Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Some Lessons We Learn from Our Grandchildren

In my last post I spoke about reaching our goals, and how time plays a role in achieving them. Our goals can often seem so out of reach as to be unattainable. Sometimes it can feel as though we are deluding ourselves in the belief that we can reach them. I write about these concepts on how to stay focused for me as much as anyone else. I am not immune to the negative self-talk we give ourselves on a daily basis. We often are unaware of the little voice inside spewing all that negativity. Listen to your inner voice. I bet you too will be shocked to discover how poorly you speak to yourself. Listen also to what you say out loud. It’s a sure indicator of what is going on inside.

This negative self-talk is the end result of years of conditioning. Someone may have suggested we are not capable, smart enough, or that something we want is unattainable. We believe it. Maybe we make a mistake and are told we are stupid, dumb, or useless. We accept what others say about us instead of knowing who we are. We should be challenging these beliefs or rejecting them altogether. We should set our feet on the path of what we know to be true about ourselves and embark on a wonderful personal journey of self-discovery.

This lesson was reinforced when I saw again the video of my grandson’s first attempt at crawling. I knew instantly its value in teaching all of us about staying focused on our goals. In the video my grandson cannot coordinate his knees. When he pulls one knee forward the other comes too, so that he looks almost like he’s hopping. Would he have cared is someone told him that this wasn’t the way to crawl? Did he say to himself “oh I’ll never be able to get it right!” Of course not! He persists. At one point he tips over and plants his face squarely into the carpet. He doesn’t cry or get deterred, but gets up, and keeps going. Three quarters of the way to his destination, he pops into a sitting position, surveys the landscape, notices the progress he’s made and rewards himself with clapping hands. Then back to his knees until the toy he’s after is in his hands.

Children teach us so much about life. They have not been poorly conditioned by the judgments of others. Their little hearts are pure, and they live deeply in the moment and concentrate on each step they need to take. They don’t worry about the wrinkle in the carpet that might catch their feet. They are single focused in perseverance. Learn from them. Keep your eye on your goal. Don’t let others tell you how to get there. If the goal is a long way off, take small incremental “baby” steps in reaching it. Don’t give up at the first wrinkle in the carpet. Stop occasionally and notice how much closer you are to reaching your destination. Give yourself applause for sticking with it. After all, even babies are capable of reaching that which they are after. I’m not sure about you, but as for me, I will keep this image in front of me to stay focused on my resolutions as I head into the New Year.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How Long Will It Take?

A friend and I, by an outside view, could appear to be our own private book club. It’s true; we are on a path that has us reading some of the best books on the shelf to self improvement. Yet we are serious in our efforts. We are learning so much about ourselves. What we believe a thing to be, how we came to believe a thing to be, what we believe ourselves to be, and how we are challenging the very nature of all these beliefs. Mostly, what I am discovering about myself is how the beliefs I hold are not “global” truths about a topic, but really some fabrication of my own mind. I had never challenged or even considered some of these beliefs to be challengeable. Sound confusing? It sometimes can be, even for us on the journey.

My “new year of resolutions” is coming to a close. It’s been an excellent year for challenging myself, and seeing where I have come from and where I am now. Most notable to me is the realization of just how many fears hold me back, keep me from where I want to be, and once even resulted in illness. The thing about fear is that we don’t walk around saying to ourselves, “oh, I have to stay away from that because…” . We keep our distance from many things in the course of the day out of fear and never recognize it IS fear. We are blind to ourselves in this way. So imagine my shock when out of the blue, it occurred to me that one of my goals has been elusive because I’m walking around with an unacknowledged “fear” of my own.

What my fears are and toward what topics are not really relevant, only that I am now recognizing I have them. I learned the hard way in April, after a bout of shingles, and that I might possibly have brought this on during a period I considered close to crises. The crises of course had been a manufacture of my vivid imagination. Much of it was my own mind playing the fear game of imagined outcomes. Most of what we fear it turns out is what we “think” could happen up ahead. I had a lot of time to think during the illness, and decided to “get over myself” so to speak. I got back up, walked back into my life, and looked each day in the eye. I don’t assume any particular outcome anymore. I visualize what I want, not what I don’t want.

On the path to “better” there are humorous moments too. Like the constant reminder not to give up too soon.

“It will take two years to reach your goal” my friend is always saying to me.

He’s trying to keep me bolstered in the realization that our progress isn’t always visible in the day to day things, but over time looking behind us we can see the tremendous progress we have made. The two year mark was reinforced last week while my husband was watching golf. Tiger Woods had finally won his first tournament since the big scandal. When was that? You guessed it. That was exactly two years ago!

With the new year approaching I realize that I will need to extend my “new year of resolutions” at least for another year. I’m going to do as I do in business and assess where I am, make modifications where needed, and set new goals. But the journey will continue. For as in the words of my dear friend Lee Mowatt, “our up ahead has to look better than our behind.”

