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I had an alarm set, which woke me as I dozed in the hammock. Sue, in the tent, heard it too. We both got up and cleaned up the camp a bit before hoping on the bikes for a ride. The Sport-Touring.net community in the local region(4) meets regularly for social events, and there was one nearby in Nooksa that evening. We hadn’t been sure about going, but couldn’t pass on the pizza.
But I get ahead of myself. First we rode. The weather had stayed nice all day, so we left early and took a scenic route, saving the direct path for the return ride to camp that night. Central Wisconsin doesn’t have the quality of roads the Southeast does, but they aren’t bad. We passed over a couple rivers and along a lake.
We arrived a bit early, but after most of the other attendees, who already had a table and drinks. Sue and I joined them and we started sharing stories. Most of them had gotten hotels In the area, Sue and I were the only campers. The rest of the group arrived and we placed pizza orders, then proceeded to devour them. There were 8 or 9 pizzas total, and little survived.
As pizza was finishing we noticed one small thunderstorm was headed right for our restaurant, and the camp. We decided to wait it out, rather than ride in the rain, and hung out a while longer before leaving. When we did it was dark, and late. Curiosity doesn’t have a great headlight, and I don’t ride at night much. This half hour ride reminded me why.
In the morning we were again up and packing. There was a second food event, this one in Wisconsin Dells, a town and tourist trap northwest of Madison. Paul Bunyan Cook shanty was where I first met this group of motorcyclists on a chilly October Sunday years ago. There were only a few people there, and we’d gone every year since, though it was usually in August now. Slightly less chance of snow.
Paul Bunyans offers an all you can eat breakfast with table service and fantastic donuts. Seriously, the donuts alone are worth it. Sadly, I was too busy socializing to take many pictures, so you’ll just have to go.
Sue had (so she claimed) never just hung out in the dells, and we talking about spending the afternoon there, but we were starting to get tired from the full weekend and decided instead to take a meandering route home. Sue had also never ridden the Merrimac ferry (she had see it from the lake) so we headed there. Just before arriving Curiosity became much louder, and when we reached the ferry I found a hole in the bottom of the exhaust. No idea how that happened, but I’d have to deal with it the rest of the ride home.
The ferry ride was uneventful. There were storms on the way but we still stopped for gelato before dinner.
It was humid and hot, so it went down very nicely.
The weekend was fun, though the weather wasn’t always the best. That is just part of the travel, though, and motorcycles. And it was fun to share with Sue, so future adventures are on the horizon.
We arrived at Roche a Cri after riding through occasional rain for a couple hours. As we turned onto Highway 13 and into sunshine and I thought we were in the clear. But, as we rolled into the parking lot at the office it started to rain again and, as we stopped under the questionable shelter of a tree hail started to fall.
We waiting 10 minutes, but the hail turned to rain and our shelter didn’t keep all the rain off us. We darted across the parking lot to the office and checked in. Checking the radar we saw there was going to be a break eventually, and the staff person kindly allowed us to take shelter in the attached garage while we waited.
After snacks and some hot cocoa, we saw there was a window in the rain and packed the bikes to wait. As soon as the rain stopped we headed to our site. Sue set up the tent while I cooked chicken and rice pilaf we’d brought with.
Ah, chicken and rice. The overlander classic.
Since we were on two bikes, I figured we would pack two stoves. Having two stoves was awesome, though I remain not a fan of the MSR. It was way too hot for the pilaf, and a little too hot for the chicken. Still I managed to have dinner ready when the tent was up and bedding assembled. We ate and drank wine, just beating the next round of rain. Inside the tent we’d planned to talk about our plans for the next day, but instead we fell asleep in minutes.
In the morning we woke to bright sunshine and warm weather, which we’d been hoping for. Roche a Cri has a couple hiking trails, and part of Sue’s desire to get healthy again was to climb the 300+ stairs to the top of the Roche a Cri look out. I like hikes, I’m less of a fan of stairs.
We reached the top and enjoyed the view, relaxing while we watched the others who’d made the climb arrive, recover, and leave. I take a certain pride in having managed the climb better than most of them. I did okay too.
So, it wasn’t much of a sight, really.
We got back to camp and opted for naps in the afternoon. I tried to write, but the hammock was comfortable and I dozed until it was time to meet friends for dinner.
