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?

She’s Home

I admit, I’ve been a bit obsessed with this brand.

And now that it’s in my garage, there’s a piece of me that understands I certainly do not deserve it.

But I like it. IMG_4715

I like it when the mother of my children talks about getting a new jacket so she will look good going for rides with me.

I like it when my 17 year old daughter meets me in the driveway and wants to go for a lap around the neighborhood with me.IMG_5416

This is one smooth riding machine that has been on my bucket list for a long, long time.  And now my plan is to fully appreciate every ride I am blessed to have.  I hope to see you out there.

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?

The Journey Ahead

It’s Tuesday evening. I’m nearly all packed. I leave Thursday morning.

I’m quite sure I’ve packed some things I will not need.

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I’m equally sure that I have not packed some things that I will desperately be looking for down the road.

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Speaking of things I will miss, I have never been away from my family for this amount of time. That is one part of the trip I am not looking forward to. Even on short rides, when I see a great sunset, or find a unique store, it never fails that my next thought is about the thrill of sharing it as soon as possible with my wife or my daughters. I love riding two up with them around North Georgia.

A few years ago my oldest daughter and I escaped on an overnight ride to Cherokee North Carolina. I think the highlight for her was receiving permission to be escorted as an underage guest across the floor of a casino so we could get to a restaurant. I will miss her when I see any interesting animal big or small. She is, and has always been, in tune with the natural world in a way few will ever experience.

I will miss my youngest daughter when I meet interesting people and when I see things I can’t fully comprehend. She’s an incredible impressionist, and a dedicated student of humanity. She also is fully in awe of the soaring joy of a mountain rising up beyond a glacier lake.

I will miss my wife constantly. She helps me in everything I do, think, and feel.

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Even though I know how much I will want to turn and around and ask, “Did you see that?!”, hundreds of times along the way, I also have to admit that I’m looking forward to the time alone. There’s a huge aspect of this adventure that is about me taking time just for me. I’ve spent 51 years orbiting the sun. During those trips there have been a lot of different roles that have defined my responsibilities, my perceptions, and my relationships. Moving through them has been it’s own adventure; confusing and thrilling at the same time. It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to stop my everyday life and try to get some distance so I can examine the bigger picture. I need to unwind the big giant hairball a bit and make sure I’m still in the right orbit.

Someone joked the other day that I’m going on a vision quest. Maybe I am. I don’t think I’m going to come back with knowledge of my spirit animal, but I do believe I’m going to seek God with an intensity and focus that is embarrassingly distant most of my days.

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.