Monday, December 26, 2011
Today is the day after Christmas. It is a day when kids play with their Christmas presents and parents sleep in and relax, if they are lucky enough to not have to go to work. It's also a day when lots of people return Christmas presents to the stores and exchange them for something else. For still others it has become a day to shop for super discounted items as stores continue to make deals to get rid of their Christmas supplies and overstocked items. For this reason, it is now being called Black Friday #2. But on my calendar it says Boxing Day (Canada). Boxing Day? What is Boxing Day and why is it on my calendar? It also says Kwanzaa on my calendar today, but that is a topic for another day. I did a little research and found out that Boxing Day is celebrated in Great Britain (England), Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It has it's roots going back to the Middle Ages in England and spread to the previously named countries over time. The name derives from the fact that in the early days, servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but were given the next day off. Their employers would give them gift "boxes" on that day (hence, Boxing Day), to thank them for their services. As time went on, people expanded the tradition to include other service people, like doormen, porters, mail carriers, and the like. I think this is possibly where the tradition of giving someone a tip comes from. Tipping is a good idea for a future blog also. Anyway, for whatever reason Boxing Day has continued on as a holiday in these other Anglo-Saxon countries besides ours. I'm not sure why this tradition did not make it to America (although tipping sure did). So that begs the question. Why is it on my calendar? Is it because all calendars sold in America are also sold in Canada where they celebrate Boxing Day? Or is it because there are plenty of Canadians who now reside in the United States? I'm not sure. Hey wait a minute...some calendars also say St. Stephen. What's that? Now this is really getting confusing. St. Stephen's Day is also an English holiday marking the day that Saint Stephen was martyred by being stoned to death in Jerusalem in 34 or 35 A.D. This is where we get the line "on the feast of Stephen" from the Christmas carol, Good King Wenceslas. If fact, many websites on this topic suggest that St. Stephen's Day was the name of the holiday before it became known as Boxing Day. So there you have it. A history lesson and my thoughts on Boxing Day.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Sunday, December 4, 2011
For most motorcyclists, this is the time of the year that we all dread...fall and winter. The end of the summer riding season. Depending on what part of the country you live in, your season could end in September or October, or maybe extend into November if you're in a warmer climate. For those lucky enough to be in Florida, Arizona or southern California, you don't have this problem, but for people who experience all four seasons, there will be a time when you have to garage your bike. When you get to December, that time is now. Some people in extreme cold climates may decide to winterize their motorcycles, meaning they drain the fluids and disconnect the battery, to keep their bike in good condition through the winter. In this case, you really are done for the season. For those in the Midwest or climates where the weather can be fickle, taking a chance against winterizing may mean you'll get a ride in every now and then if the weather cooperates. I have lived in Missouri for the past 29 years and can remember times when we saw temperatures in the 70's in January! So if you watch the weather trends and see a nice warm spell coming, get out the tender and charge that battery up...you might get a ride in! In the meantime, you may have to pass the time talking up past rides and rallies with your biker buddies at the shop or dealership, or diner. Heck, you could even check out an upgrade for next year. This is the time of the year for deals on new wheels!
Friday, November 25, 2011
Yesterday morning, after eating breakfast and commandeering the TV remote back from my children, I switched over to NBC to watch what I thought was supposed to be the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I had fond memories of watching this parade as a child and seeing the giant floats and balloons move down the streets of New York City. Once the commercials were over and the program returned, I saw Matt Lauer with Meredith Vieira sitting in the middle of what appeared to be a hundred or so pots of mums. They were announcing the next segment which was some Broadway production number of some kind. Where's the parade I thought to myself? I noticed a timer in the upper right hand corner of the screen indicating the parade's arrival at some square. So the parade was happening somewhere, they just weren't showing it. After the Broadway number was over, there was a brief glimpse of the parade before they went to commercial. After the next set of commercials were over, I was greeted by Al Roker, who was somewhere by the parade (I could see a marching band over his shoulder), interviewing someone about their upcoming Broadway Show performances. Why can't they just show the parade, I thought again? After the interview, we went back to Matt and Meredith who were previewing the next Broadway number. Who cares about these song and dance numbers? Where is the parade already? To my amazement and chagrin, the parade was not actually shown (other than behind Al Roker or on a cut to commercial) until 9:54 AM! Virtually a whole hour went by of what was billed as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, without actually showing the parade at all! How could this be? I guess that in order to see the Macy's Parade anymore, you have to actually go to New York and watch it in person!
