Category Archives: Iraq

Love the Ride for the Pure Joy of Life and the Never Ending Dream

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I knew that it would be another tough day at the office filed with turbulence and strife.  My commute is about an hour and felt a profound satisfaction that my hectic work day would start and end on my motorcycle.  During my ride, I dwelled upon the end of winter and the beginning of a new season.

As the sun peaks over the horizon and shares its warm vibrant rays, I realize that winter has retreated north.  The scent of new life has permeated through the plains and mountains and one can almost smell the land coming alive from a winter’s desolate exile.  The rivers are more vibrant, fed by melting snow and the birds chatter among the trees in an epic devotional of the miracles of spring.   For motorcyclist living in a multifaceted climate, this time of year represents an open door to freedom which removes limitations to our ability to ride.   The warm air and gentle breeze call us from afar to find new paths to places rarely visited.

Motorcycling in spring is like waking up to find that one’s awe-inspiring fantasy has indeed become a reality.  Seize the moment and ride.  Find a new adventure, research the wonders of history in your backyard, visit a friend long-lost, and cherish the majestic environment that only spring can display.  We are our own leading restraint in finding happiness in this world; don’t let any obstacle get in your way.   Now is the time to leave the chaos of life behind and chase smiles and grins on black top covered dreams.

We live a life of risk and rewards.  Every day may be the last day but we are always planning for tomorrow.  It’s a life of balance and one must never lose touch with rationale thought but an occasional jaunt living on the edge builds character.  Find time to live and breathe the fresh air of an uncluttered mind.  Focus on the Ride and let the road be your long-lost muse.

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn” –  Hal Borland

happiness


Frozen Traces of Carnage and the Moment of Slowness

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A few days ago, I got my cycle out for a short jaunt.  It was a sunny February day and the snow had melted and there was no ice on the roads, it felt safe to ride.  Given the melancholy bleakness of winter, it felt like a hot summer August day.  Weather can be a matter of perspective.  I went to school in Buffalo, NY where it rained and or snowed 6 days of the week.  Snow drifts the size of houses are a normal occurrence in Western, NY and the snow will last from November through March.  This Sunny February day felt like the Bahamas but the reality was that it was about 40 degrees.

It felt good to ride again.  I recently did a bunch of maintenance on my ride and she felt nimble and ready to pounce.  As I was rounding a corner, I saw a golf course sprinkler system watering the greens.  There was a brisk westerly wind pushing tiny droplets of water away from the golf course and onto the road.  I automatically knew that given the temperature outside that the mist accumulating on cold tarmac would translate into a caustic situation.  The fact that I was riding on a brand new front tire did not help the situation (Always Be Careful on New Tires).  I was already in the curve and without thinking, I tried to upright my bike before going into the wet pavement because I felt that it may be ice.  I am not right often but this time I was, that golf course sprinkler mist turned that corner into black ice carnage.

As soon as I hit the patch of water, I felt my tires sliding out of control and that is when my brain went into slow motion.  It’s like you’re thinking in normal speed but everything in your environment is moving at a snail pace.  This has not happened to me since Iraq.  In combat situations, sometimes things just slow down.  Do you remember in the movie Saving Private Ryan when Tom Hanks is on Omaha Beach on D-Day and everything just goes in slow motion, that is what it was like.

The funny thing is the first thought in my mind was the safety of my new Bell Helmet.  It’s such a gorgeous helmet and the thought of it bouncing off the road chipping paint was just to horrific to contemplate.  Then I thought of wanting steak and eggs with white toast, eggs done over easy fashion.  Then I pondered my wife’s reaction, she would be so angry at me.  I imagined being in a coma and having my wife lecture me for 43 hours straight on the dangers of motorcycling.  Trapped in a coma listening to anti motorcycling propaganda sounded almost as bad as damaging my new slick painted retro lid.  My last thought I remembered was hoping the dogs would be ok outside if I did not make it home till my kids got back from school.  The beasts are inside dogs and it was a little chilly and hoped they would not be cold.

Then as soon as it happened the cycle righted its self and I was off the ice driving safely forward.  The moment lasted less than a second but it felt like 4 minutes.

After further reflection, I am not sure about my contemplative priorities while getting ready to crash on the motorway.  Luckily the crash never happened but it makes me think that we could all be only one second away from a life changing moment.  Cherish the time you have on two wheels when you can get it and always let your loved ones know how much you care for them.

