Friday, June 26, 2015

My 10 Favorite Cites - Part 2

The ride from Colorado to Utah was quite cold, even though it was August. My furry vest I purchased in Wall, SD came in quite handy.  One of my favorite things about riding is buying cool items that I will put to use which can only be found in specific regions.
As motorcycle riders who have ridden across the country for the last 2 years, we are often asked what has been our favorite place to visit. I find a great amount of difficulty in answering that question, because I can't think on any individual city that is my absolute favorite. I've found that every city has it's own appeal and personality, so I end up rambling on an on listing numerous places for numerous reasons. As a result, I have decided to share a list of my favorite cities.

This is my second installment of this list, and they are listed in no particular order.

We did spent some time riding Iron Mountain Road and the roads among Hill City, Sturgis and Rapid City, SD.

Rapid City:
I know most riders visit Rapid City, Sturgis, and the surrounding areas for the Sturgis rally in the summer. The riding is beautiful along with the landscape and the sunsets. And I suppose if one only gets a limited amount of time to travel during the year and a rally is rather important to them, it makes sense to visit South Dakota during that time.

If at all possible, I would strongly suggest riders visit this area later in the year. The weather is gorgeous, all be if you will occasionally hit a thunderstorm. Even the storms are lovely, cooling down the summer heat and seemingly intending to refresh the forests and grasslands. Coming from California, I had never seen a thunderstorm like those I experienced in South Dakota.

Certainly one must visit mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument. Rapid City provides a number of great hotel options for travelers who are visiting any time other than the rally. The prices of the hotels were quite fair and we were pleased with the accommodations when we initially visited in late August during our first year on the road.

With a quaint downtown with lovely shops and great bars, we enjoy delicious food in a variety of restaurants and eclectic shopping in tucked away boutiques. But be certain to be if it in the weeks prior to or soon after the rally or you may find many of the small businesses closed for off-season.

We found delicious Thai food and a lovely center for art and boutiques. 

Saint George:
Personally, I loved Saint George! Now maybe it is because once again Steve scored some amazing accommodations for us, renting the bridal suite of one of the Best Westerns in town. With a huge for poster bed, massive amount of pillows, huge television and fireplace, and even a heart-shaped hot tub in our room, I didn't wanna leave this week for any reason!

Once Steve was able to drag me out of our amazing room and I found more reasons to enjoy Saint George. It is probably important to visit during the summer months, as we found a number of local restaurants closed, much to our dismay. Yet after a little effort, we found delicious Chinese Food, great shops with jewelry and local Native American artwork, and a fantastic thrift store. Certainly there were a typical tourist shops but I tend to grow bored with the same old options as we traveled.

The gorgeous red bluffs that stand within Saint George makes four remarkable scenery any time of day. For riders, nothing beats riding the Virgin River Gorge just south of the city. For that reason alone I would strongly suggest Saint George as a motorcycle riders destination.

Downtown Tulsa was filled with great artwork, barbeque and other great restaurants, and historic sites.

Tulsa, surprisingly, certainly was one of my favorite places I've ever been in my life. Not only do we find terrific food and a vibrant nightlife, Steve was able to find some great craft beer after a long dry spell across a number of Midwest cities.

But more than anything, I enjoyed the people of Tulsa. I found them to be the absolute friendliest people I encountered in any city anywhere. We couldn't sit down at any bar or walk into any store without someone striking up a conversation. The locals are genuinely kind and interested it seem to me.

The Blue Dome district in the historic downtown had any interesting array of sites. I particularly was moved by the Woody Guthrie museum. Since I have family that came from Oklahoma, I found everything about that museum heartwarming and familiar, even though I had never been to Oklahoma in my life. So perhaps it was just so special because of my heritage and not because Tulsa is so remarkable. Or at least that's what I would have thought had Steve not enjoyed it so much too. Nothing beats a good, fat plate of barbecue and a cold drink in allowed bar on a hot afternoon. Tulsa has so many I am sure even we didn't scratch the surface of places we could go during our 10 day visit.

There is a statue and a particular point of interest at what is known as The Center of the Universe in downtown Tulsa. Impossible to describe, one must visit this place to even begin to grasp how interesting it is.

While the riding can be rather boring, the weather is anything but. We experienced blazing sun, beautiful cloudless skies, fierce rain while we visited. We also found accommodations ridiculously affordable as well as comfortable and accommodating, with terrific amenities.

One final thought on Tulsa when is the beauty and fashion sense of the young ladies in the city. The is a certain appeal of a beautiful and confidant country girl decked out in cowboy boots and a pair of denim shorts. I loved the delightful sense of style and joie de vivre as these ladies sauntered along the sidewalks from place to place.

