Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A little
break from the heat

A close call ( pun intended)

New England has had torrential rains and flooding. I'm riding in hot weather that's breaking records. Yesterday it reached 86 degrees(f). That's one degree warmer than the last record which was set in 1958.
A little break from the heat.

When I got to Albany the temperature was even higher. 95 degrees to be exact.

Riding in warm weather presents its own challenges. Putting on all the riding gear when the heat waves are shimmering off the pavement can be daunting. The temptation to ride in jeans and t-shirt is strong. I don't give in to it, but I'm also in a hurry to get on the bike and get some air flowing!

In reality, the t-shirt thing doesn't do anyone any favors. Short term it can feel cooler. On longer rides the constant rush of warm air can cause heat dehydration. A person gets loopy and starts making questionable decisions over time. The symptoms are very similar to becoming slowly intoxicated. Not to mention the pain of sunburn! It's important to keep the moisture in next to the skin. Everyone knows that accidents only happen in cold weather, too. Right?

These are things that we all know on an intellectual level. Faced with a warm ride it's amazing how easily the "smart" thing to do is put aside. This is the time of year when the Roadcrafter jacket is so amazingly versatile. I can keep comfortable in the mornings when the chill is in the air. When it's time to ride home in the heat I just open the side and back vents. The jacket flows enough air that I really don't feel the heat too badly. As long as I keep moving, that is!

Speaking of the Roadcrafter, I've had mine a long, long, time. No advertising plug intended but this is THE best gear I've ever had. Eventually, even the best stuff gets worn. The jacket went back for some zipper repairs and sprucing up last winter. The price was quite reasonable. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the front pocket access zipper on the pants finally broke. The hook and loop strip won't keep the flap closed by itself. Which means that on some of these chilly mornings I'm getting cold air into the front of my jeans!

Just in case Andy or Shane is reading this, I'm making a shameless plea for some "very extended warranty" repairs!!

The cell phone wielding driver epidemic continues to spread. I'm not sure at what point it can be called "pandemic" but I think we're close. The ride home last night provided an unwelcome opportunity to get sort of up close and personal with one such driver. There was no crash but it could have gone either way. I credit my frequent teaching for making me more aware than I might be otherwise.

Interestingly, I was thinking of cell phones at lunch time yesterday. To drain the tension that builds up at the office I've been going for rides. On the way back I had to wait at a stoplight. I'm in the left turn lane and first in line. Traffic on my right got the green light to do their left turns. Their path of travel caused them to cross in front of me and then proceed opposite the way I was facing. Four out of four of the cars had drivers talking on cell phones. Does anyone actually just DRIVE anymore?

As I got into town last night I had to wait at another light. It seems like I spend half my life waiting at traffic lights anymore. At least this time it was more entertaining. Old Hwy 99 is two lanes each direction with a middle lane for turns. There's a light at the Target Distribution Center. Traveling in the same direction as me and waiting to turn left was a couple two-up on a Harley Glide. Behind them was a pickup. I'm second in line next lane over and waiting to continue straight on. The lane to my right has three vehicles waiting. The car in front of me is a Triumph Spitfire convertible with the top down.

Now that I'm stopped I'm feeling the effects of the full gear in hot sunshine. For a very brief moment I almost think a convertible would be the better way to go. Such blasphemy! Anyway, the car's nice but it's what's inside it that catches my eye.

Have you ever heard of "distraction"? The driver of the convertible was a very good looking blond girl. She was wearing one of those white baseball caps and her ponytail was hanging out of the little space in the hat between the back and the strap. I could see her face in her rearview mirror. Nice. Next to her was a little blond munchkin in the passenger seat. Being a highly trained rider my survival instincts managed to overcome the distraction factor. In my mirrors I saw a white Dodge Caravan coming up behind me. At the last minute the driver of the Dodge swerved over into the left turn lane.

Behind the Dodge van was a green Toyota van. Due to what happened next I have to presume that the Toyota's driver was following a little too closely to the Dodge. You know what it's like to follow a vehicle that you can't really see over or around? When the vehicle in front suddenly moves over whatever's in front of it can become a surprise. That's what happened to the Toyota driver. In my mirror I could see that the Toyota was coming up too quickly behind me for my comfort. I made a quick decision and moved up in between the convertible and vehicles in line to my right. In the next few seconds several very interesting things happened in rapid succession.

The lady in the convertible gave me a look that plainly said "What the hell are you doing?"

Screeching tire sounds followed next. Followed, in turn, by the blond looking over her right shoulder. Now her wide-eyed look said "Oh sh*t!"

