Recently, Kim and I were having dinner at a small roadside café in the tiny town of Woodstock, Vermont. We enjoy it because it’s small, has a nice atmosphere and is a place where we can bring a bottle of our own wine and enjoy a meal. It was near closing time and the café was getting ready to close when a pick up truck pulled up and a couple got out. The owner of the restaurant met them at the door and told them that she was getting ready to close, but could make them a light dinner before she did so.
The couple said that they were just looking for some takeout dinner and ordered from the menu. During this time, Kim and I sat at our table and finished our dinner. Our bottle of wine had a little more than a glass left so we offered it to the couple who had walked in. The man of couple accepted the wine, introduced himself as Frank and thanked us. We told him it was our pleasure and after some very brief pleasantries, we paid our bill and left.
The following week, we were back at that same little café. The owner told us that the couple had purchased my book, “Mr. Cotton Wanders Europe. Where To Next?”, that they were long time riders and that they had a part in resurrecting the iconic Indian Motorcycle Brand. I was pleased that they had purchased my book, but I felt a little angry at myself for not reaching out to them to chat more before we headed out the door. We shouldn’t have been in such a rush.
Here’s where we get into the part of the Motorcyclist’s connection. Just a couple of days later I received a comment on R2ADV from who else but Frank. He thanked us for the wine again and suggested that we meet as a couple sometime. I immediately responded and told him that we’d enjoy getting together again to spend some time talking about motorcycles and motorcycling. We made plans to meet at the same café the following weekend.
Kim and I arrived a bit early and soon Frank and his wife Barbara arrived. For a while, we had the basic chit-chat about where we lived, what we did and what we liked about the town of Woodstock. Before we knew it, we were talking about motorcycles. Frank and Barbara told us some excellent stories about riding and how motorcycles had been a part of their lives for a long time. Frank told us of how he used to pick Barbara up on the motorcycle when they were dating. Soon, Barbara wanted to ride and Frank was the one on the back seat. The only problem was that when they came to a stop, Frank had to put his feet down to keep the bike upright. He also said that Barbara was an accomplished rider and recounted the time that he was on the back and awoke when Barbara was passing a tractor trailer at full throttle. Clearly, motorcycles had been a part of their life for a long time.
The more we chatted, the more we learned about each other. They were cruiser oriented pavement riders and we told them that we were more gravel and adventure oriented riders. Frank has been and still is a captain of industry and enjoyed several years resurrecting the Indian Motorcycle brand chartered in Springfield, Massachusetts. Barbara invests in and improves real estate as one of her many projects. She also led the Indian Motorcycle cross-country ride from the original Springfield, Massachusetts plant to the new one in Gilroy, California before Indian was sold to Polaris. We on the other hand led significantly more mundane business lives. Frank and Barbara were more comfortable wearing leather on their rides, while Kim and I were more comfortable in cordura and Gore-Tex. They enjoyed the quiet and solitude of riding without communications, their minds free to roam while they enjoyed the sights and sounds of the road. We on the other hand prefer to have electronic communications so we can keep track of each other and perhaps chat a bit about what we were seeing and feeling.
So as we talked about motorcycles and the places we had ridden, it became clear that although we had different riding styles, we were united by motorcycles and riding. It didn’t make a difference that they were more pavement oriented and we more gravel oriented. It didn’t matter at all. What mattered was that we all had a love of motorcycles that supplied a bond unfettered by any of those other life constraints.
Before we knew it, a couple of hours had passed. In fact, we connected so well that Frank asked us if we’d like to see his bikes and take a tour of his garage. He didn’t have to ask either of us twice and we both almost simultaneously said yes! When we arrived, Frank opened the door, and what a sight! Lined up neatly on the right hand side were about twenty bikes. Filled predominantly with Harleys and Indians, the space gleamed with chrome from both new and old machines. There were new Harleys and classic Harleys. There were original classic Indians and Indians that Frank and Barbara had resurrected from the ashes of the old company. There was even an old Indian side hack with a working hot dog stand attached. Seeming somewhat out of place was a red Moto Guzzi screaming to be released to the road. It is one of Frank’s favorite rides and if I owned one, it would be one of mine as well.
So as we stood there in Frank’s garage, I thought about how lucky we were to meet people like Frank and Barbara. A chance meeting had brought about a new friendship united by motorcycles and riding. We learned more about the pavement world and we shared a bit about adventure riding. It was a great experience for the both of us (I hope).
So don’t let the differences between types of motorcycles become a dividing factor. Use it as a uniting tool and learn a little more about what your fellow riders are all about. So Frank and Barbara, our invitation still stands. If you want to get a taste for adventure riding, we have the space and the bikes to give you an introduction. We hope to meet you both again, perhaps on the gravel?
