Minimalist Transportation

Even though it might seem that way, I don’t ride a motorcycle purely because of how much I enjoy it, or because it helps me to focus. I also enjoy the minimalist experience that a motorcycle provides.

Note: Not all motorcycles are like mine. Some come with all kinds of accessories, such as automatic transmissions, radios, GPS, heaters, and even sheepskin seats!

My motorcycle is pretty simple. It has everything it needs to get me from point A to point B, and little more.

Ms. Peep’s accessories:

  1. windshield – It came with the bike.
  2. saddle bags – These aren’t actually installed yet, but when they are they’ll contain such frivolous things as rain gear and a water bottle. Plus, shopping runs will be so much easier!

Things Ms. Peeps doesn’t have:

I think this is a much more interesting list.

  1. automatic transmission – Just like a manual car, I have to shift up and down through the gears
  2. reverse – Speaking of gears, if I can’t coast or push myself backwards, then I don’t go that way. And small though Ms. Peeps may be, she’s still kinda hefty.
  3. automatic blinkers – That’s right. After I make a turn, I have to remember to turn off my blinker.
  4. complicated systems – I can easily figure out how Ms. Peeps works. One can trace from the control to the brake, from the shift pedal to the transmission, or any of the switches to the lights they operate. Have you tried to do that in a car?
  5. a lot of information on the dash board – I have 6 indicators in front of me: speedometer, odometer, neutral indicator light, high beam indicator, blinker indicator, and engine problem indicator. And, really, I don’t need all of these.
  6. a cup holder – Though it would come in handy sometimes, I haven’t figured out how to drink something while my helmet’s on anyway.
  7. cruise control – I do have a throttle lock, but it’s entirely not the same thing. Now you know part of why I dislike interstates so much (you know, besides the fact that they’re boring.)
  8. radio – At least I don’t miss it. Of course, I could borrow my wife’s mp3 player if I was dying for some tunes on the road.
  9. heat/air conditioning – Air temperature is my temperature. That’s why I practice winterization.
  10. clock – If I forget my watch, I’m time-less on the road. This helps me to relax and enjoy the ride, while also helping me be better about leaving a time cushion for any commuting I need to do.
  11. storage space – If it doesn’t fit in my backpack, or in the to-be-installed saddle bags, it doesn’t go with me. Though this can be a challenge, I love that I don’t have to worry about cluttering up my vehicle.

There are plenty of other things that Ms. Peeps doesn’t have (like a roof, doors, or windows). All of these are things that people think they need in order to commute. By giving up on these things, I’m able to enjoy my trip more, while also using less resources. Fewer materials were required to build Ms. Peeps, less fuel is needed for my travels, and she even takes up less parking space.

I know it’s not for everyone, but my minimalist transportation is certainly a highlight in my life!

Winterizing Ms Peeps

I am not a fair weather rider. Apparently that makes me weird. Ms. Peeps and I ride no matter what. In fact, it doesn’t even occur to me that my wife’s car might be available for me to use.

This can be a challenge

Yesterday morning, in fact, turned out to be quite humorous. I got bundled up, headed down to the parking lot, and found out that I couldn’t even get the key into the ignition. It was frozen! (It had rained the day before, and everything got soaked. Then it hit about 28 over night.)

I bent the key trying to get it to go in. After straightening it out, I headed back up to the apartment to warm it up under hot water. That didn’t really help any.

I headed back up and, flustered, hit up google for some advice. Heat the key with a lighter! -smacks forehead- I dig out the zippo from its drawer only to realize it’s out of fluid. Out to the storage space I go. Refilled, I realize that this is the lighter that needs a new wick. Fortunately I have more than one zippo, so I got another and proceeded to fill it as well.

Standing in the parking lot, looking like you’re trying to light a key, kind of makes one feel a bit foolish. However, it did the trick and after a few more minutes of fiddling Ms. Peeps was up and running. Though she might have been reluctant to start this cold morning, the roads were just fine and I had a pleasant ride in this morning, if a bit delayed from normal.

Through all this, I stayed warm, dry, and comfortable. Lots of layers makes a huge difference!

What is winterization?

Apparently, there are people who don’t ride year-round. Who knew? These people put their bike into storage for the cold months and pull it back out again once it warms up. They do things like putting fuel stabilizer in the gas tank, hooking their battery to a battery tender, and making sure that the bike is up on blocks.

My winterization routine

Put. On. More. Clothes.

