Friday, August 22, 2008

Losing a few pounds...


So….I’ve just stepped onto British Airways flight 195 for Houston. A ten hour flight….direct. Thanks Bubba.

That leaves plenty of time for mindless writing….Greenblat and other blog-readers beware….this could be the longest and most pointless yet!

Headphones on. Thankfully there are empty seats around me and I’m settled in. The work of the trip is done as of NOW and the reality of my departure from Europe and this trek has finally set in. As expected….it is bittersweet. I’m both excited to see familiar surroundings and hesitant to leave behind the holiday that felt so permanent.

When leaving home back in April, I actually thought I might find something in Europe that kept me from coming back to Austin for a long time. I figured that a job in London would be all that I needed to spur the move. I found the opportunities and positions, but I simply had no motivation to even apply. The thoughts of my family, friends and love of Austin became even stronger while I romantically rode 10,000 miles on a dirtbike from Texas to lands I’d never seen.

We’re taxiing onto the runway now…..why do I have the sudden urge to jump off and stay?

Airborne now and almost instantly it seems we’re over the pond cruising along at over 500 mph. Every mile of this trip (other than the flight over) feels earned. I felt every mile in my fingers, my back, my knees, my neck and my head. Now I’m reclined in a huge seat (thanks bubba) sipping on some red wine and listening to Mono on the headphones with ease. Could my life be any more of a contrast?

Ok ok….so I’m waxing feverishly over normal stuff like the difference in transportation choices, but it’s these seemingly little differences that suddenly seem important. How I got from scene to scene during this adventure (yes I’m calling it that now) really did make the difference. I packed up my life onto my bike and rode off into my trip everyday. There wasn’t anyone else’s plans that got in the way…..I just took what I wanted as it was offered. Could it be anymore hedonistic or satisfying?

So…..everyone has been asking what the big “wrap-up” on the blog might be…..I guess that could happen once I’m home. For now I’ll just be content to tell those interested about my final days in Europe.

My last short entry alluded to the trouble I had on my return to England. I left Barcelona with hopes for a quick and safe journey to Cornwall (southwestern England) to see Sam, his family and his homeland. I met Sam at the moto jumble in Netley back in April (you might remember the pics and stories of drunken brits) and I was excited to get to see him again and get the chance to see his stack of vintage machinery and homeland.

From Barcelona, the sweet visions of Cornwall had me hit the road early to cross France in order to grab a ferry across the channel for Plymouth, England. I made it as far as Bordeaux, France the first day with little to no issue. The weather went from sunny, sweaty and hot in Spain to cloudy, 4 layers deep clothing, cold wet air and windy mountain passes in just an hour or so. I rode on….only happy to put the miles under my belt again and to NOT be sweating. Late that night I found a crappy Motel in Bordeaux and crashed hard…to sleep that is. The next morning I slept in a bit and rode around the beautiful city and then stopped for an espresso and toast in a café to get me on the road feeling right. Around 11:30am I finally hit the motorway ready to move on. About 20 minutes into my music and riding the bike made a sudden jolt. I kept on it a bit confused and I looked down at the engine with concern……and then WHAM….no power. I start to pick my emergency exit from the roadway as I hear the rattling chain scraping the pavement. DAMN…..I finally lost a chain. I literally said out loud “now THIS is where it gets interesting” with full knowledge that I didn’t have a spare.

I coasted off the road and prepared to assess the damage. 5 minutes later and I’ve got it apart…..the master link blew….and I don’t have one that will fit. SHIT. I figure with all the passing motorbikes that surely one will stop and have a link that will work……WRONG. I sit there for almost an hour and at least a few hundred bikes pass….not ONE stops. Several wave as I try to flag them down…but no help. Screw French bikers! What happened to the brotherhood of motorcyclists?

I frantically make phone calls to Christophe in Paris (my moto workshop buddy) and Sam. Both offer advice to do what I figured I had to do…..call for a tow. I reluctantly push the bike a kilometer or so to the emergency phone. After 3 calls and 3 angry Frenchmen with no ability to speak English, I find one that knows how to use an automated translator and I await a truck. It shows up and again…zero English. Damn I need to learn more French. I tell him that I want a tow to a KTM dealer in Bordeaux and he says “wi” as he helps ME load up my bike. He takes me to his Peugeot mechanics shop about 20 miles into the country and dumps my bike in the yard…..no explanation. I call Christophe in a panic to get some translation and twenty minutes later I realize that not only has this tow cost me about $170 bucks, but they cannot and will not help me…at all. I panic and sit for a few minutes with Christophe on the phone as he tries to calm me. He gets back on the phone with the mechanic and the mechanic finally agrees to call a moto shop a few towns over and a taxi to get me there. A few hours later I’m at shop….fresh new $110 cut chain in hand and quickly headed back to the bike to repair it. All is dry, but on the return taxi ride….the rain hits…..now I’m really in a good mood. I spend another $160 on the taxi and I beg the shop to let me wheel the bike inside for the repair…..they reluctantly oblige (blue coveralls included), but I’m pretty sure it’s only because they didn’t know how to tell me how to screw off in English and maybe they didn’t want to see me cry?

The entire time this operation is taking place I’m aware of the fact that the next day is the first day of a 3 day weekend and these guys are NOT going to put me up for 3 days if I don’t get the bike fixed. They’ve already motioned for the gate where they plan to leave me and my bike when they go home for the weekend. Since I don’t much want to spend 3 days in my tent cold and wet, I quickly get to work. I take it apart, throw on the new rear sprocket I was carrying and the new chain and begin to put the new master link in……only it’s a tight fit. No worries…..I pull out my handy link compressor for installation and start to crank it down.

At this point I’m hungry, I’m stressed and I’m ready to hit the road….unfortunately I’m not patient! As I crank down the link I realize that not only is the tool bending, but the link is locking up and I’ve just potentially caused a serious issue. A few freak out phone calls to Sam (who says eat some food) and I realize that I’ve ruined two links of my chain and I have no spare link to improvise. Another panic-filled phone call to Sam and I realize I have one that ‘may’ work. Some creative grinding (with the stolen Peugeot grinder), a few smashed fingers later, lots of explitives and hope exists as I have the chain together with leftover chain and two master links.

The funniest part of the saga is the Frenchman standing over me wanting to close the shop for his holiday….as we near 10:30pm. He didn’t understand a thing I said and I seriously thought he was mentally retarded as regardless of how much I flailed around in a panic, he simply looked at me…..I don’t know…like I was a crazy frantic stranded American on a dirtbike from Texas I suppose. I was an alien to them all and the last one left had less humor than the rest…and that’s saying something.

So….I frantically load up my gear, the bike starts first kick and I haul ass back to the highway honking and whooping in the rain as I’ve just avoided perhaps the worst few days of my trip. I can say it was by far the most stressful part of my journey….and in hindsight it wasn’t that bad….I just needed some escargot and maybe a crepe to slow me down?

I hit the road in the rain, ride for a few hours until I’m about to fall off the bike in exhaustion and begin looking for yet another crappy motel. In the course of searching I did manage to almost lose the front wheel in a roundabout, but I save it at the last possible split second and laugh at myself for almost crashing in the last few hundred miles of a 10,000 mile journey!

Drama over…..The next morning I hit the road early and rode about 7 hours to catch the ferry to Plymouth. The channel crossing was a 5 hour ride into seasick hell, but I saw a crappy Will Smith movie and made it and was quite thankful when we hit port. A few late hours through tiny wet lanes surrounded by Cornish hedgerows and I was at Sam’s place…..safe and sound….or was I?

We sat in the shop until about 3am bs’ing about my adventures and what he’d be up to since I last saw him at the beginning of the European leg of this journey. He showed me his Pre-war Brough Superior (the rolls Royce of motorcycles) and his collection of vintage projects…astounding. No doubt a proper English ‘shed’ complete with a lathe, a press, welder, English wheel and just about every other thing you can think of to keep the guy busy. A truly great evening just hanging out and drinking Sam’s best warm beer (he called it cold, but it was definitely warm) Overnight it became apparent that two of the house had gotten a stomach virus and things were not pretty….NOT a sleep-filled night for Sam.

The next morning I met his wife Adeline, his three daughters Eve, Ruth and Rose and the newest member, six month old Gregory. All were an absolute delight and treated me like a member of the family from the beginning. I can’t say enough about their hospitality.

We hung out……took care of sick kids….told stories…played with Gregory and hid out from the weather. Oh….did I mention that someone forgot to tell England that it’s summer time? Yeah…COLD, WET and WINDY! Imagine a coldish Texas wet winter day….that was the 4 days I spent in Cornwall. Yeah…so the family was good and put up with my complaining….and simple bewilderment of how these poor people could be almost totally robbed of a summer.

So….safe at Sam’s place….yeah not so much. On the second evening I went to bed feeling not-so-great, but passed out regardless. 5 am and I woke up realizing that the bug that was running rampant through the house had hit me. A few hours tossing up a wonderful Lamb Bolognese that Sam had made and I was OUT. I slept until 1pm and then got up to face the day. We decided to forget about the pain and jump on the bikes for a ride through Cornwall while it wasn’t raining. I rode Sam’s 1927 Ariel and couldn’t believe how much I loved it…top speed 60mph (downhill with a tailwind) and a hardtail to boot….I loved it. Somehow the ride truly cured my sickness and even with a queezy stomach I enjoyed every mile. (yeah…no more kilometers…MILES) Cornwall is amazing and I have a few pics to prove it. I MUST go back and ride there more with Sam…I think I could do that for days on end. Maybe next time I’ll steal one of Sam’s bikes and ride the whole of the UK?

Two days before my flight out of London I got to experience a few genuine Cornish Pastys and I packed up and hit the road for London. In London I met up with my Craigslist buyer, Arno (the crazy South African) and was surprised to find yet another really cool stranger waiting on me. He gave me what I needed for the KTM, I sorted him out on the procedure of its care, he bought me dinner, gave me a place to sleep and graciously walked me to the Tube station this morning (carrying my heavy bag) to get me to the airport. What a standup guy…..and totally made my last night in Europe an easy one. *Yes I’m aware that the UK prefers to be considered the UK and NOT Europe! Arno plans to ride the bike to South Africa…this makes me SO happy to know that the KTM’s adventure will go on.

