Cool gear and money for Riders for Health

Raising Money for Riders for Health

I have two items that have come to roost in my garage, and I would like to sell them and pass on the proceeds  to Riders for Health.  

If you want to purchase one, or both, you could write a check to Riders for Health and claim a charitable deduction. Contact me at david@davidpreston.biz or (206) 484-3000

The first item is a First Gear leather jacket that can be worn on a cruiser or other bike. It belonged to my son and looked spiffy on his Triumph Bonneville, but he has now moved on to marriage, college, and triathlons (!), not necessarily in that order.  It has no wear, and is a size XL.  $50?

 P1040784

 

The second item is a very heavy leather jacket in a “Marlon Brando” style.  It is a “Willson” and has just enough “patina” to look even better than brand new. It is size XXL.  $70?

 P1040785

 

Mailing either of the two leather jackets would be expensive, but I can deliver in the greater Seattle area.  Support Riders for Health and improve your looks and safety with any or all of these fine items!

Posted in Equipment, Motorcycles | Leave a comment

The Motorcycle “Good to Go” Pass

The Saga of the Motorcycle “Good to Go” Pass

Well, I think it is finally done. I hope. Maybe.

The saga of a month’s duration in my quest to receive one of the new Good to Go passes so my motorcycle can use the new toll HOV lanes is done.

At least I think so.

HOV lanes came into being in the early 1980’s.   A bit after that President Reagan signed a bill making it legal for motorcyclists to use HOV lanes.  This was a rider on another bill, and there is doubt that President Reagan actually knew he was signing it.

At the time I was commuting frequently from Bothell to Pioneer Square for my part-time gig as a guide for Seattle’s Underground Tour.  I read that this had occurred, but I was worried because the signs along the freeway made no mention of motorcycles. As I streamed by the long lines of stalled cages on the way to the Evergreen Bridge I was worried that some harassed driver would either dart into my lane to kill me or take some other act of traffic jam rage. I actually called the Washington DOT to inquire, and was told that yes, motorcycles were free to use the HOV lanes, and signs would go up eventually to make this common knowledge.

Which they did.

All was fine for many years, and then things got complicated.   New toll lanes were installed south from Renton to Kent, and a pass was required for use of the Evergreen Bridge and the Tacoma narrows bridge.  Motorcyclists made complaints about this at the time  (including me) with letters pointing out that motorcycles use less fuel  (partially true) and are more efficient and cause virtually no wear and tear to the road surface  (both completely true) and therefore should not have to pay tolls.

I received the most honest answer from a public official ever. In her letter she agreed with every point I had made and admitted, with bald faced open honesty, that they really did not care. All they cared about was the money needed for the new toll bridge. At least she was clear.

After using the Evergreen Bridge one, in my car, I had to pay for it twice and pay a fine. I paid the bill, and received a notice that payment had not been made. I sent back the # and date of the check, and got a second bill.  With a sigh, I paid that, and then was sent a penalty notice demanding more money!  I resolved never to use that bridge again, nor have I.

Recently came news that new toll lanes would run up I-405, and since I use that road all the time I was very concerned.  After a lot of legal yammering, DOT decided that motorcycles could get a toll pass for the headlight that would allow free passage on the I-405 route and the one south to Kent, but not the Tacoma or Evergreen Bridges.

And then it got confusing. I sent away for the pass and the documentation.  When the pass came, I read the enclosed information several times, and it was not clear at all.  For one thing, the documentation indicated you must open a $30 account, even though you would never be charged. On the DOT web site, it said you could have the pass without opening an account. A posting on Facebook revealed that many of my friends thought they knew what was what, and most of them were incorrect.

Another e-mail to WA DOT brought the news, in a few days, that the $30 was not required. All I had to do was register with the pass #.

Nowhere in the documentation or in the installation instructions does it list where the pass # is located!  How can you do that?

Another e-mail, and the wait of a further week, and finally the secret code was cracked. The account # was on the same clear tear off sheet as was the pass itself, but nowhere in the documents or on the sheet is there any indication that this random assortment of numbers means anything.  

In my younger and less cynical days I would have tossed the rest of the clear sheet, but fortunately age does bring come caution.

Now I have sent them what I believe to be the pass #, and I should be set.

Probably.

I hope.

And who is to blame for this litany of bureaucratic blunders? 

(I  left out several e-mails and inquiries for the sake of brevity).

WS DOT?

Not really.

Many years ago I worked with a sales manager who liked to have weekly lunches for the managers where we would dine and listen to a series of business-centric talks he had purchased on CDs.  All of them were interesting, but one of them really hit home.

I do not remember the speaker or the exact details, but the gist of it dealt with planning.   You were advised to place the tasks ahead into one of four quadrants.  One was for tasks critical in nature and time sensitive. A second was for tasks not critical and not time sensitive. Then there was the quadrant for critical but not time sensitive, and finally, time sensitive and not critical.

