Riding in Hot Weather; Thanks for Coming to Watch Us.

The temperature hit 102 degrees, (38.8 Celsius) this last week in North Georgia and people were talking.

“It’s so hot chickens are laying boiled eggs.” “That’s nothing,” another person said, “I saw a line of tall women at the courthouse and men were marrying them just for the shade.” Gives you an idea of how hot it felt.

You’ve never really experienced heat until you’ve ridden an air cooled motorcycle on a hot day and stopped at a traffic light or been stuck in traffic. Along with the heat from the asphalt, the engine heat rises and attacks you. The worst heat I’ve ridden in was in Baker, California in 2016. I was coming back from another cross country trip, stuck in a traffic jam  on I-15 and it was 113 degrees. (see https://2cyclepaths.com/2016/06/19/day-27-continued-horrible-ride-motorcycles-do-not-have-air-conditioning-113-degrees45-celsius-having-an-ice-cream-now/). So many cars and trucks were stopped along the interstate with overheated radiators or cracked ones.

Remembering that day made 102 degrees a bit more tolerable. Still, even at that temperature, stopping at a traffic light can cause the motorcycle engine to overheat and if you don’t do something quickly the engine can be destroyed. The amount of damage that can happen from overheating can range from a little to a lot. You might get some pings and knocks and sluggishness or you could banjax the pistons or warp the head or the cylinders. Nothing you can fix by the side of the road with a bit of duct tape or juicy fruit gum. So, be patient with bikes trying to get out of the heat.

After work one day I rode Big Red over to this place I sometimes volunteer at. I ran into a former student who showed me a bunch of kids who were running laps in a hall, practicing for their soccer team. He explained about how the organization had paid their fees and had uniforms donated so the kids could play. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to afford to play in a league. He told me that he needed to get some water for them and asked me to watch them. As soon as he left, they started slowing down.  I yelled at them to keep going and then, to my surprise, I started to run laps with them saying things like: “Here I am, an old man and I’m about to pass this guy!” The kid would look at me, smile, and take off running. So, I joked with them, thinking my bad knee might blow any minute. About five minutes later the coach returned. As I started to leave, I told the kids goodbye, that they looked great and to keep practicing. They waved and one of them came over to me and said: “Thank you for coming to watch us.’

Something struck me deeply about what this kid had said, and I haven’t been able to put my finger on it yet, other than to feel deeply touched, moved and honored. I know there’s a lesson for me in there somewhere.  I’ll keep thinking about it. Anyway, thanks for coming here to read this.

Resting Days: Wetting the Baby’s Head; Motorcycle’s Fixed; The Joys of Lyft; An Irish Traditional Music Session – I’m in Love with the Fiddle Player – the Lonesome Touch; Son Number 1 comes to Town – The Light-Years of an Embrace.

The day little Henry was born, I went  that evening to one of my favorite pubs, Timmy Nolans, to ‘Wet the Baby’s Head’. Wetting the Baby’s Head is a tradition in Ireland and the UK. It simply involves going to a pub and having a drink to celebrate a baby’s arrival (Just like when the baby’s head is wettened during a Christian Baptism). At Timmy Nolan’s I ran into Don and Janet who remembered me from my visit here last Christmas. Not because I’m that memorable but because I resembled a friend of theirs back in Indiana. Another man, Bryan, joined us, and we raised a toast to Henry Arthur! One other night at Nolans, they had their usual weekly Irish music session. A session is an informal gathering of musicians – often anyone can join – where one starts a tune, a jig or reel and if you know it, you join in. That night there was a flute player, tin whistle, guitar, bodhran (drum), and a fiddle. I fell in love with the fiddle player. Not because she was especially beautiful, but instead for her playing on the fiddle. She had the lonesome touch.

(My last girlfriend told me I had the loathsome touch but that’s for another blog. Uh, maybe not.)

It took a few days for the Harley folks in Glendale to track down the electrical problems with Big Red. She ended up with pretty much everything new in the charging/recharging system. Meanwhile, I experienced the joys of Lyft. I had drivers from the USA, Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba, Poland, and Mexico. I love to listen to people’s stories, so it was a treat for me. I got to talk with an actor from Poland about my week in Kutno, Poland coaching a little league team from Ireland.

