This marks the 15th year that I have been proudly contributing to Thunder Press and oh, the myriad of changes I’ve seen over these incredibly memorable years. From shifts in the cycle culture and the economy to the internal evolution of the magazine itself, it’s been quite an adventure! And while I’m not the longest-contributing writer or the smartest, the most accomplished or the funniest or any other attributable superlatives, I believe I am certainly one of the most appreciative. I’ve considered myself blessed and have enjoyed the enormous privilege of sharing my many experiences with you all in a variety of ways since I apprehensively submitted my first photos and scribbles back in 2004. Since then I’ve only missed two issues without contributing to this illustrious rag. From the days of being part of a close-knit riding/writing family that I’ve loved while working my way up the ladder by holding the titles of—“Repeat Offender” and “Usual Suspect” right on up to being a bureau chief and contributing editor, I’ve enjoyed taking you all along with me for every mile I’ve ridden to cover various motorcycle gigs under the Thunder Press flag. You’ve encouraged, supported, and even chastised me when you felt I’d colored outside the lines, all while holding me to a standard I know our founding father, Reg Kittrelle, was proud of. It used to delight me to no end to run across Reg out in the field while on assignment and share a moment or two of catching up and hashing over the then-current biker events. He would always take the time to say “hi” and make me feel appreciated, even when I was still wet behind the ears and clumsily sprinting between one photo op to the next, dazed and overwhelmed in my pursuit of the perfect story. I haven’t seen Reg for a few years now, mostly because I spend less and less time in California and venture further out into America’s back roads, I think. I’ve been blessed to have been left unrestricted in my journeys and have achieved a lot of personal goals during my Thunder Press tenure. As a matter of fact, I only have one state left in my original quest to ride all the lower 48s. For some reason I’ve just never found an opportunity or reason to go to North Dakota but now, it’s a serious goal for 2019 since it’s the last state on a list that was prepared years ago when Terry Roorda first asked me to be a bureau chief. My response to him was that as long as I wasn’t restricted to just covering California events, I was in… and he kept to his promise and never told me I couldn’t ride out to a far-lying gig to work an event. I always trusted Terry’s leadership and his word, and I’ve missed my friend since his retirement.
One of the very behind-the-scenes but omnipotent forces that has held us all together since the beginning, Cristy Pazera, is also leaving us and I can’t imagine how we’re going to manage without her. Cristy took her desk with Thunder Press at the tender age of 21 and immediately made a place for herself among the leaders of this publication. For almost 21 years, every manager, editor and employee over the years knew who Cristy was and every single contributor has been greeted and nurtured by her, but few have ever met her face-to-face since her job as Thunder Press’s own resident wizard was very much a behind-the-scenes desk job, but she’s been a devout and committed force and she’s kept this magazine functioning. She spent her time over the years growing and studying while working—she’s currently finishing up a masters degree—and looking to the future for her young family and now she’s ready to venture out to the next chapter. Her magic touch and incredible people skills have kept us moving forward throughout the decades and I know her heart is with us all as she readies to put her varied skills to work in a more lucrative and rewarding career beyond the motorcycle world. Although I wish her well and hope her all the best in her new adventures, I’m going to miss my dear friend and very respected boss and her leaving makes my heart sad. So today, as I tend to making out my list of goals and destinations for the coming months, I wonder what other adjustments the days ahead will hold as I try to remain optimistic. It’s a new year with new beginnings and lots of adapting and altering on the horizon, most of which are still unknown to me, but I can feel the winds of change swirling about as I prepare to chart out my annual route to soak up the cycle culture and share the images and words with you. As I peruse my atlas, I’m reminded that I haven’t been to Alaska but would love to ride the highways there while keeping an eye out for bears and moose. Just imagine the photos! I’ve already ridden in Hawaii so I suppose Puerto Rico and some of our other territories will be next on the horizon, though I’ve been talking to friends about another trip to ride Russia. How about you? What are your bucket list riding goals? I’d like to hear from you on some of your to-do rides or places you think are exceptional… maybe we’ll cross paths out there. For now, just remember to appreciate the ones you hold dear and don’t pass up an opportunity to say, “I love you.” Wishing you all a safe and fabulous 2019.