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Now that Veterans Day has past, the next big holiday of the year is Christmas. What, you ask? What about Thanksgiving? Oh sure, there will be a Thanksgiving holiday. Most Americans will take that Thursday and possibly the following Friday off to be with their family and eat turkey and watch the Detroit Lions lose to whoever they will be playing that day. But Thanksgiving is a holiday that is going by the wayside. I have already seen houses and businesses with Christmas decorations up. Bell ringers are already stationed at the local grocery stores to beg for your loose change. I even flipped through the radio dial last night and heard a station playing Christmas music already! Now I'm no Scrooge. I love Christmas and what it means to Christians around the world. I love seeing my kids get excited about what they hope Santa will bring them this year. But I think Thanksgiving deserves a little more recognition than just a day to get off work and eat some turkey and pie with your friends and family. We should reflect on what we as a nation are thankful for. Freedom of religion. Freedom of speech. Freedom to vote for whomever we choose to represent us in government. Let's wait until after Thanksgiving to hang the decorations and do our Christmas shopping. Christmas will be here before we know it anyway.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
11 in 11 was a catchy phrase someone thought of as the St. Louis Cardinals approached the 2011 MLB season. This team had 10 World Series Championships, so getting their 11th in 2011 would be 11 in 11 for short. While it was catchy, it seemed at first far fetched. Before the season even began, the Cardinals learned that they would lose one of their top starting pitchers, Adam Wainwright, to a season ending injury that would require surgery. Hopes for an 11th World Championship were quickly dashed. On top of that, when the season was not even a week old, they found out that Matt Holliday would be on the DL for a few weeks after needing an emergency appendectomy. What else could go wrong? Much of the season went on with the Cardinals not playing as well as fans felt they should, even with the injuries. They made too many errors. They hit into too many double plays. Their bullpen had problems. They blew too many saves. Even their marquee player, Albert Pujols, was having an off season. He wasn't even hitting 300! At one point in the season, the Cardinals found themselves in 4th place in their own division, considered the weakest in baseball! By the end of August, they were 10 1/2 games out of the wild card race. It was a foregone conclusion that the Brewers would win the division, which they did. But something happened. Tony La Russa said it happened one day as the Cardinals were playing the Cubs. The fans still cheered. Cardinal Nation still loved their Cardinals, and that gave them hope. Tony La Russa instilled a mantra into the players that this team would always play a "hard nine". They would never give up and throw in the towel. This team would play out the season with respect for the game and respect for the fans and the city they played for. They would do their best for their coaches, front office personnel and their owner. This team would not give up. Mike Shannon said after a game in late August, "You never know what can happen win you start to win and build some momentum!" And so the Cardinals began what will go down into the history books as one of the greatest comebacks of all time. They caught the Atlanta Braves on the second to last day of the season to clinch the Wild Card berth into the playoffs. They then went on the beat the mighty Philadelphia Phillies and the beasty Milwaukee Brewers. They found themselves in the 2011 World Series with a chance, a chance to win 11 in 11. Of course now they faced the feared Texas Rangers, the returning American League Champions. A team that lost the World Series to the San Francisco Giants the year before and wanted to taste the World Championship in the worst way. Through five hard fought games they found themselves back in St. Louis down 3 games to 2, but with the home field advantage. But game 6 would not seem to go their way. Facing elimination and down 7-4 they fought their way back to tie the game in the ninth, only to lose the lead in extra innings, twice! They were down to their last strike...twice! But they didn't give up! An unlikely hero in the form of a St. Louis native, one of the lowest paid players on the team. A kid, named David Freese, who made the team as the 3rd baseman after suffering injuries and personal problems in the past, but developed into a confident hitter as the season progressed. This hometown hero would drive home the winning runs with a walk off home run in the 11th inning. But the Cardinals still had to win game 7. Down 2 runs in the first inning, the Cardinals tied the game on a hit by, you guessed it, David Freese, the hometown hero! They were bolstered by a strong pitching performance by Chris Carpenter, pitching on three days rest, and the Cardinals went on to win the game, game 7, by a score of 6 to 2 and become the 2011 World Series Champions! 11 in 11 had been accomplished. Yes, 11 in 11 means the 11th Championship in 2011, but what it really means is, don't give up! Don't count yourself out. Keep fighting. There is still a chance to win! Anyone can come back. You can dream of winning the World Series and being the MVP, as David Freese did. This Championship was for the underdogs. The unsung heroes. The people who beat the odds and made something happen that wasn't expected. The Cardinals did it. You can do it too! Whatever your dream is, don't give up. Who says it can't be done? Make it happen. You can be a winner!
