Sunday, April 27, 2008


As one paces him/her self through their daily routine things must always be kept in perspective. Getting wound up in the day to day issues of working can be overwhelming to many. 15 years ago I found myself at a milestone in life. I had an old work buddy who had been planning his retirement for years. He was not wealthy but his plans for fishing, camping and spending time with his grandchildren was all the wealth he needed. He spent less than two months in retirement and unexpectantly died of a heart attack. Another friend was gearing towards an early retirement, ended up with a terminal illness and left us after a 3 year struggle. These circumstances brought me to an awakening. The old saying "you can't take any of it with you" came to have new meaning.
I had been a workaholic for 16 years with the token two week winter vacation per year. At that stage in life my wife and I decided that life IS to short to spend it in the 50 week per year grind with the long term goal of retirement at 65. We are people of modest means and independant wealth just isn't in the cards regardless of the years of toil. At that point we completely changed our life style. We reconditioned an old motor home and became "vagrants" of a sort. I informed my employer at that time that I would be leaving them in the winter months and would return in the spring. I guess this was sort of an ultimatum, but that's the way it was. Now here we are 14 years (and four motorhomes) later and still have the freedom of at least two to three months off in the winter in Arizona. This entails more of a hand to mouth existance due to reduced winter income but the rewards greatly outweigh the financial impacts. Independance does not necessarily need to be of the financial sort. We have never regreted our decisions. Freedom from the stresses of employment responsibilities for those weeks each year have added sanity to our lives. I am extremely passionate about work and am my own worse enemy as I strive for perfection in every facet of my work. Driving ones self that hard on a yearly basis is the perfect recipe for an early demise.
We have been able to find a great balance with our seasonal routine and cannot imagine living any other way. Full time living in an RV creates numerous challenges but all can be overcome. The most important thing is to always keep the work-a-day world in perspective. It doesn't really mean anything in the bigger picture. Letting the pressures of work effect ones personal life is unacceptable behavior in my opinion. I find myself falling into that mindset occasionally and must always step back and laugh at my close mindedness when I am in that place. Every day of life is a gift and we must always remember that fact. Never take life or people for granted as they may not be there tomorrow. The relatively short amount of time we are each given on this earth shouldn't be wasted on stress or negativity.
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Monday, April 21, 2008

My Trooper

The shot above was taken near the summit of the Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier National Park. My lovely wife Darian braved the road over the summit on a Honda Trail 110. She has been the victim of many of my whims over the years. She started out riding a small Honda 125cc Trials bike in the mountains in the Cooke City area. I acquired a 450 cc Suzuki Automatic street bike and she took to that bike and loved riding on the street. I eventually ended up with an old BMW R75 and got rid of the smaller bikes. We rode two up for a couple winters but the bike was dangerously over loaded with camping gear for two.
This was Darians first solo riding road trip to Death Valley. She bravely rode the 450 miles on this little Honda 350-4. This little 4 banger hit 70 mph at about 8000 RPM. Vibration was the order of the day and she suffered for hours. We stopped at dark at Tecopa Hot Springs to set up camp and my poor little wife was in agony as her neck was stuck in one position. The night the above photo was taken Karen and her decided to have a peppermint schnapps marathon. They were both suffering the results the next morning. I think she did it to dull her senses in preparation of the 500 mile Honda ride facing her. We left for Yuma and were winded out at Searchlight NV. for the night. We awoke to 6" of snow the next morning. Stuck in Searchlight for two nights! A bit chilly riding out the next day.
I rescued this old R75/5 short wheel base from my nephew who was selling it to purchase a riding lawn mower. The paint was very bad and it sported a duct tape seat. Darian fell right into riding the old girl. We rode to the National MOA Rally in Missoula that year. On the way home the right muffler blew off its' last 6 inches without warning. I knew it had a little rust I had to hacksaw off the end of the left muffler so they would match. A week later the Wyoming boys had a little rally over at Devils Tower. We decided to go for it. I subjected Darian to her first taste of inclement weather riding. We ran out of day light and got into a summer night thunderstorm. To top that off we found ourselves on 15 miles of freshly roto milled interstate. Darian nearly had her knees planted into the toaster tank by the time we reached Gillette. She never even whimpered. (Only complained that I had once told her that we shouldn't ride at night or in the rain and should avoid deeply grooved pavement).
I finally took Greta apart and had her Cranberry paint job done. Soon after this photo was taken in San Diego we rode from Montana down to Paonia Colorado to the Top of the Rockies Rally. Now my philosophy is a little warped when it comes to bad weather riding. I led Darian into a hail storm , but rather than pull over, (I could see the edge of the storm a few miles away) I sped up to get through the storm. She was not happy and didn't speak to me for quite a while. We've ridden through Yellowstone Park a few times, over the Big Horn Mountains and all over Montana and Wyoming. She has been subjected to wind, snow, rain, hail, freezing cold, blistering heat, sleeping on rocks, sleeping in mud, dust and any thing that mother nature (or I) could throw at her. She is truly a trooper and (with a little coaxing) has always been game for our next riding adventure. The side car project should make her life (and mine) a lot easier.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Building Character.

