Monday, November 27, 2006


Dang, I almost got another ticket today! This time I was coming back from the valley and was a few miles from Sisters when i passed a group of about 3 cars. It was snowy, but perfectly straight road and no oncoming traffic for quite a while. The snow was very cold and actually made for pretty good traction (relatively speaking).

As i was passing the cars, i noticed (too late) that the front car was a police SUV. It was all black and was marked as Black Butte Police, different than anything i'd seen before, so i didnt notice it. Plus there's so many SUVs and cars with roof racks around here that the lights didnt particularly stand out either.

He had the lights goin before i even got up alongside him. I went ahead and finished the pass then pulled over. I'm sure the other two cars i passed got a good chuckle out of it. The officer was not laughing though. He jumped out of his car as soon as we stopped, came right up to my window and said, "you're not very smart are you?!" Well, I didn't think there was an answer to that question that the two of us would agree on at that moment, so I decided to just keep my mouth shut. He then asked me if i knew why I wasn't very smart--again, my self-preservation instincts told me to keep my mouth shut. About this time, i noticed that the man's chin was quivering and his hands were shaking. He was so furious with me that he was physically trembling! He then told me that my actions qualified as reckless driving, which is a misdemeanor offense, and that he could arrest me and impound my vehicle.

It was at about that time that i decided to take the apologetic approach with the rest of this encounter, rather than try to contest his accusations or express my frustrations with speeding laws. Plus, he was much more justified in pulling me over than was the cop who got me on Saturday. I was exceeding the posted speed limit in conditions that were undeniably sub-optimal. Exactly how dangerous the conditions were is debatable, but i don't think he was being particularly unreasonable.

I explained that i make that trip frequently and that i've probably become jaded and callouse to the dangers it poses; that I've become accustomed to them, and probably don't take it as seriously as i should. He told me about how many people die on that highway each year, and that i'm the kind of person that takes out not only myself, but others too. I listened earnestly without protesting and he let me go. I was VERY relieved that he was not going to ticket me. It could have been a lot uglier than just a speeding ticket too.

Of course he was right. To what degree is arguable. I don't think i was being reckless, but i probably should try to slow down a little bit in the snow. The thing is, i go slow where i need to (curves, downhill, etc) but fast when it's safe to do so (long straights with good visibility). He freaked out because i was going 60 in the snow, but it was safe to do so there. Earlier in the drive i was doing 20 through sharp, snowy curves, because it was not safe to go faster there. Is that wrong? I dunno. I don't think that it is, but many seem to think that's not reasonable.

What do you think? Tell me what an ass I am for putting you in danger.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I got popped again today. Heading south on the Bend parkway this time. All i got was 2 little chirps out of the radar detector. A glance at the occasionally helpful device confirmed my fear--the "L" light was blinking at me; "L" as in laser. For the most part, if your radar detector picks up a laser signal, it's basically just telling you that you're already screwed. Sometimes the detectors can be useful in warning you about oncoming cops, it will pickup radar waves that are scattered all over as The Man is blasting the cars ahead of you. Laser is a different animal though; it's extremely precise and is directed at only a single vehicle at a time. It also acquires a reading much more quickly than radar (or so i'm told).

So, if you get the laser signal from your detector, you might as well just go ahead and pull over... or run.

Anyway, I've so little faith in my radar detector these days, that i figured it was just a false alarm. Of course, i scanned the roadway ahead of me for possible police vehicles, just in case. As I did, I noticed a white SUV barely visible behind the bank and divider separating the highway from an upcoming on-ramp. As I watched, the SUV moved out from it's parked position and accelerated up the ramp. Sure enough, when it broke past the barrier, I could see that it bore the insignia of our city's finest. After merging in, he pulled right up behind me and stayed there.

Generally I drive 60 to 65 on this road. I can't argue the fact that it's marked with a limit of 45 mph, but it's a freeway. There are no intersections for several miles, there are ramps for entering and exiting traffic, two lanes, and it's divided from oncoming traffic. Traffic tends to flow at about 60 mph. I tend to go faster than most people.

