Thursday, October 27, 2011

Slaying Dragons and Saving Lives

Whup, whup, whup, whup.

The sound came crashing onto our senses. We're out in the middle of nowhere. You don't expect sounds like this out here. The noise was as out of place as a tee-totaller at a college kegger. Yet, there it was. Wave after wave of thumping sound like somebody beating a gigantic rug with an oversized baseball bat.

A dozen possibilities as to its source raced through my brain. The last time I'd heard a similar sound was the super-sized hail beating the mobile unit in the Blue Mountains. I quickly looked at the trailer. The scars were there but no white rocks were falling from the sky.



Was it some kind of egg beater on steroids? I was pretty sure we were teaching a motorcycle class, not wrapped up in some kind of Kitchen Stadium Iron Chef nightmare. All the different thoughts crashing into each other in my brain were giving me a headache. So I kicked them all out and just stood there looking at the sky. That, after all, seemed to be where the sound was coming from.

Trying hard to resist becoming hypnotized by the rythmic pattern of sounds, I stood silently waiting for whatever IT was to reveal itself to us.

Soon enough, there it was. A gasp escaped from the students. They were locals, you see, and they had some previous experience with this thing. Nobody knew what it was really called. All they knew is that this thing swooped down from the sky with its fearsome chopping mechanisms whirling wildly. As the blades cut viciously at the air, literally chopping it apart, that horrendous noise was produced. Several legs jutted from underneath the creature. The beast seemed to be attracted to fire and heat. Perhaps the heat from the dozen motorcycles was what had attracted it.

Most menacing of all was that dangling hose. The locals claimed that the beast ate fire then sucked up great quantities of water to quench the heat. Anything or anybody unlucky enough to be nearby got caught in the suck zone. Worse, they said, a riding student on a badly smoking bike had recently been sucked up. Gone without a trace.

We all waited to see what this flying menace would do.



Bit by bit the creature revealed itself to us as it descended. I could begin to see the features that the students had described. We were all hoping that it would lose interest in us and fly away to some other place. Alas, it was not to be. The whirling dervish sank lower. And closer. And closer.

By now I could see the thing in all its menace and ugliness.



Most of the students had gathered together in a group. Why is it that humans revert to herd animal instincts in time of danger? Is there really safety in numbers? To my way of thinking the group creates a bigger target. I thought how it might even appear as a sort of smorgasbord type of buffet. All the goodies in one spot. Just pick which you desire.

I, on the other hand, took a sentinel's post. Free to see and observe. Able to act without being encumbered by the herd. Ok, so maybe I was hoping that the flying creature would be attracted to the group and not notice me. Whatever.



Suddenly, from my sentinel's post, I observed a lone student heading away from us all. Was it possible that he was oblivious to the danger? Was he going to sacrifice himself to save the rest of us? Unfortunately, I didn't have two way radio communication with him so I could ask. Are you doing this willingly to save the group? If so, thanks. Oh, and by the way, can I have your truck?

Whichever scenario it was, the student was in danger. As the senior instructor present I supposed it fell upon me to do something to help.

Wait a minute, isn't this the student that's been so mouthy? On the one hand, no big loss. On the other, the paperwork for this kind of thing was sure to be a major pain. Dang, I hate these ethical decisions.



Then there was the story of the previous student. I wasn't sure if it was actually true or not. According to the story the guy was out practicing on his motorcycle. His girlfriend had come along, driving the guy's sports car. This creature had supposedly come along and next thing you know the guy and his bike had disappeared up that big red hose. The only thing left was the guy's wallet which had somehow fallen out of a pocket on the way up. The wallet was full and the sports car was fast so the girlfriend was able to console herself well enough.

As a small tribute she is said to have spray painted the guy's date of demise and his initials on the edge of the runway. Seems the guy was a graffiti artist on the side so the paint was handy. Like I say, I don't know if the story was true. However, somebody had painted something on the blacktop and I could still clearly see it.



I quickly considered defense options. If this whirling menace did, indeed, regularly eat fire then it had to be suffering some major heartburn. Which would also explain the great thirst I'd been told about. I could understand this kind of thing. I have friends who eat molten lava at Mexican restaurants in the name of whatever, then gulp antacids. It doesn't make sense to me but, since I've seen it with my own eyes, I know it happens.



Glancing around, I see no big water puddles, Tums, Prilosec, Mylanta, or anything even resembling them. As my eyes sweep the scene I do spot something that might work. A fire extinguisher! If I could get close enough to the creature, maybe we could work something out.

Imagine my disappointment when I see the extinguisher's needle buried deeply in the red zone.



Come on, there's got to be something. Then it hits me. Mushrooms.



I had taken a hike up in the hills before class. The hike had revealed a treasure trove of magic mushrooms. The "take a trip without leaving the farm" kind. Oh, I would never use such a thing myself. No, riding Elvira wickedly is plenty of thrill for me and I don't have to wake up trying to remember everything that happened the night before.

That's not to say I don't suffer from addictions. Say what you will, but some of you are right there with me even if you won't admit it. We crave riding. We crave newer and better riding gear. Gleaming rubber tires, shining accessories, farkles, and baubles. Like any addiction it takes money to satisfy the tremendous appetite.

