And…we’re done.

I have returned from Indonesia and I have no major travel plans in the near future, so this blog is, for all intents and purposes, over. Thanks to those of you who’ve been with me for a while. If you’re just now finding this, feel free to peruse, comment, or contact me about anything here. Peace out, cub scouts.

-The Bov

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Yeah, it’s been a few weeks.  I’m aware.  But, in my defense, I’ve been busy.

The last time I updated, I was in New Jersey.  Since then, I’ve hit New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, Virginia, and, finally, North Carolina.  I’ve been spending the last two weeks gradually moving in – painting my walls, securing a desk and a dresser, trying to figure out where to hang pictures, looking for a job (incidentally, anyone who knows anyone in the Chapel Hill, NC area that wants to hire me should let me know), and trying to finish a few songs that I’ve gotten started.

One of those songs, actually, is about this trip.  The first line came to me somewhere on the New York Thruway, along the lines of “I knocked six states back/through ’em faster than a cold six-pack,” but the song’s evolved a bit since then.  I’ve found that they always do.  My new favorite bit is the last half of the chorus: “It’s the highway, the freeway, the byway, the me way, and your way goes away, I can’t think what to say.”  I’ve always loved clever plays on words like that.

Clever wordplay is a distinctive feature among a lot of my favorite bands, and I’ve known it for a while.  A singer I’ve mentioned before, Ellis Paul, is reportedly the leader of the Boston folk movement, a songwriting style where poetic, smoothly flowing lyrics couple with good music.  There’s no denying that these lyrics are one of the main reasons I love listening to him.  They’re certainly the main reason that I taught his songs to my students.  But he’s not the only artist whose lyrics I find spectacular.  Antje Duvekot is another artist whose lyrics are quietly beautiful.  In more mainstream areas, listening to English versions of Nidji’s songs leave me with respect for…well, whoever’s translating them, at least.  The Arrogant Worms, a comedy band, tend to produce incredibly clever songs.  Nickel Creek’s music plucks the heartstrings, but the lyrics are beautifully crafted to match the bluegrass-inspired melodies.  Ben Folds has a mix of beautiful lyrics and plain-spoken clever songs.  I pay attention to these things, and I often feel I’ve benefited immensely from their songs.

At the top of my list for years, however, has been the Barenaked Ladies.  One of the first big concerts I went to see, and certainly the first one I bothered to pay for, BNL has been an inspiration for years.  Throughout college, a running joke was that I could come up with a BNL quote to suit any occasion.  While I wasn’t as big of a fan of their Christmas album, and I never really got around to the children’s album, the rest of their work was sufficient to quench my thirst for their particular brand of music.

And today, I meander through the pages of some of the bands I enjoy, and I happen to notice that Steven Page, one of the lead singers and co-founders of the band, has dropped out of the band – had dropped out of the band in February.  It was, to say the least, a shock.  A consequence of no longer being plugged in – during my college days, I’d found out within hours that Steven Page had been arrested on cocaine charges, whereas now, I found out major news about one of my favorite bands five months later.

It’s just a shock to realize how much I’d been missing, once I stopped constantly being connected and had the opportunity to only check bare essentials once every few days.  News starts getting ignored, culture passes you by.  I listened to the radio upon getting out of the airport, and was astonished that I didn’t recognize the songs.  Not only didn’t I recognize them, but I thought they were worse than what I’d left.  Clearly, I’ve got some catching up to do.

It’s not only music, of course.  Movies, I’ve kept up with to an extent, thanks to the pirate racks, but I’m far behind on music, world politics, celebrity pop culture – the very things that make up American culture.  I can’t say I like all of them, but they exist, and they were a part of what I was promoting last year, if unconsciously.  I can’t just say I was a cultural ambassador for the things that I like about this country – I was, like it or not, selling the entire package.

This hasn’t changed just because I’m back in the states.  I found out about the most recent burst of popular culture news, the death of Michael Jackson, through word-of-mouth rather than finding it out on the news.  I’d happened by a friend’s apartment, and her landlord came to tell us.  It came as a shock that I’m still unplugged, still re-integrating myself into the system.

It becomes a question, then.  How much do I want to reintegrate?  How do I relate my life pre- and post-Indonesia?  These are questions I’ve got to contemplate, especially now that I’ve got a room to myself with internet and a nice, shiny, new desktop computer with a ton of hard drive space for me to fill with more bits of pop culture.

