1/29/2009

running (from) the numbers

Overall, I thought that How to Understand a Trillion Dollar Deficit was a pretty good article. The fundamental notion of decomposing a quantity of that magnitude into analogies that have meaning to you in order to be able to visualize it is a rather good mental technique.

Unfortunately, the author went in completely the wrong direction at the end, with his point that the amount of the current economic bailout per person in the U.S. Instead of translating from $45/week to $6/day to a quarter per minute to a half penny per second, I suspect that most people would more naturally consider this amount in terms of $180/month, since that's kind of the basic fundamental time frame that we all have to think about budgeting on given that most major bills are monthly.

Thinking about it that way, $180/month starts to become an amount that many are going to have to scramble to figure out what they could do without in order to pay. Further, if you start thinking about this in terms of a family of four, it becomes $720/month, which is no longer an amount that you can even ask the question whether the average American family is "willing" to pay but whether or not they are "capable" of paying, even if every other budgetary item were reduced to an absolute minimum.

Suddenly, the notion rather flippantly presented of everyone ignoring a penny every other second becomes the rather sobering thought about whether or not your family could possibly afford a second rent payment every month (see here for a reference regarding average U.S. rent)...in order "to have a functioning financial system". My guess is that only a relatively small percentage of the population would be able to say yes, regardless of how they restructured their monthly budgets.

11/27/2007

first car drive in over a week

I felt under the weather yesterday (Monday) morning and therefore drove rather than rode to work. I couldn't help but note how much slower highway speeds feel inside the armored walls of my little Subaru compared to flying along perched on the back of the Ducati.

11/26/2007

quick lunch loop

The combination of Stevens Canyon Rd, Mt Eden Rd, and Pierce Rd look like they could form the basis for a good quick lunchtime ride in southwest Silicon Valley.

boot camp concludes

Felt tired and sore on Saturday and therefore took the day off from motorcycle boot camp. Shame on me, since that meant I ended Sunday's ride just shy of 800 miles rather than the 1K I'd intended. Oh well.

Anyway, yesterday's ride had a plan and a map; however, in the end I simply followed where the roads and turns led. First, Hwy 82 took me to Hwy 85. Then, a wrong turn led me onto US 101 rather than to Hwy 17 as I'd intended.

So, I got off 101 at Gilroy and took Hecker Pass Hwy across the mountains into Watsonville, along Freedom Blvd to reach Hwy 1. This took me through Santa Cruz and then up around the peninsular coast. The waves were slammin', and the surfers were out in droves.

Left the highway, then, for Pescadero Creek Rd, another nice twisty motorcycle road up into the mountains. Found Alpine Rd and decided to take it. This was a very narrow and occasionally single lane road that had me running well under 30 mph most of the way.

At one point, a much braver and obviously more experienced rider on a Hypermotard zoomed up behind me, so I pulled aside to let him pass and watched in amazement as he zipped up those scary narrow turns faster than I thought they could be taken.

Still having fun and undeterred from riding that road within my comfort level, I continued puttering up it until I reached Skyline. I considered taking it toward Sky Londa to finally check out Alice's Restaurant and get some food.

The waning daylight and my desire to not drive the mountains on a weekend after dark made me turn the other way, however, and head for Big Basin Way down into Saratoga. Skyline is an amazing ride, beautiful, curvy, and easily taken fast most of the way.

In the coming weeks, I expect to be riding that stretch of road quite a bit, since the start of Big Basin Way in Saratoga is just a few miles from work. I'm thinking that a quick sandwich and a loop through the mountains sounds like a perfect lunch.

11/24/2007

fast curves...and back again

Today I headed South out of San Jose, first on Monterey Hwy and then on US 101, to reach Hwy 25, which I chased down until I found its tail end and then rewound my path back home again.

While taking a break before turning around, I was passed by a flock of a couple dozen Goldwings, and I subsequently played leapfrog with them on the way back North toward Hollister.

Hwy 25 was great for practicing correct execution of leaned turns at highway speeds, including numerous S-turns where the bike needed to be rapidly leaned from one side to the other.

The odometer shows that I've traveled 600 miles over the last seven days; my goal of having a thousand miles of experience by the end of boot camp is still well within reach.

11/23/2007

you can get anything you want

Today's ride took me down through Saratoga into the Santa Cruz mountains in order to loop through Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Then, I lost my race with sundown along Skyline Blvd to Alice's Restaurant. I'll have to visit there sometime when it's open and filled to the brim with other motorcyclists.

Finally, I descended Woodside Rd and bravely ran I-280 back home keeping brisk pace with traffic at 75 mph or so. What a hoot!

11/21/2007

early morning highway chiller

Those of you familiar with Silicon Valley know that the highways around here are all relatively crazy. My normal car-based commute has been along a ten mile stretch of I-280 through the heart of the valley. The pace is normally...frenetic.

Waking up yesterday morning at five, I decided that it was probably early enough to ride that piece of highway without having to deal with too many cars. In that regard, my reasoning was correct, although an hour earlier would have been even better.

