Gratitude and Achievements

Midnight in Revelstoke as we stop to pick up more caffeine

Midnight in Revelstoke as we stop to pick up more caffeine

Things I’m grateful for today:

1) A pipe and some tobacco turns a walk into a Walk
2) Dave’s Lounge podcast on my headphones during a walk turns the city into a Movie Scene
3) Hand drawn lunch bags worthy of framing

My recent achievements:

I wrote a 1,200 word scene describing the character’s living quarters and her prosthetics. During this writing I determined the map of the pacific NW of the United States pinned to her office wall needed to be placed upside down for story specific reasons. I also determined why her right arm and left leg were replaced: she’s right handed. If your right hand is your primary hand then your left leg is your primary leg.

I managed, with assistance, to drive 12 hours to visit love, light, and reassurance, and managed to drive 10 hours back to home.

When faced with demons at home, demons who had not spent the weekend driving but had instead spent the weekend resting and honing their sharps, instead of battling them alone I went for a walk with my pipe and reached out to others. I did not make any connections that evening but the simple act of reaching left me out of the demons’ reach for a number of hours and set up some social appointments for the near future.

I have sat down with my keyboard and written words.

I have slept well enough, and deeply enough, to have some very intense and fantastical dreams. Unfortunately that’s all I can remember about them: that they were intense and fantastical. I may need to start keeping a dream journal by my bed if I’m going to have more dreams like those.

And today I managed a full workday of constant activity, dragged my ass home to a nap and food, and attended one of those social appointments I made. Then I made another.

I managed four successes in two days.

Forward, with steps and intent.

A Chaotic start to a new year

Okay, so… Christmas.

Christmas was incredibly busy. I started a new job at a motorcycle shop back in October and handed in my notice to my old employer. Then the moto shop owner decided he didn’t need me in full time and told me he’d only have use for me for three days a week. My former employer was very understanding and allowed me to hang on at part time for a while, but that meant I was working six days a week. Six days a week and, somehow, I was taking home less money than I’d been making with just the one job.

Working more and making less meant that Christmas was pretty much cut to the bare minimum. No non trad and no gifts beyond the immediate family. It was a long, cold, and exhausting December. On the plus side I did get several days off around the holiday itself, which meant I had more time to visit with Dianne and the family. The downside of that is that meant I was making even less money. January was, to say the least, fucking poor.

Christmas itself was warm and comforting. I got to play some new games, and some very old games. I gifted the boys with a copy of “Small World” and the adults with a copy of “Pandemic”. We only played Small World once and were working out the rules as we went along, so it was hard to gauge as to whether or not it was fun. There was too much fumbling and thinking about the rules to really enjoy it. I’m hoping the boys give it a few more tries.

Pandemic, on the other hand, was a pretty good hit right from the start. Possibly because I’d already played it once before and there was less fumbling around with the rules. In all honesty, though, I just love the game for it’s own sake. I know I’m late to the table over it as the game was release years ago, but it was still new to everyone else and we all seemed to enjoy it. The game is cooperative with everyone either winning or losing. You either succeed in wiping out the four epidemics threatening the world or the entire world dies. The game inspires a strong sense of collaboration and people (okay, mostly me) can get really excited about it.

I’m going to have to see if there’s a fan group for it. I’m just smitten.

By the time my new boss was able to take me on for “full time” in January I realized he wouldn’t have me for more than seven hours a day for four days and six hours for the fifth. Even at “full time” I was, in fact, working a part time job. My previous employer, trying to be as understanding as they could, honestly didn’t think they could keep me on for just one day a week. So in one swift stroke I was working fewer hours for less money per hour. I could have returned to my former job and resumed making what I was making before, but despite the temptation I set my jaw and resolved to keep moving forward. I’ve spent so much of my life playing it safe and that has taken me to where I am now, and where I am now isn’t terribly happy.

Then opportunity hit with another job I’d applied for earlier. They called me up one morning and asked if I could start in a week. Thinking back, if the motorcycle shop owner had originally hired me on for a real full time job back in October I would have had to have provided him with two weeks’ notice and I would have had to turn the new job offer down. As luck would have it he never did officially hire me on as full time which, while I meant I was earning crap, also meant I could leave at any time. So I did. I handed my notice in the day I got the call and walked out.

I spent the rest of that week visiting with Dianne and the boys in BC. As fate would have it my visit coincided with her graduation ceremony for the photography course she finished last year. Not only was I able to attend but I was also able to help her set up and transport her display. Numerous people commented on her display with great enthusiasm. While most of the other students were content to just put their pictures up Dianne created a presentation that lived and breathed along with her photos. Where other students had frames and easels to hold up their photos Dianne installed her photography amoungst an old typerwriter, a steamer trunk, a black suitcase more than a century old, an artists’s portable work desk complete with pencils and paints. She added accents with an old pair of wire rimmed glasses, a fine fedora hat, a small collection of pocket watches, pens, pencils, brushes… a whole palet of life and art.

