The Hands of Time and Leather

 

There was a time when things were handmade and built to last, and when you held quality in your hand and you could feel it. We’ve strayed far from quality and caring to somehow accepting a short life expectancy from what we purchase – so much for passing it on to our kids.

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As a kid growing up I was fascinated by my fathers watch. Something he wore daily, and that rare moment when he was standing still, I would look it over. It wasn’t anything special, but I remember looking at it and thinking how old it seemed even then. It was worn and hard to read but the best way to describe it is to say that this watch my father so dutifully wore was standing the test of time. It must have been a faithful watch, keeping the best of time or my dad wouldn’t have worn it. To this day, I still catch myself looking at my fathers watch.

What once was a land of handmade, no-two-the-same, can’t buy it just anywhere products – we’ve digressed into a mass-produced, everyone has it environment. But it’s not the artisans fault. What’s the old saying? Oh yeah, something about you get what you pay for. The hands that crafted have grown tired and retired and have been replaced with machines that have no creativity, no pride or heart.

So it was March of 2012 when I received an email from Stephen Berner. He was contacting me to write a blog for his website, and after checking it out, I wasn’t sure what I was writing was good enough. I was completely blown away by Steve’s angle on the American V-twin lifestyle and all that surrounds it, and me being a small town guy who can’t seem to get out of said small town, had doubts on my abilities. But he believed in me and there was nothing to say but “yes, I’ll do it.”

I’ve learned a lot from Steve. Without knowing, he pushed me to be more creative. He gave me an opportunity to think beyond the city limits I’ve grown comfortable with and to try harder, think harder, and look at things from a different angle. And for that I owe him a “thank you.”

Steve has a thing about closed and long-abandoned factories where men and women not only built these factories but everything that came out of them. They took pride in what they manufactured and it showed on their dusty clothes, dirty faces and callused hands. A symbol of America that is slowly being forgotten and left to die one brick at a time. The hopes and dreams of these workers forgotten when they were carried out the front door in their lunch pails for the last time.

Steve has taken his passion and his love for quality, hand-made-in-America, to crafting it into leather. With the effort of those who have paid their dues and rightfully passing on their skills and knowledge to someone who cares enough to carry on a tradition, Steve has taken it upon himself to produce what he so believes in. Beauty. Quality. Handmade.

You can’t rush this kind of work and mistakes can’t be covered. Do it right or don’t do it at all, I say. And what’s that old saying again? Right. Get what you pay for. To pick up the tools of a trade that has almost been forgotten is admirable. Not everyone can do it, and sadly so few even want to. It can’t be easy, as it requires creativity, patience, a steady hand and the ability to see the end result before you’ve picked up a tool. Slow and deliberate, but worth it.

I suggest you check out Steve’s goods and see for yourself. Support those who take the time to do it right, right here at home, and carry with you something that will only get better with age.

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A Birthday Gift for Me

Kelly Sanderson

Kelly Sanderson

I remember like it was yesterday; sitting on the edge of the hospital bed holding you in my arms. You were wrapped up tight in a baby blanket with a stocking cap on your head just looking at me. Looking at me! We were alone in the room and while I’m sure I was mumbling something to you, without any warning, I cried.

There is something special about that moment we shared. We didn’t have any history to look back on and with only our future ahead of us I knew we would be okay. How could I be responsible for something so small and precious? I’m not used to this as I can barely take care of myself. I mean, it was the ’80s and is this stone-washed denim I’m wearing? Really?

It’s hard for a father to tell his daughter how he feels. While there are so many ways and lots words to say, it all gets lost in general conversation. But life is to short to not tell you how a I feel. Without trying, and at that moment you gave me a purpose. A life-changing moment that rearranged my priorities and gave me a reason to work hard and set a good example. After all, I wouldn’t want to embarrass you. Okay, it was the ’80s and some of that wasn’t my fault.

I’m so very proud of you. You have grown into the woman I always thought you would be. A great mother, a wonderful wife, a great sister and of course, a beautiful daughter. You have an effortless way about you and through it all you have an amazing sense of humor. I know how you deal with bumps in the road and humor is one of them. Your laughter makes me laugh and if nothing else in life, we have that. You recently sent me a text that you’ve come to realize that when so many things aren’t going your way, you have to come to appreciate the little things in life. To also be happy and thankful for what you have and how quickly we forget that, and how things always seem to work out. When you said that, it felt like a shift had come from me giving you advice to you telling me “everything’s going to be okay.”

You will always be that mop-topped little strawberry blonde that danced around in the dresses you insisted on wearing. It’s crazy how you have grown into a beautiful woman and remained my little girl all at the same time.

Today is your birthday and as hard as it is for you to realize this, it is you who gave me the gift. Happy birthday Kelly, I love you!

