Monday, July 21, 2008

Thoughts from the road.

We're home once more. I ended up with 1,064 miles for the week. Not huge, granted, but when you consider it was for work and I can put in for mileage for all but about 150 miles it ain't shabby. Katie was with me for 693 of those miles. We made a little side trip to Crater Lake Friday afternoon. That was pleasure, not business.

For the next couple of posts I want to share some things I've been thinking about during all the riding time. This post will have pictures from Astoria and the next one will have photos of Crater Lake and Klamath Falls. Bryce has commented on more than one post that there should be a picture of me once in a while. Most of you are smart enough not to request to see my ugly mug. Katie took a picture of me on a small snow pile at Crater Lake. Maybe I'll include it next time. Be warned!

Passing lanes

Why is it that someone doing 15 mph under the speed limit will jam the pedal to the metal in passing lanes? They make themselves as hard to pass as possible, but then slow back to their original snail's pace when you can no longer get around them? You'd think they would be glad to let everyone go around and take the pressure off. Maybe it's something about the open space that stirs their need for speed. On the other hand, it could just be a power trip thing. I'm always amazed how far a slow driver can control the speed of everyone else. Speaking of traffic,

Those who pull out in front of others

Highway 101 is pretty crowded between Seaside and Astoria. Huge volumes of traffic are forced to share the same road. It dawned on me that perhaps the people who pull out pretty close to other traffic aren't really being rude or stupid as I prefer to believe. It could be a simple matter of having to take the bull by the horns and go for it. Nobody seems inclined to give anyone much of a break. If you don't just go, you'll never get anywhere. What a way to have to live!

Here's a ship at the Maritime Museum. It's a vehicle for a whole different type of adventurer. Some willing and some not so much, I think. Can you spell "shang-haied"? The little balcony at the back and the window you can see is the Captain's quarters. He had a lot of room compared to everyone else. It's good to be King!

Sexy bike

The FJR is a sexy bike. Women who wouldn't even send a glance my way if they passed me on the sidewalk seem to have a thing for the bike. One woman in a rest area came clear over to where I had just parked. She asked what kind of bike it was. According to her it was gorgeous! This lady wasn't the only one to make such comments! I hereby solemnly swear not to let it go to my head. My motorcycle may be too sexy for me, but I am not too sexy for my bike. In fact, I don't want to be sexy at all. I'd much rather be feared!

This is Elvira at the Astoria Column. Fortunately for me, the renovation work had the thing closed to the public. There's a spiral Stairway to Heaven inside. Ouch! Does that date me?

Ebony and Ivory

Wednesday morning at 6 AM saw me getting coffee from the hotel lobby. A woman who was probably 50 but looked 70 came up beside me. Too many hours in a tanning booth combined with a spatula applied make-up job made her look older than her years. She asked me how the pump pot worked. How does a coffee drinker live that long and not know how to work a pump pot?

Anyway, she was all decked out in Harley gear. Her husband was outside packing the bikes. There were two Harleys with Arizona plates. Maybe it was the Arizona sunshine that had turned her skin to leather. They were each on their own bike and were heading home after 10 days on the road. I told her that the black FJR over in the corner was mine. The lady said that they'd seen the bike the night before. It looked to her like I'd left my lights on. She told her husband that it would be a shame for the rider to come out to a dead battery and that they should go check the bike. Her husband said it was probably just the sun but they went and looked anyway.

I thanked her for the concern and caring. In return, I showed her how to use the pump pot to get coffee. Sort of an Ebony and Ivory thing with the Yamaha and Harley riders. Why can't we all just get along and happily enjoy motorcycling together?

This is a look back down the hill from Clatsop Community College. Hopefully, the photo shows the steepness of the hill I'd just ridden up. A lot of Astoria is built up and over a large hill.

"Break-in miles"

I developed a new mantra for riding. Repeat after me. "Break-in miles". It's amazing how much more patient I was when I reminded myself of this fact.

New bikes get a better break-in when the first miles are under varied loads. Which is exactly what back roads provide. What a perfect blend of fun and effectiveness! Elvira and I wound through the countryside towards Valley Junction. Highway 22 takes off from there and follows the Nestucca River for a while and then heads up towards Hebo on the coastal Highway 101. It's somewhere around 30 miles of pure motorcycle fun. The only down side was a big load of hay on a double flatbed truck. He chose to pull out ahead of me and acted as a rolling road block for about 9 miles. Repeat after me. "Break-in miles". Take it easy and wait. Back waaay off. Sifting straw does not make for good riding conditions.

