Tag Archives: Veteran

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

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A Motorcycle Mindset- Exploits beyond the Plateau

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Have you ever noticed the fact that motorcyclist tend to be individuals that normally diverge from the status quo.  When everyone else goes straight down the road of life, motorcyclist travel a different path.  We tend to have eccentric demeanors.  Our focus is not laser pointed unless were deeply entrenched into a journey on two wheels.  What we lack in focus we gain in individual perspective.  Motorcyclist may lack money and fancy houses but we have awesome stories of phenomenal substance.

Motorcyclist have a profound appreciation of life outside societal norms.  We tend to believe in hard work and dedication to family but our minds drift through the surreal in search of harmony and bliss.  The ride is not just about speed and adrenaline, it’s about searching our senses and our environment in a quest to find what is real in this life.   Don’t get me wrong, I love the wondrous views and the remote sense of fear as I take that curve a little too quick but it’s more than that.  It’s about finding our own path and dictating our own terms in a world where individual thought is discouraged.  Our continual search takes us all too a different spectrum of our environment.  Our quest will never lead us to the same answers, were just too darn individualistic to share that same route.

I have been working so much lately in an effort to do what is right for my family.  I have no issue with my job but sometimes I feel that maybe it takes me away from what is real about life.  In Denver, we have a huge homeless problem.  Some of these folks are surely caught up in despair and bad luck.  The gruesome cycle of poverty is no joke and I feel fortunate that I am still able to work and support my family.  With that said, every once in a while as I pass a person I think is homeless and they look at me and I swear THEY THINK, “you look at me like I am homeless but you’re the one I pity.  I may have no wealth or monetary substance but you are living a life of real poverty.”  I never want to be homeless.  I write this while camping in the mountains of Colorado in January.  Its bloody cold out, my fingertips feel like little rocks as I type away at the keys.  My hands and digits are stone cold and I shiver as my toes ask warmth but there is none to be found.  I camp in the cold typing on my laptop knowing that I have a warm home awaiting me after my winter camping festivities which provides me eternal security beyond recognition.  Homeless people do not have this option and this simple tragedy keeps me awake at night. Wow, I never want to be homeless and cold with nowhere to go. Most homeless surely do not want to be in their predicament and are looking for solutions to meet their immediate needs.  I grieve for these individuals and hope they can find warmth and security.   As bad as being homeless may be, is it possible that a few people choose to be homeless?  We live such complicated lives and through simplification of our environment our minds become less cluttered with problems and worries. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” I believe that there are a few individuals that choose this life style.  These few persons, give up everything in their search for an answer.  It’s an ALL IN Approach in their path to find knowledge.  This is a journey I never want to follow but I respect their conviction and courage.

One of the best books of insight I ever read was a novel called Siddhartha.  It’s a spiritual word fest of enlightenment.  When I was younger, this book answered many of my questions about what makes an individual truly rich.  I still very much respect this book for its wisdom but I have found in my declining years that answers of this magnitude can never be answered by a book but must be answered by the individual seeking guidance in the matter.  The answers are all relative and change with every individual.   I believe that books will never truly answer our questions but are needed to help us find wisdom so we can answer those questions ourselves.

Wow that was a tangent, I think I finally have succumbed to hypothermia.  My toes are now numb and silenced.  My hope is that I may be able to thaw them in my car.   My fingers are now in a frozen state and lack the manual dexterity to hit the correct keys.  It’s their way to punish me for writing in the snowy cold mountains in the middle of the night without any heat.  One last thought, I do believe that there is something about riding that helps us open our minds to answers and wisdom.  Maybe it’s a Zen Like state comparable to meditation that our minds transcend to while riding?  All I know is that mind works differently when riding in a positive way and for that I am thankful.

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Every Day Should be Veterans Day

We live in the microcosms of our own lives, and we rarely self reflect on the ills of our fellow man. Every day we should think about those less fortunate than ourselves and hopefully take action to assist others in need. On November 11th we celebrate the service of our Veterans. It is my belief that Veterans should be honored on a daily basis not just once a year.
Veterans Day gets its history from the end of World War I. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Germans signed an Armistice to end the war, which was supposed to end all wars.
Legislation was passed in 1938 to make Armistice Day a National Holiday dedicated to the cause of world peace and gave tribute to World War I Veterans as well. In 1954, the United States officially made Armistice Day into Veterans Day.
Veterans Day is a special time to remember deceased veterans as well as thank and honor living veterans who served honorably in the military. Memorial Day honors service members who died in service to their country.


My New Bike

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My FJR is no more.  I just had to much back pain and butt woes to keep my sports tour.  There was nothing wrong with that Yamaha, the fault lies with my ever growing belly.  The good news is that I traded in my old bike for a brand new Honda Interstate.  It has a 1300 CC engine with an upright laid back sitting position which I love.  It’s like riding on a pain free cloud and love the lines on my new Honda. Here are a few photos of my recent ride in Colorado.

