What’s Your Life Work?

Do you have a life work that defines you?

I’ve been pondering this question for a few weeks. Because I’ve had a rather mosaic career including stints in medicine, education, and writing, I’m at a loss to point to something that feels like an answer. For the last 15 years, writer seemed like an answer, but now I’m not so sure.

I’ve written and published books, created blogs and websites that brought in cash, but can I really continue to feel comfortable referring to myself as a writer?

I keep returning to the thought that only creatives can definitively respond to this question: creatives such as writers, painters, teachers, sculptors, photographers, singers, musicians, composers, playwrights, artisans, etc. It’s the creative professionals that contribute works that outlast them and continue to impart meaning to those left behind as well a future generations.

  • Do engineers like my dad who bounced from project to project feel the same?
  • Do those who who sell cars, jewelry, or real estate feel that they have a life work?
  • Does what we do for money qualify as a life work or are they merely jobs?

I’ve never been happy just having a job

Even now, as a consultant who gets paid to perform a service for large companies, I don’t feel particularly fulfilled by the work. I can’t point to it and say with any certainty that the world is better off as a result of my work.

But then I ponder another question.

Does it even matter?

Perhaps it doesn’t matter. The years I spent on various career paths have brought me to this place of newfound uncertainty and although it feels like an ill-fitting shirt, it’s the one I wear these days.

Maybe my life’s work is something else

994375_10200499469284164_1481602169_nAlongside this quest for assigning meaning to my life, there were a dozen years in which I held one of life’s most sacred of responsibilities. Following a family split, I became a single custodial parent to my youngest son. As the years passed, he and I grew closer than I ever thought possible. We became friends as well as father and son and even now that he’s moved on to pursue his own creative career, he’s the one person closest to me.

During this time, I felt that my sole priority was doing everything in my power to help him come to the place of deciding for himself how to live his own life with honor and compassion.

This is the role that has given my life meaning and significance. 

1474431_10200497689799678_628490737_nBut now he’s flown from the nest we once called home. The nest is now empty.  Most middle-aged parents who inhabit this space have a partner in life to turn to for comfort and solace.

But I’ve chosen a life without a partner. I’ve been there numerous times over the years and I don’t regret where it’s brought me even though I do miss the sound of raging guitar solos from the next room and late night phone conversations that prevented me from getting to sleep on occasion.

These days, if I want see him I’ll ride over to where he works and wait for him so we can grab a cup of coffee or a bite to eat. I can also attend his performances as a cheering fan or help out the band as a roadie, though my middle-aged back prefers the former.

Maybe my life’s work isn’t about work at all

To see him absorbed in his creative world, though different from my own, brings me hope that perhaps my life’s work  isn’t about labels.  Perhaps it’s about enjoying the time I have in the present moment and realizing that it can all end without notice.

As I conclude this post and reflect on my various roles, I’m a bit more comfortable admitting that the question I posed in the first paragraph isn’t that important after all.

cropped-cropped-Jay-in-the-moment

Experiencing moments like this is what’s important and knowing that I’ve played a role in getting him here is enough.

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The Vegetarian Biker: My Transition from an Animal-Based Diet to a Plant-Based Nutritional Plan

I’m about six months into my vegetarian nutritional plan. Yesterday I recorded and published a more definitive YouTube video (see below) that explains my experience transitioning from a diet comprised largely of meat and other animal-based products to on that’s plant based.

Here’s the video. If you don’t have 11 minutes, just skip it and read the narrative below that summarizes what in the video.

Why I Decided to Stop Consuming Animals

There were two main reasons for this decision.

Health Concerns  Firstly, I’ve been eating meat for well over 50 years. That’s a lot of accumulated cholesterol, triglycerides, and fats. Their presence in my body played a part in my diagnosis of essential hypertension a few years ago. I remain on medication today that I take just once daily to help control it.

