Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Stormtrooper!

I started to post about something else today. When I sat down to the keyboard suddenly everything went horribly wrong. Stuff from this morning's ride to the office just wanted to come tumbling out. I found myself really trying to type what I had intended to post. Sentences started out one way but finished up as something totally different. Finally, with an exasperated sigh and a shrug of my shoulders I just gave in.

This isn't any news to you all, but Turkey day is right upon us. As a result I'm not having much luck hooking up with customers. No harm, no foul. There's a ton of little stuff just begging me to sit at a desk and take care of. After spending three and a half years chained to a desk I've become understandably "desk shy". Biting the bullet, I decided to come to the office and resign myself to my fate.

On a lark I decided to ride the CBR. It's a totally awesome bike. The comfort level's not up to regular 180 mile commutes, though. I bought a Corbin seat not long after I purchased the bike. That helped a lot as the stock seat was a board with a thin piece of vinyl on it. Ok, maybe it's not the bike so much as my aging back. Whatever. Bring on the "old guy" jokes. Just remember that old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill every time! Since most of my riding has become either long distance, utilitarian, or both, the little 600 sits way too much. Too bad I didn't pick a better day weatherwise to ride.

I think what I really needed today was a jet ski. Better yet, an amphibious vehicle with armor. Even more satisfying if it had a roof-mounted RPG launcher.

Another storm was pounding us last night and this morning. When I say "pound" I mean that literally. The wind was blowing the rain sideways. Hoping to avoid as many idiots as possible this morning, I left a little before 6 AM. It was still very dark.

I had to laugh at our poor cat as I left home. She's old and stubborn. They say pets become like their owners after a while. She's been in the family for over seventeen and a half years. This cat's always insisted on being let outside when we go to bed. I finally built her a little house-type shelter outside. We're never sure what she's up to all night but she's always there making a ruckus to get back in the house early in the morning. That sort of takes me on a side track here.

Cats are a lot different than dogs. Just about anything a dog does you can watch. Intimate stuff and all. Cats, on the other hand, are a little more furtive. You can hear them but really never see them. Come to think of it, cats are a lot like commuter motorcyclists. You know they're raising hell but you can never catch them at it!

So back to my cat. As I''m leaving I see her walking up to the porch. The wind's coming from her tail end. It's a strong wind, full of rain. Have you ever seen a cat with all the fur going the wrong direction as it's being blown toward her head? Pretty funny sight.

I quit laughing as I face the wind's fury myself. You've probably noticed that the weather protection's a little more sparse on the CBR. It's a light little bike. Honda claims a dry weight of around 370 pounds. My 180 pounds help anchor the bike somewhat. Not enough, it seems, this morning. Not long before I reached the freeway I got hit by a strong gust of wind. I really mean it when I say "hit". One second I'm tooling along in the left lane minding my own business. The next second I feel this huge impact on my left side. I'm also now in the right lane. Seriously. It was like someone just swatted me aside. Thank goodness nobody else was already there! I have to admit I almost turned around and considered other options. Did I say my cat was stubborn like her owner?

Figuring the wind would be at my back for the trip North, we continued on and went for it. If only Mother Nature was all we had to contend with. Is there something about nasty weather that pulls all the idiots out of hiding? Is it like wet ground that brings out nightcrawlers? Is it like a light that attracts bugs? Whatever the reason, idiots abounded.

There's too many examples to list here. Yes, it was THAT kind of morning. How do these drivers figure they can do 85 and 90 when it's raining so hard you can't see? What is it about standing water on the freeway that makes them think they can plane on top like a boat if only they get up enough speed? Why do they look so stinkin' surprised when they inevitably crash? Why can't they crash someplace out of my way? It's bad enough to deal with them when they're moving. Now I gotta sit in a traffic jam while they pull your sorry ass out of your crumpled vehicle?

Did you ever think you could wear out your brakes on the freeway? Stop and go. Stop and go. If the air flow from riding isn't there because you're not actually riding, guess where all the water running off your helmet goes? If you guessed down the back of your jacket you win the prize. One of the casualties actually caused me to cheer, though. It was a light blue mini Cooper with a white roof. The guy driving went from tailgater to roadblock. I didn't enjoy either role he played but he sort of made his own mess. There were two accidents in the first 18 miles. We're just getting started.


Say what you will about listening to music while you ride, I had tucked a little radio into my tank bag. A small bud speaker was in one ear. On days like this I like the extra information about the route I'm headed for. In this case, I got a little advance notice about a truck wreck. Seems this truck driver had managed to find himself with something other than the shiny side up. As you can see, the tractor ended up separated from the trailer. The freeway's three lanes in either direction. The carnage has two lanes each way blocked. These photos are from a news station's website.

Thanks to the radio station I was able to avoid being stuck in this mess for more than a little while. Since I know some back roads I got off the freeway and joined back up farther North. By the way, if you were looking for some topping for your Thanksgiving pie look at the cargo.

