Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Boogey Tunes for the Holidays!

The Christmas holiday is nearly upon us.  The insanity of shopping incessantly for hours on end the screaming the NOISE NOISE NOISE!  It is a real wonder we all don't just toss ourselves into a bottle of scotch or that special medication reserved for the criminally insane.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the meaning of Christmas, and the time we spend with family and friends, but for me much of what Christmas is truly is about is lost in all that shopping screaming eating drinking crazy machine our society has turned us into.  This year the economy has really changed a lot of our attitudes and that has rubbed off on other aspects of our daily lives.  Lucky for us - we got gifts early, and have pretty much avoided the psychotic tendencies that seem to plague us all this time of year.

As always music has played an enormous part in our celebrations here at the house this year.  I am finding newfound admiration for artists such as Andrea Bochelli and Josh Grobin.  Not really sure why but they command a voice that resonates with a simple air of beauty.  Another style that seems to be recapturing my attention is big band and jazz.  Frank Sinatra has always been a long standing favorite, but also Tony Bennett.  One of the lesser known but just as respected was Buddy Rich, a jazz drummer whose life was cut short in 1987.  I remember listening to some of his music as a high school band member, often wishing I could play "like that guy".  In many ways much of the aforementioned music and artists are essentially a rediscovery for me. I have found the absence of alcohol a reawakening of my left brain, and its getting a little groovy in the ol' pumpkin!

Its also a time of year when its COLD!  Last week we were suffering through temps in the minus 10 degree range.  I spent some time shortly before that winterizing my Harley.  Changing oil, checking the brakes, adding some Sta-Bil into the tank for winter.  While those kinds of chores are a labor of love, its also a bit depressing knowing that my Harley is parked for the next four months or more.  This was my first full year of actively riding a Harley, and I am about as addicted as I can be.  From the assault on the senses such as the smells and the feel of the wind thru my beard, to that time where I can spend letting go of the stresses of life and meditating on those things that have caused some undue grief or stress.  I have made a number of "day rides" spending a single day going to some distant place only to find a different route home.  I have had fun, gained experience, and even earned some confidence and respect among my closer friends.  Next year I have planned at least one trip to spend a number of days travelling and navigating on my own.  There are a number of challenges to doing that, but it will be the ride, not the destination that I will enjoy most.  Where the road will take me next year I do not know, but there are a number of possibilities.  One such trip would include a trip to the Dakotas before the big rally.  Another might be to Texas to see my brother, but wherever I go I will cherish the adventure with great anticipation.

Have a Wonderful Holiday - May we all find peace on earth goodwill towards all.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Blessings of Thanks

It is just a couple days before the Thanksgiving holiday. The leaves have long since disappeared from the trees, and the landscape if almost devoid of color. From the leafy greens of summer thru the color stricken displays of autmn, we now fast approach winter.

A few days ago I took a ride on my Harley through town. The senses seemed to be stiff and chilled, but the sensation of being on the bike in late November proved rather invigorating. The pace of life seems to be quickening in the anticipation of the holiday rush. From the rush of traffic thru the malls to the crowded streets, we all sense the season and are already beginning the arduous task of shopping for that perfect gift or stocking up on our favorite foods or even loading up on the endless displays of lights and other such decorations. It is a busy time, and not really one to be out on the motorcycle. It was getting late that evening, and a stop at the local Starbucks for some coffee helped warm my chills for the ride home. As I made my way through traffic, I was shown a wonderful display of orange strokes of cirrus clouds against the setting blue sky. As the sun set further and further, the orange changed to purples and greys. Unfortunately - my camera lay sitting comfortably on the piano at home, but the view even through the nightmarish traffic was a most divine scene, further endearing my belief in God's blessings for the coming holiday season.

A friend from high school issued a challenge to some of her friends and I thought it was most appropriate for this holiday. Name something every day to be thankful for. While for many that may seem a rather ardent task but for me I have been finding many things to feel blessed and thankful for. Since acquiring my Harley, I decided to quit drinking alcohol. My sobriety alone has been a deep blessing. I have learned to be a bit more appreciative of those around me, maybe a bit more patient, and even taking life at a bit of a slower pace. So often we busy ourselves with work, or mulling the daily grind that we let life slide right by us. That was the case for me. As I work two jobs myself, often times my time is very limited, so I must take full advantage of every minute. I won't embarass or divulge her name, but I believe she deserves a Thank You from me for making me take stock of all those things I AM thankfull for a blessed with.

In the next day or so my family and I will leave for my parents house in Michigan. For all of us this will be the first Thanskgiving holiday we have spent together in a very long time. I sense a divine intervention of sorts, in part that all of us will be finally able to sit at the table and be a family, foregoing our busy lives in favor of pause, reflection, thanks, and humility. I have hopes that our family can find the strength and courage to heal whatever was, and be family when family means the most in our lives. Today as I rode my Harley I began to realize I am not just thankful for the opportunity, but also the sense of endearment this time feels like for all of us.

I am thankful today for the wisdom that I have been blessed with in the hopes that our family can all become wiser and stronger this holiday season. I also give thanks for each of our troops, and pray the leaders of our nation find the way to bring them home. Lastly, I pray for whomever chooses to read this, in the hopes that they too, find peace and blessing this holiday season.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Hallows Eve

Thats right. Its Halloween. Time for kids to scramble for every last morsel of candy they can stand. In some ways adults, too partake of a fun evening of scaring the kids, daring the kids, and feeding the kids into this sugarland frenzy. In my youth, I, too had the usual escape into the haunted houses, caramel apples, and even hay rides thru the farm fields.

It is a fun time for us all. Harvest is well into full swing, with machines of green and red dotting the fields, spraying their dust and chunks into the air, feeding on cornfields and soybean fields with a most voracious appetite. I have taken more than a few rides in the last several weeks, and I am always in awe of the huge John Deere and Massey Ferguson combines chewing up cornfields in an endless drone thru the night. This year farmers are celebrating a good crop year, as was evident two weeks ago as I rode past one particular farm with piles and piles of their crop laying next to their silos. Weather has really been a blessing for farm yields, although lately rain has been soaking the harvest down a bit.

Fall has brought some wonderful colors in our area. On many of my rides I have taken my camera and brought some samples of the fall blossoms. Fall, for me at least, is probably my favorite season. So many colors, changes, celebrations, even perhaps a sense of blessing as the coming of the Christmas season is upon us. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and this year we will finally spend a holiday with my parents, who have returned to Michigan in their retirement. Fall is a tough season to get thru. For some the changes can be difficult. The latest flu bugs seem to be progressing thru our house and Mary is having a particularly rough time recuperating from this ugliness. I have had my own battle with the bug, but compared with other years, this seems to be a bit easier to recover from. Last year I had the flu four times, and getting the flu that many times can take a toll on your body. Moral here is get a flu shot!

