Why we ride — Part 1

My interest in riding motorcycles began as a child, when I watched my father return from his daily commute on a relatively urbane import bike.  Looking back on it now, I realize it was nothing spectacular, but to me, at that point in time… it was thrilling! He would pull roar into the driveway on two wheels, gun the motor a few times to let us know he was home, and wait for me to run down the stairs so he could rev it a few more times before he shut it down. It was as if he rode in on the dragon he conquered every day.

kawa-z440-ltd-1980My dad was (and is) a practical kind of a guy who spends money only when necessary. He goes to garage sales on the weekend looking for old fishing poles that aren’t too far gone, or maybe a set of well-worn wrenches that don’t have too much rust on them.  Just last weekend instead of putting new shutters on the house, he carefully took the old ones down, sanded them carefully, coated them with several layers of primer, resprayed them into a color of mom’s choosing, and reinstalled them himself.  He is handy, self-reliant, and thrifty to a fault.

The motorcycle was far from a luxury item; on the contrary, it was a practical means to an end. He was a department store manager in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Woolworth’s was a retail company and one of the original pioneers of the five-and-dime store. It was arguably the most successful American and international five-and-dime, setting trends and creating the modern retail model which stores follow worldwide today. These days, I don’t think you could find a Woolworth’s anywhere in the continental us, but at the time, it was a  pretty good gig for dear old dad.

His daily trek to work was anywhere from 30 – 45 minutes on country back roads, and the practical side of dad reckoned that a motorcycle got better gas mileage than a car. So, he saved money by braving the elements to make the ride there and back.  As the manager, he was expected to dress a certain way, slacks and a tie at a minimum, but rather than wear them, he packed them, along with his lunch, in a homemade wooden box bolted to the back of the bike. He was usually gone before I went to school in the morning, but I eagerly anticipated his  triumphant arrival each evening, when I would beg to climb aboard so we could slay the dragons together.

kawasaiUsually, the answer was no; he just wanted to come home and relax after a day at work. However, there were a few times on the weekend that he and I would hit the road. The few times he let me ride on the back of his motorcycle were simultaneously terrifying and thrilling . I was only 10 or 11 years old, and the bike seemed so powerful and beautiful to me.  The burgundy paint was deep and richly layered while the chrome glistened in the sun.  I don’t exactly recall what kind of helmet dad wore, but the one he had for me matched the bike and had a bubble-screen face shield. I vividly recall him weaving the strap through the double D-ring fastener underneath my chin, securing it tight enough to hold the helmet in place, but not so tight that it choked me.

1980-kawasakiHe held the bike steady as I climbed on and got comfortable, then he would swing his leg over and thumb the starter.  When the engine roared to life, the adrenaline rush that hit me was like a drug, powerful and intoxicating. I trusted Dad implicitly, but the worried look on my mother’s face and the protests she made about me being too young to ride on the open road made it all the more exciting. Dad would reassure her calmly that he did this every day, and that of course he would ride slower than he normally did. Of course he would take it slow around the corners, and absolutely, he would be back before dark. She would wring her hands and watch us until we were out of sight, as if her gaze would keep us safe from harm. I know she was just being overprotective, but once we made it around the first corner away from the house, we were off like a rocket!

kerr-scott

I couldn’t see very well since I was so small, but I didn’t mind. I was out on the motorcycle!  With my arms wrapped around dad’s waist for security.  we would wind our way through two-lane back roads for hours. I don’t recall ever going anywhere in particular, but we did cruise around the Kerr Scott Reservoir, occasionally stopping so dad could stretch his legs or so that I could use the restrooms at a campground near the lake. But of course, the destination wasn’t why we were riding at all; it was all about the journey to nowhere. Riding just to enjoy the ride, the road and the beautiful weather.

parkwayfall4_0Growing up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains meant we enjoyed all four seasons. Lenoir is a small town; not like one-stop-light small, but small enough that I remember when the first Taco Bell was built. These days it’s best known as a mid-way point for the Bridge-to-Bridge bicycle race leading up to the Tour De France. We lived outside of town, in the Kings Creek area, which had no stop lights, no fast food, and plenty of curvy roads. The summers are hot and humid, but the fall is absolutely stunning. The temperatures start to drop in mid-September, and by mid-October, the trees are in  their full fall regalia. Lush greens make way for brilliant reds, vibrant oranges, and intense yellows. This time of year is pretty much the perfect time to be on two wheels, especially if you have this kind of scenery to appreciate.

