I'd finally finagled a weekend off. Maybe "finagled" isn't quite the word for it. That word has the connotation of using devious means to get something. It was more like I took advantage of an opportunity. A newer instructor wanted a class and I wanted a weekend off. It would be his first solo classroom and my first weekend off in a while. The only fly in the ointment is that I was still on call. Anytime an instructor anywhere in the state of Oregon dials the equivalent of our 911, I'd be the voice on the other end of the phone. Four of us share that duty. The Director, the Training Manager, the Operations Manager, and me. Joe Instructor.
There's an advantage to hanging out with people like yourself. They understand you. I keep the cell phone in the right chest pocket of the 'stich. I have a special ring for the "on-call" number. It's the theme from Pink Panther. With the ringer volume all the way up I can hear the phone during slower riding. With one hand I can pull the phone out, open it up, and yell into it,
"Hang on a minute, I've got to pull over and take my helmet off!"
Where most people would find that really weird, the instructors aren't phased a bit.
I spend so much time riding to or for work that opportunities to ride just for the sheer joy of it are few and far between. I know, I know, it's my own fault. Training riders is such a passion for me that I can't help myself. Being on call means I'm going to have to check my phone frequently, but we were going to go have fun anyway. Isn't that why we ride? To have fun and look good? Maybe that's why it's so hard for people to develop good scanning skills. It's just too darn fascinating watching their reflection in those big plate glass storefront windows!
Putting our heads together, Katie and I came up with a plan. I made a bad joke about how it's too bad we didn't belong to another persuasion of rider. We could just ride from "watering hole" to "watering hole". The transit time would be short and I'd be available for phone calls. That's when we looked at each other and it was obvious we'd both had the same idea.
Now I've been accused of navigating by Starbucks. That's not entirely true, but I do seem to know where most of them are. I've been a customer for twenty years. I don't go there because it's "trendy". In fact, that's the reason I may be forced to change coffee shops soon. The stores nowadays are getting too darned crowded. You can't argue, though, that the quality is consistent between any free-standing store you go to. I drink just plain coffee. Which reminds me of something Katie said to me the other day. This is a gratuitous side trip, but it's my blog!
We heard a bit by George Carlin the other day. He was talking about people who go into coffee shops like Starbucks. George made a statement that the more complicated a person's order was, the bigger an asshole they were. Katie looked at me and said,
"You drink plain coffee, what's your excuse?"
Ouch! Just for that I'm purposefully forgetting our upcoming 30th anniversary!
Our plan would be to string a route between coffee shops. We'd call it a Star-hopping ride. Get it? The equivalent of bar hopping? Oh, never mind. The first one was near our house where we'd have breakfast. Our store does these breakfast sandwiches now. They're on something that resembles a large English muffin. I tried one called Eggs Florentine. It has a scrambled egg patty, baby spinach, and some sort of light seasoning. The topper, literally, is Havarti cheese. All toasted up in this special oven. I'd never even heard of this cheese before. I'm going back for more! I love eating and I love riding. Katie, do you remember where I put that wrench for the rear shock preload collar?
In return for you evil comment, sweetie, I'm including this picture of you ordering. Complete with helmet hair! Notice how the flash is illuminated in the retroflective patch on the Aerostich. Retroflective is a great tool for being seen at night. Or in camera flashes! Right after I took the picture I told Katie that I'd flashed her. All three girls working there turned around and looked at me with huge smiles. What the heck did they think I was talking about?
Our goal was simple. The coffee shops would give us a loose itinerary as well as places to obtain food. Very important element, you know. The pace would be relaxed. A secondary exercise was to see how the mount and dismount process for Katie was going to work out. I'd put the Givi trunk back on. It was a new element in the routine. There was also a newly installed backrest on the trunk. This ride would give us a chance to evaluate things. I'm pleased to say that this part worked out quite satisfactorily.
In order to preserve our relaxed pace, we'd avoid any road having a number as part of its name. Since I've lived here for years and have always been an aficionado of backroads, this would be easy. I can string backroads together and entertain myself for hours. Harvesting, field burning, and ploughing are in full swing right now. We had to be careful on the many corners since they're full of gravel from farm equipment. Most of what we saw was the typical farm scene picture. We'd see hawks perched on those big piles of hay bales, watching for the little critters stirred up by the equipment. Farmers always wave as they pass by. Being dry, there's usually big dust clouds to watch as the tractors do their work. What a blessing those sealed cabs must be these days. Sometimes the wind creates those miniature cyclones. You'll see several tiny tornados sending their dust plumes high into the sky. Once in a while you'll come across something really unique.
We were amazed, for example, to see this house. Out in the middle of nowhere somebody had built a house made to resemble a castle. I couldn't resist the chance to stop and take a picture of my royal chariot, my princess bride, and a castle. Take a look.
Here's another look thanks to the technology of a zoom lense.
