Is this real?

Quick update. We are riding amazing roads. Not getting anywhere fast but the journey itself is so good. I spent the whole morning wondering how I could describe this and I can’t really come up with the right words. It’s a road roller coaster. Beautiful as well.

I made Tim lead me through Branson Missouri. That place is a joke. It’s a mix between Las Vegas and 6 flags. So garish and horrible. I’m glad we didn’t stop. No thank you.

The road south from there was fun and ended in a ferry ride across a lake and the border between Missouri and Arkansas.

Stopping now for some Mexican food, only because the highly rated BBQ joint across the street is closed on Mondays.

Next stop will be Hot Springs. I’m told rain is in the forecast. Hmmm.

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Perfection

If only every day can be like today.

I currently find myself sitting next to a pool, enjoying the cool night air and a great conversation with Tim.

Tim drove all the way from Tyler Texas just to meet up with me in Eureka Springs Arkansas. If that was all he did that would be enough. He also put me up in a hotel for the night and he’s intent on showing me some amazing rides in the area tomorrow. Tim sees me in a way that I struggle to see myself. I appreciate his candor and his kindness.

The day only gets better though. What I just mentioned was the end of the day. Wait until you hear the rest of it.

I woke up this morning with a dead cell phone. I’d camped at the K River Campground which was gorgeous but unfortunately didn’t have any cell service and my phone died quickly. Anyway, as I was packing up, Adam Sandoval came over to see me off and we ended up chatting for almost an hour. That’s pretty personalized service for a camp ground host. He was interested in my route for the day and he was able to offer a suggestion. One I might add that I had been told about before but apparently it takes someone with some celebrity status to convince me.

The route was the Talimena scenic highway between Talihina OK and Mena AR.

It was beautiful. Green and thickly forested, the road was smooth and had a speed limit of 55mph.

I was rolling along, enjoying the day, when a black bear suddenly ran across the road right in front of me. I was shocked and so I called my wife and told her that she’d never believe what I just saw. We talked for about 20 minutes and then hung up. 5 minutes later, another bear ran across the road! This one so close that I actually had to hit the brakes. I called my wife back. She laughed. It was crazy and I still grin when I think about it. So rare.

From Mena I made my way back into Oklahoma because I had an appointment I didn’t want to miss. A gentleman named John had messaged me and offered to buy me lunch and to show me some great roads. I made it on time and we had lunch sitting along the Illinois river, watching rafters meander down the calm waters shaded by huge trees. I was a little jealous. It was great riding with someone again. I just followed along, enjoying the day without having to worry about where I was going. John took me from northern Oklahoma into Arkansas via some winding farm roads. I would never have gone that way on my own and I am grateful for his guidance.

What a great day that I’m fortunate enough to have two amazing people take time out of their busy lives to spend a few miles with me.

It’s hard to be down on yourself at times like this and I have to say, I can’t remember feeling better.

One bad thing though. My daughter called and asked if she could have a kitten. I said yes. I’m going to return home to a zoo.

So here I am in Eureka Springs. It’s a neat little “mountain” town in the Ozarks. It’s surrounded by seemingly endless miles of heaven created

motorcycle roads. Tim will be my guide tomorrow and I’m excited, apparently a ferry and a lake will be involved in our journey, which will culminate at a town literally called Hot Springs. Yes.

I get to sleep in a real bed tonight and things are good.

Much easier.

I’m melting. But at least I feel relaxed.

I arrived at Adam Sandoval’s K Campground in Moyers Oklahoma about 30 minutes ago. It’s 95 degrees and super humid. I am dripping in all sorts of places. It’s shady and peaceful though and a river is running near my camping spot. It’s a beautiful place in the world and I’m glad I stopped.

I’m writing this without internet so unless I get lucky, this will be uploaded tomorrow, the 3rd.

I left Fruitland Texas this morning at about 7:30. The first 30 miles were beautiful rolling hills and tree lined streets. Then it opened up to grasslands and ranches. Except for the first few days in SW Texas, it’s been a surprising State.

I stopped in Gainesville for a tank top off and breakfast. Here’s the thing. I’d always much rather support a mom and pop cafe than a chain restaurant but according to Google and a quick back and forth through town, there weren’t any. I resorted to Starbucks. At least they’re consistent.

