Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lonely roads.

We've dug out of our ice and snow. Actually, we were right on the lower edge of the affected area. While the Portland area to the North was still struggling, we were thawed out. I use the word thawed only in the strictest sense. I'd chosen to severely limit riding attempts in the snow. Last Tuesday the mercury sat at 33 degrees ( f ). Technically it wasn't freezing. At least without wind chill factored in. Sophie needed her battery charged. She's sitting idle more now that Elvira's around. I can't believe Sophie's battery is still the one that she came with. It will be 8 years come February. Testament to a bike that gets ridden a lot, I guess.

Being two days before Christmas the roads around shopping areas were pretty crowded. We headed in the opposite direction. Not much traffic in the country. That works for me. I'm one of those people who needs a lot of elbow room. I haven't seen another bike being ridden for quite a while. In one way I feel an inflated sense of pride being one of the few. In another way, it's kind of lonely out there right now. It's nice to have another rider to wave to once in a while. There's an extra warmth to the wave when cold weather riders pass each other.

Speaking of waving at motorcyclists, there's an article in the December Reader's Digest. A guy wrote about his effort to say "hello" to everyone he met for a month. Whatever. The author made an interesting observation about traffic and motorcyclists. Here's a quotation:

"In general, highways are the worst places for hellos. When I waved from behind the wheel, other drivers would give me a dumb stare. Cell phones certainly contribute to this ( you can't wave when both hands are occupied ), but a bigger factor is our inability to see each other. Either the vehicles are too big or the windows are too dark. As a result, we share the road with faceless machines that are much easier to ignore or be aggressive toward. There is one noteworthy exception, however, and that is motorcyclists. Every one I waved to seemed genuinely thrilled to be noticed. The threat of death makes bosom buddies of us all."

For a short paragraph, there's a lot of stuff to think about. I'm not sure why he found motorcyclists "thrilled" to be noticed. Maybe it's because riders were startled to see a driver actually not in a coma.

Anyway, back to the ride. This was one of those supposedly short rides that turned into 67 miles. That was just the first leg. How does that keep happening?

I chose not to use the electrics. Stubborn pride makes me want to be able to brag about being spartan. I hate messing with wires and controllers. Mostly I just add a layer under the jacket. Fleece has become my cold weather friend. For this ride I pulled the Aerostich Darien off the hanger. With its thick fleece liner nothing gets through this jacket.

Cold weather riding has its own special charms. My visor was pulled down but not latched into place. Despite the vents built into the Arai helmet, I have to keep the visor open just a bit for defogging purposes. The visor got so cold I could literally hear it creaking in the wind. When it was time to stop the air flow quit. Which means I have to open the visor for clear vision. I love that moment in the cold. There's this big rush of freezing air into the helmet that literally takes my breath away. For a few seconds I can't breathe. It's a sensation that's disconcerting and delicious at the same time. One of those little moments that reminds us we're alive.

On the way out and the way back I stopped by the college campus where Balisada works in the Security Department. This is the motorcycle parking spot she calls the "corral". Balisada often rides her Rebel to work. Several staff members as well as students use this spot. Being right before Christmas, and the students on break, the spot was empty.

Despite the snow being gone, there's still hazards on the roadway. Thousands of yards of gravel have been dumped on roads throughout the county. I have to applaud the tireless efforts of the local road crews to keep on top of things. The gravel helps a lot on top of the snow and ice. Most of the stuff was dumped at intersections. People do pretty well once they're moving. It's the stopping and starting that's troublesome. Snow melts. Gravel doesn't. A motorcyclist needs to be vigilant and extra careful right about now.

This is the intersection of Highway 99 and Bell Plain Road. Headed South, you can't really see the intersection until you're close to it. The speed limit on 99 is 55 mph. Here's a case of just having to know the circumstances you're riding in and preparing accordingly. So much of successful riding is mental, isn't it? A rider can't just whip around the corner like normal. Taking a closer look, you can see the potential for big trouble.

The gravel's everywhere right now. There's always the danger, too, of gravel in the middle of curves. Vehicles pull it onto the roadway. It's worse now. I wonder why the road crews chose to put gravel on curves out in the middle of nowhere. LIke I said, though, most of the gravel's at intersections. Now the stuff's dirty with drippings from cars. Planning ahead for stops becomes crucial. Braking points and where to position the bike so you can put your foot down in a clear spot have to be mapped out ahead of time.

For Sophie and I the trip was refreshing. We did have a moment of entertainment at a bird's expense.

There was a flock of small gray birds in a field by the edge of the road. For reasons known only to birds, the flock decided they needed to take flight and go to a field across the road. One of the birds towards the back pulled a Dukes of Hazzard move across our windshield. Remember Bo and Luke Duke sliding across the hood of the General Lee? I don't know if birds show off to one another or not. Maybe it just miscalculated and got caught in the slip stream. All I know is that I saw the bird with outstretched wings and wide eyes slide flat across the fairing. There wasn't an impact. Things aligned just right with our path of travel that it simply got pinned for a moment. Just as quickly as it started it was over.

I looked in the mirrors and saw it flying towards the flock. All that remained to show what had happened was a grey smudge on half the windshield. It looked like feather dust. Didn't know a bird could leave a streak like that.

We finally decided we should head home. It hadn't warmed up any. Tough as I like to think I am, I knew I was getting chilled. We passed by the Wilco farm store. I live exactly 4.7 miles from there. Instead of thinking how I could get a few more miles in, I was actually glad to be that close to home. Weird, isn't it? I was looking forward to thawing out with a little hot coffee or a shot of whiskey. Then I saw the way Elvira looked at me when I dismounted Sophie. What could I do?

With a quick kiss and another goodbye to Katie we were off again. This time with Elvira. Katie gave me one of those "I'm married to a crazy man, but I love him anyway" looks. Kind of a smile hiding behind that pretending to be put out expression. Then she wished me a good ride. Again. How did I get so lucky?

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Best wishes!

I've got a little time off. For the next couple of days I'm going to shut down and enjoy a little downtime. Actually, I'm off until next year. By Friday, though, I'm sure I'll be restless and looking for entertainment, again. Which I find a lot of in our blogger neighborhood!

In the meantime, I'm offering a wish for happiness as you go about your holiday season. While I'm sure we represent differing religious beliefs, I believe that we all want happiness, love, and security for our families and friends. May this holiday season and the upcoming year it heralds bring you what you desire.

Miles and smiles,


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Non motorcycle musings.

It's Saturday. Weirdly enough, I have other things on my mind besides riding. Although I think Elvira and I might be going out in the rain to do a little shopping soon. For those things you want to keep a surprise. Right now the thermometer is showing 36 degrees ( f ). There's moisture coming in from the West and a lot of cold air coming in from the East. When the two meet later today we're supposed to get snow followed by freezing rain. Oh well.

I've been a regular visitor to Rick's place. You may have heard of it. You can surf on over to
Keep the Rubber Side Down to check it out if you haven't already. Rick seems to find ways to take a different look at things. Once in a while he offers lists of things to think about. They may or may not apply to riding. It's always worth the trip, though.

