Motorhead Coffee

vagabond blog: thoughts from the saddle

Going Mobile

I’ve probably got at least a half dozen blog drafts queued up on my laptop right now, but I’ve been too distracted lately to finish any of them. That means that sometime in the next week or two I will probably post a barrage of them! In the mean time, check out this collection of odd and unique approaches to coffee retailing. I call it “Going Mobile.”

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Although it’s unlikely I will ever be involved in it, the mobile coffee business has always intrigued me. The closest I ever came was Rocketman backpacks at IU football games!
Any approach that is outside the norm usually gets my attention. I remember when we used to drive to Florida on vacation and how I was constantly hunting an exit that might have a decent cup of coffee. Gas station coffee can make you stop and consider just how devilish your caffeine addiction really is. And this was before there was a Starbucks on every corner and McDonalds decided to venture into the “cafe” business. It was then that I concocted the nutty idea of a chain of drive-thru shops located right off Interstate exits. The name? Interstate Coffee, of course!
Like most of my ideas, that one never advanced beyond the daydream stage. My mind is still cluttered with random concepts, all swirling around in a chaotic state of unfulfilled ambition. I call it ” coffee shop purgatory.”

Later,

Shep

The Diet

If you happen to be one of the 3 lonely people who regularly read my blogs then you might remember that the Dr. gave me 2 months to improve my health through diet and exercise or else I could go buy a pill box. That was 3 or 4 weeks ago. I thought I’d take a minute and let you know how it’s going.

First off, let me just get this out of the way; diets suck! I have not had a single piece of red meat in nearly 4 weeks! No bacon, no steak, no gravy, no cheeseburger, no pie. Not even on Thanksgiving! I’m not saying that I won’t cheat a little bit somewhere along the way, but so far there has been very little sinful pleasure. What am I eating? Well, sorry you asked. Chicken, turkey, egg whites, oatmeal, oatmeal, egg whites, turkey, chicken, veggies, some fruit, oatmeal, egg whites, veggies, chicken, turkey. Yeah, that’s about it I think.

The big thing I was trying to reduce was sugar. Even though I didn’t think I was consuming that much sugar, I guess I was. I mean, I’m not really a candy bar kind of guy. Not that much for cake either. Donuts? Nope. Yes, I love pie, but it’s not like I eat pie every week…not even every month. Still, I needed to reduce my sugar intake so I started reading labels. What I discovered is that sugar is like Taylor Swift; it’s everywhere!

Pick up a sauce, a dressing, a bottle, can or pouch of practically anything and there it is…sugar. I have so significantly reduced my sugar intake that when I decided to sneak a piece of that chewy red and white Christmas candy that looks like a peppermint, I had to spit it out! It was so sweet I thought I was going to throw up. I took a road trip recently, so I grabbed a Kind bar to snack on. I could not eat it. After taking a bite, I had to rinse my mouth out with water. Sugar, you devil, you.

Speaking of water, that’s just about all I’m drinking. I have my morning coffee, and maybe some later in the day. I will make a little unsweetened tea. Other than that, water. As much as I like craft beer, I have only had 1. Talk about boring. Especially considering I just got this cool pint mug and am itching to fill it with one of these fine local brews.IMG_0262

Well, with all the holiday events upcoming, I’m pretty sure I’m going to get that mug broken in one way or another. On the bright side, I’ve gone back to pushing the weights around in the gym regularly, which I have to admit does feel good. And I’m riding the bicycle trainer 3-4 days a week. I’ve lost 5 pounds so far and my energy level has increased.I’d like to lose about 10 more before I return to the doctor. My wife thinks that’s a bit excessive, that I will look like Matthew McConaughey in The Dallas Buyer’s Club, but I don’t think there is any danger in that.

Well, I’ve got to run. We have a Christmas party to attend tonight. I sure hope they are serving oatmeal!

