Jul 29, 2019

The Difference Between Pros and the Rest of Us

All Rights Reserved © 2012 Thomas W. Day

A young woman wrote the following on a motorcycle list I occasionally follow, "I'm considered/called a 'pro artist' but I don't get paid for my work. Just because someone races and gets paid for it doesn't mean they actually know what they are doing." She was responding to a comment I'd made about how unimpressed I was with all of the "performance" farkle-jabber that went on among the wannabes and street bandits on that list (My exact comment was, "Actually, to be a professional at something you have to be good enough to get paid for it."). Another kid on the list responded with, "You also don't have to be a pro-rider on a race circuit to be considered 'pro.' It's all in experience."
First, let's get the semantics out of the way. Mr. Webster, if you please. 
Pro-fes-sion-al adj
1) a: of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession; b: engaged in one of the learned professions; c: (1) characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession (2) exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace  
2) a: participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs <a professional golfer> b: having a particular profession as a permanent career <a professional soldier> c: engaged in by persons receiving financial return <professional football>
3) following a line of conduct as though it were a profession <a professional patriot>
From the above definitions, I think it's safe to say that being a professional has something to do with getting paid to do the job. Someone "considered/called a 'pro artist'" who does art without compensation is a hobbyist or an amateur. That person might be an excellent artist, but not a professional artist. 
How long would any of the tens of thousands of competent high school or college football players survive an NFL game? In sports--and motorcycle racing is a sport--the difference between professionals and the rest of us is as dramatic as the intellectual space between Stephen Hawking and Bonzo the chimp. Being "courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike"--even adding the gold leaf of "conforming to the technical or ethical standards"--might cut it in the Misfortune 500, but it won't buy you one microsecond of cornering advantage on the race track. Being a pro-rider means you are better than all of the novice, intermediate, and expert amateurs. Getting a substantial investment from a race sponsor or a five-to-seven-figure salary from a manufacturer means you are among the best-of-the-best. Winning national and world championships means you are superhuman.  
When we watch a pro race, it's easy to imagine that kind of skill is normal because the race track is filled with people going fast and making it look easy. Michael Jordan made dunking a basketball look easy, too. Magic Johnson made bullet behind-the-back passes and half-court jump shots look natural and humanly possible. Kenny Roberts convinced a lot of fools that the Yamaha TZ750 was a real dirt track miler, not the deathtrap ("They don't pay me enough to ride this thing," sayeth Kenny) that it really was. NFL quarterbacks pinpoint 60 yard passes into the hands of the quickest runners in human history and we delude ourselves into believing that our cheering helped them perform those incredible feats. I know about this delusion, because I watched Bobby Hannah skip across the tops of chest-deep whoops in 1977 and I thought I could do that if I only had a factory bike. I suspect I couldn't ride a 1976 factory bike on my best day. Being a spectator is a deceiving experience. Hell, television even convinces some of us that science and invention is easy and glamorous. 
It's all bullshit, though. These aren't normal athletes. They aren't ordinary people. What they do is not normal human activity. They are professionals. 
We can argue about how much those talents are worth, financially, but arguing that "it's all in experience" is foolish and arrogant. I've been riding since 1963 and I have a butt-load of "experience." I get paid to teach MSF classes, so I am (in a weak sense) a professional motorcyclist. But I never had a fraction of the talent, dedication, physical ability, or focus to be a professional racer. I have written more than 250 articles for a variety of industry publications (including motorcycling) and that makes me a professional writer. A writer becomes an author when he publishes a book: I am not an author. Experience doesn't amount to squat until you get paid to do the thing, if you want to compare yourself to professionals. All you have to do to gain experience is to stay alive and observe the world around you. 
Professionals don't delude themselves with stupid fantasies. (They may be superstitious, though. I can't explain that.) Pro motorcyclists wear the best protection gear available. They ride motorcycles that have the very best maintenance and state-of-the-art technology. They study the race track, the other racers, their machine, and they integrate all of that information into a performance that produces results or results in early retirement. To be a professional you have to convince someone you are actually worth hard cash. On the race track, you do that by winning races. Nothing else matters.

