Often, when I’m driving around the skirts of White City I find plenty of quality memories in my rear view mirror. Just the other day as I headed East out of town, I turned south down a gravel back road kicking up a dust trail. I’ve been down this road plenty of times but this time was different. As I looked in my rearview mirror I imagined Russ Sams’ dad Sammy driving us down to the Council Grove Lake in his old Chevy truck on one of those endless summer days. As we rode in the back of the truck to the lake, the dust rolling behind us, the sound of gravel beneath the old bias ply tires, it gave the promise of fishing and a cool swim making any hot day better. Jean, Russ’s mom, would make us bologna sandwiches with potato chips on them and I usually won’t eat them any other way to this day. I’m not sure why the dust kicked up a memory like that, but I’m glad it did.
Another memory that I have recently recalled is hanging out in the White City pool hall playing snooker and watching Craig Christlieb and a few others play. Craig’s family lived south of White City out by the old bridge at the top of the hill where I usually take pictures of my motorcycles. Mel Bidwell and I, and a few others hung out there as growing up and I have to admit we all played a good game. Again, just some of those memories that bring people and places back like it was yesterday. Well, maybe the day before yesterday.
I used to know everyone in town, where they lived and such. But like the dust behind my old truck the other day, people and places head off in the direction their lives inevitably take them, but somehow those memories linger in the air. There’s a lot of those reminders stored away for days of driving down any old gravel road, and I appreciate those of you that had a hand in creating them, and leaving them with me.
I talk about my experiences and memories a lot, but I’m sure those who find themselves either in or somewhere other than White City also have their own unique recollections of these dust trails. My only hope is this dust doesn’t settle any time soon.
If only it could talk. If only their stories were written on the walls by those who told them in the present tense. If you look just beyond the tall grass and the trees, or the boarded up windows, you can still see the life of many. Hard work and maybe a not-so-easy life, but hopefully a happiness, the kind we wish for everyone, to be the storyline. Get up every day and make sure chores were done, kids to school, and off to your job all the while worrying about the bills and the news of the times and thinking – no wishing – for time to slow down. You know, just like we do now.
Somewhere in a box, pictures tell the real story. Brown and ivory now instead of black and white, history was made before it was history, with every flash of the bulb
For every abandoned house, business or town for that matter, there are many chapters between the hard broken backs of those who built them. So busy living every day, focusing on the small and meaningless, and wandering through their lives. Pictures and family-time were priceless. As front doors were closed for the very last time, with a final look over the shoulder, another chapter of their life was started. Somewhere in a box, pictures tell the real story. Brown and ivory now instead of black and white, history was made before it was history, with every flash of the bulb.
So here we stand on the edge of a gravel road, our high tech camera or phone in our hand, thinking of the light and angle to capture what is impossible to see. The laughter and tears, the birthday celebrations and the celebrations of life. The wins and losses and the hidden demons that some families hide that needed to be overcome. Let’s face it, life at any stage can have some dark places that the warm glow seen from the street won’t shine upon. But yet we make the best of what we have.
Even as the proprietor spun the Closed – come again soonsign around of his business in decline – or for other reasons known only to those at the coffee shop – he felt the weight of his family and a community upon his shoulders that seemed heavier than the day before. But we know this new chapter brings the high that always comes after a low. We’ll make it. Somehow we always do.
At no point have I stood at my front room window looking out at the road wondering if somewhere into the future there will be an interested photographer looking at the proper light and angle of the broken glass and naked wood of this house long left alone, and a roof, tired and weak from holding perfectly still waiting for the picture to be taken. But I have witnessed a few local businesses, once thriving, with a bell hanging above the door, close. A place where folks would catch up on the latest, spend a little money, and come back soon. Silent now, but the appreciation lives on for those who dedicated their time serving their neighbors. Maybe, we should let them know this before the bell over their shop door stops ringing.
But not all lost and abandoned stories ended in despair. Folks are usually looking for a better life and those hard decisions made at the dinner table resulted in a move, be it figuratively or literally, to do just that. Move up, move out, expand or take a chance can be scary, but we’re willing to do it because in the end we believe in us. The remnants of what is left behind can be seen from the gravel road or from the curb on Main.
For October, the weather has been ideal and I know I should ride more but lately I haven’t been feeling it. I’ve had a big project hanging over me and it’s finally finished, so it’s taken me a minute to let that go. The constant reminder is gone of a house that needs remodeling to sell and has left me with withdrawals and a sense of how much time it was actually consuming. Whether it was the physical or mental part – either way it was draining. Now, that time is filled with a guilty feeling for taking an afternoon ride when surely, there is something that needs done… trust me there is and don’t call me Shirley.