By using this system, you wanted to avoid the dreaded Quadrant #4, where you were rushed to deal with tasks that were both critical and time sensitive.  When you are running out of time to accomplish a critical task, errors rise up like worms in the garden after a fresh rain.

I had experienced this myself.  I was often asked to prepare written ad copy, marketing materials, or correspondence with motorcycle OEMs. Some of it was critical in terms of the importance of the message, the power or the recipient, and the negative results of a sloppy statement.  I tried to explain to the sales manager that what I did was not like grinding hamburger. The more advance notice and information I was given, the better would be the final product.  I don’t recall that anything ever got better in that regard, but no matter.  I could use the system to try and ensure that I always had some time in hand for critical and time sensitive tasks, even though I did not know what they would be.

And that is where the problem is with the DOT. Two decades ago the electorate got it into their pretty little heads that it would be a good idea to cut taxes – everywhere. It would also make sense to cripple the administrative system that created the tax rates.   Tim Eyman is only the tip of this iceberg that has ripped the guts out of government fiscal management.  At the same time that this was going on, and continues, the electorate did not reduce their demands on government for services.

The results have been predictable. Caught between the rock of public demands, the restrictions on tax income, and their own spineless nature, politicians have had to get “creative,” with all sorts of new tax plans.  Most of them are not completely thought out and often create legal and operational snafus that would be comic if not for their consequences.

So here you have the DOT – strapped for cash and with crumbling infrastructure all around them.  They have tried to tax everyone everywhere in any possible way. Does it make sense to tie the maintenance of state parks to your license fee, when you go to a state park to get away from all the vehicles?  That one is voluntary, and I pay it every year, even while grinding my teeth at the illogicality of it all. When you get to the state park, you will need to pay an additional fee, no matter how long you got there or the intended duration of your stay.

With the motorcycle passes, the DOT is attempting to raise funds while dealing with the results of court cases, and the result is the tangled mess of a motorcycle good to go pass system that is riddled with functional and administrative errors.  They have not been given the time or the staff to do this in a sensible and carefully planned manner. Also, it seems that virtually none of them have any knowledge of motorcycles.  The result is mass confusion among motorcyclists, and the same for other groups in similar situations.  Confusion added to demands for money creates – rage.

Is the resultant anger by the electorate, entirely self-induced, the reason why people are apparently willing, in very large numbers, to abandon all sanity and support a howling buffoon like Donald Trump?  

None of the experts seem to be able to figure out his appeal, so perhaps I have done so here.

 

Copyright 2015                                    David Preston

 

 

 

 

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

The Reality of the Teachers’ Lounge

The Reality of the Teachers’ Lounge

Today, one of the members of the Republican Presidential Candidate Clown Car (I can’t remember his name, but his ‘brand’ is “the reasonable one”) put forth his solution for the problems in public education.

Get rid of teacher lounges in school.

This is inane on many levels, or perhaps all levels, but it did get me to reminisce about the teacher lounges I experienced in over three decades of teaching experience.

First, a small math lesson that may help.  The main function of the teachers’ lounge is not to spend time lolling about while being fed peeled grapes by minions. It is there for teachers to eat lunch and take a break from the mental, social, and physical demands of students. In most schools, teachers have 30-35 minutes for lunch. For most of my teaching career my classroom was far from the lounge. Class would end, I would straighten up the room, deal with any student problems at the end of class, and then stroll to lunch.  I would probably need to use the bathroom. At the end of lunch, I would need to get back in time to be there before the bell rang to welcome students coming to my class.  The result is that I would have 20 minutes, at most, to “lounge” and eat my lunch.  More like 12 minutes most of the time, If you ever go to dinner in a restaurant with a teacher, now you will understand why your companion has scarfed down the entire meal while you are still enjoying the salad…

In addition, at most schools there are either two or three lunch periods, so you would not be able to rally the troops to sedition very easily between bites of your sandwich.

When I was student teaching at West High School in Minneapolis there were actually two lounges, one for the men and one for the women. While I was there a faculty meeting for all was held in the women’s lounge for the first time in the history of the school, and it was considered to be quite a radical act.  At 21 and something of a feminist long before the word was coined, I thought this was utterly bizarre.

The men’s lounge, on the few occasions I visited, was not a happy place for me. It proved to be an extreme anomaly, as I never witnessed anything like it again.  Old and burned out men sat in rumpled and baggy sweaters, smoking and playing gin rummy. Their conversation consisted of either bitching about pretty much everything, or commenting on the tight sweater Suzie was wearing in 2nd period. I was appalled, and wondered if this would happen to me in time.  Fortunately it did not. Equally fortunately, that was the only time I ever witnessed such behavior.

The 2nd half of my student teaching tenure was at a different school. I don’t remember the name of the school and have no memories of the teachers’ lounge. It is highly probable that I never entered it.

