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To paraphrase E.E. Cummings, the posts that are to come are for you and for me, and are not for most people.  Most people have very limited interests. Yours and mine are many, are diverse, are sometimes incongruent, are often out of the ordinary, off the beaten track, or as my former boss once put it: “You’re quirky. But in a good way.”

On any given day I may choose to write about politics, poetry, motorcycles, travel, restaurants, bars, books, sculpture, ideas about time, the mind, the body, whatever. I may choose to write about nothing at all. Or just not write.

And on any given day you may choose to read what I write, to like it, share it, comment on it – or just skip it. Who knows? maybe you don’t like poetry, or politics, Beethoven. Whatever. What you choose is your business, just as what I choose is mine.

Why a blog? Why “premeditations”? Look what good questions you ask! I knew you were the right reader for me.

A blog, because it helps me to focus, to maintain the habit of writing, and because writing without readers is little more than masturbating with a dictionary. (I like words, but not in that way.) It also helps me to maintain the habit of thinking out loud. Anyone can think anything in the cozy confines of their skull. But when we think out loud we invite others to join us – to agree, to disagree, to question us, and to answer us. That is what I’m doing here.

“Premeditations,” because I like the ambiguity inherent in the word. These posts will be premeditated, planned to some degree in advance. Not just off-the-cuff riffs like you might find on social media. They will also be in some way “pre-meditation,” in the sense of being prior to really deep thinking about whatever topic they purport to address. (In other words, don’t allow your expectations to get unreasonably high on me. It won’t be good for either of us.)

So, welcome. Pull up a chair. Stay as long as you like.

Road trip days 2-4 (Calgary to launch aborted)

I spent the weekend resting in Calgary. Saturday, I hung out with Scott. Sunday, I got together with my sister-in-law Marianne for breakfast, then spent the rest of the day lazing about, until Scott & I went to his ex-wife Kathy’s and her partner Paul’s place to cook sausages over a fire pit. Well, we had sausages, Kathy, et al, had veggie dogs. Incredibly sad looking things – the veggie dogs, that is – but to each their own. Kathy is an excellent person, which you kind of have to be to teach junior high, and Paul is interesting and engaging in the unassuming way that many introverts are. Then we came back to Scott’s place and finished preparing for today’s start to the trip.

This morning we got up, loaded up our bikes, went for coffee and a muffin to break our fast at a local diner, then hit the road. We reached the city limits and accelerated to match the change in the speed limit – a very civilized 110 kmh. We were riding into an east wind. It wasn’t strong, but it was cool. Scott took the lead.

I noticed several times that Scott’s KLR began to wobble when he got it up to speed, and he had to roll off the throttle to correct the situation. We pulled into a rest area not far past Strathmore, and Scott confirmed the wobble, and confessed it was both annoying and worrisome. He assumed it had to do with the hard cases he had installed for the trip. The bike had never wobbled before, but he hadn’t had it out on the highway since installing the bags. He made some minor adjustments and we set off eastward again, but we didn’t get far before pulling over again. A few more adjustments and we gave it another shot. That, too, was short-lived. I googled ‘KLR speed wobble’, which demonstrated a) Scott’s is not the first KLR to encounter this kind of issue, and b) no one online has any useful advice on fixing the problem. We decided the best & safest thing was to head back to Calgary and try to figure things out there.

 A visit to Scott’s mechanic didn’t help a whole lot. They suggested removing the bags and riding on the highway again to make sure that was the problem. We did, and it was. So. Now what? In a little while, after frustration has subsided, Scott will attempt some configuration changes: removing the hard case rack, and using soft bags instead; changing the windshield; etc. If all goes well, we’ll start eastward tomorrow. If not, I’ll take a winding route home, spend the long weekend with Adele, and decide what to do with the rest of my holidays. 

But that’s getting too far ahead. First things first, then we’ll go from there.

Road Trip – Day 1 – Vancouver to Calgary (approx. 1,000 km/600 mi)

The prepping and packing are behind me now. Now the trip is real.
The day began, as always, with my alarm waking me at 5:45. I made coffee, turned on the morning news. I planned to wake Adele at 6:30, as I normally do on her work days, but she got herself up early. I made breakfast and cleaned up the dishes. I got dressed. Did a last check that I had everything I needed. Said goodbye to the cat. Said ‘see you in a couple of weeks’ to Adele.

And then I started off, into the morning sun and the East wind. Dodging traffic until I got to Hope. I made good time most of the way, reaching Kamloops in under four hours, Revelstoke before 2 p.m., Golden by five, and Calgary in under 12 hours total.

