Saturday, October 29, 2011


Along Drum Powerhouse Road

A WONDERFUL ASPECT of living in Northern California is the fact that November can be knocking but there may still be weeks of good riding with lots of places to explore. A day or two before Halloween, I took Aria, the Guzzi, out for a little two-hour spin and ended up on Drum Powerhouse Road east of Dutch Flat.

DRUM POWERHOUSE ROAD is a single lane of asphalt that follows the ins and outs of the south side of the Bear River Canyon for about four miles. It is a pleasant ride that does not call for excessive speed – with the possible sunny-day exception being excessive shutter speed.

(I waste a lot of electrons taking pictures of Aria - and "the Horse,” the GSA sitting at home in the garage this day.  That said, click on any picture to enlarge it.)

DRUM POWERHOUSE, returns water to the Bear River just east of Dutch Flat after containing the river flow somewhere upstream, rocketing it down penstocks and forcing it past turbines which turn at great velocity in order to produce electric power. Remember? We learned about this in sixth grade science.

Dutch Flat's claim to fame? It was the spot where the Big Four and Theodore Judah finalized plans for the Central Pacific's crossing of the Sierra. A portion of the historic route follows the southern ridge at the top of this canyon. This area fairly oozes history.

JUST DOWNSTREAM is Drum Forebay, a small retention pond where the water emitted from the powerhouse is allowed to stand while its temperature rises. This practice helps protect the fish population from being shocked by the cold water pulled from the icy bottom of a high mountain reservoir – rather than exposed to its normal flow with occasional shallow depths and sun along its course out of the Sierra.

I DON'T RECALL whom or what was eating Gilbert Grape, but something is certainly feasting on this Broadleaf Maple Leaf.

The Saturday chores I’d put off, waited for my return, so it appears that the only magic this day would be that which I always find on the Open Road.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

Thursday, October 27, 2011


California State Route 32

ON AN UNBOOKED WEDNESDAY in October, I braved the forty-degree morning and ventured up Highway 32 in search of the colors of fall. Highway 32 between Chico and its “T” at Highway 36 proved to be my growing up playground – as a kid and as an adult. Deer Creek ran full, but the flood was of memories.

ONCE UPON A LONG TIME AGO, a fire lookout stood at a point known as Windy Cut. Dad and brother and I would find this a perfect locale for "relief" after a day traipsing around Ishi's habitat with Dad in the lead, telling stories and convincing us we were not lost. Great memories.

It was here, in about 1995, that I took a nap after a final visit with Dad at the Twin Pines convalescent hospital down in Chico. Turns out, as I rested, he crossed over.  I always stop at the Windy Cut when taking Highway 32 - if only for that relief and to remember.

THE STEEL BRIDGE across Deer Creek is the halfway point between Chester, where I lived for a time, serving as Principal of the Elementary School, and Chico, where I grew up to the extent I grew up. This picture, taken in 2011, could have been taken in 1955. A fishing trail follows the north west side of the creek downstream into the Ishi Wilderness area.

Many family hikes traced the edge of Deer Creek having found parking at the bridge. Sometimes with friends. Sometimes, just us. Dad would tell stories of the Yahi Indians and of Ishi, then thought to be their lone descendant, who swam in these waters and speared salmon. I often thought of myself standing on a rock with a hand-hewn spear tipped with obsidian and harvesting a rich pink specimen. My brother suggested I’d probably starve first.

When I was a kid, Mom referred to this as Wild Rhubarb. Not ever wanting to question her, I have not looked this up in Sierra Nevada Natural History, the Church of the Open Road’s primary “Bible” for all things natural. If anyone does and finds out something different, let me know. That way I can be exposed to the truth and still be free of questioning Mom.

Backlit, this black oak leaf captivates.

AT DEER CREEK MEADOWS, just southwest of 32's T with 36, the Lassen Trail still exists. I stumbled across it this day and thought that soon, I'm going to ride that cut-off from stem to stern. Peter Lassen’s road started out past the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, crossing into California at Fandango Pass, thence traversing the barren Modoc Plateau. Bearing south, Uncle Pete found the headwaters of Deer Creek and followed it west, more or less, to the valley floor. This length of graded gravel certainly looks inviting.

