Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More Musings

Update on "Buzzard"

You might remember "Buzzard". If not, you can go back and look at the post from February 6.

I had a meeting last night in Salem. One of the instructors at the meeting told me that Buzzard had come back to try the skill evaluation again. This time, she said, he passed. What was interesting was that Buzzard grossly exaggerated
skills like head turns. It seemed he was doing it just to pass the test. At least he knows what to do. What he does with it later is going to have to be up to him. Buzzard can be his own best friend or worst enemy. I truly wish him the best.

Big-assed vehicles

I hate following vehicles that I can't see over or around. Especially on the freeway. It feels like I spend most of my time riding the superslab any more. Whenever possible I actively work to get around these rigs. Once upon a time I usually had a good view from the seat of a bike. These days I end up behind another "wide-body" all too soon. Is it just me or has the number of big vehicles rapidly proliferated the past couple of years? Between vans, mini-vans, SUV's, and big pick-ups it feels like riding in a thick herd of elephants. Some people really need a large vehicle. It's hard to haul a whole family on a bike. I'd say the majority aren't driving these vehicles for practical purposes, though. Either way, the average gas mileage can't be too good. No wonder the oil companies have us over a barrel. ( no pun intended ) I like my 48 miles per gallon just fine, thank you. More should join us in riding to work.

Crappy drivers

We've had some late snow. See more in the next post. I've always complained about drivers who do stupid things like tailgating. The speeding, taking chances, and tailgating don't let up at all when the conditions turn nasty. I saw on the news tonight that there was a 60 car pile-up on Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 in Washington State. I don't mean to impugn a lack of common sense to any driver who might have been an innocent victim here. But how the heck does a 60 car pile-up happen if folks aren't speeding and following too closely without regard for conditions?

Why do I do it?

I spent this last weekend in the Big City doing step-up training for instructors. It's the same kind of thing that was going on when we met "Buzzard". Despite the forecast for heavy rain and wind, I rode Sophie. It's always a trick trying to get enough gear in the two saddlebags. One of these days I guess I should buy a trunk bag. I had to laugh my butt off on Sunday. I showed up on Saturday on the bike. Most of the instructors in attendance were local. Only a couple rode on Saturday. My good friend Jeff Earls rode, but he's a top ranking Iron Butt competitor. What else would you expect of him? Talk about peer pressure! After my peers saw I rode a hundred miles one way almost all of them rode on Sunday. Yes, we did get soaked all weekend. My own ride home Sunday night was not the best ride I ever had.

There was a very big storm pelting us. The winds were strong and gusty from the Southwest. Which meant I not only had a head wind, but I was being hammered by gusts coming from about two o'clock to me. Between the winds trying to move me over in my lane, the standing water on the freeway, and the quickly falling darkness, it was a challenge.

This morning I woke up to rain which was mostly snow. The temperature was hovering at 33 degrees (f). Still, I saddled up and went. I had an early meeting at the office. By the time I got to the South Salem hills, I was riding on a slush covered freeway. It was still dark. The good news is that almost all of the drivers were actually driving within the limits set by the conditions. There was more snow in Portland and Vancouver.

By the time I set off for home the temperature had soared to 39 degrees (f). There was still snow in the rain with a little hail for contrast. Again, I faced gusty winds with the added thrill of having snow laden rain blasted into my face shield. My last three rides have been a little hairy. Why do we say that word "hairy"? A ride isn't really covered in hair. I think it's a macho way to say "scary". It sounds the same, doesn't it? There's a part of me that wants to use the word scary. As in "My last three rides were a little scary". Another part of me doesn't want anyone to know that I sometimes feel anxiety that's a couple of heartbeats away from fear. We want to say "scary" but our macho brains dictate the substitute word.

Just North of Salem there was a brief spell where the rain stopped and the road was dry. The first thought was "this was worth all those miles in the storm". Right. It was still cold and I still had heavy traffic all around me. I was also still on the freeway. The only reason it was good was that I was on the bike and it wasn't as bad as the storm. Some people tell me that a rider has to ride in bad conditions to better appreciate the good rides. Baloney!!! That's like me saying I beat my head against the wall just because it feels so good to stop.

I actually called my kid brother about this. I pretty much put him through medical school. Now he's a full fledged psychologist, working with addicts. I figured he'd be able to give me some insight. I asked for some "pro bono" advice. He denied knowing what that meant. I persisted. I explained that I had nothing left to prove. I could actually be more comfortable in a car. It would be possible to drink coffee on the journey. I might even be safer. So why did I always feel the need to ride? Why do I start bitchin' about not being able to ride when I'm forced to use a car for a couple of days? Why can't I accept being warm and comfortable in a car? Why, why, why?

He looked right into my eyes and gave me a straight answer. For those of you who are a little sensitive, you should cover your eyes for a few seconds.

My brother looked at me and said these words. "It's because you're f**ked up, man!"

I've always suspected that. It's reassuring to have a professional confirm it for me.

Almost pulled the plug

I've been blogging here for well over a year. Time is starting to be in shorter supply. Now that I'm back in sales as a manufacturer's rep, I'm enjoying myself more but have less time. My schedule used to be more structured. I went to work at a certain time and left at a certain time. Now the schedule's a lot more varied. I still enjoy blogging but it seems the posts are getting farther and farther apart. Sometimes I find myself tempted to post something just to put out a post. I'd much rather have it be more meaningful. So I'd actually come to a decision as I laid awake in a hotel room Friday night. I was going to pull the plug on this blog. I figured I'd helped found our little community. First Gary, then Steve and I. Now there's this neat little community of thriving bloggers. Nobody much would miss me. That's not meant to be any kind of plea for feedback. I just felt like I was filling space and not doing things justice anymore.

Coincidentally, a couple of comments appeared here. Then I saw a post by one of our community to the North of me. He mentioned our group and how we all learned from each other. I decided that I would really miss being a part of this community. It's a really neat little neighborhood we've built up. I don't want to move yet. Thanks, all, for being such good neighbors!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A tale of two students.

4:30 AM. I'm usually up early during the week. Why does it seem so much harder on the weekends? Maybe it's because most "normal" people use the weekends to catch up on household chores and sleep. I'm seldom accused of being normal. I keep swearing that I'll quit working so many weekends. Yet every year I end up with twenty five to thirty weekends or more devoted to teaching students or training instructors. The passion I feel still compels me. Next year I'll back off. Yeah, right.

Weatherwise, it was one of those weird days. The temperature was in the upper thirties. Thirty five miles separated me from my destination. Some places were feeling rain, some were dry. It was as if some giant mop had been flung in an arc. Water had created a polka dot landscape.

