Adventure of a Lifetime – Along for the Ride

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Writing a blog about motorcycles and my deep thoughts and perspectives about riding has opened up a whole new world for me. Within the last few years I’ve made several friends and contacts within this industry and I’ve had the opportunity to read some amazing blogs and articles written by these folks. When I started doing this there wasn’t any hope for me. I thought of this as more of a journal – a place to put what I’ve had stored up in my head just so I wouldn’t forget it all. But it has become so much more than that as its the inspiration of those who truly live their lives as an adventure. They take it beyond what I affectionately call the “city limit.” The city limit is an imaginary boundary I have put myself in growing up in a small town. Much like a dog with a collar and an invisible fence, I may feel a shock if I ever leave this small town.

The city limit is an imaginary boundary I have put myself in growing up in a small town. Much like a dog with a collar and an invisible fence, I may feel a shock if I ever leave this small town.

But for some of these riders and writers it has become a way of life. They have taken a dream and turned it into a reality of sorts – an adventure if you will. To create a world where words and roads meet can be a wonderful thing, and I have enjoyed following these people along their journey while they bring their experiences to life. It takes a lot to do this and the sacrifices are many. Time away from family and friends, living along the road or trail and pulling down some meager wages can add up to burnout and frustration at times, but they keep plugging away at it.

Dharma Anchor is a great example. I always enjoy reading Vallaree’s blog and looking at her amazing photography as it puts me right there in the moment as if I’m standing next to my motorcycle seeing it with my own eyes. Traveling by motorcycle, her view and descriptions are spot on and this is obviously pure talent as I know how difficult it is to convey. I love this blog.

Sharon Faith is and adventurer and writer from Florida, traveling on her Suzuki V-Strom and writing about her travels. She’s finally found her way to Alaska and from what I can tell she is loving every minute of it.

Dannell Lynn is currently hitting all 50 states and Canada in a year’s time on her Triumph motorcycle and writing about it on her blog Black Tie to Black Top. She has traveled the world and touched many lives along the way. To make this kind of commitment is an amazing thing for sure but I know the true reward is the people she meets along the way. Let’s face it, we ride motorcycles but it is the places and people who make the trip an adventure. Safe travels my friend.

Alisa Clickenger is proof that life isn’t always headed in the direction we think it is. Many years ago, she changed the direction of her life and it somehow involved motorcycles. Looking back I’m sure she would agree this was a good thing. Living in California, she has pursued her dream of being involved in the motorcycle industry by speaking at events encouraging others to ride and representing tours for women riders. Also a world traveler on a motorcycle, she only has more great things planned for the future. I can’t wait.

Shawn Thomas currently works for Rawhyde Adventures and makes his living doing what he loves to do. I know he’s not writing a blog about his adventures, but his enthusiasm is contagious. A family man making the sacrifices to follow a dream.

If you like following my blog, check out the people I like to follow. There are so many more I could mention They are doing what can be difficult to do: Writing about their riding adventures and making it interesting enough to keep you coming back for more. Thank you all for allowing me into your adventure and keep it coming!

Bucket List

sunsetBack in the day some bikers refered to a helmet as a “lid” or “bucket” when sitting around telling mostly true stories with their buddies. We all have certain terms for things as we often refer to our motorcycle as a “ride” or “steel horse.” So let’s take the “bucket” and use that as a question. What is your “bucket list.” Or better yet, what is your helmet list? All of us are in different stages in making our helmet list and often that list changes as we get older. Some things are crossed off the list with enthusiasm, while others seem impossible to achieve. As I ride I find some things just cross themselves off as if I set out to conquer it, but in reality it was just by chance that the item on the list happened without even trying. The whole reason for our helmet list is to make sure that we experience and enjoy life, no matter what it is you set out to do. 

Now you just don’t fall out of a plane by accident when the goal was to go parachuting, but to see the sunset from the most random place is quite frankly, a pretty big deal to me. To have a great conversation with a long-lost friend might not make your list, but for me is one that I can check off. I think that sometimes we make our helmet list so difficult we find ourselves miserable when we can’t get anything crossed off.

