Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My Turn to Be Grumpy Cat

Rolling out of my campsite at 8:30 on Wednesday morning, I was disappointed that it wasn't earlier, but I had left my phone off to save battery and so had no alarm clock. It wasn't long before I found 81, and I pointed us north and rolled on it.

Of all the interstates I've ridden, 81 is my least favorite so far. It's two lanes wide and absolutely brimming with tractor trailers. They all go slowly, but some of them go a little more slowly, so the faster ones try to pass, but it takes minutes because the passer is only doing a mile an hour more than the passee. Over the course of the day, I probably spent hours waiting for trucks to pass other trucks while traffic backed up impatiently in both lanes. I tried to think up creative things to call them, but I was too tired. Camping with no inflatable pad meant I had slept terribly and my back was cramping before I ever got on the bike.

I didn't have enough electricity to use my GPS, but a little digging around in my head revealed that I actually remembered how to get home, so I didn't even need a map. I hoped my two backup batteries would provide enough juice to my phone and my amplifier to give me music all the way home.

Stop one was before leaving Unicoi for gas. Stop two was for gas, coffee, and jerky. Stop three was gas and more coffee. Stop four: gas, chicken bits, and coffee, and recharging my electronic devices. It seemed to take forever to get out of Virginia.

I was walking through a parking lot when somebody yelled, "What is that?" I looked around to see if they were talking to me, and found a face staring at me through a closed car window.

I wasn't clear whether it was the person doing the yelling; otherwise I would have yelled back, "It's a fucking motorcycle!" I was tired, in pain, and looking at riding until probably midnight. The steady diet of ibuprofen and tylenol wasn't doing its job on my knees or on my ears, which weren't happy with the placement of my helmet speakers. I discovered that I had a choice between wearing my sunglasses, which made my head hurt but relieved the pressure on my ears, or not wearing them, which relieved the headache but left my ears hurting.

If this was the experience that Cider had every time he rode cross country, I understood his Grumpy Cat demeanor - but I no longer understood why he would do the ride. If I thought every trip I took was going to be like this, I'd never leave home. I hated the traffic, I hated other people, I hated myself and my bike and my stupid helmet and the fact that I couldn't charge my phone.

Pulling into the next gas station, a pedestrian made a sudden turn in front of me and I almost dumped Bee trying not to run him over. He shook his head at me and I wanted to yell, "The game comes from behind you!" But I just drove away. Then I hit rain and got wet, put on the rain gear and got cooked in the sun, took it off and hit another downpour. I got something in my left eye and drove with only my right eye for a while because I couldn't pull over through the traffic. That cleared up and I immediately got something in my right eye. At least they weren't simultaneous.

Finally over the New York border and back in familiar territory, I exited incorrectly for the Merritt Parkway and ended up lost in a town made of hills. I had 30 miles in the tank and couldn't find a gas station. After making frustrated circles for a while, literally talking aloud and telling myself not to lose my last thread of patience and start screaming, I found the parkway and then a rest stop. Outside in the dark, I pulled out my old contact lenses and replaced them with fresh ones. Unable to remember which script belonged in which eye, I got them backwards and everything appeared blurry and strange. I was too impatient to go inside to swap them so I used the dim parking lot and my rearview mirror. Achievement unlocked, and I could see again.

I had a granola bar and another doubleshot espresso; I was up to eight shots for the day, and it was only keeping me awake, not causing any excessive bouncing or shaking. I took some comfort in the fact that it was only 9:30, although it felt much later.

The last two hours were uneventful. The Parkway was busy but most of the traffic was moving nearly as fast as I was. I pulled into my driveway and put down my kickstand at 11:15 and started disassembling my luggage before even going into the house. I had the bike unpacked and all my things inside in five minutes flat. I unpacked only what was necessary to allow me to repack for work the next morning, showered, and was in bed shortly after midnight.

The Dragon and The Killer

When Frank got home from work at 4 o'clock on Tuesday morning, his footsteps snapped me awake, and that was that; I was up for the day. I loaded all my things, which had gotten strewn remarkably thoroughly into corners over the four days I'd been there, back onto the bike, and was on the road in time to watch the sun rise. I stopped again 140 miles later for gas, and took a stretching and biscuit break with my coffee. Some locals in the gas station talked to me about the Tail of the Dragon, where I was headed, giving me warnings about cops and other drivers.

Once off of I40, the road went through farmland and then into foothills. We followed a beautiful river, the road hilly and winding and shaded by trees. The curves got more interesting as we progressed toward Deal's Gap. We passed a couple of touristy-looking places offering Dragon stickers and T-shirts, and out of nowhere I suddenly found myself barreling into a hairpin turn.

Holding on for dear life and looking as far into the turn as I could see, I leaned what felt like most of the way to the ground and dragged us through it. It was an ugly thing and we came a hair's width from going into the woods, but we pulled out of the other end intact. Shaken, I stopped at the next pull-off and prodded my GPS.

I'd told it to direct me to Deal's Gap. What I had failed to notice is that the Gap Resort is at the north end, and we were coming from the south, so while I thought that we were still eleven miles away, in reality we were already in the Tail.

I put on my jacket, realizing I'd entered into something that might be a little over my head, and suddenly I felt relatively likely to bite it somewhere in the next ten-point-something miles. Then I started my music back at the beginning so I wouldn't have to touch it, took a deep breath, and rolled out again.

No one came up behind me, for which I was grateful; one of the locals had warned me that people would speed right by me in tight turns with inches to spare, and I didn't relish the thought of that. The Dragon was breathtaking. The only thing that could have made it more extreme would have been cliffs in place of the trees, like the road up Pike's Peak.

Since I didn't know the road, I took it cautiously; it was peppered with decreasing-radius hairpin turns. It wasn't my prettiest riding, but I got through without hitting the ground. By the time I reached the Deal's Gap motorcycle "resort" on the north end, I felt like I had had several successive heart attacks, and I was ready for some time on my own two feet. I parked Bee in a long row of other motorcycles, all varieties from trikes and full dressers to little crotch rockets and everything in between.

I admired some of the bikes, the area map on the porch wall, and the Tree of Shame in front of the motel. I almost headed out then, but told myself there must be another lone biker in the area who could be interesting to talk to, so I ordered a bratwurst at the grill and took a seat in front of the window where I could people-watch.

