Touring on a Bonneville in Oregon Heat

A Triumph Bonneville In the Heat of Oregon

I’ve become a real fan of the four-day motorcycle trip. The logic of it goes like this: most of my friends are, unlike me, not retired. A four-day journey that begins on a Friday and ends on a Monday consumes only two days of vacation, leaving whatever is left for those other people – families and relatives and such. Of course, this is the second trip of the year, so the logic begins to weaken. In addition, a motorcycle trip can be wearying, particularly if your choice of motorcycle is not a “touring” rig and if your chosen routes include as many corners as possible.  Four days allows for a pretty rapid resumption of normal energy levels when you return,

Distance per day is also a factor of choice.  If you’re on a Goldwing or other luxo-tourer, I am sure you can consume 500-600 miles of freeway on the trot, and be ready for more the next day.  That does not appeal to me. In fact, I’ve begun to reduce the mileage for each day to allow more time for photo stops, a gander at an interesting site or three, and a total lack of stress when we come to a delay of 5 to 25 minutes for road construction or whatever.  I’m now down to a planned 250 – 300 miles a day, as much of it as possible on remote and curvaceous back roads in spectacular scenery. We like to have a lot of time in the evening to sit around and discuss – whatever, while enjoying beverages of choice, pipes, cigars, etc.  The trip just completed took four days and consumed 1143 miles. Paltry by most standards, but perfect for us.

My 2016 Bonneville is equipped for “touring” with a flyscreen, tank bag, and Cortech saddlebags and top bag.  That’s it, and that’s all I want. Your own choices may, and probably will, differ.

From years of leading motorcycle rides for customers when it was part of my job, I have the luxury of a great many friends who are experienced riders with good equipment and a refreshing ability to adapt to route and schedule changes on the fly. Each time I cook up a ride concept, I send out the concept to my friends, and a motley assemblage of fine folk decide to go – usually 4 to 7 or so.  All are naturally pleasant people, and all come from different backgrounds and sport a wild variety of motorcycles.  This time we had my Bonneville, a BMW R1200R, a BMW R1200GT, a Ducati Multistrada, and a Honda CFX 700 cruiser.  Can such a disparate group of motorcycles tour together?  Most definitely, with the right attitude.

The first day began with breakfast, and then the sacrifice of 200 miles down I-5 to Oregon.  This slabbing was accepted as the best way to get to experience Oregon on a diagonal slash from Portland to Sisters on some truly epic roads that take in Estacada and Detroit and other towns you’ve never heard of.

We stayed at the Sisters Inn and Suites, because we had enjoyed it last year.  Unfortunately, this time was not as charming.  It seemed the place had been left to rot for the past year, and the air conditioner in the room Brian and I shared put out some asthmatic cold air for about two minutes and then subsided to a warm trickle of air that was almost liquid.  No biggie, but we paid for better than that.

Instead of partaking of the motel breakfast offering, which was also far below last year, we stopped in town at the Gallery Restaurant, and had the best meal of the trip.  Highly recommended.

We’d been concerned about heat, because the previous week had seen temps over 100 on our route, but for us it was usually in the low 80’s, and since all of us have vented gear it was pretty much perfect. No rain for the entire trip, and few bugs, which I do not understand.

In any case, you need to select your gear with heat in mind.  I have a Fieldsheer jacket for fall and winter, and a Rev’It Jacket for summer heat.  It has all sorts of vents, and with the liner removed and all of the vents open it keeps me cool up to well over 90 degrees. In fact, when it is fully adjusted for heat it actually gets too cold at less than 85 degrees! I also have some Rev’It “dirt” gloves which are light and yet have padding on the knuckles and also flow air.  My riding pants are Triumph “mostly” waterproof pants, and Rev’It boots and an Arai helmet complete my ensemble. Of course there are a myriad of gear choices for heat, as long as you realize that you need to be prepared and geared for it. And water!  Drink a lot of water. If need be, I take out the throat sock that I carry and soak it in water.  In really extreme heat, every time you stop for fuel, place your helmet in the large cooler outside that holds the bags of ice they sell.  By the time you have fueled the bike, gone to the bathroom, and enjoyed a cold drink, your helmet will be ready to go again.

Many people ask about seat comfort on a long ride, or (more often) complain about it.  The Bonneville is a perfect example, as the seat is fine for around town on an hour or two, but it not really designed for long haul comfort.  You have many choices of course. You can have a custom seat made to your own specification and individual derriere shape and size. If you live in England, I would recommend Trimfix, operated by my name twin David Preston.  Or you can purchase fir covers or beaded thingies or air bag thingies – the list is endless.

But what if you like the look of the standard seat?  (Yes, I am that vain) Now your choices are fewer and simpler.  The easiest is simply to get your own butt in better shape. A visit or three per week to the local gym and moderate exercise will do wonders.  And then there are padded shorts.

Here my thinking is diverging. For years I had two pairs of padded undies made for bicycle riders.  The first pair were cheap and worked well.  That pair has disappeared. The second pair were expensive and came from REI, and never really worked all that well.  Lately I have begun to think that it is not the padding that is the issue, but heat. I find that merely standing up for a few seconds whenever the mood strikes (on a straight or nearly so section of road) works much better.  Simply wear underwear that is thin, and stand up once in awhile and I think you will be better off.  Here again, limiting the mileage to less than 400 miles a day also helps.

This only works if you can stand up easily on the pegs. A Bonneville is great for this. I could stand up on my Speed Triple, but it was awkward.  Donna is so short and the pegs so far forward on her Honda cruiser that she cannot stand up at all, which is just not ideal at all, but if you have any of the many Bonneville variants you should be fine.

In the little town of Heppner we had our only close encounter with deer.  Four of them, who were polite enough to cross the road in front of us in a pedestrian crosswalk – much appreciated.  From Heppner we discovered 53, which runs Southeast to our destination of Ukiah, and it is a treat.

Our stop was at the Stage Stop Motel and RV camp, which we had enjoyed mightily last year. Alas, the charming owners had sold out and moved away. The new owners were pleasant, but had brought in a whole slew of RVs and trucks, which killed the ambience of just a smattering of small cabins.  When I made the reservations, I was told they only had one cabin available for that night, so that went to Donna. The four guys would stay in the “bunkhouse.”  OK.  The bunkhouse turned out to be one of the small cabins with everything removed, including the bathroom, except for two sets of bunkbeds. Fortunately, they also had a “barn” with 7 beds, and a bathroom, shower, fridge, etc.  More money but much better, except the beds turned out to be sagging springs with little support.  The rat droppings on the window sill were also not a charming touch.  A second disappointment, but oh well.

One thing to note that you may want to add to your own group trips. Different people may wish to travel at different paces at different times, and this is to be expected with such a variety of bikes.  In our group, everyone wants me to lead because I laid out the trip and it is more fun not to lead. 

Except once in while…

There are times when the roads demanded of some of my friends a higher rate of speed, and this is fine. Just request that they pass on the left and you can listen and watch as they disappear up ahead.  Donna rides the slowest bike and is the slowest rider, and always wants to be the caboose. Again, not a problem. Every once in a while, we pull over and wait for her – usually for less than 30 seconds.  How big a sacrifice is that to have a wonderful person enjoy the trip with you?

In group rides it is much more about the attitudes of the riders than the capabilities of the machines.  Flexibility and a relaxed mind make the day better for everyone.