As I rode North I thought of a couple of students who would be in my charge this weekend. Thursday night had been the first classroom session. We do brief introductions. Who are you? Where are you from? What are your expectations?

One woman in her early forties, whom I'll call Carol, said she'd had a brief encounter with riding in the past. That venture had ended with her being transported to the hospital and undergoing numerous operations. Time had gone by. Now she wanted to try it again. This time with proper training. That was all the detail she shared. Carol had a support group with her for the class. Her husband and two sons were with her. The boys are in their twenties. In addition, she'd brought along two other young men who were here because the class is mandatory for folks under 21. The mother of one of the boys had taken the class on her own previously. She's the one who'd pushed all of them towards getting training. Carol's little contingent made up half my class of twelve.

Another student, whom I'll call Tom, was a retired transit system driver. His last encounter with riding had been 33 years ago. Now Tom had a new Harley on order. He wanted to ride again. Tom is 72 and looking to find the magic once more.

My mind pondered the situation. Would Carol be mentally able to respond to my coaching? Crashes often leave deep seated fears in people. I didn't know the circumstances of her previous misfortune. Would her support group prove to be a help or hinderance? All the males had quite a bit of dirt bike experience. Would they be wise and leave the coaching to the professionals? Or would they be tempted to do some coaching on their own? I try to squelch that as much as possible. Too often it causes more harm than good.

Would Tom be physically able to respond to my coaching? He seemed to be walking with a great deal of stiffness in his body when I saw him Thursday night. I'd soon find that Tom would present another obstacle to me besides physical limitations.

It crossed my mind as it does so many times that being a good instructor is much more than just passing along information. It's one thing to "give" good information to students. It's quite another to guide students in such a way that they take ownership of the skills and strategies. To be really good at facilitating self discovery, an instructor needs to be an amateur psychologist. We don't just teach skills, we try to influence attitudes. Which means we need to build trust with the students so they'll share with us where they are now. In Carol's case, I'd have to work even harder at getting her to trust me. She'll have a lot of fear to overcome. It all gets pretty involved, sometimes.

I was actually glad for the chance to keep my mind busy. It was a distraction from the chill. Since it was a good 5 degrees above freezing and my ride was less than an hour, I'd skipped the electric vest. An Aerostich fleece resided beneath my Roadcrafter. Still, I was starting to feel the cold. As much as I thump my chest and declare myself a "Warrior!", impervious to any discomfort, age is catching up to me. Tiny bit by tiny bit I am becoming a creature of comfort. Where I truly never noticed the cold previously, there's now a small bit of reluctance to keep subjecting myself to adverse conditions. Fortunately, the steps toward my decline are quite small. Katie says I worry too much about maintaining my "hardcore" reputation. Maybe I do. Perhaps it's one of the few ways left in modern society for a man to test himself. I don't so much care what others think of me. It's what "I" think of me that seems to dominate. One must first feel good about themself. From there springs everything else.

All this thinking in the cold's made me hungry. There's a McDonald's near the college where I'm teaching. The woman at the drive-up doesn't seem at all surprised by a motorcycle coming through. Her face is friendly but the lines show she's seen about everything. I don't know whether to feel sorry for her hard life or to nurse my own bruised ego. Usually I cause a stir. Today I was just another customer. Oh well. Either way the two Egg McMuffins in my tank bag will console me. Don't give me any grief about the fast food, either. We burn a lot of energy in the parking lot. Once I wore one of those electronic pedometers while teaching. I put a little over 13 miles of wear on my boot soles during the weekend.

Carol's responding to my coaching but I see the first real signs of fear about an hour and a half in. This is the first time she's facing having to corner tighter. Up until now she's had pretty much half the parking lot available for wide turns. Now we're introducing cornering by having the students ride a large oval in the interior of the range. I can see Carol fighting her personal demons in the way the bars move as she turns left. Another clue to her accident is presented to me. By now I'm pretty sure her accident happened while she was riding through a curve somewhere. Carol and I have established a bond. It will prove useful. Her trust in me leads to her success. Her success leads to more confidence in herself. It's a continuing thing that I call the "Circle of Success". Carol proves to be a very coachable student despite where she started from. Her support group has a great collective attitude. They've come to learn and it shows. The guys encourage Carol but stop short of coaching. Nicely done, guys!

Later on during the day we talk about cornering in the classroom. Carol asks some random questions. One of the things I've learned over the years is that these questions can provide more clues to where students are coming from. Carol's questions are slightly off topic but I can sense that she's got a reason for asking. By now I'm sure that Carol crashed in a blind "S" turn to the left. Carol needs specific answers. I take enough time to make sure she gets what she needs. Carol's made a mistake in the past that seriously injured her. On the other hand, she's taking responsibility for herself. That's what my role is, to facilitate that process.

Tom, meanwhile, proves to be another story. He will not take responsibility for himself. Tom's body has physical limitations. His skills are mostly non-existent. Rather than admit that he really needs to work on things, Tom makes excuses.

Here's an example. In exercises two and three we spend a lot of time working on smoothly getting underway and smoothly stopping. The students are in first gear. Most quickly learn to be smooth on the throttle. Tom spends all his time complaining about the throttle. It's just got to be faulty, according to him. I ride the bike on a demonstration. There is nothing wrong with the throttle. Tom claims there's just too much torque. This is a Suzuki GZ 250. How much torque can there be? Does he think there will be less torque on his new Harley in first gear?

At break I go to have a chat with Tom. I gently explain that first gear does have a little more torque but that it's not the bike. I tell Tom that he needs to work on being smooth. As an aside, I'm obligated as an instructor to have this discussion. Abrupt throttle applications are a safety issue. I try to cajole Tom into letting go of it. At this point I don't know if it's a real threat or an excuse. Sometimes new riders have difficulties figuring out how to operate controls. Then it takes on a life of its own. Pretty soon there's no room to concentrate on anything else. One of my roles is to help a student change the focus. In Tom's case, he didn't want to let go.

Right after I talked to him I hear Tom telling the other instructor, "Me and that throttle just don't get along!" Then I hear Tom saying the same thing to the other students. Later in the weekend it's because the bike has dirty carbs, the shifter's in the wrong place, the handlebars curve too much, pick anything from the menu. Tom became the "Man of a Million Excuses".