About two years ago I started transitioning to a plant-based dietary plan. I stopped eating beef and pork since it always made me feel heavy afterward. I didn’t like feeling this way so I cut these meats out first. Then I focused on consuming only poultry and seafood. Chicken is a favorite with turkey running a distant second. But I absolutely love Swordfish, Cod, Ahi, Mahi Mahi, and Calamari.

I wasn’t sure if I could live without these tasty creatures, but a book, and two films caught my attention and, over time, I decided to let go of even these favorites.

Compassion  Animals that give their lives for our dinner plates aren;t humanely killed. Slaughter is a word we use to describe the most heinous crimes attributed to mankind. However, hundreds of thousands of animals are slaughtered each day in the most cruel and painful manner jus so we can order a Big Mac (yuk) or an Ahi Salad (one of my favorite things).

Two documentary films were particularly instrumental in helping to with this, Vegucated, a film and book by Marisa Miller Wolfson, a writer and filmmaker…also a vegan. The other film was Forks Over Knives, a film by Brian Wendel. Both of these films showed only a small portion of graphic film clips of animal slaughter. Reading about it or hearing of it is on thing, but to see it is another. Both documentaries are on Netflix.

These films helped me get in touch with my own sense of compassion regarding the violence I was causing, albeit indirectly, by continuing to buy meat and seafood thereby rewarding the industries that did such great harm. Now, before you get your knickers in a twist, let me state the obvious.

  1. Of course, I realize that if everyone was vegetarian, we’d have an animal overpopulation problem – but it’s one that we unnaturally created in the first place with our desire for chill con carne and chicken tacos.
  2. Yes, there are cage free poultry farms, but not on the grand scale of agribusiness giants like Foster Farms where thousands of birds spend their entire lives in cages that prevent their free movement, often knee deep in bird shit. No thanks, I don’t want that chicken taco after all.
  3. No, my single decision won’t affect the farming and ranching industry, however, I can choose to act on my sense of compassion and honor the lives of those birds, cows, and sea creatures that might have been spared by it and millions of others who made similar decisions.

There is another side to this coin that is also just as obvious:

  • Overfishing of the Eastern Seaboard and West Coast waters has resulted in decreased habitats for both fresh and salt water creatures. We’ve created a shortage of the very populations we love to consume.
  • There is no question about whether a plant-based diet is more healthy. Meat and animal product consumption has been linked to increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, as well as inflammatory diseases, diabetes, and obesity.
  • The practice of inhumane farming techniques such as pumping animals full of hormones and antibiotics are more harmful to consumers who eat such foods.

Does Eating a Plant-based Diet Make Any Difference?

Other than citing the facts and figures again, I can tell you that I feel a definite difference in my mental clarity and in my overall feelings of well being. After six months of eating plants I’m starting to lose a few pounds and my body shape is changing. I don’t miss eating meat for the most part, but I do miss having fish.

I make a point in the video that the readily available supply of tasty meat substitutes helped me in the beginning when I felt I needed more meat-like texture in my food. Tempeh, a wheat-based product comes pre-seasoned as does textured vegetable protein for substituting for ground beef. Tempeh burgers are rally good and contain none of the animal fats of a hamburger.

Tofu is a also a favorite although most non-vegetarians form the wrong impressions about this versitle food. It’s absorbs the flavor of whatever you combine it with and provides a great source of protein. I like simmering it in salsa or black beans and onions as well as with egg whites and a bit of teriyaki sauce.

I included some links to some online resources in the video notes on my YouTube channel for this video, if you’re interested. Just click on here to see the notes under the video on YouTube. 

😎

The Southwest Solo-Tour of 2013, Part 5

Three years ago I took a solo-tour around the American Southwest and chronicled the trip in the posts on this site. @chaneytweeting once told me how he enjoyed the posts and asked when I was going to finish it up. I've now done so...in fact part of this post was written three years ago.

As I plan the new father-son moot-tour across the country from California to South Carolina slated for next month, I'm reminded again the joy of the open road. Ride Safely!

