Mental Ditch

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It’s easy to get pulled into the ditch. I can remember in my early teens, driving my ’72 Dodge Charger around town in the winter snow, looking for snow drifts to plow through. This was a great car but it didn’t do well in the snow. Those after-dark Friday nights driving around White City in the snow would often find you getting the front-end pulled into the ditch, often due to a heavy right foot and an out-of-control back-end. Right up there on the center console, next to where your cell phone would have been had we had one, was your gloves. Someone was getting out to push.

So what does this have to do with a mental ditch? I thought you would never ask. It’s easy to get pulled into the ditch of negativity. Sometimes it happens faster than we can react and we find ourselves sliding into a bad attitude or mood. Despite how we felt before it happened, it can suck you in requiring someone else to push you out. We need friends riding shotgun with us to make us understand that we are responsible for our own attitude and that we aren’t responsible for the attitudes of others. And besides, they are willing to get out and give us a push in the right direction – just like we would do for them. Literally and figuratively speaking.

But there are times when even my motorcycle can’t get me out of this mental ditch I find myself in. The best people in my life know when I need a push.

We are at this point in the year where I normally talk about riding my motorcycle and all those wonderful thoughts that roll around in this pretty little head of mine, and believe me those blogs are coming. But there are times when even my motorcycle can’t get me out of the mental ditch I find myself in. The best people in my life know when I need a push, and will gladly get out and give it all they have. After all, we have to be home by midnight.

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A Sight for Sore Eyes

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If you read anything I write about my zany travels on my motorcycle you know there are many times I talk of wild animals, crazy drivers, Walmart bags and what appear to be flying squirrels coming at me as I roll down the highways and byways of Kansas. Although I make light of these things there is a seriousness to riding bikes. Nature and garbage are one thing because they know no better, but those drivers who refuse to notice me are another. I’ve never been the type to say “look at me!” but in this instance I am.

I can go on about my frustrations, but I won’t. But what I did do was reach out to the Kansas Highway Patrol through their twitter account explaining my experiences passing through the intersection Of I-70 and Ks. Hwy 77 every morning on my way to work. As a motorcyclist it was refreshing to see a Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper sitting along the highway monitoring traffic exiting 1-70. With a big wave I thanked the trooper, but to me it wasn’t enough. As I pulled into a car dealership driveway to circle around, my intentions were to hop a barb wire fence to personally thank him. Okay, hop a barb wire fence at my age and in my full leather gear might be a stretch, but I would have found a way. This is an example to NOT look at me. By the time I got close enough to do so, Trooper Cameron pulled out to stop a motorist violating the law. Missing my chance to thank the trooper, I felt compelled to contact KHP through twitter.

 The vulnerability we motorcyclists feel at times can be nerve-wracking and although we ride defensively, it’s nice to know there are men and women out there helping not only our cause as bikers but by being there for all motorists as well.

Trooper Ben who has been instrumental in at least making me feel better. But he has gone above and beyond that. The vulnerability we motorcyclists feel at times can be nerve-wracking and although we ride defensively, it’s nice to know there are men and women out there helping not only our cause as bikers but being there for all motorists. Trooper Ben responded back today telling me it was Trooper Cameron sitting in the car as I passed, and I know as he pulled over the motorist, all they were thinking about was the anger they were feeling for getting pulled over. I’m sure they weren’t thinking about what could have happened by not stopping at the stop sign as they came off the Interstate ramp where I find myself passing each morning on my motorcycle.

Thank you to the Kansas Highway Patrol. Thank you to all who patrol our streets and highways, and to those first responders for being there in our time of need. At times you may feel its a thankless job but I’m here to tell you otherwise. Thank you.

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Groovier

As the weather finally allowed me to ride to work this morning, I had a few miles to think about years past when I would have been riding most every day instead of picking and choosing the days as I am now. It felt good to get the bike out and although a little chilly at 24 degrees, it was still a nice ride in. It was almost as if instead of watching for deer through the Skiddy basin, I was watching unicorns cross at the appropriate marked areas along the highway. Yes, it felt that good.

But it truly is more than that. I usually go on and on about riding and how I use this time to put my thoughts together, and even though this is true, this particular ride I was waiting for my head to clear and I think my expectations of one ride to be my fix-all. I believe now it might take more than a twenty minute ride to work to achieve this. Sure, I have my ride home and my frame of mind will be different allowing me to focus not on the fact it has been a little while since the last ride and focus on this ride.

