I was heading west on University Parkway, the stretch of US-29, a four-lane divided highway, between Athens and Atlanta, GA. It was late afternoon on a Friday and a thunderstorm was threatening overhead. People don’t mess around that time of the week. They are ready to get home to start their weekends or, like me, are already on their way to the party and are in a hurry to get there. Time is of the essence when the workweek is done. The average speed on the west-bound side was between 70-75 miles per hour. The east-bound side had been shut down due to a traffic accident and was backed up for miles. I gave quick thanks to the God of Speed for not being stuck in that mess.
Traffic was medium-heavy and I was averaging about 80 mph, making sure that I wasn’t the fastest vehicle on the road but keeping up with the faster cars of the crowd. I noticed a white sedan that had passed me, but then settled down to about my pace a little distance ahead. I eventually caught up and passed the car again. No big deal, it happens, I paid the car no mind as I continued to fling myself westward toward the horizon, bouncing around in my seat, tapping out the rhythm to some Lady Gaga tune with my right foot; I think it was “Bad Romance”. My thoughts were already occupied with playing in the twisties that were scheduled for the following day. The car eventually picked its way back through traffic and got ahead yet again.
Now it’s getting a little weird! After a while boredom and curiosity get the better of me and I am in hot pursuit of my highway stalker. It doesn’t take me long to catch up with my target. The car is still hanging out in the left lane, so I scoot over and slowly pass them on the right. I see what looks to be four college-aged kids bouncing around in their seats, hair flying, talking animatedly and obviously checking me out. Oh, shit! A carload of cheerleaders! They point and wave at me and I smile, — even though they can’t see through my darkly tinted face shield — I nod and give them a peace sign with my outstretched clutch hand. Then I grab a fistful of throttle, twist it quickly to the stop and treat them to a completely “unnecessary display of horsepower”. Gratuitous. I can’t help myself. I have no excuse. I pull triple digits for a few seconds, pass another vehicle by executing two acute lane changes to get a little high-speed lean for effect and then let the engine slow me back down to the speed of traffic.
It doesn’t take very long for them to catch up. Two songs, maybe. I’m astonished to see them again. When they pass me on the left, I see one of them is holding a sheet of notebook paper up to the passenger side window. It reads in bold-red Sharpie print:
I prop open my visor so I can make eye contact as I pace them. I smile and give them a thumbs up and a fist pump with my free hand. I yell: “Hell yeah!” even though they can’t hear me. I speed up and they stay directly behind me as my wing women until we part ways at a red light a few miles up the road. I turned right and they kept going straight. Each of us heading towards weekend adventure. I wish I could have taken a picture of this or had the video camera going. It’s the little things like these that make even a bored and hurried flight down a two-lane seemingly never-ending straight worth it. For one little instant my path merged with that of four strangers and life was just good.
That’s one of the reasons I ride.
Riding a motorcycle connects you intimately, even if only for a short moment, with others and the world around you. You become part of that world, rather than being isolated and distanced from it like you are when sitting in a car. This is one of those reasons why bikers refer to cars as “cages”. I’m sure of it.
What in the devil is wrong this morning? Traffic is pretty heavy, but moving along at almost the pace of a Georgia Super Speeder, which is highly unusual for a Wednesday on both counts. It’s raining, has been pretty much all night from the looks of things. I’m running late, so I’m pretty much in a hurry. Business as usual on I-20. I’m passing most everybody, a few get to pass me. Yeah, you’ve read right. It’s a privilege, one which can be revoked at any second. 😉
Once I merge onto I-520E it’s a different story, as is evident at the merge point of the two opposing I-20 ramps feeding into I-520E. It takes some seriously creative riding to get in between all the slowasses, the hesitant mergers, the leadfoots, the space holders, the distractedly engaged, and the mobile jabber junkies. Yes, I have categorized the crowd by their default behaviors when driving becomes more complicated and the brain starts running the risk of overloading. Inconveniences such as intersections, on/off ramps, cloverleaf ramps, and merge points are all prime spots to observe the Common Cager (incola communis rotae cavea) in their natural habitat.
I make my way towards another day filled with opportunity of earning Pirate Coin (read: I’m going to work to make the bike payment) through the succession of merge points that is Augusta’s own scaled-down version of Atlanta’s infamous Spaghetti Junction or Columbia’s suicidal Malfunction Junction. After slicing and dicing and duking it out with a cager crowd that is denser, faster, and more aggressive than usual, which makes the situation also more unpredictable than is the norm; I finally find myself some empty-enough asphalt I can settle into and go with the flow of traffic.
My bliss, however, doesn’t last long, and as the wild bunch behind me catches up, I find myself surrounded again. Damn! I hate this. I can’t stand being around this much metal. That goes against my rule of riding as if invisible. I don’t like being caged in (pun intended), it gives me few to no outs and not enough time to react to set an escape in motion if it became necessary. I like to control the situation. And I do that with the throttle.
