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.

 

A Stone’s Throw

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Yesterday I pulled over on the short side-road next to the Skiddy cemetery to help a large turtle cross into the ditch. With my new-found friend safe from harm and turtle pee on my boot, I looked towards the southeast at the small town of White City off in the distance. I’ve seen this image many times as I come home this way every day. I laughed to myself about the illusion the grain elevator and the water tower give of being so far apart from each other, but I know they are only about 3 blocks apart. It’s a small town, so what isn’t 3 blocks away? I took a minute to think about a few things like the upcoming 4th of July celebration and how this week has always been one of my favorite times of the year. For a small town, White City has the ability to pull things together by putting on a parade, ball games and fireworks all infused with that old magic ingredient called home.

I know White City isn’t the only community in which this happens, but it’s the one I live in so I can speak first hand about it. I also sat there for a minute and thought about friends I haven’t seen for a while. Once in a while a name or face pops into your head and you wonder what they’re doing now. From my vantage point at the cemetery the town seems so far away, but the fact is it’s only about 8 miles. Just like old friends, at times they too seem like a distant memory but actually they’re not that far away. We can always pull a memory or two out of nowhere closing the gap between time and distance, and by scanning the horizon I know some of those friends are just a stone’s throw from town. Much like the illusion of the grain elevator and water tower.

Now that social media has played such a large role in getting us all back in touch, it’s easier than ever to know what everyone’s up to. But, I will say there is nothing that beats lunch with a friend and the laughter that follows. We take so many things for granted when we’re young and reckless that we never saw the wave of life coming. Some caught that wave out of town while others hung on tightly to the city’s edge. Neither being wrong or right, it’s just the way things ended up. We still have those friends whether or not our paths ever cross again. Of course it can never be too late.

We take so many things for granted when we’re young and reckless that we never saw the wave of life coming.

Who knew helping a turtle across the road would give me so much to think about? Was this his big break from the small ditch he grew up in to a bigger world where the pace is much faster and the grass is taller? Do turtles have a “fast pace?” Was he returning back to a place where he grew up? Was this turtle a symbol of small town life? Crazy questions for a small town guy like me. I may never know the answers, but it made me feel good to get him off the road.

After a few minutes of taking in the scenery, I fired up my Road King and headed into town. Another confused turtle saved from what might have been, and some memories of friends that will always be…friends.

Lost in Translation

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It’s nothing but words. Words of description, feelings and stories. They roll out of our mouths or with pen and paper, and in some crazy, weird way they come together to say what we want to say. Right or wrong, intentional or with regret, they come out and all of a sudden the bell has rung. We can apologized, repeat and explain but just as the “ayes” have it, the words have spoken.

This morning’s ride to work had me thinking about how the written and spoken word has changed. We no longer write long letters on paper placed in an envelope or stand in the kitchen talking on a phone with a 3 foot cord. Communication is instant these days and can often be misunderstood. As fast as our thoughts will allow our thumbs to type, a message is sent and then read to see if we actually sent what we meant to say. I’m not knocking this type of communication, I’m just trying to understand how we got here.

Before the instant message, we sat down to put our thoughts on paper. Each word and sentence thought out carefully and a lot of concentration was given to show the recipient that we had decent hand writing. When we were through with the letter we actually penned our name at the bottom with some sort of closing wishing them well or expressing our feelings. Done. Fold it up, put it in the envelope and lick the seal. Now in a couple of days they will know exactly how I feel. Today, they know exactly how we feel – RIGHT NOW. If you needed to talk to someone immediately, you picked up the phone, dialed their number (after looking it up in the phone book) only to be greeted with a “hello?” How archaic.

It’s amazing how I can’t remember ever throwing away a letter. It’s almost as if it was something to be cherished and kept to read again and again. I think we’ve lost something in translation – but it’s not in the words we say or write. It’s in the amount of thought and effort we put into it. It’s hard to show how good my penmanship is in a text message. Who am I kidding – I have no penmanship. The keyboard and mouse have taken over and I can’t even find a pen. The phone calls are more convenient now and I don’t have to stand in the kitchen to talk, but now they come more frequently and the topics are less in-depth. It used to be when the phone rang we looked at each other to see who would get up to answer it. Now, we look to see who’s phone is ringing. We usually don’t pick up with a hello and hang up with a goodbye, and I’m a little sad about that.

So back to my ride in this morning. When I finally pulled into the parking lot at work and shut off my bike, my phone rang. It was my dad calling to see if I had called him. You see, he doesn’t have caller ID on his phone so when he sees a missed call he calls everyone to find out who it was. Although he has an answering machine at home, he doesn’t have voicemail on his cell phone. We had a short visit, I told him I loved him and he said the same and we hung up. I thought about how I answered the phone and whether or not the traditional hello and goodbye was used. They were not. But I heard “I love you” before I hung up and that’s just as good in my book. That’s one thing not lost in translation.

