Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The Current Champion ----Sophie (aka Precious) at Christmas
Annie.....The Contender or is she a Pretender?
Send in another gladiator! I think we have a real strong Contender for becoming The Champion this week in my Dog of the Week feature. First, she is a great little pooch and second, the $20 bucks her owner slipped me under the table won’t exactly hurt her cause for trying to unseat the current Champ (Sophie). Also, the fact that nepotism definitely played a part in this week's Contender selection won't go against this little little gal's shot either....or will it!!!
I would like to introduce to you a super dog. Her name is Annie and she is a two year old Yorkie. She lives in Big Sky Montana with my cousin and her husband (Sharon and Jon Holtzman). We met this week's Contender when Doreen and I were invited to their home for dinner just after we arrived in Big Sky. She (Annie, not Sharon) had just gotten her puppy cut for the summer and looked adorable and had a personality that would put Amy Winehouse to shame!
From the get go, Annie was so much fun. She has longer legs than most Yorkies (and even Paris Hilton) and this gives her the ability to pull a “Superman” now and then…..she can jump over tall buildings in a single bound. No doubt she has more vertical lift than did Dwight Stone in his heyday! At one point I thought she was a pogo stick with fur!
I also liked the fact that Annie has more energy and personality than just about any dog I have ever met. Sharon would stand at the top of her driveway and hit a tennis ball down their rather steep access road with her racket. In a flash Annie would run and get the ball and bring it back to Sharon and drop it at her feet. This went on for a few minutes until poor little Annie was dead tired. At that point, she would drop the ball and casually walks into their house as if she owns it….well, for all practical purposes she does! You should see her custom Lazy Boy!
The other thing I just loved about Annie is she is not afraid to show affection on the first date. I think she would French kiss a porcupine if she thought she had half a shot at it! Her feistiness further demonstrated by the fact that when bears come around the house Sharon and Jon have to keep her in doors because this little ball of fire always wants to go out and open up a giant can of “woop-ass” on them! I seriously think Annie could destroy the current UFC Welterweight Champion (Georges 'Rush' St-Pierre) with half a chance. I am telling you that this dog has more heart than Mike Eruzopme and his 1980 Miracle on Ice teamates ever had!
Now, despite what Sharon and Jon's son-in-law (Eric) says, I think we should give Annie a shot at the title………..What do you think?
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Something seemed different as I was motoring down the road from Edmonton toward Calgary and then on into Montana. Part of riding a motorcycle is the habit one develops to periodically glance in your rear view mirrors and to take a quick peek at your bike pack (called a T-bag) and saddle bags to make sure everything continues to be fastened onto the bike the way it should be. In addition, when I stop for gas I always try to walk around the bike and make sure that things are the way they are supposed to be. Each time I went through this exercise during this phase of my journey I found myself feeling that my Harley was a bit naked in the rear based upon the fact that my saddle bags, along with all my tools, were sitting on a UPS truck headed for Belgrade, Montana. Being a bit of a perfectionist, feelings would come over me each time that my bike was not complete and my pride was less than totally intact. Oh well, that is part of the sport.
In riding, anticipating the unexpected is part of the game and thrill that I get out of the motorcycling. As mentioned previously, I always try to put on my rain gear before the storm hits. Trying to do so after the rains comes, especially if it is a thunder storm, simply does not work. For some reason it is much harder to put it on then and you usually get totally soaked by the time you finally do. In addition, during this mad scramble everything else often gets wet as well. Putting on the rain gear too early, especially if it does not rain, can make you feel like you are in a sauna and you end up looking like a dork! What I am trying to say is; you end up a goat or a hero!
Well my friends, I decided to push past Calgary in the late afternoon since the Calgary Stampede was going to be starting that weekend and most of the hotels seemed to have no vacancy signs already hanging in their windows by 4PM. I decided to push on for another 100+ miles and spend the night in Fort Macleod, Alberta. As I passed through the center of Calgary I noticed that thunder clouds were forming, but I felt I had plenty of time to strap on the rain gear if I needed to. “Mr Cool" made another wrong decision! Within 30 minutes what started out to be a few thunder clouds developed into a totally black sky with buckets of water falling from the sky. The good news was my rain gear was safely tucked away in my T-bag where it would stay nice and dry. The bad news was that I soon looked like a fire hose had been turned on me from about 20 feet away. In case you don’t know, most rain hurts when you are going 70 MPH and not wearing a face mask. Going slower does not really seem to help either because you are just prolonging the agony.