I have planned my escape and am working my way towards the freedom that is a much airier stretch of asphalt not too far ahead. As I see an opening to escape the imminent clutches of a semi-truck spraying me with grimy rainwater its tires sling off the road surface and a tailgater in an SUV, and risking getting stuck there, I take it and quickly change lanes, squeeze in between two cars, ride the left side of the white line, then gas it a little too enthusiastically to take advantage of the next opening. I slide the rear wheel, it starts stepping out to the right. I don’t even have to think about it; nor is it an event that registers even the slightest twinges of panic in me, nor does it upset the Pirate, as is evident by the DTC light remaining dark. A simple acknowledgement, followed by trained action.
I pin the throttle, then dive left with a quick nudge on the left grip, aiming for the left wheel track of the left lane; as I do, the rear wheel hooks back up. I straighten myself out, pass the semi truck, and after one more set of rolling road blocks (two cars pacing each other slightly offset, taking up both lanes and backing up impatient caffeine-deprived, half-asleep morning commuters for miles) I am finally free. I feel like putting on blue face paint and showing my arse while yelling “Freedom!”.
I was kind of proud of myself. I smiled. It wasn’t too long ago where I would have had to pull over and dig out the emergency pair of replacement panties. And here I was complaining not too long ago that I can’t improve my skills on public roads anymore. That street riding has become mostly mundane, boring and uninspiring. I guess I underestimated the power of constant and conscious repetition of isolated skill practice. I definitely have increased my crap weather riding skills and my confidence must be solidified.
I noticed another thing, I have reached a milestone of sorts in my riding: I haven’t been singing in the rain. That means I am not nervous or anxious anymore and the need for intense concentration has passed. I still sing on occasion when I drag knee though, I’m pretty sure of it. 😉
As a side note: I’m rolling Dunlop Sportmax Q2s, the rear in Hayabusa size (a leftover from some long-ago tire sale): 190/50 as opposed to 190/55. I can reach the ground better in my race boots, but I think I lost 6 mph off the top end… *giggles* and my speedo reads about 5-7 miles slow now. Oh well… it won’t be on there forever. I really do love those tires. I think I might even like them better than the Metzeler Racetec Interact K3 (K3s are medium-hard) that came on the bike; and they are cheaper, too.
So, I’m on my rocket propelled Samsonite, looking for an early morning with Miss Busa. Love of my life waiting for me (read as sleeping). So I’m westbound on I-20. There are three lanes of traffic. I’m in the granny lane, the license plate DOES read “Mr.Slow.” I see a white Lexus coming onto the interstate, so I move to the center lane to allow the car ease of entry. In other words, white paint transfer on my Connie won’t look very nice. See, I’m a nice driver: make room for others, mind my manners, all that bull shit that is about to go out the window.
Mr. Lexus, with the now visible aviator sunglass, decides that the granny lane is not good enough for him anymore. He wants my lane now. So without a glance at me, he comes on over. Of course I do notice this, mostly because I’m allergic to road rash. Screw that, I dodge to the hammer lane, and look dead at the guy. He must ‘feel’ me staring at him, because he looks at me and throws both hands into the air in the “WHAAAAT?” gesture.
That pissed me off a little, so I decide to show him what for! Ok, squid warning. I know that this makes no sense, but I’m really ticked off now. So I decide enough is enough, I pull my bike hard toward the Lexus piloted by the aviator sunglasses wearing, cool breeze jerk. I think I surprised him a little. Maybe. He pulls his luxury Toyota into the right lane, surprising me; then really astonishing me, he goes all the way to the shoulder. As I accelerate away, I’m laughing so hard, that I have tears running down my face.
The Lexus driver got back on the road, I made it home with a tale to tell: everyone happy. Just so no one is worried, no Lexus drivers were harmed during the making of this blog entry. If the bastard had pulled over, it may have had been different.