I have to say that while the other students had done pretty good at setting up individual photographs, each one illustrating some moment in time, Dianne excelled at setting up an entire novel of memories and storylines. People admired the other photographs. People took pictures of Dianne’s table.

I returned after too short of a visit to start my new job last Monday. The new job is with a large dental supply company with over twenty locations around Canada and a couple in the US. They hired me on for true full time work at more pay and with benefits starting in three months. As an added cherry to the whole package the location I’m working at is a twenty minute walk from my home. Not only will I be earning more money with benefits but I’ll be saving a little on commute costs as well by walking to work. On truly frigid days I also have the option of taking a bus down 17th ave if I just can’t face the walk.

So far I have effectively doubled my daily walking average. The job, while not overly strenuous, is continuous. I’m never idle, and I’m never sitting down. The “never idle” part is good in that it keeps the hours passing relatively quickly, but the “never sitting” part is a bit hard on my feet. I’m hoping the new pair of shoes I invested in this weekend help out with that.

In the last four months I have had a terrible time sleeping. The uncertainty of my world, the constant worrying about having enough work to pay my bills and the ever dwindling supply of my savings had me losing hours of sleep every night. I can honestly say that, since I started my new job last week, I have slept better every night than I have in years. I’m not sure how much of that is due to having less uncertainty in my life and how much is due to my constant physical activity, but I have to say I’m enjoying the restful sleep very much.

Taking a very long ride

Took the motorbike out for a vacation a couple of weeks ago. I was firmly reminded of a few lessons I’d obviously forgotten. Primary among them was: don’t trust the weather reports.

When I left Calgary the long term forecast showed that we’d be going through a heat wave for the rest of the week with temperatures in the thirties. Based on this I decided to not take the second dry bag with my extra layers in it. I was already sweltering in the heat we had I didn’t foresee any need for more layers. And I was right, for the whole vacation… except for the last two hours.

The orange patch on my bag is a handful of shammy cloths I picked up at a gas station in an effort to make the tool kit a little less pokey.

The orange patch on my bag is a handful of shammy cloths I picked up at a gas station in an effort to make the tool kit a little less pokey.

I’d also forgotten the lesson I learned riding from Seattle to Portland and back last year: I need both bags for complete back support. The one bag by itself is big enough that I can lean back on it, but that puts me at an angle that puts a lot of my weight right on my tailbone. After a few hours of that my ass feels like it’s going to seize up permanently.

I managed to fix that a bit, eventually, by shoving my minimal toolkit into the outside pocket of the backpack. This added about an inch to the bag and pushed me forward enough to take the pressure off of my tailbone. The downside of this was that the contact point on the back became a square, fist-sized lump of metal in the center of my back. If I can just remember how that felt I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget my secondary bag again. And if that doesn’t work…

My ride back was a lot less sunny than the ride out. I skirted several storms on the way. I kept hitting the edge of rain, occasionally getting some mist on the face-plate, but escaped the majority of it. That is until just short of Banff.

Between Lake Louise and Banff I hit cold, bitter rain, and the rain kept up all the way into Calgary. By the time I got home I was soaked head to toe and chilled to the bone. The one saving grace is that I was home and could dump my cold, wet clothes and jump into the shower immediately to get warm again. It took a good twenty minutes in the hot shower. One of the side effects of being as big as I am is that my body is very slow to change temperature. In cold weather this can be a benefit as I can stay warm longer than most, but once I’m cold I’m in serious trouble because it takes that much longer to get warm again.

So… metal fist in my back and bone chilling cold and wet… both of those should remind me to never opt out of taking my additional layers with me.

Nowhere else in the world is it so easy to take a good selfie.

The ride itself was beautiful. I’m fortunate to live within a few hours’ ride of some incredibly majestic scenery. I’m a crap photographer but even I can’t take a bad photo of the places I rode through.

Which is doubly fortunate as I can’t really afford to ride anywhere right now. I was only able to ride out to Quesnel because Shane and Dianne were willing to help me get there. Without their assistance I would have been spending my vacation at home playing minecraft all day.

I did do some things right, though. I packed a couple of big bottles of water, half frozen, and took lots of breaks. I probably stopped every hour or so to drink water and stretch my legs. It turned a ten hour trip into twelve hours but it was definitely necessary to rest. Since I couldn’t afford to stop half way in a hotel I had to make the entire trip in one shot. Stretching and drinking frequently were about the only things that allowed me to do that.

And now I know I can. Better than that, if I pack my bag properly, I’ll be able to do it even better, and possibly handle a longer trip.

