Thursday, August 31, 2017


I heard you in my head yesterday.
I taught a lesson yesterday during a lockdown.
I taught in a whisper.
I heard your voice say,
"If we don't teach today, they win."

This morning, Terri, a woman who once taught at a school where I served as the site principal posted the above on my page on a popular social media site.  I was touched deeply by her remembrance. 

(For the record: I’m retired, and a different district employs Terri now.  And “Terri” is her real name.)

September 11, 2001 wasn’t all that long ago.  I recall driving to school, listening to NPR’s Morning Edition and wondering what the hell was going on.  Once at school, I tuned a TV in to discover that hell was indeed going on that day.

At a hastily called staff meeting as we discussed how to address this great unknown with our students, one teacher asked, “Shouldn’t we just send the kids home today?  What could we possibly teach them?” to which I replied: “If we don’t teach today, they win.”

That was a damned fine statement I made, but honestly, it must be the case that I heard it somewhere else that morning.  I don’t think on my feet all that well.

I didn’t glance at my Facebook page this morning until after I’d read the local (Santa Rosa) paper.  A page five story reported that in the midst of an investigation a Sacramento County stolen vehicle task force was fired upon.  An assailant armed with a high-powered weapon injured to CHP officers and fatally wounded a deputy.   A witness reported, “It sounded like a machine gun.  It just kept going and going.”

When I read Terri’s post on my page, I connected some dots concluding that her school was locked down as this incident played out in the neighborhood. 

All the while, she taught.

Walloped by a few moments of introspection, I got to thinking: Maybe I’d lied on that morning of September 11th.  Maybe they are winning anyway. 

A hit and run on a local highway left a bicyclist dead.  A driver in a white pickup shoots into the passenger compartment of a car he’s passing on 101 then disappears.  A homeless Santa Rosan, know for his writing and story telling bleeds to death on a sidewalk after being knifed by someone unknown. Daily we read about or witness violent demonstrations or mass shootings or assaults on the police or assaults by police somewhere in the country. 

Yep, maybe they are winning.

The moment passes.  I find myself remembering visits to classrooms.  In pretty much all of the classrooms, students are engaged in learning – rich, deep and challenging.  But in a lot of classrooms, more is going on.  Kids’ unique needs are embraced, their differences celebrated, their fears quelled, they feel safe; their smiles glowing, their hearts in tune with the teacher who’s heart is in tune with her students.  Education steeped in nurture.  Good things are happening. 

Such things happen in classrooms across America every day.

Yesterday, I know, they were happening in Terri’s room.

And because of that, I know the bad guys aren’t going to win.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

Friday, August 25, 2017


… some thoughts and incidents from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017…

A couple of months back, Dan Rather, venerable news anchor of CBS fame, now working “News and Guts,” a site on social media, diverged from his usual council on all things politic to share that he and his grandson were departing on a road trip across America’s heartland.  “What music,” he asked, “do you listen to when you’re on a road trip?”

I had pondered his question for several weeks, then on a recent motorcycle adventure through several states, the answer came to me:  The music I listen to is my own.

As a kid, although we had a fine AM radio in the old Ford Ranchwagon, most of the music we ‘enjoyed’ was performed by Dad, who, while driving would regale us with Broadway show tunes.  His favorites?  “Ol’ Man River” from Show Boat and  “If I Loved You,” from Carousel, in both I could devise some harmony for the final few bars or so – Dad liked that a lot – and “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific.  Although he apparently had a thing for Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics, Ezio Pinza he was not.

When Dad really got going, he’d pull a ten-hole Hohner Chromonica from his shirt pocket and begin to play Clyde McCoy’s “Sugar Blues.”  That’s when Mom would force him to pull over so she could take the wheel.

My road trip play list comes completely from my own head – usually consisting of either show tunes or American Song Book standards.  I was the only kid ever who grew up in the sixties with no rock n roll music allowed in the house.  “Next it will be drugs,” Mom would say with more than a hint of exasperation, “or… or… SEX!”  And there’d be none of that.

So this day, I’m driving north on US 101 along Oregon’s dramatic coastline.  For reasons I cannot understand, I find myself singing something from Johnny Mercer’s catalog: The summer wind came blowin’ in from across the sea… Perhaps it’s because the sea was right over there.  This song as followed by “The Way You Look Tonight.”  Maybe it’s because Sinatra sang it just as he had the previous tune.  Then I’m singing “Here Comes That Rainy Day.”  There’s always a rainy day coming to Oregon…

About half way through this ‘set,’ I realize, Hey!  The acoustics inside this Shoei motorcycle helmet are excellent!  As a visitor, I’d once been given the chance to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in their Salt Lake City building whose perfect acoustics was designed by a bridge builder.  The interior of my helmet was at least that good.

