Of anger rides and love songs

When I missed Laura I used to go on an Anger Ride. Jump on my Harley and roar on the I-way for a while.

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The Don used to call it a rage ride. He loved doing it in the middle of the night, when it was just him and the truckers and the road.

 

 

 

 

 

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Best bike for an anger ride was my 2002 Deuce because it only had 5 gears and at 90 mph it was loud. A few hours of that would fix me right up. The V-twin version of electro-shock therapy.

 

 

 

Over the years I mellowed.

So tonight, as I lie awake in a hotel room in a small town outside Stockholm, instead of trying to find a way to rent a Harley for a rage-on through Sweden, I’m listening to music.

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I can imagine Laura saying “No! Rent the Harley! Go rent the Harley!”

 

 

 

 

 

One of the great romantic songs of the pop era is Unchained Melody. Its lyrics were written by Hy Zaret and put to music by Alex North. Sung by the Righteous Brothers, they’re spellbinding:

Turns out several artists, including Roy Orbison and U2 have tried to record it. Sorry. Great musicians that they were, they all failed compared to the Righteous Brothers. Here they are if you want to decide for yourself:

I looked up several lists of the best love songs of 2017, but I didn’t listen to any of them. I didn’t want to ruin the afterglow from Unchained Melody. We don’t express ourselves like we used to. We retreat from excellence as it were a rattler on the trail. Maybe we’re afraid of trying and failing. That’s not surprising, since social media never leaves our Left shoulder, a worse censor than the most ardent prude Hollywood ever had to endure.

I don’t care.

Give me eloquence. Give me beauty. Lend me expressions that warm my hear and make me take a long, slow breath or two.

Louis L’Amour’s America

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I’ve been scratching my head an awful lot, wondering where so many men I run into today get their their notion of this real America. They seem proud of their ignorance, disrespectful of knowledge, skill, or craft, contemptuous of women, and suspicious of anyone different. That’s not the America I know or have ever known. So I went looking for the source of their America.

Louis L’Amour is the quintessential writer of American stories since the 20th century. His stories are simple tales of good and evil. Of the American frontier. Self-reliance. Strength. Courage. Surely I would find the real America in his novels. So I read a few.

Here are some excerpts from The Warrior’s Path, the third novel in the Sackett series, narrated by Kin Ring Sackett, circa the 1620’s.

This one is about the value of intelligent women:

“Beautiful,” I said quickly. “And sensitive, but she thinks. She has a good mind, and excellent mind. And far beyond her years in good sense.”

He chuckled suddenly and I did not know why, but he glanced at me slyly. “It is not often I hear a young man comment on a woman’s mind.”

“She is worthy of comment for her beauty,” I replied stiffly, “but among us a woman’s mind is important. On the frontier a man and his wife are two. They work beside each other. To survive the two must work as one, sharing thoughts as well as work. It is not the same, I hear, in the cities of Europe.”

Page 78

This one is about religious tolerance:

It may have been my father’s easy way with folks, or perhaps my mother’s way or Lila’s or the teachings of Sakim, but I was not one for believing all who believed not as I to be therefore heathens. Many are the paths to righteousness, and ours, I think, is but one.

Page 90

This opinion of women is presented by a man one generation older than Kin Ring Sackett, a sea captain:

“Give me always a woman with pride, and pride of being a woman.”

Page 164

In the novel Flyboys, James Bradley describes the inhuman machismo of Japanese soldiers as a charade of traditional Bushido culture. That’s what we’re experiencing today, I believe, among some of our brothers: a charade of American culture. A parody of American values. A farce of American manhood.

We’re a free country. You have the right to be a fraud and a fake, but don’t hold yourself up as an example of a real American male.

Are you a fascist?

DudleyMoore“I thought I was just doing great with you!”

Apologies for the bad pun from Arthur.

But you see, fascists look just like you and me. They sound like you and me. They may be educated. They may be ignorant. They may be eloquent. They may be on the Left, they may be on the Right.

The truth is that fascists usually defined themselves as being neither Left nor Right but a combination of whatever policies helped to win power and “rejuvenate” the nation.

