Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Longer than Average Commute.

First it was optional. Then it became mandatory. Okay by me. I was looking for a place to go for Ride to Work Day. The Seattle area was as good a place as any. My commute to work would end up being a bit longer than average, though.

The optional part was a sort of going away gathering for Erick. He had been a Regional Director forever before moving up the ladder a bit. Corporate rewarded him for his years of hard work by giving him a cushy position from which to wait until retirement. That time had come. Also had come the time to say farewell. Since most of us were planning on attending the social event the Boss decided it would be a good time to get everybody together for a company meeting. Thus entered the mandatory part.

With the meeting scheduled to start around 1:30 PM Elivra and I rolled out about 8. I know, nothing like getting started promptly at the crack of noon. Who says adventures need to start before dawn? Most of mine do, but that's beside the point. There is nothing in the official Guide to Having a Motorcycle Adventure that specifies a start time. On the other hand, the official Guide to Being a Grandpa specfically states that you spend time with the little one(s) while you can.

I tend to ride in 150 mile or so stretches. Somewhere around 175 miles Elvira's looking for fuel, anyway. The plan is tempered by the ease and convenience of certain stops. Like fuel, Starbucks, and a Subway sandwich shop in the same place. Woodland, Washington is only about 110 miles for me but qualifies as a good place to stop on several counts. Including the Starbucks and Subway thing. The bonus is the Safeway fuel station with 24 hour availability as long as you have a credit card.

Since I only needed fuel and a pit stop we moved next door to the McDonald's. I can't understand why this chain is spending so much on rennovations. Seems like their name would draw people no matter what. My only goal here today was to go in the side door and relieve some pressure without having to take my helmet off. A bit easier here than walking all the way to the back of Safeway drawing attention.

North of Centralia is the Scatter Creek rest area. It's not all that much farther North from Woodland. It is, however, the last "easy" stop until I get to the office.

Since I'd be pressing through for the rest of the journey I decided to grab a table and enjoy my lunch feast.

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich takes center stage. I made the sandwich and wrapped it myself. Can't you tell by the way the plastic wrap is so tidy? Fig Newtons, pretzels, and ice water round out the offerings. The sumptious meal is set off by table decorations specially picked for a motorcyclist on the road. As you can see, there is even a table cloth color matched to the helmet. No need for a napkin. If your hands get messy merely insert them into the gloves and nobody will see the food stuck to your fingers.

Unfortunately, due to extensive road construction projects and heavy traffic I was running a bit short on time. I snarfed the sandwich, took a swig of water, threw everything else back on the bike and rolled.

I really love the 70 mph speed limit in Washington. Elvira's speedo is a bit optimistic. Her needle is buried at 80, the GPS indicates 75, and the speed limit is 70. I get to feel like I'm running at a brisk pace while still being mostly legal. Good stuff.

We arrived at the Mothership with 10 minutes to spare.

I do want to share a visual snapshot from the trip up before we go on. It's about a guy on a small scooter.

Here's the setting. North end of the Olympia / Lacy area. Interstate 5 around exit 109 where the big Cabela's store is located. I'm rolling along in the hammer lane but there's a bit of traffic keeping us somewhat slowed. Up ahead in the middle lane I spot a small blue scooter. Little by little Elvira and I gain on the rider. As luck would have it, we end up side by side for a while. Vagaries of traffic and all. The situation allows me plenty of time to look the scooter and rider over.

I'm no scooter expert but I can see it's an Aprilia Scarabeo. Mostly because "Scarabeo" is written in large silver letters across the side panel just under the seat. Plus I know that Aprilia makes the Scarabeo so it's pretty easy to deduce it's an Aprilia Scarabeo. Other than that, I'm guessing. I figure it's about 200cc or so. Maybe 250. I know there's a 500 but it looks big and plush. This thing was small.

