Friday, June 27, 2008

Sharin' the Road!

This week's turned out to be busier than expected. The good news is that work required me to take a couple of nice trips on the bike. On Wednesday I rode to a casino on the Oregon Coast. It really was business, I swear. Yes, I was much warmer than in the story Ralph relates. I've made the same trip to Newport many times. The return trip up Hwy. 101 was awesome. We came back on the same road Ralph talks about, as a matter of fact. Katie was with me so it was even better.

On top of all that, I had some evening meetings. Blogging time was hard to come by. So I'm sorry to say you'll have to wait until next week to get Part II of the Great Harley Adventure on the track. There's also some news on the new bike front. That will have to wait, too. It just wouldn't be right to steal the thunder from this week's guest. Even my guest spot is a day late. Yikes!

Speaking of guests, I'm greatly pleased to introduce Ralph from Canby. That's about 45 miles North of me. Ralph doesn't live far from one of the tracks we use to teach the ART course. Without further ado, I'm turning the keyboard over to Ralph.

My name is Ralph. I live in Canby, Oregon. I have worked for the U.S. Postal service for the last twenty years and riding motorcycles is where I find my balance. No one can interrupt a chain of thought while you are riding. The white noise created by the rushing wind is the most calming sound I know. Here is a brief rundown on my biking history. I began riding dirt bikes in the eighth grade. I had a Suzuki RM125 and beat it up pretty good doing some very crazy things. It was a GREAT albeit sometimes painful time in my life. I progressed through several bikes before leaving for four years to Japan onboard the carrier USS Midway. When I came back to the states I got stationed in Washington State. I took the course they offered on base which was co-instructed by a Washington State trooper [man that guy could ride]. I made it out of the class alive and spent almost every day for two years on my Virago. Rain, snow, cold, five miles to base and five miles back.

A brief story about me and my Virago. I had just gotten out of the Navy and was working for my Dad as a brick mason. I lived in Albany, Oregon, and we were doing a job in Newport. Money was tight and my wife needed our one little car, so “no biggy”, I thought, “I'll take my trusty steed to the coast.” Well, whether from youthful ignorance or blind stupidity I took off at 6:00 AM wearing cotton gloves and a nylon jacket in 40 degree weather. A few miles out of Philomath I pulled over and huddled close to my motor to thaw out. Did I say huddle? I meant hugged. I don't think I have ever been that cold before! When I regained some feeling in my limbs I got back on and headed up the mountain, a mountain now thick with fog. I slowly worked my way around the curves with almost no visibility. Suddenly there was a deer right in front of me. A dead deer. I hit that carcass at 40 mph. I'm not quite sure how, but I kept everything upright and eventually made it to the job. When I got off the bike something smelled really good, like a barbecue. It was at that moment that I noticed my motor was covered in venison, and it was about medium rare I would say. I was very fortunate that day and I am pleased to say that in the twenty one years since that incident there have been no major mishaps.

Motorcycles have come and gone. I currently ride an '06 Harley Sportster. It is difficult to explain why I love riding so much. Who can say why a perfect switchback is so exhilarating? Why do I complain about the house being cold then turn around and ride in thirty degree weather and love it? These are questions most bikers can identify with. The older I get the more I'm convinced it is either in your DNA or not. For many people it is probably there dormant, waiting for someone to bring it to life. Such is the case with my son. I have always discouraged Ben from riding motorcycles, knowing if he really wanted to he would anyway when he was on his own. Moving to Bothell, WA, and having work associates who ride gave a jolt to his dormant DNA. I am fortunate that my son respects me enough to listen, and weigh my advice. I just don't think he expected such an onslaught of advice. Though many people told him different things [everyone’s an expert] he listened to me and got a middle weight cruiser.

This is a picture of my son twenty-one years ago and today on his Vulcan 500. In hindsight it looks like maybe I had a little something to do with his liking bikes after all. He has treated riding as a very serious thing and with each month that passes I worry less. I only wish we lived closer so we could share some trips.

Whether you ride a scooter or a Goldwing, you are part of a community and that is part of the lure. Our backgrounds are diverse but we share a love of riding. That to me is what the wave is all about. It is a simple non-verbal way to say “you get it”.

Let me finish with a suggestion and a quote. If at all possible find time to ride the Cascade Lakes Hwy this summer.

Then stop at Manley’s in Crescent City for their famous deep fried chicken. You won't regret it. Remember what Peter Fonda told the guys at the end of the movie Wild Hogs - “lose the watches”.


As a side note, thank you, Ralph, and all like you for your service in the Military!

Good advise from the movie quote. You know, I've tried to "lose the watch". Unfortunately, I'm cursed with an inner clock that is always pretty close. I try to use it to my advantage. In other words, at least I know exactly how long I've been able to enjoy a ride!

He didn't mention it in the post, but Ralph is a fellow blogger. His blog is called "Wolf's Eyes". You can check it out here.

All of my end of the month paperwork that Corporate demands is done. It's time to pack up and make the three and a half hour trip to Medford. Another weekend of getting new riders onto the right path awaits!

