The Toyota Yaris and other California Adventures

The Toyota Yaris and Other California Adventures

We took a jaunt to Las Gatos, California for Thanksgiving.  Due to several factors I needn’t go into, we flew into Sacramento rather than San Jose. San Jose would have been much closer, but choosing Sacramento led to several fun adventures.

For the busiest travel day of the year, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving proved to be much less of a trial than imagined. We splurged on a town car to get to SeaTac, and it arrived on time and got to the airport with little drama. Alaska Airlines had every man jack on duty, and baggage and ticket processing went smoothly and quickly.  The TSA personnel were all friendly and efficient. Of course, it was 4am, and that might have helped.

The Sacramento airport, according to others, is never crowded, and that proved to be the case again. Soon we were on the road in our Hertz rental, a Toyota Yaris.  The Yaris is the bottom feeder of the Toyota lineup, a very small four door sedan with an engine comprised of several eager hamsters spinning in a small cage.  Perhaps. I never lifted the hood.

From Sacramento, I chose a longer way to Las Gatos, repeating the route I’d used last summer on my motorcycle.  I remembered it as a fantastic ride, and wanted to repeat the experience in a car.  Thus we found ourselves cruising South on I-5 – past Stockton and all the way down to Santa Nella, where a cut-off takes you to 152 and West to Gilroy.

I spent several minutes on I-5 trying to find the cruise control on the Yaris, as my arthritic and damaged right knee enjoys the rest that cruise control provides. I could not believe that a 2016 model car does not have cruise control.  Finally, I asked Susan to open the glove compartment, on the slim chance that the owner’s manual was still in the car, which it often is not in a rental.  Voila – an owner’s manual.  But sure enough – no cruise control. Also no power mirrors, and I never remembered, in 5 days of trying, to adjust the right door mirror.

No matter, as the Yaris proved to be a fine highway machine.  The hamsters were able to maintain the California freeway pace, which is an indicated 75-80mph.  I am sure speeding tickets are given in California, but you must have to try pretty hard.

My original concept was to pause for lunch at the In ‘n Out burger emporium in Santa Fennel, as I had stopped there last summer, but it was soon obvious that we were both too hungry for that.  Thanks to Susan’s phone, we located one in Stockton, and peeled off the freeway for lunch.

I’d heard of the In ‘n Out chain for years of course, as has any car or motorcycle enthusiast.  The original owner focused on hot rods and motorcycles as his core demographic, which led to great success.  I was astonished last summer to find that it more than lived up to the hype, as so often a first visit to a famed store brand results in disappointment.  Susan had never been, and she was skeptical.

Our first clue was a line of cars through the parking lot and winding around to the street.  This proved to be the line for the drive-through, with an employee taking orders and sending them ahead.  We parked and walked inside to a combination party and chaos atmosphere.  If you are new, there are three ordering options, labeled 1, 2, and 3.  We found out later that there are other options, but you need to be “in the know” to select them. No matter, as a 1 for me and a 3 for Susan was fine.  Then we stood and watched with others as a crew of about 1,000 employees filled orders from both inside and outside as fast as they could, which was pretty fast.

Susan noticed two Stockton police officers waiting, and as she does with all officers, she approached them and thanked them for their service. This always goes well, and led to a conversation about the crowd. The officers told her it was like this every day, and they usually did not stop at this hour, but like us, they were starving.

Soon we were outside in the sun enjoying fine dining. Susan was astonished.  Lettuce and tomato that appeared to have been harvested as we arrived, and fries that were piping hot. Delicious burgers as well.  It occurred to me and an “In ‘n Out” motorcycle tour of California would be a good idea.

Further South we cruised by the rest area where I’d injured myself tripping off the bike last summer, as well as an interesting chat with some people who’d just had their car broken into. Then we were off to the West on 152.  Spectacular scenery and a highway with lots of elevation changes and hundreds of curves. A perfect motorcycle road, and my memory had served me well.

In due time we reached Gilroy and then Watsonville, where I got off-course last summer. We managed to mess up again, and found ourselves on a nice meandering country road outside of Watsonville that was clearly going in a wonderful direction. Just not the right one.   Again to Susan’s phone, and we eventually got back on track and aimed toward Las Gatos.

After a very long drive, I was surprised to find that a Toyota Yaris also has fantastic seats, which was a fine bonus. If you need to rent a car, and prefer as we do the smallest car that will do the job, I recommend the Yaris.  The steering was light, as was the throttle, which my knee appreciated.  To be sure, on a winding road driven with gusto I think the front end traction would go away very quickly and you would understeer into a ditch, However, who in their right mind would want to try hard in a Yaris?  The skinny tires and light weight also meant that laying off the gas as traffic slowed had almost no effect for a very long time.  I have never driven a car that coasts that well!

Thanksgiving was a great pleasure, thanks to the hospitality of Susan’s sister Meghan and her husband Rich and sons Sam and Quinn. A mixed bag of a dozen relatives and friends dined sumptuously.

The day after Thanksgiving was hilarious.  Rich and Meghan are both WSU graduates. Both of our children graduated from the U of W, and Susan and I have earned many post graduate credits there.   I am not a big fan of UW (or any) football, but nevertheless, the game was on.  Meghan had to work, so Susan and I lolled in a room with an enormous TV.   Rich was cooking various things in the kitchen, where a second TV kept him up to speed.  His bellowed anguish as things began poorly for the Cougars was amazing, and then things got worse. Added to this were text messages flying back and forth to Pullman, where Susan’s brother Denis is the county prosecutor. He was threatening to have the entire UW team arrested; particularly the guy that caught the first two touchdown passes.  He was jesting.  I think.  I have never been so entertained by a football game, although it was a task trying to be polite and not laugh out loud too often as another pained cry came from the kitchen.

In between other events I spent time outside smoking my pipe and swapping tales with Steve, the boyfriend of Rich’s sister.  Steve had more wild motorcycle stories than I do, all told with the gifts of a born story teller. Most of his tales from long ago involved combinations of high speed, alcohol, and drugs, whereas all of mine lack the latter two. In one of them he used a phrase I must save for the next novel. “Back then I was prone to cursing and wickedness.”  What a great line!

On Friday night we went out to a country place with live music that started with lessons in two step country dancing. I had great misgivings about this, as I do not like to dance, particularly with women I’m not married to, and I seem utterly lacking in talent.  Fortunately for me, my damaged knee sent me a memo that I needed to stop trying, and Meghan the physical therapist not only agreed but ordered me to stop.

Whew!   I enjoyed sitting and watching much more, and took in the scene of line dancing, two-step, swing dancing, a variegated crowd, and even a mechanical bull back in the corner.  All recorded in my head for possible future use, while Susan and the others danced for quite some time.

First time in my life I have ever functioned as the “designated driver,” and we drove back to Las Gatos in the Yaris.  I never realized that people who have had some wine or beer and had a great time are so loud!

Saturday brought a new adventure.  We drove two cars to Sacramento to a hotel, as Sam was visiting his girlfriend who lives there. We had a fantastic dinner with her parents and sister.  