I took a day a few weeks back to experience the fall colors along the Mississippi River. Temps were in the low 60's, but sunny. My route would take me along the east bank of the river, thru the town of Savanna, Illinois northward to Dubuque, Iowa and back home. I struggled a bit with road construction. Those pesky guys in orange tearing up old roadways in favor of newer and much SMOOTHER terrain. I happen to be one of those guys in orange so I don't complain. For me - they are making the roadway a better place to travel whether we want to believe that or not. I took a turn into the Palisades Mississippi State Park, and found a small secluded but VERY breathtaking view of the Mississippi Basin. One of the signs but this area made mention of an eagle watching spot, so I must remember to get back there to watch the eagles. After taking several pictures of the enormous viewpoints, I took back to the highway, snaking along its meandering way. A number of viewpoints exist along the river, and I highly recommend that area as a great way to spend a day or a month!

One particular town is Galena, Illinois. Upon first observation I noted several antique furniture shops. There are several smaller private shops, but this is a town that you could spend many days in and lots of money. My wife and I, having just purchased our first home (late bloomers of sorts) we are just starting to look for small pieces to decorate our modest dwelling. Unfortunately on the bike I was, so more notes to self that this is a must see and shop place. The raw beauty of the old stone buildings covered in fall foliage just oozes artwork before your eyes.

With the coming season we also take note of our veterans. This is a subject near to my heart, as I too, am a veteran. I don't want recognition or awards, merely to celebrate those who really stood in harms way and for some, paid the ultimate sacrifice. A few days ago, I sped off on my Harley once more, in search of a place called Freedom Rock. This is a little known rock that sits just off the edge of the road in western Iowa about 50 miles west of Des Moines. Some folks might question my sanity for riding to see a rock. Its estimated at 60 tons, and rather than try to move it, county engineers left it there until one Memorial weekend in 1999, a local artist named Ray Sorenson II decided to paint the rock in a military veterans motif of sorts. Today the rock has undergone a new face lift every year on Memorial weekend. Locals gather as he puts new artwork in place of the old honoring and respecting our veterans.

As I arrived at this rock, I noted several varieties of birds flocking along the fence rows almost as if to greet my arrival. After taking a few pictures of my own, other people started showing up, including one particular couple I will not forget. They seemed intent on photographing just about anything that moved, but on a whim, asked me if they could take my photo with my camera. Of course! It just would not do to ride 190 miles on a Harley, and ride back with no pictures of you standing next to this rock. As they took my picture, the man, whose name he didn't give, asked if I was a veteran, and upon finding out that I had indeed served in the submarine service, extended his hand and said "Thank you for your service".

To say Thank You means something different to each of us, and depending on the context it may mean nothing, but in this case, I had hardly ever been thanked at all for my military service. I served on a nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, a ship that has only one purpose in its life. At the time of my service during the Cold War, it was quite common for Americans to spit at, cat call, name call, throw objects at servicemen who served on these submarines. Indeed on one such occasion, my new wife and I were attempting to grocery shop at the base commissary, and were literally blasted with profanities and the occasional fruit or vegetable. Luckily the Marine detachment noted our difficulty and resolved the matter, but it is amazing the change we as Americans have gone thru. Since the 1960's during the Vietnam Conflict our servicemen and women have endured countless attacks from our own people, and yet on this day, in November of 2009, I was being thanked by a total stranger.

I do not to this day know these people or their own walk thru life, but on this day I felt a bit of gratitude, humility, and even a bit of embarrassment. For me, my service was standing my watch. While I cannot divulge the specifics of each patrol, I can tell you I served my tour of duty, stood my watch, learned respect and honor, and left the service with four years of honorable service under my belt. I had qualified in submarines, earned my dolphins, and did what my country asked me to. Nothing more. Today, Marines and soldiers whose ages resemble my own children don't just stand a watch, they man a gun, they protect each other, they fight the enemy, and in some cases they give their life. They make sacrifices I never did, although getting on a ship designed to sink isn't the most intelligent thing to do. Today's vets do not just stand a watch, and for them to give their life for my freedom is a hard pill for me to take. I believe I should be the one making that sacrifice, so when someone thanks me for MY service, it is something I have a hard time dealing with. I took the oath long ago to protect my country against all enemies foreign and domestic, and that should include these kids who serve now.

As I rode back home from Freedom Rock I pondered this irony. I thought about the Iowa soldier who took 6 hits from a small caliber weapon, and saved his buddies that day. I thought about the soldiers who have lost limbs from IED's and come home to lead fairly productive lives. I also thought about the soldiers killed at Fort Hood, and I thought about our grandfathers who fought and died in the Great Wars. I can only thank THEM for their service. Do I deserve to receive such thanks? That is not for me to say. I hope someday I can find this couple again. I rode home feeling blessed that for the first time, someone took the time to thank ME for my service.

I suggest as we go into the holidays let us be thankful for our troops, our sailors, our airmen for serving our country and keeping us safe!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Riding into the Sunrise

It is almost fall here in Iowa. Already leaves on the trees are changing color. For me it seems a bit early, but the nicer cooler temps and excessive rainfall is really causing Mother Nature to change seasons a bit early. Even the cornfields are turning brown. So to is my seasonal clock amiss. This year has been one for the books.

Work has kept me busy, tormenting me with the doldrums of working a regular day job with the neverending toiling of my contract work. Riding time on my Harley has really been sliced to a minimum. Riding when I can to work and back some days has been about all I can fit in, but I have managed to find some time to spend more than a few hours on the scooter. Sometimes I have to be forced from my desk as those dreaded timelines tend to keep me posted at my workstation for hours on end without a break. And then there are times when my mood and my temperament finally drive my family to point and escort me to my awaiting steed, almost as if I had committed some wrong for which my pennance must be ridden off. Well, if I must!

As the fall season approaches the sun seems to rise later and later in the morning. Waking up in the darkness of early morning can tend to be a little worrisome, but eventually the sun takes its place in the sky for the day. As an amatuer astronomer and stargazer, there is always something in our sky to observe and keep us company. The moon too, takes its path across our skies reminding us of such things as harvest time, and monthly change. Lately Jupiter has taken its place in our skies providing wonderful planetary views. If you ever want to see true beauty - look up!

A few weeks ago I had an urging to take another extended ride to - well somewhere. Spend a day just getting away to some nearby city or town escaping the barren scenery of Iowa. One such town I wanted to visit was Madison, Wisconsin. My wife had been there once for a few days of some sort of company training a few years ago, and she was visibly impressed with the inveritable treasure trove of scenic beauty, commerical progress, and friendly atmosphere. I spent a couple days going over various routes, mentally noting various roadmarks for reference on my trip. Initially I had planned to ride just to Madison, but after some careful planning with my wife, opted for a much longer route from Madison to La Crosse. In reviewing the maps of Wisconsin I noted Highway 35 ran directly on the east shoreline of the Mississippi River - which might prove to be an awesome return ride when the fall colors were in full bloom.

