Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Singing the Blues

If there is one thing I hate more than hearing bad news it is reading bad news about your friend on a social network website. Or maybe I can top that. How about reading about your friend in the morning news, realizing too late that you have a voice message their family member left waiting for you? To say these are uncomfortable moments is an understatement. In both of the incidences above my dear friends recovered and went on about their lives.

In the most recent incident, a friend was a victim of a blue hair. Out for a leisurely ride, he followed behind an elderly woman for some distance. She putts along, but he was in no hurry. He occasionally looked in his rear view mirrors to watch how those behind were doing too. Then without warning and with no apparent reason, the woman came to a dead stop. There were no pedestrians, no intersections, and no stray cats. Startled, he applied the brakes; hard. The front tire locked up. We know where he went next. The blue hair beat it out of there like a bat out of hell.

There has been much written about the elderly and deteriorating driving skills. I don’t need to list the statistics, or the incidents involving motorcycles. I did think it worth a reminder to my riding friends to be cautious as we start a new season.
“Watch out for the old folks.” I reminded them.
“Sure Pat. Just call us when you leave the house.”
It went down hill from there. Trying to keep your friends from harm should not warrant a lecture of being politically correct. Blue hair, old folk, elderly, let’s be frank, all’s fair when our lives are at stake.

It is true that I am no spring chicken myself, and someday, I might actually get behind the wheel despite knowing I probably shouldn’t. I’m a risk taker. Any person who rides a motorcycle has an element of risk taking in their blood, or they would never have thrown a leg over the saddle in the first place.

I like to believe there are lessons for all of us in the events of our lives, be it watching them unfold or experiencing them first hand. So go ahead, jest away. If you remember the message then my work here is done.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Getting Acquainted

The morning is a bit gray when I awake on Friday morning. It’s my vacation day and I want to take Blaze out, just the two of us. I do some early morning chores and wait. I’m rewarded with parting clouds that skitter across the sky with darting rays of sun teasing them like playful children in a game of hide and seek. I roll Blaze out and down the ramp and look her over. Then in what has become a ritual, we stand silent for a moment, facing the statue that once belonged to my aunt and send our request to the heavens for a safe journey. I throw a leg over the saddle and slip and slide my way across the mud and muck out to pavement. We are off.

My first stop is to see Andy at the water plant. He takes a hose and washes the mud from Blaze for her debut with friends. I make my way to Nashua where we find ourselves in the stop and go traffic that is typical of cities. At a stop light, I feel as if eyes are upon me. I’m always thinking “cop” but I’m behaving nicely. I look around, and the trucker in the next lane over is craning his neck to see what I’m riding. He makes it obvious he is looking the length and breadth of Blaze, then smiles at me and mouths “NICE” in a way even a seasoned lip reader can’t miss. I give him my best grin and mouth “THANKS” in reply. He inspects me for the next few lights, and then we part ways.

At my first stop, I show Blaze off to Lee and Bill. They understand all too well, Jade’s limitations when on our Western Ride. Bill nods approval, but he is soon chilled and steps back into work. Lee has his jacket. He admires Blaze and checks her out from stem to stern. Soon his is riding her around the expansive parking lot testing her agility. He gives her the nod of approval. We spend a few more moments discussing accessories, engine guards, luggage rack and general biker bling. Then I’m off again.

I take all the quiet back roads in a leisurely ride to visit my sister Fran in Manchester. The gently twists and turns are nothing for Blaze. Unlike Jade, whose pipes are loud and commanding, Blaze purrs along. She is as gentle and smooth as a kitten, yielding agreeably to each command or gentle touch of my hand. My affection for her grows. I reach my sister later than I promised, but she is not upset at my lateness. We visit for a bit, and make tentative plans to ride this season.

My next stop is the cemetery, where I spend some time talking to Mom. Uncle is not far away, and I step over to have a chat with him as well. When I depart, I remember the difficulty getting out of this place. I need to take a left from here, and the blind curve to the right always has vehicles arriving around the bend without much notice. I take my time here, and Blaze zips left without hesitation, with plenty of time between oncoming cars.