Here’s a bit of Seattle snobbery.  We were told ahead of time that dinner would be salmon. Being from Seattle, we are used to access to great salmon, and we thought “Salmon?  In Sacramento?”  Shows what we know. The salmon in question had been caught by Dad in Alaska.  Delicious.

We flew home on Sunday, and again it was not as crowded as feared.  Good to be home.

Copyright 2016                David Preston





Posted in Cars, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

How Physical Therapy Resembles Top Fuel Drag Racing

Physical Therapy and Top Fuel Drag Racing…

…have much in common.  That has probably never occurred to you, so let me explain.

The past few months have been a physical adventure for me. Various and increasing ills sent me to the doctor and selected specialists for a variety of procedures. These included an MRI of my right knee, a second of my lower back, and a third for my… head. Out of all of these tests came a list of issues, some of them serious.

The failing hearing has been helped by very high-tech hearing aids. After years of waiting for my friends to install their ear plugs before a ride (I have always hated them, and my hearing loss does not seem to be related to my not using them), now my friends will have to wait while I take my hearing aids out, as they are not to be worn inside my helmet due to feedback issues.

The other health problems are more interesting in terms of solutions. I have, evidently, some significant arthritis in my right knee.  This may or may not be related to two operations on that knee. A missing right anterior cruciate ligament is now 1/3 of the tendons that go over the top of the knee. This goes back a long time. The major operation was in 1982 to correct the shredding of the ACL in 1977 during a basketball game, where my right knee decided that the abrupt stop I attempted exceeded its strength. I also have what is termed a “Baker’s cyst” in that knee, which is evidently fairly common, and “acts up” from time to time. In addition to that I have one bulging disc in my lower back and one herniated disc. I had evidently been working around these issues for quite some time, with the result that my inner core posture and walk were all screwed up.  I was having a lot of pain in my right thigh and knee, could not walk rapidly or without a limp, and numbness in both feet was a constant.

In short (too late?), I have a multitude of issues, and the treatment would be somewhat involved, as some solutions would collide with other problems.  A first attempt was made with an injection of steroids into the right knee, which helped for about a week.  After that it was off to Physical Therapy, where I have had a fascinating time and learned a great deal.

This is where the comparisons to top fuel drag racing became apparent.  These days a top fuel engine makes over 10,000 horsepower. That is not a typo. At that level the amount of power available is not a concern.  Getting it to the ground in a useful manner is.  A crew chief armed with a lot of computer data makes myriad decisions between each round of a drag race.  Get it right and your car is on to the next round.  Off by a tad and your race day is over.

Top fuel entrants race from a standing start to a finish line 1,000 feet away. The distance was shortened from a full ¼ mile about ten years ago in the name of safety. The cars are now going faster in 1,000 feet than they used to do in the full distance, but that is a topic for another time.

After each run, the engine is torn down to its bare bones and re-built in less than an hour by a highly skilled crew, often working in cramped quarters at a race track with an engine that is retaining enormous heat, as top fuel cars have no cooling systems.  To prepare for the next run the crew chief makes a great many decisions from the options at hand. The compression ratio can be changed by altering the thickness of the cylinder head gaskets. A thicker gasket lowers compression, which lowers power. A thinner one will increase the power. The rules limit the % of nitromethane used to 90%. Most teams use 85%, and an increase of a couple of percent will increase power.

Even the design of the exhaust headers can alter aerodynamics and weight balance affect the performance of the car.

The crew chief can also specify a different pulley for the supercharger, increasing or decreasing the rpms and the power. The centrifugal clutch is engaged by timers, and the release of those timers can be changed by small bits of seconds.  And there are others.

Teams collect data on the temperature, both air and track surface. They know the altitude, and measure the humidity. If the sun goes behind a cloud it changes the precise tune needed, quite literally.  The condition of the track changes due to heat and the passage of cars during the day. The crew for the car with the lowest time for the preceding round gets to choose the lane they want, and this decision can be reversed at the last minute if the pair just in front does something to alter the perceived available traction.

Some of these decisions are made while the engine is being put together, and others are made in the staging lanes, or even at the starting line.   It is extremely complex, and fascinating to me.

If the crew chief makes the right choices and the driver leaves the start correctly (which is also complex) the result is an elapsed time of less than 4 seconds at a speed well in excess of 300mph. Wow.

If things are not perfect, all sorts of things go wrong.  If you are a bit “soft” on the set-up, you will lose. Day over. If you are too aggressive with the clutch application, it is likely that the tires will lose grip and immediately spin up into an angry cloud of tire smoke. This often results in the engine revving too high too fast, and a spectacular explosion may result. If too much fuel is fed to the engine too soon it may fail to ignite, and a plume of unburned nitro will shoot into the air. Since each cylinder is producing 1,250 horsepower (!), one of them not working will slow the car down and may force it toward one wall or the other.  In any of these scenarios, losing the race may be the smallest problem.

At MTI, which is where we are going for my therapy, I have been working with three people.   The first was an intern working under the close supervision of Therapist A, and then there was B for a few sessions and now back to A.  Susan made the appointments based on the availability of A and our own schedule, and apologized for the multiple therapists. 

I think this has been an advantage.  Like most teachers, I am a poor student, and hearing things said three different ways increases the odds the content may slip through the cement of my skull.  All three therapists have been fantastic, and I actually look forward to each visit.

Like a drag racing team, the therapists have a goal.  That goal is to restore me to full function, or as close to it as they can get.  The progress they have made so far is stunning.  Yesterday was our 9th visit. Each time copious notes are made on a computer, and Susan keeps notes for our use later in our sessions at the YMCA.

Like drag racing, the data in the computer helps keep track of where we have been and where we are headed. It is often very much a two steps forward and one step back deal.

Also like drag racing, the therapists are working with constantly changing conditions.  On one occasion my right knee might be having none of it, and on other days it is bring it on time.

The choices available are mind-boggling. In racing the bottom line is “did you win?”  In PT, it is “does that hurt?”  If it hurts the therapist will try a different combo of weights and straps and whatever in an attempt to get at the same muscle group while not causing pain.  Bear in mind that this question applies to my own specific plan for therapy. There are others, I believe, where some “discomfort” is part of the process. Your results may differ.

Each week the PT puts together some new exercise involving different equipment or a different combination of variables. I usually come out of this with a drastically decreased assessment of my own coordination, but each exercise gets easier when repeated.

When I started into this, I could bend my right knee, while prone on a table, to 105 degrees.  Yesterday it was 125 degrees. When we started I was walking with a limp, my right foot was numb all the time and my left foot at partially numb most of the time. My right thigh hurt to some degree all the time, and my right knee was usually in some sort of pain. I could go up the stairs or down only one step at a time.

One month later I can go down the stairs almost normally, my thigh does not hurt, and my left foot is no longer numb.   There is a trace of numbness in my right foot remaining, and stepping up with my right foot is painful in the knee.

In drag racing the driver gets most of the attention and the “star” treatment, but it is the crew chiefs who actually bear the responsibility for getting the driver a car that can do what it is capable of.   In PT, the patient is the focus, but without the brain trust of the PTs the progress would be minimal, if any.

