Traveling Alone

I always write about traveling; this time I think it would be interesting to maybe put some of me into the story. Things that have happened to me along the way that weren’t necessarily interesting to the plot of the day or trip don’t always belong with the rest, and I’ve saved a couple more embarrassing moments, personal ones that no one else knows about for now.

Once I was riding in Sequoia National Park after camping in a great campground near the southern entrance. The views were breathtaking, and just being there was quite impressive. Traveling alone allows one to really observe themselves given the chance and one little mistake I made that day came to be an important memory. You know that old saying about stopping to smell the roses? This might have been one of those times when it is more prudent to keep on going and remember to go back another time. It was a steep climb of windy road into the mountains. My campsite was near the bottom at the park entrance, and the road took me many miles up and up. Even then I was still in the shade as the sun hadn’t yet gotten high enough to light up the valley. Occasionally I’d find a spot where the mountains had a break and rays would cross the road, but for the most part all of the ambient light was scattered throughout the atmosphere on this crisp mountain morning.

I was so happy to be there that every viewpoint was worthy of at least a look and probably a photo, and the views of California’s central valley from the shady roadside overlooks were sights to behold. Without hurrying too much, although I tend to keep a quick pace while riding, I’d catch glimpses of pretty flowers or trees that were special to see. At one particularly precarious place on a right bend in the road going up a steep section there was a patch of blow flowers or whatever name they go by. You know, the kind that you can make a wish on and blow, and if you get all of the white puffy parts off you wish is supposed to come true. They were really interesting to me growing on their embankment, and I just had to stop. This was a hasty pause mostly just for taking a picture, and as I got off the bike I realized that my right leg was a good bit lower than the left. The road was banked steeply to the right and left me with no ability to hold up the bike. It was too far over to even lay on the side stand, and instead went the other way – all the way over.

Some of you have seen how heavily I pack the bike, and some still wonder how it all fits on there. Well, this was one of the rare times when I began to wonder for myself why I was carrying all this crap. My bike probably weighed an extra 60 pounds, and all of that was on the top. To make things worse the bike was not even flat but below grade meaning the handlebars were below the level of the tires. This put the gas tank in an inverted position leaking profusely. I fought and fought to get the bike uprighted. The first problem was the weight, but because I was so much lower than the bike even what would have been enough strength on level ground to get her up wasn’t nearly enough for this. I was in a bind, all the while leaking gas. There are techniques for picking up bikes, using you legs with the bike behind you, and that failed too. Almost given up and waiting for someone to pass by on an early weekday morning I gave it one more shot. Falling back on my schooling and using the physics principle of leverage I was able to pick the bike up by the sissy bar enough that it could lean over the other way. I still had the problem of getting her to stay on the stand, and it proved to take a lot of balance and strength. Finally she was up right and I could breath, a little more worse for the wear. No one ever came to help me, and I learned an important rule of watching where you step, or park. I did stop to smell the flowers though.

 

A photo, and another.

 

Another time almost a year later, I did something that doesn’t seem like much and involved no physical exertion only mental instability was as I rolled into Yellowstone National Park. The park itself is fantastic and probably the best on in our country and maybe the world. I came in from the north east side on the Beartooth Highway from Red Lodge, MT. It is an amazingly powerful experience, and everyone on earth should have the opportunity to go up there. I was so excited about being there that I got caught up in all the things there were to do. My plan was to stay only 2 nights in the park, and I couldn’t decide where to start. After probably 15 miles of the most beautiful mountain road following a wide grassy valley with a bubbling brook in the middle and herds of buffalo on either side of me I pulled over for a nap and to make some plans. I had to come to a decision: head left, south, and plan to spend the next two days in that area; or head north and stay up there for a night then head south. See, I needed to start heading back to Texas at that point. I had finally made it to Montana, the 48th state traveled to on one motorcycle, and it was time to go home and prepare for an entirely different adventure of moving to Germany.

I had planned based on my preliminary research to head south and spend two day there in the same campsite. This was a good plan and would allow me to see some of the biggest sights with relative ease. I made a left at the intersection and felt good about it. Something hit me though as I waited behind the long string of cars winding their way up into the mountain: the other direction didn’t have any traffic. Why was that? Maybe I should be heading that way? My insecurity got the best of me and I turned around. This was downhill and repeated some of what I had already seen. Now, some of you may think this all very silly, but I actually turned around 4 times in that short span. I couldn’t make up my mind. Everything seemed so important to see and do, and I didn’t want to miss a thing. This is by the way a time when it is nice to be traveling with another person. At least that way you’re more locked in to the decision that you came to together. At any rate I would have looked like there was something wrong with me to anyone paying attention, something terribly wrong.

Finally I pulled over, got off the bike and asked what I wanted to do. I doubted myself quite heavily at that moment and everything seemed like the wrong thing. After much deliberation I remounted and headed south, my original direction. It turned out to be a great decision and I really enjoyed the next couple days – plus it put me in a better position to make good time to the south. That wasn’t the only time I had an experience like that; it happened a time or two more, but this was the oddest case, and it sticks in my memory like a hot poker.

Does this make me conservative?

I did something that surprised me the other day.  My friend Thomas and I were airing our tires at a gas station just outside of Houston.  We had pulled into and parked at a gas station which was a little higher than the road surface.  About the time the last tire was aired and checked we looked up to see a car being pushed down the road to the Shell station where we were.  The driver was between the door and car pushing on the frame with one hand and the other on the steering wheel.

My first instinct was to run over there and help.  As I set down my things and headed that way I saw that there were two more people in the car, a mid 80s heavy Lincoln Town car.  The front passenger had his door open and one foot on the ground “pushing”.  The back passenger was doing nothing. Both were smiling and presumably teasing the driver for running out of gas or whatever caused the car to quit running.

So I stopped.  There were two healthy people in the car loading it down with weight and not helping at all.  Thomas asked if we should help.  I replied, “They’re not even helping themselves, I’m not going over there.”  He asked if I was sure, and I pointed out the passengers sitting there.  The car made it about halfway up the bank and just out of the road before the driver couldn’t push anymore.  He ran inside for something, and the passengers never got out of the car.

So, I saw someone in need of help that I could easily provide but didn’t do it.  Does that make me conservative?

Thomas is coming!

My friend from Michigan who I met in Stuttgart will be here tomorrow. We’re going to have a blast: motorcycle trips, camping, rodeos, beach, everything!

I haven’t seen him since the end of July when he flew home.  He was one of my travel partners, and we went several places together with other friends.  Always punctual and preplanned I’ll show him how to wing it and have fun.   It’ll be fun; I can’t wait.

Took the telescope out last night.

Man was that a treat. I don’t have it at home, and instead my mom babysits the telescope. She thinks it looks cool in her living room, and I live with 4 other people and no concern for nice things.

So she invited me for dinner last night and while I was there I took the telescope outside to see Mars. It was bright and full. Quite a nice sight. Took some time to see the Orion Nebula and Pleadies cluster. Mom came out a little later and reminded me that Saturn should be visible, and it was – recently coming over the horizon. So we pointed it out to her (my brother was there too although he knows nothing of astronomy). Her reaction is always the same, “COOL!” Saturn really is a sight to see and still impresses me when I see it.

These photos weren’t taken last night. I took them with the University’s telescope back in St. Louis.

Mars in B&W

The Orion Nebula.  Famous because it is a star forming region and quite colorful.

Saturn in color.  It was a little whiter last night.