Thursday, December 13, 2007

Frost and freezing fog.

I worked from home Tuesday and Wednesday. Weird as it may seem, I did my early morning 45 minute or so ride. It's just something I need to do. Last night I had a meeting at TEAM OREGON headquarters. A nice brisk ride home from Corvallis in the dark and foggy air ended my evening. Tonight on the way home I killed something.

Other than the cold and the killing there really hasn't been much drama to report. Isn't it strange that we say we want to avoid being victimized by rude and stupid drivers but find it boring if we aren't? At least it seems so to me from the blogging viewpoint. How interesting would you find it if I just reported another routine ride? Day after day. The classic formula for great literature has been that of struggle and conquest. It makes for great reading doesn't it? Unlike literature, though, I'm not writing a novel. I just tell it like it happens. Sometimes it just doesn't happen.

I'm happy to say there's just enough struggle to keep things interesting without being crazy. Like Tuesday morning, for instance. This is a picture of Sophie's windshield after I came back from the ride. By now it's just past daylight's emergence. We're at that time of year when I wish the weather would "shift or get off the lot" to amend a popular phrase. The temperature is right at freezing or a little above. With the cold comes a lot of fog. I'm tired of riding around in foggy mid-thirties conditions. I know it's not like what some of you are dealing with, of course. I counting my blessings not to be experiencing the ice storms and heavy snows happening farther East. Still, though, I wish it would either warm up or get a lot colder. These foggy days in the thirties feel much colder. The cold seeps right to the bone. Must be the moisture. As a bonus, we're dealing with freezing fog.

What looks like frost in the grass becomes black ice on the roads around here. Tuesday morning, in particular, there were several accidents blamed on the slick conditions. Personally, I think the problem is stupid, speeding, and tailgating, drivers, but what do I know? I guess it softens the blow to fragile egos to say it was the fault of the weather instead of driving with one's head up one's ass. Although I'd like to know how the driver of the car that rear-ended a school bus up by Newberg on Highway 99 this morning would explain it. How DO you explain the fact that you rear-ended a big yellow school bus with flashing red lights? Not only that, but hit it so hard it shoved the front of the car well under the bus?

Anyway, I'm not a huge fan of dicey traction but I go anyway. Actually, I haven't had much of a problem with it. I just watch for clues like shiny spots in my headlights or those of other cars. I know which areas are more likely to be affected. Plus, I leave plenty of space cushion around me. Not so much for my reaction times, but to avoid being like a pool table bumper for cars sliding around me.

Yesterday morning I was out by my Mother's place. While sitting at the stop sign and waiting to turn back towards town, I made the acquaintance of a woman in a big black Chevy Tahoe SUV. The pleasure was all hers, I'm sure. She was turning onto the street I was on. A phone was glued to her ear. Long, painted fingernails contrasted with the silver of the cell phone. Her blonde hair was done up in a fancy hairdo. Bright lipstick adorned her lips. She looked like a class act. Sort of like a knockout dame you'd read about in a Phillip Marlowe novel. Curse you, Gary, for getting me started on those! Problem was, her driving skills fell far short. Her attitude seemed a bit aloof, but that was just an impression.

You see, the blonde was trying to turn this big SUV with one hand and not doing a very good job of it. Her approach speed was a little too high. That was either arrogance or ignorance induced by being on the phone. Her left hand was occupied with the phone. Her right wasn't too good working as a single instead of a pair. The SUV was taking a really wide corner. With me sitting at the widest spot. As she got close I moved up a few feet. Kinda like a matador with a gleaming black four wheel drive bull. What really annoyed me was the lack of reaction on her face.

Usually a person's eyes will go a little wider, their face will briefly register chagrin, or something. There was no change in her expression. Did she not care? Was she so occupied that there wasn't room in her processing circuits for anything else? Did she deem me so low that I wasn't even on her radar? Who knows? I don't really care, actually. I just sort of wondered, is all.

