Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I was feeling fine until I got a sudden attack of PMS. (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome.) It struck with fierce intensity without warning while on my noon walk. The first symptom was a twist in the stomach. Then my throttle hand began to twitch and visions of byway scenes flashed before my eyes. I arrived back at the office with sweaty palms trying to analyze what had just happened. In the end, I blame the birds.

Yes, you read correctly. The birds are to blame for my sudden illness. A flock of robins in a tree behind the office to be more specific. Passing by, lost in my own thoughts, I observed a rather large flock of robins fluttering about and feeding on bits of seeds still clinging to the branches, while a great number feasted beneath. Like Pavlov’s dogs it triggered a reaction in my brain, and despite what the calendar said, to me it was March!

I park the bike for winter on December 1st. It’s an insurance issue really. On March 1st the policy kicks in again and I get itchy to ride. Last March there was no getting out of the yard. The ice and snow would not melt. I typically save a vacation day or two for March. There have often been 70 degree days in March when taking the motorcycle out after a long winter is just the ticket to lift one’s spirits. Not last March. To add insult to injury, I sat at home using my very last vacation day watching the snow pile up outside my window.

Still, I love March! In March the first robins typically begin to reappear as they head home from their wintering in the south. Not only does the insurance kick in, the snow melts, the robins come home, and spring begins, and my birthday falls in March as well. It is a month with more to celebrate, in my opinion, than any other. You can imagine the feeling I had after my walk, when the realization that winter had only just begun and that my bike has not yet even been parked for a whole month. I did not know until the walk, that the robins had conditioned me with their song. I don't know why they did not fly south, but now I am feverish for March. It’s going to be a long cold winter.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Paradoxes of The Human Condition

In motorcycling, it is said, there are two types of riders; those that have gone down and those that have not yet gone down. I have always disliked this saying as it seems to reflect a belief in the inevitable or a defeatist attitude. It gives the impression that we have no control over ourselves or our future. So it was with great interest and admiration for a fellow female rider when I heard the following words from her. “I have not gone down, because I choose not to do so.” This woman made a conscience choice and it is serving her well.

Maybe you are thinking she is a timid rider, or that she puts few miles on in a year, thus avoiding opportunities for mishaps. If so, you would be very wrong. What keeps her safe is a state of mind. She is always aware of her surroundings, pays attention to other vehicles around her, examines her bike before every ride; in effect, she uses all the tools and suggestions taught in motorcycle safety to insure that she never goes down.

This is not to say that there aren’t things outside of ourselves over which we have no control. There are many. However, it is how we hold our mind that determines our triumph or defeat under adverse circumstances. I thought much about the “I choose” attitude when the electrical power went out for nine days. There were many people in such a state (and yet still) that conducted their lives in the cold of winter without power.

The paradoxes of the human condition became more evident as I lived those nine long days. We are all in various states of survival mode every day of our lives. During times of stress and human hardship we can witness the spectrum in human reaction as well. Each one of us is making our choice about how to handle our adversity. I found the following definition below in reference to the paradoxes of the human condition:

1. Our imaginations can take us anywhere, but our physical bodies can't.
2. We are capable of the kindest, most noble things, but we are also capable of the most horrible and terrifying things.
3. Humans hope for everlasting life, but are always inventing new ways to destroy each other.
4. We choose not to sacrifice at personal cost though sacrifices are inherent to existence and ultimately life itself, as it facilitates adaptation, which is a critical concept of survival.

In reading the paper, listening to the radio, or just talking with the neighbor, all of the above could be found. Some stories were more disturbing than others. Can you really get your power back any sooner by taking out your frustration on the line crews? Are you really helping your fellow man by selling generators at four times their value? We would all do well to take a lesson from number four above, which can also be phrased as “what goes around, comes around.” Because if you are fortunate enough to have never suffered from hurricane, earthquake, fire or storm, it will be the sacrifices you make now that ensure your survival later. Take a lesson from my rider friend. Choose.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

No Justification for Self Pity

Typically, I find solace and comfort in writing. These days, putting fingers to the keyboard doesn’t seem appropriate. Living without creature comforts gives a person a whole new perspective on what is important and what isn’t. Andy and I are far from suffering. We are warm at night, can cook and have a radio for some semblance of a connection to the world. When I start to feel sorry for myself, I think of folks like the victims of hurricane Katrina who lost not only homes, but in many instances their livelihoods.

As of this writing, we are up to 132 hours without power. That is 5 ½ days. I am thankful that I have a job, where there is power, lights, and even a shower. Not many places of employment can boast showers. The market is next door to the office, and they have power, so I am not starving. In watching my reactions I feel that I have taken the power outage in stride for the most part and realize that there are thousands of people in the same predicament. However, the education I am getting from watching how our routines and habits are so much a part of our lives is interesting.

Routine and habit can and often cloak us in a sense of security. When routine is disrupted our brains stall. We stop in our tracks dazed momentarily, quickly recalculate and modify to fit our current circumstance. This is good. I can see we are adaptable. It is much harder to release our grip on habit. We cannot see ourselves as others do, and therefore we are often unaware of our own habits. It is discomforting to me, to see for the first time, just how many habits I have. Looking at my habits, I’m trying to decide which are good and which are bad. This is another dilemma. By what criteria do I judge good from bad, short of the obvious of course?

I also see in us, as a culture, the excess we indulge in. It seems almost gluttonous, the power consumption I witness as I travel home through areas with restoration. A light in every window and Christmas ornament aglow seems almost disrespectful to those of us heading home to a dark house. It is not their fault. They are creatures of habit and routine as well. Once routines are restored, we never consider them again. They are part of us and we cannot see these things in ourselves.

The power company has updated our town’s status. We have been degraded from an estimate of restoration today, to uncertain. The asterisk near my town name has me looking at the other towns with the same notation. The snow today is not helping matters, and by Friday the weather is predicted to downgrade further. This does not bode well for us. It seems I am facing another weekend in the dark. There is no time here for self pity. I need a plan. I need to relinquish my routine. I need to correct my habits. There is plenty to do that does not require electricity.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


The power went out at 11:00 p.m. (Thursday) My husband wakes me to tell me so. No matter, I’m warm under the blankets and my radio alarm has battery back-up. During the night I wake off and on to the sound of limbs snapping in the woods surrounding the house. Some sound like the crack of rifle shot, the echo reverberating through the night. The rain is steady, fierce and persistent. I roll over, curl into a ball and go back to sleep.

Morning rolls around and I open my eyes to detect a bit of daylight at the window. The power is still out. I walk to the kitchen to see what time it is on the battery operated wall clock. It’s 6:45 a.m. Damn! The battery must be dead in the radio. I have an appointment at 8:00 and then I have to get to work. We look out the window to an incredible sight. The tree limbs are doubled in half and hanging in the roadway. A tree is down in the yard and has taken the neighbor’s power line with it.

I make do with bottled water to wash and brush my teeth. I forego the make-up for today. I stir a teaspoon of instant coffee into the cup and poor some hot water over it. Thank goodness for the propane stove. Out in the drive, it smells like a Christmas tree lot. The scent of pine from so many snapped limbs is actually heady. Andy and I pick our way out of the property around limb after limb and make it to the main road. I am detoured numerous times before I get to the dentist. Closed. No power here either. Every intersection is manned by police as the traffic signals are all out too.

I get to the office and a handful of folks are there waiting for me. For some reason they believe I have the authority to close the office. Wrong! I get the OK from senior management and secure the place. No power here, no phones nothing. I listen to the news on the radio as I head back home. The entire southern part of the state is now in a state of emergency. No fooling. I didn’t need the radio for that. I make my way back home. There are more cars on the road now. Everyone is heading back home because no one has power at work. You can’t even buy a cup of coffee anywhere.

Back at home I drag out the kerosene space heater. This thing is a hazard! But I light the thing and close the doors to all non essential rooms to confine the heat. I change my clothes and put on layers. I head outside and find three five gallon buckets. At the pond, I fill them with water and drag each one into the house. Then I take a bucket to each bathroom and flush. I leave the third by the door for backup. I may get more as the temperature is due to drop. I will need a sledgehammer to get more water when that happens.

I putt around looking for a missing radio. I want the one that takes the AA batteries. I can’t find it. I have the one that takes C’s but I don’t have extra C batteries. I can stock a bomb shelter with the AA though. I keep looking. Still no AA radio. Damn again. I try to call Andy, just in case he finds a store open that has a generator or something, where he can buy C batteries. The cell reception is bad. Everyone is using their cell phones too.

