Rendezvous with the Rain Saturday 24 April 2021 My nemesis! Dark and dreary days. Pissing rain incessantly. Gloomy days generally defeat me. They too often break my spirit. I'm sick of it. Tried to get an early start. Almost said screw it. Finally I mustered enough motivation to load up a few things into the panniers and take the GSA out for a shakedown ride. The ride is always worthwhile once underway (and sometimes even better) ... I know this ... but it's so hard for me to get started when I know that magical fireball in the sky will not be making an appearance. No music today. It's been a tough winter on me; they all are. Need to clear my head and find my center. Smell the fresh, cool, humid air. Take deep breaths. Watch the raindrops ball up and dance across my visor. Barton Park (just past Barton Pond): Stopped into the park because I spotted a plastic portable john. As I was getting back on my bike, the river caught my eye. Better go explore this nook before departing. Cool view. But then a trail showed itself. I'd follow it under a couple of bridges to Barton Pond Dam. Wow! Never even knew all this was here. Flew by it a hundred times. Change the pace and new rewards are bestowed upon thee. This dam is responsible for creating Barton Pond which in turn is responsible for providing most of the cities (Ann Arbor) drinking water. This photogenic, green-energy producing landmark was completed in 1913. The roof is composed of bright, green, ceramic tiles. Standing on the damn while looking down river and towards Huron River Drive and away from Barton Pond: Detail of intricate brick and glass work: Mud Lake Picnic Area has been blocked off. I'm pissed about that. We keep loosing special places that we need to unwind. Brewed up a cup of coffee in the new "Go" and ate my lunch in the approach. Guess that will be my break spot now; the big rock with the somewhat flat top does make a nice seat. Did ride around the rocks to have some fun with the GSA but don't want to get caught hanging out in there by the authorities as I've received a ticket in this general area years ago. This day would present an opportunity for the first usage of the new Aeropress “GO” after recently incorporating it into my kit. What's not to like: Same great performance in a more compact kit. You can nest some filters along with the scooper inside the hollow body of the plunger and the whole press nests inside the included cup! Won’t have to necessarily haul my old stainless steel hobo cup around anymore. Although, being a sentimental guy … it will be missed. That damn cup has been all over the country with me. Followed a finger of land down to a marshy area and into a stand of cedars (arbor vitae's, I believe) to utilize natures lavatory. Nearby was a dead raccoon. He was wedged into the crook of a cedar tree at my eye level. Odd. His stench covered up mine. Didn't see another bike on the road today. Other than a gaggle of adventure bikes riding past me on a gravel road as I was brewing a coffee. First time I've run a TKC80 on a GSA. Just the front for now. It's an exceptionally low mileage take-off from Kenny's bike, as he went to a smooth road-oriented Dunlop. Now that he has a KTM 790 and 250 he has relegated his GSA primarily to road service. I'm really liking the front TKC80. It seems to feel smoother at Interstate speeds as compared to the Shinko 804. Better grip in the dirt and gravel as well. I'm still running the Mita's E07 on the rear; it won't wear out. Over the winter I had to sort out my front steering stabilizer. The clamp on the fork leg had not enough tension and would slightly rock and shift in position on the higher resistance settings. I'd realized this last fall in Manistee National Forest when it was emitting a creaking sound while steering hard after I'd cranked up the adjustable dial in an effort to mitigate some of the front wheel oscillations in the dreaded sand. A bit of deft file work on the ears of one side of the aluminum clamp and reassembly had the apparatus locked down tight. Also had to raise the toolbox and tighten up my rear spring preload and compression. Was using all of the 8.7" of rear travel (as at times this GSA gets worked hard while fully loaded) and the bleeder valve on the rear caliper surprisingly kissed the bottom of the toolbox at some point last fall. The bleeder nipple dented the bottom of the aluminum tool box before breaking off; it didn't loosen or leak though. Eventually I will replace it, but I don't anticipate having to bleed the rear brakes any time soon. Contrasts Split between a lush, green, hilly meadow and the yellow, harvested, stubble of a corn field - a cluster of trees forms an arbor over a wet, dirt road. Pay attention to the details. Don't ride past life in oblivion. In pursuit of the art of vision. Gazing out across the vast bird sanctuary while standing at the observation point, the guy in the truck who walked out just before me with binoculars in hand came up to me and inquired about the bike. I'm not great with names upon initial greetings, but am almost certain his was Nathan. He seemed different (in a good-natured way) and asked about the bike initially … but then inquired as to what I'm about; what I'm doing, where I'm from. It happened to be one of those days where the chemistry was right and by this point of the ride I was at peace and clear-minded. We were standing at the edge of a vast, grassy bird sanctuary - in a light drizzle - while the cacophony of ancient sandhill cranes echoed behind our position. This brought about a magical flow of conversation. He’d recently been living out in Montana, then moved