Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dust cleared out......Is it May yet?

Two posts in less than an hour?  How does he do that.  Well I wrote this about 5 months ago, and it is a rant. I posted on the RFTW Forum a hope that the hype would lessen and the bucket listers would not show up this year.  I caught a lot of  flack for that post.  I even got told that I was responsible for a lot of folks deciding not to do the Run.  I hope not, but if they are going to show up, complain that they do not like the way things are done, try to change something that has been developed over years of trial and error, then I guess that is OK.  Sad but OK.

The folks who follow this know that every year in May I ride Clyde out to LA (Los Angelas and not Lower Alabama)  for Run for The Wall.  I do this because I have so many friends that are no longer with us and who cannot do what they want.

After the 25th annual RFTW I was a little disappointed with all of the Hype and a very small group of riders that I called "Bucket Listers".  These are the folks that show up, want everything to be their way (One of which actually posted on the Forum at "I was asked to leave!")  and scream when that does not happen.  These folks cause me a problem for lots of reasons, but most importantly they want something that is done well improved (actually not improved but changed to their satisfaction immediately) now.  Guys who say "riding side by side is dangerous".  Well it is, but in Kansas City, or Louisville KY, it is dangerous to ride like a small group when there are over 500 of us.  Guys like one FNG who told me that he doubted that I had ever ridden with a group of 50 riders in my life.  He is right I have never done that.  I have ridden with groups of 400 to 700 from LA to DC 9 times, but I have never ridden with a group of 50.  I do not think that I would do that even if I was given a chance.  I have participated in 5 Patriot Guard missions, but all 5 of those had well over 200 riders, and we met up rode a few miles and stood in a flag line.

When my Brother (Shore Party) introduced me to RFTW in 2005 I had never ridden in a group lager than 20 in my life.  In fact it had been 10 years since the last time I had even ridden a motorcycle, or owned one for that matter.  I listened to what was being said in Limon CO that first morning.  I learned and by the time we got to DC I almost understood what was going on.   I did not complain that what was going on was unsafe.  I heard some do that, and watched them leave, I heard some stay and ask how they could participate without riding with the pack, they were told to go ahead to the fuel stops, and they did.  No one told them they were "stupid, dangerous and should not be riding a motorcycle, let alone in a pack of 300" they just told them to listen to the pipes.  That first year I learned a great deal about the Run, my Brother, my Step Dad, and myself.  But again I did not try to change anything, I tried to do it.   I saw and understood the need for the "Two up" side by side formation immediately.  It was for the safety of the group.  In Kansas City the pack literally exploded when the route coordinator missed an exit.  The riders that knew the route went the correct way, those of us who did not know the route and who were following the bike in front of us
(Something I still do even though I know the route, and all the exits we have to take) were lost and lost in a big way in a very dangerous place for motorcycles, and motorcyclists.  Rush hour traffic in Kansas City KS/Kansas City, MO.  All I had was my brother, and neither of us had been on this part of the route before.  We went to third gear, quickly exceeded the posted speed limit by a factor of 2 and tried to catch a rider who was calmly talking to us on the radio stating that he was rolling at 10 miles an hour under the speed limit.  I thanked God that I had a radio at that point and hoped and prayed that others would either follow us, or catch up to the pack.  At that point there was no pack, just several hundred FNG riders racing through traffic to catch a guy who was holding up traffic waiting for us to catch him.  I am telling this story because it is important, we were not doing it right. In truth at that point there was no right or wrong way to do anything, there was just survival and get to our friends, get our formation back, and I for one was on the edge of panic. But there was that leaders voice on my radio saying  "come on guys I am waiting for you, slow down, we are all going to get there, no one is being left behind, Road Guards will be at the exit for our stop until everyone is accounted for.  Keep coming but do it safe." I signaled to my brother to turn his radio on and he started hearing what I was hearing.  We slowed down, stayed side by side and as riders caught us (some passed us but then realized we seemed to know what we were doing and got behind us.  If they had known that we had less clue than they did it might have turned out differently, but after about 10 miles there was a pack, and we were leading it.  JR Franklin, the Central Route Coordinator kept talking to us and we reported that the pack was forming behind us and that we were coming to him.  It worked, everyone made it to the fuel stop and we re staged the platoons and went on.  The point is no one SCREAMED "This is stupid and dangerous I won't ride like that change it or I am gone!"  something I heard done to the RC last year on the first morning before the riders meeting.  No one got hurt (One guy did get spattered with a little road kill that was lying in the middle of the left track, but that became a great side story, not a problem) and we all got where we were going.  Leaders lead, and we as human beings follow them because we accept the fact that to do anything large well there has to be a leader and people to follow him.  I love the mission of Run for the Wall.  Have I never tried to change things, no.  Have I gotten things changed for the better?  Yes.  The first few years that I was on the Run we went through the Topeka Toll Plaza in the left lane and then had about a mile and a half to move three lanes to the right to exit for our fuel stop.  I saw this as a dangerous problem and suggested in one of the many after action reports that we go through the K-tag lane (which is the right lane) and the computer could count us (count us as scofflaws who were trying to avoid the toll) and we would be in the right lane and exiting to our fuel stop without disrupting traffic much at all.  This was done for the 1st time in 2008 and it is now the way we do it.  I was not the only one who suggested it, but am happy that it has been fixed.   If it had not changed I would not have quit I would have just kept on pestering people till it was fixed.
So I will end this with an apology.  If my post about bucket listers on the Run Forum offended anyone I am sorry, but the attitude displayed by FNG riders last year was pretty much horrible, the amount of trash that I picked up at hotels (I camped most of the way and still picked up coffee cups and cigar and cigarette butts at hotels) and at the morning meetings, and day stops was just ridiculous.  That is not what we do, we as a group leave the places we meet at cleaner than when we got there.  We care about the future of the Run, we make it so that people will welcome this "Bunch of Bikers" back every year.  The mission is much more important than the feelings of any individual.  If we do not do this then our country will forget those that have been left behind.