-The Bov

Always on the move, never in one place

The lyrics I wrote more than 6 months ago, inspired by a trip to Tana Toraja, seem especially appropriate now.  I haven’t been in one place for longer than four days for the last month, and it’s starting to wear on me.  Vacation, it turns out, is exhausting if done right.

I haven’t done a lot of driving in the last few days, but I’ve been busy and social enough that I haven’t been able to update.  I’d say it’s a pretty reasonable trade.

I had to leave Boston early but couldn’t meet up with my friend in Connecticut until late, so I decided to kill some time by hanging out in Rhode Island.  I returned, then, to the site of my road trip from last year – don’t ask.  I managed to spend some time in a bookstore before deciding I should buy a ticket to watch “Up,” which I highly recommend.

However, upon arriving in Rhode Island, I discovered that my saddlebags had started cracking.  The part of the hard faux-leather bag on the left side of my bike had cracked three-quarters of the way around the section of the bags that were attached to the bike.  A bit more stress, and it would have fallen off.

I managed to make it to Fairfield, Connecticut without incident, but decided I needed to fix these quickly.  As a result, I took a detour to a motorcyle shop somewhere in backwoods Connecticut, and asked if they had any spares.  After moving some bikes in from the rain, the salesman suggested that I drill holes on either side of the crack and zip-tying the bag together.

Perfect solution.

I spent the bulk of the pouring rainstorm in the back of the shop with a drill borrowed from the motorcycle technicians.  Upon completion, I asked what I owed.  The salesman’s response: “Dude, just pound it.”  I left him money anyway and told him to buy a six-pack.

I then moved on to New Jersey, where I parked at my cousin’s house who I had met on Monday.  The reaction of his wife when I said I’d be in New Jersey on Wednesday?  “Stay at our house!”

A shared connection, be it family or motorcycles, can seriously help any goal you attempt to achieve.  Because I chatted, smiled, and formed connections, I was able to make my trip much more convenient and enjoyable.

Networking works.

-The Bov

I’m now 19 days into a cross-country adventure.  I figured I should probably keep track of a few figures.

Days: 19
Miles: About 1800
Average cost of a tank of gas (approx.): $5.45
Average mileage: 48 mpg
Hotels: 0
Cities stayed in: 9
Longest day of driving: 6 hrs (Chicago – Columbus)
Shortest day of driving: 2 hrs (Madison – Lake Forest)
CCs: 750
Saddlebags: 2
Number of times saddlebags have inadvertently popped open: 3
Enjoyment: high.  Unless it’s raining.

-The Bov

Current location:  Wilmington, MA, about an hour or so north of Boston.  The home of an old college buddy.

Hamilton took me to NYC for a few days, parking in Albany and taking a bus down because the city makes me nervous for my bike’s safety (note: still need to figure out what the name of my motorcycle is).   Most of that time was spent in Brooklyn, except when we went to Central Park to watch a few comedians – one ok, one pretty good, and one a miserable failure (are you in good hands?).

I managed to meet up with an old college professor in the city, catch up a bit.  It felt weird to be holding what, in another context, would have been an academic discussion.  As it was, it was a nice break from simply storytelling.  Another sign that I need to take my time to analyze and understand what I’ve done in the last ten months.  It’ll be time consuming.

NYC led to a drive through central Vermont and up the border to my aunt and uncle’s house in New Hampshire.  Along the way, the strangest thing happened.  As I was cruising through what appeared to be the middle of No St. and Where Rd. in Vermont (turns out it was Woodstock, VT, a fairly well-known tourist destination), I came across a restaurant named Angkor Wat.  Stopping out of intense curiosity, I came to find that a Cambodian man had moved to the mountains of Vermont and started a restaurant.

…Like you do.

I ended up in the North New Hampshire woods with my aunt and uncle, had dinner with a friend, and proceeded to drive around the area.

Taking the time to take in the sights is a decision I rarely regret, and this time was no exception.  Although I did get sprinkled on by clouds that didn’t know that today was my day to explore New Hampshire, the number of  moments where I slowed off the throttle so I could take in a beautiful visage for a few more minutes more than made up for it.  The “whoa”-factor, I suppose.  It’s nice to just cruise with no purpose other than to look at the scenery once in a while.

This held true yesterday in Boston, as well, when I took a walk down Mass Ave., stopping at coffeeshops and reading until my drink was done.  You don’t know how great walking is until you are unable to walk without someone asking you if you want a becak or an ojek or a taksi.  Eesh.