Reading List for your own journey:

360 Degree Leader by John C. Maxwell

Attitude is Everything by Keith Harell

Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain

Developing The Leader Within You by John C. Maxwell

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Go Put Your Strengths To Work by Marcus Buckingham

Healthy At 100 by John Robbins

Infinite Possibilities by Mike Dooley

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Maximum Confidence by Jack Canfield

Meditation in a NY Minute by Mark Thornton

Mind-Mapping by Michael Gelb

Quantum Memory Power by Dominic O’Brien

Ready for Anything by David Allen

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John C Maxwell

The 7 Habits by Stephen R. Covey

The Angel Inside by Chris Widener

The Biology of Belief by Bruce H Lipton Ph.D

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer

The Success Principles by Jack Canfield

You Don’t Need a Title To Be A Leader by Mark Sanborn

You, The Owner’s Manual by Roizen and Oz

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Much Can One Person Do?

I’m sure this has happened to you. You anticipate the weekend thinking of all the things you want to do, and stressing about all the things you need to do getting in the way. This particular dilemma is causing me a considerable amount of angst these days. Typically in November I begin to play catch-up, but with the weather being unseasonably warm, it’s almost a crime not to take the motorcycles out for an afternoon. So there goes another day when little is accomplished and the chores stack up, not to mention cutting it close to the wire on the bills sitting in the queue.

It was during a typically long commute that I felt as though a melt-down was imminent, thinking I could be writing the next great novel, spending time on staying fit, or just getting some much needed R&R, when I heard again this story. Maybe you’ve heard it too. A teacher puts a jar on the desk and fills it with rocks. When the jar is full of rocks he asks the students if there is anythng more he can put in the jar. The students look at the jar and it’s obviously full, so they tell him that of course he can’t fit anything else in there. He then pulls out a container of gravel and pours it into the jar. The gravel trickles into the air pockets left by the larger stones. He asks his students again if they think the jar is now full. Amazed, they nod their heads and tell him certainly it is full now.

“Oh is it?” he says, and pulls a container of fine sand which he pours into the jar. The sand filters down and into the jar. Again he asks his students the same question, but they are on to him now.

“We don’t know what else can fit in there, but I’m sure there is something.”

The teacher grins and pulls out from under the desk a pitcher of water and pours it into the jar.

In the link above, this story asks us to consider what the “big rocks” in our life are and to make sure to put them in first. Yet, this same story has been used in moral and ethical questions and ingenious ways to manage time. It has also been used to challenge our perceptions as the teacher did with his students. What we see and believe can so often be challenged in ways that surprise us. It had me looking at a typical day in my own life. The jar full of rocks so to speak. Those rocks can seem so big and so heavy; I can’t imagine how I can ever manage the gravel, sand and water. My perception it seems is skewed.

For those of you connected to me on Facebook, you’ve noticed me talking about cleaning the house of unwanted junk that has collected over the years. I know you’ve all cleaned a closet or two in your life and know what a job that can be. It can eat up a good chunk of the day. Yet Andy and I don’t have big chunks to devote to this, but we could spare 15 minutes a day. (If you think 15 minutes can’t make a difference, think about what one drop of water a day can do to your roof over time.) So productive is our 15 minute sessions that we actually look forward to it each day. It’s not taking away from our life, we spend time together, and we learn a few funny truths. Closets are a lot like empty jars. We put the big rocks in and over time we test the theory of how full it really is.

PS: A special thanks to Lee, who always challenges my perceptions and offered up by example how to find the lost minutes of time in the hours of my days.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Observations in the Dark

Sitting in the dark for a week can offer a wealth of information to a person if they are attuned. The historic October Nor’easter here in New England, plunged us into darkness for days on end. Trees, power lines and poles all came down like dominos. Here in Wilton, not only did we lose power, we lost land line and cell reception. Ham radio operators arrived and set up at the fire station to serve as our emergency communication with the outside world.

This might sound like a nightmare to many, but there are hidden gems in being confined to the dark in the evening with nothing but your spouse for entertainment. And before your mind goes down the wrong path, let me assure you the entertainment was enjoyed fully clothed. One of the benefits I find in being in the dark is that when speaking with your spouse by candle light, without the distraction of TV, is that he looks you in the eye and actually participates in the conversation. I discovered my husband has a sense of humor. (Or he rediscovered this on his own.) We reviewed our day, or I read short passages of my favorite book by candle light after which we would chat about what we thought it meant to each of us. We assessed our current state of affairs, talked about the future, and aligned our goals in harmony with each other.

The result of our week without power also showed us just how much useless junk we have laying round. Just think a minute of everything around you that depends on electricity. Not one of these things is of any use without power. Just how much we really “need” some of these things became quite apparent. This led to a conversation about “cleaning house” of the useless things we hang onto. How much of the items we have tucked away are of any use to us? We dust around them, move them around to make room for other “stuff” and sometimes even forget something is there, only to be discovered by accident 20 years later. In the dark, looking each other in the eye, we pledged to devise a plan to clear away the clutter that holds us back from really being free to do what we wish because we are spending all our time taking care of our useless possessions.

When the lights were restored and we looked around, the pledge we made looked like a daunting task we would never accomplish. While the notion seemed to make sense in the dark, the reality of what we really faced was more frightening in the light of day. After some contemplation, I took an idea from a friend who had cleaned his whole garage by spending 15 minutes a day picking away at it. Yet I knew I needed to embellish that if I were to keep Andy focused and engaged. With that in mind, I hatched a plan that worked for both of us and hooked right onto one of our future goals.

