Monday, December 10, 2007

I appologize. Thought I had published this to the blog from Google Docs.

James Ford's Rider's Workshop proved to be of great value to me. After being rear-ended a year ago and going through fairly extensive back surgery that was still painful, my riding had become increasingly timid. I felt like I was riding more and more like a beginner. Signing up for two days under Jim Ford's supervision, proved to be the cure.

He gave us radios with single earpieces to listen to him. We met in Thurmont Maryland then a small group of us rode, with him coaching, to Wellsboro, PA. He showed us how to find "invisible" roads: beautiful local roads that are invisible to most motorists, who take faster through-fares. My confidence came back quickly once I learned to keep my RPM's up closer to the range of maximum horsepower. After that I could concentrate on lessons and learn to ride with even more skill, smoothness, and safety. Explaining how I felt after the class may give you some insight into it's benefits.

First Day after the Rider's WorkShop:

As I rode to work this morning, gradually the lessons of the last weekend returned. Even before getting on the bike, I started it and turned the electrics on high to get seat and grips warmed. It is the first sub-50-degree day of the Fall. On the road: practice discipline, don't just ride, plan where you want the bike to go and PUT it there. I look down at the two stars on my instrument console and remember to relax and work on smoothness. Traffic is slow, but I pre-load to shift up to second and a few seconds later pre-load to shift down to first, slowing for an upcoming stop, minimizing brakes. Off again; a corner approaches and I make a point not to "bust" the "double yellows" after another pre-loaded down shift and controlled acceleration through the corner. It would have been better if I had turned my head more and LEANED even for a slow speed corner.

As the ride to work continues, I continue to re-adopt improvements. I PUT the bike in the left-hand mini-lane, look for the vanishing point, clear the view then roll. I'm in no hurry as I turn down Quackenbush and pick my line through the pot holes. Providence give me a break in the traffic and I'm quickly across 16th Street, one of DC's main ingress routes, and descending on the S-curves of Joyce Road into Rock Creek Park. I keep the rev's up in first gear, watch for the vanishing point in a tight S-curve, and my peripheral vision spots a deer standing at attention a few feet from the road. It is watching me. Intuitively I make eye contact and realize the deer knows it is safe where it is. We've met before, further down the road and even raced together side-by-side a bit. As I continue, I meditate upon the deer -- this time so serene -- having grown up on venison, I can only hope fate doesn't bring us together in less pleasant ways.

More tight S-curves below the Ranger Station that I've seldom done well are no big deal. Same for faster curves as Rock Creek Parkway approaches Georgetown.

Getting on the bike later that day, for the ride home, my trip meter says 88.0 and I remember Highway 880 during the workshop. I recall the gas station where I refilled and last set the trip meter to zero, near the completion of the rider's workshop. I have a feeling of amazement that such roads, such riding as we saw after that gas station, are less than a tankfull of gas from downtown Washington, DC. This gives me a powerful sense of my motorcycle's reach.

Two weeks later:

My cornering skills have improved further as I'm getting the habit of leaning, and not having to think about it so much. When I'm not doing anything else, I practice shifting with pre-loading while riding down the road. That will take more work to become a habit, but I'm getting better and now know what Reg Pridmore means by the "blip" that you hear when racers shift although I do not hear it as often as I would like. I've found my magnifying glass. It does make map reading easier. Now I await my Delorme Pennsylvania Atlas and wonder what maps I'll use for the upcoming Void Endurance Rally.

The Riders Workshop proved to have great value. My riding skills probably doubled, and likewise my safety margin. There was also great pleasure to be found in riding great roads under the watchful eye of a master, listening to his coaching on upcoming sections of road, and the question & answer sessions between segments. At a more practical level, since I'm keeping my engine in the range of it's optimum performance, my mileage has improved by about 20%.

I look forward to taking the Total Control class as well. I've seen them working at Frederick Community College, while I was teaching a BRC nearby. Total Control teaches different things and maybe sometimes different aspects of some of the things we learned in the Rider's Workshop. Probably most of us would do well to take both classes. Probably, I will take the Rider's Workshop again in the Spring to sharpen my skills, further perhaps, at the beginning of the next riding season.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A quote for long distance riders.

"Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen." - John le Carre

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bob Dylan "Forever Young"

May God bless & keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
& let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
& climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
& see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright & be strong,
May you stay forever young,

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,

Bob Dylan "Forever Young ('73) The Band
Last Waltz Nov. 25 '76 @ Winterland Ballroom in
San Francisco

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A quote for an LD Rider

Paul or Voni Graves posted this quote to the LD Rider's list:

"Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whetherfrom great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the solesurvivors of a world no one else has ever seen." - John le Carre

Monday, November 05, 2007


Reminder to self: Check this link before any planned long trips.

A splendid Fall weekend

This was a most satisfactory weekend.

Friday night, my landlady who loves motorcycles, Susan, and I met motorcycling friends Todd & Christie Sudda for grog and bison burgers at Silver Spring's Piratz tavern. We made plans to ride to Deleware for Sunday's "Pumpkin Chuckin" contest. Saturday had a very slow beginning due to the grogg of the night before. Grogg, our waitress dressed like a pirate wench explained to us, is basically rum, rum... more rum and a touch of ginger beer. She explained what real grog used to be and we were glad that we were enjoying the modern-day variety.

The cats were glad to have me for a Saturday morning. By noon, however, I had to ride. So, I had been inspecting the roads around Mercersburg, PA and happened to run into a couple who lived there via the StumbleUpon (SU) social network. We ended up meeting for bugers a Murphy's tavern then went next door to Buchanan's Birthplace Restaurant for desert. I had met the owners of the restaurant on a previous ride through there and wanted to check it out. We enjoyed cheesecake with blackberry sauce that they made on-site, along with New Orleans coffee, something I acquired a taste for years ago at Adams Morgan's now defunct Franklyn's Coffee Shop and Restaurant (once the center of my universe). As we enjoyed our desert we got to spy on what was arriving at the tables of other diners, and we agreed to return soon for more visiting.

You never know what you might find, meeting strangers you've met on-line. This encounter was a testimony to the strength of being able to find some with whom I had a surprising number of things in common. Brian is a motorcycle safety instructor and has a collection of over a dozen guitars and other stringed instruments. He lived in Billings Montanna and is one of the few people I know who knew who Kris Kristopherson is. He was able to tell me some of the story of Johny Cash discovering him and bringing him to fame -- something I had not known.

Sherrie and he have been married only since last Summer and it was obvious that they had done a good job of finding each other over a long distance. An Internet success story.

Pumpkin Chuckin was pretty awesome, also. There was some drama as my bike developed some brake problems. A warning light came on and it took me a some time after pulling over to realize it was not the oil indicator and to determine that it had to do with the brakes. The rear brake light wasn't working and if I used the rear brakes, all power assisted braking would fail. It took some observation to figure out that I could get by if I only used the front brake. Inspection tells me that the culprit is an improperly routed wire from the brake switch that got too close to the cylinder heads. There are some recent graduates working at my dealer and perhaps they were in too much of a hurry when my fluids were recently refreshed.

The bike has over 76,000 miles on it, almost 77,000.

A visit to the Chromeheads web site shed more light on the problem and the likely fix. So, the bike is at the dealer's as of late last night and I'll have to get by until Wednesday without it, given my work schedule, teaching Microsoft classes Tuesday & Thursday nights, and needing to meet Todd for his initiation into the masons at lodge, tonight.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Waterproof Paper

If you need to print maps or directions for a ride that is apt to become wet. This company markets water resistant paper and special pens for writing on it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Void Rally

I want to take a few moments to record my thoughts after the third annual Void endurance rally.

