Friday, July 31, 2009

Personal Service

Something that is sometimes lacking these days.
I went to get my oil changed a few days ago. I could easily do it myself, but prefer to have the dealer do it. He has become a good friend and charges a very reasonable amount for his work. Plus, he knows the workings of my scooter inside and out. He also checks out the brakes, condition of the tires and the stability of the front fork, just to let me know how the scooter is holding up. He knows how often I ride and that I rely on my scooter as my primary means of transportation.
He recently moved his store. At his old location I was able to drop off my scooter, walk to my office and walk back later in the day to pick it up. His new location is a little further away from the office so walking in to work is not a very good option.
I should have called first, but I just dropped by his store at 8:00 one morning. I just wanted to see If maybe I could leave the scooter and see if he could give me a ride to the office. If not, I could easily make other arrangements for a ride to work on another day.
He said he didn't want to drive me in to work that morning because he was waiting on a delivery for a part needed for an engine he was overhauling. Then he got a sort of funny look on his face and looked around the room for a scooter he said he might loan me for the day. I said that wasn't necessary and that I could bring the scooter back the next day and have a coworker or my wife pick me up.
Then he just asked me If I had a few minutes and said he would do it right then if I had some time. I didn't have any pressing engagements at the office that morning, so he went ahead and did it right then and there.
We had a good chat while he worked and he finished it up quickly and still made sure to check out other parts of the scooter. He let me know that my front brake pads were showing a little wear, but still had plenty of pad left for now, just something to keep an eye on.
I was back to the office well before 9:00. I felt good about the fact that I had been treated kindly and professionally when in fact I probably imposed on him a little bit by just showing up at his place unannounced that morning.
I also chatted with Flo, from Progressive Insurance, that morning. She said she could make me a Hulluva Deal on scooter insurance. I said thanks, but no thanks, I am already covered. I had just renewed for another year with another company. But she is cute as a button and nice to talk to. We fist pumped each other, just like she does on TV.
I was impressed with Lloyd the first time I met him when I was shopping for my scooter. He knows his stuff. He has always been courteous and I have never seen him use any kind of high pressure sales tactics.
I came back to the office feeling that I needed to remember to try and always treat my clients in the same manner. Good long term relationships always develop from that kind of interaction.
Thanks Lloyd for being such a good friend. Its a pleasure to do busines with you. I appreciate it very much.
Lloyd Beynon "A Wheeled World" Wichita, Kansas
Support your local dealers!
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Friday, July 24, 2009