Okay, random bits:

I confess that one of the reasons I was able to handle 12 hours on the bike was because I wore shoes instead of my motorcycle boots. Not wise, necessarily, as that leaves my ankles unprotected and my feet rather vulnerable, but honestly… biker boots have such a heel on them that they torque my ankle into unnatural angles as I ride. I’m either going to have to save up for some cruiser pegs or some good hiking boots. Personally I’m leaning towards the hiking boots, although having both would be idea. I just wish they could produce biker boots that don’t have a heel. Any time I have to walk in my biker boots I feel incredibly guilty about enjoying watching women walking in high heels. It looks great, I know, but I can also imagine that it must be hell to walk in for any length of time. The heels I have on my boots are probably less than half an inch but I still feel like I’m risking a broken ankle walking in them. Admittedly some of that risk is due to my weight, but still… heels are stupid.

The advantage of riding in the middle of the week: No Traffic

The advantage of riding in the middle of the week: No Traffic

At one point I had a small black bear cross the road in front of me. I had plenty of time to slow down, didn’t even need to touch my brakes, but the roar of my bike downshifting into first from high speed second really spooked the little guy and he scrambled up the scree on the other side of the road like hell itself was on his heels. I felt guilty about that. He didn’t need the scare, I’m sure.

I was worried about having enough gas to make it through the Glacier National Park, but that tourist trap at Saskatchewan Crossing was a life saver. Still, not knowing for sure I decided to pack a gas can with me anyway. But I grabbed the wrong gas can. I had a new one, somewhere, that has since gone missing. I thought it was the one I was taking with me but when I decided to fill it up at Deadman Flats I found I’d grabbed the old one instead. The one missing the pouring spout. I’m glad I never had to use my reserve gas as there was no way I could have avoided a horrendous mess. But now I have a full can of gas in my left hand saddle bag an no way to safely empty it. I’m going to have to buy a new gas can again just so I can use the spout.

A page a day, day fort-six: A dream that helps me sleep

The story of the Ship came about from a common daydream I’ve had for the past couple of years. A daydream I often use to calm my mind and help me get to sleep. If I don’t have a daydream I won’t get to have night dreams. My mind is far too occupied with the daily stress to let me sleep unless I throw it something shiny and smooth to play with.

The daydream is pure escapism in both the literal and cliche sense. I lie in bed, under my covers, sprawled across my pillows as comfortably as I’m able, and imagine that I’m the Ship. My brain is no longer housed in the failing cairn of flesh but rather safely installed in a massive metal box that will last for centuries.

The box replaces all of my standard senses with new, exciting ones. No longer bothered with a sense of smell or touch or taste I instead have dozens and dozens of eyes, each designed to pick out and analyze a particular spectrum of energy. I suppose at times I could trick the sensory input to come across as smell or taste, but that just links back to the flesh I’d long since discarded and it’s much more pure to see it all.

My legs become massive cannons of energy that propel me at insane speeds. My arms become servos and mechanisms that spend most of their time arranging and repairing things. And my brain becomes the central nervous system and pilot.

The real beauty of the fantasy is just imagining my mind pointing at a distant star and launching straight for it. Driving through the depths of space to find new worlds, but more importantly leaving this one safely behind. I would have a very simple and direct mandate: explore and report. I wouldn’t be responsible for finding life or locating newly habitable worlds. I wouldn’t have to make any major decisions at all. I’d just open the senses, record what I see, and beam it back over my shoulder without even looking.

I wouldn’t have to worry about provisions or shelter, it would all be self contained. The energy of the stars around me and some fairly complex internal power source would keep me sustained for hundreds and hundreds of years. Direct control over my processing speed would let the years pass like seconds, if I want them to, or let seconds pass like days if I really want to inspect something.

Actually, I never much daydreamed past the point of leaving the solar system. Achieving the hard shell of self sustaining safety and leaving at near the speed of light were the main goals, everything else was just gold farming and bonus points.

I understand the draw of religion. It’s a nice ideal to have, the belief that all this suffering and agony is ultimately going to result in some form of reward, that there is a greater being up above who has a Good Plan that provides for us and our best interests. It would be very reassuring, and I’m sure it helps people sleep at night.

In the morning I always remember that the ship is just a dream and that I still have to go to work to buy food, shelter, and clothing. I am very harshly reminded that I am not in a self sustaining pod and that I still have to haul this aging flesh around, to feed and bathe it, clothe it in something that fits and doesn’t hurt other people’s eyes while at the same time keeping me warm and comfortable. I’m constantly reminded that I have to try and eat the “right” food to keep this rapidly declining textbook example of entropy called a “body” from decaying too fast, but that nothing will ever actually stop the process. I’m painfully aware that I have a million and one worries to face and not one of them can be pawned of on some automated subsystem. I have to handle them myself, directly and personally, every fucking day.

But at night, in my imagination, I leave it all behind for a few precious minutes and fly away in a hard, clean ship that will never come back.

