The Cross By The Side of The Road

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It seems like a long time ago, but its only been about six or seven years. I was spending a lot of time on the road with my job and with that comes plenty of time to think. Everyone knows when I’m riding my bike my mind starts to wander so I guess it is also true when sitting behind the steering wheel looking through the windows at the world as it flies by.

During this time I was averaging about 450 miles a day and I began noticing that no matter what highway I was on there were always crosses, some more elaborate than others, memorializing loved ones lost in accidents. Some showing the weather and age of time, while others were obviously placed more recently, still the message was always clear; someone was truly missed. As we all know, the healing process can take many shapes and there isn’t a time-limit to grief. For some, it’s comforting to know that their loved one’s cross by the side of the road serves as a reminder to not only their family but to those who pass by. Love, healing, caring and remembering.

It was during this time I was thinking it would be nice for those lost to be remembered in a way that surviving family members could share their stories in a fitting tribute for others to see – far beyond the cross by the side of the road. When I got home I looked on the internet to see if there were any sites already out there and that’s when I found Jenny Jacobs. She was already in the early stages of putting this very idea together in website form. I contacted her and after a great conversation I knew she was the one who could bring this wonderful idea to life. And now The Cross By The Side of The Road is a reality.

I’m excited and proud for Jenny as this has been a long time coming. When you believe in something and you know that what you are bringing to others will help the healing for someone who experienced a great loss, is a person who truly cares. This website is not only for those who have pushed through the grief and memorialized their loved ones with a cross along the road, this is also a way of helping others who are beginning their journey in healing from such a great loss.

Please take the time to check out Jenny’s website, and encourage those you know to check it out as well.

 

Drop It Like It’s Heavy

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Some days. I guess not every day can start out with birds singing, the sun shining and a rainbow over your shoulder. This morning as I pushed my 890 pound motorcycle out of the garage, I almost dropped it. In a mad, desperate attempt I actually prevented it from hitting the deck. Oddly enough, earlier this week at work I caught another bike I was moving around from falling over. This is hard on an old man like me. Dropping my keys and then bending over to pick them up is difficult enough, but stopping a heavy motorcycle pulled towards hell by the earth’s gravity is not something I want to do everyday.

Dropping my keys and then bending over to pick them up is difficult enough, but stopping a heavy motorcycle pulled towards hell by the earth’s gravity is not something I want to do everyday.

So as a true motorcyclist, I shook it off, climbed on board and headed off to work. About a mile out-of-town as I settled in for my ride I actually smiled at my cat-like reflexes and superhuman strength. I laughed out loud at my own humor and down the road I went. The next few miles were very pleasant as the weather this morning was comfortable and the sky cloudy. My thoughts wandered about the trip to Sturgis, whether or not I was going to get wet in either direction for my morning commute and how all the cattle bunched up in the corner of the field are all shaking their heads at me because it’s going to rain.

So about halfway to work I stop at the stop sign at Skiddy West RD and highway 77 to wait on a car. Listening to the radio I was somewhat distracted but not so much that I wouldn’t wait on a car to pass. As I pulled out onto the highway heading north, I shifted up through the gears and set the cruise control letting my mind wander some more.

 I had my listening hat on trying to diagnose the strange sounds coming from between my legs.

I don’t know what it is about the weeks before a big trip, but I tend to get a little paranoid with my bike making unusual sounds and acting weird knowing I have some miles to travel. Weird noises or a slight hesitation may not bother me otherwise, but this morning the motor was making way more noise than usual. for the next 7 miles, I had my listening hat on trying to diagnose the strange sounds coming from between my legs. Approaching the construction zone just south of I-70 I kicked off the cruise and started down-shifting to prevent an expensive speeding ticket. It was then I realized I just rode those last few miles at 70 miles an hour with the cruise set while in fourth gear. Yeah, it’s going to be a good day.

 

Ready to Roll

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Sometimes you just need to get away and I think that time is coming for me. Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out if a short ride to wherever could possibly put a damper on this feeling but one thing is for sure, that well worn path from home to work just isn’t cutting it. I’m known for saying that we need to travel outside the familiar landscape that surrounds us to truly feel like we’ve gone someplace, and this time of year gets me looking off into the horizon. State lines, mountains and oceans for a Kansas boy would be a good start.

 But the usual routes I’ve taken are getting to look a lot like the familiar roads I travel around home. I can always appreciate the feeling of chatting it up with someone I don’t know at a gas station in a town with no name.

