Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Freedom, found and lost...

When I was twenty-something, I thought I was free... At that age, it's easy to forget my obligations and live your life day-to-day, still forgetting my obligations.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Equal treatment for Americans, regardless of their backgrounds...

Jumping back in time a bit... There's been something that's been bothering me for years since I rode the trip to Baja Mexico in December of 2007.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mr. Enertia Goes to the White House...

I know many of my family and friends have followed my blogged motorcycle adventures over the years, but here's one you may enjoy although it didn't involve me directly, www.shockingbarack.com .
Two of my fellow Enertia riders from Brammo rode two electric motorcycles from Detroit, MI to Washington, DC to present Barack Obama with a fully-electric motorcycle. Their 700-mile journey, recharging their bikes every 50 miles or so, was to prove to our DC lawmakers that EV vehicles are both viable and readily available. Just give us a household plug for an hour or two, and we're on our way again.
Until then, I will continue evangelizing the electric motorcycle, and hopefully find a few converts along the way. Regardless, I love doing this stuff!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Electric Bikes Storm Portland!

Taking advantage of the lingering summer weather, Brammo stormed Portland this weekend with Enertia Powercycles on the street. We rode all over Portland, stopping in local neighborhoods for food for our bikes, and ourselves of course, to get the bikes seen in a city that is ideal for low-cost commuter bikes. The crowd reaction was overwhelming. Seeing 'Green Technology' bikes downtown was a thrill for the curious onlookers. Several mentioned that this was reason they live in Oregon, because Oregon is the first to adopt new environmentally-friendly practices, which many of the other states follow our example.
During our Portland storm, we took advantage of the 20 new EV recharging stations along the Portland streets, still absolutely free to EV vehicle owners. Living in a progressive city does have it's advantages.
Now to convince the masses that they need to switch to similar transportation... If I don't get pummeled by people carrying large stones in the process, I may find a few converts.
Wish me luck...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Coolest Job in the World!

After many weeks of getting intimately familiar with the care and feeding of purely electric motorcycles, we're going live with the sales of Brammo Enertia Powercycles, http://www.brammo.com/home/ . We rolled the first six bikes into two Best Buy stores here in Portland this week, and the initial public response has been phenomenal!
To prove my point... The first six bikes arrived at two Portland Best Buy stores on Wednesday night. We uncrated them and walked them through the Best Buy stores to be unveiled on Friday. Crossing through the Best Buy showroom with a newly uncrated Enertia Powercycle, we got to listen to some of the customer responses at their first gllimpse of the Powercycles. My favorite was watching several Best Buy salespeople showing potential customers widescreen TVs while we passed by them pushing the new bikes. As the bikes rolled passed, everyone including the salespeople halfway through their sales pitch went silent and all eyes were on the Green machines passing by. One customer I stopped to talk with briefly while pushing a bike mentioned that he had hoped he was the 'One-Millionth Customer' and was receiving his prize. I hated to burst his bubble, but I did mention that these bikes were available to the public within the week.

Lastly, we set up one of the available Enertias on a display stand, and within 30 seconds had customers walking up asking about the new motorcycles on display. Obviously public curiosity is very high right now. Hopefully this translates to a few sales...

Regardless, I get to play with the new electric motorcycles until someone says I can't, and I love to play with new gadgets. This is Sooo Cool!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

New Job, New Life, New Technology...

After five long months of unemployment, one short-lived miserable job working hard labor, and an endless supply of support from my family and friends, (for which I am eternally grateful), I am working again. Not only working, but finding myself truly excited about the work I'm doing. A feeling long lost after falling off of the high-tech roller coaster, I'm now actually contributing to a higher cause, cleaning up this planet and making life better for future generations.

Two weeks ago I was contacted by Brammo Inc., http://www.brammo.com/ , about a Field Service Technician position I had applied for some months before, but had completely forgotten about it since I was applying for nearly everything under the sun. Brammo Inc. is a small startup company headquartered in Ashland, Oregon ramping up for production of a small, rechargeable electric motorcycle called the Enertia, (pictured below).
After my first meeting with the folks from Brammo and some chat about the technical specs about the Enertia, I was hooked! For an ex-high-tech engineer and an avid biker, this was my dream job! Being a part of the Green Technology Revolution was an added incentive to be a part of a group which is laying the foundation for future replacement of polluting vehicles around the world.

The Brammo Enertia is the first production built rechargeable electric motorcycle, targeted mainly for city and suburb commuters, with a range of 45 miles on a single charge. To recharge the motorcycle, simply plug it into any 110VAC outlet in your house or work, and 3 hours later you're fully recharged. The Enertia is sleek, nimble, very quiet, and capable of attaining highway speeds of 55mph. The perfect non-polluting lightweight commuter vehicle. The Enertia Powercycle will be sold and serviced from Best Buy stores around the U.S., another new approach to purchasing new motor vehicles. You could simply purchase a new Enertia like buying a new flatscreen TV and ride it home.

The Enertia Powercycle is only the first of many non-polluting motorcycles coming from Brammo Inc., with many options available to meet customer needs. I'll add more posts as I get to 'play' with the newest vehicles.

I'm still in a state of shock about being involved in the future of alternative fuel vehicles, and grinning like a mischievous schoolboy working with the Brammo production team building the Enertia Powercycle. I'll keep posting as events unroll.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Perspective Check?

