A big thanks to my boys and to Bob Honz at Gateway BMW Motorcycles for a fun weekend with perfect weather, good company and a chance to recall everything I don’t know about riding motorcycles off road or the more politically correct “off highway.” There is nothing like being around a bunch of really skilled and talented people to make you feel like a hopeless idiot. Once I got past my white knuckle fear of death and dismemberment I had some fun in small doses. The heart was happy but the head kept saying, “Don’t do it you old fool.” Luckily my main goal was to take a few photos while standing safely on the ground.
This morning I woke up and got a cramp in my leg right away. Then I noticed that my left ankle was still slightly sprained. Not from riding motorcycles but from tripping over something in the dark I think. Next I spotted the new Patagonia Catalog in a stack of mail on the table. The pages were filled with people hanging off the side of mountains or skiing down impossible cliffs… Yeah, that helped my low self-esteem. It seems like everywhere I turn there are things to remind me of adventures missed or out of reach.
Icarus said, “All limitations are self imposed.” Can this possibly be true and how old was he when he said that? I’m willing to concede that there is a lot of truth in that statement but people also do a lot of foolish things when they ignore their limits or have none. Sometimes you can fly too high or too fast. Sometimes you have to ignore all your instincts and put your weight on the outside peg.
I toss and turn as I adjust to an ever changing series of aches and pains. Up early and late to bed, the clock becomes my enemy. I’m old so the clocks that inhabit my dreams are large analog machines made of heavy, rusting steel gears. A giant clock rolls over my immobile body and consumes me. In less than five hours I must get up and begin again… If I am able, which seems doubtful at this point.
It’s too soon before I’m awake (?) again and on my way to work. Isabella makes machine noises in her own peculiar single-cylinder accent that act as a counterpoint to the menacing inner workings of my bad clock dream. On the road ahead a man and woman crossing in the middle of the block begin to run as they hear us approaching. We are not moving all that fast but Isabella is a loud and animated Italian girl who demands attention.
Three motorcycles converge on the parking garage at the same time. One bike is a fast and shiny racer replica… Isabella snorts in distain. The other bike belongs to Doug. It’s a low slung V-twin Honda that looks a little like a 3/4 scale police cruiser. Doug is under the mistaken impression that his school crossing guard fluorescent colored safety vest will keep him safer than my armored jacket. I argue that people will be so distracted by their own uncontrolled laughter that he will be run over because of his high visibility costume rather than in spite of it.
Doug sets down his helmet and shouts, “That’s the loudest BMW I’ve ever heard.”
Isabella likes the attention because she is getting older and because she is quite vain.
Leaving a half-hour earlier in the morning avoids riding into the blinding sunrise. Nobody seems to notice (so far) that I have taken it upon myself to change my schedule without prior approval. Training days seem to have a different set of rules or at least an implied difference that boils down to it being in the company’s best interest to loosen its death grip on our bodies, minds and souls to free people to concentrate without worrying so much about the clock or quotas.
The work clock is a component running one level below my clock of days. It eats valuable time but provides resources I need to keep moving forward. As the giant clock of days spins dangerously faster I must run to keep up with it. Sometimes I am forced to let go of things I value just to find time to sleep. More often I am forced to give up the sleep as well causing me to exist in a fuzzy land between fatigue and bone weary exhaustion.
The week blurs past and Friday arrives. Somehow the clock of days and the clock of hours and minutes have become disconnected from each other. There do not seem to be enough total hours in each day to do everything that needs (or wants) to be accomplished but the more disturbing phenomenon is the unverifiable belief that some hours are stretched the limit of human endurance while others are compressed to total uselessness.
I wonder for a moment if anyone else in the room is currently contemplating the nature of time and existence… I think not.
I begin to turn my attention towards the weekend…
I fell over today. The weather was great so we went to a ride. Taylor found a very twisty road with a bunch of twenty five mile per hour turns. Oh yeah, I survived that but when we pulled over at a turn-out I was trying to turn my bike around and fell over. I wasn’t going fast. In fact I was barely moving. I had the handlebars turned all the way over to the left and was leaning over when the front wheel hit a rock and came to an abrupt stop. Nowhere to go but down, so I rolled off and out from under it. I was pretty mad. I couldn’t even see the rock I hit because it was hidden by some tall weeds. I traced my tracks through the gravel up to this rock that was barely the size of a softball but it was just the right size and shape to stop me cold. No damage done except to pride. The bike was harder to pick up than I thought it would be. I was glad to have help.
