Brief and Casual

Drinks with Leslie on Wednesday was inspirational. The trip to Airdrie was surprisingly short. I’m guessing the expansion of Calgary is rapidly closing the gap. It seemed I wasn’t on the open road for more than a minute before I had to suddenly cut across four lanes to make my exit.

Leslie and I haven’t seen each other in decades and I was graced with the unique position of drinking with a friend who hadn’t heard twenty years of stories. We talked about Chad quite a bit. And writing. Hence the inspiration.

The ride home was a little melancholly. The night air was warm and traffic was light. I could have ridden away for days if I’d had the opportunity. The glacial progress of the setting sun gave way to the brisk flicker of streetlights whipping past at 150 kph. I have a terrible time keeping to the speed limit on my bike these days. If I don’t get out of third gear it feels like a wasted trip. Plus the bike just rumbles happily at that speed. It seems to be made for it.

Thursday was cleaning and rearranging. It was supposed to be all cleaning but I got the majority of it done anyway. And I like the layout of my bedroom better. Now I just need to get rid of the last few pictures and my two ammo boxes stacked in its corner. Not sure if I’m going to hang the pictures or throw them out. They’re all too large to fit into the trunk for storage and I have to put them somewhere. So many of them don’t fit into how I want my place to look, though. Putting them up would just look wrong.

The ammo boxes are my tool boxes now, so I need to keep them … somewhere. Not sure where yet.

Friday was more drinks with good friends and laughter. Some faux pas on my part for talking too much, but I never do know when to stop. Discretion never was my strong suit. Part of that comes from living a life where few if any consequences would matter, and part of that comes from my philosophy of straightforward communication. I confess some of it comes from my love of pulling triggers and pushing buttons as well. I do need to learn more caution, however, when it’s more than just myself in the story.

I have, in fact, been making apologies this weekend for saying too much. Yes, that’s apologies plural. I’m really not very good at discretion.

But Friday night was good. Really good. I was able to talk with a new friend about things she already understood without my having to go into entire libraries of background information and a glossary. It was fantastic to just talk without having to stop and clarify every two sentences.

It was also excellent seeing the Dargies again after too long an absence.

I just have to remember there are discretionary points at which I should probably just stop talking.

Saturday was the rest of the cleaning and a much larger shopping trip than I had planned. In Thursday’s rearrangement I finally decided to get rid of the floor lamp that’s been balancing precariously in my living room for the past year. The top was completely free floating and stayed put only so long as there wasn’t a stiff breeze. The light had to be turned on full brightness or there was this metalic, electronic hum that made my eye teeth ache. And full brightness was far, far too bright for my little condo. It had to go.

Which meant I had to find a replacement. So I went in to Ikea Saturday morning for a little shopping. I found two replacements in the form of a pair of holmos. Don’t look at me funny, that’s the Ikea product name for them. But I have to say, there’s nothing like a pair of holmos to brighten up a room.

And the holmos were cheap, too. I got them for $20 each.

The trip itself wasn’t cheap, however. I came away with two dozen new glasses for other people to drink out of. My original Ikea glasses are Joel sized, just over a liter each. Numerous people have given me raised eyebrows and casual comments about “size” that got me thinking people other than me might feel a tad uncomfortable about drinking from a half pitcher. So I purchased a dozen relatively “normal” sized glasses for other people to drink out of.

And frames. I bought frames as well.

After having hung most of my pictures and putting away the rest I knew I needed to cull the frames and pictures that I already have. But then I also have all these Paul Chadwick prints that are being wasted by sitting in storage all the time, and I found a set of frames that might just fit them and get them out. So, yeah, after struggling to figure out which old picture frames I wanted to throw out because I don’t have room for them I brought five more home.

People should not allow me to shop at Ikea by myself.

Saturday’s party was pretty good. Not wild or crazy, but still fun. I got several drawings done up on my couch but there’s still tons of free space to work with. I’ve decided that drawing on my couch is now going to become the casual activity for future gatherings. When we start gaming again any unconscious or otherwise disabled character will result in the player picking up a couch cushion, shuffling through my bucket-o-markers, and drawing something new. I already love the stuff I have now and I’m dying to get more. It’s kind of like tattoos for your home. Each new image you receive has you yearning for more.

