Thursday, October 1, 2009


Leather jacket weather has arrived again, for us motorcycle enthusiasts. Wore mine out to eat last night, at Coyote Joe's. It looked like it wanted to rain, the whole time I was out, but never did, fortunately. The cool temperature, fall weather has arrived a little early this year. It usually don't start getting really nippy in these parts until at least mid-October, but we're dipping into the upper 40's at night this week. I was kind of expecting it, after the unseasonable cool and rainy summer we've had. I think I got to ride more LAST summer, when I was still trucking, than I've gotten to this year, because of all the wet weather.

Anyhoo, after eating and finishing my final beer, I put the leather back on and rode home. About halfway to the house, I began regretting my choice of open-fingered, warm weather gloves, as my fingertips became almost numb from the wind chill that my riding created. With my stiff digits, working the clutch was -- well -- a challenge, to say the least. I let it out sloppily, almost laying an unintentional "patch" of burnt rubber behind me at one stop sign. Glad there was no cop around, to witness that. And my right hand, on the front brake, wasn't much more capable, as I nearly stood myself on my head twice, when stopping. Most of any bike's stopping power is in that front brake, so a little goes a long way, unless you have half-frozen hands!

But I kept on keeping on and soon was rumbling into the alleyway behind the Dawg House. I stopped just before I reached my rear driveway and began fumbling in my tank bag for the garage door opener I stash in it. I found the opener okay, got it out, aimed it, more or less, at the door and mashed the button with my stiff fingers. Nothing happened. Too many trees, dog enclosures, and other junk in the way, blocking the signal from the controller. So, I raised the thing overhead and mashed it again. This time I saw the interior lights I had left on, as the door started up on its tracks. Now, to put the opener away, so I could ride up the driveway and into the garage. Couldn't get the tank bag to cooperate, with my cold-stiffened fingers. Not to mention the fact that I was doing it one-handed, as my left hand was still squeezing the clutch lever the entire time. And I was also holding the controller in my right hand at the same time I was fumbling around with the bag.

Well, dinkus-dang, I exclaimed (NOT my exact words!) I fumbled around on my jacket, but in the position I was sitting in, it was nearly impossible to jam the controller into a pocket. So, I tried to hold it against the handgrip with my left thumb, still holding the clutch in, to free up my right hand, so I could get that dad-blamed pouch in my tank bag open! And then, naturally, I dropped the controller. It hit the ground in the blackness under the bike and I saw the battery compartment lid pop off and land next to my front wheel. Well, fiddle-dee-dee (again not my exact words!!) Golly darn it all (ditto)!!

I hit the "kill" switch on the right handlebar, swung the kickstand out, sat Miss Velvet down in the dark alley, and got off of her. Picked up the battery door and put that in my pocket, then began looking around for the rest of the controller in the darkness. No flashlight, of course, and the headlight wasn't much help at all. Didn't find it and by now, my allergies were stopping my head up from bending over for so long to search. I gave up, swung my leg over the saddle, re-started Velvet, and swung into the driveway and on into the garage, where I parked her, then got rid of my helmet and leathers.

A few minutes after that, I was in my trusty pick-em-up truck, driving around back, to the alley. I went down it slowly and spotted the missing controller at last. I was glad to see that I hadn't run over it with the bike, at least. I opened the garage door, then closed it again, insuring that the controller still worked okay. I stashed the controller in the truck, pulled some deadfall branches out of my back driveway, then went back around front and parked the truck where I usually do.

Moral of story: Next time I'm wearing full-fingered gloves. Bet on it!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009


And so, we choke. This –- the rainiest and most unseasonably cool summer I've seen in years – has finally turned HOT!! Miserable hot. Steamy, humid, sauna-like hot that'll take your breath away. Humidity around 750%, or so it feels. Very hard on someone like me, with lung disease, because I think you're breathing in as much water vapor as you are air!!! Now in late summer, these conditions are what my Granny always called, "Dog Days."

And, of course, the air conditioning here at the Dawg House goes on the blink, barely cooling at all. And I had to buy a portable room air conditioner, which is hooked up in my bedroom, so at least I can sleep comfortably at night. The rest of the house is cooled, more or less, by three fans, running at medium to high speed at all times. I'm making it, but it's definitely NO FUN!!

I can't afford to have my HVAC system repaired right now and I'm not even sure it can BE fixed. It's an antique dinosaur of a system, having been initially installed in the mid-1980's and it's all but outlived its usefulness completely. It needs to be jacked up, moved aside, and a new HVAC system put in to replace it. The A/C part of it uses (or "used," past-tense) the old R-22 refrigerant (which the EPA has now outlawed completely, all due to the phony ozone scare back in the late 80's, which turned out to be another hoax, like the so-called "man-made global warming" crap that they're still trying to con us all with today.) The result is that I can't get the stuff my A/C uses and I don't know if it's even compatible with the stuff that replaced R-22 or not. If it involves an expensive conversion to the new stuff, forget it. It'd be cheaper to just replace the whole enchilada, in the long term.

My natural gas furnace works, at least. But it's ancient history, too, and now that I'm home all the time and won't be turning it down to save money every week, as I was when I was on the road, I shudder to think of what my bill might be like about January of next year. The furnace is old, too, and is held together with baling wire and duct tape, where I've performed various 'surgeries" on it in the past, to keep it going. Will it last another winter?? I don't know at all. KUB, our local electric/gas/water utility here, will finance a new system for me, I've learned, but they add it to my bill, and with no or little income right now, I can't afford a $300 - $400 bill every month until it's paid off.

I don't want to draw out the rest of my 401K money, but it looks like I might be forced to, if I am unable to find some kind of work I can physically do without gasping for breath and tiring myself out after ten minutes. I could take some of that and pay for a new system, I suppose.

Going to be making a decision on that very soon. You do what you have to do, when your back is to the wall.

In spite of my financial and household woes right now, I had an inspiring moment last week. I was sitting out on my front porch after dark one night, enjoying the cool breeze out there and taking in some fresh air, when a little spider caught my eye. It was busily at work, doing what spiders do – building its web, from the branches of a shrub in front of my house, to the wrought iron railing on the porch. For some reason, I grew fascinated watching it; that little fellow (or gal) was more interesting right then than anything that was on TV. The street light that was illuminating the critter's efforts served as well as any spotlight could have done.

I marveled at the spider's patience, as it descended on a super-fine string of web and the wind caught it, blowing it to and fro. The spider never gave up. It bided its time until the breeze faded and it could light on the railing and attach that strand of its web. The human word, "quit" was never programmed into its genetic code at all. I think I watched my little friend for an hour, as it wove part of its web right before my eyes, and I was very careful when I finally got up and went back inside, careful not to disturb the web and destroy all the hard work that creature had done. I know many people sweep away a spider's web, as I have myself, but not on this night. It was live and let live and that spider got a free pass from me. Why should I mess with such a marvelous little miracle from God??

Now I know that there are some people in this world who don't believe in the living God that I do. There are people who flatly deny that such a Supreme Being and Master Designer exists. They seem to think that this intricate universe and our planet, with its teeming life, just got here by some cosmic accident somehow. To that I say, "baloney." Let them go run the numbers on that premise sometime and they'll see that the odds against such a random happening are so astronomical as to be laughable. You wouldn't bet your next paycheck on those odds, unless you enjoy giving your money away!!

Some folks refuse to believe in God because they can't see Him, therefore, they think, how can God exist?? To them I would say that if they can't see God, then they aren't really looking for Him. Want to see God? Then just look at a spider, as I did that night last week. He is right there, living in that tiny creature that He created. A spider is an insect with no real brain at all – just a bunch of nerve endings. But hardwired into that creature is a code – a code that tells that spider exactly what to do and how to do it. Think that code got there by some sheer accident?? That's crap. God put that code in the spider when He created it, along with everything else on this planet and in this universe. Just observe that spider, non-believer. You are observing God in the form of one of His amazing creations. Let's see some scientist create anything like that spider in a laboratory!