I’m blessed with three day weekends every other week (with the catch of working three days the opposite weekends). This year, these long weekends have usually had me taking some day trip with Sue, or just catching upon chores from the week (exciting, I know).
This wasn’t a happy situation for either of us, so we were determined to get at least one motorcycle camping trip in this summer. Now, it’s true that we camped at Clays for the BBQ, but if you think sleeping in someone’s yard is camping, you have a host of issues beyond the scope of this blog.
Sue had lots of camping experience, but little of it was on a motorcycle. I have been self sufficient on a bike for so long, it was hard for me to determine what extra stuff, if anything, she had to bring along. She did carry the tent, a 4 person REI she used with the girls, but that didn’t stop me from bringing along the hammock (which I’m in as I type this now).
She made a reservation in a state park, and I invited motorcycling friends to the Dells for breakfast Sunday morning. By coincidence, another friend called a pizza meet not far from the state park, and a plan developed for the weekend. Then, before we were supposed to leave, I learned some friends were camping at the EAA Airventure Fly in (they are on a motorcycle, and just went there to see it). That was too close for me to pass on the chance to see them, so Sue and I hastily decided to ride to Oshkosh and camp, then spend Friday morning at the airshow.
I had to work Thursday, so I packed Curiosity Wednesday night. Sue finished packing her bike during the day on Thursday, and we hoped to leave not long after I got home at 615. Sadly, work was busy and I didn’t have the chance to eat dinner before leaving, so it was closer to 730 when we actually left. We were further delayed by rain, and arrived at the EAA just after 9. Then we had some problems finding where my friends were camped (“just turn left” turned out to be inadequate as directions) but eventually we had the tent up and were settled in.
The next few hours were spent catching up (they has just come back from Cuba, somewhere Sue been years ago. They traded stories and I sat there being jealous) until almost midnight. I’d been up since 445, and was constantly yawning, so we headed into the tent just as it started to rain.
Camp Scholler was densely packed. We had someone snoring loudly to one side of us, and a generator (which was supposed to be off) running to other other. US 41,a multilane, limited access highway not much different than an interstate, was only 50 or so yards away, across a road. Oddly, none of this bothered me very much, and even Sue main complaint in the morning was the cold. Her sleeping bag hadn’t been up to the temps and she’d been cold all night. With the added issues, she hadn’t slept much.
We got up and made coffee, tea, and oatmeal. The sky was clear, and it promised to be a warm day, so we made sure we had water and headed into the grounds. Sue and I, needed exercise, decided to walk. My friends, staying for a week, instead rode their bike to the gate.
Once inside we had to run a gauntlet of vendors (t-shirts, mostly. Some signs) to reach the airplanes. These were also vendors, of a sort, selling planes or plane parts.
From there, we headed along the runway, where there were small planes doing stunts and others taking off and landing. There was a large crowd there, sitting in chairs they’d carried in, clearly planning to spend the day. Sue and I found somewhere for lunch, then noticed a sign reading “vintage.” It was too much for us to resist, and we headed that way.
The area was actually for fly-in camping, something which sounded cool. There were a fair number of planes, but not all of them had tents with. Apparently camping was optional. Some planes without tents had people huddled under the wings, the sun was blazing down and there weren’t a lot of trees about.
It was around 1:30pm when we headed back to camp and packed up. While we could’ve stayed another night at the EAA, we had reservations at a (much quieter) state park in central Wisconsin. It was clouding up as we finished loading the bikes and started west.
I’ve been a solo rider for all my motorcycling life. While there might be occasional shared trips, or long passengers in the Ural, if you looked at my total miles 99% of them have been in my own. This is my sad or anything, I like being in my own. It’s allows for freedom in choosing where go, how to get there, and when to stop along the way. Solo travelers also seem to be more able to connect with locals on the rode, being more exposed and less threatening than a group would be.
As I’ve mentioned a bunch lately, I met a very nice woman late last year. We haven’t been able to take a lot of trips yet, but travel (and motorcycle travel in particular) is high on both our lists. I have a friend in Lower Michigan who hosts a party at his house in the summer, where he grills meat and offers camping in his yard. Sue was feeling pretty good that weekend, so we decided to ride motorcycles around the southern tip of Lake Michigan and attend the party.