One of the highlights of Saturday was having Julie visit, someone I also haven’t seen in over a decade. Although I could have done without Leslie and Julie bringing their nineteen year old “kids” with them and making me feel incredibly old. (I jest, the kids are great… intelligent and quirky just like their parents)

Another highlight was the gift of two road signs created by Mike Dargie himself. A pair of his own road side variations, one “caution: pirates” and one “need head”. The Pirates, I think may find a home on the washroom door. The “need head”, of course, makes the most sense on the bedroom door. I know, it’s terribly college-dorm-room in it’s theme but the signs are fun.

Sunday morning was cleaning all over again. More than just cleaning up from the party I also found myself vacuuming all over again. I’d only just vacuumed on Thursday night and here it was, less than 72 hours later, and I swear the dust bunnies were breeding giant mutant offspring because there were rolling tumbleweeds of fluff collecting in the spaces I know for a fact I’d vacuumed clean on Thursday.

I had the place completely cleaned by early afternoon, though, and it felt great. All the garbage was gone, all the laundry done, and the dishes either hand washed or clean and drying in the dishwasher. All the tech and pens and whatnot was put away. My refridgerator is now packed with food and booze, however, and while I can bring the food to work the booze is just going to wind up staying there until someone comes over to drink it. I’ve been taught that drinking alone is pathetic. I tried it once, just to check, and yeah it’s pretty sad.

Sunday afternoon was divided up by the brief visit of a friend in my dark cool hiding place. Conversation was had and ice chilled beverages were consumed. No sooner did I drop friend off at home than my continued reverie was interrupted by yet another call. Scott offered his apologies for losing his battle with tequila Saturday afternoon and thus missing the party. By way of consolation he offered to ride with me to Cochrane for ice cream and I readily agreed. I’d been trying to think of a good excuse to take my bike out and this was a perfect opportunity.

Like a good Doctor with his Tardis our grizzled badger had a companion with him, a young lady who’s name I’m very embarrassed to admit I’ve forgotten, and keep forgetting despite having met her three times now. She’s a good foil for Scott, as any Doctor’s Companion should be, and we paired up for a volley of “poke the badger” with reasonable coordination. Badger retaliated with a debasement of Simon Pegg movies and Douglas Adams books, the humors of which he apparently finds tiring. We rebutted with a simple defection and she rode back to Calgary with me. That’ll teach the grizzled tuner to besmirch the names of such luminaries.

It was pleasant having a rider for the trip back. While I barely know the woman her presence was notable and welcome. Legs against my hips and arms around my chest, it was the most physical contact I’ve had in months. It’s kind of sad when something so brief and casual actually becomes noteworthy.

It probably would have been a lot more relaxing if the bright yellow “low fuel” light hadn’t been glaring at me for the latter three quarters of the trip. There aren’t any gas stations that I’m aware of on the number 8 highway, and when I took a brief detour into Lakeview for the one gas station I knew was there I found, much to my annoyance, it was closed. I wasn’t terribly worried. I’d managed a good half hour into Golden with that yellow light glaring at me last summer so I knew I actually had plenty of fuel left. It was just embarrassing to have forgotten to fill up before embarking on our trip in the first place.

I feel bad for having just dropped her off and not stopped to chat a while, but I wasn’t entirely sure how much longer my bike would keep running.

Monday was a test of my reserve, and I cracked a bit. I was curt with a few customers and outright stoic to one in particular. I think I’m definitely ready for a vacation. The weekend was very nice and relaxing, but the two days were far too short. Sixteen days off won’t feel much longer, I fear, but I’m ready for them all the same. Just four more days to get through without scaring or scarring any more customers and I will finally be able to relax.

Just four more days.

The Condo is clean again, now that I’ve cleared away dinner and washed the pans. The stove is wiped, all debris put away, and I’ve reduced the lights down to two holmos and a candle. My little netbook is barely visible on my dining room table even as I type away at it. Radio Paradise has been delivering some lovely Morcheeba, Black Keys, Pink Floyd, and Dengue Fever tonight.

