Unpacking for the Ride


There is a reason you can only carry so much on a motorcycle. When we get on our bikes we are supposed to leave our baggage by the side of the road and put as many miles between us and all those things that pile up in the corners of our mind. We all know that riding gives us the freedom to let the weight of the world disappear (at least for a few miles), and if only for a little while we know things will be okay. So what do we do with all that stuff?

If you live by the rules of the road where “you can’t take it with you,” then what do you do with it? When I’m rolling down the highway on my motorcycle, I use this time to sort through what is really important and file it away by priority. I let my mind wander and I give myself permission to think about what I want to think about. The few things I have weighing on my mind that suddenly seem less important simply fall off the back of the bike. The ride is my way of working out the kinks and clearing off my desk, otherwise, it just keeps piling up and nothing gets done. But I’m lucky as I can do this while riding to and from work.

There are rides where we have a hard time leaving all of that stuff behind. We get out and twist the throttle only to come back and find our saddle bags are still full with all the frustrations and stress we started out with. Maybe the ride wasn’t long enough or we headed in the wrong direction only adding to the load that we so wanted to lose. Not for a lack of trying, but more of the wrong frame of mind. Just as one meditates or seeks therapy, results may vary depending upon your attitude. Just like taking the family on vacation, loading the car before the trip is easy – it’s when you get home and the car is a mess and you have more packed in the trunk than when you left. You forgot about the great time you just had because now it’s over and the real world is sitting in your driveway waiting for you to pull up to the house to welcome you back.

Let’s be real here. You don’t have to have your bike loaded to the mirrors to feel the weight of what’s pulling you down. It can be something as small as that cell phone you carry your entire life in. Of course you should take it with you if the ride is going to be of any length, but put it on silent or turn it off. Having it vibrate in your pocket is only going to mess with your head until you pull over and check it out. It can wait. You can wait.

Take the time to unpack before the ride, you will enjoy it that much more.




Motorcycles to Anamosa – J&P Cycles Open House

A couple of years ago I rode to Anamosa Iowa for J&P Cycles open house. The end of June was perfect and the weather was good with a slight chance of showers for part of the trip. But no worries, with warm weather a little shower wouldn’t matter. I left after work on my Heritage and planned on making Des Moines Iowa to spend the night. I don’t normally take the interstate but I needed to make a little time so look out big trucks and speeding cars!

A nice night in Des Moines and back on the road to Anamosa. You know at the time I had not ridden through Iowa on a motorcycle, so I was looking forward to it. It was also going to be my first trip to J&P’s and I couldn’t wait. The National Motorcycle Museum was also on my list, so quite frankly I couldn’t get there fast enough.

Now let’s be serious. We’ve all been to things like this, but as I pulled into the parking lot of motorcycles, I was amazed at the turn-out. The people working the event were directing people and it seemed like a well organized group. Very impressed! But wait this was just the beginning. In a box not far from me was a four inch square piece of plywood to put under my kickstand. what a great touch. That says to me that these people understand me and what is important to bikers in general. It’s weird to talk about a piece of wood like this but in that four inch square it might have well said “welcome my friend, we don’t want your bike to fall over”. Nice touch and I haven’t even walked through the split-rail gate to get to the open house.

The day was spent walking and talking to a lot of vendors and folks milling around. It was a beautiful day for watching a stunt show and some synchronized riding. All in all a great time. Fun and professional at the same time. Afterwords, a trip to the National Motorcycle Museum was just amazing. The history within those walls is a lifetime of labor and love for all that maintain it and enjoy it.

The trip was great. The food was good and the host John and Jill Parham, their son Zach and crew were awesome. Thanks for all you guys do and the passion you have for our sport, it’s history and future. You are good people.

If you ever get a chance, go. I mean it. GO! And tell the folks at J&P Cycle’s thanks. See you again this summer!

Lost and Found

Here I am cleaning my motorcycle. It’s been awhile and it needs to be done. I ride all the time and just like your car and all the stuff you carry, it gets to the point where my saddle bags are full. Full to the point that I can’t get the required loaf of bread in it when I am asked to bring it home after work. So as I sort through what is necessary and what isn’t, I find that I’m just a sneeze away from being a hoarder on two wheels.

