Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mopeds, Scooters and Motorcycle Safety Awareness

There was a recent article in the Nashua Telegraph about a 72 year old man trying to navigate the streets of the city on his moped.

After reading this story, I could see many stories behind the story that point to so many contemporary issues of our times. Some of these stories are more sobering than the surface story will tell you. In the article 72 year old Bob Lavoie is trying to save on gas while commuting to his TWO jobs by riding his new scooter which tops out at 30 MPH. Bob still has a mortgage to pay and despite being 72, retirement is out of the question. First sobering comment about our times? There is no such thing as retirement.

The second observation is that Bob is staying off the “rolls.” He is an independent man, taking care of his own affairs, earning a living as best he can and keeping himself and his wife from the poor house. It points to his self respect and pride at being a contributing member of society. I have a great respect for him on this point.

The story of course is about the scooter slowing down commuter traffic, the people who are irritated, and even how some pull along side and make disparaging remarks. Some of these remarks are made while he is actually traveling in a 30 mph speed zone. The article explains that because the scooter is classified as a moped, it cannot travel on the highways. Bob is knowledgeable about the rules of the road and obeys them at all times. He has even discovered some flaws in the placement of road signs that thwart his daily commute. All legitimate observations, which despite trying to have them corrected was told he would have to foot the bill to have a sign moved.

There has been a tremendous growth in small engine two wheeled transportation as a direct result of escalating gas prices. Some of these people have not had adequate training in navigating our roadways on two wheels. This poses a danger to them as well as cagers. While the hazards are real, the spotlight it brings to motorcycling may well benefit those of us whose choice of transportation is based on our love of motorcycling.

How will it benefit motorcyclist? If the general public becomes more aware of the two wheeled travelers that share the road, are exposed to the dangers that threaten them and us, we may find more travelers who use caution and are more observant while driving. Exposure through public media is also helpful. Bob put himself “out there” to expose a glaring concern that we should all pay attention too. Also, this past season, I have seen across the country, media campaigns to educate the public on motorcycle awareness. These are steps in the right direction but more needs to be done.

On my daily commute I often find myself along side an older gentleman riding a 1975 Honda CB125S.
From Misc
This photo is exactly what this bike looks like. It appears to be in great shape, and the rider flows along the stop and go corridor I travel without apparent trouble. His attire however is another matter. Mister 125S does not wear any protective riding gear. He is dressed in street shoes, twill slacks, windbreaker, and a helmet the same vintage as his bike.

From Misc

How do I know this helmet is from 1975? My husband has one he keeps as a memento and I recognized immediately. In New Hampshire motorcycle helmets are not required by law. However, since Mister 125S is wearing one, I can assume he would like the protection it brings. If this is so, he should toss the 1975 helmet in the trash bin. Helmets should be replaced every three to five years, and for a variety of other reasons. Check out the MSF link for more information about helmet safety.

Those of us who take motorcycling seriously need to be less timid about approaching these newbies. We often think we should mind our own business. I say this is our business. There are polite ways to strike up a conversation, and find opportunities to slip in concerns about safety, helpful hints about gear, or even suggest a motorcycle safety course. Don’t forget to compliment them on conserving energy and share your own enthusiasm for motorcycling. Like Bob Lavoie, they could be the next spokesperson for motorcycle safety awareness.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Lady Always Wears Lipstick

This weekend I was privileged to be part of a small group of riders heading to some New England peaks that have been on my wish list this season. (see post for more information about the highest peaks in New England.) The two peaks that Jade and I climbed were Ludlow Mt (Okemo) (VT) 3343 ft, and Ascutney (VT) 3150 ft. However, I will blog about these two peaks in a subsequent post.

We met our small group at the arranged start point early enough to have a few moments of chit-chat before departing. Much to my surprise and pleasure, there was another woman rider taking part in the adventure. We have not seen each other much this season due to one thing or another and we passed the time as riders do, checking out our rides, and talking about the season. She paused in her dialog to say “that shade of lipstick looks good on you.” or something to that effect. I was lost for words! My silly reply was something like “oh, I haven’t chewed it off yet?”

