Saturday, April 26, 2008

First leg: check

Well...I've been surprised at how busy I've been since the last update. When last I found time to write it was Tuesday, I was in Birmingham, AL and I was feeling totally intimidated by the long road ahead to NYC.

I made it. I'm sitting in a friend's apartment (Rob and John) on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I met John and Rob through my friend Michal who is moving back to Austin in about 2 hours!

I'm tired...lethargic and full of a heavy Italian lunch of fresh Gnocchi. mmmm. It's been a long damn week.

In Birmingham I was in familiar territory. I felt intimidated and excited at the same time about the new scenery. My friend Matt Myer owns Magic City Motorscooters in B-ham and happened to have a battery in stock to fit the KTM. PERFECT. A quick replacement and a shop to work on it in. Great setup. Then I had dinner and beers with Matt and crashed at his and Joy's house (his wife). Matt and Joy are old friends from my days in B-ham and I continue to be happy to see them and grateful for their hospitality. Blair and I crashed out with them last summer and loved it so much that we stayed an extra night....this time the road beckoned and I wasn't even there for 24 hours.

I got on the road around 3 and headed to see my friend Brian Baker in Knoxville, TN of Yeehaw industries (a great letterpress studio that Blair once worked at ...check out their awesome work at a 4.5 hour ride from B-ham. It was a great ride and filled with mountains of trees and red dirt. FUN!

Brian greeted me with his standard amazing thoughtfulness and took me to dinner downtown. I got to meet his awesome new girlfriend who I decided makes a great "Steph"....even though her name is Karen. :) Truly great people that make me feel so welcome and loved......I just can't get enough of that....but who can? He's moving to NYC with her this summer and I know that Yeehaw will totally miss him and his amazing talent for poster design.

I crashed out early at his place and went to breakfast with them both the next morning. I quickly hit the road after and was hoping to get through Virginia by the end of the day.

I got past the rough parts and through Roanoke and was feeling a bit ahead of schedule so I used the confidence I'd gained with GPS and headed for the mountains in search of dirt and remoteness...the highways were wearing on my nerves!

I ended up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and LOVED it....even though the speed limit is only 45mph! The BRP is 355 miles following the crests of the Blue Ridge mountain range of the Appalachians. AMAZING views and fantastic twisties along the crests forever.

I met 3 dudes from New Hampshire at a rest stop and we were luckily headed the same way on the parkway. We chatted about their week long adventures of riding and were astounded of how far I'd come so quickly and on "THAT" bike. I rode with them for about 50 miles at breakneck speeds in excess of 40MPH and then realized that my bike was NOT happy. My chain had a dead link in it and was wreaking havoc on my sprocket set. The guys (Ron, James and Kevin) stopped with me and we all determined that Charlottesville, VA was close and that we'd all get beers and food there and a share a hotel room for the night.

Charlottesville was a total surprise.....home of UVA and full of cool shops and bars to hang out in. We drank beers and told stories of how different they live in NH and we crashed out with more than a few jokes about them waking up in the morning to me AND their wallets being gone in the morning. HA...they were more scared of me than I was of them. Good stuff....good people everywhere I turn. my surprise there was a KTM dealer in Charlottesville (the only one in Virginia)! I camped out on their sidewalk the next morning and at 10, Donny (one of the shop owners) started trying to track down the parts I needed. They had nothing in stock to help me, but another nearby moto shop had a chain that would work....and Donny offered to help me replace it if I came back to his shop with it. I did.....and it was WAY easy to fix in the back of his shop with HIS tools and HIS advice. I was really happy with the help and the hospitality yet again. They had a collection of random old cars in the back and more than a few cool random vintage motos filling up their massive amount of floorspace.

Whew....this is getting long. about 1 pm I had the KTM back together and set off for NYC! I rolled through the rest of Virginia, then through Maryland, Delaware, DC, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and FINALLY into NYC. I pointed my GPS for Greenwich Village (where Michal lives/lived) and found it surprisingly easy to get straight to her apartment. Entering the city for the first time at night was a fantastic experience. The busy city looking back at me as a some crazy nut from Texas on a dirtbike looking for trouble. It was a truly humbling many many MUCH energy. Late into that Thursday night I found it unbelievable how many people were out and doing things. I asked Michal if there was some big festival going on or something because this many people shouldn't be walking down her little side street this late into a random week night should it??

Michal was also extremely expected. She was in the middle of an all night packing session to prepare for the movers that were coming the next day, but stopped to make me feel welcome and take me out for a bite to eat. After dinner I sat like a sore-assed zombie on her couch and watched her TV while she packed.....because it was really all I had the energy for! She stuck me in her bed and stayed up packing while I surely snored into deep slumber. DAMN that was the best sleep of my trip thus far. I was TOTALLY gone....regardless of the noise outside.

