Thursday, November 07, 2013

Comfort Zone Cages

So I wrote about being lucky to have a job where I can help people grow.  It's amazing how much harder this is to do than it sounds.  Some people are eager, some not so much.  Some flat out don't want to budge from where they are.  Others want to learn new skills or hone the ones they have but they just can't quite step out of their comfort zones.  Security becomes more precious than progress.

Think of Monkey Bars on a playground.  The contraption where you can hang by your arms and move along hand over hand.  Guess that's where the "Monkey" part of the name comes from.  So there you are, hanging onto a rung with both hands, knees bent so that your hands are your only support.  The only way to move forward is to let go with one hand and reach out.  It's amazing how many people won't let go!

Sometimes comfort zones can be good things and other times they can become cages.

In the course of writing this blog I've tried to be honest about my own humanity.  In that vein I have to admit that I've felt that feeling of not wanting to let go.  Here's an example.

I'm in a small upstairs gym at an athletic club.  One question is repeatedly bouncing around inside my head.

"How can a guy who's so graceful on a motorcycle be so freakin' ungainly on a dance floor?"

Yep, we were taking dance lessons.

Katie and I grew up as country kids.  Once upon a time we were pretty good at the Square Dance thing.  We knew a few simple steps for slow songs and waltzes.  Maybe it was something she saw on the television.  Perhaps it came up when she was visiting with her girlfriends.  You now those coffee circles where they compare notes on what they've been able to get their husbands to do?  It could even have been the fact that we're eligible for senior discounts and she felt we should learn something new together to help prevent Alzheimer's.  Who knows?  What I DO know is that one day Katie piped up and said she wanted to take Ballroom Dancing lessons.


You ever get that trapped feeling?  Katie was looking me right in the eyes and waiting for my reaction.  My gaze was locked on her face, as well.  I knew she could sense my reluctance.  I could also see the challenge in her eyes.  It was as if she was saying:

"Come on my Swashbuckling Hero (honest to God, that's what she calls me; she even has the Indiana Jones theme song as her ringer when I call her cell phone) what happened to 'I love a challenge'?

I knew whether I refused her request or agreed I'd probably end up looking like one of these. It's a nice looking mule, but still....

You've already had the teaser about which direction it went.  Being associated with a major university, I looked up their dance instructor.  As quickly as you can sign a check we were committed to eight weeks of something called the Night Club Two Step.

It was rough in the beginning.  I developed an instant rapport with the guy standing next to me on the first night.  When the instructor told us to start actually moving instead of standing in one spot I could hear him mutter under his breath.

"This is going to be ugly."

Truer words were never spoken. We were learning the two-step and I had two steps, all right.  My left foot went "Stomp!" and my right foot went "Clunk!"  If only I could have brought Elvira!  Then I'd show them graceful.

Things gradually got smoother.  I learned that the real trick to being graceful (Ok, at least not as klutzy) is to stay up on the balls of your feet.  I scored points with Katie.  Plus we've actually gone out dancing and looked pretty good, if I say so myself.   We actually have some new skills and are having fun in the process.  We may even go back for the intermediate lessons.

Part of my success was due to the fact that the instructor was not only good at imparting the skills but she was also a sort of  psychologist, too.  She had empathy for where us guys were coming from and that informed her approach.

More on that aspect to come.  Specifically on how it relates to gaining new riding skills.

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

I didn't see her!

Telephone pole to police officer:  "Honest, Officer, I didn't see her!"

Hmmm, perhaps a Hi-Viz cat would have helped.

Miles and smiles,


Sunday, November 03, 2013


Another year of the world being forced to deal with my existence has recently been marked off on the calendar.  Each year this event triggers a time of reflection upon that which has passed and that which is still to come.  The view backwards includes blessings I've experienced.  The view forward includes thoughts of worthiness.  Many of the blessings are really gifts from others.  How do I remain worthy of receiving such gifts?  Recently, the word "legacy" comes to mind in that context.  Ocean beaches are great places for contemplation.  Katie and I spent a few days there recently.  The small size of a human compared to the vastness of the ocean  helps put things back into perspective.