I'm always deeply honored when folks write in and want to share their story with us. Don't hold back if you think there's a flood of posts waiting. That happened at first. Now, though, posts trickle in at just the right rate. It's so neat to see this feature able to appear for so many weeks now. Drop me a line at What is it that Tom Bodett from Motel 6 used to say?

"We'll leave a light on for you!"

Of course, I showed up once and it turned out they'd left the light on for someone else. I promise it won't happen here!

Miles and smiles,


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,


Monday, June 23, 2008

Home again....for a while!

This post isn't technically about riding. Which is rare for me, I know. Seems like I live, eat, and breathe motorcycles. Naturally, then, this blog has been about promoting bikes for regular transportation. Since we're going to be on them so much, we need to learn to be the best we can be. Sounds like an affirmation from the military, doesn't it? Be the best you can be!

In a small deviation from riding and training, I'm putting a small update here about the weekend's wedding. Although I did manage to work a motorcycle into this post. Big suprise, huh?

We arrived home last night. Except for a couple of quick pit stops, we made it in a little over five hours. That's a lot of sitting. One thing that often gets overlooked as part of rider training is the physical aspect. More specifically, staying in as good physical shape as possible. It helps greatly with bike control and concentration. The longer the trip, the more important endurance becomes. Not just enduring in the common sense of the word. I'm speaking of still being able to concentrate on riding, managing risk, and maintaining fine motor skills. If all we can think about is our sore knees and aching back, well, you can see the confict.

The reason I mention this is that I'm finding myself getting a little distracted, so to speak, after five or so hours in the saddle these days. It's time to revive the long cold gym membership. There's a chiropractor in my neighborhood. Not that I'm using his services. It's just that I took this picture. Seems to describe what I'm talking about.

I'm hoping the bike isn't the cause of the trip to the chiropractor! Nice bike, though. Here's a closer look at the bike.

For the most part, the weather was warm and muggy in the Tri-Cities, Washington area. It didn't rain except for one notable exception.

The wedding reception was held out of doors. Some tents were set up but most of the table and chairs were distributed out in the open. The Weather Guessers had told us the evening before that there would be a ten percent chance of showers late Saturday night. These photos are from about 5 PM. The rain was not only early, but more plentiful than anyone might have guessed.

A hearty thunder and lightning storm blew through. Katie and I were already under the tent when things started. We were soon joined by almost all the other guests in short order!

These gals were holding the vases of flowers that had been put on all the tables. Making a mad dash for the house must have seemed the thing to do at the time.

Here you can see the water pouring off the top of the tent. I have to say it was kind of neat to just sit back and watch things swirl around me. The storm put a literal damper on some of the dancing plans, etc., but I met some really interesting people during the ensuing conversations under the tent!

The schedule's sort of light this week so I'm planning to catch up on some blog posts that have been floating around in my head. Friday will see me heading back to Medford for another weekend of teaching. I'm riding down there to help out a budding new instructor. She's on the verge of bursting into greatness. The plan is for me to guide her over a couple of little bumps she's encountered on the journey. Another five hundred miles or so of riding. Life's tough, eh?

I have to say I'm pleased to see Steve Williams ( yeah, I'm talking about you, Bud! ) comment on a recent post of mine. No pressure, but I'm hoping to see a few more posts on Scooter in the Sticks besides the new one Steve just put up. Steve's always been the genteel counterpoint to my rough warrior personality! You can go play with tractors, agricultural implements, or whatever, as much as you like, but two wheels gets into your blood, doesn't it? I just happen to be more shameless than most about my addiction!

Thanks, again, to everyone who's reading and / or commenting. Knowing you're out there keeps me inspired to continue. This blog's been around for longer than I thought it would. After all, how much is there to talk about? Yet, new things continually keep unfolding during this journey. Guess I'll just keep writing as long as I feel there's something meaningful to say. I always hope people find some small thing of personal value when they rummage around here. I'm especially pleased to find that guests continue to trickle in for the Sharin' the Road segment. You all add so much more depth to this site. You also reinforce the fact that we are, in fact, a community. Successfully blending our diversity makes us so much richer. I hope folks keep sharing their personal treasures with us here.

Stay tuned for my experience with the "Dark Side"!

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sharin' the Road!

I'm on the road without my usual resources. Open a map of Oregon. Look clear at the top of Oregon and you'll see a river dividing Oregon and Washington. It's the mighty Columbia. Somewhere a hundred miles East of Portland is the town of The Dalles. Weird name, but it's from the French word "dalle". If I remember correctly, the word has something to do with water flowing quickly over flat basaltic rocks. There's a big dam here, busily supplying the ever growing hunger for electrical power. We're in a hotel a couple stone's throw away from the river. The plan is to be in the Richland-Kennewick, Washington area by tomorrow night. We'll spend the rest of the weekend there. Thanks to a laptop and wireless internet, I can put this post up from our hotel.

