As I've mentioned so many times in the past, I'm ill. It's one of the reasons that my bike has so little mileage on it despite me having owned it for so long. There were a number of years where it simply hurt too much to ride. At some point, I discovered that I could manage my condition by modifying my diet. Everything(tm) changed after that. In this modern prepackaged world, it's a fairly difficult diet to follow but I manage and have been doing much better for the last many years.
However, sometimes I will inadvertently eat something that sets my system into chaos and such was the case on Wednesday evening and Thursday. As I warn everyone I travel with, sometimes I'm down for the count and have to not move for a while. Fortunately, in this case, I was alone so wasn't dampening anyone else's enjoyment for which I was grateful.
While bad, I knew from experience that it should pass within 24 hours. I was texting Bruce on Thursday and happened to mention that I had just done Route 191 from Clifton to Springerville. "I've never been there but would kind of like to check it out someday."
"It's just one day from your house." I replied.
Bruce is a man of careful long planning and ponders decisions, especially when it feels like he's shirking his responsibilities, for a very long time. This is the reason that I'm so amazed that he takes 10 days out every year to fly to the East Coast to ride the guest bike downt to Deal's Gap with Duncan and I. (The same goes for Duncan.) I feel very privileged.
I am, however, also the Great Enabler(tm).
"I could hang out here until you get here Friday. Then we ride it Saturday and go home Sunday."
"Why didn't I think of that?" he replied but I knew full well this was something that was far too short notice for Bruce. It must be pondered. Responsibilties and duties must be addressed. He would have to ponder it and then carefully discuss it with his wife, Ha. (Ha rocks like nobody's business, by the way. She, like Bruce, is family to me.) He would have to consider whether he could allow himself to go given that he's already committed to going to Deal's Gap in June.
To do both would be decadence and indulgence on a level unheard of for Bruce, so I knew full well it wasn't something that was going to happen.
Then I got the text some hours later, "I'll be there. What hotel?"
I was floored. This is simply unheard of. In the nearly 3 decades I've known Bruce he has never done anything like this. The weather was supposed to be fantastic and I was already starting to feel a bit better. Even if I wasn't 100% I wasn't going to miss this.
In our lttle group of riders, we all run the Sena SMH10 Blue Tooth communicator. While it has it's down sides if you're traveling with the wrong people, when you have a good group that gets along and isn't too chatty it's a fantastic way of calling out hazards, coordinating stops and being more "together" on a motorcycle trip.
On the last Deal's Gap trip, Audrey, being kindness incarnate, loaned him hers. It completely changed the trip and as a result getting one was on his list, but Bruce is very cautious about spending anything on himself, his life and focus being his family, so I knew it was going to be some time before he would purchase one.
John also has one. So as we headed across country and discussed riding with Bruce we thought it would be awesome if he had one as well. So we hatched a plan to get him one, but unfortunately none of the shops we stopped at had them. Our evil plans were thwarted.
Thinking about 191 and how treacherous it is with all the tar snakes and gravel in many corners and all the hours we would be spending alone in our helmets and how little time we had actually had to talk over the last weekend, I thought "It would be awesome if Bruce had one." as I started searching around for motorcycle shops within 100 miles. Out of character, I even picked up the phone and started calling and talking to people. I hate talking on the phone.
"I can order one but it'll get here next Tuesday." one shop said.
"I need it by tomorrow mid day."
"You're going to be hard pressed to find one that quick."
I knew it was a long shot, so I gave up the search and went in search of coffee. I was starting to feel better, but I was bummed. It would have been so cool if I could have gotten one. I knew it would be something he would really have appreciate and gotten a kick out of.
It was painfully late in the day when I decided to try something, a real serious long shot, which was for me a completely out of character act. I hate last minuting anyone. I hate making special requests. I hate asking. I hate imposing.
It was really late. Way too late to get something overnighted when I wondered, "Could RevZilla get me one?" I looked at the site when I figured, "Well, I guess there's no harm in asking. They'll say no and I'll feel better for having tried."