This guy would appear to be completely out of his mind. Wandering out on a cornice atop a sheer 1000 foot drop could be hazardous to your health. Actually I think we probably were out of our minds sometimes. We gave up the warm confines of our homes in winter and trudged through snow, ice and cold to camp in frozen tents up in the Beartooth Mountains. Actually the above photo wasn't as bad as it looks, we looked over the situation closely and Caseys' left foot is on solid ground. I climbed over to the adjacent peak to photo his "insane " act. It was a very long way down though.
Cooke City was a favorite destination of ours in those years. We would spend a 10 hour day climbing/snowshoeing to a summit, camp the night and ski back down the following day in less than an hour. 10 hours of exhausting climbing for a 1 hour free fall down the mountain. It was definitely character building stuff. I recall being so exhausted that I swore I would never put myself through this again, only to go back out in a couple of weeks and repeat the scenario. This photo shows myself, Terry, and Casey. Terry was a tough guy. He had numerous health issues. Bad feet, bad ankles, bad back, etc. He would be in absolute misery at times but would always fight through it and return for more. I always respected him despite his complaining.
Another Beartooth trip took Casey and I to the summit on the Beartooth Highway. We had planned a 5 day snow shoe / ski trip over the passes to Cooke City in February. Unfortunately we picked the coldest week of the winter. Our first night at the summit we bottomed out at over -20 degrees, and that was in our tent. The outside temperature was lower and was graced with 30-40 mile per hour winds. We packed and headed over the east summit only to be greeted by complete white out conditions with the high winds and snow. Luckily our common sense out weighed our egos and we returned down the mountain to Red Lodge. I never really understood hypothermia until that day. Character building stuff.
This last shot was heading to the summit of the Silver Run Plateau. Wonderful day, good weather and fantastic scenery. We witnessed the trails of huge Elk herds which crossed the area in the night. We never saw them but early in the morning we came across their tracks. Those winter expeditions always stick in my mind as great times in my life. Pushing ones self to extreme limits highlights existence. Being in such remote places with only your own wits and strength really brings your mind to a focus point. Life becomes quite black and white. The hostile mountains are an unforgiving place which offer no second chances if a wrong step is made. Whenever I look out and see the Beartooth Mountains I see places I have been from fifty miles distant. About as close to heaven as one can get. I watch the Everest climbers and watch in awe at their character building experience. My experiences pale in comparison.
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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Toaster /5's

