Tuesday, April 15, 2014

For better or worse...the driveway is full again.

Since I'm under strict orders not to ride it has become very obvious to me that we needed a second car.   It's just became part of living in the modern world.

The lovely Sue has been more than understanding, we have worked around schedules and our secondary income as glorified paper boys to try and make it with one car.   We discussed how it would work with our delivery job.  We have reached a point where the Sonic is just getting to full at any given time.

We would need more space.  We may need to be able to tow something in the near future.  We may need this...or that.  Having just the car and the bike worked for a very long time...but with summer coming (which means more heat and rain) and with my still not knowing when I would be released to ride... and sadly there is a complication I'm not allowed to discuss...it was time to buy a new (to us) car.

We actually bought it last week.  I still have my doubts, but for better or worse...we are a two far family again.  Now where the hell will I park the bike?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Going home...a love letter to Pittsburgh

Plan for the immediate, understand what is coming down the road and prepare for the future.  This will most likely be my last blog entry for the month of April.  Starting on the 17th I'll be traveling back to Pittsburgh, my home town, and I will not be back till the end of the month.

Photo by Renee Duncan-Tabak
I'm looking forward to going home.  It's the city of my birth, where I spent my misplaced youth.  The waters of the three rivers run through my veins deep and thick.  "Yinzers," as Pittsburgh's natives are likely to call them themselves, have a saying..."You can leave the burgh, but the burgh never leaves you."  It has something to do of course with our storied sports teams.  But it's more than that.  The neighborhoods of Pittsburgh are a little microcosm of the American experience.

Bloomfield is "Little Italy."  Polish Hill lives up to it's name.  People party and dance the night away in the South Side, but the natives will tell you that the "slopes" are where you want to live.   Within walking distance of the nightlife, yet offering views of the city like no other.  All the little funky shops and restaurants crammed into to "Strip".  Little cites in a larger city brought about by geology and topography.

Yea, I'm a little homesick.

Lately I've been thinking about family.  About friends.  About those I've loved and lost.  About how the "Capital of Appalachia", a city of over 306 thousand people can maintain a small town feel.  How we invented the Zombie.

Somewhere there is a photo of my family, I'm in my hockey uniform.  It was taken at the Monroeville mall which is also where they shot Dawn of the Dead.  I don't know how many times my dad got up at 4 AM in the morning so I could dream of following my hero's at the time.  He must of known his kid stunk.

I remember catching fireflies out on the lawn on warm endless summer nights, the stars were different then.  More numerous.  More Luminous.  I remember riding my bike, my bicycle, up and down the street for thousands of miles.

I remember soccer games in the backyard.  Hitting golf balls at the neighbors house, and no, I never broke a window.  Drinking my dad's beer in the basement.  

One of my fondest memories was seeing my Dad, drunk on the euphoria of the Penguins first Stanley Cup win.  He had been a fan from the very beginning, and this was a sweet victory for him.  This was Pittsburgh, fans in the street yet no violence...no fires and only a few arrests.  My friends, musicians all, blowing trumpets at the airport to triumph the conquering heroes.  

This was home.  

I am going home for several reasons.  It's been over a year since I touch Pennsylvania soil.  I have a new niece that is celebrating her first birthday, and is my parents first grandchild.  Like my father, who fell in love with the Pens from the very beginning...I fell in love with the Riverhounds.  They have a new stadium that was a long time coming and I feel the need to see a game there, considering that I wrote their match reports for a bit at the turn of the century.  It seems a lifetime ago.  

I've celebrated a birthday, my father celebrated his eighty-second birthday a month before.  My mother is ten years younger and celebrated hers a few days later.  Time is running out.  So why not go home and celebrate my being an uncle?  Why not get a family photo?  Why not create memories?  

Home is where the heart is they say...but it's also where the memories are.  My heart, my soul is in Pittsburgh.  I am going home to connect with old friends.  To re-establish ties and to make sure that the people I love are cared for.  

I am going home.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

The writer in me....

I have to be honest.  I've been down in the proverbial dumps lately.  Life has got in the way again and again and I've not been able to do what I love.  Even eating has been a chore as of late.

