The Flat Learning Curve

The Flat Learning Curve

Are you familiar with the concept of the learning curve?  It is an inexact measurement of how quickly a subject is accepted and internalized.

If you sign up for a class you want to take, whether it be square dancing or snow skiing or riding a motorcycle, the learning curve will likely be steep.

With motorcycles, you can enroll in a basic rider class, and in one evening plus a weekend you will be considered, at least legally, competent to ride a motorcycle on public roads.  That is a pretty steep learning curve.

Now look at the virus pandemic, and the curve flattens quite a bit. The Sturgis motorcycle rally takes place and a surge in virus cases ensues.  Trump holds a large rally where people eschew masks and a virus surge ensues.  Many times. Several state governors decline advice to close things down, and a virus surge ensues.  Yesterday it was reported than one in every thousand residents of North Dakota has now died from the virus.  There are hundreds of examples like this.

Today, millions of Americans are ignoring lots of expert advice in order to fly somewhere for Thanksgiving to enjoy the holiday with relatives.  Guess what will happen?

One definition of insanity is repeating a behavior with disastrous results with the hope it will be different this time. Spoiler alert – it won’t.

It is often stated that “Freedom is not free,” usually referring to the sacrifices of women and men, and their families, who serve in the armed forces.  Now we have a new application.

Americans enjoy the freedom to think for themselves.  I would never want to obstruct that, but there can be costs associated with freedom of thought, and in this case the cost can and does include hundreds of thousands of deaths of people who are innocent victims of those who choose to believe they do not need to mask up or stay a safe distance away.  There are still many who choose to believe the entire pandemic is some sort of hoax that benefits…somebody.  There are reports of people who still believe it is a hoax, even as they lay dying in a hospital.

It gets worse.  Many people are boarding planes today to fly “home,” where they will enjoy Thanksgiving with relatives, who are usually parents and/or grandparents, who are older and therefore more at risk.

This is a combination of a flat learning curve and a willing suspension of logic and facts.  We all have things we believe in that cannot be sustained by logic or facts, but most of them do not endanger others, and certainly not the members of your family you presumably want to keep safe.

What is to come? In two weeks, there will be a further surge of new cases.  Two weeks after that we will be heavily into the holiday season. Almost every religion or philosophy has a celebration near the winter solstice, usually involving celebrations with others.  Then you add in end of the year parties for many workplaces.  Then you add New Year’s celebrations.  Thus, another surge in cases should arrive in mid-January.

Pretty grim, I am sorry to say.  But the flat learning curve of others does not have to apply to you.  Mask up, keep your distance, and postpone group celebrations until it is safe.

Somewhere, Darwin is smiling.

I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving.  I will be holed up at home, enjoying a feast prepared by my neighbors, with my portion delivered to my door.

I can live with that.

Copyright 2020                      David Preston

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | 1 Comment

The Next Big Thing – Motorcycle Bagger Road Racing!

The Next Big Thing – Bagger Road Racing!

Did you see the bagger motorcycle road race held at Laguna Seca a while ago?  What a hoot!

This was for sure a “gimmick race” dreamed up by a bunch of aftermarket product mavens, and featured a field of lightly modified Harley and Indian “bagger” motorcycles with front fairings and hard saddlebags, and a lot of weight compared to motorcycles ordinarily used for road racing. I think alcohol consumption may have been involved in the planning stages.

I thought it was fabulous, especially because I proposed the idea in an article I wrote that was published (somewhere) about 15 years ago.

Professionals riding 700-pound bikes on a road course – brilliant!

Not everyone agreed. I saw comments ranging from “gimmick” to complaints that such a race takes time away from “real” races.  Fair comments, but then…

What is a “real” road race? NASCAR “stock car” racing where all of the cars are custom built and do not resemble anything you will ever buy? Sport car racing where “BOP” (balance of performance) rules allow Mustangs to go head to head with Lamborghinis?  World superbikes and Moto GP bikes have very little in common with the sport bike you might own, advertising hype aside.

The best racing I’ve ever witnessed was Trans Am car racing from 1967 to 1972 and Superbike racing in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  In both cases the vehicles were at least close to what you could drive or ride, at least in technology. More importantly to me, you could see the drivers/riders at work, and get a very clear idea of the differences between pros and the common folk.

Superbike racers back then had far more power than the technology available in chassis and brake designs. They twisted, they shook, they slid the rear tires and sometimes the front tires, and it was an amazing spectacle – one I gladly spent time and money to see in person, or glued my eyeballs to TV presentations.

What does it take to put on a successful racing series? Money.  Great steaming piles of money.  Where does the money come from?  Sponsors and TV revenue, especially the latter.

Moto GP and Superbike races and Trans Am races (what is left of them) do not get much TV time because the ratings are too low.  Why is that?  Because the cars and motorcycles are so advanced that on TV it is hard to see how very difficult it is to go fast.   Very few humans can operate a Moto GP bike or Superbike to its full capacity, and yet in person it is hard to see the complexity.  They look more like the “light cycles” (do I have that right?) in the movie Tron. Trans Am racers the same.

But – with a bagger road racing series you could clearly see the effort required, on TV or (even better) in person.

The one at Laguna Seca had a small field and they were all Harleys and Indians. Good start, but Honda and BMW also sell “baggers.”  My Triumph Rocket 3 can be made into a bagger with a fairing and hard bags from Corbin.  Yes, you would need some sort of Balance of Performance intrusion here and there. A Harley makes 92 horsepower or so, and the Indian 102, if memory serves – probably more for each with open exhausts, etc.  But the Honda and BMW both make appreciably more than that, and the Triumph Rocket 3 has 163 horsepower and 165-foot pounds of torque, with the stock pipes and no tuning, chips, etc.

But imagine seeing a pro “back it in” on a Rocket 3 with a rear tire that looks like it belongs on a paving machine. Would you spend time and money to see that?  I would!

Look at sales. Cruisers sell more than sport bikes, by a wide margin, and have for a decade or two.  If you were a manufacturer, would it make more sense to sponsor a sport bike race team or a bagger team that is using a bike you sell probably at ten times the rate of your sport bike?