Sure, I have several things I want to achieve in my life but I also want to enjoy every possible experience I can. After all, that is what life is about. Experiences. Riding a motorcycle can open the door of experiences you may not get anywhere else. You can meet some amazing people who can also share experiences they’ve had along the way. Of course, in some cases it may not be a helmet list to them, but maybe a “bandana list” is more their style. To each their own!

If you haven’t made your helmet list, you should. If you don’t have a helmet, get one. And a motorcycle as well. You might find that as you ride, that list inside your bucket will slowly disappear, along with some things you weren’t expecting. At least for a while, the stress of life and the problems at work have a way of sorting themselves out. Take a ride to the coast, ride through the mountains or to the corner store. But ride. Mentally cross off those things you see that weren’t on your list. Looking over my shoulder at a beautiful sunset while pumping gas is one of mine, and I tell myself – at this moment, right now, I am right where I want to be. Check.

Chasing Horizons

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The need to get there. You know…over there. Someplace you are not. We bikers are real bad about that as we are constantly searching for the “new” perfect road. Even as we travel the same old boring rides over the years, there is a pit in our stomach that there might quite possibly be a more perfect way of getting there. You know…over there. Better trees, curvier curves, more scenic bridges and more hilly terrain. I think you get the idea. And so the search continues.

Just when we think we’ve found our utopia, we realize it’s just not enough. Like a kid is to sugar, we bikers are to scenery. Our drug of choice is the feel of the wind and the sound of our bikes as we ride down another less congested highway to somewhere we’ve never been. Sounds easy right? Right. But life can be that way. We should always be searching or at least looking around with our head up instead of walking in circles looking at the ground. We should be wanting to discover things and places we have never experienced. Some people do and others…well, do not.

I must admit when I take on a new day I’m just as much in a rut as the next person. But once in a while I do wander out of my little world and take life on. It’s exciting to be somewhere new and to talk to new people, experience new things and make some new memories. But the searching I speak of is different. It is the horizon that we just can’t get to. It’s always just over the next hill. You know…over there. It’s that constant drive and curiosity that keeps us in motion. And besides, what would we do when we get there?

It’s Never Too Late

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Yesterday a friend of mine mentioned of having thoughts of mortality because of the loss of a close friend. Along with other things going on in and around her life with family, my only comment was “this is what makes us realize how precious life really is”. I too, have had these thoughts the last couple of years with the loss of a couple of friends. Both losses didn’t make much sense and to this day still don’t. But every day I get up, do my best, be myself and carry on with the day-to-day stuff. While most of the “stuff” I refer to is pretty meaningless in the big picture, it needs to be done. But more importantly, it needs to be done. It is the “stuff” we do that gets us through every day, whether it’s dealing with mortality, or stress or whatever. So we do it. Sometimes begrudgingly, but we do it all the same.

My approach to the last couple of years of dealing with these thoughts have been simply to tell those around me how important they are in my life. It’s not something we usually do, I know, but think about it. A few simple words of encouragement, a random message that you are thinking of them, or better yet a “thank you” for being a person in your life can give both parties a clear understanding of where we are in this world. I may not see you or talk to you again before something sudden happens. But if something does, if nothing else, I know we both know. Realize, that if you volunteer to someone what you think about them, and you don’t get the same response, it’s ok. Just know that when they walk away they will be thinking about what you said.

There are a lot of inspirational quotes to fall back on that can bring reassurance and peace to our lives, but the impact of a few original words from your mouth can change people. And the feeling it gives you is the same peace in our lives that we need. Outcomes in life can’t always be changed. And we can go through life thinking people know how we feel about them. Maybe they do know, but what better way to make sure than to tell them yourself?

Live your life and enjoy even the bad days. It’s ok to feel the way you do and to open up your heart even if it hurts. Easier said than done, without a doubt, but today is the day someone may need to hear how important they are to you.  So tell them.

