24 December 2008

Merry Christmas

We took a walk, my dog and I, early in the morning Christmas Eve. The last few weeks, we have been overwhelmed with record snowfall and today looked as though it was going to be the only day with weather calm enough to let my German shepherd stretch her legs with a brief walk. Flicka’s leash in one hand, my camera in the other, we set a casual pace down a narrow lane in the first blue light of the morning; searching for a subject suitable for a holiday theme that I could post here.

This was the calm between two storms, the next arriving this afternoon, and hitting us hard on Christmas day. We will most certainly have a white Christmas this year.

There was no wind yet, not even a whisper of a breeze up in the snow covered pines that stood alongside the narrow path. I say path, it is actually a road out in the country, plowed wide enough to allow only a single vehicle at a time, a farmers access to something, most likely. The only sound, other than the crunching of the snow beneath my feet was a chittering squirrel up in the trees. An obese looking little creature with his winter fur and round belly, his athleticism was still respectable as he soared from limb to limb, dislodging the snow from the boughs with every landing. Too far away to photo, but his aerobatics were entertaining nonetheless.

As we walked, searching for a subject with a Christmas oriented theme, I thought back on the past year; of beginning this online journal with a focus towards motorcycles. I knew very little of blogging or of what to expect, therefore, I expected nothing; the only difference in respect to what I have always done with my journaling is that now I post some of my stuff here. What I discovered was a diverse community of people with similar interests from everywhere, sharing their experiences where ever they ride. What a concept.

I have enjoyed reading about new riders like Cecilie Hoffman early on when she first began her blog years ago and continued reading as she progressed in her skills and travels. I have found myself beholden to the instruction and counsel that Irondad has offered in his posts through the years, I’m always learning something there. Steve Williams and Alessandro Melillo for their writing and photography; I could go on, and I did in my thoughts as Flicka and I navigated the narrow country lane, down the side of a hill onto the valley floor below.

By now the sun had risen and as we rounded a curve in the road, we came upon a lone barn nestled up along the forest’s edge at the south end of the valley. It was here that the plowed road ended, a few hundred feet from the barn. For whatever reason, whoever plowed the way here to this valley floor had stopped, we did too. We stood there for a few minutes and watched the sunrise in this snow covered valley, at some point, a breeze developed and began to gently push on the back of my hooded jacket, I took this picture.

Lone Barn on the valley floor

We stayed a little while longer and then we turned our faces into the crisp breathe of winter and followed our tracks home.

Merry Christmas from the Palouse country to all of the new friends that I have made here in the past year, from the Turkish Coast to Canada and all points in between, God to you all.


21 December 2008

Meán Gheimhridh

This time of the year has been celebrated worldwide for thousands of years, so I know that it’s not just me.

The Celts recognized it as Meán Geimhridh, the Scots called it Hogmanay, a festival that was “imported” by the raiding and occupying Norse and embraced by the Scots, a variation of this festival is still referred to as “the Yules” on the Scottish Shetland Islands; 7th century Japan recognized it as Amaterasu, in Peru, Inti Raymi.

Whatever the culture and however it has been known, it has been recognized all around the world throughout the centuries. Most English speaking cultures recognize it currently by the Latin form of the words Sol- meaning “the sun” and Sistere- “to stand still”. The Solstice, which, in the winter represents the ebbing of the Suns lowest point on the horizon and marks the beginning of its ascent back into the sky and to longer and warmer days!

Noonday solstice sun on the Palouse

For those of us up here in the more northern parts of the world, the suns low position and shorter days are rather apparent, and every year that I grow older, seems to affect my mood a little more.
As of now, I can watch the weather forecast on the evening news every night with a little more enthusiasm and observe the daylight hours grow longer minute by minute and day by day, all the while, restlessly squirming in my lazy boy like a little kid in the pews during Sunday service making revving noises under my breath, shifting gears as I steal away down a quiet country road, warm wind on my neck and the scent of forest pine in my helmet.

Palouse sunset during the Winter Solstice

Every culture has a different name, and a different celebration for this specific time of the year. I don’t know what the motorcycle culture would call this time of the year but I do know how we’ll celebrate once the snow melts off of the roads.

Ride Well (At least in spirit)


07 December 2008

A small change

With the skies around here changing from countless days of sunshine all summer long, to the grey looming ceiling that is now present and probably won't disappear in it's entirety for the next few months, I needed something to remind me of what will be coming back. That is, warm and gentle summer evenings, therefore, I thought that I would change my blog title photo to remind me that those days will return.

The day that I took this photo, the weather was more than just a little warm, the temperatures were up in 100's. I took a ride during the evening when the temperature was starting to cool off a little and stopped here at the top of a small butte out in the Palouse.

Even though the daytime heat was stifling, the ride that I took that evening and on into the night was a memorable one. With the shorter cloud covered days dominating the weather here now, I just needed something to remind me that those warm summer evenings will return.

Ride well


24 November 2008

Journal entry Sep 8th, 2008

Here's one for you that I'd thought I'd share.

I was cleaning out my saddle bags this evening and found this entry in my journal from a ride that I took back in September, far to the eastern edge of the Idaho border. This is very thick forest, very thick! Many times while riding the trails, I couldn't see much of anything, occasionally the forest would open up for a moment and reveal to me what I was riding through. I will return, I promise.

Journal entry

Sep. 8th, 2008 Eastern Idaho

Traveling east, every passing mile takes me farther; farther away from the complexities of the city, the din of traffic and bellicose drivers.
With every rotation of the wheels, the cars traveling in the opposite direction seem to grow a little older, the houses a little more simple; materialism begins to wane.
The highway narrows down to a two lane country road and then becomes a forest service road, and then a nameless trail.

We find our way to where we are now, deep in the forest, resting by the trail, enjoying a light lunch.
The forest doesn’t make a sound, not a whisper.
The sun is high in the sky but any direct light fails to reach through the canopy of trees.

Lying here on the forest floor, my jacket propped beneath my head, eyelids closed, wide awake, I listen.
I listen for anything and there is nothing.
Tomorrow when I am at work, back in the endless rush of the city, I will think of this moment here with my bike in the half-light of the forest....................and miss this.

Ride Well


15 November 2008

Two roads to Riggins

This is the final post detailing the ride that I took back in July to Central Idaho. The first two posts "A positive experience" and "If I was Calvin and Hobbes was a tall green bike" told of my experiences with the gentleman on the Harley from Mountain Home, Idaho and the confused fly-fisherman as he watched me exiting the wilderness like I was Sasquatch or some other strange critter. This post is a little more lengthy than I would like but, I really wanted to get it finished before next July.

I sat there on my bike smiling, idling in the middle of the road, my left hand holding in the clutch lever and my right index and middle finger gently pulling the opposite lever for the brake. After what must’ve been at least a good hour or so of riding a quiet, meandering two lane highway through the woods of Central Idaho, I arrived at an intersection in the middle of nowhere. I was smiling because of the two signs that divided the Tee in the road; the upper sign, pointing to the left and showing the way along a continuation of the same paved road that I had been navigating read, “Riggins-62 miles”, the lower sign pointing to the right and showing a more primitive route along a well groomed forest service road read, “Riggins-28 miles”. I have seen a lot of different things in my travels, but this is the first time that I can recall seeing something like this. Maybe it’s more common than I realize maybe it’s common in those places such as this, where towns are far and few between and the roads all lead to the same destination? Two obviously different means to an end, and I had to make a decision.

The sun had passed the halfway point in the sky and had begun its descent to the west, my G.P.S. displayed that the time was 1344 hours, more importantly, the distance from where I stood there idling on that quiet forest highway to my driveway was 203 miles away. I had the G.P.S. set up to measure straight line distances, “As the crow flies” if you will, but crows seldom fly in straight lines and neither did my bike and I, simply put, I was long way from home and I had to be back to work tomorrow. I didn’t know exactly where I was but I did know where Riggins was, it was either 62 miles away or 28 miles away depending on how you read the signs. I knew how long it would take me to get home from Riggins once I got there, but I had to get there first. If I turned around and went back the same way that I came, all adventure was lost, If I turned to the left, staying on the paved road, I knew that I could be in Riggins in roughly an hour or so, if I turned right, there were a lot more variables. Missing forest service signs allowing me to lose my route, rough terrain, or closed roads, any number of things could prolong my “28 mile” route. Turning around was already discovered territory, turning left was a pretty sure bet at an accurate ETA, however, turning right was one of the reasons I bought my KLR. Without hesitation, I turned right.

