Two Minor Motorcycle Safety Concepts

Two Minor Motorcycle Safety Concepts

Anyone interested in operating a motorcycle safely is certainly spoiled for choice. In most areas across the world there are now a plethora of available courses to take, in the classroom, on a controlled course, a race track, and even on the public roads in some areas. In addition, there’s now an Alexandrian library sized number of books and videos offered. I recommend all of them. What follows is merely a couple of footnotes you might want to add to your personal stash of safety information.

  1. No hits, runs, or errors. When I worked in the motorcycle industry a part of my job (the best part) was leading customers on rides that lasted for most of a day to three to four days to over a week.  In addition, there were the rides I took on my own free time.  I rode – a lot.  When I got home my wife would always ask how it went, and I got in the habit of saying “No hits, runs, or errors.”  Borrowed from baseball, of course, in my usage it referred to no speeding tickets, no accidents, and no situations where I scared myself.  I now use this as a daily goal for ride. 

Speeding tickets may happen, but they often do not need to. The areas where officialdom tends to seek speeders are determined by two factors, I believe. One is, obviously, areas of dense traffic where speeding can raise the danger for everyone and a modicum of reason is required.  The other, (again, in my opinion), are areas that are easy for officers to access and offer the greatest monetary reward for the officer’s time.  Speeding is often used as a revenue generator, whether or not it has much to do with safety.

The solution – Duh! Don’t speed in those areas!  In my area there is the I-5 freeway corridor, which almost always has state patrol cars scattered at regular intervals.   You probably have something like that near you. 

With a little patience you can get to back roads which have little traffic and little reason for officialdom to spend a valuable (in two senses) officer’s time sitting idle with a radar gun. On those roads you can usually ride to the road as opposed to the posted limit.  Always keeping fresh in your mind, the weather, the condition of the road, your mental state, and other factors. There is still some risk of a ticket, and your bear the cost of that

If you manage to scare yourself on a ride this is not a sign that you are really into it. It is a sign that you are riding too fast for the conditions, or that your skills are not sufficient for the task at hand. As the old adage goes, never write a check that your talent can’t cash.  Perhaps a cornering clinic or other course would help.  If you are riding a motorcycle specifically for the thrill of scaring yourself, you should stop.  Now.  Perhaps sky diving would be better.

As for no accidents, that seems obvious.

  1. When the helmet drops, the bullshit stops. I came up with this 20 years ago, or at least Wikipedia says I did. I THINK I invented it, but I will cede credit if I can determine if someone else said it first.  At any rate, it is a useful rubric.

We all have a lot of “stuff” going on in our head these days. Issues at work, the latest political horror show, what your husband said last night, your Facebook feed, the funny noise coming from the washing machine, and on and on.  When the helmet drops over my head, all of that is eliminated.  My helmet creates my happy place. It is just me and the motorcycle and the road, and all of that other stuff can wait. It will still be there later.

One ironic benefit of this is that on many occasions, if you manage to shut off your brain’s focus on a problem for a while, when you remove the helmet later and return full access to your life to your brain, the solution to the problem may pop up as if by magic.

Nobody is perfect, and occasionally outside thoughts will creep in.  At times I get a little angry at my lack of rigor and say “Ride the damn motorcycle” out loud in my helmet. That seems to help.

I strongly disagree with almost all of my friends who seem eager to adopt new technologies.  You can now access music, the internet, phone calls, GPS routing and a lot of other noise, piped to you, automatically, inside your helmet.  What a bad idea!

I compare riding a motorcycle to being a professional athlete.  In both cases you must perform at a high level, and a lapse in concentration or a physical error can have dire consequences resulting in a minor or major loss.

Imagine a pro athlete in your favorite sport listening to an ear bud or taking calls while participating. Ain’t gonna happen. For a professional athlete, every game is a chance to excel, but also a chance for a career to be put on hold or… ended.  Pro athletes tend to not drink alcohol before or during the game – also a sound regimen to emulate.

You are (probably) not a pro athlete, but riding a motorcycle puts you in a comparable situation. If a pro athlete with the benefits of a perfectly honed body and extreme physical abilities is not willing to risk diminishing focus or capability while playing, why would you do so on a motorcycle

When the helmet drops, the bullshit stops.

No hits, no runs, no errors.

Two ideas for today.


Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often.

Copyright 2018                 David Preston


Posted in Education, Equipment, Motorcycles | 2 Comments

Fun With Guessing Weights

Fun With Guessing Weights

Imagine the summer of 1964. I was 17, working at my first job at the Excelsior Amusement Park, right on the shore of Lake Minnetonka outside of Minneapolis. The salary was a whopping $.69 an hour.

