Day 4, Leg 4, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

March 31, 2013 – It’s a beautiful day in St. Louis! Clouds have given way to sun and it climbs to about 65 degrees today! We have a little time to explore before putting the bikes away for another month and returning home to Minneapolis. We sleep in until about 7:30 a.m., eat a light breakfast from the hotel’s complimentary offerings, and then hop on the bikes to go downtown. Our destination is the St. Louis Gateway Arch on the Mississippi Riverfront. I’ve seen the arch from a distance, the two times I’ve been to / through St. Louis, but I never knew that there is a tram system that take visitors up through the arch! In fact, I never knew that the arch was big enough to house a tram system inside! It was a fascinating experience. I also enjoyed the museum inside the visitor center while waiting for our turn in the tram.

We left downtown St. Louis about 1:00 p.m., riding the bikes in brilliant sunshine and basking in the temps we wish we could have enjoyed yesterday. But today we rode to Public Storage to put them away for another month. We walked about 1/2 mile back to the Comfort Inn where we caught the hotel shuttle to the airport. Lunch at the airport, and a short and uneventful flight home ended this leg of the adventure.

This was probably my favorite leg, from a road and scenery perspective. It was a little surreal today, realizing that the grand adventure my sweetheart (SH) and I dreamed up together is almost over. Some people go their whole lives without doing anything this adventurous! And here we are, already looking forward to the summer adventures and dreaming about what to create for next winter. Although we are both in the middle of career opportunities and changes, we are committed to maintaining our time together exploring and adventuring as a high priority. And time with our families and friends is also a high priority. I think we can balance it all in a way that feels right and good. Or at least have a great time trying!

Hope you had a great Easter Sunday – as traditional or untraditional as felt right for you!

Love, Tomboy Tam

Day 4, Leg 3, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Another beautiful, sunny, brisk Texas morning found us out for a walk in Tonja’s neighborhood before returning to a delicious breakfast of steel-cut oatmeal, brown rice farina, and yummy toppings, including blueberries and walnuts. After lingering over the kitchen island as long as we dared, we loaded up the bikes, said our good byes and headed south to Dallas to store our bikes until the next leg of our Winter Adventure.

The Super Shuttle that my trip-planner extraordinaire and sweetheart (SH) had arranged showed up on time at 11:15 a.m. to take us to DFW for our flights home. SH made his flight arrangements before I did, as I was waiting to see how I could arrange my travel around work commitments, so we ended up on different airlines. I kissed him adieu at his ticket counter, and then took the airport shuttle to Terminal A where I settlediPhoto Library in to wait for my American Airlines flight back to MSP.

This chapter of our adventure draws to a close with nearly 800 miles over three days of travels on our bikes. If I count the flight miles from Minneapolis to L.A. and then to El Paso, we experienced well over 2,500 miles on this trip. Chilly temps, warm sunshine, traveling through parts of this beautiful country I’ve never seen before. Conversations with fascinating people, a glimpse into lives that are so much alike, yet so different from mine. I am truly grateful for a travel companion who I can spend 24 hours with for 7 straight days and still appreciate each other. I am blessed to have these opportunities, and am proud that we have found ways to explore economically in a way that allows real engagement with real people, not just passing through observing. I feel like I experience life more intensely in a few days in our travels than I have in some entire years of my life.

How do you experience life with intensity? I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences for doing so.

Love, Tomboy Tam

Day 3, Leg 3, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

Saturday, March 2, 2013

These upper 20-degree mornings aren’t conducive to early starts on the bike, but they are great for leisurely breakfasts and chats with the local folks. This morning was my favorite such breakfast at L&L Family Restaurant in Breckenridge, TX.

As I walked inside, several older people were leaving, and a cute little old lady said to me, “Are yeew rahdin’ on the back a that man’s bahk this cold morning’?”  I replied, “No ma’am, I’m riding my own bike!” That gave her just a moment of pause, and then she exclaimed, “ Well good for yeew!” I love these people!

Then we chatted with a retired gentleman at the table next to us throughout breakfast. He wanted to know all about us, and he shared a bit about Breckenridge (mostly oil and ranching for industry) and himself and his own travels. He mentioned that he once met a couple who was visiting the Breckenridge area from out East. They were taking a lot of pictures of a tree, and exclaiming over its beauty. He said, “It just looked like a skinny ol’ tree to me, but I guess we take things for granted when we see them every day.”

