Friday, May 11, 2007

I'm getting paid for this?

True, so true. Not only that, but I'm getting mileage reimbursement at forty five cents a mile! Somebody pinch me 'cause I must be dreaming. Actually, I'm wide awake and enjoying every second of my work day. Picture your perfect work day. Does it involve riding in some of the most gorgeous countryside imaginable? Does it involve the feel of a faithful steed under you? Warm temperatures and gentle sunshine? Does it include having a foolish grin breaking your face in half; separating top and bottom by a band of teeth? You're getting close to my day on Wednesday.

How did I come to find myself in the midst of this two-wheeled nirvana? Frankly, I don't care. The mere fact that I'm here is enough unto itself. I like to think it is my due. A Warrior battles faithfully day in and day out. Rain, sun, cold, or warm, the Warrior flies the King's standard. In this battle the standard bears the coat of arms of Motorcyle Commuting. I have faithfully defended it all during this past winter as well as winters past. It is now time to share in the plunder. Only by having engaged in battle can one rightfully partake of the rewards. There is no guilt. All is good and right. I have earned the privilege of enjoying the spoils of this day.

One of the things that continues to amaze me is a fundamental difference between driving and riding. What can seem like so much work in a car is literally play on a bike. Miles of curvy roads in my truck ( which I seldom drive ) can be a never-ending chore. Slow down for the corner; lumber out the other side. Slow down for the corner; lumber out the other side. In contrast, on the bike I'm grinning like crazy at the end of the stretch. It's the difference between stomping and waltzing. At least on the bike. On foot, you'd never tell the difference by watching me. I'm even likely to go back and ride it again just for the sheer fun of it.

I'm blessed to share my life with a woman who understands and shares my passion for riding. Katie's not as "into" riding as I am, but she definitely knows about the fun factor. I had the weekend off from teaching but was "on-call". If any instructor around the state calls our equivalent of "911" I'm the voice they hear on the other end of the line. There's four of us who rotate duty. The other three are the Director, the Training Manager, and the Operations Manager. All staff persons. I guess over the years I've gained the Director's trust and confidence, somehow. Kind of a good news / bad news thing.

Despite the beautiful weather I needed to stay accessible by cell phone. Sunday afternoon, though, Katie knew things were winding down for classes. She suggested we ride somewhere for coffee. Actually, she drinks tea but it's quicker to say "going for coffee" than "going for coffee and tea". See, just writing it took up valuable space and time! When I asked her where she wanted to go she gave me a location. 80 miles later we dismounted and ordered our beverages. Like I say, riding long distances is just play for us on a bike. By the way, I put the phone on vibrate and stuck it in a shirt pocket. So I was technically "available".

Something else that amazes me is the difference between how I talk and write. In "Speech" mode I'm direct and to the point. When I'm conducting business or teaching using too much verbiage dilutes my objectives. Important points get lost in the "noise" of too many words. When I sit down to blog the words leap off the keyboard onto the screen in abundance. Maybe that's really why I started blogging. All the words I hold back build up inner tension. Sooner or later the pressure needs releasing. Perhaps this is my pressure relief valve. Even Yoda recently told me I was long-winded. Look how far we are into this post and I haven't started on the work day described in the opening paragraph.

I had a series of small stops, a motorcycle, and a mid-seventies sunny day. The stops were all at distributor's offices. Showing up on a bike would be a great conversation piece. People who were otherwise chained to desks would get a chance to transport their minds to more pleasant places. This wasn't at all about me having fun. No, Sir! I was only doing this for the humanitarian value of bringing joy to other people. Ignore that smirk on my face, please.

Digging out my county maps, I plotted a route. Backroads as much as possible. The more back, the better. Yes, that's how I navigate. I have Manual Analog Positioning Systems. Better known as MAPS. Some folks swear by GPS. I can see its merits. Technology is a wonderful thing. Used wisely technology is a wonderful tool. Unfortunately, for most people, technology replaces personal skills, in my opinion. In my one and only experience with GPS I was making a presentation to a university with one of my colleagues who was visiting from Corporate.

When it was time to return to the office Brian pipes up and says,

"Let's have Lola give us directions the back way to the office!"