The Forest service road had a fresh layer of pea sized gravel on it, which in most cases would have made for a pretty comfortable ride; the loose gravel however, made things a little squirrelly for me initially. Perhaps this was magnified only because of the pampering that I received by the previous 70 miles of perfect asphalt. For the first ten miles or so, I had my attention solely on how the bike and I were reacting and adjusting to the gravel, after that, I settled down a bit and began to enjoy the ride.

Traveling in a Southwesterly direction, it was becoming more and more evident that I was leaving the thick forests that I had been riding through for most of the morning and steadily approaching Hells Canyon, the scent of pine was giving way to the pungent aroma of sagebrush and within a half an hour I was rolling out of the forest and across the high prairie on the northeastern slope of Hells Canyon.

Hells Canyon is roughly a ten mile wide canyon that is located on the Eastern Oregon, Western Idaho border. It is the deepest river gorge in North America at almost 8000 feet in its deepest areas. I was not exactly on the eastern slope of the main canyon, the most widely accepted part of what is known as “Hells Canyon” lies farther south-southwest, I was descending down the spine of a hogs back shaped slope at the southwest corner of the Camas prairie into one of the side canyons that most locals may or may not recognize as the beginning of the canyon, depending on who you talk to; things definitely start to go downhill from here though and regardless of what it was named, it was indeed a canyon.

It can be difficult to remember, sitting here at my computer in the middle of November, what may have occupied my thoughts at that specific time as I made my descent into the broad mouth of the canyon. My journal offers my best recollection as to what I was observing while I rested for a moment in the shade of a small stand of fir trees.

“Water break: temperatures I would guess to be right around 85 degrees, a little too warm for my favorite jacket, just about right for my ventilated mesh gear. There is a slight breeze out of the south, really feels quite pleasant. The base of the canyon looks extremely hot, I can see the heat radiating below me, rising up from the depths, refracting the view of the steep prairie slopes on the opposite side. I can see the thin black silhouette of Oregon to the south and Washington State to the Northwest. The sky at this elevation is a brilliant blue and nearly cloudless save for the thunderheads building up to the north near Grangeville. Don’t really look forward to going down into that canyon, it looks really hot down there, but it’s the quickest way out. I can see White bird grade from here, my way out, looks to be a good five miles away straight across on the other side.”

As I stowed my journal and water bottle back in the saddlebag, I pulled out my point and shoot camera and took a quick picture from the saddle of my bike. With the naked eye, I could follow the road that I was on, from where I was perched, nearly to the base of the canyon; it was all down hill from here to the bottom. With the camera secured in the tail bag, I nudged the transmission into neutral and gave the bike a gentle push and we were moving again, coasting quietly into the canyon, powered only by the gravitational pull of the eastern slope; the only sounds were the wind across my helmet the crunching of the gravel beneath my wheels and the buzz of my chain against the sprockets. Occasionally my tires would pick up a few pebbles and throw them into the fenders or out ahead of me and my bike. About halfway down, the heat began to lick up under my helmet, reminding me why I escaped into the high country earlier in the day, by the time we reached the bottom, the heat was stifling, I turned on the ignition, shifted the bike into third gear, let out the clutch and we were off, cruising along on engine power once again and desperately looking for the nearest ramp to get up onto Route 195. It was obvious to me at this point that I must have made a few wrong turns, one of the indicators was my odometer had indicated an additional 10 miles to the projected 28 that the sign pointing the way to Riggins had shown. The other was that I had not made it to Riggins, instead, I found myself arriving in the small community of Lucille, a few miles north of my intended destination. Basically this meant that it had taken me ten miles farther to travel to the closer town, go figure.

There isn’t much to the town of Lucille; nestled at the foot of the White bird grade, I would guess the population of this community to be maybe 50 to 100 inhabitants max. Tucked in firmly where the east and west slopes diverge, there is little room for expansion in this town, corralled by the canyon walls, the only direction to look any notable distance is up. A few tightly grouped homes, a small post office with whitewashed cedar lap and a brick saloon made up the whole of Lucille.

Nothing stirred at this hour and in this heat; a few late model pick-up trucks parked in the driveways were the only evidence that maybe I wasn’t alone in this community. The heat was absurd; every breath reminded me of the rush of hot air that follows when you open the door to a woodstove, exposing the coals, instinctively forcing you to withdrawal from the flame, the air was very hot and dry. Finding the on-ramp to 195 at the far end of town was my ticket out of this furnace, it was time to head north for home.

Shifting through the gears, we accelerated onto the highway merging into the left-hand lane and staying there, passing the long and slow caravan of Motor homes and Semi-trucks clawing their way up the grade over in the right-hand lane. Carrying me confidently on her back, my bike climbed out of the radiating depths of Hell’s canyon like a Homesick Angel. Every foot in elevation that my G.P.S. added, I could feel the subsequent drop in temperature and I actually began to feel the chill of my sweat under my helmet and riding gear as we made our ascent up the grade, it was wonderful! Something else that comforted me was that the temperature gauge on the bike in this triple digit heat while climbing a 6% grade never exceeded the half-way mark.

The closer I came to the rim, the darker the skies had become. Those thunderheads that I had noticed during my break on the eastern slope were now a large thunderstorm, no doubt, I was going to get wet.
As if almost on cue, the moment I exited the rim of the canyon and leveled out back up onto the Camas prairie, the first drops of water began streaking across my face shield.

Thinking back, I don’t know what left its broadest imprint on that moment of the ride; whether it was the cooling effect of the road spray on my exposed neck, the scent of the lavender fields that I found myself riding through at that same moment on the western slope or the metallic taste in the air created by the sudden summer rainfall against the hot asphalt of the highway; maybe it was the combination of all of those things.

The remainder of the ride from the southern tip of the Camas prairie back home to my Palouse country was the familiar routine that I always descend comfortably into at the beginning of any long leg of a trip. Settling the bike into a smooth canter; my right and left index fingers eventually find themselves resting atop the clutch and brake levers, my lower back arched, coaxing my chest gently into the wind and my feet perched comfortably up on the pegs with the heel of my right boot always seeming to find itself resting against the bracket of the rear brake reservoir, and my imagination wandering off to countless places during the course of the ride and following no particular order.

14 hours from the time that I began my ride that morning, I pulled back into my driveway and dismounted the bike. My body was shattered from the prolonged heat and I was looking forward to spending the rest of the evening in the air conditioned comfort of my house with my dog, a Rib-eye steak and a baseball game. I took a step back to look at my bike one last time before going inside. She ran pretty much non-stop for the past 14 hours and was covered with 450 miles of road grime and tar and over 100 miles of Central Idaho’s finest dirt, through it all, she didn’t miss a beat. I was done for the day, but the bike sat there poised on her side stand like she was ready to go for another 14 hours. I love that bike.

As I made my way to the front door of the house, jacket unzipped and helmet off, I reflected on the various moments of the ride. With every step towards the house I thought of a different experience; every step reflected back to the man on the Pearlescent white Road King, and of thick forest canopies, and bewildered fly-fisherman. With every foot fall, my memory returned to the descent down the eastern slope of the canyon, the stifling heat at its base and the escape out the other side, out onto the western slope of the Camas prairie, of lavender fields and the blessing of a summer’s rain. Walking up my front steps to my door I thought to myself just as I turned the handle and pushed the door open to be greeted by my German shepherd, “Today was a good day.”

Ride well


01 November 2008

It's been awhile

Shhhh! Don’t let anybody know that I’m here, doing this, you know typing on my computer.......at home.

The past two months have been a blur of activities; a long list of chores that need to be completed before the snow and cold weather settle in for the season, somewhere in the middle of the frenzy, I had family visit me from New York, leaving very little spare time to do things that are a part of my normal routine. It wasn’t until I leaned over to fire up my computer that I realized how long that I have been away. It has been a while.

I still have quite a bit to do on my punch list, today is all about firewood and an oil change or two, we’ll see about that. I figure that if I can manage to keep a low profile, nobody will know that I am home therefore freeing up the morning to do something that I haven’t had the opportunity to do in a while, sitting idle.

We have been blessed with a perfect autumn around these parts though, I can’t believe that today is the first day of November and the temperature is expected to be around 60 degrees. I have been riding a lot, another blessing, and I have a lot to share. Looking at some of my previous posts, I still have to complete my post about the ride that I took in Idaho back in July, since then I have experienced a lot of other things of the two wheeled nature as well. There is plenty to post about, as things slow down in the coming weeks; I look forward to catching up.

