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Howard to Howard

Too many of us focus on the destination not the journey when it comes to finding love. We dwell on how our desired soulmates should look, what kind of career they should have, which social circles they should be a part of and the love they can bring into the relationship but we don’t think about how prepared we are to receive them. Then, we wonder why most of us either end up with the short end of the stick in our relationships or our relationships unceremoniously end.

According to BlackDemographics.com, in 2016 only 29% of African Americans were married compared to 48% of all Americans. Half or 50% of African Americans have never been married compared to 33% of all Americans. To add insult to injury, BlackDemographics.com also revealed that in 2012 The U.S Census that African Americans age 35 and older were more likely to be married than White Americans from 1890 until sometime around the 1960s. Not only did they swap places during the 60s but in 1980 the number of NEVER married African Americans began a staggering climb from about 10% to more than 25% by 2010.

Let’s look a little closer at the situation. A qualitative study (sample research) was conducted by the Program for Strong African American Marriages (ProSAAM) from 2006 to 2009. 73% of the married black men who participated in the study felt that even though the negative effects of disproportionate black male incarceration, failures to meet their responsibilities and pursue education and decline in labor market opportunities, black women are disproportionately single because many are misguided in their approaches to attracting and keeping a mate.

The married black men who participated in the study also stated black women not exhibiting ladylike behavior (e.g., cursing, wearing revealing clothing), setting standards too high, placing more value on men who can offer material possessions and status, engaging in controlling behavior, lowering their standards to attract a man’s affection, and not being approachable (e.g., not friendly, bad attitude). After an interview with Sarah Adeyinka-Skold, who is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania where she studies the marriage patterns of black women, The Philadelphia Inquirer revealed that the common myths that most black women are too angry, too independent, too strong, therefore, they don’t want to get married is not true.

If black women are not angry or too independent and are actually willing to get married, then what is the issue? Ergo the black woman whom I have come to know and love–Jay.

The 50/50 Relationship

I fully believe that two people who come together in marriage should have a fair and equitable responsibility in facilitating a happy, rewarding, and fulfilling marriage–PERIOD. To each is his or her own but I don’t believe in a marriage where the husband is the sole financial provider. I grew up in a family where both my parents were married and both my mother and father provided. Now if you have the wherewithal to be a sole provider fine I have no argument with you there. However, the majority of people on this planet work a 9 to 5 if not two or three jobs and cannot carry the normal everyday expenses, pay for vacations, save and have discretionary income too. At the very least, a couple’s finances will go much further if both parties are bringing in income rather than if every financial decision fell upon one person’s shoulders.

It goes much further than finances. In order to manage everyday household tasks such as laundry, dishes, taking out the trash, central air and heat, electrical and plumbing, and lawncare if you own a home two people must sit down and have an objective conversation about how these responsibilities will be fairly distributed. Gone are the days of traditional gender roles. I can only speak for myself when I say that I’m very good and cooking, cleaning, lawncare, electrical and plumbing, so it would be even easier for me to be fair and equitable straight down the line.

Now, for some reason some people have this foolish notion that there is no such thing as a 50/50 marriage. When I hear people say that what you’re really saying is you don’t know how to facilitate a 50/50 marriage. Too many people assume and let things fall to happenstance instead of discussing beforehand. Then when one or the other party is disgruntled at the outcome either problems arise or worse, feelings or resentment fester and the marriage suffers as a result. Facilitating a 50/50 marriage can mean different things to different households. Being 50/50 does not necessarily mean being black & white straight down the middle. You wash 3 plates and I’ll wash the other 3 plates. You mop half the kitchen floor and I’ll mop the other half. Split a $300 cable bill down the middle where you pay $150 and I pay $150.

A couple can sit down and preemptively agree to split responsibilities any way they wish just as long as both parties agree that the deal made is fair and equitable. The point to all this is once the plan is made, then stick to it. If the plan needs to be revisited at a later point, then do so. Also understand that as the years go by circumstances will cause responsibilities to fluctuate or change altogether. Unemployment, pursuit of an advanced degree, illness, injury, care of an elderly relative can cause those changes. Deal with those situations when they arise accordingly.

Inevitably, at some point especially if two people stay married for a number of years one party may have to carry the other due to the aforementioned circumstances. When situations of the aforementioned nature arise there is also nothing wrong with one mate supporting the other just as long as the other mate feels appreciated and not taken advantage of or taken for granted.

So, how does all this work? If it was so easy why isn’t everyone doing it? That’s the point it is very easy to implement if you go into a relationship with a 50/50 mindset to begin with. Therein lays the problem. Do not invest into a relationship with someone in the first place without a clear understanding of how the relationship will be facilitated. When you see signs that a person is either unwilling or unable to plan that is a warning sign–A red flag. This isn’t a time to forgive and forget. This is a time to make clear the understanding that you are willing to spend the rest of your life with another person under one roof, and that notion should be taken seriously, which leads to a crucial point: Pre-marital counseling.

Pre-marital counseling can be a very effective tool in not only understanding the true intentions of your partner but also rectify any underlying issues. Too many people wait too late to seek counseling, often after too much mental, emotional and psychological damage is already done. Just as an athlete prepares for a sports event two people should prepare for marriage instead of letting the chips fall where they may. One of the many reasons why I’m so happy to have Jay in my life is because we are completely open and honest with each other regardless of how uncomfortable a situation may be.

Through trials and tribulations of our past we have both learned how to identify and sort out problems. We both have the gift of having learned from our mistakes and knowing how to have a preventative mindset instead of a reactionary mentality. We’ve learned how to always be mindful and attentive of each other’s feelings, value of mutual trust, respect and admiration. When we came together we brought what we learned into the relationship and we’ve grown together seamlessly. Of course no relationship will transpire without misunderstandings and disagreements. The key is to see misunderstandings and disagreements for what they are instead of turning them into personal conflict.

Now please don’t assume that Jay and I are on some trouble free plain of existence where everything is peaches and cream and sugarplum fairies. We are human and we have our moments. They are rare and far in between but they happen, and they do, we are intentional in not only constructively voicing our concerns we are intentional in being active listeners. Finally, once the situation is resolved the focus is to mend and grow closer not harbor resentment. This is not an easy method to learn especially if you aren’t in the habit of doing so in the first place. I’ve seen too many times especially on all of these reality shows where the mentality is which party can act out the most bombastically instead of being mindful of each other’s feelings. It may make for entertaining television but it is unhealthy for an impressionable audience.