Okay, we all know there is a huge unemployment problem in the U.S., and those of you who are still working are paying for those of us who are not, ( thanks, BTW...). But, has anybody really attempted to talk to those of us who have been unemployed for quite some time? Notice any significant changes in his or her demeanor? I would imagine the answer is probably yes, and that's probably due to the American self image gained through success in business. We see the signs everyday, your neighbor leaving for work in the morning in his BMW Z6, the meticulously manicured lawn of the house two streets over, or the Barbie and Ken couple down the street still able to make their church fund drive to gain a sense of 'giving back'. Try two weeks of daytime TV and all of a sudden you're recognizing your true contribution to the world. Which is obviously very little.

Self esteem is slowly gained as we successfully interact with our coworkers. Ego results from the successful interaction with coworkers for many years, and recognition of ego pushes us farther up the business ladder. Finally, we build such an over-inflated image of ourselves in the business world that we can't remember what life was like before our good fortune brought us to this level.

If anything, unemployment puts it all back into perspective. You can again rethink your value system, you're immediately able to identify your excesses in lifestyle, and you're forced to focus on what's truly important. Speaking from experience, it is a somewhat humbling, and times aggravating experience, but one I won't forget for a very long time. If anything, it makes great stories to tell the Grand Kids about the Bad 'Ol Days.

I personally have rethought my future, and am pursuing a home manufacturing business. It's something I've always wanted to do, but never found the incentive while I was working in the high-tech industry to launch. Again, time on my hands and perspectives. Wish me luck...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Dharma Bum Effect?

Two weeks back in Portland, and still no job offers dropping on my doorstep. I should mention though that I did get some responses back from job listings I applied to since I've been back, so, the job market isn't completely frozen in Portland yet.

My Tom Joad trip was successful in the fact that I reconnected with family members long lost, but unsuccessful generating job offers, oh well...

One major difference in this trip compared to my previous motorcycle trips is that I was kept to a semi-rigid travel schedule, trying to meet both family and interview commitments along the way. Trying to keep these commitments frequently meant pushing both physical and mental limitations to get to the next waypoint, so I didn't have a lot of time to take in my surroundings, listen to the locals, or stop to smell the roses, for a lack of better terms.

Complete freedom while traveling either makes or breaks a memorable trip. As with my Baja trip, I had a very loose schedule on being anywhere along my route, and I let the route set my pace. Anybody whose read any of the Jack Kerouac books would immediately recognize this as the optimum approach to traveling. Jack was also somewhat notorious for overstaying his welcome in many of the places he decided to flop. I didn't hang around long enough to find out...

Back to the present... Still waiting for job calls, but planning lots more bike trips in the future. Portland is finally seeing some 60-degree days, so I'm considering a camping trip, on the bike, of course, out to the Eastern Oregon desert. Later in the Spring, possibly a trip up to Glacier National Park in Montana, and I do still want to see Moab, Utah in the early Summer.

Maybe this unemployment thing isn't so bad after all...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 17, mile 4,949.9, Home At Last to Marti's Home Cooking!

Unlike my previous trips, I had a very good reason to hasten my return to Portland during this trip.

Marti has been patiently awaiting my return during this trip. Keeping her informed of my poor eating habits while on the road, I returned home to a superb meal of homemade enchiladas. A few trips to the gym and more of Marti's healthy cooking, and I can absolve myself of my trip sloth and clear my conscience. And, hopefully, after forgiving me of my absence. Marti and I can resume our lives together.

I departed Redding, CA this morning to a chilly, overcast 34 degrees. I was concerned that my reentering Oregon through the Siskiyou Mountain Pass today might be dangerous due to snow and ice, so I donned the heated gear again and prepared for the worst. The weather gods smiled upon me again, and I passed through the Siskiyou Summit to a 32 degrees, but the roads were clear and dry. I descended back into Oregon to an overcast 41 degrees, and blasted northward on Interstate 5 toward home and a very special woman waiting for me as soon as I pulled into the garage.

As for the trip... Everyone expects the usual insights, revelations, and predictions for future adventures. Yes, I've got a million thoughts and images racing through my head, trying to capture those thoughts here and now would be impossible. To summarize the trip... scenery changes from place to place, but human needs, economic concerns, and an awareness of the 'now' is constant.

I'm still waiting to hear back from the several job interviews I had during my stay in Los Angeles, but I'm still hopeful that something will come of it. Regardless, I did the ride, I made the calls, I met the people. Isn't this why we go on adventures?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 16, mile 4,520.3, A Japanese Angel On My Shoulder...

I've never been much of a believer of most folklore, wives tales, and hearsay, but because of the success of my ride so far, I may have to tip my hat to tradition. My sister-in-law's mother, Kay Yoshimura, (Matt and Colleen in Los Angeles), heard of my ride for employment several weeks ago, and following the tradition of many Japanese Americans, she purchased a Daruma porcelain doll to bring me luck during my travels.

The Daruma doll, or Daruma san, as Colleen calls it, is a Japanese 'wish doll' with no arms and no legs. The Daruma doll, also known as the dharma doll, is modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder and first patriarch of Zen Buddhism. The doll has a face with a mustache and beard, but its eyes only contain the color white. Using black ink, one fills in a single circular eye while thinking of a wish. Should the wish later come true, the second eye is filled in. It is traditional to fill in the left eye first; the right eye is left blank until the wish is fulfilled.

Kay Yoshimura colored in the first eye before my departure, wishing me the success in my trip and job hunt. Oddly enough, I always had a feeling of security throughout my trip, and that it would bring positive results when done. Colleen told me about the doll early during my trip while visiting them in Los Angels. I thought about my Daruma san regularly throughout the trip, wondering if my little porcelain figure was keeping a watchful eye over me while I was thousands of miles away. I like to think he was. If anything, he was my imaginary guardian angel accompanying me over the endless miles. My safe return home tomorrow, and hopefully a job offer in the near future will confirm the power of my Daruma san. He then gets his other eye colored in, confirming the wish has been fulfilled.

