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2010 Deadhorse Alaska Trip

'Tuesday June 1st, 2010 10:00'
This adventure is over.

It was a slow day. I did some work in the morning. I thought I'd have more time to work while I was here, figuring that Ian and Tanya both had alot to do, but as it turns out there haven't been the long stretches of time that I need to get into building the anonymous comments extension to the blogging software. It may have to wait until I get home.

So if you want to post comments here, just ask me for an account and I'll send you an invite or you can friend me on facebook. I guess that's been working out ok. I actually got friended today by a BMW rider I had never met. Interesting.

It continues to be a source of amazement to me how much positive feedback I'm getting about these articles. I originally started writing these because there were several women, all mothers, who were concerned about my well being. One mentioned that maybe I could write a blog journal. I thought about it and decided that a blog might be a good way to show everyone that I hadn't died yet.

To make it easier on me I try to write for someone as if I'm telling them a story.

Ian came back in the middle of the day and said he saw a racoon in the yard which ran away. "I was told that if you see them in the daytime it usually means they are rabid.", I mentioned. "Normally, that would be true, but this one was not acting rabid. Usually they'll look drunk and be stumbling around and acting weird. This one wasn't. I don't know what his problem is.", Ian replied.

Shortly afterwards I decided to take the camera and see if I could track it down. It had moved into a thick cedar tree and then moved off into the next yard. I gave up, went back to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. A short while later I noticed the critter in the back yard, so I quietly and cautiously stalked the beast with the telephoto lens. It looked up just as I snapped the picture.


It looked at me for a second and then sauntered off unbothered. Ian it ran away from but me it was unbothered by. The rabbits in my back yard treat me with the same lack of respect.

Ian, being a man of much motion, came down later in the day and suggested that we clean the bikes. It was kind of late and I wasn't feeling particularly motivated to do anything, but with Ian's prodding I got up and we started cleaning the bikes just as it started to rain a bit.

Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming had not been kind to the bike. It's a horror show of bug entrails. In a macabre fashion, other bugs would swarm around my bike and pick off their fallen breathren.

You know it's time to wash your bike when a small flock of birds lands on it to have a feast. I kid you not.


The photo doesn't do it justice.

Little Arlo was designated Rinse Man.


After alot of work and copious quantities of S100 the bike was more or less clean. Some of the bug stains just don't want to come off. Even after the last Alaska trip that wasn't the case. In some ways this was worse than that.


After washing my bike I like to run it until it gets really warm and as much of the water that's gotten onto the engine and whatnot evaporates off. So, as I've been doing for years, I let the bike idle until it got good and hot.

Ian, continuing to be Mr. Motion and Motivation, suggested that I go ahead and change the oil since the bike was warm. I didn't feel like it but I could not argue with the logic. At least Ian provided with a stool to sit on.


Changing the oil on my bike is a major #!$!@#@. First you have to remove the belly pan. Then you remove the drain plug to drain the oil.

Then it gets messy because for whatever reason BMW decided that, despite being a metal cartridge car type oil filter, it should sit in a hot oil bath behind a three bolt cover. There's no drain in the cover so when you remove one side of the cover oil goes everywhere and only gets worse as you try to remove the other two bolts. Of course you need an oil filter wrench which itself gets covered in oil as you unscrew the filter. Oil everywhere. Countless paper towels. Very resource intensive. Ted and Sarah would be horrified.

About 45 minutes later or though I did have the oil changed. We had gone to a BMW dealer earlier in the day to get the filter and oil. I figured they would have the BMW synthetic oil I always use which is just Mobil 1 rebranded, I believe. They told me that because that oil is not available with french and english labelling it's not available in Canada. Instead, they had some kind of 10w40 racing synthetic that they use in all their bikes. I usually run 15w50. On top of that all this stuff was crazy expensive. It would have been cheaper just to have the oil changed in the US. Oh well.

I reason that since I'm going to be travelling in much colder climates the 10w40, being thinner than 15w50, should not be a problem.

So the oil is done. The bike is clean. I have a new tires. All I need to do now is figure out a better way to mount the new tankbag and repair a serious crack that's developed on the saddle bag that fell and I should be set.

A little later today I plan on heading over to a climbing equipment store to see if I can get some clips to fit the bag so I can mount it better. I am not hopeful. Tourmaster seems to use their own kind of clips that don't fit anything else. At least it'll give me an excuse to walk around in downtown Victoria for a while.

