Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Birthday, Steve

My son Steve is 35 today.
He was born on Halloween, 1970, and scared the hell out of his mother and me on several occasions during his growing-up years.
A professional jazz musician, Steve graduated cum laude from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
He married a beautiful, brilliant doctor and they have a beautiful little girl who is already a Force of Nature.
Here's how he looked 35 years ago.
Happy Birthday, Steve.

Friday, October 28, 2005


I got an e-mail from fraternity brother Reed McCormick this afternoon. Reed and I were the only Delphi High School grads in the fraternity during our time there. He was a charter member and was instrumental in me pledging Alpha Tau Omega.
Reed was a skinny hell-raiser with a kind heart and an outrageous sense of humor. His face was almost skeletal and we often kidded him that he had been the model for the skull on the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity badge.

Those, as I've probably related earlier, were the Animal House days for American fraternities. Lots of drinking and plenty of what would be considered criminal hazing by today's standards.
The Tekes, whose house was next door to ours, had a grease pit in the garage. One of their favorite games was to crowd their entire pledge class - could be as many as 20 guys - into the grease pit, giving each pledge an onion and a cigar. Then they would cover the greasepit with boards and lay a piece of carpet over the boards. Nobody came out until everyone had eaten his onion and smoked his cigar.
Over at the ATO house, my pledge class had it considerably easier. Mostly we got to do endless push-ups, "happy time" (back against the wall, knees bent in a sitting position and arms straight out in front of us until our muscles screamed in pain and failed us), and lineups where we stood at attention while the actives got in our faces with generous amounts of "constructive criticism."
One or two pledge classes later, someone came up with the idea of "ice baseball." The playing field was the fraternity house basement and the bases were three cakes of ice. The bat was a fraternity paddle. I'll leave the rest to your imagination.
Anyway, there was also a tradition of "road-tripping" in which pledges abducted actives or vice-versa, drove them miles out into the countryside and dumped them.
I was among a group of pledges who got road-tripped one cold March night. I think there were six or eight of us. We were bound, blindfolded and driven many miles from campus before we were released far up a remote southern Indiana valley at the foot of one of the world's longest wooden railroad trestles. It was a moonless night and the temperature was well below freezing, but we'd been gifted with extra sweatshirts and coats, so frostbite wasn't an issue. The first three houses we stopped at didn't have telephones - it was that deep into the boonies. We finally hiked into a small town, found a storefront hotel lobby that was open and phoned one of our pledge brothers who lived with his parents in Terre Haute. He rescued us and we were back in town in plenty of time for me to use my starter pistol to awaken the actives, slumbering in the third floor dorm at the house.
So this is all leading up to a story about the time some pledges bagged Reed and were preparing to road-trip him. According to the gentlemanly rules of road-tripping, if you were abducted alone you could request a buddy or a bottle. Reed chose the bottle. They provided him with a fifth of whiskey and he drank most, if not all, of it. He got so drunk and so sick that his abductors were panic stricken, worrying that he would die. Obviously, he didn't die, but it made everyone think twice about offering a bottle to a road trip victim after that.
Reed went on to a career in education in Arizona and Indiana. At present, he's at a cutting-edge charter school in Arizona and presumably has maintained a respectable front for many years.

The Lisa Report

My granddaughter Lisa was released from the hospital in Chicago this morning and she and her parents are back home in Cincinnati.
My son Steve called yesterday to give me an update on her condition following palate reconstruction (or would it just be construction?). He said she was in some discomfort but was playing and doing great.
He also said something that choked me up.
"She can say 'Dad' now. She makes the 'd' sound perfectly."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Another one bites the dust

Maria and I must have been sleeping lightly about 3:30 this morning because we both heard the mousetrap under her dresser go "whap!"
We both chuckled and went back to sleep.
I promised her she wouldn't have to look at our most recent victim, so I waited until she went to work before I retrieved the trap and attached mouse.
After photographing the deceased rodent, I tossed its body into the bushes for disposal by Mother Nature.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Operation successful!!!