Why do sport bikes sell in such small numbers?  I think it is because they are too good. In this era, any sport bike from 600cc up has more performance potential than 95% of the people who buy them.  Even if you are one of the golden children who can get all there is out of the machine, there is nowhere on public roads you can let yourself go for it with any degree of safety, not to mention the go to jail now risk.  Many large sport bikes can reach 100mph in a few seconds, in second gear – with four more ready to be clicked into place.  As a result, many sport bikes are used as track day toys, and they are magnificent for that, but that does severely impact sales.

So, let your mind imagine – a field of 20 to 30 bagger road racers with pro or semi-pro riders, machines from Harley, Indian, Triumph, Honda, BMW, and probably more.  No wheelie control (stock bikes do not have that in the bagger class), so the start will be – interesting.  Slamming corners will be a challenge with the weight and limited ground clearance, and the width of the bags might make “rubbing is racing” a reality.   Riders would probably purposely slide the rear end into corners to facilitate the turn, and they would be crawling all over the machine to place their weight where it would do the most good. The racing would be spectacular, which would make it a good fit for both manufacturers and sponsors, and as it gained in popularity, the “trickle down” effect would allow more races and more entrants for “pure” racers in various classes.

Look at college sport.  If you like women’s basketball or fastpitch softball, or wrestling, or soccer, or track, or any one of a number of other sports, the money to operate their programs usually comes from football, which you may or may not care about.  I see bagger racing as the possible tide to raise all ships, which is apt as the motorcycles do resemble boats compared to others.

Let’s go further.  Add a “doubles” class, with a rider and passenger, and a minimum weight for the two of them in full gear.

There are so many possibilities!

Oddly enough, I got a sneak peek at what this might be like just the other day.  Coming back from a ride with six friends, I went to turn on a favorite local twisty road that leads almost to my home. I could see something definitely exotic ahead, and sped up so I could see what it was. As I closed in, I could see the Lamborghini Script on the rear and spotted the air intakes jutting up on the sides. Murcielago. Cool!  When the driver noticed my bulk in his rear-view mirror he came out of a corner and nailed it, treating me to the scream of a V-12.  I accelerated harder than I normally do, which was thrilling, but not as rapidly he did.  Inexplicably, he slowed down very early for the next corner, and not all that hard on the brakes. I don’t know if he was just cautious, or not that good, or wanted to allow me to catch up. A Rocket 3 is very good on the brakes, and I made up all the space and a bit more. We did this dance for several corners, and it was exhilarating.  Racing? No, but it was such fun. A pro racer would be much faster than me, of course, and a pro’s cornering speeds would make me look like a turtle, but it would be a show to enjoy for sure.

Here’s the deal. If I want to attend a race in person, I have to drive 80, 110, or 220 miles each way to attend the closest road race tracks to me. I will need a motel room for one or two nights, plus fuel and food, plus the cost of the tickets.  Attending a race in person is going to shrivel my wallet and time budget.  But for baggers road races, and others on the schedule, I would be there.   You?

Copyright 2020     David Preston

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Thanks for reading!

Posted in Cars, Marketing, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

ABTOR for 2020

The ABTOR for 2020

In about 2002 I invented an event called the ABTOR.  This came about through requests from Cycle Barn customers (where I worked at the time), regarding the annual “Oyster Run.”

The “Oyster Run” is held on the last Sunday of September every year, (except this year) and is a mass migration of some 15,000 motorcycles to Anacortes. It is sort of a shorter and milder Washington version of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  I had some customers who had been there and done that and wondered if we could not do something else that involved more riding.

The Oyster Run does appeal, at least at first. The first time I went it was a wondrous spectacle of more motorcycles than you will see at any other event in this state, I’m pretty sure.  There are bikes of every possible brand, vintage, style, and description, plus a few contraptions that pretty well defy description. There is no organization outside of the town of Anacortes, and you get there pretty much by any route you choose.  The first year I went I set off with a customer and just rode in a meandering manner north, until we ran into a large group of motorcycles, and then simply followed them.  A lot of the attendees tend to stop often at a bar and have a beer and some, (no points for guessing) oysters. I don’t drink on a motorcycle, and don’t care for oysters, so my riding partner for the day and I hop-scotched from group to group until we reached the spectacle.  The first dark cloud was that I don’t enjoy riding with people who have been drinking much of any amount of alcohol.   The second was that I saw four crashes on the way into Anacortes, which was more than I had seen in my 35 years or riding to that point.  The second year I went with a small group of three or four, all of us with wives on the back. As Susan rarely rode with me, that made it special.

By the 3rd year I was ready for something else, and eagerly accepted the requests of the customers.  My Cycle Barn Sport Bike Club was growing by leaps and bounds, and sport bike riders are usually not fond of large masses of metal moving relatively slowly. What I created was named the ABTOR, which was an acronym for “Anywhere But The Oyster Run.”  The initial route was conceived by Mark Ramirez, at that time stationed at the submarine base on Hood Canal. He knew the roads well, and come up with a route so spectacular I never actually knew where I was for most of the day. Over the next decade I made small adjustments to the route until it was pretty much perfect.  It was always one of the highlight rides of the year.

Ironically, this one route and one event brought about virtually all of the crashes I ever had to deal with in 14 years of leading customer rides. There were, if memory serves, five of them.   Four of them occurred when a group of “fast guys” passed me (which was OK) to go off and play. What was happening was that someone who was new to riding but thought they were highly skilled would follow a group made up of those who actually were highly skilled, and pain and financial suffering resulted. Fortunately, the injuries from these incidents were not disastrous. A broken forearm was the worst.  After a few years I started telling riders they were welcome to pass me, but if they did not, they were more likely to not crash. The other crash was a gentleman riding two up on a Triumph Rocket III who hit the brakes a little too hard in a corner, and that one resulted in a broken rib and a collapsed lung.

All of these incidents happened within two miles of each other on one particular road – DeWatto Road. I began to have a phobia about that road. Eventually a customer mentioned that if I reversed one looped section, the most problematic corner would change from a decreasing radius downhill corner to an increasing radius uphill corner.  Brilliant!    Never had a problem after that.

