Tuesday, November 22, 2011


…there but for the grace of God…
Mom, circa: yesterday

TOY-RUN TRIP-UP: On this chilly November morn, a charitable group of cruiser riders were out collecting toys for the less fortunate. I saw hundreds of them roaring in the opposite direction from me on I-80 east of Sacramento. They looked a bit like lemmings. Normally, I wouldn’t make such a comparison, but between Greenback and Madison, one of them had veered into the concrete barrier of the center divide and I pictured three or four more may have followed. The stout concrete wall that divides east and westbound lanes provided no indication of impact – at least on my side of the freeway. In most any collision, I know, the concrete infrastructure wins.

Emergency crews were just arriving, gently pushing their fire trucks and meat wagons through a clump of fellow riders who were milling about the fast lane, undoubtedly shocked by the unfortunate incident. Further on, I noted a weaving CHP unit calming traffic upstream from the event. Very professional. Very practiced. Very it-happens-all-the-time.

When riding in a group, it seems too easy to concentrate solely on the rider in front of you rather than the whole picture. The incident reminded me that I was glad to be riding solo this day, as usually I do. Still, I had to offer a few words up for the individual(s) laying crumpled on the tarmac a few miles back.

ANTIQUES ROAD SHOW: Soon I found myself west of the Sacramento River. Fifteen or twenty minutes had elapsed and I was still flashing back on the difficulties the charity cruisers had experienced. Just west of Davis, I planned to route myself north on State Route 113 and cut west to Winters where I would pick up State Route 128. Ahead, a small flatbed truck occupied my lane. Ladened with a motley assortment of rusted relics appearing to be from the gold rush – a monitor nozzle, portions of a steam donkey, an ore cart, various rolls of wire – the overloaded vehicle should have been puttering along a lane or two further to his own right. Or, better yet, on the frontage road.

With the split for the 113 less than a mile ahead, I gave some thought to blasting past him on his right, a practice I cuss about when others do this. Instead, I opted for a legal and quick pass to his left knowing that if I timed things with care, I could ease into the exit lanes without cutting the old boy off. While passing, I noted the 80s era Ford, a three-quarter ton chassis with its pickup bed removed, was little more than a jalopy itself. The rusty load seemed loosely secured. The driver’s side window sported a large spider-web crack. The filmy windshield looked as if it hadn’t been seen Windex and a washrag since its last day at the showroom.

Goosing the big Beemer’s throttle, I allowed my fellow traveler adequate space before merging across his lane and onto my exit. A glance in my rearview mirror found a lashing dangling loose on the passenger side of the rig. And at that moment, some rusted component of our glorious gold rush history came crashing onto the freeway, rolling, spraying and skittering across I-80’s two right hand lanes.

I thought about the lemmings from twenty minutes back and realized I’d come within yards, seconds and one bad decision short of becoming one myself. The I realized: Luck of the draw being what it is, the rope on the left side could just as easily given way and, there’d I’d be, on the pavement, tangled up with history, waiting for the very professional, the very practiced, the very it-happens-all-the-time emergency crews to scrape up my sorry…

FINALLY, since loved ones may read this post, I won’t mention the cinder block sized chunk of slate that had broken free of the cut bank on route 128 during the previous night’s storm. It had positioned itself in my lane just beyond what should have been a delightful curve. Due to cold November temperatures and my desire to get to point B rather hurriedly, I eschewed my usual break at Monticello Dam. The sedimentary chunk was less than two miles further on, encircled by smaller bits of debris. Employing the Beemer’s ample antilock brakes, I slowed precipitously missing both the boxcar sized rock and the suicidal deer who happened to choose this moment to dart across the road a few yards beyond.

Oh, mom, I'll be a safe rider!
Me, to mom, circa 1970 
on the occasion 
of my purchase of
my first Trail 90 
as a teenager.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. one must always be very aware of what lays ahead.

    as a big rig driver, i see so many accidents that could have been avoided if people would just payed heed to what they are doing while driving/riding along.
    not up on all the math. but it takes 3 foot ball fields to stop my truck. sight, thought, action, lag. this is at 55 - 60 mph and conditions perfect.
    on my bike i can stop a lot faster. but for the what if's these are what will hurt you. sand, gravel, dust, wet, critters, etc.
    glad to hear you are ok and had a good day.
    O and the K-rail does not always win. it is a tie but the rd in the opposite direction somebody gets hurt. seen many chunks fly into oncoming traffic.

  2. Whew, so very glad you made the decisions you made. After working in insurance for 25 years, and dealing with many motorcyle claims (some that still haunt me)I know how vulnerable you are when you're out there. You can never be too safe, my friend.

  3. Dear Anonymous:

    You know, at the time(s), none of these seemed like big deals - rather just stuff that happens on the road...

    Be always vigilant, always careful, always mindful of the circumstance, but remember to have a good time as well.

  4. Just spoke with my brother on the phone. Having two vintage Beemers, he admitted that he recently took at fifty mile loop wearing his "new" down jacket.

    Not much protection, I commented.

    I don't need it, he said.

    My response: Oh yeah?