Music

I was driving down to Ft. Carson this morning for a Spartan race.  It’s about an hour and 45 minutes so I put on Slacker.  Normally I have a “favorites” channel, but with all the time on the motorcycle and roadtrips lately I wanted a break so I listened to Front Line Radio.  I wrote about that hear and highly recommend you give it a listen.  You can follow this link to listen to it.

Two songs struck me this morning.  One was “Drive On” by Johnny Cash.  I honestly don’t know if I’d ever heard it before, which is surprising considering how many Cash CDs are floating around this place.

Not much more needs to be said about that song.

The other one?  I’ve said frequently that I normally hear music but not the words.  There’s a quote that I like that goes “When you’re happy you hear the music, when you’re sad you listen to the words”.  That’s been true for me usually.  And when a song resonates with me when I’m sad, I can’t turn that off.  I can’t NOT hear the words when I’m happy again.

“Times Like These” by the Foo Fighters has been a favorite of mine for years, probably since the album came out in 2002.  Maybe not.  I was deployed for some of that year and it took some catching up.  So maybe 2003.  But it’s been in regular rotation on my road-trips for over a decade.  I’ve sung it (as best as I’ve understood the lyrics) at the top of my lungs while driving.  And never really thought about any of it.

This morning, they told some backstory behind the request.  The service member who requested it said that they left the military almost immediately after their last of several deployments and when they did, this song was on almost constant replay for them for awhile, strictly because of the lyrics “It’s times like these you learn to live again” and “It’s times like these you learn to love again”.  Then they played the song.

I teared up a little and choked them back.  Instantly I was transported back to my 3rd deployment.  Before the deployment, being almost certain I wasn’t coming home and then when I realized I was, trying to figure out what that mean.  I hadn’t made any “after” plans.

Character

Tonight was an interesting study in human character.  A couple years ago I worked with this guy who’s about my age.  He was never military, but has had a wide range of experiences.  We have similar interests and kind of hit it off, even though we were in different departments and at different levels of hierarchy.  A couple of years ago he decided he wanted to get into motorcycling and asked me to help him shop for a new motorcycle.  We’ve gone on photowalks together, I’ve sent customers to buy hand made leather products from him, etc.

He likes this particular brand of motorcycle gloves.  I’ve always thought they looked like gardening gloves.  I tried some on in person and they were just awkward and uncomfortable.  I left that experience believing they were just a hipster badge, like drinking PBR and wearing flannel and beards.  If you want to spend your money on that, no problem.  But they aren’t for me.

When I did this last ride, I realized that my gloves suck.  I like wool, so I started searching online for wool lined gloves and the only ones I could find were made by this company.  So I ordered them, at $95/pair.  They showed up last week and were terrible.  I soaked them in water and wore them for an hour, that helped them fit better.  The next day I wore them to work.  On their website they advertise them as “winter” gloves.  When I rode to work it was 50 degrees and my hands were still cold in them.  So they officially got a “hell no” from me.

I’ve been upfront about them.  I don’t know what my end goal is, but I’m trying to grow my “brand” on social media.  I’m never going to stop being an IT guy and start being a full time photographer (at least until I retire) but I’d rather have options than not.  So I’ve been posting stuff online and building a base.  When I got the gloves I started taking photos of them, tagging the manufacturer online, etc.  And I’ve been honest.  When I didn’t like something, I said it, in public, in a public forum and I tagged the company so they could respond.  They chose not to.  And my comments haven’t been “they suck!”, they’ve been thought out and solid.  Not always as verbose as possible, given the medium, but the channel was there for the company to contact me for more in-depth feedback.

I met up with 3 Army guys after work tonight.  People I’ve entrusted with my life over the years.  I’m not going to say they’ve been perfect.  They’ve failed.  But they’ve picked themselves up and tried again.  And while we were drinking tonight we were honest again.  Told one guy how much we all hated him when we first met him.  One guy told me I needed to stop talking because my opinion wasn’t valid anymore because I’d been out of the Army too long and my info was dated.  That stung, he knew it did, but I got over it.  The mutual respect and admiration was palpable.  And because of that respect we could have different opinions and still be friends.