First, these endurance rallies are a bit like a mini-Christmas in the way that they create excitement, involve weeks of anticipation and preparation, an in the way that they bring good people together. It is fair to say that the “bar” of Christmas itself, however, has been set fairly low. Rare is the family who actually employs a critical eye reviewing the merits of those who will be rewarded. While the endurance rally system of bonus points and how they are earned results in nothing of tangible value, the emotional and psychic value is a whole different story. Whether you end up with one point or thousands of points, you pretty much know that you’ve earned every one.

At the scoring table, after a hard day of riding in pursuit of bonus points (bonii) at various bonus point locations, there can be some real disappointments and sometimes some hard feelings. It appears to me that well organized rallies anticipate this. Both rallies I attended, organized their volunteer staff in a way that permitted appeals all the way up to the main organizer, an individual thick-skinned by necessity who is referred to, not always affectionately as the "Rally Bastard" or RB for short.

Scott LaShear was the RB for the Void 3, along with Gary Stipe. In the weeks leading up to the Rally, I frequently saw Scott's name in my mail and on the signature line of e-mails of the Void's listserver clarifying one point or another. I also saw others of his volunteers, particularly Jim Bain who I had met when he was the RB at the Cape Fear Rally, my first long distance (LD) rally. Although I came in too late to be counted a finisher at the Cape Fear Rally, it did get me interested enough in endurance rallies to try it again and I endeavored greatly to finish this one, learning a thing or two about myself in the process.

The Void was really four rallies in one. There was a ten-hour rally that began and ended in Lynchburg, and three 24-hour rallies that began from different locations in the Eastern part of the U.S. (Altoona, PA; Dothan, AL; and Owensboro, KY) and ended in Lynchburg, VA. All 24-hour riders had the same set of bonus locations, but obviously had to be scored separately. The 10-hour riders had another set. I had ridden the 10-hour version at Cape Fear. Starting from Altoona, this was my first 24-hour rally.

Soon after I registered, wondering whether I was being vain, stupid, foolish, or a bit of all three to presume to do this, the first packet arrived in the mail carrying my rally flag and some guidance that hinted at other mysteries. Why was the rally flag printed on paper that would dissolve if it got wet? Some of the old-timers chatted things up on the listserv, discussing various bonus locations, creating a variety of alarms in my mind as to why I had received nothing yet concerning bonus locations. It was in good humor. Kevin Craft clued me in quickly enough as to what the game was, when I took the bait. Later I learned that Kevin was the Rally Master for the new Rendez-vous Rally in Quebec, Canada. Hint: I now want to experience the added challenge that the French language and the metric system might present.

The first packet is kind of a teaser. Once you have your flag, you can't wait to get the book of bonus locations and begin planning your route. It arrived a couple weeks later, Monday night the week of the rally. Needless to say I was up late a few nights after that. I told myself that since the rally would not actually start until one in the afternoon that I would be able to use the hotel room that I had reserved for Thursday night to sleep in and catch-up on sleep right before the start. Sure.

My uninformed approach was to key in all the bonus locations that I might remotely want to consider into my Garmin's GPS's Mapsource software. This would prove useful, but in the future I will spend five bucks for a Rand McNally regional map and plot them so that I can more easily see the big picture. Color-coding them for high-value, medium-value and low-value also makes sense. I also printed a second copy of the rally book's bonus location then cut it up so that each bonus was on a separate 3 X 8.5 inch strip of paper. Later I would organize these according to my chosen route and staple them into a kind of booklet that I could keep on the top of my tank bag and use as a reference for each bonus stop. When I remembered to use them, they kept me out of trouble.

While waiting for the packet, I speculated about possible routes between Altoona and Lynchburg. Ordinarily it is a good plan to try to plan a series of loops that have good bail-out points if one runs into time trouble and needs to just get to the finish line. When the rally book arrived with the real locations, my reading of it led me to believe that this rally would not lend itself to such a plan. Anyway, I arrived at my hotel room in Altoona, on Thursday night and still did not know for sure what I was going to do the next day. At the same time, I wanted to meet some of the other riders, if possible. Should I order pizza and work on my route or should I socialize? I decided to compromise and do a bit of both. I might gain more from what I could learn from more experience riders than struggling on in my own ignorance. I figured that other riders probably would not want to make a late-night party of it. Working late then sleeping in the next day was a possibility.

This proved to be one of the first great decisions of my weekend. From the listserver, I knew some riders were staying at Motel 6. It was already a waypoint in my GPS and only a short ride from my room at the Econo Lodge. There I met two riders just arriving on bikes with Canadian plates. They turned out to be Cameron Sanders and Peter DeLean who I learned the following week had placed first and third, respectively, in the Rendez-vous Rally. They said that they would probably have dinner at Hooters. I told them that if they did they would find me there.

When they did show up, they went through a couple of pitchers of beer -- they had been able to walk from Motel 6 -- while I stuck to diet cokes needing to ride several blocks back to the Econo Lodge. This worked to my advantage as they gave freely of their advice for the rally (not because of the beer, but because helping other riders and especially new riders is pretty much the spirit of the LD Rally sport and they the very personification) and I probably remembered much more of what they said.

The two of them instructed me to use color coding on the map so I could naturally see the highest value route, then to work backwards from the end how much time I would need to hit each stop and figure out my decision points. Following their advice, in my hotel room later, I was able to put my entire route plan on two diskette labels that I would temporarily stick to the top of my tank bag. This served me well. Despite a couple of mistakes and near mistakes, I would be able to get back before the DNF deadline because of the evaluation done for each bonus location.

We happened to meet again the next morning at Denny's. I woke up at 7, tried to get back to sleep, but gave up and got up twenty minutes later. By nine we were wondering what we might do with the remaining time until one o'clock. I put down a "lumberjack breakfast" knowing it would be my last good meal for a while. We ended up scouting out a laundromat and the Salvation Army before heading up to Home Depot, where we would each buy a 1/4" bolt. The time on the receipt would be our starting time once we called it into the Rally Masters.

I will leave the recounting of the rally for comments that I will add to the pictures as I add them. For now, I need to report that most of what I've just written was jotted into a notebook at my next good breakfast. Returning to home in Takoma Park, Maryland after the rally, I found myself riding up highway 29. I had a thought of stopping in Charlotsville, but on the way I passed through Lovingston, VA. Lovingston has a special place in my heart because of a wine that Mountain Cove Vineyard produced many years ago. I liked it enough to seek out the winery and buy more while traveling with my wife when we were married. We still travel together occasionally, but get along better together not being married. Anyway, I saw a sign directing me to a side rode and the Lovingston Cafe. It gave me time to collect a few of these thoughts.

It is also one of those funny things in life that when I arrived at the Econo Lodge, I saw that its office shared a building with a Chinese Buffet. This was the same restaurant a group of friends and I had eaten at in 2003 on our ride to Toronto. The leader of the ride, Norm, died last spring while getting ready to get on his bike one morning, in Nevada. Norm was a character who tried not care whether others liked him, but he stuck to his own principals, and he seemed to know all the roads and their numbers. It felt good to be walking again in a place he once brought me, although unlike him I had well forgotten that it was Altoona where we had stopped for lunch.

At the finish, I knew it was close. Still, I took a moment more to take a picture of my GPS's status screen. It showed an average speed overall of 61 mph and a top speed of 137 mph. Garmin's are known to get that last bit wrong. I can guarantee that my ride never reached triple digit speeds. I removed my helmet, pulled my ball cap (for the fashion bonus), grabbed my six-pack beverage bonus and headed inside the hotel. I was shocked that there was nobody to check me in in the lobby. Other riders pointed me to the arrows on the wall. Woops! I had to do some walking. How close would I be to DNF'ing again? Rats!

Down the hall... I started to trot. At the end a turn and there was Karla to log me in. Time? 2:47. I was four minutes from DNF'ing. Not bad, considering the wrong turn I had found for the last gas stop and a number of other "mistakes" I could think of. Later, at the scoring table, I met Verne Hauck who led me through my first experience at the scoring table. He went down the check list and I seemed to have everything needed.

