Tag Archive: group

A Story Worth Living

A Story Worth LivingA Story Worth Living just isn’t worth seeing (and certainly not worth paying to see). I considered deleting this post but instead thought it a better use of my time to advise readers to avoid it.

Eight day camping trips do not equate to “Epic adventures”. Talking about story might be fine for a podcast but this movie was billed to the motorcycle community (including flyers I received in recent purchases from motorcycle parts distributors) as an adventure film (including enticing lines like “…can we get off this mountain…?”). What it amounts to is a disjointed, wordy mess that tells no story at all. I’m insulted as a motorcyclist that I was duped into paying $14 to see what I can see better versions of on youtube for free. The incessant talking about (rather than showing) the adventure had me squirming in my seat and wanting it to end. What little actual riding footage there is in the film seems to be the same repeated shots and totaling very little of the actual film, although if you like awkward cigar smoking shots there are plenty of those. Near what seemed like the end there is an interminable bull session in which the “actors” talk about the “adventure”, this went on so long I actually turned to a friend and said aloud “they have to stop talking now”.

I’m all for adventure but why do admittedly inexperienced beginner riders need heavy BMW800’s with fully loaded panniers if they have support vehicles following them for most of the trip? 1,000 miles in eight days (a lot of which was on pavement) just doesn’t qualify as epic. I’m at a loss to understand how this film was green-lighted for wide theatrical release by sponsors once they’d seen the final cut. This film felt forced, contrived, badly scripted and the religious overtones were uncomfortable and out of place; although it’s been admitted the deception was a deliberate attempt to dupe the riding community into hearing “the gospel”. I’ve never walked out on any film, let alone one about motorcycling; but this was very nearly my first.

In response to the growing criticism the producers are offering refunds here. (Note: I’ve received my $42 refund).

ADVrider or Long Way Round (the claimed inspiration for this film), Dream Racer or World On Wheels are better places to go for examples of motorcycle adventure.

 

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On Being Led

On-Being-ledThe article “On Being Led” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 7/28/2013.

Last week I wrote about leading rides and its challenges and rewards. This week I thought I’d write about what being led feels like. During the RoadRUNNER Touring Weekend my new friend Ken and I led the leisure group on the northern loop. It was a lot of fun and a long day in the sun; yet when we arrived back at the campground we still had two hours to kill before dinner. Ken had mentioned being ready and willing to show us some more local roads anytime we liked, so as only true lovers of riding can do after eight hours in the saddle I said, “wanna go for a ride?” Ken’s response: “dirt or pavement?” and we were off.

I like leading because I love people and I’m a natural caretaker; but that night, chasing Ken through the mountains surrounding Maggie Valley I learned that following can be a rush too. I can’t remember having had so much fun riding. I had no idea where we were headed or for how long. I had no idea how sharp the turns ahead were or where the obstacles might be, I keyed off of Ken’s speed and counted on him pointing out anything I needed to be aware of. I have a vivid recollection of the smile I couldn’t wipe from my face. We were flying, hard on the throttle, hard on the brakes, dodging gravel and trees, and at one point sliding the rear end as we came upon a utility truck stopped on a blind turn. I remember at one point Ken picking leaves from his helmet as we ducked under low lying branches.

We reached a mountain summit after a long series of steep hairpins and we pulled off to the side of the road. Ken said “ok, shut off your engine”… “huh, why?” I responded. “We’re gonna coast race”, he said. “Oh, ok”. I’d never done it before but for what seemed like 10 minutes we just coasted down the mountain around more hairpin turns racing silently and engine-less. I’ll admit that in the beginning I was a bit timid and unsure, not having the use of the throttle to work against the brakes; but after a few minutes I started loving it and trying to use the weight of my V-Strom to catch Ken on his KLR.

I gave no thought to the 200 miles we’d already ridden or how tired I was. I thought only of the next turn and the one after that and of not letting him get too far ahead. Sometimes adventure is just realizing the moment while it’s happening. Eventually Ken gave me the sign to start ‘em up again and we rode on around a peaceful lake and back home to Maggie Valley as the sun began to set.

That evening, with the ever present threat of a storm and after a long hot, fulfilling day leading, I got to put all the concerns and stress of navigation aside and, for a glorious hour, tear across the countryside with my only concern being to fill myself up with as much joy as I could physically hold. I’m easy to please and honest emotion does it every time. From now on whenever anyone asks if I’d like to see some local roads, my answer will always be an emphatic “yes please.” You never know when an impromptu ride will settle in your soul.

