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Saturday, August 25, 2018

To Leave or to Stay

These past couple of months have been interesting to say the least.

The talk about me getting a new bike is settled for now (I will be buying a new bike by year's end).  A new dilemma has reared its ugly head in our family and is one, which while not consuming us, has certainly kept us awake at night.

Should we stay here in Florida, or head back home to Pittsburgh?

This all has to do with family.

The lovely Susan has family there, so do I, but her mother is starting to show signs of Alzheimer's disease.  Sue is the oldest child of five and it seems, the only one with not only the ability but the desire to help her mother.

Then their is my family.  My father is in his mid 80's and has two benign tumors in his head.  My mother, 10 years his junior, is capable of taking care of herself but she can't drive and is showing signs of dementia.  Unlike Sue's mom, she has not been tested but the signs of the two illnesses are similar, and my brother can not take my mother in for a variety of reasons.

Both of them will refuse to move to Florida.  Sue's mother is rooted to her home in Grove City, PA (about an hour north of Pittsburgh) and my mother will not leave her only granddaughter.  My father, always the stoic, knows that the best care he can get is in Pittsburgh.  It makes sense for him to stay.

We are faced with some startling realities. 

1)  Our parents are not immortal.  No matter how much we with they were.

2)  I have lost two aunts to Alzheimer's in the last 3 years.  Now my mother is showing signs of it or dementia.  This scares the hell out of me.

3)  Susan's medical issues can be better served in the cool of Pennsylvania, as the excessive heat in Florida can effect her more than we like.

It does bring up a good question though about what is home.   Sue's family is rooted to the area, she is too...even though she moved 1000 plus miles to be with me.  My brother feels the same way.  Although my parents have moved and traveled a lot since retirement, they still call Western Pennsylvania home. 

I love Pittsburgh, it's rivers run in my veins and I do like going back to it.  I've written about it before.  It is really a great place to live.  I remember reading somewhere that if Pittsburgh was a European city, people would flock to it.

However home for me is wherever I've hung my hat.  I've lived in Tampa for over 10 years, in Charlotte, North Carolina for over 10 years.   Charleston, South Carolina for a bit.  Savannah, GA for a bit.  I've considered taking a job in Jacksonville/St. Augustine, Florida at one time (and in hindsight, I should have but that's in the past).   I was also offered a job in Boise, ID early in my career. 

Pittsburgh may always be "home", but somewhere along the way, it stopped being "home."

I've been halfway around the world and am serious planning on retiring to Portugal if Sue and I ever break up or she dies before me.   I'm not joking.   I've looked into it.

Jack Kerouac must have influenced me more than I thought he did.   Jean Genet too but for completely different reasons.  I remember a friend of mine - Matt the Muppet - handing me that book when I was in my 20's.   "This book will fuck up your life."   To the young philosophy minded education major, it did.    But I regress.

So here I sit, a still young man that can not imagine himself being 52, considering what he will do.  Considering yet another career change and wondering if a move would be helpful at all.   I'm not sure if I could even find another job paying what I make now.  Nor am I sure I wish too.

When my grandparents passed, I was still a young man.  I didn't understand what my parents (who were my age) were going through.  What they were feeling.   Now I face the same choices, the same decisions that they did.  It's not easy. 

The reality of it is starting to sink in.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

That itch

So it's a lovely Saturday.

"Where's your riding gear?" Craig asks.

Truthfully I had considered it.  I don't have a helmet but I'm sure the dealership would have let me barrow one, or even thrown it in as part of the package if I was serious about buying.

I won't lie, I had the itch.

In fact, I've had the itch for a while now.   It was always there.  I would be driving somewhere and see a group of bikers heading out somewhere.   I would sometimes see a bike for sale on the side of the road, or in a dealership somewhere.  It really started to itch badly when I saw advertisements for the 2018 DGR!  It may have been one of the best moments in my motorcycling life...and I wanted to do it again.