As of July 26, Max and I have spent one year together. The bulk of our miles are just commuting back and forth to downtown for work. Even though we take a mostly similar route to work each day, the difference it has made in my life is hard to explain or describe. Ever felt like a kid again? It is not a very long commute, only about 5 miles one way, ten to fifteen minutes depending on how I hit the stoplights. But the commute on 2 wheels has become a very important part of my day.
Riding gives me a chance to get away from the pressures of the office and think about something else besides work and responsibilities. When I commuted in a car, I still thought and worried about work. I can't do that on the scooter because I have to pay a lot more attention to traffic and other potential hazards.
Persig says that through a car window, everything you see is just more TV. On a 2 wheeled vehicle, you are in the scene, not watching it. That is one of my favorite lines from his book, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", which I just finished reading for the first time.
It's funny how I have been on a similar route to work for so many years whether in a car or on the scooter. But I have noticed so much more of the surroundings on the scooter.
The smell of the bakery at the intersection of Central and Oliver streets is something I didn't use to notice in a car. The smell can really permeate the intersection, especially noticeable If you have to stop at the light there. I recall how crisp and clear the air looks and feels like on a 20 degree bright sunshiny morning. It is not near as apparent from inside a car. Sure, it is cold, but also incredibly invigorating. When I arrive at work on those cold crisp days, I am awake and ready to tackle the day.
There was one day when storm clouds threatened late one afternoon. I actually left work a little early that day so I could get the scooter home and put it in the garage before it began to storm. As I rode home I noticed it raining off to the east of my location. The sun peeked out from behind some clouds behind me and a glorious rainbow appeared in front of me. A minute later there was a fainter second rainbow paralleling the first one. Yeah, I would have noticed it in a car as well. But I wouldn't have noticed the smell of the moisture in the air nor tasted how clean the air was after the rain had passed through. The guy in the car next to me at a stoplight looked at me like I was crazy when I took a picture of the rainbow with my blackberry. He just didn't get it.
Then there was the day while I was riding out in the county on a hot day just before the wheat harvest was to begin. The wind was blowing the tops of the wheat into waving swirls. It was a simple but beautiful sight. Would have maybe noticed in a car, but wouldn't have appreciated it as much.
This last weekend I took a Sunday afternoon ride to a local county road known as "Thunder Road". It's a road with a reputation for hot rodding and is only about 25 miles in length, but even for Kansas, has a few twisties to it.
I missed the main turn off to the road and in backtracking my steps, I got stopped at a train crossing with a very slow moving coal train. I patiently shut off the engine and waited. A few moments later a lady on a Harley rode up and stopped as well. We struck up a conversation while we waited for the train. I asked her for directions to Thunder Road and she said she was going that way anyway, and If I wanted to, I could follow her. I did, and If I don't mind saying so, my little scooter kept right up with her very well. There is a very enjoyable camraderie among 2 wheeled riders. I enjoy it immensely.
I am also very proud of my cohort in crime, Max, the scooter. He has never failed me. He starts right up every day no matter whether it is 10 degrees or 100. When he sees me come into the garage in the morning, watches me put my belongings in the topcase, gets the key in the ignition, it's like he looks up at me and says:
Come on, Hop on, Let's Go!!
On July 17 I took a couple of pictures as I turned over 4,000 miles.
I have been very impressed with my scooter. When I first purchased it I worried that it might be temperamental and require repairs now and then. I have done nothing to it other than the normal maintenance. It is very versatile in urban driving with very adequate power and maneuverability. While it is not meant for highway cruising, it can reach 75 mph so an out of town trip is very possible.
But I bought Max primarily for the purpose of the commute. He has kept up his end of the bargain very well. In fact he has far exceeded all of my expectations. He's not real fancy, very few electronic bells and whistles and gizmos, just very solid basic transportation.
And commuting is what I bought him for.
One of the best decisions I ever made in my life.
The best decision I ever made was to marry Jayna. Thanks to her my life has been very wonderful for these past 31 years.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

100 Degrees on old US 81

We were on a mission. A mission very personal to each of us. A quest for sites and scenes maybe forgotten in the past eras of 2 lane highway transportation. We had one particular place in mind and like postmen, neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow (or in this case, blazing heat), would keep us from our destination. When the interstate highway system was developed, many people lamented the fact that certain towns and routes were abandoned or rerouted in the never ending quest for people to travel longer distances and get there quicker and faster than they ever had before. Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles is an example. Many smaller towns lost regular business from travelers because the new interstate largely avoided smaller towns or at least the businesses along the highway that supported travelers. Our mission today was to maybe rediscover this piece of Americana. Then again, maybe we just wanted to ride. US 81 runs north and south and was once a heavily traveled highway, but now an interstate highway runs parallel to it taking cars and trucks much faster to their destinations than this old 2 lane highway ever could, even in its heyday. But the road is great for motorized 2 wheeled vehicles.
And our mission was to visit one of these old businesses that has existed on this highway for I don't know how many years. A business that has survived the fact that many years ago the interstate was built just a couple miles to the east so parts of this little town could be avoided in the interest of speed.
We are talking about the A&W Drive In located along old US 81 in Wellington, Kansas. I have fond and vivid childhood memories of getting large glass jugs of root beer and taking them home to drink on all week from the local A&W. Maybe the best root beer in the world. Maybe not, but I sure liked it.
This was the day of our monthly scooter rally for our newly formed scooter club. The plan had been put into place a month ago. Everyone had agreed that this was a great destination. The anticipation was rampant.
The fact that it was 100 degrees with a heat index approaching 110 didn't deter us.
I didn't even bother to see exactly what the temperature was that day. It didn't matter. It was freaking hot!
A few degrees difference didn't mean anything to us.
We were on a mission. We we're not going to be denied!
We met at the location of my scooter dealer. While we were gathering a guy on this vehicle rode by, saw all our scooters and stopped by to see what we were up to. Just had to take this picture. It was a Schwinn bicycle with some sort of 50cc engine installed on it. We invited him along on our trek, but he declined and rode off a few minutes later for places unknown. Before we headed out of town, we had to make a short stop. Someone thought it would be a good idea to take a group picture in front of Scooter's Coffeehouse. It was on our route (sort of), and it turned out to be a very fun idea.

