Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Hello all,

Well, the snow has been falling all day and I did a smart thing, for once. Today was slower than turtle poop and I made an "executive" decision to work from home this afternoon. I used my lunch "hour" to make the drive in the blizzard across Temple Mountain, from "Peterburgh" to Amherst. Cars were crashed and spun out all over the place. I crawled home but without incident.

The snow has moved out and now the temps are plummeting. New Year's Eve is upon us and all I can hope for is a better year in 2009.

I hope you are all somewhere safe and warm tonight. Maybe the challenging local weather will force some folks to stay in and off the roads.

Happy New Year to you and yours. Let's shovel a path to the street and get out and ride soon.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Separated at birth

Sorry folks, I just had to....







Am I the only one to see the resemblance?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year



Riders to the left of me. Riders to the right!

Ah, to be in a crowd of bikes right now, rolling down the road. Winter arrived early this year and we'll have a white Christmas in NH. The weather is warming somewhat but I suspect this mess will be here for a few days yet. No opportunity to ride in the next few months, unless I were to travel to warmer climes.

"I'm not going to get too sentimental, like those other sticky Valentines..."
I just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and happy holidays, no matter what you celebrate. (Any Druids out there?)

It's been a good year overall. A lot happened (Sturgis trip) and another safe year under our collective belts. A couple of minor incidents but everyone seems to have recovered nicely (Box, I'm talkin' 'bout YOU.)

We all have a lot to look forward to in 2009.

So, Merry Christmas to my friends, fans and accidental passers-by. I hope you get what you wish for, what you deserve and that Spring comes early next year.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Tis the season...

With the frenzy of activity necessary to keep one's job, I realized that I have let a lot of things slip this year. It's hard to get in the holiday spirit when you see the axe fall all around you. This year has seen a series of lay-offs and terminations of friends across the country.

Yesterday I realized that I had not bought a gift for a co-worker who consistently makes my life easier and is one of the hardest workers I know. He's low on the corporate totem but I know we would miss him dearly should something happen to him. I want to let him know how much I appreciate his kindness, friendship and spirit. I need to run out today to find something worthy.

This year the term fiscal frugality has been tossed around quite a bit. With the unplanned expenses of a week in hotels (and dining out 3x/day) plus that shiny new generator (an unplanned purchase), etc., etc., and there goes any financial cushion I might have had. I feel like I'm on a fixed income and it just isn't enough. In debt, with no job security is a very uncomfortable feeling. I find it very easy to ignore the sale exhortations of the emails and retail commercials.

No matter what comes in the next year, quarter or month, I know that I have a solid set of skills and an excellent network of colleagues, associates and friends. The year ahead will be challenging, not only for me, but for many others as well. I know how cliche it is to make New Year's resolutions but the recent ice storm (and 7-day power outage) pointed out how unprepared we were for that event. What else am I unprepared for? What steps can I take avoid the same complications in my financial life? I intend to find out.

I've been procrastinating, I know. It's a bad habit. I don't have much energy left at the end of the day. I'll be reviving my efforts to do my own thing.

I hope we all make it through this season and the poor economy. Time to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Talkin' 'bout my g-g-generator....!

The darkness is winning

All,

Most of my readers are local, I think, and are suffering right along with me. All except for one club member who high-tailed it for Florida to pick out his white shoes and matching belt.

On Day 6, we were without power and have run out of hotel options and bunked at Chez Shane.

On Day 7, I caved in to mounting stress and the impending weather forcast and had a generator installed. My service guy was terrific, working late and facilitating the whole process.

I could tell you the whole litany, the delays, the long hours waiting in a cold and dark house, lit only by candles and firelight. The boiler leak, the forgotten parking passes, the carbon monoxide detectors going off, the round-trips to Nashua. Fact is, I'm just too damn tired.

We just got a forecast for 6-12 inches of snow Friday into Saturday. If the power is not restored, at least I know I can keep the house warm and the pipes from freezing. Without water in the house, I've given in to more rustic bathroom breaks. At times like this, it's good to have the proper equipment.

I'd love to compare notes with all of you when this is all done. For now, I could use a warm shower and a nap.

I'll wave at you later,

Joe Rocket

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ice, Ice, baby…



December 14, 2008 – Dateline Amherst, NH

We’re deep into Day 3 of the Ice Storm of 2008. The power went out shortly after midnight on Thursday and we rolled over and went back to sleep. Deep under covers, little did I know how truly bad the situation was. That became evident on Friday, once we were outside the house. I saw several large limbs down and lots of smaller branches. But nothing major or threatening. The ice had already turned back into rain and I stood getting soaked, to get a chance to speak with my neighbor. His damage was more extensive with bigger trees split or topped by ice. But no damage to either’s home.

A drive provided a better idea of what took place. Large trees were down everywhere and many roads impassable. The roads out of our neighborhood were beset by downed lines and large roadblocks.

With no heat or water, we found refuge in a hotel Friday night. On Saturday, we returned home to build fires and attempt to heat the house. It was @ 50 degrees indoors at Noon on Saturday. The afternoon passed quickly as I tried to keep two fireplaces stoked and burning efficiently. I’ve come to the conclusion that the living room fireplace is mostly for “show” as it burns terribly, filling the room with more smoke than heat. Add to that the problem caused by the draft of the larger family room fireplace.

Saturday evening was approaching quickly with no resolution of lost power and we frantically called around for a hotel room. The closest was all the way down in Woburn, MA, which missed the brunt of the storm. We had a nice dinner at American Joe’s, followed by the movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still (DESS). I won’t give it away here and I confess I am not sure if it followed the original story.

By Sunday morning, we had an offer from friends to crash at their house. With this in our back pocket, we headed back towards home, to check on the house. Still no power, and still very cold. It was now down to 41 degrees indoors and it felt colder. You could see your breath inside. Not fun.

I lit the main fireplace and said “to hell with the other one”, which is just a waste of wood. If you know me at all, you know I had to waste good wood… ;-)

Speaking of wood, I have to say thanks to my neighbor for providing me with two carloads of seasoned wood, after putting in his pellet stove. Ironically, he couldn’t use it during the power outage because it needs an electrically powered blower motor.

Anyway, this weekend did not turn out the way I had planned. Mother Nature is a bitch and cares little about the best laid plans of mice and men.

Off to the pub for a little beer and dessert. Hope you are in a warm and safe place and that we all get through this very quickly.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Day 4 Update: I managed a car bomb and a beer on my birthday at the Peddler's Daughter. Not quite my plan but we were in excellent company with the Shanes.

Still in a hotel. Not having any fun. I'd almost rather be at work...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Q4 blues

Hi all,

I started a blog post this past weekend about how corporate America sucks and how I was embroiled in the last minute push to sell anything and everthing I could to make our numbers look better for the month/quarter/year. And then my big, fat hands leaned on some key and deleted three-quarters of what was written. Auto-save saved the "revised" post before I noticed and, when I did, got angry and said "F' it!". At some point I will learn (maybe next year) that I should write in Word and import the final file into Blogger.

On a positive note, I'm happy about our pending AMC holiday bash coming up on the 19th. We have a large group and will be taking over a local restaurant for some seasonal and communal good cheer.

On top of that, soon I reach a major milestone in life and that alone is cause for celebration. Too soon to start a "bucket" list but I am contemplating making strides towards the things in life I've always wanted to do, like race. I'm making some inquiries with some folks in the know and will keep you posted.

Finally, if you look in the upper left hand corner of this blog you'll see some links to some new friends' blogs. Of course, Jerry & Marie's adventure is over but if you didn't get to enjoy this in 2007, find time to wander through this and review the adventures they had. Good stuff.

For now, it's head down until the end of the month. Sell, sell, sell! Before you know it, it will be a new year, a new administration and time for the motorcycle shows. Time to get on with our lives.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Give thanks

Friends,

Today is a day to reflect on our lives and give thanks for all we have. That message was driven home early this morning by a phone call from my brother-in-law Peter, explaining that he and his wife would not be joining us today as his step-son was in a hospital today after a suicide attempt.

I'm thankful that I have a healthy and happy family, both physically and mentally. I'm thankful for all my friends and their families, my extended family. I'm thankful for all of the advantages I enjoy, the house, the cars and the bikes.

I'm thankful that I live in this country, enjoying the freedoms that we do.

I'm most thankful for my riding buddies with whom I just completed another safe year.

As a pessimist, it's hard for me to acknowledge how lucky I am. On a day like this, I'll hug my family and tell them how much I love them.

Thanks to you all for listening to my rants and raves for a full year now.

I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Done and done.


Well, I guess that's the "official" end of the 2008 riding season. Jerry's put up his bike and I plan to wash mine and prepare it for the winter season. A good wash, empty the saddle bags and store all my gear until Spring. It's always a bit of a sad feeling to see the end of the season come.

Today we took a drive (in the rain) to Brentwood (no, not the tony home of celebrity killers), NH near Exeter for lunch. We loaded up on pork BBQ and enjoyed a cold beer. Between the midday beer, full belly and raging daylong headache I took a power nap before emerging for the evening hours.

The leaves are almost fully down and tomorrow will be a day filled with manual labor. The week's rains will cease, following tornado warnings tonight, and the weekend will eventually turn sunny and cooler.

