‘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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

Thanksgiving 2017

I’ve been away from this blog for some time.  Life has been moving along.

The blog originally began as a way to log my bucket list ride from coast to coast across the United States.    Each year I try to mark off another item from that list because life is short.  Just to catch everyone up and remind myself here’s a quick recap…

2017 – Own an Indian Motorcycle

2016 – Motorcycle Ride across the United States

2015 – Hike the length of the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail

2014 – Enter a BBQ cooking competition (I won!)

This year’s bucket list item came about by accident.  Literally.  On March 25 while stopped in traffic my old bike was removed from under me.  It was an opportunity to go shopping for a bike I’ve been dreaming about since before I was even a rider.

Although I didn’t get to take a long trip this year, I did manage to get out for a few nights here and there with some friends and try out my new wheels.  Good rides.  Good times.

Right now, I’m sitting in my comfy chair at 10:30 am, with the Macy’s parade playing on my TV and I’m still in my jammies sipping coffee.  My daughters are both here.  My wife and I have had our first few cups of coffee and talked about the precision needed to schedule the baking of pies, turkey’s and side dishes and have each of them be ready close to the same time.

We’ve all talked about Christmas, and what our plans are to spend it together.  This scares me a little.  My girls are ages 21 and 17.  I know my time with them grows more scarce and precious each year.

Everyday is a good day to be thankful.  Each one of us has been given so much more than we deserve.  Each one of us has the ability to bless others with the overflow of our own lives.  Each one of us has the opportunity to humble ourselves before our creator and realize what a miracle our next breath is.

Today I am full.  Not because of the turkey…yet.  I’m rolling under a wave of gratitude for the opportunity to walk beside the most wonderful people who have ever lived.  I’ve been given the opportunity to know caring people, talented people, gifted people, loving people, humble people, and people who have struggled through life while still keeping a heart able to hope in the future.  I’m grateful to the point of breathlessness for laughter, and music, and comfort.  I’m overwhelmed by God’s ability to show me where I need to be a better man, and then guide me toward that path because I do not have any idea how to get there on my own.

Happy Thanksgiving to all in the United States.  And happy thankfulness and full hearts to all of us everywhere.

 

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?

Goodbye Old Friend

You could not ask for better weather to ride than right now in Georgia.  Spring has sprung and unfortunately between my work hours, riding hours have been few, and it looks like they’re going to be fewer for a while.

I haven’t been writing on this blog because life has been clipping along at a pretty fast pace.  But, hey, I’ve got a little time this afternoon, so let’s catch up.

On Saturday, March 25th I was out running a few errands.  I found myself heading toward the local Indian motorcycle dealership to drool over the bikes and ask if they had any discount tickets to the motorcycle flat track races at Dixie Speedway later that night.  I turned onto a two lane highway and traffic was unusually thick, even by local standards.  It was stop and go, stop and go, stop and go.  The car in front of me stopped.  I stopped.  The car behind me was still on “go.”

As I looked up from the asphalt trying to feel my fingers and toes and evaluate what just happened, I heard a voice from the lady driving the vehicle that just hit me.  “I was putting down my window!”  Apparently Cadillacs have a unique window system that requires the driver to use both eyes before adjusting.  She continued, “This is my second accident in the last few weeks.”  Strangely, this information didn’t make me feel any better.

After finishing a few moment of self-evaluation I was ready to start some movement and see how sitting up would feel.  But by that time a small crowd had gathered and expressed a distinctly strident opinion that I should not move until the medics got there.  Two in the crowd claimed to be nurses.  One in the crowd was a biker.  They all voted and agreed to keep me on the ground by relating stories of the horrible effects suffered by friends of friends who now were completely paralyzed and in savage pain because they moved too soon after a minor accident.  Reluctantly, I stayed down and tried to determine if any important fluids were leaving my body without permission.

As I was lying on the ground discussing with the people standing over me my own ability to move, I really couldn’t survey the scene completely.  I think I missed a lot of the action.  The lady that caused the accident apparently melted into a puddle nearby.  I never saw her again.  My bike had travelled far enough forward from the impact to hit the car in front of me.  The two people from that car suffered minor damage to their bumper and were amazingly supportive.  From my vantage point, I couldn’t really get a good view of my bike, so I had to ask the most important question.  “How’s my bike?”

Now, there are bikers, and cagers and the difference was immediately apparent.

ME – “How’s my bike?”

CAGERS – “Oh, it’s not too bad at all.”

THE BIKER – “Dude…”

ME – “Really?”

THE BIKER – “Yeah.”

I knew it was a mess.

Eventually, the medics got there, sirens, lights, and all.  We squeezed hands, followed moving fingers, and talked convivially about a free ride to the emergency room.  They gave me a hand up, helped me remove my helmet, and I kindly refused their offer for a ride, promising instead to take the trip with my wife as soon as she got there.  They left, and I began discussions with the police and a local wrecker service.

Oh, yeah.  I needed to call my wonderful bride.  I have to be honest, I was not looking forward to her reaction.  Had I just taken my last ride?   Well, I still don’t know why she agreed to marry me nearly a quarter century ago, and I’m completely at a loss to explain why she’s stuck by me all that time, but her reactions have never failed to surprise me.  She was as calm and controlled as a combat veteran going to the grocery store.  I love her so.

After I learned I could stand, I also learned that I was sore, and swollen, and stiff.  I kept walking, with a fine John Wayne limp, so I wouldn’t lock up too much later.  We saw my bike loaded onto a flatbed, and we drove off to the emergency room to get a few pictures of my insides.

She was 800 pounds give or take.  She had custom pull backs, custom fuel controller, home made custom air covers, Corbin seat, high flow air filters, and few other odds and ends that made me happy to log the miles.  She saw me through Sturgis, and Yellowstone, and trips with my girls.  She took me home to West Virginia, and only once failed to bring me back to my home (through no fault of her own).  Goodbye old friend.  Even though you were only a machine, I am sure you helped make me a better man.

Now, I’m not saying that it was a sign from above, but at the emergency room my doctor was… an INDIAN!  Although I never found out what tribe Dr. Patel was from, I’m still fairly sure the almighty was giving me a direction for my next bike.

So, nothing broken.  Still a bit sore.  A few bruises.  All my safety gear did exactly what it was supposed to do.  It’s why I wear the boots, gloves, helmet, and Kevlar jeans all the time.  In twelve years of riding, it was my first real life test for all of it, and I hope the last.

So that’s the situation today, as I sit on my back contemplating the hole in my garage with a glass of wine, and a cigar.  I’m waiting to hear the next step from the insurance company.  There is no argument of who is “at fault.”  The adjuster that saw my bike hinted that it was a total loss.

I think I just heard a bike going by and I’m jealous.  I wonder if it was an Indian?