Five Lives – One Gone

Five Lives – One Gone

For the last two weeks while Eleanor was getting tuned up, I was going to motorcycle class, I was also reading a couple of books on riding motorcycles.  In addition, I researched and read about motorcycle accidents and deaths.  Reviewed a few reports on the “dangers” of motorcycle riding.

Riding motorcycles and flying airplanes are similar in many ways.  When you are the pilot of an airplane or driver of a motorcycle there are a lot of things going on that must be paid attention too, often simultaneously.  For example, in flying an airplane you’ve got to control the plane; this includes watching your airspeed, compass heading, turn radius, looking out the windshield for other airplanes in the sky that might be near you.  Plus, you must watch your engine temperature, terrain, raising and lowering flaps and landing gear at the correct times.  There is a lot going on when flying a general aviation aircraft.

Riding a motorcycle is similar, there are a lot of things you must do to be successful.  You’ve got to be able to balance the bike (particularly at slow speeds), you need to shift gears at the right time, manage your speed, constantly be looking ahead of you for obstacles like people, cars, curbs, animals, condition of the road.  And if all is managed correctly you will enjoy a great ride.

The most important similarity of riding motorcycles and flying airplanes is that if either one crashes it is usually painful.  Plane crash – motorcycle crash …. Best case scenario some skin might come off … worst case, you die.

Having read about some facts of motorcycle riding and that there are some inherent risks involved I decided at the onset of riding motorcycles that I would give myself 5 Lives.  You heard that a cat has nine lives …. FIVE seemed to be a better number for a 60-year-old guy starting to ride bikes.

Today, I wasted one of my five lives …. Bummer.

My first day riding.

Got on the Gold Wing and rode over to a large vacant parking lot to practice riding the bike at slow speeds.  Starting, stopping, slow riding and turning at slow speeds.  I spent a

Straight at an uphill angle.

bout 30 minutes riding at no more than 15 miles per hour.  Practicing the necessary skills I was introduced to from the Safety Motorcycle Class.  After many turns, lots of stop and goes I decide to ride up to a place called Glennville, CA.  Glenville is about a 35 mile ride one way.  The two lane road is very smooth and very twisty.  There are turns of every size … nearly 200 turns.  It is a wonderful ride with great scenery.So …  I start my ride to Glennville on this 950lb Gold Wing.  The first few miles was going very well.  Making good turns feeling like I’m totally in control.  Not going fast … at least I didn’t think so 😊.  About 8-10 miles into the ride there is part of the road that is strait for about a quarter mile with an uphill angle.   Once you reach the peak of this hill the road bends to the left.  I was probably going a little too fast because it surprised me that it turned slightly to the left.  After you go straight for another quarter mile you make a 90 degree left turn.  Up to this point in the ride all was good.

I

20170921_171710[1]
The curve.
n the first 10 minutes of riding my confidence was booming (falsely).  After the 90 degree left curve you ride for about another 400 yards and then there is long right hand turn.  This is where my motorcycle days almost ended.  I was clearly going a little too fast for my skill level (beginner on a 950lb beast!).  The right hand turn increases in turn angle as you go through the turn.  I entered the turn good (too fast), but the turn got a little tighter, the turn began to become a sharper turn and I wasn’t prepared.  As I was unable to control the bike I drifted across the center line into the other lane while I was trying to slow down … totally out of control (if only for a few seconds).  The moment I crossed the center line a White Wrangler Jeep was coming the other way …. I crossed the center lane right after passing the Jeep … total luck!  As I was moving back into my lane (through the curve) I narrowly missed the second car, a red Ford pickup whose driver had big eyes!  I came within a nano-second from hitting the trucks front bumper!  This entire event took a total of no more than 3 seconds.  All I could say was s#$t, s#$t, s#$t, s#$t!  I know I messed up big.  Clearly was going too fast for my skill level and frankly, I was lucky not to have been hurt!  One of my 5 lives is gone!  I have 4 remaining.

One life gone going around THIS curve.

After stopping at a turn out and understanding what I had done I continued my trip to Glennville and then back home.  I was riding much slower and allowed many cars to pass me by.

What were the mistakes made? 1) Chose a rode that was clearly to advance for my skill level.  This was my first 10 miles.  Maybe I should have gained some experience on a less curvy rode.  2) I clearly over estimated my skill level.  I was like a student pilot trying to fly a Boeing 747!  3) To fast!  It’s about the journey not the destination.  Slow down and enjoy the ride!

