Camping with Betty-Sioux

Many of my friends know that I like to camp. But when I camp, I usually pack my backpack as light as I can, walk a few miles into the mountains, set up my hammock, start my jet boil, hang up my bear bag, and enjoy life. But I’ve decided to try a different style of camping, and that will mean a different approach.

This is Betty-Sioux. She is a 2015 Indian Chief Vintage. My wife semi-affectionately refers to her as my “mistress.” That color is a throwback to a 1957 Ford Thunderbird. The sheepskin seat is from Alaska and only needs to be fed once each week.

So, I have almost the same problem when I take my wife camping as when I take my “mistress.” Sweetie-Pie doesn’t like to stay in hotels under 4 stars. Betty-Sioux doesn’t like to dip her tires off the pavement. Fortunately, my motorcycle doesn’t get to vote. Sweetie-pie on the other hand has been exercising her veto power over accompanying me on camping trips for a long time. Although she does sometimes pick me up after I’ve been a few days in the woods. I am very grateful that she drives hours sometimes to haul me back to civilization, and I don’t even complain that she makes me keep the windows down all the way back home.

After a bit of research I found a campground just off the Blue Ridge Parkway that is oddly enough called the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground. They offered everything I was looking for in a camping spot, and I was very pleased that the trail around the campground was a tightly packed gravel and dirt path. Not bad at all.

View of the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground’s cabin area

So I spent one night sleeping warm and snug and letting the creek serve as my lullaby. The chill in the mountain air in the morning still let me know that this was truly camping. And as I piloted my bike up the hill and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway that morning I decided that I need to do this again. Soon.

Nice campsite

Riding Season!

Flowers are blooming  in my front yard!  IMG_8226

Thank you Sweetie-Pie!   If it weren’t for you putting up with me for 28 years my yard would probably be paved.  Someday I’ll actually find out what they are be able to call them by their correct name.

I live in Georgia, so riding season is actually year round, but comfortable riding is mostly from late March to early November.  Those November, December, January, February short, dark, wet days are not good for two wheeled road tripping.

I’m trying to log more time in the saddle and the weather is cooperating beautifully. The temperature is between mosquito dripping weather and I-can’t-feel-my-fingers weather.  The sun is going down a little bit later each day and as soon as the visible clouds of pollen wash out of the sky we will be officially into the summer riding season.

IMG_8216Things are growing.  Our fig tree has survived another Georgia winter and is promising more figs than we can possibly eat again later this year.  My oldest daughter loves all living things and is putting her garden in for this year.

My youngest daughter will visit this weekend with her fiance.  There will  be a bridal shower tea party at my house while I take my future son-in-law out of the house and out of their tea party.  IMG_8209

I’m told I have to bring him back at a certain time.  We’ll see how that goes.

All in all, I’m enjoying this season.

It’s a good season.

Dusty, isn’t it?

I thought I’d come into this blog and see if the lights would still come on.

Wow, some cobwebs and dust, but it’s still part of the viable interwebs.  Well, since we’re here…

Every since I could remember anything, I’ve been aware that I get a kick out of looking forward, anticipating, planning.  From planning the next round of cops and robbers, to mapping out plans A, B, and C for our family Disney vacation, I was making maps, dreaming up “what if’s,”  and imagining the fulfillment of all my hopes.  These traits have always been a part of my personality.  Maybe growing up with mountains around me opened up the pathways in my brain to always wonder what was just over the next hill.  Maybe it’s just something God put into my wiring that helps me get up out of bed and want to begin a plan or project.

You may think this character trait would lead to restlessness but for me it has really only stoked the fires of passion and discovery.  I like to see a plan through to the end.  It may not end the way I thought, but at least I’ll be there at the finish line to learn something for the next one.

This blog started as a way to document the preparation and experience of my cross country ride.  Since then it’s been on the back burner of my creative outlets.  I’ve only picked it up to throw in a picture or two, or turn loose a thought that was sloshing around in my brain for too long.

Well, it’s time for another project that I think may fit pretty well in this space.  I know the world has lost it’s collective mind a bit more than usual over the last year.  I know that anyone that reads this is all too familiar with discussion of infection rates, masks, and social distancing.  The shake up of jobs, lives, plans, and families has us all looking for peace in the middle of the madness.  Some people are eating their way through the crisis.  Some people exercise.  Some express themselves creatively.  Some crawl into isolation like a warm blankie on a stormy night.