In my last installment I encouraged readers to return the following week for this update. I've been quite behind on my work due to my difficulties on the road, but I promise if you come back here next the week for the Part 3 of My 10 Favorite Cities!

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Monday, June 8, 2015

My 10 Favorite Cities - Part 1

As motorcycle riders who have ridden across the country for the last 2 years, weare often asked what has been our favorite place to visit. I find a great amount of difficulty in answering that question, because I can't think on any individual city that is my absolute favorite. I've found that every city has it's own appeal and personality, so I end up rambling on an on listing numerous places for numerous reasons. As a result, I have decided to share a list of my favorite cities.

Memphis, TN:

Dancing on the bar in the Memphis Coyote Ugly
Even though Memphis was terribly hot and humid, I loved the energy and diversity of the city. Beale Street with everything that people told us it would be and more. We were fortunate enough to be able to attend a Bike Night on Beale street, meeting people who had actually read our website Road Pickle Motorcycle Bohemia. It was actually quite exciting to be recognized as we were standing beside our motorcycles. Bike Night was amazing and packed! I’ve never seen so many motorcycles in one place.

Besides Bike Night, Memphis has a rich history and delightful people. The locals seem happier than most places I've ever been. Walking along Beale Street on a hot evening reminded walking on Fremont street in Las Vegas, but without the dreadful sense of desperation in the air. I don’t enjoy Las Vegas for that very reason, but in Memphis the people seem to be having a great time enjoying the variety of food, music and one another without the gambling, smoking and drinking to excess as is done in Las Vegas.

I would love to visit Memphis again, but I would certainly choose a cooler months of the year to go back. We visited in the early part of June, which is already too late for a couple of Californians like us.

Minneapolis, MN:

The Fair Food was down-home-divine!
Another city with a great energy and fun atmosphere, Minneapolis and is more hospitable than any northern city we visited. In a way, it is much like a southern city in which people are friendly, open and kind, and much more accepting than in the southern city I visited.

I was surprised at the diversity of cultures in Minneapolis, including Somalis, Russians, Norwegians, and a strong and gay and lesbian community. What I usually find in a city with great diversity is not only some delectable food, but interesting conversation with the people we meet.

While in Minneapolis, we attended The Minnesota State Fair. Our friend,fellow moto-blogger, and Minnesota native Chris Cope suggested we go. I had always been interested in seeing a true midwest state fair, but have really wanted to, ever since reading about one when I was a kid. It had everything I could have asked for, including rides, cheese curds, a tunnel of love, and even beauty Queens carved out of huge blocks of butter. You really need to see it to believe it.

Beyond the fair, people, diversity, and excitement of the fear, the landscape is spectacular. Deemed the State of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota is also a humid state in the blazing summer heat. I never realized it could get THAT HOT so far north. Nevertheless, I certainly would go back in a heartbeat, if only for some good cheese curds.

Lancaster, PA:

Riding with my Uncle Reggie was a blast!
I don't know how many people have Lancaster on their list of “Must Ride” places, but as a motorcycle rider, it should be on your list. The sweeping landscapes and farmlands in Pennsylvania are absolutely breathtaking. Pennsylvania is graced with hundreds of meandering roads through open fields, thickets of lush forest, in tiny hamlets filled with historic buildings and quaint shops.

My intrigue with Pennsylvania, especially the Lancaster area, also extended to the Amish. The closer one gets to Lancaster, the more Amish a rider will encounter. This culture seems so foreign to a die-hard-seen-everything Californian native like me. My Uncle Reggie, who lives in the area, hopped on his on his Harley Davidson Police Edition Road King and showed us around the entire county.

In awe with the beauty of the barefoot, Amish, young ladies who smiled shyly from the side of the road, I found myself even more fascinated with these gentle folks than I expected. We spent a long afternoon following the horse drawn buggies of families and wagons carrying courting couples to and fro.

"Watch out for road apples behind that buggies. They are slicker than owl shit!" Reggiey said with his thick Texan drawl and impish grin. (Reggie is a Texan transplanted in Pennsylvania.)

The Pennsylvania weather is cool and crisp, and mildly humid. I don't know if I've loved Pennsylvania so much because I was visiting family or if it really is just a beautiful destination, but I suggest riders visit regardless.

Ocean City, MD:

Ocean City was just what two weary riders needed!

After struggling with riding through the intense humidity throughout Tennessee and Virginia, Steve booked a room for us in the tourist destination Oceans City. Unfortunately, he had to spend a pretty penny on the room smack dab on the boardwalk, but he wanted to treat me to something special.
Steve was absolutely right! Donning my swimsuit, a pair of shorts and a cowboy hat, I gleefully grabbed my sweetheart and headed out only moments after checking into the hotel. A short time later I was relaxed and smiling. While it is certainly not a place I would want to live, it makes sense that easterners would make this a vacation destination.