A footnote:

This blog is depicting events that have happened early in my riding career.  Today is October 2, 2017, the event in this blog took place May 26, 2017, the first day of my riding days.  During the past four months I’ve logged nearly 8,000 miles.  I am hooked on riding! I enjoy riding more than I ever thought imaginable.  I’ve learned a lot about riding during the past 4 months and will share the great rides I’ve taken and the things I’ve learned.  Stay tuned!

Mark’s Great Advice!

Marks’s Best Advice – CMSP

“Eleanor” (the name of my 2008  GL1800 Gold Wing) is at the motorcycle shop getting some work done.  New tires, oil change, battery and repair of a leaking front seal.  It will be ready for pick up in a few days.  However, before I can pick her up I need to attend the Californian Motorcyclist Safety Program or CMSP.  I initially received the information about CMSP from Mark at the local Harley store.

Taking the CMSP class does a couple of things … for starters it gives some great fundamentals to work on after the class. Second, you will get a discount on your insurance after passing the class and third, successfully completing this class replaces the regular practical test you would need to take at the DMV to get your license.

This class is three days!  Friday night from 6:00pm – 9:00pm.  This first class is all book work.  Saturday, is on the ‘range” from 12:00pm – 4:30pm.  The range is a huge parking lot at a local college in Valencia, CA.  Then more class time Saturday evening from 5:30pm – 8:30pm.  At the end of the class you take a final written test. The third day, Sunday, on the range again from 12:00pm – 4:30pm. The end of the third day on the range you take a practical test of driving the motorcycle based on the skills you’ve learned from the range lessons.

Looking forward to going to the class I began to think what a huge waste of time this is going to be.  I’ve ridden motorcycles … dirt bikes as a kid, a couple of big bikes 25 years earlier and I brought Eleanor home sum 60 miles without incident!  I’m good enough … I don’t need this class!  But I kept hearing Mark’s words … “Even if you know how to ride this is a great class, I recommend that you take the course before you start riding!”

Now, having successfully completed the CMSP, I will confirm that I am so glad I went!  It was time well spent.  Our teacher for the weekend was a lady named Charlie (she is part of the Top Gun Motorcycle Training Centers).  Charlie was passionate about motorcycle riding.  She averages about 30,000 miles a year.  She rides in rain, daylight, darkness, long distances, short distances and more.  She was a terrific teacher.  She made the classes very enjoyable.

The “range” portion of the class was awesome!  About 12 of us students on smaller bikes (150cc to 250cc).  The motorcycles we used in the range were light and easy to ride.  Anyone can take this class … no experience is necessary.  We were taught skills like turning, hard braking, swerving, stopping, clutch work, U-turns, significance of turning your head in a turn and much more.  While it did seem a bit basic (which that is what it is designed to be) I gained a lot of knowledge that was able to bring to the real world of riding Eleanor!

In conclusion, if you are interested in riding motorcycles I strongly encourage you to visit Top Gun (http://www.topgunmc.com), it is money well spent!

 

All the preparation is complete, it’s time to ride!

Probably Not the Best Idea

Do as I say, not as I do …

I’m on the GW ready to go …. Start it, put it in gear, ease out the clutch and here we go!  Did I mention I have very little experience up to this point riding motorcycles … I rode a GW 25 years ago for a few hours …

There were two routes to get home.  One was side streets with real twisty roads or Hwy 58 with lots of fast traffic.  I realized how heavy this bike is (950lbs!), there was no way I wanted to learn

Named the GW … where did this name come from? Think “car” movie.

 how to ride on a narrow two-lane road with snaking turns.  I chose Hwy 58.  How bad could it be … get on the highway, get up to speed, ride for 50 miles and presto, be home?
The plan was for Sue to follow me to an empty parking lot so I could practice turning, stopping and starting before we began the journey home.  By the time I made to the parking lot I began to think that maybe I’ve bitten off more than I could chew … I spent about 20 minutes starting and stopping, making some turns (wow, this takes a lot of real estate to turn this bus!) and generally trying to get use to this bike.

I made it to Highway 58 with 50 miles to go.  Accelerated to 60 miles per hour.  This 2008 GL1800 Gold Wing gets to 60 quickly.  There I am cruising at 60 with my wife following me.  I’m starting to get passed by many big rigs so I sped up so that I was finally keeping up with traffic … 70 miles per hour.  The bike was smooth and all was going good.

We made it home and I parked the bike in the garage.  I was exhausted!  My wrist hurt, my shoulders were sore, my neck was tight … again, probably not the best idea to have ridden the bike home with such little experience.  If you get a bike and have no experience, have a seasoned rider get your bike to a safe place like a large empty parking lot and practice.  What I did worked out … but, not the brightest idea.