Next, I take Blaze to the highway. We merge into Friday afternoon traffic with its drivers hell bent on getting home for the weekend. Blaze is not fazed one bit. She can out run the best of them, and still has plenty of power to stretch out if need be. The rushing wind is exhilarating and I make my way back to Milford. I stop at the gym before heading home. I want to stay fit and healthy to enjoy this riding season. Blaze waits patiently in the lot until I return. Then we meander on home with the evening breeze cooling my heated flesh, the smell of spring in the air heady. I roll Blaze up the ramp, pat her fondly and step down the ramp. I pause facing the statue and send up a prayer of thanksgiving for my safe return. As vacation days go, this is definitely a ten!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Memoriam

In Memoriam
Pauline Lacroix Levesque

5/11/1930 – 3/27/2002

The waiting room is dimly lit. The plastic chairs line each wall. We are the only ones here. I select a gray plastic seat halfway down the row of chairs on the left. I pull Dad down into the chair beside me. I look at Dad, but he is staring at his feet. Neither of us speaks.

There is another door in this room to my right, but this one is closed unlike the door we came through to the left. There is light showing around the cracks between the door and the frame and it splays a small pattern on the floor of the dimly lit room. I hear voices, as though a large crowd is just the other side of the door. It’s a celebration of some kind. Music is filtering through, muffled by the walls and door. We wait.

I keep my eye trained on the door. Slowly, the door swings open and I see a silhouette framed in the entrance. The brilliance of the light blinds me, and I shield my eyes. The voices and music spill out in a great cacophony of sound that is deafening. The silhouette advances, and the door closes behind. The sound is again muffled, the light squeezing through the crevices of the door and frame.

I blink, and there is Mom. She is wearing the royal blue dress I last saw her in. We look at each other for a moment. I take Dad by the hand, rise and walk toward Mom. Mom takes Dad by the hand, but he seems not to notice, and continues to look at his feet, lost in his own grief.
“Don’t worry about me” she says. “I’m happy.”
“Good.” I reply
She holds out Dad’s hand and puts his in mine.
“You will have to take care of Dad.” she instructs me.
“I will.” I say. I seem to know she is not talking about his physical needs.
“I can’t stay” she says next.
“OK.” I reply.

She turns, and opens the door. Again I shield my eyes, and the cacophony of sound assaults my ears. The door closes, the muffled sound of celebration continues, the light squeezing through the cracks.

I open my eyes and sit up in my bed. I stay that way for a long time. My mind tells me I’ve had a powerful dream. My heart tells me I’ve had a visitation.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pat and Blaze Make New Friends

Blaze and I finally became more intimately acquainted this weekend as the temperatures rose above freezing and the sun’s rays warm enough to make things tolerable for both of us. For our first excursion we concentrated more on getting familiar with how we felt to each another. I am impressed so far. Blaze is responsive and yielding to my touch and goes where I want her to go. We even found a few sand free parking lots so I could put her through the paces, weaving between lot lines, with imaginary cones, accelerating and testing the brakes with hard or “panic” stops. She dipped and weaved nicely without any hint that what I was asking her to do was out of the ordinary.

We ended our Saturday, slipping and sliding through the muck back to the house. Even here, she was manageable as I encouraged her onward. We made it back to the “barn” without becoming bogged down, although her undersides are showing signs of the trip in and out of the property. Once home, I realized we were ready for a more prolonged jaunt and Andy and I agreed to meet up with the Amherst Motorcycle Club the next day.

The members of the Amherst Motorcycle Club are a friendly laid back group. We arrived at the start early, and a modest crew did show for at least coffee. I made their acquaintance and introduced Blaze. We admired her amenities and lines, which is her due. Then we set off with three of the members for a Sunday ride. Though not long in miles, it was enough for the first day out. The temperatures began to drop and soon it became quite chilly. We arrived home just before flakes of snow appeared.

It is always a great day when you meet new friends. Blaze and I will meet up with the Amherst crowd again. Before then however, I am anxious to show her off to the old crowd too. That day is coming soon, and by then, Blaze and I will be a comfortable team, ready for longer days on the road.

From 2009 season

From 2009 season

From 2009 season

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hobbies Keep Me Hopping

Blaze has been a member of the clan now for nearly two weeks, and has yet to be out of the yard. The muck reaches out like tentacles at the tires and threatens to suck her into the netherworld. It doesn’t keep me from rolling her out into the sun and tinkering with this and that. Andy is hard at work moving all my gizmos from Jade to Blaze.