We will gather at 9am and a bit on Saturday at the Edmonds Ferry terminal for the next sailing and be off for a grand ride.  You are invited to join, but you might want to copy the route directions below.  Sometimes a lot of people show up for these things and the usual line is “I’ll just follow Dave.”   That works for a group of up to ten or so (with some tricks I have developed) but once past 15 it becomes impossible, even with someone volunteering to ride sweep at the end.

On the other hand, it is a peninsula. Getting lost is sometimes the way to have a better adventure!

True, this year it will be on a Saturday, and actually on October 3rd rather than at the end of September, but let us not quibble.

ABTOR Route Directions

Edmonds ferry

  1.       104 off the ferry                    (Becomes BOND RD)
  2.       RIGHT           on                    NW LINDVIG WAY
  3.       LEFT              on                    VIKING WAY
  4.       RIGHT           on                    SHERMAN HILL RD.
  5.       LEFT              on                    CLEAR CREEK RD.
  6.       RIGHT           at                     HALF MILE RD (flashing yellow light)
  7.       LEFT              at                     OLD FRONTIER ROAD
  8.       RIGHT           at                     WESTGATE RD (white fence with flags)
  9.       LEFT              at                     OLYMPIC VIEW
  10.       RIGHT           at                     ANDERSON HILL RD
  11.       RIGHT           at                     SEABECK HWY  –   Seabeck-Holly Rd

Pause at Seabeck

  1.       LEFT              at                     DEWATTO RD W

19.       RIGHT           at                     BELFAIR-TAHUYA ROAD

20.       LEFT              onto                 North Shore Road

21.       RIGHT           at                     LIGHT on SR 3 to fuel– Belfair

22.       RETURN       on                    SR 3 to LIGHT 

23.       STRAIGHT   onto                 OLD BELFAIR HIGHWAY

24.       LEFT             at                     DEWATTO ROAD

25.       RIGHT           at  T                DEWATTO ROAD

26.       RIGHT           at                     SEABECK HOLLY RD

                        Lunch at Seabeck

27.       LEFT             at                     ANDERSON HILL RD

28.       LEFT              at                     OLYMPIC VIEW

29.       RIGHT           at                     WESTGATE RD

30.       LEFT             at                     OLD FRONTIER RD

31.       RIGHT           at                     HALF MILE RD

32.       LEFT             at                     CLEAR CREEK RD

33.       RIGHT           at                     SHERMAN HILL RD

34.       LEFT              at                     VIKING WAY

35.       RIGHT           at                     NW LINDVIG WAY

36.       LEFT             at                     BOND ROAD to ferry

100 miles – ferry to ferry

Copyright 2020   David Preston

Posted in Motorcycles | 1 Comment

The Triumph Rocket 3 at 5,000 miles

The Triumph Rocket 3 at 5,000 miles

Actually 4,943 miles, but we’ll take the last 57 miles on faith. It has been deluging lately, with even more rain than the Seattle area is justifiably known for. Now retired, I tend to ride in the rain only when on a trip. Besides, rainy days are good for writing. I’ll add the other 57 next week.

Some background: I purchased my first motorcycle, a 1965 Yamaha YDS-3, in 1967. I was 20 years old. Since then I’ve owned over a dozen motorcycles, but also worked for two different motorcycle dealers from 2000-2013, and as the customer support and enthusiasm guy, was encouraged to ride every different motorcycle I could – of all brands. The current total is over 500.

I’ve owned two Yamahas, three Hondas, three Kawasakis, and a Norton (!), but the last four purchased with my own money have all been new Triumphs.  A 2002 Sprint ST, a 2006 Speed Triple, a 2016 Bonneville T120, and now the Rocket 3.  I’m not necessarily a Triumph zealot, but each of these was the bike of my choice when I bought it.  All have been terrific. And now a Rocket 3, purchased in May of this year. 

Here is a Q and A session of sorts:

Why the Rocket 3? 

I had the chance to ride a Rocket III, the previous model, some years ago and it was certainly impressive.  The roll-on power was addictive, but it also gave the impression that if you lost control you would probably take out some trees and a house. Not for me. At first glance, the new model looked like more of the same.  The fateful moment for me was an hour or so viewing a batch of You Tube rider reviews from various moto-journalists who attended the factory product launch on Tenerife.  I recommend them to you, because they are all a little different, but they give you a great idea of the Rocket 3’s strengths (many), and flaws (few).

Then I happened to be at Triumph of Seattle for a killer deal on some cold weather gloves and oh – they had a Rocket 3 on the floor. First impression was that it is considerably lighter, lower, and narrower than the preceding model.   Because it is.  Now I began to think seriously about what is, in many ways, a ridiculous bike. 

But which one?  The R model has a more “sport” riding position, and I assumed I would want that one, since most of my favorite rides have been sport bikes. To Triumph’s credit, you can swap many items between the R and the GT models to get exactly the configuration you want. At least you could. The bike has been such a sales success and supplies so short I don’t know if that is true today.  You’ll have to check with your local dealer.

Back to the videos.  One of them was done by a sport bike guy who “knew” he would prefer the R model, but after a day of riding he changed his mind.  He had not dragged anything anywhere in any corner, and enjoyed the greater technology toys of the GT model, which has just about everything anyone ever thought of.

OK – so I would throw caution (and a lot of money) to the wind.  Purchasing was a bit weird, since customers were not actually allowed inside the dealership at that time because of the pandemic. Instead, I spent three hours in the alley behind the dealership while salesman Andy, all masked up, (as was I) ran back and forth getting my Bonneville evaluated for the trade-in, etc.

Test Ride?

Did not think I needed one.  I knew the riding experience would be totally different from anything ridden in the past five years, so why bother?  I knew it “fit” me because I had sat on one pre-pandemic.  For most of the motorcycles I’ve owned, I’ve changed my posture and riding technique more to fit the bike rather than expecting the bike to “fit me” perfectly.  On a “good day” at work I would ride four or five different motorcycles in a day, so adapting quickly and an open mind are learnable skills.

Does it turn?

