Sunday, June 29, 2008


GEORGE CARLIN (1937-2008)

Comedian and social satirist George Carlin passed away on June 22, in California, of heart failure. He had battled heart and other health problems since the 1970's. Carlin was 71.

Beginning his long career as a radio disc jockey in the 1950's, Carlin soon joined another comedian as part of a stand-up duo act, then later branched out on his own, where he developed his biting social wit and unique satirical style over the years. His immortal routine, "The Seven Words You Can't Say On Television," first performed in the 1960's, launched him into comedic superstardom and even led to a Supreme Court decision in the 1980s. Although the routine would seem tame by today's looser standards, it was years ahead of its time when Carlin created it.

He pushed the envelope of decency many times in his career, but offended few people, really, because he was always funny. Carlin had the gift of making you laugh at yourself, without really insulting you. What he said was most often so true, and couldn't be denied. He was at his best with his socio-political satire, and he targeted everything and everyone, from big government, to environmental extremists, to terrorists. Many of the politicians he joked about the most were some of his biggest fans. George Carlin was always making you laugh, but he could also make you think and that will always be his legacy. He will be much missed.

Here is a small sampling of the wit of George Carlin, over the years:

Frisbeeantarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck there.
I'm not concerned about all hell breaking loose. My fear is that PART of hell will break loose. That'll be much harder to detect.
Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping registrations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.
The very existence of flamethrowers proves that at some time, somewhere, someone thought, "Y'know, I want to set that person over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to them to do it."
There is no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past.
Weather forecast for tonight -- dark. Continued dark overnight, with scattered light in the morning.
Well, if crime fighters fight crime and firefighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that part to us, do they?
Didja ever notice that when you're driving, everyone going slower than you is an idiot? And everyone going faster than you is a maniac!!
Why do croutons come in airtight packages? It's just stale bread to begin with.
When cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say?
Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do "practice?"
The IQ and life expectancy of average American just passed each other going in opposite directions.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I was in Iowa this past week, just days after massive floods did untold millions of dollars in damage and left several thousand people homeless, their houses contaminated and ruined, unsafe to inhabit. My heart goes out to the people of that state and I pray that the Lord will speed them in their recovery.

It was a day or so after the worst of it had hit and much of the water had receded, leaving the major roads clear in most places, although some streets and county roads were still closed off. I had no problems reaching my delivery customer, nor getting to my backhaul load a little while later, something that had worried me for a few days before I headed that way, having heard the news reports about the terrible conditions out there.

I had thought, "Has my company gone totally nuts, sending me out there, right in the middle of all that??!!" Hell, they'd be better off putting the stuff on a boat, from what I had been hearing! However, as I've reported before in these pages, I have a talent, seemingly, for being sent into disaster areas right when the disaster's still going on, or immediately afterward. I think I've earned my Master Of Disaster degree, in fact. Let's see -- I've been within five and ten miles of two tornadoes; I rode out a tropical storm in Florida, back in '99; I drag-raced and outran Hurricane Charley a few years after that; I caught the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in northern Alabama the day after she tore the hell out of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans; and now I can add post-flood Iowa to my list of accomplishments. What's next for me?? The aftermath of an earthquake?? I have to wonder. That's about the only natural disaster I haven't been in or near, so far.

It was still dark as I made my way through the outskirts of Des Moines, where many homes were abandoned. I wasn't right in town and I couldn't see much, but I had noticed several flooded low-lying cornfields as I drove in there. Crops totally washed away. The sun came up and revealed dry roads and blue skies. I'll bet those folks out there were glad to see that, at last!! More flooded fields, here and there. Normal corn rows on the higher ground, as always. Debris beside the highway in places, but nothing blocking the  roads I traveled on. I reached my destination and got unloaded in short order. After a brief wait, I was on my way up to Webster City, just down I-35 from Mason City, where my online friend, Merry, lives. She had been telling me of the hardships they were enduring there, with the flooding. Her basement had more than a foot of water in it, and she thought everything down there was ruined.