The only job benefit was that I could go on the rides for free, and I rode the roller coaster enough times to attain boredom with it. I am still not a fan today, as you cannot steer! A motorcycle is much better. Anyway, it was the ancient type, and was ancient itself, with spindly white supports reaching high in the sky. It looked rickety because…it was.  It was safe as long as you stayed in the car and had the safety bar locked down. Every few years someone would manage to fall out, and die.  That happened once while I worked there but the boy “only” suffered several broken bones.

My first gig was to work at a long shed with many games you passed as you walked in.  Most of the games looked easy but were not.  The ring toss seemed pretty simple, but the spikes were close together and deceptively thick, making a score less likely.  We were all stunned one day when a defensive lineman for the Vikings (Carl Eller?) showed up with arms so long he could merely reach out and drop the rings where he wanted. I think they changed the rules after that episode.

One of my colleagues was older, and had the most amazing ability to engage pretty girls in conversation.  Since this was not in my limited skill set, I paid close attention.  He had a variety of lines, and his favorite was “Wait – haven’t we had trouble with you before?”  I have no idea why that worked, but it did. Sadly, his skills did not transfer to me.

After a bit I was “promoted” to the bottle toss, where I worked alone. Here the idea was to throw the three balls you were given at a table with a pyramid of wooden bottles.  If you got all the bottles to roll off the table you won.  The trick was that the bottles all had lead shafts inserted from the bottom, so they were heavier than they looked. If you hit the base of the bottles you might succeed, but most people threw as hard as possible and screwed up their aim. Picking up the bottles and retrieving the balls was hard work, and added frustration came from most of the customers asking how much it cost, while standing under several large $.25 signs.

Trouble arose one hot and sticky night when a large and drunken crowd gathered, and decided it would be more fun to throw the balls at…me. Once I figured out to not give the balls back they dispersed, and I think that was the only time in my life I ever actually yelled at a boss (Not to be confused with the many times a boss yelled at me).  I read her the riot act. She had sat across the way smoking a cigarette and watching, choosing to do nothing. I threatened to quit if she ever let that happen again, surely the definition of an empty threat. Instead of firing me, I was moved to the guess your weight game.

I loved this!  This was also a $.25 investment for the customer, and I think it was a loss leader, even though the prizes were not much – small stuffed animals and such.  The scales were honest, and it was not rigged in any way, and the bosses did not care if I won or not.

But I did care.  I soon got pretty good at this, and could “win” about 80% of the time if I wanted to. A lot of people thought their child would be difficult, but that was not the case. I had to get within minus or plus 3 pounds – a 6-pound range.  For a 60 pound child that is a margin of 10%.   Much harder were women, especially “full figured” women. A “foundation garment” can hide 20 or 30 pounds.  Men rarely chose to be weighed, and I do not know why women did.  I recall a sailor who appeared to have had a few beers and sported the appearance of someone who could dismantle me with his bare hands. His girlfriend was well-padded, and I underestimated her weight by about 50 pounds, which delighted them both.  I may have been good at this, but I was not stupid.

Fast forward 13 years to 1977.  I am now the president of the Lake Washington Education Association, at that time the 4th largest teacher union in the state (now the 3rd largest).  This was a full-time release position, so instead of classes I had an office and three support staff. The acting superintendent was a fine man that was well-respected and admired by the public and the teachers, which is probably why the school board shocked everyone and hired someone else. This led to a bizarre situation where many of the teachers wanted to mount a wildcat strike and I had to talk them out of it, aided by the pleas of the departing superintendent to let it go.

Anyway, one of his many fine ideas was that the union head and the superintendent should have lunch once a month to keep in touch.  I looked forward to these as a fine opportunity to use the expense account I rarely touched.  I always had prime rib, a baked potato, and two glasses of rose, which made me mentally useless for the rest of the day, but the conversations were very useful and important in the grand scheme of things.

At one such lunch we were chatting about the jobs we had in high school and college. He had a beautiful voice, and made money singing for many years.  I had done a lot of odd things, and as I was telling him the secrets of guessing weights the attractive waitress overheard me and asked me to guess her weight.  She walked back and forth and spun around, and I guessed her weight perfectly. To the pound! She was astonished by this, and soon all the other waitresses came over for their turns.  Imagine if a local reporter was in the restaurant, or imagine this happening today. Here you have the superintendent and the union president drinking alcohol in the middle of the day while a bevy of attractive women sashay back and forth in front of them and everyone is laughing.