We had lunch at a Starbucks 45 miles South of our home. At least, that's the distance the mileage charts show. Sophie's trip meter showed a little over a hundred miles. Not all who wander are lost, after all. After a great turkey and pesto sandwich on a baguette we headed North. The plan was to follow the Willamette River through Peoria, Independence, Buena Vista, and into Salem. By turning off at River Road we would arrive in downtown Salem while staying true to our back roads mission. The hard part would be deciding which Starbucks to hit next. There's one at both ends of the block! With motorcycle parking in front of each. I know, life should be so tough.
By the time we got towards Buena Vista the plan was still intact. I'd consumed a cup and a half of coffee at home, two with breakfast, and one with lunch. It would not be inaccurate to say I was literally buzzing along. Buzz would soon prove to be a very pertinent word in my life.
Just South of Buena Vista I smelled blackberries. One of the great advantages of being on a bike is the closeness to the surroundings it allows. This wasn't just any blackberry smell. This was berries hanging heavy and ripe in the sun. A sweetness filled my nostrils. Hungry for more, literally, I flipped my visor up all the way to drink in the scents. Right in the middle of my deepest olfactory fulfillment, I suddenly felt this great pain.
It felt like somebody had shot a rock out of a slingshot and hit me in the bridge of the nose. At the same time there was this juicy explosion that flooded my right eye with a burning liquid. I presumed I'd taken a large bug in the face. Unfortunately, we were on a straight stretch of road. The speedometer needle had started to creep up. I figure the combined closing speed of me and the bug at about 70 mph. Sophie:65, bug:5. My black Ray Ban's had taken some of the blow but didn't prevent the juices from bouncing off my nose into my eye. Later on Katie told me she'd seen me flinch a little. She'd also seen a small blur of yellow fly past the left side of my helmet. At the time I thought it was a beetle of some sort. This thing hit hard!
Taking stock, I discovered that we were still in our lane of the empty back road. I could still see ok, although the vision on the right side was a tiny bit blurry. That was either from the burning sensation or the mess on my glasses. With the visor still up, I rubbed my nose with a gloved finger. The rubbing caused a burning pain. I figured I had a cut on my nose which is why it still hurt to touch. After a while we'd find out what really happened. It's funny. I kept telling myself not to touch my nose. Yet, it seemed it was all my hand could think about. It was like my left hand had a mind of its own. I'd see it lift and have to will it back down. What would it have done when it found the closed visor? Strange how that works, isn't it?
We were near Buena Vista Park. It's a little county park. Its main purpose is as a boat ramp. Beside the park is a small ferry which holds three or four cars. We've taken the ferry for fun a couple of times but it doesn't really take us anywhere we need to go. Since I felt fine, although with a sore nose, I was just going to take a loop through and keep on. As we passed the pit toilets, Katie tapped my shoulder and asked me if these were usable. She'd been drinking tea instead of coffee but the end result of both is the same.
As we dismounted and pulled our helmets off, I told Katie what had happened. That's when she told me what she'd seen. Katie also told me that I had what looked like a stinger still in my skin. Sure enough, I looked in the bike mirror and saw the stinger and part of a Yellowjacket still there. You can guess which part. I carry a small multi-function knife on my key ring. Using the tweezers, I pulled the stinger out. Now I know why it hurt to touch it! There was some swelling around the sting. By suppertime it was gone. Bee stings and Poison Oak have never really affected me. Although, all the way home I wondered how the hell did that bee manage to turn around and hit me ass first?
I'd noticed a cruiser type bike getting onto the ferry. It was two up. Not long after the ferry crossed the river, the bike came down into the park. The female passenger also had need of a comfort stop it seems. Whereas Katie had to sort of stand on the peg and lift out of the slot she sits in, the cruiser passenger simply slipped off the back of the bike. I couldn't help but think she probably didn't feel very secure sitting on that tiny pillion with no backrest.
The picture's a little fuzzy because I had to use extreme zoom to get it. You can see the two on the bike towards the left of the ferry. What makes this pertinent is the question they asked us when we were leaving. It was the same question we'd gotten from several folks on cruisers during the day. They asked us if we were on a long trip.
The two on the cruiser were in jeans and short sleeved t-shirts. They were wearing half helmets. Pretty typical of the cruiser riders we see out enjoying a nice afternoon. Their casual attire doesn't usually even include gloves. In contrast, we were in full Roadcrafter suits, full face helmets, riding boots, and gloves. I guess we must look pretty serious compared to them. Their perceptions amuse me. Then I shudder to think what's going to happen when they go down. I like my gear just fine, thank you!
After another cup of coffee in Salem we decided to call it a day. We arrived home with a little over two hundred and seventy miles on the clock. I was full of bee venom and caffeine. I was actually in pretty good shape. I think the nervous system depressant in the bee sting helped counteract the effects of all the coffee. We'd had fun, covered some ground on curvy back roads, had some adventures, and arrived home relaxed. I'd say our Star-hopping ride was a great success!
Miles and smiles,