Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bikeless in Seattle!

Things haven't quite turned out like I'd wished for. I was hoping I'd be sent to Denver for this factory product launch. The bad news is that I'm not in Denver. Whoever dreams up all this stuff decided to make everyone come to the West coast, instead. The good news is that travel expenses are down!

Ok. I can see not riding if I'm taking a plane ride. If I'm stuck here I should be on the bike. If there's any justice in the world, being robbed of a trip to Denver should be compensated by a long motorcycle trip. No such luck. I'm forced by circumstance to be trapped in a cage. What circumstance, you ask? The Golden Rule. He who has the gold makes the rules. In this case, the man who signs my paychecks asked me to bring up a rather bulky and awkward mock-up door assembly. It fills my whole trunk and I could barely maneuver it in there. Headquarters wants it to build a thing to present to Microsoft. Come to think of it, I'm being coerced by two guys who have the gold!

Like Marianne Rogers used to say on Hee Haw, "Oh well, life ain't all bad!"

I'm sleeping in a fancy Marriott Courtyard hotel on company expense. The gal at the front desk must have liked my smile because she put me clear on the top floor. My room has a nice view of a river and lots of greenery. The fact that there's a huge shopping mall peeking through the trees doesn't spoil the view. Eric, the Regional Director, took a half dozen of us to dinner at this exquisitely fantastic Italian restaurant. I consumed a Pollo Parmegiano dish that was one of the best I've ever had. There was an olive oil and garlic mix to put on it. I used a lot. Nobody in the room to be offended by garlic breath but me. And I'm not going to complain to myself. That seems slightly psychotic, even to me! As I write this, I'm listening to a really righteous soft jazz station. We don't have this at home except for my XM radio. Like I say, life could be worse. I really missed riding, though.

As it is, I'm going to lay on the fancy bed with no less than six pillows and dream of riding some of my favorite curvy country roads. Like this one.

A guy I used to work with would give me a hard time about being out in the open. He'd tell me how uncomfortable he'd be with his butt hanging out as he rode. A lot of people feel the same way. They're happy to sink into the comfort and coddling of their cars. Being surrounded by that little globe of an artificial environment makes them feel secure. Did I just use the word "globe"? Funny. It must have been an unbidden expression of what was going through my mind. Just had a picture of those snow globes. Whatever's inside is totally cut off from the world, trapped forever in that little space.

I feel like that when I'm in a car. Not that driving is always torture, mind you. It's just that I really miss the freedom. That term gets over-used, I know. I can't really explain it otherwise. I'm the kind of person who has a tremendously large personal bubble. I hate things being in my way. I hate large crowds. I hate stores with narrow little aisles that force me to rub elbows with others to make my way down them. RetaiIers try to stuff more and more things in to make the space pay. Combine that with people getting wider, and, well, I'm nearly driven to insanity. Crowded roads make me want to take up flying lessons. I hate being crowded, period!!!

Riding allows me to feel like I have a lot of open space around me. The older I get the more I seem to crave elbow room. Call me weird, but I'd much rather be cold and wet than feel enclosed. Even if it's just an illusion, the feeling of open space makes me a lot calmer. I'm trying to present this in a somewhat humorous light but it's a real concern for me. Sometimes I think I should have been born much earlier and become a Mountain Man. That was a hard life, by the way. Think about it. When they'd bake those boxes of brownies they'd have to remember to follow the high altitude directions or risk ruining their dessert.

I know the other thing you're probably thinking about my riding down the freeway on a bike. Let's quit beating around the bush and just come out and say it. The smaller size of the bike and the superior power to weight ratio aren't bad things. I swear that my first concern is feeling less hemmed in. These other things are just a bonus in finding empty space. I like to find an open area and ride sedately along. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Don't ask Katie about that, though. Do you know what she had the nerve to tell me the other night?

We were sitting on the couch, being buddies, and watching an AMA Superbike race. Matt Mladin was out in front. Ben was trying to run him down. Katie turned to me and said I acted a lot like that when I travelled the freeway. According to her, the next car in front of me was just prey to catch up to and pass. Can you imagine? Why in the world would she make up something like that? She did say it was fine with her, though. I always dispatch my prey in the safest manner possible!

Stay tuned this week. The first guest will be featured. Remember, if you or someone you know of would like to introduce themselves and their bike, or tell an interesting story of a ride to work or ride for pleasure, send me a note at intrepidcommuter@comcast.net.

Miles and smiles,


Friday, April 25, 2008

Something to think about this weekend.

This one's for Hrishi in India. I don't usually put videos in here but this one really got me thinking. It's a clip of about two and a quarter minutes in length. Someone was in an upper level room recording activity at a busy intersection. It may be from Bombay, but I don't know for sure. The guy who sent it to me said it was but I haven't verified it.

We have an exercise at the end of our Basic Rider's Training that is called "Traffic Interaction". Basically we set up a course for the students to ride. There's an East-West street and a North-South street. Where they intersect is a four way stop. The perimeter is a one-way path counterclockwise with no stops. Riders can merge into the perimeter path of travel at any of four intersections with a stop sign. With twelve new riders it can look pretty busy. The purpose of the exercise is to give the students a taste of interacting with other traffic. They can use their powers of observation and judgement to stay out of trouble. It's exercise number 20 for us.

Another instructor sent this clip to me. He called it "Exercise 20 in Bombay". Looking at the intersection, I can see the similarities to our students. That's the background for my having the video.

At first I thought it was a crazy scene. My first reaction was "Thank God I'm not riding there. These people have no rules. This is insane. I'm sure glad I commute on a bike in a so-called civilized area!"

Then it occurred to me that nobody crashed into each other. Even though you can hear horns beeping in the background things seem to get worked out. People are assertive but not obnoxiously so. Wait a minute. There's another way to look at this.

Maybe we have too many rules. Is it possible that we don't really need what we have? Are we more civilized because we have so many rules? Or are the folks in the video more civilized because they sort of look out for one another? There's a lot of smaller bikes in the video. In fact, almost all of them are. Should we look down on them for being too poor to buy big, impressive, bikes? Or should we consider them worthy of emulation? Maybe they're the ones who've truly learned how to practically incorporate motorcycles into everyday life. That can't be anything but smart. Interesting to think about, isn't it?

Anyway, you can watch the video here and decide for yourself.

Miles and smiles


Thursday, April 24, 2008

You can do this!

Everything I needed to know in life I learned from a Starbucks cup. Well, not exactly. Once in a while, though, I come across one that seems worth passing along. The quote on this cup makes a good guide for a lot of things in life. I also see an application to what this blog is about.

First and foremost I'm a disciple of using a bike for transportation instead of a car. I've been told I live on a bike. Which means that there's a lot of variety here in the blog. Interesting things happen in life. Life swirls around riding. Hence the diversity here in a blog about riding. The foundation, though, is riding. To work, for work, moving about as required by life, and trying to ride for fun whenever I can. Every so often I like to come back to the roots. That's what this post is about.

