Friday, September 4, 2009

Conclusion of Iron Butt Rally 2009

This morning I went to the Red Lion in downtown Spokane and watched some of the riders in the 2009 Iron Butt Rally come into the final checkpoint. Even though I was only there to watch, the people directing the riders didn't know that. As I pulled into the parking lot I saw cameras flashing and people cheering. They tried to direct me to the finishers area so I had to confess my real purpose. Still, being part of the energy there was amazing! Riding an Iron Butt is a long time dream, now it is something I want to do more than ever.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mobile 1 Gives Away an OCC motorcycle and trip to Daytona

I am a dual sport rider through and through. But when I look at the Ducati Monster I get a little weak in the knees. That isn't such a stretch. I still don't like choppers. Then I got the notice today that Mobile 1 oil is sponsoring a contest to win an Orange County Custom motorcycle. My first instinct was to get haughty and ignore the contest. But then I looked at the bike. And I looked again. This isn't what I remember OCC bikes looking like. I thought they all had ape hangers and looked like they would be okay as art, but not as a motorcycle that could be ridden. Now, I'm going to have to go back and watch some reruns. When did they go from making cartoon bikes to making motorcycles that look like they can be ridden further than around the block?

Link to the contest.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Iron Butt

Earlier today I wrote an article for the Examiner (the title to this post is a link to the article) about the 2009 Iron Butt Rally ending in Spokane. As I wrote the article I couldn't help feel a twinge of jealousy for those riders whose names were selected in the lottery. I know full well I am not even close to being able to ride an Iron Butt Rally, I've never even completed a saddle sore. There is no way I could ride 11,000 miles in 11 days. My body would be a wreck if I tried. But somewhere deep inside me is a voice that says I could do it if I started training. I would have to get in better physical condition. I would have to ride a few Iron Butt rides, maybe even a few organized endurance events. I could do that, couldn't I? Isn't the only thing stopping me self-doubt? (and money, but that could probably be worked out)

Why does this hold such an appeal for me? I know the riders have to go through horrible conditions ranging from some of the hottest, coldest and windiest weather imaginable. I know the riders have to get by on miniscule amounts of sleep. They don't get to stop and really enjoy any of the places they go. It sounds miserable. And it sounds wonderful.

Will I ever go that far? I won't say never, but I know the chances are slim. Nonetheless, My goal is to ride at least one Iron Butt Ride over the next year. Maybe I'll hate it, but maybe I'll be hooked and will be able to join the thin ranks of those who call themselves, "The Toughest Riders in the World."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Motorcycle Fluency

Since I've started writing for the Examiner I have been doing a lot of research on various motorcycle topics. I'm learning a lot and I like that, but every time I research another topic it reminds me again how much I don't know. I have read Proficient Motorcycling by David Hough, but every time I go through it I realize that not everything sinks in. I read about other people taking round the world treks and riding on sand for hours and days on end. Sand terrifies me. I watch videos of people doing amazing slow motion maneuvers on their bikes and have to face the fact that I don't even come close to that level of skill. Yes, I can ride mud, I've done multiple 750 mile days under challenging conditions, but there is so much MORE. I desperately want to reach a point where I feel more than competent, where I feel skillful on my bike, but I am so far from that level it frustrates me beyond imagination. It means I keep working, keep practicing, and maybe someday I'll be closer to motorcycle fluency than the semi-illiteracy I currently have.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What a beautiful day!

I have ridden the motorcycle to a lot of the areas outside Spokane for both long and short trips. Today was the first time I decided to stay closer to home. I ended up at Riverside State Park. As usual I carried tennis shoes with me so I could go for a hike. What a beautiful place!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Spokane Is a Great Place to be.

I recently started writing on motorcycle travel for It has been a lot of fun, and maybe the best part is that since I am writing about motorcycle travel with a focus on Spokane, I have looked around me and realized yet again what an amazing part of the country this is. Alaska was wonderful, but there are so few roads that after riding them as many times as I had, the thrill was gone. Here there are new roads everywhere! I can go to Yellowstone or Glacier on a long weekend! Seattle is only a day ride away. I can go to Canada. The possibilities are absolutely endless.