"Proof of insurance?" he asked.

I put my hand in my left pants pocket where I had been sure to put it for scoring, but it was not there. Without proof of insurance, there would be no points. I would be disqualified. Talk about panic. Verne called Scott over and explained. I told them both that I had been careful to fold it up, like a letter, and put it in my pocket and that it just was not there. Scott was not happy. You can tell that he wants people to get it right and to have a good time.

"Stand up and take everything out of all your pockets," he instructs me.

I do so and there is not much in my pockets.

Nobody's fault but my own. No point in getting mad about it. I just should have been even more careful about that document. I put everything back into my pocket, back away from the table, push the chair back under the table, and there to the left of the chair is my insurance document lying on the floor.

From there on out I was a very happy individual. Yes, I lost points for not taking a couple of pictures with my rally flag showing in them, but I had finished and actually had a score. Hopefully I will live long enough to apply the lessons of this rally in future rallies and do better, but I had done well enough for the moment and would enjoy hearing the stories of others for the rest of the day.

At the next table, a rider is recounting... "I ran out of gas on the Blue Grass Parkway..."

That was a bind that I had been in, myself, but some road magic had saved me. More about that later.

Pictures here.

Link to the Void Web Page here.

Packing up

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Iron Butt Rally Ride Report

A very well written report full of good tidbits of advice.


James Ford's Rider's Workshop - the week after

I'm still in awe of this past weekend with the James Ford's Rider's Workshop. I am working on a write-up and will post it when it is complete rather than piecemeal.

Last night, I filled the tank up for the first time since the weekend and doing the math see that my mileage on it was 36 mpg. That is about a 20% improvement. Interesting, since I know that the engine is running at a consistently higher RPM.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Friday, September 07, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007


CycleActive & Tourtech provide a very good deal for a toolkit.


All I really need is a set of stubby wrenches and small sockets 9mm to 19mm. Amazing how so many tool vendors do not include the top or bottom of the range in their sets.

Bicycle Trailer

Cool bicycle trailer with tent. Has potential for a motorcycle?


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Discounts for MSF Instructors

This page has a summary of companies that provide discounts to MSF certified instructors.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Works Performance Shocks & Bob's BMW come through!

Tonight I'm back in business.

Sunday night I discovered my recently repaired shock was leaking. Monday I put calls and e-mail into the manufacturer, but they were too swamped to get back to me right away. I called Madigan at Bob's BMW and he saw there was one remaining shock for a BMW R1200CLC left in the country. He wasn't optimistic that it would not already be sold, but asked to have it sent and said if it was still available he would get it overnight in Tuesdays shipment, or on Thursday.

Next, I heard from Ned of Works Performance. He took a look at the situation and asked if he couldn't build me a shock and send it to me as a replacement. So, we ended up with two candidates. Bob's called me at work today to say they had the new shock in, and I could pick it up. Susan met me at the White Flint Metro station after she got off work at 5 and got me to Bob's with about a minute and a half to spare. I had called to let them know I was on the way and to go ahead and roll the bike out for pickup.

I'll have to get a picture on here to show you the new shock. Ned sent me something considerably more sophisticated than the last one. I'll have to find the manual and study it to appreciate what I have to work with, now. Saturday, I'll be able to get to the Four Winds Rally in Pennsylvania. I've scoped out some roads that should be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Which Bike is Best for a Beginner?

Here's a great link to a discussion about which bike is best for a beginner:


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Surgery

I found a good doctor, a neurosurgeon, who knew that I wanted to be fixed and not scared about all the details. His first plan of attack was some micro surgery to eliminate the sciatica problems. He told me to plan on a five-day hospital stay.

Friends at work, who had recently had back surgery, clued me into things to do to make it go better. I got a grabber to pick things up off the floor without bending over, got all my laundry and shopping done and generally made sure I would be able to live at home for a couple of weeks post-op.

Washington Hospital Center was about as good as it gets. In pre-op, a nurse named Aggy (real name Angie) instructed me where and how to change into the gown. When I returned to climb onto the gurney, I was very pleasantly surprised that the blanket she brought to cover me had been pre-warmed in a heated cabinet. Her good humor and attention to details set the tone and forestalled anxieties.

The operation started about 7:30 and I woke up in post-op at 11:30. There is not much of that I remember, but I enjoyed being rolled through the hospital to my room.

Several people stopped to check on my condition. "Squeeze my fingers," I was told. "Lift your legs. Press down with your toes." ...and so on. After several tests, I could see relief and even some pleasure in their faces from their findings.

The doctor visited and explained to me that they had found things to be more compressed than his own MRI had shown. They did a multiple-level lapinectomy, removing the dorsal bones from several of my vertebrae so that they now resemble a 'U' more so than an 'O' in order to relieve pressure on nerves and my spinal column. I had a six-inch incision in my back held closed by staples and tape. Indeed, I spent five days before going home, and a good thing they didn't discharge me the morning of day four as I developed a fever of 103+ that afternoon.

In hindsight, I'm very impressed with the quality of care I received in post-op and the nurses. Not all of them were very experienced, but the confidence of nurses who I knew to be experienced and quite competent went a long way in dispelling my many anxieties about the trainees. I also appreciated the amount of diversity in the nursing staff. One young nurse was from Trinidad. I enjoyed her accent although I had a difficult time understanding her and communicating with her: difficulties that caused me to feel distrustful needlessly.

The business of learning to get out of bed, learning how to sit, and stand from a sitting position took place over the post-op period. Several friends came to visit. At home, the lessons learned from the occupational therapist were very useful: how to log-roll to the edge of the bed, use my arms to sit-up sideways without bending, then stand up with out bending the back, keeping myself rigidly vertical.

At a follow-up doctor's appointment 11 days later, Dr. Levine removed the staples and answered questions. I learned that there was no limit on how long I stood or sat, but that I needed to take a 15-minute break each hour.

"When can I go back to work?" I asked.

He asked what kind of work I did then told me that I could go back to work the next day if I took it easy.

"When can I start riding my motorcycle again?"

"As soon as you can get off the pain killers," was his answer.

That was Tuesday the 26th. I have not taken a pain killer since. I switched to Advil. The following Saturday, I got a ride from a good riding friend to Bob's BMW to pick up my bike.

From Bob's, in Jessup, Maryland, I rode to Upper Marlboro where a masonic brother was hosting the Grand Lodge's annual crab-fest, and later home. It was a short two rides and I was very cautious about many things. The next night, after resting all of Sunday, I rode to a fair in Columbia, MD to help at the BOB's BMW booth. I didn't know how long I would feel up to it, but was able to sit on my bike when I got tired. I was back in business!

I've been off-line for a while.

The place I'm living lost its RCN ISP account when someone in management stopped paying the bills and departed and nobody else picked them up. No way that I'm blogging from my job in the State Department. Then, on June 11th, I went in for back surgery.

At least I had the presence of mind to turn on the wireless features on my cell phone before the hospital stay. It was primitive, but I could follow the forums and post, and get gmail while on my back in the hospital bed.

The surgery was due to an accident, last year. I'm sure I've blogged about it before; if not here, then certainly at my blog. Briefly: May of 2006 an aggressive, foreign-born motorist piled into the back of my bike as I was doing a decel looking for an entry into a merge lane to access a freeway on-ramp. I think he came from two lanes out, trying to beat the cars catching up to me after cars between us had peeled off for an East-bound on-ramp, or to beat a red light.

Nationwide accepted fault and had to pay for my emergency room visit, but expenses stopped there. The emergency room failed to do a MRI, despite my complaining of a stiff back and headaches, probably because insurance companies are aggressively denying such expenses to contain costs, prescribed pain killers, and told me to see an Orthopedic specialist.

