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.
It’s odd really, to be sitting here typing out a blog that is so long overdue. It’s been a busy year with work, large projects and a constant sense of urgency to get things done. Even with this punching me in the face every day I have still managed about 20,000 miles on my motorcycle. Mostly a daily commute but also some backroads and a quick trip to Sturgis a couple of weeks before the annual Motorcycle Rally. That trip was weird, with 2200 miles and a total of seven face-to-face conversations with two of those being in Kansas. It was a good ride with lots of time to duck some of those punches to the face I’ve felt most of the year.
I’ve had lots of great experiences going to Sturgis for the Rally, and although the memories can run together, some of them stand out as clear as if it were just this year. The ride there and back, the people you meet along the way, and the conversations you have with those you will never meet again give you this sense of how it’s the people we bump into in our lifetime that can have the biggest impact in any given situation. Interactions with our fellow human beings is still one of my favorite parts of riding a motorcycle. And even as I like to ride either alone or with very few others, I find it’s those brief moments of fellowship along with the interesting stories people will tell you, that make any trip memorable.
Coming back from this trip to South Dakota, I could see as I approached Grand Island Nebraska, I would eventually run into this storm that was building across North Central Kansas. What ride through several states doesn’t end with a crescendo? I have ridden in many rain storms and I travel with a rainsuit at the ready, so this wasn’t that big of deal. South of York Nebraska it was clear to me I would get my chance to pull my rainsuit out to see if it fits. If any of you read my blogs from my previous trips, you will know my history of the ever-shrinking-it-must-have-been-put-away-wet rainsuit. Well, this one still fits.
Ifany of you read my blogs from my previous trips, you will know my history of the ever-shrinking-it-must-have-been-put-away-wet rainsuit. Well, this one still fits.
As I hopped around pulling it on over my boots, I could feel the rain coming. Within a mile after getting back on the road the rain came and it wasn’t messing around. It hit and hit hard. By my rain gauge that I keep conveniently inside my head, this is at least the second or third worst rain I’ve ridden in. As cars were slowing down or pulling over, I kept pushing through. Yes I know, pulling over would have been the wise thing to do, but… Within a few miles it was clear I wasn’t going to ride out of this without a fight, so I turned my heated grips up a notch and titled my head down.
Once I settled in to a water-filled groove, I knew this was going to be okay. I noticed another rider heading in the opposite direction and quickly realised how lucky I was to be prepared. He wasn’t. I felt sorry for him because I know how miserable it can be. I did have a few cars pass me but mostly I would pass them. I’m sure I was an odd sight but let’s be real, I’m an odd sight regardless. I did notice a white truck from Louisiana that kept hovering around – first following me then passing me only for me to pass again. I sensed visibility at times affected their designated position on the road, but just make up your mind fer-cryin’-outloud.
When the rain subsided around Belleville Kansas, I decided to ride on to Concordia where I would need gas. This gave my rainsuit a chance to dry off before putting it back in it’s bag. It was a good ride from Belleville to Concordia as the skies were clearing and the temperature started warming back up. Another successful ride in the rain and I will be able to tell this story for days and weeks to come. Embellished of course.
As I pulled into the gas station and climbed of my GS1150 the white pickup from Louisiana pulled up to the pump next to me. As I gracefully struggled getting my foot out of my pant leg the woman in the passenger seat came over and asked if I was okay. She and her husband intentionally followed me to make sure I was going to be alright. She asked me several questions about the dangers of riding in this type of rain and what I would have done if it started to hail? Before I could answer, her husband also walked over and fired off several concerns as I stripped off my suit. I explained how an experienced rider like me who’s no-fear attitude towards adverse conditions, my nerves of steel and a perfectly fitted rain suit could get me through anything. Along with my perfect smile and full head of hair of course.
I explained how an experienced rider like me who’s no-fear attitude towards adverse conditions, my nerves of steel and a perfectly fitted rain suit could get me through anything. Along with my perfect smile and full head of hair of course.
What a beautiful moment this was. Perfect strangers concerned for someone they didn’t know who was in a very vulnerable situation. You know, like it should be. And even more so, they were concerned for ME. I thanked them for worrying and wished them safe travels back to their home state. I’m telling you, it’s the people that make this short time we have on earth a beautiful thing.
As I rode to work in this month of December, the temperature hovered in the mid-thirties. A full moon ahead of me, the sun rising over my shoulder, I can see the winter colors telling me we’re a few months away from the smell of Spring. Wait, do colors have a smell?
While the miles tick by on my commute, my mind wondered to spending longer days in the saddle and more consistent temperatures to ride every day. I’ve ridden many winters on my Harley’s but this winter I’m on my BMW GS. The view is different as the seat is higher, but my wishes of warmer weather will always be the same. I wonder what trips are in store for me in 2020?