I took off the Friday before Labor Day weekend to accomodate my riding activities. The route I chose was mapped at slightly over 500 miles which would take most of not all day on the bike assuming I didnt have any misfortune. The prior weekend I spent an hour changing all the fluids on my Harley. I wanted to make sure there were not going to be ANY problems, so when I dressed in my leathers that morning I was ready. I had packed my road atlas and my GPS receiver, in part because I knew I was going to a strange town, and it would not take much for me to get lost. That statement would later prove to be all too prophetic.

As I turned onto Highway 151 and headed towards Madison, I noted a number of foggy areas which filtered out the rays of sun leaving just a small orange orb left hanging in the sky by the angels. Some may not believe in angels, but I like to believe angels are everywhere. And was it ever a view! Occassionally I would ride above the fog layer revealing the full sunshine, and then sink back below leaving the sun drooping in our sky. I was riding into the sunrise, and as I reached Dubuque, a local town on the Mississippi River, the fog was became more dense above town, but as I descended into town, suddenly the clouds opened and the bright sun shone its warmth on my face. I knew it would be a gorgeous day after that!

The ride across to Madison proved to be fairly uneventful. I stopped once for gas in a small town just southwest of Madison, filling up on gas and a small bottle of cranberry juice. My energy level was down a bit and manhandling that bike bike for three hours had left me a bit low on energy. After contacting my wife briefly by text message of my whereabouts, I got back onto the road and made my way into Madison. the trip itself took me not quite 3 hours, and I was ready to get into Madison.

One thing my wife and I love is our sweatshirts, and this particular trip I tasked myself with finding the University of Wisconsin campus for a sweatshirt. It looked easy enough on the map. Right?? As I rode towards my exit, I was forced to make a hasty lane change, making me miss my turn. After several foul spats at the offending driver, I pulled off and headed back to my exit. At this point I was more frustrated with the bad driving and the excessive cell phone use. Nothing irritates a motorcyclist more than someone driving while talking to someone on their cell phone. I took my turnoff, got into the inside lane, and proceeded to - - - get lost. It wasnt all that hard to do. After ending up in the wrong lane, I took one wrong turn, and violay! After a couple of miles I realized I wasnt where I should be, and pulled up next to a beautiful park area, which smelled wondrously of flowers, although I wasnt sure what variety. Nevermind the flowers, though. Where was I??

As it turned out, my prayers for finding my way were soon answered! I had often heard of the generosity of a fellow Harley rider, and on this occassion I truly believe the angels sent this man to my rescue, for as I was pulling out my map and my GPS unit, a friendly neighborhood biker pulled up and said "You are lost aren't you" almost as if he had been sent to rescue me. After I told him my plight, and where I was headed, he said "Why dont you follow me - I will get you there". And with that we set off, and after about 10 minutes I got to my destination. I never got to thank this man at least with lunch or a handshake. Instead, he told me to ride safe, have a great time, and then left. I never got his name, but somehow I feel he was there for a purpose.

I spent the next 90 minutes getting to the Campus Bookstore for those beloved sweatshirts. I was still in most of my riding gear, and I kinda stuck out, but I finally made it to the store. I searched the displays and found what I came for. On the way back to my bike, I walked by a park area where you could see one of the lakes that Madison is surrounded by. A sailboat had perched itself near the beach, and the water was filled with boats of all kinds. It was a beatiful scene, and I wished I had planned more time there, but I still had places to go, so I kept hiking. One particular lady caught my eye and smiled as if she had been watching my tourist like behavior. A friendly face smiling and a helping hand. All in two hours. Madison had made a good first impression, so I will plan on a return visit later.

Once I packed my wares onto the bike, I quickly made my way back out of town to the Interstate. I gassed up and headed northwesterly to La Crosse. The two hour trip was mostly uneventful, but because of the holiday the road was rather filled with traffic, so I was keeping extra distance between myself and traffic. It had become a bit warmer and my leather jacket was in my saddlebag. Not exactly the smartest thing but my best decision making is done when I am a bit cooler. As I pulled into La Crosse, I noted I was running a bit behind. Friday night is my bowling night and it was at least another 3 hours back home. I hurriedly gassed the bike, and made a quick stop for a cheeseburger. I needed some energy and hadnt really eaten all day. Note to self. Next trip pack your own lunch.

Now I was headed south along the Mighty Mississippi. There are literally a ton of historical markers, sites, bars, and scenic viewpoints along the river. there are also a number of Lock and Dam structures controlling river flow and barge traffic on the river. It was here I pulled out my little hand held 4 MP camera and started taking some pictures. I had purchased a clamp mount for my camera, but because I was running behind chose not to use it and snap pictures by hand. I snapped several pictures testing different hand positions and shutter settings. Taking images like this can be rewarding and it can be trying, but the biggest issue is having to snap pictures with one hand while driving a motorcycle with the other. After snapping about 40 frames I put the camera back in my vest. Safety should come first, and this is an exercise I do not recommend.

I crossed back into Iowa at Prairie Du Chien. The river is narrow here, and the bridge is a smaller one. I pulled over once to put some eyedrops, and again to contact my wife to meet me with my bowling equipment. The views up in that area are just tremendous, and should be even better when the fall colors come out. The highway back home was a winding road, hilly, and swervy - just right for a motorcycle! Passing thru Strawberry Point, Manchester, Ryan, and on past Coggon turning home, I noted the orange glow of sunset. It had been a wonderful relaxing day. I felt almost as if I had a copilot with me watching me and guarding me.

A few days later I had gotten up and checked my cell phone messages. I noted that there was a short notice ride for the Patriot Guard Riders, a national organization whose purpose is to welcome soldiers home from active duty or funerals, using a flag line for support. This day would be a Welcome Home for a local soldier who had spent two years at Walter Reed Hospital getting his legs repaired from injuries sustained in a gunfight in Afghanistan. This is indeed a worthy cause to me, and since I don't often get the chance to attend these rides, today I would make an exception. I informed my wife of my plan, kissed her for the day and headed to work. As I made my way on my bike around town to my office, I noticed the horizon.

Once again I was riding into the sunrise.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Makin' Treks

Its hard to believe the paths we all sometimes take to get to where we are. In my case I had every hope of being a musician. It was more of a smaller obsession really. How I ended up a land surveyor is still a bit of a mystery. I have an old friend from high school who became a nurse. One of the better football players I knew became a concrete contractor. Its amazing how the little changes we make in our lives, the treks we make, the ideals that shape us all combine to form a person that we never expected of ourselves, nor each other. Look back on who you were before college and you might be surprised at the treks you made to get to where you are today.

