Thursday, May 03, 2007

Even the Ninja.....

It was my own fault, really. In my last post I had made some comments about my riding. I suppose these could be considered as borderline bragging. That's not my usual style. It was intended solely to make a point. I was only trying to show the contrast between being a safety instructor and a fearless Road Warrior. It would seem the Weather Gods thought I was boasting and getting too cocky. They decided to try to humble me.

We're all painfully aware that mere mortals are no match for the power of the Weather Gods. Not being content with this situation, the Weather Gods find ways to continually remind us of that fact. Yesterday was such a day. These Beings reached out and touched a portion of the Interstate. I was forced to yield temporarily. However, I am beaten upon but not bowed.

Do you remember the television commercial Honda put out a number of years ago? This was a beginning of the competition between Honda's Hurricane and Kawasaki's Ninja. Back when it was not a violation of political correctness to use these names. I miss those days tremendously.

The commercial showed a Ninja dressed all in black as per the usual stereotype. The setting was a dojo. Soon the Ninja heard the sound of a hurricane approaching. A trap door was opened in the middle of the floor and the Ninja secreted himself under the floor. Here is the punch line of the commercial:

"Even the Ninja knows he must hide from the Hurricane".

It was a clever commercial, I thought. I felt like I was in that ad yesterday afternoon.

My day had started during what felt like the middle of the night. Jim, the Sales Manager was in town. We had a very early meeting. Since I live a hundred miles away from the office and we had to travel on top of that, an early start was required. The flip side of that was an early end to the day. Jim and I had lunch at a Mom and Pop cafe in the business park our office is located in. If anyone's interested, I had a Reuben sandwich. With lunch over, I saddled up and headed for home. Of course, the days never really end early as long as cell phones and internet connections work. Either way, I'm delighted to be heading out on the bike in the middle of the afternoon. I'd beat the big rush hour which is mis-named. Up there it should be called "The Rush Hours".

For the first 40 minutes the ride was pretty much normal. Our weather the past couple of days has been mixed periods of partly cloudy and rain. The weather guessers had been saying we could get thunderstorms during the afternoon. So far there was no sign of any of that nonsense. Sophie and I made our way to Interstate 5. It's now a straight run for home. As we pass through Wilsonville all hail breaks loose. That's right. No thunderstorm but a really nasty hailstorm.

One second it is dry. Literally the next second we are deluged by a heavy rain and hail mix. I pictured several colassal beings holding buckets of equally Brobdingnagian proportions. All of these beings are swirling their icy buckets and waiting for a signal. When the signal is given they simultaneously and forcefully hurl the contents towards earth. All are aiming for the same small geographical area. Maximum effect in a minimal area.

Sophie and I had been riding in the hammer lane. What else is new? The Interstate is three lanes wide through this stretch. My first reaction was to slow down but I could hardly see. Vehicles kick up a great deal of spray. The hail was falling in the midst of what looked like a fog bank. I was concerned about the huge Ford pickup behind me. The driver wasn't exactly tailgating but that's a heck of a lot of momentum going down the road. There was space in front of me due to my religious insistence on maintaining a safe following distance. Cars continually dive in front of me but I'm not going to get sucked up in the trap of tailgating to keep them out. Then, due to a mixed blessing and curse, additional room opened up.

The silver Honda ahead of me slid off the road to the left into the grassy median. I swear everytime some nasty weather unexpectedly hits there's always that fool that has to slide off the road. It's like it's not really an "event" until somebody goes in the ditch. Then it becomes official. Pretty soon a blue Chevy Astrovan joins the Honda in the median. By now most of the rest of the traffic has actually slowed down. Will wonders never cease?

I have to tell you I was looking for a way out. Pellets of ice pounding on my helmet were making me deaf. My visor was cracked open a little to help with the fogging but ice on the outside was working against me. As fast as I wiped my visor off it mushed up again. If I opened the visor any farther the ice pellets were stinging my face. Even through the 'stich the pellets hurt. The padding in the shoulders did its job but my arms were feeling the hits. This was one of many times I patted myself on the back for picking out the Hi-Viz jacket. I certainly needed all the visibility I could get.