Me?  I went a little nutty and committed to another crazy idea.  Well, really, two crazy ideas.  I’m once again on track to challenge myself and check something off my bucket list.  Last August I rode my first Iron Butt Saddlesore 1000.  Yeah, it’s a real thing.IMG_7594

The IBA (Iron Butt Association) certifies various motorcycle endurance rides and gives certificates marking them for the rider.  The baby ride is 1000 miles in 24 hours.  Yeah, that’s the shortest one.  Last August I rode with a group from Indian Motorcycle of Marietta as part of Southeast Iron Butt Inaugural ride.  At the last second I was given the title of “ride leader.”  This was my first attempt and now I was supposed to ‘lead’ the group.  Yikes.  But(t) we did it.  We finished it in about 20 hours through some rough weather.  We made it.  We are now official Iron Butts and along the way we raise some money for https://operationhomefront.org/

After I could walk without a limp, I apparently forgot how difficult it was.  So I signed up for the second Southeast Iron Butt Tour.  Again the money raised will go to help veterans and their families through Operation Homefront.  Again, I am the ride leader.  This time, though, I have experience.  One whole ride.  We leave at 4am on April 30th and finish that night at American Biker Indian just outside Charleston, South Carolina.

Last time I got to see my older sister and nieces at a stop.  I’m hoping to find them again this year at some point in the journey.  They have the world’s best cookies!IMG_7582

Over 200 bikers will be funneling in from 15 different states, all doing their own route of 1000 miles in 24 hours.  After we all get a few hours of sleep there will be a party on May 1st from 12-5.  We’ll give out awards, have a silent auction to raise some more contributions, and just avoid sitting on our bikes for a few hours.

From now until then I have to try and stay excited.   Aw, who am I kidding?  It’s not like I have to try and stay excited.  I actually have to try and keep a lid on things so I don’t attack people with the passion of a vegetarian/crossfitter/activist.

So, as I’m dusting off the shelves in this blog I will have something to talk about.  Our group, and all the other groups could use a few prayers for safety.  Oh, and if you ride and would like to join us here’s the link – https://sites.google.com/view/charityironbuttrides/home

Meanwhile, I hope you are staying well, and loved, and mustering through with your own brand of coping craziness.

Fall, Family, Friendship

I’ve been dealing lately with moment to moment living.  Sometimes that is necessary.  I get it.  Life often presents us with urgent opportunities during which we must react.

Maybe it’s a ‘guy’ thing. I think most of my life has been spent thinking that I’m waiting or living in the moment that will change everything.  I want to impress my wife with the big gesture.  I want to guide my children with the incredible, insightful conversation that impacts them for the rest of their life.  I want to achieve that astounding project at work that people talk about for decades as a significant piece of our mission.  I want to be a hero.

It’s a lot like my dreams as a child of being the wild west hero that saves the town, or the quarterback that throws the wining touchdown, or the rescue volunteer that acts at just the right time in just the right place to save the innocent people at risk from the bomb, or the runaway bus, or the  charging grizzly…  Yeah, I had a great imagination.

Maybe it’s just a romantic dream of being that one person, in the exact time, and born for that exact moment.

Lately, those dreams have been morphing into something very different.  Maybe it’s just because I celebrated another trip around the sun.  Maybe it’s because AARP is sending me mail.  Or maybe, just maybe, some important lessons are starting to seep through my hard head and even harder pride and selfishness.

I’m starting to think that now what really matters is the stack of small moments adding together over time.  I think those “insignificant” cups of coffee, passing “I love you”‘s, and minutes spent listening mean more over the decades than any of the seconds I’ve experienced in the spotlight, or hearing applause.

I went for a ride last weekend with my oldest daughter.  She wanted to ride the Tail of the Dragon.  It’s US 129 at the corner of North Carolina and Tennessee.  Fun ride, and known around the world as a destination for motorcyclists to ride curvy roads, buy pictures, and get t-shirts.  We did all three.  Together.

We spent the night in Cherokee, North Carolina and got to hear a wonderfully informative campfire talk about the history of the Cherokee.  We shared breakfast in a sleepy small town diner, trading bites from our plates dripping with tasty calories.  We watched fog lift from mountain streams, and sunlight play on a lake held back by a tremendous dam.  We found a basset hound that was as friendly as he was aged.   Finally, on the way home we stopped by a tourist train station and had lunch.

