Goodbye Vagabond Harley

Posted in Mixed Nuts on January 5th, 2011 by MadDog
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Sometimes I write more for myself than for my readers. This is one of those times. If you would like to traipse down memory lane with me for a few minutes, then read on. It’s not a story of great importance. It is, instead, a modest metaphor of the changes of seasons which affect all of our lives. Like most of life’s changes it is neither all bad nor all good. It is simply change. I’ll tell the little story in more or less chronological order beginning in April of 2008.

Eunie and I bought the Harley several years earlier because we got a good deal on it and it fulfilled a long standing fantasy. In our first years of marriage I made a very modest living as a motorcycle mechanic and later as a motorcycle repair shop manager. We both had motorcycles and rode nearly daily. Though I worked on a variety of makes, I had never owned a Harley. It was a desire which I kept quiet and locked away. When I expressed it to Eunie a few years ago, she, in her usual practical way said, “Why not. We can’t lose money on a Harley.”

As usual, Eunie’s wisdom turned out to be greater than even I imagined. More about that later. So, in 1998 we bought a nearly new Sportster 883, the largest model which I could pick up if it was on its side. And, it has been on its side a few times.

In 2008, we decided that, since Madang was to be our home for life, we needed to pack up everything which we valued and ship it all home by sea freight. Having these treasured personal items in her home turned out to be a blessing for Eunie for the short time which she had left. They are now somewhat less of a blessing for me, since, with the exception of the Harley, I now have to contend with several hundred kilograms of personal belongings which will someday have to remain in Madang. I have no home to send them to and they mean nothing to anyone but me. That’s the bitter sweet part of the story. The rest is happy by comparison. There’ll be no tears here.

Here I am in all my glory in an ancient silk shirt a few days before we left the house in Brownsburg, Indiana for the last time, headed for Springfield Illinois to pack the crates:

The trip to Springfield was the most miserable motorcycle ride of my life. You can read about it in the link in the previous sentence. I’ll simply say that I cannot remember being so cold in my life. Here I am arriving in Springfield looking as if I’d suddenly gained fifty kilos:

The packing was a tedious chore which would have been far more difficult without the help of Eunie’s Sister, Mary Sexton and her husband, Jim. Here are Eunie at the left and her sister Mary amidst the clutter:

And, here I am with Jim and the partially packed Harley:

This is my beloved wife beaming with satisfaction that all of the material things which she cherished were safely on their way home:

After a rather nervous wait of a few months, the crates arrived in Madang. Here is the crated Harley on it’s way from the harbour to our workshop:

On several occasions I expressed to Eunie that I thought that it might be wiser to sell the Harley in the USA. She was never of a mind to do that for a couple of reasons. First, she believed it was something which would make me happy to have in Madang. She was right, of course. She also told me that selling it in the USA would be a bother and it would probably be worth at least as much here in PNG, if we ever needed to sell it. To her it was like money in the bank, except that you could spend it and still have it. I was always happy to be married to a woman who was smarter than me.

So, we ended up owning the only Harley in Madang:

That is the locally famous Coastwatcher’s Monument.

In the two years or so after its arrival I seldom rode the Harley. The roads here are horrible and steadily getting worse. There are very few places which are safe to ride. Riding alone never interested me, but we have always been blessed by having adventuresome friends, many of whom took an interest in a ride on the rare machine. Here’s Ush Antia 108 kilometres up the North Coast Road at the Tapira Surf Club:

Sadly, it’s not even safe to travel up there any more. The criminal activity in that area makes it too risky for my blood.

Another memorable ride was with Jo Noble to the Balek Wildlife Reserve:

Though I have mixed emotions at present concerning parting with the Harley, I must admit that I have not ridden it once since Eunie’s passing. The lustre has departed from many things in my life.  I debated in my mind whether or not to sell it. While it is true that it was “money in the bank”, it wasn’t money which was in any way contributing to my quality of life. I couldn’t imagine a time while I remain in Madang during which I would get much enjoyment from it.

I dreaded advertising it. I did not want to deal with the minor trauma of parting with it any longer than absolutely necessary. As it turned out, it took only two days. I called an old friend, Ron McKenna, who owns a car dealership and repair garage here in Madang. He is well known for his interest in exotic vehicles. He has restored several 1960’s era vintage Ford Mustangs, a task made considerably more complex, because they must be converted from left hand drive to right hand drive. I called Ron with the offer yesterday. Today he came to the office and bought it on sight.

Here I sit for my last portrait on a machine which gave me great pleasure. Minutes after this image was taken I had my helmet on and was taking my last ride. I blasted down Modilon Road at a terrifying pace. As always, she delivered a thrill. What a sound! There’s nothing else like it:

I know perfectly well that Ron did me a great favour by purchasing the Harley. He certainly doesn’t need it. Ron has had far more than his share of grief in the last few years. He is a sympathetic friend, a commodity with which I am well supplied. Once again, a friend has come to my aid. I will use the money from the sale to help to pay off the last of my debts. It will get me very close to my goal of being debt-free. This means far more to me at this season of life than any occasional pleasure which the Harley could deliver.

Finally, once again I am compelled to acknowledge the wisdom of my dear wife. She told me that we would never lose money on the Harley. In a way it was a gift that we gave to ourselves without cost. This made it somehow priceless. I’m sure that Ron will smile if he reads this. The price in Kina, converted to US Dollars, is nearly the same as we paid for the machine in 1998.

Eunie was right again.

