« April 2006 | home | June 2006 »

21 May 2006

i'm on my way to the promised land


ever since us highway 666 in new mexico and colorado was renamed to us highway 491 three years ago, only two roads in the united states bear the number of the beast. one is a short stretch of road which connects madeira beach to the mainland in florida near tampa bay; the other is a 33 mile stretch between east hickory and sheffield in northwestern pennsylvania. i'd spent saturday night in a small hotel in oil city, pennsylvania, a small town 25 miles southwest of east hickory and today i would ride the highway to hell.

i woke up early on sunday morning ready to ride. carried all of my gear down from my third floor hotel room and loaded it onto for.great.justice, taking care to balance my pack across the seat and strap it down securely. i wiped off last night's rain from the seat with death.from.above [*], threw my leg over the bike and sat down in the soft dampness. zipped my jacket up to my neck, pulled my gloves on, and lowered my helmet onto my head, my breath blurring the shield. the weather was closing in and i decided to postpone breakfast until i'd put oil city well behind me.

fuel valve: set to on.

ignition key: set to on.

neutral: check.

engine switch: set to run.

choke: check.

i hit the start button. the starter began turning the engine over... turning... still... turning... and nothing. i tried again. weaker now. and again. and weaker still. nothing. i breathed out a long heavy blurring breath. don't stop me.

i looked around the hotel parking lot. it was an empty dead day sunday in oil city, pennsylvania, and i didn't think i'd be able to find a local mechanic who could take a look at my bike any time soon. i was several hours away from the global recon vehicular operations base in ligonier; if it had come down to it i could have requested a technician drive up and tow for.great.justice back to base, but i had a season ticket on a one way ride and i wasn't going to go out like that. i'd attempt a jump start.

i clicked the transmission into first gear, stepped off the bike, pulled in the clutch lever, and began to push for.great.justice down the smooth black parking lot pavement. when i'd reached an adequate speed i popped the clutch and the engine instantly roared to life.

i'd forgotten one critical step.

i'd popped the clutch _before_ i'd jumped on my bike and my 1991 kawasaki vulcan 750 was now dragging me down the parking lot as i desperately tried to engage the clutch or brake. shit. i stumbled to my knees and just when i thought 'i'm going down... all the way', i made a quick recovery and managed to hold onto the handlebars and pull in the clutch lever. i wish i had a video of this incident; there's no doubt i looked like a complete idiot trying to keep my bike upright as it dragged me down the parking lot.

the morning's events behind me and with for.great.justice growling, i was off on route 62 headed north, livin' easy, lovin' free, on my way to the promised land. i made it up to east hickory after passing through some beautiful countryside and into the allegheny national forest. my first siting of the route 666 sign occurred about fifty feet from the intersection. i looked for a place to pull over but there wasn't adequate space in front of the sign and i had to settle for a quick shot without the bike. i decided to turn onto the road and hope that i'd come across a small intersection which would have some route number signs. i was finally on the highway to hell and there were no stop signs, speed limit. there was however a sign which indicated that pa route 666 is also called the 'david zeisberger highway'.

seven miles into route 666 i came to an intersection with two 666 signs. i was a bit worried about my battery and had planned to keep the bike running while i snapped a few pictures, but the engine stalled when i pulled the bike over to the side of the road beside the signs. i tried the starter button and the engine roared back to life. nobody's gonna mess me around. i spent about fifteen minutes at the sign taking pictures during which time no fewer than ten cars drove past, slowed down, and the drivers asked if i needed assistance.

'no, thank you... i'm just... uhh... taking pictures of this sign. thank you, but i'm asking nothing. leave me be.'

most of the people just looked at me like i was some type of deranged psychopath, but one fellow psychopath told me she'd taken pictures of the same sign.

i jumped back on for.great.justice, stowed my camera, and hit the starter button. nothing. i'd left the key in the on position and the battery was gone. again. hey satan... paid my dues. [sigh] i'd need to perform another jump start.

i unstrapped my small pack from the gas tank and placed it on the side of the road to give me some additional space for when i jumped on the bike _before_ popping the clutch. i rolled the bike down the hill and let go of the clutch lever... cough cough, sputter. nothing. the eleventh vehicle drove up and the driver asked if i needed help.