So…I’m back to the beginning of this blog post. I’m 30 minutes from touchdown in Houston and my brother. I’m thankful, happy and nervous all at the same time. The real world is 50,000 ft. down and I’m about to touch down. Wish me luck…another blog post is surely due…...in time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cornish Detox


I hit the road from Barcelona headed to England and France gave me a kick in the ass just before England got one more chance to do the same.

Greenblat:

-Left Barcelona and hit Bordeaux in a day
-Left Bordeaux and within 20 minutes broke down for the first time
-Got stranded and spent over $400 repairing a busted chain
-Spent a day in rural France and hit the ferry from France to Cornwall, England
-Hung out with Sam and family for a few days
-Detoxed with an amazing weight-loss stomach virus obtained from Sam's wonderful family
-Rode the Cornish countryside on an 80 year old motorcycle with a weak stomach
-Spent a night with Frankie and family en route to London
-Just sold the bike in London....flight to Houston in the morning

More proper update later.....for now let's just say that my time to detox in Cornwall was well worth it and I look forward to seeing many of you soon.

A few new pics are on Flcker. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Still lost....

Spain is warm. AC is scarce. Internet access is scarcer. Europe is expensive!

Greenblat:

-Decided to see Rome instead of Venice due to Margot’s time constraints and Spanish desires
-Rome was dirty, HOT, expensive, FULL of tourists, scam artists and shit food
-Three hot days in Rome and we hit an overnight ferry destined for Barcelona
-Hit the road south to parts unknown in Spain
-Incredible roads along the coast keep leading us to cheap hostels and the BEACH
-Rode back to Barcelona and Margot’s unfortunate departure back stateside
-Plans for next few weeks are shaping up
-Barcelona is feeling more and more like home
-Flight home is all but booked out of London soon…

I last wrote that we hadn’t decided on Rome or Venice as our next destination. The next morning we looked at the calendar and decided heading back south to catch an overnight ferry out of Rome made more sense than roaming around northern Italy only to then be forced to rush back across the South of France to just barely make it back to Barcelona in time for Margot to fly home.

Rome was beautiful and disappointing all at the same time. I made the mistake of letting my expectations guide my level of contentment and it simply didn’t live up. Yeah yeah….the Colloseum is beautiful and humbling as are the other Ruins, but that wasn’t enough to overcome the constant badgering by street peddlers and tour guides wanting to give me a “great deal”. Almost all were full of nearly impossible promises and exaggerated offers. Every restaurant (except one street pizza vendor) sold cheap nasty food on their posted menus and then screwed you with a “cover charge” to sit at their tables. One restaurant wanted 5 Euros for a pizza and when we ordered house beers, whose prices were purposely not posted and avoided when we inquired, we realized they cost us 6.50 Euros! It was such a sham and so obvious that it was an intentional ploy to screw the tourists in any way possible.

In a word it was just LAME. I wish we’d had time to head to Southern Italy as recommended by Kendra and several others. Next time maybe? We moved on, but determined that seeing Rome was simply a checked box. I’d rather have doubled back to Austria or something else rather than be hounded by swindlers and overrun by millions of rude and stinky sweaty tourists. Yeah….I’m a tourist, but I feel like I have a better ability to blend into the crowd rather than make one as the tourists in Rome seem to.

The truly cool thing that happened to me in Rome was a totally random one. As Margot, Cienna and I stumbled through the back neighborhoods of town on the long walk from the Vatican to our Hostel we ended up on another tiny lane with lots of interesting offshoots and buildings. One just barely caught my eye as one with a small window looking into a tiny room with a few vintage motorcycles. As I spotted it, Cienna just waltzed in the door of the place like she owned it. Margot and I hesitantly followed and found a room with 3 people and 12 or so random Italian bikes hanging out. I noticed that several were Moto Guzzis (my current favorite) and I made eye contact with the people sitting around and simply pointed to the tattoo on my arm as my Italian is less than useful. The main guy saw my tattoo and instantly realized that it was from a Moto Guzzi Galleto and pointed to one sitting in the corner. His eyes lit up and he excitedly began asking me where I was from and just laughed and smiled as he loaded me up with free literature and posters of a Guzzi focused artist whose original works were hung all over the walls. Apparently it was not a shop, but simply a neighborhood moto club that focused on Moto Guzzi. We chatted in the little way that we could….he made me an honorary member of the club and I moved on with a sense of bewilderment that we had somehow found what is likely the only Galleto in Rome and the first one I’ve ever seen outside of a museum in Alabama. Strange coincidence and a really cool one as well….

After a few hot days in Rome, we jumped the ferry an hour outside of town destined for Barcelona……an overnight air-conditioned room and 20 hours on a huge ship sounded like a better idea than covering old ground in 3-4 days and spending MUCH more on petrol and lodging. The ferry experience was more like a cruise and it was nothing less than the best decision made with Margot’s time here. A healthy night of sleep and some time spent sunning on the boat the next morning got us directly into port in the middle of Barcelona less than 2 miles from our favorite hostel. We crashed there and prepared to explore more of the town we loved so much the first time around.

A visit to the impressive modern art museum, BEACH time, tons of cheap street food, lots of walking and fruit hunting, Chilean food, some late night riding through town and we made the decision to head south via the coast and see what we found outside of Barcelona. With barely any riding, but lots of uncomfortable heat and sweating, we stopped short in a coastal town called Sitges and found a hostel to stash our stuff while we hit the beach again. It was really just more family-oriented than Barcelona and smaller. We lounged on the beach and that night we managed to split a bottle of rum mixed with Fanta Limon…..mmmmm….fancy. I felt like I was regressing, but in hindsight it was quite perfect for 4 euros. The town was bustling with people everywhere and we felt lucky to stumble across such a busy scene with way more going on than we’d expected to see.

The next day we moved on to an even smaller town another a bit down the coast. We dubbed this town “Ghetto Beach”, as we didn’t know it’s real name and just took it in. We could have ridden further, but the beach was just too damn tempting and I still feel a bit guilty for wimping out on riding further into the wild, but it really worked out. We spent that day at the beach and somehow spent the evening sitting with an old Spanish guy with no teeth who spoke zero english, but offered us his homemade moonshine that the Spanish call (roughly translated) “Water with Teeth”. He told us it was over 90 proof, but I think that was underselling the stuff. It was like drinking Everclear, but better? Great night….great time trying to tell stories in Spanish and truly memorable.

One afternoon we did manage to find some deserted road near Ghetto Beach and I gave Margot a moto lesson. I’m pretty sure I was more scared than she was, but I promised her that I’d give her a shot on my bike, so I had to do it before she left. She rode the KTM quite well, but learning to drive a manual transmission with your feet AND how to handle a motorcycle for the first time isn’t easy and a lot to absorb in an hour. She did MUCH better than I expected and we had no mishaps worth mentioning. It did help me to realize just how little I think about how to ride my motorcycle….I just ride, but there are more moving parts than I’d realized…..no wonder an afternoon off road can totally wear me out as it keeps you busy every step of the way.

We bailed out of Ghetto beach after two memorable nights and made the short trek back to Barcelona. It was truly laughable. What had taken us at least 3-4 hours of riding time on back coastal roads and 4 days of lounging, took us less than an hour on the toll way…..so much for exploring the depths of Spain. I could use up a few months in Spain and Portugal easy…Ahhhh…next time. We did find time to wander off the pavement onto dirt roads and into a national park, but it was tough going with what is likely 100 pounds of gear and an extra person. Every bump felt like we might lose something or worse yet someone. We found our way back to the smooth and safer pavement and I determined that I need to find a lighter way to take an off road trip back home. Off road riding on a bike like this is amazing fun. It just glides over the bumps and eats up the miles with amazing ease. It’s almost bullet-proof feeling.

So….it was back to my favorite hostel in Barcelona and MORE time on the Barcelona beach. We managed to hook up with our Australian friends that we met in Rome….two gals, Daina and Cienna, who have been traveling Europe for 2 months. It was like seeing old friends that we hadn’t seen in a while even though we’d just met them. We had a great Chilean meal with Duck as Dessert and cooked up our own espressos back at the hostel to top off the evening. (more on that little jewel later) Great time…..and even more great people. I think I’m destined for Australia at some point as I’ve met more Australians on this trip than I would have ever thought possible. I finally figured out that it’s mainly because they are locked into winter and mostly take their vacations now to escape the cold shitty weather back home. I realized that being gone from Texas during the long hot summer has been of similar benefit to me. While it has been hotter than I prefer, I haven’t encountered any stifling heat here even though Barcelona has apparently been experiencing its hottest days in 6 years these past few days. (highs of 91) I keep finding AC when I can and thank the heavens every night that my cheap hostel will freeze me out at night if I want it to.

This is a long update as I’m obviously feeling motivated….. and I realize that it may be annoying to some that I just rant on about the boring details of my trip here, but I really can’t even come close to relating what all happens here. And besides…..isn’t that what you’re reading this crap for? Why does it seem that so much more happens when you are on holidays? Maybe it’s simply because I’m not locked into daily routine, but even here I sometimes crave routines similar to home to feel normal again…only it’s just got a different flavor. For instance….last week Margot and I found a tiny local coffee shop tucked away on the tiny streets of Barcelona’s Gothic hood and to our surprise the coffee was cheap and the atmosphere inspiring. So….here I sit alone on a beautiful sunny day writing my blog and business plan instead of taking in more sun and swimming on the beach or amazing architecture and people watching. I mean….even the “Boards of Canada” are playing through the speakers of this place! They were the instrumental band that I listened to while studying with headphones for hours on end to get me through finishing my degree. I’ve NEVER heard them played anywhere except Tony’s house. How random and obviously beneficial to my concentration…..

Anyway….routines are missed, but random stories abound of what seems to happen when your only agenda is to experience something new every day. Tonight I’m taking a Spanish cooking course with my Australian buddies simply because it will teach me something new and the price of the class included food and all I can drink for way less than it would cost to have a nice meal out here. I’m pumped and primed to cook more and more these days and I’ve never been that way before. Traveling just has a way of doing this to me I suppose. I’m inclined to look with different eyes and move with different feet.