Earlier in the day we had gone off the pavement and spent a few minutes riding around on rutted dirt and large gravel. Riding on unpaved surfaces makes the motorcycle act strange and is a little unsettling. Standing up on the pegs is supposed to help the bike work under you but it is also wears you out pretty fast. I guess it was good practice but it didn’t do me much good when I fell over. The other thing was the wind and when you get to 50-60-70 miles per hour the wind makes me tense. Being tense also wears you out. The bike usually goes where it is supposed to regardless of how hard you hold on. Perhaps that is a metaphor for other things. My To-Do List says, “Ride, ride ride.”
The weather in general has been great for the last couple of weeks. So if I must fall, I’m happy to do it during Autumn.
A lot is happening and yet not very much seems to be getting done. I’m planning on taking a trip but I don’t know where yet. I’m planning a photo shoot but I don’t know why. The hot air balloon race is this weekend and I am planning on going to that even though balloon photos seem a little pointless. On the other hand if we have good weather with blue skies it will be good to be outside taking photographs of just about anything.
I took some photos at Atomic Dust the other day for the Alive Magazine web site. The painters have been at our place all week repairing the hallway ceiling so I’ve been getting up early and feel like I am running on half power. I did manage to get my Hasselblad film scanned but I have not been able to get very far with editing those photographs.
Here is a shot of my pretty little BMW 650 Funduro motorcycle named Isabella. I took this photograph with the Hasselblad camera using 120 format B&W film. Morning clouds (see below) gave way to bright afternoon sunshine that bounces off the crushed limestone parking lot and provides fill light in the shadows.
This is a nice classic bike over at the BMW Open House last Saturday. This was also shot with the Hasselblad 501c with Kodak color negative film. My scanner was producing a weird yellow color cast so I had to spend a little time correcting that and of course removing all the dust and lint that always seem to be attracted to negatives.
I finally worked up the nerve to ride the Funduro to work. This involves running a gauntlet of very bad drivers along the way and then negotiating the garage ramp with blind turns and extremely bad drivers hell bent on leaving the multiple level parking structure at the same time I am trying to get in.
I usually see these fools before they see me and simply come to a stop and let them pass on the outside arc of the turn. I was a bit worried about stopping the motorcycle in mid-turn but the garage was about half empty today because of the holiday weekend. I only met three cars on my way up to the fifth level. Getting out of my home garage presents its own challenge because it also has a ramp with tight turns at the top and bottom. There is another steep pitch (with a speed bump) just outside the garage. If you make it all the way to the street unscathed there is a nice sharp dip with lots of loose gravel. The rear wheel of the motorcycle comes to rest there and then you are unable to see up and down the street so you have to pull out into the traffic lane to see what’s coming and hope that the passing cars do not clip your front wheel.
The restaurant down the street also has a “commuter special,” which looks like an upscale offshoot of a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin. The problem is that they never seem to be able to toast the English Muffin enough to suit me, thereby reducing the overall special-ness. We had far worse food this morning at another old haunt of ours. It was so mediocre that it seemed like a waste to even protest. I guess it’s an ex-old haunt now. People laugh at me for buying things from the “dollar menu” but at least it’s consistent and I can be disappointed many more times for the same amount of money spent. Two dollars for bad food hurts less than twenty dollars for bad food.
So I made it to work and into the garage with only a couple of near-death experiences along the way. Backing the Funduro into the motorcycle parking spaces (between steel posts) took longer than I thought because of the width of the side luggage. Those cases are so handy that I am reluctant to take them off the bike though it’s not a big deal to do so.
When I was ready to go home, I discovered that I had left my keys with the motorcycle when I unlocked the seat to try and lock my helmet to the bike so it would dry out. The cable seemed too short (and flimsy) for the job and I left the keys in the lock (behind the side case). I guess no one paid any attention to that or I might be minus a motorcycle today. I saw somebody else do the same thing about a week ago but they also left their turn-signal on advertising the fact to everyone walking by. I guess we have too many keys and pockets to keep track of. While I’m on the subject of dumb things to do, it’s not a good idea to leave your wet riding gear in a waterproof case for a week either.