Later,

Shep

Cyber Coffee

I used to hang out in coffeehouses a lot. Weekly at the least. Yes, there was even a time when I hung out at the local Starbucks. Really good coffee shops are, in my opinion, far and few between, but when you find one, it can be a memorable experience.

The coffee shop I enjoyed hanging out at the most, doesn’t even have very good coffee. It was all about the location…downtown Naples, Florida. It’s kind of hard to find something to complain about on a winter morning, when you are sitting outside in your shorts, surrounded by palm trees. I have not spent much time there lately, but I used to go every morning while vacationing in Naples.

There have been a handful of other memorable shops that I’ve discovered on my travels. Izzy’s in Asheville is overflowing with character or maybe it’s “characters!” They serve up Counter Culture coffee, which doesn’t really do anything for me, however, I had a cup of El Salvador there many years ago, and to this day I remember that is was exceptional. I spent a fair amount of time in Wilmington, NC and grew rather fond of Port City Java. Especially when my coffee broker arranged for them to give me a tour of their roasting facility.

One of the best shots of espresso I ever had was right here in Louisville at Sunergos on 5th. The second best shot I ever had was in Bloomington at a shop supplied by my largest competitor. The third best shot I ever had was made by my own hands about a month ago at my house on my machine with the “Synthetic Blend” that I roasted. Lip smacking good, all of them.

Lookout Joe in Cincinnati is dear to my heart because it is the first shop I ever saw a coffee roaster at. When my daughter lived in Chicago, I made regular visits to Intelligentsia as well. Truthfully, though, there have been very few shops that really made me want to be a regular. Maybe I’m just hard to please, or maybe its because I’m not even close to being a Hipster, but I prefer making my coffee at home these days. Of course, I am fortunate to have just about every coffee making apparatus known to man, including a pretty decent espresso machine.

I’ve never had a retail shop of my own; I’ve always been a wholesaler. Roasting is my real passion. All I need to enjoy my morning brew is some fresh beans, a good mug and a nice, quiet place to sit and think about my day. And that brings me to the point of this writing today. Tomorrow is Cyber Monday, online shopping’s version of Black Friday. Aside from wholesaling my beans in the region, I’m an online retailer. If you don’t have a favorite shop to buy your beans and brew from, or if like me, you just prefer to make your coffee at home, then I invite you to give my hand’s labor a try. The worst that can happen is that you don’t like what I do and you say, “Dang, I just wasted $30 bucks.” Wouldn’t be the first time, would it?

For Cyber Monday, Motorhead Coffee is offering a 12oz bag of the coffee of your choosing, along with one of our new, hand thrown mugs of your choice, all for $30. That may or may not sound reasonable to you, but I can tell you I’ve skinnied the profit margin until it hurts! These mugs alone could fetch that much in the right shop. And I’m paying the shipping! That’s right, when you put your item in the cart, there are no surprises at checkout, no hidden fees, what you see is what you pay.

IMG_0257I’m even going to dress the coffee in these special white bags in honor of the white suit my daughter saw me wearing in a photo she ran across from the 70’s. She got quite a kick out of it. Thought it was a bit “nerdy” I imagine. Well, I prefer to think of it as time appropriate! Speaking of which, it’s time for me to shut up so you can grab some coffee and a cup. Hope you enjoy.

Later,

Shep

 

The Cabin

It’s deer season in Kentucky (bow I believe), and if my last trip to the shop to roast coffee is any indication, all the deer are on I71 East of Louisville. For the record, I’m not a hunter, although I am a gun guy. My dad was a hunter, his brothers were all hunters and when I was a teenager, I joined them on many of their adventures.

My dad’s family was from Brown County, IN. Brown County is known for beautiful fall leaves, the little tourist town of Nashville, John Mellencamp’s recording studio, Bare Ass Lake and some of the better motorcycle roads in the State of Indiana. Just up the road from Stone Head, Story and Pike’s Peak (no, not that one), was a little gravel lane called Shepherd’s lane, named for my ancestors. This area was known as Blaneyville (pop. 8…no, I’m not kidding). A lot of dad’s family still lives in the area and for several years we hunted and camped on their properties.

