CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the tag “Recreation”

Get Your Motor Runnin’…

…with a nod to Steppenwolf.   http://youtu.be/5UWRypqz5-o

Ok, it’s more than a little laughable to try to shoehorn me and a “biker” song into the same thought.  I ride a motorcycle, but no self-respecting “biker” would even sit with me in the same bleacher section at a George Thorogood concert.  My idea of teenage rebellion was when I bought (geez, I didn’t even steal the stupid thing) a comic book and hid it in the Sunday paper my Dad had sent me to buy.  I hid it so Pop wouldn’t know I bought another comic book with my allowance money.  Yeah, I was a real wild child, alright.

When I was a teen, I had friends with motorcycles, but not me.  I didn’t work at jobs that paid enough for me to afford one, and my cruel parents refused to see the necessity of a teenager having a motorcycle.  Never mind that I was an irresponsible and reckless teenager.  That has nothing to do with it, and I clearly needed one.  Maybe I could have tried the holding-my-breath-until-I-turned-blue trick, but I’m kind of doubtful that would have helped my case much.

So I had to wait until adulthood to get a bike.

I was a young-ish cop in North East, PA, and I worked second and third shifts, almost exclusively.  One of my younger-than-I-was friends bought a motorcycle, and I was really envious.  I had wanted one for a long time, but still didn’t have one.  Rats!  JB’s “new” bike was an old (I don’t even remember the year) Honda CB 500.  It had been sitting behind some guy’s garage, and

Not my bike, but a nice shot of a Honda CB.

was just a mess.  JB paid only $300.00 for it, and then took it to a nearby motorcycle dealer for repair.  After several weeks, the shop told him that for them to fix it would cost him way more than the bike was worth.  Disgusted, he said he was just going to sell it.  I asked the price, and he told me that he was just looking to get his $300.00 back.  I yelled, “Sold!” and was completely jazzed about my new purchase.

Those that know me are probably wondering what Beth thought about this whole thing.  Well, I didn’t tell her.  I value my marriage, and I just didn’t think it was a healthy thing to explain this to Beth at this point.  Sometimes, no matter how rational I am, she takes a negative tack.  So I kind of, uh, waited for the proper moment.  Timing is everything.

We had been discussing the purchase of a motorcycle.  The conversations usually went something like this.

Me: “I want a motorcycle.”

Beth: “We can’t afford one.”

Me: “I want a motorcycle.”

Beth: “They’re too dangerous.”

Me: “I want a motorcycle.”

Beth: “No.

See?  Unreasonable.  So, being the thoughtful husband, I thought it best to tell Beth at a better time.

JB finally got the bike (MY bike!!!) back from the shop in the back of a friend’s pickup.  I was working 8PM to 4AM, so around 2-3 in the morning, he backed into my driveway, and we unloaded it, putting it in my garage.  At the end of the shift, I went home and went to bed, with visions of motorcycles dancing in my head.

When I woke up, I was so excited I could hardly contain myself.  I couldn’t wait to tell Beth.  It just happened to be her birthday, and I just knew she would be as jazzed as me (like I said, I was young), so I took her out to the garage and stood her in front of the door.  I had her close her eyes, threw the door open, and had her open her eyes.  And it felt like I had stepped into a walk-in freezer.  We were standing outside, but the temperature dropped about thirty degrees in a heartbeat.  I swear!  She looked at this unbelievable symbol of masculine freedom, and in a voice that I would expect from Regan in The Exorcist as her head is spinning around, Beth said, “What.  Is that?”  Suffering from short-term male dementia, I failed to keep my mouth shut.  I said, “It’s a motorcycle!”  Head still spinning, and now spitting pea soup, she next asked, “Who’s is it?”  (Well, maybe more of a shrieking sound than an actual voice) My answer?  “It’s mine!  I just bought it last night!  Happy birthday!!”  I can safely say that I did not get the reaction that my deranged young mind thought I would get.  It probably didn’t help that we were renovating Beth’s kitchen, and she thought her new cabinets had come in.  Whatever the case, our house was chilly and quiet for a loooong time. (note: I am not as stupid now as then.  We have a fantastic relationship, probably mostly due to Beth’s stupid husband actually becoming an adult…)

Well, we kept the bike, and I spent a lot of time getting it into running shape.  I loved that bike.  I’m not a small guy, I stand about 6’3″, and back then probably weighed in at 180 lbs.  Riding it I probably looked like a monkey sitting on a softball, but I felt like a million bucks on that thing.  A couple of years later I traded up to a CB 750.

Also not mine, but beautiful!