I know!  When you first glance at the front tire, which is wider than most of the rear tires of most motorcycles, you might think it would turn with the grace and alacrity of an aircraft carrier.  But not the case! It actually dips into turns more readily than the Bonneville that preceded it. For some perspective, a Speed Triple will begin to turn when the first thought of cornering enters your brain. It is immediate.  The Bonneville was a bit lazy. In rapid corners I learned to lean forward to load the front end a bit and then it was okay.  The Rocket 3 is closer to the Speed Triple, thanks to the wonders of modern suspension design and clever offsets and trail adjustments and other things I do not understand but the boffins at Triumph clearly do.  One of the most impressive features.

And the rear tire?

This is why I referred to the bike as ridiculous. I almost laugh every time I look at it. Looks like it belongs on a road paving machine.  This guarantees a smile every time you got to ride the bike.

I am sure replacing it will not be a pleasant experience for my credit card, but at 5,000 miles it still looks fine.  This is puzzling, because the BMW K1300S I rode for two years (two different bikes) would eat a rear tire in 6,000 miles.  It had similar power and weighed less.  I assume this is because the rear tire was much narrower and probably a much softer compound, due to the expected use of the bike.

Does that little rear fender work?

In a word – no.  Fortunately, I find washing the bike a form of pleasant relaxation.

Mechanical issues?

Only one, and that was not really mechanical.  The front fender is held on with 6 bolts, and it appears that two of them were not installed!  They are deeply recessed, and I only noticed their absence at 1,000 miles, and two days from home.  The other four were fine, so the absent pair were installed in two minutes when I returned, at no cost.

What about the saddlebags?

A $1,500 option, and I am glad to have them. The enthusiast forums are full of complaints about three issues with the bags, and I have answers for all three.  1. They are not wide enough to hold a full-face helmet. True, but I never leave my expensive Arai with the bike anyway.  I want it with me at all times. 2. They are not waterproof.  True. They are water resistant, but plastic garbage bags are handy and cheap and work perfectly.  3. The combination locks fail.  I am sure this is true, but I have never used them. Any thief that determined probably carries a knife, so…  On a trip, valuables are in the tank bag or the Viking rear seat bag, and secure in the motel room. The saddlebags hold the tire repair kit, compressor, spare this and that, etc.

What do you like best?

Every ride is an adventure. The seat is comfortable for at least 100 miles, which is about my bladder mileage. The brakes are fantastic, and I have yet to need the ABS brakes. The suspension – suspends, and very well. Every stop brings a fun interview with someone who is gawking at it. And of course, the power, or more correctly the torque, is there all the time and never ceases to amaze.

What is the most amusing part?

The low fuel warning!  I have triggered this three times, always when a fuel stop was just a few miles ahead, but what a show!  The instrument panel changes, showing a big orange full tank logo. Most the display is eliminated, replaced with a display of your current real-time mpg and a miles remaining gauge counting down to you doom.  You can make that go away with the push of a button, but you still have a little yellow low fuel light.  If you run out of fuel, which would be disastrous, you will not be able to whine that you were not warned.

Most confusing?

Learning the multiple configurations of the dashboard, and how they can be changed, takes a lot of quality time with the owner’s manual and a lot of practice.  In time you learn what set up you like, and probably leave it alone.

Awkward moments?

Two of them, one immediate and one on-going but lessening. The ride home was embarrassing, as I had not ridden a cruiser with forward controls in years.  Every time I had to pause in traffic I would get going again and then wave my left foot around in the air as I tried to find the shift pedal.  Not good for the ego.

The other problem is adapting to the weight and mass of the beast in low-speed situations.  Full of fuel, with tank bag and saddlebags loaded and me in full gear, we are probably crushing the road at about 1,000 pounds.  Low speed turns on uneven pavement or tight U-turns were a challenge. For me, not the bike.  I know the techniques, and the Rocket 3 is far more capable than I trust it to be, so the problem is me, not the bike. I am getting much better as time and miles elapse, but I am still not entirely comfortable, as I am in all other situations.  Might be best if I never get too comfortable.

Any surprises?

I was pleased and surprised that an engine that makes that much power and torque requires only regular fuel, and returns pretty decent mileage.  MPG varies wildly depending on how frisky you are allowing the bike to be, of course. 

The ongoing amazement is the completeness of the specification. I think the design department was given free reign to throw everything on the Rocket they could think of, and I have not added or modified anything.  Steel braided brake lines, heated grips, tire pressure monitors, riding modes, dual trip meters, and on and on. I am still finding new little cool tidbits that impress, six months in.

Compare this to the brand-new BMW R18 – another stab by BMW at the cruiser market.  Similar weight and cost, but half the horsepower (!), no fuel gauge, no heated grips, and very little of the electronics wizardry of the Rocket.  Imagine the new world, where a BMW is lacking technology and a Triumph is bristling with it.  We live in strange times.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

If you would like to read more of my musings, please go to for all sorts of things over the past ten years, plus links to all 9 of my books available from

Copyright 2020      David Preston

Posted in Equipment, Marketing, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

reading pickup trucks on the road

Reading Pickup Trucks on the road

Pickup trucks used to be simple. When I was first starting to drive cars or (better yet), ride motorcycles, if you were enjoying a sporting day on a winding back road and came upon such a truck, you knew what to expect.  A basic and utilitarian vehicle meant for work in an agricultural enterprise or as a work vehicle for some sort of labor. It would usually have an in-line six engine with little horsepower designed to run for decades with little or no maintenance. If something did go awry it could be repaired with basic tools – a few wrenches, a screwdriver or two, and perhaps a hammer.

When you caught up to it, and you would, there would be a hopefully short pause before you zoomed by on your much faster motorcycle or car. Almost any motorcycle or car.

That was in a straight line. In corners such a pickup would heel over like a frigate in a gale, the narrow tires offering not much grip, so cornering speeds would be low.

For a visual, review in your mind the final scene of Easy Rider. In the movie, the two anti-heroes approach an old pickup truck on their Harley choppers, which were no great shakes in a straight line or a corner themselves. Ahead of them are two men, partially hidden by the gun rack in the rear window of the truck.  A disagreement ensues caused by the raised finger of one of the riders, and he, and then the other, are made very dead by shotgun blasts. Remember that scene?

