Monday, January 30, 2006

Riding like the wind....and yet, not.

Monday morning. The wind has howled all night. That is not really true. Everybody says that. "The wind howled". In truth, the wind moaned. Some may say that it is not possible. It is only noise from moving air. That the wind is mindless, lifeless. Mindless? Perhaps. However, I believe that it has a soul. As do all things in nature. This wind was troubled. I could hear the sadness. Oddly, I could feel it's sadness. I could identify with it. The wind and I formed a bond.

This body of moving air craves freedom. That which is found in open spaces. Free to move unimpeded. High above in the skies. To be moving briskly. Following the curve of the earth. Instead it is exiled to be near the ground. So many obstacles in its way. Having to encounter and avoid houses, fences, vehicles, trees. Its progress constantly thwarted. Yet it must continue for it is driven by powerful forces. And so it moans.

I, too, am driven to ride. Ironically, it is the weather and darkness that has banished me from my beloved back roads. I am exiled to the Interstate and city streets. My work hours force me to ride at busy times. Cars, trucks, zombie drivers all need to be dealt with. My progress is constantly snarled. The wind and I are the same. The wind and I are different. I have conscious thought. I choose to find the good in my journey. Despite the circumstances my soul finds peace just being on the bike. I can feel the sadness but choose happiness. I choose not to moan.

It is time to leave. I pull on my gloves. They are by Tourmaster. The Polar Tec line. I have tried many gloves for winter riding. Some look good but are too thin. My hands freeze. Some are warm. Because they are very thick. Smooth operation of controls becomes difficult. These gloves balance the two. I like them very much. This year it was time to get a new pair. The old pair have a zipper on the gauntlet. The new pair have no zipper. There is a drawstring. I am very put out that they have changed. I do not wish to start with a new brand. So I purchase them. The new style prove workable. Why was I so disgruntled? I have always claimed to love adventure. Is there another side of me emerging? Does this side seek the familiar? Does this side of me resist change as uncomfortable? I have thought deeply on this. I determine to always be open to new challenges. I wish to die at a hundred years old. Shot by a jealous husband. Because my escape is delayed. Because my bike is a little slow to fire.

The forecast is for heavy rain. This morning I find another break. There is no rain for my ride in. Soon my luck will run out. For now I am grateful. I do not see the white Goldwing this morning. After Friday I had hoped to see it again. In fact, I see no other bikes on this ride.

Later on the laughter of the Gods was at my expense. I could only laugh with them. It was my own fault. The sun came out just before lunch. I rode my bike to eat. I always wear all the gear. All the time. Today I did not. Jacket, helmet, gloves. No rain pants. Just jeans. I was lured by the siren call of the sun. The Gods let me get lunch. Then they toyed with me. In an instant the sun was gone. In its place are now black, angry clouds. Where they have come from so quickly I am not sure. One second I am in the sun. The next I am pelted by hail and rain. It is so bad I cannot see. The noise of the hail on my helmet deafens me. The road becomes slick. I concede defeat and pull off the road. Defeated but still defiant, I shake my fist at the sky. Not in anger. More a promise that things will go differently next time we meet. If the car drivers can see me they must wonder what sort of drama is being played out. It is my private pact with the Gods. I care not what the car drivers think. I have shown a vulnerability to the Gods that they could not resist. It is a small reminder. This was a small thing. I will not show the same vulnerability to larger risks.

The ride home was dry. Having had their fun, the Gods allow me to regain my dignity. How wonderfully complex and interesting life is on a bike. I greet my wife with a kiss. It has been a good day.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Shake, rattle, and roll!

Kabooom! I wake up and listen. Kaboom! There it is again. Thunder. Heavy, powerful, forceful. I imagine a Greek God hurling lightning bolts. Defying his subjects to resist His power. My house shudders under the impact. I look at the clock. 3:45 AM. My alarm is set for 4. Sleep is done.

Go to the kitchen. Make the coffee. The wind is slamming rain into the windows. Today I am off to Portland. The reason I am up so early. As I sip coffee I question my decision to ride. I must, it is what I am. It is what I do. I brace myself. It is now 5 AM. Time to mount up. I am stunned to find that the storm has taken a break. At times I even see stars, now. I ride North for an hour and twenty minutes. I thought it would take longer. Traffic is light so progress is fast. The College will not open until 7. I join the Director of our training program for breakfast. It is colder in the restaurant than outside. My cell phone rings. It is buried somewhere deep in the pocket of my "Stich" jacket. The jacket is tumbled up on the seat beside me. I find the phone and answer. Who is calling at 6:35 AM? It is Laurie. She is my dear friend. As well as an excellent instructor in her own right.

We have started classes already this year. The demand is ever growing. Laurie is in Albany which I left at 5 AM. The first class of the year at the Community College. She sounds so excited to be teaching again. We have been idle for three months. She called to share her joy with me. I hang up and feel greatly cheered. I leave Shari's and arrive at the College. It is still dark but daylight is timidly stepping up. Two instructors are preparing the parking lot and the bikes for a class of their own. I exchange a hug with Patricia. Shake hands with Elias. We rejoice in our shared insanity.

The morning update is for newer instructors. The afternoon is reserved for veterans. One of the new instructors has ridden his bike. On a break I look at the parking lot. The storm has come back. The nap it took has renewed its energy. Rain does not just fall. It seems to have a mission. It wants to rinse away that which is not strong enough to withstand it. The twelve motorcyle students do their exercises in these conditions. We would not ride if it were unsafe. Ice and lightening are unsafe. Heavy rain is reality. What motivates these students to brave these conditions? I ride but I am driven by years of committment. It is my destiny. This is a beginner's class. How can beginners have the same drive that moves me? Are they feeling social pressure? Is "fitting in" this important to them? Do some have an inner need that can only be filled on a bike? I can only shake my head and wonder.

It is time for the veteran instructors to arrive. Three of them have ridden. One of my charges for the afternoon is Jeff Earls. He and the others are totally soaked. Yet still smiling. These are my brothers of the heart. Jeff is an Ironbutt rider. This year he placed third in the Rally. Jeff is a hero to me. I am humbled by his presence. Awed to be teaching him, today.

At 5:30 PM I am ready for the ride home. The storm has exhausted itself. The mission of cleansing has been completed. Token drizzle falls but I scoff at its weakness. I arrive home and realize that, for the most part, I have ridden in very little rain. Have the weathers Gods been put off by my rantings? Have they realized they will not conquer me and ceased their efforts? Do they admire my courage and give me a break? Or are they setting me up? We shall see. I watch the news at home. There was a 2.8 earthquake a little while after I left Portland. Perhaps it was the Gods laughing. It could be that they are amused at what is in store for me. The Gods play and the earth shakes.

I keep thinking of the students in the rain. A comment has been made on this blog. About one who "has the soul of a biker". I take that to mean "motorcyclist". Is this "soul" developed by experience? Or is a person born with it? Does this inborn "soul" start without a goal? Is it an urge looking for an outlet? Is this soul programmed for motorcycles only? Or could it be satisfied by something else that comes along first? We trained over 6000 students in our beginner classes last year. Do all of these have this "soul"? Is the value diluted by numbers? I suspect that people can ride and not have this "soul". I believe that it is something special. Only a few riders have "the soul of a biker". So many questions. I am in search of enlightment. Please share your thoughts.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The week winds down, sort of.