The third day was the short one, mostly because I had planned to take two or three hours for a hot rod show in LaGrange. Somehow, I had messed up the dates, and discovered a couple of weeks before the trip that the hot rod show was…last month. No matter.  More time for photo stops and other sundry diversions.  We enjoyed riding the famous Rattlesnake Grade up to Lewiston, a fine lunch at the café in Anatone, and stayed at the Cedars Inn in Clarkston, Idaho.  Another cheap motel, but this one was fabulous.  A pool for one important perc, and my favorite, one of those do it yourself waffle makers for breakfast in the morning!

Two friends drove all the way from Walla Walla to join us for dinner, and a festive and hilarious time was had by all.  After dinner we went back to the motel to sit and chat.  I wanted to smoke my pipe, and Brian wanted to enjoy a fine cigar, but there was a “No Smoking in The Pool Area” sign.  Wanting to be polite, I checked with the motel manager, standing in the parking lot with cigarette in hand. His definition of “pool area” was “in the pool.”  Fine then!

During the evening discussions we chucked my intended route for Monday in favor of jogging north of Wenatchee and coming home via Highway 2 instead of the mind-numbing slog that is I-90.  A very worthwhile improvement over what I had planned.  The day was spent in a smoky haze due to massive forest fires all over the Northwest, but perhaps that also kept the temperature reasonable.

Not much exciting here, but there are two things I will share with you that might make the last few minutes of your life worthwhile.

  1. Again, you can “tour” on any motorcycle that is street legal and can maintain speeds of 70mph (or a tad more here and there – wink wink). You do need to make sure the bike is in sound mechanical condition, and you do need enough capacity to carry spare clothes and gear for a wide-ranging span of temperatures – although we hardly needed it this trip.  Among our group we had air compressors, tire repair kits, tools, cell phones with GPS, first aid items, etc.  Make your plans and go.
  2. For this type of touring a Triumph Bonneville is a fine choice. It took everything in stride – comfortable, fast enough, and also turned in over 50mpg.  It did not use any oil, or need air in the tires, or any of the stuff we used to need to keep an eye on.  On the one brisk morning the heated grips were lovely.
  3. It was also, I must say, the only bike that strangers wanted to ask questions about, if that is important to you.
  4. An excellent idea that is not mine was shared with us via Pat’s wife. In the evening we would play “Roses and Thorns.” Each person relates things from the day that were high or low lights. This is fabulous. You learn how other people view the day, and it may change your perception of things. It also spurs a lot of great stories.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!


Copyright 2018                      David Preston




Posted in Equipment, Motorcycles, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Harley-Davidson’s Self-Inflicted Wounds

Harley-Davidson’s Self-Inflicted Wounds

Well, they certainly can’t say they were not warned. Ardent motorcyclists have been worried about the future of Harley-Davidson since about 1998 or so and have been talking and writing about it in magazines and blogs and every emerging social commentary outlet.  Now they are in a world of trouble and seem to be stumbling around blindly looking for salvation. How did this happen?

Ironically, the root of the problem is mired in their unprecedented success in the 1990s. Shortly after the Harley Board of Directors pooled all their individual personal assets and (barely) managed to purchase the company back from sports equipment giant AMF, which had been bleeding the company dry, Harleys became the “in” thing.  By the mid-1990s Harleys had a classic supply and demand gold mine. People paid over list price, sometimes a lot over, simply to be the next in line.  When your bike came in you could purchase it or not, and the color it was became the color you wanted, because that was what you got.  Salesmen did not really sell, but spent their time writing up orders and adding as many extra doo-dads as the customer wanted. Sales people made money, the dealers (who had hung in during the awful years) got rich, and Harley went from success to success as prices were raised to keep the buyer’s lust at a sustainable boil.

When I first went to work at a Harley (and many other brands) dealer in 2000, I was amazed to hear Harley riders bragging to each other about how much they had spent.   The more the better. I had never heard of such a thing. One of the best mechanics spent almost all his time bolting on chrome accessories to new bikes – sometimes to the tune of $5,000 worth – in the year 2000.

Even then you could see the storm clouds coming.  The first time I rode an Ultra Classic I was appalled that such a crude device could be sold as a new motorcycle, especially at such an exorbitant price. I rode one in a Seafair parade and literally gave myself a painful burn on the inside of my right leg from the exhaust. True, Ultra Classics as not designed to be ridden at 5mph in 85-degree heat, but really, it was ridiculous.

A year or two later I assisted some high school marketing students with a project. They had sent a survey to 16-25-year-old people all over the USA asking them what came to mind when the heard the words “Harley-Davidson.”  The response ratio was impressive and the results crystal clear.  Only two responses totally dominated the results. One was ‘”my grandparents” and the other was “thugs and criminals.” All the other responses, added together, were statistically irrelevant.  The school district set up a video conference at the admin center for the students and the Harley marketing people in Milwaukee.  At the time, the technology was cutting edge.  I thought then, as I had many times before, that it is woefully predictable that the finest technology in the school district is reserved for the top administrators – and not available to students or teachers unless it is a special occasion.

In any case, the students made a fine presentation of their work – the methodology, the assessment of the data, and the conclusions.  Clearly this was a dire situation.  Grandparents have a regrettable and well-known tendency to ride off to the next plane of existence, and how many new bikes would they purchase before then?  How sustainable is a legitimate business with a demographic of criminals?  The Harley marketing mavens did not actually yawn, but it was close.  I remember the statement “That does not agree with what we are seeing here.”  One student rose to her feet and with perfect poise and a polite tone, absolutely gave them what for and predicted the future for them if they chose to ignore the obvious. Which of course, they did. Her words were prescient.

A few years later Harley tried out a new engine and style of bike in the V-Rod.  Still a V-twin, but with such modern accoutrements as water cooling and… horsepower. Rumored to have been designed with (a lot of) help from Porsche, the engine was a gem, albeit heavy.  The first time I rode a V-Rod, which had forward controls, I dragged my heel in the first left hand corner, and I knew there was a problem.  The engine, however, was a treat, especially if you used elevated rpms. Most of the customers never did. It was sort of like a traditional Harley V-twin had burbled off to college and earned a PhD in mechanical engineering’   The next step was to make the “Roadster” if I remember correctly, with the pegs moved back and the bars lowered.  This had real potential, but the price was far too high and almost all Harley dealers and their sales people had little interest in sport bikes and did not try very hard to promote any of the V-Rod models.

And there is the saga of Buell. Eric Buell was an engineer who wanted to go road racing with an American engine. His early specials had potentials, and then came production sport bikes powered by modified Sportster 1200 engines.  With some success, Harley bought out Eric and his acumen and brought Buell into the corporate garage.  What he needed was a “real” engine, and he never got it.  The Buells were fine bikes (I rode a Buell sport tourer for almost a year) but always hampered by that paint shaker of an antique engine.  Buell never made a profit in 20 years of trying and eventually was tossed into the corporate trash can. If they had spent some money on an engine…

In 2008 or so Harley tried a new tack – the Ulysses adventure bike. I was tasked with riding the new demo to a sport bike northwest rally and quite enjoyed it.  A bit tall, but lots of suspension travel.  Again, hampered by the engine.  I led a group of about a dozen sport bikes down the twisty and badly rutted road from Randall south and marveled at the suspension compliance. At times I had both wheels off the ground, and each time I spared a thought for the riders behind me on sport bikes as they repeatedly rammed parts of your body that are tender into the backs of their fuel tanks. Toward the end I scraped the toes of my right boot in a hairpin, and that was alarming, as the foot peg is a long way off the ground.  I explained this away in my head, as I felt I always cornered harder to the right. The next corner was a left, and I did it again, so I chose to slow down. The Ulysses had about 45 horsepower and the bikes behind me all had at least double that, but the road was so rough nobody could pass me.  Again, alas, neither Harley or the dealers understood the market the bike was aiming for and the bike eventually tottered off to oblivion.

