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.

TheDogs

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Best bike for that 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. Sometimes it took a few days of that.

 

 

 

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.

Oh, my love
My darling
I’ve hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time

And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?

I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me

Lonely rivers flow to the sea, to the sea
To the open arms of the sea
Yes, lonely rivers sigh, “Wait for me, wait for me
I’ll be coming home, wait for me”

The lyrics alone are pretty, but 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.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon.
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou her maid art far more fair than she.

See how she leans her cheek upon her hand
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!

William Shakespeare

Louis L’Amour’s America

Louis-LAmour

I’ve been scratching my head an awful lot, wondering where the men who today call themselves real Americans got 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, in President Trump and his followers: a charade of American culture. A parody of American values. A complete and utter farce of what made America great.

We cannot let them rewrite American history.

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

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, feels softer than a baby’s butt, 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.

FrontRange

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:

MotherMuffs

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.

OMR

Father Bartolome

oldman

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.

Against the Wind

LL-Rock_md

There I was.

Somewhere in the Southwest.

Riding into a 30 mph headwind.

Again.

My teeth grit.  The ligaments on my neck popping.  My arms gripping the bars with the desperation of a monkey losing a tug of war for a clump of bananas.  Between the wind, the engine vibration, the lumpy road, and the semis passing me, my brain was turning to mush.

Little did I know the damned wind would push and shove me the whole way to Cortez.  And then to Tropic.  And Zion.  And Death Valley.  I would get a brief tail wind on 395, and then it would be all headwinds again all the way to Los Gatos.  I wouldn’t have minded, except that I didn’t have a windshield.

MightyKIt’s not that I’m opposed to windshields on principle.  It’s that they suck.  There have been exceptions.  Like the Mighty K.  A 2004 BMW K1200RS.  My summer fling while living in New England.  I’d dropped into a BMW dealership to keep a friend company, and I was smitten.  The faster that thing went, the better the wind flowed around me.  The Mighty K would have been ideal for the West.

Since I violate the Harley uniform guidelines by wearing earplugs and a big old Arai 3/4 helmet, Harley fairings and windshields rattle my eyeballs.  On account of that acoustic effect that occurs when the kids open the window in the back seat.

You ‘re too sensitive

Tyler Durden muttered in my ear before asking the Service Manager at San Jose Harley if he had any rope.

We’d stopped there to install a new set of tires since I’d worn my old ones down to the nubs.  It took a couple of hours on account of the rear wheel on the Softail Custom is a bear to get on and off.  The first time I changed my own I threw a lot of tools around the garage before I managed to fit that 200 mm tire in between the brake caliper and everything else that’s in the way.  Ever since, I’ve allowed the dealer to enjoy that particular pleasure.

While I was waiting, I wandered into the showroom, which is why the dealerships locate it  next to the Service Department.  A dozen shiny new touring Harleys, developed as part of Project Rushmore (a nod to the rebirth of the Indian Motorcycle Company), were lined up beside each other, sparkling.  Harley claims that Project Rushmore improved the notoriously bad airflow around the new touring bikes, among other things.RoadToad

Baggers are for for babies

Tyler would know.  That’s my 2004 Road Toad.  My first attempt at improving wind and comfort on long rides.   The fairing was as big as it looks in the picture. Maybe bigger.

The salesman ignored Tyler and pointed out the appeal of the Street Glide.  It’s a bonafide touring bike, he explained, but it’s still cool, like a 1969 Lincoln with suicide doors.

Tyler tied a knot into the rope the service manager had requisitioned for him.  While he did that, I thought about telling the salesman that when I want breakfast, I pound my fists against my chest and my woman brings me breakfast.  But the truth is, I’m the one who makes the coffee in the morning, both with cream, hers without sugar.  I gently wake her with the aroma.  Then we sit on the bed and talk about our feelings.

“Why don’t you take it for a test ride?”  The salesman asked, handing me the keys.

All salesmen must die

“Oh, I couldn’t,” I said sheepishly, ” I still have to ride my bike back to Colorado.”

2014-harley-davidson-electra-glide-ultra-classic-explicit-pictures-photo-gallery_2“It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve shipped a bike back home,” the salesman said as Tyler yanked on the kickstand of the first touring bike.

It toppled onto the silver one next to it, but the second bike was so massive it managed to hold up the first one.

Undaunted, Tyler walked to the other side of the lineup, lifted the Red Sunglo and Vivid Black Ultra Glide Limited off its sidestand, and pushed it over.  This time it worked.  Like a stack of dominoes, one 900 lb Project Rushmore behemoth after another toppled onto the one beside it until they hit the first two, which almost, almost managed to hold up the pile, but in the end gave in and toppled over with a loud crash.

Now you have room to get some real motorcycles in your store

Tyler handed the keys back to the salesman, who accepted them, standing there, as stunned as the sales manager who had just run out of his office.

That day’s distance from Springdale, Utah to Stovepipe Wells, in Death Valley, was 433 miles.  Elapsed time was 8 hours, including a one hour detour into North Las Vegas to get my expense receipts scanned, on account of Tyler made me blow that off before heading out.

The picture of the Harley Davidson Ultra Limited is courtesy of www.autoevolution.com.

GiG