Pilot Shoot Complete – Editing Begins

Day 1 – July 8th, 2015
The crew trickled into my apartment starting with the cinematographer Ulad of UT Cinema Film Production at 7:30am. He wasted no time, getting shots of my crusty place and my Honda VFR800. A short while after, Paul the audio guy arrived and he mic’ed up with a wireless pack. We jumped in headfirst and started filming.  I had a script I was loosely following, but I felt  I was acting too much instead of just being myself. I decided to try and talk naturally instead of adhering  to the script. Everything seemed to be going smoothly with the exception of my superintendent hassling me about filming on the premises. I guess he didn’t like I was discussing how my basement apartment had roaches and rats residing alongside of me.

I began to load up and more trouble ensued. The tumbler from my top case popped out as I tried to lock it on my bike. It took me 30 minutes to get it so that it would lock. When it did lock, I could not get the key out! I decided to press on, and the crew gave me a piece of gaff tape to keep the key from spinning out of the lock on the highway.

I was finally loaded up and the VFR burbled to life. I took a pretty standard route over the George Washington Bridge and it was cool to see Ulad next to me training his Sony NX5 on my bike. The weather was nice as we headed for Morristown Memorial, the hospital where I was born. We got there and decided to shoot from across the street with the hospital in the background. The shoot went smoothly and we loaded up and took off for East Hanover my hometown.

We drove straight to Luigi’s Restaurant to get a meal in before hitting locations in East Hanover.  The food was great and we were energized again.  We drove to Lurker Park, the place of my first make out session and I talked about my Little League baseball days. A collection of memories flooded back to me. We also visited my grammar and middle schools. The real magic began when we were shooting in front of my old house on Wildwood Avenue. A car drove by and the occupant smiled and waved as she pulled into the driveway. I ran up the slight incline and a woman got out of the car. I excitedly said, “I’m Joe Popp, I used to live here. Do you mind if we shoot around the outside of the house?” She smiled and said, “I know who you are. Your name is still written in my basement.” I was shocked to hear this. “Really?!? Do you mind if we come inside and shoot?” “Not at all!” she replied.

I walked through my childhood house like a ghost. I visited my old bedroom and recalled playing “hot lava” with my brothers and sisters. I went into the adjoining music room and remembered plunking on the many instruments my dad had acquired in various horse trades. Banjos, guitars, a ukulele, an autoharp, even and old zither were at my creative disposal. I was transported back in time, flashing back to experimenting with these instruments. This room was the nexus of my musical career. I was moved.

We ventured into the basement and I was again blindsided by a rush of feelings. On the wall remained in chalk and black marker my writing from 40 years ago, my name -“Joe Popp.” I was amazed that it was still there. I toured the rest of the basement and saw old tic-tac-toe games and drawings of cars untouched by time. I was taken aback to say the least.

The crew followed me into the backyard and remnants of the track we etched into the grass on top of the hill with a mini-bike and a go cart remained. This is where I first experienced a motorized two-wheeled vehicle. My brother John gave me a ride on his gold Briggs & Stratton powered mini-bike. I stood and reflected on my youth. Yes, there were tough times, but my parents tried their damnedest to give us a good life. My father even put in a pool and he and my brothers help pour the concrete sidewalk that surrounded it. He also installed large railroad ties with thick pikes that remain today. Little did my father know he taught me how to be D.I.Y. and ethic I still strongly believe to this day. Entering the old house was a gift I could not believe I was serendipitously given.

We left the house and ventured to the sight on my first accident where I was hit by a car on my bicycle . I have had many wrecks since this first and I am lucky to say I have never broken a bone. We next traveled toward the church I attended when I was young. This is where I first heard the electric guitar. The church seemed frozen in time, unchanged from what I remembered. The footage we captured in East Hanover was incredible, but we needed to get onto the next location.

As we veered onto the highway towards High Point State Park, the skies opened up. A hard driving storm pummeled my bike and guitar, but I had my rain suit on and I am experienced at driving in the bad weather. I also learned it’s better to drive on than to stop as the rain will just linger. The crew in the chase vehicle was worried and even pulled over one time to check on me. I shouted, “I’m fine! Drive on!”

We approached High Point and the rain stopped and the sun appeared again. More crazy luck, as if the gods above knew I only had 4 days with the crew and we needed to get footage.  This is a place my mother brought us as kids. I went past a barrier and drove right up to the monument. Ulad was excited to use his drone and we filmed some breathtaking shots high above the obelisk. The park is a beautiful resource and the highest elevation in New Jersey.

Next, we travelled to my old friend Steve Weir’s house. He was putting the crew up for the night since our budget was so tight. When I arrived the first thing I did was check my guitar to see if any water penetrated my Hoffee Carbon Fiber case. I pulled out my guitar and the bottom pad and low and behold – bone dry. I was in the rain for a good 35 minutes and the dryness is a testament to this case. Hoffee sponsored me for this tour and this case is simply unparalleled. Incredible.

Steve cooked us a delicious spread of food and his wife Sylvia came up with a “Jersey Dog” recipe that fused two New Jersey staples – hot dogs and pork roll (made into a chili)! After dinner, Steve showed me how to set up a tent as I was going to be camping along my tour of the 48 states. This education was followed by a concert I played for the entire gang. Steve’s family, the crew, and my friends Kel and KP, all sat as I played several songs. I was tired, but playing for these great people gave me a shot of adrenaline.

