Monday, December 24, 2007


I'll continue with the ride report after Christmas.

Today I was struck by the changes in my life since I started riding again. I hadn't really thought about it until this morning when I was welcoming a new member to the Two Wheel Females forum. My husband and I picked up our new motorcycles in Seattle at the end of June in 2006. Since that moment, my focus has been more and more on riding. I still dream of going on vacation, but instead of soft sand, warm water, and a tropical drink I want an unexplored dirt road and new vistas opening up around the next twisty. I still want to go scuba diving in Belize. I just want to ride the bike to get there. Adventure doesn't mean sea kayaking, it means riding the bike to South America. The sea kayaking at the end of the road is a bonus, not the purpose. Good weather means riding weather, I don't care if it's raining. All that matters is that there isn't ice on the road. I have a new set of friends, a new wardrobe, a new set of dreams. I have made the transition from someone who has a life and also rides a motorcycle to a person who rides a motorcycle and also has a life. Does everyone go through this transition? I don't know. But for me it is like coming out of the chrysalis. I have evolved into what I want to be.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Chico to Tahoe

When we got up the next morning it was pouring down rain. I was really not wanting to ride in the rain, not sure why, because normally I enjoy it. We took our time getting up and moving and walked over to Starbucks for coffee before we loaded up the bikes. Fortunately for me, the rain stopped not more than 5 minutes after we pulled out of the motel parking lot.

We rode South on 99 until we got to Hwy 20E in Yuba, CA. The ride through farmland and small towns was beautiful. At Yuba, we turned east and started heading up the pass. The forest was amazing. I had never seen trees without undergrowth before unless it was in a groomed park setting.

The first few miles were pleasantly warm, then it started colder, and colder. At Lake Spalding the snow started. The highest elevation we noticed was near Donner Pass, at 7227 feet! By the time we hit Truckee, CA we had been through some COLD riding, but it was fun! We blazed through Truckee, and got into Tahoe in time for a late lunch at Rubie's Cafe. I was so cold that I think I enjoyed holding my coffee cup more than I enjoyed drinking the coffee. The restaurant had a fire burning though, and the chili we ordered as an appetizer completely hit the spot.

After lunch we began a slow ride around the lake with lots of picture stops until we got to South Tahoe, where we spent the night in a dive hotel.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ozzie's BMW, CHIP bikes, and Alcohol

The next morning we got up and headed out toward Ozzie's BMW. The morning was warm, the sun was shining, and we were riding through some beautiful farmland. I fell into that totally relaxed state of feeling as if everything was right with the world. We entered a road construction area and traffic slowed way down, but was still moving along steadily. Then, just as we entered the most active area, where the road was down to one lane in either direction and bordered by concrete barriers, some idiot decided to pass the dump truck behind me. I don't know whether he didn't see me and thought he could squeeze in between the dump truck and my husband's bike, or whether he was just an idiot. In any case, he came screaming around the dump truck, there was oncoming traffic, and he had no place to go other than my lane. Apparently he decided, it's just a motorcycle, who cares if I run them down, because there he came. I hit the dirt on the side of the road, the dump truck driver slammed on his brakes, and the idiot missed me by about a foot. I don't know how I kept the bike upright. I guess all I can say is that my MSF class paid for itself there!

After my close call the adrenaline kept me on edge all the way to the bike shop. Normally I hate to stop riding, but in all honesty this time it was a relief to get off the bike and know I would have some time to recover. The guys at Ozzie's had told us the night before that they would try to work us in, and they were fantastic. It took all day to get the bike done, but what cool guys. It turned out that the shop in Anchorage had installed the throttle cable improperly so it had stretched and I needed a new one. One of the high points of my day was looking at the California Highway Patrol bikes that were in the shop for service. One of the mechanics was even nice enough to pull one out for me so I could get my picture taken with it.

When we realized how late it would be before we could hit the road again we decided to get a motel and start fresh the following morning. We took a taxi to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company bar and restaurant. The food was fantastic, and my husband had great things to say about the beer. I braved the sneers of those around me and drank wine instead. I used to like beer, but as I've gotten older I just don't enjoy the taste. But that's ok, the other people in the bar made up for it, andby drinking pinot I left more beer for them! Coming up next - Chico to Tahoe

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Redwoods and Mountain Passes

The next morning when we woke up we realized that our choice of tent sites hadn't been the greatest. It didn't show when the ground was dry, but after a night of downpour, our tent was sitting in a puddle about two inches deep! The good news was the indisputable confirmation that the Big Agnes tent does indeed have a waterproof floor. Not one drop of water got in. We packed up in the rain and headed out to find a road that the former guide had told us would take us through the heart of the redwood forest on a road rarely travelled. It started out as a gravel road, but not long after we got off the pavement the gravel turned to thick gooey mud and big water filled potholes. AWESOME! We had rain gear, so even though our outsides were wet, we stayed warm and dry even as we splashed our way across the worst (best) road I have ever ridden.