My number was called, and I picked up my chili dog and headed back to my seat. On my way I crossed paths with a man removing his gloves and jacket, and we nodded cordially at each other. He placed his things a few seats away from me at the window countertop, walked away, and reappeared shortly with food.

We exchanged the standard "how are ya where ya from whattaya ride." He was Herkimer*, from Toronto, riding a sport-touring Honda. He had a motorhome parked in Pigeon Forge, and he was on his way to ride some favorite roads in northern Georgia. He asked how I liked the Tail, and I said it was a little intense but was a great experience. He agreed that it was intense, and ranted about how much he hated getting stuck behind parades of full-dress riders crawling through the turns.

We got along well, and he asked if I wanted a riding companion for some way. I said sure, and that I guessed my own skill level to be somewhere between his and that of the parade riders; I overtake plenty of people, but there are plenty of people who can overtake me, too. I'd seen some sport riders tearing through the Dragon in the southerly direction that just made me shake my head in awe.

Heading outside with sodas in hand, we introduced each other to our bikes. His looked to be on the sporty side of touring, though it probably appeared different with luggage on. Bee was so loaded down that she was clearly leaning toward her touring capability.

Herkimer and I geared up and headed east on 28, stopping at the dam to enjoy the sites. His pace was great, fast enough to push me but not enough to lose me. The route was twisty without being terrifying, and I had a great time sailing along through curve after curve, enjoying the scenery and the sunlight and practicing transferring my weight with my feet. We stopped at the dam a few miles out.

"Dam, look at that," I said, but I'm not sure he got it.

We stopped for gas a few miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I asked him if the jerky power transfer I'd been experiencing with Bee for a couple of days could be an issue with the chain, and he asked when was the last time I had tightened it. I told him I hadn't and didn't know how, because Bee is the first chain-driven bike I've owned.

"See," he said with a sigh, "Now I like you just a little less."

I laughed and protested that I had been good about oiling the chain and didn't think I'd need to know about tightening it until I returned home.

"Well, put it up on the stand and we'll take a look," he said. I said I had never successfully gotten a bike onto a center stand in my life, and he gave me a look.

"Do you trust me?" he asked.

"Sure," I said. He grabbed Bee and wrestled her onto the center stand. He was shorter and quite possibly lighter than I, and suddenly I was more confident that I could do it, too.

"Step here," he said. "Push it upright and feel for the feet." That was an essential step I'd never learned. "Now grab here." Bee's passenger foot pegs have a curved mount that's a perfect hand hold. "Step down and pull up." She went halfway up, then down again as my foot slipped. "Use the bounce." I pulled again, and suddenly she was up.

"Wow!" I said. "I can't believe I did that."

I practiced pulling her on and off the stand a couple of times, and then he inspected the chain. He didn't think it seemed loose, but said we could try tightening it a little bit to see if it relieved the power transfer issue. After several tries at breaking the axle bolt, however, we came up short. I threw some oil on the chain and we moved on.

Headed into the Blue Ridge, he let me lead, which was probably his mistake; I missed the turn for the Parkway twice, once going north and once going south. Then I turned south when I should have turned north. Finally we got on the right road in the right direction, and for a while there was great riding. Then we encountered a pair of slightly slower bikers - although I have to give them credit for only being a little slower despite riding Goldwings - and then a much slower car. I don't like passing lines of multiple vehicles, so the last few miles were just chilling out and trying not to be too annoyed.

I exited the Parkway toward I26, Herkimer still behind me, and stopped.

"I'm headed for 81 and then north," I said.

He told me he was going south on 81, then, "It's too bad you're not staying closer tonight. We could go get a beer."

I thought about that and decided it was a good idea. "I can camp before 81," I said, pulling out the atlas to find a likely spot. We bought a six-pack at the gas station, did a few miles on 26, stopped for takeout at a Bojangles, and found my campsite at Rocky Creek in Unicoi, Tennessee. I was fairly annoyed to have not made it out of Tennessee for the day; Wednesday was looking longer by the minute.

Herkimer popped a top while I popped up my tent, and then we dug into our fried chicken. At long last I understood so many people's enthusiasm for fried chicken. I guess I'd never had the good stuff before. I hate to admit that it came from a fast food chain, but damn, it was amazing.

I told Herkimer I did roller derby, and asked for something interesting about him.

"I'm a certified scuba diver," he said. "And I love to fly airplanes. I like riding because it's the closest thing I've found to flying."

He was starting to seem a little James Bond-ish. The more he talked, the weirder he got. I was beginning to get a sense of some underlying current that I couldn't put my finger on.

"I never ask my clients what they do," he said of his work.

"What kind of clients?" I asked. "What do you do?"

"I'm a contractor," he said.

"A building contractor?"

"A contract killer."

"Oh. Okay." I refused to give him the satisfaction of a what-the-fuck reaction. There was a pause.

"I love that you just rolled with that," he said. I think he was grinning, but it was too dark to be sure.

"Whatever," I said. "I don't really see the point in you socializing this much with a target."

"Unless I'm just doing it to mess with you," he said, and then, "I really shouldn't say that out in the woods in the dark..."

"I'm not worried," I said. He had stepped a couple of inches closer than I liked, and I sat on the picnic table to give myself some space.

"Bear spray and a 9mm?" he asked.

"Something like that," I answered. I never tell anyone exactly what I do or don't carry for self defense. The element of surprise is one I prefer to keep close. When he asked about other things that I do, I told him I dance. I don't share my self-defense skills, either.

When it came time to exchange phone numbers so we could do some riding in the future, he pulled out a phone with no numbers in it and added me as his only contact.

"It's my burn phone," he joked. "Actually, it's my American phone."

"Sure it is," I said. At that point I was ready for bed and looking forward to having my campsite to myself. But he said he didn't feel ready to ride just yet, and I'd never push someone into riding after drinking, so I told him he could stay as long as he wanted. He hung around for another half an hour, standing awkwardly in the dark. I couldn't figure out how two ciders on top of a box of chicken had given him even the slightest buzz, but it really wasn't mine to judge.

He never told me what he did for a living. When I mentioned that I blog, he immediately told me to leave his face and name out of my writing. It wasn't until the next day, when I'd been alone in my helmet for several hours, that I assembled all of his strange clues into a whole picture and decided that he was either in witness protection...or he was really a contract killer.

*...or something.