I called Jenny on Facetime from my iPad and the entire party surprised her by being onscreen. She laughed and I am sure felt the love I was feeling by being surrounded by these great people. We all said goodnight and she hung up with a smile. Her battle with MS prevents her from traveling with me on the motorcycle. She knows I have wanderlust and she supports my habit of touring even though I am gone from her for many nights. My music also requires rehearsal and hours of creative time. I  feel selfish, as if I have two mistresses that require me to divide my time with her.  But she accepts these other activities as they are what makes me who I am.  She has a huge heart and she loves me – mistresses and all.

I stayed up until 11:30, blabbing my fool head off, excited from a fortuitous day of shooting. The juice finally wore off and I fell into the couch with Kel sacked out next to me on the floor. I had trouble going to sleep thinking about how lucky I am. I have great friends, a talented crew, and my girl Jenny back in Brooklyn supporting me as I ride. The sandman finally got the better of me and I nodded off to sleep with the biggest smile of smiles.

Day 2 – July 9th, 2015
We had a lot of ground to cover and got an early start. Steve cooked one of his ridiculously huge breakfasts and we all tanked up. We gave our goodbyes and headed onward to Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park. My bike was performing beautifully and there was a very light mist. I risked not wearing my rain suit and I lucked out as the wetness subsided. We arrived to meet Ernie Hernandez, a park ranger I had introduced myself to when scouting locations. He is the most gregarious man you could ever meet. I interviewed him and he responded with knowledgeable answers. I ended up writing him a little impromptu song and he smiled as I played.

Ulad filmed more with the drone and Ernie gave me access to the walking bridge over the falls that is currently closed to the public. More gifts. People going the extra mile because they realize I am trying to make something and they support me whole heartedly even though they are new acquaintances. We got incredible footage of the Falls and moved over to nearby Hinchliffe Stadium. The stadium is in a sad state, but there are plans to revitalize the facility. I came here as a boy to see a stunt car show called “Hell Drivers,” a memory I’ll never forget.

We were also able to get access into the stadium after a few hints from a certain park ranger. I sat in the same stands I sat over 40 years ago. Emotions flooded my brain once again. The concept of time is such a difficult thing to grasp. I recall sitting in this very spot as almost if yesterday. Time seems to accelerate as we age. Years fly by like the flipping of calendar pages. I am happy I am capturing today on camera – a bookmark of a great day to look back on after more years slip past.

We finished up at the stadium and visited one of my childhood haunts – Libby’s Lunch.  I consider this place the gold standard when discussing a particular style of hot dog, the Texas Weiner. The dog is deep fried and the chili sauce is more liquid than standard chili but the flavor is amazing. Served “All-the-way,” meaning chili, minced onions, and spicy mustard, these dogs conjure great memories. My parents would bring stacks of these to backyard parties at my grandfather’s house nearby on the Paterson/Clifton border. I interviewed the proprietors, Heidi, Voula and George, the Psarros family. They were kind and funny. I wrote them a song too and had them dance around in front of the restaurant as I played. I may not be famous, but I am touching people with my music in a personal and meaningful way as I tour the country.

I had a show to play in New Brunswick and we need to get on the road. My bandmate Shaugn O’Donnell was playing this concert with me and would be meeting us at the hotel in New Brunswick. The VFR800 was driving wonderfully and I didn’t notice any ill effects of the guitar being mounted on the bike. I now realized I can do this. I could tour the country with this bike and this guitar. I felt good.

We made good time to the Hyatt in New Brunswick. It was a decent chunk of change but the crew deserved a comfortable place. We all got a well deserved break and had a few beers in the hotel bar after resting up. The original gig at the Court Tavern got cancelled but  a promoter who goes by the moniker Brittney on Fire hooked us up with a show at 9pm at the Scarlet Pub. Just when you think the music industry can’t stoop any lower, somebody like Brittney saves the day and gives a show to a band that lost a gig. My faith in humanity has been restored.

We had a fun show. The other bands were very supportive and my old friend and genius sax player Doug Dehays even showed up. I broke two strings during the short set, but it was my own fault as I had not changed them since well before the trip. One of my sponsors D’Addario sent me 3 cases of strings, so I felt stupid for not changing them. Besides the broken strings we had a riot. I love to play with Shaugn because he is such a talented musician. When I make a mistake he will make a musical inside joke by mimicking what I played wrong, a goof that only he and I understand. Ulad kept three cameras rolling and Paul captured the audio by using signal splits. We should have some great footage.

The crew packed up and headed back to the hotel. I hung out with Shaugn for a bit a the pub and saw The Rooftop perform. They were young and energetic and laid their hearts out there on that stage. I thought back to the first time I performed onstage when I was 12. Really? 38 years ago?

I went back to the hotel with Shaugn and his family. We decided to eat in the hotel bar as they were still serving food. I have become close to his fiancée Heather and his two grown kids Mike and Megan because we have know each other for 13 years. His son plays and is in the band Sofus, and his daughter is an excellent creative writer. We joked and laughed so hard as we recalled funny moments of the show. The food was delicious and the beer continued to flow as we wore well into the night.

