Motorhead Coffee

vagabond blog: thoughts from the saddle

Brewing, Biking & Logic

I don’t have a drip coffee maker in my home. I do have a Technivorm drip machine on my desk at work, but at the house I only have manual brew methods at my disposal. And I don’t mean a few. I have dozens; probably 100 or more. Yeah, I know, I have a problem. I have multiple french presses, Hario V60 drip cones, Kalita Waves, a Beehouse drip, a couple other drip cones that I forget the name of as well. I also have two Hario drip stations. I have 4-5 vacuum pots, a turkish pot, moka pots, Aeropresses, half a dozen Chemex’s, a few Clever Coffee Drippers, about 5 different kettles (one of them costs about as much as an iPhone 6) and I don’t even remember what else. I use different methods to make my coffee depending on the day and my mood.DSCN0028

Some days, I will admit, I would rather just pour water and coffee into a drip machine, push the button and walk away. There has been some discussion lately about how reliable and repeatable many of the manual methods are when used in a coffee shop environment. I can tell you that in the Motorhead shop (ie, my kitchen), they do not have a lot of quality control behind them. There are many variables to the process, making me tend to side with the quality drip machine camp as possibly the better approach for a retail environment…maybe for my house too.

There are a couple interesting drip machines that just hit the market, so I took a big risk, asked my wife to go to the mall with me, and checked them out at Williams Sonoma. The risk was not the possibility of spending money on another machine I don’t need; it was accompanying my wife to the mall! She has the layout of every mall in the country mapped out in her head…shopping is her field of expertise. Fortunately, she had mercy on me and didn’t take me on too many side trips.

Back to the machines. Technivorm just came out with a new single cup auto drip machine. That caught my attention because, being the only coffee drinker in the house, I like the single serving approach. I also like my coffee very hot. The only problem with the machine is, well, it’s a Technivorm, which means its expensive…$229…to brew a single, 10 oz cup. Does that make sense, especially when I can brew a single cup with a $29 Aeropress or a $30 Hario?IMG_3482

The other machine is the Wilfa Precision Brewer. It retails for…ready? $329. At least it brews a full pot. And it is absolutely beautiful. It is the kind of machine that my fashion forward wife would approve of on her countertop. Of course, I can brew a full pot in my $36 Chemex.IMG_3481

These machines are not very logical choices when comparing them to other, less expensive pieces of equipment. It kind of reminds me of bikes. Motorcycles come in all sizes and prices. I just took a trip on a very practical, affordable Suzuki Vstrom. That may seen quite normal to you, but I came to the Strom from a long string of ownership of expensive, exotic European bikes: Beemers, Ducs and Triumphs. Going to the Vstrom from those bikes was kind of like going from filet mignon to bologna. Sure, they’re both meat (I think), but they are worlds apart. Or are they really? I put 2,000 miles on the Strom in 6 days, no big feat, but a decent test of the machine. I put 1,000 miles on it before I left. I came home from the trip saying, “Damn fine bike. Does everything I need it to do.” No complaints. I’m actually very happy with it. It may be the most comfortable bike I’ve owned in years.

The Suzuki is like the $30 Aeropress; makes a good cup of joe, only downfall is it looks like it came from a late night Ron Popeil infomertial. The expensive coffee makers don’t really make any more sense than paying $20,000 for a bike when a $5,000 bike will do the same thing.DSC00293ducati_multistrada_1200_redSo, does that mean I’m not going to buy a Wilfa for my kitchen? Well, it’s about as likely as it is for me to some day add another Ducati, KTM or Triumph to the garage. Logic is for the logical; cool stuff is for the passionate!



Day 6: Too Much: Not Enough

Too many biscuit, too much beer. Not enough time. I could stop right there and call that my trip summary. But we all know that I’m not going to do that. I’ve never been accused of being a man of too few words. In reality, I didn’t have nearly enough biscuits. Okay, I had six total. Three of them came from one meal at Biscuit Head. When you order their biscuits and gravy, they do not skimp on the biscuits. The other two biscuits were Cheddar Scallion Ham, Egg & Cheese biscuit sandwiches from the City Bakery. All yummy.

What I really mean is that I ate too much good food. Normally when I take a bike trip, I’m likely to lose weight because I just ride. I rarely stop for anything except gas, and when I do, I normally just grab a protein bar and a bottle of water or cup of coffee and call that lunch. By staying in Asheville all week, I was exposed to way too much good food.