Lola is what he has named his GPS unit. I have to admit, this thing speaks in a sexy female voice. I was driving ( sometimes I'm forced into using a car ) and listening for Lola's directions. She did an awesome job of getting us where we wanted to go. Lola also gave us advance notice of when and where to turn. If she had eyes and arms she could have driven. Next time I was at the University I tried to duplicate the route. It soon became apparent that I was so involved in listening for Lola's directions that I was not an active participant in the navigating. I couldn't find the roads. I'll navigate on my own, thank you. At least I can retrace my route. If I get lost it will be my own fault. Although I figure you're not really lost if you don't care where the road goes.

Having manually plotted my course, I set off. Since I started this trip in the Big City I had to navigate through traffic to get to freedom. I had a very interesting experience during this leg.

Once I dropped down into and through Hillsboro, I used Highway 18 for a while. My plan was to jump off into wine country and head South. The snag here is that Hwy 18 has now become a main route to the Pacific Coast. ( the ocean, not the motorcycle ) This is still an old farm country road that probably never asked to become popular. Along the way are several small towns. This highway becomes the main street of these towns. There are also wineries and antique shops in abundance in these areas. You can begin to see the problem.

I was hoping that the middle of the week would yield less traffic. Wrong. There are around 250 million vehicles registered in the United States. About half of them were on this road. There is a small stretch in Lafayette where the highway has two lanes in either direction. Believe it or not, this town actually has a stop light. I was waiting at the light in the right lane. Beside me was a small sedan with what looked like a Mother and Daughter. Daughter was about 10. The little girl gave me a small wave. Both the sedan and I were second in line in our respective lanes. As the light turned green we both proceeded. Mother started over into my lane. Not in front of me, not in back of me, but right into me.

Now this was no big deal. I watch mirrors and front tires. It's become an automatic habit. Mirrors tell you if you're in the driver's blind spot. Front tires offer important clues to a vehicle's impending movements. I'd seen the tires bend my way. Mother wasn't diving my way. It was more of a gradual thing. I had room and just kind of moved with her. Suddenly the Mother looked like she had just jerked awake. I'd seen the daughter say something to her mom. No harm, no foul. Although I wondered how Mother had missed me when we were sitting in line. My Hi-Viz 'stich is dirty but not black, yet!

What cracked me up was the daughter's reaction. The road was narrowing back into one lane each direction soon. For a brief moment, I was looking into the daughter's eyes. She gave me this funny look and a shy wave. It's as if she was trying to say,

"I know my Mother just tried to run you over but I hope we can still be friends!"

You just gotta love kids!

Once free of the urban congestion I reached the rural country. The rightful place for a man and a sporty bike. Sophie's a sport-tourer but she prefers you to call her Sport. As you can see, there's some great stretches of twisty roads. Some of it is a series of curves that touch each other like links in a great chain of pleasurable riding. Other areas are like the picture above. 20 mph corners at each end of a short stretch. One after another, after another, and after another.

One problem with farm country riding this time of year is farm equipment. Hey, it's their land that makes these kinds of roads necessary so how can I be too upset? Not that I enjoy just creeping along behind some slow moving piece of machinery, mind you. Talk about Zen all you want but I'm not that kind of guy. I have patience when required but I much prefer to be riding briskly. My low speed control is great but my natural rhythm is tuned for higher speeds. I'm ever so much more graceful then. So don't look at me like that. I was born that way.

Natural rhythms and urges aside, all must become subservient to two words: Ride Prudently!

Passing on a double yellow line bothers me not at all if done under that guidance. Sometimes you can safely go around. Other times you just have to be patient and wait for the right opportunity. One old boy in a big white pickup was ambling along pulling a flat trailer loaded with wire and fence posts. There was a Harley Davidson sticker on the back window of the truck. This guy was a true rider. He slowed way down, pulled over as much as he could, and waved my by. I saluted him with a genuine salute ( as opposed to the one finger kind ) as I passed. That was great but most situations aren't that easy. Since my good friend Russ died trying to pass a car that suddenly turned left, I'm even more careful. If I come upon a slow moving Buick on a back road I often find myself waiting for a stretch where there are no driveways before making the pass.

Riding is a huge and meaningful part of my life. Doing something stupid just to ride faster isn't worth my life.

I saw the result of failing to drive prudently. There was a slow moving tractor with a mower cutting weeds alongside the road. I came upon the scene just after an accident had occurred. It would seem that a red Ford pickup had slowed down for the mower. A small silver Mazda sedan was sitting with it's nose buried in the rear of the pickup. I stopped to render assistance until "official" bodies arrived. The young female driver of the Mazda had a cut on her scalp where her head had hit the rear view mirror. I sacrificed a diaper from the saddlebag and put it on the wound. Come on, you all ride. You know why I have diapers in the bags. Good grief. The man driving the pickup seemed to be ok but he was rubbing his shoulder.

