POEM: untitled


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POEM: the queen of lizard island


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Finding JAPAN

OK, so I need to tell you a crazy story.

From 1991-92, I lived in northern Japan. Although I lived far from the other exchange students in my program, I did see them occasionally for Rotary events. When I did, we tended to sing the title track from Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi’s album JAPAN. I adore this album, which came out in ’91 and features folks like Roy Bittan (E Street Band) and Arnold McCuller (Phil Collins, Lyle Lovett, James Taylor). This song means a lot to me, and the album means a lot to me too.

Last year I lost everything I’ve ever owned — my entire record and CD collection, all my books except my poetry books, most of my photos from my entire life, my journals … everything. Included in that loss was my copy of JAPAN.

The other day, Elaine and I were working at Webster’s and taking things out from under some bins. She came across a box of world music CDs and handed one to me, asking if I could read it. Against every possible chance, it was a copy of Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi’s JAPAN. I was absolutely stunned. There’s no reason at all for this CD to be in Webster’s. It’s a 23-year-old CD that came out in Japan and, as far as I know, wasn’t released in the US.

I took it from her with trembling hands and my heart pounding. Then I ran over to the CD player and cranked up the first track. I stood there for the whole six minutes with it blasting through the store, I’m sure confusing our customers.

Life is weird and unpredictable and often wonderful. And I have JAPAN back.


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POEM: maybe it’s the missing you talking


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Closed On Sunday (Martinsburg & Huntingdon)

I took a hundred-mile ride today in the company of my pal Wiggus, who rides a sweet Triumph motorcycle with a much bigger engine than Zaphod’s. I didn’t ask him, when it was all said and done, how much slower than normal he’d had to ride, because I was afraid he might tell me. Truth be told, I don’t think he had to throttle down that much. Those winding Central PA roads tend to even out the size of one’s engine.

Today's route was breathtaking.

Today’s route was breathtaking.

So that’s the route up above. Believe me when I tell you that the map can’t even begin to represent the beauty of this drive.

Our steeds, parked outside Chez Wiggus.

Our steeds, parked outside Chez Wiggus.

The first part of the ride, over the mountain in the direction of Hungtindon, was one I’ve taken a couple times before. In fact, I first did it on Vroomfondel (photos). And I rode part of Route 305 just the other day. But today we took 305 much further. And it was stunning.

On 305 to Alexandria.  It ain't ugly.

On 305 to Alexandria. It ain’t ugly.

We spent most of the non-riding time photographing our bikes.

We spent most of the non-riding time photographing our bikes.

I don’t have a picture of most breathtaking moment, which was coming around a corner to see a wall of mountains to the right and a mile-wide swath of farm fields between the road and the mountains, all of it stretching away over the horizon. I can’t remember if this happened before or after Martinsburg, but I do remember the tingle that ran up my spine when we rounded the bend and saw this majestic vista.

We made it to Martinsburg only to discover that Mamie’s Cafe, our destination, was closed on Sunday. I peeked in through the window and it looked lovely. A counter covered in pastries and cakes and pies, with classic round tables and wooden chairs visible through an archway. Definitely worth a return trip.



Wiggus knew of a place in Huntingdon, so we headed up Clover Creek Road and over the mountain to get there. At one point we were passed, fairly dangerously, by four guys on crotch rockets. They whipped around Wiggus and me and the car ahead of us, all uphill around a blind curve. All four survived. Later we were passed by their two friends, one of whom barely missed hitting an oncoming Harley, the driver of which was not amused, if his gesture was any indication.

The joint in Huntingdon was also closed, because this is central PA, so we ended up getting drinks and snacks at Sheetz and then coming home via 26.

Wiggus up ahead.

Wiggus up ahead.

Going back up the mountain on 26 I started losing power, but Wiggus pointed out that it was likely a fuel delivery problem, and when I thought about it, that made sense. I was nearly out of gas, going up a steep grade with the throttle wide open.

