The Ride of False Pre-Conceptions

The Ride of False Pre-Conception

Had a great time on a group ride today that I put together based on several pre-conceptions.

  1. The forecast called for temps in the 50’s to high 50’s.
  2. The same forecast said sun or mixed clouds.
  3. On Super Bowl Sunday (today) the roads would be empty.
  4. I would take back roads that I know very well
  5. It would be a small group I could lead easily.

The theme for the day became apparent early on. Essentially, I was wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. Had a great time anyway.

Since the temperature was just below or above 40 degrees at the start, that was OK.  Overcast, but not raining, so that was OK as well.  I got to the meeting place I’d selected about ten minutes early, as I usually do for rides I’ve invited others on, and to my surprise I was the 6th person there. I think a lot of people had the same idea I’d had.  I’ve known these people and ridden with them for years. We were joined by other old friends and a couple of new ones, for an even dozen.

Leading a group of a dozen motorcycles is a tad tricky, but it can be done. In this case they were all experienced riders, which makes it easier.  The range of displacement of the bikes ranged from 250cc to 1600cc, with engines of 2, 3, 4, and 6 cylinders, and small to big sport bikes, sport tourers, dual sports, and a luxo-tourer. That can add complexity as well. 

Since I was not being paid to lead the group, I did not hand out a printed list of the route. Instead I presented them with my vague idea for the ride, which was fine with all. And then I changed my mind. Several times.

The first problem is one I’ve never dealt with before in riding ahead of or in any group.  I came to the end of a winding road that some of the folks had not been on (I love it when I can achieve that).  I was at a stop sign and about to turn right. I was also on a pretty fair downhill slope. The bikes filled in behind me until we got to six. Hmmm. I expected some break in the group, as some of the riders prefer a faster pace and/or are on slower bikes. Nothing happened.  No more bikes. Finally I asked Jeff, waiting next to me, to go back and see if there was a problem.  He turned around and left. And nothing happened.  For a long time. Convinced we had a problem, I drove ahead and made a U-turn on the busy highway and headed back.  As I rode up the hill and the others began to follow me, I realized my error. All 12 of them had been there, but because of the bike placement and the hill I could not see them. 

I hate to have the group make a U-turn. Turning a bike around on a narrow road with a high crown and big ditches can be dicey, particularly when you have a group. People want to make sure they do not delay the group and they sometimes rush themselves into a problem. Guess how I know that? So my error meant the group had to make a U-turn – twice. And we were not done.

Part of my hazy plan was to ride the back roads around and behind Duvall and then circle back for coffee.  A friend had let me know earlier that my chosen coffee spot is closed on Sunday.  But I remembered a bakery next door!   As we were heading back to Duvall, I realized that when we reached the bakery we would have only covered about 25 miles, which seemed a ridiculously short distance for a break. So I changed the plan.  The little place at Snoqualmie Falls has great cocoa – better idea!

On the way there another error became obvious. Many of the roads were busy, particularly with people who’d had the same idea I did. Lot of folks on bicycles, and an enormous car club of mostly Audis and Porsches.   Don’t know who they were, but there were more than 50 of them. Doing the same thing we were doing. One was a silver Porsche 911 with a Go-Pro suction-cupped to the roof. Don’t you think that would get you a lot of attention from law enforcement?

Another error. The Super Bowl would not start until 3:30pm. It was now only 11am. People still had lots of time to get in our way and still get to wherever they were going for the game. Oops.  Oh well, carry on.

At Snoqualmie Falls, Dan “the new guy” reported that the license plate had fallen off his BMW. He’d made a custom aftermarket mount which failed the vibration test. No problem Dan, we’ll go back and pick it up after cocoa and this terrific little loop I know just past Snoqualmie Falls.  

Several people with other rides to get to, a Super Bowl to watch, or whatever,  split off at this point. We were down to six.

I did not know of the recent road construction, and my little loop no longer exists! I did find a small road I hadn’t been on before and thought it might T into the loop. Nope. Dead-end.  Another U-turn.

We looked for the errant license plate for many miles back to north of Carnation, and then gave up. Another U-turn (!) to one of my favorite back road routes. About this time I realized I’d made no plans for an actual end point for the ride. So I chose to just ride back to the starting point, using different roads, and that way the remaining folks could decide on their next step.  I had tweaked my bad right knee yesterday, and it was telling me I needed to stop.

So at the end of the day, pretty much nothing went right. And it was fantastic.  Great people with a sense of humor and adventure that are so happy to be out riding again after the months of punishing cold and rain.   Awesome!   I may plan much less in the future.

Copyright 2016                David Preston

 

 

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2016 Motorcycle Rides – first draft

2016 Motorcycle Rides –  First Draft

Not to be confused with all the days I will be riding motorcycles of course – these are just the “big” ones.

Placed here so my friends can add their comments, corrections, and alternate routes.

I do not have the mileages for each leg yet, but most days are probably 350-400 miles.  I am not interested in the total miles each day, but the quality of the time and miles.

And of course, I always looking for a couple of people to ride along with me.  I enjoy riding alone, but there is no question that riding in a group of 3 to 7 or so is much safer and offers a lot of other benefits.

The dates may be slid forward or back to accommodate the schedules of others, as most of my riding friends are still  (alas) employed!

Accommodations are usually 2nd or 3rd tier motels, not because I cannot afford better, but because I think they fit the flavor of the trips better.

July 22nd   (Friday) – July 31st   (Sunday)  Cal tour    10 days

Day #1:    Slab to Bend and then on to Klamath Falls  (450 miles)

Day #2:    Into California – down the East side to Fresno

Day #3:     Fresno to Coalinga – West to San Lucas

South on US 1 to Paso Robles

West on 46 to Highway 1

Day #4:     North on Highway 1 to Los Gatos

Day #5 – 7:        Explore Monterey peninsula, etc.

David at his daughter’s place

Day #8 – 10:      Up Hiway 1 and 101 into Oregon – over to 405 and Home.

 

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

 

September 2nd (Friday)  to 9th (Thursday)       7 days

Smashed Head 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

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

NE on C 1 through Glacier Park

Day #3:     South and into Glacier National Park to Cranbrook (motel)

Day #4:     3  to Sparwood, East on 3 to Head Smashed Buffalo Jump

Motel in Fort McLeod

Day #5:     South on C2 to Cardston, US, and Glacier Park

Counterclockwise lap of Glacier on 2 to Browning

Motel in Fairfield or Great Falls

Day #6:     South on 200 to Missoula – motel

Day #7:     Home

Copyright 2016             David Preston

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My Resolution for New Year’s – No Resolutions!

No Resolutions for the New Year!

My antipathy to New Year’s Resolutions has a variegated base. 

In 1972 a man named Roy Urban was a student in the adult tennis lessons I was teaching for the Redmond Parks Department. We got along well, as he was a very gifted mechanic who had just opened his own shop, and I was the owner of a 1958 Corvette with multiple needs. 

I became his first paying customer with the replacement of the clutch in our Corvette. This cost a whopping $100, to give you the economic flavor of the time. I framed the check when it came back from the bank and presented it to him. It hung on the wall of his shop for decades. 

