So I’m no longer lost. The bike has about 100 glorious new miles on her, the back seat was warm, and the beer and ice tea were cold.

There is nothing quite as much fun as riding in a group like I did today. One thing about bikers, they stay true on the road. Great group of guys. And one gal on a crotch rocket. Who knew Louie Vuitton made motorcycle seats. That girl did.

So after relaxing in the saddle all day, I return home to mess in Maryland. Not surprised, just glad I didn’t see it happen in real time. I’d much rather be riding than worry about a silly situation so far north.

But the next few days should prove interesting. If for the humor if nothing else. Meanwhile, Picts from the trip. All copyrighted by me of course.




The Single Issue Activist

Iam-an-activistI broke one of the cardinal rules of a bar the other day. I discussed politics. The rule is “Never discuss politics or religion at a bar.” The amendment to that rule is “During college football season, football is both politics and religion.”

I came into the discussion late, where a patron was already attacking someone for being a bigot because they didn’t understand the Supreme Court ruling on the Defense Of Marriage Act. This patron was a gay marriage activist and was belittling his seat mate for not understanding the overwhelming importance of the ruling. I knew both patrons, and knew the one getting attacked is not a gay marriage activist, but is a gay marriage supporter.

This is what bothers me about single issue activists. They have a single political issue, and it overwhelms their thinking. Everything is seen through that prism of how it effects their issue, in this case it is gay marriage.

So I couldn’t help but insert myself into this conversation, letting the poor supporter gracefully exit. Only what happened instead was the gathering of an audience.

I told him I didn’t think it quite fair that he assumed that since someone didn’t understand the ruling on DOMA they must be a bigot. Just because someone doesn’t follow every tidbit of news on the issue didn’t make them against the issue.

His response was that everyone should know, and he was tired of having to educate everyone on the topic. I told him I have topics important to me, like Motorcycle Rights, but I don’t assume everyone knows all there is about it.

“But sexuality and gender affect EVERYONE!” He exclaimed.

“Traffic safety effects everyone,” I rebutted.

“Motorcycles don’t cause a disproportionate number of suicides!” He retorted.

“80% of motorcycle accidents are caused by drivers of cars who aren’t paying attention” I explained.

“People don’t threaten you because you ride motorcycles!” He declared.

“People on cell phones and texting while driving threaten my life every day” I reminded him.

“Motorcycles don’t effect my life in any way! They don’t matter!” He screamed.

I took a deep breath and said, “Gay marriage doesn’t effect my life either.” He completely failed to recognize how supportive that statement really is when you get down to the nuts and bolts of the anti gay marriage argument.

He looked at me in horror. “You’re just another homophobic bigot!”

Up till this point I had remained calm. I may have lost my temper a bit. I waggled my finger threateningly into his face and told him to shut up. The phrase may have been more colorful than that.

I sat back down, took a breath and told him he best not interrupt me. I hadn’t expressed my opinion on the issue of gay marriage at all, I explained. You are assuming I’m against it because I place the same importance on my issue as you placed on yours. Fact is, I am a strong supporter of gay marriage, but am not an activist. Then, as politely as I could, I told him the only bigot in this conversation was him.

He started to say something, but I gave him a menacing glance and he sat silent. I explained that all I did was bring up an issue important to me. He was the one trying to belittle my issue as unimportant. Truth is, it may be unimportant to him, but if he’s unwilling to listen to why it is important to me, why on earth should I entertain his arguments on why his issue is important. I went on to tell him the individual he was berating earlier also supports gay marriage, or at least did before you treated him so badly. Why should he support that position at all if since he didn’t “support” it to your satisfaction he wasn’t good enough.

I told this fellow that here is a learning moment that he could have for free. For every point he had about why his issue is important I had an equally important point about my issue. Instead of using my passion to help me understand his, he belittled my issue. That’s what a bigot does.

A rational activist should have and could have explored the similarities between or issues, conceded they are both important. A rational activist shouldn’t be trying to recruit fellow activists, but general supporters. He should want me to vote for people and laws that supported his cause. And he missed a chance to make sure I would do that by ignoring and belittling my cause.

He sat there for a minute and since I stayed silent, he spoke up. “So what would you like to see be done about motorcycle rights?”

I told him I’d like to see the state mandate a motorcycle safety course as a requirement for getting a license to drive a bike. I’d like to see car drivers fully punished under the law for hitting a motorcycle. Claiming they didn’t see the bike is basically an admission they weren’t paying attention.

After telling him that, he sat for a second and admitted those ideas sounded reasonable. I couldn’t resist a final dig. “No more reasonable than everyone should be allowed to marry the person they love.” Then I walked away.

Having a single issue you are passionate about isn’t a bad thing. Passion is good and can help you stay focused. But it shouldn’t blind you into the false belief that everyone should be as passionate about it as you are. If you believe that, then you’ve failed as an activist, no matter what your passion. The goal of activism isn’t more activists it is to incite change. Change is scary enough, and the inertia behind not changing is big enough that an activist should never help the inertia along by alienating potential supporters. Engaging people calmly, rationally and peacefully emotional is far better than screaming at someone without even knowing their position.

I’m not saying that there isn’t times when “in your face” protests and demonstrations are important. But rarely are they important when talking one on one.

