Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How Does it Start?

I seem to have survived the night. Wish I could remember who it was on Gary's blog who suggested a cure. When Gary had the bad ear infection. Seem to remember something about a bottle and a hat. Put the hat at the foot of the bed. Drink from the bottle until you see two hats. Thought about trying it but was afraid the hangover would kill me.

It is amazing how you can be so cold with your body so hot. I was freezing but with a high fever. Katie says a little over 103F. The sheets were soaked yet I was shivering. Anyway, today I am at home. Not that I would mind infecting some people at work. I'm just too drug out to go anywhere. Managed two handfuls of Cheerio's, a yogurt and a cup of coffee. Think I will let it rest there a while. Too tired to go to work. Still have energy to blog. I need the connection, I guess. If my brain is not totally fried this should be somewhat lucid.

The picture is of my grandparents. It is a grainy picture from long ago. Perhaps I should have sent it to Steve for enhancement. His pictures are always so awesomely clear. Their names are Ralph and Betty. The horses are Terry on the left and Bud on the right. As a child I fell off Bud more times than I can count. It was a long way down. Long story short, they pretty much raised me. ( the people, not the horses )

You may be wondering what this has to do with commuting by two wheels. Glad you asked. A while back I wrote asking for input on what gives a person the "heart of a motorcyclist". There are many reasons people ride. Some are just practical folks who ride for utility. When the weather is bad they drive. There are those for whom it is a social thing. They enjoy "belonging" and sometimes have a great need for this. Again, most are fair weather riders. There are recreational riders. Then there is "us". What makes us hardcore? Not "what" we do. That's readily apparent. Rather, "why"? More exactly, "where" did this come from?

Consider. We ride for recreation but there is much more than that. We ride for utility but that does not explain it. We socialize to a certain extent. I love the connection on these blogs. For the most part, though, we ride our own rides. Mostly because in the winter there's nobody to ride with, I guess! Think about it. We go way above and beyond most riders. We do things that so called "sane" people call crazy. There is a new welder who started at the shop yesterday. When he saw me ride in on the bike he told me I was crazy. Remember it was during a torrential downpour. There is a freight driver who came by the other day. He said he saw the bike there in the extreme cold. His first thought was "Dan's flat out lost his mind". We take risks but we also arm ourselves with skills and strategies. Do we get this "hardcore" attitude from exposure to riding? Do we find we like it and just gradually take it further than most? Or does our raising inculcate this in us? Will it only be satisfied by motorcycles? Or would any outlet we come across serve us?

In my case I think it was my raising. Motorcycles seem to have been a progression from horses. I want to share some of it with you. Maybe you can see yourself in this writing. Maybe you will have other input.

Gramp was the ultimate "Marlboro Man". He passed away in early December 2004. Grandma is still with me and I cherish these days. She is 87 years old. I will write mostly of Gramp. Ralph lived "large". You have heard of the "work hard, play hard" ethic. Gramp embodied it to the full. He was a farm hand, a cowboy, a log truck driver, and later, a cop. He retired as Assistant Police Chief. Gramp was rowdy but had a code of values. I was taught about "macho" and was taught about "responsibility". I was raised to have fun, find adventure, but never cheat on my values. I was allowed to be a hell-raiser but was expected to defend a lady's honor. Gramp was the one who taught me to be "strong enough to be gentle". For me, it was Gramp's influence that put me where I am today. To the world I am an Ironman. To my family I am "Honey" and "Daddy". My wife calls me her "tough creme puff". Tell anybody and I shall hunt you down!

There's still a little more to it, though. I know, the mind reels that there could be more. I saw early on this great difference in people. Some of us accomplish things by doing them ourselves. Some people find accomplishment vicariously from watching others. The horses are a perfect example.

For a long time we had our own horses. It was not a fancy stable. It was more like a barn on the back acres. Gramp and I were weekend rodeo cowboys. He would always call me "Dude". Not the common lingo today. This was the cowboy term for a new cowboy. You know, a "dude". I think Gramp forgot my real name. For years he never called me anything else. I seriously was on horseback before I could walk. I think becoming bowlegged from horses helps me wrap around a bike. We did many things. Together we did what is called "head and heel" calf roping. I did steer wrestling. We did a little bucking bronco thing. I never had the desire to ride bulls, though. Smashing my groin into pulp did not appeal to a late teenage guy who hoped to one day have children. For many years we enjoyed the rodeo. Time goes on and Gramp was worn out bodily.

The desire to be involved did not go away. We switched to horse shows. Less wear and tear on the body. Our rodeo horses were not show horses. Like me, they got the job done but were not pretty. Gramp worked out deals to show horses for others. We did the training and work. The owners lived through us. These people bragged about what their horses were doing. It was if they had accomplished something huge. Truth is, they were only the bankroll. They had the money and facilities. We had the skills and sweat. I see this with parents and their children. You've seen it. A father who never went out and lived life on his own. All of a sudden he wants to be a hero through his children. Sorry, I don't buy into that.

I never want to be one who lives vicariously. At the same time I will not accomplish everything myself. So I have settled on a few things. A few things I can do well. A few things done to the full. My children were raised with this same attitude. It is not enough just to read what others have done. Reading and hearing of others should round out your experience. Not BECOME your experience. When I read of those who explore I take satisfaction in having done my own exploration. When I read of race car drivers I remember my bike racing. And so it goes. I want to bring something to the table, as it were. It is hard to explain exactly. I trust you get my aim, here.

My riding reflects my raising. For me, "hardcore" motorcycling is an outlet for something already in me. Motorcycles are not the cause, only the means. It suits me perfectly being different from the "crowd". While I respect them I do not identify with them. The day will surely come when my mind writes a check my body can't cash. I may be reduced to a hopped up wheelchair but, snow or no snow, off to the Senior Center I go!!

This was fun but I am exhausted. Time to go back to bed. Take care.

Monday, February 27, 2006


I may or may or not post tonight. I rode down in a downpour so hard that everything was totally soaked. I had pulled out an older Courtech jacket from Tourmaster. The sleeves soaked totally through so I had soaked shirt sleeves all morning. The Roadcrafter pants did their job. My gloves were so soggy I wrung them out. That all is no big deal.

I think I might be getting the flu. Riding in the cold and rain is old stuff. I never have problems because my natural body temperature is higher. Today I never got warm despite wearing my fleece. Now my cheeks feel hot and I have a tremendous headache. I am facing the same kind of ride home. Still old stuff.

Arriving home may mean a couple shots of Southern Comfort and an early retirement under Katie's electric blanket. I really wanted to take some pain killer today. I decided to save my liver for the whiskey. By the way, it SUCH a blessing to have an angel like her to go home to!!


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Fun and funny things.

No philosophy today, just fun. I have begun to bore myself! Friday I saw interesting things. Here are a couple.

I am running a business errand on the bike. Who says your company vehicle has to be car? I am stopped at a light. There are five lanes of traffic here. On the left a gentleman is on a scooter. He is not on the street. The man has ridden across a large parking lot. His destination appears to be the crosswalk. It is a very nice looking scooter. It appears to be a silver Honda Reflex. I am not an expert on scooters. This is my guess. The man is dressed for business. A light jacket over a dress shirt. Slacks and shoes that speak of an office job. Just before the man reaches the crosswalk he moves his legs left. As slick as you please he dismounts the scooter. The movement is so smooth as to be indiscernable. One moment he is on the scooter, the next walking beside it. With engine still running he dutifully walks the scooter across the street. Pushing it across in the crosswalk. On the right is another large parking lot. Just as smoothly as the dismount he is back on the scooter. The parking lot journey continues. I am thinking the scooter is large enough to require an endorsement. Perhaps he does not yet have one. This may be practise for him. He is so smooth and proper about it all. I am certain that I would have ridden across the street.

Earlier I had been returning from lunch. Sitting on the side of the road is a cop friend of mine. He is on the bike watching traffic. He shows me the new laser gun. No, it is not a weapon. It is the replacement for the radar gun. This one is more accurate and pinpoints single vehicles. A man in a Dodge Durango roars by. The Durango is bright red. It is a bad idea to speed by a traffic cop. It is worse to do so in a conspicuous vehicle. Brian yells "Gotta go!" and takes off to catch the Durango with the "B-rays" flashing. You can probably hear the wheels of mischief turning in my head. On impulse I press first gear and follow. I am thinking to myself as I go. We are on a three lane freeway. The speed limit is 55. I did not see the laser gun reading. The Durango must be doing well over 60 to get Brian's attention. I know we will be doing that speed plus some to over-take. I will technically be speeding myself. Is it really speeding if I am following a police officer? Brian had said "Gotta go!". I can always claim I heard "Follow me!". I could plead insanity. I think they would believe it.

As I am thinking I am also watching the police BMW ahead of me. I am a professional trainer. It is my habit to evaluate riders. I search out the subtle clues that tell me what a rider is doing. Brian is toward the right part of the lane. I hang to the left. I see the front of the bike lift under heavy acceleration. It dips and rises again in second gear. Once more the front dips and rises for third gear. The front dips again....and does not rise for a moment. I see Brian's boot toe go lower. He has missed a shift. I have ridden these bikes at a track. The transmissions seem notchy. My ST is much smoother. To shift quickly one preloads the shifter. A clutch pull about halfway in. Pull the shifter and release. Under quick acceleration I have not let off the shifter enough between shifts. There are false neutrals. It is not a big thing but I find it amusing. Brian does his traffic stop. I drop out of warp drive and continue on my way.