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A Great Long Ride

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We woke up at 4am to begin our extended motorcycling trek to complete the “Colorado Classic 1000”. This BMW Riders Club sponsored event is not your typical Iron Butt Ride. Its 1000 miles in the mountains of Colorado which must be done in a 24 hour period. The preplanned route has a limited amount of highway miles, so one cannot make up for lost time with high speeds on the highway. Riding in the twisties of the Rockies is a different beast to tame when riding an endurance run. It’s not easy to increase your average speed while riding in the moonlight at 10,000 feet on a mountain pass surrounded by 3000 foot vertical cliffs that hungrily await your fall. Given the comparatively low speed one must take on the route, the challenge is definitely harder than say a jaunt from New York to Florida (about 1000 miles) on highway 95 where average speeds will be more robust. To be honest, I was doomed to failure from the beginning. The Colorado Classic 1000 was my third attempt at completing 1000 miles in 24 yours. The previous two attempts were lost in disappointment. The first being from a Hail/Tornado Storm which I hit head on in South Carolina, the other caused by a broken down Harley in New York. Luck was surely not on my side to begin this sojourn. Let me just begin by saying that the event was planned, organized and implemented in a professional manner. The route was superb. It’s hard to find a bad route in Colorado but the organizers of the Colorado Classic 1000 went above and beyond in finding a phenomenal route that severed to uplift and challenge ones spirit on two wheels. If you want to try out endurance run through the best roads in North America, then make your way to Colorado for this event. Sign up quick because they only have a certain amount of spaces available.

I normally ride solo for these types of events but this time I
took my buddy Greg on his 2003 Road King. This was his first attempt at an Iron Butt Award. We started the ride in the back of the pack poking fun at those who may have been taking this ride a little too seriously. I think I saw individuals wearing diapers so they would not have to stop to relieve
themselves. Whereas others took the challenge to seriously, we did not give the Colorado Classic 1000 the respect it deserved. Our first mistake was taking to many rest/gas stops. With each stop we were not properly disciplined to quickly get back on the road; instead we slacked off before hitting the pavement. These pit stops ate up crucial time needed and before we knew it, we found ourselves behind schedule. I made some rookie mistakes by not packing sun block, water and snacks. I assumed that there would be plenty of time to get a nice lunch/dinner but that was wishful thinking.

The sun was scorching on the day of the ride. I felt its rays eating through my soul and finally had to pull over at a Walgreens to get some sun block. I purchased the highest sun block legal in the State of Colorado. I wanted all the protection I could get so I smothered the lotion all over my bear skin including my scalp and neck. Newly protected from the Sun we took off like wild cheetahs looking to make up some time. About 15 minutes after my sun block lotion bath, my eyes began to sting. I thought the pain would work its self out so I pushed through it and kept riding. Soon after the stinging began, it quickly manifested into a painful blindness. This scenario was not cool while traveling 70 mile per hour down a river canyon road on two wheels. I was not thinking rationally because I continued to fight through the pain and lack of sight in a blind rage. Finally the blindness consumed me so I pulled over to duck my head in the river in hopes of washing away the sinister sun block out of my eyes. Thirteen years of motorcycling and I am still learning road lessons. My suggestion is to never put sun block on your body where it can eventually run into your eyes. This was a rookie mistake which cost me thirty minutes to wash out my eyes. The whole scenario was not my proudest or safest moment on two wheels.

Between the hours of 4pm and 10pm we actually made up some great time. We were on schedule to make our mandated 1000 miles by 5am if we could keep up a 45 MPH Average for our last 7 hours on the road before the deadline. Because we were behind, we drove through breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were surviving on flies, crickets and road critters which flew into our mouths during the ride. At 10pm we decided to buy some gas station road pizza which looked like cheese topped road kill. That crusty nasty pizza ended up being the greatest meal ever consumed on a road trip. Hunger has a special ability to make the worst food taste splendidly good. With full bellies, we took off into the night fully expecting to accomplish the mission to beat the race against time.

With our hunger subdued we mounted our rides not knowing what awaited us just beyond the town’s limits. Have you ever played Deer Roulette on two Wheels? Outside of Silverton, CO we were traveling up the Million Dollar Highway in pitch black conditions. On the sides of the road all you could see were deer’s eyes glowing like bright search lights in a dark sky. Then the deer would spook from our engine’s noise and would take off in the direction of their choosing. This deer crazed mad house created a Frogger Scenario on the skinny mountain pass. This situation mixed with the dread of falling down the dark foreboding cliffs lead to an adrenaline rush I have not felt for a long time. It is scary going up this mountain pass in the daylight on 4 wheels but doing in at 11pm in the pitch black on two wheels with kamikaze deer darting in and out takes the experience to a whole different level.

We got to the top of the pass and started our decent when Greg’s Harley started to back fire and sputter then without notice his lights went out. Thankfully he was riding lead, so my headlights covered his route to the nearest safe zone to pull over on this dangerous mountain pass. It’s hard to explain the precarious situation we were in unless you have been up this very perilous dark roadway. There are no streetlights or guard rails on the road; the pathway up the mountain does not have room for them. It’s just a maze of steep grades, radical curves and wondrously narrow lanes encompassed
with drop dead cliffs. It’s a great place to ride just not at midnight with a broken down Harley.

