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Sunday, October 6, 2013

APPROACHING CHANGE....in a 1952 TRIUMPH SIDECAR.




They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.......Andy Warhol.







A view off the E75 South, 6 km south of Rovaniemi.


Winter fast approaches, gathering speed daily. 
The once green leaves, now void of chlorophyll, have whispered a fond farewell, having taken their last big gulp of carbon dioxide before they dazzle with blinding shades of burning red, golden yellow and vivid orange. 
Change. 

Life. It's all about change, isn't it?. Or rather how we approach that change. 
Whether it scares the dickens out of us and leaves us physically and emotionally paralyzed, or whether it's something that some of us relish and look forward to for the challenge and charge of it.  Mental and physical toughness. How much of either do I have?. That's one of the things I finally figured out that I'm trying to calculate on this RTW trip of mine. And it's a perfect time in my life to do it. 
It's kind of hard to test your limits when you've got a nice big comfy house with a nice comfy leather sofa, a TV with 300+ channels, hot showers on demand and a lovely big comfy bed to sleep in every night. Since I don't have any of those things anymore, it makes it a lot easier for me to discipline myself and not give in too easy. Life is a lot less complicated living out of a 2WD sidecar outfit.
I know I subconsciously fight against change. But lately, over the last year, not so much. The longer this trip becomes and I unravel it's surprises along the way, the less and less scared I become of the changes that accompany it. Of all the new places, the new people, new countries, new cultures, new visas, new laws, new rules, new food, new languages that I can't speak but somehow, seem to be able to make myself understood at the end of the day.
Maybe I am finally becoming more enlightened in my old age. Ommmmm........


I've set myself up with some new challenges in the past 3 months, to keep me on my toes and because if I don't do it now, I'll never do it. A few health and fitness challenges. Disciplining myself in a different ways, simply because I'm alive, I can, and I owe it to myself to squeeze as much life out of me as I possibly can while I'm still above ground and upright. Which is now. It's all I've got. Who knows what tomorrow will hold, or even if I'll see it.

"Rise to the challenges that life presents you. You can't develop genuine character and ability by sidestepping adversity and struggle"............Daisaku Ikeda.

I've been dogged with a knee injury for the last 10 years that hasn't got any better with time. Gets worse if I don't exercise and keep my weight below a certain #, but jogging sometimes brings me close to tears with the knee pain. But the more weight I lose and the lighter and fitter I get, the less the knee bothers me. So it's either suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain and the inevitable despair and regret for not pushing myself through it. I finally broke through the 200lb barrier last week and got my weight down to 197lbs. I've always been over 220lbs, my normal walk around weight used to be around 225-230. I'm 6'2" and an ex weightlifter, so 225 for me was actually on the light side. In my training days I carried 245lbs with 7% body fat for years. But that was work. Way too much work. And a lot of eating too. I've trained myself down to eating once a day now, well, one and a half times a day. More than enough for me, and most people too, they just don't discipline themselves enough to do it. The world of plenty we live in. Bombarded with "fast food" which is not really food at all, just appears to resemble it. 

Living on the road presents its own challenges in trying to stay fit, healthy and in shape. But nothing that a little bit of ingenuity and a large dose of discipline doesn't overcome. And because it just feels good to be strict with myself. It took a few months to wean myself off sugar, but now I'm pretty much rid of my dreaded chocolate cravings at last. It's my addictive personality I suppose, but I think that even people who don't have an addictive personality get addicted to chocolate. It's one of those non-discriminating addictive substances. Has no boundaries whatsoever. 

I could very easily use food as my new addiction, very very easily. Especially since I love to cook. And I consider myself pretty a decent  cook too. I am no Eric Ripert, but secretly harbor a dream of being able to cook like him, just for one day.
My Garlic infused broiled salmon (I peel and stuff fresh cloves of garlic into the whole side of the fish) with roasted red peppers, roasted garlic over a spinach fettuccine with an Alfredo cream sauce is one of my signature dishes that I love to cook for friends. I've cooked it many times here at Karu MC to rave reviews. "Best pasta I've ever had" said Matti. In fact I'll be cooking it again this evening. Maybe this time I'll take some photos.


Or my staple once a day meal right now: Cold Smoked Salmon, Avocado, Red Pepper and Egg salad with sautéed Mushrooms, Garlic and Broccoli on the side.

