The Helmet Law – To Be or Not To Be

Since there is no law that requires people to ride motorcycles we can surmise the main reason we ride is because we want to. We can also surmise, from our own experiences, riding is risky business. We can also surmise, from all the media hype, motorcycle riding costs the States and the Insurance Companies lots of money and we are all ultimately going to die from riding motorcycles… or can we?

We are told the increasing number or rider related accidents have placed an undue burden on the health care system. We are told that wearing a helmet will save our lives… I think these, and other related statements are false. The below is from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation in Washington, DC and are a compilation of facts retrieved from the Center for Disease Control, US Census Bureau, Nation Highway Transportation and Safety Administration and other national agencies. Data outlined below is not intended to argue against or for helmet use, but I believe it demonstrates that a mandatory helmet law is not the solution to motorcycle safety.

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Fact 1 – A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control demonstrated that of the 14,283 motorcycle fatalities which occurred nationwide between 2008 and 2010, 8,226, or 57.6% were wearing helmets when they were killed.

Fact 2 – According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, in 2009, 20 states and the District of Columbia accounted for 40% of total motorcycle registrations and 42 % of total motorcycle fatalities nationwide even though they had mandatory motorcycle helmet laws. The other 30 states which either allowed adult riders to choose whether to wear a helmet or simply had no law at all accounted for 60% of total motorcycle registrations and 58% of motorcycle fatalities.

Fact 3 – Reports that assert that motorcycle fatalities have nearly doubled since 2000 fail to take into account the increase in registered motorcycles. If you take into consideration the increase in registered motorcycles, then you will see motorcycle accidents per registered motorcycle have actually decreased since 2000, or at the very least, have remained relatively unchanged. In 2000, there were 2,862 fatalities for 4,903,000 motorcycles registered. That comes to 0.058% of registered motorcycles were involved in a fatal accident. In 2010, there were 4,502 fatalities for 8,368,000 motorcycles registered. That comes to 0.053% of registered motorcycles were involved in a fatal accident.

Fact 3 – Given the lack of information available as to the causes of death in motorcycle fatalities, measuring the overall life-saving effectiveness of motorcycle helmets is speculative at best. J. Lee Annest, Ph.D., M.S., Director, Office of Statistics and Programming for the CDC has admitted that the CDC does not have motorcyclist injury deaths tabulated by body region/part nor is he aware of anyone that does. He further admits that with deaths, there are usually multiple injuries and the primary body part affected is often difficult to determine.

Fact 4 – States that allow adults to choose whether to wear a motorcycle helmet do not see higher motor vehicle insurance rates. Conversely, states that have mandatory motorcycle helmet laws do not experience higher motor vehicle insurance rates. Of the top five most expensive states for motor vehicle insurance four have mandatory motorcycle helmet laws. Of the five least expensive states for motor vehicle insurance only one has a mandatory motorcycle helmet law. To take it even further, only two of the ten cheapest states for motor vehicle insurance have mandatory helmet laws. The other eight states either allow adults to choose for themselves or, as in the case of Iowa, simply have no law at all.

Fact 5 – States that allow adults to choose whether to wear a motorcycle helmet do not experience increased health care related costs. In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a study of daily inpatient hospital expenses by state. Of the twelve most expensive states for daily inpatient hospital expenses seven had mandatory helmet laws. Of the twelve least expensive for daily inpatient hospital expenses only four had mandatory helmet laws. The other eight states either allow adults to choose for themselves or, as in the case of Iowa, simply have no law at all.

So, decide for yourself. Whether you wear a helmet or not means nothing to me. Sometimes I wear one and sometimes I don’t. Given that this is my right I take it as my right to decide. If you take the media hype at face value then all motorcycle riders are destined to die a horrible death. But, if you do the research yourself and make your own decision you will see it is all hype.

Many motorcycle related accidents can be cataloged into two categories—the first being a rider with more bike than sense orchestrates a bonehead stunt and pays the price (these are a very small percentage of rider and the fact is they are probably lousy cagers too), the second are due to cagers who do not take the time to look or who think talking or texting on their phone is more important than maintaining positive control of their cage. Granted, there are other accidents like hitting a deer and/or a blown tire, but these pale in comparison to the two previously mentioned categories.

