Sunday, April 24, 2011

Journey backward

It's April 24 - Easter Sunday - and there's been a Jesus movie marathon on Turner Classic Movies. Barrabas, King of Kings, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell... Friend Keith joined me for smoked ribs, biscuits, potato salad, strawberry pie for dessert. I waved as he headed out my driveway toward home an hour or so ago, and it's only now, as I watch JCS, that I can reflect on my most recent motorcycle trip, some 3,500 miles in a big loop across half the U.S. and back home.

Watching the JCS movie can't help but bring memories of a trip to NYC over the Thanksgiving weekend in 1972 and getting tickets to see the original broadway musical of Jesus Christ Superstar. Wow! It was so powerful and so radical (for 1972). This performance - and the whole Broadway and Big City experience - was life altering for me. It would be the first of many alterations and redirections to my life.

Reflecting on this further, other memories come to mind, one after the other and with little effort, in the course of this most recent road trip. I rode Zooty BMW up to Casey IL to attend the Moonshine Burger weekend. From there I rode across IL, IN, OH, WV, and into Frostburg MD for the night, on my way to Salisbury MD to visit my mom. Then it was down into VA and NC to get to Wilmington NC to help out with the Cape Fear Rally that next weekend.

I first attended Moonshine in 2007 and got to meet Terry Hammond for the first time. While I'd "known" him for a few years on the MTF forum, that's not the same as meeting someone face to face. I also got to "enjoy" some snow and freezing rain, which pretty much "grounded" me for the day at the hotel. But that was okay...there were others who'd made the same decision as I did, and we all still had an enjoyable day and evening chatting, browsing the internet, plotting routes toward home or other destinations.

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This year's Moonshine event had a completely different mood and "flavor" than the one in 2007. Terry is no longer with us. Moonshine 2011 became the First Annual Memorial Moonshine. Friday night's dinner at Richard's Farm Restaurant was a eulogy to Terry, through the speeches given by Terry's friends and family.


Getting to the Moonshine store in the rain brought back memories of the 2007 event - the only other time I came to Moonshine. That year was wet, as well, and cold. Photos of 2007 Moonshine:  2007 Moonshine

The riders began arriving early, and by 9:30-10:00 AM, bikes were parked for 100 yards down each of the crossroads in both directions.  Terry's Honda ST1300 was displayed in front of the Moonshine Store, a sad reminder that he would not be there to greet folks as they arrived.

At the dinner Friday night at Richard's Farm Restaurant, at the Moonshine store Saturday morning, at the hotel during the afternoon, and at the Firemen's Chili Dinner Saturday night at the high school, the fellowship of all riders was connected to the memory of Terry and his work to create and sustain this event.

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Sunday morning, my route eastward toward Maryland passed through Indianapolis and as I rode by the large pro football stadium downtown it brought back memories of a business trip I took with a colleague in the late 90's. On a whim, we bought tickets to a Colts game. Scalpers on street corners near hotels and the convention center were selling them at face value. I don't remember what team the Colts were playing that night, but I do remember that there were a couple of Aggies on the team, one of them a defensive lineman from the famed Texas A&M Wrecking Crew. My late husband and I had season's tickets to the Aggies football games for the four years that my son attended that school and we had the pleasure of watching this powerhouse team and the fantastic Wrecking Crew in action every weekend.

As my route took me through Dayton, my musings shifted gears as I recalled my trip through here a few years ago with friend Mike and how we stopped at two units of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park. We stopped at the Wright Brothers bicycle shop near the National Park visitor center and at the Huffman Prairie Flight field near Wright-Patterson AFB. Wright Brothers National Park Dayton

This train of thought, in turn, brought back much older memories of the first time I'd taken a motorcycle trip that entailed multiple overnight stays enroute. Mike and I rode to Laconia NH for bike week to see the vintage and sidecar races in Loudon. This was in June 2005. On our way home, we went to the Outer Banks and visited the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk. Trip to Laconia 2005.  Now, reflecting back on it, that trip seems like so long ago.  Almost 230,000 miles have passed under my two wheels since that trip.