I also just finished reading Ted Simon’s book Jupiter’s Travels for the third time, and as always, it makes me realize there is so much more world out there and at the same time, the world is such a small place. Heck, there are a few places and roads in Kansas that I have yet to see, so I’m not real sure a trip through Mongolia is on my schedule for 2020. As I ride across the prairies of my home state, maybe I’ll just pretend I’m there. Kansas/Mongolia. Kangolia.
I’m not real sure a trip through Mongolia is on my schedule for 2020. As I ride across the prairies of my home state, maybe I’ll just pretend I’m there. Kangolia.
I know, the modern day convenience of gas stations, fast-food restaurants and manicured roads can leave a lot to the imagination, but you know what? It’s the people. The people you meet and engage with are the true sights and sounds of an epic ride. Even with that dramatic scenery we all crave, and those lonely miles in the saddle where I find I do my best thinking, it’s those faces and the conversations I remember. The handshake or wave, sharing a connection with locals that always ends with a smile. That’s what Ted Simon speaks of and it’s so true. Even in my home country or my home state of Kansas. The motorcycle I’m on is a way of introducing me to perfect strangers.
While my dreams of riding around the world may never happen, it’s just nice knowing those that share the same feelings of adventure with me. Whether through print or video, or even in person, I know the experience is real, the people are real and the landscape is worth the ride.
While the riding this time of year leaves me longing for a big ride through vast territory, I’ll settle for whatever the weather will allow. Short days and shorter trips are enough for now.
For early December, the weather was looking good. I had a list of things to do but mostly I just wanted to go ride my motorcycle. So in the early afternoon I put on my gear and took off, not sure of the direction I was headed I mostly wanted to put some miles on. Feeling guilty at first because walls won’t paint themselves, I hesitated but quickly got over that feeling as I rode off.
It felt good to get out. The weather hasn’t been the best but I figured an hour or so on the bike is what I needed to sort my thoughts. I hadn’t been on Humboldt Creek road for a while so I headed East towards Alta Vista to take Humboldt back North towards Junction City. I figured a big loop finding my way back home was a good bet.
It’s funny how the same road can look different based on direction, the time of year and the time of day. How the light casts shadows and the specific colors nature is wearing during any particular season can make a familiar road feel different. This was one of those rides.
How the light casts shadows and the specific colors nature is wearing any particular season can make a familiar road feel different.
After a quick ride on the scenic Humboldt Creek road, I ended up at a park to take a minute and enjoy the afternoon. I pulled up and laughed at myself for hitting the kill switch to shut my bike off. I don’t normally shut the bike down this way, and for some reason I did – even wondering why I would do that. Oh well, I’m getting older and I do weird stuff some times.
While sitting there admiring the side view of my BMW GS from about 30 feet away, a couple of kids rode up on their bikes. As I sat there on the bench I remembered how I was at 10 or 12 years old, riding my bike and dreaming of owning a motorcycle. I noticed one of the boys kept looking at my bike as they were horsing around and I was sure he too had an interest like I did in motorized two-wheel motion. I smiled at the thought.
I noticed one of the boys kept looking at my bike as they were horsing around and I was sure he too had an interest like I did in motorized two-wheel motion. I smiled at the thought.
I’m sure it was only a few moments as all of these thoughts ran through my head. Then, out of nowhere, it appears this boy is coming over to talk to me. At first, I thought what shall I say? Is this my chance to influence a young man who shows some interest in how motorcycles can change your life? Am I up to it? And how cool would it be to bump into him in 10 years on some lonesome highway where he recognizes me and says “hey, you were the one who got me into motorcycling.” How strange, I was just thinking this and now he’s 20 feet away and closing.
12 year old boy; Hey mister, is that your bike?
Me; Yes, it is.
Now keep in mind, my brain is clicking along faster than the conversation. I’m anticipating where this is going and I’m trying to be helpful and attentive to his questions because after all, this is my chance! For the last 20 minutes or so, while I’ve been sitting on this bench, this boy has admired my motorcycle. Now he’s mustered up his courage to come over to ask what it’s like to be wild and free on two wheels. Pay attention Jeff!
12year old boy; Your headlight is on.
57 year old me; Hey, thanks…
When I pulled up and hit the kill-switch, I forgot to turn the key off. That usually happens to new riders – and guys like me just trying to enjoy a ride in December. For 20 minutes or so my key was on while I admired the profile of my motorcycle in the afternoon light. Thanks kid, for letting me know. As I got up and walked over to my bike, the boys climbed on theirs and took off. I guess they already know what it’s like to be wild and free on two-wheels.
