December 10, 2005

It's a Wonderful Life

George Bailey learned a lot from Clarence the Angel. He learned that life, no matter how complex, is good. He learned that friends and family are worth more than all the gold in the world.

Watching Clarence work with George tonight, I was struck with nostalgia for the Summer of 1973 when my brother Mark and I crossed our wonderful continent. We spent a couple of weeks heading west through Quebec and Ontario, before deciding to head back south into the US via Thunder Bay.

Tonight, sitting here with a foot of snow having fallen yesterday, I'm reminiscing about Mark's enthusiasm for the unknown. "When do you think we'll get to California," I'd ask each night as we tented down. He would smile, the way older brothers with more knowledge of the world can smile, and say things like, "That all depends on what happens tomorrow and which direction we decide to ride."

So true.

There were days that we headed north because the early July days were growing hot. Then we'd be in North Dakota, and it was cold. We'd cruise south the next day. It didn't seem to matter then that we were supposed to get to San Francisco before August came around.

Looking back, I think we meandered perhaps the least direct approach to San Francisco possible. It didn't seem to matter at the time. We got up each morning, ate some pie, drank some coffee, and then looked at a map to decide the day's agenda. "Hey," I'd comment, "I always wanted to see Arizona." Mark would laugh and comment "Let's make sure that happens soon."


I guess the best recipe for motorcyle adventure is a big brother, a couple of bikes, and the opportunity to spend an entire summer just cruising to nowhere and everywhere.

Tolkien wrote that "The Road Goes Ever On." It does indeed. I wish only that its travelers did not pass so soon. I miss them.

September 18, 2005

Fifty Miles East of Fargo





Like all great storytellers, my brother Mark is recalled by those who knew him as more than just a character: He truly was larger than life.

When Mark shared his stories all attentions were rapt. No one interrupted. We willingly walked into the fanciful world he conjured.

To be fair Mark came from a full monty of matchless storytellers. His lineage was of Irish and French origin. Go figure!

Slight exaggeration is viewed by good storytellers as essential to a good tale. To us a story needs a pulse of patina as surely as it requires plot and timing. Truly only a fool destroys the moment's rapture by discounting the oral offering. Long before the movie industry implored viewers to suspend their disbelief, storytellers gave flight to imaginations without usurious charge.

Mark surely enjoyed motorcyles and fast cars. Thrill was his mantra. But to be complete, Mark even more loved women. All of them. He adored and worshiped them. They were in many ways his holy grail.

This is a short tale of Mark and motorcycles and women, though not in that order. It is also a moral play, as it shows that sometimes, perhaps not often, the tales of a storyteller are far truer than one might expect.

Way back in the summer of 1973, Mark and I decided to head to the West Coast on our bikes. We both were riding BMW R75/5's at the time.

Before we could leave, however, Mark insisted that he needed to spend a few days with his girl, Leslie, who was summering on an isolated island in Casco Bay, Maine. So we spent almost a week there, me pretty much alone, and they, well they were in love.

On days that I grumbled about the need to head west he would reply, "Don't worry man, I'll take you to Detroit Lakes, Minnessota, where there's at least a dozen girls for every guy." I of course discounted such paradisical pronouncements as testosterone-stimulating hogwash.

Finally we departed the island. We cruised the byways of Maine and New Hampshire, crossing through Mount Washington Valley before evening. We were in Montreal the next day, and northern Quebec Province the next. The adventure then headed west across Canada, finally reentering the States via Thunder Bay, Ontario.

It was there that Mark suddenly again mentioned the name "Detroit Lakes." We had been on the road for 2 weeks by then. Our nightly habitat consisted of LL Bean sleeping bags and a small tent. We had long ago abanoned regular bathing, though we stopped to swim in lakes and rivers daily. Still the lack of hot water and soap was becoming obvious.

So, too, was the lack of female companionship. Mark was still in love, but I was between ladies that summer. As a confirmed serial monogomist, the in-between status means I had no one. I confessed as much to Mark that afternoon as we entered Thunder Bay.

"We're not far from Detroit Lakes," Mark matter of factly declared. He said it as if the mere mention of the place equated with a guaranteed abundance of girls. I took the bait. I asked him what was so special about this town.

"Detroit Lakes, Minnesota," began Mark, "is a small town about 50 miles east of Fargo, North Dakota, on Route 10. I stopped over there back when I was in the Army, when our train let us off there for a few hours. I was swarmed with girls the moment I got off the train. Seems there are almost no guys there."

"You're full of it, Mark," I relied, and changed the subject. That night, as we bedded down near a State Park, Mark brought it up again: "You'll see what I mean soon buddy."

Two days later, we pulled into the Town of Detroit Lakes. It looked like any other town to me. Being hungry, I suggested we get a bite a the A&W joint we had just passed on Washington Avenue. He agreed.

After getting off the bikes and removing our helmets, I strode to the take out window. Inside I saw a cute girl with a warm smile looking back at me. "What can I get you hon," she asked? "I'd like a couple of chicken breasts, please," I said. And then it happened. Without batting an eye, the waitress winked at me, broadened her smile, and asked: "So you want to take me out tonight?" I was stunned. I heard Mark laughing loudly behind me.

Not wanting to hurt this fine young lady's feelings, I of course accepted the invitation. She told me there was a dance at the Town Hall that night, and that I could meet her there at 7 p.m. She suggested we spend the rest of the afternoon down at the Town Beach. We did.

No sooner had Mark and I shed our jackets and stripped into shorts down at the beach than I looked around and saw that we were surrounded by girls. Girls were everywhere. There seemed to be no men around between the ages of 15 and 60. "What the....," I intoned to my brother. He couldn't resist the I told you so routine.

Within minutes, other girls approached us and asked both of us to take them out that night. Later, at the dance, it was more of the same. I decided that Detroit Lakes required several days of careful study.

We stayed there nearly a week, as I was determined not to leave until I heard Mark start to whine the way I had back on that island in Maine. Ah, brotherly love has many twists of fate.

August 19, 2005

Mountain Gap Riding in Vermont




I recently found myself cruising Scenic Routes 100 and 131 in Vermont. Inspiration by tar is rare these days. Yet the beauty of Vermont's Green Moutains and its fantastic backroads will inspire even the most jaded traveller.

