Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Welcome to the Dark Side!

These are the first words I hear as I approach some guys sitting on a bench at a Harley dealership in Medford.

I'm going back to pick up on a trip I took the weekend after last. Four of us travelled South to Medford. As I've mentioned, it's about three and a half hours away for me. Of course, that depends a lot on which way we go! We found a longer way for the return trip. More on that later.

This was taken at one of those stops that are inevitable on a long ride. Looking at the bike made me want to take a photo. A beautiful bike in scenic surroundings. How could I resist?

The reason for the trip was to teach an Advanced Rider Training course. This is the one we teach on some sort of track. It's about practicing higher speed accident avoidance skills and linking turns. Not only linking curves, but being as smooth as possible in the process. This class was being sponsored by a local Harley dealership. As you might have guessed, most of the students were Harley mounted. There were a couple of BMW's, a Ducati Supermotard, a Suzuki DR650, and another sport type bike. I'm sad to say that the make escapes my memory. Ouch! There was a total of 17 students with 12 of them riding bikes of the Harley persuasion.

I'm going to put in a disclaimer here. These students of ours were serious about improving their riding skills. However, many of them knew each other. These guys weren't holding back from trying to impress each other with a slightly put on "tough guy" persona. If that comes through in this post, it's not my bias speaking. It's here because the students wanted it to be there. I'm only the scribe!

As you might expect, the classroom Friday night was held at the dealership. I'd headed out a little ahead of the rest of the guys. Ron and Dan ( yes, another one ) were coming from Portland. Ron's on an ST1100 a year newer than Sophie. Dan's on a Suzuki GSXR 1100. That dude rode the sport bike all the way down and back. I always knew some of my sport bike riding friends were nuts!

Leaving early put me into town early. Not having been to this particular dealership before, I decided to go check it out.

Picture this. It's a really warm afternoon. I'm pulling into the parking lot of a Harley dealership. On a Honda sport-tourer. Wearing a full face helmet with my Hi-Viz 'Stich Roadcrafter, no less. I pull up into the group of American iron bikes and dismount. Looking for all the world like it's the most natural thing in the world. I can feel several sets of eyes boring into me.

I'm keeping up a very nonchalant demeanor as I peel off the gear. I can almost smell the sawdust smoke from the flurry of mental questions that are forming in minds all around me.

You know, simple things like, "What's he doing here?"

It would be easy to quickly clear the air and put these people out of their misery. Still, though, I take my time. The Warrior in me wants to keep everyone hanging a while longer.

When the curiosity currents are at their highest level, I wander over to a couple of guys sitting on a bench in the shade. You have to understand that I have this perverse streak in me. I tend to like to mess with people's minds. Making someone's day a little more surreal warms me to the bottom of my riding boots. I saunter over to the guys sittting on the bench. Their appearance is the perfect illustration of the stereotype. They're waiting for me to speak. So I do.

"And thus was born the saying that will forevermore ring out among mankind, 'As out of place as a Honda in a Harley shop!'"

To which one of the guys replies, "Welcome to the Dark Side".

If you look past the bikes you can see a guy wearing an orange shirt. There's another guy sitting next to him. A couple of onlookers are standing nearby. Obviously, they expect the conversational ball to be in my court. Not wanting to disappoint, I send a volley back their way.

"I'm Luke Skywalker, who are you?"

Mr. Orange Shirt tells me his name is Gator. With a big smirk he looks over at his buddy. The buddy takes a minute to catch up then offers a grin with a couple of teeth missing. He tells me his name is Snake. So far we really don't know each other's real names and actually don't much care at this point. Now the guy who calls himself Gator can't resist taking a jab for real.

"I'm surprised you don't have heat stroke from all that crap you were wearing. Aren't you hot?"

"My wife thinks I am", I reply. "You're right in that it might be too much gear. Everyone knows that the pavement gets softer when it gets warmer".

I leave them with that and wander around to the back to find the classroom. It happens to be a door around the back and at the top of a stairway. You'll see a picture in a bit. Finishing with my journey of exploration, I walk back to Sophie. As casually as I took the gear off, I put it back on. Time to go check into the hotel and enjoy some air conditioning. All too soon, it's time to hook up with Ray and ride back to actually teach the class. Ray's on his ST1300. I'm actually teaching but all the instructors are going to show up for introductions.

Ok, here's the door to the classroom. It figures into the next bit of bantering.

Remember, this is around on the backside of the dealership. As Ray and I park in the shade near the door, a couple of the Harley mounted students walk around from the front of the building. They've parked in front and walked in the hot sun to the back. I see a glint in one of the guys' eyes that's more than the sunshine. There's some sort of verbal jab coming our way. I wait for it. It's not a long wait.

"What's the matter with you Honda boys? You ashamed to park out front with the real bikes? Why else would you slink around to the back?"

It's delivered in a good natured way. Sort of that thing that guys just can't help doing. Being a guy myself, I'm familiar with the game. He served and I get to return.

