Friday, October 5, 2007

Suzanne's Angels in the Free Venice Beachhead

Hi Angels!

We're featured in the Venice Beachhead this month! You can read the story on Page 10.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Road Trip comes to an end

Hello Angels!

I made it! A little road-weary and happy to be out of the saddle, but safe and filled with a new appreciation for warmth, comfort, a hot bath...

I arrived back in Venice on Saturday evening, six weeks after departure, exactly 13,654 kilometres or 8,484 miles from the starting point here in Venice on August 19.

I've burned through a set of tires, lost a drive belt, ridden in snow, fought wind and rain, narrowly escaped being turned into a leather and steel pancake, lost the legendary Outhouse Race in Dawson City, spent too much money on bike repairs, and loved every minute of the adventure.

I've encountered ANGELS along the way. Angels without whom I could not have completed this epic ride.

Angels like Jim Deitschman, who on day 2 went out of his way to ensure I had a working battery leaving Suzanne's camp in the redwoods.

Angels like Mark, Richard and John, who not only rescued me from the potential nightmare of breaking down on the Alaska Highway, but managed to solidify, triple-handedly, my belief in human goodness, and raise the standards of decency higher than I could possibly live up to.

Angels like 78-year-olds Ron and Betty Barnett in Fort St. John who made me feel so welcome when my rescue squad brought me along for dinner, then again the next day when the rescue squad broke down themselves, spent the better part of their day getting us all back on the road.

Angels like John and Gail Hendley, and Lee who three years running have welcomed me to Dawson City like a long lost friend and made me feel like I belong. And their angel sister, Dawn, who provided Henk with saddle bags and originally suggested I trudge all the way to Dawson.

Angels like Kevin, who had the Dempster portion all planned out with equipment, bikes, gas, inner tubes, food and Courvoisier, so all I had to do was show up.

Angels Ron and Leah, our partners, who supported us unconditionally.

Angel Johnny McPhee, who gave me the blessing of the Great Spirits in Williams Lake.

Angels hidden behind the eyes of bears who gave me calmness and courage when I needed it.

Unseen Angels who pulled the throttle down faster than I could ever think to and flew me swiftly out of harm's way when the driver of a red sports car in Santa Barbara changed lanes without looking and came within inches of Henk.

Angels who have made pledges of money to help Suzanne and her kitties into shelter.

Angels, family and friends, who have followed along in spirit and offered words of encouragement.

And Suzanne, herself a true Angel who's welcomed me into her private magical realms where a word of kindness is golden, a warm gesture, healing, and compassionate action...transformational.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hommage to Moira

I first met Moira on the seacoast of Santa Monica, California, in early springtime, 2007. Our friendship developed over several weeks. Moira indulging me by my reciting newly composed poetry, or excerpts from my in progress autobiography. We bonded through mutual inspirations. I looked forward to our encounters; exchanging ideas and encouragement from this lovely Canadian artist and writer.

Our weekly visits included her bringing me fresh organic salad greens, that were comprised of tiny orange and purple flowers. Thus I named them Faery Food, which describes the donor as well. I was enormously grateful, having been without refrigeration to store fresh food, as I had been residing in my tiny, hand hewn camper for a number of years.

She managed to "evict" me, occasionally, from a semi hermetic crawl space, to the healing graces of her gourmet cuisine, and lavish me with fragrent soaps and hot showers. Gestures of kindness demonstrating the enormous altruistic nature of this woman.

One cannot imagine my stunned amazement when Moira created Suzanne's Angels, and embarked on such a huge undertaking. A journey of epic proportion to the Far North on my behalf, in hopes of generating the funds towards shelter for myself and my darling felines.

Words can never thank her and those brother and sister Angels who have reached out to help me through what has been a long and difficult journey.

Thank you, with all my heart... SUZANNE

a little history... Suzanne's own words

Although I had had the front row view of the mighty Pacific and the solace of my feline family and sea-gull companions, it has been an arduous task of endurance keeping mind and body sound and safe, for, now on five years. Crippling pain from a serious accident in 1999, due to multiple fractures was enough. Then to lose my career which took a lifetime to build. My life as a choreographer, dance instructor, and massage therapist, was over; indefinitely.

Enduring this, and the peripheral loss of dignity in having to face homelessness from the inability to earn my financial independence, I retreated to my tiny cabin on wheels.

I was down on my luck. The telephone was strangely silent. There must have been something to be said of many former friends and associates who were no longer calling. It seemed, in some folks' judgement, that I was choosing to remain in this homeless situation. Adding shame to injury.

