Motorhead Coffee

vagabond blog: thoughts from the saddle

One Cup At A Time

When I was heavily into the roasting business I always thought it ironic that I had thousands of pounds of the finest green coffee in the world in storage at my shop, yet no one at my house drank coffee. It was like being a wine collector in a house full of teetotalers. A lumberjack living among tree huggers. A butcher among vegans (Hi kids!). You get the idea.

Aside from riding the wave of manual coffee brewers and collecting every possible device I could get my hands on, I’ve never really found the need for a large capacity drip coffee maker. I do own one, however, On my desk at work sits a 10 cup Technivorm that I make about 12oz at a time in. A bit of a waste. For obvious reasons I have gravitated to equipment that allows you to make one cup of coffee at a time. And, no, I”m not talking about the Keurig.

I tend to go in cycles when it comes to brewing coffee. For the past six or eight months my morning routine during the week has consisted almost exclusively of the Aeropress, the cheap, plastic syringe that looks like it belongs on late night infomercials, yet makes a really rich cup of coffee.

Once I get to work, I have options. If I’m in a hurry or feeling lazy, I fire up the Technivorm. But I also have an electric kettle, scales, grinder and a Chemex at my desk. Weekends at home generally see the Chemex on the counter, or a Hario, Vac pot or some other gadget as my mood dictates. One thing they all have in common, however, is that I use them all to make one cup at a time.

I must confess, however, that even a coffee nerd like me can appreciate convenience. Or maybe I’m just getting lazy, because I went out and bought a one cup drip coffee maker for my house. No, I already told you, it’s not a Keurig! I said I was getting lazy; I didn’t say I lost my mind! Instead, I bought a Technivorm Cup One…and lucky for me, I got it on sale because it is expensive.

Lately the Cup One has replaced my Aeropress, mostly for the sake of convenience, as I fumble around in the early morning getting ready for work. How does it work? Well, it’s no Chemex or Hario, but honestly, it gets the job done, which is delivering an eye-opening hit of C8H1ON402 (caffeine). There is only one thing that worries me. I’m pretty certain that one of these mornings in my half-awake, caffeine-deprived stupor, I’m going to turn on the machine…and forget to put a cup underneath.IMG_2186



I Should Have Known It

I should have known better. I did know better. But I did it anyway. I sent my friend Chris, coffee roaster, owner and head honcho (well, his wife Leah may have a different opinion!) of LaGrange Coffee Roasters a request Friday: “Can I come and run a batch of greens through your roaster? Oh, and can you provide the greens?” Being the super nice guy that he is, he kindly offered to let me spend a little time behind his machine, the same one I used to use to roast Motorhead Coffee.

And of course I thoroughly enjoyed it…as I knew I would. It was probably a big mistake. I was like an alcoholic wandering into a micro brewery…I got the shakes. Scooping those aromatic Ethiopian greens from the burlap bag was enough to cause beads of sweat to break out on my forehead. Running them up to temperature and catching a whiff of the wonderful caramelization of the sugars caused a few drops of drool to escape the corner of my mouth. I licked my lips and ever so cautiously turned my head from side to side to make sure no one saw the lust growing in my eyes. And then it came: first crack. The snap of the beans, the smoke, the aroma and then…coffee. I had just turned cold, hard, green seeds into the most wonderful of all elixirs…well, except maybe for craft beer…coffee! I felt like shouting, “Hallelujah!” I felt like reading chapter 1 from the book of Genesis out loud…”In the beginning God created….” Yeah, so I really liked it a lot!

My wife asked me this morning if I tried the coffee I roasted yet and did I enjoy roasting it. “I cautiously said, “Sure, it was okay.” She was not fooled. “I knew it was a bad idea to let you go roast coffee!” So wise is my wife…she’s probably moving all our money at this very moment to an account with only her name on it! FullSizeRender (20)

So, yeah, my name is Shep and I’m a coffee roasting addict.