So far the plan is working. Each evening we point to a spot in the house. Then I set the timer on my cell phone for 15 minutes. We go to the spot, and start holding up objects. When we are in doubt, or someone starts to get sentimental, we ask ourselves this question. “Do we really want to pack this when we move?” If the answer is “no” we get rid of it. We have no plan to move anytime soon, yet it’s in our long range plan. If the perfect opportunity arises, we will now be ready to take advantage of it in a New York minute.

The temperature this morning is 24 degrees, yet forecasted to rise into the 50’s. When the mercury reaches that point, we are off on the bikes to enjoy a ride, possibly for the last time this season. Another benefit comes to mind as I wait for the sun to warm things up. The less stuff I have to be responsible for, the more time I have to really enjoy life.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Recognizing Value

In today’s world of social media, text messaging, and video calls, the value of face to face conversations and interaction can sometimes be overlooked. The impact we have not only on others but on ourselves is being diminished in some ways by the very nature of the physical separation it causes. We must learn to build lasting friendships and relationships with others and then use the social media to keep us glued together.

I think that Shawn Achor would agree. His principal #7, social investment, is ringing loud and clear to me in the “investment” part of that statement. As when we make a deposit into a high yield bank account, it takes time for a return on that investment to be realized. That value came to me in vivid living color on three separate occasions and showed me that one-on-one conversations and connections with people must be, and should be the first level of order in sustaining and making a difference in not only one’s life, but in the lives of others.

On Monday I had lunch with a professional technical writer friend of mine. We hadn’t seen each other in some time. She has been trying to write a book about her Mother and the wonderful work she did for people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. She was looking for advice on an outline for this book. That someone, who writes for a living, felt comfortable talking about outlines to a writer “want to be” was a humbling and at the same time an honoring feeling for me. I did my best to give it justice and offer advice that was useful to her project.

Then on Wednesday, I received a call that gave me more validation as a serious writer while again pointing out the value of social investment. Another professional technical writer from “the old days” called out of the blue. During a particularly difficult time for him, he had read something in one of my blogs that seemed to spur him in some way. At the time he had called to talk about it, but I had not heard anything since. The follow-up conversation on just what that meant to him left me a bit teary eyed. (Note to self: ALWAYS call and say thank you to the people who make a difference in your life.) Here again, someone who writes for a living gave me validation as a writer and at the same time revealed that my social investment had indeed accrued over time.

One of the aspects of my job not listed in the description is to assist in employee morale building activities. I’m well suited to this, and seem to do it naturally. My company gives me free rein in all my ideas, which is a bonus. Recently I took a page from the “old days” and began to display employee talent on a long naked hallway with an “art in the hallways project.” My intension was to bring out the hidden talents among us. I had my ideas about how that would unfold, yet I am more than pleased at the ways I’m watching it happen. As the project began and the first pieces of photographic art went up, people who would not generally have connection with each other began to speak and interact as they stood together and commented on the works before them. It was a delight to witness. Then for the third time that week, I had conversation about writing.

As we stood admiring the photography, I asked an individual “do you have anything to contribute?” The answer was “yes” and that he seemed to enjoy a variety of arts including writing. He wants to write a story about his Dad and the great person he had been. His Dad, an average Joe, had touched the lives of so many people that 1,000 of them came to pay respects at his wake. It was yet again, a definitive example that how we relate and connect with others. His Dad had made small deposits over time that swelled into a vast wealth. People still are affected in positive ways for having known him.

I am reminded of a segment in Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” in which he asks “what do you want your children to say about you at your funeral.” I have had two beautiful examples of that this week in how my friend and the co-worker wish to honor the life of their parent. Years after they have departed this world, their deposits continue to enrich the lives of others.

I have had a small hiatus from writing to my blog, but I am back. Its title “Life and Motorcycle Travels” is more fully focused on the ”life” part in these adventures. The saddle, however, is where I get a lot of my inspiration. It lends itself so well to analogies for everyday life. Recently, it was lending information to me that I didn’t want to look at or acknowledge about myself. It can be hard to look in the rear view mirror and confront our weakness, fears and flaws. I could not write about them. It felt too raw. Yet these are the very examples I must talk about if I am to faithfully make deposits that will continue to pay dividends well into the future. I have after all been given a peak this week into my own account to witness firsthand how my deposits continue to grow. It’s an investment I can’t turn away from.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Universe Has Its Own Agenda

We are making preparations for a weekend at Lake George. This reminded me that I have not yet attended to an oil and filter change that Blaze is in dire need of after her long trek to South Dakota. I look at the odometer and realize that my procrastination has increased the miles since last oil change to more than 5,000! Since Andy has a small part on order at the Kawasaki dealer, I ask him to pick up an oil filter for me as well as a new light bulb since the high beam has gone out too. On Friday evening I hear that he has picked up the part for his bike.

“Did you pick up my filter?”
“Dang! Why didn’t you remind me?”

Well, I thought I had, but he’s a husband and I don’t need to tell you ladies about that. Saturday, we get up and I pull Blaze out for her oil change. At least I have a case of oil from the Biker Makeover so I’m all set with that. Andy takes off on his own bike to pick up the oil filter. I set up and begin draining the oil. Andy arrives back with the filter and as we wait to make sure the oil is all drained, I ask if he remembered the light bulb.