One of Dad’s relatives, Dorothy and Alfred Michelfelder, owned a little one room cabin in Blaneyville, on Ind 135. They lived in Indianapolis in the winter and the cabin during the summer. Across the road from them was another relative who we called “Red.” They lived a very simple life: no running water, no inside plumbing. Dorothy was a real character. The best way to describe her would be to think of the character “Ma,” that Ruth Gordon played in the old Clint Eastwood movies about the truck driving fighter, Philo. She cussed, spit and swore in a gravely, ragged voice, not unlike the Wicked Witch of the West. And to a ten-year-old boy, just about that scary. I remember always dreading to visit. On the drive over, my stomach would be in knots: would I have to eat the beans that were always cooking on the wood stove? Would I be able to stomach the “unknown” aroma that filled the cabin without getting sick? Would I be able to escape this visit without being given a much dreaded “beer kiss!” “Chawlie (that’s what she called my dad), does your boy drink beer? Want a beer pop, boy?” (I was still in elementary school, for God’s sake!). “Let me give you a kiss.” Yikes!

The Cabin

The Cabin

Eventually, Dorothy sold the cabin and 60 acres of wooded hillsides to my dad. It became our hunting lodge and personal playground. It bordered the Hoosier National Forest and Brown County State Park…no private property at all. We stayed in the cabin and hunted those hills for years. By my late teens, I stopped hunting deer and focused my efforts on getting drunk and chasing girls.

Red's Cabin

Red’s Cabin

Of all the crazy times and fun stories I could share about those days at the cabin with my father, uncles and cousin, there is one that stands out the most. I suppose I was about 15 or 16 at the time. My dad and I headed up into the woods one morning to hunt. He carried his trusty Browning Sweet 16 and I had my 12 gauge pump Remington 870 (I still have both guns). We headed toward the edge of our property when, suddenly, Dad stopped. And cussed. Up in a tree about 100 yards to our left was a man in a climbing stand. Dad recognized him instantly as the guy he had caught dragging a deer from the property the previous year. He told him to never come back. Technically, he hadn’t. He had obviously discovered the fence buried in the leaves and put his stand just across the line. To say that my dad was angry was an understatement. It pissed him off in a big way. I will say it now; what we did next was wrong. The guy wasn’t trespassing. He was on the Hoosier National Forest. Sure, I understood the provocation, but we should have let it go.

Dad looked at me, explained that this guy was “the enemy” and like a commander giving directions to the Swat Team, Dad pointed where he and I would station ourselves. He left me with these instructions: “If you so much as see or hear anything move, shoot your gun in the air, make noise. Just make sure that prick doesn’t have a chance to kill a deer today.”

Dad proceeded to walk past the guy, make some noise and station himself against a tree just beyond the intruder. It wasn’t long before the guy figured out what was going on; his hunting trip was over. Well, it pissed him off too, so he came down out of that tree and headed straight for my dad. I realized the situation was changing, and not in a good way, so I headed over to where the two men now stood, verbally assaulting one another.

Dad and this unknown hunter, a man clearly larger and younger than my father, were becoming very aggressive toward one another. Even though he wasn’t a physical match, my dad was a pretty stubborn cuss, and he wasn’t backing down. Neither man had laid a hand on the other…yet. In the course of arguing and posturing, my father found himself with his back to a tree, the intruder stepping forward and yelling. Then he said the one thing that changed everything: “I was in Vietnam and I killed a lot of men!” I suppose it was intended to be an intimidating threat, but it didn’t seem to faze Dad. It did me, in a big way. Instantly, it became one of those slow motion moments where you immediately see the future unfold in front of you, and it was not a pretty sight. I saw where this was leading. In a moment’s time, I said to myself, “What am I going to do when this man strikes my father, or worse?” You see, I had done some “posturing” myself and I now found myself standing directly behind the guy, gun in hand, chamber loaded, finger on the safety. And in that same moment, I knew what I “might” do. So, I took control…all 15 years and 130 pounds of me. I immediately stepped forward, strong and aggressive, pushing past the intruder, and grabbed my dad by the jacket collar, pulling him from the tree and past the man. I turned to the guy as I passed and said, “This is not worth it.” My dad looked at me in complete shock, unable to stop my adrenaline fueled tug. The stranger looked back at me, shook his head and said, “You’re right. It’s not worth it,” and stormed off into the woods.