Today was a bonus. I rode 186 miles in the cold and fog and I got to spread some cheer. It's that time of year when I deliver goodies to distributors. Today I was delivering boxes of smoked salmon like the one below.

By putting the boxes up on one side I can get just enough for a day's worth of visits into the bags. Some places get several boxes, depending upon the size of the company. It's kind of neat to pull up at a place on the bike. I shake off the cold, grab some salmon, and play Santa in a Hi-Viz and black suit. It's the one time when everyone's really happy to see me. Imagine that. If only I could figure out how to get those big desk pad calendars on the bike!

At the end of a great day today I was riding home down Interstate 5. By that time it was already dark. I think we get about eight hours of daylight right now. The fog makes it worse. Not far from my exit, I was behind, and to the right, of a faded red Oldsmobile being occupied by a couple of Mexican guys. This car caught my attention because it had entered the freeway a few miles back. Some people have absolutely no idea of how to get onto a freeway properly. What part of "accelerate into the gap" can't people seem to understand? That certainly doesn't mean get right to the freeway and then slam on your brakes!

Anyway, I watched this car sort of swerve onto the left shoulder and then come back. At the rear of their vehicle I saw what looked like a black plastic bag fluttering in the air and coming closer to me on the bike. Right as my headlights illuminated it, I saw it was a large bird. The thing was flying in a bizarre pattern and just up off the pavement. Then I hit it with the front tire. Two big thumps later I looked in the sideview mirrors and saw a flurry of feathers surrounding a rolling body. It was either a duck or a hawk. I'm really sorry to have probably been the one to finish it off. On the other hand, I'm not going to swerve a bike on a dark and foggy freeway inhabited by speeding drivers. I still feel bad, though.

I want to leave you with a quote. There's been some discussion of whether a person should ride due to risk, is it irresponsible, do we have an obligation to try to survive longer, and so on and so on. All I know is I like to ride. I can't fully describe what it does for me and what it adds to my life. Even in the cold and rain. I love riding and try to do it as skillfully as possible. This quote was in Men's Health magazine.

"Don't do things to not die, do things to enjoy living. The by-product may be not dying". Bernie S. Siegel M.D.

It applies to a lot of things, doesn't it?

Miles and smiles, ( and live well )



Danny said...

I agree with Bernie. I think life is much better lived than just survived. I am new to motorcycling but it brings me much happiness. I would not want to imagine life without it now. The fact that my bike is in a state of recontruction right now is driving me nuts because I can't get out and ride. That and the weather here is refusing to be nice.

Balisada said...

There was another bus accident several days ago in front of Elmira Elementary school.

One car (Volvo) hit the bus (doesn't say why, but a good guess is a distracted driver).

The second car hit the first car because he quote: "saw the school bus stopped but was distracted by its rear lights and didn't see the stopped Volvo."

They hit a bright yellow school bus.

With flashing lights even.

There is no excuse for that.

People have all these safety features in their vehicles that they depend on, but it does not seem to occur to them to use the most effective safety feature of all: Their brain.


Bryce said...

Don't do things to not die, do things to enjoy living. The by-product may be not dying". Bernie S. Siegel M.D.

Hmm something to mull over. Mind mulled cider wouldn't be a bad idea either.

As to intermediate courses Dan, I've looked. Suspect I'll use the old half tennis ball trick, find an unoccupied
car park and just start all over again.
The initial concern will be the machine itself, at 25 plus years it will need some work methinks to pass a safety. It's OK for me to ride but for another ten years? So new brake lines in the offing as
well as a few other items including replacement of wheel bearings on the front. Front wheel is off now in fact, awaiting the bearings. I do have a press with which I can press out the old and press in the new.
As to me the rider, shall first get the bike safetied, then insurance
(3rd party here is about $850.00
per annum, no fire or theft coverage, that's another grand).
The start again doing the twists and turns, round the little balls
There are enough published materials on various courses available in places.

As to the deceased winged critter
suspect it's a matter of a pinon
whether or not it flies again.

Hopefully it wasn't a Canada Goose. They are big bastards and can really mess up a ride.

lobsterman said...

