Thursday, April 29, 2010

Eyes of the heart

I'm working on a training post that's taking a bit longer then expected. In the meantime I wanted to share this sign and the romantic message.

This sign is a historic landmark. Between Albany and Corvallis on Highway 20 there used to be a drive-in theatre. Named, appropriately enough, the Midway Theatre. Grandma worked at a restaurant in Corvallis when I was a kid. I remember riding past this sign many, many times with Grandpa when we'd take Grandma to work.

The theatre is no longer in existence but somebody saved the sign. It's now on the side of a building in downtown Corvallis.

Enjoy. I hope the message makes you smile.

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nailed twice. What next?

Since Sunday I've had a close encounter with a young woman and lost an aspect of my virginity. Due to the fact that both of us had adequate protection there really weren't any lasting consequences of the close encounter. Now that I have the attention of the deviates out there, I'll also tell you that the last part of the first sentence didn't have anything to do with the young woman.

Like the title of this post says, I've been nailed twice in the last three days. Not a promising week.

Katie had something of her own going on Sunday so I rode up to Salem to take some photos of a riding class. Thus Elvira found herself sitting on the edge of a range near some festive banners.

I think I look pretty cool riding Elvira, by the way. However, here's a shot of my good friend Dean W showing us how to really look cool on an FJR.

Dean and Don were teaching a different class in the afternoon session. I was photograhing a morning group. I'm pretty sure that if I were one of their students I'd toe the line. They look pretty intimidating, don't they?

Somewhere in the process I glanced over at Elvira's rear tire. Looking at my tires seems to have become an ingrained habit that I do without really even thinking about it. I discovered something in my tire that I've never had to deal with before. A nail head flush with the surface of the tire.

Weirdly enough, I've never had a nail in a motorcycle tire before. At least not on a street bike. One time I was riding on the freeway and got a flat on the front tire. That was due to a valve stem that disintegrated. Never a sharp object, though. I've officially lost my "nail in the tire" virginity. Sunday was the first time I was nailed.

Dean and I both looked at the situation and decided the tire was still holding air. I abandoned my plan for a long ride home in favor of the direct route. Forty minutes later and the bike was back home where I just parked it for a bit. The plan was to ride it to a dealer where the tire could be replaced if it leaked when the nail was pulled. Put the bike on the back burner for a bit.

Thus explains how I happened to be in the car yesterday headed up the freeway to Portland. Most dealers are closed on Monday around here and my schedule didn't allow me to take the bike in until this morning.

Traffic is always bad in Portland. Yesterday was worse than normal. According to the traffic reports on the radio there had been several motor vehicle accidents around the area. Everything was clogged up. One of those "you can't get there from here" days. We were doing the stop and go thing through the Terwilliger Curves. This is a fiendishly bad part of the freeway. Crawling along is the norm, accidents or no.

Once in a while we'd get up to a speed that would make you giddy with the thrill. Yes, I actually saw 23 mph for a short stretch. All good things must come to an end and so did my forward progress. I stopped once more, leaving a fair amount of space between me and the car ahead. One of these days over a couple of beers I'll tell you the story about a rookie deputy and a training sergeant. Always leave yourself some room.

Another great habit is to always watch the mirrors. Especially when coming to a stop in traffic. My glance revealed a young woman driving a grey Jeep Cherokee. The good news is that she wasn't tailgating. The bad news is that she was looking down. I'm pretty sure that's not the proper direction to be looking in when driving in stop and go traffic.

Actually, it was sort of entertaining. Right up until she hit me, that is.

Seriously, it was funny to watch her face when she finally looked up. Her eyes got wide which told me I now had her full attention. I have to give her full credit for quick reflexes. No sooner had her upper eyelids disappeared into her forehead then the front of the Jeep started a steep nosedive. At this point I was more an observer than a participant. Though I did have one card I could play at the right time.

If I'd been on the bike, I'd have been out of there by now. We were in the hammer lane. There was plenty of warning due to being diligent in checking the mirrors. To my right was room to split the lane between the two rows of cars. To my left was a narrow shoulder between the car ahead of me and the concrete barrier. I'd left room ahead of me to maneuver. It was a great recipe for success but it lacked one vital ingredient. The motorcycle. Sedans don't lane split worth beans. Being in a car took away those options. Dang, I hate it when that happens!

