Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Today, because there is only one day of school left before the winter break, I read my kids Polar Express. And then, after lunch, we watched the movie based on the book.
When the movie was over there was still about a half hour left of school. Feeling the need for something academic, I placed the DVD case and the book at the front of the classroom and asked my students, “What are the differences between these?”
Many eager hands shoot up. In the front is the hand of a child who is pulled out for special ed. classes for most of the day. I like to give him a chance to answer when he is in class. It makes him feel good and the other kids are impressed when he gets something right. It helps them see him in a different light. And I felt like this was a pretty easy question. Therefore, he is the one who should start off the discussion.
“Yes, child. What are the differences between the two?”
The child is confident. There is no hesitation in his response. Pointing, “That one’s a movie and that one’s a book. And that one’s bigger.”



Sunday, December 13, 2009


Tiger Woods must feel bad! He must show us that he feels bad in many public acts of contrition! He must lower his walls and allow us to investigate his life and judge him for his indiscretions! He shall grovel before us, The Public, and beg forgiveness for his sins.
Why? Every article on Tiger now that isn’t on TMZ is turning its focus on how Tiger can salvage his image. How can Tiger come back from this horrible setback? Most agree he must go on television, give interviews, cry on Orpah. And nearly all have written his script for him already. So many articles say, “Tiger should go on television and say this, ‘I am so sorry. I have disappointed my mother and myself. I love my wife very much and…blah, blah, blah.’ When he does that, the Public will be on their way to forgiving him.” But, if/when he does that those same spaces will be filled with people disbelieving him. “Tiger didn’t sound very sincere to me.” Gee, really? Ya think?
Tiger needs to apologize to his wife. That is an understatement. Tiger does not need to apologize to me. The fake concern that everyone is showing is not about his private life, which he has managed to keep very, very private and because of that we know little about until now, but is instead about his commercial life. That computer generated golfer on the razor commercial had mistresses! Well, then I am certainly not buying those shaving-aids! No sir. I have standards. That’s why I shop at Walmart.
Tiger Woods is a golfer. Perhaps the greatest ever. Certainly one of the most dominant athletes in any sport in history. Jordan-level. Gretzky-level. But I seem to have missed that extra patch on his green jacket that reads, “Also World’s Greatest Husband.” Must be on the inside somewhere.
I’ve maintained many times that our expectation level of celebrity, especially athletes, is higher than any normal person can hope to achieve. I think it is so high on purpose, that way they are certain to fall at some point. Tiger was special. He was on everybody’s This Guy Will Never Be Involved In A Scandal list. Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning also belong on that list. (Seriously, how much would you love/be shocked by “Peyton Manning Involved in Prostitution Ring” and “Tebow Accused of Dealing Heroin” headlines? How long would that story have legs? Two months? Four?) We are shocked! Overly shocked. Hyperbolically shocked. Hypocritically shocked. A famous person slept around! Oh golly gee, what will the children think?
Imagine if Tiger played basketball or football and this same thing happened. Suddenly not so shocking. Imagine he was a musician. Steve Tyler cheated on his wife! *Gasp!* Why was the standard set so high for Tiger? Because he was so ensconced in his own Cone of Silence. He never gave interviews and always wanted his privacy. How dare he be famous for something that doesn’t involve talking and not talk to us. Ha! How the mighty have fallen! We’ve got you now!
Here’s what I think Tiger should do: Ignore us. Skip a tourney to beg forgiveness from his wife. Then do what he does best, win golf games. Win a major or two. We will forget. Remember how we loathed A-Rod for the pictures? No? The World Series hero? Never. Remember Stone Cold beat his wife? No? The WWE champ? Never. You think I could go on forever. You’re right.
The Public doesn’t care about morality. The Public wants to look like we care about morality. You’re an athlete. Do your job. Win. Win and we will forgive you. Like you need our forgiveness.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cantaloupe Allergies

Some time ago I was hanging out with a group of friends and friends of friends and near us, on a table, there was a bowl of mixed fruit, as there so often is. And, as a group is want to do, we gravitated towards the food. After all, even if you aren’t all that hungry, a group of people makes you want to eat. Or is that just me? Anyway, the fruit prompted a side discussion among two people I barely knew. I overheard the slimmest part of that conversation, “No, I can’t eat cantaloupe. I’m allergic. It makes my mouth all itchy.” My ears perked up. Cantaloupe makes my mouth all itchy! I’m allergic to cantaloupe? So I in, “Excuse me. Hi. You say that you’re allergic to cantaloupe and it makes your mouth itchy? Me too!” And just like that, the two of us had bonded.