And now what?  Harley sales are falling, and Trump the Bully’s nutso trade policies have encouraged them to seek manufacturing facilities in other countries.  This has been done previously (by Triumph and others), but nobody else has been flogging the all-American horse for so long.  Recently they have been trotting out some electric bike concepts, and have just announced a new adventure bike, which to my eyes is a spectacularly ugly machine.  Many noticed that the promo shots have the bikes photoshopped into an off-road location, which does not amp up confidence.

Another problem is the revived and popular American flat track racing series.  Harley has dominated dirt flat track racing for decades, but they are now getting well and truly stomped on by Indian.  V-twin engines have always done well on dirt ovals, but Indian’s new technology V-twin is handing Harley their butt on a platter.  Not good, and the timing could not be worse.

The real problem, to my mind, is that both the parent company and the dealers are used to large and heavy cruiser and touring models, powered by large and air-cooled, or mostly air-cooled, engines.  They certainly have the engineering prowess to create truly modern motorcycles, but I see no signs that the company or the dealers have any interest in the types of riders and riding that are now leading the way.

Could there be a way forward?  I think so.  Triumph came out with a new Bonneville a few years ago deliberately styled to look like a late 1960’s model.  It has all the current norms, but they are all hidden.  ABS brakes, heated grips, fuel injection, traction modes, etc., and a radiator for the water-cooled cylinder heads that visually disappears between the frame down tubes.  They have been flying out of the dealerships for a few years now, and there are now so many models with the same basic design brief that I cannot name them all.

Harley COULD create cruisers with a similar design brief that would resemble the good old days, and I think would sell well, but I am not sure the company executive culture can adapt to the need.

In an odd way it reminds me of my current situation.  Going through a divorce that you did not see coming for 46 years means that a lot of what you “knew” to be true for decades is no longer true, and perhaps has not been true for some time.  Most people, and there are more of them than you would expect, seem to deal with this on one of two ways. The first is to stay true to yourself and keep going ahead as the person others know you to be, even though your core family support has been yanked away.  The second way is to seek radical change in how you dress and how you relate to others, often embarking on a fruitless quest for love and affection in areas previously foreign to you.  I have been fortunate to receive excellent advice from close friends who have endured similar agonies, and the first method, which they all urged, is serving me well.

For Harley, salvation lies in sticking to the types of motorcycles they do well, but committing to the new dictates of less weight, (a lot less), fuel injection, water cooling, and electronic technology galore, in a package that resembles the Harleys of yore.  Chasing technologies they do not actually like (electronic bikes) and markets they do not understand (adventure and sport bikes) will not work.

I hope Harley gets sound advice equal to what has been offered to me, but I am not sure they will take it.

And that is sad.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2018                                David Preston


Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 6 Comments

Motorcycles Looking for Ghosts Backwards 2018

Here is the final version

Motorcycles Looking for Ghosts Backwards            2018

Pat Cordell, Donna Gaross, Rick Panneman, Brian Hardy, me

Day #1 to Sisters.  7am Brekkie  8:30am start   Friday,  August 10th

  1. I-405 and then I-5 to Portland to I 205                                  200 miles
  2. (fuel) 26 to Estacada to 224  Breitenbush Road
  3. 224 becomes NFS 46 to Detroit (fuel / lunch)                       83 miles
  4. South on 22 35 miles
  5. Right on 20 to Left on 226                                                         25 miles
  6. Left on 226 to Lava Fields (pause)                                           22 miles
  7. East to Sisters (fuel)                                                               15 miles

Sisters Inn and Suites   605 N Arrowhead Trail, Sisters OR 97759

(541) 549 – 7829     $159.63 per room confirm # 60589                    380 mile

Day #2                       Sisters to Ukiah                  Saturday, August 11th

  1. EAST on 20 to Redmond                                                             20 miles
  2. NORTH on 97 to Shaniko                                                             65 miles
  3. SOUTH on 218 to Antelope                                                         10 miles
  4. EAST on 218 to Fossil      (fuel)                                                   20 miles
  5. NORTH on 19 to Condon                                                             46 miles
  6. EAST on 206 to Heppner                                                             70 miles
  7. EAST on 74 to 395                                                                         40 miles
  8. SOUTH on 395 to Ukiah                                                               30 miles

Stage Stop Motel  503 Main St, Ukiah, OR 97880

$65 for Donna  $65 for 4 guys in a bunkhouse!

Phone:(541) 427-3352   $65?      301 miles

Day #3           Ukiah to Lewiston                          Sunday, August 12th

  1. EAST on 244 to US 30 to LaGrande 60 miles
  2. 82 to Enterprise (fuel)                                                   70 miles
  3. NORTH on 3 to Boggin’s Oasis Pause?                                 41 miles
  4. NORTH on 129 to Clarkston 40 miles

EAST to Cedars Inn 208 743-9526  1716 Main Street

$57.24 x 2 and $43.20                                                                    210 mile

Day #4                       Lewiston to home              Monday, August 13th

  1. WEST on US 12 to 261 to Starbuck             52 miles
  2. 261 to LEFT on 260                                                                      30 miles
  3. 260 to Connell (fuel)                                                              25 miles
  4. WEST on 260 to RIGHT on 17 to LEFT on 26 25 miles
  5. WEST on 26 to I-90 45 miles
  6. VANTAGE (lunch)  to I-90 to Ellensburg        (fuel)               35 miles
  7. I-90 home                                                                         120 miles

337 miles

Posted in Motorcycles | Leave a comment

The Underbelly of the Anti-Union Movement

The Underbelly of the Anti-Union Movement

Not much ink has been utilized regarding the recent Supreme Court decision regarding unions. Specifically, what happens to union members who pay dues, earn contract benefits, and who work with those who opt out but get to keep the benefits that union members have worked for?

This takes me back to 1976, when I was the president of the Lake Washington Education Association.  For those who are younger, which would include virtually everyone reading this, 1976 was the first year in Washington state that teachers were given the legal right to bargain for what was termed a master contract. Prior to that time most teachers did work under some contract, but it was always at the convenience of the school district.  Part of the reason that I’d been elected president at the youngish age of 29 was that the seasoned veterans who out me up to it saw the storm clouds coming, and reasoned that they would need a young person with a lot of energy and a healthy dose of naiveté to face the storms ahead.  They knew me better than I did.

My enthusiasm for unions did not come from home. My parents were both mechanical engineers and conservative Republicans, back when that political label had a justifiable basis.  When I was first elected, as probably the youngest president in local association history, I called my father to tell him the good news. His response was “Why would you want to do that?”  He was not impressed.

I’d first been filled with union zeal at a school board meeting three or four years earlier.  Association representatives were there to present proposals for wages and so forth for the coming year. The school board at that time was comprised of local attorneys and business owners, and I was shocked by their behavior.  They literally sneered at the presenters, veteran teachers who’d worked in the district for years. The disrespect was palpable, and disgusting. One remarked, referring to the crowd in the room, “You always bring the zealots to these things.” I had certainly not been a zealot before that sentence, but was transformed into one immediately.

