In Washington State, you have two options for becoming "street legal" with a motorcycle. 1) You can drop by the DMV to take a written knowledge test and arrange a physical skills evaluation, or 2) You can take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's "Basic Rider Course." Passing either option will enable you to get an endorsement for your license to legally operate your motorcycle on public roads and highways. Since I haven't touched a motorcycle in 14 years, the last thing I wanted to do was use my new bike to take the skills test at the DMV, so the MSF BRC was pretty much my only choice (they provide motorcycles for you). Unfortunately, the MSF courses are always full-up months in advance, so it is no easy chore to actually get into a class. The $50 state-subsidized classes were booked well into October, so I ended up paying for the "unsubsidized" course instead (no big deal, since my $368 was reimbursable with my new bike purchase), which only required a month's wait.
The 12-person course itself is a bizarre mixture of classroom learning and hands-on skills building set over a Thursday evening and an entire weekend. As I understand it, the MSF recently did a complete overhaul of the BRC which made for some interesting times as our "Rider Coaches" were struggling to teach a new version of the class for the first time. The classroom stuff is pretty basic, and could have easily been a sleeper except for the great lengths they've gone to in making it entertaining with games, competitions, videos, and such. A different type of learning to be sure, but it does promote retention of the information for today's MTV non-book-reading generation. The multiple-choice a-b-c test itself (given on Saturday evening after an exhausting first day on the riding range) was really simple if you take the time to read the questions carefully (some of them are worded in a tricky manor). I breezed through the test with a perfect score (as did most of the class).
The physical skills training is where the real challenge is. Even though I had ridden before (albeit briefly several years ago) I can honestly say that a good 90% of the skills taught to us were ones I had never even considered doing in "the real world." Being able to make a figure-eight in a single lane of travel is just one of the odd challenges awaiting you in a series of fairly difficult lessons. Now, ultimately, none of the exercises are impossible, but the way you move from one to the other is what makes them harder than they should be. For example, you don't practice making a few low-speed sharp turns before you start in on the figure-eight stuff... you just jump right on into it. Also, you go from an almost straight-line cone-weave to a harsh staggered cone-weave with nothing in-between to prepare you. It seems as though the skills aren't really built from one lesson to another, but are instead forced upon you in rapid succession. To make matters worse, I honestly feel that the class size is too big to promote good learning of the physical skills. Simply riding around the range perimeter to practice shifting gears is made difficult because, with twelve riders, you are almost bumper-to-bumper (so to speak) and if the person ahead of you is slow or having trouble, a domino effect ensues that makes it hard for anybody to get a good practice in. Even worse, for some lessons, I only got one or two attempts at the skill being taught. This makes it impossible to figure out what you might have done wrong your first go-round and practice a correction. There should be a bare-minimum of three (preferably at least five) run-throughs for each rider of each lesson.
Despite my feeling that the physical training left me a bit unprepared for the actual evaluation at the end, I did pass the test (along with seven others in the class). I lost points for 1) crossing a boundary in the figure-eight test, 2) starting my braking before the allowance-line in the "quick-stop" test (they let you try this one again, and I did it right the second time), and 3) not going fast enough into my 135-degree turn test (which, in my defense, I only got to practice once from the left and just twice from the right... a few more practices, and I could have nailed this one easy).
The upshot of taking the MSF BRC is that I learned a heck of a lot. I was not a very experienced rider to begin with (made worse by the 14-year gap since I last rode!), and I can honestly say that the MSF has given me life-saving riding knowledge that I hope I never use, but am awfully glad I now have. I took a lot of notes each night for the skills they taught on the range, and fully plan to practice them every chance I get, knowing that I will be a much better rider because of it. I may even take the course again in the Spring to be sure that I've not picked up any bad habits since passing. With very few reservations, I highly recommend the program to anybody considering riding motorcycles, current riders wanting to improve their skills, or just about anybody looking for a fun (albeit challenging) way to kill a weekend. If you are in the Seattle area, you can take the course from the fine folks at the Evergreen Safety Council.
Finally got around to going out on a good three hour ride on my new bike, and found out something very interesting... riding a motorcycle gives you the power of invisibility! That's right, hop on a motorcycle, and people can't see you! In my first three hours of riding I was forced to make two emergency stops because somebody was illegally turning into my path.
Idiot #1 pulled out from a driveway with barely a check to see if there was any traffic... and it wasn't like he was backing out, he was moving forward and would have to have looked directly at me if, indeed, he bothered to look at all! After he noticed me all up-close and personal-like (when I stopped at his window!), he just shrugged his shoulders and slammed down the gas pedal. Didn't check to make sure I was alright. Didn't seem to care that he could have killed me if I hadn't been anticipating that he was going to do something stupid (as they teach you over and over again in the MSF classes).
Idiot #2 was a woman in a pick-up truck that pulled into my lane from an intersection that I was turning into. Never mind that I clearly had the right-of-way... she didn't bother to look, and somehow couldn't see a bike with a headlight AND left turn-signal on! She never saw me. Probably didn't care. Too wrapped up in the song on the radio, recovering from her hangover, and trying to come up with an excuse for her husband as to why she didn't come home last night. I don't think things would have been any different if I had been in a car, except I probably wouldn't have been as careful, and ended up crashing into her redneck ass.
So, as a plea to you blissfully unaware car-driving morons out there, OPEN YOUR F#@%ING EYES WHEN YOU'RE DRIVING! Seriously, if you can't see a motorcycle headlight coming right at you, it's because you just aren't paying close enough attention. God help any PEOPLE that might be crossing your path... they don't even have headlights or turn-signals. If you aren't 100% when you're behind the wheel, you don't belong there in the first place.
Oops. Sorry, I hadn't realized that some of you have no idea what my new bike looks like (thanks Kenji!)...
It's a BMW F 650 GS Dual Sport. Sweet, I know! And it's perfect for where I live, because it's equally at home on the road, or in the dirt!
After two weeks on my new ride, I finally decided I was comfortable enough with it to brave the highway. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. My BMW F650 GS loves the highway, and rips through the miles effortlessly. I was a little concerned that the miniscule fairing would really let the wind tear into me, but was completely comfortable. Actually, given the heat-wave we've been experiencing lately, a little wind is not a bad thing, and makes me glad that I have the Joe Rocket Phoenix Mesh Jacket to take advantage of it! What I am not happy about is my Arai Signet Helmet. In only two weeks, the front vents have popped off, and now the lettering is starting to peel off as well. They didn't seem to glue anything together, but instead used tape! So, apparently, I bought the best, most expensive helmet I could find and it's turned out to be a pile of crap? I don't know if it's the heat that's causing the tape to melt, or what... all I do know is that I have not in any way mistreated the helmet, and it's falling apart. What sucks even further is that you cannot use their web site to contact customer service because they received an "enormous amount" of inquiries and response times have grown to "unacceptable levels." Well, since their stuff is pretty much crap, that seems perfectly understandable. The pity here is that the helmet is amazingly comfortable... easily the best I've tried on. I can only hope that my problem is unique, and that Arai solves the problem (assuming I can ever get ahold of them!).
Yet another trip to Spokane for work (and some incredible David's Pizza) had me getting home at around 8:30 last night completely exhausted. But after spending the past two days in a car, I decided to stop and trade for my motorcycle so I wouldn't have to spend another minute trapped in a "cage" (what motorcyclists call cars). It's amazing how just five minutes on a motorcycle can revive you from the brink of death! It was a beautiful evening, and there was still some light left, so I decided to hit the highway and ride around for a bit. After an hour or so it's getting dark out and is difficult to see, so I head home. Then, as I am removing my helmet, I notice that it's not as dark as I had thought it was, and that's when it hits me... the reason I couldn't see very well was because my face shield was plastered with dead bugs! They were caked on so thick that it's a wonder I could see at all (of course my ride is a complete mess as well, so I suppose it's time for her first bath). Just one of the pitfalls of riding a motorcycle at night that never occurred to me, even after years of cleaning dead bugs off my car windshield.
Most bikers will tell you that, in general, the biggest challenge you face when riding (aside from an occasional car-driving moron turning into you, I suspect) is the weather and, more specifically, the rain. Well, I haven't ridden in the rain yet so I can state that my biggest challenge so far has been the wind.
I decided that if the weather is good next week, I'll take the plunge and ride the 360 miles to Spokane and back on my beautiful new BMW F650 GS. This trek will be by far the longest ride I've ever had, but if I take Highway 2 it promises to be a fairly interesting trip (as opposed to the ultra-boring I-90 corridor I take by car). Since this will be an overnighter, I'll need some way of packing over a change of clothes and a toothbrush, so I decided to hunt down a Joe Rocket "Jet Pack" backpack, which also has the nifty feature of a collapsable helmet bag built in. So off I go for a quick trip into The Big City to see if one of the three motorcycle shops had it.