When I flew west in the spring of 1969 I was given a tour of what would soon be Rose Hill Junior High, still under construction and mostly a collection of concrete floors and studs where the walls would be. The principal was Howie Carlson, and we strolled around the building with him pointing out various features that would exist when school started in the fall, along with my career.  I’ll always remember him showing me the space where the faculty lounge would be constructed, stating that “the keg will be over there.”   That was my first experience with an administrator with a sense of humor, and I was thrilled when he offered me a job.

When school started, the lounge had two parts. The indoor section got 99% of the use, but there was also an outdoor sun patio with a locked gate to the front walk.  Howie encouraged me to park my motorcycle on the patio, and gave me a key.  He felt it was important for students to see that you could ride a motorcycle and be a productive member of society. Attitudes toward motorcycles were quite different then. Again, this contrasted so strongly with my Minnesota student teaching, where a principal wanted me cast out of the student teaching program for my effrontery in riding my cute little blue and white 250cc Yamaha to a meeting. Held after school.

Although I taught at Rose Hill for 7 years, I do not have any strong memories of the lounge.

After two years out of the classroom as president of the teachers’ union, I landed at Kamiakin Junior High.  Similar arrangement, but at Kamiakin the seating arrangements at lunch evolved (or devolved, depending on your point of view) into two groups. The group I was in referred to the other group as “the pursed lip crowd.”  The conversations at our table were invariably hilarious, or we thought so, and most of the laugh lines were followed by a sea of pursed lips from the other table, mostly older women who ate in silence while listening to our antics.

On one occasion, my friend Ken Broche (now deceased) used the microwave to heat up his lunch.  Ken was Jewish.  When the machine bonged, he removed his lunch and slammed the door shut.  The door of the microwave virtually exploded, with glass raining down on the counter and floor. As we all stared in shock, Ken turned to the room and said “My people have never done well with ovens.”  As my group collapsed into hilarity, the other group came close to a mass heart attack.

I did have the chance to spend considerable time in the lounge one year. I had a student teacher, and needed to spend several weeks out of my own classroom. I did not prepare the lesson plans, counsel the students, or grade the papers.  What to do?  First I methodically went through all of my filing cabinet drawers, a stack of them at a time, tossing the redundant and outdated and organizing the rest, but that only took a couple of days.  I accepted the offer from the worst principal in history to collect information and then write up a 50 plus page entry for Kamiakin to be named one of the best schools in the universe. We did not win, but I did spend most of every day in the lounge for several weeks. My conclusion was that hardly anyone ever uses the lounge. I was alone almost all the time, and looked forward to the two brief lunch periods for some human contact.

At Juanita High School for the final 11 years of my career I taught in a portable. The first year it was what was available, and after that it was by my choice. That portable was a long way from the teachers’ lounge. If I was fortunate, I could wangle a planning period just before or after lunch, so I had an entire hour and a half!  I dealt with that largesse by getting persuaded to take over the loading and maintenance of the faculty pop machine. The proceeds of that machine were used for a student scholarship, and I took great pride when the amount of the scholarship doubled. Turns out people purchase more pop when the machine has pop in it!

Some teachers may spend time plotting the next strike, I suppose, but in my career (and for most of it I was labeled a “union radical”) I never saw it.

 

Copyright 2015                                                        David Preston

 

 

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | Leave a comment

Making Unlimited Hydroplanes Relevant Again

How to Make Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Exciting Again

The Unlimited Hydroplane circus came to town a while ago for Seafair and, once again, left town under the cloud of questionable officiating.

 But that was not the worst part. By far.

The worst part was the reaction of the populace, which can be described metaphorically as a big yawn.  Sure, there were a lot of people on and around the lake watching, and more viewing on TV, but how many were actually interested in the details of the boats and the race?  How many could name all or even any of the drivers, or the same for the boats?

Many are there to see the Blue Angels or the other plane exhibitions (the only reason my wife ever wanted to go), and there are many other non-racing attractions, such as lots of women in bikinis, beer, sun, water, foods you probably should not eat, beer, and lots of women in bikinis.

Factoid – a hefty percentage of my Facebook friends are motorsports enthusiasts, and yet not one of them made any comment at all about the hydro races this year.

It used to be different, in that most of the attention was on the boats (except for the occasional truly spectacular bikini) and most in attendance could babble on at great length about their favorite driver or boat.  Bill Muncey, the Atlas Van Lines, Chip Hanauer, Miss Notre Dame, Miss Budweiser, and on and on.  If you were a hydro fan back when you can probably extend that last sentence quite a ways with your own favorites.

What happened?

Jet turbines arrived, for one.  This was sort of inevitable.  Half a century ago when Unlimiteds first came to public notice, the engines were usually enormous V-12s used in World War II. These were made by Allison and Rolls Royce, and at the end of the war there were a lot of them lying around that could be picked up on the cheap.