I became a “building rep,” which was easy as nobody wanted to be one, and later a member of the Executive Board of the Association, which was also a job few wanted.

As I spoke with fellow teachers, I became more and more disenchanted with those who chose not to belong to the association.  They usually passed off their stance with high-flown phrases along the lines of “I am a professional, not a union member,” or “I can take care of myself.”

Their arrogance was astonishing, coupled with the fact that I never met one of them who turned down the salary and benefit increases, or improvements in class size that had been achieved through negotiations they had nothing to do with.  They were merely freeloaders.  There were a few who could not belong for religious reasons, and I gave them a pass.

I took office on July 5th, but had already been hard at it for months on my own. Negotiations had already begun.  The contract proposed was lengthy and complex, and agreement was not reached until the day before the school year was to begin, and that only after the first successful strike vote in district history.

My first official self-assigned task was to read every bit of correspondence to or from the president for the preceding few years. This was a mammoth undertaking, but so educational it was well worth the time. 

I went to one negotiations session and quickly concluded that was not for me.  The association president leaping over the table and assaulting the district bargainer would not end well. Fortunately, I had been gifted a large and experienced team of negotiations experts, all but one of them teacher volunteers who spent hundreds of hours on a grinding and draining process.  It should be noted that at that far away time, the association represented only the teachers. 

Everyone has their priorities, but mine was agency shop. Under this, those people covered by the master contract would pay union dues whether they chose to belong to the union or not.  Those who had legitimate religious concerns could donate the dues amount to a charitable cause agreed to by the teacher and the association. This portion of the contract would not cost the school district a penny.

I remember the day when the negotiations team reported that agreement had been reached on agency shop.  I’d been dealing with a teacher who wanted to take a year off.  After twenty years of teaching junior high, he needed an emotional and intellectual rest.  He’d applied for a one year sabbatical with no pay, and the district had turned him down.  He called for help, and I had no idea what to do. I called the state association, and the WEA representative had astounding advice. He asked me to find out how many days of sick leave the teacher has coming, and ask him to get a note from a doctor recommending he have time to recover from the rigors of teaching junior high.  It turned out the teacher had far more than 185 days of sick leave accrued, so with the doctor’s note he was able to get the entire year off he had desired. With pay.

As you can imagine, he was extremely grateful. As a part-time sign maker, he made a couple of gorgeous wooden “Lake Washington Education Association” signs as a gift, one for the stairs leading up to the office, and one for the roof. We were up on the roof installing the sign when my secretary called up with the news that agency shop had been agreed to.  I was ecstatic, and probably fortunate I did not fall of the roof in my exultation.  What was left was a long list of items relating to wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment.  I stumped for them with all of my efforts, but personally I was done.

Once the contract was settled, agency shop quickly became the norm, and was soon not even thought of or referred to.  A couple of the teachers who had exemptions came to see me to decide on a worthy charity, and I agreed to whatever they suggested.

One thing to keep in mind is that in most unions, there are people who enjoy their job but due to marital or family situations, do not really need the money.  Their positions tend to be a little different from others.  One teacher came to me the month after I had returned to the classroom two years later. By now we had endured the first strike vote (1976), the first strike (1977), and the second strike (1978), which took place as I was leaving the presidency to return to the classroom. She came to me and asked when the raises we had won would become effective.  “Well,” I replied, “We settled before the 10th of the month, so everything should be in place for the difference to show up in your September paycheck.  (Teachers are paid once a month on the last working day of that month).

“Oh goody!” she replied.

“Nordstrom’s?” I asked.

“Yes!” And off she went to the new BMW her husband had given her for her birthday. She was a fine person and a good teacher, but we lived in different worlds.

So what happens now?  With the Supreme Court decision, as I understand it, provisions for agency shop will probably come under attack in many states that have had such provisions for years.

In my experience, most “right to work” legislation is written for the purpose of allowing rich people to retain even a larger share of the pie than they already get.

Some will cry out “But some unions are corrupt.”  That is probably true, but which do you think is a larger problem for society – corrupt unions or corrupt businesses?

What happens on the job site if agency shop is crippled or eliminated?  How “collegial” do you wish to be with someone who works with you and eagerly laps up the benefits gained by union support while contributing nada in finances or effort toward that end?  How important is it for a company or school district to have a work force that works together? If a strike does take place, will non-members cross or attempt to cross a picket line and become scabs?  How will they be received when the strike is over? What will happen to them if they choose to stay away? 

It ain’t going to be pretty.



David Preston                                                Copyright 2018

Posted in Education | 1 Comment

The Triumph Tour of Gentlemen

 The Triumph Tour of Gentlemen

Can you tour on a Triumph Bonneville T 120? Of course you can. You can “tour” on any motorcycle capable of maintaining safe highway speeds – which in some areas approaches 80 mph.   The question is always how to define “tour” and what sort of trip you want.

For me and a few of my friends, a great “tour” is about 4 days long.  Most of us have done much longer journeys of a week to several weeks, but with the demands of jobs and families there is much to recommend the 4 day adventure. Many people can shave a Friday and Monday off their allotted vacation time, and leaving on a Friday and returning on a Monday can eliminate some of the morning and evening megalopolis traffic crush.

We’re also averse to the “Iron Butt” sort of trip.  By keeping the mileage down we’re free to stop anywhere for almost any length of time – for a picture, a break, a surprise hot rod show in a small town, time lost to construction or…ahem…getting lost.  I plan each day to be about 250 to 350 miles in length, which is absurdly short to folks who prefer to roam the freeways. Our preference is two lane back roads that are seldom used by almost anyone, and they eat up time, even at brisk speeds.

From the Seattle area, and perhaps yours, you can cover a lot of interesting pavement in a 1,000 – 1,400 mile loop. The coast of Oregon, the friendly folks and spacious skies of Canada, the wonders of eastern Washington, the California northeast tangle of wondrous roads – there are years and years of options for such trips.

Where to stay? Although most of the folks who go with me can afford finer accommodations, my preference is 2nd or 3rd tier motels. The Internet will pop up several in any town you expect to visit.  I prefer to phone for reservations in person, rather than using the computer. You can tell a lot about a place by the voice and manner of whomever answers the phone. With a small motel, you are probably talking to the owner, who is eager to help and has lots of information about local attractions and restaurants.

Just back from such a four day wander, and the experience proves the point – at least to me.

I plan these trips in an old school way using paper maps. An excellent use of time during our dreary days of February rain.  Using computer technology and applications might be more efficient and faster, but certainly less fun. Once the route has sort of been finalized (it is never actually final) the word goes out to friends, and eventually a group of five to eight people will be formed.

In this case we had six people, one of whom had never done a group trip and had returned to riding recently – and that provided some interesting perspectives along the way.  Two people on 2016 Triumph Bonneville T 120s, and four on BMWs – a pair of 1200 RTs, a R1200S, and a K1200S, if I have the model nomenclatures correct. The title of “Triumph Tour of Gentlemen” is thus a bit of a stretch, but the author gets to title!  One of the people was new to everyone else, which is a bit of a risk, but it worked out very well.

A word to the women: I’m well aware that women can and do ride, and we usually have at least one female in the group.  On this occasion it was all male, and they were all, indeed, gentlemen!