Steve called me about noon today to say the palate repair operation was successful and he and Nicky were getting ready to go see Lisa.
Maria phoned him this evening and he reported Lisa is in some discomfort, but was on her second viewing of the evening of the "Finding Nemo" DVD on Steve's Powerbook.
Needless to say, we're all breathing easier now.
Thanks to everyone for your kind words and supporting thoughts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Trapper John

My wife is deathly afraid of mice.
So I knew there would be trouble when some movement over by the paper shredder caught my eye this afternoon. I turned to see a little gray mouse gazing back at me, sitting up on his haunches and twitching his nose.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" I asked him. He responded by scurrying out of the office door and out of sight.
I waited through dinner to broach the subject with Maria, who had me setting traps upstairs and down a few weeks ago after she glimpsed a mouse in the bedroom.
She was upstairs on a cordless phone making family Thanksgiving plans with her paramedic brother a few minutes ago when I heard her shriek. I knew right away what was up, even before I heard the word "mouse."
She insisted that I rebait the traps and set them near her closet, which is where the mouse fled after she shrieked.
Retrieving the trap from under her dresser, I discovered a very dead and somewhat smelly mouse, the steel bar of the trap having caved in his little skull. I hadn't looked at the trap for several days and, since we didn't hear it snap, we just supposed our trapping efforts were fruitless.
I carried the trap and the fruit of our trapping out to the far side of the driveway and dropped the dead mouse where I hope a neighborhood cat will find it.
The trap has been re-baited with Jif smooth peanut butter, reset and positioned near Maria's closet.
I am confident the trap will claim the most recent offender within the next day or two.
I hold no particular malice toward mice, but I think catch-and-release is a stupid waste of time. So I have no problem with killing things that don't belong in my house.
Update, 90 minutes later: We came upstairs after watching TV and found a dead mouse in my freshly set trap. This one went down the toilet.

Heading for Chicago

My son Steve, his wife Nicky and their daughter Lisa just left here for Chicago where Lisa will undergo palate surgery tomorrow morning.
Here are Steve and Lisa with their drinks for the road.
Send some positive thoughts their way, please.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Dyslexic D's?

I suspect this is an unintended validation of the name of the Crazy D's truck stop on I-74 at Crawfordsville, Ind.
Or maybe it should be called Stupid D's, or Illiterate D's or Dyslexic D's.
Or was the sign-maker subconsciously thinking of the word "imbicile?"
At any rate, this sign appears on each of the dozen or so gas pumps at the car fueling area.
I made a point of staying with my vehcile while fueling.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Another Day, Another Calendar

I told you I was getting lots of ideas for calendars.
Today's effort is called Back Home Again in Indiana 2006 and features a dozen photos from rural and small-town Indiana - real Heartland stuff.
The trick, of course, is to promote these things and get enough eyes on them to generate sales. I'm still working on that.
I spent an hour or so today looking up Civil War re-enactor websites and e-mailing people associated with them, asking them to pass the URL for our calendar around to their members.
Here's a small-scale preview of the Indiana calendar.

A Good Day

Yesterday was a good day.
I got word that I've won a spot news photo award from the Hoosier State Press Association (won't know if it's a 1st, 2nd or 3rd until the state convention on Dec. 3) and I published a Civil War re-enactor calendar..

I'm a computer geek and a devoted viewer of Leo Laporte's "Call for Help" on the G4 channel. The other morning, they did a piece on, a self-publishing website where you can create books, calendars, music, video, all kinds of stuff. The printed matter only gets created in paper form when someone orders a copy, so there's no inventory to worry about and the Lulu folks let you keep 80 percent of the profit.
After I checked out their website, my head was full of ideas for calendars drawn from our extensive photo archives. My first effort was the 2006 Civil War Re-enactor Calendar, which I put together over about a three-hour period yesterday and got posted. If you're a Civil War buff, or know someone who is, check it out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Meet the creep my stepdaughter somehow found attractive.
I think he's a high school graduate, but I can't substantiate it. At last report, he was unemployed, living with friends in Bloomington, Ind.

After months of mental and emotional abuse from this jerk, my stepdaughter finally wised up and decided she was done with him. After all, she's a dean's list business major at Indiana University and he's a loser with at least a juvenile record.
So she told him it's over and now he's stalking her.
I fully expect he will assault her before this business is over.
This is the little puke Maria chased out of the driveway with a garden hose this summer.

Senior Portraits

We did a photo shoot for a girl's senior portrait(s) on Saturday - our first for pay.
Every job we do, we conclude that we're underchaging.
The original deal was an hour's on-location shooting for $100, which gets the client CDs with all of the images and then it's up to them to get prints made.
This gig ran three hours, but we stuck with the contracted $100 price. It looks like most of our business will be by word of mouth from satisfied clients, so we resolved to suck it up and give it our best shot and charge more up front next time.
The original plan when the mother contacted us a couple of months ago was to wait for the leaves to change to their fall colors and we penciled Saturday, Oct. 15 in as a possible date. By late last week, it was obvious that the colors would just not be there yet, so I assumed we would reschedule. The mom called at 8 a.m. Saturday to confirm that we were going to be at their plate at 9 a.m. I noted that the trees were still pretty green, but she felt we should go ahead because it was a bright sunny day.

