Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Stadium

Yesterday was the first Seahawks home game of the year. A preseason game against the Denver Broncos.

Football season is a mixed bag for me. I love football. There's nothing better to have on the TV while you nap your way through a Sunday. But it also marks the end of the summer. And around here that means the start of a long gray season.

Anyway, here are a few things I learned (or reaffirmed) yesterday:
  • Segways aren't any cooler when they're branded by Ferrari. I saw one downtown with red fenders and chrome wheels. Sorry, dude, it's still a Segway. (And this is coming from a guy with a Ferrari-branded laptop.)

  • Clydesdales are ginormous. They're like snorting mountains with hairy hooves. Budweiser had one of their Clydesdale teams at the game. I swear they were over 6 feet at the shoulder.
  • I'm not a classical music guy, but it's hard to beat an opera singer delivering the national anthem unaccompanied.
  • Even preseason football is entertaining if the crowd is into it.
  • Recession or not. People will pay to watch the NFL.
  • Bleached hair, jeans, boots, and the ability to prop up your drunk boy-friend as he yells at the guy rooting for the visitors seems to be the main criteria for women attending the game.
  • If you're flushed out of the pocket on 4th and goal from the 2 you eat the ball. Run out of bounds. Throw it incomplete. Dive for the goal line. Do NOT flick it up for grabs in the endzone.
  • It's okay to leave a pre-season game early.
  • The sound of a big Healey running through downtown on a summer night is something special. Judging by the look on the drivers face he knows it too.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

I have offended the motorcycle gods. Somehow, somewhere, I did something wrong and they became angry and vindictive.

I decided to join SBNW 2009 with a NESBA track event at ORP. Sounded like a good plan: ride the gorge Wed, Thurs, Fri, listen to Reg Pridmore speak, ride Maryhill Loops road, then head to ORP for the weekend. I felt one of the problems I had with the Ducati the last time at ORP was simple unfamiliarity. I hadn't been on it in months. A few hundred twisty miles in the gorge should solve that and I'd be prepared for ORP.

Unfortunately the gods decreed that it was not to be.

During the drive down on Wednesday it was 108. The fairgrounds in Stevenson don't offer air-conditioning or much shade and it was over 95 throughout the week. Riding was pretty much limited to the early morning hours. The afternoon was reserved for Gatorade and sitting in front of the fan wearing a cooling vest.

Friday morning I repeated the route Joe and I had taken at last years SBNW to the Goldendale Observatory. It's *much* better in the daylight. (Although still a little iffy in some spots.) That put me close to Maryhill Loops so, after a quick stop for a 396-oz Double Death Gulp at the local convenience store, I went to wait my turn to ride MHL.

I like the attention that the Ducati gets. I'm not ashamed to admit it. Red, white, green and Italian. It looks good. People, especially motorcycle people, are attracted to it. But, what I don't like is when someone is staring quizzically at my bike then says "Is the tire supposed to look like that?" My front tire, with only 600 miles and one track day under it's belt, was splitting between the bead and the main carcass. Doh!

No MHL for me. I headed back to the fairgrounds hoping to find a tire vendor and a professional opinion. Unfortunately none was to be found. My riding was over for the day. I decided I'd take the bike to ORP Saturday as planned and address the tire there.

Friday afternoon I spent the usual 2-3 hours converting the bike from street to track. Not a fun experience in the heat. In the middle of that project I got a message from Joe who was supposed to come to SBNW that afternoon. "TJ ... I had an accident. ... I think broke my wrist. ... I don't know where the bike is. ... " Luckily, after getting ahold of him (well, sort of, he wasn't entirely conscious) I was convinced that he wasn't calling from a ditch and was in fact in a hospital in Vancouver. Sounds like he'll be okay.

The heat at ORP on Saturday was nasty. There is *no* natural shade unless you're the size of a ground-squirrel. I missed the first session of the day dealing with my tire. (I swapped it out with one I had brought with me.) The 10am session I ended after 3 laps because I wasn't thinking straight. I got a few good lap in the 11am session but the heat wasn't making it fun. I skipped the noon session, and there was a lunch break from 1-2. The 2pm session was 2 laps. I felt good at the start (after the long) but by the middle of the second lap I was losing focus on the task. A quick risk-assessment and it was time to go. I rolled out of the pits by 3pm headed for home.

Two tracks days had been reduced to less than 10 laps. But the bike is still shiny and my leathers are still unscathed. Discretion being the better part of valor and all that.

I thought they were done with me. I had admitted defeat. I was headed for home. Contrite and penitent. But the gods had one more warning, just a parting shot. They decided to trigger the transmission-overheating warning light on the Nitro in the middle of nowhere. "Slow down boy. We may be the motorcycle gods but we're good friends with the tow-vehicle gods too." ... Okay, okay, I guess I can climb the hills at 45.

I have started a repentance plan. I stopped for a biker who had run out of gas on freeway.