We made a couple of stops along with my business appointments. Did a little bike shopping. I'm dismayed to see the 2008 Honda ST1300's with ABS almost all gone, already. The more I think about it, the more I'm drawn to the BMW R1200RT, or maybe the K1200GT. I rode a student's R1200RT on the track last weekend. Love the way it feels on the track. He practically had to wrestle me off the bike to get it back! Going to have to do something pretty darn quick, me thinks! Otherwise, I could be waiting a few more months for the 2009's.

This week I'm honored to introduce Krysta Sutterfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I know what you're thinking. She's a rider from the heart of Harley country. However, there will be no Harley on the blog this week. On the other hand, Krysta's sent me photos of several bikes so there's some nice variety. Enough from me. Let's hear from Krysta.

My name is Krysta and I’m a motorcyclist.

I don’t know why I got the bug to ride, because nobody in my family rode. In fact, my parents thought it was dangerous and unladylike. (17 years after I started, my big brother decided it looks like fun. The whimp didn’t tell Mom until she went to visit for a week.)

My first bike was a 1990 125cc Yamaha scooter named Candy. She was an automatic so I didn’t have to worry about shifting while I was learning to ride. I bought her during my first job after my first time through college and had a blast riding everywhere. My riding needs had changed, so I sold her last summer. ::sniffle::

Before I met Karl, I always wore a helmet (open-face), but other than that the idea of safety gear never entered my mind. Same for a safe riding course. I’m sure if I had known about either one, I would have taken training and worn proper gear. Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t get hurt.

Karl & I met a bit over 3 years ago at a Mensa Halloween convention in Chicago. In getting to know him that weekend, I admired the motorcycle he’d ridden, he promised me a ride in the sidecar, and our relationship took off from there.

At first, he was happy that I had my own endorsement. Then he realized that meant I was always absconding with one of his bikes. Then he bought me my own. I think he likes me. : )

The next motorcycle I rode was Frank, who is the sidecar & our only winter bike [1000cc ‘82 BMW]. Karl figured that while I was concentrating on learning to shift, at least I wouldn’t tip over. We’ve taken some long trips in Frank, alternating driving and sleeping.

Then he put me on a 500cc Yamaha, which was great for around town but a little underpowered for freeways. The easiest, most direct route between our houses uses a couple of freeways, so this was important. The Yamaha was sold to a friend who is smaller and doesn’t ride on freeways, so it has a good home now.

My daily commuter is Betty [650cc ‘86 BMW]. We bought her a little over a year ago. As far as we know we’re the 3rd owners, and the first 2 didn’t love her at all. I’ve put about 7500 miles just on her this past year, which is coming close to doubling her mileage. I rode her to the rally at the Biltmore estate last June, and that was a fun trip. (Except for the crosswinds on the freeways, and the guy who tried to hit both of us with his Mustang. He only got a couple months in jail, but it’s better than nothing.)

There have been several other bikes in the stable, all of which I’ve ridden to some degree. (Except for Binky, who is still in the milk crates he arrived in.) The most interesting day of riding I’ve had was taking Candy to Karls house, then Flash [’03 1150cc BMW roadster] on a 2-hour drive, then the sidecar around town once we got there, then reversing it all at the end of the day. Extremely different riding styles needed for each of them.

Spring of ’07 I took a basic safety class and enjoyed it. I learned things, corrected some bad habits, and more or less got over my fear of curves. (Did I mention I’d crashed in OCT06? In a curve? Now I know how tar snakes make the bike slip.) I keep threatening to register for one of Dan’s advanced classes. It’d be quite a commute, but fun.

If I could find a place to sponsor me for the state training, I’d like to be a motorcycle safety instructor. (I teach boating safety for the Coast Guard and the Wisconsin DNR, so I know I can handle the teaching part of things.) Meanwhile, I try to set a good example, be a courteous rider, wave to kids, and talk up safety gear and courses whenever I get a chance.


I suddenly have the urge to find a hack and go play in the snow!

The garage door's always open and the coffee pot's full. Drop by and introduce yourself to us. Krysta made an interesting comment when she sent me her post. She commented on how everyone seemed to be doing introductions. That's perfectly fine, especially for the first time here. Feel free to branch out. I'm open to other things like sharing an amusing experience or a fun ride. Even something that happened where you might feel our community could gain some valuable insight about riding. Send it along to and let me take a look at it.

By the way, there's been several responses to my invitation to be added to the blog roll. When I get home on Monday I'll catch up on that task. I'm pleased that so many are reading and want to be associated with my blog!

Miles and smiles,



Monday, June 16, 2008


Yes, I know this is a picture of a jelly roll, not a blogroll. It's been a long ride. I'm sitting in a hotel room near Seattle. Thinking of supper. All I've eaten today were an energy bar and two pieces of jerky. My belly thinks my throat's been cut!

My plan is to go back and fill in more details later. This is just a quick update and note.

Friday saw me headed South to Medford. Four of us travelled down to teach an Advanced Rider Training course on a local track there. Medford is around 225 miles as the Honda flies. Classroom was done at a Harley dealership. Twelve of the seventeen students were Harley mounted. I went early to scope out the locations. You can imagine the feeling being on a Honda and pulling into the Harley dealership. Not that I would ever be intimidated, mind you. A couple of guys tried and failed. More on that later.

