Monday, March 31, 2014

Amazing Biker Ladies

During the first two weeks on the road, I only saw one lady rider. She was cruising on Highway 1 in full, black leathers riding a Harley. Folks who were full gear are hot. I'd seen other lady riders, but they were "Fender Bunnies." (They rode behind their man on the bike.) Then here in Joshua Tree I got to talk to three awesome lady riders! 

Outside of a souvenir shop in Joshua Tree, I introduced myself to a female enduro rider, who told me she just learned to ride six months ago. She was on a trip with a group of five or so friends and they'd ridden up from Guatemala and their destination was Seattle. Her bike and bags were impressive, as were her guts. She must be a really good rider to take on such a challenging trip. For me it took a year to be up for riding on a variety of terrain, at different speeds and weather conditions, learning how to maintain my bike and build up the confidence to ride, let alone do it solo. You go girl! 

Before rolling into Joshua Tree Nation Park, I had to stop at the Nomad Ventures. I wanted to see if they sold white gas, because I'd been out of cooking fuel since Pismo Beach. Every camping store and fellow camper that I've come across has no idea what I was talking about. Nomad Ventures had a can! I can have hot food again! 

Really I stopped because there were two bikes parked outside. Ends up they are the employees bikes and of course, they are super cool. Kate, the owner of the dual sport, told me that her husband proposed to her with this motorcycle. That is the best proposal idea ever!!! To my future husband, I want a bike. Not a ring.  

A lady rider, by the name of Phoenix, waved me down and invited me to share a campsite. She's also been on the road for three weeks, but plans to keep on riding as long as it's fun. She's been riding since she was a girl. She also lived on a boat for 15 years and has traveled extensively all over the world. 

Phoenix and I hit it off. We had lots of "me too" moments. Love for power tools and working with our hands. Appreciation for good, dark chocolate. Love for being nomadic. I feel so lucky to have met her. I look forward to riding with her in the future. She's so inspiring to talk to. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Video- Joshua Tree landscape

Read more: The California Motorcycle Tour 2014 Table of Contents

I was wrong about Joshua Tree

I kept getting completely opposite reviews on Joshua Tree, that I had to see it for myself. My artist friend Philip said I'd love it and he was absolutely right! I'd never experienced the desert first hand before. I was expecting tall green cactus, short, round barrel cactus, tumble weeds, colorful sand, scorpions, snakes, and blistering heat. Thankfully I was wrong. There's much more to the desert then that. My great grandpa Popsi talked fondly about looking for apache tears in Death Valley. 15 years later I experienced the desert first hand and now I see why he loved it! 

The desert plants and the terrain are so foreign to me. I took more photos during my two days in Joshua Tree than any other place I've stayed at during the last three weeks. I'd never seen plants shaped like that. Or giant boulders, that were bigger than any jumbo boulder I'd seen before. Whatever word that means bigger than jumbo describes these rock formations. They made me giggle. They dont look real. 

Click on this photo and look for the person sitting on top of the boulder. This was one of the smaller rock piles. Can you believe that? The best part was that there were no signs saying to stay off of the rocks, so I bouldered at will. I was like a little girl again. It was so much fun!

Tim, my brother, I often think of you during this adventure. I loved exploring caves with you when we were kids. You need to go visit the desert! Popsi was right! The above cave had a 3-4 foot ceiling height. I was basically crawling under a Jumbo boulder. I couldnt stop laughing. Again- the rocks are so big!!!

Another small rock pile. Compare the rocks to the car. Isnt that ridiculous?!? 

A dead Joshua Tree. 

A hole from the settlers or perhaps the Indians for grinding flour.

The desert was starting to bloom! I'd heard that the desert has flowers, but I wasnt expecting so many delicate, non-succulent plants.  

A yuca plant showing off it's spikes! 

Joshua Tree limbo.

Tumble weeds! I can name them, unlike 99% of the other plants. 

The days were super windy. Come to think of it, so were the nights. It was so loud trying to sleep in the tent, with the wind whipping the fly around, that the ear plugs made almost no difference. I just lay in the sleeping bag, laughing at the noise and marveling that the tent held together despite being so contorted. I dont know how the tent poles didnt break. Go REI! The tent was moving around so much, that the walls were touching me, even though it sleeps two people.

The incredible REI tent, lent to me from my friend Amy, is on the right. I shared a campsite with a fellow biker and her tent is on the left. 

