Wednesday, December 24

Holiday Greetings and New Year's Wishes

As the year draws to a end and another one begins, I am sending all of you well-wishes.   May your holidays be filled with joy, happiness and gratitude that you've come this far, that you've survived the highs and lows, the good and the bad, the joys and the sorrows. No matter the challenges we've all faced, we're still standing. We're all blessed and fortunate to see another day and believe once again in the power of hope and what tomorrow may bring. 

Wishing you all health, peace, and balance in all that you do in the coming year.

Holding each of you in my heart.

Happy Holidays! 

Ring out the Old and Welcome in the New Year.

Thanks for sticking with me this year.  See you on the other side!

Monday, December 15

The continuing quest for answers...

I'll try to keep this short. My life feels consumed by the circumstances surrounding my brother's death--just in case the readers here haven't figured that out by now. I am sorry that feeling stuck keeps showing up here. Believe it or not, I am getting a better.

The officer assigned to the case has finally gotten the paperwork processed to pull the rental car off the road. It's been three weeks (plus) since the hit and run. The officer told me that the car is "very clean" with the exception of evidence of bullet holes! This is consistent with the story the driver told the police, which is that he was being shot at and he didn't, as far as he knows, hit anything or anyone. He claims that another car was involved. I asked the police if he asked the guy why he changed the tires on the car. The answer: They were damaged due to bullets. This is insane! Could it be they were changed to cover up evidence of the accident? I asked why he hadn't been arrested for again driving another rental without a license. The police officer told me. "Someone else would have to arrest him, if I did, I could be charged with harassing him." I just don't get this at all.

The officer told me that there is "no doubt" that this driver hit and killed my brother. He needs an eyewitness or the driver's conscious would need to lead to a confession. IF, however, the car, which has been sent to the State of IL police for investigation of DNA evidence, is returned without DNA evidence, the case is basically closed. Unless someone can put him behind the wheel, this guy walks. The passenger has mysteriously disappeared, we think, because the rumors are flying that he's being sought. No one seems able/willing/ to provide anything but anonymous information.

I've written to an investigative reporter with one of the newspapers here and I'm still waiting for a response. Last week, the house belonging to one of the people whose name I gave to the police, was "shot up" as part of some gang conflict. I don't believe this has anything to do with the case but is symptomatic of the problems frequently transpiring in that community.

If the car is returned with DNA evidence that matches Michael, the January court date for the driver then will be upgraded to a felony. He'll be in January court to address three relatively minor citations he was given when he turned himself in.

Finally, another person who has information on the case has been visited by the mother and grandmother of the driver. The rumor is that she is being paid to keep silent. I've talked to this woman to find out why she hasn't called the police with the info she has. Her excuse, "I'm sick and coughing blood. And, I don't have minutes on my cellphone." I resisted the temptation to say I'd get the phone turned on. To date, I've been squeezed for a total of $500 by another "eyewitness."
I've been shown the error of my ways and will not go down that route again. Desperation will make one do strange things and the people who have unfortunately learned to survive by any means necessary can smell a sucker a mile away.

So, I remain determined, but frustrated and more than a little exhausted.

Monday, December 8

Yo-Yo post and emotions...

The last post is evidence, I hope, of my desire to move on to more motorcycle related posts. I am trying. However, it seems that this period of my life is dominated by my brother Michael's tragic death. I am heavily involved in the investigation. In fact, from what I've been told, I've supplied the investigator with most of the information he has.  I've been helped by generous, amazing people in the community. I'm frustrated and more than a little perturbed that the man who struck Michael still walks the streets--and drive--with impunity. 

I've supplied the license plate number of the car; the name of the passenger in the driver's car; info that the car was a rental (which turns out to be true!); and, the name of several people who saw the man in the car. Yet, he hasn't been picked up. That is until, last Wednesday. He turned himself in to the police accompanied by a lawyer. The community has been mounting pressure in the form of subtle distancing. Some have repeatedly asked him to come forward. The rumor on the street is that his family has encouraged him not to come forward.  

The investigator called me Wednesday night and said, "I have good news and I have bad news." The good was that he was in the police station that very moment. The bad is that he was going to "walk out" with only a few traffic tickets.  One ticket was for driving without a license. Another was for knowing of a traffic accident and not reporting it; the other, I think, was for leaving the scene of an accident. He said he didn't do it and that another car was involved.  The police officer was restricted in what he could ask him because his lawyer prevented that. The officer told me that his man has a "long criminal record" and that he "knows the system" and that he just might get off if no one can actually put him behind the wheel. I don't get this. What about the mounting evidence that does every thing short of that? It's called hit and run, for heaven sake! A person does it and leaves the scene, often long before anyone can get a plate number. But in this case, it happened in a relatively small community, where every one knows everyone else. Where there are no secrets in such places. Where people talk to each other and confessions are inevitably given to friends who talk...

