Thursday, April 06, 2006

Free ranging sheep outside the fence!

Meandering Musings

I had to put off doing a new post last night. I went straight home and did yardwork. ( GASP! ) The lawn REALLY needed mowing. I grew up a redneck cowboy and still am, I guess. As I struggled to push the mower through the tall grass I thought of Jeff Foxworthy and his redneck jokes.

"If you finally mow your lawn and you find an abandoned car, you might be a redneck".

A jungle became a lawn again so I can live with it for a while, now. I was kind of disappointed not to find a car, though. This blog isn't about lawns, but even us hardcore riders have to do domestic chores now and then.

The price of gas is going up again, as you've probably noticed. I pass the Wilco station each morning and afternoon. Two days ago the price went up 6 cents a gallon from morning to afternoon. Over the last two days it's gone up 10 more cents. That makes it sixteen cents a gallon in a short while. The way the prices keep shooting up really makes me angry. Especially considering that the oil companies are making record profits. They blame anything they can for raising the price. What's even worse, the oil companies are pulling fuel out of American markets and sending it to China where they know they can make more money. That's just plain wrong.

Dan, get off that soap box, already!! As frustrating as it is, there's nothing we can do about the prices. I can, however, choose commuting transportation that uses less fuel.

One of the really cool things about commuting on two wheels is that the gas prices don't hit so hard. The ST averages about 45 miles per gallon. With 247 miles on the trip meter, it took 5.7 gallons to fill up. I spent $15.40. Compare that to my old diesel pickup which would have required $44.50 for the same number of miles. I fill up on average twice a week. That's not too hard to take!!

For me the extra fuel mileage is just a bonus. I'm still totally in love with riding. The thrill is still there after all these years. Some people either don't want to or can't ride very often. They treasure their big trips. Commuting allows me to experience the little things that add up to magic every single day. Awesome little things like the way the bike feels moving underneath me. It's still amazing how I can pull out of a parking lot, turn my head to look far down the road in the direction I want to go, and the bike just goes that way. Speaking of corners, there's no feeling like getting set for a corner, pressing to make the bike lean, and gliding through like the bike is on rails. On some of my backroads I stay in one gear and can literally lean and lift the bike with the throttle. Dancing on two wheels.

There's so many things like the feel of the air, the way the motor sings and the bike surges ahead in response to the throttle, the maneuverability, all of it. When I get in a truck it feels like an elephant running in loose sand in comparison. So big and sluggish! Without commuting on a bike I'd miss all this wonder!

The ride in yesterday was unique. It was that odd time of morning when the sun was just coming up. Up above me like a ceiling was a layer of gray clouds drizzling a little rain. The clouds ended farther East before the mountains. As the sun was coming up it was just peeking over the mountaintops. Being low on the horizon the sun was shining underneath the clouds. So while I had rain drops falling from on top of me, I had bright sun from the side. It was kind of like being in a fishbowl with an opaque lid and a lamp shining through one side. Weird.

There was also a wake-up call. Road construction is temporarily messing up the old highway. Long delays coupled with some spots that are really nasty to ride the bike over made me reconsider going to work that way. I figured to take the freeway to work and then escape to my awesome twisty roads for the ride home. Just after getting onto Hwy 34 and heading East toward the freeway I pick up a rider on a BMW. Glad for the company, I ride behind him. Just before the Interstate is an Arco mini-mart. A LOT of people use this as it's right off the freeway and the gas is cheaper. Personally, I won't use this gas. They sell the bottom of the bottom of the tank and there's too many horror stories of bikes with clogged fuel systems.

So the Beemer guy starts signaling the right turn onto the Interstate. Thing is, he signals just before the Arco. Someone is waiting to pull out and sees the signal on the Beemer. "Assuming" the signal is indicating a turn into the Arco, the driver pulls out in front of us. The BMW guy makes good use of the ABS. I have room to do what I need to do. Awesome reminder of a couple of things.

1. No matter how many bikes are together, each rider is responsible for themselves. Think of it as a number of bikes who just happen to be on the same road, not a single entity.

2. Make sure you don't signal false intentions. In this case, it would have been better to wait until being past the Arco ( or something similar ) to signal the right turn.

Took a ride to Lane Community College at lunch yesterday to take some pictures for an upcoming blog post. 30th Ave goes up a hill from the campus. That stretch always calls to me. You can see the road going up the hill in sweeping curves with trees on both sides. I just had to ride up it and drop down the other side into town. Got to chat with a couple of Eugene motor officers on the way down to town. One I knew and one I got to meet.

Speaking of motor cops, I got a call from Jeff who used to work with me but left to become a postal worker. Seems he was miffed. I was riding the ST at lunch and it seems Jeff was coming at me from the opposite direction in his nifty Postal Service truck. Jeff was complaining that I waved at the motor cop behind him and ignored Jeff. Well, what can I say? Have to wave at a bike and it never hurts to score points with the cops on bikes!

I rode by the Gateway Mall this morning as usual. The new Kohl's store opened this morning. At 7:30 AM there was already a long line of people waiting to get in. The line was three or four people wide and stretched about four blocks worth in the parking lot. The store wasn't opening until 10. What drives people to such madness?

There's a bank at Gateway Mall. An elderly gentleman works there as a security guard. For a long time he rode an orange Goldwing to work and we used to talk bikes. I haven't seen the bike for the last year or so. Instead, the man drives a red Pontiac. I think he's gotten to the point he's either uncomfortable controlling the bike or just can't ride anymore. He'll be sitting in his car with the front door open and eating his lunch when I ride over to the mall. Bike or no, I always pay him the honor of one rider to another and give him a "thumbs up".

Katie tells me she dreads the day I can no longer ride. Barring unforeseen accident which brings that day sooner rather than later, that day will come. I always wonder how I'll do. Will I realize on my own that I'm getting close and quit while I'm ahead? Or will I be reluctant to miss even one day I could have had and hang on too long? Gym teachers always try to end the game while the kids are still having fun. I know if I quit riding I'll always wonder how much longer I actually could have ridden if I hadn't quit. Tough questions.

Had the chance to see two totally different reactions to me as a motorcyclist today. At lunch time I went to Valley River Mall to pay a cable TV bill. On the way I ended up having to dodge some loser in one of those ugly Pontiac vans with the weird pointed nose. This driver was all over the road and quite the nuisance. To top it off, he threw a cigarette butt out his window which came close to landing on me. I paused after I parked the bike and called Clinton, my youngest child. He turned 18 today. After birthday wishes I went on in. Just after I got into the mall I saw this guy and the woman with him walking down the hall coming toward me. I had left my gear on and was carrying my helmet. When I got close to the guy I gave him a hard stare and held his eyes. He's a tall man but he literally shrank under my stare. He pulled his shoulders in and hunched a little.

On the way home I cut across some industrial roads to hit my backroads. I was stopped at a stop sign waiting to turn left. A middle-aged woman with a pleasant face was turning left onto the road I was waiting at. She smiled really big and gave a very pronounced nod of her head. Wonder what her story is.

Speaking of this industrial area, there's a lot of workers here. Symantec ( the software people ) has two big buildings here. There's also the Royal Caribbean Cruises call center down here. To ease traffic there are several new roundabouts. I really love these things. I cross over three streets to get where I want to go. So I go through a couple of roundabouts and then turn off at the last one. These are so much fun! Flick right, flick left, flick right again to exit. Yee Haa!

Katie wasn't due to get home until about 8:30 so I took the LONG way home. Met some free ranging sheep along the way. It would really suck to meet one at full speed!

So, as boring as it is, you're all caught up for now.

Miles and smiles,


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