I departed Los Angeles this morning to a sunny and warming 53 degrees. I winded my way back up through the Grapevine pass above L.A. to a warm 64 degree day. The weather cooperated with some broken clouds, but still very comfortable riding weather as I proceeded north towards Oregon again. I pushed farther north today to try to minimize the distance I would have to ride tomorrow to finally get home. I rode another 10-hour day and burned up 534 miles to put me closer to making my final push back into Oregon and home Friday evening. I was slowed down by commuter traffic passing through Sacramento, CA, this evening. No great surprise there because most of my big-city crossing throughout this trip have been weekday crossing at the worst possible hour. Regardless, I endured the stop-and-go traffic and opened up the throttle for the final push into Redding, CA, my destined stopping place for the evening.

Tomorrow, the end. This is the funny part about rides like this. You're tired and happy that it is over and done, but a part of you is ready to throw a leg over your machine again the following day and push on for another 500+ miles. I experienced this feeling coming off of several of my past big rides. Everything comes to an end, but we both embrace it and fear it? The typical evolution of long rides is that you remember and curse the uncomfortable, long days during your trip. But as time passes, you forget the suffering and realize that you've been hardened by the experience. As more time passes, you wonder if you can still endure those hardships and push your limitations just a little bit farther. This trip was, by far, the longest motorcycle adventure I have ever experienced, and I'm not ready to duplicate the hardships any time soon. But, given a year or so, I may be sizing up another major adventure. Sorry in advance Marti.

Tomorrow, Portland, home, my own bed and a hot shower, and weeks of bragging rights about motorcycle traveling. I love going home.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 15, mile 3,973.3, Enough Desert! I Need Green!

The day started out very well. I met with my cousin Linda for coffee in downtown Tucson, AZ near the University of Arizona. A very hip portion of town with a terrific vibe and very friendly people. I definitely want to go back and explore it more some day.

It was wonderful reconnecting with Linda this morning. If only for an hour or so. Linda and I lost contact nearly 30 years ago, the usual stories. We both immediately recognized each other. Time has been kind on both of us. We talked awhile about family, careers, and our mutual hopes for a greener, more sustainable society in the future. Linda is much more in touch with these types of projects and efforts because of her work in the Tucson school system and with children. I'd love to spend a week with her just to exchange ideas. Yet another excuse to return to Tucson. This one is on my 'must-do' list. I departed Tucson this morning to a very warm 73 degrees at 9am. I knew I was in for another warm ride this afternoon, so I unzipped all of the vents in my riding suit and proceeded westward for another long, hot desert ride.

As deserts go, and I've seen quite a few, Arizona's desert landscape is the most appealing. Beside its trademark Saguaro Cactus, the rock features, colors, and wildlife seem a bit more interesting than most other deserts. The larger towns such as Tucson and Phoenix are oasis's amidst huge expanses of barren sun-bleached sand and rock. The state of Arizona broke records over the past 5 to 10 years with the largest recorded growth of populations in any American city, surpassing Seattle in the late '80s and '90s, specifically due to the mass migration of greying Baby-Boomers to Tucson and Phoenix's retirement communities. I can see why.

Because of my late departure this morning from Tucson, I rode hard westward to try to get into Los Angeles before sundown. Which meant no stopping for lunch or dinner during my ride today.

My meals today were typically incorporated into my fuel stops, meaning a bottle of water and possibly a couple of beef jerky sticks, (arrrrgh), then back on the road. I'm glad I only do these road trips once a year or so, because my dietary habits go to hell when I'm traveling like this. I'm sooooo looking forward to getting home and one of Marti's healthy home cooked meals.

I crossed the California border today about 1pm to a toasty 86 degrees. As I descended down through the San Gabriel Valley, the wind was fierce and I was again blown all over the road. As I neared Los Angeles the wind tapered off, and I was cruising along again with the normal traffic flow at 80mph. Nearing the city I was caught the the usual rush hour crawl being a regular workday for most folks, and I hobbled along towards my brother and sister-in-laws place in Los Angeles to flop for the evening.

Tomorrow I start north again. I'll head as far as northern California tomorrow, grabbing a hotel somewhere near Redding, CA. Friday is the big push home! I'm ready to run for the barn. My horse is tired, this rider is weary, and my Woman wants me home.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 14, mile 3,462.6, Happiness is Seeing Texas in Your Rearview Mirror...

Texas, in its self, is a black hole for unsuspecting travelers. You enter it with the intention of navigating to points of interest, visiting famous landmarks, or just passing through to a destination somewhere on the other side of this state. Traveling through the state of Texas is probably the largest contributor to wayward travelers having to change their trip itinerary because they didn't consider the enormity of the state, and the time required to traverse it from end to end. I learned this the hard way. Again.

I had been to Texas a few times in the past, and I thought I had a well-informed view of what to expect trying to travel across it, but this is the first time I had actually ridden across it. Big mistake. I'm now thoroughly convinced that all of my Atlas World Maps were wrong in scale, and that Texas is actually bigger than the whole continent of China is land mass. My ride in was long, but relatively interesting because I had never seen this countryside first hand. I mentally noted points of interest as I traveled farther into the state, keeping me somewhat occupied during my trek in. Going out is another story.

