Wednesday, May 3, 2017

And The Cat Came Back, . . .

Well, that didn't take long.

Exactly 7 days was all my sister could manage.

It seems Aya did not take well to her  new owner, or at least not as well as we had hoped that she would, and so Aya is comfortably and happily back home with me.

My sister will look after Aya for the 6 or 7 weeks that I am away, and I am quite certain that will be chock full of interesting tales, but I am also pretty happy with that.

It was only a week, but I missed the little bug.

Come next March-April I am going to have to revisit the whole new-home-for-Aya thing if I follow through with my travel plans, but until then we are both much happier with Aya being right here at home with me.
I know it's not completely uncommon, but the silly little critter loves playing fetch with me, constantly bringing me something to throw - when she's in the mood, of course.

So, life here at casa-Enberg is back as it should be, and all is once again right in my world.

Let me mention Friday - my retire-from-work day.

It started at St. Pius X High School where I was once again invited to speak to a class of grade 11 Law students. The announced reason for my being a guest speaker has always been the same over the past 8 years: "Joe is going to share with you his experiences with the legal system."

I have never failed to be unexpected. To give the kids more.

This time though, it was off the charts. I don't know if I went in with a different mind-set due to it being an already significant day in my life, or if it was simply the way it was supposed to be, but the engagement with those kids was so close, so life-to-life that it left me a little awestruck. And very, very grateful.

I spent most of my allotted speaking time encouraging this class of bright young future leaders to find someone to talk to.

About the dark places in their lives.
About the stuff they are not talking to anyone about.

And I used my past as the backdrop.
Alcoholism. Drug addiction. Criminal activity. Jails. Homelessness.

Heavy prices to pay for keeping the dark stuff a secret.
For being scared to name the monster - whatever it may look like.

I wish that I could somehow impart to you as you  read this the feelings that I experienced as I saw that glimmer in her eye, or that pique of interest in his face as we engaged in a back and forth of question and answer.

I think I have found something that I am every bit as passionate about as I am about adventure motorcycle riding.

Sharing my story with our youth.

It was such an incredible way to start my last day of work, and I thank God for the continued opportunities.

I left St. Pius X at noon, feeling full and empty at the same time. Both invigorated and exhausted.

I drove to Shepherds, parked my car and knew as I was walking through the parking lot that it was going to be a short and emotional visit.

I spent the next hour making the rounds and saying so-long to the myriad people who have touched and impacted my life in that environment of mixed feelings and conflicting personas.

I will remember my days spent at the Shepherds of Good Hope for the rest of my life. Most of them, quite fondly.

I don't think you can ask for more than that.

Now, a final piece of housekeeping. I am going to be traveling a lot this summer and with my travels come all of the expected - and many unexpected experiences. Which, of course, I will be writing and blogging about.

The problem is, I am currently trying to keep two blogs current! And as you have noted over the years - I suck at it.

So - if I may ask - please make a note of my other blog on the ADVJOE website:

I will be keeping that one up-to-date on a regular basis as I travel, and I will be treating it as my blog, not just advjoe's blog. The type of stuff that I write here, I will be writing there. So if you are, for some unknown reason still following me here (and I really hope that you are, my faithful few), well, now you have somewhere else to follow me.

This is starting to sound like a Genesis song. . .(or the best Cineplex ad they have ever come up with - remember the one with the young girl, the snow man and the freezer?)

Ok. It is now the first Wednesday - I can no longer call it hump day - of the season of my contentment. I think that means I have to shower today,. . .or shave, . . or something . . .

Later folks,

Friday, April 28, 2017

Love, Life and a Tortoise Shell Cat

Wow, as has almost become the norm, I have once again been away for quit a while, only turning up when something of significance has occurred in my life. . .

See how I cast that hook there?

Actually – a few significant things have happened since I last sat at these keys.

. . . a little more bait. . .

Ok, ok – I don’t want you to leave and go watch cute kitty videos, or run off to grab a unicorn-something-or-other-latte at Starbucks, so let’s get to it.

I have been in recovery from years of drug and alcohol abuse since 2006.
I have been working within the ‘helping’ sector since 2009, first with the John Howard Society, and then with the Shepherds of Good Hope.

But you know this already.

Since 2011, I have been immersing myself in the world of motorcycles.
You know this too, however, this is germane to the story at hand, so bear with me.
I am, after all, writing a post about life, and love.

This part is about my love of motorcycle riding. Which is a huge part of my life.