The Price We Paid in the ’70s

As a teenager in the ’70s I was completely distracted by girls and motorcycles. If I only knew then what I know now, I would be in better shape with both motorcycles and women in general. You see, some of the motorcycles I owned back then have become new again. Highly desirable and worth more money than originally priced. Examples include, Honda 305 Scrambler,  1975 Yamaha DT175, Harley-Davidson X90, 1976 Husky 175, a Yamaha TY250 Trials and the list goes on and on. Sometimes, even in the moment, we are aware we should hold on to something with everything we have knowing we may never get them back. I know now I was never thinking they would be worth more than what I had invested, but living in the moment has its price. And I paid that price in full.

I was a child of that era and it goes beyond just motorcycles and girls. Cars and trucks came and went just as easy. 1966 Plymouth Fury, 1970 Dodge Charger, 1972 Dodge Charger, 1956 Ford truck, 1961 Ford truck Uni-body, 1949 Chevy truck, 1967 Chevy short-wide bed truck…see the trend? What was I thinking? But you have to remember, to me, cars and bikes were just a moment in time. Girls on the other hand were different. Like hair styles and bell bottoms. High School and dating. Transportation and recreation. Buy and sell or trade. Some were great deals and others were, well… not so great.

Even the Levi’s I was wearing back then are worth money! Say what? Yes, and in high demand. I’m not sure the pea green or sky blue leisure suites my mom made for me with her McCall’s Patterns would be worth much now, but who knows? Stranger things are happening. Some people save things from their past with hopes of it being worth something, but when it comes time to actually sell said things, they can’t part with them. They have a name for that. Hoarding.

As much as I appreciate the beauty of the Honda 305 Scrambler or the ’70 Dodge Charger, I can truly say that I am so much happier having owned and enjoyed them without the worry of damaging them or decreasing their value in some way. We rode hard and drove hard back then because we were living life. 8-track music blaring through cheap speakers or our Levi’s bell bottom pant leg chewed up from the chain of our motorcycles. It didn’t matter because we had a date that night!

Practical

As I was pumping my usual $12 worth of gas into my Heritage, a older gentleman walked over to me and floored me with the question “is it practical?”. He was driving the required older gentleman’s car, a Buick, which I have owned a few myself. I know the fuel economy of that wonderful engine, and it is nothing to dismiss. Usually when I get asked a question from a stanger at a gas station, it’s “where are you headed” or “how many miles to the gallon do you get”. But never “is it practical”.

So I thought about it and answered with “only if you ride it”. He continued about his love for motorcycles and how he wished he was still riding. I could see it in his eyes and he was very sincere in his words. We had a great talk and he was on his way as I was mine.

The ride home I couldn’t help but think of this exchange. The truth is there a cars that get as good of mileage as my motorcycle and yes, that would make them more practical. Enough to carry more than two people, cup holders, radio, storage, heat and conditioned air. Why didn’t I think of that? But I ride because I want to, not that I have to. I ride all year long as long as it’s not dangerous and saving gas is just a benefit. Most of my friends ride as recreation and wouldn’t think of riding the way I do, and that’s OK. They have their passions and I have mine. To me a boat doesn’t make sense but I don’t have any interest in that particular form of recreation. And that too is OK. But if you want to ride a motorcycle to save gas you have to ride it. A fair weather rider I’m not and I have the miles on my bike to show for it. Sixty degrees and a twenty percent chance of rain, will you ride? Probably. Forty degrees and a twenty percent chance of rain? I will. Most folks will look outside and say it’s just easier to take my coffee cup and jump in the car. It’s not convenient to ride for a lot of people, with dress clothes and laptops. I don’t have much hair, so helmet head isn’t an issue for me.

There are a lot of forms of transportation that are not practical. The distance to our destination comes into play as well as what we need to take with us. My saddle bags are full for any of you who have followed me, so apparently I have a lot of stuff I need to carry as well! I’m fortunate to be able to ride almost daily all year long. Some winters are worse than others but you know what I mean. If there is one point I want to make here is this. Be passionate about what you want in life. Bicycling, running, sports cars or boats. Enjoy your hobby as I enjoy mine! If you haven’t experienced riding a motorcycle or are curious about it, ask someone who does. Then someday it might be me that walks up to you and asks “is it practical?’

