Tag Archive: commuting

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…)

The Best Lessons

The article “The Best Lessons” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 07/19/2016.

4-16-zen-400x264I have a tendency to meet people at the supermarket when I take the motorcycle for my weekly supply run. I like the looks I get carrying my grocery bags and helmet; people wonder where I’m going to put everything. I’ve written before about others feeling at ease walking up to me when I’m dismounting or packing my purchases in my saddlebags. I’d like to think it’s my countenance that puts people at ease, but I think maybe it’s just the bike that draws them in. I’ve had interesting (and occasionally bizarre) conversations with complete strangers who always part by telling me, with a smile, to be safe. I love that aspect of motorcycling.

I recently met a young aspiring rider who works for the store where I do my shopping. I was packing an eight-pound bag of dog food into my side case and heard Wow, that thing is huge!” from behind me. The young man thought my V-Strom was a big bike, which made me smile.

It’s not that big a bike, tall maybe. The luggage makes it seem bigger than it is. He went on to tell me with wide, enthusiastic eyes that he was planning on getting his first bike. He was thinking a small bike to start, despite his friends’ insistence that (more…)

To Each His Own (full text)

The article “To Each His Own” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 03/15/2016.

In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day—or to celebrate each special day.”

—Rasheed Ogunlaru

I’ll admit I was at a bit of a loss regarding this column. I had the “bones” (as I like to refer to the overall theme), but the structure was lost on me. Then, I visited my dentist, and by the time I left his office, I had the rest of the column in place in my mind. Today, for once, I was happy to have visited him.

3-16-zen-e1458047262598-772x472Sitting in the chair, our usual banter somehow turned to base jumping and paragliding while skiing. My dentist recalled a documentary about an athlete who had lost several friends to these same endeavors. Moments later, I’m shot up with Novocaine, and the ridiculous (and uncomfortable) plastic prop is placed in my mouth. It was then that my dentist and his assistant made the not so obvious, yet all so predictable, leap to discussing the danger of motorcycles. As if on cue, the obligatory statement comes out about how we have responsibilities to our loved ones to give up such dangerous pursuits. I couldn’t respond. And it irritated me (more…)

The Evolution of Motorcycle Safety

Did you know that the very first motorcycle was built in 1868? While popularity of the motorcycle didn’t quite catch on until the early 1900’s, it wasn’t until 1967 that the first helmet law was passed. Since 2005, not much has changed to enforce the law throughout the United States. In fact, according to this new info-graphic, it seems that motorcycle laws have become more lenient over the years. More and more states went from a universal helmet law to a partial helmet law by 2005, raising the age limit so that riders 20 and under (up from 17) are required to wear a helmet. This leniency has resulted in 17 states seeing an increase in motorcycle-related mortality rates.

Most states in the southeast and southwest saw higher mortality rates than the rest of the country. The most recent data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has determined that over 4,000 American motorcyclists died in traffic accidents during 2013, which is 13% of all motor vehicle deaths for that year. If the mortality rate for motorcyclists makes up more than ten percent of all accidents, why isn’t the law being adjusted to keep those motorcyclists safe?

The answer might lie in the mortality rates of the rest of the states. Click the graphic below to find out.

Motorcycle-Safety-IG-FINALmini1

Risk and Reward

Risk_Reward-772x283The article “Risk and Reward” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 6/16/2013.

The other day I got a call from my mother telling me she had taken a bad fall, torn ligaments in her wrist, and had hurt her back. She had seen a doctor and was as comfortable as could be and there was not much I could do. I took a ride over to spend some time with her and decided to take the bike despite indications that bad weather was a possibility.

As I made my way over I could see the mountains on the horizon. The sky above me was a spectacular blue with gigantic clouds so thick you’d have sworn they should be making noise as they drifted into each other. Directly over the mountains and in my intended path, was a dark and broiling mass of black and gray thunderclouds and further on I could see a wall of rain.

I don’t know about you, but I love unpredictable and unstable weather, always have. I’m not sure why. In the back of my mind I thought that I should turn around and get the car; but I didn’t. Instead I raced to a high point that I’m familiar with to try and get some photographs before the sun set. I’ve always loved twilight, when things seem to glow; but as you can see from the photo, this was twilight cranked up a notch with the contrast of utter blackness off in the distance. The air seemed to be moving away from me in every direction rather than blowing like wind, and there was unmistakable electricity in the air.

My parents live at the foot of the Poconos and one of my routes to their house goes up and over a mountain on a dirt and gravel track called Smith Gap Road or Point Phillips Road, which at its highest point crosses the Appalachian Trail. It’s full of twisties and steep drop-offs and when it gets wet it can get tricky as the cinders fill the grooves in the V-Strom’s tires. I ride it a few times a year just for a bit of adventure and on this occasion, with the weather looming, it was spooky and memorable.