Jul 22, 2019

Running from the Noise Makers

There are tourist towns and there are tourist towns. Red Wing, MN, (my hometown) seems to really want to spend a lot of taxpayer cash attracting out-of-town money, but only a particular type of money. Like Lost Wages in the 90's, Red Wing is pretty much a town full of geezers (mostly retired) who are terrified of change, young people, and bikers. Our cops, especially, follow the national mode of knowing these assholes are gangbangers and domestic terrorists and they keep a long distance. If there is such a thing as a biker who could pass a DWI test on a typical summer weekend, our cops have no idea what that would look like.

We had some friends visit for a weekend recently and when we went looking for an restaurant on one evening we ratcheted from Smokin’ Oak to Kelly’s to Bayside to downtown, finally settling on one of the downtown restaurants that wasn’t surrounded by bikers and loud drunks (not that the two are a different crowd) and their poorly maintained and highly-illegal cruisers. The fact is, you can’t have it both ways; you are either a family-friendly tourist town or a biker-friendly bar stop. The difference between most cruiser exhaust noise and year-round fireworks is usually that the fireworks are quieter and more entertaining. Concentrating on the biker money means that family entertainment money will go elsewhere.

Back in 2007 and, again, in 2013, Stillwater, MN made some political noise about cracking down on illegal motorcycle and 4-wheel exhaust noise and the biker gangbangers made some seriously threatening noise back. About the same time, Hudson, WI’s City Council, reacting to residents’ complaints, had a similar discussion, attracting a collection of Outlaw bikers to a city council meeting, which scared the local cops into hiding for the evening. That effectively caused Hudson to back down from their resident-friendly position. There is a group, Citizens for a Quieter Stillwater, that has tried to keep this issue upfront in Stillwater, but Stillwater police seem to have been terrorized into pretending this isn’t a policing problem. I get that, biker gangs are high on the FBI’s list of domestic terror groups. There are many good reasons to be afraid of them, but that is supposed to be why police get to carry guns and can (and should) arrest dangerous law-breaking people. (I know, if I am dumb enough believe that the characters who mostly want to wear badges and carry guns are willing to risk their 20-years-and-out retirement plan putting themselves at risk to protect and serve the public, you have a bridge and Thomas Jefferson's airplane you want to sell me.)

A few months back, in answering a question about vehicle noise and disturbing the peace, Red Wing’s Chief of Police made it clear that he is familiar with the state noise laws (https://www.pca.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/p-gen6-01.pdf) and how they should be enforced. The reasons those laws are not enforced are both economic and pragmatic. Local bars catering to bikers carry a disproportionate amount of political weight and they don’t care much who brings in money as long as there is lots of it. In Minnesota, motorcycle advocacy groups like ABATE (Always Beer at the Event) advocate against helmet laws, motorcycle safety and pollution inspections, mandatory rider training and licensing, and to whine about increasing penalties for right-of-way violators (unless they are bikers). The state legislator was coerced (or terrified) into passing the “Motorcycle Road Guard” law where a mildly-"trained" doofus is allowed to “stop and control traffic for motorcycle group riders”: one of the dumber ideas from our not-too-bright state legislature. Obviously, a smarter approach would have been to enforce rational pirate parades with police examining all of the vehicles in the parade for legal exhausts and fuel systems and breaking up the parade into normaler, traffic-manageable groups. ABATE does an “Annual Bikerday at the Capitol,” where all the group’s pirates dress up in gangsta outfits intended to scare the crap out of the pseudo-conservative lightweights in the capitol and to keep motorcycle legislation off-discussion. It, so far, has worked. 

The average age of US motorcyclists has been going up 2-3 years every year (>50 as of 2018) and the median income is considerably above the US average: $62,500 in 2018. Safety training programs across the country are reducing the number of classes they offer, for example by more than half in Minnesota from the peak 2003-07 period. Motorcycle dealerships are closing or diversifying into ATVs and boats. The number of licensed motorcyclists drastically exceeds the number of motorcycles with valid license tags, indicating that actual ridership is down substantially (and that a regular demonstration of competence should be part of motorcycle license renewal). That last fact is even more dramatic than it seems when you take into account the fact that many/most active motorcyclists own and ride more than one motorcycle. So, this noise and safety issue could be self-solving as bikers age out of the country’s demographic and motorcycle manufacturers price themselves out of existence.