For a time I would hang out at his shop on Saturday mornings as an assistant. My rate of pay was $2 and hour plus 15 minutes of his time. I usually directed to such mundane jobs as sweeping the floor or other mindlessly simple tasks, those that were a good fit for my extremely limited technical aptitude. The most exotic thing I did was to remove the engine from a VW van, which may sound impressive unless you know that it can be done by the removal of four bolts.

The next problem with the Vette was water getting into the oil. This was baffling, as it was not a leaking head gasket – the usual culprit. After a couple of new head gaskets it was decided a complete engine teardown was in order.

At that time my school was “double-shifting” to accommodate students from Kirkland Junior High, which had burned down.  My work day started at an unholy hour, but I was done at noon. One day I went down to Roy’s shop and spent the rest of the day and well into the evening tearing down the engine, which he had removed. Then, after teaching a full day and working on my feet for about 8 hours, I went home.

And Susan went into labor.

A few days later, with Susan and Dorine in the hospital, I dropped by the shop and Roy announced the solution – one he had never seen before. The block was porous!  You could run water into the cooling passages of the bare block and then watch, in fascination, as beads of water appeared in what appeared to be the solid metal wall of a cylinder. Amazing.  The block was bored and liners installed, and he had it back together in time for me to pick up my wife and new daughter from the hospital. The cost of the parts and the hours he spent came out to equal what was owed, so all was good!

That story has nothing to do with New Years at all, of course. I just tossed it in because I like it.

Roy and I spent a lot of time yakking while futzing around with cars, and one day New Year’s came up.  He offered some great advice. “Never drive on New Year’s Eve,” he announced.  “That is when the amateur drunks are out.” 

That made great sense to me then, and now, and formed the basis of my resistance to New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Added to that was that, for most of my life, New Year’s was not the end of the year.  With both of us teaching and two kids in school, we measured our year as starting in late August and ending in late June. New Year’s merely meant that the end of Christmas vacation was at hand.

In addition, I have never enjoyed large and boisterous parties. Or drunks. Or smiling hosts with microphone.  An exception to the latter is any event where I am the smiling host with the microphone – those are great!  

And then there is the centuries-old tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions. Bah, humbug, I say, to use Ebenezer’s statement in a more apt application.

First of all, New Year’s Eve is a terrible time to make any sort of resolution. You are probably socially exhausted from family and work and friend gatherings in a season that runs from just before Thanksgiving all through December. Most of these gatherings involve the intake of copious quantities of foods and beverages that are probably not terrific for promoting health but excellent for promoting growth. Growth as in girth.

You now weigh more than you did before the season of gaiety began, and you can feel it. Perhaps you can see it. You are probably imbibing champagne, at the very least. All of this adds up to the urge to make resolutions you have no hope of completing successfully.

We see this every year at our local YMCA.  January will feature a more crowded atmosphere, with new members eager to make a difference in their health this year.  Some of them I now recognize from their appearance in previous years in the first few months.  By June you can see the numbers declining, and by the fall we are back to the “regulars” who have made gym attendance a habit, rather than a resolution made when socially and mentally tired and possibly drunk.

Another problem with resolutions is their annual nature. One of the teaching techniques I believed in and used was called “Monitor and Adjust.” This simple concept started with the idea that the plans you made for your classroom would probably never work out exactly as you intended.  I have lost count of “brilliant” lesson plans I dreamed up while mowing the lawn that utterly bombed in application.  There are so many variables in play, even during the same teaching day, that you must continually alter your plans and goals and adapt to what is actually occurring. Why would you want to wait until the end of the unit, or the semester, or the year, to make changes? Who gains by that? 

If you feel a need for change in your own life, why would you wait for the end of the year to alter your behavior, diet, spending patterns, or anything else?

An additional problem with resolutions is time span. A year is far too long.  Our attention spans, en masse, are not what they used to be.  Take a look at your favorite magazine, if possible one that you’ve been reading for decades. You’ll notice that today’s issues have more articles of much shorter length. Many are now one page long, with graphics.  That is how we have changed.

One of the benefits of teaching, at least in my case, is that I had pretty much complete control of the environment and the curriculum.  Most often, particularly in the final decade, I was teaching a curriculum I had developed myself for a class nobody else taught, conducted in a room not used by any other teacher.  If a change was needed, in the design of the room or the content of the curriculum or the system of discipline or whatever, that change would be put into effect the following day.

If you want to make a change in your life, do it now.  Don’t wait until you are up past your usual bed time in a group of festive friends.  Unless the change you desire is to spend more time staying up late with festive friends, of course.

And speaking of that, why is midnight important?  Whenever you go to bed, it will be 2016 when you wake up.  Our practice is to watch the gala in Times Square on TV, giving copious thanks we are not in it, and wait for midnight – on the East Coast.  The ball comes down, fireworks burst in air, and we all give a huzzah.

And go to bed.

For those who struggle to break the habit of New Year’s Resolutions, there are small modifications that might be helpful.

Shorter time span:        A year is a long time.  How about a small change you can get done in less than a month?

More realistic goals:     “I will lose 25 pounds in 2016” does not sound too difficult, but that may be 10% of your body weight.  It will be fairly easy at first, because your current weight is the result of a month of over-eating. Almost any effort will cause you to lose 2-5 pounds.  A better idea might be to state “I will lose two pounds a month in 2016.”  The time frame is still too long, but your odds of success for the first two months are pretty high, and in time momentum and inspiration from your success may impel you on.  Two pounds a month will equal 24 pounds in a year – one less than the 25 but with a much higher probability of success.

Give yourself a break:   Many resolutions are so stark that any small slip along the way will cause the entire concept to be tossed.  “I will not be sarcastic this year.”   Good thought.  Hard to accomplish (for me, at least). You might do better with “I will be less sarcastic this year.”   That way, the occasional slip can be noticeable but not fatal to the overall goal.  “Besides,” you can tell yourself, “She really deserved it.”

Keep score?:                 This can work.  A long time ago I noticed I was speaking too often and at too great a length at staff meetings. I began to keep a score card.  I gave myself minus 2 points if I spoke, plus one if my name was mentioned, and plus 2 if I was asked to speak.  My goal was to attain a 0. This also have me something to do at staff meetings other than speak.  In time this altered my behavior considerably, and everyone gained.

An exception to this last one would be keeping score of your weight. One of the smartest things we ever did as a couple was to toss the bathroom scale.  First of all, you know if you are overweight.  You can see it and feel it.  You do not need a daily reminder.  Secondly, muscle weighs more than fat.  If you begin to work out and use resistance machines and such in addition to stretching and running or walking, you might actually gain weight.   I still check my weight once in a while at the Y, but don’t really need to.  This is probably true for those who are underweight as well, but I have never had that experience!

Go forth into the New Year!   You have value and talents and gifts to offer!

 

David Preston      Copyright 2015

 

 

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | 1 Comment

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

In many ways I find the Christmas season to be even more about gratitude than Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is wonderful; in our clan is a wonderful excuse to gather as many friends and family as possible for a sumptuous feast of food and conversation.  Thankfulness at that time is more of a general gratitude for the presence of all.