After I left the bar I saw I had a text.  I’d thought my former coworker had posted a photo and tagged the company that makes the gloves.  Actually the glove manufacturer had re-posted my friend’s photo.  I’d said “I’m sorry, but I can’t support you on this one, I think they’re glorified gardening gloves”.  His text was frantic.  Did I realize it wasn’t his account that I’d posted it to?  No, but I didn’t care, I’d say it to their face.  That was fine, but I shouldn’t drag him into my displeasure with their product.  How was I drawing him in?  I said I just didn’t agree with his opinion?

Well, turns out they were upset and contacted him.  They didn’t have the nerve to contact me, even though they’d admitted to him that they knew I wasn’t pleased with their product.  They weren’t willing to discuss the merit of my opinions.  But they’d helped him get some exposure as a photographer and were threatening to black-ball him in the community.  And even though he agreed that they were way over-hyped, he was scared to admit it.

I’m trying not to judge him.  I don’t know his personal situation and I don’t know what he’s going through.  I don’t know him well enough to know what motivates him.  But I do know that the timing of our conversation definitely makes me appreciate my real friends, my tribe, more.

Day 10

Lessons learned:

  • When you have the option of a long sleeve with thumb holes and one without, have a well thought out reason to buy the one without.  Something better than “I already have so much orange in my closet.”
  • Have two pairs of gloves for long rides in the cold.  Out one inside the heated jacket liner and wear the other.  Alternate as needed.  Or better yet, buy the damned heated gloves.

So I woke up in Kayenta, AZ.  There isn’t a lot going on there.  So I ate breakfast at the hotel.  I went to the Ace Hardware across the street to see if they long johns or something similar.  They didn’t.  I went across the street and took a picture of the old 7-11 sign.  When I was getting ready to go back to the hotel I saw an Indian gift shop with Ariat and Wrangler signs out front.  So I went in there to see if they had any long underwear.  They didn’t, but they had some long sleeve quarter zips, so at least my upper body could be a little warmer.

I went back to the hotel, got loaded up, geared up and took off for Monument Valley.  It wasn’t quite in the opposite direction of Albuquerque, but it wasn’t in the same direction either, so it was going to be an out-and-back trip, then I’d be able to get on the road to Albq.  I stopped a couple of times on the way to Monument Valley to snap photos, then went in.  It was kind of disappointing because they still charged me full price to get into the park but wouldn’t let me take a motorcycle on the vehicle loop.  So I could only walk around the visitor center taking photos.

I offered to take pics of people when I saw them struggling to get a selfie, or to let couples/familes get photos all together.  I talked another stranger into letting me take a photo of them with the water bottle.  She wouldn’t let me take a picture of her with her face showing if I was going to post it on social media sites.  She does investigations for security clearances so we ended up having a pretty good talk.

After that I back-tracked to Kayenta, filled up and then headed off to Albuquerque on 160.  At Teec Nos Pos I veered off to go check out 4 corners.  The scenery was gorgeous, but the actual 4 corners was kind of anti-climactic.  I went back to Teec Nos Pos and got back onto 160/64 to Shiprock and then Farmington, NM.

The weather was pretty decent up til this point, just cold as hell.  In Farmington, when I jumped onto 550 to Bernalillo that changed pretty quickly.  More hail, rain and snow.  I ended up stopping in the middle of nowhere at some Indian casino/truck stop combo.  My toes and fingers were hurting to bad to go any further, so I got a sandwich at the Subway in the truckstop and thawed out.

I got back on the road but it finally dawned on me that I had two pairs of winter gloves with me.  The pair that got soaked on day one, and the pair I bought to change into.  I put one inside of my heated jacket liner and wore the other pair.  Every 30-45 minutes I swapped out.  Kind of goofy, but it got me through.  I finally found the hotel in Albuquerque that I had reservations at.  This is what I look like after riding for 7-8 hours in crazy winter:

IMG_20170429_222146~2

There was a Target across the interstate from the hotel so I rode over quick and looked for pretty much anything to make Day 11’s ride better than Day’s 9 and 10.  They didn’t have anything, but a couple blocks away there was a Kohl’s.  They had a base layer long underwear type thing.  So I got that and went back to the hotel, where there was a restaurant and ordered a steak and my favorite drink, Blue Moon with a shot of Amaretto and a splash of OJ.  After dinner I went up to the room, showered and climbed into bed in my t-shirt and boxers.  And then this happened:

After a few minutes out in the cold, they told us it was a false alarm and we went back inside.  But the bar had conveniently had last call during the fire alarm, so I just went upstairs and crashed.