I often think about how blessed and grateful I am to have the opportunity to experience the people and places we come across during our travels. This man’s comments made me think about how our presence impacts those we interact with along the way, too.  And perhaps our appreciation of the grand – and sometimes homely – beauty of  people and environments help the local people see their surroundings and each other through the more appreciative eyes of passing strangers.

It’s a relatively short drive into Dallas today, where we found our storage unit, and checked in. Dallas / Ft. Worth is a maze of construction and spaghetti freeways. I do not like driving my bike on freeways, especially when they are under construction and hundreds of feet up in the air! Thanks to our AWESOME Sema headsets, and my MARVELOUS sweetheart who does all the navigational planning, we got through the city driving without mishap.

After a quick salad at McDonald’s (I don’t remember how many years it’s been since I’ve eaten at McDonalds!) and taking advantage of their Wifi, we headed North to Prosper, TX, to visit and spend the night with our friend Tonja and her family. We enjoyed a wonderful evening of cooking, eating, wine, meeting the kids and fellowship! And I thoroughly enjoyed working the stress kinks of freeway driving out of my back with a soak in Tonja’s tub and a solid night’s sleep.

After nearly a week of masterminding and biking, I’m ready for the flight home tomorrow!

Love, Tomboy Tam

Day 5 and final of Leg 2, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

January 21, 2013: Back to the real world today, where I work to live (not live to work), which makes fun and adventure possible.  It is also where I connect with my family and friends to share joy, sorrow, hopes and fears. And with whom I give and receive support through life’s challenges and accomplishments. Little did I know, as I was brushing my teeth this morning, that I would also be sharing sorrow and support with a complete stranger today.

We were chatting with the La Quinta shuttle driver on the way to the El Paso airport at 7 a.m. today, when she suddenly blurted that her nephew was in an accident on New Years Eve that resulted in his death. She went on to share a fair amount of detail about his accident, death and subsequent arrangements. As we pulled up to the airport, I offered her my condolences and quietly shared with her that my 17-year old nephew had also been killed in an accident on New Year’s Eve. I expressed our kindred pain.

As she helped me take my bag out of the back of the van, she hugged me and told me that she would be attending to cremation details later today, in support of her sister — as I was in North Dakota for a week prior to our motorcycle adventure, in support of my brother. She wished God’s blessing on me and my family, and I reciprocated.

What are the chances that in a La Quinta van in El Paso, TX, I would be confronted with sorrow that so closely mirrors that of my own family? I’ve been processing this encounter all day: Why I was connected in such an intimate way with a stranger this morning? What lesson was I supposed to learn from it? What did this experience mean for me?

I called my oldest daughter tonight to tell her I had returned home safely, and catch up with recent events in her life. I told her about the conversation with the shuttle driver, and my questions. With the wisdom that often startles a mother, when coming from her child (even a well-into-adulthood child), my daughter said, “Maybe the reason was because she needed you, not that you were meant to get something from her.” Wow. I am a humble learner on this journey.

So, my Sweetheart (SH) and I boarded American Airlines’ 9:00 a.m. flight from El Paso to Dallas. There, we connected with the 12:45 flight to Minneapolis to continue our reentry into the real world. Grateful for five wonderful days exploring geography, relationships, spiritual connectedness and the meaning of life — the Zen of Motorcycle Adventuring with SH.

Somehow the 15 degrees below zero wind chill in Minneapolis didn’t seem so bad, in light of the warmth of my youngest daughter’s greetings when she picked us up at the light rail station to save us from a five block walk home. Furthermore, loss, love and sunlight can bring a lot of perspective to a mere temperature reading.

Later this week, I’ll share the full (high-level) 2012-2013 Motorcycle Adventure itinerary AND some tips and gear feedback for those of you planning your own adventures.

Glad to be home.

Love, Tomboy Tam

Day 4, Leg 2, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

January 20, 2013: Bonus day! My Sweetheart (SH), motorcycle adventure planner extraordinaire, built a day into the schedule for unexpected delays and to check in to the storage unit where our bikes will rest for 39 days until we begin the next leg of our adventure. The office of the storage place was only open from 11 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., so exploring the region on our bikes was not a good option for making the most of the day.  Our adventures are never thwarted by mere logistics, which we demonstrated by renting a car.

We had a great breakfast at Denny’s, next door to our La Quinta. Then we caught the motel shuttle to the El Paso airport to pick up a Ford Fusion from Thrifty at 8:00 a.m. under sunny skies and 46 degrees. I am grateful for the great suggestions for “must do” activities on our play day in the area from my brother and sister-in-law, who lived in El Paso 23 years ago.