Christmas comes close to the end of the year, and we are more apt to reflect on the events of this year and the (many) years prior. For me, each Christmas I am filled with gratitude for the incredible string of happy circumstances and sheer good luck that have landed me here.  There is a very long list of such events, referred to as “Preston luck” in my family.

I am even more grateful for my children this year, with some irony as they are not with us.  Perhaps absence makes the heart go ponder.  Our daughter and her husband and son are enjoying their first Christmas at home as a family. Son and his wife are in far off Arkansas with our opposite numbers. How meaningful to ponder the decades of parenting that have resulted in such spectacular human beings. I am grateful for their many talents, many of which could not have come from us, but we can take at least a smidgen of credit for the fine people they are. And both have married wonderful people, one of a parent’s greatest hopes.

I am also grateful to you as an occasional or frequent visitor to this site. I started in on this adventure over four and a half years ago, at the urging of my daughter and son. My daughter was appalled that I did not keep copies of some of the articles I had seen published, and she was right to feel that way. My son “built” the site, as I have no clue and don’t intend to increase my tech knowledge if I can help it. 

The original intent was to place on the site anything I wanted to, and that has resulted in short videos, reviews of motorcycles and cars, and essays on education, politics, and anything else that comes to mind. One of my intents was to have a place to store my thoughts, on virtually anything, and get them out of my head. Another was to create a place where my grandson could go to learn all about this strange man who is his grandfather, when he reaches an age where he becomes curious.

In that time 43, 257 visits to the site have been recorded, and I am grateful for all of them.  It astounds me to look at the records and see that I have posted 362 items in that time, or about 80 a year.  It’s fun to look back over them from time to time. I should add that not all of them are still on the site, as some were spirited away to become one of my books of essays.

Our Christmas this year will be “small,” with just a few of the local clan gathering, and that is OK. Sometimes small is more meaningful. In any case, I hope you are surrounded by friends and loved ones, and are celebrating whatever holiday you wish to celebrate at this time of year by any name you wish to call it.

Peace and joy to you!

Sincerely,

David Preston

 

Copyright 2015            David Preston

 

 

Posted in Rants and Raves | 1 Comment

How to Form a Breakfast Group

How to Form a Breakfast Group

By far the smartest thing I’ve done since I retired a tad over two years ago is the formation of a small group that meets every Friday for breakfast. It has become the social highlight of most weeks, and the conversations have brought me a great deal of priceless information on an amazing array of topics, most of which I would never have looked into on my own.

Not that the idea was mine of course.  Over the years you’ve undoubtedly noticed small groups of people meeting in various locales, and noticed that they seem to be having a fine time.  I wanted to be in one of those.

When I transferred to Juanita High School in 1989 I was invited to join a small group that met every Friday. This was mostly “jocks,” adult men with attachments to the coaching staff in one way or another. I had coached for decades previously, and at Juanita I was the announcer for home football and both boys and girls basketball games. I assisted at track meets, and later was an assistant coach in fast pitch softball for two years.

It was entirely male for a couple of years until a new softball coach, a first year teacher, joined the group. Michelle had an immediate impact and improved the tone and depth of the conversations. As the years went by some retired or transferred to other schools. This had the effect of improving the conversations by adding different perspectives to common issues.

When I retired from teaching in 2000 that group sort of disbanded, and I missed the weekly interactions.   When I retired for good in the fall of 2013 I decided I wanted to try and form a group again.  I invited some of the fine folks I had met as motorcycle dealership customers, and accidentally hit on the secret of what has been a tremendous success.

You want to have folks who have a common passion, whether it be motorcycles, sky diving, knitting, square dancing, or whatever, but NOT a common profession.  That seems to be the key ingredient.

With the first group, the common base of conversation was teaching and coaching, and the topics rarely ventured beyond that tight focus.  With the new group, the only common denominators were that they all knew me, and were all interested in motorcycles.  Even there great diversity came into play, as “motorcycles” is a wide tarp that covers many types and many different types of riding.

I commonly refer to these meetings as “brekkie,” a slang term I borrowed from a teacher friend in the first group. Attendance varies each week from a core group of five or so on up to a dozen, which is rare. Both men and women attend.

What is astounding, because they all come from different career paths and other assorted hobbies, is the scope of their expertise in a bewildering number of areas. Motorcycles form the base for some conversations, but not all. Other topics have included a lot of computer technology (most of which I have slight odds of ever using, or even comprehending, but the chats are fascinating), the design of hospital operating rooms and nuclear submarines, (separate conversations), performing at an open mic night in a bistro in Paris (!), the disparate joys of San Francisco, real estate, wild tales of adventures in previous decades, family dramas or one sort or another (usually funny), any and all forms of developing technologies, and on and on.  A group joke is that someone in this group knows the answer to any question, and I am not sure that is much of an exaggeration.  On one occasion the waitress provided the needed expertise!

Politics seems to be eschewed by tacit agreement, to the relief of all, but we occasionally meander into sensitive areas such as gun control, as several of the folks have interest in this area.

Because we meet in the same place at the same time, our waitress (Aubrey) has memorized what we order, to the extent of reminding an individual once in a while what they order. A request for a menu is a cause of wonder.

Today was the end of our 2nd year of these meetings, and they have grown in depth and scope over that time.  Some of the regulars now assist each other with motorcycle repairs, and we go on group rides in the summer months. We even have our own “secret” outlaw biker gang name.

I decided we should have gifts to celebrate our success.

Fortunately, I have a large stash of “motorhead” books from a few years ago when I reviewed such books for a national magazine. I was able to select a book individualized for each person, plus a charming book on the development of diners made from railroad cars in New England. That one was for Aubrey.  I expect these books will be “re-gifted” among the group over the next few months.  A few extra books came in handy for individuals who made a relatively rare appearance this morning.  At the end of our session, one of the regulars unveiled his own gift – he paid everyone’s bill.  Another left an enormous tip for our waitress.

We will not meet on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day, so that’s it for this year.  In January we will begin discussing plans for motorcycle adventures for the new year, and who knows what else.  Can’t wait.

To form your own group, I recommend finding a suitable location and then e-mailing a few friends with common interests.  I can assure you it will add a lot to your 2016.  And beyond.

Copyright 2015            David Preston

 

 

Posted in Cars, Education, Motorcycles, Rants and Raves, Travel | 2 Comments

How To Put Up Holiday Decorations and Remain a Couple

How to Put Up Holiday Decorations and Remain a Couple

‘Tis that time of year. Time to decorate your abode, inside and out, with traditional heritage holiday décor. 

Or not.

Today we’ll focus on the outside of the home.  That’s enough of a challenge. 

Because you’re a couple, you’re going to do this together, and that is going to create stress.

Possibly a lot of stress.

Assuredly a lot of stress. 

Here’s how to do the decorations, together, without resorting to strong drink, drugs, weaponry, or some combination of all three.

You must first pick your level of commitment.  There’s always that one person in your neighborhood (usually a male, but not always) determined to have the best outdoor holiday decorations.  Sometimes a male of this persuasion mates with a similarly bent female to create a truly daunting couple. 

Your solution?   Let them win.

