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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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. 

Snake Oil

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White City, Ks.

The sun is right there. The angle from which it comes, the glare from the faceshield and the squint in my eyes tell me the next couple of miles I will fight with what I so long to have when I ride. Sunshine. In this case, I’m not careful in what I wish for.

When I roll through the highways and byways on my motorcycle it’s easy to pick apart the experience. Temperature, wind and road conditions come to mind, but all of this makes up the texture of the ride. If it was all smooth as glass we would grow tired of riding and the lack of fluctuation would keep us wishing for something to cause a ripple.

If it was all smooth as glass we would grow tired of riding and the lack of fluctuation would keep us wishing for something to cause a ripple.

It’s easy to complain about our ride as it’s happening – but the miles, and everything that happens along the way become memories. Just as the man selling snake oil will tell you, “results are guaranteed!” And I’ve never had to return a ride of mine for a refund. Even the rides I would rather do over, I have decided the stories I tell depicting them are far more entertaining than when they happened. Let’s just say there were plenty of ripples.

A few miles down the road my direction changes and now I see the sun staring at me through the corner of my eye, watching my every move. With my shadow flickering along side of me, I have to laugh at myself. So that’s what I look like on my motorcycle. And the wave; why did I just wave at myself? Well at least I waved back. Whatever it takes to keep myself amused along the way.

 

Blipping the Throttle

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Things haven’t change much in my 45+ years of riding motorcycles. Or have they? When I first got my start riding these crazy things, it was a much simpler time. Long, endless days of riding beneath the blue skies and hot sun in the pastures and back roads of rural Morris County. Our bikes were pure and uncomplicated and they did it all. A direct reflection of who we were and of course a mirror to who we are today.

Our bikes were pure and uncomplicated and they did it all. A direct reflection of who we were and of course a mirror to who we are today.

Little did I know that what I was actually experiencing in my little corner of the world was a culture not only defined by two wheels but whatever it was that bounced around in my head at the time. The same head that wore a helmet with a bubble shield much like the one I have today. Change? Some things will never change. I was becoming a product that was built from ideas of what I wanted it to be. In essence, I was creating a definition based on my perception of a culture that is ever evolving. And it still is. Now, within this culture of motorcycles is another underlying sub-culture of riders finding their own way and setting their own standards. The only rule is to be unique. Easier said than done, in a world of it’s all been done before.

I was creating a definition based on my perception of a culture that is ever evolving. And it still is.

This brings me to Ian Davis. The owner of a Kansas City coffee house in the West Bottoms called Blip Roasters. Ian is bringing two of his passions together whilst bringing us all together. From his vintage coffee equipment he succeeds in pulling in a mix of retro and custom hand-built motorcycles and an equal mix of riders that find that no matter how different we all are, there is always that mix of brew and bikes putting us on common grounds. How fitting to be in the industrial part of town.

I have to hand it to Ian. Both of his passions reflect a timeless tradition and will do so long after we’re gone. My only hope for Ian is his continued success in the Kansas City area and beyond. And thanks for promoting a lifestyle that has changed so little but changed so many lives, mine included. Follow along with Ian on Facebook and Instagram and check out their upcoming events if you’re in the Kansas City area.

The Guy on the Motorcycle

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I’m just the guy on the motorcycle. You may not be able to tell if I’m a man or a woman, young or old or even how long I’ve been riding, but I’m a motorcyclist nonetheless. Maybe you’ve seen me, maybe not. But I see you. I’m on my way to work just like everyone else, or maybe I’m taking a long weekend ride. We’re a lot alike you and me, but I just choose to travel by two-wheels instead of four. You decided to drive your car today instead of riding your motorcycle. Hey, I’ve done that too. Sometimes the day requires more than my motorcycle can handle. Sometimes you see me and wish you had a motorcycle. You should get one because I know it will change your life, and how you drive that car of yours. Maybe you have an opinion of who I am inside this helmet I’m wearing but I want you to know that not all of us our outlaws. In fact, I waved at you this morning but you didn’t wave back. Maybe you just didn’t see me.

I know you wonder from the comfort of your car how I can ride when it’s cold or raining. You see, that’s how much I want to ride. I know it seems crazy to someone who doesn’t ride a motorcycle, but I have the proper gear to protect me from the elements. When we ride, we are exposed to all kinds of weather and this is all a part of the experience. You could say I’m vulnerable to the weather as it changes. I would say I’m vulnerable to anything outside of my leather jacket.

