Thursday, December 30, 2010

When Nature calls.....

When we last met boxes of smoked salmon were being delivered to our distributors. I was in NW Portland with the next stop being down in Tigard. Normally it's not a bad trip due to the large arterials in a big city. My plan was to grab I-405 just as it came off the Fremont Bridge. Funny how we get so complacent about the marvels we encounter on a regular basis.

Just as a quick side trip, the Fremont Bridge has the longest main span of any bridge in Oregon. It also holds the distinction of being the second largest tied arch bridge in the world. Whatever in the heck that means. I'm just glad it doesn't fall into the river while I'm crossing it.

Anyway, the plan was to take I-405 South, the Sunset Highway West, and Highway 217 South. The trip is around 15 miles as the crow flies. Depending, of course, if your crow flies straight or imbibes in a little corn mash brandy in the crow bar beforehand.

Like any big city Portland has an ebb and flow of traffic. There's good times and bad times for being on freeways. Bad times make up the majority, of course. This day all bets were off. It was three days before Christmas and closing in on lunchtime. To top if off, my destination was very near one of the largest shopping malls in the area. It would not be fun. However, I'm not Irondad for nothing so I fired up the bike and faced the ride.

Imagine, if you will, a morning spent on a motorcycle riding in the cold. Mix in a few stops where coffee is consumed while business is discussed. About the time traffic started backing up there was this nagging urge for something else to flow. Like a small stream heading for the ocean, the farther I traveled the larger the current grew. Will power and fortitude were called for. In great measure. Laugh if you will, but you've been there. Indelicate as it may seem.

At last I exited Highway 217. I knew a back way to the distributor's business. I headed North on Cascade Blvd. Coming up was Bob Lamphere's motorcycle store where I had purchased Elvira. It seemed like a great place to head into the pits. For some illogical reason I decided to press on. It wasn't much farther to my destination. It's a sickness at times. Oh, to be like Steve Williams who thinks nothing of hopping off the scooter every 10 or 20 feet to make pictures, eat pastry, and drink tea. And, er, other things.

I, on the other hand, act more like a Japanese bullet train at times. Pick a destination, board the train, and hang on! The resemblance ends there as I am not long and sleek. Nor have I reached those speeds despite coming close at times.

Elvira and I have to contend with road construction just after we pass the motorcycle shop. The kind where there are two flaggers and one-way traffic. We sit and wait for a good ten minutes which feels like ten hours. Once past, we finally make good time as we are heading away from the mall. Kind of like a salmon swimming upstream. Which doesn't actually work as a good illustration but I'm trying to bring it back to the smoked salmon in Elvira's trunk.

We arrive at our destination at 11:30 AM. The only guy I know at this establishment is the owner. They only sell a small portion of our stuff so contact is very infrequent. His big corner office facing the front is dark. I decide to leave the salmon and Christmas card with the receptionist. Who just happened to frighten me. A lot.

She is a battle axe with a capital Medussa. Make-up cakes her face like a San Diego mud slide. I'm pretty sure that if one were to scrape off all the cosmetic formulas they'd find Jimmy Hoffa. In an effort to look somewhat pleasant she has a red smile painted where her mouth would be. If she were human, that is. The actual effect is more like lipstick on a dragon. I'm still in my 'Stich and standing in front of her counter. I don't know if it's me or the motorcycle gear, but she looks like she wants to drag me off and feed me to her young.

After reading various of his blog entries, I'm pretty sure that Jack R was married to this woman once. Perhaps that explains the venom in her eyes as she looks my riding gear up and down.

I already had to pee. Now this woman is scaring it out of me. Which is weird. I mean, here I am, a bad, tough, rider who's covered a hundred fifty miles on a cold morning already. I have on thick ballistic nylon gear. Somewhere underneath it all a Glock is cozily nuzzled up next to me. Yet, facing this woman I somehow can't muster up enough intestinal fortitude to ask,

"Do you mind if I use your Little Motorcyclist's room?"

So I do what any other tough guy would do. I slink back to the bike still holding it. Fortunately, the seated position helps while I ride away and ponder my next move. I just hope it's a voluntary one.

I'm drawn back towards the motorcycle dealership until I remember the road construction. So instead of turning left onto Cascade Blvd. I stay on Greenburg Road. I mention the street names because those of you who are local will understand what's happening. Greenburg Road crosses Highway 217. You can head North or South. If you stay on Greenburg without turning off you will find yourself at the South end of Washington Square Mall. I tried real hard to exit onto 217. Really. However, it's a long dang ways to the next restroom stop that isn't as crowded as a snow cone stand in Hell.

By now visions of Niagra Falls, Victoria Falls ( I put that one in for you, Dave ) oceans, aquariums, fire hoses, rivers, and broken dams are flooding my brain. Pun intended. Part of me is screaming that this is a huge mall three days before Christmas!!! The other part is screaming that it's close, dang it!! While sanity and physical misery fight for top spot my body is sort of just drifting along. My path of travel is largely dictated by traffic. Elvira and I are going with the flow while trying to avoid close calls that will make the final decision moot.

Now I realize it's too late. For changing our destination, that is. You were secretly hoping I'd embarrassed myself, weren't you? Like a bug drifting towards a whirlpool we don't realize we're trapped until it's no longer possible to escape. I'm not a trials rider, nor is Elvira a trials bike. Although the image of a large Yamaha sport-tourer up on its back wheel and riding over cars IS interesting to think about. Elvira's sleek and fast but that won't help in all this traffic, either. We're being sucked down the drain into The Mall. So I guess the decision has been made. It's kind of like standing and arguing about whether the tracks are from a deer or a bear until the train runs over your butt.