I don’t fear crashing as much as I fear not being able to ride.

motorcycle-you-love


The Loneliest Road in America

The Loneliest Road in America

I have no photos to prove I rode the Loneliest Road in America.  Forgetting to take photos for a two-week ride on my motorcycle has not been my finest moment as an amateur blogger.  Over the same two-week trip, I also forgot to put on pants at a family re-union dinner.  Oh yes, this is a true story.  I walked into the room with a short sleeve shirt, shoes, hat and boxer underwear.  I totally forgot my pants but luckily was wearing white boxer briefs which could almost count as shorts but are definitely classified as underwear.  The whole family noticed my fashion blunder and I will go down in the family history as the dude that forgot his pants at the Family Reunion. Luckily shortly after that incident, I got back on my cycle to ride one of the most majestic roads in North America.  The Loneliest Highway through Nevada is not just a clever name to increase tourism, it is legitimately desolate beyond compare.  Think of the Desert Planet Tatooine in Star Wars and you will have an accurate representation of the isolated motorway.  The Loneliest Highway is part of U.S. Route 50 which starts in Ocean City, Maryland and runs all the way to West Sacramento, California.  Highway 50 has been named the Backbone of America which defines its rural spirit.  The Loneliest Highway is a subsection of this interstate which is located in Nevada.  This stretch of payment is a philosophical bikers dream.  It’s not filled with wondrous curves or insane pathway cliffs but its barren landscape breeds independent free thought.  In the desert, the lines of communication between our consciousness and soul become more linked and primed.  Back in 2003, I lived in the desert in South East Asia for a year.  During this time, I wrote without abandon with more conviction and feeling then I have ever felt.  This could be explained by many reasons but I always thought that the desert environment served as a muse which affected my soul directly leading to my literary expressions.  It could be the open skies, the vivid sunsets, mesmerizing dawns, murderous sun or extreme deadly heat but for some reason, the desert enhances ones own own self perspective. 

For me the Loneliest Highway started near Carson City, Nevada along U.S. Route 50 and ended in Delta, Utah.  If you’re going to ride this isolated route, then be prepared for nothingness.  For the first time in my life, I did my homework.  My research found a limited amount of Gas Stations along the way.  I packed an external gas reservoir, to supplement my small gas tank.  This was absolutely needed and was used on multiple occasions.   Sun block is needed and a lot of it.  With every stop, I applied sun block.   I found that the scent of the lotion much better than my natural odor (showers were limited on my trek).  There are plenty of places to camp for free in National Forest and Bureau of Land Management Property.  Watch out for small desert creatures that can ruin your evening if you choose to sleep under the stars.  I traveled with a foam bed roll, sleeping bag and fully enclosed bivi shelter.  I am a huge wimp; the thought of waking up with a rattlesnake in my sleeping bag or scorpion on my forehead makes the bivi shelter and absolute essential for desert camping.  Don’t be fooled, it may be scorching hot during the day but at night the temperature drops and a sleeping bag is mission critical.  Sitting under the night sky while camping on the Loneliest Highway is one of the most peaceful environments I have ever witnessed.  The sounds of the desert, vast star infested atmosphere and the loneliness of the place, transfixed my emotions and brought me into a dream while still conscious.  It’s a great place to be with one’s self and ponder life’s many conundrums.

Nevada

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More than 8 Years Ago, I still Remember this Ride

life and motorcycles

It was June; the early morning sun was warm to the touch and I awoke to a reality of a dream. For a year my motorcycle sat in storage in Golden, Colorado awaiting my triumphant return. My family moved to the east coast from Golden, Colorado and, due to a lack of space, the motorcycle could not join our eastward trek. I attempted to formulate a plan to retrieve my motorcycle and drive it from Colorado to New York. This would be a 1400 mile trip that I have been anticipating for 34 years. As long as I could remember, it was my dream to have a motorcycle and ride for days on end with only the wind, sun and moon as my companions. However, there was always something stopping me. The lack of money for a motorcycle, college, work, family and whatever else kept me off a cycle. In 2004, after serving 14 months in Iraq, I came home and bought a brand new 2003 Honda Shadow 750 ACE. My new bike, in many ways, symbolized who I was. It was simple, dependable and modest yet had a sense of character all its own.

For three years of riding my Honda, it had not once seen a single rain droplet and had only accumulated approximately 4000 miles; most of which were received on short trips up the numerous curvaceous valleys of the Eastern Foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I had exactly zero amount of experience riding long distance, let alone from Denver to New York. In early June of 2007, I left Rochester, New York via a US Airways Flight which was bound for a final destination to Denver, Colorado. Once in Denver it was my plan to pick up my bike and drive it back to New York via an obscure path not yet planned. Rather than a planned route, it was more about heading east and finding my way home.

