Feb 13
Bike and carts” width=

Discarded shopping carts surround my Valkyrie.

I was at Walmart the other day trying to find a parking spot. I have a pet peeve about shopping carts left in parking areas, especially when I come back and find my bike surrounded by empty carts. The extra space my motorcycle leaves in a spaced designed for a car seems to be an invitation for empty carts. I’ve watched this get worse over the years. I’m often amazed to see carts left in the parking spots just a few feet from the cart return. And one can often barely see the handicap signs on the pavement for the carts parked on top of them.
As a rule I will grab one and take it in with me, especially one blocking a handicap spot. Sometimes my purchase is small enough that I don’t need a cart on the return trip to my vehicle. If I do take the cart out to the lot, I will certainly take it to the cart return once I finish with it, occasionally snagging an additional cart or two if they are on my way. I try to leave the parking lot at least one cart cleaner than I found it.
I sometimes see other patrons grab carts on the way in. These are usually older gentlemen sporting the same salt and pepper hair and paunch I have. Not many, but a few. Why do we do it? To help the gazillionaires who own the business? No. We do it just for the public in general. It takes so little effort on my part to leave something a little better than I found it. It’s a concept I associate with civics. I see it as practicing my civic duty to benefit society.
But the efforts of me and my few like-minded fellow citizens is greatly overwhelmed by the growing mountain of thoughtlessly discarded carts blocking spaces that would have been useful to other patrons. I’m sure we’re considered quite strange by those who see no reason to waste the time and energy required to return a cart, making sure it doesn’t inconvenience another shopper. We may even be considered “suckers.”
I know it’s a little thing of no great consequence. Yet somehow I see in that disorderly ramble of selfishly abandoned metal, the end of our society. It is a refusal to participate in the improvement of the general welfare that will also inform the actions of greater consequence. I just don’t expect much in the way of effort toward improving or protecting our country from somebody who will shove an empty cart into a handicap parking spot. These are not people who will sacrifice for the greater good. The message I see those carts spell out is, “it doesn’t matter if it hurts you as long as it helps me.” Those folks used to be in the minority and the rest of us looked down on them. Now, I think they outnumber the “peculiar,’ folks like me. There seem be be fewer and fewer people imbued with a sense of community, people who demonstrate a concept of civic responsibility.
I’ll keep pushing carts back to the returns even when I’m the last one doing it. I keep hearing my mother from when I was young. I’d complain that nobody else had to do something. She would say, “I can’t control what those people do, but I can make sure you do the right thing.” I guess she still is.

- Guy Wheatley

Feb 5
My Maggie” width=

My Maggie, a Honda VF45 Magna

Actually the first motorcycle I loved. My Maggie. She’s not the first one I’ve owned, nor the first one I’ve been fond of. But there is something special about Maggie. And lest you think Mrs. Sharon is jealous, she’s just as crazy about Maggie as I am.
It’s hard to say why Maggie is so different from my other bikes. I’m sure some of it is because she was the first bike I bought intending to keep. I knew the Nighthawk was a starter bike when I bought it, and knew that I’d be moving up to another bike soon. Somehow that knowledge prevented me from forming a deep attachment to it. The Nighthawk was an inanimate object I was fond of, but never formed an emotional attachment to. But Maggie was different.
It wasn’t that way on the first day I brought her home. I’m not sure exactly when I started to think of her in emotional terms. I anthropomorphized my sail boat to some degree. But I never really thought of it in truly organic terms. I never treated it like it had feelings, or felt an obligation to be loyal to it. But somewhere along the way, I started treating Maggie as though it was a person, an extremely close friend.
Some of that may have come about as I learned that she truly was a special bike. I didn’t know much about the technical details of motorcycles in those days. When the previous owner kept emphasizing this was a “Magna,” a V-4, I just didn’t understand. So with no real understanding of what I had, the months and years to come were filled with one delightful surprise after another. And as I realized that this wasn’t just another cookie cutter V-twin, the attachment grew.
As my horizons expanded and I realized I’d need a larger bike to carry more gear greater distances, it never once occurred to me to sell Maggie. I’ve made the statement that if my fortunes fall and I wind up living in a tent eating dog food, Maggie will still be parked in front of it.
So I was surprised to find myself seriously contemplating putting Maggie on the market. She’s not running right now. She needs some carb work done, and I just can’t seem to get around to it. There are other projects I can’t put off, and the work Maggie needs is not something I can do in a weekend. Not being familiar with this particular system, I’ll need to proceed slowly and cautiously. I’ll also likely need to leave my work spread out over at least a couple of weekends while waiting on parts or information. Right now my work bench is too cluttered up with other, half-finished projects. So rather than just let her sit there and get worse and worse for lack of use, I considered selling her.
But as I mentioned earlier, Mrs. Sharon is just as fond of Maggie as I am. She’s encouraged me to bite the bullet, swallow my pride, haul the bike to the shop and get her fixed. So that’s probably what I’ll do. It irks me to pay for a repair I could probably do myself. But who knows when I’ll get around to it. And in the meantime, Maggie just gets worse. She deserves better from me.