My dad was immediately angry with me for intervening. It took him the entire walk down the hill to the cabin before he stopped, looked at me and said, “You just saved my life.” I don’t know what would have happened up there if I had not stepped in. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. Maybe I’d be writing this from a prison cell, or not be around at all, I don’t know. I’m glad I never found out.

Some years later, my dad decided to sell the cabin. The whole family later regretted that decision. I genuinely miss that wonderful place. The good memories far outweigh that one frightening day. If we did still own it, I’d walk in the woods and enjoy the beauty, spend some weekends roughing it in the cabin and maybe even ride a trail bike around the hills once in a while. But if it’s all the same to you, when deer season rolled around, I’d just stay home and let you have it.

Later,

Shep

Shifting Gears

I haven’t decided yet if it is a kind distraction or a cruel joke that the motorcycle industry chooses the cusp of winter to introduce the next batch of “must have” bikes to the hungry riding public. You see, motorcycles are a lot like food; no matter how good and satisfying the last meal was, give it a couple hours and your stomach starts growling, looking for it’s next meal. Always searching, always dreaming, whether it’s the next great ride or which of the new bikes introduced at this year’s EICMA in Milan you can’t live without.

Like everything else being manufactured, motorcycles are continually advancing in technology. They are not only lighter and faster, they are now offering many car-like features, such as traction control, ABS brakes and on the fly electronic suspension adjustments. BMW, KTM and Ducati seem to be determined to take these advances even further. When Ducati offered up the Multistrada 1200, it came with the ability to change riding modes: Sport, touring, urban and enduro. By doing so, the rider controls the amount of horsepower delivered to the rear wheel, as well as adjusting the suspension setting accordingly. This option is being adopted by more and models and manufacturers every year. If that weren’t slick enough, along comes the KTM 1190 Adventure. Aside from ABS, traction control and riding modes, the new KTM comes with Bosch’s MSC: Motorcycle Stability Control. If I understand it right, this sensor continually feeds information regarding lean angle, etc, to the other safety feature…traction control, ABS, in order to help create what they are calling, “the world’s safest motorcycle.”

Riding motorcycles always has been and always will be a choice of measured dangers. While I am the kind of guy who usually embraces technological advances, I have mixed emotions about how far I want manufacturers to go when it comes to “controlling” my bike. It’s the same reason I don’t ride as a passenger on other people’s bikes…I’m the only one I trust! However, I have owned a few bikes with some of these features and I can tell you that ABS brakes has covered my foolish ass more times than once. I’ve had a bike with traction control as well, but I’m not sure if I ever engaged it, which either means I was being sensible, or it worked so well that I didn’t even know it.

In the end, I’m more than willing to give these advances a go. Truth is, I’m getting older and my response time is likely slowing down. Maybe I need a little computerized help. But let’s be clear about one thing: I don’t want no damn automatic transmission!