There are a number of fun activities coming up, to make the off-season a bit more fun. We're 40 days from Christmas and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. We've got a Stinky Cheese party that falls on the evening of the Nashua Holiday Stroll. J&M are hosting this annual soiree at their exquisite residence, high above downtown.

The only thing we can do during the winter months is to find constructive ways to stay entertained until the warmer months arrive. To us, that means getting out with friends, finding cultural events and other things to keep our minds off the fact that we're not riding. I proposed a club name change to the Amherst Motorcycle and Snowmobile Club but I don't think it will fly.



I hope you are all well. I'm going to find a fun, social hobby to keep me active in the winter months. S is suggesting I join a gym. True, I have gained back all of the weight I lost last year and I do not like the way I feel. Maybe today was the last hurrah for pigging out.

I plan to get out and walk tomorrow and couple that with vigorous yard work. The day should be good enough that we can get a lot done and collapse exhausted at the end of the day, with sore muscles and a feeling of accomplishment. I'll light a fire and hunker down close with a glass of port and a good cigar.

Have a good weekend, a great holiday and I'll see some of you soon.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Day 2008

Well, Election Day is here tomorrow and we can finally put an end to the long parade of mud-slinging political ads. I, for one, am eager for change of almost any kind. The current regime has over-stayed its welcome. Perhaps if "W" seemed a bit brighter, a bit more polished, we might have found his down-home, country demeanor endearing like we did with that peanut farmer, Jimmy Carter. In any event, change is good.

Here we are at the change of the seasons, Fall is officially here, the clock has been turned back and we enter a long period of darkness. It will be a lengthy fourteen weeks until we're back to the same amount of daylight we're enjoying (?) now. And when do the clocks Spring forward? March 8th? Will that be the start of the 2009 riding season? What changes will be in store for us all by then?

How many of you will have new bikes? Have you seen some of the new iron out that's coming? Most of the Harley-Davidson line-up is revised and well worth a look. Wait until you see these bikes, with their fat (5"!) rear tires. It will be love at first sight. How many new riders will we meet, get to know and ride with next year? We've had quite a surge in membership in this past year and I swear that I haven't met all the new members. I don't even think that Jerry has managed to assign nicknames to everyone yet! Maybe it's time for "colors" so that we can ID them.

With the winter months ahead, I know that we'll have to make up for the missed weekends by making a concerted effort to get together as a group. The Third Thirsty Thursdays were a direct outcome of this need to meet (that, and beer). We'll make an effort to hold these regularly (monthly) at various locations in the Nashua/Amherst, NH area.

There are a couple of winter events that we'll try to attend. The Boston bike show is always a fun and easy break during the winter months, providing a glimpse of the coming riding season. Less frequently attended is the Toyota/Cycle World Motorcycle Expo held at the Javits Center in New York City. This is harder to get to and a much longer day. Still, it's been a fun and rewarding trip and I'd like to try to make it this year. No other show has the number of new bikes and the variety or manufacturers, under one roof.

Bike Week, in Daytona is in February and only the hardiest NH riders make it out through the snow drifts and, more importantly, make it back again. And then there's Myrtle Beach and Sturgis and...Hey! It's riding season again!

I see a few warm days this week. Election Day (Ride to Vote, Vote to Ride) and Wednesday both look to be in the mid-60's. Now that it's dark out, I need to swap my tinted shield for a clear one, so I can find my way home in the inky blackness. It was as black as the inside of a witch's heart tonight!

So, pick your moments, pick your line and pick your candidate. It ain't over 'til the Fat Lady Sings.



A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Monday, October 27, 2008

Surfers rule!

Hi all,

Just a quick post to say hello and to let you know that the season is not over yet. If the surfers can be out there in the wet, then we can be out on our scooters doing our thing!

Sunday found me headed to Seabrook to visit Tank, my favorite tattoo artist. We had a brainstorming session so I could tell him my ideas for a 50th birthday commemorative tattoo. You see, I realize now that my brother Rob can never get a tattoo due to the blood-thinning drugs he's on, and will probably have to stay on for the rest of his life. I'd hate to miss out on the chance to further adorn this largely blank canvas.

We had a moment earlier this year at the Rockin' Rib Fest when, due to the beer and the heat, I stripped off my shirt. The Fraulein was surprised to see a tat on me and somehow, I thought that odd. Nothing wrong with tattoos, I just choose to keep mine largely private.

So, Tank and I kicked around an idea I had and he will get back to me with some interpretations of my basic idea.

From Seabrook, I headed North to rendezvous with the rest of the gang. I found them parked at Jenness Beach, in Rye, NH amid a crowded parking lot on a beautiful sunny day. The surfers were out in force, enjoying the good waves and sunshine. The temps were in the mid-60's so I am sure they were pleased.

We hung around for a bit and then I got a surprise when former Audi co-worker Scott Allerheilegen and his lovely girlfriend Jen pulled up alongside us. We chatted for a moment or two but the spell was broken by another car trying to make it's way through the parking lot. Too bad. I gave Scott my card and off they went, towards their local home.

Anyway, we had a spirited ride home, me leading with Jay and Rich close behind. The sun was full on my visor and I was glad to have the smoke-tinted shield on my Arai helmet. As we bombed home, I realized what a perfect short ride it was. A blast across 101 to the beach, up the coast, watching the surfers and zooming home. The yardwork that followed didn't even bother me but I would have rather ridden into Boston with Jerry. Maybe next time.

Don't give up, never give up. There's still good riding to be had, if you just pick your moments.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pegs over paint

They say "Use it or lose it". I think this applies to riding in New England at this stage of the season. Use the time you still have left or lose the opportunity to get out on your bike and ride.

Fall is fast upon us and the days are quite a bit cooler. Midweek, here in New Hampshire, we have a cold front moving in and the temps are dipping precipitously. The mornings are that much colder and we are starting to get a frost now and then. Yes, and I even heard a local weatherman use the dreaded "S" word on the air the other day and it didn't rhyme with SPIT. He said SNOW. The F'er. Of course, he was referring to waaaaaay up in the state but, still.

With the weekend high temps maxing out at 60 degrees or so, we'll need to bundle up for our normal 10AM starts. I am long overdue for a pair of winter riding gloves or even heated gloves. My hand are the first to suffer. There's only so much I can put on under a pair of leather gloves.

The colors are near peak here in NH so that means caravans of cars driving at yard-sale pace as the occupants moon over the gorgeous color. I hear that Vermont is in full bloom so, if you want, head there instead. We have lots of favorite roads but I'm not giving them up here, as Oxxcycle does every time they print an issue. It seems that monthly I will read that mag and see another one of our "secret surfing spots" outed for all to see. Please. Leave us some rides!

Discussions among my friends about winter storage have already begun. Who found what and how much they are paying. I keep mine in the garage where I can see it every day and dream about the coming season. Plus, we've had Decembers when the weather was 65-70 degrees and sunny. If the roads are clear, I'm going out. It's too soon to discuss winterizing so I won't.

I'm hoping to get a good, long ride in on Sunday, that is, if I get all my painting done. I've got a spot in mind on the south shore of Mass., west of the Cape. We rode there (past Fall River) a long time ago and had a nice lunch and an ocean view. We then piddled around the area and enjoyed some scenery before blasting back north to home.

Some day we'll all look back on this time and wonder why we didn't put it to better use. I don't want to say I didn't do everything I ever wanted. Get out and ride. Watch out for the wet leaves and the poky leaf-peepers. Ride hard and ride fast. And keep an eye out for me, I'll be coming the other way, pegs over paint...

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fall riding tips

All,

Not a lot of riding in the coming days if this rain continues. I want to make mention of the wet leaves on the ground from now until the end of the season. Wet leaves and lawn trimmings are as slick on the road as oil. Keep an eye open and reduce your speed when the conditions exist (post rainfall) to put these materials on the road.

In suburban areas, watch out for the "tool" mowing his lawn and blowing his clippings into the roadway. He's most likely not a rider and is generally clueless about his actions. If it makes you feel better to wave at him with one hand, feel free. No need to stop and explain it to him.

Plan for the changing weather by dressing in layers and allowing for multiple stops in your itinerary. Someone will no doubt be over or underdressed and will want to make an adjustment. Keep an eye on the riders ahead and the one behind for a signal to stop (pat top of helmet).

That's it for now. I hope to get out with you all soon. If you'd rather do a little interior or exterior painting, let me know!

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rise and Fall

Fall will rise at 11:44 AM on September 22, 2008. I know this fact to be true due to the cool mornings, empty roads and tinged leaves. A good wind will release the earliest of leaves, twigs and other debris. Later, even the hardiest wind, hail and snow will not remove the crusty oak leaves from their perch.

The riding is good now, if you don't mind adding a layer. My body seems to feel winter coming and is doing it's part to add insulation.

The bike is running so well on these chilly days. The cold air is denser and I'll defer to any mechanics or engineers among you to explain why the bike performs better under these conditions. I arrive to work happy, refreshed and thankful for these last few days of summer.

Now is the time to be planning those last few long rides, to the Cape, to Vermont and to Northern New Hampshire, for when the color is full, it almost hurts your eyes. The beaches are empty of tourists and we can enjoy a few last late lunches before they close up shop for another season.