On Leading

Leading-RidesThe article “On Leading” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 7/21/2013.

Leading a ride is a funny thing. I can’t speak for everyone who does it; I can only speak for myself. If a group of people agrees to follow you there’s a certain expectation that you will look out for them to the extent that you can. It can be difficult on unfamiliar roads, keeping one eye on the GPS, one on the map on the tankbag, and the other on your mirrors to be sure your group is intact. I know, I know, that’s three eyes…

People sign up for rides with certain expectations and it’s really important that you honor those expectations; but in a large group there’s likely to be a range of skills, experience, and expectations. Some want to go fast and not stop, others like a more relaxed pace and more frequent stops to take photos and take in the scenery. Not all bikes are the same either; some need to go faster for the rider to feel he’s really ridden; others not so much.

So as a leader of a group ride what do you do? You do your best. You try to extend yourself so that the faster riders get the thrill of going fast on new roads, then you slow a bit to allow the lesser experienced among you to catch up in the straight sections. You wait at stop signs watching your mirrors until the group is accounted for before proceeding. You take notes, study maps, meet everyone, and tell them everything you can think of to help them on the ride. You also look at the bikes in the group and predict their relative range and try to calculate gas stops.

Once out on the road you watch your mirrors for traffic that may get between you and your riders and you try to estimate when everyone should merge for an upcoming turn. You constantly assess the skill set of those behind you so you can decide how best to lead the ride. You watch the road for obstructions, gravel, and blind curves, ever mindful that it’s not about you— there are people counting on you. Sometimes you make mistakes, miss turns, or get too far ahead; it happens despite your best efforts. You make your apologies and do whatever it takes to get everyone back on track. This year I was fortunate to lead a few rides during the RoadRUNNER Touring Weekend in Maggie Valley, N.C. and with the help of my buddy Ken managed to get two fairly large groups of riders through 200 miles of spectacular mountain roads (and down the Dragon). It was my first time at the riding weekend and a trip I’ll never forget.

Leading a large group of riders is a challenge in a lot of ways. The payoff is giving each member of your group an experience they’ll never forget. Some remember it for the fast lines through twisty roads; others will remember that you took the time to comfort them after a fall or drop; some that you stopped often enough for it to seem like an experience rather than a race. In the end all that matters is having done your best to get everyone home, safe and happy. The smiles, hugs, and handshakes always let you know that, while it may not have gone perfectly, your efforts were appreciated and you did your job—and that makes all the difference.

Magic Along The Way

Magic-Along-the-Way

Conowingo Dam, Maryland

The article “Magic Along The Way” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 3/31/2013.

Last fall my buddy Stan led us on a group ride from Hellertown, PA, to Conowingo Dam in Maryland. The dam, which spans the lower Susquehanna River, was built in 1928 and at the time was the second largest hydroelectric project by power output in the United States (Niagara Falls was the largest). The original location of the town of Conowingo, which was relocated during construction, lies beneath the reservoir created by the dam.

The 150 or so mile ride to the dam was a testament to Stan’s abilities and experience; he rides without the aid of GPS or maps. When I mentioned that to him he smiled and said: “if you use a GPS you can’t get lost.” Stan led us along some beautiful backroads including many miles of rolling, wide open, Amish country farmland. It was smooth, effortless, carefree riding in perfect weather. Once we arrived we watched the fishermen haul out fish after fish, took some photos of the dam, and even spotted a few bald eagles and great blue heron, which are known to nest in the area. We voted on whether or not to visit the museum inside the dam and shared a laugh when all but one of us chose instead to mount up and head off to see something much more interesting: the lunch menu. Our group is all about the ride (and the food).

There’s something special about riding along with a group of people whose abilities you know and trust. Sometimes you get to that place where you feel the hairs on your skin stand up, you feel something pulling you towards its equal up ahead in the distance. That electricity leaves a vacuum, just like lightning does, and what fills that vacuum? Well that’s where the magic happens. It gets filled with your energy; with whatever it is inside you that refuses to be contained. That feeling has a certain quiet perfection to it because it defies judgment. No one can ever judge it, take it from you, or claim it as their own—it is intensely personal and wholly unique, yet somehow shared.

You get to share that feeling with the people you’re with, you share it in smiles and handshakes and laughter, though the true source most always goes unspoken; it’s enough to have been in good company while you felt it. That day trip to Conowingo was interesting and the dam itself was an impressive sight; but in motorcycling, as in life, it isn’t always where you go, it’s more often who you go with and the magic you experience along the way.

