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.

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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

 

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.

 

Overwhelmed

Honestly, when I began the blog I wasn’t sure what it’s purpose would be. Maybe a record of the trip (it was). Maybe a way to stay in touch with my friends and family who would want to keep up with my adventure (it was). Or maybe a way to get those inside-my-own-helmet thoughts down in some coherent form (yep). Today, I think this blog is “D” – all of the above.img_5138

I’ve been neglecting this blog. Life offline has taken a much bigger priority since I completed my cross country trip. But today I have a few minutes to catch up and reflect. My heart mind and soul are in a peaceful and extremely grateful place today. Not just because there’s a national holiday celebrating food, well, maybe a little, but mostly because much has been entrusted to me. More than my portion. More than I will ever deserve. I’m in my chair, with my coffee, dog at my side, and sipping good strong coffee in my jammies, watching the Macy’s parade playing on low volume, and listening to my girls cook, and craft, and plan in the kitchen.

Life is short. No one get’s off this rock alive. But even in the most chaotic, burdened lives, I believe there are moments to celebrate. Breathing. Sunshine. Holding hands. In all of time and space, can we even begin to comprehend what miracles these moments offer us? No effort earns them. No charity can give them. They are mercy and grace beyond anything mankind is capable of generating.img_5147

My prayers today are wide ranging. I pray that you are riding this wave of unspeakable gratitude in your spirit along with me. I pray that you are awake and alert to the warmth and love in that fleeting glance, or the smell of baking bread. I pray that your rides are safe, and you put the kickstand down somewhere you will get a bear hug from someone who has been waiting for you.

I would. I should. I did.

Yep, I’ve been away a while. Thinking, digesting, sulking, and not really finding a reason to keep posting here without an ongoing narrative of my travels.

After reaching the west coast and having some mechanical problems that changed my TENTATIVE plans, I flew home, made arrangements to ship the broken bike back, and went back to work. It was an odd time. A lot of people asked about my trip, and said they’d love to have gone, and they listened as I chose a single experience to relate that might in some way represent the entire trip…but it always fell short. I’m sure both in their understanding and my telling of the story.

And then there was the empty space in my garage. It wasn’t just the empty garage, it was an empty piece of they way I spend my time. It was a space where I used to walk out of my house and chose to take some time for me to recharge, and refocus.

Now, instead of getting out of bed, packing up my gear, and heading out into an unfamiliar landscape, meeting new people, and breathing in some stress-free air… well, I am ashamed to say, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. I spent time online seeking advice on how to repair my broken bike. They all agreed that I was going to have to crack open the transmission; an expensive process. I sulked some more.

I honestly do not like the idea of being that attached to a piece of metal. I also honestly have to admit…I certainly am.

Well, the piece of metal arrived on a huge truck. Thank you haulbikes.com. After recharging the battery and hopping on to refill the gas tank, I confirmed that indeed, the transmission was not downshifting. I knew it wouldn’t heal itself, but still … eesh. Dollar signs were multiplying in my head. How much would I spend? Was it really worth it to spend a couple of thousand dollars on a bike that was probably worth $5,000?

The day came where I knew the next morning I would take it into the shop and brace myself for the professional bad news. I stood in my garage looking at the bike. Then I thought…”Well, I can’t really break it.” So I grabbed a couple of wrenches and started taking some things apart. There is a small panel on the underside of the frame that is designed to keep dirt from accumulating on the end of the gearshift link arm. It’s also designed very well to actually collect the dirt at a point that impedes the arm from easy travel. In other words – there was a big hairball on the end of the rod that was keeping my shifter from working! After about 20 minutes with some WD-40, a rag, and a few wrenches … My bike shifts like butter.

I WAS ELATED!!! I saved those imaginary thousands! I had a working bike again! Then it hit me.

I had at least three days on the west coast that I could have been riding. I only needed a rag and some WD-40 and I could have… I should have…

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That’s been some of my journey since I last posted. I’ve come to the conclusion that I will not live in “Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.” I’m so grateful for the time I was given to make my trip. I’m so grateful to have that empty space in my garage again sporting a shiny piece of working machinery. And I’m grateful to be out on the roads in North Georgia enjoying the fall weather. I am truly a blessed man.