. My bike allows my mind to be wherever I want to be at any given time and it also lets me dream and wish until I run out of gas. If that happens, I guess I could just jump on the back of one of these unicorns and continue on.

I sure do a lot of thinking, huh? Why analyze the ride when it’s easier to just go? Good question. We all have our reasons for riding motorcycles, and mine acts as a mirror to my past and where I might be headed in the future. It also gives me a place to see what could have been and what will be. Kind of like a time machine, only better. A time machine is designed to place you into a certain period of time whether it be the future of the past. My bike allows my mind to be wherever I want to be at any given time and it also lets me dream and wish until I run out of gas. If that happens, I guess I could just jump on the back of one of these unicorns and continue on. Note to self – get gas.

As warmer weather and longer days get closer, I know I’ll get into a groove again. There is a huge difference between a groove and a rut. Same principle but one is, how do I say it – groovier. Yeah, groovier. I know what you’re thinking; what kind of ride takes you through the Skiddy basin on a motorcycle, seeing unicorns and saying groovier? I’m not sure how to respond to that, but at least I’m getting out of a rut.

I can’t wait for trees with leaves and grass to line the roads I travel. A southern breeze with the sun hitting the back of my neck is a good feeling for anyone but especially a motorcyclist. Just a thought, do unicorns have a rut season?

I’m Bitter, and Cold

So this goes without saying but I’m saying it anyway. If you live anywhere that experiences a full swing of seasons and you ride a motorcycle, it can be the same as an emotional rollercoaster. Ride today, wait a week, sneak in a 15 minute ride before the temperatures drop at dusk and then spend days walking around dazed and confused at the conflicting reports of weather from one channel to the next. What TV station is right and why do the weathermen lie to me? Even my phone can be overly optimistic when it comes to predicting the weather and riding my motorcycle.

I know it’s temporary and Spring is right around the corner, but for crying out loud, I need to put some miles on my bike as all of this winter baggage is stacking up in my head. I have all these thoughts running around in no particular order and I use my bike to file them properly. My head feels like someone dumped a filing cabinet in the front yard while the wind was blowing and left me to pick it up. In the dark. With my motorcycle mocking me through the garage window.

We all know the solution to this. Move. Move south where the sun shines 365 days a year and the temperature hovers in the 70’s every day. Trees and grass and rainbows around every curve, and no matter the direction you look, there are mountains and clouds that have whatever shape that makes you happy…blah, blah and blah.

But when the weather finally does break, look out. You can only hold the excitement back for so long and then we kick the door in and free that trapped motorcycle from the chains of isolation we call a battery tender.

The reality is overcast, cold and windy with a chance of rain mixed with snow. My motorcycle is sitting in the garage (or at least I hope it is, I can’t say I’ve looked that hard) just waiting to be backed out and fired up. It’s tough having a blog about riding motorcycles when, well, you can’t except for maybe that sliver of nice weather the weatherman is promising me, next Thursday, south of I-70 between 9 am and 9:45 am – if you’re lucky. But that’s a week away and it might as well be a month from now. Do I sound bitter? I sound like I ride motorcycles.

But when the weather finally does break, look out. You can only hold the excitement back for so long and then we kick the door in and free that trapped motorcycle from the chains of isolation we call a battery tender.

We ride motorcycles, and unless you are fortunate enough to live in the land where the weathermen are accurate and the roads are free of salt and sand, we wait. We wait until we can wait no more. Be patient my fellow riders as it’s coming… soon.

 

Mind Over Matter

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So 2015, it’s been nice knowing you. I’m not sure about the “older you get the faster time flies” thing because it seems this year has lasted longer than 365 days. And besides, when did I get old? Who am I kidding…

I know one thing for sure, if how I felt was a true measure to how old I am, I would not be able to buy beer. Of course, I  don’t feel that old. My mind is still telling my body that anything is possible, and it is more mind over matter anyway. Just tell that to the guy behind the counter at the liquor store.

So for 2016 I will make some promises to myself. Not the usual lies I tell myself every new year, but the ones that really, truly matter. Why we always pick the beginning of the year to make these random claims of personal improvements is beyond me, but here I go;

Laughing More – I need a huge belly laugh where the snorts and snot come from my nose. The kind where Diet Coke comes spraying from my mouth like a split radiator hose. Admit it, you want to laugh like that too.