Less than 30 days till I roll west for the 26th annual RFTW....time to clean house and dust and uncobwebb the old Blog

Normally I have written here before this.  Normally I have written some trucking stuff, or observations of motorcycles during the year.  This has not been a normal year.  My Wife has had surgery and is recovering nicely.  She is coming home from the hospital in the next few days.  But that is not why I have not written here.  It has been a very busy year, and that is not the reason that I have not written here either.  Maybe I am getting older and just have not had anything to add here.
That is a good excuse but it also is not the reason that I have not written here.  I have been lazy, that is the real reason.   I have posted several things on Face Book, just not here.

Clyde is ready to roll, I still have to change his oil and take him up to the local nitrogen dealer and make sure his tires are properly inflated.   *Note I have been running nitrogen in Clyde's tires for a few years now and his tires are lasting a lot longer.  I highly recommend that if you have not made this $5.00 change to your bike do it.  $5.00 verses $180.00 per tire plus labor is pretty much a no brainer   Example  rear tires usually last about 13 to 15 thousand miles on air, front tires last just about as long.  Clyde has nitrogen in his tires and rear tires are lasting 20,000 miles fronts over 20,000 miles.  Front tire is at half it's wear and it has 13000 plus miles on it.  That is two runs with a third one done easily.  So the $5.00 is worth it.