Thursday morning was rider friendly. Roads are wet but no rain or fog. The rain will return in the afternoon but this morning I enjoy the break. As I "gear up" I feel ready to go forth. Strong, powerful. Like a fighter pilot watching the canopy close. Pulling the visor down. Taking off to deal with whatever "bogeys" might be encountered. A powerful machine at my hands. Three decades or so ago I badly wanted to fly those steel hunting birds. Uncle Sam wanted both feet on the ground. Slogging through mud. A dream beyond me, now.

It was still dark as I started. On the freeway drivers were pulling over to let me go by. Why today and not others? Did cosmic forces align for me today? Toward the end of the ride the daylight was winning. A dark green Ford Explorer pulls over to let me by. Most drivers will not look at me. Too bad, for I would like to thank them with a cheerful wave. The young man driving the Ford was different. My gaze was met. He waved first. Followed by a big "thumbs up". Whatever caused his cheer I am grateful for it. As I came up to a stop light in town I saw a young man in the left turn lane. He was on a blue Yamaha sport bike. A backpack adorned the back of his leathers. As I stopped at my own light I looked back. He was watching me to see if I turned around. We acknowledged each other and went our ways. A little later I saw another motor cop. If he would have looked my way I would have waved. He never looked at me. I know he had to have seen me. Perhaps his mind was in another place.

The rain came back to stay. With it came the howling wind on the edge of the storm. My ride was spent huddled behind the fairing. I am growing to hate this rain. Rain is part of the experience. This year seems to be one of the worst in a decade. The constant rain is draining my enthusiasm and will to ride. I tell myself it will end one day. I continue to hang in there. Small breaks become precious morsels to savor.

This morning I saw a man on a white Goldwing heading North on the freeway. This is the first bike I have seen on the freeway in the mornings for months. We waved in passing. I wonder about him. Is he commuting? Is he on his way to some weekend adventure? Will I see him again or is this a one time thing? Either way the moment of connection lifts my spirits.

The weekend will be spent in the "Big City" doing more instructor updates. These people show they are passionate about bikes and helping others. Yet, few will ride. Passion does not equal committment. Me, I will ride. It is who I am. It is what I do. The forecast calls for very heavy rain and wind. I am not pleased.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Constantly dealing with changing conditions

After a late night and a morning that came much too early the ST and I set off once more for work. After class last night I got talked into going out to the Red Robin for burgers. The invitation was extended by three guys in the class that are "bike guys". Interestingly, I was the only one actually piloting a two-wheeled vehicle. Oh well. It was actually handy when we arrived in the parking lot because one of the guys offered me the use of his car's back seat to stash my gear on. Which meant I didn't have to take over another table for my stuff to occupy. Since my sweetie wasn't there to make me exercise good judgement I went all out and ordered the guacamole bacon burger. Oh sweetie, where are you when I need you? This was 10 o'clock at night. On top of that, I was cutting the grease with big cups of coffee. Needless to say, sleep was not the most peaceful I've ever had.

Being a little worse for the wear I set off in the now too familiar heavy fog. The temperature was sitting at 38 degrees. Once truly underway I could tell that the fog actually didn't extend too far overhead. I could catch glimpses of the quarter moon now and then sitting up there pretty in clear skies. Suddenly I felt like I had come out the other side of a waterfall. What was once blurred was now clear. What had been dark and depressing was now bright and cheerful. The sun was just coming up and it was a flat out gorgeous morning. I am truly convinced that riding a motorcycle allows us to enjoy these jewels more than those locked in cars.

Don't you find that you experience a ride in so many ways that aren't possible in a cage? The smells, the feel of movement, all of it. On a bike you are a part of your world and not just an observer. Dealing with the opposite side of the coin you still experience things just as fully. Rather than seeing rain on your windshield you feel it splattering on your person. The wind moves you around and you feel so intimate with its whims. Compare that to a cage driver who just sort of feels the nudge on the huge mass of steel and plastic. Riding in adverse conditions doesn't really rob me of my joy but it sure primes me to live the good stuff to the full.

Wait, there's a twist in the plot. Here I am getting sucked into the good times and really enjoying the ride. Those who sum up life in simple statements say that the only thing constant is change. The price for the clear skies was a sudden temperature drop. Exiting on my accustomed off ramp I was greeted by frost and ice EVERYWHERE! The next few miles along the busy streets required careful placement of my tires and thoughtful planning of braking points. For once I was glad of the heavier traffic in town because the cars had cleared paths the width of their tires which was just right for my single track vehicle. I was thankful that I was allowed to do things of my own choosing and not be forced into sudden moves at a time not of my choosing.

While waiting at a stop light out of the blue the thought crossed my mind of how different I am from all the folks in the cars. Here I am out in the freezing cold on a motorcyle totally exposed to the elements and with my butt figuratively hanging out. And yet, it seems as natural to me as does crawling into a car every day feel to them. The difference was driven home when I got to the office. Happened I was the first one there. Our warehouse guy showed up and said "I can't believe you're riding in this weather!". Maybe I'm just a sick puppy but I'm not offended. I just smile and am glad to be following my heart. I can measure what I give up in comfort. I just count the shivers or see how much water I wring out of my gear. The many things I get back in return defy accurate measurement. There's just no way to quantify such things.

The sunshine went away in mid-morning to be replaced with rain. It was wet all day. I could hear the splash of tires on a wet road as traffic passed by on the industrial area's street. Yesterday as I was leaving work early a guy on a bike passed by on his way home. At least I assume he commuted to work judging by the cooler strapped to the bike. I watched for him today out the front door but did not see him today. Perhaps I just missed him or perhaps the icy morning and the forecast for rain meant his commuting on a bike was a one day shot. Perhaps he is somebody"s "sugar" and he thinks he'll melt in the rain!

As I prepared for the ride home the sun had managed to temporarily gain the upper hand. Have you seen the way the sun bathes everything in a golden glow as it is going down and peeks underneath the clouds? That's how my late afternoon homeward leg began. I did see a bike coming the other way. Turned out to be a motor cop from a small town on a BMW. He didn't return my wave. Should I call him a "motor cop Nazi", Gary? ( tongue planted firmly in cheek )Better not go there. Had some more rain further North. Oh well, it's January and I'm on the bike.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Close, but not quite.....

The dense fog advisory was back this morning but the temperature had climbed clear up to 35 degrees. It was actually quite peaceful this morning. No crazy drivers, no ice, no worries. Just me and the fog. Despite the "dense fog" warnings, visibility wasn't bad. Not like yesterday when I had ice forming on my visor and windshield as the wind chill turned the fog solid on any flat surface it could find.

I actually started worrying that I would have nothing to write about. Who wants to read "Nice ride down and nice ride back"? Nice, but boring. On the other hand, I am hoping that you all aren't hoping bad things happen to me just for your entertainment! You will be glad to know that things started getting interesting when it was time to come back to town. There are a couple things to report and I am still uninjured.