- Guy Wheatley

Jan 21
Bike Banking” width=

Staff photo by Doug Strickland
Making a payment on freedom.

I often talk about “my” motorcycles. There are two sitting at my house. Well, actually only one today because the other is out in the Gazette’s parking lot, but you get what I mean. I have two motorcycles. Well sort of. I don’t actually own one of them outright. I share the ownership of one of them.
I’m not talking about my wife. She does actually own half of everything I own. Except closets. She owns a good bit more than half of those. And the bathrooms. And the bedroom. Come to think of it, maybe I should just say I own half of some of her stuff. But that’s another topic and not really the co-owner I was talking about.
I still share ownership of one of my bikes with a bank. Now I’m certainly glad the bank was willing to lend me the money to get my bike. And I must admit. as co-owners go, they’ve been pretty generous. I mean they’ve never insisted I bring it down and let them ride it. I’ve never had an argument with them about who’s turn it was to take it to a rally. In fact, they pretty well let me act like I own it. But in the back of my mind, I know it ain’t so. So as I’m out on the open road, wind in my face and fancy free, I know that I’ll still have to swing by the bank and drop off a payment once a month if I want to stay on the road.
Somehow, note payments just don’t fit into that image of wild, self-reliant and freedom two wheels on the highway brings to mind. I listened to some of the great classic biker songs. Born to be wild, Bad to the bone, Wanted dead or alive. Nope. Not a single mention of financing.
I suppose this comes to mind because just a few days ago the wife and I were sitting on her, I mean our, couch, going over the check book, and she happened to mention we only had a few payments left on the bike. I was surprised at how good that made me feel. Unencumbered and free. More like a biker than a typical drone with a bank note. I wasn’t born to be wild, I had to finance it. But I’ve almost got it paid off, so watch out world. Here I come.
Well, not this weekend. I promised the missus I’d cut up the dead tree limbs that fell into the back yard. But next weekend for sure. Or the one after.

- Guy Wheatley

Jan 14
Gun and bikes” width=

Some bikers arm themselves for those remote locations far away from
friends and family.

