Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How Does it Start?

I seem to have survived the night. Wish I could remember who it was on Gary's blog who suggested a cure. When Gary had the bad ear infection. Seem to remember something about a bottle and a hat. Put the hat at the foot of the bed. Drink from the bottle until you see two hats. Thought about trying it but was afraid the hangover would kill me.

It is amazing how you can be so cold with your body so hot. I was freezing but with a high fever. Katie says a little over 103F. The sheets were soaked yet I was shivering. Anyway, today I am at home. Not that I would mind infecting some people at work. I'm just too drug out to go anywhere. Managed two handfuls of Cheerio's, a yogurt and a cup of coffee. Think I will let it rest there a while. Too tired to go to work. Still have energy to blog. I need the connection, I guess. If my brain is not totally fried this should be somewhat lucid.

The picture is of my grandparents. It is a grainy picture from long ago. Perhaps I should have sent it to Steve for enhancement. His pictures are always so awesomely clear. Their names are Ralph and Betty. The horses are Terry on the left and Bud on the right. As a child I fell off Bud more times than I can count. It was a long way down. Long story short, they pretty much raised me. ( the people, not the horses )

You may be wondering what this has to do with commuting by two wheels. Glad you asked. A while back I wrote asking for input on what gives a person the "heart of a motorcyclist". There are many reasons people ride. Some are just practical folks who ride for utility. When the weather is bad they drive. There are those for whom it is a social thing. They enjoy "belonging" and sometimes have a great need for this. Again, most are fair weather riders. There are recreational riders. Then there is "us". What makes us hardcore? Not "what" we do. That's readily apparent. Rather, "why"? More exactly, "where" did this come from?

Consider. We ride for recreation but there is much more than that. We ride for utility but that does not explain it. We socialize to a certain extent. I love the connection on these blogs. For the most part, though, we ride our own rides. Mostly because in the winter there's nobody to ride with, I guess! Think about it. We go way above and beyond most riders. We do things that so called "sane" people call crazy. There is a new welder who started at the shop yesterday. When he saw me ride in on the bike he told me I was crazy. Remember it was during a torrential downpour. There is a freight driver who came by the other day. He said he saw the bike there in the extreme cold. His first thought was "Dan's flat out lost his mind". We take risks but we also arm ourselves with skills and strategies. Do we get this "hardcore" attitude from exposure to riding? Do we find we like it and just gradually take it further than most? Or does our raising inculcate this in us? Will it only be satisfied by motorcycles? Or would any outlet we come across serve us?

In my case I think it was my raising. Motorcycles seem to have been a progression from horses. I want to share some of it with you. Maybe you can see yourself in this writing. Maybe you will have other input.

Gramp was the ultimate "Marlboro Man". He passed away in early December 2004. Grandma is still with me and I cherish these days. She is 87 years old. I will write mostly of Gramp. Ralph lived "large". You have heard of the "work hard, play hard" ethic. Gramp embodied it to the full. He was a farm hand, a cowboy, a log truck driver, and later, a cop. He retired as Assistant Police Chief. Gramp was rowdy but had a code of values. I was taught about "macho" and was taught about "responsibility". I was raised to have fun, find adventure, but never cheat on my values. I was allowed to be a hell-raiser but was expected to defend a lady's honor. Gramp was the one who taught me to be "strong enough to be gentle". For me, it was Gramp's influence that put me where I am today. To the world I am an Ironman. To my family I am "Honey" and "Daddy". My wife calls me her "tough creme puff". Tell anybody and I shall hunt you down!

There's still a little more to it, though. I know, the mind reels that there could be more. I saw early on this great difference in people. Some of us accomplish things by doing them ourselves. Some people find accomplishment vicariously from watching others. The horses are a perfect example.

For a long time we had our own horses. It was not a fancy stable. It was more like a barn on the back acres. Gramp and I were weekend rodeo cowboys. He would always call me "Dude". Not the common lingo today. This was the cowboy term for a new cowboy. You know, a "dude". I think Gramp forgot my real name. For years he never called me anything else. I seriously was on horseback before I could walk. I think becoming bowlegged from horses helps me wrap around a bike. We did many things. Together we did what is called "head and heel" calf roping. I did steer wrestling. We did a little bucking bronco thing. I never had the desire to ride bulls, though. Smashing my groin into pulp did not appeal to a late teenage guy who hoped to one day have children. For many years we enjoyed the rodeo. Time goes on and Gramp was worn out bodily.

