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.

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.

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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.

Good Days

The last week has been fun.  Everything from friends celebrating my new ride with me, IMG_5451to co-workers grabbing rides to lunch meetings,IMG_5444 to a ride today with my brother-in-law.

This morning started by seeing my 17 year old off to take her ACT’s.  It felt like another string was cut on the way to launching her out to her own life and family.  Don’t get me wrong, I want her to be her own person and have her own life apart from my values and authority… but the sound of each one of those snapping strings that have tied her life to mine from before she was born… well, it’s not an easy process for any of us, is it?

Then I went to get my brother-in-law back out on the road.  We’ve ridden the Blue Ridge Parkway together, and gone on some day trips around North Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.  Lately, however, he’s been sidelined a lot from a bad knee.  He can’t ride for more than a few hours without it becoming a painful distraction.

Today he braved it.  We rode out and found ourselves rediscovering roads that led us by marble quarries, orchards, coffee shops, minion planters, trout streams, blue grass players, gold museums, and of course BBQ!

 

His leg lasted about half a day.  Not bad.  And much better than languishing on the couch.

After that my day went to the gym, the grill, the table, the shower, then back to the patio where I enjoyed some time with a friend.

Good days.  I guess they’re all good days, aren’t they?

She’s Home

I admit, I’ve been a bit obsessed with this brand.

And now that it’s in my garage, there’s a piece of me that understands I certainly do not deserve it.

But I like it. IMG_4715

I like it when the mother of my children talks about getting a new jacket so she will look good going for rides with me.

I like it when my 17 year old daughter meets me in the driveway and wants to go for a lap around the neighborhood with me.IMG_5416

This is one smooth riding machine that has been on my bucket list for a long, long time.  And now my plan is to fully appreciate every ride I am blessed to have.  I hope to see you out there.

Happy Mother’s Day

Today, I rode home from Macon on my 2015 Indian Chief Vintage.  Riding always helps me think.

I remembered my Mom.  For as long as I can remember, I would ask my mother what she wanted for Mother’s day and she would reply with something that would benefit me; new shoes, new clothes…  Selfless in every conceivable way, she loved my kids like that too.  2001 was the last Mother’s day I was able to celebrate with her. joyce 2

I remembered I owe so much to the people around me.

I remembered that the woman who drove me down to pick up the bike and was following me through Atlanta traffic was the most amazing influence in my life.  Without her, I’m not certain there would be a me.  I am certain there would not be a me that I liked.  She has shaped the lives of our children with the power of her heart.  Her quiet, constant, beautiful care has changed lives of people around her, lifting them in ways so extraordinary that even she refuses to believe she had anything to do with it.

There will be time here soon to detail my new, undeserved ride, but right now, please, help me remember all the people in our lives who let us take them by the heart, and give of themselves in ways that overwhelm us, lift us up, and give us a better path, but somehow, they never feel as if they’ve done enough.

I wish we could all tell them, that what they’ve done is so much more than enough.  So much more than we deserve.

It’s been a great ride.

Fear and waiting in North Georgia

After my unscheduled get off on March 25th, my incredible wife kindly took me to the emergency room for some expert opinions on my new found bruises and stiff muscles.

I met a nice lady at the admissions window.  She was sincere as she checked me into the emergency room.  “This is exactly why I got rid of my bike.”

“Really?”  I said. “What did you ride?”

“Had a Harley but I was coming around a curve up in the mountains and a car was in my lane.  I had no choice but to lay it down and went off the side.”

“Sounds bad.”

“Scraped up my leg and tore this tendon.”  She showed me her normal looking arm.  “Wow.  So are you glad the bike is gone?”

“No, I still miss it on days like this.  Great weather.  But I see so many people come in here after a wreck,” she moved her hand suggesting the entire hospital ”that I just got rid of it.”

Okay, I’ll not address the fact that the hospital is where every single person comes who has a wreck, so if you want to see them all, work at the admissions deck in the emergency room!  Sorry, I guess I just addressed that fact.

Anyway, my theory is that no one EVER got rid of a bike and is glad to have a hole in their garage (or driveway, or shed…).  I’ve seen fear keep people off horses, roller coasters, and bridges.  Fear can be a great thing.  It can be your brain telling you that there is a boundary you should not cross when you hear that voice say, “what if we get caught?”  It can help you react faster than you even thought possible when avoiding snakes.  It can help you reach a decision, but it should never be the dominant drive in that decision, unless you are having shots fired in your direction.

I’ve talked to lots of people who got rid of their bikes.  I have yet to meet one that says, “I’m so glad I did that.  Best decision I ever made was to stop riding.”

Just a few thoughts while I still hope to fill the hole in my garage SOOON! IMG_5386