At the end of the class, both Tom and Carol passed. Tom still had shaky skills because his attitude prevented him from ownership. At the end of 9 hours on the bike, Tom's still struggling to be smooth. Carol, in contrast, succeeded in making things her own. I'm comfortable with Carol being on the street as long as panic doesn't overwhelm her when she finds herself in a stressful situation. My recommendation to her was to find a place where she was required to multitask as little as possible. She needs time to gain confidence that she can actually make the bike do what she wants it to do. I told Tom I really didn't think he was ready for the street and should take the class again. He didn't like it. It was my obligation as a professional. I owed it to him to say it. Both students, to me, exhibited a marked lack of self confidence. They just showed it in different ways. Carol faced her fear head-on. Tom was afraid of failure. In his case, Tom had determined to find a way to take the blame for failure away from himself. Ironically, in so doing, he set the stage for his lack of success.

At the end of the course we encourage the students to give us written feedback on the course. It's one of the tools we use for continued quality control. Here's the difference in their comments. Tom rated the equipment and instructors as poor. Carol made this comment:

"I never thought I would ever be able to take a corner to the left again without crashing. Now I know that I can!"

Which rider do you think is better off?

Here's how I think it all wraps up. Despite the fact that the majority of our students are more or less beginning riders, they represent a microcosm of the larger society of riders. After all, today's more experienced riders are yesterday's beginners. Those who take responsibility for themselves are always better off. Excuses buy nothing except self deceit. Helmet laws and other punitive measures are stop gap measures. Mandated safety devices are bandages. The real key is not compliance, it's alignment. That's only going to come from riders realizing that it's up to them to take care of themselves by proper gear and great skills. If riders don't step up then things are going to be forced upon us. Not pleasant, but true as we live.

As a trainer I can teach the skills. I can't force the attitude. Rider responsibility. It doesn't seem it can be that simple. It really is that basic. Everything else starts from that foundation.

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, February 22, 2007


In the last post I inserted a news release from the Transportation Secretary, Mary Peters. Here are some comments on this and government procedures in general. Like I have maintained, this blog isn't a venue for political commentary. In this case I'm making an exception because there's some things I feel need to be said.

Ms. Peters is involved in motorcycling, either as a passenger or rider. I would have to believe that since she is still advocating helmets and rider education that she is pro motorcycles. That can't be all bad. I don't know anything about whether she was a rider or a passenger in the reported crash. This new push for helmets and safety training can easily be taken as a direct reaction to the crash. The timing is a little late but things can linger until opportunity presents itself. Or she could be totally sincere and looking for something to help the worsening situation. I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt.

I passionately believe in rider education. I'm also a devout disciple of wearing protective gear. In my opinion, Ms. Peters is right when she states that helmets and training are critical to the well-being of motorcyclists. In making these things more easily within financial reach of riders, her proposal has a lot of merit. As badly as I want to, I'm not going to comment on the training offered by the Motorcycle Industry Council. This training is administered through the MSF. I'm not sure how to say what I want to say without seeming to malign the many decent, sincere, and dedicated instructors out there. So that's all on that front.

The new accident causation study also has merits. I know many riders say things haven't changed since the Hurt Study. Drivers still fail to see motorcyclists. Treacherous roadway conditions still take their toll. By the way, that's one of the reasons I believe in rider education. I fervently try to instill the idea in riders that they need to take responsibility to fill in the gaps. More on that later. Other things have changed, though. One example is the proliferation of SUV's. Due to the greater number of them on the road, more of them show up as involved in crashes with motorcycles. These SUV's have higher bumpers than vehicles had before. That means that more riders are being hit higher on the body which causes much more serious injuries. As opposed to the Hurt Study where the most common bodily injury was to the lower extremities. These kind of things can be identified and perhaps changed. But I stray.

The fact is that a lot of riders are having accidents and either becoming seriously injured or killed. That's nasty either way you look at it. The numbers are getting out of hand and something needs to be done. I don't believe that government agencies are taking the right approach by passing laws mandating safety items. I agree that vehicles need a certain amount of safety built in. When a person buys a car, for instance, they have a right to expect that there will be enough strength to offer protection from crash forces. Things like seat belts and air bags have their merits. Someone somewhere has to step in to enforce a level of quality engineering. Once past that point, though, government gets carried away.

Here's a couple of examples from here in Oregon. A number of kids have been seriously injured on ATV's in the past year or so. Now there's legislation pending that would make it illegal for anyone under twelve to ride an ATV. Period. There's also a movement to legally dictate where children can ride in a car. The last proposal I saw included a mandate that any child under 13 couldn't ride in the front seat if a back seat were available. Any child under 4'9" tall would be required to sit in a booster chair of sorts. The proposal said that none of the committee members voiced opposition to the bill. Well, who's going to take a chance of looking like they're against child safety? Even if what they might express represents common sense, the groups seem to get into frenzies. So these things pass.

Either agencies are on the wrong track or they are taking the only practical means available to them. What do I mean by that? The problem these days isn't so much equipment as it is people. People just aren't taking responsibility for themselves like they used to. Katie sees it all the time at the elementary school where she works. God forbid a child's self esteem should be damaged by telling them they did something wrong. That attitude is rubbing off more and more to where we see adults exhibiting the same behaviour. You've all seen the frivolous court cases where a plaintiff tries to convince a jury that they really didn't get burned because they did something stupid. It just has to be somebody else's fault, you know.

The trouble is that government can't really legislate character. Trying to motivate people to change their behaviour and take responsibility for themselves is a huge undertaking. So maybe the governmental agencies are taking the only course open to them. It's too large a picture for a man like me to totally comprehend. I do, however, know motorcycling and rider training. I can tell you for sure that the largest percentage of fatalities here in Oregon are due to rider error. Accidents that don't cause fatalities can be presumed to fall under the same description.

In days gone by the most common crash scenario was a rider colliding with another vehicle. Weirdly enough, 75 percent of these kinds of accidents involve a vehicle that's between 10 and 2 o'clock to the motorcyclist. Right in bloody front of them!! Sometimes crap just happens but you'd think that at least in some of those cases if the rider were well trained they would have been able to avoid it, wouldn't you? Now we're seeing the majority of our fatalities in single vehicle crashes. As in just the motorcycle by itself. With a rider on board, of course. Most of these are in corners. Riders are just flat out getting it wrong. Accident reconstruction reveals that the rider crashed in the last third of the corner. Entry speeds were too fast because the rider didn't look far enough ahead to see what was really there. Their entry speeds were based on an incomplete picture. Thus they either went off the road and hit something like a tree or crossed the center line and hit an oncoming car. Again, due to not having training or ignoring whatever training they did have. Add to that the fact that half of our fatalities have alcohol involved. Only a third of those were legally intoxicated. We're not talking drunk, we're talking impairment. How many impaired riders are out there who haven't paid the inevitable price yet?

