Thursday, December 14, 2006

Storm Rider

Bodacious: Blatant, remarkable, audacious, impressive, or attractive.

This is my street. Actually, it's only a small lane going to the back of Grandma's property. It's Grandpa's legacy to me. A street sign that sums up a former inhabitant, namely, me. I plead guilty to all of the above except the attractive part. Although I shaved my beard Wednesday night. For the first time in a long time people can see my face. It was probably better off covered up!

Yesterday was a day of contrasts for me. The Weather Gods had more fun planned for us mere mortals. On the menu were two inches of rain with wind gusts up to 65 mph. For once the prognosticators were correct. Newport is on the Coast and a little over an hour away from me. Gusts there reached 125 mph which is the same force as a Class 2 hurricane. I'm not sure what happened to our mild winters. It's either global warming or a long term weather pattern. Interesting things are happening around here.

Transportation for the day was the subject of debate over early morning coffee. I'm playing Santa and visiting distributors right now. Bearing boxes of smoked salmon, calendars, and good cheer, I've been making the rounds. With proper planning for saddlebag space the bike's made a good substitute for a sleigh. Yesterday's complication was the fact that I was visiting distributors in the Portland area. For one, I'd need to haul more goodies with me than would probably fit on the bike. Secondly, I wasn't all that enthused about negotiating Big City traffic with booby traps like standing water and high winds. Four wheels won out over two.

After the drama I experienced in a car I'm glad I wasn't trying to do it on a bike. I don't need to go into more detail on how people drive; you know it as well as I do. What I will tell you is that there was hardly any dry pavement to be had. My definition of dry: pavement that didn't have an inch of standing water on it.

It would have been a mess. I saw wreck after wreck. One was a six-car chain reaction. One of the "cars" was a motorhome. Moving vehicles were throwing up curtains of water that totally obscured the windshield. Throw into the mix some high winds and the volume of cars in a Big City. I don't care who you are, that's crazy and dangerous to navigate in.

Still, though, I had to think about things. Am I committed to commuting on a bike? Which includes not only riding TO work, but riding FOR work? I've long preached the gospel of riding as much as possible. Where do we draw the line? Is it actually possible or realistic to expect to entirely replace two wheels with four? Everybody's got to make decisions and choices based on their own personal circumstances. Obviously large families can't be transported all together on a bike. There's safety to think about. You could make a list as long as mine. I just don't think it's possible for people in general to totally commit to two wheels. In some cases, yes, but in most not. Living in the world we find ourselves in requires compromises to achieve balance. When does the "need for balance" slide over into the "excuse" category? I'm sure I was right to not ride yesterday despite my chest thumping about being a Warrior. Salem had a wind gust of 80 mph while I was there!

Every once in a while I go back to ponder on my own reasons for riding. Those of us who commute to work on a bike make much of the economics involved. We like to talk about how we're treading more lightly upon the earth and using fewer resources. These are certainly important aspects. On the other hand, if they were the only reasons to ride I'd don't think I'd be noble enough to do it. Would you? I love being able to say I'm helping the global cause by riding as much as I do instead of driving. In all honesty, it's just a way to make me feel more noble and maybe to justify my desire to ride. I should be honest and just tell people I still crave adventure. Economy and ecology are just slices of a larger pie for me. Here's a quote I came across recently:

"A life of unremitting caution, without the carefree-or even, occasionally, the careless-may turn out to be half a life." ( Anna Quindlen in Newsweek )

That's what riding helps me to do. I literally throw "caution" to the wind passing by my helmet. There's things I do on a bike that could be called "careless", or even "reckless". Not stupidly reckless. Not "felony stupid". More like taking calculated chances. There wasn't any gain in riding in heavy traffic, high winds, and pelting rain. Not that I didn't ride in the storm at all. After I got home there was a need to go out and about. Which I did on a bike. I faced the storm on two wheels and survived intact. The difference? There were definite and measurable gains.

I'll share the rest in the next post.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts on replacing four wheels with two? Is it feasible to do totally? What are your boundaries or limits?

Miles and smiles,


Combatscoot said...

I kinda' commented on this in Scooter in the Sticks, but I will here, too. Due to some circumstances beyond my control, I am forced to do that very thing. I have been using a bike while my wife had a car for years now, but recently the car has been taken out of the equation, so now it's just the scoot for moto-transportation. The wife has a mountain bike with child carrier. If we want to all go somewhere together, it had better be local. We want to get my wife a scoot, but will need to save some money for that. I don't know what we'd do for bad weather, but we have had to have rides from friends a few times, and now we have to have large items delivered to the house. It's just an adjustment we have to make.

Bill Sommers said...

We were served a large slice of wind storm pie up here above you on the map. For being Autumn, its been a heck of a Winter so far.

Like a lot of dedicated two wheelers lately, I've also been wrestling with the ride or drive question. For me it's just knowing that my decision was right for that day based on the conditions.

irondad said...

I've got some pictures from overseas about whole families on scooters and small bikes. Have to see if I can find them. Things come back around. Hang in there.

That's a good way to look at it. Whatever's right for that day. Sums it up well.


Anonymous said...

Over here in WI, my fiancee (and I, to some degree) ride year-round. So far this year hasn't been too bad, but most years he ploughs through snow & slush for several months.

Of course, we have a sidecar... Makes tipping over due to lack of traction much more difficult. In fact, he just upgraded this summer, and the new 'car is pretty sweet compared to the old one.

Old was open to the elements & the body was just over waist-high, plus it was a bit of a tight fit, esp. w/ hip armor.

New has a snap-on soft top & sides with a TALL windscreen, and the body comes to almost shoulder-high. Also has a 5 cu ft trunk and comfortable hip & leg room. It hinges at the nose, making in & out much easier & more graceful.

What got me thinking about this? Well, your problems with the ice and wind, plus the decision of "family or motorcycle". With a sidecar, none of those are issues.

It's a _completely_ different skill set from a plain bike (but you like a challenge, right Dan?), and we both have some re-learning to do every winter after being on much more maneuverable 2 wheels over the summer. But it's comfortable for a passenger, esp. one who may not be too sure about the whole motorcycle thing.

Over New Year's we went down to Dayton, OH to visit friends. The ride back was worse than the ride down; I got pretty cold, even once I was being the passenger.

PS - Karl also had the sidecar transmission rebuilt by a co. in Germany, so it has a reverse gear. Very useful, and he's had fun surprising people. A bike just isn't supposed to do that!

Anonymous said...

Good to hear from you again. Wondered how things were going. How's the BMW that had a little boo boo? I'm trying to remember. Did you call it Olga?
Sidecars are intriguing. It's so weird to turn right and feel the bike lean to the outside and lift the car. You're right about liking a challenge, though.
Is your sidecar rig also two wheel drive?