I don’t know when it became more important to act out than to grow together but something has got to give. My goal is to achieve happiness–A oneness with the woman I love. And what is so amazing about a 50/50 relationship is when two people put their heads together and are candid about setting benchmarks and achieving goals it isn’t hard work as so many people has labeled love and marriage. It’s an effortless action that reaps bountiful returns for the rest of your life.

Wills Creek Winery Ride

I’ve been so busy going on about my rogue motorcycle camping journey I didn’t stop to smell the roses along the way, so to speak. The only thing better than riding your bike is having someone you love riding with you. Ironically, when I started riding more seriously again I intentionally bought a medium-sized cruiser because my focus was to roam the interstates of America alone. I had given up on women after having binge dated for 3 straight months, several different females, and they were all duds.

Either this one was chronically insecure, that one was too materialistic and shallow or this one was outrageously bi-polar and immature. Kayaking served only a temporary fix as you can only paddle so far before you reach the end of the lake or bay and you have to turn around. My plan was to devote all of my free time to riding and delving deep into the biker life. My plan was working well but in the back of my head I wanted to give dating one last shot. If this last effort didn’t work that’s the sign I need to turn my sights on moving back to West Palm Beach or maybe somewhere along the Gulf side of Florida.

Through process of elimination I found Jay or should I say we found each other. Our interaction was fluid with each date. Not an ounce of incompatibility and everything under the sun in common. Jay will admit that she was apprehensive at first because I wasn’t exactly the kind of guy she would normally be attracted to, which made our interaction all the more fantastic. Destiny came to fruition–Through all the years of her failed relationships she made a conscious effort to deviate from ‘her type’ the wealthy, tall, suit and tie-wearing, controlling type and give a guy like me a chance.

It was quite the opposite for me as I pictured a woman exactly like Jay as my ideal mate decades ago. Unfortunately, I ran into every kind of personality and body type imaginable but Jay. I seemed to always attract the melodramatic, bi-polar types that either tried to send me on a wild goose chase or I ended up frantically trying to escape the next female that I had the misfortune of ending up with.

I learned about the law of attraction and chakras from a co-worker in Key Largo over 20 years ago. The law of attraction being loosely defined as putting vibes out into the universe in hopes of receiving what you have sent out via a deliberate mindset. The trick is whatever you put out there you will get in return. In my case I developed a mental picture of the kind of woman I wanted in my life and put it out into the universe. 20 years, 30 women and a messy divorce later I’ve found my true love. Okay, so that didn’t work out exactly how I wanted but the magical thing was we both vibrated at the right time in our lives and attracted each other. If either one of us had been off by so much as a day, an hour, a second we would have passed each other like ships in a fog.

Our first date was amazing in that we ended up at three different events that spanned across Birmingham for the greater portion of the day. Normally anyone being total strangers that would have spent that much time together friction would have occurred at some point but we were enthralled from the very second we laid eyes on each other. The next date was a test more so for her than me. I made a gamble and decided to take her on my bike to Fort Payne taking country back roads all the way for a bite to eat at an artsy establishment called “The Spot.”

She absorbed every mile with grace and dignity. Even through the experience of a potentially fatal accident she shrugged it off and pressed on. The near accident was a situation where a poorly designed intersection, which I found out later was responsible for taking a woman’s life, featured the wrong traffic lights. Blinking yellow lights are supposed to mean proceed with caution while blinking red lights means stop or so I thought. However, that isn’t how the people of the area perceive the meaning of those lights. If not for my quick reaction time we would have been plowed over by an oncoming truck.

Nevertheless, we ventured on, had a wonderful time at The Spot, ventured even further up to Mentone and the rest is history. Fast forward a few months to our next adventure: Our ride to Wills Creek Winery in Attalla, Alabama. Incidentally, I rode right by their sign every time I took Hwy 11 up to Fort Payne for a quick weekend getaway. After the umpteenth time of passing the Wills Creek Winery sign I decided to explore and find out what Wills Creek Winery was all about. After a day of exploration I determined that this is definitely a splendid place to take Jay for brunch. I said all that to say this: Always make an effort to make memorable moments with the one you love. It’s not enough just to hit the local watering hole. Go out of your way from time to time to find a place that is special, unique. When you create moments like this the bond two people have created is intensified.

You don’t have to make every single date some wild, new adventure. Sometimes just a simple walk down the street to a nice restaurant or even a picnic in the park is all that’s required. The important thing is to create an environment where your lives are never monotonous and limited. Also never assume that one good adventure is enough. It may sound like work to some but it can’t be work if you enjoy what you’re doing especially if the reward is boundless.

Rogue Zulu Cross Country

Though I have a YouTube channel called: “Fifth Gear Foodie” I go by numerous road names. Some call me Romulus while others call me The Bandit. All nicknames earned. Nevertheless, and for the purposes of this blog I am Rogue Zulu. The name Fifth Gear Foodie came about because I want to eventually develop my YouTube channel into an ongoing series–Pick up where Anthony Bourdain unceremoniously left off with his show “No Reservations” but with more of a cross country biker twist.

I want to provide a blend of culinary reviews based on the restaurant, bar, and winery scene along with my own culinary creations while on the road either motorcycle camping or staying in unique hotels. This isn’t quite as new of a thing as several other bikers have touched on the aforementioned topics. However, from what I’ve seen so far none of them have created an all-in-one kind of theme, and I’ve certainly never seen a theme of this nature from a black perspective. The black biker scene is quite prominent although the focus is more so from the black motorcycle set rather than an independent black biker’s perspective.

Don’t get me wrong–I rock with people from a myriad of backgrounds. Even though I’ve chosen to be of the cruiser persuasion I love all kinds of 2-wheeled motorcycles American and metric alike. When I say I rock with people I also mean in a multicultural sense. I’m a pluralist and I don’t believe in discrimination of any kind other than discrimination against ignorance, which knows to color or boundary. One thing I definitely don’t care for, though, is political opinions. Right and wrong yes. Leftwing or Rightwing no. Both are feathers of the same bird. There, I’ve said as much as I want to say on that note.

After 3 days of camping on Lake Meredith in Fritch, Texas it was time to move on. My time there was enjoyable but the weather hindered what could have been an even more amazing experience as in my time spent in Eureka Springs. Two nagging problems persisted. The nut and bolt kit I bought at Walmart had proven to be almost worthless due to the softness of the metal the bolts are made of, and a balding tire that I had to trust for the next 35 miles until I got to the Kawasaki dealership in Amarillo. From time to time since the nuts were not self-locking they worked themselves off the bolt and I had to either stop and re-tighten or replace them with the nuts I had left.

