Travel: My Therapy, My Drug

Playground

The map you see above, encompassing parts of Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, represents my intended playground for the next couple of months, based on the road trips that I have planned. Some are day trips; some are overnighters. Most, but not all, involve my motorcycle. This has gotten me to thinking, once again, about my love affair with traveling and the open road.

Whether I look forward or back, I spend a lot of time thinking about my travels. Over the years, I have been on some fantastic journeys—some of them alone, but most of them with other people, and nearly always with people who matter to me. There is a relationship at work there, between me and one of the things I love to do most, and between me and those who matter most to me. Is it so surprising that I endeavor to weave these together?

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Family… Friends… Loved ones, all… I strive to share with them the things that matter to me most, just as they themselves matter to me. Both of my kids have had a taste of my wanderlust and each now develops their own in their respective ways. My wife, she had it at least as bad as me before we even met. So in some ways, our kids never had a chance. Ha!

Yes, there is an element to this that is all my own, even when I have others with me. I’ve said many times that I do not consider myself to be a good “alone” person. Sure, it’s beneficial at times, even necessary, but I just don’t care for it. I love sharing experiences. So even shen I take the ocassional solo trip, I inevitably find myself looking for things to share on future journeys.

I have made new friends in the course of my travels, and I have also drawn old friends into my wanderlust experience. Surely some folks look at all this and wonder whether I’ve gone off the reservation, taken leave of my senses, etc. And my answer to them will always be, emphatically, yes! This is who I am. This is what I do. And if you want to get a taste of something really neat, follow me just once.

The open road is my therapy; the journey is my drug. Those I take along for the ride are the ones who matter most to me. Thanks for hanging with me.

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My Daughter — My Hairdresser


I sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time talking about my son John because of our shared passions for motorcycling, cooking, wine, women and song. But I have a daughter named Teresa, of whom I am equally proud and passionate.

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Teresa is my eldest child, born about a year and a half before John. And much like her brother, Teresa’s hair was blond when she was very young, but turned darker as she got older.


It was Teresa who first began riding with me when I got into motorcycling. And when I participated in my first large fundraising ride, the Chicagoland Ride for Kids, she was there with me—and has attended that charity run with me every year since 2003. That’s something I have cherished every single year because (a) not every dad is fortunate enough to have a daughter who still wants to do things like this with him throughout her teens and into adulthood, and (b) I know the year will come when this can’t or doesn’t happen any more.


Teresa has worked for a local hair salon since she was in high school. After earning her undergrad degree in psychology, she completed cosmetology school, earned her license, and now has a chair at that same salon, where her skills have become increasingly in demand.

She became my personal hair dresser after she got her own chair. As I write this, my next hair appointment is less than 24 hours away. What will we do with it this time? Only my hairdresser knows for sure.

No worries here. I’m in good hands… and I am very proud.

Stress Is but a Response

I often need to remind myself that stress is not a stimulus. It’s not something “out there” that happens to us. Rather, stress is a response to external stimuli—actually one of multiple responses that are possible. So while it may be easier said than done (and practice makes perfect, though your mileage may vary, insert another cliché here), if you want a less stressful life, choose a different response. I want to share three recent instances where something happened that elicited a stress response from me that was not necessary.


Within the first half hour of waking up this morning, I dropped my phone from roughly waist height onto my kitchen floor. The phone landed face down, loudly. The last two times my phone fell to the floor, I ended up having to replace my Zagg Glass screen protector. They come with a lifetime warranty but the customer pays shipping each time and must return the damaged shield.

After the second time, I reconsidered my choice of cases and gave up my ultra-thin metallic case, a classic example of form over function, in favor of a Pelican brand product, similar to one my son had been using for months with excellent results. I should have considered this before allowing my gut to clench up as I retrieved my phone from the floor. The phone was quite intact, as was the Zagg Glass shield. Even the Pelican case was like new, not a mark on it.

So you see, my stress response was unfounded. Going forward I will try to be more careful with my phone and little less concerned when it falls again, as it surely will happen. I will also be a fan of Pelican brand phone cases.