I departed Pecos, TX this morning at 6:00am, before sun up, to beat the heat I expected to encounter entering New Mexico and Arizona. First, I should mention, Texan highways are terrific. Nice wide lanes, the pavement is well-maintained, mostly straight line travel, and they allow high speed travel, (80mph), through lightly populated areas. Even at high speeds, the scenery is dull, rarely ever changing, and crossing one mile seems to take one hour, even traveling at high speeds. So, this is how my day went, hour upon hour, still in Texas. Four hours later, I'm passing through El Paso. Great! El Paso is near the New Mexico border. Pass through El Paso, still no New Mexico border. Still in Texas. Keep riding north. More sagebrush, more dust and sand, a couple of tacky tourist traps. Still in Texas.

Finally! A brightly colored sign off in the distance... Welcome to New Mexico! I was never so happy to see such a sign. It's amazing, just across the New Mexico border, everything seems to change. Plants look different, no more tacky tourist traps, (well, maybe a lot less anyway), and the scale seems much smaller. As I crossed New Mexico into Arizona, as expected, the heat did indeed go up. Not only did I strip off my heated gear during the afternoon, but I started opening all of the ventilation zippers in my riding suit upon entering Arizona. I rolled into Tucson, AZ to a toasty 87 degrees, (unusual for this time of year, according to my cousin Linda, who's lived here for quite some time). All I could think about during my trip in was imagining myself sunning by a pool, working on my tan and sipping a Pina Colada with cool Calypso music playing in the background. Forget about Spring Fever, I had full-blown Summer Fever. As most Pacific Northwesterners crave, I need more sun! Tomorrow, I meet my cousin Linda for breakfast and try to catch up on the last 30+ years within an hour or two. Then I depart for Los Angeles again. Los Angeles will be the end of my westward trek, where I swing due north and to home by weeks end. As usual, more blogs as they progress.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 13, mile 2,943.6, Geek on Wheels Heading Left...

Departure day! Today I started my long trek homeward. I got a royal send-off this morning with Mary and Dale accompanying me for the first 60 miles westward on their Harley.

I'm not sure if they were both just looking for a reason to ride, or if I was unofficially being run out of town on a rail, but their company westward and their wonderful hospitality over the past three days was greatly appreciated. I'd love to return the favor some day, and hope to ride with both of them again some time in the future.

We departed Denton, TX to a chilly, breezy 43 degrees. As usual, the northerly crosswind across I-20 was just strong enough to be annoying and buffet me about. Although, as the day progressed and I covered more miles westward, I noticed the temperature was rising rapidly and the crosswinds were diminishing. I rolled through Midland, TX today to a toasty 83 degrees. I immediately stopped and started stripping off all of the heated gear I had donned this morning to combat the chilly crosswinds By the time I had arrived at my hotel in Pecos, TX at 5:00pm, I was already sweating under all of my biking gear. Looking at the weather forecast for Tuscon, AZ tomorrow, I may see 90+ degrees during my ride in. I'm very glad I'm wearing an all-season riding suit for this trip. I can unzip vents for cooling in the hotter climates, and add heated liners underneath for the colder climates. Obviously, my suit is experiencing both during this trip.

Regardless, it felt great to finally be homeward bound again and one day closer to getting back to a good woman patiently waiting for me at home. Marti's been very tolerant of me during this trip, but I won't push my luck and try another one anytime soon. Unless, of course, she's contently sitting on the seat behind me during my next hair-brained adventure. More on that later... Tomorrow Tuscon, AZ to meet up with another long-lost cousin, then on to Los Angeles again.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 12, still mile 2,493.9, Rousted by the Rozzers...

I enjoyed another sunny Texas day today to a warm and calm 56 degree day. I decided to take advantage of the calmness to run my motorcycle down to a local car wash in Lake Dallas, TX to wash off all of the dead bugs I hit coming eastward across the desert southwest. On the way back from the car wash I missed my turn off to the street Mary and Dale live on, and had to take a few back roads to navigate back to the main street to reorient myself. Somewhere in the midst of this reorienting process I apparently failed to come to a complete halt at a stop sign. After finding the correct street to turn into, I heard a short 'blurb' sound behind me. I glanced in the rear view mirrors and saw a police car following me with his lights on. I pulled over to the side of the road just down the street from Mary and Dale's place, and patiently waited for the bad news.

Evidently the one, and only, cop in this small town was cleverly hidden somewhere along one of the side streets I had just crossed, and watched me do a rolling stop through a stop sign. I explained that I wasn't from this area, which he probably figured out immediately after seeing the Oregon state license plate on the back of my motorcycle.

I produced my driver's license, and I guess he ran it for any outstanding warrants, which were none, and he gave it back to me with a warning to watch stop signs in the Dallas area. I was handed a written warning which I had to sign.

Immediately after signing the warning, the cop starts into the 20 questions about my BMW F800GS. Something to the effect of...

Cop: A BMW, huh?

Dave: Yeah, they're terrific bikes.

Cop: Did you ride that all the way down from Oregon?

Dave: Yep, 2400 miles so far, and I start back for Oregon again tomorrow.

Cop: How do these handle on the highway? How fast do they go?

Dave: (blushing under the helmet and not quite sure how to admit I'd been speeding for the past six days) Oh, about 70 to 75mph.

Cop: Nice, it looks like fun.

Dave: Yes, they are.

Cop: Thanks, have a good day.

Dave: Thanks, you too.

Obviously the local constable was a bit bored on a Sunday afternoon, saw a nice shiny BMW ride by, and had to come up with a reason to get a closer look at the bike. I've got this a lot from passers-by just curious about the bike, but I've never gotten a written warning before as a lead in to a bike conversation. Oh well, 2,400 miles and no tickets. If this is the worst that happens to me on this trip, I'll be very happy.

Tomorrow I depart for the long way home. As usual, I will post my observations here. Stay tuned...

