Not Always Together – But Never Alone

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Certain days have a way of falling into a special place, kept as memories, that are treasured forever. Yesterday was one of those days – filled with laughter, fellowship, brotherhood and determination.

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A week or so ago, a ride was put together to Cassoday Kansas, a small town that hosts bikers the first Sunday of the month during the riding season. The ride, suggested by my dear friend Gary Meadows, was to invite some friends to ride along with him to meet up with Soldiers For Jesus, MC – Kansas City Chapter in Cassoday. Gary has been fighting the fight with cancer, and this was his way of showing cancer the true power of the love and support he has behind him.

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I’ve ridden with Gary before. DJ, a mutual friend of ours asked if he and Gary could ride to the rally with me a few years ago, and since I was going by myself, I welcomed it. That particular trip was thrown together in what seemed like a matter of days, and not knowing Gary on a personal level, it was clear to me he is someone who’s path I should have crossed many years before. His sense of humor and his sincerity is as genuine as his laughter. DJ, Gary and I had a great time and everything about the trip was effortless. We met up with Dennis Webb and Roger Larmer at the rally which only added to the experience. Thinking about this ride always brings a smile to my face and will go down as one of my best memories riding to Sturgis.

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So as Sunday morning rolled around and the weatherman predicting favorable conditions, we gathered with Gary and his wife Charlene and Gary’s nurse Dee, who came along to offer not only moral support but also to monitor his condition for the ride. In this group that gathered, I realized the wide range of lives that can be touched by such a good guy.

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If you’ve read anything I’ve written before, you would know I do some of my best thinking from the seat of my motorcycle. I knew when we pulled out of the parking lot I’d have about 100 miles or so to pull some thoughts together. Sometimes these thoughts can be a mixed bag of emotions, some are reflective, but today it was about being present. Both figuratively and literally present.

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Gary, I can only speak for myself but it was truly an honor to ride with you once again. It was inspiring to see the love and support of your fellow bikers, but also your family. I witnessed the emotions and the power of prayer in the parking lot of a Casey’s. I saw the fellowship with the SFJMC-Kansas City as they wrapped their arms around you. I felt the bond between us when we embraced, and the lump in my throat when we spoke. These things I will never forget. The lives you’ve touched goes beyond the mechanics of the motorcycle – your church family and your community are living proof of that. I know I’m a better man because this path I’m on crossed yours.

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We ride – because that’s what we do. Not always together, but never alone. 

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.

 

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.

Inside This Helmet of Mine

It’s a simple concept really. Write a blog about growing up in a small town and my experiences riding my motorcycles. This is how it all started and, for the most part, still is. As this blog has grown and more and more people from around the world read it, it tells me that this simple life of mine and my reflections on life from the seat of my bike have been enthralling, or at the very least humorous in some way. If nothing else it has given you a look at what goes on in this helmet of mine.

So where do I go from here? I fully enjoy writing and putting these thoughts I have out there, and I would probably still do this even if it was more in journal form. A book with real pages and an ink pen that writes in cursive hidden in the hallway next to my motorcycle helmet sort of journal. But if you know me, you know I don’t write in cursive, but in all-caps. Come to think of it, I type using four or five fingers out of the ten I have but it all seems to work out somehow.

Winter weather, like our age is all subject to perception. I’m still young at heart and there is plenty of beauty and nice days during the winter months – it’s all in how you choose to look at it.

As winter keeps me from riding as frequent, or more accurately my urge to throw away my underoos and pull up my big-boy underwear, I find the desire to ride to be that much more obvious. Winter weather, like our age is all subject to perception. I’m still young at heart and there is plenty of beauty and nice days during the winter months – it’s all in how you choose to look at it. You would think the cold weather wouldn’t bother me as much as I appear to have put on my winter layer of fat. Mind over matter…Blah! Acting like a kid in trouble, I walk past the bike in the garage on my way out the door trying not to make eye-contact with it. I’m sorry for all the nice days I didn’t ride, and I will try harder this year. But the blog goes on anyway.