 

The last morning

I’m laying in bed in a hotel room in Albuquerque, Nm.  I’m sick, exhausted, sore in some areas and in a lot of pain in others.  And yet it was an amazing, wonderful trip.  There were some moments of misery, but at no time was the trip miserable, if that makes sense?  There were a couple of interpersonal moments with friends and family that sucked, but they would’ve sucked anyway, whether I was in the trip or at home.

It’s been a great distraction mentally and emotionally.  We still don’t have Dad’s pathology reports back yet, work is a mess, there’s some ugly relationship stuff going on.  And I didn’t dwell on any of that while traveling.  Thought about it, yes.  But didn’t dwell and obsess on it til it made me miserable.

I wish I could’ve seen more and done more.  I wish the weather didn’t suck as bad as it did.  But this close to the end, I have to say that it’s been perfect and everything that happened, happened for a positive reason.

We interrupt this regularly scheduled program…

… for this breaking news:

Earlier this month I submitted two photos for a juried art exhibit at a museum.  The exhibit starts in July and runs through November.

I got the notice for the call for submissions late last month, then hemmed and hawed about whether to submit for a couple days.  Then procrastinated for a few more.  In the end, I ended up submitting two pieces with just a day to spare before the deadline.

Both pieces were accepted!  I’m going to have two of my photos hanging in a museum!  Looks like more travel in my future, they invited me to attend opening night.

Day 9

Lessons learned:

  • Bring base layers and/or grid fleece pieces.  They aren’t doing me any good back home in my dresser.
  • Bring spare fuses
  • Bring a long sleeved Under Armour tee – again, not doing me any good at home
  • Bring a hat to hide the helmet hair off bike

Dad did great the day before.  Multiple walks, sat up most of the day and was in great spirits.  Woke up Friday and he was still doing good so after we went for a walk, I took a shower and got ready to go.

Once upon a time I worked for a company that was a political nightmare.  3 partners owned it, and I was regularly butting heads with the brother-in-law of one of them.  Even though I demonstrated the ability to pay for my entire team’s salary for years in operational savings I was still laid off when push came to shove.  A year or so later, my former boss at that job started texting me out of the blue, then called me, then added me on LinkedIn and Facebook.  It was so weird to me, that I stayed in touch with him out of curiosity, wanting to know what his end game was.  He recently moved to Phoenix so when he saw I was traveling through he started reaching out a lot to see if I wanted to get together.  He was kind of on the way to the next stop on my tour, so I agreed to meet him for lunch.

That was nice.  It was a good drive and basically even though he can’t say “I’m sorry”, that’s what  he wanted to do.  Apologize for the way things went down.  We probably won’t ever be close friends, but nice not to have any anger towards him.  After lunch in Cave Creek at a biker bar, I got on the road, taking the Carefree Highway to I-17 to Flagstaff.

Once I got to Flagstaff I pulled out my phone to start pulling up instructions to page and found out it hadn’t been charging.  My bike has a pigtail attached to the battery to connect it to a battery tender.  I’ve got a cigarette lighter adapter that I can plug into the pigtail, then I can plug a charger into that.  My phone had been plugged in for the whole ride up.  What had happened, was that the factory installed the pigtail on the exhaust side of the bike.  At some point, the pigtail had slipped from the ziptie they used to attach it to the passenger’s peg and the end had hit the exhaust and melted a titch.  Once it melted it shorted out on the exhaust and blew the fuse.

I’ve been collecting HD poker chips, so even though it was out of the way I ran by the dealer and bought a new pigtail and a chip.  Then I installed the pigtail in the parking lot, this time routing the cable to the other side of the bike.  Once it was done I got on the road to Page again.  That ride got a little dicey.  Crazy winds, some rain and some snow, but it was well worth it once I got to Horseshoe Bend.  It was gorgeous!