From the airport we drove the Trans Mountain Road, which dissects the mountain that divides east and west El Paso. On our way to take a picture of the house my brother and his young family lived in “back in the day,” we stopped at The Bagel Shop on Resler Road for my beloved latte and some blogging time in this pleasant, inviting environment.  After snapping the photos and sending to my brother for nostalgia’s sake, we headed back to the motel to get our bikes tucked away into storage.

That task finished, we pointed the Ford in the direction – I thought – of White Sands, one of my brother’s recommendations. When I Googled White Sands, the first thing that came up was White Sands Missile Base, including directions and a little bit of background, so I thought we were headed for a history lesson. After reaching the gates, we found that we mere civilians were not welcome to go further. As a security measure, I’m sure, there is no bypass road to cut through to the highway that would take us to White Sands National Monument, which was the intended recommendation!

The “wrong” trip to White Sands Missile Base was actually pretty interesting. So we weren’t overly bummed about a long re-route, which took us through Los Cruces, NM, where we stopped at a gas station to grab coffee and a snack.

On Hwy 70 East, traffic was funneled through a customs / homeland security checkpoint through which we were filmed with multiple video cameras and ultimately had to stop for a brief encounter with an officer who glanced in the car and wished us a good day. I have to tell you, it was a little creepy — I wondered what is next in the evolution of government oversight of its own citizens. I know I’m flirting with a very complex topic with many passionate points of view. I only mention it to encourage myself and each of you to consider increasing our awareness of what is occurring in the name of security to make sure We the People, whom the government exists to serve, are informed as we make decisions about the individuals and institutions we hire for that service.

We were racing the sun at this point, but for some reason, it was really important to me that we see White Sands. After arriving there, I understood the reason. In the middle of nowhere, the White Sands emerge like a brilliant diamond from the surrounding mountains and relatively plain desert landscape, a mystical place full of ancient and contemporary spirits. The temperature dropped several degrees in the area. In the 4:30 p.m. twilight, the sun played with the pure white sand dunes and the mountain shadows to create a magical mood that moved me to tears. I was grateful to be sharing the experience with SH, yet there was something very personally powerful this place offered me. I’ll be processing this for some time.

I snapped pictures until I killed the battery of my little Nikon, wishing I had my Canon D50, but knowing that neither will capture the profundity of the experience. That will be for my heart to hold.

We chose to return to El Paso through Alamagordo, NM, an 88 mile route. The area is frying pan flat, surrounded by mountain ranges. The range to the west, which we completely circled in our travels today, looked like the backs of a line of slumbering dinosaurs, backlit by the fire of the setting sun. There was a lot of very poor housing in this stretch of highway, and actually is pretty consistent with the economic condition we observed in much of New Mexico. It appears to be a hard place to make a living.

On the outskirts of El Paso, we stopped for dinner at The Great American Land & Cattle Company. I had one of the best rib-eye steaks I’ve ever eaten, and SH was equally impressed with his burger. The “cowboy caviar” (baked beans) and coleslaw were also notably good. Great atmosphere and a manager who knew how to work the crowd – thank you Yelp! I’ll be adding my 5-star review there later.

After returning the Ford to Thrifty and catching the shuttle back to Room 148, we prepped for a 7 a.m. shuttle back to the airport to complete this leg of an awesome adventure.

Love, Tomboy Tam

Living to eat doesn’t have to be a bad thing

Food is not one of my defined categories for this blog. The reality is, I love food so much, that I consider it inherent in all aspects of life:

Relationships – I love to cook for my loved ones.

Personal growth – Food has been a consistent source of comfort through all stages of my growth. And I’ve consistently improved my choices throughout that same time!

Health & wellness – I’ve enjoyed evolving my diet to satisfy my foodie fetishes, while honoring my commitment to being healthy and fit, and living a long life.

Spirituality – Food feeds my soul, as well as my body. I have glimpsed heaven while enjoying sublime flavors.

Career – What beloved manager has not motivated teamwork and employee engagement on the backs of pizza lunches and Friday bagels? Even my food offerings at work evolved through my personal growth to fruit and salad options.

Lifestyle – Adventure, exploration, friends and fun: all relevant to cooking, dining out and trying new foods and restaurants.