Miraculously, my rear tire held up as I rode into Amarillo and pulled up to the dealership. I was in luck as no other customer was there at the time, so my bike was rolled up on lift. I was quickly and efficiently taken care of and sent on my way–Next stop: Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. Funny thing is I don’t recall seeing any signs welcoming me into the New Mexico. Nevertheless, the gradual change in surroundings from populated areas with active businesses to large tracks of empty land and desolate structures gave an indication. Stark smells of livestock and feed permeated as I traveled down the road.

Off in the distance were large industrial farm structures and 18-wheelers that carried various farming products. A dust storm loomed and I pulled aside to don my tan gator for protection from the swirling dust clouds. The funny thing about cagers or people in cars is they seem to be cruising right along until someone passes them on a motorcycle, then all of a sudden it becomes a race. Whether they just want to get a closer look at the black guy in a leather vest with 150 pounds of gear strapped to the back of his bike or they’re just being ornery is irrelevant. As an experienced biker I don’t like to be approached on the road by people in cars because some have a tendency to want get ahead and cut you off or wander into your lane and become a hazard. They aren’t aware of the dangers of behaving in such a way because they’re of the mindset of being protected in a shell of steel and glass not out in the open and exposed.

Fortunately, the majority of people out there are conscious of their surroundings and make an effort to look out for bikers. It also helps that my Vance & Hines Short Shot pipes are very loud ergo the saying: Loud pipes saves lives. There is a lot of truth to that saying. I have literally been in situations where a cager brain farting at the steering wheel would try to mindlessly execute a right turn into an intersection right in my path and I revved my engine to catch their attention or people that try to mindlessly execute a lane change without looking. A couple blips of my pipes always captures their attention sending them swerving back into their own lane. It doesn’t work every single time but 98% accuracy is certainly better than nothing.

Once on base I was underwhelmed by the surroundings. I felt like I was in a penal colony located on the moon. Though I enjoyed my camping experience in Fritch I was weary from the adverse weather conditions and decided military accommodations would be the best route to go. Also, upon further Google investigation the couple of hotels in the area were dangerously close to a busy road. I didn’t want to deal with hearing cars and 18-wheelers roaring by all night or wake up to see my bike vandalized or worse gone.

A quick trip to the commissary for steak and veggies and its Fifth Gear Foodie time. While grilling on my trusty Coleman stove I noticed to my chagrin that there was a storm on the horizon and the wind began to pick up. A weather radar check revealed that I had a little over an hour enjoy my outdoor grilling experience before I was once again pelted with horrendous rain. While grilling a young Airman wandered over to my cook site and was fascinated with my setup. He saw that I was shooting while I was grilling but he still stood there in awe as I narrated. Once done we had a great conversation on our military experience his being in the Air Force mine being in the Army National Guard.

Right on cue the wind picked up aggressively as I had just finished eating. By the time I was done putting everything back in my room the storm overcame the base. The next morning I set out to see Billy The Kid’s tombstone in Fort Sumner. Now mind you this is not where Billy the Kid is actually buried this was just his tombstone. The closer I got to Fort Sumner the more the topography started to look be reflective of that wild west, painted desert appeal.

Rogue Motorcycle Camping Vol IV

A sun setting perfectly, not a cloud in the sky and the sparkling lake below. You can’t get any better than this. Even though it was over 106 degrees the excitement of going full fledge solo motorcycle camping was so exhilarating I hardly noticed. Plus it was a dry heat, which feels much better than sweating your soul away in the humid heat of Alabama. This would have been the perfect time to set up the Coleman stove and pan sear a nice T-bone steak but I was more interested in hanging out with my new buddies at Wizzards Bar. With the campsite setup complete I secured the tent with a padlock and proceeded to the bar.

To my amazement the exact same crew that was there last night was there tonight like they had never left. “Come on and have a seat buddy.” The bearded guy said. “Sure, let me get a beer” I responded. I walked in and of course the same waitress was tending the bar. “Nice to see you again, Romulus.” She said. “Want your regular?” Wow. Not only did she remember my name she remembered the beer I ordered. “You got it, ma’am.” I said. She whipped out a bottle of Stella, popped the cap and slid it over to me. This is what I’m talking about right here–treated like the honest to goodness biker that I truly am. I sat down with the fellas and we must have chewed the fat until around 9:00 before I decided to head back. “Where’s your next stop, friend?” The guy with the Bandido tattoo said. “I’m headed to New Mexico to see what I can get into down there.

“You should check out Santa Fe. It’s a beautiful area.” One of the other guys said. “I’ll definitely check it out.” I responded. We all said our goodbyes and disappeared into the night. Once I got back to my tent I felt it was time to let Jay know I had made it safe and sound. By the way, this was the perfect time for my cross country trip. Incidentally, Jay had already planned a girls trip with old friends from grade school in St. Louis, so this was the perfect time for my solo cross country trip. Something that I failed to mention was the wind was aggressive the entire time. That made me feel uneasy because any time the wind is consistently high like this it means there’s a big storm coming. In fact it reminded me of the winds I felt just a couple days before a hurricane touches ground in the Florida Keys–Not good at all.

I texted a message to Jay to let her know I was fine and she responded in kind with a rundown of her girls night out. I proceeded to check the weather radar and did not like what I saw. There was a weather pattern developing from the Southwesterly direction that looked like something from the movie: “Perfect Storm” moving slowly towards Fritch. The next day I ventured over to the local grocery store to pick up supplies. Upon closer observation you get the feeling that this is the absolute perfect sleepy little town to hide in. A grocery store, hardware store and a dollar store a couple blocks down the road. Gas station at one end and a biker bar at the other end. A guy could camp out here for months, have little to no interaction with people and write a novel or a screenplay.

I picked up the biggest ribeye I could find, a case of spectacular seasonal beer, breakfast sausage and a milk carton of eggs. By the time I had gotten back to camp the wind died down, which made the heat damn near unbearable, so I retreated to my tent, started up my music on the Bluetooth speaker, stretched out on my mat and started sucking down beers. Instinct would tell you in a situation like this one should be scarfing down water but this wasn’t a situation of survival. Meanwhile, drinking a beer is the least of my problems. In quite literally the blink of an eye the wind picked up miraculously sending my tent into a frenzy flapping away. I peered through the netting to see a storm cloud that looked like it was large enough to engulf half of California.