A brief encounter with Captain Obvious

One quick story before I end this post, about an encounter that I had at a gas station in the middle of the night in downtown Spokane (a lot of encounters seem to occur while we refuel, don’t they?).

Friday night, two weeks ago, the company that I work for had our annual inventory. This is always a marathon day. This particular day started at 6:00 Friday morning and ended at 12:30 Saturday morning. My brain was pretty much shattered from the long day and I was in a miserable mood, frowning under my helmet as I left work, longing for my bed. I was about two blocks from the freeway on-ramp when I had to turn the fuel petcock, over to reserve. Crap! All I wanted to do was go straight home and go to bed, now I had to stop for gas.

I usually keep my helmet on when I refuel the bike, but I removed it this time so that I could take a couple of aspirin that I had stowed in my saddle bags, I needed to take something to ease the pounding in my head.

Filling the tank, I noticed a gentleman wearing a Green Bay Packers jacket and Seattle Seahawks hat (must’ve been a Mike Holmgren fan) staggering his way in my general direction. I tried my best to give him my “go away” look but he stopped anyway, staring at the bike from the other side of the fuel pump. Inevitably, he started talking to me in a slurred, drunken speech, great I just want to go home and now I have to deal with a chatterbox drunk!
“What is that an Enduro?” (Enduro? I haven’t heard that description in years)
“Uhhh, yeah you could call it that.”
I continued to give him my “I don’t want to talk to you look”, it wasn’t working, he kept talking.
He announced, “You know, I had a bike once.”
I don’t know why I continued the conversation by asking the question, maybe it’s just because somewhere deep down I have a need to talk about bikes, even if it was with an inebriated Packers-Seahawks fan at a gas station in the middle of the night.
“Oh yeah” I replied trying really hard by now to look stoic and disinterested. I had finished filling the tank and had turned the petcock back to the “on” position and was preparing to put my helmet on.
“Yeah........it was a Harley” he replied.
By this time I didn’t care, I didn’t want to talk to him in the first place, but feeding the conversation along like the glutton I was, I had to ask, “What kind?”
There was a brief pause as he thought hard about the kind of Harley he used to ride.
Then he proclaimed, “Davidson!”
I cracked up, laughing as I finished strapping the helmet and thumbing the starter I said, “Those are the best kind.”

I smiled the rest of the way home, thanks Captain Obvious!

Ride well


28 September 2008


I dismounted the bike last Saturday evening, and I felt that something was not quite right. I couldn't put my finger on it, but there was a feeling that something was askew.

I awoke Sunday morning to my answer. A sore throat and a nose that was running like a champ! Crud. I was sick.

I don't know if this has been a really bad cold or a mild flu but it has gotten the best of me this week. I haven't ridden to work for the past week, the vertigo won't allow it. When I arrive home, it's straight from the car to the bed (my German Shepherd doesn't really appreciate that either).

The only thing on my to do list today is to pull the wires out from beneath my seat for my electric gear. The vertigo appears to be gone, and the Kleenex box has gone untouched since yesterday morning.

I am not 100% yet but it appears that I am on the down hill side of this thing now, hopefully I will be able to return to my normal routine tomorrow, the dog will appreciate that at least.

Ride Well


14 September 2008

Living in the now

For the past month or so, I’ve been reading a lot of posts about the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. Some have noted the brevity of summer and have been fretting the number of rides that are left in the season before the temperatures plummet and the snow begins to fall. I admit that those same thoughts have been rattling around in my mind as well.

I have never really put my bike to bed in the winter months; usually the weather during that time of the year is mild enough for me to steal a ride at least a couple of times a month; Last year wasn’t really one of those “mild winters”. Perhaps that is why summer seems to have come and gone so quickly for me. Usually, as the season’s age, I find myself looking forward to the change, that hasn’t been the case this year, not with summer at least.

The long winter of last year found me a number of times stuck on either the “at home” or the “at work” end of my commute with a closed road blocking the way to my destination. That’s never happened in all of the years that I have spent out here on the Palouse. By the time spring finally arrived, I was worn out, almost everyone around here was. Our spring didn’t help that much either; cold and rainy and generally miserable, there was even a dusting of snow and frost in June (another first for me around here)! I wasn’t ready for summer to end, not yet, and that’s a shame, because autumn is my favorite time of year.

Round barn on the Palouse

I awoke this morning to the usual ritual of what has become my alarm clock on the weekends, which is a 90 lb. German shepherd bouncing on my bed like “Tigger” taking playful random bites at whatever part of my body resists. There is no “snooze” button on this alarm clock other than getting up and getting a start on the morning. The interesting part of this alarm clock is that usually once I have finished my shower and have begun my normal morning routine, Flicka (that’s the name of said alarm clock) usually lies down and takes a nap, go figure.

With the chores of my morning routine complete, I geared up for a ride. As I started dressing for the ride, somewhere in the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking of how many of these perfect mornings remained and all of the things that I had left to complete on my “to do” list, decking, fencing, yard work, painting, how soon would my truck get out of the paint shop to begin doing some of this heavy stuff, things like that.......... All of this needs to be done before the snow flies, the brisk morning air serving as a reminder that my days are limited.

Throwing my leg over the bike and giving the transmission a gentle stab into first gear, all of those concerns wander off.

We settle into a mild canter, my bike and I, weaving our way through the quiet roads of the Palouse. All around me are shades of brown, yellow and green; some of the shades are of fields of recently harvested wheat while others are fields still waiting to be reaped; some will lay fallow for a season, giving them a chance to rest, and a few are freshly sewn in tight rows. Throughout the ride, my bike, as always, doesn’t complain; she thumps a steady cadence down the highway.

In her own special way, without words, without any language at all except for providing me with the experience of the cool September air rushing by and the sun riding a little lower in the sky, casting longer shadows on the buttes and valleys and the occasional scent of soil recently turned over by the farmers plow, she conveys the importance of living in the present.

Paraglider sailing the Autumn wind
beneath me.

In her eloquence, she reminds me that it is the ride we are on, this one now; no thoughts of yesterday’s commutes or concerns of tomorrow’s imminent storms, it is about the two of us in the present and enjoying the birth of yet another Autumn.

My bike and the way she keeps me in the present moment, she is special that way, perhaps all bikes are.

Realize deeply that the present moment

is all you ever have.

Eckhart Tolle

Ride well.


01 September 2008

If I was Calvin and Hobbes was a tall green bike

The expression on the Fly-fisherman’s face was priceless. Descending out of the forest, I noticed him from a distance. I had been navigating the deep woods for about an hour and a half and this gentleman was the first sign of evidence that civilization was near.

As I idled down the game trail that followed the banks of the river, approaching the fisherman, I noticed that his attention was fixed squarely on me and my bike. He stood there knee deep in the river, in the classic pose of a fly-fisherman; wearing waders and a fishing cap with various feathered tackle orbiting around his head, stabbed into the brow of what must’ve been his lucky hat and sporting a pair of wide rimmed polarized glasses, the kind with the blinders on the ear stems to discourage any raw light from distracting his vision.

The closer I approached, the more focused his stare became. I must have been a rather peculiar sight in my own right, heavily dressed in my riding gear. To the average Joe, it probably appeared like I was dressed more for snowmobiling than I was for trail riding in the middle of July.

Idaho is one of the few states left that doesn’t have a helmet law and a large majority of the motorcycling public appears to still ride without them, so the sight of me wearing a helmet is good enough to merit a second glance in this neck of the woods. Add to that my black riding jacket, armored pants, boots and gloves; I can’t imagine what thoughts were running through this fellow’s head. Nevertheless, he was the best source of information that I had to steer me back towards something familiar.

I don’t know if Fly-fisherman spook that easily, so I tried to make my body language appear calm and friendly as I dismounted the bike and took off my helmet and gloves. Unzipping my jacket as I approached him, I attempted a sincere smile and asked if he was having any luck.
“Nah, not anymore, it’s getting too hot; I’m about ready to call it quits.”
When I asked what fish he was after.
“Anything that’ll strike” was his reply.
Then as smoothly as I could possibly ask the question, I inquired “Where am I and where can I find the nearest town?” There was a brief pause before he answered, “Your on the Central Fork of the Snake, Grangeville’s that way about uh, twenty miles or so.” Pointing his right hand due west, down the trail in the same direction that my bike was aiming.
“Stay on that trail and you’ll find your way up to the highway in a few hundred yards.”
I thanked him and then walked back to the bike and pulled out my point and shoot digital camera and took a few shots of the river and my bike trying my best to look the part of Clark Griswold and not like Charles Manson. The fisherman never took his eyes off of me.