In fact, don’t even try.  Would you challenge the offensive line of the Seahawks to a steak-eating contest, with the loser to pick up the bill at the steakhouse?  Of course not.  Your efforts would bring you physical pain, enormous expense, and would be a complete and utter waste of time.  Your opponents would not only win, but might not even be aware that your puny efforts could be defined as competition.  Who needs the humiliation?

I wouldn’t have believed it when I first thought about writing this, but now there’s a promo for a TV show based on this very concept. This will feature a Texas (surprise) couple who erect an enormously tall pole in their front yard, supported by sturdy gang wires and sub-frames, decorated with over 60,000 lights.  They spend months on this and thousands of dollars.  Every year.  As the man says, “If it cannot be seen from outer space, it’s not worth doing.”

Sure.

Decide where in the hierarchy of rational decoration you wish your efforts to fall.    Select one of the following categories before you begin so you do not get lost in the process.

Traditional:       Lots of lights on several levels of the home and perhaps on some shrubs and trees. Don’t worry about accidentally entering the “best” category – somebody else will outdo you.

Techno Classical:  Lots of lights synchronized with classical music.

Techno Pop:     Same but with modern music.  You’re ineligible to enter this class if your average age is higher than 32.

Tacky:               Lots of lights, probably blinking, combined with inflatable characters such as Santa and various reindeer. These are all hooked to a compressor you keep forgetting to turn on, so the characters all look like some version of…      dead.    

Traditional Religious:  A yard display featuring lights and whatever scene matches the religion you follow.

Radical Religious:     A yard display featuring lights and a religious –themed display not followed by you or any of your neighbors.    Kwanzaa for all-white neighborhoods, something Jewish if all your neighbors are Lutherans and Catholics, that sort of thing.   Bonus points for looking up some lesser religion that you (and the neighbors) have never heard of, and going with that.  

Note: I don’t actually recommend this, but I do think it would be funny.

Casual But Trying:    The best solution for most. Enough of a display so that it looks like you care, but not so much that it will bring you physical or financial hardship.

Nothing at all:          Not recommended.  I noticed on a stroll last evening that a few houses on my block lack any holiday decoration at all. There was a 100% correlation between these houses and residents inside who are referred to as “those people.”  The same sorts of houses that no children visit on Halloween.  You do not want to be those people. It takes a village, y’know?

You and your partner have now agreed on an overall approach, which may be a bit of an assumption on my part.  You may have to start your wonderful journey of concessions, appeasement, and cooperation at this point. 

Perhaps Religious Traditional can be blended with Casual But Trying.  Or Religious with Techno Classical.  In fact, any of the categories can be combined with Tacky and often are – intentional or not.

Your guiding principal in this decision and all the ones to follow must be:  “It really makes no difference.” You may have to write this down and repeat it as a mantra (probably under your breath) from now until the job is done.

Just a couple of more rules and you’ll be ready to decorate.  Together.

The first rule is that if either of you are over 40, your decorations planning may not include getting up on the roof.  Getting up on the roof with eventually, inevitably, assuredly entail the person assigned the task falling off the roof.

This can disrupt holiday party plans with muttered statements like “OK, who gets to wheel him up the front stairs this time?”  Not fun.  Then there is the possibility of death, where every year Grandma will commemorate the season with “I told him not to do it.”

The second rule is that you must agree with any decorating concept your partner utters.   Any. Just go along with it.  After all, it really makes no difference.

Case in point.  We are people of the Casual But Trying ilk. We have lights on the rhodies and railings of our back deck and all over the huge rhodies and shrubs in the front yard. 

Every year Susan purchases far more strings of lights that anyone needs, and I keep my mouth shut.  Sometimes all I can manage is a muffled squeaking about the expense, but effort is important.

Every year, we use all the lights Susan purchased, because we need them.

Every year I’m positive I can take an enormous wad of strung lights and launch them high in the air so they fall down on the other side of a 15’ rhododendron. 

Every year Susan allows me to do this. 

Every year it does not work, and we go through a laborious task of retrieving the string of lights, now entwined around all sorts of rhodie branches.

This year Susan decided she wanted to have a string of lights running down the garage side of the sidewalk.

This was a really stupid idea. 

I said nothing.

They look great.

We then distribute the lights in a more or less random fashion. There are things that look like giant hair nets over the shrubs by the street and coming up the driveway, and then strands of white lights crisscross the rhodies in front of the house and next to the back deck.

We don’t plan this out, because we’re only Casual But Trying, and it makes no difference anyway.

Today one of the neighbors commented on how fabulous our house looks, and wondered how long we worked to create such perfection.

Last rule: Don’t tell anyone how little you worked on this.

Copyright 2015                          David Preston

Posted in Education | 1 Comment

Merry New Hap News for 2015

 Merry New Hap News… for 2015                        

Happy Holidays!  Here is our annual effort to recap our adventures of 2015.

In January we both enjoyed being part of a three-author book signing event at Ride West BMW.  We were joined by friend Gary Stebbins, who functions as my publisher.  I had a chance to chat with a couple of students from long ago, and a conversation with a fellow who knows all of my books better than any of the three of us do! ending april 2015 072

All spring and into the fall we began the trek toward Susan’s retirement, interspersed with two trips to see Grandson Arthur (recently moved to Los Gatos), and the Lewis family.  When Susan was not teaching we spent a lot of time filling out forms, attending a retirement “class” or two, and even journeying to Olympia to meet with the state retirement folks, who were incredibly helpful. All of this was much more complicated than when I retired, and we were ever mindful of the pressure to not make a mistake. We’re pretty sure we made a myriad of decisions correctly.

May brought a series of “rolling protests” against the legislature by teachers in school districts across the state.  We spent time waving picket signs, and I was invited to speak at the Lake Washington rally to a few thousand people. Susan recorded my remarks on her phone, in two segments, and you can find them on the David Preston You Tube channel.

Susan at the protest 050615

After that we relaxed with a fantastic restaurant experience with Will and his wife Alida, as Alida’s mom Julie was in town. Susan and Julie together are quite a force to be reckoned with – in a good way!

Once June arrived, our adventures ramped up.  We started with a quick trip to Los Gatos to attend nephew Sam’s high school graduation, and the after-party with sister Meghan’s family featured a surprise retirement party for Susan. The biggest surprise was that I knew about it and did not give it away for two months! 

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Winding down the school year meant many trips home in one car or both to haul tons of teaching materials and classroom supplies home.  Giving away to teacher pals, several trips to Goodwill, and storage at home took months! Some materials were kept, as Susan will be substitute teaching, but only at “her” school.

For July 4th Dorine and Dorje and grandson Arthur enjoyed a train trip to Seattle, while Meghan, Richard and son Quinn flew up to join most of our extended family for a huge party at our home, with other guests as well.  Then it was back to adventuring!

On July 10th, Susan flew and I left on my motorcycle for Los Gatos, joined for the first day of my adventure by a good friend who was also a student of mine – in 1969.  We took roads less traveled down the east side of Oregon, ending in the small town of LaPine. The next day Bill returned to Seattle, while I continued south to Klamath Falls, thrilling myself with a close encounter with a deer for a morning wake-up.  In California I enjoyed the great roads around Quincy and through Lassen Park, which I’d previously ridden in about 1995 or so.  I stayed at the worst motel in the world in Grass Valley (details on my web site) and then paused in Auburn for breakfast with brother George and wife Mary before freeway slogging to Los Gatos.

