Archive | September 2017

F&F Day 8: On to Kansas

After brother Kent deposited Mary Rose back at their house last night following 11 hours of adventure park fun, he joined me in the lobby of my hotel for coffee and conversation.  It’s always nice to have one-on-one time to catch up on family news.  But in addition to talking about our families, Kent and I also explored my plans for future rides, including the “Lewis and Clark Trail” ride I hope to make in 2019.  Properly done, that ride should take me from Pittsburg, Pa., to the Oregon coast.  And part of that ride would take me into Nebraska where the expedition stopped several times on their trip up the Missouri River.  Kent told me about a Lewis and Clark visitor’s center very near where I was going to be riding today, so I made a slight detour to check it out.   The modern center was not open when I stopped by early Sunday morning, but they did have one exhibit outside that was worth the short visit.  It was a replica of the keel boat built in Pittsburg under Lewis’s direction and which went up the Missouri River for several hundred miles before being sent back to St. Louis with scientific specimens.  I mention all of this because it’s chance happenings such as this that help maintain my enthusiasm for future trips.  I’m really looking forward to a six-week, 8,000 mile history trip following the route taken by the Corps of Discovery in 1804.


Replica of Lewis and Clark’s keelboat located in Nebraska City.

A good part of the day was spent in Topeka, the town where I grew up, with one of the people I grew up with.  Jaylene and I first met in the third grade and stayed in the same schools together until graduation from high school a decade later in 1965.   During our high school years we even worked at the same drug store.  Today we reminisced about grade school teachers, high school friends, and the trials and tribulations of growing up in Topeka.  After lunch at her favorite Italian restaurant, we toured our old neighborhood and drove by each of our respective houses, neither of which now looked very much like the houses we lived in then.  Much has changed, but, fortunately, the bonds of friendship formed in grade school stayed solid even after 60 years.  The few hours I spent with Jaylene today made for an enjoyable trip down memory lane with my one remaining link to my Topeka childhood.

After a two-hour ride southwest on the Kansas Turnpike, which my dad helped engineer in the 1950s, I rolled into brother Jon’s driveway in Andover, just east of Wichita.  Over a great steak and a beer, we began to catch up on our lives since I rode through here last year on the motorcycle ride to Alaska with Mark.   For a few days this week, the mini Kansas family reunion will continue.


F&F Day 7: Nice Museum; A Little Rain; Some Bro Time

I’ve revised my opinion of Anamosa after visiting the National Motorcycle Museum for 2 1/2 hours this morning.  From the outside, the Museum looks like a remodeled K-Mart store (because I think that’s what it is), but once you pass through the front door, a professional, well-stocked, impressive motorcycle museum awaits.  I’ve been in bigger motorcycle museums, but this one is as good as any I’ve seen.

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I also learned some of the history of the museum, which was the brainchild and pet project of the “J” in J&P Cycles, John Parham, before he died last spring at age 62 following an extended illness.  Despite the death of the museum’s founder, president and driving force, the museum will continue under the direction of Parham’s wife and a board of directors committed to its future.

Like many museums, you can spend two hours or two weeks going through it and still miss some of the details and some of the nuances.  But that just means you should return to it if you can.  I know I will if I’m in the area again.

While there are plenty of Harley-Davidsons in the 450 bike collection, I think nearly every bike ever manufactured is represented at least once.  Indians, Excelsiors, Flying Merkels, and scores of other early 20th century bikes are on display, as are many classic European bikes from the 1920s and 1930s.  Many of the bikes took me back to my early days of motorcycle cravings:  Nortons, Triumphs, and BSAs, as well as the first new bike I every owned, a Honda 350.

In addition to the bikes themselves, the museum displays included old photographs, military motorcycles, dirt track racing, speed records, hill climbing, motorcycle-themed vintage movies (e.g Easy Rider), Evel Kneival, clothing, badges, custom parts, a board track recreation and even an entire shell gas station from the 1930s.  In short, the museum visit was easily worth the $10 admission fee.  If you’re going through Iowa and you get bored with mile after mile of corn fields, stop by Anamosa for a few hours.

After the museum visit, I had a 340 mile ride, almost all of which occurred on the Interstate or other four-lane highways.  Not terribly exciting, but I covered the miles fairly quickly and made it to Lincoln, Nebraska, to spend a few hours with brother Kent and his 9-year old daughter Mary Rose.  Scattered rain across Iowa meant an unscheduled stop to suit up and for two hours I rode in and out of rain which rarely lasted more than 10 or 15 minutes but which would have soaked me without the rain gear.  As soon as I cleared the last rain shower, the temperature dropped about 15 degrees into the mid-60s and the rain gear stayed on for a little extra warmth.