With no structure or object obstructing my view I could see the cloud rolling toward my campsite. The sunlight quickly began to disappear and went from mid day to dusk. Crickets fooled into thinking it was night time started chirping away. The clouds darkened even more as if it were carrying remnants of nuclear fallout. Even with my tent secured in several different directions it was being pushed to its limits. Weekend campers that had just set up camp a short while ago were ill prepared as they sought refuge in their automobiles and watched their tents laid flat by the brewing storm.

Seemingly looking death face-to-face with nowhere to escape and only a tent for shelter I thought to myself I’m not going to let this ruin my camping experience. So, I set up my Coleman stove and proceeded to sear my steak. At this point the wind was so high that the metal wind deflectors on the sides of my stove wobbled like they were made of paper. I increased the burner to wide open just to have enough flame to heat up my iron skillet. As the T-bone steak quietly sizzled the two burner stove slid across the picnic table like it was a paper plate. I held it in place and carefully cooked my steak with the little heat that my stove could muster against the wind.

Satisfied with what I had I decided to snatch my steak directly from the skillet and eat my somewhat medium rare steak while I watched my tent flap furiously. Other campers who had the fortune of having large RV’s to camp in jumped in their trucks and started trolling the camp grounds looking at the ongoing damage. Everyone who had seen me ride in the previous day knew I was the only guy on the edge of the cliff with nothing but a motorcycle, so you could image their surprise as they stopped in the middle of the road to watch me casually chew on my steak, my tent still standing.

Rogue Motorcycle Camping Vol III

I’ve been riding for decades and outside of South Florida I’ve never seen the size and depth of the storm systems like what I’ve seen on this trip across the United States. After analyzing the path of the biggest of the storms on my weather radar app it looked like I could avoid the heaviest rain between the hours of 6am to 11am, and for the most part it was true. However, I was still peppered with sporadic light rain from the edge of Eureka Springs to the Oklahoma state line.

For a while it seemed like I would only have to deal with a lot of overcast skies until I neared Cherokee Country. From that point on I was pelted with rain that grew heavier with every mile. It didn’t help that I didn’t have enough traction to keep ahead of 18 wheelers that were pounding Westbound and down like the Snow Man in the movie “Smokey and the Bandit,” so I was periodically sprayed with buffeted wind and rain water.

I finally gave in, pulled off the road and parked in a large open covered utility shed on a large track of farm land. I pulled out my rain jacket and pressed on. Halfway through Oklahoma you get the feeling that if you missed a gas station you would be out of luck making it to the next gas station on a motorcycle. I can’t figure out for the life of me why I continued on past the only gas station I could see for miles. Just so happened that 5 miles past the last gas station I passed my fuel light slowly started to glow.

I passed two exits that looked as if they had roads that went nowhere in either direction and was forced to take the third exit as a last resort. So, here I am cruising at a minimum of 70mph, which dropped to 60 and eventually 55 mph and still no gas station in sight. Nothing for miles in a 365 degree scan except for oil refineries far off into the distance. Finally, I came up on a small town with little more than a handful of buildings and low and behold a gas station! After filling up I scanned the area and spotted a tiny watering hole. This was my shameless opportunity to put on my cowboy hat and pretend to be a cowboy passing through town looking for a little trouble to stir up. After a couple cold beers and conversation it was time to press on.

What became nice warm weather with clear skies turned into a constant blast of winds that forced me to ride at what felt like a 45 degree angle for the next 150 miles. I made a few stops at various campsites but many just didn’t look like the place I would like to spend time in, so again I pressed on until I reached Oklahoma City. It was a beautiful city that was a cross between Birmingham, and Atlanta with a touch of New Orleans. At this point riding sideways for hundreds of miles and my bike adjusting to the change in elevation I decided to treat myself to, yes, a hotel. Of the many trips I’ve taken this was the first time I had so much gear that I couldn’t carry it all in one trip. It felt weird needing a luggage cart to unload my gear. Having recovered from crossing Oklahoma I continued through to the Texas state line. I crossed central Texas before but this was my first time in the panhandle. I tell you, luckily I fueled up at a lonely gas station smack dab in center of a crossroads. For the next 80 miles it was like crossing the Serengeti. No visible life from horizon to horizon. On occasion I would pass an 18-wheeler each one trying its best to knock me completely off my bike or a car. Occasionally I would pass a long dirt road that would end at a lonely shack that looked like it had been abandoned for 200 years. Even once I got into populated areas the towns I passed through looked like they were struggling to recover from nuclear fallout.

While descending a hill I entered a horribly designed intersection where the dip was unnoticeable until it was too late. I hit the dip so hard I could hear a bold pop in the frame of my sissy bar. The way I had it loaded there was already about 150 more pounds than required strap to the rack. Miraculously, the Sissy bar and rack didn’t even so much as bend but upon closer observation the bolts that broke had already partially rusted through.

Once in Fritch town limits I made a mad rush to a tiny motel where I could unload my gear and race back to a Walmart I passed down the road to by the tools I needed and replace the rusted bolts. I was a man on a mission and both times I passed an outpost-looking bar called “Wizzards Bar” and both times a bunch of guys sitting outside the bar waved me down. After dealt with the sissy bar I noticed that the rough Texas asphalt and triple digit heat had prematurely eaten the rubber off of my rear tire until was bald. as if the tread wasn’t already disappearing from my multiple motorcycle trips Texas ate up what was left.

As I dismounted my bike one of the guys, a rough, hippy type with a long, wholly beard and wearing an old school gas station attendant shirt with the sleeves ripped off yelled out: “Hey man what the hell took you so long to get over here!?!” Everybody at the table commenced to laughing. I knew right then and there I was a welcomed biker. “I had to deal with the issue of fixing my broke sissy bar.” I replied. “Well hell man, go inside and get you a beer. Have a seat with us” the old man said with a large smile. I proceeded to introduce myself to the rest of the patrons and dragged my dusty boots inside. The bar was empty except for one bartender, a wiry biker chick type, busy stocking the bar with various supplies. “What will you have sweetie?” she asked. “I believe I’ll have a Stella” I replied. She quickly grabbed a cold one out of the cooler and popped the cap. “Wanna start a tab?” I wasn’t looking to stay for long but what the hey. “Sure.” I said in my downhome voice.

