June’s almost over, and riding season is in full swing. This year I know many women who have gone out and bought a bike. Or have owned one for a while, but are finally ready to get out there and ride. Seriously, I know at least 6 new women riders, who are finally ready to ride, and they’ve all been asking to go on a ride with me. I’ve been thinking about doing a beginner’s ride with all of them, but in the meantime, I thought I could do a blog with beginner’s some tips. It’s likely the same tips you’ve heard before, but hopefully I’ll give you some insight, or confidence that it’s OK to be where you are in your riding.
Take the Course/Learn to Ride
This may sound silly, of course you’re going to learn to ride. But actually learn. Don’t just have your neighbor give you the basics: throttle, clutch, shifter, brakes. Find someone who is going to walk you through how the bike handles, the best way to corner, stop and U-turn. Better yet take a course! Both MSF and Harley offer courses nationwide, they are only a few hundred dollars, and are completely worth having a licensed instructor walk you through riding from the very start (even before you get on!) In both courses you learn the skills required to ride, then at the end you take the practical part of the licensing test, meaning when you finish you have your learners permit!
Ride your own ride/ Ride within your abilities
This is probably the most important thing to remember. Ever. For your entire riding life, remember this. We spend most of our lives trying to fit in, and wanting to keep up with our friends, riding is an individual activity (even in a group). It is up to you to keep yourself (and others if you are riding in a group) safe. Pushing the limits can be helpful at gaining skills but taking risks or pushing yourself too hard can have dire consequences on two wheels.
Ride when and where you feel safe. Don’t let anyone (especially yourself) pressure you into riding outside your skill level. Quite frankly this is how many riders die, or get seriously injured. If you are not comfortable taking a turn at a certain speed, slow down. If another rider or car is making you nervous, let them pass, or back off. Trust your instincts. I know it’s hard to pull back or ride slower than your friends, but remember every single rider has been in your shoes, and most, MOST will be happy that you put yourself first and stayed safe. If they are in fact your friends they will slow down and take it at your pace. The longer you ride the better you’ll become and the more confident you’ll feel.
Confidence ≠ Skill (but it helps A LOT)
I’m sure that you’ve heard the phrase “fake it ’til you make it” and it applies to motorcycles as well. You have to believe that you can until you actually do. While there is something to be said about trusting the butterflies in your stomach, it is in your best interest to quiet your nerves. If you are riding and envisioning yourself biffing it on the turn in front of you, it will likely happen. Riding should feel natural and is easier if you’re relaxed and loose, not stiff and tense. Focus on the road in front of you and know that you possess the skills to make it around an S-curve, or to ride on the freeway, or even change lanes. When you’re feeling nervous, take a deep breath, relax, and remind yourself that riding a motorcycle is well within your capabilities. That having been said, don’t force yourself to ride if you have a bad feeling. Don’t forget, ride your own ride.
Know Simple Maintenance
Sure you can pay someone to maintain your bike, or work on it when something goes wrong, but there is a value in knowing how to fix some things yourself. That way if you’re ever stuck on the side of the road, it’s nice to know how to troubleshoot, so you know if the issue is fixable or you’re going to need a trailer. Learn how to change your oil, if even so you know where to check if you have a leak. Know how to access your battery, in case you need a jump. Learn how to check your tire pressure, ideally you should do this before every ride. Even knowing what to look for when checking tire wear, or how to check your brake pads. Of course, unless your up to it leave the advanced work to the pros, or friends who know what they’re doing. But be somewhat engaged with the maintenance since motorcycles are so much more unforgiving of small problems.
As a new rider you are probably wearing full (or almost full gear) but as you gain experience, you will be tempted to shed some layers and ride slightly less encumbered. Gear choices are different for everyone and as one of my friends so eloquently put it, anyone wearing less gear than you is an idiot. It’s true, riders are never more judgey about other riders than when it comes to gear. We’ve all heard people gripe about the guy on the sport bike ripping up the freeway in shorts, flip-flop and a baseball cap, and while that is certainly not advisable riding attire, what you wear on a motorcycle is solely up to you. However, at the very least I recommend close toed shoes, pants (ideally actually denim not that stretchy thin crap), gloves and if not a helmet, eye protection. I’ll elaborate on these below even though some or all of that gear seem obvious to you.
Close-toed shoes are crucial to being able to operate your motorcycle correctly, which you may know if you ever rode a bicycle in a pair and had them get folded up between you and the road, or got the pedal stuck in between your foot and the flop. Similar problems can arrive on a motorcycle, but your foot isn’t protected from debris, or the road if you fall, not to mention having to shift without a shoe! Pants not only protect your from painful pipe burns, but thick material like denim will protect your leg better from road rash in the event of a crash. You could go all out and buy nylon protective gear like they wear on racetracks, but there is a wide variety of protective pants between those and your everyday jean. Gloves are ideal for protecting your hands from debris and of course if you were to slide. They are also helpful if you need to adjust something on your bike. We’ve all heard the benefits of wearing a helmet, but if you choose not to, at least cover your eyes. Get some shatterproof sunglasses and clears for night riding to keep some wind, debris and other potential hazards from damaging your eyes.