Tom Joad - Day 11, still mile 2,493.9, Damn I feel old...

I timed my arrival into Denton, TX perfectly last night, because I awoke this morning to a very windy 41 degree day. I could only imagine how difficult it would have been trying to cross the western Texas desert in 50mph gusting winds had I delayed my arrival in Denton by one day. I spent the morning inspecting and servicing my BMW for the long ride home. Besides adding a little chain lube and some bug splatter clean up, the bike is ready for the long haul home.

I spent the day getting reacquainted with Aunts, Cousins, and their loved ones. It was good to see everyone again after twenty-some-odd years of abscence. I was amazed to meet some of my Cousins children, ( which makes them my second-cousin ???). One is a very large 15 year old high school football player, Tommy, who is very bright, has a terrific sense of humor, and has a promising sports career ahead of him. Another second cousin was Madison, an adorable and extremely intelligent 6 year old who obviously has the charisma to charm the pants off of anyone she meets. I was terrific getting to meet and speak with all of them for the day. I did feel somewhat guilty for not staying better involved in the family developments over the past twenty years. I obviously missed a lot. Hopefully this trip will inspire me to stay in touch with the family a little better over the next 20 years.

It was pleasant being off of the motorcycle for the day. I plan to spend one more day in Denton visiting with Mary and Dale, then start my trip homeward on Monday. Both Mary and Dale are fellow riders, and want to accompany me 100 miles or so westward through Texas for the first leg of my journey home. It will be nice to finally have some company will crossing the great western expanse. Even if only for a short while.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 10, mile 2,493.9, Deep in the Heart of Texas...

After overnighting in Pecos, TX, a small truckstop town halfway across the huge expanse of West Texas desert, I departed to a very chilly 32 degree and somewhat windy day to continue my push eastward into Denton, TX, and my farthest point east for this trip. The sun was shining brightly and the temperature quickly rose into the 50's, so I was relatively comfortable for the day's ride.

Although, throughout the day, there was a continuous northerly wind blowing across my path heading east on I-10, so I spent most of the day riding with a perpetual rightside lean to correct for the crosswind. Those who are familiar with riding in crosswinds know that it is both exhausting and potentially dangerous to constantly correct for changes in the speed of the crosswind and maintaining a safe lane position on the road. Overtaking 18-wheelers driving at 75mph is also somewhat hazardous because as you start to overtake them, the crosswind is temporarily blocked and you start to drift closer to the truck being passed. As you accelerate past the front of the truck, you are caught in the huge volumes of air the truck is displacing and the returning crosswind, so you're quickly blown the the left side of your lane. I spent most of the day trying to find those few 'sweet spots' far away from the big trucks to comfortably cruise along at 80mph.
As I mentioned in the previous day's blog, there's no much to see crossing western Texas. Trying to find something to occupy your thoughts hour after hour is truly a challenge. I can see why some overland truckers go a little nuts having to drive this route day after day. I'm very thankful I only have to make that crossing one more time on the way home. I've seen enough of western Texas to last me a lifetime.

With the lack of interesting scenery to snap photos of during my ride, I pulled over for a brief leg stretch somewhere outside of Odessa, TX to get a few pictures of my trusty BMW. I truly love this motorcycle. It purrs like a kitten running 85mph for hours on end, and I'm averaging approximately 54 mpg in fuel consumption. I've developed a complete sense of confidence in this motorcycle that it will carry me all the way home again without any problems whatsoever.
I crossed Ft. Worth, TX at 4pm to briefly get caught in the Friday afternoon rush hour traffic at the freeway interchanges, but quickly breezed through and headed northeast towards Denton, TX. Entering Denton, I again was caught in some rush hour gridlock, this time due to a wreck on the freeway some four miles ahead. I creeped along on the freeway at 10mph for about 30 minutes, but the sun was shining and the temperature was 70 degrees, so I contently tolerated the inconvenience and blissfully putted along until I could get to my desired exit.

I arrived at Mary and Dale Ewald's place at nearly 6:00pm, tired but glad I had arrived at my stopping point for a few days. While here, I intend to get reacquainted with family I haven't seen in years. I'll spend a few days here, then start my trek westward towards home next week, following the same route I rode to get here. Possibly to see if I missed anything? I dunno... I'll keep posting here anyway.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 9, mile 2,059.6, Damn Texas is Big!

I departed Tucson, AZ this morning to a chilly, but sunny 38 degrees. I rode eastward again along Interstate 10, obviously the major artery for all eastbound/westbound traffic crossing through the southwest states. Besides riding through a light crosswind and some severe buffeting from the wind turbulence passing 18-wheelers cruising at 70 mph, the ride was relaxing and uneventful.

To most passers-by, the southwest desert looks the same as you cross it mile after mile. To the pseudo-trained eye, (I lived in this desert for 5 years), you notice subtle changes in the terrain and plant life as you traverse the huge, barren open expanses. Most noticeably from this trip was the Cacti, (many Cactus...).

I'd seen pictures of the huge Saguaro cactus from post cards and pictures, but had never seen one in real life. The Saguaro are the large two or three limbed cactus you saw in the Yosemite Sam cartoons. Beautiful in real life. Evidently these cacti only grow in the elevated hills of Arizona, where evidently some moisture is captured. Once you cross into the open flat lands where any remaining moisture is wicked away by the crosswinds, these giants will not grow.

