Another Rookie Went to Alaska

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by 72 Yamaha RD350, Jan 3, 2020.

  1. HeadShrinker

    HeadShrinker Long timer Supporter

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    Please let the spirit lead!
  2. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    That's a tall order with a lot of ground to cover. I'll give it some thought and see what I can come up with that would be worth anyone reading. It was six years of coming of age - my own personal Wonder Years.
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  3. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    "It is chloroform in print." - Mark Twain
    I began working for Dan & Mary Cooper the summer of 1978 when I was in the eighth grade. Their daughter, Susan, rode the same school bus as me and asked if I would be interested in a summer job. Of course I was. So I worked for them that first summer when they had one acre of strawberries, some trees, a vegetable garden, and a few acres of woods that needed to be cleared of underbrush. In early June, just after school was out, most of the strawberries ripened within a three week window and the small hobby farm was opened to the public to come pick their own. Dozens of cars full of men, women, children and entire families would show up every morning to pick strawberries. [During this hectic period my primary job was directing traffic and parking, although at dinner with Mary in 2006 she reminded me that I once pulled an errant child from the swimming pool doing his best not to drown.] By the end of June harvest was over and we spent the entire rest of the summer keeping weeds from taking over the strawberries.

    Beginning just after daylight five or six days a week, we straddled the rows bent at the waist with a weeding tool in one hand and a five gallon bucket in the other, filling the bucket with weeds and emptying it as quickly as it filled. We did this for two hours, stopped for a fifteen minute break when we could have a cold drink of water from a cooler, and then continued for another two hours. Most days that was the end of a work day. Other days Mary would invite me and Greg back to mow the lawn, weed the rose garden, pick raspberries, cut rhubarb, or any of a myriad of other things that needed to be done. (Owning a hobby farm is for overly ambitious people who can never fill their lives with too much work.)

    Greg had a PoS Camaro that he was slowly restoring into a worthy hot rod. I had the venerable RD. We could each drive the mile home to eat lunch and return within an hour to work another few hours in the afternoon heat. Mary usually assigned us less strenuous work in the afternoon or something that could be done in the shade, but sometimes it was two or three hours out in the mid-day sun behind a Troy-Bilt rear tine tiller (just like this one I found on the internet). They had a cast iron engine mount and a single cylinder engine (either B&S or Tecumseh) that ran poorly on water mixed with gasoline. :imaposer
    troybilt.jpg

    I don’t remember who worked with me that first summer, but between weedings we planted another acre on our hands and knees. I think it was my second year that Dan & Mary bought a small three cylinder diesel Ford tractor and a planting attachment to install another acre or two of strawberries. The year after that it was another acre or two of planting.

    I suspect the tractor was a Ford 3600 - similar to this one - but with a slender, silver exhaust stack. [picture courtesy of TractorData.com].
    ford tractor.jpg

    As acres increased, so did the amount of weeding. Every summer more classmates and a few adult women would show up to pull weeds and do other odd jobs. First it was Rob, then Greg, Gail, Ruth, Rebecca, and others. Some would work only the peak season, others the entire summer, and Greg and myself from early Spring to late Fall.

    Everything shown in this picture was once a field of strawberries. I never tired of the taste of a fresh picked strawberry. Modern varieties available at the grocery store do not have 1% of the taste of a June bearing strawberry picked fresh off the plant. [In contrast, a raspberry on the bush is Satan's work and you'll be best served to leave it alone - to go and sin no more.]

    upload_2020-2-22_17-12-37.png

    It was my fourth summer working on the farm when a 5’11” brunette showed up to work. The Cooper’s hired a lot of kids but she was two years younger than me and too far removed in class schedules for me to know who she was. I had just finished my Junior year of high school and she her Freshman. She was the sister of an athletic fellow in my graduating class.