I started riding as a first grader. I had one of those one speed mini-bikes. Twist the throttle and off it goes. No manual clutch, no shifting. A couple years later, on my birthday, I got my first “real” motorcycle: a Honda SL70.Honda-SL70-Left-Rear-Qtr

My friends were all getting Honda CT70s, 3-speed automatics. Not me. My bike had 4 gears and a clutch…and I had no idea how to ride it! Fortunately, my brother-in-law was a rider. He had a BSA and I saw him absolutely destroy our gravel driveway every time he came over, flying sideways, balls to the wall, on the verge of being out of control. My hero…he and “Bronson.” Who better to teach a little kid to ride, right? It didn’t take me long to get upshifting figured out. I did, however, make the engine howl on more than one occasion while trying to understand the clutch and throttle control of downshifting. But once I got it down, riding was never the same again. I learned to dump the clutch, spin the tire, wheelie and basically became a ten year old terror on wheels.

45 years later, I’m still shifting gears. If you want an automatic motorcycle, more power to you. Go for it. But leave me out. Bring on all the technology you want, but the minute Ducati or KTM or BMW starts offering their bikes in automatic transmission, so that I can free my left hand to sip my latte’ or whatever, I’m out. I’ll be just another grumpy old man, riding a vintage machine, trying to reconnect with the past.

Later,

Shep

Has It Come Down To This?

You may have already figured out by now that I’m one of those, “do what makes you happy, chart your own course, & tell everyone who doesn’t like it to piss off,” sort of guys. So when your Dr tells you that you can either change your diet and return to the gym, or you can start popping pills for the rest of your life, it makes a fellow like me a little grumpy. Well, as much as I don’t like being told what to do, I like taking medicine even less. And, truth is, I’ve been 10-20 lbs overweight for the past few years, making the motivation to heed the doctor’s orders even greater.

Back when I turned 40, Lori and I decided to get a grip on our bodies and see how good of shape we could get in. We went on a 12 week program in which we ate 6 small meals a day, a protein and a carb. One day a week was “free,” we ate anything we wanted and as much as we wanted. We went to the gym 6 days a week: 3 days cardio and 3 days weight training. We followed that regiment religiously. By week 8, we had both undergone a pretty significant transformation. Lori was small to begin with and already had Janet Jackson abs, but still managed to lose about 17 pounds. I did not lose a single pound. However, I went from wearing a 34 waist pant to scrounging the stores for 28’s. My niece though I aged 10 years, but I felt great.

There was nothing easy about it. It took a lot of dedication…and planning. When we went to Indy shopping, we took a cooler of food. We would sit in the parking lot and eat low fat cottage cheese so that we wouldn’t be tempted by The Cheesecake Factory when we went inside. Poor substitute, I know. If someone came to visit and it was gym time, we gave them the bum’s rush. Nothing stood in our way. Not want, not desire, not lust for a pizza pie. We carried shakers, protein powder and creatine everywhere we went.

We managed to maintain that for a few years, but gradually fell back into our old habits. And now I’m paying for it. Good old Doc gave me 8 weeks to improve a couple blood count levels or else I get to go buy a pill box. No thanks. Plus, I don’t like the idea of thinking I’m so weak and I undisciplined that I can’t control my own desires. I guess I don’t like my body telling me what to do either.

So, for now it’s goodby refined sugar, goodby white flour, see ya later bacon, burgers and steak. Hello gym. It’s day 3 and I’m sore all over. And hungry. And fussy. No berry pie, no pumpin muffin, no Bluegrass Burger and fries (save me a seat guys!), no Angio’s supreme pizza. No Mark’s pork BBQ. No craft beer…no Wild Eggs Kalamity Kate. kalamity-katieWait! What? Has it really come to this? Am I to become one of those people who denies themselves the pleasure of biscuits and gravy just because they aren’t good for me? I mean, I’m going to die eventually anyway, no matter how I live. And just look at Keith Richards…nothing can kill that guy!

Anyone have a pill box they can loan me?

Later

Shep

Ordinary Adventures

I love reading about other people’s adventures. Sometimes they are dangerously spectacular. Like the guy who got trapped while canyoneering and, after 127 hours, had to cut his forearm off with a dull knife. Or the guy who was traveling through South America by motorcycle and was taken prisoner in Colombia. While I thoroughly enjoy those extreme stories, the everyday, ordinary adventures that many of us experience, are no less special. There is one common thread in all exploits; no one comes back the same person.