Today I was trying to take my time. I knew my planned destination wasn’t very far away so the more time I spent doing random things. The less time I’d have doing nothing in camp.

I pit stopped in Sherman for a Harley poker chip. This place easily has the nicest staff of any dealership so far. I picked up a cooling vest. It’s something you soak with water and it keeps your core temperature down without getting you wet. Pretty neat idea. Now that I have one though I’m sure there will be record lows on the rest of my journey. That’s fine, maybe it’ll finally justify the full coat I’ve been lugging along.

Next I put the cruise control at 75mph and made my way to Paris. Texas that is. Picked up another poker chip there and took a picture of Adam’s motorcycle, the “warhorse”. That thing is beat down. I truly hope my motorcycle doesn’t look like that when I’m done. I’d cry a little.

I am dripping so much sweat while I type this. Humidity sucks.

I then did some touristy stuff in Paris. I went to see their version of the Eiffel Tower. Topped with a cowboy hat of course. It also happened to be by a very nicely done Veterans Park so a strolled through there as well.

At lunch I asked what their special was. My wife can tell you this rarely works out for me. Some of my worst meals out have been the restaurants “special”. And of course, like every other place in the south, it was…chicken fried steak. It wasn’t bad, just not a ton of flavor. Oh well.

Heading north now I finally left Texas after 6 days and about 1700 miles. I think. It’s all starting to blend together.

I also hit my first turnpike. $1, right at my exit.

All in all, today was a good day. No issues, no problems and just a good day on a motorcycle.

I was kind of dreading getting through Texas. It ended up being a great ride with good experiences and beautiful scenery.

I am really looking forward to the next few weeks. The rest of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. Then up the East coast. Should be a beautiful ride. If I don’t completely melt.

Am I getting the hang of this? Maybe. I’d like to think so. I’m 9 days in. I’ve camped 5 nights so far. Tonight will be the 6th. I sleep ok and that’s kind of a big deal. If I wasn’t getting sleep, this would be much harder.

I’m eating fine and that’s the hardest part to keep the costs down on. Tonight’s dinner is crackers and beef jerky. That’s fine with me.

Not to ramble but I just realized I haven’t missed riding my bike one time. I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing but it does mean I must be content

with what I’m doing, otherwise I’d be wishing I was doing something else.

With that, I’ll sign off for the day.

Maybe I’ll go swimming.

A good day?

It’s crazy how everything can go so well and it can still be a rough day.

I got up early this morning to see the nieces and nephews off to school and to say goodbye before I left. It was hard to leave. I had a really good time and I feel like I got to know my brother and his family a lot better. If nothing else goes right this trip, I can still chalk it up as a success because of that visit.

Not wanting to experience big city morning traffic, I plotted my route north through Texas to take me on back roads. Good call.

I found a wonderful, flowing back road that took me straight to the fabled historical western town of Luckenbach. I was too early to experience the real feel of the town but that typically involves lots of people and crowds so I was ok with that loss. I did wander around and look at some of the old memorabilia they have lying around.

Next I headed over to Fredericksburg, the boyhood home of Admiral Chester Nimitz. It’s also the location of the Museum of the South Pacific in WW2. I spent 2 plus hours there. I didn’t learn anything new but the artifacts and vehicles were well worth my time. Very interesting and highly recommended if you are in the area.

After that I had a lunch of leftover pancakes that I’d snagged from my brothers fridge. Still good. He more than made up for the dismal failures I had experienced in Silver City NM.

Time to get down to business. I took off north on highway 16. A backcountry highway with an extremely high speed limit, in places 75mph. Occasionally you’d slow down to go through an old ranch town but that was about it. I left the rolling hill country behind and entered flat Texas. It was still beautiful. A lot of ranches and tree lined streets. There was plenty to keep my eyes and my mind busy.

But it slowly crept up over 100 degrees. That can just mess with you and beat you down.

There were times where I just felt overwhelmed, lonely and tired. I half seriously contemplated looking at a map to find my quickest route home. For about the next half hour I talked myself into finishing the day and to see how I felt.

