Wednesday, January 25, 2017

South Carolina to Florida

The new chain arrived on Tuesday as promised. Charleston Powersports was able to fit Bee into their schedule, and late in the afternoon I rolled onto 526 with a shiny new chain and sprockets. She was so smooth, and so quiet - no more crunching, grinding, threatening sounds to make me question every second of my ride.

We went back to Honey Hill that night because it was close by. With plenty of water in tow, it was a lovely evening, and the owls sang us to sleep.

The peeing boy statue from Belgium,
in corkscrew form, was gifted forward
from Seth to Jene and Wendy.

Unfortunately I was awake again at o-dark-thirty, and I stayed that way for some three hours. I'd slept too late to have gone to bed so early; the mix of sleeping in a house and sleeping outside was messing with my schedule. The owls returned for a while to keep me company, at one point gathering together quite nearby for a brief town hall. Three or four of them made the hooting noise that probably plays in your mind when you think about an owl, and the last one seemed to be cackling.

Winter glances at South Carolina but doesn't really pay it much attention. When we woke for real, it was about 45 degrees and the sun was prodding its way under the tarp. The tent fly had been hung over the lantern hook the night before to dry, and we'd draped the tarp over the tent in its place. It was better than nothing, but not as large as the fly, and let in a steady cool breeze overnight.

I enjoyed the slight chill in the air, grateful that it wasn't snowy and freezing. We were packed and rolling by 9:30, and when I set the GPS, I got a surprise. When it came down to it I couldn't remember why, but I'd been convinced that our day's ride was 300 miles. It was actually 450, so it was a good thing we hadn't slept any later.

Those 450 miles were glorious. The day grew warmer as we made southerly progress, peaking at about 80 degrees. At a gas stop in Georgia, we had lunch at Polly's BBQ, which was actually in a gas station. The pulled pork sandwich and pork stew with corn were amazing. The Georgia Peach stand next door, a grocery store devoted entirely to peach-related food and drink, begged me to spend money. The lack of space in my luggage saved my wallet. I did manage to fit a loaf of peach bread under a cargo net on my left pannier, but the jams and wines and canned cobblers stayed on the shelf.

Just as full dark was arriving, we pulled into the driveway of our friends Tyson and Jessie. Tyson warned us that if our bikes were so much as breathing on the sidewalk, we'd be fined, so we set about the task of Tetris-ing two cars and two loaded bikes into the driveway. I spotted a sidewalk running along the edge of the house, and suggested I park Bee there.

It seemed simple enough, but I misjudged the height of the small strip of concrete in relation to the grass. My first attempt sent us rolling backwards, and I nearly dumped her but managed to save it. At that point I probably should have rethought my strategy, but instead I just tried again with more vigor. Of course that resulted in Bee on her side in the grass.

Rogue, Tyson and I managed to upright her, and no damage was done. Jessie suggested I make a run at the sidewalk from a different angle, and that went off without a hitch. We squeezed Zee in behind her and called it a success.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Charleston by Smiley

We arrived at Jene's apartment complex in the rain, of course. He invited us in and introduced us to his wife, Wendy. The two of them went off to bowling with their grandchildren, and we stayed in and made friends with their adorable pair of dogs, Dusty and Queenie.

Jene and Wendy returned with the grandbabies, Carly and Cassie, in tow, and their dad arrived not longer after. The seven of us passed a cozy evening eating pizza, watching Carly bounce, cuddling the dogs, and telling bike stories.

On Monday, we ventured to the grocery store and the post office. I cooked an early dinner of chicken primavera before Wendy went to work, and then Jene took us out in his truck and gave us a tour of Charleston.

Smiley, as he's called on the road, knows his town. He called it the "short version," but I probably forgot half of what he said as it was. We went to Folly Beach (which was peppered with surfers enjoying the waves), Battery Park, the French Quarter, Johns Island, a bar called Proof where Jene works as a doorman, and made a couple of random stops to see amazing wall murals. We finished the night with Wendy at the Bizzie Bee.

