The Riders for Health Scavenger Hunt IV

August 14th – 16th

This year’s edition of the Riders for Health Scavenger Hunt will be my second time attending as a participant instead of as the representative of Ride West.  I’m currently attempting to corral the door prizes.  I have assurances from long-time supporters Smokey Point Cycle Barn and Ride West BMW – which is not referred to as BMW of Seattle. Others are welcome!  If you would like to promote your business, motorcycle based or not, to a small group of intensely passionate riders – please contact me.

This just in!   Autographed books by Jack Lewis – in my opinion one of the finest authors of our time.

All proceeds are donated to Riders for Health – my favorite charity. For more on why this is a great cause and a multiple-award winning charity, go to

Past Scavenger Hunt stalwart and FIM International Motorcycle Legend Mary McGee will not be able to be attend this year, as she has a family situation that requires her presence. In addition the Saturday night movie festival ram rodded by Bill Hucks will also probably not take place, as he also has other commitments that cannot be evaded.

In short, I expect a smaller and more casual event this year, and that is not entirely a bad thing. If you would like to spend a Friday and Saturday night at a wonderful camping spot (The Cove Resort and RV Park) with a variety of great motorcycle rides on Saturday for street bikes, adventure bikes, and 3 –wheelers – this is for you.

This event is so low key it sort of invents itself each year as the participants shape it – and that is a very good thing. There is no posturing or egos involved, and those can sometime inhibit more highly organized events. There’s a pot luck dinner on Saturday night where most people provide too much food, and then quality time around a campfire – with door prizes!

There’s usually some sort of scavenger hunt on Saturday, as the name implies and I am not sure what that will look like for 2015. I’m not too concerned with that, and totally ignorant about what is in store this year, as I’ve always paid little attention to the contest – it’s too much fun to just enjoy the people and the ride.

To register – go here:

There are many things that make this event special, but what stands out to me is that everyone brings something special to the party.  As I picture each person in my head, I see them smiling, and usually helping out in some way.  Display areas are erected, food is prepared, clean-up takes place, and a multitude of tasks are completed with ease, but never alone and never with the need to be asked. Another factor is that this event traditionally has a higher percentage of women riders (about 50%) than any I have experienced in the past 15 years.

In addition there is the generosity. People often pay twice the entry fee, bring more to the potluck than they can consume, and often donate additional items of value to be auctioned off, and participate in the auction.

This is pretty much my favorite event of the year, even though it is a short 3 days. I hope you will choose to join us and add to a terrific group.


David Preston                             Copyright 2015



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David’s 2015 California Ride – Part the Third

David’s 2015 California Ride –     You Can Go Home Again

After five days of riding and three days of family fun with one and all, it was time to ride home.  The route for the ride home I had “scouted” twice previously when we took our Fiat 500 Sport to the Bay Area for a visit, so for this I did not really need even a map.

Things did not start well, and this will give my friends a laugh. I was sitting on a bench outside a body shop late in the afternoon Friday, where I often watch traffic go by while smoking my pipe. When I got back to Dorine’s I realized I had left my antique flip phone on the bench.  Oh no!  On the one hand, for much of the ride home I would be on the upper coast of California where there is no cell phone coverage, so any cell phone would be useless.  As my brother-in-law pointed out, it might be time to upgrade anyway!

On the way to Meghan’s for a family dinner we went by the body shop – twice. No joy on the first pass, but on the 2nd I noticed that, even though they were closed by now, a rear door was ajar. I snuck in and wormed my way past a selection of vehicles in all states of disassembly.  I finally reached the front and found the owner.  I asked if he’d found a cell phone on his picnic bench and he smiled and said “What color?”

I replied “Blue, and it’s a flip phone.”  He returned my phone with a laugh and my aim to have the last working flip phone in America was back on track.

There are a couple of “short cuts” to get from Los Gatos to Highway 1, but the most practical idea, and by far the most scenic, is to ride south on 17 over the big hill (which I have learned is called the Santa Cruz Mountain Range – probably the most hyperbolic use of “mountain” ever) to Santa Cruz, and then through Santa Cruz to head north for San Francisco.

I paused for breakfast in Santa Cruz at a McDonald’s, and had a lovely reminiscence from my youth. I parked next to a newish Triumph Bonneville and went inside to enjoy bad food and good conversation.

The rider turned out to be a young man in his 20’s who had owned the Triumph, his first bike, for about one month.  I’d noted the scrapes on the front fender, so he had evidently gotten his first minor crash out of the way.

As we chatted, or I tried to, I realized he was so new at this he was not used to motorcyclists falling into immediate conversations with others they have never met. He seemed really shy, and not sure if he should speak or not. Or maybe he was daunted by my extreme age.  Or my personality.  Or all three.

He reminded me so much of myself with my first bike. Like him, I was not confident in speaking to other motorcyclists, lest my utter lack of knowledge about what I was doing be evident.  For his part, he was so new to this that he did not know what a Triumph Speed Triple was!  On the other hand, they are not very common, and I did not see a bike like mine anywhere on this trip.

As our conversation waned, I noted the brand new mid-range helmet, the economy black leather jacket, the high end AlpineStar gloves, and the sturdy work boots. At least he was pretty well geared up.  He was just out for a ride on a Saturday morning, just as I’d been almost every week 50 years ago, although on a much less capable bike.  We bid our farewells and he strolled outside to ride away. I saw two people put on helmets, start the bike, and ride away – him today and me a long time ago.

Highway 1 arcs around Monterey Bay as it works its way toward San Francisco, and was blissfully free of traffic. By 9am I had worked my way through some residential areas of the city and crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge to pause at the scenic vista parking area on the far side.

Here I chatted with a father and son from Shoreline, who were on a similar but longer trip than mine.  The 3rd member of their group had gotten separated from them and lost on the way over the Oakland Bay Bridge (this is very easy to do) and now the two of them were deciding to opt for Highway 101 instead of 1 to make up time and make hooking up with their AWOL friend a bit easier.  Later in the afternoon I caught up to the three of them on the section where 1 and 101 coalesce.

Just past the Golden Gate you turn left and Highway 1 sneaks its way toward the coast on an incredibly twisty section of road which was pretty much ruined by a lot of weekend traffic. Both times Susan and I did this in the Fiat it was a weekday and much more fun. I paused at a viewing spot above Muir Bay and took in spotter installations put in during the early days or WWII, when there were fears that San Francisco Bay would come under attack.

Later, I caught up to a group of vintage scooters – the “Black Sheep” scooter club – on an outing.  Their “caboose” was a fellow on a 1960’s BMW, and they were rollicking along with all due haste, which is to say – not much. I trolled along behind them for a while, drinking in the heady fumes of small two stroke engines, and then rollicked by them and up to the small town of Tomales for lunch.  Evidently Tomales is where all the bike groups ride on a Saturday to have lunch and turn around. I sat outside with a tri-tip sandwich and enjoyed watching small groups of Harleys, sport bikes, and scooters come in and depart.  I noticed that Tomales was large enough to have a post office but too small to appear on any of my maps.