I haven’t used the Ural for a multiway trip in years, and chose to bring it this time to remove any pressure from what was packed. In the end, we only managed to fill the Ural half way, even with the passenger features (seat and windshield) still installed. Urals carry a lot.
We left later than planned, and after a stop for lunch and ice cream at A&W, we entered Chicago. Sue was leading, but I had heard her plan to take I-94 through the center of the city. What I didn’t see, and she did, was the sign reporting major traffic backups on I-94, so when she hadn’t moved over as the exit approached, I assumed it was because of traffic and blocked the lane for her. We didn’t have hand signals for directions, and (unsure hat to do) Sue moved over as well. And we got to sit I traffic for hours and hours, instead of taking the bypass.
I have a Sena headset, which includes an intercom. Sue didn’t have one, so we couldn’t talk. She has one now.
We struggled through, reaching the south side of the city about the time we had planned on camping, still with a ways to ride. The rest was much easier, and we reached the sandy dunes of Southern Michigan ready to call it’s a day.
And there was no where to camp.
We tried state and private parks without success, and as it’s got later heavy fog rolled in off the lake. I was willing to give up and find a cheap hotel, but worried about Sues feelings on cheap lodging. As it turned out, her feelings were much the same as mine – hotels need a bed and bathroom, and nothing else. We found motel, walked somewhere for dinner, and went to sleep.
In the morning we found one of the bolts holding on her luggage had sheared off, and one saddlebag was resting in her exhaust. We used straps to secure it as best we could, and I hoped Clay would have tools for a repair. He did.
The afternoon was food, fun, and tall tales. Sue met everyone and ate and laughed, which made me happy. There was a bit of extra paint damage but we got it all sorted out, with higher grade bolts so it shouldn’t happen again. They actually felt far more secure afterwards.
We sat up late around the fire, going into the tent just before the skies opened up and a huge thunderstorm roared. I don’t remember it ending, but when I woke in the morning, the sun was bright and hot. We headed to coffee, then returned to pack up and start towards Wisconsin. We decided on a scenic route, and a cool little BBQ place for lunch.
Sue found an old Ford, and we posted a picture on social media reporting she’d bought it. She might’ve, if he hadn’t been on the motorcycles.
The rest of the ride was uneventful, and we took the bypass around Chicago. We stopped again to watch the USA vs Ghana World Cup match in Kenosha, then finished the ride home. I was happy with how the trip went, happy enough to look forward to the next one.
She’s family has a property on Lake Buelah. When I first heard of it, and it’s boat house, I pictured a small, rundown building and tiny, seaweed encrusted lake. Since I’d met her in Fall and we hadn’t really started dating until winter was almost upon us, I hadn’t seen it until this summer. When we were packing up the last day of my return trip from OX14 west, she mentioned stopping there.
The property is now shared by her family. People request a week, but Sundays are open to everyone. That Sunday we stopped and I learned the “lake house,” was a two bedroom, full bath house above a two boat garage. There was a sail boat, pontoon, and speed boat (for waterskiing), as well as half a dozen smaller boats. There was a beach and large area for camping, a large fire pit, and an entire second house on top of the bluff.
Now that I’d seen the place, I was more interested in Sue’s week. She’s scheduled it during her break between chemo and radiation. With a bit of luck, the people who had scheduled the week before her had only been able to stay the weekend, so Sue’s time was extended a few days. I, of course, had to work, so I didn’t arrive until Friday when she and the girls had been there for a couple days.
I had a long weekend at the lake house, with an option to head back into town on Saturday for one of my friend’s stepson. He isn’t actually her stepson, but it’s complicated so we’ll leave it there.
I’d arrived mid afternoon, and there was swimming and boats. Well, tubes. The lake was already packed, so the boats stayed on their moorings. For dinner Sue loaded us all up and went to a local Italian place which had free ice cream for the girls, though older one noted this was her last year of qualification.
Back on the beach, a bonfire was started and wine opened. She had told me there were no Mosquitos, but I was attacked by them as the sun set. The fire helped keep them away, and after a couple glasses we headed in to bed.
In the morning there was bacon, then a boat ride so I could see the lake.
Back at the lake, Sue’s parents had friends over for a party. There was grilled food, a variety of pasta salad and fruits, and ice cream and cookies for dessert. Another fire, much larger, and s’mores ended the evening.
