Camaraderie

CamaraderieThe article “Camaraderie” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 1/19/2014.

I follow the Dakar Rally every year, partly because it kicks off my riding year as it takes place right after New Year’s Day in sunny South America. I also tune in because I’ve always been a fan of endurance events dating back to my running and biathlon racing days. I just love to watch people test themselves and admire the qualities it takes to not quit when many would.

This year’s race has been an amazing test for motorcyclists with an early marathon stage that left less than half the motorcycle competitors remaining in the event. Every year during the two weeks of the race there are poignant scenes of racers coming to each other’s aid. This year one particular act of sportsmanship saw Kevin Muggleton, his own race over, assist fellow rider Mark Davidson who entered a checkpoint exhausted and demoralized. Kevin made sure Mark was fed, buoyed his spirits with an embrace and a pep talk, loaded his road book and humbly and heroically sent him off to finish the stage.

It’s always moved me the way competitors will extend a hand to help one another and it reminds me of the way we motorcyclists look after each other on the road. It has something to do with each of us knowing the risks and the rewards and being willing to share each in equal measure. There have been times that I’ve pulled over just to take a photograph and have had fellow riders pull up and ask if everything is okay.

Last week I took a leisurely, solo, Saturday morning ride on an unusually warm winter day and ended up at the Maurice River Diner in southern New Jersey. I sat by the window and watched at least a dozen other riders pull in for a late breakfast. Upon spotting each other we all tend to exchange nods or smiles that seem to say “how unbelievable is this day and how happy are you to be out in it with your face in the wind drinking it down in gulps?” It also says “see you on down the road and if you need help I’ll be there”.

Kevin Muggleton’s act of sportsmanship and humanity at the Dakar demonstrated a quality that all motorcyclists have in common. We are just as willing to share in each other’s joy as we are to share in, and thereby lessen, each other’s sorrow.

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Let Me Try

let-me-try-772x517The article “Let Me Try” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 12/29/2013.

Last month temperatures were predicted to hit the mid-60s and above here in southeastern New Jersey. A rare late December gift that lets us get out on the road in normal gear after thinking it’d be a few more months of dressing like a NASA astronaut to get a ride in.

I looked forward to riding in the temperate weather but lately Big Red’s electrical system has been giving me fits. Intermittent losses of my low beams, turn signals, and neutral light had left me not riding and delaying finding a local mechanic to deal with the matter. Given that the holidays were upon us and I’m new to the area I was loathe to give my bike to someone only to have it languish there causing me to miss this weather gift only to get it back after the new year when it’s sure to be snowing and/or too cold to ride.

Over the years I’ve taught myself (with the help of YouTube and a few rider forums) to take care of most of the usual repairs that crop up with a bike that has the number of miles on it that Big Red does. Electrical, though, is something I haven’t yet had to tackle. I’ve wired a GPS and swapped the stock horn for an air-horn, easy stuff; but this issue had me walking past the bike hesitant to tear apart the wiring harness to find the cause of the problem. I tend to take baby steps where these things are concerned; wary of leaving myself without a ride should I get in over my head.

One of the best side effects of motorcycling is the spillover confidence it generates. Things you once thought you hadn’t the skill set to tackle become a simple matter of education and concentration. Quite often it’s as simple as doing what you are comfortable with, stopping to re-evaluate before proceeding, and also having the ability and willingness to seek help when it’s clear a solution isn’t forthcoming. My homework told me the trouble could be a relay, fuse, sensor, a burned wire, or a half-dozen other possibilities.

I figured I would try and that I may be capable of more than I give myself credit for. The problem may be minor and I can always stop and leave it to a professional if it turns out to be something beyond my abilities. Often solutions are a mere matter of deciding to act, like so many other things in life. Avoidance causes stress, self-doubt creeps in, and you find yourself afraid to begin and retreating to the safety of excuses and delay. As M. Scott Peck wrote: “If we know exactly where we’re going, exactly how to get there, and exactly what we’ll see along the way, we won’t learn anything.”

In the end, a thorough cleaning and securing of Big Red’s two main electrical connectors fixed the dilemma. An $8 can of connection cleaner, a little research, a block of time to devote to the issue, and the patience and confidence to give myself a chance left me riding on a warm late December day having learned, once again (and in large because I ride), that I am more capable than I had imagined.

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Tune of the Week #103 – Winning

220px-SantanaZebopAlbumThis weeks playlist tune is Winning by Santana with (Alex Ligertwood singing lead vocals) from the 1981 album Zebop!.

I usually ride with music playing on a Scala Rider bluetooth setup (what can I say I like having a soundtrack). Every week I post a song from my personal playlist. It runs the gamut from old school to tunes released this year and in nearly every genre. It’s an eclectic mix with something for everyone.

To access the complete playlist use the menu at the top or the Spotify widget on the left sidebar.

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The Snail and Gazelle

Gazelle_Snail1-772x514The article “Riding in the New Year: The Snail and Gazelle” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 1/05/2014.

I attempt to get out and ride on every New Year’s Day. Some years it’s just not possible but this year it was dry and in the mid 30s, which is rare here in the northeast in January, so I was glad I could head out for a comfortable first ride. I don’t tend to make New Year’s resolutions; a calendar always seemed like an arbitrary and meaningless thing to try and decide to change your life around. That said, the New Year’s Day ride is a perfect occasion to remember the past year and to think ahead to the coming one.

My favorite book is John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. It was made into a film called Simon Birch. Even though it only loosely resembles the book, it is still one of my favorite movies. There’s a line delivered by Jim Carrey that has always resonated with me: Time is a monster that cannot be reasoned with. It responds like a snail to our impatience, then it races like a gazelle when you can’t catch a breath. Many of us have to suffer the snail in winter and then try and keep pace with the gazelle in summer.

My daughter Devon gave me a unique gift for the holidays, a leather-bound journal filled with parchment paper with an intricate brass clasp. It looks like it came right from the set of the Lord of the Rings. When she gave it to me I thought of that line about time from Simon Birch. I wished instantly that I’d had it forever, that it was gnarled, weathered, soft and filled with my handwriting; but it doesn’t work that way. The monster won’t allow it and can’t be reasoned with.

There’s always a first ride of the year, arbitrary though it may be, and the mind automatically thinks ahead when the calendar changes. As I rode along I looked forward to a lot in coming year: seeing friends at RoadRUNNER’s Touring Weekend this July in West Virginia; taking a photography course with Cori this winter and riding two-up with her in summer; making friends out on the road; a 300 mile off-road ride I may attempt next November; getting myself lost and finding my way home. I especially looked forward to filling my journal with all those experiences and with new ideas and remembrances as the monster allows. See you on the road in 2014.

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Tune of the Week #102 – Tommy Conwell

This weeks playlist tune is If We Never Meet Again by Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers .

I usually ride with music playing on a Scala Rider bluetooth setup (what can I say I like having a soundtrack). Every week I post a song from my personal playlist. It runs the gamut from old school to tunes released this year and in nearly every genre. It’s an eclectic mix with something for everyone.

To access the complete playlist use the menu at the top or the Spotify widget on the left sidebar.

Categories: Tunes, Video | Tags: , | Leave a comment