Motorcycle Mentor

For early December, the weather was looking good. I had a list of things to do but mostly I just wanted to go ride my motorcycle. So in the early afternoon I put on my gear and took off, not sure of the direction I was headed I mostly wanted to put some miles on. Feeling guilty at first because walls won’t paint themselves, I hesitated but quickly got over that feeling as I rode off.

It felt good to get out. The weather hasn’t been the best but I figured an hour or so on the bike is what I needed to sort my thoughts. I hadn’t been on Humboldt Creek road for a while so I headed East towards Alta Vista to take Humboldt back North towards Junction City. I figured a big loop finding my way back home was a good bet.

It’s funny how the same road can look different based on direction, the time of year and the time of day. How the light casts shadows and the specific colors nature is wearing during any particular season can make a familiar road feel different. This was one of those rides.

How the light casts shadows and the specific colors nature is wearing any particular season can make a familiar road feel different.

After a quick ride on the scenic Humboldt Creek road, I ended up at a park to take a minute and enjoy the afternoon. I pulled up and laughed at myself for hitting the kill switch to shut my bike off. I don’t normally shut the bike down this way, and for some reason I did – even wondering why I would do that. Oh well, I’m getting older and I do weird stuff some times.

While sitting there admiring the side view of my BMW GS from about 30 feet away, a couple of kids rode up on their bikes. As I sat there on the bench I remembered how I was at 10 or 12 years old, riding my bike and dreaming of owning a motorcycle. I noticed one of the boys kept looking at my bike as they were horsing around and I was sure he too had an interest like I did in motorized two-wheel motion. I smiled at the thought.

I noticed one of the boys kept looking at my bike as they were horsing around and I was sure he too had an interest like I did in motorized two-wheel motion. I smiled at the thought.

I’m sure it was only a few moments as all of these thoughts ran through my head. Then, out of nowhere, it appears this boy is coming over to talk to me. At first, I thought what shall I say? Is this my chance to influence a young man who shows some interest in how motorcycles can change your life? Am I up to it? And how cool would it be to bump into him in 10 years on some lonesome highway where he recognizes me and says “hey, you were the one who got me into motorcycling.” How strange, I was just thinking this and now he’s 20 feet away and closing.

12 year old boy; Hey mister, is that your bike?

Me; Yes, it is.

Now keep in mind, my brain is clicking along faster than the conversation. I’m anticipating where this is going and I’m trying to be helpful and attentive to his questions because after all, this is my chance! For the last 20 minutes or so, while I’ve been sitting on this bench, this boy has admired my motorcycle. Now he’s mustered up his courage to come over to ask what it’s like to be wild and free on two wheels. Pay attention Jeff!

12 year old boy; Your headlight is on.

57 year old me; Hey, thanks…

When I pulled up and hit the kill-switch, I forgot to turn the key off. That usually happens to new riders – and guys like me just trying to enjoy a ride in December. For 20 minutes or so my key was on while I admired the profile of my motorcycle in the afternoon light. Thanks kid, for letting me know. As I got up and walked over to my bike, the boys climbed on theirs and took off. I guess they already know what it’s like to be wild and free on two-wheels.


The Guy on the Motorcycle


I’m just the guy on the motorcycle. You may not be able to tell if I’m a man or a woman, young or old or even how long I’ve been riding, but I’m a motorcyclist nonetheless. Maybe you’ve seen me, maybe not. But I see you. I’m on my way to work just like everyone else, or maybe I’m taking a long weekend ride. We’re a lot alike you and me, but I just choose to travel by two-wheels instead of four. You decided to drive your car today instead of riding your motorcycle. Hey, I’ve done that too. Sometimes the day requires more than my motorcycle can handle. Sometimes you see me and wish you had a motorcycle. You should get one because I know it will change your life, and how you drive that car of yours. Maybe you have an opinion of who I am inside this helmet I’m wearing but I want you to know that not all of us our outlaws. In fact, I waved at you this morning but you didn’t wave back. Maybe you just didn’t see me.

