Thursday, April 20, 2006

Buzzard Love.

I'm still working on my "Big Post". I get these really great ideas when I'm on the bike. Trouble is, when I sit down at the computer they're gone. Maybe I should bring a bike in and park it in front of the computer. Maybe sitting on it would stir the juices. I'm sure it would stir Katie's juices but that won't help me get the blog post done!

Excuse me while I insert a quick note here: To my bro' Gary. If you're reading this it means you're still alive. Hope you recover from your illness. Sorry you're sick. 104 degress, huh? Want some of my good "fever drugs"?

Riding home tonight I think I narrowly escaped trouble with The Law. I also saw something I have never seen before and I'm not sure I want to see again.

The weather was still warm and sunny although clouds are moving in as I write this. Friday is expecting showers but it's supposed to be short lived. I'm teaching a beginner rider's class this weekend and the outlook's hopeful for good weather. I decided on a different route home. I love my isolated back roads but decided I wanted some variety. There's a back road that has some sweeping curves but can have a little more traffic. This road joins up with my old Hwy 99 26 miles south of my home town.

Either way, I need to go through Coburg. This is an interesting little place. The whole town covers about 12 square blocks. There's some rural areas annexed for the purposes of generating ticket revenue. The Police Chief and City Manager are one and the same person. It seems like the only purpose of the officers is to write tickets to fill the city coffers. Coburg made national news for their activity. I don't remember the exact population but it's probably 1000. Yet, Coburg has 7 or 8 full time officers. It got so bad that the Legislature had to regulate their fund raising efforts by declaring that only a certain percentage of city revenue could come from tickets.

Coburg has two bikes, a Harley and a BMW. My encounter today, however, was with an officer in a cruiser.

Today I jumped onto the freeway for 5 miles to the Coburg exit. When you come off the freeway you hang a left and approach Coburg from the East. This part of town is a little busy. The road temporarily runs four lanes. There's a truck stop on one side and the entrance to Monaco Motor Coaches on the right. Monaco employs a bunch of folks. You've probably heard of their motor homes as well as their really fancy line, Marathon Coaches. The four lane stretch lasts about an eighth of a mile then narrows into two lanes. Immediately you find yourself in a residential area with a 25 MPH speed limit. Guess where the cop was?

Sophie and I are behind a little red car and a tan Buick. I am literally behind the "little old lady in the Buick". The red car takes the left lane at the light to Monaco and the little old lady takes the right lane. I'm trapped. When the light turns green the red car speeds up and then slows down. The little old lady moves left behind the red car but we're close to where the lanes narrow. Time to make a decision. I have this mental nightmare of being trapped behind this slow driver for miles. There's not room for a car to go around but the bike can do it. After passing the little old lady I get greedy and figure I might as well go all the way. Now I pass the red car, too. Needless to say, when the lane ends I'm doing a little more than 25 MPH. One block past the bottleneck sits a cruiser with radar aimed at traffic coming into town. Dang!

The way the car's sitting, you can't see it until you're too close to react. Good spot for a trap. Once I'm safely past the cars I hit the front brake hard enough to visibly dip the front forks. It was my way to say I'd done what I needed to do and was planning on minding the speed limit. It wasn't meant as showing respect to the pirate, just trying to avoid a fine. Must of worked because I got the hard stare but no bubble gum machine lit up. Could have gone either way, though.

It's always nice to cruise through the little towns on the old highway. One such is Shedd. Facing the highway is a grass seed warehouse, a building supply store, a diner, a small market, and a grange hall. Every third Thursday there's a gathering of street rods and classic cars at the diner. This must be the first one of the year. I can't resist pulling into the lot on the bike.

There's a timeless magic that makes almost any bike blend in with such a gathering. The bike can be almost new but it doesn't matter. The car folks fussed over the bike and asked questions while I did the same in return. The hour I spent was like entering a quiet pool off to the side of the rushing river. Everything else is put on hold while we talk fine machinery and trade stories. Very relaxing. Nonetheless, I finally had to mount up and head back down the road.

One the way out of town, such as it is, I saw a little boy on a shiny chrome bicycle. He must have been around 7 or 8 years old. His hair was a little long and he had a purple scarf wrapped around his head in the classic "do-rag" fashion. The young man was pedaling down a sidewalk when he caught sight of the bike. As I got closer the bicycle was losing speed until it was almost wobbling. He must have been totally engrossed and fascinated by the ST and I. As I passed him I waved and he waved back. I watched him in the mirror as I passed. His head followed the bike and I. Then I saw him do a slow tip-over on the bicycle. Talk about total distraction!

The awesome thing about riding back roads on a bike is being out in the open. I'm totally convinced that riders see things that car drivers miss. A lot of this highway is through wide-open farmland. Sheep dot many of the fields. In one field there were 6 or 7 vultures ( or buzzards ) gathered around a sheep carcass. Off to the side one of the birds was flapping those huge wings fairly rapidly. Looking closer I saw another buzzard under it. Have you ever seen buzzards mating? It looked so awkward and clumsy that it was hilarious. I rode the rest of the way home thinking about buzzard love!

Miles and smiles,



Steve Williams said...


Thinking about your comment about being trapped behind the little old lady made me think of the movie "Full Metal Jacket" (bear with me now).

The DI pushes and pushes his platoon to goe faster and farther and do more and more. He sets up a frenetic pace for everyone. A lot of us do the same thing in life---push harder, go faster, do more, accomplish more. It is a yardstick that we gauge success by.

So I am thinking "Why is being stuck behind someone at 25MPH bad?" I know I don't like to be stuck behind anyone going slower than I want to go but therein lies a possible dilema. On Kung Fu I bet Master Po would have advised Kwai Chang Cain to bend, to embrace patience, and walk slowly. As I ride I find myself questioning how I ride and when I intentionally slow down, take longer routes, let go of my personal desire to move faster, I end up getting more from the ride.

And I never worry about bubblegum machines.

I have a DVD of Kung Fu. I think I put it in the player....


Gary said...


No drugs, thanks. Went for a ride yesterday, had a ball for a little while, but quickly wore out. Went back home, and back to bed.

Your near-miss scenario is familiar to me. It happens at least once a week to me, now that I'm riding these "fire breathing" 250's. ;^)

Steve, you make a great point. I wish I could have embraced that whole zen mindset that I had when I first started riding scooters.

But I'm afraid my psyche was captured by the "dark side" too many years ago for me to go back.

Maybe age and wisdom, along with soaring gas prices, will bring me around...

Ride well,

irondad said...

Let me clarify my position. It's not so much the speed. Steve is absolutely right about slowing down and enjoying the ride. My complaint is that once I got to the more open, curvy road, that someone else would dictate the rhythm of my ride. Admittedly, my natural rhythm seems to be a little brisker than most folks. So it's not the speed as much as the flow.

Patience is an extreme virtue in riding. It is what holds us back from doing something stupid. The same act carried out in differing circumstances can be either safe or insane.

Steve, thanks for having the courage to write what you really think.

At our age, when will "age and wisdom" actually come? Shouldn't we have had it by now?


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