Postcards from Kangolia

As I rode to work in this month of December, the temperature hovered in the mid-thirties. A full moon ahead of me, the sun rising over my shoulder, I can see the winter colors telling me we’re a few months away from the smell of Spring. Wait, do colors have a smell?

While the miles tick by on my commute, my mind wondered to spending longer days in the saddle and more consistent temperatures to ride every day. I’ve ridden many winters on my Harley’s but this winter I’m on my BMW GS. The view is different as the seat is higher, but my wishes of warmer weather will always be the same. I wonder what trips are in store for me in 2020?

I also just finished reading Ted Simon’s book Jupiter’s Travels for the third time, and as always, it makes me realize there is so much more world out there and at the same time, the world is such a small place. Heck, there are a few places and roads in Kansas that I have yet to see, so I’m not real sure a trip through Mongolia is on my schedule for 2020. As I ride across the prairies of my home state, maybe I’ll just pretend I’m there. Kansas/Mongolia. Kangolia.

I’m not real sure a trip through Mongolia is on my schedule for 2020. As I ride across the prairies of my home state, maybe I’ll just pretend I’m there. Kangolia.

I know, the modern day convenience of gas stations, fast-food restaurants and manicured roads can leave a lot to the imagination, but you know what? It’s the people. The people you meet and engage with are the true sights and sounds of an epic ride. Even with that dramatic scenery we all crave, and those lonely miles in the saddle where I find I do my best thinking, it’s those faces and the conversations I remember. The handshake or wave, sharing a connection with locals that always ends with a smile. That’s what Ted Simon speaks of and it’s so true. Even in my home country or my home state of Kansas. The motorcycle I’m on is a way of introducing me to perfect strangers.

While my dreams of riding around the world may never happen, it’s just nice knowing those that share the same feelings of adventure with me. Whether through print or video, or even in person, I know the experience is real, the people are real and the landscape is worth the ride.

While the riding this time of year leaves me longing for a big ride through vast territory, I’ll settle for whatever the weather will allow. Short days and shorter trips are enough for now.

Motorcycle Mentor

For early December, the weather was looking good. I had a list of things to do but mostly I just wanted to go ride my motorcycle. So in the early afternoon I put on my gear and took off, not sure of the direction I was headed I mostly wanted to put some miles on. Feeling guilty at first because walls won’t paint themselves, I hesitated but quickly got over that feeling as I rode off.

It felt good to get out. The weather hasn’t been the best but I figured an hour or so on the bike is what I needed to sort my thoughts. I hadn’t been on Humboldt Creek road for a while so I headed East towards Alta Vista to take Humboldt back North towards Junction City. I figured a big loop finding my way back home was a good bet.

It’s funny how the same road can look different based on direction, the time of year and the time of day. How the light casts shadows and the specific colors nature is wearing during any particular season can make a familiar road feel different. This was one of those rides.

How the light casts shadows and the specific colors nature is wearing any particular season can make a familiar road feel different.

After a quick ride on the scenic Humboldt Creek road, I ended up at a park to take a minute and enjoy the afternoon. I pulled up and laughed at myself for hitting the kill switch to shut my bike off. I don’t normally shut the bike down this way, and for some reason I did – even wondering why I would do that. Oh well, I’m getting older and I do weird stuff some times.

While sitting there admiring the side view of my BMW GS from about 30 feet away, a couple of kids rode up on their bikes. As I sat there on the bench I remembered how I was at 10 or 12 years old, riding my bike and dreaming of owning a motorcycle. I noticed one of the boys kept looking at my bike as they were horsing around and I was sure he too had an interest like I did in motorized two-wheel motion. I smiled at the thought.

I noticed one of the boys kept looking at my bike as they were horsing around and I was sure he too had an interest like I did in motorized two-wheel motion. I smiled at the thought.

I’m sure it was only a few moments as all of these thoughts ran through my head. Then, out of nowhere, it appears this boy is coming over to talk to me. At first, I thought what shall I say? Is this my chance to influence a young man who shows some interest in how motorcycles can change your life? Am I up to it? And how cool would it be to bump into him in 10 years on some lonesome highway where he recognizes me and says “hey, you were the one who got me into motorcycling.” How strange, I was just thinking this and now he’s 20 feet away and closing.

