Author Archive: Bud Miller

I'm a freelance Moto-journalist, poet, motorcycle enthusiast, inventor and software developer from Hellertown, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia). I write as Zen Motorcyclist.

Innovv K1

Below is a bit of raw footage from the Innov K1 I have mounted on my 2012 V-Strom. 1 minute from work I was cut off by a cager who neither looked nor signaled a lane change. It’s for these specific incidents that I am happy to have the K1 system. A review of the unit appeared in RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring and Travel and can be read here. A longer example appears below.

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Better Shared

The article “Better Shared” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 1/30/17.

To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with. —Mark Twain

 

As I sit down to write this, summer is over and we’re well into autumn. I try to ride all year here in eastern Pennsylvania, but from late fall until spring I have very little company on the road. Fall is a time when, on solo rides, you recall the trips of the past year. Today I was thinking about riding at the RoadRUNNER Touring Weekend this past August, and of one route in particular.

It had been a while since I’d attended the Touring Weekend and I was happy to be back helping out, meeting new people, and catching up with Christa, Florian, and the rest of the staff. I loved the journey across my home state to Bolivar, PA, although it was smoldering hot with temperatures near 100. No matter, I had four days to do nothing but ride, have fun, and talk motorcycles.

On the second day of the event I had the opportunity to ride with Yuval Naveh, who writes RoadRUNNER’s “Motorcyclist’s Guide to the Galaxy” series. Yuval is a software engineer, avid rider, and friend to everyone he meets. We were also roommates for the duration of the weekend. On this particular day we ended up in a group with three other riders and the five of us set off in the blazing sun to do the Flight 93 memorial tour. If you’ve visited the memorial in Shanksville, PA, I’m sure you found it as moving as I did. I didn’t expect to be as affected as I was; but walking on the path the plane took and reaching the viewing platform I was struck by the beauty of the place. It was hillier than I had imagined, breezy, and beautiful. I could smell summer in the air, and the wildflower scent carried on the wind.

That such obscene and inhumane ugliness could happen in such a place really affected me and I felt nothing but sadness. I heard my friend Yuval say quietly, “beautiful, very respectful,” and we spoke about the tragedy that took place there as well as others he had lived through in his native Israel, where, sadly, such things had happened more often.

 

Out on that platform overlooking the crash site I had a sense that everyone felt a similar sadness and so the smiles among strangers came easily. Everyone spoke softly, respectfully, conscious that this was a place to share and process grief for people none of us had known but whom we nonetheless hurt for. Sometimes just being in the presence of others feeling the same confusing rush of emotions is a great comfort. That’s certainly how it was for me.

When we rolled out on that bright, cloudless day, I was happy to be with our group but also thankful to have the silence inside my helmet for a while to make the transition from sadness back to the joy of the ride. I was glad to have visited the memorial and rode away moved but grateful for the day, the weather, the trip, that evening’s dinner with new friends. I felt eager to experience whatever came my way. Visiting a scene of such tragedy has a way of inviting joy, or at least making you appreciate life in a way few other things can.

A few hours later we passed an idyllic, calm lake, so we stopped for a break. It didn’t take long for us to agree that a swim was in order, so (with consent from our female companion whom we didn’t wish to offend) we stripped down and jumped in to cool off, scaring away a pair of fishermen in the process. After a few photos and some time to dry off we hit the road again.

Miles later and with a storm closing in on us, our GPS systems failed one by one. One failed to charge and the others routed us in circles. As the storm engulfed us we took refuge under a bridge for the 10 minutes it took to pass and for the sun to return. Then we were off again to find our way back home. What made this ride memorable was the range of situations and emotions the five of us (who for the most part had never met each other until that day) experienced together. We went from the excited anticipation of a day of riding, to sadness at the memorial, to quiet reflection, to the childlike joy of jumping into a lake, to getting lost and caught in a storm.

The ride reminded me of why we do this; why we ride firstly and why we seek out others to ride with secondly. It occurred to me that two things are most certainly better when shared: sadness and joy. One is to be divided, and the other to be multiplied.

 

You can never prepare for what may come your way during any ride, but that’s part of the fun. On some you find out more about yourself, on others more about those you’re riding with. Mr. Twain was right, but his sentiment can be extended. Whatever you experience in life, be it sadness or joy, is always better when shared.

 

Teammates Old and New

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DeSales University Hall of Fame Class of 2016

The article “Teammates Old and New” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 11/25/16.

A few weeks ago I received an email from the athletic department of DeSales University, which I graduated from with a degree in mathematics way back in 1987. I was to be inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at a banquet in late September during alumni weekend. The news came as quite a surprise given that nearly 30 years have passed since my graduation. I ran cross-country while at DeSales and achieved some success that helped (along with the efforts of many others) establish the foundations of a program that has since become a force to be reckoned with. I am honored to have been selected, and it got me thinking about my team and the times I spent running in the woods around that idyllic Center Valley, PA, campus.