I'm going to pee at the mall, which will be both a blessing and a curse. While I'm there I might as well find some food and do a bit of looking around. Which is another story that will be in the next post.

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Small blessings.

One of the great things about riding is how it helps me appreciate small things. Ok, not always. There's days when I hit the road, put my head down, and twist the throttle. Then there's days like this week. The agenda calls for a couple of hundred easy miles a day. I'm playing Motorcycle Santa again. Stops are loosely scheduled which leaves a lot of room for discovery. Here's some small thoughts from today's run.

First stop is in the Northwest Portland industrial area. For those local, it's way out west on Columbia Blvd. Mapquest says it's 73.86 miles from home. Nice distance for an early morning jaunt in the cold. On the way up I pass by Mike's tram and have a great view of Mt. Hood. The day is cold and cloudy, but one side of the mountain is lit by some distant sunshine. It's photo worthy but I'll be danged if I'm going to stop in the curves and get my ass run over for a picture. You'll just have to look at Mike's post to see the mountain.

Each year we hand out cards and a box of smoked salmon to our distributors. Four boxes will fit in the Givi. There's enough distributors for four day's worth of riding. Sweet!

It's more than a small blessing, but picture going to bed at night and thinking about work the next day. Sleep can sometimes be fleeting from stress. Not so this week. Sleep is still fleeting but it's due to enthusiasm about the coming work day. I've been greatly blessed to be able to ride for work a lot. This week has been especially great.

What's really interesting is the reactions from the people that work at the distributors' offices. Guys want to talk bikes. Some of the women look at me with extra interest. The same women, who if they saw me on the street sans riding gear, wouldn't look twice. Worse yet, they'd look away!

We have this one distributor where the owner has pictures of himself all over his office walls. Most are of him on bikes at different track corners. This guy is my age but much crazier. Hard to imagine, I know. He crashes more than he finishes a race. Each visit is filled with stories of his daring exploits, track and street. Last time he told me how he ran his KTM off the road into a muddy ditch and had to be towed out. He knows I ride and am an instructor. Not sure how he feels he's going to impress me with his crash stories.

Today I showed up on Elvira.

This is in their parking lot with Columbia Blvd behind the bike. You can see the pavement's still wet. It was 33 degrees (f) when I left home. By this time it was all of 37 degrees. By the way, if you look closely you'll see I've done something that I tell new riders to never do. There might be a prize for the first correct answer.

Anyway, this guy comes out to look at Elvira. He's still telling stories. I see him look at the tires, both of which are scuffed all the way out on both sides. He looks at the ground off peg feelers. Then the sidestand all scraped up. He bends down and looks at the scraped center stand. He gets quieter and quieter. Kind of like somebody bragging about doing something finding themselves next to somebody who's actually done it. I don't say much. Elvira's doing the talking for us. I know it shows my big ego, but it was pretty cool!

My next stop is on the road out of Portland towards St. Helens. It's still darn cold and my route has taken me along the river. Which is a cold and foggy trip through the shipping ports of Portland. I have to wait a bit to see the owner.

There's a shop dog that hangs out here. He's a huge Newfoundland with a friendly personality. Like a St. Bernard, but black. I'm standing in the lobby in my 'Stich. My hands are freezing, despite my heavy gloves. The dog wants me to pet him. There is no way to describe how wonderful it is to run cold hands through that long black fur! The dog loves the attention and I luxuriate in his warmth! When else would you discover such a blessing except during a cold motorcycle ride?

Back at the bike, I grab my cell phone from the tank bag. There's a missed call from the boss. I return the call. At the end of the conversation I tell him that I'm on the bike today. Telling your boss that you will be unavailable for a while because you're riding? Priceless!

This post is getting long so I'll split it up. Stay tuned for Part 2 and how Irondad gets trapped in a whirlpool while looking for a restroom.

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Grandma Got Molested at the Airport

Been spending time on planes lately. Good for business. Not so good for riding. Elvira looks ready to run away from home from lack of companionship.

A sympathetic friend sent me a video. Airport security being what it is. Thought I would share it. Just be aware that there's a couple of borderline potty humor references. Exercise a bit of caution with work mates you don't know too well and impressionable young children.

Check it out here.

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cameras plus Caffeine = Zoom Lense!

Since there seems to be a lot of camera buffs on two wheels I thought I would share my new lense purchase with you all. The lense has a great portrait focal length range being a 24-70mm on my Nikon with a 1:5 correction ratio. It's pretty "fast", opening to f2.8. If that's neither fast nor far enough, there's an accessory that adds even more speed and zoom factor.

As you can see the lense does zoom. There's an extra thick cap for protecting this high end G series NIkkor lense.

Being both the wild man and coffee hound that I am, I've discovered how to get even more from the optics. How many of you people are brave enough to pour strong Starbucks coffee on your lense for extra performance?

Should you, too, wish to follow in the wild footsteps of Irondad and become your own wild Ironperson without the discovery risks I've taken ( pause for a breath after reading that sentence ) simply click on the link below. Operators are standing by. I think. Unless they're on coffee break.


Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Removing the Labels.

The east and west coasts of the U.S. may be getting closer due to air travel, but it's still a bloody long time to sit in an airplane seat. During the round trip there was plenty of opportunity for me to reflect on this past year. My motorcycle training season has ended. Travel to the east coast caused me to miss our end of the year banquet. It's a great time to see old friends and for all of us to wrap up the year together. This is the first time I've missed the event. So I had to do my own wrap-up.

