Sunday, June 10, 2012

This Blog is not dedicated to Run For The Wall, but the author is.

Strange title?  No not really.  Right now there is a debate raging on the Run for the Wall riders forum.  I wonder what we did before we had this forum?  Probably complain to our friends on the phone.  Or worse try to change things without authority to do so next time we were there?  Or even worse than that not participate in the mission.  
My second year on the Run I almost got my butt kicked in at the Topeka KS fuel stop.  I had been riding about three bikes back from a New Guy on a Red Gold Wing.  He was running his own little missing man formation in the middle of the pack.  He was staying 3 to four seconds away from the bike in front of him, and every time he adjusted speed he hit his brakes.  Not his rear brake but his front brake, and not to slow but to get the bike in front of him to back off.  Well this was in 2006 and believe it or not the rules were the same as they are today, but they were not enforced as well as they are today.   When we started the leg he was three or maybe four bikes in front of me.  When we got to the fuel stop he was right in front of me.  This is because after a while the guys behind him got tired of his riding style in the pack and went around him.  I too would have done this but I had been and probably still am a pretty crappy rider.  Sure I can do the Run, but that is pretty much all the riding I do.  Anyway I stayed behind him, I slowed a little the first nine or ten times he hit his brakes, I passed back his slow down hand signal the first three times he passed it back (when he realized I was ignoring his brake light he started giving me the slow down hand signal cause he thought I was too close to him, and when he backed off increasing his gap I didn't he would wave the slow down signal.  I stopped passing these back too as they were not coming from the platoon leader, they were coming from this guy (all things that I could not see from three or four bikes back but could once everyone did what they were not supposed to and what I should have done, just gone around this guy.)  Everyone else pretty much did go around the two of us except for a friend that was behind me, Dave Cal Kid ended up beside me at the end of the line of bikes in about third platoon.  The two of us sort of pushed this guy up, there were no tail gunners that year, all you had was road guards and they couldn't do much but pace and gesture, and if the rider did what they wanted (this guy did several times by the way when the road guards tried to move him up) they went on.  I followed this guy from Salinas to Topeka.  By the time I got to the fuel stop I was pissed off to the point that I wanted to just leave.  But I did not.  I confronted him after we were staged.  In those days there were not assigned platoons so you could stage pretty much any where you wanted to. There were no staging crews on Central Route, the only way to get in the front was show up early, some folks actually parked their bikes at the staging area then walked to the hotels so they would be up front (silly as after the first fuel stop you ended up mixed in anyway)  so today the assigned platoons is a much better deal.   After I got staged, again about four bikes behind this guy, I walked up to him and introduced myself.  I did not have a road name, just a name, so I doubt he remembers me, but he might.  I do not know if he is still on the Run, heck I could not even tell you his name.  He did have a California plate on his bike and the last number was a 7.  Well I was behind him for two legs on the run so that is all I saw.  When I introduced myself I saw his FNG pin.   So I decided to temper my remarks.  I do not have the exact words I said written down but it went something like this, "Hi my Name is Dave, this is my second year on the run, last year I was a FNG too, and I only went part way, Colorado to DC."  He acknowledged this and shook my hand.  "I just wanted to thank you for making this leg the absolute worse leg I have ever done on the Run.  You are running your own personal missing man formation, you are a one man rubber band factory, and every time you back off or adjust speed you have to hit your brakes.  You do not pay attention to anything but the bike behind you, you allowed several cages to break through the pack, and caused not just the last couple of bikes to have to go around, since we are in the second platoon you caused over three hundred riders to have to make unneeded lane changes.  I see that I am behind you again, and I want you to know that I won't pass you although I should because that is not allowed in the rules, I won't hit you because I am paying attention but I will not pass back your slow down signal unless it comes from the bike in front of you, and I have already learned to ignore your break lights.  If you do not like this I suggest you ride ahead of the pack because you are endangering me and all of the riders behind you."  I said this all with a smile on my face and as sarcastically as I could.  Then I walked away from him to my bike.  He went off like a Roman Candle and if not for his friends, and the Cal Kid, who by the way is a Marine like this guy was, I probably would have been either in jail, or the hospital.   Cal Kid told the man to stand down, and that I was right and if I hadn't said anything he would have, and at that point he had been on 10 or more runs.   Well after things cooled off one of his friends walked up to me, and asked if he could ask some questions.  I said sure.  He only asked three questions
1) if he backs off will you hit him with your bike?   my answer was very loud  No but since he is watching me in the mirror I know he will pull back up before he hits me but his rubberband will stop with me.
2) Why no break lights?   my answer not as loud this time, but there were at least 5 FNG's standing around in ear shot  Break lights cause panic, both in the riders behind you that think something bad is going on and in the cars and trucks around us.  They see a guy tap his breaks to adjust speed and think we are all stopping so they slow down and that causes bad things to happen behind us.
3) Are you mad at him or any of us new guys?  my answer to this surprised all of them.... No I am not mad or angry, in fact I understand why no one wanted to ride behind me my first year.   I am going to suggest that they have a few additional meetings for FNG's just to let them know that all they have to do is ask and they will get answers.

Well after that came Kansas City, and the year before that was a nightmare, so I was hyper aware, had all my gadgets turned off, and I noticed that the Red Wing was gone.  He had dropped out of line.  When we got to Wentzville I looked him up, and apologized for my sarcasm, he told me that he was sorry for wanting to kill me.  He also said that he would be in the pack in the morning and he was going to work on not using his break, but his bike didn't have the back pressure of a Harley so down shifting did not slow him down.  I shared a trick my Brother had told me about that works well on Metric bikes, don't down shift, double clutch.  I then explained that when I needed to slow a little I would grab the clutch for a second or to then let it out slowly, the engine will slow down, and that slows the transmission.  I do not recommend this for normal riding, but for pack riding it works well.  Then he asked me "do you really think break lights cause panic?" I asked him if he had been with us since CA, and he said yes, I asked him if he remembered the car that had spun out on I-15 as we were going by, he said yes he had ridden past that, I told him that car was next to me and two bikes 5 or 6 slots ahead of me had hit their breaks to adjust speed and that car thought the line was stopping cause of police lights in front ( we were under escort and the cops were trying to clear the left lane so we could get around the truck scales) The car overreacted swerved and hit his breaks and ended up in the median. The guy thanked me and I never saw him again.  I hope he completed the Run and hope that he came back, but I do not know.  I do know I have never said anything to anyone about their riding again mostly because I am such a poor rider.   No for the debate on the forum, we are not going to change the way we ride, we ride in formation.  Staggered or Side by Side it does not matter.  I suspect that Central Route will go most of the way staggered next year, but that will be because of leadership below the BOD, and that is a shame, but it won't stop me from supporting and hopefully doing the mission.  I probably won't be talking to trucks next year, I mean they made it fine this year without me, but I will be riding.