I had pretty much resigned myself to enduring some pain in my right leg for the rest of my life.  I was willing to accept that as one of the prices of being alive for almost 70 years.  Fortunately, my “crew chiefs” have much higher aspirations, and under their care things get better every week.  I am becoming aware that we are nowhere near exhausting the options their expertise can provide.  They are just getting started with what they can do.  As the “driver,” I am responsible for doing my homework at our house and the YMCA, and getting myself to the appointments, where I give feedback as to how things are going. Susan does an amazing job of keeping great notes and providing me with a lot of encouragement.

Not sure how far the team can go, but I am positive about one thing.

We are winning.

Copyright 2016                                David Preston

Posted in Cars, Education, Equipment | Leave a comment

Making Almost Any Motorcycle a Touring Motorcycle

Make Your Motorcycle a Touring Bike

A lot of people think they cannot take a long trip on their motorcycle because it is “not the right kind of motorcycle.”    Bosh to that, I say. If your motorcycle is capable of maintaining the pace of modern traffic, then you can take a longer trip on it.  You just need to have the right “stuff.” 

Keep in mind that the pace of modern traffic on a freeway in California is 75 mph or more, but that is the extreme.  For most of the time a motorcycle that can maintain 60mph will be just fine.  Slower than some others, but are you traveling to have the adventure and breathe in the fun, or just to see how rapidly it can be over?

You can opt for a “touring” motorcycle, of course, and there is nothing at all wrong with that. A Honda Goldwing or a Harley-Davidson Ultra or a BMW K 1600 or a myriad of other choices will whisk you in supreme comfort for as many miles as you want to go. My point is that such a bike is not required.

If you like meandering on smaller highways, such a bike may seem too gargantuan to you, and you will be reminded of the girth at every gas station or when you need to maneuver it around with the engine off.  There are so many other options.

Beyond that, perhaps it comes down to how you visualize yourself on such a trip.  To borrow some thoughts from Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, this may come down to whether you are a classicist or a romantic.  In this theoretical place, the classicist imagines a long trip with everything taken care of. A large motorcycle with heated grips, fairing, communications connectivity, the entire palette of technological assists.   The romantic goes for the rose-tinted image of the solo rider on a simple machine cruising this great land, or a small group of friends enjoying a ride and the camaraderie of a shared adventure.

I am definitely a romantic. I first envisioned myself on such a trip in 1967, and that first adventure took place with a friend in 1968.   All of my trips since have lived up to the fantasy, and I can think of nowhere else in my life where the reality so closely matched my dreams aforehand.

Because of that, I happen to be attracted to, or perhaps addicted to, the motorcycle experience sans bulk and a windshield.  Some have told me it is not possible to tour on a motorcycle with no windshield, and yet I have enjoyed several cross-country tours on a variety of machines similarly naked to the wind.  I prefer to know exactly where the wind is coming from, and most windshields bring with them a degree of visual distortion as well as buffeting from either side that can alter continuously based on the conditions.  I prefer the plain unvarnished reality of the wind coming from the front.  Having said that, I have preferred a full face helmet since the first Bell Star model appeared all those decades ago.

Sticking just to motorcycles I have owned, my multi-state and sometimes multi-country (if you count Canada) rides have included a Yamaha TDS-3 250cc, (OK, that one had a windshield, but it was essentially a road racing fairing), a Honda 450 Street Scrambler, a Yamaha XS 750D triple, a Kawasaki ZX12R, a Triumph Sprint (small windshield), a Triumph Speed Triple, and (currently) a Triumph Bonneville T 120.

Yes, you do have to make concessions. When I was younger, blessed with the benign ignorance and optimism of youth, I took off for Minnesota or California or Florida with no tool kit, first aid kit, tire repair kit, or (long ago) cell phone.  I never had a problem, but I cannot recommend this.  Now I carry at least a small first aid kit, air compressor, and tire repair kit, which does take up space to be sure.

Amusingly, I am now going backwards on this. My new Triumph has a tool “kit” stashed behind a side panel. It has one tool – that used to adjust the rear shocks. I toss in a small wrench or two and hope for the best.  In like fashion, a T 120 has tube tires, so I leave the air compressor behind and hope for the best with the “slime” in the tires.

I have added to that a cell phone and an AAA membership with 200 miles of free towing.

How to pack and what to pack?  Depends on your needs and desires of course, but let’s assume you are leaving the camping gear behind.  I’ll admit that camping is more romantic, and I have spent years in that realm, but the advancing concerns of elderliness and a clean credit card with an enormous limit as strong enticements for motels. I retain some romanticism by seeking out older and smaller motels, which in my experience are far more interesting. Cheaper, as well.

If you are wearing your ATGATT gear every day, which I trust you are, all you need for clothes is some t-shirts, socks, undies, and a warm sweater and perhaps a liner for your jacket.  Most gear these days is at least sort of waterproof, so I choose to opt for benign chance and perhaps a change or route if needed.

I have a friend who takes a shower in his clothes at a motel each evening, and then rolls them carefully in towels until dry, and repeats this the next day. He carries about one change of clothes this way, but most will never feel the need (or have the desire) to do this.

The famous moto-journalist Peter Egan has a fine idea in this regard.  He packs for each trip some of  the ratty t-shirts he finds at the bottom of the drawer, and then simply discards them as he goes. A trip will often provide a great excuse to purchase a new t-shirt or two, after all, and most of the time the shirt your wearing is not visible anyway as it is under your jacket.

I am a real fan of the tank bag. If you’re fortunate enough to have a steel fuel tank, any number of magnetic bags on offer will do the trick. I never bother with the extra security strap, as I have never had one slip.  I also used one of these on my Yamaha 750 for 22 years with no discernible wear to the paint.  Of course, the tank usually had about five coats of wax on it and that bike had excellent quality paint in terms of depth and finish. If your bike has a plastic or fiberglass surface with a steel tank underneath, there are all manner of tank bags for sale with various arrangements of straps and harnesses to attach them securely.

As for carrying the rest of your chattels and what that looks like, here are two examples.

2006 Triumph Speed Triple:  I owned this bike for eleven years and ran up almost 50,000 miles on it, including trips to Minnesota and back and several three day excursions hither and yon.  I ordered the “bikini” fairing for it when purchased, and such a fairing provides just a little bit of wind break.  It’s mostly for appearance, and that was the reason I ordered it.  However, that fairing and a pretty large Triumph tank bag did provide more protection from the wind that you would expect, while leaving my full-face helmet in the wind.

The tank bag was used for stuff I needed at any moment. My wallet if I was wearing my leather pants, a throat warmer, sunglasses, hat, perhaps a second pair of gloves, and the all-important pipe and tobacco for quality musing time at rest stops.

To carry the bulkier gear, I purchased a Ventura rack system.  This comes as a set of “L” brackets which are specific to a particular model. They attach under the seat to the sides of the frame, or the muffler mounts on a Speed Triple, and end as a pair of hollow tubes sticking up behind the bike. Into those tubes you insert either a small upright with a parcel grid, or a very tall upright with parcel grid.  There are knurled knobs with locking washers to lock them in place.