Further north, I came upon a small bevy of sport bikes going along at a slow rate. There was now enough traffic that they did not have much choice, and the scenery made going slow a great idea. However, the last guy was taking one hand off the handlebars and making videos with his smart phone.  Eek!

I wanted to get away from him before things went pear shaped, so I pulled off at “Duncan’s Cove.”  The views were spectacular, and then got better when a fellow pulled up with his lady companion in a gorgeous Porsche 550 Spyder replica. 

My first assumption was that they were headed for the Monterey Historics, but their lack of luggage, a top, and windows made that unlikely, as it is often cold and wet on the coast.  No, they were merely out for a scenic drive in the best replica of a 550 I have ever seen. There was no indication anywhere on the body that it was not the real thing, but an antiquated enthusiast (like me) noted the slightly wider tires as  an indication of replica status. The owner confirmed my guess, but what a car!  Silver paint (of course), with the leather straps to hold down the rear bodywork, and red leather buckets in the original style.  Absolute perfection down to the slightest detail, and as a real 550 Spyder is probably worth a couple of million these days, an excellent choice. I want one.  It even had 1956 California plates, and I am not sure how that could possibly be legal.

I cruised past sights that were almost familiar from our previous trips, and reached Fort Bragg before 4pm.  I had an inkling that motel rooms on a Saturday night in July might be scarce, so starting to find one seemed like a good idea. After going 0 for 4 I began to think I had made a serious error, but on the 5th stop I got one of the last rooms in the mediocre “Ebb Tide” motel.  It seems that the annual Mendocino Musical Festival was going on (who knew?) which is why she had only “smoking rooms” left, on the 2nd floor – for $190 a night for one.  Oh well.

Past Eureka the next morning I had a delightful surprise. A large herd of elk were grazing right next to the highway on the lawn of some sort of outfitter’s store.  I pulled in and parked on the other side of the driveway, with nothing between me and my bike and several tons of strolling elk meat but about 10 yards.  A car parked behind my bike, and it was a 1959 Corvette. As Susan and I owned a 1958 from 1972- 75, and as the couple that owned this one were also motorcyclists, a wonderful conversation ensued.  Our Corvette was a rolling wreck that we improved during our ownership with a new interior and new paint  (twice) and other things, while there’s was much better, what the auction folks would call a high quality driver. Not a show car, and not perfectly stock, but usable. Perfect.

Later in the day I reminisced about one of the most frightening events of my life, which occurred on my ride on the same road just after Christmas of 1999. Remember the film “Easy Rider”?  I ‘d seen the movie just a few weeks before the trip. I did not think it was all that great, although others would disagree, and the ending horrified me

So I’m cruising along on a crisp day on my Honda 450 Street Scrambler, and I come up on two guys in an old Chevy pickup truck.  Just like the end of the movie.  There’s a gun rack in the rear window, and it is full.  Just like in the movie. The driver sticks his hand out the window and motions for me to pass. JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIE!  I passed him for sure, and kept going as fast as my skills would allow a Honda 450 to go for about a half an hour.  It may sound silly now, but I was very, very frightened at the time.  Things were different then.

I ended the day in Reedsport at the Best Budget Inn, another good choice. The proprietor was a lovely woman of Indian heritage who came to my room a few minutes later to make sure I liked it, as she had others if I wanted to switch. It was perfect for my needs, however, and with a selection of food items from the 7-11 down the street I was set.  And… $60!

The final day had choices aplenty. I could head up the coast into Oregon as far as I wanted, letting traffic and weather be determining factors.  If either was not to my liking I would take the next small highway east to I-5 and cruise home.

First goal was to ride until I found a breakfast spot, and bizarrely, this took almost 60 miles!  I finally found the “Pig and Pancake” in Newport, and stuffed myself with an enormous ham and cheese omelet and the best pancakes ever. Unfortunately, the entire ride up to then had been a vast, chilly, and moist dark cloud.  Beautiful in its own way as the weather shrouded the bluffs along the coast in mist, but eventually the charm wore off.  I passed by Florence and the famous “Seal Caves” and wow – the odors of seal urine and excrement surely penetrate the morning air!

At breakfast I decided that the weather on the coast was likely to remain in place for the entire day, so I romped over the hills on 20 to Corvallis and I-5, and then slabbed it home.

The worst part of the entire trip was the last 60 miles, as the traffic between Olympia and Bothell was literally unbelievable.   This is a Monday, people!  Shouldn’t you all be at work? It seems that a lot of fender benders added to the jam, and my only consolation was that it was exponentially worst in the other direction – a crawling bumper to bumper horror from Bothell to well past Tacoma.

None of which prevented me from arriving home with a huge smile on my face. That smile is still there almost a week later, and will help carry me to next summer, when I intend to do the same trip by different routes.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!


Copyright 2015                David Preston

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California Ride – Part the second

David’s 2015 California Ride – Part II

I had several intents for my time in California. Although Susan flew to Los Gatos just after I left home Friday morning, I would not see her until Tuesday evening.  She spent the first two days with her sister Meghan and family, and then she and Meghan drove to Santa Barbara with nephew Sam to attend an orientation weekend for incoming UCSB frosh.  Therefore I could devote at least two days to motorcycle exploration before Susan arrived and then spend the rest of the week with family.  We are extremely fortunate that our daughter’s family and Meghan’s family live about a mile apart in Los Gatos.

For Monday I chose to ride down through Monterey and on to Big Sur… again.  The reason for the “again” is that I did this ride at Christmas time in 1969.

In 1969, my first year of teaching, I opted to ride my new 1969 Honda 450 Street Scrambler to Berkeley to visit my brother George and his (then) wife Irene.  Colleagues at school told me that this could not be done; that I would die trying to ride over Grants Pass in the Siskiyou Mountains in the 3rd week of December. I discounted this in my youthful idiocy and enthusiasm, and those two or so often closely aligned, aren’t they?  After all, I’d never heard of the Siskiyou Mountains, so how bad could it be?

I also wanted to see Grants Pass.  As a senior at the University of Minnesota I sent for a teaching job application from the Grants Pass school district. I’d never been there, but it looked like a nice place to live and teach from my extensive research in a road atlas. (!) When the application arrived it asked for a three page essay on why I wanted to be a teacher to be sent with the application. I thought that was a pretty stupid idea and rather condescending. So I tossed the application.

I rode the first day only to Portland with a fellow teacher who would stay with relatives there while I went on. I rode through Oregon all the next day in a drenching cold downpour, clad in the protective gear I had in 1969.  Rubber boots, a ski parka, and a cheap rain suit and gloves.  I spent most the day stopping every 50 miles or so to get a cup of hot cocoa and warm up.  I made it over the pass and when I stopped at the next truck stop for more cocoa the radio announced that Grants Pass had just been closed due to the BLIZZARD that had blown up 15 minutes after I rode over it. Whew!  Guess my friends had a point.

