Category: Non-Moto

Photos: Steamtown National Historic Site

Photos: Steamtown National Historic Site

Steamtown national historic site sign - scranton pennsylvania

This spring I took a drive to Scranton, Pennsylvania to visit Steamtown National Historic Site. While I was there, strict COVID protocols limited access to some of the indoor spaces and displays, but I was able to enjoy walking around outside in the train yard.

Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania - engine 47

I’m not what you would call a hardcore railfan but I find the machines interesting nonetheless.

Steam engines make me think of my dad, who was indeed into trains. He’d told me stories about hanging around the train yard as a kid, and I kept that narrative in my mind – making up tales of what that kid-version of him would have thought about what I was looking at as I walked around.

Walking the tracks at steamtown

The thing I found most fascinating about the locomotives is how much “life” they seemed to have within them. They exude power and something like a sense of menace. Especially inside the workshop. They looked like sleeping animals that could roar to life at any moment and tear the building from its foundations. But, they instead allowed themselves to be tamed, to be cared for by their handlers. For now.

Indoor display of locomotives being worked on - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania

One of the indoor displays features a cutaway where you can see the inner workings of the engine. Looking at it, I found it a marvel that anyone could figure out the method to the madness of tubes, and chambers and lines to make these beasts go. Fascinating.

Interesting place. Worth the visit.

cutaway engine - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
Rusting steam engine - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
Brooks-Scanlon coal car - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
Boso Texino railroad graffiti Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania

Dirt graffiti on a rail yard car – Bozo Texino ⁠

Apparently like any other subculture, there is a visual language and common mythology among railroad hoboes. There is actually a movie that tries to uncover this very graffiti subject called: “Who is Bozo Texino?”⁠

File Under: There is always something new to learn.

peeling paint and rust on rail car - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania

In rust we trust.

green mountain rusting boxcar - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
engine 47 at Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
rusting boxcar Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
canadian national railways - rusting train car - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
engine 47 at Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
engine 790 at Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
engine 6039 inside the shop at Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
bungs at Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
That Time I Had My Coconut Removed

That Time I Had My Coconut Removed

There are periods in your life when you think that your self-esteem couldn’t possibly get any lower; that the only way to go is up.

Then with a maniacal laugh and a wag of the finger, the universe says, “No, girrrl. Uh-uh” and hands you these.

Ladies and gentlemen, my hospital issued underwear:

I can’t rightly say just what fabric these medicinal underpants are made of. Nor can I fathom what the banded design provides other than another unflattering aspect.

But what I can tell you is that these babies are purpose-built for comfort. They possess unparalleled super-expando capabilities.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that I could’ve safely jumped from my fourth-floor hospital room window, touching down as light as Mary Poppins in these babies. Seeing as how they would’ve ballooned to parachute size without so much as a whimper, and all.


Pre-op

Two weeks ago I had another procedure on my middle bit. (I’m fine, no cancer.) I have 2 previous laparoscopic scars on the sides of my tum-tum, one in my belly button and now, a niiiice big smile to round out the package.

Add to that some baby-havin’ tiger stripes and my stomach looks like a demented smiley face with terrible skin issues.

Immediately following the surgery, my lower belly was so swollen and puffy that it looked like I was wearing a floaty inner tube, but on the inside. Kind of like wearing your socks over your shoes.

Post-op

I’m bringin’ sexy back, alright.


While in recovery, I didn’t know if I was just loopy or if what my surgeon was saying to me was real. He made a pluck sound and said “we removed your coconut,” and motioned with his hands an imaginary coconut shape.

My coconut? I had a secret coconut?

I was reassured that I wasn’t crazy when he repeated the statement a day later. Now fully coherent when he stopped in to see how I was doing, he again motioned the imaginary coconut but clarified what they removed was the size of a coconut.

I have to admit, it was disappointing not to have an actual inner coconut.

The view before heading under the knife.

One of my post-surgical tasks was to try to fart.

TRY.

TO.

FART!

Having spent the last 45 years of my life trying not to fart, this was the moment I’d been waiting for. Some guy asked me to fart on purpose! No making noises, shoe scuffing, or any of the other oddball coverage techniques people employ to try to mask their butt-sounds. No sir. Just let it rip with abandon.

