Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Dark Side

Hi, it's been a while, I know.  I'm having severe withdrawals from blogging.  On the other hand, I've been experiencing a fantastic ride the past few months.  I solemnly promise to share what's been going on soon.  I also miss reading everybody else's blogs.  To quote some guy with a corncob pipe, "I shall return".

In the meantime I want to ask a favor. 

I'm tasked with ruling on whether or not motorcycles with car tires mounted on them will be allowed in our classes.  I want the decision to be evidence based.  It seems a good way to make a wise decision that reflects reality.

There is no end to the arguments on the forums.  The problem is that everything has a nebulous base.  On the one end are people who have put car tires on their bikes and point to the fact that they haven't crashed, yet.  It's a good start but it's not definitive proof of the safety of the practice.  I know a lot of riders who haven't crashed yet, either, but I know they're not safe riders.  They just haven't been really tested so far. 

On the other end are people who claim that if bikes were supposed to have car tires then they'd have steering wheels, too. 

What I seek are published studies.  Does anybody know of any actual research that's been published on the matter?

Secondly, I'm seeking information on rims.  One of the big arguments for not running a car tire on a motorcycle rim is that the beading system isn't compatible.  Are there rims that ARE compatible with car tires that will mount on a motorcycle?

Input would be most appreciated. 

Miles and smiles,


Friday, September 21, 2012

Rough Landing!

Had a flying lesson today.  Didn't turn out so well.

Turns out wicked-fast black FJR's and jets are more dissimilar than one would think.

Miles and smiles,


Monday, February 20, 2012

New Opportunity and Challenge

It is finally official and I can now share it with you.  I am making a career change. Hopefully it will be my last. Perhaps you might call it a consolidation, instead.  For years my heart has been with TEAM OREGON, our motorcycle training organization.  My body has been forced to be elsewhere in the name of making a living.  Now I've been given the chance to re-unite the two.

This is a camera phone photo taken yesterday at a class / instructor training event. 

Once in a while orbits align and you have the chance to follow your heart.  I was given such a chance and I knew if I didn't pursue it I would regret it for the rest of my days.  So I went for it and things worked out. 

I've been appointed as the new Training Manager for our motorcycle training organization.  It is a full time staff position. It includes oversight over our nearly two hundred instructors and those we expect to add over the next few years as we grow to meet the demand.  Repsonsibilities also include quality control for our current training materials and courses.  As time goes on we will be testing new methods of training such as online courses. 

There's a bit of trepidation being felt here, too.  I've spent 12 years training for this position.  Not with that exact purpose, but in doing the things involved in the job. Over the course of that time I've become friends with all the wonderful people who are my fellow instructors.  It has been gratifying to help so many to achieve success and the satisfaction of accomplishment.  It will be great to be in a position to help them more but there is also the worry of making sure I do right by them and our students.

I cannot begin to describe how blessed I feel.  Some good folks have unselfishly shared their time and energy on my behalf over the years.  I have been, and always shall be, grateful for them and have always tried to pay it forward.  I have a passion for riding motorcycles and teaching others to do so for the first time or to improve their skills.  Now I can also make a living at it.  How lucky can a guy be?

Miles and smiles,



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Glad it didn't turn out THIS way!

Recently Beemergirl found herself in a sticky situation.  Fortunately, all turned out well in the end.  

This reminded me of something I ran across recently which shows things could have turned out much, much, worse.  

Apparently this person was waiting in the drive-through at a local drive-in.  They seem to have gotten their toes stuck in the glove box and could not get loose.  Nobody responded to this poor person's cries for help.  You know how badly garbled things sound through those speakers at the ordering board.

Not only do you get a great deal on the car but it also includes the original owner!

As an added bonus you also get the friends in the rumble seat.  For some reason they must have thought the order was just taking an extra long time to be cooked.  Being so occupied with texting they never noticed what was REALLY happening until much too late.

Let's just all be glad that Oilburner came to rescue ( under duress or not ) and this did not happen to our dear fellow blogger!