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
After last night's storms and the weather forecast for more rain today, I will definitely not be riding my motorcycle to work. While there are more experienced motorcyclists who will ride in the rain, it is not one of my favorite aspects of motorcycling. While riding a bicycle in a rain shower might be fun for children, riding a motorcycle takes on an entirely different element. Instead of a nice pitter patter of raindrops on the check, rain while riding, feels more like small needles hitting you in the face. Your vision is impaired by the raindrops and mist as well, so safety becomes a factor also. Like any vehicle, stopping distance is greater on wet pavement, so greater distance must be maintained between your bike and the cars ahead of you. Like any other motorcyclist, I keep rain gear in my saddlebags in case I get caught in an unexpected summer rainstorm, but I sure don't plan rides when I know I'm going to be heading into rain. Having been caught in a few showers before, the riding experience is not what one thinks of when contemplating a motorcycle ride on the highways and byways of America. No, I'll leave the rainy conditions to those hearty souls who are more comfortable with the challenge and are more experienced in bad weather conditions than I. So I'll take my Mustang to work today and hope that better conditions will prevail in days ahead. We've certainly been blessed with great weather in the Midwest lately. One thing is for sure. I'm not looking forward to winter!
Friday, September 2, 2011
Driving can be frustrating. There is too much traffic, too many stoplights, and oh those inconsiderate drivers. Most people have been cut off a few times in their life. But have you really watched some of the drivers on the road? I mean, have you observed what they do while they're driving? As a motorcyclist, I have to be much more aware of other cars and trucks than you do. Because motorcycles are not seen as easily as other cars, we have to be much more defensive when we drive on the roads and highways. We are constantly scanning ahead of us to watch out for cars and trucks pulling out into a lane ahead of us, stopping to make a turn without signaling, or coming into our lane without notice. Sure we've all been passed by a sportbike going too fast or maybe even doing a wheelie, but most motorcyclists are very good and considerate drivers. After all, one mistake and it could mean our lives. There has been a lot of press and even new laws about driving and texting, but have you ever considered some of the other things people do while they're driving? Besides searching for a new radio station or putting in a new CD, I have seen people put on makeup, read a book or magazine propped on their steering wheel, and of course how many people eat while they drive? Cell phone use is big, too. When I see a car going slower than the rest of traffic and maybe even wandering in their lane, chances are it's someone on a cell phone driving, not a drunk driver. So now that the weather is getting nicer, roll down the windows and try to imagine yourself riding a motorcycle. Smell the fresh air and try to see things from our perspective. We all share the road and we all want to reach our destination safely.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
If you've ever been at a stoplight in the summertime with your window down, sitting by a motorcycle in the next lane, you've probably wondered why they are so loud. Now there are some sports cars and old jalopies that are loud too, but in general motorcycles are louder than cars. Well for one thing, motorcycle engines are exposed, not under a hood. But another reason is safety. Motorcycles are harder to see than cars or trucks, they have a smaller profile, taking up far less room in the driving lane. So if you can't see the motorcycle, maybe you can hear it. One of the most quoted statements at an accident scene involving a motorcycle is, "I didn't see it officer!". So while some motorcycles are louder than others depending on their size or style, the fact that motorcycles are louder than cars is a good thing. Now some local municipalities have ordinances against excessive noise, but most motorcycles, unless outfitted with after market pipes and accessories, will fall under these guidelines. I don't know about you, but I would rather pull up next to a motorcycle at a stoplight than a teenager with his stereo blasting any day! So look before you switch lanes. Check your rear-view and side mirrors and listen for a motorcycle. We're watching you too!
