It's 2021! I think last year was both the best and worst year of my life so far. What a ride it's been. I hope you're all as well as can be expected and do please reach out if you feel like catching up.
Saturday was Boxing Day. RM and ML were having a family brunch in the garage with RM's daughter and her boyfriend, just back from a trip to California, and they made me up a delicious plate. Then my family had moved the celebrations planned for Christmas Eve to Boxing Day because the weather was better, so I got to eat another delicious meal of seafood soup and crostini prepared by GB, with my mom's prune cake for desert. We sat around a fire and my belly was warmed by all the good food, a hot water bottle, a few sips of single malt scotch, and the holiday spirit of fellowship.
On Sunday I went to Carrboro and ate a feast at Mediterranean Deli, then had a session in the infrared sauna. The primary purpose was to sweat out the Lyme toxins I've mentioned before, but it was also great for my circulation, and the cold bothered me a lot less after that. And it got me thinking: the forecast showed a lot of damp and rainy weather for later in the week, and the galoshes I'd ordered weren't coming soon enough, so why not ride it out in town? I made tentative plans to get a hotel room for a few days.
Monday was perfect outdoor spray painting weather, which wasn't going to come again for a bit, so I spent the day at the garage. I managed to get a little work done for my job but was distracted by a headache coming on and also with helping RM and JS pull the "thigh" off a 50-year-old backhoe tractor, which must have weighed several hundred pounds. They were rehabbing the damaged planetary drive gears inside, and preparing it for a new wheel bearing to replace the original one that had been ground to a twist of metal. Between things, I managed to get Punkin's exhaust painted with high heat primer and flat black paint. The welds actually wound up looking pretty nice after being ground, polished, and painted. In the evening I went back to the tent to nurse my headache, and wound up doing some emotional work that led to a pretty big breakthrough on a problem I've been chewing on for months.
On Tuesday I worked outside in the sun, and then took a trip into Pittsboro to visit the hardware and auto parts stores. I needed a section of tubing to connect the new carburetor to the original air cleaner, and RM told me a trick where you make a cardboard template of the curve you need and then convince the people at the auto parts store to let you behind the counter to rummage through the radiator hoses and find one with a section matching the template. It took some thoughtful rummaging but it worked perfectly. Then I tried out a Mexican restaurant I hadn't been to before and ordered the "molcajete", which turned out to be a lot more food than I'd expected but it was delicious.
On Wednesday I went into Carrboro to start my vacation to the great indoors. On the way, Kiddo had a bit of a mishap. Ever since hitting a nasty rock on the driveway, I'd been hearing a rattling while riding on rough terrain, but couldn't make it happen while parked. It sounded like it was coming from the front mudguard, so I wasn't super worried about it. But as I came into town it started to get worse, and somewhere on Rosemary street I heard a "tink, tink" and the noise stopped altogether. Well, I thought, I guess I just lost some fasteners. This time when I parked and revved the engine, the problem was clear: both of the bolts that held the muffler bracket onto the bike had worked their way out and the muffler was hanging on by just the head tube and the rear mudguard. Luckily it was an easy walk to Fitch Lumber and I picked up two new bolts (and a wrench because the toolkit I have lacks a 13mm one for some reason). I think that if I hadn't been spending so much time in the garage building my confidence, the incident would have caused me a lot more anxiety than it did. As soon as I get back to a full socket set I plan to tighten up every bolt on the bike. Back in 1968 Honda put lock washers dang near everywhere, so why don't they do the same in 2018?
I got the new bolts in just in time for my scheduled session in a float tank (aka sensory deprivation chamber). Back when the place opened around three years ago, I'd gotten a package deal and went once, but I recently realized that I still had two credits left. I figured at the very least it was an opportunity to take a shower, but it turned out to be a really nice experience. One reason I hadn't gone back was out of fear that the tank would encourage me to detach from my body, but this time I kept in mind what I'd learned from reading Judith Blackstone and found that not feeling the exterior of my body actually allowed me to isolate and focus on the interior of it. I discovered and released some tensions, and also the shower was great. The only unpleasant part was that the lights in the tank were having some issues and they came on unexpectedly at one point and startled me into sitting up, which caused the incredibly salty water to drip down my face and into my right eye. I managed to mostly keep the eye closed for the rest of the session but it did get a little painful at times. So yeah, very important to put petroleum jelly on cuts and scrapes and keep the water out of your eyes.
Then it was a couple days of riding out crappy weather in a swanky designer hotel in downtown Chapel Hill, at the very same intersection that I made a software simulation of for a grade school science project on whether traffic light timing affects air pollution. It's been nice to pamper myself with warm dry air, space to swing my arms and legs, a real bed with real pillows, running hot water, and lots of delicious food that I didn't have to cook. I caught up on the phone with my aunt JR and uncle KW in Texas and hung out with my parents, BF, and the P family down at the Carrboro Town Commons (as close as we could come to our old company holiday dinners). I got some good work done for my job, relatively free from bodily distractions. I played guitar and worked on relearning a few of my own songs. I took a hot bath with epsom salts and then on a whim watched Fly Away Home and cried a lot. Back when the movie came out, I just saw the death of the main character's mother as the inciting incident of the plot, but this time it struck me forcefully how losing their mothers is something she and the goslings share, and how raising them and teaching them to migrate is all about healing from loss for everyone involved. It seems so obvious now but it's taken me a long time to build my awareness of emotions and relationships.
Being outside the context of my "new normal" lifestyle also freed me up to start thinking about and planning the next phase of my adventure. I ordered some new gear that will hopefully allow me to motocamp and work through all kinds of weather; I'll talk more about that once it comes in and I've had a chance to try it out. I find that the hotel life coddles me, but also disempowers me: there's not much I need to do for myself but there's also not much I can do for myself. Still, it's awfully nice to have as an option and I want to keep reminding myself that I don't always need to tough it out.
Things I Learned
- When the wood is a little wet, I can get my stove going by using the pump from my inflatable kayak to blow into the air intake.
- It takes more fuel to boil water when it starts out frozen solid.
- Fatwood is pretty great. A package of it costs $7 and fits neatly into two 42 ounce oatmeal cartons. I knew I was saving them for something.
- RM and his siblings had dirt bikes and 26 old junker cars over the course of their childhoods, and drove them on Army Corps land and farm roads well before they had drivers licenses. They used to play a game where one kid tried to stay on the roof of the car while the others tried to drive so as to shake them off. The kid on top would usually hold onto the roof by grabbing the tops of the doors, but a favorite trick was to roll up the windows quickly to pinch their fingers and then stomp on the brakes. I think this may explain a lot about RM's calm attitude and knack for fixing things.
- Once I get into an environment with a more neutral odor, all my clothes and gear smell a little smoky.
- Harvesting chickweed by moonlight.
- The tent illuminated by cold blue moonlight from the outside and warm orange kerosene light from the inside.
- Birds singing and swooping from branch to branch as the dawn light moves slowly down the treetops.
- Walking in the rain when you know there's a nice dry place to go back to.