Bright sunny days may be nice for landscape photography, but they make for deep facial shadows and lots of contrast that is bad news for portraiture. Nevertheless, we threw all of our gear into the back of the Subuaru Forester and drove to their place.
The girl and her family live on a farm near us and have horses, so they went with mostly equestrian themes.
The first outfit they had for her was a white satin gown straight out of Lord of the Rings and the plan was for the girl to wear it while walking her snow-white horse through a field. Sounds fine in concept, but white horses and white satin gowns in brilliant sunlight make for a huge tonal range that exceeds the capacity of our digital cameras and is way beyond the even more limited total range of film.
Consequently, about two-thirds of those images were so blown out with light overload that they were unusable, although we did get a few that are pretty decent.
Then she changed into jeans, t-shirt and vest and we did a series of shots of her riding the white horse.

Next, we put her in a cowboy hat and posed her at the door to the horse's stable.
The girl is a classical pianist, so her mom next dressed her in a red satin gown and we posed her at the keyboard of their baby grand in an impossibly small music room - thank God for wide-angle lenses. Then mom put her on top of the piano in a Jessica Rabbit-type set of poses.
Finally, the girl changed into a t-shirt and cammo pants to pose with her cat.
We ended up shooting about 900 images, which we ended up paring down to about 670 usable pictures, including 63 that we recommended as candidates for the final selection.
I've not done the math to figure out how much we made per hour, counting shooting and photo prep, because I know I would be very depressed. I'm pretty sure it would be less than the current Federal minimum wage.
But what the hell? It's a start and, if they like our work, they'll show it to friends and that could lead to more (appropriately priced) business.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Sweet Sorrow