So I picked up the phone and called. The horror. All the people I've met at Revzilla have been awesome. John, who I had not talked to before, answered the phone and I started explaining my situation and what I wanted to do.
"Well, it's late but we do have a warehouse in Nevada and we /might/, I stress, /might/ be able to get one overnighted but I'm sorry I can't guarrantee it." he replied. I had expected a simple "no". We got off topic when he realized I had met Rania. "She's sitting across from me."
"Hi YERMO!!" I heard faintly through the phone.
John and I chatted a bit about motorcycling and then got back to the matter at hand. "If I order it and it can't get shipped out tonight, I need the order cancelled because I'll no longer be at this hotel."
"I'll be here for another few hours so I'll watch the order myself and if it doesn't get shipped tonight, I'll cancel it for you. You'll have to pay the overnight fee and I'm sorry it's expensive."
"I'm asking you for a favor not the other way around. I'll be grateful to get the thing if I can. I so appreciate all the effort and help. If this works, it's going to make my buddy's day."
He applied some discounts and with the "Revzilla Cash" I had accumulated the final bill wasn't that bad at all. Shortly after we hung up, I got the notification that the order had been placed.
Some hours later, I got the notification that the order had been shipped and I had a tracking number.
"Amazing." I thought. John didn't have to do that. You might be cynical and think it's about money and business. That it's fake. He's just an employee. Maybe he gets a commission, maybe he doesn't but he, the individual person, didn't have to do that. I'm sure he had countless people he had to talk to that day and, as always seems to be the case in customer service, annoyed, angry and otherwise unpleasant people to deal with. And here I was, calling with some ridiculous last minute request because I hadn't planned it out well and I was asking for something that I don't think many others would have done.
He didn't have to do that. Do I expect the next time I call with some ridiculous request, which I seriously will try not to do, that they will do this again? No. It's not kind to people to do that even if they are the customer service person on the other end of the line.
Never lose sight of the human being. The barista, the bartender, the waitress, the person on the other end of the line. Be human. And when someone is kind, when someone treats you like a human being and helps you when they don't have to, be grateful. Even if it is their "job".
The next day on Facebook, Rania, who was the person who originally recommended Route 191 to me and is in a big part the reason I was here in the first place commented on my Route 191 trip report tagging John, "you were talking to Yermo last night about Sena...read the blog brother!"
Then she posted, "John's an awesome guy. Truly one of the most amazing people I've met at work. When you get back we should plan a local ride somewhere."
And we will.
And people ask me why I think Revzilla rocks so much. When was the last time you called to buy something and got invited out for a ride? How cool is that?
I understand they could use some more top tech talent. It's the one place I've seen in the last few decades that I think I'd actually enjoy working with, or even for. But I don't want to move to Philadelphia.
Bruce showed up in the early afternoon having made really good time. It was so good to see him. I still couldn't believe he had come out. I mentioned nothing about the surprise. The UPS tracking said the package was on the truck. We had not been talking for very long when I noticed the UPS truck pulling up, "Oh cool! Wait here!" as I ran out of the room.
You should have seen the expression on his face. He was floored. He did not expect anything like this.
I upgraded the firmware and installed the speakers, microphone and mount onto his helmet. We paired his Sena with mine and everything worked.
We would comment many times over the next three days how much this one device really changed the whole trip and helped make this one of the best weekends in memory.
Thank you, John. This was awesome.
When we went back outside to sit on the "porch". A BMW and a Coucours rolled up. "That's a woman on the BMW." I mentioned. They got the room next to us and we said hello. Their names were Andy and Debbie. It turns out they were heading back to Las Vegas and were going to ride 191 as well. We needed to buy some snacks for the ride and I suggested they take snacks and water on 191 since there are no service. I mentioned the culture shock that was the "Western Drug and General Store." so the four of us decided to walk over.
It happens quite often actually that when traveling by motorcycle you meet people and having just that one simple connection opens many others and a chance meeting can turn into an extended conversation. After being appropriately culture shocked, we all decided to have dinner together so over to the Java Blues bar/grill/breakfast/coffeeshop we went.
