Thursday, November 28, 2013

Give Thanks

From The Bikers' Den

That couple on the bike may be having some difficulty carrying home the leftovers from a grand Thanksgiving spread.  

Did you ever stop to think how fortunate we are to have the meal, let alone the extras? 

This is the time of year for us to be thankful for the bounty of blessings we have in these United States.  God has blessed us richly.

Freedom from Want
Norman Rockwell, 1943
Give Him your thanks today for all you have, for all our country has, and for all it was established to stand for. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Old Folks, Pianos, and Bucky

On occasion, I like to have a little fun with my appearance as a typical motorcycle rider when I am around "normal" people. 

Now, "typical" is probably not a good way of putting it.

The usual stereotype of a bad biker is one of black chaps and a slant-zip jacket over a sleeveless shirt, with maybe a bandanna, a colors vest, a few chains, and some tattoos in conspicuous places. 

Or, it could be a kid on a too-high-powered sportbike wearing cargo shorts and a tee shirt, perhaps with a back protector over the tee (for safety). 

How about that Gold Wing rider with his drink holders and space enough to carry a complete closet full of clothes and a mechanic's tool chest just in case? 

Well, I have to admit that we bikers, especially the ones dressed for the road, look a little odd when we are not riding, but still in our getup around non-biker people.  On occasion, I have stopped at a take-out restaurant or other retail establishment and had folks give me the eye for the way I am dressed.  Not very many make a comment, surprisingly, and even if they do, the comments are often flippant: "'fraid of fallin' off that thing?" or "Ya' look like ya' just stepped off the Starship Enterprise."  

And, when I buy gas, I don't like to waste time taking off my gloves so I can unbuckle my helmet to go in and pay for my purchase.  So, I go in with the full regalia, credit card in hand, and fork it over to the clerk who no-doubt is wondering if I am about to rob him and take off at high speed with his money. 

There is one other situation where I have a little more fun.  You know that I play the piano, and that I tickle the ivories with mostly old popular tunes -- from the early twentieth century into the sixties.  They come from sheet music I have collected over the years, and from my mimicking some of the songs on my hoard of player piano rolls. 

I also play a lot of old-favorite hymns. 

There are several nursing and assisted living homes that periodically ask me to come and play for their residents.  After all, I may be one of the only people still playing tunes that their parents grew up with or that they, themselves enjoyed when they were young. 

I sometimes ride the bike on the days I play for them, a pack on my back filled with music books.  When I get there, it is easier to leave everything -- helmet, gloves, backpack, etc. -- on rather than try to carry it all in my arms separately.  I've done it both ways, and I usually drop something along the way if I take everything off first.

And that is where my fun begins. 

As I walk in the door and to the room with the piano, which is sometimes quite a ways away from the entrance, the residents look agape, wondering whether they are seeing things that don't really exist. 

And some are ready to defend themselves against the likes of me.

The staff of the home thinks an alien has invaded from outer space for sure, and place their hand on the phone in case they need to call in the Men in Black -- or more. 

Little kids visiting grandmas and grandpas often ask me if I am a Power Ranger. 
I am, I tell them -- the Silver one.

I think I see in the eyes of some of the men a glimmer of memories of days gone by, maybe when they rode a now-ancient motorcycle cross country on a shoestring.  Or they remember trying to impress the young ladies with their style and daring. They might be reliving that time in their past through me today. 
Students of Scott Sr. High School
Westwood, PA
I get a kick out of giving them something to talk about the next day over lunch or supper, too.  " know, Mabel, that young man with the odd clothes, who came and played the piano for us last night?  Well, I've never seen anything like it...." 
SuperStock photo
Often times, I banter with the audience.  I kid, and tease, or explain something interesting about the numbers I play.  I bring up the importance of God, country, and family, and the very real potential of our losing our freedoms of religion and speech if we don't pass down our values to young people. 

Sometimes I jokingly tell them that there will be rides on the back of my motorcycle after I am through playing. 

One summer evening, a spry lady actually followed me out to the bike, expecting to get her ride right then and there.  I had to explain that I could not give her a ride that night, but maybe the next time I came around.  Well, the next time I came around, about six weeks later, she asked first thing if I were going to give her the ride she missed last time!  I had to decline again, but she remembers to this day that I owe her one. 

There is something else. 

A few of the people in these places are in pretty bad shape.  Life has become less full for them.  Some are no longer the people they once were, and they might not realize as much about what is going on around them any more.  Their eyes have become dim, and their bodies frail. 

I sometimes wonder to myself whether they will really get anything out of some guy pounding on a piano. 

And I would be wrong if I thought they didn't. 