So, if you are really concerned about my wellbeing then I suggest you arrest every cager who talks or texts on the phone and let me expend a warning shot at every cager who does not see me just before they run me off the road; they don’t see me because they don’t look. I bet if I fired a round their direction they would see me then.

Ride free and ride often and don’t beleive what you read on a bumper sticker.

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The Long Haul

Why is it there are those who will ride thousands of miles on a motorcycle for no other reason than to ride? Face it; a car is more comfortable, especially during those times of inclement weather. The casual ride is easy to understand; a 50 to 200 mile ride in a day is not at all uncommon and makes for a fun day, but what about those thousand mile days? Not sure that question can be answered. Why do people run marathons? If good health were the reason then the desired state could be achieved without the grueling 26 mile run or the preparatory training that comes before. Why do people climb mountains knowing there are those who went before that never returned? Is it for a sense of adventure or an attempt to fill a void somewhere deep inside?

Each person who attempted to answer these questions may very well give an answer; surely each would be different dependent on the person. However, I believe each would admit (maybe not verbally) that their given answer failed to adequately clarify the real reason. One thing we would all agree on; the destination is not the objective.

So, with an acknowledgement that the ultimate question cannot be answered, let’s talk about what we do to prepare our bike and ourselves for these long distance rides.

Obviously (at least to me) the first thing that comes to my mind is motorcycle maintenance. A major service (oil change at a minimum) prior to departure should be at the top of the list. Plus, depending on the length of the ride, a service may be required during your trip; plan accordingly. Tires are the only thing between you and serious road rash. If you have 10,000 miles on your ride and your trip is 10,000 miles then I would recommend changing your tires prior to departure or have a plan in place to replace your tires during the trip. Oddly enough, tires, being the most significant safety feature on your ride, are the items most ignored by riders. Incorrect tire pressure can and will increase wear and cause a pre-mature failure. Correct tire pressure extends the life of your tire, increases fuel efficiently and adds comfort to the ride; incorrect tire pressure has the opposite effect. To reduce the possibility of a flat tire some will apply a tire sealant. Some swear by a sealant and others shy away from such things. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you hang your hat the thing here to remember is tire maintenance is your friend. Belt (or chain) and sprocket serviceability should be checked.   Today’s belts last significantly longer than the chain and sprocket, but that does not mean they do not wear out and need replacing at regular intervals. If you are unsure how to perform maintenance on your ride then rely on your dealer’s service department. You don’t need to tell them you are not capable of doing it yourself, tell them you are too busy with all those meetings with Donald Trump, tell them anything; trust me, they will not question your reasons.

Baggage on your ride should be mounted as low as possible with heedful attention to balance. I suspect there is such a thing as too many bungee cords, but ensure you secure your luggage in such a fashion so as to prevent slippage. Securing the cords to your ride should not interfere with the normal function of your ride. Every ride has a maximum weight allowed which includes the weight of the rider. I am not privy to load limits on every ride, but for mine it is roughly 500 pounds which includes oils, fuel and extra items I’ve added. Fuel weights a little over 6 pounds and oil roughly 2 pounds per quart. So, with fuel and oil alone I lose 52 pounds. Add your weight to those items you always carry; leather jacket, chaps, helmet, camera, tool bag, 1st aid bag, water (2.2 lbs per liter), etc and that weight limit gets smaller and smaller. Of course you would never take your bike to its maximum weight limit. I said all that to say this; pack light.

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I’m sure it will come in handy at those rest-stops

When packing take only those items you need. Make a list of what you think you need to include clothing, tools, sleeping gear, etc. After you create the list you should estimate the weight and then check your list and mentally verify if the item is something you NEED. The more long trips you take the better you will understand what is needed and what can be left behind. On this list you will of course have clothing articles. Pick multi-function items. A jacket that will keep the rain off as well as provide protection from the other elements is your best option. You will not want to have a jacket specific to wet weather and a jacket specific to cold or high wind. Pick a set of clothing that can be layered allowing you to remove items as the day gets warmer. Likewise, adding a layer will keep hypothermia at arm’s length. A quick story here that applies – some years back my wife and I decided to climb Pikes Peak. Of course the plan called for us to carry everything we needed. So, I made a list of what I thought we needed and went over the list again and again. Each time I went over the list I reduced the items as I saw fit. Long story short; we climbed Pikes Peak and upon our return I realized there were a number of items I never took out of the pack. Obviously, we did not “need” these items. So, you might feel like you need it, but should the need arise what would result if you did not have it. Would you fail, or would you be just fine without it. Take that little story for what it’s worth… or not.

