.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

My Big Red Couch

Friday, March 25, 2005

Odd Memory

I just had a memory of an event that happened about five years ago.

Tonight, I'll get back to the five years ago part, I attended a very benign biker meeting. I made my standard smart ass comments: "Karl, you're leaving nose prints on the window", (at the end of the Group Riding video)"take a look out the window at Arctic Attack (motorcycle stunt team) and see what happens when you don't do your braking right" or "you'd better get the dumpster emptied or else the beercans will pile up in the parking lot (said in jest because this was at a church).

And how does this relate to five years ago? It could be taken as very sinister if said by the right person (certainly not me).

Jamie and I took a motorcycle first aid class five years ago. It was the first of it's kind in Alaska that I was aware of and it was a mixed croud. There were a couple people from ABATE, a couple people from CMA, a couple people from HOG, a couple Vietnam Vets and a couple Hells Angels. It was standard American Red Cross first Aid with the addition of helmet removal and motorcycle specific scenarios.

It was late in the day and Instructor Chuck asked the question, "What do you do if somebody shoots at you when you're on your motorcycle?"

On of the Hells Angels was quick to reply, "Shoot back." I put a period at the end of that sentence because it was said as a reflex, not a joke.

So, there you have it. Taken in the right context "At least Karl didn't leave a butt print" could be a lot more sinister.

Maybe that one was a bad example.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Vegas Baby - Out of Order (or Yo Ho Ho)

Ok, this was from near the end of the trip but Jamie has been bugging me to post a few pictures.

Our close friends Dean and Joann live in Pahrump, NV (about 70 miles West of Vegas). We visited them together in May of 2004, toured Death Valley with them and generally had four glourious days hangin' out at there house.

This trip I was solo and a few days before I left Anchorage I figured out that I would have 24 free hours after the Breast Cancer conference and Dean and Joann's was where I wanted to be.

I e-mailed that I was coming and asked if I could borrow their guest bed in exchange for dinner out on the town. "I know just the place for dinner," Dean replied. I passed this on to Jamie with my comment, "I bet it's the brothel."

When we had visited D&J in 2004 they took us to Sheri's Ranch, the better of the two brothels at the end of the road. It was really nice and we hung out and had drinks in the sports bar. After a while Jamie and I got a tour of a couple of the rooms but we didn't "do" anything there (other than the drinks).

At the end of the conference on Wednesday I hopped a cab to the airport and picked up my rental car. I knew roughly which way to go and ended up wandering past the Las Vegas BMW dealer on Interstate 215, so I doubled back and popped in for a look. I had hoped they would have the new K1200S for me to demo (I did have a trunk full of riding gear) but no such luck. Instead I begged off a key fob for Jamie. "Hey sales guy, you have any key rings you could give me that I could take home for my wife?" "You'll have to go ask over in the parts department," he replied. How Harley I thought. I turned to walk across the store and he said, "wait. I think I've got just the thing." He did. Score one free BMW key fob for the wife. Thanks sales guy.

Nice place but it reminded me too much of a carpet store and not enough of a motorcycle shop. Maybe it's because the "shop" is across the strip mall. Posted by Hello

So I'm back on the road and, all delerious from swooning over bikes, I forgot to pull my handy dandy folding pocket map out to look for directions. So, I wandered West for a while, then I went South for a bit, then I got caught in a subdivision and ended up heading back to the East. So I stopped and pulled out my map. Facing the wrong direction but with a handful of directions this is what I saw.

Stopped, not exactly in the middle of nowhere, with a look back at the strip from the desert. Posted by Hello

Back in the car with some direction (why hadn't I pulled out my GPS? I'm just now realizing that. It would have looked stupid mounted the the steering wheel of the rental Chevy) I found Hwy 160 and all the excitement that two lane has to offer.

I love the textures. Yeah, it's desert but it's got it's own funky beauty. Posted by Hello

So, I roll into Pahrump and it's just like we'd left it: warm, sunny and ready for anything. I called Dean's cell from my cell and realized that mine is nearly dead. I remember roughly where their house is but I want better directions. It's not that I'm not willing to drive around Pahrump with my head hanging out the window screaming "Dean! Joann! Where do you live." I'm sure somebody who knows them would point the way to their house for me.

So, I get just enough directions from Dean before my cell phone dies. I roll into their driveway and their house is just like we left it. Nobody's home so I go over to the gate and harass the barking dogs. Fabio, Rex, Princess and Annie. Annie was going to be our dog. She was born right before Jamie was diagnosed. We decided that having a puppy in the house during Jamie's chemo would be too much stress so she stayed with Dean and Joann. The funniest bit was they all started barking when I jumped out of the car. It wasn't the "hey buddy, we missed you bark" that I would get from them here in Alaska; it was the "who the f$@! are you; you don't belong here" bark. It's funny how calling a dog by it's name will shut it up in a heartbeat. "Do we know this guy?" I'm sure none of them remembered me but I like to think that Annie missed me. "Hey food guy, where are our treats."

So, I hopped back in the car for a cat nap and my head barely hit the head rest when Dean pulled in. Hugs, hand shakes, damn I missed him. Dean is a great hangin' out guy. He could be the Uncle I never had. Or the weird neighbor. Nah, he's too cool to be the weird neighbor. It's comforting to me that Dean and Joann are on the short list of friends I know I will have forever (and I'm pretty sure the rest of you know who you are as well; copies of the list are available for $9.95; operaters are standing by; if you've got the number just give me a call; I'll fax it to you).

So, we have a couple beers in the garage, bullshit about friends in low places (is Colorado low? Lower than Seward?) and generally catch up on the ten months we've lost. Somewhere (subliminally or otherwise) the dinner bell rings and Dean asks if I'm ready for dinner. I don't "know" where we're going but I "KNOW" where we're going.