How often does that happen, I wonder. How often do two people form a small, silly, basically insignificant bond over some random commonality? Sudden this person and I were able to talk more freely. We nodded at each other when our paths crossed for the remainder of the evening as if to say, “I see you, my cantaloupe-intolerant friend.” Would I call this person and ask to hang out later? No. Would I help this person move? Probably not. But I would nod at them in passing and exchange a few pleasantries. After all, they are like me. They too, are allergic to cantaloupe.

I bring this up because recently I started a new writing project with my students. Firs, I told them the cliché about every snowflake being different from every other snowflake ever. Then I called them snowflakes and told them that they are different, somehow, some way, different, than every other person that is, was, or ever will be born. I know, big concepts, right? (By the way, seeing yourself as an individual is not in the standards so keep this between us, all right? Thanks.) I challenged them to make a list (teacher-to-parent translation: I ordered them to make a list) of ten things that make them different. Not physical things like I’m tall or I have black hair. Physical similarities or differences are meaningless. I wanted them to think on more inside things, self-reflective things. This is not easy for an eight-year old. I told them that if they worked really hard on their lists then when they were done they would have a list that was not exactly the same as anyone else in the room. In fact, it wouldn’t be exactly the same as anyone else ever.

I did one too. I tried to show them they should be creative. My list has things like, “I play the air drums whenever I hear any music, no matter where I am.” And “Sometimes when I’m walking somewhere, I walk like a monster for a few feet just to mix things up.” (Both true.)Eight year olds come up with lists like, “I like baseball” and “I love cats”, so some fine tuning took place. More details please. What kind of baseball? To play or watch or both? What team? What kind of cats? You take care of them? Just like pictures of them? Why in the world would you like cats, they are evil creatures? You know, teacher questions.

In the end, all of their snowflake lists are different. Ten things that are, as a whole, unlike ten things any of the other 22 students with them came up with. They may have lists that are similar in nine out of ten ways, but that last way makes them special. And if I increased the challenge (assignment) to 100 things, I know the differences would be even more pronounced.

What does this have to do with my being allergic to cantaloupe? This: I believe we should be proud of our differences. I spent a lot of time when explaining this lesson trying to help my students see that they shouldn’t want their lists to be the same as anyone else’s. Homogony is boring. How we are different makes us who we are. One student said, “I don’t want to say the same things as everyone else. I want to say different stuff. My own stuff.” Exactly, child! But now I’m thinking, and if I had older kids with better critical thinking skills, and more time with which to do so I would challenge them to write about this too, what about how those similarities make us feel?

See the disaffected youth at a Marilyn Manson concert. The unifying theme? No One Gets Me! No one, that is, except for the 15 thousand paying fans surrounding me. Except for them, I’m all alone. But I’m part of a group that is all alone. Together, we are all alone! And that makes those fans feel better. They feel like their snowflake lists do not resemble anyone else’s. And maybe for some of them that is true for nine out of the ten things on their lists. But they have that one thing in common.

Picture an ocean with islands floating on it. You see individuals. Cross-section that image, look beneath the water. Each of those islands is linked to a surface deep below the waves. Connected, but separated by oceans. (I know this geologically doesn’t hold water, but metaphorically it works pretty well.)

Beyond the physical, I am different from you and that is wonderful. It makes me an I and you your own I. But no matter how different from you I am, we have some little thing in common. Some place that makes us the same and can make our two I’s a We. Do have to like you just because you’re allergic to cantaloupe? Of course not. But it does change you from a face to a person. I’m forced to see some part of myself in you and, in doing so, make you more real. If I, if we, could just see the I and the We in each of Us, it would make life on this planet a whole lot more pleasant, without making it any less interesting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Advance Copy of Next Week's House episode

Through secret contacts in Hollywood (Olivia Wilde has a crush on me and sends me all kinds of stuff), I have managed to procure next week's House script. Spoiler Alert!

