the past few days we’ve had a heat wave here. translation: consistent temperatures above 100 degrees for the bulk of the day (more like 105/106) and no clouds to help.
it’s been a rather humbling experience. I’ve talked about how in the past through my travels I’ve realize just what an animal I really am, that realization being born of Yellowstone’s late-fall cold and having days where the only thing I’m focusing on it generating heat to stay warm.
obviously here it’s the opposite, but no less humbling. I’m an animal and this heat oppresses. there is no A/C to escape into at the cabin, my defense is the rattlesnake shower and a freezer that struggles to make ice quickly enough.
so I just sit and wait. I sweat. I wish for sleep, but the heat makes that impossible too. and then, at 7:30, the sun drops behind the horizon and I feel like I can breathe again.
but today it’s broken. and I’m sitting on the porch and it’s only 95 degrees and there are clouds and the breeze is semi-cool.
hard to believe, but it’s been a month and tomorrow I leave the cabin and the desert.
this hasn’t been my most sharing month as far as the blog goes - it’s a lot different when you just sit. a lot less obvious wonder to report upon, although the wonder definitely exists in profound ways.
no, this was a month of quiet, of reflection and writing and meditating. of shifting my days with the weather’s whims (yes, even a forecast that is 92 degrees, pure sun and varying levels of wind day upon day gives you tremendous variety if you are sitting in it), learning when the birds come out and where they go. oddly engrossing.
tomorrow I moto into LA and start the prep to get Brünnhilde home. then to Florida to reunite with my truck the Black Wolf, and then a meander back to the big city.
heading home, but I think this desert will stay with me.
racing across a flat desert valley, mountains loom on both sides. cracked homes and cracked rocks scattered around, both beaten into the landscape by wind and sun.
two stops for gas, two breaks to drink a bottle of water, two random and wonderful conversations with perfect strangers.
taking my fear of riding curves head on and heading up the hills. temperatures drop, brilliant blue lakes, carefree boats and children and deep green pines… nothing like the desert below. I smelled the wet in the air. it’s been awhile.
back through the valley, the whipping winds creating an ugly dance with Brünnhilde and I. but we made it.
I read this blog post yesterday and I agree with so much of what the author writes about.
many, many times in the past year or two I’ve struggled with this bitch of an instinct to stay on the outside of my industry. it’s not always easy - I’ve watched my friends advance in the way that I always thought I would, have woken up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because I’m terrified the money will stop coming in and groaned at the monthly health insurance bill. I don’t know what I’ll be doing in a month, I don’t know where the paycheck will come from or if something horrid happens to me how I’ll manage. I just have to give it to the universe and have faith.
(super fun for a recovering control freak like me)
yet despite working with some great people and great companies, there’s something in me that won’t let me go back in (yet or ever? not sure about that yet).
reading this blog post, especially the last four paragraphs, put some words to that bitch of an instinct.
zomg, within the hour of killing the suspected desert recluse spider in the cabin I went to the outhouse to discover a black widow perched in her web AGAIN. this time I spared her no mercy and smashed her with the Lysol container.
my karma is screwed. cue retaliation spider brigade storming my abode. or maybe nature is going to go next level on me and rouse the rattlesnakes.
in my defense, google image search “brown recluse bite” or “black widow bite”. #justsayin’
the wind has been whipping for two days now. it’s persnickety - it rushes by, enraged, and then backs off, on and off all day. it’s not driving me crazy… yet.
the marine helicopters are always buzzing back and forth. every once in a while there is a large distant roar, much too big to come from a helicopter, from the mountains behind the mountains in the distance. our military industrial complex in full effect I guess.
my hands and face and arms are turning brown like my father’s. no burns, no pinks or red, just brown onion skin layers piling up day after day. I don’t remember much of my Opa, but I do remember him lying in the sun for hours when I was young. this was an old German man that would never be so frivolous to change into swim trunks for these front yard sessions; instead he would lay shirtless in his everyday trousers, the waist cinched tight with a belt. he used to say in his German accent that the Vitamin D was good for you. his skin was so deeply pigmented, dark from those hours. if only he could see me now…
My friend @LenKendall has an awesome idea, I’ve implemented it on this blog and would love for you to get inspired and use it.
Basically, the idea is this:
Bloggers are always trying to figure out how to make money off of their idea, time, writing and content. Personally, I think it’d be sweet to get some money from this blog but I would hate the idea of ads cluttering up this space so I’ve always just left it clean.
People like reading this stuff and if you like it, and want to toss some coin my way (I’ll gratefully use it for gas for the truck or the motorcycle), then I’d like to share that money with a charity. Because that’s a nice thing to do.