Having suffered from depression for years, I was not ready to give into that darkness.  Then, because life is a strange and wonderful thing, two things happened in rapid succession.  The first is that I got a wonderful IM on the Scootdawg forum which really made my day.  The other was a long phone call with a good and old friend about the nature of creativity.  He's a fellow writer (you can buy his wonderful first novel here) and a fellow biker.

First:  I hate you!!! Yes, I hate you! You turned me on to reading your scooting blog, and then I went to the links for more scooting blogs. Having those blogs were not enough, so I went to the links of those blogs, and so forth, until not only do I do scooting reads, I went to any motorized 2 wheeler blogger throughout the world...
I now have a list of 27 bloggers that are currently posting that I read religiously every day. Everything to Princess Scooterpie to Ruckus Scooter Love to Real Men Ride Vespas, and I am constantly looking for more blogs to read...
It has gotten me out of bed many a day, because it's hard to read so many blogs with a small iPhone4S in bed..

A writer's job, at least in my opinion, is to get people to think.  They don't have to agree with you, but at least now they are thinking about the subject in hand differently.  The greatest thing that ever happened to me as a writer was being recognized in a bar during a soccer game - "Hey, I read your articles all the time on A-league.com!  You guys really know what your talking about!"  Sadly that site is now defunct.

Although an article posted on that site got a very long forum discussion going on Big Soccer site.  The title of the thread?  "Rob Wilson is an idiot."  Getting people to think, to question...that is what I want to do.

I like non-fiction writing.  While it's fun to create your own worlds, no matter how fantastic, I prefer the "teaching" aspect of non-fiction.  Many of you may never visit Florida, or Pittsburgh, or wherever I happen to point my bike's wheels.  What I hope to do is provide a little glimpse of my world.

The problem is that I've not had the desire to write that much.

Enter my good friend Brook and a long conversation about the nature of creativity.  Basically at the end of a two hour phone conversation what we had managed to do was to drink a six pack of Shiner Bocks - although he may have had a few more than me judging from that familiar and distinctive tapping sound that a bottle makes hitting a table - and realize that "Writers write and bikers ride."

It would be to easy to write about the other things I care about.  While I may be a "voice of reason" when it comes to politics; the current environment does not call from reason.  Besides...who wants to read something that actually might make sense?

Riding has exposed me to a larger world.  To ideas, people who I might never meet and interesting places I might never have seen.  I still have fond memories of butterfly's on tombstones during one such adventure.  I ride to see...to discover...to experience

These last few months have had me questioning why I want to ride.  Why I blog even.  Thanks to feedback and friendship I know why.   Now it's just a matter of time till the next adventure.  The next story.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"No Shift" Shootout and an update

One of the things that I enjoy doing in marketing.  I like reading about it, seeing trends and how things evolve and change over time.  One of the things that I've been watching is how the motorcycle producers and dealers are dealing with an aging population.  Back in 2007/2008 there was an explosion in scooter sales due to the first spike in gas prices and a depression.  That time has passed yet the motorcycle manufacturers, at least in the US, have seen to be slow to adapt to the changes.

Lets face it, most of us are afraid of standard transmissions.  They are expensive to fix (at least in a car) and it can be intimating to a new rider.  I have to admit that one of the reasons I stayed with scooters instead of getting a traditional motorcycle is because I didn't want the worry of shifting in traffic.  I even drove a standard transmission car for years!

So when motorcycle.com decided to do a "No Shift" Shootout my interest was peaked.  The results I thought were a bit surprising.  I've looked at the Honda NC700X before, and I have to admit that if I were to get off a scooter, this may be the bike that I would buy.  Although from the various reviews I've read, it seems a little "soulless".  Although I wonder if that is a "traditionalist" bitching about the automatic nature of the bike.

However I think that for the time being I am a "scooter guy".  I have no desire to get rid of my Kimmie and, now that she is fully healed and repaired, no reason to.  Although for now I think I'm just going to remain a commuter once I am free to ride.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Thanks to Scootin Old Skool
Spring, the story goes, is when a young man's fancy turns to love.  It is a quote as old as time itself...and for someone who is a stone cold geek...very true.  I mean...seriously do you know how many old Pagan Fertility symbols appear this time of year?  But I regress.