From the big, low-slung cruiser that I started out on, to Big Ethel, the bike that I purchased after my wreck, and then with the addition of Betty, my more dirt-and-off-road oriented DR650, my life has become very moto-centric.

I cover an average of 30,000 kilometers per season on my bikes, and I love long-distance motorcycle travel, solo or as a part of a small group.

In 2012 I took off alone from Ottawa and headed out to the Rockies and Vancouver, a journey of self discovery and personal fulfillment.

In 2013 and 2014 I crossed most of Ontario several times, never tiring of the beauty and the roads right here in my back yard.

2014 was a season cut short with 2 broken ankles, but a season of re-connection as well. I got to spend 90 days living with my mom, after all.

                                                   Photo Credit: Don Barrett            

In 2015, I joined 2 buddies for the Epic East Coast and Trans Lab Adventure, where I finally visited my mom’s home of Corner Brook, NFLD and I absolutely fell in love with Canada’s eastern coast. Later that same year I purchased the DR650 and entered the Fundy Adventure Rally for the first time – an awesome experience that really highlights the camaraderie that exists anytime you bring together a large group of like-minded people.

In 2016 I flew to Ecuador with 5 other riders and took part in a 6 day adventure tour through the Andes mountains with Ecuador Freedom Bike Rentals. I managed to break 2 ribs in an ‘off’ and it was still the most incredible adventure I had been on to date.

Then in mid-2016 the Trans-Taiga, a very remote hydro road in far north-eastern Quebec beckoned to my friend and fellow rider, Ryan and off we went.

Later that same year I once again took part in the Fundy Adventure Rally, breaking yet another rib and having the time of my life.

I have delved into the world of planning themed group rides, organizing the inaugural Abandoned Ontario Ride on 2015, and the much better attended and highly successful follow-up ride in 2016.

And of course I have joined Horizons Unlimited and attended two of their Travellers Meetings in Ontario – 2015 and 2016.
For the uninitiated, Horizons Unlimited is a website started years ago by a couple of Canadian motorcycle travelers, Grant and Susan Johnson.
This adventurous couple rode a BMW motorcycle around the world way back in 1987 – before ‘adventure motorcycle riding’ was even a ‘thing’.
They wanted to share their travels, their experiences and their passion for discovering the world upon a motorcycle and now, many years later, what Grant and Susan built has become the go-to resource for adventure travelers of every sort from across the planet.
The Horizons Unlimited Travelers Meetings are held all over the world, in Europe, Africa, North America, South America, Asia and Australia. Hundreds of adventure travelers come together and share their own experiences with each other, telling colourful tales about all that they have seen and what they hope to see yet.

You go to a Horizons Unlimited meeting once, out of curiosity.
You go twice because you have been bitten. Bitten by a bug that can only be satiated in one manner.
You just have to get out there and do it. And what I mean by that is, you find a way to face your fears, move past your reservations and take the plunge – heading out there into the world to travel to areas outside of your comfort zone with a sense of confidence that belies your inner insecurities.

Are you sensing a theme here?

Yes, I have taken the plunge – I quit my job in order to ride my motorcycle more, and farther.

The rest of 2017 will see me visiting the 3 Canadian coasts: The Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk in June, followed by the Pacific in British Columbia in July and the Atlantic when I revisit Newfoundland and Labrador in August.

I cannot begin to describe the myriad of feelings and emotions that I have been experiencing since coming to the decision to take an early retirement. Suffice to say that I have been virtually bubbling over with excitement. I am breathing so easily, and I am so excited by what is to come that I feel like a teenager all over again.

I have quit my job – a job that, for the most part, I have really enjoyed over the last almost 8 years.
Shepherds of Good Hope is Ottawa’s largest homeless shelter for men and women and some really amazing things happen there. I feel quite privileged to have been a part of the organization for most of my life-in-recovery.
I have learned a great deal, and I have had many opportunities to teach and share some of my experiences as well.
In many ways, Shepherds has been much more than a job for me. It has come to be a very large extended family.
And I am going to miss that.

I have quit my job. And am about to join the ranks of the unemployed once again. Only this time, it is with a plan.

A plan to enrich my bank account of life and life experiences. Of places traveled and people met. Challenges faced and joys expressed.

And tears shed too...

Yes, we have gotten to the cat part.

Aya came into my live 18 months ago. She is an amazing little furball companion, and I love her dearly. Yet that will not keep her happy, nor cared for while I am traveling. And I plan on traveling quite a lot. To the tune of up to 24 months abroad starting in 2018.

