Simple Pleasures on and off the Bike

Simple Pleasures on and off the Bike

All week long I was itching to write something for the blog but I couldn’t think of anything significant. I’d ridden the bike four days this week up to Dalton where I work, a 100 mile round trip, and there had been no disasters or even near misses. No mystical encounters with folks, no flashes of insight or wisdom. Just the usual slippery tar snakes (tar patches on the road) to watch out for and the scattered road gators (strips off tire that have come of the wheels of trucks) randomly lurking across the lanes.

Comfortable, fun rides all week. Reminiscent of what Garri Garripoli had written: “There is something about being on a bike alone, cruising down the road in the silence of a loud engine and pounding wind. In these moments, everything can seem perfect”.   

If I can get away early enough in the morning I’ll usually stop at a fast food place and treat myself to breakfast. Fast food places usually get bad raps; some are well deserved but I’m not going to talk about those ones. There’s enough written about them. My two favorite places are Krystal and Hardees, even though they’re examples of these chain restaurants that span the globe, impersonal and imperialistic.

I had a teacher once who talked about gemeinschaft and gesellschaft, two words  the fancy Germans sociologists had for describing societies. Gesellschaft were the societies based on business and growth and formal, impersonal relations. We know these kinds. They’re echoed every day in the universal, obligatory fast food banter: “Welcome to ….Would you like to try our new bacon doughnuts?” Gemeinschaft societies were the ones that were informal, friendly, where relationships and customs were still important. Amazingly, these societies spring up in the most unlikely places like Krystal and Hardees and probably other places you’re thinking about.

Usually when you come into these restaurants in the morning and sit down you’ll find there is a group of people, usually older and retired, sitting in one area. The Germans have a word for this too (They have a word for everything!). It’s called a stammtisch and it’s an informally reserved area where a small gathering of people meet regularly to talk, joke, share their woes and maintain friendships. Usually the group has been coming there for a while and many of the restaurant staff have gotten to know them very well. The klatch (Those Germans! You’ve got to love them!) begins to form a small informal community, a gemeinschaft inside of a geselschaft, if you will. I stopped at the Hardees in Adairsville the other day. Since I’m both a writer and a rider I like to be friendly and sit near these groups. Surprisingly, I even overhear some of the conversations.

“Who y’all got cooking the biscuits today?”

“Mary, why?”

“She a new person?”

“Yep, her first time.”

“They’re falling apart.’

“You want me to get you another one?”

“No, this one’s fine.”

“I’ll talk to her about them.”

“They’s too doughy.”

 

“Well, look what the cat dragged in! Robert is here everybody.”

Robert smiles. (All over the world all you have to do is say a person’s name excitedly and they will smile.)

Some folks bring in their own coffee cups. One woman sipped from a white china mug with flowers on it. A man brought in a plastic container with cut up fruit and passed it around. There was talk about who wasn’t there and whether they were all right. One man shared that his tomatoes had wilted because of all the rain.

At a Krystal in Rome there was similar banter. It’s a smaller place and so the space is shared with non-regulars who get pulled into the conversation. Whites, Latinos, African Americans all relate easily and freely, as it should be. A skinny elderly man spots a small, beautiful Latino child running back to her table. She’d forgotten her orange juice. He says: “You better get that there juice. I was gonna go over there and drink it!” She laughs and runs away, with the drink.

There’s talk of the Braves and the Falcons, hip operations, and gastric disorders. But underneath the jokes, the telling of exploits of children and grandchildren is an undercurrent of warmth, of a feeling that you matter, that someone was glad you showed up. One staff carried a tray to the trash can for a man who walked with a cane. When I was leaving I said to one of the staff: “Thank you ma’am”. She replied: “You be good now.” I smiled at her. She smiled back and said: “Okay, you don’t have to be good, just don’t get caught.”

          On the road a few months ago I remember saying to my buddy Jeff Stafford that I thought our job everyday was to show loving-kindness to everyone we meet. I remember his reply:

“Where’d you get that crap from?”

I was about to explain when I realized he was just joking with me. He knew. He has a heart of gold.

         But sometimes we’re so busy racing to or away from the big things that we forget about doing the simple acts of kindness, and experiencing the brief moments of happiness, in the only real place we live, the here and now. Simple pleasures on and off the bike.

A Different Kind of Ride: a Ride for Survivors of Sexual Assault.

Big Red at the house on Lake Weiss

Big Red at the house on Lake Weiss

A Different Kind of Ride: a Ride for Survivors of Sexual Assault.

You’ve read my posts about various unusual rides I’ve been on. This one was more important because it wasn’t about me. It was about survivors of sexual assault and the folks who are helping them at the Northwest Georgia Sexual Assault Center.