To be even safer a long sleeve jacket of leather or textile to keep your skin if you slide. There are plenty out there designed to keep you safe in the event of a crash with vents and other innovations to keep you cool. I personally don’t fully gear up on warm days, partially because I fear overheating, and because I love feeling the air on my skin especially on cool summer nights. At the end of the day though, what you wear is up to you. Wear what makes you feel comfortable, and allows to operate your bike the best you can. Gear’s entire purpose is to keep you safe and help you stay whole in the event of an accident, but you are the first line of defense. The best protection is avoiding an accident all together, so stay aware.
As Peter Fonda once said (in a moto-safety video) pretend every driver on the road is “asleep, blind, or drunk.” It sounds funny but it’s true, be aware that you are essentially invisible to any four-wheeled vehicle. Watch out for other drivers merging into your lane, pulling up behind you at a light, and most importantly scan the whole scene when approaching an intersection.
And while 2/3 of motorcycle accidents are caused by another vehicle, 1/3 were the fault of the rider. I can’t stress this enough (…obviously) you are responsible for your own safety. Keep a safe following distance and while it seems obvious, pay attention. Get familiar with how the bike handles. Travel at a speed that you can keep the bike under control if you have to stop suddenly or swerve around a hazard. Remember this: “Motorcycling is not, of itself, inherently dangerous. It is, however, extremely unforgiving of inattention, ignorance, incompetence, or stupidity.”
I mean I know this is super cliché and fairly obvious, but have fun. You wanted to ride because it’s a fun thing to do, so make sure that among everything else you’re having fun. Plus if you’re having fun you’ll relax and have a better ride anyway. And remember, we all started somewhere….
I was racing down SR-62 in 29 Palms as the sun sank deeper and deeper in the sky. Ahead of me was a perfect desert sunset; the horizon orange tinged with violet, pink, and yellow. The beauty of it filled my heart and all I wanted was to stop and take a picture to just stand still to truly appreciate it. I told myself no, I was on a mission, I needed to reach Joshua Tree Lake campground and set up camp before dark. It was the first day of Babes Ride Out, and my riding companion, Ang. and I had traveled over 600 miles; and I really didn’t want to set up a tent in the dark. Thankfully, we were almost there and our friends had arrived earlier in the day and were saving us a spot.
The road to this point had been long, but at least today had treated us well. We had ridden down to Mesquite separately, each meeting our own obstacles. I rode down after work and didn’t arrive until midnight. On the way I had run into traffic from 2 accidents and temperatures as low as 35. Just before dropping down into Mesquite, I was having trouble keeping the bike on course because I was so cold that if I slowed to less than 50MPH I began to violently shiver. I pushed and pushed knowing that once I hit Mesquite it would be plenty warm. Ang and I met up rather haphazardly, as she was supposed to ride to Primm with a group of our friends, but due to mechanical issues had to ride down on her own. (But don’t feel too bad… it was on a BRAND NEW Softtail.)
We left Mesquite around 10AM, and had taken our time taking time along the way since the ride to Joshua Tree was short compared to our ride the day before. At each gas stop we stretched our legs, and took videos and photos for Snapchat and Instagram to document our journey. We made ample use of the #ProgressiveMC so that our images would be printed and available for us once we arrived. We wandered into a Tiki Bar in Vegas, and “learned” about Mining in Cima, and stopped at the infamous Roy’s even though we didn’t need gas. Our final stop had been for dinner at Subway in Joshua Tree, our first non-gas-station-snack meal of the day. We ate fast and were quickly back on the road to Babes.
We arrived shortly, the sun was just sinking below the horizon as we were given our wristbands, and headed towards the moto-camping area. It took a few minutes but we found our group and were greeted with cheers, smiles, and most importantly, ice cold beer, 805 tallboys to be exact. I was thrilled to have made it, and be surrounded by so many friends, but impatient to get my tent set up. I grabbed my gear and started searching for a place to set up. I was almost immediately interrupted by more friends’ hugs and happy greetings. Once the excitement subsided, it was dark. My initial irritation at the idea this had dissipated. I had arrived and was surrounded by strong women who loved me and I couldn’t have been happier. For the second year in a row, I was at Babes Ride Out.
After I assembled my tent, I wandered down to the Karaoke Party that was in full swing. Disappointingly, the 805 tent was already closed, but the Progressive tent was still open so I headed over to pick up the pictures we’d posted of our trip down. I wandered the tent looking at all the photos, and reading the cards women had filled out expressing what riding meant to them. It was a unique experience, like a live Instagram; it was so inspiring to see all the different journeys and how riding had impacted their lives. After walking the tent I went around and grabbed mine, Ang’s and few other friends photos down and then headed over to pick up my early registrant gift bag before finding my friends again.