So at the bottom of my pages is a CentUp button. To use it you need to sign up at at the CentUp site and then anytime you read something on here that you think is dope and want to monetarily say “hell yeah” to, click it, give some coin and 45% goes to me, 45% goes to my charity of choice and 10% goes to the lovely people at CentUp.
In the spirit of honesty and love, I’m doing this not because I can’t feed the Black Wolf (the truck) or Brünnhilde (the moto), but because I am lucky to have two good groups of friends:
Len and company are thinking of more interesting and better ways for people on the web to interact with one another and with the charities they feel good about. And because there are bloggers that need the coin and I’m happy to help normalize a new way for them to get it.
Adam and company started my chosen charity, Pencils of Promise, a few years back and I’ve always been über-impressed with the work they’re doing around the world to get kids educated.
So show some CentUp love, whether it’s here or somewhere else.
my favorite time of day here is from late afternoon onwards, when the sun starts to relax and everything begins to exhale.
most afternoons I take a walk. I like that I can still feel the heat on my skin but I’m not getting fried, I like stopping to touch a hard shrub and turn stones over in my hand. I wander out, I usually sit on a rock or under a Joshua Tree, I watch meaty Marine military helicopters fly right over me, going to and fro from the base a few miles north. I see jack rabbits and birds, lizards swish through the sand.
besides the helicopters, which don’t feel very human to me, there are reminders of people everywhere - trash and cans, today I came across a turned over couch and a smashed out computer screen. but somehow, maybe because the sun has beat the color and life out of these objects, maybe because they’re turning the dull beige or burnt rust color of the rocks they sit among, they grotesquely belong - I oddly feel that they have suffered in the heat and therefore have earned their spot.
I love the sunsets here. Save for one night that a few wispy clouds made streaks of vibrant blood orange, the sunsets are clean, a simple dense orb descending through an empty sky. As the sun falls, the bushes and shrubs that have seemed so bleak all day in the direct light suddenly burst to life and glow bright greens and pinks. The surrounding mountains relax from the screaming browns of the daytime to their gentle milk blue colors of night.
The sun sets here at 7:30, 10:30 New York time. I think of New York cloaked in night but still electric buzzing. And I look around me and this pastel egg that I’m on the inside of I can hardly believe we’re on the same planet or country.
Today the wind blew most of the day but for the sunset everything quieted. It’s a relief when the winds dies down, it makes me stop worrying that I’m in danger of sharing the fate of the Plains homesteaders that went mad from the howling. I put on Maria Callas and let her be the soundtrack tonight. No sound save for her. It was a nice goodbye to the day.
I’m learning one thing quite quickly out here: when you ride a moto, you have a army of eyes, hands and brains looking out for you.
four things today: as I posted about a moment ago, two fellow riders went out of their way to help me get the right tool today to fix my bike. then I ate breakfast at a diner where another rider took the time to give me some tips on riding in sand and a few routes to try while I’m in the area. off to the Harley dealership where the local HOG chapter leader helped my plot the best, most picturesque route home while keeping my limited gas tank (and the long desert stretches) in mind. 20 miles later I pulled over at an exit ramp on the interstate to latch down a saddlebag strap that came loose; a guy that was exiting rolled down his window to double check that I was okay and see if I needed any help.
I feel like increasingly we’re told that we should distrust people and that people aren’t good to one other. and no, I’m not saying we should be all pollyanna and stupid about strangers and situations. but these encounters weren’t because it was a special day or because I had signed up to the “help dumb Heidi as she learns the ropes of motorcycling” charity event, it’s just how these people operate. and I just had to be open to them in return and suddenly my whole day got bigger and better.
The cabin is about two miles, maybe a little less, from a paved road. Between that road and the cabin is a sand road. Not a dirt road, a sand road. And just to make it interesting, it’s a sand road that has hills and ruts and rocks and stuff. It’s totally awesome.
This morning I’m going down the hill, balancing gravity’s desire to play with Brünnhilde and the delicate balance of going fast but not too fast when I had the bike go too slow just as it hit a pile of sand (the sand kinda piles up around the edges of the ruts of the trucks that have gone before).
And the bike was down. Goddammit.
Miraculously, it landed on an upslope and I was able to get it up right away by myself. And because we weren’t going fast and landed in sand, it was fine.
But then I started the bike without putting it in neutral.
It bucked like bull and went down again. This time not so prettily. The position wasn’t as good, the handlebar took the weight (thank god I have saddlebags on right now - they act as cushions on the side so the engine and back of the bike don’t hit ground).