But Webster City looked as if it had escaped the fate of Merry's town. Maybe it's on higher ground, but there was no debris piled up, no closed streets, as far as I could tell, and no water damage to any of the trailers at the shipper when I arrived. Guard there said that except for a few lower areas, they had made out pretty good around there. After a little longer wait this time, I trucked on out of there. There was some damage in Waterloo, from what I could see, but the real disaster was forty miles south of there, in Cedar Rapids. That city, and nearby Iowa City, had been hit the hardest of all.

The freeway through Cedar Rapids was clear and dry and the city was still there; it hadn't been washed away by the water. Quaker Oats was still right where it's always been, beside the Cedar River, which snakes its way through town. That river was the first indication of the disaster. It was still swollen, spilling out far above its normal banks. From the freeway, I-380, I could see many, many closed-off city streets, parts of which were still submerged. Debris was piled up all over the place, and blocked some thoroughfares completely. Houses stood in water, the level even with their first floors. Cars stood in water, some up to their roofs. Sump pumps were going; moving water out of flooded basements, through large hoses, leading to wherever. I caught the unpleasant scent of raw sewage in the air, put there when sewers erupted from the backpressure and the municipal treatment plant flooded over. A huge mess, otherwords. Reports on the radio stated that it would take months, maybe years, before things would get all the way back to normal there.

But people were out and about, working. Not sitting around, waiting for the government to do something, like they did in New Orleans in 2005. I saw bulldozers and backhoes at work in some places. The cleanup had already begun, as people started to pull their shattered lives back together. No welfare mentality in Iowa, like in New Orleans, where the dangers of that mindset were demonstrated so clearly for all to see, if they were looking. People in Iowa were helping themselves, not waiting on someone else to do everything. That's how you recover from a disaster. And that's why Cedar Rapids will be back on its feet again long before New Orleans ever is. Instead of pointing their fingers and blaming someone else, Iowans put the blame where it belongs, on Mother Nature, and are even now moving on.

One man, who was being interviewed on the radio, put it in perspective better than anyone I've heard in recent years. He totally frustrated the pinhead reporter, who was trying to stir up a controversy by pushing the guy to blame the government for his problems, the same way they did after Katrina. But the man was having none of that. He stated that nobody was forcing him and others to live so close to the river. They loved living near the river, and always would do so. Rivers flood sometimes, he told the reporter. That's the nature of a river. We'll rebuild and go on like we always have. Yes, indeed. To that I say, "Amen!!"

The Lord helps those that help themselves. There's no doubt in my mind that He's right there beside those flood victims right now.


Sunday, June 15, 2008


If any of you remember the last motorcycling entry I wrote, you'll recall that I was musing about the biker community coming of age nowadays. Getting older, otherwords, as in "middle-aged." With my own gray beard, potbelly, creaky joints, bad shoulder, and even creakier back, I am one of this group, definitely -- battered about by life and living, but not quite ready to hang up the handlebars yet, either. I like to refer to myself as a C.O.B.B., in fact; an abbreviation for Cantankerous Old Biker Bastard. I heard that it actually stood for "Crippled Old Biker Bastard," but since I'm not crippled (at least so far), with only the typical middle-aged aches and pains, I modified it a bit, to make it more suitable.

I am a biker retread; a condition some like to refer to as "having a mid-life crisis." Uh, not quite. Nice try, but no cigar. What crisis??!! There's no crisis here! I've always been what I am, since my teens. I just took a long vacation away from my favorite hobby, sport, or whatever you call it, for several years there. I was busy with other things for those years. Now, approaching retirement age and my well-earned "me" time, I want to have one last go-round with what I have always loved before I cash in my chips and leave the table for good.

The young whippersnappers who giggle at the "old man on the Harley" on the road will have reason to rethink that when they reach my age eventually, I know. I'll have the last laugh on them all. It's subtle, aging. It creeps up on you stealthily, then all the sudden -- BAM -- you're there! You can squander your time, scratching your head, wondering where it all went, or -- if you're anything like me -- you grab hold of what life is left and put a stranglehold on it. Shit, I know where it went!! I was never one to fool myself. I wasted a lot of my time on the largely pointless pursuits of youth, and invested more of that precious commodity in pursuing the almighty dollar, trying on this and that, to see how well it fit. Experimenting and exploring. Looking for the pot of gold that never came my way. I think we all do that, at some level or other. I remember an old Harry Chapin song about life being a big circle and I agree completely with that. You go round and round and round for years, then somehow end up  right back where you started out. Older and battered, but not beaten by this thing we call life.  

