Baby Boomers and Bacon

It’s almost like I fell off the face of the earth. I know in one of the last posts I wrote said I was going to get out of this mental funk and start blogging again. Well, the road of life has a way of taking you places, doesn’t it? For a guy who rides motorcycles almost every day, I really never saw this coming. I think some of the mental block I was experiencing was actually from riding my motorcycle. In the last couple of years I rode to Boston, L.A. and Sturgis a couple of times and the many miles of local roads can sure put a lot of stuff into perspective. But it also took some of the fun out of it. I wouldn’t trade any of those miles for anything, but I was at a point where I was riding without appreciating the fact that I was doing what I love so much. Instead of riding to clear my head and put my life – past, present and future into perspective, I was just rolling along with my head in this thick cloud of stuff. I’m not sure, but at one point I decided I needed a change. A big one. One that makes you question your own sanity and shit your pants. Sorry, but that is the only real term I could think of. So without too much hesitation I made a complete career change and now I’m transporting recreational vehicles from the manufacturer to their dealer destinations. In simpler terms, I move RV’s around the country. I know, right?

Since I started my blog I have written so much about riding my motorcycle and the random thoughts that roll around in my head and the life I’ve had growing up in the small town of White City Kansas. I’m sure if you have read any of what I’ve written you will get to know me pretty well. And I must admit this blog has opened up so many doors for me in the powersports industry and I’ve had an opportunity to not only get so much better at this but to also meet so many great people along the way. And it goes even further than that. I have also been contacted by several organizations to be a consultant within the powersports/financial community, talking trends about local, regional and national stuff in the business that I won’t bore you with. Who would have thunk a small town kid from White City would be contacted to write articles for magazines and talk with investors about what goes on in and around my small world? Thank you Jmadog Blog. So with all this I became less carefree and more of a stick in the mud. I think so anyway, others may say I was riding a wave. And what do I do? I take a break from writing and although the riding was still a big part of who I am, I still felt like I needed to figure it all out. Besides, the grandkids and my beautiful daughter moved back to Colorado Springs and I realized how important this was for them but also how difficult it would be for Paw Paw. Did I mentioned I made a career change? Let me tie all this together for you. So I started following the RV industry. Sounds boring, doesn’t it. Well, with all this talk about where the powersports industry was headed – with an aging Baby Boomer customer base and no generation coming in to take their place – I started doing my research. The RV business is on a steady incline and has been for a few years and then it hit me; This is where the powersports/Harley-Davidson customer is going. they’re buying Side-by-side off road vehicles (a growing segment in the industry) and RV’s. But wait, that’s not what made me change careers. I was coming back from Oklahoma after picking up a motorcycle from another dealer and on the radio they were talking about FEMA moving RV’s to Texas and along the coast after the hurricanes and at that point I wanted to be a part of something that made a difference. Not that I didn’t think someone buying a Harley-Davidson wasn’t changing someone’s life but c’mon I think you know what I mean. And so here I am. After traveling twenty-six states in the last two and a half months, driving as of today, 34,000 miles, I can say without hesitation that at this point I’m doing what I need to be doing. I also have plenty of time to think… Just the other day a memory came to me from when I was a kid and we were visiting relatives in Benkelman Nebraska. My folks and all my aunts and uncles would go out for the evening and leave us kids at Duane and Bonnie’s house to entertain ourselves. Great memories with my cousins for sure but when the adults came home my Uncle Duane would cook breakfast and to this day I can still see him doing this and smell the bacon. I haven’t thought about that for a long time. There’s more to this story but I’m sworn to secrecy.

I’m not going to kid anyone. This change has had a steep learning curve when motorcycles came so easy for me. I’ve made a couple of sacrifices and I’m willing to do it to achieve my goals. I’ve never doubted my abilities to adapt to any situation and let’s face it, I’m a pretty likable guy. Just sayin’. As I gather my thoughts and shift a few gears, I will see where this takes me.

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Planning the Ride. Check.

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It’s been a few months since I’ve written anything for my blog. For whatever reason my head felt empty and for once, I was at a total loss for words. I know, right? So now that I’ve had a break, it’s time to get my thoughts together and prepare myself, and you, for what might be coming as the weather warms up here in the Midwest. It’s March, but little do we know, spring is right around the corner. Or, a couple of blocks down and around the corner. Either way, we’re close.