We met for breakfast and set of for Canada by the most interesting way to get there. The North Cascades Highway is considered by many to be the most beautiful road in Washington, with a pause for lunch in Twisp and then north to the little town of Oroville.  Perfect weather certainly got us off to a great start.

Our motel was the Camaray, and I consistently forgot to ask how it got the name. Our rooms were clean and well-equipped, and I was surprised by the pool, which I did not expect for such modest lodgings.  Added interest came from the beer brewery across the street, Eva’s diner a half a block away for breakfast, and a fine restaurant across the other street that served the wares created by the brewery. I was not that hungry, and not ordering anything proved wise, as all of my friends ordered more than each could eat, so I had a fine amateur smorgasbord!  Our mileage for the day was an easy and gentlemanly 263 miles of great weather, fantastic scenery, and gently violated speed limits.

Back in the room I noticed something hanging in the shower, a black and gray fabric something that I took to be some sort of do-rag that Brian wore under his helmet, even though I could not recall him using one. Later I learned that he had seen it and had the same reaction about me!  Further investigation behind the shower curtain revealed two items. The black and silver number was actually a bra, and next to it was some sort of grey camisole thingy.  We thought this highly amusing. The next morning, after a shower, I discovered two more items tucked away in a corner of the shower curtain. Panties!  One pair for an average size woman and one for either a small woman or a girl.

Being a boy scout, I returned them to the office. The owner did not see the humor of this at all, and was embarrassed and a bit peeved at her housekeeping staff. I assured her that the discoveries had been fun for us, and her motel was a treat. We hope to stay there again.

After breakfast we headed for the Canadian border, a scant 8 miles away. Crossing the border was easy and took only a few minutes, the Canadian border guard figuring correctly that six middle-aged or older men on motorcycles did not constitute much of a threat to the good people of Canada.

Off to Osoyoos and the Peachland Hot Rod Show.  There was confusion as to its location, as there is also a town called Peachland a few dozen miles north. At this point we realized most of our super smart phone and GPS technology was not working very well in Canada (for various reasons), and none of us had brought maps!  I ALWAYS carry paper maps, but somehow I’d spaced this time.

After a stop for fuel and some conversation with a couple of locals, we found the hot rod show, and were gobsmacked.  It was huge!  Far more than a mile of all sorts of vehicles of every modified description.  We quickly got separated into groups of two or three, and spent way more time than expected ogling and inspecting and in some cases wondering why the owner had gone in a particular direction.

Back at the bikes we realized that we were now far behind our tentative schedule, and our planned route for the rest of the day would be very long. Eric suggested returning south and then heading east on Canadian 3, which was the brightest idea of the trip.

I’d been there 30 years ago, but forgotten that the ride from Osoyoos to the east on 3 is a magical experience.  I rode for 100 miles non-stop, and it was a highlight of the trip.  Patrick and Will decided to romp ahead, and disappeared into the future.  Kirk and Brian stopped for pictures here and there, and I spent most of the time riding by myself, which was fine by all.

We have some unwritten rules for rides like these that work for us. Of course Kirk did not know them, as they are unwritten and nobody had told him.  For your potential interest then:

  1. Always ride your own bike at your own chosen pace.
  2. If you are the leader, you have some responsibility to keep an eye on the people behind you.
  3. If you wish to go faster, that is fine. Just allow plenty of space and always pass on the left.  (In countries that drive on the right)
  4. You are now the leader. If someone or two go with you, a new and smaller group has been created.
  5. If you are wont to stop for pictures, letting people know ahead of time is nice, but not required.
  6. If you prefer to ride at a slower pace or have a motorcycle that requires it, good for you. Please do so rather than trying to keep up at a pace that is uncomfortable. Those in front will be happy to stop once in a while for the group to coalesce.  If they do want to do that, don’t ride with them.
  7. The person with the shortest fuel range should fill the tank whenever anyone else does.

We re-convened at a gas stop, which was handy as Wil and I both had that little angry low fuel yellow light blaring at us from the instruments.

There are actually three ways to cross back into the US. The first will take you down to 395 on the way to Spokane. The second will take you to Keller and then on to our stop for the night in Colville.  But we went for a third, taking 3B short of Castlegar and heading for the border south and east of Rossland. Serious error. As we cruised toward the border we passed a large sign stating that the border was open from 9am to 5pm. I assumed I’d read it incorrectly, and recalled a jest from earlier in the day when I asked “What happens if the border is closed?”  Now I noticed that there was no traffic at all on this highway.  Then we came across two people in-line skating down the middle of the road.  Uh oh. Then a 2nd sign repeating the first, and finally the border – closed as advertised.

Now it was getting toward very late afternoon. We returned to Rossland to find our way to the correct border crossing and got lost – again.  I led the group on a bizarre wending way up a series of stepped narrow roads between houses on the cliff, which some of the members of the group thought was terrific.  After stopping to chat with ever-friendly Canadians – twice – we eventually got back to the border crossing we should have gone to in the first place.  The US border guard was also friendly  (another stereotype shattered) and once on US soil my phone worked again and I could call the motel in Colville to assure them we were still intending to be there. 

Our motel this time was the Selkirk, which has little to recommend it. My friends all decamped up the street for dinner, while I rode to the local Safeway and picked up vittles for a relaxing picnic on the park bench in front of my room.  Alas, this motel did not feature discarded women’s underwear.  Our mileage today was about 350 miles, due to our self-inflicted route errors, but everyone agreed it had been a fantastic adventure.

The next morning we loaded up with a fine meal at a restaurant with an outside table, and then were off to Sherman Pass and on to Republic.  Then down toward the Grand Coulee dam, with an empty road and great scenery.  Patrick had never seen the dam, so it made for a handy stop, with lunch afterward, and then a short detour to a vantage point high above the damn I had never seen before.  Kirk had decided to spend more time at the visitor’s center, so we missed him at lunch, but he was sure he could find Waterville by himself.

The ride to Waterville was pleasant but also taxing, as we were up against a very strong headwind. This is tiring on a Bonneville with only a fly screen to deflect, especially at, ahem, elevated speeds, and I was tired by the time we got to Waterville.

This was our shortest day, at about 220 miles or so, but that was fine.

The historic Waterville hotel is an absolute treat, and a must stop for your travels. David the proprietor has a wild and wacky sense of humor, but also a wonderful facility. He refused to check us in before we had a tour, as there were several options.  In the end, Brian and Eric and I had a vast suite, with three beds in separate locations, a living room, two exits, and a completely equipped kitchen.  Patrick and Wil had a two bed room upstairs, and Kirk, who caught up to us, had his own room.

Once disadvantage of this hotel on a Sunday is that there are no restaurants open after 5pm. However, the mini-mart up the street had beer and snacks, which was really all that was needed after a hefty lunch. We relaxed on the porch.   David came out to announce that our mutual friend Robert had e-mailed him to state that I had an underwear story for him. I related the Oroville tale, and David brought out a huge box of miscellaneous underthings left by previous visitors!   He asked me not to take a picture and post it, because many people have no sense of humor.  Then he uttered the funniest line of the trip.

“You don’t make any money renting rooms. The real profit comes from selling stuff like this on e-bay!”   (He was kidding!)