I didn’t keep this one long.  It was from Utah, and when I emptied the carburetor bowls, there was about a half-inch of sand in them.  I could just imagine what the carbs, valves, and pistons looked like, so I sold it and bought a Suzuki GS 750.

Mine was a gorgeous red.

Now that was a beautiful bike!  I kept that Suzi for a couple of years, and then traded up to a Suzuki GS 1100L.  I have had that bike for twenty years.  But as time goes on, things like motorcycles tend to wear down, get tired, not look as good.  And I didn’t have the money or talent to keep ‘er looking and running like she should.  But I loved that bike!  Even when it was unsafe and looked a little (ok, a lot) run-down, I loved that bike.  I tend to get overly sentimental about things, and that motorcycle was no exception.

Next up: From GS1100 to the present!!

Advertisements

I want to go diving!!!!!! (part one)

I hate summer.  I hate the heat, I hate the humidity, I hate feeling like a human pot roast, being popped into an oven set at four hundred degrees.  Starting in the fall, continuing through winter, and into the beginning of spring are enjoyable temperatures for me.  Especially winter.  I love the cold and snow.  I love being outside in winter, I love driving in snow, and I love watching it fall.  My theory du jour is that my internal temperature is such that winter brings down my temp to a point that I can relax and just enjoy.

But there are certain drawbacks to winter.  I miss certain activities that bad weather and extreme cold make a bit more difficult.  First on that list is scuba diving.

My wife and I are avid and enthusiastic divers.  I have been diving for about four years, and Beth about three.  We are solidly in our middle-ages (and yes, I plan for my current age to be the mean average for my life span.  I’m fifty-four), and for several years I had been searching for an activity that Beth and I could enjoy together currently, and for decades to come.  Try as we might, we couldn’t come to an agreement for what that activity might be.  The very thoughts of golf just make me want to run screaming, and one or two that we actually tried didn’t take.  Until scuba.

Our younger daughter decided on a destination wedding on Grand Cayman four years ago.  Settling on Cayman as the destination seemed to me to be a torturous path, wandering all over the Pacific, into Central America, touching on the Mediterranean, and finally alighting onto Grand Cayman.  Beth and I had not travelled by passport prior to this, and we were in turns excited, nervous, anticipatory, and apprehensive about our first trip to the Caribbean.  After arriving in Cayman, we got our rental car, and drove to our condo at Turtle Nest Inn, on the south side of the island near Boddentown.  What a fantastic place to stay!  Spacious and beautiful, we had a fantastic view of the ocean from the deck, as well as the bedroom.

In the end, the wedding was wonderful, our daughter lovely, and the vacation truly amazing.  We fell in love with the Caribbean.  It was the first vacation that we have been on that I wept as we left.  Of course, being a typical guy, I only cry when I’m hungry, and I probably should have had something to eat before our departure.  Ahem.

But before the trip, I did some thinking.  Ever since I was a kid, scuba diving has held a fascination for me.  Ever since I saw re-runs of Sea Hunt as a kid, I thought scuba would be an amazing sport.  However as time went on, the idea of diving took a back seat to other things, and eventually kind of receded from my thoughts altogether.  Until the wedding.  When the destination was announced I was in my late forties, and I realized that if I didn’t go diving now I never would.  Beth and I sat down and talked it over, weighed our finances, and decided that, yeah, I should give diving a go.  I contacted a local diving shop, got prices for lessons and basic equipment, and signed up.  Several months before the wedding, I began lessons at Diver’s World in Erie, PA, completing my basic Scuba Diver certification, and much of my Advanced Scuba Diver certification before the trip (click on Diver’s World above to visit their website).

What a rush!  As is my usual tendency, I punished myself studying, figuring I would flunk out, and beating on myself mentally for ever thinking I was cut out for something like this in the first place.  But as is also my usual tendency, I passed with flying colors, got my c-card (that’s “certification card” to you land-lubbing non-divers out there), and completed several additional dives needed for Advanced Certification.

When we went to Cayman, I had perhaps a dozen dives total in my logbook, maybe less.  I was a newbie, a greenhorn, a rookie, whatever terms one would use to describe someone who is allowed to do an activity, but shouldn’t be trusted alone for more than a nano-second.  I contacted a dive shop, Deep Blue Divers Grand Cayman, and arranged for a two tank dive on a given day.

I met Rick  on the dock at the appropriate time, intimidated and nervous.  Rick was great, taking me out by boat to a location that probably couldn’t possibly be much safer.  We geared up, did a buddy check, and got in the water.  Once we were ready, we dropped below the surface.  And I entered paradise.  Being new, I blew through an 80 cu. tank of air in about 22 minutes (for comparison, an 80 cu tank now lasts me about an hour), but those few minutes were more wonder producing than anything I had ever done.