Woooooosh go the wheels as they sing the tune of the forest's stream. The trees answer with approval. They know those who appreciate their realm.

Montauk Rider at Moto Internationale, Montreal


Awaiting the Drawbridge's Lowering


July 16, 2005

At The Lake--Motorcycle Week 2005



A rest stop at the Elacoya Overlook (Lake Winnipesauke) provides a view of The Lake behind Montauk Rider, the Montauk, and Cousin Den's Harley.

American Bald Eagle....


American bold eagle....
Originally uploaded by belgianchocolate.


Thanks to Belgianchocolate at flickr for this fantastic photo of The Eagle in the Wind.

THE EAGLE IN THE WIND



Sunday I rode the Montauk north into the White Mountains for a breakfast meeting of The Granite State BMW Riders, a wonderful group of New England riders indeed. Though unknown to their members, I was greeted warmly, both by their members and by the fine waitresses and the oversized Western Omelet served up in Campton at The Sunset Grill.

If one ever needs a good excuse to get out of bed early on an otherwise uncommitted Summer Sunday, a breakfast meeting of the GSBMW Riders at The Sunset Grill is a fine justification for sure.

White Mountain journeys can be accomplished via myriad routes. The fastest, at least from Manchester, is a straight shot up the slab of Route 93. But like all interstates, it is too straight and too monotonous for enjoyable riding. Old Route 3, however, is neither straight nor boring.

In my youth, Route 3 was "the highway." It winds generally north from Massachusetts to Colebrook, NH, being the Main Street of most every town in between. North of Laconia, NH, Route 3 is a pleasure to ride. It's old, and its curves lead to farmlands, old homes in need of repair, and fields of hay and corn. At places the road sweeps along a riverbed flooded with the high waters that flow down from headwaters deep in the Pemi Wilderness. The smells are of musty shores and freshly mown hay. Ideal for a Sunday ride.

Overhead I watched Hawks ride air currents high into the cooling sky. Just north of Plymouth I rounded a bend to see an Eagle glide without effort along an invisible air current sweeping up the hills below it. I was awestruck.

I think of the sadness in London, in Iraq, all over the world. Sadness brought about by hatred and killing. I think of the lonely Eagle in the mountain wind. I wish everyone would just stop what they are doing to others and go for a Sunday ride into the mountains.

July 02, 2005

Montauk Rider (center) and Friends at Madison Boulder

I've always had a thing for geology. I've also always had a thing for eccentrics, you know, those people who's quirks, talents and temperment light up a room just by walking into it.

Gigantic boulders left adrift during the ice age combine the best of geology and eccentrics. They are therefore aptly named "Erratics."

The Madison Boulder is huge, twice the size of most homes, and just sitting in the middle of a wooded glen in the hills of Madison, NH. Geologists believe that it was dumped in Madison by a receding glacier that was between 1 and 2 miles thick. So cool it's cold.

Weirs Boulevard--Laconia Bike Week 2005

June, though wet here in New England, still offered some great rides.

June 18, 2005

RIDING THE CHINOOK TRAIL

Scenic roads are a canvass upon which riders and their motorcycles meld to become artists in motion. The art of the adventure is simply more beautiful when the canvass is alive in three dimensional color and form.

I recently chanced to cruise such a trail in the foothills of New Hampshire's White Mountains. It's called "The Chinook Trail," and I don't believe that I'd seen it since childhood, when my parents took us to the famous "Sandwich Fair" in my dad's 1955 Nash Rambler. We called the Rambler "The Soup Can" due to its bizarre resemblance in both shape and color to a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup. Yes, long before Andy Warhol was made famous by painting that ubiquitous tin can, my family drove around in it.

I used to think that my mother actually loved canned Tomato soup. Yet as I aged and had children of my own I grew to appreciate that parents oftentimes prepare that which they know will bring the fewest complaints from the pod of pickey palates. This lesson was later reaffirmed by the absolute absence of premade soups from my mother's kitchen once her kids had grown and abandoned the homestead.

The Chinook Trail is a gorgeous two-lane ribbon of tar running through the valleys between the towns of Wonalancet and Tamworth. It's official designation is Rte. 113A. It is best reached by traveling north from Lake Winnipesauke on Rte. 109, just to the east of the town of Moultonborough. You ride north through Sandwich, up to North Sandwich, and then north to Whiteface and on to Wonalancet. Along the way you will see ponds, mountains, fields, and old farmhouses that were once stately and magnificent. Now their glory is faded, but they were once quite prosperous.

Wonalancet was once home to the famous Dog Sled Man, Arthur Walden. Walden, though born and raised in New Hampshire, learned the value of hardy sled dogs while seeking his fortune during the Alaska Gold Rush. He discovered that the right cross-breading of sled dogs produced a great line of hard-working, cooperative, smart, and well natured creatures who would gladly pull thousands of pounds of freight across snow packed stretches with neither injury nor complaint.
He returned to Wonalancet, married the love of his life, and began breeding his dogs. He soon had the right mix, and he named his favorite dog "Chinook."

Chinook and his descendents gained world fame in both racing and freight hauling. Admiral Byrd was more than pleased to enlist Walden and his best friend, Chinook, for his renknowned Antarctic adventure, writing in his book:

"Had it not been for the dogs, our attempts to conquer the Antarctic by air must have ended in failure. On January 17th, Walden's single team of thirteen dogs moves 3,500 pounds of supplies from ship to base, a distance of 16 miles each trip, in two journeys. Walden's team was the backbone of our transport. Seeing him rush his heavy loads along the trail, outstripping the younger men, it was difficult to believe that he was an old man. He was 58 years old, but he had the determination and strength of youth."

Chinook was sadly lost in the Antarctic. News of the tragedy was reported around the world. Walden reported that Chinook, now old and tiring more easily, tried to awake him three times on the night of the dog's 12th birthday. Something was bothering him, and Walden each time patted him and told him everything was fine. When Walden awoke in the morning, however, Chinook was gone, never to be found. Perhaps he heard Buck and the call of the wild.

On Walden's return to New Hampshire he found his wife dying and half his farm sold off. The State had just completed one of its earliest highway projects, a road using the same trail between Wonalancet and Tamworth that had been run so many times by Chinook when just a wooded path. The Governor wanted to name it in honor of Walden. But Walden asked that the road instead be named in honor of his beloved companion, Chinook. It will thus forever be "The Chinook Trail."