The specialist office they referred me to never returned my calls. Nationwide refused to pay for the prescriptions for pain killers unless I cam into the office the next week to sign a waiver. Then they would "give me a little money to cover expenses."

I was ticked that they were forcing me to hire a lawyer, and went back to my own company, GEICO. The GEICO rep was very supportive and helpful and offered to let me go through them for better service, but as Nationwide had already admitted fault I was reluctant to incur costs upon my own insurer.

In the end I was fortunate that a friend suggested a good lawyer who was willing to take me on contingency. I got orthopedic and neurological care, but still no MRI. Maryland Orthopedics apparently was willing to wait a year or more to be paid after any settlement. I went to physical therapy for about six weeks and was returned to light duty, whereupon I gave up working for myself and accepted my current full-time position. Six weeks-or-so later they put me on full duty, and I returned to teaching motorcycle safety classes for Maryland MVA at Montgomery Community College. The first day back on that weekend job, after about 80 minutes of walking, standing, and teaching on the blacktop, I doubled over from pain shooting down my left leg.

With these new symptoms, I was able to get a MRI. Apparently, they needed some indicator that the MRI would find something and risked not being reimbursed by a court if it could be construed that the procedure was simply to aid in diagnosis. Maybe this could be construed as an attempt to unethically inflate claims if it were applied to everyone with a stiff back after an accident.

They found a lot of problems on the MRI with discs. Bone fragments were floating in the spinal column, I was told. This caused inflammation of nerves and the sciatica-like symptoms that I was experiencing. New medicine helped, but as I tried to return to my normal life and to "remain active" as the emergency room doctor had instructed me, the problems continued to progress.

My new job turned out to be a major benefit. The employer provided unlimited sick leave and medical benefits that eliminated the financial risk of surgery, should a settlement not go my way. Probably it was the affect of depression that often follows accidents that I remained preoccupied with potential negative outcomes and accepted considerable pain and inconvenience to keep costs down just in case I might someday get the bill, myself. I don't think that this pleased my attorney, particularly.

New face shield

My last entry described the extent I went to in order to minimize the eye-glass/helmet hassle. Yes, this is because I prefer a full-face helmet and have yet to pony up the dollars for a flip-up, hearing that they are even noisier.

The next issue of Motorcycle Consumer News (MCN), on it's back cover, describes a new light-sensitive face shield that will auto tint. It is manufactured by Scorpion Sports.

That must have been the June issue... no, it was the July issue and I received the August issue in time to read it at the Forth of July picnic!

MCN is a great publication that every avid motorcyclist should subscribe to and support. They survive on subscription dollars alone and take no money from advertisers. So, their reviews are pretty unbiased... at least by advertisers.

That same issue has a letter from a reader, Gerald Bertinot of Lafayette, LA, describing a disadvantage of half-helmets you might not have thought about previously that he discovered for himself when a bug flew into his ear and found itself trapped alive.

Friday, June 08, 2007

No More Glasses!

I want to describe, for you, some of the benefits of replacing your glasses with contacts or laser surgery.

If you wear glasses, then you probably share my love/hate relationship with full-face helmets. Not only do you have to take your glasses off to don or remove the helmet, then put them back on; but you need something for sunglasses as well. Exposure to light, especially UV, causes the lenses of your eyes to yellow and is one of the things that reduces night vision with aging.

I still love the full-face helmet for its complete protection. In winter they keep me warmer. If I am riding without a faring, I appreciate the improved ability to keep dust and bugs at bay that comes with wearing a full-face helmet. While I’ve learned how to hold my glasses with a few fingers while dealing with the helmet so that they can be replaced without needing to be set down somewhere, the drill is always a humbug. Never mind the time it took me to become good at changing shields.

My eye doctor, a few years ago, asked me how old I was. When I told him, he asked me if I worked outdoors a lot. After I explained, he cautioned me to get sunglasses as well as UV protection.

If money were no object, I might have just ordered some of those automatic tinting glasses. However, with me, money seems to always have places to go and generally goes there before it goes to such luxuries. Instead, I purchased a tinted visor and began changing the visor on my Arai helmet. Fortunately, a spare visor fits easily into my tank bag and somewhere I read about the use of the protecting cases that are sold by many dealers …well, many BMW dealers, anyway. I do not remember seeing any during the few forays that I’ve made into forbidden pastures.

Last month, a few years later, I was finally ready for self-tinting lenses. It helps to work for a corporation that provides a medical plan with vision benefits. When I explained all this to the doctor, however, his suggestion was to try soft contact lenses. Not all doctors are willing to go to the extra trouble to fit them to people with astigmatism, but this one was. Moreover, because my benefits year ends within a few weeks, I can get soft lenses in this year’s plan and still get some auto-tinting lenses with next year’s benefits, in a few weeks.

A few days later, I visited the doctor and received the trial lenses. I looked forward to being able to use ordinary sun glasses. He informed me that about anything plastic, polarized, and with UV protection would be sufficient, and that I need not pay a lot for such glasses.

The last thing he told me was that I would need some reading glasses, since I normally wear bifocals. That was a surprise. My next stop was CVS and reading glasses ran between ten and twenty-five dollars. A friend, who I refer to as “the Takoma Park pet-rescue lady with the Prius,” since tells me that I can get reading glasses at The Dollar Store.

I thought I also needed some of those tight-fitting glasses to keep dust out of my eyes. Such was one of the concerns that I shared with the doctor regarding wearing contacts on the motorcycle. The Aerostich catalog had WileyX goggles that looked like just the thing, so I called around to see who had them. Battley’s did. Sabrina was most helpful. I told her that I would be by to see her later and learned that they closed at seven. Madigan, at Bob’s, suggested that I try the Bobster’s. While I chuckled at the coincidence of the name, I learned from the Internet that they might be a better choice: nearly as good and they cost less.

Bob’s closes at 6, so I went by there, first. I was riding John Galvin’s motorcycle and did not realize that its clock was an hour and ten minutes slow. I knew its time wasn’t right, but figured it was only off an hour because of daylight savings time.

Arriving at Bob’s, the bikes were already rolled into the store. I was able to put the side-stand down just a few feet from the door and without removing my helmet went to check to see if it was still open. It was.

Inside bikes parked closely together slowed my progress. The sales manager, Rick, was at his desk and looked up.

“Are you closed? Is it past six o’clock?” I asked.

“It’s six-ten,” he answered, with a chuckle. “What do you need. If it’s something small we can probably take care of you as the cash register is still open.”

“I was just going to look at sun glasses,” I said as I began to remove my helmet.

Once I got my helmet off, Robyn looked over and in mock surprise says, “Oh, its just J. If we’d known that we would have told you to get out of here.”

Several of us got a chuckle from that.

Once I navigated through the bikes, Madigan met me at the counter. He showed me the choices and had me on my way with a new set of Bobsters in a short time. I was amazed at the low price.

“Are you all trying to ruin Bob’s reputation?”

Riding out from Bob’s, I did not feel like going home. John’s Rockster is a fun bike to ride. I dawned on me that I could still get to Battley’s and see what the expensive glasses looked like. I did tell Sabrina that I would see her that evening, and I might want a more expensive pair of sunglasses as an addition, someday. It might also let me enjoy a few back roads. First, I checked John’s clock against the time on my cell phone so I would know how far off it was: one hours and nine minutes.

I really couldn’t waste any time and got to Battley’s with only a couple of minutes to spare. A sales clerk standing by the door hurriedly locked the door upon seeing a last-minute rider approaching their loading dock. I circled a couple of times, laughing at my urgency to get there and headed to Starbucks.

It is now a week-or-so hence. I have to say that soft lenses work just fine with motorcycling. Even without the tight fitting Bobsters, I get along fine in a full-face helmet. This I discovered on a ride with Chris Zink, a riding companion who has been living with soft lenses and pushing their limits for years. The feeling of freedom in not having to mess with glasses as I put on or take off a full-face helmet still feels rewarding days later. There is also another benefit.