So I watched and waited. The description takes much longer than the reality. Wait for it. Wait for it. Now! As soon as I felt the first impact I let off the brake and let my car roll forward. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In this case it was just enough to significantly reduce the impact. Often our instinct is to jam our foot on the brake pedal and brace for impact. That may be the correct thing at the time. Or not. Better to go with reason instead of instinct.

The impact over, time to assess the damage and talk to the other driver. One never knows for sure, but sitting in the car I figured that in a collision between a mid-sized sedan and a big Jeep SUV, the sedan would get the worst of it. The girl and I looked at our vehicles while exchanging information. She was quite chagrined and apologetic. More importantly, she has current insurance! Which we most likely won't need. All said and done, there was no mark on her Jeep. My car has the outline of her license plate frame on the bumper.

After giving it a scrub last night there's just a few dark marks and a slight crease along where the top of the plate frame hit. It's not worth the extra hassle to me to proceed any further with the situation.

As to the nail in the tire? I rode in the rain this morning to Fred's Honda to see Buzz. We pulled the nail out partway while spraying soapy water on the spot. Lots of bubbles!

Buzz offered to plug the tire for me but I turned him down. The tire's only about half worn but there's too much at stake for me to trust a plug. Besides, the first session of police motor training is coming up in a month. I'm pretty sure I'll be asking a lot of my tires!

So I'm doomed to drive for the next couple of days while I wait for the new tire. I can live with that. What sort of worries me is the old saying that these things come in threes. What's next?

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Traveling with "The Show".

On the off chance that anybody noticed I haven't been posting lately, I thought I might share where I've been. The last week and a half has been a hectic blur. Of the past eleven nights I've spent eight in hotel rooms. It's been fun but it's also great to be home and sort of settled, again!

This doesn't actually have anything to do with motorcycling except for the fact that it's how I support my habit.

As you might have gathered by now, I am a manufacturer's rep. Specifically in the door, hardware, and security field. My boss is under contract with a large corporation which owns half the hardware world. Seriously. They own something like 150 companies around the world. We represent around two dozen brands.

The corporation has organized a traveling show they call the Mobile Innovation Showroom. With the economy being the way it is, people aren't traveling to regional trade shows like they used to. So we are now bringing the goods to the people. It's really a class act. Corporate bought a big rig and stuffed it full of our products. The truck is making the rounds of the United States. We had it for a few stops.

At each location we have invited end users, architects, and distributors to attend. A fancy hotel is picked at each stop and the truck is in the parking lot. Inside the hotel we set up rooms for workshops, eating, and a product expo. After taking a tour of the truck the attendees visit the product expo then move onto presentations and other events.

My job has been to conduct truck tours along with my cohort Brian. We ran a hundred people a day through the truck in groups of 8 to 10. Each tour is a half hour long. Fifteen minutes up one side of the trailer which showcases all the electronic goodies, and fifteen minutes down the other side which showcases design and life safety items. I work one side while Brian works the other. Whoever is working the electronic side hands the group off to the one working the design side. Right about that time a new group enters the trailer on the electronics side. It's quite the process.

Our job is to generate excitement for the products. Once the group leaves the trailer they are turned loose in the product expo to ask questions and find out more about the products they've just seen. Conveniently, the product expo has a lot of the same items on display as the trailer does. Besides generating excitement, our task is to stay on time. The whole schedule depends on the tour timing. If we get bogged down so does everything else. It's fun but draining. Not to mention hard on the voice. My experience as a motorcycle instructor comes in handy for that part.

I'm pleased to say we rocked!

Anyway, here's some snapshots I took during the rush.

The truck is awesome. The trailer has a slide-out on one side which nearly doubles the inside space. In the next few photos you can see the trailer both inside and out.

The man in the photo below is Lester, the corporate genius in charge of product development for the electronic side. We had a lot of corporate bigwigs showing up and tagging along on tours. No pressure, mind you!

Actually, this guy is pretty down to earth. One night we all went to supper at a sports bar. Lester was sitting on my left. He ordered sauteed shrimp with a green salad. Which was on the menu, surprisingly. Then Lester asked for blue cheese crumbles on his salad. The waitress gave him a funny look. I said to Lester, "Dude, you're in a bar!" He saw the humor and laughed. Damned if they didn't come up with the crumbles! It will take a bit for me to live that one down. By the way, I ordered a California Burger with onion rings to go with my Black Butte Porter beer. That's proper bar food!