500 Miles, Got 500 to go

I wish I had thought to pull out my phone and take a photo. You would have enjoyed it. I rolled into a gas station on my Vstrom, some 14 nonstop hours under my wheels, took off my helmet and, man, I looked rough. Face wind burned, dirty from the miles, and my hair…what little I have, was forming crop circles on the top of my head and wings out the side! I didn’t know I could get helmet hair. I was a sight to see, wild eyed, disheveled and road weary in my faded red Aerostich suit. I’d like to think I take a little pride in my appearance, but I will readily admit that when I’m on the road on my bike it’s take it or leave it. I don’t care how I look, I’m going to walk into a station or restaurant or wherever just like I am. I’m sure more than one patron at the station thought I was a crazy man who had just escaped the psych ward.

But that’s what 1,000 miles on a motorcycle in a day looks like…a bit crazy. After vacationing in Naples, Florida last week it was time to head home. My family flew down but I chose to ride. I took a couple days on the trip down but when it was time to go home, I just wanted to get there. I left Naples about 5:15 am, in the dark, foggy aftermath of Hurricane Patricia and pointed the bike North. I rolled into Louisville about 9:30 pm, glad to be home. Here is a recap of my 1,000+ mile ride:

  1. Total miles ridden: 1,050+, I’m not sure; I don’t really keep track anymore. I’m over that. I documented an official Iron Butt ride several years ago (1,000 miles in 24 hours makes you a member), but really couldn’t care less at this point.
  2. Total hours ridden in the dark: 5…2.5 hours in the morning in the Florida fog and the last 2.5 in the Tennessee and Kentucky Fall air. That is significant because I make it a policy not to ride in the dark anymore. There are way too many deer in my neck of the woods to take the chance.
  3. Total miles between fill-ups: 170-180. I think the Strom will go further, but probably not with me twisting the throttle.
  4. Total nourishment consumed: 1 gas station protein bar, 1 bottle water, 1 sip of a really nasty Starbucks coffee and 1 Chick-Fil-A sandwich.
  5. Total number of semi-trucks passed: maybe 10,000…I don’t know, they are everywhere.
  6. Total number of times someone tried to kill me: only 1, which is pretty damn good. One guy merged in front of me and never new he nearly clipped me…both of us running at 80+mph.
  7. Total number of hours in the rain: maybe 1. Not bad at all.
  8. Total number of hours I ran my heated jacket and grips: the last 2. And the last hour was chilly…40 degrees in the dark.

Other random thoughts: Interstates suck. They suck in a car and they suck on a bike. Some people like to ride Interstates: I don’t. They are boring. They are dangerous. I rode the Interstate home because I wanted to be home by Thursday night and you can’t make that kind of time on two lane roads. Necessary evil. Given a preference I would never ride an Interstate. And I would limit my days to about 500 miles max. 300-400 is more enjoyable. This is the reason I limit my bikes trips to about a 1,000+ mile range from my home. It’s why I have yet to take a trip out West…it would require hours and days of Interstate travel to complete in the time I can manage to take off. When retirement comes that will change.

As for the bike, the Vstrom, the Rodney Dangerfield of the motorcycle world, ugly step-sister of the humble and equally humiliated Kawasaki KLR, great at nothing, pretty damn good at everything, ran like a champ. Stock seat, stock windshield (Mastad bracket added), comfy as Hell. Biggest complaint was that at highway speeds the motor was pretty well tapped out. FullSizeRender (16)

All in all, it was a good day, Interstate droning notwithstanding. Put me on a bike, point me down the road and I’m all good…and ready to run again…”driving 500 miles, got 500 to go.”



The Brute and The Beast

My grandson Aston and my granddaughter Lyla are both mellow tempered children. When describing my other grandson, Grant, no one has ever used the word “mellow.” My nickname for Grant is “the Brute.” He is busy bulldozing his way through life…and he isn’t even 2 yet!


Kind of reminds me of my KTM 690 Duke. Every time I ride it, I think of Grant; the bike is a Brute! Especially so after Chad Wells, the mechanic at Commonwealth Motorcycles, got done unleashing the monster within. It weighs less than 350 lbs and now puts out somewhere near 81hp. It handles as sharp as a scalpel and feels as light as a bicycle. The redline is around 8000 rpm and once you reach 6k, the heavens open and the angels begin to sing. Actually, based on the note that the exhaust puts out, I’m thinking it’s more likely a few fallen angels doing the singing. In my mind, this bike is the perfect canyon carver and mountain railer.

