Monday, January 24, 2011

Cinnamon rolls and sporting goods.

Sometimes you just get hungry for something. When you have a little sunshine peeking out between the clouds and a motorcycle it doesn't matter if that certain something is an hour away. So we set out to satisfy the cravings. Riding and eating. What more could you want?

Katie and I were hungry for cinnamon rolls. We tried the frozen kind you bake yourself. No good. I could have made some but that would mean being inside all afternoon. Why do that when you can ride a motorcycle to a place that makes good rolls? Not just any place, mind you? We were after Cinnabon rolls. Valley River Center in Eugene has the only one I know of within 50 miles of us.

We got our rolls. As the true prince I am, I gave Katie the heart of mine. The really gooey, sweet part. Have to pamper a wonderful partner, you know.

Anyway, this really isn't about the cinnamon rolls even though I'm quite enjoying the memory. This is a follow-up to a previous conversation. Where in Springfield is the new Cabela's store going in?

After the rolls I added a bit of preload to Elvira's suspension and we headed to the Target store at Gateway Mall. There I saw it. So now we know.

This spot used to be occupied by Ashley Furniture. I had noticed the space being empty for quite a while. Here's the construction outside the mall.

At this point it doesn't look like the store will be as large as the free standing ones. Still great to see it coming, though!

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Put a leash on it!

I came across something that may be of interest to those of us who ride and take photos. This might even make it possible to do both at the same time!

You may remember that one of our own who lives north of the Canadian border dropped his camera. Admittedly, this device may not have prevented that particular accident. For those who carry a point and shoot in their pocket ( which probably means no long lenses ) this contraption looks like it would provide some fall protection.

This photo is from the manufacturer's website. Not the best graphical presentation I've seen, but it gives you the idea.

The Gear Keeper Camera Retractor is a tether that's available with either a touch-fastener strap mount or a snap clip mount to attach to any loop or strap.

According to John Salentine, co-founder of Hammerhead Industries which manufactures Gear Keeper, "Gear Keeper systems were originally engineered for scuba diving so they were literally born out of a need to secure items in situations where you hands are otherwise occupied."

The Camera Retractor is built to hold up to 9 oz, enough for most small digital cameras, and can extend up to 25" so you don't have to unhook it to snap a photo.

There are other tethering systems on their website for various outdoor activities besides motorcycling. Which I didn't actually know existed. Activities other than motorcycling, I mean.

List price is somewhere around twenty bucks. ( U.S. )

Be aware that I have not personally tried this device. I am only passing along the information I have received. I also do not get any sort of compensation. They don't even know I exist, I'm sure. I simply figured this would be useful to those of us who like to take photos.

If you care to check it out, the website is

This will take you directly to the Camera Retractor page. If you want to check out other items you can navigate from there.

Miles and smiles,


Monday, January 17, 2011

Let there be heat!

Irondad plugged in the fuse and heat came to be.

There now exists a plug for a heated jacket liner or vest. There is another one near the passenger seat for Katie. Yes, I did later erase my diagonal marks that helped find the center of the plate. That's why you use a pencil for such things.

There will be no heated grips, or seat, or whatever such. I reluctantly offer up this appeasement to the Gods of Comfort. I stoically bow my head as a blow is struck to my reputation as a hard core and spartan rider. It is necessary for the greater good. As was pointed out to me by Troubadour ( read the comments ), I must walk the talk of an instructor. If I preach the virtues of being comfortable on a motorcycle then my own steed must show the brand. Elvira has thus been suitably marked.

I have been riding this past week while deep in the grasp of bronchitis. The heat has been somewhat comforting. One day I was not up for going anywhere at all. Katie told me that she was sure even Superman stayed home and drank chicken soup once in a while. So I relented and went back to bed.

As a matter of utility rather than comfort, I also wired in the mount for the Garmin Zumo 550 GPS. To date I'd been using it by sticking the Garmin in the tank bag. I have a streamlined Jabra bluetooth device that fits nicely under my helmet. Voice directions arrive with the reliability of a back seat driver. The only two drawbacks to this are the fact that the GPS has to run on battery power and I don't get any clues before the voice commands. It's nice to glance up at the screen once in a while to see how far until the next turn, etc.

