Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More Musings

Update on "Buzzard"

You might remember "Buzzard". If not, you can go back and look at the post from February 6.

I had a meeting last night in Salem. One of the instructors at the meeting told me that Buzzard had come back to try the skill evaluation again. This time, she said, he passed. What was interesting was that Buzzard grossly exaggerated
skills like head turns. It seemed he was doing it just to pass the test. At least he knows what to do. What he does with it later is going to have to be up to him. Buzzard can be his own best friend or worst enemy. I truly wish him the best.

Big-assed vehicles

I hate following vehicles that I can't see over or around. Especially on the freeway. It feels like I spend most of my time riding the superslab any more. Whenever possible I actively work to get around these rigs. Once upon a time I usually had a good view from the seat of a bike. These days I end up behind another "wide-body" all too soon. Is it just me or has the number of big vehicles rapidly proliferated the past couple of years? Between vans, mini-vans, SUV's, and big pick-ups it feels like riding in a thick herd of elephants. Some people really need a large vehicle. It's hard to haul a whole family on a bike. I'd say the majority aren't driving these vehicles for practical purposes, though. Either way, the average gas mileage can't be too good. No wonder the oil companies have us over a barrel. ( no pun intended ) I like my 48 miles per gallon just fine, thank you. More should join us in riding to work.

Crappy drivers

We've had some late snow. See more in the next post. I've always complained about drivers who do stupid things like tailgating. The speeding, taking chances, and tailgating don't let up at all when the conditions turn nasty. I saw on the news tonight that there was a 60 car pile-up on Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 in Washington State. I don't mean to impugn a lack of common sense to any driver who might have been an innocent victim here. But how the heck does a 60 car pile-up happen if folks aren't speeding and following too closely without regard for conditions?

Why do I do it?

I spent this last weekend in the Big City doing step-up training for instructors. It's the same kind of thing that was going on when we met "Buzzard". Despite the forecast for heavy rain and wind, I rode Sophie. It's always a trick trying to get enough gear in the two saddlebags. One of these days I guess I should buy a trunk bag. I had to laugh my butt off on Sunday. I showed up on Saturday on the bike. Most of the instructors in attendance were local. Only a couple rode on Saturday. My good friend Jeff Earls rode, but he's a top ranking Iron Butt competitor. What else would you expect of him? Talk about peer pressure! After my peers saw I rode a hundred miles one way almost all of them rode on Sunday. Yes, we did get soaked all weekend. My own ride home Sunday night was not the best ride I ever had.

There was a very big storm pelting us. The winds were strong and gusty from the Southwest. Which meant I not only had a head wind, but I was being hammered by gusts coming from about two o'clock to me. Between the winds trying to move me over in my lane, the standing water on the freeway, and the quickly falling darkness, it was a challenge.

This morning I woke up to rain which was mostly snow. The temperature was hovering at 33 degrees (f). Still, I saddled up and went. I had an early meeting at the office. By the time I got to the South Salem hills, I was riding on a slush covered freeway. It was still dark. The good news is that almost all of the drivers were actually driving within the limits set by the conditions. There was more snow in Portland and Vancouver.

By the time I set off for home the temperature had soared to 39 degrees (f). There was still snow in the rain with a little hail for contrast. Again, I faced gusty winds with the added thrill of having snow laden rain blasted into my face shield. My last three rides have been a little hairy. Why do we say that word "hairy"? A ride isn't really covered in hair. I think it's a macho way to say "scary". It sounds the same, doesn't it? There's a part of me that wants to use the word scary. As in "My last three rides were a little scary". Another part of me doesn't want anyone to know that I sometimes feel anxiety that's a couple of heartbeats away from fear. We want to say "scary" but our macho brains dictate the substitute word.

Just North of Salem there was a brief spell where the rain stopped and the road was dry. The first thought was "this was worth all those miles in the storm". Right. It was still cold and I still had heavy traffic all around me. I was also still on the freeway. The only reason it was good was that I was on the bike and it wasn't as bad as the storm. Some people tell me that a rider has to ride in bad conditions to better appreciate the good rides. Baloney!!! That's like me saying I beat my head against the wall just because it feels so good to stop.

I actually called my kid brother about this. I pretty much put him through medical school. Now he's a full fledged psychologist, working with addicts. I figured he'd be able to give me some insight. I asked for some "pro bono" advice. He denied knowing what that meant. I persisted. I explained that I had nothing left to prove. I could actually be more comfortable in a car. It would be possible to drink coffee on the journey. I might even be safer. So why did I always feel the need to ride? Why do I start bitchin' about not being able to ride when I'm forced to use a car for a couple of days? Why can't I accept being warm and comfortable in a car? Why, why, why?

He looked right into my eyes and gave me a straight answer. For those of you who are a little sensitive, you should cover your eyes for a few seconds.

My brother looked at me and said these words. "It's because you're f**ked up, man!"

I've always suspected that. It's reassuring to have a professional confirm it for me.

Almost pulled the plug

I've been blogging here for well over a year. Time is starting to be in shorter supply. Now that I'm back in sales as a manufacturer's rep, I'm enjoying myself more but have less time. My schedule used to be more structured. I went to work at a certain time and left at a certain time. Now the schedule's a lot more varied. I still enjoy blogging but it seems the posts are getting farther and farther apart. Sometimes I find myself tempted to post something just to put out a post. I'd much rather have it be more meaningful. So I'd actually come to a decision as I laid awake in a hotel room Friday night. I was going to pull the plug on this blog. I figured I'd helped found our little community. First Gary, then Steve and I. Now there's this neat little community of thriving bloggers. Nobody much would miss me. That's not meant to be any kind of plea for feedback. I just felt like I was filling space and not doing things justice anymore.