A Second Either Way

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Well, it was bound to happen again I guess. I’m speaking of another close call with a deer on my chilly ride to work this morning. Almost a year to the day I wrote about how a deer stepped out of the ditch and stopped suddenly before crossing (read; “Motorcycle Crossing”) as I was rounding the first curve in Skiddy on my way to work. Close enough to touch (or so it seemed) I remained calm and continued on. What this deer did after I passed is unknown, but I’m sure she was thinking those damn motorcycles are dangerous to her health.

I don’t know if we motorcyclists are just oblivious to the dangers of riding or if it’s the acceptance of those dangers that keeps us riding. Surely a close call, and I mean close call, with any deer or car would stop me from riding a bike. But close calls are a part of riding and quite frankly, the deer reminded me of this. I’m not saying it didn’t startle me. But at that exact moment when I came around the corner and saw her standing there on the road, several things went through my head in a very short amount of time. But not once did I think I was going down. Chop the throttle? Apply the brakes? Swerve? Scream? I did none of that. In fact if you could have seen the look on my face I probably showed no emotion. Nerves of steel? Of course not, but it happened so fast there was little time for panic. I can’t speak for the deer.

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how risky motorcycling can be. If I thought about it like that it would take the fun right out of riding. When something like this happens, (fewer times with deer, more often with cars) it shows me I’m living in the moment – and this moment only took about a half a second. Once it’s over, it’s down the road until the next close call happens. Not if, but when.

I’m not sure if this was the same deer or not, but they were both wearing similar fur coats. It did happen in the exact same place as before and if she is anything like me we’re both creatures of habit. As long as her and her friends make a habit of staying out of my way, I’ll do my best not to hit her and ruining both of our mornings. So after I passed her and proceeded to work I realized how close this close call was. A second either way could have yielded different results and I thought to myself how many times in our lives do we have these encounters and don’t even realize it. Whether we ride motorcycles or not, life is full of “a second either way.” So why worry?

I ride for that feeling of complete vulnerability to my surroundings. If this deer and I had met any other way (read collision) I might think otherwise. But part of the experience of riding is being on the edge of out-of-control with a few obstacles thrown in for good measure. So here’s to our anniversary and I hope we don’t meet again.

Motorcycling At It’s Best

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I ride motorcycles. That doesn’t make my sunrise or sunsets any more spectacular than yours, it just makes them mine. It doesn’t make traveling with a car full of friends a bad thing, it just means I have limited seating. You may wear gloves driving your sports car, I just wear them to protect my hands from the elements. You may sit in your car or climb up into your truck, but I straddle my ride. It’s not always how you get there…or is it? The solitude of riding is real. Looking down at the pavement as it passes below your feet can give you the sensation you’re going faster than you really are, but for me it’s more of a comfort thing. I can look down and see my front wheel spinning and the reflection of my surroundings distorted by the curves in the chrome and I know this is how I want to get there. And this time of year those reflections just happen to be the leaves changing colors.

As the days pass and fall approaches I start to realize that the fast, fun days of warm weather are coming to a close. Motorcycling is at it’s best when you aren’t battling the extreme elements, and history shows winter comes around about the same time every year. This means it’s time to dig out the cold weather riding gear to see if it still fits. Everything should as my clothes still fit the same from a year ago. Any time the seasons change and the temperature transitions one way or the other, it’s hard to figure out what gear to wear. Over time you figure out it’s best to over do it rather than take your chances. You can always take stuff off after you get under way, but it’s difficult to add if you didn’t bring it with you. How many times have I purchased a sweatshirt on the road when caught without enough layers? Not as many times as you would think. Be prepared, that’s what I always say.

Why do I do this? Why do I take the bike when I could easily drive? I don’t have the answer to that just yet. Even I question my sanity sometimes. And not just about riding a motorcycles.

This is the time of year when fewer bikes are on the road. The weather keeps those fair-weather riders from deciding on whether they should ride or drive. I’ll ride every chance I get but I do struggle with it as the morning temperature falls into the 40’s. I’ll get used to it soon enough but as I do, the temperature will still be falling as December and January come along. Why do I do this? Why do I take the bike when I could easily drive? I don’t have the answer to that just yet. Even I question my sanity sometimes. And not just about riding a motorcycles.

Appreciate the beauty of the day. Take it in from wherever you are and don’t worry about me; My view is just fine.

I Believe

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It’s all been said before. We’ve thought it and we’ve uttered these words when we’ve had our doubts. Sometime we just whisper them to ourselves. I Believe. I believe in life after death. I believe in love. True love. I believe in the good in people and the size of their hearts, even when they don’t show it. I believe our actions speak louder than our words. I believe in destiny. I believe we have the ability to overcome whatever it is we’re faced with, even when the odds are stacked against us. I believe in a healing touch. I believe in prayer. I believe in God.

I believe in what’s right. I admit sometimes I don’t believe, and then I find the strength to believe. I believe we don’t know our own strength – mental and physical. I also believe in the power of emotion and experience. I believe that time heals all wounds. I know the scars may remain, but time gives us the ability to understand. I believe that things come full circle. I believe my dog Scout knows me too well. I believe all pets love beyond the wag of a tail. I believe we could be more like them.