While in the military I was taught that piss poor planning resulted in piss poor performance. As it turned out they were partially correct. The long sleep that my motorcycle took during its time in storage reeked havoc on its running condition. After a fuel change, oil change, replacement of the fuel filter and battery the bike was ready for the 1400 mile jaunt. This unplanned maintenance took a full day. Fortunately, my plan was to have no plan so there was no real damage to my travel itinerary. With a working cycle, wet weather gear and change of clothing, I progressed east on my Shadow towards my home in Rochester, New York.

The first two hours of the trip went well, but then I noticed a few rain drops on my helmet. The scattered drops eventually became a down pour and, for the next two days, the skies did not dry up. Driving through Eastern Colorado and into Nebraska, on the back roads leading east, was like an oasis of views for one’s soul. The openness of the Great Plains is expanded tenfold while on a motorcycle. Not a dry fiber on my body, no windshield to divert the wind, the rain splashing down upon my legs likes mini daggers yet I simply wore a smile. It was a smile bred from being content and upon finding one’s place in the world. Maybe it was mild hypothermia, but my mind began to drift. I began to ponder actions done in the past and events not yet fulfilled. I became lost in thought while I drove through the prairie. It was like the openness of my surrounding somehow opened my mind to places long lost forgotten.

After my first 10 hours on the road, I decided to find a hotel, get a good meal and dry off a bit. I didn’t have camping gear and decided to just find cheap hotels on the road. It must have been the warmth of the hotel room because I did not know how sore and cold I actually was until I started to dry off. I ended the night with some really bad Mexican Food and a warm shower. Tomorrow was waiting.

The next day, I was a couple of hours into my trip when I found a Motorcycle Store about 45 minutes from the Iowa boarder. Just for a break off of the cycle I went into the place to have a look around. Twenty minutes later I came out with a SpitFire Universal Windshield and a leather jacket. At the time, I did not understand how precious of a commodity these items would be for the rest of my journey east. The little windshield really did not look like much, but it diverted at least 60 percent of the wind and rain away from my body. This protection increased my riding comfort tenfold. The leather jacket was on sale for sixty dollars, but was perfect for the warm summer. I never had any idea what a seventy dollar windshield could accomplish, but I will never again buy a motorcycle, which I plan on taking long trips on, without one. For the rest of the day it poured, but I found out something which was unexpected. A motorcyclist that is soaked, from top to bottom, but who still has a cheerful disposition breeds a curiosity in people. I found that every time I stopped to rest individuals would stop by my bike and ask me questions or make a funny comment about riding in the rain. It was strange. The standard social norms had seemed to be thrown out the window. People would just approach me and start a discussion. Was it because I looked like a drowned rat and they felt sorry for me or could it be that they found it fascinating that someone could be so content while being so bloody wet?

In Iowa, on the second day of my trip, I stopped at a Truck Stop and Diner. As I walked into the place I left puddles in my path. I picked a booth near a window so that I could keep an eye on my ride and ordered a BLT. I saw an elderly gentleman, obviously retired, walk across the restaurant and take a seat in the booth adjacent to me. At this point he asked me a few questions regarding my journey across country on a motorcycle. Those few questions transformed into a two hour conversation. John ended up owning the Truck Stop, but had relinquished operational control of it to his two sons. He was a teenager during the Great Depression, a World War II Combat Veteran, crop pilot, over-the-road trucker, farmer, Truck Stop Restaurant owner and family man. Throughout our conversation, I found that he lived a life filled with adventure, loss, joy, hardship, sorrow, fear and hard work. Also, I realized that he did not observe life as a spectator, he lived it.

I wish I could tell you the names of the roads that I traveled or the hotels in which I stayed, but I cannot. I kind of just drove east hoping to not run out of gas like I almost did so many times. Another lesson that I learned while on the road is that if you’re going to drive across country it’s a good idea to have a large gas tank. My gas reserve warning light would go off at approximately 120 miles and I would need to look for a gas station. In the city this is not such an issue, but in the middle of Iowa it could be a problem. Luckily I never did run out of gas. If I had, it would have been just another interesting situation.