God is all around us. All we have to do is look for Him.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I've always maintained  that there are two varieties of cast-off belongings. There is "junk," and then there is "junque." The former belongs in a trash can, but the latter is recyclable, in that it can be fixed, repaired, reused, transformed, or sold to someone else, so that they can use it. Junk is quicky out of sight and out of mind, while junque tends to hang around for years and clutter up one's garage, attic, storage closets, or junque drawers. This accumulates until a person is forced to deal with it, or be pushed out of their living spaces by the accumulation.

This is where the idea of the Flea Market originated. A place where people can gather together and sell or trade their junque to one another. No, I don't pretend to know how it got that curious name – I've never yet seen anyone selling fleas at one of those things, so it appears to make no logical sense at all. I suppose someone just stuck a name on it because they had to name it something. Ya reckon?

You can spend hours and days on end wandering around a general flea market, because everything you could ever imagine is on sale there, and for rock-bottom prices. Three, four, and five buck items abound and you can half-fill a shopping cart for twenty-five or thirty dollars. Vendors, or those who sell stuff at flea markets nickle and dime you to death, but the money can accumulate very quickly, if you have stuff people are interested in. Some people make a living at this, investing in their junque at neighborhood yard sales, factory close-outs, buying up damaged goods, etc., and then reselling the stuff for a song. Not much markup here; it's the quantity you can sell that makes you the money, not big profit on each item.

Others, like Yours Truly, take a turn at vendoring in order to clean out their habitats of accumulated junque every now and then, in order to maintain enough open space in the house to turn around when you need to. This was why I found myself at a Bike Swap Meet on Saturday, selling some accumulated junque off the tailgate of my trusty Chevy pick-'em-up truck. A swap meet is another word for flea market, only it's a specific type of flea market, aimed strictly at the biker/motorcycle market. Most everything sold at one is related to motorcycling in some manner.

In two years of personalizing Miss Velvet, my beloved Harley Sportster, I had experimented quite a bit before deciding firmly on the direction I have now taken. I also had a helmet I wasn't wearing and a nice leather jacket that I shrunk out of when I lost some weight. I since bought a smaller size one, as the old one would require a set of football player's shoulder pads worn beneath it, in order to make the sleeves fit me properly. Why the makers of that clothing seem to think everyone with a larger belly is also 6' 5" tall is beyond me, but I ain't but 5' 8" and I don't have arms like a gorilla, so it has to go. However, it is in such pristine shape that it's worth a serious penny or two (and I'm not talking $5 here, either!!!)

So, accordingly, I gathered everything up (forgetting and leaving two or three things at home, naturally), paid my registration fee and drove over to the Harley shop early Saturday morning, to get my space assignment and set up my wares. Below is the first thing that greeted me, as I drove onto the lot:


I got my assignment and headed for the vendor area:

Vendor Area 1

A Few Vendors

I nosed into the space I was assigned, then got out and began arranging my meager box of items on my tailgate. I think it took me all of five minutes.


Once set up, I made my first sale, for five dollars, within just a few minutes. I sold a belt buckle -- to another vendor. Yeah, they buy from each other, too, to get merchandise to re-sell themselves. Everyone around me was still setting up and most of them had much more to offer than I did. I walked around for awhile, looking at the kinds of things that they were offering and helping them, here and there, if they asked me to.

Setting Up

Setting Up 2

One fine-looking lady, whom I judged to be somewhere in her mid-forties, kept smiling at me in a certain manner and I, of course, returned the smile, whenever I could, and glancing admiringly at her cute figure and shapely posterior from time to time. Her hubby was with her, off and on, but they didn't seem to get along too well, as they seemed to be arguing with each other when they were together. She did most all of the sales work while he just disappeared for long spells of time. I don't know where he went, and didn't care, really, because the attraction between me and his wife was obviously mutual. I didn't, of course, want to get myself involved in a marital spat, so I kept my distance and just admired her visually.

They left early, about an hour before I pulled up my own stakes and pulled out. She packed most of the stuff up, with him helping only with the heavier items. But before they left, with him already in the car, she walked past me, deliberately, I believe, and went around to the food vendor, to get her a soda. As she passed me she grinned and gave me a look that plainly said:  "Some other time, some other place, if he's not with me . . ." Now, let me tell you all that I have never been involved with a married woman before, but this one – well, I have to confess that I'd be sorely tempted!!! That's about all I can say about it, except that I'll always wonder what might have gone down on Saturday if she'd been there alone??

It ended when the rain clouds moved in overhead. The crowd had been small anyway, all morning long. It was the first sunny weekend we'd had in what seems like ages and I guess everyone was out on the lake, or up in the mountains, enjoying life and leisure. As it turned out later, it never did actually rain, but those clouds were mean-looking, just like a storm was moving in on top of us. I packed up and left after selling an amazing $23 dollars worth of stuff. I still have the helmet and jacket and another vendor told me I might have better luck selling the jacket when it gets closer to fall and cooler weather. It's probably going to be hard to sell anyway, because it's so big (size 5X), but I'll keep trying, and might even put it on Ebay, if need be.

There was another swap meet on Sunday, in another part of town, but I didn't end up going to that one. It was at Biker Rags, in the west end, but they hold those swap meets almost every month in warm weather, so I'll get down there later on toward fall and try my luck again. But I know now where to head, if I need anything motorcycle-related and want to get the absolute best price on it!


Monday, July 6, 2009


I took a leisurely holiday ride on Miss Velvet on Saturday, the Fourth of July. Had her little American flag flapping in the wind, strapped to her sissy bar with electrical zip-ties, and had my stars and stripes dew rag on under my helmet. It was enjoyable as it always is on a holiday weekend, when most everyone else is out on the lakes, or up in the Smokies, having fun and grilling burgers and hot dogs. Their absence in town makes traffic light and sweet, for a change, and much less of a hassle and hazard than usual. Before I knew it, I was out in the woods, riding a section of twisties that seem to be made for a motorcycle.

Rode out to my aunt and uncle's place, had a nice visit with them, then left at the same time they did. They were headed to the lake, or somewhere like that, but I didn't ride along with them. I took a little detour through the sleepy and tiny little "wide place in the road" known as Powell, Tennessee (a Knoxville bedroom community, actually) and hit 25w, a major highway leading back into K-Town. Once on that route, I opened Velvet up a little, letting her run and get some "exercise." That's good for her, now and then. She zippped up to 60, then 65, effortlessly and as smoothly as silk, with her throttle less than halfway open. She never broke a sweat and would have to be pushed up toward that 120 mph maximum on her speedometer in order to do so.

I paid my "Harley Tax" last year, adding a pair of performance mufflers and a high-flow air cleaner kit to her. You have to do that nowadays, in order to make the stock engine perform and sound the way it should sound and perform when it leaves the factory. It doesn't, of course, because of our government, which is hell-bent on saving us from ourselves. So, most of us Harley owners are forced to spend extra money in order to make our machines run up to their true potential. The result is that it brings out the full torque and horsepower that the engine is capable of, as it ain't being strangled anymore by government regulations and red tape. I was told by the Harley shop that Velvet now has about 70 horses prancing around under her "hood," and I can feel the increased torque in the seat of my pants when I let out the clutch and twist that throttle. She'll do everything her speedometer says she will, and more, I know.