I stowed the camera, took a quick swallow of water from one of the bottles in my saddle bag and put my helmet and gloves back on. Starting the bike, I very deliberately let the clutch out nice and slow so as not to disrupt the rocks on the trail and gave the fisherman one last wave. He returned the gesture and for the first time since my arrival, turned his eyes away from me and back to his river.

The highway was exactly where he said it would be and in no time I was heading west on a very twisty stretch of narrow two lane asphalt. The suspension compressing and rebounding in the turns, I smooth clutched the gears as I approached the apex and rolled on the throttle as my big single thumped her way out. This was a complete change from the style of riding that I was practicing not more than 15 minutes ago. The serenity of the shade in the forest canopy and the conservative nature of caressing the bike on the game trail for the past hour or so were now interrupted by maintaining proper lines through tight first and second gear curves and concentrating on staying ahead of the bike to avoid any unpleasant surprises on this unfamiliar stretch of road; A sudden shot of caffeine in an otherwise mellow herbal tea.

The plan was to ride back to civilization, regroup, and then find some equally interesting places to ride. That was the plan until I came to the fork in the road.

Where the road veered to the right was a wide stretch of friendly looking two-lane highway, complete with centerline stripes and comfortable broad painted shoulders on both sides, the sign in the center of the fork with the arrow pointing to the right suggested that this was the way to Grangeville. The road to the left was a menacing and narrow piece of asphalt that shot straight up and disappeared almost immediately around the base of the canyon wall, an ominous yellow sign warned motorists, “10% grade ahead.” The arrow for this road pointed at a 45 degree angle up and to the left and read simply enough, “Mt. Idaho”.

I don’t know what the expression on my face looked like, but I imagine that it was something similar to the contorted evil look that Calvin wore as he snuck up behind Suzy with a slush ball. I was suddenly up to no good and I think that my bike knew it; playing along like a veritable Hobbes, ready to pounce like Tigers often do! Before I knew it I was pushing on the left side of the handlebars and tapping down a gear or two with my left toe to accelerate up the abrupt grade. The suspension compressed a couple of inches as we attacked the base of the mountain and we were off. I won’t bore you with too many of the details of the next twenty miles, all that I can say is that my helmet was filled with superlatives and primal grunts and childlike squealing. I could sense the frustration from my G.P.S. as it tried to keep up with me and the bike, it almost appeared to be begging me to slow down, counting off the altitude in hundreds of feet not in the usual five’s and ten’s that it usually does; I honestly think that it was out of breath by the time that we reached the top of the grade, gasping for air, or 1’s and 0’s in this case (binary humor).

For almost two hours beyond where I met the fisherman, I rode along an endlessly twisting road and during those two hours, I met only one vehicle. The farther I rode, the more cautious I became of my riding; the gift of my solitude could quickly become a bitter curse of a lone rider should I wander off course and into the woods. I didn’t know where this road led; it was a beautiful ride though. An assortment of Conifers and Deciduous trees crowded the side of the narrow road creating a variety of texture and color in the forest; occasionally a marsh would appear, letting my eyes stretch a bit, eager to find some big game out among the tree line. I saw nothing. Not today. Not in this heat.
The time to make a decision was getting close, I knew where I had come from and how to get home by taking that route, but the adventure would be missing if I turned around and followed that course; I had plenty of fuel to press on, but how much further? Another twenty miles down the road and a countless number of turns later, I was given a choice.

I came to a T in the road with an interesting sign. The sign that pointed to the left read, “Riggins 62 miles”, the road was a continuation of the same road that I had been traveling; a beautiful smooth stretch of lonely asphalt. The sign that pointed to the Right read, oddly enough, “Riggins 28 miles”, it was not paved, instead it looked to be a well maintained forest service road. I had more than enough fuel to turn left and stay on the asphalt that would probably ensure that I would arrive there comfortably within an hour or so; then again I was riding my KLR, one of the main reasons for purchasing this bike was to take me down these forest roads and into the unknown. With the sun cresting its highest point in the sky and a long way from home, I had to make a decision........

A while after completing this ride, it occurred to me that I never did find Mt. Idaho. Somewhere in my wandering, I had strayed off course and missed any further road signs leading the way. I googled it this evening to learn more about this place, Mt. Idaho is a place that I will return to as a destination.

Ride Well


23 August 2008

Evening Ride

I took an evening ride last Sunday after the strongest portion of the summer’s heat had faded. An hour or so of sunlight remained as I headed east from my house, aiming my bike for the nearest dirt road. The first portion of the ride would be brief as I made my way to the top of one of the smaller bluffs that overlooked the Palouse.

Preferring the view from the top of the hill, I decided to stop and wait awhile to see what display the sun might provide that evening. There was a haze on the horizon, a blend of smoke from distant fires to the west and wheat dust stirred up by an army of farmers harvesting their crop.

From an intense yellow into a deep crimson, the sun spilled its colors into the sky and over the rolling countryside. Rows of grain swirling in a slant of light, a serpentine maze around the rolling buttes; the scent of ripening wheat carried on the warm summer breeze.

To the east, a full moon rose out of the silhouetted mountains of the Idaho panhandle, contrasting in the fading twilight with the rolling hills of Washington State in the foreground.

Resting there on the tender slope of a recently harvested hillside, staring at the side of the world, I fixed my eyes west; over countless knolls and valleys and imagined the places that I have been; out there just beyond the horizon. The Cascades, the Olympic peninsula Mts. Hood, Baker, St. Helens and Rainier; veritable giants, all of them out of sight, but clearly visible in my minds eye. From my view on this diminutive butte, my imagination needed little help to visualize those distant places, places that I wish to visit again and definitely with my bike.

There is little moisture in the air out here and with no cloud cover to trap the hot air; the triple digit temperatures from earlier in the day began to drop. Time to ride. I stayed on the dirt road that I was on to where it ended at an unknown highway. This happens a lot out here in regards to losing ones sense of place. There are only a few landmarks to navigate by and when they are out of sight it can be anybodies guess as to where I might wind up. I have become familiar with some of the roads out here, but I am still a stranger to many. When that happens, I ride until I find something recognizable, a grain elevator, a farm, or perhaps an occasional road sign that will point me towards something that I might know. I love discovery, getting lost is something that gives me very little discomfort; I remained lost that evening for about another thirty minutes or so until my mystery highway intersected with one that I knew well.
I followed that road home.

The heat was stifling last weekend, too hot to enjoy riding in the middle of the day; that evening ride provided the balance that I needed to begin my work week on Monday. The drastic temperature change and rain showers that followed through the middle of the week provided the rest of that balance. Entering this weekend, things look perfect.

What to do.

Ride Well.


15 August 2008

A positive experience

I've been working on posting about a ride that I took into the wilderness of Northern Idaho a few weeks ago for a while now and have been struggling with keeping the post brief enough, and yet, trying to share all of the things that happened on the ride. I'm finding it rather difficult to write in about 1000 words or so of my 14 hour ride that covered over 100 miles of wilderness, and another 450 miles of some of the "blue roads" of Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington.

Instead, I have decided to break it down into a number of smaller posts like the one here about my experience with a man and his gorgeous Harley. Thinking back on this encounter from a month ago, I feel the world needs more people like this fellow.

He and I were directly across from one another at the gas pump, topping off our tanks; the white haired gentleman fueling his Harley, and me, with my Kawasaki. He rode a custom painted Road King with the hard saddle bags; a beautiful Pearlescent white covered everything, including the bags. Only a few select parts were trimmed out in chrome, well balanced, very well done! He was a large man, standing every inch as tall as myself only he had a solid 40 or 50 lbs on me. Frost white hair and goatee accentuated by a tan so dark he was almost a deep red; it was obvious that this guy had spent some serious saddle time on his bike.