As for the beer, I really didn’t have much of that either. I’m a one and done sort of guy anyway, especially when on the bike, but a couple days I didn’t have any. And there are so many good breweries in the area. I hate that I was only able to sample a few. My favorite was probably the Green Man Harvester Ale, their version of an Octoberfest, a style I really enjoy. I also liked the Pisgah Pale Ale and the Foothills Jade IPA. The bartender at the Thirsty Monk was kind enough to let me sample the Monk’s new Porter, which was also tasty. I did manage to sneak home a few Catawba White Zombies as well.

Day 6 was a mixed bag. I rode a couple hundred miles, but nowhere remarkable. The day before I had gone to Charlotte and found myself wishing that I did not have a room back in Asheville waiting on me. The coast was calling and I really wanted to keep going toward Wilmington and the Outer Banks. I was really beginning to appreciate the VStrom for its comfort and ability to travel distances and would like to have pushed it to the extreme a bit, maybe even all the way to New England. But It was too late to cancel the room, so back I came. I was starting to realize by day 6 that I had overstayed my welcome. Not that I don’t love the city, because I really do, but I was growing restless. My friend Dan said he was surprised that I was going to stay in one place all week, and especially a place that I had been before. He knows I like to move around and see new things. He was right, I should have kept my original reservation of 3 nights and then moved on. Lesson learned for next year.

The other thing I didn’t get enough of was time. Yes, I miss my wife and can’t wait to see her. But for the oddballs like me who love the road and enjoy the adventure of travel, you can never get enough. Every time I take a bike trip it starts out the same. The first few hours I am hit with a feeling of guilt. Guilt that I am leaving my wife home; guilt that I am about to spend money on myself, when I’d much rather share with her. Guilt that I”m leaving responsibilities behind. Then, sometime later in the day, it is like the big rubber band of guilt just stretches as far as it can, and it snaps. Pow! The pull to return is replaced with the adrenaline of the journey. From there it becomes an insatiable desire, never completely fulfilled.

At any rate, another great day. I’m already thinking about the 2015 Beer and Biscuit Run and how I will do it differently. First, 3 nights, 4 max in Asheville. Second, although I always ride alone, I think I might like company next year. Well, time to pack up and hit the road. Better get out, “before they make me run.”



Day 5: Guzzi’s & Other Oddities

I took a road trip from my road trip on day 5. There is a Moto Guzzi dealership south of Charlotte, so I pointed the bike East and headed out. I've been fortunate enought to own several unique European bikes over the years, but I've never owned a Moto Guzzi. Never even ridden one. Same is true for KTM, although I have ridden a few of those. At any rate, those two bikes are high on my list of “need to own,” sooner or later.

Guzzi's are unique machines. Here's a little eye candy for you.

Speaking of oddities, no shortage of them around here. I thought about walking around town and taking some photos to demonstrate the eclectic nature of this community, but I just don't have the patience for that. I'd rather ride. Where most cities have a street or neighborhood of starving artists, vagabonds, runaways and aging hippies, Asheville is “all that, everywhere, all the time!” But, since I fit all those categories at least a little, it works for me. I think it would drive most people my age nuts.

Other random notes from the road:

1. I can't tell you how many times people have asked me if I'm hot in this suit. What do you think? Yes, I'm hot, but I didn't get to this point in my riding career by taking needless chances.

2. The more I sample other people' coffee, the more I think I should quit my job and go 100%. Not saying they are bad or that mine is better, but it sure as Helll is just as good.

3. I can't stand to be around people who have conversations speaking into their phone so that all the world can hear. If you do that, stop it!

4. I can't stand that I have so many feakin' electronic gadgets to charge that I can't keep track of the cords!

5. I'd like to ride home, pick up my wife and spend the rest of my life traveling. Anyone want to finance that for me?




Day 4: This Road I’m On

I've been riding motorcycles since 1967. Day 4 was all about why I still ride today. I spent the entire day riding backroads, mostly north and east of Asheville, some 250+ miles worth. These roads are absolutely a blast to ride on a motorcycle. I can only imagine they are a pain in the ass in a car…especially in the winter. In fact, it seems the car of choice for this region, based totally on my random observation, is a Subaru XV Crosstrek.

These are the kind of roads that make my light and nimble Triumph Street Triple seem big and cumbersome. So, imagine how the Vstrom feels. Actually, it did quite well. Some corners are so tight and twisted that you almost have to put your foot down and pivot! I'm not joking. I've said it before, if I lived here my weapon of choice would be a KTM Duke 690.

I talked with three different groups of riders yesterday. The first group was 5 men traveling from Quebec. I was able to understand one of them…a little. The other 4 spoke some cross between French and English. They were headed for the Cherhola Skyway and, of course, the Dragon. They were all close to my age, maybe a bit younger.

