Four (or More) Wheels Good, Two Wheels Bad?

by Bill Hufnagle
aka Biker Billy

I just finished reading some articles in the September/October 2005 issue of the North & South Carolina AAA GO magazine and I want to share my observations with you. The first article was about how North Carolina is increasing the exemptions for heavy trucks from road weight limits, on top of its 12-year trend of reducing fines and enforcement on these trucks already. The second story was about two scenic roads in western North Carolina—the Tail of the Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway—and it had a subtitle “Two Great Roads for Sightseeing and Negotiating.” Being a fan of both roads, whether plying them on one of my motorcycles or in my sports car, I read this one with great interest, which turned into disappointment. Before explaining the source of the disappointment, let me tell you my observations about the heavy truck story.

The heavy truck legislative story was clearly focused on the unfairness of amending laws and enforcement to benefit a special interest group, i.e., the commercial trucking industry. While this story presented facts and figures, quoted government studies, and presented economic data along with its call for action to oppose a particular piece of legislation, it did not attack or besmirch the trucking industry for its abuse of the roads and taxpayers. No doubt some in the trucking industry will be bothered by the story—after all, they have been caught with their hand in the cookie jar—but all in all, the unnamed writer was polite and neutral while presenting his or her position on this legislative issue. I doubt I would have been so kind. Overweight trucks are not just an abuse of the laws, roads, and taxpayers: they are a menace: the damage they cause bridges and road surfaces can lead to accidents, and loading a vehicle past its design specifications reduces its safety performance in areas like braking, tire integrity, and handling. But hey, I could respect the choice to treat this issue in a non-inflammatory way . . . that is, until I read the next article.

The article about the two roads was almost a nice travel destination story until the writer, a certain Clint Johnson, took some uncalled-for swipes at motorcyclists. He tells how a trucking magazine referred to the Tail of the Dragon as “The Highway From Hell,” and then he encourages his readers to visit it, saying it “tests cornering skills at its speed limit of 30 mph.” Although he said that the trucking magazine suggested that no tractor-trailer driver should attempt the Dragon, he failed to mention that logging and other trucks use that road frequently—I’ve encountered them using both lanes while I was testing my cornering skills with my sports car. Then he goes on to say, “The Dragon has been known to eat reckless motorcyclists—10 have died in 10 years—but the low speeds at which most cars negotiate the road mean fewer automobile accidents and no deaths reported by law enforcement agencies.” He made similar references to motorcyclists being more inclined to crash on the Cherohala Skyway. While I don’t doubt that 10 riders have died on the Dragon in 10 years, I can’t believe that no car or truck drivers have died on that road in that same time period. Even if that is the case, who is Clint Johnson to declare that those 10 dead riders were reckless? Might not one of them have been the victim of a car driver who was recklessly testing his cornering skills? Or of surface damage caused by overweight trucks using a backcountry road to avoid the scales and fines? Mr. Johnson seemed comfortable suggesting that his readers would enjoy testing their skills on a public road, yet considers a motorcyclist reckless when he does the same.

I have to question why a car magazine travel story would treat the loss of any road user’s life with such a casual tone? Why would this writer wish to cast motorcyclists in a negative light by calling them reckless for doing precisely what he subtly suggests his readers do with a car? Does this breed respect for other road users in the folks who follow the writer’s suggestions? I suggest that you all take the time to acquire a copy of this article, read it, and if you feel slighted like I do, send some polite mail to the AAA—they might be surprised how many of their members also ride motorcycles. Is it any wonder we need our organization, the AMA, to advocate for laws protecting vulnerable road users from reckless car drivers?

M.M.M.

Mexi-Corn

The crisp medley of fresh peppers and sweet corn kernels will complement any meal. And the colorful combination of red, yellow and green will remind you of traffic lights and the fact that you need to go riding.

2 tablespoons salted butter
1 small red bell pepper, cored and coarsely chopped
1 fresh green Anaheim pepper, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 fresh green jalapeno pepper, stemmed and coarsely chopped (optional)
1 (12-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
Salt and black pepper

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Combine the peppers in the saucepan and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the corn and stir well. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning. Season with salt and black pepper to taste and serve piping hot.

Makes 4 servings

Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2005. Recipe reprinted with permission from “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire” published by Whitehorse Press, Center Conway, New Hampshire copyright Bill Hufnagle 1995, 2004. Biker Billy hosts a syndicated television cooking show, “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire” and has authored three cookbooks. Check out www.bikerbilly.com where you can acquire autographed books and also find information on Biker Billy’s touring schedule

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