Now for some observations on motorcycles.  These are made from a truck drivers perspective.  I have seen many many groups riding.  Several were riding like organized groups.  Lots of PGR missions out there.  You guys all looked sharp, and organized.  There are a few folks out there that ride very responsibly and respect trucks.  Then there are some suicidal complete idiots out there!  When I pass a truck I do not pull over in front of them until I can see the top of the trailer in my mirror, and if I am on a 75 mph road I count to 3 by thousands and then move over.   The more room I can give a truck moving faster than 55 mph the safer I am.  As a truck driver I know it takes four seconds from the time I hit my brake pedal until I stop.  It takes the average driver two seconds to realize that they need to stop and to get their foot on that brake pedal.
Two seconds means @ 60 mph I roll 176 feet before I even start slowing down, then 352 feet later I stop so lets get the calculator out.....176 + 352 = 528.  that means 528 feet to stop a truck at 60 mph.  That is if the driver is paying attention and not having an argument with his wife, dispatcher, or a bill collector. That is if the road is dry and the driver has checked his equipment and every thing works properly.  So why do my fellow motorcycle riders cut in front of a truck at 180 feet?  They are not stupid, they are not crazy, they are not suicidal, they are quite simply IGNORANT.  That doesn't mean stupid, it means they are uninformed.   They do not know what it takes to stop a big truck.  If a truck is closer to you than 528 feet and you stop the end result is you will die.  That is if you are on a bike, or in a car.  Nothing I as the driver can do about it, nothing you can do about it, that is simply physics.  When I get passed by a motorcycle I start paying attention, but I ride.  I will back off a bike that cuts me short, but that is me.  There are a lot of new folks out there driving trucks, and they like the motorcyclists are simply IGNORANT.  They are either not aware of how long it takes to stop a truck (Do not think "How can this be, they are driving it and they are professional"), or they simply do not care.  Getting comfortable around trucks is a bad idea.  The average driver is very good, and very professional.  But then the average cyclist is very safe and very aware of the dangers of riding.  It only takes one mistake to get you killed on the road.  Example the recent big truck vs. bus accident in California.  Ten people dead, including the truck driver and the bus driver.  No one will ever know what either of those drivers thought, or did.  They will figure out what happened to an extent, but we will never know.  The truck driver was a professional, and the bus driver was a professional, but the cars around them were not. 

So now for a few words about the Run.  We ride in formation, no matter what that formation is the goal is to protect the rider beside you and in front of you.  The bigger the city, the worse the congestion the tighter that formation has to be.  In some of the eastern cities we ride in if you give a car a 6 second gap they are coming into the formation, and they will see you and run the guy on your right or left over, then claim they never saw them.   If the formation passes a truck it had better give that truck lots of room.  Think about this, first platoon passes a truck, the platoon leader waits till he is 700 feet past the truck then he moves over.  He has 60 bikes behind him, the first 30 riders move when he moved, then two (and it only takes two to start this) riders decided to cut over at 500 feet, by the time the platoon moves over the tail gunners are 10 feet in front of the truck.  The Truck driver is on his brakes and backing off.  Second Platoon is beside the truck, and maybe Third Platoon is too, but Fourth Platoon, Fifth Platoon, Sixth Platoon, Seventh Platoon (Bikes with trailers that do not stop very vast) and Eighth Platoon (Trikes and trikes with trailers that stop a little faster) are behind the truck.  Everything is going great but that truck is slowing down, and traffic doesn't want to allow anyone into the left lane because they do not want to behind those DAMN Bikers.  So what happens, the same two riders that started this insanity by not thinking start waving at an over pass and forget that there are 500 bikes behind them, they back off and the end of Platoon one stops.  The truck because he has already started stopping some how gets stopped without killing anyone, he is on his radio Screaming "Brake Check, these idiots are stopping!!!!!"  and Second Platoon stops in the left lane, Fourth Platoon might get stopped without hitting the truck, and then we go on.  That is a perfect situation.  But a third mistake and someone is hurt, or worse dead.   This gets even worse when we enter construction zones.  I was at the end of the pack last year in New Mexico, we were under escort and there was an accident that was caused because people were not thinking.  I could go into a lot of other things here, but everyone has to remember one very important fact about Run For The Wall.  We are all going to the same place, the exits we use have road guards at them, and those poor guys do not leave the exit until everyone gets there....everyone. We do not leave anyone behind, and if you get out of line or get off the road 7 or 8 folks are going to stop and check on you.  One final thought if you drop out of the pack take a look at where we are going and then go there.  DO NOT try to get back into the pack, this risks everyone, either follow behind or if you can and there is enough time go ahead.  I would stay behind the pack at anything under 20 miles from the stop.  Remember in perfect situations that pack is 8 miles long, and can stretch out to 16 miles.   For those two riders mentioned above, do not be them, give the trucks as much room as the platoon leader did, do not cut them short.  Just do not do it.  Think about the people behind you that are behind that truck, that have trucks behind them.  You might survive but do you really want to have the death of anyone on your conscience?

So in May I will be headed west, and I will pray that everyone that participates in this years Run makes it safely from home back to home.  Please remember that you control what happens, keep you wheels down, stay upright and visible and never assume that anyone around you can see you  or even cares that you are there.