The second group was also Canadian, this time Ontario, and much easier to converse with. I told them that I had ran into the group from Quebec and the one rider piped up and said, “Yeah, they wanted to separate from us!” Bazinga! Friendly guys, headed to Cherokee.

The third group was a handful of what some people might call, “hoodlums.” 4 young guys, wearing flashy leather jackets, hanging out at a local gas station, all riding supermotos. I stopped and admired the bikes and chatted with them a bit. Obviously locals, they knew exactly what kind of bike rules these roads. Some of the most insane street riding I have ever seen was done by a handful of guys on supermotos.

I mounted my Gopro on my crashbar and set it to shoot a photo every 60 seconds. I let it run until the battery died. I don't know how many photos I have, but I'm sure there are some goods ones…if I can ever find them! My iPad does not want to accept them, so when I get home I will see what I have and post them up. I have a couple photos here, but frankly, the best roads I was on, the wicked, twisted ones, make these look like a straight line.





Day 3: Heavy, Man, Heavy

There are at least 2 things my mother is famous for: her homemade pies and her biscuits. She has been baking pies for friends, family and strangers for years. She even has a photo of former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels with one of her pies. She can make any kind, but blackberry is a specialty. It doesn't hurt that she has her own blackberry patch that yields as much as 60 gallons of big, juicy berries a year. At 88 she may have slowed down some, but she can still crank out a killer pie that would embarass most bakeries and grocers.

The other thing she is known for is her biscuits. From the time that I was a kid until I was in my late 20's, my mother always made a big Sunday morning breakfast. We would have eggs, fried potatos, ham or bacon or sometimes even pork chops. We would also have gravy and homeade biscuits. I'm not talking about flat, lifeless baking powder bisciuts like you buy in a can or get from the local restaurant. I'm talking about big, light, fluffy, melt in your mouth biscuits. Some people called them Sunday morning bisucits, because that's when Mom made them. We called them “Two-story biscuits,” because they were so tall.

Her biscuits were so good that my uncles would always come to visit on Sunday afternoon, just hoping for leftover biscuits! Her secret was to make the biscuits in the style of “angel” biscuits, that is, she used a little bit of yeast to help them rise more than a normal baking powder biscuit. Then, because Dad liked a crispy crust, she added oil to the pan before placing the biscuits in it, to make the crust harder.

I'm a fan of good biscuits, and all home-baked breads really. I can crank out some pretty good bread myself…and pie for that matter. Breakfast is my favorite meal and biscuits rank as an essential to a good breakfast. So, when I prepared to make my annual bike trip to Asheville, I was not only out to enjoy the many local, craft brews, I was also looking to enjoy some good biscuits. The Asheville City Bakery has a very nice Cheddar Scallion biscuit sandwich that I've had every time I visit.

But, there is a new player in town. And, after all, who should have better biscuits than a southern cook? Particlularly if you name your restaurant “Biscuit Head.”

But how would they compare to my mothers? Well, only one way to find out. On day 3, I had my first biscuit of the trip at Biscuit Head in West Asheville. So as to not bore you with a lengthy discourse, let me just say that these biscuist were very reminiscent of my mothers. I give Biscuit Head an A+ for their tall, light & tasty biscuits. I sampled a gravy “flight,” of fried chicken gravy, sausage gravy and red eye gravy. All good. I also sampled the jam bar, having pinneaple and strawberry orange jam. I have pretty high standards for jam as well. I was raised on a farm that used to be an orchard. I grew up on homeade jam. My mother's blackberry and strawberry jam can only be matched by…mine! Too bad I never make any these days. I went away stuffed. True to the Asheville funk and vibe, Biscuit Head biscuits were “heavy, man, heavy.” I didn't eat the rest of the day!


When I get back I'm going to have to visit my mother and make some biscuits together…just to see who the real biscuit king is!




Day 2: Asheville…PoPo & The Parkway

Interstates only serve two purposes as far as I'm concerned when it comes to motorcycle travel. If you have to go far or you have to go fast. Otherwise, I prefer to avoid them for the more character rich backroads that pass through small towns, follow flowing rivers and winding around ragged mountain peaks. I had to break that rule on day 2. Well, I suppose the word “had” is a bit extreme. I chose to break the rule. I was looking forward to a nice ride down through Southern Virginia,Tennessee and into North Carolina along the ever climbing Blue Ridge roads, passing through such places as Blowing Rock and Boone. There is a coffee roaster in Boone, Bald Guy Brew, that I would have liked to visit. He has a 25lb San Franciscan roaster I have lust in my heart for.

