Ralph Couey

Ralph Couey
Photo by Darryl Cannon, Powerhead Productions

About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Red-Light Purgatory

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

When reads about “Dead Red” laws, the image conjured up is of some draconian McCarthy-esque measure from the 1950’s. Actually, it has nothing to do with politics.
Every motorcyclist and bicyclist is familiar with the frustration of pulling up to and intersection and watching the lights go through 2 or 3 cycles without getting the green. This problem has been the subject of increasingly vociferous lobbying from riders.

Some intersections don’t have automatically sequenced lights. They’re triggered by sensors buried in the roadway. These sensors don’t rely on weight, but mass. As a large metal object, like a car or truck, rolls up, the steel creates a “bubble” in the ambient magnetic field. This bubble is detected by the sensors which then trigger the lights. The Navy uses this method, called "Magnetic Anomaly Detection," to locate submerged submarines. These devices have to be calibrated, but vehicle used is usually the 10-ton truck the road crews work out of. In terms of magnetic mass, that’s a far cry from even the largest motorcycle. Consequently, the rider sits at the intersection…and sits…and sits…and sits…well, you get the idea.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Riding in the Thaw*

*Somerset Daily American
March 19, 2011
as "Start out slow this spring"

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

As February turns into March, warmer weather will begin to spread northward.  Eventually even in the arctic-like north and northeast, the snow will melt, the roads will clear, and motorcyclists will take to the road in glee to start another riding season.
But in some parts of the nation, winter still grimly hangs on.  In those areas, however, riders will be teased by the appearance of a day or two of relatively warm weather and sun.  On those days, it is hard to resist the temptation to take the bike out for a spin. 
But there are still dangers out there.
Roads are still covered with salt, sand, and whatever else the DOT uses when the snow falls.  For a motorcycle, a road surface like that can be similar to riding on a bed of ball bearings.  Traction and control is decidedly iffy, not helped by the water left by melting snow.  Also, there are still shaded places where patches of ice remain.
On top of that, we must remember that drivers are not used to looking for us this early in the season.  Caution is the prudent style when riding in traffic.  This is especially true when approaching cross traffic, or motorists pulling out from side streets or turning left across your path.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Riders in the Storm"

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

Motorcyclists of all stripes look forward with great anticipation to the end of winter and the return of sunshine, warm weather, and clear roads.  Spring can be a glorious time to ride, but changing weather patterns can develop dangerous conditions.
Spring in the Midwest and high plains is a time when war breaks out between warm, moist air surging up from the Gulf of Mexico and cold, dry air making its stubborn retreat into Canada. The resulting battleground can generate strong to severe thunderstorms, some of which may spawn tornadoes.
There are different types of thunderstorms, and it’s important to know the difference.  There are isolated storms, the ones meteorologists like to call “garden variety” or “pop-up” that develop, rain themselves out and dissipate over a couple of hours or less.  The hazards of these storms are torrential rainfall, extremely limited visibility, strong wind gusts, and lightning. Most riders are familiar with these, a regular encounter on afternoon rides.  Probably the biggest danger is the heavy rain, which can induce hydroplaning, a wave of water that builds up at the front of your tires that can actually lift the bike off the road’s surface, sending the machine skidding across the asphalt.  Don’t think for one moment that rubber tires protect you from lightning strikes.  It has happened, last year in Kentucky for example.  Also, the heavy raid restricts visibility for drivers as well.  We know how hard it is for them to see us on a good day.  In a downpour, trying to peer through a windshield and wipers, it’s even more difficult.  Since these storms are isolated, i.e. fairly small in footprint, the best thing is simply to pull off and wait for them to pass, or change your route to go around them.