Tag Archives: Road King Classic

If only … if only … if only … and the prescience of paragraph 4


For those of you enlisted to a frenetic ‘search committee,’ if only this letter had arrived a day earlier rather than be read at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. If only.

It’s all about six benign sentences in paragraph four.

Think of the angst and anxiety and hand-wringing a simple call or text might have saved everyone. But my armchair after-the-fact analysis/critique will be saved for this week’s letter to Ellen and Reid you’ll read next week. Really, it will be an open letter of appreciation to the rest of you.


May 15, 2017

Ellen/Reid: It’s kind of weird to walk into the garage and not see the Harley. I’ve taken a second look several times, and when I pull the car in the garage, the subconscious takes over the steering wheel to pull the Camry a tad to the left so as to give clearance for the bike. It’s only when the car goes into ‘park’ that the realization is made that there’s no longer any reason to give the Road King leeway since there is no Road King. But I don’t miss it at all. There are no second doubts, no ‘yeah buts …’ – none of that. It’s gone, someone else is the proud new owner and that’s perfectly okay. It really is.

Miss Emma is atop the car and that was the real acid test for the surgery. It was awkward to lift it into position but I really didn’t feel anything other that some anxiety. I thought there was a faux-pinch in there but it hasn’t hurt since then. It’s been a four and a half weeks and the literature and the surgeon said return to full activity after four weeks. But I reserve the right to ask some of the Charleston Outdoor Adventures staff for a bit of muscle power tomorrow when the time comes to hoist her back atop the car. There shouldn’t be much of an issue on paddling since my legs are bent and my feet get some leverage against what amount to foot pegs inside the boat. I’m excited about again going down – and back – again although the weather is warming up in a hurry and that doesn’t spell much in the way of good fishing. I’ll view it as a shake down cruise of sorts. There won’t be any oysters this time around; that season is over and I’ll miss the back-and-forth banter with the black oystermen. I don’t know what they do for off-season jobs. Maybe work the shrimpers?

Ellen, you looked great in your cap and gown. It’s okay you didn’t go to the actual ceremony. In a way that’s sad, however, since going through the ritual seems to be falling by the wayside. I would have gone to yours too, Reid, if you’d wanted to go through it. It’s a nice recognition for all the work that you guys have put it. I do still grin at the thought that your ‘ceremony’ was last weekend and not this one.

I’m going to go hiking and camping with some new friends Wednesday through mid-day on Friday. I’m kind of excited about it. The Osprey is all packed and ready to go.

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The dehydrated meals for the Wilson Creek trek served as a metaphor for added food-for-thought: as in telling someone – anyone – when I head out of town on an extended excursion.

We’ll head to Wilson Creek and my fly rod is making the trip with me. Don’t know what’s catchable but one of the guys is supposed to be real knowledgeable about the fishing thereabouts. And Reid, there won’t be any infernal bear barrels.

Got invited to Adrienne Furstenau’s wedding the weekend of July 8 in Minneapolis. It’s an honor to be asked. It has me rethinking the plane flight. Scarcely nine days later I’ll pull back through the Midwest to pick up Tom and head west to the Bridger. What if … I drove up for the wedding, spent a few days in MSP, drove down to DSM for a couple of days, then headed east to Chi-Town for a few days before journeying West? I guess that would remove me from Charlotte for virtually the entire month of July and a few days into August. Ellen, are you guys going up to the lake that weekend of July 8 since the 4th falls during the week? That may figure into my plans so let me know ASAP.

The Spain trek is coming together. Ordered the guide book today and a new Osprey Kestrel pack. It’s about one-third smaller than what I tote into the Bridger so it should be a good option to carry just about everything I’d need without being too big and bulky. I’ve yet to pour over Tom’s gear list for the Camino but will do that in earnest when the guide book comes in. Now, I’ve got to get some sort of camera. Reid, any ideas? Nikon? Canon? Other?