I'm definitely old-school, when it comes to motorcycling. I can remember things that this younger generation has hardly heard of. And that's how you tell the difference between old-school and new-school. I've made up a little list of things that will categorize you as one or the other. There are always exceptions, of course; some younger bikers may be familiar with some of these things, but I'll wager they won't be with all of them!!


1.  You remember when the forerunners of today's sportbikes were known as "cafe racers."

2.  You know how to kickstart a motorcycle.

3.  You know how to kickstart a Harley, or a cranky 250cc two-stroker, with no compression release.

4.  You know how to pop a dislocated knee back into place, after you kickstarted the Harley or two-stroker the wrong way.

5.  You know what "points" are.

6.  You know how to fiddle around with the points and *maybe* get yourself back home again.

7.  You fell in love with that Honda CB750 back in 1973, but couldn't afford one, so you ended up with a CL 450 -- the "scrambler" model.

8.  You know what a "scrambler" is.

9.  You've attended scramble races.

10. You ignored the fact that a scrambler was basically a street bike and rode it off-road anyway. As a result, you ended up riding the ground more than you did the bike.

11. You thought the new Triumph Trident and Kawasaki three-cylinder superbikes were the coolest things on wheels, until Honda's four-cylinder 750 came out.

12. You can remember bike makes like Hodaka, Bultaco, and BSA, all of which are no longer manufactured.

13. You thought Evel Kneivel was the coolest dude on earth.

14. You remember when every Honda 90 had scratches on the gas tank, made by the belt buckles of riders leaning forward on it, trying to get the thing up to 70 mph.

15. You can remember when the Honda 160 and 305 were the hottest models around. Everyone had one and everyone wanted one. Arguments about the merits of each model resulted in more than one fist-fight.

16. You met the "nicest people on a Honda," but the badass Hells Angels on their Harley choppers were WAY cool!!!

17. Your cousin gave you your first ride on a Harley and it was instant love. Thirty years later, you bought one.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Temple, GA ( a point enroute to New Jersey)

Not home again this weekend. Actually, I could go through Knoxville, but considering the distance from there to my destination and the ridiculously early delivery appointment time on this load (1 A.M. on Monday), why even bother?? Not really out of route -- there's more than one way to get from Texas to New Jersey -- but a waste of time to go that way, since I would only have a few hours at home before I'd have to leave right back out again. Not enough hometime to even bother with at all. The Interstate 20 to Atlanta, I-85 to Petersburg, VA, I-95 to NJ route I picked was the easiest and most practical, so here I am.

I sat two entire 24-hour days in Robinson, Texas, just south of Waco, after delivering a load to a customer's new warehouse in Waco, Wednesday morning. No load was forthcoming, and it was no surprise, since a quarter of our fleet seemed to be at that place at any given time of the day. As I said, it was a new warehouse and we were all delivering the "wares" that would be stored there, my company and CFI seemed to be the dominant trucking outfits rolling in and out of the place.

I counted one, two, three, four, eight, ten, fifteen of our trucks, in and out of there, while I unloaded. At least five were lined up at the gate, waiting their turns to dock, and a local-yokel driver, hauling shuttle trailers in and out of there, told several of us that it was worse on Monday, with more than twenty-five of us there that day. "Oh, crap!" I thought. All these company trucks here at the same time equals no load for awhile. And, sure enough . . . I got the expected "No Load" message as soon as I sent my "Empty" message in. I wasn't under any illusions at all, unlike one new driver, who was napping in the parking lot, awaiting a load which wasn't going to come for quite some time. He'll learn, just like I did. I headed a few miles south, to the Pilot in nearby Robinson.

The problem at hand was a simple and basic one:  With so many of our trucks in one place at the same time, it overwhelmed my company's load board, bigtime. Not the first time this has happened, by any means, andit won't be the last. Here's the equation, if you're into math:  20 trucks, minus 10 loads available, equals 10 trucks left stranded empty. This is an example only, but it should explain the simple principle. It's a simple matter of too many trucks and not nearly enough loads. It's supposed to go by who got there first, as to who gets the first load outta there, but it doesn't always work that way. In typical trucking company fashion, it usually depends on which dispatcher can get which load to which truck the fastest. If your dispatcher is slow on the draw, you can wait awhile. It takes patience, on the part of a driver, to understand and deal with these things.