So I have had to accept the painful reality that Aya will need a new home. And I am not ashamed to say that this thought breaks my heart a little.

My sister has offered to adopt Aya and we are hopeful that this arrangement will work. Kim already has a cat – Scooter – and we are hopeful that the two will get along.

 And that I can have visitation. . .

There is so much more to say. But your eyes are sore, and there are things to do.

Lets chat again soon...Monday is a day off for me, after all.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

There was Darkness. . .

Something happened in the fall of 2015 that I never considered possible.

Something so completely out of my left field that had you told me in August that it was coming, I would have laughed out loud.

It is pretty apparent, I believe, that I am a generally happy guy.

Gregarious, some may say.

And why not? I have a lot to be happy about - and grateful for, after all.

Early one morning in late September of 2015, I noticed it was gone.

The happy, easy-to-get-along-with Joe was nowhere to be found.

I was spending way more time than usual 'taking naps'

My bikes sat in the garage through the entirety of the week, and sometimes all weekend long as well.

The things in my life that used to bring me joy, weren't.


It all came to a glaring point for me at 0635 one morning as I was pulling into the parking lot at work and verbally snapped at a client who was not following my direction.

Like I am some kind of authority or some shit.

15 minutes later I was in the HR office asking for the contact information for our EAP, or Employee Assistance Program.

By the end of the day I had an appointment set up.

By the end of the next day I had been diagnosed as suffering from depression.

I'm sorry, what?

Me? Depression? Not friggen' likely. No way. Uhn uh.

That mysterious ailment afflicts other people. People less happy than I am. But not me.

No way it had hit me.

Boy, had it ever hit me.

And everything that I had ever heard about depression proved true: you do not see it coming, you do not acknowledge that it is here and you do not have the energy to do a fucking thing about it on your own.

At least, those were all true for me.

Thank God that I just followed my gut and contacted EAP that morning.

I ended up having to take some time off work, and I attended therapy regularly and followed all of the suggestions given me by my therapist.

And not too much later I was able to return to work.

What a strange, heavy dark cloud it was that had settled over me for a time.

It seems that I had some unresolved issues surrounding grief.

Feelings that I neglected to talk about or share with the people that I love and trust.

Feelings that I had just tried to stuff, or ignore.

Man, you would think that a guy with my past, with my fairly deep understanding of the benefits of talking about what is going in in my life would have done just that.

It is the centre-point of recovery for gods sake!

But I hadn't. Or at least, not enough.

So the message for me - and maybe for you as well - is that I really do need to talk about the things that are going on in my life. Not just the good stuff, or the exciting stuff.

But the shitty stuff too.

The things that pain my heart deserve to be spoken, and I deserve to heal.

I am one of the truly lucky ones. I mean that. I am really, really fortunate.

My dark cloud lifted, and it did so very quickly. If I had to guess, I would say that I truly suffered for no more than 8 weeks.

I came away from the experience with a deeper understanding of depression, and a much greater understanding of how debilitating it is.

I also came away from the experience reminded of something: it is vital, for my well being, that I try to remain grateful every day of my life. And when I feel like things are going shitty, if I simply remember how grateful I am that I did not have to use today, the shittyness seems less significant.

If you, or someone you love suffers from depression please reach out and speak to someone. As the saying goes, the life you save just may be your own.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

From There to Here

As I mentioned in the previous post, 2016 brought with it a really good riding season for me.

I explored a lot of familiar territory in Frontenac, Lanark and Renfrew counties and I also explored some new areas in western Quebec.

I even took it a step further and explored the most remote regions of an entirely different country.
On an entirely different continent.

I suffered the usual mishaps: lots of low-to-no speed ‘offs’ (this is what we like to call it when we drop our bikes while moving at less than 10 kilometers an hour.)
The most impressive of those was an evening ice-cream stop in the Byward Market with Ryan. We decided to hooligan-park up on the sidewalk beside the Beavertail shack and I promptly dropped Betty to the sidewalk while hopping the curb. My pride wasn’t too sorely injured though – there were only about a hundred onlookers, hahahaha...

Of course the most dramatic of my mishaps occurred on the above-referenced out-of-country adventure.

Myself and 5 other riders met in Quito, Ecuador to take part in one of the incredible adventure-riding packages offered by Ecuador Freedombike rentals.

On day 3 of a 6 day ride I sent my DR650 into a low-side slide at approximately 50 or 60 km/h, which ended in a spectacular high-side and me flying through the Ecuadorian rain forest like a howler monkey.