12 year old boy; Hey mister, is that your bike?

Me; Yes, it is.

Now keep in mind, my brain is clicking along faster than the conversation. I’m anticipating where this is going and I’m trying to be helpful and attentive to his questions because after all, this is my chance! For the last 20 minutes or so, while I’ve been sitting on this bench, this boy has admired my motorcycle. Now he’s mustered up his courage to come over to ask what it’s like to be wild and free on two wheels. Pay attention Jeff!

12 year old boy; Your headlight is on.

57 year old me; Hey, thanks…

When I pulled up and hit the kill-switch, I forgot to turn the key off. That usually happens to new riders – and guys like me just trying to enjoy a ride in December. For 20 minutes or so my key was on while I admired the profile of my motorcycle in the afternoon light. Thanks kid, for letting me know. As I got up and walked over to my bike, the boys climbed on theirs and took off. I guess they already know what it’s like to be wild and free on two-wheels.

Gravel Road…King

The struggle is real. I can only imagine walking the hallowed halls of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company in 2019, the weight of a legacy built by Harley and Davidson brothers pressing down on you. With over 115 years of constructing this legendary icon and searching for the ways and means to continue this brand for another 115 years, must be stressful. A brand that has survived through literally generations is quite a feat, all-the-while forecasting the future wants and needs of their customers and trying to remain relevant in a ever changing landscape. It’s not easy living in the present and the pressure must be tremendous.

I have to hand it to The Motor Company. The last few years they have made a commitment to bring a plethora of new models to market and contrary to what we see about the LiveWire, not all of them are electric. The new Pan America and the Bronx are classic examples of a more forward thinking company. I, for one, have traded my off my Harley-Davidson Road King for a BMW GS. After logging several hundred-thousand miles on Harley’s tying to find myself, I’ve come to realize I may be hiding down some lonely gravel road or cow trail. And a Gravel Road King it was not.

I, for one, have traded my off my Harley-Davidson Road King for a BMW GS. After several hundred-thousand miles on Harley’s tying to find myself, I’ve come to realize I may be hiding down some lonely gravel road or cow trail. And a Gravel Road King it was not.

But these challenges aren’t exclusive to Harley-Davidson. This modern day dilemma finds a cell phone in every hand instead of a throttle. It’s easier to watch a few internet sensations on YouTube doing what we all should be doing – getting out and experiencing life the way it should be. I applaud Harley-Davidson for taking a leap into other segments, and the development of the Pan America and Bronx are a great start. Looking back, maybe the relationship between Buell and The MoCo came at the wrong time. And before you comment under your breath, the Buell Ulysses was a good motorcycle. And let’s not forget the Sportster XR1200. This is a classic example of Harley actually stepping up their game with a model and a market that wasn’t ready. With all the hoopla surrounding the Indian FTR1200, one would think the XR1200 would be a success on today’s showroom floors. We get excited about new models, but if customers don’t make the purchase, plugs get pulled. Another good bike lost to lack of sales.

Just as the Founding Fathers would never fully see the success of the motorcycles they built, they could truly see the effect their motorcycles had on riders of the day. Besides basic transportation, their motorcycles were a part of the social piece that Harley-Davidson is known for. Rides, races and gatherings brought those with this common bond together – and the sights, sounds and smells were the glue that kept it going. With all this social media we have now, I believe something is missing. Maybe it’s the social part.

their motorcycles were a part of the social piece that Harley-Davidson is known for. Rides, races and gatherings brought those with this common bond together – and the sights, sounds and smells were the glue that kept it going.

I consider myself an average guy. As a Harley-Davidson enthusiast maybe I’m part of the Motor Company’s problem. As I get older, I’m finding I still love all things motorcycle, but my interests are changing and my desire to see the same roads differently are high. Let’s throw in a random dirt road or trail in for good measure. My last three Harley’s were touring bikes and right now I don’t need another one. I need something that takes me back to when I first started riding and the joy I felt. A dirt bike? No. Because I still need to commute and have the ability to travel. When selling motorcycles over the years I’ve always said “any of these bikes will take you wherever you want to go, but is that how you want to get there?” And at this moment in my life, my Road King isn’t how I want to get there.

