Half a Wit

Breathless, Stasis and Motion

   Fri, June 19, 2009 - 1:16 PM
When I was younger, and constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I used to consider all the things I'd have to get done before checking myself into the funny farm: stop newspaper and mail delivery, cancel utilities, notify relatives, find home for pets, clean house etc. In the end, staying sane seemed by far the least exhausting option.

So it is that, given six months paid time to spend as I please, as long as I justify it as research, and given that I plan on spending it by shedding as many day-to-day responsibilities as humanly possible and live on the road, heading for arbitrarily chosen destinations by random pathways, the level of preparation required for that amount of freedom is driving me nearly to hysterics. There's the banal stuff: canceling services, finding a subletter, redirecting mail, letting the neighbors know. But then there's the how to actually pull off a solo cross-country trip living in a van for half a year.

I haven't even left the house yet, and already I'm pushing my own limits--of necessity pushing through panic responses to acquire, in a hurry, certain skills necessary to pull all of this off.

The day before yesterday, I bought a trailer. Had to travel a couple of states over, because that's where the deal was. Bought it from a tanned and healthy young and surprisingly well-mannered if somewhat dim ATV punk who didn't need it anymore. learned for the first time how to mount and haul a trailer--and a very fun lesson it was, involving as it did a really nasty merging traffic situation and a panic stop/skid with 25 feet and about 1800 pounds of vehicle from 65 mph on wet highway, in order not to hit a suicidal deer. Going forward is really not bad and kind of fun. Backing up is a challenge, involving entirely counter-intuitive counter-steering (if you want the back of the trailer to swing to the left, steer to the right. WTF?) Jacknife in a crowded parking lot a couple of times, and you figure it out. Fortunately, I have a driving instructor, freshly graduated from 6 months of training as a long-distance trucker. He is exquisitely patient, and really quite a good teacher, who never over-instructs, and lets me figure most stuff out for myself after explaining the steps required.

The trailer is for my motorcycle, which I decided, because this is the story I'm writing for myself, absolutely must come with me. It is also for other things I can't leave home without. In order of priority: the rather impressive booze collection I've amassed in my last six months of cocktailcrafting experiments, my bicycle, winter clothes, and books and electronics and stuff like that I'll need for research.

I've seen guys push their motorcycles onto trailers and pickups. I've never done it myself. I'm actually not very good at walking my motorcycle any distance--too short, too low a center of gravity, upper-body strength of a 10-year-old. I ride it anywhere it needs to go, and foot-push the rest.

I'm going to be in remote regions of the western continent all by myself. I am taking my motorcycle with me. If I want to do this, I have to learn to load the bike on the trailer. By myself. Right now.

Which means riding it up a flexy ramp, fast enough to get it up the incline, ducking in time not to smack my head on the trailer opening, fall over and die with a concussion and my bike on top of me, and stopping in time not to hit in front of the trailer. And more terrifying still, walking it backwards back down, without catching my bootheels in the grid, and falling over and dying with a broken leg and my bike on top of me.

I drive an hour to buy the ramp. I set the ramp up. I tell myself, I can do this. I ride the bike up to the ramp.

I nose the front tire onto the flexy bendy grid, and I fucking panic.

"I can't do this." Muscles hot and cold, weak, head pounding, shivers. That sort of panic. Followed by: "Fuck. I just spent a whole lot of money to be able to do this."

"Oh well," he said. "The trailer is still useful for other things."

"Yeah. But....I really want to do this. Can you do it?"

"Yes," he said, quietly. He is 6'4," and there's only a foot of head clearance once the bike is at the steepest point. If he can do it, I can.

He does. I watch. This is possible.

"Can I do this?" I ask him.

"I think you can. Do you think so?"

"I'll try."

I do. Have to over-rev a little, get caught a little. But I'm in, and I'm not dead.

Then back down that incline--slow, slow walk, first gear engaged, hand squeezing and releasing brake slooooowly, bootheels firmly planted. Breathing, breathing. Stop thinking. Just breathe: brake, foot, angle---place where heels can't touch, find toe position, brace.....down!!!!


I did it once or twice more, just for the sheer adrenaline headrush of it.

I can do this.

Tomorrow morning, I hit the road, with my motorcycle, my cat, my bicycle, 26 bottles of assorted spirits and mixers, and of course my laptop--everything I'll ever need for every possible situation.

Maybe, just maybe, I won't come back.


add a comment
Fri, June 19, 2009 - 1:28 PM
Yeah, the first trip up the ramp is spooky with just air and a drop at the sides under your feet Especially when the bike outweighs you and an accident will dent both of ;you.

Note: booze goes in the trailer ! Open container laws!! ( and maybe use a cheapo ice cooler with eggcrate camping foam pieces to pack the bottles - to mute the clinking and the smashing).

"why yes officer. this is mee motorbike.... and mee cooler adorned with thee skull and crossbones... filled with mee absinthe, mee hard stuff and plentee of mixer!! Now go away, Officer Peanut."
Fri, June 19, 2009 - 1:42 PM
may the road rise up to meet you
may the wind be always at your back
may the sun shine warm upon your face
may you master the ramp safely and quickly
the rains fall soft upon your van and until we meet,

may something be left of the libation stash
Fri, June 19, 2009 - 1:56 PM
oh, whee! how yummy, this life.
Fri, June 19, 2009 - 1:58 PM
Cool! Have a great trip!
And in encouragement, I can tell you I've only fallen off a ramp with a bike once (so far) - the bruises took no time to heal! ;)
Fri, June 19, 2009 - 2:07 PM
This looks Soooooo good.
I re-emphasize what groucho said. Be aware of open-container laws. Avoid the problem by putting the booze gently wrapped in the correct portion of the trailer.

