Motorhead Coffee

Vagabond blog: thoughts from the saddle

Just a Taste

I was forced to make some diet changes this year as a result of the surgery I had in March. Some of them are pretty significant in terms of what I’m used to, but none of them are actually bad from a health standpoint. In other words, the stuff I can no longer eat is not really good for me anyway. Still, every once in a while you just need a “taste” of something gooey. What I have found out is that if I do just that, limit the bad stuff to just a taste, it doesn’t usually bother me and I get a little bit of satisfaction.

Obvioulsy my motorcycle riding was impacted as well, keeping me out of the saddle for much of the year, at least for any length of time. I did manage to pull off 5 days last week before returning home. While it wasn’t the kind of trip I was hoping for, it was at least a “taste” of what I love and will hopefully keep me satisfied until I can pull off something more significant.

Below are a handful of photos to give you an idea of what I was up to…and although the photos might convince you that all I did was drink beer, I really did ride too, albeit not enough. As you will see, I’m not much of a photographer. I not only don’t know how to take photos, I rarely take the time so you don’t get much worth looking at.

Kentucky is home to beautiful lakes, lush countryside and enjoyable roads

You don’t see these barns much any more

Getting ready to ride the Cherhola Skyway

My favorite kind of sign

Oskar Blues Brewery

Javanilla Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy Stout…yummy!

Burial Beer…sporting the grunge look and some top shelf beer

The theme at Burial is a little “dark.” Just read the beer names

The Funketorium became my favorite stop

The Funketorium has a great atmosphere

And Great Sours!

I didn’t make any roadside coffee because I can only tolerate 1 cup a day right now…sad. Beer, on the other hand….

Morning planning…the only kind of meeting I like!

Until next time…

This short trip just served to whet my appetite for more.



Elevator Etequette

Okay, I’ve got to know: who has the right a way on an elevator? The passengers getting on or the passengers getting off? I’m serious; I’m about ready to write a letter to the editor, create an Elevator Etequette Podcast or publish an Elevator for Dummies You Tube channel!  Freakin’ #@%!! people are driving me crazy!

This is what I look like now!

I’ve been staying in hotels for the past 4 nights and I always had the foolish notion that if you are waiting on an elevator, as it arrives you should allow those already on it to step off before boarding. Apparently I am the only person in the entire United States who believes this as I have been “excused me’d” by about 1,000 people over the past few days as they nearly ran over me trying to get on the elevator!

I’ve got news for you folks…it aint’ no Disney ride! It’s just a box that goes up and down, all night long. So lighten up and wait your #$#@#$! turn!

Or am I wrong? If so, let me know and I will attempt to find those 1,000 people and apologize for having imagined the  cable breaking and  the elevator plunging to the basement the moment I stepped off and they stepped on…and me looking back and saying, “you should have waited your turn!”

“Anybody out there?”

Stay tuned for more bits and pieces of my few days on the road.



Past Meets Present

It’s September already and I’m just now getting around to taking my first overnight bike trip of the year. Not the way I imagined things to go this year but we take what we can get, right? I’m heading south in the morning and will recreate a portion of my very first overnight motorcycle trip.

If I remember correctly that would have been about 36 years ago, give or take. The trip lasted about 7 days, at least 6 of them were spent in the pouring rain…sleeping in a tent. Back in those days  high tech GORE TEX riding suits were unheard of. In order to stay dry you had to pack a rain suit, meaning if you saw rain coming you better pull over and suit up. I gave up carrying a rain suit 20 years ago in favor of gear that is waterproof.  One of the things I remember most about that trip was always feeling clammy. Oh, and getting strep throat and riding home with a high fever. Still, no matter the misery, the moments spent rolling across those mountain roads, totally free from every day reality, made it more than worth it.

I also gave up tent camping a bit later, although I always fantasize about sitting around a campfire at night instead of a motel room. I keep threatening to give it a try again but so far it hasn’t happened.

The route was simple. We rode south to Chattanooga, then turned east across the south side of the Smokey Mountains and over to Gatlinburg then home. These days I make it a religious practice to stay as far away from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge as possible. Just not my thing. Love the mountains and the streams; hate the towns.

