Gambler 500 Prep

The event (Google it) is still two weeks away, and preparations continue. Here are the crew coveralls Bill Hucks has put together. You will note there are more coveralls than can fit in one well-used Volvo station wagon.  That is because Tony “Wrench” and Deb “Wench” will be outriders on motorcycles.   They may have one or two more assistant outriders with them.   This is the most hilarious event I have ever been involved in, and it does not even start for two weeks.

I would like to think Bill Hucks got his marvelous creative thinking ability when he was a student in my 8th grade English class, but since that was 47 years ago I seriously doubt it.



Posted in Cars, Motorcycles, Rants and Raves, Travel | Leave a comment

Deb Shiell and the Riders for Health Scavenger Hunt V

Deb Shiell and the Riders for Health Scavenger Hunt V

Deb Shiell is an amazing person. I met her while working for Ride West BMW. She went on several rides and always brought an amazing attitude, a lot of laughs, and a smile for everyone. Especially on rides where the weather was wet and cold and simply foul – all the better!  One of those people who makes an event better by her mere presence.

A couple of those events were small fund raisers for Riders for Health that I had been putting on since 2001 or so – one or two a year.  Deb was fascinated by RfH and wanted to do more.  One day I learned that founders Andrea and Barry Coleman would be in Seattle, and they invited me to get together for coffee. At that time the events I was putting on were pretty much the extent of successful fund-raising for Riders in the country. I had a brain storm and invited Deb to join us. One of my better ideas.

“Coffee” lasted about two hours, and by the end Deb was all in and committed.  Andrea and Barry will do that for a person. Deb asked why we could not put on an RfH event for off-road riders, as all of mine were pavement oriented. The answer had three parts.   1. Because I had not thought of it.  2. Because I’m not fond of riding in the dirt.  3. Actually, we could.

Over the next few months Deb spent several hundred hours of her own time and a lot of her own money to put together the first Riders for Health Scavenger Hunt.  She had a lot help from Bill Hucks, and a little from me and a few others.  The event was held at The Cove RV Park in Brinnon, Washington, and Deb spent a lot of time with the wonderful owners, visiting and laying out multiple routes.  She also managed somehow to make the acquaintance of the internationally famous Mary McGee, who came to the event on her own dime, flying in to Seattle and renting a car for the occasion. This year will be the 5th edition. 

A week before the event it occurred to me (I can be slow) that we could also have a scavenger hunt class for road riders. That first year Tony Basile and I were the only riders on street bikes.

The event was one of the most amazing I have been to, and I have been attending events like this for decades.  Loads of tremendous people, a whole lot of fun, amazing stories around the campfire from Mary McGee, and a significant amount of money raised.

Now at this point I can hear Deb’s voice in my head, protesting that I had staged many such events before she came along. This is true, but there are enormous differences.  Putting on charity events was a part of my job description for many years. Not only was the considerable time I spent on each one paid for, but I also had an expense account for the fuel and food needed. I was fortunate to work for Jim Boltz and then Keith and Ann Thye, motorcycle dealership owners who supported Riders for Health in many ways, and not the least of them financial. In addition, I knew many other dealership owners and staff members and owners of related businesses such as Café Veloce, and had no problem securing lots of great door prizes.

Deb has done all this for 5 years on her own time and with her own money.

But wait, there’s more. Last year’s event was held during the deluge of the century.  Mary McGee could not attend, so I paid up and got the one motel room in the camp. Good idea. My room became a drying room for the gear of many people, and the resulting funk took me back to the storage room for 9th grade football.  Sleeping amid the odors of wet socks is not all that terrific, but on the other hand some of those in tents woke up – floating!

(The weather this year is bound to be so much better)

The Saturday ride for the street riders was a trip to Hurricane Ridge. It was made more fun for me because Deb was leading it, and knowing the area well, used many back roads I had never heard of or ridden.  A wonderful day, if soggy at times.

Saturday evening we were all preparing for the group feast when I noticed an awful thing. The wedding ring that has been on my left hand since 1972 was – gone.  I was horror struck. Within minutes a dozen people were wandering around the camp, heads down, looking for a small golden band. No luck. I took all my gear apart, and searched the motel room – several times.

It was just… gone.

On Sunday we all met for breakfast, and then the ride home.  Deb had borrowed the Ride West events van for the event, with her bike stashed inside.  As I rode home, depressed, Deb took the rest of the day, without telling me, and drove the van to every single place we had stopped the day before. She asked people questions, left her contact information with anyone who would take it, and searched each of the many places we had stopped during the day.  This took her all day. That is the sort of person Deb Shiel is.

