Motorhead Coffee

vagabond blog: thoughts from the saddle

My Old Friend

I have a bad habit when it comes to motorcycles. I trade often. I mean, over the past 40+ years I have changed motorcycles more often than some people change their mind! There are a few simple reasons for this. First of all, there is a constant stream of new and exciting motorcycles hitting the market. They are coming out faster than I can keep up with. I can easily think of a couple dozen bikes, both  new and old, that I would love to own right now. Since I am not rich, I have to trade to change. Those who say, “You can only ride one bike at a time,” or who think that all bikes are alike, just don’t really understand. They are not all alike. They all have 2 wheels and an engine; beyond that, the experience can be very different. Aside from the smorgasbord of choices, I suppose boredom is another reason for my short term ownership habit. I get bored easily…with just about everything. I prefer to live life in short bursts, with change in between.

Knowing how fickle I can be, let me introduce you to my current garage:IMG_3210I’ve only had the Vstrom and Scrambler a few weeks, but the Street Triple has been mine since 2010, which must be some sort of record. I’ve got about 600 miles on the Scrambler since I bought it and probably 400 on the Vstrom, so I’m still formulating opinions, but so far so good. Since I picked the two newest ones up I have not ridden the Street Triple at all. That is, until today. I went to start it a few days ago and it let me know it was feeling neglected! The brief ride today was enlightening and made me ponder the question: “If tomorrow my world went to shit and I had to return to one bike in the garage, which one would I keep?”

With that question in mind, lets call this a lighthearted review of these 3 machines. I will start with the Vstrom. First, let me say that I would never have even considered looking at a Vstrom if my friend Matt had not encouraged it. The bike was not on my radar at all. Sure, I knew it was a good machine. I knew it was a bargain machine. I knew it was a do it all bike with a cult following and that it was very practical….maybe the most practical bike currently made. But it’s not exotic, classy, performance oriented or attractive. In fact, the only thing it is really good at is being “pretty good at everything.” And very affordable. Can’t really knock that. So, after a brief ownership period, what do I think?

The Good

1. I was looking for a traveler; a bike that could do 500+ mile days in reasonable comfort. I believe I got it. Very relaxing machine. I’ve only done a 300 mile day on it so far, but judging by how I felt, I’m pretty sure I could get on this bike at 4 in the morning, point it south, and get off 17 hours later in Naples…and still be able to walk!

2. Nice motor, plenty of power, even though the actual HP is low.

3. It isn’t a beauty queen, so I won’t be nearly as concerned if I tip this bike over, or run it down a muddy road or ride a week in torrential rains. I might cry if I got a Duc or MV Augusta caked in Alaska mud!

4. I can’t really find any glaring problems. The bike just works. It even handles pretty well, especially considering it is wearing a set of “Death Wings” for tires.

The Bad

1. The brakes suck. Especially the front brake. I’m hoping new pads will help.

2. Yes, I can tell it is a “bargain” bike by the quality of some components, but really, I bought it to ride…hard and long, so I’m not worried about that.

3. The motor is great, but pulls a bit different than my other bikes. The Triumphs both have a lot of meat down low. With the Vstrom it is going to take a bit to figure out what gear I want to ride in, particularly on twisty roads.

So, what about the Scrambler?

The Good

1. Looks are killer. Everyone wants to look at it and talk about it.

2. It is easy to ride. Relaxing even. It gives me an excuse to quit being “Ricky Racer” and just enjoy the ride.

3. Love the engine. The lumpy twin is very cool. And the torque? Pulls like a tractor. I love riding this bike.

The Bad

1. Looks are killer. Everyone wants to look at it and talk about it. Can’t get out of the parking lot!

2. The bars are too wide for me. Yes, I know; if I was “man-sized” it wouldn’t be a problem. I need some new bars.

3. It is too quiet. Seriously. I’m not a loud pipe sort of guy. I don’t like the extreme rumble of some machines at all, however, I do like it when a special motor, like this one, is allowed to express itself. It has an Arrow 2 into 1 on it now. With the baffle in it is too quiet, robbing me of the wonderful thump this motor makes. With the baffle out, it is extremely loud. Too loud. I need a solution.

That leaves the Street Triple. The only other bike I ever came close to owning as long as this bike is a Ducati Multistrada. And there is a reason for both. If tomorrow I had to go back to one bike, it would, without hesitation be the Street Triple. After riding it today, I was instantly reminded of just how great it is, at least to me. After riding the other bikes, my first impression of the seating position of the Street was this:photos.demandstudios.com-getty-article-251-182-77293941_XS“Ready, set go!” High seat, low bars, nothing in front of you but the road. Yep, feels good. Feels like home.

The Good

1. The motor. The motor. The motor. Had to say it 3 times, one for each cylinder. Awesome. Smooth. Powerful. Meaty. Strong. No, it’s no Hayabusa. Nor is it a Super Duke or a BMW S1000R, but for a 675 with a dry weight under 400 lbs, I couldn’t really ask for more.