Nothing special happened.  No specific moments are really life changing.  No deep conversations.  We just went on a ride together.

It felt heroic.2224441

 

‘merica

Over the fourth of July I left my bike in the garage and took the truck to one of favorite summer time destinations; the Swan Drive In.

Drive In’s were an integral part of my childhood.  I still remember my mom and dad packing the car, getting me and my sister in our jammies, and outfitting us with all the snacks and blankets we could handle in the backseat.  It was a fun and affordable way to entertain our family of four.  We had two within thirty minutes of our house.  They’re both extinct now, but I remember seeing everything from Disney movies, to horror flicks at those wonderful places.  IMG_6185

I’m fortunate enough to live within an hour of two remaining drive in’s.  The Swan, in Blue Ridge Georgia is our preferred destination.  It’s been there since 1955, is still family run, and serves deep fried Oreos (I think you need to sign a waiver).   IMG_0072

When my daughters were a few years younger we’d pack them into my pick up, and fill the back with picnic supplies, and a gymnastic mat.  When we got to the drive in, we’d pull the truck in backwards, tune the radio to the FM low power broadcast for sound (the speakers on poles are long gone), and eat, and play frisbee, and dance, and wait for the movie to start.

I remember one night when my wife and I were hiding in the cab from the rain, and watching the movie in the mirrors, but my girls and their friends refused to come in.  They were blanketed up and packed in like sardines, but they were watching a movie and munching on soggy popcorn – and happy.

Happy birthday, America!  Happy times for this gang of friends enjoying a slice of the past.

Long, hot, Indian Summer

My rides in the summer often take place after I get my work done, my family commitments taken care of, and the weather isn’t too threatening.  Fortunately, those three things have been lining up enough lately to afford me some much needed road time.

Took a long lunch with one of my wonderful daughters!  I’ve mentioned this destination in Ball Ground, Georgia before, but never posted a picture.  Carly took this one.  IMG_6182

Someone put up a sign promising great things.IMG_6181

The bike is truly a babe magnet.IMG_6154

Summer gets hot in Georgia.  There are plenty of afternoon rainstorms to dodge (Or, as I did a few weeks ago, just ride through and try to appreciate the monsoon).  I love heading up into the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina to feel the temperature drop, and my spirits soar.  It takes a good full day to get up and back, but it’s always worth it when I can escape.   It’s definitely going to be a long, hot, Indian Summer Celebration.

Dad

Only two people get to call me by that name.  Actually, there are a couple of others, but to them it’s a title of honor and familiarity, not the intimacy it reflects with my two daughters.

I remember my Dad.  He was a great friend.  He taught me a lot, about life, and love.  We had a lot of great years together that were full of travels, meals, games, and laughter.  I will always think of him as a guide for me life.

Over his last few years he struggled with …I don’t know.  Maybe age.  Maybe strokes.  Maybe just lost pieces of himself.  They were very hard years for both of us.

I thought about him on my ride today.

IMG_6168IMG_6169IMG_6170IMG_6171

There’s a lot on the road that leaves you room for imagining what was, or what might have been.  It gives you a sense of perspective.  It gives you an idea of how you got here.  But it never can take precedence over what is here and now, and where you are headed.

I hope that when my life does end, that I leave in way that every time my kids say “Dad” they smile.

Stancil’s Store

The first day of summer is coming up quick.  I hope to burn a good amount of gasoline in the engine of my bike this summer.  One way I hope to do that is to visit a lot of roadside abandoned, or repurposed filling stations.  It should be a good opportunity to practice …um…learn photography skills.

I don’t know if it’s the throwback look of my Indian Chief Vintage that makes me want to park it by buildings with some kind of history, or maybe it’s the romantic in me that always imagines the lives that passed through places that were once busy, and now have changed.

More than likely, it’s a leftover desire from me as a kid standing up and grabbing the headrest behind my father as he piloted the Impala down the highway (Yes, I grew up in a world that would give current safety experts .    I had a habit of reading every sign, and asking to stop at every roadside sales pitch.  I was convinced that the “Mystery Hole” did contain unknown treasures.  I needed my picture taken with a real live pirate who just happened to be hanging around miles from any port.  I knew beyond any doubt that the Shell Station with the “Live Rattlesnake Pit” in the back was something out of an Indiana Jones movie (which was even more impressive when you consider there was not yet any such thing as an Indiana Jones movie).