But drivers are human and patience has its limits. I was almost at the end of mine, Friday morning, when the Qualcomm finally beeped three times in succession, indicating a load. I was on the phone with mom at the time, and I cut the conversation short, so I could write everything up and get the heck outta there at last!! At that point, if they'd have sent me to Istanbul, I'd have been plotting fuel stops in mid-ocean, while on the way!! Desperate. Wanted a load. ANY load. And I finally had one. And that's how I got here, writing this.

I'm not even bitching about going to Yankeeland this time!!!


Sunday, June 1, 2008


I was sitting in one of my favorite local biker bar hangouts the other day, sipping a cold brew, making small talk with others, and checking out all the "chrome ponies" that were coming and going through the lot, when a thought hit me:  The entire motorcycling community is getting older. A lot more gray hair, balding pates, white beards, and middle-aged bellies in sight than ever before. Many of the hot biker babes of yore have wind and sun-wrinkled faces and sagging figures of varying degrees nowadays; some are still hot, but it's a relative thing. Your perceptions change as you grow older; what's "hot" at 50 would've gagged you at 25. So it goes.

It's not like there aren't any younger bikers out there on the streets, because there certainly are. There's just fewer of them than before. Smaller generations and more overprotected than we were. But you will still see teenagers and twenty-somethings on their "crotch rockets," zooming down the highway, zipping in and out of traffic like it's not even there at all, looking sudden death square in the eyes and spitting in its face. We older, wiser bikers just grin when we see them fly past our Harleys, British Classics, and Gold Wing Hondas. Yeah, we used to do that stuff too. Some of us still do, but most have learned our lessons via dislocated and broken bones, with arthritis and rheumatism in our joints as a reminder of the foolishness of youth. It catches up with you, sooner or later. Always does. There are old bikers and there are bold bikers, but there are no old, bold bikers. I don't know who came up with that old saying, but I know for certain now that it's true.

I'm like so many others. I got motorcycling in my blood when I was a teenager. Had lots of fun, fell off of and dropped the thing ten dozen times, then crashed bigtime. Totaled my bike and ended up in the hospital. I bought another one a few years later and got over the fear. You either do that, or you choose not to ride again. And some can't ride again, after crashing. That's just the way it is.

I sold the second bike, then didn't own one for many years, until I bought my Miss Velvet last year. But that had always been in the back of my mind somewhere over all those bike-less years. Once you get the motorcycle bug, it never completely leaves you. Something about the wind in your face on a deserted country lane in the morning, the smells of nature in your nostrils, alone with your thoughts, with the sound of the powerful machine that you become a part of. It's freedom. True, utter freedom. It can't be explained. You have to experience it for yourself. But it's that sense of freedom that drives us all.

We have been somewhere where a non-biker never goes, experienced something unique which they can't begin to imagine. We aren't criminals or bad people, for the most part. Those are the one-percenters. We're some of the sweetest and nicest people you could ever meet. We aren't out looking for trouble; we only want to ride and have the cagers respect the fact that we share the road with them. Give us our portion of it. That's all we ask.

I've always been a biker, ever since I first climbed on a motorcycle and brought the engine to life. Now I'm back again. The world's changed, the bikes have changed, and we have changed and aged ourselves. But we aren't ready to trade our 2-wheelers in on trikes quite yet, thank you. As long as we can still put our wobbly old legs down and hold the damned thing up, we'll be leaning into those curves and chasing the wind. It's a way of life for us.


We Don't Do Fear

Over the last 105 years in the saddle, we've seen wars, conflicts, depression, recession, resistance and revolutions. We've watched a thousand hand-wringing pundits disappear in our rear-vew mirror. But every time, this country has come out stronger than before. Because chrome and asphalt puts distance between you and whatever the world can throw at you. Freedom and wind outlast hard times. And the rumble of an engine drowns out all the blah, blah, blah on the evening news. If 105 years have proved one thing, it's that fear sucks and it doesn't last long.

So screw it, let's ride.

Copyright 2008, Harley-Davidson Motor Company