I have a few trips planned – some long, some short – to put those much need miles on my bike and to fill my head with tall-tales and wild stories of where I’ve been and the people I’m going to meet. And I will meet people. I’ve made this small promise to myself to actually ask someone their name as they tell me their life story. I’m really bad about that. Of course, most will tell me their name right up front so it isn’t a big problem, but nonetheless I will do my best to have a formal introduction. Check.

I’m hoping to do Sturgis again this year for a couple of reasons. First, I feel like there is some unfinished business. I went last year and I didn’t accomplish a few things I had set out to do. I felt a little out-of-sorts and it was just weird. This time I plan on taking the weirdness out of it (take the weirdness out of Sturgis?) and look at things a little differently.

Los Angeles on my motorcycle? Hopefully. Probably. Yep. Check. Maybe even another trip that direction. More to come on that.

Iron Butt. I’m putting some ideas down to achieve an Iron Butt. I know I’ve probably done a couple over the years, but I’ve never documented it to get a certificate – 1000 miles in 24 hours, 1500 miles in 36 hours and it goes on like so. Sounds easy enough. I just need to figure out a route and pick a weekend. Oh, and read the rules from the Iron Butt Association. I wouldn’t want to hammer out 1000 miles only to find I didn’t follow the rules.

It doesn’t hurt to have goals. Sure some can be lofty, but none are impossible. It also doesn’t hurt to have a plan, and I need to work on this. I have a habit of shooting from the hip and somehow it’s worked for me this long. Shoot from the hip – Check.

Hopefully this year will bring sunshine and light breezes but I know there will be rain and high winds somewhere along the way. That’s okay. I’m ready for whatever comes my way!

All the Cool Kids Are Doing It – Sturgis 2016


The month of August has been a whirlwind. With a ride to Sturgis and another to the East Coast I’ve racked up about 5500 miles between the two. I know…I say it all the time. I ride a motorcycle a lot. You get it, and you’ve heard it before. But one thing I’m not sure you know. Not every ride has the same effect on me. The usual ride to and from work is one thing and of course the ride to Sturgis has its moments, but the ride to the east coast was a lot crammed into a short period of time. With an average of about 600 miles a day there were times when it wasn’t fun. But it kinda was. Get it? Also a guy like me really doesn’t need that much time to think. Life, family, friends and where this is all heading at this stage of my life definitely kept my mind busy.

 

 

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The New Full Throttle Saloon

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The New Full Throttle Saloon

First the trip to Sturgis. Three guys on touring bikes, loaded with everything you need to camp for a few days. Of course some have better packing skills than others, and I am always confused with why I carry so much crap. As DJ, Gary and I headed out for our first leg to Enders Lake, we stopped in Beloit Kansas for gas. About halfway there we were passed by a little gal on her Dyna who looked to be in a bit of a hurry. Other than catching her braided hair coming from the back of her helmet and the tiny bag strapped to her back seat I didn’t get much of a look. That is, until we stopped for gas in Beloit. She pulled in behind us after we had moved our bikes to the parking spaces in front of the Casey’s General Store. As I walked over to her at the pump I asked where she was headed. Alliance Nebraska tonight, but ultimately Sturgis she says. Hmm. Where did you start your day? She replies Oklahoma City. It’s already 3:00 pm and we’re hoping to make it to Enders by dark and she has a bit further to go than we do. I asked if she needed anything, and with a “no” she was gone. Our next stop is about 30 miles away in Cawker City so Gary and DJ can wrap their arms around the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. Deja vu for me as it seems like just this past May I was standing there with three of my closest friends, the 3 Amigos. And who is stopped taking the obligatory picture of the current record-holder in the twine category? Our friend on her Dyna. Yep. After a formal introduction, I find out her name is Staci. I wish her safe travels and away she rolls. More about Staci later.

 

We made it to Enders Lake in southeast Nebraska just about dark and it was a nice quiet (dry) evening of sleeping in the tent. The next day put us in about 100 miles of rain and of course that can be expected. I won’t bore you with much about the rally – nice weather, rain two nights and flooding in my tent. I did meet the Lebo’s at One Eyed Jacks for a beer or two and that was great. Did I take a few pictures? Regrettably no. I did meet a fascinating bartender from California and her name is Cecilia Fairchild. Not your typical bartender, but as I found out she is quite the writer and has a unique way with words. Unlike myself who…not has way. She and her boyfriend rode their Dyna from California to Sturgis to work the rally. I must be getting old. I ride a touring bike and all the cool kids are riding their Dyna’s.