The Zumo comes with a motorcycle mounting bracket. It's monster sized. I also had kicking around a mounting plate based on this decorative nut on the steering head.

Firstly, I wasn't able to get this nut off in my first few attempts. I also wasn't anxious to try real hard. Secondly, even that mounting contraption was big and ungainly. With an added curse of putting the whole GPS thing right in front of the ignition key and instruments. Size alone was bad enough. Kind of like putting a bicycle rack on top of a Ferrari. It would be okay on a BMW but not on a sleek and sexy Yamaha. It would also seem that some people can't tell the difference.

So I found this.

It fits the feel of the bike. I stole the photo from their website but I'm pretty sure they won't mind as I'm promoting their product.

The unit mounts with screws that replace the existing clutch fluid reservoir screws. All in all a very nice installation that looks classy and puts the GPS into a good place for me. Here's the end result.

The company that makes this mount is called Adaptiv Technologies. They have a lot of useful stuff. Click here for their website. Notice how I cleverly waited to put this link at the end of the post so when people clicked they'd be done reading, anyway? Pretty smart for a guy obsessed with motorcycles, isn't it?

So there you have it. May our electric coils help delay the shrugging off of our mortal coils. Or at least may they make these aging coils more comfortable. Peace be the journey.

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

For the right reasons.

It's 27 degrees (f) outside. A nice brisk morning except for the freezing fog that has settled into our valley. The roads are white. In some places it looks like it has snowed. As you'd expect, the streets are a little slick. And I'm out on a big sport touring motorcycle. My destination is 30 miles north. As I ponder for the second time turning around and going home, an unfamiliar question enters my head and lights up like a rescue flare.

Why am I doing this? The answer will prove a bit unsettling to me. I finally have to admit something to myself. I'm sharing it with you in the hope that you will find some value in it.

This is a really bad photo from my ancient cell phone but you get the idea. Cold and frosty. It's not the cold, it's the freezing fog that acts as villian. Here's what our local newspaper had to say about the day. This is an excerpt from an article on the front page of the Democrat Herald published on Wednesday, January 5.

"Freezing fog greeted some in the mid-valley Tuesday morning, and there was heavy frost at the Santiam Rest Area on Interstate 5, at points east, and around Albany, where in some places it looked as if it had snowed.

Despite Tuesday's slippery roads and streets, only a handful of wrecks occurred, and no injuries were reported."

I live in Albany and my travel route put me on Interstate 5 northbound. Right past the Santiam Rest Area. So named because it sits beside the Santiam River. This was the second place where I seriously considered going back home. The first was in the busy commercial district of Albany. In the first case the roads looked really treacherous but got better after a mile or so. Imagine my disappointment on encountering the bad spot by the rest area. It looked bad as far as I could see and the elevation climbs from there.

Yet I pressed on, thinking about the guy who tried to swim across the ocean. He got halfway across, decided he couldn't make it, and swam back. I'm this far, let's keep going.

It pleases me to say that Elvira and I arrived at our destination without incident. In fact, once at the top of the big hill, we were rewarded by clear roads and bright winter sunshine. I sent Katie a text telling her of our safe arrival. She had been really worried. Heck, I was concerned! I wanted to reassure her that things were fine.

( This is a photo of the streets about a mile from my house. Things got worse from here. )

I could see the worry on Katie's face when I left. She won't say anything to me. I don't know if that's a testament to her personality or a condemnation of mine. Katie knows my skill and experience level. On the rare occasions she does say something, she tells me that it's not me she's worried about. Katie's concern is the brain dead drivers out on the roads at the same time. There's a lot of merit to that statement, I'm sorry to say.

By the way, has anyone ever expressed a similar sentiment to you? They'll say something like,

"It's not you I'm worried about, it's the other idiots!"

Wait a minute. OTHER idiots?

This is just another among thousands of times I've ridden in bad conditions. I rode again in freezing fog again yesterday, now that you mention it. In fact, it's become sort of a running joke with Katie.

"Dan never seems to ride when the weather is nice. He's not interested until there's nasty weather of some sort."

There's more than a little truth behind the joke. During a lot of my rides Katie's worried. Once in a great while I'm a little concerned, myself. I can tell by the tense muscles and slight pucker factor. So, why?