Why was I so taken aback by the observation about my lipstick? I’m not sure but with that statement my mind went instantly to a moment long since lost in the mire of time. I am a young girl standing beside my mother as she brushes her hair. My head barely reaches her bent elbow. We both stand in front of the bedroom mirror. She finishes with the hair, and proceeds to apply lipstick. “I thought you were just going to the corner store?” I asked puzzled. “Why are you putting on lipstick?” “A lady always wears lipstick when she goes out in public.” She said to me. “It doesn’t matter if she is just going the corner store, she should always look presentable.” she added further.

I never forgot the comment about looking presentable even if going to the corner store, and since the age of sixteen when permitted to wear lipstick; I have faithfully applied it before leaving the house in the morning. It may not last the day, and I never reapply, but still, I have a sense of self respect at wearing my lipstick out the door.

When I began riding, my lips suffered the torture of becoming dry and cracked. Wind therapy may be good for the soul, but its murder on tender exposed flesh. I remembered that Mother sometimes had a blister on her lip. She successfully found a line of medicated lipstick she could wear. It served a dual purpose of maintaining her dignity as a lady and offering medical attention. I too needed a good option, and discovered a line of moisturizing lipstick that took care of my own dignity and served to keep my lips from getting chapped on the bike. Is it strange to see a person dressed in textile riding gear wearing lipstick? I didn’t think so. In my mind the moisture-wear lipstick is as essential to my riding as the elbow pads and kneepads in my jacket and pants.

With the lipstick comment I find myself re-examining how others see me. Do they also question the mascara I wear while riding? This option has little to do with vanity as one might expect. Last season, after suffering a scratch cornea from debris under the contact lens, I found the perfect mascara for riding. It doesn’t flake or run, but has just the right consistency to allow dust to stick, and keep it from my eyes.

Mascara isn’t the only practical application for makeup that I use while riding. After watching the flesh on the backs of my hands dry and pucker from too much sun exposure I wondered what could possibly be happening to my face? I have since purchased a decent pair of summer riding gloves. However, no amount of lotion seems to help restore the now damaged flesh of my hands. That is not something I want for my face.

With the thought of leather for skin, I found a great facial moisturizer with SPF protection. Now before leaving the house I apply the SPF facial cream to protect against the wind and sun, mascara to keep the dust from getting under the contact lenses, and moisture-wear lipstick to take care of the lips. What about the blush you say? Oh? Well, maybe there is a wee bit of vanity happening after all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pat Gets Domestic

We are experiencing a bumper crop of berries this year. Andy and I can’t keep up with the harvest. The blackberries are coming in fast and furiously. One morning I walk down one side of the row of bushes and pick more berries than we can ever consume. I divided them into two large bowls. Andy takes one to his place of employment, I take the other.

The blackberries are a big hit. “Wow, look at the size of these!” one person exclaims as he shovels a Styrofoam cup full for himself. “Do you know how much these cost in the market?” another quizzes me, as he scoops spoons full into his cereal bowl. Next come the reciting of favorite blackberry recipes, as one after the other, each person retells the enjoyment of its consumption.

Now, over the past five years or so, I have systematically been “scraping things off my plate.” (This analogy is perfect since we are talking food here.) One of the items that I have removed is the expectation that I will carry the domestic load. I have been very successful with this and the chores at home are now shared equally and equitably. However, in order to achieve this retraining of ones family, a person needs to go to extremes. Listening to my co-workers makes me think that it is time for a rebalancing. (OK, so what really crossed my mind was this: “I guess it wouldn’t kill me to make a pie once in a while.”)

That evening, as I arrive home Andy is making supper. He does so on the days I go to the gym. (Part of the household restructure plan.) I open the fridge door and put in the store bought pie crust I intend to use later. “What are you putting in the fridge?” he asks. “A pie crust. I’m going to make a berry pie latter.” I say. Andy chuckles and says “good luck with that.” I‘m confused, but shrug it off and go about my business.

We enjoy a great evening meal; I shower, start a load of wash, and then begin the making of the pie. Andy is watching some show on television when he hears the banging around in the kitchen. “What are you doing in there?” he questions me. “I’m making a pie!” I say exasperated. Gee, didn’t I just tell him that a few hours ago? There is dead silence from the living room. Suddenly, I feel an arm around my waist. I look up. Andy is looking down at what I’m doing. “You ARE making a pie!” he says with eyes wide in surprise.” I thought you were joking earlier,” he says.

