By on April 5, 2017

Eaglerider Las Vegas

“How do you like the Camry SE?” I asked.

“Oh,” the fellow replied, in a thick South Asian accident, “it is very nice, I do prefer it to the LE that I had before, you are much more connected to the road. I am driving at least four thousand miles a month with Uber, and it is very reliable.”

“Grounded to the ground,” I suggested.

“Yes, that is exactly right. Well, here we are. Thank you!”

“No, thank you!” I replied, and I meant it, because this particular driver was not only nice, he was quick. The drive from my hotel to the Las Vegas Eaglerider had taken about half as long as it normally does. I stumbled out into the daylight and walked through the smoked-glass front door into the showroom. It was empty save for a few ladders and one construction-type dude doing precisely nothing in a corner.

You idiot, I realized, you gave him the wrong Eaglerider. The old one. About this time last year, my friends at the Las Vegas Depot moved four miles down the street. Furious with myself, I checked my phone to see what I’d requested. Damn it. The mistake wasn’t mine. I’d asked for the correct Eaglerider. He’d taken me to the wrong one, presumably out of habit. I turned around and ran back out the door. The white Camry SE was a quarter-mile down the road. Gone, man.


20170401_125549

In the 12 minutes before my next Uber arrived, this one a Nissan Versa Note driven by a sullen young man in feminine cat glasses who seemed to be triggered merely by the fact of my horsehide-jacketed, shaggy-faced existence, I considered whether or not to snitch on the driver who had taken me to the wrong destination. Long-time readers of my work here at TTAC know I’m absolutely loath to give anything but a five-star review to Uber drivers. The capitalist in me recognizes that only through careful and diligent use of the rating system can I ensure that only the most perfect and soulless cogs float to the top of the industrial acid bath that is the Uber gig-economy experience, thus ensuring I’m carried from nightclub to nightclub in perfect comfort like the Roman aristocracy in a nation-state full of tattooed slaves. The human being in me wants to grind out a handwritten note of apology every time I use another human being like a draft animal that’s just one injury away from the glue factory.

In the case of my Camry SE driver, I’d been absolutely thrilled by the condition of the car, his care behind the wheel, his cheerful demeanor, and his commitment to getting me where I needed to go. On the other hand, he’d ignored his app and driven me to the wrong place on a day where I didn’t have a lot of time to spare. Nominally speaking, this was a vacation weekend. In practice, it was a forced march behind my wife and brother as they competed to have the most “steps” in endless death marches from one side of the Vegas Strip to the other. At some point, I’d stress fractured one of my toes, most likely racing Bark up an endless set of concrete stairs near the Bellagio.

There was also the minor but quite annoying fact I’d paid $13 to be delivered, Shadrach-like, into the fiery furnace of an empty Vegas parking lot. So I contacted Uber and reported that I’d been taken to the wrong place. A helpful customer service bot explained that I had, in fact, been delivered to the place where the ride stopped. I couldn’t figure out if the bot was an actual Indian or merely a bit of code that had been programmed by an Indian. Eventually human beings will fall out of the loop entirely. Customer service bots will be programmed by other customer service bots in a von Neumann progression of increasingly incomprehensible non-response responses. That’s the future.

I was not discouraged, because I’ve been programming since the assembler days. I stepped the botperson through a series of calculated one-sentence responses, patiently black-boxing my way to a refund which arrived shortly after Versa-tile Boy dropped me off at the proper Eaglerider. There was chaos. My preferred bike, the Indian Roadmaster, was not available. They had a Gold Wing. I asked for something that was not a Gold Wing, but I said that I’d take the Wing if that was all they had. The very nice lady behind the counter said she could rustle up a Harley for me.

While I waited for the rustling, two middle-aged fat dads in Harley shirts started causing a ruckus. I can say “middle-aged fat dad” because I’m one myself, you see. Except I have my hair and I’m over six-feet tall, which applied to neither of these guys. They were in a tizzy because they’d reserved motorcycles with infotainment systems and they were being given motorcycles without infotainment systems.