Had to take an update class tonite to keep my teaching certification. The class was scheduled to start promptly at 6 PM at a local community college. I guess for you to fully understand the circumstances you should know that the sun came out around noon. It was one of those afternoons that you know you won't see again for a while. Having about a fifty minute commute to the class I decided to leave the office early and do a little extra riding on the way up. So around 4 I gear up and go. This was the perfect chance to go see if my twisty back roads missed me. Off we went North. About 5 miles down the road I crossed the river and rode right into a blanket of heavy fog. But wait, wasn't it getting thinner farther up where I could see? Oh, by the way, I had my Ray Ban photo-chromatic shades on. You know, the kind that are supposed to lighten and darken depending on ambient lighting. They actually work well for the times when the sun is not blasting down but you want some tinting going on.

Having what my wife calls a "deep stubborn streak" I pressed on. Since I was already committed we went for it. Isn't it amazing how disoriented you get in thick fog? All the landmarks you depend on for navigation and corner entrances are gone. On top of that, I really didn't want to stop on the side of the road and take off my sunglasses. I made the call that keeping them on was less of a hazard than becoming a "sitting duck" on the side of the road. I did eventually make it back to civilization and found a place to take off the glasses. Suffice it to say, there were a large number of instances when I was tightly clenching the muscles on the back of my front side. I am convinced that if the situation called for it, I could walk across the room sitting down and propelling myself by clenching the muscles in my butt. I know, not a pretty picture but you never know when the skill will be critical for survival.

We made it to class on time with only one close call with an old lady in a Nissan who was pulled off the side of Hwy 99 and decided I was a target and not an obstacle to be avoided. Since I had already spotted her, no harm, no foul when she pulled back onto the road in front of me. I am sorry to say that I sort of "lit up her life" with the high beam for a short while. By now it was pretty dark and the high beam showed up pretty well.

I do want to sort of interject a request. Perhaps we could start a quiet push for a new grass roots movement. Have you seen those bumper stickers that say "Visualize World Peace"? That is certainly a noble goal and one, that having been achieved, would greatly alleviate suffering among mankind. It is also a very large goal that could perhaps best be accomplished in small steps. Achieving world peace will take good communication among people, agreed? Let's start working on communication in smaller matters and working our way up. I propose that we distribute bumper stickers that say "Visualize Using Turn Signals".

It totally blows me away how many people do not seem to even know they have them. It's hard enough dealing with traffic on a bike without having to second guess everyone. Are people just arrogant and think they are too good to communicate with "mere mortals"? Are they just too lazy? Is it because people's ability to multitask is already in serious jeopardy just by driving and using turn signals would overload them? Do drivers fail to plan ahead any more than a few seconds? I would love to have the answer and then work on a cure. Perhaps we could have a telethon.

The State Police had a campaign a while ago. It urged drivers to use their signals. They said "It's not hard. Down for left, up for right."

Any interest or suggestions?

P.S. The old lady in the Nissan was using her turn signal. At least she gave me fair notice that
she was going for me!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Goodbye rain-Hello black ice!

Good news, the rain is gone. Bad news, it's been replaced by freezing fog and black ice. Sunday was a great day for riding. The sun even came out for a while and, sure enough, I saw more bikes out that day than I have in the last few months combined. I guess the enthusiasm for riding is still alive even if the passion and dedication that causes some of us to commute year round is missing. It was the typical mix of riders. Some were out on bikes that were unmistakably practical. These riders were doing errands or riding just to enjoy the day. It was also obvious that some were out just to "be seen". Whatever their purpose, motorcycle tires were spinning on Sunday.

This morning the effect of removing the insulating cloud blanket was evident in the cold temperature and heavy fog. The Valley was under a dense fog advisory and the mercury was at 33 degrees. Except for a few days which were a rare exception, this seems to be the pattern. Either rain or heavy fog. I decided to leave the electric vest at home as I set off to work. Some of you are riding in colder weather right now and you have my deepest respect. It totally blows my mind how COLD it feels under these conditions. The fog seems to penetrate everywhere, bringing the low temperature in with it. The decision to leave the vest and balaclava at home would not be the best one I've made recently.

If you have never experienced freezing fog you haven't lived. Ok, maybe you have. I have to make it seem brave and adventurous somehow, don't I? The trouble is that this moisture causes black ice in unexpected places. The Highway Department guys had done their usual excellent job of spraying that fluid that smells like vinegar and is supposed to help keep the water from freezing on bridges. I'm glad the stuff gets sprayed but they usually seem to put it on heavy just before I come along so I end up smelling like pickles when I get to work. Some spots had sand down. My bike had a little rear wheel spin issue on an on-ramp. Not sure if it was ice or sand. Suspect it was both - sand on top of ice. Neither one gives the bike much confidence although I have to say I prefer sand to ice. Perfect example of why it's so good for road riders to have some dirt bike experience so that less- than-perfect traction situations don't freak you out as much ( which can cause you to do something less than wise-don't ask me how I know ). Did fine until I got close to the office. Spores Bridge spans the McKenzie River. There were some slick spots but since bridges automatically engender suspicion in seasoned travellers I was ready for them and all was well.

Got to work without further incident. I had high hopes that the sun would come out later and that there would be glorious riding to be had in the afternoon. Next dream, please, as this one didn't pan out. The fog never burned off and it was COLD on the way home. Seems like I had just been there. (riding in the cold, that is ) There was one bright spot. I had to run an errand around 3:30. ( On the bike, of course, who says your company car has to be a CAR?). On the way back I actually saw a COMMUTER!! This guy was riding an older Kawasaki 454 Ltd cruiser with an actual lunch pail strapped to the back. Needless to say, enthusiast waves were exchanged by both participants in this brief encounter. The temperature rose to the point that ice wasn't an issue on the ride home. My faithful ST is covered up for the night and patiently waiting for tomorrow's adventures. By the way, a cover designed for a Harley bagger works great for the ST1100, too. I won a gift certificate from a Harley dealership as a door prize. I was able to put a little money with it and get a great new cover for my daily ride. Yes, I did find one without the Eagle logo. No offense to the Eagle, but I didn't want to give the ST an identity crisis.

We are supposed to have one or two more days of dry weather before the rain comes back. The hope is that some of the moisture will evaporate leaving less to freeze on the roads. I guess we will find out tomorrow if we face fun in the sun or a freeze in the fog.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Interesting vehicles and some misc. things.

Here is a link to a picture from our local newspaper. This shows Hwy. 34 just outside of Corvallis. This is what is causing the traffic back-up. Bear in mind that this is a four lane highway with a left turn lane. This road is used by thousands of commuters.

This front page may change but the flood picture is up right now.

Today I had to drive my truck. A contractor is coming down from a job in Washington and I'm meeting him farther North. He has cargo for us and I have to take a fresh load for him to haul back up. There's just no way to get that kind of thing on the bike! Honestly speaking, I'm kinda glad for the break. As much as I enjoy being on the bike the constant battle with wind and rain lately have me tired. It's been about three straight weeks of two-wheeled commuting. Things were just plain nasty this morning.

Since there's no ride to write about I thought I would share a couple of interesting other things.

