Thursday, February 14, 2008

Stepping up!

Monday morning was like stepping through the curtain of a waterfall. Once on the other side, all traces of me were gone. I disappeared into my business world. Factory guys were out from the Midwest. We were doing distributor training. Long days of work followed by the obligatory dinners with the owners and managers. Believe me, going out to dinner ceased to be fun after the first hundred times or so!

I'm pleased to say that Grandma's doing pretty well. The surgery to remove the large melanoma went without a hitch. A small skin graft is covering the spot. Considering that she's 88, things are going great. Right now she's confined to sitting still to let things heal. If she were younger she could hop about on crutches and one leg. That won't work so she's giving her recliner a workout.

My aunt and her husband came down from Olympia on Friday. With both daughters present, I went to work for the weekend. Works for me because the husband and I don't see eye to eye. Only one of us agrees with how great he is and it isn't me!

This was my home for the weekend. Of course, I'd only be there for the few hours of sleep I was able to wrestle loose. Still, the rooms are very nice. My room was in the wing you can see on the right. Second row up and farther right than the picture shows. It's a good thing I wasn't there for the view as I'd have been disappointed.

Unless you like watching traffic on a busy highway there's not much attraction. The road you see is Highway 26, otherwise known as the Sunset Highway. It ferries a bunch of traffic between the suburbs and Portland. Once past the suburbs to the West, the road eventually ends up at the Oregon Coast. There's often snow in the coastal mountain pass during the Winter.

The reason I'm here this weekend is for instructor training. I'm a trainer for our program and so I get to teach other instructors as well as riding students. Makes for good variety. Once a new instructor has a year or two of experience we invite them back for what we call Step-up Training. Five or six of them at a time get the chance to student teach in a regularly scheduled class. During the class we have discussions about what's happening. This provides a good opportunity to fine tune things that might have drifted. Step-up is also a forum for a more advanced understanding of the range and classroom. Even though it's a long weekend, I love doing this kind of training.

Weirdly enough, Ray and I were the only ones to ride. There was an instructor from Central Oregon present. I understand why he didn't ride. That would have meant riding his Harley across a mountain pass nearly 5,000 feet in elevation. Since most of that's been closed off and on in the past couple of weeks for snow, I'll let him off the hook. Other than that, Ray and I live the farthest away. Maybe it's something to do with the fact that we both have Honda ST's?

Here's a picture of the faithful STeeds in the morning sunshine. Yes, we actually had a little sun on Saturday morning. The ride up on Friday afternoon had been in the rain. We got a little wet on Sunday, as well. Ray and I rode home together but took divergent paths on the way up. I opted for the Interstate. Ray, however, swore the Interstate was too boring and took to the back roads. Remember that Portland is a huge city. Folks come and go from all over to work here. At a small town called Forest Grove Ray encountered the big traffic snarl. His ride was three hours, mine was an hour and half. Correct me if I'm wrong but sitting in stop and go traffic for an extra hour seems boring to me!

Since this is mostly a blog about riding to work, I won't go into a lot of detail about the training. Suffice it to say we're committed to serving the needs of Oregon's riders to the best of our ability. Whether they ride to work or for recreation, we try to give them what they need.

It's continually driven home to me how much I prefer the bike to a car. Stuck on the freeway in a car, my thoughts are always on how much freer I feel on a bike. While it's not always an actuality in that I can get just as stuck in traffic, the mental state's always better. Adding the Givi trunk has provided just enough extra space to get all I need for a weekend like this onto Sophie. That includes all the training materials. Believe it or not, one of Sophie's saddlebags will hold a Starbucks travel box with all the fixings for about 10 people! There's an idea. I should just run a hose from my helmet into the saddlebag. It would be an all day coffee supply!

Since we all show up at 6:30 AM the coffee is much needed. We also get enough to share with the riding students. On Sunday one of the instructors who had a car volunteered to pick the coffee up. Sophie's bags would be full since I had to check out of the hotel. This would save double trip for me.

You know how we get into routines? I try not to but it happens. Since I spend a lot of time training at this place I tend to do the same things over and over. I call Starbucks at 5 AM and request the coffee boxes for about 6:15. After picking up the coffee I roll over a parking lot to McDonalds and nab an Egg McMuffin. Hey, I'm on the road and do what I have to do. Continental breakfast at the hotel starts too late for my schedule. After getting the sandwich to go, I enter 185th at the light right next to McDonalds. That's my routine. Sunday it changed.