The awkward moment reminds me of a time long ago. I was a reserve officer for a county sheriff's department. Solo certification had been newly attained. Being a reserve I worked mostly nights and weekends. One Friday night I heard a female city officer ask for an assist. I was on my way into town and was close to her. I offered to stop and dispatch agreed. I thus duly responded. There was a man who was to be taken into custody. He had other ideas. A wrestling match ensued. Soon he was in the back of a car being whisked away. No injuries sustained, just a lot of scuffling. I resumed my trip back to the station. On the way I see a car run a stoplight. Seeing the overheads the driver pulls over. It is dark on the street. The streetlight is not illuminated. As I approach the car I hear something clank on the ground. It seems during the previous scuffle my badge has become dislodged. I look down but do not see it. Acting "oh so casual" I shine my light around the car as if looking for something. It is hard to keep an eye on the driver while looking for my badge. I finally spot it just in front of the rear tire. I shine the light briefly toward the driver to mask the view. My foot nudges the badge out of the way of the tire. Further under the car. I don't know why I did not just stoop to pick it up. It just seemed embarrassing. After the driver was freed to go I waited until they were out of sight. Only then did I get back out of the car and retrieve the badge. Another awkward moment.

Interestingly, I had occasion to ride a new BMW R1150RT this weekend. Let me introduce you to Jim. Jim is in his mid sixties. He has money. Jim will also prove he has wisdom and will earn my deepest respect.

Not long ago Katie and I were at Salem Honda BMW. I really respect this dealer. They do business the honest way. The sales people have a conscience when selling bikes. Some young men have been turned away from buying certain bikes. The shop makes a big effort to steer riders to training. I have been adopted as the resident "Instructor". The sales manager, Lon, introduces me to many customers when I am there. We happen to be there in "Big Red", the family pickup. Please do not gasp with horror. We have had to bring a desk up for our son who lives near the shop. ( Lucky boy ) As good as I am there is no way to haul furniture on the bike. If it makes you feel better, the truck is a 1982. It has been part of the family for a long time. My youngest child, Clinton, will be 18 in April. When he was five or so Big Red was like a real person to him. Clinton would sit in front of the truck and talk to it. The truck is not pretentious. It is like me. Not much to look at but it gets the job done.

As we are browsing and visiting we meet Jim and his wife Maxine. They have come up from Eugene which is an hour and fifteen minutes or so South. Jim has just purchased the new BMW. It has been many years since Jim last rode. Lon takes Jim to the parking lot of an empty grocery store which is nearby. They take a small dual sport to see how Jim does with it. When they come back Lon takes me aside and tells me Jim is somewhat shaky. The front brake application is abrupt. The BMW has the servo assist brakes. It will be interesting. I talk to Jim and say I mean no offense to his skills. If he wishes I could ride the bike to his house and Katie could follow in the truck. This would give Jim the chance to get more gradual exposure in short trips from his house. Jim politely declines my offer and I think no more about it.

Saturday morning the phone rings. Lon has given Jim my number. Jim asks if my offer still stands. Of course, it does. Arrangements are made for Jim to meet me at a "Park-N-Ride" near a freeway exit not too far away from me. I arrive on a bike. Jim has met me in an almost new Mini-Cooper. He drives us to the dealer. Jim decides the bike needs fuel so I ride it to a mini-mart with gas pumps nearby to the dealer. I have a little finger confusion with the turn signals. There is a switch on the left for left turns and one just like it on the right for that direction. They both cancel from a gray paddle on the right. I have ridden these bikes on the track. There we "don't need no stinkin' turn signals!". I end up signalling left for a right turn. It is quickly corrected but has set a bad omen. I let Jim fuel the bike. He spills gas on his new bike.

With these being our only troubles we head for his house. For most of the way Jim follows me. I have a pretty good idea of where to go. Jim will go ahead as we get closer. I play with the power windshield. I play with the heated grips and seat. This bike also has a notchy transmission. It is still a very nice bike. When we get to Jim's house I see 73 miles on the odometer. Maxine has made coffee and fixed us up with two travel mugs. Jim is impressed by my riding. He says it was all "by the book". I do not always ride like that but it was not my bike. I tried to respect that. Jim hands me the keys to the Mini. I do not feel bad driving a "box". It is the total opposite of an SUV. It is a very nice car. It is just weird to look in the middle of the dash for the dinner plate sized speedometer. Jim tells me that he and Maxine are going to take the beginning rider class. Like I said, Jim has wisdom. It was a fun day.


You read of Ann earlier. She was a student in my class earlier this month. Due to physical limitations she did not go very far. I talked with her on the 17th. Ann purchased a 49cc Honda Ruckus scooter. She has had a couple of very short rides so far. This size bike does not require an endorsement. I still encouraged her to come back and take the class on her Ruckus. The experience will serve her well. I worry about her but hope she finds what she seeks.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Freedom Machines

I am way behind at the office. Deadlines are looming. It is time for an early morning. Leaving home at 5 AM will put me in the office by 6. The morning is clear and cold. The moon is an orange crescent hanging in the sky. A few stars keep it company. There is a light frost on Katie's car. The air is cool and moist. My ST finds it quite nourishing. The bike feels strong and eager to run. It is interesting that I have not named this bike. I do not wish to keep it impersonal. Naming it has just not happened, yet. The other vehicles have names. Why have I put off naming the ST? Is it because a name may be limiting? With no name the bike can be whatever I want? Or am I just lazy? I should find a suitable name for my dear steed.

Riding this morning is so awesome I change the plan. Work can wait a few more minutes. Instead of turning for the freeway I head straight South. The old highway passes through some small towns. Each has their own unique character. It is a fine morning to ride back roads in the dark. At a small town named Halsey I spot a small grocery store. I think of a ride Katie and I took. We stopped at the store and bought juice. Katie had packed some small snacks. It was a nice day and we sat outside. Off to one side of the store was a stack of milk crates. We sat on over-turned milk crates and visited. We talked of the roads we had travelled. We compared notes on things we had seen. A simple interlude sitting on milk crates. It seems these crates have many uses. A place to sit, an impromptu stand to put things on, a carrying device for a bike or scooter. Oh yes, actually transporting dairy products.

This is not really about milk crates. It is about how a motorcycle helps us distill life to its essence. How all is reduced to its simple elements. For me the bike helps in finding peace. During this ride I thought of past rides. One of our favorite things to do is get on the bike and just wander together.

Riders say that a car is an insulating box. I think of it as a world within a world. The inside of a car is a world of its own. The boundaries are clearly defined. It even carries its own environment. I believe for the most part people want this. A house is another world with set boundaries. The same with office buildings or workplaces. True, not all people are the same. I just think most people need this security. Being out in the open and on their own is unsettling. This is shown when they travel. The world of the car is parked. They run into the world of the restroom building. They eat at restaurants. A place where they are inside a world. In a place with boundaries cleary defined. The walls provide security. There are occasional forays into the wide open. These are exceptions, not the rule. Another blogger has called these worlds "boxes". From one box to another.

On two wheels we are in the open all the time. We are accustomed to the feeling. We savor the freedom. "Don't box us in!", we cry. Walled-in worlds are confining to us. We are not merely observing our surroundings. In contrast, we are a part of them. This is why we so easily stop to admire our planet. It is not like stopping a car and getting out. This requires a conscious transition from one world to another. For us it is like stopping when walking. We are already in the scene. We just pause. No transitions are required. No effort to step from one world to another. I think of how often Katie and I have sat on curbs and rocks.

It is so natural when travelling on a bike. We can carry little with us. We have learned to rely more on ourselves. It could be said we are more self-sufficient. When we achieve that state we need little else. Our security is in ourselves and what we carry with us. This is the wonder of riding for me. Sit on a log, sit on a rock. It matters not. We make our own surroundings. We do not need props to create an illusion. What can be said of "box" people can be said of riders. Not all who ride are free of pretending. The riders I write of are the hard core. Those who spend hours in the saddle. I write of those of us who live on a bike. Those of us committed to riding and the journey of discovery. I also write of those who have the same heart. Miles are not always necesary. Having this heart is.

Motorcycles are called "freedom machines". For me this means liberation from constraints and pretending. From posing and illusions. Others may have great need for these. I will go my own way. In an opposite direction. Yes, it is good to be riding. I will cherish this freedom as long as I am able. I wish you the same.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Contrasts. A day of opposites.

The bike in it's natural habitat!

Listen to the beatings of the drums. The blog drums are speaking of Spring. The drums sound enthusiastic. It would seem we are ready for a change. Winter weather can present great adversity. We have had our chance to test ourselves. Pass or fail we have gauged where we are. Barring a special weather event this test is completed. It is time for a change. Spring and summer will bring new possibilities.

I have been thinking today of contrasts. The difference between cold and sun. All winter I have been the fighter pilot. Huddled in my cockpit doing battle. My concentration has been intense. Conditions have commanded my attention. Now it is getting warmer. The rain has let up for now. I am able to relax more. I think of the contrast. Today I am no longer the warrior. Today I am a pleasure boat captain. My posture on the bike has changed. Where before I was huddled now I sit up more. I am more stretched out. I am more at ease. Like a man sprawled on a deck chair in the sun. The upright posture makes the bike feel different. When I huddled I moved more with the bike. Today the bike moves under me. It is a different perspective. I feel more the smoothness of my steed. Shifting is now a series of quiet snicks. I hear less the roar of the wind at the front of the bike. I hear more the quiet growl from the exhaust. There is no stinging rain. I open my visor and breath fresh air. The weather itself is a contrast today. This morning was 42 degrees and clear. The ride home is cloudy with sprinkles.