Every sunny day is a gift, at this point. We've certainly seen our share of rain this year. I don't mind cold and I don't mind wet but, I don't like cold AND wet.

Speaking of cold and wet, we have another get-together this week. It's time for another Third Thirsty Thursday, on 9/18. As much as I hate that label I coined (and I don't know if it is original but, I think it is), at least THIS way, the club can remember which frickin' night of the month that we meet! Maybe a couple of cold ones will inspire me to come up with a better title. Perhaps each club member who attends should buy me a shot of Jagermeister to aid my in my quest for enlightenment.

Our "meetings" are fun events. Cold beer and lively chatter. No format, just show-up with your spouse or girlfriend, whichever can make it that night. Crumpet took offence to my labeling us as "grizzled". Since she claims she doesn't read my blog, I guess that I can get away with calling us that. I always err on the side of caution with these events and am never the last to leave. It's harder on those of us with teens at home. Good examples need to be set.

Next month will bring the annual P-Town Fantasia Fair week that we accidently attended years ago. Not sure if we can make it this year but 2009 is a definite. Ken, Wes and I had a raucous time there more than a few years ago. And there were no teens to witness our eventual inebriation and wobbly-legged walk home.

I want to end this season on a high note. Maybe a run to the Cape would be a good idea. Or, someplace stark, barren, windswept. I envision camping at the ocean's edge, with the roar of the pounding surf drowning out all civilization. I wonder if we could camp at Horseneck Beach in Massachusetts? Parts of that beach are REMOTE. I'd be giving up a fraternity secret if I told you how I know...

Oxxcycle, a local biker mag distributed by the Nashua-Manchester Hippo, had a short article recently about riding to Sturgis. In it, the writer gave directions to Sturgis. I'm reading along and going "yeah, yeah, yeah". And then I get to his line about not ever having made it all the way there. And I realized how much more significant our trip really was. I mean, we just took it all in stride. Nothing bad happened. No breakdowns, no missed ferries, no real problems.

I got most of my pictures printed recently by Kodak and sat there for a long time flipping through them. I want to add Ken's pix too and have yet to see Doc's photos. I'll bet they're pretty good, given that camera he was wielding. I'll have to find a way to organize and preserve the memories from this trip somehow, other than right here.

Alright kiddies, off to bed with ye! Or back to work or whatever the hell you were doing before you StumbleUpon'd this post. Tomorrow's a new day and another gorgeous day to ride. Make the most of it.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Friday, September 12, 2008

Remembering

You're getting this post because Seth Godin speaks to the same issues I am trying to address, only from a business perspective.

[remembering]

Is it worth doing?
What was my impact?
Will it matter in the long haul?
What sort of connections did I create?
Wherever you live, whatever you do, you have an obligation.

Make today a productive day.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Goodbye Summer

Holy crap it's late! What am I doing up? I'll be luggage tomorrow!

Hello all. We're down to the last couple of weekends of summer and a perfect time to ride. The weather is fine, cool in the morning and evening and adequately warm during the day. Riding at this time of year in New Hampshire means wearing layers and maybe even breaking out your leathers again, for the second time in the season. I love that first cold snap that means it's leather weather. There's nothing quite like wearing a thick leather jacket with cold air blowing in your face.

Riding in the White Mountains in the Fall is sensory overload. Bright sunny days, filled with winding roads and unbeatable views. But, we're not there yet. The leaves have only begun to show some change in color and it will be a month before we'll see full color. So, there's still time before the roads are clogged with buses filled with the sightseeing eldery, followed by poky RVs jammed with lazy families.

It's still possible to get a lot more rides in and maybe a camping trip (or two?). The nights are getting colder but, with the right gear, the right tent and sleeping bag, it's very do-able. Of course, we'll need a fire, some fire-water and some bottles to melt.

My last post had some people questioning my state-of-mind. People! It's not that bad. The ledge is only four feet off the ground. All I'm trying to say is that I want more out of life. I guess I always have.


It's funny how you pass through jobs and end up in various spots. I long for the days when I felt like I was part of the greater good, part of the hive. I had a large circle of friends, vendors and associates back in New York City and it felt like we were all doing something good. Truth is, we were all busting our butts to make money for someone else. Still, it felt good to be part of a team. My peers and I were all in it together. Now, I just feel like it's more of a solo act.

Still, I have my bike and that brings me joy. Somedays, though, I want to ride right past the office and keep going. It's hard to look outside and see it parked so close on a beautiful sunny day. I'll admit to the occasional long lunch, getting lost on the way back to the office. I figure it makes us even for all the days I sit in that stilted environment all day long. One of the perks of working in the city was the ever-changing backdrop. I'm bored by the town I work in. It's filled with hippies and blue-hairs. Okay, to be fair, that is not MY assessment but it's spot on.

A friend just sold his bike this past weekend and is in the hunt for another. Truth be told, he did it solely for financial reasons. He can't afford the monthly nut. I assumed that he was done for the year. "Nope.", he said. He's going to buy a (used) car and then buy a beater bike with the leftover money. He's looking for two wheels under $2,500. What a great attitude. He refuses to give up riding despite his financial hardship. This is the third bike I've seen him on in two years. He buys and sells regularly. Like our friend Kevin, who would buy a used bike at the start of the season, put 4-5,000 miles on it and sell it at the end of the year for close to what he bought it. Smart.

I had a good ride this past Sunday. It was a mix of back roads and slow sweepers with a bit of highway hard-charging as well. And we revisited an old favorite spot for a bite and a warm-up. The lanky blonde waitperson/barmaid was so easy on the eyes, for once I was speechless. Oh sure, smarminess floated just beneath the surface but, for the most part, I behaved.

The clock on the wall says it's past 2AM so I need to go now. Hopefully, I can get some sleep before I have to rise again.

I'll talk to you later.

A low, drowsy wave,

Joe Rocket

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Seasons change and So Do I


Socrates said "An unexamined life is not worth living."

I'm sitting here watching Martin Scorcese's movie "Shine A Light" a film about The Rolling Stones. It reminds me of a lyric from one of their songs:

"Take me down, little Susie, take me down
I know you think you're the queen of the underground
And you can send me dead flowers every morning
Send me dead flowers by the mail
Send me dead flowers to my wedding
And I won't forget to put roses on your grave"

I'm a glass half empty kind-of-guy. Always have been. I know that about myself and I clash on a regular basis with my eternally optimistic better half. She can find the bright side (or tries to, anyway, to my utter irritation) of almost any situation. Thank gooodness for Yin and Yang in the universe. Balance. Harmony. We are complete opposites, so I guess that old cliche is true.

Still, I can't but help but feel a growing dissatisfication with my current situation. Perhaps it's the economy, the increasing pressures at work or the looming mid-century milestone just ahead. I don't know the cause but I spend considerable time thinking about my lot in life and how I might improve it. Not only that, however, but what will I leave behind when I am gone? What sort of legacy will I leave, for my short time here on earth? What is the true measure of a man?

What is Success?

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.


This last quote is often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson and is one of my favorites. I keep it posted on my desk as a reminder, a goal.

So, I sit and ponder what I can do to gain personal satisfaction while being a better person, doing more for others. Jerry pounds nails for Habitat for Humanity but doesn't talk much about it. He just does it in his spare time. Selfless and a good example.

The seasons are in the process of changing. Leaves are beginning to turn, fall, the flowers are starting to die off, the tomatoes fewer, greener, smaller. Is that what's happening to me? I feel the changes of age coming over me, see them on the faces of my family and friends. A new wrinkle here, a gray hair there. How much time is left for any of us? What can I do beside ride my motorcycle in the rain? I find that my interests have changed, along with my habits, and I wonder if the cause is mental or chemical.

I used to have more energy, a greater interest in reading and was a continuous scribbler. I recently took note of the fact that I have stopped drawing almost altogether. I couldn't attend a meeting in the past without filling the margins with doodles. Am I more focused now or less creative? I fear the latter, if that's the case.

So, I'm quietly embarking on a quest to find more meaning in my life and my work. It may involve a career change or some added activites. I figure I have only twenty years or so to do something worthwhile and satisfying. And maybe less. You never know. Oh yeah, there's that pessimism again...

If you have any ideas, let me know by leaving a comment (below). Oh Crap! IF THIS IS WHAT A MID-LIFE CRISIS FEELS LIKE, someone talk me off the ledge. Otherwise, I'll talk to you soon.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Handle of a Pump

Hi,

I promised that I would publish Ken Bateman's recollection of Sturgis here with his permission. Ken is our resident poet, shaman and story-teller; a very talented fellow. The days are separated by paragraph. Enjoy!



The Handle of a Pump (AMC Sturgis 2008)

Copyright 2008


A coasting flat,

that's a flat tire you get

when rolling over glass to a coasting stop.

At 7:30 we left Joey's Diner for a slow roll through Vermont to Albany.

During one of the stops for rain and gas, the Hell's Angels were riding

stock Road Glides across the New York turnpike,

neither bobbed nor chopped.

London, ON, the first day's end: the Beer Store,

Malibu portions too large, and the Maple Glen Inn.