One of these years I'm going to write a book. I think I'll copy Robert Fulgham who wrote "All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten". My book will be called "All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned on a Motorcycle".

Yes, I'm still in that philosophical rut about how lessons in life and in riding intertwine. It's also a pretty deep endeavour for a Road Warrior. Kind of like asking an elephant to do a waltz. Strike up the band, Johnny, because Matilda's going to give it a whirl!

One particular thought came into my conscious recognition this year. It's something I have always sort of realized but never voiced. During my musings on the plane the watery substances gelled into a solid mass of quivering Jello. Suddenly it was clear. At least as clear as red Jello gets. Hey, I'm a Redneck, what kind of analogy were you expecting? Actually, I used the term Redneck with a clear purpose. It's a label. That's the point of my sharing this.

There are a lot of labels that people attach to other people. Some are innocent and some aren't. Giving to others with the goal of helping them to achieve success is a great way to remove the labels. Motorcycle training is my own personal vehicle to go down this road. As do many things related to riding, the principle applies to other aspects of life. Thus would be the premise of my book, in case you hadn't figured that out by now.

In the interests of truth in advertising, I'll be the first to admit that I often apply labels to others. I don't do it with evil intent, but it happens. A lot of the reason is my upbringing. Blame it on both nuture and nature. More on the nature part later.

I grew up in a small town. Rural America. Grandpa was a blue collar cowboy. Literally. He always bragged that he had me riding a horse before I could walk. I was brought up immersed in that setting. Gramp was a good man. He taught me morals and manners, respect for others, chivalry towards women, and the fine art of fisticuffs. There's more but you get the idea.

The other side of the coin is that those who didn't fit his picture of what a person should be were distrusted. A guy who could work but wouldn't. People who let their homes develop a "trashy" look. God forbid a man should show up with long hair. Even worse, a pony tail! I remember a few guys being offered a hair cut with Grandpa's sheep sheers. Even I would get threatened if I went too long between haircuts.

"You either need to get a hair cut or a dog license!", he'd tell me.

Interestingly, the labels always had to do with how a person presented themselves by either dress or actions. Never by race, religion, or skin color. In Gramp's world, a man was a man as long as they acted in the way Gramp thought a man should act. I know it was a somewhat narrow view of the world, based as it was upon Gramp's definitions. However, I can honestly say that racism has never been a issue for me.

One of the great things about those days is that troublemakers would get a quiet "talking to" in a dark alley. I kid you not, I was there as a teen for some of those sessions. The "trouble" either quit or the perpetrator left town. I think one of the reasons this worked so well was that Gramp had worked his way up to assistant police chief by then. It was never really violent. The force of numbers might have implied it, but I never saw or heard of anyone being physically hurt. The troublemaker was informed that his actions weren't approved of by the rest. Having the men of a town hold someone accountable was kind of a good thing. The labels weren't such a good thing.

People can claim what they will but I think everyone labels others whether they will admit it or not. It seems to be a human need to sort our world. We need to "fit" things into our world. How often do you hear somebody describe another human as just a "person"? It might be as simple as using the labels "man", "woman", or "child". Sometimes we try to inwardly match a person's occupation or hobbies by their dress. We form preconceived opinions based on how a person presents themselves.

Again, to be honest, when I see a guy with his ass hanging out and his pants down to mid thigh I'm not favorably impressed. I associate that with ganster rappers. That's a pretty negative picture in my mind. It might just be a kid trying to fit in with his peers but what he presents is a pretty strong label.

To one degree or another, like I said above, I firmly believe we all use labels and form preconceived notions about others. On the surface, I don't think that's by itself a bad thing. As long as we're willing to stand corrected by further discovery. The harm occurs when we let those labels stand in the way of discovering what's in a person's heart. Forming an initial impression should be a very distinct thing from judging a person's character by their words and actions. Unfortunately, a lot of the problems between humans comes from the fact that way too many fail to make that distinction.

Wow! Those are a couple of heavy sentences for a Road Warrior motorcyclist. I think I hurt myself writing them! Let's get back to my comfort level and talk about riding. Particularly, about reaching out to help others achieve success as riders.

Our classes are comprised of many diverse individuals. On the first night of class I'll have a group of 24. We break the group down into two groups of twelve for the actual rest of the course. Which means I'll be closely working with, and responsible for, a group of twelve. In an Advanced Rider Training course it will be up to 18 individuals.

Out of even that smaller group, how many do you think are going to be different enough from me to cause me to be tempted to put labels on them? If you guessed most, if not all, you'd be right. Don't go getting all up in arms, here. It's just the way I sort my world. This guy might be "Joe Biker Dude". The kid might be "Ricky Racer". I've had "Poor Little Rich Kid" and even a "Rich Bitch".

For those of you with pure hearts, are you getting a bit steamed at me, yet? Look at the next picture and cool off a second. I'll elaborate in a bit. By the way, speaking of photos, these are simply random shots I've taken from classes. None of these folks are in any way, shape, or form, meant to illustrate any particular personality type or label. They are simply photos of students!

Truth be told, there are going to be people who show certain personality traits. There are going to be spoiled rich kids who think they should be passed on through because Daddy has money and influence. There are going to be people who think they know it all. The only reason they show up to class is because they need it to get an endorsement. There are pampered women who expect to be specially catered to. We all know guys whose only concern is appearing macho and cool.

