A Sunday Evening Ride, Western Wildfires, and Motorcycle Hand Signals

Utah is a beautiful place to live and there is some pretty good riding within minutes of the Salt Lake Valley—perfect for a quick evening escape from the city and temperature that feel like they are 15-20 degrees cooler than what's going on in the valley.


With two beautiful canyons within minutes of each other, it was hard to choose, but I passed this one up for Big Cottonwood Canyon. There's some road construction going on in both Big and Little Cottonwood, but it doesn't seem to impede traffic too much up Big Cottonwood, so I opted for that ride.

Western Wildfires


The wildfires in the west are making air conditions bad all over. It's a lot worse a little further south, but even up the canyon (where you can normally escape the air conditions in the valley) the effects of the smoke couldn't be escaped. 

There have been times in the last few days when I could actually smell the fires—although they are miles away from where I was. This evening, I couldn't help but notice my eyes were burning and as I write this, I can tell my throat is a little raw from breathing the smoke.

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It's not hard to understand why when you look at the active wildfire map that shows the west is pretty much ablaze. Some fires are bigger than others, but most of them have the same scenario in common. While some are caused by nature—a lightening strike or something like that, far too many of them are caused by us. Please be careful when you're outside. The cigarette butt you toss out the window, the campfire you don't completely douse, the fireworks you illegally light, and even the weeds you try to burn are causing drought-plagued parts of the country to light up like a match.

Of course I'm not really blaming you, but rather us, in the rhetorical sense.

Motorcyle Hand Signals

On my way down the canyon, I noticed one of the local constabulary tucked in behind a tree waiting to catch someone going a little faster than they should. Seeing a motorcycle coming the other way, I patted the top of my helmet to give him a heads-up that he needed to be aware that a cop was ahead.

I think he thought I was chastising he and his pillion for being without a helmet because he stuck his tongue out at me and made a more familiar hand signal as he passed. I probably should have expected this because he was in shorts, a tank top, sneakers, and no helmet—his pillion had even less on. To each his or her own, but he looked stupid because he obviously wasn't familiar with the signal—as well as riding like a squid.

With that in mind, I thought it might be a good idea to share some of the hand signals riders have been using for years—in addition to the universal signal for "Have a nice day," this idiot shared with me.


Before bluetooth communication systems, hand signals were how riders communicated with each other on the road. I guess that's the long way of saying, "If an approaching rider pats the top of his helmet, he's warning you of a potential speeding ticket, not chastising you for being stupid and riding without protection."

Don't be an ass. They are trying to do you a favor.

As I was going up the canyon, someone coming the other way gave me the signal. I returned their kind gesture with a wave and a smile they couldn't see behind my tinted visor. I was glad for the warning because the officer was stopped with his radar gun at a spot where I have been known to pick up a little speed before.

In other words, thanks man.


It was a beautiful evening for a ride up the canyon and a great way to cap off the weekend. Be safe out there.