Friday, March 26, 2010

A little better than I thought.

I figured I would put closure on the photo contest since I've mentioned it. My goal was to put some of my photos out and see how they compared to the rest of the entries. I'm pleased to say that my photos looked like they belonged. I even did a bit better than I thought I might with a couple of them.

The invitation for the contest says that it is open to photographers of all skill levels. It actually showed in some of the prints. Everything had to be displayed at 8" X 10" or 8" 1/2 X 11". In addition, a backing of 1/8" thickness was required. I have an entry level Epson printer which did a pretty good job of making the prints. Some of the photos were exceptionally crystal clear and technically superior. Not so much when it came to composition and subject. I'm learning that if a photographer shoots things that appeal to them, and can capture what it is that enthuses them, the viewers will be more readily moved as a result.

There were somewhere over three hundred pictures divided between six categories. The contest sponser is a local visitors association. The photos needed to be taken within the last three years, the subject needed to be in our county, and could not have been previously published anywhere. There was an "Open" category in which the subject could be anywhere in Oregon.

I had no photo in the "Scenic" category. There was a "Local Events" category in which I entered a couple of hot air balloon photos. As did almost every other entrant. This was my best entry. At least I thought so. The other photo was a close-up for the fire coming out of the burner.

The actual print itself was lighter. This was taken not long after I took the class and was just getting started. The composition is good but the technical details like lighting are a bit off. It didn't place. My photo was only one of about thirty balloon pictures. Interestingly, the woman who took first prize had a very nice picture of the balloon fabric itself. It was backlit and the design made a sort of flower pattern. Quite well done!

I entered one photo in the "Open" category. It just seemed unusual. I like unique angles and subjects. Here's the photo.

This one didn't place, either. The winning shot was of a pair of wire rimmed spectacles sitting on the brim of an old straw hat, and with a pair of leather work gloves. Only about half the hat and gloves show in the photo. It's a very contemplative picture. Second place was a photo of a purple orchid looking flower.

Another category was "Life in Our Community". I had no entries in here. First place was an exceptional photo of a woman who looked to be Amish in her kitchen surrounded by corresponding cooking tools and making bread. With the colors, lighting, and clear focus it is an outstanding photo. Bluekat might be interested to hear that the second place photo was of two bicyclists coming out of the Larwood Covered Bridge.

Another category was for digitally manipulated photos. It was interesting to see everyone's artistic intrepretation in this class. I entered three photos which didn't do too badly.

First and third. I'm quite pleased and surprised. You saw the red balloon photo here a couple of posts back. On a lark I made a stormy red background and called it "Red Sky at Morning". Here is the whole photo. The ribbon covers the balloon on the right. I think the brightness of that small balloon gives an offsetting contrast to the general darkness of the photo.

The last category was "Landmarks". As you can imagine, this category also had a lot of entries. There were pictures of churches, railway trestles, local statues, a train station, covered bridges, and so on. I entered one photo. Not touched up at all. I called it "Pink Pixels". Sort of a play on words between the name of the theater and the digital origin. It ended up doing all right.

The irony is that I had entered the other version of this in the "Digitally Manipulated" category. This one.

I don't think it even got a sniff. The ironic part is that, between the two, I'm most taken with the gray scale / color version. I think it's because of having learned how to do the technique and having spent so much time on it. I posted both of them on the blog and most of the comments favored the pink version, too. Granted, it is a beautiful picture. There was just enough fog in the air to make the glow but not obscure the building. It's clear that the judges agreed with you, too!

There are no cash prizes. First place ribbons come with some gift certificates from the Shutterbug camera shops. Which is pretty neat and fitting.

As Bryce so rightly pointed out, the real test is in bigger contests with highly skilled competitors. I have no illusions in that regard, yet. This local contest was a measuring stick for me. It's just nice to know I'm in the general neighborhood, you know? Speaking of neighborhoods, even though I'm just an enthusiastic shutter presser, I sincerely appreciate how folks like Chuck, Bobskoot, Conch, Steve Williams, and others have offered guidance and shared wisdom.