I stayed with George and Irene in their tiny rented apartment for a couple of days. Among the highlights were a tour of my brother’s chemistry lab where he was earning his doctorate, a drive by the headquarters of the Black Panthers, where very serious looking men with machine guns guarded the door, and watching my brother, who had owned a small BMW, ride down the street on my Honda and come perilously close to dumping it when he turned it around.  I also spent a day riding down the Monterey coastline on Highway 1.

Most will not recall, but in the fall of 1969 a new TV show debuted. “Then Came Bronson” told the story of a young man fed up with his job who chucked it all to take off and tour the country on his motorcycle.  I could identify with that clearly, except for hating the job.  I did not think much of his Harley Sportster with the “peanut” tank as a touring mount either, but that was solved in several episodes as the motorcycle turned into something else for the scene – like a two stroke dirt bike that won a hill climb!

Two of my fellow first year teachers had purchased new Honda 350 Scramblers.  They were better athletes, but I had a better bike!   One evening a week they would don their helmets and sit on two dining chairs turned backwards to watch the show!  As a “veteran” motorcyclist of three years, I was above such silliness. :)

In any case, somewhere around Big Sur, I happened across a TV crew filming a scene for the show.  What are the odds?  I wanted to see if I could find that spot again.  Good a reason as any for a ride…

On the way I took in another adventure that’s been waiting for several years. To get to Monterey from Los Gatos, you ride up and over on Highway 17 to Santa Cruz.   Our daughter and family lived in Santa Cruz before moving to Los Gatos, and our son-in-law is on the UCSC staff.  We had visited both families several times in the past, and whenever I drove 17 I’d always noted all these delicious-looking side roads that branched off and looked like great motorcycle opportunities.  Now was the time to find out.  I rode up 17 to a road called “Summit Road,” and turned off the highway.  The exit curled around 180 degrees to a stop sign where I had a choice. “Left” felt good, so off I went, unburdened by maps or the knowledge of where I would end up – no use over thinking things.

The road was a delight, and soon I was in a heaven of a serpentine ribbon of aged asphalt arcing around trees and offering up sweeping views here and there, all the way to Monterey Bay. I stopped at one overlook and spent a blissful half an hour sitting in tall grass leaning against an embankment, smoking my pipe and taking in the sights and the cacophony of a lot of birds.  A light breeze and temps in the high 70’s made things pretty much perfect. With patience, there were moments where you could hear nothing at all other than the birds.  Idyllic.

I soon noticed that what traffic that did come by was markedly different. You could hear a car coming from some ways away, and the rpms were a lot higher. Occasionally there would be a squeal of rubber earning its keep.

This was obviously the sports car route from Monterey to Los Gatos or San Jose! I was treated to a parade of Porsches, Mercedes sports sedans, Miatas, and small hot hatches of various sorts, many of them trying pretty hard and some of them trying harder than the driver’s talent could keep up with.

Back on the bike, I made sure to adopt a “late apex” cornering technique, better to see if one of the enthusiasts made a mistake and came over the yellow line.  And that is why the Range Rover missed me…

Eventually I came down the hill and rejoined Highway 1, and it was off to Monterey.

Things have changed since 1969. Even though this was a Monday, traffic was a hindrance.  Once past Carmel and into the seriously beautiful parts of Highway 1 my progress was continually obstructed by tourist traffic. I remember a couple from Indiana trundling along the road at 25 mph.  The speed limit is 45 mph, and soon Mr. and Mrs. Oblivious had a long line of cars behind them. Eventually an opening sufficient for a Speed Triple (about 60 yards) appeared, and I was off and away again.

I did not find the site of the TV crew in 1969, because I think I did not go far enough South, but I stopped several times to enjoy the scenery.  And the people.

One radical difference from 1969 is that people now find a single person on a motorcycle to be a wonderful thing, and everyone wants to smile, offer a compliment, and chat for a bit. Having lived in a different world back then, where people occasionally tried to run you off the road  (I have a good story about when that happened to me – actually two stories), this was much better.

Another goal was to run off and get lost on the Monterey Peninsula… again.  Again with the “again”!  I’d been here in 1997 for the Monterey Historics vintage sports car races with my friend Michael and his 1963 Porsche 356 Cabriolet. (I know – I lead a charmed life). The week before the Historics there was a convention for Porsche 356 owners, at that time the largest of its type ever held.

Part of that event was a road rally, and Michael and I were both pretty active in road rallies. He explained that he was a better navigator than I was, which was true, and therefore I would drive the 356 in the rally. Oh darn!

As a result, I spent a fabulous day drive a classic Porsche on winding back roads on the Monterey Peninsula, but since I was merely following Michael’s commands as to when to turn and when to speed up or slow down, I never actually had the faintest idea of where we were.   There were something like 250 entrants, and we earned a 3rd place trophy.  Some sleight of hand there, as they awarded three 1st place trophies, three for 2nd, and three  for 3rd – tripling the number of people who could go back home and brag about their success.  I don’t know which of the 3rd place trophies we actually earned, and if it was 7th , 8th, or 9th in reality, but we only finished that LOW because Michael’s protest was disallowed.  He’d found a discrepancy in the way one of the directions had been written, as per the national rule book, and that cost us 14 seconds.  Michael was a bit obsessive, you might say.

I just drove the car.

Another fond memory of that event. One of the days was spent in an enormous concours held on the fairway of a local luxury golf course, and there were over 300 Porsches of all descriptions, most of them 356 models, and most of them better than when they left the factory. There were also a selection of rare Porsche race cars, and even a perfectly restored Porsche tractor. Yes, they did make the for a short while. As we wandered about exclaiming over this and that we came across a red Speedster that was perfect in every way. Except for the license plate frame on the rear, which read “My other toy has tits.” Michael was aghast at the effrontery of this against all that was Porsche, but I offered “But if the owner is a lesbian, it’s pretty funny.”  Michael had to agree with that, and we moved on.

In any case, it was now late in the afternoon, and the traffic and the people had worn me out, so I chose to leave the temptation of getting lost on the peninsula for next year, when I intend to do this trip again.  Back to my daughter’s place to enjoy the pool!

On Tuesday I was off to Burlingame to visit “Preston’s Chocolates.”  This is a candy and ice cream store that manufactures its own chocolate treats of incredible variety.  On a visit there years ago my brother gave me a several hour tour, carefully explaining how he made each different kind of chocolate treat, from fudge to truffles to mint candies and on and on.  Only day in my life where I (eventually) turned down an offer to try just one more kind.  The ironies here abound.  First of all, Preston’s Chocolates is well over 50 years old. The original owner was Art Preston – no relation.   My brother lived in Palo Alto and used to send boxes of Preston’s Chocolates as Christmas gifts because of the fun of the family name on the box. As time passed he got to know Art well, and also got really interested in chocolate.  Eventually he retired from a long career with an energy think tank firm, bought the company, and became the head candy maker.  This was a fine use for his doctorate in chemical engineering!  Another irony – as a child my brother was allergic to chocolate, and a small piece would give him a raging headache. As an adult candy maker he spent his entire day sampling his wares with no ill effects.  Another irony, or perhaps an unfairness. My brother is now, and always has been – slim.