    Pulling weeds four hours a day can be monotonous. The boredom was relieved by lite conversation, jokes and humor, an occasional philosophical debate, and even some singing. Imagine that - a bunch of middle class white kids out in a field pulling weeds and singing songs to keep their spirits up. I remember our favorite song was a spoof of Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” which we sang as “On the Row Again”. Rob, who was not from the local high school, liked to belt it and others out loud.

    The Coopers were Baptists - of the generic American sect, not Southern. Rob attended their church and represented a middle of the road Christian faith. Sisters Ruth and Rebecca attended a strident Baptist church (1) and held fundamentalist views. Gail, Greg, and myself attended a United Methodist church - one could say we were on the liberal/progressive end of the Christianity spectrum compared to the others. Regardless of affiliation we got along well together.

    Into this mix stepped Sarah, a member of the only Mormon family in our community. Mormons espouse their church as the only true Christian sect - all others being impostors, frauds, and lacking authority from God and Jesus to act in their name. Founded by Joseph Smith Jr, the son of an upstate New York hardscrabble alcoholic farmer, who penned directly or indirectly - take your pick - The Book of Mormon. Mark Twain once eviscerated James Fenimore Cooper with 4,776 words of critique for his crimes against literature. His opinion of the Book of Mormon was much more succinct:

    “All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the “elect” have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow”, so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle - keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate.”

    (This is not the time or place to put Mormonism on trial. Suffice it to say, the last twenty years of historical research has not been kind to the official LDS church narrative.)

    Like everyone else who showed up for work every day, Sarah was a hard worker. She didn’t complain or lollygag around. She sweated and toiled filling her five gallon bucket with weeds the same as everyone else. Hard work begets respect. One day late in the summer a few of us were having a philosophical debate on some tenet of Christianity while we were working and Sarah spoke up with her view. Rob immediately countered, possibly in a demeaning or condescending manner, and I instinctively rose to Sarah’s defense. Without a single romantic thought I had unknowingly lit a fire that would smolder and then burn for the next five years - changing the course of my life forever.

    [ 1 - ironically, it was the strident Baptist church that became embroiled in scandal eventually leading to insolvency and bankruptcy.

    “Until his resignation in 1989, Mr. Lilly was the pastor at Faith Baptist Church. As pastor of the church in the 1980’s, Mr. Lilly induced a number of church members and other investors to purchase $1.6M worth of ‘Certificates of Deposit’ that were supposed to be used to finance church-related projects. Mr. Lilly, however, put much of this money to his own use - buying airplanes, cars, and houses for himself and for his family. At the same time, Mr. Lily and his wife underreported their taxable income for several years. An investigation into these activities ultimately led to a multi-count, federal grand jury indictment in September 1992. The indictment charged Mr. Lilly with 12 counts of securities fraud and charged him and his wife with 4 counts of income tax evasion. The case against Mr. Lilly and his wife later proceeded to trial, and the jury returned a guilty verdict against both of them on all counts.]
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  4. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    My apologies for the delay. I took a couple days off this week to close out winter with two days of skiing in Colorado with my oldest son. We had sunshine for half of each day, did our favorite runs, some new runs, and got to spend 48 hours together - a rarity once your kid passes 18. He's thirty now. He told me about his job as we sat in Leadville on Wednesday night at the Pastime Bar & Grill having dinner. He understands the secret to life is not bitching and whining about the negative but looking for the positive and putting in the extra work necessary to change things for the better in every situation. It made me proud to hear this constructive and positive outlook on life that he's developed on his path to being a full fledged adult.

    Trex.jpg
    While in the Legal Weed State I provided the following response to a curious thread in The Perfect Line sub-forum.

    https://advrider.com/f/threads/the-hippocratic-poser.1431582/page-3#post-39463932

    The thread posits an interesting thought: Are we posing for others or living our dreams?
  5. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Winding in and winding out
    I am beginning to have my doubts
    Whether the lout
    Who planned this route
    Was going to hell
    Or coming out.