When we hit the main road again we turned South and soon put the rain behind us. At Arcada we turned East and rode to Redding for the night. The road from Arcada to Redding crossed the mountains and we got into the first serious cold of the trip. It was just above freezing, and very windy. But the road had some amazing twisties and we had a lot of fun. The only serious downside was that my problem with the bike engine reving up every time I turned the handle bars had gotten much worse. We agreed as we sat in a restaurant in Redding to take my bike to Ozzie's BMW in Chico California the next day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oregon Coast and the Redwoods

Since getting my bike from the expediter I had been noticing that the engine wanted to rev any time I turned the handle bars even a little bit to either side. It made riding through the twisties along the Oregon coast a bit less fun and a bit more of a job than it should have been, but we still had a great time. Shortly after we left Florence we came to the Oregon Dunes. It was a lot of fun riding through the park and seeing the dunes for the first time since I was in junior high.

We crossed into California and headed toward Jedediah State Park. This park was recommended to us by a guy we met at dinner in Florence who used to guide in the area. What a fabulous find. We camped with the redwoods and sequoias around us and the Smith river right behind our campsite. We got there early enough that we walked around and explored for a while before eating dinner and crawling into the tent for an early night. It had started raining, so we didn't mind getting in our sleeping bags and talking over all the day's events.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Riding the Olympic Peninsula

We left Seattle and decided to take the ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. The ferry ride was cold, but fun. Seeing the Seattle skyline fading away from the ferry really made the reality of the trip feel more immediate. We wandered around above decks a little bit, but spent the majority of the ride with the bikes. We arrived shortly thereafter on Bainbridge and began riding North on the Olympic Peninsula.

The day was partly cloudy, so bright sunshine was interspersed with rain, fog, and sleet. It was mostly nice though, and we rode through some beautiful forests and twisties up in the the Coastal Range. Eventually we decided it was time to find a place to camp after about 280 miles. The first place we tried didn't feel very welcoming so we went to a campground across the road and found a site where we could hear the ocean. There were a couple of very buff young guys there who came over and talked with us as we set up our campsite. They were trying to do the Washington trifecta, downhill skiing, surfing, and mountain biking all in one day. They were a lot of fun to talk to. Nice kids.

While I set up the tent, my husband put his bike on firewood duty and went and bought us a couple bundles of firewood. We put tarps over our bikes, and put the helmets under the tarp. We thought we were being overly cautious. It won't rain, just look at all the stars... We had zipped our sleeping bags together, but soon realized that the bags zipped together created an open tunnel that allowed the cold air to get in all the way to our feet. It didn't take too long for us to zip apart and zip back up individually. The next morning we woke to rain and 38 degrees. Fortunately it soon cleared off and started warming up. By the time we had broken camp and gotten packed it was a wonderful sunny spring morning. We rode along the Washington and Oregon Coast down to Florence about 300 miles for the day. Next up: Oregon Coast and the Redwoods

Monday, December 17, 2007

Spring Tour 2007 - part I

My husband's bike ready to be loaded.

Picking my bike up from the expediter.

Lots of gear to load!

Loaded and ready to hit the road.

Last Spring my husband and I had a lot of time off work at the same time, and decided to celebrate by taking a tour of the lower 48 states. Our original plan was to fly the bikes to Seattle then ride across the country to the East coast, visit New York and Quebec, then ride home across Canada. Life got in the way and we had to cut our plans short, but we still had an amazing tour. I'm going to break it up here in segments.

The planning was a lot of fun. My husband was out of state, so I spent a lot of time on the computer and looking at road maps planning a route that we would use as a rough guide on the trip. The one thing we really wanted was to stay on back roads as much as reasonably possible, knowing that we'd have to blow through some areas on interstate. We packed our gear into boxes and sent it all down to a friend's house in Seattle, so I wouldn't have to deal with getting boxes to the airport, and my husband was going straight to Washington after his trip without stopping off at home.

We got a lot of new camping gear to lighten our load and make the trip more pleasant than roughing it. We got a Big Agnes tent, Big Agnes sleeping bags with the integrated air mattress, a jet boil with french press, a few new tools for our maintenance kit, and miscellaneous other little things. We also got the ultimate motorcycle travel necessity. Kermit Chairs! We took our bikes into the local BMW shop for the 6000 mile service and a complete once over. We later found out that some things were ignored during this service, and other things were done wrong, but that is another story. Our expediter picked the bikes up from the motorcycle shop and put them on the plane for Seattle. My husband was already there, and picked up his bike right away. On arrival at the warehouse he found out that my brand new never even out of the box windshield that we had specifically asked NOT be put on the bike, had been put on my bike when it arrived. They had over tightened a bolt and I now had a cracked brand new windshield. We drilled the ends of the crack and decided to ride until it got worse and get a new one then. (The expediter paid for the windshield no questions asked).