I'm a hardcore rider. I'm committed to two wheels. I have a reputation among my peers and acquaintances. Hardcore and borderline crazy.

There's this interesting quirk in human behaviour. You'd think that people would be happy to see someone else succeed at something. It's true if there's no perceived threat. You know what I mean? If you're trying to master something, and I'm trying to accomplish the same thing, your success can be a threat to me. Once I'm there myself it's not a problem. However, if you get there before me, I'm just as likely to feel a division as a bond. The sad part is that it can keep me from attaining what I want to. That happens to me a lot when it comes to riding. Not the attaining part. I'm afraid I sometimes help create the gulf.

My riding students don't care much. They're thrilled to be taught by someone they can have confidence in. Those few friends and teammates who are at my level feel a bond. It's the riders in between who seem to have difficulties. I try to be as approachable as possible. After all, it's just me, you know? If someone tells me they'd like to ride to work more, for instance, I take them at their word. So I offer some friendly advice. Things like how to deal with wet and cold weather. Having been there and done that, who better to use as a resource? Especially an experienced rider who's willing to share.

It doesn't always work that way, it seems. When the contrast between the current levels is too great, people are put off. Not by me, but the situation. I think they reason that they'll never be like me, or they're not like me now, so why bother? We live in a world that wants instant gratification. That attitude can rub off on us without our realizing it. Listen, nobody starts out riding as hardcore and hugely experienced. It's okay to be a beginner, an intermediate, or recreational rider. If you want to expand what you use the bike for, just keep working at it. Little by little and baby steps are perfectly fine. Who cares if you're not hardcore and crazy like me? At least not yet! Just keep working at it. One day you, too, can join the ranks of the proudly insane! That's why the quote from Mr. Karnazes is so powerful here. Sometimes we run, sometimes we walk, and sometimes we crawl. It's all forward progress.

Do you want to expand your use of a bike? You can do it. It doesn't have to a night and day accomplishment. Did you ride to work once this week? Good for you! Is it possible to ride two days next week? Are there a few things from a store that you need? Could you wear a backpack and carry them home that way? Every trip will provide you with valuable experience besides being fun. With the skyrocketing price of fuel there's a practical, as well as fun side, to it all. I know a lot of you who read here would like to ride more. Share your forward progress with us. We'll all celebrate together! Learn from, instead of being intimidated by, more experienced riders. We want to help. Our passion is to see a lot more of motorcycles and a lot less of four wheels. Especially those huge SUV's!

Speaking of people with passion, did you see the tips from Andy Goldfine in the April issue of American Motorcylist Magazine? In case you're not sure who he is, Andy's the force behind Aerostich. He's also the founder of the Ride to Work Day. By the way, the day this year is Wednesday, July 16. Andy's one of those I look up to. No Andy, I'm not kissing up. Unless you'll give me a huge discount on a new Roadcrafter, of course!

Andy's one who walks the talk. He's busy adding value to fellow motorcyclists through his company. Andy rides to work. Before I started this blog I was a nobody. Still am, actually, but back then Andy had never even heard of me. He might have by now since somebody using his name posted a comment here not long ago! There was a little mixup with shipping back a jacket I'd sent in for repairs. I received a call from Green Bay. Yeah, that one. Somehow my jacket went to an equipment manager for the Packers. Andy personally followed up to make sure I got my jacket back. What I'm trying to say is that, like those of us with a passion, he's down to earth and ready to share.

Here's a couple of things from the article in AM. I don't have express permission but at least it's attributed!

A routine is important. Put gear and accessories where they're readily accessible. A rider should pick the right bike for their circumstances. Both for riding to work and riding on the weekends.

This part is an exact quote from the magazine. If they quoted you correctly, Andy, then I'm quoting you correctly.

"Remember the upsides. The tangible environmental and economic benefits are obvious. You're only moving 300 pounds of metal and processed materials across the planet. The mental benefits are that when you use a motorcycle, you're actively engaging in the management of risk. It's not just the wind and the cold air in your face that's refreshing. All of your senses have been engaged, and that helps you feel better about yourself and gets you energized for the day"

( end of quotation )

I don't know about you, but that sounds like something I can get excited about. Oh wait, I already do! Don't you want to be a part of it? I joked earlier about joining the ranks of the insane. In actuality, treading more lightly upon the planet is one of the sanest options open to us in this day and age. In other words, it's a fine, smart, thing to strive for. If we can accomplish this while adding tremendous value to our lives, bonus! A lot of you are already enjoying it to the full. Some of you are sort of on the brink of discovery. Take a couple of steps forward. You'll like it so much you'll want to take a couple of more. After a while, you'll be amazed how much distance those small steps have covered. What are you waiting for? You can do this!!

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Meandering musings.

Is it really Spring?

Can't believe the weather this last week! The calendar says we're well into Spring. Try to prove that by the weather. We had the latest snowfall on record. The previous record was April 11, 1911. Now that's been shattered by nearly a week. There was snow in Portland on Saturday. I was in town for a couple of days doing instructor training. Riding home on Sunday night, things didn't look too bad, weatherwise. Then I saw the black clouds. Big, black clouds!! As I turned onto Interstate 5 from 217, the deluge began. In North Wilsonville, the rain turned to vicious hail. The roadway was literally covered in slippery little white and icy marbles. For once, drivers did the right thing and slowed down. We all got through it fine. Sophie and I experienced a couple of anxious moments but all's well that ends well. I really wanted to take a photo but figured I'd be totally crazy to stop on the shoulder, snap a picture, then expect to merge back into traffic in the ice. Besides, I didn't want to take my helmet off. The hail stung badly enough through my jacket as it was.

Yesterday afternoon I was in Salem. Once again, there was nasty weather. This time there was no ice, just torrential rains. From about 1 PM on I found myself barely able to see through the wall of water. The freeway had standing water for miles and miles. So far today the rain's been light but the wind blew me all around as I rode. I've decided to become a spectator from the warmth of my home office this afternoon. As I look out the window it appears the wind will soon have a lot of rain to play with. I can hear the wind howling out there right now. One of these days it will be warm and sunny. I've got a post in the works about a sunny Saturday two weekends ago. Katie and I rode to a historical old flour mill and took the tour. For now, though, I'm just staring at the pictures trying to remember what it feels like to ride in the sunshine!

No, the bike should be propelling you, not the other way around!

Saw this poor guy pushing his bike down the street. He's still got his leather jacket and helmet on. Don't know how far he's pushed the bike. By the time I got my bike pulled safely over, he looked to be nearly home as this street deadends at the canal in front of him. So I pulled out the Razor phone and snapped a sort of faraway picture. I'll probably be setting myself up for bad luck, but I haven't pushed a broken-down bike since 1987. There's been one or two training bikes, but that's a different thing. Knock on wood, my rides have been void of pushing encounters. Other than pushing my luck, of course. That's how I get my exercise!