I apologize if you came here today looking for motorcycling instruction and didn't find it.  On the other hand, most of us are more than the sum of our riding.  In my life a motorcycle has been a vehicle for both transportation and personal growth.  A motorcycle is not "who we are".  Riding has certainly been a large part of my life.  Riding has built character that I've transferred to my life.  I've built character in my life that I've transferred to riding.  To think about riding without a thought to the deepness of the human experience is like looking at this old house. 

One could make an argument that my high contrast black and white photo is a thing of beauty.  (At least I would! )  Once you get past the exterior, though, it's empty and rotten inside from a lack of attention.

So I return to being worthy.

My life has been blessed by the love and loyalty of my beautiful companion of 36 years.  Katie has been nothing but supportive and a true friend.  She still treats me like a prince.  (whether I deserve it or not )  I try to deserve it by being worthy of her.

Katie may be a little perturbed by my putting in this photo of her in the sunset light.  We'd been out on the beach most of the day and she's windblown.  The light however, was too good to pass up.  The photo well illustrates the contemplative nature of our visit.  All I can say is that you're beautiful to me in any condition, Katie.  I see you with my heart more than my eyes these days.

Another blessing is the friends I've made in fellow riders.  Included in those are my fellow bloggers.  Having not posted in a looooong time, it was gratifying to see that folks still cared enough to comment when I finally put up a post.  I'm blessed to have friends who notice my absence. 

Who wouldn't feel the love when a guy like Bobskoot shows up at my office.  I was outside making a phone call and getting some fresh air when up pulls this loaded down BMW.  That fact that he took the time to come see me on his trip is another precious gift.

Earlier in the year I had the privilege of visiting Dom as he completed his epic sidecar trip.  These are a couple of many gifts from fellow bloggers.  Again, one has to ask themselves how they are to prove worthy. 

This idea colors my thoughts as I contemplate the view forward.  The question is where am I headed in the future?

I know one place that we're all eventually headed for.  I've spent time wondering graveyards, too.  Always in the search for perspective.

By the time we end up here it's too late to change how we've lived.  I see names on the headstones but don't really know anything about what they left behind.  I'm ok with that happening for me, as well.  My goal isn't to be remembered.  It's to leave something of value independent of my name.  As long there are others who've received something of value from my being here I'm content. Here's a scene on the beach I captured.

You can see the father crouched behind his son as they fly the kite.  By the way, it took a lot of tries to get the guys and the crazily moving kite in the same frame!

It's this photo that got me to thinking of the word "legacy".  The father is passing along a skill to his son as they share the time together.  I believe that my own legacy will be the proof of my worthiness.

That's the great news about my employment.  Passion and vocation reside together.  I've finally come to the point where I can be totally immersed in the world of motorcycles.  I'm also surrounded by people that are overflowing with heart and great character.  Wonderful gifts that, again, require worthiness.

If I had to describe my job the preferred description would be that it's to help people grow.  Helping folks to grow is a way to establish a legacy.  Unfortunately, human nature complicates the process.

Stay tuned.

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, October 16, 2013


"There are two kinds of people... One kind, you can tell just by looking at them at what point they congealed into their final selves.  It might be a very nice self, but you know you can expect no more surprises from it.  Whereas, the other kind keeps moving, changing.  With these people, you can never say 'X stops here', or 'Now I know all there is to know about Y.'  That doesn't mean they're unstable.  Ah, no, far from it.  They are FLUID.  They keep moving forward and making new trysts with life, and the motion of it keeps them young.  In my opinion, they are the only people who are still alive."

From "The Finishing School" by Gail Godwin.

And you thought all I did was ride motorcycles and run around trying to look tough.  I can actually read and do so once in a while!

More to follow.

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tense Gum Chewer!

Somebody mentioned that they chewed a lot of gum to ease tension while riding.  I think I found some!

