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Back in the day when farmers were clearing their land to plant their crops, they were often faced with a few obstacles. The trees they cut down and used the lumber to build their houses, barns and sheds. Some trees were used to heat these buildings and keep them and their families warm during the winter and cooler evenings.

Smaller tree stumps were pulled out by strong teams of horses. Larger ones were chopped for firewood, burned where they stood or left where they were standing. The farmers simply plowed around these trees hoping the roots were deep enough for the blades to pass over. They were most likely following the old farmer's advice that "Life is simpler when you plow around the stump."

We encounter plenty of stumps on the road, too. Now I'm not talking about drivers although sometimes drivers do try to stump us. The stumps we deal with on the road are a little different than what those early farmers had to work around. Ours aren't the remnants of an earlier tree, at least not those in the middle of the road.

Some stumps are physical obstacles like potholes, buckled pavement, tar strips, dead animals and tire carcasses all over the road. Each of these creates potential problems for us and we must navigate through the maze of objects lying on the highway. Other physical challenges might be rain, railroad tracks, wet leaves and bridge gratings.

The majority of stumps we run into are situational impediments. Once we become familiar with a road, we know where the physical stumps are. Unless they get worse or get fixed, we know what to expect when we see them. Every time we encounter a situational stump it is different than the last time we traveled this road. Examples of these might be intersections, curves, traffic lights or parked cars.

We're riding down a familiar road and we see a crossroad ahead. Quickly scanning the junction of roads, we see a car waiting to turn left. It looks like it's waiting for traffic to clear so we ignore it and look to make sure there's nothing coming from our right. We miss seeing the steering wheel move and the front wheels start to roll as the car begins its turn. The stump is right across our lane by the time we look back.

We apply our brakes fully and manage to stop just before our front tire impacts the turning vehicle. We avoid the crash, but our heart still feels like it will explode in our chest. If we had only remembered that intersections are where the majority of car-motorcycle crashes occur and had seen the indicators that the car was moving, it would have been easier to plow around this stump.

Maybe we're riding through the countryside and see a bend in the road ahead. We fly into it and quickly realize we're going too fast. Resisting the temptation to dump the throttle, hit the brakes or look to see how close we are getting to the edge of our lane, we manage to focus on the exit and press our way through the curve. We pull off after we're going straight again and notice a pucker mark on our seat and the need to change our underwear.

Had we identified the slope and radius of the twisted road as well as its surface condition, we might have determined a better entry speed that would have allowed us to more easily plow around this situational stump.

Life is easier when we plow around the stumps we face as we ride. But we need to see them early enough to identify them for what they are and develop a plan to make them non-issues for us. That way we don't have to work as hard to plow along your chosen route.


Ride Smart! Ride Safe!