The reception was quite informal. There wasn't an official handing out of ribbons. The judges simply put the ribbons on the photos beforehand. I met some fellow photographers. Nice folks. Not as cool as those who both ride motorcycles and take photos, but interesting nonetheless.

Afterwards, Katie and I went to Applebee's for a beer and an appetizer to kind of relax and soak it in.

I like a porter beer. They had a good one on tap. Perfect!

While I was fiddling with the aperature setting on the G11 I accidently snapped a shot. It looked kind of twirly, which was cool. So then I tried my hand at doing it on purpose. I dialed in a bit longer shutter speed then slowly rotated the camera while the shutter was open. This is kind of what it looks like if you drink too many porters!

Actually, a couple of the coolest "rotated camera" photos I've seen were posted by Sharon here. Scroll down towards the bottom of the post.

Anyway, all in all a fun and satisfying venture. Small potatoes that it may be, I am now an award winning photograhper! :)

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Elbow room and looking around.

I like some elbow room when I park. It amuses me to watch drivers circling around like gulping goldfish waiting for that pellet to hit the water. Or for a parking spot near the door to open up. I realize that for a few it's necessary to park close. If more people would park and walk they'd find their physical health would improve. Then they wouldn't feel the need to park so close. Life outside the goldfish bowl is pretty awesome.

Interestingly, most of the time I'm entering the store while the goldfish are still circling.

In this case there was plenty of elbow room. Trying to decide which spot to use was killing me, though. I wonder how long it will be before this space in front of a government building will be full again?

It's just a snapshot. All the photos except this one were taken the same day. I threw in this one just because I wanted to. Elvira cleans up pretty well. A beautiful bike in a beautiful setting along the river. I like the way she's framed by the trees.

Parked beside another river but a bit farther away from the water. Don't worry about the green pole sticking up. I'm experimenting with a new camera mount. It works out okay as long as I keep my lean angles very shallow.

I once read that successful photography is more about how the photographer sees things than in the actual technical aspect. One should take in the 360 degree ( sorry, don't know if that is Celsius or Farenheit ) view. So here's looking in the other direction.

Rebel that I am, I just have to bend the rules once in a while. As you can see below.

Suddenly I'm a bit worried. A question just ocurred to me. I wonder if the bullet holes in the arrow sign are from the farmer shooting at previous violators?

Talk about elbow room! Elvira looks pretty isolated in the next photo, doesn't she? By the way, the parking enforcement people will ticket a bike that's backed into a spot in this parking structure. It's just easier all around to park away from the crowd. Did I mention I need the exercise, anyway?

In the spirit of taking in the full view, I took a shot over the edge of the wall. How often do you see the top of a light fixture? Actually, after looking at it, I realize I can go a long time without seeing another one.

Yes, the camera strap was around my neck. I also wrapped the strap around a small metal stanchion. That way, if I fell over the wall, the neck strap would keep me from plunging to the sidewalk. Somehow there seems to be a flaw in that plan but I can't quite get the "hang" of what it might be. The answer is dangling just out of my reach. Oh, well.

I don't know how to spell "silhouette" so I'll just say that the tree shadows looked kind of cool to me. This is from the second floor but over a couple of openings from where I shot the light fixture. The sky and the cloud pattern make kind of a nice background.

Well that's it for today. Life is hectic. Tonight is the reception for the local photo contest. It will be interesting to see which were the winning photos. For now the sun's out. I know two wheels that are impatient to roll!

Miles and smiles,


Monday, March 22, 2010

Loose ends.

Just cleaning up a couple of loose ends.

As you may remember, I entered a local photo contest. I have several photos on display in the Albany City Hall and at Two Rivers Market across from the Albany Visitor's Center. Dont' know the results, yet. There is a reception Wednesday evening. There the winners of each division will be announced.