Traffic is medium-heavy. I’m following behind hubby’s truck, changing into the fast lane when I see a semi-truck pulled over on the shoulder, which is the reason hubby’s changing lanes. He passes another semi-truck in the ‘Granny Lane’ (the right lane) and as I come up on him, I see that he has his left turn signal on, apparently he wants to get over, too. Decision time. My first impulse tells me to speed up, get out of this guy’s way, followed by the thought of ‘you always speed up; slowing down is never an option for you’ spoken in my hubby’s voice from a conversation we had after he bought me the Beemer and chewed my ass for a good four hours while I was at work. Mind you, this wasn’t a lecture, this was a serious conversation about riding style, skill, and being a squid and I had it coming. He just held his tongue for almost a month until he had purchased me another bike, so I wouldn’t think it was about the money or the wrecked Hayabusa. I deserved it. I was an idiot by riding what is essentially a drag bike the way I did. I dragged tail pipe, in a left turn from a stop at an intersection. I’d say this lecture was long overdue. However, I didn’t like to hear it. Meanwhile, I’m rolling towards uncertainty, torn. My riding in traffic has always been proactive, decisive and aggressive when need be. I read patterns, I see, I act to stay out of trouble. My riding style and how I deal with traffic around me is certainly different from my husband’s. When we ride together and traffic gets bad, it’s each (wo)man for himself. I pick my way, he picks his. I usually end up ahead of him, because I use my power and maneuverability I have over cars to my advantage. There’s a reason why I refer to this as ‘Combat Commuting’. He doesn’t like it, but neither do I like the way he rides in traffic. I think his way is dangerous, he thinks my way is. We agreed to disagree, since we’re both keeping it rubber side down and out of harm’s way. Our respective methods work for us. Torn, I make the decision to slow down, but the semi is not getting over. His turn signal is still on and he’s progressively slowing down. I don’t know what he’s going to do. I CAN’T READ HIM!!! I am now past the point of gunning it past him and I do NOT want to end up in his blind spot when he finally does make a move. Suddenly, I hear horns blaring, I jerk my head left and see a silver SUV blowing past me on the left-side rumble strip, which is too narrow to be called a shoulder. He’s throwing up rocks as he whips past me. At this moment all sanity leaves me. My overactive imagination treats me to a mental video detailing what would have happened if he had hit me squarely in the ass. I see myself exploding and body parts raining all over I-20 West. I would have died not knowing I was dead. I would have just ceased to exist. I don’t want to die like that. I want to stare death straight in the face and see it coming! I want a transition between life and death, for crying out loud! Body parts. I shake myself and rip it like I’ve never ripped it before. I pass the SUV, who no doubt had not paid attention to the massive slow down that was caused by the bottlenecking of vehicles around the stopped truck on shoulder. I wonder if he had dropped his phone while he saw my tail lit up by brake lights closing in on him at a surreal rate of speed. I can’t shake it. My breath is rapid, but yet I remain calm and in control of my machine. I’m not scared. I don’t know how to describe what I’m going through. Not fear. Not shock. Maybe awe. I don’t know. I’m dumbfounded, really. I feel disconnected from my decision and I recite in my head over and over that I should have went with my first instinct. Gun it and get the fuck out. Yeah, that was one hell of a bad judgment call. ONE HELLA BRAINFART!We get to our destination and I make a u-turn, pull up next to hubby and tell him that I’m not feeling it and I just want to go the fuck home. He looks at me with concern: “Something happen?” – “You could say that.” – “You ok.” – “Yes, I’m fine.” – “What happened?” – “On I-20… that truck…” – “What?” – “Can’t talk about it right now, let’s just go.” He follows me. I’m going the wrong direction. I’m frustrated. Ah, hell with this. I get back on I-20, then get off on the next exit and pull over at a lane for a mobile weigh station setup, which is currently unused and vacant. I park my bike and get into the truck. I explain. We get into an argument, he apologizes. I apologize. Other stuff comes up, we’re a mess. We both apologize again.
Fuck me, if this doesn’t fall into the ‘ride your own ride’ category. He feels like I’m blaming him. I’m not trying to, I’m just trying to make him understand what led up to the brainfart that could have made me go bye-bye in the most glorious of meat explosions ever. No Special FX needed. I shouldn’t have brought it up. I knew how it would sound, but I also needed to talk to my best friend, the one person in my life I trust implicitly. But some things have no place there. This is one of them. I’m at wit’s end. Two in a row! TWO IN A FUCKING ROW! Yesterday, I came within fractions of an inch of a collision with some jackass who decides to cut me off at the last possible second. Now this? If I had a car I’d be done with street riding. I really am not having any fun at the moment… and I’m still not scared. WTF?
I feel like the life got sucked right out of me. Now what am I going to do to keep my sanity? Do drugs? Become an alcoholic or pay a shrink $150/hour? Meh.
I’m better than this.
Hubby told me later on that these trucks belonged to the same carnie outfit, the one with the left turn signal on? Wasn’t his turn signal at all. He had his four-way flashers on, but had a few bulbs out. Same goes for his buddy on the shoulder (who was still moving, DRIVING very slowly), four-ways on, but a few bulbs short of a proper signal. SOMEBODY GIVE THESE FUCKWADS A GODDAMN TICKET!
It’s raining. I’m minding my own lane space as I roll in ‘Rain’ mode down Robinson Avenue, at a sedate pace of 35 miles per hour, which coincidentally is also the speed limit. I’m on my way to work, feeling fine and listening to Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’. Traffic is pretty heavy, since it’s rush hour in the big city of Grovetown. I like the way the S1000RR minds its manners in crap weather. The ‘Busa had it together, too, but this bike screams confidence, but not overly so.
