Wednesday, August 27, 2008
While riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia I met Richard and Maggie Poole. This 48 year old couple is from Youngsville, North Carolina and have been married for 29 years. Richard and Maggie met while working in a local restaurant while back in high school. Richard currently works for the Materials Division of the Electrical Coop for North Carolina. They have two sons ages 25 and 28 years old (they did have a middle son, but he passed away).
The couple have always enjoyed a sporting lifestyle. Richard is a former baseball player and coached their sons in the sport until they entered high school. They enjoy hiking, fishing and anything that will get them off the couch!
Now that the kids are out of the house, their sporting lifestyle tends to be focused around their bright yellow “T Bucket” (picture attached). It started as a 1923 Ford pickup truck. Maggie calls it “Richard’s Mistress! He found it about three years ago sitting in someone’s front yard. He asked the person out in front of the house if it was for sale. At that point there was only the shell of the body and the frame (no engine, radiator, or transmission). He made a deal with the guy and bought it for $1800. Over the next two years be put another $6200 into it and today this canary yellow T Bucket is the center of their sporting lifestyle.
No question that it is a work in progress, but they now belong to the NTBA (National T Bucket Association) and travel the country to events, shows, and exploring small wineries they find along the way. In the trailer they carry tools, suitcases, camping gear, and Maggie always leaves room for a case or two of good wine they find along the way. Richard admits that he has not yet convinced Maggie to camp, but he said that will come around soon. She just laughed!
They both love their “ride”, being outside, and enjoy all the people they meet along the way. They feel their T Bucket is a great way to stay active, meet new friends it gets them out of the house and away from all of their everyday hassles. They stop frequently along the way to view the scenery and to take short hikes. They both said they never are in a bad mood or have any stress after a nice long ride in the fresh air.
Both Richard and Maggie are so proud of their T Bucket and what this does for them. Richard says that Maggie is always asking him to take her for a ride. He even let’s her drive it, but more often than not he is the captain and she is the co-pilot. They said the car makes them feel young and hip! He said it will do over 100 miles an hour, but he keeps in within 10 miles per hour of the speed limit. They will even take it out of the garage for a spin in the middle of winter assuming it is nice day without snow. They bundle up and hit the road both grinning from ear-to-ear for an hour or two and then carefully put her back in the garage until next time there is a break in the weather.
The current trip they are on will cover over 1,500 miles. Both felt strongly that this is one of the best things they have ever done, but were only able to afford it once the kids were gone. Maggie felt it was a great $8,000 investment and a super way to reconnect with her husband after so many years with the kids living with them. Seeing them both climb up on the rear tire to step into their T Bucket was a real treat for me.
They are already planning on building another T Bucket that will be nicer, faster, and even more fun. They both commented that it has revitalized their marriage, gets them out in the fresh air, and gives them something to really look forward to doing together. Richard said, “It beats TV by a mile”.
The Poole’s feel this new hobby will keep them young and allow them to enjoy a sporting lifestyle for decades to come. Their exercise these days consists of working in their one acre garden that surrounds their house. Both love this work in progress too and said that they get plenty of exercise keeping the grounds up.
Relative to diet, they will pretty much eat what ever they like, but Maggie added that it has to be cooked (no sushi for this kid) and they both love plenty of veggies and chicken. Meat and pork are also high on their list. They seemed to be more interested in living than dieting!
The Poole’s were a great couple for me to meet during my journey and I thoroughly enjoyed the hour we spent together. I saw them two or three other times during the day and we always waved as we passed one another along this scenic highway.
Monday, August 25, 2008
One of the cutest towns I have come across was Woodstock, Vermont (not Woodstock, New York). While riding through town I saw three little kids on the other side of the street selling lemonade for only 25 cents a glass. You could just tell that they were dying to have a customer stop and take them up on their offer. I rode past about thee blocks and then decided to turn around and go back to buy a glass from them and to talk to them for a bit about their new business. I don’t know about you guys, but as kids, we had many of lemonade stand and would actually go door-to-door trying to sell soft drinks and/or collect refundable soft drink bottles or extra coat hangers and then sell them back to the cleaners. As I pulled up it was so obvious that they were all so excited to have one of their first customer of the day. There was no doubt that these two brothers and their younger sister were three aspiring entrepreneurial Donald Trump types looking to get on the Apprentice. They were so much fun to talk to and were also so polite. When I gave them three dollars and told them to “keep the change” you should have seen them yelling to their Mom and Dad with such joy. The parents were really cool too. I thought you might enjoy seeing them manning their battle stations like the staff at Starbucks.