My oldest son Rory came to town on business. I hadn’t seen him in over a year because he lives in London. I hugged him for what seemed like forever. Love can sometimes be measured in the light-years of an embrace. An immensely talented, modest young man (This Paranormal Life -British Podcast of the Year 2019 awards, RKG -Patreon/Twitter, Team RKT.) who takes after his mother. I was now with my daughter, my first son and little Henry, my first grandchild. It was all a bit much for me. I leave in two days.

Day Seven: Flagstaff, Arizona to Kingman, AZ; 147 Miles; Snow, Sleet, Hail and Rain; Williams; French, German and Brazilian Visitors; Route 66; No Grandchild Yet; Monk.

Yesterday was a horrible ride. You know how some people say things like: Hey, a bad day fishing (or substitute an activity you enjoy – playing golf?) is better than a good day in the office? Well, I disagree. My ride was terrible. Besides, I like my office. I work with some great people. I would have far rather been in the office!

I had breakfast at a Route 66 favorite, the Galaxy Diner, then headed out toward Williams. Beautiful flakes of snow were falling, and I was freezing! Before, I reached Williams it started hailing. Williams is one of my favorite Route 66 towns. After coffee at a diner the weather decided to have fun keeping me guessing what it was going to throw at me. Regardless, it was underlined by the fact that it was freezing. I don’t have heated handlebar grips, and I had forgotten to recharge my batteries in my gloves, so I just took turns holding on to the bars with one hand, while I stuck the other one behind my knee to try and warm it up. I was wearing a tee shirt, two long sleeve shirts, a sweater, my leather jacket and a rain jacket on top of it. I had blue jeans on and over them my Joe Rocket Ballistic motorcycle trousers. Two pairs of socks. I cut my speed to 60-65 and I was still freezing.

More coffee at a restaurant in Seligman, which was where I saw the foreigners, mostly on Harleys. There was an attractive woman at the table next to mine. She wasn’t the gorgeous type, just a natural, wholesome beauty, with a cute smile. I wanted her to ditch the guy she was with and ride off with me. Why else did I bring another helmet? We could have bilingual children, enjoy bratwurst and grits, and go out often for kaffee and kuchen. You see what happens to you when you travel by yourself for a long time on a motorcycle.

The Route 66 road was in good shape. You can’t say that about everywhere along its path. I remember thumping along a few years back on a section that still had the 1920’s Portland concrete laid down. Every few feet you went air born. By the way, I have written about my previous journeys across country on this road where I actually did stop by minor things like the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. There’s a search box on this page where you can find links to all sorts of things – like the Lamed Vav and beer caves. I figure you don’t want me simply repeating a view of the sites. I don’t write that descriptive stuff well. Plenty of others have. I write about what I’m feeling and thinking.

I had hoped to go another 60 miles to Needles, California but when I stopped for coffee, I knew I could not force myself to get back on that bike and out on the highway. I just sat in the McDonalds, stunned, eyes unfocused, and waited until I had thawed out. I treated myself to a room at a Best Western.

No sign of any grandbaby yet. I’ve already bought his Harley onesie and bib. At least my daughter and I have compromised on my grandparent name. I wanted the baby to use my biker name: Monk. She said: “There is no way that I am going to let that baby call you Monk!” We agreed on Pappy. Now, don’t tell her, but when she’s not around, I might just  whisper the occasional Monk to the new whippersnapper.

Day Five: Tucumcari to Gallup, New Mexico- 319 miles; Miserable Ride That Gradually Got Better; Route 66; Impermanence; Love, Loss and Hope; Another Dog; Do Apaches not Like Navajos?