Working on My Health – I know, right? My mind is telling the matter down below everything is fine, but at my age I know better. I need to stretch, walk and eat better for the health of it. Why? It’s the right thing to do and I can only imagine I would feel better. And besides, a nice evening walk gives me plenty of time to think. My motorcycle does the same thing but without all the cardio.

Take Some Time Off – I need this for my mental state. I’m not sure if this is good or bad, but I’m sure it will depend on how I use this time off. Beer and Nacho Doritos or stretch, walk and be active? Mind over matter, right? I also want to take a ride someplace I haven’t been on my motorcycle. Maybe to the southwest. That’s where Nacho Doritos are made right?

Be a Better Listener – Pay attention and be present daily. Or better yet, shut up and let people talk. I have been told I’m a good listener and I have the stories to back this up. I have perfect strangers tell me things they may not tell anyone else. It must be the perfectly timed concerned nod I give.

Sunrise and Sunsets – I talk a lot about my morning and evening rides on my motorcycle reflecting on how beautiful these are and how each one is unique and beautiful in its own way. I also know others are looking at them too from their own perspective and vantage point, but from now on I’m going to appreciate the beauty of both the visual and spiritual sides of these daily wonders. The beauty as it happens and how and why it happens, and in turn, give thanks each day for this amazing gift.

Appreciate – So much wasted energy is given to those things we cannot change and I will dedicate this energy to appreciating all that is around me. I will also communicate my appreciation to those who are important to me. I hope you don’t mind, because this matters to me. Get it?

One thing is for sure, every day is a gift and there isn’t any point in wasting it. Make the most of your time spent on this earth and give it all you have while making a positive difference in someone else’s life.

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Peak Performance

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This past Labor Day weekend I traveled to Colorado Springs to see my daughter Kelly, her husband Chanse and my grandkids Kylie and Casen. A quick trip indeed riding my latest bike, a ’06 Ultra Classic. Leaving Saturday after work puts me in Colorado Springs around 8:30 pm mountain time and can make for a long day. But as riding to Colorado goes, longer is better, right?

After a short visit on Saturday night I was eager to get some rest as Chanse had planned a ride to the top of Pike’s Peak Sunday morning before the rest of the house woke up. Pike’s Peak? I’m in. I will tell you from a Kansas boy’s perspective that a little bit of altitude can make me feel a lot light-headed. The highest point around where I live is Blythe’s hill. The first day of visiting with the kids is always an adjustment, but after that I’m good. Unless you’re expecting me to run, walk or climb a bunch of stairs. We head out on our bikes for the 20 minute ride there, and of course, the excitement is building. You can’t help but look at the front range as you’re rolling through town and again for a Kansas boy, well, I think you know.

We stop for gas just before the entrance and I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. Temperature was in the high 50’s so after gassing up I put my gloves on. I already had my leather jacket on so let’s do this! After Chanse paid the way into the park he let me lead. It’s still pretty early in the morning and the shadows were making cornering difficult. Those decreasing radius corners wreak havoc on a guy riding a big bike on an unfamiliar road. I know they race up this mountain every year for the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb and right now I’m in last place. 19 miles and counting.

We soon fall into a rhythm and I start to relax. That’s the key to this – relax. With very little traffic I feel we’re making decent time and I will say the view is spectacular. As we approach the tree line where the terrain begins to change to moon-like, things become different. The temperature is dropping, the air is thinning like the hair on my head and the road is becoming more difficult. Speed isn’t a real factor, but momentum is. Slow is good as long as you’re not going too slow. At this point it’s obvious I’m not dressed warm enough and the sign I just passed indicated I still had a few miles to go. Up that is. It’s becoming windy and I later find out the gusts are up to 50 mph. Like a punch to my face, the wind hits me every so often and I can’t breathe. I look in my mirrors to see if Chanse is still back there in hopes that I would have to turn around and go back looking for him. Chanse is still there, and I think he let me lead so he wouldn’t have to go back for me.

The last 2 miles were difficult for me. Old and out of shape doesn’t help and neither does a lack of oxygen. We get to the top and park the bikes, climb off and look around. Fun Fact – it took us about 45 minutes to reach the top and the winner of this year’s Pike’s Peak Hill Climb was one of only three people to do it in less than 10 minutes. To the winner, speed is a factor. To me? Oxygen. We are both freezing as the wind chill is hovering at 30 degrees or so and we seek shelter in the gift shop. Closed. It doesn’t open for another 10 minutes and shelter from the wind is found on the side of the building. Finally the doors open in what seemed to be an hour later and we find the restroom to warm our hands under the hand dryers. I ask Chanse why people are wandering around here with shorts and light jackets on and he tells me they hiked up Pike’s Peak. On foot? “Yes” he says. I asked him what day would you have to leave to get here before us and he tells me at day break. I’m winded and I rode up the mountain. They hiked and look great!