The ride through New Hampshire and Main was difficult to top even though weather was working against me much of the time. After spending my first night in Bangor, Maine, I rode up state to Moosehead Lake which was absolutely breathtaking (a must see if you go to Maine). The next day I woke up early in the morning after spending the night in Waterville, Maine with the sun shining bright. This was the first day in quite a while that sun glasses were part of the “uniform for the day”. I was pumped up and decided to take my bike over to a do it yourself car was and get about three weeks of rain, dirt, and crud off of my dear old Captain America before a great day of motorcycling. I jumped out of bed and ever so confidently walk out to my bike only to find out that all my turn signals were flashing when I turned the key on and then I “tried” to start it. Only one issue, nothing happened. I had horn, lights, but no familiar sound of the engine turning over or the rumble of a cold engine could be heard.
What you could hear that early morning sunshine was Dave “going off”. I then paused and took a deep breath and started to determine my next step. I first called the towing service and had them order a pickup. Yes, there is a AAA type tow service for motorcycles. Second, I determined the closest Harley dealer which was about 25 miles away and waited the 30 minutes until they opened.
I got Ron (the service manager) on the phone at 8:31AM and told him that I needed a 10,000 mile service and a new rear tire and then I dropped the bomb on him about having to be towed into his dealership in Augusta, Maine. I described the problem and he casually asked me “if it was possibly that I had my security system turned on”. I said, “No way, I have not had it turned on since the day I bought the bike”. He suggested that I take my keys while keeping him on my mobile phone and that “we” walk out to the bike and hit the alarm button twice that is on my key chain”. By this time I would agree to try anything other than the dreaded “tow truck of shame”. I agreed and then hit the alarm button twice and then hit the starter button and the familiar sound of the roar and rumble quickly returned. Ron just started laughing over the phone. Thank God he could not see my red face over the phone! Apparently the ton of coins in my pocket hit the alarm the night before and disabled the start system. Oh well, you learn something new everyday. Did I feel like a fool? You bet, but what else is new? I was so grateful that decided to ride my bike to Augusta anyway and have the service and new tire put on even though it was a rare sunny day.
From Augusta I took Hwy 3 over to Hwy 1 and had a wonderful ride down the Maine Coast. I ended up spending the night in Brunswick and then headed south on Hwy 1 through Portland, Maine and into Massachusetts. I rode through Boston and out onto Cape Code. Sorry to those Boston readers, but I simply did not “get” Cape Cod!
The ride through Rhode Island, Connecticut, Eastern New York, Eastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey was deeply forgettable. The scenery and ride started to turn back into a more the positive light once I got into to Maryland and then nature’s eye candy returned once I entered Virginia.
I had a somewhat bizarre experience in Asheville, North Carolina. As I was pulling into a mom and pop type motel there were a couple of guys sitting in front of the check in office having a beer. One was sober and sane, but the other guy was three “sheets to the wind” and you could tell “a bit down on his luck”. I excused myself as soon as possible once the “three sheets to the wind” guy jumps up in a very aggressive fashion and demands that 8 migrant workers return the $3.00 that the guy had given to them the night before to buy him dinner. The sane guy (who had just met the drunk too) and I looked at each other and concluded that this guy is about to get into a major “UFC throw down” with these guys over $3.00. The situation calmed down after about 5 minutes of yelling.
I ended up going into my room to get cleaned up and then headed across the street for dinner and a beer at a sports pub. As I arrive at the pub I see the sane guy and we talk about the idiot who for $3.00 could have been seriously hurt had these 8 guys decided to shut him up. That being said -within about 10 minutes the drunken guy and one other guy covered in prison tattoos came into the pub. I thought this could be interesting. The drunken guy took off shortly thereafter. The other guy was a really nice guy, but I could tell he had a flash temper… what a story this was about to become.. You know me, I wanted to ask him some questions so I did over a beer. His name was “Tattoo” (surprise, surprise!). The guy was 31 years old and had gold front teeth like the guy in the James Bond movie. He had a medium to thin build, spiked hair, and tattoos everywhere… neck, arms, legs, back, stomach, etc. Here is what I learned from my conversation with him:
1. He has spent just under 25% of his life in prison (7.5 years)
2. He has been arrested for assault 14 times, robbery once and convicted of manslaughter
3. He said in prison you learn to fight or you die! His hands were mangled from all his fights.
4. He has 9 children by 9 different women
5. He has less than 2 years to live due to a rare disease that has destroyed his kidneys
6. He is hoping to stay alive for the two years because he has some insurance policy that will allow his kids to be taken care of when he dies
7. He works as a railing installer and “makes good money” and is trying to do right for his children
8. He has a lot of regrets in his life and would like to have a second shot at it
9. His former girlfriend hit him in the face with a beer bottle in February of this year causing multiple fractures and requiring 75 stitches. He has had to have three follow-up operations since then to try to repair the damage. I asked “Why did she do it?” He said that he took a sip out of her “wine cup” and “she just went off”! He then lifted his shirt and showed us three other healed wounds where she had stabbed him in the past on three separate occasions. He said he is now done with her.
10. He next showed us his forearms… he is what some would call “a cutter” kind of like Angelina Jolie in the old days. He must have had 15 or 20 bad scars on each arm where he said that he used to like to “cut himself”.
13. He really wished that he never had gone the tattoo route. Why? “Because when I walk down the street do you know what it feels like to see people run in their homes, lock their doors, and close their blinds? He then followed it up by saying, “Do you know how this makes me feel?”
14. He was quite intelligent and I could tell at one time he was a very nice looking guy. He does not read and the only TV he watches is UFC which he loves.
Tattoo was a really a nice guy and I thoroughly enjoyed talking to him, but I could not help but wonder what roll environment, versus heredity, played in making him who he turned out to be. No question he had some real regrets in how his life has turned out. This was quite an experience for me and thanks to my scruffy look these days I was able to talk with Tattoo without him feeling I was judging him. I decided to call it a night when the drunken guy returned and kept butting in and when Tattoo almost snapped and called the guy out. I felt it was high time to get the heck out of Dodge (I mean Asheville).
Guess what happened on my forth day of cruising the Shenadoah Valley? The day started with very dense fog and then it turned into what else… rain, rain, and more rain! By this time tropical storm Fay was raging in Florida and headed my way. I decided to go south and west and pickup Alabama and Mississippi and then head back to Atlanta, Georgia to spend the night with Heidi and Eric (my cousin’s daughter and son-in-law). It would be really fun to see them after the great time we had together in Montana back in July. Unfortunately Fay now had moved up into the entire Southeast section of the U.S. and my plans were again foiled. After riding 430 miles in the pretty heavy rain I ended up in Jackson, Mississippi and the weather was worsening by the hour. The next day I realized that Georgia, South Carolina and Florida would have to wait a bit due to Fay hanging around like a bad habit.
Today the weather forecast was poor at best, but I loaded up Captain America by about noon and hit the road. The rain was heavy most of the afternoon until I got about 20 miles from Monroe, Louisiana and then the skies opened up with the full fury of Mother Nature. As I was pulling off the highway after only doing about 107 miles, I noticed my oil light came on again when I was idling. This happened a few days earlier when I was up in Nashville, Tennessee. At that time I had dismissed it because I checked my oil and it was fine. This time I could not dismiss it again. Something was obviously wrong with Captain America again!
As it turned out there was a Harley dealer only about 2 miles away. I rode over to it in the driving rain and talked to them. Unfortunately their service department was not open today, but the parts guy strongly suggested that I should not continue riding until I sort out this latest “challenge”. I am now scheduled to take in my bike tomorrow at 9:00AM and see if they can get me out back on the road by the afternoon. I sure hope they can so I am not stuck in Monroe for the next few days. After all, I still have a lot of territory to cover.
Oh no, I just got word that another tropical storm (named Gustav) has now formed south of Cuba. Currently winds are already over 60 miles per hour and it could be classified as a full hurricane within the next 24 to 48 hours. They anticipate at least very heavy rainfall and maybe once it passes over Cuba it may well turn north just as Fay did. Here we go again! The adventure continues!
That is about it from here folks. Have a great week and enjoy one another,
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Micheal Phelps has nothing on our Current Champ.
Attached is a photo of Sophie working out for the Doggie Summer Games. I am pleased to report that Precious swam away with 9 Gold Medals at this year's competition. Needless to say, doggie paddling is her fastest event! Wow, can you believe she is this good looking and such a super athlete as well?