I love telling people that Joann works at a brothel. Usually it goes like this. "My friend Joann works at a whore house in Nevada." Long pause. "She's a retired correctional officer and she's working security at one of the nicest brothels I've ever seen (well, the only brothel I've ever seen outside of Spenard)." This is usually where whomever I just told this to either has a heavy sigh or somewhat of a look of relief on their face. It's the wind-up and the verbal pitch. I love it. So, there's no seeing Joann tonight unless we head out to the brothel. Twist my arm.

So, we hop into the DeanMobile, he fires it up and the headlights don't come on. He's been having trouble with the switch (which I'm sure is fixed by now) and his truck is a no go so I drive.

Sheri's Ranch has two doors a few feet apart, probably a third around the corner where the hotel entrance is (is there a hotel entrance?) but I haven't been around that way; one is the entrance to the Sports Bar and the other is the entrance to the Parlor.

I'll break down the entrance situation. The Sports Bar is exactly that. Too many TVs, a pool table, a classic horseshoe bar, posters of sports and racing guys, the requisite beer signs (neon and tin) and a stripper pole. Ok, maybe the stripper pole is more than a regular sports bar. It must be a fantasy league bar :-p Then there's the Parlor Door. The Parlor has a big leather couch, some stuffed chairs, a fireplace, a grand piano (maybe a baby, I'm not sure). In a word it's plush. The Parlor entrance has a doorbell, the Sports Bar does not. The doorbell is the signal to the ladies that there is a guest in need of, um, er, attention (blush, yeah, I blush on occasion). Unless you're lookin' for some womanly action you don't go a callin' to the Parlor door.

So, Dean and I go into the Sports Bar and order a couple drinks. After a few minutes Joann wanders in and we swap hugs. This is going to sound so lame but one of the things I love the most about Joann is her spunk. She always seems to be able to put a positive light on anything or at least a genuine smile when you're down. I miss having the two of them in my life more. Joann is working till 11pm so Dean dicides (twist my arm again) we'll wait for her. We order dinner. I have the best whorehouse Philly cheese steak I've ever had (read also as ONLY).

So, the big news at Sheri's Ranch is the celebrity. Celebrity? There are celebrity prosititutes? Yes, son, there are. HBO did a couple documentaries called Cathouse and Cathouse II: Back in the Saddle (go figure) and one of the women from the show had made the big move to Sheri's Ranch.

"Jon. Look over there. That's her," Joann said in a loud whisper. I'm no stranger to HBO (Jamie and I watch all those crazy documentaries; especially Taxicab Confessions) "That's Airforce Amy over there." Sure enough it was. She was taller than I expected. So Dean and I mind our drinks and keep workin' on that ten months of catching up and after a while someone brushes my arm. Flesh and blood standing at the end of my elbow is AirForce Amy. I blush. Well what would you do meeting a celebrity with her credentials? I mean, if I met Angelina Jolie I would be amazed because I'm familiar with her body of work, er, um. But Airforce Amy. Her body is her work and, well, that's just a touch on the intimates side. Honestly, the drinks were helpin' keep my blush from showing (I'd probably had a rosy blush for a while already). She was nice. She brought out some color glossies of herself and signed one for Dean and one for me. Then Joann asked if we could have some pictures together. "Sure," she says so I go into tourist mode, rush out to the rental and grab my camera.

Joann gets the camera, Amy takes my hand and we head into the parlor. This is a show and tell thing and ask me about it sometime and I'll show you but basically this is what happened. Amy took my left hand and put it on her left boob saying "hold this." Then she twisted around, her back to me, took my other hand and latched it onto her right boob. I'm not sure if she said it or I though it but somewhere (probably an subconscious non-memory) I heard "hang on" and she bent over in front of me and ground her butt into me. Oof.

Flesh and Blood and a grin that just won't quit. I hate it when my cheeks hurt from smiling. Posted by Hello

Wow. A picture with an honest to somebody celebrity prosititute. But wait, there's more. She stands up and starts to tug on my beard. Then she slides up against me and gives me a cash AS THE FLASH GOES OFF!!!!

Ok, maybe my cheeks weren't hurting from smiling but from trying to keep my mouth shut while she was yankin' on my beard. Posted by Hello

If not for the corporate greed of HBO I would have had a lot of explaining to do when I got home. And how many guys can actually say they've "been" with Airforce Amy withoug actually "BEING" with Airforce Amy. Probably a lot, but I can dream.

Whew. I thank Amy (she didn't have to do any of that really and that was nice of her) and head back to Dean and my fresh drink. It's getting close to 11 and soon we're off back to Dean and Joann's. We spend an hour or so talking when we get home. I miss you guys.

What a night.

Next Post: Back on Track with Episode No.5 - A Lack of Freedom on the Freeway

Monday, March 21, 2005

Gnomz.com - comic creator

This is sick. The good kind of sick.

My Big Red Couch - gnomz.com - comic creator - comics creator

This is my latest place to waste time (or a creative outlet at my therapist would call it; Who am I kidding, I don't have a therapist).

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Vegas Baby - Episode No.4 - (What's Left of) Mullholand Drive

Finally loaded up I'm ready to truely begin my ride. First destination Griffith Park Observatory. Back out onto Century Blvd I head East towards Vermont Avenue. About two blocks from the Econolodge is Hollywood Park race track. Had I known there was horse racing within staggering distance of the Econolodge I would have gone there last night. Oh well, the Wood was more colorful the way I went.

