Sunday, June 25, 2006

Doing the Snoopy Dance!

So, we went back to Killarney today to see the bikes again and check out the closing ceremony. Most of the attendees had already gone, but out of 15,000 bikes, there was still a couple thousand around to look at. There was definitely a subdued atmosphere, but the weather was great and everyone was having a great time. H.O.G. Village was open for last minute sales in the seller's area, people were still eating and drinking from the on-site pub tent and generally just milling about.

Why am I doing the Snoopy Dance? Well, if you read my post from yesterday, you'll see how disappointed I was not to have found a biker I dubbed The Preacher. Well, after wandering around for a couple hours this morning, we were just starting to walk to the exit when what did I spot? The Preacher's bike. When Peter turned around I was gonzo!

It's funny how first impressions are the ones you keep with you, even when continued evidence tries its hardest to refute your beliefs. Like how when I saw this particular bike with it's cross-shaped sissy bar pad and cathedral window styled decoration on the handlebars. The bike has a very Gothic feel to it...more so "Goth" in a more modern Goth as in a much "darker" meaning. The following pictures will show you what I mean.

The artwork on this bike was incredibly well done. The front fender has a night scene, as are all the scenes on the bike. This one is the full moon looking over a Gothic castle on a clifftop, the gate of which is in the foreground of the image. A lot of detail for a narrow "canvas."

The tank had several images on it. On the left side was a wolf and full moon overlooking a couple grave markers, one marked with the owners name, Kruger, and the other with a Bible chapter and verse. Yeah, I looked it up.

Revelations Chapter 6 Verse 8 -- "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."

See what I mean by a darker meaning?

The other side is a reclining lady vampire in a very sexy outfit. The grave marker beside her says Job Chapter 18 Verse 5 -- "Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine." Looked up this one too. The internet is a wonderful thing!

The top of the tank was no less impressive. If anything, it was the most impressive of the collection of artwork on the bike. Here, he's painted Death on a chariot racing through a fiery inferno.

Other interesting details included the cross stitched into the saddle (seat), the custom handlebars with the cathedral window-style detail and the padded cross shaped sissy bar pad, as well as a smaller artwork detail on the back fender, skull tail light and a half skull air intake cover.

As you can see, this was a pretty unique bike. There were thousands of unique bikes, of course, but there's always one that really makes an impression...the kind of impression where when you see it you stop and go, "Wow!" and spend more than the usual time checking it out.

In case anyone is wondering, this bike got it's start in the world as a Heritage Softail.

I wish the owner of the bike would have stuck around for some pictures, but I did find a picture of him in the several dozen I'd taken at the start of the parade yesterday so you can see what he looks like. This morning he wandered off with his lady just as we stepped up to the bike. I think she was less tolerant of the attention his bike was getting. Her little yellow un-costomized Sportster is the one in the background. Nice bike, for sure, but nothing like the Preacher's. Yeah, I'll still call him the Preacher...even though I'm certain his name is Kruger, by the numerous notes on the artwork and on the license plate.

Yesterday I mentioned the Kawasaki that thinks it's an Indian. Here's a picture. The one I took yesterday didn't really do the bike justice. This is a lovely bike, but it ain't no Indian! And certainly no Harley.

There were some other very handsome bikes on show. One of them was actually parked at a seller's tent. It's really hard to describe this bike other than to say it's a Heritage Softail like the Preacher's bike, but is in structurally original condition. It's the artwork that makes this bike unique. You've heard the saying, "A picture tells a thousand words"? Well, here are a couple thousand words to mull over.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our weekend. It was fun. Who am I kidding? It was awesome!! Still thinking about trading the Mini in for a Harley!! If I do, I'll have to find that sign seller guy from H.O.G. Village to buy the sign that read, "I'm the person your mother warned you about." =-)

~ Kemberlee
PS...As always, click on the pictures to enlarge the view.
PPS...for those of you asking to see more you go!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

I think my world just got better... least for the day. You see, I have a special place in my heart for a motorcycle. Not just any motorcycle, but a Harley Davidson motorcycle. And the Harley isn't just a motorcycle. It's a BIKE.