I haven’t been riding much lately, so I’m pressed for inspiration. The ride to and from work doesn’t offer much excitement or enlightenment. When this happens, I often turn to some of the biker boards I belong to hoping for a spark. But unfortunately, only a few of those guys have been on the road recently and I can’t find anything about riding that sets me off.
One thing I do notice though is that there are more political posts than riding posts on many of the boards. And the topic most represented is the current challenges to the 2nd Amendment. While not all members are pro 2A, the overwhelming majority is. In fact the board has a pretty conservative feel. In retrospect, that shouldn’t be surprising. The two things that drew me to these particular boards are that they are for cruisers, and that these people have a self-reliant, fix it yourself philosophy. Being to cheap …. uh frugal to pay a dealership for a repair that I can do myself, I sought out folks with the same mind set. Most of them are far more experienced than me, so these boards are a great source of information and inspiration. These are people who will take off on a 2,000 mile trip with no more than what they can load on a motorcycle. Except in extreme cases, they intend to handle any repairs on their own. So I suppose it shouldn’t have been surprising that this same independent philosophy informed their political stances.
But it was. I suppose that is because I am what I would consider a moderate. By their standards I probably look like a flaming liberal. In fact, I’m pretty sure I do. But this isn’t a political blog, and I don’t intend to spend most of it justifying my political positions. I do intend to pontificate on what I see as the inevitable correlation between this particular groups of bikers and the 2nd amendment.
One consistent characteristic of this group of people is self-reliance. When something goes wrong with their bikes their first though isn’t “Who do I call?” It’s “What do I need to do to fix this?” Maintenance on their equipment is their responsibility, and something they do with their own hands.
“If I do it myself, I’ll know it’s done right,” is a comment often heard among this bunch regarding repairs and maintenance. It is part of their makeup to rely on themselves to stay out of trouble, or to get out of trouble if it finds them.
It should be no surprise then that the same principle guides their attitudes about personal safety and self protection. If these folks get into trouble their first thought isn’t going to be, “Who do I call?” It’s going to be, “How do negate this threat?” And just as they prevent mechanical breakdowns with preparation, many of them will have prepared for other kinds of trouble by arming themselves with both weapons and training. They will not take lightly the suggestion that, miles from anybody they know on a lonely back road, their only recourse would be to call for help. Don’t expect much support for any kind of gun legislation from the biking world.

- Guy Wheatley

Dec 20
Worlds apart
icon1 Guy | icon2 Uncategorized | icon4 12 20th, 2012| icon31 Comment »
AR-15” width=

Not an assault rifle

Why should you be allowed to own an AR-15? Usually the question is phrased in an even less informed way by saying, “assault weapon.” I must admit, the question takes me aback. I’d react the same way if somebody demanded I prove the sun exists. My question would be, “who the heck are you to decide what I’m allowed to own?” It’s tempting to see the people making that demand as evil. They are after all attempting to subjugate me to their will. They want me to get their permission to exercise a right given to me by the creator. My natural instinct is to respond the same way I’d respond to somebody who tried to physically restrain me, or to rob me. They are actually trying to take something from me. Either an actual thing, my weapon or my right to own that weapon.
But after controlling the flash of anger, I’m able to realize that most of them really aren’t evil. Shockingly enough, many of them seem to truly believe that people with my mindset are the evil ones. I could try to write them off as idiots or morons. But that’s a pretty simplistic approach, not likely to produce anything useful. Many of these people are clearly not idiots. You can find doctors, lawyers, clergy and even scientists among their ranks. So how then do intelligent people reach such a conclusion?
I’ve seen enough data to know absolutely that gun control doesn’t reduce violence. In many cases it actually seems to make it worse. I’ll include a couple of Internet links to help anybody who really wants to study the issue at the end. This study will not be a five-minute read. Plan of a couple of days to get the basics. More if you insist on independently confirming the references. But that is not the subject of this post. I only mention it to get past the presumption that gun bans save lives. They don’t.
In America, the Constitution is the foundational document that express the relationship between the individual and the government. The principal provision of the Constitution concerning the opening question is the 2nd amendment. Let’s take a quick look at the 2nd Amendment:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Those last four words are pretty clear. “shall not be infringed.” There have been millions of words written about the intent of the men who wrote that passage. Considering they had just overthrown an tyrannical government, there can be little legitimate doubt that they darn well intended for individual citizens to rise up against an oppressive government. I’ve heard those who would nonetheless have the government infringe on those right acknowledge this, but insist that it’s impossible for citizens to stand up against a modern government that has tanks and planes. Somebody must have forgotten to get that memo out the the Egyptian and Syrian rebels.
But even that still fails to explain the huge different in thinking between these two camps. The real cause of origin isn’t the words of the 2nd amendment. It’s the moral basis for them. I interpret the founding fathers to have presumed that individuals have the right to do anything that does not hurt somebody else. Rights are not granted by the government, but by the creator. It is incumbent on government to demonstrate an urgent and compelling need to restrict or regulate. Government is an extension of collective individuals and derives it power, and indeed it’s very existence from them.
The very question, “why should you be allowed ….” belies this belief. The question assumes the individuals requirement to demonstrate a “need” to exercise a right, that must then be approved by the government. It’s a moral system in which the citizen is an extension of the government and derives his rights by governmental decree. It’s easy to understand in this system that even an individual’s personal safety is the purview of the government. Gun bans make sense in this system. Unless the citizen demonstrates to the government a compelling reason, they must rely on the authorities for protection. Self protection in this system means hiding and calling the authorities for help. I can see why somebody who subscribes to this moral system would consider a person who insists on arming themselves as dangerous, even evil.
One camp believes that they are responsible for the welfare of themselves and their loved ones. The other camp believes that welfare of the citizen is the responsibility of the government. I obviously belong in the first camp. I don’t believe that those in the other camp are ignorant or evil. But they must certainly have a very different founding moral axiom.
Rational discussion between these two camps will be difficult. Each has arrived at their position through logical, well-reasoned steps, but from two different moral starting points. Small wonder then that to each, the other side must seem so unreasonable. I’m not sure of the exact path we must take back to each other and to again become united, and one nation. But surely it starts by no longer demonizing each other and acknowledging that though our positions are so very far apart, neither was reached as an intentional practice of evil.