Luckily my foot doesn't hurt when I ride

and all I want to do is ride;

otherwise, it hurts all the time.

Overtaking Michigan from the Sarnia side of the Blue Water Bridge,

Port Huron looks like it certainly was.

We winged it: the big truck won't fit at Muskegon -

"Get it out of there and get the motorcycles in."

The wind on the Lake Express blows off all the passengers on the sundeck.

Milwaukee looks small from Lake Michigan,

it reeks on Sunday evening,

and Miller Park looks like the works of a giant protractor as we speed by.

A tavern in Madison is so exciting to memory it causes consternation

to be relived, ill-timed joshing, misunderstood, apology, hard feelings.

Chad, a kid wrench from Bikertown HD in Youngstown,

offers to check all our engine codes

and catches on for the ride to Rapid City.



Transitioning trees to grasslands, Rt. 90 Wisconsin is soft and swoopy -

the accurately carved farms, a Willa Cather little Switzerland.

A middle-aged woman at the La Crosse convenience says

she is blessed to live in a beautiful part of the country. She is.

Immediately across the Mississippi, Rt. 90 does a steep curving climb,

trucks hard-balling up to the plains.

Windmills populate Minnesota corn fields,

slow turning from cheap gas to alternatives, whatever the price.

Chad has some ass left, Sioux Falls eschewed for an hour more;

the lure of an outdoor pool and beer in the hot evening sun

snakes around Mitchell and draws us all in.

A thunder-less storm with whole-sky lightning rains in the evening,

a family couple tells their move for a job from beautiful B.C.

to a town near Toronto (and they are not city folk).



On the descent to Chamberlain, Jeff is stunned forever by

the pooling green Missouri

and all around, nature is Dakota-dry.

The way west is ungoverned, fast and free:

Chad blows past a spirit snagged in a Lakota dream catcher

and the Ultra gets to 95.

Orchids sighted, the Badlands are green bottomed and sunflower dotted.

Wall is a boardwalk frontier town. Wall Drug advertises,

"Give me your money" and free ice water.

Indulge in the latter and slather more sunblock on arms, neck, and nose -

anything uncovered.

Like they forgot winter in Rapid City,

surburban stores are sprawling in the quintessential summer-dry blue-sky sun.

Chad diced in to the behemoth rally dealer; snake eyes and twelve-hour days,

sweet trouble swishing her tail a hundred feet long.

From Sturgis, up the long mountain

past Deadwood and Lead (rhymes with greed)

six thousand feet to the alpine cool and Papa Joe's Rec Springs.

He's Mohawk hair on the short weight of a retired Texas sheriff.

He's a talker and good to his word:

the first beer is free and we camp 1800 miles from origin.

It's Tuesday and the band and Girls come Saturday night

(maybe Friday, he hasn't heard from them yet).

Three turkey patriarchs threaten, females are clucking the grounds.



Oh Spearfish and the relief of Precision Soles and Common Grounds,

good coffee and walking regained: thanks for your patience.

Spearfish Canyon, overcast and slow,

like a two-up honeymoon ride and I imagine her entreaty,

"Go slow so I can see."

From Rt. 14A, Rt. 85 starts narrow and twisty, then higher, wider,

and much faster toward and onto Rt. 16,

a blue-sky Wyoming ride, green and sparsely treed.

Newcastle to Custer, burned trunks like sticks give mountain views;

jumbo clouds in fantastic shapes holding still against the dark blue sky.

Many years from Wilton, most recently from Flagstaff,

the old lady met in Custer had arrived in June,

bought a house with a view on the hill next to the big gray.

She predicted, everyone so welcoming here,

many beautiful naked ladies in Sturgis.

Later we guessed her age and didn't mention

how attractive her mellow, peaceful ways.

We refused to pay Mt. Rushmore's fee, so they hurried us down.

Camp cook, those Tabasco shrimps were to my liking hot,

and more beer in the evening, dark and cool.



The Devil's Tower run.

Rt. 85 again in leather jacket chill.

Why not Rt. 85 every day? The snow-drift fencing answers why.

The Buckhorn Bar and Cafe with gas and pole cat hats:

Jerry now rides on a sheepskin bed

luxury cut generously for a magic carpet ride.

At the Rt. 90 and Rt. 14 Conoco, a couple from 1977 Troy, New York

sells buffalo skulls with horns stuck on,

sells pipes, wrist rests and whatever else.

He said Wyoming is a great place to live if you don't

like people and don't mind the wind.

Though it's grown so much, he's stuck in Casper now: grandkids.

John waved us through the Devil's Tower National Park scam and

we picnic lunched at the volcano's base.

Visitors bored family and friends with comments on the climbers:

"I'd be more scared coming down," and "They must be crazy,"...

humans chattering this and that.

John and Jerry on to Sturgis for a saddlebag solution,

the Harley store there a T-shirt shop,

they found the right brackets, twice, at J&P.



Hill City closed Main Street to all but bikes,

two tourist women commented, "Mark your calendar, not here."

John gets political fun with Geronimo, T-shirt Terrorist.

Iron Mountain free of fresh tar and sand,

15 mph hairpins dare quick looks to mountains beyond.

Jeff marks the tour bus two-lane climb, we give it more distance to the front.

Custer State Park slathered in sunblock, blue sky and open grass,

donkeys and buffalos photographed in the road.

Needles' Mt. Rushmore photograph with four in pose.

Slathered and dizzy hot, we swam a necessary idle at Sylvan Lake.

John remarked underpants would elsewhere be OK, not here.

A mother stretched too thin between her young daughter and

boy floating over his head, wanting to get off -

Jeff reeled him in, life saver telling kid, "Stay on the raft."

Dusk at Sturgis, parking free, attendance down this year,

plenty of bike slots on the street.

Jeff gets his shirt, taunting trailers, we'll see when worn.

One Eyed Jacks three levels filled with Hulk Hogan wannabes in obscene Ts

and go-go girls on platforms well out of reach.

Light jobs on bikes flashing in the street,

and up and down Main, the constant parade peaked around 10.

A wild night-ride back to camp,

cautious and warm up the long mountain, swooping in dark.

Deadwood done by 11 for the night,

we go longer, laughing by lantern till 2.



What logic in a bikini bike wash for $10; whereas,

half a bikini bike wash for twice the amount?

Vanocker Canyon praised uncrowded and beautifully paced

on the run to Rapid City for a bolt.

Spearfish, splendid western town and lunch at the Common

though the bookstore had no poetry:

"Are there any poets or poetry readings around?" "I don't think so."

The party's at the Chip, Bear Butte in background, $127 for two nights' camp

with entertainment. Wide open hot bare grassland -

we didn't think it'd do and cooled the thought at the Broken Spoke Saloon,

pins pushed in for Nashua and Amherst on the U.S. map.

Just two pins this year for all of Maine.

The run to Rochford (rhymes with Crotch) is another delight,

perfectly groomed twists and cattle along green valley fields.

Supper at the Moonshine Gulch Saloon, far away and deep in the groove.

The Party's at Rec Springs: a baldy in slippers retrieving his other from

the runway where she's 60 young with flex and good legs,

old exotic smashed on booze, grinding splits to cheers

while the band pumped out knock-offs and she fell

three feet to the stones under the shed.

Bouncing back up like a cat, she'll hurt like a dog in the morning.

The Girls, mixed fat and thin, young and not, strip for money tips

though the few Viet Nam Vets are all asleep by then.

John sleeps out and awakes in a cloud.



Jeff splits for home and runs out of gas -

an hour and a half by the side of the road, the hot way home.

Belle Fourche (rhymes with Boosh) deserted,

even the Welcome Bikers cafe is closed.

The Methodist Church lonesome sign offers biker breakfast

between 7 and 9 (which may be the headcount they draw).

But the Stone House Saloon, windowless

on the hot prairie with nothing else around,

is glinting with bikes parked on the grass,

the mid-day sun high in blue,

beers, burgers, and suntans like a ski-slope lodge.

Hulett's gas station closed, bad news for commerce and

bikers low on gas, so we dog it slow for 37 miles past

Devil's Tower, the Junction, and on to the Conoco.

It felt like a 10-minute ride 76 miles to camp, timeless

when stopped on Rt. 585 for pictures of clouds in the pure

Wyoming landscape of white, green, and blue.



We decamp for home with Dan.

Rt 14 through Pierre, and the wind, wide, flat, straight, and

hot through South Dakota fields.

An old Sportster pre-vision with an antler-and-chain kickstand.

We blow into Watertown and supper on

the shady porch with fried things and beer.



Minnesota Rt. 212 slows through towns and fields,

and past the Beet Sugar plant mid-day Minneapolis is jammed.

We're free for lunch in St. Croix Falls, waitressed with accents

lampooned in radio's Prairie Home Companion.

Rt. 8 across Wisconsin is like New Hampshire's Great North Woods,

most like Errol, old logging and camps, flatter, more lakes.

Jerry gets the lucky Duck in Crandon and we all get bugged off

the narrow Four Seasons veranda.



We've been agreed to 10 mph over limit and John holds true

when enticed by the red car passing at 80 or 85.

Thumbs up a few miles further when his ticket delivery comes into view.