Those doors on the left are full sized doors hanging in frames. They actually open and close. It's amazing!

This is a neat little chamber at the front of the trailer. To the left inside is our full hurricane rated door assembly. To the right is a system for school classroom security with a pane of glass that turns opaque when a switch is flipped and puts an electric current through it. At the back is a fire exit assembly that lights up in the dark, has a voice command directing people to the exit, and fires off a cone shaped green laser beam for navigational purposes in a smoke filled room. By the way, the trailer was designed with a way to fill this small room full of smoke for the purposes of demonstration. The exhaust system doesn't work all that well so we used smoke in a can. Taking folks on a tour of a smoke filled trailer probably isn't the best PR!

We stayed at some first class hotels. This one had a waterfall in the restaurant.

We were forced to endure great buffet spreads. Here is my cohort Brian refilling his fuel tank after a grueling morning of playing tour guide. The big tray to his right is heaped with sliced meat of several varieties for making sandwiches. Behind him is a table burdened down with desserts. Of course, in order to make sure the table didn't collapse, we had to help eat some of the desserts.

At one of the hotels there was a big Aflac meeting in a room next to one of ours. Yes, they actually do "quack" once in a while.

This was at a Hilton Hotel in Bellevue, Washington.

In the photo below the guy is a regional director for the corporation. His territory is pretty much everything West of the Rockies. I don't feel the pressure. In fact, I harrassed him about being such a preppie!

The gal is from Denver. She works for an electronics company that we partner with for software interfaces in our equipment. Her company had a table at the product expo. Interestingly, at our suppers she would sit either next to me or across from me. I would like to think it was my manliness and magnetism that drew her to me. Mostly, though, I think it was because she was so far from home and alone and wanted the security of a father figure. Either way, she is great company and as sharp as a razor blade.

As if the late nights, early mornings, and hectic days of the traveling show wasn't enough, Brian and I peeled off afterwards to man a booth at a vendor show for the school facility managers throughout Oregon. You might think Brian is just showing the effects of a really tough schedule. In reality, I asked Brian to act naturally for the snapshot. You are actually seeing his natural state!

Friday brought a chance to be home for a bit to gather some things up the weekend. After Ryan's Daddy picked him up, Katie and I headed for Portland. Two more hotel nights. I conducted some "train the trainer" sessions over the weekend. Talk about a glutton for punishment, I guess. It was a pretty rewarding two days so well worth it.

I hadn't seen Ryan for almost a week and was having baby picture withdrawal. There was time for a quick photo fix, fortunately. More like a quick snapshot but the expression was cute. I guess he was glad to see me, too!

I'm hoping life will settle down and be more or less normal for the next bit. It's time to get back to motorcycle stuff again!

Miles and smiles,


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Another justification for good gear.

We all know that top notch gear like the Aerostich Roadcrafter, a top of the line full face helmet, and such are valuable investments. Increased weather protection makes if more comfortable, and thus safer, when riding. Maximum protection is provided ( God forbid! ) when....... Not to mention that we look stylish and good! I know I get much better looking in a full face helmet, for example.

I know price is an issue. It can be a struggle to get the wallet to open a bit wider. There might be an issue with getting a Significant Other on board with the purchase decision. Sometimes we need just a little bit more of a reason to buy other than what I mentioned in the first paragraph. So, in the interest of helping out in that regard, I offer the following.

Multi-tasker. That's right. Value for the money. More than one usage that helps justify a purchase. That little bit of extra ammunition to seal the deal.

Thinking outside the box, I offer another use for top of the line riding gear.

I sincerely hope this helps.

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Beating the House.

My last post had a link to an article about aging Road Warriors being highly represented in severe injuries and fatalities due to motorcycle accidents. It can seem depressing at first glance. There are many factors we don't know about in the study. There is also a lot we can do to keep the odds in our favor. Keeping our skill levels up, for example, can help us "beat the house". I use that term on purpose because I don't like the idea of leaving my well being up to random chance.

Factors we don't know about include the type of experience the riders have. We don't know much about the training levels of the riders. We don't know about attitudes. How many of the minimal gear, water hole to water hole riders are represented? These things I don't see listed in the report.