The bike was a 1980 Suzuki GS550L equipped with a Quicksilver fairing and Bagman soft saddlebags.

I’ve come a long way baby! This time around I’m taking my Tiger, although I did for a brief moment consider taking my Scrambler and if I had purchased saddlebags for the Ducati there is no question I would be riding red. It was made for this trip. The Tiger will be good and comfortable and I asked my friend and  mechanic, Chad, to fit it with a new set of street oriented rubber, which should make the twisty roads a bit more enjoyable.

This time I’m not going to Chattanooga, Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. Instead, I’m going to  two lane it south to Cleveland, Tennessee, then grab the Cheorhala Skyway. I may make a run down into Northern Georgia, ride the rollercoaster known as highway 60 for a while and eventually make my way to Asheville. Two nights in Asheville then I head north, probably on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I may go all the way to Central Virginia and spend a night on the Parkway at the Peaks of Otter…maybe.

That’s about the most concrete plan I have ever made on a bike trip. I like to shoot from the hip. Which also means everything I just said is totally up for grabs and subject to my mood at the moment and which way I push the handlebars.

Thanks to my lovely  and selfless wife, Lori, for always supporting my lust to wander on two wheels. I wish you were riding along. This is for you:

See you down the road…frivolity, fast roads and craft beer sampling to follow.



Age Appropriate

I turned 58 today so I thought I should celebrate by engaging in an age appropriate activity. I decided to go for a relaxing, leisurely  ride…on this!

Oh, yeah, I bought the Duc about a month ago. Found a used one in Tennessee at a good price so I rented a car, drove down and rode it home. Aside from really enjoying my test ride on the bike and feeling a healthy dose of Ducati lust, I bought the bike for one simple and somewhat sad reason. There is a very finite amount of time left in my riding career that I will be able to ride a motorcycle with a sporting seating position. Based on the current condition of my hands, it was kind of a “now or never” proposition in my mind.

Birthdays are not a big deal to me; they never have been really. I’m not sure if I have ever taken the day off before or not, but I did today. I rolled out of the garage about 8:30 this morning and rolled back in about 3:45 this afternoon, making a big loop East, then South through the Bluegrass State.

I even went to Paris. Didn’t know you could drive there from here did you? You sure can…as long as it is Paris, Kentucky. I planned on taking a break and sampling a beer from Rooster Brewing in Paris, but they were closed when I pulled up.

A small roaster in the window of this coffee shop caught my attention.

Since I couldn’t have a beer at Rooster, I rolled through Lexington and had a Low Beam IPA at West 6th. Yummy.

I purposely planned my route to swing through Bardstown and stop at Heaven Hill.

I’m not much for bourbon but once in a while I like a little bit. Ever since Henry McKenna won a blind taste test against Pappy it has been impossible to find. So…I went to the source, Heaven Hills. I got there just as they were sitting 7 or 8 bottles out, so I grabbed one.

What did I think of it? Hot, hot hot! I think its counterpart Elijah Craig is better, at least to my palate.  Come on over and I’ll happily share it!

All in all it was a great day. That’s the longest day in the saddle I’ve done on the Supersport yet. Actually it may be the longest day I’ve done all year. Here’s to many more age appropriate days for you and I.



Finally, a Good Cup of Coffee!

It seems like it has been a long time since I had what I thought was a really good cup of coffee. I’ve had “decent” coffee but nothing that made me smack my lips and take notice. And it’s completely my fault. After all, I roast my own coffee.

I sold my small commercial roaster about 16 months ago after moving into a condo type community and having nowhere to use the machine. I knew I would regret the decision but couldn’t think of any reasonable options. In its place I purchased a small, electric sample roaster. I’m sure it does a good job; everyone says it does, but I just can’t seem to get a good product out of it.  It’s probably just me being lazy and not putting the energy into it. I wish I could blame it on the green coffee, but I’m sure that’s not it.

