Thursday, April 23, 2009

The things you see!

Riding to work is fun. Riding FOR work is even more fun. When you park your bike multiple times, there's no telling what will be next to your bike when you come back to it. Such was the case yesterday. How many can say they've come back to their bikes to find the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile parked next to it? I am now a member of that club. For whatever it's worth.

I spent Monday and Tuesday with the Boss. Since he spends a great deal of time on the cell phone, we have this arrangement. I drive and he talks on the phone. It works out anyway, as he's from Spokane and I know the local area better. The Boss is all for me using the bike for work. It is so cool to talk to him on the phone and tell him that if he needs me he'll just have to leave a message. Being on the bike, I just can't answer the phone. Where it gets tricky is when he's down and we're making calls together. I haven't figured out a good way to ease him into riding as a passenger on the bike.

"Hey, Boss! Welcome to town. Ready to ride Bitch?"

Maybe one day he'll get his own bike and we'll terrorize the town together.

I was finally on my own yesterday. Last week I'd purchased a new shield for my Arai Corsair helmet. The parts guy was close, but no cigar. I didn't notice until I got home and tried to mount the new shield. Yesterday was my first chance to get back up to Portland and exchange it. The dealer is Bob Lamphere's, the same place I bought Elvira. So far I'm impressed with their customer service. Anyone can make a mistake. There was no problem getting it corrected.

The dealer opens at 9 AM and I was there when the doors opened. What can I say? I'm an insomniac! Remember, it's a 70 some mile ride for me in commuter traffic. Getting into and out of the dealer fairly quickly, I headed across the freeway to the mall. Starbucks with hot coffee and a breakfast sandwich was calling to me. Finishing both, I emerged to find this parked next to the bike.

I've seen it a couple of times before. Or maybe there's more than one. Both times, though, it was passing me in the opposite direction on a freeway. This time it was up close and personal. Come to think of it, I hope the driver wasn't trying to tell me something! Don't you all dare, either!

By now the mall's open for business. Starbucks opens much earlier. It was interesting to see how many people stopped to take photos. I had the point and shoot small digital. The folks I saw were using their cell phones. I hung around a while but the driver hadn't emerged by the time I had to leave. It would have been cool to take a quick peek inside. Oh, well. You can take a virtual tour by clicking here.

I have to say the this is one case where DRIVING for work could be fun, too!

Miles and smiles,


Monday, April 20, 2009

Rusty skills

The weather has suddenly turned warm. At least for a while between rain storms. When the sunshine comes out so do bikes. Who wouldn't want to enjoy a sunny day by being on a motorcycle? In my case I didn't get to spend much time riding. My weekend was spent conducting a couple of instructor training sessions up in the Portland area. I did, however, have a wonderful ride home last night among the backroads.

Many of the riders who are venturing out haven't ridden for months. Skills particular to riding have become rusty. I don't think folks actually realize how quickly things can fade when they don't ride for a while. The skills needed for driving a car have similarities to riding but there's unique differences. Rather than take some time to ease into riding while letting skills catch up, a lot of riders just plunge right in. Predictably, there's disastrous consequences.

A couple of weekends ago it was sunny and warm. There were a lot of bikes out and about. Unfortunately, we had four fatalities in this area as well. I really hate to see that happen. Today I checked my e-mail and there was the following dispatch from the Oregon State Police.

News Release from: Oregon State Police
Posted: April 19th, 2009 3:56 PM

A Medford-area man was seriously injured Sunday afternoon when his
motorcycle collided with a sport utility vehicle southbound Interstate 5
just south of the Brownsville interchange.

According to Oregon State Police (OSP) Recruit Trooper Tiffany Makin, on
April 20, 2009 at approximately 12:35 p.m. a 1987 Jeep Cherokee driven by
THOMAS C. OLSON, age 52, from Redding, California was southbound on
Interstate 5 near milepost 216 in the right hand lane following a 1996 Honda
Goldwing motorcycle operated by RICHARD R. GRAYBEAL, age 76, from Medford.