The home is dark. The home is light. The home is soothing and serene. The home is mine, and sleep awaits.

Now I’m officially worth something

Well the measurements of the new place are a little daunting. Hit a sudden realization of just how small the bedroom is. I’ll have a three foot path around one side and the bottom of the bed. That’s it. No room for shelves or anything else and I’ll lose the use of the drawers on the one side. Not a tragedy, but will take some adjustment. On the plus side there’s a reasonable amount of closet space.

I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with my trunks, though. I think it’s time to retire them, along with most of the contents. When you look at a box and think hard about it for five minutes but still can’t remember what you put in there because you haven’t opened it in over a year… chances are the contents aren’t important enough to keep.

But that’s a hard decision, still. I have a lot of my mother’s old work stuffed away in my shelves and boxes and while none of it is terribly relevant to me directly (wedding / family / event photos of people I don’t know and have never met) it’s still a connection to my mother and hard to just… throw away.

But I must trim down my pile of stuff and reduce the amount of debris I currently walk around.

Today, once I finally convince myself to head back home, I’ll begin sifting through my books, packing some and recycling others.

Went to see the latest Michael Bay mechanical ‘splody flick last night. If you like expensive cars and sexy-yet-vapid women, and if you have a fetish hard-on for military hoo-rah, it’s definitely the film for you. All sorts of soldery posturing and gun-toting along with complex explosions and death defying leaps, with a single point of feminine uselessness, who’s hair is always tousled yet who’s makeup is never mussed, managing to turn the tide of battle by belittling the masculinity of one sidelined villain and manipulating him into fighting his former ally just to prove his balls haven’t rusted.

Yeah, a very North American film.

Although the use of Leonard Nemoy as the turncoat villain, and his utterance of his once heroic idealist Star Trek line (“The needs of the many…”) to justify his now villainous reign is a funny and ironic little jab. Textbook example of how any idealistic view can be twisted to justify pretty much anything.

Got my bike back from Universal Cycle today. I had finally taken her in for her annual tune/check-up, something I really should have done a couple of months ago. Now she seems to rev higher with less effort and yet sounds even more bad ass and obnoxious. I just know I’m going to have to change her pipes out at some point or risk the wrath of the upcoming noise level bylaw. For now, though, I’ll use her throaty roar to intimidate willfully ignorant drivers who change lanes without looking. Making them wet their drawers is little retribution for them nearly swiping me off the road, but it still feels good.

I’ve been making holiday plans lately. I had tentative plans to ride down into the southern states with the badger and his friend, but in the absence of any detailed feedback on said trip, and given that I had to set my vacation days down on the calendar well in advance, I’ve accepted a better offer.

But since plans aren’t firmly nailed down yet I’ll hold off on actually saying what they are for now. The only thing that’s certain is that I’ll be out of town for the last week of August and the first week of September and I’ll need to find someone to take care of Carmen while I’m gone.

I signed the papers for my Condo on Wednesday. Honestly, I wish I had recognized the lawyer’s name when my mortgage brokers recommended him. Turns out he’s the same guy handling our divorce. Not that there’s any conflict between him handling our divorce and him handling my Condo purchase, it’s just that I don’t have a lot of faith in him getting things done on time. For one thing… he’s still handling our divorce. We had the paperwork finished and handed over to him last year. Last. Year.

When I was in his office on Wednesday he still had our paperwork off to one side of his desk. On the floor. I know because he went and checked through it. He told me the rules for divorce filing had changed (last year) and that he needed a photo of me.

“While you’re here,” he said, “I can get a photo of you and we can finish off your paperwork.”

Pathetic excuse. Why? Because he had used that excuse back in April when Ronya had called him up to ask why our paperwork wasn’t processed yet. He claimed it was because he needed a photo of me to finalize the paperwork and that I was proving difficult to get ahold of.

“Oh really? Do you have his number?”

“Only his home phone,” he complained, “and he’s never home.”

“What’s the number you have?” Ronya asked.

