Bad Decisions make Good Stories

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.

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Finding MotoManch

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.

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International Female Ride Day

IMG_20170506_205607_124Saturday (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.

What’s Holding You Back?

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.

“Yes?”

“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.