Thanks

My cross-country trip is ending in a way that I did not expect.

Last night I had the honor of spending time with a friend and his family. He just had some great news from a doctor. It was one of those trips to the doctor that could have gone either way. He gathered his sons and wife close to him to have dinner and talk about what had just happened. It had gone well. Very well. They celebrated together. They celebrated with each other. They celebrated because their lives had each experienced a rattle that shook them up enough to appreciate what they had.  They saw the miracle of what they take for granted each and every day.

I think, the time spent on the road didn’t open up any windows where I could peer into heaven. It didn’t give me insight into who I really, Really, REALLY am. No angel appeared with a sword in hand advising me to not go down a certain road.

As I was riding through the Black Hills of South Dakota I took a scenic diversion route (Some may call it a wrong turn but I was on my motorcycle so it doesn’t count). I went up through a shaded valley floor lined with occasional houses with their backs up against the hills. Every time someone came out the front door of their house, they had a view of a gorgeous creek meandering down through the center of a perfect green valley pasture, and trees reaching up toward the sky, and rocky gray cliffs serving as home to deer, elk, and bear. As I rode up through this community I wondered if they ever stepped out and didn’t notice how incredibly blessed they were. The thought of being surrounded by so much… and yet allowing the urgency of daily moments to cloud it over …it rolled around in my brain for the rest of the trip. I wondered how many times I’ve missed a moment of beauty, grace, love, or compassion because I’ve been focused on being on time, making sure I got my fair share, or simply missing the fact that I’ve always had so much more than I could ever deserve.

Last night I thought about it again. When I was around the table with my friends laughing with relief and joy, relishing the moment given to them.

As I stepped out onto the sand of the Oregon coast, I took the bottle of water I had been carrying since leaving Tybee Island and poured it into the Pacific. It was a marker. Another year and another milestone accomplished from the bucket list. I’m tired. I’m relieved. I’m a bit giddy at times thinking that it’s over, and remembering a few of the roads I’ve travelled.

Maybe the loudest concept speaking in my soul right now is to not take any ordinary moment for granted. There are none. Outside my door is a world of miracle after miracle after miracle. Inside my house is an opportunity to thoughtfully and humbly be grateful for each friend, each rare-precious-beautiful loved one. I have been given the ability to be aware of each conscious breath I take inside a living machine I did not build and do not have a long-term lease to operate.

Thank you, God, for letting a fool like me see a few of the things you have made and love. It’s been a great ride. So far.IMG_5043

The Right Road

I got up to leave Sturgis before breakfast, but …IMG_4719

It began to thunderstorm for an hour while all the bikers at the same hotel ate, drank coffee, and exchanged stories. All the bikes fired up and went in different directions. I was one of the first out, braving some of the rain for about 20 minutes.

Stopped by Sundance. The kid says “hi.”

Went to Devil’s Tower. Pictures absolutely cannot show you what this really is. You see it from the road 12 miles away, and you nod and think – “That is one big rock sticking up there.” At 5 miles away, you think “That is a huge rock!” Then you get to base of it and stand among granite boulders that are as large as a bus and you look up and you think, “That is … wow.”

My ride across the rolling hills was dry, and that was good.   I could see the horizon forming blue mountain peaks from 50 miles away. There are certain landscapes that capture people’s heart. I’ve heard Melville talk about the sea. I’ve heard people talk about the beauty in the desert. Individuals change their entire lives around specific landscapes that feed their soul. They become inspired with some divine spark that is connected with a certain landscape and it drives them to a place of perspective for their existence. For me, mountains, always.

I know mountains may not be your thing. But whatever makes your heart beat faster, I hope it lifts you like mountains move my spirit. The last two days have had their challenges, but when the kickstand goes down for the night, the images feeding my dreams are the limitless scale and imagination evident in such grand elemental statements. Somehow my smallness combines with a personal peace and significance.

I think I’m on the right road.

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