Primarily for families, Ocean city has the vast selection of food, gift shops, and visitors. The boardwalk is a blast and the perfect place to do some people watching. As the sun sank, the lights glittered as all of the tourists huddled against the buildings in the excitement of the boardwalk.

We decided to break away from the crowds and stroll along the deserted beach. I couldn't understand why anyone would prefer the crowds on the boardwalk over the breeze of the cool shore. Holding hands and sharing kisses I quickly realized that the shore was a place for the lovers. Hiding from the crowds were young couples, kissing a groping, perhaps for their first time, in a dark and hideouts the lifeguard stations provided.

A great break from the tension of riding along the East Coast highways and toll roads, we found Ocean City relaxing, even in spite of the crowds.

Come back here next the week for the Part 2 of My 10 Favorite Cities!

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Icon Raiden DKR Womens Jacket Review

Visiting the Icon offices in Portland sporting my new Raiden DKR
Riding over 1,000 miles in a month in the Icon Raiden DKR Jacket, especially designed for women, has been a pleasure. I had been wearing leather for the time I've been riding, except for a lightweight, textile, summer jacket that certainly isn't practical for touring. Leather has it's benefits, but in this case, it doesn't begin to compare with the benefits of the Raiden DKR.

I picked up this jacket in Portland, OR. When I first tried it on, it seemed really long and oddly sized for me, but once I zipped it completely and the magnetic flaps slapped shut on their own over the zipper, I realized it fits perfectly. The sleeves are a bit long for me, but keep in mind I'm rather short with short arms, so it should fit an average sized woman beautifully. One or two rolls of the sleeve and a set of gloves and the sleeves are just fine. I actually realized in the rain that once I put my gloves on and unroll the sleeves once, my arms are completely insulated from the cold and wet. What a fantastic surprise! After leather jackets that leaked, soaked up rain, and had gaps here and there, this was such a relief.

Sunny day on the road with all of my vents open, cool and comfy
Right after we visited Portland, we headed to Seattle, WA for a few days. Rain and cold followed for the next few cities, Kennewick in the Tri-Cities area of Washington, into Boise, ID for a week, into Pocatello, ID for two nights, and finally over the Grand Tetons through a snowy pass into Jackson Hole, WY. Exactly 1,044 miles later and I've had a marvelous experience with the Raiden DKR.

I wore the jacket with the vents open while riding in Seattle traffic on a warm afternoon, with temps rising into the low 80's F, and found I was quite comfortable. To the other extreme, riding over the Grand Tetons we passed snow on the roadside with temperatures dropping to 42 degrees F. That day I opted to wear a thin, long-sleeved Columbia Women's OUTERSPACED™ Half Zip top along with leggings underneath my riding pants (by another maker) and my new jacket. I inserted the quilted liners in both my pants and jacket and made certain to close all of my vents for the ride.

Riding into a storm in Idaho, but staying completely dry inside my cocoon! 
I was so surprised when we arrived in Jackson Hole and I asked my husband Steve how it could be so warm on the summit and still have snow.

"It was 42 degrees. . . " he replied.

"What? I was so warm! Wow!"

Seriously, the jacket kept me so cozy, warm and dry through all of these conditions. I'm ready to tackle 10,000 miles wearing this, as I see it as meeting all of my needs.

The Raiden DKR has the following features:

FIT: Raiden Relaxed Fit
MATERIAL: Honeycomb Ripstop Chassis with Laminated HycorTM Membrane
PROTECTORS: D3O® Impact Protectors - Shoulders, Elbows, Back
LINER: Insulated Thermolite PlusTM Full Liner - Removable
DETAILS: 2 Chest Vents, 2 Pit Vents, 1 Exhaust Vent, Sublimated Chassis, Get Blocktm Waterproof Chest Pocket Zipper, YKK® Waterproof Zippers, Double Storm Flap with Rare Earth Magnet Closure, Waterbladder Hose Routing, 3M® Reflective Accents, Rear Storage, Ballistic Nylon Paneling, Three Position Elbow Protector Pockets, Fully Taped Seams

(This information provided by the manufacturer's website.)

Beyond comfort, I'm really pleased with the pockets and their placement. I'm really an organized person so I like to have everything I need accessible and in the same place every time. I have a place for everything I need on the road; my credit cards for gas stops, my camera for in-the-saddle shots, my lip balm (OK, who am I kidding? My lipstick!) and my keys when I'm stopped. I utilize the inner pocket for my MP3 player with the holes to thread my speaker cord too.