I've been a professional evaluator of human character for over four decades. From law enforcement to corporate management to motorcycle training. Add extra training in things as diverse as psychology, tactical evaluation, human motivation, and so on. Total up the number of employees, customers, and students and the figure will be in the thousands. What it boils down to is that my initial assessments of people are pretty darn accurate.

Knowing that, what are the chances that any of these personality traits are going to prevent me from giving a student ( we'll keep it to motorcycles, here ) my very best in order to help them succeed?

Zero to none. Period.

I make this unspoken promise to a student.

"I probably won't agree with your politics or a number of other things. There's a pretty good chance that we won't be "buds" after this class. In fact, we'll probably never see each other again. However, I will treat you with respect as a person. The same as I would like to be treated. Your success will always be my number one goal. I will use my understanding of your personality type to help me find the best approach for you in my coaching. Even if you have a "difficult" personality type, I will try hard to find something to like so we can relate. This is most likely your one and only shot at professional training and you deserve my very best. My promise is to deliver that."

That promise is kept. Then a very interesting thing happens.

Labels are removed. Individuals emerge in their place. This is no longer "Joe Biker Dude". Now he's Rory, the guy who is kind of insecure and needs to put on a fierce exterior for protection. Once you see past that exterior, Rory's really a caring kind of guy.

"Ricky Racer" is really just Mark. A young guy trying to be cool and impress everybody as young guys are often known to do. Often the one he's most trying to impress is me, the instructor. What Mark's really looking for is approval. He's got great physical coordination and energy but it needs to be funneled in such a way that Mark will benefit from the class. I tell Mark that I'm impressed by some of his qualities. He's the kind of rider the rest of the class will look up to. I help him keep his cool image by encouraging Mark to be a great example for the rest of the class. Whenever the rest of the class needs to see what they should be doing, all they have to do is look at Mark. Hey, it works. 9 times out of 10 a "Mark" will be my buddy for the rest of the course. A little extra praise goes a long ways. Mark gets what his teenage psyche needs and learns in the process.

These are just a couple of examples. The names are made up but represent real people. You can fill in your own stories.

One summer in Roseburg I had a student that looked like the typical biker troublemaker stereotype. I'll never forget him. We'll call him Cody. ( yes, I remember his real name ) After talking with Cody off and on during the first day my assessment was confirmed. Cody basically had a good heart. He'd just been the kind that never excelled socially or academically. In self defense he acted like the tough guy and that had gotten him into trouble off and on. So the cycle continued.

At the end of the first riding day I could tell Cody was bored and a little frustrated at having to follow the rules involved with safety. Day 1 deals with the very basic skills of riding. The guy could ride much better than the other students in this class. Cody was there solely to get legal. I could also see that Cody needed the advanced skills we'd be working on the next day.

Anyway, Cody told me he probably wasn't coming back. This was too much to put up with, according to him. He'd continue to ride unendorsed. I looked at him for a minute. There was a lot I could say. Legalities, consequences, etc. That stuff wouldn't matter. I needed to reach him as a person. Fortunately, I'd made the effort to see the real him. At least as much as I could in the short time I'd known Cody. I shuffled through the responses and picked one. Thus I said,

"Man, Cody, you can't leave now. You're my best guy!"

It was amazing watching Cody's face. I could see the struggle taking place. That stern look was trying desperately to hang on but there was this big, goofy, Golden Retriever grin trying to take over. That grin never really gained hold, but I saw that it was there. Cody looked back at me and said,

"You know, nobody's ever told me that before."

Cody came back the next day. I genuinely liked him by then. Cody also passed the class with flying colors. He got what he needed which were the skills to keep him alive on the streets. I got to feel good about touching another human in a positive way.

Not every story will have a happy ending. Sometimes a jerk is a jerk is a jerk. There are some people I will never reach. The important thing is that I made the effort to see past any label to find the real person underneath. It sounds like this great and noble thing. Forget it. It's not that hard. I'm just a Road Warrior. Certainly nowhere near the likes of Gandhi or Mother Teresa. I'm not even that altruistic.

I am, however, smart enough to follow simple direction. Followed by some effort. Like this quote from Mother Teresa.

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them."

Again, when it comes to philosophical stuff I'm like a bull trying to do needlepoint. I just think the world would be a much better place if people spent more time trying to connect with each other as humans. Remove the labels and see what's really there. We're so much more alike than we are different.

For me, reaching out to help others achieve success is a great way to see past the labels and connect with people as individuals. Again, teaching motorcycle classes has been the perfect vehicle for my personal journey. I consider myself extremely blessed to have found this world. The amount that I have given has been returned to me several times over. In this season of giving I sincerely and humbly hope I've offered something worthwhile to reflect upon.

Miles and smiles,


Friday, November 12, 2010

Motorcycle Restraint.

If you came across this post title on a search engine and surfed over hoping to see some stuff about about B & D, S & M, M & M's, and so on, you'll be disappointed. If you don't know what those letters mean, good for you. I think. You may want to find out for your own protection. Here's a bit of help. M & M's are candy. I just threw those in because they seemed to fit and I wanted to watch myself type. You still need to be wary of the other letters.

For example, you may one day find yourself strolling across an empty parking lot just before dark. Before you a mountain of a man on a red K bike with a Pennsylvania plate pours into a parking space nearby. Pulling off his helmet, you can see his face. It looks innocent. If you look closely, though, you'll see his habitual leer trying to burst out around the edges of that face. You'll see him pull some leather pieces out of the bike's tail trunk. Walking towards you, his innocent look tries to get even more innocent.