Since selling my Street Triple I’ve been window shopping at other bikes. I actually put a deposit down on the upcoming African Twin but don’t know at this point if I will follow through with a purchase. There is another bike that was never really on my radar until recently: the Super Duke 1290 R. Basically, my Duke’s big brother. Forget 81 hp though; this bike kicks out 181 hp, or somewhere in that range…I mean after a point, does it even matter? On top of that, it lays down 92 ft pounds of torque. Absolutely incredible motor. It is as smooth as melted butter and as subtle as a sledgehammer. The thing has wheelie control (traction control) for God’s sake! I’ve been riding for 48 years and I’m almost afraid to crack the throttle open…almost. Now I know how the Road Runner felt when Wile E Coyote was chasing him and he kicked it into overdrive! Seriously, twisting your wrist on this bike is like being transported through time; it is instant. Park this monster next to any other bike and they instantly wet themselves in embarrassment. It is an intimidating, yet easily controlled thrill ride.

I have taken one out for a test ride twice now. I can definitely see making room for one in my garage. Sure, I already have the 690 Duke, but other than looks, they are not much alike. One is a scalpel; the other a cleaver. One is light and nimble; the other a powerhouse. The only thing they have in common is that they both ooze “bad assery” (who cares if it isn’t a word.)! The 1290 is not a Brute…it’s a Beast…and I want one.
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A Good Cup of Joe

I’m sitting on my patio on this crisp Fall morning, sipping a hot cup of coffee in my favorite mug. It’s about 58 degrees right now, the sun is starting to shine through the clouds and I’ve got my mind on bikes: which one will get ridden today? It’s all about the mood…and sometimes the weather. I could relax in the competent comfort of the Vstrom, or cruise along the colorful countryside on the Scrambler. Or, I could fasten my seat belt and take the pulse pounding, piston pumping Duke out for a ride that would rival the brisk morning air. Get my blood flowing properly…good for the heart.

But somewhere along this beautiful Sunday I’ve got to roast some coffee. As you may remember, I stopped roasting Motorhead Coffee commercially early this year. There were just too many obstacles in the way, many of which still keep me from dedicating my time behind a roaster. One of the drawbacks to this decision, however, is that I am now occasionally at the mercy of others for my coffee fix.

Without trying to sound snobbish, elitist or like any other type of obnoxious individual who thinks their opinions stand at the center of the universe, there is a lot of really bad coffee out there waiting to be consumed. The thing is, though, if you haven’t had the opportunity to spend some time drinking really good coffee, you don’t know the difference. Let someone provide you with a high quality, well roasted batch of beans for a few weeks and when you return to canned coffee from the grocer’s shelf, you will begin to wonder how or why you ever bothered to drink it. Just catching a whiff of the aroma coming off a co-workers cup is enough to remind me of just how awful some coffee can be. If I was forced to drink that stuff again on a daily basis, I’d switch to tea!

At the same time, I don’t like people who make too big a deal out of coffee. I can’t take “world championship” competitions seriously when it comes to coffee or the people who make it. Sorry, that’s just me. I’m not interested in some of the overly pretentious descriptions either. Sure, I’ve had and roasted plenty of coffees that have a hint of fruit or chocolate or nut in them, but let’s not get all carried away to the point we give people the impression when they drink your lightly roasted Natural Ethiopian coffee that it’s somehow going to taste like a Strawberry Mocha Latte’…and thank God for that!

I guess I’m fussing about coffee this morning because I really enjoy a good cup and I’m about to come into the time of year where I may have to stop roasting and start buying. Since I’m not roasting commercially right now, I roast at home to get my fix. However, I don’t have a heated garage and soon it’s going to be too cold outside to roast.