It really is hard to believe this blog is going on five years now. Five years of letting my thoughts fall out of my head in this random order and putting it out there for anyone who wants to read it. I go back and read some of my past posts and it surprises me that I’m even capable of putting a sentence together. If there is one thing that surprises me the most is the top three post that I’ve written. White City Ks. 66872, Hello, My Name Is Jeff, and A Dip In The Road have been some of the most viewed posts I’ve had and I thank all of you for that. I do have my personal favorites as well and these three are right up there. Some posts are more personal than others and some don’t tell the whole story but for the most part the point comes across. And there are some things I have wanted to write about but just haven’t pulled the trigger. If you could see the draft section of this blog it would truly show how random I can be. Yikes!

 

 

 

The Choices We Didn’t Make

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This morning as I stood upon the steps trying to decide on whether or not to ride my motorcycle to work on this cold, cloudy and windy day, the only thing I could think about was my weatherman Collin missing the mark the two previous days. Not that he was that far off, but it surely wasn’t in my favor. So today I decided to not ride because of it. I thought to myself “I’ll teach him.”

So my drive in was one of deep thought. Just like on my motorcycle, I spend a good portion just thinking about stuff that I don’t get a chance to think about otherwise. This decision on whether or not to ride is something that comes up a lot during the fall and winter months so it really isn’t that surprising. But this morning it occurred to me that I spent so much time trying to decide on something so trivial. Is riding that important to me? It is, but why make such a big deal about whether I’m going to or not? There are way more important life decisions and choices to make that all of a sudden this seemed insignificant. So what’s the problem?

Looking back over a lifetime there are many choices and decisions we make that can literally change the course of who we are and what we do. Fundamentally we are going to be the person we truly are, but I think you know what I mean. Some of the great mysteries of life are a direct result of decisions and choices we didn’t make.

“Some of the great mysteries in life are a direct result of decisions and choices we didn’t make.”

I’ve been riding motorcycles enough to know that the decision to ride or not affects my whole day. It is who I am and what I do so when I don’t ride I’m usually kicking myself for whatever reason. That little voice in my head says many things through the course of a day and when he’s right I can’t argue. You do hear those voices too, don’t you?

I’m not trying to trivialize the choices we make here. But we are faced with big and small decisions every day and depending on the outcome of those decisions it can alter how our day goes. Put it on a larger scale and we’ve all made life decisions that resulted in where we are standing today. Call it fate, chance or destiny – even luck, but life is full of choices. I know I’ve made several calls to not ride when I should have and vice-versa, but in the end it didn’t do any more than irritate me.

I often think about the road that led me to where I am today. I think about those crossroads where a choice was made and things changed, and how it would be different if that life intersection had been just a mile or two further down the road. I think about those future crossroads that I’ve yet to meet and how nobody knows how it will really turn out. That’s the beauty of it – and that’s where those great mysteries of life come from.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Rubberneckers

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It’s human nature for sure. When we see something out-of-the-ordinary, we turn our heads to see what happened or to watch whatever is happening to unfold. Like the proverbial train-wreck. We. Just. Can’t. Look. Away.

We motorcyclist are rubberneckers. We ride as if our head is on a swivel anyway, and because of that we see a lot of extraordinary things in the process. It’s almost as if we’re asking for it. Well, we are. In this particular case, I stopped to watch the fire off in the distance unfold. It’s not every day you have the opportunity – those few magical minutes – to rubberneck the sun coming up over the horizon. It’s all about timing.

But more importantly it’s about taking the time to stop, pause, and to not only see it but to feel it. To recognize the collision of your path and the extraordinary as it happens is key. When it happens, it happens quick. There are no rules here such as documenting it in a picture but it’s only here for those who are lucky enough to take it in. If you’re able to capture it, that’s okay too. It makes a great home-screen.

 But please remember, rubbernecking beauty – good. Rubbernecking misfortune – bad. But you already knew that.

When you find yourself rolling down the highway looking at your surroundings and you see that rubberneck-worthy moment, take it in. But please remember, rubbernecking beauty – good. Rubbernecking misfortune – bad. But you already knew that.

Life is truly made up of extraordinary moments strung together by ability to put ourselves in the middle of it. To see, feel and appreciate our surroundings requires a bit of rubbernecking. Without taking it in, we risk passing it by.