I used the small one most of the time, with a magnetic tail pack. That was enough, with the tank bag, for anything I would need for a day or three.  For longer trips, on went the tall upright, and then two large packs, essentially backpacks, that zip together and slide down over the upright.  You can purchase either a single or a double bag. I started with the single. After a year there was a zipper issue. I could have replaced the bag for free under warranty but opted up for the double. With this rig I was able to ride from Seattle to Minnesota for a high school reunion and back, taking almost three weeks in total, with plenty of storage space.  The Speed Triple as tourer? Job done.

I traded the bike in with the L brackets attached, but kept the two options for the luggage racks and the double bag.  All together the full meal deal would cost about $600, but it you are interested in this sort of thing I will sell you the double bags and the two racks for $200.  You would then need to order the L brackets for your specific make and model. My bags are black and like new. Let me know if you are interested.

Along the way I picked up some other items that were handy for touring.  I purchased a new throttle cable and a new clutch cable, because you never can tell.  I still have them, and if you have a Speed Triple, make me an offer!  I also have a battery that was used for 30 minutes (it’s a long story), and an extra set of mirrors.                   

2016 Triumph Bonneville T 120:  I took this on a three week romp to California this past summer, just after having the first service.  A Nelson-Rigg magnetic tank bag is smaller than what I was used to on the Speed Triple, but suffices. For the back I purchased Cortech set of saddlebags with a matching top bag that snaps into the saddlebags. I am now set for trips of any length I am likely to take for many years to come.

If you have a motorcycle, a summer ride of many days duration on your steed will change your life. The destination is almost irrelevant, but I would recommend the roads less traveled.

You need not wait until you can purchase the “right” bike, as it is probably already sitting in your garage or carport.  You just need to plan ahead and purchase the bag capacity you need.  And in this as in so many other things, less is more. You need less carrying capacity that you think.  If you have a Speed Triple I can make it easier for you.

It is now November.   Let’s think about next summer. To the maps, Watson!


Copyright 2016                                          David Preston   


Posted in Motorcycles | 1 Comment

The Trump Dictionary – words we are all about to use

The Trump Dictionary

Incredible  (adjective)  A word returned to its original meaning, which is literally not credible or not believable.   “Mr. Trump gave another speech today, and virtually all of it was incredible.”

Trumpability  (noun)  Claiming to have the talent to perform and action or operation when really you have no clue.  “She claimed she could take our business to the next level, but she was just showing her trumpability.”

Trumpacity:  (noun) A measurement of attendance where the actual number is exaggerated beyond belief or the evidence of actual witnesses.   “The campaign speech was delivered in a large theater filled to trumpacity.”

Trumpalicious:  (adjective) A statement intended to impress but which is so exaggerated and bombastic it is funny.   “His description of his apartment was trumpalicious.”

Trumpanic:  (noun)  The largest luxury ocean liner ever built, and it would have been the greatest, as described ahead of time, if it had in fact ever been built.  Sank on the journey from Trump’s mouth to the drawing board.

Trumpanum: (noun)  A small bone present in the inner ear of a small minority of people that renders them deaf to reason.  “I was always making stupid decisions until I had the trumpanum removed from each of my ears.”

Trumpbone:  (noun)  A type of musical instrument that while capable of producing great volume, can only provide one tone. And it is flat. “My parents gave me a trombone for Christmas.  I think they want me to avoid music as a career.”

Trump card:  (noun) Older usage now capitalized. A comedian making a living from impersonations of and jokes about Trump.  “Let’s drop by the comedy club tonight and take in that new Trump card.

Trumpet: (noun)  A combination of Trump and strumpet, to be used in reference to a woman who grabs your attention immediately, is loud and a bit low class, but who turns out to have questionable, or no, morals.  “At first I was attracted to her, but after a couple of dates I realized she was just another trumpet.

Trumped up excuse: (phrase)  Older usage now revived.  “He told me he couldn’t come to dinner because his Aunt Margie passed away, but I’m pretty sure that was just a trumped up excuse.”

Trumpeting: (verb)  Formerly used to describe the loud calls of swans or the playing of an instrument, now used to indicate shameless bragging.  “The date was dragged down by his trumpeting of all of his supposed talents.”

Trumpeiger’s Cat: (astrophysics theory)  A cat which may or may not be alive (or dead) and sitting in a closed cardboard box, but probably never existed and is neither.

Trumpence:  (noun)  A new currency proposed for after Trump’s win in the election.  It will be a coin made from the unused chips his Father purchased in a failed attempt to prop up one of Trump’s casinos as it was diving into bankruptcy.   “My salary was OK, but it was entirely paid in trumpence.”

Trumper:   (noun)  A fish known for having an enormously large mouth and no apparent reason for existence.   “Went fishing but all I caught was a pair of trumpers, and nobody would eat one of those.”

Trumpholder:  (noun)  Term for any of the people who invested in a Trump business or did business with Trump and then were stiffed when he failed to pay what he owed.  A very large group, many of who remain silent out of shame.  “We had a meeting with fellow trumpholders last night, at a secret location.”

Trumpiage:  (noun)  A type of marriage where the woman is traded in for a new model whenever the husband gets bored and/or thinks she is aging.

Trumposaurus Rex:   (noun)  A previously unknown dinosaur that evidently walked on its hind legs and spent a lot of time roaring at other beasts, to little affect.  Had very small hands and the brain case of a small bird.   “Our new exhibit of a complete fossilized Trumposaurus Rex should really increase attendance at the museum.”

Trumping:  (gerund)  Putting down people for no reason other than spite.   “He went off at the meeting, trumping everyone he had ever worked with.”

Trumpism:  (noun)  A statement presented as fact that has no basis in reality.  “He used a trumpism when he described how Latinos have taken over the economy.

Trumpster: (noun)  A container for the deposit of any documents found to be worthless or untrue.  “Now that Jed has been fired, empty out his desk and toss all the contents in the trumpster.”


Reader challenge  – can you add more words to the dictionary?  Send entries to   If there are enough I will re-issue the new and improved version! 



Copyright 2016                                David Preston



Posted in Education, Marketing | 1 Comment

The Folly of Voting for a 3rd Party Candidate

The Folly of Voting for a 3rd Party Candidate

There is a good deal of noise these days about voting for a 3rd party candidate in the upcoming election. In most cases the impetus is not to favor a particular candidate, but to protest the inner machinations of the Democratic National Committee.  This is a spectacularly bad idea for a great number of reasons.

First of all, the DNC is a private organization, not an elected body.  The only way to reform such a body is from the inside. I have little experience with working in a particular party, but I do have significant experience with the inner workings of a labor union, in my case the local teachers’ association.  When I first got involved I noticed it was pretty easy to gain personal power in a labor union. All you had to do was volunteer to spend a lot of unpaid hours doing difficult work that most people would rather ignore.  Becoming a building rep almost always meant an election with no opponent.  From there it was on to the Executive Committee – pretty much the same story. After only 6 months of that, I was approached by several elders I respected who urged me to run for President of the union.  Actually, “President” is supposed to be capitalized only when it refers to the US President, but this little rule is usually ignored.