With Sturgis less than sixty days a way, I know the probability is high that I will return to the Black Hills. But the usual routes I’ve taken are getting to look a lot like the familiar roads I travel around home. I can always appreciate the feeling of chatting it up with someone I don’t know at a gas station in a town with no name.

I’m not sure if it’s intentionally that I ride to sort my thoughts and to feel the wind as it blows through my thinning hair, or if all of this happens naturally because I ride. I do know that as I get a few hundred miles from home I feel the gentle release of my home town as it eases its steady hold on me and the overwhelming desire to go even further take its place. I’ve always wanted to travel this great country without an agenda and with the freedom to follow whatever whim comes my way, but the reality of work and responsibilities can make one feel guilty for even trying to.

So back to this year’s Sturgis Rally; I know this year it will be different because of my current frame of mind. By carefully planning to not make any plans, I’m hoping to change it up enough to convince myself that this trip won’t be like any before. Sure, there will be some sort of general plan but for the most part I just want to point and shoot without feeling like I need to be somewhere at a specific time. It should be easier for me to fly by the seat of my pants, and I do a pretty good job of making as few plans as possible, but there’s always that voice in my head secretly planning and weighing my options.

So as I go about my daily routine for the next few weeks, I’ll be planning on what to pack for the trip to South Dakota. Secretly I’ll be making a few decisions on which way to go, but the weather will also have a hand in this. You have to be flexible enough to go around the bad stuff if need be. But other than that, I’m winging it. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Snake Oil

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White City, Ks.

The sun is right there. The angle from which it comes, the glare from the faceshield and the squint in my eyes tell me the next couple of miles I will fight with what I so long to have when I ride. Sunshine. In this case, I’m not careful in what I wish for.

When I roll through the highways and byways on my motorcycle it’s easy to pick apart the experience. Temperature, wind and road conditions come to mind, but all of this makes up the texture of the ride. If it was all smooth as glass we would grow tired of riding and the lack of fluctuation would keep us wishing for something to cause a ripple.

If it was all smooth as glass we would grow tired of riding and the lack of fluctuation would keep us wishing for something to cause a ripple.

It’s easy to complain about our ride as it’s happening – but the miles, and everything that happens along the way become memories. Just as the man selling snake oil will tell you, “results are guaranteed!” And I’ve never had to return a ride of mine for a refund. Even the rides I would rather do over, I have decided the stories I tell depicting them are far more entertaining than when they happened. Let’s just say there were plenty of ripples.

A few miles down the road my direction changes and now I see the sun staring at me through the corner of my eye, watching my every move. With my shadow flickering along side of me, I have to laugh at myself. So that’s what I look like on my motorcycle. And the wave; why did I just wave at myself? Well at least I waved back. Whatever it takes to keep myself amused along the way.

 

Ride 50 at 50 Part 4: Surrounded by Indians

 

248In what seemed like an eternity, I finally met the 3 Amigos David, Andrew and Adrian. Day one, I left Sunday morning to meet up with the trio at Blip Roasters in Kansas City Mo. A beautiful morning ride, I arrived a little early and met Ian Davis the owner of Blip. While having a hot cup of coffee, I engaged in conversation with a few like-minded folks about Blip Roasters and our dedication to these two-wheeled machines. Wonderful. Shortly thereafter and without much fanfare, the 3 Amigos rode in on their Indian Motorcycles and as we say in America – Welcome! After some handshaking and introductions, these three made themselves at home. A few pictures and some video were taken and we saddled up and headed west to Junction City. Just in time as the rain began to fall. Me on my Harley-Davidson surrounded by Indians.

 

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It’s interesting how a group of riders deal with the dynamics of riding and spending so much time together. These three have ridden roughly 1500 miles across the U.S. so far and they have it down. They’ve known each other almost a lifetime, so a lot can be said between them without saying word. Throw an American into the mix and it gives each of them an opportunity to take a mental break from the others. See? I’m doing good things for others all the time!

After we arrived in Junction City and after a nice dinner of burgers and beer, plans were made for day two. Originally, Dodge City Kansas was on the radar but when you’re this close to the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, you go see it. So day two we set off under cloudy skies with that sliver of blue on the horizon letting us know that the sun would be our friend for the day. After about 100 miles, we stopped in Beloit for a cup of coffee with the anticipation of twine right around the corner. We loaded up, turned on a couple of cameras mounted to me and my motorcycle and headed down the road. What a beautiful day, with clouds floating against the big blue sky.

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No one can be fully prepared for it. The quaint little town of Cawker City holds in its possession the envy of all twine connoisseurs, the epitome of dedication and the record for balls made of twine. I would hate to be the community with the World’s Second Largest Ball of Twine. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Follow your dreams and whether its balls of twine or coming to America to ride motorcycles with your best friends, just do it. The people who call you crazy secretly want to do it as well.