Natchez Trace and the Red River Sirens

I was up early again on Monday morning, blogging, making coffee, and planning our bike route for the day. Frank had never ridden the Trace despite living for more than a year in Nashville, and I intended to fix that.

"I'm not used to actually seeing the morning," he had said. "Normally I'll sleep until the middle of the afternoon and then go back to work."

I coaxed him out of bed with a sandwich, then entered the Loveless Cafe in my GPS. Attempting to get directions to "Natchez Trace, Nashville, TN" had tried to lead me to Natchez, MS, but the Loveless is conveniently next to the north end of the Trace.

Most of my memory of the Trace was of fairly straight, open roadway, with gentle sweepers here and there. I'd forgotten somehow about the north end; the first five or ten miles are much tighter turns, more reminiscent of the Blue Ridge, and I had some fun ripping out a few corners. After half an hour or so, I pulled over.

"Want to switch bikes?" I asked. Frank had only ever ridden his V-Star and was curious about the concept of the sport-touring bike. I was happy to prosthelytize, after a warning to go lightly on the throttle. I surprised myself a couple of weeks ago by wheelie-ing out of a stop light, fortunately with no disastrous results.

I threw a leg over the V-Star while he climbed up on Bee. The Yamaha felt a bit like Hades, although lower and with a more forward leg position. She roared convincingly but Frank quickly left us a quarter mile in his dust, even while I opened the throttle to try to keep up. I also struggled through the first couple of turns, unable to put any weight into my feet to nail the bike to the ground. I'm quickly forgetting why anybody rides cruisers at all.

When it was time to turn around, we swapped back.

"What do you think?" I asked. "You converted to sport touring yet?"

"I'm definitely converted to a bigger engine," Frank said as he got back on the 650. He gestured toward the parkway. "You go ahead. You can do better on the speed. And the turns."

I grinned and took off. I kept it to a dull roar until those magic north-end twisty miles, and then I started pushing, focusing on my body angle and weight transfer to corner as hard as I felt comfortable.

"Man, you just disappeared when we hit those curves," Frank said, back at home. "That thing is amazing." I think my conversion tactics were successful.

I changed into my practice clothes and returned to find him playing guitar. He played Dead or Alive and I sang, and then he wandered through a few other songs while I put together the things I needed to skate. Then he was off to work, and I was off to Clarksville to practice with the Red River Sirens.

The skating rink was dark and cool, a welcome relief from the sweltering outdoors. I introduced myself to the first skater I saw, who was surprised but excited to see me. I think there were about fourteen of us all told, including the two coaches. Their most experienced skater has about six years, but the majority of them are pretty new to skating and derby. A lot of the drills and concepts they worked on were similar to ours, and Krazy Kouch actually reminded me a bit of Mars, although Mars wouldn't have put up with that much talking on the side.

After a couple of hours getting thoroughly sweaty, we went out to a nearby bar for a post-practice beer. Smoking is allowed indoors in Tennessee; I hadn't realized the no-smoking-in-bars law wasn't nationwide until this trip. I enjoyed hanging out and talking with the coaches and skaters, but when I left, I was dismayed to find that the inside of my helmet smelled obnoxiously like cigarettes.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sunday and Broadway

I was up unnecessarily early on Sunday morning, probably because I fell asleep at 10:30 on Saturday night. Coffee and a beautiful view from the back porch accompanied me while I caught up on blogging.

Frank works overnights, so I waited until a little before noon to wake him. Then we headed north - back to the same area where the Triumph dealer was located - got some barbeque for lunch, and headed for the Rivergate Skate Center.

The parking lot was alarmingly crowded, but the rink itself was tolerably occupied; many of the small children were running around the arcade area in sneakers rather than making cones of themselves on the floor. I had challenged Frank to a race, and he told me, "I hope you like the taste of dust."

We went over some stops first, as he's good at picking up speed but not so good at slowing down again. He took video of me doing a backward Drunken Sailor, and when I watched it later, I understood why he said it looked strange.

Oh, and he doesn't seem to mind the taste of dust. It's probably crunchy, but I wouldn't know.

After Frank left for work, Lorre offered me dinner. She was making zucchini spaghetti with meatballs and an Indian dish with custard-soaked bread, chicken, and raisins, called barbati (although when I Googled that word it showed me a dish with Chinese beans). She said it would be ready in an hour or two, so I decided I had time to put my skates back on and make a coffee run.

I ended up at a Walgreen's, and as I was rolling out with my groceries, a man in a business suit getting into a fancy car pointed at me and said, "You keep being you!" I waved and skated away.

On the corner where the parking lot met the street, a man was sitting on a rolling cooler parked in the grass. He waved and said something, and I stopped. I ended up standing there for half an hour while Klayton regaled me with stories. I learned that he had been drinking and was not ashamed to admit it, that he was 61 and that was very old, that he had built his own cabin 17 years earlier and had lived there ever since, that his mother had known him better than her other two children because he didn't lie to her about his vices, that he was on his third application for disability and he was going to get it this time, that people will respect you if you're not too proud to beg, and that he had always wanted to meet a roller derby queen.

I arrived back at the house dripping with sweat. Lorre asked me if I had found the grocery store successfully, and I told her about Klayton.

"You make friends wherever you go, don't you?" she said, smiling.

"I guess I do," I said. "It's a new thing. I wasn't always like this."

"I never would have guessed," she said.

The three of us ate in the living room, discussing the pitfalls of self-publishing and the current state of Nashville. The barbati was amazing and Lorre said she would share the recipe.

After dinner I put on my slightly-nicer-than-sweaty-biker clothes and headed downtown. I parked in the library's garage and meandered down Broadway, looking for a place with some high energy. It was Sunday, though, and most of the bars seemed sleepy. I found myself at the Wild Beaver because someone was doing an excellent karaoke of Rage Against the Machine.

I hadn't come downtown to see karaoke, though, and I was about to leave when a guy offered me a drink. I shrugged and said sure and tried to make conversation. His buddy was up on stage butchering Eminem, and I immediately regretted accepting the drink. Three minutes later he said they were leaving and asked if I was coming.

"Where to?" I asked. I didn't really want to hang out with him, but I definitely didn't want to stay at the Beaver.

"Skellys," he said. I had no idea what that was.

"I can't bring this outside," I said, holding up the drink. "Give me a minute."

"I'll bring it," he said, and grabbed the cup and walked out the door.

"Hey hey," said the door man, stepping in front of him. "You have to finish that inside." I tried to snark quietly as I took my drink back.

