Sunday, November 5, 2023


 Many years ago, my friend, Jim, went on an Outward Bound trip to Maine.  The trip included a solo time on an island, a couple of days meant for contemplation.  Afterward, a counselor gave him a quotation by John Kavanaugh about being a searcher.  Later, when my dad got sick and died, Jim shared it with me.

A few years back I made a presentation that included that quotation.  Below are the parts from Kavanaugh.

Friday, June 30, 2023

World-Wide Web

When I was young
the web entangled,
wrapped me tight and
squeezed my identity
into its dark belly---

The web covered my eyes,
left me hung up
on religion,
sexual norms,
misogyny and racism---
Southern culture.

But now,
a web of connections,
of people I choose,
of people I love,
friends and family---

that web supports me. 

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Riding Tips for the Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES DCT

I've ridden motorcycles for many years, but when I purchased the 2022 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports DCT, I still had a steep learning curve ahead of me. This video was particularly helpful. 

I picked the Africa Twin DCT for several reasons:
  1. I have developed arthritis in my left hip, and the DCT means I don't have to shift gears with my left foot.
  2. My hands cramp after a short while on a traditional motorcycle, such as the Kawaski I owned previously.  The DCT means there is no clutch lever to worry about.  In addition, the Honda ES model comes standard with both cruise control and grip warmers.  Last fall, I rode over 5000 miles on a 6.5 week trip, and my hands handled it fine.
  3. I mostly ride alone, including on my trip West, and Honda dependability means a lot to me.

Mounting the Africa Twin

But riding it took practice:
  1. It's taller than any bike I owned previously.  Just getting on it with my arthritic hip, especially when it was loaded for traveling, was a chore.  However, my dealer, Randy Sindt of Sindt Motors in Dubuque, showed me how to step up on the peg while the kickstand is still down, as shown in the video above.  It was a huge benefit.  I've seen online videos of short riders trying to throw their legs over the saddle from the ground.  What a struggle.  An unnecessary one, too.
  2. I've dropped bikes multiple times, always at slow speeds.  Several things helped prevent new falls:
    • Never lock the front brake when the wheel isn't straight.  Never.  To keep myself from grabbing a handful of brake, I put a single finger on the front brake lever.  That's enough for slowing the bike quickly, but it also has so far kept me from locking it up.  When I dropped the bike (twice) out West, I snapped the front brake lever short.  That turned out to be a blessing, and I rode several thousand miles before getting back to Dubuque to replace it.  I couldn't grab a handful of brake if I had wanted to!
    • Since the DCT doesn't have a clutch, you can't ride the friction zone.  I finally learned to both give the bike a bit of throttle at the same time that I stepped solidly on the rear brake.  The DCT will then feather the clutch for you.  I can creep along below walking speed, using the rear brake to control speed as one would a traditional clutch.  This is a game-changer.  And the bike simply won't stall, a huge additional benefit of the DCT.
    • Practice slow-speed maneuvers.  In pretty weather, I still practice figure-8s, weaves, and other slow-speed maneuvers at a nearby parking lot. An extra 10 minutes in the parking lot before a ride reacquaints my body with the bike at slow speeds.
  3. Starting off on an uphill slope or, worse, a side slope was always tough.  But with the DCT and a single finger over the front brake lever, I can twist the throttle and get going while still having both feet on the ground.
  4. Before I began preparing for my trip West (photos here), I had never been on overnight camping trips by motorcycle.  Everything for six weeks except food had to fit on the bike.  I'll write more soon about my packing list.
  5. The wind out West was fierce, with 60+ mph winds on a section of I-80 near Laramie, Wyoming.  The Africa Twin had the weight and stability to get through it.  I just had to learn to trust it.
Overall, a lot of the practice was about gaining confidence without getting complacent.  I once heard John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach, speak at a basketball camp I attended in middle school.  He said, "Be quick, but don't hurry."  

It's all about the attitude you bring to what you do.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

A Different Christmas Present

Christmas was different this year.  Our home is finally an empty nest, our younger daughter having graduated from college and moved West to the same town where her sister lives. Last year we traveled there, a long drive with bad weather on the drive home.  Why not meet somewhere a bit further south?  We chose Moab, Utah.  We booked a single room that sleeps six---the first place I've seen with queen-sized bunk beds---and met our daughters and their men there.  We had a great time hiking, exploring, and soaking in the outdoor hot tub.  

But that is not what this is about.  Instead, it's about the present I received.