Depending on the type of trip you are taking be mindful of the items you may pick up along the way. If this trip is strictly a ride for the benefit of an iron butt then chances of you stopping for souvenirs is slim to none. If this is a vacation ride then have a plan to manage souvenirs.   Most merchants will ship your purchase for you. If this is offered I highly recommend you use it. If you ship it then you will never have to pack and unpack over the period of your trip. Certainly, if you come to a point where you need a tool you can bet the tool you need is buried under all those souvenirs.

Hypothermia sets in when the body’s core temperature falls below 95 degrees; which is not difficult to do if riding in temperatures of 50 degrees or less. If you are riding and you get a bit of a chill then hypothermia can easily be the next step. Your physical health can play a significant part in allowing hypothermia to set in and it can also play a part in keeping hypothermia away. Meaning, eat right, dress right and drink right. By drink I am referring to water and juices; alcohol will not only speed hypothermia it will hide the symptoms.

Dehydration is a silent enemy that WILL sneak up on you and interrupt your day. As you ride you are obviously “face into the wind” which will dry your skin quickly. Your body will kick into high gear and try to keep your skin at an optimal level and try to replenish what the wind has taken away which starts a quick cycle. If you do not hydrate (drink lots of water) the wind will untimely win. It is said that an average person needs .5 to 1 full liter of water for every 125 to 150 miles. Now, we all know none of us drink that much water as we are tooling down the road, so ensure you drink water at each stop. If your objective is to ride a great distance in a minimal amount of time then a camelback may need to be added to your list of things to take and use. Drinking lots of water the day before also helps. Sadly, the more you drink the more often you will feel a need to pullover; that’s just the way it is. Always carry twice as much water as you think you will need. If you are going to break down be sure you will break down on the hottest day, far from anywhere. The water will come in handy.

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If you’re gonna break down you are gonna break down at the farthest point from civilization – Murphy’s Law of Riding.

The positioning and comfort of your body plays a very significant role in an ability to ride great distances. The comfort of your seat, the tilt of your handlebars and even the surface of your grips play a role. We have all been on a long ride and our hands start to go numb. This happens because of the wrists (especially the right wrist) stays in a locked position for extended times. Many bikes come with cruise control which will virtually eliminate this problem. Other bikes do not come with cruise, but there are several options available ranging from inexpensive to very expensive that will provide this needed comfort; which you choose I will leave to the thickness of your wallet. Use your cruise control if available to let your hands and arms rest a bit. The higher your handlebars are the more prone you will be to suffer from not only your hands going numb but your arms as well. We all have our own thoughts on this, what looks good vs. what is functional; it’s sometimes a tradeoff. Again, which you choose is your prerogative; just be mindful of the results. I found that raising my bars just one inch made all the difference on the long hauls.

If you are riding alone you should be aware you are not alone. This fact is both advantageous and risky. It is advantageous when you need assistance. Ensure you have phone numbers for emergency services that may be needed for injury or mechanical failures. Nothing is more stressing than to be stuck on the side of that road less traveled and realize you are the only one travelling that road. A cell phone and a GPS to pinpoint your location will mean the difference between an hour or two or a day or two. On the other side of the equation; we want to believe that people are honest and willing to help. Yea, right… there are some out there who live for the day when they can take advantage of someone who is in a difficult spot. Others will not wait for you to be in a difficult spot before they jump in, they will put you in a difficult spot and take advantage with the skill and finesse of a hungry tiger. Act as if everyone you meet is kind and generous but have a plan ready for action to take them out of the equation if needed.

If you ride long distances you are going to run into critters—it’s a given. If this bothers you then don’t even pull out of the driveway. Remain vigilant and ready to act knowing there may be times when your actions will mean nothing—you’re going down and there is nothing you can do about it.

If you ride you are going to come into contact with obstacles – might not be a bear, but it’s gonna be something.