The desire to be involved did not go away. We switched to horse shows. Less wear and tear on the body. Our rodeo horses were not show horses. Like me, they got the job done but were not pretty. Gramp worked out deals to show horses for others. We did the training and work. The owners lived through us. These people bragged about what their horses were doing. It was if they had accomplished something huge. Truth is, they were only the bankroll. They had the money and facilities. We had the skills and sweat. I see this with parents and their children. You've seen it. A father who never went out and lived life on his own. All of a sudden he wants to be a hero through his children. Sorry, I don't buy into that.

I never want to be one who lives vicariously. At the same time I will not accomplish everything myself. So I have settled on a few things. A few things I can do well. A few things done to the full. My children were raised with this same attitude. It is not enough just to read what others have done. Reading and hearing of others should round out your experience. Not BECOME your experience. When I read of those who explore I take satisfaction in having done my own exploration. When I read of race car drivers I remember my bike racing. And so it goes. I want to bring something to the table, as it were. It is hard to explain exactly. I trust you get my aim, here.

My riding reflects my raising. For me, "hardcore" motorcycling is an outlet for something already in me. Motorcycles are not the cause, only the means. It suits me perfectly being different from the "crowd". While I respect them I do not identify with them. The day will surely come when my mind writes a check my body can't cash. I may be reduced to a hopped up wheelchair but, snow or no snow, off to the Senior Center I go!!

This was fun but I am exhausted. Time to go back to bed. Take care.


Mad said...

Great post Irondad (Creme puff? lmao), as ever you express some of the stuff I mull over on my bike but never manage to articulate. I hope you're feeling better soon.

I've only ridden horses a few times but from one ride I had I think I can see where you're coming from. I had a ride on a South African beach on a beautiful horse one time. It was the only time I've been up to a full, pounding, hell for leather, gallop. It made a yell of exultation rise up unbidden in me, just like motorbikes do sometimes.
I'd like to ride some more one day.

Your Grandad sounds like an amazing man. All the people I've really admired in life have had that internal code of which you speak. Judging by your blog and your writing I suspect that your grandad's influence is writ large on you and your life.

Wrap up warm till you're better ;)

Steve Williams said...

Glad to hear you made it through the night and are able to sit up and blog!

Your stories are always insightful and cause me to think about things beyond riding. I was especially struck by your comments about not wanting to live life vicariously. It is so tempting to go to sleep and live that way---through reading, watching TV, listening to music. That becomes life. Riding is active and it helps open the door to a broader experience.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Gary Charpentier said...

This internet is an amazing thing. To bring brothers together over such amazing distances, people who would have never known of each other's existence otherwise... the mind boggles.

I've only ridden horses once, and the experience was much like "Fonzie" in the old Happy Days show: "Where's the handlebars?"

But the cowboy ethic runs deep in this country, for those of us who understand it. I learned it from my Dad, and the Marine Corps which we both served.

I sometimes feel constrained in my writing on RTW, because I know it is a website with a mission. For this reason, I cannot go into detail about the philosophy we share. I'm glad you are able and willing to do this here.

Get well soon, brother. And then...

Ride well,

irondad said...

riding a horse at full tilt is almost like riding a bike. Depending on the ground you can literally feel the thunder of the hooves. There is so much sensation of movement. You lean forward almost like a sportbike crouch. Only the brakes aren't as good! Bikes were a natural replacement for horses for me. Gramp was amazing. It's too bad people like him are more the exception these days. Not sure I like the way Society is going now. I'm just the product of my raising and trying to do it justice. Thanks for the kind words.

At least as far as two wheels go, you are NOT living vicariously. When someone talks about riding in the snow, and how you get so cold you are sure your head will fall off your shoulders and clunk on the ground, you can smile. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. It has been fun to see you reach for the next small steps to challenge yourself. I'm proud of you.

I was just talking to Katie the other day about how these blogs connect people from all over. Just in this circle of 4 we have Oregon, Minnesota, Pennsylvannia ( is that right, Steve?), and Great Britian. It is so cool. You're right, these are precious connections we would have not made otherwise.

Steve Williams said...

Yep---Pennsylvania here.

I added some tracking software to my page just to see how many people were looking at it. I can see not only the number of visits, but where the people are, what referring page they were on, what computer system they're using, Web browser, time on the site, etc. It's sort of scary what information can be harvested.

In addition to those of us who post there are hundreds of others reading...