Based upon a recommendation posted to the YML.COM forums by Ian, I opted to head to Calgary to an independent BMW service shop called Anderwerks. They have a reputation for being traveller friendly and they certainly lived up to that reputation.
It's located back in a warehouse district. The front door is a bit confusing as it looks like a photo.
I desperately needed tires as these Michelins had over 6,000 miles on them. Anderwerks hooked me up setting up an appointment for me the same day for tires, oil filter and to install an air filter I had brought with me. It took ages so I hung out in the shop. The wireless was having some kind of routing issue. They let me mess with the network but I think the router itself had developed a problem. Thwarted, I just hung around the shop.
They finished everything up just as the shop was closing at 6pm. OMG it was expensive. It was probably more than 30% more expensive than the same job in the states. Ouch. At this rate I'll be bankrupt before long.
I grabbed a hotel in town. I heard from Dani the adventure rider that he was in Calgary as well but we didn't manage to be online at the same time to figure out a place to meet. I think he was in a more interesting section of Calgary than I was based on his recent video.
The next morning, again troubled by thoughts and having my mind wander back to places I've been, sitting in the hotel lobby I wrote well into the afternoon. A big storm was brewing on the horizon and the winds were kicking up. The hotel clerk took pity on me and made me some coffee.
I have been thinking about verses in this one Led Zeppelin song pretty much the whole trip:
For now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it's headed my way
I went to start the bike and a rare but recurring electrical problem presented itself. The bike was firing only on two cylinders. I shut it down. Let it sit. Tried to restart it and to my shock and horror the problem persisted. I tried this a few times and thought that maybe I was screwed wondering if I was going to make it to meet Phil and Geo.
I called Anderwerks and loped back to the shop. Half way there, of course, the other two cylinders started firing and I've been unable to reproduce it after that. The guys at the shop are very knowledgeable, even about my old sport touring machine. They gave me some insights into what to look for and gave me a 24 hour number where I can reach them if I run into trouble on the road. Very cool.
So late in the day I grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed off towards the east. I stopped for a moment to glance back at the mountains I have come to love so much.
There's alot of traffic in Calgary.
The wind was picking up even more. I was sure to get dumped on.
The TransCanada highway is just that. A highway that alternates between interstate like sections and slow sections through towns filled with traffic lights.
I continued East and the mountains faded over the horizon becoming but a dim memory in my rear view mirror. Ahead approached a huge storm.
The wind was serious. I strained to see if I could notice a tornado in the center. Lightning bolts could be seen flashing in the center.
Storms are a constant in my life. During the '92 cross country trip and virtually every motorcycle ride I've ever taken I run into storms. I always get rained on. It sucks.
As I approached the edge of the storm, miraculously the road bent to the South and traced it's away along the edge of the storm. In places the road was soaked but not a drop of rain fell on me.
The wind continued to pick up. I thought, as I drove past the storm, that I could see the outline of a tornado in the distance but I wasn't sure. There was enough wind for it though as the bike leaned into the wind to compensate.
"This never happens.", I thought as I marveled at missing the storm, "it's wrecking someone else's life today. Not mine."
I was making really good time, but it was very flat out here. Flat like Kansas and at first I was not happy about it.
But it gave me time to think.
I ran through a tank of gas and stopped at a gas station, the storm still raging menacingly on the horizon.
"I wonder what the birds know that I do not?", I thought as I saw dozens of seagulls just standing on the ground motionless.
I tried to pay for gas but it was declined. I had to spend some time on the phone with the credit card company to get it straightened out. As I was getting ready to leave a guy with his family in an SUV rolled up and asked me if I was travelling solo.
"Yup, all by my lonesome.", I replied like I usually do. "Wouldn't it have been more fun to travel with a buddy?", he asked.
"Sure, but I didn't know anyone who could take this kind of time off.", I answered.
"Don't you get lonely?", they asked.
"Yea. Alot of this trip has been very lonesome, but less so than I expected. I have met so many amazing people along the way.", as my thoughts wandered back to the faces of people I have met and to one person in particular.
I have met so many people on this trip.
The sun could be seen shining on the edge of the storm in the direction I wasn't going.
I got back on the road and continued my journey over the oppressive boring flatness when, still tracing along the edge of one storm, another storm appeared on the horizon, this one worse than the last.