By the time I got to Fort Macleod I was soaked to the bone and my ego was once again bruised. I always say to myself that I will never let this happen again, but inevitably it does... I think it must be a “male macho thing!” The town was quite small, but quaint. I ended up staying in a small motel in the center of this one horse town. As I checked in I noticed posters for Brokeback Mountain everywhere in the lobby along with autographed pictures of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal were hanging behind the desk. As it turned out, both actors and much of the crew from the movie stayed at this motel for 3 months as they were filming nearby. Rumour had it that they both were really cool guys.
The next morning as I was loading up Captain America I noticed a very shiny ¼ inch wide fresh wear mark on the outside of my rear tire. I immediately knew that the inside part of the bolt that had sheared off (the saddle bag problem) no doubt was now rubbing on the tire. Needless to say, I needed to resolve this ASAP. I called the Harley dealer in Lethbridge which was about 30 miles away and thank goodness they had a new tire and time to put it on for me. I finished packing my bike and never rode over 45 or 50 MPH as I nursed my ride into the dealer. Within three or four hours after arriving they had me back out on the road headed for Montana with a renewed sense of confidence in my equipment and a swagger that would make John Wayne jealous.
As I was approaching the US border and the state I was lucky enough to be born in, I could not help but think about John Denver’s classic tune, “Country Roads”. As I was rolling down the road I even started to sing. It was so embarrassing because I had never seen prairie dogs put their paws over their ears before!
Although I left Montana as a young boy, I have always had a real sense of pride regarding the fact that I was born in such a beautiful state (so long as you are west of Billings), even though the city of Butte where I was born is considered the “hell hole of the world” by most folks in Montana. For me Montana is that special place that gives me an incredible feeling of great memories, heritage, tranquillity, familiarity, and comfort.
As I cross the border into “Big Sky Country” I know I will witness some of the most scenic views found anywhere in America, see more wildlife than one could ever imagine, and interact with some of the most genuine and down to earth people found anywhere. I decided to stay overnight just outside of Glacier National Park in Babb Montana. It was not that I was that tired, but I wanted to ride through this scenic wonderland first thing in the morning when all the animals would be more active and I would enjoy the ride more versus at the end of a long day.
This trip into Montana was even more special this trip due to the fact that I had just completed the first leg of my Cruising for the Cure journey (about 8,500 miles) and now I was back in the lower 48 and getting ready to spend two weeks with my family on the Gallatin River just 10 minutes from the entrance to the Big Sky Ski Area. Interesting fact... Big Sky was conceived and built by Chet Huntley of NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley fame back in the early 70’s.
The great thing about this two week break in my journey was that Doreen, Brendon and Denise (his fiancée) and Kelly and Ted (her boyfriend) all came up and we just relaxed and kicked around. The frosting on the cake is that my dear cousin Sharon Holtzman and her great husband (Jon) live about 15 minutes north of where we were staying. In addition their super cool daughter (Heidi) and husband (Eric) along with their two children (Will and John Jr.) were also visiting from Atlanta. We even got to know a great couple (Terry and Caroline) who we rented the cabin from. It was a great reunion and we laughed and enjoyed one another the entire time we were together. We spent our time river rafting, hiking, visiting Yellowstone, barbequing, and just cruising around the mountains. It could not have been better!
During our day tour of Yellowstone we had great weather and saw more animals that you could shake a stick at….except no bear. I could “bearly” stand it! We saw moose, elk, deer, bald eagle, bison, and as you can see from the photo, I even got a great picture of “Bambi”.
Last Saturday morning at about 8:00AM I said good bye to Doreen and jumped on Captain America and headed down the Highway 191 toward Wyoming. I could not help but reflect about the adventure that I encountered during phase one of my journey and now phase two was just beginning. Although the roads should be better and the weather warmer, my mind continued to wander to thoughts about what lies ahead during the coming days and weeks. No doubt I still have a lot of ground to cover and the summer heat is definitely building. Remember, expect the unexpected!
The first day it was sunny, but very cool in the morning. I had my trustee electric vest on high in the morning as I headed toward West Yellowstone and the western entrance to the park. Things changed for the better as I headed into Yellowstone for the second time in a week. The park was a bit more crowded this time due to it being on a weekend and it was a little later in the day than when we toured it with the family. I saw more cars and fewer animals this time, but the beauty of Yellowstone could not again be denied. Even the portion of the park that was burned heavily in the 1988 fire is stunning with the tall dead trunks sticking out of the ground like toothpicks and all the much smaller emerald green trees starting to reach for the sky. Thank goodness that our forefathers were intelligent enough to protect this incredible resource as the world’s first national park way back in 1872!