Then... What can be said of a society that turns a blind eye to such numbers of homeless individuals, many of whom are greatly disabled? The abject neglect of the Armed Forces veterans? How does the America I once loved so dearly allow the police to profile and criminalize the disadvantaged?

I had no results in obtaining low-cost housing, even after repeated and exhausting efforts, from government or other agencies. Rental accommodations in Los Angeles County have become increasingly prohibitive for those with minimal fixed income.

I've always attempted to bring artfulness into my lifestyle, but with the conditions of this stark experience, I was so often bereft of inspiration, with searing pain being a constant companion.

Despair was undermined by lending a hand to others. Those less fortunate in many respects. The shopping cart homeless.

I often had to dig deep into my dancer's discipline and Scottish ancestry to maintain hope and generate momentum to face another day.

On my path, I've encountered encouraging and interesting individuals with their own challenges. I've received kindness from strangers, all of whom made an enormous difference in keeping hope alive, faith in spirit and human goodness.

I've had an inordinate length of time while recovering from injuries to ponder on the anatomy of these experiences; and the process of reinventing myself.

To this end, I am at present recording some evidence of miracles in my autobiography.

I persevere in attempting to improve my health, and recover some aspects of my former creative skills, which that too, is part of the healing process.

I thank my angel sisters and brothers for assisting me in overcoming the daily struggles in what has been a long and difficult journey.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Southbound and Road Weary

Hello Angels!

I'm in central Oregon, probably three days from completing this epic ride.

Now that Henk has new rubber and a new drive belt, he's running like a dream. But I'm getting tired. Tired of crappy road food, tired of battling wind and rain, tired of crawling into my tent that's no longer waterproof to sleep, tired of wearing my helmet all day, tired of taking ten minutes to pee because of all the damn layers I have to peel off, tired of missing my kitty and tired of being homeless.

I can't imagine how Suzanne feels after five years without a proper home.

I'm hoping to stop in for a visit with her on my last night on the road. Also hoping the weather holds out a while longer. It's been beautiful and sunny since I hit southern BC, but Suzanne says the first cold rains of the season have already fallen in the redwoods east of Santa Cruz.

I'm getting anxious for her to get set up in a little studio somewhere warm where she can get cozy with her kitties for the winter and complete her book.

I've been doing the math while riding, and though I've had very positive response with pledges, I'm still looking for more!

Every time I need an angel on the road, there's one (or three) a breath away.

I'm trusting that Suzanne's will come through for her in the nick of time.

Please pass this on far and wide.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

videos of my rescue

Hello Angels!

I'm in Prince George awaiting motorbike repairs. I'm hoping to be back on the road this afternoon.

I had a chance to upload some raw videos of the day I broke down and my rescue.

If you go over to and click on the blog, you should be able to view them...

Again, thank you for all your support and words of encouragement.

And thank you so much to Richard, Mark, and John who went way out of their way to rescue me. Real life heroes and true angels.

This photo is of Richard trying to fix the rescue vehicle when it broke down! When the rescue squad had to be rescued, their friend Ron in Fort St. John, a 78-year-old angel, jumped in to drive them an hour down the Alaska Highway and an hour back to get the part they needed.

We were delayed another half day, but that's what happens when adventures collide and angels respond. We all made it home safe and perhaps forever changed by our serendipitous encounter.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Stuck on the Alaska Highway

Hello Angels!

I always say an adventure wouldn't be an adventure if you didn't occasionally need to rely on the kindness of strangers. It's happened to me often enough now that I simply expect that at least once on my journey, I'll be begging for help.

It happened on day 2 of this trip when my battery died and I had to call my newest friend Jim in Boulder Creek. He showed up within half an hour with a spare battery that worked as a band-aid until I could get a new one. Had I not met Jim at a stop light the day before, I don't know what I would have done.

And today was another one of those days.

I broke down in about as remote a spot as one could break down, smack in the middle of Fort Nelson and Fort St. John on the Alaska Highway.

I'd already ridden three hours in the snow. My hands were freezing and my spirits low. There was hardly a car on the road, but within seconds of getting off my bike and wondering what to do, I saw a pickup truck heading north. The driver slowed as he approached, and I flagged him down.

Three guys leaped out, ready to do whatever it took.

Within ten minutes, Henk was loaded into the back of the truck and tied down, and I was in the cab warming up and thanking them. They offered me coffee and a danish. The ice on my jacket began to drop off and my hands quickly thawed.