You could say I’m vulnerable to the weather as it changes. I would say I’m vulnerable, period.

When did you first notice me? Was it the sound my motorcycle makes? My headlight and bright-colored jacket? Or was it after you pulled out halfway into the intersection before slamming on your brakes? I kind of wondered if you were going to stop. Maybe you’re running late, and that’s okay. I run late all the time too. We both have places we need to be with families and jobs that require us to get the most out of our day. It’s okay, and I waved at you anyway.

Think about motorcycles as people – actual people – sharing the road with you and how vulnerable I feel when riding amongst cars and trucks.

Can I ask a favor? Take a second to look and listen for me. Think about motorcycles as people – actual people – sharing the road with you and how vulnerable I feel when riding amongst cars and trucks. I know you’re frustrated with the road construction and the light that won’t turn green quick enough because I am frustrated with it too. And when you do see me, wave at me. And not just because it’s nice to say “hello” but it also tells me that you know I’m here.

 

Waiting for the Perfect Day

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You want to know something? The grass is going to need cutting no matter what. The wind is going to blow and at any given time it will be hot, cold, dark and a chance of rain. So what are you waiting for? It’s the sense of adventure – the taking of risks that gets your blood pumping, yet we make excuses. The whole idea of owning a motorcycle should be to ride it. You can wash it later – after the ride. You convinced yourself when you brought that damn thing home, you would ride it every day. What happen since those words were uttered?

We often have great intentions of riding when we finally convince ourselves to dive in. For those who ride their bikes as they were intended to, feel free to close this window and go for a ride. For those who brought their motorcycle home and parked it, waiting for that perfect day to get it out from behind the riding mower and those unused bicycles – listen up. What are you waiting for? If you need a reason, look in the mirror. Do you see that tired, frustrated and sometimes pissed off person looking back at you? The remedy is sitting out in the garage. Take the trash on your way out and fire that bike up!

We work so hard trying to find a reason not to ride we forgot the whole reason we wanted to ride. What about all those adventures you told your friends you were going on? What about that feeling you had when you were picking it up to take it home? That feeling of excitement mixed with a little fear and a little attitude thrown in. It felt good, didn’t it? Where did all those feelings go – out in the garage parked against the wall with your old dusty coveralls laid over the handlebars? Don’t tell me it has a dead battery…

If you really want to ride, then do it. If you don’t, well that’s okay too. But before you decide to sell it, take it for a quick ride down the road and see how you feel about it then. Don’t do something you’ll regret later and who knows, maybe you’ll decide to give it another shot. Live on the edge and ride. Somewhere deep down inside was a little voice that told you to buy a motorcycle, and you listened. That same voice has been telling you to ride it, so what are you waiting for?

Looking for Phil – A Motorcycle Journey

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At times it can seem like a desperate situation, one minute you’re a hero and the next a total zero. It’s hard to make up for those times when expectations are high and then reality beats you down. Some days it’s just not worth all the hassle. On the other hand, determination will take over and you feel like no matter the odds, you can – and will overcome. We ride. Sometimes we don’t ride. Sometimes we need to ride regardless of the weather. This morning it is freezing drizzle. Today, I’m looking for a particular Ground Hog.

I know it’s not his fault. Just like our local weatherman, both are just messengers of truth, or rather speculation, on what we motorcyclists consider the key ingredient to our particular mode of transportation. Good weather is our gasoline and right now for some motorcyclists the gas station is closed. Toying with our emotions is never advised and we put such high hopes in all you represent. How long will you keep us off our motorcycles? Maybe the greater question is CAN you keep us off our motorcycles?

So today I ride. I ride in search of you my friend – to show you that it is not my desperation to ride, but rather my passion to ride! Alas, I do not blame you. It’s your job to be the bearer of news, good or bad. And I will lift you to shoulder height when the news of an early spring comes, but not today. So hide in your stump, Phil. Look away from me and know that for the next few weeks we are not friends. Our relationship will always have its moments, but for now you are dead to me.

We can choose to be fair-weather riders and have our riding habits dictated by fury animals and “weather in motion”. But if the garage walls appear to be closing in, it’s time to get out – and ride. I prefer to ride!