As for the “loud pipes save lives” hype, as a life-long motorcyclist who taught Minnesota motorcycle safety classes for 17 years, I recommend learning how to ride your motorcycle over passive noise makers. 30-to-40-something-percent of Minnesota fatal motorcycle crashes are single-vehicle incidents and common sense would indicate that at least that number of motorcycle crashes are at least in large part the fault of the motorcyclists. The state doesn’t keep any sort of statistics on loud pipes involved in crashes, but there are a LOT of Harley’s and other cruiser models involved in fatal crashes and the most “custom” Harley is one with no pointless modifications done to the exhaust system. So, the evidence appears to be pretty conclusive that the only reason for loud exhaust systems to flaunt disrespect for laws and authority and common decency and peace and quiet.

Jul 15, 2019

Only Mortal

All Rights Reserved © 2008 Thomas W. Day

In 2008, a few weeks before I took off on a month-long bike trip to eastern North America, I accidentally ran a test on my self-confidence. You'd think that a 60+ year old man would be pretty familiar with his body and his limits, but you'd be wrong. One of the characteristics of folks who take on risky activities like sky diving, scuba, and motorcycling is the need to operate on some level of conviction that "I won't get hurt." Crashing and getting maimed and dying is for other people. They have my sympathy, but I'm not one of those guys. I felt that way, especially, when I was young and raced off-road. Some days--those few when I get out of bed relatively painlessly--I still feel a bit indestructible. 
It's an illusion. A fantasy. A conceit. We're all not only mortal, but a little bit fragile. At speeds beyond a brisk walk, we're downright breakable. Even me.
So, one afternoon after work I was on my way home; taking residential roads, avoiding traffic congestion, and ugly freeways. As I approached a collection of apartment buildings, I saw a trio of kids with arm loads of water balloons. I was in my usual armor. It was a hot July afternoon. They were having fun. I didn't make any special effort to avoid them. As I passed, all three fired off a balloon in my direction. Two balloons harmlessly hit the pavement in front of my bike and splashed a little water on my boots. The third landed right in my lap. 
At first, I was shocked that getting hit by a water balloon wasn't as fun as I remembered it being. My grandson and I toss water balloons at each other all summer (I know, "You could put an eye out doing that.") and nobody ever gets hurt. 
I got hurt. I practically vomited it hurt so much. I've been hit by 200 pound guys in football gear and this was worse. I've hit the ground at 50mph in a dirtbike get-off, this wasn't that bad but it wasn't far off. The pain from the balloon impact was somewhere below crashing and breaking a rack of ribs and way above having a 10 year old grandkid jump on my stomach while I'm lying on the floor watching television. 
Nursing my bruised gut, I did a little research on risk, just to see if I could learn something. I have learned enough about pain, I didn't need any more of that sort of information. The Journal of Sport Behavior had some interesting things to say about risk: "Choosing risk for the sake of risk is not the goal. Rather, while being attracted to activities that offer novel or intense experiences, sensation seekers are willing to accept the potential risks involved."1 The same article considered the mindset of the risk taker, "risk is necessary for sensation seeking to occur but that risk itself is not necessarily the fully intended goal of a sensation seeker. Choosing risk for the sake of risk is not the goal. Rather, while being attracted to activities that offer novel or intense experiences, sensation seekers are willing to accept the potential risks involved."
I'll buy that. Honestly, risk isn't the reason I ride. The risk is the thing I try to avoid while I ride. Riding is certainly a "novel experience," though. Driving a car, riding a bus, pedaling a bicycle, walking, or any other means of transportation have very little in common with the motorcycling experience. Riding a motorcycle is more like flying an ultralight, if an ultralight could maneuver in dense traffic. 
In 1988, a researcher named Bogo found that "high-risk athletes were not fearless, but that they had learned how to handle fear. The climbers he interviewed viewed fear as an acceptable and potentially useful emotion in helping keep them safe." We who ride do that, sort of. I'm not convinced that I think, directly, about the risk of riding. I certainly look out for strange cager behavior (is there another kind of cager behavior?). Maybe I've been riding long enough that fear has morphed into something else; paranoia, for example. However, that balloon-induced dose of intense pain brought back an awareness of fear and mortality.
Getting hurt reminds us that we aren't immortal, bulletproof, infallible, or reliably lucky. Crashing, snagging a fingernail against the edge of a spinning tire, mangling a hand on a sheet metal edge, or getting nailed with a fast-moving water balloon reminds us that it can all be over in an instant. We're indestructible until we destruct. Then, we think about the risks we're taking. We re-evaluate the reward vs. the risk. We decide if the possible consequences of those "intense activities" override the joy we receive from the activity. 
When someone tells me they used to ride a bike, when they were kids, but crashed once and decided it wasn't worth the risk, I know what they are talking about. I've gone through the re-examination process several times; usually while nursing busted bones or some such aggravation. So far, I still feel that what I get from riding is worth what it takes from me. There will be a time where infirmity or risk-aversion makes me re-evaluate that position.

