A Leadership Lesson . . .
June 29, 2011 - Finally! After another four months of not be able to ride I fired up my ST1300 early Tuesday morning and put 480 miles on the odometer before stopping for the night in Conway, South Carolina. The next morning I again played tag with showers and thunderstorms in the area to clock an additional 388 miles in my quest to find veterans memorials.
The two day effort moved 12 counties into the visited column and only 16 unattended in South Carolina. I suspect I'll be able to finish the state by the end of September, or I may wait until mid-autumn, when the temperatures are not scorching me with middle 90's. The hot weather is bearable, but as we all know, a 90 degree day in the Southern USA ends with thunderstorms everywhere.
Yes, I got soaked a couple of times, buffeted by 60 mile an hour crosswinds, and nearly struck by a falling tree that took a lightning strike. At times I felt like I was a Disney cartoon character fleeing the wrath of some evil demon. Thankfully I didn't have to endure the large hail that was known to be in a couple of those cells.
With all of that, I was less concerned over the impact of bad weather than I was over the number of times careless drivers came close to taking me and Mr. Burgess to the pavement. It doesn't take touring riders long to figure out the annoying habits adopted by drivers of any particular state. In Ohio they crowd the centerline, as they do in West Virginia and Kentucky. Michigan drivers are overly aggressive on slick roads, and Tennesee drivers all seem to be hauling moonshire for as fast as they go.
But, I've come to the conclusion that South Carolina drivers are measured on a far different standard. One in which the drivers written exam is for the applicant to list as fast as possible the top ten numbers on their cell phone speed dial. The drivers road test is a two part routine. Applicants must be able to send a text message without crossing the center line more that twice in 30 seconds, or off to the shoulder more than once in the same time period.
The second part of the South Carolina drivers road test is tricky but, with a bit of practice, they all manage to get it right. The procedure, what I call the "I'm SURE They Know I'm Turning" maneauver, is to find the busiest four lane street in town and ensure the applicants car is in the left hand lane, moving with the flow of traffic. The ideal speed for this is about 35 to 38 miles per hour. The maneauver is NOT VALID if there is no traffic in the right hand lane. The driver must be well established in the left lane with the requisite traffic in the right lane, preferably having another vehicle to the immediate left of the 'moving chicane', before the maneauver may begin.
The applicant must; 1) look frantically to the right when less than 60 feet from the next intersection or driveway, 2) ignore the vehicle in the right lane and, 3) step on the accelerator to move slightly ahead of the poor unfortunate in the right lane and immediately turn right into the target driveway or intersection. Style points are given for those that can cause the two lanes of traffic behind to go three wide without anyone hitting a horn or flipping the bird. Bonus point are given if the applicant SLOWS slightly before completely clearing the right lane. At NO time will the applicant use a turn signal or even raise a hand to warn the other participants of the impending move... points are deducted.
Now, lest you think I'm kidding, this happened to me THREE TIMES in Laurens, Greenwood, and McCormack counties in just under two hours. Twice I was the poor guy in the left lane, in the 'with obstacle' position. That is, to the left of the car in the right lane that is suddenly risking being rear ended or swerving into my lane. Both times I was able to see the scenario being set up and avoid being tagged as the collateral damage. Lucky I have had practice of my own.
The first incident was along US-221 in Laurens, SC. I happened to be the unlucky fella in the right lane. The driver that initiated the "I'm SURE They Know What I'm Doing" maneuver was in a nice old two tone pickup truck. He took option two, going into a driveway. He even collected the bonus points by slowing a bit as I swerved to miss him.
Here's the scary part of my little story. The pickup truck had a distinctive license number. It said US Congress - 3. At first I figured he was a Dale Earnhardt fan. Then it hit me, this guy is the US Representative for the Third District of South Carolina, Mr. Jeff Duncan. I shook my head and bemoaned his lack of safe driving techniques and just kept on to take my monument photos at the old courthouse.
Before leaving the courthouse I stepped inside for a rest stop, said hello to the Laurens County Veterans Service Office and then spied a large seal on a doorway across the hallway. . . "Office of Rep. Jeff Duncan." I couldn't pass up the opportunity to chastise a poor driver that nearly took me out. I stepped into the office to make my statement.
I was explaining to Duncan's staff assistants what Ride Around America was all about when the Congressman himself stepped in from an adjoining office. I restarted my explanation of Ride Around America and he's nodding and smiling, just sort of wondering WHY I'm even bothering to tell HIM about it. Then, I said motorcycle and he saw the photo of a black Honda on my calling card. I could see his mind click as he lowered his head slightly and asked timidly, "Was that YOU on the motorcycle?" he asked. "Yes, Mr. Duncan it WAS and I wanted to make sure you knew that making a right turn from the left hand lane isn't very safe!"
"I'm so sorry," he explained, "I didn't realize until the last second that I needed to go into that building to get some keys from my wife, she works there." I'm the one nodding now as he continues, "You aren't going to tell anybody, are you?"
No, Mr. Duncan, I'm not going to tell anybody, I'm gonna tell EVERYBODY!
The really scary part of this is that Thursday morning an Associated Press news story hit the papers, radio and TV in the Third Congressional District - "Rep. Jeff Duncan (R), will be making a tour of the district this week to meet his constituents. . ."
If you are in this District I wish you well. Your Congressman wants to meet you. Be careful!