I asked Jene why he isn't a professional tour guide, as he clearly loves showing off Charleston, and he explained that he'd need a license, but had considered runninng some motorcycle tours. If that idea ever becomes reality, I'll be the first customer in line. Rogue has decided that if she doesn't return to Massachusetts, it'll be because she's too busy loving South Carolina.

Monday, January 23, 2017

North Charleston, SC

We had several days left in Charleston, the hurricane was dumping rain, and I'd been warned to ride Bee as little as possible. I posted in a Facebook group for lady riders, asking if anyone in town could put us up for a couple of nights. Someone referred me to the group North America Biker Rescue, and from there we got an invitation from Jene, a biker just a few miles out of town.

Rogue and I stayed in the hotel room until check-out, not excited to go out into the pouring rain and navigate the lake that the parking lot had become. Fortunately there was a break in the rain that allowed us a peaceful stroll around the complex across the street and into the North Charleston Fire Museum.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Rains and Chains

Honey Hill was a cute little camping loop adjacent to route 45 in Francis Marion National Forest. There was one bathroom with no running water, and an ancient sign with a map that smelled like mildew.

"No water," I announced, reluctantly preparing to gear up again. The map said there was a hardware store at the corner of 45 and 17. The clunking noise from Bee had gotten louder, and I would've preferred to stay put, but we couldn't exactly camp without water. I was reaching for my helmet when I saw a spigot in the center of the loop.

"Water!" I said excitedly. I dug out the purification kit and headed for the spout. But it wasn't what I wanted to find. The handle had been removed, leaving it dry. I went for a walk, hoping to find another spout, but there was nothing. Then I inspected the woods, but the only water was swampy and stagnant.

"Want to bring my water bottle?" Rogue asked as I prepared once again to ride out.

"I have a - wait. Water bottle. With water in it." It wasn't as much as I would've liked, but it was better than nothing. We settled in for the night with a pot of soup and a campfire.

Our plan for the next day was to ride into Charleston and find a bike shop. We stopped for gas 20 miles from Honey Hill, and a friendly guy in a truck told us to be careful, because there were storms coming in. I knew it was going to rain, but I hadn't realized it was going to be a big deal.

"This one has had some tornadoes," he warned us. I stopped, removed my earplugs, and gave him my full attention.

"Any idea how big the storm cell is?" I asked. "We're headed south. Maybe we could outrun it."

"It's coming up from Florida," he answered. "It's big."

There went that idea. I looked at Rogue. "We could hotel it tonight," I said. "I don't really want to play with tornadoes."

"I'm cool with that," she said. "My friend in Mississippi actually just had a tornado."

I borrowed her phone. When I stuck mine in my jacket pocket the previous day to keep it out of the rain, the storm had somehow found its way into my pocket, and my own phone had drowned.

I made a hotel reservation in Charleston while Rogue chatted with the gas station's cashier, who was from Connecticut. His retirement dream was to do what we're doing now - just get on a motorcycle and go.

"You two are living the American dream," he said with a smile.

From there we returned to the campsite and packed up. It was sprinkling as we pulled out, and by the time we were back in the vicinity of the gas station, we were soaked. I drove straight to the hotel. It was too early to check in, but the lady at the desk let me drop my dry bag and tent, and I went to the bike shop relatively unencumbered.

"My bike is clunking," I told the guys in the service department. They came out to have a look.

"Can you tell where?" they asked.

"Just get on and ride about ten feet," I answered. "You'll hear it."

The taller one saddled up and rolled down the road.

"That's the chain," said the brunette man without any hesitation.

"Really?" I asked. Bee had passed inspection four days earlier.

The other man pulled a nice U-turn in the middle of the road and came back.

"That's the chain," he announced as he dismounted. I couldn't argue with that level of mutual certainty.

It was Friday, and a new chain and sprockets could be in on Tuesday. The man in Parts gave me the number of another shop to call, but they didn't have the parts in stock, either. I shrugged.

"Not like we're on a deadline," I said. "Might as well hang out here."

"I really wouldn't drive to Florida on that," the guy from Service added as he walked by.

"I'm okay with that," Rogue said. "I actually really like it here."

About that time, I heard a roaring noise and looked out the window to see that the mist had suddenly become an epic downpour. The palm fronds bowed and twitched in the onslaught and a thousand drummers pounded on the roof. I admired it for an awed moment, and then remembered something.