After breakfast there was another boat ride, where I saw a sailboat regatta on one of the linked lakes. This made me take a long look at the small Barnett Butterfly that was the family sailboat. It looked a bit neglected, but I was pretty sure I could get it out it onto the lake. I used to sail all the time when I was younger, and had to fix up boats at summer camps during college. So, that would be my next project.
Curiosity, by the way, is still dripping oil. I’m going to need a replacement gasket, which I’ll order this week. The HU events are coming up, so it’s time to get cracking.
I’ve been back from the Overland Expo for a while now, here it is mid July already. Since that trip I’ve only been on one motorcycle trip, which I took few pictures off, going back to a friend’s house in Lower Michigan for some cooked food and conversation. I will write more about that later.
This isn’t a lot of riding for me, and I will admit to some antsyness over it. As I mentioned earlier I met someone late last year, and while she is a huge fan of motorcycling, this summer hasn’t been the best for her (especially for taking trips of any sort). That is mostly her story, and I will let her share it. I’ve also buried myself, what spare time I’ve left myself, writing. I promised myself three books this year, but with half the time gone I haven’t managed one.
So, the truth is I don’t feel like I’ve done much this summer, though close inspection should show that isn’t true. I miss camping and lonely roads, and will be on them again (soon, I expect, since I am going to Horizon’s Unlimited events in September), but right now, typing at this keyboard, I feel like it’s been forever since I adventured.
There is other stuff too, an attempt to move to Squarespace with the website was a complete disaster, and struggling to make it work added stress and took away time I would rather have spend doing something. I get to build another site now, but that will have to wait until winter (I think).
The ride back from OX14 west also caused me to have a sore butt for the first time in years, so I am upgrading the 250’s seat, something I hadn’t wanted to do since most of the seats were valued more than the cost of the bike. I will be sure to post some pictures of that, once I get it.
I will be getting back to gear reviews as well, since that is at least part of what I am trying to do here. I have a list, just need to write it all out. Sounds so easy, don’t it?
In the mean time, keep the rubber side down and watch out for squirrels.
I am not a mormon. Just thought I’d get that out of the way early.
Leaving Bonneville, I headed into Salt Lake City to see The Temple. It’s one of those things I just feel like I should visit, well that and the tabernacle, and it’s been on my To See list for years. It actually isn’t that easy to get to, the interstates don’t pass particularly nearby, but there are signs and once in the area parking was pretty easy. Maybe I was supposed to pay.
There is a high wall around the – can I call it a compund or does that make it creepy? Anyway, high wall. There are a few gates, each of which has a small visitor center (yes, seperate for each gate). Each one had a couple of attractive young woman there to greet people as they came in, complete with sexy foreign accents. I not saying that was planned, it was probably just who was working that day, along with the woman traveling in pairs all over the grounds, asking if I had questions.
The tabernacle was, sadly, closed for recording. Not much I can do about that, and there were a lot of other things too look at. In fact, most of the, um, compound, was well landscaped, like a nice park. There were people just sitting and eatting their lunch while others were taking pictures of everything.
Leaving Salt Lake it was the start of a long slog across country. I had planned to get off the interstate at this point, but trying to shave a day off the trip to meet Sue changed the pace of the ride. So, it was the might I-80, at least as far as Iowa. It’s a road I’ve been on a lot and I know all the stops and distances, but it was still fun to ride over the last pass, where the clouds were just above my head, down on tothe start of the plans and the smells of recently cut grass. And cows.
The increased speed also meant longer riding days and hotel, rather than camping. This made me sad, but Sue knew that and made sure she found us somewhere nice to stay.
Mineral Point, WI is a small town I’ve passed often over the years. It was full of cool historic buldings (which Sue loves), but had the feeling of a town on the brink of death. Blocks of empty stores and vacent streets on a nice weekend. Then we went to a bar and grill, choosen at random, and it was packed, had fantastic food, and felt full of engery and life. It was a strange contrast to the row of stores and houses for rent on the road outside.
The next day we started back to Milwaukee, with a stop in New Glarus for cold drinks and to walk around some. There was a music festival there, and the crowd was a change from Mineral Point.
The ride was nice, and the firs time she and I rode an distance together. I am not sued to riding with someone, and at the end of a long trip was more than usually nervous (my butt hurt some too, the longer than usual days taking their toll), but Sue didn’t seem to care when I stopped or started, and let me take breaks when I needed to. It was nice to share with her, and gives me hope for rides in the future.