The last couple weeks have been fairly hectic. Laden with all those daily grinds coupled with work, demands from others, bills to pay, daily thoughts of "Who signed me up for THIS", maybe a club asks of your time, or maybe its just the lack of any time to yourself at all. Pressure to meet a deadline or finish work on a project. Sights and sounds invade the consciousness, tearing it apart only to rebuild it again, shaping and molding our ideals, our thoughts, our character. Lately I have built up walls around myself, retreating from the stress overload that greets us at our doors every morning. Sometimes its easier to go into that "self preservation" mode in order to keep your wits about you.

All this stress and sensory overload has been catching up with me and keeping my thoughts scattered. Figuring if I "made treks" and spent time on my Harley it might clear the soul a bit. So it was Sunday - a day set aside for rest. A day God made for us to remember His goodness, too! I set out at first not really with a route but just to get away, but noted as I headed south the motorcycle course was in full swing at the community college in town. AHA - lets go see!! After all, the instructors out there helped to correct a few of my riding "mistakes", and even though I paid for the course, they made sure I remembered my lessons well. As luck would have it they offered an invitation to the experienced rider course. That could be fun because I would use my own bike for that course. After thanking them, I made treks southward.

I have a favorite route I take southwards. Its a delight to ride! Nice gradual curves rising up and settling into the countryside. It crosses the Iowa River, and also crosses Lake McBride, a local lake known for fishing and boating. It was nice and cool, too, so wearing full leathers wouldn't be a problem. Making treks I say, and heading south I was just starting to feel the calming effects of the road. Its also a bit amazing what you actually "see" on the motorcycle. A pair of Blue Jays sitting on a fence, a fawn and its mother hiding from the roar of the bike, the golden hawk circling over a potential meal. Appreciating these kinds of things really serves to calm the spirit. After making a quick stop to check on some riding apparel I wanted to check out, I decided to keep heading south. Making treks!

Land surveyors are a, well, for lack of a better, term, an interesting species. We tend to be master of all that surrounds us folks. I mean - where else can you find a car mechanic, lawyer, engineer, secretary, babysitter, woodsman, arborist, computer geek, county recorder, politician, cook, heck even lawnmower repair - all rolled into one little harmless person! If there ever was a profession where the pay simply is not enough, this is it! Oddly enough in my trails on the roads and highways, I am keenly aware of the treks surveyors make. We all see them. Paint marks in the road, a wooden lath sticking up out of the ground, even a tripod standing staring intently down the road looking for its master. Sundays trip was chock FULL of surveyor treks. I found them harmlessly aligning about every road I travelled down, as if announcing the impending road construction to come. By that time, those surveyors have already made their own treks.

And then there is the road itself. We all follow its paths mindlessly, urging the road to take us to our destination. For me, though, the road actually tells me something, leaves its own treks behind. Heading south out of Iowa City I rode past their "REGIONAL" airport. More of just a one lane landing strip really. I began to notice some seams in the road that crisscrossed the highway that alerted me to a project I had worked on a few years back as a surveyor. After a couple miles of this crisscrossing, I realized what I was seeing was the original road alignment crossing the existing road. The road, as it seems, was telling me where it had gone and where it was now, a standing unobserved testament to a historical moment in time, frozen for all passers by. The road, it seems, had made its own treks at one time.

Later, after pulling into my garage, I noticed the neighbors whizzing by in their cars and trucks, on their way to their own destinations....making treks!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

News Weather and WHAT?

Normally tonight would have been much like any other night. Rush home, fix dinner on the grill, work for three or four hours, and just collapse in bed at 11. Tonight several of my coworkers and I were invited to a little BBQ get together at a local news station. Ordinarily when you watch the news you see folks who literally keep us connected to what is happening in our community. Sometimes reporters can be a bit, well, intimidating, or they can be swell folks who promote worthy causes. In the case of CNN, well, that's another issue entirely. Tonight I figured I would have nothing to lose by attending a simple BBQ. After all, one of the things they teach you in the military is never turn down free food or a chance to go to the bathroom, right?

The weather was just perfect tonight. Not really overly warm, and a slight breeze made the bit of humidity go away. I decided to take my bike - of course. It was a perfect day to ride! As I turned northward towards the station, I let everything go from the day and just relaxed, something I am usually not akin to doing. Working as much as I do it is sometimes rather difficult to slow down and step back from the office or the pace of life, so it was grand just to get on the bike, start it up and take my time and make the ride count!.

Unfortunately, traffic sometimes has other plans with my time. Several times I ran into slow moving traffic, or the occasional aggressor switching lanes and causing a havoc. When you are just cruising, though, its a lot easier to just slow down, and let traffic snake its own way around. As I pulled off into the station area, I was almost tempted to ride back towards town, but alas, the temptation of a free meal and meeting some of the staff at the station were more inviting. Besides, rush hour can be awful hectic on a motorcycle!

Walking into the station, I was guided back thru the newsroom and to a side door that led outside. Having never seen a newsroom, I always thought there were forty cameras in there and a mess of computers and the like, with four clocks standing watch over its own time zone. Instead, the room was almost empty except for two cameras. My thought was who is in charge in here anyways? Who keeps the time, the programming moving? I have never been very keen on reporters. One reporter in particular - a national reporter from CNN - really stood out last year when he decided to go wading thru flood waters down town. Law enforcement was not exactly pleased with him! These folks, however, seemed very enthusiastic and pleasant. Well, hopefully they wouldn't put a microphone under my nose.

Dinner was a simple BBQ. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, potato salad. Just enough to feed my tummy. Riding a big Harley is a great thing, but muscling around a 700 pound motorcycle can be a chore. I was hungry food was free - enough said! As we ate, however, I started seeing the faces - the weather guys, the sportscaster, and then the news anchors. Even a couple staff reporters. These are folks who live in front of the camera, who give us the news, weather, and sports. I am now talking to most of these folks as if we were chatting off some picket fence. Cool!

As the staff mingled with those of us in attendance, I was particularly struck by the humor of the evening. Poking fun at each other, talking about Donnie Osmond's loin cloth (OMG!), and the jovial nature that these people seemed to have even while doing their jobs. Why can't we all be this good natured? Why do we carry such heavy baggage emotionally? While I am sure that these folks have their bad days, it struck me as odd that these folks were funny, good natured, even poking fun at themselves. I have met reporters before, but these folks made my evening pleasant and relaxing!

So thank you KGAN - for giving my wife and I a pleasant evening!


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ghost Rider

Its the weekend. For some its the time of week to get a little wild, or maybe take the family to some distant location. Normally I don't get a real weekend as most would know it. What little free time I have is usually spent looking at the heavens with my telescope or on my Harley. Not sure what diagnosis I would get for that kind of combination. After all, most Harley guys are rebel rousing beer guzzling wild men, right? I noticed, however, that this weekend seems like a pause for some reflection.