- Guy Wheatley




Dec 11
Frosty Seat” width=

You know it’s going to be a refreshing ride when you have to wipe frost
off your seat.

I ride a motorcycle to work. Nobody thinks anything about it when the weather is nice and the sun is shining. But let it get a little nippy and suddenly folks start to comment. I don’t ride the bike every day, but I will admit it takes something pretty dramatic to get me off it. And there was a time that I stubbornly rode through nasty weather to prove that I was a real biker.
But as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, better than half a century of living has taught me to save my pain for more important battles. I’m not going to hurt myself just to prove I’m tough enough to ride.
So why do I ride when the mercury drops? It doesn’t hurt. It may look impressive when I pull up on a frosty morn, but often as not I’m as warm or warmer than those folks dashing from their cars to the back door. I have good gear. My favorite coat is a Zoney jacket with armor in the elbows and back. It’s insulated and wind proof. Purchased when I thought a biker could only wear black, it actually soaks up a lot of solar energy. Even in very cold weather, I’ll overheat if the sun is shining and I’m not moving. My riding gloves come up to mid-forearm and keep air out of the cuffs. Finally, I live just 10 short blocks from work. I rarely hit 25 mph. The weather can be well below freezing and I’ll stay quite toasty. I find it amusing to stand there, well dressed and warm, listening to people not so well dressed and freezing as they dash from their car to the door tell me I must be cold.
If it’s raining as I leave for work I’ll take the pickup or Tahoe. But in 10 blocks, those big vehicles never have time to warm up. Except for keeping me dry, they’re no warmer than the bike would have been.
If it’s not raining when I leave for work I’ll take the bike, even if the forecast calls for rain later in the day. I do this all of the time and rarely actually ride home in the rain. Most of the time it will have either come and gone, or not be here yet as I head for home. That’s if it even rains at all. If there is a light rain as I leave, most of my gear is water resistant and will keep me dry for 10 easy blocks. I only remember one time when it really opened up and I had to wait out a deluge. And that was for less than 30 minutes.
I would just rather be on the bike than in the truck. For one thing, it just seems easier to ride. For another, I can park it close to the door in a special place too small for a car. If I take the car or pickup, I’ll have to park farther away, especially if I’m running late and the best parking spaces are taken before I get there. I don’t ride the bike because I’m tough and impervious to the weather. I ride it because I’ve gotten old, fat and lazy. It’s the path of least resistance.
As I came out this morning, I noticed frost on the seat. The temperature had fallen to 25 degrees. I had to scrape the frost off, otherwise body heat would have melted it and gotten my rear end wet. But I did think about going back inside and getting the full face helmet. But by now I was standing at the bike and I’d already locked the font door. I’d have to pull the keys out of the bike, unlock the front door and dig though the closet for the other helmet. Meh! The beard will keep me warm.

