Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Raining pineapples!

I may never be dry again. The other thing going through my mind is, "What in the world am I thinking?"

We are having a visit from what the weather guessers are calling "A Pineapple Express". Do they think that by calling it something tropical it will be more pleasant for us? Does it make you picture sitting on a beach with a drink that has a toy in it? Let me tell you right here and now. There's nothing pleasant about it. If you really stretch it I guess you could say that the fact it's not cold is a blessing. Some jet stream with a wicked sense of humor has gathered up a bunch of water along with warm air and dumped it on us. The very small good news is the mercury is sitting at around 65 degrees (f) in early November.

Five days now have seen heavy rain dumping on our heads. After working up to it for a couple of those days, things got serious. The 24 hour period ending Monday morning brought two and three quarters of an inch of rain. Then the storm put out a record-breaking effort. The next 24 hours ending at 8 AM this morning brought three and half inches. That breaks a record that's stood since 1906! The Pineapple Express is bad enough. Do you know what's even worse? I've been out in it for all five days. On a bike and in a parking lot. Three of those days were spent doing some training at a place called Swan Island. I'll post that pretty soon. Two of the days have been spent trying to navigate high water on a bike. Willingly, no less. You'd think some guys would get smart, wouldn't you?

These are a couple of intersections near my house. The one with the truck is one block South and one block West. Things just get worse from here. I can hear you thinking. What in the world is he doing in high water on a bike? Coincidentally, that's the very same question I keep asking myself.

It's, uhmmm, research. Yeah, that's it! I teach riders how to deal with treacherous conditions. How can I talk about it if I haven't done it? That makes it sound almost noble, doesn't it?

It wouldn't be because I'm crazy would it? Why are all these people in their cars looking at me like that? Haven't they ever seen a motorcyclist wading in the water to see how deep it is and what the pavement underneath looks like? I'm crazy but not stupid. I'd never go charging into high water with no attempt to know what's down there. The hardest part is finding a good place to park the bike while I look. Not all the roads are this flooded, of course. Still, there's a lot of standing water. Just enough to make you hydroplane, the Weather Gods say with an evil smirk.

I've spent some time taking pictures of different road conditions. Some I decided to save for a future post on how to deal with some things we find confronting us. I do have a couple of pictures of a wreck, though. Some of you are right, I do seem to attract drama. I was following this van.

You may be wondering how the front of this van got like this. The answer's pretty simple. No matter the weather or conditions, people still drive the same way. That would be with their heads inserted where the sun don't shine. As an example, yesterday I was sitting in my office listening to the radio. Some gal called in and said she was on I-5 near Centralia, Washington. She said it was raining so hard she couldn't see and that traffic was crawling along at 25 mph.

My first thought was wondering what in the H-E-double toothpicks she was doing on the cell phone!!!!

Here's the other participant in this chance meeting. I'm following the van at a reasonable distance for the circumstances. To my right I see this black SUV pull up to a stop sign. My SIPDE process is always in high gear. Here's a tip. Look at the front tire of a vehicle. You'll get the quickest clue as to what the cage is going to do. The front wheel will give you an indication of movement faster than other part of the car or truck. That's why those "spinner" type hub caps drive me absolutely freakin' crazy!

The front tire of the SUV starts to move. It seems like I'm the only one actually seeing anyone else. At the last minute the van driver starts to brake hard but it's too late. BAM!!! She hits the SUV hard enough to move it this far. You can just see the sidewalk on the left of the picture. The street is to the left of the sidewalk. Of course, the wet and slick road helps lube the SUV's slide pretty well. Amazingly, after stopping to help, I discover that neither driver is complaining of any sort of injury. The airbag of the van deployed which I'm sure helped a lot.

I was actually concerned about my own braking. Even though I was at a reasonable following distance and saw the event in its early stages, braking was tricky. There's been a few times when I've really wished I had bought an ST with ABS. Proud me, I didn't want ABS because it wasn't available without the linked brakes. Thumping my chest I proudly declared that I didn't want some damn computer dictating how my brakes would be applied! I use the rear brake as a rudder quite often, especially at low speeds. Sort of a leftover from racing. Next time I will go for the ABS in a heartbeat. To heck with trail braking. I'll get over it!

Riding this last few days has been an adventure, to say the least! Let me pause here to give you permission to park the bike in really adverse conditions. Nobody will think the worse of you, especially me. We all need to recognize our personal limits, the bike's limits, and the limits of the environment. Sometimes we just need to opt out of riding. Limits change day to day and it's ok to not ride if we aren't comfortable.

In my case, I've been pushing limits so long that I'm just in the habit. Maybe I'm just too proud to accept defeat. Am I really that good or just not gracefully accepting the limits that time is imposing on me? Long ago my boys hung the nickname of "Irondad" on me. It made me proud that my sons looked at me this way. Many men want to be considered as "tough". I've always had the reputation as a tough man cowboy. Time is slowly robbing me of some of that edge. Although I really don't care for Toby Keith, ( I think he's way too cocky for someone who just sings about things instead of doing them like we do ), I can identify with one of his songs. You know the one that says we're not as good as we once were but we're as good once as we always were? Sometimes I find that I'm still trying to be the reputation, if that makes any sense.

So far I'm still able to pull it off. I know one of these days my spirit is going to write a check my body can't cash. It's worth thinking about. We all have to ponder where that line is for us personally. Each of us has to make a personal decision in the matter. Other folks will have to respect that decision. In my opinion, this matter of declining abilities is what's fueling the surging popularity of trikes. They allow some of the same feelings of riding without having to worry about things like holding up a heavy bike.

For me personally, I just can't see a trike in my life. It would be more like hanging onto the fringes for me. Sort of there, but not really there. I don't do anything half way. I'll ride as long as I can. I just hope I have the wisdom to hang it up at exactly the right time. Not a minute too soon and not a minute too late.

In the meantime, I have to go dry out my gear. There's going to be a bunch more puddles to ride through tomorrow!

Miles and smiles,



dan_durham said...

The good 'ol pineapple express. I remember a year or two ago we got one of these and the temperature was nearly 70 in the middle of the night in Dec!

When I saw the news earlier, it looks like Seattle is nearly clear of it, but it appears OR is still getting sprayed with the "firehose" as the weather man put it.

I'll admit I did not ride yesterday. I was not comfortable dealing with that intense rainfall - mostly becuase of drivers like in that smashed up minivan.

I've been looking closely at the Triumph sprint ST - it has the ABS option while preserving the independant front and rear brakes!


Mad said...

I would love to have ABS on my bikes. One day I will.

You're not the only nutter Irondad, we had crazy rain here a few weeks ago and I rode through the resultant pools - secretly enjoying it very much. ;)

ScooterGuru said...

My scoot has ABS, supposedly only in the front, but I don't believe that. One day, for whatever reason, my fingers were covering the rear brake and not the front when someone slowed suddenly in front of me. I grabbed a good handful of rear brake. The scoot squatted, the rear tire lost traction for a millisecond, then resumed rolling. The scoot decelerated quite rapidly. I used to be a BMW mechanic, and had to test whether the ABS was working on some of the bikes. Only the big ones with ABS and linked brakes would do that. The ones without linked brakes would cycle the ABS, but wouldn't squat or slow down quickly when just the rear brake was stabbed. Funny thing is, if I put my scoot on the centerstand and roll either wheel while operating the brakes, only the front brake lever stops the front wheel, and only the rear brake lever stops the rear wheel. Funny things, those Italian robotic brake devices!
Crawfordville, Fl

Art said...

I'm experiencing the same weather here. Last night on my way home it was a dry ride until I was 9 miles from home. Lighting turns the surrounding like day and after the lightning follows the heaviest rainfall I've have experience so far. I was only able to go at 10 mph, the rain was so heavy that I have to lift my visor up to see...The rain was so bad that water has gotten into my exhaust and at first I thought there was something wrong with my engine for it was just spitting white smoke. Thank God I made home without dropping my bike. I have a renewed relationship with my Ninja 250 she got me home in one piece like an old pal tapped her on the gas tank and praise her Way to Go..and Thank You...


irondad said...

I think the worst finally cleared for us, too. If I remember, your commute hours are nightshift, aren't they? Does it make any difference in traffic?

Glad to see you're still alive and kicking! That's a kind way to put it; "Nutter". I like it. Splashing through puddles is a lot of fun. Thank goodness for drilled brake rotors. I always hated the way the old solid rotors felt when they were really wet. No brakes, no brakes, and then suddenly the rotor dried up and grabbed like heck.

That sounds weird. I almost thought you had a linked brake where the rear applied front, also. From your explanation that's not the case. Seems you would know. Glad it worked for you.

You're still out there, huh? I'm riding to Kirkland on the 20th to be there for a couple of days before Thanksgiving. I'll think about you and Dan. Which do you prefer for the commute? The Ninja or the Silver Wing?


dan_durham said...

Yes the nightshift commute allows me to usually be going the opposite direction of main rush hour. However, the congestion is still present... swing shift would be my first choice and I have an upcoming opportunity for that. Keeping the fingers crossed for that! -Dan

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan,

I actually like them both. Each has it's own character. There are times I'm glad I don't have to shift gears and there are also times I feel like a road racer on my Ninja. In contrast the Silverwing runs very smooth more power than the Ninja, with the wing I also have more wind protection. As far as the Ninja go I can lean this bike farther than the swing. So really I prefer them both and I hope I don't have to choose between the two cause I like them both. So I alternate using the Ninja and the Wing.

Art B