This is my rambling part, so bear with me...

Now, I wouldn't necessarily call myself a biker. Perhaps, more of a woman with biker tendencies. I've always loved the look for the Harley, the styling, the rumble when you're driving down the road...the Culture.

It's the Culture, and I capitalize it because it's like a religion to many enthusiasts, that seems to amaze me the most. Doesn't matter if you're a dyed in the wool, true-hearted biker to your core or just a weekend warrior; if you own a Harley you're an automatic member of a special culture that no one else is allowed matter how Kawasaki, Honda and the others try to manufacture bikes that look, smell, sound and feel like a Harley! While a H.O.G. membership is ideal for all kinds of Harley perks, it's not required to be part of the Culture.

Certainly, there are those who don't own Harley's who are in the Culture. Your average Biker Betty, the Harley owner's better half, shall we say, doesn't own a Harley. BUT, she probably owns the butt that's in the saddle in front of her. And she's probably a Lady of Harley if she's on an associate membership. Even kids get Harley perks...and all the cool leather gear!

Harley, even for those who don't own a bike or are part of the Culture, can still change the average persons life. Just read God on a Harley by Joan Brady and you'll know what I mean. This was a small "spiritual fable" published back in the mid-90s that changed my life...well, was included in many things that changed my life at the time. This was a story of a mysterious biker HUNK who helped a woman see what the important things in life really were.

It's because of this Culture that no matter where you go in the world, if you meet up with a biker community, you're home. Plain and simple. All Harley owners and enthusiasts are family. Harley isn't just an iconic symbol. Harley is a way of life, no matter how often your butt is in the saddle.

So this all brings me to the subject at hand and why I love Harley's and why my world just got better, at least for today. Keep in mind, the Culture.

It was the 15th Annual H.O.G. European Rally this weekend and it was staged in the beautiful Southwest of Ireland -- Killarney, County Kerry. Some 15,000 bikes from all over the world were expected to attend. And we went! While the opening ceremony was Thursday evening and the closing will be tomorrow at noon, it was really a full two day event, today -- Saturday, being the Big Day.

H.O.G. Village opened at 8am, but as I've been to Harley rallies before, I just KNEW there wouldn't be many people about that early (not after the "night before"), so we headed in and arrived around 10:30am...30 minutes before the big bike parade through Killarney town. We didn't go into town. We would have been mad as Hatters to do that. We stayed in H.O.G. Village in probably the best spot the center of three driveways onto the main exit for the main road for town. We had bikes leaving the village in front of us, bikes coming out of the side car park to the right of us and more bikes coming out of the rear car park to the left of us. Parade staff let each exit point out in turn. Good thing or would be nursing whiplash by now! OK, more than we already are.

It took about 30 minutes to get all the bikes out. Once they were gone, we headed back into H.O.G. Village to see what was what...lots of sellers stalls, food vendors, an indoor stationary show of 2006 bikes, sponsor tents, etc etc.

Let me back up and say we took our two Border Collies with us, Daisie (l) and Poppy (r). It was because of them that a good number of people came up to us to pet the girlz and tell us they'd left their dogs behind at home, how they missed them, etc. The people just wanted to pet the girlz because they missed their own dogs so much. It was a great way to meet some of these people and hear their travel stories.

When I said being involved with Harley is family, it's really true. We met people from all over the world, most of who DROVE their bikes to Ireland. We met people from Lithuania, Poland, German, England, America, Canada, Australia, France, Spain...even one guy who came in with a few pals from....Saudi Arabia! The story of all the ferries he had to take and the cross country trek was just amazing.

No one sees nationalities, politics, religions, skin color or anything else that could otherwise fuel anger or hatred. All they see are Harley enthusiasts...the customizations, the models, the character each bike exuded, the travel stories getting to the rally, stories from previous rallies...all sharing in the single Culture that is Harley.

The man here is from England with his wife. We didn't get his name but he came up to us because of the girlz and we had a nice chat about his home, how long they took to reach Killarney, what they thought of Ireland...and of course his crazy helmet. Very Lordi, don't you think? He said he was looking for a Lordi mask so he must have also watched the Eurovision Song Contest this year!