Months later while moving my gear around, I found the ring.  It had evidently come off inside a rain glove that had failed in the deluge. Somehow it transferred from there to a hidden seam in the bottom of my pack.

The Riders for Health Scavenger Hunt V will take place this on Friday, August 5th to Sunday the 8th. The web site for the 2016 version is not up yet, but a Google look at the previous events will show you what to look forward to.

Anyone with a street or dual purpose motorcycle that is legal is welcome to attend.  As a side note, this event has the highest percentage of women riders of any I have ever seen not specifically targeted for women.

I urge you to make plans to attend.  Let me know if you can make it and I will forward you to Deb.  If you can’t make it but would like to donate to Riders for Health or offer a door prize we can make that happen as well.

You will have a wonderful time with fabulous people, have a chance to listen to more wild tales from Mary McGee, and help raise money for a worthwhile cause. 

And be with Deb Shiell.

Copyright 2016                        David Preston

Posted in Education, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

The Litany of Social Media Comments by Gun Enthusiasts

The Litany of Social Media Comments by Gun Enthusiasts

Here we go again. Another mass murder committed with a gun.  It took less than 24 hours before my Facebook feed began to heat up with comments from gun enthusiasts as to the “real” causes of these things, causes which can be defined as “anything that is not guns.”

Over time a patterns emerge. Gun enthusiast comments fall into a few categories.

“The Constitution.”  Usually the go-to first response.  But the Constitution is not a decree handed down by God carved into stone.  It has been amended many times, and could be again.

“Cars (or another product) kill people too.”  Not really. There are critical differences in this comparison. The primary design objective of any gun is to hit the target and do a designed amount of damage, from injury to death.  Cars are not designed with the intent of hitting people.  In addition, look at the development of cars in the past century. Which is safer to use – a 1916 car or a 2016 car?  The current model has perhaps twenty times the power of the 2016 model, and a potential top speed that may be 100 mph or more faster. And yet modern cars are so much safer in use that no useful comparison can be made. Cars now have safety glass that does not shatter, ABS brakes, much better tires, air bags, seat belts, and on and on. New car designs are now created with the intent of even making cars safer for pedestrians that may be hit.  The gun industry has proliferated for a century with countless new weapons that are more powerful, more accurate, easier to use, and with far more ammunition capacity.  What work has the gun industry done to make guns safer, and how does that compare to the auto industry?

“It’s the radical Muslims.”  This one popped up today and brings a gasp. Really?  There have been so many of these multiple-murders in recent years that they are usually referred to by the name of the town or area, such as Columbine.   Were Muslims the problem in all cases?  No. Most cases?  No.

“The government wants to take our guns.”  Again, really?  A representative government dominated by elected officials who receive massive campaign donations from the powerful gun lobby wants to reach out and take your guns?  Can you imagine any government campaign that would be successful in getting guns away from private owners?  Imagine how many guns there are. Imagine what lengths people would go to keep them.  Imagine the expense and the futility of the task. Makes the war on drugs or building a wall to keep out Mexicans look cheap, practical, and easy by comparison.

“What is needed is more education.”  Now we are really reaching. The perpetrators in these scenarios seemed to know what they were doing, and knew right from wrong, and knew the law. 

“We need more mental health care.”  No, that won’t work either. Mental health care is similar to physical health care in that both are reactive. You do not go to the doctor for an illness or injury you have yet to sustain. In both cases there are a small percentage of courageous people who realize they need help and seek it out, but many people soldier on and do the best they can until an incident occurs that makes the need for treatment obvious. Devoting more of our resources to mental health care is probably a good idea, but it would not alter the incidence of mentally diseased people committing gun massacres because all too often it is that event which makes the need for care obvious.  Unless you can invent a working time travel machine, of course, and send the person back to a day before they unleashed their assault weapon on hapless innocents.

This all reminds me of the swirling storm of controversy in our state over education.  The legislature has spent 20 years funding multiple studies in the hope of identifying a “cure” for the ills of public education that would not involve spending more money.  The need for increased funding is the elephant in the room no elected official wants to see. 

Guns are the same. The obvious problem with the gun elephant is that there are too many guns that are too powerful in the hands of too many people who should not have them. This is not an easy problem to solve, but the abandonment of logic, facts, and common sense is not the way forward.

Sadly, there is a final component of the social media gun enthusiast response. Anyone who points out the flaws in their arguments or expresses a desire for a system that will reduce the lethality of the mass of citizens will usually receive not a reasoned rebuttal, but a personal and usually vicious attack. 

Probably this one as well.


