Remembering Mnemonics – Old and New

I have always been fond of mnemonic devices, those little sentences or images that help you remember things that may or may not be important.

In 8th grade Science class we were taught how to remember the difference between “rotate” and “revolve.” The teacher had us all stand and put a finger on the top of our head. We would then rotate on our own axis. While doing that, we would walk in a circle, revolving around the room.  One reason this was effective was that any classroom task that gets 8th graders out of their desks and moving will be memorable.

Then there was the mnemonic sentence to help you remember the order of the planets.  “Many Very Early Men Ate Juicy Steaks Using No Plates,” which stood for  Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Asteroid Belt, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.  Sadly, this one no longer works, as we have added a planet, dropped one, and changed the order.   ….but I can’t recall the new arrangement.

I used one in teaching English to get across the proper use of the comma. I would have the students stand and walk around the room saying “comma” and then slapping their own butt.  Not another’s butt!  This taught that a comma is almost always placed before the word “but.”  I cannot think of an example where it is not. My wife borrowed this one for her elementary students, and of course I borrowed the stand up and move idea from my 8th grade science teacher.

There are hundreds of examples, but here are two I invented all by myself.

“When the helmet drops, the bullshit stops.”  I used to say this every time I put on my crash helmet, to remind myself that riding a motorcycle requires all of your attention, all of the time. There is no room for contemplating what is going on at work, or the bills to be paid, or the joys (hopefully many) or sorrows (hopefully rare) of married life.  I still do this today, although it is usually only a thought and I do not say it aloud.  This one you can find in Wikipedia under motorcycle safety, as I used it in my book Motorcycle 201.

My other mnemonic I have never seen used by anyone else.  In 1998, I took on a part time job with Doug’s Lynnwood Mazda, which became the prototype effort for my full-time career in motorsports from 2000 – 2013. In both cases I was required to hop into a car or motorcycle, often on short notice, that I had never experienced before.  I began to wear some sort of driving gloves for each occasion, to remind myself that I was now operating a vehicle that was not mine and that might be quite valuable  (such as a Hummer or a newer Miata or Mazda truck) and I needed to focus. Particularly if I was on a rally or in a drag race or some other activity that involved aggressive driving.  Of course with motorcycles I was wearing gloves anyway (because I am not stupid), but the act of pulling on the gloves was still a good reminder. Often I was to ride a motorcycle such as a Honda Valkyrie that I had never ridden before and then take part in a club event where everyone else was riding that bike and most of them were highly experienced with that bike, as in relatively fast.   I did not crash any of the 600 or so cars and motorcycles I drove, rode, or raced in that time, and the glove and helmet mnemonics were an assist, I believe.

That is why in some of the posted pictures from the “Gambler 500” rally of last weekend you will see me wearing “driving gloves.”  They are actually just golf gloves, but they do the task of helping me focus.  Alas, they could not prevent me from finding a sharp rock or ten on the rough trails the organizers had presented as “roads.” One of them slashed the right front tire of the Volvo wagon I was driving, and then a second one I never saw did in the replacement.  With “only,” two spares, we had to retire from the dirt portions of the event.

In any case, mnemonics work. What’s your favorite?


Copyright 2016                        David Preston

Posted in Cars, Education, Motorcycles | Leave a comment

A Ten Day Motorcycle Ride to California

6th and final (?) draft and last call!

I’ll be departing from the Crystal Creek Cafe in Bothell after brekkie on July 15th.   Here is proposed route – and of course I reserve the right to make changes along the way.  Y’all are welcome to join me, as long as you can make alternate plans for the days I am visiting family in Los Gatos, as there are no more available beds!  As you can see, none of the days offer prohibitive or even challenging distances, as I like to stop often and I don’t really need to impress anyone with my riding stamina.

July 15th    (Friday) – July 25th    (Monday)        Cal tour    10 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

299 to Adin                       40 miles

139 to Susanville               66 miles 

36 to Westwood                20 miles

147 to 89                          11 miles 

89 to Quincy                     30 miles                  (374 miles)

          Day #3:               

Quincy to Sattley on 89            45 miles

49 to Nevada City                        65 miles

49 to Auburn                               23 miles

80 to 680 to Los Gatos             (300/400 miles)     

          Days #4–7:  

Visiting in Los Gatos

        Day #8:       

17 to 101 North                                  20 miles       

 101 North to Eureka                       300 miles      (320 miles)

        Day #9        

101 North to Crescent City           71 miles

101 North to Newport                     192 miles

20 East to a motel                            50 miles        (313 miles)

         Day #10      

to I-5 to Home                            280 miles      (280 miles)  


Copyright 2016                              David Preston

Posted in Motorcycles, Travel | Leave a comment

50 Years of Evolution in Motorcycle Gear

50 Years of Motorcycle Gear

I received my first piece of motorcycle gear for Christmas in 1966, and I’ve owned this or that for half a century now.  Gear has evolved immensely.

