adventures with Henk the Buell

My Photo
Location: global

Celebrating people, ideas & things that make the world a better place. Kitchen Chemistry, Social Alchemy, Adventure Activism.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I ran into Rob Dryden, the crazy Iron Butt BMW rider, for the third time yesterday on Bear St. By now we knew each other the way people of an ilk know each other. We recognized the crazy in each other. So we shared a bite at my friend Stephane's sweet little tapas restaurant, Cafe de Soleil. "It's the physical and mental challenge," he said when I asked "Why?" "And the bragging rites. They don't sell their swag to just anyone." So if you see a motorbike with a sticker on it from the Iron Butt Association, know he or she has ridden at least 1000 miles in 24 hours. Rob did Santa Fe to Calgary in 32.5. Crazy. But crazy good.

I walked up Tunnel Mountain with Pat and we brainstormed ways to make a quick buck. We always brainstorm ways to make millions but nothing ever comes of it. Our ideas are always brilliant, but she's too busy claiming her independence and I'm too busy doing the same in very different ways.

We went to the Upper Hot Springs for a two hour spa treatment. I called Mystee, my old friend and vegetarian yoga goddess massage therapist and managed to book us both in for a hot plunge/aromatherapy massage/wrap. It was just what we both needed--some loving touch. I fell into a deep deep sleep after a great massage and woke up 20 minutes later feeling like days had passed. Mystee's magic.

Tomorrow morning I'm getting a lift to Christina Lake with my sister's undercover cop girlfriend and her daughter. Henk and I will soon be soaring down the highways of southern B.C. opening another chapter together, gobbling up some pavement and dreams.

Monday, June 27, 2005

It's cold and wet here in Troll Valley. It's beautiful and suits my mood perfectly. I got in to Banff yesterday after a long flight full of sneezing and wheezing children. Summer's begun in the airline business. A little boy sitting behind me who was obviously experiencing his first flight screamed out to his mom on takeoff "This is crazy! This is CRAZY!" Yeah!

I got to spend the afternoon with three of my adorable nieces. Getting lost in their playful chatter kept my mind busy. Taylor is thirteen now, and full of secrets and hormones. She reminds me of me at her age. In fact, she reminds me of me at my age. I still feel thirteen.

I had dinner with Pat, my long time friend from Banff who helped me when I needed a hand getting out of my marriage and the vegetarian restaurant I burned myself out on here in the land of beef eaters. She is kind and generous to a fault and is now sleeping on a mattress on the floor in her mom's apartment because she rented out her own for the summer to help pay the mortgage and she moved her bed into the condo of the man to whom I was married so he can rent it furnished. Now she's trying to find a condo in Calgary to buy for her brother who's a low-income earner. She can't in good conscience live her jet-setting lifestyle and let him exist without a proper home. That's Pat. Thinking of everyone first before herself. One could ask for no better friend. But she's getting tired. She needs a handsome forty-five-year-old, wealthy, fit, decent, funny, compassionate, active, exciting man to take care of her. I really hope it happens for her but I fear she's become too rigid in her drive for independence.

I slept on the floor beside her on my thermarest. I was going to camp at my favorite little campground, Two Jack Lake, so I could have some privacy and nature and fresh mountain air into which to spew some more tears, but she insisted I stay under her dry roof. I'm glad she did. At three in the morning, when the bars were closed, a pile of drunken kids poured into the streets and I was jolted awake by a howling slobbering creature of the night reminding me why I came to hate Banff: "I wanna stick my penis in your vagina!!!" Yup. That's Banff. Don't stay long or you'll get sucked into the vortex...

I got up this morning and snuck out for coffee while Pat slept. On the street in front of a local breakfast joint was a metallic blue BMW 1100 with New Mexico plates. It caused me to stop in my tracks.

The most beautiful man I've ever known, a man who changed my life with a glance through a sunlit window in California five years ago, rides a metallic blue BMW 1100 and lives in Santa Fe. I knew it wasn't him, but it still caused me to stop in my tracks. I went in to say hi to the guy waving in the window. Yes, he's from Santa Fe. He just did a 1500 mile ride here in 36 hours-- an "Iron Butt Association" challenge he made for himself. "You're crazy!" I told him. He just smiled and twinkled his eyes at me. "Yup."

I've kind of lost my magic living in the city but yesterday as the plane took off and I dozed into an exhausted between-worlds state I had a vision of a spectacular bald eagle poised high in a tree, ready for take-off. I woke up when the little boy screamed "This is crazy! This is CRAZY!"