Copyright 2016                      David Preston

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | 2 Comments

Why You Want a Politician Who Changes Positions

Why You Want a Politician Who Changes Positions

So many hues and cries these days about people running for office who hold different views on a particular hot-button topic than they did in the past.  The uproar is quite liberal, no pun intended, including candidates from any party running for local, state, and national office. 

This confuses me.

Omit any mention of Donald Trump, who is more of an aberrant phenomenon arising from voter angst than a real candidate.   Allowing, of course, for the possibility that he might win.

Candidates are often excoriated for altering a position they held on a given topic at one time or another.  They differ from the rest of us in that such a high percentage of their statements are recorded, and through the joys on modern social media, live on forever. How many statements you made a decade or two ago would now make you cringe?

Most of us change our positions over time on almost any issue. We meet more people, have further life experiences, and learn more. Hopefully.  Would we really want to elect a person whose positions have not changed on major issues in two decades? 

There are politicians who change their position to align with the prevailing wind of hot air of the day.  These days many of them seem to be Republicans, as they try to figure out how to maintain their tent now that the ugly camel is well and truly inside. I refer instead to politicians who hold views that they have arrived at over a longer time frame than the last news cycle. Most career politicians have changed their views over the years, as they should. And so have you, most likely.

Gay rights?  When I was in high school I’d never heard the term. I had no knowledge of gay people, and no experience with them at all. I am sure I said things among my macho guy friends that today I would find repulsive and personally humiliating.  I have the luxury of having them evanesce into the mists of time. Today I have many friends who are gay, and couple of relatives.

My views on gay rights “evolved” over time. Politicians are criticized viciously if they use that term, but I think it is apt. We all have experiences that move us toward where we are now.  I listened to a moving presentation 20 years ago that was a talk with slides about the history of gay oppression in this country.  I was no impressed that I later gave the talk as a guest speaker.  My wife taught with a man who was involved with the Seattle Men’s Chorus, and through attending their concerts and the parties afterward I was surprised that I had such a great time.  I learned.

Black power? Again, little experience when I was young. I knew every black person in my junior high. Her name was Alice, and she played the trombone.

At that time (and again. we forget these things) one of the controversies of the day was the use of blood transfusions in hospitals where the donor was of one race and the patient another. I remember how furious my parents were that this would even be an issue, because it was based on such a towering and teetering combo of racism and ignorance. Politicians stated their opinions on this. That issue that is no longer relevant, and people have a hard time remembering that it ever was.

Decades later I have learned, with frequent reminders, that people are by and large people, which means that they can be good or bad or inspirational or disastrous, based on many factors.  Their sexual orientation or race has nothing to do with it.   Income level, education, parenting, and on and on, but sexual orientation and race are immaterial.  We are working toward that,  but there is a long way to go, and like the rest of us politicians are somewhere on a continuum about these things.  It often makes me angry to see how some of them are decades behind, but at least the wheel of time is rolling slowly in the right direction.

We tend to have selective memories about many things, including politics. There are millions more people who will tell you they attended Woodstock than ever did in reality.  (I was on a motorcycle trip). Also the Chicago riots of the same summer (same motorcycle trip).

Everyone is now on record as opposing the Viet Nam war. Not so at the time.  My own position was that I did not want to be in it.  Not because of any deeply felt convictions, but because I did not want to kill people and, most strongly, did not want to die.

Everyone knows that only a few idiots voted for Nixon in 1972, despite the fact that he won in a landslide.  I voted for him.  I was a liberal then as well as now, but there were sound reasons for my choice.

So the war on drugs was a failure that cost billions of dollars over time.  Agreed.  How fervent was your opposition when it began?  How much drug use of your own have you swept under a handy carpet of willfully fading memory, lest you admit that you could have and perhaps should have been imprisoned at the time?

If you are in favor of legal marijuana, how do you feel about cocaine?  Opiods?  Heroin?  Is it possible your own position will evolve over time? Do you have views that flip flop depending on whether we are discussing you or your children?

As for me, I’ve never used marijuana.  I am in favor of legalization for the very worst of reasons.  I am in favor of heavy taxes levied on any product or service that I do not use – which is philosophically lame and morally empty.

Who is to blame for the economic melt-down in this country from 2006 – 2010, a disastrous tsunami still rippling the economic waters today?  Most would say those evil mortgage bankers, and politicians, and lobbyists. Include Bill Clinton and the act he signed that de-regulated a lot of Wall Streety things, and of course you can throw Hillary Clinton under that same bus.