Yesterday we had lunch in SOHO and finished packing Michal's apartment. Then we loaded up the moving truck and set out for Sushi and Michal's going away party. FUN. I truly enjoyed meeting all her NY friends and her boyfriend Rob too. Rob is awesome and plans to move to Austin to be with her at the end of the summer....SO cool. Great Tennessee guy with a great attitude.....good for Michal.

So...that gets us to today. I've explored Central Park and Manhattan a bit more with friends of Michal and I'm about to go get back on the bike to do a bit more. Riding in the traffic of the city is truly like being on the racetrack....constantly jockeying for position. I'd like to say the traffic sucks, but I truly like the competition and constant attention needed to get me where I want to go. I plan on parking the bike for the most part until I leave the city. We shall see how the subways and walking treat me......I've already walked more than I have in years!

Tomorrow I'm going to an art show in Brooklyn with my friend Sheela and I'm excited to get to check out the hood that everyone says suits me so well. I'll update more later.

On the business end of things....I'm going to try to start taking more photos. As much as I love taking pics I REALLY hate having the 'assignment' of taking them to document my trip. I like spontaneous shots and all the pics I've taken thus far are a bit more of the myspace type. "here's me looking cool here....aren't you jealous?"......well...maybe that can't be helped, but I'm going to use a Flickr account to upload all my pics to. My photos can be viewed here:

I'll try to link this to my blog soon as well.....and I'll label the pics a bit later.

So....this was a long update, but SO much has happened that I can't even begin to explain it all. Thanks for reading......two more weeks in NYC should lead to more fun stories.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I'm out of the office...

It's Tuesday and I'm officially 'out of the office'.

I met up with friends on Sunday morning at Cafe Medici for one last bad ass coffee and at about 11am I rode off with Kenneth, Aaron and Mark Hill into a drizzle and cloudy weather. It was a weird feeling. Mark led us on the "long route to Smithville"....pretty roads.

mile 1: COOL....I'm doing this.
mile 2: yeah....
mile 3: man I hate stop lights in road is beckoning...
mile 8: What cool guys that they would ride me out of town so early on a Sunday morning.
mile 25: Aaron on his 'vintage' machine needs to turn back
mile 30: crap...forgot my shaving kit....get Kenneth to ship that to me in NYC
mile 50: Kenneth and Mark stop for gas in Smithville and decide to head back to the comfort of ties to home leave with them. The feeling of riding off alone was SO strange.
mile 100: I just gotta get through Houston and I'll be home free.....literally.
mile 150: My battery dies.....kickstarting my bike SUCKS!
mile 300: oh my god....what have I done? I can't feel my hands or my ass. What will everyone think if I just come back home now?

That was is Tuesday (yes....I had to check my phone to verify that fact).

I'm sitting in a friend's scooter shop in Birmingham, Alabama. It's a fantastic day and I'm procrastinating. I need to get back on the bike and head to Knoxville. The first two days were long and I'm only riding 4 hours it's ok to chill and finally update this blog.

Several of my plans with friends in NYC have really already fallen to pieces. I have a friend's 'going away' party in Manhattan this Friday (Michal), so I'm pressing on regardless. I'm set to fly to London on May 6th (thanks Bubba), but it seems now that will be too long in NYC. Maybe I'll move that date up and bail on the US quicker than anticipated?

Anyway....the trip. far it's been rather uneventful....which is good. This first leg to NYC is really just a shakedown for the bike and for me. If it falls apart or I do then I can easily just get back to Austin. I don't expect that to happen, but I'm being realistic that things can and do happen.

I wussed out and ended up on the interstate while heading to NOLA. Somehow I-10 was CLOSED in Houston. I was pissed and sweating already so I stopped for gas at a random station and a guy on a KTM Superduke rode up next to me and flipped out. KTMs, for those not familiar with them, are rare. Superdukes are even MORE rare. I've never even seen one on the road. So...Steve, the guy on the KTM, is a bit older than me and seems totally inspired by my quest. He's headed the way I'm going through town and escorts me through Houston. Two orange bikes......and a great way to battle the traffic of Houston until I could get back onto the freeway.

Other than that highlight, my time on the road has been just good time to think. I'm feeling strangely unattached and without direction. I mean....GPS keeps me pointed the right way, but I'm already falsely searching for reason and meaning in my time alone on the bike and I hope it soon becomes less contrived. I mean.....I feel like such a hopeless romantic on this trip. I think that some epiphany is in my destiny? What a can't produce one of those by burning up gas on a motorcycle....can you?

Anyway....the conversations with friends so far along the way have focused on direction and creativity. Yeah.....vague, but I'm suddenly hungry and think I'll find more meaningful things to say later. I will say that I'm totally surprised by the attention and reaction that I get from people. Everyone wants to talk to me.....ask me where I'm headed....why I'm going....if I'm nuts. Lots of waves and smiles like I'm in some parade.

