Destinations and Untethering

In my last post I wrote about moving from my home on the Central California coast to an unknown destination. I even expressed my desires to the Universe for the perfect abode to house, not only my two BMW motorcycles, but also my faithful canine companion, Sir Buddy, Lord Protector of the Realm.

It’s funny how the Universe responds to our deepest desires with what some might consider a flat refusal or a haughty laugh. But I’ve always thought that the unifying stuff that comprises the Universe is smarter than that; certainly smarter than we who inhabit this cosmic, floating orb.

What we define as best and optimal often isn’t. In my case, the desire for a one bedroom cottage with an available garage to house my Bavarian steeds and a backyard for Sir Buddy was not to be. However, as the Universe continues to prove its intelligence, perhaps the answer I received is what’s best and optimal at this present time.

As One Door Closes…

I made the decision to move on from the Beach Bungalow after my youngest son moved out. I thought I’d be in the same general vicinity but closer to him and his burgeoning musical exploits. But, as I stated above, the Universe had other plans..at least temporarily.

Most likely, you’ve experienced the phenomenon of one door -being perceived as opportunity- closing in your face while almost instantaneously another opens. Such was the case for me and my planned relocation to Santa Cruz.

A few months ago my mother suffered a stroke and my father’s overall health began to decline more rapidly. I visit them a few times each month in San Jose, a short 40-minute ride from where I live. On recent visits we discussed my impending move as well as their own present state of health and welfare.

I started to feel that my own desire for continued independence and distance was a bit selfish.

I’ve always known that it would be my responsibility to care for my parents as they grow more infirm. My two siblings live a far greater distance from our parents than I do, and as I am the executor of their estate and trust, I feel a strong sense of responsibility for them. I started to see the timing of my relocation and how it might be time to make the decision I knew I’d one day need to make.

With this plan in mind, April appeared to be a good time to untether from my belongings and downsize as much as possible.

Untethering 

There is a concept that Ev Bogue wrote about a few years ago in a book called Untether To Evolve. In it he states that when we cut ties to that which we are connected, we free ourselves and create more space, freedom, and autonomy. Untethering comes in many forms; untethering from physical belongings, relationships, certain people, jobs, schools, places, etc.

If you visualize a string connected your index finger to the person closest to you, that’s a way to visualize a tether. Now imagine more strings, one for each person you have a relationship with; one string to each physical belonging, to your job(s); to your habits, etc. Suddenly the amount of things to which you are tethered becomes overwhelming.

With all of these tethers visualized, it's difficult to see how we experience much freedom at all.

I’ve spent this month untethering from physical belongings, my home of six years, and some professional relationships.  I’m finding that as I do so, I’m also experiencing a good bit of uncertainty, but that is part of the process of untethering. (I’ll write a post about this process in the future.)

I’ve often thought that the perfect life for me would be on a BMW R1200GSA with its panniers packed only with what I truly need to live from day to day. It’s a minimalist, nomadic way of life to be sure, but one that has always appealed to me. I’ve never seen myself as the grand Baron of some estate filled with things. It’s the simple, quiet life with relatively few belongings that appeals to me as the most elegant.

Perhaps I’ll achieve that kind of lifestyle in the future, but for now, the needs of my parents are more important than my need to create a nomadic existence. However, I’m gratified that I will ease into this new role with as few tethers as possible.

Therein lies more space, freedom, and autonomy.

Downsizing and Finding a Home for My Two BMW Bikes

The Life of a Serial Renter

No, I’m not selling the bikes. As my son, Jay, would say, “I’m not a Barbarian.” Instead, I’m looking to move from my current abode in Rio Del Mar to Santa Cruz or somewhere thereabouts.

Having never owned property, I’ve been a serial renter all my adult life. Something about the permanence and commitment of a thirty-year mortgage scares the crap out of me. It always has. In terms of security and always having a place to live, it seems like a great idea. However, in my life, job and income security has never been assumed, nor has it been stable.

My careers –see this video for an description of them– haven’t brought me the stability and long-term financial status that is looked on favorably by most mortgage lenders. My lack of property ownership used to bother me a great deal. I felt that somehow I was defective.

But I'm passed that now. I simply don't care what others think of me and life is much easier when you live accordingly. 

Garage Wanted: And a Yard Would Be Nice

I’ve been in the same 4-plex building and the same 2 bedroom unit for about six years. When Jay and I first moved here, he was 12 years old and I chose Rio Del Mar because of the quality schools. Looking back on that decision, and how the school experiences played out, it wasn’t the best decision. In any case, it’s time to move on and leave these horrid light yellow interior walls and look for a place nearer where he now lives.