The Best Buy guy upgrades his bike.

You might remember a post a while back where I wondered who this rider was. The old Yamaha had been parked at the same parking spot year 'round. Not continuously, of course. But it was plain that this person was commuting. Yesterday I saw a different bike in his accustomed spot.

This bike is obviously a KLR. No mistaking that distinct look. I don't know what year it is. There's almost thirteen thousand miles on the odometer. Since it wasn't critical I didn't really snoop for the manufacturer's plate. I did, however, go into Best Buy. I'd done this previously. That time I asked the greeter who it was that rode the bike. He didn't really seem to want to tell me. So I left a note asking him to give it to the rider. I don't think it happened. This time I bypassed the front desk. You know how it is with people. Sometimes if you just go up and approach someone with a direct question they'll answer it. A girl working in the digital camera department told me the rider's name was Cass and he worked in the media section. So I went there to inquire of a person in that department. They told me that Cass was off but had parked the bike there while he went to a movie on the other side of the mall.

One day I'll meet this guy and ask if he'd like to appear here. He certainly fits my definition of a motorcycle commuter. I just don't want to appear to be a stalker!

By the way, I think this guy rides for regular transportation, as well. It was his day off but he rode anyway on a bad weather day. In a strange coincidence, I found myself heading out of Salem around 6 PM. It was pouring rain but I saw the same bike parked on a downtown street. In front of another movie theatre. Hmm, wonder what he does in his spare time?

New toys

I've recently purchased a couple of new toys to try out. My boss gave me a gift certificate from Amazon.com for Christmas. Wanting to savor it for a while, I spent some time sort of dreaming and drooling. Reading a review in Motorcyclist Magazine, I decided to use the gift certificate for this. As a point of curiosity, I took a picture of the box up against a wall. I used the closeup feature of the Kodak point and shoot. It almost looks like it could be from a catalog, doesn't it?

Mostly when Katie rides with me, we each enjoy the silence. We've become accomplished at communicating the things we really need to. Once in a while, though, it would be nice to actually talk to each other. This is a helmet-to-helmet communicator. Each pod uses Bluetooth to communicate. There's no wires. Motorcyclist's editor, Mark Tuttle gave it a good review. Obviously it's not going to be as good as some fancy systems, but Mark said it was very functional. The other advantage is that the rider's pod will also interface with something like a GPS unit at the same time. Ihave the Garmin Zumo 550 which still needs to be wired into Sophie. You need external power to get the Bluetooth and voice prompts. The passenger won't be able to hear the voice prompts, just the rider. I know the box says it can be used for cell phones, too, but I'm not willing to go there. Part of the reason I ride is to find freedom. Being tied to a cell phone isn't only unsafe, it defeats the purpose in the first place.
Here's what the equipment looks like all laid out. Both pods have rechargeable batteries. The duo speakers are thin and light. The base for each unit is a quick mount to the helmet and doesn't have to be permanent. I'll let you know they work. Click here to see their website.

This is my other purchase.

It's an SLR digital camera. I'd been doing a little research here and there. Bryce was kind enough to send me a link to a website that reviews digital cameras. Once you wade through how to navigate and use the site, it's quite helpful. If you're interested, click here.

Gary, Steve, and I were the original Three Muskateers as far as the Ride to Work blogs go. Gary's dropped out to spend more time with the girls. I can really identify with that. Like Steve says, blogs are hungry creatures. If that time can only come at night at the expense of time with family, it's a huge sacrifice. Steve's gone on to blog in another arena. I feel like the "Old Man", now. Without Steve's great photos I feel a little pressure to upgrade my own photos. Not that I'll ever be on par with Steve. That's not my calling.

"Dammit, Jim, I'm a motorcyclist, not a photographer!"

I picked the Nikon for a variety of reasons that worked for me. Not the least of which is that Shutterbug was having an awesome promotion. The price on the camera was only down a little but they threw in a bunch of accessories for me. A monostick, a card reader, and a cleaning kit were some of them. I ended up with an Epson photo printer at a net cost of zero if I ever get the mail-in rebate. The manager was convinced by me to throw in a couple of filters. Then he gave me a hundred dollars off a 55-200 zoom lense with stabilization features built in.

Having better equipment doesn't automatically make one a better anything, I know. However, I've paid my dues with a few Kodak point and shoot cameras so I feel like I can expand my abilities somewhat with the new camera. So far it's not even out of the box but I'm looking forward to starting that journey soon.

By the way, with some new electrical wiring I'm doing on Sophie, I'm going to be making another purchase from Andy in the next day or two. It always blows me away how much stuff is available from them. If you haven't checked them out, go see them. The catalogs and online descriptions are always entertaining for an added bonus!

Once you get more than one or two electrical things wired onto a bike, you really should install a fused panel. Actually, you should do it for anything more than one thing. There's only one connection required to the battery that way. Nobody likes battery terminals that look like a mess of porcupine quills! The panel has several individually fused circuits. When the key is turned on the panel is energized. This also has the added advantage of preventing an electrical device from being left on, thereby promptly draining the battery. I hate it when that happens!

So that's it for now. Lots happening. Several of you have responded to my invitation to appear here as guests. It remains to be seen who will be the first. A reader named Ford ( I'll keep him mostly anonymous here ) suggested I name the guest spot. He pointed out that AutoWeek Magazine has a guest spot called "A Stint at the Wheel".

I think that's a totally great idea. He's put out a suggestion for a name. Do you all have any ideas on what to call it?

Miles and smiles,


Monday, April 21, 2008

"Snatch the pebble..."

"Quickly as you can snatch the pebble from my hand."

Thanks to David Carradine and the Kung Fu series these have become nearly immortal words. Master Kan tells young Caine that when "Grasshopper" successfully snatches the pebble it will be time for him to leave the temple. This time finally comes but there are many fruitless attempts in the meantime.

There was a time, so long ago it seems like another lifetime, that I was once "Grasshopper" to a Master. Hard as it is to believe, it's true. The best of us have to start somewhere. I encountered Master Don this weekend. I was doing some instructor training and he was teaching a class at the same site. I haven't seen Don in a while. Whenever I do, old memories come flooding back. Grasshopper has since surpassed the Master. That doesn't change the fondness and gratitude I still feel for Don.

Master Don is the greybeard in the first picture. The other instructor is Alain, a French Canadian whom I've had a large share in training. What makes my experience with Don so special is that I was lucky to have ever received it from him in the first place.

Have you ever heard it said of someone that they don't suffer fools gladly? That's Don to an extreme degree. Don has one focus. That's offering the best class possible to his group of students. Anything that interferes with that is considered a major annoyance. Don's very personable, extremely bright and articulate, and has the ability to understand exactly where each student's at during the weekend. I wish his jokes were of the same caliber. Oh well, no one's perfect! Until he retired, Don was the head of the Child Development Department at a community college. Don's a top notch instructor on many levels. I consider him to have truly earned the title of Master.