After a long day at the track, three of us rode the long way home. Sunday was a kickback day, being Father's Day. Had to be home for that.

Today finds me a few hundred miles in the opposite direction. There's a corporate meeting tomorrow I need to attend. Sometime just before bedtime I'll roll into the homestead once more. Wednesday will be spent working from the home office. Thursday Katie and I are headed out. There's the wedding in Richland, Washington on Saturday. I'm combining the weekend with a business trip on both sides. We're driving, of course. Something about Katie and arriving at the church in her fancy dress for the wedding on the bike. I say change at the church. She says helmet hair doesn't go with the dress and shoes. Oh, well!

Posts will be a little spotty this week but next week will make up for it. I will get the Sharin' the Road post up for Thursday, however. Laptops and wireless internet can be a blessing!

It's sort of filtered into my consciousness that I really haven't done much with adding anyone to my blogroll. It's not intentional, I just seldom think of it. I still have Gary and Steve there for old time's sake as we were sort of the original Ride to Work blogs. I read many fine blogs on a fairly regular basis. I've noticed several have links to my site. I have to admit to being sort of remiss about returning the favor. So sorry.

My blog was started on the premise of riding to work. So, if you ride to work (even if it's on a spotty basis ) and feel you'd like to be linked on this blog, please let me know. I'd be quite pleased and honored to add you to the blogroll. Let me know in the comment section or post me a line at Please be sure to include the url just in case I don't already have it bookmarked.

And, if you just happen to have an extra jelly roll hanging around, send it along!

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sharin' the Road!

This week I'm pleased to introduce a fellow blogger, Kano. He's from Oregon's State Capitol, Salem. That's about twenty miles North of me. So far we seem to have missed meeting each other in person. However, I'm pretty sure we've traversed the same roads. Like Kano says, it's possible we passed going opposite directions, waved, and never realized who the other was. May have to fix that soon. Be advised that no consideration was given Kano for his kind words about my blog. I mean, I like it, but that's certainly not a requirement to be featured here!

With that, here's Kano.

Dear Irondad, this email is in response to your invitation for people to send their stories to you for your blog:

I go by the handle Kano and I've been riding quite a while now. I rode off and on when growing up and in my early adult years and then when I got to be in my 40s the mid-life bug bit me hard and I got my first Sportster, an XL883C. That was about 8 years ago. I had to sell it to fund moving back to Oregon from Texas. But once I got my feet back on the ground I got another one, this time an XL1200C. A definite improvement from the 2001 model to the 2006 model I now have. Rubber isolation engine mounting keeps the shake out and the bigger 4.5 gallon tank from 3.3 gallon makes fuel stops less frequent.

When I started looking around the internet for motorcycle blogs, Irondad's was one of the first ones I ran across and have been following his excellent posts ever since. In fact I was inspired to start my own motorcycle blog and have been at it for most of a year now. It's called Motorcycle & Scooter Talk at Kano's Coffee House. I put up a link to irondad's blog and encourage my readers to check it out. Irondad brings the much needed perspective of a motorcycle safety instructor which is even more relevant and in need than ever. With the rising fuel prices comes a dramatic increase in new riders of motorcycles and scooters.

I've been riding steady, year around for the past 8 years now and in that time my riding style has changed. I've moved from a recreational rider and sometimes commuter to a daily commuter and infrequent recreational rider. The cost of the premium gas my Sportster takes has curtailed my pleasure cruising dramatically. I do enjoy the ride to and from work though and sometimes take the long way home. (Don't tell my wife!)

In addition to Irondad keeping his readers more safety aware, I also enjoy his humor and local riding stories. I'm just up the road from him in nearby Salem and enjoy reading about roads and places that I know and have been to. We may even have exchanged waves without even knowing it. Irondad, you'll recognize me this way; I'm the only guy around with a black Sportster, full face helmet and reflective textile jacket with body armor!


I know I'll be looking for that combination whenever I'm in that area, now!

There's been a few local riders here, lately. Don't hold back from sharing just because you live farther away. Amazingly enough, I have readers from literally all over the planet. We'd love to meet you. Drop me a line at and introduce yourself. I can help with putting the post together if you'd like. I'd be honored to have you grace us.

Miles and smiles,


Monday, June 09, 2008

On the softer side.

Katie looked out the window the other day and called for me to come take a look. Here's what I saw when I gazed outside.

This is our cat Heidi. She's nineteen years and three months old. Heidi's lived with us since she was a new kitten. We have a kind of love / annoyance relationship these days. The cat reminds me of a spinster aunt who just keeps hanging on. All the girlishness has disappeared from her voice. What's left is the harsh, grating, tones of a demanding attitude. That's Heidi these days. She follows us around, uttering her demands with the most obnoxious tone possible. If she's not in the house, she's demanding to be let in. Then she forgets why she wanted in and demands to be let back outside.