Over the years these engines became scarce as they were consumed in the hot fires of competition (literally) or just plain wore out. The cost of racing multiplied, and although die-hard fans tried to accept the whooshing spectacle of the turbines, it was really not the same. Some racers tried big-block Chevy engines and the like, but getting these to put out huge power was expensive and came at the cost of reliability. (Future text alert – that is no longer the case)

The next hole in the hull came when Budweiser left the scene. The “Miss Bud” was the dominant boat for decades, and gave fans a big target to either root for or against.  Other major sponsors then began to trickle away.  All this time the people in charge had many opportunities to alter the rules, but preferred a head in the bilge attitude and kept singing the same song to an audience that was increasingly tone deaf. Now there are far fewer boats driven by people that for the most part you’ve never heard of, sponsored by well-meaning but mostly localized small companies. Each year there are fewer boats and the competition aspects become increasingly tepid.

What to do to save the sport?

An inconvenient truth is that hydroplane racing takes place on large bodies of water, either rivers or large lakes for the most part. As such, it is not possible to charge admission, other than for small enclosed areas near the pits. To make the sport viable, you must lower the cost of participating while providing a platform for effective marketing by large companies.  That creates the sponsorship funds to keep the sport afloat.   Pun intended.

The solution!

Hull design.  Open. All the current boats look identical.  Let’s see what developments in computerized controls and aerodynamics could bring to the sport.  What would a hydro design by Ben Bowlby of the outrageous Nissan racers of recent vintage look like? Could regenerating electrical systems work?

Engines       Rules will return variegated sounds to the sport.  A number of possibilities for engine combinations come to mind. These could be juggled with small adjustments to the rules to ensure competitive balance, as is done in most forms of automobile racing.  Here’s a sample of what that might look like.

Details.        Entrants will be powered by gas or diesel engines of 8, 12, or 16 cylinders.  There will be different standards applied to each engine family.

8 cylinder entries may be of any size displacement and may burn gasoline, diesel, alcohol, or methanol. They need not be based on a production engine.

There are currently several firms creating 500 cubic inch V-8s for use in drag racing.  A top fuel drag racer now churns out 10,000hp.  Re-tuning to run for 20 minutes at wide open throttle instead of 4 seconds would be needed. They may also use up to 20% nitrous oxide. They may use single or double turbochargers, and single or double superchargers. These engines are now plentiful and (relatively) cheap, and there are squadrons of people with the expertise to both build and maintain them.  Removing the 500 cubic inch displacement limit used in NHRA drag racing would allow “mountain motors” of enormous power.

12 cylinder entries may be comprised of one 12 cylinder unit, two 6 cylinder units, or even three 4 cylinder units.   These must be based on production engines made in quantities of more than 1,000 per year.  They may burn diesel or race gas or alcohol or methanol, and may have either one or two turbochargers OR one or two superchargers. Ten cylinder diesels and gas engines would be lumped in. No nitrous oxide.

16 cylinder entries may be comprised of one 16 cylinder unit (Rolls–Royce) or two 8 cylinder units. They must be based on production engines made in quantities of more than 500 per year.  They may burn diesel or race gas, and may have either one turbocharger per engine OR one supercharger per engine. No nitrous oxide.

The advantages here are many, although the actual differentiations would have to be worked out by people more knowledgeable than me:

Sound          Not only would boats powered by these engines make a significant sound, they would make different sounds. Imagine a V-8 on fuel against a twin turbo diesel, next to a W16 powered boat.

Sponsors     Now the car manufacturers would have sound marketing reasons to get involved, as would their suppliers. All of the major manufacturers make V-8 engines. Toyota even has one used only in NASCAR. Now they would have another outlet for their investment.  Ford would want to promote their Eco-boost V6.  Imagine a Mercedes “Silver Arrow” powered by two of their V-8 engines. How about the various “super-duty” diesels?  Two Ferrari V-8s with turbochargers?  You can come up with at least two dozen potential entrants.

Speeds        Current top fuel drag boats reach speeds of 240 miles per hour in 1000 feet.  Their boats are lighter and do not need to be able to bear the stress of turns, but still. It should be possible to make boats to fit these requirements that are comparable in speed to the current offerings

Ford is getting almost 1,000hp out of their Eco-boost V-6, which will be used in their new hypercar that will compete at LeMans next year. How much power could two of them make with lesser restrictions? And so on.

Weight.        Minimum weight limits would be established to help even out the varying power levels of the competitors.

Starts.         It would be fun to look into standing starts. Drag boats do this now and the upper class boats literally leap into the air at the start. What a spectacle! Imagine a field of 8 boats with 3 or 4 different engine and hull combinations. They would be given a “box” on the water 100 yards long.  When all of the boats are in the box and near the front, a light system as used in Formula One or drag racing would let them have a drag race for a half a mile to the first turn. Lane positions would be secured before the race by luck of the draw, or perhaps drawing in reverse order of standings in the points.

Balancing.    A competition committee would review the weight limits every two events and make weight or other alterations as needed. At the end of each season the committee would review engine combinations in use and make alterations as needed for the following season.

I long for a future where I can sit on the shore of Lake Washington and watch hydros with different engine combos mixing it up. Great racing and great sounds.

I’d retain the bikinis, however.

 

Save the sport!