The very top is easy. A lighter pair of gloves, and a hooded sweatshirt. Check. Tie down bungee cords and rain suit, check. A hat for those horrible helmet hair days, and a pair of sunglasses. Broken of course. And another pair of gloves. And who couldn’t use those? What is this, a multi-tool? Great! More bungee cords and a single glove. The left one  must surely be in the other saddle bag. I mean, why would I keep a single glove? As for the bottom of the bag I find my insurance and registration card in a small zip-lock baggie which has a hole worn in it and some small things like sun screen and lip balm, and receipts for milk, bread, soda, chips and dog food!

One bag down and one to go. A tool roll and bug cleaner. Micro fiber towel and a pair of sunglasses. Not my style and I’m sure they’re not mine. Probably a find on the road somewhere and to good to throw away. Tennis shoes and teryaki beef jerky, and it’s still good. Another rain suit that has a story all to itself and wait, another bag of beef jerky that is not so good! That one was from a trip to Dodge City two years ago as it still had the receipt with it. Has it been that long? Not the trip…the beef jerky. I thought it lasted forever. For a second there I thought I saw the end of time where canned goods and beef jerky both had the same expiration date. Nearing the bottom I find the source of a lot of discussions about memory loss and the onset of aging gracefully. A Blackberry cell phone. You guessed it. The trip to Dodge City where I swore I left it in the Hotel. After many calls to them and all but riding out there to prove them wrong, I have to admit they were right. It’s funny how I knew every detail of the trip, where the phone was sitting in the room plugged into the charger, and the exact moment where the employees were making long phone calls to distant relatives while I was on the return trip home. But alas, phone records showed me otherwise.

So it’s been a couple of years since I’ve sorted through the necessities of the road. Now I have a little more room for this season’s travels, and soon I will mention the back story of the second rain suit. Melted leg and all! If I can remember it…


The View from the Road

It happened a couple of times every year. The family vacation to Colorado or Nebraska was a good trip and it was always nice to get out of the small town and hit the road. Me being the youngest of three kids, my place was sitting between my brother Danny and sister Jan in the back seat. I don’t need to say anything else to all of you “youngest”, but it was the least comfortable place to be because there was no window and nothing to lean against that didn’t punch you. At times, before I started growing like a weed, I would actually lay on the rear deck in the back window. I can hear it now, “How could they allow their child to be in a car unrestrained and in harm’s way”? It was the late 60’s and early 70’s so what do you expect! Most people didn’t think about that and admit it, you’ve been there.

As my sister grew up and left the house there became more room in the back seat which was good because I was growing as well. Then it became my turn to sit by the window. We didn’t have cell phones, i-pads or dvd players. The only thing we had was an 8-track player in the car with Gordon Lightfoots’ Greatest Hits playing, and our imaginations. So for many hours driving across Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado I used my imagination to keep me occupied. Mostly pretending I was on Roger DeCoster’s motocross bike just inside the fence line along the highway. Jumping the fences as they came up was easy as someone had conveniently placed a mound of dirt there for me to get over it. If the path got to be impossible I would move to the ditch and continue. After all it was MY imagination! Speed wasn’t important, I could keep up with the car no matter what. I was that good.

When my brother finally moved out I had the back seat to myself. It’s funny how lonely it can be even when you didn’t like the cramped conditions to begin with. So as the road trip began, it was my mother and father, me and Gordon Lightfoot. The Fury III was a large car and the vinyl seats were comfortable. For those of you that don’t know, vinyl is a material that was designed to adhere skin to car seats. Lucky for me I was a self conscious preteen at the time and always wore jeans.

 I found that my imagination has remained with me. I still look at the terrain along the road and the tree lined roads with fences. The ups and downs and the deepness of the ditch. I don’t imagine myself riding along the car as every great motocrosser has to retire sometime, but I have to admit that I have watched my shadow rolling along beside me when riding my motorcycle. Wow, I look good! And you would think I would know every word to every song Gordon Lightfoot sang. And maybe I do. Some things you just can’t forget.

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