As I get older, I’m finding I still love all things motorcycle, but my interests are changing and my desire to see the same roads differently are high. Let’s throw in a random dirt track or trail in for good measure.

Had the Pan America’s release been a few years ago, I would have been riding one. I like it. I also like the direction Harley is going but with it comes the struggle of bringing it’s customers along for the ride. To build excitement for new and old riders alike can be difficult, but not impossible. It can be harder for a company like Harley as they are continuing their legacy. When rumors of the Rushmore Project came out for the 2014 model year, before the Twin-Cooling was introduced, I said in a previous blog post if they build a liquid-cooled bike the masses will buy it. I hope the same for the Pan America and the Bronx.

Sleep Would Be Best

The echos of my youth move through my head like the Kansas wind.

As I’m sitting here at 3:15 a.m. listening to Chris Isaak’s Greatest Hits, my mind is more active than my arthritic hands searching for the keys on my keyboard. I can’t sleep, even though I know sleep would be best.

It’s funny how my mind can take me to places I’ve never been and just as quickly, take me to a place where I can see the half-dozen used Pepsi cups from the pool hall lying on the floor behind the passenger seat of my ’72 Dodge Charger. One cup inside the other, cruising Main street, Doobie Brothers on the 8-Track while my arm rested on a pillow I had between the bucket seats. This pillow fit perfectly on the console and I’m not sure if anyone knew but on the flip-side of that pillow it had “I Love You” sewn on it. I have some random stuff from my youth but I’m not sure where that pillow went. Now it’s 3:30 a.m. and I wonder why head isn’t on a pillow right now. Wow, that was random.

Maybe this sleepless night is my mind’s way of telling me to remember those insignificant slices of my life, those screen-door-slamming-shut moments when you couldn’t walk pass a rock, empty can or dandelion without kicking it. Yeah, we’ve all been there. Come to think of it, I still can’t resist.

It’s possible these random thoughts are just what I need to take place of all current worries and hurries of every day life. To smile at a memory or spend time trying to figure out why these reflections have come to surface isn’t time wasted. There aren’t any dandelions in the yard right now but I may find that perfect rock for kicking today.

Long Way Anywhere

After spending the last 15 years or so on Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, I decided to make a switch to the Adventure-Touring segment. I purchased an older BMW GS and honestly, couldn’t be happier at the moment. There are many great bikes out on the market, and I realize that it isn’t so much the BMW GS itself but more so I just needed a change. After my trip to the Sturgis Rally this year, I made up my mind that when I got home I was going to do it.

I’ve been a big fan of the GS series and as a matter of fact, I like the Harley-Davidson Pan America due to be release in the near future. But thanks to Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, I’ve wanted a BMW GS for many years. This is one step in the process of getting back to exploring the backroads that are hidden away – much like I did when I first discovered motorcycles. Of course I’m not riding the Road of Bones in Russia like Ewan and Charley, the back-roads of Morris county will have to do.

Of course I’m not riding the Road of Bones in Russia like Ewan and Charley, the back-roads of Morris county will have to do.

But there is a larger point I’m trying to make. Sometimes we need to go back to our roots and find that ember that lit the passion of motorcycling within us. We need to see where we came from to understand where we might be headed – not only as motorcyclists, but also as a industry. It has been reported Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are filming Long Way Up, number three in a series of traveling the globe, while riding the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric bike. When this hit the internet, you could hear a collective groan from the masses. How can you do a Long Way Anywhere on a electric motorcycle with a range of 100 miles? How will you cross streams and climb Yak trails on a street bike with a design more akin to traveling the Road of Potholes?

How can you do a Long Way Anywhere on a electric motorcycle with a range of 100 miles? How will you cross streams and climb Yak trails on a street bike with a design more akin to travel the Road of Potholes?