Susan was not there, as she spent a few days with Meghan and Sam enjoying new student orientation at UC Santa Barbara, which Sam entered in the fall.  While waiting for her, I took a solo ride down US 1 past Big Sur, which I remembered from a ride in late 1969, and also rode to Burlingame for lunch with Irene Preston, across the street from “Preston’s Chocolates.”  If you’re ever in Burlingame, Preston’s Chocolates is a must stop.   This day also gave me my first experience with lane-splitting.  Not entirely comfy, but passable, and better then broiling to death or being rear-ended. 

Once Susan arrived we had a few days of quality time with Arthur, and thenwe reversed direction.  Susan flew home, and I rode up Highway 1 and 101 as far as Newport, Oregon, pausing frequently to enjoy scenery, (the ocean was quite nice as well) and then turned east to I-5 and the ride home.

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In August I took part in a weekend charity ride for Riders for Health, and got myself more sopping wet on a motorcycle than in a long time. We had not experienced rain since May, and a lot of it came on that weekend. Unfortunately, I also managed to lose my wedding ring!  Inexplicably, I found it a month later on another motorcycle trip, in the bottom of my pack! 

To celebrate Susan NOT starting a new school year, we took the Fiat for a 3 day jaunt to Sooke in British Columbia at the same time class was starting.  A very good idea.  

A week later I took off on another motorcycle adventure, this one of 6 days duration, accompanied by 6 friends. Again, details are on my web site.

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Later in the fall, the most bizarre event of the year by far. Grandmother Dorine found a 9mm Luger pistol and a loaded clip under her garbage can!  We turned it over to the police and they pretty much know who hid it there and why, but that’s all the further it went.

Susan began getting frequent requests to substitute at her old school, so “retirement” became “mostly retired.”  David began to work on his next novel. He also added a bit of drama by bouncing his motorcycle off the ground at about 5mph, acquiring bruised ribs for his trouble but with no damage to the bike – a good result.   

In November came a quick hop to Los Gatos to visit Arthur, his parents, and the Lewis family.

Arthur fall 2015

David staged another of his charity events for Riders for Health and had a great time putting it together and pulling it off, with a lot of help from his motorcycle friends.

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Thanksgiving was at our home, with the Denis Tracy clan coming over from Pullman to join us, along with Will and his wife Alida and Grandma Dorine.

For 2016, we expect and hope for more of the same. More time to enjoy together, mixed with trips to Los Gatos, a few motorcycle adventures, and perhaps — Europe?

All our best to you and yours!        

Love, David and Susan Preston

Stay in touch!

E-mail:        Susan:     Preston.Susan@comcast.net          

                       David:     David@davidpreston.biz

Copyright 2015                   David Preston

 

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Chilly Turkey XII – the full story

Chilly Turkey XII – for Riders for Health

My history with Riders for Health goes back 15 years.  For why you should join me in supporting Riders, please spend some time at www.Riders.org

When I began working for Cycle Barn, owner Jim Boltz invited me to dinner in Seattle with founders Barry and Andrea Coleman.  He had been alerted to their work by steadfast Riders volunteer Bruce Scholten, who lives in England now but is a former Cycle Barn customer and WMRRA road racer. Jim had committed to supporting them with some of his money and a lot of my time, which was of course, more of his money.

An evening with Andrea and Barry is transforming, and will convince most anyone that you should be doing more with your life to help others in need. And so with me.  I took over a raffle project for a Kenny Roberts Jr. helmet he wore while winning the Moto GP championship the year before. The project was going nowhere, but with some effort and a lot of generosity from folks it raised $5,000.  The next year we tried going bigger, with a drawing where the winner would be off to the Day of Champions Riders event in England, with all expenses paid and the loan of a new Triumph and laps of Donnington Park Raceway.  This was pretty much a flop for everyone but the winner  (who had a fantastic time!), as we took in a lot of money but the prize took almost all of it.

After that I decided to go small, and created “eventlets,” designed to be carried out by just me without using any other staff time.  I did not want to compete with the many large charity events in the summer riding season, and decided to extend the normal riding “season” (for many) with book-ended adventures where the weather would keep the numbers small and not be competing with summer events.  In March came the invention of the “R-Ides of March,” held each year on the Saturday nearest March 15th, the Ides of March of Shakespeare fame.  The fall effort became the “Chilly Turkey,” held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

The formula for these remained the same for many years. I’d lay out a ride route using a map book, and then drive it in my car, pausing here and there to create a question for the entrants to answer.  Most of these questions were silly or weird, and my favorite was “What is the name of the road?”  The answer was “Boat Ramp Road,” and it was 15 yards long.  Another one asked for the address of the restroom, and I never found out why it had one.

I later rode each route on a motorcycle to make sure it was correct, and spent time collecting door prizes from wherever I could find them. On the day entrants were asked for a donation of $10 or more to Riders, and were sent off in small groups or by themselves to find the answers. I loaded the door prizes into my car and met them at the end.

Weather was always a factor in these, and on rainy occasions entrants might hand in answer sheets that resembled soggy toilet paper.  You had to have a certain number of correct answers to qualify for a door prize, but I made sure that if you finished the event you were likely to qualify.

I made a serious error one year on the Chilly Turkey.  Now working at Ride West, it was about 37 degrees at the start, which was enough, but it was nowhere near that where the ride ended in Granite Falls. My day started with an e-mail that began “If you were anywhere near the expert rider you claim to be you would not send people out on a day like today.”   This took me aback, as I’ve never claimed to be an expert rider to anyone, nor would I.  As it turned out, the writer was correct, but the entrants persevered through slush and ice and snow and nobody crashed.  I resolved to be more careful in the future.

These events raised a few hundred dollars each time, and sometimes more, but were the only successful fund raising efforts for Riders in America.  Now there are several Riders outposts that do a wonderful job, spread across the country.  Major funds come from organizations like the Gates foundation and others. Since the very beginning Riders has received tremendous support from most of the Moto GP, World Superbike, and Formula One racing teams.

For a couple of years Cycle Barn was open 7 days a week, so I actually put on four events a year, doubling up on each event in the spring and fall.  Along the way I lost track of how many I’d done. When I left Cycle Barn my computer was wiped clean, so I’m not all that sure that this year’s Chilly Turkey XII was actually #12, but does it matter?

In November of 2013 I retired, and thought I was done.  However, a couple of years earlier I’d enjoyed coffee with Andrea and Barry on one of their rare visits. I took along Deb Shiell, who had expressed interest in their work.  As with me, Deb was inspired, and asked if we could not put on a dual-sport event. She created the Riders for Health Scavenger Hunt to be held in August each year based at The Cove RV Park in Brinnon, Washington. Deb has worked very hard on this event and spent a ton of her own money and time to make it work. We also added routes for street bikes.  In 2014 and 2015 I took part in this, of course, and it was great fun to attend an event where I did not have to do anything but enjoy the people and the rides.  I did spend some time contacting old friends in the industry to secure door prizes.