To paraphrase the Bard, parting out is such sweet sorrow.
My 1991 BMW K100RS was a fabulous motorcycle. It was pearl silver, just like the one some Japanese design institute hailed as the most beautiful motorcycle in the world in 1991. I remain in full agreement.
On June 24, 1991, when I rode my new bike out of the parking lot of BMW Motorcycles of Indianapolis, I vowed that one day I'd see the odometer turn over 100,000 miles.
I remember chuckling at the audacity of BMW to put an odometer on their K-bikes that would read so high: Most bikes are junk long before their odometers need a sixth digit. But I knew this bike could do 100 grand and lots more.
I really wasn't in the market for a new bike back in the spring of '91. I had 80,000 miles on my 1981 R100RS and still had big traveling plans for that elegant graphite twin that had shown me so much of the country. I figured I'd eventually replace it with another R100RS, since the RS riding position suits me so well.
One afternoon, just to humor dealer Greg Polzin, I took one of his new 16-valve K100s out for a demo ride. In less than 15 minutes, I was utterly seduced by the power and the handling of the new K. As I headed back to the dealership, I was doing the math to buy one of these amazing machines.
Luckily, this seduction came at a time when my finances made the purchase possible and the new bike was soon mine.
A few weeks later, I headed west for a week in Breckenridge, Colo., with Indianapolis BMW Club friends and then on to the Top O' the Rockies Rally in Paonia, Colo., then down through southern Utah to the BMW MOA National Rally in Flagstaff.
I remember how proud I was riding into the rally at Flagstaff. Heads turned. Riders gathered around to ogle the bike whenever I stopped. This was, after all, the new flagship of the BMW line - the latest example of the legendary BMW engineering prowess.
Over the next 12 years, the bike carried me through 40 states and two Canadian provinces.
We've climbed the highest paved road in the United States to the summit of Mount Evans and we've screamed across the Nevada desert at just under 150 mph.
It performed reliably in temperatures ranging from 20 below zero to 115 above.
Together, we've carved twisties from Deal's Gap to Big Sur, endured savage Kansas crosswinds and Wyoming hailstones. We've split lanes in Los Angeles freeway rush hour traffic and passed solitary hours cruising the Natchez Trace and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
We've raced thunderstorms across the southern Utah wastelands and probed California redwood forests so deep and dense it was dark at midday.
This magnificent machine has carried me across the Golden Gate and down Highway AIA to Key West and up the backbone of the Canadian Rockies from Banff to Jasper.
We've ridden the entire length of historic U.S. 50 from Sacramento, Calif., to Ocean City, Md.
My memory is flooded with images from the saddle:
* Endless fields of North Dakota sunflowers at sunrise, each turning its golden face to the rising sun that warmed my back.
* The haunting tragic sadness of the Shiloh battlefield.
* Riding the white sands of Daytona Beach.
* The incredible intoxicating sweet aroma of desert flowers after a Wyoming thunderstorm.
* Mount Hood shining at the western end of the Columbia River Gorge.
* An unseen Ponderosa pine forest filling my helmet with fragrance as I rode into Flagstaff at midnight.
* The snow-clad majesty of the Colorado Rockies as I-70 ascends to the clouds west of Denver.
* The hellish sulfur pits of Yellowstone.
* Dodging rubber shrapnel as the car in front of me shredded a rear tire on a California freeway.
* Climbing to the snowy summit of Independence Pass before attacking the twisty road down to Aspen and lunch at the Woody Creek Tavern.
To be fair, there were problems. This bike, like many of its generation, had chronic exhaust system problems. It liked to break welds between the header pipes and the muffler and did so in the summers of '92, '94 and '95. In the summer of '93, it broke a baffle in Nebraska. Each time, BMW replaced the $1,800 exhaust system under warranty. Finally, when a weld failed at Mount Rushmore in 1995 and BMW couldn't get a replacement to me quickly, I rode to California BMW at Mountain View and stepped up to a Staintune. A year later, the Staintune ripped itself apart 60 miles west of Oklahoma City. It was replaced under warranty with what was touted as a more robust version. In '97, the header pipe developed a spiral crack a few inches forward of the muffler. Naturally, I was on my annual Mid-Life Crisis Tour at the time - the Fourth of July weekend in Silverthorne, Colo., to be precise. I spent two extra days waiting for BMW of Denver to open on a Tuesday before I could get welded, ride on to the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America rally in Missoula, Mont., and then to Portland and finally to Mountain View to get a replacement. That was the bike's final exhaust crisis and the Staintune held together for the rest of the bike's life.
The top end of the engine, found to have a bad exhaust port, was replaced at 30,000 miles. I replaced the alternator in Portland, Ore., in 1996. The fan quit in Tennessee in 1997, shooting a geyser of coolant out of the right side cover.
When I took delivery of the bike, I only made two minor modifications: I added a front fender extension to protect the radiator and belly pan and I installed a luggage rack.
I loved the clean, sculpted look of the bike and took care that subsequent tweaks preserved the look. I upgraded the headlight with a 100/80-watt bulb, added a Hyperlite flasher to the brake light, replaced the right bar end weight with a Wrist Rest cruise control, swapped the stock clock for a Fuel Plus clock/fuel calculator and replaced the wrung-out stock shock absorber with a Works shock. I also replaced the stock black saddlebags with custom painted matching pearl silver bags.
I estimate I've gone through 42 tires - 26 front and 16 rear - and filled the tank about 900 times.
I could go on to tally the quarts of oil and how much I've spent on service, but that's stuff for the bean counters.
And I hate bean counters.
The odometer reached the 100,000 mile mark at 5:10 p.m. Oct. 19, 1997 in the 2900 block of North Meridian Street in Indianapolis.
But, like the Energizer bunny, the bike kept going and going and going.
I was at the BMW Riders Association rally in Red River, N.M. in July, 2002, with about 153,000 miles on the odometer when I noticed a rattling noise that sounded like it came from deep inside the engine.
The noise didn't go away and, when I had it checked by the guys at BMW of Santa Cruz a few days later they opined it would cost too much in labor to dig that deeply into the engine and suggested I have it checked when I got home.
The final verdict came months later from Phil Forgey, head technician at Revard BMW Motorcycles in Indianapolis. The bushings on the output shaft were disintegrating. By now, the bike had 159,698 miles on it and, considering its age and mileage, the cost in labor and parts to fix it would be greater than the value of the motorcycle. Dealer Bill Revard said I'd be lucky to get $2,000 for a bike with nearly 160,000 miles on it.
I decided to ride it the remaining distance to the 160k mark and then think about parting it out, concluding that there ought to be at least $2,000 worth of saleable parts.
Finally, just before Thanksgiving, 2003, with 160,124 on the odometer, I got out my tools and started removing parts, photographing them and listing them on Ebay.
Over the past two years, I've stripped off the gorgeous pearl silver fairing, removed the starter and alternator, handlebars, engine and antilock brake computers, fuel tank and other stuff, cleaned them up, photographed them and sold them to BMW riders all over the country.
The saddlebags are in Sheffield, Ill.; the seat is in Chelmsford, Mass.; the fuel gauge went to Lusby, Md.; the temperature gauge to Tampa Bay, Fla. The headlight and rear wheel are in the Florida Keys and the tailpiece in Washington, Mich.
The Staintune Sport Exhaust is singing its song up in Wayzata, Minn. Parts of my bike are as far northwest as Bainbridge Island, Wash. I sent the Bosch Motronic Computer to Pierrefonds, Quebec, Canada. The Fiamm horns can be heard in Banner Elk, N.C. The left footpeg is in Pleasant Valley, N.Y., and the right one is in Tiverton, Ontario, Canada.
In July, when I went to the BMWMOA national rally in Lima, Ohio, where about 5,000 BMW riders gathered, I wondered how much of my old bike was there.
Searching the internet, I found and downloaded an Adobe Acrobat version of the K1100RS/LT service manual. It's been a huge help in the more complicated stages of disassembly, since I'm pretty inept mechanically.
The day I shipped my first parts, I told the folks at my local postoffice, "You're going to see an entire motorcycle come across this counter over the next couple of years."
At this point, the engine, frame, front wheel, front brake calipers, front and rear brake rotors, centerstand-sidestand combo, transmission and drive train and other odds and ends remain to be disassembled and auctioned.
And my auction proceeds total $3,504.92, which has been a big help in making the payments on my new bike - an '03 BMW K1200GT.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