“Somewhere, Over the Rainbow” showed up on my play list, along with “That Old Black Magic,” followed by my personal theme song, “As Time Goes By.”

Not a Beatles song in the lot.

Nor a song by the Doors.  “Doors,” Mom opined, “were devises used to allow access from one room to the next.  Nothing more.”

The set ended at a Chevron station in Reedsport or Lincoln City.  Open the front of the helmet and the acoustics suddenly turn to crap.  Plus, when filling your motorcycle gas tank, it is necessary to hear when the fuel is about to overtop things and spoil the paint.  On top of that, singing at the gas station may prompt people to cast strained glances or even contact the authorities.

Back in the saddle, I was concentrating on the serpentine pavement that split Oregon’s coastal forest and reveling when I broke through the curtain of trees to gain a glorious view of a fog dappled Pacific. 

A tiny island, little more than a rock, rested on the cusp of the horizon as the road twisted back into a forest stand.  I’m singing, Somewhere, beyond the sea…

...and giving Bobby Darin a run for his money. 

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


… some thoughts and incidents from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017…

Vancouver Island is a Pacific gem worthy of more time for exploration than we afforded.  But our abbreviated visit – enough to invite us to return – was probably just about the right length given the blow-over from mainland fires only a few dozen kilometers east.

The journey began by lashing the big T-bird to the sidewalls of the Black Ball Ferry sailing out of Port Angeles…

… then heading above deck to take in the view.

Smoke and haze clung to the Washington State end of the voyage, but cleared as we entered the harbor at Victoria.

The city is clean and beautiful, enhanced by many floral displays in even the tiniest of spaces.

A trip to Butchart Gardens proved unnecessary.

Day Two found us playing tag with traffic on BC 19 and BC 19 A until we reached our digs at Campbell River.  “Love Boats” were said to frequent this channel.

Smoke had settled on the Inside Passage at daybreak.  We were unlikely to see one of those Love Boats.

But a derelict boathouse ages on the rocky beach.

Fresh Salmon was purchased off the pier in Campbell River to be grilled for dinner, but the following night, our landlord provided us with fresher salmon – he being a fishing guide in real life.  It’ll take me a while to get re-acclimated to the store bought fish I find in my little berg.

Attempting to escape the haze, we sojourned to Gold River, a nice ride through verdant hills and past deep blue lakes.  Gold Lake, touted by some as an artist enclave, we didn’t scratch around deep enough to find their lairs.

The second leg of our tour found us at the Black Rock Oceanside Resort in Ucluelet on the Pacific side.  Here, the air was cloaked in a refreshing fog.

From the resort, nicely groomed bluff side trails tunneled through foliage bridged streams and provided access to beaches.

Ucluelet has a quaint harbor with a tiny fishing fleet, some warm and welcoming bakeries and provides an un-tourist-i-fied experience on this side of the island.

Just a short hop up the road rests Tofino, a well-renowned destination and surfing capitol.

The Main Street caters to tourists with pubs and restaurants, ice cream shops and novelty stores.  A block away, the waterfront seems a bit more purposeful, harkening back to the town’s lumber and fishing heritage.

Stumbling around, as I do, I found this interesting marker that I hesitated to photograph as I hadn’t done much, if any, of the Trans-Canada Highway.

South of Tofino, beach access invites a stroll…

…and another lighthouse forces a shot.

Our trip was planned to revolve around two guys on motorcycles tailed by their wives in a car.  My riding partner, however, carried home with him from Europe some sort of gastro-bug that rendered not riding the safer choice.  Shout out here to the good folks at the lovely Qualicum Beach Inn (in Qualicum Beach) who graciously allowed him to stash his bike in their back lot.  During our next visit to the island, the hostelry will definitely be getting our business.

We caught the BC Ferry from Nanaimo to Tsawwassen.  The afternoon mists on the Sound muted the islands and shoreline making us momentarily forget they we not out at sea on a ship skippered by Gavin McLeod.  Skirting the City of Vancouver, we returned to Washington State.

Six Days on Vancouver Island is not nearly enough.  Port Hardy calls, as do many hot springs, hiking trails and rocky beaches. 

We’re told that the smoke clears after the first big storm but that in recent years, large fires have become more common on the mainland creating the atmosphere we’d experienced touring the island.  