When I got to Seattle I picked up my bike and rode to our friend's house where we visited, ate good food, drank good wine, and learned how to pack all our new gear. Olympic Peninsula up next...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Just thinking today

I had to get dressed up today. I was wearing a skirt, and make up, and high heels, the whole deal. As I was waiting for my coffee in the coffee shop I heard the two guys behind me talking about motorcycles. I turned around just enough to see them, and saw that they were both professional looking guys, about mid 30 years old, maybe a little older. One of the guys was saying that he didn't think his wife would agree to him getting a motorcycle, "you know how women are." They both laughed and agreed that if he buys a bike his wife will be furious with him. This went on for a few minutes. Finally I turned around and said maybe if he got his a wife a bike she wouldn't mind him getting one. Both guys looked at me like I'd grown a second head. "She not that type." the guy said.

I got my coffee and walked toward the door. As I walked by the two guys I said I doubted that people thought I was the motorcycle type either. I walked out to the sound of the first guy saying in an incredulous voice "SHE rides motorcycles?"

I couldn't help laughing. Why is it that guys aren't surprised another guy rides regardless of what he looks like, but they are shocked when a woman who doesn't fit the mold rides? If guys can find comfort from feeling the power of the road, and feel energized from completing a technical ride, why do they find it so difficult to understand that women feel the same way. Everyone talks about how different men and women are, and how we don't understand each other. Maybe the problem is that people expect not to understand each other, and they destroy our sameness by their expectations. Maybe the guy should just buy his wife a motorcycle.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Summer Day Ride in Alaska

One day in late Summer my husband and I left Anchorage at 10:30 and rode about 125 miles to Seward for lunch.

The mountain in the background of the next pic is Mount Marathon. It is the site of a foot race every 4th of July for people who are in crazy good shape, and are willing to run full out on loose scree.

After lunch we rode over to Exit Glacier.
When we left Exit Glacier it was about 4:00. We decided that there was really no rush to get home, so we continued on toward Cooper Landing, where I wanted to ride Skylak Lake Loop Road. It's a gravel road that runs next to Skylak Lake, one of the prettiest lakes on the Kenai Peninsula.
The weather turned rainy, so we rode the last part of the loop deciding between the loose gravel in the center of the lane, or the mud and water in the tracks. In other words, fun!
We had ridden a little over 350 miles when we pulled into our driveway. What an awesome way to spend a fall day.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Random Bike Pics

I'm posting pics just because I really feel like riding today, but am stopped by the weather.

Who says we can't all get along?
Adventure awaits

Going to the beach...

I shop REI

Like many, maybe most motorcycle riders I am always looking for farkles for my bike, clothes that are good for riding in, camping equipment to make the nights more relaxing, etc. I have gotten a lot of stuff online, and at motorcycle shops in whatever city and state I find myself, but I have one place that I keep going back to, REI.

REI is a sporting goods store. Not only is it not a motorcycle shop, it doesn't even have a motorcycle specific section. But it has the coolest stuff. I love wearing microfiber when I ride. I can wash it out wherever I am, hang it up and know that by morning it will be dry. REI has the best selection of microfiber clothes I've found any where. And the best part is they all look good enough to wear out to dinner at the end of the day, an important quality when space is limited. My favorite pants under my riding gear in summer are a pair of REI convertible pants. If it gets too hot I can zip off the legs, then zip them back on to go into town. They are so lightweight that I can swim in the shorts and know they will dry quickly. During the colder months I have a pair of windproof REI pants that add extra warmth. They look so good when I wore them to go to lunch with a friend a while back he asked me why I was so dressed up.

REI also has a great selection of camping equipment, from Jet Boil accessories to tents. They have maps, compasses, thermometers, guidebooks, everything you could ask for to get the gypsy blood flowing. If I have time to kill I love wandering around REI and usually walk out with something I can't live without, that I never even knew I wanted...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Family Riding

My husband and I have three daughters. The twins are 14, our younger daughter is almost 11. None of them have ever ridden a motorcycle, and all of them want to. Lately we have been discussing the idea of getting each of the twins a small bike, big enough to take on the highway for short distances, but small enough that it would be an easy learning bike for them. We could then go on family rides, as long as our youngest rode behind my husband or I. The difficulty is in choosing a small bike that would work for them. After the new year I think we'll start cruising Craig's List, and the local dealerships.

I like the look of the Mad Ass
but at this point anything small and street legal would do the job.

I love the idea of motorcycle rides with the family. I'd love to see my daughters learn to ride responsibly, and for college a small bike would be efficient and practical transportation. I have friends tell me I'm crazy to want my daughters' first "car" to be a motorcycle of some sort, but I say at least a bike doesn't have a back seat!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

June Ride to Valdez

We had a friend who moved out of Alaska this Fall. He was one of the people we rode with a lot and knew we'd really miss when he left, so we agreed to go on a trip to Valdez. Our friend met us at our house at 6:30 am. I'm an early riser, but I hate being rushed when I'm getting ready to ride. Still I had to agree that it made sense to leave early so we'd have more time to explore in Valdez.

Our first stop was about 120 miles out of Anchorage at Sheep Mountain Lodge, where we had an ok (not great) breakfast. This was always where we'd go when we were out that direction. On our way home we stopped for dinner at the Eureka Lodge that is about 15 miles further from Anchorage. We like the food there also, and the people who work at Eureka are a lot of fun. Eureka also has a less hazardous parking lot! Sheep Mountain's parking lot is loose gravel and has a strange off camber tilt. Eureka has a paved lot. To spend the night, I'd still definitely go to Sheep Mountain, but for food it is nice to have discovered an alternative.