I fired my employer five years ago today.
I was working for The Indianapolis Star, which had been hijacked by idiots and fools, and it was becoming increasingly obvious that Managing Editor Tim F. and his fat flunky Chuck were wasting the time I was selling them. So I fired the bastards.
No two weeks' notice. No second chances. Fuck 'em.
I have three people to thank for making this bold act possible: my parents and Maria.
My widowed mother died on Oct. 5, 2000. Her funeral was on Monday, Oct. 9. I reviewed her finances the next day and on Wednesday, Oct. 11, I came to the conclusion that I had been handed a golden parachute.
As I drove to work that morning, I phoned Maria and told her what was on my mind.
"I think I'm going to quit today," I said.
"I dare you," she shot back.
That was all I needed to hear.
When I reached the Metro North Bureau of The Star in Carmel, Ind., I sat down at my desk, picked up the phone and called Human Resources.
"Cash me in today. I'm done," I told the HR woman.
"Well," she said, "since you turned 55 three months ago, you're eligible for early retirement with a reduced pension..."
"Okay, I'm retiring then."
"Do I suffer any kind of penalty for not giving two weeks' notice?" I asked.
"Well, do you think you'll ever need a recommendation from The Star?"
"No, I think 34 years pretty much speaks for itself," I said after I quit laughing.
By this time, everyone else in my office had stopped working and were listening to my end of the conversation, amazed by what they were hearing. It shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. I'd been thinking out loud about it for months.
I remember the startled, horrified look on Bureau Chief Dennis Royalty's face one evening when we were grousing about the way Fat Chuck was jerking us around and wasting our resources.
"You know, Dennis, we don't have to do this. We can walk out of here anytime and go do something else," I said.
At that time, Dennis' identity and entire self-image were based on being a newspaperman. It must have been an unthinkable, terrifying idea to abandon that concept of himself. I, on the other hand, was well-along in the process of disengagement.
Most of my career had been on a vastly superior, albeit financially less successful, sister paper - The Indianapolis News. Being the evening paper, we had been steadily losing reader for decades as more and more people turned to TV for their evening news. That forced us to work harder and do more with less staff. Since the only other daily paper in town was The Star, we worked hard at beating them to stories. And when they got the story first, we followed up with a version that was so much better that the readers forgot they saw it in The Star first.
For years, we told ourselves we were much more talented and professional than our opposite numbers at The Star. When the two papers were merged in 1995 and we found ourselveds working alongside Star reporters, we were astonished to discover that wasn't just empty bravado - we actually were better than them. Most, we discovered, were room temperature I.Q., marginally competent and generally lazy.
There were, of course, some notable exceptions, but they were few.
The merger actually hastened the demise of The News, since it now functioned with a further reduced staff and contained a lot of the same stories as The Star. I folded in the autumn of 1999.
For me, things became intolerable when Tim F. became managing editor and set about reinventing wheels that worked just fine before he got there.
I had high hopes when he showed up. But when he called us all together for a mass meeting in the ballroom of the Indianapolis Athletic Club and gave us his vision of what The Star could be, my heart sank. Maria and I stared at each other in horror when he used "effort" as a verb in response to a staffer's question - "We'll effort that..."
Naturally, we all had to re-apply for our jobs - something we'd had to do several times in the previous five years because all of our new leaders felt compelled to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Never in all the time I worked for The Star or The Indianapolis News did a managing editor ever take the time to learn the hidden strengths and interests of the staff. We had an office full of people with incredibly varied interests and knowledge that went untapped because management saw them as "units" to be used more or less interchangably. Somewhere along the line, we had stopped being a newspaper and were now a newspaper factory. Writing was no longer a craft worthy of personal pride; we were just laborers knocking out piece work.
When Gannett bought the paper in mid-2000, many of us older staffers hoped for a buy-out - some kind of early retirement incentive - but none was offered. There was no need to reduce the staff with such offers because people were already leaving in droves.
So I didn't have to think twice about using my golden parachute. I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life, but I sure as hell wasn't going to waste another day doing something I had grown to loathe.
I like to think I inspired some of my friends to leave.
Within a year, Dennis was gone to a corporate PR job, my longtime News friends Art Harris and Diane Frederick bailed out and a little later Scott Miley - one of the few Star people I admire - quit to take a school PR job.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some writing to do for Maria's paper - a medium-sized daily with a newsroom of quirky talented misfits who haven't forgotten how to have fun with newspapering.

