Saturday, April 12, 2014

Just a Ride Through the World

Fog, spring, and warming air.  The perfect invitation on a Saturday morning to take the Vespa out for a ride.  A full weekend schedule would attempt to strangle the opportunity but I found myself moving lazily through the mist, soaking in the spring and letting the noise in my head slip away into the dream called riding.

By the time I stop and consider possible pictures my breathing is slow, steady, and time has, for a moment, stopped.  Everything I read about contemplation and meditation sounds like riding to me.  At least the sort of slow, deliberate motion I engage.  Road racers and aficionados of speed can't possibly harvest the same experience can they?

All the mountain streams are running, clear but not swollen with spring melt.  The fragrance of decay and change are in the moist air.  Sunshine will warm the dead leaves until they give up the toasted aroma the says "spring in the forest".

As the road unrolls ahead I can let go of expectation, concern, and responsibility until I almost become one with the scooter.  It's a feeling, a moment that I convinced will feed my soul until I can't ride any longer.  There was a time I wanted to understand it all, capture it, but now I'm content to accept it without question.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, and gift, I've gained through riding is an ability to let go and move on without complaint.  As the clock beat out it's warnings this morning the Vespa and I arrived at the moment when the ride was to be abandoned.  And that's ok.  Whether minutes, hours, or days, I'll take what's offered a savor the experience.  No regrets or battles with what could or should be, just a ride through the world.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Embracing the Spring on a Scooter or Motorcycle

Nothing like parking the Vespa on an open field with the world before you.  Add to that a dash of springtime warmth and everything feels like a miracle.  That's exactly how it all felt on the way home today.

An absolute joy to be able to ride under a blue sky and not be freezing.  But with the warm weather and the prospect of more riding comes a long list of things to do, fix or at least consider to be truly ready for the normal riding season.

A good washing of the Vespa is in order.  There is so much baked on salt and road grime that I suspect it will never come off.  I picture myself sitting on the driveway, toothbrush in hand, radio blaring, scrubbing away to transform this nasty scene into something more civilized.

And what can I say about the exhaust....   It has to come off, be attacked with the wirebrush at least and probably better a sandblaster.  And then many coats of high temperature paint to hide the fact that it's ready to turn into dust.  This is what winter looks like for a year round rider.

And remove the Heidenau winter scooter tires.

 It's not summer yet.  This morning there was frost on the car window as I rolled out of the driveway. With the sun out I was able to ignore the cold.  Bright sun sent the temperature up quickly.

The light in the morning is more dramatic now.  Or maybe I just imagine it so since the sun hasn't been available much for the past four months.  Surprisingly, State College, Pennsylvania remains quiet in the morning.  Good for me -- no competition for the coveted motorcycle parking spaces.

Clear skies and long beams of hot sunlight make even a simple breakfast of bagel and juice seem spectacular at Saint's Cafe.  Not quite food porn mostly because my culinary inclinations are so simplistic.  Even so things look nice in this light.

The snow is pretty much gone though if you look in the shadows of places where snow was piled after cleared from streets you can still find some ice piles.  The thaw is creating some monster mud puddles in some places.  When you ride a Vespa you absolutely do not ride through water that you can't seen to the bottom.  Sucking water into the engine intake can quickly downgrade you to a bus or cab.

The Far Corners Asian Market in State College has just reopened in this location.  Last time I was in this building it was home to Kissell Motorsports.  I also purchased my first Vespa inside this building.  Springtime -- for rides down memory lane...

Ride, ride, ride.  It's what I want to do right now.  Kim says the birds are twitterpated right now.  I must be scooterpated. Unfortunately the need to continue to pay the light bill and put food in the freezer is getting in the way of my grand plans.  Some have said I should retire.  Others advise getting rid of the scooter.

I just keep my head down and ride when I can.

On my way home from work today, big sky for central Pennsylvania, dry roads for me though the gates where chained shut just down the road so I had to double back onto the pavement to make my way home.

Lot's to get ready for spring riding.  The machine for reasons already outlined, myself in terms of shedding a few pounds of winter weight so my riding clothes are comfortable, and my mind so I remain fully aware of the thundering danger never too far away.

More riding tomorrow...