I ventured back outside for some small talk with the guys. We chewed the fat about bikes, women, good places to eat and whatnot. Upon closer observation of one of the patrons I noticed what looked to be a Bandido tattoo on the inside of his lower leg. The tattoo told me all I needed to know and no questions needed to be asked. “You guys know where I can get a rear tire for my bike?” I asked. “Sure man” the guy with the Bandido tattoo replied. “There’s a Kawasaki dealership in Amarillo. It’s a good shop.” After a while of hanging out with my new friends I rode back to my room where I could plan out my next few days in Fritch.

A quick Google search revealed all I needed to know. Amarillo was only 35 miles away but factoring in that Texas is notorious for rough asphalt and triple digit heat, which wasn’t a good combination for a damn near bald tire. Amarillo was dangerously far away and every other shop was 100 miles or further away. Well shit–I’ll just deal with that bridge when I cross it. Meanwhile my immediate focus is Lake Meredith, which was only a couple miles from the hotel. The next day I stopped by the ranger office to learn the rules of the land and ventured to the campsite. The camping area was nestled on a large hill that rolled into a large, lake.

As with most parks the campsites were a little too close together for my taste. Nevertheless, I scouted around until I found the perfect spot. A stretch of land that veered out to the lake. I walked out to investigate a little closer and saw that at the edge was a straight drop about 100 feet down into the lake. I scanned around the entire edge of the lake. This was the highest and only point in the entire area. Viola! the perfect campsite! My Army training instantly kicked in as I popped up my tent, secured the footing and reinforced the top on all four sides with twine and moved my gear inside. Just as I finished my layout a spectacular sunset began to bathe my campsite with a glorious orange hue.

Rogue Motorcycle Camping Vol II

There are several YouTube videos out there that showcase The Cat House in Eureka Springs, the pig trails, which are curvy, country roads that circle through and around Eureka Springs, and the various landmarks. However, little is known about what’s beyond the edge of town. However, a man can’t just strike out on an adventure on an empty stomach.

Trying out my brand new Coleman 2 burner stove. Cooking a stir fry old school in an iron skillet.

I know by now you’re thinking this is the second post I’ve made and still no motorcycle camping. Trust me it’s on the way. In the meantime, Here I am with all this camping gear and I haven’t even tried out my new Coleman two burner stove and utensils. While I’m quite cognizant of today’s compact camping gear I’m unapologetically old school. I brought a full-sized iron skillet, plastic plates and utensils, and a full-sized appetite. Off to the side of the Country Mountain Inn is a quaint little walking park complete with picnic tables. So, I took my cooking gear over to a picnic table, set up everything and commenced to cooking my scallops and veggie stir-fry. My only seasoning was a bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce, which was all you really need. After a hearty, healthy meal it’s time to pound that pavement.

Once you leave the limits of town and you’re out on the countryside. There is a je ne sais quoi about the topography that gives you the feeling you’re in Germany, particularly, when you pass road signs that have distinct German names. I continued to cruise down sleepy road 187 taking in the scenery until I come up on a one lane bridge with wooden planks. A sign warns that you must keep an eye out for traffic on the other side in case someone crosses the bridge before you do.

With the coast clear I proceeded to creep across. As I’m creeping the planks squeak and wobble like it’s ready to give at any moment. My heart racing I proceeded forward wobbling and reeling. I thought to myself as I crossed if cars are going back on this thing I definitely shouldn’t have any problem crossing.

Once the slight fear of crossing without the bridge giving way and plunging into the river below subsided a thought came to my head that I should be shooting this moment. So, here I am no helmet, one hand on the grip and the other carefully balancing my smartphone. The idling speed of the engine was enough to propel my bike slowly across the bridge as I performed a slow 360 degree rotation capturing this awe inspiring moment.

While I’m filming, I noticed down the river behind the tree line to my right what appeared to be a large castle jutting out above the tree line. It looked like a retreat for Swedish nobility. I learned later that the enchanted structure is Castle Rogue’s Manor.

A moment like this is truly captured best while on a motorcycle. Nothing else could compare. The old, weather worn planks shifting and wobbling beneath my feet, the sparkling river water flowing quietly below, a clear, unobstructed view of everything around me. It was like being in a virtual tour at Disneyland but for real.

As I suspected there is a lot more to Eureka Springs than a couple biker bars and hotels. As I’m exiting the bridge I came up on an inviting boathouse at the river’s edge. The Side Bar was its name and I couldn’t wait to park my bike and go inside. The place was packed and it was easy to see why. The view was tranquil as little sailboats glided by and birds flew casually by. already stuffed from my meal I chose to have a beer and move on.

Only a half mile down the road is a tiny area to the left for cars to park and a sign: “Scenic Overlook.” I have to let you know this whole area is very deceptive. While riding through what looks to be a quiet little neighborhood if feels like you’re at a normal elevation. However, as I walked down the little pathway to the scenic overlook my heart stops as I realize that little more than 3 feet ahead of me there is a drop off of what looks like 70 feet below. After I adjusted to the drastic drop off I looked out and saw the most beautiful stretch of a bending river. A view of this magnitude can only be captured in a panoramic mode.

What is so amazing about cruising down 187 is this entire area seems to be completely devoid of human existence. No one sitting on their porches or cutting grass, no one tending to their farmland and no cars traveling to and fro. It’s as if this entire area was staged for me to ride through peacefully at a steady 30 mph in the highest possible gear so as to hear that nice deep burble from my Vance & Hines Short Shots. Suddenly to my left what looks like a large country store emerges from the green pasture. I was so busy being lulled by my pipes and staring at the countryside that I rode right past it but curiosity forced me to turn around.

I pulled into the gravel parking lot off to the side. The place seemed completely deserted but you could tell by the upkeep of the yard that this place had to be inhabited. As I walked up to the entrance a lady greeted me. “Welcome to the Railway Winery.” She guided me inside and gave me the rundown of what they have to offer. I was smiling with glee because yet again I stumbled upon a gem. This is what it’s all about. The experience is way more impactful if you’re not prepared for what you’re about to experience.

I indulged on a flight of their wines and a plate of assorted cheeses. while I was enjoying their offerings the husband came out to greet me along with his wife. We had a pleasant conversation about their winery. When I brought up the fact that this entire area reminds me a lot of the Romanian countryside the gentleman told me about the history of the area. German Jews were so intrigued by the geography of the area they settled there around the area in the late 1800’s.