That's the question begging attention. Why ride when it can seem smarter not to?

There's a smaller answer and a larger answer.

Ego plays a part. That's the smaller portion. I think it's perfectly fine to have a healthy ego. That's what drives us to excel and to be proud of our accomplishments,.

Take a rider that's worked hard on their physical and mental skills. Combine that with the experience gained from countless miles on a bike in all conditions. Why shouldn't they enjoy the fruitage?

Why not enjoy the feeling of doing what so many others can't or won't? Why not get a kick out of seeing drivers shake their heads in wondering consideration of our sanity? You can supply your own examples. Like I say, a healthy ego is a good thing as long as it doesn't replace reason or interfere with good judgement.

A larger portion of the answer, in my case, is this.

I believe that my reputation, in my mind, has become a monster demanding to be fed.

It's not healthy. I'm uncomfortable confronting it. Even more so sharing it. I'd like to just think of myself as a swashbuckling road warrior with a lot of bravery. Yet, the serious consequences of getting it wrong on a bike demand that we all make honest evaluations. Part of that "getting it wrong" is being on a bike when we shouldn't. I debated about writing this post for a long time and finally decided to offer this peek under the armor as a way to break the ice. I'll go first in order that others may feel more comfortable to follow. Your thoughts don't have to be public, of course. ( If you don't care to look feel free to use the big red X at the top right of the page. I won't be offended )

The pressure on me doesn't come from thinking about what others expect. Rather, it's more what I expect. I've been hardcore for so long now. It's become a case of,

"I can't NOT ride. Think of who you are."

Up until lately I think it was more innocent. I just loved to ride. Anything that threatened to keep me from doing that was simply regarded as an obstacle to be surmounted. The old, there's no bad weather, just bad gear thing. Extreme cold, nasty weather, big city traffic, you name it. I used my skill and experience to conquer it. If I got to enjoy bragging a bit about it, big deal. If I took pleasure in seeing somebody's jaw drop when I rode up on a bike, no harm. I'd earned the right.

So what changed?

At the risk of making this post too long to suffer through, I need to share this story from last fall. I'm pretty sure that my reputation, and the desire of somebody else to emulate it, probably put somebody I care deeply about in danger. That's been sort of nagging at me for a few months.

This is a quick snapshot I took during a Rider Skills Practice course in the summer of 2009. The red VFR on the outside belongs to my son Clinton.

Last September Clinton decided to ride this same bike to Aberdeen, Idaho to see somebody special. He rode straight through on the way there. It's around 700 miles and 11 hours. Quite the trip and his first really long ride. The weather was fairly warm and by the time he got to Boise it was nearly hot.

I knew Clinton's plan was to stay a few days then repeat the straight through ride on Friday. Since he had to be at work on Saturday this gave him the most time in Idaho. In the meantime, though, the weather was expected to make a turn for the worse. Heavy rain storms were forecast to roll though the area. I sent Clinton a text and told him I'd pay for a hotel if he wanted to break the trip up into two days. He politely declined my offer.

Long story short his ride home was very tough. He got a later start which meant a lot of his ride was in the dark. Heavy rains at night are bad enough without the added adversity of the battering and gusty winds in the Columbia River Gorge. If you think I was concerned about Clinton you'd be absolutely right. Not so much in his riding abilities per se. I'd taught him to ride, after all, and I'd seen his physical control of the bike. In fact, I had let him ride Elvira when she was brand new.

My concerns were his lack of experience and the really bad riding conditions. Fortunately he called in to give me an update and ask for some advice. Here's a hint towards what I'm referring to. During one call Clinton said,

"I'm sure glad I have Irondad to call and get advice from!"

At least his calls gave me a reading on his location. During the coming hours I was constantly running calculations in my head. I've traveled that route a lot and know it well. So much time to here where there's a gas station, or fast food, or something. Clinton called in about every hour and a half. So far so good. I repeated my offer of a hotel.

No matter how close to home, when it's time to get off the bike it's time. Don't fall victim to "get-home-itis". Find a hotel and call me. I'll give the desk a credit card number. Even though Clinton said he came close to taking me up on the offer he pressed on. Safely, thankfully.

Here's another clue that I may have had an unhealthy influence on his epic ride. It will probably embarrass Clinton so I offer you my apologies in advance, my son. It's for the greater good.