In a fit of wanting to do something totally different than normal, I decided to emulate Rick. I've put together my own list. These things don't have anything to do with riding. However, there's still an undercurrent of safety involved. So the list fits into the general theme of my blog's philosophy. However tenuous that may be.

Without further ado, here's a list of things that you may find useful during the quickly approaching holidays.





4. FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE SUFFERERS ~ SIMPLY CUT YOURSELF AND BLEED FOR A FEW MINUTES, THUS REDUCING THE PRESSURE ON YOUR VEINS. REMEMBER TO USE A TIMER. ( this one can also be used when Uncle Ernie or Cousin Ellie gets your blood boiling. For different reasons in each case, though, I suspect! )



7. YOU ONLY NEED TWO TOOLS IN LIFE - WD-40 AND DUCT TAPE. IF IT DOESN'T MOVE AND SHOULD, USE THE WD-40. IF IT SHOULDN'T MOVE AND DOES, USE THE DUCT TAPE. ( as you saw in the Redneck post, the duct tape can also be used on certain relatives, front or rear )

8. REMEMBER - EVERYONE SEEMS NORMAL UNTIL YOU GET TO KNOW THEM. ( this is why I don't have very many friends )

9. IF YOU CAN'T FIX IT WITH A HAMMER, YOU'VE GOT AN ELECTRICAL PROBLEM. ( for Christmas lights, explore on only one bulb in a non-prominent location first )

I'm sure you'll find plenty of opportunity to put these things to use in the next week or so. Here's some additional advice on dealing with visiting relatives. Specifically, a few days after Christmas when you wish the lot of them would just pack up and go home!



Author's disclaimer: This last piece of wisdom is only a mental coping mechanism. Do not try this
at home or anywhere else with any person still breathing. The research for
this discovery was done by a professional pusher on a closed stairwell.

Miles and smiles,


Friday, December 19, 2008

Clarification needed?

I may have touched a nerve with a few folks. When I wrote about riding on snow and ice there were some who seemed offended I would even talk about such a thing. That part's okay. We all have different opinions and comfort levels. What worries me is that someone may get the wrong idea. As a motorcycle safety professional I don't want anyone to think I'm urging them to go out and ride in bad conditions. Particularly in snow and ice.

To that end I'm adding this clarification to put closure to the subject.

In no way, shape, or form am I advocating riding on snow or ice. For that matter, you could include any number of other things that seriously affect traction. The truly wise thing to do is to avoid riding anywhere that traction could be compromised. That being said, there's a couple of other factors that come into play. Those are the things behind the post.

We do not ride in a perfect world. Unless we only ride in certain places and at certain times, there's a chance we're going to encounter things like ice or snow. To those two things you can add oil, antifreeze, fuel spills, moss, wet leaves, and any number of other traction hazards. Even if we start out in favorable conditions, the end of a day can be the polar opposite of the start of a day. Pun wasn't intended but I'm going to let it ride.

Here's a recent example.

This was taken on Sunday. Two hours previously the temperature was in the upper thirties ( f ) with a light rain. Polar air moved down the valley and covered everything with snow. This might be a slightly extreme example, granted. But stuff like this happens as has been pointed out in comments here and other places.

Again, the first rule is to avoid low traction situations. Check out the current conditions and forecast. Even if it's not Winter, scan the roadway to detect possible hazards as early possible. My experience, though, has been that once in a while we're going to find ourselves riding on low traction surfaces. Some things like black ice can be where we least expect it to be. It's also extremely difficult to catch early. Especially in the dark.

Since there's a good chance we're going to be faced with this kind of challenge, why wait until we're in it to prepare? That's why I shared the advice I did. There's not a real safe way to practice ahead of time. You might find yourself in Stacy's situation. I'm going to quote her comment.

Still, it's good to know how to handle hitting a patch of black ice, even if the knowledge is "on paper"!

That's a good start. My hope would be that a rider would hear my words in their head.

"Eyes up! Hold the handlebars steady. Be smooth and gentle."

There's a second factor that creeps into my writings. You have to understand where I'm coming from. Again, I go back to Stacy. Thank you, girl, your words are wiser than you know!

"I just don't have the skills for ice riding. I think I'd need to have more street miles and a lot more dirt miles before I'd even consider taking a ride during freezing temps."

Don't let the unassuming words fool you. Stacy's a good rider in her own right. She has the wisdom to lay a solid foundation where she is before moving on to the next level. Her comment on experience and dirt miles is the lead in to my next point.

I've been riding since I was 8 years old. That's well over four decades. Riders who've spent a lot of time on dirt become more comfortable with low traction situations. Notice I said more comfortable. I'm not saying that they're safer. Street riding takes a whole different set of attitudes and skills. Dirt riding can transfer in both good and bad ways. I've been riding on the street since high school. I've also been a motorcycle safety professional for a long time. I've pursued professional training for longer than I've been an instructor myself.

Combining my dirt riding and street riding with my Warrior attitude puts me where I am now. I'm comfortable riding in situations that most folks aren't. I'm not reckless, though. I ride where a lot of people won't because I have the experience, comfort level, and skills to do so. Notice the mention of skills. Some of these skills can only be developed by thousands upon thousands of miles in the seat and encountering every possible situation. Daily commuting over long distances is one arena that provides oppurtunity to gain experience and skills. Nothing like the nitty gritty of real world riding. I'm aware of the risk. It's a highly person decision. It's also not something I would encourage anyone else to do.

I hope this helps clarify where I was coming from. Ride smart. Stay safe. If anyone gives you a hard time about where you've set your limits, too bad. Personal limits are just that: personal. If you've been riding a long time and decided there's certain things you're not going to do anymore, great. You've nothing to prove to anyone else. If you're newer and still working on expanding limits a little at a time, I'm proud of you. You're wise enough to honestly assess where you are right now and ride accordingly. The one thing I might say that applies to everyone is

"Don't forget to have fun!"

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Riding with Rednecks!

Tinker made a comment on my last post. He expressed that his reluctance to ride in bad conditions is based in large part on the other road users. I feel his pain. My work has me on the road a lot. I see things that would blow you away. I think people are getting more stupid all the time.

What makes it worse is that I'm in Oregon. There's two types of people here in our valley. Cowboys and Rednecks. Thank God Grandpa raised me as a Cowboy. However, I still have to deal with the Rednecks. I thought I'd take a minute or two to acquaint you with the type of folks I have to share the road with around here. As in: Welcome to my world!

Winter driving has come to the Valley. Tire stores in other states have been busy as people, despite having waited for the last minute, are buying traction tires and chains. Not here, though. Tire stores are empty. Grocery stores who sell cheap beer have been quite busy, on the other hand. Here's a news clip from the National Bureau of What's Going on with Drivers magazine.

A Winter Statistic


This pretty much falls in line with my own expectations. A Redneck's famous last words?

"Hey, y'all, watch this!"

See how it all fits the pattern? It's funny, but only in a pathetic and sad sort of way.

