Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: 2018


Thoughts from my first time at a Korean spa.

Disclaimer: My experience is that of a first-timer at a single Korean spa and isn't representative of all Korean spas. Results may vary. But that body scrubbing though.

With everything going on with school and my extremely varied work schedule, I made the last-minute decision to go to the Korean spa closest to my house. This was really more of a long-time, last-minute decision; I was offered to go to one with friends last year but the job where I was working at the time got in the way. I think it was better to experience this alone for the first time as I learned that taking it all in required time alone and being lost in my thoughts. I am aware that this account will be mostly descriptive, but the emotional output I received from this activity is very indescribable in itself.


SABRE and Dreams of Travel - a quickwrite

Traveling has always been in my blood. But it has been years since I've been able to appease that hunger. Most of my extensive, self-exploratory travel occurred in my 20s between two motorcycles. Now that I am in my 30s, life turned a corner and my priorities had to change. Although I am grateful for every mile my motorcycles have transported me through North America, I still yearn for the opportunity to explore the rest of the world with more mature eyes. Jokingly, my goal is to "finally leave North America, but I haven't decided which direction in which I would do it."

This has been a lifelong dream. When I was about 11 or 12, my father decided to open a part-time travel agency that operated in what was once the dining room of the house. It was a small operation with a single desktop computer, a thermal fax machine, and the whirring of a dial-up 56k modem. It was from a combination of the fax machine and incoming emails that we would receive information about the latest promotions for cruises and international flights. Back then, it was pretty clear that I had a knack for working on computers, and over a period of time, I was eventually exposed to and allowed to play freely on SABRE, an airline ticket reservation system that was the travel industry standard at the time.

Now, twenty or so years ago, it was a prevalent idea that one would never purchase a plane ticket straight from the airline unless it was a major emergency and there wasn't much of a choice. Travel agencies were the brokers of the discounted airfare, the friendly middleman who coordinated itineraries with service and a smile. This was long before Travelocity, Hotwire, Expedia, and all of those online discounters did the work for you. This was my father's gig and he did it quite well, or at least it seemed by some of the commission checks he'd receive on a regular basis.

My desire to travel, however, had to remain my own secret. The travel agency was a business that fulfilled the dreams of many a customer. However, my father's ideas of what a travel agency represented had its contradictions. For me, SABRE was a textual fantasy escape platform where I could sit in front a screen and imagine the experiences of visiting places that I had only read about on short articles on Microsoft Encarta. But when I wished to see these places, even mentioning a theoretical plan for a trip to visit the country of my own ethnic roots, it was out of the question. No explanations, no negotiations. For some reason, travel was acceptable to everyone else but me. But why? I asked. There was nothing that I had done wrong. Perhaps it was the fear what I would gain too much knowledge by leaving the comfort (or lack thereof) of this small hole in the middle of Carson, CA.

I became impatient with the idea of being stuck in a misogynistic, gilded cage for the rest of my life and acted upon it. When I was 19 and a junior at USC, I stopped waiting for my chance. I lied about the dates of my scheduled Spring Break to my parents because they expected me to stay home during that time. I purchased a ticket online on Southwest Airlines and flew to Baltimore, MD to see a friend who was going to Johns Hopkins University at the time. It was my first time flying on a plane and it was an exhilarating experience, all the way down to the sample snack box filled with Golden Oreos and honey roasted peanuts. It was the first time I had traveled anywhere east of Arizona and I relished every moment. I even got to visit Washington, D.C. and absorb the history of this place. When I received my motorcycle endorsement that year and eventually, Eleanor less than three years later, I became the asphalt pilot that has, to this date, traversed 45 states, two Canadian provinces, over 200,000 miles, and has survived to tell the tale. As many of these tales have been written about on this blog and a couple other places, these were things that I couldn't be outwardly proud of when I first accomplished them. Nowadays, I can finally recognize them as some of the best accomplishments of my life so far.