But every person, and there have many, who have called the motor vehicle department anonymously and they have supplied this man's name. This information has been unequivocal in its consistency. No other name has been mentioned!  I even obtained the name of the person who helped the culprit change the tires on the rental car! Yet, this car has not been impounded. I'm trying to resist the feeling that the investigator doesn't care enough to make this a priority case. I could be wrong. But it's how I'm feeling. I keep asking why the car hasn't been impounded. The last response I was given is unacceptable. "We're working on that but the rental company said the car is currently being rented, so we're waiting until it is returned." What the heck is that all about?! That's a bunch of DNA evidence that is being destroyed! The rumor is that the car was re-rented by the same family.  Why doesn't the police have the power to say, "That car is suspected of being involved in a traffic fatality, get it here immediately!?" I can't help feeling that if Michael was a Bush or a Kennedy or even an Obama, his case would garner more attention. I'm hoping this is just my anger talking and not the deep corners of my heart. 

I pressure the investigator often to find out what is happening with all the names I've supplied, some of whom have been interviewed. But I keep hearing that they need someone willing to put their name on paper, to come forward in a public sense. What the police don't seem to get is that these people are afraid. They live in a place where the police do not always "serve and protect."  This man is supposedly part of a crime family.  One threat has already been issued. One person supposedly has already received money and/or drugs to keep quiet. I understand the community's fear. I understand also that many fear the police too. Good people have been harmed in the past.   From their perspective, it must be difficult to know the good from the bad. I get that. And, I'm trying to appreciate the bind this puts people in. Still.The guy is now driving another rental car. I gave the police that license plate number too. I am out some money for paying for some of this information. I am not rich. I can't afford this and I only did it for one critical piece of information. The person didn't know I would pay nor did the person ask. But s/he is in obvious dire financial muck so I did it for his/her children and as a token of my appreciation that the person risked personal safety to come forward and do the right thing. This individual recently moved from the community to a place I will not mention here. This person can put the guy at the scene, standing over my brother. This person saw him drive away. This person saw him return and blend in with the crowd that had assembled at the scene. This person saw the car drag my brother. What more do they need to arrest him?!

The police has told me that they "hope" that by the time he comes in for the traffic tickets they can upgrade the charges to a felony but this is a big "IF." I've been told to prepare myself that this could take a year or more. I don't get that. Why can't they lean harder on the guy who was the passenger, the man who helped change the tires, or, the guy who was threatened to keep quiet--why hasn't these been pursued to the nth degree? 

The investigator told me that when a hit and run occurs, that case will take primacy over old cases. Michael's case is considered old. He was hit 21 days ago; he's been dead 17 days. Strange how something so recent to us, something so fresh in our hearts is considered "old."

I am not a litigious person. But I have contacted a lawyer to see if I can get info on the rental company (Alamo!) and get that car examined. Apologies again for unrelated motorcycle content. I'm trying to switch gears, no pun intended.   But this case is what's on my mind. Not motorcycles. At least not today. Just this.

Thursday, December 4

Get Your own ride!: Triumph Sprint ST or BMW F800ST?

Re-entry rider, Dave has now, after only one season of riding the Suzuki SV650, turned his attention to dedicated tourers. I'm glad he's thinking of a ride he will select and that he doesn't feel obligated to hang on to the SV650. I can understand why he'd want to select his own ride. Riding styles and tastes and comfort levels are subjective. Still. I'm going to hate seeing the SV650, aka "Queenie," go and unless I can come up with a good reason to keep her in the family, I think she'll be putting a smile on a new owner's face come next riding season. It's a shame 'cause that little bullet-proof bike has it all. It's a naked, standard bike that thinks it's a sportbike. It's like owning a fun, frisky pony but without poop to clean up. 

