Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cross Country Redux - T-Minus 16 Days

More or less...

After my cross country ride last year, a decision was made. Every year I would take one helluva ride somewhere. This year there were two choices. First was a ride to Yellowknife and back. Nearly 5,000 miles of solitude and scenery and green. Second was a wild idea; a 50CC. For those that don't know, a 50CC is a hell-ride. Coast to coast, San Diego to Jacksonville, FL in under 50 hours.


Athena could likely do either. But, could I? Yellowknife seems wonderfully exotic but a bit expensive. A 50CC ride would be harsh and punishing. What if something broke down? What if...

One of my best friends lives in North Carolina and another in Florida. Other friends seem to start popping up; one in Texas, one in Louisiana, one in Michigan, one in Pennsylvania, one in Wisconsin, several in New England.

The decision was made for 2009, another coast to coast, not a 50CC. A three day hard ride from Vegas to Pensacola in preparation for a 50CC in 2010. But when? I wanted to leave early in October but events and plans precluded that. Early November was decided. I would depart on Halloween. But... always a but... Something had slipped my mind. An event on November 7th I needed to attend here in Las Vegas.

Leave on November 8? I would be back near Thanksgiving. There are plans in the works to be in Northern CA then. And what of the cold, unpredictable weather in the midwest?

So, I look and think. After Thanksgiving wouldn't do. I want, no, need the ride. And there it was. October 16 through Halloween. Two weeks plus one day. It is now up to my boss. If he gives the green light, there it is.

Money is tight so gas and motels will be the limit of my expenses. Food will all be packed.

I am excited; elated. Several years ago within my mind, the definition of an adventure was defined. Any time I say to my self, "what the hell am I doing," it is an adventure. Life is an adventure. Let's ride.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

365 Days Ago

365 days ago... or so... I was not here.

I was warming myself in the Colorado sun riding east on my journey that would take me to Kitty Hawk, the Atlantic Ocean, Oklahoma City, Chattanooga, Route 66 and Memphis. A good memory, it pulls my mind and desires back to the road.

For those who don't feel the inner urge, the desire, any explanation would be lost in translation. It simply cannot be comprehended. Imagine someone attempting to explain quantum physics to a typical Nevada high school student.

While packing I found an aging notebook at the bottom of a weathered box. In it are trip plans first conceived in the mid and late 1990's. There are interesting titles like "Top of the World, Jeep Style" and "Alaska, Two Weeks, Two Wheels" and "Around the US in 30 Days." The pull is strong; irresistible to some. Disenchanted by Las Vegas and sensing the beginning hints of a broken marriage, the road called out. It wanted to comfort an increasingly weary soul.

I didn't listen then.

A decade later I did.

Saturday, October 31, Halloween, 6 AM, I plan to depart on on another cross country trek. Two weeks of Athena, the road and friends. For me, this is living. Hope to see some of you out there.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kudos for Good Caging

Cagers, specifically the stupid, texting, cellphone using, reading, iPod Playing, stop sign ignoring, porn watching cagers of Las Vegas receive quite a bit of well deserved tongue lashing from me here. To those I have waggled a finger at or wrapped my engine at, you deserve it. Friggin drive that vehicle!

What is rarely mentioned are the contentious drivers out there. Earlier this week I was riding behind an older van on the I-215. The hazard lights come on and it slows while easing onto the shoulder. I slow and ease around, pulling onto the shoulder in front of the van. Turning on my hazard blinkers and stopping the engine, I dismount, look back to the driver. I flash the thumbs-up / thumbs-down to her.

She holds her cell phone out the window and yells with a smile, “I just need to make a phone call! Thanks!”

If it were not for my full face helmet, my jaw would have likely fallen off. Thank you, mysterious young lady for being a safe and responsible driver.

Last night there was an errand on the other side of Vegas that needed to be attended to. While waiting to turn left at a busy intersection an old beater pickup pulls in behind me. I look at the driver. There is no way he could be more than 18 yet he is safely one car length behind me. Not many drivers, let alone a young one, would be that thoughtful.

Maybe a fluke. Maybe he was clowning around with his young passenger and just stopped early.

Maybe not.

After turning left I get into the right lane and the pickup in the left. Down the street traffic gets squirrelly. The large SUV gas guzzler I am behind veers onto a side street, revealing the issue. A small fender bender accident is immediately ahead in the right lane.