The man's friend led the way, and the three of us walked up the street and around a couple of corners and up another street. When he made to enter a parking garage, I stepped back and let the two of them go ahead of me. Through the garage and down a set of stairs was Ms. Kelly's, another karaoke bar with an even smaller crowd: two people on stage, a bartender, and a customer at the bar.

My companions stopped briefly to speak with the DJ, then walked toward the bar. Neither of them looked back to see if I was coming along, and after a moment's hesitation, I turned on my heel and walked out the door. I was certain I could find more interesting company without much effort.

Dodging quickly back down the street and around a couple of corners, I kept an eye out behind me until I reached Broadway again. Neither of them seemed like they had enough energy to actually chase me, but it pays to be paranoid.

Back at the Tequila Cowboy, because sometimes an old favorite is in order, I got a drink and a seat and enjoyed a band that was covering AC/DC and some other good rock. The singer had a lot of energy, and I felt bad for him that the Sunday-night crowd was about five people strong. There was one guy in his early twenties on the dance floor, wearing a dark green polo shirt and repeatedly trying to convince other bar-goers to join him. His friend wandered on and off the floor with slightly less enthusiasm. Eventually green shirt got around to me, and I joined him for a couple of dances.

His name was Max, and he was from Germany and "here to party." Max was indeed a one-man party, clearly disappointed that the companions he collected from the bar and the tables kept returning to their chairs, but full of determination to keep trying again and again. His suavity lacked something but he got an A+ for effort.

Around 11 Frank texted me to say he had gotten out of work early. The Cowboy was closing but a short walk found the Tin Roof still rocking, so I told him to meet me there. I chatted for a while with a flaming ginger in a Hawaiian shirt who was celebrating his 21st birthday and really wanted to be a park ranger, then went off to the bathroom and was accosted by a short, curvy, brunette girl named Aastha who wanted to show me around her country. She grabbed my phone, sent herself a Facebook message, and promised to show me everything awesome in Nepal if I was ever there.

Frank showed up and brought me upstairs, where there was shuffleboard; apparently it's quite popular in Nashville. The board was crappy compared to the one at Clyde's but we still enjoyed our rematch. Suddenly we realized the bar had closed beneath us. We headed down the stairs to find they had blocked them off with trash cans, clearly unaware that we were still in the building. Out in the street, it was dark and quiet, at least for a city, and there was nothing left to do but go home. Broadway was rolled up for the night.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Pinball King

Saturday morning was supposed to begin at 7:30 so I could go get Bee fixed, but I awoke at 9 to a snarky-seeming message on my phone saying "missed alarm." I didn't want to waste hours hanging around the bike shop, so I shrugged, made coffee, and did some blogging.

When Ross got up, he offered to make extra of his smoothie for me, and I accepted. The combination of strawberries, peanut butter, coconut kefir and protein powder was a little strange at first, but after a few sips I decided I liked it. Frank appeared in the living room and was surprised to see me, since I should have been in Hendersonville.

At noon, Chris the New York biker arrived, pulling up to the house at the same time as Lorre returned from walking Sunshine. Introductions were made all around, and then the two of us suited up and headed south.

I lost track of where exactly we were, but the rolling hills and picturesque fences and enormous trees were beautiful. The day was sunny and hot, and neither of us were thrilled to crest a hill and see a long line of cars sitting still.

We idled and sweated for a few minutes, until Chris said, "You want to go up the side?"

"Sure," I said, thinking he meant the yellow stripe. When he took off up the shoulder instead, I hesitated. I'd had one bad experience with misjudging the width of my hard bags when I dumped the Hornet in Colorado. I didn't want to do that while moving.

After a glance around and a suspicious stare over my shoulder at my luggage, I decided to try it. I crawled up the narrow strip of pavement to the right of the cars, reminding myself to breathe as I prayed not to contact anyone. A few cars disappeared behind me with no incident, and then the lane narrowed just a little more. Convinced I was out of room, I ditched onto someone's front lawn.

The turf was soft, and the bike squished to a stop like rollerskates on carpet. I had a momentary heart attack, and then remembered what Roy had said to me recently: "She rides like a big dirt bike." I rolled on the throttle, and Bee ate up the lawn like a champ.

A short time later we rejoined the flow of traffic, as a pickup truck had deliberately moved over to block Chris' path. When we reached the construction that was causing so much backup, we saw that they were carefully trimming the grass at the edge of the road. Clearly that was worth half a mile of stopped traffic.

The remainder of the ride was free of grass-trimming, but full of slow cars.

"I don't know what was up with all those drivers," Chris said as we dismounted at Puckett's in Leiper's Fork.

"It's me," I said. "I'm a magnet for slow cars. Sorry!"

He told me about the artist who had fixed up the barn we were walking by and turned it into an art studio. Then we entered the restaurant and were greeted by the welcome aroma of slow-cooked pigs.

I ordered a plate of BBQ with greens and grits, and was told, "Grits? That's breakfast, honey." Way to look like a tourist. I got the cauliflower casserole instead.

The food was delicious, and the band playing at the front of the room had a fun, relaxed vibe. We talked music; Chris is in IT currently but would prefer to be in music with his guitar. He wondered at the band when they started doing some jazz improv, saying he didn't understand that particular skill in the context of jazz.

"I can't believe we met at a gas station two days ago," he said.

"Where else do you meet people who are traveling?" I asked. He agreed, noting that a couple friend of his had met in a gas station many years earlier and were now happily married.

"I went on a date with the most boring girl last night," he said, shaking his head. "I feel bad saying it, but... Sometimes I just wonder, What are you doing with your life?"

I had to agree that people who just work, watch TV, and sleep, and are completely content with that, are a mystery to me. I could do that for maybe a week before I lost my mind and did something drastic to compensate.

Back on the topic of music, he mentioned Kiss and then said we should go to the arcade so I could play the Kiss pinball.

"It's the new one," he specified. "Not the old one." I wouldn't have known the difference.

On our way out, we had a seat in some chairs on the back lawn to properly take in the view. It brought to mind stories of the Old South.

The ride from Puckett's to the arcade contained fewer annoying cars. By the time we pulled into the parking lot, big black storm clouds were crowding the sky and lightning was striking at the horizon. We brought our helmets inside and stowed them under a game.