He rattled my number off to her.

“Yeah, that’s his cell phone. He keeps that with him 24/7 and it has a message service. Even if you somehow missed him you still could have left a message and I’m pretty sure he would get back to you. In fact, I bet if you called him RIGHT NOW he’d answer.”

Which he did, and I did, and I laughed when I heard him. There’s a particular sheepish tone to man’s voice when he’s been utterly imasculated by Ronya, and it’s pretty universal. The moment he introduced himself as the lawyer handling our divorce I actually laughed out loud. His voice echoed the hollow, withered, and defeated tone of a man who’s balls are firmly in Ronya’s grasp several miles away from where he’s currently sitting.

So I sent him my photo, back in April, and here we are in mid-July with our paperwork still stacked on the floor next to his desk. When I assured him that I had already sent my photo to him he looked doubtful.

“Are you sure?” he said, as he shifted over to the teetering pile and began flipping through it. I suppose I should be thankful we’re at least on top of the pile. My photo was only a few pages down, clearly printed on a letter sized peice of paper. Not only had he received my photo, he had printed off a copy and included it in the file.

He then went on some lengthy excuse about some rules changing down at the courthouse and how he couldn’t approach his usual judge to get it processed and would have to go through longer channels, yadda yadda yadda.

I didn’t care. I wasn’t there to argue about whether or not he was handling our divorce properly, I was there to get the papers signed for my Condo before the possession date, which was in less than two days. I was entirely unconvinced that I would actually be in possession of my Condo before the year was out. I started to wonder if it was too late to tell my apartment managers I wouldn’t be moving out just yet.

Then it turned out I would need two pieces of ID to finalize the whole thing, and I didn’t have anything more than my driver’s license. This annoyed me a great deal. If he had told me in advance I would need two pieces of ID I would have made sure I had my passport with me. As it was he told me to go home and scan in my passport and e-mail it to him.

I had visions of my mortgage documents being piled beside his desk, complete with a printout of my scanned passport, being gradually buried in his pervasive apathy.

But apparently I needn’t have worried. I signed my papers, rode home, scanned my passport, and e-mailed it to him.

Half an hour later my phone was ringing. It was the Royal Bank calling me up to offer me a line of credit. Seems they got wind that I was now a homeowner again. I made an appointment down at the branch to talk it over with them towards the end of the month, after I’ve moved in.

Friday I picked up my keys. Today I finish packing and disassembling my shelves. Also a trip to the Good Will is in order.

A good weekend

Well, I did eventually take the bike out. Ronya and I used our bikes to get around yesterday. As you can tell I didn’t die. Not sure how effective my hand signals were but I was reassured by having Ronya and her working brake lights behind me.

I still want to fix my own brake lights but I think I’m going to need a voltage meter or something to figure out where the disconnect is. Would be nice if it were just a simple loose wire or something.

Friday was Roarke’s birthday and the original plan was to take him and his brothers to see Monsters vs. Aliens but alas our vouchers were not valid for the show while it’s still in Imax 3D. Instead we rented a couple of videos and brought everyone to our place. We played some rock band and the boys played some Halo while the adults played some Zombies upstairs. I believe it was Ronya who finally won through the simple expedience of having the last zombie move off the helicopter landing pad. We had such helpful zombies they actually chose to move out of our way to facilitate our escape. Well, Ronya’s escape really.

Saturday I got four new tires for the Yaris. Some of the radial wire was starting to show through the front tires and the mechanic pointed out how the rear tires weren’t far off themselves, so we now have four brand new all season radials. That should last us through the next winter, I hope.

Saturday afternoon the girls put their heads togethe and made soap, which is now curing on our countertops, while I napped and observed and occasionally gave a judicial sniff to the mixture. The essential oils didn’t seem to be adding much of a scent to the soap so they wound up using a lot of it. Now we’re hoping it’s not the kind of situation where the scent intensifies over time as the soap cures. Time will tell, I suppose.