One of my goals was to put the photos up and compare them with the other entries. For example, there are 48 entries in the "Events" category. I have a couple of photos in this class. Probably having low expectations, my goal was to not embarrass myself. I'm pleased to say that my photos are certainly no worse than the others. Mission accomplished.

Yesterday a letter arrived in the mail. The Visitor's Association sent me a letter specifically mentioning a couple of my photos. Enclosed was a release form. They want to use the photos for promotional purposes. Of course, I'm flattered. I keep the rights to the originals while they get free usage. Works for me for now.

This isn't one they asked to use. Just something I fooled with in Photoshop. It puts me in mind of the Red Sky at Morning warning to sailors.

On a recent post a few folks asked for some refresher information on cornering technique.

Would you please let me know if there is a particular part of cornering you wanted to read about? Or just the whole technique in general? I'd be pleased to do so, just let me know what would be useful. Warmer weather is right around the corner and a lot of corner carving is due to start soon! Might as well be as prepared as possible, right?

Miles and smiles,


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wandering photos.

I can't help it. The photo bug is pushing hard. So I wandered around just taking some pictures while waiting to meet a customer for lunch. This doesn't really have anything to do with motorcycles. I just wanted to share some pics and thoughts. There won't be much text in this post. Mostly photos. I do want to share one thought before we embark, though.

Stacy wrote a post about what makes a good motorcycle blog. One of the things she mentioned is to stay on topic. In other words, if you call your site a motorcycle blog then the content should pretty much be related to that subject. If your intent is to just make it a dairy like Conchscooter does, then go with that. There's a lot of sense behind what Stacy says. I've been thinking about the situation since I've developed such a fascination with photography.

While I remain fiercely independent in doing my own thing, there is a time and place to listen to others who know what they are talking about. While I can still probably ride circles around Stacy, put us both in a room full of computers, servers, modems, and all those wire thingies, well........

Stacy would have 27 websites up and running complete with RSS feeds and all that sophisticated stuff while I was sitting there wishing I was still on the bike. The point is that I have come to the conclusion that I can't do justice to both passions with one blog. Don't be surprised to see a link here to a new blog dealing with photography, but also in a unique way. It just seems to make sense to separate the two subjects since each demands a lot of individual attention.

In a sort of last hurrah, then, and sticking my tongue out at convention, here are some photos. I put a bike in just for gratification.

Here I am practicing what I learned from Chuck and Bluekat. If you can't get a good photo, take it from another angle or do something to it in Photoshop. Then call it "Art"! See, the result below isn't all that bad. Pretty artistic, right?

I'm always amazed how people use their vehicles to express themselves. Take a look.

Apparently the owner of the VW has opinions on a lot of topics. This one is a bit more subtle and to the point.

I happened upon a fisherman near the river.

It looks like he has had some success.

Check out what he was using for bait.

Note the Starbucks cup. It's Pike Roast. I hear it's particularly successful in Minnesota. That's all right. If you don't get it, the pun was bad in the first place so don't sweat it.

Speaking of Stabucks. Here is the gratuitious bike photo.

I caught the dude still staring at the backsides of the girls that had walked by. I guess a full face helmet is better than sunglasses for disguising where you are looking. Unless you're this obvious, of course.

Earlier I had bought a cup of coffee in the same Starbucks. The new D5000 was hanging under my arm. You know that professional way that great photographers carry their camera when they're not actually using it. Oh, I didn't tell you about the 5000, did I? Chalk it up to a great wife.

Anyway, this attractive gal in line asked me if I was a freelance photographer. I answered in the affirmative. After all, how much more "free" can you be when nobody is paying you for your pictures? Seriously, I do intend to go "semi-pro" in the not too distant future. I got my coffee and left. When she brought up "portfolios" I got worried. We just met, after all. Besides, she wasn't the one who bought me the new camera. Us "freelancers" have to watch our loyalties.

Here's a difference between man and beast that I appreciate.

Lunch for Dan and Roy.

Lunch for the pigeons.