Soon, I was riding out of Ohio, across a little corner of Pennsylvania and into West Virginia and then, just as soon, I was nearing Frostburg MD for my night's stop.

The next morning I continued east through MD toward Annapolis and the bridge that would take me over to eastern MD. As I rode through the Annapolis area, the scenery brought back a long-forgotten memory of a trip here with my first husband, and the details slowly crept back into my consciousness. Somewhere around 1971 or 1972 we drove down here from Massachusetts to attend a football game between Holy Cross (his alma mater) and the Midshipmen. I don't remember too much about that trip but I do remember the game and the stadium experience.

I pulled over just before the toll booths at the bridge to dig out my EZ-Pass and then continued over that gorgeous bridge toward Salisbury MD and my mom. It seems like no time at all before I was in the outskirts of Salisbury. I stopped near the hotel to top off my gas tank and pick up a Subway sandwich then proceeded to the Microtel to check in. A little bit of internet research pulled up a great rate at this hotel along with information about it's onsite laundry facilities and free shuttle service to the airport. Why the airport shuttle?? I have a rental car waiting for me at the airport. Having a car this week will prove very convenient to take my mom shopping and out to eat.

Checked in, clothes changed, Subway sandwich eaten, I then headed over to the Assisted Living home where my mom lives. We spent the rest of Monday together and all day every day for the next three days. We went shopping, went out to eat, went for walks, viewed photos and videos of my grandkids - her great-grandkids - on my laptop, had lunch with my sister, went to their house for dinner one night. It was a really great visit. As my sister pointed out, I kept mom so busy she didn't even have time to take her usual afternoon nap!

All during the week with mom, our conversations often turned to the topic of food. Mom was a great cook. Nothing fancy, just wholesome, hearty, and often simple and healthy meals. She somehow managed to feed the five of us on what would be considered very little by today's standards. She made a great beef stew in her large cast-iron skillet - a beef stew like no other. And there was what she called "American Chop Suey."  Her chili and the tacos she made for us were great stuff from a kid's point of view. She made tuna casserole which I secretly hated but ate anyway. And then there was her deep-fried chicken and biscuits! Talking about this gave both of us a strong hankering for it so one day we had lunch at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Not quite the same as hers, but it satisfied the craving.

I even got a couple of good runs in while there.  One morning I ran the 3.5 miles over to mom's residence, joined her for a cup of coffee, then ran back the 3.5 miles to the hotel.  Mom wasn't too sure just what I was talking about when I told her I was going to do this, but when I showed up at her table during breakfast, she figured it out.  She stood in the atrium of the residence to watch me take off running back toward the hotel.  I showered, got dressed, and then drove back over to mom's and spent the rest of the day with her. 

After my mom moved into the assisted living residence, my two sisters emptied out my mom's house and sold it last month.  There were no material possessions of hers that I really wanted but I can't help but feel that if I'd been called on to help them with this task, I might have rescued a few things that I would have liked to have:  Photos, home movies, maybe a knick knack that might have brought back some memories.  I feel the loss of those possessions that link her to her past - and therefore their connection to my own past - slowly slipping away each time she's moved her household.  This last move to the assisted living residence has a certain sense of finality to it. 

My older sister had kept a couple of framed prints that she'd taken from mom's house but didn't want them.  One is a charcoal portrait of my dad in his Navy uniform, made from a photograph while he was stationed in Japan in the late '50's.  The other is a watercolor of the plane he flew during that era, also created from a photograph by a Japanese artist while he was stationed there.  I gladly took these items from her, taking them to a UPS store in Salisbury to have them wrapped and shipped to my home in Texas.

It was with great sadness that I said my goodbyes to her Thursday evening. I'm not sure when I'll see her again, if at all, since she is close to 94 years old. We had a great visit and I was able to spend quality time with her, something I'd not been able to do very often, ever since I moved from Massachusetts over 20 years ago.

I checked out of the hotel Friday morning and headed south toward Virginia, my heart heavy and my vision blurred with the tears of regret for having to leave my mom.    My sadness gradually became acceptance as I processed this trip and all of the memories that it had evoked.