The wind chill at 50-60 miles an hour meant I needed multiple layers to keep me warm, but huddled there behind dad was the perfect spot for me. The gentle rise and fall of the miles as they passed never lulled me towards sleep as it might in the back of mom’s station wagon. It was invigorating, I always felt more awake, more in tune, and more alive on the back of that bike than I did anywhere else. It made other aspects of life seem as if they were moving in slow motion, and boring in comparison.  It affected me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined, and it is why I still ride to this day.

Next time…

A bike of my very own!

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Daily Prompt: Breakthrough

via Daily Prompt: Breakthrough

Is it possible to have a breakthrough on a Monday such as this? When the day starts well before the sun crests the horizon, there is plenty of time to face the challenges cluttering your life. By the time my coffee brewed from the Keurig and I began my morning commute, there were already challenges tumbling around in my sleep addled brain. Too bad the coffee doesn’t even kick in until I am 30 minutes into the drive. Nevertheless, there is an idea bouncing around in my head that has been plaguing me for weeks now… writing. Where do I start?

the-f-35-may-have-big-problems-fighting-at-long-rangeI’ve been a journalist, a photojournalist, an editor, a webmaster, and even an international media liaison, but none of those jobs were on my behalf.  They were all for someone else; more specifically, for the Air Force. It was easy enough to pick a story idea, especially if it was a newsworthy event.  On the other hand, now I am trying to do this for myself.  I don’t want to write about the Air Force’s Core values, or about the next multi-billion dollar fighter jet debacle. (F-35 anyone?)  I want to write about what is near and dear to my heart… if only I could find the inspiration to get the ball rolling. If only I could break through the constant chatter online to reach new readers.

I recently read On Writing by one of the most prolific writers of the modern age, Stephen King. Sure, he is mostly known for his horror stories, like The Shining and Carrie. But did you know he also wrote The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption? Those were all major Hollywood blockbusters, but they were King’s novels before they hit the big screen. He has written literally thousands of stories, even penning some of them under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, which still garnered critical acclaim.20160731_223716

His book, On Writing was actually a pseudo-autobiographical story detailing his life, and his approach to writing. It turns out that even though he has an extraordinary talent for spinning intricately woven tales of horror, suspense, and intrigue, his inspirations and methodology are quite straightforward.  It can all be boiled down to this: sit down, and write. Obviously, his book expounds on that quite a bit, but at his core, he approaches writing as his job, a day-in, day-out, this-is-what-I-do-for-a-living job. He just does the work.

I found it quite fascinating, and now I hope to  have a breakthrough by applying that method in my own way.  Stephen King isn’t a blogger, but I think his approach could work quite well here too. Just write. Just sit down and do the work.  So here we are, you the ever constant reader, and I, the intrepid blogger, on a journey to new and exciting destinations. None of which have been handed out by the Air Force, but rather chosen by me; sometimes on a whim, and at other times by the daily prompt. Perhaps we are on the precipice of new horizons. I certainly hope so.

Personally, there are many writers that I am extremely fond of. In addition to King, there are writers such as Ted Dekker, Dean Koontz, Dick Francis, Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins, and many other novelists.  It fascinates me how they can ensnare the mind with vivid imagery that exists only in written words.  They have the ability to draw me in, to shut out the real world, if only for a moment in time.  I am also a big fan of Dave Barry, the columnist for the Miami Herald.  While he may not be as prolific as King or Koontz, his humor and sharp wit means he ranks as one of the most widespread columnists in the country, if not the world.

breaking-the-chains-300x225I have been reading Barry’s columns for more than 20 years now, and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that he has been a big influence. It’s the twist he puts in his writing that intrigues me.  In many of his recent columns on the Summer Olympics, he explains how the most athletic event he was able to see was the cab driving to the venues. And forget about Michael Phelps, Barry was impressed with the stamina of the security guards posted outside of each venue! It may seem like a triviality, but that is what makes it work so well. You never saw it coming.

For myself, I don’t have the comedic timing of Mr. Barry or the legions of fans devoted to Mr. King, but I have to start somewhere, right?  So, I have started here on WordPress, and that is sort of a breakthrough on its own, is it not? Perhaps my little poem will go viral, probably not, but that’s okay.  I would rather deeply touch one life than be glanced at by a million. So if you, dear reader, are inspired to start writing for yourself, congratulations! We have both made our own breakthroughs!

Who knows what the future has yet to unfold?
Or where life may take us,
When we are wrinkled and old?
One thing I know is definitely sure,
The spark for this writing
Is unblemished and pure.
It wasn’t hatched by some general
Behind an oak desk.
It came from my mind,
And to me, that’s the best.