It is also a time of hope, rebirth, and resurrection.  Kimmie is repaired and, at the risk of sounding quite mad, she has been calling me from her spot on the driveway.  Whispering in my ear like the petulant woman she is.  "Not yet, I'm still not healed.  The doctors still need to release me." I mumble to her.  "Soon.  Very soon."

I have to admit, I've debated riding again.  I've thought long and hard and questioned everything.  I'm still not 100 percent positive that I wish to ride again.  Then I think about the joy it's brought me.  Things like the Equinox to Equinox rally where I challenged myself to finish well (and I did).  To the idea of just wandering off the map. I recently read the story of Agloe, NY on the web and now I'm curious. It seems that this town did not exist in real life but only on the paper maps of old as a way to catch counterfeiters.  Then growing up like a weed on the dusty back roads, a general store for the non existent town was built.  Then it disappeared again.  Lost in the mists of time.    I read the story and wondered..."Do the remains of that old General Store still exsist?  Empty and full of ghosts of townspeople that never really were?"  

"What stories where there in Florida?"  

There is much that I want to see here.  I've been to the mermaids in Weeki Wachee and to the last refuge of Puns at Solomon's castle.  I've watched the Manatee's.  Where are the interesting stories?  The odd, the unusual?  The Weird?  The old Florida?

Where do the local's eat?  Where is that little winery tucked away in the distance.  That cold wonderful milkshake?  That is way I enjoy riding.  That is what I'm interested in...what I want to see!  Find me that hidden gem, that diamond in the rough!

Sure, jumping in the car and going there is all well and good...but not as visceral.  I get it now, and I dare not even try to explain it.

Once the doctors release me, I shall climb upon Kimmy once again.  I will point her wheel in a direction and we will go.  I've been wanting to go on a "long ride" for some time.  Which I'm defining as any 1 day ride of at least 200 miles.

I'm ready....I'm willing.  I just fear that I may not be capable of such a feat.  Not yet, anyway.  Still, it's a challenge, and I don't back down easily from challenges.  I may have taken up riding for a variety of reasons, and maybe the lovely Susan is right and it was a mid-life crisis.   But the truth is this.  I don't think I could stop now...and if I did.  I would miss it.

Spring is a time of renewal after all.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Jacksonville, Fl, bike week and Susie's Side Door Cafe

This past week I've spent in Jacksonville, FL.  The company I work for put me up for a week in a Candlewood Suites motel, rented me a car and offered me a nice per diam.  I was up there to do some additional training and generally help bring on of our satellite office up to snuff.  I've spent a few days in St Augustine before but never Jacksonville, so I was looking forward to getting away some.

Well I certainly enjoy business travel, I had a job a few years ago that sent me away for weeks at a time, I always feel like I'm in a old Steve Martin movie when I go out to eat.

I've wanted to take a ride to the East Coast of Florida for some time, but with the company buying the gas and with me still not being released to ride, the rental option was the best option.  The route On Star picked for me to Jacksonville was boring...there is a whole lot of nothing on route 301.  Good to know if I ever head that way again.

In the past when I've gone on business trips; I've been able to get away for a few hours at night and explore the area around me.  I might have a beer at the local watering hole or just drive around.  I also knew that roughly an hour down the road from me was Daytona's (in)famous Bike Week and it be damn silly for me to let that chance pass me by.

So one night after work I decided to jump in the rental and head on down the road a bit to see what I could see.  I felt really out of place...for a couple of reasons.  One, I was in a bright yellow Hawaiian shirt.  Two, I was not on a bike.  I'm a scooterist gosh darn it...and I didn't even have that.  Three, no leather on me at all.  Four, no tats man.  Nope, not a one.

So here I am at one of the Dealerships - J and P - astonished and amazed at the variety and color and shear freaking number of motorcycles about.  I'm wondering about, mouth agape, along classic Harley's, more than a few BMW's.  One or two Indian's...even a cafe racer Royal Enfield!  Is that a Vincent!  My God it is!

