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,



Friday, January 20, 2012

The Water's HOW Deep?

I'm inserting this post in here out of sequence.  The second half of the last post will have to wait.  Weather conditions have changed and I've got to get this one in while it's still hot.  Or, should I say, wet?

The last two days have brought record rainfall.  Our area received a little over six inches of rain in 48 hours.  The weather guy said the storm was stuck over us and dumping like crazy.  He likened it to being at the end of fire hose.  I agree.  It totally looked and felt like it.  Of course, who do you think was out in it on two wheels?

Yesterday morning I had coffee with Dean.  I'd been staring at the laptop for two days and was going crazy.  I had to get out and Dean was glad to oblige.  We arranged to meet at a place called the Governor's Cup Roasters in Salem.  I'm actually not a coffee snob.  I start with Starbucks in a town because it's a place I know I will find a consistent product.  Then I branch out from there as opportunity allows.

On the other hand, it does seem like a lot of my life takes place either over a cup of coffee or going to or from coffee shops.  

Anyway, the destination is about a thirty five minute ride for me.  I was running a bit early so decided to head up the South end of Salem, getting off the freeway early.  The freeway itself had a lot of standing water but I simply slotted in behind a big truck and rode its tire tracks at a safe distance.  

As I rolled into Salem I should have recognized the evil omen.  There's a housing project built around a golf course.  The golf course is called Battle Creek.  Key word Creek.  I saw a school bus that had gone through some high water and ended up in a ditch and slanted at a 45 degree angle.  The road I was riding was ok so I didn't think anything of it.  My plan was to angle off at 12th street and go up over the hill.  My oldest son lives close to this street.  From the road I can see the back of the apartment complex where he lives.  I knew he would be at work but there's still that connection.  You know what I mean?  Farther along is the BMW / Honda shop where I bought Sophie at the turn of the century.  The shop is nothing as good these days as it was then, but it's still a motorcycle establishment.

Thus committed, I rolled up 12th towards Madrona at the top of the hill.  I was somewhat surprised to see traffic backed up this far.  It was about 8:15 AM and I thought rush hour would be done.  Maybe it's the state workers who start at nine, I mused.  As I crested the top of the hill and looked down the other side I was taken aback by the sight.  

It looked like some evil cloning machine had been working overtime spitting out Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer copies.  There was nothing but a line of red lights ahead of me as far as I could see.  I patiently worked the clutch and crept along, figuring that it would clear up as the single lane split into two later on.  No such luck.  Now there was the added complication of deep water on both sides of the street.  I noticed that several side streets were mostly flooded.  Which meant I sort of got funneled ( pun intended ) along with the flow of traffic.  

The water covered more and more of the street.  Traffic started to fan out into two lanes running pretty close together.  Up ahead, for the next eight blocks or so, the water covered the entire street and traffic went single file down the middle.  There was no graceful way out for me as the side streets were flooded, too.  So I did what any insane Road Warrior would do.  I rode through the deep water following the cars and hoping for the best.  

It's time for the "Don't try this at home!" warning.  If you asked me I would tell you this was not a good idea.  Fast moving water moves big stuff, etc., etc..  Yet, here I was.  Not on a dual sport but Elvira was willing to play the part.  There's another problem that you probably haven't thought of, yet.  Or maybe you have and thus have beaten me to the punch.

Riding through deep water is one thing.  Doing it in stop and go traffic is another.  Think about it.  When you  have to put your foot down, where are you going to do it?  That's right.  In a foot of water.  I am proud to say that I did not have to take my foot off the peg.  Between a pretty decent balancing act with my eyes up and clutch slipping, and ticking off a couple of drivers who didn't understand why I was waiting for more space to open up ahead of me, things worked out.  On the other hand, the rain falling from the sky soaked me anyway so I really wondered why I bothered with the effort.

So here are some photos.  I've included the obligatory establishing shots.  As in:  See, I was really there!

Please note the photo of the back of the young man.  He was moving bags of sand from a pickup to the front door of his place of employment,  The water was that high!

Miles and smiles,


Monday, January 16, 2012

Testing before the lesson.

On a cold winter morning recently I set out for Portland to have coffee with Robert.  He has been kind enough to read and comment on this blog.  In one of his comments Robert expressed that he would like to meet me in person.  Silly him.  However, meet we did.  We talked about how one has to be sort of fearless to ride a bike.  The subject of sometimes being tested on something we haven't studied for, yet, also came up.  I came away from the meeting impressed by having been in the presence of a thinking man.

The hour and fifteen minute ride up was cold.  According to Elvira's ambient temperature gauge it was a couple of degrees above freezing.  That was before wind chill, of course.  Call it an ego thing, but I'm really trying to refrain from using the electrics.  No pun intended, but I tend to ride briskly in the cold.  At freeway speeds wind chill drops the temperature down about twenty degrees. So the temperature I felt went from the low thirties to the low teen's.  On the other hand, you don't pay much of a penalty for riding faster.  Check out this chart over at Rick's place, "Keep the Rubber Side Down".