More info on the Lassen Trail.

In late October, the bucolic Deer Creek Meadows rest parched and browning, only a few weeks shy of being blanketed by next winter's snow. The sky has a misty, high-country autumn tint. The air is flavored by pinewood fire smoke from the great rock fireplace of a nearby lodge. And a creek runs through it.

ONE EXPLORATION OF THE RUGGED LAND of the Yahi ended up, somehow in the “town” of Mill Creek. Perhaps Dad saw the sign on Highway 36 and wondered what was down there. That happened all the time. I was in the back seat of his 1950 Willy’s Jeepster and all I recall was an immediate and rather abrupt turn at the great white barn.

Fifty years ago, we came to a little resort that, I discovered, still stands today. Hidden behind the lattice at the right-hand end of the porch is an ice cream cooler that beheld a delight on a stick: vanilla ice cream on the inside and frozen root beer on the outside. I think Dad paid fifteen cents for it. Maybe only a dime. Never the less, as a nine-year-old, I knew what heaven tasted like.

This day, the Mill Creek Resort closed at 1:00 PM. It was 1:10 when I arrived.

I would have been disappointed that the little inn was closed – and was – until, rounding a bend on state route 172, the light played perfectly against the golden leaves of another black oak. I realized that this was one of many good days of riding I've enjoyed this season. The root beer ice cream pop would just have to wait. Perhaps another fifty years.


I took this only because it appeared to be a government sign not destroyed by someone with a six-shooter - rather destroyed by Mother Nature who may well believe that the whole planet should be considered a preserve.

It’s tough to disagree with Mother Nature. Probably bad policy, too.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


The fifty-seven regular season home runs didn’t matter. Bottom of the ninth. One out. Bases loaded. The most feared closer in all of baseball stared in from under an imposing Navy blue cap. It was now or never.

A BUDDY OF MINE is woefully between bikes. The circumstance from which this arises is of little consequence, but the conversation always ensues: Which motorcycle to get when the time for getting’ gets here?

He’s put a couple thousand miles on rented BMW GSs over the course of two extended-weekend road trips. “I like the upright seating and the durability of the Beemer,” he reports. Then he adds “But 140 horsepower on that Ducati…” or “But the Triumph Tiger with 114 horsepower…” or “The Rocket III’s got tons of power…” followed by, “What do you think?”

I own a GS – the Adventure model – that come with 100+ horsepower. I’ve owned Hondas, Kawasakis, Beemers and now a Guzzi, ranging in displacement from 90cc to nearly 1200cc and ranging in horsepower from 7 to the GS’s 100.

I’ve ridden trails and Forest Service Roads and thought at times, “If something ever happens to me out here, they’ll never find me.”

I’ve ridden US highways through states and spent hours on local roads carving sweeping turns or creasing stands of pine or splitting high country meadows. The only incidents wherein I wanted for power involved the 1970 Trail 90 as I traced the shoulder of state route 32 out of Chico, looking for a dirt road to explore. Beyond that, I’ve never wished for more oomph.

“What do you think?”

“What kind of riding do you plan to do?”

“Same stuff you do, only maybe not the dirt roads.”

The outfield positioned itself such that a well-hit ball would end the game, but anything just out of the infield could be caught and fired to home cutting down the runner from third. The first pitch was a laser that found the catcher’s mitt before the bat could be lifted from the shoulder. The batter stepped out and assessed the situation.
AS WITH MANY THINGS we’ve enjoyed or coveted late in the 20th and early in the 21st century, the mantra of bigger and faster seems to be ever present. The family of four’s middle-class 1100 square foot house of the 50s has evolved into a 2400 square foot abode with living, family and gaming quarters. The Vista-Cruiser wagon has slipped into memory, being replaced by SUVs capable of hauling the entire soccer team over boulders on roads leading to places where soccer is not played.

Phones now fit into pockets and include cameras that, until recently, took pretty grainy pictures. Typewriters are gone, replaced by computers that eclipse a “modern” Selectric’s function, but also connect us to a world of information and thought.