We spent sometime dancing and singing along to the Karaoke Party. A few other girls from Salt Lake got up and sang, and I headed up to say hello to Ashmore, one of the masterminds/divas behind Babes. I met her a last year when she and her friend Corrine came through Salt Lake and ridden a few canyons with some of us. She always remembers me and is always so excited to see me. Knowing how many women she must meet, I am always surprised that she does remember me, it is one of the things that makes her so amazing. We summarized our year, I was sure to ask her about meeting Norman Reedus and being featured on his show. We didn’t talk long as she was busy ensuring everything ran smoothly, so soon I was back celebrating and dancing with our group but soon the miles we had ridden set in and we were all exhausted. We headed back to our tents took some shots, and talked until one by one we retired to our tents, dreaming of what tomorrow would bring.
I was awakened by the sound of one lone bike rolling through the campsite just after 6AM. It was quiet, likely with stock pipes, but my tent was right next to the road. I fell back asleep, but not for long. I heard one bike fire up and then a few more, they began moving right away, and rolled slowly through the campsite. They were loud but they seemed to be moving in an attempt to make the least amount of disturbance. That is until they stopped and waited at the edge of tent camping. They waited there for at least 2 minutes, The longer they sat the more awake I became. Soon I could hear those around me stirring and some even yelling for the bikes to move on. Eventually I heard 2 more bikes fire up and head towards us. Finally the whole group roared out of camp but the damage had been done, half the camp was now wide awake.
I lay there hoping that I could fall back asleep, begging for just a little longer, knowing I had a very long day ahead of me. Unfortunately the sun was rising, my tent was growing warmer, and my friends were whispering and rustling around on their tents, and I knew I wasn’t going to sleep again until that night. The handful of us that had accepted our early morning stumbled down to the main area still in our PJs to purchase coffee and some breakfast.
Summer is finally upon us here in the Salt Lake Valley, which means more rides, parties and BBQs. This week was the first time it was warm enough to ride home from the bar without a jacket too. I forgot how amazing it is to just hop on your bike and feel the cool air of night against your skin as you speed home.
I don’t have many stories this week forgive me, I spent my days enjoying the company of friends, planning my 4th of July weekend, and making summer plans for the Litas. Perhaps next week I will regale you with a tale of a past adventure. Until then check out some of my old posts or take tome to finish reading last week’s post (it wad so long). For now I’m heading back to the party.
Photos from my trip to the San Rafael Swell and Mystic Hot Springs. Post: The Swell… and beyond
AKA Little Grand Canyon of Utah
Road to Monroe
Mystic Hot Springs
For the photos from this trip check out: The Swell in Photos
For Memorial Day my friend Tamara and I went on an epic camping/sightseeing weekend. Our trip began Friday night after work, we made our way to “The Wedge”. We left a bit later to avoid traffic and had dinner along the way, so we arrived way after dark. It was pitch dark, not even a moon for light. We had glimpses here and there of the scenery, it seemed to be mostly desert but we could just make out outlines of trees and cliffs on the horizon. It was slow going, as the road was dirt and gravel. We were a bit nervous as we drove “blindly” down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, somewhat comforted and somewhat unnerved by others travelling the road. I started to feel more confident as we came across more encampments, and finally signs for campgrounds for the lower Wedge campgrounds. Finally we had arrived.
I wanted to camp right on the ledge, so I insisted we keep going. Most of the spots were taken but we found a place to pull off and set up our tent. We set up a about 3 feet from the ledge. The wind was blowing and the ground was so rocky it was hard to stake the tent down. So one of us had to stay with the tent while the other grabbed gear to weigh it down. We couldn’t see anything past the ledge, except for our shadow on the rim in the distance. And the based on the sound of rocks I kicked out of our tent space over the ledge it didn’t sound too deep. I worried maybe this place wasn’t as great as I’d been told, but figured I would wait until morning. Once the gear was unloaded, Tamara turned off the lights. We didn’t realize just how dark it was until right then; we couldn’t see the ledge. I stood in place, afraid to move until she turned the lights back on and grabbed my flashlights.
We loaded into the tent and setup our sleeping arrangements. I reached under the tent and removed more rocks, including a giant pointy rock we had failed to see right in the middle. The “fossil” as we called it, left a giant hole in its place, which was uncomfortable, but better than a 2 inch spike in our backs. We set up a Snapchat story “2 Bitches in a Tent”, to narrate our travels, set my alarm for shortly after sunrise, and giggled until we finally fell asleep.