Dave has found that the SV, while a "great" bike on which he has already put about 2000 miles, is not perfectly set up for him. He feels it vibrates too much, which contributes to prematurely tired and achy hands. I never felt any such vibration. He's tried to loosen his grip, wear different gloves, but his problem persists. I suggested those foamy grips that slip on the handlebars but so far he's not tried those.A new bike is in order because he's now figured out the kind of riding he wants to do. Used to be that a bike did whatever you asked of it; just point it in the direction you wanted to go and there you went! Specialization is ubiquitous--no area of our lives have escaped the joys--and curse--of specialization.  A month ago it seemed as if he were leaning more toward gravel and back roads riding. I suggested the V-Strom or the new BMW F650GS or 800GS. That changed with is his historical interest in roads like Rt. 66, Lincoln Highway (Rt. 30) Dixie Highway and Rt 1 and desire for long distances with an emphasis on comfort. He wants an out of the box ride-ready bike, not one he'll have to invest extra monies to get tour ready.  So, his move to the sport tourer has evolved rather naturally. 

The December issue of Road Runner has an article on the Triumph Sprint ST and one ride story taken on Moto Guzzi's Norge. While Dave likes both, each is heavier than ideal for him as are other sports tourers such as Yamaha's FJR, Kawasaki's Concours, and Honda's VFR.  Dave doesn't want a bike too much over 500lbs wet. This reduces his choices considerably. The Triumph is almost too heavy but doable. He likes the matching hard bags that are standard on the bike, the ABS, the gel seat, and its technical, performance features. If he could get the Sprint ST in red, or a nice blue one, he's be ready to sign his name. But dealer distance, resell value, insurance costs and maintenance issues need to be weighed first.

A serious contender must be the BMW F800ST, my bike--and I don't even like matching couple stuff! I'm recommending it nonetheless. I know he'd love the bike.  I offered him several opportunities to sit on it (not ride it) and he always said, "I'll try it later." Now he regrets that. When the new bike itch starts pestering you, one of your life's goals it seems is being able to sit on as many two wheel motorized vehicles as possible. Until the spring, I am bikeless. I'm rooting for him that he finds a bike he loves and one that he feels he HAS selected entirely on his own and not one that he's settled for because of inheritance. Honestly, I had ulterior motives about him taking over the SV.
I remember reading on a woman's oriented motorcycle forum about a woman who wanted to get into motorcycling, which initially thrilled her motorcycle riding spouse. He used this as an opportunity (she didn't say this directly, but it was there between the lines) to buy himself a new bike because he would kindly give her his bike. Well...his bike didn't fit her! It was some behemoth HD and not only did it not fit, she didn't like the dang thing!  She had her heart set on some cute small displacement bikes that she thought would suit her well.  To her, the HD  was too big, too intimidating, and too manly looking.  When she mounted it, it generated instant fear, which is no way to build confidence as a rider.  Her husband also didn't think she needed the MSF course, he said, "If I can't teach you, no one can." Well, it ended up being a disaster for the woman. She hated the bike and dropped it repeatedly, which did not sit well with her husband, who continued to push her and yell at her to adjust to the weight, even telling her she'd "grow" into the bike. His reasoning was that she could flatfoot the bike so it was a perfect fit. The woman deserves a purple heart for tolerating such utter nonsense!  

The woman decided to abandon her riding. She gave up, which her confused husband didn't seem to understand why. Some of us suggested she take her desire to ride into her own hands and not rely on her husband to teach her, pointing out that she would be best taught by someone who is certified to teach motorcycle safety skills, someone who would not yell at her, and would patiently help her build confidence. Where she lives, the price for MSF is rather hefty. We suggested she save the money and take the course. We encouraged her to start anew the following season.  I wanted to tell her to unload more than that heavy bike, but I kept this to myself.  She could pay for the MSF class and get a small displacement bike to build skills and confidence on rather than believe her husband about "growing" into a bike. Some encouraged her to talk to her husband and try to get him to agree with her plans. Although I didn't share this with anyone, that recommendation would have not been on my list of things to do--he sounded beyond help--but that's just me. I truly believe in the emancipation proclamation about freedom.  The point of this tale?The SV650 was my bike. Dave inherited it from me and has enjoyed it immensely for many miles. As much as I'd like to keep the bike, he needs and deserves to get his own ride, one that he researches, one that whispers his name when he sits on it. I almost hope he doesn't get the BMW F800ST. I'd always feel a tad goofy having identical bikes--but I'd get over it if he decides to join the BMW F800 family. The  '09 F800ST comes in new colors so we won't match there--and, as I remind him, I'm a solo rider. It's not like we'll be together all the time.

I wish him well as he continues his quest. I'm preparing myself for truly letting go of the SV650, which shouldn't be terribly difficult...I've been surprising myself a lot lately on what I can get through...