Well, there's no need for further suspense; by this point it's as clear to you as it was to me that Mr. Police Man intended to have a chat with me. He followed me to the next exit, then put his lights on. I was ready, already having slowed to within 5 of the speed limit (going actually at, or *gasp* under the speed limit would look way too suspicious) and worked into the right lane.

After I drove past two other cars also enduring the wrath of the local heat, I was able to find an unoccupied piece of curb to park at. The officer said I was speeding, and that he assumed I knew it, since I slowed by nearly 20 mph as soon as I saw him; then he took my credentials back to his car.

He said he got me at 68; I don't doubt it, but that is a little faster than I normally go on that road. I told him that. It didn't help. He wrote the ticket for 65 instead of 68. That way i was not more than 20 mph over the limit, and it's a lesser fine. How sublimely generous of him.

Side Note: I hate that policemen are usually (not always!) so professional during these encounters. It causes me to feel like the jerk and the unreasonable one if i raise a ruckus.

As I waited for my citation, I had ample time to note that it was the 25th day of the month, and also coming up on the holidays. I suppose that the department was not quite on track to make its quota for the month, and they have a few extra expenses coming up, so they decided to go out and set up a speed trap. The parkway is guaranteed easy-pickings. It's safe to do well over the speed limit, so of course, most people do. Since it's safe, the department usually doesn't worry about it too much. But oh what an easy source of revenue when the budget is looking thin! One cop can probably write four tickets per hour there. Since there were two other people already pulled over, and i was the third, there were at least 3 men working that stretch. That's 12 tickets per hour, at $150 each. The department is pulling in $1,800 per hour.

It's unsportsmanlike. Shooting fish in a barrel would be harder. Fish are unpredictable. We, in our cars, must follow the lines; and lasers are more accurate than any bullet. The Man should have to work a little harder than that to get into my wallet! If only it were that easy for us to make a living!

Don't get me wrong, i'm not implying that the citation revenues translate directly into policeman's wages. And I'm not placing blame on the individual officers so much as I am the system that they work in. I think traffic officers are largely unneeded and that American society would do just fine with about 25% of the traffic officers we have now. If there weren't so many of them to support, they wouldn't have to write so many tickets to keep the department funded! I would gladly pay more in taxes than i pay in traffic tickets annually, and not have to feel paranoid while driving. And i'd have the satisfaction of knowing that more of my dollars were being put to work on productive tasks, like reducing crime or conditions that actually endanger people. That and not feeling like it was stolen from me, would be welcome conditions.

Hopefully things will come to be more like that some day. Until then, I'll continue to pay tickets I guess. I wonder if bribing would work? I doubt it, and I'd imagine the consequences for attempting to bribe an officer are pretty high. Maybe I'll have to start running. Also high consequences, but more likely to succeed (when on two wheels anyway, not so much with the SUV).

Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Mountains Are Shy

It's been relatively cloudy and showery here for the last couple of weeks, nothing like in the valley, but still plenty of clouds. As a result, it's been a while since I've had a clear view of the mountains. Normally, on my drive to work I can see Mt. Bachelor, Tumalo Mountain, Broken Top, each of the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson and Black Butte. It's pretty spectacular and is one of the things that's so great about living here. Plus, most of the mountains are within 30 miles of my doorstep, so their magnificence is amplified by proximity. But recently, like I said, they've been hiding behind their cloak of cumulosity. (It’s been a while since I made up a word, I almost forgot!) Even while the sky overhead and in every direction but west is clear, the mountains have not been exposed. They are responsible for all our clear days here, damming the flow of weather from the Pacific, keeping the valley lush, green and deserving of its rainy reputation, and causing central and eastern Oregon to be known as the High Desert. They save us, but choose not to save themselves.

Isn't it fitting that for a mountain, the storm is the shelter? It's like the cocoon in which they are guarded from prying eyes as they morph from summer's rocky, barren and brown juts of earth, into winter's vibrant, pure and smooth beacons of freshness.