The sky is gorgeous out here. The clouds just flew by, like fog in San Francisco. The clouds cleared up both nights to show off the 1000s of stars.

Good night moon.

Motel room in Banning

It always takes way longer than I expect to pack up my gear and hit the road. It shouldnt of been a surprise that I left Deer Park Monastery at 4:30pm. I wanted to make it to Joshua Tree, an unknown number of hours to the East, ideally before dark. (I dont tend to plan. That takes the adventure out of things.) 

I rode North on The Avocado Highway through Escondido and stopped at the first gas station. Eating vegan all weekend at the Monastery meant no junk food, artificial coloring, GMOs and crap like that. For those of you who know me, I eat a healthy diet, but I must confess, my weakness are BBQ potato chips and any gummy candy. I undid some of the good that happened at Deer Park by inhaling both of these right next to the gas pump, without mindfully eating them. It was worth it!

After riding for what felt like forever, it got cold and dark. I pulled over to switch out my tinted visor for the clear one for better night riding, when I saw a motel. I was so tired from getting up at 5am to meditate with the monks that I was unsafe to continue riding. I booked a room! 

The last time I paid for a motel room was July 2013 at Moto GP at Laguna Seca. I dont following professional racing, but when I was invited to go, I didnt want to pass that up and see motorcycles zoom by at ridiculously fast speeds! I had just bought my Suzuki SV1000 a few weeks before and rode down there from the San Francisco bay area. I had a really great time. That was one of the best dates I've been on. Thank you Dang. 

I had no idea that there would be 1000s of people at Laguna Seca, which meant 1000s of cars and bikes on the road after the race. After two hours of being stuck on the freeway I rented a motel room that was above a gas station store. That was the best $60 I've ever spent. I felt the exact say way when I stopped on this trip. I didnt even know what city I was in, until I looked at the receipt the next day. Ends up I was in Banning, about an hour away from Joshua Tree.

Funny Juxtaposition

Line drying my motorcycle pants, exercise clothes, colorful underwear and a striped bikini-

along side the modest nun clothes. 

I love it that there are lots of ways to live life and we're both doing what's best for us. 

My happy thought that I keep on hand when I'm feeling down was getting to use a washing machine after three weeks of hand washing my clothes. It only cost $1 a load and that included the soap. Walking out of the laundry room I had a HUGE smile on my face. Thank you Deer Park monastery!  

Spent the weekend at a Vietnamese Buddhist Monastery

The above sign is how I feel every time I visit or stay at a Buddhist monastery. I shared that with a nun and she asked why do I leave?

Deer Park Monastery is in Escondido, CA. I hit epic traffic that started at noon. I checked in late to the monastery at 5pm. Good thing they are so understanding here. I tried to get here on time. 

I arrived a little frazzled at Deer Park. Not the mindset that I wanted to be in, but there you go. I'd been on the road from 10am until 5pm, facing my fear of riding through LA. I made a quick detour in Oceanside to visit my late Great Grandparent's trailer park for a quick "hello," and then couldnt figure out where to check in at the monastery. Nor could I find the bathroom. I was going to pee my pants, so out of desperation, I popped a squat in the bushes. What a way to start my stay at a holy place. 

The hammocks were the hangout for the monastics. 

I was curious as to what monks and nuns swim in, so I asked. Ends up the swimming pool isnt for people. Some lucky fish a and a turtle live here. As apart of my stay, I worked four hours a day. I was in the orchid. While I was working in the orchid that's next to the pool, two fellow guests were trying in vain to catch and relocate the fish. It was a tad funny watching them try for four hours in vain.

I think I had an easier job than the fishermen. I got to shovel sand! I worked with two other guests, plus a nun who I later learned is the Abbotess. The Abbotess is Vietname and doesnt speak much English. She was all smiles. I was told she's the oldest, but she cant be that old, because her skin looked great and she was using a pick ax for hours in the hot sun. I want to be amazing like her when I'm older. 

When I met the Abbotess, she handed me a shovel and 5 gallon bucket. Then showed me the sand pile and laid out a tarp about 20 feet down hill, indicating that's where the sand should be relocated to. There wasnt tools for the other ladies, so I got to work. I was completely fine moving the sand by myself. I enjoy manual labor. I had no idea why the sand needed to be moved. For all I knew I'd move it back up hill the next day. 

Ends up more tools appeared and the three of us lady guests, plus an English speaking nun, moved the sand. We needed to move it so that we could dig a hole for a plastic swimming pool. The pool liner was going to be a veggie garden and the plastic liner was to catch the water from running down the hill. 