Between Hebo and Seaside are 70 miles of coastal highway clogged with slow moving tourists and locals in no particular hurry. Repeat after me. "Break-in miles". Relax, enjoy the ride, and let the motor break in gently. By the way, the ocean looks pretty cool out there.

I'm going to try this mindset a lot more often. Despite our best intentions, even on a motorcycle, the spirit of commuting drivers everywhere can be contagious. Repeat after me. "Break-in miles". Relax, take deep breaths, and just enjoy the ride.

This is a view over Young's Bay and the river feeding it. I took it from up on the hill where the Astoria Column towers the city.


On Wednesday morning I set out for Tongue Point. My mission was to check out some perceived issues the folks at the Job Corps were having with some hardware. There were about 16 miles of morning traffic to contend with. In my mirrors I observed an Accura MDX SUV. It was such a dark green it looked almost black. The driver was pressing hard; aggressively passing in tight spots. Highway 101 is pretty much only one lane each direction for a long ways. I wouldn't have tried the passes this driver was doing on a motorcycle, much less an SUV. All too soon the Accura was on my tail.

There's a drawbridge over Young's Bay. The road is narrower here. Old bridges were only built as wide as they absolutely had to be. The lack of space combined with the volume of traffic made it a bad place to pass. Unless you are driving an Accura SUV, of course.

With marginal space in front of us, the SUV driver pulled out. I slowed down to help avoid a tragedy. As the Accura moved even with me, I took a close look at the driver. She looked to be nearly 60. The front seat was probably back as far as it would go. This lady took up all the available space. She glared at me and cut back over close in front of me. I was dismayed at her driving to say the least. You know good and well what I was tempted to do. Repeat after me. "Break-in miles". Let her go.

However, there was a complication. The right rear tire of the SUV was pretty close to flat. Yes, she was driving like a demon from Hell and just as angry with a nearly flat rear tire. She probably had no clue. I decided to point it out to her as a courtesy. Bad driver or not, this was not good for her.

So I beeped the horn to get her attention. When she looked back I emphatically pointed down to the tire. Then I made the gesture with my thumb and forefinger close together. With the weather being warmer I was wearing thinner gloves so the gesture seemed quite clear. Once more I pointed to the tire.

The lady shook her fist at me and flipped me off. Several times and quite forcefully. It was clear she thought I was telling her what a wonderful driver she was. While it was true I only had one finger extended, it was the first finger and it was clearly pointing down. Being in her own negative state, she saw what she wanted to see. Her perspective prevented her from seeing reality.

I thought how that so often affects motorcycle riders. We, out of all the roadway users, need to be aggressively gathering critical information about our surroundings. Quite often, though, we don't see the reality. We see what we expect to see depending on where our head is at the time. It's something we need to be aware of. We can't afford to be getting it wrong. Just like overly aggressive driving with a nearly flat tire the consequences can be disastrous. My turn-off wasn't much farther down the road. I don't know how the Accura driver fared. I can only wish her the best.

Well, that's it for now. Look for the next post with the second part. It probably won't be so long as this one but there's some beautiful pictures from Crater Lake. Not to mention some more Musings of an Intrepid Commuter!

Miles and smiles,



-Tim said...

I just have to say, I love your blog. The pics you post have me even more excited than usual to move back to PDX next May...
Keep it up.

Conchscooter said...

The passing thing makes me crazy "slower traffic keep right." Nasty story: two young female British tourists saw a guy driving no lights as they walked. They yelled "Lights!", he stopped got out and beat them senseless, both of them, with a baseball bat. Across town ten minutes later he ran down and killed a cyclist riding in her lane with lights. Blame crack. Even sane people get weird when they drive.

Unknown said...

I've driven in a lot of places now, and I can say without reservation that the northwest has the worst drivers I've seen. Mostly not driving the speed limit while in the passing lane, refusing to move to the right, and generally driving with head up butt and cell phone in ear. I think the speeding up in passing zones is that passing zones are usually long and straight and the idiots can finally "make some time" by speeding up. That kind of people aren't bothered by how many are stacked up behind them. Hey, I pull over if I can when there are more than 3 cars behind me, just like the law says to. :) Not gonna be "that guy!"