By Tuesday I had enough and as I packed up, I decided it was time to head somewhere. I threw my tent (8 trips to Sturgis) in the trash and headed east to the Badlands. A hot and windy ride I eventually landed in Grand Island Nebraska for the night. An easy 250 mile ride from Grand Island with a stop in Belleville Kansas for a bite to eat and my Sturgis Rally is done. Repeat after me…I am skipping next year’s rally. But I say that every year.

Oh, and Staci? After about a week of being back from South Dakota, I found a picture of her on my Instagram feed. She quite the young lady. Website, blog and a photographer – she has ridden 100,000 miles on her three bikes in the last couple of years. I’m getting old…And I thought I put a lot of miles on. Who am I kidding?

I’ll follow up with my ride to Boston to round out my month of August. Stay tuned!

 

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.

 

Ready to Roll

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Sometimes you just need to get away and I think that time is coming for me. Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out if a short ride to wherever could possibly put a damper on this feeling but one thing is for sure, that well worn path from home to work just isn’t cutting it. I’m known for saying that we need to travel outside the familiar landscape that surrounds us to truly feel like we’ve gone someplace, and this time of year gets me looking off into the horizon. State lines, mountains and oceans for a Kansas boy would be a good start.

 But the usual routes I’ve taken are getting to look a lot like the familiar roads I travel around home. I can always appreciate the feeling of chatting it up with someone I don’t know at a gas station in a town with no name.

With Sturgis less than sixty days a way, I know the probability is high that I will return to the Black Hills. But the usual routes I’ve taken are getting to look a lot like the familiar roads I travel around home. I can always appreciate the feeling of chatting it up with someone I don’t know at a gas station in a town with no name.

I’m not sure if it’s intentionally that I ride to sort my thoughts and to feel the wind as it blows through my thinning hair, or if all of this happens naturally because I ride. I do know that as I get a few hundred miles from home I feel the gentle release of my home town as it eases its steady hold on me and the overwhelming desire to go even further take its place. I’ve always wanted to travel this great country without an agenda and with the freedom to follow whatever whim comes my way, but the reality of work and responsibilities can make one feel guilty for even trying to.

So back to this year’s Sturgis Rally; I know this year it will be different because of my current frame of mind. By carefully planning to not make any plans, I’m hoping to change it up enough to convince myself that this trip won’t be like any before. Sure, there will be some sort of general plan but for the most part I just want to point and shoot without feeling like I need to be somewhere at a specific time. It should be easier for me to fly by the seat of my pants, and I do a pretty good job of making as few plans as possible, but there’s always that voice in my head secretly planning and weighing my options.

So as I go about my daily routine for the next few weeks, I’ll be planning on what to pack for the trip to South Dakota. Secretly I’ll be making a few decisions on which way to go, but the weather will also have a hand in this. You have to be flexible enough to go around the bad stuff if need be. But other than that, I’m winging it. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Sturgis or…Bust?

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I was so looking forward to the 75th Annual Sturgis Rally and at one point I wasn’t sure if this year was going to happen – read: Clarityville. Like every year, this gives me a chance to get away and spend a week riding the highways and byways of Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota while finding interesting things along the way. As I’ve said before, Sturgis is a great place to turn around because it’s the ride I so look forward to, and although a good time is always had during the rally, weather can also play a big part in having a great trip versus a good trip. You see, there really isn’t such a thing as a bad trip to Sturgis. Well…

Planning this trip every year always starts about a week after I get back from the rally, and last year was no different. As winter rolls in you lose a little urgency and just like everything else, plans are put on the back-burner until the first break in the weather and then it all fires back up. Who’s going, who can’t go and all the other details and gossip that go along with planning for Sturgis seem to find their way into the conversation whenever there’s the false sense of Spring in air. We know the trip is happening but like a kid who can’t wait for the last day of school, it’s not getting here fast enough. I swear, we’re just like little kids sometimes.

I heard rumors and I’ve seen old grainy photos of what appears to be people going to Sturgis with dare I say, their motorcycle on a trailer. Heck, I didn’t know you could put a motorcycle on a trailer and why would you? It is a self-propelled machine capable or moving bodies and souls great distances with little more than the twist of the throttle. So this year it happened to me; in a borrowed trailer I hauled my touring bike to the rally. Gasp! A touring bike on a trailer. Where do you buy a t-shirt that says “I hauled mine?” Oh, the verbal beating I will take for this.

Gasp! A touring bike on a trailer. Where do you buy a t-shirt that says “I hauled mine to Sturgis 2015?” Oh, the verbal beating I will take for this.

