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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Living inside my helmet.

"It must be awfully frustrating to get a small raise at work and then have it all eaten by a higher cost of commuting." - Ben Bernanke

Actually my raise was not that small.  

I'm still commuting roughly the same distance although now it takes longer than I would like so I guess Bernanke's quote applies.  Commuting into and out of the city of Tampa every day during the height of rush hour is leading me to reconsider what it means for me to be a commuter.  I left work at approximately 5:45 PM today and didn't pull into my driveway till 7:00 PM.  My morning commute took approximately the same amount of time.  

Sitting at a red light in full safety gear for one or two lights because some moron has blocked the intersection does not make me happy.  Especially when the heat and humidity of the day start to climb.  However I try to look at it as part of the experience and keep a good alert attitude about me.

My thinking has changed.  

I always believed in safety.  I almost always do a pre-check before getting on the bike.  The helmet goes on, the jacket, gloves, boots.  ATTGAT.  It's more than a saying to me.  It's always been a way of life.  

My old position had me leaving the house during the mid afternoon; my drive from point A to point B was a simple affair, the roads were relativity clear.  At 1 AM at night the ride home was more about keeping my eyes open for deer and drunks.  Lights were often green and I was the only car on the road many a night.  

Now I pull to a stop at a light, leaving enough room and options between myself and the car in front of me in case the car behind me doesn't stop.  In case I need to pull forward to go right or left in a quarter seconds notice.  I keep my eyes on the mirrors, my ears pealed for that screeching sound.  It's only when there are two or three cars behind me at the light that I relax some.  It's something I've always done, but am slightly more conscious of it now.

I have a headlight modulator, I don't use it in traffic often but I do know that the sun is behind me.  This time of year it's low in the sky...I flip the switch and the headlight starts to modulate.  I try to manage it at times.  A brake modulator is on the "to buy" list (the video below is for example purposes only).  

Blind spots become hugely important, I think about that car and where I am in relationship to it.   Again something I've always done, but am more conscious of it now.

All the safety gear in the world only goes so far.  

 All this should be second knowledge to any driver, either in a car or a bike.  It is for me as well but I remind myself again and again.  Cocky will get you killed.  

I remember something I said to a buddy of mine at work who was having a tough time with someone.    "Control the situation."   I think about lane position, about  road surface.  I'm scanning twelve seconds ahead, four seconds ahead, two seconds ahead of me.  I check over my shoulder with the turn signals on, I switch lanes safely.  Again, something I have always done, but am more conscious of now.

It's only when I'm finally out of city that I start to relax some.  The skills I've learned from my motorcycle safety class are still there.
 They are still in use.  The road changes from heavily traveled and used to more rural, pastoral.  New dangers, new concerns.  No, I can’t let the guard down.  Not till I've reached home.

Here at least I am not so worried about the aggressive driver with road rage or the idiot fighting with someone on the cell phone.  Here the dangerous are animals, living or dead, that find themselves in the middle of the road.  Here the dangers are tree branches, flooded roads, wash-outs, loose rocks and leaves.    

My butt is numb on the seat, I'm hot and sweaty and could really use a drink. I wiggle it, trying to find a comfortable position. "Why?.  Why do I do this?  It's so much easier in my car."  

Then I look out over the fields at the baby cows romping in the fields, the beautiful blue sky, the feel of the air as it flows over my arms.   I smile and wonder if my thinking has changed that much.  


Dar said...

Robert your last paragraph is the 'answer' to why we do it, couldn't have said it more beautifully myself. Good on you for taking all the safety precautions and keeping your skills sharp, I'm impressed! Have you thought of a cooling vest? It might make your commute a little more bearable.

Trobairitz said...

I much prefer the danger of the animals in the country as opposed to the animals in the cities on their cell phones, applying make up, reading, etc while in traffic.

We are all responsible for our own safety and minimizing risks while we are out on two wheels. It is good to hear you doing all you can to mitigate the risk. We owe ourselves nothing less.

I feel bad for you and your commute. Makes my 3 miles (10 minutes) seem like a walk in the park.

Conchscooter said...

I love my reverse commute. I still look forward to taking off in the morning before sunrise even though I only have one way home. I don't envy you, I found driving in Tampa to be hard work when I lived there 20 years ago.

Shazza said...

Thumbs up, Robert. I'm big on safety, too. Cocky is trouble, for sure