Stress issue number two actually predated the first one by three days, which means it had time to ferment and grow. Last Saturday morning, following my triumphant return home from an epic road trip to Oregon and back, I had taken my motorcycle up to Randy’s Cycle in Marengo. By Saturday afternoon, I noticed something quite new in my garage: a fresh oil stain. I could not tell with certainty where on my bike the oil was leaking from, but my initial thought was that the oil was leaking at the drain plug and finding its way to my gremlin bell before dripping onto my previously oil-free floor.

To say that I became stressed over this discovery would be an understatement. After all, I had brought my favorite shop a motorcycle that did not leak oil and they seemingly sent me home, 57 miles away, with one that did. On top of all that, the shop had already closed before I made this unsettling discovery, and it was a holiday weekend, so the shop would not be open again for three days. So there I was, set up with a holiday weekend and no bike to ride because mine was busy marking territory in my garage—something that this brand is not known for.

But here’s the thing: I already knew, with certainty, that whatever the problem, whatever the cause, the folks at my shop of choice would make it right. They had done so before, even when the issue wasn’t their doing. I’ve been doing business with Randy Weaver and company for over three years now. They are known to be the best Victory dealer in all of Northern Illinois and in my opinion, that reputation has been well-earned.


So I got up this morning and rode Miss Scarlett back to Marengo. It was a bit of an inconvenience, but not the end of the world, and in point of fact, I had a rather nice ride. Upon arrival, they took my bike in and fixed the problem, which appears to have been unrelated to any work they did Saturday. It seems that on my way home Saturday, a seal where the shifter linkage passes through the engine case popped out of place, causing a slow but steady leak.

I rode the bike home, stopping a few times along the way to check for a leak, parked her in the garage with a dry piece of cardboard underneath the engine case, and checked again every few hours. No leak.

Episode three… I don’t know for sure what prompted me to go looking for my riding vest, but when I did so, I could not find it. No big deal, right? I probably put it down in an unusual place when I got back from Randy’s this morning… Oh, wait, I hadn’t worn it this morning. Well then surely when I had gone over there Saturday… Nope, I wore my jacket Saturday. Perhaps on Friday, when I had concluded my epic road trip? No dice. It had been cold in Minnesota that morning and pretty cool in Wisconsin, too, so I had worn my leather jacket all day.


Alas, I had not worn that vest since last Thursday, when I rode from Rapid City, South Dakota to Worthington, Minnesota. But surely I had brought the vest home… right?

My wife, Karen, called the hotel, but no vest had been turned in. She also called Randy’s, but I could have saved her the trouble, had I known. I messaged my sister, who had been on the trip with us. Then Karen and I took turns going through the van, the motorcycle, all our luggage, and every room in the house, turning everything upside down and inside out like frustrated DEA agents. Nothing.

I plastered the situation across Facebook, with photos. Almost immediately some of my biker friends began spreading the word. I should note that their response was instantaneous and impressive. I began to wonder what might happen if some of my brethren had come across my vest on the back of some unwitting teen. I must confess, that thought made me smile a little. But inside the space between my ears, stress had been building up big time.

At some point, stress had given way to resignation. That is, I had become emotionally resigned to having lost not only my leather vest, but all the pins and patches that I had added to it over the past few years, some of which were no longer replaceable. The effect was immobilizing me and I hated that, because despite whatever emotional and financial attachment I might feel about that vest, it was still just a thing. And things shouldn’t wield that kind of power over us.

The vest had been in my house the whole time. While passing through my bedroom—which had already been ransacked once or twice—something or someone possessed me to check the top of my wife’s dresser one more time. Then, on an apparent whim, I reached around and behind the dresser, thrusting my hand into the narrow abyss between that chest of drawers and a wall… and felt my fingers brush against something leathery.

“Eureka! I found it!” Similar messages were shared in earnest across Facebook and in text messages.

Again the stress—indeed the anguish—had been unfounded, but I didn’t know it at the time. If I could have even delayed the stress response for a while, I’d be better off.