"Excuse, me," he says. "I'm making a leather riding garment for a 'friend' and you're about their size. Would you mind trying this on so I can get an idea of how it's gonna fit?"

That's when those letters above should flash like warning signs in your brain. Three other letters should light up in Hi Viz retroreflective yellow-green. R_U_N!!!!!

Ah, but I digress. I should have shown more restraint. Which is, after all, the point of this post. Not the bondage kind, but the mental kind. I know the two are sometimes impossibly tangled in some Twisted ( Roads ) minds, but bear with me. Successful riding often involves exercising restraint.

Isn't it interesting how those of us who ride a lot often find that the line between our riding behaviour and that of our personal lives blurs? I've written this before about riding:

It's who I am. It's what I do.

That isn't meant to be some sort of melodramatic statement. What it means is that I learn things while riding that I can bring back to my life otherwise. I learn things in my life that help me to be successful at riding. I tend to live hard. I spend a lot of time on a bike. Pretty soon the two become almost indistinguishable from each other. Thus my statement about it being who I am.

Learning to exercise restraint is a useful tool. In fact, it's hard to survive long if we don't. Here's an example or two from a couple of days spent riding for work this week.

I know, this is a baby toy. It's stretched across the front of Ryan's car seat. If you push one of the frog's eyes the thing plays one of three songs. Every kid seems to need to take some portable tunes along for the ride these days. I call it Ryan's iFrog. Anyway, the batteries were wearing down. I decided to stop and get some new ones while I was out and about riding for work.

Ryan's mother is a little annoyed by the iFrog. However, Ryan's mother is also my daughter. So the amount of restraint I needed to show was a little less than one might normally expect. Just like in riding it's all a matter of calculated risk. I figured the odds were in my favor so I went for it.

Ok, ok. I can hear what you're thinking. Show some restraint of your own, already. Don't tell me you've never done something similar. I can see the horns poking out of your halo.

Here's Elvira behind Gateway Mall in Springfield. You will notice she is not alone. The van wasn't there when I arrived. In fact, there was no other vehicles around me. That's one of the reasons I chose this spot. I also figured that the curb and the trees would encourage people to park elsewhere more convenient for getting out of their car. It was actually a cold and gray day but I was shooting in Raw format and warmed the picture up a bit in Photoshop. Makes the contrast between the black bike and white van a little easier on the eyes.

I'm heading back to the bike with batteries in hand and a couple of laps around the mall worn off my riding boots. I try to get some exercise besides pushing my luck. Staying in some sort of shape helps with riding a motorcycle. Round is a shape but it's one I'm trying to avoid. It's another example of how exercising restraint helps one to be a successful rider. I'm trying to push away from the table a bit earlier these days.

Anyway, I'm in my riding gear and carrying my helmet. Halfway between the mall and my bike I encounter this old man. He puts his hand up and slaps me on the shoulder. Then he tells me he parked behind my bike to help protect it. Or some such bulls**t. So now I have a choice of how to respond.

Several options cross my mind. One of which is to warn the guy that if he ever touches me like that again he and his arm will be going home in separate bags. Plus some other things that I won't mention because I don't want to have to put a parental warning on my blog.

What I actually do is force a smile and walk on by without saying anything. Who knows? Maybe the old guy was some shell shocked veteran like in yesterday's post. It wouldn't really have done any good, anyway.

The same thing happens on a bike, doesn't it? We always have to weigh the return versus the cost. Another driver does something that offends us. Then it's decision time. You know what I'm saying. You see what I mean about riding and life being intertwined? In either case it's a question of how far past the end of our noses we look.

Incidentally, when I was taking a picture of the van and Elvira I saw this old white poodle in the front passenger seat of the van. It saw me and drooped down into the seat. Kind of like,

"Hey, don't look at me. I only work here and I'm just trying to live out my days in some sort of peace and comfort."

I assured the poodle that I wasn't holding it responsible for its owner's behaviour. It look relieved and promptly settled back into napping on the seat.

Here's another example of learning restraint from riding that proves valuable in life.

Those of you with a romantic flair might think I was buying flowers for Katie. The floral shop is empty and Katie hates to watch the flowers die. Just concentrate on the parking space. This is downtown Corvallis. There's one word spray painted on the street next to the yellow curb. It simply says "cycles". Presumably it's for bicycles judging by the rack on the sidewalk but I would argue that Elvira is a cycle. Don't know how parking enforcement could win that argument.

I like the spot because there's elbow room. Parking and walking is just fine by me. I think it was Robert Frost that said:

"I'd rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than to be crowded on a velvet couch."

Anyway, the point is that riding reminds me of the value of living simply. I'm not saying that a person shouldn't have "stuff". What I'm talking about is showing restraint in not dedicating our life to the pursuit of "stuff". It's hard not to live simply when riding. We simply can't take much with us. It's us and our surroundings. Leaves some concentration for things like the way the air feels, the way things look in different lighting, and so on. For me, that's the value of living simply. The ability to immerse myself in the journey. I pray to never lose the wonder of seeing all the small and beautiful things around me. Both in riding and in life. Again, the bond between the two.

Looking across the street I watch this woman in a Mercedes finally pull into a parking space. She has circled the block a few times waiting for a spot close to her destination to open up.

There was another empty spot when I took this picture later. When I first saw her things were more crowded. It's always hard to know where another person is coming from as a casual observer. To me it didn't look like she had any trouble walking. She looked about my age but was much better looking! Of course, helmet hair always puts one at a disadvantage. I could be totally wrong but it seemed her and I were approaching the morning from opposite viewpoints.