Miles and smiles,


Monday, February 13, 2012

Deep appreciation!

Instead of making a reply comment on the last post I decided to do this post.  My reasoning is that I wanted everyone to be sure to see my heartfelt expression of appreciation for you all.  It was truly touching to see everyone's comments and well wishes.  Some shared their own stories.  It's a testament to the sense of community that's developed in our blogging world.

I hesitated in sharing the experience of losing my grandmother.  It affected me deeply but these things seldom affect others outside a small circle.  That's not a negative commentary.  Simply the way life is.  In the end I wrote about it for a couple of reasons.  One reason was for a sort of personal closure.  The other reason was to reach out and share something that hit me so personally with some other human beings that I've come to be fond of.

That's really who's behind these blogs.  When we call up the blogs on our monitors we see the words and photos lit by whatever makes our screens glow brightly.  Real human beings sit at keyboards and bring these images to life.  What we write is motivated by our humanity.  The things that affect us, interest us, or even irritate us.

Some of you I have met in person.  I know your faces and personalities.  Like the whole group sprawled out in my hotel room in Bend.  That meeting and the late supper is still a treasured memory.  Whether I've met you in person or not, I know about you from the photos and your writings.  We get to know each other's quirks along with a host of other personality traits.  

When I read your blogs and your comments I see the humans behind it all.  So many good hearts beating inside great people.

I just want you all to know how much I've appreciated the journey of discovery as I've been blessed get to know you all over time.  My life is richer for your being in it.

Miles and smiles,


Friday, February 10, 2012

End of an Era.

My grandmother passed away last week at the age of 92.  Old age and cancer finally got her down on the ground and in a stranglehold.  Her passing marks the end of an era.  There are no longer five generations of my lineage alive.  It also closed the book on a mother-son relationship.

Look at the photo of my grandfather on the right.  He was the original Marlboro Man.  There is no posing here.  We really did ride, wrangle, and rope.  Looking at him pretty much explains my rough and tumble upbringing and way of living.  

The only one left alive out of this photo is likely that damned horse on the right.  Bud is probably still out there rebelling against anybody trying to ride him.  Actually, I'm sure he died long ago but you never know with Devil Horses!

I posted this photo here last Summer.  It's a technically bad photo taken with a cheap camera phone.  Nonetheless, it speaks volumes to me.

I'm sure she was mostly thinking about Grandpa.  On the other hand, she was already ravaged by cancer at this point and had lost her right leg to it.  I'm sure she couldn't help but see and contemplate the side of the headstone with her name on it.  A beginning date with an ending date yet to be engraved.  

Most folks don't want to think about dying.  I don't either, to be honest.  Yet, I force myself to contemplate my mortality while I can be constructively moved by it.  I want to enjoy the assurance now that I value holding my wife and kissing her goodbye or hello.  I've made the effort to let good friends know how much I treasure their friendship.  I regularly express affection and love to my children.   

Grandma was able to be at home until the end.  For the last couple of weeks she was confined to a hospital bed in her living room.  Caretakers were there 24 hours a day.  Hospice was wonderful about providing the needed medications and regular visits from medical staff.  There really wasn't any more to do for her except keep her comfortable.

Towards the end she got a bit demanding and seemed unappreciative.  It was a lesson to me in love, patience, and empathy.  I'm a bit shamed to say that my first reaction ( though stifled ) was irritation.  Then I would look at her and think about what she was going through.  Love and empathy cover a multitude of transgressions.

I think many people are too quick to judge others.  It's easier to brush somebody off or even take grave offense if we can somehow make them out to be deserving of what they are going through.  On the other hand, it's hard to know if that shabby looking person approaching us is actually in dire straights or has harmful intentions.  Do we show empathy and understanding while trying to help?  Or do we take measures to protect ourselves?  The world has gotten very complicated, hasn't it?  