We awoke just after 6:00 am, just as the sun was brightening the sky. I yawned, turned off my alarm, and paused unwilling to disturb the warm cocoon we had created for ourselves. But curiosity compelled me to move. I sat up unzipped our door, the rain fly and poked my head out into the chilly desert morning. I was speechless. For as far as I could see were twisty curves of layered rock set against the violet clouds, and highlighted by the sun pushing through the clouds. Behind me Tamara asked how it looked. I couldn’t even begin to describe it. I took a deep breath, and attempted to speak. All I managed was a quiet laugh, and on second attempt all I managed were the words “Oh, Tamara”. She seemed to understand, I heard her sit up and soon enough she was leaning over my shoulder taking in our view. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I needed an adventure; I really needed to get out of town. At first I was going to head south to Moab, or Bryce Canyon. After tossing the idea around, I remembered that I have been promising to visit my friends in Boise. So I sent a few texts was set to head to Boise in the morning.
I planned to leave before the sun came up but when I got home I was exhausted, so I took a “nap”. I woke up around 5. I dragged myself out of bed, and grabbed my laundry. I threw my clothes in the washer and set an alarm for just after 5:30. Deciding that as long as I left by 7:30, I could still get the early morning adventure feeling I love so much. I didn’t get out of bed when my alarm went off; it wasn’t until 6 that I wondered down and transferred my clothes over. and set an alarm for 7. I got out of bed at 7:30, still feeling groggy but also annoyed that I still hadn’t packed to leave. I grabbed my now clean laundry and returned to may room to pack, I knew I didn’t need a lot, but planned for rain and cooler weather as well as my camera. I was able to get everything in one bag, I worked hard to get everything into one bag, strapped it to the “rack” on the back of the bike, and was finally ready to go at 9:00.
It wasn’t long before I was in Layton, and I decided to pull off and have breakfast at Sill’s Cafe, a historic little diner with great coffee, and even better scones. There was a line out the door, for no reason other than the fact that it was Saturday for breakfast. I waited in line for at least 20 minutes before taking a seat at the counter. The service at Sill’s moves pretty fast as expected at a diner. I had coffee almost immediately and breakfast less than 10 minutes after I ordered. I was ready to leave by 10:30, and headed to the closest gas station. While there, I rechecked my cargo, my route and plugged in. I was finally on my way.
I had checked the weather before leaving, and knew it was going to rain, but the look of the clouds and the chill in the air, made me realize I should have brought my car on this trip. I was still close enough to turn around, and switch them out, but I convinced myself I could do it, I’d ridden in rain before. It was colder than anticipated, but from the forecast I knew it was a small storm. I pulled off in Tremonton, just after the I-15/I-84 interchange to gear up. My hands were extremely cold, and I needed an extra pair of gloves, and ideally something to keep them dry. I went into the store and wandered the aisles, I found a cheap pack of wool gloves, and a poncho. I looked for nitrile or latex gloves, but found none. I went to check out and asked if they had any I could have but was told they didn’t. I asked for one extra bag and headed to the Burger King attached. They gave a few pairs of gloves, (not without a few strange looks), and I headed out to my bike.
It was already starting to sprinkle. Up until this point I had just been wearing my hoodie, so I unstrapped my jacket. I stood there for a minute, trying to decide the best way to configure all of my new purchases. I chose to use the plastic bags over my shoes in an attempt to keep my feet dry. I knew it would reduce traction, and thus could be risky, but cold feet are awful. I then moved on to my hands, and ended up putting the wool gloves over my leather ones, and then stretched the latex-y ones over top. I pulled them back off, put on my jacket, then the poncho and finally my helmet. I asked passerby to help me pull the hood of the poncho over my helmet, which was harder than it maybe should have been. I wanted the hood up to prevent rain from dripping into my jacket from my helmet. I figured if it was tight enough, it would stay up. I tucked the loose ends in as much as I could, carefully pulled on the gloves and I was ready to go.
The poncho acted like sail as I rode, and at first the tightness of the hood kept pushing buttons on my Sena. I rode directly into the storm; within a few miles I was in the middle of it. It was “needle rain”, the drops are small, abundant, and constant. Thanks to my gear I could barely feel it, but knew it was bad, I could barely see out of my face shield. Within 10 miles, I realized my hood had come down, but luckily nothing was dripping down my back (that I knew of). Due to the low visibility and the drag of my poncho, I was going well under the speed limit. I would have been more nervous if there had been more traffic, and if I hadn’t been wearing a bright yellow poncho on the outside of all my gear. It must have been a sight to see, I really hope someone got a photo. I rode this way all the way to Snowville (~35 miles) with the rain stopping about 10 miles before I stopped.