After a couple more days of soaking up all Eureka Springs had to offer it was time to continue my journey West. Before I turned in I conducted a little research of the weather forecast and found out that my next leg of the adventure was going to be a wet one.

Rogue Motorcycle Camping

A magnificent view overlooking Lake Meredith in Fritch, TX.

Drifting alone across a continent on 2 wheels with nothing but a tent, a case of cold beer and steaks, and a Coleman stove strapped on the back of your motorcycle is the greatest form of freedom a man can achieve in this life. The only sense of time I used was the rising and falling of the sun, moon and stars like the mariners and warriors of antiquity. As the title of the late, great Anthony Bourdain’s culinary travel show went: “No Reservations.”

The calm before the storm. I enjoyed at least one peaceful afternoon overlooking Lake Meredith before getting pounded by a tropical storm the next day.

Even though I had no itinerary I at least wanted to visit memorable places along the way, so I perused YouTube and watched a plethora of motorcycle road trips. Over the past 2 months I pressed play on dozens of videos from chopper road trips all over Europe to runs down to Mexico for some righteous hell raising. Some of the most memorable videos was the trips where people were bold enough to take on motorcycles even smaller than mine. There’s an enhanced sense of adventure when all you have for instrumentation is a speedometer mounted on a gas tank instead of being inundated with an almost automobile-like instrumentation cluster. An infotainment system, multiple gauges, and a full fairing protecting you from the elements, and plug and play storage where all you have to do is throw something in a tour pack and go.

Don’t get me wrong–There is absolutely nothing wrong with pounding the pavement in a protective cocoon of technology and comfort while enjoying a calm bubble of nonturbulent air from behind a windscreen. Someday I’ll give it a go but right now there’s more thrill in strategizing how to pack and secure a couple days worth of clothes, full-sized camping gear, and enough other necessities to live indefinitely on the road. There’s a heroing intensity in withstanding constant turbulence and devising creative ways to relieve pressure points by having multiple seating positions yet still maintaining a consistent bearing down the interstate.

One thing I quickly came to realize while watching various YouTube videos was the difference between how full-sized touring baggers, adventure motorcycle riders and guys on handmade choppers rolled. The bagger types are some of the more conservative of the bunch with their leisurely rides and scenic views of the countryside that end at restaurants, hotels, and various landmarks. while entertaining that really wasn’t the feel I was looking for.

As expected, adventure bikers went far off the beaten path. Some traveled all the way to the bottom of South America or across barren land on continental Europe or outback of Australia. They enjoyed the true ruggedness that nature had to offer, which was indeed intriguing but not my cup of tea either. An added degree of difficulty is being concerned with breaking your bike while conquering various difficult terrain, and having a satellite phone handy for emergencies. As if dealing with all of the usual obstacles a motorcyclist has to deal with on paved roads and interstates you also have to worry about not only making sure you don’t break your bike but also making sure you don’t break yourself navigating rough terrain. I’ll pass.

Then there are the guys I like to think of as land pirates on 2 wheels. These guys build their own choppers from the ground up with 60 to 80-year-old makeshift parts–Knucklehead, panhead, and shovelhead Harley v-twins, old bike frames, car parts etc. I have boundless respect for those guys and their roadside antics but I certainly don’t want to spend my time on the side of the road piecing my bike back together in the middle of the night or stranded in the middle of nowhere. Traveling like that requires riding with other guys that can back you up in a pinch, and that in itself requires having a very tight knit group of guys who are just as mechanically inclined as you if not more inclined. There is something to be said about a rag tag group of guys that you can trust with your life on the road like that. Maybe back in my twenties I wouldn’t have minded wrenching on the side of the road, crossing my fingers and trudging on but not now that 50 is right around the corner.

When it comes to riding across the country my mindset is to focus on enjoying the journey. Obviously, if problems do arise I want to be prepared to deal with them, and dealing with a problem or two on the road is part of the adventure but I don’t want to be pounding the pavement on a bike I know I can’t rely on with confidence. So, now that I’ve solved the problem of having a bulletproof, reliable, low maintenance motorcycle that has proven to never fail me time and time again the focus is on unique destinations. ergo Staci Wilt and her YouTube channel: Ride To Food.

Out of all of the videos I watched Staci’s video where she rode across country to Eureka Springs, Arkansas caught my eye with a spectacular delight. I had no idea where I was staying or what I was going to do once I got to Eureka Springs but I knew just from watching her video I was going to have the time of my life. The 572 mile ride from Birmingham to Eureka Springs really started to take on a different feel once I passed the Arkansas welcome center. The countryside all of a sudden began to take on more of frontier-like setting as the elevation increased. With every stop I made there was always a character, some elderly fella, that would pull me aside and tell me stories of high adventure in his heyday like I was a long lost friend or relative.

Country Mountain Inn, Eureka Springs, AR.

Being a lone black biker on a motorcycle outfitted like a vagabond people will easily approach you with their defenses down. They’re eager to find out where I’m coming from and where I’m going, and mind you this isn’t an issue of keeping track of ‘the suspicious black man’ these are people that are truly curious, some fascinated even because it’s not everyday that a person like me comes along in a predominately white, small town.

The level of curiosity I encountered only increased as I ventured further away from home. Once I made it to Eureka Springs I was overcome by my own curiosity at how beautiful the downtown area was. I gave in and rented a room at the Country Mountain Inn. The owners were powerfully friendly and eager for all of their tenants to be aware of the activities they have planned on their grounds. After checking in I unloaded my bike and partook of my adventure to downtown Eureka Springs. There is no better way to travel around the downtown area than on a motorcycle where you can get a perpetual 360 degree view of this enchanting town and take it all in while creeping along up and down the steep, curvy, narrow roads.

It’s true–I’ve been told many times by people that follow my adventures and see my pictures that I’m an imposing guy but in actuality I’m quite an approachable, unassuming person. It’s a trait I inherited from my dad. When I was a kid tagging along in his 1960 Chevy stepside I marveled at how everywhere we went guys would honk and wave. There wasn’t a corner of city we went to where someone didn’t know who my dad was. It’s damn near flabbergasting how people–total strangers–will walk up on me and strike up a conversation like I was Joe the plumber from down the street. Some of these people feel so comfortable as to share their personal lives. Their passions, trials and tribulations family problems, motivations and testimonials, and I’m humbled by their candidness.