Now, you'd think an instructor like this should be training newcomers. After all, who better to get these new people started than a true master of his craft? You'd think so, but you'd be wrong.

Nowadays, instructor assignments are done from a central location. Headquarters handles all that now. Not so way back when. Each site had a site coordinator who handled all the local things like scheduling. Don was fiercely proud of his site. There was one instructor whom Don wanted to work with. He had one backup if the first instructor wasn't available. There were a few other instructors who Don approved of. These were assigned the rest of the classes. These few people taught almost all the classes at the site. Outsiders weren't welcome. Don didn't want to take a chance with anyone screwing up the high standards of his site. He also really didn't have the patience to nurture a new instructor. That made an interesting contrast. Don had all kinds of patience for his students but not for on-the-job trainees.

These days we start new instructors just on the range. Their first few classes are done with a Mentor nearby for support and backup. After successfully completing an internship, they then move on to learning the classroom. Not in my day. We were given some training and then sent out to do it all. Senior instructors were saddled with newbies. Their written evaluations were sent back to headquarters. Based on this feedback, headquarters decided when a new instructor was finally ready to sign off. After that they'd no longer have to work under the eyes of a Senior instructor. It could be a long process.

Enter me. A new instructor fresh out of my preparation classes. Somehow the Director talked Don into letting me come teach under his watchful eye. Don happened to have a class where his first and second choices weren't available. I was supposed to teach classroom while Don watched. At the same time, I faced the challenge of holding up my end of the range when the students were on the bikes. Don would rather have teeth pulled than sit and watch someone else teach his students in the classroom. His first words to me were,

"You'd better not screw anything up!!"

Ok. My very first class. No pressure. I'd heard of this guy. Had I ridden an hour just to come here to be abused and ridiculed? There were still two more days of training. Would I spend 6 hours commuting on my bike to endure 16 hours of hell at the hands of an impatient perfectionist? I was going to be evaluated by headquarters based on feedback from this man. Would his attitude result in my getting a bad review no matter how hard I tried? It sure looked like it. Thus were the circumstances for my very first class. Not a promising start, I told myself.

On the other hand, I've had some life experiences that conditioned me to perform at a high level despite tremendous negative pressure. I've written about that in previous posts so I won't go into it again. Suffice it to say, I'm very tough mentally and not easily intimidated. Sure, I'd need refinement and knowledge, but I was sure I could do this with the talents and skills I had. So I steeled myself and went for it despite the "old man". I say that because Don's looked exactly the same from the first time I met him.

Taking a deep breath, I started my classroom session with the 24 students. Pretty soon I had them laughing and involved with me. I watched a really strange thing happening in the back of the room. Don's face was drawn and dark in the beginning. Little by little I saw his face lighten. Way in the back of his brain there must have been this small thought. Something to the effect that this might not be quite as painful as he originally expected.

Long story short, we got through the weekend fine. Did I make a mistake or two? Dang right! Fortunately they weren't major blunders. What really blew me away is that Don invited me back!!!

I ended up teaching 23 classes at that site my first year. The first dozen or so were with Don. After I got signed off, which was a record time for a new instructor by the way, Don did classroom and I worked with him on the range. For the majority of the rest of the classes I did classroom, too. Don also kept me there for the second year. I think that year was over 30 classes for me. By then, headquarters had invited me to start reaching out for other opportunities and I parted from Don's site. Most instructors teach about 10 classes a year. By the end of my second year I had the equivalent of 5 years or so teaching experience. Not to mention the accelerated learning curve I'd been subjected to.

Today I have more certifications and privileges than any other of the roughly 150 instructors, including Master Don. That's not meant to be bragging. It's a preface for my next statement. Whatever I am today is because of Don. He saw a lot of potential and warmed up to me. Once that happened I received a training and education that was a tremendous gift. Don was a hard task master. He didn't cut me much slack. Actually, none at all! My demos better be exactly precise. As he told the students to look for something at a particular time I'd better be doing it right then. If a student failed it had better be because they just didn't have it in them to succeed. God forbid it be because I didn't do a good enough job of coaching!! You get the idea, I think.

Setting high expectations for me made me reach higher than I would probably ever have tried for on my own. I admit that I'd work harder to master something just to spite him sometimes. Spite tempered with deep respect.

"You said I couldn't do this? Watch this, you #$%#@^!"

During the first few classes I had trouble with the offset cone weave demonstration. One side of the range had the small offset weave and went uphill. The other side of the range had the large offset weave and went downhill. I was forever not carrying enough speed uphill and getting too much downhill. I'd practice on a site close to home and do it perfectly. Problem was, this site was flat. Once I got back to Don's site, I'd have troubles.

One day, in my frustration, I told the students to leave the bikes on the range when they got done riding. Don looked at me with a puzzled expression. Usually, we'd have them ride the bikes to the storage area. Since this was quarter mile away from the range, it saved us a lot of walking. It was bad enough bring bikes out in the mornings with no students. I was determined to get this demo right. Partly because of my own desire for mastery. Mostly because the looks I got from Don when I made a mistake nearly burned my face off!

I rode every bike through the weave circuit four times. Four times through, ride to the storage area, walk the quarter mile back to the range, and ride the next bike through four times. By the time I was done I had completed nearly fifty circuits and walked over three miles. Guess what? I conquered the demo. What's more, I could do it on any bike we had. My personal dragon had been slayed. By the way, during the classroom session Don had watched me from the window. The next morning he literally patted me on the back and said,

"Saw what you did yesterday. Also saw that you got it down. I'm impressed."

It was a rare instant of praise. The absense of negative feedback meant you were ok.

This wouldn't have worked for most new instructors. A first experience like mine would have crushed them. I was hungry to learn and I think Don was sort of pleased to pass along a legacy to someone he considered worth his efforts. Together we built a foundation for me that was easy to build on later.

A lot's changed over the years but Don's still teaching. I've called in a couple of favors and gotten a break from working with new instructors at the end of May. I'm going to be teaching with Don for the first time since I was new. He's doing classroom, of course!

I've snatched the pebble from your palm, Master. I shall keep the pebble as a precious momento. Thank you, Don!

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I'm going to be tied up for the rest of today and tomorrow manning a trade show booth. It will most be likely Friday before I post again. Then, Friday afternoon, it's off to Portland. My weekend will be two long days doing instructor training.

In the meantime, here's an invitation.

No matter how incredibly fascinating I may be, once in a while it would be nice to have a break, wouldn't it? That's where you come in.

I'd like to feature a guest here and there. This blog is particularly about using a bike for everyday transportation which includes riding to work. It would be great if you rode to work at least once in a while. That won't be mandatory, though. If you're reading this blog then your bike is more than just a show piece. That works for this situation.