In Erie, the best visibility I experienced was in the pool, and that was maybe thirty feet.  Generally speaking, the viz in the quarries and small lakes that I dived to become certified was ten feet on a good day.  In fact, in Lake Pleasant (clearly not named with the underwater visibility in mind), the viz was at best three feet.  Up to this point in my diving career, this is all I knew.  I had no experience in water in which one could actually see anything.

And then I dropped below the surface of the ocean off the south shore of Grand Cayman.  Visibility of at least one hundred feet, probably more.  The colors, the corals, the fish!  Of the multitude of fish I saw, one was particularly delightful!  It was small, and colored a deep blue with seemingly neon light blue spots.  They weren’t exactly in schools, but there was quite a number of them throughout the dive.  Later on I discovered them to be juvenile damselfish, and they remain among my favorites.  I am still tickled when I find a few on a dive.

Rick took me on an easy, twenty-minute circle in, around, and between corals.  I was mesmerized.  Honestly, if Rick had just hovered in one spot right under the boat for the entire twenty minutes, I would have been happy.  It was unbelievable, and the time was up way too quickly.  We did our three minute safety stop, surfaced, and boarded the boat.  I had been hooked.  I wanted so badly to share my experience with Beth, but how can one describe something like that?  It was my first time in the ocean, and I just didn’t have the words to say.

So I did what most self-respecting husbands would do.  I pestered her to get into scuba herself, so we could dive together.  When I got the index finger in the face with the words, “Stop pushing me!!!!!” (emphasis not mine), I knew I needed to back away.  That having been said, we did go snorkeling together nearly every day we were there.  One time we were snorkeling off Seven Mile Beach, and I would guess we were perhaps a quarter of a mile off shore.  I saw a conch on the bottom, and wanted to check it out.  I told Beth I would be right back, took a couple deep breaths, and had to power my way to the bottom, probably about twenty feet down.  In fact, I had to keep kicking to stay at the bottom.  I looked the conch over, and when I was ready to surface, I simply stopped kicking and turned to look at the surface.  I popped to the surface with no effort at all.  I virtually could not sink!

…continued soon…

Oh, I cannot wait!

Last year, Beth and I “discovered” Black Bear Cabins in Cook Forest.  On our first trip there I was somewhat filled with concern and consternation.  When I think of a cabin in the “big woods,” I think of moss on the roof, musty on the inside, perhaps a bit, uh, “unkempt.” Nasty fireplace, bugs, and maybe rodents.  I’d rather sleep in a tent.

However, what a great surprise!  The cabins are clean, heated, small kitchen, and in great condition.  Our weekend was really relaxed.  Quiet, beautiful setting in the woods, we loved it.  We determined to not let that be the last time there.

So, through the spring and part of summer, we decided to make another reservation in the fall.  We did, and we were really looking forward to the trip.  My mother became ill just about the time we were to go, and we had to postpone the trip.  The management was kind enough to allow us to just pick another weekend.

And that’s this weekend!!  Oh, man, the anticipation.  No phones, no computer, just Beth and me, reading, relaxing, maybe watching a movie, but mostly just hanging out.  We packed a couple of books, some magazines, and a couple games.  And of course, I cannot leave my most excellend cigars behind, either.  I wouldn’t rule out a walk in the woods, either.

Just a bit more about Black Bear Cabins.  They’re located just outside Cooksville, PA, near Cook Forest State Park.  They’re open all year, and reservations can be made with a phone call.  They are now associated with Gateway Lodge Bed and Breakfast, and reservations are made through Gateway Lodge.  Although I cannot personally vouch for Gateway Lodge, Their setting is also gorgeous, clean, and a fantastic setting.

 As much as I love scuba, I am looking forward to a weekend of “enforced sloth,” with maybe a walk or two included.  This is gonna be great!

Check out Black Bear Cabins at: http://blackbearcabins.com/ (disclaimer:  I borrowed the above photos from their website).  Check ’em out.  I highly recommend this spot! 

You know, as I read this over, it sounds like a paid endorsement.  I wish!  I am raving about Black Bear because I love it that much.  And we will be there soon.  Just not soon enough!

What a difference a couple days makes!

Actually I should probably have said, “What a difference a couple months makes!”  My mother passed away in October (I hate euphemisms, but there it is), Beth and I went on a long-planned vacation in November, we had the typical Thanksgiving madness after that, and Christmas prep in December.  Absolutely no time to reflect, grieve for my mother, or to decompress.  Days off over Christmas meant travel, and then the start of the new year.  Since then, I have been stressing over this Dominican Republic trip, with the stress and difficulties mounting as the trip got nearer.