There was something I noticed once I got on it that I would have never considered. The normally brisk pace of that corridor was even faster at that time of day, with lots of people whipping past my relatively slow pace of 75 or so.

In retrospect, I believe I understand the psychology of what was happening. Many people who are commuting that early are doing so because they hate rush hour. I understand this, although I have the liberty to take the later approach to the problem.

So, I suspect that the mad speeds I witnessed then were due to those folks wanting to be done with their commute and off the roads before the rising volume of cars started to shut down the traffic grid.

Regardless, I did it, I lived through it, and I definitely don't intend to make a regular habit of it. Going 45 and the occasional 55 along major surface streets is adrenaline-surging fast for me yet. Going 75 just to keep up with the slowest cars chilled me with mortal dread.

Anyway, combined with the stretches of more moderate highway I experienced the day before, those experience contributed as exercises for the last of the formal lesson topics that I've been following. Here are the chapters.



Other than this quick ride, I spent most of the day, unfortunately, at work. Honestly, this was okay, since my aching body needed some recovery from the excessive miles from the previous day.

Afterwards, I took late rush hour major surface streets to meet with the local RPGA club in order to judge a D&D adventure. Later, honestly much later than I still wanted to be awake, I finally made my way home. Saddlebags were super handy yesterday.

I concluded day four of motorcycle boot camp with just over 250 miles of experience and some amount of exposure to almost all of the riding conditions I should experience...other than, thankfully, emergency maneuvers.

My stretch goal for the next five days is to bring my road experience up to 1000 miles and therefore become qualified, at least by numbers, to take the MSF Experienced Riders Course.

11/19/2007

down from the mountain

Wow. That's all I can say right now. I figured I'd report that I made it back in one piece before taking a nap. I'll come back later this evening to describe the trip.

gassed, packed, and ready to goat



Here's a map of the route I'll be attempting today. Yes, I'm bringing the camera this time. I'll report back this evening. Wish me luck!

braving heavier traffic for serious twisties

Okay, by this point, I was seriously tired of stop and go. Unfortunately, other than superslab, there simply isn't anywhere I know of in Silicon Valley where you can just cruise for an extended period.

When Andy sold me the bike, he'd mentioned the ride up to Mt. Hamilton and back. When I looked at the map, I realized that I'd already made it two thirds of the way to Mt. Hamilton Rd. with my earlier light traffic practice.



So, intent on checking out this route, I set off again at a quarter to three, lust for altitude in my veins and the White Stripes rocking my eardrums. In order to get there, however, required going on the more heavily trafficked Alum Rock Rd.



This ride really reinforced the earlier countersteering lessons. I took it all at moderate speeds and had a great time working on smooth control of my speed through curves using mostly throttle control and as little brake as possible.

I did have one minor incident requiring me to catch myself as I was dropping the bike trying to negotiate a 360 degree hairpin turn while climbing with a car coming down in the opposing lane. Whew! I think it would have helped to have been shifted into first for that tricky passage.

It took me about two and a half hours to finish this journey, including liberal stops to rest and check out the amazing views. Unfortunately, this happened to be the lesson I forgot to grab my camera for, so I don't have any great images to post.

By the time I returned to the apartment, I'd unintentionally accomplished a number of firsts: transitioning from a stop on unfinished shoulder over a rough apron onto the roadbed going both uphill and downhill, riding through fog, riding at night, riding through fog at night, watching for gravel in the road and choosing a line to avoid it, and, finally, a trip to the gas station to fill the tank.

I arrived back home buzzed with excitement and drenched with sweat. At the end of day two of motorcycle boot camp I was sitting at the seventy mile mark, and I'd now had some amount of exposure to most of the types of road scenarios I expect to encounter other than highway travel.

I had so much fun with this ride that I'm planning on repeating it on day 3, extended to include Mines Rd., Tesla Rd., Patterson Pass Rd., and Calaveras Rd. Of course, depending on how I feel when I arrive in Livermore, I can omit the small loop through Tracy and leave it for some other day. Many thanks to Pashnit for showing me the way...

taking on traffic

Confidence bolstered by my early morning omelette excursion and growing rather weary of endless exercises in the parking lot, I set off to practice real world traffic handling skills on some of the nearby neighborhood back streets.



I found that I was having issues stalling coming off of a stop because I'm too timid to give the engine the revs it needs to keep going as I slide the clutch through the friction zone. Honestly, I had the same problem during my MSF.



After this, I came back and took a well-earned nap to prepare for the next lesson.

breakfast, a bunny, and a bit more range

I woke up at five, considered showering, eschewed cleanliness, and headed down the road to Denny's for a big breakfast to start the day. Afterwards, I chatted with Russ for a while and, while doing so, was visited by someone's stray pet bunny. As you can see from the picture, I still didn't know how to park a motorcycle properly.

Having allowed morning traffic to muster while talking overly long on the telephone, I took neighborhood streets back to my parking lot and rushed through the remaining low speed off-road exercises, impatient for practice involving more than my makeshift soda bottle cones.



From here forward, I'm paring down the partially filled plastic bottles to just their brightly colored caps so that I can have cones to set up range exercise reviews wherever I find a suitable parking lot.