Next Stop – Clarityville

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I often wonder what really rolls around in this head of mine when I’m on my motorcycle. I do quite a bit of thinking behind my handlebars but to pinpoint one single thing would be difficult. My thoughts bounce around to many different things and sometimes even come back to the beginning of when the ride started. I’ve said I do my best thinking inside my helmet and this still holds true, but some days it’s hard to find clarity even on a perfect ride.

I need to get beyond the familiar 22 mile ride to work. Although this daily ride is good, it has become the source of a mental block that I’m finding hard to get around. Even an additional 10 miles added to the trip or an alternate route might suffice, but I still need to head in a different direction – maybe taking the long way to Clarityville. Fresh scenery and different smells would do my noggin some good. I’ve been to Clarityville before and its a nice place to visit on your motorcycle.

Fresh scenery and different smells would do my noggin some good. I’ve been to Clarityville before and its a nice place to visit on your motorcycle.

With Sturgis right around the corner, plans are being made. As always, I leave the “Last Minute” clause open in case I need to pull the plug. Things can change right up until the night before I leave and you have to be mentally prepared to throw in the towel and admit you’re not going. Fortunately for me, I haven’t had to exercise this clause but that’s not to say I haven’t stood there at the 11th hour (or was it 11 o’clock at night?) the night before staring at the bike loaded down patiently waiting to hit the road thinking I would have to cancel the trip. Bummer.

As it stands now, Sturgis looks like it’s a go. I need a vacation for sure, but I also need to put some miles under me and clean out some cobwebs in my head. What better way than to see some new countryside through these tired old eyes of mine?

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Roll On

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Did you ever notice how riding these motorcycles make you see things from a different perspective? Those folks that don’t ride can see things the way a normal person would and those that just ride occasionally see things slightly different, and those that ride and ride all the time see it completely different. Take for example, the convenience store hot dog machine. You know the one – it rolls your hot dog or the random sausage, back and forth in a constant state of turning to keep it warm, and I suppose appealing to eat. Maybe it’s the Ferris wheel type of unit that is fun for all ages to watch and is quite the novel way of getting your food. As a motorist, you wouldn’t dare eat one even though deep down they don’t smell that bad – or is that the nacho cheese? Thoughts of how long or are they done come to mind, let alone what might happen if you actually ate one. The occasional rider would look at them and probably move on to a bag of chips and a fountain drink and be happy. But somewhere during that epic ride you’re on, you will eat one. There is something about traveling on a motorcycle that will make you eat stuff like that, but it will also cause you to drink a hot bottle of water in your saddle bag, eat beef jerky just after the expiration date, (if there is one) and chew a stick of gum that you can barely get the paper off of. It’s delicious.

Is it the wind in your face that makes us do things like that? I know dogs stick their heads out of car windows, and quite frankly, they eat some things I would never eat, but I don’t think that’s the reason. Is it direct exposure to the sun? Maybe. We’ve watched movies where our hero is crawling through the desert when he sees an oasis in the distance, only to find when he gets there he is putting sand in his mouth instead of water. But I’m still not convinced that is it. I know I have walked past these contraptions many times thinking do they really sell that many hot dogs? Every time the shift changes, do the hot dogs get replaced? Are they forced into a life of constant motion until they finally get picked? So many questions and never enough buns.

So many questions and never enough buns.

After a long day in the saddle, you stop for gas and you think you might need something to tide you over until you can eat a meal. Chips, candy bars, beef sticks and jerky are tempting – I’m not sure about the chicken salad sandwich in the cooler that comes pre-cut and in a wedge shape, but it did catch my eye. How about a microwaved breaded chicken sandwich? I’m only sixty seconds away from enjoying that. But wait, Look over there! In the corner, right next to the coffee and cappuccino machine, in-between the nacho cheese, the tiny sink and the condiments, and in all its glory – the roller machine loaded with hot dogs. They’re already done (I hope), and there isn’t that horribly long wait of sixty seconds before I can eat!