In my current forays in real-time ridesharing, I often find myself in journeys to and from LAX by virtue of my home's proximity to the airport. I'd usually ask my passengers about their travels. Majority of the arrivals and destinations are domestic in nature from all parts of the United States. But sometimes, I'll get the one person with a journey that either began or ended at Tom Bradley International Terminal. Passengers would be quite surprised when I would name those international airports. Toronto Pearson. London Heathrow. Charles du Gaulle. Leonardo da Vinci. IATA codes fly through my brain like I was the one setting up those flights again on that desktop. SABRE was such a part of my childhood that it is half of my main email address.

I think about the barriers that stood in my way when it came to exploring the world, and I was inspired to write this piece by the travels of another who stated, "I decided that I was wasting my life waiting on anybody." I can feel the pain in that remark and can only imagine the heartbreak that led to such a jaded view of the roles that companions can play in one's life. I have fought through the sadness I experienced from the people who have come and gone through my own journeys. The ones who I thought were going to continue traveling with me but decided to disembark without much warning are long gone. However, the memory of their abandonment doesn't sting as it once did when it was fresh and raw. 

I do not prefer to say that I am standing still in my life while waiting for someone to accompany me on the paths onward. But rather, I am on one of those automatic walkways that you'd see in a typical airport for those people who just need a little break from the walking between terminals, drifting in a direction but still moving gradually enough that someone else could catch up, join me, and drift toward the destination together.

I can only hope that, with time, I will find that co-traveler. But I will not be waiting for you standing still. But rather, I will glide along, my hand outstretched in one direction and my eyes toward the sun. If you come along, it will be the adventure of a lifetime. And perhaps, if I could earn your trust, I can share the tales of the lifetimes I have lived as we become inspired to create new tales. May the dreams that can only be fulfilled thousands of miles away from home ignite your inspiration, calm those fears, and remind you that it is okay to finally live.


A word or two before this semester is over...

This blog post is a bit different from what I usually do here on Two-Wheeled Tourist. This is a mind dump and completely unedited as I am studying for my last final of the Spring 2018 semester. Some of these thoughts may be fragmented, but perhaps I can share some insight amid my ramblings while I try to clear my head. Continue at your own risk.

Thought #1
One of my course readings for this class (and a featured part of this final exam) is a book named Leading with Soul (2nd Edition) by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal. It's about the emotional, unteachable side of leadership as told in an allegory form about a worn-out, yet successful businessman who seeks the wisdom of a sage who identifies with his pitfalls because she has lived them herself. In many ways, the ideas in this book transcend leadership but also moving forward from the situations that make us feel like we've lost our way.

“The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.” (p. 47)

Exactly four years ago today (not kidding), I began my motorcycle courier work in Westwood, delivering fresh donuts throughout the Westside. I continued to log in over 1500 deliveries of God-knows-what over a two year period, and that journey even led to one of the most extensive delivery jobs, I have ever done; dropping off healthcare correspondence in two counties in an eight hour period spanning over 250 miles. Aside from my long-distance Iron Butt runs, that was one of the most exhausting riding missions that I had ever subjected my body to endure. By the end of that run, I had consumed nearly a gallon of water via my Camelbak and had lost about five pounds. Pony Express got nothing on this bitch.

Why does that story come to mind? It was a dark time in my life. My marriage was ripped apart and the divorce was barely finalized. My mentor had passed away a few months prior, my job prospects were looking slim, several people who I thought were my friends walked out of my life, I had my motorcycle, and I had nothing else to lose. I drowned myself in work and thought that was okay because I had no other recourse but to simply survive. Four years later, I am not in the dark place that I was before. Sure, my job prospects have returned to a similar state (lucky me, right?), but what I need in my life has changed. It's not that I have nothing else to lose, it's that I have everything else to gain, and the ones who chose to leave will leave. No unnecessary tears will be shed for them.

“It is in passionate leaps of faith that we propel the human spirit forward." (p. 63)

One of the hardest practices that I have had to learn after two decades of being emotionally suppressed for my own survival is accepting that embracing my emotions is both difficult and necessary if I want to completely embrace myself. This has also required me to take a lot more chances in multiple arenas. So despite the sometimes straightforward approaches I take to my thinking, I have to deliberately stop myself to process what is not only going through my head but also what my heart tells me. This is weird, but it is liberating. I'm getting better at it every single day.