Well folks, I wish I had better news to report about Annie’s performance in Dog of the Week, but the facts are the facts. She simply didn’t have what it takes to become “America’s Next Top Model or Dog of the Week”. Personally I think it could well be the Atkins Diet that Sharon and Jon have put her on or she has just aged so much after having to open up a can of woop-ass on all those bears living in Montana.
So, once again, much to my surprise, Sophie has retained her crown as Dog of the Week. That being said, this week I have TWO Contenders this week for her title.
First up is Kodiak Sugar Pants
I would first like now to introduce them to you. First up is a scruffy little scraper called Kodiak Sugar Pants. As you can see from her picture she has little going for her other than the fact that she knows how to sit in a bicycle basket without looking like a total dork. Honestly I have seen a better looking coat on a homeless person in South Philly! This “little jewel” belongs to my brother Andy and his wife Leanne.
I would not ordinarily include in my Dog of the Week competition a 10 year old mix between a tea cup Pomeranian and a Dingo, but I have gotten so tired of all of the whining e-mails and phone calls that I decided to bite the bullet and give her a “legacy driven” shot at the Champ. I think you will agree that Kodiak Sugar Pants is a prime example of why Hermosa Beach California needs to immediately adopt a mandatory spaying law of stray bitches within their city limits.
The Next Contender
The second Contender this week is a pooch with a real problem. Her owner obviously had a bit of a lead foot and “Katie No Pockets” found a womb like hiding place to help get her over her fear of riding with such a maniac. The issue now is that she is spending all her free time at the chiropractor's office!
Well gang, the choice is yours to determine who stays and who goes. Will Sophie retain her crown or will Kodiak Sugar Pants or Katie No Pockets finally be able to do what no other dog has been able to do and that is to unseat the Reigning Champion?
Only time will tell and it is now totally up to you. So, please vote only once and help us all determine “Who is the fairest of them all?”
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I am currently in Waterville Maine and have now ridden through 29 states so far. Today I had a super ride up past Moose Lake which is northwest of Bangor. A lot of rain, but still a ten plus for beautiful scenery and viewing of some great homes. Since surviving my near death experience in Kansas, I have travelled the scenic roads of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and I am now in the “Pine Tree State” of Maine.
I would like to say that the weather has been great, but it hasn’t. For the most part the days have been much cooler than I expected (today the high hit only 66 degrees) and I have hit much more rain than anticipated. What is that old expression about “a cloud seems to be following me most of the time”? Don’t get me wrong, I am still having a total blast, but there is no question about it that so far this has turned out to be more of a spring ride than a summer ride. As one motorcyclist told me, “We knew we were not buying a sedan when we bought these things”. I laugh about his comment every time the rain starts to really come down. I am just amazed in this part of the US how quickly a few scattered clouds can turn into a viscious thunder storm. I mean I am talking in less than 15 minutes a “ride in the park” can turn into a dark, black, wet, windy nightmare from hell.
Most days I have tended to start riding later in the day due to work related commitments in the mornings and then I end up riding much later into the late afternoon and early evenings in order to keep making tracks. My cardinal rule though is to never ride at night. I feel the risk of doing so is simply too great to be out after dark. Interesting fact…..Did you know that a moose’s eyes do not reflect the light at night the way other animals do so seeing them is almost impossible?
Now for the journey…. Nebraska was one of the most enjoyable rides so far on this adventure. The sunny late afternoon sun on my back, the rich yellows, greens, and browns made the scenery and the ride just about perfect. No question that the terrain lacks mountains, but as I have mentioned previously I just love the plains of the Midwest as much as I enjoy riding through the higher elevations like the Rockies. I know a lot of people won’t agree with me about beauty of the Midwest Plains States, but I find a real peacefulness in roaring across the rural roads of Middle America. It reminds me of simpler times that most of us enjoyed as small kids growing up in the bigger coastal cities. I just love seeing the young Midwest boys running around the small towns barefooted in nothing more than a pair of old cut-offs. When we were kids my two brothers and I would chuck our shoes in the closet after the last day of school in June and not put them back on until that dreaded September day came around when we were sent back to “prison”. Our tender feet and stubbed bloody toes of June would turn into callas hardened instruments capable of fire walking by early September. Those were truly great days….the best morning of the year was the last day of school in June and the worst day arrived a short three months later!
