Monday, October 28, 2013

Successful First Solo Motorcycle Trip

I kissed Highway goodbye and headed out on a perfect San Diego day to visit my daughter in Bakersfield. The trip is 250 miles each way, so I thought 3 days would be the perfect visit. It also gave me the perfect opportunity to try out my new Rambler Leather Jacket from Helmet City. This was my first long distance solo ride, so when the traffic came to a halt at 11am in Orange County, I felt my hopes of a smooth ride deflate.

"Damn it, I really didn't want to start lane splitting so early. . ."

For over 20 miles during mid-day, I wove my way between cars, trucks, semi's, buses and RV's northbound on Interstate 5. I'm not an aggressive lane-splitter; my personal rule is to not resort to it unless I need to put my feet on the road. So when the traffic would halt, I would split. Before I knew it I was in L.A.

Unfortunately, with all of the focus on safely lane splitting, I ended up on the 101 rolling through Hollywood.

"Oh FUCK! How in the Hell did this happen?"

This was my biggest fear. I hate L.A. traffic, even though I've grown up in Southern California and been to L.A. countless times. I know all of the freeways and I know my way around, which is how I knew I was on the wrong freeway almost immediately. Just north of the 60 Freeway there's a funky interchange where the 5 and 101 come together, then split. If you're in the left lane, you end up on the 101. And lane-splitting is always done between lanes 1 & 2. It's that simple. I was watching the cars and the freeway, not the signs.

Fortunately I knew that I could roll up into Studio City and eventually catch the 170 northbound until it connects with Interstate 5 again. So even though I was sidetracked, and very pissed at myself, I managed to just keep moving forward towards Bakersfield to visit my daughter and her new husband.

We had a great visit and after just 2 days I was headed back to San Diego again. After a huge breakfast at Donna Kaye's Cafe I geared up in the parking lot and kissed the kids goodbye. I felt good about getting on the road in the pristine So Cal weather most Americans envy this time of year. 75 degrees, sunny and slightly breezy, it was as if God kissed my forehead and sent me on my way, wishing me well.

The Grapevine is the mountain pass that starts at the mouth of Grapevine Canyon and ascends to the Tejon Pass in the Tehachapi Mountains. What used to be U.S. Route 99 is now named for the canyon it passes through with its wild grapes that still grow along the original road. With a legendary high accident rate and 6% incline up to the summit of 1,500 feet, most So Cal drivers worry about the pass more than they need to. The roads have long since been widened which helps with the seemingly never-ending stream of semi's hauling produce and fuel along the roadway. Clearly my V*Star Gracie is no match for a lettuce-laden semi hauling ass down the hill, so I intended to do my best to avoid them, as I had done heading northbound. I know most riders hate riding interstates for their lack of curves and challenges, but Interstate 5 will challenge even the most experienced rider, I'm sure, with it's heavy traffic, road construction, confusing interchanges and merciless drivers.

I stopped at a gas station about 5 miles before The Grapevine for a pee break and pop open a 5-Hour Energy drink for the ride. As I was gearing back up to traverse the mountain range, out of the corner of my eye I saw a small, red convertible slowly rolling up next to me. Making no eye contact, I balled up my left hand into a fist and felt in my right pocket for my switchblade, just to be prepared.

"Tina," the voice behind me said.

I turned to see Stumpy and his wife Tammy, old friends of Highway's from their Heatwave Riding Club. Thrilled to see familiar faces, I knelt down at his door and we chatted a bit.

"Where is Steve?" Tammy asked. "You're not out here alone are you?"

I smiled and explained that this was my first solo ride. Stumpy asked how many miles I've ridden since I last saw them in April.

"I've ridden 16,000 miles since then. . ."

"Oh, well, you know what you're doing then. You're fine," he responded confidently.

We said our goodbyes planning to meet up for dinner soon. Tickled pink I finished gearing up jumped on Gracie and headed out a few minutes after they had left the station. At the base of the pass I saw their car so I pulled in behind Stumpy and Tammy and followed them over the pass. For 50 miles Stumpy lead me through the traffic jammed Grapevine with most cars traveling around 75 mph avoiding semi's traveling around 25 mph. Erratic drivers jump lane to lane with little signalling in an attempt to dodge slower vehicles. It looks a bit like a high stakes game of Frogger, only getting squished isn't the least bit funny.

Once we hit the 210 I waved off Stumpy and Tammy who headed east and I continued south to San Diego. More lane splitting was necessary through L.A., much to my dismay, but by 5:30pm I was rolling past Camp Pendleton in San Diego County. Situated along the Pacific Ocean, the Marine Corps Base is the major amphibious base on the West Coast and takes up some of the most beautiful beach for 17 miles. There only two stops available along the stretch of Interstate 5 through the base, one being a rest stop and the other simply a viewpoint. I chose to stop at the viewpoint to catch my breath, put on my warmer gloves and a scarf, and watch the sunset.