It was time to get some coffee and return some phone calls. Some of you may have noticed the Starbucks at the far right of the block. That wasn't where I went. I know that's my usual modus operandi as evidenced by this picture I took on Wednesday at Washington Square. It was 48 degrees (f) before windchill. Hot coffee was welcome as I made some phone calls.

Just because I USUALLY stop there doesn't mean I ALWAYS go there. If you want to get your exercise by jumping to conclusions, that's okay by me, though. A couple of doors to the left of Starbucks is the New York Bagel shop. I sat outside with a cup of coffee and a toasted chocolate chip bagel. Restraint is a fine thing but one shouldn't get carried away with it.

I find it fascinating to reflect on how my riding and life have become so entwined. For some people riding a motorcycle is a hobby or a sport. For me it's a way of life. More accurately, it's a major part of my life. It's been a journey of over four decades so far. I hope it continues for a while longer, yet.

Saturday will see me winging towards Hartford, Connecticut. That's where corporate headquarters is located for the USA divisions. I've been invited for a week's worth of management training. I probably won't post but the G11 will get a workout. Stay tuned for later.

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thoughts for this day.

Somebody sent this to me today. Fitting for the date, I thought I would pass it along. Paying it forward, as it were. I've changed the wording a bit to include the women who have, and are, serving.

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.

Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, A piece of shrapnel in the leg or perhaps another sort of inner steel: The soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem. You can't tell a vet just by looking.

What is a vet?

She or he is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She or he is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Danang.

She or he is the POW who went away one person and came back another or didn't come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.

He is the parade riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

She or he is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor remains unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket, aggravatingly slowly, who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

She or he is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being, a person who offered some of their life's most vital years in the service of their country, and who sacrificed their ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

She or he is a Soldier, Marine, Sailor or Airman, and also a savior and a sword against the darkness, and is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember this each time you see someone who has served our country. When you see one just lean over and say "Thank You".

That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU".

God Bless Our Veterans!

I realize there are a lot of you reading this blog from outside the United States. Thank you for that. No matter where we live we are all members of the human family. It's to that extended family that I pass this along.

May governments soon find a way to settle their differences peacefully.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Growing up.

Some pics I snapped at our mall last night.

May they always be honored. May God bless their families. May the coming generations find a better way.

Miles and memories,


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Group Ride Questions.

It seems I'm continually either running headfirst into large frying pans or riding with my butt on fire. With a personality like mine, being in some sort of trouble is pretty routine. True to form I stepped into it again recently. This time the person holding the torch to my rear was The Director of our motorcycle safety program. And you thought I was Teacher's Pet all this time, didn't you?

I'm going to share the story but the point of the post is to solicit feedback from you all. This has to do with group riding. What happened with us was symptomatic of what often happens with many group rides. As leaders in motorcycle safety we feel a responsibility to do right by all riders. Group riding isn't something we really address in our classes. We think perhaps it might be time we start. In particular, the question is how to balance the aspect of "riding your own ride" versus the social aspect of riding together as a group.

Briefly, the background is this.

We have a group of about 11 instructors who make up what we currently call the Leadership Council. The objective is to work for the good of the instructor body. We meet once a month. Members are spread across the state so some attend by means of a telephone conference call. Those of us in the Willamette Valley try to ride to a community college in Salem where we use a meeting room. This story is about the ride home after a meeting.

There are five of us. Three instructors and two staff members. One staff member is the Training Manager and the other is The Director. Between us there are three Honda ST1300's, a BMW 1150GS, and Elvira.

It's time to depart and I take off first. We haven't really stated that this will be a group ride. On the other hand, we're all headed South so it's probably presumed.

The night is clear and brisk at 9:30 PM. We've decided to take the freeway home. The freeway onramp from Portland Road is a very large decreasing radius curve. Let's just say I reveled in the experience, closely followed by the other riders. As The Director put it, "The four of you ahead of me on the ramp down to I-5 was a thing of beauty". His next comments wouldn't be so complimentary.

In the interests of saving space in this post, the rest of the story condenses to this.

I set a pace that was brisk but prudent. It ended up being three of us in our own faster group. The Director was riding sweep. The fourth rider in line was a man who has years of experience. He just isn't comfortable riding very quickly at night due to vision problems. So he gradually dropped back, smart enough to ride his own ride. The Director dropped back to stay with this guy. Our group ride ended up being two separate groups instead of one.

The three of us in the lead received an e-mail the next day. The Director was not pleased. Especially with me, having been the leader. This isn't about our particular ride. Like I wrote in the beginning, what we experienced is symptomatic of other group rides.

More and more people are getting into riding for the social aspect. When they ride together, it's because they want to ride together. That means being with the larger group. They don't want to ride alone.

Several problems arise. We've seen cases where riders in a group get so focused on the other bikes they miss hazards. Case in point the big crash involving the Brothers Speed in our neck of the woods. Wanting to be a part of the group, less experienced or less skilled riders tend to ride over their heads and get into trouble.

Our admonition has always been to "ride your own ride". The down side to that is slower riders who try to do this often get left behind. Faster riders tend to not want to always be riding slowly on group rides. There are many different comfort levels and skill levels among a group of any size. Balancing these differences with the social aspect of a group ride often conflict.

There have been those who say newer riders should be at the front. I think this puts unfair pressure on these riders. Sometimes just the riding alone can be enough for the newer riders to deal with. Let alone finding the way and feeling the pressure of holding other riders up.