Picture this. The movie came out in the fall of 1969.  I saw it in November. On December 19th I rode south from Seattle on my pristine 1969 Honda 450 Street Scrambler, headed for the Bay area. This was a very ill-advised idea. In fact, one of my teaching colleagues told me this could not be done, and that I would die in the Siskiyou mountains.  I had never heard of them, so how bad could it be?

Very. They closed the pass 30 minutes after I rode over it, soaked and shivering with the onset of hypothermia, with snow beginning to fall.

But the return trip continued what many have termed “Preston luck.”  I chose to ride up the coast on Highway 101, and the weather was sunny and clear and close to 50 degrees.

In a twisty section, I came upon…an old pickup truck. Two guys, and a gun rack in the rear window.  The movie was still fresh in my head, and I was alarmed. Then the driver waved his hand out the window, motioning me to pass!  I felt that I was about to die.

I passed them all right, and continued at unwise speeds for about half an hour. They probably wondered what was up with the nut case on the motorcycle.

But today it has all changed.  When was the last time you could purchase a new pickup truck that was small?  Almost twenty years ago?  For a time in the early 2000’s I had an ancient little Ford Courier pickup that was perfect. I drove it for errands and such every two weeks.  Sometimes I left it parked at the motorcycle dealership where I worked at for weeks at a time. It was cheap and cost nothing to operate. I once left the keys in the door lock overnight at the dealership and nobody touched it!

Somewhere in those years the draw of luxury and power and size began to infiltrate the pickup truck market, much to my dismay but much more to the delight of customers and the financial status of the manufacturers.

This became evident to me in 2016 on Highway 20, which runs from Fort Bragg, California to the little town of Willits. I was having a great time exercising my Fiat 500 Sport.  That car had an optimistically claimed 104 horsepower, but the Sport version also had bigger wheels and fatter tires and did not weigh much.  I was driving it with “con brio,” as the Italians say, which was also proclaimed on the vanity plate. Such a fun car. Endless hairpins and sweepers and curlicues; more sorts of corners than there are words to describe, and both of us were in our element. Then… I noticed something in my rear-view mirror.  It was a pickup truck. A big one.  And it was getting closer.

When he got to tail-gating range I pulled over to let him by, because I am aggressive but try to avoid stupid. It was a big pickup for sure. A Dodge.  As he zoomed by, I discovered he was hauling a trailer.  And on the trailer – a huge backhoe!

With my ego in tatters I followed him meekly. I found I could keep up with him easily.  Pretty sure it was a local who knew the road well and drove it often and had been using my brake lights as cornering reminders.  Worked well in reverse, and by the time we got to Willits I wanted to thank him for the guidance.

Fact is that new pickups vary from too big to grotesquely large, and can have as many luxury features and tech toys as cars – or more.  They also have engines that run from powerful to grotesque as well, (you need 600hp in a truck?), as well as much larger wheels and tires about three times wider than those back in the day.

End result – if you are enjoying a spirited romp on a back road in your car or on a motorcycle and have a modern truck catch up to you, it is a good idea to let them by.  Now you have someone in front of you that will be a “rabbit” to be snared by any law enforcement minions eager to present a performance driving award, lowered risk from deer strikes, and also a handy brake light guide to corners, especially on roads you may not know well.

Caveat:  this for certain varies on what you are operating. On the Kawasaki ZX12R I owned, or the two BMW K1300S models I was assigned to ride for two years, progress would not be impeded for long by – pretty much anything on two wheels or four.

I was on a road trip in my Ford Focus ST three weeks ago, to Fort Bragg coincidentally, and I used this technique between Grants Pass and Fort Bragg in both directions.  Going West early in the morning a hot shot truck made me more at ease at 5am from deer, and enhanced my enjoyment. I would let him charge ahead on the straight sections and then enjoy the brakes and handling of my Ford Focus ST as I hauled him back in on the curving sections.

On the way back there was heavy fog and a winding road with cliffs to the right and the ocean to the left- a long way down.   A big pickup served as my guide, and I appreciated it.

Times have changed.   But I still want a small pickup…

Copyright 2020                             David Preston

Posted in Cars, Equipment, Motorcycles, Travel | 2 Comments

A different perspective on Covid-19

A Different Perspective on Covid – 19

By now, almost everyone in the world has heard of, and been affected by in some way, the virus pandemic. Tragedies abound, from those who have lost their lives to the millions who have been put out of work or seen a business built for decades turn to nothing. There are people at high risk, brave souls who work every day in the face of grave danger, and family members unable to offer help to their own relatives, or neighbors or community. The list of demographic groups affected in dire ways seems endless, and any attempt to list them all would be futile.  

Even people relatively unaffected, like me, can suffer, although certainly much less so. I worry about friends and family at risk.  I care about friends and former students I love who work in medicine and are doing so much.  I want to help, but how?  If you are older, (I’m 73), hands-on volunteer work is probably not a good idea. It all makes you feel helpless.

In my case, the local YMCA did a great job of providing options. I was able to leave the automatic dues deductions that come out of my checking account in place, and the Y has used that money to offer food and support in many ways to the wider community. That is some help for sure, but it still leaves you with a sort of Covid-19 survivor guilt. At least survivor so far.

Pretty much everyone is suffering, from the worst outcome possible to lesser degrees for the fortunate. However, today I came up, by accident, with a great way to yank your mind off the daily barrage of bad news and concern.

Go for a walk in a cemetery, and the older the better. It will change your thinking, at least for a while.

Bear Creek cemetery is about a mile from my house. I have been curious about it for decades, but never taken the time for a stroll. Until today.

It’s a very small cemetery, much less than the size of a football field. Most of the grave markers are from the 1850’s to 1880’s, with a smattering of more recent installations up to the early 1990’s. It is obvious that the cemetery has not been kept up for decades. Everything is overgrown with long grass, bushes, and even trees that were not there initially.

