If I had to summarize the last 48 hours, it would look something like this:
Last night, I’m parked in about a 4 acre desert lot next door to my friend’s apartment complex that we’re visiting at the edge of Tucson, AZ. It is mostly desert foliage and the likes with a few dirt spots for oversized parking. It’s completely unoccupied aside from a single vehicle that looks like it’s been parked there for weeks and has a tow-tag on it.
– Related post: How To Determine The Best Towing Company.
I wake up at approx 0130 to what sounds like footsteps outside my window. I perk up and so does the dog. Brianna wakes up as well. I peek out the windows into the moon lit night and see no one. There is a strange car though, parked about 4 feet from our bedroom window. Wtf? It’s occupied as well. We can hear whispers from inside. These dudes gonna steal gas or something? Why are they parked so close? And why are they parked in the actual weeds, lights out, hiding behind us?
I turn on the rv running lights (which are bright, and there’s a lot of em) and start the motor. The red glow from my tail lights is directly in this guy’s face. The driver of the car peeks his head out his open window, says “jesus…” and then closes the window. Ten minutes elapse, and they’re still there. Double wtf?
I put my big boy pants on and go outside and creep around the back between my RV and the trailer. As I approach the driver window, they notice me and I turn on my 500+ lumen tactical Streamlight directly into their faces. You know when you touch a snail’s eyeball, how it retracts back into their head? Well, they basically both do exactly that with their heads tucking into their bodies and their necks dissapearing completely as my bright ass light hits them right in the eyes.
The driver starts to open the door and fumbles as his walkie-talkie radio falls out of his lap. I immediately see that he’s also wearing a bullet proof vest. His radio has a mic attached to his shoulder. Otherwise, he’s in plain clothes.
“Can I help you, gentlemen?” I asked politely.
“Sheriff,” he says. His eyes still unfocused in the beam of my flashlight.
“Do you have any identification?” I asks, as he’s keeping both hands up where I can see them while flashing me his badge.
I lower my light from his eyes and point it at the ground as he retorts “Do you? You realized you’re parked off the street, right?” He started trying to flex on me verbally. Tired, and uninterested in making a scene, I reply “Alright. I just thought you guys were gonna try stealing gas or something from me. Have a good night. Be safe.”
I walked away—not the same direction I came out—without fully turning my back on them as I may have been imprinting. ;) They sat there until 3am before leaving, splitting into 2 cars, and going into the apt complex. Then I went back to sleep.
Weird stuff happens on the road.
Last night, maybe 5 mins after getting into bed, Bijou and I both heard it at the same time. My window next to my bed was open and we both stopped in our tracks and started listening, barely breathing. There it was again. It was quiet and almost imperceivable, but I was certain I wasn’t hearing things after the second gentle rustle of weeds in an otherwise completely silent, moonlit night.
Rather than go berzerk, Bijou slowly got up, staring towards the window, methodically and slowly inching towards the direction of the sound and started gruffing angrily. For a 3 lbs teacup poodle, it was a surprisingly deep and low, choked back, soft bark while growls came from within her tiny little vocal cords.
I opened the blinds and stared out into the darkness, using my periferals to help me see into the wild under the moonlight. I stared, quiet and motionless for several minutes. I thought I could see a shape against a darker shadow about 30ft away, but I wasn’t 100 percent certain…then it moved it’s head slightly.
I knew instantly what it was. I whispered over to Brianna to look out the window. She didn’t have her glasses on and couldn’t see anything. I didn’t have my flashlight next to my bed as I usually do, so I crept towards the front of the RV to hit my 52″ LED lightbar so she could see what I knew was out there. It turns night into day.
Nothing. It was gone from view, even with 25,000 lumens shining into the forest. I was certain I wasn’t imagining anything and I grabbed my favorite flashlight and went back to bed and stared out the window with Brianna also watching for many minutes. Movement again! I shined the flashlight directly at it, but first hitting the window screen with bright light nearly blinding us in the process…but there it was! It’s bright, yellow, knowing eyes reflecting 500 lumens of tactical Streamlight glare directly back at us! An adult Mountain lion was sitting just within the grass line, not 30ft from the RV.
Yeehaw. It’s been many years since I’ve seen a big cat in the wild. It was pretty exciting. It slunk off quickly after hitting it with my spot light. Several minutes later, I could hear angry barking from a dog in the not too far distance. I imagine it head that way.
I love RV life. :D
It was just in front and to the left of the grove of trees closest in this picture.
I’ve spent an incredible amount of time thinking about this… and still, I don’t know exactly what to say or how to say it.