They were going in the opposite direction, but offered to take me down the road to the trucker camp at Buckinghorse River, where I could get a room, have a hot shower and think about what to do next.

They offered to stop in tomorrow on their way back from the hotsprings and if I was still here, they'd take me all the way to Prince George, where my new tire and drive belt await.

I don't think any of these three regular Canadian guys would ever in their wildest dreams consider themselves an angel, but what am I to think? They just happened to have room in their truck, they just happened to have tie-downs handy, they just happened to be coming back my way tomorrow and just happened to be kind enough to offer to pick me and Henk up... Oh, and one of them just happens to be a mechanic.

What could easily have been a nightmare was instantly diffused by the kindness and generosity of these three strangers, Mark, John and Richard.

I could probably sit outside and wait for a truck heading south to hitch up to, but when presented with the option of getting to know these three who've offered their time and resources to a traveller in need, I really can't refuse.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Inuvik, NWT

Hello Angels!

I'm over 7,000 kilometres from my starting point in Venice Beach, past the Arctic Circle by 2 degrees and a day's grueling ride on the bumpy, dusty Dempster Highway that seems to go forever into infinity, yet finally ends at Inuvik on the Mackenzie River Delta, Canada's largest fresh water delta close to the Arctic Ocean.

It's unbelievably beautiful up here. The fall colours are at their peak, and all the way up, we were presented with stunning vista after stunning vista of rolling river valleys, mountain backdrops, and a maze of clear blue lakes and streams in northern boreal forests. I'm in awe of planet earth.

The other night, my friend Kevin, with whom I'm doing this leg of the ride, called out from his tent to wake me. I opened the flap of mine to the arctic 2am sky at Eagle Plains and saw the spectacular dancing northern lights sweeping slowly, melodically, hypnotically across the top of the world.

While I've been up here taking in the magic of The Land of the Midnight Sun, Suzanne was swooped up and taken to San Francisco for the reunion of the Summer of Love.

I'm hoping she'll post a short note here of her experiences. Please stay tuned!

We've had further pledges for Suzanne from generous angels along the way. It's been uplifting for both of us. Thank you.

And for more blogs about the trip, check

Friday, August 31, 2007

Dawson City, 6 and a half thousand kms north of L.A.

Hello Angels!!

I'm finally in Dawson City after twelve days on the road. Here I will rest a few days and gear up for the next leg up the Dempster Highway to Inuvik.

It's been a surprisingly smooth ride up here. I was telling Suzanne that it really does feel as though I've got angels flying me up here. Henk the Buell, at over 96,000kms is running better than ever and ever since the hiccup in Boulder Creek with a dead battery on day 2, I literally haven't encountered a problem of any sort.

The ride up the Alaska Highway is beautiful. Always existential because it just goes and goes and goes. The solitude and silence, coupled with the vastness you're riding through and into, create a perfect environment for potent meditation.

Every day I'm out there riding, whether it's in sunshine or rain, warmth or wintery cold, I think of Suzanne braving the elements every single day. It's given this trip a real sense of purpose and a reason to talk to people with an instant first topic of conversation.

When I tell people where I started and where I'm going, they're quite baffled. "What? All the way from L.A. on that?" Then when I bring up Suzanne's Angels, their faces soften ever so slightly and they offer such kind words of encouragement, both for me and the ride, and for Suzanne and her future.

One guy I stopped and chatted with in Dawson Creek said he's basically homeless at the moment as well, living out of the back of his van parked at WalMart; but his luck had recently changed. He told me to tell Suzanne that luck can change for the better and once you're out of that rut, you're really out!

On a personal note, I have never felt so grateful. Strangely, I'll be riding along in the cold rain and I'll be singing to myself "I've got sunshine on a cloudy day..." knowing that at some point, I'll come out from under a cold dark cloud and the sun will beam its warmth back down on me, dry off my gloves and boots, and change the world.

A very cool piece of news on the sponsorship front: Erik Buell, founder, chairman, chief technical officer of the Buell Motorcycle Company and designer extraordinaire of Henk the Buell, has personally made a pledge to Suzanne's Angels! How fabulous is that?!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Suzanne's Angels - Women on the road for Women on the street

This group was created in response to a friend asking "What charity are you riding for?" I was inspired.

I'm always a bit leery of "charities." I never know exactly where my money's going unless I give it directly to the person in need. So I often give food or a few bucks to homeless people.

I believe in acting locally, whether it be buying from local farmers, supporting local businesses or helping your neighbor.