I was told that the cemetery was sold a few years ago to an eastern religion church of some sort. Those folks have begun to use a previously empty section that is perfectly maintained and shows the flowers and flags of recent visits. The headstones are not stones at all, but pillars of some white synthetic material about 6’ tall, inscribed with names etched in a language I could not read. Very close together, so my assumption is that they mark the resting places of deceased loved ones. I did not get too close, lest I offend someone.

The older and original majority of the cemetery was fascinating. The grass and weeds and trees are on very soft ground, and some of the headstones and markers are sinking into the earth. Some headstones are so old and weatherworn I could not read them.

If you spend some time, you will be sobered by the obvious evidence of how life expectancy has grown. There were only a handful of people whose lives had lasted past 70 years. The majority seem to have passed away between 45 and 60.
The headstones were very simple, usually listing only the name and the years of birth and death. They still have stories to tell.

Men and women who lived together from marriage until the death of one, and then the other sometimes years later. One showed the birth and death of the wife, but only the birth year of the man. He would have been 62 when his wife died in 1982. He would be 100 today. Is he still alive or was he buried elsewhere?

Many tragic stories are revealed, particularly of children. One headstone honored a child who lived… for one day. Another listed the names of four children with the same last name. None of them lived past the age of five.

When you leave you will be very quiet, your mind filled with somber thoughts of sorrow, but also gratitude for the years you and your family have been given to enjoy.

And maybe that will make returning to the day’s virus news easier to bear and renew your hope that this will soon be over.

For more thought-provoking time, I highly recommend my second-most favorite book of poetry:  Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters.

May you live in peace and good health.

David Preston Copyright 2020

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Touring Southeastern Washington on the Triumph Rocket 3 GT

Triumph Rocket 3 GT touring – Southeastern Washington

First of all, if you live anywhere in the Northwest United States, days two and three of this trip, and part of day 4, will be well worth your time, in any order.

Day #1  

Ride to Clarkston in Washington, or Lewiston in Idaho, by a route of your choice. There are several motels in each of varying levels of expense and poshness. We chose the Motel 6 in Clarkston for this trip because, due to virus concerns, it has lots of nearby restaurants and a grocery store where we could obtain food.

Day #2       Clarkston to Elk City to Clarkston 

  1. Find US 12 going toward Lolo Pass.  If you have never ridden Lolo Pass it is sort of a “must ride” for motorcycles, so do that.  We have done it several times and have come up with something better.
  2. Turn right at Kooksia  (fuel?)

3. SLIGHT LEFT onto ID-14.                                

4. End at Elk City, ID  (fuel)                                  64.85 miles

5. Return on ID-14.                                                 41.0 miles

6. Slight LEFT on MT IDAHO GRADE ROAD     9.6 miles  

7. LEFT at STOP on Main Street

8. Grangeville, ID  (food and fuel)

9. RIGHT onto US-95 N.                                        43 miles or so

10. LEFT at “Winchester” sign                 

11.  Continue to WINCHESTER GRADE 

       (Careful – steep, hairpin corners, rough pavement, and no

        guard rails – in other words – awesome!)

12. LEFT at STOP (T) on US 95

13. LEFT at US 12

14. Return to motel                                               

Day #3       Clarkston to Enterprise and return

  1. South from Clarkston on SR 129
  2. Right at Asotin
  3. Pause at Boggan’s Oasis
  4. Into Oregon on Oregon 3
  5. Left at Joseph (fuel)
  6. Left out to Imnaha and return
  7. Return to motel
  8. Optional run up Old Spiral Highway

Day #4                 Clarkston to home

  1. Up and down Old Spiral Highway if you did not do that yesterday.
  2. Return home by your route of choice.  If it works for you, Green Hollow Road north from Colfax is awesome.

Touring on the 2020 Triumph Rocket 3 GT – again.

As in my last report (below a ways), my motorcycle is a totally stock 2020 Triumph Rocket 3 GT purchased from Triumph of Seattle in May of this year.  I added the Triumph accessory saddlebags, and a Viking round bag across the passenger seat for longer trips.  I also have an ancient magnetic tank bag.

Now that I have over 3,000 miles on the Rocket 3 GT, it continues to perform flawlessly.  The only issue, not the bikes fault, is that two of the six bolts holding on the front fender were evidently never installed.  This was taken care of by the dealer.  Should this have happened?  Of course not.  However, motorcycles are designed, built, and maintained by humans, and occasionally stuff happens.  Fixing the problem with a smile and no excuses is all I require, especially as this was not a safety item and caused no harm.

One interesting tidbit of learning is that the instrument will would occasionally flash an orange message that reads “Key fob out of range.”  This is alarming until you know why, and it took some research for me to learn the why.  The little computer widgets deep in the bike’s brain evidently do a search for the key fob every 60 seconds or so.  This is to help you if you leave the fob on a chair or whatever, so if you get that message you can turn around and correct your error easily.  If you stop fifty miles away without the fob, you will qualify for the Olympics as a power lifter by the time you push the bike back.

I would occasionally see this message, and it was alarming, since the fob was in the pocket of my riding pants.  The cure (I think), at least so far, is to make sure the fob is in your pocket toward the outside of your thigh.  You can make your own jokes about what might be obstructing it if stored to the inside of the thigh.

I also found that when the fuel runs low, you will be given about 50 miles to find a gas station. The instrument panel display will change to display your current real time mpg and how many miles to empty, which is a reassuring feature. You certainly have ample warning. This was handy on this trip because, again because of the virus, we could not be sure if gas stations in small towns would be open.  If you change the display in any way this message goes away, so I learned to leave it alone.

I am still not all that comfortable with low speed maneuvers, due to the weight of the bike, my age, and the fact that for over 50 years almost all of the motorcycles I have ridden have not been cruisers and not had the foot controls so far forward.  The Rocket is just fine – the problem is me. As I get more used to it this concern is easing, but bumpy parking lots with potholes and off-camber surfaces are still a concern.

The Rocket 3 is never going to be the comfort cocoon of a Goldwing or other large luxo-tourer with a plush seat and large and adjustable windshield.  It is not meant to be. However, our route home this trip involved about 250 miles of freeway with a 70mph limit that is casually enforced.  With the cruise control set at about 82, I discovered I could lean forward from the waist and my upper body would essentially float on the airflow coming past the windshield, and it was very comfortable.