Arguments abound as to whether we’re happier or better off because we have access to such power and speed – not only for transportation but also for damned near everything else we do.

I AM RETICENT to accept that things must be bigger and go faster in order for me to be more satisfied. Some of my most pleasurable moments find me breaking out of a mid-day canopy of oaks into the bright daylight as the road finds a meadow or pasture.

Puttering along between forty and fifty and watching the scenery unfold is captivating, sending my imagination back into history, or my brain into a solve-the-problems-of-the-world mode.

But I can only speak for myself. For some, twisting the throttle and blasting forward through time and space must hold a hypnotic power, one steeped in anticipation and adrenaline. I guess I’m glad it’s available to ‘em.

It was now or never. He choked up only a couple of inches. As the second laser homed in, the batter offered a little “excuse me swing,” lightly lofting the ball over the second baseman. It dropped in front of a furiously charging left fielder.

Called the greatest World Series game of the decade, Arizona celebrated mid-field while the reigning world champions walked off the field - some glancing ruefully over their shoulders, packed and headed home.

SOMETIMES it doesn’t require raw power to achieve satisfaction.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, October 17, 2011


Click any picture to enlarge...
I GUESS I MUST BE OVER-EAGER to see some fall colors. My last two trips to the Sierra have been busts. Too early. Today, I ventured down to the Sacramento River Delta, along state route 160 and several secondary roads.

THE SACRAMENTO DELTA holds arguably the most fertile soil in all of creation. Prior to the completion of the trans-continental railroad, Colusa, a bit up north, was one of the nation’s biggest wheat shipping ports. Agriculture has always been huge in this land of alternating flood and drought. Acreage currently in wines grapes, used to bear sugar beets, I think…

Why else would they call it the "Old Sugar Mill?" In the past decade, local wineries have pooled their wares and turned the old mill into a destination. Closed this day, the interior is vast, dark and cool. Perfect for barrel aging the good stuff.

But with the correct amount of squinting and a few color filters, one can imagine the great brick building falling into decay from years of disrepair. It's gratifying to see the ol' gal brought back to life.

AS A KID IN CHICO, Diamond Match had a lumberyard next to the railroad tracks until it burned to the ground one night.

Years later, when I lived in Gridley, an old guy named Bud Spurgeon bought a similar Diamond Match lumber yard there and revived it stocking lumber, building materials, plumbing, home wares and sage advice until he couldn't work any more.

I expect that these wood-framed lumber yards were darned near everywhere in the 40s and 50s, back when “do-it-yourself” was the only way it was going to get done, and if you needed a single specific washer or nut or a few finishing nails, the proprietor simply said, "Over there.  Go ahead and take 'em."

Here’s what remains in Clarksburg, a few blocks south of the Sugar Mill.

BELOW CLARKSBURG, just past the turn off to Bogle Winery (take a picnic lunch; try their Old Vine Zin or their renowned Petite Sirah) is a Yolo County operated boat ramp. This group of folks has found a past time the equal of what I was doing for this Monday morning.

Quick, place the following activities in the correct order: Working. Motorcyling. Fishing.

THE DELTA IS CRIS-CROSSED with bridges, all of which must be lifted when ship (or recreational sailboat) traffic ventures up the channel. Can't recall the last time I'd seen one elevated, so I stopped for this shot. Huge concrete blocks (look closely over the operators shed) serve as counter-balance for gently raising and lowering the multi-ton structure.

Where State Route 160 crosses a slough, an old gas station site remains. The pumps, clearly, are gone. I think I recall this was a Shell station in its last incarnation – and they had a pump down at river level for maritime traffic.

The bridge across the slough was closed. A contractor is painting it. I am forced onto an alternate route. The day just gets better and better.

Sutter Island Road traces the slough's levee, winding beneath a pleasant canopy of valley oak.

Here, the little Moto Guzzi is parked at an angle because she's resting on her sidestand. Not sure why the pump house is resting at a similar angle.