There is a contrast in commuters. A study in differing attitudes toward the journey. I offer this story as an example. One commuter is on a bike. As you have guessed it is me. Another commuter is in a mini-van. It is a Chrysler Voyager. The van is the color of a green martini olive. Somebody in the world must like this color. The driver is a large man. Not so much tall as heavyset. He has a large head with a big nose. His lower lip hangs slack. Perhaps it is paralyzed. I think maybe years of mouth breathing have caused atrophy. I do not claim to be handsome myself. However, ugly is easily hidden by a colorful helmet. Helmets serve many functions. The man may not be a commuter. I shall call us travellers.

We are on the Interstate. My pattern is now the Interstate in the morning. The ride home is on back roads. I have joined the freeway in the usual place. Shortly afterwards the mini-van blows by me. Feeling playful I roll on and follow. In no time we are behind other traffic. I hang back and enjoy my trip. The warm weather allows for more sightseeing. I watch a hawk swoop and come up with a mouse. It is a great morning to be riding. The traveller on the bike is having fun. There is no stress for him.

The traveller in the mini-van does not share my good mood. The man is tailgating the vehicle ahead. There are frequent darts to the left and right. The driver seems to be looking for openings. Once in a while the man whips into the right lane. I know his plan is to slingshot. This man has issues besides his weight and ugliness. Gauging distances is not his strong suit. One of two problems surface. Number one: there is not as much space as he thought. Number two: there is a lack of intestinal fortitude. I will sum it up here. Tender readers shut your eyes a minute. The driver is a man with no depth perception and no balls.

You may open your eyes, again.

I am totally amused. The driver finds he cannot pass. I still have the large gap. It is simple space cushioning. The mini-van comes back in front of me. No problem, this is a fun show. Soon the man tries it again. The same result is achieved. Maybe I should say the lack of result. Over a course of thirty miles I am behind the van. We are at or below the speed limit. Finally the way is clear. Now the mini-van driver has clear space. He is one who lives in the left lane. I stated earlier that I felt playful. Playfulness now turns to impishness. I decide to add to this traveller's stress.

The driver is committed to the left lane. We are close to my exit. The road is clear for a while. I move up on the right. It looks like I am going to pass. Suddenly I slow and do a double-take at the front corner of the van. I speed up as if to pass again. Then I slow and look once more. The driver has noticed my behaviour. I wondered if he had the ability. I point at his front wheel. The one on the right side. The one furthest away from his line of sight. The other wheels he can see. Either out the window or in mirrors. This one is hidden to him. He meets my gaze with a slack-eyed stare. What am I pointing at? I point again, a little more emphatically. I make gestures that are vague. I do not want to be specific. Still the slack-eyed stare.

I tire of the game. We have been vulnerable beside him. It is time to move away. I shrug my shoulders as if giving up on him. I shake my head and wick it up. It has become tiring playing mind games with an unarmed opponent. A mile more is my off-ramp. As I slow the van comes by. I see he is driving more slowly. Perhaps next week he will realize he has been toyed with.

The contrast is obvious. Two travellers covering the same distance in the same time. There is a huge difference in their experiences.

Tonight I have included a picture. This is something I seldom do. Steve always has a picture of the lovely Vespa. Gary is using more pictures. I do my own thing. I am a "rugged individualist". I have decided to be an individual with the group. So here is a picture. This is where I went for lunch. Coffee and a sandwich. The turkey pesto sandwich is very good. Katie did the caption. She laughed when I got an award. I was the Starbucks "employee of the month". I do not work at Starbucks. Katie and I have different opinions. She claims I navigate by Starbucks. This is true. I don't call Starbucks our "natural habitat". I consider this to be the open road. The bikes and I are wandering creatures. The Starbucks are just watering holes along the way.

This was to be the end of the contrasts story. Fortuity delivered a gift to me. Did you see the Hummer? I could not help taking advantage. I have mentioned this before. A stunning contrast in social responsibility. The bike and the Hummer. So we parked beside it and took a picture. While eating I tried to spot the driver. None fit the "stereotype". As I was leaving the driver exited also. The young man did not look the part. Just the opposite, actually. He had frizzed blonde hair. Polar fleece and cargo pants were his clothing. Sandals were on his feet. I would have pegged him for an activist. One who wants to protect nature. Not to be a participant in its destruction. Another contrast to ponder.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Know your limits. Ride within them.

This post is a result of a phone call I received at home last night.

First a disclaimer:

Due to circumstances I am bringing in another BLOG. If you are reading this one then you will know of Gary Charpentier. He is the dashing pilot of The Baron. I DO NOT speak for Gary. The words I write are my own intrepretations and opinions.

Gary-- I know you read this and am honored that you do so. If I mis-state please use this forum to publicly correct me! I would also be pleased to have you use this space to add what you feel I might have missed.

The phone call.

I received a call from a woman who was one of my students last summer. I shall call her Melissa. As you may know, or have surmised, I am an instructor for our state's motorcycle safety program. Melissa had found Gary's BLOG, and through it, mine. She put things together and then called. I am listed in the phone book. The gist of the conversation was that she felt somewhat betrayed. I continually stress the above mantra. Know your limits, ride within them. The key to managing risk on the streets. Having read certain things in the BLOGs Melissa felt that I was not living what I preached. Wasn't I her instructor? Did I not have an obligation to set a good example?

In the short time I had available I tried to offer explanations. It is likely that it was not as effective as it could have been. I lay awake many hours thinking about this. It really bothered me. Credibility with my students is important to me. Personal integrity is equally so. I thought of how this BLOG thing is so intertwined. Some of us write for what I call the "hard-core". Those who are committed to two wheels. Those who know what it is like to ride in the most adverse conditions. It tends to narrow our focus. It came to me that we are being exposed to more "casual" riders. Those who are exploring commuting. Newer riders who are mapping their future and weighing their options. Consider a quick example.

I support "Ride to Work". On their site I found Gary's BLOG, "The Baron In Winter". Through him and the RTW folks I started my own writing adventure. Now there is a link to my site on Gary's site. ( sorry, Gary!) In this process I found the interesting site "Mad TV". mad's blog has a link to his father's blog. There is now a link on my site to Steve and his wonderful Vespa pictures. On his site there are links to other places. And so it goes. Wow! That's just the first half. There's more!

We trained over 6700 students last year. The vast majority of them were in basic classes where we hand out a workbook. In this workbook are ads from entities in the motorcycle industry who support rider training. Each book has a postcard size advertisement from Aerostich. ( Thank you, Aero Design, for supporting rider training! ) Guess who is the impetus behind "Ride to Work"? Aero Design, of course. On the Aerostich site is a link to RTW. On the RTW site is a link to Gary's site. On Gary's site is a link to mine. You see how it goes? "Ride to Work" is becoming more widely supported all the time. The exposure to newer riders is becoming greater. One thing leads to another. This is just one state out of 50.

Sorry to be so long on this part but is was necesary to set the background. We have a more varied readership than we realize, I think. I personally wish to still appeal primarily to my "hard-core" group. So I will not change what I write about. At the same time, I want to create a platform. A place to view the writings from. A place from which to gain perspective. It will now be on record and can be referred to. If you have a need to explain to newer riders and aquaintances please free to use this. Perhaps you have no interest at all. It is important to me to put this down here. It is important to me that these ones have the whole picture as best as I can paint it with words.

At first glance I understand how we could be considered 'thrill seekers". People who care only about the next "victory". Even among our own core, those who comment on the blogs, there are different levels of understanding. There are those who use the word "crazy" in jest, and those who use it seriously. There are some who sort of "get it". There are some not even close but enjoy the reading of the tales. And these are mostly longer time riders. What must it look like to new riders? Or to those who have had a bike for a long while but have little riding time?

Know your limits and ride within them.

So let us go back to "limits". There are three areas where limits are found. The bike, the rider, and the environment. The very term "know your limits" implies a process of discovery. You might also say "Go and find the limits". This means that there has to be a journey. A process of exploration. In this search there is a method.

The Bike

I will put Gary center stage here. He is the perfect example of this area. What Gary does, folks, is product testing. Pure and simple. Oh sure, there's a certain romance to it. The situation calls for an adventuresome spirit and personal fortitude which Gary seems to have in abundance. Boiled down to its essence, though, it's an attempt to make a better scooter. The makers of the Baron seem to be proud of it. The wish is to make it better. What better way than to test it? Not an easy test. What would that prove or help? No, a bona fide test to find the absolute limits of the machine. They have given it to Gary who has the skills and experience to truly see what the scooter can do. Notes are being kept.

Riding this scooter in the ice and extremely low temperatures has nothing to do with being "reckless" or "irresponsible". This is a controlled research project. Did the scooter do ok at 20 degrees? Good. Tomorrow it will be even colder. Did we do ok at 15 degrees? Mostly, but there was a certain problem. Step by careful step the machine is evaluated and tested. Is the problem due to a design flaw? Good, we've found it and can fix it. Is there a point that the machine just will not tolerate the cold or conditions? That can only be determined by taking the next step. Then the next. Each step builds on the previous to go a little further each time. Only in this way can the manufacturer find the absolute limits. When these absolute limits are found it can be determined if the machine will serve its riders well. If not, the limits can be changed by improving the machine based on the test results.