I should have known better, nobody here had the thing in stock... but hey, even a futile trip is all good on a motorcycle! At least in theory... in the dozens of trips I've taken outside of town since I got the F650, this was the first one where I had to deal with gusting wind. Now, in a car, I probably wouldn't have noticed it much (if at all), but it's completely different when you're hanging on for dear life on a motorcycle! Sometimes I would find myself being slid over a full foot(!) when a particularly nasty gust came roaring through... other times I'd go for a corner on the highway and find that it was pretty tough to push against the wind, and had to abandon counter-steering for something I like to call "twist steering" which is a frightening turn of events where I am both pushing and pulling the handlebars to initiate a turn. Coming to a nice stop is no picnic either, because the slowed momentum means the wind just rocks you all the harder and makes it a bit tricky to stay upright. Heavy cruisers probably don't have quite as much problem with the wind as I do (the F650 GS is only 434-lbs. wet!), but that's a bit more motorcycle than I'm wanting right now.
Anyway, all things considered, cruising down the highway at 70mph while fighting the wind all the way is an even bigger thrill than skydiving, which is not something I anticipated... just a side-benefit.
Well that was quick. Though I posted my last entry just 45 minutes ago, I've already got an e-mail from a new friend (and prospective motorcyclist) asking about my rather vague reference to "counter-steering" which is the method used to steer a motorcycle at speeds faster than 5-10mph. Essentially you push the handlebar on the side with the direction you want to travel. Need to turn right? Push right. It's weird, because you're essentially "turning left" but that's the way it works when you're leaning into a turn on a two-wheel vehicle.
Even though I've been riding my new BMW F650 GS for only a month, I am not a complete novice. Fourteen years ago, I had a Honda 250 that I played around with. I wasn't endorsed, had no formal training, but had a blast riding around the surrounding backroads from time to time (after learning how to ride from a book I got from the local library and a lot of trial-and-error!). But then one fateful day, I ran into some loose gravel while coming around a corner and took quite a spill. My girlfriend completely lost it, and that was the end of my short foray into riding (hey, at that moment in time, she was worth it!). I sold my ride, gave away my gear, and abandoned my dream of owning a BMW R100 GS (that was the dual model at the time). Well, as they say, eventually dreams can come true (even after over a decade of hibernation).
Counter-steering is not something I was consciously using until it was brought up in my MSF Basic Rider Course a month back. First of all... yes, it's really true. When making a turn you are actually turning the handlebars opposite of the intended path of travel. Yes, it's a little freaky when you are first practicing it. No, you don't have to pay attention to the physics of how it works in order to make it happen. Basically, what you need to know is that the only way to turn a motorcycle at speed is to make it lean. The best way to do this is to push the handlebars away from your turn, which puts the bike into a kind of "controlled fall" that slips the front tire's contact patch with the road out from under you and leans the bike. A kind of gyroscopic effect kicks in... to turn right, push right... to turn left, push left... and the harder you push, the more you lean and the tighter your turn. Obviously, you do have to maintain speed to keep from tipping over, but once you get the hang of it, it's not a big deal. In fact, it's one of the things I've come to love most about riding. Cornering is fun.
I've read where some people say they don't use counter-steering, and instead just lean their motorcycle by pushing down on a foot peg, slapping their knee against the side of the tank, shifting their weight, or whatever. Other things I've read tell me that these people are, in fact, counter-steering but not realizing it. All I know is that when I try leaning my body and restrain myself from steering, nothing happens, so I am inclined to agree with the latter assessment. The good news is that by actively counter-steering you get a sense for it, which could save you a lot of grief in a crisis (always a horror to read stories of novice riders who panic and attempt to steer away from an obstacle but, due to the counter-steering "effect," actually turn into it!). So don't let the bizarre physics of motorcycle steerage keep you away... that's just the way it works and, if you embrace it as part of the fun of riding, you'll end up being a better rider because of it.
I've started to get a bit of traffic from other newbie riders wanting to share their motorcycle experiences, ask questions, or just say "howdy." That's pretty amazing to me, and it's great getting e-mail from new friends... so thanks to those of you who have taken the time to write. One e-mail I got a couple of days ago has kind of stuck with me, and I thought I would post my reply here in the off-chance that it might be of interest to somebody else who is just starting out.
Basically, the guy wrote to say that he is also a new rider and, like me, had taken the MSF Basic Rider Course to get his endorsement (highly, recommended). After a few days, he found a used bike he liked at a price he could afford, bought it, and had jumped into the world of motorcycling with an enthusiasm he had never felt before. But all that quickly changed once he realized that riding in the real world is a big difference from what had been practiced in class (where you don't have morons cutting you off or turning into you, obstacles thrown in your path, or any of a hundred other hazards that motorcyclists experience every day). At the end of his e-mail, he summed it all up with a question... "Are you as scared as I am when you go out there?"
My answer? Sure. But it's getting better every day. Do I think it will ever go away entirely? No, but that's probably a good thing. When you ride a motorcycle, you are far more vulnerable, far less visible, and far more unstable than driving in a car. A little fear could be what keeps you alive in a crisis by making you err on the side of caution as you make each decision that comes up.
The biggest mistake I made in starting out again was buying a brand new motorcycle (and no cheap thing either, I went for my BMW dream machine). Had I been smart, I probably would have bought some inexpensive used motorcycle to practice on until I was comfortable riding on the street. So a great deal of my fear sits with not wanting to damage the $9000 thing of beauty that's between my legs (hey, I'm single... double entendres like that are all I've got right now!).
Setting aside the worry of damaging my Beemer... yeah, there's still plenty of room for fear. In my first three hours of on-street riding, I had two emergency situations pop up that scared the crap out of me. The first time I went on the highway, I was terrified. Last week my bike suddenly seized up as I was taking off into a corner, causing me to tip over (no damage, thankfully) and I was pretty shaken. Not knowing why my bike seized up... and knowing it might not be something I did, but a defect that could strike again... is scary stuff. My first time riding in gusting wind yesterday was a nail-biter to be sure. And I'm already working up a bit of nervous energy about the 360 mile trip I've got planned for next week.
But every time I try something new, or have something unexpected come my way that gets me rattled. I think back to the day before I took the first ride on my new motorcycle. Pure terror. No sleep at all that night. I woke up at 5am (wanting as little traffic as possible!) and went to my grandmother's house where my ride had been stored while I took the MSF Course. Not wanting to risk pulling out of a driveway, I walked the bike 2 blocks to the high school parking lot for practice, the dread growing with every step. But just 10 minutes later, I was in love with riding... even if it was just around a parking lot. It's a feeling that just doesn't leave you, and it's a feeling I still get every time I a hop on my motorcycle. It's a feeling that I've been missing in my life for 14 years, and the fear of losing it again is far greater than any worry I have about what's going to happen when I'm out there... and that's how I deal. If you are more afraid of riding than not riding, then maybe you shouldn't do it (hey, life is hard enough). But if you love it as much as I do, there's really no choice... be careful out there, practice your MSF training, remember why you love it, spread your wings... and fly.
They say that there are two kinds of motorcyclists... those that have dropped their bikes, and those that will. Well, as of yesterday, I've not only dropped my beautiful new ride, but also had one of the most terrifying experiences of my life... and I've been skydiving, scuba diving, bungee jumping, traveled around the world, and was once held up at knife-point.
But, before I get down to it... I'm okay. More importantly, my motorcycle is perfectly okay.
Anyway, it all started this past weekend when I decided to take one last ride before heading over to Seattle. I ran up the canyon and played around in the dirt a bit, and ended up tapping my left handlebar into a tree as I skidded around a corner. It roughed up the edge of my grip a bit, and my clutch level seemed a little loose up-and-down, but it in no way appeared bent or damaged.
Fast forward to yesterday, and I get back from Seattle completely bored from the drive... all I want to do is get my motorcycle and hit the road. So I take a quick trip to Wenatchee. On the way back, it happens. I am coming off the highway to a stop in the left-turn lane, downshifting and braking front and back. Just as I'm stopped and have put my left foot down, the clutch lever snaps off! Now, I still have both brakes on full, so the bike doesn't go anywhere but, with clutch released, it lurches forward so violently that I am thrown to the ground on my left side. Fortunately, I break the fall of my Beemer, so no damage occurs (my pride not included!).
In no time, I manage to get myself upright and on the road again with half a clutch lever (tricky to ride that way!) and limp to a local cycle shop that's (luckily) just down the road from my apartment so I can get a new clutch lever. And that's where it's pointed out to me that oil is leaking from under my faux "tank." On the verge of freaking out over what could have ruptured in my engine, I order the part, then run home and start a take-apart to find out what's gone wrong. Ends up, BMW forgot to put an O-ring on my oil cap! So much for BMW attention to quality and detail.