But the Impala rarely stopped, but not because my father was intentionally trying to smash all of my dreams and visions.  When I think about it, if that’s what the desired outcome was, then the quickest way to achieve that would have been to stop at all of them.  No, my father knew that it was rare for any of those places to actually contain the entertainment value they promised.

This summer, I’m going to find a few of the gas stations that didn’t quite make it.  And I’m going to stop and remember them.

Cleaning Up

Life is chaotic.  I know that’s not news but it its something that I realize over and over again.  There’s something awfully disappointing in human nature that forces me to admit that each time I am struck with the thought that “Hey, life is a mess!” it’s something of a surprise to me.  My optimistic nature would like to believe that I’m not in the self-deluding cycle of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football again while Lucy will once again pull it away at the last minute.  Instead, I’d like to believe that there is a longing in all of us for the “way things SHOULD be.”  It’s a longing put there by the imprint of a creator who will one day set things right once again.

Okay, that’s enough philosophy.  The bottom line is that it’s summer riding season.  That means the cold, the rain, the bad news, the sad news, the teenage graduation angst, have all come to an end.  It’s behind us now and it’s time to hit the road and start having adventures.  IMG_6133

First order of business – clean up.  Like a bear coming out of hibernation (except not in a cave, more behind a laptop) I was ready for a good grooming session.

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My gateway road to the mountains often takes me through the town of Jasper, Georgia.  Being an aficionado of Barber Shops I’ve noticed the Jasper Old Fashioned Barber Shop as I was motoring by for parts further north.  This time I stopped, parked, and climbed the stairs into a refreshing introduction to summer.  It began with a hug from proprietor Mary Caraway.  Unexpected in an old fashioned barber shop, but extremely welcome.

Mary invited me to help myself to the coffee, and to look around her shop, a remodeled house filled with veterans pictures, letters, and keepsakes.  While I browsed the amazing collection, two local residents welcomed me into their conversation which ranged from “culture is going down like the Titanic II” to “You know it’s all worth it if we can leave something for our kids.”  That houseful of barbers and residents and visitors is a real icon of what is best in America.

Misty, Mary’s daughter, expertly gave me my first (and certainly not my last) barber shop shave.  As I laid back to have my face covered in steaming hot towels, I listened to the fast paced talk about health of loved ones, financial plans, vacation dreams, and good-natured sarcasm.  Breathing in the aftershave, hair tonic, and skin conditioner along with the peace, kindness, and patience that filled the small rooms was a complete reset for my spirit.  Not only did I leave a lot of hair behind, but I left a lot of worries, tension, and clouded vision.  If you’re ever in Jasper, Georgia and find yourself in need of a haircut, shave, cup of coffee, or a hug, I highly recommend the Old Fashioned Barber Shop.

It was a great start to summer.  I feel clean.  IMG_6135

 

Shhhhh. I’m back.

Okay, I never really left, but life has been more important to explore away from this blog for the last six months.  I have kept up my riding through a very cold, wet, winter.  I think all of North America will agree on this, but of course we all experienced it in varying degrees.  For Georgia this meant temperatures that started cold and wet, then often got to bearable riding weather about the time I was having lunch break.  Then by the end of the work day it was dark, cold, and wet.  So, riding time was limited.  Greatly.

Last week was the busiest time of year for my office.  We host a conference each year that taxes our resources, abilities, and sanity in some wonderfully challenging ways.  It went very well and we left exhausted but inspired.  This past Monday, the new work week began quietly and slowly.  After a very long week before, no one was looking forward to a regular day of responsibility.  Most found a way to stay away from the office.

Five of us who ride declared the day “Long Lunch Monday.”  The weather was made to order.  Sunny, clear, and about 70 degrees.  We assembled a widely varied collection of bikes at the crack of noon.  We rode for about 20 minutes to a nearby town where we took advantage of a burger joint housed partly in a recovered street car.

The burgers were amazing.  Tater tots were just what you think tater tots should be.  And the company was the best of all.

After filling our bellies the kickstands went up, and the handlebars found a longer way back toward the office.

The obvious problem – even a long lunch wasn’t long enough.