I put on my coat, boots and gloves and go back outside again. With camera in hand, I take some photos of the limbs, trees and icicles. This will make a great story! Oh, crap…no computer. I hate writing long hand. Oh, the laptop has a battery. I’ll write fast. I go back in and put something for lunch on top of the space heater. It will be nice and hot just about noon. I make a big pot of tea, have a cup and put the rest on the space heater too.

Suddenly there is a tremendous thundering coming from outside. The sun has just begun to poke through the breaking cloud cover. The rays, though weak this time of year, are just strong enough to start a waterfall like cascade of ice to begin slipping from a gazillion branches in the woods. The sound is deafening! I grab the camera again. This time I try to capture the event with the video feature. As I’m filming a branch snaps and crashes inches from my head. Gee that would have made an interesting video, but still, I’m glad it didn’t happen. I’m a bit more cautious and head on up to the main road.

As I get closer the mailboxes, I hear voices. All the neighbors are out and about too. There is no staying inside when nature is holding a spectacle right at your door that is for sure. We all chat for a bit. I’m feeling a bit envious of their generators. I can hear the steady rumble of them up and down the street. My envy subsides, when the neighbors begin to discuss where they might possibly be able to buy gas. All the stations can’t sell any as they do not have power for the pumps. Well, I have the kerosene heater, and when that runs out, I guess I’ll do another no no and light the burners on the propane kitchen stove.

I head back home, eat my nice hot stew and wash it down with hot tea. We are in for the long haul I imagine. Now let my write. The battery is still strong on the laptop. When that dies, I may be in for withdrawal. Pen and paper do not comfort me as they once did. I’ll save the batteries in the radio for tonight. It gets dark early too, so it will be a long one. During the day I feel alone without news from the radio or TV, yet every person in Southern NH is in the same boat. We are in isolation, yet not alone. What a paradox.

(Saturday update. Still no power. Posted from remote location.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Blogger has some new gadgets I’m trying out for the first time. I noticed a few cool items on the blogs of some new friends of mine. I decided to check them out for myself. If you have never scrolled to the bottom of the page, you may have missed that I had links to some of my favorite blogs. One of the new gadgets available with Blogger is just for this purpose. Take a look down the right hand side bar and you will now find the list easily. I have them sorted by most recently updated. This will give you the latest content.

Then, while visiting Fasthair, I noticed his poll about helmets.
“Now how did he do that?” I wondered.
The answer….Gadgets! I’m trying out a poll of my own. You can tell by the subject what is preoccupying my mind these days. And like Joe Rocket, I’m dreaming of the motorcycle shows coming up in January, so I can sit my behind on a few models and see how they fit.

In the motorcycle buying department I am very fortunate to have the New England Riders to turn to for help. From what I understand, Magilla has a knack for finding great deals on just the thing you are looking for. He is on the hunt, and I have no doubt that he will find just the right ride for me.

Gadgets on Blogger are just about as much fun as finding new gadgets for the bike (well almost.) Take a few moments to check out the other motorcycle blogs, but don’t forget my friend Tim. While he doesn’t ride, he does write for a living. The encouragement he gives me to write, and the time he takes to edit what I do write is a gift I cherish.

Congratulations on your engagement Tim. We look forward to reading about all your new life adventures.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Personal Redemption

We said goodbye on Friday to Andy’s sister, as she joined two of her brothers who preceded her into the after life this past year. She put up a good fight and left this world way too young, considering life expectancies these days. Her life was not an easy one. Her adult life having been spent in group homes for mentally challenged individuals. Upon her passing I heard from her brother, acts of compassion for her that went above and beyond what is typical these days.

When I heard of this kind and loving act, I was reminded of a conversation I had many years ago, over coffee and with a complete stranger. We struck up a conversation at the time over a headline. The headline is long gone from my mind, but the conversation is still as vivid as if it were yesterday. We discussed the troubles in the world, the people who are born less than perfect, and why God would permit people to be born with defects and handicaps.

I myself have two siblings who arrived in this world without hearing. Andy’s sister struggled to learn the basic things we all take for granted every day. The old guy had some words of wisdom for me, when I became so bold as to question God’s motives.
“Maybe it isn’t the handicapped people that are the less fortunate among us” he began. “Perhaps it is we, the born perfect, who need redemption and salvation. How we treat our handicapped brethren may be in God’s greater scheme.”

Over the years I have come to pay special attention to those who dedicate their lives to helping others. I wonder what the motivation for each of them might be. Also, can a single act of kindness redeem our eternal souls? I am praying this to be true. In Andy’s sister’s struggle, and inability to speak for herself, his youngest sister stepped up to the plate. Each and every day for weeks, she sat by her sisters bedside making sure her needs were attended too, and that she was never ever neglected.

The youngest sister spent many of her own years in struggle, mostly by her own hand. The good opinion of others means little in the grand scheme of things I realize. However, in hearing this tremendous sacrifice for one’s sister my heart feels the endless possibility for personal redemption.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Final Drive Dilemma

Jade, my Yamaha V Star 650 has been my companion for five riding season. When we first met, the seller threw open his garage door, and there she was, all polished and gleaming, looking like he had just ridden her off the showroom floor. I heard the music of angels singing. It was love at first sight.

Jade came to me with 3500 miles on the odometer. The dial these days reads well over 42,000. I have put Jade through her paces and she has delivered. She is approaching her 10 birthday next season and is as strong as ever. My fondness for her has only increased with each passing year. Unfortunately, it seems we have outgrown each other.

It was our Western vacation that showed me the limitations of my 650. Keeping up with the 2000s and 1500s on occasion stressed Jade to her limits. In the Grand Canyon she blew a baffle from her pipe. At 14,000 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park, she coughed and sputtered as the carbs did not appreciate the altitude. In the Arizona dessert, at 110 degrees, an air cooled engine is stressed. Despite this, she still had spunk, and stretching it out on I-70 in Utah, after a bit of coaxing, she managed to stay to the back of the pack. At the end of the day, the GPS maximum speed limit reading was 91 mph. I was damn proud. This girl has moxie!

Despite my affection for Jade and like a child outgrowing training wheels, it’s time for me to move up. I have decided that a 1300 is just the ticket to fit the bill. I have also prepared a list of requirements that must come with the new ride. The saddle I next occupy will need beneath it, fuel injection, adequate suspension, be water cooled, have tubeless tires and be shaft driven. If a model lacks one or two on this list, it would have to appeal to me enough for me to forgo an option or two. This is where things get murky. Which am I willing to forgo?

The New England Riders are a great source when researching motorcycles, and even has a member guru. I don’t know what I’d do without all the advice I get here. Tim, the member guru, has in particular been exceptionally helpful. In reading my list, (and he is not alone here) he cannot understand why I would stick by the shaft driven requirement. He has given me much information to ponder. In fact he has raised his hand to be my personal final drive therapist, so to speak.

My initial inclination was for a Honda VTX 1300. With this model, I would have to forgo a fuel injected engine. The styling appeals to me enough, and the motorcycle has enough of everything else, where this might be the place I sacrifice. Then came the face-to-face introductions. There were not too many that called my name or said “take me home now!” When I sat my behind in a few saddles, put my feet up on the floorboards, I felt cramped. Hmmm. What to do?

We made the rounds of dealers. At one shop, my eyes fell to a Suzuki Boulevard. It was small, only an 800, but man did I find this bike pretty. Yes, I said pretty. I’m now hemming and hawing. Back to Tim I go. He is in agreement with the spouse. The 800 is not enough spread from the 650. I’m starting to let go of this idea. The problem is that there are few models in the cruiser or touring line that fit all the items on my list. Tim weighs in again with a beautiful photo of a Yamaha V Star 1300. The problem? It is belt driven. In steps Tim once more to lay out the facts of belt driven motorcycles. It all sounds good. Will the shaft drive be the item I forgo? Time alone will tell. My behind needs to sit in a few saddles, my feet have to be in the riding position, and of course, it will have to be pretty.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Memere's Thanksgiving


Ate some turkey
Ate some pie
Got some kisses
From my favorite guy
Tickled tummies
One and Two
Then watched them
Jumping to the moon
Dimpled cheeks
And Curly locks
Now sit still
When Thomas talks
The story done
Their off to play
When grandkids visit
It’s Memere’s day!