Once in a while a Redneck hits it big in the lottery. This last person spent some of the money on a new pickup, the official Redneck vehicle. The news people have been telling us to be prepared for the worst in case we get stranded in the snow. This guy took the advice to heart. I have to admit that he is prepared to wait out a snowstorm. Just remember that I'm sharing the road with people like this.

I do have to say that most of the Rednecks are pretty concerned about their pets being out in the cold. Cats, especially, hate the cold. You know how cats are. They are experts at seeking out warm places to sleep. That's why you find cats, and not dogs, under the hoods of recently driven cars and trucks. I was glad to see this cat comfortably settled into the den with its family. I'm also happy to see it drinking light beer. It looks like it's about time!

With Christmas approaching, Rednecks are making preparations. There's shopping, house decorating, and tables to be made festive. We see a few lights on tar shacks. Aside from the fire hazard, Rednecks usually prefer to use more "natural" materials for decorations. With hunting season being not so long ago, opportunities for natural Christmas decorations abound. Like this one, for example. Christmas is a time for Reindeer, isn't it?

Push the button and it plays Christmas carols. Sort of frightening, isn't it? Now that you've lost your appetite and won't overeat, here's a picture of a popular Redneck Gingerbread House.

The good news is that bundling up for the cold doesn't deter shopping. Rednecks look for bargains like everyone else. Maybe even more so. The baggy clothing and shopping at clearance centers just seems to go hand in hand. Here's a quote from a happy shopper up the hill in Sweet Home.

Some Rednecks are more serious about clothing accessories than others. This guy's so serious he's managed to garner a product endorsement contract.

Duct tape: It's not just for household repairs anymore!

Another problem with driving among Rednecks is that there's a lot of mental distraction going on. Believe it or not, there's a lot of Rednecks that ride motorcycles. There's no time like when driving on snow and dangerously icy conditions to day dream about Spring and a new riding season. Since most Rednecks seem to be a little on the economically challenged side, a lot of planning has to happen. I was almost run off the road by a guy who was scheming for his new ride. He's always wanted a Harley but can't afford to buy one. Why not build one, instead?

We live in timber country. Logging's been a part of the area's heritage forever. I'm sure there's plenty of old lumber laying around. Not to mention some abandoned bicycles strewn among Redneck yards. This guy will be the envy of his peers, I'm sure.

Of course, one mustn't neglect household chores. That lawn needs to be mowed at least once in the coming year. After all, there's always the chance of finding some long forgotten treasure that's been entombed by the out-of-control grass. By the way, has anyone seen Granny, lately?

I was almost greased by a Redneck in a huge truck. He had a faraway look on his face. I had plenty of time to look at his face as his truck bore down on me. I managed to accelerate away but never did figure out if he was thoughtful or just vacant. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he was probably trying to find a way to combine riding and lawn mowing. Most Rednecks have the standard riding mower.

The pickup driver has a better idea. Here's another guy who will be the envy of his peers.

Of course, he'll be challenged. It will be tough to figure out how to add more and more chrome without being guilty of sacrilege to the hallowed John Deere Green color.

I could offer more examples, but this should give you the highlights. I certainly mean no insult to anyone. We all need to live and let live. However, I do get kind of upset when people put me in danger on my bike. I know it's my responsibility to keep myself safe and I take that seriously. So I'm not really trying to whine, here. I just wanted to give you a little better idea of the world I have to ride in so much. The Wonderful World of Rednecks!

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Advice column--Black ice.

Dear Maniac:

I'm curious what the following actually means in terms of management on a freeway:

Despite the cold, I'm sweating a particular stretch of freeway. There's some hills just South of Salem. The freeway takes a five hundred and forty eight foot rise. It's just enough to make the difference in ice or snow. I've hit black ice there a couple of times on a bike. The heavy fog makes it likely to happen again.

I've negotiated black ice on secondary roads with no traffic but not on a freeway. What do you actually do? Please, I need instruction.

Back Road Slider

Dear Slider,

Let's start by asking a basic question. Why in the world are you riding in this kind of weather in the first place? Any so-called "sensible person" will loudly tell us that one needs to be crazy, insane, or shades of both, to ride a motorcycle when there's a chance of hitting ice. These nice people will also tell us that the reasonable thing to do is to lock ourselves into some heated box. That way we'll have four tires for traction as well as being so much more comfortable. It sounds so cozy, warm, and oh so "wise", doesn't it?

Excuse me. I think I just threw up in my helmet a little bit. I'm so sick of people telling me to "play it safe"! My God. Next thing you know I'll be sitting in a recliner while somebody spoon feeds me instant mush. Heaven forbid I should do anything that might hurt me.

Sorry, folks. I'm going to ride my bikes as much as possible. That just might mean dealing with dicey traction. Sometimes those difficult traction situations are going to take us by surprise. No matter how hard we scan and search for information, we're bound to miss something. Things like Black Ice. There's a reason it's called that, obviously. So, Mister Slider ( emphasis on the Mister ) you've asked a darn fine "man's" question. How do we deal with black ice?

Firstly, be proud that you're out there being a true Road Warrior. Hopefully, you'll someday have an experience like this one. I've just got to take a little detour and tell you a short story.

We had to buy Katie a new cell phone. She doesn't much care for having to adapt to new technology. Her old cell phone has been in her purse for a bunch of years. There wasn't much incentive for her to get a new one. Until I decided to buy a new Blackberry Storm touch screen phone. I used her upgrade credit. Things went well until I asked Verizon to switch the phones around so Katie would have her number back. The old phones won't work with the new E911 requirement by the FCC so Verizon wouldn't re-activate hers. Everything turned out well, though, as I found her a new phone she really likes. Functional, but not too complicated.

Since we could now download songs for ringtones, I asked her what she would like for when I called. Right away she said she wanted the theme song from Raiders of the Lost Ark. When I asked Katie why, she replied that it was fitting for me. Harrison Ford's a great looking guy and, more importantly, she thinks of me as her swashbuckling hero.

What does this have to do with black ice? Some of us are going to ride whenever we dang well feel like it. Those who matter understand and even admire us.

This is an older picture I stole from a couple of years ago on this blog. It's pretty much what things look like around my house today. Except with more snow and ice on the roadway. We're sitting in the teens and twenties for temperatures. That would be minus 5 to minus 10 or so in centigrade, Bryce Lee. Most of the roads are covered in a sheet of ice. I didn't ride today. You can bet I'll have Elvira out introducing her to the snow pretty soon. I expect ice and will deal with it accordingly.

Black ice, however, doesn't always happen only when you expect it. That's what makes it so hazardous.

In the interests of honesty, the best plan is to not be riding when ice of any kind is expected. The second best plan is to pay attention to our surroundings. Our training program puts a lot of emphasis on detecting hazards as early as possible. This process includes assessing the current conditions, projecting how they might change, and aggressively searching for visual clues of changing traction. My experiences with black ice have happened despite my best efforts to avoid it.

