A Motorcycle Ride Against Cancer; Because No One Should Journey Alone.

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Yesterday, along with around 60 other bikers, I took part in a motorcycle ride in memory of Darlene Bagley, with all the proceeds going to Cancer Navigators of Rome, Georgia.
Big Red and I had to leave early in the morning to get to Adairsville in time, especially, since it included a stop at Hardees first for a biscuit and coffee. It was only 74 degrees when I left (It would reach 96 later) and patches of mist were still ghost hovering over the Oostanaula River. The farmer’s market at Ridge Ferry was open, walkers were sauntering down the path along the river and folks were already trickling into yard sales. A veil of blue grey mist hung on the hillsides in the trees. A breeze rippled across their tops making it look like the trees were still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes.
After fueling up on coffee and a biscuit I headed to the park in Adairsville and found bikes, cars and police escorts in a lot near a large covered area.
I went in and registered, bought a tee shirt and took stock of the gathering. Men, women, children, a St Bernard and a black kitten meowing in a travel box. Most of the riders were men though I saw at least two women bikers. Folks wore Harley shirts, some sleeveless so you could see their upper arm tattoos. Others wore black and pink Cancer Navigator shirts and other tee shirts. Heads were adorned with Harley and American flag skull caps. A number of men had leather vests stitched with the names of their organizations: Missionaries on Bikes, Cruisers for Christ, Biker’s against Child Abuse and OBK – which I found out later, stood for Outrageous Beardsmen Koalition. I kid you not. Since my biker name is Monk (Long story –not that exciting) I thought about creating a group called Monks on Motorcycles. The logo could be a hooded monk on a Harley Road King and above it M.O. M. Okay, maybe not.
After a brief speech on the amazing supportive work of the non-profit Cancer Navigators, and a few testimonials and a prayer it was almost time for “kickstands up.” I ran into a friend Carol, herself a cancer survivor, who said she would love to go on the ride with someone. I usually ride without a sissy bar and an extra helmet but before leaving that morning “something” told me to put one on the bike, so I did. She hopped on and the big procession began rolling slowly over the speed bumps out of the park. I love these police escorted and intersection-blocked rides. We zoomed down the highways enjoying the thrill of running red lights! We cascaded over the shadowed, narrow back roads and the wind created from our bikes caused the trees to shake in support. Almost looked like they were waving at us. Okay, not the whole tree waving in support, maybe just a few branches. Carol did her fair share of waving to folks who had parked their cars on the sides of the roads as a sign of respect. We did about 85 miles through the foothills and forests of Northwest Georgia, passed farms, ranches, fields, wet bottomlands, lakes and thick forests of pine, oak and maple. Pink flowers from Crape Myrtles, yellow dandelions, blooming Mimosas and purple flowers dotted the countryside. The sky was blue with wispy white clouds. It was beautiful. After about 1 ½ hours of riding we were back, hearts soaring even though many butts were sore-ing. A great ride.
Afterwards there were soft drinks, burgers and hot dogs and the fixings. Camaraderie, hugging, back slapping, jokes and folks telling stories ensued until the auction for donated cakes and baked goods began. (An Italian Crème Cake went for 80 bucks!). Then the raffle began. I watched for a while and then skedaddled with a lot on my mind.
For me this wasn’t just a charity ride. It was a big reminder about some important things.It reminded me about how a small group of people can change things. How a group of professionals gave up large salaries and started a non -profit for the sole purpose of supporting cancer victims and their families, folks usually abandoned to find their own ways after the diagnosis has been given. How one man started a benefit ride for his wife and kept it running every year to raise money. How folks and businesses contributed their cakes and their prizes to help raise even a bit more money for the cause. How families were brought together, families of friends, supporters and bikers. It was more than just a charity ride. All these people felt good about having an opportunity to show their compassion, to be a part of larger cause, to contribute in their own way. It was a beautiful thing!
I rode home overwhelmed by the heat and the gratitude in my heart. I can’t contribute much, but I can ride.

