Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sharin' the Road!

This week Dave McCallister from Alma, Michigan stopped by to share his story and enthusiasm for riding. His ever present riding companion and mascot, Road Kill, was with him. R.K.'s picture is below. Dave's a retired USAF Master Sergeant. Now he's a computer technician for a private college. Mixed in with all that, Dave rides with the Patriot Guard Riders.

I've had the privilege of training several folks who wanted to ride with this group. Many are veterans themselves. I thank them for what they've given and continue to give. People have different opinions about war and the military. No matter a person's beliefs, a fallen soldier and their family deserves the quiet dignity and grieving provided by the funeral. Some folks just can't seem to respect that. The Patriot Guard helps ensure the family gets what they need. Along the way they evidence their own honor to the fallen. That's a huge gift in my way of thinking.

Just a note here before I turn it over to Dave. Yes, Allen, there is another Harley gracing my blog!

Here's Dave:



The idea of riding a motorcycle never entered my mind until 2006. At the age of 44 I heard about a group desecrating military funerals of those killed in action with their protests. In February 2006, I joined the Patriot Guard Riders and started attending military funerals with them to ensure a dignified farewell for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Over the next few months, after hearing bikers exchange road stories/ lies, I thought, "Riding a motorcycle sounds like a lot of fun." I didn't want to get a bike until I went through the BRC as I didn't want to teach myself bad habits or learn bad habits from others. In July that year I passed the BRC, got my endorsement, and started looking for a new bike. I had it narrowed down to either an 07 Honda Shadow Aero in pearl white or a Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Low in pearl yellow. I sat on lots of different bikes, but only those two had hand and food controls that felt safe and comfortable to me.

HD got their 07's out before Honda, so I got the Sportster. Within the first week the BRC training paid off. I had to come to an emergency stop in a blind curve to prevent running into a car that wanted to get around a stopped semi trailer on the curve. Our front tires stopped about 6 feet from each other. Michigan subsidizes the BC (Thank you Michigan ABATE for that!), and after I stopped I thought, "That's the best $25 I ever spent!"

Since getting the bike, I regret waiting so late in life to discover the joys of riding a bike. I've ridden the bike 30,000 miles so far. I don't consider myself proficient though. I now know seven things in your first year of riding you shouldn't do to drop your bike at low speeds.

The last time was when dirty water from snow melt-off covered a road last year. The right six inches of my lane didn't have water, but had lots of stones. My thinking was that I would go to the left of the center line and ride slow since pot holes would be near the right part of my lane.. I slowed down to about 10 MPH to cross the water and I rode into the pot hole from hell that was about 2 feet long and I don't know how deep. The bike instantly slammed me to the pavement on the right side of the bike. If I hadn't added saddlebags and crash bars to the bike, my ankle probably would have been crushed. As it was, it was a struggle to get my foot out that was pinned underneath the bike (in the meantime cars were attempting to go around me while I was laying in the middle of the road.) Insert inappropriate words for print in your mind for those folks ignoring my situation.

The full face helmet suffered a small scratch and my chaps had a small hole at the knee from where I hit the pavement. If it weren't for my gear, the crash guards, and the saddlebags, things could have gotten ugly. It's been over a year since I last dropped the bike, so I guess I am getting better? I've gotten to the point where I can ride the bike on dirt trails without losing control :) Those who grew up riding dirt bikes (I didn't have that experience) may get a chuckle out of that, but to me that is a milestone achievement. Riding a 600 pound bike on dirt trails. My Road King riding partner who is a very experienced rider has got a chuckle out of egging me into riding on gravel and dirt and recently laughed and said, "You've come a long way Dave, ya' wussie."



Bikers (especially HD bike snobs) snicker at me because of my appearance, but I don't care. A bright yellow Harley and a bright yellow helmet. There is a phrase "Loud pipes save lives." My motto is "Loud colors save lives." There have been many instances where people were about to violate my right of way, but they backed off once they noticed my visually obnoxious helmet. I don't care about looking cool, I just want to minimize the risks when riding so I can ride another day.

And for those of you who think there is only just one brand of bike to ride. Two wheels is two wheels. If you are on two wheels (even if it is a scooter) you get a wave from me. You realize the magic of riding on 2 wheels that most don't in this country.