back to Michigan (Farmington Hills or Birmingham) and mentioned something about architecture school. Then he sorrowfully informed me that he’d recently gone through a divorce. They have a young daughter and his ex-wife is doing her best to make things difficult for him and deviously trying to limit the time he gets to spend with his daughter. He mentioned recently getting into riding and that he had a pair of Honda XR600's. He expressed a desire to get deeper into travel and adventure and was wanting to know more about this lone, older, guy in the faded suit - riding a GSA with panniers plastered with stickers - who was out riding dirt roads on a gloomy, rainy Saturday afternoon. So, I opened up and started sharing all kinds of information about what makes me tick. My background, who I am, what I do, the path that led to me doing what I do, various experiences, juggling family, work, and moto-travel, long-distance riding, my psychology, and so on. Essentially, I rattled off an overview or quick summary of the life and times of Gas Guy. He was fascinated with my story and assured me that he was also inspired. Now, I reassure you that I don't preach or try to persuade or feel the need to be right about anything. For me, it's simply expressing and sharing who I am and some of my experiences. To each his own. I'm open-minded and understand that my ways are subjective. They are mine. I know I’m different … I hear it most everyday. I've no affiliations and simply go to work everyday providing a skilled service for an hourly wage. Nothing changes for me in that regard. That allows me to be myself as much as humanly possible in today's world. I sleep well. Nathan recognized and appreciated that fact. I'm of the mind that there is no answer. Mankind has always been - and always will be - in chaos. Finally ... I accept that. Not that I condone it, or celebrate it - but it's beyond my control. I'm accountable for me. He seemed incredulous that I'd just take off on a bike and explore the country in various capacities over the last couple of decades and was trying to grasp or formulate what that would entail; the wheels were turning! I made it clear that the only way I'd experienced the majority of my adventures was by neglecting other aspects of life. Everything comes at a cost. Everything is a trade-off. You have to choose. You have to find the right balance that works for who you are and your circumstances. And your choices are not necessarily right. They are just yours. You live with them. You have to live with yourself. This led into a quick summary of my younger years: Solid family life early on in rural Ohio in which I'd be showered with love from an incredibly special mother and grandmother. A unique father who was wild but sober until 30-years-old. Then drugs, alcohol, and violence ensued - breaking up the family. My father and I ended up on the road between Toledo, Detroit Metro, Western Michigan, and Greater Los Angeles. Lots of hard times, hunger, and homelessness. Staying here and there; other peoples houses, cheap cockroach motels, running cars, abandoned cars, parks. I'd only go to 9th-grade. Prior to this I’d known my mom’s side of the family had been blessed with artistic talent. But now it was becoming increasingly clear that my father was also an artist - a con artist! Then on my 17th birthday I’d join the Army Infantry. Mind you - I chose the infantry, even though I had the aptitude (as proven by my ASVAB scores) to pursue anything available; oh my … the look of horror and disbelief when I made the non-negotiable statement to the recruiter that I’d be a combat soldier or nothing. He was incredulous! Did two hardship tours on the DMZ in Korea during the Cold War and the remainder of my active duty in the States. Out after 3-years and just turned twenty. Back bumming around with my father. Years of cement work followed. The old fashioned way - with a sledge hammer, pry-bar, shovels, and wheel barrows. Only equipment we had was a dump truck. Everything was done by hand. We even hand finished every inch of flat work on knee-boards. How I became tired of starving in the winter and then pursued wrenching on automobiles so I'd have consistent work year round. How I believe in technology and progress - but only to a point. It's my belief that we've exceeded that point ... to our own future detriment. We touched on Carl Jung, the shadow, introspection, repressed emotions and how I've a bottomless pit of them due to experiencing so much instability, violence and loss while not yet sophisticated enough to deal with it and the horrific insecurities it had imparted in my psyche that I struggle with to this day. Then the Anima and Animus, ego, and associated deep psychology stuff. He was familiar and interested. How my mind never stops spinning. How I'm restless and have a weird relationship with time; how it feels as if it's slipping away at an accelerated pace; I've felt this most of my life. How I'd narrowly escaped death a couple of times in Korea; once when I punched out a double-pained glass window in the barracks, cutting an artery and leaving the room looking like a mass murder took place. After a pressure dressing was applied, a helicopter ride from the DMZ to Seoul was the next order-of-business - in the middle of the night. As I sat defiantly while the doctor cleaned the gaping wound of glass after sewing up the artery, he was in disbelief that I'd never lost consciousness after loosing so much blood. He said I was lucky to be alive. Then the night I overdosed in a primitive, third-world-like, mountain village at the tail end of a binge involving ample