Over the years, I have ordered and purchased coffee from most of the major specialty roasters. I’ve had some really good coffee…and it cost a lot. At $18 for a 12 oz bag, plus shipping, I end up paying $25 -30 for one bag of coffee! And you thought mine was expensive! I love coffee, but even I have my limits. Truth be told, of all the roasters I have ordered coffee from, only 2 came through consistently with what I felt was an exceptional cup of coffee. Stumptown and Klatch have never let me down and if I have to buy coffee this winter, they will get my business. To be perfectly fair, however, when I was roasting commercially there was always one or two coffees I was particularly proud of, and most of the rest were in my opinion “just good coffee.” That’s a challenge every roaster faces. 

So, today I ride…and today I roast. I’m a simple man and all I’m really looking for on this beautiful Sunday morning are a few simple pleasures; a few hours to smell the aroma of fall leaves while riding through the Kentucky backroads…and a good cup of Joe.




Only Teardrops Fall

I didn’t sleep last night. I tossed, turned and was tormented by my thoughts. I thought of all the places we have been together. All the thrills we experienced and the good times we shared. I thought of how well she treated me and how hard I pushed her…and now she is gone. Just talking about her makes my eyes moisten. I miss her, even if I did not pay her much attention lately. Just knowing she was there. Just seeing her felt good. There is now an empty space…in my garage.

Yesterday I sold my beloved Triumph Street Triple R. I have owned this bike since it was brand new, over 5 years now. It was a gift from my wife when I turned 50. Of the dozens and dozens of motorcycles that I have owned in my lifetime (maybe as many as 50…I’ve lost count), no bike ever meant more to me or felt better in my hands than my Street Triple. I loved it not only because it fit me so well and that it’s wonderful three cylinder engine was music to my ears, but also because it reminded me of just how wonderful my lovely wife is and how fortunate I am to have such a great life partner.

You are likely asking, “Why did you sell it?” Well, it wasn’t because I had to. I chose to. I did so for two reasons. The first one is simple: it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to ride this bike without experiencing severe pain. I spent 26 years of my factory career plugging wires, driving screws, lifting, bending, pushing, pulling and generally abusing the joints in my body, over and over again and these days my body is is reminding me of the abuse.

The Street Triple is a small bike, even for a small guy like me. And I’m not the kind of guy who is content to ride around the block or down to the local Starbucks. I want to go places. I travelled on the Street Triple many times, logging lots of 500+ mile days on it. But lately, anything over 150 miles and I couldn’t wait to get off. As much as it pained me to accept, I realized I had come to a place where I could no longer enjoy riding this bike.

The second reason I chose to sell it is because of who I am. I am a rider. I am not a collector. I don’t buy bikes to polish. I don’t buy bikes to look at; I buy bikes to ride. I ride them all. I ride them far. I don’t worry about what they were built for or what the target audience is; I ride them the way I want, which is usually fast and far.

Over the 5 years I have owned this bike there has never been another person take it for a ride. It was not an easy task for me to hand off the Triple to a new owner yesterday. I told him what the bike had meant to me. I told him I hoped he would enjoy it as much as I have. I took it for one last ride…then I let it go. You can say its just a machine if you want to. Just some cold, hard steel. But you’d be wrong. You are obviously not a rider if you feel that way; not the kind of rider I am. Riding is everything to me. It defines my life and as I approach retirement age, God willing, it will define the rest of my life even more than it has up to now.

My bikes are my family. They are my companions. They set me free. They take me to places I’ve never been. Experience things I’ve never experienced. Make me the person I always dreamed of being. They transport me out of my daily rut into a world with no responsibilities other than to my own desires. I meet new people, step out of my cocoon and become one of those sojourners who is “experiencing life.”

So, today, I’m grieving just a little bit. I said goodbye to an old friend. I’m not the least bit embarrassed to admit I shed a tear or two. And now…well, now I’ve got a void to fill.IMG_0923



Beans, Beer & the Blue Ridge

I’m writing this morning from an overlook somewhere on the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville. I’m supposed to be in Maine. Yeah, I know, it’s the other direction. And, no, I didn’t look at the map upside down. Let’s just say my life has grown somewhat complicated this year. Or, maybe I’m just cursed when it comes to a trip to New England. Every time I head that way something seems to go wrong.