Monday, November 24, 2008

“Just Living is Not Enough"

A few people are raising a stink about a tattoo parlor moving to the Oval in Milford. (Stink about Ink). They are very concerned about the undesirable clientele that patronize such establishments. I’m not going to rehash the article as you can read that for yourself. However, I am going to tell you about a few of these “undesirables” I know personally.

A few years ago, I noticed a beautiful tattoo on a young man that worked in our office. I asked if I could inspect it more closely. The young man was pleased that I asked and extended his arm. Woven into the design was a man’s name. Now I could have made a number of assumptions. Instead I asked about the name. It was the name of his brother who had passed away. His brother had suffered from a heart defect since birth. With love and care his brother lived to early adulthood. He had been his best friend and confidant. The tattoo was to honor his memory.

Another not so young man has recently acquired a tattoo of his own. It is on his forearm. I recognized the name on this one. It is that of his son who lost his life in a tragic ski accident earlier in the year. His son had been a great athlete, an all around good American kid. The tattoo was to keep his son near. He will willingly speak about his son to anyone who asks. This beautiful tattoo, a tribute to his son, certainly encourages that.

An elderly woman celebrating her 90th birthday was asked what she wanted for a gift. “I want a tattoo of a Unicorn” she said. “I have always wanted one.” She went on to explain that all her life she had always done what was expected of her, and sacrificed that which she wanted for others.” The tattoo was a gift to herself as there was no one left to tell her “no.” I listened to her with great interest and knew there was a message here for me.

The old woman’s words awoke long held desires of my own. I had raised three girls. Bathed, fed and cared for each one. Took them to church every Sunday and tried to be a good example of Christianity. I had given of everything that I am and everything that I had. What I had forgotten to do was give something back to myself. The old woman’s words kept reverberating in my ears. There were plenty of years for me between now and 90 to enjoy my own tattoo. One I had dreamed about for years. That and the words of my own offspring who said,” who is stopping you mom?” propelled me forward.

So who are these “undesirables” that some Milford folk want to keep out of town? Is it the young hard working man moving through life without his brother? Is it the grieving Dad? Or is it the 90 year old woman who has been well respected in town for many years? The fact is this: One in four adult Americans have a tattoo. I am sure many of them are well respected hard working citizens. Their reasons for having a tattoo are as varied as there are people in this world. I could write another blog post about why I have always wanted mine. However, I think this expresses it better than I ever can.

“Just living is not enough" said the butterfly,
"one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."

Hans Christian Andersen

From Misc

Friday, November 21, 2008

Are You Still Drooling?

The landlord stopped by today with the HVAC guy. After a few short sentences to take care of business the HVAC guy asks if I’ve put the bike away for the season. I’m digging back in my mind to remember when last I saw this guy. He isn’t our regular guy. The fog lifts and a sunny summer day is recollected. The AC is down; HVAC guy to the rescue. We may not know each other’s first name, but I know how much he loves his Harley, and when he looks at me, vStar lady pops into his head.

We nod to each other in sad understanding at the passing of another season. We talk battery tender and Sta-Bil. The landlord chimes in. “You buy a new bike yet? Or are you still drooling.” Still drooling, I tell them. With that, I click the icon on my desktop and up pops the latest drool producer. It’s a Suzuki Boulevard all chrome and polish. Studded saddle and back rest, studded bags to match. There is a 360 view of photos and we scroll through them all. The heads bent over my shoulder are nodding. “Fine looking bike!” says the landlord.

I’m wondering if 800 is enough spread for me from a 650. The husband thinks not, a friend says “it’ll break a 100 easy.” He means miles per hour of course. Andy just wants me to have enough power so he doesn’t go through this again next year. He suggests we head out this weekend to a few dealers and sit on a variety of motorcycles to see which is the most appealing to me. I like the idea a lot! I may not find the bike that says “take me home, but I predict a lot of drooling this weekend.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Airbrushed Model

During the course of a week I spent a considerable amount of time looking online at motorcycles for sale. Specifically, I looked at every Honda VTX 1300 out there. True, fall is not the time to look for a new bike, but considering the economy, I thought they would be out there. I was not wrong. There are a number of 1300 models on the market.

As I scrolled through page after page of motorcycles, one caught my eye. The photographs were beautiful! “Look at this baby!” I pointed out o my husband. “The description says ‘metallic red’ and it has the windshield, back rest and only 1300 miles. I want to go look at it.” With that came two days of convincing my spouse why I needed to look at this motorcycle NOW! This is how we came to travel for two hours one way to look at a bike for sale.

I have been considering moving up in size all season. Jade is a great bike, but like any child outgrowing the training wheels, I am ready for the change. Jade is not getting any younger either. It’s time. I have several specifications in mind when looking for a new motorcycle. A few of the items on my list are great suspension, fuel injection and tubeless tires. Now the VTX 1300 is carbureted, but considering that how it handles feels so great to me, I’m willing to forgo this option. When looking at the various models, the 1300 R is the one for me.

“But this is not the R” says Andy. “I know, but look at it! It’s the custom look I like, and the guy has some extras on it.” I protest. So we call and make arrangements to take a look. We travel the two hours by car to make the visit. We make our hellos and introductions and follow the seller to the motorcycle. As he opens the doors and reveals the bike something happens. Or should I say, nothing happens. I can’t put my finger on it, but I don’t feel anything. Should I? I sit on the bike. I roll it outside. The engine fires readily, the clutch is responsive and yet, there is no personality. Then I know what is wrong. When Jade and I met for the first time, it was love at first sight.

We spend about an hour there. We have after all traveled two to have this visit. So I take my time and check out all the specs. I look down at the spokes. Do I really want to clean spokes again? Didn’t I say I want tubeless tires? I can hear me talking myself out of it. I hear Andy begin negotiations. I’m giving him the eyeball from behind the seller, but he continues. Oh well, we are here and counter when the first offer is rejected. My offer is discussed with Mrs. Seller. “No thanks” they say. In a way I’m relieved. I get in the van before Andy indicating we should leave.

We take the two hour ride home discussing what I really want in a motorcycle. I have just begun the search and the right bike will come along I tell myself. “This bike did not scream ‘take me home’ to you did it?” Andy asks. “Nope.” I reply. It occurs to me that the photographs I saw online were like airbrushed models. They are beautiful to look at but they are not the reality. In person these models probably have no substance. So it was with this bike, all airbrush and no substance. We are home only ten minutes when the phone rings. “My wife and I have decided to take your offer” the seller is saying at the other end of the line, but it is too late. I am holding out for true love.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Big Red

Back when I was shopping for my first motorcycle I must have spent 100 lunch hours sitting on bikes in various dealerships within driving distance of the office. There was always one motorcycle that called me back time and again. Alas, I felt it was too much bike for me. Then I met Jade and we have been pals for the past five years.

During our Western vacation I put Jade through more than a 650 should have to endure. Always wanting to please, Jade gave me every ounce of energy she had within her cylinders to give. Desert heat in Arizona, to oxygen deprivation at 14,000 feet in Colorado, nothing kept her back. We have traveled more than 9,000 miles together this season alone. Each year, I push Jade to do more and more. Alas it is taking its toll.

Last weekend a friend of mine introduced me to Calypso, his magnificent Honda 1300 VTX. The memories of all those lunches sitting on this same model came flooding back. “Go ahead, sit on it” I was invited to do. “Start it up! Put it in gear!” The sound of the engine, the rumble of the pipes, my hands on the grips, it was too much. I was infatuated all over again. Calypso did not feel as big as I remember. He was well balanced, the clutch was responsive, and the height just right. I went home that evening and began my on-line search.

Page after page of photos scrolled through the screen this past week. Today, as one scrolled up it captured my attention. There before my eyes was the most magnificent looking 1300 VTX a person could behold. Windshield, saddle bags, floorboards front and back, the list went on. “Hello!” the photo said to me. “I’m Big Red.”

Oh dear.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gel vs Acid

For the second straight year in a row, the first week in November is proving detrimental to Jade’s gel battery. In the future I will stick with good old fashioned acid batteries. Gel cells are touted for maintenance free operation. They are sealed so as not to leak, and can be used upright or sideways. The industry also claims they are less susceptible to freezing. OK, so the gel does not freeze, but as soon as it’s cold, it looses its charge. If not noticed soon enough, the gel battery cannot be recharged. I have discovered this first hand. I can see how they are better for the environment. First they don’t leak acid. Second, you can’t start your bike in cold weather, so you are not polluting the atmosphere, wasting fossil fuels, or leaving tire residue along roadways. You are also not having a lot of fun. Lead/acid batteries have more power are much heavier and can leak. Leaking acid is not a good thing. Not having your bike start on a cold day isn’t good either.