Somewhere near the Iowa/Illinois boarder I began to ponder memories long hidden. In 2003 I was part of the invasion force into Iraq from Kuwait. The memories of the invasion often bring me night tremors and, at times, sullen depression. The thought of the war would strike at random times and would often be triggered by loud noises, smells but mostly by large crowds. It is actually pretty tough for me to even write about this, but I have figured out that if one speaks of the ills of his past that he will less likely be suffocated by the negative memories of yesterday. On the ride, I began to ponder the war and the part I played in it. The difference is that I thought of these issues on my terms and in my own way. For the first time in since I got back from Iraq, I found that I had control of the past and not vise versa. By no means am I saying that this motorcycle ride cured me of my past recollections and skeletons, but I can say, without a doubt, that I was able to get in a place that I felt like I could handle those memories and put them to rest. Do I still get a nervous twitch when I hear a loud noise? Well, yes but I am able to deal with it and continually move forward. For me, the trick is to vent these negative emotions, with a person who cares when the time is needed and not become consumed and transfixed by what occurred. With all experiences in life, one must progress forward along his or her chosen path and hope to learn and gain wisdom along the way.

The sun decided to show its’ fullness on the third day of my trip. I was content riding in the rain, but the sun brought a new perspective on riding. Instead of the people in the cars looking at me thinking, “How could he be on a motorcycle in the rain”; I was thinking, “How could these people be in a car on a beautiful day such as this.” Everything seemed perfect. By this time I was heading southeast towards Indianapolis. I remember getting lost a few times along the way. However, “lost” is a term that I use loosely because if one has no plan than where ever one ends up is exactly where he’s supposed to be. I approached the Indiana/Ohio boarder on my 3rd day. I found another mom and pop hotel to rest for the night.

Waking up on the 4th day I found that riding in the sun brings with it a nasty burn if precautions are not taken. The burn was not as bad as it could have been given the clothing I was wearing and the full face shield on my helmet, but I knew some sun block was needed. So I pulled into this gas station to fill up my tank and get some SPF 40 sun block. It was really early in the morning and I did not pull away from the gas pumps when I was putting on my protective lotion. Well, to make a long story short, while I was rubbing it onto my neck and face about ten mutant motorcyclists surrounded the gas pump. I looked up, with white lotion all over my face, neck and hands, and saw every one of those bikers staring at me. One guy, who looked like Andre the Giant, say’s to me, “We need to fill up, move your bike”. A personal pet peeve of mine is when someone doesn’t move away from the pump promptly after getting gas. So, I understood the situation from my large friend’s point of view and moved along. I spent six straight days on my motorcycle during my trip and this was the only negative experience that I witnessed and ironically it came from a fellow motorcyclist.

The next day of my trip brought me running north towards Cleveland, Ohio. I can tell you that I must have been deep in thought because, once again, I found that I was just about out of gas. It was around 8pm and it was a Sunday night. I was in a rural area and approached 4 different gas stations; each of them closed. During my quest for a gas station, I passed several different horse and buggy carts and was quite certain that I was deep into Amish Country. Though the scenery was great, I was really concerned that I was going to run out of gas. I eventually passed a couple of kids playing in one of the horse and buggy carts and I stopped and asked them for some directions. They gave me a perfect route to the only open gas station in the area. Once filled up, I thought of how ironic it was to be asking for directions for gas from a couple of kids who may never have been in a gas combustion automobile in their lives. That night I could not sleep all that well. I knew it was the last night on my dream ride.

The sixth day brought me home to Rochester, New York. My dream ride was better than I thought possible. I learned a lot about being a motorcyclist and about long distance riding. In some ways, I was able to learn about myself. Before returning home, I began planning my next long distance bike trip. Next time I will hopefully take my wife as well as some camping equipment and forgo the cheap hotels. For me, I really think it was the lack of a travel itinerary and the vastness of the Midwest that made my adventure so terrific. For some a perfect place may be in Aruba or a cabin in the Alps, but I feel most comfortable, on my motorcycle, facing the open road.