Young Female told me she assumed the pickup would pull wide and go around the mower so she prepared to do the same. It never even entered her mind that the truck would slow to match the pace of the mower. Inexperience and stupidity have the same results, don't they? At least inexperience is curable. Older Gentleman said it would have been unwise to speed around the tractor as there was a blind corner just ahead. Can't argue with his logic. That's both experience and intelligence. Too bad using it gave him that result. A Yamhill County Deputy arrived in response to the tractor driver's call. I briefed him, wished him luck, and took off again. There was an ambulance coming the other way farther down the road. Gotta love emergency responders, too! You folks are awesome!

So that was my work day. 317 miles of job satisfaction. I arrived home still grinning and wrapped Katie up in a big bear hug. Then I pulled out my Honda lawn mower and did some mowing of my own. All the while looking for errant Mazda drivers. Hey, I got an idea. I think I finally found a use for a KLR. Do you think I could pull the mower across the lawn with it?

Miles and smiles,



Marc said...

Ok so what do you use the diapers for ?

Steve Williams said...

Each time I read of these extended work (should I add play)adventures I am reminded at how rich the day can be if a person is open to experience.

And you are wringing as much richness and joy as you can out of it!

I have a new job and I will probably be on the road a bit. I'll generally have too much equipment to haul on the Vespa but there may be times....

Just another great post Dan on two-wheeled nirvana!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

irondad said...

They are replacements for paper products and rags. I carry a small bottle of cleaner for my visor and a can of Plexus for the windshield. Soft cotton diapers are much gentler than other types of rags. Paper towels and tissues are ground up wood so they will eventually scratch shields.

You're up early for a Saturday. Off on some adventure? I'm posting this at 5:17 AM. What else? I'm off to teach.

That's part of the joy of riding. We're out in the open so we can be receptive to the wonders we encounter. So many people have such a narrow focus that they miss out on so much. Usually that focus is on mundane things like just getting to work. Sad. Did you notice that I must have thought I was you for a while? I wanted to stop and take a picture of everything!

Congrats on the new job. Is it still with the University?

Gary said...

I know exactly what you mean, Dan. Our quality audits at the remote plants are coming up soon.

700+ miles of Northwestern Minnesota and wide open Dakota prairieland will pass beneath Frogwing's wheels, and I will be getting paid the whole time. ($.485 per mile, last I checked. Not bad at 50+ mpg!)

I love it when I can combine work with pleasure.

Ride well,

Krysta in Milwaukee said...

I'm glad you clarified about the diapers... I was thinking IronButt.

irondad said...

I'm jealous. I haven't been on a real road trip ( as in more than one night away ) for a while. That's really the epitome of the experience of riding; being on the road and on your own schedule.

Although your schedule won't be entirely your own, there's bound to be free time in between. I know what you'll do with it. Find new restaurants with character, eat, then read Mickey Spillane novels while the meal digests. Sounds low pressure to me!

Have you seen the old TV ads for Northern bath tissue? Supposedly the softest around? For long trips I stuff that in my back pockets!

balisada said...

I agree. Slow moving traffic like farm machinery should be passed with caution. The twisty roads we have here in the Willamette Valley are not to be taken lightly. (Make that twisty roads everywhere too.) It's easy to get drawn into the easy left and rights, that when the blind corner pops up, we can often be unprepared. Throw in farm machinery, cows and sheep that wander and you have a real good reason to pay attention.

P.S. I was perusing Friday's Democrat Herald and saw you there (It might have been Saturday's, but I really thought it was Fridays). I think they said it was a BRT class at the college.

"Go outside. The graphics are incredible!"

irondad said...

You're exactly right. It's amazing how many of those rural corners around here are "blind". The planted grass in the fields gets tall quickly. Prudence is certainly in order.

That was a BRT class at LBCC. The photographer, Dave Patton, had a male cousin in the class. He took quite a number of photos. This particular piece was just a reminder that the training is available.

The plan is for Dave and the cousin to do a late summer trip around the perimeter of Oregon. There will be articles in the paper detailing the parts of the trip. Kind of like they did a while back. The editor of the people page, Steve Lundberg, took a class from me. Then Dave and Steve rode and wrote about different rides around the area.