I strip down to my tank, boots and jeans and plant my ass in the sand and try the technique to get it up. But I’m on sand, on a slope and it’s not working. 15 minutes of me barking at myself “you can DO this” and trying, to no avail.
It’s hard to explain but I finally got it up by spinning the bike, using hill and lifting it using gravity and a squat while gripping the sissy bar. I’m not even sure how I did that but I did and that’s all I care about.
It’s up but now I have a twisted clutch that makes clutch control VERY difficult. And I didn’t have my tools. So down the hill I continued (I wasn’t even half way when I went down) twisting my wrist every which way to do the clutch thing. Not fun. Not safe.
I ride to Home Depot. It’s 7:30 in the morning. Thank god it’s open.
I go in and just stare at the tools. For like, 20 minutes. I can’t find anyone to help me. Finally I buy something that I think will loosen the bolts.
Of course it’s the wrong tool.
I go back in to return the tool and leave, thinking I need to drive 40 miles with a eff’ed up clutch to the dealership to get something fixed that is seriously elementary. I’m walking out, feeling tired and dejected, and these two olds guys stop me.
Them: “Hey is that your bike? You ride? It’s a great bike.”
Me: “Can you help me?”
Five minutes later I had the right tool. Ten minutes later the bike was fixed. Fifteen minutes later, as I looked at the mountains that I was roaring towards, I finally exhaled and thanked my lucky stars for giving me exactly what I needed when I needed it.
“this morning as I rode into Joshua Tree National Park, almost immediately I came upon a coyote crossing the road. he looked at me, I looked at him. we had a moment. seeing that’s as close to a wolf as I’m going to get down here, I’m taking that as a good sign.”—
I have just about zero experience in the desert. I grew up in the winter-cold, summer-humid woods of Wisconsin surrounded by towering trees, dirt, a big old freshwater lake and lots of green.
so it totally makes sense that to get away I chose a barren desert. and not just traveling through a barren desert, but planting my ass here for a month in a homesteader’s shack with no A/C or toilet.
because I don’t know it, I have great respect for/borderline fear of the desert, so yesterday was a day of wait and see. wait and see how hot the middle of the day feels, wait and see what the birds and animals do, wait and see how my energy ebbs and flows during the day. and yup, it’s true. you want to get up and get with it first thing, sleep during the heat of the day and re-energize for the cool night.
during the day you see bees and hear morning doves. it’s so quiet, so still. it’s hard to believe that right now New York is bustling because here that jangle and noise is inconceivable. at night, almost the moment the sun sets, the dogs begin to bark. then sky gets so black and then so alive with stars, it’s shocking.
it’s going to be an interesting month to say the least.
as you may or may not know, I recently got myself a Harley. her name is Brünnhilde (did you know that “Heidi” has two root names, one of which is Brünnhilde which, by the way, means Warrior Princess? I know. amazeballs). I learned on another motorcycle named Disco, a 1975 Honda.
When you learn on a 1975 360cc Honda the road is fun, but it can be a scary place. Semi trucks are like giants with horrible slaps of wind. Ruts and grooves in the road can whip you around. Freeways can be terrifying as you just don’t have the connection to the road or the power to really ride them. 60mph caused the bike to shake (and therefore me to tremble). But I’m also incredibly grateful that’s how I learned - it was a bike that I could handle and that taught me to be super cautious.
So the past few days I’ve been nervous. Nervous about riding out of LA on its huge freeways clogged with traffic that are grooved left and right. Nervous of feeling small and of getting caught or not being able to make a move. Nervous like I want to throw up nervous.
But my oh my, Brünnhilde is a beast.
Today was so much fun. So much fun. Okay the first ten minutes were terrifying and as the 5 and then the 605 stretched out in front of me. I was like holy shit. HOLY SHIT. whatamidoingholyshitkeepridingholyshit.
And then, a miracle: I realized that my bike is made for this shit. That 70 mph ain’t no thing and when the semis gust at me the bike holds tight to the road. That my fatty tires don’t think much of the grooves and the whipping winds aren’t easy, but they’re doable (many times today I had to lean the bike into the wind to keep it upright).
So I rode and rode and rode. I rode past wind turbines and mountains and into the desert. Do you know what it feels like to be on a Harley on the wide open American road? It’s like flying, it’s like soaring, it’s extraordinary.
God it was a great day. And you know, as far as rides go, the scenery was cool but wasn’t epic. It was boring freeway most of the way. And even then it was awesome. I can’t wait for the next one.