Where Thought and Riding Meet

There's a weird, strange thrill riding in the sticks that's hard to describe. Part visual, part physical, part spiritual. The ride is important, an anthem to living, a meditation on feeling blood and breath course through the body. Problems, opportunities, secrets and answers unfold on the road. Those discoveries fuel my ride.

Our Beautiful Earth

Deep in the holiday season the world still turns with it’s tapestry of good and evil.  A video crossed my digital desk that reflects the our physical world, at times transcending the noise and chaos for a few moments, and at others providing a mesmerizing look at our collective influence on the planet.

The Baum Foundation, an organization committed to improving people’s lives through programs in the arts, education and environment, presents a video by director and composer, Kenji Williams, who compiled views from NASA and other sources of the Bella Gaia, our beautiful Earth. Give yourself a gift by watching and for a few minutes soaring through the heavens.

This video was supported by NASA, the Baum Foundation, the Foundation for Global Community, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and is a production of Remedy Arts, LLC.

Please enjoy and share this unique view of the Earth and its environment with those you know.

Gifts for Scooter Riders

winter hats on manequinsI received an inquiry from a woman seeking ideas for a Christmas gift for her father.  Here’s that note:

My dad is an avid rider in New England (Vespa and a “project” Lambretta). I’m at a loss for a Christmas gift this year. Do you have a favorite piece of gear, book about riding, or other misc thing that you would love to give to a Scooter pal?

Gift giving is an art.  For many a nightmare.  I’ve been fortunate to enjoy the hunt and remain unconcerned with the reception.  Putting myself in “dad’s place”, I tried to imagine what a New England rider might want.  In the end it really was about what I would want.  Result — gifts for scooter riders is a tricky business.  And a little working through what I think I want but not really.  Like the bomber hat with the rabbit fur.  I’ve thought about owning one of those since I was a kid.

But I digress…

Illuminated tree for ChristmasWith as much Christmas spirit as I could muster I sent the following message about gift ideas for a fellow scooter rider.  Perhaps readers can add others.

Dad’s and Christmas are always a problem, even the Vespa riding ones!

A lot of the Vespa experience is personal so it will be difficult for me to make recommendations but I’ll give it a whirl. I’m assuming you don’t want to buy him a brand new, shiny Vespa….*grin*

I would visit scooterwest.com — it’s a big Vespa scooter parts and gear enterprise. Once there search for “signs”. You’ll see a number of metal Vespa signs that a lot of us who have scooters like to display in our garages. Don’t ask me why. I have one.

If you know the exact model scooter your dad has, you could give scooterwest.com a call and tell them you want to buy some maintenance items — oil, filters, sparkplugs, etc. Even if your dad already has some of this he’ll need it eventually and he’ll be impressed that you picked this stuff up. 

On the left hand navigation of the scooterwest.com site you’ll see their holiday gift giving guide. That area will have Vespa hats and shirts and such. Always a safe bet for Vespa riders.

Thinking about books — there are many. Take a look at Ghost Rider. While not about scooters it does look at the riding experience. A lot depends on your dad and what his riding is like. Aerostich has lots of books.

Or this — gloves. I love getting riding gloves. Aerostich makes some fantastic Elkskin ones.

And the last thing, the one I like most is the gift of riding time. You might have to coordinate this with your mom or dad’s significant other. Give him a Christmas card with a written note that basically says you want him to take a riding trip. Maybe it’s a little homemade gift card entitling the bearer to depart for a couple days — a guilt free, don’t worry about mowing the lawn, fixing anything or washing the car. The only requirement is to take some pictures, eat some good food and have a good time. I would love getting that gift.

Saint's Cafe mug with candy canesSo if you’ve found the perfect gift for a scooter or motorcycle rider leave a comment.  You may ease the stress of a gift giver and make a rider happy.

Quick update on my Vespa:

It’s still in the garage dismantled, heated grips connected but still have to secure the wires, put the pieces back together, and basically spend an hour or so to get it back on the road.  Or to the point where I can put the winter tires on.  Things have been busy at work and I’ve had little energy left for my poor Vespa…

Make Mistakes

contemplating a handIf I’ve learned anything in life it’s that I make mistakes.  Albert Einstein counseled people to make them as part of a method which makes life richer, deeper, and opens doors otherwise invisible.  I was pondering this idea while trying to ease my frustration at line of little mistakes and misjudgments that are maddening.  Ordering the wrong parts, staying up half the night instead of sleeping, neglecting new ATM cards until the bank decides to cancel everything.

My own magical thinking leads me to believe that things will just work out.

Dog in a fairy ringJunior is oblivious to the fairy ring he’s laying in.  I asked him to pose for this picture, a momentary break from our repetitive exercise of hurling and retrieving tennis balls.  Come spring there fairy rings, elf rings to some, will burst forth as a line of mushrooms.  The biology is more complicated than I want to go into.  Being able to see them is a gift of my wife  Kim and her naturalist ways slowly rubbing off on me.

Junior reminds me of mistakes, especially in timing related to inadequate sleep.  The less sleep I have the less time there is for the two of us to run wild.

Dog displaying lazy behavior

Junior reflects my own laziness and sloth of late.  And I’m sure it’s fueled some of the mistakes I’ve been making, especially in regard to installing the heated grips on the Vespa.  It’s still in the garage in pieces and at the rate I’m going it will fall in line between printing my daughter’s prom pictures and finishing the darkroom sink.