When it gets wet out and lens surfaces fog up, you have one less surface to worry about so visibility is immediately 50% better in such situations. Instead of having to open a face shield to dab at your glasses in the hope of some partial improvement, you just blink your eyes.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Olympia AirGlide

I thought my new Olympia high-visibility jacket WAS the AirGlide. It is every bit as cool as the ancient Joe Rocket that served me across the country over the last ten years. Tuesday, I stopped in at Bob's and Madigan, one of the sales staff who handles the clothing and accessories, greeted me:

"Hey J, aren't you hot in that AST jacket? Don't you want an AirGlide?"

Ever adept at pretending I know what I do not, I did not admit that I thought what I was wearing WAS an Airglide.

He needed little encouragement to enlighten me further. He gladly showed me the AirGlide and in the process the difference, pointing out... "The AST is a great three-season jacket for Fall, Winter, and Spring. The AirGlide has mesh with a removable waterproof liner that makes it three-seasons: spring, summer, and fall. Some people even use a Garmin liner underneath to make it work for four-seasons."

Ah! So Olympia has more than one bright idea for better riding apparel.

Madigan then pointed out their new hi-viz vests with useful pockets, including one waterproof pocket in the back, and another that could be used for an ID card or an E-Z Pass on the front shoulder. We chatted about weather and E-Z Passes before he went back to work. I took a look at the AirGlide pants. My Joe Rocket pants were purchased in 2003, and while they have served well for the most part, have a few holes from the muffler, Velcro that does not wish to stay sewed on, and never mind when last washed.

Olympia products certainly seem to be attracting my dollars. It dawns on me that the first non-motocross motorcycle gloves I purchased for summer riding were also made by Olympia and served me many years until I discovered my current BMW summer gloves.

No doubt an AirGlide jacket and pants will soon be added to my riding gear. The improvement that good gear makes to the riding experience always seems worth the expense as the weeks, months, and years roll by.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


John Galvin, at Bob's BMW, says he's giving me a new nickname: "Lucky."

Well, I'm getting tired of Drifty anyway although it has a meaning in submarine tactics that is somewhat different from the word's civilian connotations.

What a perfect weekend we've had. Nancy and Blaster and some others were commenting about it, yesterday, while enjoying good meat sandwiches from the barbecue coach. The forecast said the weekend was going to be the pits, but instead it seems to have been redeemed by some grace and a good thing for the folks who put on Butler's Orchard--where I did not get to, today.

I had decided to go to Bob's, yesterday morning, to get a donut and see who I might run into for a ride. A block down the road, I noticed that the bike was riding very hard. Remembering that I had cranked up the shocks a couple of nights before for a rider and not cranked them back down, I reached down to back the dial off five or ten turns. Imagine my horror when the valve turned freely with no resistance.

Good thing I discovered something like this on my way to Bob's instead of last weekend on my trip to Asheville and back.

It turns out that the new Works shock blew a seal. Bob's did not have a replacement shock, but removed the shock and is keeping my bike while I send the shock back to Works for repair. So, I'm without a bike... again. Grrr.

Not the bike's fault. Nothing to do with what kind of bike I have or how many miles are on it, as this IS a relatively new shock. Just one of those things. There've been a few of "those things" in my life, lately.

I'm fortunate that such things happen while the bike is sitting at the curb, in my home territory, most of the time. Still, the feeling of bad luck is pervasive. Where is my karma these days? I've learned the humility lesson over and over. I just want to ride like everybody else and have a good time. Let's see four weekends ago, I had that flu illness that knocked me out for days. Three weekends ago, I went to get on my bike to go to teach a Saturday morning motorcycle safety class and the rear tire was flat. I took my friend Susan's car to the range to teach. AAA towed the bike while I was teaching (I have an operator with them who really knows how to tow bikes, Independent M/C Transport 301-946-5412, who alerts me that I only have one tow left on the AAA RV+ policy) . Nevertheless, I could not pick the bike up until Thursday, the next week due to schedules even though they had a new tire on the bike, the same day. The next week, two weekends ago, as the weekend approached, I feel a sore in my left elbow that turned into a swelling that turned into a general infection (that urned out to be staph) that put me into the hospital for surgery over the weekend.

It seems like a miracle that nothing happened to interfere with me getting to Asheville for my Nephew's graduation, last weekend. The Sunday morning ride north from Weaverville, beginning before sunrise, was one of those rides that made me feel a part of eternal moments of perfect beauty, as if for an hour or two I existed apart from my own mortality and a part of the timeless universe.

Then, this weekend, this. I only have three weekends before I go in for back surgery which will be followed by three weeks of doctor ordered "no motorcycling." Just what is providence trying to teach me, I wonder.

If there is a lesson, it may be that I'm overly dependent upon my motorcycle. I've come to absolutely depend upon it for my mental health. Perhaps because I grew up in the country... Mt. View, Wyoming near Ft. Bridger; then Thermopolis with its incredible hot springs raising steam for miles around in the Winter; then Weiser, Idaho; and spending summers at my grandfather's lake, Naylor Lake, in Colorado just below Gunella Pass.

Ft. Bridger, Wyoming

Weiser, Idaho: Gateway to Hells Canyon

Hot springs of Thermopolis, Wyoming

Naylor Lake

Gunella Pass

...perhaps because I grew up in the country, my mental health requires getting back to the country. ...or at least trying to find parts of it that do not too often remind me of the problems of civilization.

I read Bob Higdon, writing in the recent issue of BMW RA's "On the Level," and he talks about consuming Prozac like it's candy, and I can relate. I generally go off my med's when I'm on long trips, and perhaps it is one reason that I enjoy long trips so much.

Still, perhaps providence is trying to teach me that there are simpler and less expensive ways to pursue my mental health. Neal Peart, in his book "Ghost Rider," talks about his discovery that hiking is every bit as therapeutic to him in working through the grief of major personal losses as riding the motorcycle was. Even, perhaps I should say "especially," when he had to worry about bears--something other than ones own usual preoccupations.

As I sat at Bob's, I enjoyed the usual parade of visitors. There was one man who purchased his first bike, one of the new F800's. He had just completed the motorcycle training course. He stalled it three times before getting out of the dealer lot, and once more as he made a left into the road. In some ways, it is better for new people to be stalling a bike than over-reving and popping the clutch. Good that he was erring to the side of caution. Finding himself stopped in the road, below a rise that prevented him from seeing well what might be coming seemed to give him enough adrenaline to give it a little more gass, and he was off.

Another gentleman had a brand new K1200GT and was looking at what bags might fit it. Easier to farkle a GS, I think.

Bob's had a line-up of classic bikes that various customers brought in. One with a sidecar took the prize for the day, but Bob made a point of making other customers with notable bikes join the center-stage. One bike, a K100, had a sign on it's front: "Silver Spring to Fairbanks in 18 days" ...or was it 13 days? A scrapbook sat on the rear box full of pictures of the trip. After I finished looking through it, the owner of the bike approached, a woman who I recognized from the pictures in the scrap book. She volunteered answers to several questions I had about the trip. For one, I had presumed that you need a GS to manage those roads.

"If I can make it on this, you can certainly make it on yours," she said nodding at my cruiser.

As much as I like looking at new bikes, I enjoy more examining the bikes that are being ridden long miles, as she had ridden hers. The longer they've been ridden, the better. The many small things people do to make the ride easier are interesting to me. Especially those things they think of that do not cost a whole lot of money. For example, she had installed a CB radio and antenna rather than a Autocom. Her husband's Harley Davidson, on which he had also made the trip also had a CB. It was enough for them to be able to talk.