My hubs Steve and I stopped at the Snake River at the base of the Grand Tetons
Lastly, I love the peace of mind I receive wearing armor. I've been rather cavalier about protection in the past, but after thinking about it long and hard, I realize I travel quite a few miles, thus increasing my chances of an accident. Recently I had lunch with my friend Brittany Morrow, who has dedicated her life to encouraging ATTGATT for all riders. After a tragic accident which scarred her severely and involved unbelievable pain, she started Rock The Gear and now works for Icon as a Brand Manager.

"I really care about you as a friend, and I know what could happen. Even if you don't wear Icon, wear gear that protects you! Please Sash!"

She really woke me up to the possibilities. I thought about my new grandson and how much I wanted to be in his life for a good, long time. So armored gear was all I could think about. Then my zipper broke on my leather jacket, almost like a sign to change up my gear. Since Brittany had made such an impact, I reached out to her for a place to score my next jacket and now, I couldn't be happier that I did.

My only complaint about the Raiden DKR is the way I look in it. While riding it fills up with excess air, even with the vents closed and I look really puffy. Now this is a matter of aesthetics, but as a woman, it's a hard adjustment for me to look seriously unattractive. The truth is, at 4'11 inches tall and a size 16, I'm puffy enough naked, so add a few layers of clothing and an armored jacket that fills up with air, and I look like a blue and gray marshmallow going down the road.

It's a small concession for protection, warmth and a dry ride that I'm willing to make. I'm sure this jacket would look far more attractive on a taller, thinner woman.

In Blackfoot, ID so pleased with the cozy ride!
Lastly, since I'm touring around the country on my motorcycle, I find it somewhat inconvenient that this jacket isn't really something I would wear at any time other than riding. When I rode in a leather jacket, I would wear it out at night once we arrived at a destination. The Raiden, not so much. But again, it is such a slight inconvenience.

I have to accept that these motorcycle jackets are made for ultimate motorcycling, not fashion statements for women. As I already pointed out, such a small price to pay.

Overall, from a motorcycling standpoint, I love this jacket!

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

When My Heart Stopped

Two nights ago I had the second serious chest pain issue within a month, which seriously kicked my ass, sending me to the local E.R.

When my heart stopped and I died for 2:32 minutes on Christmas Eve, 2008, it was a monumental turning point in my life. Although it took quite a bit of time for me to make visible changes to the way I was living, it was nevertheless the point at which I decided to leave my then-husband and start living a fulfilling life.

I spent nearly a year doing everything I was told to do by my doctors, one of which was an impatient and frustrated cardiologist. He had done every test on me that he could possibly bill to my insurance, including an echocardiogram, stress tests and an angiogram. I was diagnosed with a heart murmur and atrial fibrillation.

Over the years I've not seen another cardiologist because of my miserable experience with him. This doctor admitted me to the hospital on Christmas Eve to have me wait until December 26 for my angiogram, which is how I happened to be revived so quickly when my heart stopped. Since then I've had to visit an emergency room from time to time with chest pain, but I've avoided seeing a cardiologist again.

I didn't want to stop traveling, so I convinced myself to believe nothing was wrong with me.

Over the past few years, I had been discounting these episodes as "nothing serious" because I've not had a heart attack. Each time I visit the hospital the doctors explain it isn't a heart attack and send me home. I've completely dismissed their instructions to follow up with a cardiologist, until last night.

Dr. Corson looks stunningly like Bradley Cooper, but with huge, green eyes that matched his olive scrubs. He's an intense man, and as he stood over me as I lay in the hospital bed, he kindly explained with precision the dynamics of emergency room treatment. Over the 8 hour visit other nurses and staff bustled about, meeting my needs and asking pointed questions about how I was feeling. At the end of my ordeal Dr. Bradley Cooper returned to tell me I had not had a heart attack, but there were other symptoms they recorded that needed to be addressed by a cardiologist.

Dr. Bradley Cooper, with his green-eyed severity, seemed to wake me up in a very real way.

After a few phone calls and some records shared, I managed to schedule a cardiologist appointment in San Diego on June 29th.

My summer on the road will take a pause until I get released to freely ride again. I hope to get back on the road by the end of July and head to Sturgis, but I don't know yet. I'm not making any plans other than to stay in San Diego under my doctor's care until I know it's safe to go. My only plan is to leave Boise tomorrow for Pocatello, ID for a night or two, then onto Jackson, WY for a couple of nights. After that we are heading to Dever, CO via I 80, then dropping down through Fort Collins.

I don't know what date we are leaving Denver, or a route from Denver to San Diego yet. We still have plenty of time to think about it. That's all I know about any plans.

I also know that I am heartbroken in more ways than one.

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About Sash

People call me "Sash" because I'm a former beauty queen in my old home town. My father used to ride in an MC which got me interested in the culture. After my last divorce I said "goodbye" to Susie Homemaker and became the rude biker chick I always felt inside. (Read more...)