If you'd like to share your story please let me know. I know there's some of you that are newer riders. You could share your training experiences, what's helped you advance your skills, why you started riding, etc. If you've been riding longer we'd love to hear your story, too. That's one of the neat things about riding. It acts as a catalyst that blends diverse personalities, experience levels, and occupations, among other things.

A picture of you and your bike would be great. There's some of you closer to me and I'd be happy to swing by with Sophie and take your photo. You can also share your own pictures. I can help with writing or we can just let it roll as you write it. It just seems like it would be fun to open it up a little, as it were.

Send me an e-mail expressing your interest and we'll work it out from there. I set up an account specifically for this. Any e-mail addresses or contact information you send will be held in strictest confidence. The only thing that will be revealed is what you ok for sharing in the blog posts.

Think it over and send me a note at intrepidcommuter@comcast.net Operators are standing by!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bike love?

Since I've been keeping this blog I find myself taking a lot of pictures of Sophie in various places. Sometimes because it's a good shot. More often, it's to prove that my bike's actually present, rather than the subject of some made up tale. Pictures make blog posts a little more interesting, too. A blog about riding should have pictures of my bike, right?

Something just happened that made me realize that not everyone sees it this way. Oh, the blog readers know exactly what's going on. You'd expect members of the general non-riding public to wonder who this person is taking all these pictures. They're not enlightened so why worry about what they think? In between, though, are those people who are supposedly bike enthusiastists, if not blog readers. You'd expect that they'd at least understand the attraction between a rider and his bike. Not always, it turns out!

Let me share this little story with you.

This is Theresa. She's a fairly new instructor. Theresa rides a Harley. She also drives a Mustang. I would suppose that she's a motorcycle enthusiastist. After all, she undertook the journey to become an instructor in the first place. Here she is, on the range, in a cold rain. Parked nearby is the Mustang. Remember, it's cold and rainy. A far cry from the warm sunshine we had on Saturday. I'm out and about on the bike. This is about 75 miles from home. It was dark and rainy when I left home. It's still rainy but no longer dark. I'm not teaching but I've stopped by for a while during my work day.

Sophie is parked next to the Mustang. Being an addicted blogger, I'm always on the hunt for relevant material. I've also grown accustomed to carrying my point and shoot digital camera whenever I'm on the bike. Which is almost always. After a while the camera's out. The bike and the Mustang together seems like a good photo. Sometime or other this picture will come in handy for a post. One thing leads to another. A shot is lined up, the shutter's squeezed, and thousands of little electronic particles are somehow aligned to creature an image. Because of the dark and cloudy day, the electronic flash illuminates. Here's the photo.

As soon as she saw the flash, Theresa asked me,

"Did you just take a picture of your bike?"

Suddenly I'm put in mind of a country song by Shania Twain. It's called "That Don't Impress Me Much". Here's some words from it.

You're one of those guys who likes to shine his machine

You make me take off my shoes before you let me get in

I can't believe you kiss your car good night

C'mon baby tell me-you must be jokin', right!

Oh-oo-oh, you think you're special Oh-oo-oh, you think you're something else

Is this how Theresa views me? Do other people see me taking photos and think I'm having a love affair with my bike? I'm just taking pictures for my blog, everyone! Come to think of it, though, my ride does look a lot cooler than the Mustang, don't you think? By the way, please turn your head away. It's time for Sophie's good-night kiss.

Miles and smiles,


Monday, April 14, 2008

More on mundane.

My oldest son, Dustin, sent me this via e-mail. I'm not sure whether to thank him or thump him. That depends on what he's trying to tell me, I guess!

I decided to post it here. Having no idea where it came from orginally, I can't make any sort of attribution. Sorry to whomever if my publishing it here is a problem.

It certainly fits in with what we've been talking about lately. The fact that using a motorcycle for everyday transportation can be somewhat less than exciting. In the same vein, I still struggle with totally giving myself over to comfort. There's still this romantic image in my head of the iron jawed hero laughing at the harsh environment while he rides with a minimum of creature comforts. I have a certain reputation to uphold, even if it's only in my own mind. Katie caught me up short one really cold morning a while back. She made this statement to me as I once again snubbed the electrics.

"It's pretty bad when you're still trying to prove something to yourself".

Anyway, here's what Dustin sent to me.


A C-130 was lumbering along when a cocky F-16 flashed by. The jet jockey decided to show off.

The fighter jock told the C-130 pilot, "watch this!" and promptly went into a barrel roll followed by a steep climb. He then finished with a sonic boom as he broke the sound barrier. The F-16 pilot asked the C-130 pilot what he thought of that? The C-130 pilot said,

"That was impressive, but watch this!"

The C-130 droned along for about 5 minutes and then the C-130 pilot came back on and said:

"What did you think of that?"

Puzzled, the F-16 pilot asked,

"What the heck did you do? "

The C-130 pilot chuckled.

"I stood up, stretched my legs, walked to the back, went to the bathroom, then got a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun."

When you are young & foolish - speed & flash may seem a good thing !!! When you get older & smarter - comfort & dull is not such a bad thing !!!

We old folks understand this one!

( end of message )

Fly fast and far. Fly low and slow. Mix it up a little. It's all good! What's important is that we fly ( or ride ) in the first place.

Miles and smiles,


Saturday, April 12, 2008

"Had to lay 'er down!"

Not me, of course. This was a snippet of conversation I heard at an adjoining table last night. Katie and I were at Red Robin. I'd had this huge urge for a bacon guacamole burger. I allow myself a artery hardening meal once a quarter or so.

At the table next to us were two couples. One of the guys had his lower leg in a cast. Short story was that he was telling his friends how he had to lay the bike down to avoid running off the road in a corner. I can't tell you how badly I wanted to turn around and say something. It doesn't help in these situations. So I stuffed my mouth full of burger and kept quiet.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard that same expression from people. This fallacy is everywhere. Do you remember a couple of posts ago where I included a newspaper article about how training has reduced fatalities in Oregon? In part of the article a man talks about how his son got killed on a bike. Here's a quote from the man.

A crash at a curve in the road three years ago claimed the life of Brandon Chike, 32, in one of the handful of fatal motorcycle crashes that happen each year in Oregon.

"He'd gotten in a fight with his girlfriend and took off on his bike like a maniac," said father Lewis Chike, a Keizer resident who would go on rides with his son every other weekend. "He lost it in a curve and hit a tree."Chike still rides motorcycles and is the owner of five, including two Harley-Davidsons.

He preaches the value of situational awareness to all his buddies."You have to be aware and watch everyone. You have to psyche yourself that the worst is going to happen at all times and be ready to act," he said. "You have to be ready to move or hit the brakes or lay the bike down at a moment's notice."

There it is, again. Be ready to lay the bike down at a moment's notice?