With the publication of my first book, Mr. Cotton Wanders Europe: Where To Next? I learned my first lesson about being an author. I quickly learned that I needed to grow a thicker skin. As many of you know, for the first five days of the book’s publication, I offered the electronic version free to everyone who would like a copy. A few hundred copies were downloaded and I eagerly awaited the first review. It took a few days, but the first one appeared from Jennifer H-W “allweathers”
As I started to read, I immediately knew that the review was not a good one. In fact, it was a scathing and deeply venomous one. I’ve inserted the entire review below:
“I feel a little bad about this review because the author comes across as a nice man but he cannot write. It is patently obvious from the beginning that he is totally out of his depth. Painful is the only word I can use, I am still completely perplexed as to why I finished it, I wanted to be fair I guess. What is more, he waxes lyrical throughout about the ‘adventure’ he and the saintly Kim are having on their motor cycle trip through Europe but this is NOT an adventure. This is a high end tourist visit, they stay in the very best of accommodation and eat in high end restaurants and barely experience the true nature of the various places they visit. I got this e-book through Amazon for $0.00…..and that was too expensive.”
My heart sank. Could my book really have been that bad? Prior to its publication, it had been read by a few friends and each of them said that they had enjoyed it. So how could several people pre-read the book, and when published, generate such a negative and personal review?
My initial feeling was one of hurt. I had spent much time and effort writing the book and it had taken a significant part of my life. The next feeling was anger, particularly when the commentator personally ridiculed Kim. She doesn’t know Kim and the personal verbal attack was way out-of-bounds. In closing the commentator felt it important to state that the price of the free book was too expensive.
After reading the comment, I spent a couple of days being quite down. I felt like the review was inaccurate, as well as personal assault on Kim and me. I wasted a fair amount of time dwelling on the topic but then it dawned on me. I was indeed wasting my time worrying about the first review.
I know that everyone is entitled to their opinion and this person was entitled to hers. But as I re-read the review, I could see that she was writing not about the book, but about herself. She seemed like a jealous, angry person who was attempting to prove their worth to the reading community. But in leaving a review such as the one she left, she made it clear that she hadn’t really comprehended the book and was more intent in leaving a negative review than in providing the community with a helpful summary.
Some of her stated facts were wrong “they stay in the very best of accommodations” is an incorrect statement as we spent several nights places that were far from the very best. For example, our night outside of Rodez in a third floor, 6 X 8 un-air-conditioned 90 degree room with music blaring until 2:00 AM was certainly not the very best of accommodation. But it certainly was a safe place to lay our heads for the evening.
Accordingly, what I took from this part of her review was that my story telling attempts to relay the best about the particular person, place or thing had been accomplished. She apparently keyed on these descriptions and transposed her dislike of these good things. In her mind, clearly you can not have an adventure if you are not feeling pain or discomfort. Suddenly she seemed to be a very sad person.
Her verbal attack on Kim, referring to her as “saintly” once again seemed to point to her sadness. To take the time to distinctly single out Kim as “saintly” seemed to me to indicate that someone special was missing from her life and her lashing out was an indication of jealousy.
It also seemed she knew that she was going to be over the top with her review and felt it necessary to point out that she was trying to be fair. Her words were. “Painful is the only word I can use, I am still completely perplexed as to why I finished it, I wanted to be fair I guess.” If she really wanted to be fair, she would have been factual and left out the barbs. But no, she felt it important to include them to prove her own superiority. Sorry Ms. Jennifer H-W “allweathers”, writing a “review” and filling it with personal barbs does not make you a superior commentator, it just makes you seem lonely and angry.
Lastly, she felt it important enough to indicate, “I got this e-book through Amazon for $0.00…..and that was too expensive.” Well Ms. Jennifer H-W “allweathers”, I am sorry that you apparently feel that way, and that you spent $0.00 for the book. That was the lowest price I could offer. Now that you’ve read Mr. Cotton Wanders Europe: Where To Next? you will not have to endure such misery again.
In closing, I sincerely wish Ms. Jennifer H-W “allweathers” a happier and less angry life. I also want to thank you for teaching me a lesson. Going forward I promise to have a thicker skin, and take each review for its true worth.
If you’d like to know a little more about us, check out the article in today’s Sunday Manchester Union Leader. It was fun to be interviewed and even more fun to see it printed!
When morning came, we were in no rush to get out of bed. We both knew that our little adventure would end today. All we had to do was to ride back to Barcelona and drop off the bikes. Much of the riding would be on larger and more traveled roads, particularly as we got closer to Barcelona. Neither of us rushed to get ready for the day, it was like without saying anything to each other, we were both trying to avoid the inevitable. Our wandering adventure would soon be over.
“It’s almost over Kim. I can’t believe we’ve used up two weeks already. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been traveling two weeks, but I know we have. Soon we’ll be back to the grind, doing our workday things and dreaming of another adventure. I can’t wait until the next one.”, I said sullenly.