I pulled off at the first stop in Snowville, carefully slowing to a stop, careful not to slip, and pulled off my “rain gear”. The poncho was all ripped up, I probably lucky it didn’t get caught in my belt or real wheel. My right shoe bag was torn, but it had served it’s purpose of keeping my foot dry. In fact, all my “gear” had worked, with the exception of my pants, I was completely dry. I could help but chortle as I walked into the station in hopes of finding a hand dryer to dry my pants. Unfortunately the Sinclair didn’t have one, so I filled my tank and soldiered on. The rain had stopped and the sun was intermittently peaking through the clouds.
The front of my legs ached from the cold, felt like tiny needles being stabbed into my legs. I hugged them tightly to the bike trying to keep warm. This caused the insides to dry rather quickly and soon they too began to burn. It was more of a sharp long burn, consistent with a pipe burn. I bowed my legs out for momentary relief and then brought them back in trying to mediate the pains from the hot and cold. Almost immediately my legs felt the burn of the pipes, I looked down. There was no reason for it, after a few more rounds, everything hurt, both legs just felt as though they were burning, I realized that my pain receptors were fried, and my brain couldn’t tell if I was hot or cold.
I kept going, knowing that my legs would eventually air dry, and there wasn’t any point in stopping. I rode about 40 miles before I saw a sign for another gas station and decided to pull off. It was the Sublette Gas Stop, and was the only thing for miles. I pulled up to pump that was out-of-order and cursed audibly. A fellow rider advised me that the pump I was next to was out of order but the one he was at was working. He also proceeded to tell me the bathroom was also out of order, which only seemed appropriate, but also unfortunate, since the cold had made me have to pee… again. There was also a kind of petting zoo with alpaca, sheep and goats. I topped off my tank, and walked over to the animals for a few photos while I warmed up. My legs were almost dry, but my hands were also incredibly cold; I was freezing and still 200 miles from my destination. My outlook for warmth was bleak, and I was beginning to become truly miserable.
I pushed myself another 80 miles to Twin Falls. It wasn’t easy, the cold was starting to get to me, and straight ahead of me I could see another storm system. The wind had also picked up, making it even colder and fighting it was exhausting. I was still another 140 miles from Boise, though was comforted that the number of miles was finally under 200. I tried analyze the clouds to determine if I was better off trying to push through and beat the rain or wait it out at the gas station. It was still aways out, but hadn’t coffee the highway (if the highway were to proceed exactly straight on). I asked a fellow rider, hoping he might know the route better, but he didn’t. He did tell me the wind got worse before Boise, so I should stay alert. I thanked him and headed indoors.
I debated if I needed food and realized it had been 5 hours since I’d eaten and I’d been fighting the elements. I needed to eat. I wasn’t the least bit hungry, and wanted something that wasn’t going to upset my stomach. I chose the least questionable thing there, Blimpie. I also needed water so I made myself drink a cupful (~8oz) even though it was cold. After I ate, I still wasn’t feeling great and started to get colder. I walked around wishing there was a sauna or something to help me warm up. I bought a pair of hand warmers and grabbed a cup of hot water. I breathed in the steam and blew into the cup to cool the water to a drinkable temperature, and warm my face. I eventually drank about half the cup and decided to stop burning my mouth to warm my core. It worked though, I felt slightly thawed and was finally ready to get back on the highway. I rolled my bike over to the gas pump, and arranged my gloves so the hand warmers were in between the two layers of gloves. I also took a moment to call my mother and let her know I was OK.
My next stop was to be Mountain Home, a short 40 miles from Boise. I had changed my Pandora station to 80’s rock, and was feeling refreshed after my short stop. The hand warmers were also helping, my hands were cold, but it didn’t seem to be as biting. Luckily, the storm was staying to the South of the road, so I was staying dry, but it was creating a strong, steady, and biting wind. I was starting to get in the groove finally. Everything was tight from the cold and sore from the long road. I was incredibly saddle sore, but I finally felt back to normal. No longer was I a whiny kid being dragged along on this ride, I was a woman kicking ass and getting to Boise. As I rode, I was still counting down each mile, eager to FINALLY get there I’d been on the road for much longer than expected. I was thankful for my hand warmers, and tried to ignore the pain in the little knuckle on my left hand. It was getting a little too warm and had start to hurt. I tried to shift the warmer, under my glove, but was unsuccessful.
The pain was getting unbearable and I saw signs for a rest stop. I really didn’t want to stop, but didn’t think it wise to push on. I veered off on to the exit a little too fast having waited until the last possible minute to make my choice. I pulled into a parking stop and ripped my glove off. Sure enough the knuckle of my little finger was bright red, and black right in the middle where the burn had been the worst. I was thankful I had chosen to stop, otherwise this might have been much worse. I went into the bathroom because once again the cold had made me have to pee again. It wa refreshing to was my hands, to even out the temperature. I was hoping some of the black would wash off, thinking it was just pigment from my gloves, but no, I had really burnt my hand. I had ridden 60 miles, there were 30 more before my next stop. I reinserted the hand warmer careful to avoid my knuckles (on both hands) and set off for Mountain Home.