And yet, how many Americans made use of home equity loans at yummy rates that were almost equal to the over-appraised value of their home?   We remodeled our own home – twice – under those circumstances.  When I entered the motorcycle business in 2000 a great percentage of new bike sales were financed with home equity loans.  I did not know what a credit score was then, and the ability to finance a motorcycle with a score of 350 meant very little. Later, when I learned that both my wife and I had scores well over 800, I began to have a vague inkling that this sort of thing might not be sustainable.    So should all of us, as consumers, bear some responsibility for the melt-down by taking advantage of deals offered by greedy mega-firms?  It seems weak to take the position that “they” should have known, implying that finance is too complicated for us little minds.  I took the risk and I made the decisions and I signed the legal paperwork, and it all worked out – for me.  Through no expertise on my own, but does all the blame for the disaster go to “them,” the handily obscure “fat cats”?  Of course, not all things are equal at all times.  There are dozens to hundreds of people who should have gone to jail for their fiduciary crimes, and only a small fraction of those responsible did. The vast majority of us may have used the system in front of us, but we did not design it so we could amass obscene wealth.   

Still,  part of my salary at Cycle Barn was paid for by motorcycle sales to people who were only able to get a loan by a crookedly fixed system, so perhaps none of us should be totally free of angst or all that eager to point fingers.

Ironically, the strongest criticisms of Hillary Clinton seem to boil down to “she’s a liar” and “she looks at a situation and makes a decision based on what will work best for those she represents.”  Ironic because to me those are the two most compelling reasons to vote for her.

All Presidents lie.  It is a part of the office used in diplomacy, talk of war, trade fluctuations, disasters, and other parts and parcels of the life of the job.  A skillful President enhances life for Americans by knowing when to lie and for what reason and to what extent.  Hillary Clinton, was by the majority of accounts, very successful as a Senator and as Secretary of State. In other words – she’s a pro at this.  A President who looks at situations and takes action that will be best for the people represented sounds like a good idea to me, as I am the people.

For the record, my heart would like to vote for Bernie Sanders, but my head will not object to voting for Hillary Clinton.

Whatever your views, which I strongly suspect differ from mine on many issues, I would hope you make voting choices based on the positions of the candidates taken today on the issues of our time. 

If a candidate had different views many years ago, check your own history carefully to see if you did not hold the same views at that time.


Copyright 2016                      David Preston

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | 1 Comment

The Roots of Sexism

The Roots of Sexism

Fun article on the front page of the “Seattle Times” today. They’ve corrected an article written in 1951, reporting on a woman who graduated from the University of Washington as the only female graduate in an aeronautical engineering class of 175.  The casual sexism in the article is appalling today, as the Times points out, but so typical of the culture of the time.  They referred to her as the “girl” who graduated with 174 men, and the article asked questions about her dating opportunities. And so on.

I could relate to this, as my mother was the first woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in mechanical engineering.  Eleven years earlier, in 1940.  The Times article reminded me of many situations as I was growing up.

I became what would today be termed a “feminist” when I was about 13.  At a dinner party I was listening to a conversation between my mother and a friend who was a professor of anthropology at a nearby university.  The two women were comparing notes on what they had experienced.  Their common experiences with sexism (a term which had yet to be invented, I believe) were multiple problems with – other women.

They were both accepted by the men in their fields, for the most part, but the women in each of their neighborhoods pretty much ostracized them socially.  Their “crime” was being highly educated women who had careers outside the home.  I was made so angry by their tales of being uniformly excluded from neighborhood social gatherings of women, and by casual verbal put-downs here and there.

When my daughter was just a couple of years old I was standing in line at a grocery store, holding Dorine in my arms. I was wearing a shirt that said “coaching staff” on the front. The woman cashier smiled and said “Isn’t that the way it goes?  Dad is a coach and he gets a girl.”   I could not think of a response, which is unusual for me.   To further the irony, I had just come from coaching the girls’ basketball team at my junior high school.

Makes one ponder the situation today.   Do women today most often deal with sexism issues stemming from men or women?



Copyright 2016                        David Preston


Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | 2 Comments

The 2016 Triumph T 120 at 1,000 miles

The Triumph Bonneville T 120 at 1,000 miles

I’ve had my Triumph for over a month now, and first impressions are hardening into permanent truths.  Here’s what I have learned.

Overall:  Simply a brilliant design.  Triumph engineers were striving to create the look of a 1960’s Bonneville with a lot of modern technology added in ways that are for the most part invisible.  The degree of their success in this is astonishing.

In appearance it’s hard to take your eyes off the bike, as there are small details everywhere that delight the eye when discovered.  I prefer the cranberry and silver paint scheme, but the bike is attractive in every paint array available, as far as I can tell. All of the wiring and bits and bobs that are necessary but can detract from the overall look are hidden.  Yes, there’s a radiator between the frame down tubes for the partially water-cooled engine, but it’s small and as unobtrusive as possible.  Most people who stop to comment  (that happens a lot) don’t even see it.