The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I sensed the antique character of this compact town. The architecture is reminiscent of a French Quarter/Victorian age but astonishingly well preserved. Not a crack or a stone out of place. Not a fade or a blemish in the paint on the buildings. This brought about the feeling of being in a time warp as the storefronts are 17th century picture perfect. You almost get the feeling while riding along that you’ll see one of those high society, turn of the century women wearing a long dress, and twirling her parasol walking across the street with her frost white toy Poodle.

The biker’s destination in this area is a bar called “The Cathouse” which is heavily occupied by bikers from around the country on a daily basis and long into the night. While this was an outstanding bar my desires went beyond the town’s limits. Bright and early the next morning I ventured down the pig trails out into the countryside where I got an immediate feeling that I was back in Cincu, Romania walking amongst rolling green pastures and hills.

Honda Shadow Phantom 750

This isn’t so much of a review of the Honda Shadow Phantom 750 as much as this blogpost is paying homage to a highly underrated medium-sized v-twin cruiser. Just to give some quick specs: My 2013 Phantom weighs 547 pounds, generates 45 horsepower, 45 pounds of torque, and is capable of reaching 100 to 110 mph. On paper these are not impressive numbers, and if I was looking for a cruiser with more impressive numbers I would have bought a Yamaha Raider, a Suzuki M109 or even a V-Max. However, there are 2 reasons why I went with my Phantom.

First of all, I feel the need to let you know that back in the day when I lived in South Florida I used to pound the ground on a 98′ Harley Davidson Night Train, and way back in the 80’s I rode an 83′ Nighthawk 550, a 12 second bike in the quarter mile, which was very impressive back in the day. Since then I’ve ridden many different kinds of bikes over the decades I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I’m more attracted to character than speed and power.

Secondly, with that being said, particularly with some of the Harley guys that feel they need to tell me: “You need to get a real bike” here’s some knowledge to drop: My 1998 Harley Night Train weighed 668 pounds, generated 61 HP, 86 pounds of torque, and could achieve a top speed of 106 to, yes, 110 mph. Considering the Phantom is over 120 pounds lighter, is liquid cooled, has the tried, true and personally tested Honda bulletproof reliability, and is relatively maintenance free and you have a formidable competitor at a fraction of the price. For another perspective here’s Sean of the former SRK Cycles and creator of Bikes & Beards with his take on the Phantom:

Admittedly so, I got the bike because of its minimalist, classic Harley look without all the maintenance issues. Slap on a set of Vance & Hines Short Shots and Cobra ram air intake and you have a true cruiser with character, style and rumble that will fool the most diehard HOG member. Understand something–I’m not even remotely trying to convince you the reader that a Phantom is a suitable replacement for a Harley. Nevertheless, you know I had to go full tilt and remove the baffles from my pipes. And boy is there a nice rumble, particularly after they’ve warmed up as you can hear in the YouTube clip below. I shot this in a little town somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma. What a wild experience. I got that true drifter vibe on a Pale Rider level poking around talking to the locals. A young man marveled as I filmed this and gave me his heartfelt speech on someday getting himself a motorcycle and blowing his popsicle stand. That’s the stuff that Americana is made of. Passing on the spirit of riding and being free.

The shortcomings of being a Phantom owner means there is no aftermarket support beyond exhaust pipes, a ram air intake and a fuel management controller, which by the way I never bothered to put on my bike. Don’t waste your time–I’ve looked across the country and around the world. There are no big bore kits, no cams, no nothing to enhance this bike’s performance. For a bike that has seen continuous production since 1983 albeit in a variety of forms and configurations I’m disappointed that the aftermarket world has nothing to offer such a popular, bulletproof motorcycle.

I did get a noticeable punch in the midrange. The Phantom pulls like a freight train when taking on hills, howling induction sound engaged, whereas before the Cobra air intake I had to downshift to pull a hill with confidence. There was a mild change to the top end where I even hit 115 mph a few times but afterwards the fuel injection kicked in, reverted back to its factory settings and said no more. No one on this planet can even come close to the aftermarket support for Harley Davidson, which is ultimately why I may return to the Harley world. One thing about Harley bikes; They may not set the world on fire right off the showroom floor (and that’s part of their marketing strategy) but the sky is the limit with what you can do mechanically and aesthetically.

Other than a noticeable drop in mpg’s the performance hasn’t suffered in the least. At 41,000 miles my bike starts, runs, and rides exactly the same way it did the day I road it off of the showroom floor. I have experienced zero issues–Not one drop of oil lost, the factory spark plugs I replaced 20,000 miles into my journey revealed zero wear. My bike hasn’t even so much as stuttered in the time I’ve owned it, and countless bikers can attest to the fact that I run my Phantom into the ground every time I throw my leg over the saddle.

Here’s the proof in the pudding–Let’s add to the fact that not only do I weigh 220 pounds I also strapped over 150 pounds of full-sized camping gear, not that tiny, cutting edge, metrosexual, micro camping gear and traveled from Birmingham, Al to Pensacola, Daytona, Miami, Key West, Florida. Gatlinburg and Deal’s Gap in Tennessee. Blue Ridge Parkway, Cherokee and Asheville in North Carolina. I’ve also traveled to Eureka Springs in Arkansas, Oklahoma City, Lake Meredith in the Texas Panhandle and all the way to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The only thing I had to replace was the rear tire due to natural wear when I made a stop in Amarillo.

Throughout my entire trek on America’s interstates I comfortably cruised at an average of 90 mph easily keeping up with if not surpassing the flow of traffic, and all without downshifting. Any overzealous automobiles was dealt with by dropping a gear and pulling away. Did I fly past cars in the triple digits? No. Did my bike handle every traffic situation with power to spare? Yes. Even in cities like Miami and Dallas where people are notoriously known for driving in the upper double digits above the posted speed limit I had no problem negotiating traffic. The only real world shortcoming of this bike suffered from is it is so low to the ground that any truly aggressive riding in areas like The Tail of the Dragon had to be curtailed. Any discomfort in the saddle was easily handled with a motorcycle gel pad.

Last and most certainly not least, how does the Phantom handle with a passenger on the pillion seat? This bike is perfect for bar hopping with a babe on the back but beyond that you’re going to have to either leave your honey at home or get a bigger bike. The pillion seat is literally only a half an inch wider and thicker than my hand, so it’s going to get really uncomfortable after about an hour of riding. But that’s nothing that a thicker seat can’t take care of. The point is this: I’ve taken Jay on many rides. She’s a good bit lighter than my camping gear, so she had no effect on the handling or performance.