Today felt like Groundhog Day as once again, we rolled Jade out of the shed during the first week in November only to find the battery not holding its amperage. We hooked up the charger and thankfully the engine turned over. There I stood, scratching my head, as last weekend there was no trouble whatsoever. On top of that, it has not been all that cold this week. With the bike running we headed out. Twenty five miles later, we stop for coffee. Back at the bikes, helmets and gloves on, I turn the key, hit the starter and click click click….nothing! With Andy pushing, I jump start the bike and off we go again.

You would think that after 25 miles the battery would by now have a good charge. It is déjà vu. As long as the engine is running, things are fine, but I need gas. You need to take the key out of the ignition to open the gas cap. Crap! Oh, I have the spare key with me. Problem solved. We leave the bike running while we fuel. (I don't recommend this.) However, now we are hungry and want to stop and eat. We park the bikes strategically. I disconnect every non-essential electrical item, even the light bar. We enjoy our subs and back at the bike I turn the key, hit the ignition and click, click, click. Crap again! This time Andy has help from a patron and as they push I jump start the bike again.

Back home, I roll Jade into the shed. I take off the seat and side panel to remove the battery for winter. We notice that one of the terminal screws is a bit loose. Our eyebrows go up. Maybe there is hope after all. We carry Jade’s life giving heart into the house and put it on life support. Last year, while attempting this same operation, we experienced nothing but red lights on the trickle charger. That battery was indeed dead at only two months old. We connect the terminals, adjust the settings, and hold our breath. The amber lights come on! One by one, the amber lights are showing the battery is taking a charge. We will sit vigil and monitor with care, hopeful that this gel battery, just barely one year old, will be able to attain the green zone one more time.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pop Culture and Digital Life

Living in the boondocks has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at the plus side for a moment. The nights are peaceful and free of light pollution and noisy city traffic. The stars twinkle brilliantly in the firmament so that it seems possible to reach out and touch them. The wind whispers through the leaves and creatures great and small are likely to cross your path. They appear suddenly as if visions, and then are silently gone. At such times, we pause to admire these beautiful creatures that share the world just beyond out doorstep. Your morning alarm may be the wild feathered friends, or the rooster across the intervale. There is no travel to pick wild berries and you are likely to have fruit trees on the property. From season to season you are surrounded by beauty, and the sweet scent of nature.

On the other hand, there are inconveniences. You have to travel to work, to get services, or go to market. You learn to plan your time and consolidate your errands. You are often responsible for basics such as water and sewer in the form of well and septic system. When you are snowbound, you are quite literally cut off from the world. Other niceties of the modern world often arrive long after everyone else has enjoyed them for years, such as high speed internet, caller ID or even cable TV.

Out in the country, television reception is poor. Despite this, I have never found a need to have more than the three snowy channels I currently enjoy. The downside of this however, is the joking references that go over my head on a regular basis. The pop culture that generates from such shows as South Park for example means nothing to me. How do I know about South Park then? I needed to educate myself via other media outlets so as to understand if what I heard was an insult, complement, or just a joking reference. It can be quite time consuming trying to keep up with the current trends. Sex in the City? Never watched it, but you can get full season episodes on DVD. None of it timely enough for me to stay in the loop. Thank goodness DSL finally came to town so I could ditch dial-up.

Enter in digital TV. I start to imagine myself actually having a broader choice of what to watch should I choose to turn on the television. I send away for my government card worth $40 and pick up my digital converter. Once plugged in, the unit scans for signals. Nothing! How can that be? We have someone out to the house to put up a new antenna. “Sorry, you are not ideally located.” We have a second opinion. “We can put up a tower, but that might cost ten grand.” I write to the television stations as suggested by the FCC. Only one station writes back. It is the education I need. VHS and UHF are on very different bands, one narrow, and one broad. The snowy channels have been coming from the broader band. The narrow one can’t find us. It is on this narrow band that digital television will be delivered.

I’m having trouble convincing the cable company to come down my road, and I don’t like the monthly cost of satellite dish television service. It’s a hard enough pill to swallow that something once free must now be paid for. It looks as though I will not be catching up on the pop culture any time soon. Come February when the TV goes blank, so will my face with the next pop culture referenced joke.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Black Shoe Brown Shoe

A few years ago, a friend in the office stopped by my desk. “You’re flying low” I whispered. To my astonishment he became agitated and on the edge of anger. “Sorry!” I said, “but I thought you might like to know.” “I do want to know!” And with that he started to vent. He concluded with “a true friend will tell you your fly is down. People who really don’t care about you will let you walk around like that all day.” This story came flooding back to me yesterday when at 4:55 P.M. I reached down for my gym bag on my way out of the office and noticed that I had been wearing one brown shoe and one black shoe all day long.

The black shoe and brown shoe stayed on my mind all evening. “Do people in the office not care that I look like an idiot?” I began to wonder. “Do people in the office even look at me when I step away from the desk?” my mind continued. It is true that I spend most of my time behind the desk and not wandering around the office. However, the two shoes were so blatantly different that how could no one notice? I was beginning to feel invisible. Didn’t I speak to a lady or two in the women’s rest room? Did they look under the stall and snicker? I’m sure one or two of those ladies would have said something!

Now I know this is another shoe story. I am wondering at the significance of a story about shoes dropping and my wearing two very different style shoes. My feet never noticed the difference. If I had forgotten to wear one shoe would someone have noticed? I imagine they would because it is not an accepted practice to walk around wearing only one shoe. Also too, it may have been more of a bigger deal if I or someone had pointed it out.

I am sitting watching the election results and I think my shoes are trying to tell me something. Has this election become a big deal because it is? Or is it a big deal because we have the media telling us it is. If we were not having our eyes pointed so often at this issue or that, would the American people really feel the difference? Should we be looking at what is different? Or are we having our eyes redirected away from what which is blatantly missing. I believe we are being scammed by the idea of the first this or that and the word "change." We may soon all be walking around with only one shoe. That would be change. The sad part is, no one will say there is something wrong with that, but you can be sure they will have us believing it is perfectly normal.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

When I was young, I asked Mother what it meant when folks said “I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Mom explained that in the old days when many families lived in triple deckers, they would often hear the neighbor upstairs getting ready for bed. First on shoe would hit the floor….then before you could fall asleep, you would find yourself waiting for the other shoe.

These days that is how I’m living my life; waiting for the next shoe to drop. I am sure many of you are doing the same. First, it was “how much will the gas be this morning?” Then it was “how much will my retirement fund drop today?” This morning I’m checking Outlook at work. (Do I need to explain that one?) And of course, the presidential race has everyone on edge. That shoe has yet to drop. When it does, we will be holding our breath listening for a whole new set of shoes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

“Your job is to stay on”

My sister, like many of us, often finds her life dictated by her fears. I have been watching my sister reclaim her independence these days by facing her fears and overcoming them. Not only that, but she has taken on challenges she would not have considered in the past. That is how we came to promise that we would take her on a motorcycle ride this season. “I would like to go for a ride” she had said “if only because it is not something one would think I would do.”

As happens so often, we find life dragging us along and the season was quickly coming to a close. So when we woke to a glorious day during the last weekend in October, we took the opportunity to show up on her door step. With spare jacket and helmet ready, she willing donned both and climbed on the back of Andy’s bike. “You aren’t planning to get on the highway are you?” she asked. “Don’t worry, you're still a virgin. I wouldn’t do that to you.” My sister’s laughter rang in the air as she hadn’t heard that term associated with her in years.

The day was one of full sunshine, enough fall foliage still along the roadways, and the fall air just cool and refreshing enough, but not cold that it made for great riding. We wove our way along the secondary roadways until we came to a stop in Dover. My sister was doing fine. Once her back side adjusted to the seat, and she let her fear go, she found herself enjoying the ride. “I stopped looking where we were going and enjoyed the view” she said. “Good” said Andy. “Your job is to stay on the bike.” We all love the way Andy has with understatement.

With the day quickly slipping by we hightailed it back to her place. To get her home on time, we did have to take a short strip of highway. Following behind, I wondered how long my sister could hold her breath or keep her eyes closed. We delivered her to her doorstep safe and sound. As for the strip of highway, Andy declared her “now a woman.” It was great to have my sister along to share with her what we enjoy so much. Next season, were sure to have her along with us again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sensationalism, Rabble Rousing & Misleading Headlines

What has happened to good news reporting? It seems that most anything you read today is suspect. It can’t be trusted or the facts are skewed. The media today seems more intent on selling advertising than in reporting accurate and informative newsworthy subjects. To get your attention they use misleading headlines and sensationalism that can sometimes lead to rabble rousing by those buying into the printed word.