It's not like I've never eaten off a sidewalk before. ( don't ask ) I just hate it when I get barkdust in my beak. On the other hand, humans do strange things to themselves in odd machines.

Since I've eaten off sidewalks but can't yet fly, I had to use alternate transportation to go upstairs.

If anybody wants to learn to fly, I have an idea for a way to practice.

Take that offramp to the lower deck on a motorcycle and let me know how it goes. I suspect mostly downhill. Maybe your luck will be better than mine would be.

Miles and smiles,


Friday, March 19, 2010

Seeing vs. observing.

"I'm a trained observer."

That's my stock reply to somebody who has just expressed amazement that I had observed and remembered something in particular. There are a lot of people who look but don't really see. Even seeing something doesn't mean our eyes are telling us what's really there. The input from our eyes is processed by our brains. Therein lies the rub. Weirdly enough, our brains will lie to us. After all the filtering of the initial information is finished we often end up seeing what we expect to see, not what's really there.

The reasons for that are too many to discuss in this post. I'm sure you can think of examples in your own life. One quick example is in reading words. Have you ever found yourself reading the wrong word because the actual word looked a lot like what you were already familiar with? In this case our own personal vocabulary tainted what we saw and kept us from seeing the correct word at first glance.

Most of the time it doesn't matter in the long run. Other times it makes a huge difference. Like when we're betting our physical safety on that filtered information. Riding a motorcycle is one of those times. I don't know for sure sure as I've only been riding for 43 years, but it sure seems to me like it would be critical to make sure we know the truth behind what our eyes are looking at. That's the difference between seeing and observing. Seeing can produce fiction. Observing is getting the actual facts.

Here's an example of a trained observer on a motorcycle.

Of course, I always seem to have the wrong lense or vantage point when wandering about. The officer looks to be just sitting there looking around. Actually, he's observing something going on down the street a bit. Here's a closer look.

The officer is observing the proceedings. He has to be quick to spot critical events that will suddenly cause the situation to become ugly. Whether from the demonstrators or from those with opposing viewpoints. What looks like casually looking on is in reality vigilant observation.

Riders need to do the same thing.

Later on I parked Elvira and took some photos of one area. It looks like a fun place to ride on a rural road with plenty of corners. Which it actually is. Using our powers of observation, however, let's see what it really represents to a rider.

Please note that the bike is well off the roadway and out of danger! The following photos were taken within fifty feet of the bike. The point is that there is much more to any situation than initially meets the eye. Our job is to observe everything that's really present. Especially critical situations.

It doesn't show in the photo, but we've traveled several miles on a twisty road that follows a river. It's been a fun ride. Between the scenery and the curves, it's easy to get lulled into just looking around and enjoying the ride. Okay, those two things are important, but there's much more to it than that.

Here's an intersection right across the road from the bike, as you can see. Depending on the direction of travel, this is the beginning or the end of another great motorcycle road. The other end is in South Salem, several miles away. It's amazing how many drivers use this road in both directions. Which means a surprising amount of traffic. Here's a shot of the intersection from the other direction.

Seeing means noting that there is an intersection. Observing, on the other hand, reveals some actual critical information about the situation. For instance, note the unique angles involved. Drivers are going to have to compensate for this weird configuration both when entering and exiting the intersection. Note the next two photos.

Drivers exiting have limited visibility in both directions. If you look behind Elvira in the earlier photo, you can see that anyone approaching from that direction has limited visibility as well. Our "observing" should have started much sooner and made us realize that blind corners should be negotiated with the worse case scenario in mind. Better to be pleasantly surprised, as they say.

Once we can actually see the intersection, we should have observed the weird angle and realized another dangerous aspect.

Drivers entering the intersection from the direction this blue car came from can't make the curve easily while remaining in their lane. This small car is doing pretty good, but most rigs either have to swing wide on the side road or do so on the approach road. Which means that a rider could round a blind curve only to find a vehicle partly in their lane.