"My GPS!" I said, and ran outside to retrieve it. Fortunately it's well-designed in that there aren't any openings that face upward. It was very wet but still working. I stuffed it in my helmet and left my helmet in the parts shop while we wandered the showroom and drooled all over the shiny 2016 V-Strom.

After remarkably few minutes the squall passed, and we headed back out. Rogue recommended the Mellow Mushroom for lunch, and we split one of the best pizzas I've ever had before walking back to the hotel. At long last we stripped out of our soaked clothing, took showers, and threw our drippy things into the coin laundry.

A short walk to Walmart got Rogue a box of the biggest zip-lock bags I've ever seen, big enough to hold her computer and then some. I bought a pepper and some apples, and when we returned to the room, Rogue did laundry and I made lentil stew. We spent the evening smugly dry indoors, eating real food and watching WestWorld.

Into South Carolina

It was rainy on Friday morning; nothing serious, just enough to require the rain suits. Seth gave us coffee before going off to work, and we strapped down all our things and headed for I95 again.

Interstate 95 is really nice in the mid-coast area. Up north it's kind of a traffic-filled shitshow, but in Virginia and the Carolinas, it's peaceful and has nice scenery. It's infinitely better than I81, which has been my path through Virginia on my last couple of trips.

At our first gas stop, I considered messing around with Bee again, but decided I'd rather get out of the rain first. I pulled away from the pump, remembered I'd left my phone in my pants pocket, and stopped again to move it into my jacket so I wouldn't sit on it. Then I rolled out.

I swear Rogue was behind me as I left, but maybe I was seeing what I thought I should see instead of reality. Five hundred feet later I was accelerating down the entrance ramp, and when I looked back again, she was gone. I slowed for a moment, and when I still didn't see her, I pulled over into the breakdown lane.

Perhaps she had missed the opening in traffic, or the light had turned. I idled and waited, eyeing the cars and trucks suspiciously. I would have preferred to get further from the lane of travel - off the pavement would have been best - but the ground was a rutted pit of sand that would've led to more problems, like a sideways Bee. I stayed where I was and hoped for observant drivers.

Maybe she had stalled the bike. I waited another minute or so, getting increasingly worried. There was no way I could turn around, but something was clearly wrong. I threw down the kickstand, wished Bee well, and walked back up the ramp to the gas station.

Rogue was sitting in the parking lot astride Zee, apparently waiting for me. I gave her a "What's going on?" shrug.

"I stalled and dropped her," she yelled through her helmet. "And I didn't know where you were."

"I'm on the highway," I yelled back. "Come on." I turned and walked back. She rolled past me and sat behind Bee on the entrance ramp. Fortunately no other vehicles had tested the theory of different masses being unable to occupy the same space at the same time, and we rode off without further incident.

By the time I pulled into the parking lot of a Bo Jangles a hundred miles later, the rain was gone. It was sunny and over 70 degrees.

"I fucking love you," Rogue said, laughing. "I saw the sign for Bo Jangles and I wondered. And then there you went."

I had a laugh at myself too. "I know, I know, I'm predictable." We stripped off our rain layers and tucked them away, then headed for chicken.

The GPS couldn't locate the campground I was aiming for, but it found a recreation area in the right national forest, so we went there. What we found was a small clearing in the trees and a fishing dock and boat ramp into a river. It was picturesque and peaceful.

I considered filling up my Camelbak pack from a copiously flowing spigot, but I couldn't get to my water purification kit and there was no indication of the potability of the water, so I passed. Still looking for a campsite, I prodded the GPS again and found one called Honey Hill. When I told it to navigate there, it asked me if I wanted to avoid dirt roads.

"Rogue!" I called excitedly. "Look at this!" I gleefully pressed No. We have adventure bikes. Let's do some adventuring.

The dirt roads were really nice, except for one section that was paved with the kind of gravel that just grabs the front tire and shakes the handlebars until you think the bike wants to shake you right off. I slowed down, and soon enough we were back on regular bouncy dirt.