- Guy Wheatley

Nov 12
M SGT G B Wheatley” width=

Dad fought WWII in the Navy and the Cold War in the Army.

With his mother’s permission, and some bad math, he entered the U.S. Navy in 1942 where he eventually became a gunner on a liberty ship. He was wounded when an enemy aircraft slammed into his ship, but served out the rest of the war, active onboard.
Discharged from the Navy at the cease of hostilities, he returned home for a time. With few prospects at home, he decided to return to the service. Hitchhiking to Memphis Tenn., from Gillett Ark., he crossed the Mississippi River bridge with a dime in his pocket, and a single, spare T-shirt. He spent the night at a YMCA intending to join the Coast Guard the next day. Looking at the Coast Guard vessels docked at the port of Memphis, he had second thoughts. These did not appear to belong to a spit-and-polish organization like the Navy.
There was an Army recruiting station next door to the Coast Guard recruiting office. He saw a poster depicting the paragliders and decided that looked like something he’d like to do. He enlisted, but soon found that the paraglider unit was being shut down.
Things get a little difficult to trace from this point. He did join the Airborne. He was first stationed at Fort Campbell Ky., home of the 101st Airborne Division. His first child was born during that time. He was later transferred to Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne. It was also around this time that he went to Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. and Camp Rudder in Florida.
After all of this infantry training, he was suddenly assigned to an artillery unit. I remember him laughing about it years later, saying he wouldn’t have known which end of the tube to put on the ground and which end to point at the enemy. He went to Korea where he appears to have spent a lot of time, deep in the jungle with a unit of only a few men. I’ve never been able to get any information about what his assignment was.
His MOS was tactical nuclear weaponry. He worked with both the Sergeant and Corporal missiles. He was eventually assigned to the European Theatre Headquarters Weapons Assembly Department in Oberammergau, Germany as an instructor.
There can be little doubt that this was merely cover for his real job, of which very little will ever be known. But here are few of the things we do know.
The photo of him in his jump gear shows by the fact that he is alone in it, and by the gear he is carrying, that he was most likely a Pathfinder. That probably explains his transfer from Fort Campbell to Fort Bragg, and his attending Ranger school. Lacking formal education, he nonetheless showed an aptitude for electronics and engineering. This must be what singled him out for training on battlefield nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.
We also know that this Infantryman, trained as a Ranger and assigned to an artillery unit, was first stationed at Zweibrücken Air Base on his arrival in Germany. 
This was the height of the Cold War. His family frequently received the phone call that Sgt. Wheatley was on CQ. This meant that he would not be home that night, nor did we know when he would return. We were not told where he was, nor how long he would be gone.
In October 1962, we received an especially disturbing call. Not only was Sgt. Wheatley on CQ, but we were to prepare for possible evacuation. Though her heart must have been icy with fear, her voice was warm and reassuring as this military wife explained to her children that we might be taking a ride on the Army Truck we could see parked on the street in front of our apartment. We might even be going back to America, but daddy was going to have to stay and work for a while. She collected the seven-day supply of K-rations and packed travel bags we were required to keep and placed them next to the front door.
But we didn’t have to leave, and after a few days, dad came back home.
After transferring to Oberammergau, things settled down a little, but there were still some unusual happenings. Sgt. Wheatley belonged to a very exclusive “ski” club. There were six to seven other guys in this club, none of whom were very well known on base. The club would often take off for a few days on ski trips. Just those seven or eight guys. 
No wives or children or any other friends ever went along. Often as not, we’d get a call from somebody on base telling us that the guys had decided to stay for a few nights. The sergeant would often return from these relaxing ski trips bruised and exhausted. But they must have been fun, because it wouldn’t be long before he’d be off again.
The sergeant also took his family on picnics in the German countryside close to the East German border. There would usually be another family along, but these were not friends. Usually the families didn’t know each other, and it was rare to go with the same family more than once. The soldiers usually took at least one long walk by themselves. They often seemed a little tense for a couple of guys out with their families. But the scenery was beautiful and the food usually good. In fact, in a family that pinched pennies, expense rarely seemed to be of any concern on these outings. We traveled well, ate good, and occasionally got to spend the night in some really nice resorts.
In November 1963, things again got very intense. The K-rations and travel bags were again stacked by the front door, and the sergeant was confined to base for several days. At least that’s what we were told. But eventually things settled down and the remainder of this deployment was uneventful.
The sergeant returned to the United States were he soon retired from active service. He went to work for the Corps of Engineers, and spent the remainder of his life hunting and fishing in the hardwood bottoms of Southeast Arkansas that he loved so well.
He never spoke of his military career with his family. Family friends, mostly soldiers he served with, tell me it was an unusually distinguished career, that I should be very proud of my father. And I am. I don’t know specifically what he did that brings moisture to the eyes of the hard men he served with, as they earnestly assure me of his character. But I do know the man. I know he was an honorable man of strength and courage. And I will always believe that the world is a better and safer place for his having lived the life he did.