The place felt like a cross between a gaming store and a casino. It was packed wall to wall with arcade games that I eventually realized were 90% pinball machines, and the narrow aisles were crowded with gamers. Songs and sound effects ricocheted off the walls from every direction, melding into a numbing, bleeping cacophony.

We took a few turns at the Kiss pinball, and he was winning by a large margin before I even realized there was strategy involved. Pinball had always seemed pretty random to me - just fire away and hope you hit something. But Chris explained that all the lights have meanings and all the different targets do different things depending on which lights are lit, and you in fact have a fair amount of control over where the ball goes.

"How do you know so much about it?" I asked.

"I used to play in tournaments," he said.

"There are pinball tournaments?" Of course there are. There are tournaments for everything. I'm quite certain I've never met a competitive pinballer before.

When we were done being hollered at by Paul Stanley, we tried several others. Each one is set up differently, but there are certain structural similarities to be found when you start looking for them. We played Fish Tails, Batman, The Twilight Zone, and The Addams Family.

When our time was up, we stepped outside to find that it had recently rained, but the sky was currently clear. The timing of our escape to the great indoors couldn't have been better.

We said our goodbyes, as Chris was preparing for an early business trip the next morning, and headed north. When I returned to the house, Frank was at work, so I changed into normal-people clothing and took a walk. He lives in the 12 South district and had said something about it being full of hipsters. That statement couldn't have been more accurate.

I wandered into Jeni's ice cream and was overwhelmed by all the weird but amazing-sounding choices. I ended up with Buttermilk Biscuit with Peach Jam and Whiskey Pecan, planning to come back another day for the Goat Cheese with Cranberry.

The ice cream was just as good as it sounded, and I took a nice stroll up and down 12th to see what was there. Most of the restaurants were the sort of place that offered valet parking, so I didn't bother going in. I did find a cool statue of an...I'm not sure. Something esoteric enough to survive in Hipster South.

Since I didn't have a vehicle to valet (and would have smacked any valet who tried to touch Bee, anyway), I found myself back at the Monkey with a glass of wine and a small table to blog from. When I eventually returned home with an intent to go out on the town, I fell asleep on Frank's couch instead.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Very Long Friday

I dragged myself out of bed at 6:30 on Friday morning, feeling like I had to hit the road as soon as possible even though I'd only gotten about four hours of sleep. The hotel had a pretty decent breakfast, and I forced down some eggs, sausage, and a biscuit beside the obligatory coffee. The morning was warm, and I left my jacket off; but shortly after reconnecting with 40, the world became shrouded in mist and got remarkably chilly.

I stopped to buy a replacement audio cable, as mine had had some mysterious involvement with the bike chain and now only allowed sound to one ear. (I don't know how it happened, but when I was leaving camp on Thursday morning, I found the end of the cable hanging over the chain, covered in dirty grease and slightly chewed up.) It actually took me three stops in fairly short succession; the place I got gas didn't carry audio cables, and after I found the cable I forgot to put my jacket on and had to stop a third time for that. But it was still reasonably early, and it got earlier when I crossed the time zone west of Knoxville.

I was at the house before 10am. I parked and impatiently ripped off my jacket, which had been set to Steam starting maybe 40 miles from Nashville. Frank came outside and gave me a big hug, then led the way into his basement apartment. While he shuffled some things around, I told him the story of the broken headlight.

"I'm thinking pancakes," he said when we both agreed we were hungry, so we got on the bikes and rode downtown. But the pancake place was apparently famous and had a line going down the street. We took a short walk looking for alternatives, but that section of town seemed to have only one restaurant.

We walked back to the bikes, pausing on the way to inspect a large pool of something beige that had leaked out of a dumpster. At first I thought it was expanding foam, until I poked it with my boot and realized it was pizza dough, cooking on the hot blacktop and forming a crust.

"The hell?" I wondered, but Frank was laughing.

"They're gonna be pissed," he said. "We threw a garbage can full of extra dough in there last night. I had no idea it would do this." I'd momentarily forgotten we were parked at his workplace.

We ended up taking the bikes to the Frothy Monkey, the same place I'd had breakfast last year before leaving town, although it was a different location. Their food is just as good as I remembered. I left my boots and riding pants under my chair when we got seats outside, and we caught up on life over breakfast burritos with salsa.

When the sun came over the building across the street and forced us into hiding, we went back home and I pulled out my Tennessee map and started planning out a scenic ride. Frank hasn't done the Trace yet, so we'll probably start with a few miles of that and then circle back into town some other way.

Eventually we went wandering into central downtown, the tourist district on Broadway. We found designated bike parking on 2nd, something I wish we had at home.

"Do you realize you don't have a license plate?" I asked. I was expecting him to say something like, Yeah, I forgot to register it and the cops don't seem to care. I've been hanging out with a few too many rulebreakers, I guess.

"Shit, what?" he said instead, looking with concern at the tail of his V-Star. "Oh man. It's been loose for a while and I kept putting it back on. When did you notice?"

"Just now. But it was probably gone before I got here, because I would have noticed if it fell off in front of me."

We wandered into the Harley store - funny how the bike parking happened to be right there - and then onto Broadway. We bounced through all the boot shops to visit his friends who still worked there and enjoy their air conditioning, then went into the Stage for a drink. Of course there was a band playing, because there's no dead air in Music City.

Frank referred to them as a day band, and I inquired about the difference between day bands and night bands, as the musical quality seems the same. Basically the day bands don't get the night slots because they're not as good at revving up a crowd. I could see the lack of stage presence in the current example, as everyone but the drummer looked rather bored and never smiled.

Our next stop was the Tequila Cowboy, which had been my favorite venue the previous year. We sat at the bar and had drinks and fries.

"There's a car up there!" Frank said suddenly, looking over the bar. "I never noticed that."

I raised an eyebrow. "It's been here at least a year," I said. "I can show you a picture if you don't believe me."

The band onstage was more interesting than the last one. The lead singer was a bit of a conundrum; he was a small guy, maybe 5'2", with ear piercings that made him look more punk rock than country...but he was belting out Alan Jackson and Eric Church in a huge voice that sounded too big for his body.

My sense of time had been out of kilter for most of the day. Between getting up early and crossing a time zone, it felt hours later to me than it really was, and I was pleasantly surprised every time I looked at the clock. Eventually the time did pass, though, and Frank headed off to get a new license plate while I went north to the nearest Triumph dealer for some assistance with Bee's headlight.

