Why Ride a Motorcycle?

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I’ve mentioned this before in a previous blog, but I remember when taking the MSF riding course many years ago the instructor asked the class this very question. Several tentative hands shot up and gave answers like fuel economy, parking advantages and other practical reasons. The instructor nodded his head, “Yes, yes, those are all good reasons,” he said. “But what about for fun?”

While some people may arguably start out riding a motorcycle because of the benefits it provides economically, practically and environmentally, those people I feel are few and far between. Most people have a desire to ride a motorcycle for more esoteric reasons. After all, using a motorcycle for transportation isn’t a necessity it is a passion in most cases.

Riding (as opposed to driving) requires absolute concentration and awareness. It is demanding both physically and mentally and challenging as well. You must become super aware of your surroundings, of other vehicles on the road. You must pay attention to weather and road conditions. You must know your motorcycle intimately; its power, maneuverability and limitations as well as your own. On a motorcycle, you must practice “present moment living”.

The most acute sensation while riding a motorcycle is that of being in the scene. In a car, you are completely closed in and have many available distractions to pass the time: radio, cell phones, GPS devices, mini televisions, air conditioning, etc. You are in effect in an environment that mimics that of your home or office with all the comforts those provide. You are looking at the outside world from a closed off point of view, surrounded by thousands of pounds of metal, glass and rubber. Driving a car is, for the most part, unengaging.

While car drivers generally see other drivers as competitors, motorcycle riders see other riders as companions. There is a great camaraderie amongst motorcycle riders, a feeling of being part of a giant family or community. Rarely is there hostility between riders like you see with drivers. We’ve all seen the one or two fingered low wave that bikers give one another as opposed to the middle finger salute that drivers frequently share between themselves!

Motorcycle riding involves passion and a sense of freedom through intense oneness with the machine and one’s surroundings. Unlike cars, motorcycles provide riders with the thrill of risk-taking, adventure, escapism and individuality. On a motorcycle all of your senses become heightened. You smell everything from pine or eucalyptus trees to blooming jasmine and orange blossoms; burned fuel and oil; rain, sea or lake water and even skunks and roadkill. You can more acutely detect temperature drops or increases and can feel the wind rushing around you as the road flashes beneath you only inches from your feet.

In my novel and the upcoming sequel, I often use a motorcycle ride as a form of therapy for several of my characters. Because you must be fully engaged in what you and others are doing as well as your surroundings, motorcycle riding can help clear your head of the chatter that drives most of us crazy every day. If you do it right, you can achieve that Zen state of being in the Now.

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Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted: The State of Social Media in 2016

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Rarely do I comment on current affairs.  I do not post political news nor do I superimpose my Facebook profile picture with the flag from the most current tragedy or triumph.  I do not “Like” a post so that Jesus will give me a million dollars or “Share” a post in order to show others that I support it in fear of having bad luck for the next seven years.

In 2016, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc, etc dominate how the population lets the world know what they believe, what is right and what is wrong, who deserves sympathy and who deserves scorn.  We judge, politicize, bully, bloviate and shame just as readily as we adore, uplift, empathize and educate.  No one bothers to fact-check anything; the truth  doesn’t seem necessary anymore in order to stand as fact.  Everyone has an opinion and those who flood the Internet with it and have their words spun around the world via social media seem to have little regard for how their op-ed is used.  Similarly, anyone is free to create both truth and acceptance of their opinion and then easily have that seized upon and touted as fact.  Free speech is something that I believe in wholeheartedly.  As a writer, I have to.  However, does the writer now need to take more responsibility for what they write as their opinion so as not to run the risk of it seeping into the collective consciousness as truth?  Does the reader not also bear the responsibility of educating themselves as to what is fact and what is opinion (not necessarily fiction)?

I am weary of being bombarded with the world’s opinions.  I am weary of seeing people mindlessly hitting that “share” button before checking the factual merits.  People have access to opinions, news, articles and posts about how they should live:  don’t eat red meat, don’t drink alcohol, don’t eat bread, take this supplement, use this facial cream, meditate, exercise, go outdoors, think positively, black lives matter, blue lives matter, love is the answer, stop animal abuse, build a wall, drink more water, go solar, stop using plastic, house the homeless, feed the children.  No one seems to have the motivation to look into anything before re-posting it as truth or worthy of merit.  Those of us who don’t hit that share button often enough or comment positively (or negatively-whatever the case my be) on any given subject run the risk of public shame and the accusation of apathy.