So today Cashmere Cycle gets me set up with a new clutch lever, and my ride is good as new... not even a scratch. But the experience of having an out-of-control motorcycle throw me flat on the highway is something that I won't soon forget. I guess I should feel lucky that I was still braking full when it happened so that my ride didn't get away and scatter across the road. But there is a part of me that's still pretty upset that BMW would use such a brittle metal for their levers. I mean, if it were to have snapped outright, I would probably be okay with it. But the fact that it could fracture (with no apparent damage) and then snap completely at such an un-opportune moment as stopping on the highway... well, that doesn't seem like a safe material to be using for such a critical part. I can't imagine the horror of something like that happening with my brakes on the highway!
Since I'm at 470 miles on my motorcycle, and it's due for a check-up at 600, I decided that a 380 mile trip to Spokane would put me too far past the mark when you add on the fact that the 120 mile trip to Seattle (where my BMW dealer is at) would total 970 miles. Oh well, there's always another trip to Spokane. Or is there? I mean, summer is running out, and warm-weather days are getting fewer. And then I look out my back window and see this...
How in the heck am I expected to sit in a cage for 3-1/2 hours on a day like this? There is no way I am not riding my motorcycle to Spokane! So now I am unpacking from my carry-on bag into my new Joe Rocket Pack, which is about half the size. Since I am a very light packer anyway, it's not much of a change, but it does make me question whether I really want to carry a fresh pair of jeans over now that I'll be carrying them on my back (hey, they are heavier than you think!).
Well that was fun. My 180 miles into Spokane was uneventful except... after an hour, my ass went numb... and a half hour after that, my legs started cramping up, so I decided to stop for a break. It would seem there really is no comfortable way to spend 3-1/2 hours on my motorcycle\, which I suppose is to be expected, because a cruiser it is not! (half my kingdom for highway pegs!) Even so, there was still much fun to be had (Highway 2 has plenty of interesting curves that makes it really sweet for bikers, and you see a lot of them on the road here). I found out that the F650 GS has no problem at 110 mph, which makes passing much more fun than it has a right to be. I also found out that it is folly to wear my Joe Rocket Pack for more than 15 minutes unless it's empty, which is fine because it straps to the handles on my "passenger seat" easily enough. All things considered, it was a much better ride on a motorcycle than trapped in a car! That pleasant thought has me even more worried that snow could be just two months away. How am I supposed to survive the winter if I won't be able to ride?
Nobody stole or vandalized my motorcycle in the middle of the night (which was my biggest worry for this trip!).
Coming back home was a little easier than the trip over, and I only had to stop once in Wilber, Washington to take a break for my aching legs and numb ass. Overall, it was a great ride, and beats the heck out of being stuck in a car.
A few things I learned...
And since I am now drastically past the 600 miles for my service inspection, I suppose my next trip will be over the mountains to Seattle. I can't wait.
Even if you hate motorcycles (poor sick bastard!) there is no way you cannot enjoy Discovery Channel's American Chopper! The constant drama generated by Paul Teutul and his son Paul Teutul Jr. is far more entertaining than most of the crap on television, and watching Paulie build these amazing bikes from the ground up will give you an appreciation for motorcycles you never knew you had. Thankfully, Discovery is going to release the first season on DVD so I can free up some room on my Tivo... but $144.95?? This set should be at least half that much.
Looks like I finally managed to get in my motorcycle's 600 mile service at 1079 mile (oops). The ride over to Seattle was, uhhh... interesting... with driving rain, freezing wind, and wet roads. But though I was entirely miserable, I ended up having a total blast, so it's all good in the end.
But after all is said and done, there are lessons to be learned. First of all, it's probably a good idea to have some waterproof pants for riding in the rain. Second, mesh gloves are a really stupid idea in the cold. And third, there's no good way to keep road grime "mist" off your visor... wiping it with your gloves just smears it, and your can't just turn your head and have the wind blow it off like you can with rain. I'm going to have to look into a helmet with wipers or something(!).
My motorcycle goes in for service in the morning, and about all I am not looking forward to is braving the Seattle traffic. I don't care what anybody says, there is no worse traffic to be found anywhere.
Okay then. I can deal with the torrential rain and freezing wind... that's just part of riding a motorcycle. But the Seattle traffic I was dreading ended up being just as horrible as I imagined it would be. How bikers in Seattle can stand it, I will never know. The constant stop — go four feet — stop again cycle is sheer torture on a motorcycle, and 8 miles of it is complete agony. By the time I made it through, I felt like I had been beaten in the head with an exhaust pipe.
But there is good news to the day... all the little things that have been bugging me about my F650 GS were fixed right up by the capable service crew at RideWest BMW. And even more important, my heated grips finally arrived! Nothing is sweeter than having warm hands when the sun goes down. The apparel shop even had a solution for road grime obstructing my view... cool BMW Motoraad "Atlantis" gloves that have a nifty "windshield wiper" on the left index finger... just run it over your face shield and problem solved!
But the best part of the day was the ride home. Highway 2 out of Seattle has some truly beautiful scenery, and the road has just enough twisties to make for a fun ride without wearing you out. Makes me more than a little depressed that I have to be trapped in my car for the drive to Spokane tomorrow.
Well shucky darn! I noticed this morning that my exhaust pipes have discolored and are forming some freaky "bronze-looking" spots! My friend tells me that it's a reaction to the heat from the motorcycle being ridden hard, and that I should be proud of them looking like that. Well, I'm not "proud" I'm freaked out!! I want my Beamer to look beautifully perfect again!
I am told that some S100 Color Restorer and a lot of elbow grease will take care of it, so now I have to track down this miracle goop so I can have shiny pipes and be blissfully happy again.
Here is something I don't ever want to hear from anybody ever again: "Sorry, I didn't see you." I only started riding again two months ago, and have lost count of the number of times that inattentive drivers have nearly ran into me, turned into my path of travel, or performed some other illegal act that could get me killed. And, if they bother to acknowledge it at all, the excuse is always "I didn't see you." They justify their error as if it were my fault they weren't paying attention? What the f#@%?
Now, you will get no argument from me that motorcycles are not as easy to see as a car. None at all. But it isn't an excuse to plow into me, as "smaller" does not mean "invisible." Because, if you subscribe to that logic, anything smaller than a car is fair game... bicyclists, skateboarders, inline skaters, and even pedestrians! The simple fact is that it is a huge responsibility to sit behind the wheel of a vehicle that is, in actuality, a lethal killing machine if you aren't paying 100% attention to the job at hand.
Case in point: last night as I was riding home, I was nearly in an accident because some woman was paying more attention to her kids than the road. As she was taking off from her stop to turn into my lane, she barely even glanced my direction because she was turned around handling her kids in the back seat. Yes, that's right, she was facing the back of the car as she was starting out into a turn. Fortunately, I was paying attention, saw that the she wasn't looking, and was able to make a fast stop before I plowed into her dumb ass. Half-way through the turn, she finally looks up to see me screeching to a halt and then slams on her brakes as well. She then looks directly at me and mouths "Sorry, I didn't see you" while shaking her head apologetically and then speeding off.
Well, duh, dumbass, but don't act like it's such a big mystery. You didn't see me because you weren't looking! And it's supposed to be my fault because my motorcycle is smaller than a car? Well, I have news for you... I've gone through that intersection many, many other times and nobody else "didn't see me." And do you know why? THEY WERE PAYING ATTENTION!! They weren't screaming at their kids, talking on their cell phone, rummaging through their glove box, reading a book, eating a taco, or doing their nails. They were watching the road like they were supposed to be doing!
And lest you think I am just whining here, I just read an article which makes it clear this is a widespread problem. A woman in an SUV (of course) wasn't paying attention and slammed into the back of a motorcycle that was slowing for a turn, knocked the rider off, and then proceeded to run over him. So now a man is dead, because a woman didn't see something that was right in front of her. And the punishment for killing the guy? 30 months of performing "acts of kindness and generosity," whatever the heck that means. THE GUY DIDN'T DO ANYTHING WRONG AND IS DEAD! And this slap on the wrist is considered suitable punishment? Didn't see the motorcycle? I don't buy it. A motorcycle is bigger and more visible than a person and yet, if she ran over a pedestrian, she'd probably pay a hell of a fine, lose her license for a while, and maybe even end up serving jail time. Pretty sad that motorcyclists always seem to take the blame and pay the price... especially when they pay with their lives... because people in cars don't feel they have to pay attention.