Eventually there was a divorce, and Irene got the company as part of the deal, so it was Irene went to see.  I think very highly of Irene, and felt I owed her a lunch, at least. Last year she sent several dozen hand-made truffles to my son’s wedding rehearsal dinner as gifts for the guests. The truffles were sent in an insulated case wrapped in small boxes. Each box had a ribbon with Will and Alida’s names and the date.  This blew me away, since Irene has not seen Will in over 30 years!

In any case, the quick ride to Burlingame turned out not to be very quick at all, due to California traffic, and that gave me another adventure – lane splitting!  This is terrifying to watch when you’re in a rental car and others are slipping by on motorcycles.  It is not that bad from the motorcycle seat. As a rookie, I only did it when traffic was stopped or nearly so, and almost always just in 1st gear.  Often I was sort of half-splitting, using the spaces between cars and lanes to sort of wander back and forth. I saw other motorcyclists doing this with greater ease than I, but I noticed that most of the car drivers are used to this and actually use their mirrors and slide over to make more room.  Interesting, but I don’t intend to make a habit of it.

Irene and I had a long and delicious lunch across the street at a small bistro owned by a Turkish family, and then I rode back to Los Gatos for more pool time.  Susan arrived late that evening, so we were together again.  Thursday and Friday would be “off the bike days” with friends and family, and I ready for that, as after 5 days of riding my wrists were sore.

The next few days were spent playing with Grandson Arthur, going to the park, going for walks, sitting in the sand watching the ocean waves roll in, and having a big family dinner at Meghan’s.  Soon it was time to pack, as Saturday would dawn and bring with it the 3rd segment – up the coast!


Copyright 2015                David Preston

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California Ride – Part the first

David’s 2015 California Ride – Part I

I’m just back from an almost 3,000 mile ride to the Bay Area and back.  I am going to break up my thoughts into three parts, since the ride had three segments.

Part I details adventures on the way to Los Gatos to visit my daughter, son-in-law, and 22 month old grandson. Susan flew there the same day I left, and flew back the day after I started the ride home. Part II will go over my rides and adventures in Los Gatos, and of course the last segment will cover the ride home.

Day I began at the conclusion of our little Friday morning breakfast group. I was fortunate to be accompanied for this day by Bill Hucks, who as many of you know was once a student of mine – 44 years ago. He does not remember anything about my class and I do not have any recall of him as a student, but we met up again three years ago and have become good friends.

It’s very important on a long ride with one or more other people that everyone has the same or similar tastes in the details of a ride. How often to stop? When to leave? When to call it a day? How much time do you spend at rest stops and scenic attractions?  Of course, Bill and I had discussed utterly none of this before the ride, but we’ve ridden together on several day rides so I was not too concerned.  Fortunately, we mesh very well in all of these areas, so it was a great boon to have him along.  The evening conversations outside our motel room were fascinating and fun, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The route for the day was a copy of one I used back when leading groups on three day weekends to Bend, Oregon. It involves a backroads route to Enumclaw, down around the east side of Mount Rainier and then over 401 to Yakima.  Although I’ve enjoyed this many times in the past, this time the first two hours were rather monotonous. The weather was blah, although not raining, and we seemed to run into a lot of people in big and small trucks lollygagging along.

Once on 401 things improved rapidly. We climbed through a fog bank that made the several hairpins a bit tense, but once at altitude the sky cleared and it was clear sailing. 401 to Yakima is a great ride, and all of the traffic seemed to be elsewhere. From Yakima it was south to Goldendale, and then into Oregon and down Oregon 97.

The groups I led often complained that 97 is boring, but I’ve always enjoyed it. You roll along at a goodly pace surveying high desert, rolling hills, and enormous vistas, broken up by small towns every once in a while.

Bill suggested a wonderful long cut I had not ridden, and that was the best part of the day. A side highway leads from Shannicott down to the almost non-existent town of Antelope, which once housed the cult leader who was fond of Roll Royces – remember him?  Bagwhan whatshisname?

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh – that’s it.  A little Googling reveals that his followers gave him 93 Rolls Royce motorcars, and that just seems silly.  He was later deported for various and sundry crimes.  (surprise!) 

The road to Antelope is all downhill and sharp corners, while the route back to the main road opens up to a long series of delightful sweepers. Back on track, we rolled past Redmond and Bend and reached LaPine, our intended destination “the Highlander” motel.

Bill and I are both fond of what I call 3rd tier motels and what Bill terms “fleabags.”  He’d researched a likely candidate, and I had made a reservation the day before, which was a good thing as they only had one room left. The Highlander was much too nice to be described as a “fleabag.” It was just the sort of older small motel we both enjoy. Clean and simple and…$76 for two! We dined at a Mexican place across the street, and Bill reported his meal was terrific. Mine was horrid. Oh well.

Into the late evening we lolled in chairs in front of our rooms, surveying our fantastic motorcycles. I pumped Bill with questions about his life since 9th grade.  He had many a fascinating tale, and it all ends happily.  I never realized that my hosting a call-in radio show for three years would give me questioning skills that would come in handy years later. Since I tend to talk far too much, it’s a great pleasure to sit back and let someone else tell the stories – especially such great stories!

We both like to get up early and were ready to ride well before 7am. Bill was sorely tempted to continue for one more day, but he really had to be at work on Monday, and ending a 2nd day in Grass Valley would leave him a soul-destroying ride back up I-5 to get home. As he rides a Honda 250 CBR, with a single cylinder and horsepower that would not daunt a pony, the prospect of this was too horrible to countenance. Instead, he would go back and take two days to “scout” some of the roads we will use on this summer’s second adventure in September.

I chose to ride to Klamath Falls before breakfast. As it was early, I was wary of “deer strikes,” one of the disadvantages of an early start.  But the weather was perfect, and there was no traffic.   I rolled along at 80mph or a tad more, and every once in a while I would say the word “deer!” out loud in my helmet to renew my vigilance.

Despite that, I suddenly had the thought of “Why would someone leave a statue of a deer on the shoulder of the road?”  It was a large male with a full set of antlers, standing so still that he really did look like a statue.  As I closed the gap he turned his head and looked directly at me and I realized I was in serious peril.  Actually, I was going fast enough I don’t think he would have got me, but fortunately he decided not to try and turned tail and romped into the woods.

Now I was really alert!  I felt really stupid about this incident for about 4 hours. That afternoon at a gas stop I struck up a conversation with two guys on Harleys. I related my story and the one fellow laughed and admitted he had experienced exactly the same thing!