I finally called quits. I laughed to myself as I slept thinking of how I am touring on a motorcycle at 50 years of age. Sometimes dreams take a while to complete, but I’m evidence that it’s never too late to realize them . I snored off to sleep.

Day 3 – July 10th, 2015
We got another early start as our first stop was Slater’s Deli in Leonardo, voted the best pork roll sandwich by Asbury Park Press. We lost some time because of my GPS spinning us around in circles, but I finally got to meet owner Ralph Marotta and he was hilarious. He has a huge personality and loves what he does. He made me their specialty sandwich and it truly deserves all of the accolades. I wrote Ralph a song too and the patrons laughed and smiled. More souls lifted with my guitar.

We drove on to Asbury Park to visit the Silver Ball Pinball Museum. Pinball, and arcade games in general, were a big part of my youth. I often blame my love of games as the primary reason why I am not a better guitar player. The museum is incredible. They have machines dating back to the 1930’s that are all in working order. I had a good time playing and talking about several of the machines I played when I was young.

On the way out we stopped by The Stone Pony. I really wanted to play this venue as it is such a storied place. When I originally contacted them, the booking agent said he may have a slot for me, but when I pressed for a date, they wanted me to pay in order to film inside the venue. I was disappointed as I wanted to join the ranks of other famous New Jersey sons who played there such as Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny, and Jon Bon Jovi. Maybe someday…

Atlantic City was the next destination. We got there with little effort. The hotel was a far cry from the Hyatt, but as I said before the budget was tight. We captured excellent footage of the the casinos and the boardwalk. We snuck a few shots while I was gambling, and the crew even caught me goofing around on the dance floor of the Mountain Bar in the Bally’s Wild West. The mechanical bull I hoped to ride was no longer there which was a let down. I was ready to channel my inner Urban Cowboy.

The crew retired early but I stayed out an had a few beers. I started gambling with $100 and worked my way up steadily to $175. I was going to quit, but of course the drug of winning that stings so many people captured me too. Within minutes I watched my winnings dwindle down to $.93. I am not a gambler, but I can see how the lure of winning a pile of money quickly can be a dangerous thing. I stepped away from the casino and headed for the hotel.

Day 4 – July 11th, 2015
I slept well but rose early to eat a light breakfast and gas up. The ride to New Jersey Motorsports Park for the Vintage Motorcycle Show in Millville was only about 45 minutes away, but I had a 10am performance. This is early for a show, but I am taking any gigs I can get. We had a few delays after arriving at the track. We got to the stage and I asked the person in charge, “Where is the sound system?” She replied, “Oh, you were supposed to bring one.” This was a true Spinal Tap moment and all I could do was laugh. I cannot blame the race track as they are a motorsports facility and not a concert venue. We went ahead and shot anyway with the vintage bikes speeding loudly past as I played a few songs. The audience was comprised of the next band and our crew.

I entered my bike in the vintage motorcycle show for the sole purpose of showing off my guitar case mount. The line of bike brought back so many memories of bikes I had, and bikes I dreamed of having. Talking to the owners was a treat. These are passionate people that love their motorcycles. I fell in love with my VFR800 a little more after seeing her sitting there with the guitar case and all of the luggage, readied for the journey of a lifetime. This machine is going to take me and my guitar around the country. We will be partners for a long time. I enjoyed the idea of that bond.

We had photographer credentials which allowed us to get right next to the track as the vintage bikes raced by the stands. NJMP was very cool to let me do this shoot. They knew I was doing a pilot on a tight budget and we were not National Geographic, but they gave me access anyway. Such a nice gesture.

I let the crew go about halfway through the day I said goodbye to Ulad, Paul, Maegan and X. Four salt-of-the-earth folks that believe in me and followed me like dizzy tornados for four straight days with very few breaks. I was choked up as they pulled away. I wondered if any of this effort was going to amount to anything, but then I realized it already had. My joy comes from making things and I make a lot of them – amplifiers, effects pedals, albums, plays, and now a TV show. Will the networks be interested in a 50-year-old guy driving around on an used Honda eating fatty foods, talking to his girlfriend with MS, playing guitar in small bars, and philosophizing about his youth? It didn’t matter. Sure, I would love for a network to pick up the show and I could live the dream of traveling around the country as a job. But as I’ve said in earlier posts – either way I am going. My dreams are not limited by monetary compensation.

I found a cheap hotel in Millville, had dinner at a Buffalo Wild Wings and called it a night. I talked to Jenny for a short while and told her I was happy. After I hung up, I stared at the ceiling while in bed. I was proud of myself. I was proud of my crew. I thought about all of the generous folks who sent money through Kickstarter. I thought about my sponsors and how they blindly gave to an old guy with a dream.  I am a lucky dude.

Day 5 – July 12th, 2015
I slept in a bit at the hotel and then headed to Wildwood, a place where my family vacationed when I was a boy. I arrived well before I could check in, so I left my guitar and luggage at the front desk and hit the boardwalk. As with many of the other destinations, various sights triggered buried memories. I wore a wired mic and did some shooting on my own since I had no crew. I ate lunch at the Doo Wop Diner and for the first time I actually had a salad instead of some sort of processed meat. I checked into the Starlux hotel and relaxed for a while. I took a short nap  and hit the boardwalk once again for more shots.