My 1964 Christmas present Bell 500 helmet was the finest helmet available at the time.  It was not intended for me to use on a motorcycle, oddly enough. I’d been pestering my parents for a motorcycle on a daily basis since 1962, when I had my first ride on a motorcycle, provided by a friend of my older brother.

I got off the bike (keep in mind that I was only the passenger, and still had yet to actually control a bike) and just knew that this was what I was supposed to do.  The pair of mechanical engineers I referred to as my parents did not agree with my epiphany, and so began five years of research, reading everything I could find about motorcycles.

The Bell 500 was an open face helmet in gleaming white, and I was in love.  I did not drive around town in a car wearing it, but I was sorely tempted. It received about 15 coats of wax, and was glorious.

By 1966 nothing had changed, but I did have a good friend who was an experienced and capable kart racer. I assisted him at a race or two, if I may stretch the definition of “assist,” and also had a chance to try out his kart in a big and empty parking lot. We concocted a plan to form a two kart race team for the summer of 1965.  This made sense to my parents, who saw this as a healthier outlet for their obsessed son than an actual motorcycle.

Alas, a couple of months later my friend decided to retire from kart racing and spend the summer entering water ski tournaments.

In the spring of 1967 my mother was diagnosed with the cancer that would kill her in six months. My parents’ lives were thrown upside down in a day. All of their plans for the near future were destroyed.   People plan – God laughs.  This brought a change of philosophy. When I brought up the purchase of a motorcycle, again, the response was, “Sure.”

In August of 1967 I purchased, for $400, a barely used 1965 Yamaha YDS-3, a 250cc two-stroke twin bike.  Someone had turned left in front of the owner, almost causing his demise, and he was so frightened he chose to sell the bike. 

Rider instruction? Hah!  Did not exist. The man handed me the keys and I “learned” how to ride, on the street, on the way home.  I killed the engine at every stop light and stop sign, and could see my father in the rear view mirror, laughing in his car as he followed me home. Rather dark humor, but there was very little traffic then.

There was also very little motorcycle gear available at the time.  I usually wore a pair of hiking boots, jeans, and some sort of a jacket – often a ski parka. But I did have a great helmet!

I added a clear “bubble shield”, and on days that were at all chilly I wrapped a bandana around my head and up over my nose. This is what Formula 1 race drivers did at the time, before the advent of full face helmets, so I thought I looked quite cool. Most probably thought I just looked weird.  Some things never change….

For gloves it was ski gloves on really cold days. In the summer I wore white handball gloves, which were very thin leather than would be useless in a crash, but I chose white for a practical reason.  A Yamaha YDS 3 did not have turn signals, so it was easier for a car behind me at night to see my hand signals.

A year or so later I ordered, with palpitations of excitement, a real motorcycle jacket. Sort of. This came out of the Webco catalog.  Webco was a large distributor of all sorts of motorcycle things, and their catalog warmed many a Minnesota night.  The jacket I chose was black Naugahyde with a “Mandarin” collar, and white stripes sewn onto each sleeve.   I added a black stripe made of electrical tape to the center of my helmet so it all matched. So now I looked just like a real racer, sort of, if you squeezed your eyes a lot.  And tried real hard.

Back in those days road racers all wore simple black leathers. There were no colors, sponsor logos, or anything else.  Combined with this were tall black leather boots that came up almost to the knees. Pretty much the only way to tell them apart was by simple additions to their helmets. This was before the colorful, complex, and personalized helmet paint schemes most of them wear today.

In 1968 I added a very early Vetter fairing to the bike. These were not the enormous touring fairings that Craig Vetter invented next – the ones that made him a fortune. Mine was the 43rd one he sold, if I recall, and cost $140. It was essentially a road racing fairing with an extended windshield.  When I mounted it the brace on the front fender hit the fairing so – off with the front fender.  I had a big ego boost one day when I was out on the street giving the bike an 8th coat of wax, and a fellow on a big and red BSA stopped to ask if I was entered in the road race that weekend.

When I moved to the Northwest in June of 1969 I brought all of my possessions in a two axle U-Haul, much of the space taken up by my Yamaha.  I had a bike that looked fast (it was not) and motorcycle gear that consisted of a helmet and a jacket and whatever else was on hand. 

