Bike Trip Pt. 4—Cornville to Monument Valley

The morning after John died, I began my journey back home to Colorado.  I had all my rooms booked and was going to leave on Tuesday no matter what as the weather was good for those four days.  He just happened to pass Monday evening. 

The ride was off to a good start.  The weather truly was blissful.  What a change it was—no more ducking under my fairing trying to escape the cold wind, shivering until it hurt, or feeling like I was going to get bowled over at any moment. 

I pulled off at this abandoned motel, drawn in by the funky southwest colors. 

Monument Valley was a joy to ride into.  Where on earth can you name a more iconic desert landscape?  I was happy to finally be experiencing these red rock formations in person. 

I knew that I'd be having to go down a dirt road to get to the cabin I rented through Airbnb.  I tried convincing myself that I'd be fine, because after all, I was able to not drop my bike on a two mile long gravely dirt road (gravel is THE WORST!) As I approached it, I saw the road was steep and very uneven with rocks jutting out every which way, but I got up it no problem.  I couldn't help but feel accomplished.  I left my belongings at the cabin and meandered around, not wanting to stray too far.  I'd be getting up for sunrise anyways.  Clearly I puffed myself up too much with confidence as I went down another dirt road that looked like a piece of cake until I found out just how bad soft, silty earth is.  My pride was knocked down a little after nearly dropping my heavy Harley numerous times pulling off on the slightly raised sides of the road for pictures.  It's a horrible feeling when your front tire begins to sink and slide around, which only gets worse from using the front brake!

The night before, I scoured the internet on my phone, trying to find people who had ridden the road below the famous buttes on a motorcycle.  I was not about to just wing it then realize how screwed I truly was and drop my bike, possible damaging it (or myself.)  Okay, so some dual sports had done it.  But I had a Harley, low and heavy, without knobby tires.  I googled "Harleys on The Valley Drive Monument Valley."  I found an article written by what looked to be a seasoned old pro who said it was miraculous he and his friend made it without dropping their hogs.  Yeah, I've only been riding for two years, so it'll be a 'no' for me.  Maybe one day I'll rent a dual sport and do it!  Or when I've got decades of experience on my belt... I may ride a motorcycle, but I play it on the safe(r) side. 

I wished that the sunrise was as spectacular as the one I witnessed in the Grand Canyon 5 years ago, but the colors were very mediocre.  Regardless, it was a sight to behold. 

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Rest in Peace, John

When I left on my trip, my cousin John had suffered acute kidney and liver failure at the age of 31 and wasn't going to last more than a week.  I photographed him and his wife Kelly's wedding back in 2015.  It was all so sudden, leaving doctors scratching their heads.  Dialysis was actually going to make him die sooner.  There was nothing that could be done.  He was taken to my parents' house for hospice care.

The night he died on Monday, April 23rd, I took his adopted son, Scotty, to the vet where I picked up Buffy's ashes.  Yes, Buffy died in September, but my dad had a mental block about getting them, and my mom just kept forgetting!  I had never explained to a child what cremation was before, but figured this was probably a good opportunity for him to start wrapping his brain around the concept.  I said that when you die, your soul leaves the body, so you either get put in a coffin and buried in the ground, or your body gets put in a fire and it turns to ashes.  He seemed to understand, then asked me what a "soul" is.  I said, well, your soul is what makes you, "you." It's your personality, and what makes you special from everyone else.  Hey, I was trying my best. How do you explain such a philosophical concept to a six year old?

"Can I see Buffy?"

He carefully opened the little wooden box, and as soon as he saw the plastic bag with Buffy's remains, he said, "Oh!" He really got it now. He touched them very gently, then closed the box back up.

Scotty seemed to be handling his father's imminent death extraordinarily well.  Kelly, had already explained to him that he was going to die, so he was prepared.  I can't imagine what it would be like to see my dad at that age on a bed in the living room in such a terrible state.  John's breathing was getting slower and more labored, and his skin tone was a greying yellow.  But as my mother says, "still waters run deep," and he had a breakdown that evening.  My dad went outside to console him and they sat together in the swinging bench from his father's old cabin.

The light was lovely so I went outside with my camera after it looked like my dad had cheered him up.  Little did I know what a ham Scotty is....  So instead of candid, tender portraits, I was instructed to take picture after staged picture in various locations.  When he's older, I'll get a kick out of showing them to him and ask if he remembers.