The freedom to just enjoy what is in front of you, without worrying about how you look or who’s about to ask if they can take your picture, is a truly wonderful freedom.

-The Bov

And the next point I’ve been able to update this is in Clinton, NY, home of Hamilton College and very little else.  I got here a few hours ago, and have spent that time hopping from office to office, trying to catch people that I wanted to see.  Thus far, I’ve got the mail center staff, my philosophy advisors, and my old boss.  The rest, I can save until tomorrow.

To get here, though, I had to do a few days of serious riding.  Monday was Chicago to Columbus, OH, while Tuesday took me from Columbus, through Pittsburgh, and up to Buffalo, NY.  Both days ended up being around 6 or 7 hours of driving, which means about 10 hours on the road, once stops for gas, stretches, and meals are factored into it.

Which leads me to my lesson – know my limits.  I almost tried to press on from Buffalo last night.  That, however, would have been a three and a half to four hour drive in addition to the already long days I’d pulled in quick succession – bad plan all around.  Instead, I managed to crash on my friend’s floor, who wasn’t even supposed to be in Buffalo while I was traveling – a lucky break all around.

I can’t approach this trip with the same happy-go-lucky attitude that I did traveling in Indonesia.  I have very definite limits, set by the parameters of the trip itself.  I can’t go on overnight rides, I can’t do any number of things.  It requires a new frame of mind – a frame of mind I should find familiar.  However, for whatever reason, I find myself pushing my limits, driving until I have to convince myself to go on.  And still I drive.

Doing this is unsafe and possibly unhealthy in the long run, but I don’t like to give up on goals.  Stopping before a destination is too much like admitting defeat, and I hate admitting defeat – even when my legs and butt are incredibly sore, and the light is starting to go, and I haven’t eaten anything substantial since breakfast.  Bad plan.

So know what you can and can’t do – even if you have to find out on the go.  Push your boundaries, to be sure – don’t stop having adventure just because you think it’s not what you’re used to.  But don’t try to do a 12 hour motorcycle drive in a day without working up to it.

That’s my thought.

-The Bov

A brief update.

I’m back from Indonesia, and after 10 days at home, am on the road again.  My life’s immediate future lies in North Carolina, and I have decided on a lengthy, indirect, twisted, strange path to get there.  Which is, I suppose, typical.

What’s not typical are the things I picked up from Indonesia to assist me in this endeavor – not least of which is the motorcycle I’m riding.  An ’02 Honda Shadow Spirit 750, I plan on riding it, in spurts, from Wisconsin to North Carolina via New Hampshire.

Like I said, twisted, indirect, and strange.

On the one hand, this will be a month longer that I’m without a job, without a home, and without an mp3 player – my Zen got relegated to the bags that my roommate’s parents are bringing down for me.  On the other hand, I certainly get a lot of introspective time while on the road.  Alone with your thoughts, on a bike, with the wind rushing past you at 70 mph – a lot of thinking and decisions get accomplished.

This is necessary.  Generally, I’m a bit less social than I was in Indonesia, and I haven’t had as much time to decompress or relax the way I need to.  Now, the time on the road is giving me a chance to think through the last few months.  Not to mention any other insight one gains from driving around American in a motorcycle.

For instance, the title of this post.  I had packed my saddlebags a bit tightly, and upon my arrival in Madison, I discovered that one of them had shaken open and I’d lost a pair of pants.  Embarrassing, I know.  But a valuable lesson – stop trying to work with what you need and start with what you can handle.  Taking too much versus too little is something everyone has to learn, both in their luggage and in their lives.  And it’s a problem I’ve had for a while – taking on more than I can chew, killing myself to get it accomplished.

And now I’m contemplating buying a small backpack, one that can fit under my riding jacket.  Surprisingly enough, this also corresponds to the life lesson – if you can’t handle it, get help.  I kind of wish I’d figured that one out before I lost the pants, though.  Luckily, these were the oldest pair I owned, so the loss is, comparitively, minimal.  At least it wasn’t a shoe.

At the moment, I’m in the Chicago Public Library, one of my favorite haunts in the city.  I’m downtown for the day, much the way I like to spend my infrequent Chicago jaunts.  But it’s just about time for me to see what the rest of Chicago will bring today, so I must be off.

-The Bov