For once the hotel's breakfast was early so I ate with Laurie. She was my partner for the training this weekend. Ray's in the process of training her to be a trainer. Since there was no need to stop anywhere on the way, I followed Cornell Road straight to 185th. This put me farther South than normal. Sunday morning was rainy and daylight hadn't shown up, yet. Arriving at the light, I put my left foot down as usual. Hmm. My foot met empty air. Lowered it some more. Still no ground. After what felt like a foot but was only about 7 inches, I finally found blacktop. I'd stopped in the middle of the lane. This intersection gets so much traffic that the road was humped in the middle and there were really deep ruts on either side.

No harm, no foul, but it was a really strange feeling. I also noticed when I got to the college that my tank bag had never been secured. I'd set it on the tank and got distracted before I could snap it into place. Apparently the need to do so fell right out of my head. Fortunately, it was only a few miles and the water on the rubber tank bag bottom held it in place. All of us have our off days, it seems!

Here's a last picture. I had just randomly snapped photos of the students. Last night I looked at the pictures for the first time. If you look at the green car in the background you'll see yellow letters on it. This was Saturday. We had driver's education students and new motorcyclists using opposite ends of the same parking lot. Interesting combination.

Ray and I rode home Sunday evening. We usually ride pairs; handlebars even and about a foot apart. I don't advise most riders to do this. It's an old cop habit. Ray's a skillful rider and a trusted friend. There's only one other person I ride like this with unless it's actually a cop on a bike. Protocols for communications and reacting to situations are written in stone and need to be rigidly followed. On the plus side, I find it relaxing. The two bikes combine their sounds into a new symphony. We split duties, one looking out on the left and the other on the right. You're forced to keep your head into the ride. Failure to do so can hurt you both. Having to trust your partner makes for a closer bond. This isn't meant as an advertisement to get you to ride this way. I'd rather you didn't, actually. It works for me in certain situations and I enjoy it.

After what turned out to be a very pleasant ride in partly cloudy weather, we shook hands at 75 mph and went our separate ways. Another ride to work and a weekend completely devoted to motorcycling is hung on the wall.

Miles and smiles,


P.S. I'm heading off this afternoon to mentor an instructor teaching his first classroom. The plan is to make time to snap some photos on parking a bike. Stay tuned, Conchscooter!


vaara said...

Don't you mean "STarbucks"? :)

I'm enjoying your blog. I got my first motorcycle license as a result of passing the MSF course in Portland back in 1991, and have been riding ever since. And for a few years in the mid-90s, I had a 1993 ST1100. I ended up selling it to a guy in Seattle... maybe you've seen it around. Great bike. I miss it.

Bryce said...

"Believe it or not, one of Sophie's saddlebags will hold a Starbucks travel box with all the fixings for about 10 people! There's an idea. I should just run a hose from my helmet into the saddlebag. It would be an all day coffee supply!"

You do realize Dan you'd then have to connect to your fluid outlet point to drain on to the ground or to another container! :>)

Conchscooter said...

Like so many things in life I have no understanding why I park with the rear tire curbed. Always have and don't know why. Are there occasions when I shouldn't?
Also it occurs to me if I rode the temperatures and distances you ride I too would ride a Honda ST. Or at least something with a generous fairing. My Bonneville with windshield seems inadequate.

Charlie6 said...

great news re grandma!

re the tankbag left unsecured, I've left the shoulder strap on mine then ridden home. never noticed it lying on the side of the tank!


irondad said...

Weirdly enough, I typo'd it that way because I held the shift key too long. Never even thought of that connection. Good one!

Glad you're enjoying the blog. Are you still in Oregon?

There's a device to drain onto the ground. Pity the drivers behind!

Got some pictures yesterday and will talk about parking. Tire to curb is good for stabiilizing mostly. Once in a while it's better not to touch the curb if it prevents the bike from achieving triangulation. Like when the gutter drops sharply towards the sidewalk or the parking area humps up.

Surprised the strap didn't flap around. Must be a good still air pocket behind the Beemer's fairing.

Take care,