I did notice differences on this trip in the other motorcyclists.  First of all, most of the groups were mixed.  Harleys and BMWs and Hondas were seen traveling together, whereas in my previous experience tour groups tended to be more segregated by brand. I think this is a good sign. I also noticed higher levels of riding skills.  Other motorcyclists would see my coming up behind and move over to let me slide by in the left half of the lane. They also seemed to be traveling at a higher rate of speed, and sometimes I would just roll along and follow two or three of them for miles and be impressed with their lines.  None of these things has ever happened in my previous experience. Is this the effect of near universal rider education?  That would be my guess, but in any case – huzzah!

I’m rarely passed by anyone on these sorts of rides, but that is because most large touring bikes are not ridden at the same speed as a Triumph Speed Triple, which is not really a touring bike unless you are really odd.  The guy on the KTM Super Motard (later) was a different story.

I can tell you the radar cop just outside of Klamath Falls begins to set up shop at 8:30am. I rolled by as he was parking his car, not quite open for business. As I had covered well over 100 miles in far less than 90 minutes, it was probably a good thing he was not “on.”

One of the expected joys of the trip was to ride Lassen Park again. I did this about 20 years ago and it was fantastic. As usual, my memories are better than the reality. Lassen Park is fabulous, but in retrospect the recollections are probably of the wonderful winding roads to and from Lassen.  I also did not remember that the road through Lassen Park summits at 8300 feet – plenty enough altitude to get me pretty chilly.  After a stop for the obligatory picture of the motorcycle next to the large mound of snow at the side of the parking lot, I rode on to pause at some geophysical activity in the form of fumaroles, with sulphurous steam rising out of vents on a hillside.

From there it was on to Quincy, and the roads leading to and from Quincy are magic. This is what I remembered so fondly for two decades. The whole area is reminiscent of an HO railroad buff’s layout blown up to full size. Railroad tracks from the area’s gold rush days slash across the hills, and even the trees and the pavement look more like fake models scaled up to full size than the real thing.

By now the afternoon was lengthening, and I realized I’d made a mistake. The last 100 miles to Grass Valley are a winding paradise, but I’d not taken care of my food and hydration needs, and now I was hungry, tired, and thirsty. Serious error.

I screwed up my concentration as far as I could and rode very carefully. Since the ride to Los Gatos the next day would be easy, I kept an eye peeled for a motel, as I could stop any time. No such luck. I sort of wasted some great roads, but they were still enjoyable.

Once in Grass Valley I could not seem to find the motel row area. I stopped for fuel and was directed to what I thought he said were “motels,” but perhaps he only used the singular.   By the time I found it I was done – I just needed to stop.

The “Coach and 4.” Now THIS is a fleabag.  The worst motel ever. The room was dismal, and then it got worse. Grateful to have a room, I sat outside smoking my pipe. Two others sat outside their room smoking, and then one of them came over to sit with me.  He was quite conversational, and really into motorcycles, but…   Have you ever been chatting with someone when you realize that something is not quite right?  The person does not seem to take in anything you say, and their own words indicate someone who is massively drunk, not quite all there, or not very smart. In this case I’d hit the jackpot – all three.  I eventually retreated to my room.

In a few minutes he was knocking on my door!  With him was a child of about two.  My friend related that the child had been crawling around on the pavement under my bike and he really wanted to hear it run. I did not want to, but perhaps this would make him go away, so I grabbed the key. Outside my room, the evident mother told me this would be really exciting for her son.  Well, we motorcyclists never pass up a chance to bring a new convert into the fold, so we put the kid on the bike and I started it. Not really sure the child was really into it, but whatever. I shut the bike off and went back to my room.

In a few minutes he knocked on the door again!  This time he and the child both had grease and oil smears on their faces, and he reported they had found an oil leak. On a Triumph?  Irony.   Actually, he’d just been playing with the child and wiping chain lube on their faces. Outside again, and the mother sat smoking a cigarette. The whack job began talking to her and I realized he did not know her at all.  Then he said “You’re beautiful, by the way.”  She replied “I’m also married, but thanks,” and scooped up her son and went to her room. Wise woman.

At this point I went for a walk just to get away from the crazy guy, and found myself down the street at the little mini-mart where I had earlier purchased my dinner (of sorts).   The woman running the place was sitting outside and as I walked up I said “Don’t get up. I don’t need anything else. I’m just getting away from a crazy guy at the motel.”

She responded, “Bald guy?  White jeans and t-shirt?”

“You KNOW him?”

“He’s my sister’s ex-husband.”  She related her ex-in-law’s many issues, including a drinking problem, and I was astounded.

Back in my room I noticed crazy guy back outside the room where I’d first seen him. I don’t think he was even a customer of the motel – just a drunk guy talking to anyone who would listen.

Now what?  My bike was smack dab in the middle of the small parking lot.  Would he get progressively more drunk and then try to get on it?  Would he knock it over?  Should I leave? That would mean riding in the dark in deer valley.

Instead, I just sort of slept on and off all night, waking periodically to check on the bike. Last I knew it was 2am, and he had found someone new to chat with. Fortunately, the bike was untouched in the morning and I escaped.

The third day was short and easy.  Breakfast in Auburn with my older brother and his wife, who live there, and then freeway jousting all the way to Los Gatos.  Fortunately I have driven this route several times so I was not confused by the freeway system, which can be daunting.

Early in the afternoon I pulled in to my daughter’s apartment complex.  Part I was done.


Copyright 2015                David Preston






Posted in Motorcycles, Travel | Leave a comment

The Moral Dilemma of Amazon

The Moral Dilemma of Amazon

Do you recall the Beach Boys’ hit “Be True To Your School”?  It was a popular little ditty in about 1964, but to me as a high school person it was virtually an anthem. I thought it was important, and still do, to be “true” to your school, family, and community.

This was a handy ethos for the teacher I was to become. At each of the three schools where I taught , a school t-shirt or sweatshirt was a frequent mode of attire. 

I remember being very upset when a Juanita student would do something harmful, illegal, or stupid, even if not one of my students.  This reached a peak in 2005, when three graduating boys had the bright idea to vandalize their own school by spray painting their football uniform numbers on the fieldhouse wall.

I was outraged. I had supported them in my classroom and in athletics as the game announcer.  I wrote them a letter expressing my scorn and everybody went crazy. 

The parents wanted me fired, the administrators pretty much agreed with them, and even the union backed off, saying it would have been OK if I had spoken to them, but the printed word was not defensible. I was given the choice of signing a letter of apology written for me or taking my chances with the state bureau of teacher accreditation.  I let them know where they could put the letter, and eventually the matter ended up at the district level and someone round-filed the complaint. The next year the vice principal who had been the lead prosecutor  was cashiered or went away in some manner for what was rumored to be inappropriate conduct with a student, so hah!

That was the only time I was criticized in such a manner in the entire 31 years, and it was devastating. I was comforted by the football coach, who told me that if that was the only black mark in my personnel file I was really behind the curve!