Not that I've had her up to that speed -- I haven't at all. That's just a bit too fast for me, on a public highway. It's dangerous enough on a bike out there at 30 mph, what with all the dumb car drivers on the road. 120 is pushing your luck a lot further than I'm willing to push mine. That kind of speed belongs on a drag strip or race track, not on a public roadway. I have ridden up to almost 80, one time, and believe me, that is FAST on two wheels. A 600 pound bike like Velvet feels like she weighs about 30 pounds at that speed. Things begin to happen very quickly; way too quickly to stop or swerve if some little old granny decides she wants in my lane and doesn't bother to look first. My daredevil days are long over with. I'm an old biker now, not a bold biker. There are no old, bold bikers because luck has a funny way of running out on you, sooner or later. There are two main types of motorcyclists -- those who have crashed and those who will. I'm in the "have crashed" category. Crashing sucks and I do what I can to avoid any repeats of a very bad experience.

Of course there are also the local law enforcement types to consider as well. Cops abound on major summer holidays, like the Fourth. I didn't see any, but that don't necessarily mean that they weren't seeing me. They like to hide in Tennessee and you won't see them until it's too late. I have better things to do with what money I have than to pay speeding fines with it, so with that in mind, I slowed back down to the double-nickel speed limit after just a brief "run" for Velvet. What's the rush? It's a holiday and I'm in no particular hurry to go anywhere. Just enjoying the ride. And I did, all the way back to town. I ended up, finally, where else?? At Coyote Joe's, naturally, my Number One hangout and a true biker bar and grill.

Now at this point a reader may wonder just what constitutes a real biker bar. Well, I'm gonna tell you all about that. No, it's not a wide-open, wild place, where there's a fistfight every ten minutes and you have to duck constantly, to avoid being clobbered by flying beer bottles. That's mostly Hollywood stuff. No, in fact the owner, Richard, or "Bubba" as he's affectionately known, doesn't tolerate any of that. You'll get tossed out on your ear and banned from the place for that sort of thing. And drug dealers aren't tolerated, either. Although some of the biker club members you see there still deal drugs now and then, they do it away from that premises. You might smell pot fumes now and then, from out on the outdoor deck, but that's about the extent of it. It can be noisy, with live bands playing and loud jukebox tunes now and again, but a biker bar ain't necessarily a bad place to visit at all.

Ever since bar owners discovered that middle-aged bikers like myself had new bikes and some disposable income, club after club began having a bike night. But if the place you go has maybe two bikes, tops, sitting out front and inside it's full of 21-year-olds listening and dancing to the newest alt or hip-hop hits and they serve only the trendiest brands of beer and other "lubricants," then forget it. Walk out and fire 'er up, cause that ain't a biker bar at all.

No, the best I can define a real biker bar is an establishment where bikes show up in droves in good weather, where three-fourths of the clientele and employees sport at least one tatoo, where the patrons are mostly in their 40's and up, where the beer is ice-cold and they offer all the familiar brands you've always drank, and where the food is good, quite reasonably priced, and the menu items are things that would give your docs hissy-fits if they knew about it.

A biker bar is also (at least around here) a place where there is a mix of country music, blues, and classic or southern rock blasting out of a set of monster speakers at all hours of the night and day, punctuated by the sound of predominant Harley-Davidson engines starting up and ripping down the driveway all the time. A place where you get a hug from one or more of the girls when you arrive, and sometimes another hug when you depart. "Friendly shadows," as Kris Kristofferson once sang in one of his songs. A place where friends with a common interest and passion can meet, eat, drink a few cold ones, play some pool, or just kick back and listen to the juke and chat with one another. A place to relax and cool your pipes after a long, hot ride in the summer sun. A place that feels like a home away from home, once you become well-known there. Coyote Joe's fits that description to a "T." Listen to the words of Toby Keith's I Love This Bar sometime. He's been there and done that, time and again, I'll wager.

Saturday was slow and my funds were limited, since I had neglected to stop at an ATM and reload my wallet with cash, so I only stayed a couple of hours. But I was back again on Sunday afternoon, this time with more money and in my four-wheeler, since it had been raining. Not many bikes out front in that weather, but that's normal. Most motorcyclists avoid bad weather and take the cage. It's safer and a lot drier than a bike. Getting caught out in an unexpected rainstorm is one thing -- we've all been there -- but only the truly hardest-core bikers will deliberately go out and ride in the rain. Stayed a little longer Sunday, since I wasn't on two wheels, and drank a little bit more.

We had one incident that demonstrates how well Richard's rules are obeyed by all of us. One younger guy whom I don't know had stopped in with an older friend who I've seen there a few times. The youngster sat at the bar while his friend was out on the front deck, talking to some other friends. I didn't see the actual incident, but the youngster had had a few too many and grabbed the shapely derriere of the cute little Coyote Girl who was serving both inside and out on that slower day. She immediately and quite understandably let him (and everyone else) know that she didn't appreciate it and that his actions were very inappropriate. Mario, the bartender on duty, quickly got the drunk kid's attention and began talking to him, not being nasty, but letting him know that he wasn't permitted to touch the girls in that manner. His older friend also came inside and talked to him. He was immediately cut off from further alcohol and seemed to calm down after that. Then, about twenty minutes later, he started bellyaching about the incident, trying to accuse her of slapping his butt first (which the girl hadn't done at all.) She defended herself and his friend quickly came back in again and told him to come on, they were leaving. He got the drunk kid out of there before Mario and two or three of the rest of us could gang up and physically toss him out ourselves. That kid had better learn to keep his hands to himself before he learns it the hard way. That girl is a real sweetie and none of us are going to let her be treated like a tramp. Look all you want to, but don't touch! That's the rule and I hope that kid learns it fast. That's the biggest single incident I've witnessed there in all the time I've hung out there and it was handled tastefully and peacefully.

Now, for the award I got. Well, it ain't an official award or anything. It was passed along to me by my friend Lori and it's an Honest Blogger Award. Informal honor, but I AM honored, Lori, and thank you!!! The award is displayed at the top of this entry. In return, I'm supposed to list ten honest facts about myself and then pass it on to another seven bloggers. I can and will do the first task, but I can't do the second one, because I really don't follow that many blogs nowadays. So I can't pass it on, but hopefully the other six she chose will do so and the award will continue to move along. So okay -- now here is my list of ten honest things:

1. I, like Lori, am also an only child. I got ALL the attention when I was growing up, with no siblings, so I'm definitely not starved for that. In fact I think that has made me tend to shy away from the limelight. I don't like being the center of attention -- don't like the pressure it puts on me. That's why I had to be half-lit before I would get up on the stage and perform my karaoke debut that night a month or so ago. A show-off I'm NOT!!

2. I love most all dogs, except the itty-bitty noisy ones that won't stop barking and have the sharpest teeth. Can't stand those breeds. They get on my nerves instantly. I won't mistreat any animal, though.

3. My basic food groups are burgers, pizza, chili, BBQ, peanut butter sandwiches, and ice cream. I'm a doctor's nightmare!!

4. I still smoke a little, though I've cut way down from the amount I used to smoke. I'm trying to quit, but it's HARD!! Those of you who have never smoked have no idea how hard it is -- especially when you're stressed out over health issues, no job, no health insurance, and incoming bills!!

5. I love good blues or blues/rock music best of all. Second-best is Southern Rock. Third-best is old-time classic country. Stuff I grew up listening to.

6. I'm having a hard time learning to sleep all night again, after being a night-owl trucker for eleven years. I'm up and down all night sometimes, like I am now, writing this entry at 4:12 A.M., EST, on Tuesday morning.

7. I have a lot of love inside me to give to some lucky woman. I'm a prize catch because I've never been married before and have *no* baggage from an ex-wife, kids, etc. I've made one good female friend since I moved back home to stay, but nothing serious yet. I need an income first!!!

8. I am a writer to the core, but it takes time to make money at it. I have to pay bills NOW, so I'm forced to put that off until I retire, or get my disability coming in.