I just witnessed a perfect example of the same kind of driver behavior on my ride home a few days ago. It's raining, and the two lanes each direction give way to only one usable lane (cars parked in the right lane) as we approach a traffice light. I am in the left lane, and giving the Chevy Suburban in front of me plenty of room. I notice the car in the right lane just a little ahead of me is running out of room to merge left before the parked cars in his lane. I backed off to give him room and he merged left without a turn signal. I decide to increase the buffer zone between me and him. 5 seconds later everybody stops for the traffic light, except for the car that had just merged between me and the Suburban. He plowed right into the back of one of the biggest SUVs on the road without so much as a brake light showing. If I had stayed immediately behind the Suburban, it would have been me he hit, and he would have said "I didn't see him".

ps said...

What kind of fun would riding be if all the drivers were aware and courteous and it was overcast and 73 degrees all the time?! Maybe you'd still have pleasant twisty roads but here it's a corn and soybean-field chess board. Plus then you'd be irritated by all the idiots who otherwise "winterize" their bikes most of the year. (Not that everyone who is sane enough to put their bike away for the winter is an idiot--just that few idiots ride when the conditions aren't perfect.) It's irrational, but I feel a little stronger everytime I ride in cold windy weather or when someone cuts me off and I anticipated their move and did the right thing.


Steve Williams said...

Living rather than surviving. That's a good goal. It is easy though to tread water for hours, days, weeks, and years.

I credit the Vespa for getting me off my aging ass and out into the world. The non-converted though often see my riding as escape or diversion and don't realize the hidden benefits.

I could go for some fog about now. We have been getting sleet, freezing rain and snow-- the dreaded wintry mix. Thankfully I don't have to ride in it. Took the dog out last night and she fell down on the ice two times before making it to the traction safety of the yard.

Pay attention out there on the road (as if you don't). What could be worse than being smacked by a Marlowe type dame in an SUV....

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Allen Madding said...

Rear-ending a big yellow bus with flashing lights is pretty bad, but hitting a big red truck with flashing lights and a 110-watt Siren is brain-dead :) And I've seen it several times. And they use the same excuse as running over a motorcycist, "I didn't see him". Jess sayun...

Krysta in Milwaukee said...

"stupid, speeding, and tailgating, drivers... say it was the fault of the weather instead of driving with one's head up one's ass."

Gee, Dan, tell us how you really feel! ::grin:: FWIW, I agree completely, and I'm pretty sure Karl would, too. I've seen an SUV stuck between concrete bridge supports (butt 5' in the air, nose down, facing back toward traffic) as I went past the other way doing a sensible speed through the blizzard in my little POS sedan. That car is no longer with me, but it got me through a lot.

As to the "I didn't see him" drivers, whatever they hit, I think their license should be at least temporarily suspended pending the outcome of an eye exam. If they hit a school bus or fire truck or rider in a high-viz suit, it should be revoked for life, because they're obviously completely blind.

irondad said...

Welcome to the world of motorcycling! Hooked already, huh?

The brain is a great safety device and should definitely be used. Although, I've also heard it said that the best safety device of all is a cop in your rear view mirrors!

Whether the 'wing rides again is one matter. The question of whether you can and should ride is another. I figured you could explore before you committed a lot of money either way.

Nice job taking care of yourself!

That's what it's about. Testing ourselves in adverse conditions then using what we find out to shore up weak spots. Maybe that's why you feel stronger? The process must work for you.

I really hate that feeling of treading water. Isn't it funny that no matter what weather we have, we always wish for something else?

Sorry to be so subtle!

It's always gratifying to see SUV's end up in trouble. I know that's not entirely fair on my part, but that's the way it is.

The eyes probably work, the receiver circuits are what seem to be lacking!

Take care,

irondad said...

I've always wondered how in earth anyone could collide with a fire truck. However, like you, I have wtinessed it with my own eyes. Better quit shaking my head, my vision's getting blurry!

Take care,