A friend saw my bike for the first time yesterday and uttered one word: “Stunning.”  I think that is accurate.

Some may decry the throttle bodies, which are styled to look like Amal carbs from 50 years ago, but I would point out that Amal carbs were not all that great at the time, and the look offers retro gain with no pain.

I like the small gold circle on the left hand engine case, which sets off the contrasting colors and textures of various mechanical bits fore and aft.

I like the small pig tail for a battery charger, thoughtfully added by Triumph of Seattle before purchase. It is zip tied to the frame and invisible until you want to use it.

Technology: I lot of modern bikes have similar technology add-ons, but the combination of the tech and the retro in such an appealing package is rare.  When I was trying to talk myself out of purchase, (as one does) every time I thought of some feature I wanted on my next bike I discovered it was already there, and not optional.

Heated grips,  LCD headlight and taillight, ABS brakes, two engine modes, easy pull throttle and clutch, six speeds, chrome wheels, triple disc brakes, knee pads on the tank – all standard! 

A 10,000 service interval is simply grotesque compared to the motorcycles of my younger years. But welcome!

Then there are the multiple tech delights I did not think of. A fake burglar alarm with a little red blinking light. A port to charge your phone under the seat.  Various displays you can toggle through on the instruments, which look old school.

Performance: Still improving due to two factors.  The engine is loosening up with each mile, leading to peppier acceleration and increased mpg. On one tank yesterday it delivered 54 miles per gallon.  On regular.  The Speed Triple that preceded it used mid-grade fuel, and usually ran in the mid to low 30’s.  True, it had a fairly aggressive tune on the fuel injection, as well as TOR pipes, etc. but still   I have not owned a motorcycle that offered fuel mileage this good since about 1971 – (Honda 450 Street Scrambler) – if then.

I am also learning how it likes to be ridden. Yesterday’s 200 mile ride covered winding back roads I have used for years on all sorts of motorcycles, most often on the Speed Triple.  I think I am riding at about the same pace, but the techniques are far different.

The Speed Triple is what Kenny Roberts once referred to in his book as a “front wheel” bike. It was so eager to turn in that a mere thought would send it diving for an apex. The cornering could be described in car terms as “oversteer.” The Bonneville, by contract, is more of a “rear wheel” bike. It is extremely stable in a straight line, but coming into a corner it can be a little reluctant to track toward the apex. The solution is to give the front brake a gentle squeeze on corner entry. This sends weight toward the front, and now the bike is more eager to turn in.

Handling is appropriate for the intended use of the bike.  At 1,000 miles the “chicken strips” on the rear tire are there, and narrow.  I have touched the toe of a boot down once or twice, but have yet to drag either of the “hero blobs” under the foot pegs. 

For those who want to try harder than I wish to, the Thruxton R might be a better choice.  More power higher in the rev range, and far superior suspension. On the other hand, the bars on the Thruxton are lower, which might be better for aggressive riding but less comfy for a long day.  It is also $2500 more expensive. And – the heated grips are not standard on the Thruxton. In Seattle, heated grips are pretty much a must for me.  Of course, you could add them, either a Triumph accessory or aftermarket, such as Oxford.

Weaknesses:       Nothing is perfect, of course.  I do a few 7 to 10 day trips a year, and the Bonneville is a bit lacking in storage space. Alright – pretty much completely lacking.  I own a few tank bags, and usually I use a magnetic one from Nelson- Rigg.  The Bonneville has a steel tank, another plus I forgot to mention.  The magnetic bag is fairly small, and I often leave it off, because the bike is so gorgeous without it.  Such are the small-brain thoughts of the smitten buyer.

At the rear there is a lovely chrome passenger grab handle that is not of much use, (my only passenger is my wife, who will wrap her arms around me) and I have yet to find one of my bags that can strap to it.

I had a Ventura rack system double bag on the Speed Triple, and it was terrific.  I kept the bags when I traded in the bike, and the Bonneville will need new Ventura “L” brackets attached. Alas, Ventura is working on it, but I doubt the brackets for this new model will be ready in time for my first big trip in late July.

However, four decades ago I would simply strap on a “jock bag” with my entire chattel in plastic lawn bags. That will work again.  Back to the – past!

Or, I could purchase some throw-over saddle bags, like the two sets I donated to Goodwill a few years ago.