Next Big Ride: “People Shouldn’t Have to Journey Alone”

July 11th – 6th Annual Motorcycle Ride in Memory of Darlene Bagley to benefit Cancer Navigators

Adairsville, Georgia

“People Shouldn’t Have to Journey Alone”

This is the motto of Cancer Navigators of Rome, Georgia, a nonprofit organization funded entirely by donations, which supports cancer patients and their families as they navigate the medical, social, financial and emotional maze that accompanies a diagnosis of cancer. Nurses, social workers and service navigators support cancer patients from the first medical appointment, throughout their treatment and beyond by providing an amazing array of services.

Their service area primarily encompasses Floyd, Chattooga and Polk counties of Northwest Georgia and last year they helped 689 newly diagnosed cancer patients and their loved ones.
Find out more about their services about their informational, supportive, practical and educational services at their website: http://cancernavigatorsga.org/

I’ve been so impressed with them I dedicated one of my Amazon eBooks (Nights at the Round Table – Gene Powers; there’s a link on this blog) to them and all the proceeds from the sale of that book go directly to the organization.

If you live nearby, come ride with me that day. If you don’t, then buy a book to support them, give one as a gift, or make a donation directly to them via information on their website.

Safe riding. And remember: “People Shouldn’t Have to Journey Alone”

Here’s information about the ride:
This will be our 6th annual ride. All money raised will go to Cancer Navigators in Rome, GA. It will be at Manning Mill Park on July 11, 2015. Registration starts at 9:00 and the ride will start at 10:00. $20.00 per bike, $10.00 for passengers and that includes food and drinks. We will be selling t-shirts for $15.00 and we will have hamburgers & hotdogs. Even if you don’t ride please come out and support us!! You can pre-register by e-mail or phone so we will know how many bikes will be attending.
Buddy Bagley – abtransport2003@yahoo.com or (770-313-8190)
Thank you and we hope to see you there. This is for a great cause!

St Columbanus! Irish Patron Saint of Motorcyclists. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

According to the Vatican and the Harley Davidson company who made a medal promoting him, the Patron Saint of Motorcyclists is St. Columbanus of Bobbio. Despite the Italian ‘Bobbio’, this guy was an Irish dude! What a surprise! During the dark ages when the Irish were saving civilization and Christianity he ventured away from Ireland wandering up and down Europe in the sixth and seventh centuries, starting monasteries and spreading the word about Christ.
But who was this man? How do we know he was Irish? Apparently what cinches it is that that we know he lived at home with his mother into his 30’s, he wasn’t married, and he didn’t have a job. Ha ha! (Old Irish joke).
Unusually, he was tall and good looking and the girls chased him (I can relate to that except for the tall bit, and the good looking part and…). He was also a bit of a rogue, as they say. A holy woman put the fear of God in him and he decided to change his ways. When he decided to become a priest his mother tried to block the door physically with her body, but he just stepped over her, signed up and got his traveling orders. He traveled throughout Europe to Germany and Switzerland and ended up living in decadent France for 20 years, establishing three monasteries there before he moved to Italy. He carried his Celtic Christian ideas and practices with him and was always riling up “the Man” (the Popes and Bishops).
He lived in a cave for years, was very pious and is said to have wrestled a bear. But unlike Davy Crockett he didn’t kill it; instead he tamed it and yoked it to a plow.
He is quoted as having said, “Love is not orderly.” You gotta love this guy!
Miracles credited to Columbanus include:
Once after being surrounded by wolves, he simply walked through them
When he needed a cave for his solitary prayers and a bear lived there he asked politely for the bear to skedaddle and he did.
When the Luxeuil Abbey granary ran empty, Columbanus prayed over it and it refilled.
He cured several sick monks and gave sight to a blind man at Orleans
But my favorite is that he multiplied bread and beer for his community. We’re talking about craft, micro-brewed beer here! Bikers love their happy, hoppy beer!
If Columbanus were alive today I imagine him riding a Harley Fat Boy. The Fat Boy is a living legend. Arnold Schwarzenegger rode one in “Terminator 2”. Its got a 1,584cc pushrod V-twin engine, six gears, massive torque and you’ve got to love those shotgun-style tailpipes. It’s nimble, has no saddlebags and is perfect for itinerant monks flying around on those twisty heathen roads in Europe. Combine all this with Christianity and you can’t be beat! Love and a Fat Boy can conquer all!
I like what the Monk Jonas wrote in the seventh century about Columbanus.
A while after, Columbanus went to the monastery of Fontaines and found sixty brethren hoeing the ground and preparing the fields for the future crop. When he saw them breaking up the clods with great labor, he said, “May the Lord prepare for you a feast, my brethren.” Hearing this the attendant said, “Father, believe me, we have only two loaves and a very little beer.” Columbanus answered, “Go and bring those.” The attendant went quickly and brought the two loaves and a little beer. Columbanus, raising his eyes to heaven, said, “Christ Jesus, only hope of the world, do Thou, who from five loaves satisfied five thousand men in the wilderness, multiply these loaves and this drink.” Wonderful faith! All were satisfied and each one drank as much as he wished. The servant carried back twice as much in fragments and twice the amount of drink. And so he knew that faith is more deserving of the divine gifts than despair, which is wont to diminish even what one has.
His Feast day is the 23rd November
May he always help us keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.