In addition, during my decades of gainful employment I endeavored to spend my money where I earned it. I eschewed shopping on the Internet, and for the most part I still do.

Here is where the dilemma begins. I have published 7 books – on Amazon. All 7 are available as e-readers to be purchased, or “borrowed” by Amazon Prime members.  Several of them are also available as paperbacks, so I can’t criticize too harshly an e-tail business that it making me money.  Not much money, to be sure, but still. My business relationship with Amazon has always been clean and simple and effortless. The money is nice, but my favorite part is the bookshelf with several copies of each of my paperbacks. This is an ego boost every time my eyes pass over it.

When I was teaching I had my hair cut at a local barbershop. When I left teaching to go to Cycle Barn in Lynnwood, I took my hairy business to “Lynnwood Style and Trim” down the street. When I had a call-in radio show, the web site proclaimed “Mr. Preston’s hair by Lynnwood Style and Trim,” which I thought was perfect for a radio show.

When I moved to Ride West in 2010 (now BMW of Seattle, and soon to become BMW and Ducati of Seattle) I had my hair cut at a shop 20 yards up the street.  Now I have moved to a small one-man shop down the street from the restaurant meeting place of my Friday morning breakfast group.

I try to shop at local grocery stores, car dealers, etc.

Meanwhile, my wife had become an Amazon Prime member. Boxes of chattels arrive on a frequent basis, so we are not at all Internet-pure.

With my summer motorcycle trip looming, I needed to purchase a small can of chain lube for the motorcycle.  A small can takes up less space, and a spritz at the end of each day keeps everything rolling smoothly. What I should have done was purchase this last month when the bike was at Triumph of Seattle for service, or on one of my occasional visits to see old comrades at Ride West. But I didn’t.

With a week left, and Triumph of Seattle and Ride West being an hour or more away, I decided to drop by Ride Motorsports in Woodinville, just a mile or so from our house.

Things did not go well. I know the head salesman, but he was not there. I walked into the dark interior to be greeted by – nobody. Although I counted at least 5 employees behind counters, nobody had the time or interest to greet me or ask if I needed assistance. This is the #1 rule at all dealerships, and is an absolute must.  People contact is their primary advantage over the Internet.

With some difficulty, I located the correct area of the store, but I could not find the chain lube display.  At most shops this is at eye level and obvious, as chain lube is a frequent purchase. I finally interrupted the evidently fascinating conversation of the three people behind the counter, and one of them waved me toward the correct area. The chain lube was on the bottom level, and not obvious at all. Worse, they did not carry any small cans of any brand of chain lube.

I left the store, and nobody appeared to mourn this or even notice.  Back at home Susan was on the computer. She located “chain lube” in the Amazon virtual warehouse and what I wanted was ordered in less than three minutes.  A few days later it showed up nicely packed in a box – on my doorstep. I did not need to leave my home or be ignored by anyone.

I intend to remain “true to my school,” but at times is it difficult. This is exactly how Amazon has changed retail sales all over the world. Had I been at Triumph of Seattle or Ride West I would have received a friendly greeting immediately, and the purchase would have been more fun. To be fair, I know many of the employees at both stores, so my experience would not necessarily be everyone’s.

But really, how likely am I to return to Ride Motorsports to purchase a helmet, gear, or a motorcycle?


Copyright 2015                                    David Preston

Posted in Education, Marketing, Motorcycles, Rants and Raves | 2 Comments

Music in your head on a motorcycle

What’s In Your Head on a Long Motorcycle Ride?

I’m getting ready to launch off on another long solo motorcycle ride. This one will be about 2500-3000 miles in length, to Los Gatos via back roads in eastern Oregon and back up the coast on Highway 1 and 101, with some freeway slabbing at the beginning and end. Should take ten days, with three or four days in Los Gatos for family and friends.

The first thing you need for a long ride like this is a positive feeling about yourself and your life. You’ll be spending many, many, hours cruising along, and your head will wander where it will – especially in areas where the roads are not challenging you to the max.

“When the helmet drops the bullshit stops,” The concept of this is to eliminate all of the frustrations and worries from your life when you get on the motorcycle.  They can wait for later.  Ironically, you will discover the solution to problems eating away at you by going for a ride and NOT thinking about them.  When you return, refreshed and relaxed, the solution is often obvious. 

I’m not actually sure I’m the creator of this line, although Wikipedia says I am, but you simply cannot be 100% focused for 12 hours a day when you are all by yourself and there is no traffic, no deer or other critters wanting to dispute right of way, and nothing but passive scenery rolling by.

I love time spent like that. 

Although I’m always paying attention, the mind does tend to wander, and that is usually OK. Sometimes I halt this by doing a “play by play” out loud in my helmet, describing the road, the conditions, and any threats I can see. A few seconds of that yanks me back to attention.

Then there is music. Everyone loves music!  I’ve written frequently and at (probably too much) length about the lack of wisdom of using headphones to listen to music. I also don’t want phone call connectivity or any other intrusions coming into my head.

I’m not that great an athlete, and I cannot afford to “give away” any of my rider assets, such as concentration on the task at hand and visual focus.  It stuns me that so many riders think there’s nothing wrong with adding such intrusions into their skulls, so perhaps I am… wrong. 

Nah – can’t be.

There is a better way. Actually, several of them.  Forty five years ago when I first began to take long solo rides, there were no small portable music players, cell phones, or any other of the techno-ephemera we take for granted.  People who wanted to listen to music mounted speakers on their two wheeled land yachts and cranked up the volume to overcome wind roar and engine noise.  This had the effect of blaring your musical taste to anyone within 100 yards or so, which seemed to me rude and stupid. Still does.

Instead, I would play a few of my favorite records over and over again in the weeks before the ride. Some of you young whippersnappers may have to Google “records” to learn what these antiquated objects were.  I would “seal in” several songs, and on my trip I could play them back in my head whenever.

A favorite album (now on a CD) is “Alive” by the Kenny Loggins band, recorded in 1979 or so. I’ve listened to it so often I can play back most of the two CD set any time I want.  Your taste and choices will differ, I am sure.

The advantage of this is that when something occurs to grab your attention, the “music” shuts off immediately. There is no switch to locate or volume control to turn down.  Such inner music is also less likely to take over your ride to where you’re riding to the song and not to the road.   Case in point:  my friend who holed the crankcase on his BWW GS in a crash. He was riding faster and faster on a winding dirt road while listening on headphones to “Highway to Hell.”

Last summer I picked up a new technique on my ride to Minnesota. I learned that I could sort of hum and growl at the same time in my throat and make a sound in my head remarkably similar to a French horn!  For some reason I latched onto “Back Home in Indiana,” which has never sounded better than inside my helmet with my inner French horn, with all due respect to Jim Nabors. Then I branched out to other songs, and even began “composing” with my new instrument.