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
While there are not too many things more exhilarating than riding a motorcycle, riding in a large group of motorcycles is one of them. I usually ride alone because I tend to make last minute decisions to go out based on weather conditions and family activities, but occasionally I will plan a ride with a friend or two. Recently I was part of a group of 20 or so bikers riding through the winding roads of the Missouri wine country near Defiance, MO. Riding in a larger group brings some additional challenges, but the experience of riding in a large pack can't be beat. While one must be cautious of the riders in front and behind you, the roar of the engines and the looks and gazes of people you pass by makes you proud to be one of the pack. When riding in a larger group, motorcycles usually form a staggered formation to give room in front and back for stopping, but allowing for a tighter grouping of bikes. If the roads become too narrow or have many sharp turns, a single file formation may become necessary. Many motorcycle dealerships organize group rides on a regular basis. The Veteran's Day parade is a time when dealerships, clubs and riding chapters come together for a bigger than life experience downtown. Hundreds, if not thousands of motorcycles will descend upon downtown St. Louis to take part in the annual parade. Motorcycles of all types, sizes, and colors, will bring up the rear of the parade to the delight of children and onlookers alike. I took part in the parade last year and it was definitely a highlight of my year. So if you're a biker, find a group to ride with soon. It sure beats riding alone.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
A good friend of mine posed a question about motorcycles to me the other day. He asked if I had seen bikes that had headlights that alternated between high beam and low beam, back and forth, in an apparent effort to be seen better by passing motorists. While I had not, it doesn't surprise me that a motorcyclist would want to be seen better. Unlike cars, headlights on all street motorcycles come on when you start the engine. You have the option to flip to high beam, but that is your choice based on preference or need due to your driving conditions. Many motorcyclists choose to run their high beams in the daytime, in an effort to be seen better by cars and inattentive drivers. Since my bike is a touring model with a full fairing and 3 headlights (one primary and two optional), I choose to remain in low beam during the daytime. If I feel like an approaching car is not paying attention and drifting out of his lane, I will flash my high beam at him just to make sure he sees me. Driving at night is a different story. It's a fact that more accidents happen at night versus the daylight. The statistics are even worse for motorcycles. Motorcycles aren't seen as easily by motorists due to their lower profile. You probably won't miss that Mack truck or semi tractor trailer chugging past you, but how many times have you not seen a motorcycle in the lane you were about to change in to? Motorcyclists must be even more cautious and defensive when driving in the dark than they are in the daylight hours. In addition to watching out for inattentive drivers, motorcyclists must carefully watch the road for potholes and debris not easily seen in the dark as in the daytime. Hitting an object or a big hole in the road could mean dumping your bike and possibly being struck by oncoming vehicles following you. Even with lights on, it's not as easy to pick up bumps in the road, so be careful. If you are in a car or truck and see a motorcycle, give him some room and pay attention to the road. Everyone wants to get home and eat dinner. Don't ruin some one's day by not paying attention when you're driving. Be careful out there!
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Even though this spring has begun to feel more like summer, I have enjoyed venturing out on my motorcycle lately. Other than the irritating sound of cicadas, this past Saturday was a gorgeous day in St. Louis with temps in the high 80's and plentiful sunshine. Besides experiencing driving in a completely different way from behind the wheel of an automobile, the neat thing about being on a motorcycle is the camaraderie with fellow riders. When passing another motorcycle going the opposite direction, it is customary to wave. This is usually done by extending your left arm out low and to the side. Now the thing I like about waving to another biker dude (or dude-ette) is that it makes you feel good and respected. The really neat thing is that for the most part it makes no difference what kind of bike you're on. For example, I ride a Harley, but guys on Honda's and sport bikes wave to me and I wave to them. It makes no difference. This doesn't happen in cars. When was the last time you waved to someone you didn't know, while driving in your car? (and I don't mean the one finger salute!) Motorcyclists are all brothers and sisters on the open road. So check us out, and if you don't have a motorcycle, look into it. With gas close to 4 bucks, it's nice getting 45 mpg and feeling excited about being on the open road instead of dreading the commute.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Happy Memorial Day! Enjoy the day with your family and friends. If you get a chance, thank a vet. Thanks to all those servicemen and women who have died to keep this country free! For more on the history of Memorial Day, check out:
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Here in St. Louis, Missouri, people live and breath baseball. St. Louis Cardinals baseball. This is Cardinal Nation and home of the greatest player in major league baseball, one Albert Pujols. Now, everyone likes to get a good start off to the beginning of the season, the Cardinals and Pujols included. Only this year, the first week of the season was not so good. The Cardinals lost the season home opener and lost their first two series to the Padres and the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. Mr. Pujols didn't fare much better and was given some of the blame to the poor start. He was hitting .128 and seemed to be hitting into double plays at an alarming rate. Given that this is the final year of his current contract with the Cardinals, people were starting to question whether or not he deserved the $16 million he is getting, much less the $30 million his agent was shooting for when his contract talks resume at the end of the season.