For a while I had considered toughing it out. Surely it would ease up eventually. All I had to do was get through these few miles, I reasoned. Taking stock of the situation, I realized it would be foolish to continue. Marble sized ice pellets were swimming in standing water. Traffic was heavy. Visibility was appalling. Conditions were miserable. For the moment I had to keep going. Becoming a sitting duck on the shoulder of the road wasn't any more appealing than continuing. We'd already passed the only exit available for a while. Crossing through traffic would have been pretty risky, anyway. My decision to find a way out was cemented when the Ford truck passed me.

It was dark colored. I could see the emblem on the front fender as it started around me. The truck was an F350 Ranch King Special Edition one ton pickup. As the truck continued its passing move the left side tires hit a particularly deep patch of standing water. No, it didn't affect the truck's handling that I could see. Of course, I couldn't see anything at all for a few ass-clenching moments. A huge wall of water cascaded over me. I was literally riding blind for a moment. Enough was enough. I'd have to take my chances on the side of the road.

A guardian angel in the form of a Comet truck appeared just up ahead. You probably have them in other states. They're sent out by the state highway departments to assist with stranded motorists, traffic control when there's a wreck, and other duties. I've seen these guys and gals wrestling tire carcasses off the freeway. Now there was one of these trucks sitting over on the left shoulder. I pulled off in front of the truck and then backed up close. Putting the bike as far left as I could without the sidestand being off the pavement, I dismounted.

Walking up to the driver's side of the truck, I could tell the guy was reluctant to roll the window down. It was still raining and hailing. Finally, with what looked like a resigned shrug of his shoulders, he wound down the window. I think it was a combination of the fact that his heart matched his mission, and just plain curiosity as to what the heck this crazy idiot was doing out on a bike! And why is he coming to see me?

By now I'm so soaked I can't get much wetter so I'm okay with just standing outside. No way am I going to take off my helmet, though!

Turns out the man has decided to pull off and just hang tight for a bit. I explained my situation and how I wanted to use his truck as a buffer. He replied that would work but if he got an urgent call he'd have to go. It cracked me up because I could see him looking between my soaking wet, dripping, self and the passenger seat of the truck that was covered with papers. His civility was nagging him to invite me into the truck but his self-preservation instinct was prodding him to hold back on the offer. I solved his conflict for him by stating that I would just sit on the bike. I made a joke of it by saying I wanted to keep my seat dry!

Ten minutes later the hail stopped. There was still standing water but I figured it would drain off soon. I've ridden on roads like this forever. The plan was to make my way over to the right lane where I could take it a little slower. The driver of the truck had a brain to go with his heart. He eased out behind me to cover my 'six. I'm sorry I didn't get his name. I would have liked to write a letter of appreciation to his bosses.

Within another ten minutes I was nearing Woodburn. The freeway was dry as could be. If I hadn't just experienced it, I would never have guessed at what fury had struck a little farther North. How strange a game the Weather Gods play, isn't it?

Here's an excerpt from the Portland news channel I watch:

Forecast: More Gusts, Hail, Lightning
Also on

"PORTLAND - After a round of gusty winds, small hail and even a lightning bolt thrown in the mix, get ready for some more wild weather across Portland on Thursday! "

As a side note, this is one of only a few rare times that my Roadcrafter suit has soaked through. Even the best meet their match at times. Speaking of which,

Even the Ninja............

Miles and smiles,



Lucky said...

Dan - A lesson I learned a few years ago: you can't mess with Mother Nature. Sure, you may beat her at a few hands, but eventually she'll take the pot.

That being said, it's still fun to challenge her every now and then!

Keep the shiny side up!

American Scooterist Blog said...

Risk management. If there's anything this post says about you its that a true warrior knows when to fight and when not to.

Great post Iron', great post.


Gary said...

Oh man, I've been there, right with you...

"It's like it's not really an "event" until somebody goes in the ditch."

No kidding. Happens all the time here as well. They're "driving" along, yakking on the cellphone, oblivious to everything else, and nature strikes!

Nothing else for it but to dive for the ditch, huh?. "Incoming!"

Great post, Dan.

Ride well,