Motorhead Coffee

vagabond blog: thoughts from the saddle

Motivation

If you remember, a few months ago I went on a Dr. advised diet and exercise program. My weight loss has sort of plateaued lately, and to be honest, I have slacked up a little on the diet. For the first 8 weeks I never “cheated.” For the past 4 weeks I have enjoyed some “good food” on the weekends. I’d like to lose at least 5-8 more pounds before leveling off, so I’m going to push a little harder over the next several weeks and see if I can make it happen…and I’ve come across the perfect motivation to get me there.

Since I’m turning 55 this year, there are plenty of good reasons to be in shape. For example, I have three of the most wonderful grandchildren you ever saw. They are all unique and I can’t wait to see what kind of young adults they turn out to be. I have 4 fantastic children that I want to be able to help get through their “young family” years as much as possible. They probably don’t really want my help, nor do they seem to need it, but I want to be around for a while “just in case.”

I also want to stay healthy because I don’t think I’m done with the coffee industry yet. In fact, I had a meeting over a beer last night with someone who is looking to enter the business and we discussed some new possibilities. Running your own business can be physically and mentally demanding, so I need to stay in shape “just in case.”

However, as great as those reasons are, I have something less serious, but still important, on my mind right now. You see, cabin fever has gotten the best of me. Louisville had ridiculous amounts of snow these past few weeks, along with below zero temps. Combine that with all the new bike intros lately and I have the developed riding bug in the worst way.  You have no idea how badly I want to pack a bag, grab a bike and head south right now.

Looking at some of the new bikes being introduced has really lit my fire. I was looking at a list Cycle World put together and I thought, “I’ve got to stay in shape so I can ride and own some of these awesome new bikes!” Call it petty, call it selfish, call it silly. Hell, call it what you want, but I plan to be swinging my leg over the latest and greatest bikes for the next 20+ years! My motivation? Take a look:

2015 multiI love Ducati motorcycles. I owned two of the previous generation Multistradas. That air cooled twin ranks as one of my top two all time favorite engines…the Street Triple being the other one. Ducs are…well, they are Ducs! And they are awesome. I have wanted the 1200 Multi ever since it came out, however, my damn short legs can’t even get a tiptoe down on the thing. I’ve owned lots of tall bikes, but the Multi is the tallest I ever rode. I still want one.Color_SBK-1299-Panigale_1067x600While I’m at it, just take a minute and look at this new 1299 Panigale. Makes you quiver, doesn’t it? Well, it does me! Yes, I know, they make absolutely no sense. And, no, my old bones probably couldn’t stand more than 30 minutes on that bike, but oh, what a 30 minute ride that would be! 205 hp and 420 pounds wet. Read that again. An amusement park on wheels. The only thing more beautiful and sexy than that machine right there is my wife. Hey, I’m not stupid.

2015-Husqvarna-701-supermoto-05Supermotards…I love them! Dirt bikes with 17″ street tires…I want! This new Husky 701 has just got to be a blast. Being powered by the KTM 690 engine makes me believe this thing would be an absolute blast to ride. I already love the KTM 690 Duke, so I’m pretty sure this thing would rock as well. smt 1290Speaking of KTM…I’ve never owned one but want to really badly. The new big adventure bikes are cool, but I don’t see one of those in my future. A 690 Duke is a real possibility and if they build this funky, heavily disguised bike above, that would be on my hot list too. One bike I didn’t buy and wish I had was the KTM 990 SMT. Rumor has it that the camouflaged bike above is a 1290 SMT. I don’t know if it is true, but if it is, be still my heart…and sign me up for a test ride!2015-BMW-S1000XR-1-590x393Beemers. I was on a Beemer kick in the late 90’s to early 2000s. I ran through 2 F650s, an 1150GS,  1200GS and 3 RT’s. I have kicked the tires on the F800GS, and the R1200R, but never pulled the trigger. This new S1000XR sounds really neat. Actually, I like the sound of the S1000R even better. Or maybe I’d just like to swing a leg over the returning classic sport tourer, the R1200RS.BMW-R1200RS-2015-bikes-mediaWhen I get tired of eating oatmeal and egg whites, and don’t really want to climb on the bicycle, nor head to the gym and throw weights around, I’ll just remind myself of this: there are dozens of cool bikes waiting to be ridden to cool places I’ve yet to explore. That’s just enough motivation to keep me moving in the right direction.