If a rider has been observing the situation as they approach it and riding accordingly, there will be enough time to react. On the other hand, a rider merely seeing a curvy road and not observing the true implications is likely to suffer a nasty surprise. The total opposite of the aforementioned pleasant surprise!

This side road is tough enough as it is. We haven't turned around and looked in the other direction, yet. Remember, Elvira is still parked. I merely turned around and pointed the camera the other way. Take a look.

The road passes underneath a railroad trestle. The posted speed for the curves is 15 mph. I will probably be riding a bit faster. Following another vehicle isn't going to be any fun. Which means I'll look for the curves to be clear or will hang back and let this van clear, then go for it. Prudently, of course, as it's still a blind corner until I get halfway through. Check out this sequence.

The van is almost through the curves.

All clear, right? That's what we "see", after all. Ready to commit to a throttle roll and go for it?

How the heck did the van manage to be hidden in that last photo? This was an actual photo sequence. The van was there when it looked like no vehicles were present.

What if we had just rolled up and hadn't seen the van in the first place? What if we had come off the side road, for instance? Our eyes "saw" a clear road. Our brain told us that no vehicle could be hiding in that small blind spot, let alone a big van. Be honest. How many of us would have guessed that there was a van hidden in the curve if all we had seen was the photo of what looked like an empty road? So, based on what we "saw" and our brain "told" us, imagine the nasty shock awaiting us as we started to roll merrily through what looked like a fun corner combination?

True powers of observation would also reveal the narrow roadway under the trestle. This is farm country. Big trucks as well as passenger vehicles frequent this road. We should have gotten a clue about how well traveled this road is by the frustration we felt by having such a great motorcycle road clogged up by everybody. Traffic approaching us faces a blind curve and a narrow lane. Wonder how many are going to stay totally within their own lanes?

I admit this is a somewhat unique situation. There's a lot of critical stuff crammed into a small area. On the other hand, will that uniqueness make it hurt any less if we miss something? Come to think of it, this isn't so unusual after all. I can think of plenty of places I ride where there's a lot going on.

So do me a favor. I care about all of you. Tomorrow the forecast here is for sunshine and 66 degrees ( f ). Spring starts within days for us. More and more bikes will be out. Work on observing the actual facts of each situation so we know what's really there. Don't trust what we "see".

Become trained observers. Ride well and prosper.

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, March 18, 2010

In honor of Riepe.

I cannot adequately express how much I appreciate the common theme of the comments on my last post of concern for my well being. There comes that time as we age or suffer infirmities that compromises must be made.

We struggle with that inner conflict between maintaining whatever reputation we may have ( or would like to have ) and taking the path of wisdom based on our current circumstances.

That's part of what I tried to convey and share in that last post. It would seem that my writing made a connection with everyone. I tried to share honestly how I felt at the time and it seems that we all face the same struggles. I have an ego and will be the first to admit it. I cherish my reputation as a tough, hardcore, rider. Even Iron, however, is subject to wear and tear from the ravishes of time or other events.

So here's the deal. Carry this with you as you ride. Have fun. Ride with zest and enthusiasm. Charge about on your steel steed. Go conquer castles, dragons, and oblivious cagers. Live the Legend. Share you stories over the campfire. Enjoy.

When you wake up one morning and some parts of your body take longer to wake up than others, when sitting by the fire sounds much better than chasing dragons, go with the flow. Legends are the result of many days and deeds. A day here or there will not diminish the Legend. Legends are built upon years of battle. A Knight who choses to withdraw from daily battles will not be thought any less of a Knight. The Legend will not diminish.

In plain language, take account of the current circumstances and pursue the Path of Wisdom.

Which brings me to Mr. Riepe.

Jack heaped praise upon my last post. I am truly honored to be thus commended by a writer of his ability. Seriously. In his comment Jack wrote the following of himself:

I was in Tennessee last summer, and the pain in my knees was excruciating. A buddy of mine had driven to the BMW rally with his wife. He said to me, "You ride home with Dot in the car, and I'll follow on your bike." It was the ultimate temptation... And I passed the test. I rode my own bike. But I did so because I was afraid I wouldn't ride if every time my knees hurt... And they hurt all the time.