Motorcycle Haikus/Poems, Nearly 5000 Views of Our Website with Visitors from 66 Countries. Visit Here and Push us Over 5000!

By way of explanation a Haiku is a 17-syllable verse form consisting of three metrical units (lines) of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. It’s a popular form of short verse and has its origin in Japan. The challenge, of course, is trying to write a meaningful poem with these restrictions on syllables. For some reason, the other day parts of verse started to come to me. So here are three:

1.
Leaning with the bike
Feeling one with everything
Unknown curves ahead

2.
Battered by cold winds
I slalom through twisty roads
Grateful for this journey

3.
Below is an old biker saying I fashioned into a haiku.

Most bike accidents
Involve the nut connecting
Handlebars to seat

Jeff and I have nearly reached our modest goal of 5000 views. Also, in the last 10 months alone our viewers have come from 66 different countries (as opposed to 66 of the same countries!). So that’s great! We hope you have enjoyed our exploits and reflection. We’ll keep riding, reflecting and writing for as long as we can. Thanks for riding with us! Kickstands up.

A Trip to the Mountains of North Georgia –Part One

I had a few days off from work, its autumn and the leaves are changing, so I loaded up Big Red and headed for the north Georgia mountains. As one would.
I’ve mentioned before in this blog that I don’t use GPS. Instead, I jot down route numbers and town names on a yellow sticky note and put it in a magnetic see through bag that clings to my gas tank. What could go wrong? You can guess. No matter how carefully I plan my route I always get lost once or twice. This past May while heading west-north-west, over a two day period I crossed the Mississippi River 5 times. Once would have been enough.
The most exciting getting lost part this time was when I was taking a shortcut and the road, Rock Creek, became narrower and narrower, houses scarcer and scarcer, and the woods darker and darker. I expected Red Riding Hood to show up at any moment. Suddenly, the road turned to dirt, rocks and gravel and began to resemble a boreen, a wee narrow unpaved road in Ireland. It was absolutely beautiful. Go back or go on?
What the hell, I thought. I’d never really tested the Road King, which weighs 731 pounds naked, right out of the shower, on this kind of surface. Big Red said to go ahead.
She handled it gracefully and we ended up doing about 3 miles before the road became paved again as it entered Fannin County (Those showoffs! Thanks, by the way). Somehow I managed to get on the highway I was looking for, GA 60 and the curves and sharp twists made it worthwhile. As I descended into Sucches I passed GA 180, known by some as The Wolf, and considered to be the curviest road in Georgia. That would have to wait for another day. For now it was time to stop at Two Wheels of Sucches for a few days of camping, solitude and time to write.

Day Four: El Reno Oklahoma to Tucumcari New Mexico. Namaste!

Back in Georgia the time is now 8:50 pm Monday, in Ireland it’s 1:50 am Tuesday and here in Tucumcari, New Mexico I’d say it’s about 1950. That’s because the town still holds onto much of the grandeur of the 1930’s and 50’s when Route 66 was the only road in town; almost literally.  Once the interstate was built much of old Route 66 was abandoned. But some old diners and motels persist! Beautiful relics to a time long ago.