I'm trying out a new set of in-helmet speakers for my portable CD player. I like to listen to the radio on the way to work and then listen to music on the way home. I find that some music actually seems to improve my timing and flow through corners. Oddly enough, the CD that seems to do best in that task is by Weird Al Yankovich. His "Food" album. If you don't know who he is, Al does parodies of other songs and the theme of this one is food. There's something about the beat, I guess. I'm careful to keep the volume down enough I don't miss traffic noises and stuff. There's a new little toy I'm playing with called a "Boostaroo" that is supposed to give you a little more volume and clarity without blasting yourself out. I read about this and the speakers in Motorcycle Consumer News. If you want to find out a little more about these leave a comment. The speakers are really good and quite reasonably priced.

You may have wondered why I am waiting for more daylight to ride my backroads home. I don't have any problem riding backroads in the dark. It's just that this particular set is open farm country. There's usually deer, flocks of wild turkeys, mud and rocks on the road from farm equipment, and so on. Better done in the light. According to my trusty Casio watch the official sunset is at 5 PM. Which means that I have about 20 minutes of daylight so far. Need a little more, I'm afraid. We're gaining a little each day so it won't be long, now.

Interesting vehicles can be seen on the road. Once, coming back from Southern Oregon, I passed the Oscar Meyer "Weiner Mobile". What a trip that rig is. If you look it up on an internet search engine you will find pictures. Yesterday I saw an old Cadillac. You know, the one with the squared off front and back ends. This guy had a big steel plate across the back of the car and a huge push bumper on the front. On the roof was a large replica of a rocket launcher. On the left and right side of the hood were fake machine guns with long barrels and complete with big cartridge holders. At least I hope they were all fake! Harmlessly acting out the fantasy we all have of how to deal with road hogs, I guess.

Early on in the ride yesterday I passed a Hummer. I couldn't help but think of the contrast between a driver in a Hummer and a person on a bike. I'm the picture of independence, doing my thing and not caring about "fitting in". Secure with who I am. Having fun while using less fuel and leaving a small "footprint" of my passage. What a polar opposite the Hummer driver is. This is my opinion only, but I feel that Hummer drivers are trying to overcompensate for some personal shortcoming, whatever that is. Hummers are one of the most socially irresponsible vehicles ever sold to the public. Gas hogs that leave huge "foot prints" of their passing.

God bless motorcyclists!
Traps set, prey escapes!

I'm going to try to shorten up my log entries. The work of reading a long entry shouldn't offset the enjoyment of the reading. I am afraid I've had diarrhea of the keyboard. There's just so much to share.

Today has been a day of hazards. The really disgusting thing is that the very first one was of my own doing. When I push the bike out we make a turn so we are facing sideways to the house on the sidewalk. When we leave we have to make a sharp left turn out of the driveway onto the street. This puts us facing the opposite direction from where we started. Today I must have had a big brain fart because I suddenly realized that I had let the handlebars go full lock left as I was making the turn. Crap!!!!! Totally un-cool to dump my bike in front of my own house. My head and eyes snapped up, I gave it a little throttle to pull it out, and the crisis was over. Thank God for training and curse my inattentiveness.

Speaking or curses, there was no little red Geo today. Whew!

The rain has temporarily let up. The streets are still wet but it is not actually raining. All the rivers are still dealing with the water volume, though. The Willamette hasn't crested, yet. Hwy 34 is closed just East of Corvallis. This highway is the one I use to make the Eastbound run for the Interstate. There are several bedroom communities further East. These folks work in Corvallis which is a college town of about 50,000. With Hwy 34 being closed it has caused chaos on other routes. The good news is that I go in the opposite direction but today I had to dodge crazy drivers who saw the sign and pulled frantic u-turns in front of oncoming traffic.

Once on the Interstate I thought I was ok. Wrong. One thing I hate to see is a long line of big trucks. There can be 8 trucks in line and number 7 will decide they have to pass the whole line. This can take MILES! Today I got up to about number 4 and was just past the rear axle of the trailer. Suddenly I saw a single flash of a turn signal while at the same time the truck came over into my lane quickly. Hey, I'm here, you dope!!! Rode the shoulder a minute or two. I turned around and glared at the driver. Well, as much as possible in a full-face helmet.

I still wasn't done. At one of the intersections in town near the office there are two four lane streets that come together. The one I approach on has two left turn lanes. I am in the right hand of the two lanes and an older gentleman in a Toyota is in the far left inside lane with a left turn signal blinking. The light turns green and this gentleman proceeds to cut right in front of me to the RIGHT!! I avoided harm but I still wonder if he even knew where he was. Interestingly, my mood was still ok. Today was noteworthy in that so many things happened but I accept that there are dangers to face on the roads. Would some of the things that happened not done so if I was in a car? Maybe, maybe not. As drivers seem to lose more abilities and attention span it will get worse no matter what your conveyance. I will not let them rob me of my joy.

The ride home was quiet. It was raining, again, but not with the ferocity of the last few days. The farther North I got the harder it came down. It gets dark about 15 minutes into the commute. Thursdays seem to be the "You can't get there from here" days. Traffic is really heavy and there are about three times as many trucks as normal. There are so many people who drive slowly in the fast lane and just live there. Perhaps they are waiting for their mail to be forwarded to them. Even in the dark and rain, I saw one guy in a maroon colored sedan with his dome light on and a magazine propped up on the steering wheel. Sheesh!

Stopped to fuel up the bike at my usual place. The young guy who has worked there a long time saw me pull up in the rain. He said "What are you doing out riding in the rain with flooding everywhere?" It wasn't the usual "you must be crazy" thing. More like gentle teasing with a little bit of "I still can't believe you do this". Believe it.

Didn't do too well at keeping this short did I? I'm sorry, but I'm just having too much fun doing this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

No thread, today, just thoughts.

Hey, the blog name says "musings" so you've been warned!

Most of my entries are one day behind the actual events. Lately I have had a lot of evening meetings and I just don't get to it until the next day. It is amazing how much time this actually takes up. It's been fun, though. If you have been reading and just not offering comments, thanks for looking at it. Because I hoped to make this a community thing, it would be cool if everyone who is reading this could check in just once so I know you are out there. No pressure, I'd just like to make your internet acquaintance.

The ride in yesterday was actually fairly dry. It felt so good to hold my head up in the fresh air without being pelted by rain. I heard on the radio that the rainfall has broken a record. The highest one day total until now was in 1964 when we got 1.83 inches of rain. On Tuesday we got 2.4. It has rained 30 of the last 31 days and we have almost 20 inches on record in the last month.

Riding in the rain has its problems but most of mine are external. I'm comfortable, I just have to deal with the conditions. My gear is Aerostich. I know that the Ride to Work thing originated with Aero Design but that has nothing to do with my choice of gear. For years I was poorer than I am now and could not afford this gear. Now I wish I had scrimped and saved and done it sooner. This gear rocks! I have the Roadcrafter two-piece with the black pants and the Hi-Viz jacket. I bought the bib type option for the pants so I can wear them with other jackets. Last year a Darien joined the gang. Let me tell you, even though I have soaked the Roadcrafter through, NOTHING gets past the Darien. No rain, no cold, nothing. 'Stich gear lasts forever and wears like iron. That's one reason we had problems in the beginning with the ST when my wife got on and off the bike. Her Roadcrafter pants were so stiff to start with that she couldn't bend her leg! She had to throw the leg up in a wide arc to get it over the backrest and that did interesting things to my balancing of the bike. Talk about leverage to move the bike!