I only went 344.1 miles today and I’m happy with that. I found a nice RV park with shade and a shower about 25 miles shy of the border with Oklahoma. I’ve taken a shower and set up camp. I feel better.

I think I’ve decided that while it’s hot, I’ll just do shorter days. The issue with that is, what do I do? Being bored costs money. I only have so much battery on my phone. I guess I’ll need a book. And a better chair. My $70, super nice, compact chair, broke on night 3. Don’t tell my wife.

Tomorrow I’ll alter my route a bit to take some more time during the day. I’ll stop by two Harley dealerships for poker chips. The second is in Paris Texas, the location of a certain YouTubers famous motorcycle. I’m not star struck but his journey was an inspiration for mine.

That same guy now owns a campground in Moyers OK that I’ll make it to pretty early tomorrow. I’ll camp there. By then I will be heading into the Ozarks for some amazing riding and certainly lower temperatures.

I’ll just keep pushing on. Today was a good day.

Thanks for still following along.

My nemesis

First I’d like to say that I hope I didn’t scare anyone off yesterday. I appreciate all of the invitations to stay or to meet up. I really do. And I fully plan on taking advantage of as many as I can. Just know that it’s a big step for me. That’s all.

Yesterday I talked about anxiety. It’s a big deal and hard to deal with.

Unfortunately it isn’t the biggest issue I face.

That honor would fall to anger. In all it’s many forms. Rage, brooding, hate, intolerance, seething and others. If there’s a way to be angry, someone with PTSD will have it.

I wish I knew why. I really do. Everytime I meet with a new therapist, they typically ask me what my perfect end state would be. My answer is always a life without anger.

I have a short fuse. Basically that means I can only take a small amount of anything before it’s too much to handle.

Someone chewing gum loudly? Anger. Someone tapping their foot? Anger. No turn signals? Anger. Basically anything that any normal person would be able to put up with, sends me over the edge.

Little things can ruin my whole day.

There is a reason that vets are notorious for road rage.

I see everything in black and white. It’s either right or it’s wrong. It’s the law or it isn’t. I’m not sure why I see everything in absolutes. Perhaps it’s a holdover from the military where everything has a purpose, a place and a way it’s done. You don’t vary from that. I still can’t.

I feel horrible for how I treat my family because of it. I have no patience. Either obey the rules or you’re in trouble. I yell a lot. I have to separate myself from the kids pretty often. Mostly in order for them to be able to just be kids and not have me harping on them. Also to keep the peace in my head.

That’s the thing that makes me feel so bad about having PTSD. Not how it makes me feel but how I treat others. I know there are plenty of people out there who think I’m not a nice person. For good reason. I’m not afraid or too shy to let you have it. I wish I could change that. I really do.

Unfortunately me being angry at everyone else is just a byproduct of me being angry with myself. My therapists say that if I could find peace within myself, I would be able to be at peace with others.

That sounds very zen-like and simple but my head can’t do it. It doesn’t help that I get close and then have to get a new therapist. But that’s just blaming others. This is on me.

I wish I could introduce myself to new people and include the caveat that I have PTSD and I will come across as an asshole, but give me time and we might get past that.

Once again that’s the disadvantage of non visible wounds of war. If I was missing an arm, people would make concessions for me, whether they meant to or not. But without an announcement or a sign around my neck, no one knows my wounds. I’m given no allowances and judged to be less than a normal person because I can’t function correctly.

Even if I could tell people, it wouldn’t help. There is such a stigma surrounding mental illness. It isn’t forgiven or understood and I don’t think people really want to understand it.

So I just stay angry and isolated. Stuck within myself.

Unless I’m doing something I love, with people who like to do it as well.

I haven’t had any real anger issues all week. Even in the limited traffic I’ve been in. It’s hard to be angry and still ride a motorcycle through beautiful country.

If I can keep this up for two months, maybe it’ll help reset my mind.

Getting out

Today was a good day. My brother and I were able to spend some quality time together, just the two of us. I can’t remember the last time we ever did that. Maybe this is the first.