Let me say this. After hitting rain across the Kansas/Nebraska border, hauling it didn’t seem so bad. After all, I’m delicate. I’ve ridden to the rally 8 years in a row with nothing to prove, and this “pulling a trailer” thing was a little foreign to me. Such things as wipers, a comfortable seat with armrests and climate control changed everything. If I didn’t know any better, I would have wondered why there were so many bikes on the road all heading in the same direction. But wait, I knew better. After a long day behind the wheel, camp was set up, the bike was unloaded and it was a quick ride into Sturgis for a bite to eat. Lot’s of people and somewhat tough to park, but not too bad. Saturday night was pretty uneventful and after all, I did have a long day driving. Can you tell I’m a little bitter about not riding this year? Yeah.

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Sunday plans were to ride to Spearfish and head through the canyon to Lead and then south to Rapid City. Back up through Custer State Park into Keystone, Hill City and Deadwood, ending back up in Sturgis. A good days riding and I really hoped to get 250 miles on the bike before it got hot and crowded in the Black Hills. That was the plan… Hitting I-90 west to Spearfish my motorcycle coughed and hesitated. Hmmm. Surely a fluke, I thought to myself. Stopping in Lead about 60 miles later, the decision was made to go back to Sturgis, abandoning the plans due to heavy traffic and a bunch of folks out on the roads that probably shouldn’t have been there – at least on motorcycles. What’s a couple of close calls among friends?

After getting back into town and wandering around for a few hours it was time to head back to the campground for a siesta. Apparently pulling a trailer with your motorcycle in it can wear a fella out. Pulling up to a stop sign leading up to the main drag in and out of Sturgis, my bike died. I fired it up, got a block further and it died again. Rinse, lather, repeat for another couple of blocks and then it wouldn’t start. An innocent bystander watching the parade of bikes rolling into town from his front yard, asked if I needed a ride somewhere, and I gladly accepted. Pretty handy having a pickup and trailer just down the road in the campground isn’t it?

I know what you’re thinking. Am I glad I towed the bike to the rally? Yes, and of course no. The unpredictability of a breakdown is always there no matter where you ride. I’ve been fortunate enough to not have this happen to me on any other trip, and I guess I was probably due. The fact that I trailered this year is pure luck and as a biker, we usually have a plan B in the event of a breakdown. You do have a plan B don’t you?

So as much as I wanted to stay, it was a little difficult getting around in the pickup. With my frustration level peaking, it was only logical to leave the rally early. Two days early. Driving as far as North Platte Nebraska to spend the night, the rain convinced me that I would rather be in the cab of the truck than on a bike. What is it about rain and Nebraska? Or am I getting soft? I think I actually used the word “delicate” earlier. Wednesday, when I should have been planning on an evening at The Knuckle Saloon for the fights I was changing a blowout on the trailer which ruined the tire and wheel. A borrowed trailer at that. Thanks Russ!

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All said, it was a trip to be remembered. Pictures? I took 14. Miles ridden? 80. Rain? Yes. Will there be a next year? Probably.

Next Stop – Clarityville

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I often wonder what really rolls around in this head of mine when I’m on my motorcycle. I do quite a bit of thinking behind my handlebars but to pinpoint one single thing would be difficult. My thoughts bounce around to many different things and sometimes even come back to the beginning of when the ride started. I’ve said I do my best thinking inside my helmet and this still holds true, but some days it’s hard to find clarity even on a perfect ride.

I need to get beyond the familiar 22 mile ride to work. Although this daily ride is good, it has become the source of a mental block that I’m finding hard to get around. Even an additional 10 miles added to the trip or an alternate route might suffice, but I still need to head in a different direction – maybe taking the long way to Clarityville. Fresh scenery and different smells would do my noggin some good. I’ve been to Clarityville before and its a nice place to visit on your motorcycle.

Fresh scenery and different smells would do my noggin some good. I’ve been to Clarityville before and its a nice place to visit on your motorcycle.

With Sturgis right around the corner, plans are being made. As always, I leave the “Last Minute” clause open in case I need to pull the plug. Things can change right up until the night before I leave and you have to be mentally prepared to throw in the towel and admit you’re not going. Fortunately for me, I haven’t had to exercise this clause but that’s not to say I haven’t stood there at the 11th hour (or was it 11 o’clock at night?) the night before staring at the bike loaded down patiently waiting to hit the road thinking I would have to cancel the trip. Bummer.

As it stands now, Sturgis looks like it’s a go. I need a vacation for sure, but I also need to put some miles under me and clean out some cobwebs in my head. What better way than to see some new countryside through these tired old eyes of mine?