2. It looks good.

3. It still excites me, even after all this time. As soon as I get on this bike, thumb the starter, wick the throttle and listen to the music those Arrows make, I’m in love. And lust…and lust can get ahold of you…and take control…and cause you to do stupid things! I want to ride this bike faster, and harder, and faster, and harder.

4. It feels like a quality machine. Solid. Well thought out.

5. It fits me.

6. It is more versatile than you think. It has carried me on several 500 mile slab days. Like it or not, argue all you want about what a bike can and can’t do…the Street Triple can do anything I want it to do and still leave me with a smile.

7. Handles very quickly and effortlessly. Shift in the seat and you are turning!

The Bad

1. The seat. Horrible for me. I have had 3 other seats on it…all of them sucked. Give me a good seat and I will ride this bike to the end of the road…and back. Suggestions welcome. Already tried the Gel, a Sargent and an inexpensive custom job.

2. Only 130 miles before the fuel light comes on. I’ve read some guys say they get 200 miles out of a tank. Apparently I’m doing something wrong.

3. Suspension is a bit stiff for some roads, particularly when traveling distance. A bump on the Interstate can knock me totally off the seat when at speed.

That’s about it. No, it doesn’t have much wind protection, but I’ve gotten used to that and don’t really mind. Not much luggage capacity either, but I use Kriega bags and can travel for a week. I might end up with some Bags Connection or Givi hybrid bags eventually that I can take off and on when I want. None of those limitations keep me from believing that the Triumph Street Triple is the finest motorcycle I have ever owned. DSC_01614 years of ownership, countless trips to Asheville and back…the Street triple feels like an old friend.

Later,

Shep

Showing Off

Well, as of late Sunday night, I’ve got a new grandchild, so I thought I would take a moment and, like any proud Grandpa, show them off a little bit.

Number One: Aston, aka, the “live wire!” Aston is my first grandchild. To say that Aston is active would be a massive understatement…Aston makes the Energizer Bunny look lazy! I have yet to see a video of Aston when he was not running, jumping, flying through the air, dancing or just generally flailing around. I have also rarely ever seen him without a smile on his face. Oh, I’m sure his mom and dad might disagree, but to me, he is one happy boy…and that makes me happy too! IMG_3099IMG_3100IMG_3098Number Two: Grant, aka, “Nana’s boy.” Not sure what the deal is, but Grant seems to be most content in my wife’s arms…not so much mine! Where Aston seems to go with the flow, Grant is more of a,”I want it and I want it now” kind of guy. What I do know is that Grant kept me on my toes before he was born. He enjoyed giving us false alarms and a few scares. Since my daughter and son-in-law are 5 hours away, we kept bags packed for weeks. Grant is only about 5 months old, so I can’t tell you a lot about him yet…personality to be determined! One thing for sure, his smile can melt grandpa’s heart. IMG_3095IMG_3083I’m sure you didn’t pick up on the subtle implications, but Aston and Grant’s dad has a bit of a fetish for exotic motor vehicles. Aston is more obvious, but Grant (whose initials are GTB) is a bit more obscure. I will leave it to you to figure that one out.

Number Three: Lyla, aka, “heart stopper,” because her delivery experience caused my heart to stop on more than one occasion. I won’t share the personal details here, but let’s just say little Lyla had me wringing my hands for days. But she is here, she is healthy and so is my daughter. And at 6lbs, 2 ounces she is considerably bigger than we were expecting her to be. I’m giving thanks for all of the above. IMG_3174IMG_3149What I’m really looking forward to is having all three in the same place at the same time! I can’t wait.

Later,

Shep

I am my Father

photo (17)I have to face the fact that I have become my father. Speaking of which, that’s him in the photo above on the right, tobbogan hat and red plaid flannel shirt, hoisting a Flastaff. I posted this photo for two reasons: an intro to my thoughts today…and a teaser for the future. I will share the details of the picture in an upcoming post. Be forewarned, or filled with anticipation, but it will be a bit “rough, vulgar and revealing.” If you don’t want to read “swear” words and have your image of certain people crushed, then don’t read the future installment called, “Free to be me.”

I spent the morning tinkering with my motorcycles. I took the GPS mount off of my Street Triple and put in on the Vstrom. Pretty simple job. When I was done, I came into the kitchen where my wife was cooking. As I reached into the fridge for a bottled water, she said, “You are bleeding.” Huh? What? Where? She pointed it out and I looked at my forearm. Sure enough, a couple long scratches and a scrape, all pooled with blood about ready to drip to the floor. Never even noticed. They were minor, as you can see, but the first thing that came to my mind was my dad.photo (16)

My dad was about 33 years older than me, so in the photo above (that’s my cousin Tom in the photo, not me), he would have been mid-40′s.  If he had grown up in my generation, where we put a name or affix a disease  to every human trait, he would have been labelled a “workaholic.” If he wasn’t at work, he was home working. And it seemed that every time he went outside to work, he would come back with scrapes, cuts and blood all over his arms. So, when I say “I am my father,” I mean I am at that age when:

1. Every time I do something, I get cut and bleed.

2. If I grow facial hair, I immediately look 15 years older.

3. If I lose weight (and I need to), I look 15 years older or like I have a terminal disease

4. Women in their twenties think I’m gross or pervy, or both.

5. Women in their thirties think I remind them of their dad.

6. Women in their forties, well, my wife is in her forties, so maybe, just maybe I’m not “one foot in the grave” to all women in their forties, but probably to most of them. Hopefully not to my wife!

