Tag Archives: motorcycle

How to Plan an American Motorcycle Adventure

December 13, 2017 by
Photography by R.L. Lemke
Illustration by Derek Joy

In search of the perfect motorcycle ride, I have coordinated several epic trips with family and friends over recent decades. Our routes have ranged across the U.S., from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Pacific Coast, in between, and beyond. I hope the following snippets of advice prove helpful to anyone chasing their own “perfect” ride.

The Best Coast

As motorcyclists travel from East to West, they find fellow motorists becoming more motorcycle friendly. East of the Mississippi River, folks on four wheels seem to expect motorcyclists to stay in line with every other vehicle—not to pass—and they often endeavor to prohibit a motorcycle from passing. On the West Coast, motorists better understand the motivation for riding: the sheer joy that comes from barreling down a twisty road. Most motorists pull over, even off the road, to allow motorcyclists to pass by and continue at their own pace. Lane sharing in California allows motorcyclists to pass through traffic between stopped and slow vehicles on multi-lane roads. Most riders in the West pull through stopped traffic at lights to get to the head of the line. The Western attitude toward motorcyclists makes riding there much more enjoyable.

Go with the (Weather) Flow

In the West, coastal summers remain in the 60s through the day; meanwhile, dry heat from the 70s to 100s awaits over the other side of the coastal mountains. Elevation changes in the Cascades or Sierras offer warm riding in the valley and cold riding only a few miles uphill. Thus, if you don’t enjoy the weather one place, change your direction, and within minutes you are in a completely different climate.

California Back Road Dreaming

Back road routes are a passion of mine. I scout these small, paved byways before every ride. In most states, the back roads are unpaved. This forces motorcyclists to ride with the tourist and commuter traffic. Some states offer endless miles of paved back roads with little to no traffic—roads that wind through mountains and valleys with breathtaking scenic vistas.

Roads empty of traffic allow stopping in the middle of the lanes to take photos. Of the many states I have traveled, California has the most miles of paved back roads. Many of them cut through national forests, and I suspect their paving has to do with accessibility for addressing forest fires. These arteries of pavement serve as a means to avoid congested tourist areas and cities.

So, taking into account how motorcyclists are treated, the variety of weather, and the opportunity to explore endless miles of back roads in breathtaking scenic countryside, California is the destination I return to year after year.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Bring a Camera

Many riders find enjoyment in hitting the open road without a plan, selecting their route as they travel. Whimsy determines which way they go, which road to travel upon, as they stumble upon great vistas and twisty adventures.

Other motorcyclists find joy in meeting up with friends at a specific destination (consider the legendary Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota), a social affair built around a ride.

I approach each motorcycle ride as if the adventure has priceless value—something to be planned for—so that each rider can experience the ride to the max. I take great pleasure preparing for the route before departure. Afterward, organizing the photos, videos, and GPS files adds further enjoyment—an opportunity to savor the once-in-a-lifetime experience again.

Gather Your Crew

Everyone knows that life is fullest when we are committed to the moment, setting aside all worries of past and future. Motorcycling forces one to live in each and every moment. Spending those moments with good friends and family only strengthens the bonds of our relationships.

My crew usually consists of five to 10 bikers, including my brothers Todd (Omaha Magazine’s publisher) and Tyler Lemke (the magazine’s vice president of operations).

All of us riding these adventures have limited time away from work. Time is too precious for us to seek fun by happenstance. No, solid planning makes certain that each ride is one for the record books. A lifetime memory.

Our riders have come from Nebraska, Kentucky, Iowa, Canada, Texas, and even California to enjoy the well-planned rides. Sometimes riders iron-butt more than 1,000 miles over 24 hours just to participate.

It takes a special kind of rider to enjoy our grueling pace. On our adventures, at the end of each day’s ride, all we can do is eat and then collapse into slumber. In fact, these rides are so intense, with so much “fun” concentrated into the daylight hours, that the return to work offers a welcome chance to recover (physically as well as mentally).

Safety First

Risk management should be an important consideration for any motorcycle adventure plan. In our gang of (middle-aged and white-collar) riders, we wear top-of-the-line protective gear.

We also have bike-to-bike radios to facilitate communication while engines are roaring. Whether there’s sand on the roadway, deer, or an angry pickup driver, we can warn one another of potential dangers. We work as a team to keep one another safe.

Slippery road surfaces can be a matter of grave concern. When driving a car, I’m not interested in sand or gravel on the road, but on a motorcycle it can lead to crashing and certain injury.

When it rains, cars can just turn on the wipers; on a motorcycle, it is a matter of adding a layer of rainproof gear or getting soaking wet. If it is hot, we deal with the heat. If below 60, we add an electric vest. Even with safety precautions, riding a motorcycle ties you directly to the moment—to life in the right now.

Don’t Feed the Vultures

Wild animals are a hazard to motorists everywhere, especially motorcyclists. When we are riding in California, there is a huge bird that offers a unique challenge. The vultures in California appear to coordinate their efforts when lingering on the road in front of motorcycle riders, leaping up and taking flight the last instant before impact. It is as if they expect to intimidate the rider into an avoidance crash, making for a large meal to share. This has happened countless times, which affirms my conclusion.