As we fueled up, I could sense that he was staring me down from behind his biker shades. I tried to remain indifferent, but eventually gave in and looked away from the pump and over at him, from beneath his mustache I could see that he was smiling. Not the condescending type of smirk that seems so ubiquitous these days, but a warm one; one that looked like he was projecting himself onto my bike and riding away satisfied, yes satisfied! As he hung the handle back up on his side of the pump, he leaned a little closer in my direction and uttered three words that I have never heard come from the mouth of someone who owned a Harley-Davidson.
“I envy you.”
A blank stare was coming from my side of the fuel island, my eyes just blinked in disbelief.
“Come again?”
I had heard what he said, I just couldn’t quite understand why he was saying that to me, there was a part of me that was bracing for the punch line.
This time a little louder, he said, “I envy you.”
More blank stares.
“I love my Harley, but you can go almost anywhere you want with your bike.” I could feel the envy in his tone of voice, it was honest, genuine. As I hung up my pump, we rolled our bikes out of the way of the busy fuel station to talk for a while. He was from the south end of the state, Mountain Home, Idaho (Ironically, Mountain Home is not home to many mountains), and was up in the panhandle with the same intentions that I had, to ride over Lolo pass, he was coming from, I was heading towards.
He told me how he, like so many of us, grew up riding dirt bikes, moved on to a number of Japanese street bikes through the 80’s, and then made the step to Harley’s about 15 years ago, the Road King was his third.

We must’ve seemed like an odd pair standing there together at that gas station in the mountains of Kooskia, Idaho, the large white haired man in his black leather vest and white t-shirt and me, laden in all of my protective gear. We talked for about twenty minutes or so, exchanging various stories about the motorcycles of our childhood; at one point I decided to stow my cold weather jacket in exchange for my lighter, warm weather one that I had in my tail bag, he just kept smiling, too polite to mock me. Eventually we mounted our bikes and nodded our goodbyes to one another, we pulled out of the gas station simultaneously, he turned west and I went east; two similar individuals traveling in opposite directions.

Riding out of Kooskia towards Lolo, my thoughts turned to my youth and to the man on the Harley and his youth, to our beginnings. Recalling his childhood experiences, I imagine that we were probably both very much alike back then. Somewhere in our young adulthood I gravitated towards sport bikes and he went towards the Japanese cruisers and eventually the big American Iron. As I inch closer and closer to his age, I imagine myself riding on a German boxer, something that I have coveted since childhood..........Time will tell.

A few more miles out of Kooskia, I found myself growing impatient with the seemingly endless caravan of Motor Homes lumbering up and down the two-lane roads, gracelessly running in both directions belching diesel fumes, slowly listing back and forth on the narrow highway and casting enormous square shadows on the canyon walls, disgusting.

I made a right turn onto a dirt road and began to climb up into the mountains, going “Anywhere I wanted” as the man on the Harley explained before. Climbing higher, the road narrowed to a single track, up and up I ascended until I crested the mountain range and began my descent into an unknown canyon, hints of a river occasionally peaked through the forest.

Riding through the wilderness alone, I found myself thinking once again of my youth and then back to the present to where I was at that exact moment in the mountains on my big simple bike and grinning devilishly inside my helmet, grinning........ exactly like the man who rode a beautiful pearlescent white Road King.

Ride Well


03 August 2008

A little updating is in order

Okay, so the day's ride is over, the Kawasaki and I have tucked the sun in for the night; time to come back home and do a little updating on the site.

I wanted to give the new blog roll feature a test drive by using four of my links to see how well it worked, and if it was something that I would like to use. Turns out, I like it a lot. Now I can see who has new posts and who doesn't.

With that decision made, next in line was to update my links list and add them to my blog roll.

This summer, the number of sites that I frequent on a regular basis has grown quite a bit and I've been meaning to do this for awhile now.

I gave the scooter links their own separate list because I can foresee this list growing rather quickly in the future. Scooterists (or is it Scootertista, Scootertisti? I'm still learning the lingo.) seem to have something to say, and I want to be there to read about it.

Ride Well


29 July 2008

Entry from my journal July 21, 2008

A week ago, I took a Monday off to go for a ride over Lolo pass. I hadn't been there in a while and thought that it would be a nice ride. I was wrong. The ride from Lewiston, Idaho to Kooskia was swarming with Motorhomes lumbering down the highway at about 35 miles per hour; they seemed to be strategically spaced at about 1/4 mile intervals as well. A couple of miles out of Kooskia, I had enough of the rolling monoliths and decided to make a right turn onto a forest service road in an attempt to get away from all of the people. It worked. Before I knew it, I was so deep in the forest that I continuously lost my G.P.S. signal because of the tree cover. Although I knew where I had come from, after about an hour of riding through the forest, I wasn't really sure where I was. I rested for a spell in the shade and re-hydrated myself with some water while I wrote a brief entry in my journal. I plan on doing a larger post about the trip when time permits.

Sometimes getting totally lost, as long as you keep your wits, is extremely therapeutic. Also I never strayed from the trail and I knew that this trail had to eventually lead somewhere. With 300 miles worth of fuel in my tank, I wasn't worried. God bless my KLR and her ship of the desert tank.

I’m not exactly where I thought I would be right now. Honestly, I’m not exactly sure where I am right now. Before I lost the signal on my G.P.S., I was 210 miles, as the crow flies, from home. I’m resting against a rock, under a thick canopy of pine trees, so thick that my G.P.S. signal keeps failing. I can hear running water somewhere in the canyon below, I think that’s where I’m headed; although, that’s all I know. I left the highway about 20 miles back and the forest service road became a narrow piece of single track about 5 miles ago. I can tell that it is used by A.T.V.’s by the tracks; I suppose it could be a snowmobile trail during the winter.

I don’t know where I am, only that I’m somewhere in the mountains of Central Idaho. I do know where I came from so if I get really lost, I can always turn around; I’d rather keep moving forward to see where this ends. I’m riding alone, I’m okay with that; nobody knows that I’m here, I’m okay with that too. It’s supposed to get hot today and already, mid-morning, there is strong evidence that it will do just that. I need to be careful with my tires, no repair kit; this is a reminder to get one. I really shouldn't be in here without one; it’s a long walk out.

I’ve seen a number of Elk, a few deer (a couple of small Buck’s), and a Coyote, not much else so far. I don’t expect much to be out moving around in the afternoon.

I topped off the KLR back in Kooskia, so I’m not worried about fuel, or water, I packed plenty of that too. I’m thinking of climbing to a higher elevation to cool off later, but not until I get my bearings and I know exactly where I am.

It’s time to go find that running water, all water leads somewhere.
I am lost in the woods, and I could care less, this is why I got this bike, to take me to these places; it’s doing a wonderful job!

I wonder where I am.

The running water that I eventually found, turned out to be the Central fork of the Clearwater river. That's where I stopped along the trail to take the picture in this post, about thirty minutes after I had written this journal entry.

21 July 2008

Passing thoughts

A simple white church out in the country, 30 or 40 miles from the nearest populated area; the first thing that I observe as I approach from the north, rising from the fields is the unassuming steeple; gradually the body of the structure comes into view.

Nestled in among a farmers meadow, the nearest homes, at least ten miles from one another; Grazing horses, a hawk circling in the distance over a canola field, a few trees here and there, but not a single person, except for me of course as I pass through on my bike.

I’ve been down this road a number of times, a quiet two lane highway, unknown by a good majority of motorists, that’s why I take it.
I know this building, a familiar waypoint on my travels between two distant cities.

Whitewashed cedar lap, gothic windows, a few corbels and a cross on the steeple; humble but well cared for. Passing by, I begin to wonder, who tends to this place? Who trims the shrubbery and keeps it so well maintained? The parishioners? But where do they come from? They certainly have to travel from distant places to care so much for this small church; to worship beneath its roof.

A modest little parish, standing proud over the years, descending back into the fields as it slowly wanes in my mirrors; another turn and it’s gone from my view, until the next time I pass through here.

This meek structure,
treasured by those who care for it,
those from far away places.
A simple white church;
tangible evidence that faith still exists.

Ride Well


19 July 2008

Things sound different this year

This is the fourth year that my town has held a Motorcycle rally, and already I’m hearing different sounds. The first three years, this has been mostly a Harley/chopper affair with a concert series of extremely loud heavy metal music that lasted until 2 a.m. every morning all weekend long, and every year I would just bite my lip and tell myself, “This is good for the town” it would all be over by Sunday.

Beginning sometime in the middle of the week leading up to the event, the sounds of large V-twins with loud pipes would resonate in the small valley that my town is nestled in until the early morning hours. This would also carry on until Sunday evening. I personally think that Harley Davidson’s sound really cool, but at 3 a.m. when people are doing things that generally require a little bit of peace and quiet; I’ve heard the argument that “Loud Pipes save lives”............at that time of the night, they do other things as well, also, let’s not forget the bizarre experience of being ostracized in my own community all week long just because I ride a “Jap” bike.

