Friday, February 12, 2010

Impressions of a Day.

4 A.M. The alarm was set for 5. I can't believe I used to be a night owl. These days anything past 10 P.M. is beyond my bed time. Four or five in the morning has become the normal wakeup time. I was hoping for five. My crazy brain decided that it would be four. Coffee was made. The day was contemplated.

An early morning meeting in Portland was the starting item for Thursday. Heavy rain had dampened us during the night. More rain was forecast. From now until what seems forever. Most people wouldn't think twice about driving. Except for people like me. You know who you are. Still, though, you gotta wonder why we do it sometimes. I thought about it during my ride. An hour and fifteen minutes give or take.

People in their cars looked like they were still in bed, sitting up with a steering wheel in front of them. They might have been awake earlier. Now, however, the drone of the car on the freeway and the heater have lulled them back to slumber.

I, on the other hand, am wide awake and living the ride. Of course, there's not much other choice when the temperature is in the low 40's ( f ) before wind chill. I have got to get the bike wired.

Riding past Aurora and Canby, I often think of Jeff who works at the airport nearby. He's a newer instructor. Jeff's a young man with a new family. He will also make a kick-ass instructor. It's always an honor to help folks like him learn the craft of training riders.

Cold air and a lot of early morning coffee make the rest stop a desirable detour. I love the sound of Elvira's sweet motor as I roll off and snick down through the gears on the way in. While I'm there I spend a few extra moments and eat a bit of breakfast. A whole wheat bagel smeared with cream cheese. Tall trees abound as Mike shared with us earlier. I ponder the connection between so many of us. It started with motorcycles but deepened as we learn more about each other. My world is richer because of it. I value these online friendships immensely. What a blessing from being a rider and blogger!

When I put my helmet back on I feel the chill on my face. The helmet's gotten cold as it sat on the bike seat. Closely watched so it didn't fall off, by the way. Rain had made the pavement wet and it didn't look like a good place to put the helmet. Another unique experience you won't find in a car!

Rejoining traffic on the freeway, I follow the procedure as outlined in the driver's manual. One is instructed to "accelerate into the gap". Oh baby, do we ever! Don't you just love all that power on tap under your right wrist?

It's fully light by the time I roll into Portland. My destination is in the Pearl District of NW Portland. Elvira and I hit the Terwilliger Curves on Interstate 5 during rush hour. For a while traffic is more or less stop and go. I pass the time by playing a game that helps me keep my scanning skills highly polished. There are certain truths in the universe. Things like gravity and the earth's rotation. Among these truths is this one. When traffic backs up, people get Stupid.

So I play the "who's going to dash where?" game. Haven't you found that you start to get a feel for which drivers are going to start diving in and out of gaps? I feel like I can literally see the car start to twitch before the driver takes off. Why do people wear themselves out like that? I maintain a decent following distance. Which means a lot of the times, cars are diving in front of me.

When traffic comes to a stop, I entertain myself by seeing how long I can go without putting my foot down. It's fun, but you have to be careful not to put yourself in an unbalanced and vulnerable position. Nothing worse than having to react and finding the bike isn't stable enough to do so.

Some of the areas of town like the Pearl District seem physically crowded by narrow streets and tall buildings. Traffic can sometimes be tough as several main arterials come together at the west end of the district. Negotiating these areas on a bike is a breeze. There's all the room in the world. I find a parking spot right across from the building with ease. Portland has these boxes where you have to go pay then get a receipt for your window. The instructions say to stick the receipt on the curb side window. The right side of the windshield is as close as I got. I took the photo as proof that I had actually purchased parking time. Just in case some scroundrel stole my sticker and I got ticketed.

I was a half hour early for the meeting. Coming from so far and not knowing what traffic might be like, my preference is to allow plenty of time. I hate being late. So I took a few photos of the area as I was waiting. The intreprid G11 goes almost everywhere with me these days.

This little area is geometrically strange because of the way three streets come together. There's this sculpture featuring bicycles on a piece of sidewalk. If you look at the photo below you get an idea for the corner and the artwork. Up on a pole high above the jumble of bikes is one golden bicycle.