 The Telegraph, United Kingdom

What makes you a fascist today, in America, is that you support our democracy only when that democracy gives you what you want. Once there is any danger that it no longer will, you turn to fascism. You don’t call it fascism, of course. No, in true Orwellian fashion, you ascribe to your opponents the fascist qualities you, yourself, exhibit.

You would destroy America in order to preserve it.

If you’re not sure whether you are one, read this list of “unifying principles.”

  • Hatred of democracy. Power should be held by those strong and clever enough to seize it, preferably a dictator.
  • The necessity of violence. Force is a legitimate way to achieve power and war is good because it binds us together.
  • Biology as destiny. Men are born to work, women to have lots of babies. Europeans are inherently superior thanks to a mix of breeding and education.
  • National identity. People are better off sticking to their own, and competition between nations is inevitable and even a constructive force in history.
  • Politics is everything. There is no aspect of society that is separable from political theory and action, a view that climaxed in totalitarianism, as depicted in George Orwell’s novel 1984.

 The Telegraph, United Kingdom

If you exhibit any of these qualities, you may be a fascist, or on your way to becoming one. Please, for the sake of yourself, your family, and our nation, call the Fascists Anonymous Hotline and seek help.

Test of audio recordings

Testing these audio files for So Long John Wayne:

Light Peruvian accent

  • Chapter 1 – part 1

  • Prologue

American accent

  • Prologue

Terrible Boston accent (for Carol)

  • Prologue

Softer Boston accent like I imagine Danny from Lunenburg would read it

  • Prologue

KTM 690 Enduro Maiden Voyage

 

I heat-cycled my new 2017 KTM a couple of weeks ago on the ride home from the dealer. Today I took it for its maiden voyage on the trails.

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I’m 63 and have about 350,000 miles under my belt on cruisers, touring bikes, and sport bikes.

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I have ridden dirt bikes, too, but I never put in the time to get better than barely competent. The Call of the Asphalt, so to speak.

For those of you who weren’t paying attention in English class, that’s a Jack London reference. Buy the book:

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Although I rely on technique while on the asphalt, I’ve always ridden dirt bikes by instinct. In other words, I don’t know what I’m doing. On top of that, I tend to freak myself out over stupid things. Like mud. And sand. And boulders. Cliffs, too, if they get too close. Riding the twisties fast on a Ducati is a form of meditation. So is cruising Route 50 across Nevada on a Harley. But dirt scares me.

I’m trying to remedy that with the KTM. Partly out of respect for the bike, partly because I’m at that age when I need to rely on technique. So today I focused on weighting the outside peg while turning.

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The terrain wasn’t always cooperative, but I got in a little practice, and it’s starting to feel less awkward.

Mudholes, which I couldn’t get a picture of because I was too busy staying upright, scare the heck out of me.  Especially when they have huge truck tire tracks running through them. Not only does the mud take turns grabbing and letting go of your tire, but the tracks make you pay when you cross them. I rode through a couple of sections that were each about 100 yards long, and somehow emerged in one piece. I hate mud!

A great deal of credit goes to the KTM. I’m not qualified to do a review of this bike, but here’s what I noticed on today’s compared to other cheaper dirt bikes I’ve owned:

  • More stable through the sand, gravel, and mud
  • Wider (much wider) power band, so no need to force a shift at the wrong time.
  • Nimble for a 690.

I rode it mostly on jeep trails, with a little single track.

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The higher I got, the icier the water holes got. This one finally convinced me to turn around.

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Heart Attack Hill brought back memories. I used to race my daughter Beth to the top and do grenades until we couldn’t breathe. First one to collapse lost. It was at the midpoint of one of our conditioning runs. After that sprint, the rest of the run felt like a cakewalk. Whatever a cakewalk is. This is the lower part of the hill:

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It’s much easier on the KTM.

Great views from the trail. If you look closely (sorry for the bad picture quality, took it with an older iPhone), you can see the Denver skyline.

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Be like Butch

I am trying to understand the reasoning of a man who is willing to let our children get their heads blown off in school so he can own an assault rifle.