There's been talk of removing the trees from the levees because their roots can rot and provide tunnels for water (left, above) to seep into the farmland (right.) The Corps of Engineers has not completed a definitive study, but my hope is that they discover the roots actually knit and hold the levees together - which, I believe, has been the thought for some time.

GREAT OLD FARMHOUSES harken back to the times when people worked the soil and agriculture was king. Every few miles along the levees, one comes across an example of architectural elegance that complements the bucolic nature of the land.

Near Walnut Grove, a different kind of residence possesses a similar attraction. Simple and elegant in it own right, this houseboat is moored, rising and falling with the flow of the river.

Looks pleasant enough to me.

WINE GRAPES are not the only crop raised in these fertile soils. Here, a few acres of three or four year old pear trees indicate the farmer is slowly rejuvenating his orchard. Peaches, plums and apricots are also grown. Come February, these orchards will again provide a rainbow of pastel blossoms.

Back up north, rice replaced the wheat. Here, where the bottoms are soggy, these corn stalks are about to be chopped, mulched (not burned, thank you very much) and plowed under.
No traffic on this road enabled me to park on the wrong side for this picture. No traffic on this road enabled me to hear the soft delta breeze caress the dried corn leaves and whisper to me as I knelt for a shot.

In a land where crops grow so well, so grow the weeds and brush. An eager and willing group of goats have been hired in for control of unwanted vegetation.

ALL-IN-ALL, A GOOD WAY to spend a couple of hours is touring the Delta. Easily, one is transported back to times when working the land was considered noble, and when an evening's entertainment might involve watching the sun descend over the Coast Range – experiencing azure skies turn to shades of orange and purple until slipping into midnight blue.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Wow! That’s a real Lionel!
My response to a neighbor kid’s haul one Christmas morning,
circa 1959

“OOOH MAN! A Guzzi.” The man was in the passenger seat of an aging Subaru – window lowered. His wife or significant other was behind the wheel. My monthly breakfast buddy, Joe, and I stood outside the Old Town Café on Mill Street in Grass Valley, California, looking at my new-to-me ride. The woman efficiently parallel parked at the available spot adjacent to the B-1100. They exited and started down the sidewalk, but the man took a long and admiring look at the little black Breva.

“See,” I said to Joe, “the Guzzista are everywhere.” I pointed in the direction of the man who’d disappeared into a dress shop or an antique shop. “He’s either owned a Guzzi or would like to.”

OUR MONTHLY BREAKFASTS are too infrequent. The lapse between this one and the prior one had been well over six months. Thus, our visit from inside the Old Town Café spilled onto the street with much unfinished business yet to conduct; many of the world’s problems yet to solve. We stood just off the curb next to the bike between the Subaru and very mature Toyota Tercel four-by-four wagon, one that had seen many winters in the Sierra foothills.

An older gentleman, conservatively seventy-five years of age by my judgment, stepped out of the restaurant and shuffled over to the Tercel. He glanced at us – me thinking he was probably thinking our conversation would be safer somewhere than in the street. He entered through the driver’s door, sat. I could see him looking through the side view mirror.

The younger man had returned from the dress/antique shop. “I used have me a V-750 café.” The conversation began, three of us standing in the gutter. He shared that he currently owned a BMW 1100 GS, “an older one,” and asked if there was a local Guzzi dealer any more now that Good Times gave up the marque. We talked about the good service I’d recently received at the new dealer in Elk Grove.

“If Guzzi’s gonna make it in the states,” he said shaking his head, “it’ll be because guys like us actually support the dealers by buyin’ bikes from ‘em.”

I nodded.

He continued: “I need to go down there and check things out,” adding that when he and his wife first met, she was riding a Guzzi 850.

THE GENTLEMAN IN THE TERCEL probably had had enough. The driver’s door cracked open, he gave a careful look and slowly stepped out and began shuffling our way. I knew our self-centeredness warranted what I was about to hear.

He said something while pointing toward us.

“I’ll get us out of your way. Sorry…” as I moved our threesome back onto the sidewalk.

“What I said was, ‘nice Moto Guzzi.’”


