The Planet Grom on YouTube

Aloha!  I just wanted to write quickly about YouTube:

My kids and I were talking about YouTube and they are under the impression that success on YouTube is easy, sudden, and lucrative.  It’s not that I aim to prove them wrong or anything, but I did say that they’re talking about the minority when it comes to the successful cases.

And, to prove my point, I’ll make a public channel, create videos to the best of my abilities, and monetize them (whenever the channel receives enough hours watched to make them eligible) and I’ll keep them in on the progress.

I have ideas for the videos, but the ones that are easiest to do (for now) are vlogs and opinion pieces.  I have one video up now so you can get a feel for how those ones will work and I’d appreciate the standard likes and subscribes.  You know the drill, I’m sure.

I like doing them because it’s an easy way for everyone to see Hawaii.  “It’s a cool way to get a sense of the neighborhood,” said one viewer in a message.  Check it out and see for yourself.

Motorcycle Souvenirs

I have a policy when it comes to counting where I’ve been: I have to either leave the airport I landed at or something really memorable needs to happen.  Basically if I can see the actual local area or at the very least get a story out of the destination then I’ll count it.

My friend, on the other hand, counts airports because his criteria is “if I died here, what would the report say?”  Would it say “Chuck died in the Chicago O’Hare International Airport?”  if so, then yes, he’s been to Chicago.

Yet another person I know doesn’t even need to touch the ground to count the stop.  He says he flew over the pyramids of Egypt and, since he saw them with his own eyes, he says he’s been to Egypt.

On road trips, my wife won’t say she visited a town unless she was going to that town specifically for a reason.  We stopped for gas in a ridiculously tiny town in Georgia that had – with no exaggeration – one gas station and about five houses, all within view of said gas station and she still wouldn’t count it.  Maybe if we had gone on a trip to visit the town specifically to get gas…

Everyone’s got their own criteria for where they’ve been.

This made me wonder what the criteria was for the adventure riders whose pictures I often see.  The ones with hard luggage usually have stickers of the places they’ve been and I just wanted to know what counts.

I posed the question to a Facebook adventure rider’s page and got some unexpected answers.  Some seemed to understand and gave their honest answers (“if I pooped or slept somewhere”) and some gave answers that were either meant for a different question (“I just make fun of Harleys”) or condescending (“no-one cares, work harder”).

To the ones who answered the question I actually asked, I followed-up with a question of how they commemorate the trip or stop.  Some said they don’t – they just tell stories – and others said they use maps and mark the routes.

This answer intrigued me.  Do they use different maps for different bikes, or is it the same map regardless?  They said that they used the same map regardless of bike.


Personally, I’m a huge fan of data and have thought about getting a great big globe and putting pins in for everywhere I’ve been, but there’s no way I would be satisfied with just one color pin.  I know this because I have an app where I track the places I’ve been and I have tons of different colors.  I have one color for places I’ve been before I met my wife, another for the places we’ve visited together, another color for places I’ve been on business, etc etc.  The result is a world map that has a ton of dots on it with a bunch of different colors, but I like knowing exactly what the context was for whatever dot.

Which brought me to souvenirs!  I come from a long line of pack-rats and hoarders and try to control it as much as I can, but the need to collect random stuff from my trips… it’s strong.

Whenever I travel on business, I always pick up a Starbucks mug for my wife and, in an effort to help mitigate clutter in the house, make postcards for my kids with pictures I take.

But what kind of souvenirs would be good for motorcycle trips?  They can’t be too big, bulky, cumbersome, or heavy.

I was thinking of finding some random gumball toy machine in each state and getting something, but I’m the kind of guy who likes a theme.

Similarly, I could send myself post cards of the places I’ve been, but you have to ask yourself where it will stop.  How many pretty pictures with a little map would you want printed at $3.00 a pop?  That would get expensive pretty quickly.

Then it hit me: Starbucks.

The joke of the ADV world is that people just get BMW GS bikes to go to Starbucks, but I genuinely like Starbucks and it makes for a handy meeting/rendezvous/break point.