Kim, as always was more upbeat than me. “We’ll be on another adventure soon, don’t worry. We’ve ridden all over the world so far and there’s nothing stopping us from doing another adventure. Don’t feel bad, we’ll be riding somewhere else in the world in no time.”
I paused and thought for a while.
“Thank you Princess, you always make me feel wonderful. You are so positive about everything, you always encourage me to look at the bright side. I love you so much.”
I don’t know what was getting into me, but it seemed each day on this trip, I loved Kim more and more. I thought I couldn’t love her any more, but each day on this trip, the depths of my love for her became deeper and more vast. I didn’t know how she did it, but she made me feel more in love with each day that passed. I had to ask myself, “How lucky could a man get? To be able to ride all over the world with someone who shared your love for out of the way places and have that travel be accomplished on a motorcycle.
I had to break myself out of my thoughts and get us onto the road. We had a light casual breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant and made arrangements to have our bikes freed from the hotel’s garage. Fifteen minutes later, we met the hotel receptionist in front of the garage and she opened the doors for us. It didn’t take us long to load up the bikes and we were quickly underway for the last time on this adventure.
The ride back to Barcelona was very quiet over the communicators. Neither of us said much of anything to each other. I think we were both lost in our thoughts about where we’d been and what we’d seen.
As we rode, I was truly re-living our wandering adventure of Europe. Even with an open visor, I barely heard the wind noise as it rushed through my helmet. We’d been to new places and met new people. The bikes had faithfully carried us wherever we’d asked them to never skipping a beat. They hadn’t only been our transportation, they’d been our partners on this journey. They’d introduced us to new places and even new people as the locals often came to us to chat about the bikes.
The miles melted away as we rode and before we knew it, we were approaching Barcelona. But we wouldn’t arrive without one last adventure. Less than an hour outside Barcelona, the winds began to rise. They were not insignificant and they were not steady. Heavy gusts pelted us from various directions, causing the bikes to shimmy and weave. The problem for Kim was worse for Kim since she only had a little over her 100 body holding her bike in place. Even with my 200 pounds on the bike, it was moving considerably.
It was actually better to have our speed up to make maximum use of the gyroscopic effect of the wheels to stabilize the bikes. On a different trip, we’d ridden though the Chile and Argentina and faced the Patagonian winds on our way to Ushuaia. Those winds were far more intense, but they were constant and on barely traveled gravel roads. Here we were in four lanes of traffic with wind battering us from all directions.
But we soldiered on and soon found ourselves on the outskirts of Barcelona. Now the traffic was heavy and we trundled along in the right two lanes. As a sort of last challenge, we rode across a long high bridge. Totally out in the open, we got the maximum impact of the winds.
The winds blew from all points of the compass. In fact it blew so strongly that my head was involuntarily shaken left to right by the swirling wind. This was getting a bit intense. We knew that we did not have much farther to go and pointed ourselves towards the center of the city. The closer we got, the weaker the winds became. Finally, we were able to relax and enjoy the end of the ride.
We exited the highway, and quickly found the hotel. We pulled up onto the sidewalk and parked the bikes. I slowly got off the bike and pulled off my helmet. I walked over to Kim. As soon as she had her helmet off, I gave her a gigantic hug.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. What a wonderful ride.” was all I could muster. “Thank you for coming along with me. It’s been a wonderful ride.” Kim just smiled at me and I could see that she was getting a little emotional. Truth be told so was I. We hugged again and started to unload the bikes.
As I unloaded my bike, I looked at Mr. Cotton. He was still there, none the worse for wear. He wore the same smile and accumulation of stubbly beard. His left hand still had its homemade hook fastened with tie wraps. He’d lost his first hook somewhere in Patagonia (but that’s another story) and he had gotten a new one while we slept. He stared back at me as if to say, “That’s it? We’re done already?”
We’d carried all we needed for the two week wandering of Europe, and now it was time to bring it back home. Arms filled, we walked into the hotel with our gear and checked in for the last time.
After freshening up, we decided to grab a quick dinner in the hotel, pack our gear into our luggage and turn in early. We had to return the bikes early the following morning so we could catch our flight back home.
When morning came, we put on our helmets and rode the short distance to where we had rented the bikes. As I got off, I looked at Mr. Cotton. He was still there, none the worse for wear. He stared back at me as if to say, “That’s it? We’re done already?”
I looked back at him, grabbed my little wire cutters and freed him from his place on my handlebars. “Yes, we’re done for now Mr. Cotton, but we’re going to have many more adventures until you retire. So you should rest up because this was an easy trip. I know you yearn to be back on the gravel roads of the world and I’ll make sure that you have more adventures in more remote places next time. I wouldn’t want you to jump ship like you did at that other cold place.”