My gas light came on about 10 miles down the road. I was pretty sure I could make it, but nervous about the possibility of not. As the first exit for Mountain Home got closer I breathed easier… that is until I got close enough I realized there were 0 services there. My stress level raised again, just waiting for the jolt indicating my two-wheeled steed had run out fuel, but it never came. I pulled off at next stop and filled up. I called my friends as I filled the tank, a car pulled up behind me wanting to use the pump. (This is one of my pet peeves. Getting gas on a bike is NOT like getting gas in a car, the tanks might be smaller but more often than not, bikers take longer at the pump if for nothing else the gearing down and gearing back up. I had taken my helmet off and was clearly on the phone, so was thoroughly annoyed about having to immediately move just so this guy could use the pump. (then even more annoyed when he and others acted like I was forgetting my damn helmet because I put it aside to move rather than put it on my head.) I finished up my phone call, typed in their address and was on my way. Only 40 miles to go now.
I was ecstatic to be so close, and it was apparent in my speed. I was booking 90+, i just wanted to get there. I crossed the Snake River, and marveled at how gorgeous every part of that river is. I kept going until I started to see signs for the airport. I was close, I had one exit left. Suddenly I hit something, likely a pothole, HARD. I cursed in surprise and pain. And then was worried I might have damaged my rim or blown the tire (I’ve done it before). Luckily I was less than 10 miles from Vanessa’s house, so I was pretty sure I could make it if I was careful. I slowed down and soon reached the exit. I took the turn extra slow, focused on the feel of the bike. Still nervous I pulled off at a gas station and checked both tires, and my cargo. Everything looked to be in order, so I rolled out and on to her house. I pulled in just before 6, my 5 hour trip to Boise had taken 9 hours. I was thankful to have arrived, but was exhausted and ready to stop.
Today I was listening to “River of Tears” and for some reason when I closed my eyes, I was jettisoned onto a two lane highway cutting between smooth walls of peach colored rock. The sky was blue, the road aged to a faded gray. Leaning against my tank, into the wind I was hugging the curve. I pulled my bike to the right and then again to the left as the road turned. Up ahead lay more turns and the crest of the hill obscuring the road ahead. I opened my eyes and tried to remember which canyon, what curves I was seeing, but I couldn’t. I closed my eyes again and I was in a different place, the twists of Sweetzer Summit somewhere between Twin Falls and Boise. This time the rocks were more of a brownish gray, though mostly covered with yellow-green grass and straggler plants growing wherever they could. The tops of the rocks were covered in pine trees, and the sky was light blue streaked with wispy clouds. This road was more reminiscent of a man-made path, created by blasting our way thorough, but no less majestic than the smooth sandstone walls of the other canyon. This time too I was leaning into the wind, but when I turned my attention away from the scenery and back to the rider, I had my eyes closed, arms extended, and was standing. That is MotoManch, my spirit flying with me through the canyons, with blind faith, relaxed, content, and at peace.
Sometimes though, I lose that part of me, the part that loves to ride, that loves the adventure. It’s normally during particularly bad weather or a situation where riding is unusually risky. I didn’t used to be that way, and I’m not sure what has occurred in my life to make me jealous of the people in cars, warm, dry at able to eat drink and talk at will, but I sometimes I just am. Sometimes I walk into a gas station, see a book of Sudoku, and a cup of coffee and all I want is to lounge in the backseat as my friends drive me to our destination.
Saturday (May 6th) was International Female Ride Day and since Jess was out of town, I got to organize and lead the Litas ride. The weather was set to be in the 80s, so I planned a long trip (152 miles roundtrip) up through a few canyons. I was excited and nervous; I really haven’t ever planned a ride (for anyone but myself) from start to finish, and there’s always extra pressure when it’s a Lita’s ride because I want to make sure everyone has a good time. It was also a bit last-minute, I had thought about joining in on the other ride in town, but they were just doing a ride along the westside and I was dying to get up in the mountains. So I set the route and stops and Jess sent out an email on Thursday.
The ride started at the Maverick downtown as it’s right next to the freeway on-ramp, though in the future we should maybe choose a different one as it’s also right next to the mission, and down the street from the main homeless shelter…. When I pulled in just after 10:30, I didn’t see anyone, I was a little let down but not terribly I wasn’t really expecting anyone to show up after the late notice. I filled my tank, then parked in a highly visible location, and hung my Litas shirt on my bike so girls would know where to go. By 10:45 I was feeling discouraged by the lack of other women, but knew that at least one other lady was coming to meet me.
I sat on my bike and looked up, there was a woman approaching me. She asked if I was there for the ride, and I hesitantly answered, unsure because I hadn’t seen any other bikes. She told me that there were a few other bikes over on the side of the building. I packed up my stuff and headed over to join them. As I came around the corner I couldn’t help but smile. There were four women and their bikes socializing and waiting to head out. I was excited but starting to get nervous, I couldn’t believe that women had shown up for my ride with such last-minute notice. I wondered if there were this many women in Salt Lake, how many would be waiting at the other stops. It was almost 11 when Kathleen pulled up, which comforted me, and shortly there after we geared up and headed out.