Well, after my operation, I'll be up to walking and hiking. Maybe I'll get a bicycle again. There is a part of me that wonders whether I might not be happier touring on a bicycle than a motorcycle.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cape Fear Rally

I spent the weekend in Wilmington, NC and participated in my first rally event, the Cape Fear Rally's ten-hour mini-rally. My first posting to the bmwbmw board follows. Some of the names mentioned are other members of the BMWBMW club.

Made it home in 6.5 hours despite a bit of a slow down on 95.

I'm feeling better after a couple of beers and a Chili Bubba at Hard Times, and the benefit of somebody else driving there and back.

As I said at the event, it will take me a while to figure out that endurance rallies are not RTE events, but anybody who tries the barbecue at Speedy's in Lexington, NC will understand that it was a goal well worth the risk.

Lexington had not been in my plans until Friday night when Jim told us how good the barbecue there was. It was also beyond the map coverage in my outdated GPS V and I can see several things I might do in the future to reduce the risk of last minute changes and how I might build maps for each segment to back-up the GPS.

I found the best roads, shortcuts through the mountains, using maps. GPS, even on direct routing, kept giving me routes that would have taken longer.

As we started, I was sure Mark was blowing it driving faster than I was, in town, and then turning too soon and missing the Wilmington bonus on the way out of town. I had no idea he would finish in first place and did not understand why he seemed less than happy with my sticking with him for the first few blocks. He later explained that he was just busy focusing on his plan.

At the Wilmington bonus location I met Tim, just packing up.

"Is that the plaque we're supposed to take pictures of?" I asked.

He gently reminded me that the rules forbid one rider assisting another with finding the bonus locations. I could imagine someone getting caught answering such a question and will take that lesson to heart.

It was nice to get a look at the Wilmington waterfront in the early morning. I got several pictures and enjoyed a short conversation with a city worker who was picking up litter.

I took the warning about the rally bosses checking our speeds on each leg seriously and never drove so slow for so long in as long as I can remember... until Asheboro cost me an hour. All the way back from there I worried that if I made it in time I might have to lose my log book to prevent getting barred from future events. I was still 47 minutes late, but in Asheboro, at one point it told me I would be x and x/y hours late.

One other place I lost time was in on the way North, in Albemarle. The GPS got me there just fine, but I was thinking so much about Lexington, the following stop, on the way there that by the time I got to Albemarle I had actually forgotten that I was supposed to stop there and get a receipt. I didn't understand why the GPS kept looping me back to Albemarle instead of taking me on to Lexington and Speedy's. About the third time I saw the city limits sign I remembered that there was a stop before Lexington where I was supposed to simply get a receipt, and it might be Albemarle.

The rules say that you'll be disqualified if you fail to render aid to a fellow contestant or a member of the public in distress. Soon after leaving Wilmington, and leaving the main highway, I rode past a man leaning against his car on the other side of the road. I doubled-back to see if they needed assistance and quickly saw that my slowing to stop brought a look of alarm. The man held up a very large cell phone or two-way radio and pointed at it, and then I saw another man in the driver seat also on a cell phone. I quickly concluded that I might be interrupting a drug deal and decided against stopping.

There were some good lessons about riding. It was pleasing also to note some of the things that did work and challenges that were managed better than in the past. There were temptations I did not fall prey to and one or two hunches that would have saved me some time had I believed them.

Stopping for ice cream was a temptation to which I did succumb. An older couple didn't know that BMW made motorcycles. That turned into a bit of a conversation, and I told about our club attending the rally, and all about the Rally raising funds for the Victory Gang. While I was talking to them, Chaz drove by looking very business like and appearing to me to be maintaining the speed of the rest of the traffic, in no big rush. A while later I caught up to him in Eberle.

The conversation explaining the rally was repeated in Luberton, at the Performance Shop where they wanted to know why somebody else had duct taped a towel to their sign on the side of their building, just a few minutes earlier, and taken a picture of it.

Forgot to mention that on the trip down to Wilmington, on Friday, while passing Camp Lejeune, I had the treat of seeing an Osprey flying overhead. Years ago, I spent a many hours playing with a Helicopter flight simulator that could simulate the Osprey. I developed a real appreciation for its ability to withstand small arms fire better than some of its faster & lighter cousins. It was a treat seeing a real one in service.

It was great seeing so many other people enjoying themselves. Dukr was smiling every time I saw her. It impressed me willing more experienced competitors seemed to be to to share their secrets of success.

Check out this picture from my ride down to Wilmington.

After I took this picture (note minister's name), a man whipped his car off the road, into the parking lot behind it and drove over the grass, doubling back, and offered to take a picture with me in it.

First stop in Wilmington: The BMW motorcycle dealer. They provided a much needed rest stop and free coffee. Of particular interest, to me, was their Royal Enfield motorcycle with side car.

Next morning, at the first bonus location, I could not resist taking a few extra photos of the waterfront.

Here's the USS North Carolina, across the bay.

The view South. I would be riding over that bridge, in a few moments. By the time I took this picture Mark, who would later win the event was miles to the West.

Ice Cream Stop

The view behind a gas station. There were wild geese on the ground eating in that field impervious to human presence.

Another stop...

Eberle Springs Inn:

Speedy's in Lexington. Never had barbecue like that, before. Carolina barbecue might be a new favorite.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Efforts to pass new helmet laws intensify -

Efforts to pass new helmet laws intensify -

My comments posted to this article on-line:

There are some aspects of this we are missing.

One is that the number of motorcycle fatalities has increased despite the overwhelming number of riders wearing helmets. Using the death statistic to justify legislation is a lot like blaming the victim. Because we have criminals who are motivated to rape, should all women be required to be kept safe under the supervision of a father or husband protector? No, we know it is better to go after the criminals. Saying that we need a law requiring helmets because of this statistic is blaming the victim.

Second, the issue of costs associated with accidents should be contained by the liability of the party at fault regardless of the type of vehicle or amount of armor the victim purchases. Part of the problem is our "no fault" culture which allows the amortization of the consequences of irresponsible behavior across the entire population and increasingly fails to penalize poor drivers or reward better drivers.

Third, and maybe most important, what is being missed is that the motorcycle numbers are "the canary in the coal mine" telling us that something, not related to whether helmets are worn, is wrong. Legislators jumping on helmet laws are simply ripping off the public by trying to make it look like they are doing something to address the problem, when in fact they are lacking in wisdom and in denial about their ignorance concerning the real underlying causes.

I work and live in the DC area. I ride a motorcycle. I was rear-ended last May. I can tell you a lot about the travesty of how the legal system and insurance industry works to contain costs by withholding medical care while at the same time increasing the compensation of their leaders and executives. If you do not have medical insurance and can't afford a lawyer or are not so clearly the wronged party as to invite one, you will not receive adequate examination and treatment. Doctors are discouraged from performing MRI's on head injuries unless symptoms are severe. You can have head and spinal injuries that will not show up until long after you have been financially pressured into a settlement. Thank heavens, the other party was clearly at fault and I found an attorney.

What I also learned from this accident an another I witnessed when another aggressive drive rear ended a friend on the same street just a few blocks south a few months earlier, was that both the offending drivers were immigrants. I think it is clear that a key to highway safety is better education. Before we inflict upon the victims of these crimes additional legal requirements, let us examine how governments have been negligent in providing driver education and assuring that other drivers are taught the aspects of safe and courteous behavior that we want to expect on our roads.

I don't mean to pick on immigrants specifically, but anyone who has driven in as many foreign lands as I have knows that there are vastly different levels of acceptable behavior. Before foreigners drive on our highways and streets, we need to be sure they have been instructed in what we expect of drivers who we entitle to conduct vehicles on our public roads. That means that we must have such standards and teach such standards and enforce them.

The fact is that formal drivers education is not a requirement of public education in this country. Neither is it a requirement of licensing (except for additional endorsements). It needs to be.