Which all comes back to the fact that if more riders took responsibility for themselves the picture would be a lot rosier. Notice I say the rider needs to "take" responsibility. I'm not in favor of having things shoved down someone's throat by law decree. I've written this before. If we're going to ride we have the responsibility to do it right. Taking responsibility means taking training or practicing skills. Preferably both. That's why I'm all for making professional training as inexpensive as possible. No matter how cheap it is, though, it's all for naught if riders don't take advantage of it. Until we solve the problem of rider responsibility the statistics are going to keep getting worse.

In the next post I'm going to share the tale of two students that exactly illustrate what I'm saying. Stay tuned.

Miles and smiles,

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Not gone, yet!

As a well known person once said, "The rumors of my passing have been greatly exaggerated." Though it might seem like it, I haven't dropped from the face of the earth. Some may be relieved while some may be disappointed. On the other hand, you're the one who pointed your browser to this blog!

The demands on my time last week were brutal. I don't use that word lightly. On top of everything else that happened, I only got to ride on Monday, Saturday, and Sunday. The rest of the time was spent in rented cars, motels, and puddle-jumper commuter flights with Corporate Executives. One of these days I'm going to write a book about these folks. They seem to live in a totally different world than I do.

Monday night late I got a call from my widowed Mother. She told me she was leaking. After determining that it really wasn't an anatomical aberration but a plumbing problem, I jumped on a bike and made the trip out. The metal pipes under the kitchen sink in her 30 year old house had finally given up the ghost. From dust pipes are created and to dust they were determined to return. As soon as a store opened Tuesday I obtained supplies and built a new drain system. The chore was finished just in time to clean up and rush to the Eugene Airport. Next thing I knew I was in Sacramento, California. The next couple of days were spent with the Execs in visiting distributors in Northern California and Southern Oregon.

I returned in time to teach a class this weekend. In the meantime, both my Mother and my middle son were involved in separate car wrecks. Everyone came out ok physically. There's a couple of cars with bent sheet metal, though. Blogging got pushed off the immediate schedule. Be warned, though, I'm baaack!!

The time away from blogging has created a huge backlog of ideas. There's stuff just straining to become part of posts. I'm going to do my best to let things spill out in some sort of entertaining and informative way.

I've tried real hard to stay away from political commentary. After all, this is a blog about riding, and riding to work in particular. I write about motorcycle safety and training once in a while. That's fair as developing physical and mental skills to manage risk is an intregal part of riding. I'm going to stray slightly into political commentary here. I came across this and it begs for some comments. Here's a press release from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Mary E. Peters. I'm going to put it out here for your consideration. I'll reserve my comments for the next post so this one doesn't get too long.

DOT 19-07 Friday, February 16, 2007 Contact: Sarah EcholsTel.: (202) 366-4570

Nation's Top Transportation Official Urges Manufacturers to Provide Free or Discounted DOT Certified Helmets or Driver Safety Training with the Purchase of Every New Motorcycle

Saying “the time has come to make the helmet standard safety equipment,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters today called on manufacturers to provide free or heavily discounted DOT certified helmets or driver safety training with the purchase of every new motorcycle sold in the United States.

“Helmets and proper training are just as important as brakes or headlights when it comes to the well-being of motorcyclists,” Secretary Peters said. ”We shouldn't be letting any customer take a bike out of the store without a helmet as part of the package. Safety shouldn't have to be an option when purchasing a motorcycle.”

Secretary Peters said only 58 percent of riders wear helmets today, which is down 13 percent from just four years ago. She added that manufacturers could help reverse the trend by getting helmets into riders’ hands and training them how to ride safely, noting that 700 motorcyclists would survive crashes every year if they wore helmets.

During remarks to the Motorcycle Industry Council in Indianapolis, the Secretary praised those manufacturers already providing free training for riders. However, she said she was asking for help from manufacturers because while motorcycles account for only two percent of the vehicles on the road, they are involved in over 10 percent of all crashes. She added that motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled in 10 years and now account for over 4,500 highway deaths and 78,000 injuries each year. Even worse, the crash rate among motorcyclists in the 50 plus age group has increased by over 400 percent, she said.

The Secretary noted that the helmet she was wearing during her 2005 motorcycle crash likely prevented severe head injury. “I know from first-hand experience how effective helmets can be,” she said.

Secretary Peters also said the Department of Transportation was “attacking” the challenge of motorcycle safety on several fronts. Last September, the Department awarded over $6 million in safety grants to states to support motorcycle safety. In addition, the Federal Highway Administration has established a Motorcycle Advisory Council to focus on making roads safer for motorcyclists and will continue work begun by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on a Motorcycle Crash Causation Study to identify why motorcycle crashes occur and find ways to reduce the fatality and injury rates.

End of press release

By the way, everyone thinks that we're going to have a new motorcycle crash causation study because Congress has appropriated 2.6 million dollars for it. We've all heard that the study will be researched by the Oklahoma Transportation Center at Oklahoma State University.

The thing not everyone knows is that Congress added the requirement that motorcyclists come up with matching funds before the original funds are released. The bad news is that motorcyclists and motorcycle organizations need to raise 2.8 million dollars if the study is to be done. The good news is that there will be at least 5.6 million dollars total. The AMA has jumpstarted the effort by donating $100,000.

If you or someone you know wants to help, there's a way to do it. The AMA has started a fund raising effort called Fuel the Fund. The idea is to get all riders to donate an amount that equals what they'd spend on a tank of fuel. There's a website and a mailing address.


Mail to: Fuel the Fund c/o AMA, 13515 Yarmouth Dr., Pickerington, OH 43147.

Stay tuned for commentary on the Transportation Secretary's statements.

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Horns and Halo's

I ride in a glass arena. What I mean by that is I have to be careful what I do on a bike. One never knows who's watching. I'm not talking about law enforcement. It's my past students and those who know I'm an instructor. I usually wear a retroreflective vest with our program's logo on the back. I'm proud to fly my "colors". It's great to have the reputation as a motorcycle safety and skills "Guru". On the other hand, it comes with the responsibility to set a good example. Even more important is protecting the credibility of our program and fellow instructors. It wouldn't be so good to preach the gospel and then not live it.

Encounters with students are common. Katie's gotten used to strange women coming up and warmly greeting me. The greetings are usually accompanied by hugs. Guys and gals both ask if I remember them. Mostly I do. Being pretty active, I see around 500 students a year. That's in addition to the instructors I train. Extend that over just the past ten years and you have over 5,000 riders. The vast majority of the classes I've taught have been within a hundred miles of home. I'm surrounded by my trainees. Not all are on bikes when they see me.

