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a dash of randomness

Cleaning out the closet leads me to a Motorcyclist’s candystore:

I kept glancing to the left side, then the right side, then back to the lane ahead of me and repeat.  I had briefly looked where Yellow Devil Motorcycle Gear Exchange was on the map and had already forgotten the cross street (Broadway @ Temple in Long Beach) by the end of the 710 freeway.  As soon as I saw the yellow, red and checkered flags teasing me on the left hand side, I knew that had to be the place.  Walking in to find racks of leather and textile, small and large, assortment of brands, and possibilities from any era; it was gear delight galore.  Jessica (the owner) was a doll to talk with as well.  Motorcycle enthusiast who moved to the west coast and now operates this little, but budding shop, still only a year and a half new. So if you are in the area, or even if you aren’t …its worth the trek to check it out! (http://www.yellowdevilgear.com/)

Growing up Above the Clouds

This is how I know my father…

From the vantage point of a young girl, peeking around the scratchy, mustard yellow seat back, looking up at this gentle giant tilting his head toward the blinking lights, a sun weathered hand from years of construction turning knobs, talking into the microphone to air traffic control, all to keep us afloat above the clouds.  I always loved looking down on the clouds.  As I got bigger and the legroom didn’t, I still squished into the back of the Cherokee 6. I wanted to watch the ground beneath pass by like the miniature sets I had come to know. I wanted to watch my dad yell “clear” before the props engaged.  I wanted to feel my stomach drop as the wings dove to get my sister and I to be quiet. I just wanted to be around my father and watch the happiness of when he flies.

As I get older and think about having kids of my own, I begin to realize how uncommon of a practice it is to drag the wee ones along.  So Dad…thank you for stuffing me in the back of an airplane since I was one year old. I hope to bring adventure to mine someday.  Cheers to the parents who already do.  Maybe give a little spark of motivation those who don’t.  But above all, just want to say…

Happy Father’s Day to a great man.

three on 3-wheels

 

Growing up in a time where no one thought twice about piling a flip-prone 3-wheeler with two kids to ride them around the sand, has its benefits.  Helmets were optional at that point, but at least she protected my pale skin from the sun with a visor.  I recently watched the documentary “Wanderlust” and can’t help but recall the narrator describing how kids these days in their 5-point harnesses and dvd players will never know the joys of sprawling on a bench seat in the back of a 70’s sedan, tip of their nose touching the window, watching the world go by when you are 5 years old.  I understand the need for protection, for safety, but at what point is it a hindrance in experience and growth?  At what point are there no longer training wheels, just the confidence needed to take on the world? I am thankful to have grown up in an era of minimal worries and even more thankful that my mom was as an adventurous woman as she was; also for allowing me to falter when I needed to in order to learn not to do it again; and not worrying when I take these solo moto trips since she knows I can decide what’s right for myself. So for today, a cheers to the adventures where moms and motherhood take you…

 

 

 

How the airlines lost my baggage.

A couple years ago, I read this article about a guy who was only comfortable crying at movies while on an airplane, and I can’t help but think about it each time I board.  I have yet to figure out what it is about airplanes that allow you to be so emotional in your own space while still sitting next to another? Today, staring out the rain-streaked window at the terminal in Vancouver, Canada, waiting for the plane to be pushed back on to the taxiway, I sit in a state of happiness.  It wasn’t always this way.  Actually, it is a long way from where I was in the spring of 2010, staring out plane windows, constantly trying to keep my face from looking like the rain outside. During that time, I made sure to get a window seat, not just so I could look out at the view, but if my head was turned away, there was less chance of someone catching escaped tears roll across my cheeks.

