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Saturday, September 27, 2014

A bit off topic (and late) but HIGHLY IMPORTANT!

A combination of having family visiting from up north, training and working with people for my new position, negations for picking up another route for the small business on the side (we won the bid thank you very much), and weather has kept me off the bike this week.

However I could not let Banned Book Week pass without a comment.  Maybe it's because I picked up a dog eared copy of the Motorcycle Diaries recently.  Maybe it's because I know a few writers (See my links page for links to their books).  Maybe it's the firmly held belief that an educated populace can decided what is best for it and that leads to greater freedom.  Maybe its because I used to teach (as well as other things)...who knows.

Banned Book Week is a celebration about the written word and the power that words have to persuaded - Friends, Roman's, Countrymen lend me your ears from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar comes to mind.  In the beginning Caesar is portrayed as a power hungry madman...yet at the end of Mark Anthony's speech in the play; the common people raise up against Caesar's assassins.

Books have the power to make us think.  Provide warnings.  Enter the public consciousness and become part of our shared, common and very human experience.    So, when I hear about censorship or that some people are pushing for a particular belief system over another the hair on the back of my neck raises and I start to snarl.

Sadly the people that raise these complaints are often doing so with the best of intentions.  I'll be the first to admit that I've read some material which I've found questionable.  One book dealt with slavery, racism, used offensive language and was determined to show youth rebelling against authority figures.  The name of that book?  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Yet this book is a classic of American Literature.  Perhaps the racism was part of the time and had to be considered in context (although frankly the racism in the book is shown to be stupid and misplaced).  The issue of slavery, handled well I thought and considering how the book was published in 1876, certainly understandable.  Jim, the escaped slave, is a very honorable man.  Their are lessons to be learned here, if we open our minds to receive them.

Almost two decades ago I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X because I was looking for a way to relate with my students - I was teaching science at a mostly all black high school at the time.  I found it to be an amazing book and marveled at the journey Malcolm X took.  Here was a man that served time in jail, was a pimp and a thief, yet somehow found a way out of a thugs life to lead a people to something greater.  Something better.  Yet, all the students related to was the hatred, not the love that Malcolm eventually came to.

Interestingly enough...both these books have been banned at various times.  I can certainly understand the reasoning...radical and dangerous thinkers who promote ideas that don't suite the mainstream.  I would recommend either of these books in a heartbeat.

I don't know if I'll be on my bike much next week, or the week after (God knows I hope so!).  I hope to be, I miss riding.  But if I'm not, I'll curl up with a classic and catch up with my reading.  We can still think for ourselves, enjoy that freedom.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Does everything have to be an adventure?

Property of Fine Art America

I like to tell stories.  For example, once upon a time I was skiing in the foothills of the Himalaya's in Kazakhstan (Yes, I've been there and yes you can ski there).  My ex wife mentions a nearby ski jump that was only 5 meters high and how my English language brain understood to be 5 feet high.  How, once I was in the air, a full 16 feet in the air, I knew that I would land badly.  How I tumbled through the snow and how my ex-wife's family rushed over to me to see if I was alright.   I was, but I said how glad I was that no one understand the colorful word I used on the way done.  "Oh Robert," they said laughing, "it means the same thing in Russian."

That story means a lot to me.  It was an adventure, the it was the first time that I really connected with the family of my ex wife.  They spoke little English and I spoke only a few words of Russian, yet in that moment we were both able to laugh and communicate.

Now I'm older, wiser supposedly and I was thinking about that event so many years ago.  In my new position, my new job I'm being asked to build rapport with people from different walks of life, different experiences.  Different goals.  It's no longer black and white.  One way to do that is through stories.

I was thinking about that as I rode my bike on a fine Saturday.  I was heading towards the Festival of Flight celebration at a small local airport.  On Friday they were going to have a night time hot air balloon glow, which I thought would have been lovely but the entire day had been cold (by Florida summer standards) and rainy, so the night's events were most likely canceled (I was later able to confirm they were).  How lovely would it have been however to capture on film the glow of hot air balloons against a clear night sky?

