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.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Skyline Drive and the Perfect Day

The delicate palette of an evening's colors cloak the Shenandoah.
Copyright 2012 © by Ralph Couey

A perfect day is hard to come by.For one to happen, you really need three things to synch up.

First, it has to be a day off.Yes, we can have rewarding days at work. But perfect?Secondly, it has to be a day on which you have nothing scheduled, nor any errands to run, and an empty honey-do list.Thirdly, it has to be a perfect weather day.Partly cloudy is great, but nothing’s better than that clear blue dome above.Oh yes, and the temperature has to be right.Not too hot, not too cold, like baby bear, just right.

During the last week of June, I had one of those days, a Tuesday.It was a day off, with my somewhat unusual work schedule, my “weekend” runs from Sunday morning through about Wednesday noon, when the walls of work once again enfold me.The weather couldn’t have been any better if I had special ordered it on Amazon.com. The sky was clear of anything resembling a cloud, and the temperatures were forecasted to be in the low 70’s, a rare day indeed for Northern Virginia in late June.

I had but one mark on my calendar, a short appointment that was done by mid-morning.My honey-do list was clear for the first time since we moved into our new home in April.With the appointment done, I gleefully headed home, geared up, climbed aboard my motorcycle, and headed west.

Still new to this part of the country, I’m in the process of finding out where all the good roads are. This day, with all its beauty and freedom, was written for the Blue Ridge.

Leaving Chantilly, I headed west on VA 234, Sudley Road, which assumes a number of identities as it meanders through the Virginia countryside.After crossing US 15 at Woolsey, it becomes Waterfall Road.The path is mixed open and forest at first, but once on the Waterfall segment, it becomes mostly forest.

I have a real affection for trees.I’m not a “tree hugger” per se, I just appreciate their majestic beauty.The forests in this part of the state can be dense enough to bar passage to all but the smallest critters, but on this stretch, the undergrowth is mostly ferns and short grasses.The high crown of leaves and branches cools the air and softens the colors underneath.It is the kind of place where I feel peace emanating from the very land itself.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Paradigm Shifts in Personal Transportation

Delivery, Korean style

Copyright 2012 © by Ralph F. Couey
This summer has seemed interminable. Record-breaking heat, coupled with some violent storms and drought that hasn’t been seen since the Dust Bowl days of the thirties. The weather has dealt a direct blow to an already-creaky economy, driving up utility usage, damaging infrastructure, and with a slim harvest approaching, food prices will likely spike and stay high through the winter.
For a while, gas prices were headed in the right direction. But in the last few weeks, the gains have been lost to an uncertain supply situation in a market where fuel usage continues to rise.
For motorcyclists, this has been a dangerous season. Most states are reporting increases in crash-related injuries and fatalities. In addition, there have been many accidents that involved the motorcycle simply driving off the road for unknown reasons in broad daylight. You have to wonder if extended exposure to the triple-digit heat and high humidity is not taking a hidden toll.
But the increases in crashes has been readily apparent to anyone who has followed the news. For a few years I carried an updated post on my motorcycle blog, Soul of a Motorcyclist, in which I posted brief summaries of motorcycle accidents culled from the news courtesy of Google news alerts. Normally, updating the blog involved an hour or so a couple times per week, but this summer the accidents were coming so quick and fast that I finally abandoned the task.
A large majority of the accidents involved the rider being the victim of a failure to yield by a car or truck driver. The second-most often cause involved riders losing control of the bike for various reasons. But drunk riders really made the news this summer, in crashes that more often than not involved very high speeds.
The DUI and DWI accidents are worrisome. But what the increase in failure to yield accidents highlight a continuing trend of drivers looking, but not seeing, approaching motorcycles before turning left, or pulling into intersections. One expects these kind of incidents to surge early in the riding season when bikes are re-emerging from hibernation. But by this time of the year, they are far from being a rare sight on the road. If there is any comfort in this, it’s that courts are finally acting against such drivers, charging them with felony counts of vehicular manslaughter, among other charges.