Two years ago I finally bought and electric vest. One day, Lon, the manager of Salem Honda BMW offered me his BMW F650 to ride and try out the ABS on. Since it was a cold morning he insisted that I also try his vest. I had always been hard core and spartan. Until then. After I bought my own vest I went back and told Lon that I both blessed and cursed him. Bless him for turning me on to the electric vest and curse him for tempting me into softening my hardcore image! The vest gets used when the temperature gets below thirty or so degrees. I tell myself that I do it because I am safer, not just trying to be more comfortable. I mean, how safe can you be if you are too cold to move much, right?

With the proper gear one can ride in both cold and rain and be warm and dry. If you have the desire the riding season can be much longer. I really prefer the full jacket and pants. I see folks out with their leather jackets and chaps. They look cool but suffer in practicality. After all, do you know where all the rain goes when they are sitting on the bike? Right to the part that the chaps don't cover. Maybe I'm just envious. I'm still in pretty good shape but gravity has done its job. Me in tightly fitting full leathers is just not a pretty picture anymore.

I am sure that one of the reasons a number of folks don't ride during the really rainy season is that clothing changes and dealing with soaked gear at the office become problematic. My circumstances have been such that there is usually a warehouse associated with my job and there is plenty of room to let gear drip dry. So far I have not had to "dress up" except once in a while so I can be more casual. Helmet hair becomes an issue at times, though. I take a shower in the morning before I leave and then put my helmet on shortly after that. My hair dries in interesting patterns, let me tell you. My wife came up with the perfect solution. She bought me a BMW t-shirt that says "Yes, I have a hair stylist, his name is Helmet". Of course, she bought me another one that says "What day is it and how did I end up in Alaska?" For years I had a bad habit of telling her I was going for a ride and calling her later telling her I was way far away. Now she comes with me so I have the best of both worlds.

The ride home was really nice. I had almost forgotten what it was like to look through a faceshield with no water on it. Dealing with the adverse conditions primes us to more thoroughly enjoy what I call the "jewels". Fortunately the ride was uneventful and allowed me to totally immerse myself in the joy. Never do I feel so good and alive as on the bike. I crave this feeling. In August 2004 I broke 5 bones in my right hand including that all important opposing digit, the thumb. For a month I could not ride a bike. I was told in no uncertain terms by my lovely partner to never, ever, again, say anything negative about a woman's mood swings during different times of the month. She said I had PMS ( parked motorcycle syndrome ) worse than anything she or any of her friends had ever seen or experienced.

I arrived home feeling cheerful and full of happy thoughts. Peter Pan, I have found my happy place!
"Groundhog Day" revisited?

Yesterday morning started as usual. I pushed the ST backwards out of the carport where it patiently waits through the night for the next day's adventures. We live in town. Our neighborhood is typical for an older one. City streets neatly define the "blocks". Our lot is actually two. It spans from the street on one side to an alley on the other. The garage is inhabited by my wife's little car and the bikes not currently doing "frontline" duty. The old truck sits in the driveway leading up to the carport but will not fit under the cover. Perfect place for the commuter bike. Problem is, I have to push it backwards to get it out. Right now that is pretty challenging since the ground is so wet and soggy the bike mires down. I can ride the bike in so there is an additional few pounds ( if you know what I mean ) on the way into the carport. Now there's a big muddy rut through the grass that runs right alongside the pickup. Maybe I should just convert the whole thing to a motocross track and rent it out!

Within a few blocks I hook up with Hwy 99 which used to be the main highway up and down the valley before the interstate was built. 99 runs North and South. The portion I ride on is pretty much industrial. I have a 4.7 mile ride to get to the East-West highway that takes me out to Interstate 5 for the run to work.

The speed limit is such on 99 that traffic can get up to 50 or so miles an hour. The really irritating thing to me are the stop lights. You just get up to speed and the lights turn red so you have to haul it back down, again. On top of that, remember, it's industrial. There is a Target distribution center and you can guess how many trucks come and go from there. Morse Brothers is a major sand, gravel, and road building concern. Not to mention all the other trucking companies that operate out of warehouses all up and down. So not only do I have to be ready to put the binders on, but there's a good chance that while I am waiting for the green light several trucks will lumber in front of me. I know they are just doing what they do without evil intent but sometimes I feel like a running back dodging defensive linemen.

Yesterday morning ( Tuesday ) I was running a little late. On Monday I was running a little ahead. Monday morning I found myself behind a little red Geo Metro with a personalized plate. ( I won't say what was on the plate just in case you happen to read this ) The driver was one of those who just could not seem to find a happy speed and stay there. I passed him only to find a moment later that he came zooming by me and then slowed back down. Traffic prevented me from passing again since my ramp up to the East-West connector was coming up. Once on the connector I still could not go around as this driver and another were playing the "let's go slow and drive side by side" game. This forced me to follow for the 5 miles to the freeway. Guess what? The guy was getting on the freeway, too. Finally, I got room to pass. You got it. Pretty soon the Geo zoomed by me once more, never to be seen again.

Until yesterday, that is. This is what is really weird. Now I'm running late. At the same exact place I come up behind this car. Now we are both following a flat bed semi truck piled high with veener on two trailers. I have never seen a truck "tip-toe" but that is exactly what this driver was doing up the curved ramp. Perhaps they have had some previously disastrous experience with a load shifting and weren't taking any chances. I finally got to pass the Geo and this time they stayed behind me. Am I doomed to meet this car every morning as some sort of punishment? Will I live the same loop like in the movie "Groundhog Day"? Guess we will find out on the next ride.

Speaking of trucks, I had a REALLY scary experience on the freeway. If you have been reading this blog you have seen that we are having massive rain. There is a lot of standing water, even on the freeway. Knowing the amount of water a truck can spray I plan my passes carefully, making sure to get around briskly. I passed a truck at the same time it went through a big puddle of water. It was like somebody emptied a wading pool onto me. For a brief while I literally could not see anything but water sheets. The faithful ST and I came out all right but there was certainly a pucker factor!

At lunch time I ran some errands on the bike. Saw another soul on two wheels. A guy on a big yellow scooter was out with full gear and a full face helmet. My wave carried the pent up energy that comes from not being used in a while. His wave started out tentatively like he was surprised that a "bike" guy would wave but soon became full fledged. The other thing that caused me great cheer and humor was pulling up alongside a mini van with a man at the wheel. There was a woman whom I assumed was his wife in the passenger seat. I could see several munchkins in the rear seats. Usually I get looks that seem to carry pity that I am reduced to being in the rain when I could be warm and dry in a cage. This guy gave me a look that clearly said "God, I wish I could be you right now!". Don't get me wrong. My wife and children have greatly enriched my life. But that look captured the spirit of why I ride. This two wheeled ride is truly my "Freedom Machine".

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I find comfort in knowing that you are out there.

Took Friday off from work. No, not because of the date, but because it was Friday. Had some errands to do and needed to get ready for the weekend.

It was time to put a new front tire on the ST. If I remember correctly this is the fourth. The bike is currently shod with Avon sport touring tires. These don't seem to give me quite the same confidence as I had with the previous set which were Dunlop D205's. I think next time I will go back to Dunlops. Tires are one aspect of maintenance that I don't have any desire to do myself.

