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.

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Summer must be a day away

It’s February 19, and 70 degrees of wonderful Fahrenheit sun-shining goodness here in North Georgia.  Yes, I have been riding through some not-so-wonderful days.  Rain, cold, gray skies that can help teach us all that the sun will come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow… Okay, sorry, it’s just that today was so beautiful it made me think I was actually in a musical.

Most of my rides through January were errands, commutes, or just because I wanted to get the bike out of the garage and shake my fist at winter.  There is always a day here and there in January where you can ride comfortably in North Georgia.  The trouble is finding that day and coordinating it with the rest of your life.  It doesn’t always come when my calendar is ready for it.

Although I did manage a ride or two to grab some food.img_5286

 

 

 

 

Also, there’s a one hour round trip from my house to Awesome-ville Dawsonville Georgia – the root of NASCAR nation.

The Steelers made it to the first quarter of the AFC Playoff!img_5277

 

 

 

At the end of January there was a four wheel trip to take in a motorcycle show with a friend who I’m trying to convince to buy a bike.  These weren’t bike salesmen…img_5283

My hand was obviously shaking when trying to take further pictures at the show.

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My Scottish friend with some strange blurry super biker girl with a plastic cross bow.  This is not the bike he will buy.

Today was a three hour loop through Blue Ridge, and then down from the tip top of Georgia’s border with North Carolina and Tennessee all the way down Hwy. 60 into Dahlonega.

Blue Ridge is an amazing town with history, and breweries, and restaurants (The Black Sheep is featured in the picture at the top.  Don’t tell my wife, but I want to take her there for our anniversary), stores that love dogs, and a scenic train.

No more pictures.  I was too busy riding some curves that I hadn’t seen since last fall.

Groundhog day has come and gone, and I’ve lost track of how many weeks we’re supposed to be hoping for a reprieve from salt, sand, and sitting on a couch by the fire.  Amazing riding today.  Just thinkin’ about tomorrow clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow ‘til there’s none.   Tomorrow, tomorrow, there’s always tomorrow…

 

Just a little further…

I came out of the Dreamer’s Lodge Motel in John Day Oregon at first light. 12 motorcycles were in the parking lot and I was the first one out. This may not have been a great idea for two reasons.

First, It was cold! After two days of nearly melting from the heat (Why didn’t someone tell me about that Idaho Desert?), I nearly got frostbite. I had all three layers of my jacket on, and that worked, but my gloves couldn’t keep up. I had to stop and warm them by the engine before continuing up the road. Oh, but the road was grand. US route 395 North was all twisty’s, sweepers, up and down hills, sun at the top, and cold, cold shade at the bottom.

The second tricky part? Deer. Lots of deer are apparently attracted to the sound of a motorcycle. I will remember this the next time I go hunting. Fortunately, Bambi and I did not get too closely acquainted.

I stopped for breakfast at the edge of Pendleton at a place called Roosters. Michael Haun, you were there in spirit. I guess I was having so much fun on the highway I didn’t realize how cold my body was. It took a couple of cups of coffee for my hands to stop shaking.

The interstate was closed for eastbound traffic due to the Pioneer fire. I went north into Washington state. More high desert didn’t not turn me on, so after stopping for church, I turned around to get back to Oregon.

Now, the first time I went into Oregon, I was thrilled. Something about crossing that state line of the place I was going to finally hit the coast and the end of my ride, well, that put this whole idea within reach. I was even greeted enthusiastically by these two professional “Welcome to Oregon” ladies. IMG_4953They even gave me a motorcycle map marking the scenic roads. Go Oregon! If you enter Oregon on I-84 in Ontario, tell them I said “Hi.”

The second time into Oregon…nothing. Ah well. At least I still had my map. IMG_4970So I started to hit the roads marked as Scenic Byways and motorcycle routes. I had the roads nearly to myself! At first the scenery wasn’t spectacular, but the riding was incredible. Then the reverse happened. The scenery got better, and the road surface was horrible for 18 miles. Random loose gravel makes for a slow and scary ride. I started fondly remembering the deer and the cold.

Then Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Hood started peaking their glacier capped heads over the hills at me. As I went into every canyon they hid, then inched closer as I wound back up and out. This beautiful game of hide and seek went on for miles. It seems that there is so much desert in the northwest they actually put up a sign asking for help. Fortunately, as a West Virginia native I could easily assist them.IMG_4965

Last night I camped in The Dalles at the Oregon Motor Motel.  It’s been here since 1948.  It doesn’t look like this now.  Chronicle-Motel_t670Three years ago my wonderful wife surprised me with a trip to Portland. We borrowed a car from our friends Ken and Dana, and drove up the Columbia river gorge. The whole time I was thinking this is the perfect road for a motorcycle. Right now I’m headed out the door to make that ride.