As the Jeep moved into the left lane to begin passing the motorcycle, the
motorcycle also began to change lanes and collided with the right rear
quarter panel of the Jeep.

After impact, the motorcycle and GRAYBEAL both fell onto the freeway and
traveled nearly 300 feet before coming to a stop on the right southbound
shoulder. OLSON was able to drive the Jeep to a stop on the same highway
shoulder just south of the downed motorcycle and operator.

GRAYBEAL was wearing a protective helmet and was seriously injured. REACH
Air ambulance responded to the scene and the southbound lanes were closed
about one hour. GRAYBEAL was transported by air to Sacred Heart Medical
Center at RiverBend in Springfield.

OLSON and his two male passengers, ages 14 and 15, were not injured. They
were using safety restraints.

OSP troopers from the Albany Area Command office are continuing the
investigation. Halsey Fire Department and ODOT assisted at the scene. One
lane was re-opened about 2:00 p.m. and both southbound lanes opened by 2:30

Is this a case of rusty skills? I can't say for sure. Things like this happen in a car, too. However, the consequences of a mistake on a bike are far worse than when driving. The reflexes and skills have to be extra sharp. Good judgement is especially critical when riding. It does strike me as interesting that the SUV was mostly past the bike by the time the rider changed lanes. There's no statement regarding the relative speeds of the vehicles. It really doesn't matter. What counts is that nobody in the SUV was injured. In contrast, Mr. Graybeal was seriously injured and had to be taken to the hospital by helicopter. It's also unclear what gear he was wearing other than a helmet.

Whatever the case, here's hoping that Mr. Graybeal makes a full recovery.

There's a couple of reasons why I'm posting this.

No matter how long we've been riding, the basics are important. It's easy to become complacent about them. I see this with experienced instructors in their classes. The basic steps of range control can be somewhat glossed over as not important. You know what, though? No matter how long the instructor's been teaching, range control for safety still matters a bunch. The same applies to riding. Don't get lazy about the things that are vital in protecting us. Things as simple as making a headcheck to ensure our lane change won't crash us into another vehicle.

The second reason is that I would urge you all to offer your riding friends reminders. We all know people who haven't ridden in a while. Heck, there's a lot of bloggers who haven't been able to ride for months, as well, due to snow and ice. Ease into things. Ride where there's as little multi-tasking required as possible. Give the reflexes and motor skills time to shake off the dust and rust and come back up to speed.

I don't want to read about anybody having accidents. Especially not you and your friends!

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ending the ride...gracefully.

There's a song out called "100 Years". It's by John Ondrasik who goes by the stage name of Five for Fighting. The song talks about the fleeting moments of time. When you've only got a hundred years to live, time seems to fly by. One of the lines talks about how halftime goes by. Judging by that, I'm solidly into the third quarter.

Sometimes I wonder about how long I'll be able to continue riding a motorcycle. 10 years? 20 years? I can't say. What I do know is that, compared to the number of riding years behind me, the years ahead of me are relatively short. I'm not morbid about it. I'm still pretty healthy and don't see the end of my riding coming anytime soon. The reminder to me is to savor every moment spent on the bike. The more time that passes, the more appreciative I am of still being able to ride. Like I say, I hope to have a lot of two wheeled miles still to enjoy.

Life doesn't always work out like we might hope, though. I've often turned to the Bible for wisdom in living my life and in dealing with others. There's a particularly applicable scripture in Ecclesiastes Chapter 9 and verse 11. Not to get all biblical on you, but these are certainly words that apply in life no matter what our theological views might be. They were written by King Solomon. Even today, Solomon is used as a metaphor for wisdom. This is from a modern English translation.

"I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor, because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all."

Life's circumstances can change suddenly. Sometimes we're forced to make decisions before we were really expecting to. In addition, we need to decide what kind of attitude we're going to have about it all.

Such is the case with Bryce Lee.