It's hard to even pet her anymore. Despite the fact that we feed her well, Heidi's got the bony frame befitting her hundred and a quarter plus cat years. It feels a little better to scratch her behind the ears or under the chin. Even that's difficult as the cat constantly moves her head all over. She's trying to have that elusive spot scratched. Only thing is, it's so elusive that even she doesn't know where it is so the search never ends.

Nonetheless, she's been a part of the family for nearly a fifth of a century. Gotta love her.

I'd pulled Sophie up under the carport after coming home. Not long after, the cat's curled up next to the rear tire.

Heidi usually prefers to be sleeping under the chair at our computer desk. If she's outside, most of her time is spent snoozing in either a small house I built for her or in the bark dust under the dining room window. The cat's life could be so much more productive if only she could learn to get by on 17 hours sleep! Most of her life is spent looking for a place to sleep. For some reason, Heidi chose to sleep next to the bike this time. That was unusual for her.

Was it the warmth of the tire and engine? Once upon a time she would occasionally jump up onto a bike seat. She's too old for that now. As far as I know, I hadn't run over any small rodents, the smell of which might have attracted her. I've never been known to stash catnip on any of my bikes. There wasn't a reasonable explanation at hand.

I prefer to believe that she just felt closer to me sleeping beside the vehicle that I use so much. Only the cat knows the truth and she doesn't seem inclined to tell!

Miles and smiles,


Catching up.

Dean is a fellow instructor and good friend. He's recently taken to reading and commenting here. He and I cross paths pretty often in our various functions with the training program. Both of us are certified to teach our Advanced Rider Training Course and things in between.

The reason I mention Dean is that I'm looking for an ally here. I'd certainly hope that I'm not the only one psycho enough to give up so many of my weekends to improve the lot of motorcycle riders!

As Dean will hopefully readily attest to, once you have the training bug, it can hit pretty hard. Like anything we have a passion for, once we find an outlet for it, we become addicted. That's how the month of June, which was supposed to be a very light training month for me, ended up seeing every weekend save one filled with teaching duties. There's a huge demand and my passion makes it hard to say no. Between work during the week and work on the weekends, I'm finding myself in a position of playing catch up with the blog and many other things.

An old friend of Katie's is getting married in Richland, Washington on the 21st. I've already turned down several teaching opportunities to keep that weekend open. Out of honor to my best buddy, I'll make sure we can go to the wedding together. Richland is something like 5 hours away so we'll make it a mini-vacation weekend and stay at a nice hotel.

The demand for training classes seems to be going up again. Last weekend was a "train the trainer" event for me. In the process the instructors participating in the activity tooks turns stepping in to work with the students. We call it Step-up Training. It's a great chance for instructors to hone their craft. It's not mandatory by any means. To the great credit of our instructor corp, each session has a decent turnout. Actively teaching allows opportunity for instructors to visit with the students. This class drew students from the Portland area. This is the largest city in Oregon. More and more students, this class included, are citing the rising fuel prices as their reason to ride. Little by little the sport of motorcycling is become a little less sport and a little more utilitarian.

I don't know how long the situation will last but for now the number of people riding to work is increasing. I'm seeing more bikes in business parking lots. There's also plenty of bikes in places like this one near the OSU campus. That's Sophie in the foreground with my 'Stich thrown over the seat.

About three years ago I did a cost analysis between riding Sophie and driving a small car that gets thirty miles per gallon. My comparison was based on twenty thousand miles, which I easily do in a year. My actual number of miles is higher. Since August 15, 2006 I'm at a little over 48,000 miles. Continuing at the same rate, my average will be 27,428 miles for the two years ending this August.

For the first time, it actually comes out cheaper overall, not just in fuel costs, to ride a motorcycle. In the previous comparison, the car came out slightly less expensive. This was figuring in the cost of tires, insurance, maintenance, and fuel. The biggest factors were the 16,000 mile valve adjustment intervals and higher tire costs for the Honda motorcycle. The difference between 30 miles per gallon for the car and 46 miles per gallon for the ST just didn't bridge the gap. Today, though, it is an entirely different story. Remember, we're talking about cash outlay. There's no way to put a value on the non-economic side of things, you know. Passion for riding? Priceless!!!

The car will use 769 gallons of fuel. The bike will use 435 gallons for the same distance. Figuring a price of $4.00 per gallon, the savings are now substantial. Even with the greater expense of tires and maintenance, the bike is $948.00 less expensive to operate for those 20,000 miles, Broken down to the basic cost per mile, the car requires an outlay of .1845 dollar per mile compared to .1371 dollar. In other words, including maintenance, tires, and insurance, it's almost 14 cents for the bike compared to eighteen and a half cents for the car.

This is certainly on the minds of those stepping into our two-wheeled world for the first time. Most are opting for scooters and small displacement motorcycles like the one in the picture above. There's a couple of obstacles, however, facing these new riders that we can help with.

Firstly, these riders are going to have to deal with the weather. We can help with recommendations on gear. The right gear can make all the difference in the world, as we all know. Sharing what we've learned can help these new riders stay with it. One of my common messages is that bikes can be used in place of cars to a great extent. Which includes riding to work for as much of the year as possible. To that end I try to be of as much help as possible.

