Tuesday, June 23, 2015


For a while, I owned a Kawasaki KLR 650.  Knobby tires, high seat, raised pipe, large fuel tank: the Kawi would go for days on back-country gravel roads, seemingly never needing to stop for gas.  A “second bike” for me, she parked next to a sophisticated BMW RT model built for making horizons seem not so far away.  In contrast, the KLR, though it never broke, seemed loose and rattley as if manufacture tolerances were approximate.  The dash vibrated, as did the mirrors and the front fender never seemed quite aligned with the 21 inch front tire.

Still, I explored mile upon mile of gold country and Sierra back roads, enjoying every bump and turn.   

Early in our relationship, outside of Foresthill, California, at about dusk, I gingerly rounded a gravelly bend on my way up the hill to Michigan Bluff, when a she-bear ambled across the road in front of me, pausing, as if to ask, “What the hell are you doing up here this time of night?”  Another adventure found me on a road that, after a tricky fording of an icy stream, turned to a bouldery run up a volcanic hillside.  “If I get cut off and have to go back down that,” I said to myself, waiting for my heart rate to normalize, “I’m screwed.”

I liked the KLR’s ability to take on unsurfaced roads so much that the Beemer began to develop a fine layer of dust as it sat in the garage.  So I decided to merge the two.  Trading both in, I purchased a BMW GSA, then touted by GQ magazine – not that I actually read GQ – to be the best motorcycle in the world.

In the 48,000 miles I’ve put on the GSA, I’ve toured the Pacific coast, driven to Canada, and explored the vast Basin and Range country from Modoc County to the Rockies and beyond.  I’ve driven it on interstates when necessary, but the bike excels on winding or twisty paved roads and generally tackles graveled or rutted routes with relative ease.  But, the BMW is no KLR.  Fun to ride, but too expensive to drop...

Six years into the ownership of the magnificent BMW, I am bitten by that bug that says, “Isn’t it time to try something new?”  I look at Honda’s Goldwing, a well designed tourer for a guy my age, the Triumph Rocket III, you won’t see one of those coming at you every day of the week, and the Moto Guzzi California Touring, a sculpted work of Italian art that happens to ride on two wheels.  Each of these is designed to go the distance, but when up and running, their weight, I’ve read, melts away and they consume those beloved narrow back roads nicely.

“So what do I do?” I’ve been asking myself. 

Yesterday, I mounted my big BMW and headed out for a long-awaited loop from our new digs in northern Sonoma County to the coast.  My ride took me to Hopland for breakfast at the delightful Bluebird Café, through Ukiah to Orr Springs Road, then west toward Comptche, the village whose consonant to vowel ratio is outside the norm, and off to the coast at Mendocino. 

The pavement west of Ukiah is scantly maintained, but the route rising over ridges and plunging into cool forested valleys is absolutely enchanting.   

Enlarge this shot by clicking on it.
The GSA handled each pothole with grace.  The Michelin tires begged me to take the next turn with just a bit more throttle.  Catching a glimpse of the road five miles away on the next ridge top urged me on.  And the palette of aromas where the road traced a stream course was both floral and delicious.

Pausing at Montgomery Woods State Reserve, just west of Orr Springs, I visited the old growth redwood cathedral to contemplate many things: tragedies in the recent news, how much I love my dog, getting older, the glories of an early summer ride, and what motorcycle might I rather be riding. 

Suddenly, remembrances of that great old KLR came to mind.  In the forest’s deep silence, one broken only by the occasional caw of a raven, a voice gently spoke to me asking:  Are you sure you want to let the one you have become another one that got away?


Today’s Route:  From Santa Rosa: north on US 101 through Cloverdale, Hopland (breakfast!) to Ukiah, exit North State Street.  Right.  About 1 mile north, left on Orr Springs Road to Orr Springs, Montgomery Reserve, Comptche and the Mendocino Coast.  South on CA 1 through Little River, Albion, Elk, Manchester to Point Arena.  (Lunch at the Chowder House on the pier.)   

Return:  North on CA 1 three miles; right on Mountain View Road to Boonville.  East on CA 128 through Yorkville to Cloverdale and 101.

© 2015
Church of the Open Road Press

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Thoughts on addressing a woeful status quo…

Years ago, I worked as a school principal in a rural California county.  Although the population was small, there were eight or nine elementary school districts, each generally supporting only one school site.  In total, for less than 3,000 students, the county’s boards of education employed eight or nine district superintendents.  The model was highly inefficient, becoming more so when various legislative actions and voter approved initiatives relieved those boards of the ability to determine curriculum or raise revenues.  Nine superintendents, nine administrative assistants, nearly nine business mangers, nine directors of transportation: all of whom did good work, but work that could have been accomplished by many fewer individuals had the districts chosen to combine efforts and join forces.

But they didn’t.  At a meeting held by the district of my residence – not the district by whom I was employed – the public was invited to a hearing to comment upon the question: Should this district join in discussions regarding the consolidation of county schools?

A boisterous citizenry responded: 
·      We don’t want to lose our local control. (They hadn’t any.)
·      We don’t want our kids being forced to go to a school with kids from the neighboring (lower socio-economic) town. (The kids would end up mingling at high school in a few, short years.)
·      We don’t want our scores watered down by those kids.  (Oddly, the poorer schools often boasted the higher scores.)
·      We want to hire and fire our own teachers. (They couldn’t.)