Ok…cheese is over. Who needs heartfelt introspection to ruin a perfectly good pointless blog where I’m really only supposed to brag about how much better my life is than yours? Blah……

On to the business end of traveling…..I did intend to keep it to myself until I hit home again, but it now seems that I’ll be headed home soon and word is out regardless of my not wanting it to be. I just sorta liked the idea of rolling back into Austin when I felt like it as that’s how my trip has almost always been. “Soon” to me is a few weeks away, but that just seems like tomorrow in terms of how long I’ve been gone. Money has MORE than run out and I found another buyer for my moto in London who seems keen to plop down the cash for such a rare bike over here. So…it looks like I’ll be making the long trek back north to the land of cold rain and reversed roads where the European leg of this odyssey began. The good news is that I’ll be headed to my friend Sam’s place in Cornwall for a visit and hopefully some quality time on a vintage bike before I ride on to London. I also hope to see Frankie and family between Cornwall and London and to stay with Catherine and Jay in London at least one night to finish up the trip and show them all some love. Just a thousand miles more and I’ll be back in the splendor of air travel and the comforts of home……mmmmm sounds good.

I’m currently stuck in Barcelona with a broken clutch cable and the HUGE KTM dealer is on Holiday….so they close the entire shop down. NOT good timing for me. I’m currently working on a patented Gashole Bodge…..may Stefan’s genius of rigging envelope my soul…..otherwise I could be stuck in Barcelona for much longer than intended.

More good news is that I should be home for Mark, my twin Michael and my birthday. A party is in the works so keep an eye out for an invite or email me if you don’t get it….you know I’m bad about distributing the details sometimes. EVERYONE is invited….I wanna see some familiar faces!

So…in the coming weeks I hope to serve up at least one more update here and a few more choice photos. I have a ton of snapshots to upload from my last week or so here with Margot, but Wifi is still rather hard to come by for long uploads like that. For the blog update I simply write this all in Word and then copy and paste it onto the webpage when I get a few minutes of internet to do so.

By the way…. the pics are, unfortunately for some, filled with photos of yours truly as Margot seemed to hold the camera more when she was here and likes to take photos of me when I'm not looking….I’m just not as inspired for photo time as I was when this all began. I know that pics of me are seemingly egotistical, but they make Mom happy so I’ll keep them coming mainly for her and my growing fan base. ☺

Wish me luck….I look forward to seeing you all soon!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Headed South and Crossing Europe....




Ok….it’s been a while. I’ve been off the radar and on the road sans internet. It’s been nice but hasn’t been conducive to any updates. Here goes my attempt at summing up the weeks since then….

Greenblat:
-Hung around Czech Republic for a few more days before heading towards Barcelona
-Found myself in a killer rainstorm two-up on the bike with Kendra…blah
-Rode to Regensberg, Germany to stay at Anna Luisa’s again and actually see some of the town
-Rode through Germany in the rain and thunder…..scary few days
-Hit Switzerland and stayed with another couchsurfer (Melissa) for two nights
-Rode through some of the most amazing roads and mountains I’ve ever seen in Switzerland
-Hit Lyon, France and another Couchsurfer’s flat for a night and day in Lyon
-Rode for two days to Barcelona….boring
-Spent the night on the beach in my tent…..amazing
-Picked up Margot from the airport on the 17th and put the bike to the test with two people AND two people’s gear!
-Two nights in Barcelona and we headed for the south of France for beach time
-Two nights in Nice, France transformed my trip and my attitude
-Another day of riding and we were deep into Italy
-Spent a night in Genova, Italy
-Camped in Tuscany outside of Florence
-NOW in Florence for two nights in a hostel……
-Hitting the road for either Venice or Roma in the next few days!

So….that’s the bullet points….now on to the boring details.

It seems like months since my last update. So MUCH has happened since July 4th! As summed up above, I found myself stalling in the Czech Republic. Kendra made such a welcoming host that it was tough to leave. I used the weather as my excuse one day, but finally rode out the next come hell or high water….and yeah I found high water.

While at Kendra’s place I did manage to use a Fonda San Miguel recipe to make enchiladas for my Czech hosts. (thanks again Lauren) They were really tasty, but a bit spicier than most of us would have liked. I WILL make them again……awesome. My cooking has gotten better and I really enjoyed putting something together that none of them had experienced before.

I got on the bike and prepared to cross my path north by heading back south again to meet up with Margot in Spain. I ended up in the house of Anna Luisa and the company of her and Mark again. I had a great experience there and was SO glad that I returned….even if it did seem ridiculous to cross my own path. One morning I just sat at a sidewalk café drinking coffee thinking that yet again I was experiencing another trip high. Every day just seems to bring new simple pleasures and outlook. It was amazing to just be there an in the moment. I truly hope to return to Regensberg again someday.

I rode out of Regensberg into a hellacious thunderstorm, but rode late into the night and ended up staying the night at Melanie’s house in Oberdischingen, Germany again. She wasn’t home, but her neighbors let me in and I enjoyed a nice long sleep and shower the next morning before getting back on the road. Thanks Melanie!

From Ober I headed to Switzerland to soak up the riding and mountains. I arrived at a fellow couchsurfer’s house near Zurich and a party awaited. Melissa (my host) had a party going with Sangria and food and I enjoyed getting to hang with her crew of international travelers.

The next day Melissa took me around her town and we hit a photography museum and basically just hung out with no real agenda….pretty much like most of my trip. She was amazingly gracious and didn’t mind sharing her one room pad with me while I snored away and kept her awake. She even took me to her favorite Yoga studio in Zurich and insisted on paying for my session (it was damn expensive) and man was it great. It was exactly what my sore body needed. Amazing….yet again.

I sadly left Zurich and headed into the mountains of Switzerland. It was the most incredible day of motorcycling I’ve ever had. EPIC. The roads, the mountains, the tunnels, the views…..just epic. I took a few photos, but really not much as my hands were full with twisties and fun. Another day I will go back there and take more pics to share!

I ended the day in Lyon and another friendly couchsurfer greeted me with a floor to crash on. Marilyn (my host) is French, but spent time in Austin and dreams of moving there…..as you can imagine, we got along great. I spent the night talking to her about her time there and in Texas and the next morning she showed me some of Lyon. It was beautiful and somehow I forgot to take my camera. It was fairytale France really…..the stuff you see in the movies. I bought some postcards and maybe I’ll actually mail them someday.

I packed up from Lyon and headed to Montpellier. Boring….just slept in a crappy motel and tried to work out the cramps from riding for so long. I hit Barcelona on the 16th and found a spot on the beach to call my own. It was a relaxing day and night on the beach, but I was full of stress about getting Margot AND two people’s gear on the bike for a few thousand miles!

The next morning I found the airport and picked up a smiling face from back home. It was more than welcome to see Margot and instantly begin the “work” of traveling by motorbike. We packed up the bike and determined that stuff needed to go home. (a box is headed to Austin right now with my winter clothes) We hit Barcelona and instantly found a hostel with a sweet room for a good price. We unloaded…..threw on flip flops and walked the city. Barcelona is one cool town. Great architecture…..great sights and smells…nice beaches.

Unfortunately some thugs took a shine to our helmets that were cabled to my bike at the beach one day. GONE….poof….$900 worth of helmets. I had no idea a cable that thick could be cut so easily! I was beyond pissed, but Margot helped to calm me down and we walked all over town looking for the moto shop that didn’t seem to exist. We found it and plunked down the cash for something we owned just a few hours before. We decided to get over it and not discuss it again as it just got me mad all over again. Needless to say….we’re carrying our helmets everywhere now!

I have MUCH to say about how cool Barcelona was, but I’ll just let the pics tell a bit of the story. We stayed a few days and headed towards the south of France for more beach time and amazing views. Riding the bike with two people is a bit challenging to say the least. It is made to take two people, but NOT comfortably. My extra cushy seat is good, but mainly for one person. We also tried to avoid the motorways headed back through Spain and France, but found the back roads to be more than a bit confusing and simply uncomfortable. Motorways are expensive, but sometimes the only way to get miles under my belt.

In two days we managed to ride from Barcelona to Nice, France with more than a few stops in between. We rode along the coast in Marseille and were overwhelmed by the cliffs and water. Truly breathtaking. That day and into the night we avoided the motorways along the coast and near Cannes we hit the coolest 30 mile stretch of road I’ve ever ridden. (yes Switzerland was beautiful, but France’s twisties took the prize for fun). I have NEVER had to concentrate so intensely for so long as I did on that short stretch of road. It was switchback after switchback and I couldn’t believe I was on it!

We did think ahead and booked a room in a fabulous 1 star hotel and rolled into Nice amazed by the sights. What a great town. The coastline of this town is covered with beautiful people and more to look at than we could handle. We chose Nice mainly because it had a KTM dealer and I needed a starter for the bike, but we were really glad we ended up there regardless. I did ride over to the KTM dealer, but they couldn’t be bothered with helping me to diagnose the problem unless I was paying them to do all the work……a total waste of time. I made the decision to kickstart the thing until it annoys me so much that I take it apart to replace whatever is stripped. At this point with the idle upped it seems to have no issue starting on the first or second kick. Bueno.

We took in some great food, beach time and energy in Nice and chose to move on to Monaco and into Italy. Monaco was insane….posh, expensive and confusing. Margot took a ton of pics as we rode around just taking it all in. We chose to move onto Italy and were glad we did. The roads along the coast are almost repetitive in their beauty. Serious mental pictures that I will take home with me.

I believe that I will leave most of the descriptions of the beauty to the photos….even though they fail miserably to capture how overwhelming it all is.

Details…..we ended up in Genova, Italy and without a place to stay. We rode around for almost 3 hours before finding a place that was sufficiently shitty enough (read CHEAP) and we couldn’t get off the bike and unloaded fast enough. My ass is NOT happy about the long rides! Margot seems to mainly have issues with her knees. Genova had pretty spots, but mainly seemed a bit dirty and overpriced. Late that night we walked all over looking for edible food and then right behind the hotel we stumbled upon a tiny alleyway-café where we got a more than enjoyable Italian man who said that Texans were his favorite kinds of Americans and that he’d spent time there 40 YEARS ago! We thoroughly enjoyed just sitting in that dirty alley until after midnight listening to the partying Italians around us on a random Wednesday night….good stuff.