Sep 13
Blind Spot
icon1 Guy | icon2 Uncategorized | icon4 09 13th, 2012| icon31 Comment »
Blind spots” width=

Safety dictates avoiding blind spots.

I just saw video of a guy on a motorcycle who almost got run over by a woman in her car who was on a cell phone. He was trying out a new bike mounted video camera and caught the action on video. Link to VRCC thread with video.
Now just to be clear, there is no excuse for the woman’s actions. She was obviously not paying attention as she pulled into his lane right in front of him and almost hit him. Though I couldn’t see it on the video, I have no reason to doubt his assertion that she was on a cell phone. But the biker is not completely without fault either.
I was nervous as I watched the video. Of course I knew from the title of the thread that there was going to be a near collision. But I’d have been nervous any way because of where the biker was riding. He was in her blind spot. Additionally, that is a bad place to be because of exactly what the woman did. It’s a rather fundamental safety procedure that you do not stay in that position, relative to a car or larger vehicle.
Somebody pointed that out a little ways down the thread. The rider acknowledged that he was in a bad spot, but said that the woman would have still pulled out if she could have seen him because she was on her phone. I think he missed the point that she couldn’t have hit him if he wasn’t there. As motorcycle riders, we should assume that the larger vehicles are going to do do things like that and be sure that we’ve taken appropriate counter measures. When a car pulls up slightly ahead of you, as the woman did in the video, you should get out of that spot. Pull up at least as far as the front door of the car. This keeps you in the drivers’ line of sight for one thing. If they still do something unfortunate, you will have more time to accelerate out of the danger zone. If you can’t pull up that far for some reason, then drop back far enough that a sudden lane change won’t hit you.
The thread wandered over several topics, from the camera to louder horns. But the salient point, not to be missed here, is the ultimate responsibility of a motorcycle riders’ safety lies with the biker. As the operators of the smallest and most vulnerable vehicles on the road, it is incumbent on us to not allow the larger vehicles to hurt us. Regardless who is legally at fault, the motorcyclist will get the worst of it.
In this incident, the camera recorded a good lesson. I hope the rider learns it.

- Guy Wheatley

Aug 29
Honda Nighthawk” width=

The 250cc Honda Nighthawk is a sporty little bike. It was a good starter bike
for my wife and me.