Across the border: Michigan, people, and junk of suburban sprawl.

A quick lunch on Hot Pasties along Lake Michigan's north shore.

After the scenic slow tedium of Rt. 2 ends with dunes,

Rt. 75 is car-less and fast north to Sault St Marie,

the International Bridge to Ontario's same

gives view to lakes and the Soo Locks, a Great Lakes tour.

Jerry's Iron Bridge to the Red Top Motel, and

across the street, Chinese food Veronica can keep.

Both with dreads, an Amherst, NS and a Germany kid are hitching west

a good distance with an old Quebecois. He originates from Winnipeg.



We're shut out at Sudbury; the neutrino detector's elevator is being used.

My bike gets hit, knocked down, kickstand twisted,

and we're in rain suits languishing in thunderstorm clouds.

On to Ottawa and the rain won't stop so I must,

locking up at the Bel Air and enjoying pizza and beer on Richmond St.



Now the kickstand is a joke:

it won't stay up unless tied but then won't come down 400 miles from home.

Ottawa HD detaches one from a new bike and we're on our way to

Montreal's rain, road construction, and traffic jams.

Long to home and slow in rain, but Vermont is dramatic in cloud and green.

I'm getting rain pants butt and it's raining hard,

Jerry's holding the horse back from its race to the barn,

John's in the lead as we go steady and slow in one rain to the next.

I thought we had an angel truck behind, protecting us

from oncoming cars going too fast, but eventually it passed.

The rainbow end-to-end at Concord signaled a glorious end

then more rain, hard rain arriving home,

the goal of riding each day to its end.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fading f-f-fast....


Hi all. I just wanted to send a quick note out about a few things. The Sturgis blog is done but that doesn't mean that I will stop writing. What would Jerry do while he smokes his cigars down at Castro's? Talk to Mike?

I'll need a new topic and title and when I think of something worthy of your attention and time, I'll let you know. Few people got the joke at the end of the previous post. A blog is the ultimate in literary onanism and the link at the end of the last post was me pulling your leg. I shall not be writing about my toenails any time soon.

My cool cousin Erin (she's cool 'cause she rides and a whole lot of other reasons too) read my Sturgis post (#55) and was unsure if I had a good time on my trip or not. I did. However, I suppose I could have had more fun had I'd made it more fun. Does that make sense? I went into this adventure with no pre-conceived notions and no expectations. Suffice to say, I get bored easily. Or, after the first two or three sleepless nights, camping lost it's appeal for me. C'est la vie.

I'm glad I did the trip, it was an accomplishment and a bit of an adventure and I saw a lot of cool stuff, beautiful vistas and had some new experiences. That's all anyone can hope for from travel. No, we did not get arrested or in any trouble or require bail services from our former bail bondsman. That's all just rumor.

With the cold snap we're having this week, it feels like summer is fading fast. It took so long for it to arrive and then we suffered almost constant rain. But this morning's sub-50 degree temps dislodged me from my scooter in favor of the warm comfort of heated seats and a cupholder. But I'll ride tomorrow anyway, as my bike is now well overdue for another service visit.

We're at the point in the season where the rides get shorter and the starts get later. We tend to linger longer over our hot coffee, take more breaks, talk more and enjoy longer lunches. None of that is a bad thing. It prepares us for the long, cold winter months when we don't see much of one another and get together (at most) monthly for a night out and long discussions about "next year". We fantasize about the coming ride season like a soldier remembers his best girl at home, counting the days until we are together again. But I'm getting ahead of myself. This weather is going to break and we still have a lot of riding yet to do.

I can remember frigid rides up north when it began to snow or the ride to The Cape when our fingers got so numb that hot coffee barely had an effect. I look forward to the change in temps and scenery as New England goes into peacock mode. The bike loves to gulp down that cold air too! It runs so clean on that cold, pure air. And I love to lay my hand on the jugs, to warm them, and feel her heart beating. Yes, John, pure letchery.

Next time, I will post Ken Bateman's short story/poem The Handle of a Pump. Ken is a real talent that most of you have not been exposed to yet. He is our resident poet and his works encompass all manner of his experiences, not just riding. Still, I love the way he captured the events that unfolded around all of us and feel that his viewpoint is so different than my own, I wondered if my eyes were even open. So, stay tuned for that, published here with his permission.

That's all for now. It's late and I am fading fast. As the overly protective father of a teen, I am awaiting his imminent arrival and the juxtaposition of my head and pillow, that will soon follow.

Good night and a low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

PS - Phil, thanks for your kind words. If you want to start a Joe Rocket Fan Club, that's fine by me. Or, just pass along the link to anyone else you think will enjoy it. Looking forward to future rides with you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Un-Lead-ed

Hello everyone and welcome to the beginning of the end. Yep, now that the Sturgis ride is history, I guess I’ll be shutting this puppy down. No need to talk about ride preparation, etc., now that it’s history. That, plus the season is dwindling to a wet and crummy close.

I’m sure that each and every one of us who made this ride over the past two weeks has his own opinion of the ride. I’ll admit that there were parts of it that I enjoyed more than others but, overall, it was a great experience. All in all, I put @ 5,300 miles on my bike. I had good intentions of tracking mileage, taking good notes and a lot more photos but, the reality is that we went there to ride and ride we did.

Our trip began on Saturday, July 26th. We met at about 7AM at Joey’s Diner (AKA the Shiny Diner), on 101A in Amherst. Given that I was the only Amherst resident on this trip, I arrived first, eager to get going, only to wait outside waiting for the diner to open. I guess in sleepy little Amherst, there’s no call for a diner to be open any earlier. We had agreed that we’d make an effort to start the day with a collegial meal. After coffees and juices were put done to, we set off heading West on 101 towards Vermont.



Vermont turned out to be the slowest portion of our whole journey. As we attempted to wend our way westward, by avoiding the superhighways through rural Vermont, we soon found ourselves trapped behind slow motor-homes and deep in traffic. It felt like we were moving at 40 mph for hours. Eventually we broke free of the traffic and hit the interstate. Our destination was London, Ontario, nearly 600 miles up the road.

Not wanting to disappoint our fearless leader, we pressed on to our destination, arriving late in London. We found a rather forlorn looking motel, on the strip (across from the beer store) being run by a nice Indian family. It had a rugged appeal and a cadre of down-on-their luck residents. It was disturbing to see these folks living in these temporary quarters as they made an effort to get their lives back on track. Taxis came and went, one poor soul riding his bicycle back to his room for the night before carefully locking it away. The only other tourists seemed to be the couple in the room sandwiched between our two. After a late dinner, we ended the warm night sitting on the sidewalk in front of the rooms. I realized later that John was leaning against the couple’s door as we carried on a loud, animated, beer-infused conversation. When they later emerged, to smoke their post-coital cigarettes, I looked away, embarrassed, assuming that we forced them to moderate their rambunctious carnal yearnings.

The following day, we compared notes on who snored and who didn’t, made a quick breakfast at a Tim Horton’s, a gas stop and pressed on. Our target at the end of the day was at least as far as Muskegon, MI, to the car ferry. During our earlier planning sessions, it was agreed that the ferry was an excellent alternative (Thanks Joe!) to the 300 additional miles, stress and traffic that we would endure by riding south around the bottom of the lake and through the city of Chicago. We also agreed that we wanted to cast our fate to the winds, not knowing exactly when we would arrive in Muskegon or which ferry we might take. So, we boldly set forth sans reservations, hardened bikers that we are. I guess we thought that it was early enough prior to Sturgis, as if that were the only use for the ferry. To our chagrin, we were informed that the ferry was booked and there were no available slots. But, we could wait 2+ hours and see if we could go standby. We waited.

We used the time to dash off to lunch and then return to wait in the hot sun. By then, Ken’s broken toes had started to vex him and he was off in search of shade and a loosened motorcycle boot. Ken had walked into an invisible chair leg in the unfamiliar motel room the previous night. He smashed two of his middle toes good and they were most likely broken or fractured.

We waited a long time and watched as the 12 other motorcycles passed us losers in the lot. In the final moments, it was down to us, two cars and a large truck. I tried to encourage the purser to load us according to size but, without a reasonable bribe, all decisions were left up to the ship’s captain. We watched as they loaded the two cars and called for the truck. We sat there diminished and hopeless and considered the prospect of a long, hot ride ahead through Chicago-land traffic. But wait! What’s this? The big lug of a truck (who boldly displayed his chrome-plated bumper testicles) was a skosh too large to fit the last spot on the boat. Happier words were never heard than when the captain loudly announced “Remove that truck and load those motorcycles.” Whew! We greedily boarded ship and tackled the task of strapping down our scooters, all the while as the ship got underway. We clambered up the stairs, last on board only to find nary a seat to be had out of the wind or sun.