The road was scattered with potholes, and we zigged back and forth, avoiding the big ones. I managed to stay out of all of them except one. I saw it coming too late to swerve, so I stood up and bounced through, wincing as the suspension bottomed out. When I glanced in the mirror, I saw my "tank bag" (actually a blue reusable shopping bag netted to the back seat) lying in the road. Rogue stopped beside it, and by the time I walked back, she had all my things put back in.

"You mean I shouldn't drive IN the holes?" I asked with mock incredulity.

"Do what you want," she said. "Just make sure your shit's secure first." I secured my shit and we moved on.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Raleigh, NC

Thursday's ride was short, coming in under 200 miles, and blessedly dry. Bee was making a strange clunking noise that at first I attributed to an imbalance in the front wheel, but repeated checks of said wheel revealed no problems. I did notice while flying down the interstate that her right bar weight was missing, and the handguard was flapping in the breeze. The cruise control device had disappeared along with the weight and the bolt. That, at least, I won't miss. It never worked in a way that pleased me.

I honestly couldn't remember whether it had been there when I mounted up in Washington. Possibly it had disappeared overnight, or possibly it had flown off while riding. Either way, it was long gone. We had a brief discussion about whether a bar weight and cruise control would be worth stealing. It seems unlikely that it would come all the way off on its own, as the bolt is a couple of inches long, but it would be an oddly specific part to gank.

We dropped kickstands in Raleigh with sunlight to spare. It was sixty beautiful degrees as we unpacked and let ourselves into a second-floor apartment.

The place belonged to Seth, whom I'd contacted through I joined the website a couple of years ago in preparation for my 2015 solo trip, but never actually used it until now. In his profile, Seth mentioned a love of travel and wine, so I sent him a message. When he told me one of his goals was to travel around Europe on a motorcycle, I had a feeling we'd hit it off.

Wandering around a stranger's home was a disconcerting experience. We were chatting via text message, so I knew which room to drop our things in and how to work the voice-activated lighting system, but making ourselves at home without first meeting the occupant felt a little intrusive.

The evening turned out to be awesome. Seth took us downtown and showed us around. He recommended we eat at the Raleigh Times, but it was too busy, so we walked a mile or so to the "other downtown" and went to the Raleigh Beer Garden, which has 376 beers on tap and is enormous. We talked motorcycles and traveling adventures and beer while eating deep-fried giant pretzels with beer cheese dip (I cannot recommend this highly enough) and maple-fried bacon.

From the brewery we moved on to the Hibernian Irish pub, where Rogue and I shared a lamburger. Seth asked if I'd ever eaten mussels, and I admitted I hadn't, so he ordered the plate and gave me one. It was neither wonderful nor disgusting; I enjoyed the process of eating it more than I enjoyed the actual taste. He ordered me a glass of a local brew from Natty Greene called Wildflower Witbier. I don't have a deep enough understand of beer to give it a connoisseur's review, but it was light and pleasant and exactly what I'd look for if I were looking for a beer. (Mead is really my specialty when it comes to brewing.)

Back at the apartment, Seth showed us a scene from one of his video travelogues, where he'd been riding around Korea with some friends and found a group of horses in the road. They herded them back home using the motorcycles. As a nightcap, we watched an episode of Long Way Round, a travelogue about a motorcycle trip around the world by Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman.

I'd have to call our first CouchSurf a rousing success. We inspired each other through our travel stories; Seth has a new interest in motorcycling the US, and I have a new drive for making a bike trip overseas.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Washington, DC

When we were preparing to leave Rocky's she asked if we had something for her to sign. Rogue ran to get a sketchbook, and then Rocky had another idea.

"I'm going to give you something to give to your next host," she said. She went over to a collection of shells and rocks on the TV stand and picked something out. "Then they give you something to bring to the next place," she elaborated.

"Like gifting it forward," I said. "I love it."

She handed me a small silver object, shaped like a sun, with a green gem in the middle. "I found this in a club in Austin, Texas."

I tucked it away to give to Emily.

We geared up under cloudy but dry skies. It was over 40 degrees, so I stuffed my heated and hooded vests away in the luggage. Someone who had checked the news or possibly Facebook told me it snowed in Massachusetts, and I took a moment to enjoy the timing of our escape.