9. I'm not a mean person at all, but I have buttons that you DON'T want to push!!!

10. I put my faith in God, not in human beings. You're never alone with God in your heart.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Well, Coyote Joe's wasn't quite as mobbed on Saturday night as it was on Thursday, but it was still enough to be called a complete success. The absence of the Honda Hoot did definitely affect things, as they didn't have the out-of-town crowd that was evident last year, but once again, plenty of locals showed up. There wasn't any milling and dancing around the parking lot, as there was Thursday; around 10 P.M. most of the milling about and dancing was being done inside, when the main attraction band, Sellers & Wray, began their performance. You needed a shoehorn to pry the knots of people apart in order to get to the bathrooms. Standing room only in there and you practically had to make an appointment in order to rid your system of excess beer.

I elected to stay on the deck outside, while a friend I was sitting with went in to hear the headline act. It was cooler out there and much less crowded, not to mention the fact that the kick-ass blues/rock band from Thursday was back on the patio, performing again. I had grown steadily fonder and fonder of that group, as I love good blues music and this little trio was smoking hot once again. A simple setup of a solo guitar, bass and drums, but with an enormous sound. The band is called LA3, and though I never caught the name of their guitarist/vocalist, let me say that the guy was fantastic!!! Smoking hot, sometimes raunchy, sometimes smooth as silk blues chords and riffs poured off the strings of his Telecaster, through the amplifier and into the ears of those like myself, who can listen intently and appreciate enormous talent when it's so evident.

And vocally?? The guy can sing the blues as well as any white man I've ever heard. He's paid his dues in full, whoever he is. Another little-known singer/guitarist, who could upstage some of the biggest names in the world, probably, if he ever had the chance. I've witnessed that many, many times before in my life -- some of the best musicians around are people you've never even heard of before. I was completely mesmerized -- couldn't have left while they were playing, even if I'd wanted to.

Foodwise, it wasn't free this time around. Too much to expect that Bubba could afford to give away food all four days of the Blowout. But, for five bucks you could get a plate with burgers, BBQ (sliced pork), or barbecued chicken leg quarters that were absolutely perfect, with the meat "falling off the bone" tender. Baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw -- all the usual cookout trimmings -- rounded it all out. Top that off with a cold brew and you're in Hawg Heaven, or at least I was. I paid seven bucks and got a burger and a chicken leg quarter, as well as potato salad and beans. Yummy. Now I'm going back next week, to have some of Bubba's famous pork barbeque -- his own recipe, and it's very good. I know there'll be plenty left over. There always is. Eat well and eat cheap, for as long as it lasts!

When the LA3 finally finished their set and began packing up, I caught up with the guitarist, told him how I loved his playing, wished him the best, then went inside, briefly, to catch a little of Sellers & Wray's act. Very briefly, I must emphasize. By then they were packed in there like sardines. The band sounded good, as usual, but that was too much crowd for me, so I went back outside to "my" table and sat back down there again. No more bands would be performing on the patio. A local ordinance forbids loud performances outdoors past 10 P.M., so it was over out there for the night. Which is why, of course, that the headline act had set up inside, because they would be performing up into the wee hours.

Business slowed down out on the deck after the band stopped playing. Some of the crowd moved inside and others just departed. One of the newer servers Bubba hired, obviously tired, came over and began talking to me and I invited her to sit down for awhile, which she did. We talked for maybe thirty minutes and I began to get a positive feeling about her. She seemed to like older men, from what I could gather. Hmmmmmmmm. I asked her if she would be working Sunday and she wasn't sure. Told her I would be back and we'd talk some more then, the next time I saw her and she said "okay" with an certain eagerness. Double-hmmmmmmmm. Well, we'll just have to see what, if anything, comes of that. I won't reveal her name in these public pages, for privacy reasons, but that eagerness is worth exploring further, I do think!! [Wink-wink!]

Sorry I got no pictures, but I plain forgot to take my camera with me and even forgot my cellphone!! I had been out riding around Saturday and when I decided to head on over to Coyote Joe's, I didn't go back home first. Maybe next time I won't forget!!

Friday, June 26, 2009


The 9th Annual Big Twin Blowout at Coyote Joe's began last night and I was there for the beginning of this four-day party. I was almost a fixture there, in fact, as I went over there early and stayed much later than I had intended to originally. The thought of free burgers, hot dogs, and all the trimmings enticed me to stay well into the night. Yes, you heard that right. I said "free," as in free food, no charge for the meal, etc. Now how many places do you know that offer that, in this day and age?? So, I carefully controlled my beer intake (I was on Velvet, after all, not in my cage) and stayed for the grub-fest.

And everybody showed up!! I guess the free "lunch" that owner Richard "Bubba" Hilliard came up with worked like a charm, because it looked like a motorcycle convention around the place last night. A steady stream of bikes of every make (though Harleys dominated) slowly rolled into the lot, seeking an open parking slot. `They had to thread their way through a crowd that was busy partying in the lot and listening to a quite good blues/rock band, which was playing on the outdoor patio. Inside, there was the usual Thursday night karaoke contest, with the usual people performing their "hits," and there was pretty much standing room only in there, too. It had cooled off a little in there after nightfall, after being like an oven inside around 5 P.M. I had headed for the outdoor deck as soon as they opened the bar up out there and that's where I stayed the rest of the evening. It was at least ten degrees cooler out there.

The place was really jam-packed, for a weeknight, and I think everyone was a little surprised by the large turnout, on the very first night of the Blowout. If that was any indication of things to come, then Saturday night's going to be totally insane, and I plan to be there again. I'll have another entry on that excursion and probably some photos of the goings-on there, which I'll post later on. So far, it's looking like the absence of the annual Honda Hoot, which was always happening at the same time as the Blowout, isn't going to affect things that much this year. It's also looking like Honda made a gigantic blunder in calling off their annual rally in K-Town this year. I'll have more about that in the next entry, after I size up the crowd tomorrow night.

If it wasn't free food that enticed me to stay later than I meant to, it was the cash giveaway by the Harley dealer down the street. They've been doing that every Bike Night (Thursday) for the past three weeks and they'll be doing it all summer long. This time, I was there late enough, on the right night, and I signed up for a ticket. My number wasn't ever called, but they did give away $25 to one lucky gal. They give away a different amount, randomly, every week and they never reveal how much the prize is until right before the drawing. Prize amounts range from $25, to $50, to $75. Oh, well -- maybe next time . . .

I finally hit the road home around 10:30 P.M. I didn't want to be there as late as midnight, because that's when the local cops like to spring nasty little surprises on partiers -- like sobriety checkpoints a block or two down the street. I wasn't drunk when I left, but I wasn't exactly stone-sober, either, so I'll avoid those "witching hours," if at all possible. Setting up roadblocks a block from a bar, where they know people are drinking is entrapment, plain and simple, and is probably unconstitutional as well, but they put their "public safety" justification on their actions and turn that document on its ear. So, what can you do?? Avoid departing in the wee hours, when they like to set those things up. And so I did.

Velvet roared into life and the rumbling sound of her pipes, when I twisted the throttle, parted the crowd like Moses parting the Red Sea in the Good Book. In gear, I cautiously "power-walked" her out of her parking space and around the crowd. Finally, I could put my feet on the pegs and ride past the barricade, to the street. Look twice, to be sure, then ease the clutch out and wheel her onto the road. One block, turn onto a side street, and I was headed home again. Got here a little before eleven, then went upstairs and turned in. So much for that first night.

But things will resume Saturday night. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 19, 2009


You can't go home again.

When Thomas Wolfe penned those words, years ago, referring to his native Asheville, North Carolina, he must have been gone for many, many years. Longer than the eleven years I was absent from Knoxville, which has been my home for as long as I've been celebrating anniversaries of my birthday. In my case, I have come home again, so all I can figure is that you'd have to be away much longer than I was in order for those words to be true.