Today was Father-Daughter day for Kent and Mary Rose, so I joined them at an adventure center that had it all:  go-carts, mini-golf; bowling, batting cages, and dozens of games of chance for the kids.  They had been there since 10 a.m. and I left them still riding go-carts at 7 p.m. so I could check in at my motel, write a quick blog entry, and get ready for a trip tomorrow to the town where I grew up–Topeka–and then on to Wichita to see brother Jon for a couple days.

So far, the F&F tour is giving me exactly what I wanted.

F&F Day 6: Some Family and a Friend

Just to prove, if proof be needed, that this F&F tour really is about F&F, here are a couple of pictures of some F&F.


This 14-year old cutie is granddaughter Lucy


This 48-year-old cutie is #1 daughter Heather.  48???  Holy crap!  That makes me………..old.




This purple-haired passion flower is 22-year old granddaughter Hanna.


This blast from the past is Ann S, a colleague from the dark days of the Jacksonville Parks Department.  In the background is the Wisconsin State Capitol.

As long as I’m posting pictures, I’ll add one more for readers who only follow the blog to see if I’m still eating pie.  Yes.   Yes I am.  For breakfast today I had big slice of delicious apple-berry made by the best pie maker in all of Lake Geneva.IMG_0171

In addition to saying goodbye and seeing F&F today, I routed this trip to be sure I went to Anamosa, Iowa, where I currently sit at my keyboard typing away with the aid of my buddy Jack.  Even as you read this I can see the skeptical raised eyebrows and the look of utter astonishment as you ask, “Anamosa?  What the hell is in Anamosa, Iowa.”  Well, Anamosa just happens to be the home of J&P Cycles, the “World’s Largest Aftermarket Motorcycle Parts and Accessories Superstore.”  Having been to their huge store in Ormond Beach, Florida, I just had to go to this one.  Quelle déception (How disappointing.)  Anamosa is the site of J&P’s first store, but clearly not the biggest.  They apparently have an enormous warehouse carefully camouflaged somewhere in an Iowa cornfield from which they sell most of their parts and accessories online.  I walked dejectedly around Anamosa’s disappointingly small establishment, exploring shiny chrome options, unnecessary leather things, and sparkly rhinestone jewelry, decided I needed none of these motorsickle geegaws to make my utilitarian bike any better and, with a long face, straddled my woefully unaccessorized ride and rode off.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to visit Anamosa’s “National Motorcycle Museum” which boldly promises more than 400 two-wheeled mechanized contraptions.  We’ll see.  I’m beginning to think Anamosa is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.  No, wait.  That’s something else.  Anyway, I’ll check the museum out tomorrow morning, but having been to the Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee and the Wheels Through Time Musuem in Maggie Valley, I’m afraid my high expectations are about to be dashed on Anamosa’s cruel corn stubble.

I must, however, having slighted Anamosa’s motorcycle offerings, commend a hidden gustatory gem I found just a mere half block off Main Street, across from the local eight-lane bowling alley and next to the Ford Tractor dealership.  Daly’s Winery and Bistro, despite its unassuming façade, offered a weary traveler a tightly tannined Cabernet Sauvignon with a peppery blackberry flavor.  That lucisous dark wine paired nicely with a prodigious slice of spicy Tuscan meatloaf, slightly grilled after slicing, resting on a bed of garlic-and-thyme mashed potatoes, with freshly sautéed green beans added for color.  All of this in Anamosa, Iowa. Color me impressed.

I came for the motorcycles;  I stayed for the dinner.  Serendipitous surprises seem to be the norm on the road.

F&F Tour Day 5: Travel

What I write as I move around the country and the world is, by definition, a travel blog.  I write about interesting scenes, beautiful places, and fascinating people.  While on my current tour,  I’m also reading a history book of sorts, The Greater Journey (2011) by Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough, in which the author discusses scores of American artists, writers, inventors and statesmen who traveled to Paris in the mid to late 19th century and whose time abroad had an inordinate impact on their lives and, hence, on the cultural and social history of the United States.

Their travels, of course, influenced them and American history much more than my own peripatetic motorcycle meanderings will influence me.  Nevertheless, I, and many others on anonymous journeys, have something in common with those 19th century wanderers:  a desire for expanded boundaries; a need to go beyond existing horizons; a drive to explore different cultures, to learn about other places, and to experience the extraordinary that often lies just beyond the ordinary.

I didn’t travel much in my youth, only the annual station wagon family vacations and obligatory summertime extended family visitations with grandparents, aunts, uncles and a few cousins.  As high school ended, I knew I wanted to leave the midwestern town I grew up in and I joined the Navy to see the world.  Except I found myself stationed near Memphis, Tennessee, and I wasn’t seeing much of the world.  So I asked the Navy to send me somewhere else, anywhere else, fully expecting to see the jungles of Southeast Asia.  But, as luck would have it, the Navy sent me to a ship that spent six months plying the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and stopping in exotic ports.  At least they were exotic to an 18-year old from Topeka, Kansas.