Later that night, he sang a song to John that they used to sing together called "Slow it Down" by The Lumineers.  About 3 hours later, with his favorite Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin playing in the background, he took his last breath and left this earth.

As we sat on the couch in tears waiting for the nurse to come and officially declare him passed, Scotty asked me, "Will he be dead forever?" I said yes, but it's okay, because he's up in heaven now and not in pain anymore.

Bike Trip Pt. 2, 3—Amalia, Farmington, Cornville

Have you ever been so tired that you can’t go to sleep?  My mental and physical state should have been perfect for sinking into blissful slumber, but there was a small part of my brain that was still amped from the ride, I guess.  I must have been merely closing my eyes the whole night.  I tried sleeping in, which put me an hour behind.

A quarter of my day’s journey would actually take me back up into Colorado.  Jonathan rode with me to Tres Pierdas where there was this cute little pink adobe school house.

Even though I was more tired than the previous day, my confidence was already increased.  The landscape was still fairly barren, but then I entered the Carson National Forest, which greeted me with the fresh scent of pine.  My enjoyment quickly disappeared when the elevation shot up to over 10,000 feet at the summit of Pinorealosa Mountain and snow was everywhere you looked, (except for the road, mercifully.)  There was a scenic lookout (beautiful but I was too cold to care) which I pulled off at and sat huddled next to my bike, trying to escape the wind.  I warmed my hands by pressing them against the primary, which wasn’t as scorching hot as the engine or exhaust.  I looked into the trees and thought I was hallucinating: a herd of deer were making their way deeper into the forest, but it looked like they were just standing in one place jumping.  It was mesmerizing for a few seconds as they slowly got smaller and smaller.  Then I realized I could hit a deer—hadn't thought about that before.

I still don’t know what’s worse, cold or high winds.  The cold finds its way to your bones, reducing you to a shivering, tense mass of muscle.  It laughs at your insulated gloves Sean let you borrow, as well as the hand warmers you stuck to your wool socks inside your sturdy leather boots.  Everything goes numb.  Your teeth hurt from the chattering, but still you must command your iron steed.  The silver lining is knowing how appreciative your motorcycle’s engine is— its heart loves nothing more than the icy winds that pierce through your flesh.  And wind… Even warm wind, if it has no effect on your own temperature, is perhaps worse.  It can blow you off the road, off your bike, into another car.  At best, it’s still plain difficult to deal with, especially on a winding road, which is what was waiting for me at the base of the mountain and into New Mexico again.  There’s nothing you can do but fight it and tackle the curves as gracefully as you can, and be prepared for a gust to throw you around at any moment. 

I was relieved to arrive at my lodging for the night at around 5 PM.  Another day conquered.  I was amused to see that there was a “night club” in the motel, but it looked to be basically a bar of sorts. I figured I’d have a beer there after a shower, since I was not about to get back on the bike with the high winds that still were plaguing the area and search for a liquor store. 

Upon inspection of a large sign just outside the entrance, I was shocked to see that there was an actual dress code that required women to be in a dress or skirt.  It was probably too early for that to be enforced, maybe, but this was all just too weird.  Remembering that I wasn’t in Colorado anymore, I walked over to the nearest gas station and got a tall boy of the fanciest beer I could find, which was Shock Top.  Good old Shock Top; I really do appreciate you, but when you live in Colorado spoiled with the choicest of craft beer, Shock Top tastes like a Budweiser.  I was thankful that I could at least get something in a gas station (you can’t in Colorado, or even a grocery store for that matter.)

I couldn’t even finish my drink I was so tired that night—I went to sleep with no problem.  It was 9 AM when I left, right on time, but unfortunately the winds were STILL hanging around.  Looking at the weather, it all had changed.  The wind was not supposed to be terribly high when I left but instead was looking to be a steady 25 miles an hour with gusts up to 40 all the way up to Flagstaff.  There was nothing I could do but endure it, and at least I had a very good amount of experience the previous day.  But the wind is tiring.  The cold is tiring.  They were both present, so it was fairly grueling. 

I stopped off at a McDonald’s in Shiprock to warm up with some coffee. This is where Rob was born—a dusty Navajo town that’s only claim to fame is a nice view of the ‘Shiprock’, which was hazy from all the desert particles being whipped into the atmosphere. 