The 2015 Scavenger Hunt was hit by an extremely rare weekend with rain of Biblical proportions. As a result, fewer people showed up, and I ended up with many door prizes that were not given out.  As a point of pride, every one of these events, which now total about 30, has offered a door prize of some sort to every participant.

Post-event it seemed a good idea to put on another Chilly Turkey, if only to empty the door prize box and be done once and for all. Or so I thought.

I wanted to spend less of my time on this than when I was being paid, so I went for simple, with the addition of one very good idea.

Years ago I’d met Bob Mighell of Tilting Motorcycle Works, (www.tiltingmotorworks.com)  and had the opportunity to ride one of his first “pre-production” bikes, based on a Yamaha V-Max. Basically a V-Max with two wheels in front instead of one, it was very impressive.  It felt and acted just like a normal motorcycle, as the front wheels tilt in tandem so turning is the same operation as on a two-wheeler, unlike trikes and Can-Am Spiders. etc. If you did not look down you would not know there were two wheels in the front, with the added braking and traction advantages they offer.  Plus a lot of other techno-trickery developed by Bob I won’t go into.  His site is a worthwhile read. That same bike is now a two-time Bonneville Land Speed Record holder. 

Bob had suggested a couple of years ago that I use one of the group rides I put on each month to visit his shop, but we had never gotten that put together before I retired.  Now was the perfect time.  

I put together a ride that would end at Bob’s shop, and then test drove it in our Fiat with Susan assisting with editorial changes to the route and mileage lengths for each section.

I knew I was on to something when we got to Bob’s. He launched into a 30 minute talk on the history of design of his bikes, and the many technological features that make it all work so well, and I felt sorry for Susan. She is a car and motorcycle enthusiast to some degree, but really. I feared her eyes would gloss over.  On the contrary, as we left Bob’s shop she was so excited, and said “That was fascinating!”

The original thought was that this would be a tiny event, even for an eventlet. After all, I no longer had the use of the massive e-mail lists I had compiled at both Cycle Barn and Ride West. My original plan was that I would lead a small group on the ride, and Susan would drive our car with the door prizes to Bob’s shop.  I dropped the questions and  answers part for simplicity, replacing it with talks by Bob and his staff.  Most handily, Bob’s shop has a brew pub across the parking lot for post-event relaxation, and the owner offered to bring in some non-alcoholic beer for people like me who do not imbibe alcohol when riding. Simple, and it seemed we were good to go.

And then, things began to grow.  Vanaly at Ride West, who I’m proud to say I had hired as my assistant three years ago, created an event page on Facebook.  Friends began to promote the event with Facebook and e-mails.  Bill Hucks volunteered to create a GPS version of the route, and Bill and Deb offered to help with registration. 

As the sign-ups grew, it became obvious that the initial plan to lead the group would not work. I’m comfy with a group of up to 15, but this looked to be at least 30 or more, so that would not work. Bill volunteered to lead a group, and then Bob stepped up and told me he would ride a tilting wheel Harley to Ride West (now called BMW Motorcycles of Seattle) and lead a group.

I worried about the weather for two weeks before the event, which featured cold, rain, and very strong winds. Several hundred thousand people in the area were without power for a few days, including us. However, by the time Saturday arrived we had clear skies and “brisk” temps – like in the upper 30s to low 40s.

I was not too worried about people staying warm, with the exception of me.  A Triumph Speed Triple has very little in the way of protection. Although I have heated grips, most of me would be very exposed to the wind and the cold.  I also felt a need to look somewhat nice, and wanted to wear a short sleeved black shirt with the Riders logo on it. I added a long sleeved turtle neck under that and black padded Triumph waterproof jeans and long johns.  With my Fieldsheer jacket (my warmest), Rev’ It gloves, Rev’It boots and BMW socks, plus my new Arai helmet, I was set.

A couple of weeks before the event I was contacted by Tad Haas. He and I had taken an Adventure Riding class 5 years ago.  This class taught me that I could ride off-road, but also that I did not really enjoy it all that much.  Tad went the other way, becoming quite the passionate expert, including a ride of a year’s duration with partner Gaila that went all over everywhere, almost entirely off-road!

Last March he and Deb and several others volunteered their time to promote a March Moto Madness off-road event, supported by the GS Giants group.  They were also able to use this event to raise money for Riders, and Tad informed me that he had a $1,000 check to add to the Chilly Turkey proceeds!  Wow!

In a comic moment, Tad called me on the 14th, a week before the event. I was standing in the sun at Roaring Camp in California at the time, and he informed me that he’d made a teeny error – he was a week early to the event!  He left the check with Vanaly. 

On the day I arrived at BMW Motorcycles of Seattle to find a table set out with the registration sheets and Riders t-shirts, expertly laid out by Vanaly. Entrants began arriving, and I was very glad for the help of Deb and Bill, as many were kind people I’d not seen in two years, and others were people who needed to be welcomed. I was extremely busy doing very little, in other words.  

When I did register people, I noticed that most of them ignored the $10 request in favor of doubling or tripling it, or more.  A few people donated money that did not even go on the ride.  Some offered a $50 or $100 bill.  I don’t have the final total, as two people dropped off checks later in the day that I will drop by to pick up Tuesday, but at the end of the day we raised over $1000 dollars, sending the total I will send to Riders sailing past $2,000.

That amount of money will purchase a lot of health care support in Africa!

Bob led the majority of the group away on a gorgeous candy maroon Harley fitted with his two wheel front end, and then I suited up and followed with a few more.   After the first stop at an I-5 rest area, we were on to the more interesting sections, and here I was worried that I had erred… again.  Lots of frost, particularly in corners, and wet leaves, and sand, and gravel.  I worried about 35 people I could not see, to such an extent that I blew through a stop sign. Fortunately we were in a deserted area, and Tony Basile behind me was laughing so hard I could almost hear him over the Termignoni’s on his Ducati.

We concluded at Bob’s Tilting Motorcycle Works shop, where he and his staff held forth to several groups about design and process and technology.  He added a few shirts to the door prize pile, remnants of his successful Bonneville campaigns. His race number is 42, which will mean something to fans of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Susan and I laid out the door prizes.  Some were of good value, and some were definitely toward the bottom of the box. I had a $25 gift certificate from Smokey Point Cycle Barn, and two $15 gift certificates from Café Veloce.  Among the goodies were a selection of t-shirts from BMW Motorcycles of Seattle and Riders for Health. We also had a Velocity Chain Lube Systems kit, (www.chainlubersystems.com)    as well as owner and inventor Pat Doran to answer any questions.  In addition were some ROK staps, a large motorcycle cover donated by Deb Sheill, three of my own novels, and other miscellaneous items down to the “mystery’ door prize. This was a promo package from “Madvapes” that Jack Lewis  (www.jaxworx.com) had brought back from Sturgis, and I still do not know what is in it.  Jack is the well-known “Motorcyclist” columnist and regretted not attending. He was helping construct a tent city for the needy, and was excused.  I refer to Jack as a “real” writer and highly recommend all of his books to you.

We do door prizes at these events with a random drawing of names, as I discovered years ago that what people want is not always the most expensive item on the table.  Just as we started to draw names in came Annie Bratun and two friends. They had come a long way for the ride, and were delayed by mechanical issues, but persevered and were duly rewarded with door prizes. By fortuitous circumstance the first names I drew were people who had never been on one of these, and nothing builds a repeat entrant like a good door prize!