Later,

Shep

The Perfect Marriage: Coffee and Beer

Batman and Robin. The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Peanut butter and jelly. Unions that work. Partnerships that created something greater than the individual elements. Some couplings just make sense. Which begs the question, ” Am I the only one who thinks a craft coffee roastery and a micro brewery make the perfect marriage?” Sure, beer and coffee have been combined many times by many breweries to make a stout. Everybody has one. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a shared space, shared business model and shared customers.

I may be mistaken, but this seems like a match made in heaven. It is a partnership that seems obvious and natural to me, yet I must be missing something because there are very few in existence. Not only that but I have as of yet been able to talk a single microbrewery into joining me on such a venture.

Think about it for a minute. The same individuals who have an interest in drinking freshly roasted specialty coffee are often the same people who also seek out craft beer. This is not the Folgers and Bud Light crowd. This is the kind of person who appreciates quality, individuality and creative artisan labor, not corporate mass production.

Now think about the space. Microbreweries work to develop their product during the day, then open their taproom up for customers in the afternoon. At 7:00 a.m. the bar is deserted. Well, I stumbled into Skinners Tavern in Bloomington at 8:00 in the morning once and they were serving…but that’s another story! Coffee bars, on the other hand, draw their best crowd in the early morning hours and then slow down as the day progresses, finally tapering off when the magic hour arrives. You know, the hour in which we can order a beer without feeling guilty.

So, doesn’t it make sense that these two craft businesses come together to capitalize on both space and customer base? Does to me. If there were one close to me, I’d head there in the morning for my coffee, then just hang out till the bar started serving beer. Uh, maybe I just discovered the problem!

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Later,

Shep

Gym Season

In case you didn’t know it, it’s gym season. What? you didn’t know there was a gym season? Oh, believe me, there is and it is in full swing right now. It begins every January 1st, right after one last night of too much booze and too much food, followed by feelings of guilt and determination to “take charge.” The gym season ends around Spring Break, just in time to head to the beach to show off your new body. If you don’t believe me, just go see how busy your gym is today.

I wasn’t an athletic child. When it came to sports, I was very average. There were only a couple things that I excelled at: the pogo stick and dirt bikes. We lived down a very long gravel driveway. I’m talking several hundred yards long, and it wasn’t flat either. Someone bought me a pogo stick one year and I got very good at it. I could basically bounce up and down on that thing until I got bored and just quit. I didn’t even need my hands; I just used my legs to hold on. Once there was no challenge left to jumping, I started going places on it. Yeah, really. Someone asked me if I thought I could pogo all the way up our driveway without stopping. Guess what? I did it!pogo2

I was pretty decent on dirt bikes too. No Roger DeCoster, but I was at least competent off road. I started riding when I was 6 or 7 years old. We lived on a small farm and bordered about 80 acres of deserted, company owned woods, so I developed trails all over the place. My neighbors rode too, so we spent every day riding hills, creeks, wooded single track, dirt flat track and any other terrain we could create. It seemed to come fairly natural to me so when I finally was able to get a real motocross bike, things really got fun. I was too shy and introverted to ever go to the track, so I never really measured myself against other riders.rm

Those two, odd hobbies pretty much summed up my athletic endeavors. I gave no thought to my physical condition at all. Then, in 2000, at age 40, my wife and I decided to start going to the the gym. Our first gym was called The Iron Pitt. The gym literally had a “pit” where the dumbells were located. This was not a “pretty” gym. It was a body builder and power lifter’s gym. The equipment was well used and it smelled like sweat. And we loved it! The owners, Matt and Doug, were awesome and made us feel right at home. We entered the gym flabby and out of shape. Within a few months, we were solid and excited. And we were hooked.

Like most people, we eventually let life get in our way and we stopped going. There were several attempts to start up again. Because our schedule changed, we needed a gym closer to home, so we found one in a strip mall nearby. We would go at 3:30 or 4 in the morning before work. We went on vacation and came back to discover the gym was gone…the owner packed up and disappeared in the middle of the night. Once again, we were gymless.