Does every ride tell a story?  Even the boring non-exciting ones where I travel back and forth to work?  Every turn and every mile has been an experience.  Yes, every turn and every mile I put under my wheels is another adventure, another story and as I make the turn towards the airport on a overcast and cool day; I wonder if I would have made this trip if all I had was my car.

Some roads are wet, others dry.  The chance of rain is at 40% but the air feels heavy with the promise of more rain.  The event itself is subdued.  The various ballooning events planned for that day were canceled due to weather.  I was curious to see the gyro-copters and "flying trikes" that I heard were going to be there.  However I think due to the soaking rain yesterday and 40+ percent chance of rain today, most of them were scared off.

Like many people I'm interested in flight.  However I've always been more interested in the ideas behind it.  Often I wonder what must have gone through the minds of the brothers Mongolfier when they climb aboard their hot air balloon during its initial flight in October 1783.

Or for that matter the Wright Brothers.

Did they have any idea of the adventure they were about to begin?  The industry that would form out of that simple flight on a December day in 1903? How could they?  They were learning, pushing themselves into unknown territory.

I didn't spend that much time at the Fantasy of Flight event.  Partly because of the heat, partially because there was not that much going on.  For example, there was a scheduled car show, yet only two classic cars showed up.  Again, possibly due to weather?  Certainly there had to be another reason?

While I was there I only saw one bike, and only two others on the road.  Maybe it was the time of day, I was there during the hottest part of the day, or the event really not being that advertised that well?

I rode out of the event feeling slightly disappointed.  I had hoped for more, and other than a glimpse into the rather simplistic cockpit of a old military training plane, I didn't feel like the trip was worth it.

Some adventures are disappointing.  Some stories don't have happy endings.  Am I glad I went?  Yes.  I plan on going next year too, for I have a feeling it was the weather that fouled this event.  Who knows what the next year would hold?

Additional pictures of the event can be seen on my Facebook account here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bob Leong - RIP Bobscoot

I recently learned of the death of Bob Leong.  For those that may not know him he wrote the Wet Coast Scooting blog since 1998 and was well known for his photography, often of his pink crocks and bare feet as he worked on his beloved bikes and cars.

I never met the man but felt I knew him through his blog and his comments on this site.  He will certainly be missed by all of us that enjoyed reading his blog.

My thoughts and prayers certainly go out to his wife and family.  I'm sure his website, or those of his close friends, will contain some information about final arrangements.

RIP Bob.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Exploring Plant City - Part two

Once upon a time I worked on Saturday's but with the change of scenery comes certain perks.  Like weekends off, working day light and better pay.  Honestly Sue and I have been under each others toes for the past month or so.  I've spent the greater part of the month in classes and unsure of what my future held.

I have been doing longer rides as of late but when this Saturday rolled along we decided to spend it together and just do something different.  A food truck rally was discussed.  Going to a Rowdies game was discussed, but in the end we decided to check out a local train museum   Where as the panhandle and eastern seaboard of Florida were always well populated, the center and west coast owes a great debt to the railroads.  Frankly, without the rails, most of Florida would still be cattle land and swamps.

The Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum is open to the public at no cost and sits in the historic downtown area of Plant City.  In all honestly it's small, but packed with train and railroad memorabilia, mostly from one private collector.    What is truly amazing to me is that nearly all of the equipment and other memorabilia, was at one time actually used on the railroads.  In other words, the caboose was not a replica, but one of only 7 left in the country and here I was climbing around in like a little boy with a big smile on my face.

I've often wondered what the caboose was like in side, and it contained everything that you would need for a comfortable trip, desks, beds, bathroom, a stove and sink.  Even a simple refrigerator.  A RV on rails.

Speaking of being on rails.  I've no idea if Honda actually made this or if it was somehow converted to a particular task.

Sue collects old cases and luggage, so her eyes lit up
The detail on some of the artwork was amazing.  Notice the watch and ring for example.
Sue and I had decided to drive up instead of taking the bike and I'm glad we did.  Summer in Florida tends to be sunny, hot and humid.  After looking over a bit more of the museum we decided to cross the street to visit the Whistle Stop Cafe, famed for their 5 cent cherry smash (or cherry syrup in seltzer).  It was surprisingly light and refreshing and the rest of the meal was just delightful.  Homemade soup and bread which left us licking the bowls and wanting more.  

