Three More Sleeps

Black Hills South Dakota

It happens every year in the month leading up to Sturgis. I go back and forth about whether I’m going, the highs and low’s of planning and then it all comes together and a date gets penciled in. Or does it? This year it does.

I’m actually getting my gear together and making a list of those items I will forget. It never fails, you can put it all in a pile and you end up taking those things you really will never need and leave behind the necessities. Of course you can pick up anything you need along the way, but that isn’t the point. I have it sitting right there on the garage floor.

I’ve sent a few messages to people I know who will be there in hopes of meeting up for a beer. I know I want to head out to the Full Throttle to see the progress in person, and do a couple of rides in the area that I haven’t done in a few years. Man, I wish The Knuckle Saloon still had the amateur MMA fights like they used to. Oh well, I’m sure there will be plenty going on, it’s just a matter of wandering around.

So, the next decision is which direction to ride on the way up. I’ve taken about every road up and back, mixing up the scenery and giving those few crooks the opportunity to skim my card at the gas pump. Yes, this has happened. Like every trip I take, I always have a goal of meeting some locals in hopes they tell me their life story. It will happen, and I’ll be all ears. That’s okay and it never gets old listening to someone tell me a little about themselves or the community in which they live. Good stuff.

As I sit here typing this, I should be in the garage packing some stuff. I did get my cup holder mounted. I struggled with that. Not from mounting it, but rather if I need it. Really? A cup holder? Hey, it’s a long trip.

I guess Friday morning is only a couple of sleeps away, and there will be plenty of time to gather my crap and strap it down. I’m ready to go – at least in my head I am.

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If You’re Going To Ride, Ride To Food

It was my trip to Sturgis in August of 2016 when DJ, Gary and myself stopped for gas in Beloit Kansas when we crossed paths with Staci Wilt. Of course we had no idea at the time what kind of Motorcycle Industry insider she was, or was about to become. But this riding motorcycles has a way making paths cross, building friendships and expanding horizons. And it seems no matter which way I turn on the virtual highway of social media, I see Staci doing her thing. Hey, I know her!

I have a confession. When I first walked over to her at the gas pump to see if she needed anything on her solo trip to the rally, (because Gary, DJ and myself had enough packed between the three of us to supply shelter for a small city) I wasn’t expecting her response. With the small black bag on the back of her Dyna, she had everything she needed. As I walked back to my RV of a Harley, I realized the insanity of my packing skills. 30 miles down the road at the Largest Ball of Twine, we bumped into Staci again – only this time I dazzled her with my familiarity of the area when she asked me directions. And just like that, she was gone.

As I’ve mentioned, she has been building her profiles and making those important appearances at rallies and events, all the while her Dyna was in the shop for a major engine rebuild. But that’s what you have to do. Be seen, be present and be creative. She has all those bases covered. And she knows her stuff.

Her latest endeavor is called Ride to Food. We as bikers like to go places and if you’ve seen my profile, (and not my social media profile) you would see I like to eat along the way. But let’s stay away from those common food chains and strip mall eateries. Lets get together for a beer and a taste of local flavor that requires some searching and exploring. She does some of the legwork for us, and that saves time and broadens our experiences on the road. And she’s also a straight shooter telling it like it is.

Although our paths crossed just that one day, I consider Staci a friend. She gets it. She knows the why’s and where’s of the motorcycling communities and lives the lifestyle. Follow her on social media and her blogs and buy a t-shirt from her. Her blog is worth a read. Until we meet again Staci!

Not Always Together – But Never Alone

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Certain days have a way of falling into a special place, kept as memories, that are treasured forever. Yesterday was one of those days – filled with laughter, fellowship, brotherhood and determination.

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A week or so ago, a ride was put together to Cassoday Kansas, a small town that hosts bikers the first Sunday of the month during the riding season. The ride, suggested by my dear friend Gary Meadows, was to invite some friends to ride along with him to meet up with Soldiers For Jesus, MC – Kansas City Chapter in Cassoday. Gary has been fighting the fight with cancer, and this was his way of showing cancer the true power of the love and support he has behind him.