I ran for President the first time against a man who seemed to be very angry and not that focused on what he would do. I won with 97% of the vote. The second year I ran un-opposed and received 93% of the vote – 7 less than when I had an opponent!  Hmmmm…

As President, I needed to recruit a great many people to take on tasks that were difficult and time consuming, and unpaid.  There were some people who took on a job because they liked the title – “Chair of the whatever committee,” etc. Some of them enjoyed the personal challenge. I had one math teacher whose hobby, so to speak, was to spend countless hours poring over the exhaustive district budget to find large amounts stashed in accounts with deceptively simple names.  He knew more about where the money was than almost all of the district staff.   I even learned, from him, how to hide sums in the union budget!

The most difficult task was to agree to serve on the negotiations team, which meant about 6 months of often frustrating work that culminated in a new contract, a strike, or a strike followed by a new contact. For all of the heartache and strain you would get – a nice dinner paid for by the union. 

In my experience, the very best people for this were those in the throes of a divorce. People in such a circumstance want desperately to get away from personal life concerns, and teaching during the day and negotiations duties several evenings a week took care of all that for 6 months.  Beyond that, these people did not seem to want any credit for any of this, and would usually prefer that their names be mentioned rarely, if at all.  The result of this was that I got a lot of credit for things I did not do.

To reform the DNC (or RNC if that is your preference) you would need to find people willing to put in the hours and the effort, for several years, to get the change in leadership focus desired. Not an easy task, but it is doable.

Voting for “Anyone but Hillary” for example, will have no effect at all on the DNC. If she wins, DNC will take that as an affirmation. If she loses due to liberal voters “making a statement,” there will be concerns much larger than the internal morality of the DNC.

The rationale I have seen for this is that in some cases Hillary Clinton is seen as a lock to win a particular state, so there is no harm in casting your vote to the winds.  This is faulty logic, at best.  Based on polls?  Poll estimates are routinely incorrect, and sometimes to an extreme degree.  Harry Truman once went to be early, as “everyone” (including him) knew he would lose the election to Dewey.  He was quite surprised the next morning when people began to refer to him as “Mr. President.”   Relying on poll numbers is historically not a viable method of analysis.

Besides, the point is to win.  During my decades in education I coached about 30 teams in at least 6 different sports. As a coach I had a winning record in all of them.  That was the point, but of course there were other considerations. For a few years I was gifted a very talented group of junior high girls. What I preached to them, ad nauseum, was “More than ten, less than twenty.”  I could not see any point in running up the score, and by substituting in and out I could pretty much control the score of both teams.  On a junior high team at that time the rules required 15 players, and each was to be in the game for two minutes. I had a student assistant whose sole job was to keep track of this. The difference between the top 5 and the bottom 5 at that age is enormous. I eventually resigned as coach the year I discovered that ALL of the other coaches were cheating on this.

But a Presidential election is not a basketball game. You cannot predict what the voters are going to do.  Polls are essentially “scouting reports,” and they are far less accurate than the 5 minutes I would spend watching the other team prepare for the game.

The Seattle Seahawks do not fumble on purpose, just to give their vaunted defense some extra work.  They do not take their best players out of the game to protest the meal they were served in the hotel. They do not run up the score, but only pull back when the game is well and truly out of reach for the opponent. The election takes place in one day, and it is not possible to tell when it has been won, despite the increasingly sophisticated computer programs predicting winners.  Remember the computer engineer’s maxim – GIGO.  “Garbage In = Garbage Out.”  The predictions of the pollsters are only as good as the materials used to create them.

But there is an even more dire need to you to vote for Hillary Clinton, no matter your usual political bent. This election is not really about policy or projected legislative action.   Trump has not espoused anything like a coherent platform of proposed policy. 

This is an election about basics such as human rights, respect for others, respect for the truth, and eschewing hatred.  A Trump victory, even if he achieved nothing as President, would drastically alter American life for years, even if you are one of those rare people who has not attracted his scorn. Perhaps you are not a woman, a minority, a member of the LGBT community, a veteran, a police person, or a fireman.  I am not any of these myself. Apologies to those I have left out – he insults a new group almost every day, after all.

To maintain civility in our nation, it is not just imperative that Trump lose, but that loses by a landslide never before seen.  I think 80% – 20% would be good.

This is also important if you are a Republican, or would like to be. The Republican Party of my parent’s time is long gone, and I think it began to fall apart during the Nixon era.  Now you have an unholy alliance of groups that pretty much share one thing – hatred.  Some hate government, some hate various groups of people, some hate the idea that someone somewhere is having fun, but they are united in their anger.

I would like to be a Republican as my parents were.  I am not comfortable with government dictating to women what they decisions they can make about their own bodies, or what sexuality people can identify with, or what private people can do inside their own homes. And so forth.  To create a party that is in favor of small government, you would need to get inside and do the work from the ground up; using the same program I began this piece with.

I want the Republican Party to lose this election by such a large margin that they will turn away from the course they have been on for several years.  I want the sexists and the racists to go back to muttering to themselves, I want the evangelicals to get out of politics and back to church, and I want to see the policy of burn the government to the ground as espoused by the Tea Party rebuked.

This is an enormous task, but easier than all others mentioned here. It merely takes a Clinton vote from anyone who identifies with terms such as logic and compassion and patriotism. 

All such votes are needed, and all will count.



Copyright 2016            David Preston


Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | 3 Comments

The Oyster Run and the ABTOR compared

Comparing the Oyster Run and the ABTOR

The “Oyster Run” is held on the 4th Sunday in September every year, and has been going on for decades. It is a massive gathering in Anacortes of 15,000 or more motorcycles, and all the businesses that cater to motorcycles. If you are new to motorcycles, or for some reason have never attended this event, you need to go. At least once.

The first year I attended was 2000, and I went with a customer who was also new to the experience. We did not know what “the” route was, and as it turns out there is no one best route, so we simply road North and East to Highway 9 until we came along a large clump of motorcycles, and then we followed along.  Once in Anacortes we parked about a half a mile from downtown and simply sat at the curb and watched an endless parade of motorcycles in both directions. Although dominated by Harley-Davidson motorcycles of all ages and descriptions, there are hundreds of other brands represented.  You will enjoy the panoply of motorcycles you have never seen before, some you cannot name, and some you hope never to see again. Strolling into downtown will land you in a festival atmosphere with hundreds of vendors trying to attract your attention, and thousands of motorcycles everywhere, including both sides of the blocked off street and a double row down the middle.  It is fantastic.

But there are several problems.  Some people who attend rarely ride their motorcycles, and with that many bikes on confined roads, the inevitable happens. The first year I went we rode by four motorcycle accidents, the most I had ever seen in one day.

A second problem is that all along the way many bars and taverns offer “Oyster Run” specials; usually some combo of oysters and beer. Many people stop to enjoy these treats, so now you have thousands of motorcycles with people who may or may not ride all that often in various states of sobriety.  This can cause problems.

