CRAIG'S LATEST RAMBLINGS AND WORDS OF SEMI-WISDOMLiving Off the Slab Blog
I have a confession to make. Those that know me well will not be surprised at this admission, but I am a bit of a contrarian. I have never been drawn to the things or activities that most people consider to be cool, or hip.
Beanie babies, Cabbage Patch Kids, Pet Rocks, Jordache Jeans and Disco were never my thing. I know these references reveal my advanced age, so for you younger viewers, think X-Box, iPhones and Aeropostale.
Part of this mindset came from the fact that my parents moved me around during my formative years, causing me to be placed in the position of "outsider" in both 6th and 10th grades. These experiences caused me to turn inward, as I was not immediately accepted into the established cliques making up the high school social hierarchy.
One of the most important lessons I have learned over the course of my 62 years, is that life is largely what you make of it. Sure, unexpected, and unpleasant things do happen, but the bad things do not need to define you. It is how you stand up to the challenges that life throws in you path which determines your success and happiness.
No, life is not fair. Some people get harder challenges than others and I often marvel at how some people are able to overcome the greatest of odds with a smile and loving outlook toward life. While I am not always successful, I strive to be like those amazing individuals.
I have this same approach to planning a motorcycle trip. Sure, I can just point my fender in a general direction and twist the throttle, leaving fate to the gods, but I would rather play a more active role in how my adventure unfolds.
Last time we started a discussion on route planning, and I pointed out that with the advent of online mapping solutions, we now have detailed maps available any time of day, at our fingertips. These digital maps have become my preferred method of route planning.
For this video/Blog, I want to continue our discussion by talking about the tools which I used to plan and execute my tours.
Before I begin, let me point out that there is no one way to do anything. Certainly, with the sheer number of applications available, there are numerous methods to achieve the same outcome that I do using my chosen toolset. While I will mention a few additional products, my focus is going to be on those applications and devices I have found to work best for me.
Over the 10-year time span, since I started this YouTube Channel, one of the most common questions I receive is how to navigate. Specifically, how to create custom routes or GPX files which can be uploaded to your GPS device and used while traveling.
To those of us who have been working with GPS units for some time, the process seems rather simple and straightforward, but to the new or would be traveler the process can seem daunting. I have talked with many riders who have put off taking that dream trip, because they do not know where to start the planning process.
While learning the skills necessary to create custom routes can take a bit of time, it is a process that is well worth pursuing and one that can literally change your "riding life" for the better.
During most of my life—and I think for the vast majority of us--we have never had cause to think that far into the future. Most of our lives are lived thinking in five-day increments. Our goal is to simply make it through the work week, so that we can catch a fleeting glimpse of freedom for those two glorious days that make up the weekend.
Thinking past each Sunday was just not something most of us had any cause to do. Sure, we might have a vacation planned for the summer months, but the countdown to reaching those two of weeks away from the daily grind, was marked by the same repetitive week after week progression.
For most of my life I did not think about this kind of thing. I was young and that is just the way the world worked. But as I got older and time wore me down, I started to recognize my mortality and with that realization, came an awakening.
IF I AM GOING TO DO SOMETHING AMAZING WITH MY LIFE, I NEED TO DO IT NOW!
Do you every wonder what comes after this life? Is there simply a never-ending sea of black silence? Do we spend eternity in some predetermine paradise or purgatory? Or perhaps our souls are recycled, returning again and again until we gain enlightenment.
I have no idea what comes next and do not think we are meant to know. Having the afterlife hidden from us places a greater meaning on this existence.
But occasionally, something happens that makes me scratch my head in wonder. Just such an occurrence happened while I was returning home from my Alaska trip back in 2017.
In 2019 I was fortunate enough to take a 11,700-mile cross-country trip over the course of 58 days. This adventure was in celebration of completing my 60th trip around the sun. Over the course of this two-month excursion, I wanted to meet as many of my YouTube followers as possible and in the process, turn the camera on them, to hear their motorcycle stories. This turned out to be one of the most rewarding parts of my travels.
Like most bikers, I admit that I am a “gear geek.” I love to browse and talk about the latest models of two-wheeled conveyance and/or gear to hit the market. But these items are simply tools used by the rider to take their individual motorcycle or travel journey.
The journey is not simply the physical act of moving from one place to another. Rather, it is an internal odyssey taken by every solo traveler who throws a leg over a motorcycle.
It often amazes me, how wisdom can be found in the strangest places. There are certain events or experiences in life that at the time seem insignificant, but as life rolls on they stick with you. I don’t know about you, but I find myself reflecting back on these lessons over and over again as life continues to throw tests and challenges in my path.
For me, one of these strange teachers is the "Billy Jack" series of movies that ran from 1967 to 1974. There were three movies released in this series "The Born Losers," "Billy Jack" and "The Trial of Billy Jack." A forth film was produced "Billy Jack, Goes to Washington" but it was never released to the theaters.
Each time I get on my bike I have a great time, enjoying the wind in my face and the freedom of the open road, but every so often I am fortunate enough to have an almost mystical experience. I know that sounds rather sappy but if you are a motorcycle rider you know exactly what I mean. There are those days, when the weather is warm, the roads are smooth, and everything just clicks.
On one particular day I took a ride out to the central Massachusetts town of Barre. The local Victory dealer was having an open house and some of the guys and gals form the Massachusetts Bay Victory Riders Club were heading out to show their support. It sounded like a great excuse to ride, so I plugged in the iPod, cranked up some Jimmy Buffet and headed North on interstate 495.
While I sit around the house waiting for my shoulder to heal (I had rotator cuff surgery) and Spring to arrive, I have been taking stock of all the items I have taken with me during my various tours and adventures. I thought it would be interesting to share the last of items or gear that I have found to be most useful or “essential” while traveling.
I present these items in no particular order and you may notice a theme that has to do with protecting yourself and your gear from the elements. I have also excluded a good tool kit and first aid kit from this discuss—those should be no brainers.
Just the other day, my wife Cathy and I decided to talk a walk on a beautiful, sunny Sunday morning. We started out by strolling down our tranquil tree line street, returning home through a wooded path that travels along an old abandon railroad bed.
While taking this walk, I could not help but juxtapose our tranquil surroundings with the turmoil, dysfunction, fear, and hatred that 2020 has brought us. It truly has been a bitch of a year. Personally, I have lost a cousin, six years my junior and then my father, at just 20 years my senior. These losses seem to make my remaining time noticeably shorter.