A friend of mine owns a company that hand makes longboard skateboards.  They recently started selling HydroFlask bottles with their logos on them.  I brought one along on the ride to get some “lifestyle” photos for them.  I’ve propped it up along the way, on the bike or on some fence post, but didn’t have any pics of it with someone holding it.  On the walk from the parking lot to the bend (3/4 of a mile) I started talking to one girl.  Turns out she had an incredibly attractive friend, so when we got to the bend, I asked her friend if she’d be my model and if she’d mind if I posted the pics on social media.  She was totally cool about it.

On the walk back, some Russian girls where on vacation started talking to me.  They were doing a tour of the major monuments and parks in the southwest.  When we got to the parking lot, I left them when we passed my bike.  As I was getting geared up, one of them came up and asked what direction I was headed in.  When I told her I was going to Page, she asked if I’d be willing to give her a ride to the Wal-Mart there.  Her friends took my bag in their car so the seat would be open.

It was fun.  She was whooping and hollering back there she was enjoying it so much.  I felt totally guilty, it was only about a mile and a half in a straight line from the parking lot of the Horseshoe Bend to the Wal-Mart parking lot.  No curves, no bends, no real fun.  But she loved it.  After I dropped her off and got my bag remounted, I refueled and headed out to Kayenta, Az.  The sun had sent and it was freezing, literally.  By the time I pulled into the hotel I was a Seansicle.  I didn’t even eat dinner I was so cold.  Just cranked the heat in the hotel room, took a hot, hot shower and crashed.

 

Day 7

Woke up on Day 7 at my parents’ place.  Dad was feeling pretty craptastic and would get up for a few minutes, walk around, try and sit, hate it after a few minutes and go lay back down again.  He was still pretty wiped out from spending the night in the hospital.  He had his work done at the Mayo clinic, which is an incredibly nice facility but at the end of the day it’s still a hospital.

He and I had been looking at an old laptop when I was there a couple days before, trying to decide whether he needed a new one or not.  I’d send him a solid state hard drive (SSD) a couple months before for another project and he hadn’t used it.  I thought that might speed things up a bit, so while he was napping I rode the motorcycle to the local Fry’s Electronics and got some goodies.  I came back, made a bootable USB thumb drive with a Windows 10 .iso file I’d downloaded while I was gone and installed the new SSD into the laptop and installed Windows 10 with the original installation code.  This project kept me busy most of the morning and early afternoon.  Once I got the laptop up and running, it was a little zippier and I started updating it and configuring it to his specific preferences.  He seemed engaged and happy with it.

Dad seemed to be doing pretty well.  Mom had taken a bit of time off, between a month at the end of 2016, two weeks for their Europe trip and then the weekend and some days earlier this week for the surgery so she felt like she needed to get back to work.  We talked about it and decided I’d stay another day or two so that Dad wouldn’t be alone.

I had a friend in town and Dad seemed to be doing ok and Mom was with him, so I headed out to hang out with them.  They were only here for a short while, and had never seen Arizona before, so I took them out on 60 to Superior because it was close, has great view and I wanted to turn around at Superior and come back into the city as the sun was setting.  We timed it perfectly and they got some gorgeous views.

After totally geeking out for awhile, we went to the Alamo Drafthouse and saw the live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast”.  Mock all you want, I’m okay with it.  A) I’m a sucker for a good musical B) I’d seen the animated version and it was fun to see the transition and C) it had Emma Watson and she’s a cutie D) they had this Mr. Pineapple beer that was amazing and I was happy to sit anywhere for 2 hours and drink one of those.

Dropped my friend off at their hotel and headed home for the night.  It wasn’t an exciting or super productive day but it felt good to help Mom and Dad out a little and to see Dad doing better.  And even though it wasn’t a super long ride, I still got a couple hours in with gorgeous views.  It was pretty neat to see the difference in downtown Gilbert and Chandler since when I lived here.

Day 6

So.  I woke up on Day 6 feeling a little weird from the night before.  But I also felt better.  I don’t know what “closure” there was, but it was there and I slept well.  Got up and walked the campus in the daylight.  Went into the bookstores to see if there was any UofA schwag I needed to buy.  Went into the art store and drooled over art supplies even though I didn’t need them, then went back to the hotel, got packed-ish and headed out to lunch at Trident Grill, a military bar.