And they also have distinctive gift cards for each place.

Yeah, that’s the ticket!  They’re small, easily packable, distinctive, themed, easily framed for a garage wall, and cheap enough that I could buy one each time I visit a place if I roll up on a different bike.  I mean, I could visit all 49 states in North America and every province in Canada and still have plenty of room in my bag for my essentials.

But why?  Why have souvenirs?  Aren’t the memories enough and isn’t this like bragging?

Well, yeah, it is.  But also, you forget stuff.  I’ve forgotten going to all sorts of places in my life which might mean they weren’t very significant to me or it could just mean that some stuff slips.  Too many penguins, not enough iceberg if you know what I mean.

So I’ll get a great big atlas and mark it up with my routes, days, and whatever other data I can think of and I’ll probably transpose those routes onto a big map in my garage or office, but I like the idea of bringing something home with me that doesn’t involve me taking anything natural from that place (like rocks) or filling my bag with inconsistent trinkets.  It’s even money that I would spend otherwise, so I might as well load a piece of plastic with $5.00, transfer that to my Starbucks app, get a coffee and get to keep the gift card!

And yeah, it is bragging and do you know what?  That’s fine.  If someone wants to think I’m bragging by going places, they should put me in my place by going to more places and not telling me about it (otherwise it could be considered bragging), but if I’m being honest with you, I don’t think I would take it as bragging anyway.  I’d love to ask people face-to-face about their adventures in different places and think that we should all get out a lot more than we currently do (I’m sure I’ll touch on this in a later post).

Besides, I’m not saying you should use it to hold over other people and make yourself feel better about going more places.  You should never try to make someone feel bad or inferior.  But maybe your travels would be considered inspirational rather than boastful.  You never know.  Perhaps you could make an Instagram channel of your own and post pictures of your mementos and amazing pictures from the road that may inspire someone to take up riding or at the very least go for a drive and see something new.

Also, it’s fun.  I’ll admit that not everyone collects random stuff like I do and some won’t see the appeal of loading yourself down with even more stuff, but to me this is just a bit of fun.  I’m not hurting anyone and I’m making myself happy, so there’s no harm.

Finally, I’d like to thank anyone that reads these or follows me on Instagram so whenever I do get these gift cards, I’ll post a picture of the code there and the first person to cash it in will get a coffee on me.  It’s a small way of saying thanks for paying attention to me.

See you out there!

Road Trips, Kids, and Motorcycles

During a recent impulsive splurge, I subscribed to Iron & Air Magazine. It’s a pretty cool magazine that is obviously meant to be held onto instead of read and discarded with great photos, smart articles, and an actual spine (for binding). Included in one of the issues I got was a pretty large poster from Bell Helmets that on one side documented a road trip the company took through California and, on the other side, a massive picture from their adventure.

My daughter (10) loved it and hinted strongly that she wanted it (but nuts to that – it’s going to go up in the garage!) and asked what we would do on OUR road trip.

fullsizeoutput_58c5Growing up, I never particularly enjoyed road trips with the family and have been thinking about why for a while now and every reason I didn’t enjoy road trips as a kid boiled down to one thing:

The car.

My dad, a Navy man, lived all over the world and would take vacations and usually fly us to California (because it was easiest to get there on the cheap), where we would rent a car and drive to Indiana.

That’s a long drive.

My family consisted of my mom and dad, my brother, and me. For days, we would be on the road and some truths became evident in our travels:

Truth #1: You will be bored regardless of the amount of stuff you bring.

Truth #2: You have a lower expectation of being polite with the people around you because they’re family.

Truth #3: You know EXACTLY how to get under their skin because of your histories.

Truth #4: In an effort to stave off boredom, you begin to irritate each other.

My dad never planned on stopping for the night. He would always drive until he reached the junction of “I’m too exhausted to drive anymore,” and “I’m pretty sure I’ll murder at least one person if I have to stay in this car with these people much longer.” Then he would find a place to stay for the night, park in the back, go in and get a room “just for him,” and then sneak us in so he didn’t have to pay as much.