I was happy to leave that motel that I stayed at in Tucumcari. There were only two cars parked in the huge lot and I felt sorry for the owner. Clearly, he was trying to return a once busy motel back to its glory days; when Route 66 was the only road west near here.  You can search the internet and find out all sorts of things about Route 66, the Mother Road. I have written about it here in this blog years ago when I made another journey through here.  The road spawned a song, “Get your kicks on route 66,” and even a TV series. But mainly it spawned the imagination of folks- in desperate times, as in the book, The Grapes of Wrath, but, more significantly in that archetypal journey we all are beckoned to take. People come from all over the world to experience what’s left of this cross-country road. The writer Tolstoy said: All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town. So too our lives.: hope, success, love,  loss, escape, and hope again. It’s a long journey, and if we take it – we should bring lots of snacks and stay well hydrated, and who knows how things will end. One of the essential doctrines of Buddhism is impermanence. They don’t have a lock on the concept, of course. We love people, places, jobs, objects, and we lose them. We grow attached to them and it hurts like the dickens when we lose them. I’ll tell you one thing – impermanence has a lot to answer for!

The trip this day didn’t start well. It was 45 degrees, my back was hurting, and my trigeminal neuralgia was being triggered by the strong, gusting winds. Not much you can do on a motorcycle when you’re feeling poorly, other than not ride, or ride through it. I kept my visor down, put my legs up, then down, leaned forward, back – you name it. I could only manage about 20 miles at a time to start with. Then I ‘d have to take a break, have coffee and stretch. Over the course of the morning things gradually got better, except for the 20mph head wind, which was to be with me all day. After 319 miles I stumbled into Gallup, New Mexico and found a nice room at the Sleep Inn.

The hot water felt so good I nearly cried in the hot shower. I gave thanks to God. Then, I wanted a beer. Remember the song I wrote about a few blog entries ago? I’ll wait while you look back at it.

I found a sports bar where I could watch some basketball and baseball. But mainly a place I could have a cold, calming, draft beer and forget about things.

A Navajo woman about my age was siting at the table beside me with her grandson and her service dog. She told me about her life: husband died two years ago; it had been a huge loss for her which was why she needed the dog. Her husband had been a veteran and was one of those people who never thought he’d die, so it came as a shock to everyone. She lived alone and traveled and worked on three Apache reservations. Did I know that some Apache don’t like Navajo? No, I didn’t, I replied. She said that when she first started to work on the reservations the women thought she was going to try to steal their husbands. She reassured them. She’d like to retire but what would she do? Besides, families need her help.  We both took a sip of our beers and stared at the baseball game; Arizona, her team, was losing. Love, loss, hope.

Announcing!!! My Latest Novel: Hope: The Adventures of Sid, the Buddhist, Ninja Detective; Motorcycles included.

Now available on an Amazon site nearest you. Ebook too!

https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Adventures-Buddhist-Ninja-Detective/dp/1090295529/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1553443881&refinements=p_27%3AGene+Powers&s=books&sr=1-1&text=Gene+Powers

 

In Georgia’s sultry Savannah, under the canopy of live oak trees and swaying Spanish moss, there’s been a bizarre murder in an historic square. Sid, the Buddhist, Ninja detective has been called in to help solve the crime. While some murders have no leads; this one has too many – a broken romance, a victim who worked for a mysterious international art gallery, even the death of a former prostitute twenty years earlier. Sid needs the help of retired, former detective, Rory Connor, but first, he must track him down, which won’t be easy. Last time anyone saw Connor he was hightailing it south on his motorcycle named Rocinante, on a quest to resurrect the Laws of Chivalry in this callous, modern world. Somebody’s got to do it. Find love, murder, hope and redemption amidst the blooming camellias, azaleas and resurrection ferns of Savannah. Ride along with Sid on the cobblestone streets and help him solve the mystery before someone else is killed. Let’s face it; he’s going to need all the help he can get.

Here’s a link to my other novels:

https://www.genepowers.org/

 

 

The Challenges of Winter Motorcycling: Part Three – Freezing Weather, Frozen Humor.