And that helps me sleep.

Quite often, it’s the only thing that does.

Some people really are out to kill me

The trip was a trial, a test, something to endure even as it was something to enjoy, and I’m told by a certain someone that I shouldn’t minimize the accomplishment. Here’s a link to my overall route.

I rode for several hours on roads. The hardest part of riding was dealing with the aching groin muscles. Some pain medication helped deal with that. The next hardest part with riding was, naturally, dealing with the other drivers. 99.999 percent of the drivers out on the road with me were reasonably competent and respectful.

A few, however, tried to kill me.

Number two on the list of “idiots out on the road with the sole purpose of killing me” was the soccer mom in the minivan who nearly side swiped me off of the I-5. I would have given her the finger but she never so much as glanced my direction. Hence my brush with death.

Number one on the list of “idiots out on the road with the sole purpose of killing me” was the redneck asshole with the black (of course) penis compensating dual wheel truck who decided his schedule was far more important than anybody’s life when he chose to pass a semi trailer truck going around a blind corner. He and I nearly had a meeting of the minds at a combined speed well in excess of 200 kph. Thankfully he was gracious enough to attempt this murderous move on a road that still afforded me a shoulder to dodge onto.

Had I caught his license plate I would have hunted him down and kicked the ever loving shit out of him. No jury in the world would have convicted me. Fortunately for him I didn’t even have enough time to get a good look at his face. I was too busy dodging his grill.

I can only hope that, when his idiocy finally kills someone, it only kills him.

*deep breath*

Your mission, should you choose to accept it...

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to survive the next corner. Good luck. This road will self destruct in five minutes.

The rest of the trip was … well, marvelous, for the most part. It was wonderful when I was visiting people, and it was interesting when I was seeing new sights, but I have to confess that taking a vacation alone is a wholely new experience and, quite honestly, it can be a little lonely.

Not that there aren’t advantages.

For one thing, there was never really any need to coordinate with others other than occasionally meeting up. I wasn’t ever holding anyone up, or left sitting and waiting. I didn’t have to worry about cutting into anyone else’s enjoyment with my lazy, tranquil approach to free time. I could just be me.

The problem with that is that “me” is generally a follower, not an initiator. Deciding what to do with my time was always the biggest challenge for me, mentally. And while I did enjoy everything I did, I was always worried I was missing out on something better. But then that’s nothing new. I’m sure I’ll be struggling with that to my grave.

However… I did it. I took the trip. It was a lot of work, it was a lot of effort, and it was a very long trip just to prove to myself that I could. But now I know. I know I can ride for over 3,500 kilometers and make it home safe. Next time won’t be an internal debate on whether or not I can, but rather a longer debate on where to go next.

And that debate starts now.

Finding #1: major roadways are, of course, the quickest way to get from point A to point B. However, they are not the “best” way to get to where you’re going when the goal isn’t speed but rather fun.

Finding #2: I’m terrible at making myself have fun along the way. True, I

Welcome to the rest stop. Take your helmet off, stay awhile.

Welcome to the rest stop. Take your helmet off, stay awhile.

succeeded in focusing on the journey rather than the destination, but each time I pulled over for a stop the itch to get moving again eventually overwhelmed me. I don’t think I ever stayed at any rest stop for more than five minutes unless I was a) stopping to eat or b) so incredibly sore that I had to walk it off until the pain ebbed. Clearly I need to learn to enjoy the stops more. I need to take more photos (and find out why my phone camera keeps deciding to default back to 800 x 600 when I clearly set it to the max resolution last time) and I need to do something with the other time there. I brought my pipe and tobacco along with the intent of enjoying it at one or more stops along the way, but I kept forgetting about it until I was unpacking at the hotel.

I should also be taking notes along the way. I need to keep a notepad handy at each stop to give me topics to write on when I’ve got more time.

I often considered naps but couldn’t bring myself to do it on the side of the road. I’ve napped against trees in the past and innevitably end up with something going down the neck of my shirt. I’m not the outdoors type.

Finding #3: Earplugs are essential. You might think it’s because of how loud my bike is, and I admit it is loud, but no it’s because of the steady wind noise past and through my helmet. I forgot to put earplugs in a few times and always wound up with ringing ears afterward. Once the ringing was bad enough to carry on well into the night. I would definitely risk hearing loss if I didn’t use earplugs.

WITH earplugs I can also control the airflow through my helmet. I can open the visor a crack to let air stream through, which really helps to keep my head cool. Without earplugs the noise is horendous and I can only ride with my visor completely closed.

Finding #4: I miss music. Driving in a car, especially alone, I fill the hours with a constant stream of music. I’ve tried that with the motorbike but I suspect that unless I’m willing to spend more than the cost of a new iPod on the earbuds the term “noise cancelling” is about as arbitrary as “two scoops”. The only way I’ve ever been able to ride with music has been to have the volume up loud enough to drown out the road noise. Definitely counter-productive.