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After a brief stop soaking in the ambiance of burlap we once again headed west on highway 24 through the rolling hills of green beneath a ceiling of blue. This stretch of road was perfect for me to think about how this all came about. You can read the previous blogs I’ve written about David, Andrew and Adrian and their journey to the U.S. But as I rode along with them, I realized that in some weird way this was going to happen. How random is this? Is it random at all? Sometimes we make things happen and sometimes it all happens for a reason. Maybe both? I believe so. Did I change some little bit of their trip by riding with them? How did we get on highway 24 when the trip is supposed to be highway 50? Yeah, that’s the stuff rolling around in my head while I have these three following me through north-central Kansas.

The rest of the ride to Hoxie was uneventful but satisfying for me. I hoped in some way these three new how great it was for me to spend a couple of days riding with them. We stopped in Hoxie for some beef jerky and a drink, and I knew it was all coming to an end. We were 20 miles north of Interstate 70 where our ride would go separate ways. We did a short bit of video, said some warm goodbyes and fired up the bikes for the final ride as the “Four Strokes” as we headed south.

That moment – that last three miles summed it up for me. We’re all alike no matter where we’re from and we had just ridden across the state of Kansas together. Our pilot in the crop duster has no idea that he’s responsible for the exclamation point on this trip for me.

One of the most memorable times for me was about 3 miles north of the interstate as a crop duster came up from the field it was spraying. David was passing me shooting a little video and I pointed up at it. As David saw it circling around for another pass, he raced ahead to catch it on video as well. Andrew, Adrian and I slowed, David was about a mile ahead and I knew that he was setting up to catch me for the last time riding by as we went our separate ways. That moment – that last three miles summed it up for me. We’re all alike no matter where we’re from and we had just ridden across the state of Kansas together. Our pilot in the crop duster has no idea that he’s responsible for the exclamation point on this trip for me.

By the time I turned east heading back to White City, the 3 Amigos were a mile from Oakley where they would call it a day. I still had a few hours to go but I didn’t mind. This is where I do my best thinking. I won’t bore you with my ride but I will say that there were storms brewing in front of me and I had a date with a rain suit.

 

It’s Worth It

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Not every road tells the whole story. The thankless years of service while letting others run all over you, or the loneliness of never seeing a soul. The darkest of nights, the bitter cold and the constant beating of the sun can wear you down, but the road keeps on giving. It gives dreamers a place to go and it affords us a way out. For some, it’s a way of life and for others an escape. Either way, the door is open but it requires you to walk through it to get anywhere.

 It seems people want more down-hill avoiding the uphill climb. Just remember, it isn’t uphill both ways and the climb is worth it.

Sometimes the straight and narrow offers perspective, while the twists and turns keep us anticipating. The dirt and gravel will test your resolve but they are few and far between. It seems people want more down-hill avoiding the uphill climb. Just remember, it isn’t uphill both ways and the climb is always worth it.

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We often take the road for granted. We expect without fail it will take us where we are headed and then complain when we have to deal with bumps and depressions. Even when someone comes along to repair the damage, we find ways of going around it looking for our own solution to the problem. It’s during these detours we find that no matter how different the road, the obstacles are the same.

The road is what you make of it. If the glass is half full for you I can assure you your travels are mostly smooth sailing. If you complain about your glass never getting a refill, you will eventually find every pothole in the road.

Ride 50 at 50 Part 3: Roll with the Hills

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The Official Ride of the 3 Amigo’s “Ride 50 at 50” has started, the anticipation is over and the wheels of those Indian Motorcycles are turning westward. It will take a day or two to calm those nerves and to get those 50-year-old bodies acclimated to the time-change. Also, sometimes the weather has different plans when it comes to riding, but as these motorcycles move you in one direction, a higher power is moving the weather in another. Hey, nobody guaranteed blue skies and 0% chance of rain.

Roll with hills and seek the horizon, as this is the stuff you’ve dreamed of.

It’s still early in this journey so if there is any advice I would give, it is to slow down. We often get in a big toot to get the ride started that we forget as to why we are riding to begin with. Let the trip happen and unfold and don’t let the little moments go unnoticed. Stop and think about what a great opportunity this is and appreciate it for what it is. Not every day will be perfect, but every day will be awesome. Point and laugh a lot while you’re at it.

So to David, Adrian and Andrew; Roll with hills and seek the horizon, as this is the stuff you’ve dreamed of. At 50, you’re almost over the hill anyway.