At the next gas stop, I put the vests back on. Forty degrees at highway speed is still a little chilly to be shedding gear.

We made it to Washington without incident or excitement, although the lack of wind noise on the surface streets allowed me to hear a significant clunking sound from Bee's front end. The tilted street-park didn't let me get her up on the center stand, though, so the investigation had to wait.

We let ourselves into Emily's apartment and were greeted by two frightened furry faces. The cats made a hasty exit from the living room, but one of them returned within half an hour, thoroughly sniffed everything we had brought in, and then demanded cuddles. We were happy to oblige.


Emily returned from work in the early evening and we made dinner together. We caught up on derby life and watched half of Pirates of the Carribbean, then walked downtown to a pie bar. A pie bar? Yes, that exists, and it's just as amazing as it sounds. It's aptly named: Dangerously Delicious Pies.

Mixed berry, sour cherry, and apple

Three giant slices of pie later, we walked the few blocks back to the apartment for more kitty cuddles. I gave Emily the silver token from Rocky, and she pulled out a Maryland flag bandanna to pass along.

This light-up dog was surprisingly fuzzy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Autobots Roll Out

Tuesday morning was sunny, clear, and a little chilly, with an ominous prediction of snow. We drank our coffee, packed up our lives, and exchanged lots of hugs with my mom. Bee required a jump, of course, so I let the engine run while piling on the rest of the luggage and my gear. (I have to remove the seat to jump the battery, which of course requires removal of the dry bag and anything cargo-netted on top.)

We rolled out west to Keene, where I had a scattering of errands to accomplish. It couldn't go off without a hitch, though - we stopped in Wilton for gas, and I couldn't open Bee's tank. The lock cylinder was jammed and wouldn't turn. I decided I had just enough gas to make it to Full Throttle.

Fortunately that estimation was correct, and Brian was able to get the tumblers moving again. Bee was also blessed at long last with a current inspection sticker. When that was done, I returned my RFID tag to Mutual Aid and said goodbye to Cindy again. We made a stop at PetCo to get Rogue an ID tag, and on the way out of the parking lot I heard a honk. A glance in my mirror showed a pile of V-Strom on the ground and Rogue standing over it with her hands in a "WTF" shrug.

I parked and ran back. Together we uprighted Zee. Rogue was fine; she'd made the same mistake I had when I dumped the Hornet at a gas pump when Cider and I were setting out for Colorado. It's all too easy to stop a little suddenly or a little crooked on a tall bike that's weighed down with gear and find it lying on the ground under you. Fortunately nothing was damaged, and we rode on to find Roy.

It turned out to be fortuitous that we'd made that two-minute stop. On our way through town, I saw a toaster-shaped copper car, and the driver was waving frantically. It was Snaric, and I gave him a frantic wave in return as we went by. Then we picked up my spare ignition key from Roy, who had borrowed it when he bought the old luggage off Bee.

The sky was starting to cloud over, and I gave it a sideways glare. It was time to beat feet before the storm hit.

91 to the Merritt Parkway to 95 was smooth sailing. Somewhere along the way it began to rain, and by the time we started to see signs for Cranbury, New Jersey, it had been raining steadily for hours. It was dark and cold, my GPS was getting soaked, and my shield was fogging up. I popped it open a hair so I could see, but between the rain and the reflections, it was a tough job.

Eventually we made Hightstown, and I street-parked and called Rocky. As she said hello, Rogue dismounted without getting Zee's kickstand fully unfolded, and dropped the bike by the curb. I threw down my phone and we picked her up again.

The next few minutes were a frustrating and confusing swirl as I talked to Rocky on the phone and she tried to figure out where we were, and Rogue walked Zee across the street to a parking space and then realized she wouldn't start. I went to give her a helpful push and in the dark I grabbed the exhaust can by mistake, burning my hand.

Eventually we got our crap sorted out and dumped our wet layers all over Rocky's mud room. She had an amazing spread of sushi waiting for us, and we stuffed ourselves and caught up with our derby buddy. A little internet research on Rogue's part got the bike problem sorted out, and life started to look a lot more cheerful.