Burnt and Dirty

Today was the leg of the trip that has been making me grit my teeth for months. Any way I mapped it, I still had to get across some square states, and the best way to do that seemed fast. No offense to the fine people who populate the great states of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska, but there’s only so much farmland this hillbilly can take. You’re fine people, I’m sure, but flatland makes as much sense to me as a pop-tart with no icing. (And if you still think I have something against farmers you’ll have to take it up with my Southern Illinois wife – the finest crop her daddy ever raised!)

Anyway, after yesterday’s ride through the flames of Hades, I landed in a half-star hotel, and arranged to meet my cousin and his wife for dinner in downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The tight valley filled with historic stone buildings provided a great setting for us to all to get to know each other. Thanks Terry and Lynn! You guys helped me recover and have a new start this morning.

A pre-dawn roll through the darkness of the Ozark valleys kept fogging my windshield as I dipped down, then clearing it as I climbed the next hilltop.  The first bit was exactly what I had hoped to find in Arkansas.

And, even though after I left the hills I could steer by compass points, the day was a fun ride. Apparently, people in the straight road states have a very liberal attitude about posted speed limits. I followed some trucks, some Harley riders, and even thought about falling in with a pack of 12 motorcycle police riding in formation (I didn’t, but I thought about it …Oooh, I thought about it).

But, other than the zippy progress of 600 miles rolling by today, the highlight was a stop at Joe’s Kansas City BBQ. Thank you Pat for suggesting this stop! I got there early for lunch, and that was a good thing.

The next good thing was the lunch special of burnt ends with a side of dirty rice, or as the guy at the counter yelled it, “One burnt and dirty!” I thought for a second he was talking about me.

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I left feeling full, and slightly envious of the experience these people were about to have.IMG_4582

Today wasn’t nearly the challenge I thought it would be. The straight-line miles gave me a lot of time to think about how grateful I am for this opportunity, how grateful I am for my family, and how grateful I am to God for giving me a life with purpose and meaning I could never have imagined.

Here comes the sun

An early start this morning felt wonderful. Leaving Marion Arkansas behind I rode west and watched the sun come up in my side mirrors. I could easily do this because the road was tightrope straight.

Riding through the fields of beans, and corn, and beans, and corn, and bugs, and bugs, and bugs.

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The low fog evaporated as soon as the sun cleared the horizon. I was trying to race the sun to the Ozarks where I thought the mountains and valleys would hide me from the intense heat coming my way. At 9 o’clock I pulled into Mountain View and after a lap around their picturesque square I spotted a local diner. PJ’s Rainbow Café was the choice. After an omelette and a couple of cups of coffee I was off to the races again. While I was sipping coffee the sun was starting to take things seriously.

As I left town on Hwy. 14, I passed the bank sign with a smiley sunshine telling me that it was 104 degrees. Now, if you know banks, or outdoor signs, you know it was lying. But this time, I think it was prophesying.

Ahhh, but Hwy. 14 was a wonderful friend. The horizon became wavy instead of flat, and the hairpin dips into cool green valleys made the ride go by so quickly I was almost laughing. Almost.

I pulled into Mountain Home, and as soon as my speedometer registered “0” the sun caught up.

OH LAWD IT’S SO HOT!

After wiping sweat, and drinking a quart of Gatorade, my plans to go see a herd of elk melted. Instead I thought the best thing to do would be to go and see some air conditioning at my destination as fast as humanly possible.

And away we went. The road was sweeping turns of low traffic. Some of the cars saw a man passing them on a bike with flames coming from inside his helmet.

I’m posting this from the Candlewick Inn in Eureka Springs. The air conditioner is running full in my room. I may not move until morning.

The sun won. Today.

Preparing

I’m prepping for my cross-country tour. Two weeks to go before the kickstand goes up and I head in the direction of the setting sun. It feels like there’s a lot to get done. I’m going over maps. Shopping for gear. Checking my bike for any signs of wear that could create a problem. Then doing it all over again.

I have to get new tires mounted, and get another opinion on my front brake pads. And I’m hoping my new seat gets here in time to save some wear on my old seat.

This is fun. I like to plan. I like to look ahead and imagine what might be over the next hill.

For me, the best part of planning is the part you cannot plan. The unknown is the factor that will never be planned out of a trip. One of my favorite lines in all of Shakespeare is “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will.” hamlet2

No one knows where and when the rain will come, or the sunrise will be perfect, or the road food will be amazing (I’m an optimist).