If the slower riders are at the back they often get left behind. If they are in the middle, the group tends to get really spread out. Then there are those who allow too much following distance. When the group slows down these ones allow more distance. So the group thinks they are losing these riders so they slow down more. Then those who allow too much following distance back off more. You can see where this is going.

When I was a Road Captain ( not HOG ) I would set up an itinerary. It listed the route as well as where the planned stops were located. Riders would often split into smaller groups knowing that the larger group would reconnect at certain times. This allowed riders of like skills and interests to ride together while still maintaining social contact. Nobody felt pressure from feeling like they would be left behind if they didn't keep up.

I also know that many groups want to stay together as one big bunch of riders. In this case, it seems the leader should set a pace that accomodates the whole group. Everyone in the group should be responsible for the following rider and slow as needed to ensure contact is kept. It should be accepted by all on the ride that the pace will be one that is comfortable for the newer riders. Which can often mean it will be slower than some riders might normally ride at. If the goal is to have a social group then this aspect should take precedence.

Granted, that might not always work out. So here are my questions.

Road conditions change. Dry roads get wet. Straight roads turn into curvy ones. How does the group know how fast is fast enough for the slowest rider at any given time?

How do we help newer or riders with lower comfort levels be comfortable enough to be honest about the matter? Pride or risk of embarrassment can cause riders to ride over their heads.

How do we hold riders accountable for riding their own rides even on a group ride? Or educate them on what this means?

Sometimes formal "training" doesn't seem to reach riders. Is there a more effective way to reach riders by means of their peers or leaders like HOG Road Captains?

I'd really appreciate your thoughts on this. Take as much space in the comments section as you feel you need. It's an area that's causing problems and fatalities for riders. It needs to be addressed.

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chill the Attitude; Stay Alive.

This post started with an e-mail from my friend Dean W. Here's what he said:

"Lesson: After applying SIPDE, let it go, man. Just let it go."

This was a preface to a news story from Canada. Here's the story quoted from the CBC News website:

Two people are dead after a motorcycle crash in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island.

Police say the crash happened at about 3:30 p.m. PT Saturday on the Nanaimo Parkway, between the Jinglepot Road and College Drive exits.

The 17-year-old driver of a pickup truck went to change lanes when he spotted a motorcycle in his blind spot.

The driver of the truck corrected, police say, but the 51-year-old motorcycle driver pulled up beside the pickup and glared at the teen inside.

During this exchange, police say, the motorcycle driver failed to negotiate a curve in the road and crashed.

The motorcycle driver and his 40-year-old female passenger were taken to hospital where they both later died.

Isn't that often how it goes? I'm deeply grieved by the fact that two people died in this incident. I can almost see myself in this situation. Trying to scorch the young man with my hot glare. Focusing my laser beam eyes so intently that I miss important stuff. Like the upcoming corner.

I'm a bit aggressive and borderline combative by nature. Thus I have to continuously remind myself of one of my mantras.

"The Anger Demon, once unleased, can often turn upon he whom freed it."

On the off chance that you're not aware of the term SIPDE here is the quick explanation. It's the process for gathering good information and making good decisions while riding.

Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute.

Notice that four of the five parts are mental skills. The objective is to use the 80% that's mental to make small adjustments ahead of time, thus staying out of critical trouble. Which goes along with our definition of an expert rider.

"An expert rider is one who uses expert mental skills to avoid using expert physical skills."

Successful riding is mostly mental. Which means attitude is almost everything.

Katie and I found ourselves in Washington State on Friday and Saturday last week. I've always wanted to stop at one of the big Cabela's stores. I've seen two. One on the Washington / Idaho border on I-90 and one at Lacey, Washington just off I-5. We stopped at the Lacey store on Saturday. What a place!

Thinking of this post I snapped some shots with the G11.

We share the road with some lumbering creatures who seem to be in no hurry whatsoever. They don't have to be large sized in actuality. They simply have this attitude that blocking the pathway is their right. These creatures are usually found in the fast lane going the same speed as those in the slow lane.

There are those who think they become invincible in their vehicles. These ones do things that they wouldn't do outside of a car. In other words, face to face with us they would shrink in horror. Somehow they've convinced themselves that they are shrink wrapped with impenetrable armor. I always have to fight the impulse to drag them out of their vehicles and smack them around a bit.

A lot of drivers just seem like dumb herd animals. You can see their eyes but it's a sure bet there's nobody inside there. Weirdly enough, this kind of driver is pretty effective at hitting motorcyclists. They disguise themselves as left-turning drivers. We should all know better but still seem to trust eye contact. Pity.

It's so easy to get pissed off at those who show such selfish stupidity. Stupid and Selfish are the two traits that get me the most riled. Yet, they are also the two that are least likely to be fixed. You know the saying. "You can't fix stupid."

Yet, I can't bring myself to say that there's nothing that can be done about it. Ninety percent of the drivers seem to fit into one or both of those categories. If I shrug my shoulders in a gesture of giving up, what does that say about the human race? So I keep on getting mad and frustrated. It has to stay inside, though. I'm more than capable of being like the lion below and letting it show. The lion's got a pretty fierce look going, for sure. Trouble is, all his attention is on the intended victim.

That's when we miss stuff, though. Nothing important. Just things like oncoming traffic, cars itching to pull out in front of us, and upcoming corners!

We certainly need to be assertive. On the other hand, we have to keep it in check when appropriate. I like to think of it as controlled aggression.