During this last really cold spell I got a call from the Director of our program. He said that a friend of his who also rode had seen me. Not that he knew who I was, per se. It seems he'd followed me in his pickup and seen the vest. After hearing a description of the bike the Director had realized it was me his friend had seen. When asked why he wasn't riding, the friend had replied that it was way too cold. There was some light ribbing about being a "lightweight". I really had no idea who was in the truck behind me. It was just another vehicle to be accounted for and dealt with.

Don't get me wrong. I like my status as a teacher. I'm all for living what I preach. Credibility is really important. There's just "those times". My skills are pretty decent. Things that some people might consider risky or crazy are well within my personal limits. I try to be a clean living fellow but my heart craves adventure. There's an outlaw beneath that clean cut exterior. Something deep inside me starts to rumble. It becomes ever more difficult to suppress. I know it's kind of a crude way of looking at it, but think of it as being at a dinner party.

The meal's started with a couple of beers. Then there were those little sausage appetizers. They're a little spicy but seem to really hit the spot. A frightening number disappear past our teeth. All of this is going on top of the big hamburger with lots of onions that was downed at lunch. Now it's time to sit down with the other well-dressed guests and enjoy the main course. Deep down a little rumbling starts. We try to ignore it. All during the meal pressure builds. If we were all alone there's no doubt we'd just relieve it. We're in polite company. We mustn't. We musn't. Everyone's so near. The insistent urge is becoming overpowering. Finally, we try to escape off by ourself and just give in.

I try to be good. Really. Despite my best intentions, the pressure builds. Oh sure, there's race tracks where I can satisfy my urges. That's definitely the best place for it. Still, we're here, no where near a track. Besides, it's just one little thing I want to do. Pretty soon, despite all the pleas from the good guy on my left shoulder, the devil on the right shoulder wins out. I just have to be, er, you know, BAD!

Monday was the day. Beneath the helmet horns were beginning to stick through the halo.

While a lot of the country is enduring cold and snow, we had a day with blue sky and clouds mixed together. Some sunshine was smiling down. At mid-day it was 53 degrees (f). Sorry, I don't create it. Instead of riding to work, Sophie and I ended up riding for work. A trip to Salem, the state's capitol, was on the agenda. As usual, back roads were the choice. After heading out through North Albany and into the country, we had a choice of two routes. I chose Buena Vista Road, which more or less follows the Willamette River. Sophie countered my countersteering. She wanted the other road. Her road has more plentiful and technical corners. Underneath, though, we both knew that wasn't the reason she defied me. Sophie was headed for The Thrill Ride.

I resisted but realized it was futile. Having no choice, I surrendered and became an eager participant. After all, it wasn't my fault was it? If it was going to happen either way I might as well enjoy it.

The Thrill Ride is on a straight stretch of Corvallis Road. Once upon a time this was the way to go from big town to big town. Now it's just a sleepy country road. The frantic travellers currrently inhabit Hwy 99 a couple of miles to the West. It's a good thing this is the road less travelled. I was going to need it.

In the picture above you can see the stretch that has me captive. The camera somewhat flattens out the angle of the two hills. There's a steep descent, a rise in the middle, and a steep ascent. Do it right and you'll feel weightlessness over the small hill. The suspension totally unloads, your stomach rises to your mouth, and for a second gravity lets go. There's only a couple of small problems, though.

One, to do it right, you need to be doing at least 80 mph. Triple digits work even better. Two, there's a blind hill waiting at the end. Fortunately, the steepness of the hill lets you scrub off speed before you crest. Sometimes you just have to go for it. In case one should get too comfortable with these kinds of hooligan acts, there's a reminder just over the top of the hill.

A picturesque little cemetery overlooks the countryside from the top of this hill. It's a reminder of sorts. Things have consequences. Choose well. Don't take needless chances but don't waste the opportunities you have, either. We'll all end up here eventually. We can arrive hardly used at all or with a big smile on our sleeping faces. I choose the latter. I'm always a fan of treading the fine line between reckless and too cautious. I'll leave you at the end of this post with a line from a Jimmy Buffet song called "We are the People Our Parents Warned Us About"

"I'd rather die while I'm living than live while I'm dead"

I just have to make sure none of my students are watching!

And so the sun sets on another awesome day of two wheeled commuting!

Miles and smiles,


Sunday, February 11, 2007

"You're probably screwed"...comment and discussion.

In the previous post on rear wheel skids I wrote something that could probably be taken two ways. Gary Charpentier of "Rush Hour Rambling" fame brought it to my attention. He left a comment on the post telling me about it. Leave it to Gary to challenge me! I was going to reply in the comment section. Having decided it would be too long, I chose to do another post. Besides, it's a good chance to take another look at the situation. The previous post was short on purpose so as not to lose focus on the topic at hand. This will be an opportunity to dig a little deeper.

I have a lot of respect for Mr. Charpentier. ( Gary, if you're reading this it's just a figment of your imagination. You must be delirious from riding in that Mid-West cold ) I'm off on a small side-trip here. Bear with me. Isn't that what we do on a bike? There's this little side-road we've always wanted to explore. Riding makes us eager to go take a look. We'll be back on the main road soon.

The internet can be good or bad depending on what you're after. There's a lot of mis-information out there. One of the magical things for me has been finding this small community of motorcycle bloggers. Gary and I are a lot alike. We're both soldiers. Ok, ok, I'm a soldier and Gary's a Marine! It wasn't my choice where I went. Let's split the difference and say we're both Warriors. Oftentimes we've found ourselves on the same wavelength at the same time despite the distance between us. Life experiences have been similar. Having never met in person, I still feel a connection. Interesting how the internet brought us together. People with shared traits who might never have met otherwise.

Gary was the first of the Ride to Work bloggers. He sent out an invitation for others to join the fun. Thanks much for that. Steve Williams also stepped up. Steve's a needed contrast to the Warrior style Gary and I adopt. We're just as apt to use force as anything else. Can't get there by discussion? Swords and fisticuffs will work as well. Steve, on the other hand, has the heart and soul of a poet and philosopher. I'm sure Steve would be there in battle with us. He'd also be the one using words and pictures to remind us what we're fighting for in the first place. Reading Steve's blog has added a much needed balance to my perspective. Not to mention a certain extra push to stop and really look at the world around me.