Dang, isn't is great to be riding on two wheels and smelling nature instead of being locked up in cage? In December 2006 I hauled my bike down to Atlanta and rode down to Florida. While taking a state highway from Lake Worth to Tampa, I rode through the citrus crop region. The wonderful smell of oranges pleased my olfactory senses for about 200 miles. The other day here in Michigan I smelled a sweet fragrance for 2 miles from something that I wouldn't have noticed if I was in a cage. You just can't experience something like that on 4 wheels. Ride long, and ride safe!

Dave

Thanks for sharing, Dave! I've been amazed and honored that riders have put forth the effort to be a part of Sharin' the Road. Next week look for a visit from Shannon. She comments here under the name Balisada. You'll see why she calls herself that in her post.

You're warmly invited to drop by to share your story. Maybe you had a great ride you'd just love to tell someone about. Campfire conversation wanders along a variety of subjects. Drop me a line at intrepidcommuter@comcast.net and tell me about it.

Miles and smiles,

Dan

15 comments:

Balisada said...

I think that motorcyclists do indeed smell and see more than a cage would.

I think it's something about the doors and windows of a car that create this "mental barrier" that prevents folks from really experiencing the world.

Pity. They miss so much.


Balisada

Stacy said...

I certainly smelled the dairy farm we rode by a few weeks ago!

Dave said...

There is a cattle feed lot in a village neaby.
(they call themselves a village, but the only business is the feed lot)

The placed is called Forest Hill, but I call it Feces Hill. The stench is that bad. And yet they (the county?) have the nerve to put the speed limit there at 45. Oh, so I can take longer to smell the putrid manure? Time to talk to the county about the speed limit there. A feed lot and a church. Ah, I think 55 MPH myself.

Allen Madding said...

That is a very good looking sportster. Kudos on wearing your gear. Ya never know when ya need it, but when you do - ya really do! I love the mascot too. And SUPER KUDOS for riding a sporty from Atlanta to Tampa. That is outstanding. I just made that trip a few weeks a go on my Road King. I think my butt and back would have been killing me if I had still had my sporty.

Hey Dan,
With all of the Harleys suddenly on your blog, maybe you need to test ride one when you replace Sophie :)

Richard Machida said...

Great blog! I started reading and couldn't stop. The stories are interesting and your guest spots are great. I am a new rider and have been commuting daily for the last month (since the ice cleared from our driveway).

Cheryl (lighthouseseeker) said...

Hubby and I rode a Sportster to D.C. twice. Got an Electra Glide Classic now (much more comfortable for two).
Lots of smells here in Michigan: Dairy Farms, Evergreen Trees and Lilacs (my fav).

Arizona Harley Dude said...

Dave, I've been riding forever and still don't like/want to ride on gravel or dirt. It was fun as a kid, but the FLHT doesn't have knobbies and the old knees won't hold up that much weight sliding around corners.

Welcome to riding!

irondad said...

Most of you are commenting to Dave, so I will let him reply as he will. Which I would certainly encourage you to do, Dave! Feel free to go for it.

Allen,
I rode a Heritage Softail a few years ago. It had floorboards and a heel and toe shifter. I scraped the floorboards just turning from a stop. It was most definitely a culture shift for me as to riding style. I can certainly see the appeal of the bikes. One thing I have learned over the years, however, is that you should never try to predict the future. You just never know which direction the flow is going to go!

Richard,
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I appreciate the positive feedback. Welcome to the wonderfu world of motorcycle commuting!

Take care,

Dan

Dave McCallister said...

Thanks to all welcoming me to the world of two wheels. It has been a steep, but fun learning curve riding on two wheels. After I sent my original email to Dan I was tempted to ask him to nix this. I was afraid of sounding obnoxious. I have this "hang up" about seeing folks with bikes who never ride them and getting ticked off at them, so I was afraid that mentioning how many miles I have put on mine would seem arrogant or obnoxious.

I can't for the life of me figure out why someone would spend a lot of money on a bike and hardly ride it. There is a person near me with a sharp looking Virago cruiser. If I was looking for a used bike, I would buy it. It is very sharp looking and appears to have low mileage. If the weather is nice, the cover is off his bike that is always parked in front of his house. I rarely see the bike missing from the front of his house. This is even when it is perfect riding weather. I've often been tempted to stop by and ask if I can ride his bike to see how an old Virago handles on the road.