The long distance ride is a test of your mental and physical abilities; a test put to both you and your ride. Being prepared is the key but maintaining a positive and clear mental attitude is paramount; preparation starts long before you straddle your ride. If your intent is to ride a great distance in a short amount of time and you do not prepare your ride and yourself (both physically and mentally) then I would submit you have failed before you ever climbed on the bike. Failure will result in anything from busted pride to death. Take this endeavor seriously, prepare for it, plan for it, know your limitations and remain within those boundaries. If you do these simple things then you will succeed, do them not and you may fail.

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Two or Three

I own a Harley Street Glide and a Harley Tri-Glide. For those who do not know, a Street Glide has two wheels and, as demonstrated by its name, the Tri-Glide has three. For obvious reasons the Tri-Glide is more stable—I don’t fall over near as often when I ride the Tri-Glide verses when I ride the Street Glide.

Biker Down

Hey, it happens to the best of us.

Riding the Tri-Glide on a gravel road is less likely to increase my level of stress verses riding a gravel road on two wheels. For the experienced rider the gravel road will always get your undivided attention and often we will seek ways to find another route that is less hazardous. If you are an inexperienced rider, one who does not give the gravel road the respect it deserves, then you will soon learn firsthand a gravel road is unforgiving and will demand respect right after you come nose to gravel to its intolerant nature.

If you weigh the pros and cons when comparing two wheels to three you will often determine the three wheeled variant of the motorcycle is safer. So why do I enjoy riding the Street Glide over the Tri-Glide? It’s not like I do not enjoy a ride while on the Tri-Glide—I do. But the Street Glide is more fun even though it can be more dangerous. The term “dangerous” is relative—if a cager (a car) hits me while on either the Street Glide or Tri-Glide the result is going to be the same so it’s not like the survivability is greater while on three wheels if you encounter a distracted driver.

So, what is the real difference here? When I come to a stop on the Street Glide I must cater the approach and put my feet down when I stop. If you don’t put your feet down then gravity takes over and you find yourself in a very embarrassing situation. When I come to stop sign on a Tri-Glide all I need to do is stop. I can do whatever I want with my feet and the result is the same—gravity has no bearing on my vertical stature. When I am riding in a straight line there is no difference between a two or three wheel motorcycle. Really the only difference, while riding in a straight line, between two and three wheels, is the location within your lane where you ride. One two wheels I favor the left side of the lane, on three a necessity to ride in the center of your lane is warranted—no major issue here.

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Two wheels allows you and your ride to be one…

So, what’s the difference? Why do I prefer the Street Glide over the Tri-Glide? This past weekend I went for a short ride to meet up with some of my fellow Hoka Hey riders and, at the last minute, I decided to ride the Tri-Glide rather than the Street Glide. Throughout the 650 miles I kept wishing I had taken the Street Glide and I began to formulate a reason why. I think it all boils down to curves.

On three wheels you must force the bike to take the curve. If you want to go right you push with your left hand and pull with your right. If you want to go left you push with your right hand and pull with your left—it requires effort. Not a considerable amount of effort, but effort none the less. Plus, while going through that curve centrifugal force is trying to push you off the bike and you have to apply lower and mid body muscles to keep yourself centered on the bike. One two wheels the execution of going through a curve is virtually effortless. You lean and the bike follows. Centrifugal force, rather than push you off the bike, acts to solidify your connection with the ride. It’s all about the riding experience. Do you and the bike act in unison, or are you forcing the bike to do what you want.

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Three wheels is stable, but you have to force it…

Sure, a three wheeled motorcycle may be more stable and thereby more secure, but it lacks maneuverability. It’s like an airplane—you can have stability or quick maneuverability, but you cannot have both. Some prefer stability and that’s fine. I’m not trying to degrade anyone who prefers a three wheeled motorcycle. I’m just saying I think I prefer maneuverability—three wheels might be less hazardous, but, in my mind, it’s not near as much fun.

So, there you have it. The world of two verses three wheels according to Hoka Hey Rider 779.

Regardless of what you ride, ride safe.