Next event featured the driver of the Toyota van. As good fortune would have it, the Toyota did not impact the convertible. The memory I took laughingly with me was the look on the Toyota driver's face. The driver was an extremely large woman. She was staring at the very small space between her and the convertible. If i hadn't moved Sophie and I would have been in there somewhere. The look on her face said "How did that happen?"

The cell phone was STILL glued to her ear!!! Take one wild guess, lady!

This weather has brought out a lot of bikes. Instead of being the Lone Ranger I'm now just one of the herd. I'm ok with that right now. Judging by the number of bikes I see early in the morning it seems that quite a few are being used as commuters. I can't remember if I mentioned it the first time I saw this particular rider or not. Today I saw him for the second time.

Wouldn't it be interesting to be able to talk to each rider and find out where they're coming from? You know, things like their experience level, why they ride, is their gear always like that or are they working up to more? I'd like to talk to this guy. The reason I find him amusing is his gear.

Stereotyping isn't really a good way to size people up. Yet, when I see this man the mental picture I get is of some roly-poly German or Bavarian man. The ruddy cheeks crammed into his full face helmet. A short body with a lot of beef crammed onto it. Since I started the stereotype I'll finish it. I've always considered myself an equal opportunity offender. The bike should be a BMW but he's perched on a silver Suzuki Bandit 1200. This bike has the windscreen and upper fairing but no lowers. From the waist up this rider looks, well, like a rider. Full face helmet over a nice Joe Rocket jacket. A little tight fitting, mind you, but nice. Gloves cover the hands. All real spiffy. Until you look farther down the body.

Lace-up work boots cover the feet. It's between the feet and jacket where the ensemble gets interesting. Sweat pants. Not just one pair. There appears to be about six pairs on him. Last time the outer pair were bright blue. Today they are black. Is he waiting to be able to afford the pants to match the jacket? Is the jacket enough for the majority of his riding? Is the sweat pant bundling just to keep warm in the chilly mornings? Does he care about the incongruity of his gear? Certainly not life changing areas of discussion. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to chat with this rider.

Almost time to head home. We're sitting right around 83 degrees(f). Can't wait to see what adventure awaits me. Sure beats getting in a car and zoning out for an hour, doesn't it?

Miles and smiles,


Mad said...

Grr darn cell phones! The police talk tough about cracking down on their use here but what can you do if every driver out there is breaking the law and using their phones while driving? And just what are they talking about anyway??? "Oh yeah I'm on the A46... now I'm turning left, why is that biker gesticulating at me" etc

Steve Williams said...

I almost had a woman run into me last week. I was sitting at the end of a line of cars at a traffic light. I look in my mirror and see it full of a white car. Before I can do anything she swerves into the left lane and skids to a stop before plowing into a stopped car two places ahead of me. As she goes by I see her talking on the cell phone. My blood boils and thoughts of filtering ahead of her to explain what a worthless piece of flesh she is, etc, etc.

I follow her for about a hlf mile before I accept that I can't change her and continuing to boil only gives her more power. And haven't I assumed the risk of being on the road with people like her? Would be no different than drunk drivers, incompetent drivers,speeders, racers, talkers, and on and on.

And I have neither the spirit or stomach to advocate for changes in legislation or law enforcement. So I just turned off on a side street and went my merry way.

I do watch even closer at stops now no matter how slow I think the traffic is moving thanks to that woman. I guess she was actually a gift and opportunity for learning and personal growth!


irondad said...

I don't have a problem with using a phone as a tool, getting done quickly, and putting it down. It seems like cell phones are more of an entertainment device to either fill an empty spot or divert from their reality. You're right, how to enforce when so many are doing it? The skills of drivers are going to pot really quickly.

glad you escaped. I had the blood boil thing going with a guy in a huge Hummer last weekend. Like you, I finally just took another route. Wise moves for both of us.
Yes, we accept these kinds of risks. That which does not kill us makes us stronger. Isn't that the saying?


irondad said...

P.S. I saw a nasty rear-ender accident this morning on the way in. I played "first responder" for about 10 minutes before official help showed up. As you might have guessed, the guy who caused the accident was on the cell phone. The good news is that he bumbped his head on the steering wheel and got the phone between his cheek and wheel. Left a nice mark!

Mad said...

They legislated here Irondad, it's illegal to use a mobile phone whilst driving unless the driver is using a hands free kit. There's even talk of it being an offence that puts points on a license. But I can't see the police rigorously enforcing it as there are no traffic cops left - they've been replaced by speed cameras...