Sunday, October 31, 2010

There is Hope

 (Route 6 heading west into the coastal range)
Have you ever had a hard time coming up with a beginning to a post?  Since starting the blog again I've already written about such subjects as cancer and job loss, both of which are not positive and uplifting topics.  So I've been challenged a bit coming up with a beginning.

This post has another subject that's not popular so I want to say from the outset that my intentions are not to make a pattern of this.  It's just the way things have unfolded in the last month or so.  I'll begin by saying as I've mentioned before that we've had a little place at the coast for a number of years.  The first year we had it we went there almost every weekend.  It's been a place for special family times and our grandkids will probably treasure the memories for the rest of their lives.

It's in a quaint neighborhood with people that you get to know by having conversations from the backyard while barbecuing or out in the street after coming back from a walk on the beach.  Many of the houses are second homes for Portland folks so the full time neighbors keep an eye out for anything unusual.

Three-day weekend holidays are fun.  The whole town bulges with tourists and extended families.  And then there's the 4th of July parade that has all the charm and excitement of small town parades.

Last Tuesday night we got a call with some bad news.  The kind of news that seems to make time stand still for a few moments.  It's the kind of call that's difficult to make and to receive.  Our next door neighbor died suddenly last Sunday.  I won't go into detail except to say that he was relatively young.  He leaves his wife and two young daughters.  His memorial service was yesterday.

 (Along Rte 6 and the Wilson River)
I left about 4:30 Friday afternoon to ride over to the coast.  The weather was clear and in the low 50's F.  Sometimes on a ride like this I'll listen to the iPod but this ride I wanted to reminisce.

 (Route 6 - Tillamook State Forest)
Do you think it's possible that a quiet two-lane highway in the forest can be like a cathedral?  I think so.  Except for the fact that I had to keep an eye out for the big three.  Deer, Elk, and the newer threat foraging bears.

Over the years our neighbor and I have had many conversations in front of our houses on the street or from our backyards.  Topics varied between our families, local government, world issues, weather, neighborhood news - the usual stuff.  Occasionally and at appropriate times I would bring up religion and things of God.  On those subjects he wasn't too interested in going into detail and that was okay - we didn't.   It was an interesting relationship that grew despite the 90 miles that separated us.

I came out of the forest and onto the straight-away that precedes Tillamook as the sun was just setting.  This is the spot where you see many of the dairy farms.  You not only see them you smell them. 

After making the usual stops at the store then Subway to pick up dinner I headed up the coast towards the house.  By the time I got to the ghost hole on the east side of Tillamook Bay the sunset was peaceful and the bay was calm.  I stopped to take it all in.

In February our neighbor had a bad accident at home.  He slipped while in the shower and hit the side of his head on the edge of the tub.  It did quite a bit of damage and he lost the use of his eye.  In the months to come he had a few reconstructive surgeries which helped bring him almost back to normal.  The accident, though, had taken its toll on his outlook on life.  Already unemployed he started to spiral into a time of despair.

One night in April while we were on the phone he said that he wanted to talk about God.  He wanted to have a talk about Him in person.  I told him I'd be there the following Saturday. 

That next Saturday afternoon while we sat in his darkened living room, God opened his heart to receive Christ as his Lord and Savior.  Later as I left I hugged him not realizing that it would be one of the last times that I would see him.

As I rode home yesterday after the service I took my time and made many stops in the now cold and drizzly forest.  Each day is such a gift and I fear sometimes that I'm not making the best of each one of them.  Robbing the title of my last post, events like this really put things into perspective.  

 (Men fly fishing on the Wilson River)
The emptiness of not being able to see him and talk with him is there but the assurance that he'll be reunited with his family and that I'll see him again one day is a wonderful promise that God has made.  And I believe it's true.

There is hope - there is always a way provided for hope.

God's speed.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Putting Things in Perspective

Those of us in the northern hemisphere are about to head into the time of year where the weather can be stormy.  I was thinking the other day about how this can translate into what we experience while riding on two wheels and being exposed to the elements.

While riding, at any given time we're either in a storm, we've just come out of a storm, or we're about to head into a storm.  And so it is with life isn't it?  With the storms of life we are in one of these three positions.

Each Wednesday during the lunch hour there's a meeting held in one of the buildings along the Park Blocks which is near Portland State University.  It's called the Downtown Bible Class and is well attended by people from all walks of life including students.  I try to go when I'm downtown and don't have something pressing with work.  Not only is it interesting to go for the teaching but it's a great place to meet people.

This past Wednesday after grabbing a bagel and cup of water I sat down at an empty table to see what new adventure might happen.  Within a few minutes a well dressed man sat down at the table a couple of chairs away.  As we made the usual small talk about how often we come to the class and what we do for a living, he said he was just laid off from his job the day before.  He was in the financial industry and his sales were not meeting the expectations of the company.  He's been laid off before so he said that he's preparing for "What's to come."