I get the impression Debbie may be independently wealthy. She talked about multiple properties, including a condo in Hawaii equipped with a V-Strom, and other bikes spread around the country. "I like to ride, but everyone works so it's hard to find people to ride with." she would say. "So I ride alone a lot and just meet people on the road." She had been to race school and owned quite a number of bikes.
Andy is seriously fit. His appearance, especially with a helmet on remind me a bit of the actor Vin Diesel. Andy takes working out, nutrition and health very seriously. "The guns need to be fed." I joked at dinner. He's a bit more reserved and is thus a bit harder to get to know.
From several stories of triple digit speeds on road, it was clear Andy liked to go fast. At 70mph a modern Concourse feels like it's crawling.
After dinner, Bruce and I stayed up pretty late and consequently got up kind of late. We had wanted to say goodbye to those guys before they left and take some pictures. To our surprise they were still there.
We talked a bit more about the road and they day ahead. They had not had breakfast. I suggested the Java Blues but they mentioned they had gotten tickets for a breakfast included with the room. We walked over but unfortunately there was nothing there I could eat. "Huh, same for me" Debbie said. "The breakfast at Java Blues is pretty good so we walked over there together.
We had a leisurely long breakfast filled with conversation. "I noticed how you ordered last night." Debbie said. She went on to talk about having had cancer and how difficult life had been from a health point of view. Unlike me, there was little in the way of pain in her voice when she talked about it. It was matter of fact without any sense of "woe is me". She had a sense of strength about her that only those who have truly suffered and conquered have. And here she was, riding all over the place.
She mentioned having dietary issues so of course we got into a long conversation about how I eat, what my history was and what results I've had. "Andy has been telling me this for years." she would say as he nodded knowingly. He talked about his approach to life. "But it's genetics" she said.
To which I replied, "It's generally not constructive to see the results of another human being and ask how are they different. It is much more useful to ask 'what have they done differently?'"
Again, Andy nodded knowingly.
After a longer conversation, she said, "You know, it's one thing to hear that I should consider trying to change my diet. It's another thing to hear it from someone who's actually seen such positive benefits. I won't promise it but I think I will give this a try." I hope it does.
You just never know how a motorcycle trip might change you. Sometimes it's just the little meetings. Sometimes you meet people and they redirect your life. Sometimes you redirect someone elses. Sometimes it's a little of both.
"There's something about motorcycle people." she would later say. "I think that's one of the reasons I got divorced. I don't think I can be with someone who isn't passionate about motorcycles. It's such a big part of my life."
To our surprise, they asked if they could follow us since I had ridden this road just a few days before. I'm always nervous about riding with new people but they were both good riders and within 5 minutes it seemed like it was going to work. I ride quite slowly actually, so I tend to be tamer than most people I meet. Some are ok with this, others get impatient. I got the feeling Andy would have liked to go much faster.
We stopped to top up the tanks because it was over 90 miles between services.
Typically when I ride with a group I don't stop often enough to take pictures because I feel self conscious about holding people up, but this ride was different. We would stop every 20 miles or so to look at yet another spectacular vista.
Debbie would say a few times, "If you guys need to go ahead faster just leave us."
"We're riding together as a group now. It's about riding together." I would reply.
Later on at lunch she would say, "I really like how conscientious and considerate you are about your followers by pointing out hazards and making sure not to leave people behind. That's how I am when I lead."
"Yea, as the leader you have to take your followers into account otherwise it just gets stressful and the feeling of being together gets interrupted."
I missed the 25mph for the next 30 miles sign, and the 15mph for the next 6 miles sign but I did finally manage to stop and get a photo of my favorite street signs.
"There's a fantastic overlook with the 270 view with a picnic table I think we should stop at." I told them.
So we did. I failed to remember how deep the gravel in the pull out was. No drama but it was a bit sketchy there for a second.
It was quite hot as we walked out to the magical picnic table on the edge of forever.