So I'd picked quite a few to take back with me. It was a better than average chance that I'd find a ready market for them in the Occupy Portland camps. Now it looked like I'd have to put the fungi to a different use. Sorry, Elvira, but you'll have to wait a bit longer to get your diamond studded wheels.

Pulling the other instructor off to the side I filled him in on the plan. I told him my intentions of acting as a decoy then stuffing the hose full of mushrooms when the creature came for me. To my intense surprise my partner insisted on being the decoy. I complimented him on his bravery. Bravery my ass, he said. I hurt my back and I'm in such pain that being eaten by this creature would be a huge relief!

Whatever his motive, my partner proceeded to attract the creature's attention. We all sort of held our collective breath as my partner waved his hand about.



It all turned out to be easier than we thought. My partner, battling to stay upright in the turbulence created by the heat seeking monster, threw the first mushroom into the air. His aim was good and the mushroom hit right on the end of the hose. With a whoosh the toadstool disappeared. Suddenly the hose started waving wildly about, like a hound locating a scent. Then, like a pointer's tail when it finds a bird, the hose located the pile of mushrooms. It almost looked like the creature was being dragged by invisible hands towards psychedelic nirvana. We all just stepped back and watched. I think my partner looked a little disappointed.

In no time the flying menace had consumed our offering. Soon it began to whirl unsteadily around. Where once only the blades had spun, now the entire body was slightly rotating. I pulled everybody into the trailer for cover. It was all we had since we couldn't all fit into the outhouse.

Making giddy but steady progress, the once fear inspiring flying menace settled onto the ground near a wind sock and passed out. Crisis adverted. We could get back to business.



I am so glad to report that the rest of the class was pretty much uneventful. The photo below depicts what I will say if I ever get pulled over by a law enforcement officer for speeding on a motorcycle.

"I'm not speeding, officer, I am merely flying too close to the ground."



The photo serves a twofold purpose. The second was practice on creating depth in my pictures. To take what is essentially a two dimensional representation of what we see and add the third dimension back in somewhat. I took this at f/22 in manual mode. I focused at five feet using the lense's distance scale. The cone in the forefront, the student on the bike and the plane midway, and the mountains in the distance create the illusion of depth. I was pleased to see that I find my eyes drawn down the runway and into the photo.

Having slain yet another dragon and delivering another outstanding class I made use of the facilities before leaving. Hey, even motorcycling gods have to pee, you know.



It was time to head home in the accomodations to which I would like to become accustomed.





Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking:

I hope you've enjoyed your flight of fancy. Any turbulence you may have experienced is the result of pockets of hot air and bovine excrement colliding.

Miles and smiles,

Dan

12 comments:

Geoff James said...

Dan,
Those mushrooms sure are good ;-). Pity NZ Custom Service are so vigilant or I'd send you a pre-paid envelope and you could stuff a few in if you can guarantee I'd be able to write like that after a few of them :-)

BTW, excellent photos!

Lucky said...

You know, pilots talk about the joys of flying low and slow, but we know the truth: flying low and fast is better.

Trobairitz said...

Great story Dan. A great way to add a 'spin' to the helicopter pictures.

Are you sure you didn't partake in the mushrooms before writing it?

Bryce said...

Dan is normal, the hellicopter is not, at least in this story.

So Dan, what was the chopper actually doing there, or was class intruding upon its airspace?

Jet powered non-fixed wing machines come in all shapes and sizes, and have all forms of purpose. Maybe it was in attack mode to feed upon those small motorcycles and their operators???

Charlie6 said...

Like Trobairitz said, methinks you were "sharing in the 'shrooms" way before the chopper showed up! : )

dom


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

bluekat said...

Nice job on creating depth in the photo. Foreground, mid-ground, background. I've heard of this technique for getting everything into focus, but haven't purposefully tried it myself. I love the 4th image down. Great visual, especially when viewing the larger image. (Also, what a great location to have a class!)

I too think "someone" has partaken of the shrooms as well...and he doesn't ride a helicopter. ;)

irondad said...

Geoff,

Thank you for the kind words. Unlike me, I don't think you'd actually need the mushrooms to write like that!

Take care,

Dan

irondad said...

Lucky,

Roger that, Wing Leader!!!

Take care,

Dan

irondad said...

Trobairitz,

I have no idea what possessed me to write such nonsense. I think it's too little sleep and to much time riding alone on the bike in isolated places.

There is a saying that fatigue doth make cowards of us all.

In my case fatigue doth make a fool of me!

Take care,

Dan

irondad said...

Bryce,

We were actually on a taxiway of an active airport. The helicopter had been doing some mop-up operations on a wild fire.

I gather it really does suck up water or fire retardant to be sprayed onto a fire. Interesting machine, isn't it?

Take care,

Dan

irondad said...

Charlie6,

To think I was at sea level, or nearly so. I can't imagine how weird I'd become in the rare air you live in!

Take care,

Dan

irondad said...

Bluekat,

Thank you for the compliment on the photos. Little by little I am learning new stuff.

Weird how everyone seems to have been partaking of my 'shrooms, isn't it? Who were you referring to? :)

Take care,

Dan