Epic Journey preface:
I met Marty at the Framer's Workshop in Brookline, MA a few times while I was framing photographs. In the beginning of May this year I spent some time there finishing a piece with his help and we talked about matching the rythym of heartbeats to help people, scoring music, motorcycles and signature locks of curly hair. Justin leaned in to mourn the loss of Marty outloud, so he breifly revealed his plan to move west in the fall. When the job was wrapped up, I gave him my number and said I'd like to go riding sometime if two of his bikes are running. We rode a few times and our minds met with similar desire. Two months later we began a day-by-day journey together on two motorcycles with a destination in mind. We were 'buddies' looking in the same direction.
I have wanted to ride across the country since I was dreaming in high school. We would plan out the adventure and Heather wanted to wear black leather and I was going in brown. Our personalities adorned the journey with visions of freedom and windy wonder. Now, without concern for fashion, textiles have won over for their safety in the motorcycle market, so I bought a pair of JoeRocket zippered pants and left behind the brown leather chaps. My dad's leather motorcycle jacket was given to me a year prior and I didn't hesitate to add miles to the heritage, although I did bring my rain jacket with sinching wrists to protect against the reality of wind and rain. As we approached the departure date there were a lot more details to compact on to two tail-bags, four side bags and the tent and sleeping gear rolls. Any color scheme was denied access into our limited space and the concern for waterproof material, durability and capacity was given front row in the line up.
J Braun, the man with wit and knowledge to embed our plan with experience, gave us a set of rules:
1. No ipod, cell phone, gps. Traveling is about listening to others, not yourself. This is the most important advice I can offer.
2. Minimalism- lay out everything and then remove half. Wait 3 days and then remove half of whatŐs left.
3. The slower you go the more you see. If you see the word ŇOldÓ in a road name, take it!
4. Imagination will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no imagination.
5. Make a plan, set a date, stick to it.
6. Everything will wait.
During our goodbye sushi dinner, I asked J about number 6. He said that everything that bonds us to our home, and binds us to our responsibilities will be there when you return. Now, and later I realized that the important things will be and the others can be let go.
Luckily two months of time were empty in my calendar so that this trip could be planned. Marty had spoken softly a few times about traveling together. Once he said he would want two months. I didnŐt think much of it, but knew deeply of my desire to ride motorcycles across the country. Over time, but rather quickly, ideas began to mingle. How could he move to San Francisco without his motorcycles, and why would he want to. His friends agreed that he should ride over. The idea was more appealing than driving with a load of things or flying right over everything that was the middle of North America. Then one afternoon, the thought was rushing over my mind rather than meandering around in my thoughts, so I satisfied the craving to see if my time allowed for such a possibility. My calendar was free of appointments from July to the end of August except, for my two jobs. This was where my lifestyle compromises would pay off.
A few years back I realized a catch-22, or a choice I have that comes with using a planner. Alloting my time to tasks and appointments allows me to succeed in finishing things that I demand of myself; discipline and responsibilities. Leaving time open for the unexpected allows me to interact with my desires and my interests. One allows me to learn the other allows me to grow. The balance is when my spirit and mind can relate freely and provide support for each other. In any moment the choice is still mine, but the importance is choosing to nourish the balance between them.
The two jobs that I had chosen for my life at the time were flexible and supportive of the personal interests of their staff. One was managed to allow for the ebb and flow of staff members while shuffling the workload among those wanting more hours. Both encouraged freedom and allowed me to travel knowing I could come back when I returned. These types of operations, where personal interests arenŐt oppressed for the sake of business, should be the norm in my opinion. I cherish them because they are based on friendship rather than money. Neither are salary or high-wage jobs.
One night Marty and I threw a few guesses into planning the trip. After adding gas from expected mileage, food costs, camping and an extra pillow of cash for emergencies, we estimated the trip would cost about $2,000 each (without preparation costs.) We had already spotted the possible route through Canada with 6 hours of riding a day with extra days in between and decided it would take us 2 months to ride from Boston to Fairbanks, Alaska and down to San Francisco. We didnŐt discuss the option of eliminating the journey to Alaska, but we both knew it would be necessary if we ran out of money, energy, good luck or time.
I had to return to Boston September 2nd to assist Zev in photographing a wedding, as well as prepare for teaching a class at Emerson college by the 10th. As July 1st approached and everything was aligning to leave, I realized that those dates/responsibilties needed to be flexible as well, so that we didnŐt push ourselves off the road trying to return in time, or let plans distract us from the freedom of travel. It was difficult to address these issues, but Zev told me he would laugh if I cut a motorcycle trip short for a wedding shoot and I resigned from teaching the class opportunity that would again become available in the future. The opportunity and timing with Marty to accomplish something I have always known I would love, would never be this strongly available to me again. Well, perhaps it will, but everything except for parent approval was copasetic, so I knew I couldnŐt deny the muse easily.
The muse was bold but not assuming. I felt the idea had to be mutual in order to succeed; the desire to accomplish such an undertaking needed to be individually equal. When the idea surfaced out loud between us it came as a guessing game with a reward, a test to search for his source for this possibility. The photograph I had framed with Marty a month prior was displayed at the Panopticon gallery in Kenmore square that night, so we met there during the opening. In the middle of things I whispered ŇI have a big idea and if you can guess it then IŐll bake you a blueberry pie. Actually, itŐs a long idea.Ó Interruptions carried us on to other things for the remained of the evening and after the show we were helping unload the trash, snagging a bottle of wine, meeting up with friends for a drink, and we didnŐt return to the topic until walking to his bike to go home. He said he was still puzzled and I was glad the thought hadnŐt been lost in the three hours. He was reluctant to state the first thought that came to mind, but I encouraged him to trust it for the sake of this guess. ŇFirst I thinking you wanted to ride to San Francisco with me, but then I thought noÉÓ Ňyou got it.Ó
Luckily the blueberry season was still hanging from the bushes when we made it to Alaska. The funny thing was that we actually followed the ripe season north. Once we trailed across Massachusetts, New York and into Canada in two nights the blueberries were everywhere. Over Lake Superior, Ontario blueberry signs studded the highway guidelines. Before we made it to Manitoba we had managed to have two homemade blueberry pies with family friends and neighborŐs mothers along the way. The windy dry and barren central plains didnŐt allow for wild berries but our new friends Larry and Sharon of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan brought them out for every breakfast during the 8 day stay we shared with them while waiting for motorcycle parts. JasperŐs sights were like eye candy in Alberta and the Yukon Territory brought the berries closer as we approached the U.S border. After the handpicked pie dedicated to Marty in Alaska, black boysenberries adorned the western coast in the colorful autumn we experienced on the Cassiar highway. It was wonderful to travel side by side with berries changing with the season. Almost overnight you could watch the boysenberries go from red to black, then hard to soft and mold over dropping their seeds below. A few more hours or days down the road and the berries would be in season again. Vancouver had boysenberry bushes hanging over a stairway and 30 feet tall picked clean up to the tallest reach. Even Marty had trouble getting a handful. Oregon gave us my Aunt T.JŐs blueberry, strawberry and rhubarb jam for our modest P.B&J diet on the road. California was too tall with sequoias to look at the ground and the ocean surrounded us with waves crashing on one side and the sound of distance seas echoing off the inland cliffs. We followed a playful twisting road inland through the orchards and tasted the grapes of California on the street we called home for a short time with MartyŐs aunt and uncle Diana and Bobbi. The trip was sweet and I would taste it again any day, squishing berries between my teeth to tell a juicy tale from our epic journey.