Knoxville's still my home and it still feels like home. That's probably because I spent most of my life here B.T. (Before Trucking) and my roots were buried so deeply that not even all my traveling could pull them out of the ground. And maybe also because I didn't leave at a young and tender age, being in my mid-to-late forties when I climbed in my first assigned tractor, picked up my first load, and started my recently-ended series of eighteen-wheeled adventures. Not a kid, for sure, but a mature adult, with a strong sense of his roots.

I was never one of the "gypsies" out there on the road -- the ones I always referred to as "Truckstop Drivers," because their homes were seemingly in whatever one of those vital establishments they choose to hang their hat in today. Not for me. When I passed through my town, on the way to somewhere else, I always thought of it as home and that I'd be back, whenever. And I was, through all those years. I had weekends here at the Dawg House (although not for very long, quite often) and I had vacation time every year except my first one.

But it's not the same. Nowhere nearly like living here day in and day out, as I am again now. For all those long years I became a virtual occasional visitor in my own home town, only hanging around long enough to get somewhat reacquainted on two occasions when I was on medical leave for two on-the-job injuries I suffered. During even those times, I still packed my clothes in my duffel bag and lived out of it, not bothering to put my things in the drawers because I knew I'd be moving on again as soon as I was healed up. Now I'm back to stay and my duffle bag is packed away. My clothes are back in the drawers, after some minor rearranging. And in the past month or so, since I got back, I've been all over town at one time or another, getting to know my native city once again.

There have been quite a few changes in those eleven years. Some of them I knew, or was told about, and other things that are brand-new. I've kept up with my own neighborhood and the part of town it's in pretty well, because this is where I live and do most of my shopping, etc. Like the new street, Hall Of Fame Drive, which now makes a direct link between Broadway, in my own area, and downtown, about five miles distant from my house. That street used to be the old North Fifth Avenue, as well as two other streets. Now they've been combined, revamped, widened and improved into a new thoroughfare that will whiz you right into the heart of the city. The old Fourth and Gill neighborhood, home to some beautifully restored Victorian-Era houses, doesn't even look the same now. Those houses are all still there, but the new street cutting through their midst gives everything a different look.

They just reopened the one-mile stretch of I-40 through the downtown area that had been closed for the past 14 months while they rebuilt the old, tired roadway through there and I had (or made) a chance to check it out on that same trip downtown. I made that trip to our City Court, next to the Cop Shop, to take care of a little traffic ticket I got back in March and had forgotten all about. I've had -- uh -- other things on my mind the past month, mostly medical matters, as I've already talked about in past entries, so is it any wonder that fell through the cracks?? Cerebral Data Overflow again. How 'bout that for a fancy way of saying "brain fart?"

Well, I had one, but got the ticket fixed and then kissed and made up with the State Department of Safety. The end result? Now my license ain't in jeopardy anymore and everyone's happy. The City of Knoxville didn't even fine me, saying it was "understandable" how I could forget, what with all the other crap that's been going on in my life lately. Now I feel like I've been welcomed back home, officially.

Anyway, on the way back into town from the Driver's License Station I went through town to scope out the new section of freeway that us local taxpayers spent millions on the past two years. Now the last piece of the old and infamous "Malfuction Junction" is gone for good, replaced by a modern freeway link, complete with a Jersey barrier in the middle. And it gives the downtown area a new look, because it's cut a little differently than the old, elevated stretch it replaced. Three lanes in each direction, all the way through now. No bottlenecking three lanes down into two and backing up traffic at peak hours like a cheap toilet with government-regulated water levels in it. No clusterf*** here anymore!!! It's about time!!!

And, as usual, I hardly even recognized the west end when I went that way yesterday. But that's to be expected in that area and was getting like that even before I began my trucking career. West Knoxville contains the heaviest population in the city (and has all the traffic headaches that go along with that distinction.) It might be a nice place to live and work out there, if they ever get through building it! West Knoxville is kind of like our weather here in East Tennessee -- if you don't like the way things look in the west end, just wait ten minutes -- it'll change! Even the Bearden area, where I used to cruise around back in the 70's and 80's, looks different now. Bearden Hill has grown into a mile-long office complex, seemingly. The old service station where I worked for four years is completely gone now, as in "vacant lot" gone. But by next month, something will probably build on that lot, the way it's going around there. And I've never seen so many banks in one place! Across-the-street competition. I guess they want to keep their friends close and their enemies closer, as the Godfather was fond of saying.

Of course, in just over a month off the road, I haven't had the opportunity to go everywhere in town as yet, but I will, in time, and I'll doubtless discover more changes. Eleven years is a long time to be away and it will take awhile to catch up with everything around here. There may be future reports like this if I spot something interesting.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I slept in a bedroom above a busy factory last night. At least that's how it sounded to me, as I lay down and waited for sleep to come my way. The respiratory supply company which provided my CPAP machine and all its supplies delivered my oxygen equipment that my doctor and now the Sleep Disorders Center at a local hospital had ordered. I wore a oxygen monitor awhile back, all night long, and the results from that showed that my oxy saturation level was approaching a critically low state while I slept -- something that's not uncommon at all, I was told. That low saturation level was, in fact, what triggered that vicious attack of the gasps that sent me to an ER in West Virginia a month or so ago and ultimately led to my current state of unemployment, they now believe. Low oxygen in the blood, coupled with sleep apnea, is not a good thing at all. Trust me on that one.

So, I signed for some equipment I can't possibly pay for, with my healthcare insurance on the verge of lapsing forever. The insurance company had to pre-authorize it before they delivered it, so I'm covered for now. But when it does lapse (and it will,) I have nothing to pay for COBRA with until the check for the partial distribution of my 401K money arrives and/or I find some kind of employment that I can do without losing my breath and passing out. As is typical in these cases, the more you need that money the longer it will take to get it. Never fails!!! I'm already collecting 'past due' notices all over the place. Should I frame them?? Maybe submit this to Guinness? I may be setting some kind of record here.

A tech delivered my new gear and explained its usage to me in a long session yesterday afternoon. The equipment consists of a little green oxygen cylinder on a wheeled cart that is still sitting in a corner of my living room, where it will remain until and unless I need it. That's just for emergency use -- in case the power conks out. Only good for about three hours. The main machine is another wheeled device that looks like one of the portable A/C recharging stations that you see in car repair shops. It's called an Oxygen Concentrator and it takes up a whole corner of my bedroom.

[Now I can see carrying that thing out with me on a truck every week, can't you?? Yeah. Right. Where would I sleep? It would consume half my sleeper space. So, yet another reason why my departure from my former occupation was well-justified, even though my doctor still stubbornly clings to her belief that I can still drive a truck. Well, yeah, I could drive one, true enough. But to put up with all the other crap that the treatment of my ailment entails??!!! I think not, doc. I strongly disagree. Maybe I can physically drive, but it's the other baggage that now goes with it that screws the pooch.]

Anyway, my oxgen constipator -- uh, I mean, oxygen concentrator sucks. Literally. It sucks in air on one side, separates the oxygen from it, dumps the other stuff back into the atmosphere, then pipes the oxy through a plastic hose out the other side and into the output fitting on my CPAP. What this all means is that the air my CPAP compresses and pumps out into my mask now has pure oxygen mixed in with it. This keeps my oxygen level up during the night when I'm asleep (and unable to take a nebulizer treatment) and allows me to sleep much better, as well as preventing another attack of the gaspies. And it works quite well, if the first night was any indication, because I awoke feeling much more refreshed this morning and breathing quite easily. I went about my early morning business casually, not rushing headlong into the kitchen and grabbing for my nebulizer cup, as had been my habit since I got that machine, two weeks ago. A large improvement.