(Sorry for the uneven posting schedule, I’m working on it)
I woke up in Vegas with both kidneys and with money still in my wallet (I had set a limit on my gambling the night before and managed to stick to it). I hadn’t unpacked much, and after another shower I was on the bike and headed north.
One of the roads I’ve always wanted to ride was the ET highway, which is just Northwest of Vegas. I don’t buy into all the UFO/ET hype, but I am amused by some of the culture. The road itself isn’t much to a motorcyclist – a more or less straight paved surface through the arid landscape, but maybe there will be aliens.
I realized right here I hadn’t brought any Tim Stickers along with. Sorry Tim.
There was only one town along the ET highway, Rachel. My map said there would be gas there, and I wanted to stop there for lunch anyway, so I headed off.
There was a gas station in Rachel – the pumps were mostly stil there and the building was only partly collapsed. There wasn’t much I could do about it then, so I headed over to the Little A’Le’Inn.
The Alien Burger was good but not really large portioned. I guess aliens are little guys. The owner was there, a woman who’d moved there with her husband where there had been mining in the area. The mining was gone, and he was retired anyway, but she had bought the Little A’Le’Inn from the previous owners who hadn’t been able to make it work. It wasn’t clear if she was doing any better, but she was full of stories about strange lights and local history.
I shopped around a bit for souvenirs, picking up some shirts and a bottle of hot sauce (Best Hot Sauce this side of Uranus)
I then asked about gas. The sold it at the A’Le’Inn – at just about twice the rate in the rest of the state. I decided to buy a gallon, just so I could be sure to reach the next fuel stop, and they sent someone I thought was a customer out back to meet me. There was a line of 5 gallon gas cans – the plastic kind – chained to the building. He unlocked one and walked it over, added about 2 gallons to my tank (basically filling it). I thanked him and asked about paying for the extra. He hefted the gas can in his hand a couple times, announced he didn’t think even a gallon had come out, chained it back up and went back inside.
I was just about to ride away when another rider rolled in. First thing he did was ask about gas, and I broke the news to him about the price. I tried to soften it some, saying they didn’t seem to mind giving some extra, but he was on a big adventure bike and I shudder to think about what that would cost to fill.
I headed for Salt Lake City, and had initially planned to spend the night there (Maybe meet up with some nerds I know there), but Sue had announced she wanted to meet me on the way back to Milwaukee, perhaps ride the last day with me. Since I was a little worried about her strength, I decided to try and shave at least half a day, maybe a full day, off my ride home. That meant I would have to press further and pass through Salt Lake around noon.
Heading north from Vegas there was one more place any decent motorcyclist has to stop when they are in the area.
Someone on my Facebook Wall mentioned they had been through Bonneville a couple weeks earlier and the flats had still been under water. For my visit there were signs everywhere warning how soft the salt still was, and to use caution. Everyone was off driving on it anyway.
I was a long way from home and without a trailer, so I wasn’t going to really see how fast I could get my loaded 250 going. It fun though, and I can see the attraction of speed. Leaving the flats I saw oil dripping from the engine again and made a quick call back to Milwaukee and The Shop, then I tightened some bolts and got moving. From here it was all east (and mostly downhill).
Monday morning I packed and stopped in Flagstaff to ship a box of things back to Milwaukee. I had a few books left over, and had picked up several things while at he expo that I didn’t want to have to find room for on Curiosity. I had packed too much for the ride to Arizona, opting not to ship anything other than books. Looking back that was a foolish choice and I didn’t hesitate to send everything extra back to Wisconsin.
There were goodbyes to be said, then it was time to leave. I had decided not to take the direct route home, heading north towards Salt Lake City and then east from the there. It was longer, but I wanted to see more things on the way back, and the weather had turned into something like summer.
So, I rode Northwest, bypassing all the spots in Utah most of the people leaving the Overland Expo were probably headed and made for Hoover Dam.
It may seem like a surprise, but I’d never actually been to Hoover Dam or Lake Mead. I’d heard the lake level was dropping, and quickly, but I was still surprised at how low it was.