7. Women in their fifties, they just don’t care.

8. I am not the center of the universe anymore…technology and life values now belong to the generations following me.

9. My youngest daughter  and I have just about the same age separation as my father and I did…and I’m pretty sure I’m just a nuisance to her!

It’s not all bad though:

1. My grandchildren think I’m cool and fun!

2. I can get away with being an “old bastard” if I want to…it’s what people expect!

3. I don’t have little children, so I can pretty much do anything I want, almost any time I want.

4. I can retire in a few years, and I still have a pension plan.

5. I get a kick out of dismounting my sporty Triumph Street Triple after strafing some corners or other such hooliganism, pull off my helmet to expose my gray hair and wrinkles, only to see the look of either surprise or disappointment in the face of those nearby. “You were expecting Brad Pitt?” Oh wait, even he’s turning into an old man…only 3 years younger than me. No comparisons please!

Later,

Shep

Fast, Slow…and the POPO

Uh, yeah. I’ll get to that in a minute. Just got back from a 250 mile ride on the Vstrom. Call it a “test ride,” as its the first real ride I’ve taken on the bike since I purchased it several weeks ago. If you recall, I was looking for a “traveling” bike to go with my Street Triple. While the Triple is pretty comfortable to me, I was hoping for something that would handle serious miles without entering the realm of the 600lb sport tourers or ADV bikes.

After looking at all sorts of machines, I pulled the trigger on a nearly new, locally owned Vstrom 650. My father-in-law loved his (affectionately known as the “BumbleStrom”), although I never took it for a ride. Maybe because, unlike him, I didn’t have shoes that matched the black/yellow paint scheme!

I knew there was a pretty large cult following for them and figured everyone couldn’t be wrong, so I decided to give the bike a try. Aside from that reasoning, there was some hidden agenda as well. I tend to ride on the “aggressive” side of things. There are plenty of people who ride faster and harder than me, but I tend to lean toward the spirited side of riding most of the time. I also don’t like “stopping to smell the roses.” I just want to go. Those two habits need to be broken. I need to learn to slow down a little and I need to learn to stop. I was hoping a smaller, slower, more sedate machine would help me accomplish those things. And, I felt like I needed to find out if I”m too hung up on the brand of the machine, as opposed to the actual act of riding.

20140704-163552-59752065.jpg
Well, what did I learn today?

20140704-163327-59607520.jpg
1. It doesn’t matter what I ride, I ride it too fast! I was about 25 miles from home when I came to an intersection, turned right and headed toward Louisville. A cop pulled out from the other side of the road and passed me. As I usually do, I looked down to check my speed. I had just left the intersection so I wasn’t really concerned about speeding. Sure enough, I was doing about 45 in a 45 zone. No worries. In my mirror, I saw the cop turn behind me. Never gave it a thought…until I saw him come up behind me with a blue light special! Really? What the heck? I pulled over, shut off the bike and pulled off my helmet. As he walked my way, he said, “You were doing 73 in a 55.” What? “I just saw you in front of me and when you passed I was barely doing 45!” I thought, What kind of scam is he running here? I bit my lip and decided to wait and see what he said when he came back from his car. He gave me my license back and said, “I”m going to cut you a break today, just a warning.” So, I kept my mouth shut, and then realized they must have had a speed trap set up down the road and another cop had spotted me and radioed ahead. Geez.

2. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I was stopped at a coffee shop in Danville, Ky, when guy pulled up on a custom trike. He got out, walked over to my bike and said, “That’s a good looking bike.” Huh? I looked for his dark glasses and red-tipped cane, but didn’t see either. Really? I never expected to hear anyone say that about a Vstrom.

3. The nicks: the front brake is too weak, not enough feedback. I knew that already and can probably help it some. The tires suck, which I also knew already and can easily remedy. I found a nice, twisty, Kentucky ridge road and, while traversing those corners could never decide what gear I wanted to be in. The redline is 10.5. Vibes creep in at about 7.5. The real power seems to be between 6-7k rpms. Hitting those 35-45 mph corners, it seemed I was either a gear too high or a gear too low to hit the meat of the motor. I eventually got used to it though and it became less of an issue. That’s pretty much it. No, its not particularly pretty. It won’t get the attention my Street Triple or Scrambler get. No, it doesn’t have the fit and finish of a Euro bike. No, it doesn’t have monster power or torque. No high tech gadgets either. None of that seemed to matter as I ticked off the miles today.