The best laid plans of me. Bike rental place to Mulholland Drive (paved and dirt; the bike can handle it), up the PCH to Solvang then over to the Valley (which valley I'm not exactly sure) then down to Palm Springs. It should be about a 350 mile day. Not too bad of a ride but I will be tired after not having ridden for nearly 6 months. Posted by Hello

I had scaled the distance from Century Blvd to Griffith Park to be about 12 miles. Had I taken the freeway it would have been about 15 minutes tops. Vermont Avenue was city traffic. Not "rush hour stand still" traffic but definately "taking it's time" traffic. About 2/3 of the way to Griffith park the "Hot Asian Chick" incident happened.

There was a silver BMW Z3 Roadster in the lane next to me. There was a hot Asian chick driving. She was showing a lot of leg from my vantage point. I was probably drooling (or close to it). We had been side by side for a few minutes. I was probably staring too. She gave me a little bit of a dirty look. You know the look. It's the "I know you're looking at me but I don't really want you looking at me" look. I had had a good night's sleep and had my wits about me.

I flipped my visor up and said, "when did BMW start making cars?" Her eyebrows raised and then she started to giggle. I MADE THE MILDLY PISSED OFF HOT ASIAN CHICK GIGGLE. One of the high points of the trip right there. And like a vision, within a couple of blocks she turned and was gone.

Pushing 1:30p I finally reached the lower slopes of the Hollywood hills. It took me more than 45 minutes to go 12 miles. Damned California. The lower slopes of Griffith Park are residential. I felt stressed when I loaded up the bike the in Econolodge parking lot so I had yet to mount up the GPS so I pulled into the first street at the bottom of the park and mounted up my GPS gear. The route I had planned would take me through Griffith Park to Baham Blvd and on to Mulholland Drive. I wanted the GPS to record the route.

Mulholland Drive is named for William Mulholland, the Engineer who designed the aquaduct that services Los Angeles. The road is featured in books and movies as the setting for all kinds of hijinx. Poe's song, Hey Pretty was my inspiration to give it a ride (ooh, ooh, I hadn't realized until just now it's a BMW Roadster he's talking about in the song and I just saw that hot Asian chick; damn I should have asked her for a ride).

Hey, Pretty! Won't you come and take a ride with me? In hindsight it was better not to ask for a ride and get my ass kicked by the Hot Asian Chick. Posted by Hello

I figured Mulholland Drive would be a fun ride and something to talk about when I was done. Not exactly tell your grandkids the story type of talk about but something to share with those that appreciate a good road.

Griffith Park's road got muddy and wet just past the residnences. I guess when nobody lives there it doesn't get cleaned up right away. One of Jamie's greatest fears for me on this trip was the weather. I don't mind the weather. You get what you get. According to John the helpful van driver it had started raining in el Eh the day after Christmas and it had stopped earlier the day I arrived (yesterday in the story timeline). El Eh was a mess. There were mud slides everywhere and unbeknownst to me the section of Baham Blvd in Griffith Park had a section 300 yards long that was wiped out from a slide. I wasn't going to do this ride exactly as I had planned. No biggie. I'm flexible.

I got to the top of the road and the Griffith Observatory, which has also been featured in a ton of movies, was closed for repairs. Not rain damage repairs but serious remodeling repairs. I did manage to snap a few pictures at the top of the road.

Aaaaah! Can't you just taste the air from here? Posted by Hello

So, it's back down through the muddy park and follow the bottom of the hills towards the Hollywood Bowl and up to Mulholland. Not the direct route but I would be riding Mulholland, damnit.

Without having to double back I found it on my first try. It looked promising because it was up and twisting and at least as good of a road surface as Eagle River Road. Actually, it was nearly identical to Eagle River Road, just with the Santa Monica Mountains on one side and nothing on the other. About a half mile up the road there was a turn-out / picture spot. That's what I was here for.

Happy to be riding. Happy to be alive. Happy to not have to live in the sprawl behind me. FYI: On the other side of the mountains that my body is pointed towards there is more of the same only no ocean to stop it. Posted by Hello

At the turn-out / picture spot there was a park-like ranger guy. I say park-like because he didn't really know what he was talking about, but I'll get to that. Based on the closure of Baham Blvd I asked about the rest of the road. He said that Mulholland was open to the other and it was clean and nice all the way to where the dirt part started. I asked him if the dirt part was passable and he said that it was also ok to ride. SCORE!!! I thanked him for his answers and headed back to my bike.

Wait a minute. From the "view" point there was just el Eh. Between where he was parked and I was parked there was a descent view of the Hollywood sign.

I know you've seen it a thousand times before but this is MY PICTURE, damnit. It's more impressive on the big screen than in person. Probably because they usually use a helicopter to film it. I'd have been directly below it had I gotten the ride I wanted in Griffith Park. Posted by Hello

Ok, back on the bike and up Mulholland. Overall I rate this road about a 5. Yeah, it's famous and it's twisty and it's got a view but there's other traffic, there are too many driveways coming onto it and there are too many stop signs/lights. The paved part was 12 miles end to end but Eklutna Lake Road completely kicks Mulholland Drive's ass. Remember a few lines ago when I said Mulholland Drive would at least be "something to share with those that appreciate a good road." It's not THAT GOOD. Unless you have a need to say you've done it then DON'T bother.

So, I get to the end of the pavement and the road just kinda peters out. There's a parking lot and a dirt road that runs up a ridgeline but there's a gate. A GATE. A gate I couldn't go around, over or through. Damned California.

I rolled down the valley side of the hill through a residential neighborhood (not a single window with bars on it in sight; Toto we're not in 'the Wood' anymore) and hooked around and back up the hill to Mulholland heading back to the East.

It was about 3pm and it was time I started heading to Palm Springs so I figured I would head to towards the ocean (the only chance I would get this trip to get close to the water) an work my way across, then out of town. At Mulholland Drive and the San Diego Freeway I headed down the hill. I wasn't ready for the Freeway yet so I stayed on the frontage road which was still the San Diego Freeway but unlike the Freeway overhead the frontage had no traffic; it was sitting still on the Freeway. Good call, Jon.