The Smell of Fear

 

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Sometimes you just don’t know. Sometimes we go through life doing our best, working hard to make a difference (not only in our lives but those around us) and we just don’t know if we are. It’s like a bad driver careening out of control down the road unaware of the carnage going on in his rear-view mirror. Eyes focused on the road ahead, but completely oblivious to the damage done. Later, watching the evening news about a car driven by a reckless driver he says “wow, I drove right through there just before all that happened.”

I’m not saying I’m a bad driver. I’m talking about whether saying hello to someone while walking down the sidewalk, letting someone ahead of you in line or just listening to someone go on and on about the turmoil in their life actually makes a difference to them. Once the brief encounter is over and you both go your separate ways, was a difference made? Good? Bad? All I can do is be who I am and if the goal is to make a difference at that moment then I’ll know I did my best. I don’t know the back-story of everyone I come in contact with, but everyone has a story. Who am I to think I can completely understand their lifetime in just a few moments? Hell, I have a hard enough time understanding my own let alone someone else.

But it’s not about understanding where someone comes from or how their life differs from ours. It’s about the effort put forth to make a difference from this moment on. Listen. Smile. Hold out a hand or open a door. Making someone’s whole day might take just a second of your time, so why wouldn’t we do that? Sounds easy, but are we too wrapped up in our own little world to see the world around us? For whatever reason, perfect strangers will tell me just about anything. I’m not sure if I suffer from “Nice Guy Syndrome” or if it’s because I’m willing to engage in conversation. I’ve tried to understand what possesses someone to veer out of the light conversation we were having into a much deeper subject. At this point we might want to have a proper introduction. For reasons unknown to me, they feel it necessary to say what’s on their mind or what’s going on in their life. It must be my great ability to listen, show the proper facial expressions and nod my head. Just as the old saying goes that bees smell fear, I think people can just smell I’m a good listener.

As we move about our daily routines, it’s only a matter of time that something we say or do (intentional or not) will have an impact on someone around us. For those who know us, what we say or do won’t necessarily be a surprise. For everyone else we may never know. I wish it was as simple as watching the evening news to find out if the damage behind me was caused by yours truly. Although, I do check my mirrors regularly.

 

Greener Grass

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It’s easy to find that old road home. Sometimes it can be automatic and effortless finding your way here and other times it can be a road no one wants to travel. Why is it easy to find the road home when the road out-of-town is so difficult to locate? It can’t be those roots around your feet holding you down as so many before you have proven it possible to cut loose and make a run for it. Look around – there are plenty of family and friends who have broken free and found the escape route from their hometowns to find greener and brighter places to reside. There must be a brick for every one of those who left, making up the cobblestone four blocks of our main street. Countless bricks – a quiet reminder that it is possible to call somewhere else home.

Why is it easy to find the road home when the road out-of-town is so difficult to locate?

Not everyone wants to stay behind. The quiet of a small town can make your ears bleed, and it’s often the invisible expectations we place upon ourselves which keep the porch light on at night. Is it a fear of the unknown or the lack of confidence in myself that keeps me here? Is the grass under my feet greener than that which grows down the road? Or is it me that makes the grass greener wherever I’m standing… Great questions with answers yet to be determined.

I know for some it’s a race to get beyond the railroad tracks. Life begins when the cake is cut at the high school after-graduation party, and then it’s off to who knows where to start who knows what. We’re young and excited and we want to see what we’re capable of. We want to make our mark in this world and this small town is standing in our way! The grip of any one-horse town is no match to college, work and distant dreams and besides, who’s going to notice when I’m gone?

We go about our business of living while planting our own roots so the family we raise has a place to call home. We water the grass to keep it green thinking that’s all it takes to keep them here, only to have them hatch the same escape plan we had when it’s time to leave the nest. Some leave the small town life and come back while others leave and never look back. There are those that never leave but always wish they had and there are a few that are completely content to living their life on gravel. There is a reason the end of the rainbow is always off in the distance. That elusive pot of gold which lies at the other end is actually our family and friends who have had the courage to move away. But remember, there are always two ends to a rainbow, even though you may not always see it. Does that mean there are two pots of gold?

So whether you are running from your past, chasing fame and fortune or love, one thing is for sure – you will either be leaving the comfort of your hometown in your pursuits or you will be coming back to a porch light left on. The direction you travel is dependent upon where your grass was planted or where this rainbow ends.