It’s difficult for me because I have been exposed to a different example. My DI’s in the Air Force, for instance. My friends and relatives who served in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The members of my family who are still on active duty. My daughter, who is about to be deployed. Her husband who works 14-hour days training pilots for the USAF. And Butch Desens.

We bought our current house from Butch, back in 2008.  88 years old at the time, Butch was tall and stood ram-rod straight. He was lucid, gentle, kind, and attentive to his wife, Marilyn. You’d never know he flew P-47’s in WWII. The first time he got shot down over Germany, he was captured and locked up in a prisoner of war camp. He escaped, made his way to his side of the lines, and promptly climbed aboard another P-47. The second time he got shot down, he was captured and locked up again. Once more he escaped. And again he made his way back across the lines and climbed aboard yet another P-47. The third time he got shot down, he was imprisoned, but did not escape. His camp was deserted by the Nazi guards shortly before the Russian Army reached them. That time, he almost starved to death walking back to the Allied lines.

Butch and pilots like him climbed back into their P-47’s because they cared about the people back home. They cared about their own families and the families of their neighbors. About the families across town. The families in the next town over.

When I read about men who believe that it’s acceptable to subject our children to 290 school shootings since 2013 on principle, for whatever the reason, I don’t understand. Not in light of the example set by Butch Desens.

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I’m sure those men believe that by owning an AR-15 they are exercising their right to defend themselves and their families under the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution. That they are resisting the tendency of even the best-intentioned governments to intrude into the lives of their citizens. Some even believe that subjecting our citizens and our children to mass shootings, whether at school or a concert, is the price of freedom.

Do we really need an AR-15 to protect ourselves? Perhaps we do, perhaps we don’t. I’m sure that, whichever side we are on, we can marshall arguments and statistics to prove we are right.

But it’s not about who’s right. Not to me. To me, it boils down to the kind of man I want to be. Do I want to be like Butch Desens, who put himself at risk to protect the lives of children, or do I want to be the kind of man who lays the risk on our children so he can protect himself?

Me, I’ll stand on Butch’s side of the line, and give up my right to own an AR-15 or any kind of assault rifle if it decreases the chance that our children will get shot up in school. And I’ll ask my friends to take their assault rifles and ammo to the Sheriff’s office. To follow the example of these men.

You might argue that there is no statistical proof that by turning in their AR-15 law-abiding gun owners will help reduce mass shootings in schools. Of course there isn’t any proof: we haven’t tried it, yet. Butch didn’t have proof that the Allies would defeat the Nazis before he dedicated himself to the effort. But he was willing to try. If you don’t understand why he would do that, perhaps you should meditate on these lines of John Donne. Guys like Butch knew them by heart.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

 

Brr-Dam

OldColoradoCityIt was 16° F (-9° Celsius) when I left Perry Park at 7:45 this morning on my way to the Pikes Peak BMW Club meeting at Mother Muff’s Kitchen in Old Colorado City.

The Gear

Base layer for my torso was a thermal turtleneck from waaaaaaay back in the day.  The thing is warm, itchy, and indestructible.  Next was a thin cashmere V-neck sweater.  Cashmere is warm, soft, and can be had cheap at Jos A. Bank.  The combo is surprisingly warm, but leave the pipe and David Niven accent at home.

Over the top of the sweater I zipped up another old favorite, a fleece jacket from The North Face.  Finally, my trusty Klim.

I covered by bum and netheregions in the quick-dry UnderArmor motorcycle shorts, which are, oddly enough, cozy warm.  Then a pair of Hot Chilis.  Then a pair of casual BMW riding pants with the rain liner in.  Thermal socks.  Aerostich Combat Touring boots.

Under my Arai helmet but over my Klim jacket I worse a fleece balaclava, and just about pulled my back out making sure there were no leaks around the collar.  I put on an ancient pair of Dainese winter gloves, and turned the heated grips on my R1200RS to High.

Once you get all that gear on, the only cold weather hassle left is dealing with the fogging lens on your helmet.  Easy enough to manage, though: keep helmet open until you pick up some speed, and open it each time you slow down.  The RS has the stock shield, which directs plenty of air at my helmet, so that approach worked well for me.  Dealing with fogging would be more of a hassle on a bike with a full fairing.

