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?

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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?

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.

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

Time

This week I heard someone say that “time is the most valuable commodity you have.” Yep.

My oldest daughter asked me to go to a food truck fair. We rode over in perfect weather. I can hardly tell she’s riding behind me. She weighs about nothing and a half and hardly moves. But I know she see’s everything. When we turned onto the street just before coming to the parking lot I was expecting to see a food truck. Maybe two. Instead I saw two police cars, lights flashing, and cops out directing the lines of traffic. There was a hot air balloon giving 50 foot rides up and down. 10 food trucks circled the parking lot with families lining up at each and listening to the live band play. We parked, chose our favorite truck, and then found some shade to eat and watch people. She took this picture.IMG_4472

We didn’t talk much.   Just sat as the sun started to go down. Then we put on our jackets and helmets and rode home the long way.

I did not spend time tonight. Maybe it was invested. Maybe it was a gift. Maybe both.

Part 2 of 2 – COUNTRY ROADS…

CONTINUED FROM THE PREVIOUS ENTRY

The journey through my home state started … well, feeling like home, but immediately after the last turn it felt more like a playground slide with broken glass at the bottom.

I was blessed to be within a mile of Rainelle, a town where my cousin Joe made quite a name for himself playing football. Coasting into town, I took the first turn into a grocery store parking lot. Putting down the kickstand, sliding off the saddle that had carried me over Route 60, I heard the fearful hiss of my wonderful two-wheeled freedom machine becoming a very immobile unicycle. I leaned down to touch the hole in the back tire that leaking all my positive thoughts into space.

It was Friday at 4:50 pm. I was immediately on my cell phone to my extremely unhelpful insurance company trying to get some ray of hope. It turned out that my premiums went to fund their employee parking garage, and wouldn’t apply to a motorcycle tire, or towing, or anything else I wanted unless it was a covered parking space in Mayfield, Ohio.

I knew the odds were long that I would find my huge and rare back tire anywhere close. It’s tough during business hours, but now, as everyone was trying to leave for a summer weekend it would be nearly impossible. Things couldn’t get worse.

Then it started to rain.

When the state police cruiser pulled up I wondered if my day would get better or take another turn to the worse.   The two officers asked me if they could help. They weren’t on duty yet, but out to get a cup of coffee before starting their shift. They gave me a ride to the only motel in town. They introduced me to THE auto parts store owner who was one of the most helpful people to know if you needed a difficult to find part for your vehicle. They even checked in with me the next day to see if I had received the help I needed.

The next day, it was raining again. After spending some time at the auto parts store getting numbers for every tire store in the state, I walked the mile it took to get me back to my immobile bike. A second cousin picked me up, put my bike on a trailer, and took it to a shop 30 miles away. The shop promised a tire that the parts man found in South Carolina would be there in three days. My Aunt and another cousin picked me up and took me to the family reunion at my Great Grandfather’s house.

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The three days I intended to spend riding, were now spent with people that share history with me. The days were not wasted. After the reunion, my family took me back to the shop, and I was on my way once again.

The hills of West Virginia had proven my suspicion. Every hollow, creek, and town has people willing to reach out to family. They are my family. It will always be my home.

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Cue John Denver…

Take Me Home Country Roads

 

Part 1 of 2 – TAKE ME HOME…

One summer I was headed to a family reunion in West Virginia. Family and the state of West Virginia have almost been the same thought for me for all of my life. The mountains are far more than a collection of rock, dirt, and trees. These mountains have witnessed my history. Not only my lifetime but the lifetimes of the people from whom I trace my life, my core beliefs, and my thrill of traveling this land.

Maybe it’s my imagination working overtime at the thrill of the ride, but I feel like I can depend on the people who populate these hills as if they are my family. A lot of them are. My family gladly traces its lineage to second, or third cousins. We include many of our close friends as “family.” We know that wherever we are in the world, if we knock on a door of a family member, we will be taken in. We will be received with hospitality and care that comes from the duty and respect of our common but sometimes distant history in these mountains.

(Please forgive the philosophy but riding US Route 60 is a motorcycling dream that encourages large thoughts.)

As I began my descent toward Rainelle, I heard my rear tire make a “pow” as if it just spit a large rock. This wasn’t unheard of, but I was surprised I hadn’t noticed a piece of gravel in my path that would have made a sound as pronounced as it did. Then, in the next turn, I leaned the cruiser over, and it felt …heavy.

Now my bike pushes 800 pounds with a full tank of gas, but ordinarily it handles like a crotch rocket in the twistys. I like to imagine it’s a football player body that can still dance ballet. This balance and feel is a careful arrangement of geometry, mechanical design, and great tires.   The next turn and the next told me that the football player was pirouetting like he’d had a few beers.

Suddenly the road didn’t seem as friendly as before.

…TO BE CONTINUEDRoad Trip  5252006 115