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Monday, 30 July 2012

Paranoia or are they REALLY out to get you???

I've not been accessing the internet much for the last few days having been away from home on a couple of missions.  On reading a few fellow moto-bloggers websites, there seems to be a common thread where car drivers seem hell-bent on removing fellow road users from existence at a greater frequency than normal.  Maybe there's some sort of celestial alignment causing the problem as it isn't just confined to the Northern Hemisphere! The driving is certainly like the offender's heads are up their Uranus.

Last Thursday, Jennie and I headed off on a business trip 400 km to the south.  The day didn't start well as the distance magically increased overnight to 500 km thanks to a landslip blocking the most direct route.  Going round the long way to get off our Peninsula, a ute (utility... Kiwi and Aussie-speak for a pickup) came out of a side turn in front of us.  We then proceeded to witness some of the most incompetent driving we've seen for a long, long time.  It's appropriate to mention that the ute was emblazoned with the name of the driver's employer - a reasonable-sized company, together with their website address and telephone number so it was hardly inconspicuous.  Oh and another relevant fact....in New Zealand, we drive on the left hand side of the road.

We'd been following the ute for a minute or so when it caught up with another ute towing a trailer down a reasonably long straight.  Inexplicably, the driver held off passing the other vehicle until a few tens of metres before a blind bend at the end of the straight.  Had something appeared coming the other way, the consequences would have been dire.

It turns out that this was no isolated rush of blood to the head. On every bend, blind or not, he cut the corner and on the blind corners - someone coming in the opposite direction would have no chance.  Lazy driving at its worst with terrible potential consequences. We were both horrified and under those circumstances, it's hard not to think about someone you love coming the other way.  With cameras and videos being so compact and easy to use these days, people tend to carry them just like they'd carry a wallet and we're no different.  Makes it much harder for a miscreant to say that a certain event didn't happen.  Jennie blazed off a series of photos at different corners as a record without really knowing what we were going to do with them.  It was pointless calling the police traffic hotline (*555) as there are only a handful of cops patrolling the whole Peninsula and besides, mobile phone coverage is pretty patchy in the area.  After following him for 20 minutes or so, we pulled over for a short stop.

Here are a couple of photos to illustrate just how far the offender was over the centre line on most corners.  If there are any protests from bleeding hearts about his human rights being violated by publishing the photos, tough s*it.  What about the rights of other road users to expect to live through the day?

Insanity personified - we drive on the left

Yet another example of appalling driving

During the trip, we debated what we were going to do.  Shake our heads and do nothing might be an option for a one-off transgression of a minor nature but that was never going to happen with multiple examples of bad driving.  The next option was to send the photos to the police.  We had some reservations about this being the immediate best option. We thought rightly or wrongly that that if the driver entered the justice system, there may well be a heavy fine and possible loss of licence but little else in the way of discretionary powers open to the authorities.  There was a time when I'd have been quite happy for the offender's head to be stuck up on a long pole by the roadside (metaphorically speaking) as an example to others but not any more.  That approach, however satisfying, probably only generates driver resentment and does eff all to prevent it happening again.

We finally decided to send the photos to his employer when we got back from the trip with a short description of events but completely leaving out any outraged demands etc, simply to judge the reaction.  It was late on Friday afternoon when the email got sent via the company website.  Even though it was late, we got a response within half an hour. The reply started with a profound apology, then noted which branch of the company the vehicle was based at and that the matter would be taken up immediately on Monday morning.  In view of the response, we then responded with a possible approach.  The suggestion was for the company to consider as part of any punitive action, mandatory attendance by the driver on an advanced driving course, turning it into a win-win situation.

We have yet to hear about any further action so this whole issue isn't closed yet.  I'll add an update when there's something else to report.  The main reason for posting this incident is that with the technology available to us these days, there are other options available than simply complaining about the poor standards of driving, but doing nothing else.  I guess the death of my best friend 2 decades ago due to another driver crossing the centre line has coloured my views somewhat.  However, joining the IAM last year has opened my eyes to possibly better options in some circumstances than simply using the sometimes heavy hand of the law - let's see how it works out.

As a parting comment, if someone is inclined to ask about the impact on the driver's employment and family etc through not turning a blind eye..... how would it be viewed if that driver's actions had caused grief and suffering to an innocent road user's family?  Damned if I do and damned if I don't - guess that my conscience is pretty clear but it's still a bit of a moral minefield.


Addendum:  A very satisfactory outcome thanks to both the person's company and the employee himself.  I won't go into the details for privacy reasons but totally happy.  I guess it demonstrates that as road users, we don't have to accept poor driving and that we can do something about it.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Cabin fever!

I haven't ridden the Triple for nearly 3 weeks and I'm like a bear with a sore head and a bit stressed too!  It's winter Down Under and although it doesn't get particularly cold where we live, boy - we've had some rain. Today, this is all we can see of Coromandel Harbour from our deck..... it's early afternoon, dark as heck and liquid sunshine is falling like there's no tomorrow.  Of course, it doesn't help that a lot of our overseas blogging mates are all together currently enjoying great weather at the moto-blogging convention in Oregon.  I wish.....

Rain, rain......go away

It hasn't just been the weather which has put paid to riding recently.  Jennie and I are volunteer tutors for SeniorNet, a nationwide voluntary organisation which provides support for senior citizens wanting to learn about computers or needing tuition in particular computer topics.  The workload has been pretty heavy for a while now and as we've been doing it for the last 4 years, it might be getting close to the time when someone else in our region has to step up.  Immensely rewarding but there are only so many hours in the day.....