Monday, October 10, 2005

October in the High Country

My friend Tim, who lives at 10,500 feet in Alma, Colo., sent me this shot of his snowbound bike a few minutes ago, lamenting that his riding season is probably over.
That's quite a contrast to the scene out my window where the trees haven't even begun to change into their fall colors yet.

Days and bikes gone by

I came across this photo this morning - a flashback to my first real touring BMW and the summer of 1990.
The bike was an '81 BMR R100RS and I bought it used from the former Cycle Werks in Indianapolis in the late summer of 1985 with about 17,000 miles on the odometer. It had sat on the showroom floor for a year or so, apparently waiting for me to decide to buy it. The previous owner had installed an aftermarket tinted windscreen that was tall enough to provide more wind protection but also tall enough to look really stupid and compromise the bike's beautiful lines.
I bought the bike with proceeds from WWII Nazi regalia I'd received from my then-father-in-law. I sold a dress cap for a Third Reich Diplomatic Ministry uniform and the accompanying brocade tunic belt for about $2,000 to a woman in Somerset, Ky., who was a dedicated collector of Third Reich Diplo stuff and had written a reference book on the subject.

I left the too-tall windscreen on the bike through the winter, but replaced it with a stock windscreen the next spring.
At the time, I had three other motorcycles in my garage: My first, a 1977 Kawasaki KE175 dual-purpose two-stroke, a 1978 Kawasaki KZ650 and my inaugural BMW, a '71 R50/5. The R50/5 was a fine machine for one-up riding as long as you weren't in much of a hurry. It had classic lines and looked the part of an elegant gentleman's motorcycle.
But the R100RS was the obvious next step for me, since my tastes were beginning to run toward sport touring. I still think it's one of the most beautiful motorcycles ever designed.
This was the bike that opened up the world of long-distance touring for me. The following July, it took me on a three-week ride to the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America National Rally at Laguna Seca race course near Monterey, Calif. I rode out with BMW Club friends Tim and Linda Balough and can remember with remarkable clarity every road we took and every overnight stop. It was truly a transformational experience.
That autumn, I rode it to New Orleans and Baton Rouge and rekindled a relationship with a woman I'd known since 1966. It was the beginning of a cycle of turmoil that would eventually destroy my marriage and leave the taste of ashes in my mouth for a long time after. I haven't blogged about that pivotal episode in my life, but I probably should.
At any rate, I rode the RS to Colorado every summer from 86 to 90 and it took me to BMWMOA national rallies in Madison, Ind., and Rapid City, S.D.
It was during the 'MOA rally at Rapid City in 1990 that this photo was taken during a day ride with friends to Devil's Tower. After the rally, we rode down to Breckenridge, Colo., where we spent our traditional Indianapolis BMW Club Colorado Week riding the Rockies.

I parted company with the RS and the rest of my fleet of motorcycles - it was costing a lot in insurance and excise taxes to maintain a bunch of bikes I wasn't riding - the following June when I got seduced by a pearl silver 1991 BMW K100RS.
I had 80,000 on the odometer of the gray RS by the time I sold it to a young fire fighter for $1,900.
I saw it a couple of years ago sitting outside the service department of Revard BMW Motorcycles in Indianapolis. It had about 100,000 miles on the odometer and had not been treated kindly. The windscreen had been partially cut away with a Saws-all, leaving a jagged edge. The fairing showed scrapes and scars from crashes.
But I knew it was my old bike because of the aftermarket stuff - the heated handgrips, the oven-thermometer oil temperature gauge, the Reynolds Ride-off centerstand and the mudflaps. I toyed with the idea of buying it back and restoring it, but it just didn't feel right. I concluded that whatever karma I had with the bike had been worked through and I should let it go.
Even so, I have lots of fond memories of what this motorcycle did for my personal development and this Devil's Tower shot underscores one of them.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Motorcycle therapy