The next day Sue followed me to the to the motorcycle shop to get some work done on the GW.  New tires, oil change, front fork seals replaced and battery (the bike had not been ridden in 3 years).  It wouldn’t be ready to pick up for about a week.  PERFECT!

 

Had lots to do before I picked up the GW:

  • Motorcycle safety class in 2 days
  • The purchase of several items:
    • Air compressor
    • Tire pressure gauge
    • Cleaning materials
    • Tire repair kit
    • Several other miscellaneous items

The big item I had to purchase was a place to park the GW … a shed of some kind.  There would be no room in the garage.  The garage had two cars and “stuff”.

Looked at rubber/plastic sheds … no way.   That material would warp and melt in the Bakersfield heat.  Talked to the local Tuff Shed folks and made a deal with them.  These sheds are quality buildings and would fit nicely alongside the house.  The Tuff Shed installers came a few days later and installed the Tuff Shed.

All that is left is to do is take the motorcycle safety class and a few days later pick the bike up from being serviced and then the fun will really begin!

Impulsive, obsessive, goal oriented … not sure … but, let’s review what has taken place in a few days ….

 

A Story Never To Be Forgotten

Soooo excited!!!!

Packing a helmet, gloves, riding gear, boots, insurance, excitement and money … off we go to pick up the 2008 GL1800 Gold Wing!  It’s going to be about a 60 mile ride there and 60 miles back on the GW.  I just got my permit … so yeah, I’m ready to rumble!

Sue, my wife, is going with me to follow me home.  Let me say that at this time Sue is a bit reluctant about the entire motorcycle midlife crises adventure.  Yep, she okayed the purchase and the idea of riding a street motorcycle, but, she still was not exactly overjoyed.  You know, people get hurt riding motorcycles, it’s dangerous, this is a midlife crises thing and you’ll be over this in a few months, bla, bla, bla (hope she doesn’t read this!).  Onward we go!

In about an hour we arrive at the home where the GW rests.  We park the car, climb up the drive way and James meets us in the back of the house.  The GW is there and James.  James’ mother walks out to greet us with a smile … her name is Sally.

Sally and her son James are sweet people.  Instantly, we formed a bond that was more than just transaction in nature.  You know that feeling when you meet someone and it’s like you’ve known them for years?  That’s the feeling Sue and I both had.  Really good people.

We walked in the house and sat at the kitchen table to “do business”.  We counted the money and reviewed all the paper work.  She gave us the keys, “mechanic’s manual”, pink slip, all receipts for the bike since new.  Now that the business was done Sally walked us through her house showing the new tile flooring that James had laid down … it was beautiful.  This kid can do wonderful work!

And now the rest of the story.

For whatever reason it’s easy for me to ask personal questions of people … not being disrespectful or judgmental … I just think everyone has a story and I enjoy hearing people’s story.  The “story” is usually something that happened that changed the course of one’s life or was a significant event that is a constant memory.  Thankfully, most everyone I ask of their “story” have shared.

Dave: “Sally, James shared that your husband passed away a few years ago; how did your husband pass away?”

Sally: “My husband died in a motorcycle accident three years ago.”

This took both Sue and I by … not surprise, but, was overwhelmed with a since of empathy, compassion … not sure.

She continued telling us the story.  He was riding more of a sportier motorcycle to work about 80 miles away.  While riding on a two-lane highway he went to pass a big rig … the big rig did not see him and turned left at the exact same time he was passing on the left … he hit the truck and died at the scene.

At this time both Sue and I have tears in our eyes as if it had just happened.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like to receive the phone call at about 10:30am on a sunny day.  Sally’s husband was in his mid 50s, had been riding motorcycles since he was 13.  Sally said that he had over a million miles riding throughout his life. He was certainly an expert rider …

We spent about another 30 minutes with James and Sally and it was time to ride the bike home.

The back of the house was elevated about 30 feet from the street below.  I told James he would have to get the bike down to the street.  He drove down this long steep “dirt” drive way and parked the bike next to the curb.

60 miles to go!

As he handed over the keys to me he said this:

“My Dad was one best motorcycle riders in the world …. he had a horrible accident … ride like you are invisible to everyone else and you will be fine.”

With that I mounted the bike …..

With no experience, a new permit … I mount this bike and I’m going to ride it home … look out!

Things I Gotta Get

There are more cost to riding a motorcycle than just the bike.

So now I have committed to buying a 2008 Honda Gold Wing.  And I need to get the bike to my house.  I thought maybe the owner would trailer it down to my house … but no, the trailer is now broken.  So now how am I going to get this 950lb bike home?