Take the last time. This one was pretty typical of my other experiences. It was in February of 2007. I'm on the freeway heading North about 30 miles to teach a class. Yep, first weekend of February and classes are starting already. Most of the time our climate allows for it. I've checked the temperature. It's four degrees above freezing. A bit of rain had fallen overnight. There's a light mist still in the air. Not a big deal, I figure. If I had a dollar for everytime I've ridden in the cold and wet, I'd have retired rich by now.

Firing up Sophie a little before 6 AM, it's still dark. This early on a Saturday morning, traffic is pretty light. As is my habit, I'm feeling out traction as I go. The freeway feels fine and I confidently wick it up to 55 mph or so. My STeed and I are approaching the hills in South Salem. I've hit black ice here a total of three times previously. Always much higher up, though. My senses are on alert. There's no traffic ahead of me. I'm scanning the roadway in Sophie's headlight. I see the glisten of wet pavement but it looks normal. I'm expecting the possibility of black ice a bit later. This time I'd find it much sooner than expected.

As we start up the South side of the slope, we've only climbed a few feet from our two hundred foot or so elevation. The bike and I are Northbound. On the Southbound downhill slope, I see a car off in the ditch. An ambulance and police car are on the shoulder with lights flashing. Curious at to what's going on, my attention is drawn to the scene. At this point we're doing about 50 mph and pulling a little more throttle to start the climb up the hill.

There's always a danger in becoming distracted while riding a bike. Even dashing swashbucklers are human, though. As I'm drawing even with the emergency vehicles, I feel Sophie's front end get mushy. I'd soon realize exactly why that car's in the ditch. Weirdly enough, my first thought isn't about ice. That's how certain I was that the road was ok where I was. What crossed my mind is the possibility of the front tire going flat. Then the steering went from mushy to feeling really light. I felt the familiar sensation of continuing in a straight line while the handlebars are moving back and forth. This is exactly what I've felt every other time I've encountered black ice at speed. Momentum carries the bike forward. The front tire is sliding on the ice which causes that back and forth movement. This is a critical moment.

Several things have to happen quickly. Firstly, the head and eyes need to snap up. Feeling that weird sensation can cause a rider to want to look down and see what's happening. We need the bike to keep moving in a straight line. Looking as far ahead as we can see will help make this happen.

Secondly, the movement of the bars has to be stopped. Traction can come back at any time. You don't want that to happen when the front tire is pointed any direction but straight ahead. Don't go the other way and lock up your arms. Relaxed, but firm is the key.

Thirdly, despite the first reaction when realizing we're on ice, hold the throttle steady for a bit. Our instinct will be to roll off the throttle. Remember, though, that on a slippery surface we don't want either acceleration or braking inputs. A bike has three brakes. The engine being the third. If we're going to have to roll off, it has to be gradual and smooth. I always figure I'll be smart enough not to roll on the throttle or apply the brakes. So far so good!

Eyes up, keep the bars straight, and make no sudden inputs. So far I've successfully ridden out my encounters with black ice on the freeway at speed. I really hope I never have any more opportunity to test my skills in this regard. However, I ride in all kinds of weather. It may happen again. The name Black Ice was chosen for a reason, I guess.

So far, I've never hit black ice in a corner. For me, that's a totally different ballgame. If I even suspect a traction problem on a curvy road, my approach is pretty cautious. Or I will chose straighter roads. Even swashbucklers want to get home in one piece at the end of an adventuresome day!

Miles and smiles,


Monday, December 08, 2008

Training class. In December?

3:25 AM. That's what the glowing red numbers on the alarm clock show. I keep telling myself not to look at the clock. Myself doesn't listen to me. I've got this thing about time. I have clocks tuned into the atomic clock at Boulder, CO. There's this running clock in my head. At any given time I know within about a minute and a half what time it is. It's a sickness and a curse. The alarm is set to go off at 5. Please let me go back to sleep until then, my body begs of my brain!

Have you ever seen one of those sodium vapor lights when it first starts up? My brain started a small glow of activity. Gradually it warmed up. This was not going to be good for sleeping. The glow grew steadily into the light of full activity. Dang. This happens way too often. Maybe if I just lie here for a while. No such luck. Neurons are twirling and nerve endings are in full spark. There's no hope for sleep left now.

Katie's snoring gently beside me in the bed. I mean that in the most feminine and sexy way, my dear! Once I'm wide awake there's no way I can lie perfectly still. It's time to go fire up the coffee pot and start the day.

Outside it's below freezing. The weather guessers had predicted freezing fog. Looking at the lawn I see they were right. Back in the house with a steaming cup of coffee in hand, I contemplate my day. It's Saturday. On a day when most people would be still asleep this early, I'm thinking about work. There's a training class scheduled for this weekend. The last one of the season. As I look at the window at the dark, the fog, and the cold, I have to wonder about it all.

You have to question the sanity of people taking a motorcycle training class in December. What kind of people are these? Truthfully, they're probably folks who wanted to do it earlier in the year. Due to the ever growing demand, classes are booked way in advance. What of the instructors? We don't need the class to get our endorsements. Most of us don't need to work on weekends for income. Yet, here we are. A dozen instructors up and down the I-5 corridor between Portland and Eugene. All probably looking out their windows and thinking the same thing. What's the matter with us?

By 6 AM I've got Elvira loaded and ready to go. She fires up with hardly a protest. One of these days I'm going to have to wire her for my electric vest. For now, though, it's just a sweatshirt under the Darien jacket. The Darien's not Hi-Viz but I make up for it by donning a retroreflective vest. I want to be visible in the foggy darkness. All the way up the freeway Elvira's thermometer shows me the 28 degree (f) reason I feel a little chilled. Despite the cold, I'm sweating a particular stretch of freeway. There's some hills just South of Salem. The freeway takes a five hundred and forty eight foot rise. It's just enough to make the difference in ice or snow. I've hit black ice there a couple of times on a bike. The heavy fog makes it likely to happen again.

Not having a crystal ball, I have no way of knowing that this will actually end up being one of the best classes of the year. That knowledge is still in the future as I face the 35 mile ride North.

As you can see by the picture, Elvira and I arrive without incident. The only casualty was my breakfast. I'd stashed one of those "Oatmeal to Go" bars in a side pocket of the black bag you see on the bike seat. The bar was so cold I could hardly gnaw off a bite! Dunking it in coffee from my thermos helped a little, but not much. Not many insulated containers do well inside a bike saddlebag in freezing weather.

Here's the group near start time Saturday morning. There's still some fog but at least daylight is coming on. My good friend and fellow instructor, Al, had decided not to ride. He lives exactly 1.1 miles from the site. I, on the other hand.... The good news is that I established immediate credibility with the students! There were several comments of "You're the man!", including one from my fellow instructor. It's well worth enduring freezing temperatures to have my ego stroked!

Saturday's weather turned out to be a blessing. The sun came out and burned off the fog. We could still see our breath for most of the morning. That's Al over in the sun by the students. For some reason, my instructor positions always seemed to be in the shade!

The guy in front is wearing the new First Gear Kilimanjaro jacket. They've ventured into high visibility. This jacket is pretty effective at that task.