The next day we got online to find campsite near Florence. Internet access has been almost nil since I left Germany so being prepared for the next city has been tough and annoyingly time consuming….but spending 3 hours driving around Genova convinced us that finding a place to point to the day before often makes more sense than randomly hunting upon arrival. The campsite was north of Florence in the mountains and a perfect break from the cities. We unloaded there…set up camp and went hunting for a nice Tuscan meal. We ended up doubling back to a restaurant called “Enoteca”! As some of you know, this is my favorite spot in Austin….so it was too good to pass up. Here we were in this fancy restaurant in the middle of a beautiful mountain valley in Tuscany?!? How did we get so damn lucky!? The food was AMAZING and the whole experience was almost loaded with guilt for just how good it was.

We crashed hard that night as the campsite was quiet…cold and cozy. We woke up late the next day and hit the showers…and the POOL! THIS is the way to CAMP! Everything was really just perfect.

So…that’s yet another impossibly long update. Sorry for the length, but I really haven’t even scratched the surface of what I’ve seen since the Czech Republic. We’re now in a Florence hostel and about to set out to see more sights here. One more night in Florence and we’re either heading for Venice or Rome. We’re thinking of taking a ferry from Southern Italy to Spain again….so it’s all up in the air. Update more when I can. For now just check out the pics as Margot has clicked off quite a few. I’ll add comments as I have time. Also....if you're viewing pics I suggest viewing from the set icons on the right hand side of the main Flickr page. So....view "Headed South" folder today. This will give you the pics in the order they occurred versus the somewhat random way Flickr "streams" them.

Over and out, A

Friday, July 4, 2008

straddlin' the border


How much can one man fit into a week? More than I thought I could, that's for sure. The pic above shows that I made it as far north as the border of Poland and the Czech Republic.

Greenblat:

-rode to Regensburg. Stayed one night and moved on
-arrived in Most, Czech Republic
-rode the bus to Prague to enjoy creepiest sleepover yet
-met up with group to climb a mountain
-conquered the mountain, slept like I never have before
-hanging in Most....

So. I left Oberdischingen, Germany on Friday with a destination of Regensberg, Germany in mind. This time I used the GPS and set it to "direct" and "no highways". Wow...what a difference it made! I ended up on amazing twisties and switchback roads for 5 hours! I would ride for 3 miles and be in another tiny village that looked just like the one before it.....The major difference between the villages there and the ones back home is that they are ALL clean and well taken care of....with amazing local luxuries that small towns back home seem to lack. I rode through fields of amazing bean-like plants riding up telephone pole height wire structures. They were beautiful and EVERYWHERE! I later figured out that it was all Hops. Yeah....like for BEER! Now I know why the stuff tastes so good......the plants are cared for as if they were made of gold. Amazing.

Through couchsurfing.com (CS) I found more cool hosts. Marc and Anna-Luisa hosted me by letting me stay in Luisa's apartment alone. So cool........right in the center of a beautiful town in a really cool 500 year old building. (pics are posted) It was quiet and perfect to unwind from the road. I had drinks in a rose garten with Luisa and watched Spain beat Russia in the Euro Cup semis. Then I slept like a baby and the next morning enjoyed chatting with Luisa as she got up especially to make me coffee and send me off with a smile. She's invited me back for my return that looks like it will lead me right through Regensberg on my way to Switzerland. I intend to take her up on the offer and spend a few days in Regensberg soaking up the scenery a bit more. Apparently it's one of the few decent sized towns in Germany that wasn't almost totally destroyed by bombings during the war. More than a few tour guides on CS have offered to show me around. Soon...

On Friday morning I rode off headed towards Most, Czech Republic to prepare for my weekend of hiking and camping. I arrived at Kendra's place who graciously offered to let me stay at her place and ride along with her to the organized CS trip up the highest peak in the the country. She was great and welcoming. We stashed my moto at her friend's place who had a safe garage to shelter it in and we rode the bus to Prague. Now....this is where it got interesting/frustrating. We met up with another fellow CS'er who offered to host us both for the night before we caught the bus to the base of the mountain with the rest of the hiking group. He was this Turkish guy who I'm now referring to as "Turk Diggler". As nice as he was....he was perhaps the most awkward character I've met in quite a while.

We got to his flat and were ushered in with a bow and a curtsy looking move. I thought "great....this is gonna be fun". He walked us into the smallest efficiency apartment I've ever seen. one room...one closet of a kitchen and one water closet. All the windows were shut and the blinds closed. It was hot....and it seemed that he and deodorant did NOT get along. He shows us the bed and explains that we can all sleep on it. A queen bed.....nice. I immediately have visions of my GLORIOUSLY spacious one man tent outside. Damn....I left it on the motorcycle. I'm screwed.

Kendra and I exchanged the glance that acknowledges the fact that we are definitely NOT going to enjoy our stay in this dungeon with the awkward (to put it mildly) Turk Diggler. We go out to have dinner with Kendra's other friends and reluctantly return to the flat knowing that's it's just going to get worse. I was having SUCH a hard time even breathing around this guy as his B.O. was about as bad as I've ever been exposed to. Diggler announced that he was taking a shower and I almost jumped up Toyota style knowing that if he didn't I might vomit in my sleep! So...we agree to all laying sideways on his bed to give more breathing room and the light goes out....but not before he attempts to amuse us with really odd youtube stand up videos on his cell phone. I can't tell you how stupid they were.....until Kendra awkwardly told him we were tired and had a damn mountain to climb the next morning!

We lay there while he sits up at the end of the bed surfing the internet or something on his phone for HOURS! I couldn't sleep....Kendra couldn't sleep and he simply just sat there at times staring at both of us. At 4:30 Am I get up to drain my system and there he sits in the dim sunrise light coming through the window just staring at me from the end of the bed. I ask him what's up and he simply shrugs his shoulders. WEIRD! Essentially neither Kendra or I slept more than 20 minutes all night and acted as if we were sleeping to quell the awkwardness of telling him that he was making us very uncomfortable.

The alarm FINALLY went off at 6 am and we POPPED out of bed in hopes that we might get some sleep on the 3 hours bus ride to the mountain. Diggler, of course, jumped into the kitchen to prepare an awkward meal to top off our awkward night. He made one big omelet with french fries and we choked it down while we smiled and thanked him for his efforts. He then offered to give us money for our trip and seemed sad that we were leaving. At one point he told Kendra that normally the only friends he had at home were the spiders and the ticking of his clock! That explains a lot I suppose. Regardless......it was the WORST night of sleep, or lack of sleep, that I've had on this trip and in recent years for that matter. It was perfect timing since I was about to take on the biggest physical challenge I'd undertaken in many years!

We got on the subway headed for the train station gleeful that we were rid of Turk Diggler and talks of how we should've just ridden the bike to the mountain and camped out somewhere on the side of the road. What a waste!

Well...the mountain. It was great. After a 3.5 hour bus ride with no sleep we arrived at the base of the mountain with 13 other really cool people. The group consisted of a handful of Czechs, a Ukranian, A Frenchman, another American and two Australians. I knew it was going to be challenging with little sleep, but my lack of gear made it even worse. I wasn't willing to buy it or carry it for one weekend so I set off with one pair of soft footed converse, a thin hoody, a dirty pair of jeans and a not-so-well-suited-school-backpack filled with everything from Nutella to a bottle of Vodka. NOT GOOD.

About 3o minutes in it was obvious to Kendra and I that we would officially be bringing up the rear of the group. The rest of the group seemed well geared-up and bright-eyed from actually sleeping the night before.....not to mention experienced hikers. Ugh...to feel like crap AND perform like it too...tough day. Regardless....we accepted the challenge of finishing and we DID! The sights were beautiful and the climb, though exhausting and extremely rigorous, was well worth the effort. We went from hot and muggy to COLD and windy rain at the top. The climb was about 16km long and at one point we were walking along the ridge of the mountains after the first serious climb for about 5 km. It seemed like a nice break until we looked at the last 2 km to the peak WAY out ahead of us! Steep doesn't come close to describing it. It was totally intimidating and ominous. Coming back down on slippery rocks made it even more challenging......shedding clothes as the temperatures increased rapidly.

We made it a little over half way down to the cabin that the group had rented for us nestled into a small valley. It was perfect.....totally archaic with a wood stove, no lights and dirty soft beds everywhere. It was perfect. I unloaded my pack and just laid there for abotu 30 minutes trying to NOT feel like the oldest guy of the climb. (yes...I later found out I was tied for the position) The group prepared a big kettle full of beans and pasta and we feasted and drank like kings! It was one of the best meals I've ever had. The mixed group mostly spoke the universal English so it was quite fun hearing about their travels. Unfortunately intense pain in my legs set in later and I was forced to sit most of the time, but it was really a great evening. I mean...I DID have scotch to drink afterall.

The next morning we ate leftovers, packed and cleaned up the house and walked the rest of the way down the mountain to the buses. It was a successful trip and one I won't soon forget. I was glad to have tested myself again, but next time I'll bring proper shoes and a proper pack. I'm certain the climb would have been infinitely easier for me with both. I'm considering doing more climbing back home......Stefan is already working on that.

Once back to Kendra's place we went to a bar to watch the Euro Cup final between Germany and Spain. It was a good game, but unfortunately it ended as expected with Spain as the victor. Oh well...I'll enjoy the positive vibes down there in a few weeks.

For now I've just been soaking up this small former communist mining town, Kendra's hospitality and her friend Lenka's Czech cooking. Good stuff! My allergies have been consistently horrible over the last week, but I hope they soon fade. I'm taking meds and praying for the end of the infection that has set in. Why is it that I only get this in the fall back home, but in Europe it's a year round issue?

Today I intend to use a Fonda San Miguel recipe (THANKS Lauren) to make a proper 4th of July meal with Tex-Mex!?!?? Ok....so the europeans think mexican food is exotic....and you know....I like the idea of cooking it again. So....I'm posting pics. I'll make comments as I have time. I hope all back home enjoy the holiday and get some outdoor time today.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Deutschland "Graphic" Design...


The Greenblat:

-ended up stalling in Paris as well....the hosts were just too good!
-changed plans from Italy or Spain to Germany/Prague and East because of a friend scheduled to visit me in Spain in July
-finally got out of Luc's house in Paris and hit the road last Tuesday
-found roads in Eastern France to be pretty damn fun
-hit Belgium, Luxembourg, France AGAIN and finally Germany that evening and crashed in a small hotel near the French/German border
-the autobahns SUCK when you're on a bike that isn't comfy past 80 mph!
-arrived in Oberdischingen, Germany at Melanie's house
-touring, relaxing and working?!