Coincidentally, a couple of comments appeared here. Then I saw a post by one of our community to the North of me. He mentioned our group and how we all learned from each other. I decided that I would really miss being a part of this community. It's a really neat little neighborhood we've built up. I don't want to move yet. Thanks, all, for being such good neighbors!

Miles and smiles,



Aaron said...

Riding in 30deg with the sleet, other drivers and every other random road hazard...

"It's because you're f**ked up, man!"

Yes sir. ;^)

Blogging is like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!

Combatscoot said...

No, no, THANK YOU! And please stick-around. You are and inspiration to me, to improve my riding techniques.
You mentioned the wordplay, "hairy" and "scary", and I was thinking of a little joke my wife and I have between each-other. Since my stress and money problems and Wifey's getting of a decent-paying job, I have been gradually taking-on more of the nutritional responsibilities in the household. However, whenever Wifey says I "cook", I quickly correct her and say "heated-up". I say to her that real men don't cook, they heat things up. We always laugh at that.

irondad said...

You're siding with my brother? To quote Julias Ceaser "Et tu Brutus?" ( although there's some discussion among historians if he used that form of the name or Brute')

Love the Hotel California thing!

Nutritional responsibilities? Neat way to put it. My approach is "I killed it, you cook it". Just in case it backfires I watch Emeril Live on the Food Network.

Thanks for letting me know the blog means something to you.


balisada said...

You have the street credit so that I trust your guesses more than most other folks facts.

I can read others, but it's colored with the knowledge that their experience is from another part of the country with different weather, different traffic conditions, and sometimes I simply don't know their background.

I would like it if you stayed, because I do learn a lot, and you do give me a lot to think about, but I do understand the time thing. Sometimes, something has to go.

Bill Sommers said...

I think I know that guy.

Hey, even if you were to taper your posts back to a more comfortable pace, it would be worth the wait for me.

The neighborhood needs cat's like you.

Have fun,

irondad said...

High praise, indeed! Thank you. Students like you are the reason I keep teaching. You take responsibility for yourself. I know of at least two classes you've attended. On top of it all, you're having fun! Well done. I'm glad the blog is useful.

Yeah, you know the guy. It was one of your posts I was referring to.


dan_durham said...

You've got plenty of frequent visitors Dan... I don't reply on your blog that often but your neighbor up here at the Port of Seattle would like to keep reading!


American Scooterist Blog said...

You're not.. um.. You do it because its worth it to you and you can. Imagine if the first motorcycles were deemed too dangerous to ride safely. As they probably would be were they invented today.
Its a passion. A means to an end would be to have taken the car.

I just started reading your work and I don't want you to quit writing either. Riding forums are nice and inciteful but most cogent thought needs more space to be developed and mulled over. Both from the writer's and readers' points of view.

The Roadbum

Steve Williams said...


There is no explanation for 60 car piles ups and bad drivers. They are a manmade force of nature and the only thing that servers sanity is to treat them as such and not have any expectations otherwise. Without expectations it's easier to be content....

You certainly push hard on the road and find yourself in situations that a lot of us shiver thinking about (and at some level secretly envy) but I'm not sure I would concur with the diagnosis that you are f*cked up. Perhaps there is another way to look at it.

Bear with me here now warrior....

I've been reading Rainer Maria Rilke's book "Letters to a Young Poet". Imagine a slight change in title to "Letters to a Young Warrior".

Responding to the young warrior's fear,worry, and doubt related to the time, energy and life he is giving up to riding (writing poetry in the book) Rilke says this:

"So, dear Sir, I can't give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to the question of whether you must ride. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be a rider. Then take that destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. For the rider must be a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted."

Rilke goes on to talk about a life giving up what you are intended for but perhaps you see the point. Of all the people I have met or come across in my life I only have seen a few who display a passion that seems to meet the spirit of what Rilke talks about. They have been scientists, writers, artists and with you, a rider. Perhaps you should jump too fast into the warmth and comfort of a car....

Sorry for the long post Dan. Best of luck to you!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Steve Williams said...


Writing too fast and too early. That line near the end should read you should NOT jump too fast into the warm car....


irondad said...

I hope you're not just reading here to keep you awake on night shift!

I do have a passion for this. Almost nothing else gives me the same satisfaction. The blog form does have the advantage of space. I have a hard time making short comments on forums.

That is profound. I've printed it for further pondering. I would love to take you to the Starbucks at Barnes and Noble. I'd buy you all the cookies and hot beverages you want. Small price to pay to be able to sit and listen to you. If I should accept the mantle of Warrior, you should accept the mantle of Philosopher / Poet!


Allen Madding said...

We will be happy to settle for postings that are a bit more spaced apart in time, but by no way will we the two-wheel blogging community tollerate you shutting down the blog. Your blog gives us WAY TOO MUCH to think about and encourages us to push our comfortable limits and continually improve our riding skills.

Thanks for NOT shutting down your blog.

Don't pay any attention to aaron or your brother. Their just pansies who wouldn't ride in cold weather or ride 3,000 miles on a bike :)

Krysta in Milwaukee said...

> Why do we say that word "hairy"?

Hair-raising, as in the hair on your arm stands up from fright.

And no, please don't go away!!