'my battery died. i'm trying to jump start for.great.justice... any way you could push me so i can get enough speed to start the engine?'

'sure. ain't nothing that i'd rather do.'

the driver and a passenger hopped out and began pushing me down the road. i disengaged the clutch and there i was... going down, party time... grrrr... grrrowl. one of the guys handed me my pack, i strapped it to the gas tank, thanked them graciously, and was off on the next stretch of pa route 666. the road surface wasn't in the best shape and so i took it easy, especially given the number of turns and inclines. the highway to hell was not in fact a highway but a tiny two lane country road not unlike many of the roads leading to my house in ligonier.

i stopped for gas and food three times after i'd made it to the end of route 666 in sheffield. twice the engine started using the starter; once i had to ask for another push. i made it the entire way to latrobe (fifteen minutes away from reconbase ligonier) before the engine began popping and sputtering and eventually died altogether. this was the first time the engine had stopped while the bike was running... i'd ridden 4000+ miles and for.great.justice had died fifteen minutes away from a reconbase. wow.

i called the head of vehicular operations and he arranged for a tow. the main towing units were out on other missions, but an agent showed up with another motorcycle and some rope and managed to drag me back to base. i was back in friendly territory and i was happy to be home. my friends were gonna be there too.

the following day the recontechs discovered that one of the wires connected to the battery was loose and was most likely the culprit of the problems i'd been experiencing. they tightened the wire, charged the battery, and took some electrical readings. it appears the issue is resolved and for.great.justice will be able to carry me back to boston.

i'm departing reconbase ligonier on wednesday morning and i expect to arrive at _THE FINAL DESTINATION_ [!!!] of recontour 2005.2006 on thursday afternoon. i'm just about as nervous as i was when i left and i can't really explain why... i suppose because it's... the end.

hey momma... look at me.


01. what is death.from.above?

02. where did i purchase death.from.above?

03. what color is death.from.above?

submit your answers in a comment and you'll be directed to a page which provides the answers. searching archived entries for any mention of death.from.above is prohibited; cheaters will be prosecuted.

[did you catch all the references to ac/dc's song 'highway to hell'? no? click here.]

posted by paul at Sun 21 May 2006 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (5)

12 May 2006

the tingling sensations sparkling through


for those of you outside the circle, step inside.

my brother, brad, one of his friends, jason, and i went to see ministry this past friday at the ogden theater in denver. i typically hang back at the beginning of a show until the music kicks me and i become someone else. a someone else without control. controlled.

brad and i were standing on the second tier. during the first set change i'd heard the two couples shackled to the railing in front of us talking about past shows they'd seen. and it was the typical trying to one up the other i know more than you boring blather that screams something to me.

when ministry came out, the couple to the right did not represent the blather. after only a few songs they were already executing the push off from the railing maneuver in an attempt to fend off the onslaught. they were systematically being extracted from their comfort zone. but this couple wasn't tiny and for that reason they managed to dissuade many potential attackers from assaulting their position. and if they'd been to all the shows about which they'd boasted they would have known this was coming. they would have expected movement. the attack from behind. everyone wants the railing. had they been controlled i doubt they'd have cared.

i was myself until ministry kicked into just one fix and in an instant i was the someone else along with many others. the gigantic couple were overwhelmed and pushed back so fiercely that they lost grip of the railing. the someone else stepped up to the railing and began rocking harder than hard with both fists punishing the air. the girl returned incensed and slammed me back again. and i didn't care because my eyes were glazed over and i was consumed by the music. and the railing belongs only to those who fight hardest for it and she'd apparently carved her name in the steel and claimed it as her own, defending it not because she wanted to have the best view of the band but simply because it was hers. but it didn't matter. the attack continued and the couple lost control. not in the way i lost control and was devoured by the music. they lost control in the way that they were no longer listening to the music because they were being devoured by those around them. in that case the appropriate move is to surrender and move to the back of the theater where there is open space and no assault. but instead the girl began flailing wildly. and the someone else who is never afraid leaned over to both of them and screamed 'what the FUCK are you doing? what the fuck did you EXPECT [you stupid fucks who have been to ALL these SHOWS]? this is a MINISTRY show... not a backstreet boys show.' girlie didn't like that and began directing her fists at me. and many hit me but i was someone else and didn't feel them. and it's strange i thought nothing could snap me out of the haze but her last blow... a closed fist wind up wall to my face... quickly brought me back to reality.