Moreover, highway safety enforcement assets need to be redirected away from revenue generating activities such as speed limit enforcement that do not always correlate with safety (when the flow of traffic averages ten to fifteen mph above posted limits, legal behavior increases risks) and begin enforcing better standards of conduct: right of way violations.

I guarantee you that if we begin putting camera-equipped police on unmarked motorcycles who hand out hefty tickets for aggressive and discourteous behavior, people will have no trouble spotting motorcycles in the future.

The bottom line is that we have more people on the roads. Our culture is increasingly tolerant of irresponsible and disrespectful behavior and the notion that might makes right, so motorcycles lose. Change that trend and you have a solution to many problems.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Dr. Joyce Brother's

Here is what Dr. Joyce Brother's says about submariners. Stands to reason that I should be a better rider than I am.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mental Fitness

Part of the preparation process for riding that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation curiculum teaches is asking the question as to whether one is mentally ready. Generally this means to make sure that we are clear-headed and not mentally preoccupied; free of the influence of drugs as well.

When I consider this point, sometimes I don't know whether I "should" be motorcycling, even as much as I enjoy it. I am getting older and accidents matter more. Even a non-fatal accident has the potential not only to reduce ones lifestyle, but shorten ones life. With every accident I question more whether I am as mentally capable as I should be. The importance of long distance, high mileage riders to me is that they generally serve as good models for what a more successful attitude and philosophy toward motorcycling might be.

The biggest benefit, for me, of motorcycling is that it gets me out into nature, and it does so faster and better than other forms of transportation. One can stumble around the question of quantity versus quality until one is sick of it: How do you want to balance between quantity of years and quality of years? ...quantity of miles or quality of miles?

I've clipped a posting from a "CityCamping" newsgroup on Yahoo (below or on my blog, if you're reading this in print) that sums up some of what I set my own internal compass to. It describes the kind of lifestyle that someone, like myself, who grew up in Wyoming and Idaho may come to honor and desire even though the cares of life lead East and into the city. Clearly, one does not require a motorcycle to get close to nature. There are pets, parks, trains, and even hiking trails in the city or your easy chair can suffice. Still, I think the motorcycle gets me to nature faster and better than other forms of transportation.

I'll bet I say that again.

The problem I often grapple with is the fact that I come to nature for time to contemplate. Doing so on a motorcycle is not always safe. One must watch the road.

How often have you caught yourself thinking about something other than your riding, told yourself to pay attention, then almost immediately have something arise that required your attention to see and avoid?

It seems to me a paradox of adventure riders. I envy them because I know how much I have enjoyed the long rides that I have taken. Yet, I recognize that those who do it successfully over the years must be much more safety minded than I am. How often they must make good decisions, deciding correctly, when alone in some remote place, in order to survive to tell us their tales. I do not therefore envy them the necessary trade offs between enjoying the ride and attending to the business of the ride for such long periods of time. Howbeit, it may simply be that one must allow oneself to stop with some frequency to enjoy the view.

And so I see that as I grow as a motorcycle rider, I must mature further, mentally.

That sucks.

At 53, with 39 years of riding behind me, I was of the illusion that I had arrived at that point, already. The discovery of this notion prompted me to ask whether I am really cut out for motorcycling. I mean, if I've been doing it this long and still don't do it well enough to avoid stupid accidents, maybe I should not be in the business?

Last May, an aggressive driver rear-ended me. The damage was bad enough that I should have had the bike towed to the dealer and ridden to the hospital in an ambulance. My reflex, however, is to be optimistic. Moreover, I believe in the magic of "speaking what I want." I do not talk of flat tires in remote places. I enjoy the scenery and look forward to the next stop for rest.

"I will be fine," I kept saying.

As I rode off, not realizing that the rear tire was flat, the thought that came to me immediately was whether the accident was a sign from heaven telling me to stop riding motorcycles. The answer that quickly followed focused upon the value of my own life being largely dependent upon how much it contributes to the world around me and the lives of others. The sharing of what I learn in motorcycling, and the effort to guide others toward safe riding is probably one of the more valuable things I can do with my life.

Yet, I have so much more to learn about that topic, myself. At times the job of learning seems so daunting, as my own capacity for stubbornness and foolish stupidity constantly surprise me.

What are the keys to thinking the right thoughts?

Rider safety programs teach a variety of acronyms for the jobs of Scanning, Analyzing what you see, Planning possible escape and survival tactics, and Execution of the plan when it becomes necessary. I know riders who say they barely see the scenery as they are so focused upon this mental drill. I'll admit that I have been aghast at such declarations. Now, I realize that more of such a basic discipline will improve my own riding. Can I do it better? When I think about it, I know it is not difficult. Long ago I learned that such vigilance can become a habit and adherance to vigilance can become second nature.

As a battle stations helmsman on a nuclear submarine, I was taught to routinely scan gauges and instruments without fixating on any one, and to take correct actions. Of course, I had a Diving Officer sitting behind me making sure that I did not miss anything. Nevertheless, I know that I can be competent in such work, and that most any other person can acquire such competence as well. That means that I can become a better and safer rider, but I may have to dispense the notion that miles in the saddle make this automatic.

That said, I also need to remind myself to turn off inner dialogs that distract me from thoughts about the road and the ride, just as I have learned to distrust people who distract themselves with cell phones, I need to distrust thinking that is not about the ride. Perhaps the time for communing with nature is when the bike is stopped.

Come to think of it, I am a happier rider when I am stopping frequently to take pictures, and when I have no schedule to discourage me from taking my time. It also dawns on me that some of the more experienced riders in the BMWBMW club have been running contests that encourage us to take photographs during our riding. That may be a reflection of an attitude that has helped to keep them riding for so long.

Hmmm... Stop, take a photograph, admire the view.

If I'm not distracted by the chores of riding I may appreciate more what I see if I can dwell on the scenery while at a stop. Instead of thinking as I ride, why not stop and use the notebook in my tank bag to jot down thoughts? The times that I have taken notes or photos, have proven useful. I am sometimes later amazed how a photograph or a few words in my notebook do bring those moments back... In this way I may have more fun while riding better and there will be time for contemplation in safety and comfort later.

Bush Living

Posted by: "sail4free" sail4free

Tue Feb 27, 2007 9:15 am (PST)