The neat thing about riding all year is that I don't have to worry about getting into the shop. Actually, this is not an issue even during summer thanks to the guys. I go way back with this dealership and have purchased several bikes over the years. There is an advantage to maintaining a loyal relationship with a dealer you can trust. Salem Honda BMW-Ducati takes good care of me. Thanks, guys.

Because of the wet weather the ride up and back was pretty much straight line. Have to be careful on a brand new tire until the slick coating wears off, you know.

On the way home I stopped by our hometown Starbuck's. My wife gives me a bad time and claims that I navigate by Starbuck's. The old mariners navigated by the stars so my doing so by Starbuck's is almost a time honored tradition, isn't it? One of the cool things about being on the bike is that I have my own parking spot that allows me to see the bike from inside. There is a light pole with a triangle separating it from the start of the line of parking slots. Just perfect for the bike.

Once inside a woman standing in line said to me "Are you out riding in this?". I just gave her a gentle smile and told I ride pretty much all year. At that point a couple of the gals who work at the coffee shop piped up and said they had taken the motorcycle class this summer. I knew about one of them as it had come up in conversation previously when I wore an instructor shirt in after class. So right in the middle of a rainy day I found myself in a warm coffee shop with folks talking about bikes. With this coming on top of hanging out at the bike shop it had been a pretty good day.

I spent the weekend in Portland which has a population of around half a million. We were doing instructor updates and training. Even though it was the weekend it technically counts as commuting since Portland is an hour and 15 minutes away and I got paid for working, right? Anyway, this isn't so much about the weekend as it was the continued chance to be with people who are enthusiastic about motorcycling. I got to interact and hang with 30 folks or so.

That's what I was thinking about yesterday morning as I rode to work. On the long ride there's plenty of time to think. Being a holiday for a lot of people the roads were more relaxed than normal. I got to thinking that I'm starting to feel a little lonely. It's been a while since I've seen anyone else on a bike on my commute. It didn't use to bother me but I guess I notice it more these days. I guess it really hit home with me when I was doing errands on the bike and waved to a lady on a moped. Hey, two wheels and a motor, that's close enough for me.

Last summer I would see four regular riders coming North while I was heading South.

There was a guy on a silver / gray cruiser with hard bags. I'm not real good at identifying them in motion from a distance. The bike had an American flag proudly flying on a mast attached to a bag. I called him "The Patriot". There was a young kid on a white Yamaha sport bike and I would always see him tucked way in. He would never wave but that was ok. Actually, he waved once. On what ended up being the last day I saw him. I didn't wave that day. All of a sudden I saw his hand go up. Maybe he just wanted to say goodbye and we had been connected all along even if I didn't realize it. I called him "The Racer". There was another young man who had leathers with a lot of orange and he rode a yellowish / orange Katana. I called him "Orange Boy". The last of the four was a man who was a tall, thin, drink of water. He also had leathers and rode what looked like a Honda Transalp dual sport. I called him "Grasshopper" from the way he and the bike looked together. None of the names are meant in any way other than my own identification. All but "The Racer" would enthusiastically wave. Now I haven't seen anyone in a long time.

Last night on the ride home it got dark soon after I started out. I found myself watching headlights coming at me looking for the single light. Do you know how many "one-eyed monster" cars there are out there? Several hopeful possibilities but no bikes.

I joke with my wife that most motorcyclists are like bugs. The warmer the weather the more are out. This isn't an insult. Whenever folks want to ride is their choice and I will wave just as joyfully as at any other time. I just miss them right now. How long will it be until I can once again have someone to wave at? It will be too long.

Until then, even though I don't know you or see you, I take comfort in the fact that I know you are out there.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Ha, ha! It finally caught up with you!

Yesterday morning on my ride to work I saw Justice done. Cause and effect with the immediate feedback of effect to someone being the cause. The incident reinforced what I already knew about the drivers we are dealing with out there. More importantly, it made me pause and reflect on my own riding habits and inclinations.

Our reprieve from the rain is over. My wonderful ride in the temporarily dry ( relatively speaking ) conditions carried my good mood all through the evening. When I went to bed the rain was still holding off. During the night I got up to ..... well never mind..... and I heard the rain beating on the bathroom fan's roof vent. It's baaaaack.

Because of the rain and spots of standing water I was riding at a rather sedate speed. Traffic was the usual moderate to heavy for this time of morning. The distance between my bike and the car ahead of me was about 4 seconds. Passing on the left and going about 5 miles an hour faster than me was an unmarked vehicle from the County Sheriff's Office. I was an LEO in an earlier part of life so maybe I'm more sensitive to what they look like but this one didn't seem to be overly covert. It was the standard Ford Crown Vic car with the little antenna in the back. I could see the pop-up lights on the rear deck as the car passed.

Right behind the cop car was a little black Nissan Sentra. The driver, a young female, was tailgating the cop car in the heavy rain. I could see the driver moving left and right trying to see if there was a clear spot ahead to do the slingshot move. This kept up for a while since there weren't any available traffic gaps. A gap finally opened and, yes, you guessed it, the Nissan driver did the slingshot into the spot in front of the cop car. You know what comes next, don't you?

The cop car lit up like a psycho strobing Christmas tree and the driver of the Nissan was surely going to get a verbal and written lesson on safe following distances and how the basic rule affects speed limits. I'm sorry to say that my character flaws enabled me to laugh my helmet off the rest of the ride to work.

There was certainly humor but there was also a serious reminder. I've seen it all from overly aggressive drivers taking totally dangerous chances, to people reading while driving, to people eating cereal from a bowl, you name it. There's one little gal in a black SUV with a personalized plate with what I assume is her name on it. She blows by me doing about 85 all the while putting on her makeup and looking into a little mirror on her sun visor. Folks seem to be either oblivious or stupid. However, I don't want to turn this into another "bashing" piece. Look at it from my perspective on a bike.

The reality is that we are sharing the road with folks who are impaired in many ways. It's either chemical, emotional, physical, or in skills. I'm not saying all of it comes from a lack of character or morals on the part of drivers. Some does but some is just physical aging, or whatever. Either way, it affects us and we need to deal with it. I've heard some riders say that to be safe you need to assume that every driver out there is out to kill us and act accordingly. To me this seems too much like being a victim, the helpless rider at the mercy of the four wheeled hordes. It conjures up images of a mouse crouching and hiding while hawks circle overhead. I don't like that mental picture at all.

Sure, there's real dangers. In my case, I prefer to feel and think like I am in control of my own destiny. I keep my skills sharp through practice. I develop and use mental strategies like SIPDE, the mental skill taught in motorcycle safety classes. I make myself visible to other traffic by my positioning and what I wear. The danger is still the same but my enjoyment is higher because I feel in control. I face these dangers repeatedly in my commute but they will not rob me of my joy. I have seen the enemy and I am ready.

The other thing I thought of was my own habits. Why do we ride the bike? It's supposed to be relaxing. It's a higher consciousness thing. We are above the people frantically commuting in their little rocket ships. The experience is probably slightly different for each of us but I like to feel we are all on the same plane. You know the feeling. Other people don't understand. Like Mr. Honda said "If I have to tell you about it, you won't understand it. If you have already experienced it I don't have to tell you". I'm sorry, Mr. Honda, wherever you are, if I have misquoted you. Honestly, I am trying to be true to the intent of your wise words.