Greenblat can just navigate away from this page now as this update is LONG and random and full of my 'feelings' and all that stuff. If you want details of the trip itself then skip to the part that says "rant over"

OK....so nothing all that crazy to report. I uploaded new pics to the flickr page days ago and I'm just now getting around to talking about them.

I'm on week ten out of the comfort zone and things are going well. While in Paris it occurred to me that my trip has already been a total success. I made it this far....I've come to amazing realizations about my existence, my yearning for adventure, the world, my relationships, my habits (good and bad), my failures and really just life in general. Maybe there shouldn't have been that much for me to realize, but it's how I'm feeling about it now. Just time to remove myself from all that I've known has given serious perspective.

Ultimately I think the thing I'm happiest with is that I've met some of the coolest people on the planet. yeah yeah yeah....all this sounds like almost totally expected and generic talk of 'finding myself' or whatever, but I mean it. I have a feeling that the real benefits of this trip will hit me when I'm home, but so far I already feel a real sense of accomplishment and like it was worth the effort, risk and simple craziness to get here.

I could go home tomorrow and call this worth the effort ten fold........how does it get better? It's funny, but I have a suspicion that it will continue to get better as I move on. I really feel like I'm just starting to get into the rhythm of solo-traveling and enjoying the ride. Of course most that know me likely know that I'm goal-oriented and can sometimes forget what comes after the initial goal is reached......and this trip was about the goal of getting here.....once here the goal seemed lost. It's the whole "be careful what you wish for" scenario. Every day I try to think of a goal for the day....and now my goal in the morning is to NOT have a real goal. No hurry....just wander. It's ridiculously difficult for me and has shown me just how ineffective I've been in life. I've taken on battles and NOT finished the war over and over. Is this what everyone does or is it just me?

All that being said, I'm feeling ridiculously motivated and fit to create new challenges for myself. BIG ONES. I've begun 2 business plans for projects when I return to Austin. I previously thought I just might not come back home for a while if things fell in my lap here, but nothing has made me appreciate Austin more than being totally removed from it.....oh yeah, and the people back home are also part of the equation. ;)

It also occurred to me that maybe this blog is mainly just good for me and not benefiting those of you that are taking the time to read it. Maybe it is annoying to hear me ramble on about how great it is....and not acknowledge that many parts and stages of this European excursion are rather difficult and filled with stress!? Ok...so it's not that bad, but yeah....parts of it are hard for me to deal with. Yeah....I've NEVER been alone this long in my whole life. Of course sometimes it seems that there are constantly people around me, but to be without all my old friends and support system is tough to do. I miss the faces big time. Many days have been spent without speaking to anyone that speaks english....rather isolating, but always makes me smile when I realize that. I also obviously find it hard to move on from place to place mainly because I don't know where I'm going to sleep that night....or where I'm going to shower or eat or any of that. How ridiculous is that? Isn't that the main point of the entire trip? duh. But...it's still hard to do. I stay in comfy houses with people I get along with and it's hard to move on. In fact...the places that I've stayed in the longest are still emailing me telling me to come back!?! Every day I sleep at someone's house I wake up and think that I am imposing and that I am a burden to have around. Amazingly all of my hosts have told me that they benefited from having me around and wish that I'd stayed longer! That feels amazing, but it isn't conducive to me accomplishing much in the way of riding time, camping and/or the 'work' of the trip.

There's also the financial aspect...I'm broke. Yeah....I'm here, but I have financial responsibilities back home that are still there and amassing. I'm investing this money/time in something bigger, but I had no idea how much the stress of money would stay with me along the way. I like to present myself as a guy who doesn't really care about money or being 'ahead', whatever the hell that means, but not knowing if my cash will get me across another border is a heavy weight on my head. I'm not as laid back about it as I try to let on. The cash being spent here is important....it could help me start a business, it could buy a house, it could buy ALL my friends a nice dinner!, but will it get me home in good health? Will it be worth spending this time away? I've been told that some might think that what I'm doing here and writing about here might be for the wrong reasons. It's been said that maybe I'm doing this to prove something to others....to show that I can do my own thing. Maybe I am trying to prove it , but if I am, it's to prove it to myself.....I don't think I really have anything to prove with my friends. They know I'm nuts, but they also know I'm worth the effort and can follow-through when it counts. Yes? No? Feel free to email me if I'm off base here. I actually NEED blunt feedback and criticism from my friends sometimes.

Ok...rant over. On to the details of my trip.

I left Paris sad to say goodbye to Luc and his welcoming home, but it was time and I had no more excuses to stay other than NOT getting to visit the Catacombs after 3 tries! Anyway...I rolled out later than expected and found myself in the beautiful French countryside in no time. The sights truly were breathtaking. I need to get that camera hooked up to my helmet somehow. I wish I could share more of it. By dusk I was freezing my ass off on the bike and looking for a camping spot. Nothing seemed decent and the further I pushed on the colder I got and the more convinced I was that what I needed most was a hot shower.

I rolled through the Belgium border feeling like I was getting away with something (ghost town border huts are weird) and almost immediately into Luxembourg and then somehow back into France. I think I hit the wrong button on the GPS and it was sending me directly south again. So...once I found gas, (I was running out and WAY into reserve) I pushed on into Germany and my first stretch of Autobahn. It began empty and tunnel ridden. I had a huge smile and realized that 95 mph on a dirtbike isn't the best idea. I slowed down and started searching for a motel. I found one in a tiny town and took whatever they could give me. Surprisingly I knew how to ask in German for a single room and knew how to ask how much it would cost. The hotel owner was nice enough to store my moto in his personal garage and bought me drinks in the hotel bar while we watched Germany beat Austria in the Euro cup soccer game. It was a great time to hang out with this local gang who thought I was crazy to have come all that way to have a beer with them! :)

The next day it was a long ride through Autobahns and my first real rain. The rain suit worked perfectly except that I felt like a dufus with huge boot covers on.....I bought some made for a giant apparently. Michelle will be happy to know that they STILL smell like a plastic factory and MUST be double bagged in plastic when not in use or everything smells of them!

I managed to get through the rain and crazies on the Autobahn that blew by me in the rain like I was sitting still and I finally got off the highways and onto the coolest twisty back roads I've ever ridden. WAY off into the hills of Germany it starts to feel like someone prepared the picture perfect roads just for me. I'm determined to stay OFF the autobahns and huge motorways for the rest of this trip. We'll see if my patience for stop lights and tiny villages can remain.

I made it to Oberdischingen that day, albeit late to a great dinner prepared by Melanie. (I'm still there right now) Melanie is a new friend that I met in a hostel in London. She kept bragging about how good her flat was here in this tiny village, so I decided to take her up on the offer of crashing with her. Her place has been great....I've had plenty of space and time to take a vacation from my vacation and get some work started. Melanie is a teacher and works most days. While here, I've been trying to plan out how my return to normal life will proceed....it always interferes doesn't it? Anyway....Ober has been great. Melanie's mother has cooked up some amazing meals...as has Melanie and I need to get out of here before I start getting fat again. You'll notice in my pics on flickr that I've shown a bit of what I've seen. Great quiet towns...farms..rolling hills....good beer....german music...the whole deal. What I'm constantly amazed by is how much the people, even in a tiny village like this one, want to learn english and practice it with me. At least I got that English thing going for me.

Saturday afternoon we drove to Stuttgart, at my urging, to see the Porsche museum. I can say that this was by far the BIGGEST disappointment and humorous part of my trip. We drove over an hour for ONE SMALL room of cars. Maybe 15? A few engine cutaways and a few trophies....like 20. What the hell? They are building a new HUGE museum across the street, but the website doesn't let on that the old one is a total joke. Anyway...skip Porsche if you're ever out this way. We headed directly over to the Mercedes Benz museum and it was just as amazing as the Porsche museum was underwhelming. I had no idea they'd build SO many types of cars. The technical stories will ensue for the motorheads when I return....and I'll post a few MB pics later.

I've met some new friends using couchsurfing.com and will be heading off to Regensberg, Germany tomorrow and on to Prague the next day. A new friend has graciously invited me on a hiking/camping trip to the highest point in the Czech Republic, so I'll be joining a group of people for some nature this weekend. We leave on a bus out of Prague early Saturday morning. The bike will have to stay alone! I'm hoping it's there when I return. I'm told Prague is NOT Germany and you can't leave your keys in it running outside like I could do in Ober.

On another note....apparently I CAN cook. I once worked in a kitchen in a nice restaurant in Canada, but it's been MANY years since I took on the task of preparing an entire meal for a group of more than two. Tonight I was asked to cook a mexican feast for my hosts while we watched Germany play Turkey in the EuroCup Semi-Final match...Melanie, Bernhadt, Corrina and Michael were all keen to try some TexMex. The hard part was really trying to figure out what ingredients were at the supermarket. Ever try to make Tacos al pastor without cilantro...ahem...I mean corriander? Uh yeah...not so simple. Anyway...I made a mexican baked rice casserole using german sausage because I couldn't find Chorizo (go figure) and it was SO much better than I expected! The al pastor tacos were pretty damn good...if not really weird, but the germans didn't know better and ate them all up quick. I literally had to show them how to roll up a tortilla. I've actually been cooking quite a lot on this trip. Perhaps this is the real reason why I've lost 7 lbs? No queso equals nothing to eat in my book. :) I hope to continue this trend back home.

Oh...some might ask why I've changed my route from Italy/Spain to Germany/Czech Republic....? Well...after extending the invite to everyone to join me for a leg of this trip it looks like I finally have a taker. My friend Margot from Austin has been looking for a way to put her Spanish studies to use and has decided to fly out to Spain to meet up with me in July. I also hope to see some of Italy with her. FUN.....anyone else want to join?? Anyone that wants to rent a moto and ride along?? Jeff? Mark? Chris? Kenneth? Anyway..so instead of having to see Spain twice or double back north from Italy to Germany and the like, I've decided to just head east until it suits me and then give myself a few weeks to get back through Bavaria, maybe Austria and certainly Switzerland as I'm told the riding there is intensely amazing.

