Oct 25
Lonely Roads” width=

Lonely little roads, far from civilization, can be beautiful. But they can
also be hazardous to the unwary rider.

My group of riding friends has always been small and intimate. It’s gotten even smaller recently as one of the two couples we routinely ride with sold their motorcycle. Health issues have caused the other couple to ride less, and rarely for great distances. Thus, my wife and I find ourselves most often alone on the bike.
We find we enjoy being on our own sometimes. There are no group decisions to make.We leave when we want, go where we want, stop for a rest when we feel like it and head for home at our own discretion. But this new-found freedom comes with a price. We’re on our own. In the event of trouble, there are no longer any friendly faces roaring along beside us.
We also prefer the smaller back roads to the more well-traveled highways and Interstates. Hopefully we can have help on the way, in case of a mechanical breakdown, with a simple cell phone call. But other forms of trouble are out there for which a cell phone my not be adequate. Taking those roads less traveled can lead you into some places that don’t often see, nor readily welcomes outsiders.
On more than one occasion, I’ve been awakened from complacently admiring beautiful scenery by angry dogs charging from somebody’s yard. I’ve also noticed suspicious glares at the two-wheeled apparition invading what is probably considered a private road.
Most of the little road-side quick stops and gas stations are friendly and welcome new customers. But not all of them are so accommodating. Even when the business owner is glad to see us, often the other clientele are not so friendly.
I don’t go out looking for trouble nor intentionally select a location where I’m not welcome. It doesn’t happen on most rides. But it only takes one time when things go really bad to change your life. I eventually came to the conclusion, if we were going to continue to ride, we would need some sort of backup. That is why I got a concealed handgun license.
This was not a decision I jumped to, nor made lightly. It is certainly not a macho or ego thing. I took this step only after much consideration. My surgery in September of last year may have also played a part in my decision. Though I am mostly recovered a year later, I still am not quite back to 100 percent of where I was before. Weak and alone is the perfect recipe for becoming a victim.
This decision comes with great responsibilities and potential burdens. Now that I’m armed, I must immediately attempt to de-escalate or escape confrontations. Letting my ego direct the course of events is no longer feasible as there is now deadly potential in the outcome. Instead of having to shoot somebody, I will apologize even though I know I’m right, or run away if I can. And if some ignorant redneck thinks I’m a coward, who cares? It doesn’t say much for my self-respect if I’m worried about his opinion. If you can’t take an insult, or your pride demands a response to any challenge, then leave the firearm at home. I’m not a police officer. It is not my intention to go into a situation, gun blazing, dispensing justice and righting wrongs. This is a resource of last resort, to avoid death or serious injury to me or my wife.
In the unfortunate event I am ever forced to use my weapon, it will not be without consequences. The use will have been justified. I won’t pull it out otherwise. But if the only witness are the perps’ friends, I may not come off so well. Even without hostile witnesses, once law enforcement arrives, I will undoubtably be cuffed and hauled off to jail until they can sort the situation out.
Once the authorities clear me, there is the strong possibility of litigation by the perps’ friends and family. I may well wind up spending ten of thousands of dollars in legal fees, even though my actions were perfectly justified.
But at the end of the day, an old cliché says it perfectly. “I’d rather be judged by 12 of my peers than carried by six of my friends. And I’d much rather my wife have to watch me put in a cell, than me to watch her put in a grave.
My plan is to never need this option. But just like helmets and seat belts, you can’t wait until you need them to get them. Having a gun you don’t need is far better than needing a gun you don’t have.

- Guy Wheatley

Oct 17
Safety in Numbers” width=

Photo curtesy Mike_tn flickr

We’ve all seen those nature films showing large schools of fish or flocks of birds while a narrator drones on about safety in numbers. As social creatures, we humans also tend to flock together for safety. When my wife and I started riding motorcycles again, I felt more comfortable in groups. There were certainly some advantages to having other bikes close at hand. There is a greater pool of knowledge for riding and eating locations. That same pool might come in handy in the event of a mechanical breakdown. At least you can probably get a ride back to civilization. And you are less likely to be targeted by a bad guy looking for a random victim.
But there are down sides as well. Riding and eating locations were selected by group consensus, and were rarely my top choice. With differing skill sets and levels of experience, the rides were never optimal for everybody. We were going to slow for the more adventurous riders, and too fast for the more cautious ones. More experienced, or less cautious, riders would often ride much closer to me than I felt comfortable with. We often made decisions as a group that I would not have made on my own. For almost every safety plus, there is a safety minus. Optimal safety requires a ride so structured it is almost impossible to relax and enjoy.
Even when we are in our car, there is often a tendency to clump up on the road. Especially if you’re exceeding the speed limit. In the nature videos, most of the fish in a ball are safe as the sharks eat a few of the unlucky swimmers at the edge. Just like in the nature videos, you are usually safer from the LEO sharks if you’re in the middle of the school. As a group, we’re willing to sacrifice a few of our members on the fringe so that the rest can speed along in safety. But occasionally one of the predators will dart through the center of the ball and grab a victim from the middle.
I was recently taking my wife to a doctor’s appointment in Shreveport when I experienced this phenomena. I was in the middle of a pack of cars. I’d been following the guy in front of me for more than 15 miles, and the guy behind me had been there for at least that long. There were several more cars, both in front of and and behind us.
As we met another long string of cars coming from the other direction, I spotted a state Trooper snugged in behind a tractor-trailer truck. As soon as we came even, I saw him hit his brakes. I was sure he was coming after me, and I was right. It took him long enough that I though I might luck out, but he eventually got turned around and caught back up to me.
To be absolutely clear, I was speeding. If fact, he only ticketed me for doing 70 mph when I suspect I may have actually been going a little faster. I believe that that 1 or 2 mph meant the difference in a road side ticket and a trip to jail so the guy was really giving me a break.
Even so, when he asked me, “Why were you going so fast?” I was a little put out. I couldn’t say, “Because everybody else was going that speed.” so I mumbled something about talking with my wife and not paying sufficient attention to my speed. But I had to wonder why he asked. He knew as well as I did why I was traveling at that speed. I was in the middle of a pack.
He was courteous and professional. Even through my feelings of being picked on, I knew that I was in fact guilty of the infraction he was citing me for. So I too was courteous and polite. Resuming my journey, I reflected that even though there is generally safety in numbers, on this particular day, I was the fish that got eaten.

- Guy Wheatley