“I DON’T RIDE A FUCKIN’ BIKE WITHOUT A RADIO!” one of them screamed, literally stamping his feet. I made sure my snort was audible. He looked at me and I made the jerk-off motion with my right hand. To his credit, he was in no way shamed or discouraged by this. “WE’RE RIDING ALL THE WAY TO THE HOOVER DAM!” he whined. For those of you who don’t motorcycle-tour Vegas very often, that’s 30 miles in each direction.

The kid behind the counter, who could have kicked both of these guy’s asses without breaking a sweat, was very apologetic. In the end, both fellows got a refund and they drove back to their hotel. They’d flown to Vegas so they could not ride to the Hoover Dam. Because there were no radios on the motorcycles. I’m not entirely sure Sonny Barger would have let them into the original Hell’s Angels, you know?

I’d planned on leaving the radio in whatever bike I got turned off in solidarity with my middle-aged brothers, but when the Ultra Classic Limited arrived, I was immediately charmed by the ease of Bluetooth pairing and I was blasting down Dean Martin Drive at ridiculous speeds before I knew it, singing along to John Mayer’s newest EP. It’s funny how small the “big Harley” is. Compared to the Wing or the Indian/Victory touring bikes, it might as well be a CB550. The wheelbase is short and it feels light on its feet.

In the two days that followed, I put just 116 miles on the Ultra, most of it on I-15. In the course of that short ride time, I had my lane forcibly stolen from me a total of seven times. According to my Fitbit, my heart rate reached 133 for a sustained period where I was trying to get down a rain-slicked freeway in a bit of a Vegas windstorm with Expeditions and Tahoes swerving randomly at me, the front brake chattering with ABS and the back tire spinning at the slightest provocation of throttle.

On the plane home, I reflected on how I hadn’t really been all that upset about having “cagers” nearly kill me multiple times in the space of four hours or so. The first time a car almost killed me on a bike, twenty-five years ago, I went home and thought seriously about selling my Ninja. Nowadays, I accept it as a casual consequence, something that is going to happen again and again. You could say that I’m like a frog in a pan of boiling water. Over the years, the situation for motorcycles on the road just keeps getting worse and more dangerous, but since it’s happening relatively slowly, I haven’t felt the need to give up bikes just yet. I’m very comfortable on the road despite what the cars do around me. Just like a boiled frog, sitting placidly in the pan while the bubbles form on the surface of the water around him. But mark my words: despite the comfort of it, we will both end up dead.

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42 Comments on “Trackday Diaries: Snitches and the Boiled Frog...”


  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Thoroughly enjoyable story, Jack, you do well at taking minor random events and stringing them together into something worth reading. Thanks.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Is life getting more dangerous for motorcyclists? I’ll take Jack’s word for it.

    Here in Denver, motorcycle season is getting ready to start. That means that I-25 is soon to be host to scores of motorcyclists. Most (particularly the Harley riders) tend to be good neighbors on the road. But on a consistent basis, I’ll observe some idiot on a crotch rocket flipping the bird at traffic laws, or pulling some kind of Jackass-level stunt that puts his life, and the life of every motorist in his vicinity, in danger. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that motorists who pull the kind crap Jack’s talking about are thinking about the last time some idiot tried to restage the Ducati chase from “Matrix Reloaded” in their personal space. Their response is stupid, but it’s human.

    And do bad drivers in cars do the same thing? Yes. But riders don’t have a ton and a half of steel, front and rear crumple zones, ABS, stability control and ten airbags to save them when it goes sideways. Boiled frog, indeed.

    Maybe part of the solution is for the 10-20% of riders who act like dicks to stop acting that way.

    • 0 avatar
      silentsod

      I’m a regular on I-25 and far worse than the motorbikes are the dickheads who block off the entire highway to street race on the weekends when it’s warm.

      Most people in cars behaving dangerously near motorbikes aren’t doing it purposefully; they’re doing it because their heads are down and texting while they should be driving. I’ve had numerous people move over on me in my little sports cars because they can’t be bothered to be aware that there’s a ton and a half of steel and rubber right next to them!