From Misc

From Misc

From Misc

From Misc

Now it is the pie that is a big hit. What happens to me next, I can’t explain. Come Saturday, Andy decides it time to harvest all the apples on the tree. He picks two, 5 gallon buckets of apples. He leaves them by the porch. I look at the apples and suddenly they are transforming into apple crisp. (I know! I don’t understand what’s happening to me either!) The next thing I know, I’m roasting a chicken and inviting a friend to join us.

From Misc

Andy finishes off the last of the pie and apple crisp, the latter with an enormous scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. “It feels like the holidays!” he says. Is that a skip in his walk? I could get some mileage out of this if I were a different kind of person. I realize now, in hindsight, that what first appeared to be expectations others heaped on my shoulders, was really a result of my own doing at not expressing boundaries and limits. It is not our families that burden us; it is what we do to ourselves. (Moms and wives are especially vulnerable.) After all, if someone took care of all your needs without you asking, wouldn’t you let them? Reclaiming your autonomy is not as difficult as it seems. Finding the right balance might be another.

I’m checking out this recipe for kibbee* my friend Steve gave me yesterday. I think I will try it. Not today or tomorrow mind you, but eventually. After all, the scale of expectations is tipping nicely in my favor. I need to maintain the right balance after all.

(Kibbee: A Lebanese dish. Write me for the recipe.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Where in the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks Am I?

I cannot find my way out of a paper bag. My internal compass, if I even have one, has never served me in the ways I have observed in others. Over the years this has resulted in many an unfortunate incident, some of which could have easily turned tragic. A few memories of my youthful dating episodes come to mind which in hind sight make me shudder at the “what if” possibilities that could have unfolded.

My husband is forever exasperated that I never know where I am. “We have been here a million times!” he’ll exclaim. He soon dismisses me as it is inconceivable to him that someone could be so turned around as to not know where they are. While on vacation with two other couples, both of whom are GPS equipped, he would remark “I don’t need no stinking GPS” and would boldly point in the direction we should travel. At one stop, when directions were being discussed, he raised his hand, wiggled his fingers as if “recalculating” his internal GPS and then pointed “that-a-away!”

There is something that happens to me when I feel I am lost. My stomach twists and my respiration and heart rate quicken. Suddenly I’m in full blown panic attack. My poor friends have often been confused and suffered through accusations that they are to blame for me being lost. Here is the unfortunate truth. I too have a GPS. Until yesterday I had not really mastered all the nuances of what it can do. OK, so maybe I haven’t mastered it, but I’m a lot closer than I was last week.

I have had a GPS for a few years now. Initially I bought it so that I would know where I am. Following behind Andy on the motorcycle always leaves me in a bit of a panic if I can’t tell where we are. Looking down at the unit is like a security blanket. I can see the major roadways and our relationship to them. Sometimes I can even get myself from point A to point B using whatever the unit suggests to me as a route. There is also a great feature that takes you home from anywhere, or at the push of a button tells you were in the world you got yourself too now.

I have been the recipient of many great motorcycling routes to download into the GPS unit. All these routes were devised by other people. I have been able to follow these successfully! All of the routes I try to devise for myself never seem to work. The unit returns error messages, or doesn’t take me to the waypoint I want. It is all so confusing!

This week found our office full of employees from various parts of the country for training. One gentleman, who was traveling from nearby Massachusetts approached me and said “tomorrow, I’m riding my Road King here so I can park it next to your bike in the parking lot!” To which I replied “it would be a shame to leave them there during lunch on a beautiful day.” With that we agreed that the next day we would ride.

Since it is my back yard, it would be I who would lead. Just beyond the major roadways are some great back roads. I had an idea of where I wanted to take us but my mind was thinking how embarrassing it would be if I got lost! I started working my mind through all the issues I have encountered trying to devise a route that loops back to where we start. In the past I used the software to construct the route. I don’t have the software here at work, so I used the menus on the GPS itself. With the help of a Google map for a large visual and the GPS map, I carefully marked waypoints. One after the other, I placed them sequentially, eventually constructing a loop that should take us one hour to complete.