All this non-riding activity has added to stress levels as next weekend, there's a 2 day intensive Institute of Advanced Motorists training camp for trainee instructors (Observers).  It's a mixture of theory and practical riding under the eagle eyes of some of the very best riders anywhere - IAM Examiners and experienced IAM Observers. I feel extremely rusty and way below the top of my game which is a real worry.  Just going to have to bite the bullet and get out in the atrocious weather for some practice if  conditions don't improve.  As mentioned in previous posts, there is never any compromise in IAM standards.  Having battled so hard and for so long to meet the membership standards, none of us would have it any other way but sure is a worry when you feel out of sorts.  Fellow mate and blogger Rogey is on the course too so I dare say that there will be a public report in the next couple of weeks!

Anyway, enough of the grizzling!  There was a break in the weather yesterday so Jennie and I drove down the coast road in her sports car with the top down (and heater on to generate a hot air cocoon, haha). It's a good time for planting so we visited a specialist garden centre down the coast.  I'm a great fan of bromeliads which grow well in our garden with varieties for both deep shade and full sun.  The colourful leaves are really attractive and some have flowers which look like they're an alien mutation! All of them grow "pups" which you simply cut off and plant elsewhere.

For fellow bloggers who are keen on gardening, here's what we bought......

Alcantarea Vinicolour - grows to nearly 800mm high and across with crimson leaves.  Currently about half that size.


Viresia Dark Knight.  Has really attractive leaves and grows to about 800mm.


Guzmania Lingulata.  Grows to about 500mm and centre leaves turn bright scarlet.


And I've saved the weirdest for last!  This is Aechmea Blue Rain.  It has plain green leaves but throws out a crimson near-metre-long flower stalk with the most intense blue profusion of flowers.  This is a close-up of the top of the flower stalk.


After the buying spree, we stopped off at a waterside cafe for lunch.  I had grilled Portobello mushrooms topped with blue cheese and served with a spinach and chilli salad.  Jennie had creamy button mushrooms served with bacon and a mixed salad - simply wonderful.  No photos as our moto-blogging mates from the Americas photograph food so much better!  I'll just settle for a shot of the C.E.O reading magazines on the verandah of the cafe whilst waiting for lunch!

Blissfully unaware......

Addendum:  Bugger!  After 260mm of rain in the last 48 hours, our village is cut off from the rest of the world with landslips.  Wonder how long it's going to take to clear them???

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Something you hope never to use!

Poseurs excepted, motorcyclists invariably head for the wide open spaces where there isn't much traffic. One of the problems of heading into the Wide Blue Yonder is getting marooned or seriously inconvenienced if you get a puncture.  I know it's pushing Karma to mention it but I've only had 2 punctures since returning to bikes in the 1980's, neither of which stopped me in my tracks.  That's not to say it's not prudent to take precautions though.

There are various products on the market and this is the kit which has resided in my bike pack for many years

 Hmmmm..... must be getting on for 10 years old

The kit consists of 2 CO2 cylinders and a right-angled fitting (nice touch ,that), a reamer for cleaning the hole, some sticky rope which I think are called dog turds in some quarters (chihuahua-sized, one presumes) and an awl to drive the turds into the puncture.  I'll admit that the presence of the kit has given a certain peace of mind over the years, but not without a couple of nagging doubts.  A piece of sticky rope blocking a hole with 40psi or thereabouts of tyre pressure behind it, plus added centrifugal force when moving doesn't fill me with confidence, even taking it easy.  Secondly, 2 CO2 cartridges are highly unlikely to deliver full pressure to a tyre - maybe enough to limp to the nearest gas station pump, maybe not.

In the end, the worry about inflation got the better of me.  I popped down to the local store and bought an inflator which plugs into a cigarette lighter port.  As the case was large and the working internals are small, I simply removed the case and now have a pump which is less than 12 cm down its longest side. Chop the plug off and fit crocodile clips to attach to the bike battery and you have a compact and lightweight inflator.  Here 'tis:

Inflator and digital pressure gauge

Incidentally, the gauge on the pump is a mile out of calibration (just like a lot of gas station gauges) so I  always carry a good quality digital gauge.

Last weekend, we were passing our local Triumph dealer so stopped off to buy oil and a filter.  On the counter was a Gryyp-brand puncture repair outfit.  I'd read good reports about these so decided to splash out the rather expensive NZ$89 to get one.  Here's a picture of the kit:

Gryyp puncture repair kit

The business end of the kit is a threaded plastic key (see close-up below).  All you do is mark the puncture location with the thoughtfully-provided chalk, pull out the cause of the puncture with the supplied pliers and turn the threaded key in until the head snaps off.  What could be simpler than that and you actually have mechanical grip to hold the plug in.

4 plastic keys supplied in the kit

Must say that I feel a lot happier with this kit in my pack, although I'll still use my still battery-powered pump rather than CO2 cartridges should a puncture occur.

Here's a YouTube demo from UK-based magazine MCN showing how easy the whole process is:

In the video, the commentator talks about replacing the tyre. In a bike puncture I had which must have been in the mid 1990's, a small sliver of tinplate went through the tyre almost immediately I'd left the shop from having a new one fitted! In that instance, the tyre shop simply vulcanised a reinforced patch on the inside of the tyre rather than having to fork out for yet another new tyre.