These are our R75/5 BMW's. The black one is a late model 1973 which utilizes a longer frame than the early 73's. BMW achieved this by adding to the sub frame. This allows a little more clearance for your shins at the carbs and improves the handling characteristics. I found this bike in a pawn shop in Kalispell MT. years back. It had only 19k miles and had been in proper storage. It had a Califia fairing and period Wixom saddle bags. I used the fairing for a few years but had to remove it to access the wiring in the headlight bucket. Once removed I decided to leave it off. I really liked the protection and storage space it afforded but decided that the limited access to the headlight wiring could be disastrous on the road. The Wixom Saddle Bags were good looking but their storage capacity was limited. I sold them on a 71 R75. I wish I would have held on to them now. The period solo saddles are "Tuetonic 1000 miles saddles" made in Chula Vista CA. You don't see too many of those.
This bike has been ridden around 40000 miles since I purchased in the mid 90's. Has been completely bullet proof so far and has never failed me. We used to ride two up but the capacity for two up touring and camping gear grossly over loaded the bike. I was eating up rear tires in under 4000 miles. We decided to find another /5 toaster and by chance my nephew had one for sale with only 29000 miles.
This was my nephews bike. It was a Glacier Blue model. It is an early model 1973 /5 short wheel base. The original paint was totally gone, stained and faded. The seat was a duct tape recover model. I dis assembled the bike and went with a cranberry color. (Just had to thumb my nose at the purists) My wife has put thousands of miles on this bike and it has also been bullet proof. The final drive was worn and I installed an available higher geared 34:11 drive. This allows lower rpm at highway speed but was a detriment at 14000 feet in the Colorado Rockies. The thin air combined with the tall gears caused us problems on steep grades. This bike is not ridden much any more by my wife and sits most of the year. We get it out and exercise it on a regular basis though. The push rod tube seals on both bikes are weathered and seep a little oil when the bikes are cold. After warm up they seem to "heal" up from swelling and seepage is minor. They will require attention. (I have been telling myself that for ten years, but the seepage is so minor...a true procrastinator.)
I plan on swapping R90/6 heads and cylinders soon on the black bike which I hope will help power issues while pulling the side car rig. I have the R90 carbs but they are fouled with sour gas and have some circuit blockage. I haven't tried to soak them out yet. I ran an ad on the Internet BMW site with the hope of swapping the R75 carbs for functional R90 carbs. Have been considering selling the SWB bike but can't bring myself to do it since it has been in the family for so many years. The Toaster bikes were not well received when the hit the model line up. They are now more sought after and a toaster tank with good chrome panels will bring hundreds of dollars on Ebay. A lot of the side battery cover panels fell off on the road due to the rubber band mounting system. They are also bringing big bucks on Ebay. I installed a big 6.2 gallon tank on the black bike to add range for the side car but will probably keep the original toaster tank as a spare. I have never done anything other than normal maintenance on both bikes. They are a true testiment to German Engineering.
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Winter At Agua Caliente CA.

Wow, a nice line up of old Beemers. They range from the early to mid 70's. It is a lot of fun to look at the old bikes as each one has its' own personality. All were ridden to the rally. No trailer queens here. There were 4 "Toaster " models, two of which were ours. Nice climate for New Years eve. Over the 12 years we have attended this gathering we have had rain twice. Just small showers that rolled through. We had a couple of real windy days. This area is like an island in the storm most years. The mountains around the site seem to protect the area from most storms passing through.
Pretty rough schedule to keep up with also. Scott brought out a three wheeler bicycle this year. It functioned more as a chair than a mode of transportation. Bill S. is pictured with his ever present flask of some unknown combustible liquid. Sarah sits next to
Greta, Darians' bike. Greta has made the trip many times. We have been forced to bring other modes of transportation a few times due to circumstances beyond our control.
Steve is checking out the hammock at my brother in laws camp site this year. The hammock was a popular destination. The crew fed us all weekend (as they do each year) with a variety of cuisines. Several kegs of local S.C. micro brews were present to wash down any dust.
Darian returning from a trip to the hot springs pool. The site features a natural hot springs pool. The first years the pool was covered by an old dilapidated Quonset hut in disrepair. A few years ago they built a new building around the pool. We look forward to riding over this year in the side car rig.
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Thursday, April 10, 2008


I recently over heard one of my co workers making racist remarks. I really had to bite my tongue to keep from opening my mouth. We are all guilty of bigotry to a certain extent. Sometimes it is as simple as an expression we grew up hearing. We don't really connect the phrase with the actual meaning of the words. As long as man has walked the earth we have had conflict with one another, whether it be on religious grounds, racial grounds or territorial grounds. Man has been mans worst enemy. If every person would just treat his neighbor as he wished to be treated this cycle would abruptly end. So simple, yet such an impossible goal.......
I have resigned myself to a theory of my own making. Maybe it is an egotistical theory or maybe it is selfish theory, I don't know....
From a spiritual standpoint I look at our short lives as one would look at a river. The river is very long and really has no beginning or end. There are those among us who are racists , bigots and have hateful souls. We must look upon those individuals with pity, not anger. Hate only breeds more hate. One must forgive and stay above that plane of existence. I feel that from the spiritual standpoint some souls are further down that spiritual river than others. The ones upstream really do not comprehend the bigger picture. It is not there fault, they know no better. Maybe this whole idea comes from a theory of reincarnation, as some souls would be older and wiser than others. Again , I do not know. Am I an egotist? Do I think I am better than others? I don't think so, I just feel fortunate to fall back on my theory when I am faced with those with less insight and understanding. There is no real "right" religion. All the religions of the world are just fragments of a bigger picture. It is a picture much bigger than most can comprehend.
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Friday, April 4, 2008