In this regard Jack represents us all. I respect Jack's decision to ride. I would still respect him if Jack had decided not to finish the ride. I believe I speak for all of us in the blogosphere when I state that the respect I have for everyone is based on the pursuit of a common interest and a shared humanity. On what we have learned about and shared with each other. Not on how tough a rider is. Sure, I enjoy the stories as much as anyone. But that is not what I base my assesment of a rider on.

So, I found this picture from a post I did years ago. It is not of my originality. I do not know where it came from. Somebody passed it on to me. That being said, here it is:

If this is Jack and Stiffie moved to Key West to eternally harrass Conchscooter, so be it. I, for one, will think no less of him.

The real secret of success is to know one's limits and to ride within them. These limits are different for different riders. Things I do might seem crazy to others. Yet, my limits are different, as well. What we do have in common is that limits are fluid. Day to day. Week to week. Year to year.

This is the Path of Wisdom. Ride within whatever those limits are at the time. Those who do so will always garner the deepest respect I can bestow. They will always be a True Knight to me!

Miles and smiles,


P.S. For Bobskoot: Tomorrow is Friday. Look for a post in the afternoon involving actual motorcycle riding and at least one photo of a bike!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Good story; bad photos.

2:05 AM. Exactly four minutes since I had last looked at the clock. People often see something in others that they perceive as a blessing. In actuality those who possess the so-called "blessings" often find them to be a curse. Everything has a price. What has been a long standing pleasure can suddenly turn into a source of pain. Resolve will be tested. A Warrior must either slay the dragon or become a casualty himself. This day would be one wherein all these things will be dealt with.

I have been summoned to the Mothership near Seattle. The man who signs the paychecks is the King of the Realm. When he calls his Knights to the Roundtable all must heed the command or risk being banished from the Kingdom. I am free to roam my assigned countryside representing the King's interest as I see fit. In exchange for such freedom is the agreement. When the decree is issued I must traverse the vast distance without faltering. All Knights are thus summoned. My journey is the longest of those traveling.

These days the Knight is fond of spending evenings amidst the warmth and comfort of the home fire in the company of his beautiful Lady. Thus I chose not to journey North the night before. An alarm was duly set for 2:45 AM with a departure time of 4 AM. It is difficult to contemplate retiring to bed immediately after the evening repast has been enjoyed. Heads hit pillows shortly before 10 PM. Katie falls asleep soon thereafter as is her custom. I, however, do not.

Katie tells me she is jealous of my quick mind and great memory. Most of the time it does prove to be a blessing. Until times such as this. Now I envy her ability to compartmentalize. Cares are shrugged off. It is time for sleep and so she does. The brain that performs so wonderfully during the day turns into a seething monster at undesirable times. When one should be sleeping, the brain conjures up worries and concerns. It floods the landscape with a myriad of other thoughts. A voice says that nothing can be resolved, accomplished, or concluded during these hours. The brain ignores this voice. Instead, the whirlpool of electrical activity intensifies. Eventually it will exhaust itself in its own time. That time usually doesn't coincide with my desired schedule. So the curse keeps me awake when I should be sleeping.

It is futile to stay in bed, so I get up. Soon, coffee in hand, I open the front blind and sit on the end of the couch. It is my cozy cave within the cave. Sitting in the darkness I look out the window and mentally prepare for the trip. Today the preparation has a different and unusual tone. Riding gear is all laid out. There is never any doubt that I will ride if at all possible. The bike and I charge out like a Warrior and his steed, blazing sword raised and ready. Today I feel like my sword is more of a kitchen butter knife.

Creeping clock hands move surely towards the time to leave. I start towards my riding gear then hesitate. My eyes sweep to the small box where the car keys live. Shaking myself, I pick up the riding pants. Once again, I hesitate. I move to pick up the gear and put it away. I am frozen in place. Indecision has robbed me of the ability to move. This feeling is decidedly foreign to me. I try to reason it out.