A nervous little Canadian woman approached me and said just how worried she was for me, seeing that her and the hubby's RV was getting shaken around by the cross winds.  Apparently they were right behind me.  A Navajo man chimed in and asked where we were going. Turns out we were both headed in the same direction. He said not to worry—the winds won’t be as a bad in the west.  Mrs. Canada (okay, her name was Lorraine) was incredibly relieved to hear that.  We ended up chatting for far too long, and then got into another conversation with a Navajo family outside.  I realized that I was not going to meet my dad in time.  I didn’t want him waiting on me forever (Tuba City isn’t quite a tourist destination, after all), so for lack of better words, I hauled ass.  I was getting up to 90 miles an hour, but then I slowed down reasoning with myself that my dad would rather meet me alive (and I also didn’t want to be paying an exorbitantly priced speeding ticket if it came to that.)

I stopped in Kayenta, freezing.  I was miserable, but so close to meeting my dad and having less winds and warmer temperatures.  I made it to Tuba City and we had lunch at Subway.  “This is the best restaurant here,” my dad said, and he wasn’t kidding.  I was finally able to let my guard down because he was with me.  Being alone is nice because you’re totally in control, but I love having company as well (especially if it's my own dad!)

Finally, Cornville!  I was thrilled to have made it.  It wasn't the most pleasant journey, but I had successfully braved the road and that's all that mattered.

Bike Trip Pt. 1—Boulder to Amalia

The entire month of April was spent planning and finally embarking on my first motorcycle trip, solo.  My boyfriend tried to talk me out of it, citing the fact that my stamina probably wasn’t up to snuff, but I was itching to go.  I may never get another chance to do something like this again for a long time, now that I’m not working at the moment (or at least very little!)  He was also, of course, worried about me being alone.

I was originally supposed to ride out for Arizona Bike Week, but far less than ideal weather threw that idea out the window.  I had to turn around at 50 miles desperately trying to make at least Saturday of the rally because Northern New Mexico, my first stop for the night, was getting heavy snow.

The conditions were still not perfect when I finally left, but my confidence was upped a bit from that test run.  I can do this.  That small, bright voice of positivity was doing its best to shoo away the thoughts of me getting killed by a semi truck, as I’m sure Rob and my mother were also struggling with.  I was also hoping that I wasn’t being naive like Rob was trying to convince me of. I have never ridden over 200 miles in one day. Now I was to be logging 300 miles for three days in a row.

I was taking the scenic route on my way down via CO 93, then 85, 105, and 115 on my first day. Seeing that it was early spring, Colorado was still dormant, or in other words, ugly.  Flying through the air in 50 degrees might as well been 30.  I was stopping so much to warm up (which you never really do) that I was going to be getting to Jonathan’s ranch in Amalia, New Mexico after dark.  I decided to take the interstate, I25, down the rest of the way to make up the time—something that I’d carefully avoided in my planning. When you’re a vulnerable little skin bag straddling a cage-less machine, you become very concerned about freeways, or at least I do.  People just do not pay attention, and paired with cars doing way over the speed limit of already a high limit, it’s a bit unnerving. 

But it was a Sunday, and I was relieved that there was light traffic.  I ended up hanging behind a silver Honda CR-V from the same year I once had that was gently doing about 70 miles an hour, technically 5 under. It was my faithful road partner as cars and semis alike roared past us, but I didn’t mind, and obviously neither did they. I was still making up a generous amount of time. When it pulled off at an exit at some point, I wanted to wave them goodbye.

The sun was dipping below the horizon as I barreled up a mountain pass off the freeway— it was my final leg of the journey for today and I just wanted to be there. The sun’s warmth was gone as the wind picked up, making it extra chilly with the significant gain in elevation up to 8,000 feet. The final test was a two mile long, washboard dirt road, but I made it! I took a few pictures with the last glow of fantastic ‘magic hour’ light.  I was pleasantly surprised at how little my back hurt, but mentally I was trashed. Jonathan’s wife cooked an amazing dinner for us inside their beautiful adobe style home. I was happy to have survived my first day. 

Goss Grove

Neighborhood walks on evenings getting longer and longer. 

ugh

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Stop with the snow already, Colorado. No one wants you here anymore. 