Not only that, every nurse who cared for me was hellbent on knowing whether or not I was enjoying a ride on the poot-poot express. Never do you expect to hear “Having you been passing gas?” with such curiosity, enthusiasm, and concern.


The procedure was a success. I’m not in pain, I don’t have cancer and other than being generally tired, I’m perfectly fine. Put one in the win column for me.

My recovery period is six weeks or so. That means I have to limit physical activity, not benchpress a Volkswagon, yadda yadda yadda.

Between you and me, you know what really concerns me. Yep – that I can’t ride my bike in what has been some excellent late spring weather. I’ve still got 4 weeks to go until I’ll be able to fly. Assuming they don’t identify any other strange fruits in my body.

Surely the only way is up from here!

Two weeks later – as nutty as ever:

Hello, Friends.

Hello, Friends.

For a few weeks now, I’ve thought about how I would reintroduce myself to my own blog. Nothing seemed right. And until today, this very day, I didn’t feel like opening myself up.

To be honest, I didn’t think that anyone would notice that I wasn’t around. Part of that can be attributed to me initially not thinking about writing or doing anything. But then as a few probing “where are yous” found their way to me, I felt surprised. How would anyone even know that I wasn’t on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or here? How could one little person ever be missed? Seemed impossible.

It has been months since I’ve been around here. And as some people who have reached out to me wondered – was it because I was off exploring and having a great time? I wish I could say, yes. But… it was quite the opposite. (If you aren’t interested in non-motorcycle stuff you can stop reading now.)

My struggles with depression haven’t been a secret. Since the end of April, I have been in the fight of my life. It is only in the last few days that I have started to really re-enter the world where the clouds are parting. It is just now that I am being reminded that life is indeed worth living.

I don’t say that lightly or to be dramatic. That’s where I’ve been. It has taken a toll on me and my family. They’ve suffered greatly. An irrational tornado is destructive to everything in it’s path. I’ve scared them with my behavior, my dark ideas, my forgetfulness, my insomnia, my crying, my arguing, my repetitive questions, my seemingly being someone completely different.

Unfortunately, I’m filled with regret for things said, actions taken, things not done, and I couple that with a heaping dose of shame for being mentally defective. I have done irreparable damage to other people’s feelings. This is a burden I can hardly stand and the worst part of it is that I have no one to blame but myself.

During these last few months, I have completely isolated myself and cut off communication with everyone. Somehow I still managed to go to work, though I wasn’t able to function there without anti-anxiety medication. Things got… messy. I couldn’t concentrate enough to read a book, doodle in my sketchbook or write a post, I didn’t leave the house when I didn’t have to work, and I’ve watched more TV in the last few months than I have in my entire life. So no, I haven’t been out gallivanting. I’ve simmered in a state of crippling anxiety and depression.

I have never been so overwhelmingly sad in my life. I have and to a smaller degree still feel utterly hopeless, worthless and unloveable. There have been many moments when the pain was just too much to bear and I wanted to quit. The despair has been overwhelming. It’s felt like I would never be able to escape the prison of my own mind in any other way. I was sure that I would never get better. It’s a strange thing to be rational enough to know that you’re being victimized by your own mind but to not be able to pull enough mental resources together to hang on to hope and know that everything could be okay.

Since July I have been taking meds, going to therapy and am working with a psychiatrist. I am trying to get better. I want to get better. This has been hell.

Rest assured that I love each and every person who reached out to me through email, text, cards, tweets, messages – all of it. Though I am the world’s shittiest friend to everyone else, so many of you have been so beautiful to me. You don’t know what a light in the dark you’ve been. Thank you.

See you soon.

Interlude: New England Idle Hours

Interlude: New England Idle Hours

A collection of random non-motorcycle photos, thoughts, and observations made during a lazy week in Maine. I may have been tipsy.


Each summer, our little clan piles into the car and heads off to our family’s house in Maine. The Maine-house is a picturesque place nestled on the shores of a lake. For the most part, I spend my days idling in the sunshine, kayaking, paddle boarding, and bobbing in the water like a neurotic apple. Oh God, did something just touch my foot? Are there sharks in this lake?

At the Maine-house, I get to pretend that I’m a part of small town life. I sit around doing little more than eating, drinking and being merry. There, I strive to lead a simple, leisurely life. That, as it turns out, is something I have to work at. Being simple ought to be simple. But the truth is, it isn’t. At least not right away.