Even though I didn't make it to the BMW RA rally in Tennessee this weekend, I got in a little motorcycle therapy this afternoon.
My wife was stuck writing a couple of stories for her newspaper and I was hanging out in our home office keeping her company when she observed that it was a beautiful, sunny fall day and I should go for a ride.
Sounded like a splendid idea.
So I suited up, put in my in-ear monitors and plugged into my XM satellite radio Roady and hit the road.
I ended up doing a 103-mile look through west central Indiana - almost as far as the Illinois border.
It was great to get out and blow out the cobwebs, even though I really should have been doing yardwork or getting organized to paint the front porch.
Other than a short romp on I-74 from one exit to the next, I did the entire ride on secondary roads, which I had pretty much to myself. It was also a perfect day for harvesting and I saw dozens of farmers out combining soybeans. A couple of them returned my waves.
I left home about 1:45 p.m. and returned about 3:30 p.m., so I guess I made fairly good time for being on backroads.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Gander Mountain

Maria likes the Arctic Cat 4-wheelers at Gander Mountain.

Barnes & Noble

Interesting. I just sent a photo from the camera program of my Treo 600 and ran into a character limit on the text accompanying it. I hope no such limit applies to the e-mail. It appears not.
I'm sitting at a Barnes & Noble, with my vente caffe mocha and typing away with my fold-out Treo keyboard, just as if I had my laptop. This is way cool.

Sent from my Treo

Caffe Mocha!

While Maria is at her Second Saturday quilt meeting, I'm enjoying my customary vente caffe mocha at Barnes & Noble.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Or not...

Hurricane Tammy kept me home this weekend.
The prospect of rallying in the cold rain in Tennessee just didn't appeal to me, even though I would have had a chance to visit my cousin Sam, who lives in Nashville.
Maybe I'll paint the front porch this weekend.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

One last road trip

Tennessee is calling me.
Well, it's actually the road and my bike calling and Tennessee is the destination for what may be my last road trip of the year.
The BMW Riders Association's national rally is this weekend in Shelbyville, Tenn. and the weather looks good enough - seasonably cool with no rain in the forecast.
My trip planning software tells me that if I leave at 9 a.m. on Thursday, I'll arrive about 4 p.m. in Shelbyville, but it'll be 5 p.m. there because they're on Eastern Daylight Time.
Several members of my local BMW club are going, but I prefer to ride alone. Group riding is a hassle unless I'm in the lead because I like to use my electronic cruise control. If I'm trying to maintain position in a group of bikes, I have to keep adjusting the cruise setting because of the fluctuations in everyone else's speed.
Riding alone, I can set the cruise on 75 mph or so, punch in a favorite XM Radio station and watch the miles roll by.
This is my first road trip with the new Treo 600 and its keyboard, so I expect to be able to blog from the road. We shall see.
I've been among those earning the club's >10,000-mile award almost every year I've been a member, but I'm going to have to push to make the 10k mark this year. Last time I checked, I was around 6,000 miles since Jan. 1. I've been riding Maria's K75S to commute to her office some 18 miles west of here, mainly to save the tires on my bike for long rides. It also keeps her bike in good running order. We made the mistake of letting it sit idle for several months a couple of years ago and the result was about $750 for rebuilt fuel injectors to replace the ones that were corroded by water condensation in the gas tank.
Even though it's Maria's bike, she hasn't ridden it for nearly two years. The experience of getting hit head-on in our Buick by a blind woman did a number on her confidence. At the same time, other activities competed for her riding time and won.
I'm due for a 12,000-mile service interval on my K1200GT, so I'll book that at the dealership in Savoy, Ill., after I get home from Tennessee.
I've managed to get through most of a year without needing the services of a BMW motorcycle dealership, our local dealer having gone out of business last December. But the bike needs service and I must now contemplate a 100-mile ride to suburban Champaign, Ill. But not until after Tennessee.