Anticipate Physical/ Mental Exhaustion

At the end of our spring 2017 ride through coastal California/Oregon, riders commented that they were utterly exhausted. I know that I was. Roads on our route featured so many corners that rare straight sections of pavement offered relief. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. The whole point of the ride was to test ourselves, to see sights few others do, to expand our motorcycling capabilities.

People often ask what it is like to ride as we do. For those who downhill ski, it could be comparable to flying down black diamond moguls

for miles and miles. The back-and-forth effort, the exhilaration of not only surviving the unexpected but excelling at it offers more than just an adrenaline rush. That same physical back-and-forth motion is akin to cornering on a mountain bike, but hour after hour, day after day. Completely exhausting, but completely worth it.

Ready, Set, Go!

What sets a motorcycle adventure apart from the normal motoring vacation is the direct interaction with the moment. While riding a motorcycle, even olfactory experiences are instant and powerful. Smells assault you with full force, from skunk roadkill to blooming flowers along the road, from someone smoking cigarettes in their yard to the salt spray from the ocean.

Intense and concentrated motorcycling is fun, I promise. Long days test each of us physically and mentally, while camaraderie builds passion for the sport. This is what motivates each of us as we chase bliss in the moment, here and now.

Visit rllemke.smugmug.com to view more photos from R.L. Lemke’s adventures.

This article was printed in the November/December 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Restoring Hearts Celebration

October 4, 2013 by
Photography by Mitchell Warren

In the spring of 2013, young men and women from Omaha Home for Boys programs spent 18 weeks learning, laughing, and collaborating on the restoration of MishMash, the Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail motorcycle rebuilt as part of the nationally recognized Helping with Horsepower™ Bike Rebuild program. With the steadfast support of Jeremy and Mike Colchin, the father-son duo from Black Rose Machine Shop, MishMash was transformed into a stunningly patriotic motorcycle.

By late spring/early summer, MishMash was ready to travel around the state of Nebraska (and western Iowa) to spread the word about the Home and share a message of hope. MishMash heralded the Omaha Home for Boys mission and message at parades, fairs, football games, various community events, conferences, and concerts. One would be hard-pressed to find someone who hadn’t seen the motorcycle or heard about the youth at the Omaha Home for Boys and this life-changing project.

Several months later, the raffle winner of MishMash—Jeff Waddington of Bennington—was selected to the roaring applause of more than 450 Restoring Hearts with Bike Parts™ Celebration attendees. Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin delivered a breathtaking, inspirational speech to supporters, community members, and friends—some old, many new—of the Omaha Home for Boys.

RHBP3_2

Matlin touched on the difficulties of growing up as a young child “who just happened to be deaf” with big dreams of being a star—fueled and supported by long-time friend Henry Winkler. It was a message that resounded well with youth, staff, and supporters alike—you can be anything you want to be, and anyone can make their goals and dreams into realities with hard work and dedication.

Youth also took to the stage, joining Mike DiGiacomo and Mary Nelson, hosts of KMTV-Channel 3’s The Morning Blend, to share their thoughts of the Helping with Horsepower™ project, along with their own dreams and goals.

It was a celebration as much about MishMash as it was about the youth at the Home—and a celebration everyone involved will remember!

With the help of supporters, the Home raised more than $30,000 from the bike’s raffle, selling more than 1,700 tickets. Funds will be used to facilitate the programs at the Omaha Home for Boys—directly and positively impacting the hundreds of youth touched by our programs.

Become a Home Partner and Supporter

With the success of this year’s Restoring Hearts with Bike Parts Celebration, staff at the Omaha Home for Boys are in full gear to prepare for next year’s Helping with Horsepower Bike Rebuild program. Stay tuned for more information to become a sponsor, donate to the bike rebuild project, and buy tickets to attend next year’s Restoring Hearts with Bike Parts!

To become a sponsor for next year’s bike rebuild, please contact Trish at 402-457-7165 or PHaniszewski@omahahomeforboys.org. For more information about Omaha Home for Boys, visit omahahomeforboys.org.

Lessons in Transforming Lives

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Ken Merchant

When a group of Omaha Home for Boys and Jacob’s Place residents helped put the finishing touches on a customized 1999 Harley Davidson motorcycle this May, they accomplished something bigger than themselves.

As participants in OHB’s Horsepower Bike Rebuild Program, the youth worked four months under the supervision of adults to outfit a bare-bones bike with all custom features. That bike, dubbed Mish Mash, is being raffled off this fall and will be awarded to a winner at Omaha Home for Boys’ September 26 fundraiser, Restoring Hearts with Bike Parts. Fittingly, the motivational speaker for the 6 p.m. Hilton Omaha event is actor-producer-director-author Henry Winkler, who earned fame playing the motorcycle-riding character The Fonz on the 1970s TV mega-hit, Happy Days. (Editor’s Note: Marlee Matlin has replaced Henry Winkler as the guest speaker for the event, as Winkler had another obligation come up.)