The roof is meant to look distressed.

Every where Sue and I turned there seemed to be some interesting piece of history (and readers of this blog know I love my history) or unusual find.   A brief ride up the road and we found the Shiloh Cemeteryoriginally established in 1810 but part of the city since 1884.   Some of the stones appeared to be in disrepair but  the city seems to be reclaiming part of the cemetery and saving some of the history.  
This being Florida we were not surprised to see cows grazing not far from the tombstones.  All in all it was a good day to be out and about.  Now...about those food trucks.  "Honey?  You hungry yet?"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Slowing it down.

Generally speaking I don't care for group rides.  I like to pull over and do some sightseeing.  I like to stop and read the history placards on the side of the road.  I know that I have to ride at my own pace and my own way, and frankly I don't like having to worry about other riders.  

When I was in the Bahama's I had to worry about Sue and her family getting lost (which they did).  When I rode to Sleepy Hollow, one of the group went down on an easy turn.  When I ride by myself, I'm responsible for only one person.  Selfish of me?  Perhaps.  

However on Thursday the 4th I came across a post in one of the Facebook groups I follow that stated a group was leaving Lakeland and traveling to nearby Plant City to pick up a few other scooterists (it ended up just being me).  From there they be riding down to Stefano's - a Greek Italian restaurant outside of Tampa for lunch.  How could I turn that down?

So I made the connections, packed up about 5 bottles of cold water and made sure I had air in the tires and a full tank of gas.  The day was going to be a hot one, 88 F (31 C) with a 40% chance of rain, and humid.  I did not want to even think about the humidity, but it's a chance for an adventure and I can't turn that down.  Even though I did think about it.

Off I went to meet the group.  First I met Rob and his wife, who were on a late 1980's model Vespa complete with sidecar.  He did tell me that exact year and model but frankly I don't remember.  I got to admit I enjoyed watching the looks from other bikers as we cruised along at about 45 MPH (72 KMH) through Plant City.   One guy spent some time adjusting his mirrors as they pulled in behind him.  I could see the smile on his face.

I had never eaten at Stefano's but the food was excellent and copious, I will be back.  If for nothing other than the flaming goat cheese and brandy appetizer.

The other scooterists joined us there and we discussed books, scooters, TV and jobs.  I actually met the owner of the infamous Barbie scooter.  It seems at one time he was a deputy sheriff who used to ride his Stella into work all the time.  Someone placed a Barbie on his bike as a joke.  Another day, another Barbie.  After awhile he figured he might as well attach them.  Eventually it became the bike it is today.  Although one story he told me brought a tear to my eye.  It seems that after two years or so of collection his sheriff asked him to ride a ten year old girl that was suffering from a brain tumor to a bikers rally in her honor.  I'm sure her smile was ear to ear.

He gives out Barbies to little girls that approach him and his bike went through the drive through at a Las Vegas drive-thur chapel when he renewed his vows to his wife as a complete surprise..  I liked him immediately.

No, he didn't ride the Barbie scooter today but a yellow GTI decorated in its own right.

The Mystery of the Barbie scooter resolved!

After lunch one of the ladies lead us through a slow ride through the surrounding neighborhoods.  It was nice to wonder through one of the more nicer parts of Tampa at a lower speed.  I got to see people smiling and waving.  Taking a moment to watch the scooters pass and hear the barking of little dogs trying to scare big machines away.

I'm not a speed demon by any means, but serving as tailgunner on the ride through the neighborhood I found myself enjoying the slower pace set by the smaller scooters.  Even though it was the hottest part of the day, I was cool.  Moving just fast enough to keep the air moving but slow enough to keep it cool.

I hope to ride with this group again.   They even invited Sue along.  So you know, I just might learn to like group riding.  I've not enjoyed the company of strangers like this for some time.  Total ride = just shy of 78 miles (125.5 KM).

**More pics to follow**

And here they are:
I think I found a new cover photo.  

Who is that masked man?

A half chicken in a lemon-garlic sauce with lentil soup!  Oh Yum!