I did bring my iPod with me, but after six hours of earplugs on the road and the prospect of earplugs while I sleep the thought of puting ear buds in my ears was considerably less than appealing.

Damn, if I’d taken more notes I could do more writing about the trip and less about the mechanics of the trip.

After my fiasco of picking motels along the way I developed a new tactic of booking a new place before I left the old. Dianne helped me out by introducing me to Hotwire, a service that looks for hotel deals for you. It worked brilliantly in the states but was rather lacking in Canada. Still, after the desperate search that wound me up at the Sunset Inn, it was a definite improvement.

Hotwire got me a room near the SeaTac airport just south of Seattle. It was an excellent location. Gorgeous room with high ceilings and blessedly firm bed. The hotel was located right on the old highway 99 which took me directly into the heart of Seattle with hardly any traffic at all. I drove straight to the hotel, unloaded all my stuff, took a short nap, then took a leisurely ride straight to Pike Place and all the touristy stuff you can shake a stick at.

The highway was ancient, defined by old routes laid on top of one another, and wound very chaotically along the coast and through numerous industrial sections. I had to pay close attention to ever sign as the road merged with three other highways at random moments and then, just as randomly, split off again. Once I was actually in downtown Seattle I was riding along a raised roadway about three floors above ground level. It was slightly disconcerting to be looking into third floor office windows flickering past you at 40 mph no more than ten feet from you.

I lucked out on an exit into the Pike Place Market almost by accident. I was enjoying the view of the bay and the piers so much I didn’t notice that my lane was about to end until it started to split off into an exit. By the time I realized where I was going I was already commited. Luckily for me it dumped me out right at the northernmost tip of the Market and I found a parking spot in a matter of minutes.

I developed a system for exploring that worked more on good luck and relatively decent folk than it did on any kind of preparation or caution. I packed my walking shoes in a saddlebag along with my shoulder bag and hat (a hat that the salesperson assured me was non-crush-able but is now hopelessly creased by being packed into a saddlebag and will forever now be relegated to bike hat duty). When I parked my bike I switched footwear, pulled out my bag and hat, and packed my boots into one saddlebag and my motorcycle jacket into the other. My gloves went into my helmet and the helmet went onto the seat rest. When I paid for my parking I was given a receipt that instructed me to keep it visible in the windshield. I wound up tucking it under a strap that fits across the passenger seat of the bike. Nothing was locked or otherwise secured. The only reason I didn’t lose any of it was because nobody decided to take it.

Which means either people are relatively decent and won’t rob you blind needlessly… or else robbers looked at the size of my gear and decided it was wiser to err on the side of caution. Or some blending of the two.

I wasn’t completely trusting, however. I left nothing of irreplaceable value with the bike. I kept all my keys, my wallet, and of course my passport on me at all times. Anything else that could have been stolen could have been replaced, in theory. It would have been pricey and annoying, but certainly not the end of th world.

Not my picture. Not sure why I didn´t take one myself.

Not my picture. Not sure why I didn´t take one myself.

Pike Place Market was a pleasant and busy place. I should have taken pictures. I’m really not sure why I didn’t. I think I was too busy dealing with the crowd, trying to avoid stepping on anyone.

I walked for several hours. I ate lunch at some seafood place (and had the roast beef, go me) and spent the rest of my afternoon trying to decide on where I might stop for coffee. I eventually came to realize a couple of things: not all coffee shops were open past dinner, and Pike Place itelf pretty much shuts down at 6pm. There were still several hours of dailight left and shops were already locked up tight. I eventually opted for some coffee bean ice cream instead, enjoying it in the park with a view of the bay.

I returned to my bike to find that, not only was it not ticketed or towed, but all of my belongings were still untouched. I counted it as a win.

That should hold it, right?

That should hold it, right?

The ride back on highway 99 was fairly uneventful, but at some point my mind must have wandered but I suddenly found myself merging onto the I-5. It came as a complete surprise. Luckily I aleady knew how to get to my hotel from the I-5 so I just went with it.

The SeaTac hotel was such a nice place I decided to stay an extra day. The desire to stay in a nice room combined with a bad perception shift of riding times gave me the idea that I’d keep my room booked at SeaTac and just ride down to Portland for the day.

Two things failed to occur to me: 1) Seattle to Portland is pretty much the same as Calgary to Edmonton, nearly three hours in steady traffic. 2) I’d be doing the ride without my usual gear, which meant I would be missing my incredibly helpful backrest formed out of my two water proof bags full of clothes. I got a direct lesson of just how much having a back rest improves my ride. By the time I made it back to my hotel the combined 6 hours of riding had my tailbone in agony. Never again.