Caring about most things has now become personal for me as has how I live, eat, exercise, smoke, drink and fuck.  I have chosen to go the opposite direction than many of those in my social media sphere for several reasons:  1)  not everything is everyone’s business; 2)  posting something onto Facebook has never changed the mind of someone who believes differently from you; 3) opinions only matter to those that give them; 4)  posting, liking or sharing something has zero effect when compared to actually doing something about it; 5) “Nothing is true, everything is permitted”.

Here’s what I think people should do:  take everything with a grain of salt; do what you feel is right; take care of yourself and those within your tangible sphere of friends and family; treat people with respect, dignity and kindness; spend time in nature and with animals; mind your own business.

But that’s just my opinion.

 

Dying With Dignity: TheCase forAssisted Suicide

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If you’ve not seen the final episodes of the Netflix original series “Grace & Frankie”, then be forewarned:  this post has spoilers.

The series, now going into its third season, has broken several barriers that still aren’t dealt with often enough in mainstream television.  In the first season we meet Grace (played by Jane Fonda) who is married to Robert (Martin Sheen) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) who is married to Robert’s law partner, Saul.  At a dinner where the two women assume their husbands will announce their retirement, they instead announce that they are in love with one another and wish to end their marriages in order to be together.  What’s striking about this isn’t that the men are gay, but that at the age of somewhere between 65-70 they have decided to throw away comfortable and reasonably happy existences in order to live their true lives.  What ensues is both hilarious and moving with all four leads carrying out their respective roles with humanity, humor, dignity, frailty, strength and love.  Along the way, the show deals with often-ignored subjects like sex and dating after 65, drug use, adopted children, marriage and friendship, family dynamics and more.

In the next-to-last episode of the second season, we are introduced to a dear friend of Grace and Frankie’s named Babe, who has returned home after a long absence.  Taking Frankie into her confidence, she confesses that her cancer has returned and that she has chosen to forgo treatment this time and essentially go out with a bang and not a whimper.  To the observer, Babe appears to be healthy and in excellent (and spunky) spirits.  The truth is that she does still feel good and that is why Babe has chosen to die before she deteriorates, while she is happy and fun and feeling good.  Although somewhat conflicted, Frankie eventually agrees to help Babe carry this out and part of the plan is to throw a big party for herself and her friends.  Grace, on the other hand, struggles morally with the issue until she, too, finally breaks down and shows up at the party near the very end to pay her respects to Babe in the way that she wanted, not the way Grace thought that things should be.

In another spoiler alert, I will confess that I deal with a very similar situation in the sequel to my first novel, “Red, White & Blues”.  I won’t name the character, but someone finds out that their cancer has returned and decides to forgo treatment for the very reasons that Babe does.  This character asks for support from their friends and gets it, although there are struggles both moral and practical.  A party is held where everyone in attendance is aware of the outcome.

In a world where death and dying are very nearly the most taboo subjects that we face, “Grace & Frankie” dealt with both in a sympathetic, loving and realistic way.  In Babe’s mind, death isn’t what scares her, it’s dying that does-illness, sickness, chemo, exhaustion, pain, false hope and loved ones that suffer as you deteriorate before their very eyes.  The same fears that face my character and why the case for assisted suicide or euthanasia is important and misunderstood.  Bravo to the show and the actors for the fresh and realistic portrayal of a subject that needs more discussion.

Lane-Splitting in California

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California is the only state where lane-splitting (or filtering) is legal.  By legal, I mean that it is permitted, but there are no official laws regarding the practice:

California law does not allow or prohibit motorcycles from passing other vehicles proceeding in the same direction within the same lane, a practice often called “lane splitting,” “lane sharing” or “filtering.” (DMV.ca.gov)

Lane-slitting is when a motorcyclist rides between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction in order to avoid being rear-ended, which accounts for about a quarter of all accidents involving a motorcycle and car.

