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,