We parted ways to our respective homes shortly thereafter. A fabulous day, and definitely not my last ride with Wiggus.

Posted in Pennsylvania, Scooter, Travel | 4 Comments

Riding to Big Hollow

Perusing Steve Williams’ Scooter In The Sticks blog, I came across this line from Lao Tzu: “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” This is similar to the idea of “pashal,” which I’ve explored in two poems.

The quotation and the concept are apt descriptions of today’s ride. I was sitting on the couch around 5:30, listening to the Red Sox and playing Triple Town, when I suddenly realized that I wanted to be on my scooter. Five minutes later I was out the door with no idea where I was headed.

I drove north on North Atherton, heading toward Park Forest and beyond. Wound through some neighborhood streets till I ended up on Valley Vista Drive. Because I seldom know where I am or where I’m headed (I’m stilling learning my way around), I ended up crossing back over Atherton, onto the expressway. I got off at College then took a random right onto Puddintown Road. And that led to the adventure.

Click for a larger version of today's route.

Click for a larger version of today’s route.

Eventually, after exploring a few small, newly built neighborhoods, I took a left onto Rock Road. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Later in the ride, I figured out why I knew it. I zipped around the curves and up and down the rolling hills. As I came around a turn, I passed Big Hollow Road to my left. I decided on the spot to try it, so I turned around.

It’s a paved road with trees close in on both sides. I love this kind of riding. I was minutes from home but the densely packed strip malls of my neighborhood were hard to even imagine in this setting. And then, not to far along, even the pavement was gone and I was on a narrow dirt road.

Looking ahead from the start of Big Hollow Road.

Looking ahead from the start of Big Hollow Road.

Same spot, looking the other way.

Same spot, looking the other way.

As you know if you know me, I never wanted to live in Central PA, but having a scooter has given me a greater appreciation for the countryside here. I can leave work or leave home and within 10 minutes be in a dense forest with turkey vultures lumbering through the air just above my head. I saw three of them on Big Hollow Road, both as I was going out and coming back. They were in the same spot both times — a rocky dip beside the road. I couldn’t see what they were eating.

My Aprilia Scarabeo 150 has two things that make it especially fun: a Rotax engine and big wheels. The former means it goes much, much faster than a typical 150cc engine. The latter means it handles dirt roads with relative ease.

Down the dirt road we sped, passing even smaller side roads, most of which were probably private roads leading to a single house. Eventually, even the dirt road ended. There was a nice house with a big yard at the end. Just to the left of the road was a path leading off deeper into the woods. The path was two sets of mostly overgrown tire tracks. Of course I took the path.

Here endeth the path. At least on the scooter.

Here endeth the path. At least on the scooter.

Eventually I came to a gate. I had absolutely no idea where I was, or where this path might lead. I now know it’s the Arboretum To Spring Creek Canyon Trail (PDF brochure). I walked up the trail just enough to realize that bug spray would be essential to any enjoyment of this path. I’m not ashamed. I’m more of an indoor kid.

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Click for larger versions.

Then it was back to Rock Road, which winds along Spring Creek, hugging the water tight. Water is very important to me. This is one of the few times in my life I haven’t lived near a big body of water, usually either a Great Lake or an ocean. I get a thrill each time I spot a creek or a pond. And I’m still excited by the feeling of cruising along on Zaphod beside running water.

Geometry is wonky in Central Pennsylvania. Or maybe it's the panoramic photo.

Geometry is wonky in Central Pennsylvania. Or maybe it’s the panoramic photo.

I stopped at a wooden bridge across Spring Creek that served as the entrance to someone’s driveway. I-99/Route 220 passed overhead like two massive contrails. I thought about how people had probably used Spring Creek for transportation hundreds (thousands?) of years before anyone thought to mar the landscape with highways.


I continued down Rock Road till it met up with Fox Hill Road, which runs past the airport. It was then I realized why I knew Rock Road — I use it, briefly, when I take the back way to Bellefonte. I watched a single-prop plane land as I passed, headed for home and more baseball.


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