After breakfast we rode to Glenallen and the Valdez cutoff. We have ridden to Glenallen a lot, but it had been a very long time since I'd been on the cutoff. A few miles in we came to the Wrangel/St. Elias visitor center. The day had gotten somewhat overcast, so the pictures don't do the view justice.

Shortly after the visitor center is the Worthington Glacier. It's huge!

After Thompson Pass, Bobby and our friend pulled over on a gravel road to explore, while I dropped down into Blueberry Lake State Recreation Area. From there into Valdez the guys rode on their own and I rode on my own. The road was rough and dusty, but Blueberry Lake is gorgeous. I'd like to come back with our inflatable kayaks that fit in my husband's panniers and spend a day on the lake.

Bridal Veil Falls is right next to the road, and is impressively high! Horsetail Falls is also right next to the road, but not as picturesque as Bridal Veil.

After getting into Valdez and checking into our motel, we went to the end of the road on the other side of the harbor and took pictures of the Alaska Pipeline Terminus buildings. There were a lot of boats fairly close to shore that were hauling in a lot of fish. I don't know what they were fishing for, but they were fun to watch.

On our way back to town we stopped at the Old Valdez townsite. Nothing really exists there any more. The entire original town was wiped out by a tsunami following the 1964 earthquake that did so much damage to Anchorage. Again the guys went their own way and explored an old wrecked boat that was flying a tattered pirate flag while I went the other way on the beach and explored a gravel and sand spit that went a ways out into the water.

When we got back into town I couldn't resist a couple pictures of the kayaks, and other boats. We also met a group of guys who had rented BMW 1200's in Anchorage and were touring Alaska. They were nice guys and had some great stories. Then it was time for food and beer. (I had wine, but my glass wasn't as cool looking.)

The next morning was foggy and drizzley, so not many photos, but I like Bridal Veil with the fog. Our friend took the ferry back to Anchorage while my husband and I decided to explore some more in the area. We took a lot of side roads just to see that was there, but decided to wait on riding to Kennicott and McCarthy until we had more time. We also drove back to Lake Louise where neither of us had ever been. It is an amazingly beautiful lake with a nice reasonably priced lodge, and the lake is huge!

We got back into Anchorage in the late evening after a great two day escape.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why BMW?

I am a BMW fan. Why? I think it all goes back to years ago when I read an article that discussed how many miles people were putting on BMW bikes. I was just a kid when I read the article, but it made an impression. When it was time to get a bike as an adult I had a pretty open mind about what I'd get. First I sat on a Harley Sportster. It was ok, but it just didn't feel right. I'm not sure what was off, but something wasn't feeling right. I looked at a couple other bikes, both Yamaha and Honda, but nothing blew me away. When I first looked at the BMW I wasn't sure either. It was so big, that even though I really liked the way it looked, I didn't know if I could handle it. I took my MSF class on a Yamaha, though, and it was so easy I knew I could go to something bigger without any trouble.

I didn't fall in love with my F650 GS until after I had ridden it a few thousand miles. Now I feel like I have a connection with the bike that goes beyond what a non-rider would ever understand. It is almost as if the bike responds to my thoughts and I don't have to make the little corrections as I'm riding down the road. Would I have a similar connection with any bike I rode a lot? Maybe. But I haven't ridden a different bike a lot, only this one.

We've taken the bikes over thousands of miles. I've ridden in dirt and mud. I've ridden rough gravel. I've ridden perfectly smooth highways, and I've ridden chip seal back roads. The bike has never given me any problems. I've had to replace tires and change oil, and it has all been done without a problem. Maintenance has been easy and there hasn't been a lot of it. Would that be true of any bike? Maybe. But I haven't changed the oil on a different bike, only this one.

Then there is the vain side of me. It isn't a big part, but I'd be lying if I said it doesn't give me a little thrill to know I'm driving a BMW. It's a bike I love and it makes me smile every time I think about it. I'm a Beemer girl. Would I ever give my loyalty to another brand? Maybe. But for now I'm completely loyal, a one bike woman. But I did see a really cool looking dirt bike the other day...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Motorcycle Safety

What is with the motorcyclists who refuse to wear protective gear? I can understand to some extent the young squids who think they are immune from death and serious injury. They are young, probably haven't lost many friends to death, can't imagine that dying is something that happens to anyone who isn't ancient, like 30 years old. But what about the others? When I ride around I see a lot of middle aged folks, both men and women who ride in jeans, tennis shoes, no jacket, no gloves, no helmet. A lot of these people are professionals in the community. So where is their responsibility? They claim they have the right to wear whatever they want, whenever they want, and that they aren't hurting anyone. But their claim is false. Someone has to pay for the cleanup when they wreck and are injured. There is a lot more to it than them having insurance. What about the cost of police, and ambulance crews? We pay them out of our taxes. What about tying up emergency room personnel with preventable injuries? What about feeding the statistics that say that motorcycles are dangerous and anyone who drives them is a trouble causing danger to society? A lot of the negativity legitimate riders face every day is a direct result of people seeing the few who refuse to act responsibly. I read another newspaper article this morning on requiring more restrictions on getting motorcycle a license, and about how larger high performance bikes should be illegal. I so strongly disagree, but I can understand the feeling by those who don't ride.