With traffic solid in the left lane there is nothing I can do but stop and wait for the left lane to clear up. Then, what do I see? That same pickup, driven by that same young driver in the left lane, STOPPING and WAVING ME IN!

Holy Schnitzel! I ride in front of the pickup, past the fender bender and back into the right lane, being sure to wave at this young fellow. In my opinion, 75% of Las Vegas drivers should take a lesson from these young drivers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


There is a certain wonder, certain curiosity we all have to varying degrees. What is this? Why is that? When will the coffee be done? And the intensity varies from day to day, hour to hour. It is normal and it is good.

For some reason this evening I wonder why some refer to me as a biker. Does a biker have a certain look? A certain attitude? A certain intangible something?

What is the difference between a motorcycle enthusiast and a biker? Is there one? Are they the same?

My reading took me to a few places...
What Makes a Biker
Are You a Biker?
Definition of a biker??
Daily Blather...

Here is what I have learned tonight. It doesn't matter. Who's up for a little midnight ride?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

One Foot

Stop sign.

Small blue and silver car.

Driver didn't stop.

Second gear.

Front wheel off the ground.

One foot.

There are several four way stops near where I live. I am always, I mean ALWAYS careful. It paid off by the fact I am not writing this from a hospital room. Or worse, that I am not able to write this at all.

I stop at the same time two other vehicles do; one to the right, one to the left. Person on the right goes and person on the left waves at me. Once the intersection is clear I start. In mid intersection, to my right, a speeding car masked by the other stopped traffic.

There was no hesitation, no thought. I twist the throttle to WOT in an instant. The front wheel comes up just as the car passes within a foot of my rear fender. they didn't even slow down. Probably better for them. If they had, I just might have given them an ear-full.

If I had been in my pickup, I would have been T-Boned. On my Rebel, well, there would have been no way to get out of the way. Athena carried me through.

Maybe she was happy to get a nice new front tire. Perhaps she was watching out for me. Maybe the new ride bell a friend bought for me. Maybe it was just physics.

Any more, I don't know.

Ride safe out there, just like you are invisible.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I try to live under the concept of "no regrets," and "live for today," and lately, "you can sleep when you are dead."

Honestly, that first one, has a few wrinkles. You see, there is a ghost haunting me. Not the type that goes 'boo' or creaks the stairs or rattles ethereal chains in the attic. This one just hangs out in my subconscious, occasionally stimulating my long term memory and visual cortex.

199o, Prospect Heights, Illinois. My ex-wife and I had just purchased a small condo for a nice price. It was right on the approach path for one of Palwaukee Airport's runways. Didn't bother us much.

It was an unusually quiet and pleasant late summer Saturday. Our third floor condo had a small balcony where I could regularly be found on the weekends grilling or watching the planes or reading or just enjoying a coffee, looking down at the small cul-de-sac parking lot. This fine Saturday was winding down. The afternoon breeze cooled the grill after sizzling up a nice round steak.

Going out to clean the grill, I see it. Them. In the car.

Now, I am 43 and my memory of things past is becoming a bit hazy. Never known for a good memory, I can't even remember my new street address after living here two weeks.

But those shoes. Those red sneakers and white socks worn by a boy, likely in his teens. Flailing under the weight of an older man, all that was visible of the two was from the waist down, hanging out of the open left rear car door.

Sneakers and socks waving wildly, trying to catch hold of something, anything. The man's waist twisting in a motion that could only indicate he was swinging his fists.

Muffled cries could be heard as I yelled down. He didn't stop. I called 911.

Part of me wanted so badly to go down there and break it up; get between the two. Another part thought of the danger and the legal issues and the fact that I had a new job and bills to pay and a baby on the way. All I did was call 911 and yell at the bastard.

The man stopped and exited. There was only a barely perceptible crying coming from below. The boy, no longer thrashing, likely exhausted and injured, pulled his legs and his red shoes and his white socks into the car.

I yell. Ignoring me, the large balding bastard closes the door, opens the driver's door and drives away. No plates.

Police arrive about ten minutes later. They take a brief statement and leave.

To this day, I wonder of that boy. Wonder if that now thirty-something man is ok. Wonder if justice or karma was served. What would have been different if I had gone down there.

I wonder.

Should that happen now, there is no question what I would do. No hesitation. No pause. No regrets. I would be that obsticle.
Kind readers, this is sadly a true story and one I don't believe has been told. It is one of my ghosts.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Passing on the Love of the Road

There are those times when we have the opportunity to pass our love of riding on to another generation, another group, another person. Those times offer infinite open doors.