The old man asked, “May I?” as he ran his hand across the tank and seat. “Yep. I used to sell these back in the late 60s early 70s.”

Other conversations stopped. Had there been traffic on Mill Street we have not heard his rather weak, crackly voice. “Down to Mountain View. Sold these and Laverdas and Ducatis for a time.”

“You sell the police bikes?” I asked, showing off for the other two. I’ve got to quit doing that.

“Sold and serviced,” he said. “I used to fix ‘em and then run ‘em four or five blocks up [he named the street], turn around and really goose ‘em coming back.” He chuckled. “Goosin’ the Goose. Anyway, one day I was on a CHP bike I’d just done something to. I’d hit the throttle pretty hard coming back, cornered into my garage and parked the thing. I come out toward the showroom, had just put my helmet on the rack when there’s this big shadow in the doorway. I look up and it’s a CHP officer with his legs spread and his hands on his hips, one of them on the butt of his service revolver. He says, ‘Who are you?’ I look at him and says, ‘Can I help you?’ Cop repeats, ‘Who are you?’ a little louder. I says ‘I own this place. Now can I help you?’

“The old boy relaxed and took his hand away from his gun. ‘Well shit,’ he says, ‘Me and two others were down ta the [he named a burger joint] and we saw some civvy tearin’ by on one of our bikes. We thought someone’d taken out one of our mounted. I’ll tell ya, there was food and Cokes and stuff flyin’ all over the place!’”

The four of us – the younger man’s wife had joined us by now – laughed heartily with the gentleman. The old man ran his hand across the tank once more and said, “Very nice.” He looked at his watch. “Well, I guess I’m late.” He smiled and returned to the Tercel.

As he drove away, breakfast buddy Joe asked, “Another Guzzista?”

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

Friday, October 14, 2011


click to enlarge
A PLEASANT FRIDAY and after a breakfast meeting in Nevada City, I chose not to drive straight home. Figured a jaunt up State Route 20 might afford shot glimpses of fall color.

Not so much, I'm afraid.

So the sojourn became a vehicle for taking portraits of the Aria, the Guzzi B-1100.

THE MID-OCTOBER mid-day sun provides interesting light for photography.

Bowman Lake, to the right, is on the old Henness Pass Road. Only a few miles east northeast of here, Bowman Lake Road turns to gravel. So Aria doesn't go on it.  [This I leave to the likes of GSA, currently home in the garage. The Church of the Open Road has ventured up that way many-a-time.  See the admittedly very poorly titled:]

THE PAVED PORTION proved a nice tryout for the new Michelin Pilot Road 2 tires I'd installed a few days back.

This picture would have been enhanced had there been some cloud cover to mute the forest and add interest and depth to the sky.  Still, I imagine this might be pretty much what the gray squirrel saw that I just missed running over as he darted out and back and out again in front of me. I’m sure you know the little guy – or one of many of his cousins.

AUTUMN FLOW on the South Yuba River. Many years, this stream this time of year, would be nearly dry, but owing to a late, wet spring and early storms this fall, the water looks delightful.

The fifty-five-degree weather of just a week ago had been driven out by a high pressure system. This day, at about 1:00, the temp was in the mid-80s. The water looked mighty inviting, but I was over-dressed in my leather jacket, and the concept of peeling everything off, thankfully for all denizens of the forest, passed rather quickly.

JUST A BIT SOUTH of the Yuba is the Discovery Trail. Here we get a close up view of the Bear River, only a few miles west of its source. The pooled water reflects the just-about-to turn-golden color of the black oaks broadly lobed leaves.

Less than a mile off State Route 20 about 3 miles east of I-80, this is a nice place to picnic and show the (grand)kids around. That’s one that’ll have to be added to the to-do list.

Oh...  And...

HERE, MORE EVIDENCE that some – only some, mind you – folks who own firearms are morons. In this example, the National Forest sign that is neither good eatin' nor is in any way a threat to anyone's safety or property, proved to be some idiot's victim.

Again: C'mon, gun owners! If you don't want regulation, regulate your-own-damn-selves and quit doin' dumb stuff like shootin' up government signs. Sheesh!