A few parting thoughts:

  • Whether we exercise it or not, we have the power to choose our response to various stimuli.
  • If you’re going to be emotionally charged, like me, consider leading with positive emotions.
  • Pelican phone cases: good stuff.
  • Randy’s Cycle: good people.

Thank you for hanging with me.

Postscript to the Post-Trip Service and Safety Check


A few hours after I had gotten back from my favorite Victory shop, I noticed an oil drip on my garage floor. Up until now this bike has never given up a drop of oil. 

I’m hoping this is something simple, but regardless, I’ll be at the dealership on Tuesday morning, when they open, to see if they can make it right in short order. Given my past experiences with Randy’s Cycle, I’m sure they will take care of me. 

More to come.

Epic Journey Day Six — First Full Day in Portland


In all candor, after five consecutive full days on the bikes, over 2,000 miles worth, I was ready for a day off. That day was today. John rode his Honda over to our hotel, a 15-minute trip, and then parked it in the underground garage, next to mine and Eddie’s, for the day. Then we all piled into the minivan and John took us into Portland proper for the day. 

Compared to Chicago, Portland seems far less big-city-like. The buildings aren’t as tall and what tall buildings they have aren’t as dense. Traffic can be slow, but drivers on the whole seem more courteous. Vehicles from both directions will stop suddenly if a pedestrian steps into the street. Try that one in Chicago sometime. Or even the Chicago suburbs. You’ll probably make the news. Portland is also greener, in every sense of the word. For whatever it’s worth, according to my son, Portland tops the list of cities to which people are moving. Even the maintenance man at our hotel, a fellow motorcycle enthusiast, told me that he prefers Portland to Southern California, where he had lived before. 

Unfortunately, Portland also has a substantial and highly visible homeless population. This may be the result of tolerance as well as climate. But for whatever reason, they are there, they are human beings, and just like anyplace else, some are very nice, some aren’t very nice, and some appear to have substantial problems beyond being homeless. 


We got a tour of John’s studio apartment, which is currently being used as a set for a web series about a highly disturbed individual. Worry not. Despite indications from his interior decore, my son is not a psychopath. 


We visited Powell’s Book City, a bookstore on steroids, that takes up an entire city block in a four-story building. This place is incredible and perhaps a bit overwhelming, but we spent a couple of awesome hours there and, predictably, came away with a fair number of books. 


Next came our tour of the Portland Actors Conservatory, the whole reason John is out here and subsequently, the whole reason we have taken this epic road trip. 

John seemed very pleased to be showing us his school, and we were positively tickled to be there.


Next came supper and drinks at the Rogue Hall. We had copious amounts of food and several beers, and nobody complained. Seriously, it was quite good. 

That brought us back to the hotel. After helping us get our belongings into our rooms, John took his motorcycle and returned to his apartment. It was an excellent day! 

Epic Journey Day Three — Cheyenne to Salt Lake City (Suburbs)


I started off my day collecting a few items in the entryway of the Little America Hotel in Cheyenne, where we opted to eat breakfast. Since the only other Little America location we’d heard of was the original Little America Travel Center on the other side of the state, we weren’t expecting anything quite as opulent as the place we walked into this morning. I felt resigned to eating a $100 breakfast as we were seated, but was pleasantly surprised at how fairly priced our seemingly high-end breakfast was. After gassing up at the Little America Sinclair Station, we were on our way. 


In no time, we found ourselves climbing in elevation as Interstate 80 took us  through a portion of the Rocky Mountains. I happened to be leading—we trade off leading after every gas stop—and pulled us into a scenic rest area with extensive tourist information as well as a monument to the Lincoln Highway. It was a great stop, but ate up time. Turns out this would become a recurring theme this day. 


The chase vehicle—also known as the blue Grand Caravan containing my wife and my eldest sister—actually did chase us today. The good side of that is that our group got to do everything together. The down side is that it took them every bit as long to reach today’s destination as it did the rest of us on our bikes. 

