Live Simply so that Others can Simply Live

Living simply to me means that you try to edit out all the unnecessary stuff and habits that do not help you, and instead feed your soul with clean air, exercise and take the time to view and appreciate the beauty of the earth.

In riding, I “live simply”.

I embrace the changing heat or cold. I observe the moving clouds and light. This is what occupies me when I ride – what I see around me and the unfolding changes as the earth turns its predictable rotation.

There is virtually no limit to what I can see or do on my motorcycle.

Yesterday the highlight of my ride was passing a homestead filled with billy goats in the front yard. These are inquisitive animals, prone to bad behavior when there is a lack of sufficient stimulation. Thus, the home owner had their yard filled with playskool children’s jungle gyms – able to provide hours of entertainment for an animal as intelligent as a first grader.

The thought of a white billy sliding down a yellow plastic slide, on its belly, with its characteristic beard billowing in the wind delights my imagination. It helps me remember today’s mantra –  Live Simply so that Others can Simply Live.

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Fall Leaves

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Every fall the leaves change from a late summer crispy key lime, to a mellow yellow tinged with gold, into deeper shades of fiery red, violet, dark purple, and finally a brown reminiscent of burned pumpkin pie. The dark brown skittering of oak leaves on pavement signals the beginning of quiet evenings spent sipping cocoa binge watching Netflix, activities that occupy my late fall and winter nights.

The beauty of the leaves is the silver lining in the shorter days, less predictable weather, and grilling after dark one must endure at the close of the year.

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We rode up to New Paltz, New York to take in the sites in the lovely Shawangunks region. This area of New York is special to me. Sitting just south east of the Catskills, and it is the site of world class rock climbing – where my hubby and I spend our first few dates and built a relationship of trust.

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The area is full of memories. It is there that we climbed up the craggy crumbling rock face, depending upon the cams and nuts we lodge in the rock, and when necessary onto the strong trunks of the multi-colored fall fireworks. In the event of a slip, we hope our gear and the strong roots would save us from an untimely crash.

Riding past Roundout Reservoir, north of Ellenville, I know that the trees will continue their spectacle until they are bare. This will happen next year, and long past the time when I will be able to enjoy it on two wheels. There is a comfort in the predictable changing of the guard around the reservoir, as the light green gives way to the fall colors, and in turn to scraggly grey and whiteness.

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Overcoming Fear

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Whenever I am nervous on my motorcycle, I try to think about how I felt learning to drive a stick shift car. I was 17 and about to buy my aunt’s eight year old Acura Legend 3.2L. I had already named her “sexy bitch”, but the problem was that I had no idea how to get it out of the driveway. Mom suggested that I drive her around in my newish car to run errands, and get a feeling for it.

We headed out to Route 1 in Norwalk, CT to pick up groceries at Stew Leonard’s on a busy Saturday afternoon. Route 1 is a four lane, stop and go, concrete gauntlet in a hilly section of town. I planned my course to avoid stopping on an incline, or having to maneuver into a tight parking space. At one point, I pleaded for a Chinese fire drill while stopped at a light! Fifteen years later, I have no qualms about parallel parking between a Tesla and an A8 on a hill.

What changed? Hours logged.

So, back to the riding, I am now feeling ready to try a few things new things that seem scary. Bobby and I went apple picking at Soon’s Orchard in Middletown, NY. This idea presented a challenge: there is a gravel and grass parking lot at the orchard, and last time we were there I dropped my bike in the lot. I was scared of going back.

As I recalled, there were a few problems with the lot, 1) the lot was on a 15 degree incline, making it impossible to park a bike properly, 2) there were potholes in the driveway so deep, it would bottom out a monster truck, 3) fire breathing dragons that ask pop trivia questions guarded the entrance, and 4) you had to run through an American Ninja Warrior course, backward, in order to pick apples. 

Well, during yesterday’s visit I noticed that the lot had flattened significantly, the potholes were more manageable, the dragons were on break, and since I was up to date on my pop culture trivia and had been practicing (i.e., watching) ANW, I was ready.

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So, the lesson learned is that if something seems scary and really hard, you aren’t doing it enough. Given this new confidence, I am hoping that at some point soon the highway does not look to me like the road way in The Fifth Element, where Korben Dallas has to outrun the police in his flying taxicab.