1 "A qualitative examination of risk among elite adventure racers, " Journal of Sport Behavior

Post-Script: As you can guess by the date on this rant, I wrote it more than a decade ago. Another piece the magazine, MMM, editors didn't pick for whatever reason. Having been busted up a few times since I wrote this, I do NOT feel that it is in any way an exaggeration.

Jul 8, 2019

Visible When It Counts

A "feature" of teaching is regular, frustrating failure: failure to communicate, failure to connect, failure to even be able to verify your own existence when you see the "results" of your students' test answers. If you are one of the many Americans who believe that teaching is a lucrative, rewarding, interesting job, I recommend you try it. Too often, it is just frustrating and doesn't even come close to compensating enough for the hassle. Many people who are teachers have the credentials to do something more financially and psychically rewarding and many do so after a very short stint in education. Teaching, as a calling, requires something that is rare to non-existent in modern life, "A good teacher is like a candle. It consumes itself to light the way for others."  You can only do that or so long. If you are smart, not very long at all.

When I hear the usual whining bleat of people working menial jobs who don't think their tips are big enough, I think of all the jobs that don't get tipped at all that don't pay anywhere near enough to compensate for the crap they take from an ungrateful public. In fact, most jobs don't get tips, a decent or livable income, or respect or gratitude. Teachers are high on the list of people in that category. In fact, the well-educated and trained teacher this article featured, "Why a South Carolina teacher quit at 28 — and shared her resignation letter with the world," left teaching for a waiting job which pays better, requires fewer hours, and is way less unreasonably demanding. I'm not complaining about my stint, either as a college instructor or a motorcycle safety instructor. I was in pretty good financial shape when I started those jobs and, mostly, I did them to keep from dipping into my retirement savings before I actually retired and, for a long while, because they were fun jobs. Not having to take the administration of either of those establishments particularly seriously was a giant insulator between my sanity and their general purpose weirdness. If I had been a recently graduated instructor with no financial resources and the typical blob of college debt, my situation would have been drastically different.

The only "tips" I have received from my students have been calls and emails and the occasionally note thanking me for helping them find a career or ride a motorcycle safely. Those come few and far between, not much more than a dozen times in 20 years and thousands of students. Most people think they have paid for a teacher's time and they deserve whatever comes from that. The rare student knows that is not true.

So, with that whining background behind us, a few days ago my grandson, Wolf, called to thank me for all of my years of riding tips, safety harping, and encouragement after he had a near-miss traffic incident when a cager ran a stoplight and nearly clipped him from his eBike.  Of course, the driver was fumbling with a cell phone and "didn't see" either the light or the bicyclist. She also didn't slow down after mouthing "I'm sorry" and drove off without even checking to see if he or his bicycle were damaged. What else is new, right?