Ok...gotta run..getting up early tomorrow! Updates to follow...sorry about the enormous length and rambling nature of this one. I've been quite lax about updating this and things start to add up.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Zen and the art of motorcycling Paris...


I hit Paris with a loose chain and a bit of a loose head. More on that in a minute.......I'm going to give a wrap-up list for Greenblat because apparently he can't be bothered with my long ramblings: (from now on this is referred to as the "Greenblat")

-Found places to stay with Kevin's friends
-couch surfing here is pretty damn good
-replaced chain and sprocket on bike on Friday - met really cool guy (Christophe) with moto shop
-saw sights via motorbike
-riding a motorbike in Paris is INSANE AND FUN!
-met cool friends out Friday night....went to bed at 7:30am the next day
-ate good French food
-drank lots of scotch and wine
-Parisians don't sleep....kept me up all night Saturday too
-Visited Cliches (for Mark) Louvre, Eiffel, Jim Morrison's grave, Notre Dame, Arch, pretty stuff, parks, Catacombs, various museums...more to follow....
-replaced back tire on Motorbike
-new Parisian friends had a party for me under the Eiffel Tower...FUN
-Likely headed to Italy or Spain in the next few days....yeah, it's that undecided.
-I'm allergic to Paris...worst allergies in ages
-I like Parisian food better than London's food (sorry Frankie)
-still alive...maybe more so than normal

I rode into Paris almost a week ago and was amazed by how beautiful the French countryside is. It kept a smile on face almost the entire 3 hour ride from the coast to the center of Paris. I was able to crash with Yann and Emily...friends of Greenblat. They rocked and helped me through a stressful Friday as I tried to get a new chain and money to fix my bike. It was a crazy day of finding my way, but it worked out.

I met Christophe and Florian of www.scootngo.fr just up the road from Yann's house. Christophe spoke great English and helped me figure out what I needed, offered his shop space and tools, his help and PLENTY of hospitality. Christophe really went out of his way to help me with the sprockets and chain and then again (today) with a new rear tire mounted and balanced. What a difference it's made to have someone's help and place to work. I can't say enough about his generosity! Again....more cool people no matter where I go.

Yann promptly took me out Friday night and got me drunk at a party and then an all night club. It was drunken hilarity for sure. The good part was that we stayed out until 7:30 am and were able to sober up enough to ride across town with empty roads on Saturday morning. Yann led me on his scooter down the river along all the picturesque sights and even through my crazy exhaustion I felt wide awake just taking it all in.....amazing. Thanks Yann!

After a few hours of sleep on Saturday I met up with some friends from the night before for some Paris museum roaming. (Mai, Albane, Sophie and Antoine) The experience was unique for sure. In Paris modern art can mean a nitrogen-powered-beer-bottle-canon, a HUGE pile of trash and even a man staring at a wall. Thought provoking and I'm considering taking up the practice of art now. ;) The day ended in horrible allergies, but I kept going.....

I ended up meeting Yann at a party at Luc's house. Luc is another friend of Greenblat and Slutsky's. Luc has an amazing house and in the course of the night offered to let me crash with him for a few nights. (I'm still there) Luc's hospitality has been amazing as well. He took me to Pere-LaChaise (huge famous cemetery) near his house. We sat and soaked it up....absolutely beautiful place and a great walk for both of us. Luc goes there often and said that it's his favorite place in Paris. I also took the stroll to see Jim Morrison....he says "hey" to the fans back home.

Last night Sophie, Mai and Albane all through a little surprise going away party for me near the tower and it was a blast.....these people know how to party and make one feel welcome. Paris and I will rendezvous again!

Today I worked in Christophe's shop all day on the bike and internet to update this. I'm trying to figure out if I'm going to Spain or Italy in the next few days.....more fun to follow.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The draw of comfort and friends....


It's confirmed. Tomorrow I finally leave for Paris! I bought a eurotunnel ticket and at 12:20 my time, I'll take the chunnel train under the English channel headed for France. My hold-ups were numerous, but the main ones were crappy weather, delays for my euro moto-insurance and entirely too accommodating hosts.

Jay and Catherine Rad have been GREAT hosts here in London. Jay is a filmmaker and convinced me to hang out a bit longer to work on/act in a short film he was putting together for a contest. I decided to take him up on the offer and stay until Monday and then head to Cornwall to see Sam (from a few weeks ago) this past Sunday. Unfortunately Sam headed to France on holiday early with his family, so I was forced to forgo my ride out to visit him. I stayed with the Rads while I sorted out my insurance for the border crossings ahead.

I was unable to find moto insurance here in the UK, so I've ended up paying $350 for 9 weeks worth of US euro-only insurance. Crap. Well...at least I'm covered for now and I'll be headed out on the road legally!

Filming with Jay was great fun and I learned a bit. It was an impressive professional setup and has definitely made me want to do some filming of my own. More on that soon...

Beyond the hold-ups, I got to hang out with Frankie and friends a bit more, drink pints with Nick and friends, check out random pubs with Jay and somehow ate a $15 burger and fries (chips).
I've got clean laundry, a motorcycle and at least enough dough to get me Paris.

I managed to contact some friends of Kevin Greenblat (Yann and Emily) and look forward to meeting and hanging with them tomorrow night. I'm a bit intimidated since French is the language I'm most confused by, but I'm going for it regardless. I hope to update this soon.

I can't believe I stayed in London so long...in NYC so long....and now it's been almost 7 weeks since I left home. Other than moving away, this is definitely the longest I've ever been away. Time is flying and yet I feel like my trip is just getting started...

more to come.....

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Take that you thieving Brits! Yeah.....it's locked up a bit more securely. Sure the left Pannier rack is now bent and the case is scratched along with a few other bits, but overall the bike is riding fine. I took Monday night's happenings as a sign that I can't be quite as laid back about my bike's security. Locking it to itself will not be enough it seems. Human selfishness and lack of moral code is insured against by a simple piece of technology. Punks.

So today I'm doing a bit of procrastinating....and trying to get myself back on the road. I'm not feeling like a very successful traveler today. Even though I'm out here and I'm taking it all in, I haven't felt the open road lay in front of me in over a week and I need to get back out there. People trying to steal my bike doesn't help either....made my entire trip feel pretty vulnerable to attack.

I know that the next few days/weeks are finally uncharted territory as I don't have any plans to see friends or stay with anyone. I guess I keep saying it, but my comfort zone is being challenged and exposed again. I'm actually surprised at myself at how hesitant I am to just move forward. I just realized that it's the alone part that has me hesitant and not readily seeking new adventure....that I'm sure of. Just having a partner on the road would make it endlessly easier and exciting to take on strange places. I guess that seems obvious to most, but the reality of it just hit me while I tried to analyze my laziness. I'm on this trip for that reason I suppose. Yeah....I'm exposed.....I like people....except you people that decide to screw with me about saying all this. :)

I'm planning to leave tomorrow if I can get a few things in order. Wish me luck....it could be a while before another update.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Thieves


Yeah....don't adjust your sets. I'm awake and it's 4am my time. Some assholes just tried to steal my bike! I was up late working on some writing and took out my contacts, closed the computer and closed my eyes. Within 5 seconds I heard a noise outside. I glanced out the front window and there were 3 fuzzy white figures around my bike trying to drag it off. Instead of having the presence of mind to put my contact back in before reacting (so that I might get a good look at them or come outside with a bat to kill them), I banged on the window. They dropped the bike and scattered like little boys. I finally got the window open and yelled "Assholes". After I yelled it I realized I mainly yelled because they'd dropped my damn bike. I don't blame them for wanting it.....because it's cool as hell, but DAMN how stupid could you be? It has a huge obvious cable lock on the back wheel and the handlebars are locked to one side with the key. Did they really think they'd carry off 400 lbs. of motorcycle with 3 guys for more than a few feet? In the RAIN? Dumbasses. Surely they cased it before they came to get it at 3 am on a Monday night in the rain? Did they decide to ignore the lock? They didn't get 4 feet away before they were dead in the water.

Anyway....I'm up and wired and I'm pissed. I slowly got dressed, picked it up out of the street and put it on the sidewalk. It's now locked to a light pole, but I'm still worried that they'll return with proper tools to get rid of the lock. I'm going to try to pass out now and if it's still there tomorrow then I'll figure out a more fitting way to secure it. I kind 0f doubt those guys will return though....at least I hope so. That would likely take much bigger guts than they seemed to have when they scattered so quickly with just the tap on a window.

Maybe this is a sign that it's time for me to get out of London finally!?!?

Oh yeah....and I'll give you a heavy English pound if you know the movie the pic is from (without using the internet). I'm totally gonna go Swayze on their asses next time!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hovering in England....


Well....I'm still in England. I have found almost too many connections and new friends here to hang out with and I've been hesitant to move on. Since my stay in the Hostel on the 12th and 13th I have bummed around from friend to friend and somehow avoided hotels and the like. I realized today that I've only spent about $100 on lodging since I left home. I also realized that it's been over a month since I rolled out of Austin. Man time flies.....it really feels like I just left.

In London I wandered about and realized that my travel style is the lazy style. I like wandering with only the occasional glance at my guidebook to get me to a neighborhood that sounds interesting. I've continued my wandering all over southern England.

When last I blogged I was at Helen's flat in North London. That day I rolled out to meet up with Sam Lovegrove in Netley Marsh. Sam is an old friend of Miles, a friend of mine in Austin. Sam restores and collects vintage bikes and cars out near Lands End here in England, but was trading motorbike parts at Netley Marsh for the weekend. He invited me to hang out with him and friends and take a look at how the junk collectors over here do it, so I took the opportunity to get out into the country for a bit.