Bring the spotlight back to me and my trusty ST. I am not product testing. This machine has been tested extensively by others and found to be good. I explore limits for a different reason. As do other experienced riders. In controlled environments such as a track I explore lean angles. Will the bike lean this far? Then we explore a little more lean. At some point I will know the limit. I explore braking. Will it stop this quickly? Further exploration reveals that it will stop a little quicker. At some point I will know the limits. With these tires, in these conditions, the bike will go this far and no farther. Proven one small step at a time. Why must I know where 100 percent is? I certainly do not intend to ride at this level on the streets.

Consider a ride on a twisty road. My goal might be to ride at 70 percent. This will leave thirty percent for "just in case". I want traction and ground clearance in the bank. How will I know where the 70 percent is if I don't know where the 100 percent is? By knowing where the limit is I can develop strategies. For instance, my cornering strategy is "double minus 10". If a corner is posted at 30 I know I can safely take it at 50. I have proven it by exploring limits. It is now a valuable tool. It is true that I could ride at, say, 20 percent. I know I would never be anywhere close to the limit. For me, this is not an option. I ride for fun as well as for other reasons. I prefer to take charge of my own ship, as it were.

Knowing limits also serves at critical times. If I need to make a decision the correct information is at hand. I do not assume the bike will do more than it will. I do not assume the bike will do less than it will. I can make intelligent choices based on what I know to be true. We have explored and charted the unknown until it is familiar. Knowing the braking limits will dictate my following distances. There are many examples. It is sad to ride over the limits. It is sad to ride too far under the limits if it is due to ignorance.

Ironically, to manage risk effectively one has to explore the limits. It is a measured process. One step at a time.

The Rider -- The Environment

I lump these together for the sake of brevity. In many ways they are tied together, anyway. I will not go over the same ground again. We know the value of keeping skills sharp. The value of having the proper tool at hand at the proper time for it. It is likely I will not meaningfully add to your knowledge of this subject here. I do want to explore the more subtle side of the equation. Why do we seek challenges and how do we go about it?

Think of being a student of the piano. We have mastered a basic set of skills. Now it is time to tackle a challenge. A piece is selected. One that is within our reach. Using our skills as a platform we reach out to the challenge. Much thought and practise go into it. Now we are ready to be tested. We play for our teacher. Perhaps a small audience. Our skill is evaluated. We are successful! The feeling of having been tested and proven fit is a wonderful thing. We wish to experience it again. The catch is that we cannot do the same piece. That mountain has been climbed. The next piece we pick will stretch our skills some more. Obviously we do not chose what can only be accomplished by an expert pianist. We build on the skills we have. Take them and stretch some more. Our piano is tuned and in working order. Distractions are limited as much as possible as we strive. We take the next measured step. And so the process continues. Each time we relish the chance to be tested. To prove ourselves.

So it is to those of us you are meeting here. We greatly desire the chance to grow. The only worthy measure of accomplishment is testing. Once having passed the test, it will be ours to savor. Ours to build upon for the next test. Each time increasing our skills and pride in having them. We control as many variables as we can. Yet, if everything were totally controlled there would be not the well earned pride of accomplishment. There MUST be an element of uncertainty. There must be the possibility of failure. We look for situations where these requirements can be met. At first look someone further along this process may appear more daring. On closer scrutiny, the measured steps will reveal the truth. It is not an irresponsible leap. It is the progress of the steps that is seen.

At some time in the future there may come a time where we have reached the peak. Just as a pianist who has mastered every style of playing. We can explore subtle nuances but further big steps are not possible anymore. I do not think any of us here have reached that point. And so we strive. If we ever do reach it, at least we will not be left wondering what would have been possible. We will have fully explored. We will have been fully tested. The testing will reveal the truth. Strengths and weaknesses. Only by revealing weakneses can they be strengthened. Testing is the most accurate gauge. That which sheds light in the darkness.

I bring Gary and the Baron back for one more quick example. Testing the Baron in extreme weather also means testing the rider. A first glance might show him to be insane riding in the snow, ice, and freezing weather. Look more slowly, now, and see the process. Having dirt riding experience he is familiar with how a bike handles on low traction surfaces. He knows how to gently steer the bike with the throttle. Braking a dirt bike while heading downhill teaches proper braking in the ice. Drag the rear brake and make it an anchor. Do not load the front wheel by hard braking thus causing it to slide. Use a Fred Flinstone like method of dragging boots for balance as required. When you know of his skills gained by previous testing, you are more understanding. For Gary this is a responsible approach. It is not a large leap, it is merely more small steps taken in succession. The cold weather is handled by adjustments. The bike is fitted with knobby tires. Certain clothing layers and materials have proven effective in frigid conditions. A further temperature drop reveals the need for one more small adjustment. I chuckle at Gary with frostbite on his nose. I want to call him Rudolph or something but am not brave enough. He has just discovered one more area where a small adjustment is needed. One more step. Each step building on the foundation of the last one. The steps have taken him far.

Do you see how the process works? Our limits are higher than many others, to be sure. The limits were explored one step at a time. I know I say that a lot, here. One step at a time. Look not at the leap from where you are. That is the wrong perspective. Look further back and see the steps that lead us where we are. Steps that others can follow. Steps that you can take.

I leave you with this. An invitation to join us in our two-wheeled journey. Join those of us who use two wheels for transportation and recreation. Share our passion. The Earth needs you to be gentle. Two wheels use less resources. A single track leaves a smaller footprint. In few other socially responsible endeavours can you find so much pleasure and treasure. The treasure you find will enrich so many other parts of your life. That sounds like a "better than fair" trade off to me!

Ride well, live well!

Sunday, February 19, 2006


I was not going to post this weekend. It was to be a weekend away from the bikes. A long weekend to tune in with Katie. We ended up riding Saturday. It was Katie's request to go. We met the enemy in an SUV. No physical injuries. Only to my psyche.

We slept in. Enjoyed a leisurely brunch. The sun was shining. Cold it was, but compelling. Katie said it would be a great day for a ride. "Let's go for coffee", she exclaimed. It was a strange request. I had coffee in my hand. We have a Starbuck's here in town. 10 minutes away. Then she filled in the second half. "At Coburg Road". Now it makes sense. This Starbuck's is 55 miles the way we go. I wanted to be sure she understood the cold. That it was really her choice. I am fine. I am suffering PMS ( parked motorcycle syndrome ) but can easily deal with it for a few days. No, she insisted she wanted to go for herself.

Katie has an endorsement. She took the class. She rides a little. The CX500 is hers. Mostly she wants to cuddle behind me. Katie is a motorcyclist at heart. I have seen her eyes shine. She tells someone of how cornering feels. She tells of being immersed in the ride. She wants to go. She feels a need. We will take a long way down. Sit and connect over coffee for me and tea for her. Share the ride. It will be much colder as dark nears. The run home will be on the Interstate. It is a tradeoff. We will have a long ride. Then hurry home to shield her from the worst cold.

She puts on layer after layer. Long underwear. Sweater. Fleece pullover. Her Aerostich Roadcrafter. It is Hi Viz. Top and bottom. That is a lot of yellow! Somewhere in there is the electric vest. A balaclava. Two pairs of gloves. I am afraid she won't bend enough to get on the bike. It works and we are off.

I will not detail the ride down. This is to tell a particular story. Suffice it to say it was good. Sweeping curves, beautiful country, the last leg following a river and its bends. It is amusing that we sat outside for coffee. With all the gear we would have cooked inside. The sun was still bright. Why not leave the gear on and enjoy it? People huddled inside. We had outside to ourselves. Box people and bike people separated by the cold.

Here is the encounter. We are up the Interstate. I am in the left lane. Traffic is heavy. All the box people coming and going. We are in a train line. Patiently riding. It is about the journey for us. In my mirrors I see a silver SUV. It seems half the world drives silver SUV's. This one darts to the right lane. Comes up and pushes into traffic on the left. Waits and does it again. You have seen these. Now the driver is next to us. Left lane and right lane are the same speed. We are side by side. I look at the people in the SUV. There is a man about 40. Dark haired with a narrow face. He has a woman passenger. A child in the back seat. The man is impatient. He looks directly at me. I see the front tire move my direction. The SUV gets closer to my bike. And closer. And closer.

This man sees me. He is not accidently pullling over into me. He is deliberately trying to make me yield. Closer and closer. Little by little. This is planned. This is evil intent. I feel the anger demon well up inside me. The man is staring at me as he pulls over. So far I am holding. It is time for a crucial decision. Will he go all the way? Do I call his bluff ( if it is a bluff ) or fold? I feel Katie squeeze her knees against me. She knows the situation. I back off. I feel so impotent. I am outraged. Shortly I hit an off-ramp and we go home on the old highway. I dare not have this SUV in my vision. It may drive me to other things.

I think about my decision. I think about the driver. I am seething inside. A hundred years ago I would have shot him. I am trained to rise to challenges with authority. I am trained to assert myself. I am wired to defend my honor. I do not lightly back down from a challenge. It is not likely this man would have challenged me if we had been face to face. It is one thing to be insulated in a vehicle. Quite another to meet a man in the open. Katie says I am intimidating. In confrontations there is an insane look in my eyes. It is to no effect when masked by a helmet and sunglasses. What could cause this man to act this way? Is he so important that all must yield? Does he feel invulnerable in his big SUV? Does he care about the stress to his wife? Is he happy with the example he is setting for the child? I can only wonder about these things.