Day 11 – Cypress, CA to Lompoc, CA

Day11-SW-Tour

After two restful days, my belly full of breakfast, and my bags packed with clean clothes, I departed my sister’s house in Cypress and joined the throng of Orange County commuters north along I-405 (Sand Diego Freeway). Commuting in Southern California can only be described as a nightmare. And because of my aversion to lane sharing (filtering), I feathered my clutch level hundreds of times while waiting to clear Los Angeles County.

By the time I got into Malibu via US-1, I was ready for a break and stopped at a Starbucks to get a little nibble as well as some real coffee. The two days I spent with my sister, an avowed Irish tea kind of girl, I subsisted on Via packed, the instant microbrew solution I’d come to appreciate over the past two weeks.

Traffic cleared to the point where I could gain a cruising speed and I made my way north into Ventura County, a beautiful, monied place that is a good alternative to the hustle and bustle of the L.A. Basin. The air if cleaner, saltier, and a lot cooler. The RT was happier and so was I.

A few miles north of Malibu US-1 (Pacific Coast Highway) detoured north to become one with US-101 and I rode along encountering Carpenteria,  beautiful Santa Barbara, Goleta,  and miles of some the most scenic coastlines in the world. The total mileage for the day wasn’t much at just under 200. But I wanted to get into Lompoc early and spend some time closing out the trip in my mind.

I knew that the next day would be my last on the road and then I’d be back at work and entrenched in the routine that I’d come to abhor. I was both glad and sad to be nearing the end of my solo-tour. Full of mixed emotions and thoughts, I veered off of US-101 and rode US-1 the short but scenic downhill ride through the mountains to Lompoc.

The Motel 6 didn’t have a vacancy and so I booked a more pricey room at the Holiday Inn Express. It was my last night and the upgrade did hurt, plus it was directly across the street from a Starbucks Coffee and I enjoyed an afternoon cup there as well as breakfast the following morning.

Day 12 – Lompoc, CA to Rio Del Mar, CA

Day12

Just as the ride into Lompoc was thorough the mountains, so was the ride out the next morning. After a morning coffee and veggie breakfast sandwich at Starbucks, I rode north along US-1.

When I encountered the Big Sur coastline, the road was a bit more challenging for the RT. I didn’t expect the hairpin turns and the 15-20 mph speed limit that the RT was able to perform ride them.

I stopped at the Big Sur Coffee establishment for a midday espresso and was soon joined by a foursome of BMW riders from Southern California. We chatted for a while and they before I  eventually headed northward toward home.

The ride from there gets a little murky in my memory but I do recall the joy of getting into Monterey, Seaside, Watsonville, and finally Rio Del Mar. I decided to finish the tour where it began, at the Starbucks on Trout Gulch Rd.in Aptos.

As I look back at the solo-tour I leaned a few things about the bike, about riding, about the southwest and about myself. Though it’s been three years since that trip, I’m giddy with excitement and more of the same trepidation that others have no doubt felt about an undertaking as ambitious the cross-country trip in June.

Why I Sold My GoPro Hero 3 Action Camera

Awkward-Cubism

Yesterday I sold my GoPro Hero 3 White Edition for $175. I threw in all the baubles I’d collected over the year since I bought it. I posted an ad on a Facebook Virtual Garage Sale for the Santa Cruz area and it was snapped up within 3 hours.

5 Reasons I Sold My GoPro

So why did I sell this little overly hyped gem of a camera? There were five reasons why I chose to get rid of it.