Scene: House's office. House, Foreman, Chase, Wilson, Cuddy, Lucas, Sick Person, Sick Person's Mother, Sick Peron's Father, Sick Person's Lover, 13, Woman For 13 to Make-Out With, and Taub present.

Forman: It's lupus!

House: It's never Lupus.The patient is lying. Check his...

Cameron enters

Cameron: I'm back.

House begins to mock her

Cameron leaves office then returns.

Cameron: I'm leaving the team.

House resumes mocking her

Cameron: I want back in. I quit.

Cameron leaves

Everyone looks at each other, waiting...

Cameron comes back

Cameron: I'm back.

Everyone stares at her, waiting...

Cameron turns and leaves

House: Anyway, give him these two simple pills and that will...

Cameron returns

Cameron: I-

Random fan bursts into office, snatches House's cane and beats her to death with it screaming

Random Fan (screaming): Diagnose this, bitch! Make up your damn mind already!

Random fan runs off in search of writer' offices

Roll Credits

I don't know about all of you out there in TV land, but I smell Emmy gold!

Monday, August 17, 2009


I’ve had something to say about this for two years, I think. But I’ve never really gotten around to it. Too many other voices chiming in. Dog fighting and football, passionate subjects. Lots of sides.
Should Michael Vick be allowed to play professional football again?
Yes. Why not? He broke the law, he went to jail (for longer than I thought he was going to go), served his time, and is out. Done. None of that has anything to do with football. How many pro athletes break the law? How many are still allowed to play? Plaxico shot himself in the leg in a nightclub. He could have killed someone. He’s playing. (Ed. Note: No he's not. He's going to jail. Just saw the news. Ignore this example.) No one cares. Vick killed dogs. Brutally. Has nothing to do with football.
The dog thing clouds the issue. Killing dogs makes people sick, even putting down a sick one is a rough choice, one I don’t want to make. Dogs are members of people’s families, more than just pets. Does any of this have anything to do with his ability to play professional football?
“But Doug,” you say, “as a pro athlete he’s a role model. Kids will look up to him.” Kids will look up to Vick, see that he went to jail for dog fighting, and organize their own dog fighting rings? Is that what you are saying? What about the redemption aspect of the whole thing? He’s seen the error of his ways and made a change. Americans love that. We love it when the bad guy becomes a good guy. One word: Vader. (Yeah, I just slipped Star Wars into a conversation about football and Michael Vick. Booyah.) Not all athletes are roll models. Some are just guys in a uniform playing a game for money. I’d bet a lot of these guys are assholes. I’d bet a lot of these guys are jerks. I’d bet I wouldn’t want to know them. But will I cheer for Randy Moss’ cocky ass when he scores the winning TD? Sure will. Twice as hard if its against the Cowboys. Kids are pretty smart, they rarely get credit for that. They know when someone isn’t cool. And there are these other people who should really be doing their best to talk to the kids and help them see why they maybe shouldn’t put a poster of certain people on their wall. What are those people called? Oh yeah, parents.
But should he be allowed to play what is basically a children’s game? Of course. If you sign them, fans will come.
He’s playing in Philly! Those fans threw snowballs at Santa! Look it up. He couldn’t have picked a tougher market to play in. Those fans are evil! But you know what they are going to do? Buy tickets so that they can boo him. You know what Eagles marketing is going to do? Count their money.
What do I think? I don’t like him. I think he should be stripped naked, covered in Alpo, and dropped into a cage full of angry Dobys. I don’t know if the apology is sincere. An awful lot of people find Jesus in jail. I think that’s where He must be hanging out. But that’s why I ain’t in charge. I’d punish Nickleback the same way, just for sucking so bad. In our system, you do the crime, you serve your time, you move on. Watch that last step though, it’s a doozy.
“But Doug,” you say, “if you did what he did you wouldn’t get your job back. Ha! Defend that.” I’m a teacher. My job is to mold young minds. (Go ahead, let that marinate for a minute. The awesome responsibility in my hands. Bwahahaha.) I should be a role model. I should be on the righteous straight and narrow. I should be someone the kids look at and want to be like. They are around me every day. I’m on my best behavior at school because I want them to see what a grown man should be like. I teach. If I had a dog fighting ring I’d lose my job and rightfully so, because my job is to teach. His job is to throw a piece of leather through the air to another grown man in a costume, who will them run from other grown men in costumes, and then do a little dance at the end of that run, celebrating his ability to run faster than someone else for 15 yards.
If he bugs you so much don’t watch the Eagles play. I’ll make it easy for you: This season they will get to the NFC Championship game and lose. Again. But don’t have a double standard. Look up the bio of every player on every team, find out what they’ve done in their past, and run it through your moral filter to see if they are worthy of your viewing time. Make sure you do it with the other sports too. (Manny juiced, so did the rest of the ’03 Sox, and most of the MLB is Canseco is to be believed. I say juiced, not cheated, because it wasn’t against the rules in ’03. Jordan had a gambling problem. Kobe cheated on his wife. Artest is an asshole. Tiger curses like a sailor every time he misses a shot. Beckam…married a Spice Girl.) Might as well check your library (most of the great authors in there were either miserable people, drunks, or both). And don’t forget your music collection. (Awww, no more Crue. Vince killed a guy.) All of those people are people we’ve been told we look up to. Do we? I don't. I doubt you do. "But think about the children!" I do, and they ain't that dumb.
Vick will play. He will be booed. He’ll be ok, not great. Personally, I’ve never been wowed by him. He’s better than some, not as good as others. He’ll show the public a remorseful face. Whether you choose to do what, I assume, Jesus would do and forgive him is up to you.
But should the man be allowed to play a game? Of course. That’s not the real issue. The real issue is clouded by tufts of bloody fur. How could someone do that? How can we forgive that?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Border to Border Ride Conclusion