After the door prizes we adjourned to excellent food and beverages across the parking lot with Jennifer at Sound To Summit. (www.sound2summit.com). Compliments over her excellent food and beverages closed out the day.

I thought Susan summed it up pretty well – “That was so much fun.  What wonderful people!”

Agreed!  Only one problem – I STILL have some door prizes.  Perhaps another “R-Ides of March” event will need to be held next spring.

 

 

Copyright 2015                    David Preston

 

Posted in Education, Marketing, Motorcycles | Leave a comment

Delights of the Bay Area

Bay Area Treats

We travel to the Bay area several times a year to visit with our grandson and his parents, plus Susan’s sister Meghan and her family. Both clans live in Los Gatos, and over the years we’ve enjoyed some “must see” expeditions (with Meghan as chief guide) you might want to take in if you have the opportunity.

You’ll start your adventure by flying in to the Richard Lewis Airport.   Everyone else refers to it as the San Jose Airport, but we’ve named it after Meghan’s husband, who was in charge of the construction project that re-modeled the entire airport, while it was in full operation, a few years ago.  It is much easier to get into and out of than the enormous San Francisco Airport.

If you have small children with you, the “Children’s Museum” in San Jose is a must, offering dozens of hands on activities for small children. The atmosphere is loud but joyful – sort of Chucky Cheese with intellect added.

In San Francisco, of course, there are many delights that everyone knows about, so I’ll skip over them.  The Fisherman’s Wharf area for lunch, the cable cars, shopping, and so forth.

Whenever possible I venture to Preston’s Chocolates in Burlingame.  There is bias here, as owner Irene used to be married to my older brother and is a spectacular human being.  Her little chocolate factory has actually been in operation on the same site for several decades.  She and George purchased it from the original owners about a decade ago. The first owners had the same last name!  Irene vends all manner of very high end chocolate goodies, but also ice cream cones, etc.

Los Gatos is a spectacular town, full of stores with fascinating items that are pricey, but not obscenely so.  Our usual drill is for Meghan and Susan to wander about shopping, while I sit on a bench in the central park and just watch the world go by. Fascinating people-watching, enhanced by the odd Ferrari or Lamborghini oozing by.  Tesla’s and BMW’s are the common person’s choice.

Over the hill on Highway 17 takes you to the town we’d like to live in – Santa Cruz.  Some of the locals have bumper stickers stating “Keep Santa Cruz Weird,” and their appearance, choice of vehicles, and personalities all further that end.  I was distracted once while trying to park Meghan’s monster of an SUV in a tight parking space while the two people in the next car made encouraging comments while sharing an enormous joint. I could not imagine sitting in a parked car on a sunny day next to some of the best scenery on earth and getting high.  But then again I’m a nerdy geek type, and marijuana has never appealed to me.

Our favorite street is West Cliff Drive, where you gaze over Monterey Bay while surfers and sailors entertain you below.  Occasionally a whale will put on a show as well.  For casual but incredible food I can recommend Burger . in Santa Cruz.  (as in burgers, period). Of course they offer much more than amazing burgers, including an enormous beer selection, but their garlic fries are beyond yummy. Another fine choice is “Gott’s” up in Napa.  Family debate rages over which bastion of culinary excess is superior.

A day spent in Napa touring wineries is worthwhile, even if you’re not particularly interested in wine. Many of the wineries offer tours, some of them self-guided. If you’ve arrived in a suitable vehicle, there’s a mountainous and sinewy road from Napa to the east toward Davis that will offer an hour or more of enjoyment.

Back in Las Gatos, you’ll need to take a trip to Monterey and Carmel and Big Sur and as far further south as time allows.  Best to do this in the morning, as your return trip in late afternoon will look like a Seattle commute. In Monterey you can visit Cannery Row and all sorts of other attractions, and if you are there during “Historics” week you can just sit on a bench and watch an endless rolling car show of all of the exotic cars you’ve ever lusted for, and some you’ve never seen.  Of course, Laguna Seca racetrack (officially Mazda Raceway) is not that far away, and a check of their schedule before you plan your trip may offer an incredible day or two – the best race track for spectator viewing ever.  Driving the track also appeals, if there’s an opportunity.  A lap or two as a passenger in a Porsche 356 Cabriolet in 1998 is etched in memory forever.

Further down the scenic coast is Carmel. Originally founded as a small town for artists and artisans, it retains that flavor to this day.  You might, for example, visit an antique shop whose proprietor is a French lady whose daily driver is a perfectly restored Renault 2CV!

By chance we parked next to a small park, and what a delight was there! For those familiar with Kirkland, for years a statue reposed on a bench in the large park. The bronze statue (not sure it is still there) was called “The Valentine,” and consisted of an elderly couple sitting together, the women clutching a valentine in her hand. They made such a lovely couple, and showed the joy of a long term relationship of love. We have a picture of Susan’s parents sitting with the statue. Turns out there are 21 examples of that work, and another of them is in Carmel, so now we have pictures of us with our favorite statue as well.

My favorite store is an art gallery that will take the breath away of any car person.  Light and Shadow Fine Art specializes in large paintings done in photo realism style by the gallery director’s husband, and his work is stunning. Enormous portraits of famous race cars in action that are so detailed I first assumed that many were photographs. If you show any interest at all, director Beverly will spend as much time as you want showing you her computer chock full of images of her husband’s work, even if you are, like me, unlikely to ever be able to afford anything he does.  There are cars and motorcycles by the dozen, but also landscapes, buildings, airplanes, horses – pretty much anything you want.  They also retail incredibly detailed models of famous cars. These are done in England, usually to order, and replicate a specific car down to the license plate and any other special features. These go for about $10,000 apiece, and are the perfect accessory to go with your $25,000,000 Ferrari.  Or two.

Further south you’ll reach Big Sur, with frequent opportunities to pull over and gaze at the ocean, or take pictures of many curved arch bridges.  For lunch we recently visited “Nepenthe,” a very high end eatery that seats you outdoors with a sweeping view of the pacific.  Lunch for Susan, Meghan, and I was $150, and worth it. There’s a second area a bit lower on the same site that is a café with less expensive menu selections.

On the way back you might choose to launch off to the right and meander into the Monterey hills, with the intent of getting lost.   I enjoyed this area, again in 1998, competing in a huge sports car rally. I was driving that 356 Cabriolet. I never knew where we were, as that is the navigator’s job, but the roads and scenery kept me fully occupied, along with Michael’s voice saying things like “We’re three seconds ahead, slow down.”  Or … “I said Slow Down!”  We finished 3rd out of a couple of hundred entries so I guess I listened most of the time. We would have finished higher, but Michael’s protest of a direction that was not written in accordance with the national rules was disallowed, and that cost us a few precious seconds.   As you might infer, Michael is a bit more obsessive than I.  He chose to have me drive with the reasoning that he was a better navigator than me, and who would argue with him?

I meant to repeat the enjoyment of this area on my motorcycle last summer, but I ran out of time. Next year….