The Road Home

I have been living in this small town in Kansas now for about 45 years. White City hasn’t changed much over time and the same could be said about the people who live there, me included. That isn’t a bad thing, it’s just how it is. From White City you have to travel about twenty miles in any direction to get to another “incorporated” town. Skiddy, (look it up!) which is “unincorporated”, named after Francis Skiddy,  is about seven miles from White City and I’ve seen that town slowly turn into a memory of what it once was. The Pepsi sign on Mann’s Grocery is still there but the roof is not. The Standard station is a house now but for anyone with any history in the area, you know what I’m talking about. A church and a school are still standing but that’s about it. Population hasn’t change as there are maybe 20-25 that are living there.

Riding to work the past few days has been interesting. There is work being done on a pasture to remove a tree line for new fencing. I know some might think I’m a motorcycle vagabond, traveling the two-lane highways, sleeping on picnic tables and writing this stuff on discarded paper bags. The reality is I have a job and have traveled this road from White City for over thirty years. So as this work is being done the landscape around Skiddy is changing. Somewhat of a shock for a small town guy like me. I can only imagine the shock the citizens of Skiddy are experiencing as they are a smaller community than White City! Change just doesn’t happen that often so when it does it almost always makes the newspaper.

But this morning the trees have all been removed and now you can actually see around the curves for any oncoming cars or tractors. And I must mention it’s a nice view of the small valley into this pasture. This tree line has been there as long as I can remember and has defined this section of road. It’s forever gone and I’m a little sad. I know this road like the back of my hand. Now it looks like the back of someone else’s hand! At least this half of mile where the trees are gone!

I like it and as progress goes, so does Skiddy. A new fence will be up in no time and the cattle will have a new view of the passing traffic. I use the term “traffic” loosely as I passed two cars this morning in the first fifteen miles of my commute. And that’s OK, as a small town guy will tell you, “some, or a least most, things never change”!

 

 

 

Motorcycles to Anamosa – J&P Cycles Open House

A couple of years ago I rode to Anamosa Iowa for J&P Cycles open house. The end of June was perfect and the weather was good with a slight chance of showers for part of the trip. But no worries, with warm weather a little shower wouldn’t matter. I left after work on my Heritage and planned on making Des Moines Iowa to spend the night. I don’t normally take the interstate but I needed to make a little time so look out big trucks and speeding cars!

A nice night in Des Moines and back on the road to Anamosa. You know at the time I had not ridden through Iowa on a motorcycle, so I was looking forward to it. It was also going to be my first trip to J&P’s and I couldn’t wait. The National Motorcycle Museum was also on my list, so quite frankly I couldn’t get there fast enough.

Now let’s be serious. We’ve all been to things like this, but as I pulled into the parking lot of motorcycles, I was amazed at the turn-out. The people working the event were directing people and it seemed like a well organized group. Very impressed! But wait this was just the beginning. In a box not far from me was a four inch square piece of plywood to put under my kickstand. what a great touch. That says to me that these people understand me and what is important to bikers in general. It’s weird to talk about a piece of wood like this but in that four inch square it might have well said “welcome my friend, we don’t want your bike to fall over”. Nice touch and I haven’t even walked through the split-rail gate to get to the open house.

The day was spent walking and talking to a lot of vendors and folks milling around. It was a beautiful day for watching a stunt show and some synchronized riding. All in all a great time. Fun and professional at the same time. Afterwords, a trip to the National Motorcycle Museum was just amazing. The history within those walls is a lifetime of labor and love for all that maintain it and enjoy it.

The trip was great. The food was good and the host John and Jill Parham, their son Zach and crew were awesome. Thanks for all you guys do and the passion you have for our sport, it’s history and future. You are good people.

If you ever get a chance, go. I mean it. GO! And tell the folks at J&P Cycle’s thanks. See you again this summer!