  1. Pardon my appendage. No matter how I mounted the cubist piece of cinematic technology, it looked absolutely stupid. The mount on top of my helmet was the worst; It made look like I had a pudding pop stuck to the top of my head. The side mount resembled a tumor jutting out the side of the ear. Only the chin mount was seeming less weird. But even that required a jumble of angles, bolts, and extensions. That brings me to the second reason…
  2. Too many parts. Other action cameras are better designed and need only one or two mounts to get the desired shots. With the GoPro, a basic set up requires an adhesive mount, a base connection for the camera with threaded pins, and because of the 90-degree fit of the extensions, you need to keep adding them to get the right shot. All of this adds unnecessary bulk and complexity.
  3. The absence of an on-camera view screen. Most other cameras offer an on-camera view screen ensuring certainty that angles and levels are right before you start shooting. To achieve this with the GoPro, you need either the Android or iOS phone apps or the additional LCD screen add-on the GoPro offers. That means more complexity, bulk, and more cost.
  4. Limited battery life. I guess this isn’t as big a deal as it could be but with the GoPro, the model I had anyway, there wasn’t a way to conserve the battery. I had to switch it off while riding. That’s a considerable safety risk for me. Even controlling the camera via the iPhone mounted to my handlebars, it required a lot of safety-questionable activity to turn it off and conserve battery life.
  5. The Drift Ghost HD alternative. I started seeing more video comparing the two action cameras. Most of the reviews were clearly indicating that motovloggers were either inside or outside the GoPro tent. Those that compared the two and experimented with the Drift series of cameras either loved them or hated them. I knew I had to try one so when I saw the Ghost HD model on sale for under $200 on Amazon, I bought one. I’m planning a video that talks about the Drift Ghost HD so I’ll leave the explanations and review comments for that.

Still, the GoPro is an Excellent Tool

You’ll notice that none of the reasons I cited above involve the video or audio quality. I found both to be superb.

For me, the aesthetic and functional considerations were paramount but the differences in video and audio were unnoticeable. For my purposes, the GoPro didn’t make sense.

I prefer simplicity over complexity and the Drfit Ghost HD convinced me that the GoPro would be better off with another user who didn’t mind the issues that continually bugged me.

What about you? Do you have an action camera preference? Do you think I’ve made a mistake? Please hit me up with comment and tell me why. I’d love to hear your opinion. 🙂

The Southwest Solo-Tour of 2013, Part 4

Westward, Ho!

Not, not that kind of ho...never mind.

Day 8 – Santa Fe, to Flagstaff, Arizona

Day8-mapI left Santa Fe about 7:30a and traveled with commuter traffic to Albuquerque along I-25 South and then hooked up with I-40 West that would take me into western New Mexico, through Gallup, and into Arizona.

My destination for the day was Flagstaff, Arizona where I’d booked another Motel 6 room. The ride through the New Mexican desert was a warm one, with not a lot to check out visually.  But about 20 miles east of Flagstaff the terrain started to change from arid desert to wooded hills.

When I pulled into Flagstaff I stopped at the nearest Starbucks for an afternoon jolt of caffeine. While there I met a man who started chatting me up about my bike. The conversation began about where I was traveling, where I’d been, and where I was going next.

He was a new resident in Flagstaff having recently accepted a position with the City of Flagstaff as their Director of Geomapping Services or some such title. Flagstaff is home to the largest, contiguous pine forrest in the US, a tidbit of info he shared when I mentioned being pleasantly surprised by the terrain.

He also told me about being involved in an accident driving his Cadillac in the Midwest. In this accident,  a motorcyclist ran into his car head-on at 60 m.p.h. Sadly, the motorcyclist didn’t survive, but ironically his Cadillac did.

Day 9 – Flagstaff, AZ to Needles, CA via The Grand Canyon

Day 9 Flagstaff-GC-Needles

The ride to the southern rim of the Grand Canyon was cooler than the day before and the terrain didn’t disappoint. I didn’t encounter any traffic as I rode northwest along SR180.

On one straightaway stretch of roadway I spotted a herd of deer approximately 200 yards ahead of me. They were moving slowly and just seemed to be leisurely crossing the highway.  As I approached I sounded my horn and the most beautiful thing occurred.

At the sound of my horn, the herd split into roughly equal right and left halves, each jumping in sequence over the fencing on either side of the highway. It was as if they'd rehearsed this move and the final performance was timed for my arrival.It was a beautiful sight to behold.

I guess that’s how most of nature’s natural events seem to humans. We long to classify such observations with anthropomorphic terms in order to make sense of them.