Miles and smiles,


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Check the Tension Level

Well, I thought I had shook loose enough to have some more free time.  I headed out at a run and it looked like I was making good progress toward freedom.  Suddenly, like a dog reaching the end of its chain, I was jerked back into play.  Another BIG project was forced upon us.

Still desiring some time of my own, I dug a hole under the fence and wriggled partway out.  I'm getting this blog post in before somebody notices!

When last we met here I was talking about riding with Seriousness of Purpose and Lightness of Hands.

As a prelude, I'd like to suggest a pre-workshop assignment, if you will.

You can see a lot of tension in this rider's face as she's practicing to conquer the infamous offset cone weave. 

While the tension she's showing seems a bit extreme, I'm willing to be bet that most of us ride with more tension in our bodies than we're aware of.  Especially in our arms and hands.

So here's your assignment.  Monitor yourself as you're riding.  Check for whether your upper body is tensed or relaxed.  You may be amazed at what you find.  If you care to share your results here, please do.  I'll give you a few days and then we'll move on.

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thank you to Andy Goldfine

I was slightly premature when I said I was finally going to have a little more time.  Once more I dove headfirst into rewriting a training program for our instructors.  These things tend to be a little consuming!  The Director simply looks at me with an evil grin on his face.  I ask him why he lets me bite off so much at once without giving me any sort of warning what I'm getting in to.  All he says in reply is "You know you like it."

Last weekend was the proof in the pudding for this project and I'm pleased to say it's both successful and behind me!

Before we delve into riding with seriousness of purpose but with a light touch I wanted to use this post to publicly thank Andy Goldfine, the mastermind behind Aerostich.   His riding gear is still the best I've ever used.  Andy has proven once more that their customer service is second to none, as well.

Somewhere around a year and a half ago I replaced my Roadcrafter.  The old one was getting pretty worn.  Sometime during the twelve years I was using it I sent the suit in for a spiffing up.  It was getting time to think about it again.  Instead, I opted for purchasing new riding gear.  There had been several updates over the years and it seemed a good time to make a purchase.

It was nice to have a new 'Stich.  Once the break-in process was over, of course!  There was a lingering problem with the inner liner of the pants, though.  Always at the worse moments the liner material would get caught in the zipper.  The frequency with which it happened increased.  I sent the pants back to Aerostich for repairs.  Turns out I was a month past the warranty period.  A pleasant fellow from the factory called me to say they would honor the warranty, anyway.  Great!

Only problem is that the situation remained the same when the pants came back.  The issue was at the left knee.  It got to the point where 9 times out of 10, no matter what I did, the liner would jam up the zipper.  I had reached the point where I wasn't going to wear them anymore. Katie told me in no uncertain terms that, as entertaining as it was watching me hop around on one leg, she was tired of hearing me turn the air blue.  I dug out the old ones again and Katie removed her ear plugs.

In the meantime I sent a note to Andy and explained the problem.  I know it was somewhat presumptious on my part to think he would take time to worry about my issue with the zipper.  Come to think of it, a lot of my life issues seem to have a zipper involved in them somewhere.  Oh well, those are stories for another venue.

A reply to my note showed up in my inbox.  Andy had taken time to personally respond.  We exchanged a couple of messages about the problem with the Roadcrafter pants.  As a result Andy sent an email to me and copied some of his folks instructing me to send the pants to his attention.  Andy told his crew to put the package on his desk when it showed up.  So I sent the pants in as directed.  There was silence for a week or two then I got a message telling me the pants were on their way back to me.

The zipper problem has been fully resolved.  There was a "no-charge" invoice with no explanation.  When I later asked Andy he replied that he saw right away that the pants had been assembled incorrectly.  Andy directed the crew to take them apart and replace the liner completely.  Like I say, things are great, now.