Layers are the secret to staying warm (and dry). The lower the thermometer drops, the more layers I’m wearing. So far I’ve stayed toasty warm, and it’s been about 28° F. It doesn’t take that much, either (at least for short trips, less than 10 miles). Thermal underwear or fleece pajama pants under my jeans; tshirt, sweater or sweatshirt and leather jacket; doo rag under the helmet; scarf carefully tucked into jacket; polypro gloves.

The only issue I have is with the gloves, because they got soaked in the rain a few days ago and haven’t dried out completely yet. Until they do, my fingertips start to get pretty tingly by the time I get to my destination.

Still cold?
If there’s a threat of rain or it’s even colder, I’ll add another layer. Though I got the rain suit for free (it was left in a traded-in vehicle when I worked at a car dealership), the same one can be purchased at Lowes or Home Depot for a fairly low price. Once you block the wind, the temperature soars upward.

Why would I do this?

Because I love it! Watching the snow swirl around you as you move down the road is amazing. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
And if that wasn’t enough, then every trip I take is a good excuse for a steaming mug of hot chocolate when I get home.

I’m loving life on two wheels!

Do You Want to Try the 100 Thing Challenge?

I recently completed a personal 100 Thing Challenge. I know that some of you wish that your life had less clutter in it. Maybe I can help.

Having completed the “Sticky-Note Love” ebook, I would love to work on a 100 Thing Challenge Guide. I can take my experience, interview others who have gone through similar processes, and create a comprehensive guide about how to undertake your own challenge.

Not only would it include a step-by-step process, but I would also include worksheets to help you figure out what you need and videos filled with useful tips.

Motorcycle Focus – The Joys of Riding

I tried to explain why I like riding my motorcycle so much. I received some good messages about that post, and wanted to expand on them a bit more.

From Brad:

To me riding is more like walking or riding a bicycle, you smell every smell, you feel the wind, its just the road and you, you are a part of your environment. Driving a car isolates you from all of this, its like the difference between watching a movie and actually doing it.

I agree with Brad’s thoughts completely. There’s an amazing difference between riding Ms. Peeps and going the same places in the car. The entire atmospheres vary. In the car, the setting is generally the same, no matter what time of year: it’s dry, warm, and filled with sounds of your choice via the radio (or not). There is a roof over your head and you view the world through the glass windows around you.

This is nothing at all like a motorcycle. I have no control over the weather; when it’s cold I have to dress warmer, when it’s raining I have to remember to put on water-proof clothing. I hear the wind rushing past and the traffic that surrounds me. While I could listen to headphones, I choose not to (I like hearing the engine rev, and feel safer being able to hear the traffic so I know what is coming.) My view is far more expansive, even through the helmet. There is no rear-view mirror in the way, no window posts that block my vision.

Road familiarity

Leo Babauta‘s newest book Focus, (which is a free and wonderful read) talks about achieving focus in your life. While riding, I automatically do this. I pay far more attention to my surroundings. I’m not distracted by a radio, a cell phone, or a passenger (even when I have one). Not only do I know which lights take longer to change than others, or which intersections don’t allow turns during red lights, but I pay more attention to the vehicles around me, and the road itself.

I know where the potholes, manhole covers, and seams in the road are now. That one intersection that recently had some patches added… it still has a rail-road spike in the blacktop, left over from the metal plate that covered the hole while work was being done. I know where gravel remains from recent repairs. I also know which roads generally have warmer or cooler air (did you know that residential roads seem to be cooler, on average, than commuter roads?) Not to mention that I know where the good-smelling restaurants are, which unfortunately means I know the others as well.

Fewer Distractions

So much of my day is filled with distractions, it’s nice to have somewhere that I get to block them all out. When riding, I’m busy watching traffic and the road conditions ahead. Though my mind often races elsewhere, on a motorcycle I focus on a single task: riding. I get to participate in my surroundings as I move through them: becoming part of the flow of traffic, anticipating drivers’ next moves, and telling Ms. Peeps where to go. While riding, nothing else matters.

Now, if only I can figure out how to achieve that focus everywhere in my life…

Minimalism and Marriage

My short list has 5 items on it, with Marriage being the first, and minimalism being close behind. I thought that it might be interesting to explain how these fit together in my life. I’m not trying to minimalize my marriage, but to maximize it by limiting the other aspects of my life that might interfere.

How this looks in my life

I enjoy spending time with my wife, focused on her. This might mean rearranging my schedule or turning down activity options.