So the real reason we bikers would ever take a chance on eating a meat product that has the first ingredient listed as “Mechanically Separated Chicken” is because at some point or another we have had a bug, big and small, make it into our mouth while traveling at highway speed. It’s as simple as that. There are times when the bug gets spit out, but there are times when there isn’t enough of the bug left to spit out. I refer to these bugs as “Motorcycling Separated Bugs.”

 

Are Your Jeans Dry?

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Just like the wash hanging on the clothesline snapping and flapping in the breeze, a biker gets restless waiting to jump on the bike and go. Straining against those small wooden clothes pins just waiting for them to give way and set that pair of your favorite, faded old jeans free from what’s holding them back, dry or not, they’re gone. Whether it’s a weekend ride or a week-long trip, the closer it gets, the harder it is to contain the excitement. Who needs dry jeans anyway? Lets go! And “go” we do. Near and far – wherever the wind blows us. This time of year when the weather is a little more predictable, we gas up the old bike and load it down with whatever we think is necessary, just to feel that road through the seat of our pants.

Where do we go when that day comes to ride? I know we all have dreams of where we want to go, and for some of us those dreams will come true when we hit the road. For others, we settle for that ride to somewhere, or anywhere that gets us out of here. It doesn’t take much to make any biker happy, but just knowing there is a possibility of some road-time in my future starts the motor running inside of me. The closer I get to leaving, the higher that motor revs as anticipation is a powerful thing. That leads to the bigger question here – Is it the ride or the anticipation of the ride that cranks you up? I enjoy that anticipation as much as anyone but once I get on the road I realize that the ride is what it’s all about. When the day comes to leave there isn’t enough clothes pins to hold me back, even though the days leading up to my departure had me feeling like I was being held against my will; those jeans are finally dry!

We all have our reasons for when we leave and where we go, and in the end it doesn’t matter to the masses what those reasons are, as long as your laundry is done. Get excited this year and ride somewhere you’ve never been on your motorcycle. Go where you’ve always dreamed of going and don’t let anything hold you back. Those little things that hold you back are usually no bigger than a clothes pin anyway, so just go. You’ll be glad you did.

Ride Like the Wind

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Somewhere in a pasture deep in the Flint Hills of Kansas is a limestone rock standing upright placed there by early settlers. Upon that limestone rock are these words; “Man, the wind sure blows hard in Kansas, hang on to this here rock.” When you’re raised in Kansas it really doesn’t seem that noticeable, but I guess you could say that the wind can be a little stiff sometimes. I often think the barbed wire fences that crisscross Kansas were put there to keep your stuff from blowing more than a mile away. As a kid growing up I don’t remember the wind blowing like it does now, but of course then I was a little closer to the ground and usually preoccupied with kid stuff. At least now I don’t have to worry about the wind messing my hair up.

Riding into work this morning on my Road King it was obvious this was going to be one of those days the weatherman warns about, “wind from the South at 15-20 with gusts up to 30 today,” sounds like a warning to most, but here it’s just like any other day. Now if the weatherman said it was going to be dead-calm today, I would be alarmed as that is out of the ordinary.

As a motorcyclist we often hear the phrase “ride like the wind.” I will tell you that if I rode like the wind today, I would be arrested for assault as the ride in was brutal. Normally heading with the wind isn’t bad, but even that was a handful. Riding West was like my world had tilted to one side with the horizon angled sharply while my shirt collar was slapping my face faster than a hummingbird flaps it’s wings. Okay, so maybe that was an exaggeration, it was more like a meadowlark flapping it’s wings, after all that is our State Bird. But, what do you do? We ride motorcycles and that is just part of it. If it’s cold or hot, windy or raining, we ride – at least some of us do. I didn’t say it was fun all the time, and there can be those days when you just have to convince yourself that even if you would have driven the car, you would have hated yourself. I sure wouldn’t want to hate myself.