4. The good: I wanted a travel bike. One that could eat miles for breakfast and keep rolling through lunch and dinner. One that I could climb on Saturday morning in Louisville, Kentucky and lay my head down Saturday night in a New England fishing village. I may have found it. It works. Watching the gas gauge, I kept thinking, “Is this thing ever going to move?” Over 200 miles on a tank no problem. The seat was absolutely perfect for the first 100 miles. It wasn’t bad for the next 150 either and I am notorious for hating seats. No ugly vibes unless you revved high, as mentioned above. The mirrors give a good view and are rock solid clear at all times. That doesn’t happen often. Plenty of power, plenty of comfort. The Mastad bracket took care of the buffeting: 80 mph, faceshield up, no problem. Handled well; in fact, put some good tires on this thing and I would have no worries tossing it into a corner. The suspension isn’t great, but it didnt’ bother me. Besides, I’ve got the Street Triple in the garage if I feel the need to abuse a corner.

As of right now, I’m happy with the purchase. For $5,000 I feel like I got a lot of bike. I believe it will do exactly what I bought it to do. For now, I’m going to put a Pelican case on the luggage rack and some engine and tank protectors up front. Heated grips and maybe stronger handlebars…and then I’m just going to ride the piss out of it. The big test for a guy like me will be, do I become bored with it? I will let you know as time goes on.

Those of you with Stroms that have 60, 70, 80 thousand miles on them did so for a reason. I think I’m starting to see why.

Parting question: I’m thinking of doing a “decalechtomy” on the tank. What do you think? Remove it, or leave it?

20140704-163741-59861576.jpg
Later,

Shep

Breaking The Rules

I have a confession to make: I broke the rules. I purposely rode my newest motorcycle in a manner in which it was not originally intended. Yep, I’m a non-conformist rebel.

Some folks in the motorcycle community are so rigid. There are a surprising number of riders who believe you have to have a certain type (or brand) of motorcycle to engage in a specific style of riding. For example, some time back I did something I rarely do; I posted a question in a motorcycle forum. I was asking for advice on a small shield for my Street Triple that might create a smoother air pattern than the one I currently use. Now, mind you, I wasn’t asking about adding a “barn door” sized shield. Nor was I attempting to turn my Triple into a Gold Wing. I was simply looking for a slightly different shaped screen than the one I already have that might deflect air more efficiently. What I got was, “You bought the wrong bike!” Well, I beg to differ. Considering the fact that I’ve owned it for 4 years now and have many thousands of miles on it, and have taken it all over the Central US, I sort of doubt that. My philosophy on bikes is that you can do any type of riding you want to do on whatever bike you choose to ride, some are just more focused than others. A sport bike can tour, it just won’t be as comfortable as a touring bike. A touring bike can handle a gravel road, it’s just a bit more of a handful than a dual sport machine.

That brings me to my latest purchase, the Triumph Scrambler. DSC_0221I’ve been looking at the Scrambler with a lustful eye for a couple years now. I am drawn, in part, to its styling. Nostalgia also plays a role. No, I never owned an old Bonnie or any other Triumph from the 60′s or 70′s. However, my brother did own a Honda Scrambler. I have romanticized the style ever since.DSC_0218

I’ve already got sport riding covered in the form of the Street Triple. My recent purchase of the VStrom 650 (ride report to come soon), covered the long distance travel base. I bought the Scrambler as a local rider and meanderer…my idea of a cruiser. However, my maiden voyage on the bike turned out to be anything but a cruise. With the exception of my test ride, my first real venture on the Scrambler was a 400 mile Interstate journey at speeds of 70-80 mph. Not at all what I had in mind and certainly not what the Scrambler’s designers saw as the purpose of this machine. So, for all those who say you can’t travel on a Triumph Scrambler, I say, “Oh, but you can!”

Here is what I can tell you after taking a long first ride on roads I never intended to travel while aboard this machine: 58 hp is more than enough. I have had bikes with almost 3 times that much horsepower, but I never for one minute found myself saying, “This bike doesn’t have enough power.” It cruised easily at 80 mph. And comfortably. No vibes. Mirrors were crystal clear at all speeds. It never felt pushed. I was riding on the solo seat and it was much more comfortable than I ever thought it would be. It was not an issue.DSC_0220

No heat from the Arrow pipe. The suspension was softer than my Street Triple, but for my 160 lbs, it was not a significant issue. Tires? Well, unfortunately, it has Trail Wings on the rims. I’m not a fan of these tires. My VStrom has them as well, so I look forward to changing both. With that said, I leaned the bike fairly hard on a few occasions and didn’t have any concern.DSC_0217

On the down side, the bike is heavy. Truth be told, you only really notice it when you tip the bike up off the sidestand. Once underway, the weight is not so noticeable. The steering feels heavy at low speed until you get accustomed to it. And the bars are pretty wide. Yes, I know, that’s the idea…it’s a Scrambler. I will probably replace those eventually with narrower bars. Black ones of course. The combination of no wind protection and the wide bars were the only real distraction to the 6 hour road trip. Running at 55 I don’t think it would have been an issue at all, but running near 80 all that time did, admittedly, wear on my neck a little bit…and I’m used to riding “naked.”