Although the stays in our ship’s ports of call were never long, I sampled and savored a world beyond that in which I grew up.  Those foreign visits changed the trajectory of my life, even if only slightly.  New tastes, smells and sounds flooded my senses; ancient and historic sites piqued my interests; glimpses of classic art opened doors to cultural evolution; a hint of outdoor adventure excited my spirit; a swirl of languages and cultures mixed with the strands of my midwestern life.  I experienced the extraordinary that lies just beyond the ordinary.

Travel still enables me to have that experience.  That explains, I think, why my passion for two-wheeled adventures have taken me to 49 of 50 states, Mexico, all the Canadian provinces and one Canadian territory.  The thirst for travel has taken me three times to Europe, including a trip this year that took me sailing through the heart of Europe along the Rhine, the Main and the Danube rivers.

There is no greater teacher than travel.  Most people, myself included, live lives that often mitigate against roaming freely beyond one’s neighborhood.   Job, family, mortgage–a broad range of adult responsibilities limit life-expanding journeys.  Now that my circumstances permit, I’m committed to traveling as much as I can.  And I encourage others–young and old–to hit the road, sail the seas, take to the friendly skies.  Go somewhere new.  See something new.   And learn.  Expand your cultural horizons.  Learn new points of view.  Experience the wide world that’s waiting for you.

F&F Tour Day 3:

I said I wouldn’t dwell on friends and family as I blog on this trip, and I won’t.  But just to report on my day:  Lucy (14) was sick and home from school when I arrived yesterday and woke up this morning feeling worse.  So she stayed home again today and made a brief visit to a doctor who gave her the usual cocktail of antibiotics for a sinus infection.  Poor thing.  She’s miserable but was still good company for me today as she detailed her first, abbreviated week in high school.

I left her long enough to have lunch with Hanna (22) who caught me up on her life and current aspirations.  It was a good conversation and nice to hear that she’s happy and doing well as she blazes a path through a forest of adult opportunities and challenges.

Today really was a non-active day for me, but I didn’t mind.  Just sitting and talking with granddaughters that I see too little of was a nice break.  I don’t expect that the next two days will be much different and I may not post a blog again until Friday when I get back on the road.

Thanks for checking in.  If you’re checking in from Florida or anywhere else where Harvey or Irma disrupted your lives, I hope you’re drying out and that flicking your light switches produce the desired result.  So far, all the Florida and Texas friends I’ve heard from have been spared serious damage.  Hope it stays that way.

F&F Tour Day 2: Time is of the Essence

My decision to leave a day early turned out to be prescient.  Rain began falling early this morning in Maggie Valley and would have made for a saturated and unpleasant ride if I had waited until today to begin the F&F tour.  Fortunately for me, today I woke to a dry, cool, overcast day in central Kentucky, and as I headed north, the fitful skies gradually cleared and I finished today’s 500+ mile ride to Wisconsin in the upper 70s.

I opted for a less-than-direct route to Lake Geneva to avoid the butt-cheek clenching ordeal of nervously navigating unnerving Chicago traffic.  I’ve ridden through the “City of the Big Shoulders” enough times on a motorcycle to know I would much prefer adding 80 miles to my trip to avoid the fierce gauntlet of distracted, rude, and just plain batshit crazy land pilots who menace innocent strangers who dare to drive in their midst.  So today I bypassed the Windy City, steering my steel steed to Interstates well to the south and west.

That routing decision meant I had time to put my feet up, lock the cruise control slightly above the recommended speed suggestion, and contemplate any multitude of things.  But today all thoughts seemed to come back to the issue of “time.”  Not, “What time is it?”  or “How much more time do I have to spend dodging potholes on the Interstate?” but more of the “Where the hell did time go?”  variety.  As in “I’m almost 70.  Time to assess what I did during all that time.”

I concluded that maybe I wasted a lot of time.  In 70 years I should have accomplished something.  Not the “find a cure for cancer” kind of thing or “write the great American novel” kind of thing.  But at least had some kind of impact.  So I began to assess what I’ve done with my time.

I went to grade school and high school for 12 years but don’t remember learning much.  Except that I can read, write and cipher some, so I must have learned something.  Then some military service to make the world safe for democracy or some such nonsense which obviously didn’t work because democracy is no safer now than it was in the 1960s.  Then college, a little work, more higher education and a couple of diplomas useful for  covering the random nail holes that dot my walls.

Teaching.  Well, maybe some students got something out of my classes.  Not just names and dates and other imminently forgettable history stuff but, hopefully, some of those young scholars began to ask important questions of themselves that led to insightful answers that end up making the world a better place.  I think most teachers hope for that.

