Commitment

Already falling off the blog wagon. No surprise, I have several incomplete notebooks from years ago. All capture a few month’s activities and then…silence. I refuse to feel guilty! It is the full rush of summer, and I am too busy working or making new memories during my time off to attend to the new synthetic life style.

That’s right, I said it. We are being slowly lulled into the condition where all our extra time is being tied up in these computer screens and “smart” phones that are turning us into The System’s wet dream…consumer zombies. It is a fully preprogrammed synthetic life style now that makes the three channels of TV that our generation nursed look like the harbinger of George Orwell’s warning. Here it comes…get ready…to be a voluntary slave to the new digital life! Holy cow…who would have guessed? We are seeing the front wave of things only dreamt of in a Star Trek vision of the future.

So what will you commit to in your dwindling spare time? So far, for me it is still mostly music… when I’m not wasting resources riding around on a motorcycle.

There is no life without music. For me, it started early. Piano (Mom insisted), cello (a romantic rebel at an early age), and then…harmonica, guitar, voice, bass, drums, more bass, organ, diggery-doo, what else? Blues, jazz, rock and roll…baby! Soul, funk, and…reggae! Once again, jack of all trades, master of none. That is ok. To learn how to blend and play with others is a skill many technically great players still don’t seem to understand. To blend with the spirit of the music, to enter the greater sub-conscious mind, both a skill and a pleasure to commit to. Once you are fully committed, you may play some wrong notes, but the spirit comes through. The muse is spirit, and we take it for granted that we can experience this every day through the music we consume. Yet another life force The Beast works to pervert. Nothing but commercially contrived, lowest-common-denominator-earwigs are promoted in the brave new world. Don’t forget to support the local guys that have been in the trenches for years, honing the craft of creating music.

After spending yet another hour practicing, or working on a recording, or just messing around on an instrument, annoying my wife, I feel good. Nuff said. I suggest you take up the ukulele, every else seems to be, or buy a drum or a didgeridoo, and start jamming.

Don’t take “their” word for it, for what is good. Be a part of the creative process and then you will start to understand what is good.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Tools of the trade.

Slow Down And Smell The Cherries.

Only in Nebraska will you see a forest like this! If you have faith, and drive deep into the unoccupied sand hills, eventually you find a nice stand of very old pines and a small streambed with willows and other trees. There I spent the better part of a day getting in tune with nature and listening to nothing but birds and the wind in the trees. Not every day on the bike is sunny with blue skies. The wind was strong and gusty, the skies a little gray and at times damp, but I didn’t mind, it is a nice sheltered and quiet spot.
OK, I admit it; I can be a little high-strung. It’s sometimes hard for me to slow down and soak it all in. I meant to get a picture of the Cherry County sign as I entered. Missed it. I meant to get a picture of the sign “Tourist Activities” which was in the middle of nowhere on the way up. The mind ran wild…what could the mysterious activities be? Ditch mowing? Highway debris photography? Mud pie making? Really not much of any activity there. Didn’t stop for that either. I intended to go back and document the cool little building in the middle of Valentine that said “Cherry Machine” in big red letters on the side. It was in a group of old buildings from an era that is quickly disappearing across America. Missed it. Most regretful was after braving Old Highway 7, which turned into a fairly rough gravel road halfway to the Niobrara river, not stopping at the ancient looking General Store just a half mile north. It looked like it hadn’t changed in 150 years and I’m sure the guy hoofing it across the back yard would have had some great stories, and maybe a cold drink, but I was too concerned about dropping the big Harley in the sand to chill out and stop. Guess I’ll keep working on it.
I can recommend the Rain Motel in Valentine. It’s a rare Mom and Pop operation with the Neon Bar and Grill up front. We were treated to some fantastic smoked ribs and their “famous coleslaw” which I felt deserved to be famous. Washed down with some Blue Moon it was perfect. (Beer review insert: thanks Budweiser for buying out and dumbing down, if not ruining, Blue Moon. It used to be a great beer.)
So as I age, this really is my kind of camping trip. Had the hikes, campfire, picnic lunch, and at the end of the day, a soft bed. Now if I can only learn to slow down and smell the cherries.

Beer Review #1

DSC_0935

First, I have to admit, I really am more of a martini guy.  I will soon diverge into the dark world of spirits and divulge my easy, fool-proof recipe for the “Frontier Martini,” as dubbed by my father-in-law.  This is not anywhere near the world of froo-froo chocolate martinis or apple-tinis, but a victual for true professionals. But for now, let’s get started on the less dangerous and lower octane “bread as God intended it.”

We are truly living in a new golden age of beer.  Microbrews are coming out so fast, Bud or Inbev (or whatever the monstrous, soulless  corporation they are now) can’t even buy them up fast enough.  There are a lot of folks who really know what they are doing, and a lot of hipstery folks who can’t quite pull off the simplest at-home beer kit.   By now there are thousands of websites devoted to expounding upon the entire beer universe with eloquent and intellectual phraseology to make you a fully enlightened beer master.  I recently heard a beer described as “having a solid saison backbone, but…” blah blah blah.   Pretentious?  Why couldn’t you just say, “Belgian style”?  Would you say, “solid Belgian back bone”?  Probably not…would you say “solid Nebraskan back bone”?  Obviously not, unless you are talking football.  I am more interested in punching holes in this ideal and bringing it down to a nice salty take on what is available here in the “Salt Valley” (Lincoln, Nebraska).