Bikers may have a bad reputation, mostly thanks to Hollywood (which has a lot to answer for), but if anyone wants to see an almost perfect way of life one only has to look at the Harley Culture. Sure, crazy stuff goes on. It does in all clubs. But nothing like other clubs.

Example: We own an older model Austin Mini, now called a classic Mini. We joined the national Mini club in Ireland and for 5 years attended every monthly meeting, even when we moved an hour away from the meeting place. When the new Mini came out, all hell broke loose in the club. Suddenly you had the classic Mini people and the new Mini people, and no one talked to the other. The club broke down because of prejudice and politics. In Harley, if they come out with a new model, it's cheers all around and a welcoming in of any new members to the Culture because of the new model. If it's Harley, it's part of the Culture. Apparently not so with the Mini people. Pretty sad. Needless to say, while we still own the classic Mini, we're no longer part of THAT culture.

Anyway, this rally was very much like any other rally I've been to in California, just more cultural...for the lack of a better word...remember we met people from all over the world. In California, it was meeting people from all over the US, Canada and Mexico mainly.

One man from Lithuania is working in Ireland for a while, but he told us about getting his precious bike to Ireland. You have to understand that most of the eastern block countries have very little work, even if they are part of the bigger European Union now. Every penny goes to food, housing, clothing, education, etc. This man must have put in a serious amount of overtime to be able to afford the bike he was on. It hadn't been customized, but it was a lovely bike nonetheless, and he treated it like his baby (don't they all?!).

We met a couple from Italy. The wife didn't speak any English, but the husband did a little and told us how they'd left their three Afinpinchers at home. This couple had incredible cowboy-style boots! Another couple were from France. At one point I thought the wife was going to share a real French Kiss with Daisie, but they were very nice and missed their dogs, too...didn't they all. We were stopped all over the place by people wanting to pet the girlz. Crazy! One would have thought the show revolved around them and not Harley.

As unique as the people were, so were the bikes. The bikes were really an amazing reflection of the owner. I shot loads of digital video, which unfortunately is not loaded to this blog because we're on dial-up, and tons of photos. For the sake of download, I will attach some of the *cooler* bikes at the bottom of this bloggage, which included hundreds of Fatboys, some Heritages, Sportsters, trikes and various hard and softails...most of which were customized to some degree...some to a huge degree!
Lord help us, they snuck in a Kawasaki that looked like an old Indian and a Honda to die for, pictured right. (geez, did anyone hear me say that?!) Yes, that really is a Honda. Any doubt? Click on the image.

One of the coolest bikes was one I didn't get a good picture of -- he was as elusive as a raith! By the end of the day when we were looking for it, I started calling the owner The Preacher. The whole bike was custom, go figure, but handlebars looked like a frame from a Gothic window, sans the glass. The sissy bar in back was of a similar design. The backrest was built into the sissy bar frame in the shape of a Gothic cross and well padded in black leather. The tank art was of a spiritual nature and the air filter cover was a chrome skull. The owner was a tall man with a beanie style helmet that looked chromed and he had an overall appearance of someone preacher-ish. You had to see it.

There were bikes with side cars, bikes with little trailors, trikes (one of which carried four people, picture below), and people from all different walks of life. I'll never forget the sight of the Scotsmen in their kilts driving back from the parade, hems flapping to reveal just enough to leave a girl wondering what Scotsmen really wear under their kilts!

The most amazing thing I saw over the course of the day was a little fellow with his special hand made attire. I didn't catch his name, or that of his travel companion, but I did see they were collecting for the Battersea Dogs Home. By the time I got my hand out of my pocket to put a donation in their little bucket attached to the front of the bike, the line of bikes had sped off
again...never did find them again, but this little pooch was the talk of the show...along with Daisie and Poppy I dare say.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. As you can see, we had a brilliant day today, and will probably be talking about it long into the coming weeks. Hell, I could keep talking abou it here!

Enjoy the photos.

~ Kemberlee
PS...Click on any of the images on this blog and the larger photo will come up.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Welcome to my *new* world!

