Make hog heaven a safer place
BY JOHN W. FOUNTAIN email@example.com September 19, 2012 4:16PM
In this May 19, 2011 photo, former firefighter Ronaldo "Ron" Gomez poses for a photo in McAllen, Texas. Gomez considers himself one of the lucky ones. In May 2008, a suspected drunken driver clipped him as he turned his motorcycle at the intersection of North 10th Street and Trenton Road. He sustained a punctured lung, broken ribs, a broken eye socket, a broken nose and hip injuries. And the lower portion of his left leg would be amputated. But he survived. | GABE HERNANDEZ~ AP/THE MONITOR
Updated: October 21, 2012 2:42PM
Two months, umpteen buckets of sunshine, and nearly 2,000 miles on my Harley, I am still cruising along in hog heaven.
All geared up and rolling across the interstates, over green country roads, bugs splatting on my windshield, jeans flapping in the wind and the engine of my glistening hog revving and purring, the ride is simply symphonic.
At the risk of sounding over the top about my newfound zeal for motorcycle riding and possibly creating even more “haters,” I thought I’d give this subject a rest.
I couldn’t resist.
Man, motorcycle riding is da’ bomb!
I’m like a kid in a candy store. A mouse in a peanut butter factory. A dog in cat heaven.
Anyway, you get the picture.
It took becoming a motorcycle rider for me to get a clearer picture. And what a scary one it can be with regard to that dreaded road hazard known as: motorists.
Appearing crazed or distracted, bobbing and weaving, swerving and tailgating, I have spied them in my side mirrors, approaching sometimes like heat-seeking missiles. Motorists. They are the greatest nemesis for safe, skilled riders. The enemy.
I have felt them whiz by in a blur. Or they are on that doggone cellphone cradled in the nook of their neck and shoulder.
Or else they are reading and driving. Eating and driving. Texting and driving. Menaces on wheels.
“Hey, big dummy, watch out!”
“Get off the gosh-darn phone, you freakin’ dimwit!”
These are just the names I can print in a family newspaper, spoken beneath my helmet and drowned by my engine and the wind.
On my ride into downtown, up Interstate 57 and onto the dreaded Dan Ryan (which some of my motorcycle-riding friends avoid at all cost), I have cursed a dozen drivers. Most of them are distracted motorists, clearly blind to my 700-pound hog and its 6-foot-tall, 200-pound pilot in a glossy helmet.
OK. So I am not suggesting that everybody should just move the heck out of the way and let us ride.
And I am indeed aware of those obnoxious, crotch-rocket-riding speed demons who nearly give you a heart attack, whizzing by your car at light speed as if they own the road, and who you half expect in a few miles to pass, lying twisted, having suddenly become one with — or soup on — the pavement.
Most of us, I dare say, are safe riders, weekend wild hogs. And these roads are ours, too. Except it is not clear all motorists see it that way.
What is clear, however, is that far too many motorists don’t seem to see us at all — a point hammered home this spring by the instructors in my motorcycle riding safety class, even as they exhorted us to do everything within our power to be seen — from wearing light-reflective or brightly colored gear, to adding louder exhaust pipes, to avoiding motorists’ blind spots.
But there’s only so much we can do.
So, in my best Chris Rock voice, “Can you help a brother out?”
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has compiled “key messages” for motorists in hopes of making the road safer. Among them:
“Look for motorcyclists,” meaning, especially check blind spots when changing lanes or turning at intersections; “focus on driving,” meaning hang up the phone and refrain from doing anything that may distract you while driving; “use turn signals;” and “give two-wheelers some room.”
We motorcyclists would appreciate it. For we have many miles to go before we sleep.
Boots, beard, jeans, jacket, helmet, cool shades — check.
Let’s ride. Vrooom!