The first thing I did was to strip the bike down, including the removal of the fairing, clean and wax everything, and remove the baffles from the mufflers. A torch burned off the crud that would build up.  Then I took it out for a “test ride,” wearing the helmet, gloves, a short sleeve shirt, shorts, and penny loafers.  Pause here to congratulate yourself on guessing what comes next.

Of course I crashed. The only serious incident I’ve endured in 50 years. All my own fault, a combo of testosterone and ego and fantasy talent.  I spent the rest of the summer with my arm in a sling while the surgically repaired shoulder healed. I sold the remains of the bike, and the fairing, to the guy who lived next door.  

In the fall I purchased an almost new Honda 450 Street Scrambler, but my gear remained the same. For Christmas I decided to ride to San Francisco to visit my brother and his wife, ignoring the advice of a friend who said “You cannot do this. You will die in the mountains.”  As it turned out he was almost correct, as I missed by 30 minutes a blizzard that closed I-90.  It was so cold that I stopped every 50 miles or less for hot cocoa to abate the hypothermia symptoms.  In Oregon is rained so hard that my cheap rain pants failed. I purchased some fishing waders at a truck stop, after pouring water out of my boots.

In 1970 I took off for Minnesota with the same gear, or lack of it. My riding jacket was a blue ski parka, which would have exploded in a flurry of feathers in a crash.  I did not crash.  Heat was dealt with by pushing the sleeves up to my elbows.  A ride to Florida took place in 1971 – same gear.

Somewhere in there I wanted to purchase a jacket that I could wear on the motorcycle or any other time. It was black, and did not work very well for either use.  A motorcycle jacket that buttons up and has fabric cuffs – what was I thinking? It was long enough in the back that I had to hunch up so I was not sitting on the lower end of it. Bad purchase.  Also lacking in anything resembling safety considerations.

Married in 1972, I took a brief hiatus from motorcycles for an adventure with the rolling restoration of a 1958 Corvette. I returned to motorcycles in 1976 with the purchase of a beater of a Honda 450 CL as a commuter bike.

Of course I needed new gear for this.  I purchased a Bell Star helmet in orange, one of the first full face helmets. The visor was thin plastic, and would have been destroyed by a flying rock.   This was, again, the best helmet available at the time. 

For my 30th birthday in 1977 we purchased my first “real” motorcycle jacket.  This was a brown jacket by Bates – one of the premier leather goods suppliers of the day.  It looked great and worked well, but did not have any crash padding or other safety features – they had not been thought of yet.

I ordered some real motorcycle boots from the Frank Thomas Company in England. This involved mailing them tracings of both of my feet, and the boots were made to an exact fit. The exchange rate was very favorable at the time, and I think they cost me $86.  Fantastic boots in black, rising almost to my knees, and of course I wore them on the outside to show them off.  I hated the cleats they on the heels, which made an embarrassing noise when shopping in a store. I was relieved when the heels wore down and I could have them replaced with plain rubber ones.

These did offer some real safety, and I wore them for 23 years!  Eventually I gave them to a friend who adored them, and I think she still has them.

I also purchased leather riding pants for cheap.  These had no padding at all, as did almost all of them back then.

My helmet was upgraded to a Shoei in black, and by the late 1970’s helmets were really beginning to evolve. A Lexan visor for one, which I appreciated one day when a rock that flew up from somewhere hit me square in the middle of the visor.  With my earlier Bell Star the results would have been disastrous – the Shoei suffered no damage at all.

For my 40th birthday we went to a custom leather shop on Aurora North in Seattle and had a “serious” motorcycle jacket made.  Thick gray leather, with serious zippers, and padding at the shoulders.  It seemed to weigh about 50 pounds, but was a vast improvement.

By this time you could also purchase motorcycle gloves designed for the purpose, and I usually have three pair with me.  One for cold, one for warm, and one for rain.

In 2000 I left teaching for the job I invented at Cycle Barn, and once again gear evolved with me. Cycle Barn obtained a new riding jacket for me in black with dark crimson Cycle Barn script on the back and my name on the front.  As much protection as my last jacket, which I gave to a brother-in-law, and much lighter.  I also purchased a set of Shoei boots, which were totally and completely waterproof, (what a concept!) and offered protective plates at toe and ankle.

In a fit of enthusiasm, and because it was a great deal, I purchased a Muzzy Raptor, a real honest to goodness limited production exotic super bike.  Alas, the riding position was so radical I could not see out of the Shoei, so I switched to a new top of the line Arai, which had a higher viewing port.   Each year the top helmets would add more layers of fiberglass, and then Kevlar began to creep in, and now carbon fiber. Each generation is quieter, more comfy, and offers better protection.