Riding the scooter is a thin guy about my height. Short, in other words. The scooter has a temporary permit taped where the license plate would go. The rider has a shiny new full face helmet, a black Joe Rocket jacket with matching pants, and office type shoes below light brown socks. I guess after paying for the rest the boots will have to wait.

Anyway, there we are riding side by side for a while. I look over at him trying to make eye contact. I wave. I wait. He gives me a quick sideways glance but immediately turns his head forward again. Both hands stay on the grips. Unlike me with my cool black Rayban sunglasses, this guy is seeing the world through just a clear visor. Which means I can see enough of his face to figure out what's going on.

He's hanging on for dear life. Freeway speeds. Heavy traffic. 15 or 16 inch wheels on a small scooter with sensitive handling. I wonder if he's a non-rider who's decided to try scootering as a fuel saving measure. I hope it all goes well for this guy. Above all I hope he gets to the point where he starts to have fun.

The vehicle on the left in the photo above is the Boss' fancy SUV. Here he is checking out Elvira and the famous Aerostich Roadcrafter.

I always enjoy celebrity status when I ride up. I'm the "bike" guy. Although the images tend to get a bit mixed up. The Boss calls me Easy Rider which I'm sure he means as a compliment. Although I'm not sure about the birthday card he gave me. A few old geezers on choppers inviting me to join the Older than Hell Angels. Oh, well. Small price to pay for being able to ride for work as much as I'm able.

By 3:30 our meeting was over and we headed to the Lucky 7 Sports Bar for libations and farewells.

You thought there'd be a picture of Elvira in front of the place, didn't you? It would be the one and only, I'll tell you that. Truth be told, I seriously thought about posting one. On the other hand, my last name isn't Weiner or Favre. Nor is my first name Arnold. That's a photo that I just wouldn't want out there no matter the explanation. My bike is kind of unique with the personalized plate and TEAM OREGON Motorcycle Safety program stickers on the back. With my standing in the motorcycle training community I know better than to post a photo that could damage my reputation. Unlike the first two guys I mentioned. Unlike the third guy, I know when to keep things in my pocket, so to speak.

Fortunately the Lucky 7 is in a strip mall so I parked far away. This is all you'll get to see.

I've seen bikes in front of bars and made a snide comment on what they're drinking.

"Sure, they're in there drinking iced tea, right?" Snide wink to follow.

In this case I really was drinking iced tea.

Here's the guest of honor.

The G11 does pretty good inside with a high ISO and slow shutter speed. As you know, the interior of these kinds of places are not brightly lit. The only things "lit" are usually the patrons and the restrooms. Restrooms, of course, need brighter lighting so the lit patrons don't miss.

Seven o'clock had come and gone by the time things broke up. I was amped from drinking iced tea on an empty stomach. Time to head home. For the record, I did have a Plan B which consisted of an overnight kit and a credit card. Just in case.

I have to say I was really disappointed with the HOV lanes this time. On the trip up you know which lane I chose. Unfortunately, it wasn't a rush hour. Still, though, I somehow had the idea that HOV is some sort of secret acronym for a mysterious term that loosely translates to "go fast". Not the case this time. People get into the commuter lane and drive at exactly the speed limt. Don't you hate being passed by someone in the regular freeway lane when you're in the go fast lane? What is it with these people? Self-righteousness? Entitlement?

HOV hours are something like three in the morning until seven at night. Since it was after 7 and the rush hour had pretty much subsided, this lane didn't do me much good. However, I used the lane anyway. After all, riding a motorcycle entitles me, right? I was cruising along enjoying the elbow room. Until I nearly got my ass run over by a guy in a tiny white Honda car. Holy crap! It was surely a go fast lane now but I just didn't have the guts to run 90 in a 60 zone.

What I did have a stomach for was food. It had been over nine hours since I'd shoved any groceries down my throat. By 9 PM it was time. The sun was going down and gave things a golden glow. This is South of Chahalis at exit 72. Just so you know, Mike, there's a Subway at this exit.