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Honesty, Integrity, Generosity and Compassion

These are four attributes many claim to have, but, if all were revealed, may not be the case. It is easy to give “lip service” to these and, unless someone sees what you do when no one is looking, many may believe what you say and take you at face value. Action—action gives evidence when words die away. Do we claim honesty, but bend a little on taxes? Do we claim integrity, but work diligently only when the boss is looking? Do we do only what is asked and see no reason to go an extra step because there is nothing in it for us personally? Do we claim generosity and compassion, but turn a blind eye to the plight of others within arm’s reach?

We can say what we want. We can lay claim to all these favorable attributes and toot our own horn, but without actions as proof our words mean nothing—perhaps, if that is the case, our lives means nothing as well. If, by our actions (not our words) others label us with these attributes then it may be we are on the right path.

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Do those who truly possess these attributes fall short of the text-book definition of them? Absolutely—we all have good days and bad days. Don’t let a missed opportunity lay waste to your intent. If you miss a chance to display one of these attributes, then try again. The only time we truly fail is when we stop trying.

If we took all of our good deeds and put them on the left side of a scale and put all our bad deeds on the right side of the scale, the scale would not only tip right, but would violently roll off the right side of the table and land on the family pet. Fortunate for us, the Almighty does not grade us by our deeds, but rather sees our heart and from that vantage point, rallied together with a heaping portion of His grace, sees our worth.

Honesty, integrity, generosity and compassion should be what we strive for. Will we always succeed? Most assuredly not, but we should not let a repeated failure defines us or dissuade us from trying as many times as it takes.

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Any Reason Will Do…

Got word that a friend of mine is riding from Florida to Moonshine, IL for the Annual Moonshine Lunch Run. After eating at Moonshine he is headed back to Florida. Most are probably unfamiliar with Moonshine, IL. It is literally in the middle of nowhere and if you are not sure where it is then it is very difficult to find. It has a whopping population of 2 registered residents and a single building. In this building you can get the best burger of your life.

But Moonshine and the fact that you can get the best burger is not what I’m going to talk about—beyond what has already been mentioned.

Why would anyone ride over a thousand miles to eat a burger? Are there no burgers in Florida? Well, that’s not the point and if you fail to see the point, then much of what follows will be beyond your comprehension. It is not the destination, it’s the ride.

Writers have exhausted the thesaurus trying to find the right combinations of words to adequately describe why long distance riders do what they do. To be a long distance rider you must:

Enjoy solitude – Even when you ride in a group you ride solo.

Tolerate pain – Riding long distances, regardless of how comfortable you think your seat is, is painful.

Turn a blind eye to inclement weather – Any long distance ride will ultimately come in contact with intense heat, cold weather rain, hail, dust storms and/or high winds. Often times your ride will include many (if not all) of these climatic conditions in a single day. Ride through it and come out the other side.

Look danger in the eye – Riding is inherently dangerous. The longer you ride the higher the potential for an unwanted encounter. Live with this fact and do not let it dissuade you. You can hide in fear if you like, but by doing so you rob yourself of accomplishment.

Be not disturbed by the wrong turn – A wrong turn is nothing more than an opportunity to see something you would have otherwise missed.

Expect the unexpected – Every ride, whether short or long, often has unexpected events that may alter your plan, your day or your life. If you are not comfortable with the unexpected then long distance riding is not for you.

Enjoy the little things – I have yet to be on a ride when something did not happen that made me smile. Often it is a little thing—the look of a small child from the back seat of a car, the unexpected encounter with an old friend, the sunrise or the sunset… any of these can brighten your day and enhance the ride. The little things make it all worth it.

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These and other attributes are required to be a long distance rider. If you are fearful of the unexpected, bow to intimidation, back away from discomfort then you will never understand the long distance rider. And we don’t expect you to. Words cannot define what we do and we have long since stopped trying to define what we do—we just do it.

To my fellow long distance riders. Enjoy the road, ride safe, and if you happen to pass through Moonshine on a Saturday morning, stop in and get the best burger of your life.

Hoka Hey!!!

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To Be Or Not To Be… …what?

If you have been reading my blog you probably know I wrote a book. “Solitary – Without the Confinement.” The book went public on the 30th of January. According to the publisher (one I am quickly losing faith in—but that’s another story) the book will eventually find its way to the shelf’s of major book outlet stores like Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million—as well as others. When I first approached the publisher about my book one of their questions was, “What type of book is it?” Meaning is it a documentary, adventure, fiction… I could not really answer their question.

