Sunday, February 19, 2006


I was not going to post this weekend. It was to be a weekend away from the bikes. A long weekend to tune in with Katie. We ended up riding Saturday. It was Katie's request to go. We met the enemy in an SUV. No physical injuries. Only to my psyche.

We slept in. Enjoyed a leisurely brunch. The sun was shining. Cold it was, but compelling. Katie said it would be a great day for a ride. "Let's go for coffee", she exclaimed. It was a strange request. I had coffee in my hand. We have a Starbuck's here in town. 10 minutes away. Then she filled in the second half. "At Coburg Road". Now it makes sense. This Starbuck's is 55 miles the way we go. I wanted to be sure she understood the cold. That it was really her choice. I am fine. I am suffering PMS ( parked motorcycle syndrome ) but can easily deal with it for a few days. No, she insisted she wanted to go for herself.

Katie has an endorsement. She took the class. She rides a little. The CX500 is hers. Mostly she wants to cuddle behind me. Katie is a motorcyclist at heart. I have seen her eyes shine. She tells someone of how cornering feels. She tells of being immersed in the ride. She wants to go. She feels a need. We will take a long way down. Sit and connect over coffee for me and tea for her. Share the ride. It will be much colder as dark nears. The run home will be on the Interstate. It is a tradeoff. We will have a long ride. Then hurry home to shield her from the worst cold.

She puts on layer after layer. Long underwear. Sweater. Fleece pullover. Her Aerostich Roadcrafter. It is Hi Viz. Top and bottom. That is a lot of yellow! Somewhere in there is the electric vest. A balaclava. Two pairs of gloves. I am afraid she won't bend enough to get on the bike. It works and we are off.

I will not detail the ride down. This is to tell a particular story. Suffice it to say it was good. Sweeping curves, beautiful country, the last leg following a river and its bends. It is amusing that we sat outside for coffee. With all the gear we would have cooked inside. The sun was still bright. Why not leave the gear on and enjoy it? People huddled inside. We had outside to ourselves. Box people and bike people separated by the cold.

Here is the encounter. We are up the Interstate. I am in the left lane. Traffic is heavy. All the box people coming and going. We are in a train line. Patiently riding. It is about the journey for us. In my mirrors I see a silver SUV. It seems half the world drives silver SUV's. This one darts to the right lane. Comes up and pushes into traffic on the left. Waits and does it again. You have seen these. Now the driver is next to us. Left lane and right lane are the same speed. We are side by side. I look at the people in the SUV. There is a man about 40. Dark haired with a narrow face. He has a woman passenger. A child in the back seat. The man is impatient. He looks directly at me. I see the front tire move my direction. The SUV gets closer to my bike. And closer. And closer.

This man sees me. He is not accidently pullling over into me. He is deliberately trying to make me yield. Closer and closer. Little by little. This is planned. This is evil intent. I feel the anger demon well up inside me. The man is staring at me as he pulls over. So far I am holding. It is time for a crucial decision. Will he go all the way? Do I call his bluff ( if it is a bluff ) or fold? I feel Katie squeeze her knees against me. She knows the situation. I back off. I feel so impotent. I am outraged. Shortly I hit an off-ramp and we go home on the old highway. I dare not have this SUV in my vision. It may drive me to other things.

I think about my decision. I think about the driver. I am seething inside. A hundred years ago I would have shot him. I am trained to rise to challenges with authority. I am trained to assert myself. I am wired to defend my honor. I do not lightly back down from a challenge. It is not likely this man would have challenged me if we had been face to face. It is one thing to be insulated in a vehicle. Quite another to meet a man in the open. Katie says I am intimidating. In confrontations there is an insane look in my eyes. It is to no effect when masked by a helmet and sunglasses. What could cause this man to act this way? Is he so important that all must yield? Does he feel invulnerable in his big SUV? Does he care about the stress to his wife? Is he happy with the example he is setting for the child? I can only wonder about these things.

I do know about MY decision. It was not possible to use the cell phone. You know how it is on a bike. An arresting officer would have no probable cause. I could press charges. Intent would be hard to prove. It would still be vicarious satisfaction. Not the same as "on the spot" justice. Did I make the right choice? Would the driver have yielded if he saw I would not? I had my best friend on the bike with me. Could I make the choice for her? The anger demon was welling strong in me. Releasing this demon is perilous. It wants to cause harm and hurt. I have found that it is just as willing to hurt the one releasing it. It will not leave without satisfaction. It cares not who it harms. Just that it does. My pride urged me to fight a battle I knew I could not win. If I were alone would I have fought? Would this be the fine line? Bravery versus stupidity?