I didn’t manage my time well, and spend so long looking at things on top of the dam the visitor center was closed when I went to go inside. Okay, I actually hadn’t been paying attention to time at all, and it felt a lot earlier in the day than it was. I had thought about camping on the lake, there were several options, but decided I would check another place of my list – Vegas.
Yup, I’d never been to Vegas either. I found a hotel just off the strip (much cheaper), showered and went for a walk to check out the neon and sights.
It is a town for tourists – at least the strip is. I didn’t wander too far on to the side streets, as I probably would have if I’d been there during the say. There were performers on most blocks, and some people just sitting with hats and cups out, their heads down and eyes closed. Scantily clad showgirls were available for pictures (for a small fee) and people were handing out cards with a phone number, guaranteeing a woman to your room in 20 minutes. I wondered how that could be legal, but as it turns out, there isn’t anything illegal about having a woman to your room in 20 minutes, it’s the things than happen after that which may or may not be okay.
I had dinner on the strip and walked until after midnight – a long day and my feet and legs were tired. The hotel bed was surprisingly comfortable.
I might have stayed up late Thursday night. Friday morning broke with sunshine and the promise of warmth, though there was a lingering chill in the shady spots. 8am and most people gathered at the Motorcycle Arena to listen to the official start/opening remarks. That was over by about 820, and I went to my Author Table.
This was my first time having a table to sell things, and compared to the expansive displays the others had my rookiness was showing.
A lot of people were walking through, but I wasn’t able to linger since my first class was at 9am – which I had thought was going to be the second session forgetting that everything started at 9 on Friday. It was only a short distance from my table, and since it was on packing I had Curiosity with.
I am always, always amazing when people come to hear what I have to say. I understand on a certain level, that is why I am there and why they are there. I am slowly coming to recognize I have a certain expertise which is actually sought after. And I am incredibly flattered (and slightly embarrassed) by the people who compliment me on my presentations and make a point of coming to my other ones (even when they didn’t apply, since my last packing class had a large proportion of 4 wheeler people in it).
But, I’m just gonna assume you aren’t here to listen to my wax on about classes. The Expo itself had all the usual amazing and bizarre stuff.
The new Power Wagon was being introduced at this years Expo. Personally, I liked the old one.
Tons of roof tents, because adventure. Actually, I have to admit they are pretty cool, but I can’t convince myself they’re worth the money (which is a lot).
I feel a little bad about sharing this one so late, but the Tiny Bikes Big Change people where there. Now the ride is over, it was just a week or so after the Expo, but it was for a good cause and full of, well, adventures. If breakdowns are adventure. They probably are.
Group rides on Urals are not the same as group rides on other motorcycles. Yes, Ural was there, and yes you could go on rides with them. This was not one of those rides, though I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to get onto that motorcycle.
Cool, but I think one of those tires would buy everything I own.
The weekend flew by, as it usually does. There were parties in the evenings, talks with friends, classes to teach and sit in on. I didn’t get to see as many as I have in years past, since I was trying to sell things (which I did, thanks again by the way).
Sunday morning was the exhibitor breakfast, and since Saturday night had been a late one it was nice to walk around and see what people were cooking. There were a lot of kitchen/cooking exhibits, and they tended to have the best stuff.
Sunday was an odd day. I had only a few books left to sell, but there was a large exodus of people in the morning. Some of the food trucks had run out of food, which wasn’t a problem since I had barely touched the stuff I had brought with.
I had only a few books left, so I took some time off and sat in on some presentations. I like to hear about other people’s travels and the things they learned (about themselves or travel, doesn’t matter). Two people can travel together and come away with completely different experiences, even when they were every where together.
Monday morning, it was all over. The grounds, which had been so full Saturday seemed deserted. I hid in my hammock, not wanting to get up and have it all end, while eager to get back on the road again and see more things. Before getting up I wrote and posted this on my Facebook Page -
“Packing up, moving on. Saying goodbye to friends who are practically family. Knowing, buried deep in the backs of our minds, that the world is an imperfect place, and promises, no matter how earnest, can’t always be kept. Leaving
But moving, to see something new or revisit somewhere special. Each day to find joy in not knowing what or where the day will bring. TO move, a little or a lot, to move is a wonder so many people fail to fully appreciate or enjoy.
Leaving always has a pang, a tug which is neither sought or enjoyed. But leaving is a small price for the joy of moving.”