As much as I love riding my motorcycle throughout the year, when it dips below 40 degrees F. (4 Celsius) my Harley and I have to have a “come to Jesus talk”. If I’m only tootling around town then I’ll hop on the bike. But if I’m doing the 50 miles (80 k) one way to work the story is different. First, I have to make sure the bike will start. If the temp goes below freezing at night the bike might just want to sleep in a bit more. One day it wouldn’t start, and I had to use my 1973 BMW bike, which ironically, cranked immediately. You have to love those Germans! I finally managed to get one of those portable jump starters so the 2004 Road King will always start now; one way or the other.

Then, I have to look at my cold riding gear. I can’t afford the expensive stuff, so I’ve gathered a mix of things over the years. I do have battery operated heated gloves, but they only last an hour and don’t heat the top of my hands. (I have to have a spare battery pack for the way home.) I have long underwear, my regular trousers and then my rain trousers on top of them. Then, I have a long sleeve shirt, a sweater, my leather vest and a rain jacket on top. Because I’m short, stuffed up I look a lot like the Pillsbury Doughboy. Then I bought some incredibly warm socks that I wear. I have a full-face helmet and a black (Snoopy?) aviator’s silk scarf to wrap around my neck. That will keep me from being frozen for about 25 miles which is roughly the distance to a Starbucks, my stopping place on the way.

The rest of the way is interstate and high speed. At 70 mph and 40 degrees the windchill makes it feel like 23.8 F (-4.6 C), according to the internet. At 34 degrees F, the coldest I’ve ridden these days, it feels like 15F (-9.4C). The other day it was so cold I had to break frozen smoke off my exhaust pipe; so cold that the trees I passed were chopping themselves into firewood. You get the idea. At least it wasn’t snowing, as it was when I was riding in Canada a few years ago, or when I was crossing the Rocky Mountains once in Colorado. (Stories on this blog)

I go back to work in three days and it’s supposed to be 38 degrees when I leave. I’m just going to forget about that for now.

If you’ve got any cold riding tips, other than “don’t”, please let me know. Otherwise, if you see a guy next week on a motorcycle with icicles on his helmet that would be me. Don’t forget to wave. I’ll met you at the next Starbucks.

The Challenges of Winter Motorcycling: Part Two – Autumn Rides

I tried to capture the beauty of an Autumn ride and made these notes a few months ago.

A rustic, weatherworn, gray shack

With a bright red door.

A sun-glistening brown horse

Plays with the buttercups

Pink and charcoal clouds float

In a haint blue sky,

Looking like their arms are crossed.

 

Later, riding home

The sky, honey-apricot.

Black clouds scud like ravens,  

Over the orange-scarlet colors of the sumac leaves.

Savannah, Georgia, 1790 Inn, Ghosts, Sauntering through History, Craic, and Mindfulness on a Motorcycle Sojourn, Pascal.

I had a couple of days off for Fall break and so I decided to head to Savannah. Savannah is featured in my last two and latest book – The Adventures of Sid- novels and I wanted to make the scene locations as accurate and vivid as possible. You can check out all of my novels here: https://www.genepowers.org/ . The biggest anticipatory problem with driving to Savannah from Rome, Georgia is that it’s pretty much 330 miles and you have to go through downtown Atlanta. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King cruised along beautifully, except for the red warning light about my battery that appeared and disappeared at random. I figured it was the regulator. I also figured that on a Sunday morning there wasn’t much I could do about it other than keep riding. After meeting with my buddy Joe and his family at Starbucks in Macon the battery light went to sleep for the rest of the trip.

I decided to stay at the 1790 Inn again because it’s in the center of town, where I can walk everywhere and because part of it was built by my great grandfather who lived there with his family for years. Supposedly there are ghosts there, but there’s no extra charge for that. The hospitality is always wonderful at the Inn which is probably why the ghosts like to hang around.

Not much I can say about Savannah that hasn’t been said before. My favorite bar is Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub and I have been visiting there for over thirty years. Irish beer on tap, Irish music seven night a week and no televisions or gaming machines. In 2016 it was voted the Most Authentic Irish Pub in the World, even beating out entries from Ireland, which is bizarre when you think about it. Some of my favorite places to eat are the Crystal Beer Parlor, Hilliards, the Pink House, and the Pirate’s House, which even gets a mention in the book Treasure Island!