The third problem is egress.  Fitting 15,000 motorcycles into Anacortes over a span of three or four hours in not that difficult. Getting them out when everyone chooses to leave at roughly the same time is a problem. The second (and last year) we attended there was a 45 minute fender to fender agony on the way out of town.  Sitting in a long line of people who think that “Loud Pipes Save Lives”  (they don’t) gets really tiring after about  um,  30 seconds.

There are various “secret” ways to get out of town, but I did not know any of them back then.  People who “know” are reluctant to share at times. Like now.

Hence the ABTOR, or “Anywhere But the Oyster Run,” which I wrote about in the last post. I think this was the 15th time I have done this, but who’s counting?

Here are the differences I noticed this year.

Instead of 15,000 motorcycles, 7.

Instead of predominantly Harley  (nothing wrong with that) a motley crew of a Triumph, three BMWs  (all different models), a Ducati, a Kawasaki, and a Honda. All of the riders were experienced riders that I know well, and all of them were clad head to toe in state of the art riding gear. All of the motorcycles were in top condition.

Our route was just over 100 miles from and back to the ferry dock, mostly winding back roads. Thanks to the combo of the Oyster Run and a home Seahawks game, there was virtually no traffic anywhere.

The difference I found most striking and also humorous? We paused at Seabeck for a potty break and the shedding of some layers, as the sun was warming up nicely. Almost of the group raced into the small general store and purchased a nice big bottle of ice cold – water.

Pretty much my favorite ride of the year.


Coming back on the ferry



Copyright 2016              David Preston

Posted in Motorcycles | 2 Comments

ABTOR 2016

The ABTOR for 2016

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, 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 SUNDAY at the Edmonds Ferry terminal for a 9:40 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!

ABTOR Route Directions

Edmonds ferry by 9:00 am and a bit. Sails at 9:40am

  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
  2.     RIGHT at                              BELFAIR-TAHUYA ROAD
  3.     LEFT onto                            North Shore Road
  4.    RIGHT at                              LIGHT on SR 3 to fuel– Belfai
  1. RETURN on                           SR 3 to LIGHT 
  2. STRAIGHT onto                 OLD BELFAIR HIGHWAY
  3. LEFT at                                  DEWATTO ROAD
  4. RIGHT at  T                          DEWATTO ROAD
  5. RIGHT at                                SEABECK HOLLY RD

                        Lunch at Seabeck

  1. LEFT at                     ANDERSON HILL RD
  2. LEFT at                     OLYMPIC VIEW
  3. RIGHT at                     WESTGATE RD
  4. LEFT at                     OLD FRONTIER RD
  5. RIGHT at                     HALF MILE RD
  6. LEFT at                     CLEAR CREEK RD
  7. RIGHT at                     SHERMAN HILL RD
  8. LEFT at                     VIKING WAY
  9. RIGHT at                     NW LINDVIG WAY
  10. LEFT at                     BOND ROAD to ferry


100 miles – ferry to ferry


Copyright 2016   David Preston

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The 2016 Triumph T 120 at 5,000 miles

The 2016 Triumph T120 Bonneville at 5,000 miles.

With my new Bonneville about to hit the 5,000 mile mark, it’s a good time to look back on the ownership experience so far.

First impressions:  Well, it’s beautiful. That’s the first thought for almost anyone, and it continues every day. The “cranberry” metallic and silver paint scheme, with hand-painted gold pin striping between the colors, is striking, not only in and of itself but for the eerie similarity to Bonnevilles of the late 1960s – arguably the brands finest hour, until now. The T120 was sold out by June, making my April purchase seem a bit wiser. I think this bike and siblings may mark the beginning of a trend toward “old school” appearance, where motorcycles are beautiful to look at, as opposed to merely stunning in their perceived performance potential.

I used to work for a Triumph dealer, and the former owner of what is now Triumph of Seattle invited me to chat at breakfast a block away. Afterward, we wandered over to the shop, as motorcyclists do, and were stopped in our tracks by the first of the new arrivals. This was an odd experience, as both of us pretty much knew it was a brand new 2016 model, and yet it looked so similar to a 1960’s that the right side of our brains wondered if it were not a very fresh restoration. Even odder, as Jim used to own a perfectly restored 1960’s model in this color, one of the few bikes I was not allowed to ride. Even he was confused. Finally the well-hidden radiator between the front down tubes confirmed what the left side of our brains knew – it was brand new.

When lust for a new motorcycle hits your heart, the brain often comes up with arguments for why you do not want to do this. 

My brain said “Yes, but you would want ABS brakes.”  They’re standard. 

“Well, I have never liked it that the Bonneville only has one front disc brake.”  The T 120 has twin disc brakes.

“OK, but heated grips are a must.”  Standard. 

“Well, I’d like to have a magnetic tank bag, as the strap ones are pain.  The fuel tank is steel. 

“Really?”  Yes.

“What are the service intervals?”  10,000 miles.  “Excuse me?”  10,000 miles. 

“What is this USB port under the seat?”  For charging your cell phone.  “Excess electronics, on a Triumph?”  Don’t forget the fake burglar alarm that blinks when the bike is not running.

“I’d want the tank pads, and they’re probably extra.”  No, standard. 

“It doesn’t have cruise control.” True, but the throttle pull is so light you won’t need it.  Clutch pull is also feather light.  It also has two ride modes, and various other cute multi-functions, including a clock, built into the instruments.

At the end, all I could come up with was that the chrome wire wheels meant tube tires.

I went home on my Speed Triple, and the T 120 took root in my head. Due to arthritis in my right knee I’d been contemplating something smaller, shorter, and lighter than the Speed Triple for about a year, plus stewing with some increasing maintenance and repair issues with the old bike, which was nearing 50,000 miles. Fortunately, I had been talking about this with Susan for quite some time, so I laid out the potential numbers for her.  With trade-in, I calculated that this was going to cost about $9,000. I was off by $38 high.

Since I used to work for them, and know the owner, the purchasing “negotiations” took about 10 minutes. He did not need to sell the bike to me, but on the other hand I have been a nice guy, yadayada.

I had to wait for “mine” to get there, as the one I first viewed had already been sold. This was agony, as I did not want to ride the Speed Triple much since I had already agreed to the trade-in value.  But it did get there, and I rode in and swapped the paperwork and was on my way home. Two friends met me at the dealership to help celebrate, and Andy the salesperson impressed all with his knowledge and relentlessly polishing of every speck of dust he could find while I was paying for the bike.

Performance:  Obviously not in a league with the Speed Triple, as the Bonneville is about 50 horsepower short.  But that was OK with me.  During the 14 years I worked in the business, I was encouraged to ride every different bike I could get my hands on as part of my “customer relations” training.  I rode over 500 different motorcycles in that time, and kept notes on all of them.   (The notes are posted much further down on this site).   I also owned several different bikes during this period, including several “big guns.”  I had a Kawasaki ZX12R, an extremely rare Muzzy Raptor, a Kawasaki ZRX, and so on, as well as a lot of seat time on a BMW K 1300S and S 1000RR.  In short, I had “been there and done that” with high horsepower bikes.  I know how fast I am (not very) and what my limits are (low), and was ready (at 69 years of age) to slow down and enjoy the ride a bit.  I had also ridden dozens of cruisers, about four dozen Harleys of all models, all BMW models and on and on.  If I don’t know what I want by now there is no hope for anyone.