What is responsibility for a motorcycle rider? Going through an MSF class and actually putting the techniques you learn to play every time you ride. That means riding ATGATT, All The Gear All The Time. And yes, I mean every time. I have three daughters who desperately want to ride who have never been so much as allowed to ride behind my husband or me one time around our cul de sac. Why? Because they don't have gear. Wearing a too large helmet and jeans isn't good enough. They know that if they ride, they will ride appropriately geared. If all kids were taught from a young age to have respect for motorcycles and to appreciate them as an environmentally responsible, not to mention unbelievably fun, mode of transportation, there would be fewer car/motorcycle accidents as these kids get behind the wheel. But school health classes don't teach motorcycle safety because it is too alternative. The schools think their time is better spent telling kids not to eat pizza while they watch tv at night. Of course when the kids go to get their hot lunch what is on the menu? Pizza, cookies, and chocolate milk.

Motorcycle safety is the responsibility of every rider. It is the responsibility of every parent who has a child who may someday want to be a rider. It is the responsibility of every person who gets behind the wheel of a car that shares our roads. But before we can ask car drivers to care about our safety, we have to demonstrate that we care. And until we put on our gear, it's not going to happen.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Women on Motorcycles

I was reading some of the posts about women riders in a motorcycle forum the other day and it annoyed me that most of the men posting on the site talked about taking care of their wife or girlfriend, slowing down to a pace she can handle, being so proud of her when she falls, gets up, and keeps riding... If it were one of the guys, of course they'd expect him to get back on. So what is so different about women riders? I think a lot of it goes back to stereotypes from another generation. Women stay home and wear pretty dresses and high heels while they vacuum, then they sit in a bathtub and paint their toe nails pink. They climb on a chair and scream for help from their big strong man when they see a spider. Sorry, but I've never lived in that world, and I have no intention of living in that world. I may have painted toe nails, but I also haul out the garbage, change my own oil on my bike, and step on my own spiders. Real women riders are a lot more than eye candy on the back of their boyfriend's bike, or cute beginners putt-putting around the neighborhood. There are a lot of women who have been riding for years, longer than a lot of guys on the road.

As a kid I raced the neighbor boys on the dirt track on the front of our lots. I'll admit when we first started the guys pushed the envelope harder than I did. But with a little practice I was beating them at their own game. They may have had more raw speed, but I had more finesse. I think a lot of times guys get so caught up in the testosterone rush of twisting the throttle that they forget there is more to good riding than who goes fastest. Intelligence should be right up there in respected riding skills. I love to ride fast, but I also respect the dangers that come with increased speed. So when a guy smiles at me condescendingly because he passed me on the road somewhere I can look him straight in the eye and smile back with my own smirk. I know I could ride faster in the curves along Turnagain Arm, but I also know that tourists, Dahl Sheep, and rock slides sometimes block lanes right in those blind corners. My choice of speed on the road is not lack of ability, it's lack of stupidity. The same could be said for a lot of women riders. Their intelligence outweighs their adrenaline seeking.

That's not to say women don't like challenging riding. There are women who have ridden all over the world, by themselves, just because they wanted to. There are women like me, who come alive when we see a muddy, pothole filled, back road. There are women like Patsy Quick from England who completed the 5,600 mile Dakar Rally in 2006, coming back from a ruptured spleen from her attempt in 2003. There are women like Elena Myers, still just a kid without a driver's license, but already one of the best up and coming road racers in the United States.

Harley Davidson says about 12% of its 2007 sales were to women. They say they are wooing women riders with "less intimidating" bikes. How about if all motorcycle manufactures get the picture that some women may need a shorter bike, but don't worry about scaring us with all your horsepower. We can handle it, probably more intelligently than a lot of the men you're selling to. And as more women shake off the stereotype that only Hell's Angel type women ride motorcycles, it is the sexist and macho guys who can start feeling intimidated. We're in the motorcycle world already and more of us are coming, so stand back and keep out of our way!

Friday, December 7, 2007

I'm Worse Than the Kids

Motorcycle on Cozumel - Taken last time we were in Mexico.

My husband and I have agreed that this is a motorcycle Christmas. He spent a bunch of time on-line, and researching stuff and now boxes keep showing up at the house from various motorcycle shops. I know they are either Christmas presents or birthday presents for me, and I know they are motorcycle related. And I want to open them NOW! It is too icy and nasty outside to ride, so I'm trying to keep from going insane anyhow, but to know there are goodies waiting for me is almost more than I can stand! So far I haven't shaken any boxes, but it's hard to stay away.