But what I love most is simply walking around the historic district, through the squares filled with majestic live oak trees and swaying Spanish moss. And traipsing down the cobblestone ramps to River Street.

The historic area is not a great place to ride a motorcycle in, because of all of the stop and go traffic, the blind spots, pedestrian walkways, and the cobblestone roads down to River Street. Better to park the bike and walk. Save your riding for the beautiful trip along the marsh, palm trees and oleanders down to Tybee Island.

Before I headed home I spent a couple of hours in the Inn’s bar. Nice comfy place with a lot of folks I could tell were regulars. However, every 15 minutes or so a wave of people flooded the place, having been dropped off for a drink by one of the Ghost Tour Operators. It was fun talking with some of them and hearing their thoughts on Savannah and on whether they’d seen any ghosts. None had so far and they didn’t seem to care. They were just enjoying the craic, as they would say in Ireland, the fun of it all.

I spent about six hours each way on the bike and although it was all interstate I enjoyed it. Personally, I don’t listen to music. One of my favorite philosophers, Pascal, once said: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” I just enjoy thinking and meditating, riding with awareness, mindfulness and gratitude, especially gratitude. Pascal also said: “In difficult carry something beautiful in your heart.”

The Road Home; The Majestic Diner on Ponce de Leon in Atlanta; 40 Year Reunion; Existentialism, Eggs and Grits.

On my way back to Rome, Georgia Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King and I decided to stop at Griffin. I had earned enough frequent visitor points from a hotel chain that I got a free room at the motel. Then I had a Mexican takeaway and watched TV for a change. The Dirty Harry movies were on.

Next morning I headed to Atlanta to meet my two old buddies Jeff and Kevin for breakfast at a place we used to haunt years ago: the Majestic Diner. This was when all three of us worked at Peachtree Psychiatric Hospital. Sometimes we worked a 3-11pm shift and it was the only restaurant open. I figured that it had been forty years since the three of us had sat together in one of the booths. Back then we had talked about women (problems with or lack of) and what we wanted to do with our lives. Now, forty years later we were talking about women (problems with or lack of) and what we wanted to do with our lives. The difference was that we had forty years of existence since we had first discussed philosophy over eggs and grits. I’m not sure that any of us felt like we had learned very much. We got to talking about existentialist philosophy, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre and Marcel. Our memories were rusty, which was okay because existentialism had grown pretty rusty too. Regardless of the roads we had ridden on over the years the young, naive, arrogance and hubris of our twenties had been battered, scarred and smelted into a more pure vulnerability and humility, which was a good, albeit painful, thing.

After two hours it was time to hit our different roads and talk about when we might get together again. Maybe at Huck’s Cove right on the bayou in Gautier, Mississippi where we had ridden to once before?  Who knows? We’re more patient now. And more trusting.

Long Roads-Long Memories; 1790 Inn; Reunions

What can one say about Savannah That hasn’t already been said? Probably nothing. Maybe one thing: If you go in the summer you had better be prepared. One day it was 95 degrees (35 Celsius). Today, with the humidity added in, it’s supposed to be 104 (40 Celsius). Fortunately, I was staying downtown at the beautiful 1790 Inn (which was partially built by my great grandfather). It allowed me to park the Harley and walk everywhere. Scouting out locations for scenes for my next novel. For example, if I want the character to die here, then where would the shot come from? Any trees blocking the view? How would the shooter have escaped? Not that way, it’s a one way road. Not that way, too many cameras. You get the idea. I’m looking at trees and bushes, what’s on the ground, tree roots forcing up the brick sidewalk. It’s actually fun. I also figured out where the closing scene will take place (Factor’s Walk), snapped plenty of photos and took loads of notes.

I also visited old haunts, walked through the amazing squires with the live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, and memories. There’s always a melancholy beauty about Savannah.

The highlight of my trip was a impromptu reunion with many of my cousins who knew about or could make it. We ate in the room where my great uncle Harry used to live. (Photo below)

Today, I’m heading another backroads direction, Highway 341 heading north. We’ll see what we encounter as we ride. Safe travels.

 

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