When my wife and I bought our first motorcycle, it was a 250 Nighthawk. I hadn’t ridden in decades and we decided to start out with a smaller bike that would, hopefully, be easier to ride. I rode it as much as possible, including to and from work. After a few weeks, we felt confident enough for my wife to start riding behind me. We buzzed around the block for a few days, then started riding it a little farther, going to some of the back roads just outside of town.
Eventually one Sunday, we decided to try our luck at a longer trip. One of the things we hoped to be able to do was go camping on it. We thought a small tent, sleeping bags, and a little cold food would fit into a couple of backpacks that we’d wear. The campground we’d most often use was just 90 miles north, and a couple of hours away. Finding ourselves with nothing to do one Sunday, we decided to just take a test run up there and back.
The local weather called for a 40 percent chance of rain. I felt pretty good about those odds. Unfortunately, I didn’t check the forecast for the campground. That would be the major lesson on this trip.
The trip up was fairly uneventful. I was worried about the strain we were putting on the little bike. We’ve both lost a lot of weight since then, but in those days our combined tonnage would have run right about 420 pounds. Getting out on the highway I found that I would run between 60 and 65 mph with the throttle wide open. The going was slower on upward grades, sometimes dropping to as slow as 45 mph.
The route we took was beautiful with small, but well kept, roads snaking through scenic hills. The weather was cool for late summer, with scattered clouds. As we crossed the last major east-west road on our way north, we were just 4 miles from the camp store as the first big droplets began to spatter against my face plate.
I asked Sharon what she wanted to do.
“We’re too close now to turn back,” she said. So we plowed onward.
The rain got worse with every mile. By the time we pulled into the store parking lot, it was an all out deluge. I pulled the bike  under an awning covering a walkway, and we went into the store to dry out. We bought some snacks and soft drinks. By the time we finished our impromptu lunch, the rain began to slack off. A short time later the precipitation stopped, giving way to overcast skies.
While the sky wasn’t blue, I couldn’t see any storm clouds. I figured the worst had come and gone, and we’d be fine on the trip back home. Though we were still wet, I was sure the wind blowing over us would dry us out by the time we got back to the main highway. But barely a mile down the road, it began to rain again. Every mile south took us into a harder and harder downpour.
The rain wasn’t cold, so the only discomfort was from being wet. Not really all that bad. Somebody had told me that if you ride motorcycles, you were going to get wet eventually. So this was our day. We both laughed about it, imagining what our kids would say when we told them the story. Then came the first great crack of thunder. It was close enough that the boom and the flash came at the same time. I was sure I felt the concussion in my chest. Now it wasn’t funny anymore. With deep, gravely ditches on both sides of the road, we were the highest thing in the area. I thought about getting off the bike and taking shelter in the woods, but I wasn’t sure that was any safer. Additionally, the storm was showing no signs of abating. For all I knew, we might wind up there after dark. That was a prospect I didn’t relish.
There was no place on this little road to take shelter. U.S. Highway 70 was just 10 miles south. If we could just get there, we’d be close to some inhabited areas where we could get out of the rain at a convenience store. We doggedly kept going while I tried to determine if each new clap of thunder was closer. I was trying to decide at what point I would abandon the bike for the woods.
We finally reached the bigger highway. This one would take us west-southwest for the next 30 miles. I was glad to reach it, but in some ways it was worse. It was much wider, with wide shoulders. The land here had been cleared on both sides, and the tree line was now 100 yards or more from the road leaving us much more exposed. I considered just staying there and hiding in the trees.
But looking to the south, I could see blue sky. Just a mile away, or less, was a bright sunny day. Too bad I was now heading west. I hadn’t heard thunder or seen lightning in the last few minutes, and with blue sky in sight and a small town just 10 miles up the road, I decided to make a run for it. But I had barely reached highway speed when the next clap of thunder threatened to knock us off the bike. The rain increased to the point that I couldn’t stand going more that 40 mph. The impact of those fat drops just hurt too bad to go any faster. It seemed that the lightening was getting worse, yet I could still see fleecy clouds and blue sky over my left shoulder.
We eventually reached the small town of Dierks, but to my dismay, there was nothing open on this rainy Sunday afternoon. The lightening was incessant by now. I spotted a little filling station with two pumps covered by a metal top. The store was closed, but there was shelter of sorts up next to the pumps. I wasn’t really sure if that was any safer, but my nerves were completely shattered by now. This was at least different than being out on the open road.
We stayed on the bike under our modest shelter. I watched the line of blue where the sky was clear still to the south and willed it to come our way. But it ignored my psychic urging. Just 15 miles further west, we’d hit U.S. Highway 71 and turn south, toward the peaceful land I could see from our current refuge. But at the moment, that intersection seem as far away as the Pacific Coast.
After 15 minutes, the rain and the thunder slacked off. I could still hear it in the distance, but it wasn’t the spine-jarring reports that had chased us for the last 30 miles. With little hope that the clear weather would move north, and fear that conditions might deteriorate, we hit the road again for that last 15 miles to relative safety.
About halfway there, we got the last close bolt. After that, it was just a moderate shower and distant lightening. With every clap of sound and drop of water, that stubborn line of blue mocked us with safety just out of reach.
In a fine drizzle, I made a left turn heading south now on 71. In less than a mile and barely a minute later, we were riding down a bight, sunlit road that was as dry as a bone. As the temperature climbed, our wet clothes kept us cool as they dried. An hour later, 46 miles to the south, we pulled into our driveway tired, but elated. This had been an adventure, scary but exciting. And we knew that the decision to buy the bike and been a good one.