But, alas, I woke to a steady, pouring rain. One of those rains that says, “I'm here for the duration, get used to it.” As I've said, I don't mind riding in the rain. In fact, there are times that I actually enjoy the solitude it brings on the road. My gear is essentially waterproof…gloves, boots, suit. Well, the Klim jacket I normally wear, being Goretex, is indeed waterproof. But on this trip, I'm riding in my 6+ year old Aerostich Roadcrafter, the suit of choice by long distance travelers. You slip the suit over your street clothes and, with full length zippers, you can get in and out of it as quickly as putting on a jacket. It is not exactly attractive; more like a pair of ill fitting coveralls. No fashion statement to be made here except, “I have no fashion.” They are highly protective, one of the only non-leather riding suits that can be worn on the track. And they are waterproof…sort of…if you treat them right and you don't count the leaking crotch! Nothing like riding all day in the cold rain, stopping off at a local diner for a cup of joe and some hot soup to warm you bones, only to realize it appears you have wet yourself! Makes for interesting looks and fun conversation! Did I mention pride and concern for appearances goes out the window on a motorcycle trip?

While I could have taken my original route to Asheville, wisdom told me that riding in a downpour on the type of twisty roads I had planned would be an exercise in stress control. These roads require 100% concentration on a perfect day, let alone a wet one. Add to that the fact that I don't have a lot of faith in the stock tires on the Vstrom, and I felt the smart thing to do was travel the highway. Not exciting, but at least it had elevation changes and turns. With the rain coming and going, it was somehow a soothing ride. Except for the Virginia State Troopers, who were lining the Interstate thicker than dead deer on the Bluegrass Parkway. Seriously, if I saw one, I saw thrity troopers in a 20 mile span. Really? Nothing better to do? Sometimes when riding you get in a zone. And without cruise control that zone can mean an extra twist of the throttle. As I whipped out around some semi trucks and grabbed the throttle, I found myself staring directly into the windshield of a Trooper parked alongside the road. Fortunately I was only doing 80 and he had bigger offenders to catch, so he let me pass. Thank you sir!

As I approached Asheville, a funny thing happened. The sun came out. Seriously. The only sun I had seen so far, at the town that had the lousiest weather forecast. Sunshine, warm, perfect. It was like the Asheville gods knew I was coming, pushed back the clouds and said, “Welcome home Jamie!” Too much? Yeah. Dumb luck I guess but I'll take it.

The next thing that happened wasn't so funny. My card was declined at the gas station. My card is from a local, Louisville bank, one that is not open on a Saturday afternoon. They shut my card off. Oops! Not good. I had to use another source to secure my hotel room, otherwise this might have been the shortest trip in history! It will be Monday before I can prove to them that I am actually traveling in North Carolina and am not an identity theif in Sri Lanka.

After getting the bike unpacked, I headed to Juicy Lucy for a burger and a beer. I was able to sample 4 local beers, including a Catawba Valley White Zombie Ale, a nice, light, refreshing drink.

After lunch, I rolled onto the Blue Ridge Parkway for a relaxing ride. I rode as far as I dared. Another thousand feet in elevation and I would have been riding in rain and fog. I came off the Parkway and headed to the newest Thirsty Monk for a local beer. There are 4 of them in town now. My friend from Louisville, Amine was passing through and we tried to meet up for a drink, but we got our wires crossed on the location.


All in all, a great day to be alive.





Day 1: Root Beer Run

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and I took the one that looked the least like rain! Not a drop all day. I made the decision as to which way to ride today, literally on the fly, at the last minute, right before the road split. I do that a lot; keeps it exciting! I decided to run to Huntington, WV and stop at the Frostop drive in. My parents owned a Frostop franchise back in the 60's. Mostly what I remember about it was the many jugs of root beer syrup in our basement. And all the equipment in our barn once they closed it down. Oh, and the “ranchburgers,” “chuckwagons” and, above all, the coney sauce.

After stopping at the Frostop in West Virginia, I can tell you that the frosty root beer is as good as ever. Not the case with the coney. Definitely not the recipe my mother used, and still uses today. It was great fun to stop though. The decor is similar and they still have curb hops. Being lousy at taking photos, I failed to get myself in a picture. We always called the place, “the root beer stand.” My dad called it the “geedunk stand,” and obscure Navy term for the snack shop on a ship.

Once I had my fill of the frosty mug, I tossed a coin and headed southeast toward the middle of nowhere West Virginia. If the show, “The Middle” attempts to portray Indiana as backwoods, they obviously have not visited the Apalachia region! When I say, middle of nowhere, I mean isolated. No cell phone signal for about 4 hours. No real towns of any size…not even a McDonald's…heck, even the gas stations were 60's throwbacks. It was so remote that the poor school kids had to take “connecting flights!” 3 buses waited for one to drop off kids in a roadside pull off. They each loaded other buses and headed toward home. It was so remote, dogs were sleeping in the road. It was so remote I saw more 4 wheelers than cars, many of them heading toward the Hatfield McCoy trails. That fued is over now, right?

