IHOP, Pipe Tobacco, and a Vincent Black Shadow

It was a great day last Saturday as I joined some buddies on a trip to Birmingham, Alabama. Essentially, we were there to go to the International House of Pancakes for breakfast, but we also took in a side stop at The Briary and I went on to the Barber Motorcycle Museum.
The Briary was hosting their annual event day with handmade pipes, assorted tobaccos, fine cigars and all the smoking accessories you could ever possibly want. There was a lively crowd there, about as lively as pipe smokers can get, and they had food and drinks, a pipe smoking contest and a man carving pipes on the front porch. I bought some pipe tobacco and hunkered down in one of the rocking chairs on the porch.
Afterwards I went over to the Barber Motorcycle Museum, purportedly the largest motorcycle museum in the world. They have over 1200 vintage and modern motorcycles there; bikes from the 1890’s up to today’s time. Amazing. I was captivated by the look of the old World War 2 Harleys and BMW’s. Still, my favorite was the legendary Vincent Black Shadow. It was the second Vincent motorcycle I’d seen close up. The first one, strangely enough, was a Vincent Black Lightening that I saw parked at a McDonalds in Newry, Northern Ireland when I was stopping with a van load of young baseball players coming back from a match in Dublin. The Lightening became famous for the Rollie Free photo

Rollie Free, record run.jpg

as well as from the song by Richard Thompson 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

In the motorcycle photo above, in 1948 to set the American speed record of 150.313 mph (241.905 km/h) Free was wearing only a Speedo bathing suit, a shower cap and some sneakers.
The Black Shadow was also famous for its speed. In 1952 one of them set a six hour world speed record at traveling over 100 miles per hour. That bike recently sold at auction in 2013 for a measly £113,500 (roughly $175,000).
The late journalist Hunter S. Thompson wrote: “If you rode the Black Shadow at top speed for any length of time, you would almost certainly die.”

A Periwinkle Blue Sky and a Magical Ride on the Harley

It had been over a month since I last rode Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King. The weather today soared to the high 50’s and the sky was periwinkle blue. The feeling of being back on the bike again was magical: the wind, the staccato sound of the exhausts, the leaning into the curves and the sheer power when we accelerated. I had an incredible feeling of freedom and a hint of more adventures waiting out there for me. I felt ready to hit the road again, to keep on going. The past two years I’ve ridden across the country and back. I got lost a lot; last year I crossed the Mississippi five times when one would have been enough. But I also got found a lot and met some amazing people who enriched me with their presence and their stories. When you get right down to it most people’s stories are about losing something/someone or finding something/someone. And it is our soul that stores all the lost and found parts of ourselves.
Riding concentrates the mind moving you from mindlessness to mindfulness. You have to let go of thinking about the past or worrying about the future. You have to be present, here and now. Within a few miles of riding today, when I was crossing bridges and riding into the countryside a wave of gratitude swept over me. I was flooded with a warmth, like a slow spiritual anesthetic, and it helped heal my heart and soul, which had been a bit sore lately. It’s good to take a moment and take stock of all that we have now, not what we’ve lost, nor what is yet to be found. That’s down the road. May you ride with peacefulness and gratitude on your journey.