- Guy Wheatley

Aug 8
Starting Big
icon1 Guy | icon2 Uncategorized | icon4 08 8th, 2012| icon31 Comment »
Starter bike.” width=

My wife and son’s 250cc Diamo starter bike parked in front of my
1500cc Victory 92 TC Deluxe Touring Cruiser.

A new member recently joined the Valkyrie Riders Cruiser Club. This guy is more than 60 years old, and has never ridden motorcycles before. Apparently the Valkyrie has caught his eye, and he plans to buy one. He gave us some information on himself. He’s technically competent, seems very intelligent and generally a reasonably cautious guy. But he said he does not plan to start small. His first bike will be the Valkyrie.
He assures us he will be careful, take classes, read books, watch videos and listen to advice from more experienced riders. But he seems pretty well set on bypassing experience on a smaller bike first.
Several of the VRCC members, including yours truly, advise him against this. He has a pilot’s license so I asked him if he would recommend somebody learning to fly in a 747. But to my surprise, and dismay, a few members encouraged him to go for it. Most just tell him to be careful. Others think his experience as a pilot gives him the same kind of skills needed to safely operate a big, powerful, cruiser. There is the feeling that as this man is so intelligent, and is licensed and qualified in a demanding profession, that he can simply “smart” his way to safe operation of his bike.
Being smart always helps. But one of the things a smart person will do is proceed cautiously and methodically. No amount of “smarts” will replace experience. A rider on another board recently posted about the accident that destroyed his bike and seriously injured him. He was a new rider and ran off the road into a ditch. He acknowledges when things started going bad, he fixed his gaze on the ditch. This is known as “target fixation.” It’s just natural to look at the thing you’re most concerned about. In his case, the ditch. But it’s also true you will go where you are looking. It takes time to learn to subconsciously look at where you want to go, not at the scary thing you’re trying to miss.
As things start going sideways, your body will react instinctively. There is no time to “think.” You will do either what just seems natural or what you have trained yourself to do. The biggest brain in the world won’t change that.
It’s an old adage that there is no replacement for experience. Somebody reminded him there were old pilots, and bold pilots, but not many old, bold pilots. Learning to ride on a Valkyrie is certainly bold.

- Guy Wheatley

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