I pulled in and immediately realized I had parked in a puddle of oil someone had spilled, making my footing precarious. I managed fine, but was pissed that my boot was now slippery.


I dug into my bag and found my camera, hoodie, gloves, scarf and hard candy. The sunset was picture perfect; one of those moments that time stands still and the whole world seems a miraculous place. Basking in my accomplishment, I felt serene and pleased.

"Steamboat! Hey, Steamboat!!"

I heard the voice shouting in front of me and when I looked up, I realized the man was shouting at me. He was reading the T-Shirt I was wearing from Steamboat Springs, just as I was zipping up my hoodie to wear under my leather jacket.

"Hey Steamboat! Can I take your photo? You just look so beautiful. I saw you pull in on that motorcycle and you took my breath away. Is that a Harley?"

He was probably 10 - 15 years my senior and seemed rather enamored with my presence. After explaining that Gracie was a Yamaha, he took about 4 photos of me with his camera. I asked him to take one with mine, since he was having such a good time. Flattered and rather humbled by his enthusiasm, I took in the moment with all the grace I could muster. He went on complimenting me and left the parking lot waving out of his car window.

I was home with my hubs about 45 minutes later, thrilled to have seen my kids, run into Stumpy, and ridden my first solo trip with only good stories to tell.

"I'm proud of you," he beamed.

"I'm proud of me too."


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Sunday, October 20, 2013

First Solo Long Distance Ride

Tomorrow is my first long distance solo ride. I've traveled across the country, twice, and now I'm worried about riding 250 miles alone. I wonder if riding 250 miles in one day is even considered long distance. . .

Over the last couple of weeks I've taken rides around San Diego on my own, even traveling solo to Menifee and back, about 135 miles roundtrip, just last night. But for some reason this feels really independent for me.

I love traveling with Highway. Part of traveling for me has been sharing the experiences with someone. Before I rode a motorcycle I loved taking long drives on my own. But being married to my stick-in-the-mud-then-husband certainly limited any travel. He worried about money all of the time, so even driving 30 miles needed prior authorization. After 15 years of that bullshit, I realized I had disconnected from travel completely. It was hard for me to overcome my fears of just going places after my divorce. But once the spell was broken, I've seen many miles pass under my wheels.

I miss my daughter and her husband, who live in Bakersfield, CA, so I want to ride up and see them. Highway has work to catch up on, so I decided to just ride up on my own. When I made the decision, I gave it little thought.

"I'll come and see you next week and just stay at your place a couple nights. Would that be OK?"

My daughter enthusiastically agreed, excited to see me. Visiting my one-and-only-child after being gone for so long was important to me, as well as her.

There are a few routes I could take, but I've decided to take the most direct, Interstate 5 from San Diego to Bakersfield, breaking off on State Route 99, then Highway 58, to their place. She and her new husband David were just married in April and we left for our Road Pickle right after attending their wedding. I'm thrilled to sit and giggle with my Kittenhead.

Olivia and I have always been very close, at times, much too close. But we certainly have our mother-daughter times of oil and water. So this trip fills me with anxiety on many levels. Having Gracie to turn to for a short trip to the market will give both Olivia and me some space when I get on her nerves. I tend to piss her off quicker than a liberal at a Ted Cruz Tea Party. I'm not sure if we are too much alike, or too different, but of all the people in the world, I try my best to accommodate her. I cherish my relationship with her, so I would do most anything to keep being a good Mom for her.

Even ride 250 miles alone through L.A. traffic on a Monday.

I've scrubbed Gracie down, hopefully coaxing her into performing nicely for me for the trip. Tomorrow Highway will top off the oil, check the air in the tires and fill up my gas tank for me before I take off. I'm ashamed to admit, but I have only put gas in my tank 3 times in my riding career. After struggling with a pump a couple times, I refused to gas up my own bike. Having Highway around I haven't needed to, so I simply boycotted. Last night I filled Gracie's tank on my own for the first time before riding back from Menifee.

I'll hit the asphalt trail around 9am, which should put me there early afternoon. Wish me luck.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Being the Inspiration

We met when I was only 14 years old. I had moved to yet another city, another school and was utterly devastated to have to start again. I begged my mother to promise we wouldn't move again after this.

I had attended Fontana Junior High only 3 days when Becke approached me. Thinner and even shorter than me, which I didn't believe possible, this bouncy, high-spirited blond barks at me.

"Come here."