    - well known folk poem about the Alaska Highway

    I first heard this poem in 1996 and it's as good a description of the AlCan as any.
  6. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    I began my senior year of high school in the Fall of 1982 with a college preparation schedule of classes: chemistry, physics, English, a couple math classes, and a computer science class where we assembled simple electronic circuits on breadboards and wrote elementary assembly level code before proceeding to BASIC programming. [I had taken Industrial Arts classes my freshman and sophomore years where I learned mechanical & architectural drafting, woodwork, metalwork, and welding.]

    Avon was a small school district back then and my graduating class was only 228 students, but we had a popular and visionary science teacher, Dick Drumwright, who held a ceramic engineering degree - or as he liked to call himself “a beer bottle and toilet bowl engineer”. Dick recognized the importance computers would play in our future and personally lobbied the school board for funding. He taught chemistry, physics, computer science, and basic science classes. He also attended most basketball and football games. Our school was not only his career but also his social life. Unlike some teachers, he had no authority complex and treated students with respect - we loved him for that. Until my senior year, he was an officer with the Indiana Air National Guard and flew F4 Phantoms as the navigator/weapons system officer in the backseat. [Sadly, Dick passed in 2003.]

    My day started with Chemistry. Not just any Chemistry. [No, not that chemistry either.]. Dick knew that in twelve months many of us would be in a college chemistry class so we might as well get started with the Chemistry 201 textbook they used at Indiana University. It was a three inch thick beast of a book. He used the same approach for Physics - the Physics 201 textbook from IU which was nearly the same size. The size and weight of these books necessitated the addition of a rear rack to the RD which I ordered from an advertisement in the back of a magazine (probably Rider or Cycle World) and installed over the summer. The rear rack came with an adjustable backrest that could be positioned all the way forward for a solo rider. It served me well on longer rides. I put my books in a gym bag and strapped it to the luggage rack with bungee cords.

    The rear rack and adjustable backrest I installed on the RD was the same as the one shown on this Honda. You twist the big plastic wingnuts to slide the backrest fore and aft. [Image courtesy of Google and the interwebs.]

    nighthawk.jpg

    Chemistry started at 7:50 am but I usually arrived by 7:30. In those twenty minutes I socialized with my classmates and reviewed assignments due. We were excited to be in our final year of high school.

    On the third or fourth day a stranger appeared before Chemistry class. She participated in the early morning social scene with my classmates. She obviously knew them well, and they her, but I couldn’t place her. After a couple days she began speaking to me as if she knew me which seemed odd. Finally, recognizing that I was clueless, she introduced herself as Sarah. Yes, The very same Sarah.
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  7. racer

    racer Long timer

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    One of my dearest friends reminds me that things rarely turn out well for those who hear the voice of God.[/QUOTE]

    This stopped me in my tracks. Lots to consider with this statement. Racer
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  8. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    This stopped me in my tracks. Lots to consider with this statement. Racer[/QUOTE]

    He's a conservative Catholic and very well read in history. He's not a rider but I've discerned his spirit motorcycle is a Ural. He asked, "Why a Ural?". "It hasn't changed since 1938 and neither have you". After consideration he thought that a fair assessment.

    We have lunch one day a week with a mutual friend - he's also Catholic, much less so, but still highly averse to change. He's not a rider either. I think his spirit motorcycle is a Honda Goldwing - boring, comfortable, reliable to a fault.

    In the words of Ulysses Everett McGill, "I'm unaffiliated!" [Oh Brother Where Art Thou] and open to change - hence the HD Road King for someone who doesn't wear colors, vests, badges, or black leather.

    We all share the same first name. We all share the same college degree (Electrical Engineering) and profession. We eat at the same restaurant every week. We are served by the same waitress who knows our orders without asking. Obviously, I'm the daredevil in the group and going to Alaska was just one more hair brained thing they've seen me do over the years.