Portland is a wonderful city and I really wish I had decided to get a room there instead. The five hours I spent visiting there really weren’t enough.

I met up with a lady I’d encountered on a social web site of mutual interest. We had chatted across the internet a few times a long time ago. We had lamented at the time that it was unfortunate we lived so far apart as we were a good match, socially. I pinged her out of the blue the day before I rode to Portland to find out if she was interested in a couple of hours of coffee. She was and we did. Conversation varied widely from green energy to travel to unfortunate habits. After coffee and dinner with her I set about exploring Powell’s Books for about an hour.

If you know anything about Powell’s Books you’ll know that an hour is nowhere near enough time. I’m not sure you could even walk the full range of the building in just an hour. I stuck with the fantasy and sci-fi section as I was quickly becoming overwhelmed as soon as I’d entered the doors and knew I’d run out of time before buying something if I didn’t narrow my tour at the outset.

They not only provide you with a map of the building as you enter but they also provide stacks of comment cards for customers who want to offer their own reviews of the books on the shelves. There were the usual front shelves of popular books, shelves of books on sale, and books with recommendations and reviews written by staff. There were also shelves of signed books and shelves of customer recommended books.

Unable to make an informed decision without breaking my own personal travel schedule I found myself mired in the Comic Book aisle drooling over all the tradebacks. I was impressed to discover the section was not sorted by author or title but instead by character or group. A much more sensible system for comic books. After all, if you’re interested in Spiderman you’re not going to be able to find all his comics if they’re organized by title. From Amazing to Ultimate the title of Spiderman comics runs just about the length of the alphabet. Much more sensible to just put them all together under the grouping of “Spiderman”.

I picked out a couple of TBs from the Avengers section, both for a relatively new (to me) title of Avengers Academy. I figured a couple of TBs was about the most I could wedge into my luggae without having to throw something else out first.

I parked in Portland the same way I’d parked in Seattle: with all my gear shoved into my saddlebags, my helmet on the back of my seat, and the parking pass tucked under the strap of my passenger seat. Once again I returned to my bike to find it was entirely untouched.

I’m not sure how long that’s going to work for me. I acknowledge that I need to come up with a better system.

More later…

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.

I’m trippin’

“Bear Bells” I said, as the runner jingled past my open window.

“What?”

“Bear Bells. That both trumps Banff and gives me double points for alliteration.”

“What bear bells?” she asked, looking around.

“The runner back there.” I said, gesturing behind us.

“Ooh, good one.”

She switched applications on her table and entered my trump.

“Two points for alliteration. Of course you already had Banff so you’re really only gaining one point.”

“Every point counts.” I said, grinning.

She looked back at the runner.

“Good looking woman.” she said. Then she grinned and turned back to her tablet.

“What?” I asked, sensing she was up to something.

She typed away quickly then turned her tablet towards me.

“You know I can’t read without my glasses.” I said.

“Babe with Bear Bells.” she said, a grin of triumph across her face.

I rolled my eyes.

“Three letters of alliteration, double the double, that gives me four points and trumps your two.”

“I don’t suppose I could trump that with Bitch, could I?” I asked, gracing her with a sidelong glare.

“Nope! We’d have to both agree on it.” She grinned at me.

“We both have to agree on Babe Bear Bells too.”

She just sat there, staring at me with her playful grin.

I sighed.

“Fine, Babe Bear Bells it is.”

We’d been playing for most of the trip, make the rules up as we went. It was all part of our clever plan to make the trip as fun as possible. It was already proving to be a tad trying.

The whole thing had been my idea, though, so I really couldn’t complain. And in all honesty I was having a pretty good time. I just wished we’d had better luck.

She’d started our Sunday morning with a phone call home, checking up on her boys. They were all packing up and preparing for a week of capming. She had joked with him over the trials of wrangling three red headed and terribly independent boys into working together. Apparently things were going about as well as could be expected.

When she hung up her expression was thoughtful and sad. While she hadn’t really been all that keen on going camping herself, she was definitely missing them. It had been a long two weeks away already, and a third was looming with increasing demand. Clients were anxious to squeeze out as much time with her as they could, begging her to stay longer. She had agreed both to appease them and, she admitted, as an escape from the rigors of roughing it, but now I could see she was starting to resent what the extra week would cost her.

“How’s he doing?” I asked, slipping on my shoes.

She gave me a sidelong smile. “He’s excited to go camping, but he misses me.” She sat on the couch with a sigh. “I miss him too. It’s been a rough two weeks.”

I twinged in sympathy. I knew how rough it had been on both of them and wished there were something I could do to make it better.

That’s when I had the idea. I sat down beside her, taking up her hand.

“You know, if you wanted, I’d gladly drive you out there. Even for just a night.”

She looked at me with eyes wide. “Seriously? That’s… that would be crazy.”