I’m I trying to convince you to buy a Phantom? Am I trying to convince you that a Phantom is better than any other cruiser? No. There are plenty metric and American made motorcycles out there that are better than a Phantom. The Harley Davidson Road Glide, Indian Roadmaster, Kawasaki Voyager, and Honda Goldwing just to name a few are designed to handle the kind of heavy duty, long distance traveling I’ve done. The only thing that I want to convince you into understanding that you can do more with less, and regardless of your male ego this bike can and will get the job done. At the end of the day I garnered more respect and admiration for doing what I did on a medium-sized cruiser than if I had accomplished the same cross country journey on any of the aforementioned full dresser cruisers. At the end of the day the only person you have to impress is yourself.

Rogue Zulu Nation

It has been almost a year since I took my motorcycle camping adventure across country from Birmingham to New Mexico, and life has been a whirlwind since then. If you had told me back in 2002 that I would have a host of fans across an entire state that either lived vicariously through my motorcycle adventures or were willing to travel across a state to ride with me I would have laughed uncontrollably.

20 years and over 100,000 miles later and almost everywhere I go I’m beginning to be recognized upon sight at biker events, bars and clubs. It’s a cool yet unnerving feeling because I’ve always been a loner. Everybody has their own opinion about what is the best kind of motorcycle to ride to what is the best club to be a part of. I respect everyone’s opinion and beliefs but I also have a mind of my own. I’m sure by now you’ve read the title of this post and you may be thinking that I’m trying to start up my own motorcycle club–If you’re thinking that you’re wrong.

I’ve ridden for decades but I never became a member of a motorcycle club whether it be outlaw bikers, a motorcycle club or a riders club mainly because I didn’t want to get caught up in all of the drama. Life is already full of laws and rules, why be a part of yet another organization that will require a whole new list of rules and laws to follow? Now don’t get me wrong, I have biker friends of all backgrounds and we all respect each other for the choices we’ve made in living the biker life.

When I decided last year to finally start filming and taking pictures of my rides it didn’t dawn on me until I started to realize a couple months ago that almost every weekend was scheduled to either lead a ride or ride with someone else. It got to a point where Jay began to wonder if I was going to put more time into being a biker than spending time with her. Being mindful of that I quickly changed up the pace and spent more time with the love of my life. Let’s get one other thing straight too–When I started this whole blogging thing again I based this blog on Howard-to-Howard. All subject matter would be centered around Jay and I building a new life together and sharing our experiences, so my relationship comes first and foremost.

With that being said, I’ve had to learn how to create a careful balance between the biker life and Jay. It’s more complicated than it sounds. Jay’s schedule consists of a plethora of responsibilities professionally as an event coordinator well as in running her own cosmetics business. My life is just as busy with working on the National Guard side at three different locations and two different states and working as an educator on the civilian side. With balancing so many obligations also comes countless social engagements. Somewhere peppered in between is the much needed quality time a relationship needs in order to flourish.

So, no I’m not trying to start a motorcycle club nor do I have any aspirations to be in one. I would be more than happy to support my friends nevertheless. Rogue Zulu Nation is at least for this moment just the title of this blogpost. At least in the capacity of blogging and making any future YouTube videos whether riding alone or in a group I will discontinue my name as Fifth Gear Foodie and undergo the name of my own blog: Rogue Zulu.

How to successfully manage a long distance relationship.

Pin on Chart

I’ve had several long distance relationships across country and around the world over the decades. Distance was never really the issue of why they were relatively short-lived. Being older and settled in a career certainly makes life easier for a long distance relationship. Provided that you and your prospective mate are on the same page, communicate well, and are sincere about feelings as far as wanting to be in love there shouldn’t be a problem. Let’s keep this process simple by following these 3 simple guidelines:

  1. Don’t let anyone who is too immature, short-sighted, and selfish to be in their own long distance relationship tell you not to try being in a long distance relationship.
  2. Long distance relationships don’t require any more work than a traditional face-to-face relationship. It may require more communication and patience but not more work. If mutual feelings are there a long distance relationship will work no matter how great the distance is. 
  3. Plan to make your face-to-face time meaningful and not just lay around and make Netflix and chill your default source of entertainment unless that is what you two actually want to do.

With that being said, I would be remiss if I didn’t also provide some helpful tips for those of you who are in the initial stages of searching for love on a dating site. A few things you have to be weary of, particularly in the initial hunting stage is a valid representation of the person you’re interested in.

Let’s be real here–Physical attraction is important. Anytime you come across a person that only has portrait shots on their dating profile be weary that they are self-conscious about something whether it be weight or physical appearance. If you aren’t particular about the details of physical attraction, then knock yourself out. However, A couple full-length shots will give you a better idea of who you’re dealing with rather than just leaving everything below the neck up to your imagination. Also, be weary of people who have too many pictures of themselves and are willing to show almost everything yet have nothing to say in their dating profile beyond surface information. In my experience people of this nature are emotionally unavailable. They may be very appealing in the beginning but eventually the truth comes out. What people like these are looking for is a relationship of convenience not reciprocation.

Be weary of people who only want to communicate through texting. There is no exuse for limiting communication to a couple simple text messages. This may be a sign of poor communication skills or they’re dividing too much of their time between you and someone else. Also be aware of a person who only wants to communicate at a certain time or allows 2 or 3 days to go by before they return communication. More than likely when a person behaves this way there is someone else they’re more interested in. In actuality there is nothing wrong with a person being more interested in someone else. Just don’t be the sucker that can’t take a hint and keep hanging around waiting for that person’s behavior to change in your favor.

If you or the person you’re interacting with is too busy for various forms of communication such as FaceTime, Skype, and traditional voice conversations at various times of the day or night, then you or the person you’re interacting with is not ready for being in a long distance relationship. Again, lets be real here. Being unavailable is a game played by people that do not have your best interests at heart. Being available builds trust and allows for one to explore being vulnerable. Trust and vulnerability are the gold nuggets of love and romance.

No one is going to admit they’re a social pariah. They’re going to try to put their best foot forward for at least the first 2 or 3 dates, so pay more attention to their actions than what they say. It’s easy to fake the funk but very difficult to hide bad character. When you encounter the red flags of bad character and incompatibility be decisive in ending the interaction and moving on. You don’t owe anyone anything beyond a sincere interaction. There are simply too many single people out there to fall into the traditional rut of giving someone who is not right for you dozens of chances. Be intentional in finding love and romance.