I’ve never ridden in another country or in exotic locales, I hope to one day and to come back with wild stories to tell; but for now I’ll take my adventure as it comes, even if it’s only riding under the threat of a storm beneath mysterious and uncertain skies. The risks in this case were relatively minor: getting wet, dropping the bike, and sitting it out roadside; but if you risk a little the reward can be great, even if that reward is only a memory and a grin, and the goose bumps that memory invokes. Even on a minor scale, deciding to embark on something and see it through can have profound benefits.

Sometimes rides are epic because of what goes wrong and other times they are epic simply because the experience embeds itself in your soul no matter the distance or duration. Oh, by the way, if you see mom please don’t mention this, she’d only worry.

Shared Experience

DCIM100GOPROThe article “Shared Experience” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 4/11/2012.

I’m not sure what it is about group riding that is so desirable, enjoyable and inspiring. Cori and I were talking about it the other day. In most cases there is no communication other than hand signals, so as group activities go, it’s a strange, yet somehow totally fulfilling one. We decided it has something to do with the shared experience.

We ran a group in excess of one hundred riders for two years. I’m always happily surprised at how easily complete strangers can feel like old friends. Each rider is alone; yet protected by the group. Each rider makes peace with his own past and plots his future, while sharing an uncertain but completely immersive present. We travel together across whatever threshold we each need to cross. Motorcycles are unique in this respect. I can’t say the same is true for any other mode of transportation.

For me it has something to do with the simple act of heading in the same direction as a group, yet separately. The endpoint is just the conjured up framework we work with, it doesn’t matter where we go really.  It’s always about more than what you see and what you feel anyway. It’s deeper, the kind of deep that’s better shared. Externally each rider accompanies the others, while internally going wherever he or she needs or decides to go. We accompany each other there and take turns guarding each other’s backs.

On a group ride we get a bit of the “tonic of wildness” that Thoreau talks about. When we arrive, we smile that smile that a casual observer might mistake for mere friendship, but in many cases we don’t really know each other; but everyone knows it’s more. No one ever says it aloud and that’s okay. To say it aloud would tarnish it because certain feelings are better unspoken and there’s no need to verbalize it. The smile seems to say “thanks for coming along, for accompanying me on my journey, and allowing me to accompany you on yours”.

Riding is always joyous, even on those rides when I find myself thinking about someone who has passed on and true joy is always better shared.

All Who Wander

WandersmallThe article “All Who Wander” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 5/26/2012.

“Not all who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien. Lately it seems like every day is busier than the last. I’ve started making lists first thing in the morning to remind me of what I intend to accomplish, in order of priority, for the day. Last Wednesday my list was a long one. In addition to some work I had to wrap up, I also had yard work to do, a book outline to finish, patent forms to fill out, a doctor appointment to keep, a new camera to get familiar with for an upcoming tour, a review for my other blog, and this post to write.

There’s never enough time to get everything done and often precious little time to ride, but it was 85 degrees and brilliant outside so I decided to get done what I could and then mount up and take Big Red to my appointment. On the ride home I started thinking again about all I had to get back to as I baked in traffic; but at some point I just began to enjoy the ride and everything else seemed to fade in importance. I happened upon a road I had passed a thousand times on my commute but had never ventured down before and, on a whim, decided to see where it would take me.

The road led me along a stream at low elevation and I could feel the air temperature change in the shade near the water while the flickering sun stabbed down at me through what seemed like every possible shade of green in the canopy above. A cool breeze through my jacket took the place of the oppressive heat of the day; the traffic was replaced by a private stretch of twisting asphalt that I had all to myself. The chores of the day were somehow gone and forgotten as my mind was filled by the wonder and euphoria of what lay around the next bend as the road narrowed and turned to gravel. I started to think: all that stuff can wait, this feeling is too important to ignore and I went from living in an immediate future of busyness to a state of being completely present and conscious only of the cool air, the tank between my knees, the sound of the engine, and the sensory pleasure of a stunningly colorful day.

Sometimes getting nothing done is more of an achievement and has more value than does checking items off of a to-do list. We do what we must so we can have moments like these. It’s so easy to get caught up in work, in the other stuff of life, and to forget to let joy in. It can be hard to remind yourself to wander and harder still to allow yourself to; but it’s important, necessary in fact. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” Peace can come simply by seeing what lies down a new road, what you find there is of little or no importance, the joy is in the seeking. However long my list, I’m pretty sure next week will feature more wandering, even if I don’t get lost.

Choosing a mount

mountsThe article “The Road Less Traveled: Choosing a Mount” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 2/28/2012.

My first bike was an all black, 1981 Yamaha Maxim that my brother Dave found for me. Having never ridden a motorcycle before, I had no idea what I wanted, what size I needed, how it would handle, what the range was like, or anything else for that matter. All I knew was I wanted to learn so that I could ride with Dave.

I put around 6,000 miles on the Maxim and loved every minute, but as my skills grew (more…)