Unless these Yak trails are in your neighborhood, it might be difficult to do so in the wild without the electrical grid required to get you back home. But here we are – making an adventure from what you might least expect. Putting the excitement into riding and making the adventure about man and machine. Wait, this sounds eerily similar to what Ewan and Charley have done in each of the Long Way series riding their BMW GS’s.

So back to my point. No matter where we’ve been, the roads we traveled or where they may lead us today, we will continue to ride. We evolve – not only as riders but also in what we ride. The adventure is what you make it, whether you are a beginner or have a million miles under your seat. Let’s support the industry we’re involved in and let’s support each other. Let’s see where this crazy ride takes us, but more importantly let’s remember how we got here and how much fun it was. If E-Bikes are the future then I believe the manufacturers will make them the most badass bikes we’ve ever seen. Kind of like we have now? Why not? At least I know I’ve come a long way.

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

Viking Cycle Prestige Canvas and Leather Motorcycle Gloves

A couple of weeks before my pilgrimage to Sturgis for the 79th Annual Motorcycle Rally, Viking Bags USA asked me to take a pair of gloves with me and give them a try. If any of you were to look through my saddlebags, you would find I carry quite a bit of random stuff. It’s not unusual for me to have two or three pairs of gloves in my saddlebags for the changing weather, and of course this trip was no different. On more than one occasion, I have offered a pair of gloves to a biker in need, and I’m sure any biker would do the same for me. When the Viking Cycle Prestige Canvas/Leather Motorcycle Gloves showed up on my doorstep, I was impressed with the construction, fit and look. As a budget-friendly pair of gloves, I was anxious to try them out. Anyway, I gladly packed the gloves from Motorcyclehouse UK and organized for my trip. Organized – that’s a funny word for me.

Perforated Genuine Cowhide Palm
Viking Cycle Logo

The Friday morning I headed out was rather cool for August since we have had some rain, and I thought this would be a great way to test the pair from Motorcyclehouse AU. My first impression was how they fit. Often, gloves will have a finger that is too long or short, or the flexibility is limited and your hands don’t have the full movement you want. The Prestige Canvas Glove has a leather ribbing over the knuckles to allow flex giving them the already-broken-in feel. I wear an XL glove and these actually fit my hands great. With my hands covered, I fired up my already loaded bike and hit the highway with plans of making Sturgis by late afternoon.

Riding along, I started thinking about how many pair of gloves I have used over the years. How many have been left on top of a gas pump after filling up and how I kicked myself for not buying two pair when I found some that I liked. As riders, we have our favorite gear – gear that we trust. Whether it’s a helmet that fits right, a jacket that protects you from the elements or a pair of gloves that are comfortable. These Viking Cycle AU Gloves do the trick.

So a little about these Prestige Canvas Riding Gloves. They have a cotton canvas back with a genuine cowhide leather palm that is perforated for breath-ability. They are easy to slip on and come with a wrist closure to snug them up. And here’s the kicker – the fingertips are touch-screen friendly. Yep, you don’t have to take your glove off when holding your phone. This feature is usually found in gloves twice the price! And right now they retail for $24.99 on Viking Cycle’s UK website.

After my trip to South Dakota and a few short rides since, I found these gloves to be a great addition to my gear. Let’s face it, we can spend a lot on motorcycle gear, but this is a nice glove for the price and allows you to keep a few bucks in your pocket. Head over to Viking Cycle, follow them on social media and check out the Prestige Canvas Glove and other gear! We’ll see you on the road!

Three More Sleeps

Black Hills South Dakota

It happens every year in the month leading up to Sturgis. I go back and forth about whether I’m going, the highs and low’s of planning and then it all comes together and a date gets penciled in. Or does it? This year it does.

I’m actually getting my gear together and making a list of those items I will forget. It never fails, you can put it all in a pile and you end up taking those things you really will never need and leave behind the necessities. Of course you can pick up anything you need along the way, but that isn’t the point. I have it sitting right there on the garage floor.