Sunday's weather wasn't quite as promising. I rode through a light rain on the trip up. It didn't do a lot of positive things to my outlook for the day. I'm not enjoying teaching in the rain much these days. Of course, that means I wouldn't teach much around here. So I deal with it. Fortunately, with the exception of a little sprinkle early on, we seemed to hit a pocket of dry, but cloudy weather. A half hour after we had the range picked up and the bikes put away, it poured. Oh well. I rode to and from in the rain but it was dry for the important part.

This class was one of the most personable I've had in a long time. There was a mix of experience levels. A couple had never been on a bike before. A few had permits and some riding time. Then there were a couple of riders who had been riding but needed to "tidy things up a bit", if you get my drift. To a person, they were very coachable. The more experienced riders were good at encouraging the newer ones. They were all committed to applying themselves. The whole weekend was a great mix of work and fun between the students and instructors.

To a certain extent that happens with every class. This one just seemed to rise to a higher level. It was a pretty sweet way to end the teaching year. We start up again the first weekend of February. I taught the first weekend this year. We got snowed out on Sunday. For now, though, it's time to take a rest from teaching. I'm glad it ended this way.

Here's a photo of our happy class at the end of their riding time on Sunday. It might be hard to tell with the helmets, but two of the eleven are gals.

They've all passed the skill evaluation on the bikes. Now they're off to lunch and will finish up in the classroom with Al. It's not common for everyone to pass. I believe our pass ratio is somewhere around 85 percent. Our goal isn't to see how many riders we can put on bikes. Our goal is to do the best job of teaching and coaching we can. Ultimately, though, it's up to the students to show us if they're ready to ride by passing the skills test. There were three perfect scores in this group. One perfect score is unusual. Three is really exceptional!

I guess the takeaway for me is this. It's a good reminder for me not to be too quick to prejudge. Things don't always end like they start. I started out looking at this weekend like a chore to get through. As much as I like teaching, I'm a little tired by the end of the year. Remember, my teaching weekends are on top of a full time job during the week. The same thing has happened with riding. How many times could I have decided not to ride to work because of the weather or other circumstances? How many times did I end up so glad I rode because the day turned out better than expected? How many times have I had some wonderful experience I would never have known if I hadn't been on a motorcycle? This applies to life outside motorcycling, too. As if there actually is life beyond riding.

Gemstones are often found in some of the most unpromising places!

Miles and smiles,


Friday, December 05, 2008

Meet Andrew!

Like I mentioned earlier, I was out and about on business. In each town I have what I call my "field offices". In between appointments I can get some coffee, make a pit stop, etc. The reason I call them offices is because I can also make phone calls without disturbing folks around me too much. Being on the bike, anyone calling me just has to leave a message. Then I check voice mail and return calls during these time slots. On days like yesterday in Portland, I really needed to warm up, too. But that's a future post.

My stop in Salem is a downtown mall. There's enough background noise in the food court that it masks my conversations without being too distracting. I use the parking structure which makes me walk a couple of blocks worth of distance both ways. While walking around I'm always on the lookout for bikes. Especially those that appear regularly. Like the BMW R1200RT and the Honda Shadow behind the gate in the parking structure. It's a facility used by Parking Enforcement. Getting a picture is really tough through the bright yellow mesh fencing. You'll just have to picture it on your own. The advantage for the riders is that it's a pretty secure place to park under cover.

Both bikes were there through the summer. Now the Shadow's not there anymore, but the BMW rider is hanging in there. I've had several students from this organization. I always wonder if these were some of them. The BMW usually has a bright yellow jacket draped over the seat so I have to think the rider's had training.

Anyway, now that you have more background than you ever wanted to know, let's get to the point.

There was some sunshine outside. Just inside an entry to the parking structure I see this Honda Ruckus. You can see the full face helmet attached to the far side of the scooter. I try to keep the point and shoot camera in my riding jacket pocket. I'm working on putting something together for a post on a new trend we're seeing in scooter riders. So I snapped a photo of the scooter. It could have been a better photo but I kind of like the dark and light contrast.

I check out the Honda and start to walk away. I see a young man jaywalking across the street towards me. Not that I care, I'm just trying to be descriptive in my writing! His walk was actually more of a saunter, easy and carefree. Judging by the riding jacket and the backpack I figured he belonged to the Ruckus. So I waited a bit for him to get to the bike.

Introducing myself, I found out that he did belong to the Ruckus. Did you detect the subtlety? Do we own the bikes or do they own us? He shook my hand and told me his name was Andrew. Figuring I should sort of explain why I was taking a picture of the scooter, I told Andrew about the blog. I also stated that I was an instructor for TEAM OREGON. Andrew said his brother took a class over at the Community College on a scooter. I believe he also mentioned that his father rides. On a small scooter, too, I think. I wasn't taking detailed notes, obviously, so I'm going by memory. I gave Andrew the url for the blog and invited him to watch for the post. So if you're reading this, Andrew, feel free to make corrections in the comment section! By the way, thank you for spending the time with me and agreeing to grace the blog.

What really struck me about Andrew is how enthused he sounded about riding the Ruckus and being a "scooter person". Andrew very willingly posed for a photo with the Honda. In that way that only young people seem to have, he looks both cool and cheerful at the same time.

This Ruckus is the smaller version. I believe it's got a 49cc single cylinder engine. Andrew told me he doesn't have a motorcycle endorsement. The scooter's just under the displacement cut-off set by the Department of Motor Vehicles for requiring a motorcycle endorsement. Despite not having the endorsement, it's apparent to me that Andrew's a serious rider.

Notice the good jacket and full face helmet. During our conversation Andrew brought up several topics relating to safety and using your head when riding. It seemed to me like he has a good grasp of the essentials even though he hasn't taken formal training. Yet!

Here's what's really impressive.

Andrew's had the scooter for about two years. During that time he says he's put about 6,000 miles on the Ruckus. Bear in mind that this scooter is only capable of about 40 mph! That's about average mileage for riders of even the bigger bikes. Andrew rides for fuel economy but seems to have caught the "passion bug" in the process. He's particularly fond of bantering with people he knows who drive SUV's. When they give him a bad time about being on the scooter and out in the weather, Andrew says he asks them how much they spend on fuel in a week. Then he tells him the Ruckus gets 70 mpg. Then tells them to go do the math.

Insurance isn't bad for the Ruckus. Andrew asked me to guess how much it cost to insure the scooter. I guessed a little bit low. I'm over twice as old as Andrew. I tend to default to the "old guy" frame of reference. He told me he paid $150.00 a year for liability. Andrew's excited because he'll turn 25 soon. His insurance should go down some then. The last big age milestone for a few years! After that you quit looking forward to the age going up and wish they'd stop going by so fast.

He's going to need the economical transportation a little more right now. Andrew told me he worked for DHL but got laid off a couple of weeks ago. DHL is a freight and package delivery company. They've cut back and consolidated which meant job cuts. I wish him success in finding new employment soon.

As a side note, I asked Andrew what he would change on the scooter if he could. His reply was that he was thinking of putting pegs just forward of the front of the floorboards. That way he could stretch out just a bit more. Andrew also stated that he wished the storage space under the seat was enclosed. He has some elastic cords to keep stuff in but the weather gets to it. Other than that, he really likes the thing.