Saturday, June 25, 2005

I've got a taxi picking me up in seven hours to take me to the airport and off to my next chapter. I spent the day today packing up stuff I won't need and packing a small bag of things I will, like a winter coat, sleeping bag, tent, several layers of cotton clothing, some fleece, four pairs of underwear, the tiny canon elph digital camera, my passport, wallet, insurance and registration, and maps of Canada. My leathers and tank bag are with Henk at the lake.

My kitty knows. She spent hours this afternoon sleeping on my half-packed bag. Just looking at her made me cry. I tried training her to come along but she barfed when I put her in a knapsack. She's gotten fat and complacent. Something I feared if I stayed much longer.

My sister emailed and said she didn't realise how much she needed me around until I told her I was leaving and didn't know when or if I'd be back. I bawled some more.

Ron spent the day trying to keep busy while I packed up the evidence of my three year existence in this house. We did our usual Saturday morning in bed with soy lattes and the big fat Toronto Star trying to spend one or two hours in mutual denial. It's a ritual we've indulged in weekly since we met but today our reading was interrupted by waves of emotion and nostalgia and bittersweetness. We just went out for our 'last supper' and actually managed to get in a chuckle or two. He has the best sense of humour of anyone I've ever met and manages, even in the darkest times, to find something to poke fun at. It's why I've stayed this long. It's been fun. Really really fun.

I came home just now to a message from the man to whom I was married. Very interesting considering Ron mentioned tonight that perhaps this is actually the closing of the whole marriage/divorce/travel/couple of quick relationships/ron chapter and that I must be moving into act 3. Ken's going to be in Toronto all week and wanted to try and grab dinner. I was just saying to Ron that it took Ken four years to get to where Ron is tonight, able to see the good in all this and even discuss the possibility of friendship or continuing our collaborative writing process. He's amazing. He has amazed me on an almost daily basis since I've known him and here I am leaving.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Buddha said we suffer because we are attached. In my present experience the degree of suffering is directly proportional to the degree of attachment and I had no idea how attached I was until I tried to detach. I’ve left before. In fact, I came into this relationship leaving. “Don’t bother getting too attached to me, I’m just passing through…” But this time the leaving feels different, more final. It’s a real intentional step out of one life and into some other unknown world which I perceive to be richer, fuller, more expansive and open, and today the forces of inertia are stronger than any wind or rain I’ve ever come up against. God, I want to stay so badly. How dare I want more than what I have?

The way two people break up speaks volumes of their feelings. It’s always easier to find a way to hate the person, slam the door and walk away with a hundred justifications for why he’s a bastard and you deserve better. I tried that several times with Ron, and before I knew him well, it might have worked, but the forces of inertia at the time were too strong for my tired soul and I either came back or stayed. Now that I’ve known him four years and shared with him some of the biggest bellylaughs of my life and one or two of my proudest moments and joyful carefree weekends and rivers of tears, I find it impossible to be mad at him for longer than five minutes. Today we just hugged and bawled and he held me and I bawled some more and he blessed me on my way saying he understands and he adores me and he wants me to find happiness and he offered me some advice for the next man who is lucky enough to have me he said “give him everything because I couldn’t have all of you and you should just let go and give him everything because you’re great and I’m jealous of him because I really really wished hard that it would have been me that you gave everything to” and I said I was afraid I might be nothing without him and I told him for the thousandth time to quit smoking and he told me not to ride in the rain and we bawled some more and hugged some more and the forces of inertia joined in.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I just spoke with my great friend Kevin at Christina Lake who's been lovingly polishing Henk in his garage in anticipation of my imminent arrival. "He misses you," he said. I tried not to let him hear me cry and cut the conversation short. On one hand, I'm excited as hell to be on Henk and on my way, and I'm extremely grateful for Kevin's care of Henk over the winter. On the other hand, I know I have to grieve. I've been doing that intensely for two days.

Some people might say that the thought of me crying is like the thought of water being squeezed from a stone. Sometimes it feels that way. This morning in the steam room after a workout my belly and chest were wrenched together in a rocky mass, yet my pores and tear ducts kept spewing acid and salt water as I heaved and tried to let go. I wanted to stay in the heat until there was no more liquid to be had but there is no bottom to the reservoir when all we are is H2O.