Monday, October 03, 2005

A favorite quote

"The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

The famous quote is about a hundred years old and can be traced to the work of Finley Peter Dunne, one of the great journalists of the day, who wrote about politics and culture in the voice and persona of an Irishman named "Mr. Dooley."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Chasing ghosts

I’ve only partially processed the experience of the last two days, so this post will be a bit unfocused.
I spent Friday evening and a good portion of yesterday with about 50 of my Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity brothers. The occasion was the dedication of a new fraternity house at Indiana State University at Terre Haute. It’s the first purpose-built fraternity house in the school’s history and stands conveniently at the north edge of the campus. The old house was what passed for a mansion 110 years ago in Terre Haute in heavily treed neighborhood about a mile south of the campus. When I was a student, it was part of a “fraternity row,” of sorts. Tau Kappa Epsilon was next door to the south, Lambda Chi Alpha was a couple of doors north and Theta Chi was across the street.
Over the subsequent 40-plus years, the old house managed to outlive its usefulness. It was too small, too costly to heat, too expensive to maintain and too far from campus.
The chapter was chartered in 1963, so it’s taken four decades to grow an alumni base with the wherewithal to raise $1.3 million for a new house.
I signed up for the Dedication Weekend activities in the hope of catching up with a lot of old friends. Other than being on hand for a significant event in the chapter’s history and providing a photographic record of it, I might as well have stayed home.
With the exception of one guy, none of my old friends – and no one from my pledge class – showed up.
Maria came along and was an astonishingly good sport throughout.
As I looked around me at the dedication banquet last night, it occurred to me that I was in a room full of millionaires. Considering that I’m halfway there, on paper at least, being worth $1 million isn’t that big of a deal for a diligent college grad in his late 50s or older.
Especially for this crowd. When I enrolled at Indiana State, it was called Indiana State College – a transitional name the school bore for only a couple of years as it ramped up from Indiana State Teachers College to Indiana State University.
So a lot of the guys in my fraternity, the newest and most vital on campus at the time, were there to become educators and most of the others were business majors. Now that I think of it, I only remember one music major, no writers and no artists.
During my era, at least, Zeta Omicron of Alpha Tau Omega was cranking out ambitious, serious young men who were prepared to work hard and achieve the American Dream.
I, on the other hand, was the poster boy for underachievement. I set the record for SAT scores at my high school, had a state scholarship and a projected graduating GPA of 4.0.
But I found too much at Indiana State to interest me outside of the classroom – hanging with friends, learning everything there was to know about the student newspaper, drinking and carousing… While I was flunking out twice and dragging down the chapter cumulative GPA, ZO had the best GPA of any fraternity on campus and was the top ATO chapter in the nation academically.

While I was way out of tune with the fraternity’s academic life, I gloried in the pranks, road trips and drunken revelry that constituted the male bonding social side of the coin.
This was the early ‘60s Animal House Period for American college fraternities and I recognized myself and a lot of my friends in the movie.
So I guess that’s the ghost I was chasing when I sent in my reservation for the Dedication Weekend festivities.
I’d also hoped the weekend would give Maria, who was born the year I pledged ATO, some insights into my personal history.
We found ourselves in the company of friendly strangers with whom we had very little in common.
The guys I would have enjoyed seeing are either disconnected from the fraternity or disconnected from life, i.e. dead.
Like Jerry Chud, a brilliant happy-go-lucky vagabond who was in grad school in Missoula, Mont., when he saw a note on a bulletin board advertising an opening for a high school music teacher in Selawik, Alaska. Selawik is a tiny Eskimo village situated where the Arctic Circle crosses the Alaskan coastline. Jerry took the job, taught himself to play all of the band instruments and had a successful life as an Alaskan music educator until a brain tumor took his life in the mid-1990s.
Like Jan Eglen, a brilliant guy who gave up his goal of following in his physician father’s footsteps when he encountered his first med school cadaver. He went on to found a hovercraft company, have a practice as a psychologist and launch several internet businesses. He was also my best man at my first wedding, but I have never held that against him.
Like Oz Morgan, who gave up trying to teach English to junior high school kids after about three years and went into banking. He’s president of a medium-size bank now and we get together every few years.
Like Jim White, a high school track star who majored in math and graduated from ISU with a 4.0, only to piss it all away on drugs and debauchery starting with the 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco. The last time I heard from him, he was homeless and living on the beach at Ft. Myers, Fla.
Like Bill Broadstreet, a trumpet-playing music major who went on to become a music teacher in the Indianapolis Public Schools system. Bill followed in his alcoholic father’s footsteps and died about 10 years ago.
And like Reed McCormick, who graduated from Delphi High School two years ahead of me and was a pivotal influence in my pledging ATO. Reed, for years a respected educator – most recently at a charter school in Arizona – was an absolute wild man in college.
Sure, it was great to see the new house and meet some of the current crop of Zeta Omicron guys. And it was interesting to see how the ISU campus has morphed into something barely recognizable as the college campus of my misspent youth.
The purpose of the weekend was to thank those who made the new house happen and to formally transfer it to the care of a new generation and the organizers did it well. I’m glad I was there to see it.
But I was mostly politely bored.