That's cases of whipped cream in spray cans. Whether you wanted dessert topping or fuel for erotic adventures, there was plenty scattered over the roadway!

I imagine the road would have been a little slick if I had gone through. If I'd have fallen over I could have licked the pavement while I was down there. Hope it was low fat! Ok, I know that's weird but whipped cream does that to me.

Needless to say, with the population and traffic getting denser the farther North I went, the worse the situation got. There will never be a shortage of idiots. Lost a couple? It's ok, we got lots more to send in. Send in the next wave!

It ended up taking me almost three hours to travel the 90 miles to the office. Today was a little on the extreme side. Maybe I should have travelled by car. No. Battled tested skills and reflexes only get that way by actually being in battles. It will be an interesting winter for commuting on a bike. I'll try to stay sharp and prepared. This is the kind of stuff we face when we decide to commute. It's part of the calculated risk we accept. Besides, we can't always predict what's going to happen. Nor can we avoid bad weather entirely. Better to embrace the chances to hone our skills while we can.

Consider this. Suppose we decide never to ride in really inclement weather. For the most part we might avoid the bad stuff. What if the weather's decent in the morning but turns nasty while we're at the office? If we've purposely sought out the learning experiences on our terms then it's no big deal. Much better than having to just jump in and cope with very little practice.

Here's a couple of tips for dealing with really inclement weather like the heavy rain and darkness.

It is critical to be visible to other drivers. If you're having trouble seeing, cagers are having it just as bad or worse. Retroflective gear like a vest works great. Standard reflective stuff will reflect the light at an angle equal to the attack plane. Retroflective sends the light right back to the source no matter which direction it originated from. Much more effective. I know a motorcyclist's favorite color is black. We're hard enough to see, so let's camouflage ourselves. On the other hand I know folks don't want to go around looking like Big Bird. I can hear you telling me that you still need to have your style. I also know it's critical to be visible. There's ways to keep the style and still be visible. There's vests, halos for helmets, etc. Some of the new retroflective things look like carbon fiber in the daytime. Check them out.

In heavy rain stay away from standing water as much as possible. Can you say "hydroplane"?Ride in the tracks where the vehicle's tires ahead of us have pushed the water aside. Just don't get too close because it takes longer to stop.

When you pass big trucks, don't linger unless you can hold your breath and steer blindly for long periods of time. Hold back until there's room to quickly go by. Being on the receiving end of truck tire induced showers isn't a great way to stay safe. When they pass through puddles a lot of water flies. Also remember that trucks have huge blind spots and it's worse in heavy rain and darkness. We did a test once with a truck pulling a 53 foot trailer. We were able to hide 28 bikes in all the blind spots of the truck. Even though the 28 bikes were there, sitting in the cab and looking in the mirrors, not a single one was visible! If you can't see a driver's eyes in their sideview mirror they can't see you. Get around quickly and cleanly.

In case I don't get a post in tomorrow, Happy Thanksgiving!

Miles and smiles,

Dan

5 comments:

Bill Sommers said...

Being a tad to the North of you, I too got popped with the hard weather. With all the rain we've had this month, this was the first time that rain found it's way through, under and over my rain gear. I got wet.
But then again, I should expect that when rain is coming from more angles than just down.
And the standing water...I had a hunch when I was crossing a bridge tonight that I would find some. So I slowed up and moved toward the centerline and sure enough I found water flooding from the drain to almost the middle of the road.
I'm glad I listened to me.

Have fun,
Bill

Combatscoot said...

Anyone ever read about the Rain God in the Hitchhiker's Trilogy by Douglas Adams? He must be on Bank Holiday to the Great Northwest.
John

dan_durham said...

Glad to hear you made it through that nightmarish commute OK. I rode the hurricane the other night to work (got called in over the weekend) and it was actually dry on the way home! I took advantage of that and really leaned it through the onramp curve...man do I miss dry pavement...

I haven't been riding in the really inclement stuff lately, as my mind is not completely focused. Besides being tired from working too much, I've got my long awaited interview with the Port of Seattle to finally get in the door here.

Anyways, have a great Thanksgiving!

-Dan

Mad said...

I love that little CBR6, I've ridden earlier models of that bike and they're excellent

irondad said...

bill,
awesome job using good judgement to anticipate and avoid diaster! I almost think you all up there get it a little worse than us.

combatscoot,
I'm pretty sure you're right. I know there's one responsible for each facet of weather. That's why I lump them together and call them the Weather Gods.

dan,
Congratulations and good luck on the interview!! Wise move not riding if you can't keep your head into it. Even us old Warriors get in trouble that way. As evidenced by one of my recent posts!

mad,
Yeah, gotta love the 600's. I bought a 600 instead of a litre bike. My idea was that the 600's are incredible bikes. You don't need a bigger bike to be a good rider. Put the ego aside and have fun. This thing almost responds to my thoughts.

Dan