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I rode across the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel-Bridge and through Norfolk toward North Carolina.  The last leg of this trip is to Wilmington NC to help however I can with the Cape Fear Rally that is being held Friday-Saturday.  I arrived at the Ramada mid-afternoon on Friday and got checked in then walked across the street for a late lunch.  I didn't see any other motorcycles in the parking lot and wasn't sure if I was needed to help out Friday evening.

The next morning I got up and went for a run, then cleaned up, grabbed my laptop and headed over to the function facility next door behind the EconoLodge.  Here were all the other volunteers and I could now see a dozen motorcycles parked behind the motel.

The riders started to arrive around 2:00 PM and I was put to work as a scorer.  This kept me busy and, as I scored the riders, it reminded me of the two years I participated in the mini rally portion of this event in the past.  I recalled some of the bonus locations I'd collected and some of these showed up on this year's rider score sheets.  Memories of my own Cape Fear rally experiences began to fill my mind:  The bonuses I'd missed, the mistakes I'd made, the chances I'd not taken.  But scoring the other riders was fun and I enjoyed socializing with the riders afterward at dinner.  I was tired, not having gottten a good night's sleep the night before, so left the party a little early.

The next morning I got up early, didn't even join the group for a light breakfast, just wanted to get on the road for my long two-day ride back home to Texas.  As I worked my way toward I-95, I was passed by a GoldWing being ridden two-up and clearly they were Cape Fear participants.  They waved as they passed me by.  Then another bike passed, also a Cape Fear participant, clearly eager to get home. 

The miles rolled by and when I got to Camden SC, I exited I-20 to get a quick national park stamp at the Revolutionary War park.  The visitor center was closed so I took a photo of bike in front of the park sign. 

As I was getting back onto I-20, I could see a motorcycle coming up behind me, its headlight pattern clearly that of an LD rider.  The bike caught up with me and then pulled in behind me, staying with me all the way to the outskirts of Atlanta where I exited for gas.  The bike signalled its exit, as well, and it wasn't until I pulled up to the pump and walked back to the other rider that I realized who it was.  As he took his helmet off at the pump I could see that it was a fellow MTF member who had just participated in the Cape Fear rally and was heading home to Mississippi.  We chatted a bit over a quick lunch of hotdogs and cold drinks and then headed back up onto the interstate.  We stayed together until I turned off onto 285 and he continued west  on I-20.  The companionable presence of his bike in my rear view mirrors made those miles go by quickly.

Now I was on my own on I-85 as I headed toward Montgomery AL and then Greenville AL for the night.  Enroute I decided to stop at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site to collect that national park stamp but also to continue a tradition I had started when I completed my first IBA National Park Tour in 2006.  I've included this national park in every National Park Tour I've completed since then...five IBA National Park tours in all.

I remember my first visit to Tuskegee Institute and the Airfield.   The park visitor center was a trailer with small parking lot, up on the bluff overlooking the derelict and rundown airfield.  When I stepped into that little trailer I was totally taken by the large photos than literally covered every square inch of the wall space.  In these photos were the faces of young men eager to serve their country at the start of WWII.   As the daughter of a highly decorated WWII Navy dive bomber pilot, I was strongly attracted to this national park.   This visit, as I pulled into the little parking lot in front of the trailer, I was greeted by a sign that said that the visitor center was now located in the large red brick hangar down at the airfield.  Hooray!  I turned the bike around and headed down the hill and into the little complex of airfield buildings.  I was eager to see what the buildings looked like.  There's still much to do to restore this facility to its former glory and importance but the potential is obvious.