Leading up to the event, the bike is being showcased at parades and shows to help boost raffle sales and raise awareness about Omaha Home for Boys’ and Jacob’s Place’s mission, serving youth. Founded in 1920, OHB is a residential program that provides at-risk boys and young men ages 10-18 with family structure, positive reinforcement, and educational support to help them become successful, independent adults. It’s sister program, Jacob’s Place, has a similar mission serving both young men and women ages 17-21.

OHB events manager Trish Haniszewski says the bike rebuild program, which originates out of Mitchell, S.D., is intended to empower youth through structured, hands-on work rebuilding old or damaged bikes.

She says the work the Omaha youth put into salvaging their bike “is symbolic of ‘refurbish a youth, refurbish a life.’” The person she recruited to be the program’s bike mechanic facilitator, Jeremy Colchin of Black Rose Machine Shop, found the experience more meaningful than he expected.

“I learned it’s not so much about getting this bike done…The time with the kids and teaching them something and working as a team and the pride in this they feel as a group is what’s important.” – Jeremy Colchin, Black Rose Machine Shop

“The joy I had after the first night of working with the kids was like nothing I ever experienced before,” says Colchin. “I didn’t expect to get attached to these kids.”

His father, Black Rose owner Mike Colchin, also mentored the youth.

Jeremy says the connection with some youth was immediate and with others, gradual. “You gotta pull them in…We seemed to pull them in in a good way, and that’s what matters. They were having fun when they were here,” says Colchin, who met with the youth Tuesday nights from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Howe Garage on campus. “Every single one of them has been extremely polite and fun to be around and easy to work with. It’s promising.

“I learned it’s not so much about getting this bike done; it’s about using [the process] as a tool for kids. In the big scheme of things, the bike’s the side note. The time with the kids and teaching them something and working as a team and the pride in this they feel as a group is what’s important.”

Colchin says the experience reminded him of when he began working under his father at age 16.

Getting the bike tricked out offered many teachable moments. “I thought it was a real interesting way to use what I know to work with these kids and teach them not just about motorcycles, but about how life works,” Colchin says. “That not everything is straightforward. You have to learn to work around problems, work with other people, and have fun doing it. If I can help someone [teaching them] that, that’s a great thing.”

The initial plan was to rebuild a beat-up bike. But when a junker couldn’t be found, the new emphasis became customizing a used one. Learning opportunities still presented themselves.

“When you customize a bike, you run into issues and problems you need to work through and take care of, and we’ve really done a good job accomplishing that,” says Colchin.

Ten to 12 youth participated each week in the bike build, including several girls. Besides taking ratchets, wrenches, and soldering irons to the bike, they came up with a new paint design. Flames on the gas tank include personalized names and sayings from the youth.

Program participant Tony, a Jacob’s Place transitional living resident, says, “It’s been a lot of fun. This was the first time I’ve actually worked on a motorcycle. I’ve always loved taking stuff apart and putting it together just for the heck of it—figuring out what makes stuff work. It’s been a very cool experience.” Tony, 18 and soon to enter the U.S. Marine Corps, says he and his teammates take pride in the work they did.

Of the lucky person who will win the bike in the raffle, Colchin says, “They’re going to be in possession of a Harley that’s customized in a way most guys wish they could afford to do.”

Raffle tickets for the motorcycle will be sold June 28-Sept. 26 and are available by calling Trish Haniszewski at 402-457-7000 or online at omahahomeforboys.org. Tickets to the Restoring Hearts fundraiser can also be purchased on the organizations’s website.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Steve Hipple, 64

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

At 64, Steve Hipple defies his age both in his youthful appearance and adventure-loving spirit. Hipple works out five days a week: 30 minutes of weight lifting followed by 30 minutes of aerobics. He also attends hot yoga class twice a week, sharing, “I find that yoga increases my strength, flexibility, and mobility. It also eases tension and tightness, increases my energy, and encourages an overall positive and
enlightened attitude.”

Hipple has a strong interest in wine and food and maintains a large cellar of the world’s finest wines. As chairman of the Festival and Events Committee for the International Wine & Food Society, he organizes wine festivals and cruises for members all around the world. Gourmet dining is one of his many interests. “I enjoy exotic foods matched perfectly with just the right wine.”

The empty-nester with two children says, “My wife, Patti, and I love adventure traveling, especially by motorcycle. We have explored many parts of the world including France and Spain, and have traveled from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the tip of South America. We crashed three times, outran robbers in Panama, and suffered extortion at the hands of Mexican police. In Venezuela, we swam at the bottom the tallest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls, slept everywhere from five-star hotels to no-star hotels, and ate everything from Argentinean beef to guinea pig.”

Seeing the world from the seat of a motorcycle is an exhilarating experience, Hipple shared. “You can feel Mother Nature in all her guises: rain with slippery, muddy roads in the Amazon jungle…snow, ice, and sleet in Patagonia…and fierce winds and altitude sickness in the Andes Mountains of Peru.” Sight-seeing from a sedan is not for him. “Traveling by auto is like sitting in your 72-degree living room watching the Travel Channel in hi-definition.”

Hipple’s advice for living a healthy, active, long life: “Find what you like and do it. Enjoy life by staying fit, be sociable, and follow your passions.”