I crossed into the New Mexico desert around 10am this morning to a warming 51 degrees. Oddly enough, the Saguaro cactus was nowhere to be seen, replaced the the smaller Nopales, or Prickly Pear Cactus. Eventually, the Nopales disappeared as well, leaving nothing but miles of sage brush and sand as far as the eye could see.
I entered El Paso, Texas at roughly 2pm this afternoon. A bustling metropolis of strip-mine workers, farmers, and shop owners dealing with the perpetual flow of tourists and migrant workers moving across the Mexico border over the Rio Grande River separating the two countries. A bleak existence at best, but these people seem to endure it well.

From El Paso I journeyed into the vast openness of western Texas. Miles and miles of open desert with little or no people in it. I resorted to doing trip calculations and distance-to-time measurements in my head, frequently talking to myself, and also frequently verbally questioning my own results. Any passers-by who could see my face through my face shield probably observed that I was readily chatting with myself throughout the long miles through western Texas. You do whatever is necessary to pass the time in an environment which lacks stimulation. I found my stimulation.

I decided to stop for the night in Pecos, Texas. Roughly halfway across Texas from my final stopping point in Denton, TX, and seeing my Aunts and Uncles who I haven't seen in a very long time. Tomorrow is the final push to Dallas, then Denton. This is the turn-around point for me. Any further trip logs will be retracing my footsteps back to Portland, OR and my anxiously awaiting girlfriend, who I miss dearly throughout these long miles. I do miss being home.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 8, mile 1,530.9, Chasing the Sun Belt...

Feeling a sense of accomplishment in my job-hunting endeavors during my Los Angeles visit, I awoke way too early this morning anxious to continue my motorcycle adventure. I was up and loaded by 5am, and on the road before 7am to beat the L.A. rush hour traffic. I departed L.A. to a chilly, damp 47 degrees, with sun rising over the San Gabriel Mountains. Traffic was accommodating, and I quickly slid out of the congested suburbs towards the High Desert of San Bernardino and across the eastern desert of California.

It has been 20-odd years since I drove through the Southern California eastern desert. I didn't recognize it. Obviously wind-farm technology has found a home here because I rode through miles of huge windmills, all of which I'm assuming is providing power to Los Angeles in the west, and Palm Springs in the east. Very impressive.

I crossed the Arizona border around noon to a very satisfying 60 degrees. I immediately started shedding my heated clothing hoping I wouldn't need it again for the next thousand miles or so of the trip.

Phoenix, AZ is, or was, a booming metropolis. New subdivisions dot the rolling desert hills as far as the eye can see. I rolled into Phoenix at nearly 70-degree temperatures, blissing out to the heat and sun. I jumped off of I-10E temporarily to fuel up and have a look around. The high hills surrounding Phoenix contain gated, landscaped, and manicured communities for the new wealth which has found a lively hood here. It made me wonder... how long before the economic decay of the rest of the nation becomes evident here? I'd like to travel through this area again in 5 or 6 years to see the effect.

I continued southward towards Tucson, AZ, and my final destination for the evening, a crappy Travel Lodge hotel just off of I-10 to make my departure faster tomorrow. I spoke with my long-lost cousin Linda during my stop. Linda and I both grew up in New York. She was a year or two older than I was, and her father got my brothers and I hooked into playing ice hockey. We lost touch after I joined the military in the late '70's, but it was terrific to talk with her again this evening. Obviously we both have the same hopes and concerns for our nation, and our planet in the future. I intend to stop in Tucson again upon my return voyage home to spend a day with my cousin 'catching-up'.

Tomorrow, 500+ miles of crossing western Texas, Arrrrrgh!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 7, still mile 1,023, Peddling the flesh...

I hung up the motorcycle attire today to don more suitable clothing intended to convince perspective employers that I'm not a closet axe murderer, and a fairly safe bet to hire.

I had an interview with an aircraft firm in Montebello, CA this morning which I believe went very well. Obviously my previous US Air Force experience payed off. I've always equated interviews as a mental fencing match, one false parry to a tricky question asked by the interviewer could easily result in a quickly skewed and easily discarded candidate. I defended well today.

Later this afternoon I met with a technical recruiter for the Southern California area. He has a few job listings which may work for me. In either case, I'm hoping to get a phone call or two within the next few weeks about job opportunities.

Tomorrow the bike gear goes back on and I depart Los Angeles for Tucson, Arizona. From Tuscon, I head east as far as Dallas, Texas for a brief visit with family, then I start the long journey home again. As usual, look for all the juicy details fit to print here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 6, still mile 1,023, Blimps, dirigibles, and zeppelins

I awoke this morning to the sound of a torrential downpour of rain in Los Angeles. Inches of rain poured down within hours, a documented phenomenom in the past, although very unusual. For those that don't know it, Los Angeles is a desert. Although man-made irrigation has turned the city of Los Angeles into a greenhouse of exotic plants and trees, the sun-baked soil is still very resilient to absorbing large quantities of water in a short period of time. So, after an hour or so of heavy rain, everything floods. Streets are quickly submerged under several inches of water, mudslides engulf whole hillsides pulling down trees and houses with them. Complete chaos for the 9-to-5ers trying to go about their daily rituals. I'm truly glad I wasn't riding in this mess this morning.

Interestingly enough, I had planned to ride this morning. I had a down day from job hunting because it was a holiday, (President's Day), for some people. I was interested in trekking up to the high desert of Victorville, CA, where I was stationed while in the US Air Force back in the mid 80's. Victorville is situated nearly half way between Los Angeles, and Las Vegas in the middle of the Mojave Desert if you draw a straight line on the map. Nothing but tumble weeds, Joshua trees, and blowing dust for miles around.

I decided to cancel my ride to the high desert today and surf the job listings in Los Angeles for any new ones which popped up over the past weekend. I found an interesting listing in the Los Angeles Craigslist recruiting avionics engineers, so I sent in a response mentioning that I was interested and currently visiting the Los Angeles area. Within minutes I had a response back asking me to fill out an application, and 30 minutes later I was being called from one of their hiring managers.