Getty Collection
It is amazing to me.  Some who appear to be quite unresponsive seem to be moved by the music.  The hymns, especially, are still familiar to them, learned long ago.  They may remember the words of every verse, and they sing along with my playing.  Despite their foggy memories of things that happened just yesterday, they still remember the old things. 

I was at first surprised by this.  Then I became moved.  I am encouraged by them.  I play my heart out for them.

And I know that I should never forget that my meager God-given talents are to be shared freely.

I hope someone comes to see me and play for me when I am long past my prime.  It might bring back a misty distant memory or two I have made. 

Do something for someone else today. You will get more out of it than you might think. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

New Skid Lid

When I started riding a motorcycle back in 2007, I was in my 5th decade of life.  I wished to prolong that as best I could, so I made sure I had the proper protective gear.  I never ride without a full leather suit, motorcycle-specific gloves and boots, and a full-face helmet.

I even wore one to the MSF beginner class I took: 

I wore this used helmet for a few weeks until I bought the new one.  It is now relegated to being a photo frame in my office.

Since my noggin a very important part of me, I looked over the reviews carefully when I bought my first helmet and found that the Scorpion EXO-700 was highly rated and reasonably priced.  I went to the local dealer and tried one on for fit.  I wore it for about 20 minutes n the store to make sure there were no pressure points.  I got some odd looks from other customers, but that is the penalty you pay to make sure you are not buying something that won't fit properly.  I decided that it was fine, so I made the purchase.

I bought light silver color because it matches well the silver on the bike, and blends with my usual riding suit colors.  

That lid now has almost 40,000 miles on it, over a little more than six years and some 536 rides.

By the way, that Fieldsheer suit was an early purchase in the quest to learn to ride a motorcycle.  I actually bought it at a pawn shop more than ten (!) years before I got a motorcycle.

What can I say?  It was a really good deal.  It was just luck that the motorcycle I bought was silver to match it. 

[How do you know all those statistics you quoted above, Bucky?]

I'm afraid I am compulsive about keeping track of when and where I ride and how far.  In fact, I can also tell you that the average ride length is 74 miles, and I have put in about 6500 miles per year, since the beginning.  That includes a lot of short jaunts to work and back, and usually just one longer ride on the weekends.  An advantage of keeping track of all this data is that I can look back and refresh my feeble memory on whether a route was a good one, what there is to see there, and whether I wrote (or might write) about it on these pages. It also helps when I am out riding to remember where any future tag game pictures were taken. 

Practical, eh? 

Now, back to the gear discussion.

They say that a helmet should be replaced when it is between five and seven years old.  Certainly the soft foam comfort padding inside deteriorates, so that is one reason to chuck it.  And it can get kind of nasty from all the sweat, even though you can remove and wash it in the Scorpion.  Indeed, my helmet had a new set of foam installed under warranty when it was three years old.  The covering over the foam had become cracked and was peeling off.  The denser protective foam is also said to deteriorate.  I don't want to find out whether it has done so by putting it to a test, so I sally forth to find a replacement helmet.

The old:

These days, my shopping is in large part on the Internet, though I almost always look locally too. 

There are so many helmet manufacturers and models to pick from, and the prices range from bargain-basement $59.95 to hundreds of dollars.  I think my head is worth more than 60 bucks, so I look a little higher. 

So, what did I pick for the replacement?  See for yourself.  Here is a picture of the new helmet in its box: 

Scorpion EXO-700! 

They give you this pretty bag to protect it:

[OK, Bucky, don't tell me...]

And here is a side-by-side photo of my old and new helmets.

[C'mon, let's see it!]

OK.  Here it is:

Yes, I admit it.  I bought the identical helmet.  Bike Bandit had them on sale for $102, so I decided to buy another one before they phase them out.  

That eye staring out of half of the face shield is intended to demonstrate its fog-proof coating.

It doesn't really work when it is cold outside.  The only thing I have found that really works to keep the shield and your glasses from fogging is the Foggy Respro neoprene insert that covers your nose and mouth.  It attaches to the inside of the helmet with Velcro.

I put my new helmet on my head to test the fit, and immediately notice the difference between it and my old helmet.  This one is TIGHT.  Has my head swelled up in just six years?

No, my original was tight too when I first got it.  In fact, if you watch your face and scalp through the face shield opening while you move the helmet, the skin should follow the helmet.  Like this.  If it doesn't, then the helmet may be too big.  You don't want it moving around. 

I hope this one gives me another 40,000 miles of safe use, and so I can continue to look snazzy with my color-coordinated look.

 [Makes us all goose bumps, Bucky.  ...NOT.]

Ride safe and wear ATGATT.