When I was just a kid, maybe 10 or so, my family took its first “adventure” vacation. We got so hooked that it became a yearly event for the next 10+ years. No, we didn’t climb Everest. Nothing so spectacular as that, yet every bit as amazing to me. Our destination was a fishing camp on Big Pine Lake, located in a little town called Nestor Falls, Ontario. The lake was about 5 miles in length, connected to town by a healthy river that doubled as the local runway for seaplanes. IMG_0088The camp consisted of a few camping spots and about 9 log cabins of various size and design. While they were no Hilton Inn, they had all the amenities necessary, especially for a 10-year old kid who didn’t really care how dirty he got. One of the things my cousin Tom and I found the most interesting about the accommodations was the two-seater outhouse in the camping area. I mean, really, who shares an outhouse with another person?

Now, the truth is, there were so many fun adventures that took place there over the years that I could probably write a book. I don’t want to bore you with all that here, so consider this a highlight of my most memorable childhood adventure.

If you didn’t like to fish, you would have been bored out of your mind here. There was no TV to watch. The Internet did not exist and Nestor Falls was a tiny little town with a couple gas stations, a grocery, a fish locker plant and a restaurant and gift shop named Hillard’s…home of the high dollar hamburger, according to my father. My mother was not really into fishing, but she was a good sport about it all. Many times we coordinated our trip with Dad’s brother Clyde (who was married to Mom’s sister Peggy…got that? No, it’s legal…I think), so there was a crew of us there. Mom and Peggy, who was probably the best fisherman in the family, were also the cooks, and let me tell you, the food they prepared was phenomenal. Guess what we had to eat? Yep, fish! Not just any fish though; I’m talking Walleye. More Walleye than you could shake a stick at. In fact, for all those glorious years, I was blessed with the opportunity to enjoy what I still consider today as one of the finest meals money can buy; a fresh Walleye sandwich. Dipped in cornmeal, not some heavy batter, fried just right, placed on a soft bun, slathered with tarter sauce, lettuce and a sweet Vidalia onion. just describing it makes my mouth water! real walleye sandwichMy poor cousin Tom, who did not like fish, was stuck eating hot dogs…plain!hordogthumb-large-2

There might not be much adventure in eating fish sandwiches, but there sure was adventure in catching them. Every morning we would get up, gear up and head out on the lake in our boat. Because we were fishing for Walleye, Northern Pike and Musky, all of which have razor sharp teeth and grow quite large, we used wire leaders. When you would catch one, in order to remove the hook you had to put your fingers in its eye sockets and use a pair needle nose pliers. Otherwise, you just might have an adventure you’d rather not experience, especially considering the fact that I have no idea where the nearest hospital was located. We fished literally all day. We caught so many fish that we became selective on how large of a fish to keep. And they were indeed spectacular to catch. I remember one year in particular we were using surface buzz baits. When a larger Northern Pike surfaced to attack that bait, there was no thrill greater. IMG_0080

But the real adventures came when we travelled to the neighboring lakes. One lake, Pike, required about a mile long walk through the woods, carrying all your gear…motor, gasoline, tackle, everything. Imagine being a 10-year old kid, climbing out of your boat at about 6:30 in the morning, packing up all the gear you can carry, then stepping into a pre-dawn, Canadian wooded trail, only to look down at a large, fresh set of bear tracks! “Uh, Dad, did you see that?” “Ah, don’t worry about it Jamie. Just keep an eye out for Moose, they are the mean ones!” Geez, thanks. Once we got to Pike lake, there would be a boat chained up for us to use. We would spend the entire day fishing in this remote lake, the only people for miles. It was fantastic! IMG_0084

