Thursday, September 29, 2011

How To Not Die On A Motorcycle

Earlier this week in Seattle another area motorcyclist was killed due to a driver "not seeing him". He died after a BMW cut across two lanes of traffic and forced him to brake so severely that the bike crashed.
It's easy to blame the driver whenever there is a car vs. motorcycle incident, and in many cases we should blame the driver. However that blame can sometimes feel like an admission that as riders we have no control over the situation, and are helpless in the face of four-wheeled mayhem.
The ugly truth is that we are not as good at riding as we think we are. Combine this with the fact that most car drivers are incredibly bad at driving, and it leads to us getting injured and killed. We can ask the drivers to pay better attention, but we can also improve our own riding skills and take steps to increase our safety. Below is a list of some steps I think we can all take to make our riding safer. We can't control every factor, but we can improve our chances out there.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Cafe Clinics

Somehow I ended up volunteering to run a series of 15-minute clinics on various riding topics for the Vespa Club of Seattle. They're open to everyone, scooterist and motorcyclist alike, and conveniently take place over breakfast. They'll be running every Sunday at noon through mid-November. Stop by if you feel like it, it could be fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Going Down South

We're currently sitting in the Seatac Airport waiting to fly out to New Orleans. It will be our second year there, and my third visit. We're headed down only one year after we left mainly because one our hobbies holds its big yearly U.S. convention there (incidentally, this is why we always disappear to Canada every year in March, when that country holds its yearly convention for the same club).

The Grand Masquerade, as it's called, is a weekend filled with pretending to be something we're not, whether that's vampires, or mages, or stranger things like Changelings or Sin Eaters. It's called live-action role-playing, or "LARPing", and it all looks a bit silly to outsiders. We grew up playing it, and never really stopped when we turned into (ostensible) grown-ups. At times it's hard to remember why it's fun, or used to be fun, and we spend lots of weekends riding scooters instead, or seeing concerts or movies or whatever.

Occasionally though, it works like it's supposed to work and we are reminded. The right group of players and their fictional personas come together, the right setting and circumstances converge, and everything meshes together to form what seems at times like a Shakesperean play that you are actually living. The tension and adrenalin and excitement is exhausting and addictive at the same time. Other times the mix doesn't work, and it just feels like hard work.

New Orleans is in some ways the perfect place for us to play, because the city knows this complicated dance very well; in some ways it's defined the city so long it's become a cliché. I'm speaking of jazz, of course, that complicated mess that often feels a bit loose and jangly and unpracticed. But get the right musicians together on the right night at the right club, and the result is a sound that will make you tingle and vibrate down to the deepest part of your soul.

That's why we're headed back to the sunken city of New Orleans. We're there to take our shot at playing a little jazz of a sort, with that thousand-to-one chance that we'll make some magic too.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Happy anniversary

We must have first met almost fourteen years ago, but it wasn't Love At First Sight. It took four years and the Buffy musical to make us friends; many late nights at Dennys to become best friends; a fateful road trip to make us even more. Eight years as a couple, five years as your bride, and a lifetime to enjoy with my best friend. I love you, Jon.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Bonneville

The sneaky Brit.

You can't tell, but there's a Bonneville in that photo...


Hooray, I bought my new bike! It's a 2012 Triumph Bonneville, blacked out. 865cc (compare to the 110cc of my Symba), disc brakes (never had those before), fuel injected. It has "British Charm", like the fork lock and the ignition being different keys on opposite sides of the bike. It's the base model, which means no tach, fuel gauge, or thermometer.



 But more importantly, it looks like the bikes I lusted after as a kid.

And I got to ring the bell at the dealership. That's important too :)

There we go, now you can actually see it.

The Last Resort Fire Department

Two posts in one day? I know, bad form...

I was wandering back from lunch today when I came across the Last Resort Fire Department, a museum inside the Seattle Fire Department headquarters in Pioneer Square. This all-volunteer group restores and preserves some the very early fire engines and equipment from Seattle's history.

