Road Read – Harvey, Motorcycles, Surgery and Work 1/15/18

It’s been a long, very long time since I have made an update on my status and where the Spoken Compass has been. I think bringing some of my friends up to date is long overdue.  

First Hurricane Harvey sucked. Amazingly bad. I’ve been in Houston since the early 80s and this was way worse than anything I have seen before. When I heard that there was flooding, I was still in Colorado. I kept thinking, “Why are people sending out notifications that they are safe?” Even the news coverage didn’t show the level of damage that was happening. Lisa, a close friend had flown to visit me in Colorado and this storm really threw a wet blanket on being able to travel more. I had been planning on getting back to Houston in order to get some work at a Renaissance Faire but once I began to wrap my head around just how bad this was, I started to head South. There were just too many close friends that were affected and I didn’t know the status of my parents. 

We continued to listen to the news as we headed South and the bigger problem came as we realized how difficult it would be just to get back into Houston. We slowed down, took our time and eventually were able to verify that loved ones were pretty much OK. Several friends had lots damage but there would be time to work all that out later. This was all around the beginning of September and suddenly, I found myself back in Houston. A wetter, soggier Houston than I left but certainly a more galvanized, stronger community than when I left as well. I am still impressed by the stories of people pulling together during a time when chaos has reigned in cities that have been in similar situations.  

As mentioned, I had been planning on working at the Texas Renaissance Festival in Magnolia. It was scheduled to begin on September 30. I had been making some phone calls to people who I knew that might be looking for work and managed to land a great gig at one of the clothing shops there. No easy feat when you consider that there are a lot of people looking for one of these jobs. It is primarily weekend work and it was very close to Houston. I could be close enough to visit my parents and friends during the week and get a bit of money in my pocket so I was pretty enthusiastic about making this happen.  In the meantime, I would stay with Lisa relax a bit since the pressure was off to get the job. 

Another thing I like to say is that every fighter has a plan till he gets punched. And I got a punch.  

One morning around the middle of September, I woke up to a pretty severe pain in my testicles. Yep.  My nether regions. Not just a little. This was a nagging pain that made you realize that something is seriously wrong. Then, it would go away just long enough to let you know how bad it was when it came back minutes later. Well, I freaked out. It’s one thing to slam your hand in a car door – you know why your hand hurts. It is completely different when a pain starts out of nowhere. My mind went through and whole list of potentially worst-case scenarios. By the time I was able to get in touch with the doctor, I had worked myself into sub-panic mode. That spot where you can keep your shit together but probably not for long. The nurse on the phone must have heard it in my voice and got me a same day appointment. After a long visit, MRI and several other humiliating scans, I waited for the results. Fortunately, they came back pretty quick. I had cyst. The fantastic news was that it wasn’t cancerous and was treatable. The bad news was it needed surgery. And the surgery couldn’t wait.   

Apparently, cysts like the one I had can occur at any time with any guy of any race or age. It is often a mystery why they occur but the recovery prognosis is usually very good. The remember the doctor telling me that the surgery would be easy but the recovery would be brutal.  

He was right.  

I had to call my faire employer and explain that the situation. While he was very understanding, I still felt bad for not being able to fulfil my obligation. The surgery went fine but I had no idea of how bad the next 8 weeks were going to be. Thankfully, doctors are often quite liberal with good pain killers for this procedure. By the time I was fully recovered, we were well into November 

Not to say that I was stationary the entire time.  

While I was in Colorado in last July, I had the amazing good fortune to attend the RawHyde Offroad Academy. This is one of the most fantastic experiences I have ever had. This is a course to teach riders of large displacement motorcycles how to handle them better on all types of terrain. It had been years since I had ridden a big bike. I was able to get signed up for a day long refresher course, the 2-day Intro to Adventure course and a 2 day tour through some of the most beautiful parts of Colorado. The bikes that were available to rent were the BMW R1200GSA. For those not familiar with motorcycles, this is a big bike. It is designed for round-the-world adventures and is designed to take a lot of abuse for thousands of miles.

I was smitten. The course was fantastic and I had forgotten how much I loved being on a motorcycle. I have owned many. I even rebuilt a few older vintage ones. My father raced Enduro when I was a kid and I have always been fascinated by all kinds of bikes. I’ve owned Harleys, Buells, Kawasakis, Hondas. Street bikes, dual sports and motocross. All those went up for sale to pay for a divorce. But I had never owned a BMW. They were always too pricey for me or the timing wasn’t right. I guess I felt like I didn’t need it enough to justify the cost. Well, after this class, I knew that one was in my future. After a lot of calling around, I found a dealership that had a used one for sale. It was the right color, a recent model and most importantly, it was cheap enough that I could swing it. I knew that it would take a tremendous chunk out of my travelling budget but I just couldn’t shake the desire to get it.  

I left the dealership (BMW Motorcycles of the Woodlands – Ask for Joshua Anderson – A genuine, helluva guy) with the bike. It took a bit more cash to get it sorted out with protective gear just the way I wanted and some panniers for travelling but I think it will be well worth it. I have already had some amazing adventures on it (more on those later) and have been planning some longer road trips. A lot of people ask me if I will trailer it behind the van or if I will have a rack for it. The bike is far too big for any kind of trailer hitch rack and while I could trailer it (and will if absolutely necessary), I think having the bike behind the van would take away from the ability to boondock and would be another piece to manage while I am on the road. My current plan is to either be on the bike or in the van. One or the other. If I am traveling in the van, I can certainly store the bike at a storage facility or at a friend’s house. If I am on the bike, I can do the same with the van. It has added a level complexity to things but I plan on putting quite a few miles on it over the next couple of years. – Time will tell.  

I have already christened it with 1570-mile trip out to Big Bend with a few others that I met at RawHyde. While it was a humbling, learning experience, it has made me want to know more about Adventure riding and motorcycle camping. I have some great pictures from that trip and it probably deserves a write-up as well.  

Deep in the heart of Big Bend.

Who needs a kickstand when you have all this Big Bend sand to help you out?

So, Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s came and went. I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to spend time with family, friends and loved ones. I have been planning more trips and travels and even picking up a bit work doing some odd jobs.   

Overall, things are good. I can’t say that I have learned to relax yet. But I am getting better. I still feel driven to be productive and have projects. I think that comes from years of the workplace environment. I am slowly learning to tone it down a bit and to not get so worked up about things. I can tell you that I have a long way to go.  

To those that have emailed and called, thank you. I am trying to get energized to get back on the road. I know that time is coming and will be soon. I certainly see more time in Colorado again this year as well as Arizona and New Mexico. California would be interesting as well.  

I am going to finish up this write up here with the intention of getting few other articles started on my Big Bend journeys (yep, there were 2 within a short amount of time and both were challenging), my trip to Colorado Ben here in Texas which is home to the beautiful Gorman Falls and a few others. I have a couple or leads on some work so I will keep you posted on that as well.  

Keep the course.  

Johnny