 

Copyright 2015                                    David Preston

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cars, Marketing, Rants and Raves | 2 Comments

An Experience Bernie Sanders and I share

What Bernie and I have in common.  

(Please excuse, as this piece is more than a little ego-centric. Since it is mostly about me, me, me, I couldn’t find a way to write around that.

The Sanders speech took me back to a long time ago when things were very different.

In 1976 I was elected to be the president of LWEA, the district teacher’s union. This was a full-time release position that brought with it the highest teacher salary on the schedule, two secretaries and an executive director, an office, an expense account, and enormous responsibilities, as 1976 was the first year teachers were granted the fight to bargain for a master contract.

I had no idea of what I was doing, and was too obtuse to consider the disasters that might ensue, but the older union leadership types that set me up for this had great confidence in me and my totally unproven talents, so what could possibly go wrong?

Of course I had a lot of help.  Intriguingly, many of the people who did the most work wanted to remain anonymous, so most folks had the impression I was doing much more of the work than was the case. I got a lot of credit for really amazing things that I did not actually do.

In any case, that fall we had the first successful strike vote in union history.  Before we could send out the pre-made picket signs the next morning the contract was settled.  With prescience, the picket signs were not thrown out. They were merely stored.

The 2nd year of my presidency, in 1977, came an actual strike of a few days duration. In the months leading up to this, we decided to hold a protest demonstration at a school board meeting over the district’s lack of good faith bargaining.  That afternoon I received word that the district would have me arrested at this protest, which I thought was fabulous.  I knew that WEA would have an attorney get me out of jail before the bed got warm, and I thought it would be a stunt that would really backfire on the district.   Susan was pregnant with our 2nd child, and she did not share my glee. I drove off to the protest in a high state of excitement, leaving her holding 18 month old Dorine. Cue the movie scene!

I’d heard of the plan to arrest me from one of my “spies.” One or two or several people who worked at district headquarters would pass along tidbits of info like this from time to time that were very helpful.  I never knew who they were, and went to some pains to not find out, as it would be the end of their employment.

I arrived at the district headquarters to find a large crowd amassing, and a police car down the street.  As things were being set up I strolled down and chatted with the officer in the patrol car.

“I’m told you intend to arrest me.”

A wry smile.  “Were you intending to break the law?”

“Not really.  Just a protest meeting on school property.”

“Well, as long as you are not blocking traffic in the street or damaging district property, I can’t see that there would be a problem.”

I thanked him and returned to the crowd, both relieved and a little disappointed.

And that’s when things turned surreal.

In a few minutes I found myself standing on the tailgate of our Dodge station wagon, speaking to an enormous crowd with the aid of a bullhorn. There were about 500 people there, in a district with a staff of 800 at that time. That was far more than I had expected.

As I began to speak, it became obvious that this group was really fired up and ready for war.  This was in part due to the several incendiary newsletters I had put out in the weeks leading up to the event.  Just like the Sanders rally, but on a smaller scale, they would roar with applause and shouts of approval at pretty much anything I said.  I had no idea that written and spoken words could so alter the behavior of a group, although history offers up thousands of examples.

I recall three lines of thought that raced through my brain while they were cheering. The first was “How did this happen? How did I get to be standing on a tailgate with a mob in front of me?”  

The second was “Good grief, these people are one sentence away from starting a riot!”

The third was that if I told them to tear the building down and set it on fire, with the school board in it, they probably would attempt just that.

After my speech, one of the teachers, in fact a very nice little old lady, actually suggested that course of action.

It was an awesome experience, but also a bit terrifying.

I wonder what Mr. Sanders, or any other candidate, thinks of circumstances like this, which must occur fairly often.   Where is the line between rousing people to action and going that one step too far?

 

 

Copyright 2015                          David Preston

Posted in Education | 1 Comment

Bernie Sanders political rally

Bernie Sanders Political Rally

We’ve never been to a rally for a Presidential candidate, and last night was a perfect opportunity. With our Fiat adorned with a “Bernie” decal, we ventured from the burbs of Bothell to Hec Edmondson arena at the U of Washington.

We arrived a bit after 5:30pm for a 7pm rally, and a lot of other people had the same idea. We joined a line that was several hundred yards long, and within minutes the length had doubled. We slowly wended our way past people with initiative petitions we’d already signed, and then signed in to receive the “Bernie” stickers that would allow entry. As we approached the doors we saw a 2nd line winding a long way back. In the end, they crammed 12 – 15 thousand people in to the arena, and a holding area for late arrivals had 3,000 more, according to the paper today. They got their own short speech from Bernie while inside a string of 5 intro speakers warmed up the crowd.

Which was not needed. While waiting for over half an hour for the rally to start, the crowd entertained itself with that old standby, “the wave,” which went around and around for many laps, group chants of “Bernie, Bernie,” and others. I’ve been a part of several enthusiastic crowds, and even spoken to a few, but I’d never seen anything like this. Every time the speaker mentioned the name “Bernie Sanders” the crowd erupted into raucous applause. Any statement referring to needed governmental reforms was also rapturously received, with frequent standing ovations.