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I’ve ridden with Gary before. DJ, a mutual friend of ours asked if he and Gary could ride to the rally with me a few years ago, and since I was going by myself, I welcomed it. That particular trip was thrown together in what seemed like a matter of days, and not knowing Gary on a personal level, it was clear to me he is someone who’s path I should have crossed many years before. His sense of humor and his sincerity is as genuine as his laughter. DJ, Gary and I had a great time and everything about the trip was effortless. We met up with Dennis Webb and Roger Larmer at the rally which only added to the experience. Thinking about this ride always brings a smile to my face and will go down as one of my best memories riding to Sturgis.

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So as Sunday morning rolled around and the weatherman predicting favorable conditions, we gathered with Gary and his wife Charlene and Gary’s nurse Dee, who came along to offer not only moral support but also to monitor his condition for the ride. In this group that gathered, I realized the wide range of lives that can be touched by such a good guy.

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If you’ve read anything I’ve written before, you would know I do some of my best thinking from the seat of my motorcycle. I knew when we pulled out of the parking lot I’d have about 100 miles or so to pull some thoughts together. Sometimes these thoughts can be a mixed bag of emotions, some are reflective, but today it was about being present. Both figuratively and literally present.

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Gary, I can only speak for myself but it was truly an honor to ride with you once again. It was inspiring to see the love and support of your fellow bikers, but also your family. I witnessed the emotions and the power of prayer in the parking lot of a Casey’s. I saw the fellowship with the SFJMC-Kansas City as they wrapped their arms around you. I felt the bond between us when we embraced, and the lump in my throat when we spoke. These things I will never forget. The lives you’ve touched goes beyond the mechanics of the motorcycle – your church family and your community are living proof of that. I know I’m a better man because this path I’m on crossed yours.

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We ride – because that’s what we do. Not always together, but never alone. 

20 O’Clock

Nobody said it was easy. I would go a little further and say sometimes it isn’t much fun. For the last few days as the weather has danced around from comfortable to cold, it’s been a hit or miss as to whether or not to ride. I know what you’re thinking; but Jeff, you always ride. Not always. I seem to be in this transition of psyching myself up to ride in freezing temps. Did I just say riding in freezing temps? Whoa.

I seem to be in this transition of psyching myself up to ride in freezing temps. Did I just say riding in freezing temps? Whoa.

This morning as I sat down to put my boots on, I hesitated whether or not to ride. With snow-showers in the forecast for the weekend and a snow storm brewing up next week, I thought today I might as well put my pull up big-boy pants and ride. After checking the temperature on my phone I pushed the bike out of the garage and fired it up. Now, I’ve mentioned before that I have my junior meteorologist credentials and with that I could feel it wasn’t 30 degrees out. I hadn’t ridden for a couple of days, so I felt like maybe I just wasn’t acclimated to what 30 felt like. It’s all in my head, remember?

Well, the ride in was no fun. The first 10 miles was doable but after that it was obvious I wasn’t prepared for, you guessed it, 20 degrees. I didn’t have my glasses on after pulling my helmet over my head so from where I sat it looked like it was 30 degrees on my Formotion thermometer. It looks like a clock, doesn’t it? Take your glasses off and look again. See it?

This is just the first of many cold rides to work. Like callused hands it takes time to work your way up to the hard stuff. I’ve heard jogging is like this too but I wouldn’t know. So if you pass me on the road while you’re driving to work with your heater on and your coffee cup beside you, don’t feel sorry for me. I choose to do this. Wow, saying it like that makes me sound a little crazy.

 

Shaking the Rug

 

20161010_154312_hdr1On this evening’s ride home I noticed my shadow, stretched long and thin, riding ahead of me as I headed east. It’s getting darker sooner and the temperature is dropping faster as the day quickly comes to an end. Or is it the evening is beginning sooner? We motorcyclists are bracing ourselves and preparing for cooler rides led by our headlights. I’m not sure if its my age or not but cool is now cold and cold is now really cold. It could be I’m just getting old.

I’m not sure if its my age or not but cool is now cold and cold is now really cold. It could be I’m just getting old.