I know you wonder from the comfort of your car how I can ride when it’s cold or raining. You see, that’s how much I want to ride. I know it seems crazy to someone who doesn’t ride a motorcycle, but I have the proper gear to protect me from the elements. When we ride, we are exposed to all kinds of weather and this is all a part of the experience. You could say I’m vulnerable to the weather as it changes. I would say I’m vulnerable to anything outside of my leather jacket.

You could say I’m vulnerable to the weather as it changes. I would say I’m vulnerable, period.

When did you first notice me? Was it the sound my motorcycle makes? My headlight and bright-colored jacket? Or was it after you pulled out halfway into the intersection before slamming on your brakes? I kind of wondered if you were going to stop. Maybe you’re running late, and that’s okay. I run late all the time too. We both have places we need to be with families and jobs that require us to get the most out of our day. It’s okay, and I waved at you anyway.

Think about motorcycles as people – actual people – sharing the road with you and how vulnerable I feel when riding amongst cars and trucks.

Can I ask a favor? Take a second to look and listen for me. Think about motorcycles as people – actual people – sharing the road with you and how vulnerable I feel when riding amongst cars and trucks. I know you’re frustrated with the road construction and the light that won’t turn green quick enough because I am frustrated with it too. And when you do see me, wave at me. And not just because it’s nice to say “hello” but it also tells me that you know I’m here.


Uphill Both Ways


When we were young we were told not to cross the road. Curiosity is a dangerous thing and sometimes temptation can get the best of us. Sometimes we listen and other times well, we don’t.

Soon enough we get permission to get on it and it becomes the beginning of a wild ride. Fast, late nights, friends and new places. A world opens up and we will never be the same. Ever. We push the boundaries of those limits imposed upon us and we find just how far we can go. And we go. Chasing girls and jobs and the future we think we want and it’s all there in front of us. We can see it just beyond the hood ornament on the car pulling us into our future further than what we’re ready for. Too young to know the difference we continue; we can always ask questions later.

The highway becomes such a big part of our lives. It’s takes us to places to celebrate the birth of new life and the end of someone else’s. It gives us a path to our daily grind but doubles as our escape route from it as well. It is our scenic byway and our road from hell and it can be all in the direction you’re traveling. Young and full of ourselves or old and tired of it all, we roll down the road not knowing where it will end. This is the road we’ve chosen and it’s ours. Paved or unpaved, uphill both ways or rocky, put it in drive and floor it. Why not and what are you waiting for?

Young and full of ourselves or old and tired of it all, we roll down the road not knowing where it will end. This is the road we’ve chosen and it’s ours

We spend a good portion of our lives looking down the roads we travel. Whether we’re running late or on sabbatical determines how our eyes perceive the road ahead. We all need some down time. You know the kind – the freedom to let our mind and body wander. The absence of a focal point, a desk free of clutter and a mind wide open to whatever. This is why I ride a motorcycle. It’s rare to see someone on a motorcycle distracted by anything other than 3000 pound, four wheel moving objects and an occasional furry friend. Take those out of the equation with a cell phone conveniently turned off and what more could you ask for? Warm, dry weather and a full tank of gas doesn’t hurt either.

Well-worn highways and beat down back roads. If you were to take one or the other, which would it be? It doesn’t really matter as long as the direction you’re going will get you to where you want to go. We all have a reason to be on the road. We share it with people just like us, looking to get to work or chasing a dream. And if it’s a hood ornament or a headlight you look over as you stare down the highway just remember that day long ago when you hit the road for the first time, and the freedom you felt. The windows down or wind in your face isn’t something you forget, in fact it’s something we desire. Just put it in gear and go.

Good Place to Start


Why do we always need a place to go and is it possible to not pick a direction? When it comes to riding our motorcycles, we need to start somewhere, just anywhere to get this ride underway. Our desire is to go places we’ve never been, but it takes traveling down roads we’ve already ridden on to find them. A little known feature built into all motorcycles is a GPS. It doesn’t matter how old your bike is, or what kind of bike you ride, it is mounted right behind your headlight. This system of navigation has been around since the early days of motorcycling, it’s easy to use and a very effective way of either finding yourself or getting lost. You choose.