Watching my GPS screen I hooked a right on Santa Monica Blvd and headed to the sea. The closer to the beach I got the slower the traffic went. Go figure, the first sunny day in over a month, 3:30 in the afternoon on a Saturaday; who would be at the beach (other than everybody)? Not the wisest move but here is where I began my education in the fine art of lane splitting. It's an art rather than a science because I did it by feel, not really any calculating. I would hop ahead to whatever light traffic was stopped at then scoot forward when the light changed and repeat at the next light. I got to Venice that way but the streets there were pretty narrow until I was able to do it again on Venice Blvd. Then I hopped onto Lincoln Blvd (also the PCH but nowhere near the coast) and soon I was in Anchorage size traffic on a Freeway and back at the airport.

So it didn't go as planned but if it had it wouldn't have been half the adventure. Or would it have been twice the adventure? I rode and had fun. That's all the adventure I needed. Posted by Hello

Nearly full circle. Huh. Definately not what I had planned.

Coming soon, Episode No.5 - A Lack of Freedom on the Freeway.

Vegas Baby - Episode No. 3 - Rollin' the Pannier

Aaaaaaah, el Eh! I love el Eh! Isn't that what Randy Neuman said? I think I developed emphazema from my less than 24 hours in el Eh.

8:30 my alarm goes off. That's about 7 hours sleep (about an hour more than I usually get at home) so I'm rested and ready. John (the van driver) and I had agreed to meet at 9 when he got off shift. I hopped into the shower, dressed and was in the lobby with bells on (what the hell does "with bells on mean?) at 9am sharp. The morning clerk said "he told me you would be coming down and he was asked to work until 10. Can you wait?" "Sure." I had packing to do.

Back to the room with lobby coffee and a lobby donut (yeah, it's not on my diet but I'm traveling and I know in the dietary fine print there's a travel clause that says there are no negative consequences from eating what you want when you are traveling). I pack my gear and sit down with my maps and redraw my route.

In Alaska I know the roads. Not ALL of the roads but I know enough about our 9 highways not to get lost. This was el Eh. They have more miles of highway in el Eh than the entire state of Alaska has paved, dirt or probably game trails. So, I went over my planned route again and rewrote it on a sheet of paper from my yellow legal pad. I had borrowed Michelle's tank bag (thanks Michelle) and stuffed my riding notes into the map window. I don't need a map window at home but it came in pretty handy in America. So, all coffee'd and donut'd up I waited for 10am and John.

At 5 till I went back down to the lobby and John was waiting in his Chevy Blazer. Damn. This was nice. I hopped in and off we went. He told me the van driver job was his part-time gig while he was studying Criminal Justice at some school and working for TRW doing credit reports during the day. "I've got the worst credit and here I am telling other people about theirs." We shared a laugh over that and I assured him that mine wasn't all that good anymore. He told me about his kids and I about mine. He was just a regular guy and I will not forget his kindness.

The motorcycle rental place was 8 miles from the Econolodge (according to Mapquest) and his route was nearly identical to the one off the web. There was a nice big sign that said Moturis about a fenced lot full of motorhomes. But there was no entrance. Just fence.

We went partially around the block and through an alley that brought us to a gate that was not locked. There was an office trailer inside the fence and I figured that was where I needed to go. I offered John some gas money but he wouldn't take it. John, you are such a nice guy. Thank you again.

I headed for the gate and John headed home. I climbed the steps to the office trailer and the sign on the door said "Knock and wait." I knocked and waited. And knocked and waited. This wasn't working.

There was a shop building outside the gate and there was a guy over there power washing a motorhome so I figured I'd hassle him.

"Hey! Are you in charge?"

"No. You need to go inside and see Guido."

Guido? Is this el Eh or Nyork? Is my ridicule of big cities too obvious? As it turns out Guido is either German or Austrian with a thick Guvinator accent. He's helping a couple with their motorhome and he'll be with me in a moment so I wait. No coffee in their waiting room. That's bad. I like coffee. Free coffee.

Once he comes in Guido and I chit chat about bikes. Guido reminds me of Seymour Butts (if you've got Showtime or a decent porn collection then you know who I'm talkin' 'bout). He doesn't have curly hair but his build and facial features are similar. He doesn't ride anymore because of his back. He used to commute on two wheels but now he lives closer so he doesn't. He's been in el Eh for about 5 years but he hasn't ridden anywhere but in the city. He's nice and as helpful as he can be. He quizzes me about the bike and I pass. It's a GS and I've got an R bike. I ask him some questions about the panniers (I don't have bags on the Rockster) and he shows me how they open and close. He has a little trouble getting the bag to latch but it finally clicks on.

We do a fairly thorough walkaround of the bike. Guido notes that the panniers are scuffed up and there is a decent sized ding in the exhaust guard. The bike has about 15K miles and I am only the second renter since new tires were put on. They've still got the little nubs sticking out on the side and when I question Guido he says "the last guy must not have turned much." I'll say. Goal #1, break in those tires and wear off those nubs.

The paperwork is done, I'm geared up, I've got the bike and I'm off.

Now, John didn't take the exact route to the hotel that I had gotten from Mapquest and I had spent some quality time with my maps (which I left at back at the Econolodge) and I had a good idea of how to get back to the hotel without exact directions and I had nothing but time on my hands so I took off back towards the hotel. I went out onto Compton Blvd heading West then turned North onto Vermont Avenue. I knew Vermont and Century Blvd intersected so I headed North getting a feel for the bike.

Overall I was pleased with the feel of the GS. It was a more standard seating position than my Rockster and I should have asked Guido to roll the bars back a little (my finger tips are still numb from a touch of carpel tunnel). The seat, while comfotable, was narrow and totally reminded me of my Kawasaki KLR 650.

