Wednesday, June 14, 2006

No Clue.

I didn't do the commute yesterday. After the nearly disastrous brush with my own fatigued state I made other arrangements. Besides, I had a 9 AM dentist appointment. The telephone got a workout, though. The commute today was pretty uneventful. Although every day I am newly amazed and outraged at the stupid chances drivers will take to get a little ways ahead.

Sophie and I cruise along at about 75 mph. The speed limit is 65 for most of the stretch. What usually happens is that we can find a relatively peaceful pocket to ride in. Then, like suddenly being surrounded by angry bees, a group of little rocket ships catches up to us. These idiots zoom in and out of traffic at speeds that have to be 85 to 90 mph. The outrage comes from the fact that they endanger others to get one or two car lengths ahead. Nobody's that important except in their own minds. The offenders cover all ages and both genders. The State Police numbers have been decimated by budget cuts made by politicians trying to punish voters for not passing tax increases. You know, the "give us what we want or we'll cut the things you really need" approach?

There has been one bright spot on the commute. I've seen this bike twice, now. Once on the way home and once on the way in. We're both on the same schedule, it seems. I came up behind him just after 6 AM in Salem. The bike is one of the early GL1800's. Probably late 80's or early 90's. His commute is from Salem to Vancouver which is about 60 miles one way. I'm judging that from where I've seen him enter and exit the freeway. Stickers cover most of the back of the bike. It's interesting watching a big bike like the 'Wing from behind. All this bike balanced on a wheel that seems so small compared to the bike itself.

This dude has a three quarter face helmet with a bubble shield. A cup holder adorns the right handlebar. I've watched the rider drinking from a travel mug while riding. His helmet has a cord plugged into the intercom. Since he's riding solo I presume he's listening to the radio. I'm also tempted to take up riding a Goldwing, myself. No, not yet!!

Anyway, I seem to have wandered off the path I was heading for.

Quiet rides mean time for contemplating. I was thinking about how being on a bike makes me feel more alive. Other riders have expressed the same thing in similar terms. Expressions like having one's senses heightened, going into a state of higher alert, and so on. Information from an article in Men's Health magazine about amplifiers also crossed my mind. I know it seems like all I think about is bikes but I try to stay healthy. In fact, that's how I came to acquire the moniker of "Irondad" which you may have seen in the comment section.

Once upon a time I was a natural bodybuilder. My oldest son had an art class in middle school. As part of the class they had to make a figure out of clay and then "fire" it. My son made a statue resembling the Sandow statue given to winners of the Mr. Olympia contest. Bulging muscles, six pack abs, the whole works. Lovingly inscribed on the base was "Irondad". Talk about feeling good about being a hero to your child!

That six pack stomach is still there somewhere. At least I think so. I haven't seen it for a while. It's got to be under that squishy layer on top of it.

There I go wandering again. What I was coming to was that the feeling of being on the bike suddenly came together with the article on amplifiers. My brain told me that a bike is a lot like an amplifier. Either for good or bad. Think about it.

An amplifier gives greater magnitude to whatever is input into it. Maybe that's why I feel so much more alive on a bike. The bike takes my spirit and amplifies it. A bike can also amplify negative qualities. If a person has rebellious tendencies the bike provides a means of expressing those to a greater degree. The other thing the article said about amplifiers is that by turning them way up, a lack of talent can be disguised. The slight distortion covers up a guitar player who isn't really that good. It also covers for a singer who doesn't have the tonal qualities of a better singer.

Then I started thinking about a class I taught recently in Eugene.

Eugene is home to the University of Oregon. Civic leaders have long set the tone of liberalism. Between them and the college setting, Eugene has become a haven for those with very liberal views. Whatever they may be. I don't teach there often. Eugene has a core of local instructors. I have to ride about 50 miles to teach there. Once in a while I get down there as happened a couple of weekends ago. I'm more of a right wing conservative. Combine that with the fact that I don't get down there too often and you'll understand why I find myself having to adjust again. The students tend to be more "diverse", if you will. I'm a professional and keep my personal views from interfering with being a good instructor for everyone. The diversity just makes it more interesting.

We're seeing an increase in the number of female students. The increase seems to be more noticeable in Eugene. 9 of the 24 students were female. I was thinking about three of the females in particular who seem to illustrate my theory about bikes being amplifiers.

Two of the females were a mother-daughter pair. Neither one had ridden before. What made them stand out is their accessories. Both had custom painted Harley Davidson helmets. They had HD denim jackets and jeans. They had the boots. They had the gloves. They drove up in a big black Ford pickup. Harley Davidson edition, of course. It even had the HD logo cut into the grill. The girls had all things Harley Davidson. The only thing they didn't have was: A clue.

I don't mean this as a put-down. After all, we offer a safe place to explore. It's not about pass or fail, it's about the discovery. The mother made a comment after the first day's riding practice that she had no idea how uncoordinated she was. Neither passed the class. The skill just wasn't there.

Another female presented the opposite picture. We'll call her Lucy. Her attire was just a sweatshirt over jeans. Like our mother-daughter pair, Lucy had never ridden before. Lucy took to riding like she was born to it. Her pleasure in riding was expressed by what she told me after the first morning's session.

"I think I'm in love!"

Lucy wants to get a dual sport of sorts and commute. She works in a hospital emergency room and is taking some college courses to advance in the medical field. I don't know what was motivating the mother and her daughter. I can only figure that there are male members of the family behind the scene.

I saw such a contrast in these students. The bike amplified Lucy's spirit and enjoyment. Being on a bike magnified what was in her heart. All the HD gear covered up the lack of ability in the other two gals. Looking at them would make you think they were real riders.

You can't fault Harley's marketing. People can find things to buy that will wrap them up in the "lifestyle" to their heart's content. More power to them. I'm sure that a lot of Harley riders are normal, decent folks who enjoy the American made bikes. There's also a lot of people looking for something that's missing. They don't all ride Harleys. But they're all searching.

This isn't really meant as any sort of blanket stereotyping. It only recounts my musings as I was riding my long commute.

I'll leave you with a quote from a Disney movie named "Cool Runnings". It's about the first Jamaican bobsled team. Good movie for family enjoyment. The quote has to do with winning Olympic gold medals but can apply to anything. Like motorcycles and riding.

"If you're not enough without it, you'll never be enough with it".

Miles and smiles,

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