I will give them credit though, these guys do know how to party, even if it is at the discomfort of the somewhat conservative residents who live here, and for what it’s worth, they didn’t cause any trouble. Yes, there was countless law enforcement, but any time you get 15,000 folks together who seem to pride themselves on their machismo and ability to drink vast amounts of alcohol and not get into trouble, well let’s just say I’ve been know to get a little surly all on my own with capful of Nyquil (and that’s the children’s dosage) yep, I’m a pretty cheap date!

Apparently last year was the snapping point for the townsfolk, because over the winter, they fired the event promoter and decided to take the rally in another direction. Lower entrance fees, more palatable music with hopefully a lower volume, and a more family oriented atmosphere; Something that I found interesting about this, is that my next door neighbor, who is on the town council, said that a lot of these suggestions for change came from the vendors and a number of builders.

So far, there is definitely a different sound in my town. Yes, there is still the occasional “Potato-Potato” sound of a big Harley chuffing down Main Street, but there is also the sound of a number of inline fours, and I could’ve sworn I just heard a very “British” sounding triple. All morning long, up and down the street outside my home, I’ve seen countless “Metric Cruisers” rolling into town. Trust me, this is a first, very cool! I've been waving to these folks this morning while watering the lawn, like a very disturbing version of a beauty queen on a parade float; dressed in my flannel robe and gym shorts, try visualizing Cousin Eddy from National Lampoons only without the hat and earflaps (where can I find me one of those?).

No music yet, but I don’t think they start that until sometime in the afternoon. So far, I like the sound of the way this rally is turning out, I certainly hope that my small conservative town can pull this off and entertain this group so that they keep coming back, time will tell.

I’ll have to grab my camera and take a walk downtown to check things out, heck; I may even have to ride my “Jap” bike, even though it is only a couple of blocks away. I’ll keep the children’s Nyquil locked away in the cupboard this year though, I wouldn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of all those people, if you know what I mean!

13 July 2008

Inspirations of the Ride

A little over a year ago, when a friend suggested that perhaps I should start a blog as an addition to my personal journaling, I didn’t really know what direction the blog should take. I spent some time online and observed a number of other sites, deciding that a motorcycle related blog would be a suitable direction. As I have commented on in previous posts, the motorcycle community is a diverse one, and I’ve had a wonderful time reading about the personal experiences that others have had on two wheels.

With the decision of basing my first attempt at a blog on motorcycling, I made a statement in an April 6th post that I would “try to introduce to the reader the diversity of both the region that I live in and to the Inland Northwest the best that I can via motorcycle.” After reviewing my posts, I noticed that isn’t exactly the direction that this site has taken.

When I journal, there is no specific direction that my entries take, my journal entries have never had any sort of disciplined approach to what subject I should write about. Attempting to post on one particular subject has become a frustrating challenge and one that I don’t care for. As I thumbed through old entries in my journals, I noticed that a lot of them had subject matter that related to when I was riding and in particular what I was thinking about on the ride. That’s when it struck me; an epiphany of sorts that a tremendous amount of inspiration and insight about all sorts of things occur while I ride, Thoughts that rarely occur at other times.

Twenty years ago, while still living in Upstate New York, I went on a coast to coast road trip with a buddy from high school. The plan was to trailer my motorcycle (a Yamaha FZR600 at the time) behind my car, and whenever an interesting road presented itself, I would unload the bike and ride until things got “less than interesting.” Tom (the high school buddy), who had never been on a trip of any significant length, was unaware of my tendencies to basically stop only when I was finished and not when the day ended. This tendency of mine used to go on for days; I say ‘used to’ because as I have gotten older, I’m okay with taking a break from time to time.

We had made it to somewhere just north of Chicago when Tom finally chimed in, “When are we going to stop?” Honestly, that thought hadn’t even occurred to me. I assumed that Tom was well rested because he had been sleeping the whole trip, only waking up to drive when I felt like riding the bike. I told him that I had no real plans on that, figuring that when I started to see things that I knew weren’t really there, that I should probably take a nap. I assured him that I was still seeing things just fine and maybe tomorrow I would have had enough, this didn’t satisfy him. He ummm..... kind of exploded at that moment, “I don’t know how the hell you do it; you just sit there and drive, and then ride, then drive again until you feel like riding and then get on the bike and ride some more!” Tom wasn’t feeling so well. “How the hell do you stay awake, we haven’t stopped for 24 hours!” My only answer was, “I don’t know, I just think about stuff.”
“Like what!” Tom was kind of screaming at this point.
“I don’t know, just stuff.” I replied.
I took pity on Tom and got a motel room, besides I needed to take a shower to scrub off the funk of traveling for the past 24 hours straight, and yes, when my head did finally hit the pillow, I slept like the dead. Tom did pretty well for the first half of the trip, he didn’t throw another tantrum until we were heading east on the Bay bridge out of San Francisco and into Oakland. The conversation was a lot like the one in Chicago so I’ll spare the details.

Twenty years ago on the California Coast

The son of a Truck driver, I grew up on the road; traveling for days on end is not an unusual practice for me. When Tom asked how I was able to stay awake for such long periods, my answer of just thinking about stuff was about the best way that I could describe it.

The experience of riding motorcycles only enhances those thoughts, very close to the point of perpetual inspiration. I tend to believe that perhaps that is why “Motoblogging” has become so popular. I don’t think that I am alone when I say that riding on two wheels is an endless inspiration, whether it’s a good ride or a hellish one, a blogsite makes for an excellent conduit to others.

I read recently on someone else’s blogsite a statement to the effect that “A car only transports a person’s body, while a motorcycle carries the soul.” I wish that I could discover where I read that, but can’t seem to find it now, I like it though; I personally feel the motorcycle to be the most suitable deferent of the soul.

In summary, I would have to say that although this site will not always be about the direct subject of the ride that I am on, every single one of these posts have been and will continue to be about the thoughts that have occurred to me while on the ride. Some may be about the immediate experience of sights and sounds and the people that I meet, other perhaps a little more abstract with a tendency to digress at times, it’s just the way my brain works folks. All of them will be about the inspirations that I have felt while riding on anything with two wheels and an engine; those inspirations have never stopped coming to me no matter how conceptual or “flowery” the prose, or how matter of fact the post about the ride might be. I think that I can live with that direction for this blogsite.

Ride Well


06 July 2008

Palouse Country

The Palouse area of Washington lies on the eastern edge of the state bordering Idaho; depending on who you talk to, it begins just south of Spokane and ends somewhere around the Walla Walla area. Although there are many parts of the United States and Canada that produce wheat, I can’t think of any that share the interesting topography of hills and buttes that cover this area, it is unique. If you’ve ever seen the film “Toys” starring Robin Williams, you will know exactly what I am talking about. The movie was filmed about halfway between where I live and the city of Spokane. Imagine that movie set covering an area roughly 100 miles from north to south, and 40 miles east to west. This is the Palouse.

This is wheat country, 4,000 square miles of it, and at this time of the year, the landscape is carpeted in various shades of greens, yellows, and blues. I recall a while back, reading a local photographers statement in the newspaper commenting on the Palouse. He likened it to “a giant abstract painting, a photographer’s playground.” I suppose that I can see his point of view; I believe that a lot of amateur and professional photographers view it that way too. It is not that uncommon to see a vehicle pulled off to the side of the road with a camera mounted on a tri-pod, a sunset or a butte or some other subject posing for the camera in the distance, all the while accompanied by various hues of amber and jade.
Riding the gently sweeping “Blue roads” in the Palouse country is much like riding through a painting, though it doesn’t always have to be abstract. A tree still looks like a tree, and a barn is of course a barn, and as I ride, I observe casually as the gentle breath of summer coaxes the waist high grass to dance over rolling fields and the leaves in the trees to tremble, shimmering in the sun. Anyone with an unquenchable passion for light will eventually find themselves intoxicated by the raking sunlight against the hills and various fields of depth in the shadows. As for the roads, this is not a technical ride out here, just a soothing one as the scenery of the ride passes through me; I can understand why photographers are so drawn to this place. As summer ages, the colors change from a dominant green to shades of gold. I believe Katharine Lee Bates said it best when she coined the term, “Amber waves of grain” in her poem “America the beautiful.” As with many forms of art, usually when viewing a painting or photograph, abstract or otherwise, it requires the viewer to pay attention, and when I think of “paying attention” my first thought would be of sitting still, clearing my mind of distractions and focusing on the art that is to be had. As a Motorcyclist however, those rules don’t apply; I revel in the experience of a passing landscape, the constant evolution of sights, sounds, and smells. This is not revolutionary thinking though; 135 years ago there was an artist who used to paint from perhaps a similar point of view that continues to inspire Motorcyclists everyday.