This was my concern when I read the article that I spoke about in my last post. I carried the discussion into an on-line forum for feedback. It is possible that I was preaching to the choir, but there were many interesting points of view, and even a few I hadn’t considered. One of these comments related to newspaper and online reporting. One person noted that there was no side-bar with follow-up information or facts to support or refute the claims in the article. Another mentioned a study which shows people do not read the entire article but only the first few lines. This is the point that concerns me the most. Too many people ask me “did you see the headlines today!” With that, they have learned all they need, never reading the story to learn the details.

Earlier this month I saw this headline in the local paper: “Firm says McCain could die in office.” This particular headline preys on the fears of voters. Do I have to lay them out in detail? Maybe you support McCain and have reservations about Palin. Maybe you like Palin and find this headline encouraging for the advancement of women in politics. Maybe you were undecided and seeing this headline figured you should vote for someone younger and healthier. The list goes on.

If you took time to read the story, you find that the Atlanta based firm that specializes in individual life and health expectancies predicts McCain would die in his SECOND term if elected. Buried at the end of the article, we find that this would be the case for the population as a whole if statistics only were used. However, in McCain’s individual case, his health being better than the average man for his age, the likely hood is reduced even further. However, considering the newspaper I was reading leans to the left, I would say their work here was done when they printed the headline. Especially considering they know only too well that people don’t read through an article.

Or how about the woman who spoke at a McCain rally claiming Obama was an Arab and a terrorist? This woman bought into the propaganda that due to a relative having Muslim ties, by default Obama and bin Laden are buddies. Gee, using that logic, since I was raised Catholic; I must be Italian and therefore a member of the Mafia.

This is also another point to consider. When watching the news or reading a paper it is always wise to understand the political leaning of the network or publication. You are spoon fed the news in a biased fashion and only shown that which they want you to see. Take for instance if you only watch cop shows. You will soon believe that there is no one to trust in this world. Since my cell phone along with 20 others and a woman’s purse with $400 was turned in when lost at King Richard’s Faire, I realize there are more honest people in the world than we know.

So where can one get unbiased reporting? I don’t believe we can find any. You have to listen to that which you agree with and that which you don’t. Someplace in the middle is the real truth. You may even have to dig around on your own to find it. If we know something is blatantly false, if is our responsibility to correct the misinformation. The let sleeping dogs lie theory does not work for me. The false information perpetuates, and soon, like urban legends, the world is believing it true.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Motorcycle Killed My Son

Here is the unfortunate truth. A 20 year old man is dead and his mother is on a campaign to educate parents about the dangers of crotch rockets. I began this article with sympathy for a woman who has lost a child. The more I read, the more I realized this woman did not know what she was talking about. It is evident that the woman is angry. Anger is one of the phases of grief and understandable. However, her anger is misdirected.

Check out the facts of the story here: Motorcycle killed my son

Here is an overview:
o Max died on the day he bought the motorcycle.
o He was out late with friends and showing off.
o Max did not have a motorcycle endorsement. It is safe to assume that he had no rider training.

Max’s mother, in learning that a motorcycle endorsement is state law wants dealerships to police those who buy a motorcycle by making sure the customers have an endorsement before they are sold a bike. How can this be the dealerships responsibility? Each person is responsible to know their state law. You need a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle, you need another endorsement to drive big rigs and you need to show motorcycle proficiency to get your motorcycle endorsement. You can do this by taking the course and passing or as in New Hampshire, show up at the State Police Barracks on the right day of the week, and take your exam there. It is not the dealership’s responsibility to make sure Max had his endorsement, it was Max’s.

Next, Mom is angry with the government. She wants them to regulate how fast motorcycles can go by having the government require that a “governor” be installed on motorcycles that limit how fast they will go, and essentially shut down the machine when a person goes to fast. She would like this to start with Yamaha and Suzuki. How interesting. My thoughts here are the government already has laws in place to punish those who exceed the speed limit. If we modify bikes to shut down when going too fast, what’s next? The family van?

I am truly sorry for Cyndi Martin's loss. It is indeed tragic to see a young life cut short. However, it is yet another example of how people do not take responsibility for their actions. It is not anyone else’s fault that Max lost his life. Max was riding his motorcycle illegally. Max did not have the experience to be riding this bike. It was his responsibility to obey the posted speed limit and understand the state laws. This is the responsibility we all have. Max’s mother wants to educate other mother’s about the dangers of motorcycling. I agree and in addition, they should educate their son’s to make sure they take a Rider Safety Course, receive the motorcycle endorsement and invest in riding gear. It would be the responsible thing to do. We don’t need the government to parent us.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Writing Fiction

My blogging has become thin these days due to the short story workshop I am participating in with the Monadnock Writers’ Group. As a result, today I am moving away from the bike to show you what I have been up to. One of our members, Lucy Suitor Holt is taking us on a workshop odyssey this season. In each month’s correspondence, we receive our next lesson. Lucy is a short story published author with two degrees from Rivier College. She has held workshops with the emphasis on creating and writing short stories. What a great opportunity to learn and grow one’s skills!

I am not a fiction writer by any stretch of the imagination, so this is a challenge for me. In our first assignment we were to find two names randomly in the phone book by just opening and pointing blindly. For the rest of that month we were to “watch” our characters from a distance. That was the “who” of our story. This month, we are concentrating on the “what” that is driving our characters. I have names, and I see “who” they are with certainty. “What” is driving them is still up for debate in my mind, and is a challenge. I have an idea for the closing paragraph. How I get there is another matter.

With that said, let me introduce my characters to you. My intension, by placing them here for all of us to “watch”, is that it might lead me in the direction I need to fabricate the “what” that drives their motivations. Please let me introduce Mike Brennan and Jacqueline A Chasse.

Mike Brennan is a man of average height, fit, in his mid-forties. He works out regularly to maintain his physique he tells people, but it is really to keep old age at bay. Mike is an open book. He is also able to talk with anyone about anything. He is well read, articulate and handsome. This last he has little awareness of, and it often leads to trouble. Because of his friendly and welcoming nature, he misses cues that could have led to many a romantic encounter. The trouble comes when engaged in conversation with pretty women, usually initiated by them, leading to confrontations with their partners. Mike is a software developer with a specialty in reverse engineering. Mike has been on assignment at a client site to identify flaws in the company’s software that would lead to security breaches. This is where he meets Jacqueline. Jacqueline has been assigned to help Mike in his work and give him access to files he needs and to heavily monitor his activities.

Jacqueline A Chasse is a hard nut to crack. You only see about her what she is willing to show. On the other hand, she has a way of reading people that is intuitive, and often correctly identifies their motivations. In true Dale Carnegie style, she can get anybody to do anything by simply appealing to their sense of importance or to their fear of future pain. Jacqueline exposes only that which she would allow people to see. Her office as her home reveals nothing of who she really is. The colors are neutral, the furniture plain and functional, the wall hangings minimal and reflecting the geographic area where she lives, with depictions of wooded lanes, and sun dappled ponds. There is nothing personal here. No photos, knickknacks, nothing to give anyone a sense of what she is all about.

I hope you will “watch” me as I “watch” what Mike and Jacqueline get caught up in. Feel free to offer advice, suggestions, and insight. As I mentioned, fabricating stories is not my strength. Your commentary may help trigger and idea or two. I hope you will join me on this journey.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Perfect Gift

Mother Nature it seems is apologizing for all the nasty rain, tornadoes and hurricanes she has thrown at us this riding season. Just at the peak of fall foliage season, during a holiday weekend no less, she has graced us with sun dappled days of mild temperatures and brilliant shades of gold and crimsons against cumulus cloud studded azure skies.

It is against this backdrop that Jade and I find ourselves on a journey through New Hampshire and Vermont with the New England Riders. In the crisp early morning air, as we travel to the start point, the rising sun and tree tops meet in a spectacular display of dazzling color against the shadowed earth not yet touched by the early morning light. As the golden orb continues it assent into the ever changing shades of blue the warming breath of autumn air against my cheek chases the chill away.

Our route takes us through New England towns, seemingly untouched by the passage of time, with village greens, central meeting halls and churches standing sentinel as they have, some for 200 years. The colonial architecture looms before me, sometimes unexpectedly, and I am made aware of my heritage. The structures beckon and stir long forgotten memories of my forefathers, and the people who once called this place home.