12 days, 8 states, 3 countries, 4 bikes, 4000+ miles. You can’t beat a plan that outlines like that. We know the numbers aren’t entirely accurate now. 4 bikes did start, and they were all ridden in each state and country, but only three finished under their own power. Eh, close enough. And we didn’t actually ride in Mexico, but it wasn’t really worth the hassle to go that extra 50 feet. We got to the gate, we looked over into another country, more than many Americans do. I call it, we were there.
We took a few GPS-led detours, which gave us different insights into the same places. We saw things both natural and man-made that dropped our chins to the gas tanks and made us scramble for a turn out so we wouldn’t miss it. I found a new favorite road, and then a few days later replaced it with another new favorite road. Not as pretty maybe, but the best, purest road any of us had ever traveled.
Over 12 days three of us got sick, one not so bad and two pretty bad. We fell in love with Canada and its polite people and clean…well, everything. We stuck out in Idaho, ventured into Montana, sparked pegs in every state, and Too Good earned a new nickname (Pokey).
It was an incredible ride, full of everything any of us could have asked for and more. We were safe, the mechanical difficulties were at least timely, and at the most hilarious, and we rode like bikers, not weekend warrior chumps. We got twisted, got silly, got sick, got robbed by Indians, got attacked by Urban Assault Vehicles, and came out unscathed on the other side with pink tattoos, air fresheners, stickers, and a condom to show for it, along with incredible numbers on our personal odometers.
I see I never mentioned how we would shout from bike to bike, “Squirrel!” and point. You always knew someone saw a squirrel when an arm shot out to the side. I didn’t talk about how we would rev our engines at a stop to let the rest of the group know that we were about to jump to lightspeed, or how the bike in front or in the back would get bored and give a little wiggle of the handlebars and that wiggle would snake its way all the way up (or back) to the other bikes, somehow always missing Lillypad’s. Or how we would sometimes pull up next to a cager on the phone and pretend to text, or dial. I didn’t mention how I drank so much blue Poweraid I was sure it was going to start finishing the cycle blue too. I barely touched on the food we ate, and got fat on. Road food is yummy, but it sure ain’t healthy. Or how the first thing Too Good does when he enters a hotel room is turn on the TV, and the first thing Stitches does when she enters a hotel room behind Too Good is grinds her teeth. No, this journal was mostly about the ride, written at the end of each day as Too Good slept or watched TV, as Stitches knitted or slept, with the moon rising outside and sleep threatening to take over.
Six inches from Earth. What a great way to see the country.

Border to Border Ride Day 12

Day Twelve

Start – Menlo Park, CA 9:50am

End – Simi Valley, CA 7:05pm

The final day. We knew it when we set out, 4000 miles and then pau, no more trip. We joked about just doing it backwards, turning around and heading back to Canada like hippies during the draft. Or to Iowa and the birthplace of Captain James Tiberius Kirk. But we had to head south and finish what we started, though one bike and two riders lighter.