Today was a long biking day. Over 400 miles. Right now I’m sitting in the Desert Inn motel drinking a Tecate beer with the air conditioner on and feeling like I’m in somewhat of a stupor. Despite a couple of rounds of factor 50 sunscreen I’m toasted.  I hope I can write more intelligibly later but for now just a brief update.

Jeff took his bike to the Harley shop first thing and they managed to sort the problem out. By 10am we were on the road. Due to our different styles of riding with Jeff being a man with a mission, and me being a bit of a dawdler (“Hey, let’s see what’s down here!) we decided to again meet up somewhere later and ride at our own paces. We kept in touch a few times by texts during the day but otherwise we just met up an hour ago. He took off on Interstate 40 where the speed limit soars to 75mph. His story, which he can tell better than I, is that once we split up his handlebars starting going a bit wonky; too loose. He got to Amarillo, visited another Harley shop then drove on to Tucumcari.

He later admitted that the problem had been his own fault. Last night I had given him a small Route 66 gremlin bell and he had failed to attach it to his bike.  Motorcycle gremlins love to hitch rides on motorcycles. They are mischievous rascals who cause all sorts of mayhem. A minivan cuts in front of you; your battery goes dead, road gators charge after you, or as in some reported cases, your handlebars come loose. Apparently, if you get a bell on your bike (it has to be given to you-you can’t buy it yourself) the gremlins get trapped in the bell, the ringing drives them nuts and they lose their grip and fall onto the road. Jeff has promised me he will put the bell on tomorrow.

I decided to go Route 66 for awhile, back through Bethany and Yukon and El Reno where legal speeds can gust up to 55mph. I managed to take the wrong roads twice (not the same road-two different ones) but I also stopped and took pictures of an old bridge, of the great bar Jeff and I went to last night and then tried to go a bit further on Route 66  but I ended up on a section of pre-1937 route which was built with poured Portland concrete. I began to realize why they don’t drive much of the old-old route anymore: bounce, smooth, bounce, smooth-every 10 yards!

So I went back onto I-40 and settled into the 75 mph mantra. I crossed the rest of Oklahoma, then went across the top of Texas and slithered into New Mexico. I had to stop every hour or so to gas up,  rehydrate and to administer to myself a mental status exam to ensure I could still ride safely. I know there is a population crisis and that we should take this very seriously but really, has anybody been to the top of Texas and ridden across I-40? Miles and miles of deserted land. I know I went more than once about 40 miles without seeing a gas station. Consequently, I almost ran out of gas.

Amarillo was a bit dicey when I came upon a rolled up carpet and small pieces of wood blocking my lane. I braked, down shifted, looked left to change lanes but a car was there, to the right was another car so I somehow managed to slalom the bike and thread my way around the debris. I also dodged a metal bar in the road and avoided attacks by those pesky road gators, bits of tires lying in wait to pounce.

I decided not to take a chance on running out of gas again and so stopped about 20 miles east of Tucumcari. The filling station it turned out was run by Indians-no, not native Americans but real Indians. I stopped at the pump and it said: sold out. So I rolled the bike back to a pump that didn’t have a notice. Engine off, kickstand down, glasses off, helmet off, fingerless gloves off and I start filling. Turns out this one is out of gas too. I roll the bike over to another pump and try again and I get 20 cents worth. I stop and go inside and explain my problem to the Indian cashier. He says that they are out of premium gas. I ask whether I can have $5 of regular gas and give him $10. For some reason the cash register jams and I hear him discussing and arguing in some Indian language with a man standing by. This takes about 5 minutes.  I’m exhausted, frustrated and I’m thinking: I need to show love and compassion for all beings! Finally, the man says “You can do it now”. I ask for my $5 back from the $10 I gave him and he says: “Oh I thought you wanted $10 dollars on pump 5!”

I say: “That’s fine.” and “Namaste” which essentially means: “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you”. I go back to the pump and the tank will only hold $9 worth. “Namaste” and I ride off.

Later I make it to our motel  and the receptionist is another Indian man (not native American) who is delightful, charming and helpful. I kind of mutter but he is patient and suggests places to eat and drink.

And drink I do! I’m on my second can of Tecate right now and ready for bed.