We were seated about 1,000 rows up, near the top. It was hot and very crowded, and the seats had cushions but no backs. I suggested we go a few rows higher to sit at the top, where we could lean back against the wall, but Susan did not realize the wisdom of this until it was too late. As it was we were fortunate to find two seats on an aisle. It was sticky and hot and getting more so by the minute. Susan was worried about her knees, and asked me to go down to the concession stand for more water. A large soda with a lot of ice and a large bottle of water got us through the event. It was so crowded and hot that my tendency toward claustrophobia was triggered. If anything went wrong we would have a tough time getting out.

When the speakers started the uproar was so loud that I never caught any of their names. The sound system was not quite loud enough, which didn’t help. We listened, or tried to, as garbled speeches were interrupted by raucous applause and shouts of approval – frequently. The first speaker made the error of stating Bernie’s name at the end of her speech, and the crowd went wild, assuming she was introducing him. Four of the speakers were female, and it’s always difficult for people with voices in the higher ranges to use a lot of amplification and not sound shrill. Two of them managed this.

I was a little surprised that the sound was not better, and that they did not hae a sign language person on the stage.

At long last the candidate emerged and the crowd erupted for a several minute long standing ovation. It was amazing. Bernie chose slacks and a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, which I thought was a wise choice for his intended image. He strolled out with his wife of 27 years, who looked thrilled to be there. 

As he began to speak I realized that the function of the intro speakers was to allow the crowd to release some energy and calm down. As a result, and due to his deeper voice, his words were easy to follow.

His speech was the expected recital of the current woes of our culture, including too much wealth in the hands of too few and inadequate health care for the citizenry, especially compared to all other major countries in the world. He did a fine job of connecting issues like mass incarceration, racism, lack of educational opportunity, and low wages; showing how they were all at root the same problem. Each of his opinions was endorsed with rabid enthusiasm by the crowd, but when you paused to think about it they all made perfect sense. This all stood in stark contrast to the bombastic and ridiculous pronouncements of the clown car that is the Republican candidate list.

Well into his speech, Susan’s knees cried “time,” and we made our way out, much to my relief. Once the rally ended, getting out, getting to our car, and getting out of the parking lot would have made for a very long evening.

The rally was pretty much what I expected, although I was a little surprised by the depth of passion shown by the crowd. Mr. Sanders comes across as the “real deal,” and that alone separates him from every other currently announced candidate from either party.

Can he win? My intellect says no chance, but that same intellect had the same opinion of Mr. Obama’s candidacy – both times. I think Obama will be recorded in history as one of the finest Presidents of our history, especially considering a manic opposition willing to bring the government to a halt over pretty much anything. So maybe lightning will strike twice.

I hope my intellect is proven wrong again, and the heart triumphs.

 

Copyright 2015                                  David Preston

 

 

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

The Experience Russell Wilson and I Share

The Experience Russell Wilson and I Share

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson just signed his first “real” contract with the team, having served a three year apprenticeship at low wages (it’s all relative), during which he took his team to the Superbowl twice and won 1.7 or so times.

His new contract offers staggering amounts of money that are hard to put into any meaningful context, with a $31 million dollar signing “bonus” and $60 million guaranteed over a four year span that will earn him over $80 million dollars all told.  In interviews, he refers to being pleased with the “end of the noise” surrounding the contract negotiations, and his eagerness to get on the field and play the game he is paid to play.  Good for him.

I can relate, as I had a very similar experience. Only the numbers are different.

A lot.

In 1969 I applied to be a junior high English teacher with the Lake Washington School District.  This was a bit more difficult than for most, as I was attending the University of Minnesota.   My contract “negotiations” took almost a full year.

I first visited LWSD in the summer of 1968, as part of my first long distance motorcycle trip. I wanted to visit a couple of local districts and talk to some people, and LWSD was the only one who had someone willing to spend time with me.  This makes some sense, as I had not even done my student teaching yet. I was an undrafted rookie, in a sense.  My father could not countenance my going to a job interview, even a pre-interview, in the jeans and boots of my motorcycle wardrobe, so he took me out to Sears and purchased for me a simple suit, a shirt, a tie, and some dress shoes.  I drove his lovely Mercury Cougar to the interview.

I spent more than an hour with Dick Webber (if memory serves), who at that time did all the teacher hiring, and we hit if off well. Everyone in the office was amazed that I’d ridden a motorcycle all the way from Minnesota to apply for a teaching job  (a bit of a stretch there) as in those days very few people rode motorcycles across half the country and back, and even fewer used a Yamaha 250cc two stroke motorcycle for the task. We agreed to stay in touch during my student teaching, and I would check in with him in December when I flew back to spend Christmas with my Dad.