I do know about MY decision. It was not possible to use the cell phone. You know how it is on a bike. An arresting officer would have no probable cause. I could press charges. Intent would be hard to prove. It would still be vicarious satisfaction. Not the same as "on the spot" justice. Did I make the right choice? Would the driver have yielded if he saw I would not? I had my best friend on the bike with me. Could I make the choice for her? The anger demon was welling strong in me. Releasing this demon is perilous. It wants to cause harm and hurt. I have found that it is just as willing to hurt the one releasing it. It will not leave without satisfaction. It cares not who it harms. Just that it does. My pride urged me to fight a battle I knew I could not win. If I were alone would I have fought? Would this be the fine line? Bravery versus stupidity?

It seems dramatic does it not? After all, it is only an incident on the road. Yet it is symbolic of so much. I backed down. I console myself that we all will pay for decisions. Someday and somewhere. I tell myself it was the right thing to do. I am happy that we are still well. Yet I am shamed that I yielded. My pride is wounded. Our bike and bodies are not. I am outraged without outlet. Yet we will ride again unharmed. There is so much inner turmoil.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A great start, a rough finish.

I woke up and looked outside. There was no snow. The temperature was well below freezing. Yet not the 15 degrees predicted. I think it was a tempest in a teapot. The ride to work was delightful. That is a flowery word for one such as I. Delightful. It was that kind of morning, though. Like daisies in the morning sun. If I fall off the cliff of reality into a poetic sea then I shall plunge deep. We would not want to waste the trip. The morning was cheerful. My heart was uplifted. Birds were singing. People were smiling. Damn, I need to come out of the ocean. Out of poetic and onto dry land. A person like me could drown here. It was a great ride. So much positive energy.

I love the Aerostich gear. It is the best I have ever found. This is not an advertisement. Their gear has been proven in battle. I have even crashed tested it. Even an ironman has an off day. I have crashed once on the streets. It is not a tale for today. I saw a man who I am sure was colder than me today. He has an interesting job. A large truck was hauling a gigantic cement beam. It is so long that the rear of the beam needs to steer separately. Like the long fire trucks in big cities. This man was sitting in a little cab under the beam. That is all it is, really. A small cab with a few windows. It has eight wheels, mirrors, and a steering wheel. The only connection to the tractor is the beam. That and a few cables. I am not sure if it has heat. It could only be electric, if so. The man was bundled up and looked cold. I am not sure I would like to travel like that. With my butt a few inches off the freeway. With impending doom on top of my head. Many are now controlled remotely from the tractor. This is an older one still on the road.

There was an endearing moment at a stop light. I am in the lane next to a small school bus. It has the name of a rehab center on it. It is a place where folks can work. Folks with challenges; mental, physical, or both. One needs personal worth no matter our circumstances. There were perhaps a dozen passengers. All looking out the windows at the bike and me. All with very serious and straight faces. All waiting for a signal. I waved. A simple, cheery movement of my hand. The bus exploded. Not literally. This is not a story of disaster. ( think daisies! ) The bus exploded with cheer. In an instant a dozen smiles burst out. A dozen hands waved wildly. I had given the signal they were waiting for. Many years ago I drove a morning route. Filled in for a while. A driver was out with medical problems. I took the mornings, someone else took afternoons. It was an enlightening thing for me. The world is often put off by the handicapped. It can go to the point of revulsion. Or is it fear? "There but for the grace of God, go I". It was fun to get to know my charges. They were some of the purest hearts I have ever felt. That is one of the reasons I became a cop years ago. To protect such innocents. I no longer carry a badge. I still carry the urge to protect. The interaction brought back good memories.

During the day the temperature dropped. The wind got teeth. You have heard of a lazy wind. One that bothers not to go around. Instead it just goes through you. The weather channel said we were still in for trouble. They showed us great pictures. Wonderful animations of a moving cold front. They called it an "arctic blast". The animations showed the front coming down into Montana. Stopping at the 45th parallel. Turning West and heading right for us. The winds were to be 30 mph or so. Gusts could be up to 60. I figured it was just so much bluster. Like the dire predictions from last night. My attitude changed somewhat at noon. I talked to a man in Redmond. It is about a hundred miles East of me. On the other side of the Cascade Mountains. Johnny says the wind is howling at 30 mph. Snow is blowing everywhere. So this arctic blast has come this far. Still, it is the other side of the mountains.

It is a good excuse to leave work early. I tell my boss I am concerned. I wish to get home on the bike before big trouble hits. He is not impressed. My own reputation betrays me. Very convenient on a Friday afternoon. I leave anyway. The clouds have come in a little. The sun is not completely blocked out. It will be a perfect time for my back roads. A leisurely ride followed by a long weekend. It will be relaxing. I am so wrong. For a while all is well. There is a strong wind from the Northeast. It is playful. Like two men who are friends we push each other. The wind pushes me and I push back. Sometimes harder, sometimes softer. I reach a stretch with little protection. There are foothills and large open fields to the East of me. The wind leaves. It seems it has tired of the rough-housing. It is peaceful for a while. Now the wind is back. The playful nature is gone. In its place is the fury of a boxer. I am slammed with an icy blow. The blows vary in intensity. None of them are soft. I am hit over and over again. I now believe the 50 and 60 mph gust prediction. The moving air has time to gather strength over the open fields. The coldness of it makes it harder. It is a frozen, iron fist.

It is a giant struggle to corner properly. A line is picked. The wind changes my line. Leaned over I am vulnerable. Yet, lean I must. I have chosen these roads for the curves. Many small corrections must be made. There are several stop signs at transitions. I am not smooth. Usually I coast up and gracefully put my foot down. Now the slowness leaves me open to attack. I must keep speed up for stability. This means quick, abrupt stops. I arrive home feeling battered. We have made it without incident. I am sore from wrestling the bike. It is good I did not see another rider. I would have been worried for them. I would have been afraid to take my hand off the bar to wave. I would have been afraid the other rider would try to wave at me.

It has been a day of contrasts. I am exultant at defeating the weather Gods once more. This encounter has drained me. Yet I am recharged in spirit. Monday is a holiday. I am taking a three day weekend to spend with Katie. The bikes will stay parked. I need to soothe her nerves! I am the warrior, she is the nurturing one. This weekend I will lay down sword and shield. I will be calm and domestic for her sake. ( God, I can't wait until Tuesday!)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cold and clear!

Life has been busy. This will be a short post. Some of you will be deeply grateful.

It is perfect for riding. At least for winter. The sun smiled all day. A cold smile. A smile, nonetheless. It is below freezing. Tonight the low is predicted to be 15F. Drivers see me now. I see them look twice. One young man was using his cell phone. He looked, and then looked again. His eyes widened. I could see his lips move. I imagine the person on the other end. The young man saying "You won't believe what I just saw!" I was thinking of earlier. An early morning stop was made. A man asked about the bike. He is a rider. A fair weather rider, it seems. These are his words: "You are a tougher man than me. When the temperature gets below 50 I wig out".

There it comes. My smile. It is not really meant to be friendly. Rather, the creature inside smiles. The need to be "different". Cut of sterner cloth than most. I am working on my bias. Riding allows us expression. We must all do what we are moved to do. There is room for all. Yet I am proud to be doing what few others care to. ( or dare to ) I find his comment deeply satisfying.

At work I park across the street. We are in an industrial park. I have deemed this the safest place to park. Big trucks move down this street. This spot is between two driveways. Trucks come an go from them. My spot is out of the way of the trucks. Some drivers are not as good as others. There have been accidents. There are often two large pick-ups parked here. They leave room between them. It is shelter for the bike. I suspect the bike taunts the trucks at times. A Greyhound between two Saint Bernards. One day I fear the trucks may have their revenge. During the day there has been water in the gutter. A pipe was replaced. This is the overflow. When I leave work the water has frozen. For a while there is ice stuck to the rear tire.

Time pressure keeps me to the interstate. It is almost a sin to waste this run. Skipping my back roads is like missing church. Sadly, it is necesary. I am late leaving the office. I slide over onto my off-ramp. The visor is pulled up. It is good to breathe the cold air. The smell of fuel hits me. My nose tells me of danger. There is a large diesel swath on the ramp. Riding a bike tunes us into our world. We are more alive. It is because we experience things more fully. It is that which makes us more alive that keeps us alive. The bikes enables us to "tune in". Tuning in gives us clues. The clues keep us alive. It is a circle of life. A circle of success.

Tomorrow I shall ride again. There is a threat of snow. It does not matter. Brave words these may be. It is a fine line between challenge and stupidity. Perhaps the weather Gods may win. Forty four miles of snow. A seven hundred pound bike. The formula will need worked out. My own dear Katie has turned against me. Her words are angry. The anger hides great worry. I am told that I am on my own. She will not brave the ice to come to a hospital far away. I wish to reassure her. I care for her. On the other hand, I need the challenge. I have my own reasons. I only hope to have the wisdom not to cross the fine line.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

"Flakes & 'gators"

I rode to work in the snow. It was not falling when I left. The thermometer indicated 33 degrees. First was a light rain. Then the drops became mushy. Farther South it was more snow than rain. A few miles later it was all snow. The flakes looked like feathers. Gently swirling down to earth. They are quite beautiful. Sometimes the snow flakes are very small. I have ridden when they stream toward my visor. It is hypnotizing this way. More so at night. Today the flakes are lazy. The weather Gods have sent them to be admired. The snow blankets the ground below. As I ride the snow swirls around me.