“Dang! Why didn’t you remind me?”

Again ladies of long term marriages, no explanation needed. Again he gets on his bike and heads off to pick up a light bulb for me. While he is gone, I look at the filter in preparation to remove it. The filter I’m looking at on Blaze does not look like what I’m holding in my hand. In addition, I can’t find the tool to take it off anyway. I wait.

Andy gets back with the light bulb and we install that. Any bike owner knows this is never as quick as it sounds. You unscrew this. Then you unscrew that. Then you pull this off and then that off. Make sure not to touch the bulb and repeat the whole process in reverse. The bulb is finally in place and all seems to be working well. That is when I show him the filter. I mention I can’t find the tool either.

“Dang! The lady looked it up. I can’t believe she gave me the wrong one!”

I make a call and sure enough, we’ve been given the wrong part. Andy looks for the tool so I can remove the old filter while he’s gone and discover it’s broken. “Good thing” he says, at least he won’t have to make a special trip for the tool. Again, he gets on his bike and heads out returning with the right filter and a new tool. We remove the old oil filter, install the new and put the right amount of oil, per the manual into Blaze. We stand back and admire our work. That is when I open my mouth and say,

“I can’t remember when I last changed the air filter.”

We pull of the cover and the air filter is in a state that leaves us wondering how this engine is breathing at all!

“Dang! Why didn’t you say something before?”

OK, I’ll eat that one. We both get on our bikes and head out. After all, the Kawasaki dealer, who is closer to us can’t help us with that, and we head off for a 45 minute ride to the Yamaha dealer. We get there before closing and install the new air filter in the parking lot. Yes, you read right, just before closing. This simple task has now taken us all day. Andy is moaning that as much as I have cost him today, I might just as well own a Harley.

After the filter is on and we can’t see anything else we need, the next thing to do is ride for riding sake. We are in Hudson and its September 10th. We wiggle our way to Benson’s where a new memorial will be unveiled tomorrow in memory of those lost on 9/11 ten years ago. We pause silently and stand before the 9 ton beam from the World Trade Center. I am thinking of my colleagues lost on that day; a day that feels like only yesterday. At first, our day seems to us to have been a waste due to poor planning, yet I think the universe had other ideas. The events unfolded as they did to put us in this very spot. I realize then just how many women would be happy to have their husband say one more time.

“Dang! Why didn’t you remind me?”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kadoka, the Paranormal Experience

For those of you who followed my blog, here is the paranormal experience that Andy and I had in Kadoka.

To refresh your memory, Kadoka is a dinky little town in South Dakota with a population just over 700 people. The place seems stuck in time by the things we see around us: circa early ‘60’s. We decide to stop here for the night so that our arrival in Sturgis will be timed just right for exploring Sturgis and then head for check-in at the University in Spearfish.

We investigate a couple of motels, before deciding on a campground that also had motel rooms. The place looks clean, has a pool and is away enough from the main traffic to offer a quiet night’s sleep. We check in, and the room is indeed small with few amenities. The only clock in the place is on the wall. I take out the smartphone and the wall clock is an hour behind.

“Did we cross a time zone?” I ask, “because my phone does not match the wall clock.”

Since the phone has been so good at changing with the time zones, I check the GPS too. It still shows central time as well. Andy resets the clock to central time. We then decided to take a ride through town to check things out. I point to the sign for the business district, and off we go. Well, the ride turns out to be 5 minutes if that. It was nothing more than a postage stamp of a few streets, complete with church and school and local bar. We are back in no time to our starting point.

There is one more street we haven’t checked and Andy take off down the small lane. It ends abruptly at a small patch of cemetery. Just as I am wondering how I will turn around in such a tight space, Andy proceeds into the cemetery to loop around and come out the other end. I am appalled at first as it seems so disrespectful. There are not more that 20 plots. The small drive leads in, left, another left and back out. After a moment, I gently take the bike through this path making sure the engine is as quiet as possible out of respect for the dead. I breath a sigh of relief when back out. I did not like the feel of the place at all.

Back at the motel with daylight still to be had, we thought a dip in the pool would be the thing to do. We get back into the room and the wall clock is back to being an hour behind. I examine the clock and although it doesn’t say it’s an atomic clock, I figure it must be; that we are in mountain time after all and it has reset itself. We enjoy our dip in the pool then head to the local diner only two streets away. As I’m finishing my meal, I look at the clock on the wall, and it matches what my phone is telling me. I ask the waitress what the time is, and she gives me Central Time. Now I’m really confused. Are we just on the line or something?

That night Andy and I have trouble falling asleep. There seems to be a strong smell of disinfectant we hadn’t experienced upon check-in. It’s keeping us awake so we turn the TV back on and let that numb our brains until we think it’s foolish to keep it on any longer and both go to sleep.

I wake up with a start from a nightmare I’m having, the sweat dripping down my forehead, and as I try to calm myself from the vivid images still dancing in my mind, Andy gets up and uses the bathroom. I pick up my phone to see what time it is; ten minutes to three.

“I know why I’m awake” I say to the dark, “but why are you?”
“I just had a bad dream” he tells me.