I decided to ride over to Sunset Beach near Cape May which was only a few miles away. I got stuck at a draw bridge for two cycles as ships passed under but finally arrived. I came for a dazzling sunset, but before that there was a flag lowering ceremony. Every night during the summer a different fallen soldier’s flag is lowered and presented to the family of the deceased. I could not help being deeply moved by a young weeping Boy Scout handing the triangle folded flag the elderly wife of the soldier.

I watched the sunset but it was not the beautiful orange sphere sinking into the ocean that I had imagined. The beauty of the ceremony I just saw more than eclipsed the hazy sky that went gradually dark.

I rode home in the dark which I rarely do, but the night was cool. I felt safe as there was little traffic. I parked the bike right outside my window and drifted off to sleep.

Day 6 – July 13th, 2015
After a sparse continental breakfast, I ventured to the miniature version of the Vietnam Memorial Wall right near the boardwalk. I stared in awe at the amount of soldiers that lost their lives during that conflict. The wall seemed out of place being located so closely to the amusements on the boardwalk. I stood  alone at the monument for a few minutes and wished for a world of peace.

I headed back to the hotel, loaded up, and checked out. I got on the road and the direct trip from Wildwood to my apartment on Central Park West seemed like a blur. Corbin Seats generously sponsored me with a free saddle for the VFR and the usual pain I felt in my lower back and leg was non-existent. I owe Corbin for not having to go to the chiropractor!

Back where I started 6 days ago,  I was again stunned by the passage of time. A second ago I was planing and raising money and now the shoot had come to an end. No matter what the outcome, I will never forget these few days in the Summer of 2015 when I brought a dream to fruition. Man. Bike. Guitar.

Conclusion
There is a lot of amazing footage and audio to review. My work is cut out for me and the editor Eric Bell. We are meeting on Thursday the 23rd and I will keep you posted on progress. I’ll will maybe even have a few video teasers.

POAMAPClick here for map details – 624 Miles

Popp Over America – New Album and Pilot Shoot!

Tomorrow at 8:30am the crew will be arriving at my apartment in NYC to begin shooting the pilot episode of Popp Over America. Over the next 4 days they will follow me around my birth state of New Jersey and we will capture the sights, sounds, foods, and staples that make New Jersey a special place.

This project began last October when I was discussing combining motorcycling and music with my dear friend and renaissance man Tylor Durand. I decided to include raising awareness for MS, a disease my girlfriend Jenny battles, after talking to Aaron Heinrich from Asphalt and Dirt. I have worked hard to get to this place as have my crew, friends, and sponsors that have donated time, goods,  and money because they believe in me.

On this eve of the most epic project I’ve ever tried to tackle, I am posting up some preliminary mixes of the Popp Over America album. My uber-pal and CCNY Music Department Chair Shaugn O’Donnell is featured on the album as the lead acoustic guitarist. We still have a lot of work to do regarding the recordings, but I wanted to present what we have so far as a way of saying thank you to all of you amazing supporters.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Click here for the Popp Over America album!

Shrine, NYC  photo: Heather Laurel
Shrine, NYC
photo: Heather Laurel

Mounting a Hoffee Carbon Fiber Case for a Gibson SJ-200 on a VFR800

After a great deal of modifications, I finally have my Hoffee Carbon Fiber Gibson SJ-200  case mounted on my motorcycle! I am so proud to be sponsored by Hoffee. The case is a tank, but lightweight and built to withstand the elements.

I thought this would be easier to do using a standard GIVI PL166 and a Caribou adapter, but after testing the components the job was trickier than imagined. The Caribou adapter eliminates the top mating nub on the PL166 and replaces it with a flat steel plate with an oval-ish hole. The new mount overlaps this plate by 2 inches. The mounting tab for the GIVI was clearly in the way.

I started out by trying to flatten the original mounting point on the PL166. After bonking it down, the bent  tab still interfered  with the fake Two Brothers exhaust can on the left side. The exhaust system on the bike routes both exhaust pipes into the right muffler, so the left can is just a dummy. I got lucky because if I didn’t have this exhaust system, mounting the guitar would be much harder. The stock system also would heated up my guitar more than I would like. I next sawed off the tab and bent my own plate out of 1/8″ steel. After all this work I still ended up removing the fake muffler. No, the bike doesn’t look as cool, but I need to carry my guitar.

Once the entire set up was installed , I believe I could remount the fake muffler if I wanted to do so,  but I think I’ll leave it off and save the weight.

Once the guitar was mounted I applied a die cut decal to the case as well as a sticker from my case sponsor Hoffee.

Popp Over America is now ready to hit the road! I am shooting the pilot episode on July 8th – 12th with a full crew made possible by sponsors and Kickstarter supporters. A big thanks to all of you. Stay tuned and please subscribe to the blog on the left side of the page.

hoffeecase

Video – Popp Over America Inaugural Show @ Shrine!

