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.

 

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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.

 

Ride 50 at 50 Part 4: Surrounded by Indians

 

248In what seemed like an eternity, I finally met the 3 Amigos David, Andrew and Adrian. Day one, I left Sunday morning to meet up with the trio at Blip Roasters in Kansas City Mo. A beautiful morning ride, I arrived a little early and met Ian Davis the owner of Blip. While having a hot cup of coffee, I engaged in conversation with a few like-minded folks about Blip Roasters and our dedication to these two-wheeled machines. Wonderful. Shortly thereafter and without much fanfare, the 3 Amigos rode in on their Indian Motorcycles and as we say in America – Welcome! After some handshaking and introductions, these three made themselves at home. A few pictures and some video were taken and we saddled up and headed west to Junction City. Just in time as the rain began to fall. Me on my Harley-Davidson surrounded by Indians.

 

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It’s interesting how a group of riders deal with the dynamics of riding and spending so much time together. These three have ridden roughly 1500 miles across the U.S. so far and they have it down. They’ve known each other almost a lifetime, so a lot can be said between them without saying word. Throw an American into the mix and it gives each of them an opportunity to take a mental break from the others. See? I’m doing good things for others all the time!

After we arrived in Junction City and after a nice dinner of burgers and beer, plans were made for day two. Originally, Dodge City Kansas was on the radar but when you’re this close to the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, you go see it. So day two we set off under cloudy skies with that sliver of blue on the horizon letting us know that the sun would be our friend for the day. After about 100 miles, we stopped in Beloit for a cup of coffee with the anticipation of twine right around the corner. We loaded up, turned on a couple of cameras mounted to me and my motorcycle and headed down the road. What a beautiful day, with clouds floating against the big blue sky.

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No one can be fully prepared for it. The quaint little town of Cawker City holds in its possession the envy of all twine connoisseurs, the epitome of dedication and the record for balls made of twine. I would hate to be the community with the World’s Second Largest Ball of Twine. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Follow your dreams and whether its balls of twine or coming to America to ride motorcycles with your best friends, just do it. The people who call you crazy secretly want to do it as well.

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After a brief stop soaking in the ambiance of burlap we once again headed west on highway 24 through the rolling hills of green beneath a ceiling of blue. This stretch of road was perfect for me to think about how this all came about. You can read the previous blogs I’ve written about David, Andrew and Adrian and their journey to the U.S. But as I rode along with them, I realized that in some weird way this was going to happen. How random is this? Is it random at all? Sometimes we make things happen and sometimes it all happens for a reason. Maybe both? I believe so. Did I change some little bit of their trip by riding with them? How did we get on highway 24 when the trip is supposed to be highway 50? Yeah, that’s the stuff rolling around in my head while I have these three following me through north-central Kansas.

The rest of the ride to Hoxie was uneventful but satisfying for me. I hoped in some way these three new how great it was for me to spend a couple of days riding with them. We stopped in Hoxie for some beef jerky and a drink, and I knew it was all coming to an end. We were 20 miles north of Interstate 70 where our ride would go separate ways. We did a short bit of video, said some warm goodbyes and fired up the bikes for the final ride as the “Four Strokes” as we headed south.

That moment – that last three miles summed it up for me. We’re all alike no matter where we’re from and we had just ridden across the state of Kansas together. Our pilot in the crop duster has no idea that he’s responsible for the exclamation point on this trip for me.

One of the most memorable times for me was about 3 miles north of the interstate as a crop duster came up from the field it was spraying. David was passing me shooting a little video and I pointed up at it. As David saw it circling around for another pass, he raced ahead to catch it on video as well. Andrew, Adrian and I slowed, David was about a mile ahead and I knew that he was setting up to catch me for the last time riding by as we went our separate ways. That moment – that last three miles summed it up for me. We’re all alike no matter where we’re from and we had just ridden across the state of Kansas together. Our pilot in the crop duster has no idea that he’s responsible for the exclamation point on this trip for me.