Flying free

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When I ride, I am flying. I am disconnected from the earth, skimming along its surface in an effortless smooth glide, similar to a gull swooping along the surface of the ocean at sunrise. There is freedom in the limitless opportunities for direction of flight.

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I feel like a propeller plane as I coast down the runway of the condo complex, cueing up at the stoplight, waiting to get cleared from ground control to take flight. In a moment I am weightless – physically and emotionally. The past does not matter, and there is no future. No “to do” list, no work next week, no joint stiffness and no thinking about what I “should be doing”.

All that exists is what I see and feel, and I am out exploring the limitless wonders of the natural and human world.

Sometimes once I put on my helmet, jacket and gloves, I feel like I am just floating along on the outside – observing. The plastic visor of my helmet creates a buffer from reality. My fear of stopping on gravel, and  low speed tight maneuvers, makes me a jumbo jet – that must carefully plan its execution of turns near the gate of an airport, knowing that there is no reverse and little room for error.

At other times, when I ride without ear protection, open up the vents on my jacket and throttle it up to 60 on familiar roads – I feel nakedly exposed. During those rides, I am a migrating monarch butterfly – delicate and vulnerable. I must travel long distances to outrace the cold changing seasons, and I must find the oyamel fir trees of Mexico that will provide shelter and safety for the cold season.

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Whether I am the unwieldy jumbo jet or the delicate but nimble butterfly – when I am out there I am doing one thing only: flying.

 

 

Two wheels, two ways

I did the same ride twice today. Once on my bicycle and once on my motorcycle. The first time around was four hours of sheer misery!

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I got sunburned and bug bitten. Truckers cat-called, landscapers honked, and angry motorists cut it too close. The potholes shook my innards. I had to stop to pee in a field, amongst thorns and mosquitoes and then could not get myself back into my clipless petals because there was mud on the cleats of my shoes. I came back tired and pissed, cursing this God forsaken hilly planet. I have bug bites and thorn scratches on my hinny, which will probably start itching around 2:30 in the morning.

I felt beaten and dejected, but I also knew what would make me feel better. I took a mulligan on my sweet Kawasaki ER6-N. I was through town and heading over the Delaware River bridge in a blink of an eye. What had taken 25 minutes on the bicycle, was completed in five minutes on the motorcycle. 

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As I wound my way up Deckertown Turnpike, I was loving the twisty turns that the road offered and tucking myself into my motorcycle as I went up the inclines. All I remember of the ascent on my bicycle was looking down at the front wheel and hoping that it would soon be over. But, the second time around I was paying close attention to the houses on my right and trying to figure out which ones had the best views of Vernon Valley.

I stumbled upon Sussex County Airport, and enjoyed the arrival and departure of prop airplanes.

ImageI giggled at the traffic in Montague, before I pulled a U-turn and extended my ride, heading back over High Point State Park and into the Delaware Water Gap region again.

As a carpenter, you learn rather quickly that in order to do something well, you need the right tool. Around here, the right tool is a motorcycle, and having that makes all the difference in the world.

 

 

 

Fresh Eyes

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In the MSF rider safety course, I was repeatedly warned to be wary of drivers, because they may not see you. Well, in a car you don’t notice much at all – including the other motorists on the road. In the past few weeks I have observed things in my neighborhood that I would have never seen from a car.

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How many times have I driven right past this plaque? Now I stop to read these markers when I sneak out for an early morning ride. Making my way along Neversink Avenue, in Port Jervis, I am treated to a Revolutionary War history lesson, courtesy of the New York State tax payers. A short while later, after a little digging around on Wikipedia, I am familiar with the Battle of Minisink, where the British outflanked, separated and won a decisive victory against the militia.

I am trying to bring these heightened senses off the bike and into everyday life. I was pleasantly rewarded for my efforts two days ago, when I saw a beautiful butterfly hovering in my backyard.

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I am not sure I would have seen it if I was still walking around with my four wheeled blinders on. I am excited to see what else changes, as I become more adept at riding and am able to spend more time checking out the scenery.

I am also curious if this happens to other new riders. Do you spend a little more time observing and appreciating things around you – rather than mentally making your way through the “to do” list or living in the past and future?