This company manufactures and sells blimps, or 'Lighter-Than-Air' airships. They market many of the smaller airships you see flying over sporting events, (smaller than the Goodyear blimps). They also have several military contracts for dirigilbles, and several rigid-hull airships in the prototype stages. I was immediately interested, so I called them back and they asked me in for an interview on Tuesday. Things are looking up, (all puns intended), for this job-hunting trip.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 5, mile 1,023, Los Angeles sun...

Still haunting my brother and sister-in-law's house in Los Angeles waiting for meetings with job recruiters and phone interviews next week, I had a chance to meander around the streets of western Los Angeles and cruise through Venice Beach on the Beemer today to a lovely 60-degree day. I got lots of odd looks from fellow motorists while I was staying in the usual traffic lanes while fellow bikers roared past us splitting traffic lanes between rows of stopped vehicles. I dunno... something about the idea of having a motorist abruptly change lanes in front of me while trying to lane-split down Santa Monica Blvd. scared the crap out of me, so I opted to go with the usual traffic flow.Did I mention it was 60 degrees today? The above picture says it all. Mid-February when the rest of the country is buried in snow and freezing temperatures, fruit trees are bursting with ripe fruit in Los Angeles. Who wouldn't want to live in a place where you can pick fresh produce from your backyard year round?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 4, still mile 997.8, Viva Los Angeles...

Sorry, no pictures today because I was dumb enough to forget to grab my camera before stepping out into that great Los Angeles sun this morning.

I awoke this morning in Los Angeles to a sunny and promisingly warm day, although it took me a few minutes to comprehend where I was at and what day it was because of the strange bed and different surroundings in the room. My brother Matt is a pilot, and is frequently called away to fly routes all over the world. We had an hour or so to get reacquainted after my arrival at his house last night, but this morning he was off again for a 5-day flight to Tokyo. Safe travels Matt!

After performing a few botanical seed-germination tasks to set up my sister-in-law Colleen with a nice variety of fresh herb plants for her garden this Spring, we set off for lunch in the Los Angeles sun. Being in L.A., I capitolized on the abundance of fresh produce and opted for a salad-bar lunch to pay for the sins of my typical junk food bike trip diets. After a lovely lunch, I convinced Colleen that we needed to soak up some of the high-50's Winter sun at some outdoor restaurant over a couple of margaritas. We ended up on the Santa Monica Pier for a couple of drinks on the pier overlooking the Pacific Ocean, watching drunk tourists and feeding pigeons from restaurant tortilla chips and salsa. Another memorable day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Tom Joad - Day Three, mile 997.8...

I awoke this morning in my hotel room in Sacramento, CA, to the sound of heavy rain falling outside. I glanced out my hotel window to see my motorcycle being drenched by the downfall. Good, I thought. The rain will wash away all of the road grime which had accumulated over the past few days. Then the thought struck me, Oh Jeez, am I going to have to ride in this all day? Once again the weather gods smiled, and the clouds and rain had passed farther east at 8am to allow some broken blue sky and sunshine. Counting my blessings again, I loaded up the machine for my push southward to Los Angeles and a few days off of the bike to electronically beg for work with a few Los Angeles based engineering firms.

The first hour or so out of Sacramento was beautiful. Dry pavement and 48 degrees. But as I headed south down I-5, I noticed a lot of dark clouds drifting eastward from the coast, and knew my luck was about to change.

It did. I rode the 300+ miles through the San Joaquin Valley with sun, wind, rain, hail, and anything else Mother Nature could throw at me. Once again, the Gore-Tex suit and heated clothing saved me from a very miserable eight hour ride. I rode through the Grapevine, the 4,200 ft. mountain pass of I-5 north of Los Angeles, through chilly 38 degree temperatures, but quickly warmed up to the high 40's once I descended down closer to sea level.

I joined the Friday night crawl on the Santa Monica Frwy about 5pm, and took over an hour to go roughly 18 miles to arrive at my brother Matt's house. I arrived tired and frustrated, but relieved of getting off of the bike for the night. My plan is to spend the next few days fishing for new job contacts while in L.A., meet a few potential employers, and patiently wait for job opportunities to avail themselves within the next month or so. I hope. I'll spend nearly a week here in L.A. fishing for jobs, then onward farther west to Arizona and Texas. Of course I will post here any breaking events which occur during my rest stops.

Once again, many thanks to Matt and Colleen for lodging this wayward scooter bum. They put me up last year twice last year for my Baja trip, and this visit was very short notice. I hope I can repay their kindness someday. They both are rich in the Karma Bank.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tom Joad - Day Two, mile 600.3...

As I learned the hard way last year during my Baja excursion, planning your departure and reentry into the Pacific Northwest during the Winter months is a bit of a crapshoot. To escape the Pacific Northwest states during the Winter months, you have to consider weather fronts moving in, traversing mountain passes, and ambient temperatures at a particular time of day to get to your next destination. This trip was no different. I had to watch and try to predict snow storms, rain storms, and sub-freezing temperatures to gain a few miles in the hopes of gaining better conditions the farther south I traveled. And, once again, I evidently appeased the weather gods.

I woke this morning in Riddle, OR to a partly-cloudy 34-degree sky, but warming rapidly, and the sun broke through the clouds at 9:00am. The previous day southern Oregon was inundated with mixes of cold fog, freezing rain, and snow in the higher elevations. I was beginning to wonder if I would make it out of Oregon as I had planned. Again, I lucked out. I left Randy and Shannon's place to a relatively comfortable 41 degrees, and headed south towards the Siskiyou Mountain Summit unknowing of what I would encounter when I arrived. Again, lucky. I crossed the Siskiyou Mountain Summit at roughly 12-noon to a very chilly 29-degrees, but dry roads over the 4,300 foot mountain pass.