So next time you are driving through, or better yet, riding through Kansas, don’t let the wind bother you. It’s going to blow no matter what and there is usually a limestone fence post somewhere to hang on to, so just get used to it. As native Kansans are, we just lean into the wind when it blows; hence the earlier comment about being alarmed if the wind stops blowing. That’s how you determine a native Kansan like myself to someone just visiting – if the wind stops, us Kansas folks fall down.

Puzzled

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Life happens and as it does, it changes us. Daily. The morning’s ride to work is usually something that is ordinary and uneventful, but as I put my kickstand down after arriving at work, I stopped and realized I couldn’t remember the ride in. Twenty minutes had gone by and although I was coherent and aware of the ride, all I could remember was that two miles of Skiddy where the temperature dropped. The smell of cedar trees and how they reminded me of the pencils my mother would bring home from Anderson’s Lumber and Hardware where she worked part-time. I used those pencils in school and as I was leaving my teeth marks in them during Mrs. Stenstrom’s class, that smell of cedar must have stayed with me. Or was it the lead in those pencils?

I thought about a life-long friend of mine, Russ, who is moving back to Skiddy in the near future and how it would be to move your life back to where you grew up, after so many years of living in Wisconsin. Not difficult in the sense of moving your stuff, but in the emotional sense. I often think I should have taken the chance and moved outside of White City and experienced something else. Sure, the community made me who I am, but would moving have changed me? Again, life happens every day, so would it have been that big of a deal to move? Hmmm. Even so, I thought about those friends of mine that I grew up with and how some have stayed, but most have moved on. I still feel that connection with a few of them and it feels good to know that no matter where someone is in this world, we’ll always have that going for us.

The ride continued past the Skiddy Cemetery and I noticed how the sun was coming up over a bank of dark clouds in the East. The edge of the clouds filtered the sun just enough to make this particular morning look a little different. Or was it one of those life moments when I was changing. To see something in a different light might have a new meaning here. Maybe there is a scientific reason for the different light and how it affects you but I’m betting it’s more of a spiritual reason. The ride continued on, and I thought about how our lives are kind of like puzzles. The big difference here is we don’t know what the finished picture is going to be. Each piece we place in our puzzle of life changes what the picture will be and eventually the outcome, and each piece is represented by those people in our lives, our jobs, our environment, etc. A subtle change is all it takes to completely change the entire puzzle of life. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing here, it’s just the way it is. As we get about half way through our puzzle, we can start seeing the cabin by the water (or apparently a forest of cedar trees in my case) and the puzzle seems to be falling into place. Then a few more pieces are placed and you realize that this puzzle may be harder than you think. One thing is for sure; those that “fit” into our puzzle will be there to stay. A lot to think about on a twenty-minute ride. Or in this case; what ride?

So I made it to work safe and sound. In summary, science says when you ride into a valley the temperature will probably drop a few degrees. Also, someone decided cedar trees make good pencils, and you must have patience to put a puzzle together. But for twenty minutes I thought about friends that are dear to me and how we fit into each other’s lives. Friends near and far will always be friends, and some are very close to me no matter how far away they are. They are an important piece to my puzzle and without them my life wouldn’t be complete.

A Little Bit of Epic

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Some people have a way about them. There are those who are driven and challenged to be something bigger than the moment they live in. I believe Neale Bayly is this kind of person. I haven’t met Neale, but I understand him from a motorcyclist’s point of view. As bikers, we are always looking for “epic” in every ride but end up finding so much more than that. Neale has a series airing on MAVTV this month about his ride on BMW GS series motorcycles through Peru to the Hogar Belen Orphanage. The ride takes Neale and his friends from Lima to Moquegua to visit this orphanage where Neale has visited before. He was inspired enough to start the nonprofit organization called Wellspring International Outreach to help orphans and abandoned children.

It becomes about the surroundings and environment you’re in and it changes you. There is something about traveling on a motorcycle that brings the people to you.