 I believe a mile in someone else’s shoes would make us appreciate our own shoes. I believe we should go without shoes more often.

I believe words can hurt and trust can be broken, but I also believe in forgiveness. I believe forgiveness and acceptance can make us grow into better people. I believe in hard work and long days and sweat. I believe we can. I believe we did. I believe we will. I believe in giving more than what you take. I believe in respect. I believe in honor. I believe in holding the door and ladies first. I believe it’s possible, even when nobody thinks so.

I believe in myself. But I also know I can be better. I believe in positive thinking. I believe in second chances. I believe tomorrow is a new day and today will end soon enough. I believe our past doesn’t define who we are and our future is an open book. I believe we were all young once and don’t ever forget it. I believe you’re only as old as you think you are. I believe in the kid inside all of us. I believe nice guys finish first – always. And children. I believe in those who are looking at the world and all it has to offer for the very first time.

I believe a smile can say so much. I believe people are good at hiding pain. I believe we need to be patient and have understanding. I believe a mile in someone else’s shoes would make us appreciate our own shoes. I believe we should go without shoes more often. I believe we worry too much. I believe that each day is a gift and we should treat it as such.

I believe in us; We the People and what we are capable of. Together. I Believe.

Twice on the Cheek

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Sunday mornings. Quiet, with coffee and thoughts of how my day needs to go. Lots of things to do, but never enough time. I try to get over to my folks house to see how they’re doing on Sundays and to show them that living about 6 blocks away from them really isn’t that far. Even though I think at times they think it is, as I’m guilty of not coming over more often.

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It was about eleven o’clock in the morning and my mother had just gotten up. She struggles at her age with her tired body and dad is great about letting her rest. He usually gets a few things done around the house and then goes in and wakes her up around 10:30 and makes her something to eat. I got there about the time the cinnamon toast and scrambled eggs were ready so I sat at the kitchen table and visited while they ate.

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It’s amazing to watch my parents interact. Humor is a big part of every conversation and it makes me smile knowing that no matter what, they still have something to laugh about. With everything going on with my mom, I heard her laugh today. She smiled and made a couple of comments that made me smile. She is also an inspiration to me. For a split second I had a flashback of when I was growing up and sitting at the dining room table and seeing my mom there. I could still see her in her 40’s and the only difference between then and now is she’s the one having a seat while dad makes breakfast, does the laundry and cleans the house. I’m sure she would rather be doing it.

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These are the days when I appreciate what my folks have gone through in this life. A lot of years of raising kids and working and just trying to make ends meet all the while enjoying said family and making the memories to recall when you become tired and somewhat dependent on someone else. I know the reality of the situation although I don’t want to think about it. We all get old but some just get older faster. Does that make sense? Of course it does.

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When I got up from the table explaining I had a bunch of stuff to do, I leaned over for my mother to give me a kiss as she always does. Twice on the cheek. I held her hand for a moment saying my goodbyes and then I gave my dad a hug before leaving. A Sunday with my folks watching my mom and dad eat a late breakfast and listening to their banter is hard to beat. I know I need to cherish these moments of cinnamon toast and scrambled eggs while I can – and if they only knew what that short visit does for a guy like me. It makes me smile and is the highlight of my day. Twice on the cheek.

Flying by the Seat of Your Pants

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It isn’t always about the destination. I know, I’ve heard it all before about the whole destination and journey thing but it’s more about the time on the road with nothing but the elements that surround you. The smells and temperature changes, the wind and sounds of your motorcycle and an occasional confused deer on the road. Both of us wondering which way to go.

Another trip to Sturgis South Dakota is behind me and I must admit, it was more about the ride there and back. It’s an opportunity to have some uninterrupted time to think about what is really going on up there. You know, just below my thinning hair-line. Friends and family and where this life is taking me are always something to think about, but the highway is always pointing me down this old road of life and it’s been doing a pretty good job so far. Looking back would I have taken any different roads along the way? Yes. Can I go back and change directions now? No, but all I can do is be who I am and make the best of it all.

I’ve always been an optimistic guy and I approach life in a very easy-going manner. Road maps and flying by the seat of your pants are two different ways of getting to the same place, but let’s face it; it’s all in how you want to get there. Some of life’s best moments are the ones that came along unexpected. Just as a road map leaves no doubt on where you’re headed or where you’ve been, some unexpected turns and encounters along the way can make it all the more interesting. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I do know that my outlook on life and how I handle those unexpected turns can determine how this trip through life will be. Don’t get hung up on the small stuff, and find the adventure in everything. It’s supposed to fun, right?

This trip to Sturgis put some things into perspective for me. Rain is only water. Life is short so hug your mom and dad. Tell those who mean something to you how you feel about them. Be nice – always. And more than all, appreciate those in your life and this beautiful, amazing world we live in. This road of life we travel, whether by motorcycle or not, isn’t always mapped out. It’s full of ups and downs and even has a few curves thrown in to keep you guessing, but that’s okay. We wouldn’t have it any other way.