"Ok, now I'm going to get pissed on for sure. My luck can't hold.", I thought as I approached the storm.
And has been the case for the last hundreds of miles, just as I approached it the road turned and went around the edge.
"This just never happens.", I thought as I remembered how surprised I was that I missed those two storms outside of Yellowstone.
As I approached the far side of this larger storm, I stopped.
As improbable and cliche as it may sound, along it's edge I could see a rainbow. The camera for whatever reason didn't capture it well. It was much brighter than the faint outline you see.
I remained there for some time marvelling at how rare this is. Such a raging storm and this beautiful rainbow and sunshine in the distance, and for once the storm isn't dumping on me, ruining my life.
I thought about my demons and how they have followed me all the way here.
Matt always said, "You know Yermo, for as long as I've known you it's been the worst it's ever been. I'm not saying it hasn't been, but it's the life you have been dealt and you have to live it". He had known me since the 7th grade.
I thought about the last time I had this feeling, this feeling that maybe things will change and it's a terrible story. I have not allowed myself this feeling again since.
Duncan and I were at Starbucks. It was March 26th, 2008 and things had gotten as bad as I thought they could probably get. It had been horrible without any good news of any kind for ages. Even Duncan had started saying, "How are you going to fail today, Mr. Lamers", jokingly. Duncan likes being an annoying optimist just to bug me, but even his feigned optimism about my circumstances was beginning to fade.
Duncan was telling me about some good fortune in his life. It was looking like things were going to go well for him.
"Maybe this is a sign.", I remember fatefully thinking outside of Starbucks. "Maybe things have gotten as bad as they can get. Maybe this means things will get better." At this point Gesa had been dead for little over an hour, killed by an out of control SUV, but of course I would not find out about this for a little while yet finding only screams of anguish on the answering machine when I got home.
I remember the moment with absolute clarity. For the last two years it has been burned into my consciousness along with every detail of the hell it unleashed.
Over the weekend, many bad stories came out. The look of horror on her face at some of them made me stop and for the first time, the first time ever, I could feel the stories were real. A door opened inside me. "I have mostly just bad stories.", I told her trying not to show too much pain.
And I do. I have horrible stories. I have lived through storm after storm. Belina, my sisters best friend from Medical school, composed a piano piece for me entitled "Storms" based on, what she calls, a poem I had written some years ago describing the '92 cross country trip. When I get back, I'll post the poem.
And here I stood wondering if the storms in my soul will continue to haunt me, whether these demons will ever be laid to rest and what that means for what kind of person I am. I always focus on the negative. The pain. The storms. It overwhelms me and makes me No Fun.
"I like to take the good from meeting you - there is much.", she texted from over the mountains.
As I stood there, along the edge of this huge painful storm looking at this improbable rainbow, I realized that is what I have never been able to do, especially with myself. I only see the storms, the pain, the flaws and have not been present enough, calm enough, open enough, to really see anything else.
"It's a huge nasty storm.", I thought, "but the rainbow is pretty."
"I don't think I'll ever meet another one like her", I thought before focusing forward to the next moment. And then, in a moment completely out of character and new for me, I thought, no, I felt, "Then again, I don't think she'll ever meet another one like me either."
I got back on the bike and continued my ride East along the edge of the storm really not caring if my luck ran out. "I had a good run today.", I thought as the road turned again and I found my way into the sunshine.
It never rained on me. There was no hail. Only some bugs.
"Ok, this NEVER happens. Not once have I ever, in as long as I can remember, had this kind of good fortune riding.", I thought.
But then again, on this trip, that seems to have been a common theme.
"Maybe things will get better.", I thought as I realized they were already getting better. Of course I immediately thought, with my luck, I'd have a terrible accident or get some terrible news. "Someday, but not today.", I thought quoting one of my favorite movies.
"This is not the worst it's ever been. Far from it, Matt.", I thought as I continued to ride eastward to meet up with Phil and Geo, the riders I met in Deal's Gap, itself being a completely improbable event in my life.
Having read these ramblings of mine, I wonder what they will now think of this emotionally complicated deeply flawed long distance rider. They've completely reworked their schedule and route the accomodate mine and I'm surprised and humbled by that.
I'm heading to meet them for a few days of riding and maybe seeing the yacht Geo captains.The sun set over the horizon.
And once again I found that calm, that peace, that I have been looking for out here.