We rode on. The ride North to South on 191 is more challenging than the other direction. There are significantly more tar snakes and there was a lot more gravel this time. It was also much hotter so the tar snakes were slippery. This combined with those outside corners where if you slide out you drop a thousand feet conspired to make me feel really tentative. "I could tell you are not yourself." Bruce would later say as we discussed how my off in Virginia was affecting me much more than I realized. "You'll work through it." he would say repeatedly. Bruce is a patient man.
Before the off, I had this calm desire not to fall. "I simply don't want to fall." I would explain as the reason why I rarely push it really hard. It was not that I had any gripping fear of falling. It was simply a desire not to. This, it turns out, let me be fluid. I would see gravel or other obstacles and be able to calmly adjust. There was a low level fear but it was more just a thought.
My off has changed this. It's affected me pretty deeply. For the first time in a very long time, I now actively fear falling. I see a little gravel or a slippery tar snake and it takes everything in my being not to freeze up. In one sharp right hander that I would have been able to make trivially easily, I saw a patch of gravel that wouldn't have even interrupted my traction but I tighened up and went wide just like I tell everyone not to.
"Trust the traction."
There was plenty of traction so once again I found myself realizing that this Fear is actually more dangeous than the gravel or the hazards. I now really Fear falling. And that Fear, that memory of the fall, and the powerlessness I felt to stop it is now affecting my present.
"How do racers do it?" I kept asking only to hear that Jeremy Cook, the Bobs' BMW sponsored racer has had an off and broke his collar bone. He posted that he's likely going to be racing at Summit on the 24th. Amazing. How does he do it? I hope to get a chance to talk to him about it.
Realizing that it's my own Fear that's making this ride more dangerous for me, I kept things really slow, probably too slow for my followers. "I have to take responsibility for my fear and work through it otherwise I'm just going to be more likely to fall. I have to get back to where I merely desire not fall as opposed to being actively afraid of it."
It seems analogous to how I treat goals. I was able to ride the Dalton Highway because I could let the goal of making it go if I needed to. I need to let the Fear of falling go and regain the simple desire not to. Fear that paralyzes is dangerous.
I see a parallel here to other aspects in my life where I have experiened trauma's that I carry with me unresolved. My past traumas are like the gravel. As soon as I sense them, I tense up my mind filled with the memory of the previous event and as a result have the undesirable outcomes.
I've seen other men crash. I've seen some get up, brush themselves off and move on. I've seen others, ruled by self-delusion, pride or arrogance, refuse to even address the off preferring to just avoid the whole subject as if doing so would somehow diminish their being or make them look foolish in the eyes of others. There is a reason pride is a sin. Pride blinds you from seeing what you need to. Pride, a sense of entitlement, status, the opinions of others are all things that blind and prevent you from seeing what you need to to overcome the obstacles you face. See the gravel and think "I don't want to look like a fool here" is simply pride talking and distracting you from doing what you need to. Gravel is now a problem I face.
At some point, regardless of the gravel in the road, I have to take responsibility to control my own fear, to work through it, to address it so that I am no longer afraid of the gravel. I need to accept that I may lose traction again and fall. I desire not to, but I must not be so afraid of it that I end up causing it or worse.
Or I could be a coward and simply give up motorcycling. Yea, that ain't happening.
I am going to ride so I may fall again and I have to accept that.
I think about all the other traumas I carry around. I think about Debbie and cancer. She's Out There(tm) riding around all over the place. Think for a second the kind of fear those words, "You have cancer." brings. Think about how devastating that is. I think about the other cancer survivors I know. I don't know what it is about me that makes the fear run so deep but it does.
And it has to stop. Maybe sliding out has let me see something that I did not see before.
"How is it that you escaped getting married, Yermo?" Debbie asked at one point.
I didn't have a good answer, but I suspect that that simple answer is too much trauma and the unaddressed, unworked through fears that it has created within me. It's just like gravel. I see things that have hurt me in the past and instead of working through it, I either tense up or cowardly avoid it. It's the same in business, in real-estate and in so many other places where I've been hurt.