Here's a closer look at the bikes themselves. As I'm trying to get a decent photo a woman walks by. She is dressed like she lives in some fancy upper floor apartment somewhere. The woman is walking a Yorkshire terrier. Tiny little dog. Anyway, the woman asks me how the people get their bikes untangled when it's time to go home. Resisting the urge to fall on the ground laughing, I calmly look at her, searching her face. She's bone serious. I explain that the middle pole is actually a strong magnet. That's what holds the bikes up. Each person is issued a small transmitter like a garage door opener. Each box has its own code. The person simply pushes the button and the corresponding tag on the bike cuts the magnetic field enough for the bike to be removed. Each person can only take their own bike with this arrangement.

The woman nodded as if she thoroughly understood and took off walking with her dog again. I'm great at keeping a straight face but I thought I was going to hurt myself doing it. Holy cow! I don't know if the woman actually believed me or not. If she saw through me, she had a better poker face than me. What if she was married or had a partner? Can you see her explaining what she'd "learned" over supper?

Here's a photo of the building I was visiting. This was taken across the street standing beside Elvira. I'm actually quite proud of this one. Originally, the sky was really washed out. I've put the original in after the touched up one for comparison purposes.

Chuck Pefley posted a photo of some fiber-glass pigs. He had changed the background behind the pigs from a drab wall to something more pleasing to the eye. Inspired, I spent some time with Photoshop last night. I was able to change the sky to match the sky in the photo of the churchspire above. The sky in that photo is what was really there. In my building photo, the camera didn't capture the sky in the same way.

Anyway, Chuck and Bobskoot have been both inspirational and sources of photographic wisdom for me. Both are secure enough not to feel threatened by a newby photo punk like me and have willingly and graciously shared their knowledge. I can't tell you guys how much I appreciate it. This is an example of the connection I wrote about above. A lot of us motorcycle people are rascals and rebels on the outside, but inside are hearts solidly grounded in decency. If I hadn't been a rider I would never have gotten to know you all.

After the meeting one of the architects took me on a personal tour of the finished building. ZGF is a prestigious architectural firm. They own the building and occupy floors two through five. All the upper floors were intended to be upscale condos. Due to the economy, the plan is now to rent them as apartments. The top floor does have eight privately owned units. My guide showed me a couple of model apartments. A studio rents for about $1500.00 a month. It works out to around two dollars a square foot. Guess I'll have to work some overtime to live here!

Up on the roof are three turbines. They are functional for generating electricity but are mostly symbolic. The turbines can only cover about three percent of the building's needs.

There are some elaborate snubber systems at the base of each pole to soak up vibrations.

There's also some sort of governor system to stop the blades from turning if the wind gets over 50 mph. I'm not sure how it works, exactly, and neither did the architect. I presume it's some sort of centrifugal apparatus that spreads out like brake shoes on a brake drum.

The view is pretty cool. Not enough to justify the price, in my mind, but pretty neat to see as a visitor.

If you look at the photo below you can see a bridge in the distance. It's called the Fremont Bridge. It's a double-decker as are a lot of Portland's bridges.

Rain was falling once more as I spurred Elvira away from the building. My destination was south so I headed for Interstate 5. This route took me over the bottom deck of the Fremont Bridge. Once again, being on a bike gave me a couple of unique experiences.

Wet pavement bears watching closely. Traction is pretty critical on a bike, as you know. Heading under cover, the pavement was dry. The transition points are pretty cool to see. Vehicle tires track water onto the dry pavement in decorative ribbons. Each tire leaves its own pattern. Big tires, small tires, and differing tread patterns are all revealed in these moisture tracks. Each trail eventually peters out as the tires dry. How many car drivers ever even notice this kind of thing?

Once under cover, I enjoyed the feeling of having a giant canopy spread over me to keep me dry. For the length of the bridge I was as snug and dry as any car driver. Of course, you eventually have to exit the other side!

I claimed my personal parking spot at Lloyd Center Mall. On the way there I stopped at a light and found myself next to a Portland Police motor officer. I recognized him from some previous training sessions. Despite the rain, we were both enjoying being on a bike. It was a brief encounter but it was nice to make the connection.

With so much contrast between the light pouring in from the open side of the parking structure and the dark interior I haven't been able to conquer it with the G11, yet. So I played with the color and now I call my bad photo "artistic". That's another trick you pros taught me!