I have a friend that is an experienced GW rider and he offered to drive it home (like 50 miles away).  That seemed silly … so I decided my wife and I would go up and pay the balance of the money and she would follow me home on the HUGE 950lb motorcycle.  And this is the first not bright idea I had.

Now, in order to drive the motorcycle home, I needed a few things.  First, I needed a motorcycle permit to legally ride the bike.  I called the DMV on Thursday and scheduled to take the written test on the following Monday … this would get me a permit.  Second, I needed “stuff”.  I needed a helmet and some riding gear. (We’ll discuss riding gear in the near future).  We traveled to Orange County, CA … this is where I would buy some stuff.

First stop though would be to see the 2007 Gold Wing with 70,000 for $12,000.  The bike was nice and all that … but, after seeing the bike I felt great about the 2008 GW we purchased!  This motorcycle shop didn’t have what I needed … mainly a helmet.  While at the motorcycle shop I began talking with another customer about his GW.  During the conversation, he suggested we go down the street to a place called Cycle Gear.  So off to Cycle Gear we go.

 

Helmets.  Big problem for me.  I first noticed how “long” my head was when they didn’t have a Cub Scout hat to fit my head.  My Dad had to cut and tap that hat to make it work (I was like 9).  Then playing high school football … the school had to get a custom helmet for my now longer head! Many, many years ago went through a cowboy phase for about a week … could not find a cowboy hat to fit!  Fitted hats became popular several years ago … nope, they don’t make one my size and shape, period.  And now I’ve got to get a helmet that fits my beautifully shaped head.

This was my first time in Cycle Gear.  To a new motorcycle enthusiast, this store was nirvana!  This store had a complete wall, from top to bottom with every style and color of helmets.  Surely, they would have one that fits.  I didn’t care what color or brand (didn’t know anything about brands at this time), I just needed a helmet that would fit … a huge challenge.

To my pleasant surprise motorcycle helmets come in all kinds of sizes and different shapes.  This store had 3XL which is the first good thing.  Secondly, manufacturers make shapes described as oval, intermediate oval and long oval … unbelievable!  My salesman found an intermediate oval, ARIA full faced helmet that fit great.  Albeit, they had to switch out the side pads for thicker ones to make the helmet fit perfectly.  Helmet cost was $585 … on sale.  Had no idea helmets cost so much.

A more detailed helmet discussion will follow in the future blogs.  Reading and learning about helmet technology the past few months has been very interesting.  There is a lot that goes into making a helmet.

Next, I needed riding pants and jacket. Again, I will have a lot more to share about riding gear in future blogs (I love talking about riding gear).  Nonetheless, I bought a $119 riding jacket and a $199 pair of riding pants.

This all happened on Sunday before the Tuesday I was going to pick up the 2008 GW.  To my surprise there is a Cycle Gear in my city a few miles away.  Monday, I went to CG and bought some gloves and a pair of inexpensive riding shoes.  To take my safety class the following weekend I needed shoes that covered the ankle … check!

So now it is Monday and I have all the gear.  I go to the DMV Monday afternoon and pass my test and headed home with my permit.  Yippee!

Tuesday morning I’m excited to drive up 50 miles and get the bike.  This morning I called GEICO and bought a year of insurance for about $500.  As you now know, if you are going to ride a motorcycle, there are additional costs that begin to add up … and it’s only beginning.

So, at 2:00 in the afternoon we arrived at the home to pick up the bike.

Picking up the bike and talking with the widow and her son this day was a game changer … just wait!

Committed to Buy

The decision was pretty easy.

Day 3-4 I contemplated what bike to get.  I knew I wanted a big bike (Electra Glide, Gold Wing, etc.) I had just spent time in the Harley store and saw some beautiful bikes.  However, I eliminated HDs for a couple of reasons.  First, the Harley was a little too loud for my liking.  I had a neighbor that wakes the entire neighborhood when he leaves on his HD at 5:00 in the morning.  Second, I wanted the most reliable bike I could get.  While I believe the newer HDs have very few break downs, I was going to buy a used bike, maybe 5-8 years old.  I heard a guy once joke that “95% of all Harleys are still on the road today …. the other 5% made it home”.

My decision came by way of my lawnmower.  Thirty two years ago I bought a Tru-Cut 25” front throw lawnmower.  It has a 5 hp Honda motor.  After 32 years it still starts with one pull!  It has been super reliable.

Since I had a little experience (very little) on a 1991 Gold Wing … well, just like that I decided to start looking at Honda Gold Wings.  Now, I knew very little about GWs or any motorcycle for that matter.  However, I placed my entire focus on searching for a Gold Wing GL1800.