But I still make my mind up to ride. Just since Sturgis I’ve racked up about 10,000 miles on my Ultra Classic and I felt it was time to trade. Coming in with just under 70,000 on the clock, it still had a lot of miles left on it but if I were to continue riding it by next summer it would have had around 85,000 to 90,000. I traded a Road King in on the Ultra and now as you can see, a Road King it is again. I’ve been asked why I would give up the trunk and stereo but honestly I’m a fan of the Road King. It fits me and it’s a kick in the pants to ride.

There will always be a slight transition when you move from one bike to another. I have a tendency to carry more than I need to and this gives me an opportunity to sort and whittle down what isn’t necessary. Much like the bikers of old, we should carry the bare minimum when we ride. I found stuff in my saddle bags that really shouldn’t even be on a motorcycle. Socks? Really? So it’s like spring cleaning for me but only in the fall. I’m sure it won’t take long to accumulate those random items all over again in the next couple of years, but once in a while you just need to shake the rug if you get my drift.

So if you follow along with this blog you see a different bike in the picture. The Road King will evolve a bit over time but for the most part what you see is what you get. Even I find it remarkable to the transitions from a Heritage to a Road King to an Ultra Classic and back again. There sure have been a lot of miles and memories on each and every one of these Harley-Davidsons and I can appreciate each one for taking me on their own unique journey. I can’t wait to see where this one takes me.

August Part Two: Boston and Back

So part two of my epic August involved a trip to Boston for the Harley-Davidson summer dealer meeting. What would normally be done via airplane, Dennis our parts manager and I decided to ride to the show with a total of around 3500 miles round-trip. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Well I must say it was. Having never been further east on my motorcycle than St. Louis I thought this would be an awesome ride. I was right. Our first leg was from Junction City Kansas to Columbus Ohio, about 850 miles with the last 100 or so in the rain. Yep, me and my famous rain suit got to know each other at a whole new level. Somewhere there is a 10-year-old boy wondering where his rain suit pants are.

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There are a few preconceived notions I’ve had about the east coast: First, I pictured angry drivers. This was not the case. Most folks in their cars and trucks were very nice and even made room on the road when we needed to change lanes, etc. Pleasantly surprised. Second, I pictured pothole ridden roads and rusty bridges. Dare I say, the roads were great except for a couple of spots. One in particular would have swallowed me whole. As Dennis veered left I had a split second to avoid it – with my cat-like reflexes and my innate ability to shoot bullets around corners I bent the universe to avoid going down. Yes. This was the big one. Damage would have been done to my already tired Ultra Classic had either of us hit this hole. Whew. Thirdly, I wasn’t expecting so many trees. Don’t ask me why but for whatever reason I was looking for more concrete and skyscrapers. Don’t forget, I live in Kansas. I’m sure they have their own preconceived notions about us. No offense to my friends Steve Berner and Laurie Buchwald. We were hoping to stop and see Steve on Monday, but it just didn’t work out. We will next time Steve, I promise.

Connecticut Turnpike McDonalds

Connecticut Turnpike McDonald’s

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Though most of the trip was uneventful, the scenery was fantastic. We ate up a lot of miles the first couple of days just so our day of arrival would be a little shorter. We arrived in Boston early afternoon on Monday to get parked, unloaded and checked in to the hotel. Beer? Why don’t mind if I do. Let me sum up the show for you. Monday night at the meet and greet, (after a beer or was it two?) I was offered a part-time job with a dealer in China. He was so impressed by Dennis and I that he felt the need to extend the offer for the part-time gig. I explained that unless it was full-time I would have to pass. Talking to him through his niece the interpreter, I was clear that there truly is something lost in translation. I find myself incredibly funny and I’m not sure he completely understood that part. His niece Wenn was in stitches. Why am I the only one drinking in this picture? After this photo was taken Wang’s wife took the time to show me all of her family pictures on her phone. With only a few words spoken in English, I feel like a member of the family. I’ve said it before and I don’t completely understand it, but people will share their life story with me. I’m honored to have met this family.

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After Tuesday and Wednesday of taking care of business at the show, we headed back. I now know where the phrase “highway robbery” came from. Toll roads. This is one thing I wasn’t expecting on this trip and it’s apparent this is big business out east. Nice people though. We could see the rain coming and asked if there was any place we could put our rain suits on and the lady said just pull over here. So we did.