When it comes time for me to do “nothing,” there is an uncomfortable decompression period. It’s like I’m detoxing from sugar – an internal battle rages on. On one side: the hunger to bombard my gluttonous mind with tooth-rotting doses of useless information and on the other, the idyllic pull of what kids these days call “relaxing.”

Relaxing: a necessary evil that sits on the other side of withdrawal. I know full well that stopping the flow of busy-busy tasks and digital intake is important. I do it on my motorcycle all the time. The benefit is that you come back from your mental vacation recharged and able to think more clearly.

But when I’m not riding and I’m just sitting around unfettered for a week at a time, initially uncoiling my internal spring leaves me with the feeling of not knowing what to do with my hands. Maybe I should go for a walk, or go swimming, or eat 6 pounds of fudge in 12 minutes! Maybe I can carve a canoe out of that felled tree. Or, I could build a bird house or maybe an actual house, or a space shuttle, or a car that runs on Vaseline! 

The digital world is my biggest tether to overstimulation. My iPhone is both a blessing and a burden. It’s like crack – you carry it around in your pocket, take it out and start the burn whenever you want. You take a deep inhale of smoke and get a nice high. Unfortunately, you chase that feeling again and again and again. Next thing you know you’re addicted.

Somewhere along the line though, the high isn’t so great anymore. A moment of clarity slaps you in the face; the internet fixation-thing, this thing you keep taking hits off, is all bullshit. You’re hooked on something that isn’t real. It’s designed to make everything look perfect. But nothing’s perfect, you know that.

After about your 100th go-round with this epiphany, you have to ask yourself the uncomfortable question: why? Why do you need to know everything that is happening away from where you are now? Why can’t you see the greatness of your own existence? Why must you scroll, read, close, next app, scroll, read, close, next app… What are you escaping from?

Asking yourself why you need to see everything on the internet every few minutes can leave you feeling a little empty, maybe even a little stupid. More than that, it can leave you feeling a little like you’ve wasted what amounts to hours of your life living vicariously through some girl who lives minimally in a van but never needs to shave her armpits.

It may take a minute or two but an obvious, liberating truth will hit you. There is nothing going on in someone else’s life on Instagram that is more important than whatever it is you’re doing on any given Tuesday afternoon. Nothing. That filtered reality square has nothing to do with you. You don’t feel it. But what you do feel… is where you are now in all of its boring glory.


It usually takes at least 24 hours before my manic brain loosens its grip and I no longer have to fight the urge to look at my phone. But it’s in those transition hours that I play a self-deluding game. It highlights my absurd logic as I work my way through information addiction. It would probably be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

My game goes something like this:

I’m meandering around the woodsy backyard, looking at the lake, looking at the trees, flowers, and moss. Oh, that’s pretty neat, I should take a picture of that. I’ll pull my phone out of my pocket and take a photo of a mushroom. Before I put the phone back in my pocket, I’ll accidennnnnnnntally look at Instagram.

Accidentally looking at my phone after taking a mushroom photo isn’t the same as pulling out my phone to purposely look at Instagram. Right? I mean, if the phone is already in my hands, social media just… happens. Kind of like when you slip and fall in the kitchen and wind up pregnant. Consequences are sometimes just inadvertent side effects. You can’t be mad at yourself. You didn’t exactly do it on purpose.


The drive up to the Maine house takes about 6 hours. That idle time leaves me with plenty of opportunities to formulate grand plans. Flying high on impending doses of requisite vacation fudge and possibility, those passenger seat hours are where I often begin drawing a roadmap to my best self. When vacation is on the horizon, there his a distinct feeling that anything is possible.

On this particular Maine-house drive, one of the routes on my map to greatness involved researching something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I furiously clicked, scrolled and squinted at tiny text on my iPhone that told me about writing classes.

With my self-doubt being what it is, I could only muster looking at continuing education classes and not degree programs. After all, at 43 aren’t I too old to think about trying to balance being a parent, having a full-time job and considering a degree? A degree that would serve no purpose other than personal enrichment, at that.

“Why? What would you be doing it for?”

“For myself.”

For myself. Is that a good enough reason? In my mind, it sounded strong, right and true. But when I said the words out loud, they sounded limp and unconvincing.