Having said that, the T 120 is what I would call “sneaky fast.”  For a 1200cc twin, it has prodigious torque, and accelerates more rapidly that you would expect.  It has a “happy place” for cruising at about 70-75 mph, and gets 50 mpg plus a bit on regular fuel.

Handling:  If you read Kenny Roberts’ book on motorcycles, you will note he refers to some bikes as “front wheel” bikes and others as “rear wheel” bikes. It took me several years to figure out what he meant.  To grossly over simplify, most cruisers and almost all Harleys are rear wheel bikes. You can stomp on the rear brake on a Harley and it will slow down rapidly, because that is where the weight is. Sport bikes are front wheel bikes, and with a short wheel base, hard on the brakes means the rear wheel is hardly touching the surface.  Freddie Spencer used to remove the rear brake pedal on his Honda superbikes back in the 1980’s because all it did was reduce the cornering clearance on the right side.

The T120 is a bit of both, depending on how it is ridden.  Usually the handling is a bit lazy, but I am coming off 50,000 miles on a Speed Triple, which will begin to arc into a turn if you merely think about it.  The T 120 takes some work at the handlebars to turn.  Oddly, I find that the bike is so pleasant to ride that I often almost forget I am on a motorcycle – it is more like a pleasant reverie of motion.  I have to concentrate on maintaining focus, whereas a Speed Triple demands focus at all times.  However, if the road is curvy and I’m feeling frisky, I tend to lean forward a bit and hunker down, and then the T 120 turns with much more alacrity.

I have not touched the pegs down very often, but this is more of a function of the feeling tone of the bike.  It sort of says “OK, we can go faster, but do you want to bother?”  Usually I don’t.

I think the rear shocks are also old school, as in crap. I turned them up a notch early on, using the ONLY TOOL in the “tool kit,” and now they seem a bit soft to me. Back in the day it was common to change out the shocks for something better early on.  Things began to change with my 2000 Kawasaki ZX12.  I had a race tech set up the suspension, and it seems that bike, which was long and heavy, had been set up by the boffins in Japan for Americans who are taller and heavier. It was pretty much perfect as delivered, just one click stiffer on the rear.  I think I stiffened the Triumph a bit at both ends at the first service and never touched it after. We’ll see what the future brings for the T 120. The front end seems fine.

The brakes have not been an issue. Partly because there are three disc brakes, and partly because I just do not ride it that hard. The ABS will come in handy in an emergency I hope never to experience.

Cleaning:  Bizarrely, this bike does not seem to get dirty!  The Speed Triple, with short fenders and a pretty open rear half, would get trashed in 30 feet if I rode through a puddle. I took the T 120 on a 2,000 mile ride to California this summer, and the day I got back I set out to clean it, as you do.  It really was not dirty!  I rode it 200 miles the other day and cleaned a few bugs off the mirrors as a result.

Luggage: Clearly a weakness, but easily handled. A Nelson Rigg magnetic tank bag (with a micro-fiber towel under it to protect that gorgeous paint) handles the day to day, and for longer trips I have a set of Cortech saddlebags with a really sleek top bag that clips in to the saddlebags.  I am set for long trips, unless I want to camp, where space will be a bit tight.

Maintenance:  Nothing to complain about. I use spray-on lube on the chain probably more frequently than I need to, and I clean the rear wheel with WD 40 on a paper towel.  The chain does not need adjusting, and may make it to the 10,000 mile service untouched.

The only issue is the little “service needed” wrench icon  that has appeared on the instrument panel. Dealer thinks perhaps a minor error was made on set-up, and it was adjusted for the interval of the older air-cooled 900cc mill.   Some sunny day I will ride in and have that re-set.

All in all – I made a great choice.  This bike should last as long as the Speed Triple did, and then I may be asking the question “What sort of motorcycle should a rider of 80 years of age purchase?”

Copyright 2016                      David Preston





Posted in Education, Marketing, Motorcycles, Rants and Raves | 1 Comment

The final brush strokes on the Kenny Roberts painting

This is a press release (or article) by Bruce Scholten.
I’m from Puget Sound and have contributed to since 1978. That was a year after the Pride of Bellingham – STEVE BAKER – became first American to win the premier world roadracing Formula 750cc title! Which is why Baker has been inducted into the Washington State Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
As a leading racer at Hannegan Speedway, Baker (who sells motos at Mt. Baker Moto-Sport) showed how dirt tack techniques could tame 150bhp bikes as they approached 200mph. Californian Kenny Roberts learned from Baker, and went on to 3 world titles. Like Baker before him, Roberts beat British hero Barry Sheene. Recently Roberts turned from the machine shop to an artist’s easel, painting himself as a chimera, stalking Sheene to an eventual win.
Roberts donated his historic (and unexpected!) painting to the charity Riders for Health which uses 2-wheelers in outreach to 14 million people in 7 African countries (including Liberia, where bikes transfer blood samples to Ebola testing laboratories). Unfortunately, ill health prevented Kenny Roberts from attending Rider’s annual benefit Day of Champions  yesterday, Sept. 1, 2016.
Who ya gonna call? STEVE BAKER! David Preston of support group Riders Seattle rang moto-journalist Jack Lewis, who brought the painting from Kenny Roberts’ location to Seattle, where land speed bike record holder Rolf Vitous took it on to Steve Baker. We (Bruce & photographer Martha Scholten) were – like 1000s of other racing fans – thrilled to see Baker as an honored guest at Silverstone racetrack before the British Moto Grand Prix yesterday. 
Esteemed world champions like Wayne Gardner invited Baker to attend future events in Australia. And Baker was mobbed for autographs and selfies by British fans who recalled his exploits in the Trans-Atlantic Match Races of the 1970s. (When we Scholtens moved to Britain in 1992, gift shops sold wrapping paper with images of Baker on his #32 winning Yamaha Tz750!) Baker said, ‘I was honored to take Kenny Roberts’ painting to the British MotoGP.’
It shows that as well as being fun – Motorcycles save lives in Africa! 
Besides, we’re so fast up in Washington State, that WE DON’T CARE HOW THE HECK THEY DO IT IN CALIFORNIA!
Copyright Bruce Scholten    2016
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Sometimes it takes a really big village

Sometimes it takes a really big village.

This saga has several underlying foundations.  The first is that I have been raising funds for Riders for Health with various events for 16 years. 

It all began when I went to work for Cycle Barn in the year 2000. Owner Jim Boltz had been introduced to Riders by Bruce Scholten, one-time Lynnwood resident, motorcycle road racer, and early Cycle Barn customer. Bruce moved to England and is now one of the leading experts on sustainable dairy farming in the world.  He is a lecturer at Durham University, and also a moto-journalist,  music expert, and well – it goes on.