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Scooter Riding in State College, Pennsylvania

As the weather slowly, too slowly, warms it's as if I'm emerging from a long, dark tunnel of winter, dead, listless and finding little sweetness in life.  A morning of sunshine, hell, just a few minutes of solar radiation can shift a state of mind.  Junior and I wander through these fields in the morning, a bit of exercise, a dash of exploration and a dose of meditation.  No riding involved though...

No riding as I spend more time photographing.  Here captured photographing my boots and shadow, one of hundreds of similar images that appear in my archive of work.  On this morning I was using the Leica M6.  Soon I'll be switching to the 8x10 camera.

Most rides of late are simple errands in and around State College, Pennsylvania.  The Vespa delivered me to a Piston and Pints event at the Autoport.

A few nights ago on a search for burgers that eventually brought me to Five Guys.  A vintage BMW sat on one side of the Vespa while a Ducati departed from the other.  Riding home that night I felt the first thrill of the season of being on the road.  Air temperature warmed enough to ensure the ride wasn't a battle against the elements...

Another night in State College -- Margarita's Pizza.  Short rides into town, if only to pick up a few pepperoni rolls and a slice of pizza, have become magical events as the weather softens.

I won't say it's warm yet.  This morning a brisk wind coupled with temperatures in the 30s just felt miserable as Junior and I walked through fields not far from home.  Exertion provided warmth but I'll be happier when it's actually warm.  Things will freeze again tonight and I'm just sick of it all...

Junior still seems impervious to the cold.  Focus on a tennis ball has a unique power.  I've only found them slimy to the touch and having little redeeming value.  Still, my black dog is smitten.

So there's been a bit of scooter riding in State College, Pennsylvania but I'm looking forward to a warming trend and eventual travels farther from home...

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Have a New Motorcycle

It's been a wild couple weeks and culminated in a dream I had last night that found me in high school taking one of those damned tests the begins "Read everything before doing anything...".

I got a new motorcycle.

As a photographer I can't help but select things that have some aesthetic qualities that are pleasing to my eye.  And with Scooter in the Sticks in mind I just had to have a motorcycle that would display as well as my trusty Vespa GTS 250ie.  So meet the Triumph Scrambler.

The photographer who made this picture has admirable qualities in both craft, vision and aesthetics.  The high pipe side of the bike is the obvious choice with a camera position just a bit forward to exaggerate the front tire.  Shot with the sun close to the horizon, sunrise or sunset I don't know, but the glow of sunlight fighting through a heavy sky is lovely. Some heavy-handed work with Photoshop on the sky and the intensity of the colors but still, a fine photo.

Saw "Why We Ride" with scooter riding daughter on Sunday.  Left thinking I needed a motorcycle of my own.

And a fine motorcycle to join the Vespa in a too cluttered garage.  But more on how all this has come to be.

Can you say Lottery.  Well, I didn't win enough to be in the news with millions but I do have a motorcycle and spinning thoughts of retiring.  Retiring right now.  Just walk out the door.

My brain is in a swirl at the moment.  To help ease the chaos I purchased a new (to me) 8x10 camera to work on a new project.  This lovely Calumet C-1 black monster...

This very camera is at home, sitting atop an aluminum tripod on a Gitzo G1570 3-way magnesium tripod head waiting for me to venture out into the world.  I figure I have a few more years of back strength before I can't use a camera like this anymore.

I sold my last 8x10 camera in 2007.  Since then film prices have climbed.  A 25 sheet box of 8x10 black and white film costs $110.00.  One sheet of film takes 8 ounces of developer and when you factor in other chemicals and paper to make prints the cost of using this beast is dazzling.  Thank god an 8x10 contact print is magical. And the Lottery wipes away all concerns...

So, things are wild and crazy.  Nuts even.  I have my eye on a BMW and an Alpine Sunbeam.  Too much to consider.  Brain spinning.

But it's all ok for those of you who have read everything before doing anything -- like leaving a comment.  Today is April 1, 2014.  And you know what that means.  Don't be fooled.

The stuff about the lottery and motorcycle is an April Fool's Day fantasy.  Did see "Why We Ride". The 8x10 camera is real though.  Currently figuring out how to haul it on the Vespa.