Earlier today I was heading to a business dinner in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and noticed that right next door to the restaurant was an Indian Motorcycle dealership. One of the guys at dinner rides, so he said we should go take a look. As we head over, he drops the bomb and tells me that he just heard on the radio that Indian had closed up shop (again) and was looking into bankruptcy.
So here I am looking at these beautiful machines just sick at the thought that these are probably the last motorcycles the dealership is likely to get (an excellent opportunity to jack up the price!). Indian has been around longer than Harley-Davidson, and it seems tragic that as Harley celebrates their 100 year anniversary that a pretty nifty piece of the competition is going to disappear. A quick internet search reveals that Indian is still looking to work their way out of bankruptcy, and may yet weather this storm. I sure hope that somebody with deep pockets and an appreciation for this American classic comes calling.
The above image of the amazing Indian Scout was grabbed from the official Indian Motorcycles web site.
Okay then... I just experienced the most terrifying moment to date while riding my motorcycle, and this time it had nothing to do with oblivious car-drivers!
I was on my way home and had just gotten to an intersection when two kids on bikes came speeding across the street right in front of me... they didn't stop, didn't look, didn't even slow down! They came from behind a building, so I just barely saw them in time to perform an emergency stop and keep from plowing into that first stupid kid. If I were driving my car, I honestly think I would have probably killed or seriously injured one (or maybe even both) of the idiots, because you're just not as alert as you have to be when riding a motorcycle.
So, on one hand, it's nice to know that I have the instincts to do a hard brake without dumping my ride (there certainly wasn't time to think about it!). And I am more glad than ever that I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course so I had actually practiced the skills needed to stop like that. But there is something completely terrifying in the realization that I could have killed somebody if I were even a little bit off my game today... even if it wouldn't have been my fault that these kids didn't have the sense to stop before crossing a busy street during 5:00 traffic.
Using my heated handgrips over short distances seems to have sucked my battery dry... I guess I need to find a longer route to work when riding in cold weather so the battery has a chance to recharge!
Anyway, yesterday I ended up needing a jump because my motorcycle would not start when I went to leave work. It was then that I discovered something truly sadistic about my F650-GS... to access the battery, you have to completely disassemble the housing! That sucks ass! I can only imagine that the engineers from BMW must be recruited from hell or something, because I can't imagine any sane person thinking this is a good idea. Couldn't they have built in an access door in that housing or something?
Oh well, I bummed a ride to Wal-Mart so I could get a little 1.5amp charger to juice up my battery. Fortunately, it came with a small plug lead that I could put in-line with the battery connectors so that if this happens again, I can just plug in the bike directly without having to strip it down first. Wonder why BMW never thought of that one?
When I got off work today, it was raining pretty good (as it has been all day) so I wiped off the seat on my motorcycle and headed home. But. along the way, I decided that the rain would not deter me from being happy that it hasn't started snowing yet. So off I went on a nice run up the canyons until it started getting dark, just because I could. The fact that I am happier riding than I am being warm and dry suddenly makes me realize that any regrets I had over going into massive debt for my pricey ride have completely vanished.
I can't imagine life without my motorcycle now that I have it, even though I am soaking wet.
Well crap. As if it weren't bad enough that I am having to park my motorcycle so I can drive to Seattle for the weekend, I go to get my car this morning and find a flat tire! Even worse, closer inspection shows that all of the tires are in pretty bad shape (which sucks considering I paid big bucks and they are just two years old). So now I am waiting for Les Schwab to open so I can go drop $400 on a new set that will hopefully last longer than the last ones.
Tonight while eating dinner here in downtown Seattle, I look out the window to see some guy pull up with his beautiful Yamaha sport bike, wedge it between two cars (isn't it sweet being able to park a bike anywhere?), and then proceed with that long process all motorcyclists are all familiar with: securing your gear.
It's kind of a fancy restaurant, so he's shedding the riding gloves, jacket and helmet... then trying to make himself presentable by straightening out his dress shirt and fixing up his helmet hair... all the while trying to cram his gear into an already-full soft-pack he's got mounted on the back rack. It doesn't fit, so then he's got to take all his stuff out, rearrange it so it will fit, and then fid a way to strap his helmet in there somewhere as well.
As I sit there watching the poor guy struggle to get all this handled in the chilly night air, I find myself totally empathizing with the situation, having been there myself quite a few times. Let's face it, you just don't have a lot of storage on a motorcycle, and it takes some creative thinking to be able make the most out of what little space you've got.
And that's when it hits me.
I realize that when I am in the same situation, I don't get upset about it. I love riding. I love it so much that even the annoying bits are great because it's all a part of being a motorcyclist. Having to cram your gear into impossibly small spaces is just part of the experience. So it turns out that I'm not actually feeling sorry for that guy after all... I'm feeling sorry for myself... I didn't get to bring my motorcycle to Seattle, but he's out there riding. He's the one who should be empathizing with me!
And here it comes. I guess it looks as though my motorcycle may be put away for the year a little earlier than I had hoped. Of course, I could get lucky and it will melt immediately upon impact.
Okay then, I guess it's time to put my motorcycle away for the season! I look outside first thing this morning and see clear blue skies with some snow clinging to the rooftops, but bare roads... maybe a little cold, but perfect for riding to work... or so I thought. As it turns out, ice is able to survive the early morning hours despite the sunshine. I nearly dumped my ride twice in the short 5-minutes it takes to get to work.
The first time was coming to a stop where I managed to navigate some dry pavement for my motorcycle, but forgot about my feet! I put my left foot down and instantly start slipping, feeling my bike getting heavier and heavier as I slowly start to slide. In a panic ("ack! what do I do... what do I do!") I let out on the clutch a bit to get some forward motion, hoping against hope that my foot will reach some dry pavement. When it does, I breath a sigh of relief... until I go to put my right foot down and hit still more ice! Oh crap! I adjust my steering to tilt back to the left, and finally manage to get a balanced stop... terrified of making even a small movement. Eventually a gap opens in the traffic and away I go.
A few incident-free moments later I am on the home stretch to work, making one of my final turns, when I see that it's nothing but a sheet of crystalized ice! Uh oh. I start around the corner (just a little wide!) and start to notice a bit of a slip on my rear-end. Crap! Oh crap! Thankfully, I found some grip on the road and managed to make it through, but that is something I absolutely don't want to go through again!
So that is that. I was hoping to ride until the snow started falling but, with the early-morning ice, it's more "terrifying" than "fun" which means it's time to stop. What really pisses me off about this is that, an hour later, the ice is gone, and it's beautiful outside! Thank you Daylight Saving Time, for f#@%ing up my shit once again... if we were still on "regular" time, I could still be riding to work.
The photo theme this week is waiting, which was incredibly easy for me because there is only one thing that I am really waiting on... and that's for Winter to end so that I can start riding my motorcycle again. But to capture that in a snapshot didn't seem very likely until I pulled open my closet this morning and saw this:
Heartbreaking isn't it?
My work takes me to Milwaukee twice annually, and over the years I've tried to tour the Harley-Davidson Plant here, but end up missing out for some reason or another... either they're closed, there's some special event, all the tours are full-up for the day, or whatever. Today, my luck had finally changed, and I ended up getting a tour (my fifth attempt!).
Overall, the tour is an hour well spent, and is really interesting if you are into motorcycles (and probably even if you aren't!). But if you are expecting to completed Hogs rolling off the line, you are bound to be disappointed, because the Milwaukee plant just builds/re-manufactures engines (to see final assembly, you need to visit a finishing plant in either Kansas City, MO or York, PA... which also houses the Harley Davidson Museum).
If you are wanting to visit, there are a few things you need to keep in mind: 1) There are only three tours each day, with the last being at 1:00, so get there early. 2) They are not open weekends and, during the winter months, are closed Tuesdaysand Thursdays. 3) You must have a government-issued ID on you (such as a driver's license or passport). 4)You must be wearing closed footwear that are not open-toed, open-heeled, or open-sided... they will not permit you to tour if you show up in sandals or something like that. 5) If you ride up on a Harley or a Buell, you get preferred parking right up in front of the factory(!).
The traffic in Seoul is bad. I mean, really bad. It's so heinously bad that it can take hours to get from one side of the city to the other. Because of this sad fact, you can't just hop in your car to run something across town... it would take the entire day.
Enter motorcycle couriers! The city is packed with motorcycles (most of them a brand called "Daelim" that I've never heard of before), each with a large rack on the back for hauling cargo...
That alone would not be shocking, but the fact that they will pile the thing 10-feet and higher is pretty scary...
I tried to get a photo of this ridiculous load a guy was hauling through my taxi window (sorry it's a bit blurry). These couriers drive like high-speed maniacs anywhere they can (including sidewalks), but you can see that the guy (and his bike) is dwarfed by stacks and stacks of foam. I hope a gust of wind doesn't catch that and blow the motorcycle over!