I grinned. “Yeah, well, crazy is what we do, right?”

She turned to me. “Are you really serious? That’s a hell of a lot of driving.”

My grin grew wider as a warm sense of certainty relaxed my shoulders like a massage. It was definitely the right idea.

“I’m serious. We always love doing road trips together and we’re trying to come up with something to do for the weekend anyway. You wanted to do a day trip somewhere, why not just make it a complete win-win? We get to have a good road trip, you get to see him and the boys, and they get to see you.”

She stuttered a bit.

“But… ten hours, we’d have to leave right now, and we’re not packed…”

“One night. That’s all we need to pack for. You don’t need to bring anything else.”

She lit up with another thought.

“But we could, right? The car will be mostly empty anyway, we can take a few things…”

“What are you thinking?” I asked, suddenly a little worried about what I’d inspired.

“What time do the stores open?”

As it was Sunday the stores didn’t open until 11, which gave us time to haphazardly pack for an overnight stay and grab some breakfast. Stopping at the mall drug store for antihistamines, road snacks, and water we made one last stop before hitting the road.

Her boys had all worked very hard through the school year and she wanted to make sure they were rewarded. She’d avoided doing any shopping initially because she didn’t want to limit herself to what little she could pack onto the plane with her, but now that we were taking the car she could grab something much, much bigger.

The Lego store was pure consumerist temptation honed with surgical precision. A wide open, colorful space that nonetheless offered everything you could think of in Lego, plus plenty of things you didn’t. They have a computer display set into one wall that operates as a spellbinding magic mirror. It detects which Lego kit box you’re holding and shows you an image of yourself and the box with the completed kit projected above the box. As you turn and tilt the box the magic mirror turns and tilts the completed kit with you, keeping it perfectly aligned with the box. You get to see the entire completed kit from every angle, occasionally highlighted with animated characters scurrying about inside and around it.

It’s pure evil. You’re already facing temptation just walking into the store. For them to hit you with a concentrated dose like that is practically… irresponsible.

We walked out of there with about as much as we could carry of the latest releases tied in with the Avengers movie. She even went so far as to buy me the kit with the S.H.I.E.L.D. truck carrying Hawkeye and Loki with Iron Man in hot pursuit.

The completed kit sits on my shelf looking exactly the way it did in the magic mirror, except that Iron Man doesn’t fly behind it. Damned false advertising, that is.

As we left the city she expressed her concerns.

“This is a lot to do for a one night visit. Ten hours of driving, each way, down some of the most tiring road in the country. I don’t want you to resent this.”

“Hey, it’ll be fun.” I said, trying to reassure her. “We always have a good time on road trips.”

“Okay, but I want to make sure we’re doing this for fun,” she said, “and not out of a sense of obligation.”

“You know me, hon,” I said, grinning, “I never do anything out of mere obligation.”

But we did everything we could to make sure it was fun, including the alphabet game. Partly out of some lost childhood memory but mostly out of spontaneous creativity we gradually devised the rules of the game:

1) Find something during the trip that starts with a letter of the alphabet that hasn’t already been claimed. That’s worth one point.
2) You can trump a previous claim if the general consensus is that it’s a more… worthy entry.
3) Alliteration is worth double points, each doubling applied with each additional word. Hence Bear Bells is worth two points, but Babe Bear Bells is worth four.
4) Alliteration bonus is lost if we don’t claim every single letter of the alphabet by the end of the trip.

This not only gave us something to engage in while staring out the windows, it also gave us a bit of a record of the trip.

Some notable entries:

“Jezusfuck!” claimed by Dianne as a brainless tourist from Michigan stomped on the breaks in the middle of the road to gawk at some deer. They apparently didn’t get the hint from the other twenty cars who had all pulled over that the middle of the road wasn’t the place to stop. Dianne also gained the entry of “Moronic Michigan Motor-home” for that.

“Pipe” claimed by me as we stopped in tourist clogged Banff to pick one up. I had meant to bring mine with me for the trip, along with the jacket I’d kept it in. I’d forgotten both, as well as quite a few other things, proving yet again that I am not well suited to spontaneous plans. I also got to claim Illegal for my parking, while Dianne claimed Unlawful for the signs telling all the tourists as politley as possible to please not feed the wildlife. Less onerous than Illegal the government had decided to gently suggest that it was Unlawful to feed the bears.

“Erosion” also claimed by Dianne as we noted massive chunks of road washed away by the persistent rains in BC. It had been raining almost nonstop for weeks and some areas were heavily flooded. Many ditches along the highway had become free flowing rivers.