Learning to write well, learning to focus and weave idea threads together would make me happy. Learning discipline and to work at writing would be gratifying. Understanding and giving respect to the craft, the conceptual tools, and finding ways to think better or to organize – all the nuts and bolts that exist beyond desire, could help me to build my loose ideas into something. That’s what I need. Right now, all of those things seem like voodoo. Could I learn that magic?

As I write the words out now – that would make me happy – I realize that is the crux of my problem. Sadly, I am the queen of self-sabotage. Writing something that I am proud of is fine. But, admitting that I like the good feelings that come from writing something that resonates with someone else, creates a problem for me. Those particular feelings of pride bring shame along with them. The shame comes because of my warped relationship with vanity, I think. Wanting someone else to like something about you is only acceptable for other people, not for me. Such gross displays of vanity are sinful. I mean, really. What kind of self-absorbed animal seeks appreciation like that?

But, let’s be honest here. I could write all day long for myself and never share one word of it with anyone else. I could be proud and happy doing something that I love. But clearly, that is only a part of it. This is my sin. I want to share and connect and perhaps to confess.


Once I get over my hurdle of busy-detox, I can settle into a straight up torpor. The other day I sat in a chair on the dock looking at absolutely nothing for about an hour. And it was good.

When you get into that state, you start picking up on little things that you wouldn’t when your mind is always on to the next thing and the next and the next.

On this particular day, I sat watching the way the sun turned the lake’s tiny waves into television static. The glinting light created sparkling patterns across the ripple peaks. Like one of those magic eye puzzles, if you let your eyes relax and fall slightly out of focus, it was like a billion diamonds rising above the surface of the water. Mesmerizing.


I can understand why some people love fireworks. And also why some people hate them.


Why do people subject themselves to the terrors of wearing white pants?


During this Maine trip, we visited the tiny and lovely Doubling Point Lighthouse along the Androscoggin River. The little light has a big job. It helps to keep huge ships safe as they make their way towards Bath, The City of Ships.


Loons have such haunting voices Their hollow, reedy calls are disturbing in the dark night.


Vacation has its own scale of time. When you’re at the beginning of a trip, there is the feeling that you have all the time in the world. A week? Pssssh. Might as well be a year! A lot can happen in a week!

But time has a funny way of slipping right out from under your nose. Minutes, hours, and days are all whittled away without you even realizing it. One minute you’re staring down eternity and the next you’re packing up your things and closing up the house in preparation of leaving.

As the noose of vacation’s end begins to tighten, the perception of time passing seems to pick up speed. Hours sneak by in a blink.

Clouds on Strings and Other Fine Things

Clouds on Strings and Other Fine Things

Last week I took a trip to Maine. It was the first vacation in some time where I gave myself permission to be stationary and to relax my mind. Often I need a vacation following my vacation because I’m always going-going-going. That probably has something to do with the ever-nagging fear of missing out on something. What that something is, is completely abstract and unknown… BUT IT COULD HAPPEN! That silly compulsion drives me to keep moving when I should probably stop and savor some of what has already taken place. Being a maniac has its drawbacks.

This vacation-time around I tried to reason with myself. The plan was to fully embrace the notion that to be effective and productive, to be a better version of myself, sometimes I just need to recharge my batteries. So, that’s what I would do. Does that sound ridiculously obvious? Are you thinking, “duh! Of course you do!” Well, sometimes it’s the simple things that I overlook.

And so my relaxy vacation started with staring out the window of a boat. I stood leaned up against the passenger door of my car sharing a muffin with my dog, kid snoozing in the front seat, and the wind dizzying up my hair into a whirling tornado of curls. It felt simple, glorious and wild.

Leaning back and away from the sill of the window it struck me that some of the most beautiful things are surrounded by the ugly, the rusting and the pockmarked. But if you focus on what is at the heart of it all, if you keep your eyes steady and straight ahead, the ugliness falls away leaving you with something lovely.

While I stood there gazing – the clouds looked so low, so fluffy, and so three dimension-y. It was as if they were part of a theater set hanging on strings. If I reached far enough out the window, I’m sure I could’ve cut one of them free and the white puff of cotton would’ve fallen into the water and floated away. But I decided it was best to leave them where they were for the next person to enjoy.

Clouds intact, on we sailed to away.

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