Good times.

With all this in mind, I started to think about what would make a road trip better. The first thing I thought was my own vehicle. Being able to control my own speed and go at my pace – actually driving the vehicle instead of being a passenger at the mercy of someone else’s driving – would be great.

Somehow being able to simultaneously be near someone and away from them if they annoy me would also be pretty swell.

But being able to enjoy the process would probably be the biggest draw.

And then it hit me: motorcycles.

Motorcycles tick all of the boxes and gets rid of all the annoying stuff. You control your own vehicle. You go at your own pace. You can pull off anywhere and take pictures, enjoy the scenery, or just take a break. If your other travelers are annoying you, speed up or slow down a bit and meet them at the next agreed-upon rendezvous point. If they’re too chatty, turn off comm.

As I thought about this more and more, even more benefits started to creep in. Riding bikes is FUN, pure and simple. If you’re in control of your own bike – simultaneously together but separate from the people you’re riding with – you have a higher likelihood of enjoying the trip. And if you enjoy the trip, you’ll want to do it more.

I had already decided that my kids will learn how to ride motorcycles because there’s a special breed of terrified that is suddenly there when you’re not surrounded by a cage and this level of fright means you pay more attention to the drivers around you. Pretend that every driver is actively trying to kill you and you’ll probably be a better driver. This is only helped when you take yourself out of the living-room-on-wheels mentality of today’s cars, SUVs, and trucks.

The plan was to enroll the kids in BRC at 15.5 years (the minimum for the course), do a lot of parking lot work with them, and begin taking short trips on progressively difficult roads before all the training culminates in something like an 8-10 day road trip with just me and that child. They would pick where we’re going to go and we would map out how we’re going to get there (all back and secondary roads – zero highway stuff). We would stop when they want to take a break or take pictures, and we would have an adventure.

And, if they like it, we can do it more. We can, as a family, take weekend trips somewhere. Overnighters, day trips, hell – even just riding to breakfast across town! Every ride would have them near me, monitoring their progress as a rider and both of us would be getting more comfortable with the idea of them on motorcycles.

These road trips wouldn’t have to stop when they leave the house, either. Personally, I don’t want to ride in the backseat of a car on another road trip. Ever. But I would totally be down for riding bikes with relatives somewhere. Maybe my kids will share the sentiment and when they come home on break from college, on vacation, or just to get away for a bit, we can go on road trips somewhere.


I think this would strengthen the bond in the family and mitigate the sometimes-harsh separation that happens when kids leave the house. My rationale here is that as you (the parent) mentor your young rider, they become something of a peer rider-wise and you begin to shift roles on the road from “parent” to “riding buddy.” On the road, at least. This might be a bitter pill to swallow, but both of us are going to need that transition at some point and having something that we can do together that embodies a level of independence like motorcycling does… That’s a perfect vessel to switch roles from authority to mentor because you should want your kid to WANT to come to you for advice instead of trying to force your rules and outlook on them.

I mean, there’s definitely a time for that in a kid’s life. You have to teach them how to be a good person. But eventually you have to let them be the person they’re going to be and there’s a point where trying to force yourself is only going to result in them feeling frustrated and wanting to lash out or run away.

So all the reasons that motorcycles make great roadtrip vehicles is the same reason they will make great transitional metaphors for being an adult.

What are my daughter and I going to do on our first road trip? Hopefully make some great memories and start a (fingers-crossed) slow, smooth transition into adulthood.

That’s what we’re going to do!

eCall SOS System

I haven’t been riding for very long, but I’ve noticed that motorcyclists generally fall into one of two categories: the ones that don’t want anything that could be considered a luxury, superfluous, or unneeded on their motorcycle, and the geeks.

I don’t mean that in a derogatory way – I’m a pretty big geek when it comes to certain things (the definition of “geek” being someone who is very passionate about something as opposed to a “nerd” who is very smart about something) and motorcycling is one of them.  So when ABS started to creep more and more into the motorcycling world there were the staunch resistors who clamored “just learn to brake correctly!” and the ones that thought it was cool.