An interesting thing happens, at least to me, when commuting on the same routes everyday. I find this especially true right now when darkness and rain deny me my soothing twisties. I came to a sudden epithany the other day. "My god, I'm on the bike but I'm DRIVING"! True enough, I was back in that zone. Each car ahead of me had become a target. I was on the hunt, my prey was the car ahead. The "kill" was getting around this car. I told myself that I was just trying to find open space to run alone but I was lying to myself. Pretty soon I caught up to the next group of cars and the "hunt" started all over again. Where was this higher consciousness?
Where was the serenity of mind from the ride?

It was a apparently a much needed wakeup call. I shall try to do better in coming days.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


If it's not wind and rain, it's rain and wind. Just about the time I thought I was going to totally flip out, run down the street pulling off and flinging down my gear one piece at a time, while yelling crazy things....we finally got a reprieve.

Two days ago in the paper I saw an article that said we have had 21 consecutive days with rain and were facing more. This is not just rain, it is RAIN! I guess I shouldn't complain too loudly because there are folks who are facing the crisis of their homes sliding down hills or having trees crash down on their roofs. Still, commuting on the bike is a challenge right now.

Our state climatologist says that we are suffering the effects of a "la nina" phase which could either bring us a polar express or pineapple express. Guess which one came? ( hint, it's wet but it ain't that cold right now )

It's finally getting a little lighter in the mornings when I leave home. I've sort of fallen into the eight to five routine over the winter. I head out around 7 AM and get home about 6 PM. For a couple of months, now, it's been dark when I leave and dark when I get home. This is really cramping my choice of routes. Normally I take the freeway in the mornings and then enjoy some back roads on the way home that I have especially selected for their relaxation and mood-improving value. When it's dark and wet my ability to safely enjoy the twisties in severely compromised. Until we get a couple more daylight hours it's pretty much straight line to work and the same home. I am really getting embarrassed by my squared-off tires!

Back to the ride. Yesterday morning I am tooling down the freeway and looking at the fields on both sides of me. Did I say fields? What I meant to say was "lakes". Everything is flooded. There's a quarter mile stretch of Hwy 99 that's raised up a fair amount. With the flooded areas on both sides I swear it's like riding on a causeway through the middle of a lake. The fields that aren't flooded are so wet they look like oatmeal that you've poured milk onto. Do you know that point where the milk isn't sitting on top yet but the oatmeal has soaked up all the milk and one drop more will put it over the edge? The muddy fields look the same way. I'm sure you would sink up to your waist if you tried to walk out there. I could see some of my back roads as some of them cross the freeway and run parallel in spots. Cars were slowly driving through standing water that seemed to be fairly deep. As much as I wish I could be riding my "good roads" I'm totally happy not to turn my bike into a personal watercraft.

Did I mention the wind? It's not too strong in the mornings. The ride home is another story. The wind has had all day to build up its strength. With this newfound energy the gusts reach 35 to 45 miles an hour. Fortunately for me the wind is from the South and I am travelling North so it's a tail wind for the most part. The tricky part is when I take the exit to go West for a while. There's about 5 miles where the gusts come from the side. Hey, I have no problems changing lanes, I just like to know where and when!

Then, like turning on a heat lamp, the rain stopped mid-morning. Could we dare hope? Yes, the SUN came out! I didn't get to take the bike out at lunch time but what a contrast my ride home was to the night before. The previous night I rode in rain that was coming down like what the farmers refer to as being similar to what a cow does on a flat rock. My visor was fogged, the visibility was totally limited, and my tires were spraying water. Thank goodness for my retroflective vest because I know car drivers can't see too well, either. Of all the times I ride this is when I feel the most vulnerable. I can't see, other drivers can't see, and I'm never sure of my traction.

Compared to the night before, last night was almost glorious. For precious miles my tires actually got to feel dry pavement. I could look up and actually see a gap between me and the clouds up higher. Visibility was good, traction was good, my mood was good, life was good. Looking to the foothills to the East I was entertained off and on by the lightning strikes that created interesting light shows. When I got home I wrapped my wife in my arms and shared the joy. That's the essence of why I ride!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Today is Tuesday. So if I remember correctly, yesterday was Monday. I have to tell you, Mondays sort of test my resolve to commute by bike. You know how it is. Depending on the weekend I'm sort of groggy and reluctant to return to the work week. The idea of driving my old truck and drinking coffee on the long run down the freeway can be quite enticing on these rainy winter, dark Monday mornings. The heater in the truck isn't overly savage but it has to be warmer than wind chill, doesn't it?

So why ride in the rain and cold when we could drive?

Our state has a motorcycle safety program and I am an active instructor. I love teaching and enjoy the enthusiasm of the many new and experienced riders that come through the classes. By far the majority of the folks coming through are new. To break the ice on the first night of class we ask the students to introduce themselves and tell us why they are taking the course. Oftentimes the reason stated is to be able to ride a motorcycle and save on gas expenses.

You know what? I've done the math and it might work for the casual commuter to ride the bike once in a while and burn a little less fuel, but for someone who commutes for most or all of the year it just doesn't work that way.

Follow me on this little mathmatical stroll. I will use my circumstances to illustrate. Perhaps you're already aware of this or maybe it will give you something new to think about.

My sweetie has a little car to bomb around in. My bike gets 45 miles to the gallon and her car gets 30 miles to the gallon. It would seem like a no-brainer that the bike would be cheaper to run. Let's step back and look at a little bigger picture.

The commute is 88 miles round trip. Figuring holidays, vacation, and so on, the number of weeks commuting is 48. Your circumstances may vary but I can ride all year with small exceptions. At 440 miles a week that makes the yearly total miles commuting 21,120. With me so far? We are going to push insurance aside for this discussion. I figure if you are reading this you're going to have a bike and a car hanging around either way so that's not an optional expense.

However, let's make this fun and add tires to the equation. My wife's little car is one of those cars that you can actually buy the tires on sale for. Has that ever happened to you? You see an advertisement for tires on sale. When you take your car in you find out that it takes a size different than the one advertised and they're more expensive? Well, this car takes the sizes that are used as sales leaders. I just bought four tires, had them mounted and balanced, and spent $265.00. And these are 60,000 mile tires!!

You know how much good bike tires cost. But hey, the size of the two contact patches put together are about as big as a size 10 tennis shoe so I want them to be as good as can be. I get around 10,000 miles out of a rear tire and about 15,000 out of the front on sport touring tires. Again, your actual results may vary, these are my averages.

Fuel right now is at $2.00 per gallon for regular and $2.19 for premium. I burn regular in the little car and premium in the bike. Ready to wrap this up?
I know, you thought I would never get to the point.

For these 21,120 miles the little car will burn 704 gallons of fuel worth $1,408.00 at current prices. It will use approximately 1/3 of the tread life of the tires at an averaged-out cost of $88.44. That makes the total cost for fuel and tires $1,496.44.

For these same 21,120 miles the bike will burn 469 gallons of fuel worth $1,027.11. It will consume 2 rear tires and about 1 1/3 front tires. Based on the price of my last set of tires this will cost me $436.00 which brings my total expense for tires and fuel to $1,463.11. That's a whopping savings of $33.33 by riding the bike! That goes away when you figure maintenance. I do most of my own and change the oil around every 3000 miles on the bike and car. I use synthetic oil in the bike even though it's not required. The car has hydraulic lifters while the bike has valve adjustment intervals of 16,000. Add to that the fact that, even though I am tempted when I see the poor driving skills out there, I don't put on a thousand dollars worth of protective gear when I drive the car.