I thought a lot about him the rest of the day.  I still wonder how he and his wife are coping with the jolt to their lives.

These life experiences tend to put things into perspective don't they?  You know how it is.  Sometimes you find yourself complaining about a cold or aches and pains then you see someone in a wheelchair or a blind person.  Or you complain about something at work then you meet a person who's just lost their job. 

Once and awhile I think my riding skills are beginning to come together and my confidence gets a little distorted.  Then I either read or hear about a bad accident which puts things in perspective again.

If we're not in a storm we can be sure that one will come.  Life is a series of storms and there are no guarantees in this world.  I purposely said, "In this world".  There are guarantees and when we find them they do help put life in the proper perspective. 

God's speed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sunset Chaser

Just a quick post to share what I was treated to last night as I rode to a weekly meeting.  It was a nice sunset and it lasted a long time.  I was riding west so I was able to enjoy it.

I  stopped and parked on a dead end road in the country which was parallel to the western horizon.  As I was clicking away I heard the faint sound of an engine.  It was a farmer pulling his cultivating discs.  He turned in front of me and gave a silhouette.  Farming has long hours.

Riding at this time of the evening has more risks but it's great when you get a sweet surprise.  You've heard of tornado chasers; I wouldn't mind being a sunset chaser.

God's speed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Morning Ride

I rolled out this morning at about 7:20.  I'm a volunteer chaplain at the county jail.  Every other Sunday morning I do chapel service.  This wasn't my usual morning though, I was filling in for the guy who usually does the 3rd Sunday.
We live on a hill and as usual this time of year, low-lying fog in the valley can be a photographic treat.  

It was the first cold morning of the fall season.  The ride to the jail is only about 16 miles and takes about 20 minutes.  I figure I can take just about anything for 20 minutes if I'm riding.  Since I stopped so many times to take photos my hands got a little cold.  Eventually I didn't want to let go of the heated grips.  Has someone come up with a way to get the foot pegs red hot?

Some might find volunteering at a jail a little different but I really look forward to it.  After all, they're a captive audience.  Sorry, a little jail humor.  The staff at the jail are hard working nice people.  I respect the work that they do and their commitment to keeping the jail safe and secure.  Many of the deputies ride which makes for a nice commonality.

I also look forward to these Sunday morning rides.  Though I ride this route often, on Sunday mornings it unfolds much better than other times.  One never knows what the elements and the early morning light are going to reveal.  And as I've written before, it feels like this time is more solitary than usual.

Once out in the country the temperature got as low as 34F.  This made my temp gauge flash and show the blinking snowflake icon.  No snow this morning though, here is the first sunlight hitting Mt. Hood about 80 miles to the east.

About a mile down the road I stopped again to capture the sun just peeking over the horizon.  I'm looking forward to more Sunday morning rides and what will come with them.  Isn't it great to be riding and enjoying the beauty of the world in which we live?  I don't ever want to take any of this for granted.  Each moment is a gift and I'm grateful.

God's speed.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

To Sell or Not to Sell... and "Spider Bike"

After buying the beemer, the Vespa sat in the garage for quite a while.  It was too much fun riding the bigger bike and in some aspects safer too.  After a couple of months of inactivity I thought about selling the Vespa.

Then one day I rode it to our son and daughter-in-law's town about 30 miles away.  With it's responsiveness and agility it was a blast with a different style.  It didn't take long to get back that familiar feeling of the unique ride.

So, every once-and-awhile I take the Vespa for an errand.  It helps keep the battery charged and the gas from getting stale.  I know I could use a battery tender and Sta Bil additive but riding it is much better.

Sometimes I still have thoughts of selling it.  But our oldest granddaughter will be 16 soon and starting college faster than we can imagine.  Maybe she'll want to use it at college.  We'll see what happens.

For those of you who watch American Chopper you know that they've done a couple of spider bikes.  Here's my humble version of a spider bike.

Spiders have been making many garage-webs lately.  There was a piece in yesterday's paper on the fact that such sights are common as fall settles in.  Spiders try to snag more insects before laying eggs for a new generation in the spring.  Maybe on this particular morning she wanted to go for a ride.

I wonder how they know where to make their web?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Got Into Heavy Metal this Summer

A little over a month ago I picked up some unwanted metallic road material.  I had about 7500 miles on the tire since May and as you can see I managed to get some miles on this screw too.  That's because I didn't realize it was there until later that night when I went into the garage for something and noticed my rear tire looked low.
I got to thinking about my day and where I might have picked up the screw.  The last place I left before heading home was this yard at Portland School District.  Of course it could've been lurking anywhere on the road but I'll be watching this yard a little more closely.

It's kind of interesting to think that I was leaning like normal on all the curves on I-5 between downtown and our house.  Thankfully I made it home before the tire went flat.