Was the pressure getting to him finally? Well, the Cardinals and Albert hit the road for the west coast and lo and behold, the Cardinals started winning and El Hombre started hitting! The Cardinals have won 5 of their last 6 games, the last 5 games they have had 14 or more hits. And Mr. Pujols? Well, he has 9 hits in his last 19 at bats, 3 of them home runs, and he has raised his batting average to .241 which is still below .300 but is headed in the right direction. So everyone can calm down and take a sigh of relief. Albert Pujols is hitting again and the Cardinals are making their way to first place in their division. Chill out people! It's a long season.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Star date: 03.17.2011
The weather gods are smiling on St. Louis today as a virtual aligning of the planets is taking shape. Behold, on the the same date we will witness 77 degrees of warm and sunshine, the beginning of the NCAA basketball tournament, and St. Patrick's Day. Keep in mind that much of St. Louis is already on spring break. My prediction is there will be lots of people missing from work today, extra long lunches and smoke breaks taken, and plenty of people milling around in downtown St. Louis, bars, restaurants and hotel lobbies around this great city of ours. As for my fellow motorcycle brethren, there will be plenty of bikers on the roads and highways today feeling the fresh air in their faces again as we usher in the beginning of the riding season! Enjoy the day people...enjoy the day!
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Now that we're into March, the official countdown has begun to spring. By my calendar it looks like only 18 more days. Of course, mother nature could cooperate and give us some warmer days before then, so motorcycle riders, commuters, and weekend warriors will check the weather every day for the temperatures and conditions that look right for them to hit the open road and feel the fresh air in their face. Bikers throughout most of the country have suffered through a harsh winter and with warmer weather coming, the urge to get out and ride becomes greater and greater! If they haven't done so already, it's time to charge the batteries, check the oil, and fill up the gas tank. The highways and byways beckon our call for the rush and freedom that can only be experienced on a motorcycle! So if you are driving in your car or pickup, be sure to watch out for motorcycles and give us a little room. The roads are there for everyone to share and share alike. Let the new riding season begin!
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Over the weekend, much of the Midwest saw much warmer temperatures, 40's and even 50's, return to bring some much needed relief to the harsh winter we have had. Snow and ice which have lingered for weeks, finally started to melt and clear the roads and sidewalks for motorists and pedestrians alike. Could our strange friend, the groundhog, actually have been right? Is spring coming early this year? Well, no one can complain about the respite of warm weather that has descended upon us. Most people I know would rather not see another snowflake for a good long time! Now that baseball's spring training is about to begin, all signs are pointing to spring. Of course, one would be foolish to think that there will be no more cold weather between now and March 21st, the official beginning of springtime. As a motorcyclist, I used this past weekend as a time to clean out the garage and charge up the battery on my bike for my first ride of the year. On Sunday, I ventured out for a 50 mile ride and saw lots of other motorcyclists had the same idea. Except for some wet patches of road every now and then, due to the snow melt, it felt great to be back out on the open road feeling the wind and fresh air on my face. Come on March, let's put winter behind us once and for all. Let the riding season begin!