Maybe not needed, but still cool.

ABS isn’t enough, though.  Not for a guy like me.  I like the idea of the ABS on Honda’s Africa Twin where you can flip a switch or push a button and disengage ABS at the rear wheel only.  That’s cool!

The latest is the European Union’s mandatory inclusion of the eCall system in all new cars (not motorcycles as of right now), which automatically detects a crash and calls emergency services.  They say there’s a decreased response time of 40-50% which is a pretty big difference and one that you would certainly appreciate.

Unless, that is, you fall into the first category of biker.

Reasons range from paranoia that the government is tracking your every move to the practical – namely how this will effect the cost of motorcycles.

While ABS isn’t a requirement right now, it’s being added to more and more bikes, but at a premium.  You pay for the option of having ABS, just like you pay for other options like cruise control or luggage cases.  Some bikes come standard with ABS but (oddly enough) have a $500 jump from last year’s non-ABS model.  Weird.

But I think that, when it comes to safety features like ABS or eCall, manufacturers should eat the cost.

I know, I know.  Basic economics would say that a manufacturer shouldn’t eat the cost when there’s suddenly a higher production cost, but hear me out: With motorcycle sales falling and more people saying the reason they don’t want to ride is because it’s not safe, it makes sense to offer safety features for free.  If you don’t, you give people more ammunition to hearken back to the “glory days” when you were free to crash and slowly bleed out in the middle of nowhere without having to pay an extra $300 just to help guarantee your life will be saved.

Instead, if manufacturers ate the cost, they could pitch their bikes as safer and still affordable.  They’re still practical modes of transportation – something a lot of people are concerned with when it comes to motorcycles.  They’re still less expensive than a lot of cars – another draw for the masses.  And now they’re safer.

By doing this (and honestly, it probably wouldn’t have much an impact on the bigger companies), they can help boost their sales and any short-term losses they have from eating the cost will be made up with greater sales.

Not to mention the added benefit of a higher likelihood of a return customer.

I have a friend named Marc who bought a Kia Sportage.  He drove it from the lot and within a day was involved in an accident that totaled the car but both he and his small child were perfectly fine.  A little shaken-up, perhaps, but neither had injuries.  He went back to the same Kia dealership the same day and got another Sportage.  His rationale was that Kia had proven themselves in the crash and he’s been an advocate of the brand ever since.

And I know that we as motorcyclists don’t have the same luxury of crash zones and air bags surrounding us but imagine the pitch: A rider is out on a picturesque road – maybe on a snaky coastal road with the waves crashing nearby and the sun sitting just so on the horizon.  It looks like any normal car commercial, just with a motorcycle.  But oh no!  The biker hits something on the ground, starts to swerve, loses control, and high-sides.  He comes to in an ambulance as paramedics reassure him that he’s going to be okay.  The bike called for them and they got there just in time.  Thank goodness for that feature that was standard (and free).

Why was it free?  Because Kawasaki (or whomever) thought that you, the biker, was worth giving every life-saving advantage to at no cost to the biker.  They value you and want to make sure you stay as alive as you can.

How great would that pitch be?

Well, it would be a lot better if it came from one company before it was mandatory because once anther company expresses this kind of concern for its riders, all the others will look like they’re just trying to copy them.  Similarly, if it becomes mandatory, the companies will look like they’re more concerned with meeting mandates than caring about the riders.

It sounds like a dream, but it’s a dream that would get more people at least interested in the prospect of motorcycling, which is more than what’s happening now.


I recently got back from a trip to Europe on business, visiting parts of Germany, Belgium, and France.  It was a pretty amazing little adventure as I had never been to Europe as an adult.  The streets were cramped and full of the most beautiful architecture I’ve ever seen.  You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting something historic.  There even seemed to be a good bit of humor mixed in.  In Brussels, for instance, the Manneken Pis is a world-renowned statue of a little boy, well, pissing.  It was put in place in 1618 or 1619.  The city dresses the boy up in different clothes for different holidays and you can buy reproductions of him EVERYWHERE.