The highways around Nashville are a maze, constantly splitting off into other highways. Just to stay on one route you may have to take three or four forks in the course of a few miles, and the traffic is often very heavy. I was glad to have my GPS plugged into my helmet and talking in my ear as I dodged around cars and trucks.

The shop confirmed that the fairing would have to be removed and told me to come back at 8:30 the next morning. They would be starting walk-ins at 9, and he said it might take a while but getting there early should get me into the top ten.

Back in town, I came home and found Frank's housemate Lorre in the kitchen making dinner and her husband Ross in the living room. Lorre offered me food and then offered again, explaining that she's Jewish and has a natural compulsion to feed people. I declined the food but stayed for the conversation.

We must have spent a couple of hours just talking; it was long enough that we eventually ordered and ate pizza. Ross is a songwriter, currently trying to get his first novel published while writing his second one, and Lorre is an activist for disabled people. She reminds me a bit of my dance teacher Jayne, whom I visited in Boulder. They also have a dog, a Golden Doodle named Sunshine who just might be the chillest pup I've ever met.

Frank came home from work while we were eating, and when dinner was done we went out to a bar called Beyond the Edge to meet up with his friend Maxcy. He asked for a rundown on the rules of derby, and once I explained the object of the game, he started asking remarkably advanced questions about strategy. Before I knew it, the coach in me was dragging him around the room, shoving him back and forth while I explained blocker formations.

Maxcy never showed up, having fallen asleep while getting ready to go out. Frank took me to Clyde's on Church, a giant bar with ping pong tables, shuffleboard, and oversized connect four. I was in love. Why isn't there a bar at home with awesome activities like that?

I won at shuffleboard and connect four, then asked if he played ping pong.

"I'll kick your ass," he said, and we were off. He did indeed, approximately doubling my score for the first game. Then we volleyed for a while without keeping score. We had chased the ball all over the room and bounced it off the walls and light fixtures innumerable times when he took a beer break, somehow succeeding at drinking from a glass while bouncing the ball on the paddle with the other hand.

"Impressive," I said. I don't remember whose idea it was that I try, but try I did. Apparently I lack beer-and-paddle coordination. I got maybe one bounce before snorting my beer all over my face, my chest, and the floor. The ball rolled away unnoticed while I melted down in hysterical laughter, tears running down my face and beer down my arms. I couldn't breathe or even stand up straight. Frank wished he had taken video.

The night ended with a drive up a hill that overlooks the city. The view was amazing, and not much climbing was even required. I enjoyed the view and then, me being me, went and inspected the radio towers.

On the way back to the car, I was balancing on a ledge with a slightly angled top. Feeling pretty secure, when a small gap appeared in the ledge, I jumped it. Unfortunately it had rained recently and the ledge was wet; my boot slipped and I landed entirely on my left shin. I bounced up and limped away, following the age-old advice to walk it off. Nothing was broken, but I'm not sure I've ever taken a shin shot more painful.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Serendipity in Knoxville

Inspection of the atlas had resulted in a loose plan to exit the Parkway and return to 81 at Roanoke, but when I popped out of Shenandoah at about the halfway point, time was tighter than I hoped it would be. I grabbed a sandwich and some phone recharging off of 64 and texted Frank. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make Nashville that night, given the surprising amount of time the Parkway had taken. It had been absolutely worth it and I had no regrets, but I felt a little badly telling him I was thinking about camping another night and arriving in the morning. He told me to take the time needed to be safe on the road.

Sandwich gone, map viewed, caffeine consumed, and musical device recharged, I took 64 to 81 and parked myself in the left lane. Channeling my trip to Colorado with Cider, I flew along pretty contentedly for 120+ miles before stopping again.

I gassed up Bee, oiled her chain, put some more espresso into myself, and chatted briefly with a Harley rider who had left Boston that morning and was headed home to Asheville, TN. Then I roared off again for another chunk of miles.

The next stop was just before sunset. I had some cheap chicken pieces and fries, and more coffee. I wasn't sleepy yet, but I didn't want to get there while out on the interstate, so it was preventative treatment. 

"I love your hair," the gas station cashier told me. "You look like that joker girl."

"Harley," I supplied, grinning. "Thank you."

My hair is currently half platinum blonde and half purple/green/pink, so the colors aren't quite Quinn, but the pattern definitely is.

Feeling better about the day's mileage, I sent Frank a message to say I might actually make Nashville that night after all, and I'd update him again at the next stop. He confirmed that I could arrive whenever, and I launched myself toward Knoxville with a caffeinated vengeance.

As the sun went down and the atmosphere darkened, there was a moment when I pulled away from other traffic, and suddenly the road in front of me was alarmingly dark. I squinted and flipped on my high beam, then flipped it off again. Sure enough, the low beam wasn't working. No big deal; I had a spare I could swap in at the next stop. I left the high beam on and kept driving.

The air got strangely warm as I approached Knoxville, and I was glad I hadn't put my jacket back on yet. Usually sundown precipitates the cold shivers, but the temperature rose until I was actually sweating. When the Rascal Flatts claimed that everything gets hotter when the sun goes down, they must have been in Tennessee.

On the west side of Knoxville, I pulled into a truck stop. It took me a moment to realize it was actually just for trucks and not for anything smaller. I wandered through acres of TT parking, slipping between the trailers, trying to find my way back to the exit. Finally I reached the gas station next door that was built for us passenger vehicles and threw down my kickstand, wondering if any truckers were laughing at me.

I pulled out my tools and the spare bulb and got to work. The first three screws came out of the housing, but the fourth one was partially blocked by the fairing and my adorable folding compact screwdriver couldn't reach. I went inside and asked the cashier for a screwdriver. She led me outside to a car, opened the trunk, and dug through a toolbox. All I could see were the roller skates.

"You skate?" I asked excitedly, and she said yes. "Artistic or derby?"

"Artistic," she said, then made a vague gesture to indicate the owner of the car. "But he derbies."

She got out her phone and called the shop next door to ask if she could borrow a screwdriver. I told her I'd ask around the pumps, as there were people with campers and trailers and I didn't want to send her on a giant hunt. It took me about seven seconds to find a man willing to lend me a Philips.

I returned to Bee and removed the last casing screw, then released the bulb clip. Then I tried to pull out the bulb, but it wouldn't budge. I pulled and twisted and knocked on it, and still it stayed. I dug out the owner's manual and turned to the Headlight section, where it told me to remove the casing, release the clip, and "remove the bulb." Thanks; that was helpful.