When we came home from vacation recently I realized I was out of coffee. I normally roast in my garage and it was pretty hot so I had Lori pick me up a bag  from a local roaster when she was at the store. She brought home a bag that was a blend of natural Ethiopian and Kenya…and it was excellent! I told her, “That’s way better than anything I’ve been putting out lately.” Hey, I don’t mind admitting when someone is doing it better than me…and they are.

Not only are they doing a better job than me, but they are still going strong. There are several  roasters who started when I did or after who have had a fair amount of success. At the time they weren’t producing any better coffee than I was. But they had one thing I didn’t; a commitment to stick it out. I had my own level of success. In fact, I’m confident had I never sold out I would still be in business in Bloomington. I was so busy between the coffee business and my regular job that  I was working nearly around the clock.

The old Ambex was a rattletrap roaster, prone to fires, but it could put out a good product

I still love the aroma!

When a decision had to be made I chose to play it safe and stick with the company I began working with at age 17. I can’t say that hasn’t worked out because it has. But I also can’t say I have no regrets about not making coffee roasting my life’s work. Financially I’m much better off, but from a level of personal satisfaction, not so much.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not hung up on looking back (people always assume when I say these things that I’m about to go back in business…I’m not). In fact, the view up front looks pretty good at this point in my life. And who knows, some day, when I finally say goodby to the day job, I may have to find a way to get my hands on another roaster on some level and see if I still “have it.” In the mean time, I applaud those who did stick it out and now spend their days turning hard, green beans into the nectar of the gods. 



Memories That Matter

My mind is not like a steel trap. Just ask my wife; I can’t remember anything. She, on the other hand, seems to have every nugget of information she has ever been exposed to right at her disposal. I’m a little jealous of that. Fortunately I haven’t forgotten everything. Just a few of the pictures floating around in my head lately. Let’s call them memories that matter.

“Pop,” my dad. That’s me in the background. We are in Nestor Falls, Canada enjoying one of our annual fishing trips.

Far as I’m concerned my Dad was the best. Superman was never my hero…my dad was. He could be kind and gentle. He could be ruthless at times. He always knew what to do and when he did the wrong thing he usually found it in his heart to make it right. Dad was like glue; he kept people together who were on the verge of coming apart. “Dad, you taught me to be a Shepherd. Taught me to be a man. Taught me to be a smart ass too! What I would give to have you give me a hug again and whisper in my ear, ‘I love you Son.'”

My cube mate at work just lost her mother a couple weeks ago and shared a few things with me yesterday. I suppose that’s what got my mind going down this road. You were a gem among women. Strong. Stubborn, sometimes a little too forward with your feelings, but there isn’t a person who knew you that does not know where you stood. Loving to the end, as selfless as a human can be. You taught me many things that will stay with me till I die. One of the most important lessons you buried in my heart was the joy of service. Oh, and how to make a blackberry pie! “Mom, you have no idea how much I miss you. Can I give you a call right now? I just want to hear your voice.”

No, that’s not Bigfoot…it’s my big brother, Steve.

My brother and I had an odd relationship. He was 10 or 11 years older than me, I forget exactly. Even though I remember where his bedroom was in the house and I remember rummaging through his Playboy magazines…and getting caught…by my sister…who ratted on me by the way, I really don’t ever remember living with him. Steve had some hard knocks in his life and I suppose it amplified the already smart ass attitude that seems to come natural to all of us Shepherds. Rightly so. One memory I do have is of Steve lying down on our couch, sick. He was sick because he began his cancer battle as a young man.

He also suffered an eye injury when he was young. Dad, Steve and myself were all standing at the gate of the fence to our barnyard. Dad was working on something, Steve was helping and I was probably just in the way. Dad used a hammer to hit the back of a hatchet and a sliver of metal flew off and went into Steve’s eye. I can see him flinch now. I can only imagine how Dad felt. “Steve, I’m sorry we never really had that special bond some brothers had. I wish I could go back in time and make that happen.”