The good news is that I found a cool Harley-Davidson shop here in Seoul. It's a pretty class act, and well worth a stop if you find yourself headed toward the North side of the city...
Okay... a movie featuring motorcycles and hottie biker babes (called Torque)? Who is the genius behind such a perfect concept? Oog... looks like it's über-producer Bruce Berman. The guy has his share of hits (well, one anyway: The Matrix) and complete misses (Matrix: Reloaded, Matrix: Revolutions and just about everything else), so I guess it's anybody's guess as to how bad this movie might suck.
Watching the Torque movie trailer, I can see that they are mixing in some special-effects for the trickier (i.e., impossible) riding shots. I guess it will make for a more exciting movie, but it kind of sucks that reality is so blatantly absent from every film that hits the screen now-a-days. Oh well, I'm sure all the breasts are real...
Last week I went to see the movie Paycheck (which is not as bad as you might think, seeing as it stars Ben Affleck), in which there is a major action sequence featuring a beautiful BMW 1150 R "Rockster" motorcycle. Ever since, I have been even more distraught over the fact that my F650 GS is put away for the winter.
Lately the roads here have been free of ice, making me sorely tempted to haul out my ride and take a run through town. But since many of the streets are covered with sand and gravel left over from icier days, I wimp out and decide against it (knowing full well that I'd probably end up dumping it). All I can say is that the City had better get their cleaning trucks out on the streets to the minute the snows start to retreat.
Speaking of BMW Motorcycles... OneWheelDrive is reporting that their latest on-road/off-road dual-sport, the R1200 GS, is going to be released in Europe on March 13. This looks like a sweet machine, that's probably considerably more comfortable for touring jaunts than my little F650 GS. To top it all off, it looks damn cool...
Sigh. I'd be happy if I could just ride mine.
Last night I needed a distraction from my brand-new camera having to be sent in for repair (which FedEx delivered to the repair facility at 9:18am this morning) so I decided to clean out my storage closet. After only 10 minutes I found my old Atari ST computer, which I still hold on to so that I can play the best game ever: Dungeon Master! All cleaning had to stop so that I could set up the computer. Much to my horror, I found out that I can't seem to get it to boot up. That's a real shame, because running through Dungeon Master again would be too cool. Maybe it's time to finally toss out the old Atari?
Oh well, it was easy to set the computer aside so I could watch the ultimate television distraction: American Chopper (congratulations Vinnie!). The only problem is that watching the show just makes me want to ride my motorcycle even more. This weekend I had to run to the neighboring "big city" and saw three motorcycles out. Then I look outside my window this morning and see that the snow is melting bit by bit and the sun is shining in a clear-blue sky. My hopes are up that this could be the week I take my ride out of storage! But then I go out to my car and see this:
Frost everywhere! And then on the way to work I notice that there are patches of ice and a lot of gravel still on the roads. It looks like there will be no motorcycle for me this week after all. As much as I am dying to ride, the last thing I would want would be to dump my bike on the first run I take this year!
Weather forecasters have one job... to predict the weather. And yet, more often than not, they get it completely wrong. Here in the States, we have a "three-day weekend" because of the President's Day holiday on Monday. Naturally, the only question on my mind is "will I be able to take my motorcycle out of storage?" In order to answer that question, I need to know what is going to happen with the weather.
When I woke up this morning, the forecast predicted snow all day, and sunshine for the rest of the weekend. But the snow never came. Then the forecast changed to sunshine today, snow tomorrow, and sunshine for the rest. Over the past 8 hours, the forecast has been fluctuating constantly. Now it's looking like this:
Crap! I can only hope that this is very wrong, because weather like this means me and my motorcycle won't be going anywhere. Why didn't I think to have a career as a weather forecaster? It's the only job I know of where you can be paid good money, get everything all wrong, and yet still be allowed to come back to work again the next day.
Well, apparently there is one other job that allows such gross incompetence: President of the United States.
All week long, I've been depressed about the weather forecast continuously calling for snow this weekend. It seems as though just when I think we've seen the last of it, we get dumped on. This is heartbreaking for a guy like me that wants nothing more than to pull out his motorcycle and start riding! Yesterday was overcast (though not terrible), but since snow was forecast for Sunday (today), I didn't bother to get excited.
Then a miracle happened. I woke this morning to find nothing but beautiful blue skies... no snow after all! In disbelief I toss on some clothes and run outside. It's cold... really cold... but it's an otherwise perfect day! Not bothering to even get cleaned up, I tear out of the apartment and drive over to my grandmother's garage where my beautiful BMW F650-GS has been hibernating for the winter. Time to get to work! I've got to remove the blocks, clean off the protective coating, charge the battery, check fluid levels, inflate the tires... all those fun things you have to do after a motorcycle sits for the winter.
Two hours later, it's go time...
I haven't been this happy in a long time. At first I was just going to buzz around town... but then I decided to take a run up the canyon... then I decided to run to Wenatchee... then I kept going to Waterville (about 35 miles away). If I hadn't stopped myself, I probably would have ended up in Spokane! There were a few sphincter-puckering moments with some gravel, and I wasn't dressed warm enough... but I don't think I stopped smiling for the 2-1/2 hours I was riding! And I wasn't the only one... I saw dozens of motorcycles out today, which was pretty cool. MOTORCYCLES RULE!!
About the only let-downs for the day are...
All in all, not a bad day for Dave.
How many needless deaths and millions in property damage does it take before the privelage to drive is better regulated? Not to long ago an elderly man accidentally killed several people because he got confused and pressed the gas pedal when he meant to hit the brakes while driving down a crowded street. Minutes ago, a similar thing happened right here in my little home town... apparently an elderly driver was flipping a U-turn in town, got confused at a crucial moment, and then gave our local pharmacy a drive-thru where there wasn't one before...
Thankfully, through some miracle, nobody was killed or injured. But that's just luck... people could have very easily died because of this. I regularly blog about the perils of driving a motorcycle on the same streets as inattentive and idiotic drivers, but WTF? This just proves that you don't have to be a motorcyclist to have cause to worry. Sure it's convenient to talk on your mobile phone while driving... but was it worth it if you kill somebody? Is eating that Egg McMuffin more important than somebody's life? And shouldn't something be done to screen elderly drivers before things like this happen? Driving is a privilege, but it's a privilege that some people shouldn't have.
After I mentioned the idea of renting a car to hop through the States of the Mid-West in my last entry, Robert left a comment telling me that the only way such a trip would be cool is if I were to take it on my motorcycle. Though I question the sanity of attempting such a thing in the week timeframe he suggested, his itinerary does sound like an awesome road trip!
From my comment reply to Roger... Easy? A WEEK? Insanity. That would be 650 miles each day, 10 hours riding. The most I can ride on my motorcycle in a go is 5 hours (with stops!) before my ass falls off. So, unless you are volunteering to give me your cruiser, this is a two week trip minimum. I could never get that kind of time away from work. In a side note, thanks for the tip about RandMcNally.com! Ever since MapQuest dumped their "Road Trip Planner," it's been tough to figure stuff like this out. The RM planner rocks!
If only I could actually take three weeks away from my life to do something like this.
Bummer. I e-mailed my BMW dealer this morning (they were closed yesterday) with photos of my leaking motorcycle, only to be told that I should not be riding it (not that I had planned on it). Instead, I had to call BMW roadside assistance to arrange to have my F650-GS picked up and trucked over to Seattle. Oddly enough, BMW only covers the first $100 of the "towing" expense which probably doesn't go very far toward a 150 mile trip. As if not being able to ride my motorcycle on a fantastically beautiful day like today wasn't bad enough, now I have to pay for transportation as well? My motorcycle only has 1600 miles on it!
UPDATE: Not that I would wish a break-down on any motorcyclist, but if you DO break down, I hope you are as fortunate as I have been today. My dealership (RideWest BMW in Seattle) has been great... response time has been immediate. BMW roadside assistance has been amazing... it only took 10 minutes to arrange a pick-up. Now I find out that a local towing company will be stopping by in 20 minutes to get the bike. It'll be at the repair shop today. I've been told that not only will RideWest BMW be taking a look at it as soon as it arrives so they can get me my ride back A.S.A.P., but they will also cover any additional towing fees!
If you live in Western Washington and are thinking of buying a BMW motorcycle (and you should be!), I cannot recommend RideWest BMW highly enough. My every experience with all aspects of their sales, service, and follow-through surpasses my every expectation. So, while it does suck that I can't ride, I feel a lot better knowing that RideWest has my back when things go wrong.
UPDATE: Buh Bye. She's beautiful, even when she's leaking...