In my opinion, the bike is a beauty. I specifically wanted the matte green (because I’m too cheap to buy a new one in matte blue!). It has almost all the accessories I wanted: Arrow pipes, solo seat, Dart shield, engine guards and skid plate. I will probably add handguards and some day, a Claude built sidecar.DSC_0214

I read somewhere recently, in regard to the Scrambler that you can’t go anywhere in a hurry. They didn’t mean the bike wasn’t capable; instead, they were referring to the fact that they could not go anywhere without people stopping them and asking them about their bike. I discovered this to be true already. I was stopped at a gas station on the ride home and two gentlemen approached me. The first guy looked at the bike and said, “They are making a comback aren’t they? Triumph.” I thought, “They’ve been back for a while,” but I just said, “Yes,” He and his friend began to reminisce about the bikes they had in the 70′s. As much as I enjoy talking bikes with other people, I finally had to excuse myself and slip away. Just yesterday I climbed  on the bike in a parking lot and pulled out. A young “hipster” looking guy walked past me, turned my way and watched me roll in his direction. As I got closer, he began to talk to me. He practically “forced” me to stop. While I held up traffic he said, “They are making a comback, aren’t they? Triumph.” Seriously, he said it. Twice in two days.

What do I think of the Triumph Scrambler so far? Love it. Great looks, great fun. Nope, I don’t plan on making it my traveler or my sport bike, but if you dare tell me it can’t do either of those things…I’m going to prove you wrong and do both!

Later,

Shep

On the Road to Cleveland

Road trip! I’m headed to Cleveland in a couple hours. No, not going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although I’d probably enjoy that. It’s not a coffee trip either. That only leaves one reason that I can think of to go to Cleveland…surely you can guess. Yep…

Scrambler_zps8b344e75Finally bought a Scrambler! I’ve been wanting one for a couple years. Tomorrow morning, I make it mine. The matte green paint is my favorite version, and I ended up finding 3 for sale. This particular bike had many of the accessories I was looking for, so I just couldn’t say no. Actually, I did say no. But my wife encouraged me to change my mind…no really, she did. So, I blame her! Damn, I have a good wife!

I had planned on a “fly and ride,” but that just wasn’t working. There is only one thing I don’t like about living in Louisville; the airport sucks. Prices are much too high. When we fly to Florida, we drive to Indy and fly from there. I wasn’t willing to pay the price, so we decided to do a “drive and fly.”

It should prove interesting tomorrow, as my maiden voyage on the Scram will be a 360+ mile ride home. I have no idea how good or bad that solo seat is…but I’m about to find out. Looks like I might get into rain too, all in all, what motorcycle riding is all about: adventure.

I wanted the Scrambler for a couple reasons. First, I will admit to being a bit of a Triumph fan boy right now. My Street Triple is one of the finest bikes I ever owned. It just fits me so well. I love the sound of the Triple. And I love the sound of that 270 degree twin crank of the Scrambler. It even sounds good with the stock exhaust, so just imagine the music this Arrow plays. No, it’s not powerful. That’s not the point of this machine. Speaking of the point, after I ride it a year or so, I plan to make a change to it. I’ve been bitten with the sidecar bug. My new sidecar friend Dave warned me that the Scrambler is not going to be a powerful rig, but since I decided not to pursue my original intent for the vehicle, I think it will be fine as a dual sport styled, back road hack. IMG_0092I’ve got to get ready to head out; ride report to come soon. I guess the only question I have left is: “Who is going to come help me ride all these bikes?”

Later,

Shep

Ghosts, Spirits & Pappy Van Winkle

I don’t believe in ghosts. Well, maybe a better way to put it is I’m “skeptical.” My wife, on the other hand, is not only a believer, she is a ghost magnet! She has plenty of creepy stories of events that have taken place in her life, some of them weird enough to almost convince me. Not sure why I’m not a believer, after all, I used to call my mother, “the witch.” Not because she was mean, but because she always seemed to have a creepy intuition about things. I’ve even had an unexplained experience or two myself. I clearly remember waking up in my bed one night and seeing a woman, in a long white gown, standing at the foot of my bed. I thought it was my wife and immediately went back to sleep. I asked her about it the next day and she said she didn’t know what I was talking about. Hmmm. I chocked it up to my imagination.

Good and evil? Spirits…well, I can buy that, after all, I was a preacher for 10 years. Ghosts? Well, I know my wife and daughter have enjoyed a ghost tour or two before, so when I found out that Buffalo Trace Distillery has a ghost tour, I thought, “Why not?” Buffalo Trace is located in Frankfort, Kentucky, about 50 miles from our house. I have been there once before while out riding my motorcycle. I had not taken any tours though; in fact, I have visited almost all the local distilleries on my bike, but have yet to take any official tours. Buffalo Trace is very generous with their tours. They are all free. Did you catch that? Free, no charge. They leave every hour on the hour and last about…an hour. Some of the tours, such as the ghost tour and hardhat tour, require a reservation, but still no charge.  So, at the last minute, I sent a message to the distillery asking if their tour had room for 3 more for Saturday night. They responded back promptly that, while the tour was full, they would put on a second tour. Pretty nice to accommodate us like that, especially since it is free.