Sadly since I was there to work and was not really expecting to go to bike week, it never occurred to me to bring a camera.  Nor did I ever think to pull out my phone and point and shoot with it.  As the French say:  "La Sigh!"

I have a beer and then two, talking to a nice Belgium couple from New England about everything but bikes and then head back to the hotel about an hour away.  Well, at least I can say I attended something at bike week.  It was also nice to see so many bikers actually wearing helmets as well.

Coming back home was uneventful.  Just in time in fact for the annual community wide Garage sale.  For the second year in a row we will be serving hot dogs and other light meal time things.  Last year we made over $200 bucks.  Today we spent most of the day doing set up and buying the good food that we need to make it a success.  We actually started preparing about two weeks ago.

I bring this up only because for the last few weekends the desire to ride really has not been there - not that I could anyway.  Now, after a long beautiful mostly free weekend and seeing Daytona...my desire to ride has been reborn.  I'm still not free to ride, as the doctors want my ankle to strengthen....but the desire to ride is starting to stir again, and that is not a bad thing.

So lets see what happens next...but first lets get the one day only "Susie's Side Door Cafe" going and off the ground.  After that...we will see what happens.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Running from the bulls

On Saturday, in a city that is nothing like the fabled streets of Pamplona the bulls ran, chasing young men and woman out for a thrill though streets and over barricades.  I only wish that I could have been one of them, but with a bum leg and ankle and about 15 pounds of extra flesh...I would be but easy pickings for a bull.

Still though one wonders what goes through the mind as you stand there, and around the corner turns a 700 plus pound animal and you realize that you are in it's way...and that it has no reason to stop.

I could not participate and sadly was fated only to watch, to live vicariously though those that can run from nature.   Oh how I yearned to be a part of this event.  To hear the hooves, to laugh a nervous laughter and to run...run...run down the quarter mile track.  The event would be over shortly after it started, and bragging rights would be established over cold beers.

I'm not sure why I wanted to do this, and if I was not under direct orders not to, I would have done this.  I think of Hemingway and the other writers that have influenced me in ways subtle and not so subtle.  Jack of course, Hunter S Thompson and George Plimpton.  Writers that loved the exploration of life.  I suppose my riding a bike is an extension of that need.

The Great Bull Run and Tomato Royal (a food fight based on La Tomatina) maybe as close as I'll ever get to running with the bulls.  You can see actual video from both events here.  Sadly do to other commitments I could not attend either event...even though I informed everyone that I was going to attend the Bull Run for days in advance.

At one time in my life I would have gone, I would have run with the bulls...injury's and commitments and common sense be damned!  Not anymore.

Still though, I can't help what happened to the immortal I once was.  Who thought nothing of chasing black haired and smokey blue eyed girls though the night, of traveling half way around the world alone to see what was there.  The guy that never thought about having to many cigarettes and cold beers.  There were many short skirts and seductive smiles and late nights in jazz clubs where whiskey and poetry flowed.

I'm not a young man anymore.  I'm not that guy anymore.

The lovely Susan often says that I got a motorcycle because of a mid-life crisis.  Sometimes I think she may be right.  I own my own business, have a home that is paid in full, a car that isn't, Kimmie (which I paid cash for), two cats...two ex wives, a 401K and medical plans....a thyroid pill to take in the morning.  I've done okay for myself...but still...it never is enough is it?

Still though I think about the thousands of miles I have placed on her and I realize that no...it's not a mid-life crisis.  Its me being who I am and I'm not that same young man anymore.

So the bull run went on without me.  I'm still interested in grabbing the bull by the horns.  Of exploring this world and learning what I can from everyone and everything.  Yet...yet, I don't know if I want to ride again.

This past month has been hard on me.  I've grown used to riding in my car back and forth to work.  I can listen to my NPR and not have to examine the weather report like some sacrificial lamb.  Over the past several weeks I've been asking myself "is it worth it?"

Honestly the jury is still out.