I’d be more expansive and poetic, but it’s late and I’m tired. It was an uneventful, almost boring ride, but a slog. More a test of will than anything. I expect I’ll take my usual, more southerly route home, and in the usual two days, rather than one. The Crow is a prettier route, and the roads are more fun. The TransCanada is just meant to get shit from one city to another with as little fuss as possible. Who, on a bike, wants that?


I’ll be in Calgary for another couple of days before day two of the road trip.

The Anniversary Party

They descended the stairs into the room.
The waiters led them to their seats. The other guests were already there.
Everyone dressed for the occasion, whatever it was.
Reflections from the lights danced in the water glasses.

They had been the last to arrive. The other guests were already there.
The table was long, and they sat far from each other.
Reflections of light danced in the water glasses.
He did his best to keep up with the conversation around him.

It was a long table, and they sat so far from each other.
He couldn’t see who she was speaking to.
He did his best to keep up with the conversations that moved around him.
Every now and then he heard her laughter from where she sat.

He couldn’t see which of the men she was speaking to.
He couldn’t hear anything that either of them said.
Every now and then he heard her laughter from where she sat.
He kept wishing the dinner would be over.

He couldn’t hear anything that she or the man said.
It was impossible to determine how she was feeling.
He just wanted the dinner to be over.
He hadn’t really wanted to come tonight anyway.

He could never really tell how she was feeling.
They didn’t speak about things like that.
He hadn’t even wanted to come here tonight.
Things hadn’t been quite right between them lately.

She said she couldn’t tell him how she was feeling.
Something always made her hold back.
Things hadn’t been quite right between them lately.
He couldn’t put his finger on what it was.

Something was making her hold back.
He had a growing but vague sense of unease.
He couldn’t put his finger on what it was.
It felt like something or someone was dying.

He had a vague but growing sense of unease.
They descended the stairs into the room.
It felt more funereal than celebratory.
They were dressed for the occasion, whatever it was.

©  Mark Milner, 2017

Numbers, etc.

15 days off, starting Friday

12 stops on the road trip (give or take)

5 more nights at home before I hit the road for just over two weeks

4 more days of work

3 of those days commuting to the office. (I’m gonna work from home on Thursday)

2 gallon jerry-can (rotopax) picked up yesterday, so I won’t have any excuse to run out of gas.

*****

Nearly everything is ready to go. A few things to pick up this week, and then there’s packing to do before I go. I’m looking forward to being on the road, although I’m going to miss my wife. I always do. She makes coming home worthwhile.

 The first stage of the trip will be solo, from Vancouver to Calgary. Not sure, yet, if I’ll do it in one push, or my usual two-day ride along Hwy 3. I have a few people to visit in Cowtown, and as always, I’ll want to visit my old man’s grave. Scott has to work Sunday, so we’ll point ourselves eastward Monday morning. The itinerary will evolve as we go, based on whim and weather, but so far a rough outline is:

  • Vancouver to Calgary
  • Calgary to Saskatoon 
  • Saskatoon to Portage La Prairie
  • PLP to Duluth, MN
  • Duluth to Sault Ste. Marie
  • The Sault to Fenelon Falls/Toronto
  • FF to Quebec City
  • Quebec to Erie, PA
  • Erie to Chicago
  • Chicago to Fargo
  • Fargo to Moose Jaw
  • Moose Jaw to Calgary
  • Calgary to Vancouver

That’s a little over 10,000 km (6,000 miles). I’ll need to arrange an oil change on my travels, and my bike will be due for it’s next service, and likely a new set of tires, when I get back. But that’s looking too far ahead. It’s time to start getting my mind into riding mode. 

When you’re travelling on a motorcycle, you need to focus on what’s immediate, and between you and the horizon. Everything else is too far away to think about. It’s a distraction and a danger. You can think about it later, when you’ve done with the day’s ride.

So for now I will put the itinerary out of mind. Focus on getting things done that need doing before I go. Focus on what and who is around me now. The horizon will arrive soon enough. Don’t rush it. 

The one I love

This one goes out to the one I love.

REM

 

Relationships can be hard work. They often require patience, and compromise, consideration of how what we do and say will affect how someone else feels. For a relationship to work, that needs to be at least as important as our own feelings.

I’m good at working hard. (No, really.) I’m less good at patience and compromise, although I do try to be considerate most of the time. And I try to consider how my words and actions will affect the people I care about. I don’t always succeed, and that’s where the work comes in.

Some people like to say you should never be sorry for anything. No compromise and no regret. Look out for number one. Blah blah blah. I can’t imagine any such people having successful, healthy relationships. Of any description.