May 21, 2005

SPIRITUAL ARMS -- IMAGINED HANDS

Do you have a Sleep Mantra? A place your mind automatically melts into moments after you lie down for a night's rest?

For me it's "the Perfect Ride." I close my eyes and sense my spiritual arms stretch forward as my imagined hands gently grasp my motorcycle's handlebar grips. In this hazy state between the edge of reality and the fall into dreams, I'm already in the midst of a sensuous sweeping curve.

On my left I sense a verdant, flower -filled jungle at the base of an impressive mountain range. To my right I see an aquamarine ocean, a horseshoe shaped bay. My nostrils fill with the powerful aroma of Bougainvillea vines.

I'm fascinated that I have this same Sleep Mantra, or Sleep Place, each night. The sweeping curve is always the same, a long, slowly bending left hand leaner of a corner. Yet the views to my left and right seem different each time.

When the curve is on steamy-warm and moist mountainous road with the sea beneath me on the right I think of Nice, France -- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico -- the Santa Cruz Mountains, California -- and a score of other memorable places and rides from my past travels. Most of these rides were on motorcycles: one, PV Mexico, was by car. (I have a feeling that I will someday return there on the Montauk, perhaps during what everyone calls "retirement," or perhaps earlier on a sabbatical).

When the curve is in a musty, sun-filled stand of multicolored foliage trees I think of Franconia, New Hampshire -- Stowe, Vermont -- Bethel, Maine -- and any number of other New England towns where Fall Foliage rides make for a lifetime of joyful memory.

Last night my Place was Puerto Vallarta. Tonight, who knows? Perhaps even a newer old locale dredged up from memories I've heretofore forgotten to remember.

April 24, 2005

Time and Weather Take a Toll

The Montauk and I rode a long-ago memorized loop of historic country roads yesterday. It was sad to see that Winter had been so unkind to these aged friends.

Like faces wrinkled by age, sun and wind, Old Route 13 and Clough Park Road were a sea of undulated cracks, agape with pitted skin pulled tight over their once rounded -- now peaked -- crown. Not even a decade of serial mini-quakes (the kind we get in New Hampshire) would have sundered the tar this badly.

I was heartbroken. What had for years been one of my favorite afternoon cruising routes, winding through the hills and towns of Goffstown, Dunbarton, around Clough Park and Everett Lake, down to Weare, and then back to Goffstown, now resembled more a gravelized motocross track than a road.

Many of the important things in these townships thankfully remain the same. The farms still smell alive. The fields and ponds still surround me with panoramic beauty. The hills still rise and fall beneath the turning wheels of the Montauk. All is well in the world on such days.

I just wish that time and weather could be kinder to our little country roads.

April 16, 2005

THE SENSATIONS OF SPRING IN NH

Riding in April, at least here in New Hampshire, is an adventure. Two weekends ago, for example, my friend John and I decided to enjoy a sunny afternoon roam up to Lake Winnipesauke. Winnipesauke is NH's largest lake, with over 75 square miles of water.

We meandered along country roads taking in all of the wonderful smells and sights that Spring offers. But springlike weather in one location does not necessarily make for springlike weather 50 miles north.

We found the Lake still a victim of winter's icy grip. Only the first few feet of of the water's edge was moving. Vast stretches of shore to shore ice pack, at times more than 3 miles across, were visible from the scenic vistas along the road.

Yet the same weather existed here as it had further south. The water, of course, was resisting the state change from solid to liquid. It resisted change with a calculated coolness that quickly invaded my riding gear with frigid result.

I pulled alongside John. His face, like mine, was red with the cold. Our smiles were nonetheless from ear to ear. This is the stuff of springtime riding. This is why we would rather ride the motorcycles for an afternoon runabout than do just about anything else.

As our route along the Lake ended, and we pointed our machines South for the return run, the temperature climbed quickly. It was 65 again. It was wonderful. The air was again pungent with the smell of a reawakening forest. A mile later we were enveloped in the smell of fresh farm soil that had just been released from its Winter blanket. Rich, deep, musky -- all of those sensations caressed me at a single moment.

Ten miles from home I turned to John and shouted: "Next ride's to the beach!"

I got no argument. John's broadly grinning face said it all.

April 03, 2005

THERE'S NO SEX IN THE HOTEL KIRAN

Agra India is the home of the fabled Taj Mahal. It is also the home of a lesser known attraction, The Hotel Kiran. It was there, in '73, that Peter Agrafiotis and I bunked in for a couple of nights during a pilgrimmage to the Taj Mahal.

The Hotel Kiran is not much to look at. It's been beaten up by time and dust. The whole town seemed that way. Only the Taj Mahal stood out in splendor. White marble, with gleaming stones and jewels that caught and then released sunlight.

It was our rickshaw driver that selected our lodging on our first entrance into Agra. "I take you to Hotel, very nice. My brother there. You like it." He was a salesman of few words.

Check-in was unceremonious: the desk man spoke little English, and my proficiency with Hindi bordered on useless. The Hotel Kiran was ready for such circumstances, nonetheless. The desk man handed us a printed sheet of instructions, paid the rickshaw driver a tip for the referral, handed us a rusted key, and pointed at the stairway. Our room awaited.

For your enjoyment, I share with you the written instructions, verbatim. Peter kept them, and sent me a copy recently. They are wonderful:

HOTEL KIRAN
Rules & Regulations
  1. Prostitude & wine is structly prohibited in the Hotel.
  2. Passengers are requested not to keep cash and ornaments in their rooms or in Locors.
  3. Passengers are requested that they should maintain perfect silence and hormony in the Hotel.
  4. Passengers should take proper care for cleanliness and should not spread dirt.
  5. The minimum lodging charges will be for 24 hrs. The charges for a period less than 24 hrs will also be the same.
  6. Passengers will be to allowed to leave only after paying the Hotel bill in full. In case of failure the hotel manager will be entitled to with hold the baggage etc of the passangers.
  7. It is a legal offence to keep arms and amunition without license in the Hotel. Defaulters of law shall be liable to a penalty of Rs 500 per day.
  8. Cooking of food in any part of the Hotel premises is prohibited. Defaulters of law shall be liabile to a penalty of Rs 500 per day.
  9. Passengers should not cause harm to the Hotel.
  10. Passengers are requested not to make payment to the waiter for the bill in excess of Rs 5. Bills for sums more than Rs 5 should be paid by the passengers at the Counter.
  11. Entry in the rooms or keeping baggage in the Locors without entry in the register is prohibited.
  12. Eatables from outside will not be allowed to be brought in or consumed in the Hotel.
  13. Any complaint or suggestion may be noted in the book with the Manager. The complaint against any employee of the Hotel may be made to the Manager. Passengers should not take any action against them directly.