Secondly, we need to encourage these riders to seek training. Some bikes and scooters don't require an endorsement. This, combined with the fact that these steeds are smaller, seems to make people feel "it's only a scooter". That can be a deadly attitude to have.

All participants in things two-wheeled are going to have to mix it up in traffic. A fast moving Buick unseen by the rider will do the same damage no matter the size of the bike. Accident avoidance skills aren't needed only by riders over a certain displacement. Them or their bikes, if you know what I mean. Ok, that was bad humor, but it's my blog! Physical and mental skills are critical for all riders. Professional instruction is vital to success. Spread the word.

That's my soapbox and I'm sticking to it. I'm hoping the continued exploration of motorcycles as basic transportation will continue to grow. It might be initially instigated by the skyrocketing rise in fuel, but I'm hoping riders will come to know the really fun side of riding in the process. The only way for it to continue to be fun is with success. That means good gear and training.

So, my people, go forth and spread the message! Welcome and nurture those who are joining us in our enlightment!

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sharin' the Road!

This week's guest is Shannon. As she mentions, we live in the same town. Our paths cross off and on as a result. Shannon's also a devoted believer in the value of training. I took these pictures when she came up to our Advanced Rider Training course in May. Not only did Shannon ride the Rebel for the training session, but she also rode up and back. The trip is approximately fifty miles each way. I mean no disparagement to Rebels, but that kind of mileage on one requires a certain degree of dedication, you know?

So enough from me. Here's Shannon.

Hi. My Name is Shannon, and I ride a Honda Rebel 250.

Gosh, this sounds like a support group. "Hello, my name is Shannon, and I am addicted to 250's."

Call me Balisada. My dad is part Native American, and the term is one of the few words that I know of the language. My handle could be either 'Balisada', meaning "tomcat" or (phonetically spelled) 'toot tie wogie chick'. Which means 'I have no trade goods'. Balisada sounds better than 'flat broke', so Balisada it is.

I am honored to be able to submit a guest posting. Irondad lives in the same town that I live in, so when he says the he took North Albany road one foggy day and jauntily honked at a Hummer that got stuck because the road turns left, I know exactly what road he is talking about and can more easily relate. I also think that story is still rather hilarious.

So anyways, I started riding on September 15, 2005.

I had purchased a motorcycle because I was tired of paying $3 a gallon for gas. The business where I worked celebrated "ride your motorcycle to work day", and it showed me that there were, in fact, motorcycles for short women.

It was my original intent that the motorcycle was to be used just for commuting. I was not going to be one of those 'motorcycle nuts', who was going to ride it all the time and go all these places just because I could.

My problem started when the Rebel was delivered. My sister says that when they delivered my motorcycle, I got on it and never got off.

And she is right.

I never really got off my motorcycle and I never dreamed that motorcycles could be so fun and rewarding. I do, in fact, go everywhere with it, in all kinds of weather, and go all kinds of places, just because I can.

Oh, I suppose I should explain the ears.

I have, suction cupped to my helmet, a set of tiger ears and a tail. It's part of the whole "Balisada" thing, and also because it's funny.

In case you are wondering, they don't make me more visible to drivers in their cages. I still get my territorial hexagon violated just as much as other motorcyclists.

They do make me more memorable, however. It's quite common for someone to wander into my office and stop in mid sentence - "I need to register my -- OHHH! Is that you?? I see you all the time!"

Just today, while writing this, someone has only just discovered that I am in fact "the lady with the ears".

Apparently, I am coming up in conversation among motorists. Kind of like "Hey have you seen the lady with the ears, on the motorcycle?" Of course the folks I talked to were probably being polite and what they really said in their conversation at home was, "did you see that nutty woman with the ears who was riding a motorcycle in that downpour we just had? I bet she got soaked!" (Why yes she did, but I bet she had more fun while on the road than you did. Squishy socks and all.)

One guy mentioned that he was trying to take my picture at a stoplight when it turned green and I rode off. That happens too. Not the riding off at a stoplight, but the taking a picture thing. On my way to Portland, Oregon one morning for a two day seminar (College paid me 44 cents a mile and it only costs me 4 cents a mile for gas! BONUS!), I was concentrating heavily on riding in freeway traffic. I turned to look at a car that had suddenly started pacing me, and was surprised to discover the passenger had a camera and was wanting my picture. Cool.

Also, in case you are wondering, the tail does in fact 'wag' in the wind. It depends on the wind stream, but it often will 'wag' or just stream out behind me. Kind of like a real tiger's tail when they are running.

I only started to lose ears when I had to get a new helmet. The old helmet was 'screaming yellow', and the new one is 'voltage'. Since the new one has graphics, made for a surface that was not quite flat, and those minor variations mean that I will sometimes look like a dork with only one ear. (The company that I buy my ears from is going to make a lot of money from me while I have this helmet.)

So, changing the subject, I try to take a class every year.

