On Tradition, Philosophy and Loaner VFRs.

It’s strange the habits we pick up. 10 years ago an old riding buddy told me he always rode on January 1st, regardless of the weather. He swore this set the tone for the coming year and ensured he rode as much as possible. I still believe him, as he put 60,000 miles on a new FJ1300 in one year when he had a choice of 2 other bikes as well.

In 2006 I was stationed in Colorado Springs, I moved there with a BMW R1100RS and a basket case R/60. When I was assigned back to Oklahoma 3 years later, I managed to acquire another 5 bringing the total to 7.  In the three years I lived in Colorado I accumulated over one hundred thousand miles on those bikes. There was never a month I didn’t ride street, dirt or track. I didn’t own a battery tender and never had a dead battery.

I also rode every New Years day. The first year I was back in Oklahoma I hauled my DR400 miles three hours north to ride in the Ft Gruber recreation area, en route I texted Ron.  He had sold his business and relocated to Pennsylvania. He was almost done snow blowing a big enough parcel in his driveway to ride his new FJ in figure 8s.

Stoics believe there is an order to the universe and that unhappiness comes from when you are out of sorts with that order. Swimming upstream, if you will, against the flow of the energy, the Logos. Logos is also known as the universal force, artistic fire, or as Heraclitus called it “the Word.” He further defined it as “that universal principle which animates and rules the world.”

I have been racking my brain to remember the last new years day that actually I rode. Jan 1, 2016, I did not ride, and I can’t for the life of me reason as to why. I had my Road King I had acquired the summer prior. On the first day of 2015, none of my remaining motorcycles were running. The first day of 2014 I was in Omaha after sneaking back from my final deployment to surprise my wife. Jan 1st of 2013 found me 2 weeks into that deployment. 2012, I might have ridden, but can’t recall. 2011 is also a fog. 2010? That was this ride to Ft Gruber.

I have been ignoring the flow of my universe, to my ultimate unhappiness.  So I planned ahead, originally I was going to get up early and hit the twisties in the north Georgia hills, but my accident to days prior and a steady flowing rain drowned any hopes of a long ride. But I was determined and had been so for a while. So I took a quick spin through some local landmarks and re-establish my tradition.

I know traditions are like superstition. But like long lasting versions of both, there is some truth. I don’t think that riding on New Years Day aligns cosmic forces to ensure I maximize my two-wheel time. Rather I view it as making time for something I consider important. In doing so, I place it to the forefront of my thoughts and priorities.

So if I can do that with motorcycles, why not everything else?  During the holiday break, I started waking up and hour earlier; because I noticed I was in a better mood when I wasn’t startled with an alarm. I am struggling with it still. I know it works because I spend the day is a much better mood, even if I am tired. Despite this, sleepy brain has a powerful “go back to sleep” argument when my alarm is going off.

Our New Year’s Eve celebrations were calm was calm but enjoyable , we headed to the downtown square where they do a “box drop.” Marietta Square underwent a renewal a few decades ago and is surrounded by interesting bars, niche eateries and a few small shops. New Years Eve is fun, there is a band stage and its social without having to deal with downtown or be cooped in a club. As a bonus the rain kept the crows down. We spent most of it at a pizza joint bar, then another traditional pub until just before midnight, where we spilled into the almost deserted square with other braving the drizzle for the countdown at midnight. Corny? Certainly, but it was still fun.

We didn’t stay out excessively late as we had in the past but I still didn’t get to bed until the wee hours. I had to fight sleepy brain to stay awake. Even as my enthusiasm was dampened by the weather (pun intended), I would still master my universe. So I braved the cold rain, geared up and headed for Kennesaw Mountain Park. The mountain is where a dug-in General Johnson successfully defended against Sherman’s last full frontal assault of the civil war. My planned ride to the top was thwarted by a road closure, because it was New Years day and I imagine to keep a safer clear a path for walkers and joggers on a Sunday.

But I still stopped for a few pics, then revisited the famed Marietta Square and the Strand Theater. From there I headed down Roswell road toward the site where Leo Frank was lynched and hung. But my destination was not political; I rode to a landmark around here, the Big Chicken.

Originally the eye catching gimmick of Johnny Reb’s Chick, Chuck and Shake, the 56-foot tall chicken was built over the restaurant in 1963, later the location was bought by KFC, and almost torn down after a storm in 1993 damaged the structure. After public outcry, including local military pilots who use it a visual reference, Pepsi Co decided to restore the chicken to it full eye rotating beak clucking mechanical glory. It’s an absurd bit of kitsch, but I do enjoy seeing it.

I am getting old; the cold and wet were starting to get to me. I headed in the general direction of home, swung by the Lockheed outdoor aviation museum and stopped for a light lunch at a local hipster coffee joint. It is well made coffee, roasted on site and I like the mechanical nature of the decor.

There, I contemplated the nature of my life. Once I am comfortable I have a nasty tendency to settle into an oblivious rut. It’s a pleasant existence to do so, but not a satisfying one. My grand adventures have always come from venturing into the unknown, the untested, or the potentially unpleasant.

When I was stationed in Oklahoma the first time, I had a good position. We weren’t deploying. Once a month I would travel to Las Vegas, Tucson or Virginia Beach for a week. If I wasn’t flying or mission planning, I arrived at work around 9, took a two-hour workout for lunch, and spent an inordinate amount of time on the Grassroots Motorsports message board. I was considered good at my job and my daily duty as the security manager. This did not stop me from rushing to my commander’s office with a printed email begging to deploy for 6 months as a United Nation Unarmed Military Observer with a peacekeeping mission in Africa. It was a trying and amazing experience I refer to often. It altered the course of my career and changed me as a person.

Yet here and now I often find myself in a comfortable rut, unwilling to forgo my comfort in the name of adventure and experience. This is not who I am or who I am supposed to be.

Warmed, I returned to the VFR and rode home, pausing for one more photo op. Most days I drive through this bridge to get home. Built in 1872, it is one of the oldest covered bridges still in use in Georgia. As a young child on visitation weekends with my Dad, passing through the bridge was a sign the voyage was almost done. It represents the same to me now, as it is a few miles from my house. When a nearby connector was finally completed in 1997, they made a point to not connect to this road, in order to reduce traffic and protect the bridge.

Because when something matters, be it an old habit, tradition or bridge; that’s what you are supposed to do, protect it.




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