I could hear the voices in my head saying we will have to go back outside and ride back down even though my body was telling me to have a seat and stay awhile. At 14,110 feet they really need to pump oxygen into the gift shop. My head is now pounding and Chanse has his butter pecan fudge he bought for Kelly and we are ready to go. We start to take a picture by the sign at the summit for proof of this adventure and a gentleman walks over and volunteers to take it for us. Chanse reciprocates for him and as far as I’m concerned we can’t get down to 5000 feet soon enough. Oh, and as I said the view is spectacular.

Chanse leads the way and immediately I feel better. Slow and sure we work our way down as the traffic is coming up. A real advantage of getting there early. I’m finally able to look around and take it all in. This is really a great experience and it’s something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. Coincidently, there were only a couple of times I thought I was going to die. I didn’t of course, but what makes a story more interesting than having a close call? This was a great ride to share with my son-in-law Chanse. Epic for sure and I would do it all over again. Thanks Chanse, for a great day!

 

 

Bread Crumbs

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The small town. How can it be that a small town is the topic of conversation wherever I go? It inevitably comes up when questions get asked, so can it be that I wear it on my sleeve for those who don’t know me to see? I know it’s assumed that any small town has a deep effect on those who live there. Childhoods are formed, friends are made and memories carried forever – and even I’m guilty of stretching the truth when it comes to how really small this town is and how slow-paced life can be. I’ve never thrown a rock from one end to the other, but c’mon, is it really the town that gives us this deep down feeling of Mayberry?

I’ve been thinking about this for the past week or so, and I’ve come to some sort of conclusion; there is something about the gravel on the streets and the red bricks making up the main drag through town. That feeling you get on a Sunday driving down main street when there are no cars parked along the curb, and not one soul in sight. The quiet of the country as it creeps into the city limits around dark, and the sound of a breeze blowing the cheers from the football field on game night. But wait, it’s more than that. It’s the people. It’s those within the community that can have a lasting impression on a small town guy like me. Over the years there have been many – and for you the list maybe different from mine – but just like the bigger cities where it’s bumper to bumper or elbow to elbow, it’s the people who rub off on you. Slow down, take a breath and stay awhile.

I can remember Harold Anderson sweeping the floor of the lumber yard at closing time. He always sprinkled a green floor-sweep all over the floor to put some oil back into the wood, and that always impressed me. You could always find Keith Lee somewhere in town standing waist-deep in a ditch digging up a water line with a big smile on his face. Keith Kahnt, Jim Barber and Lacy and John Mahon; Buck Sangwin, Butch Krause, John Kohler, Perry Moore and Vernon Rose were also right there in town every day touching the lives of those in White City. Frank Nelson and his son Frankie, Fay Comp, Herb Nuemeyer, Bill Calvin, Kenny Ingmire, Don Sanford, Bob Roberts and the list goes on and on. Let’s not forget those school teachers who helped shape the community with their time and efforts; Leland and Mary Lawrenz, Mary and Nancy Laudeman, Mr. Otis, Mr. Haun and Mrs. North. Sybil Effland, LeAnn Hickman, Don and Karen Harmison, Peggy Stenstrom and Harry Granzow among others. It would be very hard to name everyone and it would be easier to just pick up the phone book and open it. So many people in and around White City have made this community what it is and Joann Kahnt has had a big part in keeping our memories alive – by taking and recording photographs for our kids to see what we all used to look like when we were their age. It doesn’t seem like it now, but in a few years we will come to appreciate her hard work.

The shift changes every decade or so with those who pass the responsibilities they’ve held on to someone else. This small town has a way of letting you go out and find your way in life, but leaving a trail of bread crumbs so you know your way home. There will always be a familiar face somewhere and a smile and laugh to take with you when you go. As I said, your list may be different. For me and my memories, this is just a short list of those who had a hand in them. Some of these good folks are still with us, and some have gone to a better place, but if you stand in front of the community building around dusk, I swear you can see them rolling up the sidewalks on main street.