So here goes:

As sampled at a local (much to my chagrin) chain restaurant.  I guess it is a limited chain–limited to which ever college towns they deem worthy.

Lips Of Faith: Hof Ten Dormaal, New Bulgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins Colorado–Had to try this based on the name alone.  It certainly gave my lips faith!  Faith that New Belgium has not been ruined by success.  It was like liquid sunshine, bringing the aforementioned enlightenment, but from simply drinking this beer.   A nice balance between complexity and “yes, I’ll have another gallon of this, please!”

Epic Blackout Stout, Brickway Brewery, Omaha Nebraska–A sweet, sumptuous, velvety, chocolate malt stout.  Hit me like turkish coffee meets vodka.  So high-octane they only serve it in five ounce servings.  Yummy!  I’ll have one of those for breakfast!  On my day off, of course.

Lava Russian Imperial Stout, somewhere in Iceland (I can’t even begin to translate the strange name of the brewery, my deepest apologies.)–There  can’t be very many of them there.  I think.  Sumptuous in a different way.  Dry, camp fire in an earthy peat bog.  No coddling sweetness.  A hairy bare-chested woodsman of a stout.

Until next time, wishing you happy, blissful imbibing.

 

 

 

Cherry Pickin’

It’s vacation time.  No pressure, just figure out where it makes the most sense to go, how to get there, whether or not the car will even make it to an airport (let alone across several state lines), how to pay for it, when I can get time off work, what reservations I need, is the phone paid up etc. etc.  Relaxing right?  In the case of motor bike trips: Is the oil changed?  Are the tires going to make it?  Is the clutch adjusted?  Is the exhaust loose…again?  Is anything else loose?  What if the voltage regulator goes out…again?  Which tools (let’s face it, other than a credit card and cell phone) will I want with me?  My rain gear still leaks!  Usually I’m like a mad bee before a trip and almost never can sleep the night before.  All worth it for the meditation of the road.

This spring, the epic trip to the surreal landscapes of Utah is going to have to wait.  And as I take a much needed mental health break from work, so far all I’ve done is start a blog, perform an intensive cleaning of the garage, trim the yard, finish the garden fence and vacuum the house.  Wow, really know how to party in my middle age.  But, a shorter excursion forms in my mind’s eye to a refreshingly barren and expansive landscape, nearly devoid of man-made objects.  Cherry County, Nebraska!  The least populated county in the state and probably for far beyond that.  Nothing but green grass on rolling hills and a few cattle.  Also home to Samuel R McKelvie National Forest.  That’s right, don’t laugh, we have a National Forest in Nebraska.

Not having the mad rush to prep for an epic trip is more relaxing, but this year another issue came up that always complicates trips.  To dog, or not to dog, that is the question. If you have pets, you always have to figure things out for them, unless you have a lovely wife who always looks after the dog whilst you traipse around the countryside on two wheels, like I often have.  We’ve been struggling with the concept of committing to another canine that needs a home.  We lost Strider about a year and a half ago (pictured in the “about” page on this blog), and he would be a really tough act to follow.  He was loved by humans and animals alike.  Wishing to take off and selfishly waste time and money on the motorcycle habit often works counter to responsible dog ownership.  If nothing else, it definitely adds to the expense of a couple’s vacation plans having to pay for doggy day care.  I don’t really care for side car rigs, ruins much of the fun of being on a bike.  Anyway, weighing the pros and cons has left me feeling a little dazed, like the dyslexic agnostic, wondering if there really is a dog.

Cats are much easier.  Throw out a little extra food and water, maybe have a friend or neighbor check in, and voila.  Ours even has little kitty door to come and go as he pleases, and he always does his job outside, refusing to use a litter box.  That being said, they miss their people too.  When we came back from Colorado last fall he obviously missed us.  I leave you with this picture of Guinness, which seems to suggest not only did he miss us, but says a lot about the character of this strange little cat.  Yes, that is a cat bed in the chair on the left.

Guinness' backpack bed.

Guinness’ backpack bed.

 

Neophyte

Here I am, being dragged, kicking and screaming further into the 21rst century.  If nothing else, even if nobody ever cares about the words written here, it forces me to deal with the digital acrobatics necessary to participate in this brave new world.  Mostly it gives me a chance to spout off about the increasingly risky activity of getting on a bike, due mainly to everyone else’s increasingly risky driving habits.

In reality, motorcycles attract people from every walk of life, regardless of race, religion, sex, profession, age, nationality or economic status.  It also attracts young folks who have watched too much Sons of Anarchy.  Like most others that get on two wheels I crave a sense of freedom, and escape from the hum-drum 9-5.  Insert On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter here.  If you haven’t seen that particular movie, it will go a long way towards initiating you into the motorcycle madness.  Apparently we all like to live vicariously through others, so maybe this will not be so futile after all.  As somewhat of an autodidact, and a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, I must have something interesting to say…maybe.

I’m also hoping to inflame the passions of microbrew nerds and hipsters by using this as a forum for a weekly beer critique that I shall dub the “Beer Peer Review”.  What are my qualifications you may ask?  As far as I am concerned, the same as anyone who has a PhD in zymurgy, an opinion.

Speaking of opinion, it is mine that the world is much more strange than we have been lead to believe by establishments such as church, school and government.  The journey is ultimately inward, no?  Insert Zen And the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance here, which by the way, if you haven’t read it, has very little to do with motorcycles.

So, onward and upward and outward, with weird stuff…and beer.