The weekend began, as it were, with our usual date. A local diner, called Willy Woodburns, a place which was destroyed by floodwaters in 2008, reopened under the same management, and with all the same folks serving our meals. Since we had rain most of the week, I decided to meet my wife there on my Harley rather than take the truck with her. The fresh morning breeze served to clear my head of the morning cobwebs and helped to awaken my senses. On the ride to Willys, I noticed a woman on a Harley riding towards me, and the usual two finger peace sign was exchanged. I always love women riders, because for me, a woman can handle a bike just as good as anything else. When I arrived at Willys, our waitress, Mary, seemed in her usual cheery mood. She gives off this wonderful positive vibe, always has a smile, and always goes out of her way to make my wife and I feel at home. I wish that we all could see what kind of a person she is, because her presence lights up the place like a spotlight in the dark.

After breakfast, I took a short, 30 mile ride to nowhere. The magic of the bike is that I don't need a destination, but rather just to savor the journey of the road ahead. My thoughts, as it were, turned to many of the mindless drummings of bill paying, the weekly chores I had failed to do, and then thoughts of my Uncle Dale as I accelerated northward from town. I always sense he is there riding with me, but I miss Dale terribly. He taught many valuable lessons to me as a young boy, and although we never spoke much after I married, I always hoped him and I could jump on the bikes and ride off somewhere for a day. I did pull off the road to see if a friend of mine was home. Ken is a co member of the local astronomy club, a simple man whose interests seem to shadow mine at times. Unfortunately not home, so I turned the bike for home, and as I pulled into the driveway I was thankful for another successful ride.

A couple weeks ago I ordered a book. For me reading anything much beyond how to operate an IPod or program my new Blackberry Phone has been nothing more than a mindless chore. So many things to do and so little time. I enjoy my work immensly, and it gives me a certain satisfaction as I ride my Harley thru town and seeing people living in areas I have helped to develop. Reading books used to be a great joy for me. I would always find books such as Jack London or Clive Cussler, even Tom Clancy, whose penning "The Hunt for Red October" actually helped inspire me to join the Submarine Service. Then marriage came, and then children, and much of my time was then spent working, chasing diapers, moving around, and just not really settling in one place for very long. The joy of reading turned into the nightmares of parenthood, as fathering two daughters took center stage over life's other challenges. Anyone who says teenaged daughters are not a challenge hasn't experienced the horror of boys showing up looking like they had an argument with a nail gun wanting to date your child.

On occassion I did take time to read passages from the Bible. Even wrote a college paper on the ills of homosexuality during the Clinton Administration's effort to allow gays in the military. Unfortunately I never really took time for myself to really READ. Even my mother in law could find herself totally immersed in a good Louie L'Amour book, but reading for me became a lost treasure, until two weeks ago. The book I ordered is called "Ghost Rider" written a few years ago, an autobiographical sequence of how the author coped with the loss of both his 19 year old daughter and his wife in ten months. I chose this book for a couple of reasons. Besides the admiration I have had for the author since 1979, I wanted some sort of confirmation that my observations on my Harley were not just some sort of whimsical diplay of nature. Last October, while riding thru the countryside in Iowa, as the fall colors were in their prime, I noted 3 bald eagles standing "in kingly guise" almost as if watching the world as they ruled nature around me. It was a most provocative moment, and it made something move in me to put my observations down in some form for others to follow. The book also gives me ideas, places to go, how to "observe" and even what TO observe. The book helps me to understand what NOT to do, and maybe how to cope with losing a loved one in ways no one else might understand. It is a wonderful insight into life on a motorcycle, but more importantly, a reminder of how fragile our human spirit can be.

The book arrived Saturday, and I have read the first three chapters already! It feels wondrous to be this excited about a book - ANY book, but it also is a breath of fresh air. At times the book can be quite sad, but then it can be a wonderful repose of wit and wisdom. Music normally is my first joy. I used to play several musical instruments, but somewhere along the way, my father made me understand that life as a musician would be a huge undertaking, and that has always been my biggest regret. Music is creation, it is all those human emotions, it is art. I loved playing music as a boy, but many times nowadays I truly miss the art of making music. My hope is at some point in the future I can at least learn a new instrument such as guitar or banjo. Music in whatever form has healing powers, and thie book is evidence of that power.

May we all find peace!


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oregon Trails

It is Wednesday, hump day for some, a cloudy day for us here. I had planned on grilling dinner, but unfortunately the GRILL had other ideas. While there are other ways to connect the grill to a gas source, we haven't progressed that far in my house yet, so making sure the TANK is full is imperitive. Potato pouch was only half cooked but the meat hadn"t touched the heat yet. We love our grill, though. Eating meals is much healthier and we feel better physically.

Lately I have pondered some things about our life here. It has been difficult to express as many can imagine. Many midwesterners spend their entire lives not more than 50 miles or so from the home they grew up in. Most tend to feel at ease with staying put, and for many there is a justification for that sort of life. Me, on the other hand have moved back and forth across the U.S. a few times. My whole life has pretty much been spent moving at one time or another. As a young boy I was taken from my parents at the age of 7 and placed in a foster home, and from there on I think I moved once every two or three years. It is not really the life I chose to live, let me assure you. Living as a gypsy has its down side and sometimes thats not a very comforting thing.

Since 1999 my wife and I have lived in Iowa. Before that we lived here from 1988 to 1997. We weren't planning on living here. I typically call Oregon my home. It is where my wife and I are happiest and it is where we wish to live out our last years with each other. It is where my wife and I met each other, and it is really where our hearts are. Many times we have travelled to places on the Oregon Coast, and many times we have spent our weekends picking the freshest fruits in the various fruit farms around Oregon. It is where we have always felt at peace with one another.

Living in Iowa has made me realize many dreams. We were finally able to afford things like that new four wheel drive, my Harley, a house we can call ours. I managed to get a two year degree here while working a full time job. We have been very fortunate here in that many of the trials facing a lot of Americans such as layoffs reduced pay foreclosure are things we have avoided up to this point. We have managed to hold on to our blessings and work our daughters thru school. We have found a number of faithful friends who bless us with their love. It has not been easy, though, as many family members have long since passed away, and health issues are becoming a bigger struggle.

Thus the dilemma my wife and I are faced with is probably something many people go thru in their lives. This is not really a "grass is greener over there" situation. After all we have lived in Oregon. Something is still tugging at us, though, and this is the dilemma we are faced with. At some point we were planning to return to Oregon after the passing of my wife's mother, but things just didnt work that way, and now with age becoming a factor it is beginning to look like we may never return. A few days ago I was riding my Harley thru town, a sort of customary ride after a bad night at the bowling alley. It occurred to me during that ride that my wife and I would struggle with this idea.