You only pay a one degree penalty for riding at 70 instead of 60 ( mph ).  Click it up to 80 and there's only one more degree to be paid.  Not that I would ever break the law as an instructor, mind you.  I'm only offering this should somebody else decide to spend less time freezing.

Anyway, my thoughts were filled with the upcoming meeting.  This meeting in person thing is kind of like internet dating.  We all tend to paint ourselves in a good light.  Not that I ever claimed to be a six feet two inch tall handsome athlete named Dirk with six pack abs.  Still, I have been called a legend by several folks including some of our blogging brethren who have actually met me in person.  Realize, though, that the meetings were very short ones.

What would Robert think?  Would he be awed by the legend or let down by seeing a middle aged pleasingly plump rider slipping slowly past his prime?  I decided to let things sort out how they may and not worry about it.  Which is pretty much my standard operating procedure these days.  Like me or leave me.  Love me or hate me.  As long as people have a strong opinion I'm  happy.  The worst insult one could give me is to call me "boring" or "vanilla".

( Now I'm waiting for some obnoxious soul to put that in a comment:  Jack, are you reading this? )

Having sorted out all that needed sorted I was cruising happily.  Feeling kinda cocky at being the only bike I'd seen on the roads.  Basking in feeling like the tough warrior and thinking about how any other rider out here would be wired to the gills.  Yes, Sir, the grizzled veteran was king of the roost, cock of the walk this morning.  Then I got passed by a young man on a Honda CBR.  

I caught up to  him at the rest area.  Actually, he was just leaving as I was getting off the bike.  There was barely enough time to snatch this panning shot.  The rider had no wires that I could see and even less wind protection that I had on Elvira.

Dang!  Don't you hate feeling cocky then being one-upped?  I briefly considered riding the rest of the way without a jacket but quickly rejected that crazy idea.  My ego would heal as soon as the rider was out of sight.  It's still pretty healthy these days as it gets exercised regularly.

( to be continued )

Miles and smiles,


Monday, January 09, 2012

Something Different

Ok.  Time to shake off the lethargy and get to work.  It's not a stupor in the usual sense.  It's more like a boat circling in the water until the Captain gets the compass calibrated.  Once the proper coordinates are determined it will be full steam ahead.  Or balls to the wall, if you will.

By the way, I'm not inserting that saying just for shock value.  The expression actually came from aviation, and by extension, boating.  The throttle levers have rounded balls on top.  Unlike a motorcycle throttle, to go faster in a boat or airplane the throttle levers are moved forward.  Pushing the levers all the way forward puts the little balls up against the instrument panel or dash of the vehicle.  Thus, "balls to the wall" means full throttle.  Not a painful physical accident.  Like my first time playing raquetball.

For the first time in as long as I can remember I am entering a new year without a fixed target.  It will be another month before I have all the information required to chart my course.  Either way, the course will be different than now.  Maybe more on that later.  Through it all I remain humbly appreciative to have choices realizing that others don't.

In the meantime, I've decided to quit riding in circles and go back to doing something constructive.  That includes re-energizing this blog.  I find I can't let it go.  There have been too many great connections formed through this medium.  I'd hate to miss out on continuing these and forming new ones.

I did, however, park the bike this last weekend.  On Saturday Katie and I joined our darling daughter, our great son-in-law, and our cherubic grandson in going to a street rod show.  There was a lot of money sitting in that building, let me tell you.

Cars are interesting and fascinating but you know where I ended up.  Found something with two wheels and learned something new about Vespa scooters.

I don't know what year this scooter is. I forgot to ask.  According to this website it is a 1959 model.  The guy at the exhibit claims this was the original scooter used in the movie "American Graffiti".  The scooter has been restored and travels with an American Graffiti tribute team.

Inside the wheel skirt are autographs from Bo Hopkins, Candy Clark, and a couple others from the movie.

In the movie this scooter was owned by a guy named Terry "Toad" Fields.  This was his only transportation.  Unfortunately for the Vespa reputation, Toad was portrayed as a sort of nerd and the scooter was the best he could do.  The movie itself is about coming of age.  One of the "cool" guys gives Toad his car to take care of while he is in college.  A step up, you see, according to the movie.

Anyway, there is a funny bit to this in the movie.  The actor who played Toad is named Charles Martin Smith.  Charles thought the scooter was the standard CV transmission.  What he didn't know was that the Vespa had a four speed manual transmission.  So the left handlebar lever was actually the clutch.

In the movie Toad comes screeching up on the scooter.  As he goes to dismount, he just lets go of the clutch lever.  Which, of course, launches the scooter in a not so graceful move.  George Lucas decides to leave it in the movie.

You can see the scene here

Something new to me, too.  Guess it goes to show we should all be sure to check out the controls when we get on a bike we haven't ridden before!


Hope you enjoyed this bit of trivia.  It seemed a fun way to break the ice for 2012.  Here's to a happy and productive upcoming year for all of us!

Miles and smiles,