In the midst of dressing Blaze with all my toys, I received word that the book release will be March 28th. I’m excited to see my name in print. Sure, I’m only one of 40 contributors to the book about the ice storm that devastated Southern New Hampshire in December, but still, it’s exciting. I’m looking forward to the book signing too in the hopes of some networking possibilities.

The Monadnock Writer’s Group meets this Saturday and the anticipation of that gives me butterflies in the stomach. This month I’m the fifteen minute reader. This perk, for members only, allows a person to read aloud to the group from their original work. Since I have been taking the workshop on short fiction, I selected two excerpts from my short fiction murder mystery. The reaction from that will help me understand if I’m on the right track or not.

Then later that day, if time permits, the muck lets up and the weather gods smile upon us, Andy and I will fire up the beasts and take them for a run. With both my favorite hobbies occupying my time, it’s irksome when my conscience pricks me about responsibilities I’m ignoring at such time. I then remember a poem I once read about mother’s rocking their babies and just as babies are all too soon grown, so too is the season fleeting. Adventure beckons, and writing about it calls my name! The chores will still be there when I get back.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why a V Star?

If you follow this blog, you are well aware that I have been motorcycle shopping since last fall. I explored a number of options, models and styles. In the end, I selected another Yamaha V Star. Time will tell if I made the right choice for me. In the meantime, here are my thoughts on the three makes and models that percolated to the top of my list in the past six months; the Suzuki Boulevard, Honda VTX, and of course the Yamaha V Star.

First, let me list my criteria for the new motorcycle.

o Must be a cruiser model
o Fuel injected
o Water cooled
o Tubeless tires
o Shaft driven
o Priced within my budget
o Needing little or no extras to meet my cruiser specs. (IE: Windshield, back rest, decent saddle bags.)

I love the look of the Boulevard. In the past few years while on my commute to work, I often pulled along side another commuter on a Boulevard. The lines appeal to me and it is just a great looking bike. I visited a number of dealers where I sat and inspected the Boulevard top to bottom. One in particular caught my eye and I considered this for many weeks. This was the C50T.

The C50T just looks stunning. The price fits into my budget. The seat and bags are studded for added eye appeal. The seat height is perfect for me a 27.6 inches. It is shaft driven and fuel injected. It weighs only 651 pounds. After a few weeks I scratched this off my list for two reasons. The first is that the C50T is an 800cc and the next model up, the C90T is 1500cc. The 800 is not enough stretch from my 650 to make the move worthwhile, and the 1500 is too much spread. The tube tires were not making me happy either. I moved on to the next model.

In the midst of my bike shopping, my friend Jim purchased a VTX 1300T. While at Jim’s birthday party he invited me to sit, start and inspect his new bike to my heart's content. The Honda VTX is another motorcycle that has great appeal. In fact, it is one of the models I have considered for a few years now. During lunch breaks I would sneak away to the local Honda dealer just to sit on this bike and admire the lines. It also has a cute tail light and you know my fetish with tail lights. The 1300 model meets much of my criteria. It is shaft driven; water cooled, and comes complete with windshield, back rest and bags. On the tour model the tires are tubeless. The seat is a comfortable 27.4 inches and the whole thing weighs 748 pounds. The one drawback is that it is has carbs. If I want fuel injection I have to move up to the 1800cc model. That is too much power for me.

I found my way back to Yamaha. My 650 V Star has served me well. There are 42,000+ happy miles on the odometer of the 650. The 1300 fits most of my criteria; its fuel injected, water cooled and the tour model comes equipped with windshield, back rest and roomy bags. The seat height is 28.1 inches and the bike weighs only 668 pounds. At first, what kept me from looking more closely at the V Star 1300 model is the fact that it is belt driven and also a bit out of my price range. In an effort to understand my options better, I did what I usually do whenever I need advice; I go find an expert member of the New England Riders. Lunatic Tim came to my aid and quickly filled my inbox with facts and statistics about belt driven motorcycles. He’s very persuasive. In one hand I held “fuel injection” and the other “shaft drive.” With Tim’s advice, I dropped the shaft and kept the fuel injection. That began my long torturous search for a bike that fit my pocketbook.