That night I made it as far as Casper, Wyoming which turned out to be about a 370 mile ride. The hotel, meal, and evening were all totally uneventful. In addition, I tossed and turned all night trying to determine my best route choice for the next few days due to the huge rain storms that are due to hit much of the mid west this week. In the end, I opted to head toward Colorado, a state that I know well based upon my having lived just outside of Aspen (in Basalt) for the 72 ski season and my numerous motorcycle trips through the entire Rocky Mountain region over the past 15 years.
Last Sunday, it finally got hot for me, which I love. As I rode through Denver the temperature reached 95 degrees. I made it as far as Colorado Springs and knocked off early so that I could do some work. I did find that during this trip the drivers in Colorado all seem to think they are NASCAR professionals and the traffic coming into Denver was bumper to bumper for about 20 miles due to four major wrecks that I saw along the way. I thought I was in LA!
Colorado Springs is the home of the Air Force Academy and the town appears to be a bit more laid back than Denver. As I was checking into the motel, I found out that the manager is a 16 year survivor of breast cancer. She was over the moon about the idea of Cruising for the Cure. She was a lady about my age, so professional in her demeanour and adorable. In addition, as I was leaving the next day a young lady in a car next to me rolled down the window and wanted to know what the heck I was doing. I briefly told her and then made a couple of turns trying to find the UPS local store. I noticed in my rear view mirror that every time I made a turn so did she. The long and the short of it as I pulled into UPS she stopped got out of her car and asked me if we could talk. I said sure. She was a university student studying to be an oncologist and was in the middle of a creative writing class and felt my story would be perfect for both her major and for the writing assignment to complete the class. We spent about 15 minutes talking about the trip, the reasons for it, and I left her with my Cruising for the Cure business card so she can obtain more info. I sensed that my trip was now going to solve her summer creative writing class paper problem. Why did she want to become an oncologist you ask? Because her younger sister some years ago experienced a rare type of cancer and she decided at that time that this would be her career so that she could help others fighting this terrible disease.
No question that weather will remain a key factor in my directional route during the coming weeks. It will either be hot as hell, thunder storms or both, but compared to phase one this should be much easier…..famous last words! Captain American is purring like a new born kitten again, my saddle bags are now back on the bike, and I found myself trying to figure out what stuff can I send home via UPS due to the extreme heat that is headed my way. No doubt I will be riding in just jeans and tee shirts as the mercury starts to climb toward 100 degrees and possibly beyond.
This means the chaps, electric vest, and leather jacket now have to be tucked away on the bike at this point. Bottom-line, I am currently carting too much cold weather gear. But, rule number 47 in motorcycle riding, the weather can and will change, so sending the above three items home is not an option. I thought a lot about my options and decided to jettison things like extra tee shirts and even my camping gear… that’s right camping gear! I know some of you are laughing … especially Doreen who has watched me buy over the years: two tents, two ground mattresses, and numerous other camping gear only to have me camp only two nights during the last 15 years. I know I am going to take some heat over this decision, but my attitude is “bring it on!” Reasonably priced hotels and motels are too plentiful and easy to find, while finding camping sites that offer food service are not as plentiful. Bottom line, my motorcycle camping days are now a distant memory, just like worrying about getting asked for my ID at the liquor store before turning 21.
So my friends, it is now going on 10:00 PM and I am headed to bed. I am beat after doing a lot of work in the AM and then putting in another 300+ mile day. I have a bunch of calls to make in the morning and e-mails to get out, but after that, it is “varooom time”.
I have some other stuff to share with you and promise to update the blog again within the next 72 hours, so please stay tuned.
Enjoy your week and one another.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
On Sunday night when I went to unload my bike I noticed that one of the brackets that holds my removable saddle bags onto the frame of my bike had sheared off and the bag was just barely hanging on. This is obviously not good! It was a miracle that the other bracket did not also break and ultimately the bag would have either just fallen off or banged into the side of the bike with the potential for a far worse event to materialize due to the potential instability it could have caused. When I noticed it, I just started laughing at first. My initial thoughts were that at least I made it to the hotel. After that I shifted gears (no pun intended) and starting to speculate about a far uglier outcome and then again back to how fortunate I really was. This ping pong match going on in my mind lasted about 5 minutes and then the reality of the situation set in. Like so many things in life, things like this don’t just solve themselves. You and only you must take the initiative to solve the situation which I did.