Another weakness is the tube tires.  With chromed center spoke rims so much a part of the appearance, this is a tough one to get around. For the past few years I have carried with me on all rides a portable air compressor and flat repair kit, and of course because I did so I’ve never used them.

For sure, I never carried such things when I rode across the country a few times in the 1970’s, but I was younger and considerably dumber then.   And there was that year a few years ago when I had three flats in one year. Probably upping my AAA membership to include motorcycles will be the solution to this.

Wind protection – there is none as delivered. The tank bag will help, but on long rides you can feel the strain in your biceps the next morning.  The upright riding position will also make itself felt in your lower back.   There are a few small “fly screens” available, and of course some larger and less attractive ones, and that may be a consideration in the future. Personally, I like having my full face Arai as the only windshield. On longer rides the pack behind me will offer support for my lower back, and also take some pressure off the biceps.

Feeling Tone: “Feeling tone” is a teacher term that refers to the intangibles you can sense in a classroom.  Sort of like personality, but more so.  This is a crucial factor in customer satisfaction, and road tests never talk about.  Every motorcycle fills you with an emotion when you ride it, and want you want and what you get will vary.

The Speed Triple was a wonderful motorcycle, and it was very “mission driven.” It always wanted to work with you to go faster and have more fun.

The Bonneville is very much laid back.  I can ride it about as fast as I did the Speed Triple (which is not as fast as either could be ridden) but it sort of says “whatever.”  It is the most relaxing bike to ride in decades, and just fills me with a combination of serenity and joy.  The seat is comfortable for at least 75 miles at a shot (I tend to stop often), the exhaust note is pleasant and audible, but not obnoxious, the handling is competent, and the brakes sure and utterly predictable.

Some will scream, but what it most reminds me of is a Harley.  Sure, the Bonneville is a couple of hundred pounds lighter, handles and stops better,  and is faster, but that is not what I mean. When I first started riding Harleys years ago (don’t hate me, it was a part of my job) I learned that they were heavy, slow, and did not stop well.  And that I enjoyed riding them immensely.  They (most of them) were fun to ride, and seemed to make each ride a little bit special. The Bonneville T 120 is like that – but more so.

How much do I like it?  I just washed it.  Because it was dusty.


Copyright 2016                        David Preston


Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 3 Comments

Fun with Bathroom Humor

Fun with Classroom Bathroom Humor… a Memorial Day Special

Many years ago I had a student in my sophomore English class I will call Gerry.  Because that was his name.  Gerry was one of those students a colleague of mine referred to as having “all the bells and whistles.”  A young man who was kind and friendly to everyone. A good student with a great sense of humor. An athlete, and a student leader.  Someone who enhanced any situation merely by his presence. One of those young people that makes teaching, quite often, the best job in the world.

One day Gerry was relating some anecdote from his life. I don’t remember why, and I don’t remember anything of the anecdote, but it involved going to the bathroom.  Gerry got to a part where he said “so I stood up to wipe myself with toilet paper…”  As he continued with his story, he became aware that all of the students, and I, were just staring at him.

He paused.

 “You mean none of you stand up to wipe yourself with toilet paper?”  He was greeted with thirty heads moving from side to side in a chorus of negatives. It was hilarious, and Gerry laughed as much as anyone.

Gerry went on to the Naval Academy, and eventually became a “Top Gun” sort of aircraft carrier jet jock. Which did not surprise me in the least.

Years later he was home on a visit and dropped by my portable to say hello.  He opened the door and stood there, clad in his dress whites uniform, his hat under his arm.  He was a stunning sight, and I think all of the girls in the room swooned. I looked at him, said hello, and said “I just have one question for you.”

He laughed and responded “Yes, I still do.”  We both cracked up, and none of the students had any idea of what had just happened.

Fast forward twenty years.  I have begun to have issues with arthritis in my shoulders, and the mysterious rupture of both of the tendons in my left elbow. Cause unknown. In any case, cleaning up after a bathroom session was getting to be a literal pain. One day, for some reason, I recalled Gerry’s story, and I stood up.  Problem solved!

As it turns out, Gerry was a little different in high school, but also about 50 years ahead of his time.

Today I e-mailed him a thank you.  We’re still laughing at this.

Happy Memorial Day to Gerry, and to all others who have served our country.  Thank you!


Copyright 2016              David Preston

Posted in Education | Leave a comment

How to Comment on Schools

How to Comment on Schools

As a former teacher with 31 years of experience teaching junior and senior high English, I am continually faced with an onslaught of comments about education.  Whether in the paper, on social media, or television, there are comments to be digested, regurgitated, or discarded on a daily basis.

Almost all of them are pure crap, or at the very least misguided.