I can get bored easily, but I think the Pacific Northwest will keep me entertained for years to come!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Busy Summer

After doing a lot of local riding exploring our new backyard, I have noticed an interesting difference in riding in Washington as opposed to riding in Alaska. Whereas Alaska is a dualsport state, most riders here ride Harleys. I have no problem with that, but it does bother me that so few people wear gear. It is commonplace here to see people riding in shorts, and tank tops. I guess it is their business, not mine, but why a person would risk sunburn, bug smacks, and of course road rash or worse in the case of accident is beyond my understanding. I'd rather sweat a little than lose my skin or my life. Besides, cooling vests only cost about $30. That's a pretty low price to pay for comfort and safety.

On a more positive note, we had the pleasure of meeting a super nice people this summer. He has been riding for years, and she got her first bike this spring. They went on a Mexico to Canada tour this summer and she is hooked! It is such an inspiration to watch a rider discover the love of the road. I look forward to riding with them in the future, hopefully on a trip to Copper Canyon and Creel, Mexico. I guess I'd better start brushing up on my Spanish skills!

Friday, June 5, 2009


So now that I finally got my Prudhoe Bay trip finalized, I can move to things more recent. One of the reasons there was a delay in getting things done around here was that my husband and I decided it was time to leave Alaska. We moved to Spokane, Washington where we are having an awesome time exploring new roads and seeing new sights. We have a lot of day rides, weekend rides, and longer trips planned for this summer, and have already taken a few. Over the next few days I'll get those posted up and get back into the swing of keeping this current!

Prudhoe Bay Trip - Day 5

When we left Wiseman that morning we saw that the road had been freshly watered. We drove a few miles, then saw the brown mud turn white. Uh oh! We were caught behind the truck spreading calcium chloride!

For anyone who doesn't know, calcium chloride dries very hard. It makes a dirt road feel like concrete paving. But when it is wet, it is the slickest thing imaginable. Much worse than ice.

We made it through without going down. From there it was easy riding. All we had to do was contend with trucks spraying water on the road every few miles.

Oh yeah, and graters. And worse, areas where there was fresh gravel but the graters hadn't been buy yet.

Soon, however, we were back on asphalt and heading into Fairbanks and back to Anchorage. It was a wonderful trip.

Day 1 - Anchorage to Fairbanks = 358 miles @ 60-65 mph average speed
Day 2 - Fairbanks to Wiseman = 330 miles @ 40 mph average speed
Day 3 - Wiseman to Deadhorse = 236 miles @ 35 mph average speed

Approximately 1850 miles roundtrip.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Prudhoe Bay Ride - Day 4

We got up the following morning and went into the oil field worker's dining room for breakfast. We'd also eaten there for dinner the night before. It is a no frills place, but the food is heavenly! Bobby took the time to take a couple pictures of the dining room.

and the kitchen where they make all the good food happen along with part of the window dining room.

After breakfast we rode to "town"

where we got gas, then rode over to the NAPA store that marks the end of the Dalton Highway.

After buying a couple stickers at the NAPA, we went over to the Arctic Caribou where we took a tour of the oil fields. The windows in the bus were small and dirty so we didn't really get much in the way of photos. We saw a lot of birds, different species of geese, swans, arctic terns, etc. and more Eskimo cotton.

After winding through the oil fields we finally reached the Arctic Ocean and were allowed off the bus.

We'd have gone in all the way if we'd had the ability to change. that's my story and I'm sticking to it... We did get the certificates to prove we've at lest touched the Arctic Ocean.

When they were first developing the North Slope many people were afraid the development would harm the caribou herds. Instead, the caribou use the gravel roads and pads as a place to escape the worst of the mosquitoes. Caribou have the right of way on all the roads, and if that means oil transport vehicles have to wait for an hour while a large herd passes, then that is what they do. No one can honk their horns, or in any way try to move the caribou along. The caribou have obviously learned this and completely ignored us.

After the tour we got back on the bikes and turned South for home. It was a grayer day than the day before, and had rained over night. As we left Deadhorse it was in thick, freshly laid gravel. I was doing ok, then all of a sudden found myself in a berm, plowing through the gravel rather than riding on top. The bike went into a major tank slapper and I came VERY close to going down. I focused on the horizon though, and gave it enough gas to stay up right. Whew! That was too close for comfort.

Shortly before I decided to ride in the berm...

The wind was calmer today, and as a result the mosquitos were on patrol. The picture shows several swarming my helmet but is an understatement of what was there. We learned on our tour that the mosquitos are so bad, they'll take 1/3 of the caribou's body weight in blood every summer.

It felt like a different road today. The weather was more challenging, and every time the light changes, the view changes completely,

and the road was a little less friendly also.