I found http://www.cycletrader.com.  This is a great website!  If you’re looking to get a new or used motorcycle spend some time on this website.  After becoming an “expert” on 2007-2009 GWs I found one that I started to focus on.  It was down in Huntington Beach, CA at a motorcycle shop … a 2007 with 70,000 miles.  This used bike had a couple of extras like a seat back rest and floorboards.  The price was $12,000.  We were heading down to the area in a few days and was excited to go see my new bike!

On day 4 while spending way too many hours on cycletrader I came across a new listing of a Gold Wing.  This was a 2008 GL1800 with 17,000 miles for $10,500.  Hmmm, big difference in price and mileage. While most listings on cycletrader have several pictures attached this listing had only one.

Calling the phone number I spoke to James.  I had a simple question: “Why are you selling your bike?”  James said that it was his Dad’s bike and that his dad had passed away a few years earlier and the family was now ready to sell the bike.  I asked if I could come up and see the bike and two days later one of my sons and I were there looking at a beautiful 2008 Gold Wing!

We talked to James about the GW.  We started it and listened to the engine run … sounded good to me.  Checked out the lights, oil and other fluids.  All looked good to me (frankly, I had no idea what to look for … leaky fluids?).  James volunteered information that he had trailered the bike 50 miles to a local motorcycle store to place the bike on consignment a few days earlier.  At the same time he paid a $100 for an inspection of the bike.  They suggested that the bike needed new tires, a front fork seal was leaking and perhaps a new battery.  It’s fair to say, James didn’t have a good feeling with these guys and brought the bike home and placed the add in cycletrader.  He offered me the invoice as proof and I knew I didn’t need to read it.

When you do business like buying a used motorcycle, I feel you should trust the person you’re doing business with or walk away.  In a short time, we felt James was very trustworthy.  We settled on a price of $10,000.  I gave James a deposit and agreed to me coming in a few days to get the bike.

I now have a lot to do before I pick this bike up in 5 days.  Get a permit to drive it, helmet and gear and whatever else you need.

This is when the first challenges begin to pop up ….

Best Advice Today!

Continuation Day 2

Then I asked the question:

“WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS HD ELECTRA GLIDE AND HONDA GOLDWING?”

Mark shared a couple cool aspects he thought were good for the HD side:

First, owning a Harley you become part of the HD family … a brotherhood of people who like the freedom of riding motorcycles.  Secondly, one of the good things about being a HD owner is that there is a HD dealership within a hundred miles of wherever you are in the US!

These were two good things to keep in mind.  But, I told Mark I was thinking more about the “performance” differences of the HD Electra Glide and the Honda Gold Wing.  He said that the Honda will always start and be ready to go … low maintenance.  While he didn’t say anything derogatory about the Gold Wing, I think he was trying to imply the HD is just a cooler bike!  Like I said earlier the HD Electra Glide is a beautiful bike … very cool!

Day 2 in the Harley store Mark passed on information to me that turned out to be the most significant part of my motorcycle journey thus far.  Mark leaves our conversation for a minute and comes back with a little piece of paper with a phone number to Top Gun Motorcycle Safety Course.   He says that before I do anything like buying a bike …. take this course.  He says the course will teach you fundamentals of riding and how to be a safe rider.  He said it will get you going in the right direction.

Talked with Mark for a few more minutes then I left with the piece of paper in my hand.

As soon as I got home (5 minutes from the HD store) I was on my computer looking up information about the Top Gun safety course.  Within an hour I was signed up for a class an hour away in Valencia, CA two weeks from now.

On a personal note … good or bad … when I get involved in something I go all in. Like my dad used to say … “if you’re going to be a bear be a grizzly”.  So, seeing the motorcycle at the intersection yesterday then visiting a HD store and signing up for motorcycle safety course on day 2, to me, are just things you need to do.

Summary of Day 2:

First: Mark is an awesome dude!  He was very helpful and patient answering my very basic questions.  He gave me good advice (safety class) and was never trying to push me into buying a bike.  He encouraged me to come visit if ever I had any questions that he would be happy to chat.

To anyone reading this blog and looking to buy a HD in Bakersfield, CA … see Mark!  He is a straight shooter and a knowledgeable rider.  I think he has over 500 thousand miles without an accident or ticket!

Second: By the end of Day 2 it was time to get serious about buying a motorcycle.  I would be taking a safety class in less than 2 weeks and within a few days after wanted to be a fully licensed and ready to go rider … I think.

Day 2 concludes with me finding a website called www.cycletrader.com  …..