i stumbled back without a shred of anger. i was far more interested in the sensation and analyzed the situation with complete clarity. tasting the blood. that fucking girl had just punched me.

fucker. if i'd been punched ten times as hard by someone entranced by the music i'd have smiled and been happy. injuries resulting from music-induced trances are completely acceptable (and expected in the front rows). injuries resulting from malice are not. fucker. after i'd finished analyzing the tingling sensations sparkling through my face i left the second tier and alerted a security guard. the guard led us both outside the venue and told us to tell our stories to a police officer standing nearby. she said she'd punched me because i'd pulled her hair and had insulted her. PULLED HER HAIR? INSULTED HER? i must have really pushed a button when i'd mentioned the backstreet boys. i finally asked her for an apology; she complied; we went back in. fuck her.

despite the wall to the face incident, i had a kickass time. there's never a bad time when i become someone else.

posted by paul at Fri 12 May 2006 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (7)

09 May 2006

a swirling silent white


this is about a feeling. a feeling that is surging through me right now. some feelings are sounds. this one isn't. this one is white.

a swirling silent white rolling in waves from here in the space below my chest to my spine and up my spine to the top of my head where it's just waiting to make something explode. and that's the best way to describe it. if i were to concentrate on something right now i think i could make it explode. i could just unleash this white on something and explode it.

why am i feeling like this? because of things like this. and when the sun pours down but the wind makes everything just right. and should i take this road or that road. or both.

the past five days have been enormous. i mean... perfect. pure perfect. the weather. the wind. the sights and smells and touches. i had no idea it would be this way and now i wish i'd traveled around the world with my own transportion because it's an entirely different feeling of adventure. it's just so. so. so. [!!!]

i don't want to ruin this with details. so i won't. imagine.

posted by paul at Tue 09 May 2006 at 00:40:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (2)

04 May 2006

my inner sunshine

and so it begins. the continental crossing.


the yellow line designates my path. g001 and g002 were refueling stops.

stopped at a bookstore before i left livermore and bought six books:

01. lonely planet usa
02. let's go roadtripping usa: the complete coast-to-coast guide to america
03. national geographic guide to scenic highways and biways
04. rand mcnally road atlas 2006
05. large ruled moleskine
06. lonely planet road trip route 66

gigantic thanks to both sets of parents for the birthday funds which helped me purchase these books and the new ipod nano i've been rocking, and to ryan, michelle, mk, and chloe for putting up with me for almost a full month in san francisco. thanks so much everyone!

i didn't make it quite as far as i'd expected, but there is no question that today was a glowing success. and sorry, but when rammstein kicks into the reise, reise chorus, one can't help but feel the power, can one? after consulting the national geographic book, i sliced from livermore toward the tioga pass through yosemite national park, but the nice woman (who i'm certain saw my inner sunshine through the leather) told me the road was closed. and i'd come so far, but i detoured to the south to avoid the park fee and encountered a twisting highway 49 through the mountains which reminded me of laos. drove by a restaurant/bar which seemed popular with the locs and stopped in for a delicious burger and fries, and i'm not really the burger and fries type, but i got hooked on in-n-out burgers in san francisco and now i can't pass up a tasty burger. walked right in and felt very comfortable amongst the cowboy hats and oldies music; my reservations seem to have disappeared over the past year. up the road from mariposa, i'm staying in a hostel which did not have any empty dorm beds but which did have an empty tent. a tent with electricity and free wifi. deluxe. kill. i left this morning a bit nervous, but with one day down, i'm feeling great. felt i rode well today and i'm excited to wake up early tomorrow to hit the sequoias and walk in the shadow of the valley of death.

posted by paul at Thu 04 May 2006 at 23:59:59 EST (-05:00) | comments (4)

ninth rider of the apocalypse

i'm leaving san francisco today... headed east. not sure where i'm going to end up tonight, but i'm aiming for death valley. the last leg of the recontour begins.

posted by paul at Thu 04 May 2006 at 14:35:10 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)