I hauled $800 of spirits to Burningman last year. This year, the total aggregate value of my stock goes up by a factor of 1.25 ($1000 worth of tequila, wine, and assorted apertifs like the vodka and chocolate liqueur necessary for choc martinis). You can ENJOY the trip if you wish, by naming a cocktail for every stop of note.

Last year's chocolate margarita was named , "The Bonneville" after going through the salt flats. It looked like salt rims on a tire.

Tasted about the same, too.
Fri, June 19, 2009 - 2:18 PM
It'll be wonderful, having the choice of which vehicle to use in which circumstances!

Jane told me to tell you that she's still jealous of yer van.
Fri, June 19, 2009 - 2:23 PM
You will have a blast!
If you hit the Cali north coast send me a pm!
Fri, June 19, 2009 - 2:53 PM
oo cool - wish i could do that...
but i think i'd just ride the bike...
Fri, June 19, 2009 - 3:20 PM
i feel self-satisfied just reading of your hurdle-jumping. brava!
Fri, June 19, 2009 - 3:30 PM
Buen Viaje!
Ooooh that's soooo exciting (and impressive)!

May your travels be full of adventure but trouble-free. I'm looking forward to seeing you in the East Bay. We've got got the best views of SF and the bay itself.

Fri, June 19, 2009 - 5:11 PM
my boyfriend & I are in the process of putting our stuff in storage & fixing up the truck so that we can travel around for the summer, too ~ we are headed to Portland & Las Vegas & many points inbetween :)

love all-ways,
Sat, June 20, 2009 - 2:44 AM
the universe takes care of those who travel...
Sat, June 20, 2009 - 4:02 AM
once you are good a at stearing a trailer in reverse you shall henceforth always be prepared to handle falling through a wormhole into one of those opposite parallel universes.

happy trails....weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!
Sun, June 21, 2009 - 11:23 AM
if you fall into a galactic wormhole...
have fun, dearheart!!! You are planning on blogging yer way thru, yes?

and ditto from me, re Gemma's comment!
Sun, June 21, 2009 - 2:26 PM
SO cool!!! How fun!!

stay safe and drive carefully, wish I could do that
Sun, June 21, 2009 - 10:17 PM
if you can do this maneuver while the vehicle is in motion then your bike will start talking and David Hasslehoff will come to your house and personally induct you into a top secret crime fighting society.
Sun, June 21, 2009 - 10:24 PM
This is why I love my friends. No "ooh, be careful out there." You're all "oooh, take care of the booze."

Wild: that was the best blessing ever.

Mr. Snake: Yeah, I thought seriously about doing the entire trip on just the bike, but I couldn't figure out the best way to bungee the cat.

Theo: My bike already talks to me.
Mon, June 22, 2009 - 7:34 AM
if wimpy old me can a) ride my motorcycle up one of those flexy ramp things into the back of a Dodge Ram pickup, and b) drive same pickup (known as the Dodge Bar to my neighbors, for the cooler full of beer that lives in the back and gets shared all summer - if the tailgate is down, we're open !) with not only a trailer, but one containing a 24' Sea Swirl cabin cruiser boat up and down the coast of Maine, then I have no doubt you and that magic trailer of yours will be conquering the universe very shortly, as you are my idol in supercool womanhood...

drive fast and take chances, as my sister always says to me ;)
offline 68
Tue, June 23, 2009 - 7:46 AM
Wowie, girl... look at you go!! I feel so empowered just reading about the trip ahead.

I have always dreamed about letting the wind and open road take me! And your doing it!!! Hats off to you, darlin... you will have an amazing tale to tell in the end.
Be safe.. and enjoy this amazing experience!!
Tue, June 23, 2009 - 9:47 PM
Dude your opening paragraph is a comedic classic. I've opted against suicide on more than one occasion for similar reasons.

And did you say "flexy ramp" or "sexy ramp"? 'Cause I'm going to have to go with "sex-AY!"

Ride 'em Cowgirl--yee haw! :)

and oh yeah--be careful with the booze!! ;)
Wed, June 24, 2009 - 11:34 AM
There's a Henry David Thoreau quote that comes to mind about journeys and the weight of one's possessions, but I can't quite recall it.
Wed, June 24, 2009 - 5:20 PM

Well come and 'ride my ramp,' if you're going to be that way about it. We can work out some kind of circus act.


I'm sure the Thoreau quote involved the weight of possessions enabling them to be tossed with that much more splattering satisfaction out of a rapidly-moving vehicle on the way to some lake somewhere.
Thu, June 25, 2009 - 10:56 AM
no, it was about how everyone is burdened by possessions. He said if you encountered some carefree traveler with no possessions but those that fit in a bundle tied on the end of a stick casually slung over his shoulder, upon closer inquirey you would discover that the guy had all his possessions stored in his mom's barn, or something like that. I surely can't quote Thoreau, but the passage has stuck in my mind since college ... so long ago.
Tue, June 30, 2009 - 2:20 AM
what I don't understand...
...is how you can squeeze the booze and the bike into the trailer. I mean, looks like the trailer will be full of bottles - where does the bike go? Well, you could always get a flat trailer for the trailer, one you could put the bike on without endangering the precious stuff. Kinda like a duck with ducklings in tow...

Your description kind of reminded me of what must be going through the head of the divers into washbassins from a 10' platform: how do I shoehorn myself into that, and how can I stop in time to avoid impact at the far end. At least a bike isn't a stubbortn horse: not too much will of it's own, and no sharp hooves to keep away from one's ears. And if worst comes to worsst, and you do end up falling over on the road, at least you'll have enough bottles within reach to mix the ultimate cocktail.