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

Sunday, August 20, 2017


… some thoughts and incidents from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017…

This trip up the Oregon Coast was primarily one socked in with fog.  But even as the Pacific’s marine layer embraces the coast, the ride up US 101 is marvelous.  Particularly when it is 106 degrees at home.  

Allowing two days, as opposed to my customary one, afforded an opportunity to stop more frequently, but the chilly, moist air prompted me not to.  Regrets.

That said, although while not fully fared, the big windshield on the T-Bird more than adequately diverts airflow around the grips.  I was never compelled to don my heavy riding gloves.

My first-day goal was to reach Bandon, a quaint coastal village only recently becoming a bit too tourist-a-fied.  Still, walking the streets, it is easy to picture life eighty to one hundred years ago when the economy was based upon the fishery and the forests.

I’m a sucker for lighthouses.  This one is located on the spit near Bandon’s harbor.

The layover was spent at Best Western’s Inn at Face Rock, a trick to find off the highway, but worth the effort. 

Face Rock, this evening (and the following morning) was obscured by that marine layer, but the whisper of the surf provided and apt and lovely lullaby after a long day in the saddle.

No sooner am I back on the road the next morning than I find out that, apparently, I’m a sucker for old locomotives… 

…and rusted machinery (and old trucks and old barns) as well. 

These relics are located in a foundation-run museum in Coos Bay located right on US 101.  Worthy of some time and a donation.

The bridges along Oregon’s coastal route are classic with, perhaps, the most classic being this one in Newport over Yaquina Bay.

There’s a lighthouse here…

…but I must admit that I missed a shot of one of the more dramatic examples 20 miles earlier down at Heceta due to my slow-witted approach to parking along the highway.

Boats leaving harbor intrigue me.  Where are they going?  What might be their catch?  Will they return safely?  There must be a reason for the widow's watches atop the older houses in town.

I wonder if the raven wonders the same thing, or just might be waiting for some chum.

US 101 up the Oregon Coast is a delight.  I am, however, pulled out of the reverie induced by her curves, bluffs and vistas when navigating through Newport, Lincoln City and Seaside.  These commercial and tourist centers are necessary, I’m sure, but the traffic on a summer Saturday feels more citified than I find enjoyable.

I skipped a visit to Fort Clatsop this time around, having checked in with Lewis and Clark and Jean Baptiste Charbonneau last time – heading instead for the Best Western in Astoria.  The Bridgewater Bistro, a warm and casual restaurant is close by with nicely prepared seafood and a wonderful wine list.  Perfect way to end a day.

Two things (well, more than two things) caught my eye on the walk over: the slogan on this fuel carrier…

… and something you really don’t see every day – a folding chair atop a classic (though stripped) VW.  (My '71 came from the factory painted 'Clementine Orange.')

The Oregon Coast is one of America’s great rides.  It is never the same from one day to the next.

That’s why I look forward to my next opportunity to enjoy the route.


Face Rock: What I missed due to the fog at Bandon:

Fort Clatsop: Well worth your visit near Astoria:

Bridgewater Bistro near the wharf in Astoria:

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

Saturday, August 19, 2017


… some thoughts and incidents from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017…

In my career as a public school student, I was always walking distance from school.  Rosedale Elementary was just across the creek. The junior high was across town, but town wasn’t all that big.  And Chico High was through two almond orchards – one of ‘em ours – across Highway 32 and a few blocks down West Sacramento Avenue – maybe twenty-five minutes from home.

Located just through the orchards on this side of Highway 32, next to Aldredge’s Flying A, was a hamburger stand called The Jolly Kone.  I remember it being erected when I was seven or eight.

As a high schooler, while I was not involved in sports, I did engage in after school activities, not the least of which was a Dixieland style Pep Band I organized and conducted with a tuba wrapped over my shoulder.  We’d scheduled practices twice a week so rather than leaving campus at 3:15, it was likely 4:30 before I departed. 

Fifteen minutes into the walk home, I’d near the Jolly Kone and begin to salivate over the wafting fragrance of frying beef patties and potatoes bubbling in some sort of boiling oil.  For about a buck thirty-five, I could enjoy a burger stacked with lettuce, pickles, tomato, some secret sauce – probably just Thousand Island – on a sesame seed bun before Ray Kroc popularized the notion.  And the fries?  Golden and crispy outside with steaming, almost creamy white insides accented with just a touch of salt.  The Coca Cola came in a Styrofoam cup half-filled with shaved ice.  Sitting at an interior table covered with oilcloth, I’d ponder algebra, the red head Rebecca Langworthy and whatever we’d just practiced in Dixieland.  Upon completion, I’d carry the styro cup through the orchards with me, depositing it in the garbage cans beside the tractor shed before entering the house.