I obediently approached. I had decided to put out a tough exterior at this school so I didn't get bullied. It's so hard to start anywhere new when you're a teen. But I snapped to attention and obeyed her command.

"Why do you wear heels every day? I'm Becke. This is Laurie and Lori. We all wear Vans, so don't wear heels anymore. You need to get Vans. You can be our friend and have lunch with us from now on. Understand?"

"Yes. I wear heels because that's all I have. But I'll tell my Mom I need Vans. And I'll have lunch with you everyday."


Becke and I were friends from then on. She knew my deepest, darkest secrets until our Senior year of high school, when life interrupted and we parted ways. Many years later we reunited and in the last few years, have begun spending more and more time together.

A few weeks ago we were in her car, laughing like teenagers, on the way to our 30th High School Reunion.

"When I'm with you it's like time never passed. How can it be this way? How can anything feel so good? You get me! You always did. . ." I muttered.

Becke laughed and agreed. Still the vivacious blond with more personality than body, Becke knows me the way no one else ever could. Having spent more time together lately, she's subtly expressed a desire to ride her own motorcycle. Being a passenger on her husband's Harley for quite some time now has been fun for her, but once she saw my V*Star Gracie and followed our Road Pickle, something changed.

"You are too infectious lady! I've decided to take riding lessons. You make it look like so much fun! Hell, I have already picked out the bike I want!"

Overwhelmed with emotion, I had a hard time dealing with my ambivalence. Terribly flattered and incredibly humbled, I still found that I wanted to caution her against riding to protect her, as I had protected her in school.

"What if she gets hurt. It would be all my fault. . ." I pondered.

I realize that each of us take on that challenge and we are only accountable to ourselves. I had told Highway many times that I choose to ride and if I get hurt, that's my choice. But knowing I have inspired someone to do something risky suddenly brought into focus how much I still wanted to protect my dear friend, and how Highway may feel the same way from time to time.

"We should take a trip next year together! A Girl's Trip! You and me! And we can go try a nudist resort! I've always wanted to do that! That way we'll have so much less to pack and carry!" I suggested.

Teenager giggles ensued, as usual with the two of us.

I can see it now. The two of us, riding the backroads together all day, giggling the nights away poolside or around a crowded bar with strangers. It all sounds like something we would have dreamed of in school. Only now, we can make our dreams realities.

I feel like my life has come full circle in so many ways. Becke was just what I needed at 14; she brought me so much happiness and was the kind of friend everyone wants. I'm so grateful to be able to inspire her to grow and find her own brand of happiness all these years later.

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Motorcycle Deafness

I can't hear you.

I'm riding my motorcycle.

I don't know if you want something, how you feel about me, if I left the water running, forgot an appointment, or if you're trying to call. I didn't see your email, your tweet, your text, your post, your comment of your photo.

I'm busy and I cannot attend to anything but motorcycle, the road, and myself.

Today, perhaps, I will not think. Today I needn't think. I will only hear the drone of my engine and feel my machine. I will feel her throttle, feel her purr, feel her gargle, choke, cough and then finally, roar. Today she and I will integrate into one being. I will eat when I am hungry, I will give her fuel when she is thirsty and I will piss when I am ready. I will ride as fast as I choose, as all of the control is within me. I will choose my roads, choose my path, choose my thoughts.

No, you cannot be part of this. No one else can be included. This is not about any other entity. This is about coming alive with my other half.

The road beckons us. It calls like a young suitor from the lawn towards a bedroom window.

"Come and dance. . . "

Yes, black asphalt, striped in yellow, I can dance today. I will fondle your curves, stretch out on your long roads, breathe in your heat and dust. Thank you for asking, as my motorcycle and I would love to dance today.

I have to go. The sun is shining, my chrome is winking, my hands are twitching and it's time to ride. And today, I can't hear you.


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Friday, October 11, 2013

Riding by the Half Moon

The chill is rushing up my sleeves, inflating the chest of my jacket. My head can barely turn from the collar pushing against the helmet. Someone has been screwing with my right mirror, because all I can see is dark sky. Can't fix it now, rolling at 70 mph, amid nighttime traffic.

The traffic on Interstate 15 is heavier than I expected for 10:30 pm on a Friday heading south into San Diego. Damn, I thought the 78 was packed after leaving Churchill's Pub in San Marcos, but this is slammed. After having dinner with Trampy Joe and Diane, who I've now renamed La Chuckles, it feels good to ride home, even though I'm freezing my ass off.

I gotta get these sleeves fixed so the wind doesn't pour in. This is ridiculous.

Drivers are more erratic, it seems, than afternoon traffic. Probably been drinking, or partying, if they're out driving right now. Not all of them, but the crazy ones who drift from lane to lane.