Getting through the off-season is a challenge anyway. A lot of people in Alaska snow machine during the winter, but there isn't any place really close, snow machines are expensive, and we don't have a trailer or a truck to pull a trailer with. Besides, this year there is so little snow there aren't many places to ride even if you are properly equipped. The best I can do is watch "The Long Way Around" again, and hope to get "The Long Way Down" for Christmas. I've already read most of the motorcycle books out there, but I'm thinking this winter may be a good time to start planning some details for a trip to Mexico and beyond. We've talked about it for a while, and although I doubt we can make that kind of a trip in 2008, you never know. Besides, if I start the planning we'll have an easier time when it is time to go.

So, I think starting soon, I'll be sharing my ideas on how we might make the big trip. I'm pretty sure already that we'd fly the bikes to Seattle again. It is relatively inexpensive and cuts about four or five days off the travel time. We'd probably want to stop in at my husband's brother's house in Southern California to do the final prep's before crossing the border. Once we hit the Mexico line, however, I really don't know what we'd do. I like traveling without a firm destination in mind, but I think it would be wise to at least have a rough plan. So, wish me luck and hopefully I'll be sharing some interesting finds soon.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Modification pics

There isn't much to see as far as the radiator cover, or Kouba Link, but the following pic shows the hand guards, black windscreen, and the custom seat. The next pictures show the process Rich's shop went through to make my custom seat. First they took it off the bike and removed the stock cover. Then they had me sit on the seat and drew an outline of my ass with markers. Then they carve away the excess padding and put in more where I needed it. This process requires several "fittings." Once everything is where it should be, they carve out a spot for the gel pad, then cover the whole seat in fabric. Then they individually design a pattern for the leather seat covering, and hand fit it. It takes several hours, but is SO well worth the wait.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bike Modifications

I was looking at some of my older pictures today and realized that my bike hardly looks like the same bike. In addition to the less obvious changes like adding a Kouba link that lowered my bike by 3/4 of an inch, I have made some other changes as well. I have different foot pegs, an upgraded radiator guard, and hand guards. I also have a thermometer and rheostat for my Gerbings jacket on the instrument panel. The sticker looks good from the front, but probably isn't noticed by most casual observers of the bike.

The two most visible changes are the Rich's custom seat that I had put on the bike as soon as I picked it up from the dealer, and the most recent addition, a tall black BMW windscreen. Those two additions have been great. As I have said many times before, my Rich's custom seat is the most important reason I love my bike as much as I do. I can ride an 800 mile day and get off the bike with no discomfort in my rear end, and be ready to ride several hundred miles the next day. Not many seats offer that kind of comfort.

Before I got the tall BMW wind screen I had tried a couple different things. The low screen that came on the bike offered no protection from the wind at all. In fact I rode some without a windscreen and couldn't tell the difference. The next screen I tried was a Wunderlich. It was ok, but got broken soon after I got it when something fell on my bike in our garage. Then I had a tall Cee Bailey's. It got broken when the expediting company installed it on my bike after shipping the bike from Anchorage to Seattle. It was brand new, never even out of the box and they tightened it on crooked, causing a crack. I rode with it broken during our Spring 10,000 plus mile ride of the lower 48 states and Canada. It isn't fair to say anything negative about a screen I never used in proper condition, but I was tired of it by the time we got home and replaced it with the tall black BMW windscreen. Finally a screen that cuts down on wind, noise, and buffeting. I am very pleased with how it works, and I LOVE the way it looks.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


I used to thrive on stress. I was a criminal trial attorney. I loved the courtroom drama, the back room negotiating, the power over other people's lives. After 15 years of law practice, a tough divorce and custody battle, and trying to raise three gifted daughters on my own, I'd had enough. I was depressed, and I felt like I was living on a slippery slope leading to Hell, and sliding fast.

So I made some changes in priorities. I quit practicing law. My income went to nothing. I learned to live cheap. Do I ever miss the prestige that goes with being a successful attorney? No, not once. Do I miss the great income, and the other benefits? Maybe a little once in a while. But I would never go back. I'm like every other woman. I like nice things. I like to wear nice clothes. I like to have nice hair and nails. I like to drive a nice car when it is especially cold or rainy or slick outside. I like to go out to a nice dinner. Do I have to have those things? No. I'm lucky enough to have most of them right now, but I don't need them. I'll gladly wear clothes for several years instead of replacing them every season if I can buy a few more gallons of gas instead. I'm happy to get a $10 haircut at Great Clips instead of paying $50 at a salon if it means I can get another farkle for my bike. I can cook hamburgers in my backyard instead of eating steak and lobster if it means I can go on a few more rides.