If you've been hanging around this blog for a while you may be familiar with Bryce. He's commented fairly frequently here. Speaking of which, I haven't heard from Bryce in a bit. I hope it's just because he's too busy to stop by. You see, Bryce is dealing with just such a situation I'm talking about. Bryce has Cancer and Lupus. These are enough by themselves. The chemotherapy treatment and side effects of the diseases have taken their toll on him. Bryce has another thing to deal with when it comes to riding. If I remember correctly, Bryce is somewhere around 7 feet 10 inches tall. This takes away some other options that might be open to shorter people like me!

Over time Bryce and I have corresponded on the side. We've grown to become friends. As things have progressed Bryce has shared updates with me. I try to keep him encouraged. In other ways Bryce has imparted wisdom to me in return. Recently Bryce shared with me that he has come to the decision to quit riding. He also shared some of the reasons with me. I asked for permission to publish his statements on the blog. Bryce graciously granted it. I use the word gracious with a special meaning.

When the time comes that it becomes clear I can no longer ride, I hope to be able to show the same grace and dignity that Bryce has. Truth be told, though, that time for me will probably be marked by the abundant throwing of tantrums and much pouting!

Anyway, here's Bryce's letter to me.

The reasons behind the decision:My own personal reality is riding a 28+ year old machine with accompanying parts (and eventually insurance) problems; combined with my own physical and mental failings due to Lupus and Cancer and continuing chemotherapy. A fellow female motorcycle journalist (Ms.Irwin) recently said I looked well, and I replied, "all the better for the eventual laying out in a box." :)

This simply means not having the Honda Goldwing or any other form of motorcycle. And then too the actual riding, controlling of a motorcycle means different parts of the body need to function. They don't and in all likelihood never will again.

It comes down to a matter of comfort.Am I comfortable with being on a motorcycle be it two or three wheels? Of late became tense, worried somebody in a moving vehicle, talking on their cellphone and /or drinking a coffee or smoking a cigarette will bump into me. At my age, any motorcycle accident would be traumatic.

And most likely fatal.

Before the medical diagnosis was already reducing my motorcycle riding. I have an A.T.G.A.T.T. (and a reflective vest) attitude, and as very warm weather has never been my friend, found full leathers were too hot and uncomfortable. And non-leather materials simply aren't made for elephantine sizings.Have looked for textile alternatives, they exist however the cost is far beyond my meager abilities.And these days having reviewed alternative machines including sidecar rigs, realize motorcycles are constructed for physically smaller, far more agile bodies. I don't qualify!:)

Motorcycling is a very personal thing! A pleasurable activity of the past with numerous friends riding and destinations elsewhere. Many of those friends now no longer ride or are part of this world. As we age, our friends slip away, mentally and physically.

The Goldwing is for sale, listed on the local Buy and Sell list. It will be listed elsewhere, am willing to dicker and accept a lesser price. I want it removed from my possession quickly and yet, it will be difficult to remove the black beast from my mostly pleasant memories.

1-UP (Bryce Lee),
Burlington, Ontario

To Bryce: No matter what your body is capable of ( or not ) we know where your heart is. Even if you can no longer physically ride, you will always be a motorcyclist. Thank you for sharing these very personal words. Of whatever use it is to you, please accept our collective thoughts and prayers for your recovery.

MIles and smiles ( hard though they may be to find at times )


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tranquility amidst chaos, II.

Having decided to walk off my meal by exploring, I took the Nikon, both lenses, and the Gorilla Pod. By the way, to answer Conchscooter's question about what a Road Warrior eats at Cafe Veloce, I offer this. A Road Warrior eats chicken. You know the kind I'm talking about. The ones that didn't make it across the road. Preferably in front of a motorcycle. Despite that proclivity, I'm not sure I'm ready to stoop to taking pictures of the poor deceased creatures smothered in marinara sauce and resting on a bed of fettuccini.