Studio Boat

Imagine for a moment, that you’re standing on the banks of the Seine, in a town just down-river from Paris called Argenteuil; the year is 1874. At that moment, a small boat slowly drifts past; in the boat a bearded man sits with a short three-legged easel holding a paint brush, painting the scenery as he drifts by. The man is Claude Monet who would later become known as the Father of Impressionism. Monet was doing something revolutionary, not only was he painting “En plein air” (painting outdoors) but he was also painting the scenery as it was passing by, capturing the effects of light, ‘from one twilight to the next’ as his close friend Eduard Manet once described it. Monet was on to something, gliding with the light rather than trying to conquer it.

As Motorcyclists, Bikers, and Scooterists, perhaps our machines are our own floating studios and though our scenery passes more quickly than Monet’s, our inspirations could possibly be quite similar.

Ever since man put an engine between two wheels, we have tried to express to the uninitiated, the experience, the passion, the raw inspiration that we feel while riding our machines. I’ve read many articles and posts on the subject; I imagine that I will read many more. This post is one of my own efforts at doing that same thing and I imagine that this blog will be filled with many additional attempts in the future.

So if you’ll excuse me, with what remains of the day, I plan to jump on my bike and take a ride through the work of art that is my Palouse Country. Over countless hills and through fertile green valleys, I’ll let the landscape inspire me as I visualize myself, in my minds eye, on the prow of a small boat; and if I clear my mind of life’s little distractions for just a moment, perhaps I will look over my shoulder and visualize a bearded man with his easel and brush, and together we can capture the light in our own unique ways, from one twilight to the next.

Ride well


29 June 2008

This whole blogging thing

At times I find myself a little surprised at how few people actually keep a personal journal for themselves. To a certain degree, I have always kept journals. Nothing too rigid or disciplined mind you; my entries are usually ramblings that I have experienced throughout my life. Some of them a simple sentence, others go on for thousands of words. The most rewarding aspect that I have learned about writing down my thoughts is going back and reading my journal entries from decades ago. A simple sentence can rekindle an experience in detail that I had twenty years ago; something that I would have long ago forgotten had I not written it down.

Blogging has brought forth a new aspect of journaling for me. While I still keep my various paper notebooks lying around for my own private posts, I’ve discovered that the experience of journaling online has introduced me to a group of people that I would have never had the privilege to communicate with otherwise. I keep my blog centered on motorcycles primarily because my life-long “Lone wolf” mentality towards riding naturally prevents me from sharing an experience that is so central to my being with other like minded individuals. This blogging experiment has been a positive experience and an enlightening one as well. I am grateful that I have this tool to meet with others who share similar passions, as diverse a group that we might otherwise be.

A friend of mine, after observing my little experiment with “moto-blogging”, expressed an interest in trying out blogging as well; mostly as an outlet for the day to day frustrations that he deals with in his career as a Law enforcement officer. I’ve listened to a number of his experiences and I believe that a lot of them would be an interesting read, especially for those of us who normally don’t have to deal with the type of critters that he works with around the clock.

In addition to writing about his job, I suggested that perhaps he should write about a number of his past experiences. Even though he wouldn’t necessarily admit it himself, he has led a pretty interesting life for a guy of only 34 years of age. From working on a Crab boat in the Bering Sea, to his experiences as the Crew Chief of an A-10 Warthog in the Air Force, one of those experiences involved crash landing in a C-130 in the Kuwaiti desert, literally bouncing off of the desert floor and then back into the air! I remember the night that he called to tell me that he was alright, while I watched the footage of it on CNN.

Also, he has taken an interest in Motorcycles; I suggested that perhaps he post his experiences about that as well . F.Y.I. he is the one who took the picture of me for my blog title.

He told me that he isn’t too concerned with whether or not folks read his posts, this is more of a journal for himself that others are welcomed to read, but I encourage you to check it out here, you might find some of this interesting, even if it isn’t always about motorcycles.

Ride Well

22 June 2008

People watching

A couple of weeks ago, while looking at my Drivers License, I observed an error. This was the year that I had to renew my license, which I did, but when I received the new one in the mail, I noticed that while the issue date was accurate, the expiration date was still July 2008. Back to the D.O.L. for another Saturday morning of taking numbers and waiting on uncomfortable plastic chairs with scads of teenagers and their parents; restless to get their drivers licenses and hit the road and hopefully nothing else. I’ll spare the jabs at the kids only because I was one once, and I could understand their excitement.

The last time that I was at the Department of Licensing, the ordeal took a couple of hours, I wasn’t looking forward to doing it again. This time before going in, I grabbed my little notebook from the KLR’s saddlebag to take notes of the various characters I saw while I waited; making the best of a dismal situation. This is what I observed.

Parents, lots of them, all of them as excited to be there as I was; except for one.

Obviously a Mother/Daughter team, Mom was as giggly and animated as the daughter. The daughter looked as if she must’ve spent most of her extracurricular time on the Cheerleading squad; she and Mom had an excessive amount of positive energy just sitting their waiting and whispering back and forth to each other with the verbal speed and efficiency of two auctioneers on NoDoz. They wore matching outfits, I’m not kidding.

Behind them sat two younger Asian men and an older gentleman. The two men, in their mid-20’s, had their faces buried in the study guides while the older fellow sat patiently. Occasionally one would whisper something to the other in a foreign language and then the two would bury their noses in the pages again.

There was a number of biker looking couples in the room, though I don’t know if they actually rode bikes or not, my Kawasaki was the only thing on two wheels out front at the time. A couple of leather vests, a lot of braided hair, one doo-rag, and five or six black t-shirts, one with the Hells Angels logo on the front, the wings behind the skull were colored yellow with a red outline. I couldn’t read the faded lettering on the top but I’m pretty sure that it didn’t have anything to do with the Hell’s Angels. My understanding is that the H.A. kind of “frown” on the unauthorized use of their logo’s; I wasn’t going to go ask the fellow wearing the t-shirt if he was aware of that. All of them seemed to have a problem with their wallets wandering off because they all appeared to be leashed to their belts.

The Marlboro Man even made a cameo. Big black Stetson, black leather vest over a denim shirt, a pair of Wranglers one size too small and pointed toe Cowboy boots that clopped against the tile floor wherever he walked; Mustache well groomed, he looked ready to have his picture taken. I wonder if he knows that he has to take the Stetson off for the photo.

My number was called and I approached the counter. I explained my situation to the lady behind the counter. She asked for $5.00, apparently the licensing fee increased June 1st. “But the mistake was made in May, and it was the Department of Licensing’s mistake.” I said.
She replied, “Yes, but now it’s June, $5.00.”
I inquired about the smaller number of people waiting this Saturday as opposed to the last time that I was here. She looked up and scanned the room and replied in a dry tone, “They aren’t done watching their Cartoons.” She gave me a piece of paper and told me to take a seat at the end of the counter until my name was called. On the wall behind her and just over her left shoulder a sign read, “Threatening a Government employee is a punishable offense.” Hmmm.

As I sat down, a Mother with her son was arguing with the balding man behind counter. From what information that I gathered, the son was 18 years old and wanted to take the written test so that he could get his permit. Trouble was that he hadn’t taken driver’s education, nor has he even read the Instruction Manual to prepare for the test. Careful Mom, read the sign.

Seated two chairs to my right was a teenage boy waiting with who I assume was his father. Dad looked like a Dad. Clean cut, shaven, nice clothes. The son, however, was a different story. He was your “average” Goth kid. Dressed head to toe in black; his limbs were gaunt and his skin ashen. It was rather apparent that this kid did not spend much time outside and definitely didn’t do anything too physical, I’m guessing 90-95 lbs. max. His crowning feature though was his hair; yes it was dyed jet black, but it’s length fell to his elbows and covered every part of his head, face included. The only noticeable feature on the front of his head was his nose peaking out. I don’t know how Dad felt about it, but to me, his son looked like physical proof that about sixteen years ago, “Cousin It” must've gotten laid at least once. That thought got stuck in my head, I couldn’t stop snickering.

Apparently the cheerleader had passed her written as she bounced from the testing area over to the counter giving a thumbs up to her teammate seated in the crowd, Mom clapped as she got up from her chair and made her way to her daughter’s side. Mom had the same bounce in her step.