In response to Bob Marley's quote, "You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice," once you've figured out how strong you can be, find your way back to a place to where it is safe to be vulnerable again, no matter how long it takes.

Thought #2
My study guide is mine to do what I will, including writing directions specific to me.

Thought #3
This academic year can go shove it deep up the wrong hole. It has been a rough ride both at a professional and at a personal level.

In this 2017-2018 school year alone, I have seen the ins and outs of two school districts and all of the empty promises that come from the lack of recognition of the humanity that, in an ironic fashion, builds the foundations in which these systems exist. Because of this, I have temporarily suspended pursuing rejoining organizations that supposedly exist for the purpose of serving it. My own cynicism has caused me to shield my own heart until I am strong enough to throw myself to the wolves of service again.

I have seen the sputtering and the crashing of a relationship that should've died last summer when I had the ability to cut the cord and the knife was in my hands. But I gave that last chance and threw the life preserver instead of letting you drown, some futile attempt to allow the even remote possibility that there would be a turnaround. But alas, you did take that life preserver. And for just a little while, your life offered you to hope again and yet you still chose to float along at my expense. And then you chose to blame your failures on me because I couldn't carry you anymore. I cannot live for two people, and the only mercy you provided me was that you let yourself out, even if it was in the most cowardly of all fashions.

I have proven that I care. I am loyal until the end. I have also proven that sometimes, I can care too much and fight too hard to keep something that was tearing me apart rather than building me up. Never again. Nowadays, I remain guarded yet hopeful because I have nothing to lose now. Or rather, I am reminded that only the best people deserve me and that I am worthy of unconditional love.

I will not drag you to the finish line. I will not tell you how to get there because it is not my right. Here's what I will do. I will reach for your hand and hold it. I will watch you fall and laugh with you, not at you. I will be there with that jug of water when your body has reached the point of failure. I will have faith in your life journey and cheer on your progress. I will support you in any way I can as you rebuild your mind and soul. But at the same time, I am on a similar journey of rebuilding my own mind and soul and can only hope that you can continue to be there despite my wounds, even if it is just your presence and the gift of your time. And all the while, I will keep reminding myself that I deserve to let my guard down and trust that I will be safe.

Thought #4
Goddammit, I am a nervous wreck sometimes. Am I doing life right? Have I reached the threshold that this question no longer carries any weight?


Eleanor at 200,000 miles. It's complicated.

Well, it happened. Finally.

On February 5, 2018, Eleanor, my 2007 Yamaha FJR1300, reached another milestone in its journeys on the paved roadways of this world. Hitting any mileage mark at any point is an accomplishment, but when it's something that only happens every hundred thousand miles, it's a moment that will be hard to replicate again for a long time and with another motorcycle.

Unfortunately, the celebration was a bit short-lived. On the morning of February 7th, Eleanor was sidelined on my way to work due to a hydraulic fluid leak, preventing me from using my clutch and halting her progress at 200,087 miles on the odometer. As result, she was towed back to my regular mechanic, which at the time of the publishing of this post, she has remained. Originally, I was planning to drop her off for a full valve adjustment as part of major service. To add to the fun, I had the luck of being caught behind a major backlog of repair jobs in front of mine, and two of them were complete engine rebuilds! However, the end of this nearly three-month wait for her return to her parking spot at my house is imminent, and I look forward to putting miles back on her.

It has seemed like an eternity without her here, further compounded with what had transpired in between then and now in both my personal and professional world. These last several months have been a series of transitions from one chapter of my life to another. In some ways, I am glad that Eleanor wasn't with me to witness many of these moments as they just seemed to pile up in an overwhelming succession. Still though, even with one of my most beloved companions down for the count, it has allowed me to recollect and reflect on moving forward and onto greater things. Hell, even returning to even write this is an accomplishment in itself. I would attribute that to special moments that have helped me find clarity and safety to refresh and reload, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

My new reality is not unfamiliar, but aspects of it are in places that I had hoped to not revisit again. But now, I look at these new scenarios with a different set of eyes and a much larger sense of hope. What is clear now is that I am meant for something else and that I am deserving of so much more than what has been dealt to me. Regardless of what the future holds in the next several months, I will be more than okay.