Love, Dad

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And a time to every purpose, under heaven …


It took Pete Seeger and The Byrds to put a few verses from Ecclesiastes into perspective for many of us:

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

So it would seem for the contents of last week’s letter.


April 24, 2017

Ellen/Reid: By the time you open this, Ellen, surgery on your arm will be done and you’ll be all sewed up, good as new. Good for the dermatologist to catch it in the apparent early stages. There’s nothing wrong with check ups every three months. I’m still on that quarterly regimen, too, as is your mother and your uncle. Reid, I know Tim hit you hard about a skin check up but really, get in since this insidious beast can lurk around almost unseen. Almost the entire family has had melanoma. So please, get checked.

It rained all day yesterday around here and still is this morning. I didn’t realize how much of a downpour we had until I brought up the digital Charlotte Observer. Apparently some neighborhoods were badly flooded and are still out of power. The little creek behind the house is bank full. I guess it’s good for the reservoirs but it washes all the litter into them.

It’s a relief in a lot of ways that the Road King is nearly gone. I’m quite fine with it. It was just time. Not my favorite of all the Harleys I’ve had and maybe if it was the old Heritage Softail then there might still be a bike in the garage. But there’s not and that is just great. The guy who bought it was excited and he picks it up sometime in the next couple of days if the rain stops.

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The Road King needed a new owner who could put the bike through its deserved paces. And it got one in a great young guy named Matt.

We didn’t haggle much on the price, and I threw in lots of misc. gear like a cover and tour pack and a jacket and cleaning supplies and a helmet and some Harley tees just to be rid of stuff. I’ll use some of the proceeds to recover the kitchen cabinets, maybe re-carpet the place and buy tickets to see you goons. Whatever is left will go to my trek in Spain this fall. I’ve started to go to weekly coffees about how to plan for the Camino de Santiago. Since I’m not the planner extraordinaire, even a few tips will get me down the road.

Ellen, I’m close to a ticket for your graduation. Are you absolutely sure you’re okay with me visiting since you guys will need to be in a motel? You may not need me as a fifth wheel so help me make the call. Why aren’t they having the graduation there on campus? Wouldn’t that be the Continue reading

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A trail of tears and softened edges after 10 years …


Time flies when you’re having fun.

Somehow, Ellen and Reid have never read even an abbreviated version of my move to Charlotte; but here I am, 10 years later and my head is still above water. In a lot of ways, the move to the South marked a wholesale overhaul of the tone and tenor of the letters.

What was a light heartened effort to occupy their time in college and in their early 20’s made an abrupt 180 degree turn. It was now about overcoming distance between me and them, and describing the mixed feelings/emotions as their dad muddled along with unfamiliar environs, the complete lack of friends, a stifling work culture, and a jury rigged life below the Mason Dixon line.


August 29, 2016

Ellen/Reid: It’s hard to believe but earlier this month my 10 year anniversary in Charlotte quietly came and went. I’ve tried hard to make heads and tails about the how and why I got down here at all for nearly one sixth of my entire life. It really has been a mostly surreal decade, what with reinventing virtually everything in my life from work to friends to living arrangements to adapting to Southern life to you name it. As I drove around on that recent day, August 15, I tried to assign my tenure a grade on the 1-to-10 scale. Of course, assigning grades is an exercise in the moment and reflects one’s mood at the time. I dunno, but since it was mostly a melancholy day, I gave it a 6. Any other day it might have been a point higher or lower. It’s kind of like opinion polls where the margin of error is a point or two.

Reid, what I do recall, vividly, is walking out of the Bridger Wilderness with you on Saturday, August 12, 2006, driving back to Des Moines, loading my BMW with literally all my worldly possessions Sunday night and Monday morning, and then – bingo – pulling into Charlotte at 10 p.m. in a driving rainstorm as I wiped away tears (wondering just what the hell I’d gotten myself into) and setting up temporary residence in a bland all-white condo owned by the bank. My memory as a rule is spotty but I remember that entire sequence as if it were yesterday. But time tends to soften the hard edges and I’ve inured myself to things here. Yet I’ll never really be considered a local by my or anybody else’s standards.