The Triumph dealership did have a street twin that seemed to be calling my name.   Nice and neat with that classic look that I love so much.

Tempted?  Yes, very much so.

They actually had a 2017 on the lot that was still under warranty and the previous owner had switched it over to half pipes and did something else I don't remember to the exhaust.   The bike had a low, throaty growl to it that sounded deep and resonate.  "That" a random women said to me, "sounds like a motorcycle" and I knew exactly what she meant.

Frankly if the salesman had not pushed so hard, I may have signed some paperwork right then or; at least taken a test ride.

At 900 cc and a high torque engine however, I could see myself getting into trouble quickly on that bike.   I hate to admit but I like some speed.  I may have been a little to "quick" for my own good on the scooters...so I worried about that...and I know deep down that I would be a hell of a lot more careful.

Plus, even though I learned to ride on a standard transmission motorcycle.  I never fully felt comfortable in shifting.  When I rode a friend's bike here and there, I never really felt that I mastered shifting...so that was one reason why I switched to, and preferred scooters.  That was one less thing to worry about.

Sue and I are talking, and she seems more interested in getting a bike than I am.  The Harley Dealership next door had a lovely 35K trike with all the fixings.   That is more than I paid for my car, and it was brand new.  She would like me to get something like that and again feels that it would be safer.

In a way she is right.  Plus I know that with all her medical issues, the days of her climbing on back and just riding with me are slim to none.  She knows that too, so a trike may be better overall choice.

Now...can we find one that's affordable?



Wednesday, August 1, 2018

It all started with a dinner party

It all started at a dinner party with friends on a Saturday.   Craig, my Harley Davidson Road King owning friend was all excited about a new Triumph he was thinking about buying, it's an all-black softail.  He talked it up like the second coming, and frankly I'm happy for him, its been a long time since I've seen him excited about anything.  He deserves a new bike...and he wanted me to go with him when he picked it up this coming Saturday.

"You can buy an new bike for yourself Rob."

When I'm asked, and I am asked, if I miss riding...the answer is always "Sometimes."

I don't miss sitting in traffic on the way home, of being hot or being rained on, paying insurance on the bike, having to deal with dumb questions and stupid people on the roads.  The eternal bane of working on a bike.

I do miss the friendship you have with other bikers.  I do miss the joy of riding.  I do miss the "de-stressing" that a good ride can bring after a stressful day like today was.   It does pain me to see a group of bikers heading in some direction towards some adventure.

"You have had a lot of adventures, I like hearing your stories." Melissa, a friend of mine said.

The recent advertisements for the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride I've been seeing on Facebook and YouTube have got me wanting to get back on a bike.  The ride I took part of in 2016 was one of the greatest rides I've ever been on.   Recently riding has been on my mind.

When I got my license renewed recently...I debated about leaving the motorcycle endorsement on it.  I paid the extra few back and did leave it on.

Then here I am, sitting at work...casually type in "Burgman for sale in Tampa."  I found one.  It's three years old but was used as a demo only and never really ridden much.

The dealership has it under priced probably, wanting to get it off the floor (it's about 3K under similar bikes).   It's got the ABS and comes with the Executive package.  It's only a 1 to 2 hour drive from where I am depending on traffic and conditions.

I do some quick math...I can make a payment work.

Now it becomes a matter of "Do I really want to it on one again" or not.  Susan would like me to buy a trike if I buy anything; feeling that they are more stable.   Well my strength in my wrists have come back, I still have some pain in my right one nearly two years later.

Although my independent agency has not taken off like I have hoped.   I ended up going back to work for a steady paycheck...and it's not at the rate I should be making.  I've actually considered leaving the field recently although I'm not sure what else I can/would do.

I make excuses.

Then I close my eyes and think back...sure most of the memories are rose colored.   Then I kept the blog up for 5 1/2 years, trying to write something once a week...enjoying that, having adventures.   When the accident happened, I was finally starting to feel like part of the community.  I was finally feeling like a "biker" whatever the hell that meant.  To return to that....well I would enjoy that.