So the journey has begun. I have been working on Popp Over America since October of last year. Back then, I thought this would be a solo trip, but as life would have it, things change. I’ve realized the musical expedition is one that is better off with a bandmate.

I have been practicing with my old friend Shaugn O’Donnell on a collection of songs I have written over the years. Popp Over America is now no longer a solo endeavor, but a band. Having earned his doctorate in musical theory, Shaugn is a literal musical genius. He is often flown around the country to lecture on Pink Floyd or the Grateful Dead. But Shaugn has never been tied by the bonds of the musical egghead scene. He has a working class ethic that I also share, and when we rehearse, we grind it out old school. There are no breaks. We play until we can’t play anymore.

Shaugn and I both started at City College of New York on practically the same day 13 years ago. He as a Theory Professor, and me as a tech for the Sonic Arts Center. He was reserved at first, and the joke goes that he didn’t talk to me for the first two years of our employment. But after prolonged exposure to each other, we became friends. We both shared the turmoil of divorces but more importantly, a love of live music and guitar led us to meandering multi-hour conversations. We would later form a band with renaissance man Tylor Durand on drums, Shaugn on guitar, and me playing the bass, called Plasma in the Ukraine. The life of the band would be short as I could not stomach being a bass player – the job did not match the cut of my jib.

Fast-forward two years later and we are sharing the stage again. Shaugn sticks to the guitar and leaves the vocal shenanigans and songwriting to me. We are sort of the Jay and Silent Bob or perhaps the Penn and Teller of the acoustic rock scene. Music is meant to be shared and I am lucky to get to do just that with one of the best friends of a lifetime.

Our first gig at the famous Shrine in Harlem, NYC (as seen in the video above) was a barn burner. We were well practiced and had a great crowd to cheer us on for this first outing. As you can tell, I couldn’t be happier. A big thanks to everybody that attended the show. Your presence means more than you will ever know…

So sláinte to Shaugn O’Donnell, now an irreplaceable half of the musical duo that is Popp Over America.

Pictures by: Evil Kel, Heather Laurel, and Jenny Mavronas

 

 

Blog catch up – Delaware, Cold Spring, East Hanover

Chris Hornberger’s Tech Day in Wilmington, Delaware
May 9th, 2015
Starting Mileage: 12894
Chris Hornberger from the Pace Podcast invited me down for his tech day in Delaware. I decided to take the trip because I am always looking for an excuse to ride. The 250 mile round trip would serve not only as a chance to meet Chris, but as a test for the bike.

What is a tech day? I didn’t know myself as this was the first one I ever attended. Chris is a good mechanic and a good guy. To help out his motorcyclist friends, he has them over for a barbecue and beers and works on their bikes for free! Chris changed a few rear tires and worked on a clutch when I was there. He is a big hearted guy with a great sense of humor. Everyone razzed him even though he was doing most of the work. I smiled wide as I watched him complete task after task. This guy loves bikes so much, he wants to do everything in his power to promote the joy of motorcycling. I witnessed him manufacture a tool to get off an odd nut holding on a Honda Sabre clutch basket. He is a true creative craftsman and I learned a lot at his tech day.

The VFR800 performed admirably. I caught a patch of bad weather on the way down, but only had the rain suit on for a few miles. A really nice day with a lot of really nice folks. A big thanks to Chris for his hospitality!

Trip to Cold Spring, NY
May 17, 2015
Mileage: 13142
The weather was so nice I thought I would head up to a place I have not been in a long time – Cold Spring, New York. I took my favorite path up the Palisades Parkway and over the Bear Mountain Bridge. When I approached the entrance of the bridge, the traffic was stopped dead. I looked up ahead and noticed a rescue helicopter transferring an injured person to an ambulance. I get nervous when I see accidents. I’ve had more than my fair share. I’ve been hit by a car while on a bicycle. I’ve had two head-on collisions in cars. I’ve been run over by a mail truck as a pedestrian in NYC, and I’ve had 5 motorcycle accidents of varying degrees. I am extra careful these days, but I do get a little rattled when aboard my bike and I see trouble.

I took a few deep breaths and the traffic eventually started moving. Once over the bridge, I took a left on 9D and calmed down a little. The weather was beyond perfect and my bike was running like a top.

I arrived in Cold Spring and parked the bike. I was searching for a bar named McGuire’s that I visited here on my BMW K75 a few years back. I couldn’t find it, but I ventured into the place where I thought the joint used to be. Sure enough, Doug’s Pretty Good Pub was the old McGuire’s. The inside hadn’t changed at all and neither had the clientele. The patrons are mostly bikers and working people, a relief from the rich antiquing crowd that visits here to dump their money on stuff to fill their apartments.

I ordered a beer and a Reuben and texted an old friend of mine Jay. The last time I was in this bar, I ran into him and we had lunch. Jay informed me that he had moved quite a while ago. I laughed at first, but then melancholy thinking how time slips away so fast. Friends move away and circumstances change in a flash before my eyes. Thanks to the omniscient eye of social media, I watch people who didn’t know each other meet, get married, and have a kid, and then watch those kids grow up and head off to school. Time is bendable, and as I age I can’t get used to the speed at which life moves.