I had a great ride around the countryside with lot’s a gravel and dirt roads and plenty of time to think. It’s weird getting my head on straight, and quite honestly, it makes my helmet fit a bit better. This ride just reinforces the fact a motorcycle can convince me to take a few hours and just let it go. Call it what you will, but as for me it was much needed.
Although I usually have a direction in mind when I leave the driveway, this time I just went. I didn’t pay any attention to which way or what time it was because that wasn’t the point of this ride. I was going to allow it to unfold as if each intersection was multiple choice with no right answer. I’m more likely to have a plan in place but this time I let the ride happen, and it worked. I let my mind and bike wander together.
Kansas can be tough for someone who rides motorcycles, or at least the perception of Kansas can with it’s rolling hills and straight roads. But you just have to know where to look. Even better, maybe you don’t need to look – just let your mind and bike wander.
The struggle is real. I can only imagine walking the hallowed halls of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company in 2019, the weight of a legacy built by Harley and Davidson brothers pressing down on you. With over 115 years of constructing this legendary icon and searching for the ways and means to continue this brand for another 115 years, must be stressful. A brand that has survived through literally generations is quite a feat, all-the-while forecasting the future wants and needs of their customers and trying to remain relevant in a ever changing landscape. It’s not easy living in the present and the pressure must be tremendous.
I have to hand it to The Motor Company. The last few years they have made a commitment to bring a plethora of new models to market and contrary to what we see about the LiveWire, not all of them are electric. The new Pan America and the Bronx are classic examples of a more forward thinking company. I, for one, have traded my off my Harley-Davidson Road King for a BMW GS. After logging several hundred-thousand miles on Harley’s tying to find myself, I’ve come to realize I may be hiding down some lonely gravel road or cow trail. And a Gravel Road King it was not.
I, for one, have traded my off my Harley-Davidson Road King for a BMW GS. After several hundred-thousand miles on Harley’s tying to find myself, I’ve come to realize I may be hiding down some lonely gravel road or cow trail. And a Gravel Road King it was not.
But these challenges aren’t exclusive to Harley-Davidson. This modern day dilemma finds a cell phone in every hand instead of a throttle. It’s easier to watch a few internet sensations on YouTube doing what we all should be doing – getting out and experiencing life the way it should be. I applaud Harley-Davidson for taking a leap into other segments, and the development of the Pan America and Bronx are a great start. Looking back, maybe the relationship between Buell and The MoCo came at the wrong time. And before you comment under your breath, the Buell Ulysses was a good motorcycle. And let’s not forget the Sportster XR1200. This is a classic example of Harley actually stepping up their game with a model and a market that wasn’t ready. With all the hoopla surrounding the Indian FTR1200, one would think the XR1200 would be a success on today’s showroom floors. We get excited about new models, but if customers don’t make the purchase, plugs get pulled. Another good bike lost to lack of sales.
Just as the Founding Fathers would never fully see the success of the motorcycles they built, they could truly see the effect their motorcycles had on riders of the day. Besides basic transportation, their motorcycles were a part of the social piece that Harley-Davidson is known for. Rides, races and gatherings brought those with this common bond together – and the sights, sounds and smells were the glue that kept it going. With all this social media we have now, I believe something is missing. Maybe it’s the social part.
…their motorcycles were a part of the social piece that Harley-Davidson is known for. Rides, races and gatherings brought those with this common bond together – and the sights, sounds and smells were the glue that kept it going.
I consider myself an average guy. As a Harley-Davidson enthusiast maybe I’m part of the Motor Company’s problem. As I get older, I’m finding I still love all things motorcycle, but my interests are changing and my desire to see the same roads differently are high. Let’s throw in a random dirt road or trail in for good measure. My last three Harley’s were touring bikes and right now I don’t need another one. I need something that takes me back to when I first started riding and the joy I felt. A dirt bike? No. Because I still need to commute and have the ability to travel. When selling motorcycles over the years I’ve always said “any of these bikes will take you wherever you want to go, but is that how you want to get there?” And at this moment in my life, my Road King isn’t how I want to get there.
As I get older, I’m finding I still love all things motorcycle, but my interests are changing and my desire to see the same roads differently are high. Let’s throw in a random dirt track or trail in for good measure.
Had the Pan America’s release been a few years ago, I would have been riding one. I like it. I also like the direction Harley is going but with it comes the struggle of bringing it’s customers along for the ride. To build excitement for new and old riders alike can be difficult, but not impossible. It can be harder for a company like Harley as they are continuing their legacy. When rumors of the Rushmore Project came out for the 2014 model year, before the Twin-Cooling was introduced, I said in a previous blog post if they build a liquid-cooled bike the masses will buy it. I hope the same for the Pan America and the Bronx.