Two and one-half windblown hours later, we docked in Milwaukee, an hour earlier (thanks to the time zone change) and made fast for Madison, WI. Once again, we pushed ourselves hard to go the extra miles, even when we didn’t quite feel up to it. We found a Motel 6 and met Chad Lovett, our new friend and personal H-D technician. He heard us arrive and bounded out to greet us, with the enthusiasm of a Yellow Lab puppy. We had already spied his gorgeous matte finish Blue Street Glide, a beauty of a bagger. He introduced himself and offered to check the fault codes on the Hogs. He inspected John’s bike so quickly, that John thought I had been joking about Chad’s diagnostics. Chad, at 24 years of age, seemed knowledgeable about Harleys but a little shy and short of social courage. He hinted at joining us ever so slightly that it almost went over all of our heads. I finally said to Jerry “I think he wants to ride with us.” He did. He was riding solo from Ohio to Sturgis to spend two weeks working for the Rapid City H-D dealership during the rally crunch. He professed to be leaving at 6:30 AM and we told him we’d “see him then” and the next morning as we made our preparations to depart, he popped his head out of his room window and said he’d be right down. Well, we took young Chad under our collective wing and he was our Harley good luck charm against mechanical failure.



We rode all that next day, our third day together and our first whole day with Chad. Suffice to say that his bike was fast and he loved to let it run. We made short work of the roads from Madison, WI to Mitchell, SD. After a false start, we all agreed that a motel with a swimming pool sounded grand. Soon, the bikes were unloaded and we were sipping cold beers poolside. We had several each and decided to order pizza from the local emporium. When they arrived, we had just enough time to slam them down, watch a bit of a movie and finish the beer. A thunderstorm lit up the night sky and blew about our bike covers.

Our fourth day dawned lazily and we had a robust breakfast that took longer than expected. We rode hard and fast to deliver young Chad to his new temporary work assignment at Rapid City Harley-Davidson, stopping first to detour through the Badlands via Rte 240. We bade him good-bye and wished him well, knowing that our next week would be a lot more fun than the 12-hour work days ahead of him. Somehow though, I thought, that Chad would find his bliss (did I mention the proffered photos of his fiancé?).



We arrived at Recreational Springs campground late in the day to be greeted by “Poppa Joe”. I wish I had taken a photo of Poppa ‘cause the truth is stranger than fiction. Before us stood a Good Ol’ Boy, Texas drawl and all, with a Mohawk haircut and dressed in surgical scrubs. To say he was a vision is an understatement. He was a character out of a bad ‘80’s Sci-Fi movie. He greeted us enthusiastically and Ken held him to his promise of our first beer free. After a long ride across the barren plains, it sealed the deal.

He advised us as to the best tent site available and he did not lie. We took over a large shady area high on a knoll above the campground. Soon our tents were up and our gear was down and we were off to Lead (rhymes with LEED) for supplies (read beer). Our site was situated high in the Black Hills, at an altitude of over 6,000 feet. The road from the highway, near Sturgis, was a steady climb, sawing back and forth like a corkscrew had carved the road out of that rock. The advantage of the altitude was the temperature difference from Sturgis, a good 10-15 degrees cooler here in Lead.

Come Wednesday, we commenced to riding the local roads. I confess to not knowing what order in which we did these but we rode Spearfish Canyon Road several times, we did the Iron Mountain road and saw Mt. Rushmore. At Rushmore, I was looking the wrong way and missed it, prompting Jerry to make a hasty U-turn that earned us the scorn of a whole slew of park rangers. They ungraciously showed us the exit and when I stopped to remove my jacket, they swooped in on us again squawking about charging us for parking, just because I got off my bike in their parking lot. There’s a word for women like that.



We rode West into Wyoming, my favorite scenery and roads. The swoopy roads were devoid of other traffic and we attacked them on imaginary strafing runs, pulling left, right and left again. I could not get enough of those roads and the peaceful wide-open spaces.



We saw the Devil’s Tower, made famous by Richard Dreyfus and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a movie of my generation. It stood out in the sky, seen for miles. We couldn’t believe how large it loomed above us as we sat in the shade at its base and munched hastily made homemade sandwiches. Climbers disappeared from view, only to reappear as tiny specks of color on the gray-green monolith.



We rode through a herd of buffalo in Custer National State park and I found myself alone in the midst of the herd, the largest bull I’d ever seen looking over his shoulder at me. Keep movin’ big fella, nothing to see here! We saw evidence of wild fires and their devastation and deforestation. We rode by the Sitting Bull monument and marveled at the vision and fortitude a project like that takes.



We took a side trip to the town of Spearfish, SD to find a solution to Kenny’s aching toes. Not a lot of retail out there if you consider that we had to ride about 30 minutes from Lead to find a shoe store. After he selected a very comfortable and suitably granola-y pair of Keen’s, we wandered to the local coffee shop, Common Grounds. Parked outside was a Suzuki Hayabusa, the world’s fastest production motorcycle. After I got my coffee, I said hello to the young man and inquired if that was his bike. “Yes” came the reply, in an Australian accent. He told me where he was from and when I asked if he was here for the rally he replied that, no, he wasn’t but was simply riding across the United States, for his second time. What? Here was this kid, riding solo, on a high-speed run, coast-to-coast on the hottest, biggest sport-bike you can buy. It made an impression on me that was to stay with me for days.

Our Sturgis experience was probably atypical, due to our choice of location. Had we wanted to be in the mosh pit that is Sturgis during rally week, we should have stayed there in Sturgis. Being in Lead limited our evening activities. After we’d dined or cooked our dinner at the campsite, quaffed a few root beers, no one was of the mind that riding at night, where the deer and antelope play, to be a judicious decision. So, we largely stayed put at night. Plus, after a full day of riding, most of us were tired, dirty, smelly, sweaty, grimy, funky, grouchy, sloppy, sore, sunburned, etc., etc. You get the idea. And it seemed that almost every night we needed to run to the local supermarket to re-stock the larder. So, our evenings were spent mostly looking for a place to sit, drink beer until the sun fell and stumble about in the dark. We weren’t able to have a campfire due to the recent spate of forest fires in the area. All of the campgrounds had been forced to limit any cooking to covered grills. Still, we found some other lighting solutions and managed pretty well.

Come Friday night, we were of a mind to get to Sturgis for “the show”. That is, the bikes, the babes, the funky customs and the girls too fat for their outfits. One of us was well on the way to a hangover and wisely decided to stand guard at the camp. His pay was the balance of our beer, metered at a rate of four per hour. The rest of us rode into town for a two hour “shore leave”. We saw a bevy of attractive waitresses who served us our manly pink lemonades. We returned to camp to find our mate unable to rise from his chair but well within the reach of the cooler. “I had twelve beers” he muttered over and over. Yes, we know. I tried to sleep, but the tent was too warm indoors and I eventually acquiesced to the cooler night air and an offer of a nightcap. Well, the schnapps turned into two and then a beer and before long, it was 2:30 AM and sleep came easily.



I forgot to mention that one morning I was attacked by a giant 30-40 pound turkey. It seems our host was raising these birds and when they weren’t scouring our site for scraps, they were shitting all over the bathrooms. The staff didn’t make too much of an effort to contain these filthy creatures or to clean up after them much. Cleaning and sanitation seemed to be low on the priority list.



After a couple of mornings of waiting for Jerry’s fresh-brewed coffee, I realized it was easier to walk down the hill to get a cup at the restaurant, with all the free cream and sugar I wanted. Well, the Tom was following a campground employee in a golf cart when I crossed its path. Like a magnet, he turned and started to follow me. I was still full of piss and vinegar and I assumed (wrongly) that he would lose interest once I got too far away from his pen. Nope. So, I tried to shoo the old boy away, waving a foot at him in a threatening manner. I even gave him some of my best tough-talk. “Go on, get the fugouddaheah”. Nothing. Actually, he got agitated and threw open his wings and puffed himself up to his full size. Pretty impressive, actually, when your eyes are mere slits and you still need a cup of Joe to get you started. So, what you do you do when your threat fails to elicit the necessary response? You start walking faster, away from this demented Thanksgiving dinner. He gave chase. I sped my walk; he flapped his wings to keep up. Now I am running at a good clip with this squawking, nasty, ugly, beaked bastard in hot pursuit. I get to the front door, only to find it locked. A friendly face quickly unlocked the door and let me in. He had witnessed the bird’s behavior and said, “Yep, we’re gonna have to hit him on the head soon. He’s getting mighty bold. We’re afraid he’s gonna peck some young kid”. Well, so it wasn’t just me, then.

Saturday night’s entertainment was worth what we paid for it, not much. The site brought in a band and they were pretty good. Doc was drinking margarita’s out of a Sprite bottle, I was smuggling Jaeger in a Miller can. Doc is the only person I have ever seen dance and eat a hamburger at the same time. I was impressed by how willing his dance partner seemed despite his masticating and twirling.

The old gal that Kenny referred to in his Poem/Short Story, A Handle of the Pump, was pretty smashed before she joined the paid help on the stage. It seems that alcohol didn’t just lower her inhibitions, it obliterated them. “Manny”, her poor husband, did his best to keep her in hand but alas, the demon was in her and she strutted, kicked and whirled like a dervish, despite her hard landings off-stage. The band played until late, we raided the campsite for one or two last drinks and then made the rounds to say goodnight. A late night and an early morning followed.