After a long ride of lane splitting, traffic battling and realizing there is a difference between Netley Marsh and Netley, I finally got out to meet up with him on Friday afternoon. It was perfect...I rode up and dinner was waiting on the grill. Yum....I never thought grilled chicken cooked in a car wheel could taste so good. I hung out with Sam and talked about bikes and the obvious differences between my home and his. Since he's been to Austin before to visit Miles and he's a damn smart fellow, it made for a good chat. We stayed up drinking his beer and laughing at the "concert" that came about in the exhibitor's tent near our campsite. I tried to post videos on Flcker, but only pics came through. I'll get that worked out later.....it was DAMN funny. Just imagine Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" being wrung out by a hysterically bad Karaoke drum machine kind of cover band in a tent with 30 old drunk British men dancing together and loving every minute of it. Priceless. It was a truly unique evening for me and I finally got the chance to break out the tent and sleeping bag. It was perfect. I slept great except for the hole in my sleeping pad.....errrrr Hot Rod Marc's sleeping pad. 30 minutes of comfort and suddenly I'm on the hard ground again. I'll be patching that later...

I also posted pics of the Netley Motojumble and of the nearby Beaulieu "Autojumble" that had amazing things to see. Thanks SO much to Sam for making it a damn great weekend. I intend to head out to see him again during this trip at his place. He's invited me to come out for a proper vintage motorbike ride through the English countryside. How could I turn that down?

I also went to Camberley to visit my old friend Lee McGoldrick. He worked in Texas for a year and we met through our mutual friend Mandy in Houston. He and his wife Dawn visited Austin too....hard to believe that was 8 years ago! Anyway....I looked him up and FINALLY got to hang out with him again this past week. I stayed with them in their beautiful home between Netley Marsh and London and had a great visit. I intend to come back to see them as well.....

I went on to Southampton after Camberley to visit my new friend Frankie. I met Frankie in NYC's Jewish Museum, of all places, after she and I were kicked out abruptly at closing time. She was an intern at the MOMA and is now back in the UK searching for a job in London again. Frankie and her parents were amazingly welcoming and nice enough to let me crash in their guest room. I was so thankful to have them looking after me with home cooked meals and more than a few Britishisms that I'd never encountered. I tried a proper British Sunday roast, Cornish Pasties, Baked beans on toast (breakfast), Scotch Eggs, Tea, , Fish and Chips, Tea, INSTANT coffee, Tea and Scottish Salmon, Water Crest, ....oh and did I mention GREAT Tea? Her father was also kind enough to teach me a few of my American English wobbles. I had no idea I was so far off the mark. He did seem pleased when I told him that I occasionally revert back to my Canadian spelling of colour.

Frankie and I headed off to Portsmouth on the bike one day and DAMN it was COLD! She says I'm a wimp....I think she's just lucky she didn't have to ride up front where the cold wind just blows right through me. We also found time to ride up to Winchester to the Cathedral there. It amounted to the coolest piece of Architecture that I've gotten a chance to catch here. What an amazing place....and it finally felt truly British. We even sat for a choir session and service. Yes....I went to church and loved it. The sound of the Winchester choir in a thousand year old cathedral easily brought goosebumps.....totally cool.

From Frankie's parent's place in Southampton, I rode to Newbury (where I am right now) to stay at another friend's place from Austin. Courtney "Sabre" Hubbard lives here now on transfer with her job and I caught word and came to visit her.....only she's in London today! :) I decided to stay here today and catch up on some work/online business and just relax. It's turned into a day of chillaxin and laundry....along with eating everything I could find in Courtney's house and some. FUN. She's back tonight and in the morning I'm getting up to make breakfast tacos with stuff I found at the local grocery shop.

Tomorrow I intend to head to London and see a bit more of the town and stay with my friends Jay and Cathy that I met at Hannah's wedding in Austin. I'm thinking of finishing up a few last pieces of business here and heading to France next week. From there I think Spain beckons with warm weather and CHEAP things to do. The high price of everything here is killing me! I'm told France and beyond is a veritable bargain in comparison.

On a personal note, I'm having a rougher few days. I'm feeling more guilty for being on holiday and more tempted by opportunities that present themselves job wise. I truly believe that finding work might be as easy as filing work permit paperwork and job-hunting. That makes me feel lazy....and tempted at the same time. Paradoxically I feel a bit homesick. I miss my old friends and my old haunts. I'd kill for a coffee at Jo's today and a movie with Tony, Ulf and peeps at the Alamo tonight.

I feel like opportunities abound most everywhere I go......and yet it's my selfish concern of opportunity cost that has me troubled. It's like I'm in the best position of my life that has suddenly turned to the whole "be careful what you wish for" scenario. I'm here...I'm getting what I wanted and I suddenly want to sit in my manroom and watch movies without interruption or the real world interfering and forcing me to face the fact that I might not be living up to some dream or potential I have. ....yeah...blah. This isn't fun to read, so why babble on about it?

I'll leave it light. I'm enjoying England, my new and old friends and I'm moving on to France regardless. From there I hope to find warm weather and some serious camping and fun. I'll try to take better pics soon. Thanks for reading my all too infrequent posts....more to come.






Friday, May 16, 2008

Lazy Update


I'd say that London has been kind to me, but not my pocketbook. I've spent more than I budgeted for despite what everyone told me about it being so expensive here.

I really need to properly update this, but I just lack the time and motivation to spend an hour writing about all that has happened......all the minor details of 'adventure'.....however you define that.

bottom line: I got my motorcycle out of customs and spent almost $400 to do so. It took seven hours of walking around Heathrow airport and taking bus after bus to the proper shipping building. At the end of the day it seemed quite disorganized and random as to what they needed from me to give me my bike. I took off the straps, turned the key (apparently they forgot to unhook the battery) and started it right up. A short ride back to the airport terminal 4, $85 dollars paid to get my bags out of storage and 30 minutes spent in the parking lot trying to repack my bike properly. Blah....it was a long day, but a successful one as I rode down the road thinking (stay on the left side, stay on the left side). I will say one thing for sure....the GPS is the most valuable piece of equipment I have. It made riding around here almost easy.

I rode to Helen's house and it was fantastic. She lives in a big flat in north London and she was a fantastic host. Just to be able to relax.....use her shower and sleep in a quiet room was amazing! She asked if I wanted a cup of tea.....HELL YEAH!....best tea I've ever had.

I hung out here for the entire day yesterday just relaxing and enjoying quiet time and a BATH! I then went out to East London to see Octopus Project play on their first ever European tour! (A local Austin band favorite of mine) Helen is friends with Yvonne and Josh from the band (as are several of my friends back home) and we had a great time talking with them before and after the show. They played an excellent set and figured out that I was the only guy from Texas other than the band at the show.

After Helen took me for a proper English Curry shop and the long ever-expected tube ride/walk home.

Today I've decided to go to an Autojumble near Shouthampton about 2 hours south of here. London is great and I WILL return here, but I'm ready to move on before the cloudy weather turns to crappy rainy weather.

I hope to update this more properly later, but perhaps more stories will get in the way of describing the fun/trials I've had since my last proper update. Regardless....I'm healthy and well and looking forward to more time on the bike in England. Updates could take a while as I plan on camping the next few days.

Also.....you'll notice a new photo link. Flickr filled up quickly past my free monthly limit, so I've added a photobucket account with the new pics I've taken. I'll try to add better comments to it later. Thanks to all for reading....until next time...cheers!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Screwed...

Well...the financial woes are beginning. I'm in a hostel in London still and plan to stay with Hannah and Linda's (the brit twins in Austin for those who know) sister Helen here in town tonight. That's the good news....free lodging tonight.

My moto is in London at the airport, but I'm still waiting on my title and paperwork that was supposed to be sent to me here last week. Four phone calls later I'm handed off to some outside company that says I will need to spend over $400 more dollars to temporarily import this bike into the country and over $1000 if I intend to keep it here permanently. Of course the research I did and the shipping company I used didn't show this....I was told it would be less than half that before. Regardless.....I'm screwed....or at least it appears that way. They are also charging me $55 a day to store the bike until customs paperwork is handled AND my bags are costing me $20 a day to store. SCREWED!

This is already making me feel that I made a mistake with bringing the bike....but that was a BIG part of the point of this trip....to have the freedom to go and do at my pace.

So....I'm waiting to hear from the shipping company in NY and should know something by later this afternoon. Wish me luck.....update to follow.

Monday, May 12, 2008

My long day...






Well....I'm here. I'm tired...but I'm here.

I got up this morning (Sunday) late and immediately started packing. I was honestly a bit sad about leaving the Capobiancos, but I loaded up with Michelle and headed out. We decided to drive to Manhattan and hang out at the MOMA for the day and then she'd drop me off at the airport. It ended up being one of the highlights of my trip so far....not because of the museum as much, but because Michelle and I had a freakin' blast. We went into the Modern restaurant below the museum...got loaded on ONE Cilantro Martini thingie (we were hungry)...ate some tiny expensive food and ran through the museum like madmen with only an hour to see the whole thing. The museum was amazing and I was overwhelmed in a short period, but we simply didn't have enough time. Ridiculous.....but still ridiculously FUN. Thanks Michelle.....we're totally doing that again....only I hope we can get extra loaded and stay extra long in the museum. The afternoon was priceless.

The blurry photo above shows Michelle riding on the outside of the car in the tunnel leaving Manhattan headed to the airport....needless to say the Martini still had a hold on our time.

Upon my arrival in the airport I was almost instantly greeted by the Ewan McGregor photo. Again...priceless. I'm hoping that after my adventure on my moto that they name a fragrance after me.....maybe call it "Shifty"...or "TOGE" for TheOneGoodEye?

From there my day went on.....and got LONG.

I got on the plane with visions of sleep at 6:30, but like always I wasn't able to sleep on the plane. It was a nice flight though. I'd go so far as to say that it seemed short. I could've stayed longer to enjoy the pampering and place to relax.

I got off the plane and waited through a few hours of customs lines, but somehow they let me IN! I can't believe that a bag FULL of motorcycle parts and cryptic tools made it through customs AND security without a hitch. They didn't even open my checked bags to rummage through them....surprising.

I quickly found a place to hold my bags for about 20 bucks a DAY! My moto will not be here until Wednesday, so I had no choice....I couldn't run around London for two days with two fourty pound bags dragging behind me. Stefan and Kenneth could be right....I think I see a box filled with extras headed back to Austin in my future. I don't have as much stuff as you might think, but without the moto/pack mule KTM, I'm anchored heavily. I took a change of clothes, a toothbrush, my laptop and my guidebook and left the rest at Heathrow airport. It should get interesting when I have to find my way back out there to pick up the bike AND all that gear. FUN!