As we continued on, the natural beauty of south central Wyoming had gradually turned into a rugged beauty. Green gave way to more and more brown. The majority of plant life seemed to be scrub, stuff that can grow around rocks. The wind was harsh and sustained. Dust, sand and gravel seemed to get blown everywhere. Wherever we got off the highway, intersections and parking lots were all partially covered with the stuff.  Gas stops, our lunch stop, everywhere the same. Still we had our fun. 

And the wind never let up. My son’s bike, a Honda 750 Shadow Aero, was the smallest and lightest in the group, so he felt it most. At times John was going straight down the highway heeled over at a substantial angle, and at times, he could not reach the speed limit (usually 75 or 80) due to the strong headwinds and crosswinds. But even Eddie and I with our heavyweight full-on touring bikes found ourselves wrestling an 800-pound gorilla because of the wind. 

We made more stops, mainly for gas, but also just to get off the road and see things. We had fun together, but of course this ate up time. 


Our last stop in Wyoming was at the original Little America Travel Center, where my son had stopped when he drove his old Chrysler sedan to Oregon last year, to begin attending the Portland Actors Conservatory. We shopped, looked around, ate ice cream and refueled. I collected a couple more fiberglass animals. We had much fun, but it ate up time 


As we continued farther west, things got green again, and beautiful. When we crossed into Utah, our surroundings were downright lush. Again, if only I’d had my favorite photographer on board, I could show you some of what I’d seen. 

At last we made it to our hotel, in Park City, a suburb of Salt Lake. It was quite late, too late to do much of anything, but still, we’d had a great day together. 

Motorcycle Sunday Stories

Sunken Garden AMFThe 16th annual Motorcycle Sunday took place at Phillips Park in Aurora last Sunday. I’ve been going to this event since roughly 2007—I’m no longer certain of the exact year. I do know that I had thought about attending this event for a couple of years before I actually went. I just wasn’t sure if it would be right for me. This seems ridiculous in hindsight, but at the time, I wasn’t sure if a Honda-riding Catholic boy would be welcome there. So I stayed away. But then a friend of mine told me the event was great, that I would indeed be welcome there, and that Fox Valley Cycles, my favorite Honda dealer and sponsor of the Illini Free Spirit Riders (aka my local Honda Riders Club of America chapter), was a regular exhibitor at the event. So I went, I loved it, and I and haven’t missed one since.

I’ve gone on bright, sunny days. I’ve gone in nonstop torrential rains. I’ve gone in the steel gray miserable chill that can sometimes grip Chicagoland at this time of year. I enjoy going. Sometimes I drag friends along and I see a number of friends, old and new, at Motorcycle Sunday every year. I’ve collected some pretty cool stories along the way, too. Let me tell you a few.

In 2010, probably feeling like an idiot about my unfounded former fears, I sent a Facebook Message to the event founder, Pastor Randy Schoof of Warehouse Church.

Hi Randy, I felt compelled to share this with you. I only began attending Motorcycle Sunday a couple or three years ago, mainly because I ride a Honda and wasn’t sure if that would be okay. But also because I’m Catholic and I wasn’t sure of that was okay, either. Came to discover all denominations are welcome, in more ways than one. Now I wouldn’t miss Motorcycle Sunday for the world.

The only thing that could keep me away would be if my dad’s health takes a turn for the worse. He is 88 years old and has been in failing health for some time. Otherwise, see you there!

Best regards,
Michael G. D’Aversa

Randy n Me older MGD

Pastor Randy replied…

Michael, thanks so much for writing…. it’s so cool that you are now a MCS regular! I ride a
Honda too – a VTX 1300 Retro… And it’s cool that you’re a brother in Christ. God’s family is big… and we’re committed to making it even bigger.

I’ll be praying for your dad too!

Blessings in Jesus,
Randy

Randy never said a word about our differences, nor has he done so in any of the six years that have followed. Rather, he pointed to our common ground, and in so doing, he earned my respect and struck up a friendship. We are brothers in Christ as well as biker bros, brethren of the open road.