The Charlton Church and the 69 Motorcycle Club

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We all come from different walks of life, and to the naked eye it’s just the surface we see. A doctor, carpenter or factory worker on the surface, but behind the scenes we are so much more when the rubber hits the road. Even though the differences of passions and possibilities between us and of those that surround us can be great, we can often find fellowship in what makes the ground we stand upon common between us. Motorcycles are a great way to bring people together and it’s been a common thread since the invention of this two-wheeled transportation. There are those that are involved, those that want to be involved and there are those that are involved indirectly because of us.

For a small town Kansas boy I’m a world away from the United Kingdom, but for many of you who have a passion for motorcycles, distance is only a minor thing. I recently heard of the 69 Motorcycle Club and started to understand how this big world can often seem a little smaller. No matter where we are, what we ride or how people perceive us as bikers, we still have many layers of who we actually are. This is a universal thing and it transcends gender, age and location. We are united by passion and it becomes a universal language that we all speak and understand. Who we are on our motorcycles is exactly the same person we are when we’re not riding, and the motorcycle is just another vehicle used to spread the fellowship.

Father Colin Johnson, the Parish Priest at St. Peter and St. Paul – The Parish Charlton Church and Tower Hamlets in Dover has close ties with Kent’s 69 Motorcycle Club. The 69 M.C. is actively involved in raising money for charities and putting on events within the area to bring people together. Father Colin and I have never met but I understand him and can relate to his passion and his desire to share his energy with others. To be the Parish Priest of a community can have its own rewards but to have the ability to mix his enthusiasm of motorcycling with the fellowship of the church can only bring excitement to the congregation. Bikers by nature are very giving and the 69 M.C.C. would be no different. The fellowship of the biker community working in unison with local churches and groups can only make each organization stronger. After all, looking at the faces sitting in the church pews are the faces of the community, and each and every one of us has our own interests outside of what we wear on the surface. For Father Colin to don the collar of a Priest and a leather jacket, speaks to me. Fellowship in the truest sense.

Whatever we choose to do in our lives we should do it out of passion and for love. Others will see the excitement and enthusiasm in us but more importantly they can feel it. Thank you Father Colin for spreading the Word and the fellowship and I know we’ll meet someday!

http://www.69motorcycleclub.co.uk/

http://www.charltonchurchdover.org/id16.html

For the Good Times

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It sat right there in the dining room in front of the window; a stereo console that had all the modern electronics of the day. AM/FM and a record player. With the lid closed it looked like a credenza, but when I would lift the lid and sneak a peek, it had shiny knobs, dials and all kinds of things that could get me in trouble. The perfect height for a kid like me to lean against and look out at the wonders of our driveway – and a place to check the weather. You know, whether or not to ride my motorcycle.

But it wasn’t the object in the room that brings me back to that place, it was the music mom had playing. KFDI Country out of Wichita played the background music of my childhood. Ray Price, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Merle Haggard and Don Williams just naming a few, came out of those cloth-covered speakers, with songs about country bumpkins and the good times. I can still hear the sound of Sunday morning coming down both lyrically and literally as my mother sat at the table having her coffee. I’m not sure if at my tender young age in 1974 I was fully aware of my surroundings but for some reason this has stayed with me.

Music has a way of telling our stories and explaining emotions that we find difficult to put into words ourselves. From my earliest recollections to now, music has always taken me to a place where the memories are patiently waiting to be remembered. As I was growing up the music was changing just as I was – and searching to find the words of how I felt at particular time in my life. Making up the words when my young mind didn’t understand what the adults were singing made for some funny verses, but it was all I knew. When the eighties came and Chicago, Billy Joel, Barry Manilow and the Bee Gee’s were finding their way into my 8-track player things changed for me. It all started to make sense and I could relate to the emotions and words coming through in every song. I don’t know if the music was impacting me or if it was just my ability to understand how music has always had an impact on all of us, but it really got my attention. It was all coming together.

Music to our ears can mean many things. Church hymns, rock and roll, or even complete silence can be that sound we need to hear at that moment. It affects our mood and speaks the words we are thinking or can give us the strength to say them ourselves. Music can hold secrets for us and usually hits the nail right on the head when we need its inspiration. It will always be about how a song makes us feel. Music helped me get through those tough and awkward times when nothing else could and it helped me understand who I might want to be as a person. What else could you do with good ole boys like me?

I cherish those days listening to the music my mother enjoyed. I’m sure music has the same impact on her as it does everyone else, but for a kid in the 70’s and seeing her standing in the kitchen at the stove or sitting at the table while the radio played makes me smile. I don’t know what she was thinking at the time and maybe I should ask her now. Did she have music to help her through those difficult times, what were the songs that lifted her up and what were her favorite songs?

It’s funny how a particular song will put us in an attitude of remembering or take us back in time. It can pull us through a full range of emotions in about four and a half minutes and do it in a way that makes us want to experience it again. But in this case it was all the songs and artists that put me on the floor in the dining room in front of the stereo; and my mother. I wonder if she realized I was paying attention…