And I now see that his Virago is now parked on the side of his house with a cover on it, and he has a very expensive Harley V-Rod (that's a Harley version of a crotch rocket) with a cover on it (of course) in front of his house. I have the gut instinct that this person has never went through an MSF course, and the first time he tries to push this superbike to its limits, he will crash in a curve. My instinct is that although he may have 15 years or whatever of owning a bike, it probably equates to 2 months of actual riding (50 miles each month) and he can't handle this bike on steroids and that I will see him mentioned in local paper after he crashes it.

I just do not understand why people would spend thousands to buy a bike and hardly ride the darned thing. From used bike sale ads, it seems the average Harley only has 3-4,000 on it per year. And that mileage estimate might be generous to those selling their Harleys. I am assuming this applies to other brands also from my limited exploration of buying a used bike for my first purchase.

So, that's why I was hesitant about the post. I was afraid I would come across as appearing to be arrogant and bragging about the miles I have put on mine. But it just baffles me why someone would buy an expensive motorcycle (regardless of brand) and not ride the darned thing.

While I welcome the increasing usage of small scooters on the road due to gas prices, I have concerns. Michigan laws are totally messed up. If you ride a 2 wheeled vehicle over 50cc's, you must wear a helmet and have an endorsement. No ifs, ands, or buts. But if you have a 50cc scooter and are over 18, you do not have to wear a helmet, and you do not need an endorsement.

Not what is with that? The DOT sticker only means it has been tested to an impact of (I forget 14 or 17 MPH impact). Well, those 50cc scooters can go faster than that.

Why is this state mandating helmets for all motorcyles, but not requiring them for 50cc scooter riders? They can easily get killed doing 30MPH as I can on my larger bike. It makes no sense I tell you.

I am a pro-choice person when it comes to helmet laws, although I would wear one anyway in "helmet-free states." I just think that if a helmet is required for motorcycles, it should be required for scooter riders also (and bicyclists for that matter since they go faster than 17 MPH).

I think the high gas prices will see lots of people on scooters who have no formal training (and they don't need that due to this state's screwy laws) and that you will see lots of reports of scooter rider dying.

If someone you know mentions buying a scooter to save on gas, encourage (no, HARASS them) into taking the BRC course. What they learn could save their life. And tell them Loud Colors Save Lives! It might not make them popular with the ladies/gents, but it could help them from being in the obituaries.

Allen Madding said...

Dave,
That's what I love about the Harley crowd. They buy a bike, keep it 5 years and only put 10,000 miles on it and sell it or trade it. They've eaten the depreciation on it making it a bargain for me to buy. Go shopping for a Harley at a dealer in the coldest part of winter and the slightly used bikes get cheap.

Dave McCallister said...

I saw a sale ad for a Harley that was 8 years old and it had 24,000 on it. Shortly after reading it, I walked outside my office and saw a 50cc scooter parked on the sidwalk. The scooter's odometer read over 27,000. 27,000 on a bike that can do a max of 35 MPH. Now that is some riding !

I so wanted to meet with the owner to hear about his/her riding experiences, but I never managed to find out who the owner was. He/she would definitely be someone I would want to ride/party with at a campground. I thought the # of miles I put on my sporty was a lot, but once I saw the odometer on the scooter I was flabber gasted. That person is one heck of a rider and I would love to meet them.

Krysta in Milwaukee said...

Dave -
(tongue-in-cheek)
My God! A Harley rider with some sense? What is this world coming to??
(/tongue-in-cheek)

So, does Roadkill get strapped on top of the luggage upside down?

I can't imagine starting out with that large of a bike, and I still think that if it's not paved, my tires don't belong on it. (Aside from parking on grass or dirt once in a while.)


"The DOT sticker only means it has been tested to an impact of (I forget 14 or 17 MPH impact)."

I don't know where this myth started, but neither the DOT nor Snell test for MPH. Their impact measurements are in joules and G's. [And it's really scary how many of both are allowed into your head! And surprise - the Snell standard allows more of that impact into your head than the DOT does. More energy = more injury.]

I have a pdf of a nicely written article [12 pages] from JUN05 Motorcyclist magazine about helmets, including how they're tested. Dunno how to post it, but if anyone wants a copy, email me. It discusses the differences among Snell, DOT, & European testing standards & construction.