But first, a bit of family history.

Back in 1992, I was a bachelor teaching geology at the University of New Orleans.  My mom still lived in Walnut Cove, NC, in the house I grew up in, and I planned to visit her for the holidays. Mom was always generous with presents, but I knew of nothing in particular that I needed.  So I sent mom a list of 10 questions and asked her to answer them as my present.  I started with "What was life like when you were a little girl?"

My mom, Ina Easley.

Mom bought a journal, answered the questions, and included some photos like the one above.

My daughters have seen the journal and heard me talk about it, a prized possession.  And Anderson Copper's podcast about grief that he started when cleaning out his mom's apartment after she died stimulated me to revisit and digitize it.  It's available here.

 This year, they decided to do something similar.

Ananda and Tess bought a journal and wrote early and good memories of their time with me while growing up.  Then they gave me a list of questions to answer, which I'm currently working on.

Thursday, December 8, 2022


 Meet Jaeger, the seven-week-old border-collie puppy we're adopting.

If you read the previous post, you know that my longtime pal, Harold, passed away recently. I had good intentions of waiting until after Christmas to adopt another dog.   But I made a bad mistake---I looked online at dogs available for adoption.  The first couple of stabs at adoption ended in disappointment, but one last look yielded a new posting---border collie puppies.  I've owned both a pureblood border collie and a border-collie mix previously.  Wonderful dogs, though if you don't exercise them, they will eat your house.  I'm willing to work with Jaeger.

Having a dog and walking it each morning has been part of my routine for years, and it has definitely helped my physical and mental health.  Those dogs have lived with me, been part of my family, and helped raise my daughters.  But I didn't always see dogs that way.

I grew up in the country at a time when dogs were not house pets. All through the surrounding South, you could see dogs hooked on chains, tied to trees and posts in the yard. Somehow Dixie, our bitch, still decided to have pups. We kept two from the litter, Beauregard and Ulysses, the latter named by a friend who didn’t know better.  I remember letting the dogs off their chains to run free, roaming the hollers and streams. I also remember coming home and Dad saying Ulysses had been run over. 

Beauregard was a coon dog—black, brown, bits of white. He was powerful, with a deep voice that carried for miles. He was bred for chasing a raccoon in the dark for miles, treeing it, then baying for someone to come shoot it.

What I don’t like to remember is the years after I left home—Mom and Beauregard alone in the country, Beauregard always hooked to his chain, day after day, seldom making a sound.

I can't undo my treatment of Beauregard.  I can only plead youth and ignorance. But I've learned to do better, and making a dog a part of my life has radically enriched it.  Life is so much better with a dog around.

Thursday, December 1, 2022


This morning at 8:30 a.m. my dog of more than a decade died.  I was on the phone at the time with my older daughter, Ananda, now living in Idaho, who grew up with Harold.  She said that she never understood how people could grieve so much over the death of a pet until now.

Harold shortly before his death.

Knowing how to grieve was not something I've modeled well as a parent. From my own mother, I learned that the way to deal with death was to stay busy, take care of practical things, bring food, or clean.  So when my own mother died, I took care of the burial details, cleaned out the house, and wrote the thank-you notes... but didn't really share any sorrow with my daughters or wife.

I've finally begun to recognize that grieving is necessary before moving on.

Recently, I've been listening to Anderson Cooper's podcast on grief plus reading The Wild Edge of Sorrow, recommended to me by a good friend who is a psychotherapist.  These have been useful follow-ups to two books on transition by William Bridges.  

We've all heard the stories of the woman who finally leaves her alcoholic husband only to follow with another alcoholic husband.  It doesn't seem to make sense.

But it does.

Bridges says, "We resist transition not because we can't accept the change, but because we can't accept letting go of that piece of ourselves that we have to give up when and because the situation has changed."

That explains that wherever the many places in the world I've been, there I was.  All the baggage of my emotional life got dragged with me.  I was changing location but not changing myself.

But today was a bit different.  My daughter and I cried together for our lost friend.

James Kavanaugh said, "Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter.  To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know–unless it be to share our laughter."

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Kickstand and Hot Asphalt

Divot in Asphalt
The divot in the asphalt in front of my home.

I parked my motorcycle on the street on a hot day last summer. I'd read about the issue of asphalt getting soft with the heat but hadn't given it much thought until I came out a short while later and saw how far the kickstand had sunk in.   I'm lucky the motorcycle didn't fall over.