BTW, when you going to finish up the story about the class at the Harley dealer? ;)

Dave T.

Stacy said...

Elvira as a lady magnet? Perhaps there's hope for the industry yet!

... or maybe not.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in England and drove over there for 7 years before moving over here. Things are pretty different. Drivers are more aware over there. There's no crusing in the fast lane or passing on the inside.

NW drivers are pretty bad - especially the ones from WA passing through Oregon, it seems!

I put the majority of my miles in my truck, and I have to admit, I am overly aggressive in that thing. I blame Toyota for building a truck that will do 0-60 in 6.2 seconds.

As a new rider, and possibly because of the style of bike I ride, I find that time to destination is no longer a factor when I ride to get from A to B.

I know that it takes me almost 30 minutes longer to get from Eugene to Oregon City when I ride, compared to when I drive!

Dan - kudos for keeping a level head with the Acura driver. I'm sure that if I had posted a blog about it, my choice of words would have been a little different!

Dean W said...

Slow drivers-
I rode home from my annual pilgrimage to Laguna Seca yesterday. 800 miles from Castroville, CA to Newberg, OR, via Ft. Bragg and Grants Pass makes for a long day when the $*%^&)! driver ahead of you won't pull over. I'd have been home at least an hour earlier if slow drivers would have used the turn-outs on CA-128, CA-1, and US-199, as the law requires. (I wasn't the only one being held up. OTOH, I was the only one with enough acceleration to deal with the problem... Grin goes here.) Seems like the California chapter of the Anti-Destination League has gained strength since last year...

Break in-
Dan, read your FJR owner's manual carefully; unless it's changed, it says "do not exceed 4000 RPM for EXTENDED PERIODS". It doesn't say you can't, just says don't hold it there. I've become a fan of the MotoMan break-in. It's amazing how much metal is floating in your oil at 20 miles...

Down at the races Honda was surveying HRCA members* about a concept bike that I can best describe as a cross between a Yamaha Majesty scooter and a Ducati MultiStrada. Words fail how ugly it was... (* I'm not an HRCA member, but my friends are, and they drug me in as a guest to share the pain...)

-Tim said...

@david I would have to disagree on that one. Drivers here in Utah, make drivers in the PNW look like gods.

Stacy said...

Yeah, that DN-01 is an ugly beast, isn't it!

irondad said...

Be careful. My head may no longer fit into my helmet. What brings you from Salt Lake to Portland?

In a serious vein, it scares me how many tweakers there are. Then think of how many are out driving at any given time. I'm not a paranoid person. Yet, I carry a Glock on the bike. "I think, therefore I am armed". I really hate to be in that position but it seems to be a reality these days.

It's hard to keep doing the right thing when you look around you, isn't it? Never let them drag you down to their level!

Now that I see someone actually cares, I'll finish the Harley track story soon!

I'll come back to you after I check out the link. If I go now I'll lose what I've already typed.

Steve L,
You're commuting from Eugene to Oregon City? I thought it was a ways to go from Albany to Springfield.

I'm not always that mellow about other drivers. Patience isn't one of my greatest virtues. Nowadays it's more a return for the investment of my time and energy. There's no gain in it for me to go off on bad drivers.

Glad to see you got home okay. Did you actually ride the Aprilia?

Anti-destination league? Love that one. I may have to include it in my own vocabulary. Yes, I saw that subtle wording in the owner's manual. Still, though, using the FJR for the last ART seemed a bit much, even for that. So I took the ST. Wait until August, though!

Take care,


irondad said...

I'd hate to tell someone I had a Thunderbird and have them ask me if it was a Ford! At least the FJR name sounds fast. As in, Fast Japanese Rocket!

irondad said...

P.S. to Dean,
Wish I'd read the MotoMan thing 700 miles ago. I did rev it up and down through the gears in the beginning. I'm going to end up doing the first service myself. Lamphere's is booked for appointments until August 6. They told me if I dropped the bike off and left it they could have it back in a couple of days. Can't wait for Winter when it's easier to get into the shops.