I hope I left a good tip.

Copyright 2018          David Preston

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Motorcycle Safety – Luck versus Everything Else

Motorcycle Safety – Luck versus Everything Else 

An interesting response to the last essay came over the Facebook transom.  The author, (I think – it was not all that clear) felt that motorcycle safety was a matter of luck.  He managed to denigrate my ability to think, write, and use logic in an impressive paucity of words.

He does have a point, which should have been mentioned.  All motorcyclists who have ridden for years can recount an instance or (usually) several, where disaster was avoided primarily by luck. I have twice lost the front end of the bike in a pile of gravel in a corner and did not crash when I probably should have. Skill?  No.  I could fill many pages with similar stories.

And yet there is more to it than that. This is not the first time I have received this criticism, an experience surely shared by others.  There seems to be a human tendency to reduce the apparent success of others to luck, perhaps as a way to bolster our own self-view.  The success of Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos?  Luck.  The successful brain surgeon or attorney or any other job or activity category?  Luck.  It ain’t that simple.

A number of years ago my wife and I were invited to a dinner in Seattle that featured Andrea and Barry Coleman from England, the founders of Riders for Health – now Riders for Life. I received a call from a woman I did not know and she said she was hosting the Colemans.  She asked them who to invite and they said Susan and I.  I had been raising money for RfH for a few years with some success, but this was a great honor.

Most of the people who attended this dinner listed “philanthropist” as their job title. The dinner was held in a grand older home in an exclusive area of Seattle, and the dinner was prepared by the house staff. I had never attended such an event in such a home.

One of the guests was the head of PATH, another charity in Seattle (he later moved on to the Gates Foundation). I had worked with him before on charitable efforts and considered him to be the smartest person I had ever met.  We really enjoyed chatting with him in a social setting.

One of the guests was a prominent brain surgeon who overheard our conversation, which was about (surprise!) motorcycles.  He asked me how long I had been riding, and I replied “48 years.”   He then asked, with a condescending smirk, when I had last crashed a motorcycle.  “1969.”

He did not like that answer at all, and responded with a sneer, “You must be very lucky.”

At this point Andrea jumped in to the conversation.  She may look like the loving grandmother she is, but in her youth Andrea was a successful professional road racer.  Her family has motorcycle road racing history going back to literally the first ever motorcycle road race held in England. She launched into a passionate rebuttal, getting into rider training and experience and equipment, and more.  In a short time her husband changed the subject, as Andrea warmed to her topic and the brain surgeon grew ever more comfortable. Putting potential donors in their place is not sound business practice for a charity.

I enjoyed it immensely, of course, and even more (I can be small-minded) the hostile glares directed at me by the brain surgeon for the rest of the evening.

So yes, luck can and does play a role in the safe operation of a motorcycle, but it is not the most significant role and it is fatuous to write off the success of others to mere luck.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often.

Copyright 2018          David Preston

Posted in Education, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

Why Motorcycles are Safe

Why Motorcycles are Safe

Short version: because everything is relative.

I came of age in the 1960’s, which was, for those of you too young to be there (most of you), a time of tremendous social, political and philosophical upheaval in society.  The availability of birth control pills altered sex from an act of procreation to the possibility of a mutually enjoyed intense experience. An explosion of drug awareness and availability made marijuana and a vast array of many other drugs common and easy to obtain.  The Vietnam War brought massive protests everywhere.  I missed out on all of it.

Why? Because my main focus (other than career and family) has been motorcycles from 1962 to today. For the first five years I did not own a motorcycle and got by with occasional rides from fortunate friends.  I spent every moment available reading about motorcycles and thinking about motorcycles. The benefit of this, which I did not realize at the time, was that by the time I FINALLY purchased my first motorcycle at the age of 20 I already knew a fair bit about riding techniques and safety gear. Keep in mind there were no rider courses in existence at that time, at least that I’d heard of.

This all ramped up when I obtained my first motorcycle in 1967 – a 1965 Yamaha YDS3 250cc two-stroke street bike.  For the next few years my leisure time and focus and spare money went toward better equipment, better motorcycles, fuel, and more frequent and longer rides.

Of course, the wise people counseled me that motorcycles were dangerous.  All of those people are now dead.

How dangerous were motorcycles compared to having sex with a multitude of partners, many of whom you might not know that well?  How dangerous were motorcycles compared to using illegal drugs purchased from someone you did not know at all, and you had only their assurance of what you were purchasing and what the effects might be.