In Greenville AL for the night, I reflected on this entire trip and the on the memories it evoked and the new memories it has created.  3,500 miles of road time presents plenty of time to sort through all the events that occurred, the people I met and friended, the friends I reconnected with, the memories that were resurrected.  It's been a good trip, yet I'm glad that I'll be home soon.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Dichotomy of Speed and Leisure

Texas Mile is a display of brute speed and power. So why am I so attracted to these events? Guess I'm my father's daughter! Last year I drove down just for the day, but missed out on several facets of this event, including the early morning and after-hours ambience at the facility. This year I rode down with friend Mike in his motorhome, our bicycles tied to the rack on the back. We followed Klaus and his wife Dianne in their P/U with slide-in camper. Andy, a fellow BMW club member, is already there at the airstrip in Goliad, with his 5th Wheeler and trailer containing a borrowed Kawasaki ZX-14.
Last weekend I enjoyed watching cars and motorcycles go very, very fast...!
We spent a great weekend "boondocking" at the Texas Mile! Mike has the perfect RV set-up for this. Again this year there was a wide assortment of very fast cars and motorcycles and the four of us spent a very leisurely two days alternately browsing the vehicles and chatting up their owners, cruising the paddocks by bicycle, buying girl scout cookies and sitting at our campsite chatting and visiting.

When we first arrived, Andy reported to us that the Kawi was smoking and burning oil. He lost a full day's runs on Friday assuming there was something dreadfully wrong with the bike. A quick investigation by Mike and Klaus revealed that it was over-filled with oil. Andy drained the excess, took it out for a little ride, and declared the "problem" fixed. I'm sure he was relieved to learn it was such a simple thing to fix.

That evening I set out some deer sausage I'd brought, along with crackers and cheese. Dianne set out makings for beef and chicken fajitas and I made some cocktail sauce and defrosted the frozen shrimp we'd bought at Walmart. It was a casual finger-food feast, perfect for our first night together.

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The next day Andy was queued up in the paddocks early to get as many runs in as he could.


He got one run in and while waiting in line to go a second time, a corvette spun out on the track and there was nearly two hours' delay while they cleared the vehicle and cleaned the track of debris. Mike and I rode our bicycles down to the far end in hopes of getting a better look at the wreck but they'd already cleared it away by the time we got down there. We did discover the Girl Scout cookies, though!


In between Andy's runs, I often went back to the RV and sat in the shade, reading or browsing the internet. When I got hungry, I broke out the cheese and crackers, sliced an apple and had a light nosh. When the views over at the paddocks got interesting, I grabbed my camera and walked over to take photos of bikes and cars.  Photos here:  2011 Texas Mile


Andy had several good runs for the day, with consistent speeds - right at 148 to 149 mph - and good clean starts every time. The owner of the bike - a co-worker of Andy's - arrived with friends and family for the day and after lunch he suited up and made a run on the bike. His top speed on that single run: 170 mph. Why the difference? Familiarity with the bike, since it's his, no doubt played a part. But his size was the single most logical explanation. Andy is a big man, the co-worker not so big. 6" shorter and probably 150-160 lb lighter, with much less girth.

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For dinner Saturday night, Mike pulled out the grill and fired up the charcoals. Klaus and Dianne had a large steak, Mike and I had a pair of butterflied pork chops. I made a salad with avocado and shrimp, and sliced the large loaf of French bread. Andy joined us for dinner that night and shared with us his day's experiences on the track. We broke out the Girl Scout cookies and sour cream-frosted brownies for dessert. It was a pleasant evening all 'round.

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Andy had his bike in the paddocks early Sunday morning and was one of the first motorcycles down the track to post a 150.2 mph speed in the mile. He did it! His goal after learning the limitations of the bike with him on it was to break 150 and he did it. It earned him the right to purchase a "150 mph" t-shirt and decal, and memories he won't soon forget.

He needed to get home to his wife, who'd just had surgery that previous week, so we all packed up our RV's to head home. As we neared Wharton TX, Mike and I made a quick decision to stop at Heinz's BBQ for lunch. As we pulled up to park the RV, I spotted some horses in a field immediately next to the parking lot. As I got out of the RV, there was a beautiful black horse with white blaze on her forehead and an adorable buff-colored colt scampering about her, never far from her, nuzzling her head against the mom's neck. I climbed back into the RV to grab my camera and took some photos of this adorable scene.


Fun weekend!