I also love seeing the farmers working the fields, hay rolled up in round bundles as far as the eye can see, and the empty streets of most of the small towns I ride through. The funny thing is that it does not seem to matter what time of day or the day of the week that I ride through many of these small towns, the people never seem to be on the streets or outside of their homes. It always reminds me of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone that aired on TV in the late 50’s and early 60’s. I always ask myself, “Where are all the people?”
Shortly after leaving Iowa and heading into Missouri I heard from my office in London that they had arranged for me to meet with the Harley Davidson folks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to tour their new museum and to be interviewed by the Fox News network there. So I motored through Missouri and Illinois to make sure I got to Wisconsin in time for the interview.
Fist I was impressed with the riding throughout most of Illinois until I got close to Chicago. What a zoo Chicago was as it was related to the traffic and the roads were not much better. I did get caught in an incredible flash thunder storm that was a bit scary. Inside of 30 minutes, the skies turned from puffy white clouds to black ominous ones that turned the daytime skies into the dark of night. Within a ten minute period of time the winds went from zero MPH to about 50 or 60 MPH gusts. It was everything I could do to keep the bike upright and get to the next off ramp to hide under a gas station awning until the thunder cell moved on through.
Wisconsin had some beautiful scenery, but the roads were one step better than Alaska and that is about it! This was a big shock for me with it being the home state of Harley Davidson and all. By the way, the Harley Museum turned out to be incredible as I expected it to be. Also, the interview with Fox News was really fun and went well. I spent a couple hours with the news person and her cameraman. Both were really nice and they filmed me riding and talking about Cruising for the Cure, etc. The spot ran on the 6 o’clock local news.
The next day I headed for Green Bay to try to straighten out the Bret Favre/Green Bay fiasco. Needless to say, I failed in my attempts to get reconciliation between the two parties as evidenced by the recent trade to the Jets. I found Green Bay itself to be less than I expected and after spending one rain soaked night there I headed south in order to find something to do, some dry weather and hopefully some decent roads that would not shake every bolt loose on Captain America! A couple of hundred miles south of Milwaukee a car passed me and then slowed down and rolled down the shotgun side window. As we rolled along, a young guy stuck his head outside of the window and asked if he could take my picture and said that I was now famous because he and the guy driving saw me on Fox News the night before. We both laughed and then proceeded down the road.
Riding in Ohio was terrific and the highlight for me was going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. This is truly a must see museum. I was in total awe of the quality of the exhibits and the broad cross section of music covered. It had the actual costumes, advertising posters, etc. from all of your favorite acts. In addition, the museum even had cars, motorcycles, etc from the likes of Elvis, Janis Joplin, Jon Bon Jovi, and others. At first I thought there was only one floor to the exhibit and felt I had gotten my monies worth ($22) after spending about 2 hours pouring over all the 1st floor exhibits, but then I discovered as I was getting ready to leave that there were 4 additional floors. The items that I enjoyed the most were seeing the original written lyrics to some of the most famous songs in history. Some were written on things like the back of paper bags and others on Ramada Hotel stationary. Lucy in the Ski with Diamonds was one of these and seeing certain words scratched out that did not work and then the new ones added that did was a real treat for me. This was way cool! Wow, what a treat and I will definitely come back again (next time with Doreen) and spend much more time pouring over all this great history and attending all of the video presentations!
Weather really turned south on my while I was headed for Indiana. I was forced to pull off the freeway twice due to high winds and incredible rain. My rain gear seems to be my standard outfit for the day these days! Once I got to Indy I had an opportunity to have diner with two old friends from my RCI days. It was wonderful to see Steve Miller and John Reinhardt again. Although I had not seen them for several years it was as if no time had past at all. We talked and laughed for several hours over a great dinner and a couple of drinks. Simply great guys and a perfect evening!
The riding through Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and now Maine has been way beyond my high expectations. Although I have had some real weather challenges, the beauty of these states are second to none. If real estate looks good on a lousy day, can you imagine how great it would look on a perfectly warm sunny summer day? I was very surprised by West Virginia and Pennsylvania due to the fact that I felt for some reason that the scenery would be mediocre at best, but it wasn’t. I expected the other states to be great and they have all far exceeded my expectations.
The people I have met along the way have been equal to or better than the scenery! Kind, helpful, interested in Cruising for the Cure and my sponsor (Titan Sports Media), and they are also so proud of where they live. A trip like this has really opened my eyes to the fact that there are a lot of incredible places to live throughout our country without having to be within 10 miles of either coastline.