I came away from my encounter with Andrew feeling refreshed in my enthusiasm for riding. It was neat to see his face light up when he talked about the scooter and riding. The small size of the scooter makes no difference. He's on two wheels and that's the important thing! As you can see by the photo, it's not the size of the bike we ride that makes us what we are. It's the size of our hearts!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The bare truth.

Today was a great day of riding for work. I met a very personable young man named Andrew this morning. He's been busy putting miles on a 49cc Honda Ruckus. Look for more about him in a day or two.

As usual, my eyes are always roving my surroundings looking for bikes. I spied a nice looking Yamaha. For a while we had a little bit of sunshine. You know how that Winter sun adds a little extra sparkle to everything. So I went over for a closer look. These pictures came from my camera phone. Not bad for those conditions I have to say. Here's the bike.

I have this bad habit of standing and looking over bikes. Most riders expect other riders to ogle their rides. Some motorcycle owners even go so far as to love showing off their mounts. We don't know anyone like that in our blog neighborhood do we?

One of these days, though, I expect someone to come striding up with an angry look on their face. They'll want to know just what I think I'm doing. So far it hasn't happened. Maybe it's because I'm usually standing there with gear on my body and a helmet in my hand. Come to think of it, that may make it worse. I'd be all the more ready to ride the bike away! Anyway, nothing like that happened today. So I have no idea of who owns the bike. Only that it was in a mall parking lot.

Sorry. I wandered off for a bit. The pertinent part was when I spied the rear tire. The wear bars have come and gone, I think. You be the judge, but I think the bike could use a new tire.

The first thing you can see is that there's a lot of wasted tread there. That's the reason I make sure to lean my bikes waaaay over. I pay for the whole tire. By golly, then, I'm going to use it all. This bike has spent a lot of time straight up and down. That's not all bad but the poor bike's probably somewhat embarrassed by the situation. Being a sport bike, and all.

Secondly, I wonder about the reason for the tire being in this state. More specifically, why has it remained this way? Is it because the person can't afford a new tire? If the rider is on two wheels for reasons of economy, funds may be scarce. Costs are measured in ways other than money. I hope this tire doesn't end up costing this rider in those "other" ways.

Is this a bike belonging to someone who just doesn't realize how dangerous this is? I'm sure there's still a few ponies being delivered to the rear tire. The bike's a few years old but that sweet motor must still be capable of a little excitement. We always teach that a rider needs to ride within the limits of the bike. In this case, the bike's limit is that it should still be in the garage.

Does the bike belong to someone who just doesn't care? Everybody's got different ideas of how much risk they are willing to accept. Perhaps this rider's level is way out there. Call me a coward but my own acceptance level just doesn't extend that far.

I don't know the answers to those questions. I wasn't really in the mood to play stalker and try to track down the rider. There was a lot of territory to cover. What I can tell you is that this bothers me on several levels. If the rider crashes because of the rear tire, nobody's going to blame it on that. Once more, we'll hear the old "motorcycles are dangerous" ringing out. Even if the rider doesn't crash, that rear tire just gives me the creeps. My rear would be puckered tight every second I was on the bike. Of course, I wouldn't be on a tire like that so that's a moot argument.

Anyway, I thought I'd just share it with you all. It will either make you laugh or send chills down your spine!

Miles and smiles,


Monday, December 01, 2008

Cattle cornering!

So I've written about this before. What's the number one determining factor in how fast you should take a corner? It all depends on how far you can see, doesn't it? Or, how fast the bovine road blocks will let you. What the heck?

The blog's been quiet. I've been riding a lot. On the weekend before Thanksgiving I taught a class with my dear friend Al. We're doing it again this coming weekend. That will finally wrap up the training year for the program. I'll have to do a post next week on what kind of folks are taking a motorcycle training class in December. Or what kind of instructors are crazy enough to teach it.

I took some extra days off for the holiday. Part of having some relaxing downtime just has to involve wandering aimlessly through the farm country around us. I can string back roads all day and never see the same stretch of blacktop twice. Yes, it's a blessing to live here.

Coming around a blind corner I was greeted by these four legged speed bumps. Ok, maybe they're more like barricades!

This photo was taken after I had completed the corner. After negotiating the cud-chewing obstacles, I executed a u-turn to take a photo. The cattle weren't visible from where I entered the corner. Fortunately, I actually listen to the stuff I teach about cornering. This day it paid off. As you can see, the cows didn't seem to be much impressed by the bike. They had hardly moved during the whole process. Such is the giddiness brought about by unexpected freedom, I guess!

Backing the camera lense away, it makes me shudder to see the bike headed into a center-punching position with the black cow. I don't even want to think about rolling quickly out of a corner only to hit the cow!

Worried that someone else would hit the cows, I pulled up into the nearby driveway. The only one home was an older woman. She hadn't noticed the escapees. The woman made a call while I tried to get the livestock off the road. They weren't exactly what you would call cooperative. Traffic here is very light which was a great thing under the circumstances.

Before too long a pickup pulled into the drive next to Elvira. I offered to help herd the cattle, being an old farm boy. Of course, my idea was to ride the bike around and sound the horn. These guys thought I should actually help chase the cows. Oh well. Seeing they were outnumbered, or maybe it was the grain bucket, the cows were once again behind a fence. The two guys went to find the escape route. I continued on my ride, the rest of which was pretty uneventful.

There's one thing I do have to say, though. Andy probably never had this usage in mind, but you can actually herd cattle in a Roadcrafter!

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Two wheeled Beverley Hillbillies!

I just read another great post over at Heinz and Frenchie's blog. It's about a trip to a bistro. The colors in the photos are an appealing assortment of pastel type shades. What's amazing about the thing to me is that residents can buy passes to beach chairs. Weekly, monthly, or yearly. The advantage to a scooter rider is that they don't have to haul stuff. You can read the post by clicking here.

Of course, with proper planning you can actually haul quite a bit on a motorcycle. Take a look at this, for example.

I was getting ready to go man a table for an ABATE motorcycle show in our local mall. Years of commuting have thoroughly educated me on how to pack stuff on a bike. As you can see, I had stuff in the tank bag, lunch in the saddlebags, cold beverages in the black bag ( there's a cooler inside ), and my very own chair. It's one of those folding canvas chairs wrapped in its own bag. Pretty much self contained and ready to go. As you can see, there's still plenty room to pile stuff on. Granny Clampett has nothing on me and Sophie! Has anyone seen the rest of my bungie cords?

There's a number of areas where ABATE and I disagree. We've generally agreed to disagree in a friendly and respectful manner. There is one big matter we both agree wholeheartedly on. That's the matter of rider training. ABATE is a big believer in the value of training. In fact, they've helped us out financially by providing containers for bike storage at a number of sites. Just inside the doors of the containers are signs pointing to ABATE's help and support. For that kind of support I'm really grateful.