One choice we might make is to rear up like this bear. Intimidating and dangerous. Sometimes the danger is to us, though.

The best choice is to be like this seal. Thick skinned and letting stuff slide off like water on its hide.

The trick is to not actually look like a seal. Chill the attitude and keep the cool. After all, we still gotta look good!

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Philosopher Muses

Haven't posted much lately. Maybe you've noticed. Maybe you haven't. I've lurked a bit on other sites but that's been scarce, too. I'm feeling a little drained and borderline burnt out these days. Trying to keep too many candles lit at once can require more fuel than a person has. Then the wax all runs together. A bunch of pathetic small flames seems a poor way to light a room. Better to have just a few bright flames. A lesson I can never seem to internalize.

Had a birthday last month. That and other circumstances conspired to give me pause for a while. Been on the road a lot. Plenty of time to think. Maybe too much. I've never really had a mid-life crisis. Lately I can understand the feelings associated with one. What have I accomplished? What's important these days? Do I have anything worthwhile left to say? Questions that spin through one's head like laundry in the spin cycle. For what it's worth, here's a few musings. Food for thought or not. The Warrior has temporarily turned into the Philosopher.

Enjoy Today

One has to plan for tomorrow and the days that follow. Goals and ambitions are important, certainly. We need that guiding beacon to set our course by. The trick is to remember to enjoy Today. Don't make the mistake of letting this one go by thinking there will be time later to enjoy. Plans can get changed for us.

I'm teaching Ryan to roar. Disney's movie "The Jungle Book" has been a favorite among our family. Sometimes Katie calls me Baloo the Bear. Not sure if it's a compliment or not! We call Ryan "Man Cub". Grandpa Baloo is teaching Man Cub to do a "big bear growl". Here he is in the middle of one.

Interesting how one day we can be in the middle of a full roar. Suddenly we find ourselves more like this.

One minute we can be at full throttle. The next minute we're wondering "what the heck just happened here?" Just that fast something happens that changes our life for days, weeks, or forever. Carpe diem.

Take time out

There are a lot of demands on our time. Most of them are important things that deserve our attention. So we keep going like some sort of demented Energizer Bunny. Do you ever feel like this, though?

I have, lately. I just don't want to hear any more. My batteries desperately need re-charging. That's one of the reasons I backed away from blogging for a bit. Something has to give somewhere. We all need a little more of this kind of thing.

I think we lose our effectiveness without sufficient time for self-restoration. It might seem selfish to insist on some time for ourselves. On the other hand, is it fair to others to give them our half-hearted attention? Our intentions are good but if sub-standard is all we can muster we're robbing them, so to speak. Think of down time as an investment in others, if it helps put things into perspective. Now I just have to convince myself of that.

Did you notice two helmets in the photo? That brings me to the next thought.

Value friends

Pretty much everyone has friends. Even if they have to buy them! Seriously, though, as I talk with people I find a common theme emerge. People express how they value friendships. What's missing is letting their friends know that. It's really important to let others know how much we value their friendship. Nobody should be left wondering.

I've been there. I know how I feel about somebody. Sometimes I've been left wondering how they really feel.

Katie and I have always been best friends. I've been truly blessed by her support over the last few weeks. Tomorrow is our 33rd anniversary. Let the record show that the defendent remembered!

What next?

That is sometimes a useful question to ask. I watched a Dock Dog competition for a while. It was being filmed for ESPN as it happened. By pointing the camera lense between the heads of other onlookers, I managed to get a few shots of my own. Check out this one.

This is the high jump competition. The dogs leap off the end of an astroturf covered dock and try to grab the decoy. Using the burst mode of the camera I've captured the moment of triumph.

Like the dogs, I tend to reach ever higher. I'm one of those people who always seem to need a carrot hanging just out of reach. Once I grab that one it's on to the next one. When there are no more carrots I get bored. Typical over achiever. I've actually mastered a lot of things and risen to a pretty high level in many. Then comes the question.

What next?

I could have cloned out the ESPN camera but didn't want to work that hard. The dog is headed ass first for the water. He'll have to swim over to the ramp and climb out. Soaking wet. Then somebody is going to take away his prize. Next time the decoy will be higher yet. During the time I watched I never saw a dog refuse to go for it. Despite the fact that stretching out on the dock and enjoying the afternoon sun might be more enjoyable. Maybe the conquest is its own reward.

Works that way for me. Ego plays a role. Big surprise, isn't it? Self development and realization play a role. After you work your ass off to achieve a new skill set guess what happens?

More is expected of you. I find the more skills I acquire the more I end up working because I can do more. More, more, more. Not always a word I want to hear.

We babysit Ryan during the week. Every morning at 6:30 my daughter drops him off. I'm usually still home so I get to see her every day. A hug from your daughter is a great way to start the day. Sometimes Ryan is still here when I get home. He waves his arms, all excited to see me. Then he usually wants me to hold him. That recognition is starting to mean a whole lot more to me than anything I've achieved secularly.

Accomplishments are great. Self improvement is important. I'm not saying we shouldn't strive for those kinds of things. Still, though, balance is needed. It can be hard to achieve.

Yes, it's pretty cool to be a Legend. It's even better being a hero to your kids!

Catch you later.

Miles and smiles,


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Clean air rule?

Snapped this photo at a weigh station just south of Fort Lewis in Washington State on Wednesday. Must be a single purpose portable toilet. Probably smells better, too, though I didn't check it out. I fear the regulations regarding greenhouse gases, carbon footprint, ozone layer, and so on have gone just a bit too far.

Miles and smiles,