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Speedwell Wolf Sanctuary

Cori and I led a group of 10 riders and friends to visit the Speedwell Wolf Sanctuary in Lititz, Pennsylvania last weekend.

In the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch country, quietly secured on 22 acres of natural woodland, you will find the home of the Speedwell Wolves. For over 20 years the Darlington Family has offered refuge to Wolves who have found themselves without a place in the natural world. It has been over a hundred years since the last wild Wolf was known to exist in Pennsylvania.

Originally created as an educational facility, the Sanctuary has allowed the Wolves, as nearly as possible to associate as a pack, choose their mates and raise their offspring. The Wolves of Speedwell hold a unique position as Ambassadors to the wild. It has been said that “the best wolf habitat resides in the human heart.” Perhaps it is also that the best habitat for our own wildness resides in the heart of the Wolf.

The Sanctuary currently provides food, shelter and veterinary care for over forty Wolves with no government or corporate assistance. Only, by your continued support and interest do the Wolves thrive.

If you get the chance to visit you the tour takes approximately an hour and I guarantee you will be impressed by these amazing animals. Please visit the site and if possible make a donation to support their cause.

Ride to Work Day 2012

It’s that time of year again. The 3rd Monday in June is National Ride to Work Day. Ridetowork.org is a 501 c4 non-profit organization, advocating and supporting the use of motorcycles and scooters for transportation, and providing information about everyday utility riding to the public.

Ridetowork.org has promotional materials and a wealth of information for organizing group rides, a newsletter, merchandise and a ton of other information and materials. If you ride, Monday is the day to ride to work. See you on the road.

Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment

Author, speaker and motorcycle touring business owner Liz Jansen has written an inspirational book entitled: Women Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment, 50 Inspiring Stories of Adventure and Self-Discovery

Interspersed with the author’s own personal story of triumph, growth, discovery and overcoming adversity on her path to discovering her true calling are 49 other stories written by women who explain how integral motorcycling is in their lives and how they got their start.  The stories come from women of every profession and background from a stunt woman and mother of 3 to a policewoman responsible for training motorcycle police, to the world’s fastest woman on a motorcycle, as well as politicians, activists, authors, artists, businesswomen and musicians. Each shares her unique story in her own words.

Some of the stories involve women who were raised riding while others tell a tale of discovering it later in life. Having discovered riding at age 33 I can relate to the women in the book who shrugged off convention, faced their fears and refused to quit until they became competent riders. I run a motorcycle group with over 100 members, 30% of whom are women and I’ve had the opportunity over the years to hear some of their stories which mirror many of those shared in the book.

On a personal level the motorcycle has been an agent of change in my life as well so much of the book resonated with me. I saw a lot my personal history in the stories, particularly the learned fears and personal traps I’d set for myself that stopped me from becoming all that I was capable of becoming.

People take many paths to empowerment. Sadly, some never make the journey to becoming what they truly are meant to be; but for many the motorcycle is the catalyst for that change which then spills over into other areas of their lives. The women in this book illustrate that point beautifully in story after story. I was moved and inspired and often nostalgic when thinking back about my own fumbling beginnings on the bike, what riding has meant to me and how it has changed my life.

A common sentiment by the women who share their stories is that they reject being called “brave” or “courageous”. They own that they have all the same fears as everyone else; but of course the very definition of courage is the taking of action in spite of fear. So these women in fact personify courage and bravery; yet they are like so many empowered people: humble and quietly inspiring. Another common thread is that each woman, once empowered, felt the strong urge to pass that feeling on, to “pay it forward”, and help others feel it too. Once again that is a sentiment I connected strongly with.

I highly recommend Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment to not only women riders; but to everyone who rides or knows a rider, anyone who is considering riding and particularly to anyone who is unfulfilled in their current place in life, feels the universe has more in store for them and wants some inspiration to begin their own journey towards empowerment and personal growth.

I carry a laminated card in my tank bag with some of my favorite quotes printed on it. One of them is by Robert Louis Stevenson who said: “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life” . Each of the stories presented in this book reminded me of that quote, which is so much a part of me. This book is a gift Liz Jansen has given the world.

Ride safe.

Free Book Giveaway: One winner will be chosen at random from comments left for this post. Comments must be left by Tuesday May 29th at noon. The winner will be announced Tuesday May 29th at 3pm.

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