I’m the oldest of six brothers and Matt is the third. We had never been that close growing up most likely because the age difference between us was just enough that he was outside my group of friends and young enough to be in the way and yet interested. Being siblings is never easy. Like I’ve said before, I am not much of a family person and so keeping in contact with all of my brothers is tenuous at best. It shouldn’t be. They’re good guys with great families. My nieces and nephews have welcomed me with open arms and made me feel right at home. I’m actually barricading myself in the guest room as I write this because if I leave, they’ll never let me finish. It’s nice to feel welcomed in this way. I wish I could be better at this family stuff. Can you believe that I’m stand offish with family as well? I can be.

I’m rambling a bit.

Matt and I had a good time doing tourist stuff in San Antonio. I warned him before I left that the crowds might get to me. It can manifest in different ways and today it did so as a headache. I get put on edge in large groups. Especially in new areas where I feel a loss of control. We had to cut the day short because of the headache. With TBI’s, if I don’t get meds quick, a headache can turn into a migraine very quickly. It’s hard to explain this to someone who doesn’t deal with it all of the time but my brother was kind.

I hate being 41 and feeling like an invalid.

I feel constrained. Isolated. Even though I can go out and fight the anxiety, it finds ways to fight back.

Is the motorcycle actually helping with this? Well, I’m not stuck at home, laying on the couch and staring at the ceiling. Which I would be perfectly happy doing. So I guess there is that. But does it help with anxiety in public? I can’t say it does. Unless it brings me to places where I’m forcing myself to be in public.

I’ve had a lot of offers of places to stay and people to hook up with for lunch or a drink. That’s all kind and appreciated and I really want to. When it comes down to the wire though, am I really going to take them up on it? It’s so much easier to just quietly ride by. I’m really not sure why I’m writing all of this, other than to just say what’s on my mind.

Anxiety is not cool. I think for me it is one of the hardest parts of my PTSD to get a handle on.

It’s odd to say I need to “get out more” as I’m riding a motorcycle on a two month trip around the country.

Maybe by getting out more, I need to take the plunge and make a

n effort to get off the bike and meet more people.

As long as I don’t get more headaches.

Redemption

I started today early. I’m getting in the habit of deflating my air mattress as soon as I wake up so I’m not tempted to lay there, hoping for more sleep. It makes it hard to catch extra zzz’s on a flat bed.

I dragged myself up to the sounds of birds and something else rooting around my tent. That something else turned out about 20 Javelinas. That was a new experience. I chased them off as best I could and got packed up. My intent was to get out on the road before it really got hot.

77 degrees was my initial roll out temp and that was heaven compared with yesterday. Time and miles quickly passed as I made my way out of Big Bend NP. Not bad. Not worth doing again though.

I hit Marathon and fueled up. My bike will go about 250 miles on a tank and it was just less than 170 to Del Rio. Perfect.

Not so perfect. It wasn’t a bad ride but the wind was crazy. That, and doing 75mph on the bike will eat fuel like crazy. I had 20 miles of reserve when I made it to Del Rio. Phew.

Grabbed lunch and while sitting there, I decided what route I was going to take. A friend had suggested a route called the twisted sisters near Leakey. I’m glad I took that advice.

Amazing. I have totally changed my opinion of Texas. So far…

I was rolling through trees, hills, over rivers and creeks, and winding corners.

This is what motorcycles were made for. I even turned around and went back to do a section a second time. So good.

This was heaven, especially compared to yesterday.

The icing on the cake is that I made it to my brothers house in San Antonio after 477.3 miles. I’m going to spend the next few days here spending some time with his family and seeing what they’ve been up to. The biggest bonus is that this guy can cook. Really cook. If I wasn’t fat before, I will be now. And I was before. Stop nodding your head. Oh, and he can get us into 6 flags for free. I might be here longer than anticipated.

Today was redemption and I really needed it.

Oooh. And I was just given flowers.

Oppressive

What a day.

I’m writing this without an internet connection with the hope that I can post it up sometime tomorrow (Tuesday the 29th). I need to put my thoughts into writing before I forget or the feelings change.

As I’d posted earlier, I had an amazing start. I even had a decent roll out after that and a good lunch. My spirits were high and I thought I was ready for what was coming.