So I hearby offer a public thank you to Andy for taking care of me.  It is so impressive that the guy at the top of the food chain still cares enough about his customers to personally ensure that issues get resolved.  Things just happen in the manufacturing process.  This was a simply one of those things.  The real measure of a company is what they do about the glitches.  Andy Goldfine is at the top of the excellence list for taking care of customers.

Thank you so much, Sir!!

Miles and smiles,


Monday, February 11, 2013

But what if?

I was out in the middle of the night on my way to conduct an instructor update session.  Several cups of coffee and cold air made the rest area a needed stop.  I saw this sign.

That's all well and good, but I couldn't help thinking:  "But what if I had to go number 4?"

Miles and smiles,


Friday, February 01, 2013

Riding Well

How do you know when you're riding well?

I'm often on my steel horse.

We'd all like to be graceful and smooth. Some days it happens. Some days.....not so much.

 I have my "Turkey" days.

I've had days that were better, but not by much.

Once in a while, though, it all comes together and we are graceful, nimble, and beautiful.

Just like this beautiful crop duster that zooms across the fields around our offices. That plane and pilot seem so connected. The plane flies in sweeping, smooth movements.  There are no linear, jerky motions to be seen.  It's truly "poetry in motion". So back to the question. How do you know if you're riding well? More importantly, how do you influence things to move from the cream puff turkey to the graceful crop duster? I am setting myself up as a self-proclaimed Zen Master of Riding. I may be a Legend in my Own Mind, but that doesn't mean there isn't value in what I say. Here is the secret to being graceful and confident when riding.

Ride with Seriousness of Purpose but Lightness of Hand

I intend to spend a little time exploring this topic here.  For now, though, just take this away to ponder upon.  If you find yourself feeling like you're working hard while riding your technique is off.  We're doing something that's keeping our fleet and nimble steed from doing what it was born to do.

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Canning the Spam

I have resisted for as long as I can stand it.  I've always tried to keep the blog comments as open and easy to post as possible.  For the past few months, though, the spammers and their 'bots have been working overtime.  Most of the spam comments have been caught by Blogger.  They do a pretty good job.  About a third of the comments get through and I have to go clean them out.
Last week the number of comments I've been cleaning out have broken the hundred a day mark.  I no longer wish to deal with the anger I feel from seeing them show up. 
Thus it is with reluctance that I am activating word verification.  Those without a Google account can still post a comment. 
Please accept my apologies but I have been forced into it by evil forces beyond my control.  I wanted to offer an explanation since it will be something I've never done before.
Miles and Smiles,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Closing the loop

In March of 2010 a dump truck driver in Phoenix Arizona plowed into the back of a group of motorcyclists stopped at an intersection.  4 of the riders were killed.  6 others were injured. Lucky, a blogger in Phoenix, posted about it here.  Depending upon your view of justice, it was served in November of 2012.

According to the AMA, the driver has been sentenced to 26 years in prison.  Michael Jakscht was sentenced on November 26, 2012 after being convicted on several counts in a crash at a Phoenix stoplight in 2010.  Following a trial in the summer of 2012, he was found guilty of four counts of manslaughter, five counts of aggrevated assault and four counts of endangerment.  Jakscht was allegedly under the influence of methamphetamine when he plowed into a group of motorcyclists stopped at a traffic signal.

The sentence does nothing to make up for the lives ended, the pain of loss, and the agony of injury and recovery.  It is good, though, to see the driver held accountable and facing a long prison term.  It seems too many drivers have faced little to no consequences for actions that resulted in severely injuring and / or killing riders.

Please be careful out there.  Be vigilant.  Keep your mental and physical skills sharp.  It seems we need these skills more and more as time goes on.  Enjoy the ride but don't let your guard down.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Too Long to Think About It!