Our tour was scheduled for around 8:15. We got there a little early and snooped around. There were about 15 of us that gathered for the tour. After some preliminary introduction, we were told that Buffalo Trace Distillery was featured on Ghost Hunters. I had read this and watched some of the video. Apparently, the team was so convinced they would find the placed haunted that they had reached out to the distillery for months, asking to come.

Some of the building were undergoing renovation, so we were not able to see them, however our tour began in Warehouse C, and really, the whole tour could have been conducted there, because those old barn style “rackhouses,” are about as creepy as it gets…particularly in the dark. DSC_0196They remind me of the barn I grew up with. I lived on a small farm that was home to a three story barn. The bottom floor was much like an exposed basement. It was where the cattle came in to feed. We had troughs for them with boards that would slide over to “lock” their head in the stall if necessary. You might do this to give them a shot or tag an ear, etc. The one time I remember most was when we locked a cow’s head in the stall so my dad could cut it’s horns off. He took these big clippers that looked like bolt cutters, clamped on to old Betsy’s horns and, “whack!” off they came. And so did the blood. Sprayed everywhere, like it came from a squirt gun. Stained the stalls. It was always fun to take visiting kids into that barn and show them the blood stains!

I didn’t see any blood stains in the rick house, but I did see a lot of barrels of aging bourbon, about 20,000 or so in this 4-5 story warehouse. According to the tour guide, any barrel that said “Weller,” could be Pappy Van Winkle. Another guest and I lagged behind on the way out the door and, in a hushed tone, conspired as to how we could carry one of those barrels out without anyone noticing!DSC_0188

 

The guide, who was a self-professed chicken when it comes to ghosts and the dark, told a few stories about odd things that have happened to her while giving the tour. She said that on one occasion, as they walked into the rackhouse, all the lights went out, one by one, in order as they walked. She said that one of their duties is to ascend the ever-narrowing staircases in the rackhouse and shut off all the lights before they leave. She told us that she did not relish this particular job, but performed it and that one time, after she had left the building, she looked up…and all the lights had come back on! She looked at the building and said, “Nope. Not going back in!” Do you blame her?DSC_0193DSC_0194

We also toured Stony Point Mansion, where one time owner, Albert Blanton lived and supposedly still hangs out, if you get my drift. Along with Albert, a young girl who fell in a well and died, also likes to wander the halls, move chairs, open doors and play other pranks on the visitors. The home is now used for administrative offices. We were told the woman who works in this office will no longer work there alone at night.

While in the mansion, we were taken to the basement, where the lights were all turned off, and we experienced a moment of “quiet time.” While there, we were told that several people had taken photos of the windows and later discovered a “figure” in the photos. All of my photos were benign and void of spooks. My wife did take this one photo that, if you wanted to stretch your imagination and ignore the lighting, I suppose you could have some fun with. The closer you zoom the photo, the more it looks like a skeletal figure.IMG_0631 - Version 2

All in all, it was great fun. Nothing spooky happened on our tour. No chills, no visions, no slamming doors or cold drafts. At the end of the tour, we were all treated to tastings in the tasting room. You had your choice of two of the following: a new Vodka they just released, White Corn Mash (125 proof!), Buffalo Trace bourbon and Eagle Rare. I chose the last two, finding the 10 year old Eagle Rare a bit smoother with a little more body as well. We were also offered their wonderful Bourbon Cream mixed with root beer, making a root beer float of sorts. I’m already a big fan of the Bourbon cream. It is fantastic in coffee, both hot and iced. And remember, all of this was…wait for it….wait for it….”free!”

My hat’s off to Buffalo Trace Distillery for adding a little fun to the distillery tour by offering this twist. We will probably go again later in the year, when it gets dark earlier in the night. I think my daughter figures that the more we go, the more likely something creepy will happen…and the better the chances that I will have to eat my words!

Later,

Shep

Is This The End?

Is this the end? Of snobbery, that is. If you read any of my drivel, you are aware of the fact that I have been shopping for another bike to go with my Triumph. I’ve been looking for something travel worthy. Something Alaska worthy. Something unimproved road worthy. Something winter worthy. Having already owned most of the heavy, “sport touring bikes,” and most of the “adventure bikes,” I was having a very hard time finding a machine to fit the parameters. In fact, nothing was appealing to me. No light bulbs going off, saying, “This is the one!” No lusting for anything in particular. Just a lot of, “that would be okay.” And when it comes to bikes, they shouldn’t be “okay,” they should be exciting, enthralling. They should make you want to get out of bed early on Saturday morning just so you can go take a ride.

I was having none of that. It was probably the first time in all my years of bike buying that there was not one machine that I was desperately wanting to put in the garage. Rather depressing actually. I drove my poor friend and bike shop owner, Ed, crazy with my noncommittal attitude. I would say I drove my friend Matt crazy too, but he is just about as bad as I am! So, no sympathy for you Matt!