Unfortunately, this is the only photo I could come up with this morning of my oldest sister. What it fails to show you is how beautiful she was. Homecoming Queen, cheerleader, all that jazz. I admired many things about Peggy, well, Cooky to me. Peggy is my aunt; Cooky is my sister. She could do anything. I do mean anything. Draw, decorate, remodel, refinish, build. She inherited many of Dad’s skills. And afraid of nothing, at least on the surface. The thing I admired most about my sister was that while I dream of doing things my way, world be damned, she actually did it. She sure didn’t worry about if people agreed with her choices or not. I admire the Hell out of that. “Cooky, I miss your smile. I miss your confident attitude. I really need you to still be in my life.”

Thankfully, I have one sibling left, my sister, Karen, also older than me. Karen is my one connection to home, childhood, family. “Love you Karen. Thanks for putting up with your little brother all these years. I didn’t put up a photo of you because I could hear you saying, ‘Don’t!'”

I have lots of other memories that matter but I’ll save them for another day. Hope you take some time today to think about those who matter to you.






Bluegrass, Backroads and Bourbon Part 2

Today’s run was a bit more challenging. I woke up hurting, which put the kibosh on my  grand plans. My hope was to run south to Green River Lake then go from there. I didn’t make it that far. The day ended early with about 3.5 hours seat time.

The Bike: I rode the Scrambler again. More and more impressed with it every ride. I’ll get the Tiger out soon, or the Ducati…oh, wait…I don’t own the Ducati…yet.

The Bluegrass: today’s town is just 30 minutes south of my home, Bardstown, Kentucky. Bardstown is a picturesque small town, often winning awards for most Beautiful Small Town in America. It also prides itsel in being the Bourbon Capital of the World.  You may have seen it in the news recently, when Barton’s, a local distiller and maker of 1792 bourbon, incurred the collapse of one of its rickhouses holding 18,000 barrels of bourbon.

If you ever find yourself in Bardstown and in need of a home cooked meal, I highly recommend Mammy’s Kitchen.

Backroads: 49, or Loretto Road, is nice, roaming piece of asphalt that, if followed to the end of the rainbow, leads to Maker’s Mark. It seems every town along the way, no matter how small, has the same two things in common: a church and a bar.

The Bourbon: speaking of which, what distillery gets the call today? Although I was within a couple miles of Makers, I did not stop this time. Was if Four Roses? Like many of the distilleries, Four Roses has more than one location. This particular one is not nearly as elaborate as the other, more remote location

How about Willett with that cool Genie bottle?

Nope! It was Heaven Hills. Not one of the more visually appealing distilleries but makers of two of the most highly rated bourbons on the market right now. In a recent blind taste test in San Francisco, two of their products, Henry McKenna 10 year and Elijah Craig Small Batch beat out all comers, including the infamous Pappy. A few months ago I could have picked up all the bottles of Henry McKenna you wanted. Now I never see one on the shelf.

Elijah Craig, on the other hand, seems to be an easy pick up. And that’s fine with me. It was the first bourbon I bought when I moved to Kentucky and still one of my preferred choices.

The Beer: since my ride was pretty lame today with no exotic destination, I didn’t visit any breweries. Instead, I grabbed a bottle from Shep’s Garage Bar. You can never go wrong with a Three Floyds Gumballhead!

Not sure what tomorrow will bring. No promises. One thing I’ve decided though: when Labor Day week comes, as long as I’m not in the hospital or totally disabled, I’m taking a week long bike trip…even if I can only ride 100 – 150 miles a day!



Bluegrass Backroads and Bourbon

The Occasion: I have not had a single overnight bike trip this year…none…zero…nada…you get that? Not one night. That’s horrible. Health issues and recovery complications are mostly to blame, but I was hoping I could get past that and do some time on the bike.

My goal was to take a short, 3-4 day ride to the Blue Ridge Parkway, spend a few days enjoying a leisurely ride, make and sip some fresh coffee alongside Price Lake, find some local craft beer and ride home. My recent riding efforts have sent me home after 3 hours or less seat time so it was a lofty and wishful goal.

This morning I packed up the bike just like I was planning to take the trip, knowing full well I would not likely make it that far. In the end I did much better than anticipated. I didn’t make the Parkway and chose to settle for extended day rides over the next few days, however, I managed to cover 6 hours before any discomfort set in. All in all, I had a great ride with more to come.