Always remember to read everything before doing anything.

Best wishes for a fine April Fool's Day.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Released, Relaxed and Sated

Fading snow and warmer temperatures signal the end of winter, more riding and a general recession of the gloom inside my head.  The other morning on the way to work 38F felt positively tropical and my thoughts turned towards longer rides.

The phenomena finds Kim and I outdoors more as well with her working a camera and me wandering on foot and drinking in the world.  I admire her focused attention with a camera.  We work differently and while I may be more technically experienced I cannot match her keen eye.  I see what is familiar.  She explores what is not.

As the snow melts and the thaw works its way through the valley a wet fog develops that paints a mysterious picture.  When I used to work with a large format camera this was the weather I lived for, packing my gear and driving off to chase it.  There are storm chasers, I was a gloom chaser.

This evening, late, a craving swept over me.  Not for riding but for sugar.  Chocolate.  A compulsive companion since I was a kid and would walk to the local general store with a nickel in my pocket to buy a Hershey bar.

And now I ride with dollars in my pocket to find the holy grail -- the small pack of little chocolate donuts, waxy little rings of fatty sugar infused goodness.  The local convenience store glows with the promise of satisfaction as the Vespa resists the pull.  But I don't, seeking satisfaction and relief that only a dose of junk food can deliver.

And now I can rest, released, relaxed and sated...

Monday, March 10, 2014

Thinking About Things Other Than Riding

Today was the first comfortable ride of 2014.  At least that was what I was telling myself and from a purely physical perspective true -- no chill or bite of frigid air, no fogged visor or numb fingers or toes.  Spring nears and the whiteness of winter fades into dirty piles.  The roads are gray with grime and grit while meltwater seeks to wipe it clean.  Despite the air temperature floating in the 50s I couldn't find much excitement in the ride.  At one point on the way home from work I was telling myself I wouldn't care if I ever rode again.

Water from these melting snow piles made the ground softy, muddy, saturated and hazardous for the Vespa.  The big snow tires dug into the muddy ground and did their best to slip the rear end out from under me when I wasn't paying close attention.  

Gordon Harkins, friend, fellow Vespa rider, photographer, educator, and in this picture thinker.

Thinking, perhaps at the root of my lack of interest in riding today as I was turning over a number of non-riding interests in my head -- a writing project that has rented a section of my brain for a long time has suddenly requested additional space.  Add to that a slow darkroom sink refinishing process in preparation for a return to photography based in chemicals and silver.  Epoxy vapors may be playing tricks on me.

It's all Gordon's fault.

Yesterday morning Paul Ruby (seen here with his 8x10 Sinar P view camera), Gordon and I drove out of town to make photos rather than sit at Saint's Cafe and talk.  These expeditions were common, regular rituals at one point but have become ghosts of another life.  Standing in the decidedly more winter-like landscape at Black Moshannon State Park I could feel the embeds of photographic desire glow hot.  I heavy sense of regret swept over me as I thought of the view cameras I've abandoned.

Last week Kim shared a website of the work of Michael Froio, a large format photographer working on a long term project documenting the Pennsylvania Railroad.  Memories of being on the road with the big camera only added to a feeling of loss, something the Vespa could not ease or erase.

A stop on the way home as the sun was setting, a few last moments to consider the world and what the hell I'm doing in it.  At that moment, and right now as I write, my interests are far from the road.  In two days the epoxy in the darkroom will be cured and ready for one last coat of the nasty stuff.  A dozen rolls of film await processing and fresh paper and chemistry have arrived from B&H Photo.

Can't be sure what happens next...

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Why We Ride -- The Movie

In a few weeks a documentary film described by the Los Angeles Times as " unabashed love letter to all things motorcycle..." will be coming to the State Theater in State College, Pennsylvania.

WHY WE RIDE - The Official Theatrical Trailer from WHY WE RIDE FILM on Vimeo.

Why We Ride will be screened on March 30, 2014 at 3pm.  The showing has been confirmed and tickets are available online for $8.00 each.  For riders in central Pennsylvania and those who wonder about riding this is something you'll want to see.

My scooter riding daughter and I have our tickets!  Wonder how many will be riding to the show?