I can drive over to Deland after work, I can apply for the financing online.   I can have everything done by the weekend...pick it up on a Saturday and be home about 2/12 to 3 hours later...because you can never ride a straight line on a bike.

Maybe....maybe.

Than again...maybe not.  I read what I wrote a few days after the accident.  Remember what Susan told me, remember that I went into shock and spent a miserable night at a hospital.  Even though I was well insured (it is my business after all), I still had sticker shock at the final bill.

I still keep the Scooter Revolution Facebook page up.   Sometimes posting a story or cute little video I come across.   Sometimes I still comment on bike pages I follow or a blog I read.

Am I ready? 

I've found a Kymco 500, Kimmi's twin sister (Regina?), at a better price and a brand new model at that.   I've looked at a very affordable MP3, While I've considered it...I keep talking myself out of it.

If their is any doubt should I be on a bike?  A bike is designed to be ridden and not placed in a garage.





Thursday, January 11, 2018

Charleston with Reedus and Chappelle

I have to be honest, I don't watch that much TV.  So if I'm jumping into the second season of Ride with Norman Reedus a little late, don't hate me for it.

I was inspired to write this for a few reasons.  1)  I already did a review of the first season, and it seems if someone took notes over at AMC.  Although I'm only commenting on this one show, it's improved.

2)  I used to live in Charleston, SC for a brief time and I know Savannah, GA pretty well.  Charleston speaks to my soul and there is just something about that city that says "I'm home."  I have friends in Charleston today that I've known for close to twenty or thirty years.

3)  When I lived in the area I often took the same route that Reedus, and his riding partner - Dave Chappelle - did.  They crossed the same bridges that I crossed, rode the same roads.  Although they obviously didn't drink in the same bars or go to the same haunts that I did in my early 20's.

In other words I'm feeling a bit nostalgic.

Even way back in the early 90's the two cities were completely different.  Charleston was a painted lady of a bygone era, full of old money and a feeling that the world could carry on around it.  That nothing was going to change it.

The last time I was there it felt that the city was, begrudgingly, entering the 20th century.  

Savannah on the other hand felt like it was out of place a bit.  It seemed a place that would accept the odd and unusual.  The artist, the musician...and a young man still trying to figure out his place in the world.   When I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil the events portrayed in that book were still fresh in the cities collective memory...but instead of being an open wound, were seen as scars of pride.

Savannah, with it's one way streets and near impossible ability to get anywhere directly also adds to it's mysterious atmosphere.  It's been nearly 20 years since I last stepped foot in Savannah, and based on what little I saw of it with Reddus...nothing has changed.

Depending on the route it would only take about 2.5 hours hours to get from one city to the other, separated by about 110 miles.  Due to the wonder of television however, it takes our brave travelers two days.  OK, I'll grant they just getting up and going would be boring and a very quick show, plus, the most interesting stuff I've always found is off the highway and on the back roads.

They started in Charleston, riding the flat and boring route 17.  This would be, or was the last time I was there, scrub lands.  Swampy ground broken up for the most part by long barren stretches of pine forest.  The road is a nice two lane highway but the challenge for the rider is to stay awake.

While I'm sure I've traveled on State Route 21 through South Carolina at one time or another, I can't tell you much about it.   It travels deep into the salt marshes and winds it way through Beaufort.  If memory serves it's full of some wonderful wildlife and some beautiful sunsets, but I only had brief adventures in places like Saint Helena Island.

In a way, I'm glad they stopped in Saint Helena.   When I lived in Charleston I was introduced to Low Country cooking, which can best be described as a mix of seafood, fresh veg, African spices and rice with a little bit of French thrown in.  It's not quite Cajun, but not that dissimilar.  Trust me, you haven't eaten till you had authentic low country, and both Chappelle and Reedus do.  Plus a history lesson about one of the first majority black communities in the United States.  Reedus and Chappelle treat this place with the gravity it deserves and, unlike the first season, it doesn't come off as "jokey" or lightly touched upon.  "Gullah" history, traditions and language are unique to the American experience...and they treat it with honor.