On Saturday Grandma was pretty normal for where she had gotten to.  Saturday night she took a turn for the worse.  She refused to eat and seemed a bit "out of it" for lack of a better description.  During Sunday Grandma was in and out of consciousness.  She was in a lot of pain and we were giving her morphine every half hour under the doctor's blessing.  It was this day that holds my last memories of her.

Grandma would sleep for a while until the pain woke her up.  She would toss and turn and cry out.  I would stand by the bed and take her hand.  When she felt me touch her Grandma would open her eyes and see me.  The most bright and beautiful smile would cross her face.  Then, still holding onto my hand she would go back to sleep.

That is such a powerful memory for me.  I find myself, the grizzled road warrior, tearing up a bit writing this.  Once upon a time she held the hand of a child to give him comfort and assurance that all would be okay.  That child became a man.  Now it is his hand offering her comfort and assurance that all will be okay as she faces whatever dark journey awaits her.

By Monday she wasn't waking up at all.  Grandma passed away at 12:40 Tuesday morning.  Her departure was eerily similar to Grandpa's.  He was also unconscious leading up to the end.  I heard him take several shuddering breaths and then there were no more.  Grandma did the exact same thing.  There's that moment when the conflicted feelings hit at once.  So sad to see the end of someone dear to you.  Relieved to know the tremendous pain and suffering are over for them.

Thank you for all the love you've given me and for all you've done to help me turn out the best I could be.  Your body may no longer be with us but you will always live as long as we can treasure your memory.

Have fun with Grandpa at the ranch.  Give him my love when you see him.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Lessons and Tests II

Having completed some business in downtown Portland I pointed Elvira east.  The place Robert had specified for our first meeting over coffee was 50 blocks away on Hawthorne Blvd.  Downtown Portland is cut off from all parts east by the Willamette River.  Portland could be called the City of Bridges.  I chose, appropriately enough, the Hawthorne Bridge.  This is a particularly interesting bridge because the decking is metal grating.  The outbound side is a single lane and very narrow.  The left side is bordered by a concrete and steel bridge support and the right by the bridge railing next to the river.  

I guess if a rider were to go down, they would just pinball between the barriers and not plunge into the river so far below.  Probably......   

Seriously, it's simply a matter of eyes up to maintain big picture stability and don't fight the wiggle!  Firm, but relaxed.  Steady, sure, and smooth.

Robert had asked me if I was going to be a Starbucks coffee snob or was willing to try a local place.  Thus challenged, I told him to pick a spot.  It turned out to be a place called The Albina Press.    This location was one of several in the big city.  As a side note, I even tried a cappuccino which had a design just like the one in the photo.  To my surprise, it turned out to be the perfect coffee drink as a background to conversation.  A great coffee taste without the volume of liquid that makes you regret drinking it fifty very cold miles later.  

My arrival was a little ahead of Robert's.  As I parked Elvira I observed a Suzuki DR650 dual sport back in next to the bicycle rack.  I'd never seen Robert but he'd described his bike.  Congruity was the first word that sprang to mind.  Robert had told me in an e-mail that he rode the bike year round for transportation.  His bike and his gear matched that statement exactly.  I saw before me someone who obviously rode for himself rather than simply to impress others or to "belong" to a certain group.  Practicality took center stage.  I was suitably impressed.

By the way, I know it looks like I'm writing about Robert behind his back.  Actually, I'm writing about Robert behind his back in front of his face.  I have graciously been given permission to report on our meeting.

During our conversation I gathered that Robert is relatively new to riding.  Not brand new, but new in the comparative sense.  Compared to the grizzled veteran he was facing across the table, for example.  As of today I have been on two wheels for 45 years, 4 months, and 2 weeks.  What Robert brought to the table, literally and figuratively, is that he is a thinking man.  Several times during the conversation I'd notice him sending a look of concentration into the distance.  I would simply shut up so as not to block the tracks as his train of thought left the station.  The wait was well worth it.

There were two things Robert said to me that I found truly profound.

One was that it took some fearlessness to be a rider.