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        They must be doing that at night. Where the hell is the DPD? That seems like an easy thing for them to deal with.

        (Then again, I rarely see Denver cops on I-25 anyway…which is a good thing as I’m blasting along at 85 on my way home Sunday afternoons from my GF’s place.)

        • 0 avatar
          silentsod

          Usually at night Saturday/Sunday and just north of exit 225 or so. I used to live in Broomfield and that was my exit. It was never in the news but they would set up across all lanes and lower their speed to clear traffic in front and then take off; coordinated by a control vehicle from what I could tell.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Ah…that makes sense. My GF lives in Arvada so I only get as far north as the 25/US 36 interchange.

            Still, I’m kind of amazed the local cops or CSP aren’t on top of that. I’d have to think it’d be incredibly easy to spot.

          • 0 avatar
            silentsod

            I thought it was weird but you’d need patrol cars set up fairly regularly and where they were at there was the opportunity to hit several exits in a row in case it was needed to split up and scramble on out of there.

          • 0 avatar
            countymountie

            FreedMike, they’re a whole lot easier to spot than to stop. A lot of the events are remarkably well coordinated. I don’t think it’s well advertised but CSP has basically adopted a non-pursuit policy so that plays to the racers’ benefit as well.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        People don’t pay attention, even when not texting.

        Sometimes I swear my 6 foot tall, 22 foot long, bright white F250 *must be f!cking invisible*.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      ” I’ll observe some idiot on a crotch rocket flipping the bird at traffic laws, or pulling some kind of Jackass-level stunt that puts his life, and the life of every motorist in his vicinity, in danger.”

      99.9% chance said idiot is a guy between the ages of 18 and 23. It’s somewhat appalling that any n00b with an endorsement and money can walk into a dealer and ride out on a literbike, only to act like the roads are his personal racetrack.

      I was driving to work early one morning (before sunrise) when out of nowhere this squiddy little boy cuts right across my lane in front of me on I-94. This was as traffic was pretty dense and moving at 55-60 mph. He startled the hell out of me not only because he was splitting lanes (illegal in Michigan at any speed, nevermind 60 mph) and literally came within inches of hitting my front bumper with his back wheel. Which would have dumped him off the bike and sent him sliding right in the path of many cars and trucks.

      so yeah, through no fault or action of my own I could have been involved in the death of someone on the road.

      I wish we had graduated licensing like in much of Europe. No more reckless, “I’m indestructible” moron kids on 180 hp rockets.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        This. When some idiot pops a wheely at 80mph on I-95, I don’t worry about dying. Not gonna be me. I would feel bad for whomever ran him over and had to relive the experience for a lifetime. Plus, the accident would likely mess up the organs too much for donation.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        I object to being called a kid. A moron, yes. Not a moron kid.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      “I’m going to go out on a limb and say that motorists who pull the kind crap Jack’s talking about are thinking about the last time some idiot tried to restage the Ducati chase from “Matrix Reloaded” in their personal space. Their response is stupid, but it’s human.”

      I agree. However, that’s still not a good excuse to behave aggressively toward motorcycles, even when justified. Like you said in your next paragraph, motorcycles don’t have steel cages, crumple zones, or ABS. You have to remember that you have the bigger vehicle and that things can escalate out of control very quickly. It’s like a kid. Your friend’s kid could walk up and kick you in the knees, painfully. You, in turn, might be tempted to kick the ever-loving sh*t out of him as you bounce him off every wall in the room. But you can’t. Because you’re bigger. And the judges frown upon it.

      Besides, I’m not getting charged with manslaughter for the sake of some kid on a crotch-rocket…lol. Let society beat him down for his general lack of taste.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      They can bomb up and down 25 all they like. Just stay the hell out of the mountains with those things.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Fortunately my Uber experiences have been pretty good although almost all have been Camry, Camry, Camry.

    Was in DC about a week ago and the Prius V from Reagan to the hotel was the nicest Uber ride I’ve had. Definitely a cut above the 4 cyl Toyota Camrys I am used to. Driver and I chatted and he informed me he had found the Prius as a low mileage cream puff on the West Coast, flown out to buy it, and driven it back across the country to DC.