I pulled in and then turned the bike around in the small area. As I was straddle walking the bike backwards, I noticed that the cement wall was reflecting the rumble of Elvira's engine back at me. What an awesome sound! I'm starting to really love that motor and the way it sounds. I revved it a few times just to put a finishing crescendo or two on the symphony. I'll guarantee that none of the drivers pulled into their little stalls got to hear the same kind of music.

The ride home was great. Rain kept up. Which meant it didn't come down! It was downright balmy. There's that certain temperature point where it actually feels very refreshing. What a nice ride! As a matter of fact, I want to share something with you that could be construed as slightly embarrassing. On the other hand, I'll bet some of you do this yourselves but won't readily admit it. Have you ever felt so good riding a bike that you did a little "happy dance"? You know what I mean. It's not very macho, but I find myself weaving the bike in my lane a bit out of sheer joy. It's the motorcycling equivalent of wagging your tail. Sorry, but I just can't help myself. I've been riding as long as I can remember. It still feels so darn good!

So, yes, I could have driven. Instead I rode. Yes, I got a bit wet. Not to mention cold in the early morning. On the other hand, look at how much I would have missed out on. Rain was pouring down this morning. Did I ride? Of course. Driving would be too boring!

Miles and smiles,



bobskoot said...

Mr Irondad:

I really love your "artistic" photos.

We have the same problem here with parking tickets being stolen. My friend has come up with a procedure to minimize this, but I also take a photo of the ticket when I purchase it, just like you. In Vancouver there is a phone number on the meter which you can call on your cell phone to pay but it doesn't prevent damage when people try to move your bike, but drop it.

Here is what my friend does. Purchase your ticket and rip a small 45 degree corner off. Then write M/C on the face, as your ticket has to be face up as the times have to be visible to the enforcer. Actually, you could also write M/C on both sides.

If your ticket is missing you can identify it by the ripped corner etc, and you will know who took it.

I agree with you about the friendships that have nurtured in our electronic community and it would be an honour to meet all of you, hopefully one day soon. (Even that curmudgeon down in KW )

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Mike said...

"There are certain truths in the universe. Things like gravity and the earth's rotation. Among these truths is this one. When traffic backs up, people get Stupid." That is so funny but maybe it's just a Terwilliger Curve truth. One of these days we're going to see each other.

I have done that weaving in the lane but it's to give left-turners more chance to see me when there aren't any cars around me. They get this look like, "what is that guy doing?"

Nice photos and write-up!

Charlie6 said...

I am so glad to find that even august riding professional instructors such as yourself do the "how long can I go slow without putting my feet down" game in stop and go traffic.

I like to do it when I am first in line coming up to a red light, timing it so that I am almost not moving forward anymore before reaching the light. If I time it right, the light turns green as I reach the point where I'd have to stop and put my feet down. Instead, a twist of the throttle and I keep moving. (after having checked for red light runners of course).

I imagine that cagers behind me get the impression my motorcycle doesn't need me to put my feet down. Very amusing.

irondad said...


Interesting that stealing parking tickets is a universal thing!

When you said you really love the "artistic" photos are you actually saying something favorable about the ones where I really tried to be somewhat artistic or are you joining me in laughing at my botched one that I doctored up? :)

Wow, that long sentence killed my typing fingers. Yikes!

Take care,


Chuck Pefley said...

Hah! You've outdone yourself today, Dan -:) Great story, and I'll bet you dollars to donuts she does indeed repeat the nifty bike parking procedure at book club next week! LOL!!

Thanks for your kind words. Now, if you could only make the sky blue here in Seattle.

tedder said...

You live too far from PDX to do the daily commute, don't you? We need to have lunch one of the days you come up here. I'm on the South Park Blocks.

Jealous you got on the roof of the ZGF-designed building!

One of these days I should recruit you into taking pictures for Wikipedia. It's a great way to find out-of-the way places in Oregon.

Anonymous said...

$1500/month for a studio...
assume that's without a monthly maintenance fee, otherwise quite a reasonable monthly rent!
The G11 has encouraged your photography. And the good weather has ensured you are still able to ride...
now about that snowblower you might need some day.

Richard Machida said...

I like the bike scupture, but I have a long history with bicycles. I don't think I could ever get used to riding in heavy traffic. Don't see how you do it.