Getting up early
I get up earlier than I need to a few days a week. The extra couple of hours that I gain allow me to get some work done before my wife wakes up. After this bout of productivity, I am often able to have breakfast waiting when she does get up. We are then able to eat together, leisurely, before we have to head our separate ways for the day.

Turning down other options
At least once a week I have the opportunity to get home before my wife. On these days, I have the chance to have supper waiting when she arrives. It might be a more productive use of my time to knock out some homework, work on any of the dozen projects that I seem to have going on at any given time, or even just meet with friends during this free time. However, I don’t think there is a more important use of my time than to treat my wife. By then she’s tired and hungry (and often cold, now that the winter weather’s starting to move in), and having a hot meal ready to go is a comfort that I know she appreciates. She’s able to come home, relax at the table as I put the finishing touches on supper, and chat with me about our days.

These options are only available to me because I’ve narrowed down the other obligations in my life. Though school and work take out good portions of my days, I’ve streamlined how I get my homework done. The time and energy it takes has been minimized. I don’t participate in many extracurricular activities, having chosen only those that really align with my interests and provide results that I think are worthwhile.

Romance doesn’t have to be complicated

I might be married, but that doesn’t mean I can let the romance die. Indeed, it may be more important now than when we were dating. Fortunately for me, romance doesn’t have to be complicated, or expensive. Here are a few of the things that I do:

  • flowers – There may be nothing as good as the old stand-by of flowers. My wife always appreciates them.
  • food – Whether I cook, we cook, or we go out to eat, my wife and I love good food. It helps us to slow down and provides a good excuse to spend time together. She loves the break when I take over kitchen duties, we greatly enjoy cooking together (though I might make a bit of a mess at times), and we both love trying out new restaurants, or new items at old favorites.
  • sticky notes – My wife loves receiving notes, and I love writing them. In fact, I’ve come up with a system that helps me do this on a daily basis. I write short notes on sticky-note paper and hide them for her to find throughout the day. She gets a love note in addition to a daily treasure hunt.

I’m not an expert

I certainly don’t know everything about relationships, and mine is still a work in progress. However, I keep working to get better. I’ve worked through The Love Dare, read The Five Love Languages (which is how I know that Words of Affirmation, ie: love notes, are important to my wife), and make it a point to reread His Needs, Her Needs every year. Since my wife is important to me, I make the time to focus on her. Sometimes this doesn’t mean spending time with her, but improving myself as her husband. I might not be an expert on relationships, but I’m working towards my doctorate on my wife. This requires time and energy, and
being a minimalist helps me work toward that goal.

Why I Love Life on 2 Wheels

I recently introduced you to Ms. Peeps. She certainly makes me excited, but the reason why is hard to explain. Hard as it might be, I’m going to give it a shot:

It’s in my blood.

  • I have a photograph of Mom’s dad when he was a boy, sitting on a motorcycle. This was the mid 1920s.
  • Dad owned a number of motorcycles, and always wanted another one.
  • Mom has been riding (as a passenger) for a number of years now. Her honeymoon with my step-dad was a motorcycle trip.
  • My name-sake was a family friend who rode his motorcycle everywhere, weather-permitting.
  • So far as I can tell, all 4 of my uncles have ridden motorcycles over the years, and my cousins have taken this up as well.

I didn’t grow up around motorcycles, but I did grow up around people who loved them. Family and their friends. I listened to them talk about motorcycles, and saw them watch as we were passed on the road. Having a motorcycle has been a dream since my early teens.

I’m part of a community

You may have never noticed, but a lot of motorcyclists will wave at one another when they pass on the road. How fun is that? I’ve had a number of random conversations, purely because someone else rides a motorcycle, or wants to.
There are motorcycle clubs, riding groups, online forums, and more. All dedicated to motorcycles and the lifestyle that goes with them. These online communities are veritable founts of knowledge. I can research to my heart’s content… which is a lot of reading. I can look up motorcycles, places to ride, ways to customize my bike, riding techniques, and more. Whoah… that’s a lot. And I haven’t even started searching out people in real life!

It’s fun

This is the main reason. I love riding Ms. Peeps because it’s fun. This is the part I don’t know how to explain. Even if it’s cold and raining I still enjoy the time I spend on two wheels. It makes me feel alive. I can’t help but smile when I hear Ms. Peeps fire up, when I lean into a turn, or when I get to twist the throttle. Life on two wheels is good.