    On my last day there I got a Uber driver in a current gen Sentra. Not bad for the price point except the persistent rattle from somewhere under the car. Sounded like a bent exhaust shield.

    I did get a laugh from the guys who won’t ride without a radio. My ’67 Mustang has an AM radio that I haven’t turned on since I took possession in 2013. I’d rather listen to the V8 soundtrack.

  • avatar

    During my brief time living in Vegas (and riding while I was there), and the many subsequent visits since, I have heard enough time to believe that at any point day or night, at least %25 of the drivers around you are impaired beyond the legal limit to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Agreed with this. Driving in Vegas is terrifying. I’d rather drive anywhere else in the US. Roads are relatively fast, and you have no clue what anyone is going to do next.

      And that’s before all the random car fires created by the combination of scorching heat and no money.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Before my hips explained in no uncertain terms:”You are done biking” (when a day on a R1200RT feels like a day on a CBR600, you done my friend), I took many things in stride while I rode a good 8,000+ miles a year. I used to wonder about my sanity, riding in the outside lane at 10pm doing 75 in the pouring rain, and checking my pulse and realizing it was normal. You learn to stare at the front wheels of the cars you are riding up on to check to see if they are starting to twitch, and of course, the most important part, learning how to brake and steer while flashing double middle fingers at the jerk(ess) deciding to move over without signaling or looking. Miss it terribly sometimes.

  • avatar
    Driver7

    Jack –
    Excellent writing – and I share your view that, “The human being in me wants to grind out a handwritten note of apology every time I use another human being like a draft animal that’s just one injury away from the glue factory.”
    You might try Lyft.
    I’ve gotten rides in NYC and Baltimore from drivers who said that they had worked for both Uber and Lyft, and now drive with Lyft, because it’s a better deal for them.
    (I do not have any connection to Lyft.)

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Worth noting: my oldest daughter’s BFF has a mom who has substance abuse issues, including booze and weed. She also got s**tcanned from her last customer service job for being a raging b*tch. She drives for Uber. Comforting, no?

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “A helpful customer service bot explained that I had, in fact, been delivered to the place where the ride stopped.”

    Well you were, weren’t you?

    “For those of you who don’t motorcycle-tour Vegas very often, that’s 30 miles in each direction.”

    christ, 30 miles was my warm-up ride on Saturday prior to changing my Dyna’s oil.

  • avatar
    phila_DLJ

    Duh, you had the Indian Roadmaster all along, at the beginning of the story!

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    That’s it. It’s something that is going to happen and we anticipate. There’s always the plan for the coping or exit strategy. No moments for day dreaming or inattention. Still, there is that no-option window that repeatedly opens and closes in multi-lane traffic.

    I-15 in town in Las Vegas? Sheesh…esp at night or any kind of weather. I spent 6 months there in 2015. Cagers weaving around right in that pocket where aggression, incompetence, and self-love meet. Then also there’s that subtle hint of crack and pills.

    Ain’t it good to be alive. Yes sireee. I’m breaking out the built up VFR this week. No radio will be required as I plan to be in the zone.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Nice piece, Jack. I’m not a regular Uber user, but my daughter, who lives in LA, is. I guess I’ll have to give her a hard time about it.

    I confess my experience on a motorcycle is limited to when I was 20 and one of my college buddies who had bought a Triumph Bonneville in England brought it home for use at school. We went out into the New Jersey countryside and he let me take it for a bit. I decided that this was entirely too much fun to be safe and decided thereafter not to ride anything on two wheels that wasn’t powered by my legs and my wheezing lungs.

    An “entertainment system” on a motorcycle? WTF? I never even used the radio on my Z3 roadster. If you want a Buick, drive a Buick.

    • 0 avatar
      sco

      I also dont understand radios on motorcycles either. I assume that the modern technology can provide wireless sound in your helmet but if thats the case why do I hear bikers going down the road with the sound absolutely blasting? Can they hear anything? And more to DC’s point, why would you spoil a nice ride with all that? Maybe I’m missing somnething

  • avatar
    319583076

    You wear (and namecheck) a Fitbit, but these other guys are the posers?