I see him sitting there, in his black sedan with his chromed-out rims. He is stopped, and not antsy, like some of the drivers trying to make a left turn onto Robinson Avenue from Katherine Street. There is a line of cars behind him, also waiting to merge into Grovetown’s main artery. I’m closing the distance to the T-intersection, when suddenly he guns it and pulls out in front of me. I don’t have time to think, all I can do is react. I quickly bring my fingers up, curl them around the front brake lever as I roll the throttle closed in the same swift, desperate movement and grab the biggest handful to date in Miss Busa’s colorful 18-month riding career. Gone is the thought of “but… but it’s wet”, all I can think of is that I need to stop this rocket before my front tire kisses this joker’s rear bumper and high-sides me into oncoming traffic. Not that I have any other options. Oncoming traffic to the left, curb to the right. I couldn’t jump that anyway, the angle of approach wouldn’t be steep enough, and I’ve really had enough of curb jumping against all odds for the time being. I’ve done killed one Peregrine Falcon with that stunt, don’t need to add a Pirate Matey to the list of things wrecked due to impossible angles. The S1000RR does its thing (or I do), because I haul myself down in time to escape calamity. Straight, well behaved, controlled, without lockups. I don’t even put my foot down, but bang it down a gear into first, then ease out the clutch, which I had pulled in at some point during this fiasco, but can’t recall doing so. Holy hell! I glance down and see no telltale lights that speak of the Beemer’s intervention. Damn! Still couldn’t make neither the ABS nor the DTC come on and help a chica out. I’m beginning to worry… if anything this should have done it! Never mind that now… I show the jerk that he rates No. 1 in my book, but the single-digit salute doesn’t really do it for me. I want to make sure the asshat gets a good look at the face of the person he just put into a do or die situation. The face of the girl who could have had herself one pisser of a bad day courtesy of his stupid ass. And this is definitely NOT how I like to start my day, no sir! When the traffic clears I speed up, cross over into the oncoming lane. I buzz him really close and stare into his window as I pace him. He looks at me like I’m some sort of wacko. Ah, I hate that look. The look of non-comprehension. So he gunned it to cut off oncoming traffic, but never looked back to his right to see the girl on a motorcycle and the giant SUV behind her. Fuck me! It would have done my psyche better if he had just been a complete jackass and had done it on purpose… I don’t know why that matters… probably because that would take one shitty variable out of this messy equation. *sigh* I shake my fist at him anyway, then leave him to sniff my fumes and make sure I’m back to speed limit by the time I do my almost daily pass and review in front of the cop shop.
Damned if you do & damned if you don’t!
What really grinds my gears is this: If there is no contact between vehicles it is not ruled an accident. Think about this for a moment. Think about how that silly, asinine law affects motorcyclists. I would have hit his ass had I been in hubby’s truck; making double-sure of there being contact, had I not been able to stop in time. It would have been ruled his fault. I was traveling at speed limit, he cut off not just me, but oncoming traffic as well. Plenty of witnesses. On a motorcycle? Physical contact between their parts and yours needs to be avoided at all costs or you’ll really be in for a world of hurt. In my case, I had no outs, but to stop and hope for the best. Couldn’t swerve left due to oncoming traffic. Couldn’t swerve right due to the curb. Either of which would have resulted in a highside… to the left into a moving object. To the right into a stationary one. Hitting the offending car would have also resulted in my soft parts being lobbed into the air. Only way out? Lay it down, separate and hope you’ll stay in your lane as you slide to a stop on your ass and further hope the driver in the car behind you is paying attention. Not really all that comfortable with these odds. This is pissing me off all over again…. ARGH! To the point: Had I avoided impact but laid down my bike in the process, it would have been ruled my fault and I would have been turned into an unwilling pedestrian, since I can’t afford another freaking $1000 insurance deductible. Not to mention my rates would be so far down the crapper… enough said.
They need to change that stupid law (at least for motorcyclists)! If someone causes you to lose control of your vehicle because they violate your right of way, it should be deemed their fault, vehicle contact or not! We only have two wheels, after we screech to a halt, we still have to remain in balance to avoid damage to our vehicle.
I’m mounting a video camera to the bike permanently, and I will run it every time I ride. I had too many close calls now. Then I will use that footage, along with witness accounts and sue the pants off your driving-skill lacking ass or have my surviving hubby do it for me. LEARN TO DRIVE!
I’m still not calmed down. And this happened over seven hours ago. 😦 And something else just occurred to me: Had I been on my Hayabusa, this day would have been one hell of a bummer, indeed. There’s no way I could have stopped The Fat Lady in time to avoid a highside. Now I’m double-bummed… or maybe things happen for a reason?!?