Again, the power of intention served me well. My intent to find a good deal paid off. I also used the advice given in my real estate agent days; tell everyone you know that you are looking and eager to buy. Use your network. Everyone knows at least 200 people. Tell those 200 people. Ask them to tell the 200 people they know. Hunt down every lead. Ask questions. Haggle. Most importantly, never give up!

Monday, March 9, 2009

It’s a Done Deal

It’s been a long and difficult search, but the new baby is finally home. Let me introduce Blaze. Blaze is a 2007 Yamaha V Star 1300 tour model. She arrives to us with 627 miles on the clock. Yamaha calls this color Candy Red. She certainly is sweet.

Why have I named her Blaze? Well, a blaze is red hot and not to be messed with. A blaze is difficult to contain. In autumn the leaves display a blaze of color that is hard to ignore. Then too, a motorcycle is meant for travel. We will blaze many a new trail across New England and beyond. In the Urban Dictionary, blaze means to smoke. (We won’t say what.) This bike is certainly smokin’ hot to me. Blaze is a name that fits well with my handle, Sojourn. Sojourn and Blaze will partner for many an adventure together.

Since it is mud season here, the parking lot is the only riding available, but I am surprised by my first impressions of Blaze. In looking at photos you would think Blaze is big and cumbersome. She is not a heavy bike at all. Blaze is nimble, agile and responsive. When straddled, she is the right height and feels comfortable beneath me.

While I am excited to be in possession of a new motorcycle, I feel it is important to express that Blaze is NOT a replacement for Jade. Jade is unique in her own right. You cannot replace one motorcycle with another anymore than you can replace one child with another. (IMHO) They each have their own characteristics, and personalities. I will be looking for a new home for Jade. It will please me to no end, to find someone who will love her as much as I.

Finding my way to a larger more powerful bike has been a long road filled with emotional ups and downs. Yet, it is only half the journey. I must now steel myself for the gut wrenching chore of waving goodbye to Jade, my good and faithful steed.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Setbacks, Disappointment and Strategy

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster of sorts, from elation at the prospect of a new bike, the low at being felled by the flu, to my immense disappointment in others. In clawing my way back to good health I realize some of my disappointment could be directly related to not feeling well and having a low tolerance for shenanigans.

Fortunately, in the midst of the blatant reality of human nature, my niece gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. This precious bundle reminded me of a quote I once read on a fancy wall plaque in a gift store:

“Every child born is proof that God is not yet tired of man.”

The pure innocence of a newborn babe has me in a forgiving mood. Then again, we humans are a resilient sort. With that said I am picking up my marbles and going to play in another schoolyard.

If all this sounds cryptic, it is done so deliberately. For while I like to believe I’m not one to hold grudges, I am superstitious. I want all the i’s dotted and all the t’s crossed before more is said. Also too, I did not want you to think I fell off the face of the earth. If you have a superstitious streak in you, cross your fingers in the hope that I’ll have good news to share tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Winter Blues

The bike shopping is not going as smoothly as I hoped. Top that off with a Nor’easter, the flu and a cracked windshield on the van and we’re talking major winter blues. Being a firm believer in mind over matter, I am trusting in the power of intention. “I intend to be successful in the motorcycle purchase therefore I will be.” I hold that in the forefront of my mind. “I am not sick!” I say to myself as I pop more pain reliever. “Friday is not that far away.” as I check the appointment for window replacement. “Spring is just around the corner.” I think as I slide through another intersection. I’m trying to stay positive, but it’s getting harder to hang on.

Thank goodness for Nomad Willie. Nomad Willie loves chasing stuff. He is a way point junkie and has already begun his chasing for the new season. Getting on the motorcycle with destinations in mind is his favorite hobby. This favorite pastime is typically theme related. This year, he is hunting down historical sites. He’s started in his hometown of Uxbridge Massachusetts and is fanning out from there. If Nomad has already begun chasing, then spring is indeed around the corner!

If you need a boost to get you out of the winter doldrums check out his blog. Now if only I can find a cure for the bike shopping troubles and the flu, I might just be able to see that silver lining.