On the motorcycle, I know I there will be gravel, or oil, or some other thing that interrupts my traction once again. I will ride through it again and so I just have to learn to deal.
I now see that there are other traumas, other Fears, that I will have to treat the same way; to move from Fear to simply not desiring the outcome but if it happens to learn to simply dust myself off, learn from the experience and get back on the bike.
Because there's no way I'm going to give up.
We rode on together as group through to the devastation of the mine.
"The scale in unbelievable." Bruce said. We hung out at this spot for a while letting the sadness get inside us.
We stopped for lunch in Clifton at an empty cafe. We talked for some time there as well and then parted company. Andy and Debbie headed for Las Vegas while Bruce and I made our way around the mountains and headed back towards Los Alamos. They said they would be in touch. I hope that they do.
We rode to route 78 and then on to 180. Bruce and I were concerned that it would be flat and boring but it was not.
The riding was simply incredible. The Sena proved invaluable. It was warm but not too hot. Route 78 from just South of Clifton is an incredible road. Twisty. Clean. Gorgeous. Still tentative, I was starting to get my mojo back.
For sections the road would straighten out but even these sections were not bad.
At about half tank we came across a sketchy gas station that only had 87 octane and looked like it didn't get much use. "Bad fuel." I thought as Bruce and I discussed whether or not to get gas. "It looks like it's another 40 or 50 miles before the next station. "We can make it." Bruce said in a most uncharacteristic fashion. Bruce, being a safety professional, always gets gas at no less than half a tank, because you never know. To bug him, every time I pick him up from the airport I make sure that the reserve light is on, because, you know, what are friends for?
"Who are you and what have you done with Bruce??!" I had said many times.
"I left him at home." Bruce would reply.
We decided that a tank of 87 octane sketchy gas would likely not kill us so we topped off.
It was fortunate because it was many miles before we saw the next station. We would probably not have made it.
There was a stretch of something like 140 miles without services heading up to Grants, NM.
It was a bit farther and the road a bit slower than we expected so the sun ended up setting on us as critters starting coming out on the deserted desert road.
Elk were everywhere and conspired to raise my stress level quite a bit. We slowed way down out of necessity but that caused us to have to ride well past sunset.
In the twilight, elk look just like bushes and there were many along side the road. Fortunately for us, none darted out. They simply calmly walked away.
At one point, as I was making a right hand turn an impossibly fast rabbit ran right in front of my wheel. I didn't see it until it was nearly in front of me and by the time I applied the brake it was well past.
"From that angle at that speed, there's no time to respond. I'm not sure that there's much that can be done." I said.
"There isn't." Bruce replied and we both scanned the sides. "If that were a deer or an elk it would have been bad."
"Yes, it would have."
"Watch out, deer on the right, did you see them?" Bruce would say.
"No. I didn't. Man, my vision must suck because I'm missing these critters. It's a good thing we have the Senas. At least we have double the eyes on the road and can warn each other."
There was a simply fantastic sunset.
Later on after the sun had set, Bruce took the lead since he has the better highbeam.
"Deer on the left!" I said.
"I didn't see it. "Bruce replied. "Being in the lead, I find I have to pay more attention to the road itself."
"Interesting. Being in the trailing position, I can keep you in my peripheral vision and find it much easier to scan the sides for critters."
This was another benefit of the communicators we had not fully appreciated.
It got quite dark and started getting quite cold. As the last light disappeared over the horizon we put on the electric vests.
"Very much more gooder." as Bruce would say. I don't tavel anywhere without a vest but I had let myself get quite cold. At this point, Bruce pointed out that he had had his seat warmer on for some time, because, you know, what are friends for?
"I can't believe we're doing this. This is fantastic!" Bruce said many times. This was one of the best weekend rides I've ever had. Despite tar snakes, gravel, memories of a minor little off that has grown into something much bigger in my head, getting stung on the neck, this was a great weekend.
We made it to Grants, New Mexico around 9PM and to our dismay it's a town filled with hotels but no restaurants. Everything was closed. We found an area of something like 8 motels but there wans't a single restaurant other than McDonalds which doesn't count as food in my book.
