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Motorcycles, Life & Vision by Capt. Crash

When I was 18 I learned to drive a semi. It was fun. It was a White Freightliner cab over with a sleeper, a 27ft front trailer and a 23ft rear trailer. Richard, who was teaching me to drive, had an Australian Shepherd that rode with him everywhere. We’d be out driving and that dog would get up on the doghouse (engine cover between the seats) and bark at me when Richard would holler at me. It could be unsettling.

The first thing he taught me was “look at least ¼ to ½ mile ahead”. The idea being that it took so long to stop a fully loaded semi that you needed to live in the future a little bit more than when you’re in a car; if you’re looking ½ mile ahead then you’ll have time to slow and evade problems. There aren’t as many surprises if you’re looking into the future a little.

I remember once, on the 101 when we were hauling bricks and I let my vision slip back down to 40ft. I was just watching the license plate in front of me when Richard said, “Get off the gas” in a very stern voice. Casey’s head popped up (Casey was the dog’s name if memory serves). “SLOW DOWN NOW!” He hollered at me. I got off the gas, Casey started barking, suddenly the car 40 ft in front of me was on the brakes hard, I was on the brakes hard and I could FEEEEEEL 80,000lbs of truck and brick pushing hard on my back.

You want to know a sure sign you’re in trouble? It’s when your “instructor” grabs his dog and puts both feet on the dashboard. That’s a bad sign. Remember that! When the guy who knows his craft assumes the crash position things aren’t good.

By know I looked up saw an opening on the right and snapped the wheel to the right. Ever play “crack the whip” as a kid? The physics are the same. I cracked the whip. The last axle on the rear trailer actually went up on one wheel. I know cause once things started to ‘be all go to hell’ I looked in the mirror.

Surprisingly I got stopped with everything intact. Load stayed put. Didn’t hit anything, Casey’s lungs got a workout, Richard actually told me what went wrong and even had me finish the run.

Fast forward 20 years and I’m riding with a buddy in rush hour traffic. A state trooper has a car pulled over on the left side of the freeway. Since I’m looking well ahead I see him and all the lookieloos starting to slow down to look so I roll off the throttle. My buddy rolls off the throttle. The full-sized Dodge Pickup in front of us keeps his speed. He’s watching the Dodge Neon in front of him. Suddenly the Neon realized the pickup in front of her is no longer moving. She leans hard on the brakes trying to get stopped and does! The pickup behind her suddenly realizes things aren’t going well—aren’t going at ALL in front of him.

Suddenly I’m looking at blue smoke coming off the pickup in front of me. I slide left and watch as he rear-ends the Neon and impales it on the trailer hitch of the truck in front of it. The cop looks up from his ticket book and sees the whole thing.

I come to a controlled stop, my buddy stops next to me and I ask, “Should we stay and give a statement?”

“Statement?” He says.

“Witness statement”. I say.

“Witness to what?” He says.

He hadn’t seen it. He was watching my taillight. I made a normal, controlled stop and that’s all he saw. I told him what happened and he looked around and was shocked. I was living 10 seconds further in the future than my buddy…just like Richard had been living 10 seconds further in the future with me on the 101.

Keeping your head and eyes up and looking where you’re going will give you a real edge on your bike. It buys you precious time to act—not REACT—but to act before a situation becomes critical. Sure, there are situations you where you have to react but what you really want to do is keep yourself in that zone where you don’t have to use your emergency skills.

In a few weeks I’ll have two kids in college. When they were little kids we started talking about it. What’s it take to get there? When do you need to take your SATs? Won’t it be cool to be living on your own? Just the pathway issues. Where are we going? Are you looking there? Do you see obstacles in your path? How can you avoid them? How can I get there from here?

You go where you look. Fortunately for me, my first two have caught the vision. My oldest (a girl) didn’t even return from her freshman year! She just looked ahead, found a full time job on campus, moved off campus and now has her own life. My second is going all the way from Idaho to Virginia for college. He wants to be a coach. “Dad, if I want to coach I need to play college ball, I have to go where that can happen”. He’s off in a few weeks to report to camp. Sure, it’s NAIA football, but like he says, “that sets me apart from the other guys who quit after high school, and with hard work and luck I might transfer and bump up to D1 or D2”. He can see where he wants to go and is putting himself on a path to get there.

Motorcycles and the need to look ahead are one of the greatest metaphors you can find. You can apply the things you learn on a motorcycle to lots of life’s little situations. Gonna start a business? Where are you trying to go? What is your goal? Buying a car? What do you want it to do? Painting the house? What’s the resale value of a pink house in 5 years?

Head and eyes up baby, head and eyes up, look where you want to go. Live a little farther in the future, it’ll calm you down and make your life easier. You’ll be a safer rider and you’ll get where you want to go.

Honest, it really works.

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Crash, your past few missives have been wonderful. Have you ever considered trying to get a column in one of the motorcycle rags? You can get paid for your wisdom, you know.
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