Funny that no matter how ready you are to move into another life, the one you're in keeps its hooks embedded until you've crossed some sort of magical time/space barrier. One day several weeks or months down the road you wake up and realise quite suddenly that oh, the hooks are gone. I'm free.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I rode out west last October from Toronto to Christina Lake in B.C. through blinding rain and cross-winds off Lake Superior so strong I thought I would become a permanent part of the foreboding landscape, frozen bones and steel embedded like nickel in the sheer rock faces that hug those northern Ontario highways. I lost my drive belt while passing a transport truck on the desolate Trans Canada forever heading into the setting sun an hour east of Regina. My right hand twisted the throttle and Henk, uncharacteristically unresponsive, fell behind. I twisted again, this time in a slight panic, and he continued sharply losing pavement beside the semi. Luckily there was nothing but a combine in a canola field as my closest competing traffic and I managed to pull to the shoulder and use my cellphone that I’d brought along for that single emergency. The belt was frayed (after 67,000 kilometres) and hanging off the back of the bike. The poor boys at the Regina Harley shop didn’t know what to do with a Buell who’s belt had come off. I told them it was the exact same piece as the Harley Sportster and after making a few calls to confirm (why would they believe a girl from the city?), they said they thought they might have me back on the road within twenty-four hours. Turned out they’d never taken apart a Buell before and I spent two nights enjoying the luxuries of room service and a view of the prairies at Regina's very comfortable downtown Delta Hotel and catching up on some writing while worrying what kind of Frankenstein those boys were making out of my beloved Henk. Back on my westward way I arrived in southern Alberta just in time for hundred mile headwinds and fought desperately all afternoon to keep my head attached to my spine. With no faring on Henk, I was having surreal visions of my head actually detaching at the fourth vertebra and flying off into the wind, pigtails and all, like the tumbleweeds I was dodging.

But these little (mis)adventures are the real reason for the ride, aren’t they? We grow stronger because of them, despite at the time thinking we’re going to die. If riding Henk through driving winds and blinding rains is a metaphor for life, and ten times out of ten, I have come out alive and even stronger, then I should know better than to fear leaving this comfortable house and this city I’ve come to love and my kitty and the man I’ve grown extremely fond of. Shouldn't I?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Is there a remedy for my restless nature? I’ve tried to find it sitting still, but if there’s one thing I can always bet on having, it’s itchy feet. Yup. Story of my life. Two wheels under me, the wide-open road in front of me, and a broken heart behind me.

Maybe watching every mythical episode of the great Canadian series, "The Littlest Hobo" in my childhood doomed me to a life of adventure, asphalt and altruism. That tragic-hero-German Shepherd-spirit-dog of many names belonged to no one and to everyone. He was free in every sense of the word. After journeying 100 miles with a silver locket to give to the estranged granddaughter of an elderly gentleman, parachuting from an airplane with medicine that could save a boy’s life, or leaping through a window to prevent robbers from pulling a heist, he would brilliantly intuit the most timely departure and lumber on down the road, the wind in his ears, destination unknown, as the theme song played on:

"There's a voice that keeps on calling me. Down the road. That's where I'll always be. Oh, every stop I make, I make a new friend. Can't stay for long. Just turn around, and I'm gone again. Maybe tomorrow, I'll want to settle down. Until tomorrow, I'll just keep movin' on.”

Not surprisingly, it turns out two of the dogs that played "The Littlest Hobo" were girls.

The voice that keeps on calling me is not one of reason or logic. It’s the voice of the Canadian Tourism Commission and their "Get Going Canada" campaign designed to urge Canadians to take two days, two weeks, or two months to "drive the World's Greatest Country and enjoy the view!"

They've selected 15 of Canada's most breathtaking drives in an effort to showcase our country's natural splendour. I’ve ridden cross-country several times, twice with Henk (every girl needs a name like Henk for her motorbike), and each time I am convinced anew of our superior beauty.

I’ll be starting in Alberta, with the first spectacular Rocky Mountain ride up the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper. From there, I’ll head west for an adventure by land and by sea in B.C. before turning the wheels north to the Yukon, land of dreams…

The plan is to remain flexible and go with the flow. As anyone who’s ever ridden a motorbike can testify, circumstances can change dramatically in a split second. Just when you’re delighting in a sweet sense of complete control as you judiciously manoeuvre 700 pounds of steel and bones down miles of tar at high speed, you can be instantly overturned with the ultimate realisation that on two wheels, there is no such thing as control.

It's the act of climbing inside that paradox, surrendering to the road and its own carefully mapped out perfection, which creates space for the magic to drop in.

I couldn’t tell you what remedies I’d need if I’d grown up watching "The Sopranos."