Friday, August 18, 2006

ST sandwich?

The cornering post is coming next, I promise! I just wanted to share how I almost became part of a meal for the "Traffic Monster" yesterday.

The other guy who works out of the office has been on vacation this week. So it seemed time to wander up and check the mail, see if the office was still there, etc. I'd been working at the Police Academy building this week. That project came to a successful conclusion Wednesday afternoon.
Another reason for going to the office was free food. Our office is in the Eastridge Business Park. A "tenant appreciation day" had been planned. Between 11:30 AM and 2 PM the landlords were offering free bar-b-que and live music. I had the day planned perfectly. There was an 8 AM appointment in Salem which would be done by 9. The next half hour would be spent drinking coffee at the Lancaster Starbucks. Followed by an hour's ride to the office, some paperwork, and then free lunch. Hoping to be full of free food, I would ride back to Salem for an appointment with my insurance agent. I bought Katie a new car on Monday. A great day, right?

Then I got greedy.

You'd think a grilled hamburger, a little potato salad, and a couple of pieces of bar-b-q chicken would be enough. For some reason I had it in my mind that something sweet would top off this meal just right. Normally I try to avoid donut places. My physique can't afford too many visits of this sort. Several times I have ridden by a Krispy Kreme donut shop but had never stopped. Today was different. Lured by the Siren's song I was drawn toward my doom. By the way, I eased my guilt by purchasing some extra ones to take home and share with Katie!

In order to go by this place of sinful delights I would have to take an alternate route. Following it to its eventuality would put me on I-5 in Washington instead of Oregon. My normal route puts me onto I-5 farther South in Oregon which allows me to bypass the heart of Portland and its very heavy traffic. Today, fortified with a couple of fresh donuts in my belly and a few in a saddlebag, I decided to brave it.

Sure enough, I found myself in four lanes of freeway traffic typical of cities with over a half million population. As best as I could I attempted to keep a space cushion around myself. That's an age old struggle for me. If I maintain a reasonable following distance I know drivers will literally dive in front of me. No warning, no signal, just an abrupt lane change. Oftentimes, due to the speed differential, these drivers will have to slam on their brakes to avoid rear-ending the car in front. On the other hand, if I don't maintain a safe following distance, you know the trouble that would bring also.

I refuse to tailgate so I keep the following distance. I just have to be aware that there's a big neon sign blazing the words "dive in here!", remain hyper vigilant, and deal with the frustration. Today would be extra exciting.

In the heart of the big city we are moving along at a surprising 50 or so mph. Nobody seems to plan ahead for upcoming exits anymore. A lot of last minute jockeying for position takes place. With drivers being reluctant to show any courtesy the scene becomes a "free for all". It must be pathetic to live in such a way that letting a driver into your lane becomes some sort of life-threatening experience. At least, that's the way everyone seems to come across.

Sophie and I are in the second lane from the left. As usual, I'm keeping the space in front of me open. I've already watched a silver Honda Accord and a white Isuzu Trooper whipping in and out of traffic like maniacs. I swear that the Toyota is going to flip anytime with the abrupt movements the driver's trying to pull off. Coming up behind me and in the left lane is a Range Rover. It catches my eye because's it a beautiful burgundy color with gold badging. I see a black Chevy Lumina dive into the lane to the right of me and slighty behind. Pretty soon both vehicles are beside me. One to my left, one to my right. Both drivers spot the space in front of me, it seems. There are no turn signals or even perceptible head turns. My sixth sense from years of riding makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I back off more.

Sure enough, both drivers dive for the hole at the same time. The Range Rover is about a half car length ahead of the Chevy. The vehicles actually smack each other and bounce apart. Right in front of me. I've got a tailgater so braking will be tricky. Despite flashing the brake light, the driver behind me remains close. The good news is that neither driver loses control. For a brief moment the space ahead of me is clear. Hoping that the drivers won't dive back at a bad time, I roll on and go for it. Thank goodness for the power to weight ratio! ( by the way, Steve, here's an example of my addiction to more power! )

Right behind me the two drivers slide back into the lane behind me. The Range Rover in front, the Chevy in back. Incredibly, both drivers stop in the middle of the freeway! I'm looking in my mirrors and shouting to myself " get off to the side, you idiots!!!!"

I could only imagine the traffic jam that will ensue. Another couple of candidates for the Zombie of the Year Driver awards. I have to admit that my pulse raced a little. Years of exposure to hazards have made me sort of an "Iceman" but that was pretty darn close. It reminds me of what Bill Cosby says. First you say it ( oh s**t! ) then you do it. That's why nobody has clean underwear at the hospital.

Further South I saw another interesting and rare thing. Northbound I-5 had two ODOT sweepers moving along slowly. These vehicles were cleaning something from the two fast lanes. Traffic behind was following an Incident Response vehicle. The large sign on the back of the truck said "Do Not Pass". Like a pace car at an auto race, it was keeping traffic behind it and packed tightly. The back-up went for miles. Only on the freeways of America!!