It was a long trip out, made longer by a marathon running through the glacier park often slowing traffic down to the pace of a… well, as a runner. The delay through the park also gave the eldest son a bit of stress as he waited impatiently for our updates. Partly as a lesson in responsibility and partly as a responsible act in and of itself she had phoned her eldest boy directly to let him know we were coming. She wanted to surprise her man but didn’t necessarily want to leave our arrival to chance. There were a lot of things that could go wrong between here and there, and a lot of dead air space for the wrong things to happen in. So while the boy got both a real life demonstration in responsible travel he also got a little stressed as our four hour dead air space through the park stretched out into five. He was quite relieved to finally hear from us again as we reached the oasis of Jasper.

Enough for now. I may write more about it later.

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.

Riding 279k for dinner at the {Animal} & {Building}

Writing this at the Elephant & Castle (or Ermine & Vestibule, or Jaguar & Nook) in Edmonton because I took a road trip on a whim. I never do this. I never do anything on a whim. Okay, maybe “never” is too absolute a word, but damned rarely.

I really wanted to take the bike out yesterday. Really, really did. There’s just one problem: I couldn’t decide on a destination. Yes, this continues to be a problem for me. If I want to go for a long ride I can’t just jump on the bike and ride, I have to have a goal in mind. Even if I don’t care about reaching the goal, and even if I change my mind partway there and decide on somewhere else to go, I need to have a goal in mind before I set out. If I don’t then I just wind up sitting on the bike at an intersection trying to decide which way to turn.

So I didn’t go anywhere, just stayed home and played Champions Online for free. Not a bad game. It’s another MMO but it’s a super hero MMO and I enjoyed playing with the theme. I created a Brick character, which I often do when trying a new game for the first time. The tactics are easy and don’t get in the way of learning the controls. Just smash, smash, smash, and smash some more. I did start to tire of having to run around all over the place picking up little quests and whatnot, but when I leveled I got to pick a “travel” superpower and picked “superleap” to go with my character. Now she bounds whole city blocks with a single jump. Much faster.

I had fun, and even played into the wee hours a bit, but I did still kind of regret not actually getting out on the bike.

Well this morning Scott invited me to join him and his friends on a short jaunt to Cremona to check out a hardware store, of all things, for some wedding supplies.

The hardware store did not have what was required, unfortunately, but the proprietor did promise to try tracking down the items of interest for our friend.

We then stopped for a lunch that was staggering unimpressive except for one singular dish that had us all intrigued: Taco in a bag. The ingredients are so simple I fully intend on trying it out myself someday for a work lunch. It’s the perfect bachelor lunch: half a bag of Doritos, still in the bag, topped up with beef, beans, cheese, veggies, salsa, and sour cream. Fold over the top of the bag and serve. We speculated that it would be a marvelous motorcycle lunch as you could string the bag up agains the engine and let the heat melt the cheese.

Lunch was followed by a brief trip to the antique store next door where the whole group played with a couple of sword canes. One was priced ten bucks more than the other one. I finally gave in and bought the more expensive one when I realized the reason it was priced higher is because it didn’t rattle when shaken. It is solid and well built. The shaft is metal, the whole thing carries weight, and even the blade seems reasonably substantial and not merely theatrical.

Christine’s boyfriend bought the other one (sorry, I’m terrible with names) and there was some discussion of sword fights and duels that gradually shifted to the potential for motorcycle jousting.

Don’t worry, we didn’t actually try, but we did come up with some solid ideas on how to mount the canes on our bikes so they’d be handy. Now I’m prepped to go all Mad Max with my bike, although I refuse to wear the assless chaps without pants.

Everyone else was ready to head back home but I felt like I was just getting started. I decided to give in to impulse and turned north when they turned south (I’d already told them I would so they weren’t alarmed at this… yes, I plan my impulses. Don’t you?) and I took highway 2A to Red Deer.

I stopped in Red Deer to give Tammy a call to see if she would be free for coffee in Edmonton. In true Tammy and Joel tradition she was in Calgary the one and only day I would be in Edmonton. Every other time she’s been in Calgary she’s called me up to go for coffee and I’ve been in some other city entirely. It’s almost guaranteed that if I go for a trip somewhere Tammy will be in Calgary looking for someone to go to coffee with. This weekend is, of course, no different.

Were this Friday instead of Saturday I might have continued on past Edmonton to visit Connie and Colin, but I have to be back at work on Monday and my visit would consist of showing up mid-evening and leaving in the morning. Not really worth it.

In Edmonton I parked the bike just off of Whyte Ave and went in search of supper. Not having any way to secure the cane in my saddlebag I had to take it with me, making me look like the old, damaged biker, likely with a busted kneecap from some past accident. At least it didn’t feel weird.

And now I’ve had a good steak and fries with a mediocre fruit crumble and need to start on my way back to Calgary. I’d like to get back before it’s dark. Drivers seem to have a hard enough time seeing us bikers in the daylight, I get a little nervous on the highway at night.

And my little netbook works like a dream. I’m so glad I bought it.