The debate between both motorcyclists and motorists who oppose the practice and those that support it has been ongoing for years now.  Studies and statistics aside, bikers have been slitting lanes in California for decades and most of those who share the road with them are likely not even aware of the ambiguity surrounding its legality.

A bill was put forth last year (AB 51) attempting to put guidelines on the practice, thus making it legal with certain restrictions.  AB 51 was authored by Assemblyman Dan Quirk (D-Hayward) and included guidelines such as speed limits while lane-splitting (motorcyclists could go no faster than 15 MPH above the moving traffic and no faster than 50 MPH overall).  A two-year study on lane-splitting by UC Berkeley concluded that riders who employed the practice were safer than those who sat in place in traffic, thus increasing their vulnerability to be hit from behind. AB51 has been put aside for now so supporters can have more time to work on the measure.

There are car drivers who intensely dislike lane-splitting and even some who go out of their way to inhibit it by blocking the motorcyclist’s way or, incredibly, opening car doors on them.  While this is not the norm, it is of note here because of the amount of tourists California has on the road at any given time.  Riders who rent motorcycles here in California should bear in mind that although the practice of lane-splitting is not new, it is still disliked by many local drivers who view it as an unsafe and unfair way for motorcyclists to avoid traffic.  In addition, there is also danger from out-of-state drivers who might not be aware of lane-splitting.

If you have questions or concerns about lane-splitting, be sure to talk to the guys at OC Motorcycle when you rent your bike and route your trip. Vigilance is the key when riding a motorcycle and if you are new to riding or not familiar with California driving and traffic patterns, lane-splitting should be avoided.

OC Entertainment Venues: The Coach House

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The Coach House has been a staple in Orange County for as long as I can remember. I cannot count the number of shows that I have seen here over the past thirty years, but it is quite a few.

Located in San Juan Capistrano, the Coach House has a full bar and dinner menu is just about Orange County’s only independent live music venue. It seats close to 500 people, which means that whoever you see here, it will be an intimate experience. Their yearly line-up is varied and interesting and features local artists, fantastic cover and tribute bands and top-notch artists from every music genre. I have seen blues greats Buddy Guy and Albert Collins here as well as classic acts like Gordon Lightfoot, Donovan and Mick Taylor; rising stars like the Black Crowes before they were big and fantastic tribute bands like Mick Adams and the Stones, Desperado and Wild Child.

Dinner reservations are encouraged and will get you a seat closer to the stage, but be aware that the seating is “roadhouse style” and you will be sitting with strangers at long wooden tables. Drinks and food are on the overpriced side, but the service is usually very good. When the room is packed to capacity, it can get rather stuffy inside and the only reprieve from the heat is to step outside onto the patio, which is most commonly used a smoking section.

Despite the rustic, old school atmosphere, the Coach House should be lauded and patronized for its commitment to high quality acts and being able to withstand the test of time. The Coach House is located at 33157 Camino Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano. Check their website for upcoming shows and to view their dinner menu.

The Coach House is about 25 miles south of OC Motorcycle and is conveniently located near Dana Point Harbor for daytime fun like whale watching.

Day Trip: Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear

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With spring comes warmer weather and the thawing of snow in our local Southern California mountains. There’s nothing quite like turning off the freeway and heading up into higher elevations, twisty mountain roads and pine-scented fresh air.

Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear are located in the San Bernadino mountain range and are within easy riding distance of OC Motorcycle. Heading north on CA-57 you will then need to continue east on CA-60, then north again on CA-15 and east on CA-210 before hitting CA-18, known as the “Rim of the World” highway for its breathtaking views of the valley below. Be aware of heavy traffic on weekends and that the area is regularly patrolled by the CHP and local police, so watch your speed. Riding time is approximately an hour and a half.

Lake Arrowhead is a lovely mountain town with the charm of an Alpine village. Although Lake Arrowhead itself is privately owned, Lake Gregory draws fishermen, nature lovers and water skiers in the summer months while the two villages, Lake Arrowhead and Blue Jay, offer shopping and dining in abundance. From May until September, the Summer Concert Series entertains locals and visitors alike with quality tribute bands that cover nearly every important artist from the Beatles, the Doors, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd to Depeche Mode and Garth Brooks. Concerts are free and take place on the main stage in Lake Arrowhead Village. In October, the town puts on one of the best Octoberfests in Southern California. Be sure and visit Wildhaven Ranch sanctuary, home to indigenous critters that are unable to live in the wild anymore.