However, I did eventually make a decision. Yep, I bought another bike. And I’m about to eat my words. Back in October, I posted a blog here entitled, Snobbery. In that post I discussed my bike hunt and the fact that I was rather snobby about things. I drink craft beer, roast my own coffee and almost always buy European bikes. In that post, I commented that there is one bike out there that seems to be a true “do it all,” machine. It has universal love and is very affordable. The Suzuki Vstrom 650. I said at the time that this is the bike I should buy. It can travel across the country, go to Alaska, tolerate some unimproved roads, is cheap to buy and cheap to work on. I also said I would likely never own one. Well, guess what? Yep, I bought one.

IMG_2998I was cruising the local ads and discovered this barely ridden machine not too far from my home. After a few emails, I rode over to take a look. The owner was kind enough to grant a demo ride and, just like that, some of my snobby prejudices melted away. It has a very nice motor, a very comfortable seating position. I can see this working. The bike looks showroom and the price, well, I could have bought 3 of them for the price of my last GS. Is the GS three times the bike this Vstrom is? Well, I don’t know yet, but when I find out, I will let you know what I think. You see, I haven’t even brought it home yet! My wife and I have been on a project at work for the past 2 1/2 weeks that has us a bit out of whack. We have worked double shifts, split shifts, shift and a half, etc, etc. I don’t know when to go to bed, when to get up, or when to eat. Because of that, we haven’t had time to do much of anything else. The owner of the bike has been kind enough to store in it his garage until I can get over there and pick it up. It should be in my garage a week from today.

So, is the bike hunt over? Well, not really. I mean, you should know better than to even think that! The bike hunt is never over for guys like me. Since I was able to buy this machine for much less than I planned on spending, I am already looking for a third bike! This time, I have a few machines in mind. I may not buy any, but then again I might. My real limiting factor is garage space. It is going to be hard enough to fit 2 bikes in; I have no idea how I could manage 3. So, here’s my short list for a possible 3rd bike:

1. KTM SMT. This is one of the few bikes I have a degree of “lust” for. There may be a used one that has been lowered available in a couple weeks. If that happens, I may have to have it. IMG_22072. KTM Duke 690. Yep, it buzzes. But, oh is it so cool. Light, fast, so fun. Sooner or later I have to have one.

duke3. Moto Guzzi V7 Stone or Griso. The Griso is absolutely beautiful in my mind. Especially in that Tenni green. The V7 is not very powerful, but I don’t care about that. I would love to own a Guzzi. Of course, that would mean I would have to grow a beard, start smoking cigars and become just a little more eclectic than I already am!tennigriso4. The new Honda VFR 800 Interceptor. The closest thing to what I consider a true “sport tourer” being made right now. I think it looks very good in its understated scheme. No flashy graphics; just a classy looking machine. If I buy one of these though, I will probably have to wait a year or so. Since no one seems to like sport touring bikes these days, I will want it to set and collect dust on the showroom floor for a year, so I can buy one a couple thousand off! Honda-VFR800F-test-picture-2014

Well, that’s it. Has my moto snobbery come to an end? It remains to be seen I suppose. I will let you know in a couple weeks, after I’ve had time to rack up some miles on the Vstrom. One thing for sure, this doesn’t mean I’m going to start drinking Bud Light and Folgers.

Later,

Shep

 

Focus

I’m not very good at photography. My weakness has nothing to do with the equipment. I have a very nice camera and am getting ready to purchase a second, more bike friendly, one. My problem was summed up pretty well recently by a simple photo blunder. I was taking some shots of my bike in a nearby town. I didn’t have my glasses on (which means I can’t really see!), so everything I saw in the viewfinder was blurry. I just thought it was me. Later, when I went to check out the photos, I put my glasses on, looked at the shots and they were still blurry! A complete waste. I grabbed my camera, looked it over and realized I had flipped it to manual focus. My problem is that I have never taken the time necessary to educate myself or hone my skills. Or, simpler said, I lack focus.

Over the past 7 or 8 years I have been accused by some as being possessed with a drive to work nonstop, day and night. I founded and ran a small wholesale roasting business, worked full time for a large corporation and earned my Master’s degree all at the same time. I eventually got tired of the demanding schedule and the fact that I never had time to ride my bikes, sold the business and settled in…to boredom. Eventually I took a much more demanding role at work and moved. Some days the day job is very demanding. In fact, my wife and I have worked about every shift possible over the past two weeks and we’re not done yet. That is one of the reasons you have not heard from me lately. I haven’t figured out if I’m supposed to be awake or asleep. Aside from the busy day job, I launched another wholesale roasting business, Motorhead Coffee, a good 8 years before I planned to do so. I also reignited another passion: writing.

So, here I am on a Sunday afternoon, once again juggling life and making choices. When I started Motorhead Coffee I was told I “had” to have a Facebook account and a Twitter account. So, I did. And they have been sorely neglected. Really though, how does a wholesale business take advantage of those social medias? I don’t have a retail store for you to come to, so I’m not sure they are so valuable to me.