Our last day began with a spirited romp up to Twisp for fuel, and then a return over 20 to Marblemount and then home.  Alas, the weather that had been so nice had turned, and we spent the day in and out of wind and very cold rain.  I hate intermittent rain days, because your gear gets wet, and then the rain stops and your gear is evaporative cooling you as it dries (when you are cool enough, thank you) and then it rains again.  Especially if the water proofing fails on your jacket, and then your pants, and finally boots.  Much worse for Kirk the rookie. He had read the weather reports and believed them – NOBODY does that – and had not brought any rain gear at all. Nice that a T 120 has heated grips, at least.

Due to the weather and various end points, we actually said our farewells in Twisp, and came across each other at various points on the way home. I paused in Marblemount, for example, for a cup of hot coffee and a candy bar while I waited for the rain to let up.  Alas, it did not, so there was nothing left to do but ride home to a long hot shower.

All told, 1,040 miles, and it was bliss.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!


Copyright 2018                       David Preston




Posted in Motorcycles, Travel | 1 Comment

Curiosity Did Not Kill the Cat

Curiosity Did Not Kill the Cat

This is the sequel to the essay I posted yesterday called “The Crash That Wasn’t.”

Ever since I’d gotten home from that incident it had bothered me.  A lot. I’ve ridden this road for decades, and had never come across anything like what I encountered.

I’ve taken enough advanced rider courses of one sort or another to be well aware of the wisdom of always looking for gravel and sand at the apex of corners, either kicked up by vehicles edging off the pavement or by run-off from dirt driveways and fields, etc.  Been there, done that, and could design the t-shirt.

So what happened?

Years ago I knew a fine fellow who was an expert in accident reconstruction, and owned a small company that did such work for individuals, police departments, and municipalities.  I had assisted John on a couple of occasions by using my vast work motorcycle e-mail contacts to find some who owned a particular year and model of motorcycle who would be willing to be filmed riding a particular section of road at a specific speed, and be paid for it.  John also put on a seminar I arranged at the dealership one Saturday morning educating all who attended on the technology, methods, and procedures he used.  I found it fascinating.

John’s first career had been with the State Patrol, and he rode a Honda Goldwing often and well.  On one of our trips he chided me for stopping the group for a rest on a wide area of pavement next to a hairpin corner in eastern Washington.  He felt I should have parked the group all the way to the end of the section I had chosen, because as it was, all of our bikes were parked in what he termed the “debris field” if someone overcooked the turn and created a disaster. I tucked that factoid away for future use.

One interesting tic of John’s was that the he rode the Goldwing but was an active member of the BMW club, including serving as the co-president. He explained that he liked Goldwing motorcycles and BMW people.

So after contemplating my near disaster for a day, I decided to do some accident reconstruction research of my own.  I’m off on a four day ride this Friday, so today was set aside to get the bike really cleaned, waxed, oiled, and generally spiffed, and then fueled to the brim.  Since I had to go out to fill the tank anyway, it made perfect sense to ride an extra 30 miles or so to check out the scene of my near-disaster.  Also, it was a perfect day for a ride…

As I turned onto Ben Howard road again, my senses grew more alert. I sort of remembered where the corner that caused me grief was, but not exactly.  I watched carefully as a couple of miles rolled by, but when I reached the scene it was pretty obvious, even though seen two days of traffic had rolled through the evidence. I trundled through the remaining gravel gingerly, and then turned around and rode back to a safe wide spot on the other side of the road.

Sorry for the sideways –  sufficient gravel even a week later

This was not the scene of a few random pieces of gravel. It was obvious that a small tsunami of dirt and gravel had flowed across the entire road.  The source was a very steep driveway of dirt and gravel that intersected the road on the right, just before the apex of the corner.  As I looked at it and noted the various tire tracks through the remains of the detritus (my own wild tire gyrations had been erased by later traffic), at last the penny dropped.


Agh!  Cannot get the pictures to be up and down!  Anyway, here is the offending driveway

I recalled that a few days earlier the Seattle area had been hit by truly momentous rain storms.  Yes, it does rain a lot here, but usually our rains are closer to mist, as in the old line “missed, Oregon, hit us.”  These were rains that were more like the summer rainstorms of my youth on Minnesota – true gully washers that remove almost all visibility.  In Minnesota those storms had lasted minutes, whereas these had lasted for hours.  It was now obvious that the storms had indeed been gulley washers for the driveway, washing a two inch wall of dirt and mud and gravel across both lanes of the narrow road.

I give up – just turn your head! 

I had not seen the danger because the problem was completely obscured by filtered sunshine and heavy tree cover at the entrance to this corner.  The dark mud and gravel looked just like the shaded elderly asphalt of the preceding two dozen corners.

Lesson learned:  if you are riding in, or just after very heavy rains in your area, the places that might be expected to have a little gravel, sand, or dirt, might very well have quite a lot of it.  Even if you’ve been riding that same road for decades.

Y’all be careful out there.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often

Copyright 2018                               David Preston


Posted in Motorcycles | 2 Comments

The Crash That Wasn’t

The Crash That Wasn’t

Since this essay deals with motorcycle safety, I should begin with some background for those who are not frequent perusers of my musings.  I’ve been riding motorcycles for 51 years.  After three decades of enthusiasm, including riding across all or part of our country several times, I wangled a job in the motorcycle business as a sort of glorified customer services representative.  In this capacity I led customers on rides from a day’s duration to nine days, did the initial break-in on a few dozen Harleys meant for a rental fleet, did test rides of service bikes and proposed new products, and rode every used bike I could get my hands on.  By the time I retired in late 2013 I had ridden well over 500 different motorcycles.  I posted my notes on most of them about three years ago on this site.  I have taken several rider safety courses, and helped with the curriculum for one. I have been trained in dual sport riding.

 I have published eight books, all of which are either about motorcycles of feature motorcycles prominently. And all of which can be purchased right from this site – shameless plug! – as e-readers (all), or paperbacks (most).

None of this is mentioned to brag, (OK, a little bit), but to make the point that this is not my first rodeo.  None of what follows was due to lack of experience or knowledge, or lack of concentration, or drugs or alcohol or any of the other factors that usually factor in.

Yesterday, I essentially crashed my 2016 Triumph Bonneville.  The “essentially” is added because I did not actually hit the ground, and neither the motorcycle nor I was damaged (more on the latter later).

For decades, various ad campaigns have proclaimed that “anyone can learn to ride a motorcycle.”  I disagree. Most people can learn to ride a motorcycle, but simply knowing how to do it is not enough.  You need to really want to do it, with passion. You need to accept the challenges and responsibilities that will come to you,  which are far greater than in a mere car, and to acknowledge that you must always be open to learning something new.  And that even when things are ideal, the world can go turnip-shaped in a second.  Like today, for example.

I was romping down Ben Howard road, ironically the same road that featured in my last essay about a hapless Mustang GT 350 driver who launched himself into a swamp.  But my incident was not comparable to his. 

On this occasion, I was leading three good friends on a perfect day, riding at an invigorating pace, but not really pushing it all that much. The sun was breaking through scattered cloud cover, and most of the corners were in deep shade.

Except for the corner than wasn’t.  I have been riding this road for 40 years, and I had never seen this. What appeared to be shade was actually a patch of deep and dark gravel.  Not a few random pebbles that might cause the front tire to skip and elevate your heart rate, but a section about 10 yards square with dark gravel about two inches deep!  I have no idea how it got there, as it was much too much to be the run-off from dirt driveways that can occasionally provide a threat.