Lunch hour arrives, and we depart. “I’m going to use the GPS” I tell my riding friend. “I’m hoping we don’t get lost. But if we do, who cares, we’re on a bike. Right?” “Right!” he exclaims with a grin from ear to ear. To my astonishment and pride the route on the GPS progresses along nicely. I am even pleased, when at an intersection in a wooded area, (a place I would typically go right when I should go left) the GPS points me accurately in the direction I should go. We even arrive safely at the designated lunch spot and find our way back to the office trouble free. “Thanks a bunch for a great ride through the wilds of New Hampshire” the employee says. I am beaming with self pride. Little does he realize that I have just led my first ride. To top it off, the route was planned and executed by me, also for the first time. Why, I do believe it’s possible that I’m ready for my very own rimby.* (Ok, let’s not get crazy.)

*New England Rider speak for Ride In My Back Yard.

From Misc

From Misc

From Misc

From Misc

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sometimes A Flat Is Just A Flat


My weekend is punctuated by contrasts so vast, that my troubles and worries seem somehow silly. Punctuated by such perspectives I find that I am using these events as opportunities for personal growth. I do after all consider myself the “grasshopper” so to actually see the opportunity for growth is a new level of self awareness that leaves me feeling ever so humble.

On a pleasant ride along route 17 in Maine, our group stops at an overlook to appreciate the beauty of Mooselookmeguntic Lake. It is here, that Andy notices that his rear tire is low. We roll the bike forward and sure enough, he has ridden over yet another nail in the road. This is the third nail for this tire, and seems odd that someone should have such terrible luck. The tire is not yet flat, and with the help of one in our group, we pump the tire up to get to the next town ten miles away.

From Birthday Bash

From Birthday Bash

From Birthday Bash

Upon arrival, we discover that the local bike shop had closed an hour before. We make our way to an auto store where Andy buys a can of some sort of gunk in the hopes it will patch the tube a bit so we can make it back to our hotel. We decide this is as good a place for lunch as any. I don’t really feel hungry, but eat anyway. I get a stomach ache and realize that I may have fallen into my other bad habit; stress-eating. I didn’t feel worried, I thought, but the stomach ache is a sure sign that I am.

From Birthday Bash

From Birthday Bash

After lunch, the group decides to head back the way we came as it is shorter than continuing on with the loop. We make it back to the overlook and pump the tire again. We begin to hi-tail it back along route 17. Route 17 is full of ruts and frost heaves, and with each bump, bump, bump in the road I am watching the tire deflate. The tire finally gives out, and we are all stopped along a narrow stretch of roadway with only soft shoulders for minimal comfort from oncoming cars and enough moose tracks to let us know we are in the middle of nowhere.

From Birthday Bash

I take out my cell phone and there is no signal here in the dip. I want to call another group member who has trailered his motorcycle here to Maine. Maybe he will come for Andy. I volunteer to go back up to the overlook for a signal and insist that I will be fine alone. I start back, and am going at a good clip. Then I see another rider following behind. I’m miffed at first thinking that Andy doesn’t trust me to be safe. In that instant, I hit one of those ruts hard and it sends me to the wrong side of the road. I swing way out, slow and pull myself back over the yellow line. Now did I say I wasn’t really stressed? I realize yet again, that I am not holding my mind correctly. There is no need for speed. The tire will still be as flat in 10 minutes as it is now.

We reach a spot where I have a signal, and I call one in the group which is a number I have in my contacts. I’m given instructions to sit tight and he will contact the trailer owner and call me back. While waiting, I take the opportunity, to send a text message to two of my friends. It reads “Andy’s tire found a nail. Fun times!” I get a reply message from one, reading “my father died last night.”

The flat tire seems so silly when measured up against a man’s life. My misplaced worry about the ride being spoiled for others, or what options are available to us for repair seems trite. While I wait for the call, I exchange a few more text messages with the friend in hopes that it will be of some comfort. The call comes; the trailer is on the way. That was easy, and of so little trouble to me. It could have been so much worse. The tire could have blown and Andy could have lost control. A car could have been coming in the opposite direction when I traveled over the line, and then the rider behind me would have paid the price having to witness such a thing.