Proudly declaring that I can count to 15 without removing my shoes, I don't commute to save money!!! So why do it?

For me, there's a few reasons. If I had to sum it up I'd say "passion" and "empowerment". I just flat love being on the bike. There's a certain grace and sensuality in all the little movements of the bike under me. The small bounce of the front tire over surface imperfections, the way the bike moves in turns both small and in corners, the eager way it responds to my demand for more speed when I roll on the throttle, and on and on. Even though the ST is a relatively large bike it's still a lot more agile than a car. Taking little detours on the way home to check out a road is an invitation to fun on the bike; too much bother in a car.

The empowerment plays a part in a couple of ways. On the bike I just don't have to be dictated to by other traffic as much as I would be in my old truck, for example. I ride aggessively. Not the road rage kind, but the controlled kind. I look after me since no one else does. On the freeway, for example, I like to find a clear pocket to ride in where I have LOTS of elbow room. Finding myself stuck in a group of traffic, the bike's power and smaller size allow me to get myself into clear sailing more easily. I know, the temptation to REALLY use the bike's manuverability and power in traffic can be overwhelming. Please take it from a veteran road warrior: Exercise wrist management and don't put yourself in a position of being committed and suddenly finding no way out. Plan carefully and stay within the limits.

The other thing I enjoy is just being different. Maybe it's a perverse side of my nature but I like it when folks in cars look at me like I am crazy. Or a priceless moment on a recent 20 degree morning when a new person at the office saw the bike out front when he drove up and his first words to me were "No way!". I really like the feeling of doing what most people can't or won't do. Not just doing it, but doing it well. And did I mention what a great stress reliever riding the bike is?

What are your reasons? You're warmly invited to share comments. I'd love it if you would.

I wanted to use the first posts to kind of set the stage and some background. I know it's a blog about commuting so I will start getting down to business and sharing lifes and laughs from a road warrior.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

"My Bike". Two words that conjure up so many different images depending on who is saying these words and who is hearing them.

This is really where it all starts for us, isn't it?

Whatever reason we have for riding, whatever personal fulfillment we receive, whatever our dreams are, it's the bike that makes it all possible. The cool thing is that under the umbrella of "motorcycling" there is so much room for individual expression.

I have attached a picture of "My Bike". It is a 2001 Honda ST1100. This picture was taken on July 4th weekend this summer. I had always heard rumors that a certain forest service road went over the hills and connected with a main highway leading to Central Oregon. This was one of many breaks I just had to take to admire the view and enjoy the solitude. I climbed a hill and took a picture looking down on the bike. You can see my gear on the ground beside the bike. What a wonderful ride that was! But that's a story for another day.

We all look for just the right bike for us. I am just not "cool" enough for a cruiser, I guess. Finding myself standing beside some shiny cruising machine I have been asked to "step away from the bike because you are lowering the re-sale value". While being extremely glad for the skills garnered from riding dirt bikes, I am not pulled toward riding off road these days. There are plenty of paved roads to keep me entertained for a long time, thank you. If I bought a dual-sport I would probably be like the guy I saw an ad from recently: "For sale, dual sport in good condition, 13,000 miles, NEVER BEEN OFF ROAD." Yup, that would be me, all right. Even though I know they are getting more nimble all the time, I am just not ready for a 900 pound luxo-tourer.

My leanings are pretty much toward the sport and sport-tourer types. The ST1100 was always the bike I was working toward. The ST is not an only child, mind you. In fact, the year I bought the bike is the year my wife, Katie, declared that I had finally and irrevocably gone "off the deep end". I don't think it was the purchase of the ST that got to her so much, as it was the fact that I bought the ST in February and in May bought a new Honda CBR600F4i.

Katie was excited about the ST1100. Up to now she had been a passenger on the back of various bikes around the place. We had a 1981 CX500 ( which I can't really take total blame for because it eventually became her bike ), a 1981 CB900C Honda with the dual range transmission, a 1994 Honda VFR, a 1998 Honda Pacific Coast, and my son's 1990 Suzuki GS500. So suffice it to say that the ST1100 wasn't destined to be an only child since the plan was for the other bikes to stay. After all, you don't sell one of the older children when a new baby comes along, do you? Sheeesh!!

You gotta love a woman who goes into the dealer's showroom with you and sees the new Candy Dark Red ST1100 and says "That's our color, dear." Honda had a brief flirtation with this bike in a bright red but the traditional color had been black. I have a dear friend named Al who swears the only proper color for an ST is black. Curiously enough, Al just bought a slightly used ST1300 which looks suspiciously maroon colored. Al vigorously defends himself because Honda calls this color "Black Cherry". Ok, Al, whatever you say.

So we go in the showroom and Katie falls in love with this bike. The passenger seat has to look good after doing a two day 1200 mile trip with me and riding on the back of the Honda Pacific Coast. It's a nice bike but not like this one. I sure hope Katie never gets to try out the air cushioned seats on the big BMW bikes!

That's how I finally got my dream bike. I tell myself that I am not being unfaithful to the "Perfect Bike For Me" by having other bikes. Unlike in human relationships, where you find the "Perfect Person For Me" ( where you darn well better limit yourself to one ) it's okay to see other bikes once in a while.

Seriously, this bike suits me well and works perfectly for everything I am doing in my life right now. The only thing I changed from stock was the seat. Not being the tallest person in the world, I had a little trouble getting flat- footed on the ground. It was no big deal until we discovered that having Katie mount and dismount while having to throw her leg over the backrest became more of a thrill than we wanted. When the aftermarket seat was made I was able to have them streamline the foam at the front of the seat where it meets the tank. This, combined with more familiarity with the bike has made the balance problem go away.

This bike is the main commuter so unless I mention another bike specifically, this will be the noble hero of this blog!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Hello. My name is Dan and I am a motorcyclist. It sounds like an introduction used in another venue, doesn't it? Truth be told, I have to admit that I AM addicted to motorcyles and riding. When circumstances dictate my being off the bike for a couple of days I use words like "withdrawal" or "I need a dose of therapy". Remember, I said "addicted" not obsessed. Yes, I live, eat, and breath bikes but I also like to think I have a balanced life otherwise.

I have been riding since the early seventies. The first part of that decade was on dirt bikes as a teenager. I got my street license in 1974 and have been on street bikes since then. I have commuted by bike continuously since 1985. For the past three years my commute has grown longer; it is now 88 miles round trip.

Blogging is new to me. Writing is not. I got the spark to write about commuting on a motorcycle through the Ride to Work organization and with a nudge from Gary, the dashing pilot of The Baron. The urge to interact with fellow riders and working folks has become strong in me. Kind of like The Force in Star Wars. So embark on this adventure we shall.

So many questions. Will I be interesting enough that folks will join me on a regular basis and share their own comments? Do I tell you all my background now, or reveal it a little at at time. I have opted for the "little at a time" approach. As it relates to the topic things will be revealed. Please feel warmly invited to join me as this adventure unfolds.