As I ride in the coming weeks I will ponder this dilemma. Hopefully God, in whatever manner we wish to call him, will reveal his intentions for our future.



Sunday, July 5, 2009

Blessings This Holiday Weekend

It has been a few days since I posted. I normally work two jobs, bowling on Mondays, trying to handle home schedules, and a variety of other activities have been keeping me busy. Michael Jackson passing away was a little bit of a surprise, and it does seem like we have lost a number of people in the last couple weeks but taken all in stride. Life gets hectic quite quickly, and sometimes we have to pause, reflect, readjust, and maybe reorganize. In my own way I find a motorcycle ride to some unknown destination always gives me the time to step out of myself and recharge.

For those who may not have experienced such things on a motorcycle, I can only suggest you try it. You don’t have an office calling you constantly. You aren’t forced into a multitasking machine, robotically moving about the days normal tasks, but instead you are forced to focus on the ride and the road ahead. Your mind can then let those suppressed thoughts out and the daily clutter falls away. Some will tell you it’s a spiritual experience, reminding you of those horsemen who rode this land before. For me I prefer to think it’s my time to clear my head, make my prayers known to my God, and set aside those daily doses of sensory onslaught.

I took some time Friday to do just that. I had cleared one day during the July 4th Holiday to escape my hectic schedule and ride up to one of my favorite places - Cabela's. There are two such Cabela's stores within a days ride from my house. One is located in southwestern Wisconsin in Prairie Du Chien, and the other is located in Owatonna, Minnesota. I have been to the Prairie Du Chien store a couple years ago, purchasing a pair of Arctic style winter boots. The winters in Iowa tend to get rather cold at times, and these boots have proven their worth in keeping my feet VERY warm. The northerly route to Minnesota, however, would be a bit more challenging in part because I have not ridden as much on 4 lane interstate highways as I would like. The challenge is furthered by the distance. Owatonna is 226 miles from my house, which means a roundtrip would put me close to a 500 mile ride. After discussing the trip with my wife, I decided to try for Owatonna.

A few notes here on my choice. Any time you set out on a longer trip it is important to plan your route. This was my first foray into a day long ride, so my safety is dependant on making sure my family is aware of where I am. My navigation skills are, for lack of a better word, awful! I have been known to make a wrong turn in front of my own house. Sometimes what I see on a map doesn’t look the same in person, so I always go over a route with my wife. Another problem for me is safety. I do not go on rides typically more than about 150 miles, so a ride of this length would test my physical abilities on the road. Having had some knee problems a few years ago, doctors gave me prednisone, a steroidal drug which added 70 pounds to my body. In short, this ride would test all of my skills for future rides to places like Mackinac Bridge in Michigan and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Stepping a bit at a time like this can reveal some problem areas and weaknesses in your capabilities, so a ride to Owatonna might reveal areas I may need to work on for longer rides.

I left the house about 8:30 AM Friday morning. The weather was sunny, temp was about 65 degrees. It was nice weather for a ride. Not too hot or humid. I was fully donned in my safety gear – jacket, chaps, workboots, and helmet. I believe in my safety gear, so riding on a cooler less humid day was a blessing. After gassing up I set out northbound. One of the things I did find was turning my arms a bit to force air thru my riding jacket. As the jacket fills with air it allows air to circulate over my body cooling it down. As I headed north I made an observation that we all see from time to time. Cell phone use while driving accounts for a large percentage of motor vehicle accidents in this country. The cell phone has become a much a part of our everyday lives as the computer. To that end, I noticed too many people driving and chatting on their cell phones. One particular woman was on her phone and yelling at her children at the same time while driving. Which hand she had on the steering wheel is still a mystery, but I note this because this gave me cause for concern of not only my safety but everyone on the road. It has become a large distraction and a safety issue. Unfortunately people still feel compelled to drive 90 mph on our country’s interstates with a cell phone in their ear.

After making it thru Waterloo, I turned northerly and westerly, and I began to notice something rather peculiar. Whether this is a sign of our downturned economy, or if it’s a higher wisdom making use of a more renewable energy source, I came up on a number of windmill farms. Not the old style windmills from years past but the newer electricity generating behemoths turning nose into the wind to make cheap electricity. I have seen such farms in places in western states such as California, Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona, but not too many here in the Midwest. Seeing these windmills will become more and more common as demands continue to rise on electricity usage. Many years ago I wrote a paper in college on alternate energy sources, and I noted at that time windmills could be used to replace coal and oil as energy sources, but never thought my prediction would come true.

My first gas stop was in Mason City on I-35. Pulling up to the pump, my body reminded me my knees were not ready to dismount the bike just yet, almost falling on my face while coming off the bike. All it takes is once for gravity to work, and you will not soon forget its lesson. I walked around the bike a few times just to get my limbs moving again. While gassing up, a beautiful Harley Davidson Road King pulled up next to me, and its rider took some time to grant me blessings on my ride. We exchanged some pleasantries, but it was the blessing of “Have a GOOD RIDE” that made me feel better. After walking around a bit more, I mounted back up and left Mason City to my south. One thing I have noticed since buying my Harley is other riders always will take time to chat and bless you with a “Have a Good Ride” or some other positive blessing. While I may not see that gentleman again, I pass on my own “Have a Good Ride” in hopes that some day I might meet up with him again!!

Another observation I made was the invasion of my senses. It isn’t just one or two senses that take in the ride, but virtually all of them. Your sense of touch is the vibration of the bike, the roughness of the road, the steering and the movement of the bike over the road. The things you see, such as the folks who wave at you from the comfort of their SUV’s, or the signs which point the way, the windmill farms, or the seeing your destination ahead. Sounds are muffled out, but the whine of tires on the highway remind you of oncoming traffic. What I didn’t expect was smell. As I rode further north into Minnesota, the smell of freshly baled hay, a solitary hog lot penetrating the senses with its putrid odors, the fragrance of sweet clover. Several places along my route I picked up the smell of clover blossoming in the fields, wafting over the road and soothing my emotions with its intoxicating waves. Somewhere along the way I realized these smells were allowing my senses to open up and increase my awareness while on the road.

I finally arrived at Cabela’s! It was about 12:30 PM. Sun was just starting to cloud up a bit, and it was obvious I would have to cut my stay short. Rain was scheduled to move into the area and in a lot of the rural areas there is just no hiding from inclement weather. One of my goals in visiting Cabela’s was to look into a back pack. Unfortunately because of the rain, I revised my schedule to just hunting equipment and clothing. Of course nothing says I was there like a t-shirt or a hat, but I also enjoy archery, and am looking into a new compound bow. The “campus” of Cabela’s is enormous. From the separate boating facility to their own eatery to everything in between, Cabela’s can offer anyone who has any sort of outdoor interest something. It is a bit weird walking into a place in full biker leathers, but at least I took some time to look into a few things before I left. A few small purchases, including some beef jerky and an energy drink were enough to satisfy my hunger for now. As I sat outside observing the crowd, a large deer statuesque and a bear likeness stood guard as sentries posted for my protection. If there is ever a place I could enjoy being at for days this was it!