It was a pretty toasty day and we all got quiet gross and hot. The Abbotess squeezed blood oranges and brought us Vietnamese cookies. She let us leave a little early so we could shower. It was such a treat getting to work with such wonderful ladies. And it was also a treat to take a hot shower that didnt take quarters. 

Monastic life follows a strict schedule that starts at 5am and ends at 9pm. Mondays are the Lazy Days, with a lax schedule and Sundays there's a different schedule of events for the public. I was there Fri-Sunday, so I got a taste of the regular days and the public session on Sunday. 

On Sunday we stood outside in the lovely sun and sang songs with hand motions lead by an adorable, older monk. There was about 100 people there. Then a guest monk from France explained how to practice Walking Meditation and led us up the mountain on a meditation walk.

At the top of the mountain, I was so excited to see a labyrinth. I've made many art installations featuring this mediation tool.  

Then we silently walked down the hill together to the temple.

The view was stunning from the top of the mountain. It over looked Escondido. The roof that you see in the distance is the Ocean of Peace temple, also pictured below.

To keep everyone on schedule, this and many other bells were invited to sound (which is another way of saying ringing the bell). In my tent, I'd wake up to the sound of this bell, sounding far off in the distance. It was such a lovely way to wake up.

Before entering any building, expect for the dining room, shoes were removed. I love this tradition. It keeps things nice and clean. Plus I prefer to be barefoot. This kid is wondering why I am taking his photo.

Another bell. They're all over the place and all sound a little different.  I'd hear one sound and I'd think I was late, but no clue for what. I'm so glad I brought a watch.

This is the Bell Master, sitting by the bell. She invited the bell several times when prompted by the speaker, Sister Harmony. Sister Harmony talked about fasting, not just from food and drink, but fasting from technology (using the Internet as a tool instead of a mindless exercise that eats up hours), and fasting from the environment (talking about what you can do during this drought). 

The Sister gave lots of practical advice. It was the first Dharma talk that I've understood, because she used everyday language. Previous talks I've attended I've left wondering what was wrong with me. Everyone else seemed to get something out of the talk. I'm college educated and can sit and listen for hours. I dont understand the Buddhist jargon. It's a whole nother language.

For me, staying at Monasteries is more about the search for good posture and focusing on building healthy habits like being relaxed and taking deep breaths. I already have so much to learn about my body, that I'm focusing my efforts there.

After the sermon and a quick break, the congregation broke into groups each led by a monk, for folks to share what they felt during the sermon. We circled up and sat on the meditation pillows and introduced ourselves and shared why we were there. Then in a Popcorn style, people could share if they wanted about their reaction to the sermon. I really enjoy connecting with folks this way, hearing briefly about what they're going through, talking about feelings and hearing practical ideas on how to apply what was taught.

At the Soto Zen monasteries I've stayed at, there are always statues in the temple. Not here at Deer Park. They decorated with orchids and lanterns. This is the prettiest alter that I've seen. It is so simple and stunning. For me nature does me in. 

When you're inside of the temple, you are surrounded by glass doors that are covered in animal window decals. I was so surprised to see them in such a serious place, that I almost laughed. The quail stickers made me smile. They are so cute. This is a photo from the outside looking in. 

One misconception of bowing all the way to the ground at Buddhist temples, is that it's a form of worship to Buddha. Really it's a sign of respect. It's like putting your hands at your heart after a yoga practice and saying Namaste, which literally means, "The spirit in me, salutes the spirit in you." So for me, I'm not worshiping an statue. I'm giving a salute to a real person's teachings.

A couple of statues in the orchid. 

It was the cutest thing watching the nuns drive around in the golf car. It was used for shuttling the older nuns up the hill to the big meditation hall. I definitely want to visit again. I could of stayed a week, but I knew I'd leave depressed from not wanting to leave. Best to get a taste of the monastic lifestyle and move on.

I'm looking for a monastery that incorporates several hours a day of martial arts. At the Soto Zen temples I've visited, there isnt any martial arts going on. At Deer Park we did about 1/2 hour of Stick Qi Gong, led by a monk. I was all sorts of giddy and excited to workout at a holy place with monks. It felt so good to workout in a group. I've missed working out with my martial arts friends. Perhaps the next temple I visit will be a Shaolin temple, where I can meditate and practice Kong Fu.