Here’s a handy guide to evaluating such comments, and also a method to determine whether you yourself are entitled to offer your thoughts.

Rule #1:  It is always “our school,” or “my school,” “the school.”  It is NEVER “the schools.”

Schools are living and changing things, evolving constantly. No two are the same, and even one school will vary drastically depending on the day and time and situation.   Visit a high school a few days before prom.  Go again the week after. Different deal.   Talk to students the day before their team goes to the state tournament.  Talk to them again the day after they lose.  Talk to elementary kids during a week of mandatory testing. Talk to them again the day before the annual “field day.”  Visit a school after a community tragedy, such as a death of a student, parent, or teacher.   Visit a school in October. Go again the last week of May.

Any comment that refers to “the schools,” or “American schools” can be disregarded immediately, as it will be false to a large degree and likely has no application to any school near you.

Rule #2:  Private schools are exempt. Private schools were created for many reasons, most of them invalid. They are allowed to bypass or ignore hundreds of requirements public schools are held to.  And they are private.  Comments about private schools do not relate to schools as a whole, and should be kept – private.

Most private schools are training academies for values the parents hold dear and are willing to pay for. These may include religion, racism, elitism, and a desire to shield children from “others.” This also applies to charter schools.  None of these are schools for all, despite propaganda to the contrary.  If in doubt, check the statistics for private schools for minorities, students of color, and students with emotional, physical, or behavioral special needs. A student may obtain an excellent education from a private school or charter school, but it will not be a complete education.

Any school commentary worthy of attention must apply to an individual school in a specific time frame. Further, in order to qualify as a school commentator, a person must score at least 20 points from the following list of opportunities.

You teach at the school:                                                 5 points

You are a student or parent at the school:             4 points

Your child attends the school:                                    1 point for each

You work as support staff at the school:                3 points

You are an administrator at the school:                 2 points

Your neighbor’s child attends the school:             1 point

You attend the parent night at the school:            1 point

You conference with the teacher:                             2 points

You assist with a field trip:                                         1 point

You volunteer in a classroom:                                   1 point

You attend a sports event at the school:                1 point each time

You attend a play or concert at the school:            2 points each time

You volunteer as a sports team coach:                   4 points

 There are reasons for each of these point values, and that is probably a different essay.

You can double the point values for any of these where the child affected is not your own.

Any comments from someone who cannot attain a score of at least 20 can be disregarded as the rantings of a person who has little knowledge of your school, and probably little knowledge of education in general.

They are usually selling something.

On the other hand, if you have attained the score of 20 or more, you are qualified to comment on the school.  What do you have to say?


Copyright 2016            David Preston



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2016 Motorcycle trips and adventures – Fifth Draft

 Looking for a ride destination?  Here is what I have planned so far, although “planned” is a bit of stretch.  The fall one is still under development, (other than the dates) but the late July trip is pretty much done.    I post this here to encourage ideas for you – feel free to borrow or adopt or modify any of the below. 

Of course you are welcome to attend the Riders for Health Scavenger hunt in August, and you should! 

The Canadian ride in the fall has enough going that more would really not be handy, but for the July ride I would welcome one or two for company.  I do enjoy riding alone, for sure, but having another along is safer.

2016 Motorcycle Rides –  5th Draft

July 22nd   (Friday) – July 31st   (Sunday)  Cal tour             9 days

Day #1:       I90 to Ellensberg, South to Bend, on to LaPine           (300 miles)

Day #2:       31 to Silver Lake                                   46 miles

31 to Valley Falls                                   72 miles

395 to New Pine Creek                          50 miles

395 to Alturas                                       39 miles

395 to Litchfield                                    88 miles

36 to Susanville                                     16 miles

36 to Chester                                                  36 miles

89 to Greenville                                     20 miles

(367 miles)

Day #3:        89 to Quincy                                         15 miles

E21 to Marysville

E 21 to Yuba City                                  120 miles?

99 to 113 to 80                                     80 miles?

80 to Davis                                           50 miles?      (265 miles?)

Days #4–6:   Visiting in Davis   (you would be on your own here)

Day #7:        West on E6 and 128 to Rutherford          70 miles

128 North to Geyserville                        200 miles

101 North to Eureka                                        100 miles          (370 miles)

Day #8         101 North to Crescent City                     71 miles

101 North to Newport                            192 miles

20 East to a motel                                 50 miles        (313 miles)

Day #9         to I-5 to Home                                      280 miles      (280 miles)


August 5th – 7th    Riders for Health Scavenger Hunt V

This event is a fund raiser for Riders for Health.  We camp out Friday and Saturday nights at the Cove RV Park and Camp at Brinnon, Washington.  (West side of Hood Canal).