There was a series of work flights between LA and Miami and Jamaica, when every time I sat back in my seat, the aircraft engaged its engines and lifted its wings to the air. During that moment of anti-gravitation, I felt a sense of release (and simultaneously, to cause a faulty mechanism in my tear ducts) and so, I had to battle the constant verge of crying for the next 5 hours.  Reclining amongst 65-150 strangers and some not so strangers, I released the many tears that I couldn’t at home.  When traveling as much as I was, it was easy to chalk it up to jetlag and not have to explain (and that was only if anyone chose to ask) about my then recent separation.  Luckily, it went mostly un-noticed because of the management of coincidentality; that when the wheels emerged from the flaps on the underside of the belly, the functionality of my tear ducts re-engaged as well. The sound of arrival cleared my head and the grounding jolt of landing shook away any remaining drops of water; it was time to get back to work.

It was a much different episode in my life, and even though the rain in Canada looks the same as the rain in Jamaica when it sits on a 12” pane of acrylic, the distance between the two is so great, in time as well as in miles.  I am glad to have traveled them, but even more glad to feel no need to return.

Why I choose to share all of this, I don’t know.  Maybe I’m starting to believe that the ability to be vulnerable is a good thing.  Maybe I would like to encourage more people to try it, and see what constructive reactions could come from it.  Maybe because it has to start somewhere. Through a recent conversation with a good friend, we agreed that posting somehow authenticates and makes you responsible for truths (even if they are only your own.)  For as much as I write this and fear that no one will read it, I fear that people will (yes, contradictory, and maybe more so frightening.)  I find it funny when others refer to me as only this tough motorcycle chick, but those layers of armor and ballistic nylon protect a lot of soft parts. Maybe it’s recognizing that the tougher thing to do is put it out there.

So, as much as I hope this entry (to quote the movie magnificence of Blade Runner) “… will be lost in time, like tears in rain” amidst so many words already out there, I hope even more so, this falls upon those who it needs to.

Today, staring out the 12” rounded rectangle of visibility, I sit, with a smile on my lips. Thankful to have had a solitary two years; thankful for these unspoken emotionally protective bubbles we can fly with, and even more thankful we don’t take them off the plane with us. Somewhere, probably in that grand distance of flat land horizon between the coasts, the airlines lost my baggage… and I’m glad.  Today, with rosiness the only thing on my cheeks, I stare out the window, not at the rain but at a new terminal in wonderment of what is next.  As I recline into the seat, embracing the rush of wings taking flight, I am happy to have a ticket in hand.  Even though the destination is printed neatly in black and white, I am still not sure where I am going to land.  I welcome the uncertainty… and delight in the change.

Best time to ride in LA

Is when its cold out.

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On a Saturday, it’s rare to have the Crest highway all to yourself. I enjoyed every bit of it.

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Maps.

Maps. Preparation. Planning. Destinations.

I place upon the walls of my living room maps of the places I want to visit.  Each day I stare at them.  I make notes of points of interest.  I research recommended routes. I scan pages of books to reference on the road.  I attempt to plan.  I gather as much information ahead of time as my head and my iPhone will handle.

But, planning only goes as far as my fingertips.  Sitting on the couch, I can lay out my wants and desires, but it is no match for experiences.  Sometimes it is a feeling in my gut that makes me take a detour or an unexpected change in weather that has me turn a different direction.  Any which road I end up taking, all I can do is listen to myself and make the most of it. Many have told me its not the destination that matters, its how you get there and what you enjoy along the way.  But if you don’t know where you want to be, how can you get there? How do you know which direction to point yourself in? I realize that unforeseen encounters can sometimes be best ones, but sometimes its up to you to make it happen. And its all part of the adventure.

 

Overcome. Fear. of. Water.

It seems to be a natural first reaction to my announcement of solo travel: tell me what to look out for, what to fear.  Most of the time, its bears.  There was a fleeing fearful moment, before I researched the reality of attacks.  But yesterday, during a conversation with my sister, a fear stuck.  Of Water, or more specifically, Rain.  Now at first, it might not seem like it should make one tense with the idea, but to a motorcyclist, its not something under control.  Especially not when mixed with dirt, which provides a nice slick mud. My concern of this trip, is the assault of mother nature and her whims, more so than wildlife who are as scared of me as I them, and avoidable with a little care.