So what I now have in my bedroom amounts to a neat little oxygen factory. Ain't technology amazing?? It's also expensive -- and noisy. It puts out a steady throbbing beat that's punctuated at regular intervals by sighing noises, not unlike a low-volume version of the air 'dump valve' opening on a truck that's idling in traffic. It also makes a sort of groaning noise from time to time. In short, it's a little "symphony" on wheels, located about four feet from my bed. I chuckled to myself last night, amused by the thought that my bedroom was somewhere on an upper floor, with an operational manufacturing plant of some kind below me. I could swear I heard a metallic 'clang' down there, at one point, mixed in with the other sounds. Midnight at the foundry, and I'm the night watchman, trying to steal a little shut-eye on the job!!

But I went out like a light and slept well. I'll get used to it quickly. Heck, if I can get so used to a diesel truck engine idling all night long that I never notice it, this will be a piece of cake!! It's worth it for a good night's sleep, for the first time in nearly two months, ever since my latest personal journey began. A welcome relief.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I spent a quiet holiday evening at Coyote Joe's -- my favorite hangout and the only Adult Daycare Center in existence that I know of. I had a good meal, but kept my visit short, after watching the NASCAR race end early, due to (what else?) rain, of course. They had run a little more than half the race at that point, so they declared the leading car at the time to be the winner and everyone went back to the house, to get ready for the next race, next Sunday. After that, I had a little conversation, on and off, with a few friends, and then headed out, back to the Dawg House, to get ready for the busy day I'll have today. On the way home, I stopped to get some sodas and an ice cream cone and got to the place at the same time that Mom Nature decided to act bitchy again and dump a thunderstorm on our heads. 

I sat in my pick-em-up truck for maybe ten minutes, before it let up enough so that I just had to wade to make it to the door and not swim for dear life. You cannot move far, very fast, with the lung disorder I have; ten yards at top speed and you'll be gasping for breath. You quickly learn to pace yourself, so that you're not totally winded by the time you get into the place. So, it's pretty slow going and, naturally, you can get pretty wet in the process. Let's just say I got well-dampened before I made the front door of the gas station/C-store where I stopped. I got what I wanted quickly, then back outside and made my way as quickly as I could to the front door of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream store that's next door to that particular Pilot. Another day, another Pilot -- that corporation is headquartered in K-Town and they pretty much dominate the motor fuel business around here. And they have some state-of-the-art C-Stores, to boot. But enough about that -- Baskin-Robbins was calling me. 

Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream -- ah, yes. One small tidbit of my youth that I've never quite outgrown. They say everyone has an inner child that we need to indulge from time-to-time and B-R allows me to indulge mine, now and again. Simple pleasures and still the best danged ice cream money can buy, as far as I'm concerned! I waited patiently in line and treated myself to a double cone of my favorite flavor -- Nutty Coconut. Still raining outside, lightning flashing in the distance, so I sat down at a table and devoured my frozen holiday treat. One cold, creamy bite, two, three, and -- ahhhhhhhh! My taste buds were overjoyed, savoring every nibble. Crunch! went the many nuts, buried in the ice cream, as I chewed and licked my way through the two massive scoops on my cone. For the next few minutes, I was in a Heaven on earth

Ice cream melts fast, especially in summer weather, thus forcing you to focus on your treat and eat it quickly. Nothing sucks more than watching one of the scoops you paid for and savor so much melt and fall off in the floor when you lick it. So, you do what you have to do, to avoid having that aggravating experience. Anybody remember what ice cream does to you when you eat it too fast and it freezes the sinuses in your face?? Ouch!!! Hurts, don't it?? But it's kind of like getting sore when you make love for the first time ever -- it hurts good!!! 

I had that experience, still fondly remembered from childhood, all over again last night. My face ached, but I finished that double dip off, smiling with my memories of an earlier and much simpler life, and didn't feed any of my treat to the floor.  I gulped it all down and even peeled off the paper wrapper and ate the entire sugar cone. That's the best part, I've always said. What's the point of having a sugar cone, if you don't eat it too?? When I was done, the rain had slacked off to a drizzle and I smiled all the way home. I need to visit that Baskin-Robbins store more often -- I think ice cream can be very therapeutic!!! 

Monday, May 18, 2009


Went over to Coyote Joe's -- my favorite biker and all-around hangout -- Thursday night, for a few cold ones and some supper. I was into enjoying my "vacation" week, after quitting my job for health reasons; generally blowing money I shouldn't be blowing. But life's too short to worry about minor things like debts all the time. So, screw it -- let's ride, as we Harley-Davidson enthusiasts are so fond of saying. Maybe it's just as well that I've had no little rugrats in my life, because if I had any kids, all they would inherit would be my bills, when I finally take off down that highway into eternity. I'm kind of like Willie Nelson when it comes to that. "I raised your little ass(es), so now you can pay me back by paying off all my debts!! Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work you go!!" I call it my TANSTAAFL Principle:  There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Enough said. 

Where was I?? Oh, yeah, Coyote Joe's. Well, Thursday is Bike Night over there and there's always something interesting taking place on that particular night every week. One week they had a biker lawyer giving a talk about your legal rights when some moron in a cage runs your butt over on the street. You think bikers are intimidating?? Imagine a few of us with law degrees!!! Short of wearing one of those brilliant orange sleeveless shirts that they sell at some biker shops -- the ones that say "CAN YOU SEE ME NOW, ASSHOLE?" on the back -- a good biker attorney is your only defense against all those seemingly blind car drivers who can see everything except a person on a motorcycle. This is 2009, not 1979. Today you don't kick dents in the door of their car when they invade your space; today you swerve out of the way and if you fall off on your butt you sue them until they are blind!! Be sure to bring a fully-loaded wallet to court with you. Not seeing me is gonna cost your ass BIG! 

That was a good one, but last week was better, because they had karaoke night again. Amateur entertainer night, where anyone who wants to can groan, croak, or stammer his or her way through a popular song that they think they can sing. Lotta good laughs, watching drunks make fools out of themselves, and unlike the American Idol outtakes, this is live. To be fair, though, some of the guys and gals who participated actually have some talent and a few sounded pretty danged good! One gal in particular -- a chubby but cute blonde -- really belted her way through a rendition of Gretchen Wilson's Redneck Woman. She was great and got a well-deserved round of applause. 

The host, Clowny Boy, tried to get me to audition, but I was having none of it. Nope, not me and I won't ever get that drunk -- I'd pass out first. You don't want to hear me attempt to sing -- not at all. I sound like a corroded, cranky two-stroker with a terminal rod knock and a major manifold air leak. Like a cross between a rusty buzz saw and a bull moose with a bellyache. I might belch one out, but I can belt nothing except my pants, and I prefer my suspenders. One fractured note from my COPD-infected lungs and everyone would go running for the closest exit. 

So, of course, I had to try it out, being the nice guy that I am, 89.7 percent of the time. And his offer to buy me another Bud Light if I did it helped, too. I asked him if he had Kenny Rogers' Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town in his machine and he came up with it. I used to be able to do a passable imitation of ol' Kenny on that country classic, but that was before I had these gasping attacks. Plus the fact that I've never done it on a stage, in front of people!!! OhmyGod, I gotta be NUTS to do this!!! Talk about panic attacks!! "Well, I guess you're all wondering why I called you here . . ." I whispered into the microphone. A few laughs and then Clowny started the music. 