They told me they would assign a “genre” when it got close to the publication date. Imagine my surprise when they categorized it as a “philosophy” book. If you know me personally then I am sure that makes you laugh as you know I am no philosopher. In fact I needed to let spell-check provide the correct spelling of philosopher.

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I rolled with it in the beginning as I really didn’t think it mattered all that much, but now I think it may be a problem when it comes to book sales. I mainly wrote the book for the hard-core rider as I think only the hard-core rider will fully understand the premise of the intent. Therein lies my dilemma. First, no hard-core rider is going to go to the philosophy section of a book store to look for a book. That is not to say a rider lacks the ability to understand philosophy—I think a rider may understand it more than most. The difference is a rider (especially a hard-core rider) does not learn philosophy from a book—they learn it through life events while traveling the road less travelled. A true philosopher (by that I mean a book taught self-proclaimed philosophy guru) will buy a book and learn from reading; or rather think they learn from reading. A self-proclaimed philosopher cannot conceive of building a philosophical base from the saddle of an iron horse.

I submit building a philosophical base from the saddle of an iron horse is one of the best way to learn life’s lessons.

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So, what does all that mean?   I have no idea because I am not a philosopher. In fact, I’m not really sure what a philosopher is. What do they do? Is it a full time job, do they get a paycheck for their efforts?

Some will buy the book and enjoy what is between the first and last page and others will not understand. I think, I don’t know for sure, but I think if you read it and do not understand at least a little then maybe there is something missing—something you need to try and find. Of course there is the opinion that I’m a lousy writer and the thing missing is writing skill.

Not sure why I wrote this blog. It really has no point to it. If I were a philosopher I could write pages and pages on the purpose of a point and the lack thereof. But I’m not, so I won’t. When a philosopher speaks all stop to listen. When I speak people look at me funny and start to giggle. It’s true I can speak to a bunch of dogs and get their undivided attention… but that might have something to do with the bacon I carry around in my pocket.

I was going to add some quotes from famous philosophers but had no idea what they were talking about. I was afraid someone might ask me what their quotes meant which, if I tried to explain, would result in the suspicion of my lack of intelligence being removed and replaced with an assurance.

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Major Milestone in Life

Tomorrow (February 27th) I turn 60 years old. I’m told that is a milestone. A milestone tells you where you are in relation to where you want to be or where you have come from. At the age of 20 (just prior to another milestone, which I’m told is age 21) I had already spent 3 years in the military and had no clue what I would do with my life. I never expected, based on how my life was at the time, to reach the next milestone—that being the age of 30.

Obviously I reach the 30 year mark and must say the span of the 30 years between then and now went way too fast. Given the facts I know now I would have to admit I have wasted much of my 60 years on things that were important at the time, but now mean little if anything. It’s a shame we are not born with wisdom.

A few days ago I was at a restaurant and learned our waitress had just turned 18 years old. I complemented her (and envied her) that her adventure was just beginning. Her response was, “yea, that’s what I’ve been told” and her tone led me to believe her attitude toward my comment was dubious at best. I thought of trying to enlighten her with the wisdom I had learned that life as a high school teenager is no comparison to what life will be and what your life will be is based on what you do and how you go about doing it—truly her adventure is just beginning. I decided to keep quiet as I recall as a teenager other super old people telling me the same thing and it did nothing but irritate me—how could they possibly know anything about it. I’m not so sure wisdom can be shared. You can try and share it and perhaps some take root, but I think it depends on the recipient. The vast majority of acquired wisdom comes from experience. What’s that old saying” “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment” or something like that.

Mistakes, regrets, errors and missed opportunities plague my past. All these infractions are what gives us wisdom—so long as we realize our mistake and learn from them so that the next time the opportunity presents itself you do not add to your list of regrets.

Tomorrow I turn 60. Not sure what that means because it is not like there is a significant change in who I am. However, if, on the day I turn 60 I am able to adequately apply some of the wisdom I have gained over the past 59 years then it will be a good day.

I’ve gained all this wisdom, but too tired to use it.

 

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