Early last week Doreen found out one of her friends in San Diego was diagnosed with breast cancer and last Friday she underwent major surgery. I dedicated my ride that day to her. It turned out to be a great day from a weather standpoint (a nice exception to the usual all day rain that I have been seeing). I had a beautiful day of blue skies, white clouds, some shorts showers, and then bright blue skies and white clouds again with stunning scenery in every direction as I rolled through the Adirondack Mountains of New York.
I am happy to report (knock on wood) that Captain America is running like a top….dirty, but running like a top. I can’t wait to get some decent weather so I can give her a bath! I will need to take her in for a major service and new rear tire some time in the next few days. Tomorrow afternoon after I get some work done, I will start heading south which should be a kick. I hear weather over the next few days may even get better…I know this is hard to believe, but I so want to believe the weatherman!
Now how would I rate the trip so far on a 10 point scale? How about a solid 15? It has been a real challenge and so fulfilling as I meet people along the way and spread the word about Cruising for the Cure. I am handing out more of my Cruising cards than does a strip club hawker in Vegas!
I am really hopeful that I am heading into some really hot weather. For those of you who know me, I hope to get a lot of 100+ sunny days coming up in my near future. I know this may sound terrible to some of you, but who cares….this is my journey and I love scorching heat. As I always say, “How can you be in a bad mood on a really hot day?”
Monday, August 4, 2008
An old Phillips 66 pump that still reads 26 cents a gallon....those were the days!
As I left Colorado Springs my confidence was high, my spirit was soaring, and I could not wipe the grin off of my chops. I stopped at a petrol station to fill up, look at my map, and asked directions to make sure I was headed in the right direction toward Bob Dole’s home state of Kansas. I honestly do try to eliminate errors and risks whenever possible when riding Captain America. After this intensive route review “Mr. Genius” departs with the confidence of the defending Super Bowl Champs (Eli Manning and his fellow team mates) embarking on the 2009 season. There were few signs and all the roads seem to twist and turn and trying to determine one’s true direction was not an easy task....honest! The long and short of it, after about two hours of riding I somehow ended up back within three miles of where I started from. I found myself saying, “Dave, you idiot!” over and over again and then just started laughing. With this “slow start” I decided to stop for lunch and regroup. Over 3 hours after I left town the first time I was ready to give it another go. Oh well, so much for my great idea of sending my GPS system home with the camping gear!
The Plains of Kansas
As I roll into Kansas I do know what to expect. I have been through the entire region many times during my past rides. A lot of people feel that they need to see tall mountains to feel the beauty of nature. I personally do not share their belief. I feel some of the most wonderful scenery is the farm lands of the Middle America. This is especially true in the late afternoons when you have the warm summer sun, contrasting shadows, a cornucopia of yellows, greens, and tans to focus on in all directions depending on the crop and harvest schedule. This is especially true when you are riding a 96 cubic inch Harley Davidson and can smell everything that the countryside has to offer (both good and bad). Also, because the spaces tend to be more wide open and the roads straighter than the mountain regions, riding is more relaxing and you can focus more on the scenery.
I decided to go back this year to see the progress and how the residences were dealing with the aftermath of this life changing event. I have attached some pictures from last year and some from this year so you can see the difference that 12 months has made. I think you will agree that some progress has been made, but I was surprised at how little has been rebuilt to date.
· Her deep belief in God
· Her optimism about the future
· Her lack of bitterness
· Her focus on the future and not the past
· Her incredible appreciation for the Red Cross and United Way (literally they put cloths on their backs, fed them, and provided a place to sleep)
· Her obvious disappointment in FEMA – surprise, surprise!
· Her family’s desire to earn enough money to be able to rebuild their home back in Greensburg - home is home!
· The total sense of calms that this young lady exuded in every breath she took
For the first 100 miles after I left this gas station I found myself utterly blown away by what I had just heard. She and her entire family had their lives turned upside down in a period of time less than a couple of minutes and yet she seemed to be focused on a brighter future. She mentioned that later that afternoon after getting off at the gas station she had to take her daughter to dance class. Life goes on! Wow, I was in awe of this young women and what she and her family had been through and are continuing to go through. I think there is a real life lesson for us all in her story. I find myself still thinking about her almost everyday as I am motoring along the back roads of America.