I thought I needed better boots to go with the Muzzy, so I purchased some Aria road racing boots.  Extremely safe, but totally uncomfortable off the bike. Since my job involved riding to events and standing and walking around with customers or meeting them, these boots were not a great idea.

In 2006 Cycle Barn was expanding, and new logos and decals and overall company “branding” were the thing.   The company designed for me and ordered a complete custom set of Vanson leathers, the last word in gear.  The fitting for the pants consisted of 47 different measurements!   In blue and black, with white signage, this was really spectacular. It was also a real incentive to not gain weight. Imagine going to the company and saying “I can’t wear the $2000 leathers you paid for because I got too fat!”

The Vanson pants had padding in the hips, and felt knee coverings for the attachment of knee pads used by road racers. I added the pads because the pants looked incomplete without them, even though I have never “put a knee down.”  I had the fun in the fall of 2013 to attend a motorcycle show in Orlando and spend time with the woman who made my suit, which she remembered. I later sold the jacket, as I did not work for Cycle Barn any longer and the owner told me to keep the gear, but I still wear the pants.

It’s a long story, but in 2006 I was able to attend a Moto GP race in China as the guest of Fieldsheer, then a leading gear supplier. When I got back I decided to purchase their gear whenever possible. Seemed only fair. I purchased a set of riding pants to be worn over jeans on my commute.  Padded, warm, and waterproof – oh that such things existed when I started!

I also purchased a lovely snuggly warm Fieldsheer jacket for cold weather use, in the lurid neon yellow-green I like. Still have it.

In 2010 I moved from Cycle Barn to Ride West, and was given an $800 BMW riding jacket.  This had the useful addition of a zippered pouch on the back for carrying maps or whatever. It also had a zip-out lining and crash padding here and there.  Alas, the zipper was crap, but was replaced under warranty with the heavy duty ilk it should have been born with.

One design “feature” I hated was the rain adaptation.  The jacket was designed to be worn with the sleeves over your gloves. In the rain, the moisture was to penetrate the outer layer and then run out over your wrists. The problem was that in the rain that jacket gained several pounds of weight. When the rain stopped you now had wind hitting a wet jacket, and you would air condition yourself into hypothermia.

As Ride West was a large retailer of Rev’It products, I purchased a riding jacket meant for medium to warm days, with the Fieldsheer for cold weather.   The Rev’It is brilliant. It has so many zippers and vents that you cannot open them all and be comfortable unless the temperature is over 90 degrees.   Amazing product. Zip out lining, safety padding on shoulders and elbows and down the back, multiple pockets – it is so many iterations of design beyond what was available in 1966!

Today, when I go out for a ride I am wearing almost $2,500 worth of gear, which is interesting when you think that my first motorcycle cost $400.  A set of Rev’It boots with BMW riding socks inside.  Vanson leather pants, and either the Fieldsheer or the Rev’It jacket, with or without a further lining from the Vanson jacket.  One of about 6 pair of gloves, and the latest editions of the Arai helmet, this one an RX-Q.

It is easy to forget today, as we complain about the cost of all this gear, than at least it is available.  There is simply no comparison to what was on offer 50 years ago. I have had the good fortune to always have pretty much the best stuff available, either because I sacrificed financially to purchase it, or because it was provided as a perk of my job, but even the lesser and less expensive gear available today is so far beyond what once was. It’s silly not to garb yourself in the best stuff you can afford.

At one time Bell helmets had the slogan “If you have a $10 head, buy a $10 helmet.”  That provides an idea of the costs back then, but the concept still applies today.  Now it applies to everything – helmet, jacket, gloves, boots, pants, and on and on.  How much do you want to sacrifice if an accident occurs?

The only constant over time is the definition of the most important piece of motorcycle gear you own.  And that would be – yourself.

You need to keep yourself in good shape, with frequent cleaning, exercise, and checks for operational capability. You need to make sure your gear is functioning at the highest level, which means adequate sleep, food, and hydration.  You need to shun alcohol and drugs, and I go so far as to ban intrusions into my helmet such as radio and phone connectivity, GPS, and so forth. “When the helmet drops the bullshit stops,” is a quote attributed to me (in Wikipedia no less!) which I may or may not have authored.

I may not be able to ride for a further 50 years, but it does make a good goal.


Copyright 2016              David Preston


Posted in Education, Equipment, Marketing, Motorcycles | 2 Comments

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