Now this is just so odd that we are both awakened by bad dreams, that I do something I’ve never done in our more than 30 year marriage; I ask him to tell me his dream and I’ll tell him mine. With that he begins to recount the nightmare he has just had. The goose bumps begin in earnest then, as the dream he is telling me is mine! Oh, the characters in his are different, but the theme is the same. In each of our dreams we have let ourselves into a place we don’t belong; a vacant building. Yet in my dream a spirit appears in a nonthreatening way letting me know that this is not where I should be and pointing the way out. In Andy’s dream he knows he has to get out, yet the only exit is out an upstairs window onto a slippery roof, where he clings for his life. We are both quite for a moment. I notice that the disinfectant smell is gone, and we both go back to sleep. In the morning, we awaken to find the wall clock has stopped at ten minutes to three!

As I ponder the dreams we each have had, it’s as if Andy were chastised for trespassing on sacred ground. Although I knew better, and did not want to, I also took the bike through the cemetery. The spirits wanted me to know this was not correct, and pointed me the way out. Andy however, was less thoughtful, the exit he was provided a bit more frightening; I suppose to hammer the lesson home. With Kadoka giving us both bad vibes, we were more than happy to kick the stand up and depart. One thing is for certain; I know what Blaze and I will think twice about next time!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Fond Farewell to South Dakota

Saturday we toss the tour packs on the bikes, and with the Black Hills State University to our backs point our fenders eastward. Our destination this day is the Badlands National Park. It will be our last day as the fearsome foursome. Before we enter the park, we stop at Wall Drug to see what all the fuss is about. It turns out to be the perfect place to get a few more antics under our belts. Enjoy a few of the photos below, and don’t forget to ask Lee to post a particular video from this location.

On to the Badlands we go. This area does not disappoint, and in fact reminds me a lot of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The view goes on to the horizon, and appears so inhospitable that only a geologist could love the place. Yet we discover later in the day at the visitor center, that wildlife does exist in this harsh area. If one could sit and watch as the sun rises and falls, we would witness even more wonders than a day’s ride can offer. In this place I feel my smallness in the world. At the same time meditative qualities begin to affect the mind. We need to sit a moment and let the place wash over us. If feels holy somehow, and reverence is due to the spiritual aura that has enveloped each of us.

We enjoy one last meal together, and in honor of South Dakota, make it a meal of Buffalo Burgers. We wave goodbye and set our sights eastward, each at our own pace. Andy and I take refuge for the night in Mitchell. I feel a pull at my heart here and am reluctant to put South Dakota behind me. Yet I know that this segment is only the second or our three part vacation journey. Ahead now is our leisurely ride home. Our plan is to drop a bit south, avoid as much interstate highway as possible and really take time to feel this great country of ours. One cannot do that dodging trucks on the interstate system.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mount Rushmore

Friday we point the fenders toward Rapid City where we drop off the interstate and head south toward Mount Rushmore. We twist our way toward Keystone, sometimes at breakneck speeds around the blind sweeps that weave the way toward our destination. Deb and I take up the rear, and it would sound like Lee is in the lead, but its Andy who is setting this pace. Deb and I do our best to keep up. I wonder what the hurry is all about. I’m beginning to think, and possibly Deb would agree, that the testosterone levels are getting a bit too saturated for comfort. We arrive all in one piece thankfully.

We took the kids here in 1991, but the place does not look at all like we left it. There are several levels of tiered parking, and the entrance now has a portico of sorts. Just below Rushmore is stadium style theater seating, and it is my understanding that a light show is displayed in the evenings. The pomp to me is diminishing the grandeur of what I remember Rushmore to be. For those who are here for the first time, it is still an amazing site. Deb and I enjoy the information inside the visitor center, especially the quoted words of one worker about the fear twisting his stomach when hauled up in the basket which gave him nightmares that had him clinging to the bed at night.

Then we are off again to find Crazy Horse. This is not a monument I have seen. Crazy Horse Monument is a work in progress, and as such is not much to see at the moment. We decided to just loop around take a peek and be off. With Lee in the lead, Deb second, me next and Andy taking up the rear we were pointed by the ticket booth attendant where to take our U turn. Lee, zipped around without effort, but as Deb began her U turn Thor had a different idea I guess, and before I knew it Deb was tossed from the saddle. Thor’s rear wheel began a donut spin that nearly caught Blaze’s front wheel. Andy was quick off the bike, and before I could even get the kickstand down, he had Deb and Thor back upright. Deb was fine and unhurt and took being pitched from the saddle in stride.

While Deb was cool and calm about the whole thing, and didn’t want anyone to make a fuss, it threw me off my game. So while I had intended to request a ride through the Needles, I instead let Andy lead us to Hot Springs. We bypassed Custer State Park, saw one Buffalo along the way and discovered Hot Springs not such an exciting place. Quaint; but no one wanted to pay ten bucks to dip our butts. Instead we took ourselves to Rapid City to check out the excitement there. I stopped at the Mustang booth and tried to find John, who helped me in Carlisle, but he was on break. The next booth was Kuryakyn, and there I found Willie, who installed the items I won in the Garage Girls contest. We also discovered that today was the first day Rapid City was without rain. So far, we have planned all our days perfectly and been blessed with the sun’s rays. I checked out a few pinstripe vendors here, but so far nothing seems good enough for Blaze. It’s back in the saddle and west on I-90 and back to the dorms to end another full day in South Dakota.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Devils Tower

Our days in South Dakota pick up speed and for the last few days my eyelids slam shut before I can post a blog about the day’s events. Thursday finds us slipping into Wyoming for a visit to Devils Tower. The weather once again treats us well and we enjoy the roads to our destination. We drop into towns that have populations of 15! In a town this size what type of town government runs the place?