What I do know, based on my personal experience as a professional rider and trainer, is that a lot of riders don't take riding as seriously as they should. There's a variety of reasons for that but the end result is often the same. Different pathways leading to the same destination.

I try to find ways to impress upon riders the need to take training and skill development seriously. The old "Blood on the Asphalt" scare tactics don't seem to have much of an impact, pun intended. People always think it won't happen to them, anyway. Legislation regarding mandatory gear usage and punitive measures don't seem to be all that effective, either. Yes, there's a positive effect, but not like one might expect.

The big key is to influence and shape attitudes. That's where I put a lot of my efforts. Having the right attitude towards physical and mental riding skills will help us to "beat the house". Knowing the game so well that we can actually bend the odds in our favor is the goal. Better yet, I prefer to stack the deck. To take chance out of the equation and control the situation to the farthest extent I can. The trouble with trying to shape attitudes is in trying to find ways to get the point across to riders. In a positive and motivating way.

Recently I came across something written by Keith Code. He was talking about the width of racetracks versus the width of the streets we travel when in the real world. It ocurred to me that this line of thinking is a great way to help get the point across about taking our street riding seriously.

We always admire people who race motorcycles. We often think of them as having such great skills, don't we? The speeds they reach while racing are awe inspiring when you think about it. Imagine controlling a motorcycle so precisely while at those speeds in corners. Interestingly, a lot of young riders want to be just like the racers. Maybe this is a way to relate.

Not to take anything away from these riders, but they have a lot going in their favor. Street riders, on the other hand, actually have to be more precise. Think about this angle for a minute. As a starting point, take a look at this picture. A typical country road. This is a straight stretch between two curves.

Keith was talking about how a race track can be 30 to 40 feet wide. A typical lane of a roadway is 10 to 12 feet, depending. I prefer to go to the narrow side because we need to keep little things like our head and upper body in our own lane while leaned over in a curve.

Our lane is only a fourth or a third as wide as the track. So the upshot, based on physical distance, is that a street rider needs to be three to four times better and more precise at cornering than a racer. Yes, I know this is simplified. Speeds are higher on a track. On the other hand, it's a controlled environment. The street is more like controlled chaos so that has to count for something. The point isn't to directly compare racing and street riding.

The point is to offer another way to think about street riding. More importantly, to ponder the seriousness of developing expert physical and mental skills in riding. Precision. It's how we continue to "beat the house". Even as we become aging Road Warriors!

Miles and smiles,


Monday, April 05, 2010

Aging Road Warriors

One of our instructors passed this article along via our e-mail list. The article talks about a study that shows the proportions of riders over 40 versus those under 40 represented in fatal motorcycle accidents.

Interestingly, I find myself right smack in the middle of the second group. I call myself a Road Warrior. Yes, you'd have to add the qualifier "aging". Let's see, I guess that makes me one of those Aging Road Warriors.

I'm certainly not going to quit riding. However, it would be wise to be aware of how things change as we "mature" and ride accordingly. I'm blessed to be constantly in training which I feel helps keep me ahead of the game.

This could also serve as another argument to partake more frequently in practice, be it on our own or in a formal setting. Yes, we know these things. Good quality knives still need sharpening.

To put it another way. If we get to the point where we can't hit the chisel as hard as we used to with the hammer, we need to keep the chisel sharper!

Anyway, here's the article. Use it as a reminder to keep your skills sharp. Especially the mental ones!

Miles and smiles,


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Couldn't resist!

10 weeks old, now.

We bought an umbrella stroller. Took him with us to get a sandwich at the mall. This is his first outing with us. My daughter says he looks just like his Daddy at the mall. "Are we done, yet?"

Miles and smiles,


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Images from a weekend.

This has been my life the past week or so. Just a running blur. Mixed in between were a couple of training classes. I thought it might be fun to share a few images from the classes with you. The photos are actually from two classes despite the post title. "Images from two weekends" just didn't flow right!

I'm sure it's no surprise that I have an ego. A pretty big one, actually. It's something I try to leave at home when I'm teaching students or training instructors. Yes, I'm darn good at a number of things. Riding a motorcycle being one of them. However, training is about "them", not "me". An ego can get in the way. So I suppress mine. Interestingly, sometimes it's somebody else doing it for me. Take the first night of class, for example.