I’ve sent a few messages to people I know who will be there in hopes of meeting up for a beer. I know I want to head out to the Full Throttle to see the progress in person, and do a couple of rides in the area that I haven’t done in a few years. Man, I wish The Knuckle Saloon still had the amateur MMA fights like they used to. Oh well, I’m sure there will be plenty going on, it’s just a matter of wandering around.

So, the next decision is which direction to ride on the way up. I’ve taken about every road up and back, mixing up the scenery and giving those few crooks the opportunity to skim my card at the gas pump. Yes, this has happened. Like every trip I take, I always have a goal of meeting some locals in hopes they tell me their life story. It will happen, and I’ll be all ears. That’s okay and it never gets old listening to someone tell me a little about themselves or the community in which they live. Good stuff.

As I sit here typing this, I should be in the garage packing some stuff. I did get my cup holder mounted. I struggled with that. Not from mounting it, but rather if I need it. Really? A cup holder? Hey, it’s a long trip.

I guess Friday morning is only a couple of sleeps away, and there will be plenty of time to gather my crap and strap it down. I’m ready to go – at least in my head I am.

Sitting on the Electric Fence

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

I’ve been riding motorcycles a long time. Things were way different in the mid-seventies with polyester shirts and bell bottom jeans, but mostly it was the amount of hair I had underneath my helmet. It was simple – bikes were simple, and livin’ just came easy. Low-tech television sets and kick-starters on our motorcycles. I remember it all like it was yesterday. And quite frankly, I’m still wearing polyester shirts and bell bottoms.

But things are changing, even with a motorcycle company that is steeped in history dating back to a day when The Wright Brothers were winging it with the first sustained motorized flight in a pasture in North Carolina. To see history through the eyes of Harley-Davidson is a story that’s been told by better ‘tellers than me. And here we are, minutes away from the LiveWire release this fall, and I’m sitting here on the proverbial electric fence about it.

And here we are, minutes away from the LiveWire release this fall, and I’m sitting here on the proverbial electric fence about it.

I get it. Innovation is essential in all aspects of life making it better. It wasn’t enough to have a cellular phone, we needed a phone that flipped and took pictures. You catch my drift? Heck, I’ve owned cars and trucks without power-steering or air conditioning, so I know the advantages of someone thinking about my conveniences and comfort. For that I will always be grateful.

So why then, would a fella like me be on the fence about a futuristic electric motorcycle built by one of the longest running, most recognized companies in the world?

I consider myself an average guy. I ride motorcycles and have for a long time. I’m an enthusiast, and I like all things two-wheeled. I like the LiveWire but it isn’t something I could see myself owning. I do know this isn’t just about me. There will be plenty of those pre-order’s coming in to the Motor Company’s switchboard by those who want to have one of the first off the assembly line or can appreciate the electric vehicle (EV) segment. If I had the opportunity to ride one I would. But, I don’t know. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of siphoning gas out of your buddies bike to put into your near-empty tank to make it to the next gas station, you haven’t lived your best life. I just like the sound and feel of the combustion engine. Oh, and the smell and taste of combustion engine fuel. Go ahead, tell me you never…

So why am I struggling to embrace what makes the combustion engine and the electric motor motorcycles co-exist? Do you remember when the microwave and the VCR first came to be? Man, were they expensive. Maybe that’s part of my problem. It’s the price tag. As new technology comes forth, the initial costs are high and for a working man like me, who enjoys riding his Road King, the just-short-of-a-ashtray-full-of-change away from $30,000 is a lot of money. Plus, I like to ride further than the estimated range the LiveWire has. Again, I’m not the targeted audience for this particular segment, I’m sure. But I am on the radar of Hair Club for Men.

Plus, I like to ride further than the estimated range the LiveWire has. Again, I’m not the targeted audience for this particular segment, I’m sure. But I am on the radar of Hair Club for Men.

I’ve written in other posts about how Harley-Davidson has painted themselves into a corner. Until the concept of the LiveWire came about, the Motor Company has had a problem of changing anything that might upset their core customer, and that particular bike in the line-up they owned. Fuel injection for those die-hard carburetor customers, radiators hanging off the front, etc. Keeping things the same – fenders, engines, the iconic fairing or saddlebags and even the traditional names of models has been a successful business plan and have all past the test of time. That’s our fault. We have demanded a lot, meaning we have demanded the same.