Devils Tower is as I remembered, but getting there is certainly a whole lot different on two wheels than towing a camper. For one, roads, sky and endless views are not encumbered by the confines of a vehicle. The grasses and natural earth scents are not filtered by an air conditioner. However, there is only so much you can do once you look at a rock, and we need to decide where to head next. Back to Spearfish? Or back to Sturgis?

We slip back into Sturgis, this time to park along busy Main Street for some people watching. This is where the antics are performed. We aren’t disappointed as we watch what walks by us. People watching isn’t the only thing we are doing. Lee is feeling companionate and is donating money to the poor folks standing in all those hot booths. They offer him small tokens of thanks which he carries off in tiny plastic bags. It turns out that Sturgis over Spearfish was the correct choice, as the announcements are telling us that Spearfish is being pounded my rain. We have been very fortunate this trip as we have always managed to be where the rain is not.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sturgis, Buffalo Chip and Beyond

How much can a person fit into one day? We wanted to answer that very question as we set our intentions for the day’s activities. Pointing the fenders east from Spearfish we drop off I-90 at exit 32 into Sturgis. A few blocks down we park the bikes and start our investigation of Pinstripe and Airbrush vendors. Lee of course has a new bike with too much blank space just screaming for attention. Blaze of course has not had any body art done at all and Sturgis seems the perfect place to get a stripe or two. Lee works his haggling magic and we leave the Voyager in the hands of the air brush artist and with he and Debbie two up on her bike, we head off to the Buffalo Chip in search of Sara Liberte. We aren’t disappointed and Sara takes a break from her busy day to chat with us a bit. She and Lee strike a bargain (he can’t help haggling) and she poses for a photo and he gives her one of his signature hand stands.

Off we go again, and drop off the road just piece to the Full Throttle Saloon. We make our rounds and we get an eye full at times, but all is pretty tame this time of day. Music and liquid refreshments are being enjoyed. We stay away from the hard stuff and visit a vendor or two. We have a few laughs and one proprietor is quick with the whit and keeps us in stitches. As we pass through the FTS on our way to the bikes, I enjoy, (really they were nicely done) a pair of body painted breasts at the bar. Back on the bikes we are return to the airbrush guy in no time. He hasn’t yet sealed the paint as he was awaiting final approval, so we head for lunch at Chives while the work is completed.

Back to I-90 we head and drop off at the next exit for 14A to Deadwood. The plan is to stop there and just walk up and down inspecting the place, but it’s so packed when we arrive that we wiggle our way through and continue on to Spearfish Canyon. It’s a good choice as this canyon is one place of beauty. We stop at Spearfish Falls. To truly enjoy the falls there is a ¾ mile hike down, but it is well worth the effort, as the coolness and mist from the falls is refreshing indeed. At the end of the canyon ride we pop off 14A only minutes from the BHSU and we point the fenders back from a perfectly packed day of adventure. Later we mount the bikes one last time this day to enjoy a quick meal, and discuss the strategy for tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Road to Sturgis
Arrival Day

With a big breakfast in our bellies we bid adieu to Kadoka and take to interstate 90 once again. It’s the Badlands that has our attention today and we are seriously tempted to divert. Andy comes over the radio and reminds us that this is something we plan to do with Lee and Deb. We fight the desire to follow the signs at the next exit and content ourselves with the view from the saddle. In a few more miles we do pull off the road in Wall and stop at the Buffalo Gap National Grassland Visitor Center. I am a fan of the National Visitor Centers around the country. This one in particular has exceptional displays. I get my stamp too in the Passport Book.

At a rise on the next bluff is a spectacular view of where we are heading; the Black Hills. I dismount and take in the 360 degree view. There are many scenic views in New England, yet they are but pie slices compared with the panoramic vistas on this wide open range. Your mind can’t help but think of the hardy souls that first settled this land. Indeed the farmer’s prayer I read in the visitor’s center comes to mind, of the sod that yields not to plow, and the winds that beat down the tender shoots.

As we near Sturgis, the excitement builds. Finally this day we are seeing many motorcycles. We take exit 32 and are dropped right into the heart of activity. The Bikini Bike Wash girls are there to greet us. Yet it’s the Mustang Saddle folk staged right behind them that have my real attention. The saddle has been acting like a sponge, much to my dismay and I want to speak with them about it. Not only do they take the time to listen to me, they are quick to action, and provide me with instructions, a can of spray sealant and a cover to keep it dry in the meantime.

We are only about looping through to check out the area, as we want to do our serious Sturgis activity with Lee and Debbie. Andy pulls over to find restrooms, and we decide to break here for a bit, watch some activity and have ice cream. Suddenly there is a roar like none other, and above us zips the B-1 bomber, drowning out even the hundreds of rumbling bikes before us; a seriously fantastic salute to our military personnel. All eyes are on the sky, until the B-1 is but a pinprick in the distance.