First, I got totally behind the beat from the beginning -- twice. On the third attempt, I started on cue, finally. Somehow, I got through it and to my surprise, got scattered applause, instead of the boos and fake gags that I was expecting. Clowny told me that if I practiced it more, I would be good on it, as it was right in my key. At least two people told me they enjoyed it, even if I was as rusty as an old Ford on a junk car lot. I thanked them and sat back down, my three minutes of "fame" having expired. And now I'm finding myself ripping the tracks off of my two Kenny Rogers CDs onto my computer, converting them to MP3 format. Well, it's show biz, baby --what can I say?? Where's my rhinestone jumpsuit and Elvis sunglasses?? Hey, be careful how you treat me, girls, I'm a celebrity now, y'know?? Yeah. Right. Sure. 

But all good things must end, and it did. I figured I'd run through enough cash for one night and I paid up, put a tip in the girls' jar and headed for the door. Only to find that it was raining outside, and not just rain by itself. I heard the rumble of thunder and saw lighting flashes in the sky every few minutes. Distant, but still a thunderstorm. Well, poo-poo,  I said (to sanitize my language a bit!!) That sucked. So, I sat back down at a patio table and waited for the rain to let up. 

Forty-five minutes later I came to the conclusion that it wasn't going to let up, at least in my lifetime, or so it seemed. We who are about to drown salute you; I gathered my courage up to face the inevitable and headed for Miss Velvet. I'd parked her under the awning, so the seat was dry at least and I wouldn't get my butt wet -- much. I cranked Velvet to life, buckled my helmet and rode out of there. It wasn't until I made my turn onto a deserted side street that I noticed my gloves, still lying on the gas tank, where I'd laid them after taking them off a few hours before. I stopped in a closed bank's parking lot and put them on before they fell or got blown off and lost. The light cooperated anyway, and I made my way down Merchant Drive, toward the Dawg House. I didn't even make the first intersection before I noticed that my boots were already soaked and my feet were all squishy inside. Amazing how water can penetrate boot leather when you're running 30 mph. 

By the time I got home I think my underwear shorts were even soaked. My face, hands, arms, legs and feet were dripping. I got my girl into the garage without crashing her on the slick, finished concrete floor and wheeled her around to my parking position without incident. My leather vest had kept the rain off my back and backside pretty well, but I looked like I'd dived into a swimming pool in my clothes elsewhere and I sloshed when I walked across the garage. I took one boot off and tilted it up, but no water poured out, so I guess it wasn't that bad. A few more miles in that, though . . . 

I wiped Velvet down a little and PUT MY DAMNED WINDSHIELD BACK ON!! I'd taken it off to clean part of the bike and decided that since it was hot, I'd just leave it off. Big mistake. So, I quickly corrected that one!! The danged wind noise had nearly driven me nuts without the windshield, too, so I had yet another reason for re-installing it. Without the windshield, it's either muffle the noise and boil your brain in a 3/4 open-face helmet, or wear the half-helmet I usually do and be driven nutty as a fruitcake by the constant whoosh of the wind. I chose the skid lid helmet behind the windshield as a happy solution. 

I had pre-registered for a poker run on Sunday, but I passed on it, as it turned out. For one thing, I was all fuzzy-tongued from Saturday night at Joes, where I tried (unsuccessfully) to drink them out of Bud Light and really tied one on, listening to a kick-ass local band that I'd heard about several times. My ears were also still ringing from being parked for two hours about three feet away from one of the amplifiers. Yeah, I got pretty inebriated, but what the hell? It's the first time I've even been drunk in about twelve years! I earned it and nobody was going to deprive me of it!! So, I got wasted and had a blast!! 

Another reason for not going on the run was that I found out that they wouldn't be telling us specifically where the checkpoints were. We'd get a map and we had to follow it and find them ourselves. For the uninitiated, let me explain:  A motorcycle poker run is like a game of poker on two wheels. You follow a pre-determined route and have five stops on it. At each stop, or checkpoint, you draw, or are issued at random a standard playing card. When you get all five cards, you have your poker hand complete and then you go to the meeting place where there'll be food and drinks available. Once you're there, for an extra donation to the charity that's sponsoring the run, you can draw up to three new cards and discard your duds, trying to improve your hand. Then they draw for the best hand, the next-best, third best, and the worst hand and give away prizes. It works just like a standard poker game. If you aren't familiar with poker and the value of the hands, look it up in Wikipedia. I'm not making this entry 500 pages long explaining all that to you! 

Anyway, on some runs they tell you where the card-drawing checkpoints are specifically located and on others, they don't. This was one of the "don't" ones and I wasn't feeling like taking the chance of missing a checkpoint and getting lost. This is easier to do than you would think. MOST of the time, there'll be other bikes ahead of you and you just watch where they go and stop and that'll most likely be the checkpoint you want. BUT it all depends on how many bikes are entered in the run. The more, the merrier, but the iffy weather made a lot of the potential riders back out of this one and with fewer riders you'll often get separated, sometimes by miles, especially if you make a pit stop for a bathroom break, or to grab a quick soda. My doctor recently changed my blood pressure meds and the new diuretic she prescribed for me is peeing me to death! I don't for the life of me know why peeing is so good for your blood pressure, but they give you shit that's more powerful than coffee and beer combined. I would have to stop, maybe two or three times, and when I rolled into the checkpoint areas I was risking seeing no other bikes around at all and missing it.

Actually, I had that experience once and rode around in a circle for a half-hour before I found the danged place. A friend of mine was riding in a poker run with a pal of his once and they couldn't find one of them. It was hot, so they stopped at a local saloon and had a cold one. When they finished, they went back out and saw a group of bikers heading down the road. They followed them out to the Middle Of Nowhere before they learned that the group they were following wasn't even in the poker run at all. They had followed them home!! So, yeah, it's easier than you think to get lost in an area you aren't familiar with at all. Not me, not this time. I was still too hammered from the night before to deal with that. 

I took a rain check Sunday, but maybe next time . . . ??

Saturday, May 9, 2009


There are countless miles of roads in our nation and in the past eleven years, I have seen my share of them, day-in and day-out. But roads are not without an end. They have to start somewhere and they have to end up somewhere else, ultimately. You run down a road long enough and eventually it will merge with another road, or it will reach a dead-end; a point at which you can travel no further. 

My personal road, as a commercial truck driver, reached its end on Saturday, May 9, 2009. As I write this, I am at home to stay and am no longer employed in my former occupation. I delivered my final load on Friday, then returned to my terminal, where I gathered my belongings up for the trip back home. 

The reason my career has ended is medical. I have been diagnosed with COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which can take the forms of asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, as well as a couple of other nasty varieties. The symptoms are similar and often interchangeable because all of those forms amount to the same blanket disease. In my case, it is early emphysema, and although it is not yet severe enough for me to lug an oxygen bottle around, I may end up doing so in future years. COPD is described as "progressive" and "irreversible," in doctor language. Once you have it, it doesn't stop, but keeps going. It can be slowed down, but not halted completely. There is no known cure. 

One of the symptoms is coughing, sometimes in fits, and expellling excess mucus from the lungs. Another symptom is shortness of breath, sometimes quite severe, taking the form of an asthma-like attack, where you can't fill your lungs with sufficient air to give your body the oxygen it needs. It's like someone has placed a fifty-pound dead weight on your chest and your lungs can't expand enough to suck in the air you require. Quite alarming. It's downright scary, in fact, and the panic reaction sets in automatically, as your body goes into survival mode. The panic reaction makes everything much worse and you begin to wheeze loudly and gasp for air. That's what happened to me early last Monday, on the fourth, when I ended up in an ER in Parkersburg, West Virginia, for several hours, undergoing outpatient treatment. The pure oxygen I was breathing and the inhalation therapy got me unstopped and breathing normally again, but at that point, the writing was on the wall for me. I had already had a couple of very bad attacks prior to that. But this latest one was the worst one so far and they certainly weren't going to be getting any better. 