I spent Saturday evening visiting my old college friends Gordon and Leslie in their home just south of Carstairs. Apparently my coming over triggered a wave of visitation and we wound up having dinner for a dozen. It was all good food, of course, and Gordon runs his own catering business. Leslie used to work at Microsoft and was able to explain at least one of the main reasons Vista is such a big pile of Suck. Basic synopsis: it’s not her fault.

Sunday Ronya and I suited up and rode off to get me measured up for yet another tuxedo, this time for an impending wedding in July. My previous tux rental back in October worked out as a major benefit as the company has my measurements on file. I just had to make sure the different style of shoes fit (my sneakers? Size 12. Dress shoes? Size 14 and a half. WTF?) and we wound up picking a different jacket simply because the first choice of jacket didn’t go up to a size 60. It was… interesting to note that many of my measurements approached twice that of the Tracy, the Best woMan.

From there we rode to John’s place for a barbecue and some more games. I have to say, an entire weekend of visiting friends and playing games definitely appeals to me.

Ronya and I took the long road home late at night, a route that wound up taking even longer as much of 84th Street NE turns out to be permanently closed. Deciding on an alternate route in the dark was a little nerve wracking for me but we managed and got home safe and sound, if a bit chilled.

And now, off to work.

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That's not quite how the manual describes it…

The motorcycle drama continues.

On the Good side: One new and inexpensive 15Amp fuse brought the Suzuki back to life. That and having it’s battery recharged meant it started without a hitch and ran… well, it ran like a very old bike, which means lots of oily smoke and rough noise. But it runs strong.

Suzuki – They just won’t die.

On the Very Good side: Loving members of my tribe banded together and bought me a new battery for my Yamaha since the old battery doesn’t appear to exist, at least as far as the batter charger is concerned. We all crossed fingers and hoped the new battery would be the solution to the bike’s dead-ness.

On the Negative side: Hooking up the new battery to the Yamaha did nothing. Zilch. Nada. It’s dead-ness remained just as dead as… some very dead thing. A doornail, I think.

On the Very Good side: Undaunted and with a deep reserve of Refusing-To-Give-Up R managed to take the ignition panel off and traced the ignition wires to the REAL fuse for ignition. Apparently the other eight or so fuses I found in the rat nest of wires all deal with a bunch of other things. What they deal with I had no idea, but I’m suspecting I might have some clues to a couple of them.

The fuse she found was on a black wire and encased in a black in-line fuse case and tucked deep between the frame and the gas tank, so it’s no surprise I never noticed it. Once pulled, though, it was the obvious point of failure. The fuse wasn’t just blown, the fuse casing was partially melted and the wire burned through part of it’s insulation. Evidently the surge was huge, but just as evidently the fuse did it’s job. The point right before the fuse was the center of the melted bits, everything after the fuse was intact and unscathed. Let us all bow our heads in a moment of respect for the poor selfless fuse who gave up it’s life so that the bike itself would live.

Bless you little fuse. *snif*

We attempted to find a similar fuse assembly at Canadian tire, but no luck. We thought we’d found a usable casing but it was actually too small for the replacement fuse. Still undaunted R took a pointy tool to the old casing, scraping all the burnt pieces away, trimmed and re-attached the wire, and managed to seat the new fuse in what remained of the old casing. A judicious cocoon of electrical tape served to seal the deal and we installed the home made fuse assembly into the bike’s hidden innards. It might sound risky to you, but trust me the rest of the wiring is just as … “special”.

Putting the whole deal together we turned the key, made sure body parts were clear of all electrical and potential moving parts, and hit the button. First off, the good news was that all the lights came back on when we turned the key. The second bit of good news was that the starter turned over quite energetically when the start button was pressed. We did bite our nails a bit, though, as it took a good pair of minutes to get the bike to actually start. The gas in the tank, it be a bit old.

So, it runs.

I tucked all the rasta-dreads wiring back into the frame as best I could and replaced the side panels to hold it all in. Imagine picking up a wad of cooked spaghetti with salad tongs and you’ll have a pretty good impression of what the whole setup looks like.

And thus we took off for our first ride of the season, a quick jaunt to the belt-line to join some friends and family for dinner at Chianti‘s. And lo it worked. Well… mostly.

There are still a few hitches.