Other odds and end jobs just seemed to take up space in my life.  Writing sports for a small town newspaper.  Working on the decennial national head counting project known as the Census.  Serving as an anonymous civil servant in jobs that could have been done better by any number of people but probably didn’t need to be done at all.

But ultimately I remembered the purpose of this trip.  Seeing “Friends and Family.”  The memories that whizzed by in a blur as I sped down the concrete slab reflect the “times” that matter most. Friends from childhood and friends from more recent days.  Family beginning with my parents (gone) and brothers (scattered and aging) and growing to include a 50-year marriage, two beautiful, amazing daughters, six promising granddaughters and one geographically distant great grandson.

Time passes slowly as one grinds through childhood and emerges gently scarred and barely scathed into adulthood.  But at the upper end of adulthood, time moves much too quickly; I want to grab hold of it and slow it down.  Of course, I can’t.  So I’m going to use some of the present time to refresh old memories and some of it to create new ones that I’ll be able to look back on and use to answer the same question I had today when, 20 years from now, I wonder where the hell time went.

Friends & Family (F&F) Tour: Day 1

Well, I’m on the road again.  This time I embark on a relatively short ride (three weeks & 4,000 miles) taking me through 16 states as I visit (impose upon?) family and friends, catching up on scattered lives while once again enhancing my own with a two-wheeled solo sojourn.

I wasn’t sure I was going to blog this trip.  There will be no awesome scenery to gush over (e.g. Newfoundland or Alaska).  There will be no wildlife adventures to regale readers with (e.g. Rocky Mountains).  There will be no medeival castles or soaring cathedrals that stir my historic imagination (e.g. this summer’s river cruise).  And there will be very few pictures to entertain blog followers who don’t really like to read the crap I write.  This isn’t that kind of trip.

While I very much look forward to seeing brothers, daughters and granddaughters and reconnecting with friends from throughout the past six decades, I won’t dwell on my daily interactions with them as I unwind from a day’s ride sipping Jack Daniel’s and updating hdriderblog.  Instead, I’m going to use this opportunity to write random thoughts about things of interest to me.  I wish I did more of that because I enjoy making impulsive mental stabs at literary creativity, but motorcycle trips seem to lend themselves best to my amateurish writing impulses.

Before I forget, though, today’s F&F tour started with a goodbye from my sidekick of 50 years whose willingness to let me venture off on my own for three, four, five, six weeks at a time speaks volumes about her admirable adaptability to my wanderlust impulses.  (There are probably some friends who know us who would say she’s glad to have me out from underfoot for a while, but you would be wrong.)  Apropos of a “friends” and family trip, as I was leaving Maggie Valley, I made a quick stop to say goodbye to friends celebrating their 60th anniversary today with a luncheon I was very sorry to have to miss.

Why did I have to miss their celebratory luncheon?  Well, for those who haven’t emerged from their cave in a while, Florida is currently awash in one of the most destructive if not the most destructive hurricane in American history.  We’ll know for sure when all the scorecards are tallied.  And that hurricane is forecast to have a soggy atmospheric impact in North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.  I wanted to avoid starting this trip in the precipitory detritus of Hurricane Irma.  I’ve ridden in heavy rain before and will no doubt do it again, but I’d rather not if I don’t have to.  And I didn’t have to.  So I left today instead of on my planned departure date of tomorrow.  Today’s ride started coolish (mid-40s), breezy and overcast, but, by the time I crossed into Tennessee and left the fast-paced Interstate for a more leisurely northwest course into and across Kentucky, blue skies and warmer temperatures made for a pleasant ride through still-green hills and mini-mountains.

As I rode under azure (as tinted by my aviator-style sunglasses) skies today, I thought about friends in north Florida preparing to experience Hurricane Irma.  Why did they stay?  I offered them shelter in the relatively safe harbor of Maggie Valley, but they opted to “hunker down” and take their chances. Did they stay to protect their “stuff?”  Did they stay because the escape routes north had turned into 300-mile long parking lots?  Or did they stay because, like most of us, they believe “it” won’t happen to them?  “It” only happens to other folks.  And what is “it?”  Is “it” damage to their property?  Is “it” injury to themselves?  Is “it” something more final.  “It’s” a mystery.

But don’t most of us or maybe all of us believe “it” only happens to others.  Hurricanes and tornados hit “others.” But not me.  Winning lottery tickets are picked by “others.”  But not me.   Cars run into “other” motorcyclists.  But not me.  A belief that “it” only happens to “others” makes it possible for us to proceed with our daily lives, to rationalize our fears, to accomodate an unknowable future.

At any rate, I will think often about my Florida friends during the next few days.  I hope they avoid “it,” whatever “it” is.  And I hope to see their smiling faces in a few weeks as the “F&F” tour eventually winds its way to Florida.

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