Towards late afternoon, we are reunited with our friends, and enjoy swapping tales of the road. We enjoy an evening meal seated outdoors at a biker friendly location, and try to converse as best we can with the roar of bikes as our background music. We swap stories with other riders too, before we finalize our plans for tomorrow. Now for some much needed rest, unlike last night’s sleep disrupted by bad dreams, which both Andy and I experienced. This is something I will write about later, which will have some of you paranormal fans rubbing the goose bumps from your arms.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Road to Sturgis: Day Four

This was our leisurely day on the road to Sturgis. Our check in time in Spearfish is not until Tuesday. We took our time packing and leaving Sioux Falls, which suited me just fine. The South Dakota landscape is not as I remembered from our drive though here in the ‘90’s. It’s a lot greener it seems to me, and there is standing water in places one wouldn’t expect. More flooding? May be as we find ourselves crossing the Missouri once again. The weather is beautiful! We decide to stop in Mitchell to visit the Corn Palace. Now we know we should do this with Lee and Deb on the way back, and we don’t mind a second visit at all, but not being able to predict home bound weather or any other incident, like exploding bikes, we decide to take advantage of the moment.

Had lunch here. Andy checks out the "lady" upstairs.

I enjoy a chat with a local.

As we travel there are several things that are top most in our minds. One is that we both have memories of passing this way with the kids. We had stopped at many of these sites when they were young. The second is that we have not seen the number of bikers one would expect. Sure there a “pods” of two or three, but most of the motorcycles are heading east. This has us scratching our heads in bewilderment. Then we pay closer attention and see that many of the bikes heading west are in trailers and truck beds. Still not enough to account for what we have read about the numbers that converge each year in Sturgis.

Earlier in the day we put our finger on the map at a spot that seemed reasonable distance to Sturgis. Something that puts us in easy riding distance yet allows us to enjoy a bit of the area before our check in time at BHSU. That spot is Kadoka. We didn’t know much about Kadoka before we stopped here. The town has 736 residents according to the signs. After we check in we decide to follow more signs to the “business district.” A nice ride through town we thought. Around the block we went and were done with the evening ride in five minutes. So much for that idea. We put on our suits and took a dip in the pool instead. We had it all to ourselves too. The town is so small that Pat, yes that would be me, did not wear her riding jacket, helmet or gloves. What for? There are no cars, pedestrians or even animals to obstruct our way. Take a look at the photo of me with the buffalo if you need photographic proof.

Still not very hungry after our lunch in Mitchell, we once again opt for beer and appetizer. Beer is another item Pat does not typically indulge in more than a few times a year. Can’t say why it’s so appealing, but it hits the spot each evening. Oh, and yes, another first. Pat did not walk to her beer, but rode there and back; helmetless, jacketless and gloveless. Andy is beginning to wonder if Pat will be shopping for pasties when we hit Sturgis. Time will tell.

Road to Sturgis
Day Three

We left Ottawa IL at 8:05 and set out sites West. With advice from a fellow New England Rider we have diverted to 80 from route 90 to avoid the Chicago area, which tends to be very congested. The roadside continues to grace us with farmland, although the corn sometimes changes to another crop, which I am not familiar with. The vegetation is low and a very deep green. As the miles slip beneath us, another “crop” pops into view; miles and miles of wind turbines. While people are divided on both sides of the wind power issue, I do not find the turbines a blight to the landscape at all. In fact, to me they are like a well choreographed dance, each turning in smooth rotation, synchronized in a delicate tribute while offering up to the energy hungry people of the US a food they consume like candy; electrical power.

Andy needs fuel so we pull off the highway and make a three mile trip into the nearest town, Anita. Well, here is my sister again, yesterday with the old Buick and today, her name plastered all over town, with banners waiving from power polls, and one big welcome sign saying “Anita, A Whale of a Town.” Well, it was a little whale; the main street was empty except for a few cars, and the place is very quite. On the way back to the highway, the slower pace along country road lets me watch the wind turbines in their graceful dance and feel awed by their majesty so up close and personal.

So far we have only met a few motorcyclist, which I find odd. At a rest stop we discover the possible reason why. We are along 680 heading toward 29 North to route 90. A few folks at the rest area tell us of all the flooding. Flooding? Then I remember all the news stories of the rapid snow melt to the north that has flooded great sections of the states south. We are fortunate as 29 North is open, but for those heading south it is still closed for many miles. We see the great destruction along this route with giant swaths carved right through the corn fields. The Missouri has spread wide beyond her banks, and local roads are still under water. Our route is often squeezed down to 2 lanes, one north bound and one southbound. Many of the bridges are newly reconstructed. We watch miles and miles of water covered landscape slip by us. It won’t be until October, from what we are made to understand, that this water will recede.

We pull off for the night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at the Red Roof Inn. The rates are great, the room comfortable, and the place is biker friendly. I forgot to reset the trip meter on the GPS, but you can subtract yesterday’s and see that we rode 555 miles. We enjoy beer and nachos for dinner. Not exactly what you would think would hit the spot, but yesterday we ate a regular sit down and it seemed too much. Also, I think the salty chips may be something our bodies need as despite drinking lots of water, we still tend to feel parched.