I totally agree.  Not foolhardy, reckless, or even a superhero, but there is a certain mindset required.  One can't dwell on all the bad things that could happen. A rider has to have faith in the bike and in oneself.   Negative thoughts can bring negative results.  The good news is that positive thoughts bring positive results.  Of course, a well developed sense of adventure never hurt, either!

In years past I've written about this kind of thing.  Here are a couple of notable posts.  If you're interested you can click here and here

If you want to delve further here is the link to Steve Williams' post that sparked mine.

The other profound thing that came out of Robert's Depot of Deep Thoughts was about how we are often surprised on a bike.  We suddenly find ourselves having to deal with something we haven't practiced for, yet.  Even worse, our natural reactions may be exactly the wrong thing to do.

This is one of the strongest arguments I can make for taking rider training on an ongoing basis.  Robert is exactly right in his statements.  It's like being required to take a test before we've studied the lesson.

I took this photo at a dog agility show.  As you can see, the little dog is standing just inside the tunnel entrance.  He knew to go into the tunnel but had no idea what to do next.  In this case it ended with an embarrassed laugh by the woman who owned the dog.  I'm not sure if the dog laughed or not.  Sort of a "No harm, No foul, try it again later" thing.

In our world there may not be an opportunity to take the test again.  Pass or fail becomes minor injuries versus crippled or maimed.  Sometimes literally life or death.  How much better to take advantage of the chance to study the lessons first.  Those who provide professional training know what the tests will be even if the students haven't imagined them, yet.  The proper lesson plans have been carefully laid out.  Why not consider spending some time in Study Hall?

All too soon it was time for both of us to get back to work.  Isn't it astonishing how things can work out?   Two strangers meeting in person for the first time.  At first there's the little bit of nervous discomfort.  Then, as in our meeting, it is quickly gone.  Now you can't believe so much time has passed already.  I left very impressed by my new acquaintance and plan to keep in touch.  Another gem has been added to my Treasure Chest of Life.

Thank you for the company and your words of wisdom, Robert.

Miles and smiles,



Friday, January 20, 2012

The Water's HOW Deep?

I'm inserting this post in here out of sequence.  The second half of the last post will have to wait.  Weather conditions have changed and I've got to get this one in while it's still hot.  Or, should I say, wet?

The last two days have brought record rainfall.  Our area received a little over six inches of rain in 48 hours.  The weather guy said the storm was stuck over us and dumping like crazy.  He likened it to being at the end of fire hose.  I agree.  It totally looked and felt like it.  Of course, who do you think was out in it on two wheels?

Yesterday morning I had coffee with Dean.  I'd been staring at the laptop for two days and was going crazy.  I had to get out and Dean was glad to oblige.  We arranged to meet at a place called the Governor's Cup Roasters in Salem.  I'm actually not a coffee snob.  I start with Starbucks in a town because it's a place I know I will find a consistent product.  Then I branch out from there as opportunity allows.

On the other hand, it does seem like a lot of my life takes place either over a cup of coffee or going to or from coffee shops.  

Anyway, the destination is about a thirty five minute ride for me.  I was running a bit early so decided to head up the South end of Salem, getting off the freeway early.  The freeway itself had a lot of standing water but I simply slotted in behind a big truck and rode its tire tracks at a safe distance.  

As I rolled into Salem I should have recognized the evil omen.  There's a housing project built around a golf course.  The golf course is called Battle Creek.  Key word Creek.  I saw a school bus that had gone through some high water and ended up in a ditch and slanted at a 45 degree angle.  The road I was riding was ok so I didn't think anything of it.  My plan was to angle off at 12th street and go up over the hill.  My oldest son lives close to this street.  From the road I can see the back of the apartment complex where he lives.  I knew he would be at work but there's still that connection.  You know what I mean?  Farther along is the BMW / Honda shop where I bought Sophie at the turn of the century.  The shop is nothing as good these days as it was then, but it's still a motorcycle establishment.