"I see the flag waving waaaay down there. That's my signal to go. Time to snick the bike into first gear. Ease out the clutch, roll on the throttle, and smoothly get underway.  I'm nervous enough as it is, wouldn't want to embarrass myself in front of my fellow instructors by stalling the bike.  Up through the gears.  Accelerate quickly..... I've gotta' get up to 70 mph pretty soon.  So this is what it's like to go charging down the blacktop on a dragstrip!  This is way cool.  Crap!  There comes the pair of cue cones.  How did I get to them so quickly?  I'm nowhere near ready.
All right, time for a quick stop using maximum braking.  Eyes up, eyes up!  Don't look at the trainer. Knees against the tank.  Smooth on the front brake.  Remember to ease the pressure on the rear brake pedal as the front end dives.  What's the front tire doing?  Do I hear a squeal?  Is it sliding?  Dang, I wish I had ABS.  Calm down, remember what the instructors told you.  The bars are starting to wriggle side to side.  Light hands, light hands!  Use my knees to take the weight off my upper body.  I glance at the trainer that's coaching my braking.  What's that look on his face? It's not a smile. Is he looking worried?  Should I be worried?  That concrete barrier to my right is looking pretty close. Don't look at the wall!!!! This is way too long to  have to think about things.
Whew!  I'm stopped and the bike is still upright.  I don't smell tire smoke. What was my distance?  Did I do better this time?  I look to the trainer.  Finally, he smiles and gives me the thumbs up but tells me I forgot to do something.  With an evil grin Irondad tells me I'll find out soon enough when I try to take off.  I look down at the gear indicator on the instrument cluster.  Still in 5th gear?  I'd slap my forehead if my hands weren't so tightly clenched on the grips.  All FOUR paws!  Front brake, rear brake, clutch, light hands, AND tap dance on the shift lever.  Ok.  On the next run I'm going to get it ALL right!"
 One of the things I deeply appreciate about this job is that I have the opportunity to help people to grow in various ways.  That's also the culture of our organization.  As part of that effort we conducted high speed braking and swerving clinics earlier this year for our instructors.  It's the first time we've ever done that.  We felt it would be a chance for the instructors to experience something that most of them probably haven't before.  The feel of braking and swerving at high speeds is a unique dynamic.  The other thing the clinics would do is remind the instructors of the nervousness and fear our students feel. 
We arranged to get the use of the dragstrip for a couple of sessions.  We scheduled our police trainers to provide coaching and instruction.  Dean W, who often uses this forum to harass me, is one of those trainers.  Then I sent the invitation out to the instructors.  It was gratifying to see the number who signed up.  And actually showed up.  Not the number I hoped for but more than I expected. Most were quite nervous, but excited to participate.  That nervousness was what we wanted them to feel and remember.  New riders are nervous.  The instructors at the braking clinics were nervous.  Nervouse is nervous no matter what level of new skils we're working on. Remember what it feels like and be suitably empathetic.
I'd like to share a few photos from one of the two days.
We were supposed to be able to use the cones that the State Police use.  They were locked in the back of a mean looking black Chevy Tahoe.  Somebody was supposed to leave a key out for us.  That link in the chain broke.  So we improvised.  One of our "fast guys" grabbed a golf cart and we all scrounged for cones.  This dude looks fast on anything, doesn't he? 
The rider of this Ducati is good!  There's no ABS on the bike.  His right hand seems to be in perfect communication with what the front tire is doing.  I could literally see his hand flexing on the brake lever as he stopped by me. His stops were comparable to ABS on the dry pavement.  Here's a photo of the bike at nearly full fork compression.  I tried to still show a little bit of motion in the front wheel so the bike isn't quite fully squatted.
Have you ever heard of the color "Write me a ticket Red"?  Here's Mark passing by The Director. ST1300, meet ST1100.  
I was fooling around with putting borders around photos.  It can be useful to have a thin black border on a photo presented on a white background. Sort of keeps the eye from wandering off the photo. I caught the "red" bug as you can see by this border. It would be easy for the big red border to overwhelm the subject of the photo.  Not in this case!