We went in for dinner. Tanya had made an amazing chicken dish with an organic yogurt mint sauce along with an incredible salad to which she made a diet legal salad dressing which was incredible.

I need to learn how to cook better. You should have seen it. Delicious. It reminded me of back when a friend would make these wonderful feasts and invite me over to join her and her family for dinner when life for me was at its worst. Incredible kindness. Good memories.

Feeding the Yermo is always dangerous.

After dinner Ian asked if I wanted to see something cool. I figured it had to be another critter. I was right. Ian Watts, Critter Master.

He had noticed a humming bird that had made a nest in one of the trees in the yard. I have never seen a humming bird sit still before.


It just sat there virtually motionless but you could tell it was watching us. Very cool. Ian always notices little things like this.

We walked around outside. I had long since noticed how much rock there is around Victoria. It's nuts. When foundations are made here they just build right on top the rock. Basements are blasted out.

Ian showed me how his house is just placed right on top of the granite. There's no foundation the way we know it back East.


Ian and got to talking and I mentioned how he and I are very different in alot of ways. He's a man of motion. Once he gets up in the morning he's always moving around doing something or another. I on the other hand am a man of inaction. I guess I'm just low energy. Always have been. I can just Sit and Ponder. I go from Starbucks to Starbucks and am perfectly content to sit endlessly until I get a feeling I've been there long enough. Sometimes it's hours later.

So Ian asked if I had enough energy to help him adjust the suspension on his bike. So with a couple of shots of scotch in hand we walked out to the garage and futzed with his bike for a while. I don't have much experience in suspension tuning but my impression is that his forks have some excess stiction. They just don't seem to move the way they are supposed to. Ryan or Al would know much better than I.


It's not right but I was starting to get tired and it was after 11 so we went back to the basement and chatted for a while.

I have alot of respect for Ian. He has always had this Zen like quality about him. He also values his state of being. He didn't like having computers in the house so he had an external office built to create a separation. He values his lifestyle and makes compromises that are kind to himself. He works hard but tries not to work too hard. He rests. He goes for walks. He swims with Orcas.

Me on the other hand. I am different. I guess because of how I was forced to grow up, never being allowed to make choices for myself and endlessly being forced to learn how to do things that I didn't want to, I am not kind to myself. I don't make choices with myself in mind. My best tool is my ability to suffer through just about anything. That's what I relied on to suffer through the Nightmare. Duncan endlessly wondered how I could have made it. But I'm good at that kind of thing. Micro (Mike Rowe) jokes semi-seriously that I am allergic to endorphins. Find something I actually enjoy and I'll go into anaphylactic shock.

But like a soldier whose come back from war or a prisoner whose been let out of a cage after far too many years, the skills and tools that served me well in war do not serve me in this new context.

Ian asked why I don't move away. "I've got to take care of my mom", I replied. Ian moved away and has a good life here. Sure, it has it's issues and problems, but every good life does. I wonder what he would do in my shoes.

"You could move away. A change would be good for you. Maybe you should move to Annapolis, or DC. You could even move to Santiago". "Santiago?", I thought without saying anything. I wonder why of all places on earth he would mention Santiago. Very strange. It's one of those cities that I've thought about more in recent times. Maybe, like Buenos Aires, it's one of those cities I should eventually visit.

Move away? Change my life? Do something different? Change the way you think then the way you act will follow.

I was telling Ian that I'm not any good at being good to myself. On my own I either seek out struggle. I seek difficulty. A friend who took her family on a cruise shortly after I left asked why I didn't go on a cruise, or go to a resort or do something "fun". Why this epic trip up some risky dirt road to visit some dirty cold rainy oil operation?

When left to my own devices that's what I do. Could I be kind to myself the way Ian is to himself? He certainly does challenging things, but he generally attempts to avoid pain and discomfort unless there is some benefit in it. Me, not so much. Difficulty and self denial are their own reward to me for some reason.

And maybe therein lies the bad association. I've had to force myself to do so many things that I didn't want to. Driven by obligations that were handed down to me I built up this skill, but possibly to a degree that in my mind if it's easy, if it's comfortable, if there isn't an epic struggle involved with it, I feel it doesn't have value.

Which is the exact opposite of what I was suggesting to Angela. "Just because it's easy for you doesn't mean it isn't of great value", I commented. I guess I do have the saving grace that I sometimes listen to myself talk.