I quickly concluded that I was not going anywhere until I got this issue resolved. Thus, no Saskatoon today baby, but will pick it up after Montana. By now, no doubt you are asking how does Brad Parker fit into the picture? Well, here is the story and I am sticking to it! Unfortunately, both Harley dealers in Alberta were to be closed on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday for the Canada Day celebration (our equivalent to the 4th of July). This meant that I would have to hang around Edmonton until at least late on Wed and there were no guarantees that they would even have the parts that I needed or the time to solve my current crisis. I could easily be out of commission until next weekend and maybe even longer. This would be long after I am due to pick up Doreen in Bozeman on this Saturday.
What next? I decide to take matters into my own hands. Trying to tie the bags onto the bike was ruled out early on during this challenge due to the instability and risk associated with such a half ass approach. I called the dealer in Belgrade Montana since I was due to take my bike into them this coming Saturday for a major tune up and to get a new rear tire. No doubt it would prove to be less costly to do both things at once instead of having to remove the rear tire twice.
This is where Brad Parker comes in. As you can see from the photo, I decided to ship my two saddle bags to Belgrade versus running the risk that another bracket could be sheered off or my temporary fix was just that……too temporary to get me to Montana.
The long and short of it, after a great deal of personal embarrassment, I took both of my saddle bags to Brad’s UPS store and shipped them to the dealer in Montana. They should have plenty of time to solve this various issues since I will be on the Big Sky area for the next two weeks starting on Saturday. Brad could hardly contain his smile as he was collecting my $65+ Canadian! Seriously, I really enjoyed meeting him and I am confident that his parents are very proud of him. He is bright, good looking, loves sports, works hard, and owns his own business all at only 24. Oh yes, and for the girls reading this blog, he is truly single, but non-atheletic girls need not apply.
Today, minus my saddle bags, tools, and a number of other things, I left Edmonton and headed toward Montana instead of Saskatchewan. I am now planning on hitting that province now after Montana. I have about 900+ miles to cover between Edmonton and Big Sky based upon my revised plan. I concluded that the shortest distance between here and Belgrade is the prudent thing to do under the current circumstances.
Ah, for the life of a motorcyclist! It is kind of like owning a motor home except with only two wheels, a lot of wind blowing in your chops, and no pop-outs on the vehicle. According to both mybrothers something is always crapping out on their motor home and they are in a constant state of tinkering with them. No doubt it will feel a bit strange tomorrow as I pull out of here with nothing covering my rear fender other than my bruised ego!
Enjoy your day, vote for Dog of the Week, and it is so very important that you donate to this very worthy cause. We all need to work together to find the cure for breast cancer and to help to better educate both men and women about this disease.
Thank you again for your interest in Cruising for the Cure and spending the time to read my blog. Both Doreen and I sincerely appreciate your efforts and we want to wish you kind regards to you and yours,
My plan is to have a great day everyday and to help make a difference!
On May 29, 2008 at 7:00AM I will throw my left leg over my modern day version of Peter Fonda’s “Captain America” Harley Davidson motorcycle and I will begin a 3+ month journey of a lifetime. I have dreamt about this trip for years and have meticulously planned every aspect of it from what to take, where to go, what to see and most importantly, what I want to accomplish during such a journey.
I plan to ride the back roads of America through 49 of the 50 states in our beloved country and much of Canada in a single ride while hopefully raising $100,000 for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. Weather and my mood will dictate my direction far more than any set schedule. I am firmly committed to ride through a great deal of every state and not to just clip the corners in order to be able to scratch them off my list. I am planning on both camping and staying in hotels along the way. I anticipate that I will log between 300 to 400 miles per day on most of my riding days.
No riding companions or chase cars for me during this journey – just my own thirst for adventure, wacko sense of humor and willingness to talk to anyone, anytime and anywhere as I motor throughout North America while getting to know the locals along the way. I want to learn as much as I can about their views toward life, family, sports and their careers.
In addition, one of my primary goals is to spread the word regarding the importance for regular breast cancer screening exams and to help to raise money so that we can find the cure sooner versus later. Be it big city malls or small town coffee shops in the middle of rural North America, I want to help raise the awareness about this disease and hopefully get more people committed to help us find the cure as I gain more insight into the lives of people I meet during my journey.
My custom 2003 Harley Davidson Dyna Wide Glide – “Captain America” – has been outfitted with a special handle bar camera mounting system and custom rear rack that will allow me to carry all the essentials for my journey as well as the things I need to be able to continue to update my blog, communicate with my family and friends, and to be able to do some work while on the road.