I poked around the town and went to a cool barn sale, snared by the sign I read, “Pop’s Barn Sale.” There was a collection of neat old objects and a player piano. Seeing all of the stuff made me long for a proper house like the antiquers. I’d love to have a garage, a yard, and a dog, but those things don’t factor into the New York City formula. The tradeoffs of city living are many.

I left Cold Spring and headed up 202 which is an amazing road along the east side of the Hudson. I stopped at an overlook and gazed at the river with many others also captivated by it’s beauty. We evolved from the water. Babies placed in water will innately begin to swim. I wonder if this genetic code is the urge that draws people to beaches, lakes, and rivers.

I headed to CCNY where I work and mounted my new Gunfighter and Lady seat sent to me by my sponsor Corbin Seats. I sat on my bike and immediately noticed the difference in comfort. My previous seat hit me in all of the wrong places but the Corbin is perfect. It is also leather and not synthetic, so it will get even more comfortable as time goes on. I feel honored to have them as a sponsor. I would have bought the seat anyway, but the company sees that I am trying to achieve something and they are supporting me – such a gift. Installing the new seat was a beautiful finish to a perfect day.

I headed back to Ryders Alley and along 9th avenue was a street fair as far as the eye could see. After parking my bike, I watched people for a while, and then headed home. The greatest thing about having my bike is that I don’t have to decide on one lifestyle or another. If I tire of the bewildered herd of New York City, I just hop on my bike and head to parts calmer.

Trip to East Hanover, NJ
May 24, 2015
Starting Mileage: 13257
I am working like crazy on Popp Over America. I am recording an album, creating a script, and trip planning, all while working a full time job. My work load is massive, but I am trying to balance that with riding. One of my locations for the show is my old home town East Hanover, NJ where I lived from when I was born until 12-years-old. Since we are shooting here, I thought I would go back and get a lay of the land. So many memories flooded back to the front of my brain – things I have not thought of in 40 years. I don’t want to spoil the pilot episode and I won’t say too much, but I made a realization. Everything from my youth seemed so much bigger when I was a boy. The driveway I used to skateboard down is a mere speed bump. and the vast park I remember is not much more than a tiny field.

Traveling and visiting other places provides perspective. I have been lucky to travel far and wide and collect great experiences. Coming back here is a bizarre feeling as if no time has passed at all. My schools, homes, and church all stand on the same ground with only a slight patina of time polished onto their surfaces.

I am very excited to start production and this short trip has provided me with so many new ideas. I wonder if the people at my old house saw me taking pictures and wondered who the dude on the red Honda was? Too funny.

 

 

Video – Hoffee Case Sponsorship, Locations, and Concert!

Another amazing sponsorship from Hoffee Cases which are made of exotic Carbon Fiber. The best of the best! Location scouting and a gig booked with my old pal Shaugn O’Donnell.

Hoffee Cases
Caribou Cases Adapter Plate
Givi PL166 Sidecase Hardware
Libby’s Lunch
What is a Texas Weiner?
Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park
Ernie Hernandez
Hinchliffe Stadium
Hell Drivers
Popp Over America at Shrine, NYC – May 28th 8PM

 

 

 

 

Corbin Seats Sponsors Popp Over America!

Asking a company for sponsorship is a difficult task at this stage of the production process. After a barrage of emails to every brand I believed I would like to represent, I was disappointed by a bag full of rejections and even worse, non-responses. I wasn’t giving up, but I thought I would wait until the pilot was completed before sending another round of inquiries.

After my ride up the Hudson on Saturday, my back ached on Sunday, and was worse by Monday. I am not sure if blame could be placed solely on the  Sargent seat currently mounted on my VFR800, but during the ride the seat forced me into the gas tank much in the way the Sargent on my Ducati 900ss did. I needed to make a change if I was going to log the long miles I have in my sights.

My last bike was a BMW K75 and I had ordered a Corbin Gunfighter and Lady Saddle just before my 7000 mile trek across the USA . The seat was wonderful with a deep scoop that provided excellent support. I knew I had to get the same Corbin for my current bike, but my coffers are low after the bludgeoning of ever increasing production expenses.

I was ready  whip out the credit card to purchase the seat, but I thought, “What does it hurt to ask?” I sent Corbin and email asking if they were interested in sponsoring me or a least providing a discount on a seat. I was shocked to get a response a few hours later from Greg at Corbin offering to begin a sponsorship deal starting with a free seat!

Greg asked me to provide the specs for the new Gunfighter and Lady Saddle as well as a mailing address. I in turn told him I would be honored to represent Corbin and I will feature the seat prominently in the pilot. I have owned two of their saddles and I am sure the one for my VFR will be the difference in comfort I need.

Corbin Motorcycle Seats are made right here in the USA and I am proud to be sponsored by a product for which I have the highest praise. Their slogan is: “World’s finest motorcycle saddles since 1968.” I could not agree more.

The Corbin Gunfighter and Lady Saddle
The Corbin Gunfighter and Lady Saddle
Not getting the backrest but the pillion looks comfy as well.
Not getting the backrest but the pillion looks comfy as well.

Ride Report – Head Clearing

04.18.15
Starting Mileage: 12618

Today was my first planned ride on my VFR800. I pulled out an old favorite route from back when I had my BMW K75. A path that never fails to clear my head no matter how much anxiety NYC has pressed into my brain.