I am very fond of snow. There is worry in the back of my mind. A large motorcycle in the snow can be trouble. I push the worry away and enjoy. It is not often we are blessed with snow. When I arrive at work the world is white. Fresh snow has such a calming effect. It seems to quiet things down. I wished I had my camera. The one day I forget it. It would have been nice to share a picture of the bike in its white blanket. My coworkers are still amazed. They have not yet come to grips with the extent of my insanity.

New snow is so pretty. It is so soon soiled. People going about their lives disturb it. Soon there is nothing but dirty slush. I was happy to see this snow spared that fate. In a very short time it all melted away. There was sunshine in the afternoon. All in all a short but pleasant experience. There is more snow predicted. Snow and temperatures in the low teens. Commuting will be interesting. I am looking forward to facing it. Once again the weather Gods and I will interact.

The picture is an actual billboard. I took this photo to post. We share the road with so many bad drivers. Tailgating is a huge problem. It is so dangerous. A tremendous risk for so little gain. The State Police have gone public. There are several of these signs out here. It was amusing to me. How many drivers will see themselves and change? I suspect most will remain oblivious. It seems to be the way with drivers these days. I am lucky to be a rider. We are so much the opposite. Life is better for it.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


It is time. Circumstances have finally come together. The sun has feebly shown itself for a couple of days. Daylight lasts a little longer. It is time to try my beloved back roads. I can barely wait to head home.

Darkness, fog, and rain have banished me from this route. Flooding has buried some roads. Ice has lurked in its corners. I have been a slave to the interstate for months. The scent of freedom is strong in my nostrils. I must break out. I need to write my own music.

With county maps and a willing bike I have explored. My home is in one county. My work is in another. I have pieced a ride together. Bit by bit. I am in search of challenges. I am in search of soothing for my spirit. This route does both. The straight line run I have endured is 44 miles one way. This route is closer to 60 miles. The ride is my buffer time. I arrive home refreshed. No, not just refreshed. Victorious and celebrating. Katie must wait supper a little longer. For her my awesome mood is a valid trade.

The first part is a few miles of town. I go from a large city to a burg. At the North end of this small town is a curve. It is posted at 15 mph. The curve goes to the left. Most people seem to prefer this direction. For me it is opposite. This left curve is against my preference. There is only one line that works cleanly. The curve is off camber. There is a weird ripple in the middle. The radius is not constant. I use this curve as a measuring stick. It tells me where I am each day. Am I in the zone? Am I a little out of synch? Will the music I write be a rousing symphony? Or a country ballad? You may say one corner is not enough. How can one discern a whole ride from a single corner? We all have our measures. This is mine. I listen to what it tells me. Today I will write a soft tune. It is the first run in a while. It will be a gentle reunion.

After the curve I head North at the Fire Station. This second part is a warm-up. 35 mph "S" curves re-align my aim. Apexes are dusted off. I use the time to prepare my mind. There must be no distraction for the next section. One must be totally in tune with the bike. I must be looking well ahead. It is the warm up. Picture the orchestra playing softly. Tuning the instruments. We are just getting started. We turn right onto the next leg. This route goes through farm country. It is good to see familiar things. Two llamas watch me ride by. They have watched me do this many times. Each time they seem interested anew. There is no fear, only curiosity in their gazes. They are funny creatures. They must find me amusing, as well. These curves are sharper. Not like those to come later. Enough to challenge me. Enough to whet my appetite. The orchestra is playing with more vigor. The tune is getting faster. There is a hint of what is to come. We are building for a later crescendo. I look for the turkeys. There is a flock of wild ones. They are beautiful to look at. There is one Tom like me. He is aggressive. He is in control. It is much better to see them early. They like the road. Perhaps it is the gravel beside it. Often there are deer. Today I do not see any. The roads are so clean. Later they will be full of rocks and mud from tractors. It will make apexes interesting. Each day will be different.

In the next few miles the music settles down. Long sweepers are gracefully ridden. There are some stretches that are technical. Four or five curves in short succession. Uphill and downhill. Two of the best go downhill. It is important to get the pattern right. Apex way late. Make the bike turn. Keep the weight off the front wheel. Gaining speed like a roller coaster. The music is like a babbling brook. Surges and ripples create variety. The overall effect is stimulating yet relaxing. This is a building time. The orchestra catches its breath. The crescendo is coming.

Now it comes. Bursting free with pent up energy. The next eight miles are tight and demanding. It is largely uninhabited. It is here pegs scrape. It is here I have beveled the edges of both boot soles. The music is like the 1812 overture. Cannons rumble. It is here I am the fighter pilot. Strafing roads. Scattering lesser creatures in my path. I am empowered and alive. I can see forever. It is like wide open sky. We fly.

Then it is done. My mission has been flown. I turn onto old Hwy 99. The lights on both sides of the road beckon me home. They are like a long landing strip. The lights show my path. Our music is soft once more. The sunlight has faded. We are on a five mile landing approach to home. The senses settle. We are ready to land. Welcomed home by a loved one. Ready to fly the next mission. Ready to write new music.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A Hundred "Tiny" Challenges

There are ants in my helmet. Little tiny ones. And there are a lot of them.

Last night I wanted a picture for this blog. Something cheerful. I wanted to post a short, happy note. I wanted a picture of a smile. I spied the back of my helmet. Ah, the smiling Cheetah. I get the picture I want. I put the helmet on the carpet next to the fireplace. The blog entry is done and posted. All in the house go to sleep. Except the ants.

In the morning I am putting on gear. Pick up the helmet and put it on the kitchen table. My wife makes a disgusted noise. I look where she is pointing. There are small ants all over the table. Being ever noble I pick up my helmet. One must have priorities, after all. Kitchen table versus helmet. You are a rider. You decide. I kill 15 or 20 ants. In a slaughter this great one loses count. Having done my husbandly duty I pause for her adoration. It does not come. I look her way and see her gaze go to my helmet. It is still in my hand. I swear I can feel her gaze on my skin. There is a tingling sensation. I look down at my hand. There are more ants. Those on the table have come from my helmet. The helmet gets shaken outside. On the way back in the insanity of a routine and boring commute catches up with me. It must have been hanging in the doorway.

We look over by the fireplace. We do not see ants anywhere else. Why are they only in my helmet? My wife feels bad that I have ants in my helmet. She tries to say something kind. Katie suggests it is because ants crave sweet things. After all, I AM her "sugar". I wonder what she would have said otherwise. What if these were flies, instead? Best not go there, I think. She also says I am stubborn. I am about to prove it.

Yes, I have other helmets. I also crave a challenge. This is one I have not contemplated before. Do I have the concentration to cope with this? Can I focus on the ride with ants in my helmet? What idiot would even consider this? I blame it on the insanity of a boring commute. What does Gary say in his interview? "Routine is my enemy", I believe. I smile and put the helmet on my head. I wish I had a picture of Katie's face. There are no words to describe it. You will have to imagine it for yourself.

I am now riding with ants in my helmet. Think what you will. I kid you not. It is God's truth. Every little itch becomes an ant. I see one crawling inside my visor. A quick flip of the visor deals with it. What must the ant think? Crawling on something clear. "What is this strange thing? It looks like I should fall through. But it feels solid to my feet. All six of them". To suddenly be airborne at 75 mph? "Is that a car? Oh, look! Another clear thing. Just much bigger". The last thing to go through its ant mind as it hits the windshield is its rear end. Sorry, life sucks.

I feel itching other places. Further down my body. Real or imagined? I can't explore this right now. I am happy to say that I passed my own test. My concentration ability has been proven. I repeat the ride on the way home. I am not sure that there are still ants. When I get home I put the helmet back on the carpet. I watch patiently. There are pressing things to do but this must be done first. The experiment must see conclusion. I see four ants crawl out. A little dazed and unsteady on their tiny feet. I imagine them going to their little ant homes. "Honey, you will never believe what happened to me today"!

The ants have proven socially handy. I rigorously scratch my head. "Dandruff?" "No, ants". The co-worker draws away. Which is what I wanted. At lunch I have this terrrible urge to scratch. In a private place. I must give in. Finally I discreetly try to scratch. The waitress is a saucy little thing. I have known her a long time. She has been ribbing me. Now she asks me if I have "cooties". I tell her close, but not quite. This is the new thing. We are now trying ants. Would she like some of her own to try? She is a little more subdued the rest of lunch. I tip her well. I draw an ant on the bill.

It has been a successful experiment. It is a true story. It is a warning of what danger there is in boredom. I spray my helmet and let it air. I have to go shower, now.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Edge of the Cliff

The Weather Gods are smiling on me. The forecast is for high pressure. We have had foggy mornings and sunny afternoons. This is due to continue for the next week. The ride is pleasurable but somehow unrewarding. I have seen you folks use an expression. "Routine becomes boring". I am feeling it. It is hard to write about "routine". So I have been thinking of this. That is the great thing about my ride. There is time to think deeply. It is MY time. I must not let the thoughts take over. There is still the environment. It punishes lapses in attention. Still, there is time to think.

Too much time, perhaps. I am warning you ahead of time. This post could be longer. Please use the restroom before we leave. The topic is not unique to me. I acknowledge those who have gone before me. I merely wish to share my thoughts. It is my hope that this serves you. As I use it to know my heart, may you, also.

I think firstly of the riders who have appeared this week. Where were they all winter? It seems they were itching to ride. The bad weather has served as a rope. I grew up around horses. We would hobble a horse to keep it close. The sunshine has released the rope. There are many bikes out these last two days. I am happy to see them on the one hand. After all, riding is fun. It lifts the spirits. I wish people this happiness. I teach many new riders. For a day I felt happy. It was good to have company. Yet now I somehow feel diminished. It is hard to explain. My words will be a personal searching. Please forgive me if it does not flow smoothly.