Friday, February 4, 2011
Reports out of Pennsylvania earlier this week predicted an early end to winter, yes spring is right around the corner! With single digit temps and snow still on the ground, it's easy to be skeptical of this groundhog's prediction. Here in Missouri, most people have had enough. A colder winter than we've grown accustomed to over the past several years, has been coupled with a lot more snow and sleet than we are used to. In St. Louis, where I live, we are tired of being in storm mode and having extra kids hanging around the house because their school is closed. Just about everyone I know is ready for warmer weather and spring to begin! March 20th, come on! Spring Training begins in 9 days! Yes, that's when pitchers and catchers report to Florida and Arizona for baseball's annual rite of passage. Close your eyes...imagine nice plush green grass, can you smell it? 80 degrees, t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops. The first spring training game for the St. Louis Cardinals is on Feb. 28th. That's only 24 days away! Less than a month. Take that, Punxsutawney Phil. It's time to start checking flight schedules and hotel deals. This winter can take a hike! OK, there's no time to waste. Start making your plans now. There's still plenty of time to do your taxes! I wonder if my wife is up for a road trip with me and 5 kids? Who's with me?
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
So far this winter we've had a couple of snow days. The kids are off school and the area braces for anywhere from 3 to 6 inches of snow and sleet. Depending on what part of town you live in, you could have anywhere from 1-3 inches of snow on the ground, with another 2-3 inches to come later. As usual, the local TV stations play up the winter storms as a severe threat to the area, and try to convince those gullible viewers that they might be trapped in their homes for the better part of the week. I'm sure the local grocery stores sell out of milk, eggs, and bread, and perhaps some ice pellets, as the panicky shoppers buy into the story line. But here's what usually happens, only 1-3 inches of actual snow falls on the ground, maybe more snow to come later the weathermen say. Hardly a blizzard! The morning traffic reports tell of accidents on the highways and byways as hapless drivers make their way to work in less than favorable driving conditions. The problem is some people drive too fast for the slick road surfaces, but far too many, drive too slow, which is also troublesome. The key is to maintain a steady pace that is with the flow of the others. Keep extra distance between yourself and the car in front of you, and do not panic if someone hits their brakes. As an owner of a motorcycle, I am aware of the safety courses available for new riders, but I think there should also be driver safety (read defensive driving) courses for automobile operators also. Trial by error has no place on the roads where other people's lives are concerned. There is a continuing debate over banning cell phones in cars, but not knowing how to drive in severe weather conditions is worse in my mind. Well, at least we don't live on the east coast where they actually do have severe weather conditions!
Friday, January 7, 2011
Well, now that the excitement and freshness of the New Year has worn off a little, reality sinks in...we're still in the middle of winter. With daily temperatures in the 20's and 30's, just a quick walk outside will remind you of that. Throw in a cloudy day and a stiff breeze (think wind chill factor) and it really hits home. As a child I always liked winter. Snow days to make snowmen and snow angels, plus the added bonus of no school if there was enough of the white stuff. I remember playing outside in the frigid cold of Ohio for hours, and not coming inside until my lips turned blue or my gloves got wet, unless I had to go to the bathroom. Winter was fun! Having snowball fights with the neighbors and building snow forts was what winter was all about. The past few years living in St. Louis, I've noticed that we don't seem to get as much snow as we used to. Not that I mind that much. Oh sure, I would like to see some for the kids to play in and experience, but now that I am an "adult", snow means traffic jams and scraping ice off windshields. If I am not on a ski slope somewhere, I really don't want to see much snow. Another thing I've noticed about getting older is my tolerance of the cold. It used to be I could handle any temperature. I survived the Blizzard of '76 in Toledo, Ohio and remember sub-zero temps for weeks, along with 3 feet of snow and snow drifts as tall as our 2 story house. Now if it's below 32 degrees I make a dash for the safety of my car and the blast of heat from my dashboard (which can't come fast enough). In addition, I now must confess that I sleep with my socks on in the winter to keep my feet warm! Back in the day, it was my boxers and nothing else. What has happened? Has my skin gotten thinner? I have gained many pounds since high school so you would think that my extra padding would help in this area but it doesn't seem to. I guess this is one of the mystery's of life. Oh well, time to get another cup of coffee...I wonder how many days until spring training begins?