Then, IU began taking over Bloomington and building student housing all over the downtown area. They still are and, frankly, I don’t think much of it. One plus, however, was they built a Cardinal Fitness Center downtown, so we began going again. There were two challenges with this gym. First, they were not a 24 hour facility, so we had a hard time finding the right time to go. Second, they were situated above student housing, so it was a “young person’s gym.” College students everywhere. Now, that didn’t bother me per se. In fact, being the older guy in a young gym is kind of motivating. What I didn’t like is that most of them were there to socialize and pick up dates, so they always seemed to be in the way…and I’m not the most patient man you never met. When I go to the gym, I go alone, I go to work out and go home. No talking. No socializing. No loitering.

We eventually stopped going there too. We did not enter another gym until last year. A Planet Fitness opened up right in front of our condo. I could literally walk…but I don’t! Go ahead, enjoy the irony in that statement for a moment. Now, if you follow this blog, you know I changed my diet a couple months ago and started going to the gym. Let me tell you a little bit about this newest gym. First the good news: it is open 24 hours. You can go whenever you want. It is also very clean. It smells good too. And they promote a “lunk free” zone. By this they mean, they are not a bodybuilder’s gym. They purposely try to create an atmosphere where people don’t feel intimidated.

Now for the bad news. First, it is purple. Purple and yellow…yikes! Okay, I can live with that one I guess. The second problem is that because they discourage bodybuilder types, they have a very small free weight area. You can’t really ever use them. But you want to know what the worse thing about this gym is? It is so convenient that it has taken away all of my excuses not to go!

Later,

Shep

Just Us Kids

For as long as I have been alive, all major holidays have been celebrated at my mother’s house. No discussion. No argument. No exception. That’s just the way it is and all four of her children knew it was futile to argue or plan otherwise. Over the years we have had some interesting gatherings, with one sibling or another often bringing a friend who had no better place to go, to enjoy the mayhem that makes up family gatherings. The house was always crowded, busy and at the least, entertaining.

And then we started getting old. And some of us got sick. And things changed. First, we lost my father. Then, a few years later, both my brother and one of my sisters became ill. Terminally ill. The holiday gatherings began to shrink exponentially. We lost spouses and children who no longer felt attached, or who moved away and on with their lives. Before we even had time to process or recover from these tragedies, my living sister then lost her husband to the same, terrible disease that had claimed our father and siblings.

At this point our family events were beginning to look and feel rather bleak. Depressing is more like it. We barely filled all the chairs at the kitchen table. I seriously considered not coming any more myself; I was tired of the feeling of loss.

Even though my wife and I have 4 children of our own, they all have other family responsibilities so holidays often fall in rotation, meaning we rarely ever see all four of them at the same time. This Christmas was one of those rare exceptions. All four children were present, along with each of their partners and our three grandchildren. A rare and wonderful treat. The house was full and loud. It may have seemed chaotic to others, but it felt “right” to me.

My sister and I feel like the “lone survivors” in our family; at least I do. Most of the time, life just goes on and it doesn’t cross my mind, but once in a while I am reminded of the empty chairs at our holiday table. For Christmas this year, my sister did a really cool thing. She had calendars made for all of us. Each month had family photos relative to that particular time of the year. Each birthday was marked with the face of the celebrant. On the month of November, she shared a photo of each of the family members we lost: our brother, our sister, her husband and our dad. We all enjoyed the calendar and commented on the cool old photos. At one point, while the grandchildren were stealing the show, I started thumbing through the calendar again. I stopped on November, and for some reason, the photos on that page reached out to me, and I felt the loss. Something was missing…someone, several someone’s were missing.IMG_0367

I saw my sweet granddaughter and my wonderful grandsons playing on the floor below and thought how much those who have left us would have enjoyed meeting and playing with these little wonders. They would have looked at our “little girls,” Kristin and Cailin and marveled at how they were now mothers themselves. At that moment, I missed them deeply. Time changes things; not always in a way we like.

A few moments later, I walked into the kitchen to find my wife, all four of our children, along with their partners and children, all chatting together, bantering back and forth and poking fun at one another. Just like we used to do. It was a profound moment for me. No one even knew it was happening. I guess you could say I saw the passing of time. I have taken the place of my father and Lori is “Mom.” The four children gathering are no longer my siblings and I. Instead, it is our children. It was a bittersweet revelation. Sad, sentimental and comforting all at the same time. Sometimes it seems that life has flown by at an unbelievable pace. Yesterday I was the child; today I am the grandfather. As James McMurty sings, it’s a “damn short movie.”