It keeps up the skills and my insurance company gives me a break on premiums, although the break on premiums is less than the cost of the class, it's still worth it.

This year, I took the ART class, like Irondad said earlier. The range portion was postponed due to rain causing dangerous track conditions.

( Dan's note: That's what a head turn in a corner should look like! )

The first part of the day you are in class refreshing the brain cells, and after lunch, you are on a go-cart track. I was actually glad that the track portion was postponed because I was really cold that first day! When we finally got to the second portion of the class a few weeks later, it was warmer and I was able to focus more on cornering. Which, if you want to know, I still need to work on.

I know in my heart that the apex of a corner will not jump out and grab me, but I simply cannot bring myself to move closer to them. Opting instead for the middle part of the road during that part of the turn. I also think it's the whole planning thing. I see the corner but I don't start planning the turn in time. Too much time spent in a car, I guess.

I have, however, spent the last few weeks identifying the apex of all the curves that I take. It's kind of fun, seeing where I should be.

So, all in all, ART class was fun and I heartily recommend it to everyone (who lives near Oregon at least). I learned a lot. You also get to ogle the different motorcycles. I saw some pretty interesting motorcycles.

Okay, I'd better go. The sun just popped its face out and I have to think up a good reason to make a business trip somewhere far away. I think I can convince my boss to let me go to the next town over for some paper clips. I know how to get there using a lot of back roads. :)



Did you catch the part about how Ride to Work Day played a part in her getting started riding? That's coming up next month. All of us can help spread the message by showing off our bikes in the parking lot!

There's still plenty of motorcycle parking and hot coffee available around here. I'd love to have you drop by for a visit. Send me a line at and share your story with us. This has been great fun and I'm sure everyone would love to meet you!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Who's bad?

This is a true story. The circumstances are so ludicrous it sounds like a bad script from a 70's flick. My opposing character started the B movie dialog and so I went with it. There's no moral to this story. It's simply the account of my recent encounter with a member of the Gypsy Jokers motorcycle gang. The post may run a little long. This is the kind of thing you can't cheat. It has to be told as it unfolds. I think you'll find it worth the time, though!

Here's the other guy. You'll see in a bit why this is the only picture and it's taken from a distance. It was the best I could do with the point and shoot digital. I have a new Nikon D40 with a 55 to 200mm lense but I haven't gotten up the nerve to routinely carry it on the bike, yet!

Here's the story leading up to the picture.

I'm riding for work and have business in Salem. Having had it up to my neck with the freeway, I've taken some back roads into the city. My first stop is in South Salem so this works out well. Coming up through a little town named Turner, the road goes by a Baptist College, the new Police Academy, a minimum security state prison facility, a county jail, and the new animal control kennel. Quite the mix, huh? Then the road turns into Lancaster Street not far from where this guy and his bike were. He's just come off Highway 22 which eventually crosses the Cascade Mountain Range far to the East.

It looks to me like the bike's broken down. Whatever the reason, the rider's over in the grass talking on the cell phone. I pull Sophie off to the side but don't dismount. We're near the bike. I don't really know a panhead from a knucklehead from a shovelhead. All I know is that it's old. This bike's seen much better days. Years of abuse and tipovers have left their mark . Dents and scrapes are everywhere. There looks to have been several attempts to paint the bike. Mostly by a rattle can in one hand and a beer in the other, I think. An open primary drive and belt are the obvious features on the left side. Sitting on the seat is a helmet that reminds me of the Nazi SS troopers. It just doesn't have the spike on top.

I can't help but think of the contrast between the two of us. A scruffy looking biker with a rat bike. He's flying his colors. I'm the flip side of the coin. A motorcyclist with his sleek sport tourer. I'm also flying my colors. For some reason I've left the Hi-Viz 'stich at home. Instead, I have a black Tourmaster jacket on. Proudly displayed on top of the jacket is my bright yellow-green retroflective vest with our training program's logo on the back. Nonetheless, I'm thinking the commonality of two wheels will bridge the gap. It looks like he's having a problem and maybe I can help.

Let's deal with this aspect first. The fact that I stopped in the first place. I'm not naive and wide-eyed with wonder. I've often seen the worst side of human nature. I've also been around long enough to know you can't always judge by outward appearance. People often act differently as individuals from what they'd be in a group. It's something I call "group sports". You see it all the time. Behaviour that would be totally unacceptable on the part of an individual seems to be okay if done as a group. Peer pressure makes people act contrary to their better judgement. I see a lot of riders who aren't what they appear. In other words, their choice of gear isn't based on functionality. It's more like they don carefully contrived costumes to make other people think they're "bad individuals". Funny how they all end up looking exactly alike.

On that basis I stop and wait to chat with the guy. He tells someone on the other end of the phone conversation to hold on. Next he proceeds to do a great imitation of the back side of a mule. He questions my parent's marital status when I was born. In the next breath I'm firmly told where all riders of "non-American" iron can go. His serving of hatred is finished off with a liberal sprinkling of obscenity and the traditional one finger salute. How original!