I had a short-term romance with a beautiful young woman that ended over her assertion that LSD was harmless. She was wrong.

Cautionary tale: Len Bias.  Len Bias was a wonderful young man who aced college while starring in basketball. He graduated and signed a huge contract with the Boston Celtics. At a party to celebrate he accepted the offer of a snort of cocaine. What could go wrong?  He had a heart attack and died.

Many took part in massive demonstrations.  The riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968 featured thousands of people as well as tear gas, riot police, and dogs. At the time I was enjoying my first long distance motorcycle trip.

And there was the Viet Nam war. Several of my high school classmates spent time there, and some did not come back.  In 1969 I went into debt and purchased an (almost) new Honda 450 Street Scrambler.  The logic was that I had just been declared 1A, and the local school district’s appeal had been denied.  I had slid through college on a medical deferment due to two University of Minnesota doctors fibbing and declaring that I had a heart murmur.  The Army eventually demanded a second opinion, and the doctor the Army paid for found me fit for duty.  The school district appeal was based on a second fib, that I was the only person they could find that could teach junior high English and be the head tennis coach. Not too surprising that a draft board 1300 miles away was not swayed. So, I was about to be drafted, and logic dictated that I purchase a new motorcycle.  It would seem likely that the Army would allow me to finish my first year of teaching, and then I would be off to basic training. Then I would be sent to Viet Nam.

Then I would die.

In a 45-minute-long phone conversation, my father used every argument he could think of, fair and foul, logical and emotional. At the end, he said “But I have never been in your situation, so maybe you should buy a motorcycle.”

The next month Richard Nixon held the first draft lottery. Men from 18 to whatever would be drafted in the order that their birthdays were drawn.  Mine came up # 334. The war was over for me.  I would not die in Viet Nam and was free to return to the risks of motorcycles.

When it comes to motorcycles, I prefer to think of risk rather than danger.  The difference is that risk, in any endeavor, can be reduced with training, experience, focus, and equipment.  That is true of sex and drug use as well, I suppose, but seldom applied.

I am one of the very few politically liberal people of my age who has never smoked marijuana.  I’ve inhaled secondary smoke from others who were indulging (legally), but it did not seem to affect me.  I’ve also been drunk a time or two, and decided the hangover was not worth the high.  I don’t think I am missing out on much.

Not that I was perfect. A pretty good crash in 1969 that was totally my fault that destroyed the Yamaha and broke my shoulder. It taught me the perils of unchecked testosterone and arrogance. All in all, a cheap lesson that has served me well ever since.

When my children were teens they were not all that interested in motorcycles, although my son had one for a couple of years as an adult.  They did enjoy rides on the back of mine, and I made sure they had a helmet that fit, a sturdy jacket, boots, and gloves.

If I were a parent of a teen today who wanted to get into motorcycles, I would make sure he or she had good gear, took at least one rider course, and started out on a smaller sized street bike.  After a year or two there might be a progression to a larger and faster street bike or a dual sport if interest in dirt riding had arisen.

That would make sense, because in a world of random violence, ecological disasters, unchecked gun mania, disease, drugs, and more – motorcycles are safe.


Ride fast, ride safe, and ride often.


David Preston   Copyright 2018


Posted in Education, Motorcycles | Leave a comment

How Good People End Up With Trump

How Good People Get Sucked into The Trump Swamp

When I was in 9th grade I made a new friend. He sat next to me in a very poorly taught science class, and he was a “bad boy.”  He hung out with the “wrong” people and was on the way to doing all sorts of things I would never dream of.

Nevertheless, we bonded for a time, probably over my sense of humor, and I think he realized he had made a friend who was one of the “good” clique.  I had lots of friends, and they were all good students, athletes, active in Scouts, band, etc.

Over time my wise mother noticed that I was spending time with Rick, and she expressed her concern. I explained that my intent was to draw him into my circle of friends and away from the perils of the road he was on.

My mother complimented me on my efforts, but used an analogy that stuck.

“When you place a good apple next to a rotten one, the rotten apple does not turn into a good one. In fact…”

I think that is what is happening now at the highest levels of government.  Not all of these people are lying crooks, although many of them certainly are.

Some of them are well-meaning conservative politicians and successful business people with a long record of success in their professional endeavors.  I think they get sucked in by the lure of a powerful position in the government, and are positive, based on their long experience, that they can use reason and personal examples to set the President on a better path.

In time they all learn the truth of my mother’s analogy, and then they either leave with sorrow and anger or become another rotten apple.


Copyright 2018          David Preston

Posted in Rants and Raves | 3 Comments

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

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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