There are several types of hunger our body goes through and experiences. One of them is eating for real hunger or a need for nutrition, and another is eating for comfort hunger. Eliminating the latter urge and eating for sustenance is where I've been at for quite a long while now. I love food, both cooking it and eating it, but never had to discipline myself too much in the last 15 years. 
Before that I had to be strict with my diet as I was an athlete and personal trainer when I lived in NYC, so I had to be my clients fitness poster boy. Back then I had a body fat of around 8% and a six pack that wasn't made by Anheuser Busch, Guinness or Outback Steakhouse.
And I felt really good about myself then. Vanity was a strong motivator as well as being healthy. The end result of a disciplined and healthy lifestyle is not only a great cure for depression and health problems (that are usually associated with the alcoholic and alcoholism) but usually ends up with the side effect of you looking good too. It's nice to feel good about yourself. It's a great confidence and moral booster. If you don't, then figure out what it is you don't like and go about changing it. Give yourself the best chance you can to feel good, right?.

But today we live in world of plenty. Actually, it's more of a world of sheer and unadulterated excess. Everything we could ever want is out there and available for purchase. And then some. Anything and everything. And everybody.
Which is one of the things I have been endeavoring to try to get away from as this trip has expanded, both in time and distance, as it went from its second year into its third year on the road. 
I was one of those consumers 6 or 7 years ago, and availed myself of many of the things that money could buy. I really didn't need most of the stuff, but I bought it anyway. Why?. Because I could. I didn't have myself on a very short leash then. I had the money to buy them and also a large house with an even larger garage to put all the stuff in. Where is it all now?. All lost, gone and/or stolen with the foreclosure of my house in Florida. Fat lot of good it did me.

The 5 weeks I spent in rehab was the beginning of the learning process regarding what I could live with and also what I could live without from that point forward. In the rehab facility that I went to, as soon as you physically walked, or in my case staggered, in the door, you are stripped of everything you have on you except for the clothes on your back. Everything you have or brought with you is confiscated and stored in a locker for you. Even your hair and body shampoo and shaving gear. You cannot get it unless you ask for it at shower time. Then you have to give it back to "the Sargent" when you finish showering. The reason for this?. Shower gel contains alcohol, and when you're going through withdrawals some people will drink anything if it has alcohol in it. Seriously. And razors can be used to cut things. Like wrists for example.
Withdrawals are not easy. Ask me how I know.

No outside contact was allowed with anybody, family or friends, by phone or otherwise. A few inmates there had a business running or families and kids to take care of and tried, in vain, to use the phone to work. Nope. Not happening. They were bluntly told that your business or family can wait and survive without you. Treating your addiction is paramount, so no, you can't use the phone. You can't take care of your family or business unless you take care of you and your addiction first. Makes perfect sense to me, and did at the time too.

No cell phones, no personal phone calls, no visitors, no books other than recovery books, nothing from the outside world that would interfere with reprogramming your mindset to a life without alcohol from that point on. Sounds simple, right?. Well, yes, it is if you want it to be and you're strict and discipline yourself and you're sick and tired of the way your life was while drunk. When you're all the way down, at rock bottom, there's only one way to go and that's up. And that's why rehab doesn't work for everybody. They haven't reached their real rock bottom. Yet.
Make a plan, set a goal and stick to it. Regardless. So rehab was where I was reminded, yet again, that a person needs very little to live. That I needed very little to live. Because I wasn't allowed to have very much there to begin with.
At the time it seemed like prison. It was. It had to be in order for the whole process to work to be able to give yourself the chance to start over with a clean slate. 
Rehab is a opportunity, a chance at a new start, a new beginning. An opportunity to hit the Reset button and try again. Well, if you hit the Reset button, you automatically erase all previous versions. You should. That's what rehab is all about. A new fresh start. 
Change.

Constant change. Always evolving. What's the alternative?. Do nothing?.
I'm over 50, I don't have time to just do nothing anymore. None of us do, at any age really. We just don't realize that fact until one day a big chunk of that life of ours is gone, pooooof!!. In the blink of an eye.
Then there's the usual mad scramble to try and play catch up. 
If only it were really like that....

"The years thunder by, the dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience.
Before we know it, the tomb is sealed"........Stearling Hayden.