Anyway....I took the tube headed to London and didn't care where it was going. I got off at Piccadilly because that was the only stop that sounded familiar. Man....what a tourist trap. I mean....it's great and all because I'm in London, but I could've picked something a bit less American. I mean....within minutes of getting topside I saw a TGI Fridays, Planet Hollywood and two Starbucks. Damn....I thought I just flew over an ocean or two?

So....ridiculously groggy, I've managed to eat a sandwich, have a cappuccino and get online at an internet dungeon....yeah....dungeon. I just booked a hostel for a few nights at 15 pounds a night and I'm hoping to go check-in in a few....shower...nap and get out for something fun.

Ok....enough internet and dungeon. I'm back out...just wanted everyone to know I'm safe and sound.....well safe anyway.

more to come....OUT.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

17 hours and CHANGE...


So...in a few hours I board British Airways flight 184 for London. Damn.....I'm finally leaving.

I guess the trip to NYC now seems like it was a dress rehearsal. I had all the same gear....all the same fear and all the high expectations, but now it seems that I'm really taking a plunge.

I'm leaving and I don't know when I'm coming back.

People keep asking "where are you going?".....I say "Europe"...."where in Europe?"....with a hint of sarcasm, with embarrassment, with boastfulness I say "as far as I can get!".

Every time I say this I feel like I'm lying. Before I was worried that I might not make it to NYC....and then once I got here I felt like this might be as far as I'd go....and now I feel like I'm only gonna make it to London. Strange isn't it? I guess I feel like most of my life has been spent talking about where I'm going and very little of it has been spent actually GOING. I mean....I'd feel insulted or judged if one of my friends was overheard questioning whether I'd actually go through with this trip....and yet I know it's occurred and that I shouldn't feel insulted OR judged. Maybe that's just what I've presented and earned? I know that people that I love and respect have wondered if I'd go through with spending everything I've earned and been given on a whim...or seemingly a whim. Many likely don't know that I've wanted to do this since I was just a kid. I'm not sure if that helps or hurts my cause.....or if it matters at all. Hell.....now I'm not even sure why I'd bring this all up.

Either way....I'm going. I leave tomorrow and if I can find a way to come up with more money, then this trip will continue. I'm WELL below my budgeted amount for the full 3 months, but I simply couldn't let that keep me at home......or take that 3 week trip to the Grand Canyon instead! ....not that it's not great...it's just not the same since it would really leave me in my comfort zone. I'll soon be a stranger in a strange land looking for work, fun and time to myself.

grrrrr....maybe I'll just talk about the F*ck ups for a while to give some of you the giggles.

List of mistakes so far and the resulting advice:
-Don't ever leave on a LONG trip with a beard and without your shaving/dop kit....it gets annoying and stinky very quickly
-Don't ever leave on an international trip without your passport (don't ask) (thanks to Kenneth)
-Know how to change the oil on your bike BEFORE you leave town and all your tools (tougher than you'd imagine on a KTM while using a medical syringe as a funnel)
-Don't ignore a "Chuggin" drive chain when preparing your bike for a long 1850 mile ride
-If going to the trouble of bringing your favorite heavy SLR camera, then don't forget the battery charger and battery!
-USE LOC-TITE on every screw of a thumping single cylinder motorcycle.....stuff falls off!
-Don't buy gas in a NJ slum just across the river from Manhattan.....and don't pump it yourself....they get PISSED!
-If you bring a tube of bad ass gasket sealer in your tool kit...it WILL find something sharp to puncture it and make ALL of your bags smell like a chemical plant
-Don't listen to everyone's worries. They all love to talk about how weak the American dollar is and how screwed you are when you travel to Europe. FUN.

Ok....so maybe it's not that bad, but all those things sure seemed like a pain in the arse along the way.

...Tomorrow holds a lot for me I know. It's goodbye to my comfort zone and hello vagrancy. I don't even know where I'm sleeping tomorrow night. Prepared huh?

Regardless....tomorrow I leave and the trip officially begins. Wish me luck....I hope to update this SOON!

Thanks to everyone who cares enough to read!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hiding...

So.....I've been hiding. I mean, I haven't been hiding consciously, but I have been hiding.

NYC is an easy place to disappear in. My last entry had me jumping headlong into parties and soaking up the atmosphere. I met up with old friends and quickly made new ones. I guess my entries stopped because I also wasn't sure of where to head for entertainment purposes. (ie. you the reader of my dribble)

I've also had a significant amount of guilt build-up since I left Austin. It's gone past a nice long holiday away and turned into a long-term experience. I suddenly realized that it was only through the help of my friends, family and supporters (you know who you are) that I've been able to take off like this. I guess I've questioned whether or not I deserve this shot at all.....if I've earned this time to play and soak up so much. Things back home have been both perfect and perfectly flawed....and I can only hold myself responsible for the failures.

All that being said and purged, moving on is really all I can do because going home to a ticker tape parade isn't an option just yet. So.....I'll continue onward.

Now that the acknowledgment of my absence is out of the way let's get back to what I've been up to.

After a first fun weekend with Michal and crew, I squatted in her old apartment in Greenwich Village for a few nights. Her old roommate Molly was nice enough to let me stay. It was a perfect location and I quickly started to feel like a real member of the town. The weather quickly turned to crap with rain and cold, but I was determined to spend my time OUT doing things. I braved the Subway system because my moto had proven to be a large pain. Simply parking it was a pain.....as I was constantly worried either about it being towed or stolen. It's my lifeline for the rest of the trip, so I found a safe spot on the NYU campus and parked it until it was time to put it on a plane.

After jumping the wrong train a few times and walking in the wrong direction, I finally found my way to Museum row by Central Park. I instinctively walked right up to the Guggenheim first. It's always been a dream to see it and "feel" it in person. Of course.....I was TOTALLY disappointed! The entire exterior is under "reconstruction" and the interior was full of half of the population of NYC....or at least every tourist in town. I braved the crowd for a bit and then got the hell out of there. It was NUTS! Oh well....I'll catch FLW's work again soon I'm sure.

The Guggenheim disappointment was followed by a trip the Jewish Museum and a cool Warhol exhibit that I'd only read about before covering 10 important Jews in history. I think I enjoyed that most....but I've realized that I'm easy when it comes to comparing modern art to classic works. The modern stuff appeals to me like TV.....only better.

While in the Jewish Museum I ended up getting abruptly kicked out at closing time with a fellow museum goer....Frankie. We were both viewing a video on the ever popular Holocaust and a security guard abruptly walked up and asked us to leave. (Trust me it was REALLY abrupt for a quiet museum) We laughed at each other's shared shock on the way down the stairs and it became quickly apparent that she was British and more specifically from London. I told her I was headed there in a few weeks and that coupled with the fact that we'd both just been tossed out on our asses made for enough common ground to try to hit other museums together. She also seemed significantly more qualified since she's been an intern at the MOMA for 3 months and works at the Tate in London. So.......I had an informed guide and we set out to see a bit more of the town in some really crappy weather.

Frankie took me to the Cloisters as far north on Manhattan as the subway runs. It was a truly cool place and gave me my first glimpse of New York (outside of Central Park) with beautiful views of things other than buildings. The Hudson really can be beautiful! The museum was cool too. I'd like to go on about specific things that spoke to me here, but it was mainly the scenery and quiet that kept me happy....the opposite of the Guggenheim. Ancient treasures and amazing tapestries abound there, but I mainly enjoyed the time away from the cliche bustle of the city. I think that everything I saw there seemed to be recreated and hung on a wall as art from Europe so my mind kept wandering over the pond to treasures like these displayed in their native setting. I hope to get a better sense of things soon....

The next day I made the trip out to Sea Cliff where John and Michelle live to ship my bike and do a bit of work for them. Of course.....getting my bike ready for shipping took MUCH longer than I'd anticipated. Even doing the oil change took the better part of a day with the time it took JUST to get the proper oil and tools to get it sorted. I was forced to push it to Thursday and then to Friday before I was able to get the bike to the shipper on Long Island near JFK airport. But....I got it off and after spending about 500 more than I intended to spend, the bike was off to London. I'm scheduled to receive it in London on the 13th, so I pushed my flight back to the 11th to give me more time to work for J&M and see a bit more of the city in the meantime.

John and Michelle have been great. I've gotten to spend more time with their boys Quinten and Ian and had more than a few good laughs with them all. Their hospitality is more akin to family. It's like staying with my sister and her family....if I only had a sister. It's so comfortable that some have doubted if I'll leave! :)

My life lesson this week is profound to me, but perhaps not that profound to most. I knew this long ago, but I've recently forgotten it or ignored its significance. It has to do with friendships. I am lucky enough to have many friends.....and make new ones easily it seems, but I've realized that I've recently taken many of my close friendships for granted. I've been so emerged in this trip, in my general life woes and in attempting to push off from it all that I've lost sight of a few around me that truly matter.

Just this past two weeks I spent a significant amount of time worrying about how a friend had wronged me and taken me for granted. I talked about it and complained about how I "don't deserve someone to blow me off like that"....but perhaps I did. I went to the trouble to see this friend and really got treated like I was a temporary fixture on the wall. Even with the glimpses I'd had of this person as someone who really cared and was sensitive to others underneath their layer of care-free.....I was proven wrong. Sometimes people really are as shallow as they seem and accepting this is WAY easier than trying to make them into something they are not.

Of late I've blown off quite a few friends that were reaching out to me by simply letting me know they are there or wanting to hang out. When we DO hang out I can often spend time just discussing my problems and forget that their problems/triumphs truly matter to me as well. I'm sorry if you fit into this category. If I hang out with you it generally means that I care about your life as well and enjoy relating to you. Today I've decided that new friends are great and cultivating new friendships is stimulating fun, but when my gut tells me that I smell a rat......it's likely a rat. As cliche as it is.....we all need to follow our gut instincts and I think mine are pretty good. Spend th time on those that deserve it people......not on the ones you WISHED deserved it. What a waste.....(soap box kicked away)

So.....many stories exist in the middle of this short (yes it seems short) update. I hope to get to tell my tales in person to many of you when I return. In the meantime.....which of you is going to meet me in Europe for a visit? ANYONE?

Updates soon to follow......I added more pics to my flickr account so check them out.....I hope they get better as time goes on. It seems that my iPhone pics are the best just because it's so readily available.

P&G for now.