Sunday’s weather forecast for the coming day was dismal. Thunderstorms were predicted, hail and all manner of bedlam. The only thing the weather channel left out was fire and brimstone. The thought of sitting through a storm like that in my nylon fortress was too much. That’s it. On the spot, I decided I was leaving. I guess I had been thinking about it since I had gotten to the point of having felt like I had ridden as much as I as I had wanted to, expressing this thought to Jerry a day or two earlier. The other issue was that of traveling back through Canada again, which proved to be more of a pain in the ass on this trip than on any other. I had never felt like Canada was too far apart or too different from the US but on this ride, it just seemed to be too much effort.

Customs isn’t too bad but waiting for Customs is a drag. Sitting in endless traffic and stop/start, stop/start is crap. Bikes should get expedited, don’t you think? The monetary exchange was the biggest bitch. I guess I really hadn’t given it much thought before we left and Jerry was the only one to carry Can-cash on him. He was kind enough to dole out a couple of dollars (loonies and toonies) here and there and we suffered the exchange rate on the dinner and motel. I wasn’t up for that again.

So, I plotted a course, due East, south of Chicago, through Indianapolis and headed out at 11:30 AM. A bad time of day to get going and a bad frame of mind to be riding in, thanks to the Jaeger and lack of sleep. It’s my own fault for running out of gas 134 miles outside of Sturgis. I was not paying attention to the odometer as I should have been. That and someone futzed with my reserve valve. On our trip west, we had done very high speeds (speed limit is 75, so 85 mph is nothing out there) and had run for @ two hours between stops. Well, I’ve always said my bike gets 140 miles to a tank and another 10-20 on reserve. Not this time, bucko! So, there I was, dead on the side of the road without help. Fortunately I had signed up for Mo-Tow in advance of the trip and called in my issue. Once they were able to locate me in that giant state, they had a truck dispatched to me with fuel. After a ninety minute delay, I made it to Oacoma, SD that night and was happy to find dinner and a comfortable room. They even allowed me to park my bike in the lobby, a first and last occurrence, I am sure.






The ride home was largely uneventful, with the exception of the weather. The Deep South was suffering extreme high temperatures and some of that found its way to the Midwest. But, the beauty of that solo ride was that I had no one else to answer to. No other gas stops to make but my own. I was pleased that I could ride 2,000+ miles solo and not have any ill effects or additional issues other than the unplanned gas stop in South Dakota.

From Oacoma, I bore due East, into a heat wave blanketing the Midwest. In Iowa, I suffered through temps of 102 degrees. I rigidly held fast to my commitment to wear gear when riding on highways so my jeans were soaked through with sweat, sticking to me and my shirt was continuously doused with fresh, cool water in an effort to stay comfortable through evaporation. Um, well, almost. I had to stop every hour now to drink, loosen clothing, etc.

From South Dakota I headed to Des Moines then to Terre Haute, IN then Erie, PA, on to Ithaca, NY where I met my family, so we could take our son on a college tour. The morning I left Terre Haute, it felt like I had walked into a steam bath, fully dressed. The humidity was near 100% and the temperatures hovered near 90 early in the AM. In Iowa, the day prior, I had to stop every hour to cool off, drink and rest. It slowed me down considerably.

We stayed in Syracuse that night, Thursday of the second week, with the intention of my touring Syracuse University with them on Friday. On the one hour trip from Ithaca to Syracuse, the skies opened up and I got soaked in yet another thunderstorm. It was only in the last 15-20 minutes of our trip but wet is wet. The forecast for Friday was similar, midday showers with severe thunderstorms in the PM. I was not about to ride home in the dark and wet, so I punched out early, skipping the tour. I met another storm on the way, East of Syracuse, waited a bit and I arrived home Friday afternoon, just about 3PM.

All in all, I put over 5,000 miles on the scooter. I have to say that the best investment in this trip, other than the bike itself, was the Mustang Seat. I never got tired or uncomfortable. At one point on the ride out, we stopped to decide if we should press on. Chad announced that “he still had some ass left” and we all found that highly amusing. Thanks to the Mustang seat, I had all kinds of ass left! Jerry had told me to tell the Mustang folks that I wanted a 1,000 mile-a-day seat and that is indeed what I got. I’m very tempted to try an Iron Butt (1,000 miles in 24 hours) if I can find just one other rider to do it with.

I know I am leaving out details. Like the prairie dogs that surrounded Devil’s Tower. The wild mules or donkeys (only John could be sure) in Custer State Park. The unbearably hot temperatures in Sturgis, when our campsite was so much more comfortable, just a scant 20 miles up the winding canyon road. The god-awful John Deere “motorcycle” that raced up and down Main Street Sturgis. The trike with ground effects and a full-blown funny car wing. The lake that we stopped at, following the harrowing ride through The Needles. The nice folks from Minnesota, Chris and Reno (and Reno’s Dad) the wild young 24-yr old moto superstar on the Yamaha R6. The masseuse, the (dancing) girls for hire, Tinkerbell, the staff of Rec Springs, all seemingly southern in this remote northern outpost. The bad tattoos and a wise decision not to entrust this Tabula Rasa to some open all-night makeshift tattoo parlor, which backed up to the men’s showers. All in all, it was a scene, not always a pretty one.

I regret not seeing any of the concerts but we were all in agreement that we weren’t too interested in re-locating to join the teeming herd at the Buffalo Chip campground. Then again, we were torn between Kid Rock and KISS, even though I’d have skipped KISS, having seen them once before. I’m happy that the trade-off allowed me to spend time with my family, my son who I’d been apart from for almost a full six weeks.

The choice of bike was perfect for this ride, outfitted as it was. The backrest and the sheepskin and crash-bar mounted foot-pegs all worked in concert to provide me with the ultimate in cruiser comfort. I loved how the V-twin just chugged along on those long, hot stretches of highway. It droned on and on, mile after mile, neither hiccupping nor causing any concern. It just worked like it was supposed to. My sedate pace almost had me hypnotized by the sound of the motor. Of all the things I carried and didn’t use, the iPod was the biggest waste. I didn’t need it as I played my own music in my head or listened to my thoughts.

I met some great people on this ride, some whose names I never got. I was approached time and again by friendly people who were curious to know where I was going or where I had been. Some were riders who could appreciate the freedom that a trip like this brings. Others were wishing they could trade places with me, even if only for a few miles.

I guess this trip turned out to be a study in contrasts. Hot/cold, group/solo, fast/slow. When I had one, I wanted the other. Perhaps my solo homeward journey allowed me to miss my family and friends all the more and to look forward to being together with them again. I suspect there will be a lot more solo riding in my future. It’s good to know you can depend on your friends, it’s even better to know you can depend on yourself.



I don’t know if this marks the end of my writing career. I suspect not. While approaching heat stroke on the ride home, I had a lot of funny ideas. Or, they seemed funny at the time, to my parched mind. So I’ll leave you with this. If you enjoy my mindless ramblings and want to continue the saga, go to my new blog at www.watchingmytoenailsgrow.com. It’s a different topic entirely but I think you’ll enjoy it. For now,

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Friday, July 25, 2008

At long last, it's here!

We had a little celebration last night for the Sturgis riders, AKA The Stumbleweeds. We ate way too much but it was all terrific. Today, I feel like a big blob. I think I'll eat lightly today and tonight so I'm don't carry any unneeded baggage.

In 21 hours, we pull out and point it West. Hard to believe and I still have a lot of last minute preparations to do. I didn't want to wait until the last minute to pack my bike but, guess what? I did. So, as soon as I can comfortably bolt work, I'll get crackin'.

All right then. This is me signing off for a couple of weeks. When I jump back on, I will have tall tales and photographic evidence.

See you when we return.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Saturday, July 19, 2008

6-5-4-3-2-1 BLAST-OFF!

By this time next week, I'll be pointed West. It feels like the night before Christmas, my birthday and several other things all rolled into one. The excitement builds.

Today I shopped for some last minute toiletry items, all miniature, to save room in my kit. Boy that adds up fast! I guess the convenience fee was more than I expected. Maybe I should leave some of this crap home. Probably the most expensive was my meds. Not that I am "on" anything per se, but at my age, I need allergy pills, zantac, Motrin, etc. to make my days a bit more peaceful. No, NO VIAGRA! It's all good, in the wood department, thank you. [See, you guys always think I GO THERE but now, I need to make these pre-emptive strikes before you comment. Feh!]

Some new Teva's rounded out my purchases today. Our resident gypsy poet swears by cool feet and pony tails. I wonder if he has any magic for our ride?

Last weekend we camped, if you saw last week's post and I got to try my little portable sling stool. Not bad but with no back rest you really can't relax in it. I'll swing by the Rapid City Wal Mart and buy a camping chair and worry about it on the way home.

Jerry stopped by tonight to borry our hatchet and dropped off a couple of ears of kern. Local kern. Can't wait for dinner. Will have that and some fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil. Mmmmm!

He's practically giddy now that his Hog has just been serviced. Whoa! Hold on. I mean he just got his bike back from getting service.



I trust our trip across America will end better than theirs did...

There are last minute preparations that need to take place this week. It's sort of nice that my teen-aged son is away right now otherwise, I would feel like I am ignoring him as I scurry about. My spouse understands and we've had plenty of free time together this month. Trips to the fabric store, etc. Good times, good times.