In this case it was Thursday night. Sometime right after lunch on Thursday the skies started dumping rain. Having been out in the rain all afternoon, I rode to class. So, if you're a new motorcycle student, wouldn't it be important for your instructor to have credibility as a rider? At least, that's my story.....

Truth be told, most of the students don't even notice or care. They are so inwardly involved with their own processes there's not much attention left for anything else. Obviously, it's important for an instructor to have their students trust them, but that happens during the class. It doesn't really matter if the instructor rides or not. To the students, anyway.

I just like having the reputation of a rough, tough, hardcore rider. I suffer a lot in nasty weather to keep and enhance that reputation. Maybe I rode in the nasty rain and wind just to show off. Did I mention I have an ego? Well, my ego was just about to be shattered.

Pulling into the lot near the classroom I spot a familiar bike. Perhaps you will recognize it, as well.

There was the 250 Rebel belonging to Balisada. She has a picture of our two bikes on her April 1 blog post. Balisada says she was riding because her truck had a flat tire. Let me tell you, I see her out on a bike in all kinds of weather. Pretty darn often, too. I even have photos of her riding the Rebel on a track during our Advanced Rider Training class.

I was instantly humbled. My Grandfather used to quell my youthful boasting with a couple of things. As if he should counsel me about boasting! Anyway, one of his stories was about a sturgeon and a hen.

He would tell me how a sturgeon would lay thousands of eggs but nobody knew it. The work happened deep under the water in the dark. A hen would lay one egg then run around the farm flapping her beak about it. The hen got the most attention, but which one really accomplished the most?

Weird story, isn't it? Guess you had to be raised a cowboy to understand. Right afterwards, Gramp would remind me of how it was the empty barrel that made the most noise.

One of us boasts a bit on our blog and the other one just quietly goes about her business. Who's really hardcore, after all? I hereby bestow upon Balisada the new title of Iron Tigress. To totally understand this, click on this post. Check out her helmet. Seeing as to how Balisada has a playful side, perhaps she would prefer Iron Tigger. Take whichever one you want, girl!

By Saturday afternoon we had a temporary reprieve from the rain. Construction leftovers have left a bit of mud and debris hanging about. Yes, that's Balisada's bike again. She works for the college's Security Department.

This is 6 AM Saturday morning. So far only Elvira and I are on duty. Getting ready for the day.

Training bikes getting warmed up in the fog.

By Sunday we had rain, again. Same training bikes, different weather.

One of these things is not like the others! To the students it doesn't matter if we ride or not. To other instructors? Let me say that the driver of the Ford got a load of grief! Imagine, having the audacity to park by our bikes on top of it all.

There are always new groups of students eager and ready to go. Here's the group from one weekend.

Here's the group from the next. So many different personalities. I always think of myself as the catalyst that brings them all together into a harmonious whole.

These pictures are from our last exercise of the course. We set up a miniature city with plenty of opportunities for traffic interaction. The perimeter is one way to the left. Inside lanes are two way traffic. The center is a four way stop. Students have to stop before entering the perimeter. All twelve ride at the same time. We even expect them to use turn signals and cancel them. Imagine!

Static practice on the bikes on how to manage a turn from a stop and stay in your own lane.

The following photos are students riding the exercise.

By the way, a close-up of the TW's front wheel is the blog header photo at the moment.

Some instructors call this exercise controlled chaos. Sometimes the students get uncomfortably close to each other like below.

Instructors cast a watchful eye on the group to keep them safe. ( I'm playing with shutter speeds to create a sense of action and movement. )

Douglas is a long time fireman. Not much fazes him. He's a steely eyed missle man taking care of business.

Let's see. Controlled chaos. Close calls. Interacting with inexperienced vehicle operators while being inexperienced themselves. Sounds a lot like riding in the real world, doesn't it? That's the idea. This is the last stop before the students become endorsed riders the next day. We like them to have a taste of reality along with the chance to apply all the skills they've learned over the weekend.

When all is said and done, time for a nice cup of coffee to end the day. I'm at Allann Brothers Beanery. And you thought I only went to Starbucks, didn't you? Actually, I had a date with Katie and we like to sit outside on the patio when we can. Oh, yeah, I'm drinking the Storm Trooper Blend. ( actually, they do have a blend called Oregon State Trooper: State Police headquarters are just down the street )

Miles and smiles,