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, July 8, 2013

Favorite Rides: Fort Valley Loop

Copyright © 2013 by Ralph Couey
Maps from Microsoft Streets and Trips,
and Google Maps
 
 
160 miles
3 hours
US29, US211, US11, Edinburg Gap Rd., Ft. Valley Rd., VA55, VA626.
 
This enjoyable jaunt takes in some beautiful Virginia countryside with a couple of history lessons thrown in.
 
This run starts in the parking lot of the Manassas National Battlefield Park visitors center.  This large park is the site of two major engagements during the Civil War.  In July 1861, public pressure was strong for a march to Richmond, the Confederate capital, to quickly end the war.  Union Commander Irvin McDowell pleaded for more time to train his very green troops and officers, but the political pressure overcame his objections and he was forced into battle. 
 
It was expected, but the public at least, to be an easy victory.  People from Washington came out with baskets to picnic on the battlefield and watch the fight.  But it turned into a bloody rout.  McDowell's orders were poorly executed by his untrained officers and after a heroic stand by an unknown VMI Colonel named Thomas Jackson, hereafter known as "Stonewall," the Union troops were routed.  Throwing aside their weapons the fled for Washington, along with the terrified civilians.
 
A little over a year later, in August 1862, Robert E. Lee was on the offensive.  He sent Jackson's Corps on a wide flanking march to capture the Union supply depot at Manassas Junction.  After two inconclusive engagements, Jackson dug in on a ridge.  Convinced he had Stonewall trapped, Union Commander John Pope committed most of his troops on a direct assault against Jackson.  Unknown to Pope, however, another corps of Southern troops under James Longstreet broke through at Thoroughfare Gap, marched to the battlefield and hit Pope's forces in a massive flanking attack.  Pope's army was crushed, the remnants sent into retreat.  This time, the Union troops didn't flee all the way to Washington, but collected themselves at Centreville.  It was a disastrous defeat just the same.
 
Leaving the visitor's center, turn left on Sudley Road and go up to the US29 intersection, by the Stone House.  Turn left and head west.  After about 18 miles, you'll have to navigate some heavy traffic through Warrenton.  Look for the turnoff to US 211 and take it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Favorite Rides: Southwest Sojourn


 
Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey
 
Alamogordo, New Mexico to Tombstone, Arizona
330 miles, about 6 hours
US70, I-10, NM80, AZ80
 
There's something special about the Southwest.  It's hard for people from the more forested regions of the United States to see the inherent beauty within the harsh and unforgiving terrain of the desert.
 
This ride starts in the city of Alamogordo, New Mexico, nestled at the foot of the Sacramento Mountains.  To the west lies the Tularosa Basin which humans inhabited some 11,000 years ago. The city was established in 1898 when the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad extended their line into the area.  The name, Alamogordo, which means "large cottonwood," was inspired by the presence of a grove of the hardy trees.  From the 1940s on, Holloman Air Force Base was the site of aerospace work, including rocket sleds and high-altitude balloon flights.  The two chimpanzees who flew in space, Ham and Enos, were trained here.  That tradition carries on with the New Mexico Museum of Space History.
 
Heading west on US70, you cross the basin and the Rio Grand Rift.  To the north, the forbidding desert called Jornada del Muerto, Journey of the Dead, points your attention to the Trinity site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated.
 

Favorite Rides: The Winelander Run

Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey
 
For six great years, I hosted a two day motorcycle ride which I called "The Winelander Run."  The route started in Kingdom City, MO and ran through Fulton, Columbia, Rocheport, Jefferson City, Hermann, and ending up in Hannibal on Sunday. It was a great run, and a great weekend with fun had by all who attended.  This was the Ride Brief I provided to the riders before we started.
 
Winelander Run
Welcome to the Annual Winelander Run!  I am very happy to have you along today and hope your ride will be enjoyable.  First, a few rules for safety and fun enhancement:
 
1.  Fill your tank before the ride starts and at all designated fuel stops.
2. When possible, use the approved staggered method of riding.  Don’t ride directly behind the bike in front of you.  On twisty roads, however, stretch the spacing out and use as much as the road as you need.   
3.  No passing. That is, maintain your position in the group through out the ride.
4.  After the ride has started, please don’t leave the group unless you suffer a breakdown or a medical problem.
5. Each person on the ride is responsible for the rider behind him when making turns.  If you have lost sight of the rider in front of you, continue straight ahead, assuming that he will wait for you at the next turn or change in route number.
6.  While in the curves, ride at a pace that is comfortable for you. When you come out of a curve, use the straightaway to catch up.
7. Do not tailgate.  However, in congested areas, keep the formation tightened up and staggered as much as you safely can as you approach traffic signals so that the group moves through the light as a unit.
 