The other lake we travelled to was Wigwam. This was the Musky lake. It was deep, clear and pristine. I can’t tell you how many times I dipped a cup in that cold water and drank it. Never got sick once. Of course, I also baited hooks with leaches, worms and suckers, took off fish, then pulled a bologna sandwich out of the cooler and ate it….without ever washing my hands!IMG_0085

Instead of walking to Wigwam, we traversed down an ever-narrowing “river” (more like a creek at some points!) to the lake. There were two sets of impassable water falls along the way, so we portaged our boat twice. If you’ve never done that before, let me just say, it’s a lot of work! Basically, logs were cut and laid across the ground around the water fall in railroad track style. You pulled, pushed, slipped, fell, cussed and finally willed your boat over the portage to the other side of the falls. There were often large rocks just under the water surface and even a small rapids area that we had to traverse. I aways got the job of point man, sitting on the bow of the boat and directing Dad where to go to keep from shearing a pin on the motor. Made me feel important.IMG_0087

I was 21 years old the last time we went to Nestor Falls. That was 1981. Those years made up the memories of my childhood. They were special. They were adventurous. I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. And now you know why Nestor Falls, Ontario is on my bike bucket list…I’ve got to go back one more time.

Later,

Shep

 

 

Dreams and Schemes.

I had a chance to get the bikes out for a short ride last weekend. Like happens so many times, a ride turns into a dream…a dream to travel. Here’s a look at what I have in the back of my mind for 2015:

Bikes: I’m very happy with the bikes I have right now. Sure, I always have my eye on something, but there is no pressing demand. If I were to add anything next year it would either be a sidecar for the Scrambler, a Duke 690 or, if I find a pot of gold I wouldn’t mind giving the new BMW R1200RS a go. Well, wait, I’d really like to have a small dual sport too!

Trips Ideas:
1. It goes without saying that Asheville is on my list again. It is always on my list.
2. Nestor Falls, Ontario. I will explain that one on my next post in a day or two.
4. Coast to coast. Big trip. I need 2 weeks to really enjoy it.
5. Texas. I don’t know why, but Texas has been on my mind lately. No, not because of Ebola! I’m thinking Austin and San Antonio, with a visit to Shiner in between. While it’s true that I’m more of a craft beer guy, I’ll take a Shiner Bock anytime.
6. The UP. Been too long since I wandered Michigan and Wisconsin.
7. Maine. A couple years ago I climbed on my bike and headed out on a quick trip to Maine to hit up a couple lobster shacks. I had some trouble on the way and had to turn around in upstate New York. I need to cross that one off the list.
8. The mystery trip. This is the one where you get on your bike with every intention of returning home that night…and you don’t. “Sorry honey, I got carried away. I can’t make it back tonight. See you in a few days.”

There is one ride I’d still like to do this year as well. Nothing more fun than climbing on a bike when it’s about 35 degrees out, spitting rain, everything an ugly gray, hooking up your heated gear and heading south. Deep South. Like Key West south. Or Naples south. About Atlanta, the heated gear gets unplugged. About Valdosta, a layer of clothing comes off. Gainesville, and I’m riding in summer gloves again. By the time I hit the south side of Tampa, my face shield is up, and it’s summer again! It’s like turning back time.

Who knows what I will actually get to do, but one can always dream.

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Later,

Shep

The Pond

With three grandchildren to buy for this year, my wife and I have already begun Christmas shopping. That experience, along with a recent blog I read about growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, had me thinking about my childhood and the kind of ways my friends and I used to entertain ourselves. No matter what we were doing, or what time of year we were doing it, “it” was almost always done outdoors. As for toys, the ones we enjoyed the most were the ones we created ourselves.