When Clinton was young we gave him the nickname of Pooh Bear. You know how parents are when the kids are cute. When Clinton completed his ride under very trying conditions I told him I was changing his name. From now on he would officially be known as Iron Bear. He had earned it.

You think the kid was proud? He only uses that signature on every other text and e-mail. He should be proud and I'm certainly proud of him. We've never talked about it, but I'm pretty sure a part of the reason he pressed on was me. Oh, he probably wanted to prove himself like a young man will. I can't help but wonder, though, how much living up to me was on his mind?

I've never put that kind of pressure on the kids. Still, a young man will often want to be like his father. I can't help but wonder if that unspoken pressure put my son in extra jeopardy. Guess we'll have to talk about it sometime.

So, there you have it.

There are a lot of reasons for riding as well as for not riding. Same goes with gear, the way we ride, and who we ride with. I'm always floored by how much influence pressures like peer groups and other things have on riders. Or potential riders. Toward both positive and negative actions. I would just ask you all to think about it. If it's not the time to ride that's okay. The ones who really matter will respect you. Not that I matter, but you will certainly have my respect, as well.

So much of being safe and successful on a motorcycle depends on good judgement. Don't let anyone or any pressure compromise that judgement.

As for me, I will admittedly keep pushing some boundaries when appropriate. My resolve is to make sure I'm doing it for the right reasons.

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Who's under there?

Speaking of peeing, which we were recently and I can't believe my blog ever got to that level, this came across our instructor's list. It seemed relevant to the subject. A few commenters also noted the additional complications to taking care of "business" caused by the many layers we wear in the cold. Sometimes, even if we know each other, we're not really sure "Who's under there?"

Without further ado, here is the short tale.

One bitterly cold Winter's day a police patrolman came across a motorcyclist, who was swathed in protective clothing and helmet, stalled by the roadside.

"What's the matter?", asked the patrolman.

"Carburetor's frozen", was the terse reply.

"Pee on it, that will thaw it out", said the patrolman.

"I Can't."

"Ok. Watch, and I'll show you", offered the patrolman.

The patrolman lubricated the carburetor as promised. The bike started and the rider took off, waving. A few days later the Commander of the local police station received a note of thanks from the father of the motorcycle rider. The note began:

"On behalf of my daughter, who was recently stranded............"

Miles and smiles,


Monday, January 03, 2011

Swimming in a crowded aquarium.

It's almost old history by now but I have to finish the story.

Swirling traffic finally spit me out into a parking lot. Drifting towards the edge of the current I found a relatively quiet place to park Elvira. Both of us crave elbow room and we find a tiny bit of blessed breathing room.

The telephoto lense compressed the distance. It was actually a nice little walk to get to Sears. Just after dismounting and pulling my helmet off a guy walked by. He'd parked close by, probably figuring it was easier to follow somebody than to blaze his own trail. As the guy passed, he said,

"Nice bike!"

I couldn't hear him clearly at first, not having gotten to pulling my ear plugs out, yet. So I asked him to repeat what he had said.

"Nice bike! Nice BMW."

I looked closely at the man's face but saw he was serious. I guess some of the things we take for granted aren't as obvious to others without the same interests. The man's statement was meant as a compliment so I let it rest and took it that way. Elvira doesn't care, either. Call her a wife or a mistress, as long as you tell her she's pretty!

Having my priorities dictated to me I headed directly upstairs in Sears. The restrooms are at the rear after you get off the escalator. On the way I passed a female clerk. She didn't see me until I got close to her. She thought she was alone while putting some stuff back on a rack. Her face was etched with battle weariness. Seeing me, though, she somehow pulled a genuine smile out of the depths of her soul and gave it to me as a gift. Gotta love people like her.

Feeling so much better than I can describe, I exited the restroom and went looking for a bite to eat. I know it's kind of like having one foot in quicksand and then firmly inserting the other. What can I say? I was already there and riding in the cold burns a lot of calories.

Negotiating heavy human traffic in the mall felt like swimming in a crowded aquarium. Outside the stores the corridors are big and well lit from above. Combined with the big glass storefronts it does feel a lot like an aquarium. Full of other fish. I'll share a little secret with you that makes navigating around people coming at you just a little easier. In case you hadn't discovered this for yourself.