The bike took a bit of damage. I took a bit of damage. The adventure continued.

You can read all about that trip, and see some pretty great photos here if you wish.

I took part in the Fundy Adventure Rally for the second year in a row. (and broke my 3rd rib of the season)

I went to the Horizons Unlimited Ontario event and was given the opportunity to present on my Trans-Lab adventure of the year before.

I traveled to the most remote regions of northern and eastern Quebec, completing one of the most iconic motorcycle adventure rides on the North American continent – the Trans Taiga.

I dipped Big Ethel into the frigid waters of James Bay.

I mean, it was a really great season.

I intend to highlight some of last season’s adventures over the next few posts, but I also want to highlight some of the other bits of life that have happened since August of 2015.

After all, it isn’t all rainbows and puppy dogs. Or motorcycles and good times.

For now, know that I am happy here, behind the keys, sharing some of my life with you. I am learning more and more that it is not what we have, but what we give away – or share – that matters most.

You have the luxury of deciding to stop reading whenever the thought occurs.

I have the luxury of having lived, and enjoying the catharsis of writing.

I have had a wonderful day today, and my hope is that you have as well.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Here I go again on my own . . .

Man, time sure does fly. . .

It has been a really long time since I last posted to this blog.

Not because I have had nothing to say. In truth I have said quite a lot.

But I was saying it here, on my other blog. A blog that my friend James and I started in late 2015 as an experiment, or maybe a project is a better term for it.

James was looking to expand his skill set at the time, and website design was something that he thought might be fun.
When asked if I would like to have a website created and maintained, basically for free – his guinea pig, if you will – I readily accepted.  I mean, let’s be honest, even if it didn’t work, I’d lose nothing, and stood to gain, well, a really nice website.

And a really nice website is exactly what James created.

A place to host a new blog, write product and equipment reviews, host a photo and video gallery and so much more.

We had about 10 followers that first week – some of you among them.

By the time we go around to posting the blog and video’s of my Ecuador Adventure, we were up to over a thousand.
James created a truly great site for the adventure-interested motorcycle rider, and also for the aficionado of the Dakar rally.

His in depth background, and personable coverage of the 2016 Dakar is, I dare say, amongst the best to be found on the entirety if the world-wide web.

And then, we went quiet.

The 2016 riding season unveiled itself from beneath the receding snow of a winter that came in softly and gently, and became truly brutal in its longevity.

By late April I was itching to ride, and riding is exactly what I did. 

Some 30,000 kilometers rolled beneath my tires before Mother Nature once again forced my hand, and demanded that my bikes be stored yet again while she threw us into another long, cold season of discontent.

It was another great season of riding for me, and it was a great summer for adventure of a different kind for James.

You see he likes Zodiacs in much the same way as I like bikes.

Which is to say that during the warm-weather months James lives on the water.

And so it was that we let the ADVJOE website gather dust. We were both just having way too much fun pursuing our passions to stop and hunker down over the keyboard.

And now, here I am. Back where I started, and in some ways, back where I belong.
You see, I thought, for a while at least, that it would be really cool to have a world class adventure motorcycling website – and in truth it was.

But it takes a lot of work. I mean, it really, really takes a lot of work. And you kinda need to know something about building, designing, promoting, supporting and maintaining a website.

Of which I know very, very little.

So the ADVJOE website will continue to gather a little dust. Not entirely ignored, mind you. I just have to decide what to do with it. I may pare it way down, and simply use it as my motorcycle adventure-related blog site. I just don’t know yet.
I do not have the skills to maintain the website as it is, with all of it's various plug-ins and radio buttons and grapple grommets and filbert flanges.

But I do know how to write. I can put together a fairly interesting blog post, add some interesting pictures, and in doing so satisfy my need to share some facet of my life and my adventure with the world on a very small scale.

And just maybe, satisfy the craving of the odd reader or two for inspiration. Wanderlust. Adventure. Introspection.

A hell of a lot has happened since I last tapped these keys.

Over the coming weeks, and months I intend to share a lot of those happenings with you.

It feels good to be back.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Happy Birthday Mom...

There was a lot going on for me today. A myriad of thoughts, and emotions running through my brain and my heart.  

Today is my mom’s birthday. And I really miss her. She headed off on the next stage of her adventure – whatever that may be - a little less than a year ago.

And I have found myself missing her every day since. 

See, I am not entirely clear, even in my own thoughts, about what I believe happens after we leave this earthly existence. I just know that I do not believe it’s over.