After lunch I went back to the hotel and finished loading the bike up and headed out of town.  I stopped by the north Tucson Harley dealer to pick up a poker chip.  I have to figure out what my “rules” for those are.  Do I have to go to the dealership on a motorcycle to get a chip and display it?  Or if I’m in the area on business travel and stop in does it count?  I’m pretty sure if someone gets one for me I won’t ever display it unless I was with them.  That was fun.  The front counter girl was really cute and waved to me across the parking lot when I pulled up, then came part way out to meet me when I stopped to take a picture of a VIP parking spot they had reserved for Purple Heart recipients.

After I left, I headed back up to Phoenix going the back way.  Back through Florence to Coolidge to Chandler.  I wasn’t in such a rush this time, so I stopped along the way, taking photos of the Pinal Pioneer Parkway sign, at the Tom Mix memorial and of random things on the way.  At one point I passed a 6 foot long rattler sunning himself in the other lane.  At Florence I stopped for gas and chatted with another dude on a Harley who was kind of goofy.  He was wearing camo pants that weren’t US military issue, was open carrying a pistol and claimed to be a vet from 11th group.  I’m going to call BS on that one.

I made it home and it was kind of shocking to see Dad.  He was in a lot more discomfort from the operation that we really thought he’d be.  Some of the past ones had gone so well that he’d kind of gotten cocky and was fairly nonchalant going into it.  But as soon as I got home,  I headed back out the door to get his prescriptions filled and to get some other supplies.  For the first time in years he was having me fill the prescription for painkillers, “just in case”.

It was pretty uneventful after that.  Just hung out in case the family needed anything.  Did a little more research on the return trip and coming up with some contingency plans.  Originally, when I was leaving Tucson, I thought “Oh, well the doctor said that Dad can’t drive, but nothing says he can’t ride.  Maybe we’ll still roadtrip.”  But as soon as I got home and saw how much discomfort he was in, that went out the window.   Then I started thinking that maybe I could still see my Army buddy in Las Vegas, but instead of going home through the snow after that, I’d head out to LA, see an Army buddy there, then come back to Phoenix, check in with the folks and spend the night and then head home.

Day 5

Day 5 was kind of weird.  Normally when I visit my parents it’s an incredibly relaxing experience.  I don’t know if it’s them, their house, the heat that bakes the stress out of me or what, but normally I leave their place calm and centered.  That didn’t happen this time.  And Dad and I had some difficult conversations while driving.  He asked me whether I blamed him or held a grudge for moving so much as kids and my opinion on some of his other parenting decisions.  Day 5 I was just exhausted.  I woke up a couple of times during the night and didn’t sleep super long.  I spent a couple of hours hanging out with a good high school friend.  He joined the Navy about the same time I joined the Army, so all our stories and shared experiences don’t end at high school.

That was fun to hang out with him, but at some point when I got to the hotel I just crashed.  I remember telling myself it was kind of late for a nap but next thing I knew I was waking up a couple hours later.  I wandered down the street to have dinner, then met up with my buddy for beers again at a new bar just a couple blocks away from my old dorm.  After he headed home I toured the campus.

It was a weird experience for me.  So much was the same, so much had changed.  Partly I didn’t walk it during the day because I was beat and slept in late, partly because I wanted to walk it at night.  When I went to school here, 25 years ago, I used to wander the campus at night when I couldn’t sleep or wanted to be alone.  Or we’d get drunk and ride our mountain bikes from frat house to frat house, hitting every flight of stairs along the way.  It seemed more natural.  But it was surreal.  There’s a building across the street from my old dorm.  It’s got a very distinctive style and when I saw it, I realized that I’d dreamt of it numerous times over the years.   I don’t really remember my dreams when I wake up, but when I saw it, snippets of them came flashing back to me.

There was a little sense of failure to deal with walking around.  I always enjoyed my time here, and in hindsight, I’m having trouble remembering why I left exactly.  And there was some guilt about being here instead of at the hospital with them, even though I know if I were there, THEY’D be feeling guilty about it.

There’s some antsy-ness.  I want to be on the bike, riding and just leaving a lot of stuff on the road, I feel kind of trapped right now, like I’m wasting valuable time.  Then there’s the news that snow is coming to Denver about the time I was planning on heading home.