We stop at Mount Sunapee and take advantage of the chair lift to the summit. We are not disappointed, as Mother Nature has swept the air clean of the mess we can make of it to open up before us a panoramic majesty. As I look below me, I see the blue of the sky mirrored in the lakes and ponds below, and the colors of the foliage made twice as brilliant reflected in the calm of the water’s surface.

At our stops I pause to give homage to the hardy blossoms that pay tribute to the season. Their petals held high, they stand as proud sentinels in testament to autumn’s delights. The fallen leaves, crunching beneath my boots send up the aroma that is so indicative of the season. Early childhood memories of leaping into raked up piles of leaves, turn up the corners of my mouth as I remember youth. It is then that I remember how in youth I lived in each moment. There is no regret of the past or worry for the future when you are laying in a pile of leaves looking up partly naked tree branches. On a day such as this, the lesson is simple. Live the moment. It is the perfect gift.

Fall Foliage Ride 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


It is an unfortunate truth that in today’s world, people are still stereotyped by first impressions. Our outer appearance, false assumptions, misconceptions, misinformation or personal biases are all factors that lead to stereotyping of an individual. To confound this unfortunate truth is that if you ride a motorcycle you are instantly classified as a law breaker.

Maybe I have been living under an idyllic belief that our melting pot has finally blended into a comfortable stew, where we all compliment one another. So I am dismayed this season to discover I am living in a fantasy world. When traveling the roadways this season, I have seen more blue lights in my rear view mirror than at any time in my entire driving history.

Let’s look at the modes of transportation I use. I drive one minivan, and one motorcycle. During commuting when I am in the van, it is “keep up” or suffer the consequences. Are there patrols for morning and evening commute? Certainly! Do I ever see blues because I am in a pack of cars sometimes exceeding the speed limit? Never! So why is it, that when I am on my motorcycle, following the same commuters, or even Sunday drivers, I am the one who is stopped? It would seem that the riding gear and helmet disguise things, as once they realize they’ve stopped grandma or even grandma and grandpa, we are waved on our way. It could also be that once they view our spotless driving record combined with our age, it would not look favorable for them in a court of law.

I am not an aggressive rider by any means. When I began riding, I made promises to my father. I intend to keep my promises and should anything happen, it would not be by my hand. His 80 year old heart just could not take it. Couple that with two beautiful and cherished grandchildren that I have plans to watch grow and you have a mixture for a careful and courteous rider.

There are other ways that motorcyclists are discriminated against. In the UK, some gas stations have posted signs that require riders to remove their helmets before fueling. It does not require hooded or hat wearing drivers to do the same. Then there is the health insurance industry, or even some road side assistance programs that discriminate against riders.

If you feel your own small voice does not carry enough weight in society, I suggest you check out the American Motorcyclist Association. Follow the link in the side bar to Rights. Here you can check up on issues and legislation, state motorcycle laws and even check out resources at your disposal. Consider becoming a member and let your voice be heard. As for me, I would just like to be treated when riding my motorcycle the same way I’m treated in my Mommy Minivan.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Conquer Time

In the dawn of early morning, as I step outside my door, I feel the cold fall air sting at my cheek and turn my nose to red. I slide into the van to begin my morning commute. I reach for the temperature control and move it up a notch to warm and clear the windshield. Out the window, a gust of wind scoops a multitude of leaves in brilliant shades of gold and crimson into swirling dervish dancers of flaming color in the early morning sun.

With the arrival of fall comes the keen awareness that another riding season is slipping into the past. That I am in the van is testament to this. The grays I spy in the rear view mirror as I check my hair is further evidence that time is ticking on. A silver Lexus darts into the space between me and the car ahead. Soon he is dashing in and out of lanes. We meet again at the next light. His effort to save time is fruitless.

How we perceive time depends on our current circumstance. Time itself does not care at all how we are affected by it. After all, it isn’t time that changes tempo, but the person marking it. I recall waking in the morning after the death of a loved one. Coming fully to awareness, my grief once again holding me to my pillow, the thought of how cruel time is washes over me. For you cannot turn time back and retract an unkind word, correct an injustice or resurrect a loved one.

Neither can you stand time still. The joys of life skip on too quickly. The blush of the bride’s cheek, a lover’s sweet embrace or the baby at your breast are all moments that are over all too quickly. We wish to linger there if time would just wait. This last is what I wish to do with the moments on the road with Jade. To breathe deeply of the mingled scents of spring blossoms, feel the sun upon my cheek, the wind in my face, and the sense of freedom I have when riding. When on two wheels your senses and awareness are heightened, your soul as is your flesh, windswept.

I can however live in each moment. Grieve when it is time to grieve, love when love stands near, and caress the babies in my arms before they dash away. I will not pine for that which has passed or linger over sorrows. I am blessed for the moments time has given me and memories after all, are a gift over which time hath no power.

"Rest not! Life is sweeping by; go and dare before you die. Something mighty and sublime, leave behind to conquer time."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mopeds, Scooters and Motorcycle Safety Awareness

There was a recent article in the Nashua Telegraph about a 72 year old man trying to navigate the streets of the city on his moped.

After reading this story, I could see many stories behind the story that point to so many contemporary issues of our times. Some of these stories are more sobering than the surface story will tell you. In the article 72 year old Bob Lavoie is trying to save on gas while commuting to his TWO jobs by riding his new scooter which tops out at 30 MPH. Bob still has a mortgage to pay and despite being 72, retirement is out of the question. First sobering comment about our times? There is no such thing as retirement.

The second observation is that Bob is staying off the “rolls.” He is an independent man, taking care of his own affairs, earning a living as best he can and keeping himself and his wife from the poor house. It points to his self respect and pride at being a contributing member of society. I have a great respect for him on this point.

The story of course is about the scooter slowing down commuter traffic, the people who are irritated, and even how some pull along side and make disparaging remarks. Some of these remarks are made while he is actually traveling in a 30 mph speed zone. The article explains that because the scooter is classified as a moped, it cannot travel on the highways. Bob is knowledgeable about the rules of the road and obeys them at all times. He has even discovered some flaws in the placement of road signs that thwart his daily commute. All legitimate observations, which despite trying to have them corrected was told he would have to foot the bill to have a sign moved.

There has been a tremendous growth in small engine two wheeled transportation as a direct result of escalating gas prices. Some of these people have not had adequate training in navigating our roadways on two wheels. This poses a danger to them as well as cagers. While the hazards are real, the spotlight it brings to motorcycling may well benefit those of us whose choice of transportation is based on our love of motorcycling.

How will it benefit motorcyclist? If the general public becomes more aware of the two wheeled travelers that share the road, are exposed to the dangers that threaten them and us, we may find more travelers who use caution and are more observant while driving. Exposure through public media is also helpful. Bob put himself “out there” to expose a glaring concern that we should all pay attention too. Also, this past season, I have seen across the country, media campaigns to educate the public on motorcycle awareness. These are steps in the right direction but more needs to be done.

On my daily commute I often find myself along side an older gentleman riding a 1975 Honda CB125S.
From Misc
This photo is exactly what this bike looks like. It appears to be in great shape, and the rider flows along the stop and go corridor I travel without apparent trouble. His attire however is another matter. Mister 125S does not wear any protective riding gear. He is dressed in street shoes, twill slacks, windbreaker, and a helmet the same vintage as his bike.

From Misc

How do I know this helmet is from 1975? My husband has one he keeps as a memento and I recognized immediately. In New Hampshire motorcycle helmets are not required by law. However, since Mister 125S is wearing one, I can assume he would like the protection it brings. If this is so, he should toss the 1975 helmet in the trash bin. Helmets should be replaced every three to five years, and for a variety of other reasons. Check out the MSF link for more information about helmet safety.

Those of us who take motorcycling seriously need to be less timid about approaching these newbies. We often think we should mind our own business. I say this is our business. There are polite ways to strike up a conversation, and find opportunities to slip in concerns about safety, helpful hints about gear, or even suggest a motorcycle safety course. Don’t forget to compliment them on conserving energy and share your own enthusiasm for motorcycling. Like Bob Lavoie, they could be the next spokesperson for motorcycle safety awareness.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Lady Always Wears Lipstick

This weekend I was privileged to be part of a small group of riders heading to some New England peaks that have been on my wish list this season. (see post for more information about the highest peaks in New England.) The two peaks that Jade and I climbed were Ludlow Mt (Okemo) (VT) 3343 ft, and Ascutney (VT) 3150 ft. However, I will blog about these two peaks in a subsequent post.