Even being a famous celebrity doesn't mean a rider knows the right thing to do, either. Here's an example from Arnold, the Governator. I mean no disrespect. Arnold's accomplished a great deal. This just illustrates how widespread wrong ideas are.

Before Arnold had the crash with his son in the sidecar, he had another crash. In this one Arnold was trying to avoid a truck. He laid his Harley down. The self-induced crash badly damaged the bike and broke three of Arnold's ribs. Here's the really odd part. Being a celebrity, Arnold was interviewed on national television. He was asked why he laid the bike down. Now, you'd expect some reasoned answer based on assessements of the situation. Instead, in front of God and America, this is what Arnold told the press: ( provide your own Austrian accent, here )

"Because that's how we did it in Terminator!"

It was a stunt in Terminator 2. That's where the picture of Arnold on the bike came from. What makes it worse is that Arnold is looked up to by many and will probably influence others in turn to do the wrong thing. It hangs on enough by itself without extra help.

If I'm wrong, Arnold, please correct me. However, there's a published record.

Remember the Hurt study? Want to know how many times in the thousands of accidents they studied that they would have recommended laying the bike down as an option? Not even once!

So why the lingering steadfastly held belief on the part of so many riders? Because once upon a time, in an age long ago, there was a grain of truth to this. It came from the very first police bikes being used. These bikes were, coincidently, cruiser styles from Indian and Harley. Technology was primitive, especially with brakes. Horsepower advances meant that the bike's ability to gain speed overpowered ( no pun intended ) the bike's ability to haul it down from those speeds. At that period in time the best way to stop a rapidly hurtling bike was to make it an anchor. It wasn't really a good technique but it was the lesser of two evils.

This is no longer the case. Brakes on every style of bike are up to the task of quick stops. Granted, some are better than others. When properly applied, however, bikes can be stopped pretty aggressively. Think of the situation in another way.

Laying the bike down is an accident. No two ways about it. It's a purposely induced crash. Does it usually help? Ask Arnold and his broken ribs. Ask the guy at the table next to me with his leg in a cast. Ask the guy killed ( if you could ) near here a few years ago. He laid his Harley down to avoid a truck. The bike never hit the truck but the rider smacked his head on the road and died. Can anyone really say they suffer less damage than if properly used accident skills were present?

Isn't that an irony? Accident avoidance skills. Laying the bike down and causing an accident on purpose to avoid an accident. Weird. What's got more traction for stopping? Brakes and tires or a rider's body and the bike's paint job? Like I said before, even if a rider ends up impacting an object, you can bet that staying on the bike until the last minute and braking hard is going to cause far less damage. Every mile per hour of speed scrubbed off weighs heavily in the equation.

Even better, rewind the film farther back. Can we detect hazards sooner and avoid being surprised at the last minute? Can we set up better for corners so we don't experience the danger of running off the road? So many better options, aren't there?

My wish is that I never hear that phrase used again. Maybe some day. Until then, I'll just keep trying to educate riders. There's a better way, let me show you!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Horses, buggies, and bikes.

I originally started this blog to illustrate how bikes could be a viable alternative to cars. A lot of us ride for fun and recreation. My goal was to do a little evangelizing on behalf of expanding the role of bikes in our transportation needs. My posts have been somewhat varied lately. First and foremost I have a passion for training riders. I'm sure that's shown a little in my blog! We all have things worth sharing. I believe that part of what we're here for is to add to the collective treasure vault of humanity. All contributions, large and small, are valuable. It's not so much that we're measured by exactly what we share. I feel we're measured by the simple fact that we give back. Like I say, we all have different talents and passions. Mine happens to be the two-wheeled world.

Recently I read a post by Steve Williams over at Scooter in the Sticks. The name of his post is The Plain Ride. Here Steve stated that a lot of his rides were uneventful. If he wasn't careful, they'd get downright boring. That really got me to thinking. In fact, I made a comment you can read there. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to write further about the subject. The idea of splitting this into two posts crossed my mind. I realize there's time constraints to blog reading time. Rather than interrupt the flow, I decided to let it go as one. It might be long. Sorry. I think you'll enjoy it, though. Maybe even find a further basis for contemplation.

It's time to come back to the very root of why I started this blog. My hope is to encourage everyone I can to use a bike as everyday transportation. Andy Goldfine and his crew have an organization devoted to commuting on a bike, Ride to Work. If you go there and click on the "Community" header, you'll find several blogs listed. These are written by my fellow evangelizers.

First off, nobody should have to suffer comparisons to anybody else. Favorable or otherwise. I'm hardcore. Not everyone is. Some people enjoy slowly puttering around the countryside. Others like to cover long distances with very few stops. I often see great divisions instigated by brands. I understand that humans like to hang out with others who share similar interests. A putterer is going to be frustrated riding with someone who wants to keep going. And vice versa. That's all well and good. My problem is when that goes too far. Everyone should ride for what they get out of it as long as it's not damaging the universal karma. Let that which we enjoy in common draw us together. Let not our unique differences tear us asunder.

Jumping off my pulpit, I return to using a motorcycle as everyday transportation. I took a few photos from my day Thursday. I'll use those to illustrate my message.

I strongly believe that not every ride is going to be "exciting". In fact, there's many times that I'm thankful to arrive home and be able to call a day "uneventful". Nobody can live on Red Alert all the time. There is such a thing as too much drama. Not to say that there will never be excitement. There's close calls. Conflicts with other road users will always exist. Opportunities to get away from traffic and wick it up a little will hopefully never cease to present themselves. Going out and expanding our skills will always offer a chance to scare ourselves in the name of growth. Not to mention those times when we jump on the bike and go out looking for adventure.

Mostly, though, my rides are what I call "mundane". Here's what Webster, you know the dictionary guy?, says about that word:

"Concerned with the practical details of everyday life".

What I'm really trying to say is that if we're using a bike as everyday transportation then a lot of rides are going to be mundane. Uneventful. Not exciting. Ok, maybe I wouldn't go so far as to say boring. Life on a bike is never boring!

I've seen comparisions here in the blogs to things like horses and Amish buggies. These were common modes of transportation. As were covered wagons.

I'm personally grateful to not have to hitch up a team of horses or pull all the tack out when I need to go somewhere. Enough time was spent around horses when I was younger. I've never had to scoop up after a bike. Somewhat like horses, though, bikes tread more lightly upon the earth. I take no end of satisfaction in that fact. That's wonderful by itself. I really like buying 7 gallons of fuel for the bike rather than 12 for our car to cover the same 300 miles. On top of all that, riding puts us in a position to experience the fulfillment of this statement:

"You never know when you'll be making a memory".

Mundane riding is more a matter of letting adventure finding you than actively seeking it. The key is that on a bike you're in a position to experience it. Gary Charpentier used to write about boxes in boxes. A car is a box. The artificial environment coddles the driver. It also greatly insulates them. Like on a horse or wagon, being on a bike puts us right out in the open. Nothing is hidden or withheld from us. I admit that also includes being wet and cold a lot. Even that makes for small, golden, moments.