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Guest Shooter – Jo Noble – Handy With a Camera

Posted in Guest Shots on March 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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Being a born narcissist and a photographer, I should have a few more images of myself, eh? I just never got into it. It seems creepy to me. Beside that, when I do try it, I usually hate the result. Maybe I should practice a little. The swing-around screen on my new Canon G11 should come in handy.

Having Jo Noble along on my last trip out to the Balek Wildlife Reserve was a treat in more ways than one. Some motorcycle passengers can drive a rider crazy – always moving around, fighting the balance, leaning the wrong way. Jo is as steady as a rock, even when she’s waving her camera around taking very cute shots like this one:There are several shots in this post that remind me of  The Lowman Loop – Boise, Idaho – A Motorcycle Ride to Heaven.

Jo also goes out with us on Saturdays on Faded Glory.  She got this shot of me which I like very much:I call it The Thousand-Year-Old Man.  You could use this as an illustration in a book about Neanderthals.

Jo swings her camera around with her eyes. I like that in a photographer. It’s all about recording your vision of the world. Here’s a beautiful snap of Four-Mile Market:Nice composition.

She also has the capacity to aggravate me. I chased this dragonfly around until I was panting. She walked up to it and clicked:Okay, we’ve established that she can do macros and she’s not nearly as scary as I am.

When she turned her sword on me, I wasn’t convinced that the shot would be much good because of the backlighting. I almost chastised her for a technical boo-boo:

I’m glad that I didn’t. I would have embarrassed myself. It turned out to be a shot with a lot of visual appeal. Technical rules do not necessarily a good photo make. (That’s Yoda-speak. Speaking like Yoda, practicing, I am.)

Jo also digs “the moment”. This is what is missing in a lot of snapshots. Here the picture tells the story:When we saw that mud, we both decided that mud-wrestling was not on for today. She got the perfect moment in the turn-around, including my left foot off the ground as I wrestled the hog in a tight arc, nearly falling over.

Being a convenient moment, I sneaked off to the grass to . . . uh . . . you know. Jo caught me coming back looking all goofy and,  if I might say, macho and  she caught herself in the mirror and  the mud hole that had changed our plans:Bit of genius there, I’d say. I would never have thought of setting up such a complicated shot. She had it all lined up and was standing there waiting for me to step onto my mark.

What would a motorcycle ride be without a shot of yourself in the reflection off of your friend’s helmet:It would demonstrate a lack of imagination, I’d say. Jo didn’t fail the test.

Next time you take a friend for a ride on your Harley, choose one with a camera and smart eyes.

Thanks, Jo Noble, for a super Guest Shoot.

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Harley Madness – The Ride to Balek

Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on February 25th, 2010 by MadDog
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After a week of being sick with sinusitis and bronchitis and not having time to take off of work to heal, I was ready yesterday to cut loose for an afternoon. Having a boss who is particularly in tune with my needs (my wife of 45 years, Eunice) gave me the privilege of saying, “I’m going for a Harley ride this afternoon, to which she responded, “Get out of here!” Long-term monogamy has its advantages.

My dear wife was likewise approving of my riding companion, Jo Noble, who had been . . . ah . . . shipwrecked here in Madang for several months. Jo is the Steward (I think that is the correct term) on a large yacht which is here in Madang awaiting major repairs before traveling on to where it is that large yachts go. I’m sure that I’ll never know. Jo is the very nice young lady you met on our trip to Nob Nob for the post Lightning Down a few days ago. Here she is fooling around with the Harley on the road out to the mountains on the way to the Ramu Valley:

The road this far is “improved”, which means there are fewer giant potholes and the gravel is not so loose that you risk a rash at every corner.

We took a couple of breaks for photos. Here Jo tries to remember how ‘left’ and ‘right’ are somehow magically reversed as she attempts to photograph herself in the rear-view mirror of the Harley:

I didn’t ask to see the resulting image.

Our plan was to cross this river ford and ride for a few kilometres up into the beautiful mountains. However, when we looked at the deep mud at the ford, we decided not to spoil the day by wallowing in the muck with the Hog:

So, we turned around and headed back to town to the Balek Wildlife Reserve, using our noses to guide us to the famous “Stinky River”.

For this shot, Jo asked if I thought that she looked “too silly”. Little did she realise that she was asking the wrong person. Silly is a way of life for me. I’ve made a career of it. I think she looks just fine:

One wants to visit Balek in the morning hours. In the afternoon the giant limestone cliffs from which the spring emerges block out the light and make photography a challenge.

I did manage one nice shot of Jo in the cave with only the natural light coming in. The colours on the rocks in the cave are psychedelic:

On my last trip to Balek, I had forgotten about the giant eels. This time we managed to coax one out. This was the best shot that I could get:fdsa
There are several that live in the river, along with some fairly large turtles.

At the village, we got the classic “Baby in a bilum” shot:

Babies are normally hung in string bags from trees for their naps.

I hate to do a post without a weird critter shot, so here it is:

This giant millipede seemed to be curled up for a nap in the sun.

Back safely at the office, we coaxed Eunie out to take our picture with the Harley:

I needed a fun day. Sometimes we all do.

I got one!

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The NEW, IMPROVED Madang – Ples Bilong Mi

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 18th, 2008 by MadDog
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I’ve opened up this ‘free’ WordPress site to preserve what I had before. I may end up moving again.

If you’re a hard-core reader, please stick with me.  I’m not dying. I’m just having a little blog problem.

As a tidbit of information for today, here’s a photo of the Harley being uncrated:

The Harley Comes to Madang

It felt so very weird riding it up Modilon Road.

More to come – stay tuned.

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