Finally, in a way Reedus and Chappelle find a kindred spirit in each other.  They don't spend a lot of time talking about bikes, although there is a running joke about Chappelle leaving his blinker on.  They talk a little bit about the creative process, about family, about the pressures of being on something successful that then gets out of your control (which is a veiled comment about the never ending Walking Dead I'm sure).  Chappelle in particular seems to have built up a myth about him, intentionally or not, which questions why someone would leave a successful career to simply disappear for a bit.

There is no ground shaking revelations, no laugh out loud moments, Chappelle plays it mostly straight and Reedus; wisely, lets him.  In the end what you got is something closer to the original Bourdian "No Reservations" show that "Ride" is based on.  It's good to see, and enough for me to want to watch a little more...and get back to Charleston and Savannah soon.

In the end it ends on a positive note..."We will ride again.".   I hope so too.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I just don't know yet.



For the first times in months I rode.  For the first time since the accident, I was on the back of a bike.


A woman in my community is selling her former husband's Honda Silver wing.  She is asking a fair price for it and Sue prompted me to go and take a look.    Sue knows how much I enjoyed riding and owning a bike.  The owner told me the year but I don't remember exactly.  I think it was within five years old and she had a tad over 17K on her.

In didn't take me long to grab an old helmet and a borrowed set of gloves to take her for a test spin.  I'm not sure why I consider motorcycles women, but to me they are.

So I started her up and she didn't roar to life, she didn't have the "oomph" that Kimmie did despite being a bigger engine.   Of course, she was also a bigger, heavier bike than my old Xciting and that matters.

I rode her around a bit, through some local twistie's I know of on a back road, I opened her up slightly on a straightway and I did feel comfortable, despite wearing none on my safety gear except a pair of borrowed gloves and an old helmet I picked up somewhere along the way.

It felt.....odd.  I don't know what I expected, taking her gingerly through a turn.  Where was the excitement?  Where was the feeling of awe?  Of being on the edge?  The tires seemed a little squirrel'y but they were brand new, still having the nubs on them and the bike had sat for about a month  so the pressure was probably off.   I took my time and was careful.

I knew I was also probably gun shy too.

There were things I like, the former owner had put a Givi windshield on it and that would come in handy on the cooler days or in the rain as the wind and rain where whipped around me and not into my chest as with Kimmie.   The storage was nice, and the previous owner had placed a pretty decent, but now great top box on it.  All the storage departments locked with a singe key.  He really did take good care of the bike and it had undergone a full maintenance review about 1000 miles ago.

Maybe it's just the fact that I never really cared for the looks of a Honda Silver Wing.  Maybe I'm still afraid, still touchy after the accident. Truthfully Sue and I can afford the bike and still have a good chunk of change left over, so I can't say "I can't afford it."

I just don't know if I'm ready yet.  Maybe I never will be.  Maybe this is just not the bike for me.  I just don't know yet.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A question of....

This morning I woke up and Facebook told me that I bought a new Suzuki 4 years ago today.  Which I know is wrong because this very blog states that I bought Kimmie in February 2013.

I guess it's alternate facts for the reality we now live in.
Happier Times

So I owned Kimmie for just under four years.  I've been wondering if and when I'll be getting back on a bike.  A local place near me has a Honda NC700  which as my five to ten regular readers know I've had my eye on for some time.

I've not stopped in to ask about it, I've not climbed up on it...for the very same reasons I've stated before.  I made a promise.  That does not mean that I'm not tempted to.  Sue asked me about that the other day...and I told her my reasons again.