And JUST LOOK AT THAT CLEAR BLUE SKY!!!! Arrrgh! Though I have to say that even the guy from the towing company was really cool about making sure I was treated with respect and gave me every assurance that he'd take good care of her. Then a quick call to RideWest to let them know it's on the way, and again they are totally cool about everything... making sure to let me know that they'll get it fixed up as soon as possible, and everything will be perfect again.
Man, I take a look at the service and respect I've gotten from every single person involved with my misfortune today, and and I can't help but think back to every other time I've had to deal with a similar situation... Panasonic, Canon, Dell, all of them SUCK ASS!! BMW rocks. RideWest BMW rocks. BMW Roadside Assistance rocks. Dick's Towing rocks. If only other businesses tried even a fraction as hard as these people do, I wouldn't be overwhelmed with dread every time I go and buy something. I will never again regret having spent the extra money to buy a BMW... at least I'd better not!
UPDATE: RideWest called to confirm safe delivery of my motorcycle, and they are starting work on it right away. Very cool. I sent my first e-mail with the problem a mere six hours ago!
Well, my motorcycle is all fixed over in Seattle... turns out it wasn't a major leak, but instead some sort of oil switch that gave out. My big plan was to hitch a ride over to the coast with a friend tomorrow morning and ride back in the afternoon. Problem is, the weather is not being very cooperative:
It's supposed to snow all night on the mountain passes, which means that even if the weather clears up, all the sand and gravel that was dumped on the road over the evening will make the roads a mess. I don't want my first distance ride to end with an accident, so I've decided to pay a company $65 to haul it over next week sometime. Oh well. Better safe than very, very sorry.
That was the bad news. Here's the good news... Martha Stewart has been found GUILTY on four counts related to her insider trading scandal. This means that unless she wins an appeal, she will be facing some serious jail time. It's a good thing!
Here's hoping that her television show, magazine, home furnishing line, and the rest of her boring, sanitized empire goes down the toilet with her. Do I loathe Martha Stewart because she is a "money-grubbing bitch" (which is what a male-dominated business world labels any woman who dares to be successful)? No, I loathe Martha Stewart because she is a raging psycho who takes credit for the work of her staff and passes it off as a lifestyle that is all but unobtainable to those that worship her (well, unless you also have unlimited funds and a small army of people working their asses off to ensure your life is fabulous). I can only hope that Martha's fans will eventually realize that her beautiful and perfect life was nothing but an elaborate façade whose real purpose was not to enrich the lives of others, but make her very wealthy. Life is better when everything in it doesn't have a price tag attached.
I'd say it was the luck of the Irish because I've just been told my motorcycle is arriving today, but I don't think I have any Irish in me... it's mostly Dutch and German and stuff. Oh well, I will take luck where I can find it.
Happy St. Patrick's Day.
After a week over in Seattle undergoing repairs, my motorcycle finally arrived home yesterday afternoon... just in time for Theme Thursday! You may be asking "what does Dave's motorcycle have to do with this week's theme of sports?" Glad you asked! But, in order to understand how it all relates, you have to: 1) Know where I live. 2) Know a little bit about the types of motorcycles out there. And 3) Speak German. For the uninitiated, here is a Theme Thursday primer...
I live in the outback wilds of Central Washington State. Here I am surrounded by the majestic Cascade Mountain Range on one side, and the open plains of the Columbia River Basin on the other. So when I decided to purchase a new motorcycle, I wanted to find one that would let me take advantage of both the open road and mountain trails (the map below was taken from the really cool Color Landform Atlas of the USA.
There are several types of motorcycles: Standards, Cruisers, Sportbikes, Touring, Sport Touring, and Dual Sport. Anyway, the type of motorcycle that fits my needs perfectly is the "Dual Sport" which is at home both on the road and in the rough. Once I started looking into the category, it didn't take long for me to decide that I wanted a BMW F650-GS, and that leads us to my Theme Thursday entry...
And now for the bonus round... what does the "GS" stand for in the "F650-GS"??
It is an abbreviation for "Gelände/Strasse" which is German for "Terrain/Street" or yet another way of designating it as a Dual Sport motorcycle. See? This is a Theme Thursday entry after all!
In a previous entry I talked about how I was toying with the idea of riding my motorcycle through the central USA in order to visit a bunch of States that I hadn't yet been to. But today I received my latest copy of American Motorcyclist (the official publication of the American Motorcyclist Association) and all of that has changed. I don't give two shits if I ever visit South Dakota. And let me tell you why...
Last August, South Dakota Congressman Bill Janklow ran through a stop sign at over 70 miles an hour directly in the path of motorcyclist Randolph Scott (who sadly died on the scene soon after as a result of the accident). Despite the fact that ass-wipe Janlow has a long history of speeding and various other traffic violations, he was sentenced to only 100 days of jail time and a small fine.
Yes, you read that right, the price for recklessly murdering somebody in South Dakota is 100 days in jail.
Apparently, Judge Rodney Steele feels that either A) it's okay to kill people if you are a congressman, or B) when a motorcyclist dies in an accident, it's their own fault. Well thank you very much "honorable" Judge Steel for making it more dangerous than ever to be a motorcyclist. As if it weren't bad enough that people would rather talk on mobile phones, eat a burger, or beat their kids than pay attention to the road, now there is no incentive to watch out for motorcycles because the punishment for killing one is barely worth mentioning. What a daft prick. This is especially stupid considering that one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the nation is located in South Dakota.
I can only hope that there is special corner in hell reserved for assholes like Judge Steele and Janklow who have absolutely no regard for others.
As a motorcyclist, I fully accept that my chosen mode of transportation is inherently more dangerous than driving a car. And if I am seriously injured or die in an accident because I choose to ride, then I accept that. But what I refuse to accept is that my life is worth less than other motorists because of that choice. Judge Steele has declared open season on bikers in South Dakota. That being the case I will not be visiting there any time soon, if ever, unless the people of that State remove Steele from the bench.
Mount Rushmore is probably overrated anyway, but it sure would have been nice to see Sturgis. I wonder what would happen if motorcyclists decided to boycott the event this year?
Well that was interesting. I just got back from a quick errand, parked my motorcycle, hopped off, took off my helmet, and leaned over my ride to see if I was in any gravel. As I was looking, a group of what I am guessing to be high school girls walked by giggling and laughing like 6-year olds... as they passed, one of them was pushed into me AND GRABBED MY ASS!!! This was apparently very funny because another round of giggles and laughter followed. When I turned around to find out what in the hell was going on, the only thing said was "That's a nice bike" followed by more laughter as they trotted away. What the hell? Can you imagine if I had grabbed one of their asses as they walked by? I'd probably be typing this entry IN JAIL (well, assuming I was able to take my PowerBook with me and they had a free wireless connection).
If a motocycle + biker jacket + helmet hair (look at that mess! I need a haircut bad) make me grab-ass worthy, then I guess I'll just have to consider it a side-benefit (but high school girls?). The odd thing is that I have no idea what to think of something like this... in her defense, I do have a mighty fine ass so who could blame her for wanting to grab it?
This week has the perfect theme for where I live: beautiful things... Spring has sprung, and there are literally beautiful things everywhere you look. Probably the most obvious are the flowers that are starting to pop up all around. There is a little park across the street from where I work, so there is a canvas of colors painting the world outside my window. A buffet of beautiful things...
Well, okay, you got me... that's all a load of crap. Flowers are okay and everything but, since Elizabeth Hurley doesn't live in the apartment next door, there is only one beautiful thing to me just now...
Big surprise, I know. A pity you are not supposed to use old photos for Theme Thursday... I think the texture photographs I posted yesterday are beautiful things indeed.
According to my Buddhist studies, a primary concept in living a harmonious life is to do no harm. Since I am pretty sure that this includes not killing innocent animals, I am of mixed feelings when it comes to wearing leather. On one hand, it's kind of sad that an animal has to die in order for me to have a pair of boots and a jacket... on the other hand, leather offers amazing protection (which is a big deal if you ever take a spill on your motorcycle and have the pavement attempt to remove several layers of your skin).
Sadly, I rather favor my own skin over that of a cow, so I'm afraid the cow is out of luck. Of course, if the cow is already dead because meat-loving carnivores have eaten it... well, that's hardly my fault now is it?
Not only that, but wearing a leather jacket while riding a motorcycle also looks much cooler... even in a cartoon drawing.
Anyway, my mind made up, I decided to see if there is a custom leather shop in Seattle that might have jackets in tall sizes that would fit me better than the jackets bought off the rack. Thanks to the internet, you would think that finding a leather jacket shop in Seattle would be simple. You would be wrong. If you search for "Seattle Leather" in Google, you do end up with leather shops in the Seattle area... but they are not quite the leather garb I had in mind for riding my motorcycle...
Scary. I'm not quite sure where to go from here.
