Thursday, December 06, 2007

Storm rider.

I'm sure you've heard the news by now. We had some pretty intense storms pass through here. Actually, not just one, but three. The Weather Guesser on the news station said we had the remains of three typhoons dumped on us by the jet stream. He likened it to being at the end of a firehose. Days of torrential rain, tropical air that melted a lot of snow, and hurricane force winds that battered us for a couple of days combined to wreak havoc. Now these same storms are bringing heavy snow to the East. What an amazing amount of power!

The brunt of the attack fell upon the Northern Oregon Coast. There were hurricane force winds for two days. Near Tillamook the sensors recorded a gust of 129 mph. Winds near the 100 mph mark were common. Tens of thousands of people are still waiting for phone and electrical service to be restored. As the waters recede people are returning home to houses full of silt and mud. How discouraging to be dealing with that. Most of the roads from our Valley to the Coast have been shut down. A couple of main highways are just now being re-opened. Hats off to the ODOT folks who worked round the clock to end the isolation the coastal residents endured. There was an unexpected benefit to me from a flooded freeway.

Interstate 5 has been closed near Chahalis, Washington. Ten feet of water cover both lanes for a distance. I have been spared a trip to Kirkland. I am free to ride for my own pleasure.

My neck of the woods wasn't as affected. I slept in a dry house every night. That didn't mean I didn't go out and about in the storms. I rode to class Saturday and Sunday through snow and rain driven by high winds. Look for the next post where I'll tell you about this special group of students taking the last class of the year.

I couldn't resist going out and about on Monday. The storms were still in full cry. Some would call that irresponsible. Even a fellow blogger or two might decry what I do as reckless. Far from it. This Road Warrior has seen over forty years of two wheeled battle. If one cannot or will not achieve something do not say it is wrong for another to do so.

Sophie and I were thoroughly soaked by the time we returned home for the day. On the other hand, there's a sense of adventure and victory only achieved by facing the enemy. His name is Risk and he can be a formidable foe. There is a minuscule margin for error. One cannot afford at all to be careless or reckless. However, if properly prepared and girded for the battle, victory can be won. It's all the more sweeter for the struggle. Even if my victory cry can scarcely be heard by me. No sooner is it uttered than it is swept away into the wind. Only to echo into someone else's ears far away.

The cheaper something is obtained the less it is esteemed.

There's a tremendous amount of flooding in our area. We live in an area surrounded by rivers. I didn't encounter any water over the roadways I travelled. There was, however, a variety of botanical specimens that littered the pavement.

You never know where these "gifts of the wind" are going to be. Risk has scattered them around like little booby traps. His hope is to catch the rider unawares. This Road Warrior is ever vigilant.

Looking as far ahead as I can see, there is no respite from the downpour. I can literally see the next wave coming at me. This Road Warrior is not easily discouraged. Some survive until the next sunup by thinking what good things will come on that day. It's the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" hope. One could hurry towards it only to find the light is the front of an approaching locomotive. The trip down the tunnel will have been completely wasted. A person can either wish their life away waiting for something else or learn to find what treasure they can in "Now". I do not wish to waste any part of a precious day and thus I ride this day. I see ads for motorcycles that say they have never been ridden in the rain. Where I live that translates to many wasted miles that could have been spent enriching themselves upon that bike. Then again, perhaps it's best that riders with no heart for adversity not expose themselves to added risk. It's a personal decision based upon one's own philosophy. I wish not to speak disparagingly of these ones. May they go in peace.

Their philosophy, though, is not shared by me. I choose to make my own path in the hope that others will follow. It is not in me to follow the path already shared by so many.

Wet and windswept though we may be, Sophie and I revel in this day's ride. We know how fortunate we are to be riding this day. While others suffer badly from this storm we are free to move about in it. Where good hearted people are kept from riding by bodies that have betrayed them, I enjoy good health. There is a bitter sweet element to riding. I feel the pain of those whose hearts are screaming to ride but they cannot. Do I honor them by holding myself back from riding? Like a Warrior I choose to honor my fallen comrades by conducting myself bravely in battle. Our kind must remain ever visible to the world.

Risk had one more surprise attack in store for me. There is a wonderful series of curves on the Old Corvallis Highway. The approach speed is very fast coming off a long straightaway. Just before the need for a quick press on the left handlebar, the bike descends into a sunken grade. Crack the throttle open to climb up into the turn. One is barely out of the curve before it's time to flick the bike back to the right. Once more to the left, to the right, back left, and then wait a few seconds to make the last turn to the right. My steed is continually leaned through this stretch.

What the road engineers have given Nature complicates. Tree and brush covered banks line this roadway. Visibility is mostly blocked. An age old song of the spirited rider lilts through my mind. It is a song that speaks of a common struggle. How fast can one ride battles with how much room one needs to respond to the unexpected. The Siren Song lures me towards the rocks while the Old Mariner's hard gained wisdom holds me back. It is good that the Old Mariner is persuasive today. My speed stays lower and my line remains towards the outside. I will not commit until I can see what lies ahead.

A truck the size of a large moving van is coming towards me. Is the driver distracted by a cell phone? Does food being conveyed to his mouth cover his eyes? Perhaps he is not comfortable that he knows where the truck is exactly. Maybe a frenzied schedule makes him push the limits. I am not certain of anything except that the truck is a third or more of the way into my lane. I am prepared. Risk has not scathed me with this attack. Rather, I am forced to smile broadly as the truck passes close.