It seems dramatic does it not? After all, it is only an incident on the road. Yet it is symbolic of so much. I backed down. I console myself that we all will pay for decisions. Someday and somewhere. I tell myself it was the right thing to do. I am happy that we are still well. Yet I am shamed that I yielded. My pride is wounded. Our bike and bodies are not. I am outraged without outlet. Yet we will ride again unharmed. There is so much inner turmoil.


Steve Williams said...

You need to arm Katie with a sharp rock pick for close up paint job rearrangement and a paint ball gun for festive decoration.

Seriously though, I''m with you---the best course is to get out of the way and let people rush towards their doom. I've long ago given up trying to understand why people are the way they are.

Glad you are intact and still riding!


Gary Charpentier said...

Dan, I know exactly how you feel. I mean exactly!

Last year, I was in heavy freeway traffic on my KLR. I was doing what Frogwing and I do best: getting around all the zombie box-people with style and panache. One of them get very angry with me.

Some young metal-head in a Merkur, listening to what sounded like Pantera, came out of the left lane with rage in his eyes and RAMMED us! I saw him coming and looked around quickly, but there was nowhere to go. As his front bumper approached, I lifted my left foot and he hit my left footpeg at the same time he slammed on his brakes.

We didn't go down, much to his dissappointment, but the sturdy bracket that holds my footpeg was bent down 90 degrees, and unusable. But incredibly, that was the extent of the damage. The shifter was still intact, and I could still ride.

We followed him for many miles past our normal exit. I memorized his plate number, and started planning how I was going to end his life when he stopped somewhere. This went on almost to the Wisconsin border before I cooled off. He tried several times to brake-check me and/or get away by cutting others off in traffic.

It was at that point that I realized someone else could easily get hurt. So I swallowed my pride and took the next exit towards home.

I called the Highway patrol, and they dutifully took down the number. But because I hadn't taken the time to gather witnesses, they wouldn't do anything further. Typical...

I actually got angry all over again as I typed this. These things stay with us. But you can't go to war on the freeway without accepting the possibility that you will get injured, killed, or land in jail. That's why I stay away from large, multi-lane freeways on my bikes.

Backroads are where it's at, bro.

Ride well,

Mad said...

You did the right thing, when we're two up (which normally means someone close to us) we have to look after our pillions. If it had been me one up in your situation he might have lost a wing mirror but two up my reaction would have been exactly yours right down to the fuming about it afterwards...

Karma will get the guy never fear.

irondad said...

I like the idea of arming Katie!Rushing to their doom is a nice way to phrase it.

did the mirror thing, once. It was quite satisfying. Thanks for the confirmation about taking care of our pillions. You're right, of course. Like the comment about Karma. It will have its satisfaction somewhere.

Only you, brother. Most people would avoid the freeway to lessen the chances of getting hurt or killed. Only you and me, good or bad, add the option of going to jail! Glad the ramming encounter turned out as well as it did. Maybe your karma came back to you.
I had the luxury once of on-the-spot justice. Clyde and I were off duty and riding our bikes. He had a Kawasaki Voyager and I was on my 900 Custom. We stopped at a light and were side by side. A lady came up and bumped us hard enough to knock Clyde's bike down. She got out and started screaming things at us about bikers. I am sorry she had a bad experience but she chose poorly. I warned her to be careful because a person just never knew who they were dealing with. As she continued her rampage I used the CB on Clyde's bike and contacted "On Guard" which was a civilian corp that monitored channel 9 and helped out law enforcement on parade traffic, etc. Within minutes there were three marked cruisers on site. Our brothers took care of us. Usually it is the same as you experienced. If you don't do justice yourself it ain't happening.


Mad said...

Gary I've been boggling over that incident all day. I joke about car drivers trying to assassinate me but that really was attempted murder...Sheesh!

Irondad, what a pleasure that you and your mate were cops! I'd have been chuckling all day, well, except for the banged up bike of course

gary charpentier said...

Hey Mad,
I don't want to hijack Dan's blog here. I'll talk to you about this on email. Maybe now you understand some of my "controlled aggression"?

Ride well,

irondad said...

Thanks for the courtesy, but use the site. It ain't like there's a superhighway of activity here. It's for the purpose of discussion, after all.