I’ve been waiting for over a week for some Posi-Tap connectors only to discover I ordered the wrong size.  With my patience exhausted I just grabbed the quick splice connectors I had on hand and started the electrical work.  It wouldn’t be as “perfect” as I imagined but would likely work just fine.

KOSO heated grips controllerSuccess.  Switched power to the grips and all the lights are on.  So the power is wired correctly.  Was working a bit on the grips.  Have to do a bit more sanding before I can push them onto the bars.  Ran out of energy, heard the whisper of the easy chair.

One step at a time I’lll get the project finished and i’ll probably continue to make mistakes…

Other Forms of Travel

salt on drivewayHaving taken a few days of vacation time from work provided the potential opportunity to do some more serious scooter riding with the Vespa.  Sloth, weather and bad planning on my part eliminated my options revolving around the Vespa and relegated me to other forms of travel.

Weather interfered on a few mornings as the temperature dipped below freezing and transformed lingering slush and moisture into the kind of early season road ice that can give a scooter rider fits.  Standing in the driveway I could see the remains of salt still at work and with my Heidenau snow tires still sitting in the garage it would not be a great idea to go for a ride.

Even if the snow tires were mounted, the scooter headset is still dismantled as I await some additional parts for the heated grips.

State College, PennsylvaniaSunday morning in State College, Pennsylvania, the view down Allen Street as I make my way to Saint’s Cafe to join fellow riders and photographers Gordon Harkins and Paul Ruby.  Neither rode on this morning either though ice was not an issue with the temperature in the upper 30s.

As the morning unfolded I realized that there are more travel options than I often realize.  And many don’t involve motors or wheels.

Saint's Cafe, State College, PennsylvaniaFinding and establishing rituals is more important to me now than when I was younger and the world was something to consume and discard with each new day something to experience.  I don’t believe my experience was that robust or unique but it was easy to romanticize newness and adventure in ways I don’t now.  The younger me wanted to see every sight on a trip.  The older me wants to revisit the familiar over and over until I understand what I’m seeing.  Can’t say which is the better approach, only that they’re different and where I am now.

Saint’s Cafe has been the place I return to on most Sunday mornings for the past seven or eight years.  I wonder if I’m considered a regular and if I’ve become a character like those on Cheers.  I don’t think many people know my name but they do recognize the yellow riding jacket.

Tea and a Moleskine journalEarl Grey tea and a Moleskine journal — part of another long standing ritual.  The tea has remained consistent though my writing has fluctuated in the past couple years as I’m drawn more and more into the digital bog.  Digital is so alluring and easy that I’ve considered abandoning the pen and paper, film, darkroom and more.  Some lingering voice whispers for me to resist.  Part of the ritual of being at the cafe is to ponder the meaning of those whispers.

Kodak Tri-X film at Saint's CafeGordon returned some of the Kodak Tri-X film I lent him to shoot the Penn State football game.  I bet there were no other photographers along the sidelines shooting film, especially black and white film.  I’m not sure if he’s an enigma or an anachronism.  Either way, seeing that film sitting on the table triggered some powerful desires to pick up my Leica M6 again and make the photographs that so faithfully fulfilled the creative hole that lives in me.  Everything stands ready to do it save for the personal hesitation I shroud in excuses.

Film is not dead.  Merely tired.

Paul Ruby examining printsPaul and Gordon routinely show up with new work while I sink into my chair as a distant observer who remembers what it was like to be a photographer.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  Or maybe just over scheduled.

Gordon brought a lovely set of images he made of our friends and colleagues Stephen Dirado and Frank Armstrong at the opening of their exhibition in Massachusetts titled Regarding Landscape.

I can barely comprehend the work involved to produce another exhibition myself.  It’s been too long.

Greta Righter photoPaul also had a lovely set of images made over Thanksgiving at a friends place in the Catskills.  This print of his girlfriend’s daughter emerged from his backpack along with some others of the location. Paul is persistent in his image making and works hard to stay engaged with the camera, a critical component in being a good photographer.  He was working with an 8×10 Deardorff camera when I first met him and while today he’s fully digital his work sometimes echoes that large format approach.

Snow scene in Glen Spey New York

Paul put together this lovely composite image that for me creates a powerful feeling of that snow filled landscape.  I can’t wait to see a large incarnation in print.

Thinking about photographs and photography I realized that there are other ways to travel besides the physical act of moving through space.  Like Rod Serling often said, “You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!”

Perhaps that’s where I’m headed.

Gordon Harkins at Saint's CafeThe signs juxtaposed against Gordon was too much for me to resist.  He would be the first one to say he’s always going the wrong way.  While I don’t agree with the assessment it was a funny scene.

Feet on the floor.For an hour or so each week the three of us exist in close proximity, sharing ideas, problems, stories and lies, all part of a ritual that provides me with a great deal of satisfaction.  Seeing our feet on the floor reminded me of the closeness that’s developed because of our shared interests.

Breckenridge Brewery Christmas AleI still don’t have the scooter put together.  I’ve not shot any film.  I haven’t accomplished much of anything lately.  I did buy some craft beer.

Alcohol is no longer part of my life.  Not even a little due to the medication I take for my ankylosing spondylitis.  My doctor at Johns Hopkins grilled me about perils of even sips of beer or wine and how they can fry my liver.

Right now.  Fast.  Badly.

My luck it would come at a time when the craft brews exploded.  So while I can’t sample any of them I do enjoy looking at the labels and names and putting together little collections for friends and family that can still partake.  This Christmas Ale was one of the graphical items that caught my eye.

So that’s the news from Happy Valley.  Hopefully by the end of the week the scooter will be back on the road and life will be grand…