Dinner would be almost ready, but I would only pick at it.

“You’re a growing boy,” Mom would say.  “You have to eat your dinner,” and she’d push a plate of chipped beef on toast – or whatever had been prepared – closer to the edge of the table where I sat.

“Perhaps he’s just going through a phase,” Dad opined.

“He’s got to eat!”

I didn’t.

In order to till our five acres of almonds, Dad had purchased a 1948 Ford Ferguson tractor behind which he’d pull a disk or a spring tooth furrow.  Rather than to keep cans of gasoline in the tractor shed, he’d drive the old Ford through the orchards to Aldredge’s Flying A, so he could fill ‘er up.

One afternoon after Pep Band practice, as I’m savoring my clandestine burger and fries, I hear a familiar voice order a strawberry milkshake from the outside window.


Before I could determine that there was no escape, he appeared at the door to the dining area, sucking mightily on a straw filled with a thick, pink, viscous fluid.

“Son,” he said.

“Dad,” I responded.

Moments later he mounted the tractor and, holding the milkshake in one hand while steering with the other, disappeared into the orchards.

The remainder of the walk home took forever, but forever wasn’t long enough.  Dinner’s aroma was filling the kitchen – something with liver – and was about to be served.

“Now you have to eat your dinner,” Mom pleaded.

For a long moment, Dad looked at me from his end of the table.  Then he said, “Perhaps he’s just going through a phase, Honey-Bee, just a phase.  He’ll be fine.”

Recently, on the road, lunch time in Central Point, Oregon: On the east side of the old highway 99 is a burger joint called “The Yellow Basket.”  It looked familiar.  Something circa mid-sixties, perhaps?

Perhaps it was the oil-clothed tables, but more than likely, it was the fare: perfect fries accompanying a burger stacked with lettuce, pickle chips, tomato, and that sauce…

I recalled Dad’s bold statement to Mom some fifty years ago and realized that I wasn’t quite through that “phase” of which he spoke.  At least not yet.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press.

Friday, August 18, 2017


… some thoughts and incidents from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017…

Years ago, when visiting Canada – and this is no joke – I’d approach the border, the uniformed agents would raise their welcoming arms, say, “Hi, Dave” and wave me through.

Then we experienced 9-11.

It had been a while since I’d visited our neighbors to the north, but on a circuitous trip involving the famed Selkirk Loop, the border agents asked for something I knew I wouldn’t need to carry – because, hell, they knew me and greeted me like family – a Passport.

“Where’s your document, sir?”  (Not Dave?  What the heck?)

“My what?”

“Your passport.”

“I think it’s in my sock drawer at home.”

“Sign here.”

“Okay.”  I signed.  “What am I signing?”

“A document that says you’re voluntarily returning to the United States.”

“B.. b.. but…”

Six years have elapsed since that little debacle now indelibly recalled as how Mr. Brilliant spoiled the Great Selkirk Loop Trip, and I am again attempting to gain access to Canada.  This time I am armed with my handy wallet-sized passport card that will afford quick and undetained entry into Canada.

As the customs lady swipes my card and asks where I was from, I know I’ll breeze right through.  She asks about any contraband – weapons, alcohol – I might be carrying – “None, thank you.” – and if I have any questions for her.  Since she was in customs, I thought I’d ask about the whole about/aboot custom, when she says “Uh-oh,” and pulls my card back.  “Have you ever been denied access to Canada before?”

I begin to tell her about leaving my passport in my sock drawer at home once in the years after 9-11, but she cuts me off – politely, mind you – and says, “I’d like you to pull over into that space with the big W on it.”

Channeling Arlo Guthrie, I remember that group W is where they put you because “you may not be moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a litterbug,” but all I’d done was to forget to pack my passport a half-a-dozen years back.  And on this day I have one!

The delay is brief, perhaps only ten minutes, NOT enhanced by my riding partner, from the other side of the gate, yelling, “Frisk him for drugs!”

As we weave our way through the streets of Victoria, I offer involuntary tribute to Osama bin Ladin: a man who’s legacy carries forth long after his unceremonious burial at sea.

The reprobate.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Your 12,500-mile report…
… and some thoughts from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017

Let’s start with this disclaimer: No matter what you might read here, I like this bike.  Sometimes I go out in the garage late at night and just sit on it.