Night Walk

Looming rain and a sun's dying light just barely illuminating the landscape makes for some nice drama.

Cyanotyping: First time in a long time

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My AP art project in high school was a series of cyanotypes. It's been 10 years since I've bought the chemicals to try some more! Ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide are mixed with water and then in equals parts together to create the substance used to paint onto the substrate (in this case, watercolor paper.) 

The paper is then dried, in as low light as possible, then a negative (printed on transparency paper) gets placed onto it weighed down with a glass sheet.

Everything is carefully transported outside where the print can be exposed by sunlight.

I say 'carefully' because I have a scar on my finger to remind me of what happens when you don't handle glass with care. In high school I was transferring a cyanotype outside when the glass suddenly rotated, its edge making contact with my finger as it dropped off the wood panel I had underneath and subsequently shattered. That wasn't as disappointing as my sliced finger that would not stop bleeding. I went to the ER and got three little stitches to help close that sucker up!

Depending on how bright the sun is that day, it can take up to a half an hour to fully expose. When the chemical mixture begins looking brown, that's when its ready. The paper is then washed in water, then dried. What appears as a lighter blue takes on a rich, dark blue tone after 24 hours. 

You get what you pay for: I purchased the cheapest transparency film on Amazon, which printed horribly and turned irreparably wavy from the heat of the printer. Those bubbles and waves were impossible to flatten out with the glass, so the print was not particularly quality once finished. 

But, that's okay! I learned my lesson.

.gif!

   I took two very similar frames of this Beetle, then had an idea. Turn it into a .gif! In Photoshop, use the Animation window to create gifs from different layers (which are treated like video frames.)

 

I took two very similar frames of this Beetle, then had an idea. Turn it into a .gif! In Photoshop, use the Animation window to create gifs from different layers (which are treated like video frames.)

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Bath Time

I've been experimenting with colored gels lately. There is something innately satisfying about hard, direct flash and bright hues. 

Cat Torture

I wanted some cute pictures of Nigel and Rob in bed this morning with my strobe I had setup the day before on a tripod with a small diffusion panel. My little guy can be so brave, but he was not having this flash configuration. I think you might be able to tell in his eyes...

Please don't call PETA on me.

What to do with a helmet you have no use for

Will I ever ride again? Winter has really sunk its teeth in - better late than never. It pains me to see my hibernating motorcycle, her cover piled high with white, as I chip off a half inch thick layer of ice from my windshield. Do people know how lucky they are in places like California with year round riding? It may be time to move back to the west coast! All jokes aside, I am quite jealous, if it wasn’t obvious already.

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Quarter Life Crisis

It's that time again - a new self portrait series to usher in a new era of bangs. My hair dresser asked if I was having a quarter life crisis. Why, yes, yes I am. You would, too, if you were beginning to go part time, watching your once steady pay checks dwindling. I approach this new chapter of my life with hair touching my forehead. Please, bangs, give me the confidence I need to figure out my life before my savings disappear. Amen. 

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おはようございます

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Even though I can't read Japanese (and have a hard time with flipping the pages from right to left), I still love deciphering the Japanese custom motorcycle scene visually. Michael gets so many international magazines sent from working for them, but Vibes is the one I am intrigued by the most. It's like learning about Japanese culture through the lens of custom bikes. Out of any country, they have the most incredible motorcycles, hands down. Something that still makes me laugh is when Michael was telling me about an on location bike shoot just outside of Tokyo. The motorcycle had a decal on it that said something along the lines of "Fuck authority", but every car that had to carefully navigate their way around the bike (in the middle of the street), was profusely apologized to by the builder as he placed his hands together and bowed over and over.

Hello Kitty. A Japanese classic. This mug is my favorite. I have loved Hello Kitty since I was a little girl, somehow winning over my tomboy heart at the time.

A Metaphor

It was snowing. I thought, "What would be the most usual thing to find in the snow?" A pineapple popped into my head. Rob said it's a metaphor: I am the pineapple, having grown up in Hawai'i.

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Soup

 

 

The stomach flu is a horrid illness. Constantly needing to purge out both ends - Give me any other sickness!

As someone who rarely vomits, it truly is hell on earth.

This is my first meal that isn't apple sauce, dry toast, and Pedialyte.

Miso soup with buckwheat soba noodles.

 

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