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 It was also beyond the map coverage in my outdated GPS V and I can see several things I might do in the future to reduce the risk of last minute changes and how I might build maps for each segment to back-up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.