"No, Honda guys just smarter than Harley guys. See door? Honda guys park close to door and in shady spot. Harley guys not figure that out, yet?"

So was set the tone for the rest of the evening. They were a tough bunch but there's a reason my boys call me Irondad. When you get a bunch of American cruiser riders together, there's bound to be a rise in the testerone level. Underneath it all, though, they'd paid to be there and were open to learning. It was a fun evening.

Saturday morning would see the four of us on the track bright and early getting ready for our students. I'll tell you about that part in the next post. Stay tuned.

Miles and smiles,



Kano said...

My guess is those dudes have been riding for three weeks, have bran spankin new 08s and skipped the "Basic" course.-I'm looking forward to the "rest of the story".

Dean W said...

"Everyone knows that the pavement gets softer when it gets warmer"

Thanks; that's even better than "My wife thinks I'm hot".

Charlie6 said...

re the witty repartee's exchanged so far, seems to me the HD guys brought a knife to a gun fight. : )

SheRidesABeemer said...

Never mind the Honda, it's the Stitch that really doesn't belong at the HD dealer! LOL
I did an ERC class this weekend, I was happy to see a couple of Wings there so that I wasn't the only plastic bike! The Harley folks were pretty quiet, big difference when we were all strangers. The skies opened up around 2:00, it rained the rest of the afternoon. I was really impressed that one of the Harley guys had a full faced helmet in his top box. 7 others had a long ride home in half helmets.

Stacy said...

I, too, am waiting to hear the rest of the story!

We're lucky to have someone as immediately witty as Dan on our side. I would've said something genius like, "Umm... 'cause you suck! So there!" Of course, the perfect retort always pops into my head fifteen minutes after I need it. :)

Bryce said...

Just noticed, in one of the photos
there is a disabled parking identifier mounted on the wall of the
building. And...
there is a Harley-Davidson parked in the slot.

Was it disabled? Was it a victim of some unfortunate disabling problem
in the past??? Maybe there should have been more disabled signs, given it was a Harley shop.

Was the classroom, under a flat roof air-conditioned? It looked to me as it would be warm place to conduct a class.
Especially with the hot testosterone laden students all
stuffed in there to be taught by
a Honda pilot!

Then again Harley riders are generally as human as anything else
with four legs.
Enquiring minds want to know!

Conchscooter said...

ooh, ooh,tears before bedtime, I know it. Gary Cooper in High Noon even showed a little fear you know.

David said...

Dan, you are a born story teller, or a born BS'er. I tend to think the latter is more true. Either way, you tell a good tale. Can't wait to "hear" how this one turns out.

BTW, in your neck o' the woods today. Just pulled into Portland to deliver a load in the morn. One of these days I'll actually ride down here to meet you.

Dave T.

Dean W said...

Bryce- I actually know several people who have handicap permits and ride. In CA you can get handicap plates for motorcycles; One of my friends moved from CA to WA and was dismayed that she couldn't get a handicap plate.

That said, look closer- the bike is in a narrow bike spot (you can see bits of the paint stripe under the far side of the bike) and which way that sign is facing; Dan was standing in the handicap spot.

Now, the detail that someone's ST1100 is parked in a no-parking zone, that's a different topic. ;-)

Allen Madding said...

"Everyone knows that the pavement gets softer when it gets warmer" - I'm officially borrowing that for the next encounter with the shorts and flip flop crowd.

irondad said...

Who knows, you may be right. The ones actually taking the training, though, were better off than that.

Well, what can I say? She's my wife.

Thanks for the compliment! I've always been blessed with a quick wit. Sometimes too much. Ouch.

You're right about the 'Stich, for sure. I've had several students with half shell helmets experience rain in the face. Next thing I know they have full face helmets. Happened in Medford, too. The guy said he was tire of being hit in the face by stuff and bought a full face Shoei. More in the post!

Like I replied to Charlie above, sometimes my sharp wit backfires.

Looks like Dean took a look at the handicap parking thing. You are exactly right about the classroom. Quite perceptive, you are. It was hot. We had to prop both doors open to breathe. Told you it was tough!
By the way, thanks for your e-mail. I'll reply when I've had little more time to digest it.

Fear? What's that?

Not a BS guy. Verbal story telling isn't my thing, either. Writing, though, is a different animal altogether. Things actually happened this way. I tend to like to stir things up in new situations. I'd hate to walk away having not made an impression. One way or the other.

It would be neat to see you next time you're in town. Send me an e-mail at intrepidcommuter@comcast.net and I'll reply with my cell number. Call when you feel up to it.

Oh, great. My fellow instructor turns on me! The lines aren't yellow and there's no sign. Therefore, no policy!

You're welcome to it!

Take care,


Krysta in Milwaukee said...

I'm borrowing your 'soft pavement' line for use on the dunderheads around here.

WI also issues disabled tags for bikes. All of ours have them. Kinda hard to keep one of those rear-view mirror hanging things in place, too easy to swipe.