Monday, January 23, 2012

Lessons and Tests II

Having completed some business in downtown Portland I pointed Elvira east.  The place Robert had specified for our first meeting over coffee was 50 blocks away on Hawthorne Blvd.  Downtown Portland is cut off from all parts east by the Willamette River.  Portland could be called the City of Bridges.  I chose, appropriately enough, the Hawthorne Bridge.  This is a particularly interesting bridge because the decking is metal grating.  The outbound side is a single lane and very narrow.  The left side is bordered by a concrete and steel bridge support and the right by the bridge railing next to the river.  

I guess if a rider were to go down, they would just pinball between the barriers and not plunge into the river so far below.  Probably......   

Seriously, it's simply a matter of eyes up to maintain big picture stability and don't fight the wiggle!  Firm, but relaxed.  Steady, sure, and smooth.

Robert had asked me if I was going to be a Starbucks coffee snob or was willing to try a local place.  Thus challenged, I told him to pick a spot.  It turned out to be a place called The Albina Press.    This location was one of several in the big city.  As a side note, I even tried a cappuccino which had a design just like the one in the photo.  To my surprise, it turned out to be the perfect coffee drink as a background to conversation.  A great coffee taste without the volume of liquid that makes you regret drinking it fifty very cold miles later.  

My arrival was a little ahead of Robert's.  As I parked Elvira I observed a Suzuki DR650 dual sport back in next to the bicycle rack.  I'd never seen Robert but he'd described his bike.  Congruity was the first word that sprang to mind.  Robert had told me in an e-mail that he rode the bike year round for transportation.  His bike and his gear matched that statement exactly.  I saw before me someone who obviously rode for himself rather than simply to impress others or to "belong" to a certain group.  Practicality took center stage.  I was suitably impressed.

By the way, I know it looks like I'm writing about Robert behind his back.  Actually, I'm writing about Robert behind his back in front of his face.  I have graciously been given permission to report on our meeting.

During our conversation I gathered that Robert is relatively new to riding.  Not brand new, but new in the comparative sense.  Compared to the grizzled veteran he was facing across the table, for example.  As of today I have been on two wheels for 45 years, 4 months, and 2 weeks.  What Robert brought to the table, literally and figuratively, is that he is a thinking man.  Several times during the conversation I'd notice him sending a look of concentration into the distance.  I would simply shut up so as not to block the tracks as his train of thought left the station.  The wait was well worth it.

There were two things Robert said to me that I found truly profound.

One was that it took some fearlessness to be a rider.

I totally agree.  Not foolhardy, reckless, or even a superhero, but there is a certain mindset required.  One can't dwell on all the bad things that could happen. A rider has to have faith in the bike and in oneself.   Negative thoughts can bring negative results.  The good news is that positive thoughts bring positive results.  Of course, a well developed sense of adventure never hurt, either!

In years past I've written about this kind of thing.  Here are a couple of notable posts.  If you're interested you can click here and here

If you want to delve further here is the link to Steve Williams' post that sparked mine.

The other profound thing that came out of Robert's Depot of Deep Thoughts was about how we are often surprised on a bike.  We suddenly find ourselves having to deal with something we haven't practiced for, yet.  Even worse, our natural reactions may be exactly the wrong thing to do.

This is one of the strongest arguments I can make for taking rider training on an ongoing basis.  Robert is exactly right in his statements.  It's like being required to take a test before we've studied the lesson.

I took this photo at a dog agility show.  As you can see, the little dog is standing just inside the tunnel entrance.  He knew to go into the tunnel but had no idea what to do next.  In this case it ended with an embarrassed laugh by the woman who owned the dog.  I'm not sure if the dog laughed or not.  Sort of a "No harm, No foul, try it again later" thing.

In our world there may not be an opportunity to take the test again.  Pass or fail becomes minor injuries versus crippled or maimed.  Sometimes literally life or death.  How much better to take advantage of the chance to study the lessons first.  Those who provide professional training know what the tests will be even if the students haven't imagined them, yet.  The proper lesson plans have been carefully laid out.  Why not consider spending some time in Study Hall?

All too soon it was time for both of us to get back to work.  Isn't it astonishing how things can work out?   Two strangers meeting in person for the first time.  At first there's the little bit of nervous discomfort.  Then, as in our meeting, it is quickly gone.  Now you can't believe so much time has passed already.  I left very impressed by my new acquaintance and plan to keep in touch.  Another gem has been added to my Treasure Chest of Life.

Thank you for the company and your words of wisdom, Robert.

Miles and smiles,




Dar said...


I sometimes wonder if we confuse fearlessness with determination? I have a very healthy respect for motorcycling and all it entails. I wouldn't say I am particularly fearless but more determined to master the art of motorcycling, to that end I put in practice. There has been a few occassions where I have been scared silly and it usually in situations that happening on the fly while riding. This is where professional training comes in, we were taught by our instructors to anticipate the unexpected and react accordingly. I never would have been able to cope with real world situations without the basic skill ground work that was taught to me. I guess in some eyes every motorcyclist is thought of as fearless or maybe cagers just think we are nuts. I like to think of myself as determined and maybe just a bit fearless!

bobskoot said...


I have written, re-written and deleted my last 3 comment attempts and I have nothing sage to say except that YOU, being a creature of habit when it comes to routine functions such as having a cup of coffee, must have been out of your element by visiting a coffee outlet that does not favour the colour Green, nor have a Mermaid as a mascot

Riding the Wet Coast

Krysta in MKE said...

Oh, boy... grated bridges.
Believe it or not, for me that ties into the fearlessness & being tested themes.

I've always liked my roads to keep my tires going straight down them. Grating, as you noted, doesn't allow that. I'm not particularly afraid of heights, but I don't like my bike to wiggle.

A friend who is a motorcycle cop told me to go downtown here in Milwaukee (2 e's) & ride back & forth over our grated bridges until I got used to it, & I had occasion to thank him for the advice...

When I did an Ironbutt around Lake Michigan, I had to go over the Mackinac Bridge.,4616,7-151-9618_11016-23827--,00.html
The outside lanes are paved, with a speed limit (IIRC) of 25, intended for large heavy trucks & such. The inside lanes are grated with a speed limit (IIRC) of 35.

So when I hit the end of that grating & realized I had several miles of that to go, I made a mental note to thank Joe for his advice, 'cause otherwise I'd've been white-knuckled & not able to enjoy the scenery.

As it was, I was occasionally looking down the 150' or so to the water, & at the rest stop on the other side had a minivan driver who had been behind me commenting that _she_ was scared & she didn't know how I did it on a motorcycle.
:: grin ::