Speaking of photography, being the rank amateur that I am, enthusiasm overshadowed professionalism. In other words, the smart thing to do would have been to take the whole darn camera case. Using some sort of perverse logic, the result of hours in a motorcycle seat, I thought I would try traveling light. Or maybe it was that potent red wine that went down so well. The camera with the 18-55mm lense attached hung from my neck. The 55-200mm lense was in a small fabric sleeve with a pull cord attached. I could hang that from my wrist. I have hoods for each lense. The hood for the small lense was attached backwards so I could either use it or not. The hood for the big lense was in the bag. I thought I would be smart and attach the Gorilla Pod to the camera body. Seemed like a plan to me. It worked well for just walking, although the legs of the Gorilla Pod were now hanging down below the camera. The camera was hanging from my neck. You can imagine where the legs of the tripod were hitting me as I walked. The one bit of good news is that jamming the tripod against your chest helps a lot in keeping the camera steady! As long as you don't breathe, of course.

As you can see on the website for the hotel, they claim to be located next to a bird sanctuary. I could see the small body of water.

It became a destination for my journey. Sure enough, down a short pathway I came to a sign.

The website for the hotel also shows people sitting on a concrete platform. Hmmm, that's where everybody hangs out. This adventure was about getting off the beaten path. The sign indicated that there should be a pathway. It wasn't obvious from this point. More exploration was in order. I finally found it among some cat-tails and brush.

It looked promising. Best of all, it also looked like I wasn't really supposed to go there. So, being the prudent law abiding person I am, you can guess what I did. Down the pathway we go. For a bit all I saw were trees and brush. Not one to give up easily, I finally emerged at the lake itself. All by myself which is exactly the way I like it.

I had found my tranquility amidst chaos. All around me on the horizon were signs of big city life. In my little spot it was quiet and still. One of the things I've learned from riding is being open to letting life come to me without preconceived notions. Too many people make too much noise and flap their mouths way too often. They're full of themselves and their own ideas. Often times wrong ideas. They miss so much because they just won't shut up and be quiet. Taking the exact opposite tactic, I just stood there, listening and observing. Soon the world around me began to reveal itself.

A pair of Mallards, blending nicely into the reeds, were enjoying the day's last rays of sunshine. Scanning the reeds further, I saw this denizen of the lake also enjoying the sun.

The ducks were in range of the small lense. This turtle was far enough away that I needed to use the big lense. The photo is the result of the camera on the tripod and the lense at the full 200mm focal length. Sounds professional, doesn't it? Well, let me tell you the rest of the story.

Remember, I'm on a sort of rotting dock. There's some railings around me. The space between the railings is covered by some sort of old wire mesh. There are holes in the decking under my feet. Switching lenses requires some finesse. I have to put down the bag with the big lense. I need to push a button and twist the small lense off the camera. Now I need a place to put it while I take the cap off the end of the big lense that goes into the camera. Then it's hurry and put the big lense on the camera before anything gets into the camera body. Of course, this cap now needs to go onto the back of the small lense. That's just one end of the lense. The other ends have caps of their own. My plan is to put the small lense back into the cloth sleeve. But I'll want it again real soon. I find it goes well into a front pocket of my jeans. That sounds funny but it gets worse.

The Nikon is on the tripod which is somehow balanced on the 2 x 6 piece of wood that makes up the top rail. I think the whole idea of a tripod is to balance the thing on a large surface for stability. Due to the wire mesh, I can't wrap a leg of the Gorilla Pod around the board. If I had brought along some Gorilla Glue, as well, things might have been different. Anyway, I did manage to get it all worked out while I took some shots of the turtle. After about the third shutter press, I heard a small splashing sound. Looking quickly, I saw the turtle was still there. Must have been a small fish or something. The fabric bag was on the railing a little ways away from the camera. Now I see it is no longer there. Looking down, I see the bag floating nicely on the water. That would probably explain the splash. Inside the bag is the big hood for the zoom lense. Rats! ( or something like that )

It's not the end of the problem. There's wire mesh keeping me from just reaching down and retrieving the bag. Worse, yet, the water's clear farther out but not so much up close.