So, at the Hotel Kiran, you can bring your licensed guns and ammunition. You can eat the Hotel's food, but not your own food. Don't pay the waitstaff more than 5 rupees and don't bother looking for a one night stand. Cause at the Hotel Kiran you can sleep, you can dine, you can and must create perfect hormony, but remember this: at the Hotel Kiran "prositude & wine is structly prohibited."

March 27, 2005

REVEREND PETE'S SERMON -- "JESUS WOULD RIDE A HARLEY"



First and foremost, a Happy Easter wish to all peoples of the world. May the new season bring peace and freedom to everyone.

I awoke this morning to a beautiful Spring day. Birds were singing, and the moles that had mysteriously moved into my yard over the winter seemed to be burrowing with a special frenzy.

Being brought up in the Catholic Religion, I of course associate Easter with Jesus.

So it is no surprise that I awoke this morning smiling to think not only of the triumph of a risen Lord but of the interesting ways that Jesus has been used in modern times to sell things.

(Warping as the memory machine takes us back to June 2004)

I was browsing the motorcycle paraphenalia stands at last year's Laconia Bike Week, when suddenly I realized that I was in the Hell's Angels leather tent. It didn't take long for me to comprehend that I had somehow passed through "Suzie's Bandana Shop" into an abutting tent where black leather thongs hung next to purple leather whips.

"What ya lookin for," asked a hulking voice behind me? I turned and viewed the speaker. He was big, about 6'5", and spilling out in all directions from his tee shirt, leather vest, and dirty jeans.

Time to act cool and nonchalant. So, with the feigned indifference of a Cool Hand Luke, I muttered: "I was just looking at the bandanas as a possible gift for my wife." (Oh man, I thought, that didn't come out cool at all.)

The big guy looked at me as if I was a toad. "Get The Bitch a thong man. Bitches in thongs look great on the back of your ride."

Now I was in way over my head. For one thing, I had never thought of my wife as "The Bitch." For another, the last time I got so-called sexy lingerie for my wife, I got a lecture about how uncomfortable it was.

"No man," I replied, "I've changed my mind. Not gettin her anything. What ya got for us bikers?" Alright, I thought, now I sound better to this kind of guy. All the while I'm casually looking for an exit. I spied one to my right. Next to the exit was a table with another Hell's Angels guy sitting behind it on a stool. Looking at the first Angel I quipped, "I'll go check out that table." I moved quickly toward the exit. But I didn't make the exit before the stool guy grabbed my arm.

"If Jesus were alive today, he'd ride a Harley."

That's what the man said, as he pointed to a leather and chain device used for attaching keys to your jeans. I looked. It did say just that. Embossed into the leather were the words "IF JESUS WERE ALIVE TODAY, HE'D RIDE A HARLEY."

I was hooked. Looking over the stool man, I noticed much the opposite of the first Angel. This one was thin to an extreme. His hair and beard were straggly, long with that pepper and salt mix that we all seem to inherit as we push past 40. His teeth were few, and those that remained were in rather sad shape.

But he had a big smile, a genuine smile--the kind of smile that put me at ease and made me less anxious to get away from the tent. He wore a cross around his neck, and his vest was marked with his name: "Reverend Pete."

I inquired, "Reverend, how do you know Jesus would ride a Harley as opposed to a Honda?" Pete grinned. "I don't. But I know he'd be a biker man, cause he rode a donkey. He'd ride a bike today, no question." Pete's quick response was made with the conviction of true religion.

That was the end of Pete's sermon. He had no more time for me. A good looking lady had walked to his table, and was asking him where the thongs were. I saw the light of the doorway and left.

And it was this memory of Reverend Pete's sermon that put a smile on my face this Easter Morning.

March 22, 2005

Harmonicas and Motorcycles



Toots Thielemans is a master of jazz harmonica. Many have heard him and not realized that his instrument was the harmonica. His music was the muse behind the film "French Kiss."

So many of us grew up thinking of the harmonica as a toy rather than a true instrument. Some of us grew to appreciate the great harmonica players of the Blues: folks like Paul Butterfield and Charlie Musselwhite. They are incredible without question.

But Toots Thielemans, of Belgium, takes harmonica to a level beyond. His melodies take your evening breath away. Guys, trust me, this is the fellow to play when you want your lovely lady to feel that the two of you are holding hands and sipping fine wine at a quaint cafe in the heart of Paris.

So what, one might ask, does this have to do with motorcycling?

Well, says I, remember that many a grand day of motorcycling comes to a conclusion with you and your dream bike coming home to your significant other. Bring home some good wine, a smile, and a Toots Thielemans CD to share with your lady. She'll be far more inclined to approach your next adventure enthusiastically. She might even say, "Have fun. I'll see you tonight."

March 16, 2005


JOYOUS MOVEMENT Posted by Hello

SURFING THROUGH THE AIR



I'm often asked by non-riders why motorcycling is so important to me. I have a thousand answers to this question, but no one answer covers the myriad of reasons.

There are a handful of experiences in life that allow us to experience joyous movement, a moment when gravity is seemingly defied, and when the normal laws of time and space are suspended. Those who surf, those who ski, those who snowboard know what I am speaking of. It's almost indescribable: it's like surfing through the air.

On a warm summer day, I will cruise along a twisting country road in the backwoods or hills of New Hampshire. I will find a groove in which every undulation of the road, from surface to twist, is synced perfectly with my mind and my machine. I'm studying the next turn before it is even in view. I can see it and feel it without seeing it.

This is the Zen of Motorcycling. This is joyous movement. This is why I ride.