Take this stop in the photos above, for example. It was below freezing when I left in the morning. Being stubborn, I left the really cold weather gear home. By afternoon the temperature was supposed to reach the upper fifties (f). My reasoning was that I'd be warmer later so why bother with all the stuff in the morning? Of course, there was a fatal flaw in my reasoning. I had a task later that could well last until after the sun set. Which meant I'd have to ride 45 minutes home in the cold. I totally forgot about that. What an idiot!

So here I was, freezing in the morning. My day was to be spent in Portland, a hundred miles North. I'd actually end up with close to 250 miles for the day round trip. After an hour on the road, I needed to stop and thaw. Right near I-205 is this historical site. As you can see from the signs, it's marking the end of the Oregon Trail that was used by settlers coming West. The special memory wasn't being at the park. No, it was finding that little spot of sunshine on a bench. How do I describe the delicious sensation of the sun slowly heating my blood and making me feel alive again?

What was even better was the reaction of a person coming to work there. He asked me if I was cold. I told him I'd just ridden an hour's worth and was totally freezing. He shook his head all the way up to the entry doors. Another memory that wouldn't have been made in a car.

I eventually thawed and made my way to Vancouver, Washington. As you go over the Glen Jackson Bridge, you're right under the approach to Portland International Airport. How to describe looking straight up into the belly of a big jet coming in to land? With nothing around me, I could feel the full rumble of the monster as it thundered over me.

We moved out of our office in January. Until we find a more suitable location we have a storage unit. Our mail is also being delivered here. The elderly gentleman who runs the office loves to talk about bikes. More than once I've seen customers forced to stand and wait until he finished his story to me. On the bike, I'm a royal visitor there. I don't know how many stories are actually true, but the telling of them is entertaining!

I needed to purchase a couple of small notebooks so a stop at a department store was in order. Don't you love the varied reactions from people when you stroll through a store in your gear? I really love it when a child is all wide-eyed and excited to see the helmet. They know exactly what that's all about, don't they? Commuting on a bike isn't growing a lot, but the number of recreational riders is increasing. Motorcycling is becoming more mainstream. Negative reactions are becoming fewer. I kind of miss that, to tell you the truth. I still get the stares like I'm crazy in bad weather, though!

This is a middle school parking lot in McMinnville. By now I have 200 miles on the clock so far. It's time for school to get out. I had just come from Quizno's where I had a late lunch. The store manager had asked me how I was. His conclusion was that I must have had a great day since I was on the bike. I had to agree. This parking lot is becoming a motorcycle training site. I was waiting for Ray and Ron to join me. We were going to lay out the range and make all the markings. This was going to take place to the left where all the cars are now. We'd first have to wait for the teachers to leave so we could have the parking lot to ourselves.

I thought that where the bike was parked would be out of the way. It was clear across the parking lot from the school. A couple of buses pulled in and them came all the way around. There was enough room behind Sophie that they went around her. Two more buses joined the line. By the time the fifth came around, I decided it was time to move. We went over to the left and took up residence by the light pole. The guys called and were running late. Nothing was going to happen for a while, anyway, so I got comfortable on the bike.

With my calves on the handlebars and my head on the Givi's backrest, life was great. It was the warmest I'd been all day. Having been chilled, my gear was still on. By the way, be sure to put the bike on the centerstand. I almost fell asleep waiting. The buses started leaving. I heard a young man's voice come from a bus window.

"Is that guy still alive?"

He and his buddy had a small discussion about it until I waved at them. A lot of the kids waved as they went past. It wouldn't have happened had I been sitting in a cage.

The three of us worked like gerbils on Speed and got the range completely laid out and marked. We were up against a long rainy spell. At 9 PM I saddled up Sophie and set out for home. Ray was in front of me in his Toyota truck. Somebody had to haul the paint and tools! Now it was just a run for home in the dark and cold. One more surprise was still in store.

Ray was continuing on to Corvallis. I turned off at Coffin Butte. Really dark, country roads lead into North Albany and then towards home. My plan was to run down Palestine Hill so I could take a look at my mother's and grandmother's place on the way home. That part came to pass but I had a little trouble with my headlight.

As I turned off I flipped the lights to high beam for a second to say goodbye to Ray. When I flicked them back down, they went out totally. Now I'm in the dark. Back to high beam and I had lights. As soon as I flicked back down to low beam I had nothing. So I rode with high beams for a while. Wouldn't you know it? Way out in the boonies there would suddenly have to be traffic. It's the middle of nowhere at 10 PM for heaven's sake! I did the honorable thing and rode in the dark while the cars passed. After working the switch repeatedly, I finally got low beams back. Some maintenance is definitely in order. Sophie's got a lot of miles. Who can blame her if she has little age related problems?

Looking back on the day there wasn't really anything that would have grabbed me and excited me to write about. Well, riding with no headlights for a bit might qualify. My mileage total was almost 250 miles. A casual observer would classify the day's travels as uneventful. That's pretty much par for the course for mundane transportation. When a bike's a regular mode of travel that's going to be expected. It's really as it should be. We run errands, we ride to work, we ride for work, it becomes a part of our daily activity. My wish would be to see a lot more of that kind of motorcycle use here.

Practical, but far from routine. Where else but on a bike could we make a million small, but precious memories! Plenty of stuff to fill in the uneventful times between big adventures, no?

Miles and smiles,


Monday, April 07, 2008

Sometimes you feel like you make a difference!

Here's an article from the Statesman Journal. It's the daily newspaper from the State Capitol. It's got me jazzed for the rest of the week! Be aware that I'm reproducing the article faithfully. I do not totally agree with some of the comments made. We can talk about that later. The point is that training DOES make a difference.

Oregon bikers beat national safety record
Training credited with keeping state fatalities lower

DENNIS THOMPSONStatesman Journal
April 7, 2008

Oregon's motorcycle riders have earned an enviable safety record during the past six years, consistently beating the national fatality rate for bike crashes, according to state and national statistics.

Riders here have died less frequently in wrecks than those across the United States, despite having 43 percent more motorcycles on Oregon roads than there were in 2001, according to statistics kept by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The 2006 fatality rate for motorcycle wrecks in Oregon is 3.9 deaths for every 10,000 registered bikes, slightly less than half the nationwide rate of 7.3 deaths per 10,000 registrations.

The national fatality rate for motorcycle crashes has risen steadily alongside the increasing number of registered bikes, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Motorcycle proponents and state traffic safety officials agree that training is the main reason motorcycle riders fare better in Oregon.

About 70 percent of riders receive safety and skills lessons through Team Oregon, a training course sponsored by the Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon State University, said Michele O'Leary, ODOT's motorcycle safety program manager.

In particular, the Team Oregon training is mandatory for people younger than 21 who want to ride motorcycles, leading to better lifetime road skills, O'Leary said.