This form of GPS is also known as a Good Place to Start – you have to start somewhere, and this is as good a place as any. It doesn’t matter if you are a new rider on an entry-level bike or a seasoned rider plagued with miles of experience, you have to hit the starter button and go. Every ride begins exactly where you are, so what are you waiting for? Once underway, you’ll find it easy to follow your headlight wherever it leads you. Don’t put a lot of thought into it and stop fighting the urge to turn the other way – your headlight is never wrong. Sometimes it’s the pressure we put on ourselves to make the ride amazing we forget to “just ride.”

When you are so focused on “where” to go, keep reminding yourself to “just” go. Relax and take it all in even if the road is so familiar you can tell where you are just by the feel of the surface as you ride over it. I can’t remember regretting a ride, but I can remember regretting to not ride at all. Do not let the opportunity pass you by because of indecision on where to go, as every ride should be based on why you go, and instead of a gadget determining your global position, you should determine where you are and where you are going in this world.

We have to remind ourselves that it’s the simplicity of the motorcycle that draws us in. We ride for various reasons, with the most important of those reasons being the motorcycle’s ability of taking us anywhere. It can take us to any destination imaginable, and it’s capable of getting us lost at the same time. This is a Good Place to Start.




Motorcycle Crossing


I love riding this time of year. Early fall, cool in the mornings, and perfect when you ride home. This morning’s ride to work was just that. I had my leather jacket on, knowing that at 49 degrees on the ride in, it would not be needed this afternoon on the way home. About six miles from home the road drops into a valley where the small community of Skiddy resides, and of course where the temperature drops what seems to be about 10 degrees. It’s also a known hangout for deer. You cross two bridges over the same creek with trees lining the banks, so I guess from a deer’s perspective it makes a great place to jump from the ditches and scare us folks on motorcycles.

Every day you swing a leg over the seat of a motorcycle, you take a chance. There isn’t a day goes by that a car doesn’t pull out in front of me without the driver looking my way – it’s going to happen, so I fully expect it. Deer on the other hand, have an element of surprise that humans posses but rarely use. Deer usually come to work semi-camouflaged to their surroundings, aren’t going to have a cell phone up to their head and they do their best work anywhere but in an intersection. Humans are usually confined to pavement and as long as your head is on a swivel, they are predictable.

This morning as the sun was coming up but yet to crest the horizon, I dropped into the valley crossing the first bridge. After the bridge there is a gradual curve to the left that can be taken without slowing down and this morning wasn’t going to be any different. Once I was committed into the curve, out of the corner of my good eye I realized a doe was ignoring the Motorcycle Crossing sign. She was stepping up onto the road from the ditch to my left wearing a stunning brown fur coat (like I said, the temperature feels about 10 degrees cooler when you drop down through Skiddy, so a coat was expected). Traveling at about 50 miles per hour and well into to the curve, I had only a split-second to react to the situation as it presented itself. My history with deer indicates an unpredictable jump out of the ditch onto the road or they are already standing there, statuesque, on the road staring directly into my headlight. This doe was just casually stepping onto the road as if waiting on a school bus, and as I rounded the curve our eyes met – hers big and brown, mine wide open. Her head moved, following me and watching to see what I was going to do next, mine doing the same thing, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Had I reached out with my left hand I felt like I could have touched her, but I’m sure she was a littler further away than that. Too close for me either way.

I accept the risk of riding motorcycles, and in a split-second this situation could have gone from a close call to call an ambulance. Remaining composed, I didn’t slow down or panic, but rather accepted whatever decision this deer was going to make. It’s amazing how fast you can think when faced with a situation involving many different factors, hoping for the best, and the only control you have is your own actions. I don’t know what the doe was thinking, but I’m sure she was just as surprised as I was.

Just like that it was over with. It all ended well and I made it to work without a scratch. As a daily occurrence, a car pulled off the exit ramp of I-70, didn’t stop at the stop sign or look my way – barely a close call but I knew it was going to happen so there were no surprises. At least the deer saw me.

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