We played a few rounds of a charades-like game called Guesstures, and then Rocky asked if we had ever seen WestWorld. I'd read about it recently and it sounded interesting, so she put it on.

When she eventually went to bed, Rogue and I were still watching, and hooked. If you've got a little time for TV, I highly recommend this show. It's like Surrogates meets Jurassic Park, in which a world full of artificial intelligences start to become a bit more sentient than their creators intended.

Monday, January 16, 2017


The luggage is finally on the Bee! There is also a bee on the Bee, and the bare beginnings of a sticker collection. The Bee and the Autobot are the work of Aradia from Coventry Decor.


Wrenching Day

When the shop called with an update on Bee, the news wasn't good. She'd gone in for a back tire and preventive wheel bearings, and I'd asked them to throw on the other luggage rack while they were at it. I was also anticipating an inspection sticker, having replaced the front brake pads since she failed for them.

It wasn't that easy. Matt had a laundry list of things they'd found wrong, and I picked through it, deciding which jobs to do myself. When all was said and done, they did the rear wheel bearings, tire, and brake pads and replaced a radiator hose that was about to blow out.

Skipper with a wrench and Bumblebee waiting for work
Time to wrench

She still didn't earn the inspection sticker, because one of the fork seals had begun to leak copiously. I ordered a seal kit and my mom asked her neighbor, who owns an auto shop, if I could work in his garage.

On Sunday morning we rolled over to the shop, which was like a gift from heaven - spacious, heated, and full of tools, with a very friendly and helpful owner working on another project beside us. I'd baked him an apple pie to say thank you, and he said I didn't have to do that. But he didn't have to let me in his shop, either.

We spent all of the daylight hours wrenching. Rogue replaced her brakes and turn signals and installed her 12V/USB charging station. I replaced Bee's fork seals and installed the new luggage racks, which didn't want to play nice with the existing rack for the top box or with the exhaust can. Getting the rear body panel properly seated and the two racks bolted together into the frame took two of us and a lot of threading the same bolt over and over and over. The heated grips didn't get done because we ran out of time, but at least the bike runs and carries all my gear. (In theory. As of this writing, I still haven't put the boxes onto the racks.)

Organizing the Bikes

On Tuesday morning, we called roadside assistance and got Bee towed to Full Throttle in Swanzey, New Hampshire. I had to pay the difference, because roadside only tows as far as the nearest shop, but I don't trust anyone else to put their grubby paws on my baby. Ernie's Towing in Amherst has a guy who specializes in "bikes, antiques, and expensives," and we watched with interest while Kent rigged her up and pulled her onto the truck. With the front and rear suspension compressed, she squatted down and pretended to be a sport bike.

My mom picked us up from the shop, brought us to her house, and made us dinner. Fortunately it wasn't a work day for her, so it was just a pain in the ass and not an impossibility for her to help us out.

I don't like asking for favors, but it's been a week full of them. On Wednesday, Cider met us in Leominster, hooked up a U-Haul trailer to his truck, and drove us all over Massachusetts to get Hades out to Cape Cod, where Rogue's dad has agreed to store her in his garage.

Watching Hades, Rogue, and Zee
"I'm glad we get to hang out, at least," said Rogue.

"I told you we'd figure it out," said Cider.

"Creatively," I added. We shared bike stories, road experiences, and a lot of caffeine as we collectively covered several hundred miles in a giant circle.

I'm nearly back to a normal awake-during-daylight schedule, but on our way back from the coast I passed out in the truck. We went over a speedbump pulling into the parking lot where Rogue's bike was waiting, and that's what brought me to consciousness.

"Hey pretty," Rogue said.

"Huh?" I responded, trying to figure out where I was and why she was greeting me that way. I pulled my head from where it had become wedged between the seat and Cider's shoulder.

"My bike," she said, and laughed. "I mean, you're pretty too. But I was talking to Zee."

I blinked and shook off the sleep while the two of them laughed at me.