Highway 89 joined the north-south SR64 at Bedrock City, a Flinstones themed campground and restaurant. The sign out side proudly displayed that coffee was only five-cents. I had to check it out, and needing fuel, both caffeine and octane, I stopped.

2013-05-21 08.38.13
Fred’s Diner had a great breakfast and coffee was indeed just five cents. 🙂
2013-05-21 08.36.33
Fred personally welcomes you to Bedrock City.

A brief 20 minute ride north on SR64 followed breakfast. The Gand Canyon National Park awaited and it was spectacular.

The Visitors Center houses displays, educational materials, washrooms, and food.
The Visitors Center houses displays, educational materials, washrooms, and food.
2013-05-21 08.38.16
The relief map demonstrates how vast the Grand Canyon really is. Not the ‘You are here’ marker in yellow.
2013-05-21 08.56.55
And, of course, the vistas are unbelievable and breathtaking.
A German -speaking couple played a round of 'you-take-our-photo-and-we'll-take-yours.'
A German-speaking couple played a round of ‘you-take-our-photo-and-we’ll-take-yours.’
2013-05-21 09.07.04
Both the foreground and the background made capturing the memory of this place easy.
2013-05-21 09.19.43
Just spectacular. 🙂

I spend about 90 minutes are the Grand Canyon and I if I hadn’t had 400 miles to cover that day, I might have spent considerably longer. It’s a place of natural beauty and utter silence, save the scuffles of shoes on asphalt walkways and the clicks of cameras receding memories.

As I was leaving, I spotted a guy on another R1100RT whose belongings were laying all around his bike. There were no soft luggage liners, just underwear, t-shirts, and socks everywhere on the black asphalt. I walked up to him and we chatted about the bikes, routes, and decided to ride together to Needles, CA where I was already booked to stay.

"Jim," from Tybee Island, Georgia
“Jim,” from Tybee Island, Georgia, striking a pose.

I’m not sure if his name was Jim, I think it was something else, but Jim will do for our purposes. Jim was from Tybee Island, Georgia and had left home just three days before (it sounded like he just needed to get away from his wife for a while). Logging incredible hours in the saddle and sleeping rough on the side of the road, he ate only soup and stayed every third night in a motel.

He’d stayed in the Grand Canyon park lands the night before and said that he’d frozen his ass off in the process. As you can see from the photo, he didn’t have very protective gear and I can only imagine his camping set up was just as limited.

We rode together for the rest of the day with the wind buffeting us like prizefighters outclassed by our opponents.  At one point my RT was leaning into the wind at approximately 30-degrees and my entire body felt like it was one prolonged muscle spasm.

The Long Arm of the Law

While still riding in Arizona, we cruised at approximately 75 m.p.h. until we saw signs of an approaching construction zone. We slowed to 55 m.p.h. as required but that didn’t stop the Arizona Highway Patrol from lighting us up and pulling us over.

I had my music going inside my helmet and didn’t notice him for about a mile in my mirrors. He insisted I was doing 75 in a 55 zone. I briefly argued my position but, not wanting a $500 speeding ticket, I apologized and promised to obey all future speed limit signs. I think he was sleeping in his car and was awakened by two RT’s riding by. He assumed we were speeding and very clearly we weren’t.

It's ironic that, at the time, I was working for a large highway construction firm back in California. As a practice I never speed through construction zones as it risk injury to both the workers as well as myself.

Later Jim was kidding me that the BeeGees must have been blaring in my earbuds prohibiting me from hearing the patrolman’s car sirens (Note: There wasn’t a single song by the brothers Gibb on my iPhone). 

Jim later told me he’d recently retired from a Special Education teaching position and had always wanted to visit his birthplace in Monterey, just south of where I live. Over dinner that evening, soup for him and salad for me, in the melting 102F environment, we talked about our prospective routes for the next day.

I knew he was going leave later than me simply because he was going to sleep in a bed for the first time in three days. He’d booked a vacant room at the Motel 6 on the phone while we had dinner. We parted ways and although I sent him a text message the following day, I didn’t hear back from him. I hope he made it back to Georgia in one piece.