I've had countless conversations with Anatoly about these piss-ant little programs that people have slapped together that have made millions. Stupid stuff.

We, on the other hand, apply decades of serious technical experience to create very solid technologies addressing the problem spaces we've chosen. The quantity, quality and technical superiority of what we create rivals what the fortune 500 companies can produce. Even in business I don't know how to do anything other than the Very Difficult. I don't see the Easy. I don't think I even know how. It's not good for business especially in the role I find myself in.

Behind us yet another set of critters was making some serious noise. There a gerbils here. It's amazing the kind of noise they can make.

I went to investigate and I found myself once again being eyed by some furry rodent.


Soon I'll leave here and head out into the cold and lonely. The forecast for up north involves alot of rain and alot of cold as is to be expected. There will be mud, critters, ice heaves, sudden patches where Pavement Ends.

Ian keeps saying I can turn around any time. I don't have to go to Deadhorse.

But I set out to do this. I don't know if I really want to. It's a silly destination. There's nothing there. It's just the farthest point north you can go in the US by public road. Talk to any adventure rider and they will have heard of the run to Deadhorse. The countryside is supposed to be stark but beautiful. But there's nothing there. Just a dirty grimy oil operation with lots of tractor trailers coming and going. Ever see Ice Road Truckers? Yea, that's the place.

I keep hearing from people I meet along the way that I must be brave to take on a trip like this. I must have guts. I don't know. It doesn't feel like it to me. It's just a ride. A long introspective ride. Maybe it'll be a cakewalk. Maybe it'll be horror.

Like Ian was saying, maybe to get away I should spend some time in Africa, which is really away. For me that would take alot more guts. Or riding through South America. That's something that scares me.

From riders I hear alot of envy. So many have said if they could they would join me on this trip.

But I find myself thinking NOT going is more uncomfortable for me than actually going. Strange, eh?

But maybe this whole trip is just a manifestation of the messed up associations I learned over the years. Almost all of my "recreation" is like work. I used to go four wheeling and it wasn't a good day until we got stuck and had to, using hard labor, just dig ourselves out.

For it to be worthwhile it has to be hard ... for me ... and this trip has not yet been nearly hard enough I've found myself thinking. But what I have never thought through is how messed up that is.

"Allergic to endorphins", Micro always says.

I imagine myself stuck in the mud on the Dalton Highway somewhere in the rain, in the cold, grizzly bears in the distance ... trying my best to make progress not stopping until Deadhorse. And doing it all for no reason at all other than it's Far Away.

I could go on a cruise. Sit on some Carribean Island. Drink oddly colored drinks and watch the sun set.

But alone that thought is too much for me right now. Maybe in the company of the right woman, but she either isn't available or doesn't exist.

The comfortable easy thing for me right now is to go do the Difficult Thing on a motorcycle by myself. Yea, I think Micro is on to something. I think of Dancing Rabbit and that feeling I had walking into that place, that uncomfortable feeling.

I realize at this moment, probably for the first time, that walking into an Easy Thing, like a resort, a cruise, some far away island beach, makes me more internally uncomfortable than any Hard Thing I've ever done.

And challenging myself to uncomfortable has been a theme on this trip.

Maybe that's why I don't think of this as a vacation. Small parts of it, camping with Bruce and Ha, spending time with Angela, spending time here with Ian and Tanya or on Dancing Rabbit with Ted and Sarah felt like vacation. Come to think of it, isn't it strange that what I think of as vacation is spending time being included and welcomed at the dinner table in a family setting? There is something very telling there that I have never noticed.

Maybe this is why I've always, even since I was a little kid, understood that I was No Fun.

"This is vacation for me", I used to tell her as she put away the dishes after yet another fabulous healthy dinner during my very worst times a couple years ago. Those compassionate breaks from my life included in the daily lives of someone else and their family did me so much good. It was through her efforts, actually, that I became much more comfortable around kids, but that's a story for another time.

Like a solder who measures his self worth through the battles he has won, I believe maybe I measure my self worth by the Difficult Things I've done. I wonder if this could be a form of workaholism.

Whatever it is, as I sit here I feel that it needs to change, but it's too much for me right now. I'll be kind and let myself be me and press on.

But if the the opportunity ever presents itself, maybe I'll go on that cruise or island beach after all ....

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