Sickness is certainly in the equation. It is amazing how a microscopic creature can fell an adult body and leave it weakened for days. Weak in both body and resolve. I've ridden while sick before, though. A lack of sleep also resides on the minus side of the scale. I try to tell myself that I am hesitating out of concern for safety. After all, it is cold and rainy. The distance is 575 miles with half of it coming after a long day of meetings. My arrival home will be 18 hours after my departure. Nobody could fault me for erring on the side of safety. Safety trumps all. Yet, that is not my reputation. Riding safely is important, of course. "Playing it safe" though, isn't always the first card I deal off the deck. It is just an excuse. No, there must be something more.

Eventually the problem comes down to two simple facts. The pull to drive is because I want nothing more than to be warm and dry. The pull to ride is nothing more than stubborn pride. A hardcore reputation is a badge of honor. It can also be like a harsh whip goading one reluctantly along. A pleasure and a pain. Stubborn pride wins out. However, the real test of resolve is yet to come.

We are on the road. The meeting starts at 9. We should arrive at 8:45. Four hours and forty five minutes of riding loom ahead of us. I find myself wishing I had taken the time to wire Elvira for electrics. Previously I haven't cared. This day I do.

I don't really want to know but I look it up anyway. Like something so horrible that you can't pull your eyes away. Before I leave I check the windchill factor on this website. According to the results, the windchill is 19.4 degrees (f) at 70 mph. Chances are good that we will be traveling a bit faster than that here and there but I don't want to know the rest.

Now the brain is playing an interesting game. It checks the elapsed time and distance. Calculations are made. At this point there is still time to go home and get the car without being late. We're not turning back. The calculations continue. My resolve wavers. I'm feeling the cold and it is getting wetter. By the time Mike sees us on the freeway in Portland, we've passed the point of no return. I'm now resigned to the ride but the biggest test of resolve is still to come.

This inner struggle to keep riding baffles me. If I have felt like this before it is long enough ago that I can't remember. It must be the sickness. By the time I roll into the rest area North of Vancouver, Washington I am literally shaking with the cold. Rain has been falling heavily and steadily for the last sixty miles. My Aerostich and boots are fending off the water so far. My helmet, however, has betrayed me. For some reason the heavy rain has found a way to seep inside the top of the faceshield. Cold drops fall across the bridge of my nose and onto the left side of my face. Raising Elvira's windshield helps keep the rain out, but then I can no longer see the road in the dark.

One blessing is that when we are at a low point our appreciation for the small things in life greatly increases. Things we take for granted and pay no attention to suddenly take on such significance. Such was my encounter with the God of Warmth.

Even early in the morning a rest area gets traffic. A few guys entered and left the restroom while I was there. If they thought it strange that a guy in riding gear was hugging a hands dryer to his chest, screw them. I didn't have the strength to worry about it.

Back onto the freeway in the darkness. Incredibly, the rain has worsened. Now I find I can't keep my visor clear without pain. With the shield down the rain covers the outside. Fog from my breathing clouds the inside. I'm amazed my breath is actually warm enough to fog the shield. Warmth has once again quickly drained from my body. Like the enthusiasm of the crowd when a performer is falling flat. I'm forced to open the face shield. This lets in the rain drops that sting my face. Once more I try to hunker down behind the windshield. In the dark and rain I can no longer see the roadway. I need to be able to watch for things like ruts full of water and broken truck tires. Better to feel the sting of the rain than to hit unseen stuff in my lane..

I pass the next 63 miles in a miserable state. I try to tune out the misery while staying tuned into the ride. For a brief moment I find myself hating this ride. What has happened to the Road Warrior who literally laughs and scoffs at terrible weather?