While I waited, the room gradually began filling up with people. Some of them worth noting, while most just looked average. It was the few Odd ones in the group that seemed to give this otherwise dry government waiting room some color.

Growing up, Mom used to warn me that there was always one weirdo on the bus and to keep an eye out for him, I always kept a vigilant search, but never saw him............

My photo taken, I put my temporary license in my wallet, grabbed my helmet and walked out the door. While I left the place, riding to the motorcycle dealership to shop for a new helmet, I thought to myself, “I wonder, if the crowd at the D.O.L. noticed at all, the strange guy in the motorcycle jacket and pants at the front of the waiting room glancing back at the crowd, writing things in his notepad and then giggling like a stoner.”

“What a weirdo.”

Ride Well.

13 June 2008

Resting with friends

Out on the Southwestern edge of the Palouse Country, where wheat fields border the Channeled Scablands of Central Washington, I traveled down an ordinary two lane road.

Resting alongside this highway for about thirty minutes or so, only two cars passed by, a flat bed Ford pick-up and a grain truck. Both slowed momentarily, checking to make sure that I was okay, my friendly wave confirming that I was.

Scattered Cumulus overhead, temperature in the mid 60's.

A friendless stretch of highway. I sat there on the inclined shoulder, in the knee high grass and observed Quarter horse Mother's and their foals, tails swaying from hind quarter to hind quarter. Inquisitive glances my way, ears perked. Filly's and Colts perfecting their canter.

The wind was soft, easy on my face, making the wheat grass hiss and shimmer; occasionally the sun would appear and warm me ever so slightly and then shy away behind another cloud.

Delicate aromas of Lilac and various wild Spring blossoms carried on the breeze.

As I sat, I realized that this lonesome road isn't so friendless after all.
Quarter horse Mothers
and their Foals.
The play on light against the landscape as the sun ducked between clouds.
Wildflower bouquets,
and the wheat swaying in the gentle wind, and for the moment, me and my bike.

10 June 2008

Big Brown Bike

This recollection occurred to me a couple of days ago while I was toweling off the Yamaha. I had just finished giving my XS11 a bath and was drying her off, when from over my shoulder, the sun came out from behind the clouds for just a moment and from that particular angle, I observed the true color of the bike that most of the time, goes unnoticed. It’s a dark brown with fine metallic flakes that you can only really see when the light hits it just right. That moment made me recall a brief encounter that I had with a vulgar old man as I was standing in line at a convenience store while waiting my turn to buy a pack of gum.

Before I forgot about the experience, I draped the towel over the seat and went into the house to dig through my various notebooks to find a journal entry that I had made about a year ago. I knew that I wrote about the experience, as brief as it was, and when I found the entry, it was nothing more than a few quick lines that I had made regarding the moment and that was it. Apparently I didn’t think enough of it to go into any great detail or that I would even recall it a year later. From those lines and my feeble memory, I’ll try to describe the best that I can, the events that took place on an extremely hot day in the middle of summer last year.

“He was the kind of coarse old man that looked and smelled like he inhaled a pack of non-filtered cigarettes every morning for breakfast.” - Journal entry August 4, 2007

I was third in line behind two teenage boys dressed in Goth, and a female Construction worker wearing an orange high-vis vest, and a still visible ring around her sun bleached hair, evidence that she had obviously been wearing a hard hat all day in this oppressive heat. The last Bank clock that I saw when I pulled into the Gas station was somewhere in the triple digits. It was hot. I was standing there waiting my turn to buy a pack of Wrigley’s when from behind me I heard a gruff voice say, “One of the best G**damn bikes I ever owned.” When I turned around to see who had uttered this profane compliment, there stood an old man of probably about 70 years or so.

He was a somewhat shorter gentleman sporting a frost white crew cut, and what looked to be about 4 or 5 days growth on his face that wasn’t much shorter than the hair on his head. His fingers were deformed with arthritis and when he stroked the stubble on his face with his left hand; his index and middle fingers were stained nicotine yellow. It was obvious; this guy had a hard life. As he looked me up and down, I could tell by the expression on his face that there was something about my own appearance that he disapproved of. I gave him a half hearted grin and nodded politely and then turned back around and continued waiting in line. “XS11 Special” he continued, “Same color brown with the fine metallic flake in the paint, you could barely notice the flake unless the light hit it just right.” Obviously this guy new the bike, I glanced out the window at where the bike was sitting by the fuel pumps, with my back still turned to the old man, all I could think was, “My bike is brown?” Hard to believe, but I never really paid that much attention to it. I guess that it’s always looked black to me. Turning around slightly to acknowledge him, I replied, “I enjoy it.” He just stood there kind of looking more through my shoulder blades me than directly at me. I don’t think that he was necessarily speaking to me, rather he was just sort of reminiscing out loud. Now, as I’ve said in the past, I’m the son of a Truck Driver and I consider myself quite fluent in what my Father always referred to as “Speaking German”, but this guy had a mouth on him that could make a drunken sailor blush! Therefore I won’t go into any great detail about the vulgarity of his comments, lest I offend someone.

As the two Goth boys exited the store, I moved up one more spot in line, my helmet in one hand and the pack of gum in the other, all the while wondering if the gum was really worth the crude monologue that I was enduring. This guy was so extremely coarse and offensive, every other word was either a swear word or an insult, but what could I do, in his own Tourette-like way, he was complimenting my bike. Over the next 45 unsettling seconds or so that seemed like an hour, I learned that he had worked as a mechanic for a bike shop in Boise, Idaho back in the 70’s and that’s where he got a deal from a terrified owner on a slightly used XS11 Special. From what I could understand, the previous owner couldn’t quite get used to the shaft-jacking tendencies of the bike while accelerating hard out of corners. In my brief encounter, I could tell that the guy was a wealth of information regarding my bike, something that I have had a hard time obtaining, but I couldn’t stand much more of being seen in public having a conversation with the old man.

As the Construction worker made her purchase I learned the differences in tank sizes between the standard XS1100’s and the XS11 Special, why my exhaust pipes were wrong, and that my sissy bar backrest, in his opinion looked, well........Gay. Thanks for that old feller.

Completing my purchase, I found myself quickly making my way to the exit and gesturing my good bye with a polite nod of the head as I pushed the door open with my back. I’m sure that I was blushing. Out of the comfortable Air conditioned store and back into blast furnace like heat of the parking lot, I zipped up my jacket, drew out a fresh piece of gum and threw a leg over the bike. As I was putting my helmet on, I noticed the ill-mannered old bike mechanic slowly drive by in a rusting Dodge Diplomat with all of the windows rolled down and two hyper-active Yellow lab’s in the backseat, tails wagging and constantly changing places, switching back and forth from window to window. As he idled by, with a cigarette in his left hand and held slightly out the window, he gave the bike one last look before making a right turn into traffic, slowly disappearing into the rush hour congestion.

My Yamaha doesn’t exactly look like much by today’s standards and her 30 year old mechanicals are definitely due for a freshening up. Her pipes make more noise than I prefer, she drips a little oil here and there, and smells of raw gas whenever I forget to close the fuel petcocks at the end of a ride. There are those rare times however, every now and again, when I’m sitting at a stoplight in traffic, and I’ll get this odd feeling that we are being watched. I’ll look around and spy an older gentleman in the distance, either standing there on the sidewalk or in a car idling in traffic next to me, paying no particular attention to me, but gazing with a pensive look in his eyes at my old girl. They all look to be drawn back to a younger time; a time when Carter was President, Saturday Night live was hilarious, and Disco was just leaving, somebody get the door will ya.

I am reminded at moments like those of how our machines are all time machines of sorts; to different people and for different reasons. My Yamaha was quite a bike in her day and there are still older guys out there who remember that, even if some of them are boorish, rude and utterly offensive.

Next time that you’re out with your current ride, take a few extra moments to look at your machine a little more closely and just study its details and think about it the way you do pretty much all of the time and hold firmly to those thoughts so that you remember them well. I have a feeling that 30 years from now, we are going to be that man or woman standing on the sidewalk gazing pensively at a kid on an old bike sitting at a stoplight in traffic. After all, that isn’t just any bike that they’re riding, that was once our bike. And for heavens sakes, if you’re going to say anything at all to the poor kid, be polite, eh?

Now if you’ll excuse me, before it gets too awful dark and I lose anymore of that sunlight, I think that I’m going to go suit up and take my Yamaha out for a ride, you know the one that I’m referring to, it’s the brown one with the fine metallic flakes in her paint that you only notice when the sunlight hits it just right.

Ride Well