Comfortable with the bike after a few blocks I started to take in my surroundings. Vermont Avenue from Compton Blvd to the north is a mix of residential, mostly California bungalows, with businesses at the intersections, fast food and gas. It was Saturday and there was an abundance of yard sales (no garages on the bungalows). Had I the money, the inclination and more time (yeah, I had plenty of time but I wanted to ride) I would have stopped and browsed. Ain't nothin' like a crack pipe brought back to the family from the hood to say "I love you." Again, I digress to a stereotype.

I cross the railroad tracks just before Imperial Highway and the left side pannier passes me as it rolls down the street. WTF!!! Luckily I'm going less than 40 mph in light traffic. I turn around onto the sidewalk and come back close to where the panier has come to a rest. Damnit. I don't want to have to pay for that.

Traffic has passed. I run out and pick up the pannier. It doesn't look like anybody hit it but it is scuffed up pretty bad. It's a hard plastic case and it's got some serious scuffs on the top but all of the mounting hardware is still intact. I set it on the mounting brackets, pop the mounting latch up, then press it down but it won't go; it won't latch. Damnit. I don't need this. There's a little hook that comes out when you press down on the latch and it reaches up and grabs the bottom of the mounting rail but it doesn't come out far enough. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

I whip out my knife (which I had handily packing in my checked luggage) and used it to pry the hook into place. After a minute or two (and the offer of assistance from a couple passers by) I had it hooked back on. Fuck. Now what.

I hopped back on and kept heading North. I got to Century Blvd and, not knowing exactly where I was turned right, heading East. Century Blvd peetered out after about a half mile. There can't be more than one Century Blvd so I must be going the wrong way. I took the next left north, then another left back to the west and a final left on Vermont Avenue headed south back to Century. The damage to the bags wasn't that bad but, fuck, I wasn't comfortable with going further the way the one bag seemed to be just barely hanging on so I decided to head back to see Guido.

I got back to Moturis about 11:30. I walked into the shop and Guido asked me what was up. For the record I DID NOT CUSS. I may have wanted to but I did not.

"One of the bags came off in traffic. I think it's OK." Guido came over and took a look.

"It wasn't on there right," he said. "See this tab. They're both supposed to be mounted inside this tab before they are latched. The last renter must not have put them back on right." The last renter? You were showin' me the bags before I left. You should have noticed. I didn't say this, I thought it about 5 miles down the road, but Guido was a good guy. He said, "I've already noted that the bags were scuffed. I'll just update the information to say they are extremely scuffed." I believed him and off I went again.

I hopped back on the bike and went less than a block. My stomach was telling me it was time for personal fuel. On the corner opposite Moturis was McLunch (reference afore mentioned dietary clause). I popped in, ordered a couple $1 burgers and went back to the bike to dine. It was warm. My encounters with the locals were all pleasant. I have no complaints about el Eh (cough, cough, cough). But seriously, other than the haze, the air wasn't noticably different. It didn't taste different. Maybe I'm just used to the poor winter air quality in Anchorage.

So I'm standing next to the bike eating my burgers when a dude in an Oldsmobile rolls into the parking lot and gives me a story about his wife using his car and leaving the gas tank empty and leaving his wallet at home and needing to get across town to work and beggin for money. Is that an el Eh thing? Drive-up begging? That's too cynical. Fearing road gremlin retribution I dug into the pocket of my riding jacket and gave him about $2 in change. I have never ridden through a toll booth (with the exception of the Golden Gate Bridge) but I usually have at least a couple dollars in change in my right front jacket pocket. It wasn't money I would miss and it was good karma if it DID help. So, off he goes.

I noticed that the clock was wrong. I checked the receipt from my lunch and whipped out my knife again to adjust the clock. 11:45.

11:45!!! Fuck. Hotel check-out is noon. I'm 8 miles away and check-out is in 15 minutes. Fuuuuuuck.

Scarf and go. I'm on the move again back up Vermont Avenue to Century Blvd. I turn the right way and I'm back at the Econolodge by 12:10. The day clerk (same as this morning) tells me that they've already cleaned my room but that my key still works and my stuff is there waiting for me. Dang. Who would have figured the Inglewood, CA Econolodge would be that efficient? Certainly not me.

My stuff was all there and seemed to be in order and back in the lobby the clerk said there was no extra charge for my few minutes of late. Is my cynacism betraying me again? Maybe it isn't like that in el Eh, but they're damned hospitable in the Wood. Yo Wood!!!

The gear. I've got Michelle's tank bag, my tail bay, my helmet bag and my laptop backpack. The tank bag has all of my electronics in it (GPS, CD player, noise canceling headphones) and mounts right up. I decide to stash half my clothes in the helmet bag and stuff it into the right pannier. I don't trust the panniers so I opt to put the backpack and laptop in my tail bag behind me. It doesn't mount the same as on the KLR or the Rockster but I get it monkeyed together and pull on it for a few minutes until I'm satisfied that it's not coming off.

Casa de Juan (aka Inglewood Econoldoge). My room was on the third story (the air conditioner at the top of the picture directly above the bike). Can you say "Hood?" Posted by Hello

The "view" out onto Century Blvd. Peaceful urban setting by day, Ho'ville by night. Posted by Hello

Loaded up I'm ready to truely begin my ride.