By the time I turned east heading back to White City, the 3 Amigos were a mile from Oakley where they would call it a day. I still had a few hours to go but I didn’t mind. This is where I do my best thinking. I won’t bore you with my ride but I will say that there were storms brewing in front of me and I had a date with a rain suit.

 

Scootin’ America – Kansas Style

 What a leap of faith it takes to dedicate a couple of years time and ride thousands of miles spreading the word benefitting those who need a hand.

 

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For the last few days I’ve had the opportunity to meet and hang around Adam Sandoval as he travels around to every Harley-Davidson dealership in the United States with Scooter “Trash” Sandoval, his Chihuahua, raising money and awareness for the children of fallen soldiers. Since I work at a Harley-Davidson dealership it was inevitable that we would meet. Scootin’ America indeed.

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What a leap of faith it takes to dedicate a couple of years time and ride thousands of miles spreading the word benefitting those who need a hand. Now I could write about Adam and his accomplishments, but this has already been done. For me it’s more about what drives someone to be a motorcycle gypsy, putting most of your personal life on hold and hit the highway hoping, just hoping people will show up and donate to a worthy cause. Most people talk about or dream of doing this but that’s where we commonly stop – just short of pulling the bike out of the garage. After all, “it’s just wishful thinking” and “someone else will do it.” It’s one thing to say we want to do something similar to this on our very own motorcycle but to actually do it speaks volumes to a big heart, and a drive to make a difference. Both he and Scooter are going the distance to showing it can be done. Now if only more folks would actually follow through with an idea, just think of what could be accomplished on this big blue planet we call home.

I have to hand it to Adam. Riding a 1996 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide 100,000 plus miles through all kinds of weather would make most people rethink their big idea of riding the United States but I don’t imagine that’s the case here. Adam is sincere and genuine. And appreciative. Even Scooter is happiest when riding or stopping to have their pictures taken. But put yourself in Adam and Scooter’s position; ride, stop, meet and greet, hammer down to the next stop and repeat. The many faces and the endless handshakes, the well-wisher’s and the logistics can wear you down, but in meeting Adam I didn’t sense any of this. He was present in the conversation and took the time with everyone he met. This is a man who believes in his cause, and who is willing to do what it takes to get the job done.

 

It was an honor to meet you Adam and Scooter, Judge and Julia, who you can follow as HarleyBabe. I wish you all safe travels, and thanks for all you do. And if you see Scootin’ America on the highway or at your local Harley-Davidson dealership, stop and say hello and donate to the cause if you can.

 

 

The Calm Before the Morn’

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For this split-second, this sliver of my life, I am standing here in the right place at the right time.

Who wouldn’t like to see this every morning? It can be easy to be preoccupied enough to let a moment like this slip away, but I just can’t do that. With the constant hurry and this wierd feeling I need to be somewhere lingering over me, I still want to stop and take it in. All of it.

We motorcyclists are often credited with pinning the throttle or living life on the edge, but sometimes we actually do stop and realize we aren’t bigger than life but actually a small piece of it.

I wonder how many moments I’ve missed over the years because of my own lack of awareness? The ability to stop and appreciate something so big and out of my control is a learned trait and one that may take years of practice. Or maybe a few birthdays to realize life is more than a daily commute. We motorcyclists are often credited with pinning the throttle or living life on the edge, but sometimes we actually do stop and realize we aren’t bigger than life but actually a small piece of it.

This is what I need each and every day to prepare me for what’s ahead. It’s this calm feeling I need before the storm of life hits the shore. Even though the temperature is 36 degrees, just knowing the sun is coming up to warm the skies makes me feel anything is possible. In a matter of moments this sunrise will change and evolve into another day, but for right now it’s majestic and worthy of a moment of my time.

For this split-second, this sliver of my life, I am standing here in the right place at the right time to take this in. Sure, I may be standing in the ditch but I wouldn’t want it any other way.