My local friend recommends several restaurants to eat at including Hortencia’s Mexican Restaurant, Lou Eddie’s Pizza and the grill at the Antlers Inn. If you plan on staying overnight, accommodations can be booked through Lake Arrowhead Retreats (Arrowhead Retreats).

If you intend to head to Big Bear also, you’ll need to get back onto CA-18 and then CA-38, a nice scenic highway that at one point achieves the distinction of being one of the highest roads in Southern California. Big Bear is about another hour and a half ride from Lake Arrowhead.

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Big Bear Lake offers all manner of water sports from kayaking to paddle boarding and, of course, fishing. In addition, the town offers visitors hiking, parasailing, helicopter rides, horseback riding, golf and even bowling. Big Bear is home to one of the country’s only alpine solar observatories and there is a zoo, too!

Fun and delicious dining can be had all over the village from Noble Roman’s Pizza, Big Bear Mountain Brewery, The Cowboy Steakhouse & Saloon and The Cave where live music sets the pace every weekend.

Both Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear offer hiking and camping, but you’ll need to obtain a California Adventure Pass which can be purchased at the Lake Arrowhead Ranger Station or Visitors Center as well as some local businesses.

If you are looking for the perfect escape from the city, Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead are the perfect destinations for a day or weekend trip. And with the beautiful scenery and fresh mountain air, getting there on a motorcycle is a big part of the pleasure. Be sure and call OC Motorcycle to reserve a bike or two and hit the highway soon!

 

Day Trip: Joshua Tree National Park

 

Joshua3Joshua Tree National Park is a place that holds a lot of mystery and other-worldly beauty. It is home to the iconic Joshua tree, surreal boulder formations and panoramic views. Back in the late Sixties, it was also the location of a now-infamous desert photo shoot and undoubtedly enlightening trip made by friends Keith Richards and Gram Parsons. Later, of course, Parsons would be found dead in the Joshua Tree Inn, his body becoming the subject of a truly twisted rock ‘n’ roll tale.

In addition to its musical history, Joshua Tree is host to some 700 species of plant life and around 240 bird species, including the occasional pelican who makes its way over from the nearby Salton Sea. Joshua Tree is rich in Native American and California history as well and its haunting beauty is a must-see for all who visit or call Southern California home.

From Orange County, head north on the 55, then east on the 91 toward Riverside for about 30 miles before reaching the 60. Head east for another 18 miles or so. You will then need to get onto I-210E for about 22 miles before reaching the 62, which will take you into the park after 43 miles or so.

If you’ve never seen them before, you may be taken aback by the wind farms on the 62. These giant white turbines make you feel as if you’re on some alien planet and they were not placed out there haphazardly. This portion of the road can get very windy, so be prepared if you’re on a lighter bike.

A great stop before reaching the National Park is at Hutchins Harley-Davidson in Yucca Valley. With an attached 1950’s style diner and a vintage motorcycle museum, it’s a perfect place to grab some breakfast or lunch.

A second detour from the 62 is to head down Old Woman Road and check out Giant Rock, the largest free-standing boulder in the world. Nearby is the truly spacey Integratron, built in 1959 by UFO enthusiast George Van Tassel. The all-wooden 35-foot high dome is said to be an acoustically perfect structure where today you can experience a neuroacoustic sound bath or perhaps attend a UFO symposium.

Once inside the park, you will likely be overcome with visual stimuli from all corners of your vision. The roads inside the park are meant for meandering and enjoying the sights, so take your time and stop often. The liquid-like rock formations and hundreds of Joshua tree sentinels are spectacular to say the least. Be sure and drive up to Key View for an incredible view from a 5,185 foot elevation. You can see Mt. San Jacinto, Cochella Valley and on a clear day, the Salton Sea from this vantage point.

When you’re finally ready to leave, simply head back to Orange County the way you came or map out a back route through Box Canyon and Mecca, down through Borrego Springs and then make your way back to CA-5 N toward Orange County.