Next stop, Episode No.4 - (What's Left of) Mullholand Drive

Monday, March 07, 2005

Vegas Baby - Episode No. 2 - Strollin' the Hood

By the time I reached LAX my martini buzz was long gone, presumably lost somewhere over Oregon, possibly northern California. Aaaaaah, LAX. I don't have anything good to say about LAX except, yup, it's there. I pretty much have that sentiment about greater Los Angeles or el Eh, if you prefer. I wrangled my bags and waited on the curb for my hotel shuttle. It didn't come after a few minutes. It didn't come after a few minutes more. After about 20 minutes I called the hotel and asked. "You've got to call for a pick up," the clerk told me. Well, here I am a callin'. He said the van would be there in about 10 minutes and I went and waited where I was told to. Sure enough, about 10 minutes later John, my own personal chauffer showed up.

Ok, so he wasn't mutually exclusive. There were a couple ladies in the van already and they were headed to the Super 8 across the street from the Econolodge and I didn't get the details but either both are owned by the same person or it was a co-op van. Regardless, John hauled us to our respective hotels.

I asked him for two things: food and beverage. He said there were several stores within walking distance, sit down, take out, booze and/or grocery. He even offered to haul me to which ever one I chose. I'd been sitting the majority of the day so I opted to walk.

"Hey, do you take people places other than the airport," I asked?

"Where do you need to go," he countered.

I told him where the motorcycle rental place was and he said "I can't take you there in the van but I am headed that direction in the morning when my shift is done. I can give you a ride."

"Really? Thanks." I am amazed by this. Am I a bumpkin, just rolled into town whose going to get rolled in an alley (needless paranoia) or did I just get lucky? We agree to meet at the front doors at 9am when his shift ends.

So, I check into the hotel and the "suite" is located near the elevator and above the entrance. I say suite because the room was freakin' huge. It had one double bed, maybe a queen but it had room for at least one more bed. The TV was maybe 20" and from the bed it looked like the screen on my cell phone. I flicked through the channels because, for some odd mental construct of my own and even though I don't watch a lot of TV, I just HAD TO KNOW what was on.

Nothing. Hey, it's regular TV. Is there ever anything on regular TV? There were some interesting international channels, a couple asian channels and hispanic channels. What do you expect in el Eh?

A brief word about paranoia. I am not nor do I generally consider myself paranoid however, I have only been to Los Angeles once and while that was uneventful, somewhere in my subconscious evey episode of COPS, Dragnet, The Fall Guy and probably a bunch of other B moives and television shows is burned. Los Angeles is full of bad people. Very bad people. Nothing good happens in Los Angeles. Just pick up a newspaper or turn on CNN. On top of that there were probably more people within a 10 block radius than there are in the entire state of Alaska. THAT TOTALLY FREAKS ME OUT. I like people. People like me. But that's a lot of freakin' people. But let's set that all aside and take a look at the hood.

I stashed the majority of my cash and went out with $40. I could give up $40 if mugged and not lose too much sleep over it (needless paranoia). So I head off the direction John suggested and the streets, while not exactly bustling do seem like a 5 lane Spenard complete with pimps and hos.

Somewhere in the media, the movie "The Wood" perhaps, I remember something about how people greet each other in the city. The first guy I passed on the street yelled, "Yo Wood, wassup?" I gave him a nod. It was Inglewood after all. I walked about a mile to the West down Century Blvd. It wasn't as colorful as I pictured el Eh to be but this wasn't the Sunset strip. A pimp here, a ho there, a John creepin' his beat up Honda Civic around every corner and, every now and again, a cop or two.

In hindsight (and this would have sent my paranoia into overdrive) I didn't even see any gangbangers. So much for my irrational fear of the big city.

So I take my late night stroll down to where 110 crosses Century Blvd., maybe a half mile, maybe a mile. It was late and I needed a walk. So on my way back, about three blocks from the Econolodge, I stop at "the store." It's "the store" because by now it's after midnight and all the other stores are closed. It's just like any store at home; Mapco, 7/11, Tesoro to Go. EXACTLY the same. Except for the store-wide bullet proof lexan wall that the two clerks, all the booze and the cash register are behind. Damn. Maybe my paranoia wasn't that far off. I buy some goodies and head back to the econolodge for the night.

End of day. Stay tuned for Episode No.3 - Rollin' the Pannier (because it was just too much for one post).

Sunday, March 06, 2005


I love leftovers. They're kinetic (in that they get me moving to the fridge and keep me moving).

(Nearly) Everyday Jamie asks me what I had for lunch. I think from now own, as often as possible I will Blog it. I know, sick, huh? Posted by Hello

Ted Today

Maybe I will start doing a Daily Ted sighting. Ted (and his girlfriend Alice) live in our neighborhood. I admire their beauty. And, because they're birds and you can't just lift a leg to tell, I've probably got the sex wrong and who knows if it's even the same two birds that keep coming back. Sometimes there is only one, sometimes there are four. If birds had blogs would they rate their favorite feeders? That's rhetorical; don't answer it.

Ok, so it's not like he comes to visit because he likes us. No, the sad reality is that we're merely a free meal. But it's kewl to have birds on the deck. Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Vegas Baby - Prequel - Why Not

Disclaimer: Ok, this may be a bit boorish but because my previous post was actually hand written enroute from Seattle to Los Angeles and because I did snap a few pictures at SEA-TAC and because you might not get the gist of the story I will back up and fill in a few details. Think of it as Citizen Cain only without Rosebud. Or not.

Vegas Baby - Prequel - Why Not

If anybody ever has a need to look within the depths of my soul and search for an underlying theme I will save you the time and just blurt it out: How can I do this and spend some quality time on two wheels. Pretty anticlimactic, ain't I? I love to ride. I'll go around the block just because I haven't ridden for a few days. I'll ride to Seward and back in an evening just because I'm pissed off (don't even think that I haven't). I'm talking motorcycles here, not pedal bikes. I love to ride. It's a thrill I haven't found anywhere else (although the kiddie roller coaster at the Alaska State Fair comes close; did I just say that with my outside voice? Oops).