The Honda saddlebags lost some snaps. I hate these bags when I compare them to what I had. My biggest issue, as I've ranted before, is the they aren't watertight. The fact that these expensive Honda Accessories lost all of the snaps on one side just pisses me off. Of course, I am out of warranty on them. Now, I will try to get them fixed locally, if possible, before Saturday. I may add some Velcro front and back to help keep them closed.

So, I've started to pile shit up, in a sort of staging area. I've really got to think about how I am going to fit all this. Jerry packed enough clothes for a week and I guess I will do the same. I have a very strong feeling that I will endure two weeks of soggy jeans and smelly tee shirts. I have some very large ziploc bags that I will start to load clothing into. All of my camping gear is already in place.

It's the little details that I am worrying about. Duct tape, electrical tape. Kleenex as emergency TP. Batteries, my visor tint strip, if I can find it and my Therma-rest sling to make it into a chair, also MIA.

My new tires are on and the 8,000 mile service done. Fresh plugs and oil and a valve adjustment to boot. I used that as an excuse to ride to Hampton Beach solo on Tuesday night and had a perfect moment. I arrived at the beach by 7PM with the sun just beginning to set. There was a Beach Boys cover band on stage playing beach oldies. I had a bite of pizza and a bottle of water before pointing it home and racing across 101, blinded by the setting sun. Still, it was a very good ride.

Here's a shot from my phone's camera:



Sorry for the scattershot babble. I have lots to do an no time to edit, except on the fly. You can follow me on Twitter.com or just keep an eye on the Twitter link at the top of the blog. You should be able to see 2-3 posts before they drop off.

I'll take copious notes and shoot more pix and post it all in a post-ride blog post. That one will take me some time!

For now, ride safe and wish us well. I wish you were all joining us on this ride but, maybe another year? It only took us about 5 years of planning! Ha-ha!

I'll try to Tweet at least once a day, more if my phone charger can keep up. Until then.........

A low, slow wave (on my way to Sturgis),

Joe Rocket

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Time & Space (both in short supply)

Two weeks to go and I am prepping for a short ride and overnight camping trip as a shakedown to see how I can manage to pack two weeks worth of camping gear onto one shrinking motorcycle. Hmm.

An initial assessment of the huge pile of gear required for a night or two has me concerned as to how best lash this all in place, without losing it on the highway.
Stupidly, I keep amassing junk that I think I can use. Tonight, it was a portable table. Not sure I need this or can even use it but, I was at Wal-Mart and it was less than a cup of Starbucks coffee!

Wait until Jerry sees the $1.88 inflatable raft I bought for him to coast his butt down the Pemigewasset! I bet it lasts all of five minutes, or less time than it will take him to blow it up, with lung power.

I successfully tested Twitpic today and will use that to post interesting phone-pix that I can easily and readily upload photos on the fly. I'll Tweet and TwitPic along the way.

That's it for now...my beer's getting warm!

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Countdown has begun!

Well folks, we're inside of 30 days until blast off and we're getting amped for the trip. At this point we are doing anything and everything we can to stay healthy, get our bikes and gear in order and make any last minute adjustments. I know the clock is ticking and I don't feel fully prepared yet. Little things like XXL rubber gloves for all rainy day long rides. Some of this stuff I can get locally but others I need to order. Today I bought a pair of AlpineStar 101 boots to have an alternative to my high Sidi's. I should have those within the week.

The bike is going in for a valve job (8,000 miles) next week and a fresh set of donuts. I have just over 7K+ on this original set of Dunlops and I expect I'd need a new set by the time we got to Sturgis, hardly the place to line-up to buy fresh rubber.

I've had three great days of riding this week, if you count my junket down to Rehoboth, MA last Saturday for Potsie's 50th birthday celebration. That ride was ALL highway and I made great time. Yes, I got off to a slow start, having to stop in Nashua at a Dunkins' to pee. I didn't think I could hold it for five more minutes, let alone another 2:15! But, once "the pause that refreshes" was taken care of, I ripped right along.

Traffic on 128 and 95 South suck MOST of the time. Coming home was much quicker. There I was, farting along at 75 mph in the center lane when an H-D bagger passes going 85-90. Well, we all know that there is safety in numbers so I cracked it wide and caught up, hanging back a safe and respectful distance. It certainly made the ride home more interesting!

I was lucky all week in dodging the rain drops. Now that I have this nice rain suit, I hate to take it/them out of their perfectly folded bags. Silly, yes, but I'm not pulling over, pulling them out, putting it on for just a few drops. I can put up with soggy clothes closer to home. Each day we've enjoyed a few summer showers, today while the sun shined. These quickly pass, along with the ominous rumbles of thunder. I saw a NICE bolt of lightning strike in Milford by South River Road as I gassed up at the Penguin Mart (no, no penguins for sale there!).

Tomorrow looks like another great day to wheel the bike out and enjoy the air. As it will be July 3rd, our orifice closes early tomorrow, for the Independence Day holiday. Have you noticed that no one calls it Independence Day anymore? Everyone's running about wishing me a Happy 4th of July. To me, it loses the original meaning of this day. It's as if I wished you a Merry December 25th. It's just not the same. People suck.

Once again, I got crap for not writing. I wrote last week but it was pure dreck and after an hour of re-writing I said "F it" and pushed the Delete key. Sometimes you just have to do that. Start over. The only theme that I did want to salvage was that of goalsetting

The thought had occurred to me that the four of us going to Sturgis this year (Führer, Poet, "Doc" - only for his own anonymity, and Rocket) would not be going if not for Ken's putting a metaphorical tent stake in the ground and stating (in no uncertain terms) that "We are going to Sturgis in 2008." What he did was the first step in good goalsetting. He defined the goal. He gave us a target. He gave us a date. He gave us the time to think about it, to plan for it and in many ways, to take some of the many small steps necessary to make this a reality.

I realize that this is the primary reason that the four of us (AKA "The Stumbleweeds") are going to Sturgis this year. If he had simply said that we were going next year, we never would have gone. So much was accomplished in the intervening years that made this goal achievable. Let me start with the obvious, for which this blog is named.

In 2007, I bought the VTX 1300R with Sturgis in mind. I bought all new camping gear, with Sturgis in mind. Etc., etc., etc. Since the start of last year I have been acquiring, spreading out my purchases, mentally preparing for this trip. A friend asked if my wife had a problem with me taking two weeks to go on a solo journey. The answer is no. She, as I, recognize this as a unique opportunity. I won't repeat it soon or maybe ever. Who knows. For you, the case may be that you need to warm up your honey for a getaway like this.

If you want do anything, set the goal and begin planning. Setting the goal is so much more important than even the planning as you may opt to be flexible in your plan. For us, this means no reservations and letting the miles add up where they may. As Poet says, this is when adventure happens.

Click on the link in the title and go read about goalsetting. Create your own "bucket list" of things you want to do and get on the road to accomplishing those goals. Maybe, for fun, in the future (post-trip) I'll publish my own bucket list here. What's on your list?

Or, click on the comments button and submit your thoughts. If they're clean enough, I'll publish in an upcoming blog. Only a couple more posts to go before we leave. Perhaps I can squeeze in one or two, at most. I'll do my best to take copious notes during my trip and to shoot lots of pictures. I fear that when I return, the first couple of posts will be filled with nothing other than pictures of topless, tattooed biker chicks. Well, so be it.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Go West, Young Man!"

That famous quote has long been incorrectly attributed to former Amherst, NH resident Horace Greeley.

We had a planning meeting this past Tuesday night and took Joe Regan's advice to take the ferry 'cross the lake, thereby skipping The Windy City. For those interested in joining us, here's our route:



View Larger Map

For some unknown reason, the small map you see here does not show our ferry trip across Lake Michigan. If you click on the link that says "view larger map", it does. Hmm, maybe that means it will come down to a coin flip.

Presently, we're torn between making ferry reservations and casting our fate (along with our cell phones) to the wind. We'll see.

The new Mustang seat is a joy to my buns. I had no idea that it would resolve the suspension issues I thought I had. The new seat is made from such thick, dense foam that it soaks up almost all of the road shock on rough surfaces. That, along with the extra-wide seat and back rest, give me a very comfortable ride. I haven't had it on any long rides yet but I suspect that the back rest will be its saving grace.

The new lights work well too. I was a little leery of going with the OEM Honda lights but, they were the only ones that would fit around the Honda 'shield. Or, I would have had to go with caliper lights, with no guarantee of service. The lights throw out just enough additional light to make rural riding that much more safe. No more unseen road hazards (like that dead lump of porcupine we hit one night outside of Manchester, coming home from Hampton Beach).

Anyway, I think I have most of my gear now. I need to get some additional bungees in case my load needs to be restrained. You can't just dump your load all over the highway now! My Joe Rocket Phoenix jacket will keep me cool and looking cool, along with the TechWick gear from EMS.

I'm ready for a test-ride soon and may make a run north soon, loaded for bear, to squeeze in a practice camping trip. I'll need to make sure I have all I want to pack on the Sturgis ride, sans the extra clothes, in an attempt to balance the load.

Come five short weeks from now, I'm outta here. Gotto go now, I have plenty of real work ahead of me and I need to finish a very important work presentation for next week. I'll be thinking of this trip the whole time.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket