Friday, November 17, 2006

Random stuff
A break from the rain.

The Weather Gods are showing some benevolence for a while. Wednesday night brought another nasty storm. It was a tough ride home, but, hey, the good stuff never comes easily, does it? Thursday brought some clearing of the skies. It's almost like the Gods felt badly about what they'd done and were trying to make up for it. Not that they care about us, so much. It's more like they're trying to do some image repair work. Either way, I'll take it.

There was actually some sunshine on Thursday afternoon! I had a meeting in Portland which got over about 2 PM. The only other thing I really had going was to teach class in Salem at 5. Took advantage of the time to go explore. This is a picture of Peterson Butte near Lebanon. It's the highest point around. From this distance the butte looks serene. If you look more closely, you'll see all the cell phone and other communication towers.

A lot of life's like that, isn't it? If you don't look too closely things appear ok. Only when you look more deeply do you see the faults and troubles. Maybe that's why so many people choose to be oblivious. They just don't want to see the unpleasant side of things. It's kind of like one of those "If I don't see it, it's not real" kind of things. Personally, I find that a shameful way to live. On the flip side, not looking too closely also blinds one to the good stuff you only find after a good hard look. One of my probably worn out expressions is "A lot of life happens beneath the surface". My kids are tired of hearing it but I still think it's good counsel!

Those of us who are serious commuters have chosen to be involved. We insert ourselves more fully into what's around us. So much of riding carries over into life. We want to live fully and make a difference during the journey. A motorcycle is a vehicle in more ways than one.

Commuter traffic.

I'm getting pretty sick of the herd mentality among the cagers. So many times lately I've had drivers just pull out in front of me like I wasn't there. I've watched them do it to each other, as well. It's like there's no conscious thought going on at all. Every day I see things over and over again that confirms my belief that people are getting stupider all the time. Individuals are intelligent. People as a group, however, are acting more like dumb cows all the time.

Don't believe me?

Did you see the news about all the people waiting in line for days to buy the new Playstation? How much more easily manipulated can they be? Isn't there anything useful or intelligent they need to tend to?

Did you hear of the case in Spokane, Washington?

A 56 year old man named Clifford Lee Helm has pleaded not guilty to five counts of vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault. Evidence is pretty conclusive that he was talking on his cell phone when his pickup crossed the centerline on Highway 395 North of Spokane. He drove 244 feet in the wrong direction and smashed into another truck coming the other way. The other truck had a father and his five children in it. The kids were from 2 to 12 in age. All five youngsters were killed and the father was seriously injured.

Washington State Patrol investigators say there's no evidence that alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medicines, medical conditions, or mechanical failure contributed to the crash. It was just some dumbass driver without any sense talking on his precious phone that caused the tragedy. Oh, and get this; the dude's free on bail pending trial. One of the conditions of his release is that he not have his cell phone turned on while he's driving! If those were my kids that cell phone would inserted in his cranial cavity and Mr. Helm would be a resident of Hell. I wonder if they have cell reception down there? Can you hear me now, Clifford?

Sorry, I shouldn't have gotten started. It just hits me so wrong that people show such little regard for others in the course of their own selfish journeys. The bad news is that we're out there with these creatures so much as we commute. Keep your swords sharp. Stupidity is more dangerous than anything else, I think.
By the way, Jimmy Buffet has a new album out called "Take the Weather with You". There's a very humerous poke at cell phone users in one of the cuts.

Enthusiastic students

I just can't believe how many people are still coming through our classes. It looks like we will have over 7,000 students between all our courses this season. Last year we were at 6,736 students. That's with about 130 instructors. None are full time. We all have other jobs or college to attend to.

Where are all these students coming from? Classes fill as soon as they're on the schedule. We're having a hard time keeping up. Interestingly, I don't really see that many more bikes on the road. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty much alone at the moment. You'd think that putting several thousand new riders on the streets every year would swell the number of bikes out on the roads. I just don't see it. Maybe it's one of those things where the initial enthusiasm wears off quickly. Only those who really blossom into riding stay around.

That happens with our instructors. We run between 36 and 40 new instructors through the process each year. Some stay and some wander away. Life happens to the rest and things change. Little by little our numbers are growing, but it's a slow process. I'm pretty sure the same thing happens with riders.

This is my last class of the year. Last night was the first classroom session. Twelve more folks to share the experience with. It's almost the end of November, for crying out loud! Doesn't matter. Smiling faces show up in class ready to go. The end of the season is kind of a bittersweet thing. On the one hand, it's a letdown to be done for a few months. On the other, I have to admit I'm getting tired!! The very last classes this year are scheduled for the first weekend of December. They're full of students, too. Maybe I can find a way to sneak into one. Any instructors wanting time off or feeling a little sick?

Our banquet's Saturday night so that should be fun. We always come away with something new like sweatshirts or jackets. I'll have a chance to enjoy some time with the kids and Katie over the holidays. For the first time in forever I'll have the whole week off between Christmas and New Years. I wonder if they remember who I am? January will bring planning for the next season's training. Classes will start up sometime in February. So the break won't be too long! Just long enough for us to forget how tired we are from this year.

This class is shaping up with some intersting stories. Maybe I'll post some of those later.

Military casualties on bikes

Capping off the Veteran's Day weekend thing, here's a couple of links that make interesting reading if you have some time.

Kids are coming back from battle and dying on bikes. In large numbers.

Coming attractions

I've been taking some pictures of different things for later. It's probably about time to do a post or two on braking. I was going to finish the cornering post but decided to wait until spring. It would be better to have it closer to when more riders are actually out strafing corners in better weather.

In the meantime, I want to do some stuff on dealing with conditions we face this Winter as we steadfastly and happily commute.

Miles and smiles,


gary said...

Hey Dan,

Sorry I haven't commented in awhile. Too damned busy with work and life. I puzzled over the Veteran's Day piece for awhile, and finally gave up. I couldn't think of anything to say.

Commuter traffic only gets worse, there, here, and everywhere. It's that whole population thing. Every American spawn thinks they are entitled to an automobile, and their parents indulge them, going back a couple generations now.

Ergo, gridlock.

Whatever happened to Public Transportation?

Ride well,

Steve Williams said...

Weather can become mentally and physically oppressive. I've been home sick all week with a cold or flu and only watching the heavy grey skies and rain from inside the warmth and comfort of home. The Vespa sat in the garage completely uncared for with the only spark of interest on my part was when I wondered what it would have been like to ride through the rainstorm we were having. The creek down the road flooded and my Shop-Vac was put into use in the basement as water seemed to find its way in again.

If I have a break in riding I find it difficult to push myself out when it is cold and wet. I rode to work this morning in a mist but short and to the point. Tomorrow I will take a more extended ride.

The story of the cell phoned driver killing all those kids is sad. I try to accept those drivers as I do the deer and potholes---just part of the landscape I choose to ride in. I'll never change them all nor will the law. Cell phones are like alcohol, people will make bad choices in their use and people will die. It sucks. And I can't even go to the punishment part because it just burns up my humanity to no good end. I'll just leave it to the system. Sounds like a cowardly way out....

On the bright side. I am anxious for some braking wisdom master. I'm pretty comfortable on dry roads but I'm always wondering what its going to be like the first time I have to make a panic stop on wet roads.....

balisada said...

If Peterson Butte is just outside of Brownsville, then the view from the top is FANTASTIC! I took a picture of my motorcycle on top of a hill there, but I don't know the name, but it looks the same.

I think that the problem of distracted drivers will get worse before it gets better.

It's a contant worry that I have about motorcycling, that these people on the road are distracted by signs, construction, phones, kids, GPS Navigation that give turn by turn directions, you name it.

I think as vehicles get more soundproof and safer, people will not pay as much attention to their driving as they should because their mindset is that they themselves are protected.

One of the states back east is mailing out "Be Aware" flyers with their renewal forms. It reminds drivers to be aware of motorcyclists.

I think that your increased number of students would suggest that Oregon think of a similar activity, especially since a growing number of motorcyclists are new.


irondad said...

I know, life happens. There was an interesting bumper sticker on a car at OSU ( Oregon State University ). It said "Don't laugh at my car, my parents didn't buy it for me". I bought my own first car, right after I bought a Suzuki 185 dual sport!

Sorry you were sick. You're right about it being harder to go back to hardship when you've been away from it for a while. That's why I never take too much time off work at once!

Yes, it's the same place. It would be the third point of a triangle between the Butte, Lebanon, and Brownsville. I've never been to the top. I'll need to go. Great roads around there, aren't there? I'll have to share some I've found in case you're not aware of them.

Vehicles are becoming an insulated environment. They do everything but drive themselves safely. The new Lexus can even park itself.