Anyway, I finally got a peek at them today and it was quite a good one at that. I was leaving Redmond, heading back toward Bend, so I was a little further away from them than normal, but there they stood, tall and proud in their new coat made of an unimaginable number of perfect tiny crystals. Of course, the unveiling demanded dramatic lighting, and the sun complied, illuminating the remaining clouds with that soul-calmingly warm light, just before it fell to the far side of the horizon.

It's great.

On a completely different note:

Tomorrow I will lose my monster truck virginity. Who could believe I’ve made it this long!? I purchased tickets this afternoon for myself and my gal to attend the Central Oregon Monster Truck Fall Nationals. Bigfoot will be there, and I'm told that there is a truck driven by Medusa. Apparently Medusa is the, uh, 'entertainer' formerly known as Chyna in her 'professional' wrestling days. Don't act like you don't remember, I despise wrestling with a passion worthy of a whole series of blogs, but I can't deny that I've been exposed to enough commercials to know who she is. So yeah, that's, uh, exciting.

Actually, as is apparent from the title of this site, I'm a bit of a gear-head. So I’m pretty excited to see (and hear!) the trucks. Those things are all custom built and have some pretty trick hardware, plus they're putting out ridiculous horsepower. So I’m sure it'll be cool. I just realized, this is yet another opportunity for me to dress all cowboyed-up. I seriously need to find me some cowboy gear. Any of y'all know where a fella can find some cheap size 13 cowboy boots?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I have a Bonsai Tree! It's a Hawaiin Umbrella tree. My lovely girlfriend gave it to me in honor of our having been together for a year. There'll soon be snow outside the window whose sill it sits on, but it will remain my tiny little piece of the tropics. It makes me think of the "no bad days" window stickers with the pictures of palm trees. I like those stickers, they calm me and remind me not to take life too seriously. I think my new little tree will do the same.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Are You Sure About That?

Don't vote if you don't know.

Everyone is promoting voting, which is great, as long as you know what you're doing. BUT, if you don't feel that you understand what or who you're voting for very well, don't vote. I'm not so sure that a low voter turnout is necessarily such a terrible thing. If the only people participating are those who take the time to properly research the topics and candidates before casting their vote, won't we all be better off than if everyone votes but only a few of them actually know what's going on?

I'm not suggesting that nobody should vote, or that only some elite subset of society be allowed to choose our direction. I'm just asking that if you're going to vote, that you inform yourself first--through reputable means--and that if you can't or won't take the time to do that, that you do not force your uninformed and unjustified opinion on everyone else by casting a ballot.

I don't understand the pressure to get higher voter turnout, without taking care to ensure that they are quality votes. Votes based purely on what a person may have caught of a few politician's or lobbying group's television commercials are not quality votes.

What do you think? Would it be better to have everyone voting, regardless of whether they have good information to base their decision on? Or are we better off to trust those around us who take the time to adaquately research the topics?

In my opinion neither situation is ideal. The ideal would be that everyone be smart and informed and make a sound decision based on what they think is best for themselves, their community and the country; but that's not going to happen.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cool spots in Portland

I just spent a weekend in Portland and hit a couple new (to me) spots. Tops--literally--for the weekend was the Portland City Grill. It's in the 30th floor of the U.S. Bancorp Tower on SW 5th Avenue. Happy hour is 4.30 to 6.30 and there are a bunch of great appetizers at very inexpensive prices--drinks are still full price and we still ended up spending over $50 without getting a meal. But it was worth every penny. It's a very comfortable ambiance--upscale but not so much that you have to dress up. There was a piano player helpin the mood flow with his rendition of Elton John's Tiny Dancer and other old favorites. The view was spectacular, even though the clouds were huddled low and the windows were rain-streaked. On a clear day I'm sure you can see all of east Portland under the crown of Mt. Hood. We enjoyed a few of their specialty martinis and appetizers and watched the sky go dark and the streets become electrified before continuing on our way. (The picture is from the restaraunts website. Our seats looked more directly over the Willamette River and to the east)