Oftentimes a person coming towards you will glance ever so slightly in the direction they intend to pass you on. You have to watch closely as it sometimes is just a flicker of their eyes. Knowing this makes things smoother. Although this secret is proving less useful as more and more people seem to be freaking oblivious. That's all I'm going to say about that as I can feel my blood pressure rising.

Upstairs in the food court I followed my usual method of picking out what I wanted to eat. Which place has the shortest line? Subway was packed, as was Panda Express. Sbarro's is way over-priced. Taco Time had a two day waiting list. So the little stand offering Greek fast food was the choice. There was only one guy in line. I really didn't want to spend time pondering why the place wasn't busy. I chalked it up to people not being able to think for themselves and bravely ordered a steak Gyro.

This was only the third one I'd ever eaten. I'm pretty sure none of them have actually been authentic. Seems like for a true Gyro there is only one way to prepare the meat even if the sauce might differ. Maybe Nikos could help us out there. Gyro in hand I went in search of, believe it or not, more coffee. I know, fools rush in.....

I almost abandoned the quest when I saw the line at Starbucks. There are two of them in this mall. Pretty posh, eh? I tend to prefer the newer store because someone I know works there. This day she happened to be working which proved a real blessing!

Quick background. When I'm in the Portland area I often use one of the nearby malls as an office. They have coffee, food, restrooms, and a place to sit. Makes a great office away from the office. At Washington Square I tend to favor some chairs right next to the North entrance of Nordstroms. This is also close to a Shutterbug camera shop ( cool, huh? ) and some sort of spa.

One day last year there was this ebony skinned young girl sitting in the chairs across from me. I knew she worked at the spa. I finished a call to my mother and looked over at the girl. I told her she was a perfect advertisement for the salon. She just has these natural Ivory Girl good looks. She thought it was sweet that I regularly called my mother. Mind you, I never flirt with other women. I'm still totally taken with Katie. Women seem to relax and feel safe around me. I hope to God it's because of my attitude and not because they don't find me potent in a masculine sort of way!

Long story short this girl and I got to where we would chat when I was in my "office". She'd come out and sit for a few minutes when she could. She'd tell me about her young son and I'd tell her about Ryan. Then I didn't see her for a while. One day she showed up working at the Starbucks. She told me she was tired of pampered rich bitches and the new job worked out better for her situation as a single mother.

Seeing me walking away due to the long line she called out to me. I always order a 12 oz. plain coffee. My friend brought it out to me and I gave her the money. They say it's great to have friends. One of these days I hope to find out for myself!

Wanting a view while I ate ( such as it was ) I went back upstairs and found a table in the food court. It overlooked a main corridor of the mall. While I was sitting there a group of folks brought a tray of sandwiches and sat down. Actually, one person carried the tray but they all sat. These were folks from a group home, out for lunch. Near to me was a strapping young man that looked like a corn fed farmboy. He looked like perhaps he was challenged with something like Downs Syndrome. Perched on top of his head was this big black ten gallon hat. Anybody looking at the young man could tell this big hat was really special to him.

You know, I could totally relate. After all, I'd been walking around the mall carrying my Arai helmet in my hand. My helmet is pretty special to me, too. I admired his hat. He admired my helmet. It was a short exchange as he got distracted by one of the caretakers, but I considered it a pleasant addition to my day. Years and years ago I filled in for a month on a morning bus route. The bus was for people going to work at a rehabilitation center. It was a valuable education in getting to know people before we make a judgement. On my last day of driving every single passenger handed me a hand-made card of thanks and saying goodbye. I wish my heart were always as pure as theirs.

Arriving back at Elvira, who'd been patiently waiting for me, I was greeted by this sight.

Calling Elvira a BMW was one thing. Parking this truck next to her is another. Since the trailer stated it was a veteran owned business I decided to shrug it off and quietly head out. We were both glad to leave the crowded mall and head for freedom.

We didn't see any other bikes all day. We did, however, get to enjoy a stretch of highway with the late afternoon winter sunshine gently washing over us. Nothing warms a cold day like a bit of sunshine brightening your visor. Life isn't too bad, is it?

Miles and smiles,