As I left the comfort of Cabela’s, I waved goodbye at the deer and headed back south on I-35 to home. A brief gas stop in Mason City again gave me some concern as rain began to lightly fall in the area. My experience in rain has been very limited, to the point where I hesitate to even ride in sprinkles. I have seen too many motorcyclists hurt or killed for riding too fast in rain, and my inexperience is a big factor in considering riding in the rain, but as luck would have it, the rain only came in light sprinkles. I was forced, however, to change my riding route back home, opting to ride around the larger rain squalls in the area. This meant adding about 40 miles to my ride, but my confidence was such that this would not be a problem, right?

My previous post mentioned Coach Ed Thomas. The football coach for Parkersburg High School violently gunned down while directing school activities in the weight room at the high school. My change in routes would actually take me past the Parkersburg exit. I could never honor Coach enough to make any particular difference to those who knew him best. Knowing the kind of coach he was gives me hope that my daughters had teachers like him. The community of Parkersburg has dealt with so much tragedy and loss that it’s hard to comfort those who have lived in this community in the last year. As I stopped I took a picture of the highway sign, and remembered that while the people of Parkersburg have suffered many losses, they also have gained many triumphs, and I pray that they all can find healing in the years to come.

I pulled away from the Parkersburg exit heading east on Highway 20, in a sort of prayerful manner. I was only 60 miles from home. I had spent a great day on my motorcycle, experiencing all sorts of assaults on my senses. The wind on my face and beard almost felt like feathers brushing against my skin. It was cloudy and the humidity was beginning to rise, a sure sign of rain. As luck would have it, I was going to make one last stop but I didn’t know it. I had been on the bike for over two hours, but I began to realize that the added 40 miles from my route change was beginning to take a tool on my tail bone. My back muscles were beginning to cramp, and my face was getting a little wind burned. I had left home with an open face helmet. I chose this helmet for a couple reasons, but the biggest reason was I wanted to make sure I could “hear” traffic approaching me from behind. All these things were beginning to take a tool, and as I turned south onto I-380, it was becoming rapidly evident I needed to stop and walk around. After about 20 miles I found my stop – a DOT weigh station that was closed for the weekend. I pulled off into the parking area, and as I dismounted my legs cramped, then my back, and my legs again. A reminder that I should have been hydrating a bit more. In fact, as I tried to pull my left leg off the bike, I almost could not lift it over the seat. Once I pulled myself up again, I removed my coat and helmet and spent several minutes walking around. I quickly texted my wife, so she would not be too concerned about a late arrival. Since she was still working I knew she would not respond, but I was so cramped up I had to take some time off the bike. Just then a white Hyundai pulled into the parking lot, and the driver, a young man in his twenties gets out with a mandolin strapped around his neck. Not knowing what the intentions of this young man were, I took this as my cue to head on home. As I pulled out of that weigh station it started to sprinkle again, a sure sign I needed to be home soon.

My final stretch home was fairly uneventful, noting only the sprinkles that kept dotting my windshield on occasion. As I pulled into my garage, I was overcome with the feeling of thankfulness and relief. My wife and daughters greeted me in the garage, but I was relieved that this ride had gone well, and I had experienced many emotions that day, from the joy of seeing wild turkeys feeding on the side of the road to the smell of clover to the feel of a new bow to the feel of rain on my nose. Any good time starts with good planning, a little preparation, and flexibility to change as the need warrants. After planning this ride for a week, I realized that I had been truly blessed for the experiences I had this day.

May all of YOU be this blessed this Fourth of July!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Observations and Loss of A Great Teacher

I was going to skip today posting something, except today is not an ordinary day. Today we lost a great teacher, coach, friend, and in light of what happened today, I wanted to write about this in a way that everyone can relate to.

I went to high school in Aloha, Oregon, a suburb of Portland. I was not the best of students, in fact, as most boys were, I was more interested in girls, pizza, video games, and other such nocturnal activities of the average teenager. I never did get the best of grades, probably in part because I never REALLY tried. I still have a copy of my grades yet today. Showed them to my kids a few years ago, so that they could find a bit more motivation to succeed where I had not. I spent a large portion of my time listening to all the classic bands....Van Halen, Journey, Rush, ACDC you name it. Played trombone in school. I thought I was good, but maybe not as good as some of the others.

As a senior, my worst subject in school was English, or Language Arts as they call it today. How to write effectively using our native language. I guess I was more prone to algebra and history. As a senior, my thoughts began turning to moving my life into adulthood, so motivation was not as good as it could be, until I took Writing 120. This class was taught by Mrs. May. I cannot remember her first name, but I do remember she was about 4 foot9 and held a stern discontent for many of us who simply didnt care for school. I tried and tried to get good marks in her class, in part because I needed to know that I COULD get better marks, but her class was just very difficult. I remember the term I took the course, my last as a student, and I remember the third day of class we were given our assignment for the term. Write a term paper, so many pages long, typed (yikes-we only had an old 1960 typewriter then!) and double spaced. Due two weeks before graduation. We all have had these kinds of assignments, but the first few weeks I just was not as motivated as I could have been.

I remember the last month of the course I was struggling to get down on paper my thoughts on the book I had used. I forget the book, but I remember it was a World War 2 romance book. I had hoped for something more along the lines of a heros novel relating to the defeat of the German Army, but instead this book was written more for the romantic. I worked and worked and toiled. Finally I had my rough draft, my final rough draft before the final term paper. I thought I was home free, ready to graduate. Right?

About two days before the final paper was due, my dad got a call. It was Mrs. May. I sweated and toiled, but knew my goose was cooked. I was not doing well in the class and the paper was my only hope. After 20 minutes on the phone, my dad called me upstairs, the dreaded 'I am in trouble now' feeling sweeping over me like rain over the road. He explained that Mrs May was concerned that if I didn't get at least a B+ my grade for the course would be in jeopardy. She had asked my dad to look over my draft and see if I could rewrite it. As I handed my dad the paper I knew I was in for a LONG night. All I remember him saying was "This paper is ok, but your ideas are mixed up and you can do better". It took me four hours to rewrite the entire paper and get my ideas working in a way that made the entire paper work. Once my dad read that draft, all he said was "FANTASTIC - Get it retyped!".