On the side is painted a large green Oak tree. It is a familiar logo. A certain fabricating facility in Batesville, Indiana sports this logo. It is that of the Batesville Casket Company. Risk has a sense of humor, after all!

This Road Warrior is aging. Though as fierce as ever, home and hearth call more loudly than in younger days. It has been greatly invigorating riding in this storm. Still, though, I am weary as I dismount for the last time this day. To do battle is good. Hanging up wet gear and snuggling in with sweet Katie for the night is a great thing, too. Sohpie and I have survived heavy rain and 60 mph wind gusts. We are ready to call it a day. Am I slowly becoming more a creature of comfort? I think not.

Maybe it's just that this Warrior feels he no longer has anything to prove. Four decades or more of hard riding stand by themselves. He rides for the sheer joy of it. He chooses to face risk on his terms. Few have travelled as many miles and in the variety of adverse conditions as he. His passion is sharing what he's learned with other riders. This Warrior gladly extends a hand to invite others to join him. If he wishes to face Risk, let none call him out as reckless or irresponsible. When a day comes and he passes up riding for sitting by the fire, let none call him soft. Leave him in peace and go in peace yourself.

Miles and smiles,



Conchscooter said...

I like your attitude towards Risk. Wish more people grasped the concept. You wounldn't like South florida, long straight roads, balmy weather and long sightlines...too easy!

irondad said...

Looking at your blog, the scenery sure looks good, though!

Steve Williams said...

"One cannot afford at all to be careless or reckless. However, if properly prepared and girded for the battle, victory can be won."

Perfect words for anyone considering a journey on two wheels in severe weather. Personal challenge and confronting risk is energizing. Foolhardy actions have no place in this kind of activity and I wish naysayers would learn to differentiate between a rider like you and someone who has no business being on the road in bad weather.

I'm sitting now in a coffee shop looking out the window at my Ford Ranger in the parking lot and asking why I didn't ride today. The roads are wet and salty with snow in the air but nothing accumulating on the road surface. I took the day off from work and could have ridden all day but decided to relax -- physically. Do nothing. Not engage any battles today.

Reading your post has me kicking myself. Oh well, I'll get another brownie and try and forget about it.

Thanks again Dan for the pointed reminder of why I ride, even if it is only a Vespa scooter...

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Lucky said...

Great, now I have the Doors playing in my head...

Great post!

Krysta in Milwaukee said...

So, um, Dan. All this talk of conquering adversity...
you gonna tackle the next IronButt rally? ::blink, blink, innocent look:: ; )

I'm sure you have readers all over the country who'd be happy to help when needed.

After seeing your pictures & reading a more first-hand description of the mess than the nat'l news gives, I'm not complaining at all about our foot of snow in the last week. Sure beats 10' of flood water!

Bill Sommers said...

Count me as one that would have loved to have ridden with you on your storm ride adventure. I dig that kind of stuff. I vividly remember a high water, power outage ride that I took last season, and it was quite a thrill to be out in it.

Riding with you would be a kick. What cowboy wouldn't want to ride with John Wayne, just once?

Have fun,

Allen Madding said...

Glad you are surviving with out any flooding. My brother's house was flooded in 1994 in south Georgia. Until then, I had neve experiences any flooding directly. It had all been something on TV. I can empathize with folks whose lives are devistated by floods now. Cleanup is heartbreaking and disgusting. I can still remember the smells and the labor tearing our soggy sheetrock.

Stay Safe and Enjoy the Ride

Bryce said...

I keep thinking that what the west coast receives eventually
makes its way across the North American continent to land on the
lands in the middle east, like here
in Southern Ontario. And the liquid
precipitation Dan receives emerges as
snow and lots of it here. Currently temperature is hovering just below
freezing however that will be colder by week's end. The motorcycle is stored for the winter.
Too darn much road salt piled on
to the roads. The salt trucks wait at red traffic lights, the salt spreader doesn't stop swirling, piles of salt all over the place.

I would expect Steve Williams probably gets his share of salt
on the Vespa, probably more of it
on the carpark where he works than anywhere else though. He's just that
much farther south and east to not always be hit by the snow we get close by the Great Lakes. At least I am not situated at the east end of Lake Erie like Buffalo which regularly gets much too much snow.
The west end of Lake Ontario does get dumped on though. So far this
current winter has been bitterly cold. with maybe three or four
inches of snow. However the daytime
temperature rarely rises above freezing (zero Celsius).
So Dan, do your riding while yo can, stay warm beside your S.O.
and enjoy yourself, and be thankful you're not shoveling the white stuff or swimming in the liquid stuff.
Oh and maybe you could take some comparison photos of those scenes where the floodwaters are, after the water recedes to what may be described as normal levels.

Bryce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
irondad said...

Sorry to have shamed you for driving! Ride your Vespa proudly! It's not "only a Vespa". It's two wheels, requires the same preparedness, and gives the same rewards or more. Ride on, Bro'!

I know exactly what you refer to. Funny how we date ourselves, isn't it?

If I can keep this blog going that long, watch for some interesting things along that line this summer. My pal Jeff Earls finished high in this year's Iron Butt again. Now he's trying to rekindle my long distance stirrings. It might be working.

Well, Pilgrim, you'd be welcome to tie your steed next to mine any day. What a compliment! Thank you.

I live in a World War II housing development. It would take a lot to flood here. Except my back yard, which is a lake all Winter. When I see the news and the folks cleaning up, I think the hardest part has just begun for them.

I was in Connecticut for a while. There's road salt and corrosion on cars everywhere. That would be hard to deal with every Winter.

Good idea on the after the flood water levels. I'll try to capture some pictures.