The air was cool on the ride home at midnight. There was still too much traffic to suit me and I felt like I was dodging bullets most of the way. Maybe the next time I commute on the Funduro I will be able to take all the obstacles in stride just like a real biker.
On Saturday we went on a long ride. Taylor was intent on finding some twisty roads to play on and wasn’t interested in stopping every five minutes to take photographs. We passed one photo opportunity after another and I did my best to take mental notes of the interesting bits and still concentrate on keeping the motorcycle upright and between the lines on my side of the road. We had a good adventure and some bad fast food. It seems like I’m more about the constant stopping and Taylor is more about the uninterrupted flow of the ride. He got a new pair of boots for his birthday and was stomping around the house like a berserk robot trying to break them in a little. That’s one advantage of borrowed or “hand me down” gear, it is already past the newness stage and seems to fit better. It also makes me feel a tiny bit less of a novice by giving the appearance that I have some experience. Maybe some of the experience will rub off or be absorbed. Maybe wishful thinking.
I stopped by the grocery store on the way home and a young guy who was arriving for work looked over my bike and was astonished to learn that BMW made motorcycles. He even took a couple of photos with his cell phone and asked how much such an exotic machine might cost. Oh to be young and to have ambitions. Earlier in the day an older man was looking our bikes over at the gas station and commented that the BMWs held their value too well and that is why he had never owned one but that he had owned nearly every other kind of motorcycle. Taylor seems to have grown tired of the novelty of having complete strangers asking about the motorcycles each time we stop and of asking where we are going to or coming from. I can see where this curiosity might come in handy some day if you were broken down or stranded someplace far from home.
When we stopped for a late lunch Taylor asked how I was feeling.
“I feel like an eighteen year old trapped in a sixty year old body and I’m not even sixty yet.”
I was plenty tired by the time I got home. Pulling off the big black boots was a chore and it took me an hour to work up the energy to jump in the shower.
This morning I slept late and when I finally left the house it was to go for a drive in the car to take some photos. Nothing too special in mind, just and excuse to use my camera. There were lots of pretty clouds in the sky but I only made a half-hearted attempt at taking photos. I forgot to bring my glasses so trying to look at the tiny maps on the iphone or reading the camera menus was a pain. I stopped at the dollar store and bought some cheap glasses but by then I was hot and worn out from jumping in and out of the car to take photos. I decided to take the long way home on the highway to give the inside of the car a chance to really cool off.
Back at home I debated going out for dinner. Everyone else had already eaten by then so I made some eggs and had breakfast for dinner, which was fine with me since I never got around to eating breakfast today. I have managed to accomplish a few things on my to-do list this weekend so I’m pretty happy. The fence company photo eventually made me think of the Eagles song, “Desperado.” (You’ve been out riding fences for so long). I guess I’m going to have that tune stuck in my brain the rest of the night. There are of course worse things in life and I would be happy if I could contribute something lasting of my own to popular culture.
Well, maybe not beautiful but sometimes what you need. The weekend never seems to last as long as I would like and I never have the energy to do everything I want to. I still had my soft box set up in the Living Room so I took a couple of photos of boots for no particular reason. One SB800 flash from behind in a 24×30 soft box and a 24 inch reflector in the front. Black card table up against the wall on the right so I’m getting some fill on that side as well. Flash at 1/4 power. f/9 at 1/250th. ISO 400.
These boot are very comfortable but are just about ready for some new soles. I polished them the other day and I think they look pretty good. One the other hand, I am pretty tired this morning and it’s hard to wake up. I just now remembered that I have some film to pick up today so I guess scanning and editing will be my photography project for this week. I’m also working a little bit of overtime this week, which was not by choice but rather, “Needs of the business.” Oh well, sometimes that’s what it takes to keep me in beans and biscuits.
I could go on and on about form, function, beauty and art but other people have done that before. Sometimes you have to look hard to see the beauty and thought behind a simple object. I like the fact that it is often the most profoundly simple things that actually have the most thought invested in them. The lack of anything that is not needed is the soul of any good design. I’m meditating on the Tao of boots and one light photography. Keep it simple, keep it real. It is the space between the spokes that makes the wheel useful and the space within the boot that makes it fit…