The Way It Should Be

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.

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.

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.

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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