Tag Archives: motorcycles

Stephen Hipple

December 22, 2017 by
Photography by Heather and Jameson Hooton

These autobiographical pieces and corresponding photos are part of a special edition of 60PLUS featuring local residents who prove that fashion has no age limits.

Stephen Hipple, 68 

I’m just a guy who loves wine, food, friends, parties, dogs, hunting, motorcycle riding, traveling, and—most of all—my wonderful wife and children.

Some of my most cherished accomplishments include organizing wine and food festivals around the world for the International Wine & Food Society (a nonprofit organization), riding my BMW motorcycle from Omaha to the southernmost tip of South America, and learning there are many more good people in this world than bad.

What brings me happiness? My friends, wife, children, and dog Charlie (a long-haired black dachshund).

Here’s my advice for living life: If you’re having a bad day, instead of whining, wine a little.

Don’t get hung up on trying to look like you’re 17 again. All that will do is make you feel bad.

If you want to look great at any age, be sure to exercise, eat healthy, and drink two glasses of fine wine every day.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

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.

Diane Kremlacek

January 24, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Diane Kremlacek is used to proving she can do the same things a man can.

As the communication department manager—a historically male role—for 20 years at OPPD before retiring in 2015, she often had to go above and beyond to show she was qualified to do the job.

So, when it comes to hopping on her yellow and gold custom-made Big Dog Chopper and cruising down a country road or taking a longer ride to motorcycle mecca in Sturgis, South Dakota, Kremlacek says she is in control, feeling free, and doing her own thing with no expectations or limitations.

“I absolutely love it; there really is no freer feeling than the wind in your face, racing on a motorcycle,” she says. “It’s empowering for a woman because people see me on my bike and ask me, ‘how can you ride that?’ And all I tell them is ‘because I can.’”

“To a degree, bikes are still seen as being for men, but more and more women are proving they belong on a bike as well,” says Kremlacek, who also has a Wheaten terrier named Chopper.

She became interested in motorcycles after marrying her husband, Joe. A cycle enthusiast—he has a Big Dog Canine, which is larger than the Chopper—he bought Diane her first bike, and she’s been hooked ever since.

“He always talked about motorcycles and riding, even before we were married, and he actually got me my first motorcycle so we could ride together,” she says.

Kremlacek picked up her previously owned Big Dog Chopper in April, much-reduced from its brand-new sticker price of $35,000.

Each year, she and Joe begin riding in the spring and increase their bike time over the summer and fall months—going out a minimum of two to three times a week when the weather allows.

As they do every year, they rode to Sturgis for the 76th annual Sturgis Rally this past August, but her longest ride to date was to California and back more than a decade ago.

“I didn’t have any saddle bags on my bike, so I had to haul my luggage right behind me, which made for a somewhat uncomfortable ride,” says Kremlacek. “But riding a motorcycle is one of the few times in life when you’re in the moment and not always thinking about what to do next. It’s very relaxing. It’s an escape.”

Speaking of escape, during her 30-year career, 20 years of it leading operations at the OPPD Service Center, Kremlacek worked with highly technical telecommunications, microwave technology, and telephone systems—resulting in a fair amount of stress.

When she felt particularly bogged down by work and life, she says hitting the 100-mph mark on the open road proved to be a fantastic cure.

But has she ever been hit by flying debris or the wayward bird?

“I did have a rather large bug hit me in the forehead once, and at the rate of speed we were going, it felt like a bird,” she says with a laugh. “On the way to Sturgis one year, we had a deer run out in front of us, nearly causing an accident, and we encountered three bobcat cubs in Wyoming. But those will never stop us from enjoying the tremendous freedom we have on our motorcycles.”


Born in the Wrong Generation

August 7, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in July/August Omaha Magazine.

He’s Ernest Hemingway meets James Dean meets Indiana Jones. He’s an autodidact, a Mr. Fixit. He’s ruggedly chic, well-read, and when he does cool stuff, you won’t find it sensationalized on Facebook or Instagram. He also rides a motorcycle and travels most of the year. And I once watched him floss his teeth with a dollar bill

Brent La Rue was probably born in the wrong generation, exiled from the era that made them like they used to. But if the 30-year-old founder of La Rue Leather is supposed to exist in our time, it just might be to remind us that things were once built to last.

“My thing is: I want to buy it once. I want to buy it for life,” La Rue explains while we peruse his basement workshop, lukewarm beers in hand. It’s a principle that the craftsman says he’s instilled into his leather goods business, which he’s slowly burnished over the past few years.

Surrounded by old tools and Old Milwaukee empties, La Rue shows me his stock of lifetime Dopp kits and hoof-pick satchels that he designs and makes by hand. Each bag in this bunch features English bridle leather—purchased from a tannery that’s been around for almost 150 years—and solid brass hardware that La Rue shapes in-house.

“I can give a lifetime guarantee and know that in 100 years if somebody’s still alive and making these bags, and somebody sends something in, we can order it,” he says. “They [the materials] are not going away, they are not disappearing.”

As for the La Rue Leather brand name, he explains that it describes more than just a man putting his name to his work. The double-entendre is also French for “the road,” which is where he says his business was initially founded.

“So many things throughout the weird experiences I’ve had traveling and living on the road, and working on the road,” La Rue says, “all kind of culminate in creating things that are long, lifetime goods and trying to design things that—I want to avoid the word ‘timeless’—but are always appealing.”

We’re about halfway through our beers when La Rue pulls out the bag that started it all: the leather satchel that he hand-stitched fireside somewhere in the Shasta-Trinity mountain region of Northern California many years ago. It looks like it belongs in a museum. And its origin story sounds like it belongs in an epic.

But with La Rue’s old soul and wild spirit, perhaps all of his tales should one day receive the Homeric treatment. Until then, our protagonist is going to continue workin’ and livin’, and makin’ leather goods the only way he knows how:

“People mention all the time, ‘That’s so awesome you know how to do that.’ I’m like, ‘I didn’t know how to do that…I lied to you. I told you I knew how to do it,” La Rue muses. “’I fixed your window. It’s fixed, but I didn’t know how to do it—I just  figured it out.”

Brent La Rue