Riders for Health founders Andrea and Barry Coleman had flown from their home in England to Seattle that year on a fund-raising trip, and Jim Boltz invited Susan and me to join his wife and Andrea and Barry Coleman for dinner. Andrea and Barry are two of the most inspiring people you will ever meet, and I was all-in immediately. With Jim Boltz’ encouragement (and funding), I proceeded to put on one to four events a year to do what we could to help.  Most of them were not huge productions, nor were they designed to be, but a little money goes a long way for health care infrastructure support in developing African nations.

The second basis for what has occurred recently was the call-in talk radio show I hosted for three years. “The Motorsports Show, with Dave Preston,” was a brainstorm project Boltz and I created.  It did make a profit, albeit small, but eventually became too large a load to bear, as I was the “talent scout” who invited the guest each week, the head ad writer, the on-air host, and the guy who kept the books and tried to lure advertisers.

The real benefit to Cycle Barn was that I grew an impressive list of notable contacts in the motorcycle and car worlds, people who would be in town for whatever reason.  Some of my favorite guests were Indy and LeMans veteran Dominic Dobson, now one of the significant people at the LeMay Museum, famed Harley tuner Bill Werner, local road racing legend Mike Sullivan, road race training guru Keith Code, racing legend Chris Carr, and many others.  I got to know many of the best and brightest, although most of them would probably have a hard time remembering me.  People on the guest list often came in handy for other projects at Cycle Barn.  Hosting the show also dramatically improved my ability to listen to others carefully and talk less, a life-long weakness of mine.

The 3rd building block came from the details of my job with both Cycle Barn and then Ride West.  I wrote the newsletters, answered e-mails, attended all sorts of events, managed charitable donations, talked to thousands of people, and led customers on club rides. From all of this grew an enormous list of several thousand e-mail contacts with riders of virtually any type of motorcycle.

All of that came into play a few weeks ago, when I received an e-mail from Andrea Coleman.  She had a problem.  The largest fund-raising event Riders for Health does each year is the Day of Champions, which features all sorts of events plus guest appearances from many of the top athletes in MotoGP. World Superbike, Formula One car racing, and other motorsports notables.

This year they had scheduled a special treat.  “King Kenny” Roberts, one of the greatest road racers and team owners in history, has taken up painting. He had done a painting of a memorable race battle with British legend Barry Sheene back in the day, and would donate the painting to be auctioned off as a donation to Riders for Health.

The plan was for Kenny to take his art to Bellingham, where American legend Steve Baker lives, and Steve would fly it to England, where he was to be a special guest of honor at the event this year.

Then… Kenny Roberts became ill.  In her e-mail, Andrea explained that Kenny would be OK, but wondered if I could use my contacts to find someone to fetch the painting from somewhere in Oregon and get it to Bellingham – in the next five days.

Contacts?  Heck, I’d be pleased to do it myself.  A chance to meet and speak with Kenny Roberts and Steve Baker – two of my motorcycle heroes?  I would leap at the opportunity.

Except. As I received Andrea’s e-mail my mother-in-law, one of my heroes in real life, lay in the hospital, her death approaching inexorably. In addition, I was having problems with my sciatic nerve that first cropped up almost 50 years ago. Walking was difficult, and driving a car 500 miles or more was really not going to happen.

In addition, I did not know where in Oregon Kenny was, or in what sort of a facility, or how big the painting was. Could it be carried on a motorcycle, for example? There would be a big difference in the scope of the task if the painting was in Portland, as compared to Grants Pass.

Because of time delays it is difficult to have e-mail chats with England, and Andrea’s first response to my queries got lost in cyberspace.  As a stop gap, I put out a general plea on Facebook with what I knew.

Almost immediately I had several people eager to drop everything and rush in to solve the problem.  But details were missing.  Several more e-mails flew back and forth when I was home between stays at the hospital, and then the hospice. Eventually I learned that Kenny Roberts was resting in his motorhome in Florence, and that the painting was in a long plastic shipping tube, so motorcycle transport was possible but probably not a good idea.

Then the contacts of years past came to the rescue.   I’ve known Jack Lewis for years. There are a few people who write about books in this area, and Jack is by far the best of us. You’ve probably read his columns in “Motorcyclist” magazine.  His books are even better, and not all of them deal with motorcycles.  Nothing in Reserve details his experiences in war and the aftermath, and it is gripping. To me it compares well with Norman Mailer’s The Naked and The Dead, except that Mailer was writing about the experiences of others, while Jack is dealing with his own triumphs (some) and agonies (many).   You need to purchase everything he has written.

In fact, a meeting with Jack and Shasta is what got me into publishing books through Amazon.  Eight books later, I owe them for their insight.

By good fortune, Jack and Shasta were heading north through Oregon, and could side-track to Florence to meet Kenny Roberts and pick up the painting to get it to Seattle.  They would get here Friday evening.  The painting needed to get to Steve Baker by Monday.

Half-way there.  Now I had several more possible heroes to take on the second part.  

I’ve known Rolf Vitous for many years.   He first came to my attention as a motorcycle riding instructor when I was at Cycle Barn. He would go on my club rides when his schedule allowed. He saved the day for me on the occasion of the only serious riding accident I had to deal with on those rides. Three riders crashed in the same corner, one of them suffering a broken arm. As I stood there, the rider group gathered and quickly sorted themselves by levels of first aid training.  Traffic was blocked while the downed motorcycles were moved to safety, and Rolf used his high-end AAA membership to summon a tow truck.  The injured rider was whisked to a hospital and then Rolf rode with me back to Cycle Barn, where we met the tow truck driver and stashed the motorcycle inside for safety.  Rolf and several others saved the day. 

Rolf later purchased from Cycle Barn a Kawasaki ZX-14 that set a World Land Speed record at Bonneville, a project I had the pleasure of guiding along.  I believe he still owns it, and the little affixed brass plates with “World Land Speed” record holder on them add a lot of cred.

I have a lot of time for Rolf.  Always ready to listen to or relate a fine story, over a good cigar if possible.

Several people were willing to journey to Bellingham, but Rolf got the nod, taking the painting to Steve Baker after teaching a motorcycle safety course all day Sunday.

And so, because of the great lengths of rope I was given by Jim Boltz at Cycle Barn to do my job, and to some degree later by Keith Thye at Ride West, I did have the contacts and the wonderful people to rely on to get this done.

Steve Baker flew the painting to England, where was auctioned off for Riders for Health – for $4000.

A fine ending to an improbable story.

Here is a picture of the painting. 

 Riders pic


On the left is American MotoGP legend Randy Mamola, who started Riders for Health with Andrea and Barry and has been involved ever since. Andrea and Barry are holding the painting, and that is Steve Baker on the right.

The painting is curious to me. It shows a battle between Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene, where Roberts hounded Sheene for the entire race before passing him near the end for the win.

Now Kenny Roberts has never been accused of having a small ego. Few people who excel to the heights he has do. And yet, look at the picture. All you can see of Kenny is his right knee and the last few letters of his name on the shoulder. If you did not know it was him, you would not be able to notice him. Isn’t that curious?  I’d love to be able to ask him about that.

Perhaps someday I will.


David Preston  Copyright 2016


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