Today I offer one of my recent favorite recipes – Tomboy Tam’s un-omelet (not really an omelet because I throw most of it in the pan together instead of folding the contents into the embrace of cooked eggs – fussy, precise cooking is not a tomboy trait!):

Serves 1, about 250 calories per serving, 14 grams of fat and 20 grams of protein

Ingredients (I use organic ingredients whenever possible):

  • 1 t oil (go with a healthy one – olive, avocado, etc) or spray oil
  • 2 T chopped onion
  • 2 T chopped green and/or red pepper
  • ½ C chopped mushrooms
  • ¾ C chopped baby spinach (I just cut it up a bit with a scissors when I add it to the pan)
  • ½ of a medium-sized tomato, chopped
  • 1/8 C feta cheese crumbles (as I am fond of saying, “feta makes everything betta!”)
  • 1/4 of an avocado, sliced
  • 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites
  • Salt and pepper to taste

I added the tomatoes after cooking in this photo, which is an easy alternative to adding them to the pan to cook with the eggs.

Whisk the eggs with the salt and pepper. Put oil into a small non-stick pan and heat over medium burner. Add onions and peppers and stir-fry a minute or less before adding mushrooms. After about another minute of stir-frying, add the chopped spinach and tomatoes. Stir for a few seconds and then add the eggs. Reduce heat to low and cover pan. Check after three to five minutes for doneness. When the eggs are set and it’s a little puffy, it’s done. Don’t overcook. Remove from pan and put on plate. Add the feta cheese and avocado and fold over – or not. Eat and enjoy!

I’ve added slightly blanched asparagus cut into 1-inch pieces or other veggies, depending on what I have on hand. You can add or replace the avocado with some chopped deli ham or a slice of fried, crumbled bacon without completely ruining the health value. Obviously, adjust the ingredients as needed for any special needs, such as replacing the one whole egg with another egg white are watching your cholesterol. Personally, I like the veggies tender-crisp so I keep the sautéing prior to adding the eggs to a minimum.

I enjoyed this as a real omelet with a dear friend for brunch at Wilde Roast on St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis recently and loved it so much I recreated it at home and have been eating it a couple times a week ever since. And by the way, Wilde Roast has gluten free bread! I keep fresh chopped onion and peppers in the frig so it’s quick and easy to prepare.

  • What are your go-to healthy favorites? 
  • What is your relationship with food?

Thanks for sharing!

Love, Tomboy Tam

Conquering disappointment with gratitude

The celebration dinner I had in mind for last night became a consolation dinner. After the four very positive and progressively deep interviews he had, my dinner companion got the news late yesterday that the company offered the position to another candidate. Ouch!

The disappointment, back-story and experience of this particular candidate is familiar to many thousands of talented, deserving people across the country every day. I doubt the 12.1 million unemployed counted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics even includes those who graduated from college during the tempest of the most depressed and depressing economic times this country has experienced in generations – or possibly ever! I have personally experienced the full spectrum of emotions related to “displacement” while at or near the pinnacle of my corporate career and a comfortable lifestyle – not just once, but twice during the past few years.

So what is there to be grateful about, given all that bad news?

What if instead of accepting the mindset of being unemployed, I embraced the excitement and possibilities of being an entrepreneur, parent, grandparent, and volunteer? What if I replaced the term “career networking” in my vocabulary with the mindset of reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances and making new ones? Instead of channeling my energy on feeling angry, frustrated or depressed, I laser focused on gratitude, trust and attracting opportunities?

If you have just finished shopping for your dinner at the local food shelf, and my views sound impossibly, insultingly and incredibly naïve, I apologize. And I will dare to say that these words are even more relevant to you.

Although I’ve never suffered the deep bruises of rock bottom hope- and homelessness that some have, I have had significant economic and emotional low points in my lifetime. I’ve been the beneficiary of public assistance and have rooted for coins in jackets and sofas to meet basic needs. I’ve mourned the untimely and unfair loss of jobs and loved ones. I’ve struggled at times to define who I am and what path I am meant to walk. And today, I am counted among the 12.1 million unemployed.

And yet, throughout my life and today I believe – actually expect – that there are always better days ahead, where my own efforts, ideas and skills intersect with my faith that the Universe will deliver everything I need. Not always when and how I expect or prefer (how about Friday, via UPS, with a pink bow!), but always in different and sometimes better ways and times than I could even imagine. I’ll share some examples with you in the coming days.

I’m keeping a daily list of my successes and things I’m grateful for. I review that list when I need encouragement and reminders. I also recommend watching Louie Schwartzberg’s Happiness Revealed project video – maybe daily for a while!

  • What are you grateful for?
  • What are your techniques for conquering disappointment with gratitude?

Thank you for your feedback!

Love, Tomboy Tam