Thus committed, I rolled up 12th towards Madrona at the top of the hill.  I was somewhat surprised to see traffic backed up this far.  It was about 8:15 AM and I thought rush hour would be done.  Maybe it's the state workers who start at nine, I mused.  As I crested the top of the hill and looked down the other side I was taken aback by the sight.  

It looked like some evil cloning machine had been working overtime spitting out Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer copies.  There was nothing but a line of red lights ahead of me as far as I could see.  I patiently worked the clutch and crept along, figuring that it would clear up as the single lane split into two later on.  No such luck.  Now there was the added complication of deep water on both sides of the street.  I noticed that several side streets were mostly flooded.  Which meant I sort of got funneled ( pun intended ) along with the flow of traffic.  

The water covered more and more of the street.  Traffic started to fan out into two lanes running pretty close together.  Up ahead, for the next eight blocks or so, the water covered the entire street and traffic went single file down the middle.  There was no graceful way out for me as the side streets were flooded, too.  So I did what any insane Road Warrior would do.  I rode through the deep water following the cars and hoping for the best.  

It's time for the "Don't try this at home!" warning.  If you asked me I would tell you this was not a good idea.  Fast moving water moves big stuff, etc., etc..  Yet, here I was.  Not on a dual sport but Elvira was willing to play the part.  There's another problem that you probably haven't thought of, yet.  Or maybe you have and thus have beaten me to the punch.

Riding through deep water is one thing.  Doing it in stop and go traffic is another.  Think about it.  When you  have to put your foot down, where are you going to do it?  That's right.  In a foot of water.  I am proud to say that I did not have to take my foot off the peg.  Between a pretty decent balancing act with my eyes up and clutch slipping, and ticking off a couple of drivers who didn't understand why I was waiting for more space to open up ahead of me, things worked out.  On the other hand, the rain falling from the sky soaked me anyway so I really wondered why I bothered with the effort.

So here are some photos.  I've included the obligatory establishing shots.  As in:  See, I was really there!

Please note the photo of the back of the young man.  He was moving bags of sand from a pickup to the front door of his place of employment,  The water was that high!

Miles and smiles,


Monday, January 16, 2012

Testing before the lesson.

On a cold winter morning recently I set out for Portland to have coffee with Robert.  He has been kind enough to read and comment on this blog.  In one of his comments Robert expressed that he would like to meet me in person.  Silly him.  However, meet we did.  We talked about how one has to be sort of fearless to ride a bike.  The subject of sometimes being tested on something we haven't studied for, yet, also came up.  I came away from the meeting impressed by having been in the presence of a thinking man.

The hour and fifteen minute ride up was cold.  According to Elvira's ambient temperature gauge it was a couple of degrees above freezing.  That was before wind chill, of course.  Call it an ego thing, but I'm really trying to refrain from using the electrics.  No pun intended, but I tend to ride briskly in the cold.  At freeway speeds wind chill drops the temperature down about twenty degrees. So the temperature I felt went from the low thirties to the low teen's.  On the other hand, you don't pay much of a penalty for riding faster.  Check out this chart over at Rick's place, "Keep the Rubber Side Down".

You only pay a one degree penalty for riding at 70 instead of 60 ( mph ).  Click it up to 80 and there's only one more degree to be paid.  Not that I would ever break the law as an instructor, mind you.  I'm only offering this should somebody else decide to spend less time freezing.

Anyway, my thoughts were filled with the upcoming meeting.  This meeting in person thing is kind of like internet dating.  We all tend to paint ourselves in a good light.  Not that I ever claimed to be a six feet two inch tall handsome athlete named Dirk with six pack abs.  Still, I have been called a legend by several folks including some of our blogging brethren who have actually met me in person.  Realize, though, that the meetings were very short ones.

What would Robert think?  Would he be awed by the legend or let down by seeing a middle aged pleasingly plump rider slipping slowly past his prime?  I decided to let things sort out how they may and not worry about it.  Which is pretty much my standard operating procedure these days.  Like me or leave me.  Love me or hate me.  As long as people have a strong opinion I'm  happy.  The worst insult one could give me is to call me "boring" or "vanilla".