As we headed out, it was pretty cloudy and looked like it was going to rain, but the forecast was clear so I my hoodie was packed up on my back fender. I was wearing a short-sleeved distressed ACDC shirt, the temperature was perfect. As we rode south, I started to worry, I could see the rain up ahead. It was about the time we hit Draper that I felt the first drops, I first felt them on my gloves, and soon my arms. All I could think was how much this was going to hurt. Luckily this was a “soft” rain or so it seemed, as the rain hit my arms the drops exploded and felt like I was being lightly splashed. (Apparently not everyone felt that way, but I rather enjoyed it.) The rest of the ride to Orem was uneventful, except not being 100%sure of the right Maverick since my GPS was not speaking through my helmet.
We rolled into (the correct) Maverick a little later than anticipated, but before we had said we were leaving. There weren’t any girls waiting though, which was a bit of a disappointment, but also a relief. We stayed for a few minutes, and while we waited I saw one of our members Tandra ride by. (Turns out that she was looking for us, unfortunately she never found us.) Two of the girls left to go ride dirt bikes, so the remaining four of us headed out to the canyon. I had forgotten how much I like Provo Canyon, how beautiful Bridal Veil Falls is and even the walls of rock. We rolled along the curves as a group, all enjoying the ride, the open road for the first time in months. We made it to Heber before I realized Google maps had crashed, we went straight through the main intersection and I realized the mistake after about 1 mile. We pulled off, I pulled it back up and got us back on track with just a few other turns. Soon we got to the turn at Jordanelle, and headed East towards Kamas.
If you’ve never ridden the road between Heber and Kamas you should. It is a twisty curvy road that rises high above the Jordanelle. It twists along as the road rises above, there’s an overlook which is a great place for photos. Wasatch State Park lies ahead, huge rock walls on one side, and a rushing river on the other. As we rode by I noticed a beaver sitting on a log just watching the traffic pass. The road continues on through more fields, rocky passes and weathered homes. As you approach the turn for Kamas you ride up a blind hill with a small pasture on the other side. At the intersection in Francis, we turned left and shortly arrived at the Phillips in Kamas. We were later than expected, but no one was waiting. We all filled up and took a short break. I was tired and beginning to get hungry. It was only 45 miles to Kelly’s but still about an hour away.
We made it out of Kamas and through Peoa without a sound from my GPS. I wasn’t concerned until the signs for I-15 stopped appearing. The road was gorgeous well maintained and low traffic, it was twisty and rode along a reservoir. I called my mom to try to verify our route. We were riding past Rockport State Park on 189, but she thought we were on 302 (along the backside) and said it would dead-end, I pull off quickly and restarted Google maps. We were close to I-80 so we pulled back on the road and were soon on the interstate. We rode past Coalville, to the I-84 interchange. The sky was cloudy again, but looked clear enough to the east. As we approached Henefer the wind picked up, and slowed us down as we went through the rocky pass and past Devil’s slide. The speed limit was 75, but we were only going 60. Luckily were able to stay on the road, and exited at Morgan and soon arrived at Kelly’s
There were only 2 other bikes at Kelly’s and the were gearing up to leave. We entered, chatting about the wind and the scenery, and I joked about needing a new phone. We ordered our food and sat on the patio, joined shortly by another group of bikers. We talked about our jobs, and our riding experiences, eager to share tips and tales from the road. The conversation died down once the food came, we were all quite famished after the long ride.
Overall it was a nice ride, not too hot or cold, and even with the wind we all did great. I found the challenges we had symbolic considering it was a ride celebrating women. It isn’t always easy but we push through and prevail.
I had a pretty standard childhood, with 2 parents that love me, not a child of divorce, I didn’t wont for anything, raised in your typical middle-class east coast family. My parents had a pretty wild youth, but after marriage, and 3 children (all girls), they became very sensible people, very parent-like. My mother is incredibly cautious, and in turn my father is cautious if for nothing else than to appease my mother. My sisters and I were raised as city folk; as a small child I was often taken to the Science Museum, and loved it by the way. I have very fond memories of going to the Zoo, museums and any of the other education activities my parents indulged me in. We were fortunate enough to be able to go on vacation at least once a year. However, most years we headed to my father’s parents house in Alabama. We would all pile in the family van drive days to Fairhope AL, stay for 5 days and then drive 2 days back. A few times we went to Disney World, but again never terribly adventurous or outdoorsy.