An employee of the store actually came out and took a few pictures of her own and said she was going to post them to Facebook or somewhere for the store. There is a link to their Facebook page somewhere on our club's website.

She also took some pictures with our cameras so we could all be in the photos. I am 3rd from the right all decked out in my mesh gear. Others were more lightly clothed for the day. It was very nice of her and they were very understanding because we were actually blocking their drive through lane with all of our scooters.

But then, this guy rode up. We just had to get him in the picture, too. He was just apparently tooling around the neighborhood. He was very nice and we had a great chat with him. He was curious about what we were doing. We invited him along on our quest (about a 30 mile trip).
He said, Sure!
But he went on to say that someone might have to tow him back to town because he thought he would have enough battery to get there, but not enough to get back!
Too Funny!!!
Anyway we eventually left Scooter's Coffeehouse and headed out of town. Our plan was to take some county roads at first and then eventually ride on old US 81 on into Wellington. We had to change the route a little bit because one road we were on turned into a gravel road unexpectedly. We backtracked a bit and got to the highway a little sooner than anticipated, but was still very enjoyable in spite of the temperature.
We stopped at one spot along the highway for a small break and to briefly discuss strategy and I took this picture of an old farmhouse. Soon though, we were back on our way with visions of root beer, ice cream, and other amenities (air conditioning) in mind.
It's an interesting road. It was obvious that there had been many little businesses along the route that had not survived the completion of the interstate. At the same time though, the road was nice and many businesses seemed to be doing very well.
I even noticed a Gentlemen's Club along the way back and thought of my good friend Mr Riepe, knowing how much he might be interested. On a Sunday afternoon, however they appeared not to be open.
Eventually we rolled into Wellington and parked our scooters under the awnings so they could be in the shade.
I got a good chuckle when we parked because at least 3 teenage female employees were eyeing us out of one of the windows as we pulled up and parked. Wondered what they might be thinking. After all we do not look like a real threatening sort of biker gang.
Or maybe we do!
This place is fun because you make your order by using a telephone at each table to call your own order into the kitchen.
Now I have been to this A&W before. I had my heart set on a cold treat called a "Polar Freeze" being soft serve ice cream with chopped up Reeses Peanut Butter Cup mixed in. That is what I ordered and the service was outstanding.
Others ordered onion rings and other items and I heard no complaints about any of the food. We ate and chatted for awhile and had a good time. The air conditioning was nice also.
Eventually though it was time to get back on the road. It was mostly all business getting back to town. Maybe it was the heat, but it seemed like all of us were ready to get back home. There was no messing around on the way back and we all peeled for home.
A hot ride , but a very fun ride. 8 scooters completed the trek of roughly 80 miles.
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Thursday, July 16, 2009