Function over form

By the end of the day, Hades was snug in storage, the humans were back in their respective homes, and Zee was in my mom's garage, so at least Rogue and I had one bike between the two of us. My phone, unfortunately, went home with Cider. Apparently it preferred his truck to my pocket.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

JKLOL Trailers

The discussions for this long-term trip initially involved a lot of talk about trailers. The idea of living permanently on the road seemed to call for them, but neither of us could afford to lay down that kind of cash, especially since I wanted a single-wheel. My dream trailer is something like this, from Third Wheel Trailers:

Photo from Third Wheel Trailers

I'd rather have the money for traveling, though, so I started cooking up plans to build my own. I considered PVC pipe, a popular solution for bicycle trailers, but Cider pointed out that it's not really up to the rigors of highway travel. I scoured the Harbor Freight catalog and picked out a small flat two-wheeled trailer, thinking I'd build a structure on top of it, but Drewbag told me that the wheel bearings in those trailers are awful and would probably leave me on the side of a lonely highway somewhere. Besides, there's no hitch for a Tiger, so I would've had to do some fabrication to add a sport-style hitch in the image of the Third Wheel anyway, and I don't have any welding skills.

Over-inspired and under-funded, I even sketched up some plans for a convertible single-wheeled camper trailer, a rolling box that would tip over on one side, open up, and turn into a tiny shelter. It seems likely that one day I'll build my own teardrop trailer.

Monday, January 9, 2017


We set off this morning with the intention of accomplishing some errands (Rogue), retrieving Bee from our former apartment (me), and landing at my mom's place by the end of the day. Bee, however, had other plans. I replaced the battery, after discovering that one of the terminals had been not-quite-irretrievably crushed in the mail, and tried to start her.

She's a grumpy cold-weather starter anyway, requiring a jump pack in any weather under 30 degrees, but today was a new low. Even with a fully-charged brand-new battery, which cranked enthusiastically for over a minute, she wasn't having any of it. I'm guessing at a frozen fuel line.

I'm going back with the jump pack in the morning to try again. It should be a bit warmer tomorrow, but I have a feeling it's going to end with a tow to my mechanic in New Hampshire. She had an appointment anyway; her arrival may just be earlier, more expensive, and higher off the surface of the road than originally intended.

This is not the first time Bee has screwed with the start of a trip. When Rogue and I went to Texas, we had the same kind of auspicious start. I wouldn't be worried at all except that she's currently stuck in a garage in a place where we no longer live and have no right to store things, and at least one of the people living there seems understandably annoyed by that.

Sledding Warmup

Skipper and Lammy do some sunset stretching atop the sledding hill.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Northampton, MA

Our friend Lammy, with whom we've been skating since 2011, invited us to stay with her for the interim days between moving out of the house and the end of my job at the post office. We showed up on Tuesday, and I was finally able to hang out by Saturday afternoon, having spent 0800 Wednesday through 0500 Saturday mostly working.

Excellent with Bengal Spice tea

On Saturday evening (which was Christmas in Moldova, according to my friend Ilona), she had her annual post-holiday holiday party. There was no caroling, despite a carefully arranged stack of songbooks in the living room, but there was a surprise leg of lamb and a spicy Indian liquor called Somrus.

Today, Sunday, is the first day I've had to relax since Thanksgiving. Even Christmas, although I didn't actually work, was just one long battle to stay awake. After brunch with Lammy's friend Leah, we threw together a hodgepodge of outdoor-ish clothing and went sledding. I throw myself down mountains on a snowboard with some regularity, but it had been many years since I'd done any sliding deliberately on my ass.

Rogue and Lammy reconnoiter

We got thoroughly snowy, walked to the Roost for coffee and board games, then returned home and made red curry, lentil stew, and quinoa for dinner.

"I'm leaving around 6," Lammy said, and I inquired as to where. "Practice!"

"Oh, right!" It's amazing how fast habits change. I've been attending practice on Sunday nights for months, and after just a few weeks it had completely slipped my mind.

Lammy, Rogue, and Wrecker enjoy winter

It feels strange not to be at work when it's dark outside. I'm readjusting to life as a day walker. Ten in the morning feels like the wee hours; 1600 is a good time for breakfast, and 2100 is lunch time. I'm curious how long it'll take me to remember that nighttime is for sleeping.