I finally found a small opening in the mesh. With the help of a piece of cat-tail stalk from the trail, the soggy and now green bag was finally back in my possession. I didn't care so much about the bag, but I wanted the hood. About now the turtle's slid off his perch. I could see the air bubbles of his laughter as he made his way to the bottom.

Now I have a useless lense bag but still have two lenses. I take one more photo with the zoom lense and the tripod.

Figuring that the rest of my photos will be taken from closer distances, I ponder my choices. Finally, I opt for putting the smaller lense back on the Nikon. Once more I do the intricate dance involved. Now the question is what to do with the long zoom lense. I try stuffing it into a back pocket of my jeans. The lense sticks up far enough that I'm worried it will fall out. In a move that would make a contortionist proud, I find I can get the long lense into a front pocket. Walking is now more of a gunfighter stance. Bowlegged and ankles wide apart. I was totally humilated when I emerged near the hotel once more. Several old ladies looked my way hungrily and threw their room keys at me.

At least the bunny on the pathway had the decency not to stare at me.

This bunny was getting ready for Easter. That's a very busy day for bunnies everywhere. They get into shape for the event by indulging in plenty of eggxercise!

I surprised a woodpecker trying to install an alternate entrance at the back of the pawnshop. The bird flew away but left the evidence behind. There were several other holes hidden behind the foilage of this tree.

Thinking back, if I'd of had Mr. Riepe and his prehensile periscope along, we could have taken a peek at what was in those holes. Although the pathway would have been a little rough for his fancy new scooter. The bellboy and I both would have had to push him along. Not to mention having to stop and explain over and over the difference between the rabbit and the turtle on the dashboard. Sounds too complicated to me. Maybe some things are best left a mystery after all.

So there you have it. A journey within a journey. Tranquility amidst chaos. That's the beauty of being a motorcyclist. We tend to make our own world, don't we? And it's an interesting one, isn't it?

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Tranquility amidst chaos.

As I mentioned earlier I was summoned to the Mothership for a day of meetings on Tuesday. I decided to go up the day before and spend the night. The other option was to leave home at 3 AM. I've gone that route and it makes for an extremely long day when the meetings end at 4 PM or so. The trip is a bittersweet thing for me. The sweet part is riding so far. It's funny how we all get a reputation for certain things. Among our group I'm known as the bike guy. Gee, I sort of wonder why. Whether to our retreat in Idaho or a trip to headquarters it's expected that I'll ride. I used to get ribbed about riding when I could be more "comfortable" in a car. Now I'd get ribbed if I didn't ride.

The bitter part is the location of our corporate office. A journey there means dealing with Seattle area traffic. Granted, we're not right in Seattle. Our office is in Kirkland. To me there's not much difference. The traffic and big city feel extend their influence over an extremely large area. Seattle's just the central hub. Traffic and activity funnel in and out in all directions. This post isn't really about that part. It's about finding the places off the beaten path. Tranquility can be found by one willing to wander a bit.

I do want to mention the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, though. Motorcycles are allowed in these lanes, as they rightly should be. Sometimes that does me some good and sometimes it doesn't. Jammed up is jammed up no matter what lane you're in. Monday afternoon, though, found me in just the right time slot. One of the slogans I've seen is,

"If only the passing lane had a passing lane!"

Well, I'm here to tell you that this came true for me on Monday. It was so glorious! Mile after mile passed speedily below the bike and I. Once in a while we'd catch up to a bus in the HOV lane. No problem. We'd slide into the regular hammer lane and pass the bus. Then back into the HOV lane. We even busted a move on an old couple in a sedan. The old man had absolutely no friggin' idea that the whole point was to be able to roll a little faster. Okay, I admit it's a conservation thing, but we all have our own interpretations, don't we? All the driver knew is that there were two people in his car so, by gum ( sorry for the old guy pun ) he was going to drive in that lane. At an electrifying 52 mph. His interpretation and mine didn't match. So long, Buddy!