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Ha ha ya good 1 jack is posing as a fitness modal even tho hes old and fat lol.

      • 0 avatar
        Click REPLY to reload page

        Even if you want to scoff at the author, he’s light years ahead of you in punctuation, capitalization and spelling, as well as knowing the difference between numbers and words.
        Off to Facebook with you, or Twitter.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Yep, distracted drivers make the roads more dangerous for all of us.

  • avatar
    ErickKS

    When I rode bikes, back in the late 90’s, I heard the thing about “the two kinds of riders”. I didn’t blow it off or ignore it, but I did end up going down in ’98 or so, when a nice young driver turned in front of me when I was going 60 down a two-lane road.

    I was able to somehow brake enough… but maybe too much? And went down before I hit the car, with enough time for it to get out of my way.

    My recollection is vague, because somehow, I only remember heavy braking, whilst upright, to then seeing the sky twirling around, as I slid on down the road, spinning on my back. I lost several seconds. AND — I never hit my head. Just patches of road rash on both knees and both palms. Leather jacket took most of the damage.

    I got rid of my last bike before the days of cell-distracted drivers got real bad.

    ~ ~ ~

    Jack, I like your writing a lot, and I’d love to keep enjoying it for many years to come. If you must keep riding, by all means, do. But perhaps it’s time to call it a day, and maybe join us who managed to get out of it alive.

    • 0 avatar
      everybodyhatesscott

      If you went down like a stone, you probably locked up your front brake. This happens a lot when people get cut off because they panic. Anti-lock brakes obviously hep with this. I hit some gravel in a turn and was down before I knew what happened. Got a little road rash, some hurt pride, and a few hundred dollars worth of repairs from that one.

  • avatar
    monkeydelmagico

    The boiled frogs so commonly referred to had their brains removed. Subsequent scientific studies on frogs with intact brains indicated they do indeed get the hell out of hot water. I gave up my motorcycles when I moved out of the country and into the suburb. Riding in a state of constant fear took the joy right out of it.

    Maybe some day in the future I will throw a leg over and take my chances with Indian coded autobots. At least they will be predictable.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    “a thick South Asian accident”

    Hate it when that happens.

  • avatar
    sco

    “only the most perfect and soulless cogs float to the top of the industrial acid bath that is the Uber gig-economy experience, thus ensuring I’m carried from nightclub to nightclub in perfect comfort like the Roman aristocracy in a nation-state full of tattooed slaves.”

    I should put this on a card so I dont always have to explain to my colleagues why I dont want to just call Uber.

  • avatar
    Jeff Zekas

    Jack, you already know how I feel about bikes (in case you’ve forgotten, my oldest son, Josh, died on his Honda CBR1000, fifteen years ago, this April 20th). But, freedom is why we live in this bizarre nation of many opinioned folks. That said, it IS more dangerous nowadays, riding bikes in the urban areas. Back in high school (for me, 1970) I would ride the canyons above Los Angeles, and rarely see a car, in the early morning, or late at night. Nowadays, there is traffic 24/7. And it was not uncommon to see Steve McQueen racing his Austin Mini Cooper, down Sunset Blvd to the coast… or see a Porsche 911 racing a Mercedes 300SL gullwing at 6am near Deadman’s Curve. Street racing has pretty much disappeared, except in a few places, and street bikes are an endangered species, as riders die out, either from old age, or from accidents.

  • avatar
    tbone33

    1. The number of motorcycle fatalities has been about the same since 2005. That number is about double what it was in 1997. Of course new motorcycle sales were low in the 90’s, and 2005 saw new bike sales that were 3-4x what they were in 1997.

    2. Street bikes aren’t an endangered species, at least in the U.S. They were in the 90s with 300,000 bikes sold per year. From ’00 to ’08 sales boomed, averaging somewhere around 850,000 per year. Since then the average is about 450,000 motorcycles sold per year.

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