Lutefisk+Dinner+at+Vang+Lutheran+Church+in+Minnesota+-+The+Midwestival

I plan so that I will be ready when those unknown things occur (I’m taking antacid).

I think the planning is about more than insurance. I think it’s self-assurance, a little built in margin or reliance on my abilities to adapt. I want to enjoy those moments as fully as I can when I meet them.

Now I wonder if I packed my rain gear …again.

A Tale of Two Rides (at least two)

The cross-country ride began Sunday morning with a soft hazy sunrise peeking up over the Tybee Island surf. I took this empty bottle that I found in my hand and filled it with Atlantic Ocean water.

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I plan to empty it into the Pacific when I arrive in August. Just doing my bit for Thermohaline circulation and biodiversity for the planet.

The breeze was enough to dissipate the humidity and make riding in full gear bearable.

No traffic. Just a ride past the light house, then Fort Pulaski, into Savannah, and up toward Statesboro. Easy sleepy back roads, rising and falling gently through tall pines. Stopping for gas was the only brief pause in my engine, then back on the bike to ride up to Waynesboro, bird dog capital of the world, for a Sunday brunch.

The Lakeview Restaurant lived up to it’s name. I sat by the window and watched birds flying over the lake, and flying up to the windowsill to see what I was eating.IMG_4491

Of course I chose the Bird Dog breakfast; eggs, grits, sausage, and a biscuit with jelly. There were only a few locals inside. Sitting at tables by the front door chatting with each other. I was at the back enjoying the view. The waitress was too busy to really converse, but she was quick with coffee and made sure the eggs were to my liking.

After paying the check, I noticed my phone’s battery was at less than half. Perfect time to test my new charging adapter. I expected it to allow me to listen to GPS instructions in my helmet without worrying about my phone running out of juice. I had to juggle a bit of luggage around to make a safe place to run the wire into a pocket to hold my phone safely. Then I mounted up to continue the roll through the highways of central Georgia. The soft voiced google girl politely guided my turns.

Ahhhh, heading away from the coastal climate seems to bring the humidity down a bit. Clouds building darkening towers on the horizon never really threaten my path. The overcast sky was a comfort as I crossed and re-crossed railroad tracks, passed a spotted fawn dining on leaves, and dodged a snake warming on the highway. Occasionally passing some amazing antebellum homes that featured wrap-around porches that were shaded by old trees slowly swaying in the light breeze.  It was a treat for my sense of history. The light on my instrument panel signaled that it was time to find a gas station. A tiny corner station appeared and I pulled in and called my wife as I filled the tank and wiped bugs off the windshield.

Yes, the trip was going well.

Yes, it was a safe Sunday ride.

Yes, it was good to finally start this trip.

Yes, I will see you and the girls when you get home in a couple of …

SHADES OF GENERAL WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN! WHERE’S MY COMPUTER!???!!!!! 

Some carpetbagger took my machine! I will burn and pillage until I find that… Wait, did I actually secure it after I moved the luggage around? I wouldn’t … Nah, I couldn’t have …

Those locals in Waynesboro seemed nice. Maybe too nice. They were setting me up. Bird dog capital? Hah! Apple dog capital. Some dog fetched my computer while I was eating a biscuit. That’s what happened!

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The ride changed. It was hot. Traffic slowed, and clogged up the highways. I hated humanity.

Wait, could I have forgotten to slide my computer back into the bag …?  How could that have possibly happened?  I would have noticed.

Close to home, I was more than ready to end the 300 mile ride. I didn’t need the stupid google girl voice grating, and harping at me for the last 40 miles! I live here! I know how to get to my own home! Shut up already.

Hot. Sweaty. Tired. And computerless. Because some crazy person took my bag.

Empty house. Throw my boots. Check my email. Who is that one from? Some lady says … her husband…found…my…computer in the road. She wants me to call and arrange pick up.

I didn’t tie it down to the bike.

I dropped it in the road.

I’m the idiot.

But IT’S ALIVE! I love humanity. There are good people in Waynesboro, bird dog capital of the world!

I don’t know how the computer survived with all data intact, but it did. I have transferred my files to a slower, but unscarred computer and can continue on. Hopefully, lesson learned.

Thank you Tybee Island. IMG_4480Thank you kind lady and her husband. Thank you Bird dogs. Thank you Lakeview Restaurant and I’m sorry for the disparaging thoughts about your clientele. IMG_4494Thank you google girl for getting me home. Thank you God for suspending the laws of physics and allowing my computer to survive a Frisbee slide across a road without being run over. And thank you for a great ride today.