I love riding in mud! I get a big grin every time I make it out without a crash!

The beauty of this area never lessened.

Eventually we got back to Atigun Pass. As I reached the top I looked back and saw one of the most beautiful scenes yet. The Pass was rainy and dark, while the valley behind me was bathed in sunlight. Unfortunately the road was very steep and I was on a blind corner where I didn't feel safe stopping.

After the Pass we went through an area with gorgeous rocks off to the side of the road.

Even while the weather on the road was dark, we could always see the promise of sunlight at the end. I think there is a life lesson in that, and maybe in this whole ride. The road isn't always easy, but the difficulties make the beauty so much more worthwhile.

We were spending the night back at Wiseman, but wanted to go back to Coldfoot for dinner. I don't know how these guys got here. All I know is they didn't have much of a smile on their faces when they pulled into the parking lot shortly after we sat down to eat dinner.

Just look at those tires! No wonder they weren't feeling like being conversational!

After dinner we went back to the B&B. We stayed in the smaller cabin this time. It was great being greeted by the owner's children. Leo liked my helmet. His sister looked on with typical sibling disgust and tolerance...

Once again, by the time we were showered and crawled in bed we fell asleep immediately. The down comforters are absolutely to die for!

to be continued...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Prudhoe Bay Trip - Day 3

Breakfast at Wiseman was an opportunity to see the inside of the owner's cabin. It was the original community center back during the gold rush days.

There is a very sad story associated with this bear.

A friend of the owner's was mushing his dogs in November one year, late enough in the winter that the bears should have all been hibernating. This old bear had been unable to store enough fat over the summer to stay asleep though and was out wandering around. To make a long story short, the wind was blowing hard down a long steep hill. The bear, at the top of the hill was unable to hear or smell the dog team until they all ran head long into one another. The bear killed several dogs, and the musher was almost killed as well. Fortunately for him he made it back to Wiseman and several people went out to find the bear. It was in the process of feeding on the dogs, and it turned on the people coming up. Through no fault of people or bear, the bear was shot and this is what is left as a reminder.

The road was still beautiful, in front and behind.

What a beautiful day to be out riding. Heading north out of Wiseman for Atigun Pass.

We made a stop within the first few miles and again about 25 miles down the road. The patches are doing their job so far and we will check them every 50 miles or so. Think this girl is having fun?

Riding the pass was beautiful.

But the geography was a little confusing...

My bike at the top of the pass thanks to the microfiber cloth and zip tie patch Bobby had made. 55 miles north of Wiseman, and the patches are working well. I think we'll make it!

I was enough ahead of Bobby that I got this picture of him coming up the pass.

On the other side of the pass looking north through the valley.

On our way out we came upon this,,,,,Dude is gonna have a lot of sweeping to do on this gravel road....

A gentle reminder of what the roads chews up and spits out.

The North side of the pass started out looking like Montana or Wyoming range land.

We never needed to use our sat phone, but we posed for pictures anyway.

The trucks, of course, own this road. If you are polite to them, they'll be polite to you. If you refuse to slow down and move over to the side of the road, they'll blast past and cover you in dust and thrown rocks.

Time to check the patches again. The left side is getting a bit wet so we replaced it and all was well the rest of the way into Deadhorse.

200 miles from anywhere and this mailbox cracked me up.... I should have put the flag up

Life's little choices. Wet or dry? I chose wet....

I don't think it looks soft.....

The farther North we go, the flatter it gets. Now it looks more like Kansas!

The eskimo cotton dots the tundra everywhere.

We had a moose run out in front of us just out of Wiseman, and a few muskox were off in the distance. We didn't get pictures of them, but we did stop for these two swans.

Finally, we have arrived. And the low fuel light comes on just as we enter the parking space.

When we got to Deadhorse we stayed in a camp that is still actively used by slope workers. The "room" we stayed in was in a trailer that they hook together into trains and pull onto the tundra during the winter when everything is frozen and won't be damaged.

The last 50 miles into Deadhorse was deep gravel.....uuggghhhh. At one point Bobby thought he had lost the bike while trying to transition into a different track closer to the edge of the road. He was weebble wobbling back and forth pretty bad when the bike started to lean over hard to the right. While preparing his mind for a low side fall, he somehow stayed with it and continued to steer. The front tire found some solid ground in the track he was trying to get into and with a little throttle,,, the bike returned upright. Scary! The last thing we need is Bobby injured or his bike broken down and me running on borrowed time on my fork seals!

to be cont.