I picked up my bike and as the first order of business I hooked up the RAM ball arms for the GPS, E-ZPass, and my GoPro HERO4 camera. I fired the bike to life and I let it warm up. The weather was a page torn from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce pamphlet, mid 60’s and not a cloud on the radar. I drove the George Washington Bridge and onto the Palisades Parkway. I was riding easy as cars whizzed pass me in the left lane. I was in no rush to get anywhere today. I was finally getting to enjoy the first real ride on my 2002 Honda VFR800 Interceptor.

I stopped at the Rockefeller Lookout, a parking area that has a magnificent view of the Hudson and the GWB. I sat for a few moments and thought about how long I have been waiting for today. I purchased the bike at the end of February, but due to weather and clutch problems, today has been the first day in the saddle. The riding season is short here in NYC but after renting bikes last year, I realize I need to own my own bike. Ownership is part of the joy – the pairing of man and machine.

I checked my GoPro Camera that I started just before the bridge. I was excited to see the footage I captured of the small section of the trip. The battery was dead and it never even started. I had spare batteries charged and ready, but left them in my bag at Ryders Alley. Will my knucklehead mistakes ever cease?

I hopped back on the bike and zipped up the Parkway. Paving has been done to the rougher patches of the road, but many bumps and holes remain. I thought about mounting my guitar. What would I do about the shocks from such hazards? Would I arrive a gig and have my faithful Gibson J-200 broken into two or more pieces? I put the cringe-worthy thought out of my mind. The shoot for the pilot is still a few months away and today I wasn’t touring as a guitarist, I was simply a man on a motorcycle.

These roads are like old friends to me. I have ridden them many times and part of the comfort of this trip was that I knew where I was going. My GPS was worthless since the sun was so bright and I had no power source other than the limited onboard battery – another device that remained off for the entire drive. I felt somewhat free with no electronics to distract from the journey. There was some force telling me to forget about these gadgets.

I made my way up to Newburgh, but I was too early for lunch. I had a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, but resisted the temptation to feast on any of their circles of sin. I have been trying to get my weight down and with Gully’s in my future for lunch, I didn’t need any more button-popping treats.

I headed over to the waterfront and much to my dismay I saw a large crane next to the restaurant/boat that is Gully’s. The gang plank that lead up to the deck was dismantled, and blue vinyl curtains covered the windows. The place was certainly not going to be open today. I walked along the waterfront for a while. I was taken aback as every person I passed made a point to say hello, most even started a conversation. I thought about New York City and how there is not enough time in the day to say hello to one person, let alone all of people that crowd her streets. Strange how a city with such a body of population can turn people into disconnected islands.

I travelled down 9W back towards home and took a small detour on 218. This gorgeous rock-lined road winds high into the cliffs along the Hudson with a canopy of trees covering much of the distance. Even with no seafood in my belly from Gully’s I was happy.

I picked up 9W again a headed over the Bear Mountain Bridge. The traffic was light and the weather was holding steady. Once over the bridge, I headed south onto the twisty 202 (also referred to as 6 or Bear Mountain Bridge Road), one of the greatest slabs in the area. I eventually picked up 9, then 9a, then the Saw Mill and back onto the Henry Hudson.

Instead of heading straight to the garage, I went by CCNY where I work and collected the panniers for the bike I have been storing there for almost 2 months. Clipping on the bags, I plotted how I was going to connect my guitar. It is a jumbo acoustic and has a very large case. I realized this is going to take some time.

I rode back down to the garage and hoped I could leave the bags on my bike in my parking spot, but my space is relatively narrow. I could only leave one on and that took some fancy parking moves to squeeze it into the spot. I will try to negotiate for more space, but for now I was content. I have my bike, I had a nice ride, and I even have some of the luggage installed.

My stomach bellowed a loud growl and needed fuel. Consulting Yelp! I found BarBacon and kicked myself for not knowing about it sooner. I had their Bacon Burger sliders and a Captain Lawrence Kolsch which really hit the spot. The bartender was a really nice guy and even though he was busy, made time to chat and see that my needs were met. I will return to this place often.

Walking to the subway I saw Delorean, a car that immediately reminds most people of the film Back to the Future. I have owned bikes on and off over the years and now understand that my life is better with a motorcycle. I thought about my brother’s first minibike that he would let me ride, my Honda Trail 70, my Honda Hawk, my Yamaha RZ350, my Ducati 900ss, my BMW K75C, and the many other bikes I’ve owned, borrowed, or rented. I have accidents on several of them, but the memories that remain are purely good ones. On this VFR800 I plan to create many more. Back to the future indeed…

 

New York City to Newburgh, NY - 127 Miles
New York City to Newburgh, NY – 127 Miles

The Zen of Clutch Repair and Lucky Shoes

Today I made a firm decision that I was going to get my clutch to disengage. Last night while I slept, I went through in my mind all of the tricks I was going to try . I had done a lot of reading and I was sick of my new bike being parked like a wounded albatross. No, today I was going to fix it.