We rode around town and eventually asked someone. "There's a diner 5 miles away that's open for a few more hours but that's it."
Avoid Grants. There's no reason to go there.
We went to dinner and then using Expedia, Bruce found a really good deal on a room at the Red Lion, so off we went for another 5 mile journey. We both slept well and were up reasonably early the next morning. We decided to Super Slab it back towards Los Alamos. We stopped in Albuquerque and then headed up along a very scenic route to a lake where Ha and the kids were fishing. Looking for where they were, we did a bit of fairly broken dirt road and a large rocky mud puddle crossing. Unfortunately, like and idiot, I didn't hold the camera right as Bruce crossed it and it's chopped off. It was going to be a nice "who needs a GS" video showing splashing through water, over rocks and through dirt. Bummer.
We did eventually find the family and hung out for a while. From there, we head back to White Rock and home. On the way, yet another bee found it's way onto my neck. Man that hurt! It wasn't quite as bad as a wasp sting but I swear that it hurt a lot more than a bee.
The weekend was ending as we came rolling into White Rock. There had been quite a few police around so we were keeping it to the speed limit. Coming down the hill I saw a tall long legged woman peddling up a storm down the hill. As I came up next to her, I noticed we were doing 40mph, so I looked over and mentioned a "4" "0" with my left hand. I don't think she had a speedometer on the bicycle. Bruce and I rolled on as I was remarking on how fast she was rolling. The speed limit dropped to 35 and we were doing over when I looked in the mirror and her putting the hammer down. She blew by us with a shit eating grin on her face. She was doing well over 45mph. She turned into the street that we were turning into and then onto Bruce's street. I was concerned that she might think we were following her so despite the fact she was doing well in excess of the 25mph speed limit there I suggested to Bruce we pass her. I'm always thinking along those lines. As we did, I waved. She waved back, shit eating grin still plain to see. "I've never been passed by a bicycle before." I laughed. We've been laughing about this moment since.
On Facebook, Kai asked if I had gotten her number or at least bought her a drink. As if. Some moments are best left as moments. Hold on to them for too long and it can color them. This was a wonderful moment and still brings a smile to my face.
We arrived at Bruces house shortly thereafter, the woman no where to be seen in the rear view. I guess she turned off.
It was such a good weekend and over so quickly.
"There's never enough time." I said. "And the time we do take always seems to go by so quickly." Bruce responded. "but I can't believe I did this. This was awesome!"
There are always reasons not to do a thing. There are always responsibilities, duties and fears that prevent us from taking the time out to do the things we love. Life is short and one can't shirk responsibilities irresponsibly. But there has to be Balance. Every once in a while it pays to venture out and see the world.
It's a good thing I'm an Enabler(tm). It's a good thing, I think.
"I can't go while the kids are in school, but maybe I can go cross country with you after I've retired?" Bruce asked fatefully.
This got me to thinking. It's probably not constructive to talk about what one can't do. Maybe it's better to ask the question, "How can I do it given all these parameters, responsibilities and constraints?"
If you think about it often enough, you may find, there is usually a way. It may not be the way you initially thought of but if you are flexible, if you are open minded, there is almost always a way to make it happen.
I'm now sitting in a Starbucks in White Rock listening to physicists discuss mathematics around me. Bruce joined me for a short while on his lunch break to say goodbye and soon I will get back on the bike and head to Durango to go meet John and Lucy for dinner. Tomorrow the plan is to venture out on the lonely long flat road home and in a few days find out what awaits me there, if anything.
I thought that maybe this would be the last trip in a very long while as my financial situation is getting to be a bit dire, entirely my ke town fault. It will probably take too long for M-BY-MC to generate enough revenue to support me, so I'll end up having to take on some other projects to keep the whole operation afloat. So I thought I'm not going to be able to do this kind of thing again, but I think with some compromises, adjustments, and open mindness, I suspect I will be able to do a trip like this again before too long.
"There are always possibilities." Spock would say.