Nameste to you and good night!

Biker Mind in a Cage and Enlightenment in Piggly Wiggly

I was having problems with my Jeep about a month ago and I took it to Mike’s to have it checked out. Mike has a reputation for doing good, honest work and he’s a nice guy.

“I’ve got good news and bad news for you.” I was told.

“What’s the good news?”

“You only need one part replaced.”

“And the bad news?”

“It’s your engine.”

So began the journey of various Jeep engine parts to Rome Georgia, an odyssey which is still going on.

No big deal, I thought.  I’ve got the bike and over the last few weeks, rain or shine, I’ve ridden her faithfully and wetly.

But today was different. I had to run a few errands (“messages” in Ireland) and I needed a car. I’d been asked by a friend to drop off some food for a housebound woman. No big deal for me, I was honored to do it.

My nephew Matt loaned me his and it was a strange experience. First of all I tried to get in on the wrong side of the car because my old reflexes from Ireland kicked in. (The steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car over there because they drive on the wrong side of the road!) I finally managed to get into the car, something we bikers call a “cage”.

Now, how do I operate this thing? Right, take the parking brake off. It’s already off. Again, I have to remember that I’m not in Ireland where they always use it. I crank her up and since it’s an automatic I reverse easily and then head out. First thing I have to do is roll the window down. I have to have the wind on me. There’s a great quote I heard which says that only a motorcycle rider understands why dogs love to stick their heads out of car windows. I mosey up to the main four lane. I’m thinking: There’s a cage turning, probably not paying attention. What about that lady driving talking on her phone? (Illegal in Ireland.)  I don’t try and make eye contact with her to confirm her driving intentions instead I stare at the car’s front wheel to make sure it’s not moving. It isn’t and I pull out onto the highway.  I realize what I’m doing. I’m driving a cage like a biker. I’m scanning the area looking for hazards, especially people who don’t see you and cut in front of you. I had the biker mind going in the cage. It was weird. I relaxed a bit and I thought: hey this isn’t too bad. Got a roof over my head, listening to some blues music. I can take a sip from my coffee cup. Smoke my pipe if I want to. (But not in Matt’s car!). This is kinda cool.

But I still had the biker mind going and found myself waving a salute to other bikers as they passed by.

I had to pick up some groceries for myself and while wandering around in the Piggly Wiggly I was thinking: better not get too much I don’t have a lot of room in the saddlebags. Then I realized again that I wasn’t on the bike. I could get anything I wanted; there’s plenty of room! This was great. But I didn’t like how my mind was shifting back to the idea of “buying stuff”. I used to be quite a collector of things: books, old coins, baseball cards, bad habits-you name it. But when I left Ireland after 16 years I gave most of my stuff away and managed to pack my life into four suitcases. It wasn’t easy or fun. In fact, it was painful because I was attached to all the things I had and the people I knew and loved. And yet it was freeing at the same time. It helped me to realize how little I really needed; what was important in my life and what wasn’t. It reminded me of what the Dalai Lama said: Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.

Non-attachment means letting go. It means recognizing that all things are impermanent: material things, our bodies, even our relationships. This might sound depressing, but it isn’t. It’s actually liberating. “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose”. You don’t suffer from worrying about getting something or losing someone. When I can keep this kind of awareness in my mind it helps me to appreciate every moment, to be centered and content with what I have, to be aware and grateful.  I’m much happier and healthier now.

I bought the few things that I needed and got back into the car. I drove over to the house, dropped the food off, rang the doorbell and left. On the way home I reverted to biker mode: watching for potholes in the road, tar snakes, inattentive drivers, road gators (bits of shredded tires from semi-truck tire blowouts), and steering aids (Bikers hate these! They’re gouges/ruts in the road from trucks. The ruts can guide your front wheel in a direction you don’t want to go.) None of us want to get into ruts. To go in directions we don’t want to go, because of someone else.

Surviving these hazards today, I came home. If I can stay centered I might survive tomorrow as well.

It was fun driving the car. But I still prefer the bike.