    Last week Ural says: "I'm reading this book about the Rwandan genocide between the Hutus and Tutsis. I have should have known. They were both largely Catholic. They were killing members of their own faith and, in some cases, members of their own parish. Even a bishop participated in the murder of his own parishioners."

    Honda Goldwing: (jaw drop)

    HD Road King: (jaw on floor)

    It's nearly a week later and I'm still trying to wrap my head around that.
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  9. 8feettogo

    8feettogo Adventurer

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    He's a conservative Catholic and very well read in history. He's not a rider but I've discerned his spirit motorcycle is a Ural. He asked, "Why a Ural?". "It hasn't changed since 1938 and neither have you". After consideration he thought that a fair assessment.

    We have lunch one day a week with a mutual friend - he's also Catholic, much less so, but still highly averse to change. He's not a rider either. I think his spirit motorcycle is a Honda Goldwing - boring, comfortable, reliable to a fault.

    In the words of Ulysses Everett McGill, "I'm unaffiliated!" [Oh Brother Where Art Thou] and open to change - hence the HD Road King for someone who doesn't wear colors, vests, badges, or black leather.

    We all share the same first name. We all share the same college degree (Electrical Engineering) and profession. We eat at the same restaurant every week. We are served by the same waitress who knows our orders without asking. Obviously, I'm the daredevil in the group and going to Alaska was just one more hair brained thing they've seen me do over the years.

    Last week Ural says: "I'm reading this book about the Rwandan genocide between the Hutus and Tutsis. I have should have known. They were both largely Catholic. They were killing members of their own faith and, in some cases, members of their own parish. Even a bishop participated in the murder of his own parishioners."

    Honda Goldwing: (jaw drop)

    HD Road King: (jaw on floor)

    It's nearly a week later and I'm still trying to wrap my head around that.[/QUOTE]
    Which is why ET does not want anything to do with this planet until it has grown up and stopped murdering each other because of a few words in a book written millennia ago that they refuse to agree to.
  10. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Actually, I don't think it has anything to do with the ancient book. To me it says that tribalism runs deeper than faith - far deeper. We like to pretend that our faith is the highest pinnacle of our beliefs but it's not. Here's evidence.

    jesus winchester.jpg
  11. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    I've always loved geography and maps. I can sit down with a good map and be entertained for hours in the same way most people read a book. Looking back on my life, if I could have been anything in life the list would have looked something like this:
    a) cartographer
    b) writer
    c) the engineer that I am

    There was no one at my high school who could tell me how to be a map maker.

    I was too afraid of starving to be a writer - and I knew writing was a lot more difficult than most people think it is.

    Dick Drumright was there to get me started on the path to being an engineer (and I didn't think I would starve at that).

    I mentioned many pages ago an episode of A Prairie Home Companion that fueled my passion for Alaska. Here is an excerpt.

    "Just look at a map of Alaska and see the names of the places. Such poetry in the geography.

    Resurrection Pass
    Sacred Lake
    Spacious Bay
    Good News River
    Lucky Gulch
    Reflection Lake
    Charity Creek
    Jackpot Bay
    Cape Decision
    Point Conclusion
    Ray River
    Little Joe Creek
    Mable Bay
    Little Swede Lake
    Jenny Creek
    Hank’s Island
    Old Woman River
    Poor Man Creek
    Blind Slew
    Runt Creek
    Babbler Point
    Dummy Creek
    Ping Pong Lake
    Pinochle Creek
    Boxcar Hills
    Little Poker Creek
    Cape Deceit
    Upper Sucker Creek
    Hell Bent Creek
    Dead Man Reach
    Disappointment Creek
    Disenchantment Bay
    Confusion Point
    Grief Island
    Difficult Creek
    Baleful Peak
    Torment Creek
    Puzzle Gulch
    Youthless Cove
    Hell’s Hole
    Big Bones Ridge
    Poison Cove
    Storm Mountain
    Rip Snorter Creek
    Weasel Mountain
    Landslide Creek
    Crash Creek
    Coffee River
    Flapjack Island
    Pepper Lake
    Mint River
    Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes
    All Hand Help Lake
    Fun River
    Magnetic Point
    My Creek
    Nuka Island
    Lump Mountain
    Sleep Mute"

    [Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion, Live from Anchorage 1995]
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  12. 8feettogo

    8feettogo Adventurer

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    Perhaps faith is like hope in one hand.
    And the point of a spear is tribalism in the other hand.
    Which one is likely to get ones attention??
  13. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Exactly.

