Writer's Ramblings

Diary of an Off-Season Motorcyclist

Written by  November 30, 2005

Dear Motorcycle Diary,

Hey! It’s me, Chuck. It’s that time of year again when I get these quirky feelings in the pit of my stomach. I know what you’re thinking, and, no, it’s not because I just finished eating too much food during our Thanksgiving Day meal. It’s because the days for riding are getting few and far between, and my wife just doesn’t understand. You are the only one I can talk to and express my feelings. I know you won’t talk back. I know you will understand. I hate winter. I hate the cold. I hate the snow. I hate the ice. And I hate the sand that’s put on the streets and highways during the winter. None of that is good for those of us who ride our motorcycles all year.

(Hold on a second, my wife’s yelling at me. . .She wants me to clean the leaves out of the gutter on the house. I told her in a minute.)

But you know me; I’m not about to put my motorcycle away for the winter. If the sun is shining, then it’s a good day to ride, even if the temperature is in the 30s. Heck, I’ve even ridden when the temperature dipped into the 20s. Heck, all you need is good winter gear. Riding in the winter can be invigorating.

But when the weather won’t let me get the Honda Magna out, I can’t just sit around and not do anything. The paint and chrome will get plenty of polish and TLC during the winter. Do you think once a week is too much? And then there’s the extra chrome stuff that I purchased during the summer but didn’t have time to put on the bike because I was riding. I mean, who wants to spend time doing stuff to the motorcycle when you can be riding the motorcycle? Not me!

(Wait a second, it’s my wife again. . .She wants to know what I’m doing. I told her I was busy.)

So during the winter, when it’s snowing outside or sleeting, I can be in the warm garage adding those chromed extras to my bike, and then, of course, polishing them when I’m done. Then there will be the usual maintenance like changing the spark plugs, the oil, brake fluid and coolant. I just put two new tires on, and now I can’t wait to put some miles on them next spring and summer. I’m probably going to change the fork fluids, too.
I want the bike to be in good shape when spring gets here next year. There are trips I want to take.

(Geez, it’s my wife again. . .I already told her I would get to the gutters when I got time!)

And I’ve found that when I get finished doing things to my motorcycle, then I like to get on my computer, call up one of those map programs on the Internet, and start planning my trips. I even like to try and pinpoint the towns where I’m going to stop and get gas and eat.

Next year could be a good year for trips. A couple of my buddies and I want to do 1,000 miles or more in 24 hours and get the Saddle Sore 1000 patch or 1,500 miles within 36 hours for the Bun Burner patch. I also want to ride in the 18th Annual Rolling Thunder, where military veterans ride into Washington, D.C., on the Sunday before Memorial Day to make sure our elected officials don’t forget the nation’s POWs and MIAs. I’ve also been invited to ride on a three-week trip to Vermont and Canada for the National BMW Rally. And then there are the small rides in the area along with all the poker runs and other events.

(Sorry!. . .Yes, dear, I said I was going to try and start painting inside the house this fall. . .Yes and I’ll try and get to the outside painted next spring!)

I’ve already planned some trips to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and I would like to ride farther south into Arkansas where people dig for diamonds. I’m also planning to travel to Springfield, Illinois, where they opened the Abraham Lincoln exhibit this past summer. I’ve heard it’s impressive. I’m also looking at planning a trip along Highway 40 through Kansas. That used to be the main road across the state until I-70 was built. I’ve also started planning a trip along Old Route 66, but that probably won’t take place until 2007. After all, there are only so many trips a person can do in one year in between work and household honey-do lists! I’ll write later, diary, and let you know how things work out. I just hope I get to do more than just paint!

(All right! All right! I’m coming!)

P.S. My wife Terri and I spent Thanksgiving week traveling from New Orleans to Tampa and taking in the scenic and devastating sites in between before settling in and spending Thanksgiving Day with my wife’s cousin and her husband, John and Micky Nuessen.
They used to live in Waveland, Mississippi, about a mile from the beach. But Hurricane Katrina dumped 20 feet of water on their house. The week before Thanksgiving, they closed on and moved into a house in a community called Carriea, Mississippi, which is about 55 miles north of New Orleans, where John works, and just up the road from a town called Picayune. They are two of the more than 20,000 people who moved into the area within two months after Katrina. Needless to say, the infrastructure of these small communities was not adequately prepared for such a sudden and dramatic increase of people and vehicles. And even here, an hour away from New Orleans, you can see the force of Katrina with large trees uprooted, tops of trees broken off, and hundreds of trees just snapped in the middle like toothpicks.

While watching the television coverage in the aftermath of Katrina, I heard a politician from the region compare the destruction to the dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima. At the time, I thought that statement to be a little over dramatic. But having seed it firsthand, the description was accurate. Many parts of New Orleans, and in communities up and down the coastline, they are nothing more than empty ghostly reminders of what used to be. To see what the force of Mother Nature can do is incredible, and it is going to be years before the area even comes close to the way it used to be. At Pensacola and Pensacola Beach in Florida, which were struck by Hurricane Ivan a year ago, debris still liters the communities.

The tax base and the economy of the Gulf Coast states are not good. Businesses that are open can’t find enough people to work. Many restaurants, if they are lucky enough to be open, often have to open either for lunch or for dinner, but not both because they can’t get enough people to work. If businesses can’t open because there are no people to work or people to buy products, there are no tax dollars coming into the coffers of these communities. It’s a vicious circle. About the only constants are the cleanup and construction crews, and even they are advertising for more help.

I plan to ride through here on my motorcycle in a couple of years to see how things have progressed. That is, if I get on the things finished on my honey-do list!

Story & Photos by Chuck Kurtz