And never in a bar. Remember the golden rule of bars. Also, remember that there is always a time to break those rules. I may not have changed his future tactics, but I gave him something to think about.

To my State Representatives….

Honorable Mike Ball
Honorable Phil Williams

Dear Sirs,

I write this open letter to you today to ask for your help with a very troubling statistic in our great state.  Motorcycle deaths on Alabama highways is at an all time high.  And I think it’s time the legislature of our state took a stand against it.

Since 2008, the nation has been blessed with a continuous decline in motor vehicle deaths in all categories but one; Motorcycles.  According to the CDC, the best thing a state can do to reduce deaths is to pass a universal helmet law.  Alabama has done this, and I hope the two of you will continue to fight against attempts to weaken the universal helmet law.

Have I ridden my motorcycle without a helmet?  Yes, I am afraid I have.  I can fully understand the desire by riders to do away with the helmet law.  The joy and freedom of riding without a helmet is far better than riding with one.  But I’m also glad to say I’ve never ridden my bike on a major or busy road without a helmet, and I’ve never allowed a passenger to ride without one.  Helmets do save lives.  Please keep Alabama’s helmet law universal.

But Alabama had the universal helmet law prior to 2008, and we are still seeing an increase in motorcycle deaths. It is time to do more.  I strongly suggest a two prong approach to reducing deaths on two wheels in Alabama.

The first part I call “Look twice, Save a life” is to cover what is far too common cause of motorcycle accidents and deaths.  According to the American Motorcycle Association 80% of motorcycle and vehicle accidents are the fault of the car and not the rider.  A quick perusal of recent motorcycle deaths in North Alabama show a common thread.  The driver of the car claims “I never saw the motorcycle.” I find this excuse unacceptable.

Motorcycles may be smaller and less common than cars, but the excuse of not seeing one is not valid.  It is a drivers responsibility to be aware of the traffic around him, and allowing drivers to edit out motorcycles as not important is risking lives on our roadways.  I propose a bill that will significantly increase the punishment of motorists who hit motorcycles.  Clearly part of this needs to be an investigation showing the driver is at fault, but ultimately any time a motorcycle is hit at the very least a ticket should be issued and a fine levied.  Not seeing a motorcycle is not an excuse, and law enforcement in this state need to stop treating it like it is not a crime.  If drivers will face fines and possible jail time, drivers will look twice.

And as a motorcycle rider, I can assure you that far to many Alabama drivers aren’t looking twice.  We have an amazingly unobstructed view into the vehicles around us, and I can tell you drivers in Alabama are doing a lot of things in their cars besides looking twice.  I’d easily estimate that a good 50% of the time I have to avoid a car that pulls out in front of me the driver is talking on their cell phone.  Another 25% of the time, the driver is texting… which is already illegal.  The other 25% is drivers pulling into traffic or drifting out of their lane while messing with something else in the car; things like radios, newspapers, makeup or something similar.

The other prong I’d suggest in reducing motorcycle deaths is a statewide crackdown on riders who ride unsafe.  I’m now talking about my brothers and sisters who ride like maniacs and pass improperly and speed excessively.  It’s no fair to ask drivers to treat riders with respect if our fellow riders won’t treat drivers with the same respect.  The rules of the road are the same for everyone, motorcycles included.  I’d love to see fewer bikes weaving through traffic like idiots, although if I’m honest there are times when this would snag me as well.  Sometimes you just can’t resist twisting the throttle a bit.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Michael Malone
Rider and motorcycle enthusiast

I Never Saw The Motorcycle

As the weather warms up and the rains recede for summer, I’m afraid you’ll be seeing more and more stories like this one.

Motorcycle killed on Thursday Identified

Frankly, I’m fed up with them. They all seem to have one thing in common, the phrase uttered by the horrified driver “I never saw the motorcycle.” I’m sick to death of reading about my brother and sister riders killed because people didn’t see them.

It’s a load of crap. The reason people don’t see us is because you people stuck in your four-wheeled cages don’t look. We are on gleaming chrome plated steal horses that sound like a dragon in full battle roar. We are damn hard to miss. Yet you caged up fools are to busy with your precious commute to look for us.

Don’t think riders aren’t looking. We are, and we have an unobstructed 360 degree view. We see you sitting behind your rolled up windows, doing all the things you’re not supposed to be doing. You don’t see us because your too busy adjusting your radio instead of watching the road you’re pulling onto. Yes I mean you, blonde headed soccer mom in the red mini van pulling out of D1 sports last Wednesday directly in front of my bike.

You’re not looking for us because you’re too busy texting, yes Mr construction dude who drifted into my lane and looked surprised when I kicked your door, I’m talking about you.

Or you got your precious cell phone attached to your ear, yakking away instead of watching the road. And this time I’m talking to the driver of a local news truck. Your news story is not more important than my life. Funny, you were on your way to cover a six car pileup and a hit and run on four other cars including a motorcycle, but you still pulled out in front of me on Bailey Cove.

So seriously folks. Why don’t you concentrate on what you’re supposed to be doing. Which is driving a 2200+lb steel cage down the roads at high speeds safely, instead of being someplace else in your mind. Me and my brothers and sisters need you to step up to the plate.