Others have joined us since. Eric, Bill, John, Guiliano, Dru, Allen, Snark, Lucky, and others are part of the community. Some through Ride to Work, some on their own. Whether we think of it this way or not, the things shared in the blogs are a gift to the rest of us. Sometimes we nod in agreement, sometimes not so much. At least it makes us think about things from differing perspectives. Other times we learn something new or cement something we already thought we knew. Either way, the proffered gifts are a means of enrichment. I thank everyone for those treasures.

Which brings me back to the main road. This is an answer to Gary's comment. Warriors may agree or not. They have the same objective but can have differing views of each aspect of the battle. Meshing their opposing views can strengthen their unit. What can seem like opposite views can end up not really being that at all. It might be a matter of actually seeing the same thing but looking at different views of it. I believe there's a verse in Proverbs that says something to the effect of "As iron sharpens iron, so the face of one man sharpens the other".

This is the spirit in which I offer the following commentary. I'm reproducing the comment here in full. Just to be fair, you know, with nothing taken out of context.

"Great piece, Dan. It pretty much confirmed most of what I think I know about braking. I have only one question: Is it wise to tell folks that they are pretty much screwed if they get into situation #3? I've been in that situation many a time, and rarely has it resulted in a crash. A lot of the time, it is how I set up my entry into a tight corner, and it's the "sweet spot" in the torque curve on the way out. I realize that, as a safety instructor, you can't really teach this stuff with a clear conscience. It requires many hours on the racetrack to learn properly.But please don't tell folks they are always screwed in that situation, or they might believe you. That's usually when you hear the phrase "...then I had to lay `er down.". Just my two-cents. Ride well,=gc= "

First off, Gary's right. If you read the comment in one way it can seem like a blanket statement. One that says if you find yourself in this particular situation you might just as well give up and crash. I also hereby firmly stand by my statement in the context in which it was made. So let's dig a little deeper. For purposes of refreshing memories, here's the picture that went with the comment.

The picture on the right shows the motorcycle's front and rear wheels way out of alignment. This is the position I made comment on. I wrote that if you find the motorcycle in this position you're pretty much screwed. In the context of this picture the average rider pretty much is. Let me add a sentence or two that will clearly define the context.

Too often when riders are faced with an emergency situation, they over-brake and lock the rear wheel. A skidding tire is a dangerous condition that can result in a violent crash and serious injury or death. The key words are "emergency situation".

Two things you don't see in the picture. One is the reason the rider's trying an emergency stop in the first place. Put a car in front of the bike. A car that's suddenly slammed on the brakes for whatever reason. Or no reason at all. Secondly, the view from the top doesn't show the severe lean angle of the bike. In this case, the bike's leaned way over to the left. The rear brake is still applied and the tire is sliding.

Let's make it personal and say it's me riding Sophie in that picture. For those of you who don't know, Sophie is a 2001 Honda ST1100. Curb weight ( that is, the real weight of a bike that actually has fuel, oil, antifreeze, and a battery installed ) is around 721 pounds. Add my 180 pounds. ( MOST of it is still muscle! ) I now have a little over 900 pounds of bike and rider leaned to the left and still sliding. The rear wheel's stepped out to the right. Right in front of me is THE STOPPED CAR. What are my options?

If I keep the brake locked it's going to be touch and go whether I hit the car before I low-side. A sliding rear tire adds a lot to stopping distances. The bike's already leaned over so even if I stop short of the car, I'm going to have a heck of a time keeping Sophie from falling over. Remember, it's gyroscopic precession that holds a bike up. That only happens with a little speed. When the bike's out of momentum guess who holds the bike up?

If I let go of the rear brake there's a huge chance I'll high-side. Even if that doesn't happen the resultant jerk is going to try to unseat me and cause me to have a lapse of control. Of the bike, and maybe my bowels! I could even experience the same thing if I leave the rear tire locked. Once I get so far over the center of gravity is going to shift depending on my weight relative to the bike.

Going around the car isn't an option as long as the rear tire's sliding. Sophie and I have surrendered all direction control to whatever path we were on when we started the skid.

Does that mean there's absolutely no options? No, but I'll say right now that there are very few riders who could get out of this. Riders like Gary and I with a lot of race track time could probably do it. To be honest, I'm not even sure if I could do it with Sophie. On the VFR, yeah. Or my recently sold CBR. On a huge sport tourer? I don't know if I want to find out. By carefully transitioning the throttle, rear brake, and front brake I could control how the rear tire hooks up. Once I got that right I could hope the steering is responsive to my presses quickly enough to essentially perform a smoking corner exit. Even though it's the least of my worries at the moment, I'm going to hope the knee of my Roadcrafter is padded enough because I'm probably going to test it out.

To put closure on my statement:

I realize that there are riders like some of us who are actually crazy enough to put a bike in this position on purpose. Skills honed on tracks and from year after year of high mileages can be used in a variety of situations. As a professional instructor, I'm talking here about accident avoidance skills. This rider is responding to something that's happened suddenly and right in front of them. Poorly developed braking skills or very high adrenaline has caused them to apply too much rear brake.

Unless you're really good or really lucky, this is a very bad situation to be in. Few riders will be able to recover. Never surrender but realize you're going to be at a large disadvantage. The best option is to NEVER GO THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE!! Release the rear brake as soon as you recognize the rear wheel skid. You'll give yourself more options and more time to use them in.

Again, as a professional trainer I have to urge you to practice and practice so proper braking is second nature. Use your mental skills to avoid surprises in the first place. If you want track skills come take my classes. Don't try to learn power slides on the street.

Should a rider ever decide that "laying the bike down" is an option? Absolutely not! This comes from the old days when bikes had really poor brakes. When police departments first started using motorcycles the officers were trained in how to properly lay the bike down. That's because the fastest way to stop in a real emergency was to make the bike an anchor. Motorcycles no longer suffer from that affliction. It would be an extremely rare occasion where laying a bike down would be the best option. Extremely rare. What has more traction for braking, the rubber of the tires or your body and the paint job? Even if it looks like a rider is certainly going to impact an object, stay on the brakes until the last possible second. Every bit of speed the rider scrubs off will lessen the impact accordingly. That's not to say a rider shouldn't learn the proper way to exit a bike should the thing fall over. Cops are still trained on how to separate from the bike safely if not gracefully. That's not the same as learning to "lay it down".

Remember a year and a half ago or so when Arnold laid his Harley down to avoid a truck? He broke some ribs and ruined his bike. What really cracked me up was when he was interviewed on national television. When asked why he laid the bike down you might have expected some answer based on reason and logic. Here's what came of his mouth in front of God and America:

"Because that's how we did it in 'Terminator'!" Excuse me while I let out a loud groan.