( Now I'm waiting for some obnoxious soul to put that in a comment:  Jack, are you reading this? )

Having sorted out all that needed sorted I was cruising happily.  Feeling kinda cocky at being the only bike I'd seen on the roads.  Basking in feeling like the tough warrior and thinking about how any other rider out here would be wired to the gills.  Yes, Sir, the grizzled veteran was king of the roost, cock of the walk this morning.  Then I got passed by a young man on a Honda CBR.  

I caught up to  him at the rest area.  Actually, he was just leaving as I was getting off the bike.  There was barely enough time to snatch this panning shot.  The rider had no wires that I could see and even less wind protection that I had on Elvira.

Dang!  Don't you hate feeling cocky then being one-upped?  I briefly considered riding the rest of the way without a jacket but quickly rejected that crazy idea.  My ego would heal as soon as the rider was out of sight.  It's still pretty healthy these days as it gets exercised regularly.

( to be continued )

Miles and smiles,


Monday, January 09, 2012

Something Different

Ok.  Time to shake off the lethargy and get to work.  It's not a stupor in the usual sense.  It's more like a boat circling in the water until the Captain gets the compass calibrated.  Once the proper coordinates are determined it will be full steam ahead.  Or balls to the wall, if you will.

By the way, I'm not inserting that saying just for shock value.  The expression actually came from aviation, and by extension, boating.  The throttle levers have rounded balls on top.  Unlike a motorcycle throttle, to go faster in a boat or airplane the throttle levers are moved forward.  Pushing the levers all the way forward puts the little balls up against the instrument panel or dash of the vehicle.  Thus, "balls to the wall" means full throttle.  Not a painful physical accident.  Like my first time playing raquetball.

For the first time in as long as I can remember I am entering a new year without a fixed target.  It will be another month before I have all the information required to chart my course.  Either way, the course will be different than now.  Maybe more on that later.  Through it all I remain humbly appreciative to have choices realizing that others don't.

In the meantime, I've decided to quit riding in circles and go back to doing something constructive.  That includes re-energizing this blog.  I find I can't let it go.  There have been too many great connections formed through this medium.  I'd hate to miss out on continuing these and forming new ones.

I did, however, park the bike this last weekend.  On Saturday Katie and I joined our darling daughter, our great son-in-law, and our cherubic grandson in going to a street rod show.  There was a lot of money sitting in that building, let me tell you.

Cars are interesting and fascinating but you know where I ended up.  Found something with two wheels and learned something new about Vespa scooters.

I don't know what year this scooter is. I forgot to ask.  According to this website it is a 1959 model.  The guy at the exhibit claims this was the original scooter used in the movie "American Graffiti".  The scooter has been restored and travels with an American Graffiti tribute team.

Inside the wheel skirt are autographs from Bo Hopkins, Candy Clark, and a couple others from the movie.

In the movie this scooter was owned by a guy named Terry "Toad" Fields.  This was his only transportation.  Unfortunately for the Vespa reputation, Toad was portrayed as a sort of nerd and the scooter was the best he could do.  The movie itself is about coming of age.  One of the "cool" guys gives Toad his car to take care of while he is in college.  A step up, you see, according to the movie.

Anyway, there is a funny bit to this in the movie.  The actor who played Toad is named Charles Martin Smith.  Charles thought the scooter was the standard CV transmission.  What he didn't know was that the Vespa had a four speed manual transmission.  So the left handlebar lever was actually the clutch.

In the movie Toad comes screeching up on the scooter.  As he goes to dismount, he just lets go of the clutch lever.  Which, of course, launches the scooter in a not so graceful move.  George Lucas decides to leave it in the movie.

You can see the scene here

Something new to me, too.  Guess it goes to show we should all be sure to check out the controls when we get on a bike we haven't ridden before!


Hope you enjoyed this bit of trivia.  It seemed a fun way to break the ice for 2012.  Here's to a happy and productive upcoming year for all of us!

Miles and smiles,