Oftentimes bikers can get a bad reputation. Sometimes, it’s deserved, but most often it’s not. It’s usually the remnant of stereotyping in the movies and TV.

One amazing, relatively unknown thing that many bikers do is to raise money for various charities. Here’s how it’s done. A charity is picked or requests help. The event is planned and the route is chosen. Riders will pay a registration fee or make a donation. The group will ride in staggered formation for over an hour, usually with police escort, to some location where they will have drinks, maybe something to eat, sometimes a tee shirt. Often these too are donated, so that most of the money goes straight to the charity. I scanned online to look at the upcoming events list just in Georgia. Throughout the state there are at least two rides each weekend for the near future. The list of benefiting charities was varied: special needs children, juvenile diabetes, community free meals program, wounded veterans, Alzheimers, and ones to help pay for medical operations of loved ones.

Our ride began at the Kmart parking lot. About 40 riders on various bikes: Kawasaki, Harley, Victory and one Boss Hoss sporting a Corvette V8 engine! KSU (Kick stands up-not Kennesaw State University, or Kansas State or) was a little after 11 am. We had a police escort and roads blocked and sailed through the town out towards Summerville and then over to Lake Weiss in Alabama.

It was a bright beautiful ride through lush forests of pines, oaks, mimosa and sugar maples and past fields of corn, and cotton. There were driftwood colored barns with rusting red tin roofs, clothes blowing on the line at yard sales and a man cutting the grass in circles around a Jesus Saves sign.

The set up at Lake Weiss was generous and hospitable: Drinks, burgers, hotdogs and the fixings while the talented Aviva and the Flying Penguins band belted out Honky Tonk Women.

Gunmetal grey clouds signaled a storm to the North but we had blue skies above us and lake water lapping at the shore.

Other non bikers arrived and introductions were made, bikes and trips discussed. A speaker talked briefly about the Sexual assault Center and its work. Checking their website later and looking at things men could do to help one stood out: “Mentor and teach boys about how to be men in ways that don’t involve degrading or abusing girls and women. Teach boys to respect and value women as equals. Lead by example.” Amen. It was a great ride for a good cause.

Yes, I am an Airhead and a Fathead and Here’s Why!

In my last blog post I mentioned that I was an Airhead and a Fathead and asked readers to comment. Unfortunately, I can’t repeat most of the comments that I received. But it is time to clear the air. I am both!

Why am I an Airhead?

Beyond the obvious reasons, which were presented abundantly in private posts, I am an Airhead simply because I ride a vintage BMW. For the record an Airhead is a BMW motorcycle which was built from 1923 until 1995. They have two cylinders sticking out of the motorcycle which are cooled by the passing air.

Here’s what they look like, one on each side. bmw engine

So since my BMW bike is a 1973 and sports these beautiful cylinders. I am indeed an Airhead.

And a Fathead?

Harley Davidson legend and lore has enjoyed giving nicknames to the various engines they have created over the years. There was the Flathead (1930-48), the Knucklehead (1936-47), the Panhead (1948-65), Shovelhead (1966-84), the Evolution (1984-88) (I call it the Orwellhead) and finally, the latest, the Fathead (1999-to present).

Over these years the engines went from 1000 cc to engines now that are 1800 cc’s. But why are the recent ones called Fatheads?

It’s because of the introduction of twin cams on the engine. The previous engines were single cams. Two cams equals bigger heads, and in this case culminates in the Harley moniker “Fathead”.

Here’s what a twin cam Harley engine looks like:

Harleytwincam

The poet Keats was correct when he stated: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” I’m sure he wasn’t thinking of the twin cam engine; but it is beautiful.

So, I am both an Airhead and a Fathead and I don’t think that anyone who knows me would disagree with this assessment.

I rode the Fathead (Big Red) down Friday to visit my buddy Jeff Stafford in Acworth for a New Orleans meal at Henri’s. The Fathead engine cruised along, easily eating up the 100 miles like it was smooth gumbo.

Tonight, I was meeting friends in town to hear some blues music at the Brewhouse. A short ride, a few twists and turns, a hot day, perfect for the Airhead (The Old Knight). And let me reassure you, the fathead had a great time tonight. He sat outside with friends, sipped Yuengling beer, listened to the blues, stared at the sun setting, marveled at the blossoming pink Crepe Mrytles and thanked God he was alive, and for these friends.

Why am I both an Airhead and a Fathead?

I realized the other day, during one of these excruciating moments of self reflection, that I am both an Airhead and a Fathead?

Why did I come to this conclusion? Those that know me might have differing opinions on this and I probably won’t like any of them, so I suggest you post them anonymously! But there is meaning behind this question. This is an opportunity for folks who read this blog to really blast me! I’ll take my chances. Go ahead. Give me your best shot!

But I will let you know my reasoning in a few days!