It was about that time that a tall, thin man with a sleeve of tattoos poked his head over from the next pump to ask if everything was okay.

"Just replacing a headlight," I explained. He was going to go on his way, but I stopped him and explained the problem. "Any chance you can get this out?" I asked.

He joined me in the prodding of the bike. He was also a biker, originally from New York but recently relocated to Nashville. We puzzled over the bulb and the unhelpful manual together. I got out pliers and we both tried to use them, but still the stubborn bulb stayed put. Finally I suggested we try to pry it out with a knife, and he borrowed my knife and succeeded at the task.

The celebration was short-lived, however. The base came out, but the glass portion had broken off and dropped into the housing, and it wasn't in easy reach.

The man from whom I had borrowed the screwdriver walked over with his wife to check out our progress. I offered him the tool back, but he waved it away and told me to take my time. The biker said he had an idea and disappeared inside the store, then returned a few minutes later with a pair of straws, closely followed by a man with a coat hanger. New York proceeded to unwrap the straws and fold one of them into an L, then fish around in the headlight housing with it. He succeeded at contacting the broken chunk of glass but couldn't fish it out.

At some point Camper Man had retrieved a roll of electrical tape. He asked New York for a straw and wrapped the tape around it inside-out, creating a sticky side with which to fish for the glass. We each tried, but it didn't work. I tried the coat hanger too, but only succeeded in putting scratches in the lens.

While this game was being played, a truck driver and then a mechanic wandered over to offer their assistance. We explained the situation, and they watched for a few minutes, offered a couple of unsuccessful suggestions, and then went on their way. The couple with the camper also left, gifting me their screwdriver on their way out.

"You're welcome to leave too," I told the biker. "Don't feel bad, I'll be fine."

"I don't have anything else to do," he assured me. "I'm just driving to Nashville. I'm Chris, by the way." We shook hands and introduced ourselves properly, an hour and a half after actually meeting. We ended up deciding that the only option left was to disassemble the fairing, and I wasn't willing to begin that project at 10:30 at night. I told Frank I wouldn't be making it that night after all.

"Let me buy you a coffee," I said to Chris. "You've been so helpful."

"What?" he said. "I feel like I should be buying you a coffee. You still have no headlight, and if I broke that glass, I'm gonna feel terrible."

"I probably broke it," I said. We went inside and got some colorful bottled sugary liquid and sat at a table. He said he had a story to tell me.

Another hour and a half later, it was midnight and we'd been swapping bike stories since we sat down. We both needed be on our way, but we exchanged phone numbers and made plans to go for a ride when I eventually made Nashville. I high-beamed it three miles down the road to a hotel, where I had a hot shower and spent the night in air-conditioned comfort.

Shenandoah National Park

Thursday dawned with no sign of bears, or any other wildlife except for a small cat who ran like hell when I tried to say hi. I skipped coffee and breakfast because I didn't want to spend time building a fire. I just packed up my things and headed out.

My atlas showed the Blue Ridge Parkway nearby. I could have gotten back on I81, but with the parkway paralleling it through Virginia, that seemed like a waste of an opportunity. At the entrance to Shenandoah National Park, the ranger told me it was the 100th birthday of the National Park Service and entrance was free; that was a pleasant surprise. I thanked her and rode on through.

At the visitors' center I parked near a group of motorcycles, one of which was a Triumph. Inside the museum I found the riders, and chatted them up briefly before they moved on. They were also headed for Nashville and assured me they'd see me on the road. After they left, I wandered through the museum and gift shop, then down the lawn to the viewing area. A slightly hazy valley vista greeted me, miles and miles of fuzzy green trees looking like a northern wonderland.

Eventually I returned to Bee, and as I was situating my things to return to the road, a pair of bikers pulled in beside me, one of them on an F800GSA.

"I love your bike!" I said before he had even killed the engine. He removed his helmet, smiled, and thanked me. A woman dismounted from an R1100RT beside him and came to join us. Nerdy bike talk ensued for quite a while as we discussed the various features and farkles of our rides and compared notes on the Parkway.

Back on the road a few minutes later, it didn't take me long to decide that the Blue Ridge is one of my favorite roads. It has the deserted peacefulness of the Natchez Trace, a jacket of deep dark northern woods, and the hilly twisty terrain that makes a great motorcycle road with a blessed lack of decreasing-radius turns. I flew along, working the corners and enjoying the scenery in the straights. Every few minutes I encountered a slow car, passed, and continued on my way.

After a while my desire for coffee made itself important by way of a headache, and I stopped at Skyland and got a latte and a lemon-lavender muffin (a great idea, unfortunately poorly executed). On a patio beside the building, a man was playing the hammer dulcimer and talking to a small crowd about folk music between songs. I sat on a wall and devoured my brunch while listening to him play. I never would have thought that the phrases "rock out" and "hammer dulcimer" belonged in the same building, but this gentleman proved me wrong. He played with a passion that gave me a new interest in a style of music I've been ignoring for many years.

He finished his set by playing Amazing Grace on the flute, and I finished my coffee and took my leave. As I was saddling up, one of the bikers I had met in the group earlier pulled in and said hello. He was riding a Goldwing trike, his lady passengering, and he had a paunchy belly and a sagging lower lip.

"Rick was forlorn that he didn't get to chat more with you," he said.

"Oh?" I said.

"Well he's a young single man and, you know the story." He shook his head a little bit and I swear the two hairs he had left muttered something about whippersnappers. "They want to ride so fast," he continued, "And I said, I'm not going to enjoy my ride trying to keep up with you. So I'll just see you at the end."

I nodded and wished him a good ride, thinking I was definitely in the category of riders who would ruin his fun. A few minutes down the road, I found a car moving slowly because it was being held up by three bikers moving slowly. It was the old man's friends.

I debated passing the car, but didn't want to get stuck trying to pass the riders, so I slowed my roll for a while and hoped they would pull off. The third rider wasn't quite keeping up with the first two, and I passed him and the car when the road opened into two lanes.

The opportunity was brief, though, and the lanes merged again a few hundred feet along, leaving me in the middle of someone else's pack.