There’s a line in the movie “Dead Poet’s Society” where the boys have gathered in their secret cave to read poetry, and one of them brings a saxophone and rips off a not very talented solo.  One of the others asks “Why the saxophone?” and he replies “Because it is sonorous.”

“Sonorous” is exactly the tone you can create in your head with guttural humming of this sort, and your helmet becomes a concert arena, but not an intrusive one.

This year I’ll employ a new concept, and I’m laughing about it already. The evening before I leave we will attend a free concert in the park in Kirkland to listen to an “ABBA tribute band.”   Once that is set in my head I’m going to “Mamma Mia” all the way to California with my “Dancing Queen”!


Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!



Copyright 2015                      David Preston





Posted in Motorcycles | 1 Comment

Lies, Distortions, and Fuzzy Facts – the Legislature and the Seattle Times

Lies, Distortions, and Fuzzy Facts – the Legislature and the Seattle Times

So today we have an approved state budget, less than 24 hours from a shut-down of the state government. Since this issue has been at the forefront of the news for at least two months, you might imagine such an event would be front page news for the Seattle Times. 

Not so.   It made it only as far as above the fold in Section B.

What do we find?  All comments following should be mentally preceded by “according to the Times” as a precaution, as the Times is not a credible source unless you apply a filter for bias in favor of the wealthy and corporate interests.

“raises pay for teachers.”  Here a couple of factoids many people are not aware of, or choose to ignore. Unlike most Boeing workers and many others, teachers do not receive a “holiday bonus” or a bonus at any other time of the year. Unlike many employees and all Social Security recipients, teachers do not receive a cost of living adjustment.  This one surprised even our financial planner, who had assumed such a thing in his computer projections for our future. When I corrected him he was shocked.

The legislature was supposed to provide a COL adjustment under an initiative passed several years ago, but dealt with this initiative in the same fashion they often do with initiatives for teacher issues they find uncomfortable. They have ignored it,

“It’s a great budget,” according to Republican Senator Andy Hill.  Of course it is, if your goal is to create public education for the poor slobs who cannot afford to put their children in expensive private schools, as Senator Hill has.

The budget does not reduce class sizes in grades 4-12, as required by yet another initiative passed by the public.  This is another initiative the legislature chooses to ignore. According to Frank Ordway of the League of Education Voters, the legislature is expected to “suspend” the initiative, How can that be legal?

And the raises?  3% over the next two years.  That would be 1.5% a year, plus an additional 1.8% that will expire in 2017!  The spokesperson for WEA referred to people who are describing this as not a raise, but a tip.  When was the last time you gave your waiter a 1.5% tip?  Or, at most, a 3.3% tip?

It remains to be seen if the State Supreme Court will decide if this farce complies with the constitutional mandate that the legislature fully fund basic education. Nobody with a tenuous grasp of the law and language can possibly do so, and then what?

Either they will tell the legislature what to do and put them all in jail until they comply with the law, or come up with a definition of “fully fund” that will turn your head inside out.

Keep in mind that all of this has been done by people elected by their constituents. Thus the race to the bottom for education funding in this state (Slogan: “We’re almost there!”) continues.

Some day we will have legislators who understand the need for full funding of education, and that definition can easily be based on what other states are doing.  Washington now ranks perilously close to 50th in some statistical categories for funding, which is appalling given that most of our major industries rely on a highly educated work force. 


It would be nice to have a real newspaper too,



Copyright 2015                David Preston

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | Leave a comment

2015 Motorcycle Adventure #1 – Final plan

2015 Motorcycle Adventure #1 –  Final

 And the excitement builds. As it turns out, I will be doing this one solo, as all 6 of the people who expressed interest in joining me had life events  (like jobs) get in the way. As this trip will be ten days long, that is hardly surprising.  Adventure #2 will be in September and will probably be a group of 5 or 6, as it is a shorter  ride in both days  (6) and miles.

Departure day is July 10th, and I am so excited

Leaving July 10th:

#1:     Seattle to Enumclaw to 410 to Yakima                 150 miles

          Yakima to 97 to Bend                                                220 miles

          Bend to La Pine                                                            32 miles

                                                                                                  402 miles

#2:     LaPine to Klamath Falls on 97                              110 miles

          Klamath Falls to Canby on 139                             75 miles

          Canby to Burney on 299                                        70 miles

          Burney to Grass Valley                                          120 miles

          Grass Valley to Auburn                                          20 miles

                                                                                    395 miles

#3:     Auburn to Los Gatos                                               160 miles

Day trips in California

  1. Getting lost between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz
  2. Visit to Irene at Preston’s Chocolates in Burlingame
  3. Tour of the Monterey Peninsula
  4. Possible day of rest


#1.     Santa Cruz to Fort Bragg on 101                      320 miles

#2      Fort Bragg to Willits on 20 

          101 to Gold Beach                                                330 miles

3.   Gold Beach to Reedsport on 101

      38 to I-5 to home                                                    460 miles


Copyright 2015                                     David Preston

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The Re-Evolution of Fatherhood

The Re-Evolution of Fatherhood

As we approach the annual celebration of Father’s Day things are a bit different. If you note media and advertising images you’ll detect a swing in our societal attitudes toward what it is to be a father.  And a welcome one.

When I was a lad in the 50’s and 60’s being a father was something one simply expected to be in due time.  The images portrayed on tiny black and white TVs tended to show the father as a kindly person who led his family forward with wise decisions based on the needs of the group.  The best example of this was probably Ozzie Nelson of the Nelson family on TV. 

I was quite surprised just a few years ago to see the “Ozzie and Harriet Show” labeled as a comedy.  Of course it was, but at the time I thought of it more as a documentary. Just like the show I lived in a home with a mother and a father and three sons. The three boys got into various situations that were resolved with humor and logic, as the boys never did anything that could have dire consequences. I never reacted to the show as a fictionalized version of the family life I was used to.  I probably pegged the naiveté meter for all time.

In a teacher staff development session one year the topic was communication among children and parents. Participants shared what expectations they were taught in their homes as children.

When my turn came I explained that in my family my parents often had couples over for dinner. The guests were almost entirely engineers or physicists or university professors. I was expected to stick around after dinner and take part in conversations that ranged from science to politics to sports to whatever else came along. I was encouraged to speak to the issues and state my position, with no regard to the status, education, or economic level of the adults. I don’t recall any of the guests every seeing anything odd in having a teen debate ethics in science with them, for example. From these experiences I learned to be unafraid of speaking my mind to anyone, and this served me very well as an adult.

As I summed up, a colleague in front of me turned around. He’d been raised in a home where after dinner he was encouraged to disappear. He was expected to never speak to an adult unless he was spoken to first.  He said to me “You have no idea how much I hate you right now.”

I was lucky.

In the 80’s and 90’s and up until recently there came a mass media swing toward portraying a father figure as the village idiot of the family. He was usually the butt of the jokes, and often portrayed as sort of sweet but really not all that smart.  At the same time, single men were super heroes or international spies, did all of the winning, and reaped most of the spoils and acclaim for their heroic efforts.