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Other than that, I was genuinely impressed with the whole thing. I almost forgot Tuesday night in the hotel bar. When you’re drinking with a guy that goes by the name Pickle, you better hold on.

The ride back was just as enjoyable. So many local, friendly people that we came across were completely made the trip. We did get a little lost somewhere in Vermont but that’s all a part of the adventure.

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All in all it was a great trip and I thank Dennis for leading the way. It was a pleasure to ride on this very memorable trip with you and I would do it again in a minute.

 

So Dennis and I were riding touring bikes. Cruise control, storage, comfortable seats and stereos. Pretty awesome, huh? After spending the night in Effingham Illinois Thursday night, we headed out pretty early to get me home so I could drive a Uhaul truck to Colorado Springs for my daughter Kelly. We stopped in Sweet Springs Missouri for gas and a cup of coffee around 7:30 am. A young man pulled up to the pump on a 2013 1200 Sportster 72 model with a backpack and a full face helmet on. I waved as all of us do and he gassed up and waved back. We passed this young man around Lawrence Kansas on the turnpike. We waved from the well-padded seats we were sitting upon and he waved back. After reaching highway 1-77 I peeled off to head home and pick up the truck to finish my day driving to  Colorado. Around 2:30 pm I got on the road stopping in Wakeeney Kansas to grab a bite and gas up the truck. My next stop, Limon Colorado, I pulled in around 9:00 pm for gas and more coffee only to be followed in my yes, you guessed it, our friend on the Sportster. Of course I had to ask him if he remembered waving at a couple of guys on touring bikes and he said yes. I’m one of those guys. He left Columbia Missouri on his way to Denver for the night, heading home to Phoenix the next day. On a bike with a 2.1 gallon gas tank and a seat made in the same place that nightmares come from. That’s a 750 mile ride for the day and he acted like it was nothing special. His 2013 had a little over 40,000 miles on it and he told me he makes this trip all the time. He has my respect and I will forever quit my complaining about being saddle-sore.

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Drop It Like It’s Heavy

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Some days. I guess not every day can start out with birds singing, the sun shining and a rainbow over your shoulder. This morning as I pushed my 890 pound motorcycle out of the garage, I almost dropped it. In a mad, desperate attempt I actually prevented it from hitting the deck. Oddly enough, earlier this week at work I caught another bike I was moving around from falling over. This is hard on an old man like me. Dropping my keys and then bending over to pick them up is difficult enough, but stopping a heavy motorcycle pulled towards hell by the earth’s gravity is not something I want to do everyday.

Dropping my keys and then bending over to pick them up is difficult enough, but stopping a heavy motorcycle pulled towards hell by the earth’s gravity is not something I want to do everyday.

So as a true motorcyclist, I shook it off, climbed on board and headed off to work. About a mile out-of-town as I settled in for my ride I actually smiled at my cat-like reflexes and superhuman strength. I laughed out loud at my own humor and down the road I went. The next few miles were very pleasant as the weather this morning was comfortable and the sky cloudy. My thoughts wandered about the trip to Sturgis, whether or not I was going to get wet in either direction for my morning commute and how all the cattle bunched up in the corner of the field are all shaking their heads at me because it’s going to rain.

So about halfway to work I stop at the stop sign at Skiddy West RD and highway 77 to wait on a car. Listening to the radio I was somewhat distracted but not so much that I wouldn’t wait on a car to pass. As I pulled out onto the highway heading north, I shifted up through the gears and set the cruise control letting my mind wander some more.

 I had my listening hat on trying to diagnose the strange sounds coming from between my legs.

I don’t know what it is about the weeks before a big trip, but I tend to get a little paranoid with my bike making unusual sounds and acting weird knowing I have some miles to travel. Weird noises or a slight hesitation may not bother me otherwise, but this morning the motor was making way more noise than usual. for the next 7 miles, I had my listening hat on trying to diagnose the strange sounds coming from between my legs. Approaching the construction zone just south of I-70 I kicked off the cruise and started down-shifting to prevent an expensive speeding ticket. It was then I realized I just rode those last few miles at 70 miles an hour with the cruise set while in fourth gear. Yeah, it’s going to be a good day.