And just like that, 2016 is behind us. Last year when I wrote Mind Over Matter I made some generic resolutions, much like everyone else around me – to eat better, exercise, appreciate stuff and be nice to others, blah, blah, blah. You know, like we’re supposed to do anyway. Well, I did some of those things except for the exercise and eating right. There’s just something about food…and furniture, that keeps getting in the way. This year I’ll try, I promise.
This was a year to remember for sure. I actually hooked up with three fellows from across the ocean and rode with them on their epic journey across the U.S. My part of it had me riding through Kansas and sharing some of the fine roadside attractions such as the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. The Ride 50 at 50 crew of David, Adrian and Andrew made me feel welcome and not only took me in as one of their own, I also made some lifelong friends in the process. Thank you fellows! We also discovered Blip Roasters in Kansas City and Ian welcomed us with open arms as well.
But I did ride my motorcycle to the east coast. A trip that came together at the last minute, it was something I didn’t think I would accomplish any time in the near future – but it happened. Along with the regular trip to Sturgis, it was a month full of miles and smiles. Somewhere in the mix I mamaged a ride out to Colorado Springs and that, combined with the usual commute to work, added up to a lot of miles. It was nice to get my head cleared a bit and see some different scenery. You know the kind, where although you’ve never been there it all looks eerily the same but just different enough to keep you wondering “have I been here before?”
You know the kind, where although you’ve never been there it all looks eerily the same but just different enough to keep you wondering “have I been here before?”
It’s hard to believe that we’re entering the year 2017. If I still wrote checks this would be that awkward time when every check for the next thirty days or so would have the wrong year written in and then scratched over with a 7. But that doesn’t happen any more.
So instead of making some other humorous resolutions for this coming year, I’m going to turn the tables around and challenge you to a few;
Be nice to a stranger. Not in the sense of just being a decent human being, but to actually put out the effort and engage with people you don’t know. This is easy for me as I don’t have a problem interacting with folks I don’t know.
Believe in yourself, and have the confidence that you can. Because when you believe the rest will come.
Take a moment for yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in everything around you, focusing on the needs of others and it’s easy to forget about stopping to breathe it all in.
Remember those we’ve lost, but also share that precious time we have with those standing around us.
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.
Living in the great state of Kansas, we go through a period in the Spring when farmers and ranchers burn pastures because it’s been proven to release nutrients into the ground, which help revitalize the prairie. It’s also a great method of brush and weed control. I love watching the fires at dusk as they give off a glow, reflecting off the smoke as it rises above the pasture. Beautiful.
But it is a little different when you pass by while riding a motorcycle. By the time I get home, I feel as if I’ve smoked a pack of Camel cigarettes with no filter. In my mind, I’m the well-dressed guy in the smoking lounge wearing my leather Harley-Davidson jacket as my Biltwell Helmet traps the smoke against my face. No second-hand smoke here folks. First-hand and fresh.
I’m always glad when I pull over and become a participant in this thing called life. It sure beats just being an observer.
I’m always talking about how riding puts us bikers smack dab in the middle of the elements. Rain, wind and temperature swings are the most common elements I deal with but wild animals, debris and of course smoke can make any ride more interesting. While we spend our rides hoping for a babbling brook or a scenic tree line to capture on our phone, we often stop to take a picture where man and Mother Nature meet.
Living in this fast-paced world we often forget to stop and smell the roses, or smoke in this case. I’m always glad when I pull over and become a participant in this thing called life. It sure beats just being an observer.
If you read anything I write about my zany travels on my motorcycle you know there are many times I talk of wild animals, crazy drivers, Walmart bags and what appear to be flying squirrels coming at me as I roll down the highways and byways of Kansas. Although I make light of these things there is a seriousness to riding bikes. Nature and garbage are one thing because they know no better, but those drivers who refuse to notice me are another. I’ve never been the type to say “look at me!” but in this instance I am.
I can go on about my frustrations, but I won’t. But what I did do was reach out to the Kansas Highway Patrol through their twitter account explaining my experiences passing through the intersection Of I-70 and Ks. Hwy 77 every morning on my way to work. As a motorcyclist it was refreshing to see a Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper sitting along the highway monitoring traffic exiting 1-70. With a big wave I thanked the trooper, but to me it wasn’t enough. As I pulled into a car dealership driveway to circle around, my intentions were to hop a barb wire fence to personally thank him. Okay, hop a barb wire fence at my age and in my full leather gear might be a stretch, but I would have found a way. This is an example to NOT look at me. By the time I got close enough to do so, Trooper Cameron pulled out to stop a motorist violating the law. Missing my chance to thank the trooper, I felt compelled to contact KHP through twitter.