Why?  Mainly because it’s so danged comfortable.  It’s like a La-Z-Boy on two wheels.  In motion, the footboards allow me to move my legs a bit every now and then.  And the windshield somehow deflects cold blasts away from the handgrips so that only on the coldest of rides do I wish it had heated units.  With acres of chrome and a deep paint job highlighted with hand painted coach lines, the thing is a real looker, inviting conversations the lengths of which are inversely proportional to how badly you have to hit the restroom.

The engine pulls like a proverbial tractor and lopes along at 75-plus miles per hour, gladly doing it all day, as it did on my recent trip to Wyoming.  Two up presents no problem.  Neither does ten days on the road.

I changed out tires a click or two before turning 10,000 miles.  In the process, the mechanic alerted me to some excess wear on the drive belt.  I’d never owned a motorcycle with a drive belt and understood that, like shafts, they are largely maintenance – and trouble – free.  Apparently, I understood wrong.  At the tire change, more than 1/8th of an inch of belt had prematurely worn away.  The mechanic said he aligned the pulleys carefully with the tire change but, “We’ll need to keep an eye on it.”  Seems to me that, coming out of the box, the drive pulleys on the T-bird should have been aligned with laser-like precision.  Now with another 2500-plus miles on the rig, the belt seems to be worn even more.  I’m thinking this is a manufacturer’s defect, but I suspect I’ll be informed it is a wear item and repair or replacement will be on my nickel.

Just prior to that tire change, the check engine light came on.  I quickly pulled over and, referencing the owner’s manual, found that the big bird is programmed to let you “limp home” should the light illuminate.  I added a dollop of oil and the light went out, but as the mechanic was testing the machine after putting on new rubber, the light it up again.  The diagnosis suggested something associated with an exhaust valve in the tail pipe (?) but was inconclusive prompting, “It may just be a bad sensor.  We’ll check on it when you come in for service.”  And they reprogrammed it to go out.  Half way through my 2500-mile loop up to British Columbia, the light came on again.  No Triumph dealers in sight and, since it was on a Saturday, even if there were one, it would likely be Tuesday before it could be addressed.  I gambled on the “bad sensor” theory and motored on.  Disconcerting, it is, to be enjoying the cruise on BC 99, I-5 and various side roads with that amber light glaring at you from the dash.  I didn’t try a dollop of oil as the dipstick indicated full.

Another little grievance is the fact that in low to moderate powered sweeping or tighter turns, a wobble develops in the front wheel.  I mentioned this at tire time and was told that new rubber might remedy things.  With a little research, I further found that tightening the rear shock might help alleviate the problem.  Still I experienced the jostle.  This I will mention at service time.

Also, one of the running (or fog) lights failed.  Not sure why.  Ghosts of Lucas Electrics?

Again, I like this bike.  As with all things complex and mechanical, things will happen.  I am disappointed in some of the minor things (and perhaps major things – like that wobble) have cropped up on this fairly new machine.  I’m also a bit bent out of shape that the relationship between my local dealer and Triumph has ended forcing me to go an additional 60 miles for warranty service.

I’ve owned four BMWs and liked them all pretty well, though their cost of maintenance seemed to escalate as they became more ‘sophisticated.’  They were nicely engineered and well suited for the riding I like to do, perhaps a little more so than the T-bird.  But I knew I would be making some compromises in an effort to try something different.  And you can’t argue with that comfortable saddle!

Still, as I completed my loop from Vancouver Island, I got a nagging twinge or, perhaps, a longing for the lighter feel and the legs-under-you seating position of my old GS.  As luck would have it, driving into Port Angeles, WA, I followed and then conversed with a fellow rider who’d swapped out his expensive-to-maintain GS for a Yamaha Super Tenere.  “9500 miles,” he said, “and nothing’s ever gone wrong.”  (His ‘nothing’s gone wrong’ comment seems to be borne out by the comments of many others on the Tenere owner’s page.)

The Super T has been on my wish-list back burner since I first laid eyes on one at the Grand Canyon in 2010 or 11.  From time to time, I’ve checked in with the motorcycling press on the Yamaha. Good reviews.  Substantially competent at most of what the Beemer does at a much-reduced ticket for admission.  Plus, service intervals and costs are reportedly much less than I’ve paid for either my BMWs or the current Triumph.

A Yamaha dealer outside of Salem, Oregon had several on the lot and very inviting out-the-door pricing.  The young sales lady with whom I spoke, insisted that, since I had my gear on, I should take one for a ride.

As I said earlier, I like the T-bird.  Not sure how much longer I’ll have her, however.

Damn test rides, anyway.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press