I signed up for a Patreon account nearly a year ago with the intention of creating content while on the road in the RV. I’d envisioned making fun videos of cool places, of random rides around back roads…I dunno, all sorts of stuff. I’ve filmed a bunch of random stuff over the year. I’ve got hundreds of photos all stock-piled from random adventures…but I’ve yet to do anything more than simply create an account on Patreon. Nothing.
Part of it, I think, is fear of rejection. I usually think that people enjoy the stuff I write or post or take pics of and the likes. But…would people be willing to actually subscribe to content I create? Man, I dunno…and I’d feel really dumb creating and posting all this stuff only to have no one interested in it enough to actually PAY me for it. I’ve always felt that way…about everything. Even my full time gig of shooting photos at the track…I tend to have the negative “no one is gonna buy em” feeling. I think I’m good at what I do. In fact, I think my photos rank amongst some of the best in the world…but I have a hard time taking money.
Another part of why I haven’t done it is the fact that I know I’d have to dedicate SOOO much time to creating content that people may or may not ever see. Photos, for me, are easy. I ride. I know EXACTLY what all my settings need to be at any given moment. I have capable equipment (not as good as the stuff the big name pros have, but I can certainly make it work), and I know what looks good and what doesn’t. Boom. I can shoot my little heart out. The sorting and stuff is the hard part…luckily for me, Brianna takes care of 99.999% of all that for me now and has taken a HUGE burden off my shoulders. But creating photo+video content NOT at the track? Wow…that’s a LOT of time spent in front of the computer.
So, back to what I was originally saying…I’ve been thinking about this for a looong time…and I’ve decided that I DON’T want to create a Patreon page where people will have to subscribe. I’m too scared.
On that same token, I’m running on empty now. Literally empty. I’ve always been really good with my money. I’ve never had much…but the little bit I’ve ever had, I’ve always made it work. I’ve always stretched it out. I’ve not really ever been stuck. But I’m stuck now. People sometimes comment “you must be rich!” when I say that we live on the road full time. I guess you could say that I am…Brianna and I lead pretty damn rich lives. But in dollar terms? No, not rich. Not even remotely close. In fact, I’m the exact opposite of rich. I’m maxed out. Totally. All of our income goes to groceries, bills, and mostly fuel. We almost never just buy ourselves random stuff. When we do, it’s typically out of necessity.
Together, Brianna and I are a single stream income. We both work together to accomplish the same goal: shoot events at the track and sell em to all the trackday riders and drivers. This year has been bleak. Some of it is circumstance, some of it is the economy. Some of it might just be my fault entirely.
Over the years, I’ve worked with most trackday organizations in northern California either full time or part time. I’ve worked with Keigwins, Pacific Track Time, Zoom Zoom, Fun Trackdayz, Precision Trackdays, and a bunch of other smaller orgs. For one reason or another, my relationship with them was severed. A few were my fault… either quitting them based on personal differences, or not my fault as my place was only temporary or location-based to begin with. Ultimately, it’s always ends up being gotbluemilk who started with them and is back with them. He pretty much has a monopoly on the entire norcal market. It’s exceedingly frustrating. I know I provide a better product at a better price. I get texts, emails, messages, and phone calls all the time saying they wish I were there shooting instead of gotbluemilk all the time. But nothing ever changes. I no longer work with any motorcycle trackday companies in northern California. But I want to.
Last year, I started shooting 2Fast up in the Pacific Northwest. I also shot them this year. It was a really rough year for the 2Fast organization and attendance was very low for nearly every event. Even as low as 11 riders one day. That doesn’t bode well for either 2Fast or myself.
As hard as I’ve tried this year, I haven’t been able to get ahead. I don’t need much money to survive, but it seems like I’ve been making even less than that lately. Everyone always says that there’s no money in the moto world…Maybe I just need to try harder? Maybe I need to throw in the towel? I don’t know… I mean, I KNOW that I just want to work MORE. I want MORE events. I want to work with more trackday providers. I want to create. I want to see people happy. I want people to have affordable awesome memories of the fun times they’ve had at the track riding will all the homies and such.
Ugh. I’m just so frustrated.
Times are tough as fuck right now.
So, now that I’ve dwadled off on the “back story”, I decided that I do not wish to make a Patreon account…instead, I want to ask for a donation. Not free money either…I plan on working for it. I’m asking for a donation towards more content on my blog. More fun, entertaining reads. More maps of super bad ass rides you should do. More photos and videos of things we care about like motorcycles, like great places to visit, see, do, eat, and experience. If you’ve enjoyed the thousands of hours I’ve put into all of this so far, if I’ve helped you out in some way with my writings, photos, or advice, can you throw a few bucks my way?