I crossed the mountain pass and dropped down into Weed, California to a chilly and very windy 41-degrees. Unlike my past Winter trips, I decided to invest in heated motorcycle clothing for this trip. Wonderful! I should have done this years ago. Regardless, I stayed relatively warm, comfortable, and hugely enjoying the passing Winter landscape.

After a brief stop in Redding, CA, and getting hit on by a group of pensioning widowers during a coffee stop, I blasted southward on Interstate 5 towards Sacramento, CA, my first wayward stop on my trek southward to Los Angeles and an extended visit with my brother Matt and his wife Colleen.

I finally rolled into my hotel in Sacremento, CA late in the evening after my GPS system got somewhat creative in my routing and unnecessarily routed me from I-5 through downtown Sacramento and to my hotel, when my hotel was located immediately off of Hwy. 50, ( ask my about when my GPS system nearly got my thrown in jail in San Francisco last year). Needless to say, I found the hotel, hunkered down for the evening, and prepared for my ride into Los Angeles tomorrow. Stay tuned to this bat-channel for more GPS blunders...

Tom Joad - Day One, mile 210...

Departure day! I loaded up the machine, kissed my significant other goodbye, and headed out into the void with Led Zeppelin's 'Boogie With Stu' blaring in my ear buds under the helmet.

Keeping up with tradition in most of my long rides... I departed Beaverton, Oregon at 8:00am on Wednesday morning, Feb. 11th, to an overcast, cold, foggy morning riding in 38-degree temperatures. As expected, I got stuck riding at a crawl trying to escape the rush hour Portland traffic I had participated in for the past year or so while commuting between Beaverton, OR and Vancouver, WA for work. I always hated that commute, but this morning I was somewhat envious of those 9 to 5 stiffs going to their mundane jobs. Could be something about a regular paycheck.

I pushed through the crawling traffic on Interstate 5 just south of Tualatin, OR, and opened the bike up to 70mph, a cruising speed I hoped to maintain throughout this whole trip. The weather cooperated until I crossed through Salem, OR, where I encountered a perpetual light drizzle. The drizzle was tolerable, but enough to soak the outsides of my riding suit enough where I could feel the cold fabric against my skin, even under the layer of Gore-Tex protecting me from the wetness.

I pushed southward and was rewarded by cloud breaks and sunshine passing through Eugene, OR. The temperature warmed up to the high 40's, and I blissfully cruised towards Riddle, OR and the home of my old mountain-climbing buddy, Randy Bohm and his lovely wife Shannon.
Randy is a kindred spirit, a diesel mechanic and welder by trade, also unemployed over the past 5 months from an 11-year job, but recently employed again. Randy is the perpetual optimist. Life's been tough for both of us at times, but Randy always had the strength to see the positive opportunities in adverse situations. In many ways, I've always tried to approach life's little surprises with the 'Randy Bohm' way of thinking. I highly doubt neither Randy nor I will ever die of stress-related illnesses following this simple recipe. I highly recommend it.

Although I only met Shannon a year ago, I liked her immediately. She's a big-city transplantee who recognized a long time ago that shedding the big-city life style for the simpler things in life in much more rewarding, both physically and mentally. Shannon is generous, caring, and very sensitive to the needs of people around her. Yet another good role model for me to improve my social skills with friends and neighbors. And the cherry on top is that she's an incredible cook. Her spaghetti sauce in wonderful, and she make the best Crepe-Suzette I have ever tasted! Yes, I'm going back for breakfast on my return trip home.

Monday, February 9, 2009

21st Century Tom Joad...

As many high-tech workers can attest to... It was a good ride when business was good, but, all good things eventually come to an end. Unfortunately, I was caught in one of the many layoffs in the high-tech sector around Portland, Oregon, so I'm job-hunting again. The competition for the few remaining engineering positions around Portland is fierce, typically resulting in employers being inundated with resumes when positions open. Because of the economic uncertainty, most local employers have either frozen or eliminated hiring, so I'm forced to broaden my search for jobs.

In the fashion of the Joad family in the Steinbeck novel Grapes of Wrath, I'm loading up my motorcycle again for a 5k-mile journey through California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas armed with a stack of resumes to search for job opportunities along my route through the Sun Belt states.

My trip also serves a second purpose. I will get to visit family members I haven't seen in 30 years, and rekindle family ties long overdue. As usual with my past motorcycle trips, I will post my observations along the route here. And no, sorry, you won't see any photos of Granny in her rocking chair roped to the top of my bike, but I will try to include lots of scenery pictures as the ride evolves.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Yes, I'm still alive...

After a very long hiatus from my adventure trips, I'm back. The economic downturn and typical job insecurity prevented me from commiting to any big trips over the past year. My job security situation hasn't improved any, but I've still got big plans for big trips during the warmer months.

Most noticeable change is in my choice of rides... The big BMW R1200GS was sold last September to make room for my new 2009 BMW F800GS.

The F800GS is a little smaller, much more nimble, and lighter than the old R1200GS, and much more controllable than the 600+ lbs. R1200GS. A true confidence-builder. I'm slowly adding all of the creature comforts to the F800GS as I had on my R1200GS to accommodate the long trips, such as GPS, MP3, heated clothing, and luggage. I'll be ready for the quick long-weekend adventure rides this Spring, and longer rides next year.