I took a few shots of the exhibits inside, which you can see on Flickr.

The Berliner in Pioneer Square

Take Turkish street food by way of Berlin, Germany, transplanted to Seattle, and you get The Berliner Döner Kebab in Pioneer Square. If you're in Seattle and hungry for an amazing sandwich, this is a good place to start. Pictured here is the Fiery Kreuzberg, one of six tasty options. And yes, they do have a vegetarian version.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

MSF Class: Success!

We both passed the class, and are now qualified to operate geared motorcycles in parking lots with no oncoming traffic  :p

PS: Scalpel totally aced both tests  :)

PPS: The Blue Box of Doom continues to elude me. "What's in the box?"

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pilgrim's Progress

This is the second time I've tried the MSF riding class. The first time, two years ago, I'd never been on a bike except as a passenger. I sprained my clutch hand the first day of the class, and couldn't finish. Since then I've ridden more than 3000 miles on my underbone motorbikes, which have everything a full motorcycle has with the notable exception of a clutch lever. When I shift gears, I have to be at just the right RPM or the bikes try their best to buck me off.

The Bonneville that I hopeplan to buy has a clutch lever. So, off I go, back to the class, back to face my old nemesis.

It went... much better. As Scalpel pointed out beforehand, we know everything EXCEPT the clutch work, so the rest is easy and we can concentrate on that one thing. My hand still hurt by the end of the day, but I wasn't debating killing myself to get out of there, and sure my back hurts, but whatever. I won praise for my bike handling, and I only bombed the segment that I knew I would (those damned slaloms). I should be able to go back tomorrow and finally pass this damned thing, and go buy my Bonnie, and forget this whole thing ever happened :)

I Will Never Get Good Enough at Riding a Motorcycle

We're getting our gear packed up to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Beginner Rider Course (BRC) Saturday and Sunday. It's an introductory class to teach you how to ride a motorcycle, so that you can get that endorsement on your driver's license.

But wait, don't we already have the endorsement?

Yes we do, but neither of us ever finished the BRC when we took it. Tesla sprained her wrist manhandling a stiff clutch and missed the second day, and I... well, I overslept on my second day. In both cases we went to the DMV and passed their riding test instead, and got our endorsement. So why go back to the BRC? For several reasons, actually.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Adventures Large and Less-Large

When Jon proposed, the engraving inside the ring he gave me suggested, "Let's have an adventure." So we're big on Adventures, the two of us. Not skydiving, cliff-jumping, dare devil type adventures, necessarily, though some have qualified as such, I suppose. But push your boundaries, step outside your comfort zone, try everything in case it's the best thing ever and how could you have lived with yourself for missing out, do it only with you by my side kind of adventures.

We hope you'll enjoy reading a few of them. We'll do our best to entertain :)

"Union" by Abnormal Cycles of Italy

If you have any love for motorcycles and you aren't already reading Bike Exif, please go there immediately and start digging through all their old posts. To give you a visual explanation of why you should be visiting that site regularly, here's a Harley Davidson that I'd actually be willing to ride. For more images of this amazing bike and sidecar, click here.

Books that scare you

Let's talk about books that scare you. No, not the latest Sarah Palin volume; we're talking about books that you shouldn't read at night, books that cause a genuine sense of nervous dread. Our friend Jason Vanhee wrote such a book recently, and it's available for the Kindle for a limited time. Why limited? A publisher just optioned it for print, and that means the Kindle version will soon go the way of the dodo (at least for the foreseeable future). Natalie and I have both read it and enjoyed it, so go pick it up while you still can.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hello world!

Natalie and I thought it was about time that we setup an actual blog to detail upcoming events we're planning, movies we've seen, restaurants we recommend, etc. I have no illusions that this blog will become the hot new thing on Internet, but hopefully our friends and family can use it to see what we've been doing and what we're planning in the future.