I’m only asking those of you that enjoy reading my blog and my posts and who will continue to enjoy my blog and posts. If you’re not interested in my writings and videos and photos and words, then no worries. I don’t want a subscription based portal of content. I want it to be free to anyone who happens upon it. But if you could chip in to help me get through this rough patch, it would go a long way. I’ll work my ass off to repay it and hopefully keep you entertained with more content and with more love thrown into my blog. :)
//END OF SUCKY AND EMBARRASSING POST
This weekend, I decided to make a comeback to AFM and take pics. Something I hadn’t done in almost exactly a year. Mostly because I’ve been away at other events, but partly because I know AFM is in good hands with Max and Koi out there doing their thing. This weekend, I just happened to be free, it was along the way to my next event, and because, frankly, I could use a bit of extra cash.
I got to see a lot of faces I hadn’t seen in some time. It’s always great catching up. I also met many new faces…racers whom I’d never seen in events past…everyone’s numbers were different. Half the time, I didn’t recognize who was who out there…on one hand, it was good. I shot all my photos fresh and new, as if i didn’t really know anyone out there. There was no favoritism. I didn’t particularly lean heavily on anyone (except the few that preordered photos and I’d commited their race numbers to memory). I simply did what I know how to do best: made memories of everyone to have and share.
Bear with me, if you’d like; I have no particular path with this post, only a final destination. I’ve got many, many thoughts, and they’re in zero particular order.
I’ve been taking photos of motorcycles, riders, and racers for about a dozen years now. I’m not sure there’s anything left that I haven’t seen. Both good and bad.
On Saturday while on track, I was thinking back to one instance in particular some years ago where Michael Earnest had crashed in the opening laps of Formula Pacific while cresting t3a at Sonoma. I caught it all on camera. He’d hurt himself, but managed to get the bike up and going again and restarted the race. Honestly, I don’t even remember where he’d finished after the restart, but I do remember it like a hero-story. I chased Formula Pacific around the track that race as fast as I could, capturing this “saga” of Michael Earnest. I was at start/finish when the race ended. As Michael crossed the line, he pulled off to the tire wall on the left, put his head down, and whimpered, leaning on the tire wall, unable to dismount his bike, unable to even finish the cool down lap. He was in a lot of pain.
I captured all of this. It’s something I’ll never forget. I was proud of man-kind at that exact moment. I don’t fully even know how to describe it, honestly. Michael was able to do something that not a lot of people can. It may not have been smart, but the pure guts and determination of it all…it was memorable. It was honest. It was pure.
On the flip side, I’ve seen many riders crash to greater and lesser degrees. Not all of them get up. At least, not right away. One of the first things I do when someone crashes in front of me is take pause and listen. Why? Because the next sound they make tells me how hurt they really are. When I hear a string of curse words first thing, I know they’re good. When I hear the moan of pain, I know they’re hurt, but it’s likely not all that bad. When I hear the wet gurgles, then I know it’s not good at all. When I don’t hear anything…well, I just keep listening because eventually they’re gonna wake up and I’ll hear something.
Twice now while shooting photos, I’ve heard the nothing. I kept listening, but they never woke up.
Allen Rice was a track rider on a Triumph 675. He hit the wall at about 50 miles per hour. Right in front of me. I didn’t know Allen. I’d never met him in my life. I don’t ever recall seeing him at the track prior to that afternoon. But I remember his name. I remember the way his face looked as he lay there on the asphalt while medics did CPR. I remember the sound his body made as they did chest compressions. I took one last click with the camera and walked away dazed. I didn’t ride that day as I’d intended. I briefly wondered if I even wanted to ride motorcycles anymore. It was a haunting memory for a long time.
Joseph Pusateri was a racer on a Kawasaki 636. Another human I’d never met before. It was my first time shooting a WERA race. I clicked away at 6 frames per second as he lowsided, seemingly gently, in a pretty slow corner. I remember thinking to myself that that should be a guaranteed sale. Everyone loves to get their crashes on camera. Except…he didn’t get up either. Instead, he lay slumped in an awkward position next to his bike. The medics came. Then the coroner.
I can’t even remember anything else about that weekend. I don’t know if the races continued. I don’t know if they were cancelled. I don’t know if I even took more pictures after that. The only thing I can remember was thinking about Joe’s wife running out onto the track, fighting with the corner workers and medical personel trying to get to Joe. I cried then. I’m fighting back tear now.