    But the two are not mutually exclusive. Bluegrass great Bill Monroe once assaulted a deranged fan with a Bible which quite possibly sets the record for the most hypocritical thing one could do. (Apparently he had not read the part about turning the other cheek.) :kat

    https://apnews.com/fc9714c2401cee93fe8a126defef7016
  14. HO53

    HO53 n00b

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    Thank you for an awesome ride report written in a most enjoyable and articulate fashion.
    I am the same age as you and can identify with your need to have done this trip. I was born in England but moved to South Africa at age 6. From the age of 9 I was introduced to motorbike riding and fell in love with it. At age 22 I started to fly aircraft and did so for the next 28 years. A medical condition arose whereupon I stopped flying for 2 years and decided not to try and obtain my medical again to continue flying due to the expense and paper nightmare now required to fly in this country.
    I discovered bikes again and early last year purchased a KLR 650 in great condition. I have done some epic trips on her but now have the yearning to do a longer one to take in a lot of our country. I live in Durban but flew to Cape Town last week to look at a KTM 950 that I saw advertised. Long story short I bought it and it arrives tomorrow morning with a transporter as I was unable to take leave to ride her back to Durban. My son has had the KLR up for sale and received a call from a gent yesterday to come and view it. The gent arrived and explained that he is looking at it on behalf of an American guy who is touring various countries by motorcycle. He requires one for his South African leg of the tour and this gent had been tasked with finding him one. He has looked at a few bikes but the people were asking too much for the condition of the bikes. He is extremely happy with mine plus the extras fitted and the way it has been maintained. We have agreed on a price and it will be paid for today. He has asked me to store it for another 2 weeks until the gent arrives so no issues.
    I will be embarking on a 3 week trip in May which will take in 3/4 South African countries depending on timing and planning.
    Thanks again for a much enjoyed report.
    Andy
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  15. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    @HO53: Sorry to hear about your health interrupting your flying but glad you found enjoyment on motorcycles. Riding around South Africa for three weeks sounds like an adventure. I look forward to your ride report.
  16. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Changing Fishbowls

    By coincidence Sarah’s first class of the day was in the room next door which made it convenient for her to visit every morning. Our school always had a Fall play. She and a few others convinced me to audition for the unfilled role of the Doctor in Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher. [I’m a big Poe fan.] Admittedly, I sucked on stage but the down time during rehearsals provided time for Sarah and I to get to know each other better. Mutual attraction bloomed and we began spending every possible minute together.

    Of course I knew she was Mormon at this point but it didn’t mean anything to me other than Donny & Marie once had a tv variety show after turning out bubble gum pop in the early seventies. Confession One: I had an Osmond Brothers album ten years earlier. Confession Two: I had Farrah Fawcett on my bedroom wall. [photo courtesy of the interwebs]

    farrah.jpg

    Mormonism is a conservative faith. Men occupy all leadership roles, it was a common requirement for boys to earn their Eagle Scout badge before getting their driver's license, and girls were not allowed to date before age sixteen. Furthermore, single pair dating and exclusive dating was highly frowned upon. These rules presented a problem: Sarah was only fifteen and would not turn sixteen until April of my Senior year - almost six months in the future.