Too Good’s parents had been wonderful to us the night before and fed us again this morning. It was great to see my friends too. Missed them. The girls, Lillypad and Stitches, left in the U-Haul, taking the shorter, more boring route, and we headed towards the coast. (Ed. Note: The doctor’s verdict on Stitches sickness- a asthma attack which had been going on for three days. She’s a tough chick, barely complained, and she couldn’t breathe! Almost makes me glad Lillypad’s bike broke down. Her shoulder has been slowly getting worse as well. A bad thing that couldn’t have happened at a better time.)

It got cold and foggy fast and it wasn’t long before we pulled over to layer up. (Ed. Note: I was cold, I hadn’t put on my jacket before we left. I wasn’t about to pull a Sidekick and stop us because I was a little chilly. Luckily, even heated grips are no match for Bay Area chills. Machismo rules!) Our coastward commute was otherwise uneventful and soon we reached the 1. Like yesterday, northern and central California’s coastline is more foreboding than friendly, but even the twisties today weren’t all that difficult. We’re weathered veterans of all kinds of roadways by now, we can do this road with one hand. In fact, I did just that for most of the day. Why not? Easy day.

The only drama came from the cager corner. Kalifornia drivers are officially the worst of any of the eight states we spent time in. They don’t get out of the way, they don’t look around, and that new cell phone law is working real well. (Ed. Note: I could have texted this entire journal and no cops would have noticed.) So we were impatient and leap-frogged past a dozen too-slow-for-us drivers down the 1. (Ed. Note: That, by the way, is both fun and scary. Two lane highways on the coast are not meant for passing. All the more reason to get your gigantic helping-the-terrorists-win tank out of my way.) That’s exciting. Nerve-wracking. But exciting.

After paying $4.00/gallon for petrol in Big Sur (Ed. Note: Isn’t it nice that we can complain about $4.00 gas because it’s rare again?) we got back on it. At some point in the last few days I developed a new law: The Coastal Road Rule. This Rule states that if a road follows exactly the coast it shall be a fun motorcycle road. (Ed. Note: I live in Hawaii, thou shalt not question the Coastal Rod Rule.) However, the Coastal Road Rule comes complete with the Coastal Road Rule Corollary: This Rule can, and will, be rendered null and void by any number of things up to and including weather, rock slides, random acts of nature and, as always and most often, idiotic acts of cagers. Damn cagers spoil everything.

Honestly though, we’ve been pretty lucky as far as cagers go. The last two days have been by far the worst (Ed. Note: Though the start of Utah was by far the scariest). Like I mentioned yesterday, we were not around too many cars for most of the trip so it’s an unpleasant awakening.

Outside of San Simeon we stopped to check out the elephant seals that congregate on the beach near Hearst Castle. Cool. Stitches would have liked it. Too Good also met the bravest squirrel in the history of ever. He must have been the head-chief squirrel. (Ed. Note: The bull goose squirrel? “I wanna watch the World Series of Nut Gathering Nurse Ratchet! Raise your paw chief!) Came right up to Too Good’s boots and looked him in the eye. Too Good was mildly concerned about a rogue squirrel attack. Thankfully, the squirrel moved on peacefully and an interspecies incident was avoided. (Ed. Note: Because it has to be done, and was done constantly… SQUIRREL!)

It got more depressing from there. The 1 and the 101 used to be my backyard and, as such, are familiar roads. Sad to be back where I know where I am. I liked being surprised. That’s when I knew it was over.

Bad highway hypnosis for the very end, straight freeway, some traffic, and on into Simi Valley. Not the best ride of the trip, but you can’t argue with a 400+ mile day at the end of a 12 day trek. It’s good to be back…and not. I want to go again.

