Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Pay attention or you might pay for it…

Author: site admin
Category: Motorcycles

I got a quick lesson in paying attention tonight. I ended up working late, thanks to a maintenance outage my team was doing on some equipment in our computer lab at work, and finally got on the road at 10pm. It was pretty chilly out thanks to the two foot of snow we got two days ago and which is still melting out. What’s more, I’d gotten pretty caught up in work and had missed dinner so my body was reminding me that it was time to *EAT*. After getting on my electric jacket liner, my fleece, my winter gloves and my normal riding gear, I got on the bike and headed for home.

Boulder Police

I normally ride 5 to 10 mph over the posted speed limit which generally puts me either with or slightly faster than the bulk of the traffic. My theory, in addition to just thinking faster is more fun, is that I’d rather be passing cars than having them pass me. This way I get to make the decision about when I am in their blind spot, when I speed up and when I slow down. Anyway, as I’m approaching the city of Boulder, I suddenly see a City of Boulder patrol car on the shoulder on the inside of a right hand turn about 50 feet away. Wow, I nearly missed seeing him completely. Was I zoning out or what? I checked my speed, saw I was doing 70 in a 65 and figured I was safe. Well, the office figured differently and pulled me over.

Let me back up for a second here and explain my commute. Going from work to home, the first 10 miles are on a controlled access, divided highway. Its four lanes of fast moving traffic (during the day 75 or 80 isn’t unusual for the bulk of traffic), it is relatively straight and pretty boring on a motorcycle. Then there is 10 minutes of playing red light-green light through the city itself, mainly because the traffic control engineer somehow managed to make it so you have to stop at every traffic light whether you are going north to south or east to west. At the far western edge of the city, the road starts going up Boulder Canyon to Nederland and its 20 miles of fantastic curvy mountain roads for the rest of the commute. This last bit is usually the highlight of the ride but melting snow (refreezing into ice at this time of the night) and fine gravel (used instead of salt to melt snow but just little ball bearings when there isn’t any snow to melt) made it less so at this particular time. The last 200 yards is a dirt road. Well, it is normally a dirt road. This morning it was a minor mud bog and tonight it was sort of like leftover creme brulee with a crunchy ice topping and a cold slimy filling.

So anyway, I was more than a little apprehensive about riding home at 10 o’clock at night on sandy roads, potentially icy *and* sandy roads, in cold weather though deer infested woods on an empty stomach. I was a bit preoccupied on the ride which was only made worse when I started trying to work out what I was going to write about on the blog tonight rather than thinking about what I was really doing which was riding a motorcycle over a mile every minute. Well, the muse had a funny way of striking tonight….it was wearing a police officer’s uniform!

To make a long story short, the officer was quite a nice guy. He informed me that the speed limit dropped from 65 to 55 at the point were he was parked. You’d think I’d know that, given that I ride this road every day but just never noticed the sign…maybe because there is usually a lot of traffic moving around at that point with people trying to get into and out of an exit only lane… Since I wasn’t doing anything particularly heinous, he let me off with just a warning. I am convinced that this was helped by the fact that:

    1) I was riding a big fat Beemer with bigger and fatter saddle bags. He may have thought his radar was in error and that the pig of a bike couldn’t actually go 71 mph!

    2) I was wearing full riding gear (plus two layers of cold weather gear) including my helmet, gloves, boots and riding suit. Surely any safety freak dressed like this didn’t *mean* to be going that fast.

    3) Said riding suit has all the stylish appeal of the Michelin tire guy in a bright puke yellow EMT jumpsuit. Who am I going to impress even if the bike will go faster than the speed limit?!?!?

    4) I was respectful, removed my helmet and generally made sure I kept my hands where he could see them at all times. Yes sir, I am an idiot sir, thank your for pointing that out sir.

    5) I had all my paperwork: license, registration, insurance card easily accessible. I probably helps that I haven’t had a ticket in four or five years, too.

    and finally

    6) I have a head and beard full of grey hair so looked more like an aging hippie than a crazed speed daemon.

I appreciate the officer giving me a break, it saved me about $100. But I’m still kicking myself for being so out of it that I wasn’t paying attention, either for the changing speed limit signs or looking out for police. I’d certainly have deserved a ticket, had I been given one. I guess I better go help some little old ladies across the street or be nice to our management at work, ’cause I’m sure I need to make a deposit into the karma bank to cover this one.

[image from the City of Boulder Fleet Services web site.]