I will end this post with the beginning "ramble test" episode of my vlog that I had filmed with my GoPro on the way to Silverado, CA, on February 4. This was the day before Eleanor's odometer flipped and shot with her windshield actually wiped down properly. My plan is to start doing these as a series with a more structured outline of discussion, but it'll be a little while until I can revisit this side project. Anyway, enjoy.


My first foray into motorcycle vlogging. (Sorry about the dirty windshield.)

I picked up a GoPro Hero 5 Black as a personal gift to myself after switching jobs back in September, and since then I have been thinking of ways to use this little camera on my motorcycle. So far, I've tried a helmet mount, but I received too much wind buffeting and resistance at freeway speeds. In later tests, I went with a RAM mount setup since I already have five RAM balls spread out along my handlebars. Another perk of opting to place the camera on my bike instead of my helmet was that I could plug the camera into my built-in USB-C power cable that's usually reserved for my Google Pixel XL smartphone. This means that I can record extremely long videos without worrying about the camera going out on me.

This is one of a couple configurations I can use when mounting the GoPro to my FJR1300. My RAM Cup Holder would normally be in the spot where the GoPro is hanging from. However, I do have the option of taking the RAM X-Grip (left), moving it to the lower ball, and mounting the camera on the left side of the bars. It doesn't affect my ability to use my handlebars in either place. Of course, your configuration will vary depending on the model of your motorcycle.
After a few months of messing with the camera by itself, I picked up the GoPro 3.5mm Mic Adapter and a basic lavalier microphone to start recording narrations while I was riding. My biggest challenge in the setup was the location of the mic inside my helmet. In the first sample video, I had the lavalier clipped to the bottom fabric lip of my full-face helmet pointing up toward my face. This limited the microphone's usefulness to speeds below 55MPH, and I could imagine that threshold to have been lower if I didn't have a significant windshield on my motorcycle. I also had the microphone setting on the GoPro set to "Standard Mic+" which I found to be unnecessary because the sound was peaking and cracking, even at slow speeds.

In the second video, I adjusted the lavalier mic so that it was nested behind my helmet's rubber breath guard. I also returned the GoPro mic settings back to "Standard." That worked out perfectly and the mic sound was clear at all speeds, even during the short moment when I raised my face shield to scratch my nose. So for now, that microphone positioning will be my go-to when recording my voice with the camera on.
(Top) Lavalier microphone. (Bottom) Microphone for my Sena SMH10 headset. There is no interference or feedback between the two microphones despite their close proximity to each other.
Here's the lavalier mic's clip from the outside. I can't see it when I'm riding, but I do admit that it is a tad bit goofy to look at from this angle.
So here's the second test that confirmed my theory about microphone positioning. I will have to find better times to do my recordings because heading eastbound in the morning and westbound after work will put me directly into the sun's path. However, I am pleased with these first trials. Next task: clean my windshield!


NorCal Revisited Part 5: Motorcycles and hockey do mix with surprising results.

Long time, no see! I'm starting 2018 with the conclusion of an adventure that I started back in July 2017. Yeah, I admit to being that far behind, but I have reasons. I will say that it is extremely satisfying to come back and finish telling this story, especially because the circumstances that prevented me from completing this no longer exist.

The last half of 2017 had been inundated with incidents and events that have kept me away from my blog space (not to mention grad school), but I hope to add to the random stories throughout this year. As for the tales of this vacation from July 2017, let's just say that not long after my ride home in the triple digits (both in temperature and in mileage), my work life went into a tailspin and far out of my control, and that waking nightmare didn't end until September. Anyway, I'm very glad to be back and I'm determined to stay on track the best I can. So, without further adieu, I get to talk about the part of my motorcycle vacation that involved a hockey tournament.