Quiet dignity can be a greater weapon than responding in kind. Nowhere in the Manual of Life does it say I have to become a participant in his gutter level game. Without a word, I shrug and slowly ride off.

My destination was right around the corner. It's a very large sporting goods supply store. My business is at the handgun counter. Like I wrote earlier, I'm not naive. Nor am I defenseless. Cogito, ergo armatum sum. Let's leave that phrase in Latin to sum it up.

Still though, underneath it all the guy had severely offended me. It crossed my mind to mention it in a post. In order provide a little visual documentation, I decided to take a picture. Just in case. This photo is from the parking lot of the sporting goods store. I had a chain link fence and some distance to deal with. The rider was pacing back and forth. I pointed the camera and waited for him to get as close to the bike as he was going to get. Then I snapped a couple of pictures. He looked my way a couple of times during the process. I now had my photo and really figured to just sort of let it all slide. It would have remained that way, too. Except the biker had to play tough guy. At the time, though, I didn't know there would be an Act II.

I've been here several times before. This KLR is often parked here. There's a display like it on the other side of the entry. Lacking the Kawasaki, of course. I'm pretty sure it's being ridden by an employee but I don't know the staff much at all. I fiddled around with the camera and managed a decent shot in between passing cars. This store is at one end of a strip mall which includes a very large grocery store. Nearby is a restaurant and a Burger King. It took a while to get clear shots.

Of course, there's always the need to both express myself artistically and prove I was actually someplace with the bike. So here's the mandatory bike pose.

By the time I finish getting the pictures and completing my business inside, some time has passed. The rude biker has pretty much slipped into the background. As I secure stuff on the bike and gather gear, I hear a loud bike fire up. The Joker comes around a parked truck and is headed for me. He was hiding where he could see me but my view of him was blocked. I find this part funny all by itself. It seems the bike either wasn't broken or he got it running. Why the Joker didn't just park by the bike and wait for me is a mystery. All I can think of is that he wanted to try to intimidate me by having me watch him roll up in all his "bad-ass" glory. When will these guys learn that you don't need a costume and props to be "bad"?

Interestingly, he either made a tactical error or was trying to protect himself. Or maybe he never even thought about it at all. There was plenty of room on both sides of the bike. Instead of pulling in right beside me, on the left side of the bike, the Joker pulled in so that Sophie was between us. If maximum intimidation requires closest proximity he fell a little short. He shut the bike down and stared at me. I didn't know exactly what was on his mind or what was coming next. I did know two things, though.

Firstly, I wasn't going to run. Secondly, in a confrontation I might not win, but he was going to suffer damage. Not boasting. Just the way it is. Blame it on Grandpa and the old Cowboy Code. I had the advantage in the staring contest as my eyes were covered with sunglasses and his were open to the elements.

Deciding to take the initiative, I put the first card on the table.

"I see you came to apologize for being such a jerk!"

No response. I could see the cords in his neck move. It kind of made the jumbled tatoo's wriggle.

"Why were you taking my picture?" he asked.

Like I say, this guy started the B movie script and I just went with it. I've deleted his abundant use of colorful metaphors.

"I'm looking for Citizen of the Year candidates. While you're here, care for a close-up?"

Keeping the camera out of his easy reach, I held it up. His eyes rested on it for a while.

"I don't like my picture taken. Maybe I oughta do something about it."

He tried to sound as threatening as possible, nearly growling. I blame my next response solely on Gary Charpentier. Gary got me reading Raymond Chandler's mystery novels. The spirit of Phillip Marlowe filled me and inspired my answer.

"The last guy who threatened me like that quit having birthdays".

Now the Joker's taken somewhat aback. This isn't going like he imagined, apparently. I can see the resolve in his eyes waver. Then he asks his next question.

"You a cop?"

I can see how he might come to that conclusion. Katie's recently buzzed my hair back to "regulation" length. The beard's been gone a while and I've remained clean shaven. My eyes are behind aviator style Ray Ban's. They're slightly mirrored and polarized lenses. My quiet self assurance certainly isn't what he would normally experience in this situation. Not wanting to come right out and say no, but not wanting to be guilty of impersonating an officer, I gave him a noncommittal answer.

"Use your imagination", I say.

Now I can see in his eyes that he's planning some sort of macho exit strategy but can't quite get there. This obviously didn't turn out like he'd written it in his mind. I decide to pounce on the moment of weakness.

"If there was a reason you rode all the way around here, get to it. If not, maybe you should leave."

Then he simply fired up the bike and left. I'm sure he wanted to flip me off, cuss me out, put on a show, or whatever. I'm also pretty sure there was still a lot of doubt in his mind at to who I really was.

Being totally caught up in the B movie, I really wanted to yell to him as he left, "Have a nice day!" but I decided that would have put this bizarre scene right over the top.

So there's the story. It's not a story about how Irondad took on a biker gang and backed them down. It's simply about what happened with a single biker flying the colors. Things could have gone either way. This time it went my way. It kind of made my day, actually. "Bad" takes many forms, doesn't it?

Miles and smiles,