Get off the Couch and Ride

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Many ride for hours with the destination of Hawk’s Nest, NY in mind. The road reminds me of highway 101 north of San Francisco. However, on New York’s Route 97, which twists through the Hawk’s Nest, it is the mighty Delaware slowly snaking along below you, rather than the crash of the salty Pacific commanding the twists and turns of the road.Image

Today I was tired. I have been doing these intense home workout videos, and I simply did not feel like getting off my ass, putting on the stifling jacket (which reminds me of a plastic bag with armor) and heavy helmet, to forge out into the 90+ degree heat, all the while knowing that I am still afraid of making left-hand turns and there is a real possibility that I will drop my bike… again. The bargaining and self-justifications were already boiling in my head – ‘If you ride for fun, and it doesn’t seem like fun, then why don’t you sit this one out?’

However, life is what happens when you don’t sit it out, and instead you go for it.

Today, I was very happy I did. As I pulled out of Matamoras and then Port Jervis, I noticed that I was running through the gears a little more smoothly. There was less jerking, I did not have to constantly repeat the mantra: Don’t drop the clutch, and don’t die.

Instead, I was taking in some of the sights in… watching the birds fly over the river and marveling at some wild turkeys foraging next to a natural gas pipeline. How lucky I am to live less than 15 minutes from the lovely Hawk’s Nest.

ImageLife out in Pennsylvania is a far cry from the apartment dwelling above the train station, next to the projects, in the urban White Plains, NY that I used to call home. It is different, no doubt, but on my ride today I was reminded that people literally move here in order to ride. I happen to live here already… so I am going to take every opportunity I can to Get off the Couch and Ride.

(BTW, you will probably have to hold me accountable on this testimonial… seeing as I have a new theory about how to live just about every day)

 

Riding past ghosts of the Delaware

 

 

 

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Every town has its ghosts, but there are very few actual “ghost towns” in the northeast. In 1962, the Federal government seized land between Stroudsburg, PA and Port Jervis, NY with the intention of building a dam. The project fell out of favor and the seized land was transferred to the National Park Service in the 1970’s, creating a vast patchwork of abandoned homes and a few ghost villages.

The now abandoned Millbrook, NJ feels like historic Jamestown on a day that the quasi-amusement park is closed. You half expect a paid actress to walk out of the blacksmith shop, and educate you in old English.

Other parts of the ride reveal overgrown driveways that lead to abandoned homes, that my adventurous husband has explored on his dual sport.

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I cringe at the site of a gravel driveway, so this time we stick to the paved roads.

Riding twisties through Tillman’s Ravine in Stokes State Forest and coming over Wallpack Ridge during the Golden hour of twilight unfolds pleasures of wildflowers blooming by a hidden lake and a stand of Hemlocks that smell like summer camp. The air became crisp and hinted toward the fall riding season that I am eagerly anticipating.

Just as I was getting into the zone, my right hand went numb, the light began to fade, and rush hour on route 206 reminded us that it was time to head on back home to crack a brew.

Dutchess County Fair

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I am always reminded of how cool things are if you get off your couch and check new things out… Last night we took a ride to the Hudson Valley, including a stop at Keegan Brewery in Kingston, NY and then the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck to see the Eli Young Band.*

As we sipped on Hurricane Kitty, a copper IPA infused with honey from beehives housed on site, I talked to a colorful barfly who was upset about how expensive it was to live in the Hudson Valley. He told me he intended to move soon, to ‘where things are better’.

Is it the promise of a new, different life that appeals, rather than the actual geography? Is the desire to move west and start fresh part of the American DNA? I often get these yearnings, and things are pretty cool here, right?

In one evening I sipped on $3 microbrew from a mason jar, saw a country music band I love, watched piglets race, and saw the face of a billy goat light up when his mommy brought him dinner.

The goats reminded me of little puppy dogs, they seem very friendly.

Reminds me that I want a little bit of land some day 🙂 I can have my own snaggle-toothed llama, named Trixie.

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* this trip was taken on four wheels, not two. Several factors made the choice of riding in a truck preferable, including the beer stop, parking in a field, and the scattered showers we ran in to.