It doesn’t get any better

Father’s Day 2017

4 hours of riding through North Georgia. 

A quick stop for a terrific smoked pulled pork sandwich and a sweet tea. 

Arrive home to both daughters and my wife. 

Grilled rib-eyes, baked potatoes, sweet corn, and carrot cake. 

Watching the sun go down as I sip bourbon and smoke the cigar I’d been saving for a very special occasion. 

God, if heaven offers even more than this, how will I be able to stand it?

Westward!

I’m not kidding, crossing the Mississippi on my motorcycle felt like a milestone. For a split second as I was riding beside the rusting bridges spanning that long expanse of water, I almost thought there should be fireworks, or pigeons, or a fanfare of some sort. Then I decide to just try to not be flattened by the four tractor trailers crossing the same bridge inches away from me. I did not get a picture.

I got a bit further today than I planned. I’m hoping that gives me more time to explore Northern Arkansas tomorrow. My cousin is meeting me in Eureka Springs tomorrow night, so there is a definite end point for tomorrows ride.

There’s a temptation to find a single story line to expand on in this entry, but I can’t. There were too many experiences in this first day, and I’m too excited to FINALLY begin that I am not ready to boil them all down and risk losing the real moments of the ride.

Today was more about mileage than touring. Georgia and Alabama were familiar turf for me. Mississippi was mostly new, but the route I took wasn’t the best that state had to offer. It also didn’t help that it was 90 degrees.

There was one brief tourist stop. Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Artsist who have recorded there include, but are not limited to; ‘Retha, Allman Brothers, Wicked Wilson Picket, Otis Redding, Waylon, Etta James, Clarence Carter, The Osmonds, Lynyrd Skynrd… Let’s just say if you don’t have a recording from this studio among your favorites you are probably sitting in your study listening to your amazing Baroque collection.

Anyway, while I didn’t get there at the right time to take the tour of the studio, honestly I wasn’t disappointed. The “stuff” doesn’t impress me. Yes, that’s Duane Allman’s guitar, and that’s the keyboard that you hear on “Do Right Woman”, … but it’s the stories that fascinate me. And, I juuuust maybe got to witness a story in the making right there in the lobby.

I walk in the front door that opens into the tiny lobby filled with pictures and records. A young lady asks me if she can help me, and after finding out I can’t take the tour, she offers me free reign of the gift shop. We chat for a bit about how she saw the documentary about the studios and then moved nearby to try and be a part of things. She plays guitar, but is still learning and loves being around the musicians that parade daily through the door. As she talked I found myself drawn to a corner with overpriced FAME stickers. Being a sticker collector I immerse myself in the evaluation. About that time a relaxed and friendly gentleman comes out of the studio. I eavesdrop (something I’m getting pretty good at as I travel solo) as he explains something to the effect of “I’m expecting an album today that I want you to listen to. I think if you start learning some of the style we may be able to get you in as a studio musician some day.” As the young lady tries to look non-challant while simultaneously not fainting, I introduce myself to the gentleman. He’s John Gifford, sound engineer. He seemed like a great guy, and as he exited for a smoke break, I paid for my sticker and congratulated the girl at the counter. The young lady could hardly swipe the credit card. Her voice shook as she told me “He has never said that before! I mean, I know it’s like seven or eight years down the road, but he just doesn’t say that!”

I don’t know. Maybe more magic from Muscle Shoals?

 

On your mark, get set, get set…

I have created some confusion about my cross-country trip. I am not a stranger to confusion, in fact, usually all it takes is something shiny at the corner of my eye and I’m already there.

This post is an effort to clear up what I have muddied.

Yes I have begun my cross country ride. (see start your engines and a tale of two rides)

No, I haven’t really started the solo ride from my house to the west coast. Since I live north of Atlanta and only about 250 miles from the Atlantic coast I did a quick trip down to Tybee Island and back.

DSC_7902

Hey, it wouldn’t be a legitimate coast to coast trip without actually seeing the ocean. I’m even taking some Atlantic ocean water with me on the ride to deliver to the pacific.

I will leave my home and begin my trek west on July 21. The first day is going to be going over territory that I’ve hit before, so mileage is going to be prioritized over sightseeing. I hope to arrive somewhere close to Memphis by the first night.

Route Leg 2

It’s a ride of about 350 miles. I have one landmark I’d like to see on the way and I’ll tell you more about that later.

So – to my friend Rufus – it’s not too late to join me, and you have a clean bike!

To my friend Mark – let’s ride again!

To my friend Don – put down the pencil and hammer and get a bike!

To my cousin Fred – Leave the trailer at home and ride with me.