March 12, 2005


Easy Rider prepares to ride the Mount Washington Road, June 2004 Posted by Hello

The Annual "Ride to the Sky." Motorcycles climb to the summit of Mount Washington. Posted by Hello

A QUEST FOR HIGHER GROUND

Quest: "an act or instance of seeking: a chivalrous enterprise in mediaeval romance involving an adventurous journey: a person or group of persons who search or make inquiry."

So sayeth Merriam-Webster. So it must be.

Seeking to ride the Montauk to the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, I've been checking around for others who might want to join in this romantic adventurous journey, this Quest. Not surprisingly I've learned that such a ride is already planned by the Mount Washington Road Foundation.

"The Ride to the Sky" is scheduled for this coming June 16th. Last year over 3,000 bikes made the trek, including it turns out a rather famous Easy Rider, Mr. Fonda himself.

I'm so excited about it that I spent hours last night programming all the maps and scenic rides on the way to Mt. Washington into my new GPS unit, a Garmin model called "The Quest." How appropriate!

March 08, 2005

Another March Snowstorm


Another March Snowstorm
Originally uploaded by MontaukRider.


We devotees of cycling yield to nature's forces.


When the snows from heaven fall, we dream of better days to come.

March 06, 2005

Sunrise over Puerto Vallarta


Sunrise over Puerto Vallarta
Originally uploaded by MontaukRider.


Mountains, whether in NH or Mexico, provide great inspiration to those who traverse them.

Riding the Mt. Washington Road


CamPic6
Originally uploaded by tikaro.

Speaking of riding in the mountains of New Hampshire:








Fellow biker, Tikaro, has a very cool set of motorcycle trip photos on flickr. He took this photo while riding his BMW down from the top of Mount Washington.

Awesome!

Check out his pics at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tikaro/sets/114853/

Spring Can't Come Soon Enough



It's March in New Hampshire. My yard remains snowcovered, but I see hints of change. A small flock of Robbins swooped through my backyard the other day. They found some bare ground beneath my southern-facing hedges sunny and welcoming.

Yesterday's temperatures peaked in the 40's. The snow melted from my southern-facing roof.

Other signs of Spring abound. Boston hosted its annual New England Boat Show in late February. New England's mariners were delighted.

My thoughts, of course, are turning to riding. I've been pouring through motorcycle magazines and websites, anticipation heightening to near frenzy.

Yesterday I suddenly announced to my wife, "I need to visit my bike shop." "That's silly," she quite rightly replied, "aren't they closing in 20 minutes?"

Damn! I detest such reality when I'm swooning in fantasy.

"I'll go next Saturday, earlier in the day," I thought to myself.

So instead of heading out to a house of motorcycle worship, I took a late afternoon nap. I dreamed of riding the scenic roads of New Hampshire's White Mountains. Spring is coming. Not even a guaranty of more snow in March will dissuade me from dreaming.

March 02, 2005

It's a Jazz Thing


It's a Jazz Thing
Originally uploaded by MontaukRider.











Jazz is cool, hot, and everything in-between. Jazz is music in motion; it thus is something else to listen to while cruising on the Montauk.

"It's a Jazz Thing" is also one of the hottest Podcast streams out there. "Dubber," of Wolf Radio, New Zealand, indirectly from his new digs in Great Britain, streams out the nicest assortment of music you could ever want to hear. (See my link in the sidebar).

Tonight's show is mellow, cruisey. I just want to curl up before a nice fire and dream of Summer to come. Ah, that gilded time when all this New Hampshire snow will be gone, and our roads will entice me for a Jazz Cruise. I'm ready. Yes.

March 01, 2005

The Watchers


The Watchers
Originally uploaded by MontaukRider.
In travel we observe. We watch.



Our motorcycles bring us to wondrous places. We watch.


Others are watching. From a restaurant window one might observe a man. But the man is intent on another, here a cat. And the cat is focused on another, perhaps a bird?

February 27, 2005

EXISTING IN THE NOW OF TRAVEL AND MOTION

"On a motorcycle we are titans, roaming a new and beautiful world, unsuspecting, innocent, and uncaring of the changes we will see, moving forward along interlaced roadways, and existing in the now of travel and motion. Nowhere has this been truer than riding the BMW Montauk...."


I want to thank Neil Johnston, Senior Editor at OneWheelDrive.Net, for his observation on the spiritual aspect of motorcycling ("existing in the now of travel and motion") and for his appreciation of my motorcycle, the BMW Montauk.

February 26, 2005

Hybiscus of the Dominican Republic


Nature seeks balance in all things.





The Hybiscus blossom yields to a breeze, then springs back to its balance point a moment later.

A BALANCED LIFE

A balanced life is a good life.


I'm sure someone like Benjamin Franklin quoted a pithy phrase of similar intent long ago. Balance does of course beget equilibrium. In that sense balance is a state of being that presages harmony in all things.


My thoughts today are of balance. Balance is an essential component of what Dressage Riders call "seat." Even the best horsemen and women seek to perfect their comfort, seat, and feel on their horses. They seek to become one with the animal's movements.


Balance and "seat" are of equal import on motorcycles. We riders of the the two-wheeled machines enter into a lifelong quest for perfect balance and seat.


There are times on a cycle that your seat is so in tune with the machine and the road that each turn of the road is matched effortlessly, magically, seemingly as if all instructions to the machine were being telepathed through the thighs, into the saddle, and through the frame, on through the tires, and into the tar itself.


You are one with the bike, and the bike is one with the road. Equipoise has been achieved.


A balanced life is surely a good life.

February 25, 2005


The Krishna Road - 1973 Posted by Hello

THE TURNING POINT

Each of us experiences a Turning Point in life, a place or time where all things come into focus. It is then and there that future-altering choices are made.

My artist friend from Maine, Peter, visited last evening. He brought along an old photo of the two of us taken in January 1973 on our journey toward the fabled Taj Mahal, in Agra, India.

We were walking the "Krishna Road." And there it was, our Turning Point. [See photo above]

Turning Points aren't always so obvious. I want to thank the keepers of the Krishna Road for helping us out that day. Without their efforts we might well have missed the epiphany opportunity altogether.