The buzz of cars, my V*Star, and my own pulse pound in my helmet with the music on my headphones.

Cause I'm as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change.
Oh... oh... oh... oh... oh...
And this bird you cannot change.
And this bird you cannot change.
Lord knows, I can't change.
Lord help me, I can't change.
Lord I can't change,
Won't you fly high free bird yea.

I want to pull the throttle all the way back, scream through the cars and own a chunk of road tonight. I want to push Gracie to her limits, but I refrain. I'm following Highway back to our rental. Just relax and enjoy the ride.

My thighs are freezing. Well, they don't feel that bad. Actually, I think they may be so cold I can't feel them now. I should have brought warmer gear. Why do I do that? Just bring a jacket. . . I have gear for Chrissake. . . Next time I won't forget.

Interstate 8 is approaching, so I better get into the right lane. That's going to be a challenge since I can't see out of this right mirror. Over my shoulder, once, twice, glide to the right.

I love this connector ramp, even though it scares the shit out of me. The turn is so deep! Damn, Highway must hit that at 75 mph. What, am I doing only 60? Lean, lean, look all the way through, lean. . . woooosh! There's that tickle in my tummy! Yeah, still scares me! Ha ha ha ha. . .

The 805 south is coming quick. Change lanes to the left. . . move over ASSHOLE! Fucking dicks who drive Mercedes. I used to drive a Mercedes. Oh shit, here's our turn.

I love the way the moon looks from the bottom of the connector ramp. Pretty half moon, bright as a spotlight, glistening in the dark sky. Up the bridge. . . damn Highway takes this ramp fast! Downshift to fourth gear, third gear. . . he's so far ahead, but this damn ramp scares me more than the other. Relax, bend those arms, lean, lean, lean, woooooooosh! God I love that tickle!

Couple of exits, come into quiet city streets, not a soul in sight around here. Guess that's what one would expect for residential. Gracie purrs along on these streets, roaring in first gear from Stop sign to Stop sign.

There's the rental. Just as we left it. I should have told Highway I wasn't ready to go back so early. I wonder if he wants to go ride just a little more. . .

I love riding in the moonlight.


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Friday, October 4, 2013

The Church of My Motorcycle

SASHday is tomorrow.

SASHday is my official title for my birthday. I'll be 48 years old. I've never been happier. But happy is such a relative term.

We arrived in San Diego a couple of days ago after the longest single-day ride of our Road Pickle adventure: 355 miles in one day. For me, that's beyond a marathon. I usually top out at 250. Once I rode 300, but that was a push. This ride was bone-breaking, mostly because of my Fibromyalgia. Some days our tougher than others and this was one of them.

The push to go so far on the last day was my idea. I told Highway I could do it; not sure what I was thinking. But today I am finding bruises popping up here and there, the result of overly sore muscles filling with fluid, swelling, bursting blood vessels and leaving me incredibly sore. I truly feel like I've been beat up on days like this. But I'm not complaining, just explaining. Because it's really all fine.

"Most riders would tell you that anytime one can ride is a good day," Highway told me once.

I think about that quote often and try to appreciate the amazing opportunity I have to ride as often as I do. We've traveled over 15,000 miles in the past 6 months, stayed in over 30 cities, met people who have changed our lives, and find ourselves hungering for more. But for now a hiatus is in order to rest up my weary body. I'm still riding daily, in spite of the pain, just not as far.

I mentioned I'm happy. The truth is I am. But I'm filled with many emotions throughout a day. To expect to always be happy is like expecting the sun to always shine. To hope for joy and hope for no sorrow is unrealistic. There is no Ying without Yang. There is no day without night. How could one appreciate the stillness if there were no wind? So to wish for continuous happiness is unrealistic and truly unappreciative.

I'm pleased with my life, even though I know I have more to do. I have found a level of serenity in all things; the rain, the sun, the pain, the pleasure. I understand that the road can have gravel, and the road can be smooth. There will be days of open lanes and days of traffic. There will be twisties to careen through and there will be long interstates to traverse. I'm fine with it all. I'm done trying to push the river and willing to be pleased with what life offers.

My goal is to be a leaf on the river, to accept what comes with grace and appreciation. I have so far to go, but I'm feeling pleased with my understanding. This understanding has come as a result of riding many miles on the church of my motorcycle. I am such a lucky woman today, in so many ways, and I am filled with gratitude.

This SASHday I wish you all happiness and I hope that I can inspire you to ride far, look within, enjoy what comes and give someone a kiss today. Thank you for reading the silly ramblings of a writer, a rider, a poet and a woman on a journey.

Happy SASHday!

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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...)