Rules for Riding

You don’t ride for long without discovering that there are certain styles that either fit you, or not. Every group takes some adjustments before finding their own idea of what makes a great day of riding. Not every group will arrive at a mutual understanding that keeps them rolling peacefully. That’s okay. We’re all out there for our own reasons. I’ve had friends I couldn’t wait to travel with, and some that well, let’s just say that I was really busy and couldn’t go.

It’s taken some time, but I think if I had to put down some rules that I look for in riding partners it would look like this:

  1. No whining. <–Period
  2. No dining at a chain restaurant. Road trips are for discovery. You can’t discover the same McThing you have around the corner from your house.
  3. If it rains we get wet. This is why we have rain gear. This is also the source for great stories after the trip. Keep it safe. Keep it rolling.
  4. Keep your bike clean. After the rain, wipe it down, get rid of the evidence, and keep the story. You don’t have to always look like you rode through the storm. You know it. It’s enough.
  5. Adult beverages only after the kickstands are down. Which goes with the next rule …
  6. Don’t be stupid. Yes, have fun. Do not kick a bear, spray paint a bridge, race the police, or lose control of yourself. There’s a fine line between adventure and stupidity. I’ve been on both sides of it. I’m at the age now where if you want to cross over that line, you’re going alone.
  7. It’s impossible to be lost when you are touring. Tour – from the Latin v. to think the next turn just might be the right one. I tour. You tour. We … hey, wasn’t Chet right behind us?
  8. Travel with passion. Relish the sights of birds flying at the same speed. Breath in the smell of the cool lilies growing under the shade of the bridge you cross. Smile at the sound of the engine when you spur it up the winding mountains. Taste the salt in the coastal air long before you see a single wave lap the shore. If it doesn’t help fill your soul, then why ride?
  9. Laugh often. This is painted on a sign a friend made for my home. It hangs in the kitchen.  There is no argument.
  10. Tired? Hungry? Thirsty? We don’t whine. We stop when we are able.

IMG_2443.JPGOkay, those are my rules. And as I look at them, the temptation is to add corollaries, exceptions, and generally become some kind of anal retentive lawyer about it all. That would ruin it, so I think I’ll just leave it there.

How do you like to travel? If you find yourself agreeing with most of the rules above, well, I’m planning this trip across the country …

THE bike

It occurred to me that I’ve begun a blog to chronicle my upcoming motorcycle trip across the United States, give voice to some motorcycle inspired thoughts, and to share some experiences I’ve had on my motorcycle.   But the thing that I haven’t really done here is introduce … THE MOTORCYCLE.Headlight

I purchased her from a Nissan car dealership who had taken it in for trade. It had 3,000 miles on the odometer when I brought her home. Now it has …Odometer6-2016

Not bad for a 2009 C109RT Boulevard. Suzuki decided to stop production on these bikes. Why? I have no idea. This is the bike I researched, shopped for, and found. The burgundy color wasn’t my first choice, but it has grown on me over the last 6 years. I don’t know, maybe after this trip I’ll have to think about a paint job.

She’s picky about a few things.

First, she doesn’t like corn in her fuel. If I fill her up ethanol free she runs better and gets about 4 additional mpg. If I put corn gas in her tank I always to try to put in some additive to alleviate the effects. (Liquid from Corn should be consumed by men, not machines!)

Second, NEVER, EVER, EVER, put as much oil in her as the dealer recommends. If you do, you’ll be cleaning nearly half a quart off the left side as it burps out through the air filter. (Do not ask me how I know)

Third, and I found this out on my way home from purchasing the bike at the dealership, I remember…

dissolve into flashback story-

My wife was following me on the 45 minute ride back to our home. We had a long jaunt right from the dealership along a four lane divided highway. As we cruised along an interstate I let it wind up just a bit. Just a tiny bit. My wife was right behind me. Sooo, just a bit. It felt good. It felt REALLY good. Smooth. Very torquey. Every gear shift made her want to pick up the front wheel, and on a bike that weighs nearly 800 pounds, it feels like you’re riding the back of a jaguar (the animal not the car). It felt REAALLLY good.

Then I rode up the exit ramp and started to make the right turn. The first tight turn I had approached at speed. Counter-steering the front tire left, I leaned it to the right. Um, … not turning. I leaned more. Bike … won’t … lean. I quickly scooted my butt over the right side and growled and LEAAAAANED. I kept it inside the lane, barely. The euphoric testosterone high slammed deeply into a series of related, horrible doubts. Did I just buy a motorcycle that can’t turn? Is that back tire so big that this thing is useless in the mountains? Did I try to buy a jungle cat, but instead leave riding a cow?!!!!