    We saw each other before classes started in the morning, between classes throughout the day, and after classes at the end of the day. We plotted and connived to find other opportunities to see each other, most frequently school activities and sporting events. I suspect it was after Sarah’s mother saw us kiss after school one day that I attended her church as an act of penance and to rehabilitate my image. I was a good kid (1) but, unbeknownst to me, I had crossed an unmarked boundary and her mother hated me with a passion for the next two years.

    Mormon church lasted three hours on Sundays of which Sarah and I could spend 60-75 continuous minutes sitting next to each other, hold hands discreetly if we didn't sit too close to her parents, and whisper thoughts to each other. It had to have especially galled her mother that I was doing the one thing to be with her daughter that she couldn't prohibit.(2) The church service itself was subdued. I noticed a few things each week that were unique and different, but overall it was within reasonable bounds of my expectations for what a church service should be.

    Whether we realize it or not, we are all born into a fishbowl where, like water to a fish, we don’t notice the characteristics of our surroundings. From the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, the music we listen to, the sports we spectate, the politics we espouse, and to the faith we practice - it all seems entirely normal and ordinary. It is only when we step outside our fishbowl that we can see the entire spectrum of possibilities, accurately place our experience relative to the median, and sample the broad expanse on either side of what we consider “normal”.

    Everyone on ADVRider who has taken a motorcycle ride longer than 200 miles shares one thing in common: They have stepped out of their fishbowl. On many continents, two hundred miles will often get you into another country, another language, another monetary/economic system, another ethnicity, and another culture. In North America two hundred miles might get you to a different subculture (- or it might not). True, some will drag as much of their own fishbowl water with them wherever they go by whatever means they travel, but motorcycles don’t facilitate insulation from one’s surroundings.

    I didn’t need to ride 200 miles to experience a new subculture. I only needed to point my RD in a slightly different direction and there was a whole new group of people with a completely different worldview just seven miles away (3)(4). Maybe it was discovery. Maybe it was restlessness. Maybe it was her mother’s obvious hatred running squarely into my stubbornness. Maybe it was her. Maybe it was Memphis (5). Whatever it was, the RD had put me on the path of changing fishbowls.

    (1 - Contrast Sarah’s mother with Susan’s. Shortly before meeting Sarah I received an unexpected phone call at home from my friend Susan’s mother. She knew me from the United Methodist Church and was a frequent customer at the drugstore. She requested that I ask her daughter on a date for her sixteenth birthday which I readily obliged. We went to a movie, Young Doctors in Love, and for dinner.)

    (2 - The surest way to fail as a parent of teenagers is to attempt to control that which is out of your control.)

    (3 - a worldview that revolved around Utah of all places) [reference the last line of Raising Arizona]

    (4 - chances are the same is true for you. Doubt it? How far away is the nearest Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witness?)

    (5 It would be a crime to leave out an apropos reference to a great song.)
  17. crabhab

    crabhab n00b

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    Thank you for providing a great RR and background for the RR. I hope to take the trip of a lifetime soon. I am 44 and feel like time is running out for some reason.

    BTW your memory is excellent when I meet up with high school and college friends I can barely remember names. They regale me with stories of my past and I try to recall the memories.
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  18. misterk

    misterk Been here awhile Supporter

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    great report, thanks. I stumbled on this in the new posts when I opened advrider
  19. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    I appreciate the compliment.

    I would suggest that Time is not running out for you. You still likely have plenty of Time on the game clock. What you are likely running short on is the energy to run up and down the field and, possibly, the motivation to embark on an egocentric adventure of a long motorcycle ride. What I can tell you is that it is likely your outlook on life will change around age fifty and the game goes into Overtime - a very long one if you are fortunate.

    Mrs. RD once called my ride to Alaska "... the trip of a lifetime...". I corrected her: "No, it's just a trip. You are The Trip of my lifetime." Twenty-one days riding doesn't compare to the highs and lows of being married to the same person for thirty years.

    Many people have commented on my memory over the years but it is not unusual among my peers at work.
  20. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Thank you, sir. I look forward to reading any ride reports you have posted.