Follow my Journey
I will try to describe the good, the bad and the ugly regarding my travels. As in any adventure, there will be highs and lows and some incredible experiences and stories that I will no doubt want to share with you. As an example, I can just imagine the feelings of excitement and fear of the unknown that I will experience as I first pull out of my driveway on May 29th. How will I feel after my first breakdown, severe storm, or after a long day in the saddle seeing incredible scenery, or getting to know my first truly fascinating person? It should be interesting and I hope you will enjoy my adventure along with me. Remember, in motorcycle riding as in life, "It is not the destination, but the journey that matters!"
I have been blessed with a great family and career and have had an opportunity to live, work and play around the world. I am combining two of my great passions in life which are my love of motorcycles and a desire to find the cure for breast cancer.
I fell in love with Harley Davidson motorcycles 15 years ago when Bill (my buddy) first showed up at my house riding his new bike. I only remember three things about that day – candy apple red paint, chrome everywhere and Bill’s ear-to-ear grin! He decided to take up the sport after one of our closest friends (Dick Fletcher) passed away while several of us were surfing in Del Mar. Dick’s passing was a real tragedy and wake-up call for us all. Bill had concluded that life is short and very unpredictable and he wanted to start living everyday to the fullest!
Over the initial concerns my wife had about the dangers of motorcycle riding, I soon followed Bill’s lead and bought my first Harley and have been a long distance rider ever since with some trips covering over 7,000 miles.
Why Breast Cancer?
Because this dreaded disease has taken so many lives and impacted so many others. My family is no exception.
Doreen (the love of my life) is one of the lucky and growing number of breast cancer survivors. It was a real eye opener for us both back in 2005 when she was first diagnosed shortly after our close friend (Gerri Hickman) had just lost her 4+ year battle with the disease. These two events rocked our world, brought us even closer together and made us realize that the years are marching on. It also made our family realize that we do have so much to be truly thankful for and we must treat every day as a gift.
On May 29th I will arrive at VG’s Donuts and Bakery located in downtown Cardiff by the Sea at exactly 7:15AM sharp. You ask why start from VG’s? Because it is the best darn donut shop and bakery in all of Southern California and I should know.
I have been going there religiously for the past 30+ years whenever I am in town. It is not just about the donuts: it is about a great family business that is truly focused on quality bakery products and friendly service. Joe and his family have built a thriving business over the past 39 years. VG’s for as long as I can remember has had fiercely loyal customers from CEOs to surf bums. The best way to describe it is kind of like a combination of Cheers and Central Perk! Oh yes, VG stands for "Very Good".
For more than three decades, I have been one of their loyal customers and a friend. As an example, on May 28th 1977 at 5:00AM I even pulled off the freeway while my wife (Doreen) was in heavy labor with our first child (Brendon) to grab my usual order to go. Needless to say, she was not overly pleased with me that morning as she was not enjoying the wonderful smell of hot coffee and donuts while she was huffing and puffing and getting much closer to giving birth to our ‘little” 9 pound 3 ounce bundle of joy... “Brennie-Boy”. Later that day, and even today, she says, “what the hell were you thinking? We still laugh about it all these years later.
I have chosen VG’s as the starting point for my epic journey so that I can have an opportunity to throw back one last great cup of coffee and maybe a maple glazed and cinnamon crumb or two. It will also give me an opportunity to say goodbye to family, friends, interested on lookers, and any media before I head north towards Alaska on the first stage of my adventure.
I hope you can come down to VG’s that morning for a cup of coffee and a donut or two and give me the kind of send off that only a “wacko” like me would enjoy. I will even buy the coffee and a couple of donuts for the first 50 people who show up to send me off in style... and they say bribery does not work!
At about 8:15AM on that morning I will say my last goodbyes, climb on board “Captain America”, hit my electric starter, the... my journey begins and yes, this will be a day that I will never forget!
A beautiful winter day at the beach in San Diego, December 2006
The group is very supportive of the “Cruising for the Cure” because this disease knows no borders and more and more Chinese are impacted by it every day.
They are also enthusiastic about running a series of articles in their various publications about my adventure and the people I meet along the way. As you may or may not know, a growing number of men and women in China have adopted a sporting lifestyle in order to stay fit, reduce stress, and to live longer, healthier, and happier lives. They are all very keen to learn more about the sporting lifestyles enjoyed by both Americans and Canadians living in both countries.
During my journey, I will be interviewing young and old alike regarding this subject and sharing what I learn with their readers in both their newspapers and monthly magazines.