The Ice Cream Headache

It was a sunny morning, but the Front Range was completely frosted over.  I didn’t take a picture, but this one is pretty close to what it looked like the entire route from Larkspur to Old Colorado City.

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http://sergiophoto.photoshelter.com

It took about 5 minutes for the ice cream headache to show up.  It wasn’t the worst I’ve had, but I did have to concentrate to get past it.  My setup had no air leaks anywhere, and the heated grips kept one side of my hands warm.  The topside did get a bit chilly, but never numb.  The tips of my thumbs went numb, and my feet felt about as chilly as the top of my hands.

The only other rider I saw was a guy in jeans and a hoodie riding his 600 home along I-25.  I wonder what the story was behind that early morning ride.

Mother Muff’s Kitchen

I felt immediately comfortable with the crowd from Pike’s Peak BMW club.  Craig, Lee, and Bex were kind enough to invite me to sit with them.  It’s always nice when the locals are friendly to the new guy.  Made me glad I rode up there.

Mother Muffs is the red storefront at the upper right:

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By the time I left, temps had warmed up to the low 40’s, so I stowed my gear, slipped on my flip-flips and Hawaiian shirt, and rode home singing Gypsies in the Palace.  The temps in Larkspur were only 36°F by the time I got home (around noon), but it still felt downright tropical compared to the first part of the ride.

Old Colorado City somehow manages to hang on to its low-rent charm at the foot of Pikes Peak.  I always enjoy riding down there.

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Father Bartolome

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And, as so often happens in Catholic school and horror movies, a figure materialized on the teacher’s platform. No one saw or heard him walk in. A little unsettled, one by one we, the students, we turned in our seats to face the apparition. He was a towering man in a dull black cassock and crisp white priests’ collar. His giant hands clasped a bedraggled Bible against the front of his body. He was completely bald. He was ancient, and his old cassock hung thinly over his broad, bony shoulders, the sleeves not long enough to cover his arms or hide his powerful hands. Though two  meters of height, he stood straight as a redwood. A priest that tall had to be North American, I thought, but his leathery skin was more olive than pink, and his features were almost indian, his eyes almost black.

He studied us with great concern, and remained silent until the last student had turned around.

“I am Father Bartolome,” he said in a voice that crumbled like old wood. “I am here to teach you social justice.”

This passage was inspired by a real priest who taught one of our classes at Colegio Santa Maria. I’ve since forgotten his name, but he challenged us. O did he challenge us! Relentlessly. He didn’t use the term, but he was challenging what today is referred to as our privilege. We were as reluctant to accept that label back then as we are today.

I chose Father Bartolome as his namesake because the real Father Bartolome de las Casas fought, unsuccessfully, for an end to the slavery and oppression of indigenous peoples in the Americas. Plus, he was a soldier before he was a priest, which I really dig.

The except is from Chapter 33, “Burguese’s Lower Lip,” in So Long John Wayne, (previously known as Tocayos), available from Amazon in Kindle edition or paperback.

Springer in the Moonlight

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The ride home from Palmer Lake normally takes 20 minutes, but at night I slow down so I can dodge the deer who like to play Spook The Biker along that stretch of 105.  That’s a perfect road for a Softail, and at 45 mph the ride lasts even longer.  The moon was out tonight, lighting up the edges of the clouds.  I’m scared of the dark.  Less so outside than inside.  But when the moon is out I am comforted by something that feels like the mother energy of goddesses.

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Photo courtesy of http://1000awesomethings.com/2010/04/14/527-the-night-before-a-really-big-day/

I’ve ridden Route 50 across Utah and Nevada a few times.  It’s always best on an FX Softail such as a Deuce, Night Train, Standard, Custom, or Springer.  I wish Harley would go back to designing elemental motorcycles like the FX Softails instead of putting all its energy into making its baggers more and more like cars.

I’ve traded my FX Softails for baggers so often I’ve come close to despair.  I always go back.  I love riding the FX Softails so much I want to ride them more.  So I trade them for baggers, which let you ride farther and longer.  But baggers are different.  Even the Road King, a Bagger Lite, is different.  The difference is subtle, but it’s important to me.