A guy got killed here last year doing the same thing. He encountered a truck that took him by surprise. Instead of braking he laid it down and got run over. So much mis-information and so little time!

Thanks for the comment, Gary. You also reminded me of the caliber of the folks reading the blogs. This braking thing is important. I'm inspired to do another post on front wheel braking, ABS, and stopping distances. Stay tuned.

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Rear wheel skids: Revisited

Last night I found myself riding in a deluge. The rain's held off for a long time. Being confined has only intensified its energy. The chance to pour upon the earth finally came. Rainfall was gleefully making up for lost time. Why is it that the idiots always pick the most adverse conditions to come out in?

Somewhere there's a driving school with a twisted curricula. Some misguided instructor is diligently preaching the gospel of "uni-directional scanning". In other words, if you're going to turn left then only look left. Any vehicles approaching from your right? Forgetta 'bout 'em!

I had the distinct misfortune to be on this driver's right as they made their left turn and pulled out in front of me. Having gone to a different driving school, my scanning was a little more effective. Another close call, but nothing serious. No harm, no foul, as I'm fond of saying.

As I passed the driver and played speed boat, I was blessing the fact that I teach riding classes so often. The constant exposure keeps me thinking about proper techniques. In this incident I had naturally accounted for the dicey traction in the equation. Believe it or not, the rear brake is relatively more effective in the rain than when it's dry. With reduced traction on the front wheel not as much weight transfer happens. This means that more weight stays on the rear wheel longer. Weight means traction. With decent tires a good rider can take advantage of the situation. Still, it would be really easy to skid the rear wheel on a wet and sloppy road.

For years and years the MSF has preached the gospel of keeping the rear wheel locked once it starts to skid. If the rider does need to let go they should make sure the front and rear wheels are aligned. We've taught the same thing here in Oregon forever. The justification is that this technique will help prevent high-siding. Since most of our students are brand new riders we've just left it at that. Even most of the so-called "experienced" riders really don't have many miles. With between 500 and 3,000 miles as a yearly average, not much deep skill learning takes place. Skill-wise, they're really still beginners. By the time the rust from long Winter lay-offs is cleaned out, there's not much riding time left. So the motorcycle safety community has taught the simple strategy of keeping the rear wheel locked if it skids. It's always felt to me like we're not really presenting the true picture.

Like me, some of you have raced or ridden on tracks. There's also been some spirited high speed cornering in other places, hasn't there? What's your experience been if you've gotten on the brakes a little too hard setting up for a corner? I suspect you've released as soon as you noticed the skid and then re-applied. That's the way it happens in the real world of experienced riders. On the other side of the coin, there's mounting evidence that riders are trying to do what they're taught and crashing anyway.

A rider who keeps the rear wheel locked may or may not end up high-siding. A rider who keeps the rear wheel locked may or may not stop in time to avoid an obstacle. A sliding rear tire adds to the stopping distance. Keeping the rear wheel locked also negates any ability to make a directional change. If the back of the bike's sliding there's absolutely no directional control available. The bike's going to keep on in whatever path it was headed for when the slide began. I also know a former instructor who found himself in a skid when a car abruptly stopped in front of him. Faithfully holding the brake pedal down, the bike started to low-side. Being a big guy, when his weight started coming off the bike the center of gravity changed. The rear tire hooked up and he high-sided anyway! He's not alone.

Being professional trainers means we need to stop and re-evaluate things once in a while. Our obligation is to serve the riders we touch in the best way possible. Real world experience shows that we need to adjust our teaching on how to handle rear wheel skids. So we're doing it. This change is only being made to our program in Oregon as far as I know. The MSF may eventually arrive here but our concern is for Oregon's riders. I'm passing it along here for what ever benefit you may derive from it.

The fact of the matter is that if a rider's bike gets into the position shown on the far right, they're pretty much screwed, to put it bluntly. So the goal is to avoid having the bike step out in the first place. The way to do this is to immediately release the brakes as soon as a skid is recognized. Then re-apply. Remember, it's firm progressive pressure on the front brake and light to lighter on the rear. Always be smooth. It's hard to do when the heart's racing and the adrenaline's pumping. Don't leave it to chance and hope it happens correctly when needed.

You knew I was coming back to this, didn't you? Practice, practice, practice, ahead of time. Practice quick stops and don't lock either brake. You're probably not going to get it right first time, every time. That's ok. There's a blessing underneath what you might consider a mistake. You might accidently lock a wheel during the practice. If you suspect you've messed up the front brake application let go RIGHT NOW!! A rear wheel skid may be harder to detect on some bikes. Pay attention to what the bike is telling you. It will give you a chance to learn to recognize what a skid feels like on your bike. What you learn will serve you well when it happens in a real situation. When it does, release quickly and apply the brakes again. Be smooth, rider, be smooth.

When we suddenly encounter something that makes us want to pucker we're going to fall back on habits. Practice until our habits work for us, not against us. Keep your skills sharp for the unexpected!

This strategy allows us a chance to make the most of our braking. It's going to give us a better chance of stopping short of the obstacle. Releasing and re-applying will extend the time we're actually able to brake as opposed to sliding the rear wheel. We're also going to have a better chance of maneuvering around something since both tires are rotating.

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, February 06, 2007


I needed to think. As some of you have written, bodies of water make good places for reflection. No pun was intended, but I'll take them where I find them. This isn't actually a normal body of water. It's a city park. We call it Bryant Park in the summer and Bryant Lake in the winter. This park has the mixed blessing to be located at the confluence of the Willamette and Calapooia ( cal-a-poo-ya ) Rivers. Replacing grass is an annual budget expense for Public Works. Somehow a small patch of sunlight made its way through the clouds. Perfect setting for thinking. Sometimes I sits and thinks, sometimes I just sits. This time I was thinking.

The thing I was contemplating was instigated by a man who calls himself "Buzzard".

Before leaving for Orlando I'd spent the weekend participating in and conducting some training for some of our top instructors. We were in Portland, our Big City. The training itself isn't really important to the story except for providing the context of my dilemma. Normally, as instructors, we interface directly and continuously with the students. In this case, the setting was more like student teaching. Different instructors had varied assignments during the weekend. There was a lead instructor who was the constant face of our program. The rest of us drifted in and out as the weekend progressed.