We met our small group at the arranged start point early enough to have a few moments of chit-chat before departing. Much to my surprise and pleasure, there was another woman rider taking part in the adventure. We have not seen each other much this season due to one thing or another and we passed the time as riders do, checking out our rides, and talking about the season. She paused in her dialog to say “that shade of lipstick looks good on you.” or something to that effect. I was lost for words! My silly reply was something like “oh, I haven’t chewed it off yet?”

Why was I so taken aback by the observation about my lipstick? I’m not sure but with that statement my mind went instantly to a moment long since lost in the mire of time. I am a young girl standing beside my mother as she brushes her hair. My head barely reaches her bent elbow. We both stand in front of the bedroom mirror. She finishes with the hair, and proceeds to apply lipstick. “I thought you were just going to the corner store?” I asked puzzled. “Why are you putting on lipstick?” “A lady always wears lipstick when she goes out in public.” She said to me. “It doesn’t matter if she is just going the corner store, she should always look presentable.” she added further.

I never forgot the comment about looking presentable even if going to the corner store, and since the age of sixteen when permitted to wear lipstick; I have faithfully applied it before leaving the house in the morning. It may not last the day, and I never reapply, but still, I have a sense of self respect at wearing my lipstick out the door.

When I began riding, my lips suffered the torture of becoming dry and cracked. Wind therapy may be good for the soul, but its murder on tender exposed flesh. I remembered that Mother sometimes had a blister on her lip. She successfully found a line of medicated lipstick she could wear. It served a dual purpose of maintaining her dignity as a lady and offering medical attention. I too needed a good option, and discovered a line of moisturizing lipstick that took care of my own dignity and served to keep my lips from getting chapped on the bike. Is it strange to see a person dressed in textile riding gear wearing lipstick? I didn’t think so. In my mind the moisture-wear lipstick is as essential to my riding as the elbow pads and kneepads in my jacket and pants.

With the lipstick comment I find myself re-examining how others see me. Do they also question the mascara I wear while riding? This option has little to do with vanity as one might expect. Last season, after suffering a scratch cornea from debris under the contact lens, I found the perfect mascara for riding. It doesn’t flake or run, but has just the right consistency to allow dust to stick, and keep it from my eyes.

Mascara isn’t the only practical application for makeup that I use while riding. After watching the flesh on the backs of my hands dry and pucker from too much sun exposure I wondered what could possibly be happening to my face? I have since purchased a decent pair of summer riding gloves. However, no amount of lotion seems to help restore the now damaged flesh of my hands. That is not something I want for my face.

With the thought of leather for skin, I found a great facial moisturizer with SPF protection. Now before leaving the house I apply the SPF facial cream to protect against the wind and sun, mascara to keep the dust from getting under the contact lenses, and moisture-wear lipstick to take care of the lips. What about the blush you say? Oh? Well, maybe there is a wee bit of vanity happening after all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pat Gets Domestic

We are experiencing a bumper crop of berries this year. Andy and I can’t keep up with the harvest. The blackberries are coming in fast and furiously. One morning I walk down one side of the row of bushes and pick more berries than we can ever consume. I divided them into two large bowls. Andy takes one to his place of employment, I take the other.

The blackberries are a big hit. “Wow, look at the size of these!” one person exclaims as he shovels a Styrofoam cup full for himself. “Do you know how much these cost in the market?” another quizzes me, as he scoops spoons full into his cereal bowl. Next come the reciting of favorite blackberry recipes, as one after the other, each person retells the enjoyment of its consumption.

Now, over the past five years or so, I have systematically been “scraping things off my plate.” (This analogy is perfect since we are talking food here.) One of the items that I have removed is the expectation that I will carry the domestic load. I have been very successful with this and the chores at home are now shared equally and equitably. However, in order to achieve this retraining of ones family, a person needs to go to extremes. Listening to my co-workers makes me think that it is time for a rebalancing. (OK, so what really crossed my mind was this: “I guess it wouldn’t kill me to make a pie once in a while.”)

That evening, as I arrive home Andy is making supper. He does so on the days I go to the gym. (Part of the household restructure plan.) I open the fridge door and put in the store bought pie crust I intend to use later. “What are you putting in the fridge?” he asks. “A pie crust. I’m going to make a berry pie latter.” I say. Andy chuckles and says “good luck with that.” I‘m confused, but shrug it off and go about my business.

We enjoy a great evening meal; I shower, start a load of wash, and then begin the making of the pie. Andy is watching some show on television when he hears the banging around in the kitchen. “What are you doing in there?” he questions me. “I’m making a pie!” I say exasperated. Gee, didn’t I just tell him that a few hours ago? There is dead silence from the living room. Suddenly, I feel an arm around my waist. I look up. Andy is looking down at what I’m doing. “You ARE making a pie!” he says with eyes wide in surprise.” I thought you were joking earlier,” he says.

From Misc

From Misc

From Misc

From Misc

Now it is the pie that is a big hit. What happens to me next, I can’t explain. Come Saturday, Andy decides it time to harvest all the apples on the tree. He picks two, 5 gallon buckets of apples. He leaves them by the porch. I look at the apples and suddenly they are transforming into apple crisp. (I know! I don’t understand what’s happening to me either!) The next thing I know, I’m roasting a chicken and inviting a friend to join us.

From Misc

Andy finishes off the last of the pie and apple crisp, the latter with an enormous scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. “It feels like the holidays!” he says. Is that a skip in his walk? I could get some mileage out of this if I were a different kind of person. I realize now, in hindsight, that what first appeared to be expectations others heaped on my shoulders, was really a result of my own doing at not expressing boundaries and limits. It is not our families that burden us; it is what we do to ourselves. (Moms and wives are especially vulnerable.) After all, if someone took care of all your needs without you asking, wouldn’t you let them? Reclaiming your autonomy is not as difficult as it seems. Finding the right balance might be another.

I’m checking out this recipe for kibbee* my friend Steve gave me yesterday. I think I will try it. Not today or tomorrow mind you, but eventually. After all, the scale of expectations is tipping nicely in my favor. I need to maintain the right balance after all.

(Kibbee: A Lebanese dish. Write me for the recipe.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Where in the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks Am I?

I cannot find my way out of a paper bag. My internal compass, if I even have one, has never served me in the ways I have observed in others. Over the years this has resulted in many an unfortunate incident, some of which could have easily turned tragic. A few memories of my youthful dating episodes come to mind which in hind sight make me shudder at the “what if” possibilities that could have unfolded.

My husband is forever exasperated that I never know where I am. “We have been here a million times!” he’ll exclaim. He soon dismisses me as it is inconceivable to him that someone could be so turned around as to not know where they are. While on vacation with two other couples, both of whom are GPS equipped, he would remark “I don’t need no stinking GPS” and would boldly point in the direction we should travel. At one stop, when directions were being discussed, he raised his hand, wiggled his fingers as if “recalculating” his internal GPS and then pointed “that-a-away!”

There is something that happens to me when I feel I am lost. My stomach twists and my respiration and heart rate quicken. Suddenly I’m in full blown panic attack. My poor friends have often been confused and suffered through accusations that they are to blame for me being lost. Here is the unfortunate truth. I too have a GPS. Until yesterday I had not really mastered all the nuances of what it can do. OK, so maybe I haven’t mastered it, but I’m a lot closer than I was last week.

I have had a GPS for a few years now. Initially I bought it so that I would know where I am. Following behind Andy on the motorcycle always leaves me in a bit of a panic if I can’t tell where we are. Looking down at the unit is like a security blanket. I can see the major roadways and our relationship to them. Sometimes I can even get myself from point A to point B using whatever the unit suggests to me as a route. There is also a great feature that takes you home from anywhere, or at the push of a button tells you were in the world you got yourself too now.

I have been the recipient of many great motorcycling routes to download into the GPS unit. All these routes were devised by other people. I have been able to follow these successfully! All of the routes I try to devise for myself never seem to work. The unit returns error messages, or doesn’t take me to the waypoint I want. It is all so confusing!

This week found our office full of employees from various parts of the country for training. One gentleman, who was traveling from nearby Massachusetts approached me and said “tomorrow, I’m riding my Road King here so I can park it next to your bike in the parking lot!” To which I replied “it would be a shame to leave them there during lunch on a beautiful day.” With that we agreed that the next day we would ride.