But if that isn’t enough, Brussels also has Jeanneke Pis which (I don’t know how good your French is) is a girl pissing just to show everyone that girls pee too.

When was this statue put in place?  1987.

That is hilarious when you think about it.  The city was aware of its culture, respected it, but was not so entrenched in blind love of it that they were unable to jab it in the ribs a bit and put something up as a counter.

The food was amazing, as well.  A lady at a Parisian bakery balked at the idea of selling me one miniature chocolate croissant, but I just wanted to taste it – not buy a bag for a family at home.  It was pretty delicious, though.  As I walked away eating it, I gave serious thought to going back and buying at least one more.

Another thing I saw was an absolute wealth of motorcycles of various shapes, sizes, and powers.  Yes, the scooter was represented well, but all sorts of other motorcycles were there, too.  Not doing any sort of counting, I would say that out of all the vehicles I saw, about a third were of the two-wheeled variety.

Paris, beautiful as it is, was monochromatic when I was there.  The sky was grey, the buildings were grey, and a lot of the people were dressed in winter clothes that were usually dark as well (you have to wonder why darker colors are popular in a season where it’s darker than normal).  In some ways this wasn’t a pleasant thing, but it did make the colors that were there – the gold on the bridges, for instance – really pop.

My favorite color instance, though, was when a Vespa that was surely a standard “rosso passione” (bright red), but in all the overcast funk of the day, it stood out like it was lit up with neon.  She pulled the Vespa up onto the sidewalk with me, presumably to make room for the cars behind her to get out of the one-lane road, but it turned out she was waiting for her traveling parter who turned up on what looked like a Yamaha FZ-07.

She had beaten him to the intersection.  They killed their engines, talked, and made gestures, obviously debating the direction that they would go to get to their destination.  Then the Vespa rider started her engine, waved the universal “come on!” arm sweep, and took off into the busy Paris road.  The guy followed and they were both quickly out of view among all the commuters.

The whole scene lasted only a couple of minutes while I waited for a friend to figure out the directions to the river where we would be able to navigate ourselves to the Eiffel Tower.  I still thought it was cool to see two bikes of wildly different segments together on a trip, the Vespa leading the way, and it driven by a woman.

While this would be uncommon in America, it does give me hope for America’s motorcycling future.  If it can be done anywhere, it can be done here as well.  It will just take some tweaks to our system and culture to make it happen and we will have to decide if that juice is worth the squeeze.

I think it is.


New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve read some interesting articles regarding goals where different studies were cited that leaned toward opposite findings:

Option 1) You tell your goal to someone and they help hold you accountable to it.  This inspires you to stay on the straight and narrow and not falter.

Option 2) You keep your goals secret.  Saying your goal out loud makes it more real and your brain has the potential to say you’re almost there so you should quit now.  Why not?  I mean, you’ve basically completed the task, right?

Personally, I’m a bigger believer in this approach because I know the brain and your body do not like doing anything that threatens the status quo.  Don’t believe me?  Pick a food you really like, but is probably unhealthy to eat and cut it out of your diet.  See what your brain does with this change.

All that being said, I think there can be personal resolutions and public resolutions.

Here are my public resolutions:

  1. Get a Grom.  I’ll admit that I may have jumped the gun a bit on registering the website and designing tee-shirts, but I know I’m going to get a Grom and I also know it’s the Grom that is currently in my garage (and currently owned by a friend).  It’s just a small matter of time.
  2. Make at least five substantial rides on the island to document cool places and things to see or do.  It’s the whole point of this blog and I feel lame writing “blog” posts instead of moto posts!
  3. Beat 2017’s mileage.
  4. Take the Grom off-road.  Maybe not crazy off-road, but there’s a spot here on the island that you can’t take a normal car, but I’m pretty sure you can take a bike.  I just have to go out and see for myself…
  5. Get Geared-up.  Motorcycle safety gear is expensive and I’ve given myself a year to get a good set of riding clothes to help keep me safe on my travels.
  6. Take lots and lots of pictures.  I’ve got some cool stuff in mind and I’m sure some of it will end up here, but all of it will end up on my Instagram.
  7. Go on at least one group ride.  I generally ride alone, mostly because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone, but I’d like to give it a shot and see what all the fuss is about.
  8. Make some new friends along the way.