Saturday there are street and dual sport routes offered. Door prizes Saturday night, as we sit around the fire and listen to stories by Mary McGee. Mary has been racing motorcycles and cars since 1957!  She was a friend of Steve McQueen, has done to Baja 500 and 1000 on two and four wheels – and has stories that will cause your jaw to drop.

September 2nd (Friday)  to 9th (Thursday)       6 days – 9 days

Head-Smashed In Buffalo Jump Tour

Day #1:        Over US 20 to Twisp and on to Omak

North on SR 97 to Oroville

Into Canada to Osoyoos (motel)            400 miles

The schedule from here on is up to Bill Hucks, and will probably include two to three days beyond what is listed here as the prototype

Day #2:        North on C97 and 97A to Revelstoke

NE on C 1 through Glacier Park

motel Radium Hot Springs?

Day #3:        South to Cranbrook  3  to Sparwood, East on 3 to Head Smashed Buffalo Jump                Motel in Fort McLeod

Day #4:     South on C2 to US, and Glacier Park

Counterclockwise lap of Glacier on 2 to Browning

Motel in Fairfield or Great Falls

Day #5:     South on 200 to Missoula – W on 90 to Spokane

Day #6:     Home by 90 or 20?

This one is still being laid out, but the dates are firm because most of these people need to put in for vacation time and have reserved these dates already. Last year we had 6 people on this ride – this year it may be 6 to 10.


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Me, Kareem, and Mycroft

Me, Kareem, and Mycroft

I’ve never been into sports heroes, autographs, or famous people in general. The value of the autograph of someone you’ve known for less than 30 seconds and will never see again has eluded me. The author’s signature in a book is the exception, because by reading it you will really get to know the person who wrote the book. 

It also seems silly to extend athletic superiority to automatically include intelligence, wisdom, and leadership, although we see it all the time.

I prefer to focus on real people I’ve gotten to know who’ve proven by repeated example to be intelligent, warm, gifted with humor, and laced through with character.

On the other hand, we all benefit from hearing about people whose accomplishments in various fields we would like to emulate, or at least learn from. These people create a personal list of at least potential heroes.  For me, for example, dinner with President Obama and Mrs. Obama?  Oh yes!

Kareem Abdul Jabbar would make a terrific hero, or at least role model, to many.  A scholar, author, man of character, and also a great athlete.

And he and have so much in common!

I may need to explain that.

Kareem and I were born three weeks apart in the same year.  We both grew up to be very successful in our chosen careers.  Although he gained enormous fame and fortune in his basketball career, I think I had much more fun in mine. And now we write books.

I’d heard quite a bit about Kareem (then Lew Alcindor) by the time I was in high school. He was recruited by every college basketball coach gifted with a pulse, while I was cut from the team at my own school.  On the other hand, that team did win the state championship, so at least I was culled from the best herd!

I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BS degree in English Education.  Jabbar earned, from UCLA, a BA in English and History.  The BS is not a typo, by the way, because at the time the powers that be at the U of M felt that education was more of a science than an art.  I see where they were going with that, but with 31 years of experience I think education is a blend of both, which is why it is so hard to quantify or evaluate.

Mr. Jabbar has gone on to pursue multiple career opportunities since his retirement.  Among them is the authoring of several books, all of which outsell mine by about the same ratio as our levels of athletic achievement.

I was interested to learn that Mr. Jabbar is what is referred to as a “Holmesian.”  This is a person who is a serious scholar of the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and who is well versed in all things relating to Sherlock Holmes.  Mr. Jabbar has stated that he attempted to use Holmes’s methods of observation in his basketball career. Intense scrutiny of the minutia of details pertaining to opponents helped his preparation.

He has written a book titled Mycroft Holmes, and it is wonderful.  In this novel, Mycroft is 23 years of age, and the novel tells a tale that fills in the “back story,” or a plausible one, of how Mycroft came to be the character in Doyle’s stories that took place decades later.

I have now experienced what it is to create a mystery novel a few times. It is difficult, to put it mildly. To blend in the amount of research required to make a plot that includes settings such as England and Trinidad in the 19th century plausible is seriously daunting.   Even more so, the character in the novel needs to line up faultlessly with the older character written by someone else.

Published in 2015, this is available through Amazon, although I found my copy at the Kingsgate Library

I recommend the book highly as a great read.

Perhaps one day I can sit down and discuss writing and many other topics with Mr. Jabbar. 

But I won’t ask for his autograph.

Unless it’s in a book.

Copyright 2016                                  David Preston

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