Wolf, has been commuting year-round in Minneapolis by eBike for two years, going on three, and we've had lots of conversations about counter-steering, swerving, braking, and relentless paranoia with the understanding that anyone needing 4-wheels to balance a vehicle is, by default, a moron. Unlike so many of the people who filtered through the so-called "motorcycle safety program," Wolf learned a lot of hard lessons on his bicycle on empty streets in the early-morning hours (he worked night shift for a year) where errors like braking in the corners, applying brakes suddenly, riding with fingers resting on the brakes, and slight lose of attention put him on the ground in the ice instantly, but without a lot of morbidity/mortality risk because he is an AGAT guy. (See the picture at right for a bit of his winter riding gear.) After two years of well-developed braking habits, that event we all hope will never happen did and his smooth, strong application of both brakes brought the bike to a complete stop just before hitting the cager-nitwit. She brushed against his front wheel with her back bumper and almost pulled the bars out of his hands, but the contact was so slight that he didn't go down.

I'm going to guess that I have made at least 750 people miserable in my MSF Basic Rider Courses (BRC) over the last 18 years. In all that time, I have probably had no more than a half-dozen people thank me for anything other than passing them at the end of the course. Many of the people who did pass shouldn't have because they didn't have the skills, attitude, or awareness to be safe on motorcycles in real traffic. The old BRC wasn't even close to a serious safety and skills program and the new one is simply a joke intended to put as many butts on seats as possible. My grandson suffered mightily under my nagging from when he first started to ride a 16" wheel bike almost 17 years ago until this past winter. In many ways, all of the good things I have learned about riding and teaching over the last 50 years all ended up in his lap. When he was 15, we took a Rocky Mountain tour and many bikers were convinced that he was being abused in having to wear full gear, all the time, regardless of the heat. We had a lot of conversations about motorcycle operation, maintenance (his job was the check the tires and do a visual examination at every fuel stop). He did a great job, including noticing a fork seal leak that became a serious problem a few miles outside of Laramie, WY. We lucked into a great Suzuki shop there with a mechanic who knew that there were a LOT of Suzuki seals that would fit in my V-Strom.

If there were anyone on the planet who I would like to have influenced, it would be Wolf. Getting that call was the best tip I could have ever hoped for.

It's A Brave New (Electric) World


The company that owns and publishes "Cycle World Magazine" is hedging its bets with an eBike on-line publication called Cycle Volta. This is no small commitment because, motorcycle rag fans will notice, most of the technical articles are written by Kevin Cameron. Kevin is the guy many of read Cycle World for and many of us will jump to Cycle Volta for the same hit of rational thinking and technical insight.

Add to that, the fact that Ducati, Yamaha, Honda, and hundreds of start-up eBike brands are in the early hunt for market dominance; or even a decent showing. Supposedly, 60% of all bicycles sold in the EU are eBikes and while US statistics are typically poor it's pretty obvious that our market is experiencing a sea change, too. Midwestern innovator of the century, Eric Buell, has caught the wave and he is going after the high-end eBike market with a 125 mile range eBike, "Fluid," with an assortment of options and a new electric race bike. His brand is called "Fuell" as a link to Eric's name and a nod to the Harley assholes who still claim ownership of the "Buell" brand name. I have no doubt that anything Eric does in this market will blow anything Harley does into history. It would be fun to see HD have to "buy" Eric's new venture just to stay in business.

Jul 3, 2019

Seven Dead in New Hampshire

A motorcycle group called "Jarheads MC" ended up in a group crash that killed seven members and injured several others. A friend called to ask for my take on the crash. I don't watch much news these days, the news is always depressing and increasingly stupid, so I just wander through the tail end of my life singing a Steely Dan song, "Any World I'm Welcome To." While we talked, I checked out the news on the web. I know I was supposed to be feeling compassion for "fellow motorcyclists," but the news report didn't generate much of that from me. I have phased from ambivalence-to-numb regarding the dumb stuff that happens to bikers decades ago. (Motorcyclists are different and I do still care about stuff that happens to them.)