A mechanic that works at Ryders Alley where I park the bike took a look at it for me earlier in the week. He said the clutch lever seemed fine, but could not get it to disengage. I didn’t leave the key in the bike and he had no way of starting it to try and jog the clutch loose. I told him I would get a key on the bike and call him when I did. But this bothered me that I had to call a mechanic to fix something that I knew I could do myself. Even if I had to take the entire clutch apart, I felt I was capable. My ego was damaged when I thought that I couldn’t get the clutch bled properly in the first place.

I made a superstitious choice today. Adidas Samba sneakers. I know this sounds ridiculous, but these broken-in foot tires always bring me good luck. I headed down to the garage armed with two more containers of Bel-Ray Super Dot 4 brake fluid and a massive 100cc syringe to “back bleed” the clutch. I read up on the technique of reverse bleeding and found a descriptive YouTube video. I packed up my laptop loaded with the video, service manuals, and PDFs of tech tips I had scoured the web to find. Today I was going to win.

I walked down to the platform of the subway to a waiting mob. An announcement said there was a police investigation at the 103rd street stop to the south of me and there were no trains in either direction. “Police Investigation” means somebody committed suicide by jumping on the tracks, an event that claims roughly 25 lives a year. Was this the start of another bad day? I remained calm and patient and a train came along in about 10 minutes. Things were looking up.

I arrived at the Alley and lowered my bike from the top floor to the workshop area on the bike elevator. I put the bike on the lift and stared at it for a few moments. I decided I was going to ride this bike today. I willed it. I needed to believe this fact in order to muster up the confidence that something I was going to do today was going to fix this motorcycle.

I pulled in on the clutch lever and it felt a little spongy especially at the beginning of its travel. I took off the master cylinder cover and sopped out the fluid with an old sock leaving the reservoir empty. I noticed some built up black gunk so I cleaned the cavity until it was shiny. One of the tips I found was to remove a small metal tab and clean out the tiny pin-hole return opening. I used a small dental tool but nothing appeared to be clogging it.

I began the reverse bleeding process. I attached a bleeder hose to the William Burroughs-sized syringe and then attached it to the bleeder valve on the slave cylinder at the motor. I carefully filled the syringe with brake fluid. I tapped on the hose the get all the air out of the line. I loosened the bleeder, put the plunger in the syringe, and began to squeeze. I was a little over zealous and needle-like stream of fluid shot straight out of reservoir like a little boy peeing into the air after his overly-tight diaper is removed. I laughed, but quickly cleaned up the brake fluid with a water soaked towel. Brake fluid eats paint and just about everything else so I was careful to get every spilled drop. I slowly pressed on the syringe again and I watch as fluid filled the reservoir. Once at the right level, I tightened the bleeder and checked the lever. It had a nice firm pull through out it’s entire travel now – definite improvement.

I rolled the bike off the lift, put the bike in gear, pulled in the clutch, and tried to roll it. Still stuck. Now I was positive it was not my bleeding technique. I pushed the bike outside and decided I was going to start it and see what happened. It has a wet clutch which means the clutch sits in oil inside the engine case. By starting the bike, I hoped some oil would circulate through the clutch plates and free it. I pushed the starter button, fired up the bike, and let it warm up in neutral. I pulled in the clutch and put the bike in gear and waited for it to stall. There was no tug of the bike lurching forward. The clutch was freed – Halle-freaking-lujah!

Not one to settle, I wanted to install a Speed Bleeder so that changing the clutch fluid next time would be an easy process. This handy valve, prevents air from backing into the system when bleeding so you do not have to continue opening and closing the bleeder. Perhaps I should have left well enough alone but I refused to be scared to work on my bike. I installed the Speed Bleeder as instructed by a YouTube video I found. I ran some fluid from the top down through the new valve to make sure it worked, and it did.

I next installed two RAM ball mounts on the clutch and brake reservoirs for mounting a camera, my phone, and a GPS. I trembled a bit and I was careful to not tip over either unit.

Thinking backwards, I realize that the whole time I was messing with the clutch that all I really needed to do was to just start the bike. Doh! Roger Mercer, an expert mechanic from rAt Cycles, put in a new clutch just a week before, and it was probably barely stuck from being so new. I don’t believe that I introduced enough air into the system when putting on the RAM ball mount originally. I thought the tipping of the clutch reservoir caused the problem, but in fact it was just the bike sitting for a week with the new part. I felt like a bonehead, but I learned a great deal along the way of getting the clutch to let go.

The weather was cloudy, but there was no rain in the forecast. I hopped the bike and drove to Cycle Therapy a motorcycle shop in East Harlem for my inspection sticker. The motorcycle ran perfectly even while snarled in stop and go traffic on 125th street. I left the bike with the shop for half an hour and went for Chinese food. I picked it up after the approved inspection and rode home down the Hudson. The clouds that lingered before had now evaporated leaving a beautiful blue sky. I smiled inside my helmet. I was riding.

The easiest solutions can elude us when we look at a problem too closely or are distracted by other circumstances. I learned volumes about my bike this week. I troubleshoot complex audio systems and computers for a living, and I realized I committed an error equivalent to the obvious “Is it plugged in?” from my technical world. The battle was a long one, but I had won, regaining a portion of my confidence.

Now onto some wiring issues…

MAN★ BIKE★GUITAR