It's so much easier, and a lot less work not to rock the boat too much. Stay in your seat, in the same spot in your life, doing the same things, all in the false comfort and security that the repetitiveness of life surrounds us with. The mundane routines. Round and round.
But if you keep doing the same things you're just going to keep getting the same results. Just like I did for quite a long period of time. Too long.
And as long as you're aware of that and you're ok with it, well, who am I to tell you otherwise. I just know that I'm not. But hopefully I can make you think a bit more about it, question it a little. Maybe have an internal debate, a Q&A session with your subconscious. 

Quitting alcohol forced me to face the dangers of being stagnant really fast. Before I even got out of rehab. I couldn't do any of the same things I had done before I went into rehab, otherwise I would end up right back in the same spot I was before. I remember the day I walked out the front doors of the rehab facility and said my goodbyes and my thank you's. "The Sargent", as he was affectionately known, the day manager and schedule coordinator of the facility, a 6'4", hugely muscled, dark skinned, ex-military and recovering alcoholic man you didn't mess with said to me "Murph, the hard part's over, you've made it this far. But if you still don't think you're an alcoholic, go sit at a bar, have a drink and find out. The door's always open here, we'll be glad to refund your misery". Tough love. But real life.
Real life isn't all beautiful sunsets that we can just float away into.


But those sunsets are there, amidst all the carnage and darkness of real life. You just have to work hard at getting there. Then when you get there the Buddhist say "Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with you feet".

I had to completely rearrange my life and start changing everything I did and get a new and improved system of living. And fast. Replacing all the bad habits that I had with better habits.
Everything. I had to change it all. Otherwise I would probably go back to doing the same things I did before rehab. And probably end up dying.
I can't look behind me anymore for solace or comfort. I can only look ahead. And interestingly enough these days it's the uncertainty of what I can't see and don't know in front of me, the unknown, that keeps me going and makes me feel like I'm really living and not just running around in a hamster wheel going through the motions of life. 
The complete opposite of the way I used to live and think. I liked living and thinking I was in control. Knowing where I was going to sleep every night. Knowing that I was going to be coming home and turning the key in the same door in the same house on the same street for the next 20 years or so. Or until I died. 
Or so I thought.

Everything changes. It has to. It should. Otherwise life would be really boring.



When I think back to how, just in the past year alone, things have changed for me. Of how, even if I tried, I could never have planned it so as it would turn out as well as it has so far. A little over a year ago when I put the bike on a ship bound for Europe, I had no idea that it was going to be this type of adventure. I honestly thought that it was going to be a guy, on a bike, riding around the world. I knew I wanted to do it differently, to have different experiences, to make it an interesting and unique trip, but I had absolutely no idea how. So I just went ahead and started traveling rather than trying to plan it all out first. And the more that I traveled and the less that I planned, the better it all seems to work out.
Even though I have no stationary anchor or building structure to call home, I feel more at home now than I did with a house in Florida. Due in no small part to all the members of Karu MC and also some of the great people of Rovaniemi Finland that have me feel very comfortable and at home here.
But there's an inner peace, a comfort, a sense of calm that I've gathered along the way too, along the path that these last 2 or 3 years on the road have taken me. The kind of peace that only spending time in life can foster. The kind of inner calm that comes with surrendering your worries. And also your ego.
Inner peace is always there, in all of us, but is usually overshadowed by worry, stress and fear...
...And by what we want in our lives rather than what we already have in our lives.

However, even though what I want and don't have in my life right now is my own sidecar outfit to be up and running again as it's still in pieces waiting on parts from my new parts sponsor, I'm not short of a ride to get around on.
This is Raimo's Triumph.
It started out as a 1952 Triumph. Then Raimo rebuilt it a while back, bored it out from a 500cc to a 650cc and turned it into a really nice little bobber.



But wait, there's more.
One day Raimo and I are chatting at the shop and he mentioned that he also had a sidecar that he made for the bike. Wha?. A sidecar you say?. Well. Alrighty then.
A leaner sidecar.
You don't say?.

So that afternoon I rode over to Raimo's house to get the sidecar out and attach it.
Out back under the tent, gathering weeds and dirt was the sidecar.
A two point attachment leaner chair that he built originally for his daughter but now doesn't get much use. Actually, it doesn't get any use.
Two bolts later and it was attached.




A garden hose, a wash and the outfit looked fantastic.
So, What the hell is a leaner sidecar?.
Well, it's actually the opposite of what the name would suggest, as it's the bike that leans and not the sidecar. 