The original battery had some additional wire attached to it that connected to some lead from the display panel. The new battery has no such wire. While the bike still runs without it there’s a status indicator on the bike’s dash that I think is trying to tell me I have no battery.

Ah well, I can ignore that.

The second hitch relates to the gas tank. I think I may have jostled some other wire that connected to a gas tank sensor because the instrument panel also tells me I have no fuel, even right after I’ve filled up.

Ah well, I can live without a gas gauge.

The Suzuki doesn’t even have one. With that bike you simply reset the travel odometer when you fill up and keep in mind that you generally have 180 to 200 km worth of fuel, depending on how you drive. When the travel odometer gets to 150 km you start thinking about fueling up. Not quite as convenient as a fuel gauge but you get used to it.

Sadly, the travel odometer on the Yamaha doesn’t work.

Ah well, I thought, I’ll just mentally note what the real odometer is set at when I fill up and keep a target number in mind. That will let me know when I need to start looking for a gas station.

So, we filled up the bikes and took off down the road. I took note of the odometer reading, added 150 to it and set that as the number in my mind.

After far too short of a ride we arrived at the restaurant and found parking nearby. I thought to check the odometer to see how far we’d ridden and thus estimate how much gas I had left.

The odometer reading was exactly the same as it was at the gas station. Apparently it isn’t just the trip odometer that’s busted, the real odometer is busted too.


Okay, now I just have to be paranoid about filling up frequently.

After dinner R and I chose to take a very roundabout route home to get more riding time in. We ventured up into the NW before coming down Sarcee to Glenmore and eventually home. Along the way we tested out our bike radios and found them a bit… touchy. We’re definitely going to have to play around with the VOX settings so that speaking will set them off but road noise won’t. I expect it’ll be a while before we get it just right.

In the meantime R pointed out that my brake light doesn’t work when I hit the brakes. Okay, that will need to be addressed right away. The last thing I need is some sleepy driver flattening me to the pavement because he can’t tell I’m stopping.

Hopefully it’s just a bulb and not another fuse in that horrendous rats nest.

The adventure continues.

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Best. Bike. Ever!

Mission Motors may be my new heroes in motorcycle construction. This beauty, The Mission One, is the electric bike of my dreams:

No Clutch, 100 lb-ft of torque off the line, 100 lb-ft of torque up to 60 mph, 100 lb-ft of torque for all speeds in between. ONE HUNDRED FOOT POUNDS OF TORQUE! We were jaw-drop impressed with the Buell’s 80 lb-ft of torque last month.

Top speed of 150 mph, which translates into 240 kph! I would never, ever ride it that fast, but it’s cool to know it can. Okay, maybe I’d try it once. On a very straight, very flat road… or maybe on the Salt Flats of Utah.

Range of 150 miles, which translates into a range of 240 kilometers, which is 40 kilometers longer than our smaller Suzuki 550 and about 60 or so kilometers longer than our bigger Yamaha XJ1100. It would take 2.5 hours to charge from a 220V outlet, 8 hours from a standard 110V, so this probably wouldn’t be ideal for touring, but within the city I have yet to go farther than 100 kilometers in a single day. In theory I could use this for two or three days without needing another charge.

And last but not least, almost entirely silent. The only noise is the slight whine of the electric motor and the roll (possibly the squeal?) of the tires on the road. No longer would bike gangs be rumbling noisy mobs, instead they would be super fast stealthy ninja clans.

The other interesting feature? The bike is wireless enabled, allowing you to download trip data to your laptop to analyze performance, presumably to tune the recharging brakes that turn stopping torque back into battery charging electricity. You can track such ride data as speed, location, lean angle, motor current, battery voltage and efficiency, etc. Truly a high tech bike for nerds.

The one drawback? Currently only available for $70k, and not ready until 2010. I’m sure that price would come down over time, though, and god knows if I had the spare money for it I’d definitely pony up for one.

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Getting all fired up

Ronya and I fired up our motorbikes today.

Not that we actually went out riding, mind you, but we did start them up. It’s our way of trying to keep the batteries from wearing down and checking the bikes themselves out for any major maintenance issues.