There's something about riding a motorcycle that puts us into a different state of mind than cagers. Sometimes that's bad. We're more likely to find ways to get into trouble, you know! On the other hand, or maybe just the other side of the same hand, I find myself so much more open to the world around me. I see more, feel more, and thus experience more, than when in a car. I find myself so much more willing to wander off the beaten path. The age old question. What's down there? Let's go find out. I'm not so likely to bother with it in a car or my truck. On a bike, in vivid contrast, I'm ready for adventure at a moment's notice.

I think most people who ride experience the same thing. Using a bike for regular transportation amplifies the effect. I spend a lot of time on a bike. So I also spend a lot of time in an open and inquisitive state of mind. It's become a regular trait of mine. Riding is a Zen-like journey. There's so much personal growth that comes as a result of, but not directly tied to, riding. Thus my journey Monday evening.

I found this restaurant in 2006 while wandering around Kirkland. Cafe Veloce, as you can surmise, is an Italian place. What makes it neat is that it features a vintage Italian racing theme. It's primarily focused on Italian motorcycles. In another life I must have been Italian. I love Italian food, at least. By the way, I don't currently believe in reincarnation but I did in my past lives. While I dined I got to drool over a new Aprilia on display. Word of my arrival into town must have spread. I pulled in a few minutes before six and I was the only customer. Just before I left a couple wandered in. The wait staff to customer ratio was most excellent.

Actually, I think everyone was enjoying the sunshine and doing something outside. I've put photos of this place in the blog previously. On summer nights the place is crowded with sport bike riders who park their bikes in the lot and eat on the patio.

If you look to the left of the cafe, you can see another building. It's called the Yuppie Pawn Shop. Handy in case you spend more than you have in your pocket on food and drink, I guess. Then, I got to wondering what the other building is. You can just see the peak of a roof in the background. Now I had to go see what's down there. Turns out to be a quiet little hotel called the Carlton Inn. It's the kind of place you'd never find unless you knew about it already or stumbled onto it when wandering. Kind of a familiar theme isn't it? Wandering on a bike often reveals unexpected gems.

It's interesting to read how they describe themselves on their website. I think Jack Riepe must have written that spiel! Anyway, I usually stay at a Comfort Inn. Now that I've discovered this new place I plan to change my habit. Again, word of my arrival must have preceded me. There was hardly anybody staying there. Can you say peace and quiet? In literal distance the hotel really is near the high volume buzz of I-405. On the tranquility scale, it's miles away from the hustle and bustle.

The actual hotel was more like a well maintained older bike. Clean and functional, easy on the eyes, and still exuding a little elegance. Here's a quick shot of my room. By the way, after spreading my stuff out, I couldn't believe all that crap was actually packed on the bike. It all went back just fine. Before I posted the photo I had to do a quick check and make sure nothing incriminating was visible!

The road to the hotel dead ends just past it. The building you see is a small condo. Look at how empty the parking lot is. This picture was taken through the window of my room.

I was able to park Elvira just below my room where I could make sure she wasn't up to any mischief without me. Notice that I'm not averse to the mischief part. I just want to be a part of it!

Here's me trying to be "artistic" with my photo! This is from outside the hotel. After dinner I decided to wander around on foot. You can call it exercise if you want. It was actually spurred by a guilt trip over all the chicken parmigiana I ate! Armed with my new Gorilla pod and the Nikon, I succumbed to a combination Steve Williams / Conchscooter mood. I was determined to get some good photos of the area around me. I wanted to be able to post some good shots with witty little comments on each. I was at least successful on the first part. Minding Steve's gentle coaching to go back to my firearms training, I literally told myself to "squeeze the trigger" on each shot. Thanks, Steve!

As to the comment part, I can't say, yet. You see, I seem to have reached some sort of threshold for the amount of photos Blogger will allow me to post here. At least I think that's what is happening. It refuses to let me upload any more pictures. The site is blaming some sort of internal error. Maybe Blogger is trying to tell me the post is getting too long and to shut up, already. So consider this the beginning. To quote the late, beloved Paul Harvey, stay tuned for the "Rest of the Story".