(Can't figure out how to rotate this?)

Monday we will leave later, ride leisurely and pull off within striking distance of Sturgis. Our reservations are not until Tuesday at the Black Hills State University. We hope to arrive and spend some of the day in Sturgis on Tuesday before heading to Spearfish and checking in for 3:00 pm and meeting up with Lee and Deb.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Road to Sturgis
Day One and Day Two

Day 1
Platea; our stop for today in our journey to Sturgis, is a quaint town near Great Lake Erie in Pennsylvania. It was an uneventful day, which is really what you want when traveling 523 miles on a first leg. Our room here at the Green Roof Inn is quite the surprise with a hot tub in the room, which Andy is enjoying at the moment. Our light meal at the local pub rounded out the day and I will test that tub out for myself in a moment to get a kink or two out of my shoulders.

The traffic today was fairly pleasant. Although it does seem that our country is in dire need of milk and cookies, judging by the trucks on the road. Enjoy the few photos below, of our mileage for the day, our lodging, bonus hot tub and the restful view out the pub window.


Today, we get off the road in Ottowa Illinois, at a time we think is early enough for me to do a decent blog post. The surprise is on us, when we discover we’ve traveled through a time change, and while it’s still a decent hour here, my brain knows how long I’ve been riding. Today’s miles are 492.7, some of it is detours. Route 80 which we were advised to take to Des Moines, is actually under construction. The exit we needed to take was actually closed. The signs pointed us a few more exits down, but we took a wrong turn and had to back track a bit. While the construction didn’t slow us down too much, the east bound lane was at a standstill.

As for the weather, we encountered rain just west of Toledo, but it only lasted a half hour and actually felt good. It yesterday I thought the US needed milk and cookies today all we see is corn; corn for us, corn for our cars and probably corn for the hogs too. In fact, our lodgings tonight are smack dab in the middle of corn.

Just before we stopped for the night, we met some nice folks towing a 1972 Buick, which looked so much like my sister Anita’s first car; I had to strike up a conversation about it. Turns out, one man’s wife has had a Skylark since it was new, and is in need of restoration now. The other guy with him will do the restoration, but the Skylark needed a new frame. In this photo is the car that will donate the frame. These guys went to Michigan to get it and were shocked at all the original parts under the hood. I wish them well. They seemed excited to get their project under way.

It’s been many years since Andy and I traveled 90 west and we are shocked by the tolls we are paying. So far, we have spent more than 50 dollars for the two of us, and we are only ½ way. There goes my mad money for the vendors in Sturgis.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Natural High

There are many examples of a natural high, but nothing can compare to family, friends, colleagues and total strangers voting you into first place in an essay contest. I thought watching the numbers climb on the vote tally was a thrill. I soon learned differently this weekend at the Carlisle Bikefest. With the placement of a VIP sticker on my windshield, to the last goodbye, my entourage and I were treated like celebrities.

Getting to Carlisle wasn’t without its challenges. We endured some of the most brutal heat Mother Nature can deliver. We went through 5 tires, (four trailer and one car) paid over $4.00 a gallon at one gas station, and I cracked the touch screen on my GPS by carelessly slamming it into the glove box. (The great Garmin service I received later is a story for another day.) Yet, I would do it all again for the experience of meeting great people like Sara Liberte, Mary Pinkerton and her husband Joe, Rick (Carlisle Event coordinator), John the manager at the Mustang booth, and Willy who installed my new Kuryakyn parts. I also met Beth a visitor to Carlisle Bikefest, who, as we watched my saddle installed, struck up a conversation that lead to us connecting in the mutual experiences we share.

There are bike events all over this country, and I have now visited four of them from one coast to the next, and soon I will head to a fifth. Each has their own personality trait. Carlisle by comparison is low keyed and indeed we saw many a baby in the pram. Carlisle is a place for the family. The event workers and industry sponsors were welcoming and genuinely friendly. Their concern and caring for us went beyond the promotion, when understanding how far Mary had driven to the event, added to the sum a prepaid gas card to the prize booty.

The amount of “stuff” I came home with is almost shameful, in way one would feel about gluttony. Yet one of the simplest of these prizes is a pair of Harley boots. The leather is soft and supple and certainly fine grain leather, with a low heal that treats my back nicely. So comfortable are they, I wore them with my shorts all the way home. Dave is probably thinking I sleep in them.

With the mention of Dave, an emotional tear of gratitude comes to my eye. Dave endured the worst heat imaginable to take loads of photos for nothing more than that we are friends. So it pleased me beyond words to see him get one-on- one time with Sara and talk about photography. Being a fan of hers this is possibly the best serendipitous gift one friend could give to another. I need a whole box of tissue with that one thought alone.

I’m off to Sturgis soon, and Sara will be there. On my list of things to bring is the Garage Girls tank top which I will wear proudly when I next seek out Sara’s booth. If you’re headed to Sturgis, keep an eye out for Blaze. She is stylin’ sporting her fender chrome and new saddle. You can’t miss us; we’ll be the duo blasting tunes on our new Kuryakyn Sound of Chrome speakers.

Note: The group photos is from the Garage-Girls Facebook page. I will be posting some of Dave’s in the near future.