The handling in both sharp corners and freeway bends is remarkable, and the brakes do a great job.

It is easy to rave about this bike.  In some ways it is utterly ridiculous, and that becomes part of its charm. As long as you do not mind spending time with strangers whenever you are standing next to it, you will love it.

However, I do wonder how long that massive rear tire with last, and how much of a drain on my retirement investments will be required to replace it.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2020                                        David Preston

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Elk River and Boggan’s Oasis Ride

July 10th-13th – 2020 – Return to Elk River and Boggan’s Oasis

I realize that most of my friends will not be able to go on this ride due to work, other obligations, or virus concerns. BUT! If you live in Washington, Idaho, or Oregon, you really should retain the Day 2 and Day 3 rides for future reference, because they are two of my favorite rides ever.

Day #1   7:15am brekkie 8:45am start

1.         I-405 to I-90 to Indian John Hill… pause

2.         Ellensburg – fuel                            110 miles

3.         East on I-90 to Vantage                30 miles

4.         Right after bridge and Left on 26

6.         Right at Washtucna (lunch at Sonny’s)          

7.         South on SR 261 and LEFT (still SR 261)

8.         LEFT on US 12 (East) to Lewiston

                        Cedar’s Inn (208) 743-9526

                        1716 Main Street, Lewiston, ID $138.24 (3 nights total!)

Day #2 Clarkston to Elk River to Clarkston  7am brekkie  8am depart

1.  NORTH on 5TH ST toward DIAGONAL ST/WA-129        0.1 mile

2.  SLIGHT RIGHT onto DIAGONAL ST/WA-129                    0.3 mile

3.  DIAGONAL ST/WA-129 becomes US-12 (into IDAHO)   0.4 mile

4.  RIGHT onto SNAKE RIVER AVE                                          0.1 mile

5.  RIGHT onto DIKE BYP.                                                           1.9 miles

6.  LEFT onto MAIN ST/US-12 E. US-12 E.                              72.3 miles

7.  Pause for fuel. 

8.  Continue to follow ID-13.                                                       15.1 miles

9.  SLIGHT LEFT onto ID-14.                                                       49.6 miles

10. End at Elk City, ID  (fuel)                                                       64.85 miles

11. Return on ID-14.                                                                      41.0 miles

12. Slight LEFT on MT IDAHO GRADE ROAD                        9.6 miles      

13. LEFT at STOP on Main Street

14. Grangeville, ID  Bishop’s Bistro  (food / fuel)                  51.41 miles

15. Through Grangeville to

16. RIGHT onto US-95 N.                                                             37.2 miles or so

17. LEFT at “Winchester” sign –  gas station also               (fuel)              

18. Continue on small road to WINCHESTER GRADE

19. LEFT at STOP (T) on US 95

20. LEFT at US 12

21. Return to Clarkston                                                                50 miles

Day #3 Clarkston to Enterprise and return

  1. 8am depart
  2. South from Clarkston on SR 129 through Anatone
  3. Pause at Boggan’s Oasis
  4. Into Oregon on Oregon 3
  5. U-turn at ENTERPRISE  (fuel)  
  6.  Return
  7. Optional run up Old Spiral Highway

Day #4           Home Depart 8am

  1. Reverse of Day #1
  2. West on 12 to RIGHT on 261 
  3. RIGHT on 261 to Washtucna (fuel)
  4. LEFT on 26
  5. LEFT at Vantage on I-90 (fuel)
  6. Ellensburg  (fuel? food?)
  7. Home

Copyright 2020 David Preston

For more fascinating stuff, please visit my web site at

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Touring the Rocket 3 GT with a Viking Bag

Setting Up the Rocket 3 GT for Touring

Actually, you can tour on any motorcycle you own. It comes down to what you have and what accommodations you are willing to make.  I took a ride from Minneapolis to Seattle and back on a 1965 Yamaha YDS-3 250cc two stroke motorcycle in 1968 – camping. I rode a Honda 450 Street Scrambler from Seattle to Florida in 1971.

Different times, different needs and wants, and different financial resources.  I’m just back from a four-day tour that covered 900 miles.  Not much in terms of mileage, but we’re after the quality of the miles, not the quantity.  This excursion covered a clockwise loop from Seattle over the Cascades on SR20 (referred to as the Swiss Alps of the Northwest), South to Yakima, West to Raymond, and then up and around the Olympic Peninsula.  Almost all of it two-lane winding roads through fantastic scenery. Most of the rides I do are four days in length and average 1100-1400 miles. This one was shorter, because that is how long the route was!

This was my first longer ride on the GT – the second one begins July 10th.  Here’s what I did to make the trip a wonderful experience.


Optional Triumph Rocket GT saddlebags. 

         These are terrific. I especially like the little slots the zipper pulls notch into to keep them from flapping.  The bags also have combination locks which I have not bothered to set up.  They also hold more than you would think from looking at them.

Magnetic tank bag owned for many years. 

Viking Bags Axwell Sissy Bar Bag. 

       Fabulous product.  What I like about this bag is the amazing versatility. You can mount it to a sissy bar, as the name implies, or also across the passenger seat, as I did. It comes with various straps and options for mounting.  The side portions expand. A clever idea is to pack it with stuff and then zip the sides back in for a narrower and neater appearance.  A large semi-circular opening in the top allows easy access. There’s also a rain cover I did not use.  I packed everything in plastic bags, and from the slight rain I did encounter the bag appears to be at least water resistant, as are the saddlebags.

There are two male-female plug connections that run under the bag in my application, through the opening in the backrest, and into the rear of the bag on each side. I added a strong bungie cord around the sides as an extra precaution that was not really necessary.

Viking sells all manner of luggage and other motorcycle products.  For more info, go to

Viking Bags:

Viking Cycle:

And tell them I sent you, as they say!  Sorry for the need to tilt your head. I am not savvy enough to rotate the pictures!