Apparently this has been a bad year for motorcycles in Alaska keeping upright on rainy days.  It’s been a good year for a lot of rain. I am aware that there are some rough roads to traverse in AK, and so I will take the best precautions I can.  Tires are key.  Big, knobby tires. Knowing my limits of toleration and abilities each day. I can hope when I arrive in September it’s a dry week. On days like today, when I am sitting at home in 94 degree heat, it’s hard to prepare for the expected cold and rain. I will be leaving Los Angeles, which got 20 inches (more than usual) of rain last year, to places in Alaska which get that much in their 3 months of summer. Plan and plan as I may, I am still at the whim of what nature wants to provide that day.

Last summer, over half of my days on the road were rained on.  Monsoon season in the southwest prevailed.  I had to turn tail on some back roads of Utah due to flash flood warnings.  I have had pink lightning crack the gray sky before me, as I enter a box canyon in Arizona.  I was hailed on along twisty alpine roads in Colorado. I have been blown sideways in the open grasslands of Wyoming.  I remember the intensity of weather, under no cover but my nylon shell, white knuckles encased in wet leather, wondering if there was relief around the corner. Sure makes for a pretty picture, but this is where my fear comes from.

It was three weeks into my journey last summer before my first call for help because of a breakdown.  My bike was just fine, it was me that was in need of repair.  Having such an independent personality, it’s hard to ask even when necessary.  I reached out to a friend I met on the road, a dirt road, or as the day would have it, a mud road. He opened his doors to a stranger just a week earlier, yet now a kindred traveling spirit in need of a warm shower and hot meal.  We joked about the easy 60 mi trail with only one difficult mile turning into a 60 mi difficult mud slick once the rain started.  We both made it threw it with very few fallings. But day after day of rain and cold and wind showed my skin is not as thick as I thought it was.  It’s good to know my own weaknesses.

Fear can and has stopped me in my tracks.  It has kept me from hopping on my motorcycle. Some days, even from going outside.  It can be hard to push through since our minds can be a greater force to overcome than the reality of what’s outside.

So, what do I do? Today, I swim.  I embrace. I stick my head under the waterfall.  Cause rain, you may slow me down, but you will not stop me from going. I still enter willingly into the vulnerability of wilderness.

The commonality of Strength

 I admire your strengths and love you for your weaknesses.

It’s a good point in my life when I can look at the women I am surrounded by and see, among other remarkable attributes, the commonality of strength.

They are survivors.

At one point or another, they have been tested; some acts more unbearable than others, but none any less to learn from.

I know they can’t be strong at every given moment, so even during the quiet times of vulnerability, I still accept every bit about ‘em.

Thank you for being in my life.

Get out there and ride

I start off this summer of 2011 with a quote of the day:

“…so, get out there and ride!  Take that trip to Alaska…circumnavigate California….go wherever adventure takes you…”

This, spoken by the photographer at lunch today, all 4 of us at the table shares a affection for motorcycles in one way or another.  It was a pleasant way to transition the conversation after just discussing the unpleasantness of surviving cancer (be it brain, breast or ball) at a young age.  It reminded us to not make excuses, to not wait. I came home to more bad news.  A fellow rider I met in Sturgis last summer, died from colliding with a deer while riding his new Harley.  Then, I recall last Sunday standing at the edge of the pavement amidst a turn on Angeles crest; a temporary roadblock was set up and the USFS clean up crew was called to hoist a crotch rocket up from the embankment.  It seems like a lot of accidents have been happening lately.  Flashes of recent stories and pictures of friends who have survived with cuts, bruises, broken bones and scraped gear.

I do not want to paint such a somber picture as my opener, so I will make my point using the words as many before me have…Enjoy life like it’s your last day.  Go out and do something that makes you happy.  Tell the ones you Love, just that.  The reality of motorcycling as a dangerous sport does not keep me from riding.  I love the freedom, the experiences too much to give it up.  I choose to not live in fear (as suggested I should by a man on my trip last summer), but know my limits.

So, I prep, a month away from departure, this time a destination of Alaska. It is the adventure that I love and what I live each day for.