It is always fun for me to go through Dodge City, Kansas for a couple of reasons. This is called by many (or at least me) “ground zero” for the old TV westerns that I watched religiously when I was a kid. In a gas station I ran into a guy riding a brand new 105th anniversary edition Harley and he also had all new Harley cloths, etc. I said, "it looks like you are sporting a new bike and all new gear here. What is the occasion?" The guy was in his late 50's and he looked me dead in the eye and told me, "My old lady just ran off with another guy so the first time in my life I am doing what I want to do when I want to do it!" He said he called the guy on the phone and thanked him for "taking out the trash"! This truck driver was a biker back in the 70's, but he said that "marriage, kids, and work had gotten in the way and that he was now finally alive again". Bitter, yes, but I felt this guy was truly happy because he couldn't wipe the grin off his face as he roared out of the parking lot as he headed east toward his home which was about 100 miles away. I then decided to head north toward Nebraska on Hwy 83 North. Little did I know what was in store for me on this next leg of my journey?
It was in the late afternoon on Hwy 83 North (about 15 miles north of Scott City) that my life once again flashed before my eyes. For some reasons during my first 62 years on this earth I have had a number of very close calls with death, but this one was as close to all the others and maybe even closer.
Hwy 83 is a two lane rural road (one lane each way) and on this late afternoon there was very little traffic in either direction. The speed limit is 65 miles an hour and I was travelling north at about 70 MPH, but my speed was a non issue to the event that was about to take place.
For those of you who have not been in Kansas before, the roads are very straight, relatively flat, but there are always some small hills and valleys that are barely noticeable. As mentioned there was very little traffic coming south as I was headed north. As I was nearing the bottom of one of these small valleys, I noticed several trucks coming in the opposite direction over the hill that was not that far off into the distance. No big deal until I saw a car passing them. The car soon ducked back into his lane in front of the trucks and although I felt it was a little close, it was not really a big deal. Just then I could now see that a second car was also passing right behind the first car. This guy immediately ducked in between the first double semi and the second 18 wheeler that were rapidly approaching me at about 70 or 75 MPH.
Now, here is the real problem. There was a third car (a white pickup truck) also passing the trucks and he must have been doing about 85MPH. Within a fraction of a second, both he and I realised that this was a very serious situation. I was able to break to only about 55 MPH and he was able to break to about 65MPH. It was key decision time for the two of us. I decided to keep going straight (not that I had a lot of choices) and at the very last second he decided to go around me on the shoulder to my right ride! Yes, I ended up threading the needle between these two vehicles!
So folks, I have the double semi going by me on my left at about 75MPH and this jerk going around me on the right shoulder at about 65MPH. There was a huge drop off (about 10 or 15 feet) just off the right shoulder and I can remember seeing the pickup truck’s left front and rear tires kicking up dirt as his wheels were fighting to stay on the shoulder pavement. I was not sure if he would roll the pickup into the ditch, turn it back into me, or shoot the shoulder so we could all make it through this total mess.
This entire situation started and finished in less than 7 to 10 seconds and virtually everything was out of my control…..except for me flipping the guy the bird as he went by me. I vividly remember seeing the whites of his eyes and he had a look of total terror on his face as he flew by me. No question he knew he screwed up big time!
It took me about 5 minutes to really assimilate what had just taken place. Needless to say, I figured it was just not my time! Since that near disaster, everyday I find myself wondering if the guy in the white pickup truck even thinks about what he almost did or is he just one of those people who is oblivious to everything other than his own wants and needs. I will never know the answer to this, but will no doubt I will reflect upon that afternoon's event for the rest of my life.
Meeting Some Great People Along the Way
Michael is a hard working guy doing right by his family. We started talking about life, motorcycles, his job, and my Cruising for the Cure ride. Without me every asking for a donation, he walked over to his well travelled pickup (by the way, it was not the white one discussed above) and proceeded to open a file and pull out a $20 bill and then he handed it to me as a donation. I was blown away!
I told him that I would only take it if he would get on my bike so I could take a picture of him for my blog. He was so excited that he just about jumped onto Captain America. We ended up talking for about 30 minutes and I consider him to be one of the real jewels that I have found my journey. I hope you enjoy his picture on my bike as much as he and I did as we took it.
Michael was a real gentleman and I thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent just talking about life. I hope one day to run into him again at another petrol station or if I ride through Grande Cane. Guys like Michael really help me to restore my faith in mankind!
More to Come
A lot of great things have happened since Kansas and I will provide a complete update to my blog within 72 hours. Please stay tuned and I hope you enjoy your week.
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.