And to think all of this is about to come tumbling down. Even though the 10 years has gone by in a flash, it’s just another blip on the life scale. I’d like to think of myself as somewhat resilient but reinvention of self is just another way to say ‘go with the flow.’ And I’m about to do that.

Ellen, you guys are also the rolling stones that gather no moss. I didn’t realize the re-hab gymnastics you and Tim are doing before you move into your new place. You need to send me a few photos since I can’t visualize what you’re getting yourself into, and I say that in a positive vein. Tim’s photo of you vacuuming in Des Moines was just a scream. Sometimes you just have to let things go.

The house is slowing but surely coming around. Sealed the deck and worked on the mundane living room over the weekend but I irresponsibly jilted my pressing responsibilities on Sunday afternoon to go play golf with my friends Sondra and Jody. She is one hell of a cook so after golf I got to eat her pasta and all it cost me was a bottle of Malbec. I’ve got to get cracking on the garage and the infernal spare bedroom/office. While the garage should be manageable, the bedroom is going to be a frigging nightmare. Hope to sell both twin beds and the wooden desk on Craig’s List, but if my results are no better than the non-response generated for the Harley,

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For sale: A Road King Classic. I’d of thought someone would snap it up by now; ‘… or best offer’ doesn’t sound too bad right about now.

then I’m really going to be pissed. It is so disheartening for the bike not to have sold. Ellen, your suggestion to take it to the Harley dealer is one I’d hoped to avoid but it looks like that will be the action of last resort. But I want to be rid of the thing. You don’t know how many times I’ve rued that purchase and wished I had the old Heritage Softail back. It was one hell of a ride. Stupid is as stupid does.

I see the doctor this afternoon about my left knee. It continues to be sore all the time. Perhaps any surgery can be put off for a few months. If I can limp through several weeks in Wyoming on a bum leg, I can sure as hell gimp around getting a house ready to sell. Ellen, I’ll head out today to get the succulents you and Liz recommended for the copper tray in the kitchen. It’ll lend a little class and dress up the windows. I’ll tell you what: you send photos of your new abode, and I’ll send you pics of the new flower arrangements. Deal?

Love, Dad

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Retirement starts to stick and a ‘no’ to Charleston …


Not that they ask, but Ellen and Reid get dripped on routinely about this thing called retirement.

One of my post-retirement options that only they knew about, until now, was a long-considered move to Charleston. The saltwater marshes and arts and food really were a draw. But the perceived romanticism of the town aside, it is a traffic and overcrowding nightmare. No chance I’ll move there. That’s why they sell non-resident saltwater fishing licenses.


January 18, 2016

Ellen/Reid: This retirement thing might be starting to stick. Each day I sleep a little longer, get up a little later. Such as this morning: rise and shine at 7 a.m. That’s roughly two hours later than the norm. Maybe there was a smidgen of work hangover lurking somewhere in my consciousness that urged me to ‘wake up, wake up.’ But that apparently is beginning to ebb.

There’s not going to be any surgery right now. The doctor said he’s lived with the same thing for a few years, and that if minor pain/discomfort isn’t too bad, he advised I just suck it up and live through it. I agreed with him. But he didn’t hesitate to say if things took a wrong turn to give him a call and he’d refer me to a specialist. It’s not terribly painful but it’s goofed up my floor exercise regimen. I’m limited to what I can do in that regard. There were some issues lifting Miss Emma atop the car this past week but if toting a kayak is all I have to worry about, fine.