Suddenly the motorcycle made a violent yank to the right. The front wheel was plowing into the gravel, while the rear was sashaying the left.  The bike was crashing to the right, and I was falling off the saddle.  I could see the left handlebar up to the right, and I knew it was all over.  But my right foot hit the ground at about the same time the front wheel got back to solid pavement. The bike then yanked itself and me back up and now it felt like I would “highside” off to the left.  Instead, the bike shook violently a couple of times and settled down to straight ahead, while my brain struggled to keep up with events.

My first thought was to pull over and stop, but as I continued down the road and past the site of the Mustang driver’s crash, I began to take stock.  The bike was not damaged, and neither was I.  My foot was a little sore where it had slammed into the gravel, and I could feel where my left palm had slapped onto the hand grip as the bike righted itself, but there was really no reason to stop.   If I kept going I might have a chance to calm down and not have anything negative happen. Like throwing up.

A couple of miles later I came to a stop and my friend Bob rode up next to me.  His face made me feel worse, as he was white as a sheet.  He asked if I was OK, obviously shaken by what he had seen.   Actually worse for him as an observer, as I was too busy to be aware of what was happening.   Pat and Tony were further back, and later told me that from the gravel being thrown to each side and the flashes of chrome, they just assumed I had crashed and were preparing to stop and assist.

When we stopped for lunch a half hour later I could see the gravel dust on the right side of the front tire.  It was a close thing.

So what saved me?   Years of experience?  No.  My incredible skills and top level reaction times?   No.  I believe that the Triumph saved itself.  The wheelbase was long enough that the front tire reached solid pavement before the bike hit the ground, and once there the forces of physics were enough to yank it upright.  The relative lack of weight compared to some other motorcycles kept it from pitching me off to the left.  If I’d been on the Triumph Speed Triple I loved and rode for eleven years and 50,000 miles, for example, I think I would have crashed. The Speed Triple has a much more aggressive turn-in and a shorter wheelbase.

Another factor that bears mentioning is physical fitness.  I am 71 years old, after all. For the past year I have been taking a class called “Essentrics” at my local YMCA.  At first glance, how tough can an hour of stretching and flexibility and muscle exercises be?  Ten minutes into the first class you notice that you need to pause here and there as your muscles scream out for relief, and then you notice that instructor Natalia does not pause – ever.   I’ve been doing this twice a week for almost a year, and I still cannot complete 100% of the exercises every time, but I am getting there.

This incident with the gravel wrenched my body in several directions in less than a second.  Again, I am 71.  I am positive I would have strained or pulled or torn several muscles had I not been taking this class.  It is also quite likely that improved flexibility helped me when I really needed it.  Once back home I realized that I was not in any pain, but simply filled with the pleasant fatigue that comes from a few hours of riding a motorcycle at a good pace on winding back roads.

There are other programs out there, but Essentrics I can wholeheartedly recommend, and Natalia and the Northshore YMCA if you live near me.

Thoughts in conclusion?  Safe riding classes are a cheap investment.  Really good equipment is a great place to reward yourself for good behavior.  Experience is helpful.  Getting in shape and staying there offers more rewards that might be apparent.

But sometimes – stuff happens.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often


David A Preston                  Copyright 2018

Posted in Equipment, Motorcycles | 3 Comments

Risk vs. Reward: There but for the grace of Whomever…

Risk vs. Reward: There but for the grace of whomever…

As a motorcyclist, do you feel you have “fast” days and “slow” days?  Sometimes you’re in a great mood and really into the road and the machine. You ride aggressively,focusing on smooth corner entry with a late apex (on public roads) and vigorous acceleration at corner exit, for miles and miles of winding back roads.  On other days you choose to simply relax and meander. 

This has always struck me as one of the many differences between a passionate enthusiast and a pro racer. A pro is never allowed to have a not fast day.  It does not matter if jet lagged, in a foreign country, upset about some personal issue, and bags lost on the way to the hotel from yet another airport – it’s time to practice or qualify and to be fast. Right now.

I am sort of glad I never had the talent to ever approach such a life circumstance.

Yesterday, for me, was a “slow” day.  There are few motorcycles better suited to this than a Triumph Bonneville 1200.   Of course the Bonneville can go fast, but even then, when I’m in the right mood on the right road, the bike seems to be whispering in my ear.  “Really? OK, but look at the scenery you are missing.  Oh right, sorry. Back to it.”

Motorcycle choice does affect this. The Muzzy Raptor I once owned was essentially a road race bike with a license plate.  It did not suffer fools gladly, and had no interest in just poodling around.  The Kawasaki ZX 12R I owned could accelerate so hard the information was streaming into my visor faster than my brain could process.  My Triumph Speed Triple was a few steps back from those, and could be a fine companion on a “slow” day, although it seemed to prefer a more rapid pace.

Whatever your motorcycle, you are constantly evaluating risk vs. reward.  Going fast has been a reward for men and women since the first ox cart got smoother wheels.  How fast are you comfy with? How fast is the bike comfy with?  A  Triumph Rocket 3 can go very fast, but I always felt that if an error was made by the rider, the bike would take out a house or a small forest on its way to disaster.  Harleys may be designed for cruising, but one of the best rides of my life was on a winding back road on a Road King.  Here again, the mass of the thing was always present, but it was fun to be aware of it and control it – more or less.

Yesterday I was riding relatively slowly on Ben Howard Road.  This is a lovely stretch of 10 miles or so east of Seattle that runs from Monroe to Sultan along a river, rising and falling through fields and trees, with many corners of differing degree. I’ve been riding this road for decades, and it is a favorite.  What came to mind were the Isle of Man races I’ve been watching on TV this week.  Ben Howard road resembles parts of the Isle of Man course, except Ben Howard is a bit wider, and I was going up to about 65 miles an hour, where the current lap record at the Isle of Man is an AVERAGE of 137mph!    That makes you think.

For me, the risk vs. reward ratio at the Isle of Man is terribly out of whack.  Over the past century and more, an average of one racer per year has died at these races, and many of us feel slightly guilty about enjoying the coverage. It is awesome to watch, but the price is exorbitant.

One of the many reasons some people like motorcycles is identical to one of the many reasons some people do not like motorcycles.  Your fate is usually in your own hands. You can dial the degree of risk up or down as you choose.  Modern motorcycles are much safer than the steeds of yore, with ABS brakes and traction controls and triple disc brakes – but you can still choose to “ride like a knob” at any time, and you will bear the responsibility for the result, whether good or ill.

Compare this to cars.  I had the opportunity to drive a Mercedes Benz 500 AMG convertible around a race track at speed about a decade ago.  It was so frustrating!   No manual shift, of course. Worse, there were so many safety electronic bibbity bobs present that the car did not want to do what I wanted it to do. The race instructor in the passenger seat was telling me to hit the inside rounded curb with the inside front tire, but the car would apply brakes and other systems to make sure the car did not act as desired.  After a couple of laps I wondered what you would have to do to make the car crash!  I have never pondered that on a motorcycle.  The risk is always right there, attached to your hands and feet.

I had a friend who died in a motorcycle accident years ago. He was a custom painter, and a very nice guy. Unfortunately, he liked beer. A lot of beer.  His favorite pastime was to sit at a bar in the evening, and then ride home at speed. His bike was a Sportster with (natch) a lovely custom paint job.  I had a mild argument with him once about the likely consequences.  His Sportster had stock suspension and brakes, and the stock headlight.  I told him his pastime would end in disaster, and one night it did. Many people blamed the guy who backed out of his driveway at 11pm as my friend came roaring down the suburban street at 60 mph.  I did not.