What was coming? I’d been warned that the next part of my journey was pretty desolate and temperatures would be high. That’s ok. I’ve dealt with high temperatures.

Damn.

110 degrees for the last 6 hours on the bike. The low was 109, the high 112. That just beats on you. I drank a lot and then drank some more. I stopped more often just to enjoy the shade and ac of a gas station.

That gets in your head. It was a constant mental battle to not get KO’d. The area I was in was spectacular. Especially after the miserable little town of Presidio. Proudly claiming its founding in 1683, it’s officially the oldest town I’ve ever been in other than Plymouth. They really haven’t tried to improve the place. The lady at the gas station counter kept speaking Spanish to me. Like the bundle of joy that I am, I pointed to the American flag on my vest and proceeded to welcome her to America.

Anyway, the canyon and river road from then on was amazing. A real roller coaster of a ride. Some serious rising and falling in the road with tight, blind corners.

…I just had to take a quick break to get a picture of a Javelina (wild pig) and a road runner in the same shot. My wife is going to lose her mind.

The road went through some small towns and it was beautiful but damn it was so hard to not just want to pull over and melt somewhere. I was ready to call it a day as long as I could find shade.

I entered Big Bend National Park and meandered along at the posted 45mph, plus or minus. After a quick, deliriously made decision, I went 20 miles out of my way. To the Rio Grande Village. Like an oasis, it appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Seriously. You’re riding along, in vast open desert and tall canyons and then there is a tunnel. Go through the tunnel and there are trees and grass everywhere. This camp ground looks like it could have a couple hundred tents. There are maybe three. Including me, and I can’t see anyone from where I am. Birds are everywhere, as are the buzzing insects they are after. A few roadrunners are scavenging the camp sites and as mentioned, one Javelina, so far.

I’m not really sure how to take today. Once the pain is over, we seem to forget how bad it was. Today was bad. I guess I shouldn’t really say that. Not all of today was bad. Some of it was really good. I just hate ending on a bad note.

I can’t help but think a bit deeper on that one. This is for me. Not you.

I’ve had a good life. I’ve done some good things. Bad experiences don’t need to define my life. Nor should I let them. That is so easy to write and so hard to put into practice. I really can’t do it. If I could, well. Things would be very different.

Keep trying. I’ll get this.

An edit:

I found a nature trail that took me to the top of a knoll that overlooks the Rio Grande (still not that grand). I watched the sun set over the U.S. and the full moon rise over Mexico. It was amazing. Really hard to take it all in and appreciate the beauty of it. I took a panoramic shot. Not sure if they turn out in this format. I think I was able to put my head in a good place for tomorrow.

Wow. Just wow.

Needed to stop on my trip to do a quick update. I just completed the entire walk through of the Carlsbad Caverns. I am SO glad that I did it. It is easily the most amazing natural wonder that I have ever seen. Jaw dropping. I couldn’t stop saying wow everywhere I looked. My pictures just don’t do it justice. If you ever get a chance to come by this way, I highly recommend it.

Decisions

Starting the day off right with good coffee at Starbucks. They gave me my drink for free today. I assume for Memorial day. I didn’t ask and they didn’t advertise, the girl at the counter just did it. So thanks Starbucks. Sometimes it’s the little things that can make your day.

I’m in Carlsbad New Mexico. I camped at Brantley Lake State Park. Threw on my shorts and went swimming for a bit. I’m glad I have sleeping pills because there was a large outdoor concert on the other side of the lake that was extremely loud. I did 423.2 miles yesterday. It was extremely windy up to and through Roswell. The Harley dealer there wasn’t open and I wasn’t thinking. I left Roswell with less than 1/4 tank of fuel and wouldn’t you know it, no more stations for awhile. I was on fumes when I pulled into Artesia. Not how I like to ride. It’s undue stress that I don’t need. One nice thing, gas around here is cheap. Well, cheaper.

I’m trying to decide how much time I want to spend in Carlsbad Caverns NP. I figure I should walk through at least one. No point hurrying through when I have no agenda. I guess writing that just answered my own question.

I hope everyone has a reflective Memorial day.

See you on the other side.