I had a possible desitination in mind for the night; Bluefield, VA. As soon as I was able to get a phone signal, I reserved a room. Good thing too, as college football is in town for the weekend. I thought I would never get there. Generally, I like to stop riding about 6:00-6:30, as I want to be settled before the deer and other animals start playing tag. It was closer to 8:00 before I saw civilization. If you get the chance to ride Western West Virginia, I can highly recommend Highway 10. It was as twisted as the Devil, with at least a dozen hair pin 180s and mile after mile of “left, right, left, right.” Everything from tight twisties to beatiful sweepers. I spent so much time leaned over that I was sore and exhausted by the time I made the hotel. Just keep in mind that if you make that run, it takes about 4 hours to travel 100 miles!

Well, that sums up Day1 of this year's Asheville Beer & Biscuit run. No biscuits yet. As for the beer, I didn't see a sign advertising local craft beer until I had already grabbed one of these.




Hit The Ground Runnin’

My gear is packed, the bike’s prepped and ready to roll…I’m leaving a day early…or half a day anyway. The countdown is over. Time to ride. The weather looks questionable for the next few days, but I’m willing to roll the dice. True to form, I’m heading out and have no idea where I will end up tonight! Stay tuned. Updates to come.




Weather…or Not

Over the years I have logged many thousands of miles on my bike in the rain. I've ridden in cold, damp, day-long drizzles and I've ridden in downpours that were so hard I couldn't see past my front tire. In those moments there isn't much else to do but keep riding until you pass through the storm. Add strong winds to the mix and the journey can become real torture. Fighting a crosswind will wear you out. Here again, you really just have to keep the forward momentum going. I've nearly been blown over more than once while waiting at a stop light.

I don't really mind riding in the rain, however, I prefer not to spend an entire bike trip wiping my face shield clean. As a planned trip gets closer, I generally start paying attention to the forecast. If the chances of bad weather look significant enough, I have been known to change my destination. I would say that at least 50% of the time the weather I was concerned about never materialized.

That brings me to today. One more day and I am planning to load the bike and head toward Asheville. Looking at the projected forecast in that area over the next several days is not encouraging. I have a room waiting on me, so a decision will have to be made Friday: head out as planned, delay a couple days or start out in a different direction?

The countdown continues for now.



Indoor, Outdoor, No Door

Are you an indoor person or an outdoor person? Me, I'm an outdoor person who spends way too much time indoors. I was thinking about this a lot last week while working out my road trip lodging for my upcoming trip. After a lot of searching and thinking, I ended up renting a motel for the first few days of the trip. Not really what I wanted to do.

I took my first real motorcycle trip back in about 1981. I was riding a Suzuki LS550 with Bagman soft luggage and a Quicksilver fairing. And a tent. I pointed the bike toward the Smokies and hit the road. I was gone for 7 days, camped all but one. Rained just about every single day. I put up the tent in the rain; took it down in the rain. Lived in a cheap rainsuit, rode 500 miles home with a fever and strep throat…and loved every minute of it.

We went to bed by a campfire, albeit a wet one. We woke by rivers, lakes or streams, in the foothills of mountains. We breathed in fresh air, summer rain and wood smoke. Really nothing like it in my opinion. Sure there were bugs. Yes, I slept on a few rocks. Not all the showerhouses were so great. The tent was cheap, so was the bag and I didn't even had a sleeping pad. But the view and the atmosphere could not be beat.

Then, somewhere along the way, I became a sissy boy. Got rid of the tent and started sleeping in motels. I have not camped since. It has been so long since I did that sort of thing I'm sure most people think I'm just a city boy. Truth is, I was raised on a farm and spent nearly every night of every summer, sleeping in a tent by our pond, along with my buddies, fishing, gigging frogs and causing mayhem in the neighborhood. I've come a long way.

I will admit to liking the comfort of a bed, climate control, no bugs (hopefully!) and my own private shower. But I don't like the price. When I take a bike trip, the hotel really becomes nothing more than a place to sleep between rides. What a waste of money. And I don't like the view. I mean, really, which sight would you rather go to bed to and wake up to?

If I was better at staying put in one place while tripping, I would have used AIrBnB to get a compromise of sorts…a home with outdoor space to stay at. Maybe next time. Who knows, I might even get brave enough to give tent camping a go again. After all I have a brand new tent…never out of the bag…two years old!




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