Our next stop was a medium-sized hangout called Life of Riley. It was empty! Ok, there was one group when we came in, but the place was practically deserted. Again, very comfortable. This one had a raised loungy area with a couple couches, a coffee table and some board games. A note on the table warned us that it was reserved, but it was a full hour before the party was to arrive, so we took the spot. More good drinks here; in fact, i think i discovered a new favorite... except that i can't remember what it was called. I think it may have been the Cherry Rickey or something like that (seriously). It had Olive Grape Vodka (I didn't know such a thing existed), lime and a 'spritz' of soda. It was excellent, very light and fresh. When asked, the bartender said that the place usually had quite a bit more of a crowd, but typically wasn't packed. Sounds perfect to me. It was still only about 7.30 when we were there, so that could partially explain the lack of patrons.

The last establishment I'd like to note for now is Stumptown Coffee. It's a snooty little hipster cafe that i didn't particularly like, but they make excellent coffee. I feel like they'd prefer that every customer drive a (new) VW to the shop (or bike of course) and write poetry on their Mac; and that they'd probably have thrown me out if they knew i like guns and plan to attend a monster truck show next week. However, i ended up going there twice during the weekend. First because it was there and i didn't yet know anything about it, and the second time because the coffee was great and i was getting it to-go. Their latte has a texture that is incomparable to any other that i've had. Now, i'm nowhere near a coffee snob like I am sometimes a beer snob; in fact, i'm pretty much a coffee newbie, but theirs was something special. It must have been expertly blended with ancient Chinese voodoo methods or something. I'm not going to try to describe it too much, just give it a shot if you're looking for a drink and you're in the neighborhood of 3rd and Stark.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Seeking Something Sporty

Some of you know that I currently employ an SUV as my primary mode of transportation; a Honda Passport to be exact. It’s a pretty good rig, hauls all my crap and even pretty reasonable sized trailers. It’s great for trips and gear and stuff, and it’s pretty quiet and comfortable inside. It’s even got pretty good power.

But it’s failing in a major way to scratch my itch right now.

I’m absolutely craving something low, light and with a manual transmission. Before the Passport I had a 2000 Subaru 2.5RS (turbocharged for a while) that was each of those things and quite quick. I miss it dearly at times now. Although my current ride is much more useable and practical on a daily basis, it is very definitely not as much fun.

I’m entertaining a few different schemes to provide myself with a little more thrilling driving experience. I’ve had thoughts of buying a cheap, old pickup truck for work duties, and swapping my Passport in for something more fun but still capable of packing toys and gear. Tops on that list is a Subaru WRX wagon. Or, I could keep what I’ve got and pick up a really cheap play car. Entrants in that contest include but are not limited to a late 80’s Toyota MR2, an older Mazda Miata or possibly even a Honda CRX.

I like the MR2 because it’s a mid-engine, rear wheel drive, extremely small and light, cheap and I’ve driven one that was a blast. It would be very difficult to work on because of the mid-engine design, and I’m operating under the assumption that any of these cars, in the price range I’m looking in, is going to require a fair amount of my time spent dinking around in the engine bay.

Miatas are widely known to be a very fun car to drive, and there is wide availability of upgrade parts and information. Plus it’s a convertible and day dreaming about a summertime trip down the Pacific Crest Highway is almost irresistible. It’s also rear drive, but has a much more accessible drivetrain than the Toyota. However, I’ve not driven one, and I fear that I might not actually fit in it, or at least not comfortably.

The CRX is appealing because it’s actually quite practical. In addition to being super light and agile, it is the only one of the three that has a back seat, and that back seat even folds down to provide quite a bit of cargo area. Also, there is an absolute plethora of aftermarket parts. The negative is that it’s front wheel drive and it’s got a much dorkier image/rep in my opinion—not that that’s critically important, but I’d be lying if I said it isn’t a factor at all. I’m not terribly concerned about how cool other people think these cars are, but I would like to have one that I think is cool.