It's not fear of crashing or dying.  It's fear of losing those I love and care for.  It's not a subtle difference.  Still though when you see the biker across the way lean into that curve, a tree lined avenue where your transported back to when your a kid and you stick both arms up and out....your flying.

Riding a motorcycle they say is freedom, and I disagree.  It's about feeling connected to the road, the earth, the weather.  It's that mindfulness you have as you lean and feel the bike react under you....that being on the edge.  It's knowing that letting your mind wander....even for a second or two can result in an accident.

That's what happened to me.

I'm healing.  The accident itself was not that bad.  My gear did it's job.  My head is still attached and functioning.  My scabs are healed and other than a little pink area you would never know that I suffered some road rash.

My wrists took the worst of it, and the strength is coming back in each of them stronger than it was before.  I still have my Fox gloves..they didn't even rip and I have every intent to never buy cheap gear again...if I ever do ride again. 

Truthfully I think I will.  Just not now.  I want to heal, I want to get my small half-assed financial business off the ground first.  As of February 1, 2017  I can hang my shingle in the window so to speak  I am doing this in addition to my regular 9 - 5 job.  So no more Saturday afternoons off for a while.

No, I'm not going to start up a financial or insurance blog (although you can visit the website here).  I am planning a website but you have to get approval from the various carries and that takes forever and a day.  I'll link it when the time comes if your really that interested.   I have to smile however.  I worked in banking for over 10 years, then got sick of it during the Depression.

I literally argued with my boss over what we were doing and why it was going to end in chaos.  It did, I lost a 65K a year job and then spent the next five years pursuing my first love.  While my time at 3M was good, it ended badly as well.   Maybe...just maybe I'm better off working for myself!

Recently Sue and I picked up another delivery route which is under a 12 month contract, I was ready to let that small end of the business die but that contract alone makes our business twice as profitable.

I have 12 months of car payments on two cars and the largest debt I have is gone.  I will be 51 years old and completely debt free, at least till I need a new car.  My retirement plans may be moved up five years if this continues.

So its a question of time...and if there is any more bounce in this old bumble.



Saturday, December 31, 2016

Passing through - 2016 year in review

Scooter Bob hanging with the cats.
Despite the crash and relative bad luck that was November and December of this year...I can honestly state that 2016 was a good year at the Wilson home.

My dearly departed Kimmie and I managed to put some 6000+ miles on her before her death.  It's hard for me to believe that a mere 3 weeks ago I was looking forward to the adventures of 2017.  Now we are in the closing moments of 2016 and I'm seriously debating if I'll ever get on another bike again.

It's been a year of connecting with old friends and making new ones.  It's been a year of kitchen remodeling and getting involved with projects that took up a lot more time than I originally expected they would.  While I loved having Scooter Bob here, I was unable to do everything I wanted with him due to my work schedule and other issues.  He hung out with the cats a bit more than I would have liked. 

I raised over 600 dollars to help fight Prostate Cancer and Men's Health issues.  I received a very nice imprinted poster for my efforts.  As well as a wonderful feeling that I was part of something bigger than me.  As I rode with some 150 other bikers in and around the city of St Petersburg and Tampa proper I was truly the happiest I've ever been on Kimmie.  I'll probably have that poster framed one day, although I'm not sure where I'll hang it.

It was a year where I finally got out of my comfort zone and rode out to the central parts of the state.  Spending time in Winter Haven and around Orlando.  These are roads that I wanted to spend more time on in 2017.  It was nice to finally take the time and ride over to St Pete and that part of the Tampa Bay area in general

I guess that won't happen now.  Or at least not for some time.

For now I'm looking at physical therapy although I do feel relativity well.  Despite a overnight stay in the hospital because of the accident I walked away from it more or less intact.  This one though...honestly has put the fear of God into me.

We will see what the future brings...but I could not let the year pass without some sort of review.  Some thing to keep up with tradition. 

So I want to wish each and everyone a Happy New Year.  May you be healthy, safe, wealthy and wise in the coming year.