Speaking of Charleston, I’m pretty much nixing that from the list of possible moves. Every time I’m down there, the traffic is just awful. Hideous. It really is. It’s an area that’s just growing so fast. It’s attracted a lot of new businesses and with those businesses come people. At 6:30 a.m. last Thursday, I-26 into town was wall-to-wall stalled traffic for roughly 7 – 8 miles. Same when I hit the road after 5:30 – another 5 – 6 miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic at a crawl. A snail’s pace would have been faster. I love the area and the water, but my gosh, the congestion stinks.

Ellen, you’re right about staging the main room before the sale. Continue reading

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Georgia on my mind …


Even before this letter hit the mailboxes of Ellen and Reid, Georgia, at 7 lbs. 4 oz., was among us.

All grandparents think their grandkids are the cutest thing ever. No exception here.

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April 13, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Geez, Ellen, now the wait is on full bore. If I were a betting man, I’d say Emma gets a sister sometime this week. I know your mom flies in today and she’s pumped about. It will be good to have her there to watch Emma while you and Tim are off to the hospital for the delivery. It seemed to me Claire was a good name. But no more guessing on my part since you say everyone is so far off. You’ve got my itinerary for May. Tell Tim his picture of Emma chowing down on a bowl of ice cream as she ‘prepares for Papa’ is pretty accurate.

Georgia surveys her new surroundings. She was officially 5 days early (due Apr. 19) but her early entrance was quiet and routine.

Georgia surveys her new surroundings. She was officially 5 days early (due Apr. 19) but her early entrance was quiet and routine.

The girl and I will get plenty of practice. Betsy saw your selfie and thought you looked ready. I guess. Watch for a delivery sometime soon of Emma’s birthday gift. It would be great to be there but we’ll have to wait a few more weeks for a secondary celebration. If your garden isn’t in by the time of my arrival, I’ll put in the plants you want. Just make a list. It will give me and my helper Emma something to do.

The warm temperatures have put the trees behind the house into full foliage which now blocks any view of the apartments 80 yards away. I like that invisibility. It makes my spot one of the better units in the entire development. The HOA garden Nazis will have to deal with a newly planted crop of lettuce, basil, cilantro and a single tomato plant. Per your instructions, the pots are now on the top of the steps which should no longer offend anyone’s sensibilities. Also planted were the flower boxes, but like a complete ditz for some inane reason I bought only five plants and had to return to the garden shop for a sixth. What an idiot. But at least things are in now and we’ll see if it raises the dander of my overseers. There’s also been a bumper crop of pine pollen which covers everything in a soft layer of yellow dust. When it gets wet it changes to a goo.

I’m thinking about selling the Harley. It’s just too big for me. It outweighs the Heritage Softail by about 80 lbs. and that’s a lot for me to handle. A couple of short jaunts this weekend to Macs and a breakfast nook over the border in South Carolina were enjoyable but my run of bikes is probably coming to an end. I’m okay with that. There was the option of a much lighter Wide Glide (same big engine)

It may be time for the Road King to make way for a new Wide Glide.

It may be time for the Road King to make way for a new Wide Glide. That, or the end of my riding years is in sight.

but that brings me full circle to the same conclusion: probably time to end my riding days. There’s still the kayak as a boy toy along with my golf clubs. Besides, the Road King needs some seriously louder pipes and it would set me back about $700 for a pair of Vance & Hines Big Shots not to mention the installation since that would be over my head a little bit. They estimate it takes about three hours for the install but you could double or triple that in my case.

My friend Tom and I head to Charleston this Friday for a down-and-back day of fishing. The last time we went it was so, so cold and we (and our guide Tripp) were completely skunked. He chalked that up to cold water temperatures. But the Friday forecast calls for mid 70s which will be really nice for a change. The kayak hasn’t touched water for a couple of months now. Reid, we’ll use most of the same bait that other guy was using when he pulled in all those big reds. Frozen sardines are akin to the cut finger mullet he used. The fishing reports in the Observer are marginally hopeful. I really hope for Tom’s sake that both of us catch something, anything, just so we can say something was boated. Not too sure Tom is overly enthused about a 5:30 a.m. wakeup but that’s just the wages of going fishing. On a separate note, I hope to take my pastor John and his wife Kelly down to Charleston sometime this summer or fall if they can break away.