This is as true in business relationships and friendships as it is of those we like to call “love”. There is, however, much more at stake when it comes to love. Piss off a business contact, and maybe you lose a sale. And you can generally make things up to your friends. They’ll get over it, you’ll get over it. No hard feelings, eventually.

When we hurt someone we love, that tends to linger, for us as well as them. And sometimes more for us. Which is why we work harder, try harder to be patient, compromise more, when it comes to love. And most of the time, the work doesn’t feel like work, and the compromises don’t feel like sacrifice. Or rather, it’s work we’re happy to do, sacrifices we gladly make. The compromises we make in our negotiations with the ones we love feel like we’re winning.

Relationships also require a lot of luck. To paraphrase Somerset-Maugham, it’s a minor miracle when two people, who are each constantly changing, manage not to grow apart. In this respect, I have been exceptionally lucky. My wife and I have been married more than 24 years, and together for nearly 26. We’ve both changed over time. She continues to put up with me, in spite of my many faults. We forgive each other regularly for lapses in patience and compromise. We each endeavour to do better, and we both work hard at it.

I think that, really, is the recipe for success in anything: the serendipitous combination of hard work and good luck.

Here endeth the lesson.

Keeping My Cool

One of the challenges of a summertime motorcycle trip is heat. As someone who’s crashed in the past, I know first hand the importance of wearing all my gear, all the time. But motorcycle gear is hot. Or at least, mine is. And heat can cause you to crash. And some injuries just can’t be prevented by gear. So, what to do…. Wear my gear to protect me from injury, but risk crashing from overheat? Not wear my gear to stay cool, but risk tissue/blood loss if I crash anyway? Neither are very good options.

I could buy a mesh jacket, although this has some drawbacks. First, gear is expensive. Even a cheap mesh jacket will cost over $200, and I’ll still need a more robust jacket when it’s not crazy-hot. Also, mesh just allows the hot air easier access to my body. Riding at 100+ km/h in 35+ Celsius can feel like a riding in a kiln. And last, I’m not entirely sold on the safety of mesh gear. I can’t see it holding up all that well if I’m sliding down the road on my back.

What I’ve opted for instead is a cooling vest, which I ordered from FortNine last week, and which arrived in the post today. The idea is that on hot days, I soak the vest and wear it under my t-shirt. The gradual evaporation, combined with moisture wicking, will help keep my core cool. I’d heard from others that these work really well, so I’m going to give it a try. It has to be better than sticking bags of ice-cubes in my inner pockets, which works great – for about ten minutes. The vest is supposed to be good for several hours at a go. We’ll see. At any rate, it was less than half the price of a cheap mesh jacket, so at worst I’m not out all that much cash.

******

Only seventeen days till I hit the road.

 

Trip preparation

It’s been a while since I posted anything here. I need to make more of an effort in that regard. So, here is the first step.

In a little less than a month I’ll be embarking on a short, 12,000ish km road trip, from Vancouver to someplace in Quebec, and back again. The route will take me through Alberta (where I’ll meet up with my riding partner), Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Minnesota, Ontario, Quebec, maybe New Brunswick, parts of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and North Dakota.

And possibly some other places. You never know how weather, and other factors, might affect your route. I’m not too fussed about this. My riding companion will want to spend time with his family in Ontario, who I’m looking forward to seeing again. He’s also keen to stop for a couple of days in Chicago, which I don’t really object to, either. Apparently there’s an old U-boat there you can tour. And if we can get cheap tickets to a Cubs game that would be cool.

Trip preparations have so far been relatively minimal, although I recently picked up some maps (I still don’t use GPS), and I’ve ordered a cooling vest to wear under my motorcycle jacket, so I hopefully won’t suffer as much in the heat as I have on past trips. I’ll buy a small jerrycan, just in case. My BCAA is up to date. My bike has been serviced (at great expense, as you may recall).

The next step will be determining what to bring. I almost always over-pack. You don’t really need much in the way of clothes on a motorcycle trip. Mostly, you’re wearing gear, with jeans and a t-shirt, or something like that, underneath. Most days, it’s just socks and underwear, maybe the t-shirt, that get changed. A couple of extra shirts, a pair of shorts, a bathing suit, a pair of pants, should cover most needs. Even then, some of these things can be washed out and hung to dry overnight. A roadside emergency kit is a good idea. A basic first aid kit. An extra litre of motor oil. Rain gear. A power bank to charge phones. The maps I mentioned earlier.

In the next few weeks, more detailed planning will begin. Each step makes the trip more tangible. Soon it will be in progress, and then just a collection of memories, blog posts and photographs. But first, the planning and preparing will make it real, not just an vague idea of something hasn’t happened yet.