407 miles today

4131 miles total*

*All mileage based on the trip on my bike. Papa Rocket’s numbers are a little different. Close enough for bikers.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Border to Border Ride Day Eleven

Day Eleven
Start – Fort Bragg, CA 8:10am
End – Menlo Park, CA 2:25pm
The penultimate day, also the easiest and shortest day of the trip. After the road last night everything else will pale. It’s too bad about that too, because Hwy 1 is a long, pretty road. (Ed. Note: Ok, now my awe-meter is just about burned out.)
When we left the fog was thick, blanketing the coast, but not so much as to make riding difficult. Just enough for atmosphere. The 1 is called the Shoreline Highway up here and it’s easy to see why. It literally follows the coast. On one side, cliff doooooown to the ocean (Ed. Note: Just FYI, when I typed that I made a little whistling noise like Wile E. Coyote makes when he falls. Now you do it.) and on the other, trees or hills. It’s a twisted road and fun to ride, with nice sweepers mixed in with hairpins and climbers. Little cage trouble for most of the day. Everyone got out of the way. Too bad the girls are still stuck in the truck. Glad Stitches is headed straight for the doctor though.
So it’s still just the three boys, Too Good blazing trail and Papa Rocket flying tail-gunner so he can fall back and then roll on his throttle to catch up. (Ed. Note: Because playing with a big engine is fun! Weeee!) I was mentally geared up for a rough, twisted day. I’d seen a mileage sign for a town with the greatest name ever, Gualala (Ed. Note: Say it out loud, you know you want to.), and it triggered a flood of memories. My first long ride ever, over four years ago and less than a year since I had started riding, had found me up in Gualala. (Ed. Note: No, I didn’t mean to end up there. I’d gotten lost on the way, but in the good way. Part of the purpose of the ride was to get a little lost and come home. It was a great ride.) To my novice skill set the 1 was a terrible, challenging, mean amalgamation of 15mph turns and steep climbs. It wore me out. I was preparing myself to face it again as Gualala approached.
Talk about anti-climactic. It was kind of twisted, but nothing awful. Not at all the road which had taken up legendary status in my memories. Disappointing really. (Ed. Note: I was keyed up for this really intense road for miles, and I just kept waiting for it. It was like going to a Will Ferrell movie. You have heard it’s going to be funny so you sit and wait for it, ready to laugh…but you never get to laugh. Just chuckle once at one of the other actors every twenty minutes or so.) It was neat to see Gualala again. Cute little town. After an aborted lunch stop where we tried to hook up with Stitches and Lillypad, we parted ways with the U-Haul once again and lit out for Menlo Park, the birthplace of Too Good. (Ed. Note: I assume. I guess he might have been born somewhere else and they moved to Menlo Park…eh, whatever.)
I think it’s partially that we’ve spent an overwhelming amount of time riding on back roads and in small towns away from too many cars, but riding into the Bay Area was a terrible shock. These people cannot drive. They are aggressive and self-centered, blind to anyone on the road with them. Papa Rocket was nearly killed twice by the same Mercedes, its driver blithely chatting away on her phone. Love the new law! Works great! (Ed. Note: Twice! Same car. He changed lanes, she changed lanes, rinse, repeat, but farther up his pipes. Bitch.) It even infected Too Good, who learned to drive in the area. We politely gave him some tips when we stopped. (Ed. Note: “Stop driving like a fucking asshole. You’re forgetting that we are behind you, trying to ride in a group. Oh, stop crying like a little girl, this doesn’t hurt that bad. Suck it up. Seriously, stop blubbering, the pipes aren’t that hot. Smells good, though, doesn’t it?”)
For me the highlight of today’s ride was going over the Golden Gate Bridge. I’d never done it before and the fog off the bay was so thick I couldn’t see the tops of the support struts nor the end of the bridge. Very San Francisco, very how I expected it to be. (Ed. Note: That’s why no one can drive! They are all Giants fans and it’s all they can do not to drive their cars into the nearest solid object and end it all. Now it all makes sense.)
Short ride through town and, not much later, we arrive at Too Good’s parent’s house, where my friends from college were waiting. It was so great to see the and rehash the last eleven days and try to catch up with everything. I’m glad they got to meet Stitches too. Too Good’s parents were too good to us.
Tomorrow is the last day. Long ride down the Kalifornia coast. Sad, don’t want it to end. I’d ride ‘til my money ran out, (Ed. Note: Check.) then I’d work just enough to be able to ride some more. (Ed. Note: Someone get Peter Fonda on the phone!) This has been incredible.
215 miles today
3724 miles total

Monday, July 27, 2009

Border to Border Ride Day Ten

Day Ten

Start – Sutherlin, OR – 11:00am

End – Fort Bragg, CA – 9:05pm

(Ed. Note: This is, by far, the longest entry. Settle in, grab a drink. It’s a good one. Promise.)