I love telling that story. Here’s another…

My friend and fellow past president of the Illini Free Spirit Riders, Eddie Cullins, loves to tell this story. As sometimes happens, we found ourselves at a cool, damp, rainy Motorcycle Sunday one year. It seemed as though the rain would never let up.

Attendance was better than one might have expected for such a rainy day, but then Motorcycle Sunday has its diehard fans. I should know; I’m one of them. Hours went by. Phillips Park was quickly turning into a mud field. Then came time for the centerpiece of Motorcycle Sunday, the bike blessing.

We all meandered, stumbled and trudged over to the parking lot and stood by our bikes. A number of area pastors were on hand to assist with the blessing and pray with attendees. Randy Schoof took to the music stage, grabbed the main microphone and began to pray.

Now you have to understand, Pastor Randy is very good at what he does. When he prays over people, as he does every Motorcycle Sunday, Randy doesn’t recite words; he pours his entire self into it, with feeling. It’s a very positive experience in general, but more so on this occasion. As Eddie likes to tell it…

It was pouring rain when Randy started prayin’, but as he went on, the rain just got lighter and lighter. By the time he finished his blessing, the rain had stopped, the sun came out, the temperature rose, and everything (and everybody) began to dry out. And it never rained again that day.

That story gets told every year and it makes people smile every time. Nobody brings down a blessing like Pastor Randy.

Ann n Me MGDLast Sunday I added a new story to my collection. My dear friend and riding companion Ann had driven down from Wisconsin so that she could experience firsthand this Motorcycle Sunday of which I speak so highly. I had so badly wanted Ann’s first experience with Motorcycle Sunday to be one of the sunny, warm variety, but it didn’t quite go that way for us. It had poured rain all day Saturday, but I had it on good authority that Sunday would be dry, if a bit cool.

MGD + VFS by AMFTemps were in the low-to-mid 40’s when Ann and I left Plainfield, and it never got past the low 50’s all day. We were dressed for the weather, so we stayed relatively comfortable for the most part. Once on site at Phillips Park, we did our best to stay warm by moving a lot.

We walked the vendor booths, listened to some live music, ate a little, drank hot coffee, and otherwise managed to enjoy ourselves, Plenty of friends were on hand and I enjoyed introducing them to Ann. Most of them said the same thing, “Well, at least it isn’t raining!” Ann and I soon discovered that any time we stood still for very long, we got chilled. What to do?

Gator MGDIn addition to providing a pleasant park setting for all visitors, Phillips Park also offers a zoo, a water park, and a golf course. We opted to check out the zoo, something I had not yet done, despite the years that I had been attending this event.

What a blast! The zoo turned out to be a nice place to visit and features primarily American wild animals. One of our favorite zoo stops was the reptile house. It was quite warm inside and many of the animals were quite active. They also had a couple of alligators in there, one of which was really, really large.

Private Blessing AMFNot long after Ann and I walked back to the Motorcycle Sunday celebration, it was time for the bike blessing. As we walked out toward the parked bikes, one of the ministers on hand to assist Randy offered to bless our bike. And so it came to pass that on that day, Miss Scarlett, Ann and I were blessed at least twice—first by this gracious minister who prayed over us directly, and then by Pastor Randy, who did his usual stellar job.

Ann n Me AMFDuring the 1:00 PM hour, a 60-mile ride through the countryside was conducted and Ann and I were there for it. Somebody had put together a nice route through the surrounding countryside. With the heated seats and grips on, the windshield up slightly, and my tunes playing, Ann and I remained relatively comfy aboard Miss Scarlett. We peeled off from the group during a gas stop in Newark, though, so that we could get back to Plainfield in time for Ann to head home—a 2.5 hour drive—in a timely fashion.

Despite the cold temps and relative lack of sun, Ann and I had a great time! We laughed a lot and shared some really fun moments. It was also great introducing her to some of my biker friends. Call me an optimist, but I think she’ll be back for Motorcycle Sunday 2017. Time will tell.

 All photos by Ann M. Fischler and Michael G. D’Aversa