Since it is my back yard, it would be I who would lead. Just beyond the major roadways are some great back roads. I had an idea of where I wanted to take us but my mind was thinking how embarrassing it would be if I got lost! I started working my mind through all the issues I have encountered trying to devise a route that loops back to where we start. In the past I used the software to construct the route. I don’t have the software here at work, so I used the menus on the GPS itself. With the help of a Google map for a large visual and the GPS map, I carefully marked waypoints. One after the other, I placed them sequentially, eventually constructing a loop that should take us one hour to complete.

Lunch hour arrives, and we depart. “I’m going to use the GPS” I tell my riding friend. “I’m hoping we don’t get lost. But if we do, who cares, we’re on a bike. Right?” “Right!” he exclaims with a grin from ear to ear. To my astonishment and pride the route on the GPS progresses along nicely. I am even pleased, when at an intersection in a wooded area, (a place I would typically go right when I should go left) the GPS points me accurately in the direction I should go. We even arrive safely at the designated lunch spot and find our way back to the office trouble free. “Thanks a bunch for a great ride through the wilds of New Hampshire” the employee says. I am beaming with self pride. Little does he realize that I have just led my first ride. To top it off, the route was planned and executed by me, also for the first time. Why, I do believe it’s possible that I’m ready for my very own rimby.* (Ok, let’s not get crazy.)

*New England Rider speak for Ride In My Back Yard.

From Misc

From Misc

From Misc

From Misc

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sometimes A Flat Is Just A Flat


My weekend is punctuated by contrasts so vast, that my troubles and worries seem somehow silly. Punctuated by such perspectives I find that I am using these events as opportunities for personal growth. I do after all consider myself the “grasshopper” so to actually see the opportunity for growth is a new level of self awareness that leaves me feeling ever so humble.

On a pleasant ride along route 17 in Maine, our group stops at an overlook to appreciate the beauty of Mooselookmeguntic Lake. It is here, that Andy notices that his rear tire is low. We roll the bike forward and sure enough, he has ridden over yet another nail in the road. This is the third nail for this tire, and seems odd that someone should have such terrible luck. The tire is not yet flat, and with the help of one in our group, we pump the tire up to get to the next town ten miles away.

From Birthday Bash

From Birthday Bash

From Birthday Bash

Upon arrival, we discover that the local bike shop had closed an hour before. We make our way to an auto store where Andy buys a can of some sort of gunk in the hopes it will patch the tube a bit so we can make it back to our hotel. We decide this is as good a place for lunch as any. I don’t really feel hungry, but eat anyway. I get a stomach ache and realize that I may have fallen into my other bad habit; stress-eating. I didn’t feel worried, I thought, but the stomach ache is a sure sign that I am.

From Birthday Bash

From Birthday Bash

After lunch, the group decides to head back the way we came as it is shorter than continuing on with the loop. We make it back to the overlook and pump the tire again. We begin to hi-tail it back along route 17. Route 17 is full of ruts and frost heaves, and with each bump, bump, bump in the road I am watching the tire deflate. The tire finally gives out, and we are all stopped along a narrow stretch of roadway with only soft shoulders for minimal comfort from oncoming cars and enough moose tracks to let us know we are in the middle of nowhere.

From Birthday Bash

I take out my cell phone and there is no signal here in the dip. I want to call another group member who has trailered his motorcycle here to Maine. Maybe he will come for Andy. I volunteer to go back up to the overlook for a signal and insist that I will be fine alone. I start back, and am going at a good clip. Then I see another rider following behind. I’m miffed at first thinking that Andy doesn’t trust me to be safe. In that instant, I hit one of those ruts hard and it sends me to the wrong side of the road. I swing way out, slow and pull myself back over the yellow line. Now did I say I wasn’t really stressed? I realize yet again, that I am not holding my mind correctly. There is no need for speed. The tire will still be as flat in 10 minutes as it is now.

We reach a spot where I have a signal, and I call one in the group which is a number I have in my contacts. I’m given instructions to sit tight and he will contact the trailer owner and call me back. While waiting, I take the opportunity, to send a text message to two of my friends. It reads “Andy’s tire found a nail. Fun times!” I get a reply message from one, reading “my father died last night.”

The flat tire seems so silly when measured up against a man’s life. My misplaced worry about the ride being spoiled for others, or what options are available to us for repair seems trite. While I wait for the call, I exchange a few more text messages with the friend in hopes that it will be of some comfort. The call comes; the trailer is on the way. That was easy, and of so little trouble to me. It could have been so much worse. The tire could have blown and Andy could have lost control. A car could have been coming in the opposite direction when I traveled over the line, and then the rider behind me would have paid the price having to witness such a thing.

The trailer arrives, and I ride with two who came to the rescue. Andy is following on my bike. I tell them both about the text from my friend, and how a flat tire seems so small in comparison. It is the death of the friend’s father, due to heart surgery, that triggers the response from one. He lost his son in early spring, and the boy’s heart was donated to save the life of another. His story goes on to say how he and his wife had lunch with the recipient, and what it meant to all of them. My worry now about finding a place for repair on a weekend seems even more inconsequential than ever.

From Birthday Bash

That evening, not realizing what I’m doing, I stress-eat again. I spend most of the evening in the room instead of socializing because of the stomach pain I am once again enduring. It was all for nothing too. In the morning, we found a great guy to pick up the bike and put on a new tire and tube. The lesson here is evident. Every problem has a solution. Every question has an answer. Most of our troubles are small. It is only our thinking or how we hold our minds that make them big.

From Birthday Bash

From Birthday Bash

From Birthday Bash

See all the weekend photos here:
Birthday Bash

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Signs, Symbols and the Voice of God

Labor Day weekend finds us once again on the road with friends. Our destination for this motorcycle adventure is the Catskill Mountains of New York, with an overnight into Pennsylvania. The sky is of the soul penetrating blue that can lull you into a hypnotic state, and the smells of harvest, hay and alfalfa are as aroma therapy. The mind easily wanders as the roads are made for relaxation. The Catskills were made for unwinding.

It may be this combination of factors that relax the body and mind, so that both are open and receptive to suggestion. The signs and symbols along the way take on deep and meditative qualities that under other circumstances are glossed over by everyday stress. Things seen yet unseen, voices heard, yet never understood, messages sent, but never received are somehow delivered more easily. In the saddle the world is seen so differently. I sometimes think of astronauts viewing the earth in ways we never will. It is the same earth; it is the perspective that changes everything.

So it is in this way that my perspective is seeing things from a whole new angle. I see three signs in our journey that are sticking to me like pucker brush. I can’t just brush them away; I am made to pay attention. The first is a church placard that reads “God wants full custody, not just weekend visits.” One can easily imagine that what the poster is intending us to think about, is that we should not just occupy space in a pew on the weekend, but live our lives as loving and caring human beings. Or it may cause one to feel a twinge of guilt at even missing the “weekend visit.” It is possible that both of these messages fit me, but somehow, it doesn’t quite sit right. Then I realize that God does have my full custody. Anyone who rides a motorcycle already understands that they are never alone in the saddle. Our lives are entirely in the hands or our creator. Our skill level has little to do with what others are doing around us. Each time I throw a leg over the saddle, and before I kick into gear, a silent prayer has already taken wing. I am not alone, God has full custody and He or His messengers are at my side.

“Former site of Olive” is the next sign that has burrs. I can’t shake the thoughts of the people displaced by the creation of the reservoirs. Neversink and Bittersweet, New York, are now under the Neversink Reservoir; the towns of Olive, West Shokan, Brodhead Bridge, Brown's Station, Boiceville, West Hurley, Glenford and Ashton (in the Catskills) were sacrificed to create Ashokan Reservoir. If we “drill down” from town, to street to household, to individual, there was someone here who made a sacrifice for the good of many. Whether willingly or unwillingly their sacrifice was made for the common good. What happened to all these people? Do any of the thousands of people ever contemplate the fate of these folk when they turn the tap? My sister tells a story of her father-in-law, who will point out town landmarks over and over accompanied by the same old stories again and again. So often in fact, that the good mother-in-law once proclaimed, “Erect a plaque already!” or words to that effect. These folks cannot bring their grandchildren here and say “this is where I was born.” It is a memory of words only, as you look across the water. The lesson here? We never fully appreciate the sacrifices others have made for our welfare.

With the “former sites” still burning images in my mind, how we are all interdependent gripped my heart as well. I realize with more clarity that what happens to you happens to me too. As if this message was the theme of the day, the next sign on the road reads “eat here, or we’ll both starve.”