Exit 72. Rush Road just South of Chehalis. 153 miles into the ride. Elvira needs fuel. This is a convenient place to stop. There is a Shell station just past the Burger King. It is nearing 6:30 AM. This photo was taken on the way home. The lighting is the same but the rain had stopped by evening. Burger King offers a warm restroom and hot coffee. A bite of warm breakfast sounds appealing. Much more so than the bagel I had fixed the evening before and taken out of the refrigerator in the middle of the night. The bagel is probably frozen by now. Do you see the theme, here? Warm, warm, and warm.

In the parking lot I spy a familiar car. It is a company car issued to an associate. He lives closer than I. He's only an hour into his drive. He's in the restroom when I enter the restaurant. I order my coffee and breakfast sandwich then sink gratefully into one side of a booth, my wet gear draped on chairs around me. The woman at the counter is the Goddess of Human Kindness. She's told me not to worry about dripping on the floors. The restaurant is quiet.

Tom exits the restroom and spies me. He waves and goes to order his own coffee. Then he slides into the booth across from me.

"You look miserable", he states.

"I'm fine", I lie in a return statement. "It's been a great ride so far."

We look at each other in silence for a bit. Then we engage in conversation. Catching up on kids and life with a little gossip tossed in for spice. It's time to move on and we gather up our garbage.

"Hey," Tom says. "Why don't you leave your bike here? You can put your gear in my trunk. Ask the lady at the counter if they would mind your bike being in a corner of the lot for the day."

I stiffened and froze. There it was before me. The Offer. Like a woman who's knuckle-bitingly beautiful. She's just clearly told you that she is more than willing. The wonderful possibilities crash through your brain like fireworks. God, she is so damn tempting! You badly want her, except.... think of your loving wife of 32 years. That promise you made. That thing called commitment. Good times and bad times. Sickness and health. Protecting your reputation. How would you explain it to everyone who saw you stray? Giving in would mean a new reputation. One as a quitter, somebody who gave up when the going got tough. How would I explain to Elvira why she was abandoned in a strange parking lot all day with me being hours away?

The Offer was gracefully declined. Tom shrugged and gave me a "it's your funeral" look. Off he went as I slowly pulled wet gear back on and shuffled back to the bike. Resolve. Stay with what you know is right. It will all work out for the best.

Which is what happened. The rain stopped. A tiny bit of sunshine peeked through the clouds. The temperature went up a bit. As did my mood. By the time we got to Tacoma the freeway was clogged with morning rush hour commuters. Mercifully, the car pool lane was still moving swiftly and I could use it. I saw Tom stuck in traffic by Fife. I waved as I went by. I'm pretty sure his real reason for The Offer was so that he could use the car pool lane, too!

That's The King in the brown long sleeved shirt in the photo above. I really enjoy working for him, actually.

The day of meetings went well. I had a most excellent Chicken Club sandwich for lunch. I hit the road home in the worst of rush hour but I've never been one to be able to just sit and wait for it to clear. I need to keep moving. Or sitting in traffic pretending I'm making progress. The car pool lanes worked just as well in the evening as they did in the morning. Burger King got a second visit for a late bite and some more fuel for Elvira.

Nearing Oregon in the dark, the rain returned. More like scattered sprinkles this time. A signboard proclaiming a wreck on Interstate 5 made me decide to detour around via Interstate 205. Slightly longer but I was ok by now. The Dragon that had weighed me down so mightily in the middle of the night and early morning had been slain. The Knight was once more ready for battle.

All the traffic that detoured clogged up the alternate freeway as badly as I suspect the original one was. Nearing the point where we merged back onto Interstate 5, we were sitting a bit. I took advantage of the opportunity to pull out the G11 and snap a few shots.

I made one last stop at a rest area just North of Albany. I was only twenty minutes or so from home but planned to get fuel once more. I didn't want to be dancing around while trying to fill Elvira. Here's another photo of the bike.

It looks a lot like the one from seventeen and a half hours earlier, just not as wet! Start in the dark and end in the dark.

We arrived home safely. Things have a way of working out despite the chance encounter with dragons and demons. I slept well.

Miles and smiles,