One of my least favorite gigs when I was teaching "motorcycle safety" classes (which especially deserves the quote hint in this situation) was trying to run an Experienced Rider Course with a pack of bikers. There would typically be 11 bikers on 11 totally illegal hippobikes with, at best, one or two competent riders in the group and four or five totally incompetent bikers and the rest in-between but closer to incompetent than competent. And every one of those hippobikes made as much noise as a 1940's farm tractor without a muffler of any sort. The worse the rider, the louder the pipes. The level of entitlement and foolishness from the group would just reek, "I am a member of a gang and we're scary. I need loud pipes on my bike to warn you that an incompetent fool is sharing the road with you. Take care of me because I can't take care of myself." The worst-of-the-worst for this kind of course would be a gang of "law enforcement officers," who would not only be lousy riders on illegal bikes but the most arrogant, entitled folks on the planet. Nothing tops a cop who is also a military veteran for someone who believes the world owes him fear disguised as "respect." Regardless of the make-up of the group, they too often all brought their required helmets strapped to the bike seat or in a saddlebag, just to make sure the instructors knew they didn't believe in that shit. So, when I hear one of the many stories of biker gangs getting involved in one more multi-vehicle pile-up, I'm not surprised, shocked, outraged, or even particularly interested. These are the people who overwhelmingly make up the 30-40% of all motorcycle fatalities that are single vehicle crashes.

In one report of the crash, a relative of one of the dead bikers said of the truck driver, "As long as he pays a price. He has caused lot of harm to a lot of families. If has a problem, he shouldn't be on the road. If he is a bad actor, he doesn't belong on the street. He caused enough of a tragedy. Enough is enough." I wish that rule were applied to motorcyclists. "Enough is enough." It's time motorcyclists were required to take responsibility for their lousy driving habits and the total criminal irresponsibility of pirate parades.

As usual, the cops are confused and irrational. “The pickup driver, Volodoymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, an employee of a Springfield, Massachusetts, trucking company, was not seriously hurt. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating, said he was interviewed at the scene by police and allowed to return to Massachusetts.” First they sent the truck driver home after taking his information, then they drove to his home and arrested him on a "fugitive from justice" charge, then released him again. Nothing like muddying the waters of an already dumbed-down American media machine and the Marching Moron public. Bikers are riled up and the tiny portion of the American public who can think are wondering what really happened and if anyone will ever know.

I think it's safe to assume the eye witness reports from the bikers will be useless. Most likely, they didn't have a view of what happened, due to their concentration on riding within reach of each other, so anything that happens seems like an unavoidable hole opening in the earth. A surviving rider said, “It was just an explosion . . . with parts and Al and everything flying through the air. He turned hard left into us and took out pretty much everyone behind me. The truck and trailer stayed attached and that is why it was so devastating . . . because the trailer was attached and it was such a big trailer, it was like a whip. It just cleaned us out.” If that’s true, it sounds like 1) the truck driver was passing after the first bike or two went by and plowed into the middle of the group or 2) turning at an intersection not realizing the oncoming traffic was moving so fast or 3) fooling with his cell phone or some other distraction and wandered into the opposite lane and panicked. In the picture above, the road is pretty clearly marked as a no-passing zone.

An uncle of one of the riders said, ‘‘The truck was coming in the opposite direction. It’s hard to figure how he could hit 10 motorcycles without getting out of the way.” Obviously, the bikers were following way too close for safety. What else would they be doing. That rolling bowling pin crap is one of many reasons to stay away from group rides, especially pirate parades. I hate to think the uncle was wondering how a truck pulling a trailer could have avoided 7 bikers. The real question is how did 7 motorcycles end up tangled together by one truck? Motorcycles only have one practical defense in all traffic situations; maneuverability. Hippobikes, of course, are not real motorcycles and are really just suicide machines looking for a place to happen. So, it's not hard to figure how 7+ motorcycles couldn't find a way to get out of the way. Their typical reaction is to scream, panic, and fall over (that's "I had to lay 'er down" translated to plain English).

There are some curious aspects to the biker group, though. Only one of the fatalities was over 60. That's depressing. I keep hoping that younger people will learn from my braindead generation's many mistakes and stay away from Hardlys and the incompetent biker crowd. There is nothing that I like about motorcycle packs, peaceful or otherwise. They are “rolling bowling pins” and this truck driver almost got a ten pin strike. I have had a strong opinion about lines and biker parades for all of my life. I want to feel more compassion for these folks, but it mostly affects me like reading about a group of climbers getting killed free-climbing Yosemite's El Capitan; except without the admiration for the climbers' courage and physical skills. I guess this is more like hearing a bunch of young fat people  whine about their diabetes, physical disabilities, and likely premature death while gorging themselves on McDonalds Fatty Meals: what did you think was going to happen?