It was dark for the rest of the ride. Which adds its own interesting element to the ride. For instance, there's this stretch of freeway below the Kelso / Longview area where a train track runs between the two sides of the freeway. It was really weird to look ahead of me and see locomotive lights headed right at me!

Elvira and I rolled into Portland around 10:30. On the South side of the city we promptly encountered more road construction. Crews are repaving the southbound lanes through the Terwilliger Curves. Three lanes narrowed to two which, in turn, narrowed to one. Who would have thought so much traffic would be out at this time of night?

Stop and go traffic would have been a blessing. Instead, we were treated to crawling along at about three miles per hour. In preparation for paving the existing roadway had been heavily ground and grooved. After working out the throttle hand all day the clutch hand would get a chance to catch up. Tired muscles wanted to tense up. Eyes up. Relax. Let the bike move around on the rough pavement. Just what I needed at the end of a long day. The clutch was never at rest during my constant balancing act. A couple of times I actually stopped and kept the clutch in for a very brief time. Sorry to the person in back who had to wait a few seconds. This is a lot of work. This is where I expect to hear from the scooter riders about not having a clutch lever!

I found myself thinking that a rider without a lot of experience would have dropped the bike by now. Think about it. Riding at a pace that's too slow for the bike to balance itself while being fast enough you can't really stop and get stable. Add in being tired at the end of a long riding day. Fortunately, after a couple of miles, we started heading uphill. I was finally able to let the clutch out all the way and modulate the throttle for speed control. Easier said than done with fuel injection.

After a total of six and a half miles we cleared the construction. This weird thought crossed my mind. Who the heck has to set out all those cones? I will never complain about the cones we set out during a motorcycle class again!

We rolled home at a quarter to midnight after a round trip commute of a bit over 500 miles. The temperature was actually about ten degrees lower. By the time I got the G11 out of my jacket pocket engine heat had begun to seep upwards.

Katie was already in bed when I crawled in an hour later. She immediately rolled over and embraced me. I could feel her relax with relief knowing that I'm home safely. She worries about me but accepts my need to ride. God has indeed blessed me with her.

Thus ended Ride to Work Day. Coming up I'll share something I saw in Salem last night. It caused me some dismay and really shows why we need Andy's Ride to Work Day and other attention to motorcycle commuters. We also need more folks to use their bikes more and be visible. There's a lot of perceptions to correct out there.

Miles and smiles,



cpa3485 said...

I loved your description of "Ride to Work" Day. I wish I could have participated, but there is still about 45 days left to my driving restriction. Next year for sure!
I think my favorite picture was your meal at the rest stop with the helmet, gloves and other decorations. I worry that you compose your pictures too much, LOL, but I still enjoyed it a lot.
Sounds like you had a great riding day. I'm jealous. But hopefully won't have to be for much longer.

Take Care,


Charlie6 said...

Not ride to work, ride to hell-and-gone to work would have been a more fitting title. Great posting Irondad....

As to your picture of your meal at the rest stop, sad sad sad food porn, very sad.


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Orygunner said...

I only live .4 miles from my job but I was all ready to gear up and ride to work on Monday for the spirit of the thing.

Then I came down with a nasty cold and had to call in sick.

I did ride to work all weekend for Team Oregon, though, so I hope that made up for it :)


RichardM said...

That was not a simple commute. I cringe every time I have to drive into Seattle or Portland. I think I would feel like the scooter rider you saw. And the food picture pales to the shot of the burger in Portland.

BTW, your boss looks a lot like a biologist in Barrow that I know.


bluekat said...

We're getting awfully civilized with a table cloth and all for your picnic. PB&J the classic travel meal.

500 miles. Nice commute! Oh the sacrifices you make for Ride to Work day.

btw, Only students get to complain about cones.

irondad said...

cpa3485 ( Jim )

I left a message on your blog wondering how you were doing. Hope the recovery is going well. You probably wish it wasn't so uneventful!