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, October 10, 2011


And welcome to your life.

TIMES ARE TOUGH and you’re in a hurry so we’ve decided to make education more efficient and affordable for you. We have accomplished this by removing requirements for exposure to any skills or thought outside of that for necessary for your chosen career.
  • Want to turn a wrench? Don’t worry about physics.
  • Want to pound nails? Don’t worry about algebra.
  • Want to pack circuit boards? Forget chemistry or geography.
  • And literature? Art appreciation? History? Music? No need! No sweat. No worry.

With our streamlined course schedule, you will complete your education in a fraction of the time it took folks just a generation ago. And with your new degree you will be prepared for a life-long career in industry doing exciting and rewarding things like:
  • Piloting a lift truck,
  • Stocking shelves,
  • Monitoring a cash register – don’t worry, it’ll do all the math for you,
  • Sweeping floors,
and that great go-to, stand-by:
  • Flipping burgers.
Please note: Weeding rows of vegetables will still be reserved for folks from elsewhere because that work is beneath any of our graduates.

With our degree in hand, you’ll never have to worry about:
  • Income taxes – you won’t make enough money;
  • Home ownership – you won’t be able to qualify for a loan;
  • Where to go on vacation – you’ll have the time, you just won’t have the money; and
  • Your kids squabbling over their inheritance – there won’t be any.

Understand that, if for some reason the job for which you have been uniquely prepared – oops, make that educated – should be moved overseas, be replaced by a more efficient mechanized process or just disappear because no one seems to demand what you do any longer, you might encounter some disillusionment because:
  • Without algebra, you may experience difficulty employing logic to solve your circumstantial problem;
  • Without literature, you may find it tough to draw upon the experiences of others who’ve endured similar (or worse) set backs;
  • Without geography, you’ll likely be unable to see the big picture;
  • Without visual or performing arts, it may be hard to express your angst or disappointment (or joy or happiness) in a constructive manner;
  • Without foreign language, you may have less success interacting and communicating with other citizens of the world; and
  • Without history you may have difficulty knowing where you’re going because you’ll have no idea where we’ve been.

We wish to congratulate you on your new degree asking only that a few years from now, should the American Dream appear not to be working out, please don’t circle back and complain to us about your training – oops – education.

You’ll have obtained exactly what you paid for in the accelerated manner you desired. At the same time, you will have received exactly what we wanted you to receive.


© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

Friday, October 7, 2011


from the Church of the Open Road

Dear Mr. Williams,

First, allow me to provide for you the text of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Now, taking the liberty of correcting your capitalization, I will quote you:

“By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, you (ESPN) stepped on the toes of the First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore me, my song, and all my rowdy friends are out of here.”

Now, sir, today’s lesson – something I believe you may have missed in the eighth grade:

The First Amendment does not preclude an employer from releasing a worker (or severing a contractual relationship) because the worker said something offensive, derogatory or really stupid. The government of the United States cannot prevent you from saying whatever’s on your mind, but your employer doesn’t have to put up with it.

In the United States, the entity responsible for limiting the speech of an individual is the individual. You chose not to.


The Church of the Open Road

PS: To those self-described “constitutionalists” out there who may be looking over Junior’s shoulder at this letter, kindly read the Constitution before telling the rest of us what you think it says.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


IN THE BACK OF MY MIND, I knew it was bound to happen. Every day brings one closer to a day of reckoning. And mine was upon me. I could tell because things had started to deteriorate – you know – get fuzzy; and that speed of deterioration was accelerating. Plus, there was that unlaundered gym sock smell.

The ads in both Rider Magazine and MOA Owner’s News say: “The Best Gloves. Period.” And I knew neither of these august publications would ever promote something false. I mean it’s not like anyone’s running for Congress here. So if the ad said it, it must be true. Besides, the day of reckoning was nigh.

It happened just outside of Oakdale - near Modesto, CA - toward the end of the first charity poker run I’d ever attended. I should have known something was up because all day long, the inside of my Shoei smelled a bit too much like the boys locker room at Chico High circa 1968. You see, I stash my riding gloves inside my helmet between rides and I guess, under certain circumstances – warm air, moist and somehow trapped – anything can ferment.

