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.