Meet Ms. Peeps

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Ms. Peeps is a 2003 Yamaha V-Star 650 Classic. She joined our family in June of this year, with about 8,800 miles on the odometer. Shortly there-after, she developed some medical issues* that were quickly diagnosed and repaired by the family motorcycle mechanic (who would be yours truly).

We’ve been cruising along for over 4,000 miles now, nice and smoothly.

About her name

Even before picking her up from the previous owner, I was debating what to call Ms. Peeps. Being purple, the only thing that I could come up with was The Purple People Eater. I asked a few friends and they gave the same response. Thusly she was dubbed. That’s quite a mouthful, however, so I shortened it down to Ms. Peeps. When riding, however, I have noticed that I shorten it to Peeps. ie: “C’mon, Peeps!”

How we ride

Ms. Peeps is my daily transportation. I’ve been riding on a daily basis ever since I purchased her. This means that I’ve been wet a few times. (Oh, that rain gear works wonders when you actually put it on!) It means that I have to peel off the layers when I arrive at my destination, because I dress to stay warm on the trip. It also means that I now always have on jeans, a jacket, and boots, no matter where I go.

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All The Gear, All The Time
I believe that the proper gear is a vital part of motorcycle riding. It’s far easier, cheaper, and much less painful to replace a cow hide than my hide. And so, a leather jacket and gloves it is… even when it’s 98°F outside. Also, the full-faced helmet is a necessity. Sure, it’s hot and not nearly as much fun as a skid lid (half-helmet) or nothing, but I’m losing my hair fast enough without any help from the blacktop.

Ideally, I will never need any of this gear. It’s insurance, though. It might be a nuisance, but when I do need it, I will really need it.

With Company
Even though I’m a daily commuter, I don’t always ride alone. My wife quickly picked up a matching jacket, helmet, and gloves after Ms. Peeps joined us. We’ve spent many enjoyable afternoons cruising around the area. New roads have been explored, museums have been visited, lakes have been swum in, and other adventures have been shared.

The adventure is just starting!

It’s only been a few months, and I’ve had a great time riding so far. I know that there are plenty of good rides in the future, and I look forward to them. Life on two wheels is good!

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*Apparently the previous owner apparently didn’t put any grease on the drive shaft, which meant that the teeth rubbed against each other and were ground smooth.

Things I Can’t Live Without

As an assignment for my painting class I have to bring in 3-5 things that I can’t live without on a daily basis. Receiving this assignment right after I completed the 100 Thing Challenge, it took me some time to figure out what to take for my things. Especially since I’m not sure if she means this in a literal or a representational way (ie: I can’t live without my computer, so I bring in my computer or I can’t live without my wife, so I bring in something that represents my wife). Since my teacher has been gone for a couple of weeks I haven’t had the chance to ask her. (I really want to be a smart-alek and take in some food, a bottle of water, and a jar of air.)


My first thought was my computer. I use it far too much, every day. (Indeed, I am sitting here right now, typing this post.) Beyond that, however, I have no idea what else I use on a daily basis that I “can’t live without.” To help me decide, I looked at my short list for inspiration.


Even if my wife wanted to come in and sit as part of the still life that I will be composing, she has class at the same time that I do. Her representative, then, will be my wedding ring. I don’t often think about it, but every time I take it off greatly feel its absence. It’s only when gone that I notice how often I fiddle with it, adjusting it on my finger. Therefore, it is something that I cannot live without on a daily basis (it only comes off when working on a project that could damage it, which is not that often.)


The next thing that comes to mind is my motorcycle. I greatly love riding it on a daily basis. However, I’m not sure how I would get it into the second floor studio where the class meets. It would fit in the industrial elevator that the building has, but I don’t think it would make it through the tight curves required to get into the building via the handicap ramp. I’m also pretty sure that though I wouldn’t mind doing it once, having to bring the bike up twice a week for nearly a month would get tiring fairly quickly. And yes, I have given this serious consideration.

In lieu of the actual motorcycle, I will be taking its key. Not only does it represent the motorcycle, but it really is a vital part of the bike (I wouldn’t get very far without it).

What I can’t live without

    (Not in order.)

  • Computer – I will probably just take the mouse with me, instead of the whole computer. That studio is dirty and I don’t want to ruin the computer. Plus, it would likely be a distraction for me.
  • My Wife – Since she has class at the same time, my wedding will be her representative. How fitting!
  • Motorcycle – Too big and hard to get into the building, so its key will suffice.