I’ve got an 05 Springer, now.  Instead of forcing it to do 600-700 mile days, I’m going to try something new.  I’m going to imagine being satisfied with 300 or even 200 miles days.  Ride the two lanes, not the highways.  Ride nice and slow.  And stop when I want to.

I’d like to ride the Springer under moonlight across Nevada’s Route 50 with that attitude.  Bucket list for sure.

GiG

Photo Blog: Following Missus Fender Bunny Up Mt Bierstadt

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It’s known as Colorado’s easiest 14er, but it’s still a 7-mile round-trip with a climb from about 11,400 to 14,000.  You actually have to descend a couple hundred feet before climbing back up, but who’s counting.  If you really care, see the map here:

Map of Mt Bierstadt

Three months ago Missus Fender Bunny, in her early 50’s, was released from an 11-day stay at the hospital weighing 98 lbs and unable to climb a set of stairs.  Since then she’s been doing about 30 minutes of weight lifting three times a week plus some calisthenics now and then.  Not what you’d call rigorous preparation for high-altitude trekking.

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Here she is on the part of the trail that descends from the road to the marshes.  Mt Bierstadt is the round mound on the top right of the picture.  The map said it was 3.5 miles away, but it felt a lot longer.  I googled “altitude factor” to see if there was a way to multiply mileage by elevation and ruggedness of terrain, and found this:

Altitude multiplier

It reads more like a gut-level multiplier than anything scientific, but made me feel better.

The lower part of the hike is a pleasant stroll through marshlands.

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After what feels like a mile but is probably less, you cross this stream …

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… and begin the ascent.  While climbing we met some really nice locals.

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We met a ship’s captain from Virginia who was recovering from open heart surgery.  He’d prepared quite a bit at sea level, and was having a blast hiking up the mountain with his son.  One couple kept me in stitches.  The guy was from Japan and full of exuberance, his companion was an American woman with a wicked sense of humor.  I heard the term “Coloradans” for the first time, but I assured her it was not a widespread trait.  We met more than one couple on their first date, which left Missus Fender Bunny in shock:

Are you kidding me???

One couple was hiking up with their 5 month old baby!

When’d you bag your first 14er, George?

The dogs were cool.  Lots and lots of dogs, but hikers were great about picking up after them.

The vistas from the other side of the river were cool.  Here’s a view across the marshes and the road:

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Missus Fender Bunny and I stopped for breakfast at a midway point that felt like it was another mile up the road, so it was probably just another 1/2 mile up the road.

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We stopped for secondsies a little higher up the trail.  And 11sies beyond that.

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After a long zig-zag up the shoulder, you reach a large field of tundra scratching out such a meager living between the rocks that it would have made the Koch Brothers weep with joy.

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This part of the hike feels kinda long since it keeps going and going.  Suddenly, you get to the ridge line and can look over the other side.

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At that point, if you have any sense of self-preservation, you take a Left and hike along the ridge line to the foot of the summit, where you are met with a wall of rock:

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This is one of the spots where your imagination takes over with vivid images of broken ankles, arms fractured backward at the elbow a la Steven Segal, and other reasons to turn back.  Which Missus Fender Bunny considered doing for a moment or two:

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But she’s a tough broad, and in spite of feeling a little queazy about scrambling up the bone-breaking, spine-shattering, skull-crushing rocks, she made it the rest of the way.

The summit is loads of fun because it’s full of friendly, happy people:

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We agreed to take photos of the couples up there only if they promised to flex.  They insisted on returning the favor:

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The hike down in the afternoon was spectacular, too:

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Given our level of conditioning, if we hadn’t stopped to take pictures or stop for meals or to chat with all the friendly people on the trail, we probably would have hated the climb, LOL.  It took us about four hours to get to the top, and about 3 to get back down.  Anyone who hikes regularly at altitude could cut down that time by quite a bit.  If they wanted to.  But why hurry?

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It was a real treat, and Missus Fender Bunny is already planning our 2nd 14er!

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GiG