Ralph Couey

Ralph Couey
Photo by Darryl Cannon, Powerhead Productions

About Me

My photo

Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Ride Versus the Destination*

*Pittsburgh, PA Post-Gazette
October 14, 2010

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
Years ago, I was bitten by the motorcycle bug and over time, it has grown into a passion. My wife has ridden her own bike in the past, but her view is far more practical. It’s transportation, nothing more. She tolerates my fervent single-mindedness about the bike and the ride, instinctively understanding how fundamental it is to my enjoyment of life.

I’m all about the journey. When I go on a joyride, it’s almost never with a specific destination in mind. She, on the other hand, is driven by destinations. If we go for a ride, we must stop someplace and do something, otherwise, why go?. Lately, I’ve tried to anticipate that requirement, but rarely successfully.

One Saturday, a glorious early fall afternoon, we rolled out of Somerset bound for my favorite destination, “Who-Knows-Whereburgh.” I went south, heading in a vague way towards Western Maryland. As the tree-lined road flashed past, the idea crystallized in my brain to go to Deep Creek Lake.

My wife was quiescent during these ruminations, occupied with her romance novel. Yes. She reads while we ride, which is better than falling asleep, which she used to do with disturbing regularity. When I felt the hard thump of her helmet between my shoulder blades, I put one hand on the bike, the other on her.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Glory Days*

*Somerset Daily American

September 18, 2010

Copyright © 2010 words and image by Ralph Couey

September has arrived, and finally the heat, humidity, and haze has left the Laurel Highlands.  Over the weekend, Canada sent us our first mass of cool, dry air, presaging the best time of the year for riding in these mountains.

My favorite time of the year is that stretch of weeks from late September through early November.  Fall colors began to peek out here and there around the 4th week of September.  By mid-October, the season is usually in its full technicolor glory, the magnificent reds and golds against a sky of pure cobalt blue.

The Laurel Highlands is part of the Allegheny Range of the Appalachian Mountains.  Like most of the Appalachians, they are relatively low in elevation, less than 3,000 feet.  Unlike a lot of mountainous areas, the Laurels are covered in a rich population of leafy deciduous trees, rather than evergreen coniferous. Because of that, the hillsides at their peak can glow like the sun itself. 

There are dozens of roads that follow the hilly terrain, most gently curved, although you can find a few squigglies on the map.  There's no shortage of beautiful rides.  I've lived here six years, and I'm still not done.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Orange Barrel Ballet

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

Summer is the high season for motorcycling. The weather is warm and across the country the rider community takes to the roads for trips from a short jaunt to the nearest lake to epic cross-continental journeys.

But summer is also the time of year when orange barrels spring up, marking construction zones as workers try to keep up with our crumbling infrastructure.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike from Pittsburgh east has been a gauntlet of temporary asphalt and lane shifts for the better part of two years. In the 71 miles between Somerset and the Butler Valley exit, less than half can be traveled faster than 55 mph.

This is to be expected.

Our Interstate Highway system, nearing 60 years old, was underbuilt to begin with (half the thickness of Germany's fundamentally safer Autobahn), and has been deteriorating since. These roads are bearing weights that were never envisioned by the engineers who designed them. The tons of sand, salt, cinders, and pre-treatment during the winter also add to the decay. These factors have accelerated deterioration to the point where frustrated planners now say the only way to save the roads is to tear them down to dirt and rebuild.