The person from ABATE who was organizing the show asked us to man a table for our training program. They provided a table for us. Since I lived close I volunteered for weekend duty. Amazingly, it was a weekend I wasn't teaching. The young man in the picture is on a sort of treasure hunt. He's got a sheet of paper in his hand. There's a list of questions that he has to look at the bikes to answer. For successful completion, the kids received a model of a cruiser.

I was told by one of the guys that the group wasn't allowed into the mall last year. Seems management had an objection to the noise. Being there Friday night and helping set up, I could see his point. There was a little argument over how to get the bikes into the mall. The manager wanted the bikes pushed in. He was afraid of damaged floor tiles. Not to mention the noise of running bikes. The manager was finally convinced that his floor tiles would be better served by bikes being ridden. Some of those cruisers are pretty heavy and they would have to be pushed a long ways. There would be more of a chance of dropping bikes by pushing rather than riding.

So the bikes came in a few at a time, motors running. There's just something about those open pipes that created too great a temptation for some of the riders. A few "accidental" throttle rolls rattled windows. I do have to admit that there's a unique character to the rumbling bikes inside an enclosed space like the mall corridors! It will be interesting, however, to see if they are back next year.

Anyway, I got sidetracked. I got my lunch and a chair. Now we just have to go find a warm beach!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Distracting upheavals!

The experts say we should do everything in our power to focus on our riding. Which means avoiding distractions. That's pretty good advice. Especially when riding twisty roads. What's really amazing is that things you'd normally not consider distractions can actually be pretty powerful ones! Yesterday I discovered another one of those things.

I had an early appointment in Monmouth yesterday. Monmouth is the home of Western Oregon University. While not a large city, Monmouth does have a unique distinction. It was a "dry" town until 2002. That meant no sales of alcohol in stores, restaurants, and bars. That was a stipulation from the early settlers from Monmouth, Illinois in the mid 1800's. 640 acres were deeded for the city and a college. These pioneers considered themselves strong Christians. Thus the stipulation that came with the land deed. Eventually the dry status got reversed. Even then, the vote was close. Somewhere around 57% for ending the alcohol ban and 43% for keeping it.

Monmouth is about 45 minutes North and a bit West of me. One blessing of living is this area is that we are surrounded by farm country. While urbanization is creeping outwards, there's still plenty of open space. As was the habit of farmers, roads wind around the fields. Sweet!

Sophie saw duty yesterday. I'm sort of in an intermediate stage with her. The STeed is still up for sale. With today's economy, calls are understandably scarce. She's a prize to me but probably not as much so to prospective buyers. Since she's for sale, I've spiffed Sophie up pretty good. The new windshield starts the glamour. Bodywork has been polished. The faded gray plastic was restored to almost new condition thanks to some magic potions and a lot of elbow grease. Sophie is glowing like a new bride.

Therein lies the rub. The bike needs to run once in a while to keep the juices flowing and the battery charged. However, I don't relish the idea of another massive cleanup. So, I'm ashamed to say, Sophie's become a fair weather ride. Whatever you do, please don't say those words anywhere near where she might hear it. You can imagine why I ask. Elvira gets dumped on with dirty weather duty. Hey, I gave her full disclosure before she married into the family! Since there was fog that was expected to give way to sunshine, I gave Sophie the nod for this trip.

After my meeting, the plan was to cross over into Independence then hit the old Corvallis Highway. You've seen this road mentioned before in this blog. There's some straight stretches with roller coaster ups and downs. In between are some great curves. The particular section I'm writing about is a series of corners posted at 25 mph. First there's a big left turn. A few hundred feet of straighaway brings you to a big curve to the right. After that turn is a shorter stretch that leads to a left turn. Then a right. A half mile down the road brings another sharp right, then a left, then back to a long straight stretch. Confused? Just remember the sharp turns connected by short straight stretches!

As luck would have it, I caught up to a car right as I entered the the first left hander. Yes, I saw the car ahead of time. No, I don't have the patience to pull off to the side of the road and wait for the car to get farther away. Besides, what usually happens is that yet another car will come along. So I followed the car for a bit and plotted my strategy.

The car was a square BMW older model four door sedan. The only BMW car model I can readily identify is the 325i because I lust after one. This car was once bright red but had faded some. Kind of like a woman's lipstick put on early in the day and worn late. Surprisingly, or maybe not, the car driver did pretty good in negotiating the first curve. Passing the car would mean a huge handful of throttle followed by a double handful of brake to slow in time to make the next curve. I decided to hang back a bit and see what came next. I do have enough patience not to make unsafe decisions.

Left curve completed, we entered the right hander. I'd left enough space to have a bit of fun in the curve. By which, of course, I mean the right peg scraped. Having fun, but keeping concentration, I noticed the BMW slowing some. The passenger door window came down. A head with close shaved hair came out the window. Somewhere in his mid-twenties, I guessed. His gaze was on the roadway beside the car. Was he seeing something I wasn't? I'm trained to always be looking for traction clues by watching for changes in color and texture on the roadway. No, I wasn't seeing anything menacing. At least, not yet.

We're approaching the next curve, which is to the left. I'm still wondering what's going on. The guy's mouth is open, now. The BMW is slowing for the corner. A little more than what I would normally expect. I'm hooked on what's going on but trying to get ready for the corner at the same time. Since the curve's to the left, I've put Sophie to the right side of the road. Which gives me a better view of the passenger. A little too good, I might say.

All of a sudden, there's a whole new world of color and texture changes to the road's surface. I thought at first that the guy had dumped a big cup of cola or something. Except I notice that there's no cup in the hand clutching at the door. Massive quantities of liquid are coming from the man's mouth. Yes, he's throwing up. Not just heaving, mind you, but bona fide projectile vomiting.

Several things are happening at once, now. My first thought is,

"Crap! I hope that's not going to splatter on the bike!"

Remember, I'm trying to keep Sophie sales-ready clean. My second thought is,

"Yikes! The curve's RIGHT THERE!"

It was like one of those monster movies. You don't want to look but you can't seem to peel your eyes away from it. Not only didn't the driver slow down, but he seemed to actually increase speed through the curve! This served to throw the passenger a little farther out the window. It also created a spray out the right side of the car that seemed to last all the way through the corner. By now I've decided that if the car doesn't stop I'm just going to slow waaay down and let them get away from me. What kind of driver does that kind of thing to their passenger? I figure it's the act of one college kid against another. Evil at the time, but fodder for laughs at some future point. If they both survive the next few minutes, that is.

Fortunately, the driver stops by the side of the road before the next right hander comes up. Possibly being a college student, he probably realizes the effect that centrifugal force will have. If he pulls the same stunt to the right, his sick passenger is likely to puke in his lap. That would certainly deter me from further prankish behaviour.

I was tempted to stop and take a picture for evidence. A restricted line of sight for other traffic is one reason I didn't. Secondly, it seemed too much like the act of a papparazzi voyeur. So, instead, I decided to finish my journey and leave them to their own devices.

What's amazing is how far I got sucked into watching the whole ordeal. It was sick and disgusting and yet fascinating at the same time. In the end there was no harm, no foul. Except to the outside of the BMW, that is. It just goes to show that distractions can happen anywhere at any time. We always have to work at keeping our heads in our ride. Not to mention our lunches in our stomachs!