Miles and smiles,


Monday, April 06, 2009

Quick update

Life's hectic. What else is new? I haven't been able to steal away much time for tending to the blog. I'm sorry I haven't even posted replies to the last post's comments! I appreciate your expressions and feel ashamed to neglect you all.

This is just a quick update to let you know that I'm still alive. If anyone actually wondered, that is.

I spent the weekend conducting a 'train the trainer" exercise. So I got to enjoy the sunshine around motorcycles and motorcycle people but got in very little riding time of my own. The sacrifices we make!

Remember Kevin?

He came back on Saturday to take the skills test again. This time he passed. So begins his new journey in earnest.

I sold Sophie Saturday night. A guy came down from Seattle to buy her. More on that later. It was harder than I thought it would be to see her go.

Today I'm headed out of here in about an hour. Elvira and I are hitting the road to the Seattle area. I've been called to the Mothership in Kirkland for a day of meetings tomorrow. Read it and weep, but I'm being paid to ride about 275 miles in the sunshine today. Riding for work is even better than riding to work! It will be a late arrival home tomorrow night but another 550 miles or more will be on the odometer when I do get there.

Things look to be calming down by Wednesday. There's some catching up to do then.

Stay safe and enjoy the sunshine, if you have it. Talk with you later.

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A new scooter gang?

"I'm going to start a scooter gang when I graduate this class."

That's how a mop haired young man introduced himself to the class on the first night. One of the things that keeps me intrigued with teaching is that each new group of students has their own character. Some characters are more colorful than others, I find!

This young man had never ridden before. Like a lot of people these days, his goal was to use a scooter to save on transportation costs. Actually, his parents had forbidden him to have a motorcycle. Going to school and living at home, he felt bound by their rules. Not totally, it would turn out. The parents had okayed a 50cc moped. Our young man was going to get something bigger and try to secrete it from them. That was between the three of them. My job was to teach him to ride and take care of himself in the process.

I'm going to let our young man remain anonymous, although here's a picture. Yes, the photos from the weekend are terrible. There's not much time between running around looking after students. Cones need to be set. Porta-potties need to be visited. Students don't stand still too long in the unseasonable cold we've been enduring. I know Steve Williams advised me to squeeeze the trigger. I had one shot and blew it. Just consider them crudely drawn illustrations.

Our young man did okay on the riding part. There was a little timidity showing around the edges. Bravado would be punctuated by a need for affirmation. Underneath it all I there were signs of a desire to please the instructors. Sometimes it was hard to see that particular part. You see, the young man has a sort of smart mouth. It showed both on the range and in the classroom. A great example was during the discussion of impairment. One of the topics we cover is how to intervene and prevent friends from riding impaired. Asked how we could intervene, here's the answer the young man provided.

"Kick them in the coin purse so they're too sore to sit on the bike seat."

Interestingly, I was reminded of a young dog. Our student would smart off then give this crooked smile. Kind of like a pup who barks ferociously, then tries to appease a bigger dog by showing his underbelly.

As is usually the case, our young man drew some followers from the rest of the class. Befitting a person who has designs on being a gang leader.

Social misfits, all. I don't mean that in a bad way. Some people just aren't comfortable in a social setting. Certain skills aren't as well developed as they might be. Finding each other gave them security within their own group. So now we had the gang leader and his loyal minions.

As it turns out, smart mouth and all, I ended up getting the last word.

Sunday afternoon brought graduation time. One by one I called the students out into the hallway. Each student was debriefed on their passing status. I picked appropriate parting words for each individual. Soon it was time for our young pup to visit with the big dawg. That would be me. Just in case there was any sort of confusion on that part. I told him that he had passed. His completion card was handed over. Time for some parting words. I mulled over several possibilities. What would cap off the experience we had shared? What words would reflect the flavor of the relationship this witty young man and I had shared over the weekend? Then the words came to me.

"One last thing I'd like to know, young man. What do you plan to call your new gang? Hell's Nerds?"

Miles and smiles,