Sophie, the donuts, and I emerged unscathed to finish our business and arrive home. Just when I got home and settled the phone rang and I was called upon to make an emergency trip back North. It looked like an instructor hadn't shown up for classroom. I ended up making a 60 mile run to find out it was a false alarm. Just another excuse for a ride, I guess. My day ended with another 270 miles on the odometer, a late dinner of steak and eggs, a cold beer, and yet more Krispy Kremes. Guess I'll have to pump the tires up a little more for Friday!!

Miles and smiles,


Anonymous said...

Before I started reading this blog I couldn't see a lot of excitement in narratives about motorcycle commuting.

Boy was I wrong.

Considering the way some drivers are addicted to changing lanes, I guess I'm surprised that this kind of thing doesn't happen more often.

... Nate B. (Salt Lake City)

Anonymous said...

thanks for stopping by and offering the comment. For me, the ride fills me with life and excitement. That comes through when I write about it.

I've always wondered why drivers can't just go with the flow and enjoy the ride. You're right, they just can't seem to sit still even if they only gain one car length. Must be indicative of some larger problem!

Steve Williams said...

Krispy Kreme doughnuts....

Yeah, I would not have the power to shoot the gap and be ahead. I would have been in behind the idiots when they stopped.

On the other hand, I would not be on that road at all...

The jury is still out for me on the power issue. The tailgating issue drives me nuts. Today I was making a turn into Burger King and had to stop to let a bicycle on the sidewalk fly by. The person behind me assumed by signal to turn would be followed by a seamless turn and was not ready for my stop. I had to shoot off the road and stop short of the sidewalk to avoid being rear ended and running into the bike.

Drivers assume too much.


Anonymous said...

You have an excellent blog, I am looking forward to your entry on "cornering".

Ahh the joys of Big city traffic, my commute is 70 miles from rural Georgia to downtown Atlanta, often the ability to roll-on has gotten me past tight situations, whether its inattentive city drivers or unpredictable critters in the country.

Last night I encountered another inebtable joy of riding - a flat. which brings me to a question I would love to hear your input on.

The plug kits I have (its a tubeless)say that they are for temporary repair only - ride at 60km/hr max for no more than 100 miles. Other kits I have seen say something similar. My dealer, as well as a short survey of others in the area, say they will not repair a flat - only replace the tire. Now my flats in the past have come at the end of the tires' life, so I had no problem replacing them. But this tire still has 5000+ miles of life.

So the question is what do you suggest to do after a flat?

Sorry for the long comment. Thanks for your time.

Anonymous said...

Dan, excellent blog, i've learned several points from it. I commute about 60mi., roundtrip daily, some highway and secondary country roads, on a CB750.
I can relate to everything you have written, pertaining to cagers.
I'm looking forward to more input from your blog.
I wear a Roadcrafter same as yours, i assume you have black pants. The best investment ever, and we also have 100's here too, still wear it all, and get the stares from cagers and other riders.
Thanks for your info and keep it coming..
forgive my long comment,
take care,


Anonymous said...

It's amazing how drivers "assume" a certain thing will happen. It can happen to riders, as well. You recently took the ERC. It's been a long time since I taught their course but I seem to remember a discussion about "seeing" versus "observing". In other words, the difference between looking and actually discerning what the true situation is. Did they do that still in your class?

to my anonymous visitor with the flat tire in Georgia,

Liability fears have taken over the world. That's why most shops won't repair tires that have been plugged. For the same reason the tire manufacturers won't say it's ok to run a plugged tire.

In the real world the general concensus is that any plug inserted from the outside, such as would be done on the side of the road, is to be considered as a temporary fix only.

As soon as possible the tire should be dismounted and plugged or patched from the inside. Very few folks have problems after that. However, there have been reports of these plugs and patches coming loose at very inopportune times, especially with sport bike tires at higher speeds or tourers with heavy loads.

Use your best judgement and don't quote me. I don't want any liability! :)

Good to know you're out there in the middle of the country! I've put many miles on a CB750. Thanks for stopping by!


Steve Williams said...

irondad: there was some discussion of seeing vs. observing but not a lot. I have really tried hard to recognize situations loaded with danger and not just mindlessly follow the rules or assume my right of way will be respected.

I keep thinking of the video I saw on showing a Harley stopped at a traffic light just in front of a police cruiser that has someone pulled over. A pickup truck comes along and rear ends him presumably watching the cop and not paying attention to the intersection. The rider obviously was following the rules by stopping at the light but a keen observation by the rider would assume a risk of rubber necking and not sit their idly waiting for the light in such a situation.

The rider was not wrong but also did not manage the risk perhaps as well as could have been---seeing vs. observing maybe?