The trailer arrives, and I ride with two who came to the rescue. Andy is following on my bike. I tell them both about the text from my friend, and how a flat tire seems so small in comparison. It is the death of the friend’s father, due to heart surgery, that triggers the response from one. He lost his son in early spring, and the boy’s heart was donated to save the life of another. His story goes on to say how he and his wife had lunch with the recipient, and what it meant to all of them. My worry now about finding a place for repair on a weekend seems even more inconsequential than ever.

From Birthday Bash

That evening, not realizing what I’m doing, I stress-eat again. I spend most of the evening in the room instead of socializing because of the stomach pain I am once again enduring. It was all for nothing too. In the morning, we found a great guy to pick up the bike and put on a new tire and tube. The lesson here is evident. Every problem has a solution. Every question has an answer. Most of our troubles are small. It is only our thinking or how we hold our minds that make them big.

From Birthday Bash

From Birthday Bash

From Birthday Bash

See all the weekend photos here:
Birthday Bash

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Signs, Symbols and the Voice of God

Labor Day weekend finds us once again on the road with friends. Our destination for this motorcycle adventure is the Catskill Mountains of New York, with an overnight into Pennsylvania. The sky is of the soul penetrating blue that can lull you into a hypnotic state, and the smells of harvest, hay and alfalfa are as aroma therapy. The mind easily wanders as the roads are made for relaxation. The Catskills were made for unwinding.

It may be this combination of factors that relax the body and mind, so that both are open and receptive to suggestion. The signs and symbols along the way take on deep and meditative qualities that under other circumstances are glossed over by everyday stress. Things seen yet unseen, voices heard, yet never understood, messages sent, but never received are somehow delivered more easily. In the saddle the world is seen so differently. I sometimes think of astronauts viewing the earth in ways we never will. It is the same earth; it is the perspective that changes everything.

So it is in this way that my perspective is seeing things from a whole new angle. I see three signs in our journey that are sticking to me like pucker brush. I can’t just brush them away; I am made to pay attention. The first is a church placard that reads “God wants full custody, not just weekend visits.” One can easily imagine that what the poster is intending us to think about, is that we should not just occupy space in a pew on the weekend, but live our lives as loving and caring human beings. Or it may cause one to feel a twinge of guilt at even missing the “weekend visit.” It is possible that both of these messages fit me, but somehow, it doesn’t quite sit right. Then I realize that God does have my full custody. Anyone who rides a motorcycle already understands that they are never alone in the saddle. Our lives are entirely in the hands or our creator. Our skill level has little to do with what others are doing around us. Each time I throw a leg over the saddle, and before I kick into gear, a silent prayer has already taken wing. I am not alone, God has full custody and He or His messengers are at my side.

“Former site of Olive” is the next sign that has burrs. I can’t shake the thoughts of the people displaced by the creation of the reservoirs. Neversink and Bittersweet, New York, are now under the Neversink Reservoir; the towns of Olive, West Shokan, Brodhead Bridge, Brown's Station, Boiceville, West Hurley, Glenford and Ashton (in the Catskills) were sacrificed to create Ashokan Reservoir. If we “drill down” from town, to street to household, to individual, there was someone here who made a sacrifice for the good of many. Whether willingly or unwillingly their sacrifice was made for the common good. What happened to all these people? Do any of the thousands of people ever contemplate the fate of these folk when they turn the tap? My sister tells a story of her father-in-law, who will point out town landmarks over and over accompanied by the same old stories again and again. So often in fact, that the good mother-in-law once proclaimed, “Erect a plaque already!” or words to that effect. These folks cannot bring their grandchildren here and say “this is where I was born.” It is a memory of words only, as you look across the water. The lesson here? We never fully appreciate the sacrifices others have made for our welfare.

With the “former sites” still burning images in my mind, how we are all interdependent gripped my heart as well. I realize with more clarity that what happens to you happens to me too. As if this message was the theme of the day, the next sign on the road reads “eat here, or we’ll both starve.”