Reid, it’s exciting that you can give your full attention to your grad studies at DePaul. Make sure you stick to your knitting on it. Not that much longer to go. You’ll do well, and the thinking here is that a lot of employers might take a shine to a graduate degree, too.

Love, Dad

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The unmentionables…


Not everything is peaches and cream here in the South. There were also a few unmentionables pared from this letter; not all the news is fit to print. That’s why it’s a few paragraphs short of a full load.

But next week will be on the lighter side; the trip up north to see Emma and her entourage.

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August 25, 2014

Ellen/Reid: It was a tough week last week for your uncle in Grand Island. He had to endure the penalty phase of the trial of the killer of one of his law partners, Todd Elsbern. Apparently the murdered showed no remorse and was sent up the river. It tests your conviction about the death penalty but Ralph showed no movement to endorse it. Good for him. I don’t know how I’d feel in the same situation. I suppose there’s justice and then there’s vengeance. Justice was served.

Ellen, times have also been tough on John at Caldwell. We have a lot of gay members and visitors, and as of late we’ve had a lot of anti-gay protestors yelling and cursing outside the sanctuary doors on Sundays. They’ve even taken to attacking John personally, along with Kelly and their daughters. He pastors up by going to the front walk not to get into any kind of verbal spat but to stand in front of them while his parishioners walk into church. The things they yell in full voice – ‘harlot,’ ‘whore,’ ‘eternal damnation,’ ‘faggots’ and worse – are tough to hear. None of which sounds very biblical to me. I wasn’t aware these bigots were in the position to decide someone else’s final disposition in life. I highly doubt that God has ceded that judgmental ability to them. But it all wears on John. You can see it on his face. Amazing how much vitriol in the name of God there is in religion these days.

I am leaning toward another Harley. A Road King Classic. It would be my fourth. I would love to tool around all of the lower 48 on a new rig. The old Softail has 51,000 miles on it. The intent is not to foist myself on people like you for overnight stays while traipsing around the country side. Instead my tent and gear would go with me. It would be a non-Interstate route. The best part of riding the Carolinas has been putzing along at 50 MPH which is an optimal speed for the bike. I’d also steer clear of the  loonies on the Interstate by sticking to side roads. It would be one of those trips where you’d see a sign for an Historical Marker 1/4 mile ahead, but instead of zooming past, this time I could actually stop to read it. The journey would really be one final good spin.

The tomatoes have been given to the cleaning ladies and neighbors. Same with the basil and oregano. If anyone wants some, they can have it. Re-stained/waterproofed the front porch and gave it a general cleaning last week. Now if I just had someone to sit out there with me.

Real estate has been picking up in my neighborhood of late. Condos (I call them townhouses) have been selling, maybe not quite for what they were before ‘the crash’ but for a lot more than in the last couple of years.

The bright spot is that real estate is finally perking up in Charlotte after a long crash-induced dormancy.

The bright spot is that real estate is finally perking up in Charlotte after a long crash-induced dormancy.

I’ve been tossing about the idea of moving up toward the Davidson College area. It’s a fairly liberal community and well away (about 30 miles north) from the hustle and bustle of SouthPark. The one thing I’m reticent about is giving up the privacy of the green belt right behind the house. I went to a dinner up in Davidson the weekend before last and it really is nice up that way. Moving to the Midwest isn’t entirely out of the question either. With the clock ticking toward retirement I’ve got to get things in gear in terms of planning. So who knows at this point. Your guess is as good as mine. I’m listening if you want to tell me anything.

Okay, the window of opportunity for this letter has slipped past. Be good, and I’ll see you shortly.

Love, Dad

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