There are two main types of motorcycle sidecars. Dedicated and non-dedicated.
All dedicated sidecars (sidecars that are permanently attached to the motorcycle) usually have 4 points of attachment to the frame of the bike for strength. Two on the top and two on the bottom of the motorcycle frame. A leaner sidecar outfit is non-dedicated (the sidecar is not permanently attached to the motorcycle) so you do away with the top two attachment points and only use the bottom two. So when you go to turn left for example, the bike will lean over to the left, as it doesn't have the top two attachment points to keep it upright. Turn right, and the bike will lean right. Hence the name "leaner". 
Here's a few clips of video I made that gives you an idea of how it works. 
Sorry for the very shaky video, but there's nowhere on a Triumph to mount a camera that's vibration free. And sorry for the 240p, I thought I uploaded it in 780. Oh well, you'll get the idea.
My thanks to Erika for being a good sport and putting her life in my hands for the day.


At the 38 sec mark, I left in Erika's "Am I gonna die" remark. So as a disclaimer, nobody died or no animals were harmed in the making of this video.

Advantages of a leaner?. Well, a leaner outfit gives you the best of both worlds, as the motorcycle still leans over when you turn a corner, and the sidecar or chair can be attached and taken off in a matter of minutes. Disadvantages?. Well, not too many really. Just not as strong as a dedicated outfit. Performance wise it doesn't handle as well as an outfit with the sidecar permanently attached as part of the main frame of the bike, so it can't go as fast and the chair usually ends up having a lot of bounce in it when you go over uneven terrain. But it's a lot of fun to hitch one up to your motorcycle on a Friday, tool around on it for the weekend with the kids or a girlfriend (if you have an enclosed leaner chair that is) then Sunday night take it off and have your solo motorcycle back for the rest of the week. A great alternative for those who want to have the best of both worlds, a sidecar and a motorcycle. All in one package.





Triumphs are abundant here at Karu MC. And always were. Karu, and most other MC's in Finland, only had British motorcycles to begin with, mainly because of the difficulty of importing and currency restrictions after the war. Finland was severely affected by the war. When it ended in 1945, Finland was a country that had nothing left. No money, no cars, no motorcycles, no towns as most of them were burned down, so they had to start from scratch again.
It was only in 1952 the Government of Finland finally gave out a license to import vehicles from other countries. 
Harley Davidson's just weren't imported mainly because of their cost. They were usually about 5 times more expensive than a British or Japanese bike. That's why a lot of the older British bikes here in Finland are usually 1952 year models. 

Back in Rovaniemi, just last week was there was a huge CME on the sun resulting in a display of Northern Lights that included the rare shades of red not normally seen. I myself didn't see any of the red down in Rovaniemi, but some photographers in the US and Norway saw them and I even saw a photograph from Ireland with the red Aurora in it.






In fact, I didn't see much at all, because as soon as I ran out of the clubhouse door at 1am and tried to get into a decent spot that didn't have too much street lighting around, a cold mist started to roll in and the lighting just illuminated the mist, washing out my chances.


The mist did provide some lovely lighting effects, but unfortunately all but obliterated the Aurora Borealis that was doing it's dance overhead.


This was the last shot I was able to get before the mist came in.....


.....and  intensified the light from street lights and just totally blew out the Auora's that were dancing overhead. I could barely see them, but I just couldn't photograph them through the fog. It did make for a somewhat colorful and theatrical looking shot.



In other news the new Christmas stickers are now available for sale.
I have two new Christmas sticker designs, this one and a second one which will be ready next week. Available on it's own or as part of the WTHIM decal set.
I haven't made a new "BUY NOW" button for these yet, so if you want one, or two, or three, just use the "DONATE" button and make sure you cover shipping, handling and the cost of the sticker. I will have a "BUY NOW" button up by tomorrow.


And for a limited time only I have 150 of these #17 decals, both in med. and lrg. as part of the set or also available separately. The large is 6" wide and the medium is 4" wide. They look like a patch, but they're a sticker made to look like the patch. If you want to buy them as part of the sticker set, for now just include an extra €5 in Europe for both of them or $7.50 stateside which includes the extra postage. For questions just email me or send me a FB message(easier).



And of course the regular decal set is still available for sale by clicking the "BUY NOW" link up on the upper right of the sidebar. I want to sell out of all of the 2013 stickers by January so I can make some new designs for 2014. You can help by buying them for your friends. There's a multiple discount option on the link too. If you want more stickers than the link has, email me and I'll make you an offer you can't refuse.






Have the day of your choice,


Murph.



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