My first student teaching experience was an utter disaster. A UW counselor had lured me into a new experimental program which he thought would be ideal for me.  In this one, student teachers would be encouraged to experiment with their own teaching techniques, rather than slavishly aping everything the “master” teacher did.  At the U of M you did student teaching in two parts.  For the first semester, you taught two or three classes in the morning and then returned to the U for classes in the afternoon. For the second semester you repeated this, but at a different school working with a different teacher.

The first semester of actual student teaching went well. Or so I thought. I taught everything from an advanced honors class of seniors to a last-gasp just before you drop out of school class made up of students who were older in terms of life experiences than I was. By a lot. All of them had jobs; some had children, and most had backgrounds stories that would stand your hair on end.

Just two of a million anecdotes:  One of my hoodlums whipped out a switch blade in class one day and said “Hey, teach, whaddya think of this?”

I replied “Cool. Now that you’ve displayed your manhood maybe you can put it away and we could move on with class.”  His friends roared with laughter and the day was saved – and maybe a lot more. After that all the tough guys liked me. I could play hockey, too, and that helped.

One of the Honors Class assignments was to study the play “The House of Atreus.” The students hated it, and most of them blew it off and ignored my lame attempts to teach it.  It was obvious the final exam was going to be a joke. I told them the final would be an open book test. Smirks all around. How tough could it be?

The test had only one task.  “Explain the development of our modern justice system as shown in this play.” Now, this can be done, IF you have studied the play and listened to the kid up front explain it.  As they read the test paper in front of them, the room got so silent it was eerie. I kept myself from snickering. Then they got to work feverishly paging through the play to attempt to put together a response that sounded like they had a clue.  It was great!  We got along just fine after that.

My “master” teacher was OK, but not all that brilliant to my shallow mind. I copied some of his lesson plans and took some of his advice, but not all of them and not all of it. I also lectured the entire senior class on the history and construction of the Globe Theater, and that got me rave reviews from other teachers.  No student teacher had ever lectured the entire class before.

Of course I made some errors as well. On one occasion I was so eager to be part of the group that I rode my motorcycle back to school after dismissal so I could be present for a faculty meeting I was not required to attend. I walked in with my Bell helmet under my arm and felt that sense you have when you’ve just made a serious social error and do not know what you’ve done.  Turns out the ex-Marine Principal HATED motorcycles. He called my advisor at the U of M and told him he wanted that “dirty long-haired hippy” out of his school at once.  His only contact with me was seeing me walk in with a helmet under my arm.

That did not happen, and for the record, I was not dirty. My hair came down to just over my ears, which in the fall of 1968 was actually pretty short.  And I was far too afraid of both women and drugs to ever be a hippy, as I had little experience with women and none with drugs.  Actually, that is still true…

Good thing the principal was not present later when some of my honors students did a choral reading of a poem by Alan Ginsberg.   They took it seriously and did a great job, but if the principal had heard them reading out the first line, which contains the words “Fuck You America,” read with great conviction, I would have been done.  Should I have thought of that?  For sure.   The master teacher was there and thought it was terrific, however.

My evaluation was a disaster.  Evidently my master teacher, the department chair, and the principal had all decided that I must be stopped, and so it was explained that since this was a new and experimental program, they were also going to redo the grading system. Since I had done about as well as others, (this was a lie), they would be giving me a C for the first half of my student teaching.

In education, a C in student teaching means – you are done. Nobody is going to hire you, and they knew it. My U of M advisor knew it as well, and called for a meeting. He was furious.  After a lot of heated discussion, it was decided I would be given an “incomplete” for student teaching, and that the grade given by my 2nd master teacher would be applied to both semesters.

I was about as low as I could get. What would I tell the LWSD guy at Christmas?

Back in Kirkland, I went to see my man at LWSD, not sure what to do.  I decided to just let it all out, and told him the entire story in even longer form than this, leaving out nothing.  He listened, and asked a few questions, and at the end merely said “OK, let’s see what happens in the 2nd round, and we can talk again in the spring.”  I was still alive!

For my 2nd student teaching experience I did everything differently.  Haircut? Yes. Tie?  Every day.  Bulletin board? Yes, and almost identical in style and content to what the master teacher had done.  Lesson plans – whatever she did. For her part, I think she was happy to have an extra hour or two in her day, as teachers never have enough time – ever.  She rarely spent any time with me.  In her defense, this is not a bad way to deal with student teachers. The only way to learn how to teach is to – teach, and your own internal corrections are usually more valuable than an outsider’s.  Later, I did not interfere with my own student teachers very much, and they both got hired immediately. On the other hand, I only had three student teachers in 31 years, and they were all excellent.

I only allowed myself one small burst of creativity in my second stint. To introduce a resource study unit I invented a trivia game (well before “Trivial Pursuit” existed) that had the students going all over the library and using all of the resources to find answers and score points. The little old ladies who ran the library were almost in tears, as they had never had students excited to be in the library.

The department chair from the first school came and observed me exactly once, for one period. From this he inferred that I’d made a miraculous improvement, quite unprecedented, and so they would recommend I receive a B for all of student teaching.  My U of M advisor had now spent some time with these clowns, and he was beyond irate and ready for war. He wanted me to protest their actions and ask for a hearing, but I declined.  I thought I could get a job with a B, and I wanted to get as far away from these people as possible.