Here is what is really on my mind today: focusing on what is important in my work life. There are just two things that I really care about: being good at roasting coffee and writing. That’s it. Nothing else. I don’t care about ladder climbing, career moves, buyouts, notoriety, raises, saving the world or the bottom line. I want to be good at turning green coffee beans into wonderfully satisfying drinks. I want to be at least a little responsible for putting a smile on your face first thing in the morning. Hopefully it will set the tone for the rest of the day. And I want to find the time to write more. Lots more. Heck, if the coffee doesn’t put a smile on your face, maybe some of the nonsense that spills from my head to this page will! Some opportunities in writing have come my way and I want to take advantage of them. Throw in lots more motorcycle riding and you’ve got the Trifecta!

It is on my mind today that I need to improve my focus. I need to quit worrying about if anyone follows me on Facebook or Twitter or any of that stuff and concentrate on the simple things that really matter to me. And that’s what I’m going to do. Expect to see more writing, in more places, not just here. Expect to see more photos. Expect to hear about more road trips. I just bought another bike, one that’s hopefully more trip friendly than my Street Triple…and I may even buy a third! And you might even hear a little about coffee once in a while. Time to stop chasing after everything and just focus on what matters. So, welcome to Motorhead Coffee: I’ve got fresh beans if you want them, witty words (I can only hope!) if you need them and adventures if you want to share them.IMG_2882

Later,

Shep

Where The Magic Happens

I’ve been roasting coffee, for myself and for customers for about 12 years now. Entering the specialty coffee arena, particularly the roasting aspect of it, is much more than hobby or business. To those of us who become immersed in the process and culture of coffee roasting, it becomes a big part of who we are. It’s not unlike joining the motorcycle culture; I don’t just ride bikes, I’m a rider and my whole life reflects that choice. Same with coffee roasting. I don’t just roast coffee, I’m a coffee roaster. It is who I am and what I do…at least part of the time. I think about it a lot. I smell like it…a lot! I’m constantly criticizing my work and trying to improve. In fact, I’m committed enough to being a better roaster that I just made a deal to acquire a 1lb sample roaster usroaster 1lbto hone my craft on; not a small expense. One thing I can assure you, we don’t get into the coffee business, nor stay in it, because it makes a lot of money…because it doesn’t!

But I didn’t start today’s entry to talk about myself. I want to talk to you about someone else. Someone who shares my same passion for the world of coffee. When I started my first roasting business in Indiana, I had a lot of advantages in terms of time and space. When I moved to Kentucky and decided to start roasting again, I had neither. The job that brought me here demanded most of my time and I had no convenient space to claim as my shop. No matter how much I wanted to buy a roaster, rent a shop and go at it, I knew I did not have the time nor resources to support it.

Enter my friend Chris Cockrell and his wife Leah. Chris and I met back when I was building B-town Beans, my organic roasting business in Bloomington, IN. Chris somehow heard about the nonsense I was doing up there (like offering 17 different organic coffees…fool I was!), so he came to visit. We became friends and kept in occasional contact. Chris and Leah began roasting coffee in LaGrange, KY about the same time I did in Bloomington. Over the years they have built their labor of love, LaGrange Coffee Roasters.

When I decided to start another business, I began to plot and plan how I could launch Motorhead Coffee. I visited several shops and put out feelers, hoping to find the right opportunity. I don’t remember exactly how it came about, but somewhere along the way Chris agreed to let me use his shop in LaGrange to roast Motorhead Coffee. Now, if you are not in the coffee business yourself, you probably don’t realize just how remarkable that decision was. I dabbled in the microbrewery business briefly and they appear to be a group that enjoys collaborating and learning from one another. Not so with coffee roasters. They can be a very protective and private bunch, like as if they have some major secrets to hide. I’m going to let you in on a coffee roasting secret right now: you can go to a garage sale, pick up a used hot air popcorn popper, buy some quality green coffee online and, without knowing much of anything about it at all, produce a coffee that is better than anything on your grocer’s shelf…no joke.

Back to Chris and Leah and Motorhead Coffee. They welcomed me to their shop in LaGrange with open arms. They gave me the run of the place. I mean, really, who does that? So, for nearly a year now, Motorhead Coffee has been churning out product by mooching space and equipment from Chris and Leah. Just a couple weeks ago, they changed locations of their shop to Main Street. The space is beautiful and I had the opportunity to roast in the new digs this past weekend for the first time…well, three times! I have to admit, standing in that shop, I was a bit envious of what they have built. 
DSC_0149

So if you ever wonder where “my shop” is, or where “Motorhead Coffee” calls home, for now at least, Motorhead exists strictly because of the generosity of Chris and Leah Cockrell and LaGrange Coffee Roasters. If you are out riding your bike or driving your car through LaGrange, be sure and stop by the shop and see “where the magic happens.” 
DSC_0113

DSC_0133DSC_0132DSC_0136
Later,

Shep

 

 

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 335 other followers