Back in the 1990s. I watched the birth of two separate Seattle-city based sport bike clubs.  They would show up at the dealership en masse in their brightly colored vests.  In a matter of a couple of years both of the clubs LITERALLY died out.  The leader of one of them was drunk in a bar at 2am. His friends tried to take his keys, but he ran out of the bar, hopped on his GSX-R and ran down the freeway at about 160mph, until he ran into the back of a van going the speed limit.  Incidents like this strain the definition of “accident.”

With choice comes responsibility, and when you are given the opportunity to select your chosen level of risk, you then will accept the consequences, whether you like it or not.

Does this include all sad endings?  Of course not. Sometimes you are not doing anything wrong, not at risk, and yet the world can suddenly go pear shaped.  I experienced this in driver training (!) a long time ago.  I was driving down a suburban street, and up ahead I saw a milk truck at the curb and kids playing on the lawn.  “I remember this from the film!” I thought. I moved to the middle of the street and took my foot off the gas. As I was coasting by the milk truck, the ball bounced into the street, and a little boy ran out and planted his face into the door!  The instructor was out of the car before it stopped from 15mph.  The little boy got a swollen lip for his trouble and wet his pants. I am surprised I did not do likewise.  When we went to move the car we discovered that I had braked so hard that all four tires were stuck to the asphalt, which came up in pieces when we moved the car.  The driver’s ed instructor used me as an example for years that sometimes you can have an accident even when doing things perfectly.

So I am pondering all of these heavy thoughts when I come to the site of… an accident.  Not a motorcycle, but a late model Mustang GT 350.   The road runs downhill into a sharp left 90 degree corner marked as 20mph.  The Mustang had not completed the corner, run off into the weeds and flown through the air, landing in about a foot of mud and water and greenery, which it plowed through for twenty or thirty yards.  A pickup truck had stopped, and it looked like nobody had been injured, so I continued on.  Later, on my way back home, I took the same route in reverse, and as I had guessed, there was now a tow truck on the scene. 









I parked the Bonneville and strolled around to see what I could see. There were no skid marks on the road leading into the corner at all.  It looked like the driver had been distracted and was not aware there was a corner there at all.  Hmmm.  The driver and his passenger were standing around smoking cigarettes (I presumed they were cigarettes, but now I wonder).  Both had a lot of tattoos, and looked like life has not been pleasant up to now. As I took a couple of pictures, the driver sort of growled at me – “You’re not going to put those online are you?” 

“Um, no. Why?” 

“I’d prefer they weren’t.”

Then I noticed the car did not have a rear license plate.  “Where’s the plate?” I asked.

“In the car,” he mumbled.

By now the little voice we all have in our heads was screaming at me.  “Get thee hence – now!”  I was not comfortable with the situation at all, as it seemed that the driver really needed to be answering questions from someone wearing a badge and armed with a gun.   Although I wanted to see what the tow truck driver did, as he was now waking around and obviously deciding whether to pull the car out frontwards or backwards, I chose to listen to the voice.

I took a last look at the car and noticed that the left from headlight opening was all covered up with lots of black duct tape.  Clearly this was not the first adventure for this car.

Having assessed the situation, I got back to the Bonneville, strapped the helmet on my head, and rode away.   I realized that in analyzing the situation and the dodgy people involved I had applied risk vs. reward in a different way.

I rode home at even a slower pace.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often

Copyright 2018                                David Preston


Posted in Cars, Motorcycles | 3 Comments

The Misunderstood Career of Danica Patrick

The Misunderstood Career of Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick completed her racing career yesterday at the Indy 500, which she had announced earlier would be her last race.  Many before her have made the decision to retire and then changed their minds later – usually with dismal or disastrous results. In any case, she lost control of her race car and spun into the wall, ending her race and career. Probably.

Today there are comments arising in the great public forum that is Facebook criticizing her for her lack of success yesterday and going further to state she was never very good and yadayadaya.  Of course, in equal equipment at almost any venue Ms. Patrick could whomp her critics by many seconds a lap, because she is a professional driver and has impressive skills far beyond the capability or even understanding of most. 

Further, most of her critics choose to ignore that several male drivers had their race end in almost identical fashion – losing the rear end going into Turn 3 and rotating into the wall. Among them was a former winner of the race.  This year’s cars, by regulation, have vastly decreased levels of down force. This has made the cars much more difficult to drive, especially at high speeds.  The driver’s seem united in their delight with these harder to drive cars, and the racing is spectacular, which leads to bigger crowds and more enthusiasm, and more money. 

And that is where the criticism of Ms. Patrick crashes into a misconception.  Many people believe that professional race drivers are paid to win.  This is categorically false.  They are not paid to win, but to make money.  Winning certainly helps a driver to make money, but it is not the only tool that can be used.

Car and motorcycle racing is now primarily an entertainment business, while still retaining the mantle of sport.  Racing is expensive, and the vehicles used are now, almost entirely, sponsored by large companies – either commercial entities or manufacturers.  A sponsored driver’s main task is to create a return on the considerable financial investment in marketing and sales success.  A successful driver needs to be attractive and well spoken, and able to master emotions that might be crushing when a microphone is stuck in his or her face and the cameras are on, which is almost all of the time.

At the Formula 1 level, most of the drivers got to that height by bringing with them shipping crates full of money, either from their wealthy families or from companies that have chosen to back them in hopes of a return.  There is a question now if Formula 1 drivers are really the best in the world, or merely very good drivers with almost bottomless pockets of financial support.

As for Danica, she walks away from the sport hale in mind and body, and joins a limited selection of women who have been successful in racing.  I think Lynn St. James was a better driver, and you can dredge up several others. Angelle Sampey, Courtney and Brittany Force and Erica Enders Stevens in drag racing, which has led the way in allowing women to succeed in the sport.  My friend Mary McGee in off-road and pavement car and motorcycle racing. Several women from the 1920’s to 1940s.  And many others.  Some won a lot, some won at times, but the definition of success has changed over the decades. 

Danica’s skills can be debated, but success, oh yes.  She made a lot of money for Go Daddy and her other sponsors, and also for herself.  She took her talent, and recognized that her looks could be used to her advantage.  She learned how to talk to media personnel, and how to create or avoid controversy. At the end of the day, she walks away with mind and body intact, and as the owner or several businesses. She will have many options for her future, all of them positive.

Good for her.


Copyright 2018                                       David Preston

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2016 Triumph 1200 Thruxton for sale!

My brother in law was intended to be the half-owner of my 2016 Triumph 1200 Thruxton.  After it was all put together with the addition of the R model rear shocks and the Triumph flyscreen he wanted,  I paid for it and insured it and we were set to go.  Then… he changed his mind.  Now I have a motorcycle I do not ride as much at my 2016 Triumph T 120 Bonneville, and I really cannot afford the luxury of a 2nd bike that is seldom ridden. It has 1252 miles, has never been dropped or ridden in anger, and is virtually brand new with the addition of a $1000 worth of add-ons- the shocks and the windscreen. It features the larger 1200cc engine, with fuel injection and dual front disc brakes.  It weighs 40 pounds less (!) than the Bonneville and makes more power.  I have the title and it is ready to go.  Reluctantly for sale for $9,000.   206 484 3000 or david@davidpreston,biz.   Feel free to share with anyone you know who wants a fantastic gentleman’s  (or ladies) sport bike for relatively little.


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