Overall:  You now have a magnificent steed on which to tour.  Do you have as much carrying capacity as a Honda Goldwing, BMW 1600 GT or other large tourer with saddlebags and perhaps a top box?  Not at all. How much room do you need?  Here’s what I packed:

4-day summer trip packing list -2020


Triumph pants            Boots / socks   

Gloves                          Underwear

Underarmor top          Neck scarf

T-shirt                           Rev’It jacket      


In saddlebags and Axwell bag:

Socks        2                 Jeans/belt         

Undies      3                 Sweatshirt

Swimsuit                     Tee-shirts   3              

Sunblock                     Toiletries kit

Vans shoes                 Tire repair kit    

Phone charger            Spare gloves   2

First aid kit                  Compressor/tools                                  

Tobacco kit                  Rain pants                  

In Tank Bag:

Water                            Registration, etc.       

Sunglasses                 Maps/ route sheets

Phone                          Visor cleaner

Hearing aids                Hat


Better yet, with the Axwell bag I was able to stash everything I would need in the evening and to prepare for the next day, and everything I would not need in the saddlebags.  This made motel arrival easy. Off with the tank bag and Axwell bag and I am done for the day,

This would also work well for a longer trips I hope to get to. I have a mostly blind cat my neighbor cares for, and I do not want to be gone for weeks at a time while the cat is still with me. Awwww.  Anyway, for longer trips I would ride for four days and then take a day of rest to recharge and wash clothes.

Trip Highlights:

The North Cascades Hiway is a treat, especially on a nice day and with virus-reduced traffic.  Swooping along at 70mph or so, a park ranger went by in the other direction. His brake lights came on and he slowed to turn around.  Uh oh.  This surprised me, because if I was speeding it was not by much. As he turned around along came my friend – catching up to me.  The ranger chose the fatter fish and my friend got a ticket for 81mph in a 60 zone!  I paid for all of the motel room we shared in Wenatchee as partial recompense.

The second day we ran into some wet roads, but no actual rain, until ten minutes after we had checked into the motel in Raymond. Good timing!  The third morning featured roads that were drying, and I looked like a road racer with “wet tires” on a drying track as I swooped back and forth to find dry patches – an effort to keep the bike a little cleaner.  That worked well.

One thing to plan for on a tour on a Rocket 3, or anywhere for that manner, is that when you are stopped anyone walking by who knows anything about motorcycles, and some who don’t, will want to talk to you about the Rocket 3 GT, or the Axwell bag, etc. Since I used to do this for a living, I find this really enjoyable, and end up promoting Triumph, Viking bags, etc.

Most curious are long-time Harley riders.  Most of them, in my experience, are “real” riders who’ve been riding for decades. They are all curious about the Triumph Rocket 3, and I can feel the gears in their head grinding away as I reel off the specs and they begin to realize that the Triumph weighs 100 pounds less, has twice the horsepower, twice the torque, better brakes, better handling, better reliability, better fuel mileage, AND costs thousands less!  Then, if prompted further, I reel off the list of tech toys such as tire pressure monitors, heated grips, traction control, ABS brakes, variable instrument displays, ride modes, and on and on, and now their minds are really thinking.

I was also surprised that everyone who spoke to me LOVED the looks of the bike.  Everyone.  I thought the looks, described by one owner as a cross between the USS Missouri and Flash Gordon’s space ship, would be rejected by some. Evidently not.

If you are a shy person you’ll need to adjust!

And how did the Rocket 3 do?  Brilliantly, as I expected, with some welcome surprises.  My previous bike was a 2016 Triumph Bonneville T 120 with a Triumph fly screen added. At the end of a long day I could feel the strain in my biceps.  Not so with the Rocket, which looks to have less of a windscreen.  You know how the wind blast from a big truck on a two-lane road will rock your bike and knock you in the chest?  Not on a Rocket 3.  Sidewinds a concern?  Not on a Rocket 3.  Are you worried by expanded metal bridge gratings?  Don’t be.

Downsides? Yes, it is awkward and the weight is an issue at very low speeds, but anyone considering a purchase must be aware of that.  I am still not comfortable with sloping and uneven pavement at low speeds, but I’ve only been riding it for a month.

MPG was 38-42, depending on what I was doing, but I did not pay much attention to that.

 Between the lessened wind pressure and the presence of the Viking Axwell bag, which functioned as a very nice lower back rest, this is the most comfortable bike to ride all day I’ve ever experienced.  Are there bikes that are more comfy?  I’m sure.  Are they as exciting and fun and rewarding to ride?  I doubt it.

I liked the low fuel warning system, which gives you at least 50 miles of warning, and counts down the remaining range for you.

At the end of the trip I was home, relaxed, and planning the route for the next one.  In ten days.                                    

Ride Safe, Ride Fast, and Ride Often!

Copyright 2020                     David PrestonFor more, please visit

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First multi-day ride of 2020!

And you are invited! If interested in joining in, e-mail me at

East to Tour the Olympic Peninsula – 4 days  (June 26-29)


7am Brekkie and then leave at 8:15am

I-405 to I-5 to Smokey Point Rest stop            30 miles

I-5 to 530 to Arlington to Rockport                   70 miles

SR 20 to Marblemount (fuel)                               15 miles

SR 20 to Winthrop, Twisp, (fuel, lunch)          100 miles

SR 20 to 153 to 97 to US 2 to motel                  80 miles        295 miles

                        Super 8 Wenatchee

                        1401 N. Miller Street, Wenatchee

                        509-293-7336           2 bed room costs               $80.63


South to 12                                                              90 miles

West on 12 to Morton                                           105 miles

West on 12 to Chehalis                                        35 miles

North on I-50 to 6 West                                         10 miles

6 to Raymond                                                         45 miles         280 miles

Golden Lion Motel  

524 3rd St. Raymond, WA

360-942-5571           2 bed room costs               $98


North on 101 to Hoquiam                                    25 miles

West on 109 and North to Moclips                    45 miles

East to 101                                                               40 miles

North on 101 to Port Angeles                             100 miles      210 miles

                        Super 8 Port Angeles

                        2104 East 1st Street,  Port Angeles 98362

360-504-0362           2 bed room costs               $120


South to Hurricane Ridge, return to 101         50 miles

East to Edmonds ferry and then home            120 miles                  170 miles

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