So, I decided to make the best of it and head south for a few days or winding roads, craft beer and camaraderie. I’ve been tryinig to get down here all summer to meet a coffee roaster that I recently became acquainted with. We’d never met in person and I was anxious to see their shop and hear about their endeavors. I spent a good hour at Bean Werks in Asheville last night, bending the owner’s ear with stories of coffee success, failure and dreams yet dreamed.

I had no more than walked outside to my bike when I met another new friend. Gary was busy packing away his riding jacket into the saddlebag of his new BMW R1200GS Water Boxer…low suspension model…my kind of guy! We struck up a conversation, found out we had a friend or two in common and spent a good twenty minutes talking bikes, family and life in general. 

From there I headed out to my favorite local bar, The Thirsty Monk, for some fine craft beer. So, no, I’m not sitting on an oceanside dock, eating Lobster Rolls, nor am I meandering my way through quaint villages in Vermont like I had imagined I would be doing right now. Sometimes you just have to take what you can get…and sometimes it ain’t half bad.



A Short Story

I would never want to go as far as to say my mother lied to me, so let’s just say she was overly optimistic. My grandfather on my Dad’s side was well over 6 feet tall. He died when I was 6 or 7 so I don’t remember a lot about him except that he reminded me of Abraham Llincoln; tall, trim, with similar facial features. And he liked to play cards with me.

He and my grandmother lived in the “little house,” which was behind our home on our small farm. It was a two-room house with no bathroom. There was an outhouse next door. My grandparents never had an indoor bathroom their entire lives so I guess when Dad moved them out to our place, they figured, “why start now.” I can clearly remember my mother giving me a spoonful of Vick’s Forumula 44 and sending me off to the Little House to play cards with Poppy Shep. Good times.

Oh yeah, about the lie. Mom told me…no, she promised me, that I would grow up to be as tall as Pop Shep, 6 feet tall, she said. Well, she was wrong…by about 7 inches. Now, before you get the wrong idea, that I’m just another short guy with a Napoleon complex, I’ve never reallly cared or given a second thought to the fact that I’m not tall, dark and handsome. It has made absolutely no difference to me in my life except for one little detail; most motorcycles have a seat height well beyond my 29″ inseam. I tiptoe a lot!

I couldn’t even tell you when the last time was that I owned a motorcycle that I could flatfoot. Probably 1980. I’ve been dabbing the ground, sliding to one side of the seat, and just plain grasping for ground all my life. You learn to live with it. Some people insist on being flatfoot on a bike. If I did that, then the only thing I could buy is a Harley and that’s just not my bag. I like tall bikes. 

My sporting bikes are tall. I barely touch on my Duke, but since it only weighs about 330 lbs, who cares? My Vstrom is shorter than most adventure bikes I’ve owned, so that I can actually get the balls of both feet on the ground at the same time. That’s about as good as it ever gets. Like many people today, I am drawn to the Adventure bikes; big machines with a comfortable upright seating postion, a rough and tumble appearance and at least the pretence of some offroad prowess. Sort of the SUV of motorcycles. I’ve owned a couple and I”m wanting another. In fact, I put a refundable deposit down on the new 2016 African Twin, just in case I like it. Turns out I’m first in line. What’s that you ask? Is it tall? Uh, yeah. Low setting on the stock seat is 33.5″. And yes, I know my inseam is 29″. Wise guy.

I will admit that this issue has prevented me from owning or keeping a few bikes that I really want to spend some time with. I’ve owned 2 BMW GS bikes, the 1200 being taller than the 1150. I tumbled on the 1200 a time or two when I couldn’t reach the ground. Same for the 1100 Multistrada I used to own. I didin’t buy a 1200 Multi for the simple fact that I could only tiptoe one foot at a time on it, and it just seemed a shame to damage all that beautiful, red, Italian paint by dropping it now and then. If it had just been a little uglier I might have takent he chance. And yes, I do know what the seat height is on the Multistrada… about 35.5″…same as the African Twin.