I stuffed Mr. Cotton in my pocket and went inside to complete the final paperwork on the bikes. Our hosts were very accommodating and had us underway in no time. As we walked back to the hotel, our wandering adventure was truly over. But as I told Mr. Cotton, there were many more places to go and ride.
All we had to do was to figure out; where to next?
We recently had a wonderful experience that we would like to share with you. As you can tell, we have always been a big proponents of the community that is the motorcycling family. For over 30 years, motorcycling has always held a cavernous place in our hearts. To us, it has been a means to explore, share, learn and enjoy. As we’ve ridden, we met new people and made long term friends.
We’ve discovered that motorcycling is more than a “lifestyle”, “brotherhood”, “fraternity”, “sorority”, or “club”. To us, motorcycling is all about family. There are no individual boundaries, barriers or divisions. Just a large and open family that invites all into its waiting arms with no expectations or requirements other than enjoying travel on two wheels.
While there may be differences between family members as in all families, those differences are transcended by the larger community that is the motorcycling family. We all have a common bond and we believe that the world is a little better because of it.
While the motorcycle family is quite encompassing as a whole, its role as a builder of family relationships is clear. Families that ride together stay together. They develop a bond made stronger by the sharing of the ride. Kids hanging out at malls, or staring into electronic devices for hours on end is replaced by sun, wind, exercise and most importantly of all, communication between family members. The very task of riding in itself brings us all together.
“How did the ride go?” “What’s the track like?” “Did you work on the bike this weekend?” “Do you want to go for a ride?” All these things bring us together and cause us to talk and share. They constitute a bond that is nearly unbreakable and the more people participate, the stronger the bond.
So what caused me to write about the motorcycle family? Frankly it was a film that all motorcyclists should see. It’s called “Why We Ride” and it captures the essence of the motorcycle family. Even if you or someone you know is not a rider, you should see this film. You may just end up joining a new family.
Check out their trailer below. It’s just part of the story.
Why We Ride is an independent film and as such, screenings have been limited. They try to show the film where they can gain maximum impact; check their website for showings. It’s well worth a trip to see this film.
Finally, we would be extremely remiss not to mention our friends Charles Sandoz and Jim Smith of Seacoast Sport Cycle in Derry, NH who sponsored the showing, generously permitting about 150 of our motorcycle family to see this film. Ride2ADV does not accept advertising, but we felt it very important that Charles and Jim get the credit for all they’ve done for our family.
Go see the film. Take your family and some non-riding friends. You may find that your family grows even larger, and that’s a good thing.
Over the years, things in my life have changed; a lot. I’d like to think that as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned quite a bit, hopefully become somewhat wiser, experienced life’s ups and downs and generally lived the life that I wanted, to the fullest. However, what is important to me now may not have been so important to me years ago and vice versa.
This came to me a little while ago as I passed through a small space where we keep the bikes and much of our motorcycle gear. A part of the garage that we lovingly call “The Shrine”. While there, I was hit with a revelation (pun intended) of sorts that over the years, perhaps my motorcycle helmets said something about me. For some reason that resides deep in my subconscious, I’ve kept almost all of my motorcycle helmets as well as many of Kim’s. Seeing them all sitting there lined up on the shelf, they spoke to me. You’ve changed, you’ve abandoned us!
They may be right. What was the single most important thing to me when I was younger was high speed performance. My fear of death or injury was practically nil. I can recall pavement escapades that today seem like insanity. Nowadays, high speed performance is not nearly as important to me. I now know when I fall off, it takes longer to heal and it really hurts! My focus is more on the ride itself and what happens during it, than going from point A to B as quickly as possible. Pavement riding, once the sole realm of my motorcycle riding is now secondary, and riding the gravel or woods is what really burns in me.
So as I stared at the helmets on the shelf, they spoke to me without speaking. Sleek, solid black Simpson Bandits in different versions cloaked with dark visors reminiscent of Darth Vader glared back at me. Several Arai RX series helmets adorned with factory racer replica colors practically screamed high RPM. The ones with the deep scratches from falling off during the years that I was competing in road racing told a story of excitement and falls. Then there were the helmets painted to my specs based upon my somewhat bizarre sense of humor; including one with an attached 18″ black braid of hair which contrasted with my bald head. Finally there were the visor-less dirt bike helmets and helmets designed specifically for adventure riding.
As I stared at them, I think they had a story to tell. They told me that my life had changed and my priorities were different. Perhaps they also reflected the importance I’ve assigned to taking things as they come instead of trying to catch a glimpse of life fueled with adrenalin at warp speed.
So do our helmets say something about us, or was that shrine driven revelation merely a dream?
Oh, yeah; one other thing. My current helmet is a fluorescent “Don’t Run Me Over” yellow. What does that say?
Ride2Adventure – Shrink the planet one ride at a time.