So where does this leave me? It’s going to be okay. Things are changing around me, and like my father witnessing the changes he did, these changes wait for nobody. There will be things coming in the future that will be hard to wrap my head around but once they’re here, we’ll wonder why it took so long. The LiveWire will be here to stay because just as the EV’s have evolved, they will be refined even more, and in turn, costs will come down. I’m just being the old man I swore I’d never become!

If You’re Going To Ride, Ride To Food

It was my trip to Sturgis in August of 2016 when DJ, Gary and myself stopped for gas in Beloit Kansas when we crossed paths with Staci Wilt. Of course we had no idea at the time what kind of Motorcycle Industry insider she was, or was about to become. But this riding motorcycles has a way making paths cross, building friendships and expanding horizons. And it seems no matter which way I turn on the virtual highway of social media, I see Staci doing her thing. Hey, I know her!

I have a confession. When I first walked over to her at the gas pump to see if she needed anything on her solo trip to the rally, (because Gary, DJ and myself had enough packed between the three of us to supply shelter for a small city) I wasn’t expecting her response. With the small black bag on the back of her Dyna, she had everything she needed. As I walked back to my RV of a Harley, I realized the insanity of my packing skills. 30 miles down the road at the Largest Ball of Twine, we bumped into Staci again – only this time I dazzled her with my familiarity of the area when she asked me directions. And just like that, she was gone.

As I’ve mentioned, she has been building her profiles and making those important appearances at rallies and events, all the while her Dyna was in the shop for a major engine rebuild. But that’s what you have to do. Be seen, be present and be creative. She has all those bases covered. And she knows her stuff.

Her latest endeavor is called Ride to Food. We as bikers like to go places and if you’ve seen my profile, (and not my social media profile) you would see I like to eat along the way. But let’s stay away from those common food chains and strip mall eateries. Lets get together for a beer and a taste of local flavor that requires some searching and exploring. She does some of the legwork for us, and that saves time and broadens our experiences on the road. And she’s also a straight shooter telling it like it is.

Although our paths crossed just that one day, I consider Staci a friend. She gets it. She knows the why’s and where’s of the motorcycling communities and lives the lifestyle. Follow her on social media and her blogs and buy a t-shirt from her. Her blog is worth a read. Until we meet again Staci!

Blue Highway Home

Our years of living have proved one thing – There will always be a blue highway home.

It’s not so much the city streets, but more the connecting highway from where our life has taken us, to the place from which we come from. The slower pace, the faded white lines and the grass growing right next to the highway pulls you to your roots. This highway only works in one direction, and the feeling is always the same. You begin to see things as they were but not oblivious to the changes, and the faces of friends and family appear like photographs. So close to home.

I’ve traveled the blue highway home many times but for me there’s a difference. I never felt the pull of a distant dream that would put me miles away from where I was raised. I’ve chased plenty of those dreams, but it felt more like it needed to be done from the familiar surroundings from where I stood. I’ve talked about this in so many ways, and the question still haunts me. How would the blue highway home feel from the outside looking in?

I’ve talked about this in so many ways, and the question still haunts me. How would the blue highway home feel from the outside looking in?

As time passes, our reference to home is fluid. It depends on the conversation and the depth of knowledge our listener has of us. Do they know the whereabouts of my upbringing? Are they only familiar with my current location, or does it really matter? For those who really know us, there is a sense of understanding that home will always be at the end of that old highway. In a sense, when reflecting, we see things similar to the road that takes us home. Quiet and full of memories, recognizable faces and that back porch light, pulling those thoughts to a place of comfort and familiarity.

We don’t always have the urge to go home, mostly because a part of us never left. Sometimes that blue highway is a source of resentment or angst and best not traveled. But life can be full of these feelings no matter where you go or where you’ve been. For me, the blue highway is a reminder that no matter where you end up, there will always be an open door when looking back.