I remember in high school an incident, in which I committed a serious breach of protocol (that’s “slid-slip” for “I broke the rules”).  The teacher against whom I committed the infraction came to school the next day, and visited each home room with his three-foot oak paddle.  In those days, paddling was seen as completely justified, and getting paddled was nearly a rite of passage into manhood.

In any event, Mr. McCarthy walked into my home room and slammed the paddle down on a desk.  It sounded like a rifle shot in a very small room, and I nearly had a heart attack.  He made the pronouncement that he was going to find out who had done it, and they were going to get paddled by the end of the day.  I probably should have spoken up and gotten it out of the way, but such was not in my thought processes at the time.  What a long day that was!  I can’t remember any other time that I thought I was going to throw up for hours, that wasn’t illness related.  Needless to say, he caught up to me by the end of the day, and I indeed got paddled.  I’m not going to say that the anticipation was worse than the punishment, that was the hardest I have ever been hit in my life. (Sidenote: I totally deserved it, and Mr. McCarthy shortly after that became one of my favorite teachers ever.)  But what I will say is that the anticipation was absolutely wretched.

So it has been for the D.R. trip.  I have felt ill, I have been cranky, problems have piled up and nearly overwhelmed me (Control issue? Probably partly).  Scuba diving is a life’s pursuit for me, and I haven’t been under the water since November.  I haven’t even wanted to dive, and haven’t even felt like talking about it, thinking about it, or assisting in training new divers at the store.  The D.R. trip has pretty much consumed me.

We leave tomorrow.  The time is nearly here.  And last night I had the best night’s sleep I have had in a very long time.  I think I’ve come to terms with it, and I am almost (emphasis on the word “almost”) looking forward to it!  Beth and I get to spend time with friends that we love very much (plus!).   Beth and I will be doing this together (major plus!).  And I will, at last, be actually doing this for God (biggest plus of all).  Still not going to say, “Bring it on,” but I am ready.  And the anticipation?  It’s here, and it has shifted from a negative anticipation to the positive.  Pretty cool!  Maybe there’s something to this obedience stuff.  Huh!  The adventure continues.

So THAT’S it!!

Beth read an article in one of our monthly scuba magazines that talked about how good it is for people to go on vacations.  It improves one’s health, mental state, outlook on life, you name it.  And one of the surprising discoveries of the study cited by the author is that the anticipation of the vacation is as important to the whole process and outcome as is the vacation itself.  That was no surprise to me, I have loved planning our vacations for years.  I love planning the route, the timetable, what things would be cool to see, what to leave out.  I love sending for brochures, searching online for photos of wherever it is we are going.  I love reading and studying about the vacation, and I do so for months in advance.  The enjoyment I get from the planning and anticipation is as important and significant to me as the time we spend actually on the vacation.  And when we get back, I enjoy basking in the memories of the most recent vacation.  For a few weeks.  And then I start planning the next one.

But not this time.  As we were talking about the article and I had time to reflect, enlightenment came to me.  This is my major problem with the upcoming missions trip to the Dominican Republic, and here is anxiety number three!  I have had absolutely no input on this trip.  I have had no enjoyment in planning, in anticipation.  Oh, there’s been anticipation, alright, but none of it positive.  I have been dreading it because I have absolutely no idea what is going on.  The total sum of my knowledge with this trip is what type of clothing to bring, we can’t flush our toilet paper (it gets put in a basket beside the toilet.  Wonderful.), and we are leaving out of Buffalo on January 28 and returning on February 4.  That’s it!  I don’t even know who holds our tickets, I have no brochures, no ideas for sightseeing, or relaxing, or reading, or…or anything.  And I hate this!  This is not how I’m wired.  This is so far out of my comfort zone I can’t even see my comfort zone.

And I am sure that is part of the point.  That I need to learn that “God is sufficient.”  That I learn what Paul learned so long ago, that I must focus, not on what I can control, or can touch, but to simply let go.  To give God the wheel, and simply go where He desires me to go, and do what He ordains for His kingdom.

The past ten years have been very difficult.  The lessons learned, the hardships, have all been nearly more than I could bear.  My soul cries out, “How long, oh Lord,” and I have no end in sight.  I recognize the truth of this, but the ache does not disappear.  I do not doubt the existence of God, nor of his goodness and love for me.  But what I am left with right now is to simply wonder how long must I lay here, broken and battered?   Will there come a season of peace, contentment?  When?  How long, oh Lord?

This trip to the D.R. is significant.  I do not know how at this point, but time will tell.  I look not for a mountaintop experience, nor do I desire such.  But for now, even with all my anxieties, fears, and doubts, I know that God is in control.  And for now, that is sufficient.

Post Navigation