Is riding a motorized 2 wheeled vehicle too dangerous? I have lots of people telling me this is so. One friend(?), who's wife is (or was) an ER nurse, made a statement to me that riding is dangerous and in effect stated that: there would be a good chance that I would end up in a body bag someday. I am not kidding about the way he said it. Another friend has repeatedly stated that she worries about me riding to work everyday. She is afraid that something bad will happen to me. Her concern is appreciated. But I have been unable to convince her that I am a very careful rider. She knows that I wear gear and a helmet and still she worries about me. Still another friend at lunch the other day told me he saw a very close call between a van and a scooter in traffic recently. Apparently, the scooter rider was driving very aggressively and just about got himself into a bad accident. Luckily no accident occurred. But my friend was very stern about how he told the story and it was obvious that the story was directed at me. Again though, I really think he meant well and in an indirect way was just concerned for my safety. But I am just trying to figure out a way to tell some of these people that I'm OK. I'm not going to die tomorrow! I'm having a blast! I know it's a bit dangerous and I really am trying to be careful. Consumer Reports magazine had a recent article (March 2009) and reviewed some scooters and smaller (250cc) motorcycles. In the article they discussed safety issues for scooters and motorcycles and in my opinion made some pretty informative statements about the dangers involved. They gave good advice about visibility, clothing, helmets and other safety matters. But one comment they made was a statistic from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that said that in 2006 motor cyclists were about 37 times more likely to die in a crash per driven mile than someone riding in a passenger car. That kind of statistic gets my attention. But as my college statistics professor used to say, you can make statistics say almost anything you want If you play around with the numbers long enough.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am the first person to say that 2 wheeled vehiclists need to be very concerned for their own safety. But that statistic might be a little more alarming at first glance than it really needs to be.
What that statistic really tells me is that If you are involved in a serious accident, then you are much better off in a car than on a motorized 2 wheeled vehicle.
Well, Duh!!
Consider the following:
There are over 200 million registered vehicles in the US. Motorcycles represent approximately 3% of registered vehicles, but motorcyclists represent approximately 13% of fatalities. That's not good, but I also don't think too surprising. We 2 wheeled vehiclists don't have a cage around us or air bags.
Estimated total miles traveled by all vehicles in a year is just over 3 trillion miles. That's a 3 with 12 zeros behind it. It can be hard to understand how big a number like that is. Our government doesn't have a clue when it comes to our national debt, but don't get me started on that, it's another topic.
I am going to round the numbers a bit, but, sadly, close to 40,000 people die in traffic fatalities each year. About 5,000 of those are motorcyclists.
If you divide the number of miles driven by the number of fatalities, then theoretically you can drive 75 million miles before you statistically would die in an accident. For motorcyclists that number would be reduced to a little over 2 million miles.
For injury accidents (without a death) the rates are approximately 60 times higher than the fatality rates on average for all vehicles.
But even for motorcyclists, using that rate, you could theoretically go 33,000 miles before you would have an injury accident, on average.
Keep in mind that my numbers are greatly simplified and include gross generalizations. I went to the NHTSA website to get some of this information. Many people know a lot more about this than me, and have done much more research than I have.
Of course it is sad when any life is ended in this manner, and injury accident rates (without a death) can look a but ominous, but the odds really aren't all that bad. Sometimes your number just comes up. When you compare numbers like this to things like being struck by lightning, or being mugged, or lots of other things, you begin to realize that it is just life. Sometimes things just happen no matter how careful you are.
Shit happens!
My feeling about this is that it is quite possible that I may be involved in an injury accident someday with my scooter, but I can take many steps to minimize the risks. Wearing gear is like using a seat belt to me. Being very attentive to my surroundings and not taking unnecessary chances as I ride is imperative. Not driving like a bat out of hell is advisable. Training and an effort to continually improve your abilities are important. etc. My hope is that by taking precautions that I can stretch out that 33,000 mile number out to 50,000 or even more.
The point of this little exercise was to come up with something to say to these people that apparently think I have "lost it" by endangering myself so foolishly by riding a scooter. I full well realize that no matter what I say to them or what statistics I can show them to back it up, they are still going to either be concerned about me or think I am foolish. To them I can only say:
See Ya Later !!!
I'm going for a ride !!!
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Downtown Artwork; Part 2; Douglas Avenue

This post covers the artwork along some of the major downtown streets here in Wichita. I took a walk over lunchtime around the area and took these pictures with the BlackBerry. I think you will find some of these pictures interesting to say the least. I think a few are somewhat humorous, and a couple of others just plain wierd. Lets get started. This statue is at the intersection of Main and Douglas, the major downtown intersection here in Wichita. It's a barefoot man reading the paper. Do not ask why, just enjoy.
There are little fountains at his feet. Today they seem a bit anemic.
This one is supposed to represent the promise of America. A man and his pack entering the promised land. Next to him is an eagle, surely representing the symbolism of all that America can be.
Then we come acroos this cow, and her calf doing something. The calf appears to be smelling something.
Could it be TURDS! CowPies?
From another angle.
But upon closer inspection......... It's some sort of birds.
Here's a little girl reading a book.
And another girl with a cat.
Then a boy with a toy car. I used to have one just about like that when I was a kid.
There is a little park downtown where on nice days people can eat their lunch. This series of statues resides in this park.
A little closer view. I can imagine Jack Riepe ordering a Rum and Coke here.
At the next block down, this lady pointing at something with her daughter. I can certify that there is nothing interesting where she is pointing. But we seemed to have some general interest in this statue from a couple of small children.
Across the street from that is a girl with a pony and a dog.
One of my favorites is this "Guitar Man" playing for another dog.
I like it so much, you get a second view.
But then you might peruse that we go from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Yes, you get it. It's a horse. (I think) And it's made out of old automobile bumpers.
Don't think I could end this post in a better way, do you? (answer not required)