February 23, 2005


The Quiet Man Posted by Hello

Famous folks who love cycling Posted by Hello

EVEN OUR WORDS ARE RANKED

While I pause between chapters of my stories, I think it worthwhile to note an incredibly cool site where the words of our English language are ranked according to usage. I thank http://www.wordcount.org/main.php for the following useful information.


The word "motorcycle" is the 15,969th most common word used in English today. The word is thus far less in use than the words "the" (# 1) or "a" (# 5). It is far more common, however, than the least used word, "conquistador" (# 86,800).


Interesetingly, the word "Zen" is ranked at # 12,408, while the word "motorcycling" is a lowly # 47,018.

February 19, 2005


Perseid Meteor Showers Posted by Hello

1973 1/2 BMW R75/5 Posted by Hello

1972 Triumph 650 Posted by Hello

1966 Yamaha 175 Enduro Posted by Hello

Jack Kerouac Posted by Hello

BOHEMIAN MOTORCYCLING AND THE ARTIST FROM MAINE

Passions draw like minded people together. Motorcycling certainly does. Some folks, for example, are mad for the game of Bridge. I have a Law Partner who took up Bridge about 10 years ago. He instantly adored it and was soon playing in Bridge Tournaments throughout New England. He got so good at it that he rather quickly became the President of the State Bridge Association, I suspect the youngest person to have held that august position. I have no doubt that he will someday be a Bridge Master (a title reserved for the truly great players). His closest friends play Bridge too. Like to like, passion to passion. (I’m now imagining that old calypso standard with the refrain, “Back to Back, Belly to Belly…..”)

I’m thinking back of friends and family with whom I’ve shared my most memorable times. Not surprisingly many are linked with road adventures here and abroad. Others are linked to grand adventures at sea. Each will undoubtedly afford me ample opportunity to write about when time permits.

I remember first meeting my first truly Bohemian friend, Peter Agrafiotis, in the summer of ’69. Peter seemed a “grownup” compared to me. I was a young and very na├»ve 17 year old. He was, I think, 24. (Forgive my poor memory Peter if I have your age wrong.) In any event, he had already graduated from college, and he had a real job. I was still “in school,” between my junior and senior years in high school.

Peter was unlike any of my contemporaries. He was eccentric. He was a painter of impressionist canvases with an eye for colors so vibrant one wanted to dive into the rivers and ponds his brush created. He was in the midst of a sad divorce from a woman he deeply loved.

He knew they were incompatible as husband and wife: She knew that they would remain lifelong friends. I believe that they have.

When I first met him, Peter lived in a huge army surplus tent in the woods of Cape Neddick, Maine. He was building a bizarre homemade house in which everything was hand-hewn from a patchwork of boards, doors, stones and posts purchased from the demolition sites of old churches, barns and country stores. No two angles were alike.

There were wooden ladders to lofts, stained glass windows that opened to other rooms, and a heavy wooden trap door in the kitchen that led below to a cozy sleeping room for guests. The largest room was his painting studio. Easels and paints were everywhere. This was definitely “Woodstock Nation meets Post-and-Beam meets Jack Kerouac,” I thought. Pete even looked a bit like Kerouac.

Peter was way cool. His paintings were hanging in the local galleries in York and Ogunquit. He also published a widely read Tourist Magazine that restaurants and hotels from York to Portland loved to advertise in. He was a talented writer with a knack for mixing fact, mirth and fiction, throwing in irony for spice, thereby creating a brew to bring smiles to those tourists lucky enough to read his pieces.

One evening, Peter and I dined at The Cape Neddick Lobster Pound. (Still one of the best seafood places to dine I might add). The restaurant had the standard Lobster Cracking Instruction Placemat that is common to such places. It was replete with drawings of each excruciating step in the lobster deconstruction process.

“Wouldn’t it be great,” I suggested, “if we took these drawings and put them into you magazine as instructions on ‘How to Make a Lobster Talk.?” Peter loved the idea, and we spent the rest of the night co-writing an article about the secrets known only to Maine Lobsters and how one could get them to tell their secrets through the use of lobster crackers, etc. In the end we changed it just before printing to become the lead article, entitled “How to Revive a Lobster.” It turned out to be an instant hit, and the magazines sold out. Over the years we co-wrote a number of his humor pieces. I’m not so sure today whether the pieces were as funny as we then thought, but back then the monthly meetings to work on the articles seem some of the happiest days of my youth.

We wrote a number of humor pieces together over the next few years. I recall that we caused quite a furor amongst the summer tourists when we started writing articles about a pseudo-fictitious place called “Tatnic Maine.”

Don’t get me wrong, there is in fact a location known as Tatnic Maine. But it isn’t an official Town or City. It’s just an area known as Tatnic, with perhaps 7 houses along the old Dump Road to the west of Cape Neddick. Peter and I thought we should aggrandize the funny sounding place; perhaps write articles about the “Tatnic International Airport,” and the “Greater Tatnic Opera House.”

Soon Peter started getting calls from the local hotels and restaurants complaining that guests couldn’t find an airline that would pick them up at the Tatnic International Airport, “and where the hell is that airport anyway?”

We had to stop writing about Tatnic when advertisers started threatening to pull their ads. It was a sad ending to a creative series: we had even written a birth announcement for “Johnnie Tarbell, who was born to Beulah and Fran Tarbell, of 1179 East Tatnic Highway, Suite 300, weighing in at 14 pounds, 7 ounces.” That announcement was printed right after the report of the Tatnic Regional Winter Moose Hunting statistics, where every Bull Moose and Cow was reported as “weighing in at pounds.”

What, you might ask, does this have to do with motorcycling? I’m getting there. My main transportation in 1969 was a Yamaha 175 Enduro. It was a beautiful thing. It was freedom from the humdrum of -- and a lot more affordable than -- an automobile. It was as close to being a Bohemian as I then dared.

Peter loved motorcycles too. He had a Suzuki 400. We promised each other that we would one day go “On the Road.”

In the Fall of ’72, having dropped out of college to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life (trite, I know), I flew to England. I had not planned to take my European Tour solo, but that’s how it ended up when the friend that had planned to go with me changed his mind the night before our flight. I, however, felt the need for adventure too compelling. So I went alone.

This decision, second only to the decision to ask my wife to marry me, is one of the best decisions I have ever stumbled into.