By the end of the hearing the Board did not vote on whether or not to consolidate schools – that wasn’t the question.  The Board voted not to engage in a discussion with neighboring districts about consolidation.

Nearly thirty years on, the status quo remains.  Lots of money goes to paying good administrators to engage in duplicative work because we don’t want to have the discussion.  And the children of the little rural county are no better served.


This week, another individual has taken it upon himself to enter a public place, armed, and shoot – injuring or killing – multiple innocent individuals.  This time, it happened in a church.  Previously it has happened in a military mess hall, a string of college lecture rooms, a movie theatre, and that elementary school back in Connecticut.  After each such incident, Americans are gripped with sorrow and much hand wringing follows.  In this case, a clearly weary President Obama said:  At some point, we as a country, will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency. 

Mr. Obama is “calling the question.”  He is asking for a national conversation to take place, yet again.  He wants a discussion.

Though, when the question is raised about taking steps to work toward assurance that troubled or crazy people not be allowed the weapons that wring such carnage, while 80 to 90 percent of people polled resolutely say “YES,” the discussion never takes place…

…Because a boisterous few argue:
·      This is not the time for discussion.  We need to honor the dead.  (For how long?)
·      This is not the time to politicize on the back of tragedy.  (When is?)
·      The current administration will use this as an excuse to take away our guns.  (Only if you’re crazy, and if you believe the statement above, maybe you are.)
·      You’re trampling on my second amendment rights.  (You are a member of which “well-regulated” militia?)
·      If the victims had been armed, this wouldn’t have happened.  (A statement which honors the dead, how?)

Congress capitulates.  The discussion never takes place.  The status quo remains.  And in a few weeks – well, if the reader can’t figure out what’s likely to happen in a few weeks, then the reader probably isn’t reading this blog entry.


Having a wide-ranging public debate or discussion about a serious or emotionally charged concern does not mean an eminent change is going to take place.  That little elementary school district certainly could have looked at finances and student performance and engaged data-driven dialogues with neighboring schools, ultimately deciding that the current system could not be improved upon for those kids.

Likewise, our political leaders, were they truly leaders and not pawns of something else, could engage in discussions about how to curb firearm violence including background checks that might restrict the unstable, the dangerous and the just plain crazy from firearm access.  (Concurrent to that surely should be conversation about how our system might help stabilize those on the edge; and it might also include some banter about race relations.  Violence does not occur in a vacuum.)

Frank, open, clear-minded, hyperbole-less talk about how to reduce hate fueled mayhem, might result in some individuals not being able to legally acquire a gun.  Then again, it might not.

But not having the discussion leaves us with the status quo: one in which schools, work places, college campuses, shopping malls, movie theatres and now church sanctuaries are less safe than they could be.

© 2015
Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, June 1, 2015

Long-Term Thinking for a Short-Sighted World – A Review

First off, the recommendation:  Buy three (3) copies of this book.  Seriously.  Why?  Because you’re going to want to keep a copy for yourself; you’ll want to share a copy with a kindred spirit; and I’m asking you to share a copy with a spirit who is kindred, but who may be a doubter.

In Long-Term Thinking for a Short-Sighted World Jim Brumm explores the complex relationship between mankind and our proclivity to take actions that ultimately will be of limited benefit.   

Profits?  Yes.  Satisfaction?  For a time.  Convenient?  Usually.  But when viewed within the scope of the passage of time, the health of the planet or the future on our species, much of what we do is counter to our own well-being.  Examples?  Our 100-plus-year love affair with fossil fuels.  Our economy-of-scale mega-farming practices of the last half century.  Our need to consume. [Truth out I: The week I acquired this book, I also acquired a washer, a dryer, a refrigerator and a new Subaru.  So, ouch!]

Using a blend of historic incidents, examples of it-sounded-good-at-the-time thought gone awry, economic collapses, repercussions and conflicts, and quotes from a wide variety of scientists, artists, philosophers and authors, Brumm details how choices we make as corporate, governmental institutions and as individuals serve as votes for the future we will create.  At issue is that the future is likely to become one of scarcity and impoverishment if we don’t look to the long term and change those choices.

Key is the need to transform from a species demanding instant reward and gratification to one which understands our time on the planet is very limited, the impact of our time great, and our responsibility to those who will follow incredibly imperative.

Jim’s style is at times light, thought provoking, personal, global and compelling.  His words don’t threaten the reader; rather they help awaken the reader.  Long-Term Thinking for a Short-Sighted World very approachable and proves to be a volume that may reinforce holistic long-term views of how we might reorder our purpose while serving as a gentle way to coax those non-believers into, perhaps, a healthier view of man’s place on the planet.

Truth out II:  I met Jim the other day as he shepherded my wife and me through the purchase of her new Subaru Forester at the Santa Rosa, CA dealer.  I’d given him my card with contact information.  Through that he accessed the blog, and in our subsequent “business meeting” we bird-walked a bit about quite a few things including writing’s joys and frustrations.  It was delightful to meet a like-minded individual from, more or less, out of the blue.

Long-Term Thinking for a Short-Sighted World.  Jim Brumm.  Muse Harbor Publishing. 2012. $16. 

Muse Harbor Publishing is a small “house” – one that could really benefit from your purchase.  Order (3 of ‘em, remember?) through your local bookseller.

© 2015
Church of the Open Road Press