Once the Road King was safely on the edge of the road we spent about 45 minutes with our headlamps trying to fix the burdened beast.
Unfortunately her ills were beyond our limited mechanical expertise. Our only option was to drop my bags on my FJR and run two up to the nearest town to sleep off our failed mission. I made a goal to finish 1000 miles in 24 hours but there was no way I would leave a buddy stranded in no man’s land in the middle of the night. I guess we could have tried to finish the Iron Butt Ride with the both of us on my FJR but I am not that brave.
At the end of the day we had a great trip. We learned some valuable lessons which will serve us well next year in the Colorado 1000 Classic. I guarantee I will be giving it another try, so if you want to join me then sign up early and give me a shout. Colorado is Calling Your Name!!!


Just My Thoughts on PTSD- Always Look Forward

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There are a higher percentage of deaths from suicide among Combat Veterans as compared to the general population in America. According to research, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be a fundamental cause of this increased suicide rate. My experience with PTSD stems from a tour in Iraq more than a decade ago. PTSD is real and has tangible and damaging side effects. It manifests its self among us in different ways and levels of severity. PTSD may be an outcome of any traumatic event from a car accident, to witnessing a crime, to being attacked by a dog, to being a victim of sexual abuse. Anyone can suffer from PTSD; the ailment has no social, economic, religious, gender or racial biases. Anyone is open to its dark shadows.
My thoughts below have no scientific merit nor are based upon research or psychoanalysis. They are just my ramblings that I felt necessary to put into words. When reflecting upon the escalated suicide rates of those whom have served in combat roles, I can’t help but dwell upon the environment that our troops lived in for such long periods of time. In my Unit the average Combat Tour was a year, for other troops it was less and some more. For many troops multiple combat tours were the norm. Could the amount of time which people are submerged in a traumatic environment have a direct relationship on how severe their PTSD symptoms could be? This could help explain the increased suicide rate among combat veterans.
In 2003, I can tell you that Iraq was nothing like the world that I live in today. The best description of the place was a maelstrom of violent deliberate organized chaos. For me it was a place where nightmares vacationed. For a year, the smells, sights and sounds of the place became an integral part of my conscious; the place became a part of me. We did all we could to keep the environment out but there was no stopping it, the place became you. When you are besieged into that chaos, there is an opportunity for one to become an uglier version of oneself and potentially be more vulnerable to making decisions which would be looked down upon back home. It’s these life choices as well the incredible amount of violence witnessed which tend to linger in our souls long after we leave the war. It’s these experiences and memories which often bind us to guilt and loss. For soldiers, the guilt and sorrow for those we lost and possibly harmed, aggravates the symptoms of PTSD and makes it harder to recover from it. For me, once I found peace to my inner demons within, I was able to better navigate the pitfalls’ associated with my PTSD. Peace comes from many different approaches. Religion, meditation, nature, support groups, therapy, animals, education, karate and family are all great constructive tools for individuals to use on their journey to come to terms with their experiences. The important thing to understand is there is no road map or set of directions; it just takes time, patience and a loving support network to lean upon while taking that journey to find oneself. Unfortunately it takes a while for soldiers to get in touch with their feelings and often turn to self-medication in an effort to chase away their mental affliction which often only worsens their anguish and increases their burdens. It’s not just heavy drug use, abuse of alcohol but violence and other such type of behavior which chases away those we love and support us. A lack of such a support network only makes the symptoms of PTSD harder to endure.
After a few years of making things right in my own mind regarding the war, I was able to begin seeing improvements surrounding my PTSD. It took me more than 9 years to be able to see a fireworks show with my family but now I can go without negative side effects. My nightmares are very rare almost negligible and my temperament is back to prewar conditions. I am able to socialize in public and find myself to be more socially active. These were all issues that I have been dealing with since my return. I’m still working with my issues of crowds and noises such as horns and crying children but all is manageable. Believe it or not, my biggest issue is visiting others in their home. For some reason I feel very uncomfortable going to someone’s house for a visit. It’s a work in progress.
Trust me, my story was filled with ugliness throughout the healing process including trouble with the law, violent behavior, abuse of alcohol, marriage problems and a ton of other nasty items but I kept one constant. When I woke up despite my many setbacks, I kept on moving forward one step at a time. There were terrible moments and steady moments and even joyful moments but every day I kept trying to look ahead to a brighter day.
There are so many more folks out there that have witnessed more ugliness then I will ever dream of and others who may not have witnesses as much but at the end of the day, that does not matter. What matters is we never judge and that we only strive to support. I know in my heart of hearts that I will never understand how others suffer with their memories, afflictions and symptoms of PTSD. This issue affects all of us differently so it’s crucial that we walk our own journey to find a way to heal and not compare our situations with others suffering from PTSD.
What I can do is be a friend, lend a helping hand, and feel empathy for their turbulent struggles. I think this is something we all can do and not just for those who suffer from PTSD but for any person who is struggling with any type of issue. It’s about being a good human being and neighbor to those we interact with.
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” ~Edward Everett Hale

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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.

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