So, it came as no surprise to me when the ER doctor at the hospital advised me to seek a different occupation. The two EMTs who had treated me at the rest area where I was parked, and transported me to the hospital had already advised me thusly, but the doc was the clincher. What if? What if I had a coughing fit while driving, lost my breath and passed out from lack of oxygen while at the wheel of my truck?? Are you okay with the idea of an 80,000 pound truck roaring down the highway, out of control, with an unconscious driver at the wheel? Of course not! Who would be, in their right mind? Too much to risk. Way too much. I didn't feel safe and when a driver doesn't feel safe, there's only one thing that can be said -- GAME OVER. 

So be it. Exit, stage left. I'm outta here for good. 

Eleven years of my life. A ton of memories, some good and some not so good. A few just plain bad ones. I will always be grateful for the opportunity I had to go places and see things that I otherwise would never have seen at all. I've seen the sun come up over the skyscrapers of New York and I've seen it set over Tampa Bay. I've seen the majestic purple mountains in the early light and I've seen them frosted with snow in the winter. I've watched the wind ripple in the wheatfields of Kansas, and the vast cornfields of Illinois and Iowa. I've watched shooting stars over Lake Erie and seen a rainbow over the St. Louis Arch. I've weathered a tropical storm in Fort Pierce, Florida, outran one hurricane and drove through the aftermath of Katrina. I've been close enough to one tornado to feel those powerful winds. 

I've been lost and found and then lost again. Driven roads so narrow that I was only an inch or two from trading mirrors with the passing trucks. I've been stuck in sand, stuck in mud, stuck in gravel, and stuck on ice and in snow. Sometimes I got my own ass out, sometimes I needed a little help. I've blown every tire there is at least once and one time blew out four all at once. I've broken down, torn up, dropped valves, torn up one clutch and watched helplessly once as a busted turbocharger sucked all the oil out of my pan and burned it in the engine. I've torn off more than one trailer door. Even ran the hell over one of them. I never claimed to be perfect, even once. But I learned from my mistakes. Failure is the Mother Of All Teachers. 

It's all called "experience" and there has been plenty of that in my time at the wheel. I wouldn't trade it for anything else I've ever done in my entire life. Take the good along with the bad and it all adds up to one incredible eleven year ride and it's been an unforgettable one. 

This blog isn't going anywhere, my readers. I'll still be right here, maybe a little more frequently now. It's still a Dawg's Life, after all. That life has just changed now, that's all. One chapter has closed and another has opened up. Not an end at all, but a new beginning. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I actually got to participate in a motorcycle group ride yesterday -- one of the few I have been able to take part in. These group rides are held at various times, year-round, but I haven't been able to ride in many of them, because my occupation doesn't allow me the time to do so very often. But I've had nothing but time the past week, being laid off from work while I treated the Virus That Ate Me and started breathing normally again at last. And so, I was primed to go.

I didn't think I was going to go at all, for awhile there, as my mom wanted to do some of her laundry at my house, and how could I say no?? She got 'er done in time for me to ride west, to the staging area for the ride, where I barely arrived in time to lay down my $10 registration fee and get signed up, etc., etc. The ride was a memorial to Steve "Bo" Goins, a locally well-known member of our little biker community here, who was killed in a traffic accident a few years ago. He was stopped at a traffic light, around midnight, when a small pickup truck failed to stop in time and slammed into the rear of Bo's bike, ending his life at age 37. That incident shook our entire community, as it was so tragic, yet completely senseless at the same time.  

The Motorcycle Awareness Foundation of Tennessee (MAFT) stepped in and has hosted this memorial ride ever since Bo's death, in an effort to raise awareness of motorcycles that share the road with all other vehicles. It is a cause that concerns all bikers everywhere, no matter what they ride, because we all share the same streets, roads, and highways and we're all subject to the same traffic conditions. We all share the same common fear -- that some 4-wheel motorist won't notice us and will endanger our lives by doing something foolish. It's a very rational fear when you're up on two wheels, believe me. 

"But officer, I didn't see the motorcycle." 

That's what they all say, after the accident has happened and it's too late to save the fallen biker's limbs, skin, or even life. And it's the lamest excuse ever concocted by the human mind. There is no excuse -- repeat -- NO EXCUSE, WHATSOEVER, FOR FAILING TO SEE A MOTORCYCLE. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. It holds water like a seive. If you fail to see what is obviously there,  sharing the road with you, it's because YOU AREN'T LOOKING! And if you don't look for ALL vehicles in your path before pulling out, you aren't a competent driver and should have your license suspended until you learn to do so. 

If that makes some readers mad, then so be it. I won't apologize because that's honestly how I feel about it. YOU aren't the one sitting on that bike, watching everything around you like a hawk and thinking "what if?" every time you approach an intersection where there's a car sitting, waiting to turn onto the road you're on. You aren't the one having to wear hot leather clothing in the summer heat, in order to protect your skin when you end up riding the pavement because some apparently blind car driver pulled out in front of you, or cut you off, forcing you to lay your bike down hard. Most of us do everything we can to make ourselves visible and noticeable -- bright-colored clothes, hard-wired headlamps that burn all the time, flashing our brake lights, reflective patches and decals, loud exhaust pipes -- you name it and we've done it or do it, but some car drivers still say they didn't see us. 

Some states, including my own, aren't just taking that old, lame excuse for granted anymore. They are cracking down, pulling drivers over when their actions endanger motorcyclists and ticketing them. Some, including Tennessee, are imposing mandatory jail sentences for motorists whose poor driving habits result in the death of a biker. They are going all-out with advertising and educational campaigns, designed to raise motorists' awareness of motorcycles that are on the road with them. All I can say is that it's about time!!! It will make riding that much more enjoyable, if everyone in a cage is aware that we're out there and they watch out for us, like they do for other cars. 

There is no one as blind as someone who refuses to see. Open your eyes, motorists. Watch for motorcycles all the time, when you're on the road,   and especially in the warm weather months. 

The ride was a short one -- just through town, from our Kingston Pike starting point,  and out onto highway 25W (Clinton Highway). It went uneventfully. I was near the back of the pack, with the anchor riders, because I'm relatively inexperienced at group riding. This is something you need to tell the ride organizers when you go in the front door, so they won't mix you in with the more eperienced riders in the group. They keep you toward the rear, so that the anchor riders, who are often the most experienced in the group, can keep an eye on your riding and help you when you need it. I was helped several times with interpreting the common hand signals that are used in biker groups. I know most of the basic ones, but there are some specialty signals that I'm still learning about. One anchor rider gave me a complete run-down on it after the ride was over and gave me the address of a website, where they show all the commonly used signals.

We ended up at Coyote Joe's, for the post-ride bash. They had Bubba's (Coyote Joe's owner) famous Road Kill Grill in operation and I inhaled two loaded charcoal-broiled burgers, along with some great potato salad and Bubba's world-famous baked beans. Topped off with a Bud Light, it was a great meal. Only charge was a minimum five-buck donation to MAFT. I threw $10 in the bucket and got two burgers, four raffle tickets, and a bottle "sock" to put over my beer and keep it cold longer. Bubba finally opened up the outdoor patio bar and had the first live band on their outdoor stage that I've seen this year. It was a good day for it; sunny, with the temp in the upper 80's. The band was good, but the sound was a little bit bass-heavy; you couldn't half-hear the guitar. They played well, but need to work on their equalization a little bit, methinks. But what the hey -- live music is just that. Live. Sometimes, things get screwed-up. Like Jimi Hendrix was famous for saying:  "Only cowboys play in tune." I still enjoyed the music and hung out in the sun until they ended their gig and started packing up. 

By then, I had reached my four-beers-with-food personal limit when I'm on Velvet and sat in the sun, sweating it off until it was time to head back home again. I hated to see it end, but I know there will be more to come, later on this summer.