In London I bought the motorcycle of my dreams, a Triumph 650. It was the bike of legends. It was driven by folks like Steve McQueen, Mick Jagger, and all sorts of pop-culture icons. How could I, a middle class, long-haired, Easy Rider wannabe kid from New Hampshire resist?

Leaving London after a week or so, I proceeded to tour Europe, the Mideast, and India for 7 months. I had a motorcycle, a sleeping bag and a harmonica. I could hum and sing hundreds of songs from my favorite bands, then The Byrds, Tom Rush, James Taylor, and of course, The Stones. I was set. I will tell tales of that adventure another time. For now, however, I want to get back to my story about Peter Agrafiotis.

I actually walked smack into Peter on the streets of New Delhi, India, in March 1973. I had returned to New Delhi, India, from a month spent living on a beach in a palm thatched hut in Goa. (Goa is in southern India, a magical and beautiful State lying on the fabled Malabar Coast.). [NB: If you’ve never listened to Van Morrison and the Chieftains perform “The Coast of Malabar,” do so immediately, as it is a hauntingly lovely song.]

I had dropped by the New Delhi American Express Office to see if I had any telegrams from back home. The clerk handed me a telegram that was dated 5 weeks earlier. It was from Peter. It said: “Heard you are in India. Wait for me. I’m coming over.” Five weeks too late, I thought. Too bad, it would have been fun to see Pete.

I walked out the door and turned south to walk toward the rooming house where I had a bunk. “Mrs. Dunklee’s Place” it was called. Mrs. Dunklee was a widow with a nice large house in a clean part of town. She had filled each room with bunk beds, which she rented out to similar wanderers at $1 a night. She served all of us a nice bowl of Rice Pudding every evening at 5:30 sharp. If you showed up at 5:40 it was gone.

I hadn’t walked more than a block when I was approached by a fellow in a long black coat, a broad brimmed hat pulled low so it was hard to see his face. Soemthing was odd. Here was this fellow wearing clearly Western garb, yet with palm outstretched begging: “Baksheesh,” he intoned. The man then giggled and lifted his head, allowing me to see his face for the first time. There, on the streets on New Delhi with literally millions of people everywhere was Peter. “I knew I’d find you, “ he exclaimed. “I can’t believe you did,” I laughed.

We spent the next 3 weeks traveling about India together. We visited Agra, the Taj Mahal, and the ancient Forbidden City at Fatipur Sikri. That’s where Akbar the Great enjoyed playing courtyard Chess with human participants and then watching the elephants crush the heads of the humans who were knocked off the board. That stuff really did happen back then.

Years later Peter and I again were motorcycling. In 1978, after I had taken the Bar Exam, we went on a wonderful cycling tour of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. I then owned an even better motorcycle, a now iconic BMW "Toaster," the 1973 1/2 R 75/5. It was a King of the Highway. By then Peter had sold his magazine and had become a full-time painter. His works were now shown in Boston and New York. He was getting quite serious in the art world, and I was getting fairly serious about becoming a serious attorney. The end of our extended childhood was fast at hand.

The ride around the Cabot Trail and about PEI was incredible. We camped out each night under the stars. No tent, just sleeping bags on the soft ground and, sometimes, on the soft sand of a beach. I recall the absolutely amazing early August night when we lay on our backs on a PEI beach watching the Perseid Meteor Showers flash across the blackened night sky.



We felt we could reach out and touch the stars if our arms were just a bit longer. That sense of infinite possibility and oneness in the chaos of the universe is quite overwhelming.

Today Peter is still a sought-after artist. His paintings hang in galleries throughout America, but all of his best stuff hangs in his studio in Cape Neddick. He still lives in his Cape Neddick artist’s mansion. He has added a waterfall, a Stonehenge array, and new rooms each year. The place is now five times the size of its original plot. You can check it at http://peteragrafiotis.com/background.html

One day, I know not when, I won’t be surprised if I look up and see a fellow in a long black coat, with a cycling helmet pulled down low, driving up my driveway. It’ll be Peter. We’ll go for a ride.

February 17, 2005


The BMW Montauk Posted by Hello

FALLING FOR -- NOT OFF-- MOTORCYCLES

It was 1967, a hot summer day at Ogunquit Beach, Maine. The waves were down, and we who wanted oh so much to be like the blond-haired surfers of fabled California were standing around the parking lot drooling over the muscle cars that the "cool guys" had.
A red, chrome ladden, Chevy Camaro convertible ripped its tires blowing tire smoke all around. The gorgeous bikini girl in the passenger seat squealed with laughter and waved at us younger boys as she and her handsome Don Juan shotputed away toward town. We "youngers,' most of us aged 15, retched with jealousy and the early hints of lust.

I too was 15. Not old enough to drive and certainly too young to even dream of such a macho machine as a Red Camaro with white vinyl bucket seats. Oh man how I wanted to be 18 and "rich" like those guys with the Mustangs and the 409's. The latter were the real dream machines. The Pontiac 409 was to 1967 what the V-10 Turbo Tuareg is to today. "A Man's Machine."

All summer I had worked washing dishes at a dump called "My Sister'N I." The two ladies who owned the place were hard workers and great cooks. But they were tough on the dishwashers. I think I lasted the longest at just over a month. They fired me when I refused to wash dishes during a killer Nor'easter that had lightning crashing all around. I mean, really, the lights had already blown, the restaurant had closed, and the lightning had just hit a tree outside the kitchen, and I told them I didn't want to have my hands in the water basin. They said, "Go home slacker and don't come back." I didn't go back. I went surfing as soon as the storm passed.

My surf board was a used "Ernie Tanaka" board. I had ordered it from a personal ad in the back of "Surfer Magazine." I didn't know who Ernie Tanaka was but I knew that I wanted a surf board as cheap as possible, so I ordered it for $49 plus shipping. Damnned if the shipping wasn't another $49. Pretty much took my entire June earnings to that point. But I was so proud: now I had my own surf board.

All my friends had really nice new boards. But I had one now too, and my name on the beach instantly became "Ernie."
(For years afterwards my brother, Mark, called me Ernie. He never actually saw me surf until late that Summer. He was in the Army and we were praying that he wouldn't go to Vietnam. But he showed up at Ogunquit one late August afternoon and asked everywhere for me. No one knew who I was, until he described my appearance. Suddenly everyone on the beach said to him, "On man, you mean Ernie. He's the guy out there real far out waitin' for a wave.")