I’m hoping to find a gem of a place where I can park my bikes inside a secure garage. As you can tell, I’m placing the optimal environment for the bikes above my own. This is because I can adapt to almost anything. Of course, I don’t want to live in a shabby abode, but a 1 bedroom/ 1 bath, or even a large studio would work fine now that I’m a single, empty-nester.

I’d love to have a two-car garage, but a single car garage would also be good. Not only would the bikes be protected from the salt air and the corrosive effects of the ever-present fog (in California we don’t see much rain), but they would be secure as well. Having a well-lit, secure place to perform oil changes, general cleaning, and anything else that needed for the bikes is optimal.

Buddy
Sir Buddy, Lord Protector of the Realm

That, and a yard for my dog, too. We’re a packaged deal and that can make it a challenge. But I’m optimistic that I’ll find the right place for the four of us. 🙂

It’s Also an Opportunity to Downsize Again

Downsizing is the opposite of the American Dream. Where brash consumerism is the religion of the affluent, living simply and responsibly is my chosen lifestyle. I don’t wish to have at the large, sprawling beach home (I’ve done that). Instead, I’m quite content to live in smaller quarters where I can survey all of what I own.

Multiple homes and multiple cars (obviously, motorcycles don’t count) isn’t for me. Actually, as I’ve discussed here, owning two bikes is problematic enough for me in terms of redundancy. I still struggle with it. In a perfect world, I’d own a new BMW R1200GS and be very content. But that’s not possible right now, besides, both bikes are paid for and insured and that’s seems to be a perfect situation at the moment.

I’ve selected a few large items to sell in preparation for the eventual move. My used couch, an 8-foot x 4-foot wooden  bookcase that I picked up from a used bookstore that was selling it’s holdings, two desks, and a coffee table will go up on Craigslist soon. I’d rather not move them and I really don’t need them. Downsizing frees me from having to move all this crap again. I’d rather start over than continually move my belongings.

Shout Out to the Universe

So, dear Universe, here is what I want:

I want a 1 bedroom, dog-friendly cottage with a fenced backyard and a garage in the Santa Cruz area. I’m willing to do upkeep and yard maintenance and keep the place quiet (with occasional dog barks as he’s great at scaring off would-be intruders and a lot cheaper than a security system) and well-maintained. I need it by May 1.

You may reach me in the usual way. 🙂

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. 😉

The Southwest Solo-Tour of 2013, Part 1

This begins a series of posts devoted to my 12-day, 3,000 mile solo-ride around the American Southwest in May 2013. 
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Bazza II, pictured here in Baker, CA about 90 miles from Las Vegas, NV

 

In May of 2013, I rode my 2000 BMW R1100RT around the American Southwest. It was a solo-ride, something a lot of motorcyclists don’t undertake for fear of running into trouble in the middle of nowhere. To be honest, there were times when I would say out loud, inside my helmet and to no one:

"If I break down here, I'm screwed."

But I didn’t break down, although on the last day of the 12-day ride my fuel pump started acting up and although I got home, it was a closer call that I’d wanted to experience. But we’ll get to that in this series that relates the experiences I had in those 12 days on the road.

The Bike

Bazza II is a 2000 BMW R1100RT. You can read about how I traded by BMW f650 for it in this post. Long story short, I left home on Bazza II in mid-May and had an epic ride for the next 12 days.

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Parked in Las Vegas at Circus Circus Hotel and Resort. The room was only $20 via Priceline.com

This bike is made for the highways and feels really solid at high speeds. It’s not so great for around town riding; I guess that’s why the California Highway Patrol used this bike, and now the R1200RT for it motorcycle officers to ride.  What a sweet gig, right?

As you can see from photo above, though the bike felt fully packed, I didn’t take a lot with me. In fact, I never used the tent I purchased for the trip except for the test-camping I did about a month prior to leaving on my ride. But I packed it with hopes of camping that never materialized.

For hard luggage, I used a Givi top case that I purchased from a fellow BMW rider; it held my clothing, Macbook, toiletries, and some odds and ends, each inside a backpack for easy removal at the end of the day. I purchased and mounted two medium-sized Wolfman Rolie Bags secured by a Wolfman Rolie Saddle Bag Mount, and packed my first-aid kit and some medical tools (just in case) in one bag and some roadside tools in the other. It was a very secure luggage system on the rear of the bike.

The front of the bike was another story. I purchased a very roomy aftermarket tank bag that contained my cell phone, Nikon camera, Flip video camera, snacks for the day, pens and paper, small flashlight, water bottles, and a few other items.  The only weakness was in the way it was mounted.

This is because the RT’s fairings are plastic, as is the fuel tank. Because of this, the popular magnetic tank bags wouldn’t work. However, with some maneuvering and customization, I devised a way to keep it from sliding from side the side and it worked, though it’s still not my preferred tank bag system.