Inherently, motorcycles are dangerous. I’ve joked about how dumb we are as motorcyclists in the past. Really, we are. We’re not smart beings. To take the risks we do, day in, day out. On the track at speeds “normal” people would consider ludacris. On the street dodging cars and thousands of other hazards every day. In the woods, avoiding cliffs and trees. On the motorcross track jumping 100 foot triples. It’s risky. And to put yourself at continual risk like that…it’s not smart.
But it’s what we do. It’s what we need to carry on. It’s in us like the blood that runs through our veins. Smart or not, it’s what we motorcyclists need. I can’t refute that. If i said I could quit riding, that would be a lie. I’d never be happy again not riding.
I’ve seen SO many people injured doing what we do. Bad. Life alteringly bad. Dave Stanton, Mario Bonfonte, Eric Arnold to name a few. Eric ended up taking his own life rather then carry on. I’ve wondered to myself many times how I could cope. IF I could cope. I really don’t know those answers. I only know the questions.
In all this, I’ve learned to hit the “off switch.” At least, I try. I guess it’s never truly off, but I’ve been able to close off most of the dam, so that it’s only a trickle that gets through anymore. I’ve even been accused in my personal life of being “robotic” at times. It’s true. I can be that way when faced with emotional things. I try and set aside emotion and instead rely on logic to get me through hardships.
Sunday was no different. Jason Blancas, racer #780 passed away at Thunderhill during a race. From what I’ve been told, he made contact with another rider in turn 8 and was highsided from his Yamaha R3.
I wasn’t in turn 8 when it happened. A few of my friends were. Glenn was there. As he told me about it, the lost look in his eyes was soul crushing. I didn’t say much. I only hugged him and fought back tears myself. Taylor came in to the building in tears. She was on com in t8, relaying information as best as she could, holding her composure like a true professional until it was time to come in. It was only her second time corner working at AFM. She just had her 18th birthday. Another corner worker came in, whom I don’t know her name. She was also sobbing.
I kept smashing the “off switch” over and over until until it finally stayed in the off position…and I went about my day, hoping no one would ask me about it.
So many lives change in literally a fraction of a second. Jason is gone. I didn’t know Jason, but many people did. I’m sorry for the loss you feel with his passing. I’m sorry for everyone who was there, trying to save him, if he could even be saved. I know that every single person at AFM feels it. I know the corner workers and the medical staff and race direction did the best they could in any role they could fill. I thank you guys and gals for everything you do. You are all amazing. Your efforts at keeping everyone as safe as possible in this crazy sport we choose to do will never go unnoticed or unappreciated. Thank you.
Rest in peace, #780.
This last week has been a weird one, but ultimately a pretty fun one. We’d been staying in the greater Phoenix area for the last 3 weeks as we had a YCRS school that we were working at on Jan 6th and 7th…rather than leave and spend a bunch of money on fuel, we opted to hang out locally.
I made my first big “boo boo” while emptying out our holding tanks…I wrote about it on Facebook:
Jan 4th, 11:22pm
I made such a rookie move tonight while dumping holding tanks in the RV…
I didn’t secure the poop-shoot-tube into the dookie-hole in the ground properly… I popped the valve and EXPLOSION! Hahaha!
I flew backwards like a bandit in a western after catching both barrels to the chest, then ninja-cartwheeled back towards the valve and snapped it shut with only about 3-4 gallons on the deck.
Somehow, some way, nothing splashed on me and I didn’t even step in it.
I cleaned it all up with a nearby hose, flushed my tanks, topped off my water, then slunk off, knowing 100% of that was captured on CCTV and I’m gonna get laughed at tomorrow. #lifeontheroad
There are zero pics or video for proof…except the video the RV place probably has since saved and posted to youtube by now. Haha!
So anyways, we’ve been “Wallydocking” about 50% of the time so far… It’s a term I’ve heard being used to describe staying overnight in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Haha! It seems as tho they have a mostly nationwide policy to allow RV’s to stay in their lots overnight. It’s actually pretty convenient!
While walking Bijou, the @TinyTinaTurnerDog the other night, I came across an entirely new sight that brings my faith in humanity to an all time high. ;)
I mean, why not, right? Bleh.
I’ve had my beloved Honda Element (affectionately known as the Rallement) for 7 years now. I bought it used with 33K miles on the odometer. I now have 330,600 miles on it. It’s dying now. It needs a heart transplant. And I’m sad.