Time Keeps on Tickin’

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Just to the left of center, mounted to the frame of the windshield on my Heritage, is a clock. A nice analog Formotion spot clock that I’ve had for many years. It keeps perfect time and looks good too. I know what you’re thinking, “Jeff, you ride and give the impression that time doesn’t matter. That a clock and ‘the man’ go against all biker culture”. Well, I must say that when riding I usually can’t see my wrist watch as my jacket sleeve or the cuff of my glove covers it up. And as much as I appreciate the “bad boy” image you think I portray, I’m more punctual than pissed off.

In the early part of the movie Easy Rider, Peter Fonda takes off his watch and looks at it for a moment, then throws it down into the dirt, just before he starts his epic journey with Billy. Very dramatic but it probably wasn’t a gift from a family member, or possibly it just didn’t keep good time, unlike my Formotion spot clock! But for the world I live in I might need to be somewhere and it’s nice to see how late I’m going to be.

But that clock also means more to me than just the time itself. It’s a constant reminder that time doesn’t stop. That means for you and me it just keeps going. A twenty-minute ride home, the clock will tell me I made it in the average time it always takes me. But twenty minutes is also the amount of time I just spent doing something I love. Something for me and my sanity. A break from talk and music and the sounds of everyday life. But it also tells me that right now in the garage, my Formotion spot clock is ticking as if to say “Jeff, listen to me. Life is short. Enjoy it as time is running out”. Do the things you love. Make the time to ride. Don’t let a cool day or a slight chance of rain make you stay home. Time is passing us by and if you listen closely you can hear your motorlogical clock ticking.

Now I’m not the kind of guy that normally thinks like this. Really, I’m not. But there are times when you realize that whether you golf, fish, ride motorcycles or whatever, there’s no time like now. I’m not saying that we need to know what time it is all the time, but know that any time you’re not doing what you want is time you can’t get back. Now don’t go quitting your job, and hitting the road to get away from ‘the man’ like Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. But if you feel like taking your watch off and throwing it down, that’s ok. It would be a symbol that time isn’t going to control you. And that is my point! YOU should control your time!

 

Check them out on the web at: http://www.formotionproducts.com

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The View from the Road

It happened a couple of times every year. The family vacation to Colorado or Nebraska was a good trip and it was always nice to get out of the small town and hit the road. Me being the youngest of three kids, my place was sitting between my brother Danny and sister Jan in the back seat. I don’t need to say anything else to all of you “youngest”, but it was the least comfortable place to be because there was no window and nothing to lean against that didn’t punch you. At times, before I started growing like a weed, I would actually lay on the rear deck in the back window. I can hear it now, “How could they allow their child to be in a car unrestrained and in harm’s way”? It was the late 60’s and early 70’s so what do you expect! Most people didn’t think about that and admit it, you’ve been there.

As my sister grew up and left the house there became more room in the back seat which was good because I was growing as well. Then it became my turn to sit by the window. We didn’t have cell phones, i-pads or dvd players. The only thing we had was an 8-track player in the car with Gordon Lightfoots’ Greatest Hits playing, and our imaginations. So for many hours driving across Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado I used my imagination to keep me occupied. Mostly pretending I was on Roger DeCoster’s motocross bike just inside the fence line along the highway. Jumping the fences as they came up was easy as someone had conveniently placed a mound of dirt there for me to get over it. If the path got to be impossible I would move to the ditch and continue. After all it was MY imagination! Speed wasn’t important, I could keep up with the car no matter what. I was that good.

When my brother finally moved out I had the back seat to myself. It’s funny how lonely it can be even when you didn’t like the cramped conditions to begin with. So as the road trip began, it was my mother and father, me and Gordon Lightfoot. The Fury III was a large car and the vinyl seats were comfortable. For those of you that don’t know, vinyl is a material that was designed to adhere skin to car seats. Lucky for me I was a self conscious preteen at the time and always wore jeans.

 I found that my imagination has remained with me. I still look at the terrain along the road and the tree lined roads with fences. The ups and downs and the deepness of the ditch. I don’t imagine myself riding along the car as every great motocrosser has to retire sometime, but I have to admit that I have watched my shadow rolling along beside me when riding my motorcycle. Wow, I look good! And you would think I would know every word to every song Gordon Lightfoot sang. And maybe I do. Some things you just can’t forget.