Suzanne is a homeless woman I've become friends with in Venice. She lives in her truck with her four adopted cats.

Although she's turned her truck into a funky cabin and lives her homelessness as art, with as much dignity as is humanly possible, it's a constant struggle. She sleeps with one eye open and sometimes feeds her cats better than she feeds herself.

I'm fortunate to be able to choose homelessness for a month to pursue my passion of riding motorbikes. I'll be riding in solitude from L.A. to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, toward the midnight sun in the wind and the rain, camping under the northern lights, sleeping on a gravel bed with a fleece sweater for a pillow. For me, the idea of homelessness for a month is bliss. But I have a home to come back to - a safe place with a warm bed and a cozy duvet and a supportive partner and a kitchen and a shower - things I need to leave occasionally in order not to take them too much for granted. If all goes well, I'll be logging approximately 20,000 kilometres. (Approximately 14,000 miles.)

My goal is to have $1 per kilometre/mile pledged for Suzanne by the time I return to L.A. I'm one fifth of the way there already.

I leave this Sunday, August 19. I'll be posting regular blogs and videos from my helmet cam along the way both here and on First stop, Suzanne's truck in Santa Cruz! Stay tuned, and join Suzanne's Angels! (You don't have to be a biker to be an Angel!)

You (or a group of you) can leave a pledge of a penny per km/mile (or more or less) in the comments section of this blog. or on the wall of the group "Suzanne's Angels" on Facebook. Or email me directly at moira


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Suzanne: mythical muse or human being?

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river...

Leonard Cohen was so inspired by her as a young woman in Montreal that he wrote the poem which was to become the hit song "Suzanne" covered by no less than 20 artists since the late '60's. It's a haunting melody that immortalized Suzanne as a mythical muse in the hearts and minds of millions.

The lyrics painted a portrait of a beautiful and free young woman in a time, a woman wearing "rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters" who found "heroes in the seaweed" and showed you "where to look among the garbage and the flowers."

Fast forward forty years, and you'll find Suzanne eerily encapsulated in "Suzanne" - a woman now in her late fifties, still in Goodwill rags, whose story is as bittersweet as the tea and oranges she fed to Cohen on summer afternoons while boats drifted by and they melded their minds.

Her flat overlooking the St. Lawrence River is now a room in a boutique hotel, her old friend the poet has become a world famous musician, and the beauty of her youth has faded; but for Suzanne Verdal, much has stayed the same.

She has lived most of her life as a gypsy, traveling on the fringes of society, creating art and poetry for the love of it and living for the beauty she could find in a moment.

Suzanne was a well-known and respected dancer and choreographer in Canada, and came to Los Angeles with big dreams. Just as her Hollywood career was about to take off, she had a tragic fall from a ladder onto concrete, breaking her back and both wrists. Her dreams of dance were over.

Now subsisting on a small monthly disability check, she was forced to move into her truck when her landlord evicted her to do a renovation and she could no longer afford rent in L.A.

She presently shares her truck, which has been transformed into a funky wooden art house on wheels, with four beloved adopted cats.

At first glance, it looks like a romantic way of life - when I first met her in a parking lot in Santa Monica by the ocean, I admired her house on wheels with one of the best views going. "How adventurous and free!" I thought to myself.

I began to stop by on my way back from the Wednesday market on my bicycle and we became friends. She read me her poetry and chapters from her life story. It was eloquent and articulate and wistful and melancholy. She'd feed the birds around her truck and call them her angels. She'd watch her kitties climb the gnarly tree, claiming they'd saved her life as much as she'd saved theirs. She recalled being able to turn nothing into magic in happier days.

When she showered at my place, only when I insisted, she emerged bright and radiant, and said "There are angels in water!" I shared with her organic greens from the market - "fairy food" - and at our Venice Easter garden party, she brought chocolate cake and camembert and wore purple orchids in her hair.

Fiercely independent and proud like her Scottish ancestors, Suzanne has a difficult time asking for help. In the six months I've known her, I've seen her give more than receive.

Suzanne has recently taken steps toward getting herself off the street. She's made a big move to Santa Cruz, and is at the moment trading some gardening work, along with her cooking skills and massage for the use of a new friend's kitchen, bathroom and electricity.

I often look at Suzanne, in all her complexities of beauty and pain, sensitivity and strength, freedom and struggle, magic and futility; and I wonder if, given a different set of circumstances, it could be me. If it were, I would have to rely heavily on Angels for help.

This blog is for Suzanne's Angels.

"You know that she's half crazy but that's why you want to be there."