Can We Do Better- Veterans Losing at Home

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Supporting our Veterans should be the responsibility of every citizen who lives in our country. It should not be left to our Government or Non-Profit entities alone; it should be sewn in the fabric of who we are as a society. Have you ever heard people pound their chest about “Supporting the Troops” but show zero action on the issue? “Supporting Our Troops” is not about verbal lip service, it’s about taking an active role in helping and assisting those who Serve or have Served.
I have never been one who believes in statistics because they are often misleading and used for some type of agenda or scheme. I try to use common sense, research, impartial views and conversations with others to be analytics which steer my moral compass. With that said, the recent alarming statistic of 22 Veterans dying of Suicide daily is overwhelmingly heart breaking and can’t be ignored. To be honest, I did not need some statistic to inform me of this travesty. It’s in the obituaries and the veteran’s blogs who share their stories of inner conflict.
If you really care about “Supporting the Troops” then actively participate in taking care of them when they come home. There is nothing wrong with giving to a non-profit on the matter but getting your hands dirty is where we can really impact the net results. Find something you can do, to enrich and empower a Veteran. It’s not about a handout or free rides, it’s about truly caring and forming relationships that matter. This is how we create real change. What can you do for a Veteran? The answer is anything that makes a difference. Use your own skills and innate abilities to help those who once took an oath to defend you.

19 and Own Will


Running Out of Gas in Wyoming

Devils Tower 3

Devils Tower

Have you ever been alone? I don’t mean feeling alone, I mean being in a location without anyone or anything else around. It’s an eerie feeling but one that everyone should have every so often. Last week I took a trip out to Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower and Bad Lands National Monument. While driving through Wyoming there was this location which was totally desolate. There was no cell phone reception, no buildings, no people or no trees. The only things around were a cool strong breeze and a view which stretched as far as the eye could see. It was desolate and lonely but yet peaceful. I lived in a desert for a year oversees and found that there was a subtle beauty to the vast emptiness. The desolate environment has a way of transforming ones senses as a way to camouflage  the bleakness of the landscape. Every noise is more loud and every color more vibrant. The wind actually has the power to chant an impressive verse which tells its own story of the countryside. There is power in truly being alone without the comforts of technology. Society and the ways of the world often have a corruptive influence to our morals and beliefs. Maybe we all should take a few days to be away from it all to reflect upon all that is most important.

The photos are of Mt. Rushmore, Devils Tower and Bad Lands National Park which I took last week. If you get a chance to go, I would highly recommend. I am sure to go back.

Mount Rushmore 3

Mount Rushmore

It was actually Bad Lands National Park which took my breath away.  I cannot begin to explain its breath of scope so I wont even try.

BadLands2

BadLands


Dreams Are Important, Never Lose them

Central City

I took a wondrous journey on my cycle to Central City Colorado. It’s a great curvaceous route from Golden, CO filled with twisty turns up a rocky canyon. Follow the river through the never-ending blissful curves and dream of simpler, more dangerous times of the old west. Not all that much has changed in this canyon with the exception of the blacktop and one can easily imagine the threat of wild Indian attacks, train robberies and chasing the dream of finding the mother lode in the gold rush. During my journey I thought of those settlers following their dreams into a very dangerous environment but despite the hazards they chased their dreams anyway.
When were young we constantly dwell on our dreams. This is a truly positive phenomena which provides a thoughtful reflection of the possibilities of life. Our youthful brains focus on our never waning potential; it’s too bad our adult brains lack the same focus.
Sometimes our dreams become a reality. Unfortunately some dreams are left unfilled or even worst, lost. As we age, dreams tend to become less of an emphasis in our minds. Life’s burdens manifest themselves in our subconscious and slowly we lose touch with those prized imaginings that propelled us forward through our youth.
A true travesty in life is a dream lost. When we lose our dreams we tend to lose who we are and what we want to be. Through our dreams we are able to change reality as we know it. They are powerful intangible motivators that spur our spirits into wondrous actions. When we lose touch with our dreams, we lose a part of ourselves. Without dreams, we can be led down a path of becoming that lost soul, just endlessly going through the drudgery of life. The divine spark no longer fires and life’s burdens become our only reality. You know the people whom I’m talking about, they are just empty vessels.
I have chased down my dreams without remorse in the past but lately I have become complacent. Over the last 5 years I have forgotten to dwell upon my aspirations of the unreachable. It’s the hope to achieve those unobtainable goals that separate us from the norm and add texture to our lives. When we work towards our objectives, one day we find that the unreachable suddenly becomes feasible. A dream is only a few actions beyond our reach and with every action the dream is that much more a plausible reality.
I actively need to aspire to some sort of goal. Set some high objective to work towards and don’t rest till its obtained. This is what is missing in my life and without a dream, we all tend to waiver or regress. We all need something to work on, I have an infinite list of things to improve upon but the most important is to get in touch with my dreams.
It’s funny what one may think about during a pleasant journey on two wheels.

Central City 1

Central City 2

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