So far things are going to plan and I'm quite proud of the KTM for holding the 80mph flogging it's received. I've enjoyed the fact that my phone didn't ring for long periods of time, but I'm definitely missing my friends and contact with family.

I'm going to go eat and hit the road....more to come. Thanks for caring enough to read.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Update on my moto-license debacle...

I guess sometimes things work out. I believe my initiative of asking the lady at the DPS office to call me if anyone canceled today worked out. She called me at noon and asked me to come in at 2 for my "rider's test". YES...I'll be there EARLY!

So...Ken gets back into the Porsche and follows me over for one more shot at this. We wait outside for about 30 minutes and the guy comes out and inspects everything on my bike and even tests the blinkers on my car. Nuts.

Anyway....the "rider's test" equates to a ride around the block in a neighborhood behind the testing center. This takes approximately 2 minutes and we're back at the office. Surprise surprise.....I passed! After giving up 15 bucks, prints of BOTH thumbs (for future criminal convictions I'm sure) and another ten minute wait...I'm LEGAL! I guess it's better late than never.

Sometimes Karma catches up with you.....and sometimes it just forgives you and moves on.

As I put my helmet on outside to ride away, the little lady behind the counter from the past 2 mornings came outside and asked me if it was all taken care of and if I was taking off. I told her "yes...thanks for your help.....I hope you never have to see me again" and sped off like I'd just stolen the motorcycle. Heck yes.

What an amazing waste of effort...but lesson learned regardless.

I suppose I deserved the hassle and didn't deserve the lady's "extra effort", but I appreciated it nonetheless. I'll post a pic of my amazing legal piece of plastic when it arrives in the mail. I believe I'll have to get someone to mail it to me in NYC as I won't be around to receive it in Texas. Dang.


Sound Off

So....after many years on a motorcycle, I finally realized that I now NEED to get my motorcycle license for the trip to Europe. Yes, that's right....I've ridden without one for all this time and never gotten a ticket or been busted for it. I have been pulled over on various motos, but my theory is that they let me off knowing that beginners don't ride bikes like mine. ...who knows.

[If you're not interested in reading my negative rant that will allow me to simply bitch for a while then quit reading here!]

Perhaps this is a Karmic affair that I deserve, but I'm now officially am in hate with the Texas Department of Public Safety's Driver's License division.

On this past Friday after two phone calls to insure that I had what I needed to take the "riding test", I loaded up Ken in my car (to carry the driving tester guy) and he followed me on my motorcycle to the testing office. (It's 9:30 and raining so I figured the line can't be too bad) They told me it was "first come, first serve, so come in the morning". We arrive and are promptly told that we're too late and need to be there EARLY in the AM about an hour before they open to stand in line to get an APPOINTMENT to come back that same day to take the rider's test? Are you fucking kidding me? You can't schedule me for days out while I'm already here???

So.....I play along and follow the herd (yet again) and do what I'm told to do. First thing Monday morning I show up around 7:30 to get my slot......only I'm told that on Mondays people arrive at 6 in the morning and all the slots are full....besides, I took my written exam more than 90 days ago so I'm gonna need to take that the day BEFORE I actually get the "opportunity" to get an appointment to take the rider's test. Wow...the inefficiency is consistently astounding and disgusting!

So.....I take the exam and pass! ( was SO difficult) I then go to bed early Monday night knowing that I'll need to be there early on Tuesday AGAIN! FUN!

That gets us up to today. I get up and I'm there around 6:45 or so because I'm told that only Mondays and Fridays are that busy and being there only an hour before they open should be sufficient. WRONG! I stand in line and wait my turn to see the DPS Nazi and like a bad movie, the guy in front of me gets the LAST SLOT for the day! I'm given a dirty "I'm-sorry-this-happened-but-I-don't-really-give-a-shit-about-your-time-or-your-frustration" look by the small woman behind the counter. "Sorry......hmmmm....doesn't look like we're gonna be able to squeeze you in today.....come back tomorrow morning and try again" I see red...I cry...I fall the ground and beg for mercy. Kinda.

I practically beg her to find a way to make it happen and she simply offers to call me today if someone doesn't show up....which of course is quite unlikely because all the poor jackasses in front of me have likely learned the same way I have that it's not wise to miss your appointment and then be forced to come back AGAIN to wait in line! I ask her to schedule me for the next day....for the next week...for ANYTIME...just schedule me PLEASE! Good luck tomorrow!

Welcome to the life of a procrastinating guy who doesn't follow the rules and HATES to accept reality! There's only ONE WAY to get what you want sometimes.....abide by the ludicrous systems that incompetence and idiocy have created! Get me the hell out of this country!