Another late start and long day, due mostly to a change in plans from last night. The morning was spent loading Lillypad’s bike onto a U-Haul and getting her and Stitches, who rode in the truck with her today, squared away. Then the three guys were off.

A short start to an otherwise high-mileage day took us, surprisingly enough, to a casino. We blew around an hour and a half and at least $60 bucks there (I came out ahead, no one else did) (Ed. Note: I never come out ahead when gambling. This was a treat. So now, lifetime, I’m only, like, $1,000 in the hole. But most of it’s money Papa Rocket has lent to me when our rides end at a casino.). Seven Feathers ain’t no Vegas, that’s for sure. Glad Papa Rocket foots the gambling bill.

After that we headed coastward for a while, rolling through some nice high-speed sweepers on our way out of Oregon. I noticed that the three northwestern-most states don’t have the jarring differences that the other states on this trip have had. Lots of tall, green, trees. More on that later. We reached Kalifornia with little drama or difficulty.

Kalifornia did announce itself to us in one major way. As soon as we crossed the state line it said, “Welcome back! You will now have the worst maintained roads of the entire trip!” Uneven grades, potholes, and tar snakes litter the roadway and hide road demons, which pull on your tires. DOT, can you hear me? Are you out there?

Upon entering the Golden State we rode along the aptly named Redwood Highway. It is a narrow two-laner carving a path through dense trees. It also followed the aforementioned Rapids Rule, so it was a pretty sweet ride. More smooth, easy sweepers. Too many cagers though. Too Good was seeing red and muttering death threats at every stop. Damn trailers, using our road. We hates them. Seriouslys. (Ed. Note: And really, who doesn’t hate being stuck behind a trailer? But it’s worse for us, I think. We can smell all those cows they are hauling. Chickens. Fruit. Whatever. And they are even slower than normal cars! Bah!)

The highway led out to the California coast. There is nothing like the North Coast. It’s an intense and rocky stretch, not at all warm and friendly like its southern counterpart. But it makes for nice riding. (Ed. Note: Coastal riding is good. Always.)

For 30 miles or so we had been seeing signs for the Trees of Mystery and my curiosity was piqued, to say the least. (Ed. Note: You have to understand, in my helmet I was booming in a deep and menacing voice, “THE TREES OF MYSTERY!!!!” I wasn’t the only one either. Every gas stop from here on out had Too Good and I shouting it at each other. TREES OF MYSTERY! Now you say it, but like it was a bad horror movie preview. “Coming this fall…THE TREES OF MYSTERY!” Fun, yeah?) I had to know: what was so mysterious about these trees? Why do they require large, colorful billboards polluting the pristine forest? I must find out these answers. So we stopped at the Trees of Mystery parking lot. There we talked to a giant Paul Bunyan and giggled at the anatomical accuracy of his blue ox, Babe. (Ed. Note: Really, we talked to a hugemongus statue. We pulled up and I heard something so I said something along the lines of, “Did Paul Bunyan just talk to those people?” and he started my out of my chaps by replying, “Of course I talked to those people! Nice motorcycles.” Ahhhhh. It even waved at small children!) That was enough weirdness for me and we journeyed on. Guess that’s why it’s a mystery, no one can get over the talking Paul Bunyan to notice the trees.

(Ed. Note: This next part, and a part at the end of this entry, I’ve been looking forward to telling since I started typing this out.) Just past the next gas stop we decided to check out a reportedly near-by drive-through tree. Cool! I’ve never driven through a tree before! Not a ½ mile down the road something shiny bounced past Too Good’s bike, barely missing it, and then skipped past me, *bing!*. What the…? I quickly pulled over to investigate. It was (Ed. Note: wait for it…) a floorboard. Specifically, the right passenger floorboard from Papa Rocket’s spaceship. Again, the only American-made bike in the group breaks. And where is Javier? No where. Too Good and I laughed until we got tears. And then we laughed some more. (Ed. Note: You have to understand, he’d been bragging about this bike for nearly a year before he bought it. It got checked out everywhere we stopped. And it is a great bike, so solid and well-made, it really is. But you’ve gotta close your eyes and imagine riding down the road and seeing something shiny bounce past you with a metallic *ping* and realizing it’s from the most expensive bike in the group.”Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to fix that.” That was his excuse. You know when you laugh so hard that at the end you make a, “hoooooo” noise? Yeah.) It was an easy fix but good for about 50 miles of chuckles. We flew in formation behind Papa Rocket after that, hands lowered as if ready to catch the next piece of falling motorcycle. Papa Rocket was not amused. Hehe. (Ed. Note: It was one of those things that are so funny, you stop laughing about it for a few minutes then it leaps back into the front of your mind and you crack up all over again.)