On the building shot with the sky in the background, did you keep experimenting with exposure or use some software for post processing your image?

Orin said...

Y'know, I've never had a parking stickie stolen from the GTS, or any other scooter. I guess I've just been lucky.

But Portland does something it never even occurred to Seattle to do: if you look closely at the picture, you'll see the right side of the ticket says "Keep this portion" and "Proof of payment." You tear this part off on the perforation, and hang on to it. That way, if someone does nick your sticker, you can show that you indeed paid. This is particularly handy if you pay with cash instead of a card.

In Seattle, I always used to write "MC Lic" and the plate number on the sticker. The hope was this might raise the suspicions of the parking enforcement person. In fact, that's what Seattle's parking enforcement people tell you to do...

Scootin' Old Skool

Dave said...

It takes all kinds

When I was in town the other day some one had dumped a pile of scrap metal on the side walk well to do the town a favor.

I loaded it up in my truck and took it to a scarp yard got ten cents a pound for it.

The next day I saw in the paper some one took a piece of art work off the street down town.

With people littering the streets and stealing art work what is this world coming to? : )

Old F

Mike said...

I forgot to thank you for the mention in your post - thank you! And the other thing is what Orin said. I didn't notice that you didn't take the "keep this portion" of the stickie.

irondad said...


So, instead of "wig-wag" headlights, you present a wig-wag rider? You're right in that people see the change and motion more readily than a steady image.


I have thought the same thing. I try to not let the bike wobble at all. Wonder if drivers even notice it at all?

Take care,


irondad said...


You've earned kudos from me. I was sincere in my comments. As to the sky? Send me a photo and I'll see what I can do!


I don't commute, per se. I respond all over the state to things going on. Mostly up and down the Valley. However, I'm in Portland a lot.

Love to see you for lunch. We'll work on it. Thank you for the invite.

As to the building, I saw way too much of it in the beginning. A distributor supplied our doors and door hardware for the building. They made a mistake and the factory had a design flaw. I diagnosed the problems and spent days with a factory person replacing parts on somewhere around 300 door locks. Glad to be out of there, now!

Take care,


irondad said...

P.S. to Tedder,

I'll check out the Wikipedia thing. Sounds cool. Thanks.


I'm sure there's maintenance fees and stuff on top of the rent. Nice building or not, it's too much money for me to pay to live in a box.

Take care,


irondad said...


The second photo is the original. The sky was all washed out. I opened the photo in Elements 7 in full edit mode. Then I used the Quick Selection tool to select the sky around the building. Then I went to the drop down menus under "Enhance" to adjust the color and contrast for just the sky. First time for me doing something like that.

Pretty cool!

Take care,


irondad said...


I knew somebody would call me out. I never take time to separate the ticket pieces. The back of the ticket also instructs us "Motorcycles: stick to headlight." I guess I miss that one, too.

The question in Seattle is whether the bored parking enforcement people would actually see that a car has a sticker that says it's for a motorcycle.


How funny! Now I can count an accomplished art thief among my friends.


Sure. I give you favorable exposure and you jump on the pile to beat me up! :)

Takc care,


Young Dai said...

Charlie 6

Isn't it cheating to use a sidecar to help you though ?

Charlie6 said...

no, not cheating, young dai...more like using the right tool for the job....

irondad said...

Young Dai,

It shows you I'm too trusting of friends! It never even crossed my mind that Dom would be cheating. Now I have to wonder if the Ural is involved after all in not putting his foot down. Hmmm.....

Charlie6 said...

OK, OK, I misread Young Dai's just so I am clear...I play the "wait till the last second before putting my feet down at a stop" game with my R80.

On the Ural, its more fun to see people's reaction when I back it out of a parking spot! : )

Bucky said...

"...strong magnet..."

Now I KNOW that all riders are rascals.

That poor lady depended on you to tell her the truth...and you did!

...sort of.

But she is probably enjoying a belly laugh with her bridge club right now, telling about that crazy motorcycle guy.

Anonymous said...

Both the foot thing and the wig wag thing are favourites of mine!!!

Holding feet up and almost zerospeed is good practice, and the zig zag i found great for just, gettin your body into the groove. And of course just for fun :)

Re: the bicycles, you had me choking on my coffee!!!!!!