My brother Mark was an amazing man, and I promise to write about his bizarre and too-short life another time. Right now, I think of him and I cry, because he loved me, my sisters, and my mother, more than I can muster to tell. He was stolen from us by that greatest of all thieves, Cancer. His story is incredible, larger than life, and I promise to tell it in bits and pieces in this Weblog.

It wasn't my brother who made me fall for motorcycles, it was that summer of 1967. I will admit, however, that it was my brother who later in life shared the love of motorycling with me to the point that I talk with him on every ride I take today. Every ride, whether just to the office or to a distant place.

You see, Mark and I crossed North America on bikes, lived together and rode bikes through heat and snow, carried eachother to the hospital when we'd have cycling mishaps, and tinkered together on our bikes through many a long New Hampshire winter. "Hand me the torque wrench," he'd say, "I'll set this mother just right for you." (He loved to call spark plugs, nuts, timing sets, you name it, it was a "mother.") Years later Mark died in my arms. He didn't cry, he just whispered, "You have to take care of Mom now."

In '67, nonetheless, I rode my first motorcyle in that parking lot on a hot July day in Ogunquit, Maine. The Camaro and its babe had "departed the house." A similaraly bright red 409 screeched a donut at the far end of the lot. We youngers felt impotent.
I think there were 6 or 7 of us, just standing there in our surf jams (long bathing trunks of floral patterns), looking at our bare feet now burning on the hot tar.

"Shit," Jackie K. said, "I could do three donuts if I had that car." Tommy joined in, "yeah man, you could do that even if you were stoned." Everyone agreed, cause Jackie was the cool kid in the group. I could not be the cool kid for several reasons. First, they all called me Ernie, which wasn't my name, and which didn't fit me at all. My name was Kim, a name my parents chose in honor of Rudyard Kipling's great Jungle Stories. Ernie didn't fit me, and Kim was a name that always made the girls laugh. "Isn't that a girl's name?" they ubiquitously inquired. I was doomed at 15 it seemed.

And then.................


All of a sudden, Tod W. rode into the lot on a shimmering, gleeming, sleek, sensuous, humming, and glider-like motorcycle. It wasn't a big bike. It was nevertheless the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was a Honda 90. Today they would call it a scooter, but back then it was just like the Beach Boys sang about: "Go Honda Go."!

Tod pulled right up to our group. "How's the surf. dudes?" All of us instantly gave him the thumbs down sign. (Back then we actually believed that everything important could be communicated by hand signs. I guess today we all believe that everything important can be communicated by Weblogs.)

Everyone talked of surf and parties with Tod, but I just stared at his bike: brilliant bright red with a clean white fairing around the front. Tod was in sandals, no helmet, just the epitome of the "free man." I wanted to be Tod.

Tod wasn't 18, he was only 16. Tod wasn't rich like those guys with the 409's. He did make good money cleaning his parents' pools up at the Ogunquit Motel though. I had even helped him a few times.

My mother had always told me to help people when they need help. (I promise to write about my mother too, for she was not only the most Renaissance woman I have ever known, she loved that I enjoyed motorcycling though she was terrified of the machines.)

Todd saw the spark in my eye for his new machine. "You wanna try it Ernie?" he asked. I stammered out a weak, "Oh man do I." Without fanfare, without instruction, without hesitation, Todd stepped off his steed, and holding it by the handlebars with one hand, said, "Take her for a ride buddy." My heart stopped, but only for a second. I lifted my left leg and mounted the seat.

Looking back on that day I do believe that I felt as if I was mounting a Brahma Bull. Yet it was just a Honda 90, a little plastic toy of a motorcycle. An automatic transmission. A variable automatic clutch. A total dry weight of probably 125 pounds, max. But I felt as if on a Harley Hog.

I had no clue of how to ride a motorcycle at that moment. All I knew was that a cool guy had gunned a Camaro and he got a hot girl. A cool guy had gunned a 409 and he got a hot girl. So I gunned the Honda 90, and launched that little rocket into a huge wheelie that ended only (thereby saving my life) when I crashed the front wheel atop the hood of a brand new Ford parked about 20 feet in front of my starting spot.

"Holy shit," screamed Todd. "Holy shit," screamed the others. "Holy shit," said I. I quickly jumped off the bike, lifted it's front end off of the Mustang, and turned to Todd. "I think I destroyed the Mustang," I confessed.

"Get lost fast," ordered Todd who instantly jumped on the Honda and sped away. The rest of us ran in all directions I recall. In fact, I don't think Ernie went back to the beach at all that week . He found another dish washing job, this time at The Viking Ice Cream Parlor.

That was the ride, nonetheless, that made me fall for motorcycles. Then and there I decided that I wanted a motorcycle. Then and there I knew that I could master the art of riding. Then and there began what has turned out to be a lifelong (I'm now 53 and still motorcycling whenever I can) love affair with the two-wheeled machines called motorcycles.

I've crossed all of Europe on a Triumph 650, all of North American on a BMW R75/5 ('73 1/2 model for those in the know), and owned all sorts of other bikes for on-road and off-road pleasure. I now adore riding a 2004 BMW R1200 Montauk. Every motorcycle I have ridden has brought me peace, joy, and a feeling of being alive, one with the universe, a feeling that I find in no other endevour or activity. Skiing is close, but skiing limits one to the slopes of the particular mountain at hand. Motorcycling limits one to no more than the next day's ride and whatever is around the next corner.

There are those that ride motorcyles for thrills; there are those that ride motorcycles because that is what they can afford; and there are those who ride motorcycles because it is the closest one can get to their ultimate goal: the goal of truly Being Here in the Now.

Most of my friends today don't know about Ernie. They don't know about the Mustang whose hood I dented. Some know me as a successful professinal. Some know me as a loving husband and father of 2 wonderful sons, now grown and in college. Some know me as an Ocean Man, due to my other great passion, the sea.

On land, however, just give me a bike, a credit card for gas and lodging, and a map. The adventure can never end. Tolkein said "The Road Goes Ever On." He was right.