Fermentation is that odorous process by which something that was once a living organism begins to decompose or rot. It seems my beloved Tour Master gloves, after many years and tens of thousands of miles of sweat, wind, heat and dedicated service, did exactly this – rot.

I knew because I felt more breeze than normal whipping the flesh on my throttle hand, looked down and discovered a long black wisp of whatever that indestructible nylon stuff is had, well, destructed. A sixteen-inch thread was gracefully sailing beside me as I rode the six-lane and the outer-most portion of my right palm was naked against a seventy mile per hour gale. The left one would follow shortly.

“Forty bucks for four or five years service,” I thought, “not bad.” But I’d convinced myself that in have a stable including a Beemer and a Goose, I should ready myself for something more sophisticated, like: The Best Glove. Period.

EACH OF US UNDERSTANDS that the day of reckoning will not be avoided. That’s why we act nice even when others might not be looking, say an occasional prayer and write wills. That’s why we plan ahead. I’d planned ahead regarding the best gloves by using the dealer locator on the Held USA site. To my surprise, the closest retailer was in Modesto some fifty or sixty miles south-southwest of my home. I diverted to said dealer before blasting north.

Cycle Specialties of Modesto floors a nice supply of BMWs, Triumphs and Piaggio products. They also stock higher end clothing and gear. I wandered in and out of the bikes and circled past the end caps where a collection of gloves hung. The selection of Helds was limited enough that I finally had to acquiesce to the nice gentleman at the counter who offered assistance.

“These are dead,” I said, holding my tattered Tour Masters a distance from my nose. “I’m looking for some Helds, if you’ve got ‘em.”

Turns out, mixed in with a good selection of other gloves, samples of the German manufacturer’s product hung from four or five pins. “Best glove in the world?” I asked.

“So they say.”

Initially the “Air Stream” model looked like something a troglodyte might wear in one of those contemporary movies about the world being destroyed. I was particularly put off by the hard plastic vents atop the knuckles. I like something more traditional in style. (Long time readers will note the “traditional style” of the GSA oft pictured in the sidebar.)

I did, however, appreciate the Kevlar enhanced gel-type padding at the heel of the hand – and in other places – and the precise stitching that blended fabric and leather. Quality.

“Try ‘em. You’ll love ‘em.”

I slipped the right one on. It felt you-must-acquit tight. The next size up was perfect. Soon both hands cried out to me: “Don’t stop…”

“Walk around in ‘em.”


The young man motioned me around the show room. In moments, I became aware of two things: a) the very smooth Coolmax lining inside the sweet smelling kangaroo hide that caressed my hands, and b) the lovely Aussie pop-star-of-my-youth, Olivia Newton-John was somehow in the background singing I Honestly Love You from her Have You Ever Been Mellow album of 1975. I wiggled my fingers, sat on a Vespa and wrapped my hand around a throttle. Boy these felt good.

After telling the young man I didn’t care for the plastic knuckles and being told, “Oh, you will,” I was back on 99 heading north in – coincidentally – ninety-nine degree summer heat. As I acclimated myself to this purchase, I became aware of tiny jets of air passing atop my hands. Cooling them. Keeping them dry. I flexed my fingers enjoying the fresh softness of two familiar things – that pliant Coolmax lining and Olivia again singing. This time: All I need is the Air that I Breathe… from the aforementioned album.

Gob-smacked by this coincidence, I knew I’d made the right purchase.

SEVERAL WEEKS and several thousand miles on, the Held Air Streams have proven to maintain their cool. Their medium length gauntlet accommodates sleeves on my Tour Master leather jacket, my BMW three-season and my Vanson summer mesh. They are comfy enough to wear for days on end from coastal fog to high desert heat. I know, because I’ve done it. Pricy at $130.00, I believe the value is there, the quality is there and a good argument could be made that Held is fully justified in their advertising.


Held USA may be accessed at: Their website provides a fascinating look into company history and the construction of their product.

Modesto’s very nice BMW shop may be accessed at:

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press