An engineer at one of the hospitals in Portland was returning home a few weeks ago from a 10 day road trip in Canada with some friends.  They were just outside Wenatchee, WA and he was in the lead on his 09 Honda ST1300.  At this point when he tells the story he says he was on the downhill side of a hill.  He noticed something ambling on the side of the road but it didn't register with him what it was.  As he kept watching, it made a change in course and was now heading to cross the road.  About the time he thought to himself, "That's a bear!"... he hit it.

The next guy behind him was near the top of the hill and had a panoramic view of the whole incident.  He would later say that it looked like the two of them were on tracks and were meant to collide.  This is what we all learned in our motorcycle safety class as "target fixation".  I'm thinking though that it would be pretty hard not look at a bear ambling on the side of the road.  Probably the best bet would be to slow way down or even stop.

After the impact the motorcycle low-sided. The rider separated from the bike and did a combination of sliding, rolling, and basically flying around like a rag-doll.  The guy who had the view said he thought he was dead.  He said the bear was knocked into the air and landed back on the side of the road. He attempted to get up then fell back down and died.

The rider was very fortunate.  He broke his throttle wrist, cracked a rib, and his big toe on his left foot was swollen.  All of his gear did the job it was intended to do including his Draggin' Jeans with Kevlar inserts. He has a plate in his wrist and is looking forward to riding again.

When you think back on close calls that you've had in life do you sometimes wonder how you managed to get through them?  I've had at least two incidents where I shouldn't be here and those weren't on a motorcycle.  And then there are countless close calls we're not even aware of. 

Anyway, keep checking your tires and watch for furry critters along the roadside.

God's speed.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Coming Out of the Fog

Kind of an odd concept going into fog for the summer and coming out in autumn.  But looking back on that last post from the coast, the fog gave a good cover to break away from the drudgery that blogging had become.  Coming up with regular posts that had even a nominal amount of interest was a chore. Consequently, I gave myself a self-imposed 3 month sabbatical from blogging.  It wasn't planned to be three months it just turned out that way.  More on that in a minute.

The situation had gotten to the point where I couldn't see the forest for the trees.  I was focusing too much on trying to come up with interesting content while my heart wasn't in it.  I was letting the blog run my life instead of vice versa.  The time off was a good way to stop and look at the bigger picture.

The beemer and I have been racking up the miles this summer.  One of the great benefits of riding is meeting interesting people.  If I can humbly say this, the beemer seems to be a magnet that draws people of all ages.  From little kids holding on to their mother's hand to elderly ladies, people seem to gravitate to it and conversations start quickly and happen almost daily.

A recent example happened at the Vista House overlooking the Columbia Gorge.  I stopped there week before last to snap some photos.  As I was getting ready to leave, a gentleman pulled into the parking lot on a Harley.  We started making small talk about motorcycles then he mentioned that he just needed to get out and go for a ride.  He said that ten days ago he received some bad news.  He's been diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas.  The conversation took a different tone so I asked him if he had a religious background.  He perked up and said yes he's a Christian.  He said that his future is secure and he knows where he's going when he dies.  It was really great to hear him confidently talk about his faith and how people are seriously listening to what he has to say.  It was obvious that his faith has given him strength in spite of facing the unknown with cancer.

This brings me to the bigger picture.  I'd like to invite you to stick with me as we go on a ride.  I can't help but talk about my faith in God and more specifically in Jesus.  He has changed my life over the last 9 years and I have to tell others of His love and grace and mercy.  If you had a cure for cancer would you talk about it or keep it to yourself?  If you knew of the only exit out of a burning building would you "respect the rights of others" and not say anything?

Some might say, "Why talk about faith, this is a motorcycle blog?"  I can't suppress it any longer.  On this blog I've kept it bottled up so as not to offend anyone but I have to be true to the title and post on what I think about.  More importantly I want to be true to God.

We all know that riding a two wheeler is dangerous.  We also know that at any moment we could leave this life.  Let's face it, there's a one-to-one relationship between people and death.  No one gets out of this life alive.  I know this is a negative subject but what if it's true that what we believe in this life determines where we go in the next life.  We plan for vacations and retirement, I'm thinking maybe we should look at what's next after this.

I've developed an online relationship with many of you over the past year and as a result I care about you.  And even though I've been lurking for a few months I've still been following your blogs.  I want to bring this blog back up and share my thoughts along with motorcycle travels. The content here is not intended to be offensive.  Hopefully it will be a thought provoking journey.  I hope you find it both interesting and challenging.

I thought I would post a straight on photo instead of the usual reflection shot.  This was yesterday afternoon at Bald Peak State Park.  This area is excellent for riding the twisties and seeing beautiful scenery.  The trouble is you can't do both at the same time.

By the way, in case you're wondering why I'm wearing a baseball cap it's because I'm follicly challenged.  Actually I don't want the glare off my forehead to bring down a satellite somewhere.

God's speed.