Every girl needs a place to ramble so I created this blog to do just that. A lot of what you'll read here will be non-author related and non-travel related, as far as my "day job" goes. There really isn't any semblance of continuity with what I'll post other than it's stuff I'm doing or thinking. Could be about my dogs, trips I'm taking, books I'm reading, yarn I'm drooling over, music I'm listening to, movies I've watched or anything else that I feel like posting about that someone else might find interesting.

For example --

My sister visited us here in Ireland in May. We drove up to Dublin City for a few days, which was great. We went to the National Gallery again and finally, after all the other times it never worked out, I was able to see one my most favorite paintings in the world...Meeting on the Turret Stairs by pre-Raphaelite-influenced artist Sir Frederick William Burton, a native County Clare man. The painting was inspired by the Danish ballad called Hellelil and Hildebrand, which is a love story between a Danish princess and one of her twelve personal guards.
I can't begin to say how amazing and beautiful this painting is. It's listed as a watercolor, but it's actually a type of watercolor called gouache. Basically, gouache is a water based paint that is very thick so it looks opaque rather than translucent like traditional watercolor. This particular piece comes over as oil based because the colors are still so vivid. The detail is incredible. It's difficult to really tell in most pictures I've found online, but the texture of the knight's tunic, the etching on the scabbard, the feather lining on the dress, the all has been intricately painted...every link, every stitch, every feather, every that it takes on a lifelike quality. The detail on the knight's tunic resembles that from the Book of Kells, which is housed in Trinity College. And the lighter blue band around the lady's dress is a wonderful Celtic weave, as is the etching on the scabbard.

One normally has to make an appointment to see this painting in the National Gallery, but we lucked out to be in the gallery early enough in the day that there were workers in the office where this painting is on display. It's a restoration/file/research/etc room in an upper floor of the original gallery building.

The National Gallery also houses the famous once-missing Carravagio painting called the
Taking of Christ. This painting disappeard for years until it was finally rediscovered in a Jesuit house. It was donated for life to the museum. Unfortunately, it wasn't in the museum during our sister went to see it was on tour of the Netherlands. I think that was the place. I'm not much into religious things, but this is a stunning painting.

It's said that Caravaggio painted himself into the painting as the man on the right holding the lantern!

I think one of the other most stunning paintings has to be the Marriage of Strongbow by Daniel Maclise. This has to be the largest painting ever created! The figures on this painting are almost lifesize and there are dozens of people painted all over it. The canvas takes up most of one wall in a grand ballroom in the gallery.
I emailed with a researcher at the gallery not long after returning home and one of the things I was told was that Maclise enlisted the assistance of friends who specialized in Irish history, architecture and such and used their research to create this stunning painting. I would have loved to have been in his studio when he was painting this one. Every person has a "soul", if that's the right way to say it. It's like each person was a real person. No two faces are the same or even remotely similar. Each costume is unique, and there is a lot of detail in some of the fabric, too. It's really quite incredible.

Anyone wanting to visit the National Gallery can do so 7 days a week. The gallery is open almost every day of the year and admission is free. And they have a great cafe and a store in the new Millennium Wing where you can buy prints of some of the most popular paintings, as well as books, notecards, blank books, and anything else to do with art and the works on display.

But beware! The National Gallery can take all day if you're really into art. And if you are, email me because I can point you to some other really interesting pieces. And be sure to spend time at the National Museum around the corner on Kildare Street where the oldest and best antiquities live. They have an awesome guided tour that goes about 30 minutes, but it's not required to take it. I just highly recommend it.

Lest this turn into a full-on travel report, I have to say that it was fabulous seeing my sister again. We haven't been home for what will be 6 years by this December, but thanks to the graciousness of my uncle and aunt who gave us some of their stockpile of airmiles, we'll be spending Xmas in Carmel this year. Yay! Can barely stand the wait, to be honest. But we always love seeing family when they visit here and love showing them around Ireland. Ireland is really a stunning country.

Well, I think that's it for my first ramblings post. Who knows what will be next? Stories about the continual antics of Daisie and Poppy? Tune in again to find out!!

Thanks for reading!

~ Kemberlee
PS...Click on any of the paintings above for a slightly larger version.