Forty years ago (during my formative years) I lived with my Grandpa
(just the two of us and one dog) for a spell up in the mountains of
northern Idaho. It wasn't uncommon to have 4' of snow on the ground
during those winters which seemed to run on forever. We lived miles
away from our closest neighbor and it was 16 miles to town. Somehow
we both survived the experience . . . an outcome neither of us could
have predicted at any point during our year and a half together.
Fiercely independent and stubborn to the core, I certainly met my
match -- and so did he. His nickname for me was "Hard Rock" -- no
doubt some insider commentary on the tenacity of my young spirit --
as if "Rock" wasn't quite enough . . . the descriptive had to
be "Hard" -- even as rocks go. [Sorta' like "stubborn ass" (do
mules come any other way?) which I've read is God's own analogy of
the nature of man.] On two or three occasions -- certainly no small
measure of our collective desperation -- we even resorted to fists.
I've never been a great fighter but I grew up scrapping in the
streets of Long Beach and San Pedro, CA so it's probably fair to
note I got a few licks in of my own . . . fortunately youth and
speed where on my side in those days.
Even with all the years of tempering since then, there remain a few
enduring quirks in my behavior which make life harder than (or at
least different from) what otherwise might have been. These include
my inclination to isolate and pursue solitude . . . that leaning I
always thought must be kinda' anti-social but, in fact, (as I've
just learned) is more accurately described as Asocial. Desiring the
company of others but not desperately NEEDING it as so many do, I've
been mostly content to be the "lone wolf" although I'm still
learning ways to enjoy my own company more. I've also had this
strident aversion to letting anyone help me do whatever it might be
that I'm perfectly capable of doing by myself. I don't regard their
offer of help as a threat, but I'm annoyed by it -- as if I'd like
to say "can't you SEE that I don't need any help right now?" OTOH,
I have tried to let others help me when it's something I can't
safely do alone . . . but more often, I spend way too much time
figuring out some way that I can do it alone . . . safely . . .
After reading Sharron's article below, I have a better understanding
of what happened . . . and when. Not that it was all bad; surely
that isn't true -- it was just different and that is all. (In
keeping with my oft-repeated slogan, "There's the way things should
be (or should have been) -- and there's the way things are.") My
favorite line in the whole piece is: "The wilderness, not the nation
that manages it, evokes their allegiance."
BUSH LIVING by Sharron Chatterton
[Intro by Cliff Jacobson -- included in his book "Camping's Top
Secrets -- a lexicon of camping tips only the experts
know"] "Sharron Chatterton is a retired wilderness canoe guide,
college instructor, and writer who lives a contemplative life in a
lakeside cabin near Teslin, Yukon, Canada. Here she explains how
the solitude and demands of bush living shape the personality of
those who live and work in wild places."
"The wilderness promotes traits that encourage survival. Surrounded
by the unpredictable and beyond rescue, wilderness travelers
safeguard unknown outcomes against disaster. Their goal is safe
arrival to their destination, not arrival by some time or date.
Some "great feats" are simply their cautious journeys."
"Wilderness makes an individual self-reliant -- able to function
alone, to perform all tasks independently, and to know the adaptive
capability of every tool. To the bush traveler, rescue is an urban
myth -- there are no buffers against irresponsibility! Wilderness
dwellers accept what is, not what was or ought to be. They plan
carefully and they don't take chances. Actions are purposeful;
tasks are always completed. To use energy on valueless projects or
to leave important work undone is unthinkable. There is too much to
do to get bored."
"Long periods spent in silence creates an ease without talk, value
for the understandings that flow without language, and a need for
silence. Silence conserves energy, frees ones attention for more
important work and, lacking confrontation, creates gentleness.
Simple wisdom breeds in silence."
"Wilderness travelers become hyperalert and observant. The land
exhibits what happened, is happening, and might happen next to the
ears, eyes, nose, and skin. These sensors function in overdrive,
constantly receiving information."
"Some believe that wilderness living breeds antisocial behavior. In
truth, the wilderness man or woman becomes asocial -- he or she has
a lingering love of society but little need for it. The wilderness,
not the nation that manages it, evokes their allegiance. This
alienation from political boundaries and reassociation with the
natural world defines the "wilderness heart."
"Survival is the hidden foundation of bush morality. It is what
allows one to kill animals to eat, blaze trees to mark a return
trail, or sidestep a slipper orchid. An experienced bush dweller
learns never to interfere with another. To pass without offering
help is a cardinal sin. To solicit help unnecessarily is another.
Survival encourages cordiality among neighbors -- you might have to
depend upon one for help."
"There are deeper effects of wilderness than those on human
personality: There is a growing need to reduce belongings, to hunt
and gather, and to be nomadic. Nature -- not other humans --
controls the routine. There is a growing intimacy with animals and
with death. Consciousness passes old barriers and metaphysical
experiences occur. Wilderness rearranges behavior, reconfigures
mental constructs, and transforms the inner self forever."
"Yet personality change is what we first perceive in committed
wilderness travelers. We see it in epic soloists, long-distance
trekkers, and in those who work in wild places -- guides,
researchers, and itinerant wanderers. In fact, all of us, even we
who paddle a simple slough alone or walk a dog along the bluffs --
even farmers, loggers, and deep sea fishermen whose wilderness
experiences we consistently deny -- have personalities deeply marked
by wilderness."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Blake on Motorcycling

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity's sunrise.

– William Blake

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Better Class of Customers?

I run a blog on technical stuff at It isn't much fun to read. Mostly, I just post technical information that I want to remember. The blog then provides me a place to point to in other writing that puts the information into better context. I can also point students to specific entries that pertain to courses I have taught.

On the metro ride to work, this morning, I was thinking about correlations between BMW motorcycles and Apple and Microsoft. Correlations in aspect of pricing. In BMW related magazines, readers frequently write in and point out the premium price we pay for BMW motorcycles. The price of using Microsoft products has not declined despite "open source" competition that increasingly provides comparable products for free. Apple, also, has been charging a premium for its products, surviving against the lower-priced PC industry's entry point.

How does this make sense, from a business standpoint? Well, I think of Warren Buffet, who Bill Gates cites as a mentor, and the price of Berkshire Hathaway stock. Mr. Buffet has declined to split his stock. The price of a single share, as I recall the last time I looked, was somewhere north of twenty-thousand dollars.

Splitting a stock doubles the number of shares each investor owns while cutting the price in half. It has the effect of making a stock more affordable, which stimulates trading.

Mr. Buffet has been quoted as saying that by not splitting his stock he assures himself of a higher quality of investor.

Perhaps BMW motorcycles thinks similarly about its buyers. People who can afford to pay more may be easier to support. They may also be less litigous when things do not go as hoped for.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Radar Detector for my wishlist

Who's Where?

This isn't cheap. I followed the last Iron Butt competition using the web interface, and my fellow students got a lot out of following the routes with me. We might have given birth to a few new riders, that week.

The advertising hints that this might be useful in helping to recover a stolen bike. I'll have to check again to see how big this thing is.

Friday, January 26, 2007

What's with the back?

Probably there are other motorcyclists who have back issues. It helped me to read in one of the magazines, a columnist who mentioned that he was going in for his fourth back operation.

My doctors have questioned whether riding the motorcycle is good for my back. My conclusion has been that it is probably better than riding in a car (that may depend upon the car), and certainly better for me than commuting by public transportation where I must walk and stand and wait a lot.

This week, as I wrote last night, I took the bike to Bob's BMW to add some new rear lighting. That was Tuesday, after work. I picked it up, last night and rode it home. Today, is Friday. I have plans in town that may involve a beer or two after work. So, I'm on public transportation, again.

I can report that while I feel the strength of muscles in my back improving, and am gaining the ability to walk further without immediate consequences, that while sitting and working, the pain is pretty much the same whether I've commuted by bus or by bike.

I will increase the use of my pain pills. Even though I have non-narcotic medicine, I prefer to limit the masking of symptoms so that I may better pay attention to what is going on. ...I meant, with my back, but realize that the pain pills do cause drowsiness as well.

As the back interferes with my sleep at night, the last thing I need, during the day, is something to make me drowsier!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Put a rack on the top of the top box. It has lights on the back. It's kind of funny that I put so much thought into not getting hit at night from the back but got clobbered by an asshole during the day.

Anyway, it had been snowing earlier. I had to brush ice off of the seat. I thought about whether I needed to hook up my Gerbing gloves for heat. About that time it started to snow, again. That answered the question.

The clouds had been looking mighty. I kept admiring them as we rode up to get the bike. They reminded me of storms that we use to watch rolling up across the plains in Colorado. I knew they meant snow, but couldn't help relishing the reminder of places West.

By the time I got down 95 to the beltway the pine trees in the median were topped with snow, as was the grass. It doesn't take much snow to change the whole picture, and what color there is stands in dark contrast to a landscape that is almost black and white.

Snowplow crew waiting on a cut-over in the median probably figured I was some fool city kid on a new bike.

I opened up my face mask to see better, despite the bite of the cold.

"Damn, I'm glad I plugged in those gloves, but it hardly feels like they're working!"

The radio mentioned that the roads would be wet because of anti-icing chemicals laid down last Sunday. That explained it. The pavement stayed sharp, but I stayed cautious and slow on the ramps.

Sure was good to be home at last.

She's sure a good looking bike.