Ralph Couey

Ralph Couey
Photo by Darryl Cannon, Powerhead Productions

About Me

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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, November 15, 2010

Heartbreakdown

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

Saturday morning dawns spectacularly and the road beckons.   Full of anticipation, I gear up and head for the garage.  Starting the bike, however, I’m startled by a sound that shouldn’t be there.  

Worried, I head to the bike shop, where the service manager identifies the sound as the stator. But after I tell him that the sound just started that day, he assures me that I should be okay for the weekend.

Relieved, I hit the road.  My instincts, though, tell me that it’s probably prudent to stay fairly close to home.  I’ve learned to listen to those voices.

I head west on PA31, turning south at Trent Road, then west on County Line Road.  I weave along through the woods, spotting Alpine-themed cabins along the road. This is one of my favorite local rides, a tunnel through dense and picturesque woodlands.   I love forests, and this is a road that feeds my soul.

I pull into the mini-mart at the Champion crossroads to peruse the map.  While so engaged, I become aware the engine, normally purring at idle, is laboring and beginning to chug. Then with a sudden gasping finality, it stops.

Stealing a Day from Winter*

*Somerset, PA Daily American
November 20, 2010

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey
A person’s experience with a motorcycle is less about ownership than about relationship. When you ride, something happens inside and no matter how hard you resist, the darn thing just gets under your skin.

Western Pennsylvania was recently blessed with a string of incredibly beautiful days for mid-November. Daytime highs in the 50s and 60s and abundant sunshine gifted local motorcyclists with one last riding splurge.

Last Thursday was a holiday, and after I did a few chores around the house, I geared up, mounted up, and headed out for a long ride.

I decided to head up PA56 northeast out of Johnstown. The day was perfect, with just a little bite to the wind. With the deciduous trees now mostly bare-branched, details of the terrain that had been hidden behind a blanket of leaves now were revealed. Isolated houses were visible within the trees.  Up to now, the only clue to their existence was the end of the gravel driveways that snaked out of the woods.

The roads were clear, although their twisty nature and the abundant traffic kept my speed down. This is to be expected. You can’t make time on these PA roads.  I once took a ride to Erie.  The round-trip took over 12 hours to accomplish.

On this day, I rode up north, meandering through small and medium-sized towns.  As I pass, I see people busily preparing their homesteads for the winter.  The maples having finally dropped their foliage, the last of the leaves are being raked and bagged.  People are working quickly, not the languid pace of summer, and there seems to be a bit of urgency afoot.  A couple of men are splitting logs and carefully stacking them in long symmetrical rows.  On the farms, the fields are bare, the harvest gathered.  Here and there, a tractor turns the remaining stalks into the soil.  The few squirrels I see are frantically dashing about, their cheeks stuffed with acorns. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Airbags and Bikes

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

Motorcycling is a dangerous pursuit.  Of this, nobody’s in disagreement.  Riders can try to protect themselves, but in that moment when a driver fails to yield and pulls in front of you, or a deer dashes out of the woods, there’s very little that riders can do.

In the last 15 years or so, a number of inventors and manufacturers have been developing wearable airbags.

The airbag was a new wrinkle when introduced into automobiles in 1973.  GM was the first to the marketplace with an airbag-equipped Olds Toronado.  Sensor-driven airbags had been part of the patent world since the 1950s, but until then nobody could come up with a system that inflated the bags fast enough.  Since then, perhaps tens of thousands of motorists owe their lives to that pillow erupting from their steering wheel.

While car airbags are proven technology, such devices for bikes have lagged behind.  This is primarily because of the differing dynamics between what happens inside a car/truck and what happens on the back of a motorcycle in a front-end collision.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Memories and the End of the Season


Copyright © 2011 words and image by Ralph Couey

The air has turned cold. Outside, the winds have a bite to them and even when standing in the sunshine, its warmth is barely felt. In the mornings, frost lies sparkling on the fallen leaves. It is a time of transition, when the warmth of summer and the comfortable cool of fall are behind us. Ahead lie long months of cold and snow.

For motorcyclists, it is time to place our bikes in hibernation.

For me, it’s also a time to look back on the riding season, replaying the memorable rides and savoring them one last time.

The first step is to give the bike a good cleaning. This removes any gunk I missed during the summer. It also makes it easier to note any leaks that may develop over the winter. It’s too cold to use water, so I’m left with a can of spray cleaner, a Q-tip, and a pile of old t-shirts.

Its always with great anticipation that I await the end of snow (usually mid-May here in the mountains). The winter of 2009-10 was particularly difficult. Here in Somerset, we logged fourteen-and-a-half feet of snow for the season. So when the last of the lake-effect streamers died and the temperatures rebounded, I joyfully trekked to Cernic’s where my bike spent a warm and dry, if lonely, winter. The sun was shining gloriously, the sky a soft blue. A few good days of rain had washed away the salt and sand. Brian, the Service Manager, had everything ready. The spring maintenance was done, and gleaming and lovely beyond words, it beckoned impatiently.