Probably the most enjoyable playground in my neighborhood sat right smack in the middle of our small farm. It was a 1 acre pond, complete with fish, snapping turtles, frogs and snakes. It had a ratty old dock, a sea of cattails that we often turned into torches at night, and a small boat. What more could a handful of 10 year old boys want?6038141040484743922

Every May, as soon as school was released, we would pitch an old tent down at the pond and declare it officially “summer vacation.” The tent would stay up all summer and we spent many nights sleeping in it. Actually, we probably stayed up all night more times than we slept. We’d sit around a campfire, fishing lines in the water, hooks baited with chicken livers or stink bait, as we tried to catch the big catfish swimming in the pond. When we got bored with that, we would gig frogs. Our pond was running over with frogs. They filled the air every night with their deep harmonic rhythm. Don’t worry, we didn’t kill them just to kill them. We ate the legs. I can’t tell you how many times we carried a gunny sack of frogs down to the house, where my father would spill them out onto the carport and he and I would prepare them for a meal the next day.

Snakes, on the other hand, we killed just because. Because they are creepy, that’s why! One year in particular, the pond was absolutely swarming with snakes. You could not walk around it one time without seeing at least one snake. I’m not talking black snakes. These were mean, nasty, aggressive water snakes. And some of them were eating very well…on frogs I’m guessing.  My two neighborhood buddies and I decided to to make it our mission to rid the world of snakes…or at least the pond. We hunted snakes with frog gigs, pellet guns, pitch forks and anything we could get our hands on. Once we killed them, we hung them in a tree by the shore. I know at one point we had at least 14 snake carcasses hanging in that tree. And you thought the Internet was fun!

The three of us grew up around that pond. We saw and did just about everything you can imagine on those shores, especially when we got older. Some of those stories best not be told. I can’t really imagine any toy being more enjoyable, lasting or memorable as that old farm pond. In fact, I was just there last week, standing on my mother’s porch, looking down toward it and thinking, “I should go take a walk around the pond.” Wonder if that frog gig is still hanging in the barn?

Later,

Shep

You Can’t Go Home Again

I spent the majority of this past week with a family member in the hospital back in my home town in Indiana. Here are a few things I learned:

1. Hosptials smell. No offense. I mean, they can’t really help it; they are full of sick people doing all sorts of things sick people do. And if you are sick, you don’t really care. I spent two weeks in the hospital many years ago when a semi-truck tried to crush my car, and my head, like a beer can. I didn’t care how it smelled. I don’t even remember. I was just glad there were some kind men and women who were willing to do for me, the things I couldn’t do for myself. So, if I think it smells, imagine how they feel.

2. Home is not so much a place as a state of mind.  Wow, that sounds all 1960’s, tie dyed, acid enlightened, philosophical bull shit, doesn’t it? Here’s what I mean: I spent 51 years living in Bloomington, IN. Born and raised. Spent most of that time living on the same property I was born on. Two and a half years ago, I moved 115 miles south to Louisville, KY. Now I call Kentucky home. And I mean it. I just spent 5 days “back home” in Indiana. When I go to Bloomington, I don’t feel like I”m going home. I feel like a guest. Today, Louisville is home. If, tomorrow, I were to move to Asheville, and I’d love to, then that would be home. Same goes for Naples, Florida or anywhere else I might land. Home may be where you are from, but for me, it is where I’m at.

3. I’m very bad at sitting by bedsides. Actually, I already knew that. I go just a little bit crazy when I have to sit still for long periods of time.

4. Hotels can get old quick. They are not “home.”

5. Being a college town is a blessing and a curse. Bloomington has an interesting culture and lot of great places to eat and visit, mostly because of all that IU brings to the town. On the other hand, downtown and the surrounding area is looking more and more like “IU City” than the Bloomington I know. Student housing has taken over the entire community. Not a fan.

6. Upland Brewing Co is still my single most favorite place in Bloomington. Love that joint. I would gladly ride my bike 230 miles round trip to go there…and I have. Good food, good beer, good people.DSC00395

7. My old coffee customers still love me! And want me to come home.

8. My wife does not like it when I go without shaving. Makes me look, “old” she says! Well, guess what? I am.IMG_0008

Later,

Shep

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