Planning the Trip: Harleys, Country Fried Steak and Gravy, Great Craic, A Trip to the Harley Shop, Beef Jerky and Cookie Selling Scouts and Zen

Our USA Rand McNally map was inaugurated successfully yesterday with coffee cup stains and bits of country fried steak and white gravy at Wes-Man’s restaurant in White, Georgia. Jeff and I unfolded the big map on the table and we began pointing at routes with our forks. “Can we get to Fort Smith the first day?” Jeff asked his fork hovering over Arkansas.  

     “Buddy,” I replied, “I think that might be a wee bit much.” I realized immediately and regrettably that I had used the Northern Irish vernacular “wee” in the sentence. Sixteen years in Northern Ireland leaves its trace in your language as well as your heart. The other day he had asked me how the Briar’s Club Night had been at Old Havana Cigar Bar in Rome and I had responded: “Terrific. The craic was great! Ninety.”

     “The what?” He had asked. “You boys using crack cocaine?”

     I laughed. “No, craic in Northern Ireland means…” I rolled my hands trying to think, “great banter, a really enjoyable time, good clean fun.”

     He eyed me suspiciously. “And ninety?”

     I raised my shoulders. “For some reason that’s the best the craic can get. Don’t ask me why, I didn’t make up the rules about it.”

     But now Jeff was shaking his head again and had a look on his face like he’d just smelled something bad. “Look here pal, don’t you start saying “wee” again. I’ve told you that real men don’t use the word “wee’! I don’t want to hear any of that Irish lingo. We’re Americans, tough bikers and we’re about to ride cross country on our Harleys.  We’re gonna look and sound like bikers!”

     I ignored him. “Jeff, Atlanta to Ft Smith would be about 700 miles. Unless, you’re practicing for the Iron Butt competition that’s a … bit much for our first day. Why don’t we stop in Memphis. I’ve never been there.”

     He shook his head in agreement. So at least we had our first destination planned: Memphis.

     After eating we drove down the road to the Cartersville Harley Davidson where a big shindig was going on. The place was packed with bikes and pickup trucks. Outside people were mingling, burgers were being grilled and music was blaring. We went inside and were immediately met by uniformed cub scouts and girl scouts selling beef jerky and cookies, respectively. The place was packed with people looking at the over 200 bikes on display for sale.

     I shook my head. “This is bad.” I said as I moseyed over to a magnificent looking bike. “This is a 2013 CVO Road King.” I drooled. “Says the color is ‘diamond dust and obsidian with palladium graphics’.

     “Palladium, I thought those were some of those people living in Sri Lanka?”

     “No those are Dravidians.”

     “No, those are them boys down in Waco Texas.”

     “No, those are Davidians.”

     “Purty bike.” Jeff said.

     “Yeah,” I replied, “and the list price is only $30,000!” I shook my head. “This is bad.”

     “Why?”

     “Cause I want it and I shouldn’t.

     “Why not?”

     “Cause Buddha says that suffering comes from a desire to be something or have something. I want that bike!”

     “Aw man! Don’t go all Zen on me. Bad enough you went Irish on me back at the restaurant.

     “God says the same thing.” I replied defensively.  

       He wandered off and I followed. Jeff looks every bit like the archetype of a biker. Strong, well built, tough sounding, thick grey hair (he was bald for a while), chiseled face, chin bearded, biker swagger, and he had this drawn out way of eyeing you up and staring at you that could make you want to confess sins you hadn’t even committed yet. If you ended up in a fight you wanted Jeff on your side. Even if you were assaulted by jerky and cookie selling kids you wanted him there to protect you.

     I didn’t look like a biker. I looked more like a mad professor, a tamer version of Doc from the Back to the Future films. Make him shorter, chubbier and take away his intelligence and you’ve got me!   

   I followed Jeff around as he pointed out things I needed for the trip. Before we got out of there Jeff had hooked me up with saddlebag liners, a three pocket windshield pouch attachment, a personal electronics magnetic pouch to hold my phone on my fuel tank, some Plexus plastic cleaner, Bugslide (“The Cleaner, Polisher and Bug Remover with Attitude”) and some beef jerky and cookies.

     With a handshake and a manly hug we said our goodbyes and agreed to meet next Friday at Old Havana in Rome to smoke a cigar and continue our planning.