Day 10 – Needles to Cypress to Visit My Sister

Day 10-Needles-to-Cypress

I left about 6a the next morning and a very long stretch of desert was my only companion. It was hot, dry, and I worried about the bike overheating as it’s a BMW oilhead and isn’t water-cooled. Hot air isn’t that effective at cooling the oil in the radiator, hence the concern. I pulled over for a fuel stop along I-40 in the middle of nowhere, where I met Steve.

IronMan Steve was crossing the Mojave Desert on a bicycle.
IronMan Steve was crossing the Mojave Desert on a bicycle.

Steve had ridden his bicycle from Denver, Colorado to California. He told me that he covered between 60 and 90 miles each day depending on the terrain. We looked at the map at he still have about 100 miles of desert in front of him.

In the photo you can see the solar charging apparatus he rigged up to keep his phone and laptop charged. He camped, cooked, and pedaled day after day. I was totally impressed.

He said the desert was about to kill him. The wind blasts from the large tractor-trailer trucks shoved him off the road surface and the heat was dehydrating him. He said he’d tried riding at night but the visibility was virtually a blackout at times.

Welcome to Los Angeles

The rest of my ride that day was uneventful, but challenging just the same. The downhill grade from the desert to the Southern California basin is a high-speed autobahn type freeway, five to six lanes in either direction with everyone driving like maniacs. I was riding at 80 m.p.h. and I was being passed on the left and right.

My destination was my sister’s house in Cypress, which is a few miles from Disneyland. My plan was to spend two nights with her before finishing up the trip with a two-day ride north on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Cypress was pleasant, and like all Los Angeles suburbs, congested and packed with strip malls and students.  The Jacaranda trees were in bloom and the light purple petals fell like snowflakes in the warm Spring winds.

Jacaranda tree in blossom.
Jacaranda tree in blossom.
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Kathy and me outside her hime in Cypress.

The two days I spent in Cypress were restful. I didn’t visit Disneyland or any other amusement park -not really my thing- instead I did my laundry and wrote notes about the trip.

Kathy and I had dinner that night at a restaurant that served soups and salads (Jim would’ve appreciated it) and all the bread and dessert you could handle. Neither of us were into gluttony so we paced ourselves and I spent two enjoyable days in the company of my big sister. 🙂

The final post in this series cover the final two days of my ride. Morning LA traffic, coastal riding, a nice night in Lompoc, lunch in Morro Bay, bikers in Big Sur, and a failing fuel filter are the highlights of those two days. 

Conflicts, Lemonade Stands, Unfinished Sentences, and a ‘Sorry, Dude’

Owning Two Bikes – My Conflict…Plus Some Lemonade

I posted two new videos my my YouTube Channel yesterday, In the first one (see below) I talked about my conflict over owning two bikes that serve the same riding style. Since I ride on city streets and highways, my brain informs me that owning two bikes in the same general class is redundant.

Do you agree? If, after viewing the video, you have an opinion, I’ve love to hear it in a comment.

Toward the end of the video, I spot a lemonade stand. I have to say that I rarely pass up an opportunity to buy lemonade, shells, or anything being sold by aspiring 10 year-old entrepreneurs. My sister is the same way as are many of my online friends.

There is something irresistible about helping kids realize their goals that drives me to do this, even if the goal is just to earn a few dollars that day. 

I also have a bad habit of not finishing sentences when I speak. I honestly don’t know if it’s a habit or a brain malfunction of some kind. Most likely it’s the former. Also in this video I just stop mid sentence…shift topics, talk to guy on the street, and omit the word ‘lemonade.’

It drives Jay, my son, nuts when I do this, but it does give me something to live for. 😀

If You Don’t Like How I Ride, Get off of the Sidewalk

It seems like such an good idea. After leaving the lemonade stand, the terrain dictated my only way out was to ride along the sidewalk adjacent to oncoming traffic until I could reenter safely. I thought the lanes were clear, but as you’ll see, I had a surprise near miss with a truck.

Oops. Lesson learned…again. 😉