The Bike:  well, I rode the new one of course! The Triumph Street Scrambler. We’ve covered 1,000 miles together since I brought it home a few weeks ago so I’m getting pretty comfortable with it at this point. I can honestly say I can’t find a single thing I don’t like about it. It is relaxing and enjoyable on nearly any type of road.

The Bluegrass: we have been living in Kentucky for a little over 6 years now. I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to exploring the roads and towns. It is a beautiful state with some wonderful riding and scenery. I passed through many quaint towns today but the one I want to mention is not so small. Lexington, Kentucky was my get off spot today. I probably spent about 45 minutes there just enjoying the vibe (and the beer!). It is the kind of town I could easily call home.

Yes, I know, coming from a Hoosier that is akin to blasphemy! After all, Lexington is home to one of the most hated sports team in the country…the UK Wildcats. I’m not a sports fan so I can overlook that one easily. The town reminds me of Bloomington (my home town) on steroids. Has the same college town feel, lots of great bars, restaurants and breweries but is about twice the size of Bloomington. It is also home to the absolute nicest Whole Foods I have ever been in, and I’ve seen some pretty nice ones. Yeah, sometimes I get excited about grocery stores…so what!

Backroads: I’ve found some pretty nice roads riding the area over the years but today I decided to take advantage of my GPS’ “Motorcycle Roads” setting. You set a destination and it purposely seeks out the twistiest, hilliest roads on your route. It’s not perfect. Sometimes it does dumb things, but it took me on some roads I probably never would have discovered and ridden otherwise.

The most memorable road I was on today was Cornishville Road, a tiny, two lane and sometimes one lane patch of asphalt spread out among the rolling hills, farms and ponds along the way. It was one of those roads you had to devote 100% attention to, otherwise you’d be in a ditch. Unpredictable corners and hills abound on this road but it was great fun. The most interesting thing I saw was a basketball court painted on the asphalt with a  goal planted in the ground right against the road. Play at your own risk! I’ve got to go back and get a photo of that.

Along the way I passed many horse farms, barns and beautifully rustic stones fences.

I even came across a working Ferry.

The Bourbon: I’m not really a bourbon guy but it is hard to live here and not feel the impact of the spirit. I was only a couple miles from Woodford at one point but today’s bourbon is Wild Turkey Rare Breed… Wow! That first sip reminds me of the first bite of St. Elmo’s famous shrimp cocktail…really opens up the sinuses!

Wild Turkey sits high on a hillside on the bank of the Kentucky River. It makes for a nice ride.

I guess Jimmy is a rider too!

The Beer:Since my drink of choice is really craft beer, while in Lexington I headed over to West 6th to sip on a Magic Bean Coffee Stout. Delicious!

The great thing about soft luggage is that you can always cram “one more thing” in when the necessity arises…and this was a necessity!

See you on the road tomorrow.



Time Machine

The following post is going to read like a foreign language to 99% of you. For those of you who think I may have lost my mind, humor me; I’m writing for the 1% and, as always, mostly just for myself.

I think I’ve taken a photo of every bike I’ve owned since moving to Louisville here in front of Carriss’s Grocery.

Carriss’s is one of those fading ghosts of an earlier time. The kind of place that gets my attention as I wander the back roads in search of whatever it is I’m looking for.

The building first opened as a general store back in 1882 and has gone through several families since. The Carriss’s family took over in 1978 and have been running it ever since. In the past, their business was driven by tobacco and dairy farmers. Today it’s iconic charm and call to the past help lure passing customers like myself in the door. Oh, and probably the hamburgers they cook up; I’ve never had one but I hear they are quite tasty.

I’ve always been the romantic type, dreaming grand dreams in my head and finding profound meaning in the most unusual places. Lately though it seems like I’ve been more nostalgic and dare I say, sensitive, than ever before. Maybe its just age. Maybe it is due to my recent health scare and what seems like a never ending recovery. Maybe its my family’s horrendous and tragic cancer history catching up with me mentally (I spent a lot of time riding today and thinking of my brother, sister and brother-in-law, all lost to cancer at around my age)…maybe its just me letting go and immersing myself in the life around me. Whatever the reason, all this introspection and reflection has left me rather moved lately.