So, I was invited to Las Vegas for the 15th Annual National Consortium of Breast Centers Symposium by the National President of Men Against Breast Cancer (MABC). I am (for all intents and purposes) the Alaska Affiliate of MABC and Marc (the National President) invited me down for the Symposium to network and get an education. Fine by me. Anchorage in late winter is pretty easy to leave behind for a few days. But there's that underlying theme always nagging me. How can I do this and ride? Time for research.

I have flirted with flying and riding in the past on other trips. I have done two Fly n' Rides through the Harley Owner's Group and I have rented from Dubbelju in San Francisco (excellent folks to rent from in SF). I did some flight research and noted that it was $100 cheaper to one-way to Los Angeles and one-way back from Vegas. That is part of how I funded the bike rental. Moturis is a site that I have looked at off and on over the last four or five years as a potential bike rental company. They mostly rent motorhomes but motorcycle rental is a part of their package, catering mostly to Europeans. Using their online availability engine I looked to see if a BMW R1150GS would be available on the dates I wanted (Saturday, February 26th thru Monday, February 28th). The search came up with green squares telling me a bike would be available for the days I wanted. $100 per day with the added bonus of no one-way charge because the rental is "off season." Luckily nobody has told them that Vegas is ALWAYS open.

So, I've got the motorcycle reservation, I've got the flight reservations and all I need is to pack my bags and go.

I already went off on maps but here's a little more. I love maps. I have antique maps hanging in my family room and I have at least a dozen books of maps in my library, most of them historical . I get a brand new Atlas with my Life Membership to the Harley Owner's Group and I know nothing substantial every changes but when it arrives I pour through it, reliving past journeys and dreaming of new ones. Kinetic, eh?

Packing list: My pocket travel map (a spiral bound half size atlas that fits in my riding jacket), my HOG atlas (for hotel room reference), my laptop (for portable doodling and any work that might come up), my cd player, noise canceling headphones and a few discs (both for the road and in the hotels), both light reading and heavy reading (AutoCAD book for the UAA class I am teaching and the Cancer Care Giver's Guide for MABC; you decide which one is light and which one is heavy), 6 days of clothes, toiletries and riding gear, digital camera and extra film (Compact Flash cards) and my Garmin GPS and RAM Mount (they totally kick ass).

Luggage: The Bowling Ball (helmet bag with helmet, gloves and riding pants), laptop backpack with books, atlas', camera and miscelaneous electronics and Kawasaki KLR 650 tailbag as checked luggage with everything that I don't absolutely have to have to ride packed in it (toiletries and clothes). I figured this out years ago. If you need it to ride and somebody else has the opportunity to lose it for you you're better off hand carrying it. Besides, I don't trust the luggage gorillas with my helmet for fairly obvious reasons. In the last few years the airlines have really tightened up the carry-on requirements but nobody has ever questioned the bowling ball and backpack (although I have gotten a few curious looks with the bowling ball; what can I say, it's obvious to me what it is).

Jamie was jealous I think. "You always get to go off and have motorcycle adventures." She may not have said it but I'm sure she was thinking it. I do, hence the underlying theme again. I'm so transparent. Pretty obvious, you might say, but she insists she wasn't jealous. Years of training as a husband have taught me that if I ask her for an opinion (such as, "are you jealous that I am going on this trip") and I get a response that I don't believe (such as, "No") then it's her loss for not expressing herself (I just don't have the time to try to figure her out).

Rational or not about two weeks out from this trip she developed a Jon Travel Phobia. "I have this fear that you are going to die on this trip;" maybe not verbatim but she told me something real close at least a half dozen times. Luckily it was her phobia, not mine. And don't think I didn't use it to my advantage.

"This might be our last night together. Can you PLEASE make me a martini!" True story. Posted by Hello

My flight out was mid-afternoon. Jamie picked me up from work just before noon and we went to lunch at Carrs, both ordering Chinese takeout. She had broken a lunch date with a close friend to see me off. It may not seem like much to you but I appreciated it. I love that woman.

So, I had a pass to the Alaska Airline Board Room (thanks Alisa) and about an hour and a half to kill before boarding (show up two hours early for your flight so you can spend some quality time shopping for overpriced nick-nacks). One of the awesome things about the Alaska Airlines Board Room is the free wireless internet. I got to take care of a few things, check some account balances and play some solitaire before leaving town. Woot woo. Not to mention the martini incident (see Episode No. 1).

The flight from Anchorage to Seattle was uneventful. I leafed through the in-flight magazine, gave a cursory look over my big Atlas for some possibilities but mostly spent the flight with my eyes closed in noise canceled bliss listening to the Oliver Brown Experience and Tom Waites (not together, separate CDs).

Seattle is always amazing to me. Probably more so because Alaska Airlines has two wings there and I can't say that I haven't had to walk from one wing to the other EVERY SINGLE TIME I pass through. Land at C, walk to D. Land at D, walk to C. It never fails.

Don't look down. Don't! I SAID DON'T! Posted by Hello

So, after treking over to my gate and noting another hour to kill I settled at a table in the lounge for a martini or two. If I had known that they were $11 and a double was only $2 more I would have started bigger (and stayed bigger). The maps came alive with possibility (kinetic even) and I wrote down options, alternate routes, easy riding and tougher riding. The best laid plans... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

After I'd emptied my wallet at the bar (not literally, but I did feel used) I sat by the gate and decided to play with the little camera (Nikon CoolPix 4300; as opposed to the big camera, Jamie's Nikon D70). Buy the girl the big camera, get the little camera as a hand-me-down.