I’m not kidding. That was a scary ride for the rest of the way home. The great news is, and you may want to write this down, if you have a back tire this size …BackTire

Then being a couple of pounds of pressure too low can make a lot of difference. A LOT. I was very relieved to air up the tires correctly and repeat my test ride only to find that yes, the jaguar was healthy and happy in her new home.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

LED’s for fun in the dark

1783 cc 54 degree liquid cooled v-twin

Tank

Fuel injected with a Bully controller            Aftermarket G-man 2 into 1 exhaust

Pipes

Custom air covers

Cover

Dual disc front brakes linked rear single

0-60 – before you can say, “Hey, look, was that a Harley Davidson?”

bike

 

She currently has no name. Nothing has seemed to fit, but if you have any suggestions I’m willing to try. Some of the miles between here that pacific may be lonely enough to cause me to talk to my bike. I may sound a bit less crazy if she has a name.   Or at least confuse people long enough to let me pass through town.  Put any great ideas for a name, or even not-so-great ideas because it’s better than nothing, in the comments below.

“Tentative”

Tentative RouteHere’s a post of my tentative route. Tentative. I love that word. Way back in another lifetime when I used to teach, I’d hand out a syllabus on the first day of class. It always said at the top TENTATIVE SCHEDULE. That one word gave me permission to, well … do whatever I wanted in spite of what was on the paper. This is my Plan “A” when I start. I may make it through the entire alphabet of plans before I actually put my kickstand down as I watch the sun set over the Pacific.

As much as I like to plan, I think I like the fact that it allows me to improvise even more. I’m sure I’ll steer clear of the interstates far more than this route implies.  Those red flags are generally things that interest me.  (Like the one in Spirit Lake, Iowa – the birthplace of new Indian Motorcycles)

I’ll be leaving from Georgia near the end of July and taking about 10-14 days to get up to the Oregon coast.

My plan right now is to ship my bike home on a truck, and ship me home on a plane…with a soft seat.

The reason I wanted you to know my TENTATIVE route was to ask if you had any suggestions or comments about it. I haven’t been down this road before. You may live alongside it. I’d like to know what is out there that will make this ride-of-a-lifetime, …well, …my ride of a lifetime.

Do you know about a long-lost roadside tourist trap? (I’ve always been a sucker for these)

Do you know some historical site that isn’t more than a day of travel off the TENTATIVE line?

Are you a local that would like to ride with me for a while? I could probably use the company.

Where is the perfect smoked brisket/salmon/elk/dead animal on a plate?

I can’t wait to find out what’s around the next turn.

Life is short. Get the bike.

Road Trip  5252006 004I came down the stairs, turned the corner, and took a deep breath. Then, just like I rehearsed it in the shower, said “Sweetheart, I’m getting ready to turn 40.”

She was reading e-mail on her laptop and did not look up at me. “Um hmm.”

“And there’s this thing called a mid-life crisis that can really cause a lot of damage to people.”

“Yes.” She sipped her coffee without removing her eyes from the laptop screen.

“So I was thinking maybe we should plan it out. You know, be ready for it, and have a strategy to get through it.”

“Really?”

“Yes. And I think you can help.”

“I can?”

“Yes. Which do you think I should get, a mistress or a motorcycle?”

She paused. She slowly looked up, not at me, but at the wall. “Well, … either one will probably kill you.” Another sip of coffee, “Get some more life insurance. I’ll draw up your will for you to sign, and then you can get the motorcycle.”

Okay, that’s not really how it happened, but that is how I tell the story.

I’m one of the many guys who went out sometime around their 40th birthday and purchased a motorcycle. It was my first bike, but I have a lot of friends who rejoined the ranks of two wheelers after decades of being out of the saddle.

Before long, we had a regular “gang” that went to breakfast, rode the curves on the weekends, and about once or twice a year took off on a multiple night road trip. Good times. Middle aged guys with families and mortgages and jobs riding together. Middle aged guys enjoying a reason to hang out, feel good about moving down the road, finding new challenges …together.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were writing our stories. Now, when we get together we relive the time Carl screeched down hill through a red light because of bald tires.   We talk about the small hut we visited found that claimed to be a restaurant and proved it with the best peach cobbler we ever tasted. We remember the hidden gem of a hotel just off the Blue Ridge Parkway that let us wash our bikes and park them under the awning at the front door.

I think it’s those stories that people crave. It’s not the bike. It’s my theory that we want to have a sense of belonging to something. We all want to be a part of something just a little bit bigger than ourselves. We want to find out what is over the horizon, around the bend, and just beyond our reach.

Time passed. Now a lot of my “gang” has started to sell their bikes. Many reasons are given; failing health, challenged finances, and time pressure from other life events.

I’m not finished riding. There are more roads I need to find, more stories to uncover. I’ll miss my gang. I’ll come back and tell them what I’ve seen if they want to hear. I can’t put the kickstand down yet. Heck, I passed up a mistress for this.