"We have a really strong rider education program, that has been awarded nationally as one of the best in the country," said Brian Stovall, executive director of BikePAC of Oregon, an advocacy group for motorcycle enthusiasts.

That program has gotten better during the years as trainers have made vast improvements over the nationally accepted curriculum, Stovall said.

For example, Team Oregon offers more advanced training on steering through a corner than can be found in other states. Cornering is one of the trickiest skills to master.

A crash at a curve in the road three years ago claimed the life of Brandon Chike, 32, in one of the handful of fatal motorcycle crashes that happen each year in Oregon.

"He'd gotten in a fight with his girlfriend and took off on his bike like a maniac," said father Lewis Chike, a Keizer resident who would go on rides with his son every other weekend. "He lost it in a curve and hit a tree."

Chike still rides motorcycles and is the owner of five, including two Harley-Davidsons. He preaches the value of situational awareness to all his buddies.

"You have to be aware and watch everyone. You have to psyche yourself that the worst is going to happen at all times and be ready to act," he said. "You have to be ready to move or hit the brakes or lay the bike down at a moment's notice."

O'Leary and Stovall disagree on another possible explanation for Oregon's superior safety record — the fact that the state has held firm on its requirement, adopted by voters in 1998, that all motorcycle riders wear helmets.

O'Leary said the helmet law is a cornerstone of the state's safety record.
"Anybody that's wearing a helmet will have less severe injuries," she said. "That's pretty well proven."

Stovall thinks the law actually undermines rider safety because when helmets are required, cheap and less protective models flood the market.

"You get cheap junk helmets in mandate states," Stovall said. "We feel education is a more powerful tool than mandates."

For his part, Chike said he supports the helmet law.

"You can have an arm or a leg torn off and still live," he said. "You tear your head off and you're dead. We're all tough, but our heads are pretty vulnerable."

Motorcycle crash deaths remained relatively stable during the first part of this decade in Oregon, fluctuating from a low of 28 deaths in 2002 to a high of 45 deaths in 2005. In the last year for which stats are available, 2006, 43 people died.

At the same time, there has been a steady rise in the number of motorcycles on Oregon roads, from 76,097 in 2001 to 108,958 in 2006.

The motorcycle riders who suffer fatal crashes in Oregon tend to be older. The average age of the 43 motorcyclists who died in 2006 was 45, close to the median age of 47.

That's because older riders tend to be able to afford high-powered motorcycles that prove to be more than they can handle, O'Leary said.

"They're buying these better bikes but are a little rusty on their skills, so they're crashing," she said.

Stovall agreed. "It's people who maybe had a little experience earlier in their lives who get back into it but don't bother to go get training," he said.

dmthomps@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6719

Miles and a huge smile,


P.S. Got some great post material from last week. Stay tuned and ride safe!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Will Spring ever come?

I think Spring may have finally gained a toehold. Based on the past month, though, who knows? It seems like I've been doomed to commute and teach classes in the snow for months. This shouldn't be happening.

Please don't take this as excessive whining! I know that there are huge floods in some areas and lots of snow still on the ground in others. Places that aren't covered in some form of water have been blown away. What we've been dealing with here is small potatoes in comparison. Even at that, though, we're not supposed to have these kind of adverse weather conditions. Actually, I wouldn't really even care if it weren't for trying to teach motorcycle classes.

According to the weather guy this has been the second coldest March in three decades. My first class of the year got snowed out. I posted that story earlier. We've seen lighter snow showers all along. This last week, Spring Break, no less, saw me taking part in two classes. Both, at the end of March, almost got cancelled out by snow. Can you believe that? Check out this video. This was last Wednesday in Portland. Just a couple of miles East of Interstate 5. It was a midweek class at Portland Community College's Sylvania Campus. The elevation is about four hundred feet. I usually don't include videos here. This one proves my point in spades so I had to put it in. A KGW news person was taking pictures of the snow. They happened to catch a little bit of our class. The video's about two minutes long. Watch for us about halfway through. Click here to see it, but please come back!

Friday afternoon Katie and I left for Medford. I mentioned that before. Between here and there are four passes. The lowest is a little over 1700 feet high. The highest of the four is 2020 feet high. The transportation department report said there was slushy snow on the freeway. One of my friends had come back through there and verified the report. I'm sorry to disappoint those who expected me to be more hard core, but I did have Katie with me, you know. So we drove. I know, what a sissy! All I can say is that I didn't want to blatantly endanger my sweetie. A heavy snow and rain mix fell the entire way down. The temperature hovered at 34 degrees (f). We would have been ok on the bike but Katie would have been pretty darn miserable.

Medford is at an elevation of 1280 feet above sea level. When we went out into the parking lot at 6 AM Saturday the pavement and all the cars were covered in a thin sheet of ice. Fluffy snow flakes, in turn, covered the ice.The temperature was down to 22 degrees. Traction on a bike would have been really dicey.

We almost had to cancel class but managed to get it in. Part of the problem was with trying to keep eye protection on the students. We require either glasses or faceshields be used whenever they're on the bikes. It was so cold and moist that the eye protection would instantly fog up. What a struggle! Eventually we got above freezing. Right about the time to go into the classroom, unfortunately.

Sunday was the last day of March. It snowed all day. Fortunately, the snow melted as soon as it hit the ground. We still froze. I was acting as a mentor to an instructor in his very first class. This meant we were pretty much joined at the hip all morning. All for one, and one for all. All three of us froze. At least the students had warm motors under them! What an eye opener for a brand new instructor. He was awesome despite all the adversity. We also had a few very difficult students on top of everything. There were some interesting stories this weekend. Maybe I'll share some later.

We're known for our rainfall, not snow. I like snow but I hope it ends so we can get on with our training season. Commuting, however, hasn't stopped. I ride all year but I have to admit I like warm better than icy. Things are looking up in that regard. Here's a couple of totally different pictures from today. I stopped in for lunch at the Oregon State University campus.

This is one of the bike only parking spots on campus. There was actually one more cruiser earlier. On the way back to Sophie I snapped this picture with my camera phone. Sorry these pictures aren't totally clear. The sun was so bright I couldn't see my phone's display so I sort of guessed.

Like Krysta said, Sophie cleans up pretty well. I do like trying to keep bikes clean. Sophie's got enough wear everywhere that she looks road worn even when clean. She's pretty spiffy right now.

Today the temperature climbed to a dizzying 50. The weather guessers say we could see lower 60's by Thursday. Maybe Spring is finally gaining the upper hand. I've got several meetings tomorrow. My biggest challenge is to figure out how to get the most miles in between meetings and still be on time!

Miles and smiles,


P.S. Thanks so much for all the comments on the last post. Life gets so hectic that I'm sometimes tempted to let the blogging go by the wayside. Your comments remind me of how many friends I have in the blogging neighborhood. My enthusiasm get rekindles once more!