Right now, the combination of rear drive, easy access drivetrain and convertible top has me leaning toward the Miata. I really need to find one to drive so that I know if I fit; obviously, if I don’t, it’s no option at all.

What say you? Anybody spent time with one or moreof these cars? Leave me a comment and share your experience/opinion.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The New American Hero – And: Why Don’t You Like Racing?

Well, not exactly; Nicky was already the American Hero. He has now achieved what has been his goal probably for longer than he can remember. Nicky Hayden—southern drawl and all—is the new MotoGP World Champion.

For those of you who aren’t motarded, MotoGP is the pinnacle of two-wheeled motor sport. It’s the highest and most respected form of motorcycle racing. It is the series in which the very best of the best compete to be the world champion. The history of the series has seen success by riders hailing from numerous countries, but the United States and Italy probably rank highest in number of race victories and championships won. Recently, it’s been the latter who has dominated via its prodigal progeny, Valentino Rossi. In fact, Rossi has won the last five championships, and until now, was the only one to win since the change from 500cc two-strokes to 1000cc 4-strokes. Next year the limit is changing to 800cc, so Hayden just managed to squeak in and prevent Rossi from winning every single championship in a whole era of motorcycle grand prix racing.

You probably wouldn’t know it if you’re an American, but racing is huge in most of the world. Star riders and drivers are treated like rock stars. Who do you think is the highest paid athlete in the world? I’ll give you a hint, he’s not American and he doesn’t even play ball. It’s Michael Schumacher, the man who has ruled Formula 1 racing for years.

Rossi, the Italian MotoGP rider, who possesses as much charm off the track as he does skill on it, earns the third highest athlete-salary in the world.* These guys are treated like rock stars in Europe and the rest of the modern world.

*Disclaimer – I’ve been told these statistics second-hand, and as I’m writing this, I’m without internet access to verify these claims. So they are being stated as the best of my knowledge at this particular moment in time and space.

What I don’t understand is why so few seem to care here in the US. My girlfriend recently illustrated to me the fact that a probably alarmingly large portion of our population is unaware that there are race tracks with right-hand turns. That realization makes me a little ill. NASCAR is by far the most popular form of motor sport in America. My best guess as to the reasons why are that the whole track can be seen from any seat and that the racers are mostly all good ‘ole down-home southern boys that the fans feel like they can relate to. Sadly though, those good ‘ole boys only make good ‘ole left-hand turns. I don’t want to say that NASCAR racers are not skilled drivers—they are—but I don’t see how one could think that what they do is as challenging or demanding as riding a GP bike or driving an F-1 car at its limits. Correspondingly, I don’t understand why people seem to think NASCAR is more entertaining to watch than the other forms of motor sport. I’d better stop here. The popularity of NASCAR, “professional” wrestling and reality TV in the US are topics that I could carry on about for a week or three.

As much as I like the other American riders, I have to say that Hayden was our only real hope. Colin Edwards hasn’t shown himself to have what it takes to be a consistent chart-topper. I was a huge fan back in his world superbike days, but it’s hard to stay excited about a guy who finishes in 6th or 7th place every race, like clockwork. He’s a talented rider, and on any given day can put up a pretty good fight for the lead; but he always seems to fade out of the picture before the race is over and quietly settle back to somewhere in the bottom half of the top ten.

John Hopkins is very talented and has shown much promise. So much in fact, that he was plucked straight from AMA racing for a slot in Suzuki’s MotoGP effort. The problem is, Suzuki has been a non-factor and is a little too content with B-grade riders. I don’t think they’re providing a bike capable of winning many races, and Hopkins should be trying hard to earn a spot with another team. He may be capable of improving, but it’s gonna happen slow—if at all—as long as he’s at Suzuki.

And Kenny Roberts… well, he was the champ in 2000, and I’m still not sure why. That’s about all I’ve got to say about him.

I’m a fan of all these guys (ok, not particularly of Roberts) and love to see them do well. But the reality is Nicky was the only one with a hope to win the series.