KTM is a brand I have always desired to own. I have the Duke now, but I really wanted (still do) to own a 990 Adventure, but a 34+” seat height just seemed like a bit too much. I told my friend Ed, who owns the local KTM shop that I’d love to have a 690 Enduro. He kindly let me down by saying , “No one uder 6′ need apply.”

Dang it Mom! What happened? Of course, I should have known I’d never make 6′. I doubt if Dad was over 5’9″ and Mom? Well, she was every bit of 4’11”. I didn’t stand a chance.



The Hunt for Great Octoberfest

We are rapidly approaching one of my favorite times of the year. Summer is on it’s last leg and Fall has not taken hold. September may very well be the best month, and for good reason.

Not only are the days more temperate and the nights carrying just the slightest hint of refreshing chill, but it’s also the month that I like to pack up my bike and head out…somewhere…anywhere…no agenda, changing my mind and direction as my mood and the weather dictates. No rules. No one to tell me where to go (well, I may have overstated that one!) or what to do. This year is no exception; I will be hitting the road soon.

But there is another reason I enjoy this time of year: Octoberfest beer. Yes, I’m a fan. Not too many craft beer styles I don’t enjoy, but this is one that I particularly look forward to. A couple years ago I struck gold by scoring these two favorite things at once; my bike trip took me to Asheville right when the many microbreweries released their Octoberfest offerings. I showed up at the Thirsty Monk only to discover brats on the grill and a sample of all the Octoberfests I could hold…and safely ride back to my hotel!

This year I went on a search for as many different Octoberfest beers as I could find. So far I have brought home beers from about 10 different breweries to compare. I have sampled about half and have not found a dud in the bunch. I enjoyed every one. Here are some of the brews that have parted my lips in my search for the Great Octoberfest:FullSizeRender (7)FullSizeRender (13)

Highland Brewing is the only Asheville brewery that distributes in my neck of the woods. Their Clawhammer got me in the moto vagabond mood. FullSizeRender (9)

If you are a fan of Octoberfest beers, I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what your favorite is or what one I’ve missed that I should try. And if you work at, own or just know of a microbrewery within a day or two’s ride from Kentucky, let me know…maybe I will just ride there and give yours a sample!





I had not gone 200 yards before I felt it; a familiar tickle in my right ear. I’ve gotten pretty good over the years at zoning this annoyance out, but for some reason this time it was particularly distracting. I pulled over to the side of the road, removed my helmet…and set whatever creepy crawler (or in this case, flyer), that had buzzed it’s way through the open shield of my helmet and into my ear, free.

Bugs. A constant companion to a motorcycle rider. We ride through hordes of bugs every time we hit the road or trail. We decorate of windscreens, headlights, helmets and jackets with their dead carcasses. And if you are like me, and like to ride with the shield of your full face helmet open, you get a few on your glasses and face as well.

not my helmet...thankfully!

not my helmet…thankfully!

And those who survive this impromptu meeting? Well, they end up crawling around in your helmet, tickling, nipping, biting and stinging, like some secret CIA torture. Normally I just ignore it and ride on, but sometimes it can be maddening. “I give! I will tell you everything you want to know! Just stop crawling in my ear!”

The worst are bees. I don’t think I have to explain why. I have been stung many times. Sometimes they get in my riding jacket. One particularly agitated bee or bees, stung me multiple times in the side before I could get him killed. Miraculously I did not crash. I’ve been stung in the head at least a half dozen times, never much fun either. As I’m being stabbed by some angry Yellow Jacket I can’t help but wonder, “Why the Hell did you fly in here if you didn’t want to stay?” Guess it was more of a home invasion than a social visit.

I can only imagine what my wife or daughters would do if they encountered a similar situation. My youngest daughter is especially afraid of bugs. I have gotten up at 4:00 am for work before, only to find her sitting on the edge of her bed waiting for me to get up to kill a bug crawling on the floor. Not waiting for a few minutes…sometimes hours…and she is 23! It’s not all that unusual for her to hunt me down to kill a crawling “monster” that has made it’s way into her room or bathroom. Pretty sure if a bug was crawling in her ear while riding down the road on a bike, she would turn the highway into a 10 car pileup trying to get it out! I guess that explains why none of the women in my house have any interest in riding.



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