It’s funny how one can drive so many miles, yet never really leave too far from home. The Rallement has visited California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Utah, and Arizona. It’s literally never been any further than those states. Even though I’ve driven enough miles that I could be nearly halfway home on my return trip from the moon. I could have driven the Rallement to New York City and back 57 times. I could have driven around Earth just over 13 times. There’s so many places I could have gone, things I could have seen. Cultures I could have immersed myself in. People I could have met. Friends, experiences, and memories I don’t have because instead of driving around the Earth 13 times, I simply drove back and forth through the 6 states I mentioned.
I originally wrote this as an email to Yamaha. It was sent off to Yamaha over a week ago, and I haven’t heard a single peep in reply. So, on behalf of myself, and anyone else who’s experienced this issue with their FZ/MT/FJ09 motorcycle who also agrees with me…here’s an open letter to Yamaha:
I’m pretty disappointed with Yamaha right now. This is only the second motorcycle I’ve EVER purchased brand new, the first was also a Yamaha.
Long story short, I was riding a fun little section of twisties with my girlfriend, Kinsy, on the back of my new FJ09. I was plodding along around 35-40mph as I crossed a small bridge over a creek. There was a build up of slurry/tar on the transition from road to bridge. Definitely a bump, but nothing so bad to cause for much concern. Until I hit it. And the bike completely bottomed out on the drain plug, shearing off the bottom of my oil pan spraying oil all over my rear tire, saddle bags, undertail, and even all over the backpack Kinsy was wearing.
I didn’t crash. I have lots of experience on two wheels, dirt, track, and street. It was certainly a 500ft death slide afterwards, but I managed to keep it upright in the end.
I’m disappointed because after this happened, I go to research a new oil pan for the bike, I see that I’m not the first person to have this experience. In fact, SO many people have had this happen to them (some in the most trivial of ways), that Yamaha has redesigned the pan and updated their part number to supersede the original design. The originally FLAWED design.
They say recalls are for safety reasons. Like the new 2015 R1, for example. The transmission locks up and causes the rider to crash, as has happened with one of my friends already. Or the o ring on the oil filter assembly does seat correctly, causing oil to spray from the engine, possibly causing someone to crash, as has also happened to another friend of mine.
Well, having the lowest point of contact be the drain plug on a motorcycle isn’t very safe. Decking it out on the ground at 40mph with your loved one on the back, instantly saturating your rear tire with synthetic oil, IS NOT SAFE.
I’m upset because Yamaha has acknowledged that there is an issue without even saying “there is an issue with our original design.” They simply redesigned it and quietly updated their part number to patch over an issue that many of us with the FZ/FJ/MT09 line of motorbikes is having. AND MAKING US PAY FOR IT.
The fortunate ones, such as myself, who don’t actually crash because talent, scenario, or pure dumb luck was on their side are simply left with a:
– $202 bill for an oil pan
– $18 for a new gasket
– shop labor of 2 hours @ $95 per hour
– roughly $400 for a new set of tires (oil was all over both of my tires)
– plus mount and balance fees of $80
– $35 for a new set of rear brake pads
– and 5 hours of their time cleaning up the mess out of the back of their truck they had to tow the bike home with as well as the bike itself.
And sadly, my newly updated how-it-should-have-been-in-the-first-place design of an oil pan DIDN’T EVEN COME WITH A NOTE SAYING “SORRY THAT HAPPENED. HERE’S YOUR FREE OIL PAN CAUSE WE GOT IT WRONG THE FIRST TIME”
I should have waited to buy the Africa Twin.
So, as some of you guys know already, I cratered the oil pan on my FJ09 while riding two up with Kinsy on Carmel Valley Road over xmas. All 3 quarts of yummy synthetic 10w 40 splooged everywhere. On rear tire, the undercarriage, the saddle bags, and even on the backpack Kinsy was wearing. Everywhere. Instant slip-n-slide-deathride.
So I recently fixed the bike and I took pics throughout the process.
EDIT// here’s the FJ09 FZ09 MT09 updated oil pan part number: B56-13400-00-00
Step 1) Stare at the bike for an incredibly long time, hoping that it will somehow fix itself, only to realize that it will not. And be dissapointed by this fact.
It’s late in the day at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. The sun is low in the sky, yet still shining brightly through a thin layer of clouds. The winds are steady, cold, and piercing through my hoodie I’m wearing. Dust is swirling across the track and upwards into my eyes, my nose, and everywhere as far as I can still see on the horizon. There’s grit in my mouth that I’m constantly spitting out. It’s cold. Very cold.
Where I shall stand