amounts of drugs and alcohol and not a lick of sleep or food for days-on-end. Felt everything going wrong (the world closing in ... fast) and managed to just get into a room and lock the door behind me before a 12-hour fight for my life ensued. Just to be clear, when on duty, I over performed and my leaders loved me, but when off-duty - I couldn't flip the switch into "chill-mode" and was often a maniac. During my first tour in country I'd quickly climb in rank from E-1 to E-4 and was ready to go in front of the board for E5 before plummeting back to an E1 due to my off-duty antics. Regardless of the demotion - I'd still lead the live, night, recon patrols into the DMZ over our E-6 squad leader due to my extensive knowledge of the terrain and the locations of the scattered land mine fields remaining from the Korean War. Despite my personal issues, they had the utmost faith in me when out in the field. How I was raised close to nature and animals … with a natural mindset. How nature comes first in seeking answers and understanding - while intellectualism and science are secondary. Nature doesn't lie. How I don't think humans are supposed to be inundated with the treachery of the whole world via the television, radio, and newspapers; it causes us to become neurotic at some level. We were designed to concern ourselves with our small circle; our family, friends, and neighbors. How science cannot begin to explain our feelings and motivations or humanity. The most important things that move a man cannot begin to be explained by science. How everything of the man's mind is paradoxical, hypocritical, or contradicting ... to some extent or another. How I'm spiritual rather than religious. Although I'm not opposed to religion; I believe it holds an important place for a particular portion of society and that they are better for it. But it's too traditional for me. I believe in God, but believe all of nature and the universe combined are God; the dark and the light. I don't think man has any kind of absolute grasp on religion. We don't know whether to take it literally or metaphorically. Or when one or the other is applicable. Hell ... we don't even (really) know ourselves; we’ve barely scratched the surface. I don't trust man's interpretations or traditions. The trust of my soul will be placed with how the universe moves me intuitionally (in spiritual matters) as an individual and not what man has dictated over time to the masses. How I often lose faith in humanity, but then I meet someone special and it's restored ... temporarily. How everyday is a struggle. Life has always been easy for me physically and mentally, but challenging emotionally. We all have some form of struggle. We are all trying to navigate this broken world. How I never stop battling to glean lessons and build strength from unfortunate events. Life is supposed to be hard. How (I think) we think we choose all of our actions and are in control all the time, but how I believe this is limited. We often have it backwards. For the most part we are who we are, we do what we do. Then we rationalize it ... after the fact, or perhaps simultaneously; on the fly. We justify it and don't even realize it. We spin it to fit. We think we are in control and only make our choices after careful consideration; this pleases our ego. How my mother died at 39-years-old (and is the last person you'd expect to die that young) when I was 21-years-old. Yet my father is now 73, when I didn't think he'd make it out of his 40's. There is no figuring out the nature of these things out. If you're born to hang … you will never drown. How my social skills were compromised (lately I'm thinking that may be an attribute) from such an unconventional (teenage) life and that for a long time I'd hardened myself (out of necessity) and held things inside until they exploded in moments of anger. Silence or rage was the rule for a long period of time. More was touched on that doesn't come to mind at the moment. Generally, I write much better than I speak, but today the words flowed seamlessly. Some kind of introduction! We walked the short trail back to our vehicles and as we were exchanging farewells, Nathan reinforced how inspiring our conversation was and that he never thought he would meet someone like me. I was blown away. Hopefully our discussion helps him with his current domestic struggles. No sooner had I finished this report and checked on-line to watch the highlight reel of Kamaru Usman starching Jorge Masvidal with a vicious right hand in the main event, then my wife walked into the living room and informed me that she thinks our eldest Australian Shepherd had just taken his last breath - at one o' clock in-the-morning. After confirmation and some sorrowful conversation, it was out to dig a hole in the backyard in the middle-of-the-night with a camp light strapped to my forehead. Hope the neighbors were not up ... and if they were, hope they didn't hear the wife and I fighting recently. It was foggy, damp, and quiet after the day of rain. Almost a full moon. Weird ... it was deja vu from when I'd buried Chevy Smith (German Shepherd) also in the rain, many years ago, back in that same area of the yard. Always reminds me of when I was a kid burying one of our dogs, with my mom, in rural Ohio. They always got hit by cars and we'd go through the solemn act of burial in the yard. She loved animals more than anyone I've ever known. She loved them so much that she wouldn't tie them up or cage them ... even for their own safety. She knew they needed to run the fields and forest. They needed to be free. Sometimes when it rains ... it pours.