466th Bomb Group

This photo shows crew #555 of the 8th Army Air Force, 466th Bomb Group, 785th Squadron. My Father, Navigator, 2nd LT. J. William Smith is in the upper right. The officer to his right is Co-Pilot Wesley Vawter. These two are the last survivors of the crew. The Pilot, Paul Bridgeman (standing left) lost his life a few years after the war in a fire on a boat. This crew flew 35 bombing missions over Germany. Their first and last missions were over Berlin. They flew over to England from the East U.S. coast going over. Dad was the "old man" of the crew at 28 years old. At the end of each mission they were individually debriefed about the mission. Prior to the debriefing the crew was each given a shot of brandy. As the "old man" Dad was sometimes given an extra shot by some of the younger crew members. The gunners were younger at 18 years old. Even though the gunners were not officers, Dad said they all treated each other as equals as they were all in the same "boat".
The crews flew different aircraft during their missions. They basically took available aircraft while some were being repaired. Their primary planes were; DIXIE! , DAMIFINO, TIMES A WASTIN. There was another plane they flew but that name faded over the years. This crew was very fortunate and they all survived all 35 bombing missions without serious injury. Dad told of an instance where a flak (anti-aircraft shell) burst hit close and a piece of shrapnel came through the plane and took the oxygen mask off the face of the crewman sitting next to him. Miraculously he was not injured when the mask was scythed off. On another mission a 1000 lb. bomb was stuck in the bomb rack. The plane flew with the bomb bay doors open for a while but at 20000 feet at over 200mph the cold (-50)/wind was unbearable. They dearmed the bomb and closed the bay doors. Eventually the bomb came loose, crashing through the bay doors and fell into a field in France. Dad watched the bomb fall and hit a farmers field, leaving a huge crater even though the dis-armed bomb didn't go off. Dad said he often thought of that farmer plowing around that big crater as he plowed his own fields after the war. Dad witnessed attacks late in the war of the German ME262 Jet Fighters. He said they were lucky that those planes weren't around in large numbers as they were so fast that the gunners only saw a blurr when they came through the bomber formation. One of his saddest memories is witnessing the aircraft next to him take a direct hit in the bomb bay from a flak round. His best Air Corps friends were aboard. He saw the plane just come apart and a couple parachutes open which were consumed by the flames of the burning high octane fuel. That must have been a nerve shattering sight. That was on October 12th, 1944. The plane was named "OFF LIMITS AGAIN". The mission target was Osnabrook Germany. Pilot Bridgeman was quite a pilot. When all targets were clouded over they were to return to the English Channel and ditch their bomb loads. Pilot Paul Bridgeman would not waste the bombs and on more than one occasion hauled them back to the Attlebridge airfield and landed with them so they could be re used.
This is our Uncle Claude Smith with my older brother Gary. Uncle Claude was an Artillery Sargent. At one point he had a leave to the London area and looked up his little brother,(Dad) Bill. Dad and his crew had been on training missions near Scotland and were learning to use new instruments which would allow them to land in foggy conditions. When fog closed in they were normally grounded. These new instruments were by no means perfected and their use was at a high risk. Well Uncle Claude wanted to go flying with the crew so they snuck him on board on a training mission. Upon returning to their airfield they encountered heavy fog and had to use the new navigation instruments for the first time under real conditions. Dad and the crew were petrified to land under these conditions. Of course they reverted to there training and took the plane in, luckily without a hitch. Dad never told his brother how close they were to crashing. Claude just rode along thinking this was just business as usual. Little did he know that they had cheated death. At one point the crew hauled gasoline into France for Patton's army. These flights were un nerving due to the fumes in the aircraft. They filled every type of container available with gas; cans ,aircraft drop tanks, anything that would hold fuel. Of course their landing weights were heavy. They witnessed many planes crash on take off and just be obliterated. These WW2 veterans are all hero's in my book. There were thousands of other heros which never came home and never got to grow up....... the cost of freedom that so many take for granted.
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Gila Mtns.

Gila Mtns.