I didn’t learn to ride a bicycle until I was 7 years old, almost 8, after second grade! Anytime I got on bike, I had to wear my helmet, it was mandatory. I didn’t dare get caught riding without it not only because I was scared of my mothers wrath, but also was convinced that I would die without it. My family wasn’t terribly adventurous, we didn’t hike, camp, or fish. In fact, I grew up in a town with a river and still to this day, have not set foot in it. (And if I did I’d likely wear a life vest.) I never rode ATVs or dirt bikes. The only motorcycle I knew of in my neighborhood, belong to my neighbor a few houses down. One day during a block party, he took his bike out, and let some of us kids ride around the block. I was terrified, but someone persuaded me to try it. I HATED IT. I was scared, clung tightly to him, and hid from the wind behind him. We were barely going 25 MPH.
So now that you know a little background you might be wondering how I ended up becoming the mile pounding badass that you know now. How, HOW in the hell did this safety conscious little girl end up on this two-wheeled death machine?
I moved to Salt Lake City in January of 2010, to be a bird trainer at the Tracy Aviary. I didn’t bring my car because I was afraid I would get snowed in driving across country. I took the bus everywhere for a few months, but in March my friend offered to let me buy his wife’s old bike. I hadn’t ridden a bike in years, and it took a little bit of time to get used to it, but soon i was riding at least 10 miles a day, a few to work and random trips around the city. I loved the freedom it gave me, not having to do things on the bus’ schedule, and being able to get places quicker. I enjoyed the scenery, noticing business and places I was too distracted to notice in my car.
I wanted to go further, farther and faster. I wanted to explore see more of the Salt Lake Valley ride through the canyons, but I am no mountain biker. The thought of a motorcycle crossed my mind, but I shook it off. I shook it off every time. I thought, “How could I? No, there’s no way. I am not a ‘biker.’ They’re so dangerous!” and my personal favorite, “I’m a woman, how could I ride a motorcycle.” The fact that I am a woman, actually kept me from seriously considering a motorcycle as a form of transportation. Until one day it was suggested to me otherwise. My bicycle also allowed me to stay out later, experience Salt Lake Night life. I had become friends with some people who worked at Keys on Main, and one night I rode my bike downtown, and my normal bike lock was missing so I had to lock it further down the street. I walked into the bar, and noticed my two friends Brandon and Aron decorating on the far end of the room. I walked over, helmet still in hand, and asked if they knew what had happened to my normal stand, stating I had to park my bike further down the street.
The both stopped what they were doing and looked at me, shocked. “You ride a bike?” one of them asked.
“And you parked it on the sidewalk?”
“Yeah just down the street.” They looked at each other and started for the window. I was very confused at this particular line of questioning, I couldn’t figure out what was so interesting about my bicycle.
They got to the window, and their expressions dropped. “You mean a bicycle!?”
“…yes?” I held up my helmet, “I mean I—” They cut me off and wandered off joking about my bicycle vs. motorcycle.
I paused and let them walk away. I stood there slightly bewildered but mostly deep in thought. I couldn’t believe that they thought I owned a motorcycle, that I rode one! Me, this boring, play-it-safe girl from the East Coast. I mean, really? These two men, bikers themselves, thought that little ol’ me might also be a biker. That small error in judgement was all I needed. If other people could see me as a biker, why couldn’t I be one? I started going through all the excuses I’d had before and realized they were just that. There was no reason that I couldn’t buy own and operate a two wheeled machine. If I wanted to ride one, was I really going to let other people’s opinions and perceptions going to stop me?
I didn’t buy my first bike until about 2 years later, but it was that moment that started me on my journey. I began looking for bikes later that summer, and took the Beginner Rider course the next spring. Turns out all I needed was a little change in perception, a little push and support of some good friends. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be riding if it wasn’t for this particular moment. It really makes you wonder, what’s holding you back?
This was one of those moments when you can look back and know when your life changed directions. One of those “It’s a Wonderful Life” moments, where you know that your life would be different if it wasn’t for that comment, that turn in the road. Unfortunately we don’t get that many definable moments in our lives, and I for one am grateful for this one.
I spent Saturday preparing for the “Headbanger’s Fireball” i.e. 80’s rock night at Keys so I didn’t get much riding in. So Sunday I woke up and wanted to find an adventure to ride to, and Fort Buenaventura sprang to mind. Fort Buenaventura is the “first anglo settlement in the Great Basin”. It is the site of weekly “Trader post” markets (on Saturday), hosts camping (in teepees!), and on special occasions the site of “Mountain Man” acitvities. A few weeks ago my friend, Aron, attempted to show me this little historical gem hidden in the heart of Ogden, but the road leading in was closed and while that normally wouldn’t have stopped us, there were a few cars at the bottom of the hill and we were not eager to find out who was in them. I looked up the fort online to see if there were any fees, or fun activities, but there didn’t seem to be anything going on and no fee associated with entry. So I text Aron to see if he wanted to join, he did, so geared up and headed north.