Initially, I was a bit melancholy at the thought that it was the last team I was ever on. After graduation I ran other races and dabbled in biathlons and triathlons, mud runs, rock climbing, and fun runs, but never again had that sense of team that I’d had during my college days. I missed the shared activity and nervous excitement of a long training run or upcoming meet, missed the elation after winning as a team, each doing his part and getting the job done as a unit. But then I thought about motorcycling and the ways it has given me back some of what I miss about my college running days.

When you’re on a team with someone, especially a team centered around running, you spend a lot of time side by side clocking countless miles (I calculated having ran a minimum of 6,000 over the four years I spent at DeSales) talking about life and love and, in our case, some tragic losses. You become more than just teammates and often forge bonds that last the rest of your life, which is certainly true for me.

It is the same with motorcycling. I ran a riding group with nearly 200 members for a few years and while I did I realized I felt many (more…)

To Feel Normal Again (Full Text)

The article “To Feel Normal Again” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 05/03/16.

I believe that half the trouble in the world comes from people asking ‘What have I achieved?’ rather than ‘What have I enjoyed?‘”

Walter Farley, author of The Black Stallion

I’ve always loved movies with first-person narration, one character telling a story and his thoughts about the events. I’ve quoted The Shawshank Redemption before and recently watched it again during the El Niño-inspired storm of the decade here in southeastern Pennsylvania. A favorite scene is the one in which the main character, Andy, negotiates for his crew to receive three beers each in return for some accounting work done for a guard. When others question Andy’s motives, the narrator says, “. . . me, I think he did it to feel normal again, if only for a short while.”

Winter RideThe analogy stuck with me, as so many things do, and I thought about riding and the places it takes me that have nothing to do with the stuff of daily life. Normal, for me, is that space where I am one with the task at hand and thinking of nothing else, and that’s certainly true of riding. Normal is the place where (more…)

Weather On The Go

wbNow ScreenIf you’re anything like me you ride often, whether weekend day trips, daily commuting or extended multi-day trips. I commute in southeastern Pennsylvania throughout the year which means I ride in all types of weather, rain, occasionally snow, fog, high winds. Now on weekend rides or day trips that’s fine; but one thing I don’t do is commute in bad weather. My work occasionally involves being outside and I prefer not to have to deal with inclement weather on work days and the requisite clothing considerations that entails. With that in mind I’ve been using the WeatherBug weather app for a while now and with good results.

The widget on my Galaxy S5 (which I refer to often without ever needing to open the app) is unobtrusive and (more…)

When My Ship Comes In

Zen-Motorcyclist_DSC_3658-772x625The article “When My Ship Comes In” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 10/25/15.

One of my father’s catch phrases was “when my ship comes in.” What he really meant to say was “We don’t have the means to afford it now, but one day we will.” Mr. Bud was a Navy man who, after his discharge, worked one job for the rest of his life. He was a mechanic with forearms like Popeye from turning wrenches for a living. When you’re a child you don’t know anything about income, class, or (more…)

Not Your Father’s WD40

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A new staple in my maintenance routine.

Who among us didn’t grow up seeing that yellow and blue can in the garage that came out whenever dad worked on the car or lawnmower? You may have heard the rumors that WD-40 was made gel lubricantfrom fish oil (it’s not) or that it’s not really a lubricant and shouldn’t be used on motorcycle chains… both are incorrect. “WD” in fact stands for “Water Displacement”, the 40 represents the 40th “recipe” of the original product. WD-40 has come a long way and I was surprised to here from them about (more…)

The Means To Notice It All

The article “The Means To Notice It All” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 9/22/2016.

This past Mother’s Day, my girlfriend Erica and I rode to a farm not far from my home that she had lived on for a time. We were visiting the owner, Sally, who Erica had grown close to during the time she spent there and who she’s remained friends with ever since. As I approached on the cycle down a long, narrow, winding gravel driveway and under an idyllic train trestle, I spotted horses and donkeys in the fields, chicken coops and tractor barns, all the stuff of a working farm. The sky wasn’t looking so good, but it was a May day, I’ve ridden in the rain before, and besides, the dark clouds and winds created the kind of weather I’ve always loved riding in.

the-meansSally, a strong, no-nonsense woman, appeared to be close to my mother Mary’s age. She actually reminded me a bit of my mom. A bird had made a nest in a broken light fixture on her porch and laid eggs. Sally saw to it that the switch to the light was disabled and a sign was posted warning visitors to use the side door lest they suffer the wrath of a mother protecting her young.

I sat on the floor as we spoke, petting Sally’s huge, fleshy-faced English Mastiff. We covered a lot of topics. Sally is sharp, up-front, an avid reader, and direct, the sort of person I love talking to. I got the feeling that with her there are no games or fear of offending, just smart conversation. Eventually the talk turned to motorcycles, and (more…)