The picnic table photo was just a whim. I agree I was totally thinking about the blog photo aspect.

Take care,


irondad said...


You can blame Bobskoot for the food porn thing. You all clamor for it and he provides it. Now I find myself becoming corrupted, too.

That's the sad part. Falling in among you food perverts.

Take care,


irondad said...


It's every day exposure that makes the biggest difference, I think. Sounds like your students may have exposed you to a bug.

I'd think I'd be walking to work if I lived that close. It would literally take longer to gear up and strip off than to ride. Although lunch time rides would be awesome.

Take care,


irondad said...


That burger did take the cake, so to speak, didn't it?

Checked out the biologist. The only other one I know lives about three hours south of here. She's much cuter!

Take care,


irondad said...


I am always prepared to sacrifice for the cause!

The "tablecloth" was actually a towel wrapped around the bottle of ice water to keep condensation out of the saddlebag. So I was being pretentious when I set it out. I'm not often that civilized!

Take care,


david said...

I also see riders that are trying to be brave, and only just managing :) lots of ladies on scooters too.
Riding to work IS fun, and we have to share that.
Training is 90% of it i'm sure.

Steve Williams said...

Dear Easy Rider: I'm sitting on the deck, dog licking up the dregs of milk from the bowl where my healthy breakfast lurked a few minutes ago, and I'm in the pleasant afterglow that's common after reading one of your posts about a routine ride to work.

First, let me say there is something extremely comforting about the deliberate nature of your riding -- right down to the way you wrap the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If there is any rider put there whose skill, experience and approach I hope to follow it's you.

As a sometimes scooter rider I can vouch for the Aprilia rider-- at freeway speeds taking your hand off the grips to wave to another rider can be a bit unsettling if you are new to riding. With small wheels, small mass, and generally less sophisticated suspension you can feel as if you are ready to leave the pavement.

So I can buy the superslab induced terror theory.

In closing, I admire you're ability to make a routine 500 mile workday on a motorcycle. For me to do something like that on my Vespa would be draining. About 350 is all I've managed and with all the stops for pictures turns it into a long, long day.

It's beginning to rain and I'm late for my Sunday morning photo meeting. And the Vespa is calling!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Allen Madding said...

With Atlanta traffic, I have had a lot of opportunity to workout my clutch hand and deal with the delicate balancing struggle when traffic is too slow to balance but too fast to hold in the clutch. It takes extra concentration to make it thru and it usually only happens in the afternoon/evening commute after a long tiring day at work.

But, I wouldn't drive to work when I can ride, despite how aggravating the traffic might be.


Krysta in MKE said...

"The G11 does pretty good inside with a high ISO and slow shutter speed"

Took me a sec to realize you weren't talking about something that goes 'bang', but something that goes 'click'.
(What's that model? Never heard of it... wonder what caliber it is? Oh, wait - ISO, shutter speed, it's a camera.)

Your RTW Day sounds like quite an adventure. Do you really have more than the rest of us, or do you just tell them better?

irondad said...


Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems one needs to be brave commuting where you are!

Take care,


irondad said...


Interestingly, my boss also calls me Easy Rider. Shows how old the bunch of us are, doesn't it?

Funny that you, of all people, would comment on my methodical approach. I would think I should be emulating you, not the othe way around. Thank you for the kind words, nonetheless.

Take care,


irondad said...


I know of which you speak. I've driven in Atlanta. Both in the city and around that crazy bypass that surrounds the whole place.

If and when I come back I will have to rent a bike instead of a car and see it from your point of view.

Take care,


irondad said...


I know of which you speak. I have a G23, G27, G36, and others. None of which take photos. However, they do have flashes!

It's possible I actually do have more adventures. I have no office to sit in. I'm on the road a lot without a set routine. I'm also open to whatever comes my way so I don't miss much.

On the other hand, I could also be full of dazzling B.S.!

Take care,