For the longest time, I had always thought that people wearing fanny packs had serious issues: "look... it's a purse... but not really!" This probably has more to do with my hang-ups than actual fact, but I listen to Pet Shop Boys and like art, so make of it what you will. Anyway, this past weekend I decided to bite the bullet, add a few metrosexual points, and actually buy one of these things. I am tired of having to cram everything I own into my pockets for my morning commute to work... it's uncomfortable and makes me look all lumpy:
Woman on the street: "Is that a mobile phone, a digital camera, a garage door opener, a set of house keys, an iPod, and a baggie of Apple-Cinnamon Cheerios in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?
So now that I don't have to worry about all those unsightly bulges (well, almost all of them) ruining my streamline look as I ride my motorcycle to work, all I have to do is solve the problem of helmet hair which is just getting worse the longer I put off getting it cut...
Are there pills for this or should I just shave my head?
Utah is home to a pretty impressive motorcycle dealership... BMW of Salt Lake, so naturally I had to stop by and see if they had the new 1200-GS so I could finally see one in person, and I also wanted to see if they had a good selection of BMW apparel because I am still looking for that perfect biker jacket.
And, indeed they did have a 1200-GS sitting right out front. I'm still not sure about the odd scoop front-end, but I still love it. It's even sexier in person than it in in print, and far nicer than what any photo I could ever take...
They also had the super-sweet Montauk available for drooling over. If only I had $16,000 laying around...
Alas, no jacket was to be found. Most everything was in ultra-large XXL sizes and I couldn't even find a T-shirt that was my size! This seems to be happening more and more, which leaves me wondering if I have to gain 100 pounds in order to buy clothing off the rack anymore?
I like to take IQ tests because (believe it or not) I seem to be good at them. The problem is that everybody has a different way of measuring IQ, so any results you might get are entirely subjective. When I was in college, I took an official Mensa test and ended up with an IQ of 140-something (which was good enough to join, since you only need a 130 or better). That was sweet validation for the many people who refer to me as a "smart ass" because I had physical evidence that my ass was indeed smarter than many people on the planet (the average IQ is said to be 100).
There are numerous IQ societies around the globe, some of which are more demanding than others... like the Mega Society, which requires a one-in-a-million score of 175 to join. While nowhere near that level, I do manage to score between 130 and 140 on the IQ tests I take which means I have half the qualifications toward being an evil genius (I really do need to work on that "evil" part).
The holy grail of intelligence societies is the"world's most exclusive" -- the Giga Society, which makes Mensa members seem like drooling idiots because they require a one-in-a-billion IQ of 196 or higher to join. From their crappy web site (which looks as though it was designed by somebody with an IQ of 2), it would seem that they have only 6 members world-wide.
And why, you might ask, am I rambling on about IQ societies? Simple. I want to start my own intelligence society. Intrigued? Then you too may be qualified to join... all you need to do is pass the DaveQ test:
A) Pull out in front of the motorcycle because you drive an SUV and are much bigger that they are.
B) Pull out in front of the motorcycle and then say: "What motorcycle? I was talking on my mobile phone as I turned into the intersection and didn't see any motorcycle!"
C) Respect the right of motorcyclists to exist, and kindly wait until they clear the intersection before pulling out.
In case you are wondering, the correct answer is "C." Did you pass? If you did, CONGRATULATIONS! Your stunning intelligence gives you a DaveQ of 1000! Take pride in the fact that you are smarter than 90% of motorists out there, and know that motorcyclists around the globe are grateful to have people like you sharing the road.
And now, to those of you who didn't pass... STAY OFF THE f#@%ING ROADS DUMBASS!! After two weeks of travel and endless work with no time to ride my motorcycle, I finally get a chance yesterday and experienced BOTH option "A" (moron pulls in front of me just because he won't be damaged in his gigantic gas-guzzling SUV if there's an accident) and option "B" (oblivious mobile-phone using bitch nearly broadsides me because she's too stupid to be driving and talking at the same time).
Life can really suck because PEOPLE ARE STUPID! Who am I to judge? Just a smart-ass with a genius-level IQ.
I am in Seattle now, which is not quite home, but it is a lot closer than Los Angeles. After a nerve-wracking 30 minutes on the traffic-soaked highways of Puget Sound, I arrive at my hotel hungry. When my work in L.A. ended early, I decided to skip lunch (having already skipped breakfast) so I could hop an earlier flight back. There are dozens of amazing Seattle restaurants within walking distance but, in the end, all I really want is a burger at Johnny Rockets (Streamliner Vegetarian, no grilled onions and no mustard). Sad, I know.
I walk two blocks to the mall wanting nothing but a bit of peace and a burger. I get the burger (amazing, as always) but no peace. NOTE TO ORGANIZERS OF THE "LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC" EVENT AT PACIFIC PLACE: I am sure that the musicians participating are all very talented in a venue with the proper acoustics, but in an open-area mall with nothing but echo from hard surfaces... YOUR "MUSIC" SOUNDS LIKE REALLY LOUD NOISE... REALLY REALLY LOUD NOISE... and is not at all entertaining or enjoyable. IT'S CRAP!! I could not eat my dinner fast enough to get the hell out of that audio torture chamber. My dinner and evening ruined, I resist the urge to pummel a lady wearing a "Little Night Music" T-Shirt on the way out.
So here I sit in my blissfully quiet hotel room drinking a D'Peach Mode and eating a Strawberry Bar I picked up from Barnes and Nobel. I should be catching up on work, but just don't feel like it (meaning that I'm going to have to get up extra early in the morning). Since there is nothing good on television, I blog...
Security!! On the joyous event of passing through airport security with my courier bag this afternoon, I forgot to remove the Hard Rock pins I purchased. This is a Very Bad Thing, because a bag filled with metal pins appears as a big unrecognizable blob when viewed through an X-Ray machine. Naturally, in these uncertain times, that meant a security inspector had to tear through my belongings to be sure I didn't have a knife or other sharp object concealed inside. I love it when that happens... you never can quite get everything back the way you originally had it, meaning that my once carefully-packed bag was now a big lumpy mess that's no fun to carry around.
Googled!! When I went to my first meeting yesterday, I was greeted like an old friend and immediately engaged in a conversation about motorcycles and the hazards of riding one. At first I had thought that I was accidentally wearing a Harley-Davidson T-shirt to the meeting, because... well, I don't exactly look the "biker" type. That's when the conversation takes an odd turn...
ME: How did you know I ride?
HE: Oh, I Googled you last night to prepare for the meeting.
ME: Uhhh... really??
HE: Yeah, doesn't everybody? That's how I found your blog.
ME: Ah. Well, I guess I know what my next entry will be about!
I always figured that something like this would eventually happen (which is why my blog has a rather vague, blurry look at my life), but I was not prepared for that moment it actually did (hello Aaron!).
Win a Harley!! When I went to the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood yesterday at the Universal Studios CityWalk, I saw the Hollywood Harley-Davidson store and wandered in by habit. Out front they were raffling off five amazing motorcycles (honestly, I would love to have any of them!) as a benefit for Bikers Against Drunk Drivers. I bought $20 worth of tickets and, while filling them out, asked the guy manning the table if there was a "Bikers Against Stupid Drivers" organization... he, naturally, knew exactly what I meant. Everybody who rides a motorcycle would. Anyway, if there was ever a time I wanted to be lucky in my life, this is it.
Oooh... speaking of Harley-Davidson... one just roared by. Sigh. I miss my motorcycle. Knowing it will be another week-and-a-half before I can ride it again just makes it worse.
I think I want to go home now.
A friend just chimed in for a video iChat. When you accept, the program conveniently shows you what you look like before you begin the sesson (I guess so you can check and make sure you don't have anything stuck in your teeth). I actually had to take a minute to stare at myself because I seem to have aged 5 years in the past 3 weeks.
I think this is what happens when you are denied access to your motorcycle for extended periods of time. Ugh. One week left to go before I can ride again. All I can say is that the weather had better be bitchin' when I get back!
The nice thing about central Pennsylvania is how green everything is. It's kind of like Ireland... but not. I look outside my hotel window and think how nice it would be to ride my motorcycle off into the cool green countryside...
Of course, I could be looking out over the Mohave Desert and still think how nice it would be to ride my motorcycle, so I guess that's nothing new.
UPDATE: The cicadas are out! You can hear the buzz of the forest reverberating through the air.
BMW... the ultimate driving machine? That may be true for cars, but I think that it is equally true to state: BMW... the ultimate riding machine! Yargh... it rained yesterday so she's still a bit dirty...
Oh come on... like you didn't see this one coming since the theme was announced last Friday! I am nothing if not predictable.
ACK! Some heartless bastard just pulled up with a stunning yellow Ducati ST2 across the street! Gutting! My dream machine is so close... I think I might have to steal it. If you don't see a new post from me in a while, it means I'm probably in jail.