Lammy considers her next move

On the Road, -ish

As of Saturday January 7th, both of us are officially homeless, car-less, and unemployed. Ninety-nine percent of our things are locked in storage (basically everything but my snow boots, jacket, and laptop, which I'll keep on hand until we head out of New England).

Two friends' worldly possessions

I wish I could say we're all packed and ready to go, but Rogue has the exclusive rights to that one. My new Zega Mundo aluminum panniers from Touratech still aren't on the bike, because the exhaust is in the way. Bee's new battery is in a box in the living room of the house we just vacated, and my extra motorcycle is in that garage. My new tank bag arrived this week but can't go on the bike until I get access to my power drill, which I locked into storage on Tuesday, not realizing it would be needed for any purpose; even the pannier racks go on with hand tools. Bee is still short one back tire and one inspection sticker. In other words, I'm laughably unprepared, and we're leaving on Saturday.

Five days? Five measly blocks of 24 hours? Plenty. The only reason all this crap is still undone is that I was working too many hours to accomplish it, but now that my schedule is open, it's time to kill the to-do list. The only problem is that is snowed AGAIN yesterday and the back roads are like skating rinks. The one year I try to go car-less until the end of December is of course the first white Christmas we've had in fifteen years.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Roller Derby Sabbatical

In the post Roller Derby Rebels, I outlined our plan to bring our skates and do a skating-nomad thing, bouncing around to practices with various leagues. Unfortunately the packing process has turned out a little tighter than anticipated, and the skates aren't going to fit.

We're both pretty disappointed by this. I can't imagine being without my skates for a year or more. They've become part of my identity in the almost-six years I've been putting them on multiple times a week and zooming around in circles.

Sometimes sacrifices have to be made to move forward. This retirement is temporary; I love derby too much to quit forever. But for the immediate future, we're replacing eight wheels with two.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Countdown

Things have been frantic around here. The day after Thanksgiving I started a seasonal job as a mail handler for the Post Office. That was in addition to my 20 weekly hours at Mutual Aid, so I've been working about 70 hours a week doing both days and overnights. At any given time I'm either working, sleeping, eating, or on my way to work, and I'm seldom sleeping.

What's that? I'm packing, moving, and getting on the bike indefinitely starting in a few days? I think I forgot. I didn't have time to worry about it, really. I'm walking 8-12 miles a night, working 12 hour shifts, failing to eat enough to keep from losing a whole pants size, trying to get a nap in here and there and OH SHIT the bike needs a brake job and the new luggage racks don't fit and the new lights are wired wrong and the heated hand grips are still in the living room and her back tire is shot and won't pass inspection and, look out the window, it's fucking snowing for the third time this week. I woke up 30 hours ago but I don't have time for sleep now so I'm sucking down my 6th cup of coffee today, which might explain why on the rare occasion I get to lie down in a bed I spend half that time awake staring at the ceiling and talking to myself.

Brake job and mud!

It's almost over. I've got three more days of this, for a grand total of six weeks. We fit all our stuff into storage yesterday, which was a miracle; we have a shared 5x10 unit and it's stacked all the way to the ceiling. The luggage still isn't mounted to the bike because the exhaust is in the way of the right rack. The top box is on the bike, the side bags are in the back of the rental car, and the tank bag is in the mail, scheduled for delivery today. The brake job is done, the oil change is done, and the tire and inspection sticker are waiting at Full Throttle for Bumblebee to roll in.

There were holidays in there somewhere...I spent Christmas barely awake with my family, and New Year's weekend at the warehouse. A friend at work squinted at me when I told him I'd been awake for 35 hours and said, "How the hell do you do that? I'd be doing so much cocaine to get through that."

"COFFEE," I answered, twitching. Staying awake for multiple days is, as my friend Nate reminded me, "A good way to get in touch with your inner psycho." The last two weeks have involved a lot of screaming in the car, which is better than screaming at coworkers, or so I've been told.

On Saturday it ends. I'll be done with both jobs just in time to attend Lammy's holiday party, and on Sunday we'll head for my mom's place to hang out for a few days. From there we wait for passable weather and then bolt for the south. Coming down from this insanity to no schedule at all is probably going to be a nasty shock, but the beach weather in Florida is calling.