Of course this is a gross generality.  Bill Cosby at Dr. Huxtable was a warm and intelligent father figure, and the ironic horror is that now we realize what a monster he’s been for decades.

I used to rail about this unfairness, but mostly to myself, as in my own home I received a lot of love and respect. Still, it rankled me that young boys were growing up bombarded with images and themes that indicated that to become a father meant saying good-bye to adventure, accomplishment, respect, and a goodly portion of your IQ.

But now the latest trend in TV commercials, and to some extent TV shows, is the portrayal of fathers in at least a positive fashion, and often as heroes to their children and spouses.  And about time, too.

So this Father’s Day, take a minute to be thankful for any positive examples of fathers you have had in your own life, and see what can be learned from the negative examples you may have experienced.

I’ve had the benefit of two father figures, and they left me with three significant impressions.

Both my father and father-in-law were war heroes in a quiet way. My father was pulled off a train on the way to boot camp by the MPs, as his boss had argued up the chain of command until his position that Al Preston would better serve the war effort by working at home won the day. My father earned six patents during the war, none of which earned him a dime since they were all part of the war effort. His work on high altitude breathing systems for B-17 and B-29 pilots saved a lot of lives, and that is more important.

My father-in-law lied about his age to enter the Navy at… 16. Years later he was drafted out of college to serve in the Army in the Korean War, sailing away immediately following the birth of his first child.  I cannot imagine myself in either scenario.

My father did pretty much everything right for me.  Until 1967. In that year my mother died in a very short period of time from ovarian cancer, and to a large extent my father never recovered.  As engineers, my parents had planned out their lives with great care. They sacrificed in many ways to take care of their three sons. 

For example, I did not get through college on a scholarship. I got through college with money from summer jobs and my parents paying for all the rest of it with money they could have spent on themselves.  I thought this was unfair, and when I suggested I get a part-time job during the school year my father turned the proposal down flat. His reasoning was that he had worked at three jobs to put himself through college, and all he wanted me to do was go to class and get the grades. Which I did, once I got into the program I needed.

After my mother’s death he was a changed man.  For the rest of his life he tended to be judgmental, critical, and bitter.  I’ve not had to face the horror he did – his wife taken just as they were about to (finally!) have time and money for themselves, but their experiences changed mine.

We purchased a bit of a rambling wreck of a 1958 Corvette two months after our marriage and performed a rolling restoration over the next two years. I was determined not to put the things we wanted off for decades only to see them all vanish in a puff of smoke. 

I also intend to live my life without the bitterness that comes to many men in old age. We’ll see how I do with that one.

A few years after the tragedy of my mother’s death my father was fading from my life as a guiding light, but I had the good fortune to inherit John, who came along as an added extra to marrying Susan.

Like me, John was an English teacher, but my scholarship and intellectual vigor were a comedic opposite to his.  I’m sure he had to think of me as an intellectual lightweight and later, in my years as the president of the local teachers union, as a name-dropper and a pompous ass.   I was both of those things, but he never criticized and never offered his opinions of what I was doing as a teacher or husband and father. He was always there if I had a question, but he never intruded.  Now that I have both a son and daughter in law, I have a lot of work to do to live up to his example.

On Father’s Day I think of these two fine men who were fathers in my life. I hope you have positive examples in your own life to celebrate.

Happy Father’s Day.



Copyright 2015              David Preston




Posted in Marketing, Rants and Raves | Leave a comment

The Air Horn People

The Air Horn People

I’ve been to more graduations than the average bear. There were my own of course, plus our children’s high school (2) and college graduations (1 and counting), my wife’s from Seattle U, and many others.

When I taught at Kamiakin Junior High I had my 9th graders write an essay meant for themselves on graduation night. I kept them for three years and then on graduation night roamed the halls finding the kids in their various robe-application rooms. As I handed them out it was amazing how many of them remembered the essay, and at times burst into tears. I remember one boy who read each paragraph and said “Did that” as he finished each one, his eyes glowing with triumph.

I also attended all eleven of the graduations at Juanita when I taught there, and spoke at two of them.

Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend graduation at Los Gatos High School in (duh!) Los Gatos to honor my nephew Sam Lewis. While there I had the chance to do a small research project that’s always interested me.

Every graduation has messages sent out by the school beforehand and signs on site asking people to not use air horns or other devices to make a lot of noise when their graduate’s name is announced. The cacophony can deter the next student’s family from full enjoyment of the moment. And of course, at every graduation there are people who ignore the requests and let loose with a blare of whatever noise they can make. I’ve always wondered, “Who are these people and why is this so important to them?”  I now have a possible answer.

Sam’s graduation was held outdoors on the front lawn of a gorgeous school that looks like a film set for a teen movie set in California.  People show up at 7am to claim their preferred seats, and then friends and family “chair sit” for the rest of the day until the ceremony at 6pm.  I was one of the early crew, and enjoyed myself watching the work of the set-up gang and also the seating preferences of the audience. What you wanted were seats on the left side, as they would be in the shade in the evening and offer a better view of the podium.

In the evening large paper programs were available. After the list of speakers was a large box with the names of those students with a GPA of 4.0 (or higher!).  On the facing page, in smaller print, were the names of all of the graduates. On the back of that, two lengthy columns of names of students and the honors and scholarships they had earned.  This meant a student like Sam would have his or her name in the program three times.

If a class officer and/or a speaker – maybe four or five times! Los Gatos is a very accomplished school, and reading over the awards and scholarships gave confidence in the future.

The graduates filed out the front door of the school in groups of four. This was a nice touch as a book-end ceremony, as I’m told that in a ceremony on the first day of school in the fall new students go marching up the stairs and into the school. The orchestra did a fine job with “Pomp and Circumstance,” which took me back to playing it ad nausea my sophomore and junior years in band, and then a young woman absolutely nailed a solo rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. After well-done and blissfully short speeches the names were announced. First thing I noticed was that most of the graduates applauded and cheered pretty much all of their colleagues, which indicated a school mostly devoid of cliques – a great sign.

Soon I could hear the occasional blast of an air horn. As Sam was the only graduate I know well, I spent my time scanning as rapidly as I could for the name of the person greeted thusly by family members in the audience.  My research was not perfect, as the students cheering made it hard for me to catch a name or two.

However, a pattern emerged immediately, and it was perilously close to 100% consistent.  It also supported something I’ve always suspected.

If an air horn could be heard, that student was not one with a 4.0 or greater GPA, and not one who had earned a scholarship award.  It seems that for students who maximized their high school opportunities and their own talents, this was a lovely evening ceremony that was a step toward their ultimate goal. For “air horn” students, it was the end of youth and the beginning of adulthood.  I suppose that merits an air horn blast.  I suspect there are socio-economic and cultural factors in play as well.

All of which proves nothing. But, the next time you are attending a graduation, now you have something to do. The research must continue!



Copyright 2015                        David Preston

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