What about you?

What can you not live without on a daily basis? Are you surprised at what first comes to mind? I was surprised when I thought of the computer, and a bit saddened. I really need to reduce my dependency on this thing. I’d love to hear what you come up with!

My Short List

One of the most useful ideas that I gleaned while reading The Power of Less by Leo Babauta (which I reviewed here), was the Short List.

What’s a Short List?

Leo talks about the short list here. Basically, it’s a list of the 3-5 most important things in your life. Things that you want to spend time with, time on, learning, or improving. Once you’ve defined them, you can then proceed to build your life around the items on this list, for now. Your list can change later if you want it to (it’s your list, after all.)

My Short List

Like most everyone, I have a long list of things that I want to accomplish in my life: things to try, to do, to see, etc. I took a few days to write down all of my interests and goals, then sat down and looked for patterns. Many things come up multiple times, in different forms. Or the same interest seems to repeat itself over time. These things are what made it to my current short list. And without further ado…

In no specific order, here is my short list:

  • marriage
  • minimalism
  • money (business)
  • motorcycle
  • making things (art)

(Well, I say no specific order, but I mean after marriage. Marriage is first, the rest are listed randomly.)

After coming up with this list, I realized that these items are reflected in my life list, which just illustrates what I mentioned above. These are the interests that repeatedly appear. Marriage falls under family; money fits in both the financial and professional categories; motorcycle fits both under travel and hobbies; making things fit under hobbies, professional, and education.

Minimalism is what will enable me to focus on these other interests, which I wrote about here.

Now what?

So now that my short list is made, what is the next step? Now it’s time to focus. I feel that I’ve been fairly successful in focusing on these five areas of my life for the past few months. However, I want to do so in a more conscious way. This means dropping other interests, at least for the time being. If they don’t pertain to an item on my short list, then it’ll have to wait until a later date. It also means not accepting new demands on my time.


I’ve already been focusing on minimalism in my life, which became apparent to me as I worked through the Minimalist Experiment and the 100 Thing Challenge. I will continue to explore this lifestyle in order to better focus on the other items on my short list.

As I’m earning my art degree, a great deal of my time is already spent on making things. Even though I have issues with school, I have another year until I will graduate. At that time, I will shift how I am focusing on making things.

I haven’t decided if I want to tie money/business together with making things or not. In some ways I think that would be ideal, and sometimes I think that they need to be separate. At this moment, the two definitely don’t coincide, though I will be experimenting to see if they work better together.

As a year-round motorcycle rider, I also already have a motorcycle focus. However, I want to expand that focus to include more traveling.

Marriage is my main focus, as it is one of the cores around which my life is built. This focus was one of my motivators to try minimalism. I had too many distractions that kept me from spending time with my wife. As I removed them, I found that our relationship improved, which only made me want to continue.

What about you?

Now you’ve seen my short list. Do you have one? I would love to see it. Post it in the comments, or link to it on your blog. What’s important to you?

Project 333

On October first, I read about Project 333. Since I was just starting the 100 Thing Challenge, I decided not to take part in this project, as I thought that one project at a time might be better for my sanity.

The basic idea of Project 333 is simple. For 3 months, wear only 33 items of clothing.

333 Project Rules

  • When: October 1 – December 31
  • What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
  • What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring, underwear, sleep, in-home lounge wear, and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)
  • How: over the next two months, outline your 33 items, by the 1st of October, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.
  • What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. If you purchase items for project 333, stick with the one in, two out approach. Consider the essentials and stick to 33.
  • (For more details, check it out.)

I’ve already been doing this!

The rules are pretty simple, and I feel that they provide quite a bit of flexibility. As I wrapped up the 100 Thing Challenge I realized that I had only worn 40 clothing items all month long. Of course, this includes 5 items that aren’t counted in Project 333 (PJ’s, underwear, socks, and gym clothes), which brings down my total to only 35. I could easily drop my second doo rag and a pair of boots and be at only 33 items.

There are a lot of people trying Project 333

While I won’t be taking part in the project, there are a lot of people who are.
Joshua Becker
almost 400 other people!

You can join in!

It’s not too late to join in the fun. The rules are simple and the experience is well worth it. Since you’re not getting ride of anything, only boxing it up and hiding it out of sight, there is nothing to worry about. If you do need something, it will be available to you. Will you give it a try?