Eh. Probably best I don't have one... I would most certainly kill myself on it.
Why is it so hard to find a store that sells Yoo-Hoo anymore? I mean, I just don't get it. It's chocolate milk which doesn't require refrigeration... that's pretty much magic in a freakin' bottle... so you would think that all stores would carry it. And why in the hell isn't everybody drinking it? Yoo-Hoo tastes awesome. Yoo-Hoo is cool. Yoo-Hoo sponsors motorcycle racing, which kicks ass...
Yoo-Hoo is endorsed by The Simpsons. Yes, Bart Simpson drinks Yoo-Hoo...
And if Bart Simpson isn't bad-ass enough for you, Jesse James drinks Yoo-Hoo...
Forget about Jesse James... Jesse James' DOG drinks Yoo-Hoo. Why in the hell can a dog get Yoo-Hoo, but I can't find it? This sucks ass. I need to move to a real city. Yoo-hoo rules the earth!
After far too long, my motorcycle is out of storage. Needless to say, I am very happy just now.
I'm tired. I've had a splitting headache all afternoon. The project I've been working on has not gone well at all. And, to top it all off, I have no desire whatsoever to get up and go to work in the morning. This Sunday sucked! If only there was something I could do to make everything all better.
Hah! Of course there is! A motorcycle ride at dusk can fix just about anything! Tonight was particularly lovely out, which made for a fantastic "magic hour" ride that makes you glad to be alive.
Well, unless you are a bug. The one downside of riding at dawn is the number of poor bugs that end up slaughtered on your visor. I feel a little bad about that, but at least they gave their lives for a good cause.
If you ride a motorcycle, you simply must read this. Evil attack squirrel of death? As if there weren't enough to worry about while riding!
While surfing through my RSS feeds, I noticed that Gizmodo is reporting on the Confederate Motorcycles "F124 Hellcat." I've seen the bike in motorcycle magazines I read, but it never occurred to me that Confederate would have a web site for some reason. I couldn't find a price for these hand-made works of art, but I'm guessing it ain't cheap considering other Confederate models hover around the $30,000+ range...
If I did have tens of thousands of dollars laying around, and I was insane enough to buy one, would I ever have the guts to ride it? Getting carried away and dumping this bike would ensure you a nice corner in hell by the motorcycle gods.
The last time I had ridden my motorcycle was September 12th. I didn't know at the time that it would be my last ride of the season, all I knew was that I was off to Korea in two days, and needed to put it into storage while I was gone. When I returned, I was swamped with work and had several additional trips to take. Then, before I knew it, snow had come and my motorcycle was in storage to stay.
Until today yesterday (oops look, it's already tomorrow!).
By some miracle, the sun came out and the snow was melted off the roads! Woohoo! Time for a ride! One last ride before the snows are here to stay...
I had already accepted that I wouldn't get to ride again until Spring... but now I have to start accepting it all over again.
Winter sucks ass!
Will somebody please remind me why it was I put my ride away for the winter? I dare say that the weather now is perfect motorcycle-riding weather. Crisp, fresh, invigorating... cool but not cold. The kind of day that makes you glad to be alive. The kind of day that offers a chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it...
Seriously, something is very, very wrong here. Twenty years ago, we'd be ass-deep in snow in the middle of December. Five years ago we'd at least be ankle-deep. Today it's so warm that you don't even need a jacket?
Thank heavens that global warming is "just a myth" or I would be starting to get very worried.
Make no mistake about it... I am always about fifteen minutes away from becoming a serial killer. If it weren't for those pesky Buddhist precepts getting in the way, I probably would have starting killing people years ago.
I suppose that I should make a joke right now and tell you I'm kidding, but I'm completely serious. Keep watching the 6:00 News, because one of these days...
The only thing that makes this revelation not quite as horrible as you might think is this: I honestly believe that everybody on this planet is fifteen minutes away from becoming a serial killer. It's just a sad reality of the world we live in today. Those people who cross into the serial killer zone just hit minute sixteen because they couldn't find anything better to do.
So, in the interest of promoting world peace and the harmony of all earth's creatures, here's a few things I do to keep from hitting minute sixteen and killing all the people that bug me...
Blog Your Rage Away. Ranting about your frustrations in a blog entry goes a long ways toward subduing the urge to kill. That's why I'm forever kicking asses and shooting guns here. Well, that's why I am always fantasizing about kicking asses and shooting guns in cartoons here. The truth is that I abhor guns and violence, but drawing funny pictures about it is somehow therapeutic.
Ride Your Rage Away. I don't care how many people I desire to kill throughout the day, they all disappear while riding my motorcycle. Of course, many times the people I most want to kill are bad driver's I encounter while riding, but they're forgotten in well under fifteen minutes. A motorcycle is the ultimate deterrent from wanting to kill but, unfortunately, dumbass soccer moms in their SUVs who talk on their mobile phones while beating their kids, putting on their makeup, and eating a burrito may end up killing you.
C.S.I. Your Rage Away. Watch an episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and realize that you will never get away with killing somebody. Then realize that you just don't have the chops to handle a manslaughter charge in a "pound-you-up-the-ass federal penitentiary." That aught to cure you of the urge to kill is a real hurry. I know it does me.
Play Your Rage Away. I love crackpot psychologists who claim that violent video games cause violent behavior. Whether that's true or not, I don't really care. The simple fact is that being able to blow stuff up and shoot people in video games allows me to release energy that might otherwise be used to blow stuff up and shoot people in real life. Nothing quite like blasting "Rage Against the Machine" until your eardrums are bleeding while shooting everything in sight in a game of Max Payne to take the killer out of you.
Slap Your Rage Away. If you can't kill 'em, bitch-slap them so hard they'll wish you had killed them. Then run away. Run like the wind you pansy-ass bitch-slapper!
Holy Marklar! Today Marklar announced that Marklar will be using Marklar instead of Marklar in their Marklar. I guess that the Marklar were true. As I said, I don't give a Marklar if it means we'll end up with cheaper and faster Marklar.
Also today I finally managed to get my motorcycle back out of storage after over a month of being trapped in cars and planes. The only problem is that I'm not used to riding it. And I'm old. This means I don't ride the motorcycle... the motorcycle rides me. I was out for only a half-hour and feel half-dead... mostly in my legs, which are not used to stretching like that.
In other news... I've decided to rename all the constellations.
The current names are all Greek gods and stuff, which is kind of boring. I'm going to name them all after myself and stuff I think is cool. Things like "Daveon: The Dave" and "Macinopolis: The Macintosh" and "Lizobethia: The Elizabeth Hurley" and "Cheeseora: The Cheese Sandwich." I'm thinking of keeping "Draco: The Dragon," because that's already kind of cool-sounding.
Next up: I'm renaming all of the mountains and rivers of the world. Oh yeah... and all the countries and cities too. Trust me, it will be much better this way.
Despite the wildly homicidal fantasies you read here on Blogography, I am not a violent person.
This is not by choice.
It comes down to the fact that I was cursed with mind-bogglingly vast intelligence instead of the muscle needed to adequately enforce a violent lifestyle. It's a trade-off I have long-since accepted. Sure I may not be able to kick your ass, but I can probably talk you into kicking your own ass for me... I'm just that smart.
I am telling you all of this because it is important that you have the proper perspective for what I am about to say...
IF I EVER MEET THE SADISTIC BMW ENGINEER BASTARD WHO DESIGNED THE BATTERY ACCESS FOR MY F650-GS MOTORCYCLE, I WILL RIP HIS TESTICLES OFF, NAIL THEM TO A BOARD, THEN BEAT HIM ON HIS HEAD WITH IT REPEATEDLY UNTIL HIS EYES POP OUT.
I mean seriously... the absolutely ridiculous way you have to tear apart the bike's entire faring assembly and then juggle a drain tube and the rubber restraining strap to get to the battery is just plain stupid. THIS is the best that famed German engineering could come up with?
I've been having problems with my battery, and decided to remove it so I can check fluid levels and make sure it's charging properly. I don't know if it did any good, but I still wanted to install it back into my motorcycle and see if it was any better. But because of all the stupid crap you have to juggle any time you mess around in there, I dropped one of the connecting bolts...
...and then spent the next hour trying to find it. All without success. So now I've got a bolt bouncing around somewhere, and still don't know if it's my battery, my voltage regulator, or any one of a hundred other things that is f#@%ing up my motorcycle. I finally gave up when the sun went down. Now all I can do is dream of the horrendous torture I will unleash upon the idiot responsible for the grotesquely flawed design of the battery housing. He really must die... and die ugly.
A pity my fantasies of torture are such a small consolation considering I don't get to ride to work tomorrow.