I also married a good guy. He's not perfect. Neither am I, but we make a good team. We talk through the tough times, and there is nothing in the world that feels better than knowing someone always has your back. Do I need an expensive lifestyle? No. What I need is what my motorcycle gives me. When I ride my mind is clear of everything except the road. When I get off the bike, suddenly the things that were weighing me down are easier to figure out. A good friend of mine always says you never see a motorcycle outside a psychiatrist's office unless it belongs to the doctor. She's right. Riders know that death is one distracted soccer mom away. They strive to survive every time they get on the bike. So will I admit motorcycles are dangerous? You bet I'll admit it. But living is dangerous. The only thing really safe is death and I'm not interested.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Homer Alaska

One of our last rides before winter set in this year was a quick weekend ride to Homer. It was mostly asphalt, but the ride was so pretty we didn't miss the more adventurous riding, or at least not too much! I started on a bit of a bummer, just as I got settled on the bike my iPod stopped playing. I found out later the earbuds were broken. There were 30 or 40 swans on Potter Marsh as we pulled out of town. I should have stopped for a pic, but there were a lot of cars already pulled off the highway and I didn't feel like taking any chances of being run over by someone paying more attention to the birds than to my bike! We left home and rode to Girdwood before we got gas. Thank goodness we have heated grips and Gerbings jackets. It was in the low 30's, and I'm a wimp! I went into the gas station at Girdwood to use the restroom, and as I was walking out a good looking young man, in his 20's I'd guess, came over to talk. I figured he was also a rider and wanted to talk motorcycles. He looked at my gear, and said "You have got to be crazy to be riding in these temperatures." What are the young men of this world coming to? I got a good laugh out of that one, and so did my husband. Of course we didn't mention our electrics...

We stopped again just past the turn off for Portage Glacier for a couple pictures. As we went into the pass I found that my hands were getting cold, even in my winter gloves. I will have to find some new gloves this winter for when the temps drop below freezing. I just can't do the really cold temps comfortably. The weather was nice though, rain in some places, but mostly sun shining on the golden fall leaves. Very pretty, so we made lots of photo stops. Not far after the Hope turnoff we went through an area where they were doing a controlled burn of the under brush. It was fun to see big "bonfires" and know they were serving a good purpose.

We were getting hungry so we stopped in Soldotna at Suzie's Cafe. It's a little hole in the wall kind of place that we've eaten at before, so we knew the food was good. As we walked in and started pealing off gear I realized I was missing one of my new this summer custom ear plugs. Heart sinking feeling, I do NOT want to ride with neither iPod nor ear plugs! I went back out to see if maybe I'd dropped it. I walked all the way to the bikes, walked around them, no luck. As I sadly walked back toward the restaurant I saw my earplug resting on the edge of the step. One quarter of an inch closer to the edge and it would have fallen under the steps. I picked it up relieved and went back inside ready to enjoy my lunch.

We got into Homer a little too early to check into our Bed and Breakfast so we rode to the end of East End Road. After a few miles it turned to dirt and was the only dirt riding we did for the day. The road was twisty and the views magnificent, so we really enjoyed this short stretch of our ride. When we got close to town we saw the sign for the Bear Creek Winery and B&B. We got checked in at the same time as a couple who were honeymooning from England. This B&B has two cabins, a wine tasting room, and a clothing optional hot tub. After putting our stuff in our cabin we went back to the wine tasting room for our complimentary tasting. We ended up buying a couple bottles for later, and to bring home. We caught a taxi into town where we went to dinner at Wasabi's. They have a unique ginger martini that is worth a stop. My husband wasn't too impressed with his dinner, but my seven pepper steak was awesome.

After dinner we had the cab take us to the Salty Dawg Saloon down on the Spit. The honeymoon couple were also at the Salty Dawg, so we spent the evening visiting and getting to know one another. Eventually we went back to the B&B and stayed up until the wee hours sitting in the hot tub drinking yet more wine. We slept in late the next morning, then checked out and rode to K-Bay coffee in the rain. K-Bay Coffee is an award winning organic coffee roaster that tastes better than any other coffee I've tried. Then we rode down to the spit for a few more pictures before heading back to Anchorage. It was raining hard, but we decided to ride a gravel loop side road anyway. It was a great ride, but raining so hard I didn't stop for pictures. We rode pretty easy until we crossed the pass where it suddenly was bright sunshine. The we opened up the bikes and let 'em roll. Very Fun! We stopped once more for some pictures of the swans that had moved to the lake right at the Seward cutoff. We made it home after dark with a great ride behind us to help hold off the winter doldrums.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Everything is Harley

I am one of those riders who waves at every motorcycle I see when I'm out riding. Not everyone responds, but a lot of them do, whether they are riding crotch rockets or Goldwings. I really believe in the idea that a rider is a rider and we all need to look out for one another regardless of what kind of bike we prefer. Even so, it is frustrating when I go shopping for anything related to motorcycling and everything is geared toward Harley Davidson. I went into a shop that calls itself a woman friendly motorcycle shop, Girlz Ride 2. All the gear was either leather or pink and cut for an 18 year old hard body on the back of her boyfriends bike. Nothing in the store was suitable for on road/off road riding. When I go into Alaska Leather, I expect to see predominantly leather. That is their name after all, but Alaska Leather carries more non-leather than that shop. And the helmets in GR2 were either seconds or something else was wrong with them. They had three helmets that were full face, but there was no seal on any of the three. I ran a dollar bill around the top edge of the face plate with barely any resistance. Wear that helmet in a downpour and you'll be taking a shower inside the helmet! They had plenty of bandanas with a death head though, so I guess that's all right.