What if this person asking about my bike is the next Robert Pirsig? The next Lois Pryce? The next Neil Peart? Passing the love of the road and of riding onto another can be profound to both the giver and the receiver.

This weekend as I relax with a Red Bull outside an Albertson's grocery store, a thirty-something woman and her son walk by, both eying Athena. She was freshly detailed and looking sharp in the Las Vegas sun.

Even at thirty feet away, their necks craned, they continue to look. Then, they turned around and returned. And then she asked me the question...

"How do I learn to ride?"

I have read some people feel new riders should be discouraged to cull out those who only want to ride for show or adrenalin or to look attractive to the opposite sex. The motorcycling wannabees. Personally, their reasons are of no concern to me. They are interested in riding, and that is what matters.

I show her my Motorcycle Safety Foundation BRC card and tell her of the classes offered up the street at the College of Southern Nevada. Her and her son's eyes sparkle as I tell of the BRC exercises and training and of my trips. She asks more questions, including those of danger and safety and I answer honestly.

She promised to call the college and sign up. It felt good to pass a little of my love along. A changed life, a changed world may only begin with a single change of direction.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Lessons of the Wind

The wind teaches us many lessons on a motorcycle.

A forward wind tells us to not ride so fast; relax and enjoy the scenery. Not heeding this lesson results in rider exhaustion and poor fuel efficiency.

A rear wind teaches that there are times when the natural elements can help the rider by making the path easier to navigate with less energy required.

A side wind teaches that it is folly to directly fight some forces. Trust yourself, your bike and ride easily through the crosswinds. Enjoy the lean, don't go so fast and use your mind to maintain the line.

It regularly surprises me that lessons learned on a motorcycle are directly usable to life.

Ride safe, all. There will be a tailwind eventually.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Time as the Wind Blows

Ah, the roadblock is clearing at just the right time. SO many things to write about, so many things to do, so many things to think about and SO many miles to ride.

Ever wonder how linear time really is? In reality it isn't. It bends and twists and given the right circumstances can be quite distorted.

Let's start at the beginning, nearly 30 years ago. There my grandfather and I are, sitting on lawn chairs on the bank of a small stream in Illinois. The late summer sun warmed our bodies as the early morning coffee steamed in thermos cups. My fishing pole starts twitching. I set the hook and start reeling in my catch. Pulling it free of the water, I mutter "damn." A snapping turtle.

The hook is barely in it's mouth but there is no way I would put my fingers within striking distance. My Grandfather gives me a pair of pliers and a pocket knife. After a brief struggle, the turtle is free and swimming back into the stream.

Using the pocket knife I cut the line and replace the damaged hook. When done, I hand the knife back to my Grandfather. He shakes his head, "You keep it. You need a good little knife."

"Old Timer" is stamped on its small side plate. Made by Schrade in the USA, its three small blades sharpened near the point where someone could shave with it.

Bump ahead thirty years. I am moving; cleaning out a closet. There on the floor is the knife my Grandfather gave me. I smile and place it into my pocket.

Several days later my daughter and I are out shopping. In celebration of her new job I am buying her a new pair of pants or two. SLAM goes the truck door; and the sinking feeling immediately hit. My keys are still in the truck; doors locked tight.

Locksmiths are not inexpensive. After a dozen calls, I settle on one that will open my truck's door for ONLY $50.

My daughter comes out of the store and says, "Dad, I read something on the internet. Mind if I try a few tricks with that old knife you found?"

"Sure, as long as you don't break my truck or the knife," I smile.

She takes the knife her Great Grandfather gave me... and picks the door lock in about five seconds! Not only did that save me from paying $50 but made me wonder a little more about time and fate and free will.

Maybe it is all like the wind. Free will can change its speed and direction but it is still the wind.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

AH! A Roadblock!

There I am, relaxing and reading blogs. And the one-way sign seems to be up. Blog after blog, MeanDonnaJean and mq01 and Ann and Doug and Wooley and Torch and Earl and a host of others... And I so want to respond, write something more meaningful than "Yup," or "I feel ya," or "oh ya."

The words are there, simply stuck behind a roadblock. Luckily roadblocks are temporary. After I recover from my move, it will likely fall to the side of the road.

So, until I can write something that resembles cognizant thought, ride safe!