The vulnerability we motorcyclists feel at times can be nerve-wracking and although we ride defensively, it’s nice to know there are men and women out there helping not only our cause as bikers but by being there for all motorists as well.
Trooper Ben who has been instrumental in at least making me feel better. But he has gone above and beyond that. The vulnerability we motorcyclists feel at times can be nerve-wracking and although we ride defensively, it’s nice to know there are men and women out there helping not only our cause as bikers but being there for all motorists. Trooper Ben responded back today telling me it was Trooper Cameron sitting in the car as I passed, and I know as he pulled over the motorist, all they were thinking about was the anger they were feeling for getting pulled over. I’m sure they weren’t thinking about what could have happened by not stopping at the stop sign as they came off the Interstate ramp where I find myself passing each morning on my motorcycle.
Thank you to the Kansas Highway Patrol. Thank you to all who patrol our streets and highways, and to those first responders for being there in our time of need. At times you may feel its a thankless job but I’m here to tell you otherwise. Thank you.
It’s not often I ride after dark but for the last month or so I have been riding the roads of rural Kansas just before the sun has set completely. For all of those obvious reasons that riding at this hour presents, it is kind of nice to roll down the road with my headlight bouncing of the tarmac as my eyes dance side-to-side looking for those pesky critters that also enjoy coming out at night.
Keeping my speed a little below the posted limit on one particular night, I was soon passed by a car. This isn’t a bad thing as I don’t mind a vehicle running interference for me when I’m unsure if I will be greeted by one of nature’s finest. As I followed along behind my new best friend, I allowed myself to relax a little and let myself look around at the clouds as the moonlight reflected off the edges. A beautiful night for sure, and a guy could easily get used o this.
A couple of miles later I noticed the car in front of me tap his brakes. His brake lights caught my attention and I immediately knew based on my familiarity of the road, he was braking for a deer. But this is what I find most interesting about the driver in front of me; he not only tapped his brakes, but he did so multiple times letting me know that there was not only a deer in the road but a couple more waiting to cross. All of this information came through his brake lights. I thought to myself the person driving the car in front of me is surely a biker. I too have flashed my brake lights letting those behind me know of any dangers ahead. I’m sure this isn’t uncommon, but on this given night on this particular road the driver gave me a gift. Three more deer just stepping onto the road, no big hurry and not surprised of the motorcyclist coming up on them.
I’m also known for my moves, but that is a completely different subject and besides it was the ’80’s.
Whether or not my friend in the car actually rides motorcycles or not, it’s nice to know that someone still thinks about the safety of others on the road. I had plenty of time to slow down and be prepared for any sudden moves that deer are known for. I’m also known for my moves, but that is a completely different subject and besides it was the ’80’s.
There are so many unwritten rules of the road. Some of these rules need to be written down and this is one of them. It’s the little things that can be so beneficial to the safety and well-being of others – especially motorcyclists.
Walk down any main street in any small town and you can feel it. The slower you walk, the stronger the feeling through the soles of your shoes. A vibration of days gone by and a sense of those that walked the same sidewalk many, many years ago. Taking the time to look through store-front windows and see the product of a day-to-day business that serves the community even though it doesn’t make a profit. Built from a sense of pride and to fill a need, only to be cannibalized by a larger community off in the distance. The inevitable happens and the bright lights inside become a dim memory. Bigger and faster takes the place of carrying your sacks to the car for you. A screen door is not as fancy as those automatic kind and I guess since no one in those big cities holds the door open for you, the doors do it themselves.
Character is established in both architecture and ancestry and we live the life of a small community and we carry on the life of how we were raised.
Small is as small does, and the personal touch is knowing your name and asking “how you are doing” and meaning it. We hear it so often without sincerity that when it is asked by someone you know, you know they mean it. Main streets have sincerity. It is built into every small town I’ve been through, and you can’t tear it down and modernize it. It’s engrained in the wooden floors and door hinges and when the door swings open, it makes the sound of “welcome home.” You can’t make it bigger or shinier without making it cold and dull. Small towns have that warm feeling of porch lights and a wave to your neighbor, and a stoplight doesn’t give off the same glow as a small town street light. Convenience is a state of mind and its definition isn’t in the dictionary. Small towns are a way of life and at any time you are just a block or two away from being out-of-town where culverts and silos take the place of curbs and steps.
Like an old barn that on the outside appears to be weathered and worn, the small communities wear it like the patina people so desire on antiques and collectibles. They have a feeling of used – not used up, cared for and precious and a link to times past. You know, when life was good and times were simple. Life is still good and it’s only as simple as you make it. Character is established in both architecture and ancestry and we live the life of a small community and we carry on the life of how we were raised. That, my friends, can be found between the city limits signs of White City.