This summer we sold the house that our four children became brothers and sisters in. Their life’s memories reside there. We managed to get them all together briefly to take one last photo in front of our “home.” One of my daughters gave us the photo for Christmas.IMG_0369

I hope that in the time to come, we can create more of those moments where everyone is together. I hope that time will be good to our children and give them many years of enjoying one another’s company. I hope that once in a while they will bring a “stray” to Thanksgiving or Christmas. And if they are lucky, we might even let them host a Holiday now and then!

Later,

Shep

 

Winter Frivolity

(formatting frustration disclaimer: I have written this blog 3 times today. The program I use crashed twice, erasing everything. Now it refuses to format properly, meaning the paragraphs look sloppy and long…I’m over it…take it as it is!)
I’m over winter and it hasn’t even reared it’s ugly head yet. Just let the temps dip into the 30’s or lower for any length of time and I start dreaming of Palm trees and white sand. What’s odd about that is that I’m generally very hot natured. My wife calls me “the furnace.” My kids know when they come to visit us in the winter they better bring plenty of layers because I keep our house rather chilly. I cannot sleep when it’s hot so I turn off our bedroom vents completely in the winter. My wife says you can see your breath. To be fair, a thermocouple for a coffee roaster has registered the room in the 50’s…oops!
One of the reasons I don’t like winter is because I am a rather single-minded guy. If you split my brain up into a pie chart, my interests would be about 80% motorcycles, 15% coffee and the last 5% just randomness. To be fair, coffee consumes a lot of my time and thinking, but at this stage in my life I could easily go 100% bikes.
I never really put bikes up for the winter. I try to get them out as much as possible. I have heated gear, other cold weather clothes and heated grips. I have no problem riding in the 50’s. In fact, I prefer it over the 90’s. I can manage the 40’s also, no sweat…pun intended. I can even do the mid 30’s in relative comfort.  The 20’s, things start to get challenging. One of the coldest rides I ever took was delivering my Ducati ST2 to the dealer for service one winter. It was 75 miles away, about 25 degrees and the skies were gray. I rode fast…very fast. My wife, who followed me in the car to bring me home, said, “You will be in driving school before summer is over!” I said, “I was cold.”
I used to do a lot of winter riding, but it seems I have wussed out some over the past several years. Some time ago a group of Midwest riders decided to form a winter riding group. Part parody, part to keep us all riding, they initiated a winter riding contest that mimicked BMW’s summer riding contest. Instead of running April to October, or whatever their contest did, we ran October to April.  At the time I was riding a BMW R1150GS with Jesse bags.  Loved that bike. I thought, “What the heck,” and signed up.
I know it is silly to ride just to log miles, but, hey, it got me out of the house. For the first 3 months I did my level best to make sure I stayed in the top 10. I can’t remember how many miles I rode during that time, but I’m thinking maybe 3k+. And then John Ryan joined the group. And blew everyone out of the water. John was well known in the long distance riding community. He lived on the East Coast, a much harsher climate…and he didn’t own a car. Within a few weeks he was far out front, clocking over 10k miles. Then he quit goofing off…and I gave up. All said and done, he recorded about 26k miles during that contest.
I don’t have any contests to compete in but I have been thinking about attempting to ride more this winter. There’s nothing more enjoyable than to bundle up and take off in a miserable climate and head south, shedding layers as you move closer toward warmer weather. That’s what I was up to when my father-in-law and I rode this Harley and a Beemer down to Naples one year. It was late October with the temps in the low 40’s and a gloomy drizzle. By Atlanta we had shed a layer and by the Florida line we were looking for sunscreen. Awesome ride down, depressing return home.
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I’m thinking of taking a couple destination rides, or maybe more accurately, purpose rides, this winter. Details to follow, if I follow through. Otherwise, your going to have to pry my hands from the door jamb to get me outside. Now, if you live in a climate that is colder and wetter than mine, please accept my condolences. If, however, you live somewhere warmer, well, just keep it to yourself, will ya?
Later,
Shep

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

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