Music and motorcycles have always had a way of transporting me emotionally. Just recently I ran across a video of Levon Helm shortly before his death signing The Weight and for some reason it really hit me. A call back into my childhood I suppose. From there I stumbled onto a dedication of the same song by Springsteen. The final 40 seconds of the performance made my eyes water (feel free to skip ahead if you’re not a Springsteen fan). Yes, I know, a lot of people I know personally read this stuff I write, but I’m more than comfortable with who I am so I don’t mind laying my real self out there for the world to see.

If you are not familiar with Levon or the Band, do yourself a favor and watch The Last Waltz, a Martin Scorsese film of the group’s last concert. Or, better yet, come over to my garage, I’ll pour you a beer and we will watch it together…bring some Kleenex! If music doesn’t move you, then we obviously don’t speak the same language.

I took my new Scrambler out this morning for a ride before the heat became too unbearable. I chose some small, winding roads that meander through the beautiful Kentucky countryside. Sometimes when I ride, I enjoy the quiet and let my mind wander from thought to thought. Other times I enjoy a soundtrack so I will play music through a set of Bluetooth speakers in my helmet. This morning Dave Matthews was keeping me company.  Only he wasn’t signing one of his songs; instead it was a song recorded in 1966 by Buffalo Springfield…”Stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down…” Made my eyes blurry again. Hell, I don’t know what’s going on, I’m too old for a mid-life crisis…lighten up! So what if I spent half my ride looking through watering eyes…it was cathartic.

I think me and this new bike are going to get along just fine. It is like a Time Machine, transporting me back in thought and emotion to moments rich with meaning, at least to me. And at the same time, we are creating new and profound moments together…and in the end, what else do we have?



Honor the Tradition

One of our daughters and her husband just returned from spending time at our family vacation spot in Naples. On their way into town after landing at the airport she informed him of the plan: “First thing, we need to stop at the Publix. We’ve got to get bread, turkey lunch meant, turkey bacon, key lime pie and sweet tea!” This is not an option; it’s a tradition. Might as well add Lime Tostitos to the list because it is the only time we ever eat them.

Our kids grew up going to Naples and spending long days on the beach.

Because Lori and I always wanted to spend as much time as possible near or in the water, we started making quick sandwiches for lunch so we could get back down to the water. Over time it became something expected to have on our beach trips. Aside from the grocery run, you “had” to go to 5th Avenue and people watch. And car watch. And you had to cruise down Gordon Avenue and look at all the compounds built by people who were much better at accumulating wealth than we are.

The one tradition I wish I could bring back is a good day of playing “Captain Shorty!” When the kids were young we would take a big raft, head out into the Gulf, especially when it was choppy and ride the waves together. Everyone had a nickname. It was great fun. We always came back exhausted, bathing suits full of sand and broken shells.

Going through those old photos yesterday reminded me that I have a few traditions of my own creation. Even though I really want to explore the world and try new things, I am always drawn to the familiar. I ran across dozens of photos of motorcycle trips to Asheville. I have ritualized those journeys as well. I feel like I need  to go there at least once every year. With the exception of last year, when we had a very “abnormal” trip, I tend to do the same things. First place I go when I get to town is Juicy Lucy. It is a burger joint in Asheville. It’s not even about whether or not the food is any good…I haven’t eaten a hamburger in at least 8 months and don’t even know if I can any more…it’s about tradition…and beer. They always have a good selection of local beer, so I order a flight to sample the latest offerings. It also signifies to me that the trip has begun. It’s like dropping the green flag.

I always spend a little time riding the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I always go to The Thirsty Monk.

I always get a ham, egg & cheese biscuit sandwich at the City Bakery.

I check out the over-priced, hand made pottery in the arts district…and usually buy a mug!

After I’ve satisfied the “must do” items then it’s riding random roads and picking and sampling the many great breweries in town: Burial, Wicked Weed, The Wedge, Asheville Brewing, Hi-Wire, Green Man, Sierra Nevada and on and on.

I think it’s about time to honor the tradition…Scrambler style. Stay tuned.



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