Now a few notes about the route.
 
1.  This is “critter country” that we’re riding through.  We shouldn’t see many deer during the day, but there are plenty of dogs, cats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, etc., so be alert.  Also, the great Missouri turtle migration starts about this time, so watch for little helmets with legs and avoid them.
2.  There are places where you will see me slow down a bit.  Some are curves where there is always a spray of gravel around.  There are other places where I have often seen deer cross in the past, so if you see me slow down and begin to scan the roadsides, there’s a good reason.
3.  If you need to stop for gas or to pump bilges (an old Navy term) give three long beeps on your horn and I’ll pull over at the next available spot.  We will take breaks about every 60 minutes or so.  The travel distance to Hermann on this route should be about 190 miles.   I have scheduled the fuel stops within a mileage range that should not present a problem.  
 
 Here’s the route for Saturday (220 miles, 5 hours):
 
 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Favorite Rides: Virginia Byways

Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey

Virginia Byways
US50, Snickersville Turnpike,
VA7, Blue Ridge Mtn. Rd., US17,
VA55, Middleburg. 
70 miles

Virginia encases a lot of history, from the first settlements, The Revolution, War of 1812, Civil War, and on into the modern era.  While many sites are well-known and well-marked, others require sojourns off the main routes onto those quaint country lanes that existed, some as Indian trails, for hundreds of years.
 
West of the busy ‘burbs of Fairfax and Chantilly is an enjoyable loop that has become one of my favorites, and only partly because it’s so close to home. 



 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Heading west on US 50, the transition from city to country overtakes you.  Before you realize it, the forest of newly-built homes and townhouses recedes in the rear view to be replaced by rolling hills, bucolic countryside, and the vast picturesque horse farms that have earned this part of Virginia the descriptor “Hunt Country.”  The first checkpoint is the town of Aldie.  
 

Favorite Rides: Der Weinstrasse

Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey

The Weinstrasse
Jefferson City, MO – St. Charles, MO
140 miles, mainly US 50, Routes 100 and 94



 










When the words “Missouri Wine Country” are spoken, most people react with a blank stare, and if they’re from Napa, California, outright derision.  But as John Adams once remarked, “Facts are stubborn things.”  And the facts are these.  
 
German settlers arrived in the area around 1801.  The soil was rich, but the abundant hills in the area made agriculture difficult, but proved to ideal for viticulture.  The first commercial grapes were grown prior to 1850.  Napa got its start about 10 years later.  Up till Prohibition, Missouri was actually the second largest wine producer in the United States.  When the 21st Amendment was ratified, the vintner industry throughout the U.S. was pretty much destroyed.  It wasn’t until the 1960s that the industry began to rebuild itself.
 
The Federal Government, recognizing the rebirth and vibrancy of American vintners, in 1983 began to establish American Viticultural Areas.  The first one was in Missouri, not California.
 
Start this trek in Missouri’s capital city, Jefferson City, the only American capitol city not on an interstate highway.  Head east on US 50 for just under 15 miles to the town of Loose Creek.  There you take a left on County Route A. 



Monday, June 17, 2013

Favorite Rides: Arizona Mountains and Canyons

Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey
 
Arizona Mountains and Canyons
Route 89/89A
Start: Congress, AZ
End: Flagstaff, AZ
Miles: 130


 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
People who think of Arizona as being the exclusive home to sandy desert are woefully uninformed.  This route, first ridden by me on a 5000-mile sojourn through the Southwest, starts in the desert northwest of Phoenix.  The first challenge is a collection of twisties known locally as the Yarnell Hill.  Unfortunately, riders aren’t the only ones who know about this.  Law enforcement, undoubtedly drawn by the high number of motorcycle accidents, patrol this stretch heavily.  It’s still twisty enough, however, to have fun at the legal limit.  The road flattens and straightens until just past Wilhoit.  You begin to ascend, bending and twisting as you go.  Things get interesting as you cross Copper Creek.  The turns get tighter as you get into the mountains.  Then things ease off as you coast into Prescott (pronounced “Prescutt”).  Continuing north, you take Route 89A as it splits off towards the east.  After a few miles of flat desert, you begin to ascend again towards Jerome.  The road, following the mountains, begins to twist and coil again.  This gets a bit hairy, since there are places where guardrails should be, but aren’t. Shoulders are narrow, if they exist at all, and prone to patches of gravel and chunks of rock.