Also, they've shown that (unless you're unlucky enough to hit something relatively upright & fixed, like a pole) all the energy is from your head's position above the ground, and the force of gravity. Reminds me of HS physics class, something about potential energy due to position.


"I just do not understand why people would spend thousands to buy a bike and hardly ride the darned thing."

Beats me...

They want to think they're part of a 'culture', but are scared to actually ride? They're worried they might scrape their paint? (So why not take training and reduce the possibility of crashing?) They don't know any better?

I feel a little guilty 'cause my daily commuter is a classic '86 R65 who only had about 10K when we bought her last spring. I've put almost 7K just on her this past year (we currently have 6 bikes), and she doesn't go out if there's salt on the roads. But she's getting loved and appreciated, which is what she needs more than looking pretty and resting.

Bryce said...

QUOTE from Dave McCallister: Thanks to all welcoming me to the world of two wheels. It has been a steep, but fun learning curve riding on two wheels. I have this "hang up" about seeing folks with bikes who never ride them and getting ticked off at them, so I was afraid that mentioning how many miles I have put on mine would seem arrogant or obnoxious.

I can't for the life of me figure out why someone would spend a lot of money on a bike and hardly ride it. QUOTE END.

It's good for me to see somebody comment on this blog who lives somewhat due east from where Dave lives albeit a different country and on the other side of
the Detroit River and Lake Huron.

I could comment on Dave's blog however perhaps here might be better, apologies to Dan,

Dave, your comment about machines purchased and then not used frequently hits home.

Since you,as me get used to the six-month syndrome; six months of good riding and six months of poor riding and plowing snow.

However coffee queens (motorcycles ridden to coffee shops (Tim Horton's in Canada)) are not common here. Suspect part
of the reason is that six month problem. Then again I don't do the Horton's bit (or Starbucks stateside) unless it's towards the conclusion of a long ride.

For me though, not being able to ride drives me nuts. I find it very difficult to terminate riding; anything. I like the movement of machinery beneath me (steam locomotives included)and the feeling of being in control
of something above and beyond
our normal homosapiens being.

So your desire to ride whenever and always is very understandable.

Like your cute mascot too!
Your comment about not using something for which one has paid considerable money for also rings home.

I have a 1981 Honda Goldwing sitting in the garage, with something like 248,000 kilometres on the clock.

It has not been ridden for two years. Major health problems
(diagnosis of cancer followed by surgery then followed by ongoing chemo therapy every nine to twelve weeks makes it well nigh impossible to ride. I miss riding with my friends or on my own something terrible. And with frequent chemical injections it is a matter of just starting to feel more or less human once again when wham, the chemical arrives once again.
Have 36 months more of this to look forward to. And this is to ensure the cancer in my system doesn't come back to haunt me. Also have Lupus, which doesn't help either.

Do I want to give up riding a motorcycle after 45 years? Hell no!

However individuals such as yourself do for me what I wish I could do, ride and ride and ride forever. Keep safe and ride well!

Biker Betty said...

Okay, here's my theory about the low mileage on a HD: It's because they spend half the time in the shop for repairs, lol ROTF. Sorry, I couldn't resist. I believe in all bikes, but my harley friends' bikes have been in the shops twice mine and mine have so far been for tune-ups only.

Dave, great write up. Really enjoyed reading all about your adventures. Glad that pothole worked out so well. I've had my ankle pinned between my bike and a cement curb and was very glad for the engine guards.

It was pour down rain and I parked my bike wrong in the slanted gutter. All went well parking it, but when I went to get in gear to leave it leaned and I'm too short and the rest is history. It was a lesson learned quickly by a new-be.

Thanks for sharing,
Betty :)

American Scooterist Blog said...

I used to have more time to ride. A full day with five year old twins put the kabosh on riding whenever I liked. My bikes have low miles comparatively speaking but I've never been one to use them for going to work. They've always been my mini vacation. My time to clear my thinking. My HD has something around 27 thou on it. It was our vehicle for our honeymoon eleven years ago. Now I'm into scooters because as a general rule, around here the folks who own HD must be buying boxes of sneers when they get their new bikes. Its an image thing where I live and I have no time for it so I ride scooters as sort of my anti statement lol. I still recieve the wave about 90% of the time. Call it naive thinking but for me its always been about the ride. Loved your story and Thanks Dan!

Harv