Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wheels and wings

After days of not riding it was time to get back on the bike. You never actually realize how much a part of you riding becomes until you're deprived of it. That same principle holds true with a lot of other things, doesn't it? We have to enjoy things while we can because a person just doesn't know about tomorrow anymore. The older I get ( not that I'm actually old, mind you ) the more I ponder on these kinds of things. Seeing a war first hand at an early age impressed upon me the fleeting nature of our lives. It's been a blessing in disguise because it's caused me to plan for the future but live in the moment.

One of the biggest rewards I get from riding to work is priceless, and yet, totally intangible. It's a thing called Perspective. Making a living these days can take over our life. Problems, worries, and tragic events can dominate our thoughts. Riding, in general, helps. Commuting on a bike gives me a booster shot every day. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a boxing ring. Life delivers a series of blows. My opponent uses anything from firm jabs that test my resolve to body punches meant to floor me. I'm a warrior and I always fight back. Riding lets me feel another kind of touch. Being on a bike is like getting a pat on the back that reminds me life actually has a lot of good things, too. Be of good cheer and go look for them. When I feel beaten up riding is like a gentle massage that eases away the pain. I can't imagine dealing with life without riding. One of these days I may have to face that prospect. Not today, though.

Coming home after a tough time in Arizona, I really needed a dose of therapy. I'll write about Arizona later. This day I had business in McMinnville which is about an hour North. Time to make those bike wheels turn. I'm counting on Sophie to help me find the good stuff again.

As you may have guessed by now, I'm a great fan of back roads. Today was no different. I planned a route through a tiny town called Hopewell via Lincoln Pass. It's not really a pass. Some of us riders have a private joke about this road. We're only a few hundred feet above sea level. This road goes a couple of hundred feet higher. During borderline conditions when the rest of the roads are clear Lincoln Pass can have ice. I'm having to go farther and farther afield to find peaceful rides. Our valley is getting more crowded every week. I hate it. I need elbow room.

Luck is with me and I find peace on this part of the ride. There's farm land almost as far as I can see any direction. Traffic on the road comes from other drivers seeking relief from the mad congestion of the main roads. It's this farm land that I'm enjoying. There's a crop duster at work not far off the road to my right. I find myself admiring how graceful the plane looks as it transitions between passes. The plane's an unusual orange color and the wings come out from underneath the body. As it banks and twists I'm reminded of how sport bikes look on well executed corners. Watching this plane is pretty mesmerizing, actually. As I'm entranced by the sight on my right I catch a flash of brown out of the corner of my left eye.

A Red-tailed hawk has swooped down to the left shoulder a little ways ahead of me. With a flurry of beating wings the hawk comes out of its dive. I'm wondering if this thing is going to collide with the bike. Brakes are applied. By me, not the hawk. The bird is flapping hard after discovering it miscalculated all the risk factors. Impact is narrowly avoided. In the fray the hawk has released its prey. I'm suddenly faced with a foot long garter snake with yellow stripes. It's on my tank bag and sliding for my lap. In an ideal world I could tell you I took hold of the snake, stopped by the side of the road, and gently placed the snake back in the grass. Life ain't ideal. Didn't happen that way.

This snake was on a fast slide. I'd slowed down but was still moving at about 40 mph. After hitting the "V" of my spread legs, the snake started sliding down my right leg and toward the road below. As I'm watching it slide away, the snake and I had eye contact for a fleeting moment. If ever a little face said "God, I wish I could start this day over again!" it was the face of this snake. I never knew a reptile could look surprised and scared.

I arrived at my destination without further incident. A snake in the lap was excitement enough if you ask me, anyway. My goal was to look at a situation and make recommendations for a solution. When I introduced myself to the receptionist she was looking at my riding gear. I explained that I rode a lot for work. The gal told me that their IT guy had done the same. The other rider and I met in the hallway. First thing out of his mouth was "Do you remember me?"

Turns out the guy was a former student. He's riding the Harley V-Rod in the picture above. I love it when my students find the same passion for riding I do!

After finishing my task it occurred to me that I was only a few miles down the road from the Evergreen Aviation Museum. Evergreen is a major player in the industry. Their international headquarters are in McMinnville. A recent acquisition to the museum is the Spruce Goose. You may remember the venture started by Howard Hughes. The plane now rests in this "built to size" museum. You can just see the nose and wings of the plane through the window in the picture above. I chose not to actually pay to go inside the museum. I'd never have come back out and would probably be fired for not working. The glass is specially designed to protect the contents from UV rays, etc. It also does a good job of keeping light in!

The Hughes helicopter, or "Huey" may not look like much in this picture. There's no way to express how much this aircraft meant to some scared and lonely boys just out of high school. You hear the little sonic booms of the rotor tips long before you see the helicopter. The Huey's not the potent weapon today's attack ships are, but back then they were pretty special.

Hey! You want a piece of me? Bring it on, buddy. Just remember, though. You're not only going to have to deal with me but also my two friends, here!

This would be a great arrangement for dealing with traffic, too!

Time to go back to work. I see this sign as I'm leaving. Never realized that Evergreen was in the wine business. This is the heart of Oregon's wine country so why not, I guess. Pretty soon there will be a space museum on the grounds, too.

I headed East out of McMinnville towards Portland. Just out of town the road narrows from two lanes each direction to one lane each way. Not far in front of me is a big black Hummer. I have a choice of passing or tucking in behind. The driver is doing the speed limit. What would a sensible person do? That's a bad question. What would I do? I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count. The Hummer was going down. These things and their drivers shouldn't be on the road in the first place.

Now and then the picture of that poor snake's face would pop into my head. I can imagine how the snake must have felt. Just minding its own business and warming itself on the blacktop exposed to the morning sun. Only to be grabbed by a hawk and then dumped onto some sort of speeding monster. Being violently flung back onto the roadway with a sorely aching back. All 12 inches of it. Wondering what the hell it was all about. I've had days like that. Thank goodness I can shrug it off by riding!!

Miles and smiles,



Allen Madding said...

I think a snake in the lap would have caused me to soil my leathers!

Bill Sommers said...

Not being much of a snake person, I can't help but feel sorry for this little dude.

Two of my brothers, and my Dad travelled to the flight museum a few months back and were so impressed that they went back two weeks ago and took photo's of each other in the cockpit of the Spruce Goose. My Pop being an old Navy aviator and a vintage aircraft buff will no doubt make a few more trips to the museum in the future.

Have fun,

balisada said...

Certain things are not allowed to fall from the sky, and snakes are certainly on the list.

I am glad that you are fine.


irondad said...

fortunately for me I was wearing Cordura, which is washable!

I have spent hours in this place. You can sit quietly and let the history engulf you. I picture the men and women who flew these things in the past. We take a lot of things for granted these days.

I totally agree. In the jungle we had a few snakes fall on us from trees. Never thought I would experience it on a bike. I had to do a double take to see if I was really seeing what I thought I was!

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Sorry Dan, but I believe that helicopter is a UH-1H model. They were made by the Bell Helicopter Company out of Arlington Texas. You are correct about the sound of their sound. It’s still is music to my ears. Hughes did make some helicopters, just not this one.

Aside from that, keep up the great writings. My wife and I look forward to every posting. (Yes, even the ones when you’re on a tangent.)

Congratulations for not losing it when the snake got up close and personal – you’re a true warrior.

Have fun and ride safe.
Tom from Seattle

irondad said...

You may well be right. I don't consider myself any sort of authority on aircraft. I just appreciate their awesome capabilities. Thanks for the kind words.