The second rider spotted my predicament and motioned me forward in the next passing zone. I went around him and then got stuck again as a car came the other way. I did several miles sandwiched between riders 1 and 2 while rider 2 tailgated me obnoxiously. I wasn't sure if he was annoyed with my location and desire for speed or if he just felt that was a generally appropriate following distance. Finally I saw my opportunity, and I opened the throttle and roared past rider 1. I waved, then lost sight of the group around the next curve and never saw them again.

Six States, One Day

I decided sometime earlier this summer, probably around the time I moved, that I wanted to spend as much of the season on the road as possible. Toward that end, I moved my schedule around a bit to free up a week and took off to see my friend Frank and my favorite city, Nashville.

My original plan was to do the long day (1,033 miles) on Wednesday, but by Monday I was too tired to want to attempt it, so I told Frank I'd be there on Thursday. I was aiming to leave at 8am on Wednesday.

I got up at 5:30 to pack, install the new risers on the bike, and install the new speakers in my new helmet. I know you're not supposed to farkle the bike and test new gear on a long trip, but I hadn't left myself another option.

At 8:45, I realized that the bundle of tent consisted only of stakes, poles, and a fly, and was distinctly lacking in the presence of an actual tent. After turning my house upside-down, looking for it in every possible location, I texted Abel and asked if he had it. He found it in the garage.

I finished packing and rolled out at 10:30. Unfortunately I was headed north to get the tent, rather than south into adventure. I picked it up, fitted it onto my luggage, spent a few minutes learning how to operate the audio amplifier, and was finally on the highway at 11:20. Definitely not as planned, but I figured I could still get in enough miles to make Thursday fairly comfortable.

I headed down 91 for 15, missed my exit somehow, and hit traffic. A section of 95 was closed, with signs warning to seek an alternate route, and the traffic had backed up onto 91. I got off in New Haven, bought a battery to charge my electronics, realized it came without any charge at all, bought a USB AC hub, and stopped at Panera to eat lunch and use their power outlets. By this time I was started to get annoyed at my lack of progress. I know I'm capable of throwing down the miles, but I was doodling around and not doing it. I got back on 91 north and caught 15 to avoid the clusterfuck on 95.

There were a few slowdowns on 15, but nothing terrible. I took 287 through New York, waving at Jeff as we sailed by the exit where Bumblebee used to live. Well, perhaps "sailed" is an optimistic term; traffic was heavy and we weren't going with any great efficiency.

Route 287 led to 78 and then 81. I rode from Massachusetts to Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In Strasbourg, I left the highway and found camp for the night at Elizabeth Furnace.

Signs in the campground warned of bears, so I took my bag of beef jerky, bag of oats, and an apple, put them in a plastic bag, and tied it up with paracord. Then I started throwing it into the trees.

It took me 7 or 8 throws and a broken apple to locate the bear bag in a spot that seemed okay. I closed the end of the paracord into one of the saddlebags to secure it and went to sleep.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


It wasn't exactly at the top of my list of desires, but eventually I had to return the Hornet to its rightful owner. I seriously considered buying her, as Cider was looking to sell, but I couldn't justify spending brand-new-BMW level money on a toy when I don't even own a car.

Hades demonstrated her dissatisfaction at being left home by refusing to start. We hooked up the jumper cables to Cider's truck, but the starter switch wasn't connecting, and I ended up having to pull it apart and hot-wire her to life. I toddled awkwardly out of the driveway, having forgotten how to ride anything on which I could solidly touch the ground, swerved down the street, and almost failed to stop at the corner. Her brakes require me to grab on for dear life, exactly unlike those on the Hornet.

Possibly fewer than three miles had passed when I realized just how bad the ride was going to be on my back. By the time I exited route 2, there were sharp pains appearing in my low spine, which had been blessedly absent for the last several weeks. I stopped to gas up and do some stretching.

By the time I got home after 70 miles, I realized that replacing my bike wouldn't just be for fun; it was actually going to be necessary for the health of my back. (I have a herniated disc in my lumbar spine that acts up sometimes, and I've been in physical therapy for several months now for that problem.) I started searching Craigslist for options.

The most promising one I found was a 2007 BMW F1200GS in New York. I messaged the seller, who took several days to get back to me and proved to be completely incapable of answering any questions or setting up a time for me to see the bike. This is a pet peeve of mine: if you post something for sale, for fuck's sake, take the time to communicate with people who are interested in buying it. If I send you a polite email asking when I can show up on your doorstep and hand you money, why in the world would you ignore it?

Cider encouraged me to expand my search and named off the sport-touring models of other makers - the Suzuki V-Strom, Triumph Tiger, Kawasaki Versys, and Yamaha Super Tenere. There weren't any local Versys for sale, and the only Super Teneres were too new and expensive. I found a handful of V-Stroms and Tigers, messaged a few sellers, and asked Cider for an opinion between the two.

The V-Strom is a 1000 and the Tiger is a 1050, but Cider advised me (after teasing me for being insufficiently motor-savvy) that the Tiger has a lot more power by virtue of being a triple rather than a twin. I had bookmarked three Tigers, and I made a date to go see the most promising one. It was the same price as the others with more luggage. It lacked ABS, but I'm accustomed to bikes with regular brakes. The seller also had a blessedly competent command of English and the use of a keyboard, which was refreshing. I went to see the bike, made a down payment, then returned home and waited impatiently for the following weekend.

I saw Cider at a game the next day, and he asked if I was getting the bike.

"Yes!" I said excitedly.

"The bumblebee bike?" he asked.

I laughed. "Yeah, the yellow Tiger."

"Cool. I didn't want to call it that unless you were buying it."


"I didn't want to color your opinion of it before you bought it."

"But now that she's mine, it's okay to make fun of her?"

I gave him a what-the-fuck shrug. He protested while Rogue and Kimmy laughed.

Long story short, Jeff, the seller, was conveniently in my neighborhood for a motorhome convention. When he was done with his classes that weekend, I jumped in his Monaco and he drove me back to New York. We talked about travel and biking and life in general. He and his wife have sold their house and are moving into the motorhome to go have travel adventures now that they've retired. We traded emails and blog addresses; you can find him at La Dolce Vita.

He added some accessories and chemicals for me to take, we signed papers, and then it was time for me to go. He took some pictures, gave me a hug, and warned me not to hit the brakes too hard. I made a round of the parking lot to feel out the clutch, throttle, and brakes, and then I was off on my new bike. Bumblebee was named before Cider knew I had named his bike the Hornet, so the similarity is complete coincidence.