Sunday, April 26, 2009


I actually got to participate in a motorcycle group ride yesterday -- one of the few I have been able to take part in. These group rides are held at various times, year-round, but I haven't been able to ride in many of them, because my occupation doesn't allow me the time to do so very often. But I've had nothing but time the past week, being laid off from work while I treated the Virus That Ate Me and started breathing normally again at last. And so, I was primed to go.

I didn't think I was going to go at all, for awhile there, as my mom wanted to do some of her laundry at my house, and how could I say no?? She got 'er done in time for me to ride west, to the staging area for the ride, where I barely arrived in time to lay down my $10 registration fee and get signed up, etc., etc. The ride was a memorial to Steve "Bo" Goins, a locally well-known member of our little biker community here, who was killed in a traffic accident a few years ago. He was stopped at a traffic light, around midnight, when a small pickup truck failed to stop in time and slammed into the rear of Bo's bike, ending his life at age 37. That incident shook our entire community, as it was so tragic, yet completely senseless at the same time.  

The Motorcycle Awareness Foundation of Tennessee (MAFT) stepped in and has hosted this memorial ride ever since Bo's death, in an effort to raise awareness of motorcycles that share the road with all other vehicles. It is a cause that concerns all bikers everywhere, no matter what they ride, because we all share the same streets, roads, and highways and we're all subject to the same traffic conditions. We all share the same common fear -- that some 4-wheel motorist won't notice us and will endanger our lives by doing something foolish. It's a very rational fear when you're up on two wheels, believe me. 

"But officer, I didn't see the motorcycle." 

That's what they all say, after the accident has happened and it's too late to save the fallen biker's limbs, skin, or even life. And it's the lamest excuse ever concocted by the human mind. There is no excuse -- repeat -- NO EXCUSE, WHATSOEVER, FOR FAILING TO SEE A MOTORCYCLE. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. It holds water like a seive. If you fail to see what is obviously there,  sharing the road with you, it's because YOU AREN'T LOOKING! And if you don't look for ALL vehicles in your path before pulling out, you aren't a competent driver and should have your license suspended until you learn to do so. 

If that makes some readers mad, then so be it. I won't apologize because that's honestly how I feel about it. YOU aren't the one sitting on that bike, watching everything around you like a hawk and thinking "what if?" every time you approach an intersection where there's a car sitting, waiting to turn onto the road you're on. You aren't the one having to wear hot leather clothing in the summer heat, in order to protect your skin when you end up riding the pavement because some apparently blind car driver pulled out in front of you, or cut you off, forcing you to lay your bike down hard. Most of us do everything we can to make ourselves visible and noticeable -- bright-colored clothes, hard-wired headlamps that burn all the time, flashing our brake lights, reflective patches and decals, loud exhaust pipes -- you name it and we've done it or do it, but some car drivers still say they didn't see us. 

Some states, including my own, aren't just taking that old, lame excuse for granted anymore. They are cracking down, pulling drivers over when their actions endanger motorcyclists and ticketing them. Some, including Tennessee, are imposing mandatory jail sentences for motorists whose poor driving habits result in the death of a biker. They are going all-out with advertising and educational campaigns, designed to raise motorists' awareness of motorcycles that are on the road with them. All I can say is that it's about time!!! It will make riding that much more enjoyable, if everyone in a cage is aware that we're out there and they watch out for us, like they do for other cars. 

There is no one as blind as someone who refuses to see. Open your eyes, motorists. Watch for motorcycles all the time, when you're on the road,   and especially in the warm weather months. 

The ride was a short one -- just through town, from our Kingston Pike starting point,  and out onto highway 25W (Clinton Highway). It went uneventfully. I was near the back of the pack, with the anchor riders, because I'm relatively inexperienced at group riding. This is something you need to tell the ride organizers when you go in the front door, so they won't mix you in with the more eperienced riders in the group. They keep you toward the rear, so that the anchor riders, who are often the most experienced in the group, can keep an eye on your riding and help you when you need it. I was helped several times with interpreting the common hand signals that are used in biker groups. I know most of the basic ones, but there are some specialty signals that I'm still learning about. One anchor rider gave me a complete run-down on it after the ride was over and gave me the address of a website, where they show all the commonly used signals.

We ended up at Coyote Joe's, for the post-ride bash. They had Bubba's (Coyote Joe's owner) famous Road Kill Grill in operation and I inhaled two loaded charcoal-broiled burgers, along with some great potato salad and Bubba's world-famous baked beans. Topped off with a Bud Light, it was a great meal. Only charge was a minimum five-buck donation to MAFT. I threw $10 in the bucket and got two burgers, four raffle tickets, and a bottle "sock" to put over my beer and keep it cold longer. Bubba finally opened up the outdoor patio bar and had the first live band on their outdoor stage that I've seen this year. It was a good day for it; sunny, with the temp in the upper 80's. The band was good, but the sound was a little bit bass-heavy; you couldn't half-hear the guitar. They played well, but need to work on their equalization a little bit, methinks. But what the hey -- live music is just that. Live. Sometimes, things get screwed-up. Like Jimi Hendrix was famous for saying:  "Only cowboys play in tune." I still enjoyed the music and hung out in the sun until they ended their gig and started packing up. 

By then, I had reached my four-beers-with-food personal limit when I'm on Velvet and sat in the sun, sweating it off until it was time to head back home again. I hated to see it end, but I know there will be more to come, later on this summer. 

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