Much to my delight we were able to get the Yamaha XJ1100 started up all on it’s own. The Suzuki 550 was a little more stubborn and took a quick boost from the Yamaha to get going. Shane and Dianne’s Suzuki 750, unfortunately, would not catch, and unlike the batteries on the other two bikes it’s battery is pretty much innaccessible without tools. We didn’t feel like struggling with tools and bike parts this afternoon so we left it alone. It turns over just fine, it just didn’t catch. We will try again when it’s warmer.

Ammo Box being sized as a saddle bag

Ammo Box being sized as a saddle bag

While we were letting the bikes run and their batteries charge we took some time to photograph the XJ1100 with the ammo boxes I bought last summer. Ideally I’d like to be able to turn the boxes into saddlebags for the bike. In checking it out we reasoned that in order to keep them from riding so high as to overbalance the bike I’d need to move the signal lights. Even if we did mount the boxes above the signal lights they’d be mounted so far underneath the boxes that they’d effectively be useless.

Luckily for me the mounting bolts for the lights look remarkably simple to work with and there’s only two wires to worry about. I should be able to either move them further back towards the brake light or perhaps higher up on the rear of the seat and above the boxes. Higher up makes sense, now that I think about it, as that would make them even more visible to other motorists.

Ronya planning her garden

Ronya planning her garden

Ronya and I also spent a couple of hours at a coffee shop this afternoon doing some reading, writing, and garden design. Ronya received her first Calgary Horticulturist magazine in the mail today and it’s given her no end of ideas for this summer. Mix that in with our thoughts of touring on our bikes and it makes for a very long, long winter to have to wait through.

In other news Coraline is opening this weekend. There aren’t any showtimes listed yet but I thought I might throw it out there to see if anyone wants to go see it on opening weekend. Lately I’ve all but given up on opening night viewings because I’m getting old enough to really dislike crowds, but such films as Coraline and the upcoming Star Trek movie may entice me if there are enough people going along.

Free tools!

Somebody gave me some free tools this morning. When I opened the front door to let Cali out I happened to notice a couple of tool boxes lying on the ground. One the street. Beside my motorcycle.

The obviously conclusion is that someone was trying to steal my bike, although how they were going to do that with a set of socket wrenches and some wire crimping tools I don’t know. But they either wandered off in confusion or were scared away by someone’s sudden arrival.

Honestly, I’m quite confused. The bike is a quarter of a decade old and looks it. While it’s a great bike I can tell you for certain that there are several brand new bikes just a couple of blocks away. I’m talking Ducatis. So why they would be interested in my 1982 Yamaha I have no idea.

Anyway, as far as I can tell the bike is intact (although I’ll be doing some test drives around the block to be sure before heading anywhere) and now we have some free tools. A complete socket set, minus the actual wrench (and possibly one socket), and a complete set of wire crimpers and cutters.

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Long story short…

The weekend before last I rode out to visit Ronya in Kananaskis and bring her some lunch. On the way back I got caught in torrential rain storm… twice. Why twice? Because I missed the turn in Turner Valley, drove through the storm, wound up back in Kananaskis country and had to drive back through the storm to get back to Calgary.

Throughout all this my weather “resistant” pocket on the left side of my jacket wasn’t quite sealed properly and my phone was in it. By the time I got home the pocket was a swimming pool. My former cell phone is now a tiny little fish bowl with it’s screen half filled with water. You can turn it over and watch the water slosh around if you like. That’s about the only thing it’s good for these days.

So I went out and bought myself a new cell phone… yet again. This time I bought a Blackberry.

It sucks. It sucks horribly. It sucks so horribly I immediately went out and bought a different phone again. This one, however, works wonderfully, even if it does run on Windows. I try to overlook that as best I can.

The gist of this whole entry is… I no longer have anyone’s phone numbers. Well, I do have Ronya and Diannes’, but that’s it.

So, if you want me to have your phone number please leave me a reply here. All comments are screened so I’ll be the only one to see them.

Hopefully I won’t be doing this again for at least another year or two. *crosses fingers*