We stopped for gas and snacks in Eureka. Shock, we had the munchies in Humbolt county! Yeah, us and every resident. Hey Too Good, you smell that? (Ed. Note: And we saw a chick smocking while she filled her car with gas. I…I…I…*sigh*)

We have been through some amazing stuff on this trip and seen both natural and man-made objects that have blown our minds. I really thought my awe-meter was blown out (Ed. Note: And my thesaurus). Washington, Oregon, and northern California are home to incredible forests that are breathtaking in their size and scope but after so many days of being right in the middle of it they begin looking like just so many trees. Big whoop. I was done being stunned.

Then we crested a rise and dove down among the giant redwoods of California and my jaw dropped to my gas tank. These massive and ancient trees are so large at the base four grown men would not be able to reach around them. They tower above us, taller than any building in most every town we’ve stopped in or ridden through. The Avenue of Giants renewed my sense of awe at nature. After seeing the Grand Canyon, the rock formations at Zion, and the cascading waterfalls and rushing rapids of the Salmon River, these behemoths still made me gawk like a four-year old. And I’ve been here twice before, but in a car. Never appreciated them, their sheer size and majesty. On a motorcycle, though, you do not passively observe the environment from behind glass, as if it were a display in a museum. You are a part of it, in it, among it freely. (Ed. Note: I still wish we had gotten off the highway and ridding the actual Avenue of the Giants, but we were getting on dark soon, and there was one more adventure left for us today, and it would be better done in the light. Next time.)

We rolled over dozens of bridges today too. Most of them extending over what used to be, I assume, flowing rivers. Now those rivers are mere streams and trickles. I hope this is the result of the season and not something else. It would have been cool to ride over them while water flowed bank to bank.

We finished today with the greatest 40 mile run that any of us had ever ridden. Ever. We turned off the freeway to Fort Bragg, CA, and passed a sign that said, “Narrow Winding Road Next 40 Miles.” Oh hell yes. What followed can only be described as orgasmic in its intensity. It was the most rigorous twisties I’ve ever ridden. It made me use all my skill as a rider, challenged me, and I totally got in its face. I’ve never had a rush like that. None of us has every ridden as well as we did today. We sparked the crap out of our floorboards. We bent the bikes over and came in hot and scrubbed off just enough speed to spark through again. The bikes were twisting through these corners, hot and tight, surrounded by trees, not a car on the road. It grew dark as we tore it up. (Ed. Note: At this point I’ve honestly reached a huge moment of If You’ve Never Done It, Nothing Will Explain It. There are no words for this road. The American Motorcyclist Association named it one of the Top Five roads in the country. If you don’t ride, if you’ve never been in the twisties, fear cowering in the back of your mind, confidence and aggression surging through your body, at one with the machine, you will never understand this road, no matter what I say. It was amazing. Period.) There was a stop light in the middle, just when I was starting to believe that sign really meant 40 miles of narrow winding roads, and Papa Rocket stopped, screaming, “I love this road! I love this bike! I love this road and this bike!” We were shaking, pumped full of adrenaline and jacked on power.

When we finished we had to find a turn-out and when we did we bounded from our saddles, shouting and embracing and jumping. We were shaking, high as we had ever been, one with our machines, like conquering heroes. We walked to the edge of the cliffs and looked down at the ocean crashing upon the rocks and bubbled about what we had done. It was the Perfect Ride. No cages, no problems. Zen. The feeling cannot be adequately expressed. Greatest twisties of our lives. (Ed. Note: So far. There are still four other roads on that list.)

Best stretch of road on the entire 4,000 mile trip. Incredible.

I get to see my friends tomorrow at Too Good’s. Yay! And Stitches is going to a doctor , she’s not feeling any better. Another long day. We’re almost done. I don’t wanna be done.

399 miles today

3,509 miles total