And with that belief, I am able to feel mom close to me whenever I need her. And that suits me just fine.
So happy birthday mom. Whatever you did today, I hope that you enjoyed it.

But truth be told, my mom was not the only woman on my mind today.

No, this morning and early afternoon was reserved entirely for the new lady in my life, named Suzi (yes, as a tribute to my dear friend, Susie)

I picked her up from the dealership where I get all of my maintenance and repair work done – Motor Sports World – yesterday evening. The mechanics had completed her safety check, installed new rubber, chain and sprockets, and given her a clean bill of health.

And today was the day where we got to know each other a little better.

I spent a few minutes bolting on her Ontario licence plate, as well as an aluminum skid-plate, at 0730 this morning, and by 0815 we were gallivanting down River Road towards the Tim Horton’s in Manotick where I was to meet up with my buddy Jason.

We were going to go out and spend the day in the Limerick Forest, a favorite riding area of mine.

You may recall reading that Big Ethel and I have spent quite a lot of time riding in the Limerick – there are even a couple of videos out there in YouTube land I believe, but in truth they are pretty boring.

Today, however, was anything but.

Now, understand that Jason is a friend of mine. We have ridden together on a several occasions and I have always enjoyed it. Jason is a good rider, but he is not a dangerous rider, so I felt very secure in having him lead the way while my new mount, Suzi and I, followed his track.

Ya, my opinion of Jason began to change rather quickly. I guess he decided that trial-by-fire was the only way to go, because less than 100 meters after entering the Limerick forest on a two-track, atv-type trail Jason had veered off into the woods on a single track rut through trees barely wide enough to allow my handle bars to clear.

Muttering under my breath while doing my best not to lag too far behind, I finally decided to just relax and let Suzi do her thing. She is, after all, a much more nimble – and svelte – machine than Big Ethel is. Almost 200lbs lighter, with an off-road setup and almost 11 inches of ground clearance, Suzi is able to do a whole lot of things that Ethel just can’t. But then, that is why I got her, after all.

I began to get comfortable with the terrain – and Suzi – quite quickly, and before we had completed a second circuit through the bush loop I was able to keep up with Jason quite well. I stopped calling him very rude names under my breath, and began really paying attention to his line and riding style, deciding that the old axiom rings true.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Well, approximately 4 hours later, I was done. Wiped. Spent. Exhausted. Wore-the-fuck-out.

I had discovered on a couple of different occasions just how much easier Suzi is to pick up than Big Ethel, and found myself very happy with her mannerisms and capabilities – though let’s be honest, it is my capabilities that need work – I cannot even approach all of the things that Suzi is very capable of doing.


Today’s ride was an amazing introduction into the world of true dual-sport riding for me. And I have to say, I absolutely loved it.

I am going to practice as much as I can over the next few weeks, and then Suzi and I are off to the Fundy Adventure Rally where I will attempt to really stretch her legs, and see what she’s got.

Big Ethel, I mean no disrespect. You are still my #1 dance partner – Suzi will never compare to your moves in the twisties.

And mom, I miss you daily, and love you with all of my heart.

Happy Birthday.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

There have been some changes...

I must apologize for neglecting this blog, and my faithful readers.

I have been focused on a new project - one more centered on the main passions in my life - adventure motorcycle riding and travel.

My friend James decided, about a month ago, to learn a new skill-set. He decided that he wanted to become well versed in the art of website design and development, and subsequently asked if he could use me, and my adventures, as his first project.

Well, I can tell you that the results are nothing short of amazing.

James has created a website for me, that is so much more than just a place for me to host my blog.

With James' know-how (and very quickly broadening skill-set) and my passion for writing, this new website is growing into a wonderful new project write before my eyes. (did you catch that-  pretty smooth, huh?)

There are product reviews, posts about my adventures, photos, links to adventure-motorcycle related media and events, and much, much more is yet to come.

But where does that leave my first born, this blog that allowed me - no, invited me, to delve into the arena of writing for readership?

Not to worry. What I've Learned Along The Way will continue to be the place where I post from my heart.

My more personal, close-to-home-and-heart writings about my life, my love's and my continued rambunctious journey through this wonderful second-chance-at-life will be hosted right here, right where they belong.

I will get back to writing more about addiction, and the recovery there-from, and the beauty that resides in an awakening.

My motorcycle-related writings, however, will live in a larger, more welcoming new home that has been designed and built around them, and for them.

I hope that you find something of interest in both places, and will do my best to give you just that.

So thank you, for your continued patience. I invite you now to come along, join me in this adventure that is life. . .