My attempt at an "art" photo. I did learn that turning the flash off gets a closer version of what I'm looking at (with the flash on it shows the reflection in the glass; probably a no brainer for you but this is ME we're talkin' 'bout, Willis). Posted by Hello

So, blissed out on a couple of martinis, headed for an ideal ride I hop on the next flight and that pretty much catches you up to Episode No. 1. Stay tuned for Episode No. 2 - Strollin' the Hood and Rollin' the Pannier.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Vegas Baby - Episode No. 1 - 30,000 Feet and No Olives

Ok. I got back from the CA, AZ, NV trip late last night. I wrote a few things on the way down and I've got a few ideas from the trip back. This might take a while but here is the first installment:

Vegas Baby (the Serialized Adventures of a Motorcycling Dork)

Episode No. 1 - 30,000 Feet and No Olives

Jamie told me to be good. I think I am. I've already got the head Stewardess talked into at least one free round and I'm NOT taking it. Is that good or stupid?

In Seattle, over Tanqueray martinis I figured out my Saturday and Sunday routes with weather and roadway alternatives. I see the next two days as a riding/working vacation or ride to work at the very least.

So, it's ride to work, the long way. Saturday's plan: North to the hills, Mulholland Drive; end to end. PCH 50 or 60 miles north (Solvang?) then inland through the desert and either the long way 'round or cut through Joshua Tree, otherwise it's straight to Palm Springs if the time (aka nightfall), weather (haw) or fatigue (no comment) don't permit.

Is it growing up in a state with only nine (9) highways that made me this way? Is it the motorcycle wanderlust gene (has that been mapped yet)? My parents, although they've got lots of miles on 'em, don't go anywhere NEW. Do people in states with lots of roads go down them JUST to see what's at the other end? I mean people "other than" motorcyclists. Do they? Do people get in cars and take the local twisty roads to get to Yosemite from Topeka or is it just the riders? Do other people fly 3,000 miles, ride a rented bike for a couple of days then fly home? Maybe it's just me.

Damn it's going to be good to see Doug tomorrow. It's been two years (almost to the day). Damnit! Doug and I should rent a Cadillac convertible, get all drugged up and dedicate the "trip" to the good Dr. (R.I.P.). Or not (see note 1 at the end).

I wish Jamie was along for the ride. I love riding with her. But I like being in front so I can straighten out my line and she can roll back and forth in the corners. She's been obsessing on the moon lately. Here is my attempt to capture it from the plane while my row mate was off to the bathroom.

I don't know what I am doing with a camera (and it shows). Oh yeah, there had been gin involved at some point. Posted by Hello

I'm wondering about this bike. I'm not scared but Jamie's got me thinkin'. How heavy WILL it be? Harry's 3'22" and he rides one. Plus he's got a few years on me. Shreck's got one and Ira and Rick Peterson (but Rick's pretty tall). I shouldn't question. It's a Boxer. I dig Boxers. So, it's a GS. So what. If Mr. "I Can Defeat the Empire and Ride the Long Way Round AND whine about a 100 Day, All Expenses Paid Vacation" can ride a GS then so can I (without dumping it) for 2 days. I'm curious about the tread. Knobbys or slicks? If it's the Adventure model then it's barely DOT legal knobbies. If it's "just" a GS then it's those funky tires. I just hope they're broken in.

Oh. Now I'm bad. I took the free drink (the head Stewardess insisted). Is that compensation for the overpriced drinks at the Seattle airport? The martini in the Board Room in Anchorage was great (after I taught the woman how to make it; she insisted that she only works early in the day and all she ever makes is Bloody Marrys) but that one was reasonably priced.

Kinetic means possible, right (*see note 2 at the end)? Maps are kinetic to me. They have the potential to MEAN something.

Tangent: I've got to tell Brian that it's cool he's got the picture of me at the Madeleine, CA fire station up in his house. That was 16 miles before Termo. Fucking Termo (I'll post the story of Termo some day).

Maybe I'm going too deep with this. Maybe it's more Kindergarten than genetic. Maybe I'm playing a motorcycle driven adult game of connect the dots. The towns on the maps are dots and it's my job, my calling, to connect them. All of a sudden I feel like a Goldwinger hunting for a Dairy Queen (*see note 3 at the end). It's pretty much the same thing (just less fattening and a different cherry on top).

Dot to Dot, Bearded Jon style. Posted by Hello

Fuck! I need a job that pays me to ride (more than one weekend a month for MSF/ABATE and actually go somewhere). Is there a Gonzo Motorcycle Adventure Novel in me? Can this be the seed?

The woman pacing the aisle is starting to freak me out. It's a fucking AIRPLANE. SIT THE FUCK DOWN.


Note 1 - Hunter S. Thompson, 1937-2005, dead of a self inflicted shotgun blast to the head. I always got a sense from his writing that he was a trickster. I admired that. Too bad he had to Hemingway himself.

Note 2 - Kinetic:

1. Of, relating to, or produced by motion.
2. Relating to or exhibiting kinesis.

Kinesis: Movement or activity of an organism in response to a stimulus such as light.

Kinetic Energy: energy associated with motion

Ok, so maybe this is a stretch but maps DO produce motion. Maps are kinetic because they make me roam. So kinetic isn't exactly potential but when the headlight on the bike comes on it sure does make me want to move. I'll stick with kinesis as my word. Maps move me. That works.

All definitions from www.dictionary.com

Note 3 - The Joke. What's the difference between a 1%'er (it's has been suggested by the American Motorcycle Association that 1% of the motorcycle community is the lawless bunch that give motorcyclists a bad name) and a RUB (Rich Urban Biker - giving motorcyclists a different kind of bad name)? This really is a joke. The 1%'er says "the beer is flat; let's trash the joint." The RUB says, "my latte is luke warm; let's only tip 10%." But the Goldwingers. You know what the Goldwingers say? "They didn't put a cherry on my hot fudge sundae. Let's find another Dairy Queen and see how they do it." As Jamie always says, "hardee har har."

Subscribe with Bloglines