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

 

Advertisements

‘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.

IMG_6134

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.