Jul 1, 2019

Can't be on Time to Save My Life

All Rights Reserved © 2012 Thomas W. Day

Considering it was supposed to be a day off, Wednesday was a catastrophe. The day started well, I kicked the morning off by meeting with a friend in downtown St. Paul for an extended discussion of the world's problems and lots of coffee. We went a little long, but we both had time to spare. That evening, I had an MSF classroom scheduled for 5:30 and that was my only deadline for the day. From downtown, I went to the UofM Hospital to visit a friend and deliver his mail. I hung out with him for a couple of hours before heading home to grab my class gear and relax a bit before that appointment. 
Around 4PM, I loaded up the bike and rode to White Bear to pick up a package for my hospitalized friend. Barely a half-mile from home, I found myself stuck on Rice Street behind a wandering oversized black club-cab pickup, probably my all-time least favorite vehicle in the world. The fool behind the wheel was deeply involved in a cell phone conversation and driving like a drunk, covering a lane-and-a-half while he jabbered into his phone. 
Not that many years ago, someone talking to themselves in their vehicle or walking down the street would be assumed insane. Today, jibbering chimps can hold a piece of plastic to their heads and pretend they aren't crazy because they're "having a conversation." I'm not buying it. A toy smartphone does not prove sanity. Humans are not a multitasking animal. Most of us suck at everything, let alone everything at the same time. Every clinical trial has found that drunks are better drivers than cell phone users, but there is more money in keeping driving-while-cell-phone-abusing legal so we're all condemned to share the highway with incompetent cell phone addicts. But I don't have to like it and I still think most of these people are talking to themselves and are crazier than a rabid goat.
Along with the irritation of being stuck behind big-assed-truck cell phone boy, our two-vehicle convoy caught up with a dude on a cruiser. Loud pipes, shorts, sandals, some kind of handkerchief or napkin covering the bald spot, a scraggly grey ponytail flapping in the wind, the usual tidbits of leather in useless places, and he's crawling along at 25mph in a 40mph zone. What am I, a "stupid magnet?" Good thing I left a half-hour early, at this rate it's going to take me 45 minutes to go 10 miles.
The frequency of the blubbering pipes suddenly drops and I hear a crunch before the tail lights on the truck come on. We all come to an abrupt stop. Cell phone boy is looking in his mirror, I think to see if anyone saw him hit the bike. So, I made a little show out of getting a pen out of my jacket and writing down his license plate number on the map in my tank bag. Then, I rode around him, on the right side to see what the damage was. The bike was a mess, about half-way under the pickup, and crumpled like a toy. The biker had, apparently, gone over the bars and landed on his face and shoulder. There was a lot of blood, but he was mostly coherent. A couple of cars in the opposite direction traffic had stopped and a woman who claimed to be a nurse took control of the medical scene. She had him lie down and wait for the cops and ambulance someone had already called. [Ok, there are some things cell phones are good for. One thing, in fact.]
Should I stay or should I go? I decided to stick around to tell the cops about the cell phone involvement in the crash. Fifteen minutes later, a Ramsey County Sheriff's Deputy is asking me "Did you see the accident?" 
"It was no accident. The douchebag in the pickup ran over the guy on the bike. He was too busy flapping his lips into his cell phone to be bothered with driving."
"He said he doesn't have a cell phone."
"He's a liar or he likes holding black pieces of plastic to his ear and pretending to be on a cell phone. Either way, he drives like a drunk. I bet you'll find a phone in his truck. I bet you can find a record of his using it up to a few minutes ago." I gave the cop my business card and, finally, got back on the road for my class. 
I made it about 15 minutes before the class was supposed to start and made a great impression with the other instructor, who got stuck doing all the prep work by himself. The only upside was that I had another motorcycle crash story to tell my class.