The world can seem so big but so small at the same time. Neale has traveled this world and along the way has had plenty of time to think and take in all the sights, smells and sounds that travel can put you through. As a biker myself, I can tell you it runs so much deeper than that for him. I have taken week-long trips and as the ride goes, your mind will take you further into the trip than any motorcycle ever will. It becomes about the surroundings and environment you’re in and it changes you. There is something about traveling on a motorcycle that brings the people to you. No matter where you are headed, you are the one traveling into their world where you are welcomed with smiles and waves, and complete strangers are coming up to you to talk about your trip. Now take that to a global stage, where language and barriers require you to be dedicated to the trip at hand. For that I admire anyone who can take that on. At this point, language becomes secondary as compassion takes over.

 To simply say “it changed my life” does not do it justice, and in Neale’s case it inspired him to change other people’s lives.

Epic trips take the ordinary and familiar to an extraordinary level. When a trip becomes epic it transforms you and all those involved. To simply say “it changed my life” does not do it justice, and in Neale’s case it inspired him to change other people’s lives. Now that is epic. I would like to think as I have traveled on my motorcycle and I’ve taken the time to say a few words to someone I have met, they will take something away from our chance meeting – I know I do. The faces, the words spoken and the handshakes and smiles are forever burned in my memory and I did nothing but ride into someone’s life and say hello. Now picture yourself taking the time to actually change someone’s life for the better and the impact you can have on a community and the people who need the help. Epic.

I look forward to watching Neale Bayly Rides when it airs. I’ll watch because it is about Neale and his group riding motorcycles through Peru on an adventure of a lifetime. But let’s face it – it’s not about the motorcycles, it’s about everything around the trip that makes it epic. If motorcycles are the reason you check it out, that’s okay too. But as you’re watching take a minute to look at the people and the faces in the background. Watch Neale’s reaction when his fellow rider’s Troy, James, Laura, Brandon and Bill meet the children of Hogar Belen; that is when the trip just became an epic adventure.

I said before that I haven’t yet met Neale. I say “haven’t yet” because as a motorcyclist our paths may cross at some point. As bikers we ride with our heads up looking at all that is around us, eager to meet fellow riders and locals along the way. Every ride has a little bit of epic built-in and I know Neale’s epic rides will continue. They have to – because the inspiration he gives to those of us that do ride and the impact he has on those because he rides can’t be measured. Thanks Neale, and ride safe!

 

Social Mecca

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Let’s face it, you’re addicted to your phone. Say it with me, “hello, my name is_____ and I’m addicted to my phone.” We get up every morning, check our phone and it’s battery charge, and it’s out the door to start our life as we know it. Social media sites are so much of who we are anymore that it almost gets in the way of having a normal conversation with someone. We text across the room instead of picking ourselves up off the chair in which we are perched upon to tell someone something they probably already know. We message instead of speak, we touch screen instead of type and we don’t look up and make eye-contact. We should have seen this coming with the invention of the TV remote as making our lives easier doesn’t necessarily make them better.

Now I’m not saying we should give up our phones. They have surely made our lives a little better with the convenience of it all. Where my mother would yell out the back door for me to come in the house, today you call your kids on their cell phone, or wait, just send them a text to come in. That’s providing they are even outside in the first place. Reference the comment above about the “chair in which we are perched upon.”

The whole thing about social media is the “social” part. We need to get out and bump into a few folks and introduce ourselves. But go ahead and connect with them after shaking hands and having a conversation. Look them in the eye and smile. It has always amazed me how much we can find in common with someone in a few minutes of talking, or even better, by listening. That’s right…listening. How many times have you read a text message only to find the meaning isn’t what you thought? If you can hear someone’s voice you know exactly what they mean. “How’s your day beautiful?” Or, “how’s your day, beautiful?” See what I mean? I personally prefer the first one, but in a group of bikers it may not have the same impact.

So let’s get social. Get out, shake a few hands and have a REAL conversation. Go where the people are and see first hand what they will be sharing with all of their friends. After all, it’s called “SOCIAL media.”