To his immense credit, who should show up for the clinic but our very own Troubadour!  Check out that great stopping form.  Eyes up looking well ahead.  Knees firmly against the tank.  Please notice that there is no smoke coming from either tire.
Our instructors execute a great stop.  What do the trainers tell them?  "Good job, do it again."  Never happy are we? So back to the start point for another nerve wracking run.  It DOES get easier with repetitions.
Check out that great head turn!  Not to brag, but "That's my boy!"
Like I mentioned above, the drag strip is in a canyon between two concrete barriers.  It can look pretty darn close ( not to mention scary ) at speed.  Especially when you're SWERVING towards it at 60 mph!

As I said, the turnout was a bit lower than we'd hoped for.  I think that the instructors who participated this year will spread the word about their experience.  The fear factor holding people back should hopefully be a bit lower for future sessions.  We did maximum braking at 45, 60, and 70 mph.  We did swerving at 45 and 60 mph.  I required full riding gear, just in case.  Fortunately, nobody "splashed".  We were a little bit worried about that.  We did have a couple of close calls.  A couple of riders got reminded that you have to be fully upright and out of the swerve BEFORE you apply the brakes. Some of the instructors riding ABS bikes found out that you can still slide the front tire.  When you're braking that hard and putting extra weight on the bars the front tire will tend to move side to side.  ABS works in a straight line.  Once the tire gets turned a bit, it WILL slide.  That's one of the reasons for using your knees to take the weight off your upper body, especially your hands.  Remember:  LIGHT hands!
We're offering the clinics again this year.  Here's looking forward to some more fun!
Miles and smiles,

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

He's Back. Look out!

I had never really thought of myself as a workaholic.  I've now had to consider the possibility that it may be true.  The Director, himself a driven person, has urged me to find balance.  I find that an extreme signal.

Upon reflection, I find that I have, indeed, immersed myself deeply in this journey.  This really has been a journey, too.  I see myself as being on a pilgrimage. Let me share some words with you from David Whyte.  This is from Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity.

"At its best, work seems never-ending only because, like life, it is a pilgrimage, a journey in which we progress not only through the world but through stages of understanding.  Good work, done well for the right reasons and with an end in mind, has always been a sign, in most human traditions, of an inner and outer maturity.  Its achievement is celebrated as an individual triumph and a gift to our societies.  A very hard-won approval.

Seen in the light of a pilgrim's journey, work takes on a greater significance than merely paying the bills and keeping the ever-present wolf from the door.  With something larger in mind, something yet to be fully imagined, something to be looked for, then the hazards and hopes, the trepidation and the triumphs of work are magnified and given import and meaning."

I am a pilgrim seeking continued enlightment. This "job" has proved to be an excellent vessel for that purpose. As engaging as this journey has been, and continues to be, I find that I have neglected other things that have brought me pleasure and relaxation in what seems now like another life.

Blogging is something I've particularly missed.  My sincerest appreciation goes out to those who have left comments now and then wondering when there might be more posts. One in particular rode all the way here to see if I was still alive.  It's good to be missed instead of finding out that people are happy to no longer hear from you.  The past 10 months have given me plenty of material.  The pressure has caused the writing bug to blow into the open again.  You've been warned.

The quote above talks about trepidation.  There was some when I applied.  But I gritted my teeth and went for it.


I grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns.

I would either fly or crash.  By the way, I didnt' know you could go someplace to get training in how to properly collide but the sign above the door says differently.

Imagine being invited by a team owner to jump onto the factory bike.  ( Ok, I know this isn't anywhere near that, but it's the only photo I had on short notice ).  You worry about even staying on the track.  Then imagine surprise, followed shortly by elation, that you not only keep up but actually improve the lap times a bit.

To celebrate my newfound rediscovery of fun outside work I did my first panoramic photo of a rainbow that appeared a couple of weeks ago.  Yes, it's an accomplishment that's way behind what some of you have already done.  A certain blogger in Denver did that years ago.  What can I say?

I'm also working on the blog lay-out.  Bear with me.  This new fangled template stuff is going to bend to my will eventually.  For good or bad, I'm back.  I'm smiling, hope you are, too!
Miles and smiles,