I have more that I want to do, but I feel like putting anything else on myself would be a recipe for disaster and I have so much to do with this list and my actual job already so we’ll just say that anything more than this will be icing on the cake.  At the end of 2018, we’ll see how this list worked out!

What about you?  What are your resolutions?

The Next Generation

A little about Oahu, HI: It’s tight.  Space is limited and land is at a premium.  As such, yards are typically small if they’re there at all, and houses are usually pretty close to each other.  The house I’m renting is actually in the middle of a quad-plex of houses in a neighborhood where everyone lives in quad-plexes.  There is grass and trees, but it’s more communal than anything else.

On the plus side, most of the houses in the neighborhood have garages (which is good news because bike thefts are prevalent in the island) so I have someplace safe(r) to store my Ruckus.

That said, when it’s time to work on the Ruck, the garage door goes up so I can have light, a breeze, and a view of my kids who are usually playing with the other kids of the neighborhood in our yard.

One thing I noticed as I did various projects with my Ruckus is that the kids – aged four to ten-years-old – were always curious as to what I was doing.  I try to be a friendly guy, asking questions about their lives while I’m wrenching away and taking the time to explain what it is I’m doing if they ask.  I even let them help with the easiest tasks that have the least amount of risk in case their parents come by and freak out about the possibility of little Johnny ruining something by over-tightening or dropping a part or tool.

The kids almost always enjoy it and when they come over to play with my kids the next time, they usually talk about what their parents said when they explained the adventure they had working on their friend’s dad’s motorcycle (they don’t differentiate between scooters and motorcycles).

Pro tip for non-parents:  If you ever have kids or are around kids, be careful what you say and do as they will absorb and regurgitate everything to everyone at the worst times.

My son after helping fix the droopy forward pegs on my Ruckus.

A lot of the stories the kids relayed to me went something like “my dad said he would love to get a motorcycle, but Mom says no,” or “my parents say I’m never allowed to have a motorcycle because they’re too dangerous.”


And understandable.  From a non-rider’s perspective, riding is an unnecessary risk that doesn’t have enough reward to justify the danger, but most riders know this is just ignorance on their part.

I try not to counter what parents say.  It’s not my place to tell them motorcycling is as dangerous as you make it, or defensive driving is the name of the game, or something like that.  They’re just kids and I don’t want them to doubt their own parents when it comes to something critical like safety just like I wouldn’t want a parent to counter something I taught my kid about something.

That said, I do explain that motorcycling is dangerous, but a lot of things are and everyone needs to figure out what’s right for them at some point.  Then I ask them to hand me the ratchet or a bolt and help me out.

Motorcycles are something for everyone to tackle individually.  People need to figure out if they want to ride or not.  But by letting a kid help out with a project, you might inspire them to pursue mechanics down the road or they might look at motorcycles more seriously after having some of the mystery taken away by helping re-jet a carburetor or something.  At the very least, they can get their hands a little dirty and go home with a cool story for their family or friends about how they helped build a motorcycle and feel proud of themselves.

You never know.  Sharing your motorcycling passion with the kids around you might help inspire a whole new generation of riders and modders.  It doesn’t take much, either.  Just being friendly has a huge impact on a kid.  I remember being at a parade as a child and seeing a bunch of Harleys ride by.  I gave the throttle motion and a rider saw it, revved his engine like crazy, smiled, and waved at me.  I was on top of the world with happiness and excitement.  Even a wave from a motorcyclist when I was riding a bicycle made me feel awesome!  I’d ride home brrrrrrrrrr-ing to myself pretending I was on a real bike.

Motorcycles and motorcyclists get a bad rap a lot of the time and the only way to change that is by being a positive example to those around us – by being the change we want to see.  I can’t think of a better way that has more impact than by being friendly with the next generation of potential riders.