Most people seem to ride to be part of a group. I enjoy the company of other riders. For me it is a single event. Hook up, ride a while, go separate ways.
I am an individual. I socialize. At the end I am still an individual. I am an animal that roams. Others are like animals that herd together. I mean no disrespect. It is only a way to describe needs. A herd is a fine thing. It provides protection and companionship. For those who need such a thing. For me it is smothering.

On the other hand, I do not feel I am better than others. We are all Children of the Gods. In the thinking deeply I have made a discovery. I perceive a possible weakness in myself. It is as yet unidentified. Signs point toward it, though. I feel good about blazing my own trail. I take pride in meeting challenges. It feels good to be "different" from the majority. Riding in adverse conditions while few others choose to. I boldly state that it makes me feel more of a man. I realize it has become addicting. I crave the feeling. People call me crazy. They tell me I have lost my mind. I have been called a freak of nature. Comments become like "highs". I cannot wait to get the next "fix". This is a thing apart. I refer not to the actual feel of riding. This is an attitude. Knowing how I am perceived by others. There must be a flaw in me. Something lacking that makes me crave this fulfillment. Why do I need this so? It will bear further pondering.

There is something worse. I wrote that I do not feel I am better than others. I believe in my heart that this is so. Now I am not sure. Consider. Some riders belong to a group. This group sends a message. To belong you must look like me. Wear little gear like me. Ride the bike I ride. If you do this I salute you. If you do not, I ignore you. You will be beneath me. There is a need there. There is emptiness to be filled. I have always considered this to be wrong. Now the mirror turns to my own reflection. I see these riders who come out in the sun. I find that I call them "lightweights". They appear to me as not serious. They are playing at this. Their money spent opens choices to us. But they are not serious. I am starting to think they are not like me. I am shamed to say I am looking down on them. It was not always so. What was the change? I have found a group like me. The serious riders. The heavyweights. People I have met through this blog experience. Before I was a group of one. Now I feel connected to a larger group. You who read and write these blogs are my group. Riding day in and day out. Sometimes it is impossible. The desire is there. Lightweights are horrified by bad weather. I think of us as the "heavyweights". The serious riders. We have no time for those only playing at it. I know this is wrong. I know that the labels are not always accurate. I have become guilty of what I despise. It is troubling.

I now think of challenges. Why do we crave them? Why are we so easily bored with routine? Does riding make us this way? I think not. I think it is a small picture of the world. Some of us ride because we need to conquer and grow. Some ride only to belong. They never feel what we feel. They are content to follow. Leaders and followers. I saw this in action this morning. We are down the freeway. A man in a pickup is living in the fast lane. He does the speed limit. Not a bit faster. I go around him. Now he matches his speed to mine. Not tailgating, just pacing. I decide to toy with him. I am now well over the speed limit. I do 85 mph. The man follows. I pull into the right lane. He follows still, moving with me. I slow to slightly over the limit. The man matches me. I slow below the limit. The man passes at the proper speed. Not a bit over. He will not take the risk on his own. While I am in the lead he follows. He will follow me. He will blame me. I grow tired of the game and scrape him off in traffic. It is a perfect example.

Gary has written of he and the Baron. How they encountered road rage. Gary rose to the challenge. Some said he should take the "wise"course. Let the man go. Be meek. Live to play another day. I believe people use "wise" to equate with "safe". Say it. Take the safe way. Get a "good" job. They mean a "safe" job. Physically and financially. Humans crave safety. Our inbred instincts remember being hunted. We live in fear of the unknown. Things are structured but not in our control. We strive to insulate ourselves to no avail. Let nature shrug, and all is in ruin. It takes courage to make our path. A path that others do not choose. This path takes us away from "safe". Our exploration may take us to the edge of the cliff. This cliff edge is a frontier. A frontier where we find passion. A place where we feel belonging with fellow explorers. A place that only we know. Where those seeking "safe" will never venture. A place where we are called upon to find new powers within ourselves. A place that takes commitment to succeed. It cannot be half-hearted. I feel it is only at the edge of the cliff that we find what we seek. You know it in your heart. You have felt it.

We seek challenges because we need to. It is only by this we grow. We are not stupid about it. We use our skills. We strive for new ones. Only in adversity are these achieved. To do anything else would be stagnation. Intolerable for us. We must strive. We must grow. It is the only way to find satisfaction. It is who we are. It is what we do.

There is much time to think as I ride.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Gift for You
Today was a perfect commute day. Too many words will dilute it. I share it with you. Simply.
Winter sunshine. Many out on bikes. Police and civilians. Arm tired from cheerful waves. Benevolence. No worrys. Only pleasure. Riding home on an old highway. Watching the sun set. From the bike saddle. Golden glow bathing the world.
I give it to you. A gift. Something dear to me. Feel the well-being. Dwell on your own days such as this. Cherish the good. Enjoy. Smile. Be happy.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Field of Dreams

I have told you of Ann. There were 11 others. This is of them and the tale of the weekend.

The picture does not look like much. To some it is a parking lot. For me it is a "range". Perhaps a fancy way to say "parking lot". Yet so full of meaning to me.

We come and make it "ours". Simple cones and banners stake our claim. For a while it will become a stage. Dramas are played out. Dreams are realized. Or not. It is a classroom. It is a laboratory. It is a place to test oneself. It is a place of growth. For students, for teachers. It is home. It is my kingdom for a weekend. There are many such places in our state. Yet each one feels the same. The real estate is different. Yet, the Wonder is the same. I arrive and drink in what it offers me. Motorcycling is so tied to life. Master two wheels. Grow in life to a new level. There is always a new level. Motorcycles move us down the road. They also take us new places in life.

My peers are my family. We are brothers and sisters. We are mothers and fathers. We are there for each as they need us. Some groups say this is so. Their reality is different. Those in my "family" live the words they say. All care deeply for others. We are passionate about what we do. We help others grow. We keep them safe. There is much satisfaction in this. It feels right. It feels like we are giving back to the universal Karma. It is a rare gift to be part of such a thing.

Many instructors are my children. I have been with them from their beginning. I nurture them in their growth. I teach and encourage them. Their progress delights me. Their enthusiasm fuels my own. I am working with one such now. Donn is a fairly new rider. He is older than me in years. His riding experience is still young. I was his teacher when he took the class. Donn shares with me a gift. He tells me I moved him to become an instructor. Watching how we treated the students. Seeing my joy in teaching. I am honored by what he shares. Donn is now more experienced in teaching students on the bikes. This is to be his first time in the classroom. It will be time of learning for Donn. It will be a time of learning for our class. Always a new level to reach for. I, too, am still growing. I am still learning. Motorcycling is a most excellent teacher.

We have two "Father-Son" sets. The sons are not boys. I smile to watch them. My own sons number 3. We have bonded through bikes. Serious things can be talked about over a bike. Men do not like to look at each other. It is easier to talk of heavy things while looking away. Many problems were chewed on over oil changes. The bike is the buffer. One of us on each side. Non-threatening. A common point of joy. The bike is a symbol. The good we share. It anchors us in rough seas. It is good to see the bonding. Older fathers still reaching out to sons. This is new for one set. It is an attempt to "get legal" for the other. All four have fun.

Two very young men. Full of vigor. Reflexes sharp. Their attitudes are refreshing. I pray they will find wisdom to go with their youth. There is a middle-aged man who has never ridden. His name is Jim. His friends ride. Their talk has inspired him. Jim wants to ride, also. He is here at their insistence. A good friend will share the desire. A great friend will nudge to training. Jim has great friends.

There are two men who have issues to deal with. Both have been riding. I marvel that they have survived. I will not share their names. It does not matter. One man is here because of his son. I taught the son last fall. The boy had just returned from Iraq. We get soldiers for training. I shake their hands. I thank them for what they do. They have my respect. The son did well. Now he wants his father to do it right. The father is abrupt. He will learn a painful lesson. Cause and effect on a bike. He does not respect the danger. We are practising quick stopping. A first try. A grab on the front brake. The bike goes down. There is no real harm. A lesson better learned here than on the street. The other man never does settle down. He passes the course. Barely. I send him away with a stern warning. His habit is always to be rough. It will hurt him. I do not wish to offend him. I am also the last professional he will probably see. It is my duty to be honest while kind. It will now be on his head. I have done my duty to him.

And so it goes for these people. It is only a parking lot. It is also so much more.

I am straying from commuting. This is supposed to be about that. Friday night and Saturday brought wind and rain. Fierce wind. Driving rain. I leave home at 6 AM. My ride is 30 miles. It is a nice change to go North. Work lies to the South. Wind and rain have become the norm. The ride is uneventful. The wind is bad. I consider delaying class. I wonder if I should cancel. It is not safe for my students. Donn brings his car. He sees my bike. He feels bad he did not ride. He has reasoned that nobody will ride. The weather is too bad. I think nothing of it. I ride. It is what I do. My dear friend Al has arrived. He bears hot chocolate and cookies. Al is not teaching. This man has a grand heart. He has gotten up early. Al's only thought is his friends. He lives close and came to us. Al helps us set up. It is time to start. The wind has died. The rain continues. Rain is part of riding. We finish the day as planned.

