Finally! Maybe it's the good karma I've put into the motorcycling world. There's a payoff to all the riders I've trained over the years besides keeping them safe. Part of the payoff is that there's so many bikes out right now. Riding has become totally mainstream. Whatever the reason, I'm celebrating. I've been granted full carte blanche to ride for work. It's been a long two years.
A quick trip into the past is in order. Before I took this job I rode every day of the year unless there was ice. A minimun day's mileage was 88. Most days it was a hundred or more. Five hundred miles a week just commuting to work. That's not counting any riding on a lunch break, running errands, or the weekend riding.
Then I got a chance to move to a position with another company that suited my talents and desires much, much, better. With it came a lot more freedom and satisfaction from meeting personal challenges. The downside was this statement when I was hired,
"We'd prefer you not make calls on your bike".
That was ok. We have an office 99 miles North of where I live. Seems like a winning situation. I could double my commuting mileage. After all, nothing was said of how I got to the office. The bike would park and then I'd take a small car I left there for making calls. There were two issues with that. One, the commute was all freeway. It was tough to find backroads without adding hours to the already long commute. Secondly, not all the calls were neatly contained in the Greater Portland area. I cover the whole state. Some days I just couldn't ride at all. Not that I didn't try. I'd find things I figured I could do on a bike. Something about better to ask forgiveness than permission. Not to sound melodramatic, but I really have to ride. Really. At least I still had the commute. Then the commute went away.
Our lease on the office was up. At some point in the near future we'd want a bigger space. The property management company wouldn't renew the lease for anything less than two years. So we moved out. We're still half heartedly looking for a bigger office. For months, though, there's been no office to commute to. I already posted about the early morning rides to sort of simulate a commute. All of it was an awkward attempt to bandage the situation. So how did things finally get right? At least from my perspective?
Firstly, there's the attitude expressed in the Kawasaki ad from 1988. It was a two page magazine spread. The only way I could find it without violating copyrights was in two photos. I'm not a html wiz so the picture of each page remains separated. Sorry. ( note: after I published this, Stacy sent me a stiched together version.) That ad's always been on my mind. I've ridden to sales meetings and the retreats in Idaho. Everybody knows me as a rider. After all, it's who I am which means it's a part of my life. Different humorous things have happened with visiting factory people. Which includes the day I passed my boss on the freeway on the way home from teaching a police training course. I slowed enough to flip up my modular helmet chin bar, grin, and wave. The factory guy with him forever refers to me as the "motorcycle guy". His name is Kurt. In fact, he's the one who sort of opened the door wider for my riding.
I'm going to intersperse some photos I snapped with my camera phone at a large distributor of ours. I'll weave in the significance as we go.
We are reps for manufacturers in the commercial door, hardware, and electronic security industry. I call on school districts, colleges, hospitals, and distributors. We don't sell directly to customers. My job is demand generation and support for distributors. Part of the support consists of training the distributor's personnel. To assist with that, different factory people will fly out and conduct training sessions. As the rep, I try to attend, also. That's how I found myself in Salem with Kurt and my boss. My boss is from near Seattle. We were setting up a room at a hotel for training.
Kurt asked me if I'd ridden the motorcycle. Looking squarely at my boss, I replied,
"I'm not allowed."
My boss looks back at me and says,
"Look, if that's what you want to do, then just go ahead and do it".
I was tempted to ask for it in writing but refrained. I still wasn't sure if he was serious or saying it for Kurt's benefit. Until recently.
Not long later, we had a bunch of things going on with a university, a college, and some distributors. My boss came down to spend a week with me helping out. As luck would have it, the weather turned just warm enough that people started riding to work. Never have I been more thankful to everyone who commutes on a bike!
This effect is what we're trying to achieve by participating in Ride to Work Day. It's July 16 this year. Showing how many normal, ( that excludes me, of course ) hardworking, respectable ( excluded again! ) folks ride motorcycles gains us all more respect and credibility. With that comes things like more bike parking spots, an awareness of bikes by our co-workers as they drive, and a host of other benefits. One day is great. More days is even better. I know I certainly benefited from the number who seem to be riding regularly!
We went to the university. The person we needed to see, someone we call a Decision Making Person, knew I am an instructor. He asked me a technical question about riding. He also took us outside to show us his bike. It was one of several parked there. Later that week we went to a community college. Again, several bikes were parked in front of the building where our meeting was. I happened to know the Director of Facilities, who rides a Ducati. The Construction Manager rides a Valkyrie. Yes, it was parked outside. There were also a Shadow, a VTX, and a BMW R1150 RT.
Here's the one that capped it off.
We had an appointment with a very large distributor right after lunch. This company does a tremendous dollar volume in our products. The Harley on the left wasn't there when we arrived. We were just walking up to the door when the Harley arrived. The rider who dismounted just happened to be the Purchasing Manager, Randy. He's about my age or a little older. Randy said he'd gone to lunch and dropped some stuff off for a customer. When my boss asked about how stuff fit in the saddlebags, Randy showed us how he regularly carries things on the bike. He also stated that he made a lot of customer calls on the bike.
Earlier in the day we'd met with another distributor. The president of that company had a model of a cruiser on his desk. When I asked him about the model and if he rode, his reply was the he rode, but seldom to work. Still, though, that lent more credibility to the whole riding thing.
Now we're cruising down the freeway. My boss spends a lot of time on the cell phone. My arrangement is that I drive, he talks. Safer that way. After finishing a call, he hangs up. As you expect he would, of course. The phone doesn't ring for a while. It's quiet. We've been together for days and conversation's pretty much all been done. Then he breaks the silence.
He tells me he's serious about this bike thing. Two years ago, he knew me, but not really. At least not how I'd be as part of the company. Things are much different now. I'd proven to be quite valuable to the team. For the first time in forever, this state was experiencing growth. He stated that he knew it wasn't because the economy was good, either. Things aren't great as many places are experiencing. He said he had total trust in me. As long as the job got done, he didn't care about bike or car. My boss expressed the fact that he knew I'd use proper prudence.
As for me, I kept a straight face even though I was tempted to pull the car over and do the dance of joy. Finally, with a pure heart and clean conscience, I can go about my day planning to use the bike as a company car. Just in time for the Spring riding season. If spring ever gets here, that is. However, that's a story for another day. I'm riding all the time now. As it should be!
Miles and smiles,
P.S. Ill be training new instructors this weekend and teaching a track based class on Monday. See you on Tuesday!