-Tim said...

My wife and I are just happier in Portland than here. So we have decided to move back.

R.G. said...

Have been to the column several times. Too bad it was closed the view is incredible. I am a realist as well therefore my insurance policy carries ten rounds and fits snugly in my inside pocket hopefully never to see the light of day.
By the way the FJR is on my list to Santa.

Lucky said...

"Why is it that someone doing 15 mph under the speed limit will jam the pedal to the metal in passing lanes?"

It's a power trip, small penis, inferiority complex... whatever! I'm always amazed how seemingly normal people lose all sense of curtesy when they get behind the wheel.


Anonymous said...

Dan, I'm not commuting to Oregon City from Eugene, but I have a client there that I pay an onsite visit to once or twice a month.

I try and tick to the motoman break in routine with new vehicles too. I really do think it helps with maximum performance, but haven't had a vehicle long enough to know if it helps with longevity.

Bryce said...

It is not the slow operator of a motor vehicle that is the problem, rather
the slow driver which exhibits slowness by dint of mobile phone in ear, coffee cup in another hand and a smoking piece of tobacco from the mouth. them is expected.
Slowness for no visible reason, now that's dangerous.
For ome darn reason poor driving habits are not limited to any one
geographical area. Suspect in many cases it is unfamiliarity with the situation. If one drives a vehicle
in a high density area every day, one has a modicum of understanding about the others occupants of similar vehicles.

However if grandpa is out there on his one day of the week to go into
town to shop, then watch out.

Ditto the new drivers so careful to not attract attention from the gendarmes on traffic patrol. Slow drivers are those seen circling areas learning to aim their vehicles.

Have often thought wheeled progression of homosapiens should be first a tricycle, then a two wheeled bicycle (push bike in
some terminology) then a small 50cc
or less motorbike. Only when the individual has learned driving anything can be suicidal and moreso
if you're on two wheels powered by a gasping wheezing fuel starved prime mover, only then should be given permission to operate a four wheeled motor vehicle of less
than 1.5 litre engine capacity for a period of five years or more. Oh and at 1.5 litres, said engine will not be a gas hog. Once all that has happened and the person in question has been killed, maimed or otherwise disposed AND has not done so to others, only then should they graduate to something more fulfilling and enjoyable. Two wheels or four or more, their choice. And by that age of maturity, if they don't follow the rules (and in my world that is zero
alcohol in the system when driving)
they get kicked back to the pushbike for the rest of the
years of mobility.

Am I being cruel? NO. But such thoughts
cross my feeble mind now and then when I see six or seven vehicles turn left on a red light facing them trying to save time. If time
and their "I am most important"
attitude prevails, we'll all end
up nuttier than we ever thought possible.

Then there's this new sexy FJR
which Dan has purchased.

Fast Juicy Rocket eh?

Stephen said...

I'm fortunate that most of my riding is rural, only a portion of my commute deals with the insanity of other drivers. I feel somewhat lucky that I have the choice that once I am off of the 4-5 miles of the I-90 superslab, I can duck away and have a quiet road to myself for the rest of my commute.

People are amazing though, the way they behave when they are behind the wheel, I can hear my father's voice when I catch myself muttering to others that driving is a "privilage" and not a right!

Orin said...

Dan, did you go to junior high/high school in Bellevue, Wash.? We may have known each other. Not well, but by name, at least...

Orin O'Neill

Dean W said...

Gas stop in Santa Rosa

Unknown said...


there are bad drivers everywhere. It is more noticeable when you ride a scooter. there is the mentality that they can "let a mere scooter" beat them, and when they pass they always sort of "cut you off" as they pull in front of you to display their anger that you are on a scooter and worthy of sharing the same road. I always look into their mirrors and when I see that they never check their surroundings, I stay behind, much safer than having them behind me, and of course I let the aggressive ones pass


Kano said...

Great post of some great riding you're doing this summer. I just experienced again 101 and all it's touristy trials and tribulations of getting anywhere myself. Fortune had it that it was a weekday. Weekends are brutal this time of year. September though is another story and in my opinion weather wise and traffic wise, the best time of year to experience the Oregon coast. Looking forward to the Crater Lake pics. It's been years since I've been up there and have the biggest "hankerin" to get up there again!