Speaking of that, there’s an enormous difference in traffic on Highway 1 depending on the time of year and day of the week.  A Thursday in November, as we enjoyed last week, is lovely. A weekend day in the summer will bring you an endless parade of motor homes being driven by geriatrics, and opportunities to pass are rare.

A run up Highway 1 North of San Francisco to Bodega Bay is also a wonderful one day trip. When I did this one last summer it seemed that a lot of other enthusiasts had the same idea. There were Harley riders, sport bike clubs, and antique scooter club, and one couple in a perfect replica of a Porsche 550.

You can also visit a seal sanctuary and wander among the dunes past enormous beasts you are not to disturb. Or loll on any number of beaches.

Who doesn’t love a steam-engine train?  Between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz on Hiway 17 is the Roaring Camp Narrow Gauge railroad facility.  You start at Roaring Camp, with a large selection of buildings that are either original or done in original style.

I was fascinated by an outdoor blacksmith shop, and took many pictures, as the next “Harrison Thomas” novel I’m working on will have a blacksmith shop. The smith was just setting up for his day’s labors, and answered all of my questions enthusiastically. When we returned from our train adventure I enjoyed watching him at work.

The train is an original steam engine converted to burning oil instead of coal, which is more efficient, cheaper, makes more power, and saves a lot of wear and tear on the fireman, who now operates levers rather than a shovel.

The engine trails 6 or 8 cars, most of them open.  Once fired up you are off and away, and very very up.  The speed varies from slow to almost a standstill, offering ample opportunity to enjoy one of the last old growth red wood forests that exists.  You’re surrounded by trees that are hundreds of feet high and up to 1600 years old.  A pleasant commentary fills you in on interesting details about redwoods and steam engines without being overbearing.

At the top is a bathroom and stretch your legs opportunity where you can listen to a further presentation on the history of the land and the railroad, or, as I did, watch the crew fiddle and futz with the continuous maintenance such a train requires.

The Bay Area offers an apparently endless string of delights and adventures.  We’ll be going back as soon as we can. After all, the grandson is growing fast!

 

Copyright 2015                    David Preston

Posted in Cars, Education, Travel | 2 Comments

The Meaning of Dr. Ben Carson

The Meaning of Dr. Ben Carson

This morning at breakfast I was asked a question that gave me pause. The question was posed by a friend who I would guess has the highest IQ of anyone I know.  In this exalted status he has surpassed my older brother, the holder of that imagined crown since I first began to notice differences in the intelligence of individuals.

He began with “Preston, I’m going to ask you this question because you understand people.” Before he got to the actual question I already had one to ponder, as in “I do?”   I think he confused the reality that I tend to like people with the concept that I understand them. But on to his question.

“How can Ben Carson be considered a viable candidate by anyone?”

I think I know the answer. Ironically, in forming my answer I need to use the same technique Dr. Carson does, that of drawing broad conclusions from little or absolutely no data, based on my personal beliefs. Seems to work for him.

There has been a sweeping societal movement in America for the past 20 years or so of distrust of all “experts” and “professionals,” especially in government. In fact, almost exclusively in government. The roots of this distrust go back several Presidential terms, at least. 

Bill Clinton is obviously an extremely intelligent man and an expert on a bewildering number of topics, although a bit of a slow learner in the areas of personal relationships and honesty. And yet he made several catastrophic choices, aided and abetted by professional analysts and policy experts. In one case his obliviousness led to the deregulation of the stock market and a near melt-down of the entire American economy. 

George Bush the elder is an intelligent man led astray by many “experts” who were pushing their own agenda. His son is a better painter than thinker, and was lead further astray by some of the same experts.

Along comes Barack Obama, and a lot of our current distrust of experts can be blamed on him. After all, everything else is. Here’s a man who has succeeded beyond any rational expectation in virtually every area of his life.

Or yours.

He has won the Nobel Peace Prize. He has been President for two terms.  He has a beautiful wife who is probably first or second in brain power in the entire government, depending on where you place her husband. He has two daughters who appear to be fine young women.  All of that engenders resentment and jealousy in many.  His being black (albeit 50%, which is usually ignored) only adds to the angst.

The Tea Party is the product of willful ignorance and deep-seated stupidity. It embodies the concept of “cognitive dissonance” where you want something to be true so desperately that you ignore all evidence to the contrary.   Sort of like a 60 year old man with a comb-over who thinks he’s a chick magnet.  We all suffer from this to one degree or another.  I, for instance, am sure I am going to win an enormous lottery, math analysis be damned.

Any day now.

In government this goes far beyond casual silliness to embody true danger. We are beginning to reap the ill winds of a systematic denial of the facts of climate change.  Things will get much worse, and may never get better.

This distrust of experts, professionals, and simple facts has given rise to almost all of the current candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination, as they pander to the whims of the Tea Party and the extraordinarily wealthy few who control it.

At first we had Donald Trump’s bombast, but he seems to be running out of hot air.

The media now turns its lust for anecdotal sound bites to the incredible statements of Dr. Carson. Almost every day he utters, often without provocation, statements which would be laughable except for the terrifying potential situation where he continues on to actually be the nominee, or worse, achieves the ultimate – election as President of the United States.

Examples of Dr. Carson’s ability to put his religiously adamant foot in his smiling mouth abound, so I will go with my favorite “Carsonisms.” Paraphrased for brevity, it must be said.

‘The Ark was built by amateurs and the Titanic by professionals.’ If this is true, then why not allow amateurs to perform brain surgery?

‘Without FOX news, the United States would be Cuba.’ I’m not sure what that means, as it appears to make no sense at all.  Does a thoughtful person actually believe that FOX news has kept us from communism?  Is that it?

Really?

‘The pyramids were built to store grain.’   If so, the design was clearly done by amateurs.

The latest to hit the media is a muddled mess where he stated that he’d received a full scholarship to West Point, and then had to back up when those pesky little fact thingies revealed that there is no such thing as a full scholarship to West Point, that he never attended West Point, and in fact never applied!

None of these, as well as a great many more gaffes, have slowed him down as of yet. This is because he has a broad base of support from the religious far right, which is a larger voting block than many people want to accept, and because he is pictured as a man who speaks his mind, no matter the consequences. In this sense, the more outrageous the statement the greater the support.

The eventual downfall will come soon, as the majority of voters conclude that his mind is really not anything to marvel at. Expertise in one small area often does not transfer well to other areas, or as applied to  the requirements for President – all areas. Trump will also fade as he becomes bored with the downsides of being the center of media attention and his ego-gratification needs are, at long last, fulfilled.  At least for a few months.

The hard thing about facts is that they are… factual. They do not go away, even if we would so much rather they did.  Issues have underlying causes, and solutions to problems always have a cost. 

Eventually, the mass of the public will have to face the reality that professionals and experts will inevitably get it all wrong from time to time, but such an outcome is vastly preferable to holding on to beliefs that are based on despair and fed by the willful dismissal of reality.

The meaning of Dr. Carson is that he will shorten the period of time for that sea change to take place, and thus hasten the demise of the influence of the deluded yet passionate base of the Tea Party.

That should still leave plenty of time for a credible candidate to emerge to espouse a credible Republican point of view.

At least I hope so.

 

Copyright 2015              David Preston

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | 1 Comment