I wrote an essay for my U of M advisor, at his request, that was pretty specific and not politically correct.  He agreed with all of it and ran off a bunch of copies which were given to every master teacher in the Minneapolis school system.  I wish I still had a copy. A friend at another school reported that he was walking down the hall after school when he heard a loud argument from the staff lounge. When he entered he found several teachers yelling at each other. The issue was my essay, and he said an actual fist fight almost broke out.  Good.

Back to Kirkland for spring break and round three.  This time I was sent to two interviews, one with Walt Ferguson, the principal of Kirkland Junior High at that time. I looked out his window and saw sea gulls on the lawn and thought “I really want to teach where there are sea gulls on the lawn.”   The next day I met with Howie Carlson, who was to be the principal of a brand new junior high called Rose Hill Junior High.  The school was half-constructed, and we walked around as he pointed out where things that did not exist would be in the very near future.

I’d assumed that I would get hired to teach at Kirkland Junior High, as wouldn’t all teachers want to be in a new building?  Actually no, as a new building brings with it an enormous amount of extra work, all of it unpaid.  New buildings are perfect for first year teachers who are single, and that was almost half of the eventual Rose Hill staff for the 1969-70 year.  Howie asked about sports, and I mentioned that I liked to play tennis.

“Good,” he said.  “We need a boy’s tennis coach.”

I spluttered that I had never played on a team and never coached anything, and he replied “Do you know which end of the racket to hold?”

That was my application to be the Head Boys Tennis Coach at Rose Hill Junior High.  Three years later was I teaching adult tennis lessons for the Redmond Parks Department, because – I was the Head Boys Tennis Coach at Rose Hill Junior High!

In the parking lot, Howie offered me a job.  I accepted eagerly. The contract would come along later, but a handshake was good enough for me.  As I turned to leave I said, trying to be casual, “Did my student teaching records get here from the University of Minnesota?” “Don’t know. Never looked at them.”

How excited was I? The next day I went to show my Dad my new school – and I could not find it.

Here’s another connection to Russell Wilson.  He seems to have eternal faith that things will work out for him.  I was also confident beyond reason, and only applied seriously to one school district.  I can’t imagine that today, or even latch on to what I was thinking at the time.

Back in Minnesota, my negotiations were concluded, and the noise was over.  Just like Russell Wilson, I was so relieved that I could get on with my life and start my job.  I was fortunate to share an apartment with two business majors, and all three of us had been hired over spring break. Spring quarter was both relaxing and exciting.

I took a one day break to ride my motorcycle to Elk River, Minnesota after the high school principal asked me to interview. It was a one year old school, and he needed an English teacher – and an assistant hockey coach. In reviewing all of the upcoming UM graduates in English education, he could only find one that could play hockey.  Me.  The interview took about 30 minutes and he offered me the job!  However, I had pretty much set my mind on moving west by then, based on a handshake, so I turned down the position.

I sold some of my meager possessions, rented a dual axle U-Haul trailer for my Yamaha and what was left of my stuff, and drove west in my Mercury to begin my career.

It wasn’t quite over. The contract came to my Dad’s house after I arrived.  I knew the first year salary for a teacher was $6,600.  Not much, but a brand new Camaro Z-28 cost $3,500, so I could probably get a loan for one – yellow with black strikes and of course, a four speed.  Especially with some sort of summer job, as I would be staying with my Dad rent free for a month or two.

But when the contract came, it was for $7,332!  I’d forgotten the stipend for being a tennis coach!  Like Russell Wilson, I was now faced with more money than I had imagined, and really more money than I knew what to do with.  I rented an apartment with a floor to ceiling glass wall and a deck facing Lake Washington – for $140 a month.  I made plans to get right out there and sign on the dotted line for that new Camaro.

Instead, I threw my Yamaha into a ditch at 60 mph and broke my shoulder and destroyed a motorcycle that deserved a better fate.  No motorcycle. No summer job. No Camaro, as it turned out.

Do I begrudge Russell Wilson the money?  Not at all.  Money is money and it goes where it wants to go. Doesn’t always make sense, and does not always seem fair. That’s the way it is.  He has chosen a profession where the odds of success are extremely steep, and permanent injury of one sort of several is almost guaranteed.

I knew what teachers made, and I signed the contract with glee.

Could I have made more doing something else?  Maybe.  Maybe not, but what I wanted to do was teach junior high English, and coach.  Doing what I want to do has always been a high priority, and I’ve been fortunate to attain that for my entire life. He wants to play professional football.  It’s so much easier with the “noise” out of the way.

 

 

Copyright 2015                          David Preston

Posted in Education, Marketing, Rants and Raves | 3 Comments

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 http://www.riders.org/.

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:  https://www.payitsquare.com/collect-page/72585

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 1969. 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 owned a small H-D “Pacer” two stroke, 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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