I feel bad about Sunday. Not about riding. About what I feel Saturday has done to Donn. Read and you will understand. I leave at 6 again on Sunday. The temperature is 40. The skies have cleared. We are supposed to see sunshine today. It will be glorious. South of Salem there are large hills. I am in the fast lane. Freeway speed. I see an ambulance ahead. It is in the opposite lanes. It is parked at an angle across the road. There are two cars together. A man is setting flares. I am engrossed. Trying to decipher the event. It is stil dark. It feels like my ST has a flat front tire. I am two hearbeats away from a tankslapper. It hits me like a snowball. I am on black ice. The road looks no different. Only wet. I save the bike. Realize there are 4 more miles of this hill to go. We have only started climbing. I crest the first small hill. Vehicles are off the road everywhere. Emergency vehicles. Flashing lights make intersting patterns on the ice. It is insane to continue. I press on. I think of Gary. Braving ice on The Baron. The ST and I are 900 pounds. I wish he were on my bike. Giving me traction. Using his boots to help hold us up. I have jested that if "Gary can do it on a scooter, I will do it on the ST". It is not jest now. We survive.

Class is delayed. There is too much ice for the students to ride. We go to classroom first. Donn does well. The students respond well to him. I am proud of him. We get out the bikes. The sun comes out. The weekend ends well.

Donn has had to deal with ice in the same spot. He does not say it. But I feel he rode because I did. His bike had a small spill. There are things not meant to be seen. A bike on its side. His leaned on a guard rail. I am hardcore. I do not expect others to follow. It is said to ride your own ride. Yet some try to follow. Do I bear guilt? Realizing that some look up to me, do I back off? If they ride with me I do. Is it different if I am not actually with them? I do not know the answer.

We get ready to leave. I see Donn's eyes. He asks to follow me. He is shaken. I see it but dare not voice it. It will embarrass him. He seeks comfort in my presence. We ride the same road with no incident. I hope his courage is restored.

This has gone long. I am sorry. It seems so simple. Just two days. Summed up by "I rode to class. I rode home". It is not that simple. A fact I am glad of. Life is so rich. A bike can open the treasure chest. I am lucky to be able to ride.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

A dream ends.

Today I shattered Ann's dream.

That is not really true. I am merely the instrument. I feel anguish and want to blame myself. And so I say "I shattered her dream". Perhaps I could have done more. Then again, I might have become a crutch. When the crutch is removed, that which is supported falls. Better to stand on one's own.

I am a teacher and a mirror. By my words I point the way. I coach, I encourage. I cajole the individual to stretch their comfort level. Doing so will give them success. A new level that can only be reached by letting go of the old. Security is left. New confidence is gained. And so it builds. I do not own any of this. The ownership is theirs. I serve as the measuring stick. It is like looking in the mirror. One can ask what is good. What needs attention? The reflection from me is their reality.

Today Ann saw her reality reflected in me. Her heart is strong. Her body is worn. Muscle and tendon will not support what the spirit and mind desire. I spend time with her. We constantly balance the needs of the one against the needs of the many. Today I broke that rule. Much of my time was spent with the one. Eleven others got minimal attention. It was not to be. The danger to her person became great. I had no choice. Protection of my charges must rule supreme.

I will not reveal details. One can seem lowered in the telling. Ann deserves to keep her dignity.

Ann saw the reality in my eyes. I saw tears in hers. Will she still feel unfulfilled and try this some other way? Or will the wisdom of aging allow to be content? Will she find satisfaction in the fact that she tried? Will she find solace in riding with her beloved son? I would hope to know. I will probably never know. I can only take today. It is the only day within my reach. I wiped her tears. I sent her away with the best comfort available to one of my means. I am grieved but will end my day satisfied that I have done my duty. I believe she will not ride on her own. I believe I have helped to prolong her life. She has much still to give.

I care deeply about people. It is why I teach. 35 weekends last year. Teaching. Trying to save lives. Giving new motorcyclists a solid foundation. Hoping the skills serve them well. Hoping to give happiness. Hoping to avoid pain. Yes, I want the best for my students. Some times the best is in conflict with their dreams.

It is sad to see one grow old and be denied dreams that depend on the body. A story churns through my head of an old man. He is Oriental. Every day he beats his son with a cane. Each day the boy submits. He fears to dishonor his father. The father wants to make his son a man. Enduring the pain will strengthen the son. This is the father's will. Each day the beating. There comes a day. The son weeps. The father is astounded. The son has always been stoic. And now there are tears. The father asks the son why he weeps. The son tells the father he weeps not from the pain. He weeps because he has steadily felt the father's blows grow weaker.

It is so sad to me. I see many older person's dream left lying in a parking lot. I must be ever the professional. I must ever be the mirror reflecting reality. Skilled or lacking. It is never easy. There will always be the anguish.

So ends Ann's dream. Yet she has tried. She will always be one of us. God speed, Ann.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Ann's Dream. Diamonds or dust?

Weather is mostly dry. The commute is routine, for now. I am grateful for the lack of challenges. It is a good time to recharge mentally. Dealing with the bad weather has drained me. The newspaper says it is the second wettest January since the late 1800's. From December 18 to January 18 is the wettest 30 day period on record. I know. I've been out there. On the bike. It seems I have felt every drop. The weather future is uncertain. For now I can relax and enjoy. I see hawks perched on metal fence posts. They watch freeway traffic. What do they think of what they see? I wave to them as God's fellow creatures.

There is a certain feeling. I feel good deep down. So many good things bursting out. Like a puppy wagging its tail inside me.

The "Soul of a Motorcyclist"

I have broached this before. What does it mean to have this "soul"? Consider two women.

Her name is Ann. She is in my class. One of 12 students. I teach motorcycle classes. Last night was classroom. The weekend will be for riding. Ann is 71. Her body is slumped and shapeless. Her shoes are sturdy. The clothes speak of service to others. Was she a nurse? Institutional food service? I do not pry. It is hers to tell me as she is ready. Her body seems weak. In contrast, her voice is strong. It seems a fire burns inside. Eyes are dimmed with age. The spirit is still young. She tells me her son rides. She tells me of his fun. How he loves to ride. She speaks of a ride she took with him. A borrowed Goldwing. A son and his Mom. In the telling her eyes shine. Her face beams. A magic carpet ride. On a bike behind her beloved son.

She thinks she would like a scooter. The Silver Wing is too tall. She cannot get feet on the ground. A Suzuki fits her. It is big enough she needs an endorsement. Ann also talks of buying a Goldwing. She will make the payments. She will insure it. The agent will only insure it for her if she is endorsed. Ann says she will give the bike to her son. All she asks in return are rides. She wants to relive that magical two hours. There are other solutions. This is her dream. It is not mine. I keep quiet.

Ann is different than Rachel. Rachel is young. She is there for different reasons. Rachel says she is there to "keep up with friends". Her reason is social. It could be cars. It could be a sport. It just happens to be bikes. It is sad to me. The young girl will likely succeed. Ann will struggle. To Rachel it will mean a little. To Ann it is everything. Rachel will not appreciate it like Ann. I will treat both equally. My heart will be with Ann.

I think again of Ann. The look on her face.

I rejoice for her. I grieve for her. I have seen many students. Some are older. They chase dreams. Their minds are young. Their bodies deny them the attainment. It is likely the same for Ann. Her chances are not good. I will do my best for her. Sometime during this weekend I may have to shatter her dream. Yet if I do not I may be doing her greater harm. This is a journey of discovery. A safe place to explore. If this is not for her best to know now. The alternative would be on the streets. Reality is not forgiving. I am a professional. Duty and honor bid me be honest with my students. Pray that Ann is an exception. Prepare for the pain. If she fails I will weep inside for her. The big picture may be served. In the process a little part of each of us will die.

Rachel may ride. Riding will not give her what we feel. I believe it is beyond her.

Pass or not, Ann has the "soul of a motorcyclist". She may never ride on her own. And yet, Ann will always be one of "us".

I will tell you the story as it unfolds.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

This "blog" thing.

I just wanted to take a pause and comment on this blogging thing. I had heard that a lot of folks were doing it but never paid much attention. Then I started reading Gary's blog. ( Baron in Winter ) It is directly tied to commuting by two wheels. It moved me to start doing mine. Then I was pleased to find that some folks were actually reading my blog and offering comments. As time goes on I am finding other blogs from what I consider "my kind" i.e. two wheeled riders. I am discovering that this is a wonderful medium for sharing among us. It has been an enjoyable experience and I am hoping the journey continues. Thank you to those blogging and commenting. The sharing is enriching my life.

I do wish to ask a favor, though. On the one hand it is my blog and I do what pleases me. On the other, if this ceases to be a means of communication it will no longer be of any value. I am looking for feedback on writing style. I have been playing with a different writing style. Being an instructor and spending a good deal of time on the phone I am involved in a lot of conversation. About the only time I get to think deeply and really "feel" instead of talk is on my rides. My blog postings seemed wordy and long. There is so much I want to convey and share that each entry becomes lengthy.

So I started writing like I was "feeling" on the bike. To me it has more impact than a bunch of words. I do not need long sentences to fully feel something. In fact, words can get in the way. Isn't this what riding is about for most of us? It's not an intellectual thing. It is visceral. It's full of emotions that are brought forth by our riding. I have tried to express that in this writing style. My concern is that is has put some of you "off". Perhaps it is too "darkly poetic" for most people.

I would like this blog to serve our "community" in a positive way. The question, then, is:
"What works for you". Does the clipped writing style take you someplace good? Or does it become too "heavy" and do you prefer the normal style of writing as used in this post. Your comments would be greatly appreciated. Honest feedback will not be taken as an insult. Please share?