Miles and smiles,


Friday, November 14, 2008


I normally try to avoid posting videos here. I figure I owe it to those who take the time to visit to actually write something. However, this video fits in so well with yesterday's post I couldn't help it. This came across our instructor's list courtesy of Dean W.

I've written before about the critical aspect of keeping motor skills sharp and on a "top of mind" basis. Riders who put their bikes away for the Winter need to compensate for the rustiness that sets in over the break. Our brains will file less frequently used motor skills a little deeper in the file cabinet to make room for current stuff.

This video is about three minutes long. It's work and family safe. On a side note, the guy on the Triumph looks a lot like Matthew Allen in the UK, otherwise known as Mad. Are you still around and reading my friend?


For your convenience, here's the link to the website listed in the video


Miles and smiles,


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fill those spots!

Cruising through a couple of cities yesterday, I noticed that most of the motorcycle parking spots are empty. They're so empty you can hear your voice echo. Of course, the weather yesterday might have had something to do with it. High winds and heavy rains don't make ideal inducements to ride.

I had an early morning appointment in downtown Portland yesterday. Following that I ski'd, I mean rode, back to Salem. I saw only three other bikes actually being ridden. One was a big BMW GS dual sport, the other two were being piloted by motor officers. Duty calls despite the weather, I guess.

Speaking of weather, the weatherman on TV likened us to being at the end of a fire hose. Fast moving jet streams were dumping tropical moisture on us from some Pacific island chain. We had wind gusts of 30 some miles per hour. A couple hours NW of us, Astoria on the coast got nearly four inches of rain. To top off the day, our neighbor's giant Weeping Willow tree finally gave up the struggle last night. Somewhere around 11:30 PM I awoke to what sounded like fireworks. Fortunately, the tree crashed to the ground without hitting anything vital.

With weather like this, you know I just had to ride. It's an ego thing, I admit. The last thing I want said about me is that I am less than a hardcore rider. Call me juvenile, but I'll probably still be trying to prove my Road Warrior status until I can no longer move. Katie was kind of worried about me riding. I think the prospect of the heavy, gusty, wind on top of the heavy rain shook her up a little. Especially since my itinerary called for around 250 miles. She's my best friend and deeply loves me. I know she wanted to keep me from riding but didn't want to deny me what I needed. That's true love. I love her, too, but I needed to ride. It's who I am. It's what I do. I just hoped she didn't have some premonition of my impending doom. Her slightly frightened look haunted me all day. Just to end the suspense, things turned out well yesterday with no close calls.

Finding a place to park nearly drove me crazy. Which spot to choose?!! Hmm. This one's nice, but that one has a better view. Oh, not that one. It's under a tree full of birds. Ok, how about this one? Well, the one next to it is a little cleaner and the stripe's brighter. Aaargh!!

This spot is usually crammed with bikes during the summer. The lack of other riders is sort of bittersweet to me. One the one hand, I like the feeling of being one of the "crazy ones" who rides all year. People never know how to take you. Yesterday, for example, I was walking on the sidewalk in my wet gear, helmet in hand. A guy passed me going the other way. He caught my eye and I knew he wanted to say something. So I decided to humor him and act like I might be interested.

"Getting wet, huh?", he says, with entirely too much pleasure, I thought. Of course, I think I'm much more manly than him since I'm the one with the wet motorcycle gear. So who cares what a lightweight like him thinks, eh?

Here's another empty space at the Community College. More fodder for my ego. Which brings me to the other side of the coin. I've thrown my loyalty behind Andy Goldfine's Ride to Work campaign. Notice that it doesn't say Ride and Build Your Ego. Drat.

Not everyone can ride to work all year, I know. Little things like snow, for example, get in the way. Around here, however, snow and ice are less frequent. It's certainly not as much fun to ride in our Winter, but certainly something that can be accomplished. Not everyone wants to ride in bad weather, either. I'm okay with that. However, there's some who would probably want to ride more, they just need a little help to get there. Here's a hardy soul who rode yesterday. The birds are acting like they hope the rider left their lunch bag out somewhere.

My challenge to everyone is to help fill these empty spots as much as possible. Just across the street is another example of empty motorcycle parking.

In nicer weather, there's at least two bikes here. Sometimes up to four. Yesterday it was being used by a UPS truck. Nothing against UPS. They do a great job and I'm always glad to see their trucks roll up to my door. However, there's six tires on this truck. Those tires should be split among three bikes!

New riders are often looked down on by more "experienced" riders. Notice I put the word experienced in quotation marks. Real experienced riders are mature enough to reach out to new riders. Help them find the right gear to cope with the elements. That alone goes a long ways towards keeping them riding.

Help them think like motorcyclists. This includes realizing they can still be safe in wet weather, they just need to go about things a little differently than in a car. Here's a classic example I encountered yesterday.

I was in the lane where the white van is now. Notice the railroad tracks? These run along 12th street in Salem. 12th is a busy North-South route that skirts the downtown area. A lot of traffic comes and goes from the downtown core along streets that intersect the railroad tracks. Rubber pads separate the rails. When it's wet, everything's slick. I had to make a right turn. That's what this van is going to do. The van driver is going to start the right turn while still on the tracks. There's not much room to make the corner as you can see in the next photo.

By the way, I hope you appreciate these pictures. Each photo is taken while standing in the rain and trying to hold the camera still against the wind!

Leaning the bike to turn while on the tracks isn't a good idea, as you know. A new rider can find themselves in the middle of a heart stopping moment. These kind of things can make people swear off riding real quick! Teach them the tricks like crossing the tracks straight up, then making a quick right turn. Little tips make big differences.

Teach new riders about the wonderful treachery of wet leaves. On the way home I snuck out on some back roads high up in the hills. Miles of twisty roads to play on. Yesterday I found myself riding very carefully. Those big leaves are pretty to look at but deadly. In some places there were literally only the wheel tracks open among the leaves. Here's a place where I came down off the hills onto River Road.

Yes, it's awesome riding up in these hills. Except for the leaves of course. You can kind of see some leaves still on the sides of the lanes. At the bottom of the hill a rider's going to have to stop. Not a big deal? Check out the bottom of the hill.

Surprise! Of course, it shouldn't be. There's that thing called looking well ahead and getting critical information early. This situation isn't an issue under those circumstances. Get the information early. Plan and adjust the braking point early. Remember that other motorists can be having traction issues at the same time. Stay alert. These aren't things we can assume new riders will just automatically know. That's where we come in.

Rather than letting newer riders get scared off, or leave frustrated, sharing some of our hard won experience can help them embrace the challenge. A little knowledge can spell the difference between giving up or feeling empowered. Helping others avoid the hard lessons we've learned doesn't cheapen our own image. I know that some feel like everyone should have to learn on their own. In the long term that's counterproductive to our goal of making motorcycles everyday transportation. Freely sharing will make us all better off in the big picture.

My goal is to help fill these empty motorcycle parking spots. Are you in the mood to join me?

Miles and smiles,