I packed a Coleman 15-degree rated sleeping bag and used it instead of the motel room beds. Each night I unrolled the bag on top of the bed and crawled inside.  Given the level of accommodation I could afford, (photos to follow) I didn’t trust the bed linens. There was no way of knowing how many or why kind of people split in the bed the previous night. :-\ Nor did I want any invited critters tagging along with me on the ride.

As I mentioned before, I brought along a tent that was packed between the sleeping bag and the top case, just behind me on the passenger seat. I really should have camped, but there was one reason that far outweighed the others that prevented me from doing so.

Three weeks before departure, I suffered a leg injury.

 The Injury

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Three weeks prior to departure, my bike and I went down.  (Not really a crash, but we still went over.)

I needed to ride from Santa Cruz to Sacramento, about a three hour ride in the morning morning traffic, for a couple of days worth of work. I rode the RT everywhere and so it was not unexpected that I’d ride it there and back a few days later.

At 5:45a I mounted the bike and slowly backed it out of my carport. The RT is a heavy bike and it was fully fueled at the time. Unfortunately, I turned the handlebars a little too far and the balance of the bike shifted to the right so much that I could retain its upright position.

The bike an I fell over en masse. It wasn't pretty.

My right leg was pinned between the right cylinder head of the transverse boxer engine and a concrete slab. Yes, it hurt. 😦 After some wriggling, I managed the free myself from the ground and tried to lift the bike. Even with the adrenaline coursing through my system, I couldn’t manage lifting it back upright.

I woke up my son Jay and he helped me upright the bike. I took off for Sacramento and a few hours later, my right leg was swollen, bruised, and very painful.

I wasn’t concerned so much about a fracture as I was about compartment syndrome, a condition that results when blunt-force trauma causes swelling in enclosed spaces like the lower leg. The swelling has no place to expand and literally compresses blood vessels and nerves in the process. I was lucky and this didn’t result.

A week later, x-rays revealed the absence of any fractures. My doctor told me I couldn’t take my trip. (He obviously wasn’t a motorcyclist.)  I chalked it up his inexperience and proceeded to plan my departure anyway.

It turned out that I did have a nasty bone bruise on my right shin and so I purchased a padded, elastic compression tube to wear during the day. Aided with large bottle of ibuprofen and some chemically-activated ice packs, I set out on schedule.

The Route

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3,000 miles round trip with the western destination of Santa Fe, NM, a place I considered moving until I got there.

The seed that resulted in planning this ride began after I view Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman’s epic Long Way Round series on Netflix. In 2004, the best mates and fellow actors rode their BMW 1150GSAs from London to New York, going east. They traversed Europe, Asia, and the United States in about 4 months.

After viewing the video I read everything I could get my virtual hands on about motorcycle touring, camping, trip planning, long-distance riding tips, etc.  It was great fun planning the ride and the route.

The route came about because I’d wanted to visit Santa Fe, New Mexico for some time. Its backdrop against the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, its Native American and Spanish history and culture combined with its reputation for artistry contributed to its allure.

I also had two weeks of vacation available to use. So with Santa Fe as my eastern-most destination, I looked at places to ride through and a natural highway route emerged.

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In Part 2, I'll tell you about my ride to Las Vegas, meeting other riders on the way, and riding through southern Utah's Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.

The New Bike vs. Used Bike Internal Debate

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1977 Suzuki GS400, the only new bike I’ve ever purchased

Something Old, Something New

Of the four motorcycles I’ve owned, only one was purchased new from a dealer. Ironically, it was my first bike, a 1977 Suzuki GS400.

I purchased it from a Suzuki dealership in Tujunga, California that was later the target of an arsonist...rumor had it at the time that it was the owner who torched it. But it was only a rumor...

Rumors aside, that bike was my first experience with daily riding. It was brilliant, even if I was an untrained and minimally skilled street rider. I purchased it in the spring and rode it all the time that summer, back and forth to work, to my girlfriend’s house, absolutely everywhere in Southern California in the late 70s.

I drove a 1968 Chevy Camaro, a classic muscle car by today’s standards, for my daily transportation until the day I purchased the bike. From then on, I led a life on two wheels.

In the winter of 1978, life on two wheels got real as the snow level on the San Gabriel Mountains dropped to 1,500 feet. These were the days before the widespread and relatively affordable extras such as heated grips and heated gear that kept you warm during cold rides.

As luck would have it, my Camaro was sidelined for some mechanical problem I can’t recall now. I was forced to ride the Suzuki 120 miles each day in frigid temperatures without and real protection.  Like I said, I was untrained and minimally skilled…and after that winter, not very cold-weather riding friendly.