It took me most of the night, from about 11 PM to after 3 AM to retype the entire paper double spaced. I handed it in the next day, came home, and collapsed in bed after dinner. I had no idea what kind of conversation Mrs. May had with my dad, but I did know that I had busted my tail in every direction getting that paper done.

As I heard the news today about Coach Ed Thomas, I was reminded of that day, when a teacher, who was one of the hardest teachers in the school, who was not among the most friendly of people, took the time for ME, to teach me in a way I never understood until I had kids of my own. I remember that she took the time to talk about how to be a better person, and how to strive to make everything you do the best it can be. I remember that she called from her home to talk to my parents, and what she said to my dad helped my dad to motivate me in a very positive and personal way. It is a lesson that has stood the test of my life, and to this day I hope that I can give my thanks to her for giving me that little extra. And as for the grade. I got an A+ on the paper and passed her course with a C. To this day I remind myself of that lesson, even with my own kids.

As for Coach Thomas. I never knew Coach Thomas. I didnt grow up here in Iowa. I do know that he was one of the most influential people in Iowa. He motivated all people with his enthusiasm for life. He taught not just athletes but children of all walks to be respectful, to cherish life, to be driven in whatever pursuit makes you happy. His life was cut much too short. For me, Coach Thomas will live on in the example he set for his students, the faculty, and the community of Parkersburg. As I rode my motorcycle today, I remembered the people who motivated me, from Mrs May to Mr Barnes, to some of my dearest friends. I give thanks that each in their own way have contributed to my successes and my wisdom. I thank each of them for their knowledge, understanding, and commitment to helping me grow and prosper in our community. I hope that we all give thanks to those who have given us time taught us nurtured us in some small way. Pray that the family of Coach Thomas can find healing and strength, and pray that the community of Parkersburg will find comfort in the knowledge that Coach Thomas will live on in the students, friends, and family he loved and taught thru his example and his wisdom.



Monday, June 22, 2009

Hot Weather and Attorneys

It is Monday evening and my wife and I spent an hour signing paperwork to refinance our home. I am always amazed how attorneys react when you exhibit your talents in the real estate community. I am a land surveyor intern, which is about the same as being called the "jack of all trades master o nun". Anyone who has ever spent even one day on a survey crew can attest to that. From automotive mechanic to computer wizard to paralegal to janitor. In our particular case this evening, a small glitch was discovered in the title to our home. Its nothing serious, and in fact should fix itself in the next couple of months. For those that own a home, discovering a "lien" of any type can really un-nerve even the stoutest of folks, but this lien was a bit of a surprise. As it turned out, it was not even filed against me, but rather a renter who lived here under previous ownership. As my wife and I sat in the attorneys office discussing this issue, the attorney looked a little concerned as I recanted several excerpts of the Iowa Code, almost as if he had counted on a brief synopsis and instead found out I DID understand the law.

On to observations. As I stated earlier these will be posted as I see the need to be more self therapeutic. Hopefully some of these ramblings will make sense, but at this point these are more for my own purpose than anything else.

This morning I hopped on the Harley for a short ride into work. The weather, as some might know, is rather hot. I noted some of the birds chirping in the office grounds. Among those are a pair of cardinals, at least one or two blue jays and several other smaller species. I am often struck how it can be almost sinfully hot outside yet these little feathered creatures hardly pay it no mind at all. You have a down jacket on guys - its hot! After spending most of the day toiling over maps and other such legal documents, I left the comfort of the office for my ride home. To my demise, the temperature had gone from about 71 degrees in the morning to a hot 91 degrees. At that temperature I was not very comfortable until I got the bike moving and air flowing around me. To make matters worse, the engine of the bike was getting a bit hot, and my legs could actually feel the heat from the engine searing thru my legs. Fortunately for me, my family purchased a denim jacket for my riding pleasures during the summer to and from work. Full leathers would have turned me into a puddle of melted goo.

I enjoy my bike, but I love my AC!



Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Few Notes To Get Started

Lately I have been rather obsessed or maybe just more attuned to life on my motorcycle. Its the sort of thing that once it gets into your blood, into your heart, you never want to let it go. For some its no matter how old you are, for others maybe just more of a statement of character. For me it has been a bit of a dream getting to this point. I never owned my own motorcycle, but depended on others to supply the ride. My parents never really cared much for motorcycles, but, as a young boy growing up I became rather fascinated by these 2 wheeled machines. That is, until I discovered girls.

I make no promises to any audience here in this blog of my intentions. I am not doing this as any sort of political agenda, nor am I making attempts to post any sort of other religious or moral views. I make this blog as a way for me to see the world as I ride, to make observations and note those things which affect us in a positive way while riding. I also will note any of those not so positive things that I see as a way to balance the scales, to ensure that my observations and notings are balanced and fair. Too often I see opinions take on a sort of poignant demeanor almost to a fault. My blog is more intended to be more self therapeutic.

A bit about me. I was born in St. Joseph, Michigan. My life as a child in Michigan seemed quiet enough until I was taken from my parents by court order in 1971 and placed into foster care, which, as those things go, was not pleasant. After being formally adopted a few years later, I was moved to Arkansas and then on to Oregon, where I finished high school and joined the navy. I married in 1985 to Mary, who has been at my side for the last 24 years. We have two daughters ages 14 and 21. Currently I live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa working for the Department of Transportation. I also run a contract business out of my home helping to design residential subdivisions for a local developer. My hobbies include astronomy, music, motorcycles, and racing. I also enjoy cooking, although my wife tends to be the better cook than I.

My motorcycle is a 2004 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic. I bought it used, in part because I did not want to come out of the box after many years with a new bike. While it may not be the best motorcycle on the market it runs well and handles OK. For me its a great starter bike if you want to learn the basics of riding and maintaining a larger motorcycle. It is not customized, as many bikes may be. Some folks can afford that, but for me, I cannot imagine putting a custom paint job on a big motorcycle only to see your investment all scraped up from someone running you off the road. If you ever want to see a grown man cry, scrape up a custom bike. I have owned this bike for about a year, and in that year I have been able to observe places and events I would never see in a car. Last fall, as a for instance, it was just as the fall colors were in full bloom. It was a wonderful day for a ride, and off I went. As I was riding along one of the many two lane county routes north of town, I came up on a field recently harvested of corn, and saw 3 large male bald eagles standing "guard" over the field. I had never been that close, and in the three or so seconds I saw them I realized that I could see and experience what no car or truck could ever let me see. Since I bought this bike, I have been on a few organized rides, but mostly ride by myself. Riding alone has advantages and disadvantages, but mostly I need the break. As I ride and continue to ride I will post my observations from time to time, in the hopes that I can take my observations and turn them into a means of reflecting on the ride, life, maybe even drawing some inner wisdom from it all. To that end, comments are welcome, however, please do so respectfully and positively.

Best Regards,