Our student shows up for the first night of class. Looking at him invokes the typical "biker" stereotype. I can freely say this as he was working very hard at presenting the image. The man's about my age. ( no "old guy" comments, please! ) Hair is in a loose ponytail to his waist. Beard is full and comes to the bottom of his breastbone. Clothes and tattoo's complete the picture. Oh yeah, the novelty helmet he carries dots the "i's" and crosses the "t's". We are told that Buzzard has many friends who belong to the Hells Angels. The only reason he's here is because his bike is too big for the DMV test. The bike is straight out of some custom shop and has something like a nine foot wheelbase. It's amazing that a bike with a raked-out front end like that can even turn at all.

His image and loudness don't put me off. I've physically subdued and arrested bigger and badder men than him. I'm not much for custom bikes and the people who build them but that's not it, either. As an instructor I've worked quite hard on being impartial to my students. That's been a gargantuan task, let me tell you. I hold deep convictions and I'm not shy about expressing them when it's appropriate. When I'm working with a group of students or training instructors I let it all slide. Pass on the little stuff and concentrate on the big picture. It's all about teaching people how to take care of themselves on two wheels.

I guess that's really where I choked in this particular situation. For whatever reason, our student wanted to get "legal". He was using our class to meet that objective. If a student successfully passes our class, the completion card is a "get out of testing free" card with DMV. As an instructor, there's so much more to it than that. I'm not here to get people endorsed. That's a side effect. My perceived role is so much bigger. For me it's not about pass or fail. It's about the discovery. It's about trying to influence attitudes. It's about teaching survival skills. It's about taking responsibility for ourselves out there. Part of the discovery might be that a person just doesn't belong on a bike in the first place. Score. At least they found out in a safe environment.

This student seemed poised to ignore every bit of wisdom we were going to try to impart. The bike has straight pipes. His gear was minimal. What he shared with us led me to believe that he had already formed his beliefs about riding and nothing was going to change them. In the classroom he was vocal about expressing his opinions on things. Most of those were in direct contrast to what we hold dear. He wasn't actually obnoxious, just insidious. I took it as a personal insult.

That's really the horns of my dilemma. In this case I didn't have to deal with him directly. I was responsible for the bigger picture of training instructors. Buzzard was incidental to my purpose. Still, it gave me pause. How would I have treated him if he were actually my student?

Would I have decided that he was so "set" that there wasn't any point trying to reach him? Since he would require extra effort to "sell" would that effort be better spent on the other students? Would it be right to short change 11 in order to try to reach this one? Should I let him sink or swim on his own?

On the other hand, would it be "just" to write him off? How would I be able to determine if I had actually reached him on some level? You just never know what a person will take with them.

What made this a basis of reflection in the first place is that I've never really been faced with a situation so blatant before. I've never felt so personally insulted by a student's attitude. It was a frontal assault on everything I hold dear. Gear versus no gear. Hardcore commuter versus recreational bar hopper. Working hard to develop real skills versus posing. Countering our teaching with his own opinions in front of the rest of the class.

After gazing out over the water for a long time I got my answer. In the second picture you'll see some dark spots in the water. Those are ducks. One of them said "Quack!". Another answered with "Quack, quack!!". Wisdom from the beaks of waterfowl. Things are what they are. There's a natural order in the universe. Ducks and geese. Serious riders and poseurs. Sometimes we can change things. Mostly we can't.

I decided I would have treated this man like any other student. It would be up to him what he took away or didn't. Like my wise Grandfather used to tell me,

"You can lead a horse to water but you can't shoot him in the head!"

By the way, he didn't pass. All his deeply entrenched bad habits betrayed him.

Miles and smiles,


Monday, February 05, 2007

More drama!

I'm back. Someone made a comment in one of my posts that said I attracted drama. If I remember correctly, it was Steve Williams. After this trip I'm starting to believe it's true. More in a bit.

My trip to Orlando was interesting. Mostly it was long hours of corporate business. We were let out for a few hours after supper Thursday night. This was about the only recreation we had. I'd like to write about the trip here but this is a motorcycle riding and commuting blog. Restraint will be shown in that regard. There was, however, a motorcycle related incident that would be appropriate for a post here.

Like I mentioned, we had a few hours of freedom after supper Thursday night. The meal was taken at the Latin Quarter which is located on the Universal Studios grounds. There's an area called the "City Walk" which is essentially made up of restaurants, night clubs, and some shopping. In the course of my wanderings I noticed a place called "Magaritaville". Being a Jimmy Buffet fan I went inside to listen to the music and have a drink or two. Being the outgoing and dashing fellow that I am, I struck up a conversation with a woman there. Please note that it was just conversation. I've been wonderfully married to Katie for 29 years and had no intention of "picking someone up".

During the course of small talk I brought up the subject of motorcycles. Not that it's on my mind, or anything, you know. Turns out that she also rides. In fact, she was waiting for a group of her girlfriends to show up. They all belonged to ABATE and had a female only riding club. I was warmly welcomed into the group of ladies. We left the night club and wandered around the walk together. Here I was surrounded by nine women! Some of my associates were moved to jealousy. Such is the power of riding. The love of riding is a commonality that knows no geographical or gender limits.

The other event was one of a sadder nature.

I'm sure you've read about the tornado that ripped a 40 mile wide path through Central Florida. I was staying about 35 miles away.

Florida is 3 hours ahead of our time zone. Katie had a meeting until 8 PM our time. Which meant I had to stay up until 11 PM to be able to call her. We made connections and talked until around midnight Florida time. I'd noticed the wind getting worse and the rainfall getting heavier. By the time I went to bed the rain was blowing so hard against the window that all I could see were the frequent lightning flashes. I went to bed not thinking much more about it. Just a Florida storm, I figured.

Business occupied all of the next day. I didn't get a chance to watch the news until we had a break Friday night. There was a final banquet at 7 PM. At 5:30 I went to my room. There was a text message from my youngest son wanting to borrow one of my CD's. I replied. Late that night I called Katie. Time was 10:30 Florida time, 7:30 our time. Gets confusing, I know, but it helps explain the time gap.

I sort of got chewed out by Katie. The tornado was on the news early in the day as it happened during the night. I didn't even know about it until much later. Katie was getting calls from relatives and friends wanting to know if I was ok. Katie had no idea and was worried herself. My son showed up at the house to get the CD and showed her my text message. So at least she knew I was alive.

The picture above is a church in Lady Lake. At least what's left of it. It was designed to withstand 150 mph winds. A news article said the tornado was an F3 which can have 160 mph winds. I really feel bad for the folks who lost pretty much all they had. Even worse for those who lost loved ones. The death toll is up to around 20, I believe. Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.

Ironic to travel to the other corner of the United States only to be so close to this tornado. It was declared the worst one in over a decade. Maybe I do attract drama.

That's the news for now. Got some interesting posts coming up this week.

Miles and smiles,