It isn't just gear though. I walked into a hobby shop thinking it would be a kind of cool gift for my husband if I got him a model of his BMW R1200 GS. The store was busy so I had to wait for help, and eventually was able to talk to the owner. I asked him if they had motorcycle models. He told me they had a wide variety. Cool, this sounded promising. We walked over to an aisle that had probably 20 models of Harleys. "Do you have anything that doesn't say Harley Davidson on it?" He nods and says he has other bikes also, and shows me a collection of generic choppers. I said, "No, what I'm looking for is a dual sport type bike." He gets this superior, condescending look on his face and says, "Honey, I love motorcycles and I've never heard of a dual sport." I laughed and said "Sweety, you don't get out much." Needless to say I didn't buy anything at that store.

So after wandering around the mall some more, I saw a display of crystal figurines. I have to admit I love sparkly, so I went over to look. They had figurines of everything you could think of from tractors to airplanes. Maybe they'll have a motorcycle. "We have a motorcycle," the saleslady told me. I'm thinking you can't be too specific when you are trying to sell crystal motorcycles. And let's face it, the stereotypical Harley Davidson rider that everyone seems to cater to doesn't look like the sort of person who is going to buy a crystal figurine. So I'm expecting the lady to hand me a generic motorcycle, not Beemer, but not Harley either. After a moment searching she hands me an obviously fragile crystal bike. It's pretty generic looking, looks more like my F650 than his 1200, but still... The delicate crystal spokes in the wheel, the curve of the seat, then I see it, etched subtly on the side of the sparkly tank, Harley Davidson I hand the figurine back. "Thanks, not what I'm looking for."

So I think it is time for Kawasaki, Yamaha, Ducati, Beemer, Honda riders everywhere to unite and yell at the world,

We Don't All Ride Harley's!

Friday, November 30, 2007

What I Want Now

I have been using a soft side tail bag when I go on solo motorcycle camping trips for a while. It carries plenty of stuff for a few days camping, and overall, I have liked it. But when I see my husband's bike ready to go on a longer trip and he puts on his panniers ( he has Micatech bags ) I have to admit to feeling a pang of jealousy. His bags have a great mounting system, you can't even tell his bike has mounts when the bags are off, and the bags hold a ton of stuff. The problem for me is that they are heavy, too heavy for me to be able to comfortably mount and dismount on my own. Since he is gone so often, and since it humiliates me to have to rely on someone else for such a basic function, I'd like to have my own panniers that I can use without assistance. After doing some research, I'm pretty much settled on caribou cases. The system uses Pelican cases that are lightweight, but virtually indestructible. My ultimate setup would be panniers with a small tail bag that has protection for a camera and a couple extra lenses. That way I can keep an old camera in my tank bag for quick shots, but still have relatively easy access to a nicer camera and accessories where they can be protected. I don't know how long it will take to get the cash together to put add these panniers, but I am definitely looking forward to it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Denali Highway

The Denali Highway is one of my favorite roads in Alaska. The road is always bumpy, and is either dusty or muddy. Rarely is there a happy medium. I prefer the ride from the Paxon side to the Glenn Highway side. This report is from a ride we did in September 2006.

We had no urgent work for a few days so we decided to make a two day mid-week trip down the Denali Highway. We left Anchorage on Wednesday about noon and gassed up in Palmer. For those of you not familiar with the Glen Highway, it runs along the Matanuska River and offers some spectacular views of the river as well as of the Matanuska Glacier. There are also some nice twisties to keep you entertained when you don't feel like just admiring the scenery. We ate a late lunch at Sheep Mountain Lodge, and spent the night in Glenallen.

Thursday we rolled out around 9:00 in the morning in heavy fog. The thermometer in Glenallen said 38 degrees. Brrrr..... Thank goodness for Gerbings! Just outside of Glenallen we turned onto the Richardson Highway heading up toward Fairbanks. The fog was still heavy, and this is caribou migration time, so we had to keep the speed moderately in check.

The fog had burned off by the time we hit Paxon and turned off onto the Denali Hwy. We were stopping for LOTS of photos, so we weren't making the best of time. The first 21 miles of the Denali is paved, and thank goodness there wasn't much traffic. I spent so much time gazing at mountains and the fall colors I probably wouldn't have made it on gravel.

We stopped for an early lunch at Tangle Lakes, right at the end of paved road. The lady there told us it had been down to 28 degrees that morning. By the time we came through it was almost 50. I hadn't been over the Denali Hwy in about 5 years, then it was in horrible shape, ruts, potholes, you name it. This time it was much better. Cages were still doing the 20 mph thing, but we were able to go much faster, just slowing down when we hit the BIG loose gravel.

The views on the Denali are awesome, and always changing. I don't know how many times I've been over this stretch of road but there is always something new to experience. Anyone traveling Alaska who misses riding this road, has missed what would have been a high light of their trip. The Denali Highway isn't the easiest ride, nor is it the hardest, but it will stand out as one of the most memorable.