The Recurring Debate

I have this debate running in my head pretty much all the time. Because motorcycling is a passion, it’s never too far from my consciousness.

Should I buy another used bike or should I splurge on a brand new bike?

I don’t think I’m alone in this debate either. I’ve talked to other motorcyclists that I know well and they, too, have a similar, non-public dialogue battling it out in their heads.

After returning to motorcycling (two ex-wives and four grown children later), I purchased my beloved BAZZA I (all my bikes since the Suzuki have been named), a BMW F650GS.

Bazza-300x202

Like the three BMW's I've purchased since BAZZA I, all have been a located via the online clearinghouse, Craigslist.org. I paid $3,400 for the bike and it was worth every penny.

I purchased the bike from a local guy here in Santa Cruz. He and his wife were expecting a baby, and even though they’d shared many wonder experiences on the bike and were incredibly sad to see it leave their nascent family. The woman cried when I arrived to pick it up.

It was bittersweet moment for both parties. They were losing a family friend that had taken them on many adventures, having made the decision to reduce risk and focus on their family. Conversely, I was gaining a new friend, having arrived at the point where risk was no longer a chief concern as my family, through kids growing up and leaving home, had been downsized to only me and my youngest son.

Wanting more power and bigger engine for a solo-ride I was planning around the Southwest, I traded BAZZA I for BAZZA II, a ’00 BMW 1100RT. (Not very innovative on the naming, I admit.)

RT1100
It’s still an impressive specimen

I Did My Homework Each Time I bought a Used Bike

I’ve been pretty careful when it comes to pursuing bikes that carry less risk. The trade for the R1100RT for the F650GS was example.

I got the R1100RT from Brent, a stranger the day we met, but now someone I trust as well as a friend. His knowledge of BMW engines and mechanics is unbelievable.

I actually talked him into the trade of the F650GS for the R1100RT. After seeing the bike, he gave me a choice of different bikes to choose from, each had their unique aspects and all were in a state of needing some sort of rebuild. I was reasonably comfortable that the R1100RT I chose and was confident that after some time spent wrenching it into shape, it would get me around the American Southwest in 13 days.

I rode from Santa Cruz to Las Vegas, Southern Utah through Zion National Park, across northern Arizona to New Mexico where I visited Santa Fe for three days. My journey back tool me straight across the Mojave Desert an up the coast of California.

Brent is a former Apple Computer engineer who now runs a used Mac refurbishing business and is a BMW mechanical savant for fun. Together, (he much more than me) we replaced the clutch in the RT, inspected and lubed the final drive, and then replaced the tires and front rotor bobbins.

We’re currently looking at options to fix my 1150GS which we suspect has a blown exhaust valve. But regardless, his first-hand knowledge is trustworthy and I learn tons about my various bikes each time we interact.

I've always been able to get a sense about a seller's motivations. To date, I've not had a regrettable experience when it came to purchasing a used bike. I attribute this is to rider-to-rider trust and my ability to see beyond the words and phrases of an ad.

To Be Honest, I Fantasize About New Bikes All the Time

My dream bike, a BMW R1200GS
My dream bike, a BMW R1200GS

As fantasies go, it might be pretty lame, but having a shiny, new bike is a a really great feeling. Even though my 1150GS is also a used bike, it felt like new when I bought it.

It wouldn't matter if it was a KLR or an R1200GS, a new bike is a new bike.

There is something about the reality of having a brand new bike with less than 20 miles on it that makes you stand back and admire at it for hours; carefully getting to know each nuanced detail, each little scratch or dimple, as well as every potential part that could be worn or in need of attention.

I think the dedication to cleaning and riding the bike gently at first is born from this need to know the bike as intimately as possible.

But for me, the affordability of owning a used bike is what drove each of my choices. I really love new bikes, but I really don’t like having a bike or a car payment. That’s why I own a 1996 Jeep Cherokee and two BMW motorcycles that all were made in 2000. One payment was required for each of these fine machines.

So when I fantasize about a new bike, it doesn’t take me very long at all to come down from the motorcyclist’s high and instantly recall what it felt like when I had a car payment. I really hate being in debt, especially secured debt. It just drives me nuts.

Perhaps one day in the not too distant future I’ll take the plunge on a new bike.  Or maybe I’ll save a ton and buy one or two of Brent’s more recent rebuilds and put some cosmetic improvement into them.

But then I get into the the other debate that also runs on tracks in my head, the debate over one bike vs. two bikes. Thus far in my motorcycling journey it’s been handy to have more than one at my disposal. But the minimalist in me responds that I’m duplicating things by keeping two.

The debates rage on. 🙂